Panic, Technology To The Rescue

Panic
Who us panic?

- ISIS is threatening the West with “dangerous new extremism

- Syria’s death toll tops 170,000 with more than 10,000 believed tortured to death. 

- Boko Haram is still abducting young girls (and boys).

- Iran says no deal on nukes

- Ebola is “out of control.”

- China is emergent as the U.S. pivots east and space becomes militarized with anti-satellite weapons. 

- Russia is resurgent (Crimea is history to Ukraine).

- The national deficit only hints at the true extent of our unfunded liabilities from entitelements.

- The economy is bubbling over the top again, warns Robert Shiller.

- Racial and income inequality continues to divide America (case in point, Ferguson MO).

- Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has an arrest record.

- Almost half the world–3 billion people–live in poverty on less then $2.50 a day. 

Ah, if only technology could solve all our global problems–and this is a big list and not by any means comprehensive.

It’s a race of the “world is exploding all over” with technology trying to make it better with more and better information, innovation, productivity, security, and cures.

Almost like the war of good over evil–we may lose the battle, but hopefully (let’s pray) in the end, we will win the war. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Ebola Bomb {^}

Ebola
Ebola is the “one of the most virulent microbes” to mankind–there is no known cure and it has a 90% mortality rate. 

 

The death toll from the current outbreak of ebola in West Africa has now hit 1,145.

 

And according to the U.N. Health Agency, the number of deaths are “vastly underestimated.”

 

Already, as of two weeks ago, more than 100 health workers had been infected. So who is going to care for the infected and sick, when the medical professionals themselves are sick and dead?

 

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola is spread by “direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments infected with such fluids.”

 

However, as frightening and deadly as ebola is as a disease that spreads and must be contained, what is even more terrifying is that there are those who believe that terrorists may try to harness it into a dirty bomb.

 

CBS reports that a disease expert from Cambridge University says that “A bigger and more serious risk is that a [terrorist] group manages to harness the virus as a power, then explode it in a bomb in a highly populated area.”

 

A biological bomb like this “could cause a large number of horrific deaths,” and would further spread the disease–and until it stops, no one knows.

 

Visiting any number of local doctors offices, emergency rooms, or hospitals that are already filled with patients and with lengthy wait times to be treated, I cannot imagine what an Ebola (type) outbreak would look like.

 

I hope and pray we never find out the suffering, death, and havoc something a virus like this would cause–whether transmitted through human-to-human contact or by one of the dirtiest, sickest bombs you could imagine.

 

(Source Screenshot: here with attribution to Unicef)

Why We Expect Nothing

Why We Expect Nothing

I took this photo of a sign at the Metro station to the Reagan National Airport by Washington, D.C.

“Expect The Unexpected” is the warning.

Don’t be complacent–anything can happen–be vigilant–is the message.

It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about people going to the beach and hiding their wallets in their shoes.

Like, a criminal would never think to check your shoe!

Oh, push the wallet all the way down to the toes, under the tongue, that way the bad guys will never be able to get to it.

Here, it’s more a case of of why don’t we expect the darn expected.

Everybody knows that people “hide” their valuables at the beach in their shoes!

In modern times, we seem blind though to any expectations at all.

- Arab Spring and civil war spreading into Syria and Iraq–after Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and more–who would’ve thought?

- Russia taking over Crimea and agitating in Eastern Ukraine–after their little excursions into Georgia and Chechnya–who would expect that?

- Financial meltdowns and major recession after the dot com and housing bubbles–even my barber was talking about retiring and buying a mansion in the Caribbean–where are these coming from?

The question then is are we really unable to see past our noses or do we just hold steadfast to principle that ignorance is bliss?

Well let’s just test the “expect nothing doctrine” that we seem to all be living by these days and see how you feel about these:

  • North Korea–they would never invade the South again.
  • Iran–sure, they are going to give up their nuclear weapons and their greater Middle Eastern Caliphate ambitions.
  • China–Yeah, we’ll just pin them in the South China Sea and they’ll never get out.
  • The national deficit–it’s not and will never be too big for us to handle because we’re rich.
  • Terrorism in a major American city–not after 9/11 and all that Homeland Security.
  • Environmental catastrophe–we will build a big bubble over ourselves, so no problem.
  • Economic inequity–the top 1% deserves to control 43% of the Nation’s wealth and everyone else just sit down and shut up.
  • The Singularity–how could a machine ever be smarter than us; we’ve got all the technology fully under our control.

