Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 14, 2010

Watching this wedge of white swans

Filed under: Catastrophes,Risk Assessment,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 14, 2010

Flooding in Pakistan, picture by Reuters

Further to my Thursday post (immediately below), comments on it, and unfolding events, please access the following updates:

20 million homeless in Pakistan (Guardian)

Cholera confirmed in Pakistan flood disaster (AP)

A long view of Indus River flooding (BBC)

Heavy rains continue in China (Xinhua)

Shanghai temperature hits 104 degree F (40 degrees C) (China People’s Daily)

Yuan has biggest weekly drop in 20 months (Bloomberg)

Russian fires shrink, consequences grow (Wall Street Journal)

Russia Wheat: Drought has reduced yield by 40 percent in key production regions (USDA, 1.08 MB download)

Residents save water in wake of Ames flood (Des Moines Register)

Consolidated coverage of all Iowa flooding (Des Moines Register)

Not to be a nag, but all these situations are white — not black — swans.  Each of these “natural” disasters have been amplifed by human choice.  Each has — at least local and perhaps broader — catastrophic potential.  Are we watching the way a white swan might evolve into a black swan?

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Comment by Art Botterell

August 14, 2010 @ 11:23 am

Not sure whether the swan metaphor is really worth agonizing over. A more useful distinction might be between general predictions and specific, actionable ones. Earthquakes in California are a good example: we know they’re going to happen, but we don’t know when or where specifically enough to do more than make general preparations.

If there’s a distinction to be drawn between the “homeland security” and “emergency management” worldviews it might have to do with how much emphasis is put on prediction. The HS emphasis is on our being smart enough… and the world predictable enough… that we can “connect the dots” and head off bad things before they happen. The EM perspective tends more toward acknowledgment that despite our best efforts bad things happen… sometimes in foreseeable ways and sometimes emerging black-swan-like from non-linear or chaotic systems… and that we need to deal with the consequences when they do.

Even if the current central Asian disasters were predictable in general terms, and maybe even preventable in an ideal world, I don’t think anyone would argue that there was any practical hope of “securing” against them in the world we currently inhabit. So does the color of the swan really matter?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 14, 2010 @ 12:18 pm


I am on the edge of misusing Taleb’s Black Swan metaphor… some may insist I have already fallen over. You are also enough of a regular reader to know I have an affection for metaphors in-and-of-themselves. But to the extent I continue with this theme, I will leave the swans alone.

More interesting to me is your comment, “The HS emphasis is on our being smart enough… and the world predictable enough… that we can “connect the dots” and head off bad things before they happen. The EM perspective tends more toward acknowledgment that despite our best efforts bad things happen… sometimes in foreseeable ways and sometimes emerging black-swan-like from non-linear or chaotic systems… and that we need to deal with the consequences when they do.”

I am a “homeland security” guy who works more and more with “emergency management” guys and gals. The collision of your two worldviews is probably why I don’t believe either prevention or dealing with the consequences is sufficient (even while both are needed) and have become so preoccupied with resilience.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 14, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

20 M homeless in Pakistan and almost 2 M offshore in Haiti. What is world’s total homeless population? That might be an interesting metric broken down by nation-state! Is decent, safe, sanitary housing as called for in the Housing and Urban Development organic legislation a human right?

Comment by 66

August 14, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

“First, you must know that the heavens, the earth, the watery plain of the sea, the moons’ bright globe, the sun and the stars are all sustained by a spirit within; for imminent mind flowing through all its parts and leavening its mass makes the universe work. This union produced mankind, the beasts, the birds of the air and the strange creatures that live under the sea’s smooth face. The life-force of these seeds is fire. Each of us finds in this world his own level.”
– Virgil, The Aeneid VI

“When the anomaly has resisted repeated attack, a crisis develops. The paradigm must be changed, since the foundations are at fault. A chaotic period follows during which the new paradigm is sought. When a new one is found and accepted, the revolution is complete and the new order takes over.” http://www.csun.edu/edpsy/Gowan/introz.html Well worth reading.

Terrorism has made the world more dependent on the United States for security. The United States goes up another level and creates the new order or at least quickly adapts and dominates.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 14, 2010 @ 9:56 pm


Thanks for the succinctness of your HLS-EM perception distinction.

As Philip points out, it has been an atypical global natural catastrophe period.

We know that mother nature might strike anywhere and at anytime. We ask ourselves whether what we’re doing is working i.e. preventing some bad things from happening and mitigating the bad things that we can’t/don’t prevent.

I believe the status quo security and preparedness barometer is at an acceptable level considering the inherent risks of life and the sometimes prohibitive cost of prevention. Whipsawing society with persistent threats and preparedness initiatives might be counterproductive.

