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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tammy Bruce needs a fact checker. Immigrants are not a serious infectious disease threat.

Tammy Bruce claims (“When foreigners bring disease across the border”, Washington Times 1-25-16) must be based on “malevolence” because she can’t possibly be that ignorant regarding infectious diseases, their origins and the risk they pose to Americans from illegal immigration.
First, her history regarding the flow of illegal immigrants is incorrect.  During President Obama’s Admiration illegal immigration has declined each year since 2008 and are now at the lowest level since 2003.  The percentage of undocumented immigrants likewise is at its lowest point since the year 2000.   A new report by the Pew Research Center shows a drop of nearly a million unauthorized immigrants between 2007 and 2014. According to Pew, this is the first time since the 1940s that Mexicans have left the US at a greater rate than they have entered.  A newer survey by a New York think tank, the Center for Migration Studies, shows the number of illegal immigrants at 10.9 million.
Second, the return of Measles to our shores by foreign visitors wouldn’t be a problem if Ms. Bruce had promoted increased US aid levels for global immunization efforts to eradicate that disease.  Increased funding for WHO and other global health efforts would also save us money and worry.   According to WHO ensuring clean water alone to all the world’s people would eliminate half of all the world’s infectious diseases.  Providing adequate nutrition, access to basic health services, and safe sanitation to all the world’s poor would do even more to protect Americans from infectious diseases.  Instead spreading miss information that like war, only perpetuates and exacerbates the spread of disease to every corner of the globe, perhaps she should go even further than Trump and demand closing the US border to all foreign visitors.   That would stop the inflow of diseases, except for those brought back by American returning from foreign vacations, wars, relieve work or business trips – or birds, or imports of food and beverages, and just about anything else capable of carrying an undetected bacteria or a virus.
Third, the Polio like virus that infected “over 100 children” “in 34 states” was likely a mutation of the regular polio virus that the world targeted for eradication by the year 2000, then 2003, then 2010, but is still struggling to defeat because of failure of US foreign policy to make its eradication as high a priority a priority eradicating WMD from Iraq.  The longer we fail to prioritize global polio eradication the more likely another strain will arise and spread globally.  The current vaccinated populations won’t be immune to the new strain and instead of just completing the original global eradication campaign in the last 3 nations it still resides, every nation will need a new campaign, once an effective vaccine against the new strain is developed -- and globally distributed.  Again, total global cooperation and investment of adequate funding will be essential.  But again, something Ms. Bruce and her Fox News listeners reject – our government financing of more humanitarian aid and the United Nations specialized agencies that deal with development, disease control, peacekeeping, education, nutrition and environmental protection.
Ms. Bruce and her followers should not that the greatest achievement in human history was the global eradication of Smallpox.  Small pox killed more people (mostly children) in the last century than all the wars, revolutions and genocides combined.  Americans were spending over $150 million a year vaccinating our own children until a one-time investment of just $32 million into a ten year UN led global eradication effort that succeeded in 1971.  By 1997 (according to a GAO study) US  taxpayers had saved over $17 billion dollars because of that one-time investment!   Yes. You read that correctly.  Seventeen Billion US dollars saved…by investing just $32 million globally.  That savings would now be about $25 billion and it continues to grow each year there is no threat of Smallpox.  FYI: It was George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq that required a multibillion dollar effort to bring back smallpox vaccinations just in case Saddam Hussain had a weaponized version the Soviet’s had created before their government crumbled.  Bush’s campaign to vaccinate our troops and first responders failed because the diluted vaccines he used caused some unhealthy reactions.  The horrific news is that the vaccine dose offered wouldn’t have worked against the weaponized strain that may have been in Saddam’s arsenal.  If Bush’s preemptive ‘shock and awe’ military attack had accidently released the virus the world today would be far worse off than it already is. 
Fourth.  Vaccination levels in most of South and Central American are not that much different than ours, and in some cases better. 
Last but no least, new and re-emerging infectious diseases coming into the US are not new.  Nearly a dozen prestigious uncontested scientific, military and bipartisan reports over the last 23 years have well documented this growing trend and what needs to be done.   We still haven’t done it.   Earlier this month the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future issued its final report.   Ms. Bruce should have read it before wasting her time and the Washington Times valuable paper space with erroneous accusations like “these scourges only re-emerged with a vengeance after Mr. Obama’s open border chaos began in 2014”.
Beyond ignorance and/or malevolence of Ms. Bruce and others like her, our greatest danger is our persistent failure to recognize the fact that we live in an entirely interdepended world with hyper globalized movement of goods and people.   We can no longer afford to rely on national sovereignty in the form of independent governments and agencies to stop microscopic threats that have no respect for our worship of walls, passports and airport metal detectors.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Newest Commission on Global Health and national security

