America’s Future at Risk

We live in a world in which only the fittest will survive and prosper. This is a basic law of nature, and it applies to nations just the same as it applies to the creatures of the jungle.

America has, for the past 100+ years, been the strongest nation in the world, and all of us have prospered because of our position of strength. It didn’t happen all at once. A series of smart decisions, many of them made more than 50 years ago, all led to today’s position as the world’s one true superpower. But we live in dangerous times, and our long term position is at risk. While these risks may not impact anyone over 75, they will impact our children, and their children and so on down the generations. As adults, we must do our part to protect and preserve the viability of this country so that our children and grandchildren may thrive.

Lets talk for a bit about Risk Management. Risk Management is the science of identifying risks, prioritizing the most severe, and developing strategies to either avoid them or mitigate their impacts. This strategy is employed every day in business and by our military. But we never seem to apply it to the most important topic – the long term success of the United States.

So what are the biggest risks to the future of American greatness over the next 25-50 years? If you were to watch Fox News or read Breitbart, you’d think the biggest risks are radical Islam, immigration, and North Korea. Let’s examine the risks posed to the existence of the US by each of them.

Radical Islam (Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Taliban, etc.) clearly poses a threat to the lives of ordinary Americans. They have killed thousands of American civilians (mostly on September 11, 2001) over the past 20 or so years. But do they pose a threat to the American nation? Hardly. Taken collectively, they could never defeat even a small fraction of the mightiest military that the world has ever known. Nor do they have nuclear weaponry that can take out American cities and devastate  our economy. They have to be classified as a low-priority risk to the US.

Immigration is seen by some to pose a threat to our very way of life. But, as a nation of immigrants, those who are here have always been suspicious of the next group who are different. Just as there were fears of the papist Irish, the ignorant Slavs from Eastern Europe, and the orientals, now there are fears of Hispanics, Africans, and especially Moslems. Unchecked and completely unimpeded immigration would be a risk to the US. But we haven’t had that since 1924, and nobody is advocating such a thing. What we have had over the past 90 years is a slow but steady influx of new, dynamic, risk taking people who come to America because they believe this is the land of opportunity and freedom. And this level of immigration has been a good thing, revitalizing, renewing and continuing to diversify America in ways that are true to our core principles. This doesn’t mean that there are no casualties from immigration – of course there are. We need to address those issues and fix them. But controlled immigration is not a threat to the existence of the US – in fact it adds much more to the success of this country than it costs. As long as we keep doing basically what we’ve been doing since 1924, immigration is a low-priority (or maybe non-existent) risk to the US.

North Korea clearly does propose a real risk to the US. Given that is has nuclear weapons, ICBMs, and a stridently belligerent leader, a level of risk cannot be denied. But what is the level of risk? Can they destroy enough of America to bring about the collapse of our government or destruction of our economy? This answer is probably no for now, but possibly changes to yes in a few short years. So this is a risk. And although the past six Presidents have seen it as such, it has continued to grow from a small risk to a much greater risk. The Trump administration clearly recognizes the risk, but as of yet they do not seem to have developed a strategy to mitigate or avoid it. North Korea is a risk and should be a top concern.

But there are other risks to the future of America that the Trump Administration is ignoring. The biggest long term risks to the US are elimination of our free institutions, and climate change.

The government of a democratic nation by definition represents the will of the people. But what if outside forces can bend the will of the people without their knowledge, or worse yet, subvert the will of the people by manipulating elections. If that is the case, then the “democratic” nation is merely a puppet state of another nation. There is no question that, in 2016, Russia attempted to bend the will of the people through propaganda and subvert the will of the people by altering votes. And they succeeded. So now we have an administration, and numerous members of Congress who have been elected on the basis of Russian manipulation. And not surprisingly, they have no interest in investigating this issue or dosing anything from preventing it from happening again. This is a true threat to the independence of the United States. As Russia gets better and smarter at hacking and manipulating the electorate, Republicans do nothing, hoping that once again the Russians will back them. And when the President and his allies cast doubts upon the independent reporting of a free press, they are further playing into the hands of the Russians. These actions pose the greatest short-term threat to the independence of America.

