Archive for October, 2014

IT’S EBOLA & the ISIS Headhunters With Our Teaching Moment

Friday, October 31st, 2014

THIS IS OUR HALLOWEEN MOMENT

SO ANSWER THE DOOR

IT’S just EBOLA & the ISIS Headhunters

As revised 11-1-14

A WEAKENED NATION IS LIKE A WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM

Analysis by Jay B Gaskill

                       Also posted at – http://jaygaskill.com/HopeAndChallenge.htm

I: SUICIDAL IDIOTS BEARING ARMS

 

For a host of reasons, philosophical, historical and situational, the USA is the last best hope of Western civilization. The USA is virtually the only creative-adaptive model of modern civilization that still has the capacity to defend itself and, in selected instances, to defend key elements of modern civilization that are at threat elsewhere.  But capacity without the will to act, especially in the defense of civilization, is a short-lived exercise in suicidal risk-taking.

At no time in the last 80 years (i.e., since the decade before the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 has our nation) our nation seemed as much like a toy tiger as it does now.  But this analysis goes far beyond mere military preparedness.  We are disabled and disarmed at several levels, including the moral, biological psychological, and strategic. Nature always provides teaching moments to those willing to recognize them. The tragedy is that we have so far ignored our teaching moments.

The Islamist fanatics have been seeking a nation to control and convert, creating a new force in world affairs, an “Islamostan,” a radically fundamentalist Islamic state endowed with superpower status by virtue of its control of deliverable nuclear weapons. This goal was evident to many analysts back during the second Clinton term, when the first World Trade Center attack was made, the USS Cole was bombed, and other attacks took place around same time, all against Western targets, all driven by the same fundamentalist, suicidal Islamic ideology. The 9-11-01 attacks on major US targets were part of the same attack pattern, and resulted in a temporary awakening among members of the US security establishment. Flash forward to the sudden appearance of ISIS in Iraq and nearby territories, well-funded, well organized, totally brutal and explicitly devoted the end of western civilization. If you trace the logistics and the money, you discover Iran.  If we follow Iran, we find an atomic bomb program on the verge of the point of no return.  And why should Fortress America worry?

Iran has almost enriched enough uranium to make several atomic bombs.  All it will take is a comparatively short run with its centrifuges, and possibly within a few months – far less than a year – they will be able to announce, “We have the bomb!” and thereafter no Western power will dare take them on directly.  The radical regime controlling Iran already has long range (not yet intercontinental) missiles. The ‘hands-off, we already have the bomb” moment will buy them all the time they need to build an arsenal. Iran is supporting ISIS. Connect the dots/

Now, this is what you probably do not know:

 

New climate modeling estimates, reworking the “nuclear winter” scenarios of the 1960’s, now raise the dire prospect that a much smaller nuclear exchange will have equally catastrophic world consequences.  These chilling research findings, using more powerful computers than were available in the 1960s, jointly released by Alan Robock[1], professor of climatology at Rutgers University and associate director of the school’s center for environmental Prediction, and Owen Brian Toon[2], chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a fellow of the laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics there.

Even a small regional nuclear bomb outbreak can “cripple global agriculture” with “the effects [that] would last for at least 10 years” dramatically reducing food supplies and producing mass starvation directly affecting “around one billion people” and indirectly affecting all the rest.[3]

This was never just about Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other single theater of armed conflict and unrest in the region or the world.  It was and is about restraining and eventually disarming a 12th century, fundamentalist jihad that is seeking to use 21st century weapons and the platform of a superpower Islamist state or coalition.  This vision potentially unites the Muslim nations of the Middle East in one glorious purpose: to use war to cancel the unjust sense of inferiority visited on them by the decadent modern societies that have out-produced and outperformed them on almost every measurable level.  Even the Saudi royal family recognizes ISIS as a dangerous apostasy and Iran as a mortal enemy to be stopped.

I have compared this entire situation with a Star Trek episode wherein the Enterprise sent a crew down to study a primitive culture.  When some of the loosely primitive aliens wrapped got their hands on a modern weapon, Captain James Kirk made short work of problem.  No Phasers left behind. Flash to the present day: We modern earthlings still live in a world inhabited by some tribes with 12th century minds, neighbors who are acquiring 21st century weapons. The cultural and civilization gap is approximately the same as that between the enterprise crew and the aliens, yet we dither.  Yes, we dither while not being able to say, “Beam us up, Scotty!” No, we are stuck on the same planet with these dangerously suicidal fools.