Regarding the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future final report issued on Jan. 13, 2016?  I offer 4 

1.      This is only the latest such national security warning regarding the serious and growing threat of infectious diseases.  There have been at least six others over the last two decades, a few of which were authored by US defense and intelligence agencies and national security experts.  As this latest report emphasizes again, ignoring these warnings is as great, growing and inevitable risk to American lives, freedoms and prosperity.  Equally as great a threat as war or terrorism.

2.      Man-made bio security threats are also an increasing risk given the exponential advancements in biotechnology, its increasing ease of use, affordability and global availability to virtually any buyer.  The benefits of such technology in the hands of scientists committed to combating a wide range of illnesses including those in this newest report cannot be overestimated.  But, given the dual use nature of this technology the capacity for intentional abuse and the creation of unprecedented bio weaponry can also not be overstated.  And, there is always the risk of accidents and unintentional releases of both natural and designer pathogens.

3.      Another recent report closely connected to this bio threat and also worthy of urgent public and policy maker’s attention is from the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance. Its 85 recommendations focus on the need for global justice which if implemented would directly and significantly reduce both the natural and designer threats of infectious agents.  This dual increase in security would be achieved by effectively addressing the global economic inequality, unmet human needs, and human rights violations that are at the root of nearly all individual, national and global security threats. A focus on improving on old global institutions (and building new ones when needed) that can effectively provide early detection, rapid response and most importantly preventive measures given the economic and human costs of relying on existing capacity.

4.      Thirty-six years ago a bipartisan Presidential Commission on World Hunger offered stern warnings regarding the infectious diseases, terrorism, war and environmental damage we could expect if we didn’t adequately address the global crisis of widespread hunger, starvation and malnutrition.  Given the inevitable links between the human insecurities of their report those commissioners unanimously suggested we raise ending hunger as a foreign policy priority within the context of US National security interests.  Looking at today’s headlines they appear genius.  The failure of both the Syrian leader and the existing UN international system to address the unmet human needs of Syrian farmers driven off their parched lands by a three year drought eventually sparked the Syrian civil war which accelerated the rise of ISIS.  Perhaps it is time that both the American public and policy makers take commission reports and their recommendations seriously.   Problems and threats in the world appear to be growing while our existing global structures and systems remain impotent at preventing or addressing them.  Time and money is running out.  The wisdom of making solid global investments in new and improved global structures for early responses and adequate prevention of most human security threats should now be painfully obvious to all, if they are really serious about national security.   

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Democratic debates and national security

The Democratic debates were encouraging but it was somewhat disappointing in that in the initial question to each candidate regarding their top three priorities upon entering the White-house, not one of them mentioned any action related to national security.  One exception was Governor, O’Malley’s challenge regarding renewable energy but I'm not sure how many people would hear it that way.   Until Americans automatically understand that real national security isn’t a function of military power, but rather a function of global justice for all people and our environmental life support system, we will never know real security and our freedoms and prosperity will continue to dwindle. Traditional national security issues were covered relatively during the last 26 minutes of the debate, but there was no mention from what I remember of them being addressed within the context of global justice.   That's a huge error considering the conclusion of the report titled “Confronting the Crisis on Global Governance” by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance (co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari) .  Commission website:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hunger in Syria and global chaos. Preventable.

