Does Every Problem Have A Solution?

Hands

So someone said something interesting to me yesterday.


They were going off about this and that problem in the world. 


Then seemingly exasperated by the current and desperate state of affairs, they go “You know what? Not every problem has a solution.”


And that really took me aback.


As a student and then a professional, I have always prided myself on looking for a solution to every problem. 


Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t, but I was always taught to try!


Now someone says to me this earth-shattering news that maybe there is not a good solution out there for every catastrophic problem.


So this got me thinking…


Maybe some problems are just too big or too complex for our mortal minds to even understand or our supercomputers to really solve. 


Or perhaps sometimes things have gone too far or are too far gone, and we can’t always easily just turn back the clock.


Are there some things that we can’t really make right what we did so wrong for so long, despite the best intentions now. 


And in life are some things just a catch-22 or a zero-sum game–where every way forward is another dead end or it has consequences which are too painful or otherwise unacceptable. 


This sort of reminds me of the sick brutal Nazi in the Holocaust who took a women with two beautiful young children to the side and said, “Choose!”


“Choose what?” she innocently replies.


And the sadistic Nazi pulling out his gun says, “Choose which of your children will live and which will die, you have 30 seconds or I kill them both!”


Indeed, some problems have no good solution as hard as that is for me to hear or accept.  


All we can do is our best, and even when we can’t satisfactorily solve those completely vexing problems to us (because some things are not in the realm of the possible for mere mortals), we have to continue to go forward in life because there really is no going back. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Money, It’s Something

Poverty

Just an observation today about there being so much poverty in the Nation’s capital and around the country.

Homeless, hungry, and sick people on the streets in one of the richest countries in the world.

Yet, we have trillions going overseas to fight wars with seemingly little to no tangible benefits.

And so much ostensible waste with pork barrel politics, inefficiencies, and failed projects.

A relative joked with me the other day saying, “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor as long as you have money!”

Here we borrow money ($17.6 trillion ) and print money and the Federal Reserve buys debt ($4.1 trillion ) to keep interest rates low and the economy churning.

People from real estate mogul, Donald Trump to Economist, Robert Wiedemer, who predicted the last recession, are warning of dire economic consequences because of these short-sighted policies.

So do we have real money to continue to burn or is it smoke and mirrors and as Wiedemer says, “the medicine will become the poison”–what do you think?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Restraint or Recklessness?

Restraint or Recklessness?

Like many of you, as I watch the events unfold with the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, I am amazed at the “restraint” being shown by the West.

But I can’t help asking myself why a military invasion by the Great Bear into a sovereign nation that is leaning toward democracy is being met with restraint.

Sitting in Starbucks, I overheard one young women saying to an older gentlemen that she did not understand the reaction of the President in saying there would be “consequences” and that no one took that seriously as there was no specificity, almost as if their where no real consequences to even threaten Russia with.

So why all the word-mincing, dancing around the subject, and restraint by the West in light of this very dangerous escalation in eastern Europe:

1) Surprise – Was the West completely taken by surprise by Russia’s military intervention? Didn’t something similar happen with Georgia in 2008–less than 6 years ago? Did we not foresee the possibility of Russia lashing out against Ukraine to protect its interests when Ukraine turned back toward European integration and away from the embrace of Russia that it had made only weeks earlier? After Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and with all our “Big Data,” intelligence, and military planning–how did we miss this (again!)?

2) Duped – Were we duped by the misinformation from Russia saying that the 150,000 troops they called on a “training exercise” was planned months ago and it just happened to coincide with the toppling of Ukraine’s President? Also, were we fooled when the “mysterious” soldiers showed up without national markings and Russia said they weren’t their military–uh, where did they come from–did they float down from the heavens?

3) Apathetic – Are we just apathetic to Ukraine’s plight? Are they just a poor country of little strategic value to us? Are we so war weary from Iraq and Afghanistan that we just want to place our heads in the sand like ostriches even when democracy and freedom is threatened in a European nation of some 45 million people?

4) Fear – Are we afraid of the military might of the nuclear-armed Russian Federation? Is America, the European Union, NATO, the United Nations all not willing to stand up and hold Russia accountable even if that means a military confrontation? Not that anyone wants World War III, but if we don’t stand up and defend against wanton aggression, how can any country or anyone be safe going forward?

5) Optionless – Are we just out of options? Russia got the upper hand on this one and they are logistically right there on the border and in the country of Ukraine now and what can we do? Despite the U.S. assertion that it can project military power anywhere around the world and a defense budget bigger than the 10 next largest combined–how can we be out of options? Are we out of options because we tacitly understand that one wrong miscalculation and we could end up with WMD on our homeland doorstep?

6) Butter Over Guns – Have we retrenched from world affairs, downsized our military, and emphasized domestic issues over international ones? Have we forgotten the risk that comes from a world without a superpower that helps to maintain stability and peace? Are we just under so much financial duress with a growing mountain of national debt, a economic recovery still struggling, and the lowest employment participation in over 30 years that we can’t even entertain spending more treasure to fight again?

