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.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Terror in Paris on Friday the 13th

News reports sound surprised by the mass murder in Paris.  American’s were surprised on 9-11.   It continues to surprise me that they are surprised.  This is what a global war on terrorism looks like.  And it’s only going to get worse unless we stop waging war, which is in itself a form of terrorism.  A war where the world is a battle field with no front lines, no borders, and no rules.
War by definition is lawlessness.  And every war spawns terror for anyone caught in the middle.  Even for the soldiers who volunteer or were drafted, war is hell and thoroughly terrifying.
Being on the receiving end of a suicide bomber and stealth bomber there is no difference except cost.   They both kill innocent people.   There is no justice in that.   A Pope once offered the solution in four words  “no justice, no peace”.  Last month on the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March you heard a 3 word prediction, “justice or else!”  In June the report from the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance stated the obvious in just two words. “ Just Peace”.  The summary of their detailed report makes the self-evident case that without justice (the protection of human rights) there will be no security! 
On December 10th  the world should be celebrating the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It’s a list of 51 specific inalienable human rights in 30 “Articles”.
There is no way to prove this assertion, but I believe it’s true.  If in creating the United Nations 70 years ago, the victors of World War II would have made this an enforceable global ‘bill of rights’, superior to the rights of nation states (the national sovereign system of unenforceable international law we have today), there would be no terrorism.  No genocide.  Far fewer deaths from poverty, hunger, disease (which still kill more people than war and genocide combined).  The world we live in today wouldn’t be perfect. But we wouldn’t now be increasingly forced to choose between our freedoms and our security.  
Those who created the UDHR after the terrors of World War II (genocide, atomic bombs and millions of death by war) essentially acknowledged our global interdependence.   But today we cling to the illusion that we are independent.  A global state of anarchy that allows nation states to do as they please, especially if they have nuclear weapons, regardless of the consequences on other people in other nations or in other religions.
Our great but troubled nation is based on this illusionary concept of ‘independence’.  In reality it is just a word that exists only on paper in this increasingly interdependent and troubled world.   Even worse, it is a mental illusion that goes beyond our national and state governments.  It is embedded in each government agency.    After 9-ll our nation attempted to reconcile the consequences of the separation between the CIA and the FBI in terms of cooperation in identifying in advance, those who might be plotting harm against us.  Our government then consolidated 18 formerly independent agencies into one.  The Department of Homeland Security.  But, then kept it separate from DOD, which remains separate from EPA , and every other federal  agency responsible for various aspects of our national security.  
It gets worse.  Our minds are addicted to the illusion of separateness.   We have a mind/body/spirit separation then spend time and effort to seeking and practicing various techniques to resolve this separateness.   We also separate ourselves from one another by skin color, religion, nationality, sexual preferences, culture, political parties, and tax loop holes.  And we wonder why things aren’t working?.  We have a growing obesity epidemic, distrust of police and politicians, and a ‘dysfunctional government’ that is now our nation’s second greatest national security threat.  You read that correctly.  Our nation’s top national security experts, put our government’s “dysfunction”, in second place behind, Russia, China, North Korea and Climate Change.   They saw jihadists as a greater threat.
Soon after I first started working on world hunger issues in the late 1970s.  I read President Carter’s “Presidential Commission on World Hunger”.  In the summary of that report it concluded ‘if we don’t end hunger soon we will increasingly see disease, war, revolution, refugees…’
Scientists now believe AIDS originated in the Congo in the 1930s and 40s when  the eating of bush meat spread the virus to the human population where there was no immunity.  Then wars and prostitution pushed the virus up the Kinshasa highway where it was seen as a ‘hunger’ related problem.  According to genetic tracing the virus first appeared in the US in the mid 70s when it was brought in unknowingly by a Haitian airline steward.
A few years later HIV/AIDS started killing gay men in SF where I was living with my wife.  We had our first child in San Francisco General Hospital…and a few months later received a letter requesting we  come in for an blood test.  Would it be twisting a word too much to say we were ‘terrorized’?  Long before the US attacks on 9-11 I had been studying terrorism.  I was shocked by the lack of agreement on a definition.  There were over 200, many contradicting each another.  But after witnessing my first child coming into this world I understood for the first time what true joy was, and true terror.  I would have done ANYTHING to keep her safe and healthy.  And, I assure you. There is no greater terror in the world than experience of a parent thinking about the loss of their own child.  Yet today, like every day, approximately 17,000 children under the age of 5 die from easily preventable malnutrition and infections.  And it’s not news!   
I believe it’s not reported because of our illusion of separateness.  This blinds us to the actual connections between the suffering of those parents and a growing list of lethal and expensive consequences that show up in our own lives.   From the export of US jobs to lower wage nations, to the import of infectious diseases by immigrants or Americans on vacations or business trips abroad.  From the terrorism we see on TV to the excessive birth rates that fuel population growth.  
I believe the global enforcement of the UDHR back then would have profoundly reduced most of these problems and threats today. And those that were not preventable, we would be that much better able to react to or recover from today.
And that is why I believe, December 10th is the most important day of the year.  Unfortunately, it will continue to be ‘just a day’ like any other.  Until ‘we the people’ of the world demand that our inalienable rights be put superior to the currently uncontested rights of nation states (and corporations) to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want.
For those unpersuaded by this logic.  Consider this.  The exponential growth of technology is putting unprecedented power in the hands of almost anyone with a small bank account or a grudge.   All of it is duel use technology.  Capable of doing amazing good, or catastrophic harm.  Our linear minds can’t quite grasp the significance of this reality.  And, worse yet, our ‘independent’ governments are seem increasingly incapable of changing in response.    If we allow war to continue as a solution to resolving issues instead of ‘justice’ determined by democratically elected law making body and a global supreme court, our species may not recover.   Albert Einstein who supported this change in human behavior was once asked what World War III would be fought with.  He said he didn’t know.  But he was quite certain, “World War IV would be fought with sticks and stones.”
No justice.  No security.  No civilization.  No humans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