Terrorism is more of a perceived game changer then a real threat for most hometowns. The plethora of grant financed counterterrorism initiatives is not commensurate with the risk. In addition, too many of our preparedness efforts are government sponsored and do little more than create/perpetuate a nanny state.

Prevention, preparedness, risk management, and interagency-intergovernmental-private sector partnerships all have their place in HLS and EM.

Phil’s call for resiliency with a large dose of Emersonian-self-reliance might be the antidote for many of our ailments.
I hope that mother nature is done for a while.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 15, 2010 @ 4:25 am


Comment by Good vs Evil

August 15, 2010 @ 7:43 am

Well gentlemen, what concerns me is that I represent those with the “expertise” to respond to earthquake, hurricane and from what I have seen with the foreign government(s) corruption whether it be in Haiti or Pakistan or elsewhere, Katrina victims are still needing help, Haitian victims have enountered the “unacceptable” with so, so many still under tent and all these good Pakistani folks with so many necessities and again a failed global response.

When I heard about the Pakistani situation evolving, I called State and said, “We need to get organized and etablish relief supply air lifts with USA stanped everywhere. These people must see that we truly care. We are not folks who prefer sending drones, troops and other and yes I understand that there are insurgents in the region, however 1/5 of Pakistan is flooded and we need to help!” The reply, “Sir, we are in fact already addressing and readying relief response and have plans to address the people of Pakistan.”

This is America and we also must do more for our own people, not so much attention to those here illegally, but our own citizenry.

The fact of the matter, the teams of experts I represent to address prerequisite and necessary wastewater and water purification development projects are off doing other global development projects in Ghana, Rwanda and the Middle East. Weeks ago, they all pulled out and said, “We cannot waste our time as the Haitians are being left to wallow in the mud and huddle under tarp!” The truth is – the Haitian government, those involved have made it so, so difficult for relief organizations and funding to be appropriately distributed. The same is true in Pakistan for the most part!

The fact is whether it is indeed global warming or a thirty year projection of warmer temperatures and higher ocean levels, unfortunately, I am a pessimist! We as a “global people” are for the most part good people, however with so any “entrusted” individuals involved in government(s) and the prowess in power and control, a feeding ground for the arrogant and self-indulgent who take advantage of their position – pls see: Barry Obama, never mind the Haitian or Pakistani government, yes, numerous climatological records keeping temperatures will show higher and higher temperatures, hurricanes and typhoons much stronger and certainly more and more flooding rains as well as – drought – conditions which have not been seen for centuries – that’s what the experts say…and thus far, they are right on their predictions!

This weekend, I am making every attemopt to convince both the Turkish government and the Israeli government to utilize available funding which (we) have identified to give me the nod of approval to forge ahead to adopt a “barge design” and the proposed project to transport “water” from Turkey to Israel to help both Palestinian and Israeli with “water” for the present and future.

While I am quite cognizant of the different “agenda” of the “Brutes of Tehran” and their willingness to spill “rich Persian blood” on the streets of Tehran, outright cold blooed murder and Tehran’s missles to be pointed towards Saudi and UAE land and people and a world again as in history, turning its cheek to these brutes seeking to disrupt the world leaving nothing to Mother Nature to assure strife and anguish for so amny, despite all the “experts” and our proven skill sets, the brilliant solutions and technological innovations of the 21st century and despite a President who believes that a “beer on the White House lawn” is some sort of solution or again jumping in and giving his opinion about the Islamic fundamentalists placing a landmark as they always do at a place where they have been victorious over adversary, folks, Goldman Sachs and its affiliation to every Obama administration official one way or another including Kagan says it all, the “fix” is in and whether Democrat or Republic, who cares, most of us are truly – Independents – and while the initial Paulsen/Frank/Pelosi et all insoders took care of the bankers and their pals have no accountability as to where the initial $750Billion – $750 billion in stimulus funding – what’s that word..having “transparency, well, to many of us, we have seen much clarity and it is not Hamas, Hezbollah or so many others that are our concern, but local, state and national “entrusted” US representatives first which must be unseated including you, Mr. President as elections are forthcoming.

The first election many of us here on main Street USA at the local donut shop are looking at is the 27th September “German” elections! While the EU also weakens in every way, the German economy and the eventual ten (1O) nation EU with these other weakened economies relying on a resurgence in the German manufacturing “giant” seeking more oil and now with a fast deployment Army, new shiny war ships in the Meditarannean, the “Brutes of Tehran” need not worry about the Israelis or the USA supposedly to attack enrichment centers within the next six days as rumored, but they should be very concerned about Germany as history repeats itself and the Germans have little tolerance or willingness to accomodate anyone else except for Germans….Ah…history is about to repeat itself. Germany needs oil, it refuses to be blackmailed by the Russians and (WE) all have a problem lurking not to far in the distant….

Mother Nature, we can be resilient and we can understand her much better today than any other time in our evolution.