Well, if you are blind or dumb enough to believe these, just keep putting your money in your shoes at the beach, because there is no reason to expect that anyone would ever think to look for it there. ;-)

The *S*p*y* Named Snowden

The *S*p*y* Named Snowden

So was Edward Snowden a whistleblower (some even call him a patriot) or one of the most ruthless spies this country has ever known?

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Edward Jay Epstein makes a strong case that Snowden was a spy galore, and the whistleblowing was his cover.
What he stole? – 1.7 million documents from the NSA with “only a minute fraction of them have anything to do with civil liberties or whistleblowing.” Instead, the vast majority “were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures”–otherwise known as the “keys to the kingdom.” Moreover, it seems clear that a “top priority was lists of the computers of U.S. adversaries abroad that the NSA has succeeded in penetrating.”
When he stole them? – Snowden took the Booz Allen Hamilton job as a contractor for NSA in March 2013–this was at the “tail end of his operation.” Moreover, the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) court order for Verizon to provide metadata on U.S. phone calls for 90 days had only been issued in April 2013. And Snowden told reporter James Rosen in October 2013, that his last job at NSA gave him access to every active operation against the Chinese and “that is why I accepted the position.”
Where did Snowden end up? – First in Hong Kong and then under the protection of the FSB (aka the old KGB) in Russia, which “effectively compromises all the sources and methods” and ties all too nicely with what he stole. A former cabinet official has indicated that the Snowden heist was either Russian espionage, Chinese espionage, or a joint operation.
If Snowden really was a spy as indicated, then the Whistleblowing of domestic surveillance in the U.S. was a most brilliant ploy by his operators to distract our nation from the true nature of the exfiltration and the harm done to our national security. In a way, it falls right in line with Russia’s creative storyline/coverup in taking Crimea in saying that they were only protecting ethnic Russians. Score 2 for Russia!

Are we so easily lied to and manipulated…is public opinion really just jello in the hands of the global spymasters.

We’ve got to be smart enough (i.e. critical thinkers) to interpret the noise in the intelligence signals, political speeches, and news stories to unveil the truth of what is really going on. In advertising, when exposing the truth of products and companies, this is sometimes referred to as culture jamming. Can we apply this to the complicated intrigue of global politics and get past the storyline that is fed to us to expose truth?

It’s high time to outmaneuver those that may seek to manipulate the public (whether from outside or even sometimes from within) with some brilliance of our own–in not believing every snippet that is fed to us and instead looking at the bigger picture of political theater, special interests, and national security to see who is now zinging whom and why. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We’re Not Deadbeats

We're Not Deadbeats

Good book review in the Wall Street Journal on America’s Fiscal Constitution by Bill White.

The main idea is that we have gone from a nation where fiscal discipline and paying off ones debts was a valued tradition to one now where excess rules and profligate borrowing runs through our veins.

Both personal and national debt were viewed as a means of last resort and not something to be proud of, but rather as something done out of necessity to get through tough times.

On a personal level, we only borrowed what we needed and we payed it back on time or even early. Poverty was just one step away or even akin to servitude.

Similarly, on a national level, public debt was viewed as a safety net to preserve the union (i.e. war), territorial integrity (e.g. Louisiana Purchase), or in a severe recession (i.e. to maintain the government’s ability to spend in the short term).

The best option was seen as “pay as you go,” with the alternative, under limited circumstances, to “pay as soon as you can.”

However, the value placed on self and national discipline and sufficiency was replaced with elements of entitlement, greed, and waste.

The problem is once you have inequity in the system, then people feel the unfairness of it all, and give up caring about the system itself and just want to get what they see as their fair share.

Some politicians cater to these feelings of relative deprivation and are no longer viewed positively for fiscal constraint and ensuring our economic security, but rather “politicians gain favor by spending money without having to raise unpopular taxes.”

In essence, the government can give people more now, and they don’t have to pay for it until future generations–hence the ability to buy citizen’s political consent and even win elections by increasing the treasure chest even temporarily.