GOP Debate misses fundamental issue. Our Government isn't just broke. It's broken.

Our Federation is in crisis.

In 364 days American voters will get the chance to choose our nation’s next President.  As usual, nearly half will not vote (the US is now 120th in the world for average voter turnout – well below Tunisia, Yemen and Iran).   These ‘not political’ players have several reasons for not casting a vote, and few care that not voting is actually a vote ‘in favor’ of  the status quo. 
But, just doing the math, they figure their one vote in 150 million doesn’t really matter.  So why bother?  And, while it can certainly boost one’s pride (stepping out of voting booth, even knowing your favorite might lose) having done your civic duty, it is astronomically remote that your vote will make any difference outside of your own emotions.  Some know the Constitution’s electoral college system effectively cancels every vote for the most important person in our land.
Some potential voters have become so jaded by their party, or disgusted by dirty politics, they rationalize ‘why bother?  It only encourages them!  Then there are the spoilers who know their favorite independent candidate won’t win, yet cast a vote for them simply out of principle.  And now, with so-called ‘independent’ voters out numbering voters in both major party’s independent voters could actually be a game-changer.  But only if a truly independent candidate appeared with enough appeal to draw independents who have defected from the extremes or moderations of both parties. Don’t hold your breath.
But there is one other increasingly valid and monstrous reason why voting for any Presidential candidate is a farce.  Our federal government is not only dysfunctional.  It is fundamentally, broken and even fatally flawed. 
Dysfunctional?  It goes beyond the extremist party’s refusal to compromise, and the lack of civility between parties.  A recent survey of US national security experts were asked to rank the top threats to our National Security.  They put “government dysfunction” second only to terrorism.  Russia, China, Climate change, North Korea, Cyber attacks…all less threatening.
Broken?   Some have claimed that since 9-11 the US Constitution has become a suicide pact.  Keeping Americans safe from another mass casualty terrorist attack or even a series of smaller mass murders, is no longer deemed possible without infringing on our prized Bill of Rights.  Even Obama’s recent decision to put 50 special forces troops into Syria is a violation of our Constitution and international law. But how else can he demonstrate a commitment to fighting ISIS and/or gain a negotiating lever in dealing with Russia and Iran in ridding Syria of Assad?
Lethally flawed:  The monstrous reality is that the US government, regardless of who is President, or how much money it spends on the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, the NSA or CIA it is incapable of stopping or preventing some increasingly likely (some say inevitable) catastrophic consequences that will come from beyond our borders.  Or even some of those within.
A pandemic?  A flu strain comparable to the Spanish flu that killed nearly 500,000 Americans during World War I.  A comparable virus today could kill several million healthy and productive Americans and destroy an already sluggish economy.
Collapse of our Electrical Grid:  For a society dependent upon communications, refrigeration, lighting, and electrical security systems the US is immediately vulnerable to solar flares, nuclear Electro Magnetic Pulse Events, cyber destruction of our electrical grid, or covert conventional attacks on multiple power stations. A commission studying this issues predicts that a worse case scenario could result in the deaths of up to 200 million Americans in a year.  Those who study the sun, believe there is a 10 percent chance that in the next ten years the US will take a serious hit by a coronal ejection that could take out some of our electrical grid or communication satellites.
A bioweapons attack or accident. An intentional or accidental release of weaponized smallpox would change civilized life on earth as we know it.  Natural small pox had a 3% kill rate and killed more people in the last century than all the wars and revolutions combined.  Weaponized smallpox was designed to kill over 90% of those infected.  Other bioengineered pathogens are plentiful and increasingly easy to manufacture…and very difficult to control.
A cyberattack on our financial system could send the world into a recession that would make 2008 look like a cake walk.
And continued CO2 emissions are moving us into a world of historically unprecedented climate chaos and weather extremes that will have a variety of national security impacts from floods, to floods of refugees, to the spread of deadly diseases. The Syrian civil war was sparked by protests of hungry farmers in Damascus who had left their farms due to a 4 year draught that left them hungry and poor.
The one thing all of these interdependent threats have in common is the incapacity of any one nation, let alone any one person, to stop them from catastrophic consequences on our nation and most Americans.
The Millennial generation is shifting conventional wisdom on political engagement. They are more skeptical of institutions and less likely to identify with political parties but they are also more progressive then previous generations.
Unless the Baby Boomers and Millennials discover the value of effective global institutions, and even more important, the need for these institutions to focus on the global protection of human rights, humanity will face these and other increasing threats to our freedoms, security, prosperity, and most important our sustainability.
So no need to get all wrapped up in the 2016 US Presidential election….unless you find one individual willing to tell the American people the truth.  They won’t be able to handle the truth…but at least you have voted your conscious and did what was needed.