II: PESTILENCE

 

Ebola, a kind of viral hemorrhagic fever, is now an ugly, quite deadly pandemic that has killed thousands by sweeping through Western Africa; and it now has found its way through the porous borders of Europe and the USA. Complacent US officials began by asserting that we will never be in any real danger because, after all, we are not a third world country.  But pandemics expand exponentially; and even a first world country’s medical system like ours lacks the capacity to isolate and treat more than a few thousand infected patients all at once.  Here is the elephant in the room: Even a “small” epidemic of Ebola inside the USA would wreak havoc by crippling transportation and overwhelming the US medical system for all the “lower priorities” – i.e., almost everything else that requires a hospital setting.

All viruses mutate. Typically they start in an animal population before they find their way into a human one.  For a time they propagate in small human populations but eventually break out. Without proactive containment any one of several pathogens can spread rapidly through any population, given the right conditions.

The easiest infections to contain – at least under modern conditions – are the bloodborne ones, such as Hepatitis A, B & C, West Nile and AIDS.  Bloodborne viruses can be sexually transmitted by individuals who are not symptomatic. AIDS was – and is – no trivial threat.

The airborne pathogens are exceedingly difficult to contain.  The liquid and infected-blanket infection vectors for Ebola, smallpox and its epidemiological cousins represent more a containable threat than airborne contagion vectors do.  But infected bodily fluids can easily travel through the air[4].  An airborne variant of Ebola is just a mutation away.

The problem with deadly plagues that get out of the box is that the resulting chaos destroys or profoundly degrades civil society. The set of liberties and protective institutions that make a creative civilization like ours possible are more fragile than most people realize. Fear can dissolve any civil government into authoritarian tyranny in a matter of months.

Dangerous pandemics, like deadly Ebola virus, and virulent, atavistic ideologies, like the ISIS jihad, can always erupt outside the boundaries of advanced civilizations. But in the profoundly interconnected world of the early twenty first century, our boundaries are so porous that external threats swiftly mutate into grave internal problems.

The current American administration has been far less than vigilant, competent and effective in addressing these threats, stubbornly treating each large-scale threat pattern as a scattering of disparate, almost one-off events.

Now, not later, is the opportunity, the perfect time to inaugurate and deploy a national epidemic defense, infrastructure, including but not limited humane quarantine and isolation facilities, far, far better capacity to monitor and restrict potentially infectious travelers, including returnees, and so on. We need much more attention to all of the potential, invasive pathogens.  Recall the problem when a ship dumbs bilge in a new harbor, discharging invasive species?  The entire biosphere is much more rapidly being mixed than ever before.  Aboriginal peoples lost 85% of their populations when the germ-bearing Europeans arrived.  Given today’s stirred and re-stirred population, everyone is potentially an aboriginal target for new pathogens.

I am not being alarmist here.  So far, these are just teaching moments.  But think how close we are to a worst case scenario: A fully nuclear armed Jihadist state, inevitably with lead to an arms race.  Even a “small” regional nuclear exchange could trigger the loss of crops around the world for a year, causing the starvation of hundreds of millions. If history is any guide (and it is) that scenario will lead to war.  And war will lead to pestilence.

And we are not prepared.

OUR HALLOWEEN MOMENT

 

History is knocking at our front door.

The Roman Empire fell from stage of history, having missed all of its potential teaching moments. Postmodern Western civilization refused to answer the door – seemingly bent on ignoring its teaching moments.

I assert that the next three years will be later identified by historians as the critical turning point when modern civilization began its collapseor averted it. Why worry about civilization, you ask?  …Because a smart fish needs to worry about having water to live in.

It is not too late to learn from these teaching moments.  Better quarantine protocols, detection and emergency transportation and treatment will require an infrastructure that we can still deploy. We will be thankful now, and for the inevitable next time.

AT THE FRONT DOOR: SUICIDAL IDIOTS WITH ATOM BOMBS

 

With the use of sufficient, sustained force Iran can still be compelled to abandon its dangerous atomic-bomb ambitions. The feckless misuse of a meaningless “red line” warning by our president has essentially taken ordinary persuasion off the table. European style soft power did not work on Hitler.  It will not work now.

