Showing posts with label Existential Threat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Existential Threat. Show all posts

July 4, 2019

Countdown To Iran

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Countdown To Iran."

For two decades the cat and mouse game with Iran's development of nuclear weapons has gone on while Iran is leading State sponsor of terrorism and one of the worst human rights abusers.  Iran has marched forward with its desire for a global caliphate and has gone on threatening death and destruction in the Middle East and beyond and murdering with impunity. 

Now the end game is almost here...

The U.S. and Israel are committed to preventing Iran's existential threat and may G-d help us. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 27, 2019

Barking And Biting

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, "We Must Take Every Bark Seriously."


Sometimes, when they bark, they don’t bite. But other times, the bark is the prelude to the bite. I don’t think you can judge intentions by the bark, and I am certain you need to always be ready for the bite. Dogs and people are not really that different. Over millennia of history, Jews have been threatened and persecuted–barked at and bitten, and they have not been mutually exclusive.

The Jewish people are few in number and with a small but miraculous and wonderful country--we know that rabid dogs that bark against us, also can bite ferociously, and we must take every threat seriously for our very survival. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 28, 2018

PM Netanyahu Deals Iran's Nukes Another Blow

 Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "Blowout of Iran's Nukes.

As Iran continues to develop its nuclear weapons program and sponsor terrorism around the globe, as PM Netanyahu promised, Israel and the U.S. are on to them, and they will not let it happen! A little more than 70-years after the Holocaust that murdered 6,000,000 Jews, Iran will not be allowed to pose an existential threat to Israel and a danger to the entire world."

Hopefully, the good people of Iran can change their tyrannical leadership, otherwise the blowout at the UN yesterday will be only the beginning. :-)
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May 31, 2017

Always National Security

Here is a link to my short video on national security thoughts that keep me up at night.

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December 10, 2016

{Saving Us From DC Ground Zero}

One well-placed nuclear suitcase bomb or nuclear ballistic missile strike on DC and say goodbye to virtually the entire hub of the Federal government. 

As of 2014, there are over 4.2 million federal employees (2.7M in the civilian agencies and 1.5M in the military). 

Over 500K are located in the DC, MD, VA tristate area. 

But it's not just the numbers, it's that the headquarters of all the major government agencies are located here. 

While, of course, there are backup sites, and emergency doomsday sites like Mount Weather (48 miles from DC), there is no telling how much advance notice, if any we would have, and who would escape and survive a deadly blow to our capital region. 

And it could be a radiological, chemical, biological, or nuclear (RCBN) attack that does us in...whether from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or other diabolical enemy out there. 

The point is that by concentrating all our federal headquarters and senior leadership and key resources here we are in fact, giving the enemy an easy shot to decapitate the entire country?

While others (like Paul Kupiec in the WSJ) have questioned whether some of the federal agencies can be moved out to other needy cities and communities across the country for economic reasons (to bring jobs and investment) especially those agencies that are actively looking to build new HQS buildings already (e.g. FBI and Department of Labor), to me the far more potent question is one of national security. 

The main advantage of having the crux of the federal government in the DC area is surely one of coordination--the President wants his Cabinet near him and the Cabinet Secretaries want their senior staff near them, and so on and so on. 

So, you get this mass concentration of a who's who of the federal government in and around Washington, DC. 

But what about the advances of technology? 

Surely, through networks and telecommunications and teleworking, we can support a geographically diverse workforce and do no significant harm to our operating as one.

We're talking a very big cultural change here!

It's one thing to have nuclear missiles roaming the seas on attack submarines waiting for orders from Washington, DC and it's quite another to move the actual government intelligentsia and leadership out from the central hub. 

Let's face it, in a real crisis situation, with the chaos and panic and transportation overflow and perhaps simultaneous cyberattacks, no one is really going to be going anywhere--especially in a surprise attack. 

If Pearl Harbor (of which we just celebrated the 75th anniversary) and 9/11 teach us anything is that when the sh*t hits the fan, it hits hard and sticks solid. 

Working in the Metro DC area, selfishly, I'd like to say keep the investment, jobs, and great opportunities here.

For the good of the nation and our survival against true existential threats, we'd be much smarter to spread the federal wealth as far and wide across this great nation that we can. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 6, 2016

The Planetary Colonization Imperative

I read something so simple yet profound from theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking (The Guardian).

First, he enunciated many of the threats we face these days, including:

- Accelerating technological change [I would elaborate that these include more advanced weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them]

- Automation, [robotics,] and rise of artificial intelligence

- Economic inequality, mass migration, job destruction, [and divisiveness] augmented by immersive social media that accentuates "Instagram [and Facebook] Nirvana" versus the real poverty and struggling of the masses, 

- "Environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, and acidification of the oceans."

In one sentence then, Hawking says it all about the high level of risk we face:
"We now have the technology to destroy the planet, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."

His call to action:
"Perhaps in a few hundred years,  we will have established human colonies amid the stars. but right now we have only one planet. and we need to work together to protect it [and develop the means to eventually be able to escape it for the survival of humanity.]"

In short, we must get to and colonize other planets as quickly as possible, because it the realm of history, it's only a matter of time and our collective lives are depending on it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal Via National Geographic)
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March 26, 2016

When They Say They Want To Kill You, Do You Think They Might Mean It?

We tried out a new large conservative synagogue in Rockville today. 

And they had an interesting speech this Shabbat by scholar in residence, Tal Becker.

He spoke about how as a Jewish people traumatized post Holocaust, we tend to view threats to us as existential or the possibility of them escalating to that. 

And of course, many of the threats out there are or could be--like the Iranian Ballistic Nukes or terrorism combined with WMD!

But in terms of overall Jewish security, normalcy, and exceptionalism--with two thriving Jewish communities in Israel and in America--we are probably doing better than at any time in recent history. 

It's a paradox, he mentioned, that in America, the Jews are a minority but amidst all the freedom, they may at times feel like a majority, while in Israel, the Jews are a majority, but amidst the dangerous neighborhood they live in, they can feel like a minority. 

Unfortunately, there is still quite a lot of hatred and anti-Semitism out there whether in America or the Middle East. 

Just this week, we saw numerous terror attacks in Israel and Turkey that left several Israelis dead or wounded again. And in America, not only did we have Palestinian protests on college campuses painting Jews as the occupiers and Apartheidists (rather than as the victims of daily Palestinians terror and intransigence toward a two-state solution living side-by-side with Israel in peace), but also Microsoft having to take down their AI Bot after users taught it to spew anti-Semitic remarks like "Jews deserve death" and holocaust-denial posts in social media.

So as wonderful as it is to be Jewish, there is typically not a day that goes by when we are not somehow reminded of those that reject us, hate us, and may want to kill Jews. 

The truth is that Jews (as Mark Twain pointed out)--despite having a pretty large and impressive footprint--are a very small minority of the people out there, and they have endured unbelievably difficult times from slavery to the destruction of the temple and exile (twice), forced conversions, tortured inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, and genocide...so it is hard not to be a little touchy about people saying or implying that they  don't like you and want to kill you...someone may take that as an existential threat and it wouldn't even have to be a bad day at that. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 26, 2015

Discuss and Work Together, Respectfully

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 friends--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)

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October 2, 2012

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)

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July 8, 2012

To Die or Not

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)

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June 23, 2012

Biosecurity--Where Every Moment Counts

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)

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