The devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico has been terrifying, engaging multiple FEMA regions and significant military support to rescue, recover and rebuild. While Puerto Rico has only limited electric power, mainly due to decades old negligence of their electric grid utilities to ensure resiliency to hurricanes, we know that it will happen again if allowed to retain their aged and fragile power generation, above ground transmission and distribution lines (wooden poles).
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the failure of the Federal Aviation Administration in the lead up to 9/11 and the failure of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to properly regulate the nuclear power industry. Now we’ve gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. Kim Jong Un has threatened to conduct a nuclear electromagnetic pulse missile test over the Pacific. Hawaii and Guam have issued warnings and distributed guidance to their citizens regarding precautions to take in the event of such an attack. The situation is dire because our government has failed to heed a decade of warnings from the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack. A nuclear EMP attack would destroy electronics everywhere and black out our electric grid for an extended period. It would cripple the critical infrastructure necessary to maintain modern civilization. Our nuclear power plants would lose the electricity required to cool reactor cores and spent fuel pools. They would overheat and begin to spread toxins in about three weeks. The EMP Commission has said that millions of Americans would die from starvation, disease and the resulting societal collapse.
As George Washington became our first president in 1789, he turned to solid political leadership for this brand new adventure of the American republic. To help with the administration of the newly formed government, Washington collected a modestly sized group of department heads, the cabinet, to help him conduct the daily business of governing. The group consisted of Thomas Jefferson as his Secretary of State, Henry Knox, Secretary of War, and Edmund Jennings Randolph, the Attorney General (although not an official cabinet position until 1870). To round out the cabinet of four, Alexander Hamilton became the first Secretary of Treasury, and proved to be one of the most influential department secretaries of all time. Determined, organized, and visionary all describe Hamilton very well.
Last month, news broke that the congressional committee studying the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States was being forced to disband–at the same time North Korea specifically threatened an EMP attack as part of it’s alarming increase in nuclear tests. This is widely considered to be the complete opposite approach to protecting our nation’s national security in a mostly anarchic international environment. In fact, just six months ago, most experts thought North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was primitive, some academics claiming it had as few as 6 A-Bombs. Now, according to testimony submitted to Congress, the intelligence community believes North Korea may possess approximately 60 nuclear weapons.
Over the weekend, in a dim corner of Washington D.C. and in a quiet recess of the Pentagon, a national security tragedy occurred with little notice or fanfare. On Sept. 30, the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat of Electromagnetic Pulse to the United States of America (or EMP Commission) was shut down indefinitely. Since 2000, the EMP Commission, an unpaid team of leading scientists, engineers, and security experts has worked tirelessly to test, understand, and uncover risks posed to our nation’s civil and military infrastructure by Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). EMP is a well known physical electromagnetic phenomena generated by a nuclear or special weapon or coronial mass ejection (CME).
“Rogue state” is a self-deluding Western foreign policy term that has helped China eschew responsibility for enabling North Korea’s aggressive nuclear weaponization, and it is time to call China a sponsor of lawless North Korean behavior that it has a duty to reverse, including irresponsible nuclear proliferation. Other Western terms for North Korea have included “outlaw” and “renegade” – terms that focused responsibility on the Kim Dynasty and minimized China’s role as North Korea’s top trade, aid, and political sponsor. Outlaw, rogue, and renegade replaced Cold War terms such as proxy, client, and satellite in the lexicon of U.S. administrations eager to put the 20th Century Cold War behind them.
Communism, Fascism, Progressivism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Libertarianism, Nazism. What do all these “isms” mean, where do the Alt-Right and ANTIFAS fit in, and do most Americans have any clue what to make of it all? If you search for political spectrum charts on the Internet, you will find disparity. For example, some place Fascism on the far right while others show it on the far left next to Communism and Socialism. You also might gain an idea of whether or not the chart’s creator was of liberal or conservative persuasion based simply on the positioning of Republicans and Democrats in relation to the middle, or the historical figures used to illustrate terms.