Luckily, the foundational institutions of our democracy, the FBI, CIA, Justice system, and elections system, have great internal integrity due to the patriotism of their apolitical employees. But they are all under attack by Trump and his allies (knowingly or unknowingly) on behalf of the Russians. All Americans who believe in the independence of this nation must do their part to take back our democracy. At a minimum, they must vote – against those who want to destroy our independent free press, our independent judicial system, and our independent elections. They must vote against all Russian-backed candidates – which today means they must vote against Republicans. And all who can must do more to spread the word.

If we can overcome the short-term risk of Russian manipulation, then we must confront the long term risk to America, and to the planet from climate change. Climate change is real and we are feeling its initial impacts already. But much more is to come. Changes in weather patterns will lead to widespread droughts which will lead to widespread famine. Sea level rise will lead to coastal inundation which will cause massive displacement of people worldwide. These impacts will be exacerbated by overpopulation and destruction of the natural environment. While these impacts will be fall the hardest on those nations that have the least resources, there will be no escaping them in the US. It is imperative that our government focus all possible energy on developing long term strategies to both minimize the severity of climate change and to mitigate its impacts. This is the biggest threat to the future of America. We need to act as if we care.

Why Would We Let Sh**hole People In?

Lets move past the word that the President used, and get to the real topic – why do we want to let people from Africa, Haiti, or other such countries in to the United States? After all, they don’t share our likeness, our values, or our culture, and they might not share our Christian religion. They bring crime, drugs, and worse. This is a huge danger to the American way that we all hold so dear. The very essence of what America means is being threatened by the sh**hole people.

But what does it mean to be an American? Are we a nation of the best people from western Europe – the kinds of people that Trump and his supporters want?

The Colonial founders of the United States were of course largely British. But even they were a mix – of aristocrats and commoners, many of whom came over as indentured servants. And shortly after the founding of the country, immigration of lesser people began. Who were these lesser people? They were the dregs of Britain – the Welsh, Scots, Cornish, or others who were escaping from the crushing poverty of economically depressed (e.g. sh**hole) areas of Britain.

But worse were to come. The 1840’s saw mass migrations of two “subhuman” classes to America – the Irish and the Germans. Both groups were fleeing intolerable sh**hole conditions of poverty, starvation and oppression. Later in the 1800s, other undesirables of racially inferior quality immigrated from sh**hole areas such as Italy and Eastern Europe. Throughout these immigration cycles, each group of newcomers was derided which every bit as much vehemence as the most anti-immigrant Republican politician offers today. But, as there were no laws restricting immigration, (except from China), our ancestors came anyway.

What kind of people were they? Were they the most educated? The richest? the ones who passed the merit tests? Of course not – they were just the opposite. But what they lacked in power and wealth was more than made up for by the qualities they did possess: the energy, bravery, and fortitude to break away from their miserable sh**hole existence  and risk everything for a chance for a better life. It was only the people with those unmatched qualities that could have created the America of today.

So let’s be honest. Most of us are from countries that at the time, were sh**hole places. And America is a Great Nation because of that, not despite it. And if we are to continue in our greatness, we need to continue to encourage those who bring new vitality, new ideas, and new innovation to our land.

We can be ruled by our own fear, and decay into an isolationist, reactionary wasteland, unwilling to change and with our best years behind us. Is this what we want for our children? And for their children?

If we want to continue as the greatest nation on Earth, we need people from sh**hole countries – more than they need us. They are the key to our future. Our past tells us so.

Criminalizing Abortion

It is obvious that the Supreme Court is nearly evenly divided between liberals and conservatives. When abortion was declared legal in 1973 by the famous 7-2 Roe v. Wade decision, the court was much more liberal in its makeup. Four members of the court are now 70 or older (two liberals and two conservatives). It’s very likely that one or more of them will be leaving the bench in the next three years.

