Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Brexit Club: A short term solution to a global failure.

The Brexit Club:  A short term solution to a global failure.  Now a global wakeup call. 

Most progressives believe the UK should stay within the EU.  As a political ideal of a greater union between progressive nations working for greater long term economic and national security interests -- it is a very good idea.  In the short run?  Leaving the EU is the right move.    
For decades the EU confederation of states has improved security and prosperity for nearly all Europeans.  But now multiple caustic global forces are surging against the numerous and largely unguarded exterior EU borders.  Borders that were never designed to cope with the threat of desperate and needy refugees, infectious diseases, cyber threats or climate change. 
The increasing flow of refugees is the crisis at hand.   Millions of refugees created by the growing instability in the Middle East and Africa are displaced.  Many are slowly but surely percolating through some of the EU’s unprotected boarders and even though some that are protected.  
Once inside the EU these refugees have essentially earned a free pass to any other EU nation.  It’s like a Mexican crossing the Texas border gaining virtually unlimited access to any other continental US state.  There should be no doubt that the vast majority of refugees will in the long run contribute to both the prosperity and the security of the US and EU nations.  But, if just one in a thousand refugees turns out to be a violent extremist the destruction they can cause will horrendous.  And the physical destruction the yield will pale in comparison to the fear and the political backlash each additional attack will generate.   
Worse yet, we cannot count on all violent extremists limiting their means of mass murder to assault rifles and small bombs.  Eventually they will use truck bombs, IEDs, and drones combined with chemical and/or biological weapons.  Security is an illusion for soft targets. And all civilized nations are mostly soft targets.  Just two moderately trained assailants with hand guns in a moving train car could kill 50 to 60 EU citizens before the next stop, and perhaps more after the doors open.   In 1995 a domestic cult in Japan killed 12 people, severely injured 50 and caused temporary vision problems for nearly 5,000 others with a relatively simple chemical attack in a Tokyo subway.    At least the UK can effectively close its borders now to some of this coming chaos.  And it is coming.
This security failure was not in the creation of the EU as a confederation.  A primary failure was limiting that union to so few states.  And,  the greater failure was of every other federation of states, including  the US, to adequately invest in a world where all nation states put the protection of human rights above the rights of nation states. 
In essence we can blame the nation states that created the UN as a confederation of states instead of a full-fledged federation.  A federation where ‘we the people’ in a constitutional preamble would be ensured in a bill of rights.   The persistent ideal of putting the protection of all human rights superior to that of states rights.  But instead, the powerful nations after World War II rejected every proposal that could have empowered the UN in this direction.  And the world is as it is today because the deceptively destructive concept of national sovereignty still reigns supreme.
Six years ago when a three year long drought started in Syria and the farmers came into the capital seeking jobs and food for their families, what would have happened if the UN had had the capacity to assist in feeding them?  Or, intervened earlier and assisted them in thriving on their farm land?
The UN and the rest of the world didn’t respond to their most fundamental basic human needs.  And now the UK must vote to move backward in order to protect its own people.  And terrorists disguised as refugees won’t be the only threat.    Pandemics, climate change, cyber intrusions or a natural disaster that could bring hunger back to Ireland are not entirely unlikely. 
The idea that each of us (and our nation) is somehow independent of the events and destructive conditions anywhere in the world is a lethal illusion.  It always has been.  Yet our government and global institutions are based on this flawed mental construct.
The greatest of all human achievements is likely the global eradication of smallpox.  All the world’s wars, revolutions, murders, genocides and natural disasters in the last century killed fewer people that Smallpox alone.   And, if just one nation, city or family had effectively rejected the global vaccination campaign to eradicate it, Smallpox would still be with us today.  The horrifying news is that if just one nation, rogue group or lunatic scientist biologically engineered a weaponized small pox virus, something the Soviets had already achieved in the 1980s, every human on this planet would be in danger. 
That is possible but not inevitable.  What is inevitable is the loss of our world’s antibiotic arsenal.  A woman in the US and some US farm animals were recently confirmed to be infected with a new strain of bacteria that is immune to the world’s last and most powerful antibiotic.   Without a major scientific breakthrough infectious disease experts now estimate that by 2040 minor infections could be killing more Americans than cancer (which is now the second greatest cause of death in America).  Another inevitable mass killer is a new strain of the flu.   In 1918 the Spanish flu in 18 months killed more people than all the combat deaths from both World Wars.  And, these are only two examples of the thousands of microbial threats we face.   Threats that constantly evolve and are exacerbated by climate change, war, poverty, crime, malnutrition and lack of clean water – all the lethal conditions that a world federation could prevent or better respond to if the protection of human rights were superior to the rights of nation states, corporations and/or religious extremists.
So should the UK leave the EU?  Yes.  In the short run it is a wise move.   But if the world continues to reject the reality of our irreversible global interdependence, there’s not a border or military in the world that will stop the catastrophic effects that our children or grandchildren will inevitably experience.  Things change.  Can we?