The clock is running. There are a number of workable military scenarios, all unpleasant.  

The following scenario is just for illustration. Shockingly brutal as it might seem to the “soft power” crowd, it is actually sufficient to the cause. It very likely will work. I leave it to the experts whether something less would also be sufficient.

The locations of Iran’s enrichment plants are now known. …As are the locations of most of Iran’s missiles.  Using heavy conventional weapons, these targets are repeatedly hit for thirty days.  After a pause, a blue line is announced: Cooperate in full measure with a permanent shutdown and cleanup of Iran’s atomic weapons program, starting with open inspections in 7 days, or Phase Two begins. A blue line in this case is one that cannot be avoided by silence or mere words.   Phase Two is the elimination of all of Iran’s oil refineries, its remaining air force and navy. In Phase Three, if necessary, we get serious.

If we take strong and sufficient action to avert an Islamist nuclear power, we will be criticized, even vilified, but the world will be a better place.

Iran is a beautiful country with an intelligent, beautiful population. So was Japan in the 1940’s.  No Eastern power came to Japan’s aid.  No Middle East power will intervene on Iran’s behalf. 

The cost in military resources and casualties will be far less if the US takes strong and sufficient action  within the next few months, than if we attempt to do “whatever it takes” after Iran has squirrelled away 20 kg of weapons grade uranium and / or plutonium.

Doing nothing effective at this critical juncture is tantamount to ignoring a burning fuse leading to an explosive chain reaction that can take down civilization itself.

Rome was a decadent bureaucratic state in which the capacity for creative, adaptive responses to serious challenges never took hold.  You might think that we in the USA – blessed as we are with an envied standard of living and a reputation for civil liberties, can weather any storm by hiding in Fortress America. Clinging to isolationism in the modern world is suicide, whether the threat is a rampant murderous ideology or a rampant deadly plague.

Sadly, it may well be us to us.  …Just us. Ideally, the USA should not have to act alone. But if we fail to effectively address such grave threats, no one else can pull it off in time.  And it will be all over but the weeping.

I would much rather cheer.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill

Please address comments, reprint permissions to the author at < law@jaygaskill.com >.

 

This is a license to my readers to forward links to this article and to use pull-quotes from it, with full attribution.

 

Jay B Gaskill

Alameda, CA

 

More about creative civilization and it challenges from JBG:

THE EMERGING COALITION OF THE CREATIVE, NOT-LEFT

http://jaygaskill.com/ANewDay.pdf

CREATIVITY & SURVIVAL

http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf

THE AMERICAN CREATIVE SURGE

http://jaygaskill.com/ACS2011.pdf

FICTION –

A compelling political thriller (2104 Central Avenue Publishing)

http://jaygaskill.com/GabrielThriller.pdf



[3] http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/pdf/RobockToonSciAmJan2010.pdf “New analyses reveal that a conflict between India and Pakistan, for example, in which 100 nuclear bombs were dropped on cities and industrial areas—only 0.4 percent of the world’s more than 25,000 warheads—would produce enough smoke to cripple global agriculture.”

[4] I noted this recent New York Post article < http://nypost.com/2014/10/29/cdc-admits-droplets-from-a-sneeze-could-spread-ebola/ > CDC admits droplets from a sneeze could spread Ebola …Ebola is a lot easier to catch than health officials have admitted — and can be contracted by contact with a doorknob contaminated by a sneeze from an infected person an hour or more before, experts told The Post Tuesday. “If you are sniffling and sneezing, you produce microorganisms that can get on stuff in a room. If people touch them, they could be” infected, said Dr. Meryl Nass, of the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, DC. Nass pointed to a poster the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly released on its Web site saying the deadly virus can be spread through “droplets.”

 

 

THE KLINGHOFFER OPERA AND POSTMODERN LIBERALISM’S BLIND EYE

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

THE KLINGHOFFER OPERA AND POSTMODERN LIBERALISM’S BLIND EYE

A Moral Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Also posted at – http://jaygaskill.com/PostmodernBlindness.htm

 

John Adams, the composer, is an American genius. Among his truly remarkable achievements are the operas, Nixon in China (1977 and Doctor Atomic (2005). His orchestral works include The Transmigration of Souls (2002), commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as a memorial to the 9-11-2001 attacks on the USA. That work received the Pulitzer Prize.