Hunger and starvation is back in the news again.  This time in Syria.  It shouldn’t be.  For decades the world has produced more than enough food to feed every man, woman, and child.  Yet today, 16 years past the due date for ending hunger, we still have to read about it on the front page.  This is sad and bad on so many levels.
First, even on a day when hunger is not on the front page or any page, 17,000 children will die from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious related diseases.  And for each child that dies, 10 more will live on with permanent mental and/or physical disabilities.  
While some in the world suffer from the ‘terrorism’ we hear about daily, terrorism experts argue about a functional definition.  And, politicians continue to debate the best way to defeat it.   But there should be no debate about the ultimate terror -- a parent’s loss of a child, or their fear in losing a child from a lack of food, one of the most basic of human needs.  Nutritious food is rightfully one of the most basic of all inalienable human rights.  It should be hard to understand why most people get upset when such fundamental rights are ignored.
But, sadder still is our failure to learn after decades of presidential commissions, scientific studies, intelligence reports, and righteous scriptures, that when people are hungry and their children die, all humanity pays a monstrous price in the war, disease, revolution, terrorism and economic instability that are fueled by hunger.   What’s crazy is that this cost in lives and dollars is always preventable.   Given the unbelievably low cost in preventing it, this policy failure should be criminal.   
President Jimmy Carter has been chastised for his perceived ineptness at foreign policy but in hindsight his administration was the most wise and insightful, Congress just didn’t listen.  In 1980 his Presidential Commission on World Hunger concluded that unless we ended the worst aspects of hunger by the year 2000, we would not be able to avoids hunger’s lethal, debilitating, humiliating and destabilizing forces.  Our lives, our economy, and our national security would be threatened.   A word search of the Commission and its recommendations noted the phrase “national security” 17 times.  All but three were used in the context of our need then to expand our definition of ‘national security’ to include the links to hunger and poverty and the insecurity and instability that inevitably follows. 
Everyone on that bipartisan Commission were “firmly convinced that a major worldwide effort to conquer hunger and poverty, far from being a gesture of charity to be offered or withheld according to temporary political whims, holds the key to both global and national security.”  And, that “Military force is ultimately useless in the absence of the global security that only coordinated international progress toward social justice can bring.”
They go on to state, “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… 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.”
Carter’s Commission offered the foundation of a more peaceful, healthy and prosperous future and Congress ignored it.  Welcome to the world we have today!   Other Commission’s on national security since then have offered similar wisdom.  But the most recent, is also the most insightful and specific.
In June of last year, the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance released its report titled “Confronting the Crisis on Global Governance”.  This Commission was co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari.  It offered a two word conclusion “just security”.  From their perspective without global justice we will have no security.  It should be obvious to all that the systems and structures should have been strengthened decades ago.  As they are, they are incapable of managing the growing array of the threats we see today. 
And no winner of the 2016 Presidential election can change things even with a House and Senate on their side without urgent and substantial transformation of existing global systems and structures. If this new commission’s recommendations are not taken seriously by the next US President, Congress and other nation’s leaders around the world, the craziness we see in the world today, will only get worse. Far worse! 
Urgency is too lax a word in calling for action given the three simple but profoundly related factors.  First is the exponential growth of technology with unprecedented power.  Second is US voters and candidates thinking only of short term national interests.   And last, an absence of any global police force and a complete lack of enforceable human rights or adequate living standards globally that would lay the foundation for maximizing future freedom and security.  Imagine what Syria would look like today if that nation’s leadership was held accountable for the hunger of those farmers who migrated to the capital because a three year draught had devastated capacity to feed themselves.
Wars, terrorism, climate change, pandemics are all related to hunger as both cause and consequence.  We are immune to none of these threats regardless of our income level, race, nationality, or political party.  Until we understand this basic reality as those who drafted and unanimously approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the horrors of World War II (in hopes of preventing another world war), we will never achieve peace, security or prosperity for ourselves or our children.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Four essentail human freedoms - still linked to national and global security

Dear Editor,

I’m grateful Katrina vanden Heuvel recognized and wrote about the prominence of Eleanor Roosevelt’s words and her husbands “four essential human freedoms” offered seventy five years ago to this day (The 'four freedoms' are under assault.  Washington Post.  Jan. 6, 2016).   It goes beyond Ms. Vanden Heuvel’s conclusion that “we are not just choosing a president” but “what kind of country we want to be.”   By working to ensure Eleanor’s call for a “greater justice” for all humanity we are also ensuring our greatest level of human security and national security here at home.   But don’t take my word for it.  Read the two word summary of the Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance released this past summer.  Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari (commission co-chairs) summarized the report calling for “just security.”   The full report clearly details the growing security threats due to our failure to ensure global justice.  After reading the report it will become clear why Eleanor lead the creation and passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights soon after her husband died and World War II had ended.   If that document had become the world’s official and enforceable bill of rights, we would not be dealing with the growing list of unprecedented and seemingly irresolvable threats that are before us today.