Veteran's Day isn't what it used to be.

Veteran’s day isn’t what it used to be.  It used to be Armistice day.   A special day honoring the last day of the great ‘war to end all wars’.   The 11 hour of the 11th day of the 11 month of 1918.  And it was all folly.    It only marked a temporary end of global fighting.  It was an armistice that allowed any and every nation to rearm.  And after the failure of the League of Nations and the injustice forced upon the German people by the Versailles treaty -- the fuse was lit.  The immense German economic suffering led to political unrest and the rise of Adolph Hitler and the next world war. 
 Then, after 50 million lives were lost and weaponry developed threatened the survival of our species, the world tried again to find an alternative to war.  Victor nations created the United Nations.  Unfortunately these victor nations failed to give it any real power.  This flaw ensured that every nation state could continue its abuse of human rights or the expansion of their economic or political ideologies in any way they saw fit, with no real constraints globally.  This global lawlessness and persistent low level violence inevitably led to existential tensions between the superpowers.  This inevitably led to wars by proxy.  An era of conflict we now refer to as the Cold War. 
During this time, nuclear weapons probably did more to prevent the next global hot war than the United Nations.  But the aggressive and abusive habits of the nuclear and non-nuclear powered states alike, unrestrained by a powerless UN, laid the foundation for a yet another kind of war.  A warfare that would target civilians and those who hid among them -- the global war on terrorism.  
This was warfare not against an army, but against a tactic.  A tactic that could be used by any individual, in or out of a uniform, of any age, any sex, or any nationality.   In this evolution of war… universal human rights and the rights of ‘we the people’ even within democratic nations would be less important than the security of the nation state and the collective safety of its citizens.   Advances in technology however made any level of security an illusion.  Technologies exponential growth in power and accessibility for both unprecedented good and unimaginable harm became increasingly affordable to virtually any individual. 
Within one human generation the world went from super power nations to super powered individuals.  And still, no enforceable global standards for the protection of human rights or human security.  The rights of nations remain supreme. And with this, their right to protect their own interests, whatever its leaders deemed those interests to be.   Human rights remain an afterthought.  Just an noble ideal.  
It is this persistent insistence that the rights of nation states remain superior to human rights that is the source of nearly every problem our world faces today.  And instead of honoring the end of war, our nation decided to honor the deaths of soldiers who sacrificed their lives, not for the good of humanity, but for the glory of a nation state’s interests.   We claim these brave souls died for what our nation stands for.  Freedom.    But freedom to do what?  Our nation has done great things with its freedom.  It has also committed genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.  And, not one leader has ever been held accountable for violating our citizen’s enduring, inspiring, but still meaningless pledge of “liberty and justice for all”. 
Until our great nation applies this honorable standard globally, we are only shades better than those nations we support who behead their citizens for the silliest of reasons, imprison millions for the crimes of a few, or remain idle when innocent people are intentionally mass murdered with Chemical weapons. 
Veterans of all wars deserve to be honored for their sacrifice, even if their nation wrongly invaded or occupied another nation.  Even if their war fighting contributed to the loss of innocent life.  Because it is the nation’s leaders who start and wage war.  And it is they who are ultimately responsible for any collateral damage caused.   Most soldiers honorably join to be of service to their nation’s highest ideals.  Their sacrifice of life or limb was never intended for a government deeply flawed by corruption, incompetence, politics and profiteering. 
So this Veteran’s Day, honor all veterans.  But also give some thought to the urgent  ideal of finding a replacement for war.   We have but one choice.  Law.   Specifically, the global rule of law, where the protection of human rights would reign supreme over the rights of nation states to do as they please.    
Albert Einstein walked this path.  A journalist once asked him how the Third World War would be fought. He said, he didn’t know. But he did believe the Fourth World War would be fought with sticks and stones. 
Our civilization is only one cyber attack, biological attack, or EMP event away from arming ourselves with sticks, stones and tire wrenches.   It’s time to replace the global war system of unenforceable international law with a the global rule of law.  Our nation’s original 13 states did it by forming a single nation under the force of law.  A flaw in our original Constitution and bill of rights, led to our nation’s bloodiest war.  We must all pledge ‘liberty and justice for all” if we want peace to be more than just a time to rearm.  