His opera, Death of Klinghoffer (1991), was picketed in New York recently, in a revival performance at the Met. The problem was not with Adams’ music but with the libretto. In key passages singers emphasize with the Palestinian cause, and romanticize the murderers of the wheelchair-bound Jew, Dr. Klinghoffer.

The protesters’ charges are not unreasonable, although other works – thinking of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, have been given a pass.

I choose not to go farther with the libretto, except to say that the Met chose the worst possible time for this performance. The opera struck a particularly offensive note in the context of the recent eruptions of rampant anti-Semitism in Europe, and even here in the USA.

 

THE PROBLEM, HORATIO, IS NOT IN OUR STARS, BUT IN OUR COMPASS

Old fashioned liberalism had a strong moral compass rooted in traditional American values. Harry Truman, who was the first to support Israel at its inception, is a perfect example of a morally-centered old fashioned liberal.

Our culture’s problem is postmodern liberalism. The litmus test is the failure of the postmodern ethos to recognize of evil as a relevant, central moral category.  Hitler and bloodthirsty child killers, mass murderers and those ruthless jihadists who single out infidels for beheading, belong to a special category of evil, one not amenable to medical treatment, one not worth an ounce of our precious empathy – and, yes, empathy is a limited resource.

I have written several important essays on evil, among them  (http://www.jaygaskill.com/explainingevil.htm  and http://jaygaskill.com/ShrinkingEvil.htm and http://www.jaygaskill.com/evil2l.htm  ).

My fiction writing (see the thriller, Gabriel’s Stand*) is rooted in a moral system that recognizes the existential and moral danger of evil (narrowly defined, but terrible to behold) and the concomitant moral duty of all civilized persons to resolutely oppose.

Dr. Klinghoffer’s murder (and any murder is more than a death) was the outcome of an evil force, perhaps less well understood and recognized in 1991 than now), but true evil nonetheless.

JBG

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Comments and permissions < law@jaygaskill.com >

My readers have a license to forward links to this article, publish excerpts, all with full attribution.

* Gabriel’s Stand is a compelling and entertaining thriller for intelligent readers. More at

< http://jaygaskill.com/GabrielThriller.pdf >

THE EBOLA AWAKENING

Monday, October 6th, 2014

As posted on The Policy Think Site – http://jaygaskill.com/ADecentMan.htm

THE EBOLA AWAKENING

Opinion by Jay B Gaskill

 

Most of us by now have read the account of a decent man, a good Samaritan who helped carry a sick pregnant woman to an African hospital, became infected with her Ebola, then traveled from Liberia to the USA, and in that trip he has potentially exposed hundreds of people to the deadly virus.  Now he lies in a quarantined section of a Dallas hospital, in critical condition, close to death.

Texas authorities are reportedly mulling over the question whether to prosecute him.

At the same time, the trained medical personnel who examined this man and then sent him home; and the travel authorities who may or may not have been culpably careless; and the federal authorities who have yet to address the travel issues that a potential pandemic presents – all these players seemingly get a pass from accountability.

When the horse has left the barn, it is time to see to the other horses.  Recriminations can wait.

Deadly disasters have a way of illuminating the dull, the slow and the careless for all to see.  Think of a battery of searchlights suddenly lighting up to reveal railroad tracks filled with cavorting children, just as the charging locomotive has already wreaked deadly havoc a quarter mile away.

Former Vice President Cheney caught a lot of flak for being too vigilant about threats to our security. In his famous 1% doctrine, he was quoted as follows: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

Let me restate the 1% doctrine in terms of the grave health threat posed by the Ebola virus:  If there is a one percent chance that someone or some set of circumstances will constitute a contagious vector for spreading Ebola  to the USA – or otherwise mutate it from epidemic to a pandemic, then we must treat that chance as if it were 50%.

Allow me to hazard two predictions:

[A] Ebola will prove to be more contagious than we have been led to expect.

[B] Commercial travel bans to and from Ebola hotbed destinations will only belatedly be imposed, if at all, with the result first world medical establishments, even in the USA, will overwhelmed. 

I do NOT want to be right.