7) Leadership – Who is managing the crisis? We’ve seen our President speak, various other government officials from the U.S. and European Union, the Secretary General of the U.N., the Secretary General of NATO, and more? Who is in charge–setting the tone–deciding the strategy? Who has point so that we and Russia know who to listen to and what is just background noise?

What is so scary about this whole thing is how quickly things can escalate and seriously get out of control in this world, and this despite all the alliances, planning, and spending–at the end of the day, it looks like we are floundering and are in chaos, while Russia is advancing on multiples fronts in Ukraine and elsewhere with supporting dangerous regimes in Syria, Iran, North Korea and more.

Whether we should or shouldn’t get involved militarily, what is shocking is: 1) the very notion that there wouldn’t be any good military options, and 2) that the consequences are not being spelled out with speed and clarity.

In the streets, at the cafe, on the television, I am seeing and hearing people in shock at what is happening and what we are and are not doing about it.

Even if we get Russia to stop advancing (yes, based on what happened with Georgia, I doubt they will actually pull back out), the question is what happens the next time there is a conflict based on how we’ve managed this one?

I do want to mention one other thing, which is while I feel empathy for the plight of the Ukrainians seeking freedom from Russia now, I also must remember the events of Babi Yar where, between 1941-1944, 900,000 Jews were murdered in the Soviet Union by Nazi genocide and their Ukrainian collaborators. This is history, but no so long ago.

All opinions my own.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Utenriksdept)

Black and White and Gray All Over

Black and White and Gray All Over

My trip to South Florida this week was full of juxtapositions and lessons for me as a person:

1) Attention and Inattention—There were 2 father-son pairs in this gorgeous infinity pool at the resort. One father and son (age maybe 3) were together—jumping, splashing, swimming, holding each other—it was really beautiful. The other father and son (maybe 4) in contrast had the kid standing alone in the pool trying clumsily to pull a pair of goggles over his face, while his inattentive father stood off to the side glued on his smartphone. The first kid was smiling ear-to-ear under the attentive and adoring eyes of his father, the second kid was clearly rejected and dejected.

2) Beach and Poverty—I visited the beach in Hollywood; we were told it had a great little boardwalk. When we got there at first, it seemed awesome with the sun and palm trees, music, eateries, skaters, and bicyclists, and more. But as we started walking and exploring, it quickly became apparent that this was the poor side of town. There were no high-rises here, no fancy cars, no eloquent shops, and sort of a menacing feeling overall. The contrast of the beautiful beach and boardwalk with the surrounding poverty left me feeling sort of confused about wanting to be there, but also wanting to leave.

3) Ocean and Starbucks—whenever, I come down to South Florida, I invariably end up thinking about finding a place down here. This time, I saw some options that were attractive for very different reasons. One place was an older building, nice and enticing with a direct ocean view. The view from the apartment was so amazing; it literally made my wife cry. But then we saw another condominium—this one brand new, about 15 minute walk from the ocean, but right over all the shopping, Starbucks, and conveniences. The first place had a million dollar view, but the second place was practical and we could see ourselves really living there.

4) Driving and Jolly–We took a trolley ride and the driver was obviously hard-working, but low paid. Yet he turned up the tunes and took us around town not just driving, but literally singing and sort of dancing to them too–waving his arms and smiling the whole time. It was great to see someone so spirited and happy in whatever they were doing in life.

As I get older, and hopefully wiser, I see more clearly that situations in life are not simple or “black and white,” but there are lots of complexities, choices, and grays.

Do you choose self or family, live where you like or where you can earn a good living, go for the view or for the convenience, bemoan what you don’t have or celebrate what you do? Lots of decisions in life—each choice has consequences, so choose carefully.

No one has it all—even if it looks like they do. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Learning IT Security By Consequences

This is a brilliant little video on IT Security.

What I like about it is that it doesn’t just tell you what not to do to stay safe, but rather it shows you the consequences of not doing the right things.

Whether you are letting someone into your office, allowing them borrow your badge, leaving your computer unsecured, posting your passwords, and more–this short animated video shows you how these vulnerabilities will be exploited.

It is also effective how they show “Larry” doing these security no-no’s with signs everywhere saying don’t do this.

Finally, the video does a nice job summing up key points at the end to reinforce what you learned.

I think that while this is simpler than many longer and more detailed security videos that I have seen, in a way it is more successful in delivering the message in a practical, down-to-earth approach that anyone can quickly learn core basic practices from.

Moreover, this video could be expanded to teach additional useful IT security tips, such as password strengthening, social engineering, and much more.

I believe that even Larry, the unsuspecting office guy, can learn his lesson here. 😉

(Note: This is not an endorsement of any product or service.)

Decision-Making With Perspective, Please.

Decision-Making With Perspective, Please.

An article in Fast Company (1 April 2013) by Chip and Dan Heath tells us to use the 10/10/10 rule for making tough decisions.

