Friday, March 28, 2008

On the Spreading of Verbal Compost

When another disabled Vietnam Vet friend sent around a much echoed email entitled "Who is Barack Obama??" full of fairly thoroughly discredited dezinformatsia (Russian for disinformation - they were the masters of this) I felt the need to respond - to the whole group he mailed it to. Given that I was in the To: line, I take that as an open opportunity to respond to all.

I wrote:

Aside from the fact that some of this is previously discredited nonsense of suspicious motivation and origin, what's the point? When we already know that the Internet has every bit as much disinformation and misinformation as real information and that for most people, it is virtually impossible to validate sources, what does spreading this compost contribute to making intelligent choices at the ballot booth? What am I missing?

How many times has our organization been taken in by self-titled "veterans" who have, in the final result, turned out to be frauds? These people have been standing right in front of us, subject to our own willingness and ability to validate them, and yet they have snuck one by us. Why would I ever buy into completely unverifiable allegations about someone, who's general performance and track record indicate nothing remotely aligned with the allegations, especially coming over the internet?



To which one Rob Amiot responded -

What are you saying - in so many words, get to the point - who doing what to whom? Tell me!



Now mind you this is a guy I don't know and haven't even met - not likely to either! Suffice it to say that I had been asked for my point so I tried again to provide it -

OK, Rob

Gee, you know I think I DID get to the point but here's another angle -

1. Spreading known lies, that have been independently verified as lies, about ANYONE via ANY MEDIUM serves no purpose. It is NOT leaving "the place" better than we found it.

2. Spreading lies about someone who has an impeccable record of public service are more than just a disservice, not just a bad idea, but profoundly negative and fundamentally destructive - something that I don't like seeing friends do and have been the target of myself in my lifetime. They don't discredit the subject, they discredit the spreader.

3. When we have so (acknowledgedly) little capacity to verify or validate the Internet rumor mill it is incumbent upon us to exercise every means at our disposal TO verify and validate before we unwittingly do #1 & #2... and there ARE means.

4. If you don't like a candidate it's fine to not like them - just say so - and be ready to back up why intelligently. That is the basis for reasoned, honest debate. There is no value to spreading rumor and inuendo and it's inflammatory.

5. If we want to bring credit to Vietnam veterans by our actions then it won't happen by re-enacting the reprehensible behavior of the so-called (and to me personally repulsive) "Swiftboat veterans" of previous campaigns.

That's what we have to understand, no matter where we go, no matter what we do, we are judged in exactly that frame of reference - Vietnam Vets. After what we collectively went through the moral high ground is ours to lose. Let's not lose it.



Now, apparently this wasn't good enough, because he came back AGAIN!!

Rob Amiot wrote:

Evidently you are a Democrat and are for Obama!

I am not so dull as to accepting stories floating around his being a Muslim and other crap like that. I have not issue with Barrack, but he is not qualifed.

I am indeed one of those who was very pleased by the stopping of Kerry - Swiftboat Veterans or not - he was a weakling, as he showed once again when he tottered up to Obama, in lieu of showing a little bit of loyalty toward Ewards...Kerry is a zero!

Your ambiguity, to me at least, is like a dance around the rosy - what are you really saying? Are you just about telling the truth? If so - you have me on your side - are you soft peddling Obama? This is were we separate. I would rather have Hillary attempting a run at the White House than this empty drum with a smooth exterior, who hasn't a clue about running the nation - can't even put a damper on his mal-attituded wife.


So... my closing position was this -


So much for jumping to conclusions – I am a registered independent and I vote for whomever I think is the best candidate put forward by the bulk of the electorate at election time. If that boils down to Barack Obama then I have no quarrel with it. I don’t share you opinion of his qualifications but, this being America, you are absolutely entitled to those opinions. I really don’t care one way or the other about Kerry – he’s history and he did not reach a position of greater authority so why waste any further energy on him?