Friday, June 03, 2016

Governments violate more human rights than ISIS.

Your Washington Times editorial “Human rights and wrongs” (June 2, 2016) missed the single greatest source of human rights violations and the United Nations persistent failure to end them.   It is world leaders worship of national sovereignty instead of human rights…and their insistence that the United Nations maintain its current system and structures - which can do nothing to effectively stop the suffering.  
Islamic extremists have accelerated human rights abuses but extreme violations have always existed.  And, they will continue to exist even without Islamic extremists  for one simple reason.   Most national governments, especially the US, thwart any effort to empower the UN to effectively stop or prosecute anyone who commits them.  Nation states, especially the US government, confine the UN to “lofty rhetoric” instead of allowing structures that can effectively prevent, prosecute and deter genocide, torture, slavery, and wars.  Wars that any nation can start at any time without being held accountable if they possess nuclear weapons.
The US Constitution and Bill of Rights usually puts the inalienable rights of our own citizens above state’s rights and even the rights of our federal government, but it persistently fails to hold this ideal standard for any nation beyond our shore. 
The humanitarian suffering sourced by ISIS pales in comparison to the suffering caused by this unbridled freedom of nation states.  It is increasingly self-evident that each nation’s so called sovereignty will do nothing to prevent the future suffering of its own citizens from war, terrorism, climate change, pandemics, cyber-attacks, WMD proliferation, or the mass migrations of refugees as these unchecked drivers of global chaos continue.   Thomas Jefferson once said, "A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse."   Trump wants to build a wall to protect us but we what we need to build is a system of global justice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

World Hunger is National Security issue. May 28 is World Hunger Day.

The most important thing for the public to learn about on World Hunger Day (May 28th) is that world hunger is increasingly a national security issue.   And it was even before the creation of the Hunger Project.  Shortly after THP’s creation, President Jimmy Carter’s 1980 Presidential Commission on World Hunger concluded “In the final analysis, unless Americans -- as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world -- place far higher priority on overcoming world hunger, its effects will no longer remain remote or unfamiliar.  Nor can we wait until we reach the brink of the precipice; the major actions required do not lend themselves to crisis planning, patchwork management, or emergency financing... The hour is late.  Age-old forces of poverty, disease, inequity, and hunger continue to challenge the world.  Our humanity demands that we act upon these challenges now...”