That is to consider how you will feel about the decision in 10 minutes, in 10 months, and in 10 years–in order to “get some distance on our decisions.”

But this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, if you are making a decision, looking at it with 3 future lenses does not provide a lot of additional insight even if they are at various points in the future.

What makes a lot more sense is to examine the decision based on past, present, and future consideration.

Past–At home, I learned from my father that when he makes a big decision, he thinks about what his father would’ve have done in a similar situation. My dad greatly respected his father, and believes that he is a guiding force in his everyday life. It is important to consider what our parents, grandparents, and other people that we respect from our past would do in similar circumstances–this is a social view. For example, would your parents and grandparents be proud of your decision and what it represents for you as a person or would you feel ashamed and guilty, if they found out. This is not to say that you can’t express your individuality, but rather that your past is one important guidepost to consider.

Present–In operational law enforcement and defense environment, I learned that you have to respect the decision-maker at the frontline. The details of what is happening or the ground in the here and now can certainly be a decisive factor in both split second decisions, but also those decisions where we have some luxury of contemplation–this is an operational view. Additionally, in making a big decision, we need to be true to ourselves and base the decision on our values and beliefs (i.e. who we are). In contrast, when we make decisions that violate our core beliefs, we usually regret it pretty quickly.

Future–In Yeshiva, I learned to strongly consider the future in all decision-making. The notion that this world is just a corridor to the future world was a frequent theme. From this religious perspective, what is important in how we live our lives today is not the immediate pleasure we can get, but rather what the future consequences will be on our spirit/soul (i.e. Neshama)–this is a strategic view. One teacher exhorted us to always look at things from the future perspective of our death bed–will you feel you lived your life as a good person and in a fulfilling way or did you just do what felt good or was selfish and fleeting? For example, he said, “No one ever looked back and wish they spent more time working. Instead, they usually regret not spending more time with the family and true friends.”

Decision-making is not trivial–you need to consider carefully what you do, with whom, when and how. To do this, looking at 3 points in the future is minimally helpful. Instead, consider your past, present, and future, and you will make better decisions that will enable you to be true to yourself, your family and community, and your very soul.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Losing The Edge, No More

Copyright

For years, there has been all sorts of uproar about the U.S. and its citizens and businesses losing their edge.

 

From critics who point out to how our educational system (especially through high school) is not keeping up, how we are not attracting and graduating enough folks in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), how our inventions are freely copied overseas, and how innovation and entrepreneurship is suffering at home whether due to challenging economic or social conditions.

 

Yet, when it comes to losing our edge, nothing is more maddening than when the technological advances we do have are taken from us–this happens in numerous ways, including:

 

– Cyber Attacks: According to the Pentagon Strategy on Cyberwar as per the Wall Street Journal (15 July 2011) “each year a volume of intellectual property the size of the Library of Congress is stolen from U.S. government and private-sector networks.” Cyber espionage has affected a broad range of our prized national assets: from Space Shuttle designs to the Joint U.S. Defense Strategy with South Korea as del as the plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more. Moreover and unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, this past August, McAfee disclosed a cyber spying operation dubbed Operation Shady Rat that infiltrated some 71 government and corporate entities of which 49 were in the U.S. and which included more than a dozen defense firms over five years, compromising a massive amount of information.

 

– Spies/Insider Threats: Spies and insider threats can turn over state secrets to foreign powers or entities causing a major lose to our competitive advantage. This has happened with convicted spies from Aldrich Ames to FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and more recently to Army Corporal Bradley Manning accused of turning over troves of restricted documents to WikLleaks. And despite the amazing efforts to catch these subversives, presumably, there are plenty more where they came from.

 

– Expropriations: We lose our edge to foreign nations and organizations when our high-technology or intellectual assets are used without our consent or otherwise seized and compromised. This can happen from having our copyrights trampled on, our designs simply copied and “knockoffs” produced and peddled, or even when we are in a sense forced to exchange our intellectual property for basic entry into foreign markets. But this also happens more explicitly and violently when our assets are literally taken from us. For example this happened in April 2001, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted (in international air space) and crashed a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane and didn’t return it until July in disassembled pieces. Similarly, when the tail of the stealth modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with sensitive military technology, used in the raid in Osama bin Laden’s was recovered and held by Pakistan for weeks before it was returned to the U.S. And we saw this again this week when the Iranians showed off a prized RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone they now have seized, and which secrets presumably may end up in Russian, Chinese, or ultimately terrorist hands.

 

Developing an edge is not something we should take lightly or for granted–It is based on lots of talent, experience, and hard work and we do not have an exclusive hold on any of these.

 

We must prize our scientific and technological advances and secure these the way a mother protects it’s young–fiercely and without compromise.

 

No matter how much or fast we churn out the advances, it will not matter if we do not safeguard our investments from those who would take it right out from under us. We can do this by significantly increasing investment in cyber security, strengthening counterespionage efforts, and not letting any nation or organization take something that doesn’t belong to them without consequences–economic or military–that restore our edge and then some.

 

(Source Photo: here)