Discuss And Work Together, Respectfully

Nuke cloud (2)

Everyone and their brother seems to be jumping on board to hit on Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of our “Major Strategic Ally” and friend, Israel. 


This after Netanyahu accepted an invitation from the United States Congress to speak about Iranian nukes threatening the State of Israel, the region, and the Western world. 


1) Iran, Israel and Arab Allies:


Truly, can anyone blame Israel and our Arab allies of being distressed that we are disavowing our 2011 commitment to them, as President Obama stated:


“You also see our commitment to our shared security in our…there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon…My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.”


Now we have as reported gone from preventing Iran on obtaining nuclear weapons to instead a possible agreement that still leaves thousands of Iran’s nuclear centerfuges spinning and “sunsets” as early as 2025!


This is a lopsided turning of the tables on Israel and of our Arab allies for reapproachment with Axis of Evil, Iran


2) Russia and Ukraine:


But not alone are our Middle East allies in feeling abandoned by us, as we made security guarantees also to Ukraine in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that specifically committed the U.S., U.K. and Russia to:


“Respect the independence and sovereignty and existing border of Ukraine [and to] refrain from the threat or use of force.”


Well so much for that as Crimea has now been annexed by Russia and battling rages across eastern Ukraine by Russian-supported separatists, despite a blantant violation of a truce recently brokered by France and Germany.


3) Poland and Czech Republic


Yet once again, with Poland and the Czech republic (members of NATA), we commited ourselves to building a missle shield only then to back away and seemingly abandon them


“In one of the biggest national security reversals of his young presidency, Mr. Obama cancelled…plans to station a radar facility [and]…ground-based interceptors.”


Questions:


Why are we continually turning on longtime friends and allies and embracing enemies sworn to our destruction?


What do our commitments mean to anyone anymore and why shouldn’t our shunted allies speak out, especially when it is their countries that are being placed in jeopardy?


Disrespect and Freedom of Speech:


What is also amazing is how low we have gone in our interactions such that we no longer discuss and disagree respectfully, but instead resort now to withholding security information, disgraceful name-calling (e.g. “Chickenshit”), discrediting, and even seeking to silence opposing views!


What has happened to our dearly held and constitutional rights and values for democracy, free speech, including openly debating issues and respecting differences of opinion?


Institutional Anti-Semitism:


Interesting also is how big and tough we are being on little Israel (population 8 million and about the size of the 5th smallest U.S. state of New Jersey)…


While simultaneously many seem to be proverbially (excuse the language) peeing their pants in front of the newly aggressive “Big Bear,” Russia


What is more important when it comes to the dangers of a Iran with nuclear WMD–a longtime friend and ally Israel that is facing a potentially existential threat just 70 years after the Holocaust or getting an historical “award” for making an agreement (and a potentially bad one at that) with Iran?


Conclusion:


Behavior unbecoming, includes serially breaking commitments, silencing the opposition (uh, against our Constituion), name-calling and bullying, and endangering longtime allies and friend–this is not leadership and does not leave anyone a desired legacy. 


Let’s openly and freely discuss and work together respectfully in true friendship and partnership, and get a good deal that safeguards the democracies of the United States and Israel. 😉


(All Opinions my own.)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to blueforce4116)

Existential Threats–Real or Imagined

Should we worry about something that hasn’t happened to us yet?

Wired Magazine (Sept. 2012) has an interesting article called Apocalypse Not.

Its thesis is that “people freak out over end-of-the world scenarios” and they should know better because despite all the fear and predictions of catastrophe, nothing ever really happens.
It categorizes the doomsday cataclysms into 4 types:
1) Chemicals–these come form things like pesticides (like DDT), smoking, and CFCs, and result in air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change.
2) Disease–recent fears of pandemics were associated with bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, ebola, and mad cow disease.
3) People–we can cause our own hell through population explosion and famine and although it didn’t mention this, I would assume the brutality and wars that can wipe entire races out.
4) Resources–Peak oil theory, metals and minerals, and other resource constraints have been causes of consternation leading us to look for alternative energy sources and even recently consider mining minerals on asteroids.
The article goes so far as to poke fun at those who are concerned about these things even stating that “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”
Wired does acknowledge that while “over the past half-century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; [and still] some were wholly chimerical.”
What the author, Matt Ridley, has missed here in his logic are a few main things:
Smaller things add to big things–While each individual issue may not have reached the catastrophic tipping point been yet, these issues can certainly progress and even more so, in the aggregate, pose dangerous situations that we may be unable to contain. So you can choose to live with blinders on for today, but the consequences of our choices are inescapable and may only be around the next bend.
Recognizing the future–just because things like death and final judgement haven’t happened to us yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t in store for us in the future. This sort of reminds me of this Jewish joke that no one leaves this world alive.
Destructive powers are multiplying–many destructive forces were traditionally local events, but are now becoming existential threats to whole civilizations. For example, how many people globally can we kill with weaponized pathogens and how many times over now are we able to destroy the world with our thermonuclear stockpile.
Learn from the past–Apocalypses and terrible events have already befallen humankind, whether the bubonic plague in the middle ages, the destruction of the ice age, the flood in biblical times, and even more recently the Holocaust and the World Wars in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad things that can happen to people–individuals or many people–and if we are not conscious of the things we are doing, their potential impacts, and generally act smart and ethical, then bad things can and will most-definitely happen.
Wired ends by saying that things like policy, technology, and innovation can solve the day. However, while these can surely help and we must always try our best to have a positive impact, some things are also out of our control–they are in G-d hands.
Finally, while not every event is an existential threat, some surely can be–and whether it’s the impact of an asteroid, the death toll from the next horrible plague, natural disaster, cyberwar, or weapon of mass destruction, or even possibly when aliens finally come knocking at your door, it would be awfully stupid to think that bad things can’t happen.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to tanakawho)

To Die or Not

One_way_to_freedom

Yesterday, I read in the Wall Street Journal (7-8 July 2012) about end of life decisions.