Donald Trump has already appointed one conservative to the Supreme Court, and if there is a vacancy, another conservative will certainly be appointed. And there are plenty of Republican-backed states who will quickly develop cases that will test the law.

Within a short time, Roe v. Wade would be struck down and states would be free to enact legislation banning a woman’s right to choose. At least seven already have such laws on the books ready to go into force. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade] Others will follow. The result will be a return to the 60s. Women will die from botched self-abortions and backroom hacks. Millions of unloved, unwanted babies will be born, ending up poor, uneducated, and very likely in prison.

But there’s more. The Republican war on women continues.

While a candidate for the Presidency, Donal Trump said “There has to be some form of Punishment” for women who have abortions [https://www.vox.com/2016/3/30/11333472/trump-abortions-punishment-women].  Although he was later told to back off on the statement, this is the real goal of conservatives. Some states are now in the process of enacting legislation declaring abortion to be murder. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, these will also become law. Think of the result – since there is no statute of limit on murder – anyone who had a legal abortion in the past could be charged with Murder – and since the abortion was clearly premeditated – First degree murder, which in some states is punishable by death. Anyone living in those states, or anyone who might travel to those states could be arrested, tried for murder, convicted and executed.

Think it won’t happen? Do you trust Donald Trump?

Is Science Important?

We all understand that our World has been made much better through the advances in science over the past 500+ years. Humans used to believe that the Earth was the center of the Universe and the Sun revolved around it. They also used to believe that the disease came from evil spirits. We now know these things to be untrue, but at one time these were all accepted facts. In each case, one or more Scientists developed theories (Gravity, Germ Theory, etc.) that form some of the most basic underpinnings of science and we now accept as fact.

But two of the most important theories of science today are denied by the Republican Party. These are the theory of Evolution, and the theory of Human induced Climate Change. the evidence for both of these theories is overwhelming in its weight. You can’t begin to explain biology without evoking Evolution – which is a fundamental to Biology as Gravity is to Physics. And you can’t explain any of the changes that we are all experiencing in our daily world (winter without snow, drought, increasingly violent storms, etc.) without Climate Change. Republicans say that the science is “unproven” – which is technically true of virtually every theory, including the theory of Gravity (You explain how the sun exerts a gravitational pull on the Earth across 93 million miles – because nobody ever has). No theory has been “proven” beyond any doubt, but when a theory predicts, with a VERY high degree of confidence, a certain set of results, it becomes adopted as the basis for policy decisions by those in charge. Until now, the US has been a leader in adopting science-based policies, which has been one of many factors that has driven our success over the past two hundred years.

Someone recently offered a simple analogy. If your child was sick, and you took her to 100 doctors, and 98% of them diagnosed the same disease, and gave the same prescription for recovery, would you listen to the opinion of the 98% or the 2% who (loudly) gave a different diagnosis and proposed a different (or no) treatment). With Climate Change, the science is about 98% to 2% today. With Evolution, the science is about 99.5% to 0.5%. Yet Donald Trump thinks is a hoax, and many Republicans in Congress agree. The National Republican’s Platform doesn’t say anything explicit about Evolution, but the Republican Texas Party [http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/06/28/the-texas-republican-party-platform/] wants to teach Creationism (Religion) as an alternate to science.

History tells us what happens to nations that deny the evidence of Science and make decisions based on dogma. For forty years, the Soviet Union espoused the theory of Lysenkoism [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism] rather than the theory of genetics (which was not consistent with communist dogma) as the underpinning to its agricultural seed production policies. The results – millions of Soviet citizens starved to death, and the Soviet Union today has ceased to exist.

Now that Republicans have gained control, they are making decisions based on dogma rather than science. In a world dominated by science, where our Nation’s (and the world’s) success is based on maximizing the possibilities that science offers, how can they lead this county forward if the deny basic science?

Science creates our technology and also our weapons. When we deny science, we deny the very thing that keeps our nation strong. Our future is at stake.