What you interpret as “ambiguity” and a “dance around the rosy” others see differently. My points in both emails apply. You may be unable or unwilling to understand what I said but that doesn’t really give you the authority, or put you in a position, to diminish, trivialize, or belittle it. Not that it matters – your opinion, like mine, is 1/6.7 billionth of the world’s opinion on the subject. I’m certainly not going to go to war with you over it. Just remember that one man’s “ambiguity” may be another man’s attempt to convey a message without using blunt force trauma to accomplish it. Simplicity, while sometimes appealing to the broader ‘sound bite” audience, may not be very kind or conciliatory.

Back to the point at hand – [My friend] is a friend, but he also can do some fairly ridiculous “rumor mongering” based on stuff he accepts in good faith (without apparent good cause) from the internet. I don’t think this serves him well and I really think we need more function and less dysfunction during times of political choice. Just my opinion. One thing I DO like about Barack Obama is his commitment and willingness to bring people together to achieve “win-win” rather than being perpetually “I win, you lose” divisive.

So... I was genuinely trying to make the point that spreading verbal compost is an unseemly way to pursue the debate and I felt that the point was worth making to the original audience of the compost, you included, without bashing anyone’s head in about it. If it is more appealing to you that I say “I am about truth” well that’s accurate – but truth is in the eye of the beholder. It is, perhaps, the single most subjective issue on earth. This I can guarantee you – your truth bears no resemblance to mine. But that’s not what I was trying to say originally. I WAS trying to say I’m about validity and accuracy and fairness, which are also subjective to some degree but for which there are more commonly agreed standards.

I hope that helps.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Who Dat Say "Who Dat?" When I Say Who Dat?

On 3/18/08 8:17, "Thomas Bell" wrote:

John's thoughts echo several positions that good people have taken. I agree with much that he says, with a couple of add-ins.

A key to the problem we have now is the willingness of people to employ illegal immigrants in the face of current laws. We here in the southwest deal with illegal immigration in multiple ways daily. The Governor of Arizona signed into effect a law that prohibits employers from employing illegal immigrants and its effect has been interesting. There's an exodus of illegals in advance of the imposition of penalties, and we've heard some kickback from officials in Mexico about being unprepared to deal with the influx of these people, and how shameful our actions were that we'd send all these people south - where they came from in most cases. Unintended consequences? Not from our point of view. Has the local economy collapsed because of the dearth of cheap labor? No.

A 'guest worker' program would work well assuming John's points about control. Part of our problem now is the extension of US citizen benefits to non-citizens, and another categorization of those non-citizens would assist us in our efforts to manage the benefits problem.

Immigration reform is often overlooked in the debate, and can be considered a separate topic. We place limits on granting green cards and citizenship based on country of origin. The hispanic segment doesn't recognize this as an obstacle or even a requirement. They don't want to get in line. The guest worker program could assist in managing this problem by letting those willing to work here - AND PAY TAXES HERE (especially Social Security taxes) - but not desiring citizenship to have a 'legitimate' way to do that without overtaxing the quota system for immigration. However, we do need to reform the quota system to assure that those who can contribute and want to do so on the path to becoming citizens have that opportunity. A personal note: one of the people on the team that cloned a sheep in England applied to emigrate here from his native South Africa. He's on a sixteen year waiting list - even though he has a sponsor and a job waiting here. He's married to one of my wife's sisters who is a US citizen.

I think we could come up with a good plan that's not cluttered with political points of reference. The problem is that we're up against some pretty powerful politicians who would and have twisted the solutions to fit their perspectives instead of addressing the needs and the solutions.

To which I responded -

" Good points – nothing that I find at terrible or irreconcilable difference with what I said :-)

1. I agree with the point about hiring illegal aliens – from anywhere.
It’s just like the drug problem – if you dry up the market then the problem goes away.

2. I don’t really see the two as different issues – if we had a legal and functional immigration process we would have the guest worker program and we wouldn’t have the “necessity” of going underground.

3. I’m not willing to accept the notion that all is fine with those employers who DID hire illegals. Has the local economy collapsed – no – but I guarantee you there are parts of it that are in dire straights. (See the next Post for an example!)