With healthcare costs spiraling out of control, driven especially by the care given to those in their final year of life, as a society we are confronted with horrible decisions.

When do you do “everything possible” for the patient’s survival and when do you make the call to “pull the plug.”

The article was about one man specifically–age 41, I think–who needed a heart transplant–which was expensive but successful, but then infection and complications set in over the course of the year and resulted in doctors removing part of his lung, his left leg above the knee, his gallbladder, and with the patient eventually living off of a ventilator.

The medical staff described the patients wincing in pain and the horrific image of at times with the tube down his throat, his screaming with no sounds coming out.

Doctors and the hospital’s ethical counselors spoke with the parents of the man (as his wife had divorced him prior) about discontinuing care.

Part of the conversation was about the practically futile attempts to keep the man alive, the pain of the patient, but subtly there was also the notion about the high cost of care and the patient having reached Medicare limits.

When the father was told that the nurses were having ethical questions about treating the man, the father wanting to keep his son alive at virtually all costs said, (rather than his son being taken off of the medical care he was receiving) maybe these nurses who had an issue with it shouldn’t be working on his ward!

The patient died within the year and at a cost of something like $2.7 million dollars (and the man leaving behind a 9 year old son himself).

There is no question that we want to provide the best care for our families and loved ones–they mean everything to us.

But when does the greater cost to society (i.e. the greater good) outweigh the benefits to the individual?

Yes, can we come up with hard and cold actuarial calculations about what a person contributes into the system, how much value they bring the world, what the anticipated cost is to keep them alive, and what are the chances of success–and then we can draw a line of what as a society we are willing or able to spend to save this person.

That is very matter-of-fact–objective, but practically devoid of feeling, compassion, and hope.

What if the calculation is wrong and the person could’ve been saved, lived longer, at lower cost, and/or would’ve been a great contributor to society–how do we know how to really figure individual life and death decisions.

And what of the cost–the meaning–to the family that relies and loves this person and needs him/her–the cost is priceless to them.

But what about others who don’t, can’t, or won’t receive proper care because others ended up taking more than their “fair” share–aren’t they also human beings deserving as well of proper care–and to their families are they not also invaluable?

From an ethical standpoint, this is one of those horrible dilemas that plague our consciousness and to which answers do not come easy.

An almost insane question– but can we be, in a sense, too giving to an individual, too generous societally, and with some things trying too hard to be ethical?

Like we are seeing now with the financial decline of the European Union and the frightening fiscal challenges ahead for America–how do maintain the traditional “safety net” (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and more) without bankrupting the system and underlying society itself?

In essence, what happens when in our effort to be humane to people and give them a basic standard of living and care, keep our country safe, drive research and innovation, and secure human rights and democracy around the world–we overextend ourselves.

Like many a great society before us that flourished and then declined and even disappeared–do we get overconfident, overly ambitious, and ultimately become self-defeating?

No one–a family member, a compassionate and caring human being, and especially an elected politician wants to say “no” when these decisions hang over us.

But the reality is we will soon be faced not only with the life and death decisions of today, but also generations of built-up overspending and borrowing to finance generous, and yes even corrupt, spending habits.

This will affect present and future generations requiring harder and longer work lives to get a lower standard of living and care, and could even result in our noble society’s decline.

The result is we not only face individual life and death decisions every day, but we also are facing a potential existential threat to our way of life.

Expect gut-wrenching decisions over the next decade(s) and prepare for life to change in painful ways for all of us–on and off the deathbed.

While no one wants to face these questions and make the hard decisions, this is exactly what will need to happen–sooner or later.

Fiscally-speaking, there is no longer one way to freedom, but through a collective fight to secure our nation’s future.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Biosecurity–Where Every Moment Counts

Bioterror

A biological attack on the United States is a most frightening prospect and one that could present an existential threat to us.

Just the very mention of bio-warfare agents such as anthrax, ebola, smallpox, bubonic plague, and others are enough to provoke sheer terror in most people.

BioWatch is a program managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor for a biological attack.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek (21 June 2012) bio-surveillance is currently conducted in 30 metropolitan areas around the country using 600 air filters to detect pathogens, where samples are collected daily and taken to labs for analysis in what amounts to a 36 hour turnaround to determine if there is a hazard.

A new technology made by Positive ID or Northrop Grumman collects samples four times a day and analyzes it on the spot for bateria, viruses, and toxins, and sends the results to officials by secure network in as little as two hours.

The shorter time to detection will give more time to save lives by getting drugs and vaccines to the field sooner and prevent the spread from person to person.

DHS wants to deploy 2,500 of these new sensors and the bio-attack alert system at a cost of approximately $5.7 billion, if Congress approves.

If this bio-sensing system proves out functionally, then the price tag seems well worth it.

Bioweapons like cyber-attacks can cause widespread panic as well as disruption to our everyday way of life, however a bio-attack has the added feature of making people symptomatic and infecting them with deadly and painful illnesses.

Cyber attacks can infiltrate and take out our critical infrastructure, but biological attacks can directly destroy our physical bodies and the population itself.

A bio-attack and a cyber-attack together could devastate us by attacking us while at the same time inhibiting our ability to deliver medication and quarantine those that are ill and so on.

In addition to grossly improving on our cyber defensive (and offensive) capabilities, we must do everything we can to enhance our biosecurity–this mean upgrading our preparedness for bio-terrorism and bio-warfare using the latest technologies available to sniff out and identify a bio attack and alert us so we can respond timely, while we still can.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to U.S. Department of Defense)