Sunday, October 04, 2015

More guns! or No Guns! will make us safe. we suffer from Anosognosia.

More guns will NOT make us safe!  But, Outlawing guns won’t either! 

We Americans suffer from a medical condition called ‘Anosognosia’.  This medical term best explains the American gun violence problem as well most other problem we fail to respond to between people and nations of the world.   Simply defined, Anosognosia is a human mental condition where one who suffers from a mental disability -- is unaware of that disability.   Another way of saying this is ‘one who suffers from a lack of insight or awareness.’

In every published article or news interview one side points to the amount of guns Americans own compared to other nations.  And only the US has this level of violence.  There are however, other groupings of people with a higher level of gun per person, with significantly lower gun violence. Military bases even restrict access to firearms and ammunition except during war time.  And, rarely are these weapons turned against their fellow American.  Gun training could account for this, but I’m guessing something else is at play…responsible gun ownership and behavior.  In the military there is also a mental belief that soldiers are dependent upon one another for their own survival.  The key word being ‘dependent’.  In this context, it should be clear what contributes most to gun violence in America.  We believe we are independent of one another. This belief extends to our propensity for military engagements abroad. This human invented concept of ‘independence’ is our greatest mental flaw.

In real life ‘independence’ is an illusion – a lethal illusion that disconnects us from reality both as individuals and as a nation. 

Our national worship of ‘Independence’ is not new, and it is certainly not limited to Americans.  But it is profoundly etched into the American psyche starting with our federal system of government.  How this simple but flawed mental concept relates to gun violence and mass murders will become clear soon if you keep reading. And, so will the cause of many other problems Americans face (immigration, income inequality, drug abuse, obesity, dropout and divorce rates).   This simple answer is documented by science AND  consistent with the beliefs of every major religion.  Here’s the science.

It is an irrevocable fact that our health, thoughts, prosperity and survival are irreversibly dependent on so many factors it would take hours to list them all. But our learned mental disconnect from the most important factors can be listed. And they are painfully self-evident to anyone not suffering from Anosognosia.

Our greatest disconnects include (but are not limited to):
#1. The Environment: Few things have been more damaging to humanities long term survival than our belief that we must conquer nature. Nature can make life short, brutish and uncomfortable. But so does war and poverty, and we haven’t taken the necessary steps to conquer these. The environment is our life support system. It consists of a very thin and fragile biofilm covering our planet that is protected by a number of non-biofilm factors (gravity, earth’s polarization, our ionosphere, and don’t forget the life giving energy from the sun and the gravitational influence of the Moon). Within our biofilm every drop of seawater, speck of soil and liter of air contains thousands if not millions of life forms. Some may cause human illness and death but 99.9% play a vital role in our survival or contribute positively to the chain of life that makes up our planetary life support system.  We rightly see our homes/houses as our refuge from nature but then turn the outside of our property (the yard) into an unnatural environment to improve our homes appearance. We rely on harmful chemicals and non-native species to create the appearance someone ‘lives’ there.