Radicalization and violent extremism are topics of concern that have become much more pronounced in recent years (Sedgwick, 2010), and radicalization can be defined as the development of extremist ideologies and beliefs (Borum, 2011). Many factors influence individuals to turn from nonviolent to violent ideologies, including propaganda on the Internet (Maher, 2007), social networks and communications with other extremists (Sageman, 2004), political leaders and authority figures (Moghaddam, 2005), and intergroup conflict (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2011). Any of these factors individually, or a combination thereof, may contribute as catalysts for heightened radicalization (Bubolz & Simi, 2015).
Newly elected Missouri Governor Eric Greitens recently issued an executive order to create a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in Missouri. The governor’s newest executive order erects a system markedly different from the plan proposed by the legislature earlier this year and is actually quite different than most drug monitoring programs across the country. Specifically, the governor’s plan calls for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to create a database that will target “pill mills” that pump out prescription drugs at “dangerous and unlawful levels.” The department will work with private sector partners to obtain de-identified data that can be used to target abusers. Furthermore, the governor declared in his executive order that he issued the order primarily due to the failure of the legislature to pass its own version of PDMP during the legislative session that runs from January to May.
This is the fourth in a series of short essays focusing on our constitutional history and constitutional leaders, all of whom had a significant impact. This series will attempt to relate the unique features that defined their leadership with an eye toward elucidation of our constitutional system as well as a deeper understanding of our national history. Although he may have been short in stature (about 5’4”), James Madison cast a long shadow among the Founders. He constructed the concept of many of the features we now take for granted in our American constitutional system, among them checks and balances and the separation of powers. A good argument could be made that Madison constructed the constitutional framework that has kept our country functioning for over 200 years.
The debate surrounding the extent to which America is vulnerable to both man-made or naturally occurring electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and natural geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) has become superheated. To some, the dangers these phenomena pose are believed to be existential, while others portray EMP defense advocates as mad and believe its dangers unfounded or debatable. However, Duke Energy Corp. recently became an advocate for EMP/GMD defense by releasing its plan to link multiple power stations in an effort to create resiliency for its operations and customers. What is the root of the debate? The answer, as with many emerging national security issues, is nuanced and complex.
This is the third in a series of short essays focusing on our constitutional history and constitutional leaders, all of whom had a significant impact. This series will attempt to relate the unique features that defined their leadership with an eye toward elucidation of our constitutional system as well as a deeper understanding of our national history. If Thomas Jefferson had been an airplane, he would have been named the Spirit of America. He articulated the vision that has contributed to the development path of the United States since its beginning.
Homer noted, “History is the Oracle of Truth.” He was right. His concept of history taps a thread so fundamental to human existence that it influences almost every aspect of life and society. From insurance rates and educational opportunities, to legal proceedings and science, we can’t escape the pull of history. For thousands of years, mankind has understood we must capture and remember what was so we consider what may follow. History also demonstrates when people study the past they become masters of the present. Conversely, things we ignore often ironically remind us of what we must not forget.
There are so many important issues that can directly affect each and every one of us, but the news media, exploiting sensationalism at the expense of providing us with needed information, seems intent upon fanning the flames of discontent, division and partisanship. Which news are you watching tonight? ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC or the Fox News Channel? Too often we find ourselves watching the one we trust, which really means the one with which we most agree. Some of us, in order to provide balance, switch back and forth from one news channel to another trying to figure out some semblance of truth.
As the Trump Administration ushers in uncertain change, one of those changes must become certain if the Administration is serious about national security: a resilient U.S. electrical grid. Our continued failure to allocate the manageable expense of shoring up our grid against phasic-probability, high-impact destructive events is an unabating gamble with the survival of 350 million people and the progress of our predecessors. Some have defended the slow pace of proofing the U.S. electric grid, citing the low-probability of high-impact risks posed by Electromagnetic Pulse and/or solar Coronal Mass Ejection events. However, our nation’s resilience, defense, and security should not be left to luck. No one would step into an escape room with a 10% chance of death during the game, yet Lloyd’s of London assessed that there is a 12% chance per decade that North America will be impacted by a significant CME event. Furthermore, the insurance syndicate notes CME impact is “almost inevitable.”