4. Ever try getting a job with the government? Their sense of urgency is, to put it kindly, deeply mentally impaired. In business, people don’t lack that sense of urgency. Their crops are going to rot or their trucks are going to break down, or whatever – but in any profit generating environment there is no lack of the sense of urgency. Businesses don’t need a guest worker program two years from now. They needed one 12 years ago! When there’s no work and you’re desperate there’s even more sense of urgency. This isn’t subject to debate – I’ve been there and I know.

5. I disagree with the notion that “the hispanic segment doesn’t... want to get in line” I think if there were a rational guest worker program they’d be happy to get in line – because the line wouldn’t be 5 or 8 or 16 years long!! Hell, if you had to wait a month to check out of a Wal-mart store you’d pitch a serious bitch ... Or you’d find an alternative way to accomplish what you wanted... Like maybe Joe in the stockroom would let you out the backdoor with your stuff for $100. Now let’s say that what you wanted to buy was critical to the survival of your wife and kids.

In short, I think the most dumb-ass thing we can do is make everybody involved a criminal and start throwing them in jail, fining them out of business, or throwing them back over the border as the nature of the situation calls for. What kind of stupid nonsense is that when we could be creating a win-win that drains far fewer of our resources and contributes much more to our entire hemisphere? Let’s see should we do the smart thing or should we be profoundly stupid? I know!!! We’ll be stupid!!!

Your right – if we could get the politicians out of the middle of this we could sort it out and implement solutions in less time than it takes to argue about it... But they won’t ... So how are we going to fix this?


Friday, March 21, 2008

So... Suppose I Broke Into Your House...

One of my friends in the retired military community forwarded me an email from some wanna be conservative that put forth the notion that the Mexican/Latin American illegal immigration problem was roughly equivalent to somebody breaking into my house, doing all the chores I don't like to do, and then claiming residential and family privileges - which is patent nonsense, so I responded with -

"Aren’t we forgetting that this country’s entire history is wave after wave of legal, and illegal, immigration (aka breaking into someone else’s house – if we are to stick with this analogy), the first of which was white European people breaking into the Native American house and then occupying every room of it over a period of 200 years, while killing off 90% of the original occupants in the process ? At every step of the way, one of the most significant driving forces has been cheap immigrant labor. Was slavery “legal immigration”? Was the virtual slavery of imported chinese labor on the western railroads and mines and along the west coast “legal immigration”? Was the profound exploitation of the Irish immigrants, many of whom were “illegals”, legal?

I agree with the notion that what’s going on right now isn’t right, but it’s profoundly disturbing to hear thinking people adopt “sound bite” positions that reflect little or no rational thought regarding our country, it’s needs, and their own personal origins. It’s simply not that simple. So here’s what I think -

1. Huge barriers on the border are manifestly and demonstrably unworkable. The thought that they are, or can be made to be, is sheer folly on a gargantuan scale. Beyond that, pursuing that solution reflects poorly on any true fiscal conservative because it’s a huge waste of taxpayer money. What we CAN, and should do, is stop trying to declare everything we don’t like, but has some basis in reality, illegal (so that we can engage in “enforcement” - which is an endless drain on resources that cannot be sustained), and make the process functionally legal (emphasis on FUNCTIONAL) so that it can be managed properly.

As an example, I am working on a Defense Department system for tracking defense contractors who are working in the battlespace with our troops. This was needed because of huge amounts of fraud, waste, and abuse that could not be effectively eliminated or managed because of the fact that we had no effective mechanism for tracking contractor activity and thus no way to refute bogus charges. Going forward we have not made defense contracting illegal but are instead developing a system for allowing them the full range of the required workspace but they will be identifiable, trackable, and the benefits to which they are entitled by their contract will be identifiable via their registered identification documents.

We need a legal and functional guest worker program that includes issuance of something roughly equivalent to a government CAC card that a guest laborer must have on them at all times. This would establish their legitimate right to work for any employer or a specific employer, with quick validation by computer, and stop putting the onus on the small business owner that just needs the labor offered. It would also, equally quickly, provide anyone who needs to know what benefits they are, or are not, entitled to while here, as well as their legitimacy in being here (based on things like is their employer paying taxes for them or are they paying taxes), and allow for tracking their movement and location within the country.