2. Our bodies: While we may be ‘spiritual beings’ our existence for now depends upon a relatively complicated but well organized lump of organic matter that requires specific constant inputs and expulsions to survive. Until we find the means to move beyond this ‘lump’ form we should probably take care of it. We seldom do. Overconsumption and malconsumption sickens us, debilitates us, and too often kills us prematurely. And increasingly we demonstrate little interest in boosting the physical capacity of our adaptable, auto-repairing organic lump.  This degenerative capacity slowly accelerates its usefulness, usually so slowly we fail to perceive it until it’s too late. This lump depends on many things.  Kept healthy, it can be an incredible tool for building a better world and even our capacity to form constructive mental concepts that sustain and nurture nature all life - like the concept of ‘interdependence’.

3. Our loved ones: Time commitments to work and the time we commit to the gadgets we use for transportation (cars and trucks), communication and entertainment (cell phones, TVs and computers…) is time we don’t spend face to face or hand in hand with those we love, and others who need love, who may someday come into our schools, our places of worship or our place of employment. 

4. Our community: Our homes are seen as not only an escape from nature, but from an increasingly unfriendly, sometimes hostile, social environment we perceive largely from listening to the news and interacting with others close to us who may have points of view that make us annoyed, angry, indifferent or uncomfortable. We prefer being with others like us, instead of learning from and enjoying the company of others who are not.

5. Our Government: At best we believe that government is inefficient. At worst, it’s dysfunctional or conspiratorial. We have forgotten that ours is a government of “We the People”. It is not some ‘thing’ or cabal in Washington DC, the state capitol, or city hall. It is an institution that we have chosen by place of residence, and by voting (AND not voting –which is a vote for the status quo) to be responsible for things around us. Rarely are we active citizens between elections.

6. Our Politicians: Because their mouths are moving, we assume they are lying. And, if they have the courage to tell us what we need to hear, we won’t vote for them. We rarely feel connected enough to them, even though they ‘represent’ us, to tell them what we want, need, or value most. Usually our closest connection to them is during elections when they ask us for donations or during troubled times when we protest against them.

7. Science and facts: Our minds look for patterns and find ‘evidence’ that may or may not be real. We pray in hope that a higher force will save us from ourselves. And some make up other beliefs to explain random events or their previous prejudiced views.

8. The heavens: Both physical and spiritual. For as long as humans have existed humans look up in the darkness and saw the majesty of billions of stars, many concentrated in a dense path across the sky and, occasionally, a few that streak across the heaven. And we wondered, ‘how did we get here?’ and ‘why are we here?’ Now we look up and consider ourselves fortunate to see electric lights or the calm sky muted by smog or light pollution. We are now even nonchalant that our species actually landed on and returned safely from the moon.

9. Other peoples: We separate ourselves from nearly seven billion other people by divisions of sex, race, religion, ethnic group, age, political party or country.  But, in fact, we are all essentially the same children of nature or nature’s God. We all have the same needs and human vulnerabilities. But we devise different customs, looks, preferences, rules and ideas that divide us even further.

And then!  And then we wonder why we feel like ‘something’ is missing in our lives.  And then marshal the audacity to wonder why some people grab a gun and mass murder other sentient beings claiming they felt “disconnected” or were visibly and physically unloved by anyone within reach or sight.

It’s not a tragedy that we have seen a spike in mass killings in the last twenty years. It’s a miracle that far more people haven’t done it. Now, with increasing access of all humans to means of mass murder previously restricted to national governments, perhaps its time to grasp and act on the concept of our local and global interdependence. 

Nearly 70 years ago most people in the world realized this reality. They created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  A paper document intended to list most of the human needs essential to reducing violence between peoples and nations.

There is plenty evidence and even reason NOT to be is reason optimistic. Research shows that optimists are less likely to achieve their goals because they are less likely to analyze the barriers to be overcome. And, pessimists are less likely to act. What’s missing is commitment. A commitment to analyze the barriers, the devise and implement plans of action, to overcome them.  To do this effectively we must first recognize our interdependence… and while we can strive to be less dependent on others and other things, we will never be independent.  

And, in today’s modern world of increasingly powerful and affordable technology all people are becoming increasingly connected. In economics, environment, Infectious diseases (nature’s or man-made), computers (information, communication, cyber-crime…) Transportation (people, goods and services) -- all of which carry the potential for great global good or catastrophic global harm.
Independence is a debilitating and increasingly lethal myth.  The sooner we abandon it, the sooner we can build a just, sustainable and fulfilling heaven on earth, were gun violence is a rarity instead of a predictable daily expectation. Without this transformation of belief the highly desired concept of security will continue to be just an illusion.