Archive for the ‘Africa’ category

The Law Of Diminishing Returns

October 17, 2014

The American education system has been criticized for many shortcomings. None could be any more important that the short shrift of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Said crudely, if a little is good, a lot more must be much better. Hmmm.

How many times have we heard our political leaders recommend a solution for a problem for which there were no symptoms? Remember the voter photo ID laws or the increased regulatory controls for abortion clinics? Both of these situations could not be described as a defect where the recommended solution could be applied and its impact measured for efficacy. (In these cases, of course, the recommended solutions were for a totally different problem than advertised, voter discrimination and eliminating abortions.

America is now facing a situation where logic and scientific ignorance may lead to severe danger from unexpected consequences. Ebola is coming. What should America do?

Thanks to TV news coverage, Americans have seen the failure of a major Dallas hospital while PR spokespersons have valiantly tried to shift the responsibility somewheres else. The Dallas hospital is a large facility which apparently makes money and attracts a lot of affluent people. The hospital had structured itself to deal with a array of normal illnesses at a profit. Life was good.

Then along came Thomas Eric Duncan and life changed. The PR people knew what to do. Show confidence and keep everyone calm. Unfortunately Mr Duncan succumbed to Ebola, and even worse, apparently his care infected two other healthcare workers. Thankfully, the CDC transferred both patients to other more specialized facilities and saved the Dallas hospital from further embarrassment.

So where does the law of diminishing returns come it?

Check out the Congressional hearings. For Congress members, the possibility that some day we may look back and say we could have done more is something that’s not going to happen on their watch. If science says exposed individuals should be isolated for 21 days, then lets increase that number “to be sure”. If someone enters the country and had originally departed from one of the Ebola infected African countries, lets put those people in quarantine. And while we are at it, lets include a wide range of African countries just to be sure.
But what if the person who departed, say Liberia, in January and has been living in Paris flies to JFK (New York)?   Lets quarantine that person too. Why?

We want NO cases that could have been prevented.

Hmmm.

The law of diminishing returns tells us that getting to zero (NO cases), will cost exorbitant amounts of money and still may not be possible. Does this mean do nothing?

Quite the opposite. What we need is for Congress members to ask the scientific community and agencies like the CDC how they can help, not what outcomes they want. If political leaders insist upon trying to play the role of “boss”, they are in way over their heads and good things are not likely in the outcomes.

Serious members of Congress as well as similar White House members must recognize that Ebola is a test run for what might happen if the US suffered a germ warfare attack. The public cannot be expected to understand the specifics or what to do to avoid or prevent the spread of illness. The role of government is make sure the best people are in charge and then to provide whatever support they may need.

Somehow I am not confident the current Congressional crowd is up to that challenge.

Slow Boil Over A Surrogate War

July 20, 2014

The downing of Malaysian Air flight 17 was a shock. As time as progressed, the justification of the senseless murders of almost 300 people is no less murky.  Our madness slow boil seems centered upon a surrogate war.

Was this simply an accident of war or was the missile attack part of a premeditated message? The 300 unlucky passengers had nothing to do with either side in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Malaysian Airlines is based in Kuala Lumpur, in an entirely different continent.

What message could be contained in this tragedy?

Reports that insurgents or possibly just local residents were scouring the debris fields picking up valuables including credit cards has added disgust. Instead of treating the death scene with respect, it appears to have turned into an opportunity for quick gain, at least for some.

Is that the message, human condition is abominable?

According to a New York Times report, the air route which the plane was using was open… open that is until the plane would have reached the Russian border. Unbelievably, the Russian airway authorities had closed the airspace beginning with its Ukrainian border eastward.

Flight 17 was downed about 50 miles short of the border. The question of the day is what would have happened had the plane not been short down?

The second question of the day, why would Malaysian Air have flown a route it could not have completed?

There are many conspiracy theories possible. A more straight forward explanation is human error. Sophisticated surface to air missiles in the hands of irregular military types makes no sense on all accounts. Command and control is lacking with irregulars.

Non-combatants should be expected to assume they are not a target, so flying the same route they have always flown ought to be expected. A responsible airline, however, would have been expected to have checked for any alerts.

The Ukraine conflict is a surrogate war. The West (Europe plus the US) versus the Russian Federation. The West is trying to extend its influence east and the Russians are trying to block these efforts. For the West, bluffing and then looking the other way is a preferred strategy. For Russia, bluffs normally do not exist. This contrast of style was for sure a contributing factor.

The top people on both sides know this, yet were willing to play the surrogate game.

The surrogate game is being played in other lands too. Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and to an extent, in Afghanistan to name a few. The mess called central Africa is another place to observe non-combatants dying from outside influence.

The problem with these wars is that the sides are not clear. Who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. The US has a role to play but it is not around the use of US military force.

More likely the US role is to reiterate where our influence will be placed, where we will be neutral, and where we will not exert any influence. Once these positions are made clear, then we must ensure our actions support them. The current world confusion has arisen because the US has gone silent (while still exerting force) and allowed itself to believe it could expand its influence unrestrictedly.

Expanding the European Union was risky, expanding NATO was bordering on foolish and trying to convince the Russians that “star wars” was good for them was a joke.

Most of the world is poverty stricken. Most of those region’s would be leaders are simply people in pursuit of personal wealth. Democratic rule (as we know it) is just not going to happen. Some form of benevolent authoritarian government is the best those populations can hope for.

Telling the American people that open elections, capitalism, and human rights will bring much of the world into the 21st century is a disservice to everyone and for countries such as Russia and China, represents a threat to their established governments. It times for the rhetoric which President Obama and members of Congress select to get real.

Real in the sense of the facts, real in the sense of what is truly possible.  Real in the sense of McDonalds or Subway or Nike or Facebook or Twitter.  These social forces will do more than bullets and bombs.

Another Trip

February 16, 2008

The “great decider”, President George W Bush left town yesterday and headed for Africa.  Why Africa?  Well why not, and besides no one else wanted to see him.  This trip will take him to several African countries all with a claim to oil or other valuable minerals.  George knows how to get out of the rain, trust me.

The Country can rest a little easier because Laura is with him on this trip.  Still you have wonder, why Africa and why now?

1. The surge is stalled.  What should the Country do?

2. The economy has slowed to a crawl.  What should the Country do that will produce real “value creation”?

3. Many (too many) of the Banks, the Investment houses, and the bond insurance companies have made greedy and bone headed investments that appear co-mingled with other of their assets such that the consequence of the write offs could be born by investors who wanted none of that risk when they invested.  What regulatory action is called for?

4. Bush and friends are stalled in their quest for retroactive immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the illegal Goverment spying program.  If this is such an important issue, why is the President not working to find a compromise?

5. The Russians are still not happy with deployment of our anti-missile missiles and radar in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Is there not something that needs to be done here?

Africa is a proper place for the US President to visit and certainly from a foreign aid perspective, Africa is long over due for a visit.  But why now?