Saturday, April 29, 2017

How to End the North Korean Missile Crisis

            The United Nation’s Security Council has imposed sanctions on the DRNK for its failure to comply with the Council’s succession of a dozen or so resolutions dating back to 1993. These sanctions have not had the desired outcome. We have been doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
            In October 1962 President Kennedy addressed the nation about the Soviet Union’s nuclear missiles in Cuba. The salient element of his message was this: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” Kennedy’s response rendered those missiles useless. In the case of North Korea, that approach should have the same results. Again, the missiles would become unemployable and the DRNK military would block their erratic dictator from any launching. Would this declaration constitute extending the Monroe Doctrine into Asia? It’s there now on a de facto basis, this would formalize it.
            Our response to a DRNK attack would probably be the same with or without the proposed proclamation, but  with that warning, such an attack is highly unlikely.. We need to be explicit about our likely response to the use of nuclear weapons by the DRNK.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Reset the Minimum Age

            Recent research has shown that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that provides good judgment, doesn't develop until the age of 20 and is not fully developed until age 25 or even later. Armed with this new knowledge, changes in our laws seem appropriate.

            Up until 1971, the voting age was 21. It was then lowered to 18 by the 26th Amendment, largely based on the argument that if men could be drafted into military service and fight in Vietnam at the age of 18, they should be allowed to vote at that age. Knowing what we know now about the development of the prefrontal cortex, the better resolution would have been to raise the draft age to 21. The late development of the prefrontal cortex may explain why younger voters are taken in by candidates who make promises that can't be kept. We should now revoke the 26th Amendment and set a new standard at age 21.

Military Service
             Before the New Millennium, the enemy was easy to identify. He was the guy with the distinctive uniform and helmet shape shooting at you. Those 18 years old could deal with that effectively. The new enemy dresses like and mixes with civilians. Good judgment is critical. The military is better served with people who are at least 21. The law should be changed to require a minimum age of 21 for military service.

            The minimum legal age for driving is set by each state. The requirements vary from 14 years, 3 months in South Dakota to 17 in New Jersey. We now know more about why teens have so many accidents. It would have too much of an impact on life as we know it to change those laws to set an age of 21 as a minimum, but other parts of the law could be changed to good effect. For instance, the penalty for using a cell phone while driving could be a 1-year license suspension.


            45 states have an minimum age requirement for drinking alcoholic beverages below 21. It might be enough to require the presence of an adult until the age of 21.

Friday, November 20, 2015

After Paris, What?

16 November 2015

            Following the attack in Paris, a strong consensus among TV experts on terrorism developed that the methods used were sophisticated and almost certainly involved planning and training by ISIS in the Middle East. That would seem to be true, but it's important to realize it needn't be. ISIS has encouraged just this type of operation as "home-grown" via the Internet. The nine terrorists could just as well have been a group acting independantly. It would not be difficult for them to get weapons. Instructions for making suicide explosive belts are readily available on the Internet. Simultaneity of attacks can be achieved with wristwatches. So-called "soft targets" are obvious choices.
            Consider the damage done by one or two individuals. David Hodarei of the U.K.'s Telegraph lists on the Internet 35 "most notable" U.S. shootings between April 1999 and August 2015, which resulted in the killing of 279 people. The killers, all home grown, acted either alone or with one other person.
            Imagine what a small group of dedicated jihadis could do in the U.S. Let's say a small group of perhaps two or three decide to show the reach of their cause by attacking not in New York or Washington, D.C., but in the farthest reaches of the U.S., in San Diego, California. They collect the necessary fully automatic weapons, handguns with silencers, and ammunition. They buy in small quantities over a period of time. Under no pressure from schedule restraints, they make suicide vests. For their target they select a movie theater. The Ken in Kensington is ideal: 575 seats in front of one screen. They wait until the theater is showing a film with a lot of gunfire and explosions. They attend one showing to learn when the sound is at its best.
            On the fateful evening, dressed in casual clothes, they walk into the theater, the automatic weapons held along their legs. They silence security with their handguns. Taking up pre-arranged positions at the back of the theater, the killers kneel and begin spraying rounds just over the top of the seats. It takes a while before viewers realize the sound of gunfire is not from the movie, but real. Screaming starts and people begin dropping to the floor. Seeing this, the shooters walk slowly down the aisles and start spraying bullets into those on the floor between the rows of seats.
            Alerted by cell phone calls from some of the patrons, the police arrive and take on the killers. The jihadis and perhaps some police are killed along with several hundred moviegoers. The terrorists have made their point: we have no place to hide.
            ISIS is bound to raise the stakes and come up with money to buy a suitcase atomic bomb from North Korea. We can delay that day by keeping ISIS away from the oil and the poppies. Eventually, a bomb may be smuggled into the U.S. If so, Washington D.C. might suffer the same fate as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Congress, the Supreme Court, the White House and all their inhabitants gone. It can't happen? Why not?
            What can we do to minimize the risk? We can do the obvious.
            Internally, we can set in motion a system whereby those who have become disengaged from society are detected and treated. Here, the first line of defense is the family, and we can urge people to get those individuals reported and treated. Second is the schools. All students should be scrutinized for any signs of social disengagement.
            From outside threats we can screen visitors and monitor them while they are here.
            We can attempt to counter ISIS Internet propaganda with our story. Finally, we can begin to try to convert the jihadists to our way of thinking. We remember "hearts and minds," but this time we need a far greater effort. This is both the most difficult and the most necessary work before us. It is, perhaps, the only answer.