2. We need to reform the whole notion of National Defense. The Army should get real about their reserve needs and stop using the National Guard as the backup for their ridiculously undermanned and dysfunctional approach to Army Reserves. Staff the Army Reserve up to be the fully functional, properly trained, military component that is the Army’s (fancy that!) reserve force. Convert anyone who joined the National Guard but has Army oriented goals and desires to the Army Reserve. Everyone else, that never had the notion that they were joining the Army - with massively reduced benefits - by joining the National Guard, stays National Guard. Convert everyone in the Border Patrol to National Guard and make the National Guard a true homeland defense force, that is run militarily, and that protects our borders under the broader banner of defending the home territory of the United States – a job for which the US Army is patently unprepared – and manages the entry and exit of alien guest workers. Create a National Guard Reserve that is, you guessed it, the reserve force for the National Guard. These guys would be the ones who handle state level functions such emergency preparedness and disaster response, while being trained militarily to back up the active National Guard.

3. We need an intelligent policy for the illegal workers who are in our country NOW and who HAVE BEEN contributing to the country’s well being and sustainability by paying taxes (and potentially other functions) which MANY ARE DOING! We need to recognize that THEY HAVE CONTRIBUTED and provide a legal and disciplined path to citizenship for them. If they can prove their contributions to the system, they should have the benefits of that system but should assisted in their effort to do it right in a timely and functional fashion – a process that takes days and weeks NOT months and years. For those who have NOT been provably contributing they can shift over to the guest worker program and apply through a reformed immigration process that takes weeks and months, not years, to get the job done, and come in legally - or go home.

4. We need immigration reform – with a top priority focus on the effectiveness and timeliness of the process. The reformed process should provide for the guest worker program with varying durations based on skill set and occupation. The basic document of proof of right to work and benefits allowed would a federally controlled ID card process (see notes above). The H-1 status and various other unclear “guest worker provisions' that we already have that are not well managed, do not connect up with each other, and are not very effective would be rolled into an expanded, contiguous, and progressive function of immigration management, up to and including the process of applying for and being granted citizenship. An overhauled and reformed Immigration and Naturalization Service would be responsible for this. As Bill Gates stated the other day, we need to stop giving some of the best minds on the planet exemplary educations and then make it nearly impossible for those minds to get work in our country, thus loosing the potential creativity and opportunity that they offer and realistically sending it elsewhere. We also need to stop making criminals out of non-criminal people who are looking for legitimate opportunities (just like we would if we were faced with dire circumstances) and give them a legitimate and functional path to that work (see Item 1 above). If there is a recognizable social issue regarding something, making it illegal will only drive it underground. It will not stop it. Take a good look at the Prohibition period in this country.

5. For those who are here illegally, and are found to have a criminal background in their own country, immediate deportation to the country of origin and turn over to that country’s authorities.

6. For those who are here illegally, and who break our laws in the locality they are in, immediate deportation to the country of origin and turn over to that country’s authorities.

7. For anyone else here illegally, that doesn’t want to shift to the guest worker program, immediate deportation back to their country of origin.

Obviously there are a number of working details for the card system I propose or any of the other process reforms that I am promoting here that I am not providing the technical details for, and equally obviously, to a thinking man, this is NOT a problem the solution for which can be summed up in a sound bite. I have thought this through, I do have the details nailed down in what I believe are very workable and effective ways, and I will engage that discussion with anyone who’s honestly interested and doesn’t just want to hear their own self-destructive rhetoric on the wind.

Entirely too much of what is being said in the name of conservatism is actually just the insecure, jingoistic, parochial, and self-righteous thinking of a few being echoed on a national stage by many who want to be seen as part of SOME movement when the sources of conservative leadership in our country seem to have, at best, lost their vision or, at worst, sold out real conservatism.

That’s my two cents. 1/6.7 billionth of the world’s position on the subject. You heard it here first.