It is evident that Mother Nature will use the earth’s warming to enhance her strength in producing harshness, however it is this “arrogant and self-agenda” of those “entrusted” to make decisions to bring more harmony, not necessarily to result in the embrace of all, but certainly to afford everyone creation of God, every soul the dignity each deserves and this is not happening, global population to reach seven (7) billion soon and Goldman Sachs, Obama et al and a Congressional partisanship here in the US which should all be thrown out of office – each to give their resignation….

Broken promises, trillions and trillions in deficit, a President so narrow in perspective that he and his Wife are seemingly only interested in giving us lessons in Black history and reaching to the Muslims despite what American say, when at least one out of every five American children are under nourished and that was before the recession/depression, no jobs have been created, the economy worsens and the unemployment rate in this great Republic being raped by Goldman Sachs and other bankers (and knowing politicians especially Barney Frank and Pelosi) and more and more, the dedicated and caring first responder on our streets, the men and women we – tahnk – daily for serving us – well, they are working with less and less and respond as quickly as they can to our 911 desperate call for help more often than not with a team which is below the minimim is safety standard placing both victim and first responder at risk…

Whether White or Black swan, ridlled with waste, fraud, corruption, once again as referenced by the Bible, not the Koran we seemingly hear so much about in this Judeo-Christian Republic, like every man-made government since Babylon, no matter its form, all these governments have failed and unless you get to the polls, begin screaming in the streets, holding signs of protest (see: http://www.bigdiglifevest.com) you will not have to worry what Mother Nature has in store over the thiry years of floods and arrid conditions or a unviverse expanding, not contracting, predicting an ice age, not what the Gore prize winner and he is a prize of an idiot for sure…

We here at the coffee shop are worried about the politicians and not only about the “Brutes of Tehran” or a still questionable US citizen whose files are under seal who professes Christianity, yet all we gear him talk about in any real substance is about Islam.

Well, only 1.5 billion of the world’s nearly (7) billion people are following the teachings of Islam and while most are very wonderful people who choose to read the Koran and follow specific religious and spiritual ways, WE all have much to worrry about and the Katrina people, the Haitian people, the wonderful people in Pakistan, the Palestinian and Israeli and so many more are being taken advantage and if we are so truly enolightened and are capable of any compassion towards another, well, disband the UN and let’s demand all these governments starting at the White House, wet behind the ears, to truly muster our strengths and compassion and help one another, clasping hands and assuring that the kids in Jericho and Hebron and in Ghana, Rwanda – nearly 1 billion folks who have not even access in the 21st century to a clean glass of water, a global business and commitment my Life is dedicated to in helping fellow human beings a clean glass of water no matter where and no matter the political scenario. See; Amos 3:7;8….Amos 7:10

Such iniquities are abhorrent.

God is witness to all. God has propesized and so many choose to turn the other way. The snare, the trap by those choosing a new workd order seeking to “enslave” all, well, be cautious, be weary for terrible happenings are about us. The lion is attacking the sheep. Heed the news and do not think that WE can escape from reality.

Read Genesis 19:24 – a one cosmic holocaust! Nuclear fire. Be aware of the “Brutes of Tehran” – words of doom will become real and while I commend all those involved in Homeland Security which has done such a good job in averting more death, it will only be with determination and strenth in fortitude which will stand tall against the ruthless cold blooded murderers. Where is Churchill? We must demand leadership….We must be strong in protecting the Constitution, our Rights as citizens…

Stand tall.

We, US, Europeans, Asians and those sitting in the marble buildings erected from the sands in the Middle East, have left the Katrina people, the Haitian people, the good people of Katrina and more will suffer as calamity will befall so many as few heed the message of God and it is the lack of repentence and this corruptness, the corrupt self agenda that prevails. Only you can change this…

Stand tall for your first responders, police, firefighters and EMT’s amd be assured that the US military stands with you as it will do its utmost – each man and woman – who we say – thank you for their service – to protect our Amwerican flag from those within and outside who seek our demise.

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
aka Citizen Joe
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645

Comment by 66

August 15, 2010 @ 8:33 am

A good quote. “When a scientist conquers something, he abides by the fundamental laws and does so with Nature’s permission. He has learned that conquering is submission.” C.F. Kettering


Founded before the for-profit fraud wave university was thought up. http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/college-solution/for-profit-schools-deception-and-fraud-revealed/2689/

Comment by 66

August 15, 2010 @ 8:54 am

Note: “More hearings on for-profit college abuses are expected to be held this fall and the Obama administration has proposed rules that would restrict federal financial aid — the life blood of these schools — for bad apples.” Money Watch Bnet.

So, deleveraging is a brutal and unpleasant thing. People are going to get hurt or killed. It’s a rough game. The stock price plunges 20% in a day and the fun stops there. Throw circuit breakers. It won’t help.

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