Elsewhere in this bipartisan commission report the links between national security and world hunger were mentioned no less than fourteen times.  These commissioners unanimously warned about the future consequences if we ignored such a gross violation of human rights.  They stated The most potentially explosive force in the world today is the frustrated desire of poor people to attain a decent standard of living. The anger, despair and often hatred that result represent real and persistent threats to international order…  Neither the cost to national security of allowing malnutrition to spread nor the gain to be derived by a genuine effort to resolve the problem can be predicted or measured in any precise, mathematical way. Nor can monetary value be placed on avoiding the chaos that will ensue unless the United States and the rest of the world begin to develop a common institutional framework for meeting such other critical global threats as the growing scarcity of fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources, environmental hazards, pollution of the seas, and international terrorism. Calculable or not, however, this combination of problems now threatens the national security of all countries just as surely as advancing armies or nuclear arsenals.”
They also stated: “The Commission believes that promoting economic development in general, and overcoming hunger in particular, are tasks far more critical to the U.S. national security than most policymakers acknowledge or even believe. Since the advent of nuclear weapons most Americans have been conditioned to equate national security with the strength of strategic military forces. The Commission considers this prevailing belief to be a simplistic illusion. Armed might represents merely the physical aspect of national security. Military force is ultimately useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated international progress toward social justice can bring.”
There should be no doubt that the world we have today is a result of our failure to take this Commission seriously.  There have been other Commissions since that have detailed the threats of infectious diseases, terrorism, climate change and the cost and horrific consequences of ignoring global prevention and rapid response efforts.
One of the root causes of the war in Syria was the hunger of farmers driven off their land by three years of draught…possibly linked to climate change.  The ultimate human cost and consequences of this festering conflict is now threatening the structural and political stability of the EU itself, and increasing disharmony in many other Western democracies because of the fear of refugees linked to extremists.
Even the most recent reports of Syrians starving in their own cities because of Syrian government forces blocking humanitarian relief efforts is met with limited action.
We cannot expect this and other forms of human suffering due to lack of good nutrition, clean water, sanitation and basic health services to continue without global consequences.   
Few people remember that World War I both aided the spread of the “Spanish flu” and was finally ended by it, because more soldiers had died from it than from the war fighting.  The hyper Globalization we have today could spread any new or re-emerging infectious disease as fast as an airline flight from Beijing to Los Angeles or Paris to New York.
A new book titled “Eleven” by Paul Hanley asks and answers an urgent question:  Can we feed the projected 11 billion people by 2100 without destroying the earth’s ecosystem?  He says “yes” but with major shifts required in current human values and priorities.  Failing that it’s hard to imagine our nation, or any American being healthy and secure with a dysfunctional global ecosystem.
Ending hunger isn’t just the moral or right thing to do.  It is a wise and urgent thing to do.  The world is changing fast.  Can we?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Economic inequality doesn't just threaten our economy.

The problem with Charles Lane’s analysis of Sanders and the Pope’s concern regarding income inequality and global poverty (Washington Post 4-14-16)  is how he limits his perspective to economics.  His stats are correct, but if he looks at national security threats to the US posed by the remaining global poverty that capitalism and free trade have not helped, he might change his tune.  
Remaining deficits in global economic development still cause the deaths of over 17,000 child deaths and 42,000 new refugees every day as a result of war, hunger, extreme weather conditions, infectious disease, terrorism, genocide and the persistent violation of other human rights.  Each threat is a result of capitalism and free trade’s failure to prevent.  
Recent Senate testimony by Retired Marine Corps General, (former) White House National Security Adviser and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, James Jones confirms what a 1980 bipartisan Presidential Commission on World Hunger concluded. 
“In the final analysis, unless Americans -- as citizens of an increasingly interdependent world -- place far higher priority on overcoming world hunger, its effects will no longer remain remote or unfamiliar.  Nor can we wait until we reach the brink of the precipice; the major actions required do not lend themselves to crisis planning, patchwork management, or emergency financing... The hour is late.  Age-old forces of poverty, disease, inequity, and hunger continue to challenge the world.  Our humanity demands that we act upon these challenges now...”. 
 President Jimmy Carter’s Commission went on to warn about the rise in terrorism, environmental degradation, wars and revolutions we could expect if we failed to make ending hunger and the worst aspects of global poverty a top US national security priority.  
General Jones, Bono the musician, and even Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Appropriations agree.  Unless we make global development a far higher national security priority and make the resources available we won’t be able to afford the economic consequences.   Even Mr. Lane must be aware that this global deficit of crisis prevention funding will be bad for everyone.