But the battery of searchlights shining on the American health care establishment has exposed a fragile system, slowed and dumbed down by embedded bureaucratic institutions, suffering from inadequate training at the intake level, and all too often characterized by a complacent mindset. This is a system (exceptions noted) that is ill-adapted to curb an epidemic like the one that now looms. On the whole, it is a still-broken  system whose front-line representatives are too accustomed to delays and far too burdened by common, but non-fatal health issues.

We often use the term, Rude Awakening.  This time, I fear it is to be a Brutal Awakening.

JBG

 

 

The Ebola crisis is a grave threat with implications for public policy that can’t be ignored.  The chilling political thriller by the author (Jay B Gaskill’s Gabriel’s Stand ) is an all too plausible exercise in speculative fiction that has suddenly become  disturbingly relevant to the issues surrounding  Ebola threat.  Readers are praising it as a satisfying a page turner, but also as an object lesson.

Gabriel’s Stand is now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble as a trade paperback; and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook and i-Pad.

Details…   http://jaygaskill.com/GabrielThriller.pdf

 

A NARCISSIST’S MELTDOWN?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Also posted on The Policy Think Site – http://jaygaskill.com/NarcissistMeltdown.htm

 

…A NARCISSIST’S MELTDOWN?

A Note of Concern for our President and the Country

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

The inevitable meltdown of a narcissistic personality is a terrible thing to behold. The term inevitable is appropriate because the world never quite conforms to the aggrandized fantasies of the true narcissist.

“NO,” the world eventually insists, “YOU ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. WORSE – YOUR ILLUSION OF INFALLIBILITY IS EXPOSED. YOU ARE SCREWING UP.”

For the confirmed narcissists among us, such moments of truth are too difficult to bear. The classic narcissistic personality typically insists that the world must be wrong, and reacts unpredictably when the world pierces his or her illusions.  Such confrontations with reality are particularly dangerous if a narcissist occupies a key position of power and responsibility.  The responses to such unpleasant realities (they can manifest singly, serially or in combination) include these five:

  1. Blame your subordinates.
  2. Double down on your mistakes.
  3. Retreat from the world by avoiding decisions, seeking distractions,  hiding in the trappings of success, protected by a circle of approving acolytes.
  4. Indulge in paranoia.
  5. Escape through high risk (even passively suicidal) behavior.

This is no armchair diagnosis, but I am far from the first observer to call attention to the  narcissist elements in our president’s personality.  This president was at his happiest appearing before uncritically adoring crowds.  Those moments are gone.  Now the president seems happiest on the golf course or flying aboard Air Force One, surrounded by the trappings of power at least 40,000 feet away from his nearest critics.

I worry that only a conformed narcissist, caught up in the attractive delusion that no one would seek to harm “such a beloved leader as myself”, would tolerate lax security at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In such a situation, security personnel would be conflicted. Trying at the same time to please and protect a classic narcissist is an impossible task.

The cure for narcissism is character. Unfortunately, character is acquired over time; and cannot be quickly acquired.

There is no character app.

MY NIGHTMARE

 

Narcissists sometimes dream of posthumous vindication, of the grieving multitudes suddenly sorry that they ever doubted the wisdom and greatness of the wonderful person they have just lost.  “How could we have ever doubted his leadership?”

In this self-indulgent dream, everyone rallies around the cause of the fallen hero, who looms larger in demise than ever in life.

That POTUS might, consciously or unconsciously , indulge in this dream is my personal nightmare.

I fervently pray that I am wrong.  But I have been disturbed by the thought that someone with a narcissistic personality caught in a large scale failure mode might secretly entertain some  version of that dark dream.

The recent security laxness at the White house was a tell.

Fortunately, this president does not seem to exhibit Nixonian paranoia. Mr. Obama’s attachment to his family is a heathy sign.  But his seeming laxness about his personal security (and of our national security for that matter) is unacceptable.

My concern goes well beyond party politics.

JBG

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill [Permission to forward, or to use pull quotes with full attribution, is granted. For everything else, contact the author via email law@jaygaskill.com.

The Ebola crisis is a grave threat.  What would happen if modern medical defenses were curtailed? See the timely and chilling political thriller by Jay B Gaskill, Gabriel’s Stand – a page turner, now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble as a trade paperback; also as an e-book for Kindle, Nook and i-Pad.  More… <  http://jaygaskill.com/GabrielThriller.pdf >