No, this is not China raising the fortunes of the middle class to keep the Communist Party in power, but rather this is us in the U.S. of A racking up tens of trillions of dollars in debt to keep people happy now (forget the future generations, let them fend for themselves).

Shake hands, kiss babies, and hand out dollar bills–give me, give me give me!

What has happened to us fighting hard and driving into the future on our own feet–together in strength and not as a debtor nation getting handouts from anyone that will lend us.

Soon, the Fed will be raising interest rates, and with a greater and greater national deficit to pay on, interest payments have the real potential to spiral out of control and leave our economy in shambles.

Like a credit card with interest payments that eclipse the principle borrowed, soon you are in over your head and there is nowhere to go but Chapter 11.

We’re not an inherently debtor nation, and we sure don’t want to be a deadbeat nation–isn’t it better to have what we really have financially and be who we really are and value?

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren economic and national security and not a towering pile of shameless debt, from mom and dad with love.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Bigger Smaller Navy

The Bigger Smaller Navy

So our Navy is shrinking for real, but growing on the books.

Steve Cohen writes in the Wall Street Journal how the “U.S. Navy is stretched too thin.”

And we are down to just 283 ships, but for reporting purposes it’s 293–that is–because we now include hospital ships, small coastal patrol vessels (“lightly armed [with machine guns]…and not true oceangoing”), and a high-speed transport in the calculus.

Moreover, “only 35% of the U.S. Navy’s entire fleet is deployed, fewer than 100 ships, including just 3 aircraft carriers.”

According to the Heritage Foundation, gone is the promise of a mighty U.S. with a formidable 600-ship navy, and instead “U.S. naval leaders are struggling to find ways to meet a new requirement of around 300 ships…with “predictions [that] show current funding levels would reduce the fleet to [just] 263 ships.”

Sure, today’s fleet is comprised of ships more capable than predecessors, but our enemies are also not resting on their laurels.

China is now building its 2nd aircraft carrier, and Russia has formally secured Crimea home to it’s Black Sea fleet.

The function for military readiness includes not only capability of each, but numbers available to fight.

There are times that less is more, but less can also be less. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jon Olav)

U.S. To Give Up U.S.?

U.S. To GIVE UP U.S.

This is just ridiculous already…I mean why do we even bother to try, if as a nation we are just resigned to give up.

1. Russia takes Crimea and the U.S. has “no options,” instead of considering a variety of meaningful options–will Putin stop with Crimea, Georgia, Chechnya if there is virtually nothing standing in his way?

2. Syrian civil war goes on for almost 3 years and takes 150,000 lives and the U.S. has “few options,” while Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia seem to have and be exploiting lots of options.

3. “U.S. to give up Web oversight” since other governments have complained over our “unique influence”–well darn it, we invented the Internet, why shouldn’t we capitalize on it?

4. Serious “deficit reduction is dead” even though the national deficit continues to grow and threaten the national security of this country, but there are few acknowledged options for politicians that want to get re/elected, except to continue the runaway gravy train.

5. Space exploration to other planets–NASA shelves it–“Space, the final frontier…to boldly go where no man has gone before,” but we’re not really going!

6. Defense cuts threaten U.S. military as the “U.S. faces a more volatile, more unpredictable world,” and even as China ramps up its military budget by 12.2%.

7. Despite the potentially catastrophic impact that a serious cyber attack would have on the U.S. national security and economy, “the U.S. military is not prepared for cyber warfare“-why are we waiting for the proverbial lights to go out?

8. Outsourcing jobs outside the U.S. has already become cliche–with top U.S. Corporations sending more than 2.4 million American jobs overseas between 2002-2011–as our own labor force participation is now at a 30-year low!

I don’t understand what has happened to our national resolve to succeed, to lead, to be a good example in the world.

Why are we in global retreat–instead of steadfastly protecting and growing our national strategic interests in every domain?

We are innovators, entrepreneurs, skilled in every worldly affair, and lovers of freedom and human rights for all, yet we have become gun shy, afraid, and reticent to be ourselves and do what we do best–which is to do what’s right, what needs to be done, and to be global leaders in progress toward the future.

If we can’t do this, if we have just given up, if we have become ostriches with our heads in the sand–then we haven’t just given up on this or that or the other thing–but we have given up on being the U.S. of A.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)