17 November 2015
            Late yesterday we learned ISIS has selected Washington D.C. as their next target. Their having already acquired an atomic weapon seems an extremely remote possibility, but they could easily mount an attack similar to the one in Paris. On the other hand, how many sticks of dynamite would it take to topple the Washington Monument?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Girl on a Bus

For my dear sister  Dorothy -

Girl on a Bus

A few people
all together on a bus,
each alone.
I sit by a window
on the first of the seats
facing forward.
A girl gets on,
sits in front of me,
facing the aisle,
so I see her profile.
Pretty, in her
early twenties.
She turns to me,
“I’m going to
a job interview.”
She’s a little nervous.
“What do you think
of how I’m dressed?”

Having permission,
I lean back,
and look her over
from head to toe.
I sit up and tell her
she looks fine,
but that  there is
one more thing
she must wear.
I lean forward,
“A smile.”
She smiles.
“Yes, just like that.
Don’t forget.”
If only I could be there
to remind her.

© Richard Gilbert 2012

The Longest Coat

My wife and I went to a local thrift shop to make a few donations. Before leaving, we looked to see what was there. You never know when you might find a spectacular bargain. This may sound a little like winning the lottery, but, like I say, you never know. One day, in fact, we did find just such a bargain: an ivory hand-knit Italian wool coat, ankle-length. It was
as-new and worth at least several hundred dollars. The price? $15. Sandy bought it without hesitation.
            A few months later we happened to visit an upscale boutique in Carmel. As Sandy wended her way through the aisles, I followed. Behind us was another shopper, petite, dark-haired, perhaps in her mid-forties and smartly dressed. Her demeanor was serious.
            Sandy paused to look at some knitted coats. She was wearing her $15 coat and I could see that they appeared to be similar to hers. When she was done looking at them, I checked them out; they were not as luxurious as hers. There were three sizes: waist-length, which were quite expensive; hip length, more expensive; and knee length, very expensive; but no ankle length like Sandy’s.
            I went back up the aisle to take another look at something and the petite lady went past me. When I returned, she was blocking my path, so I just waited behind her. She looked at the knitted wool coats and examined each price tag. As she turned to leave, she saw Sandy’s coat and stopped. She looked slowly from ankle to neck and neck to ankle and finally just stared. Apparently she did not realize I was right behind her because I heard her softly, and slowly, syllable–by-syllable, take our Lord’s name in vain.

© Richard Gilbert 2013

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Product Placements

We have no need for a big estate,
a modest two and two works just great.
Have no wish for Malibu Beach,
glad Point Loma is in our reach.

Don’t want to drive a big Rolls Royce,
Something smaller would be our choice.
Forget Porsche’s 911,
I’ll just keep our old Ford revvin’.

We don’t drive to Nieman Marcus,
Target’s lot is where we park us.
I never wear Hickey-Freeman,
just wear out Dockers like a demon.

Have no need for Patek-Philippe,
a fine watch but a price too steep.
I don’t even need a Rolex,
When I’ve got my trusty Timex.

Don’t need to write with a Mont Blanc,
I’m just not a fine pen wonk.
I’ll get by with my trusty Bic
It always seems to do the trick.

I don’t need filet mignon,
But show me a burger, it’s gone.
I don’t sip pale Dom Perignon,
A glass of Sprite is just as wan.

Don’t need to make an upward move,
Doin’ just fine in my own groove.

© Richard Gilbert   October 2011

Thursday, February 2, 2012

About the Following Post

An edited version of the following post was published in the February 2012 issue of The Sun, a small literary magazine.