Monday, May 21, 2007

Immigration Reform...NOT

Today, we have a topic from the Government Office Of Oxymorons (GOOO). The Senate has just agreed upon Compromise Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation. Each word of this mis-titled bill is severely mal-placed.

When an issue is black or white, there is no such thing as compromise. In this particular debate, one side says that illegally crossing national borders, regularly taking payment under the table while here, and appropriating a false identity and/or social security number are crimes. The other side says, "well, not really." The current bill obviates the debate in favor of the latter. No compromise has taken place.

One can only apply this word to the bill if one removes the topics of health care; criminal punishment; consequences to the nation under the interpretation of Clause one, section one of the 14th amendment to the Constitution; and the economic analysis of the migration incentives (a long topic by itself).

We have long-standing immigration laws and restrictions in place. This bill seeks to circumvent such policy and the incumbent mandate to enforce it. If you are unwilling to prefix the word "Illegal" to the term, then "Migration" is probably a better choice of words as it infers a free, unrestricted, and perhaps seasonal flow.

I do not want to get all "word wonk-ish" on you, but I cannot see how our immigration policy will be reformed by this terrible little bill. We have, at the heart of all this, an enforcement problem. Jiggling around the periphery in order to avoid enforcement is not likely to solve or reform much of anything.

That group of Senators (normally stalwart Jon Kyl included) is trying to pull a David Copperfield on the nation--flash, bang, and dazzle abounds; but the illegal aliens didn't really disappear--they just hide under the sheets.

Be well,

Friday, May 18, 2007

Spiritu Ex Machina
(Charlie Stross has a blog: . He is a writer and "futurist." I reply to his post of May 13.)

Millennia ago as our ancestors stacked one rock upon another to construct the first shelter in the first cluster of shelters in what would become the first town of the first civilization, one of the brightest in the group (let's call him Cousin Og) realized that rocks were pretty heavy and that there was a limit to the size rock that he could lift. (Coincidentally, this was also the first time that Mrs. Og gave that look of disapproval because the neighbor's house was built of bigger, shinier rocks--but I digress). This now henpecked and Paleolithic cousin discovered that when he wedged a stick under one side of the large rock and pressed down, he could then move that which he was incapable of with his directly applied strength. He thus discovered leverage (launching the first Hedge Fund, I imagine).

Futurisms and Techno-philosophy fail most when they fail to consider advancements within this context. Every device we build and every machine or process we design is a leverage upon what we already possess. Computers work because they run programs that we create. We work them over and over again--often thousands of times--until that set of instructions works well. Then we let that machine do it again for us efficiently. The computer and software that I am using right now is simply the leveraged millions of man-hours brought to efficiency to build my terminal, write the software, and link the whole mess together.

Specialization is a form of leverage. In the GPS world, specialization allows Garmin and Galileo to get very very good at mapping places and finding people (and saving a lot of trees and frustration in the process). This allows me to be very very good at......well, I'll think of something later; but you get my point.

As memory chips advance and becomes cheaper, we are simply finding new and unique ways to leverage our own memories and resources--to "remember" and access more; and to get more memory from whatever resources we already have, both physical and mental. Ken Burnes (the film documentarian) has made a career out of reading the letters and journals of Civil War era citizens into a microphone to record and display what, for those citizens, was memory. Digital memory is simply a more efficient version--it is leverage against what is for us a natural instinct--taking notes to communicate and remember.

Will we design a machine that thinks better than we do? The question is moot because such a machine would only be a leverage of the billions of combined man-hours and trillions of dollars in resources that are put into it. It will be an efficiency--a leverage of what we already do and have already created. It will be an expression....of us. And Cousin Og would be proud.

Be well,
* The Cross image above originally appeared as the cover illustration for the DEcember 2002 issue of WIRED Magazine.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Wolves are Feasting Upon Wolfie

Well, today Paul Wolfowitz resigned as President of the World Bank. Lefties cheer and Bushies jeer. So we set aside all the cheering and jeering to see if there is anything to glean from the cacophony.

Paul Wolfowitz, you see, was assistant Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld at the start of the current Iraq War. Any time misfortune or evil befalls a so-labeled "Neocon" proponent of the invasion, everyone who disagrees thumps their chest in a display of voyeuristic victory.

As for the jeering, many respected journalists--even many without a political axe to grind--have labeled this a hit job that intentionally smears the good name and reputation or a decent guy doing a decent job on many fronts--including his cleaning up of much that is messy at the chronically corrupt World Bank.

Why is he stepping down?
Good question. It appears that Mr. Wolowitz likes the ladies. Normally that is not too much of a problem for an American male, but in Mr. Wolfowitz's case he apparently likes the ladies that are not necessarily his a serial fashion, I might add. Worse, he gives the impression of playing favorites with the ladies he does like in matters of job position and salary when they happen to work with him. It appears that the Democrat Party is not the only harbor for marital scoundrels.

Now the World Bank has an Ethics Committee (I know, this shocked me too). This Ethics Committee approved his appointment; even though they were aware of his "relationship" with a current World Bank staffer; and were aware that Wolfie (that nickname has a whole new meaning for us now, doesn't it?) had stepped out in similar fashion previously on at least one occasion in 2001 (causing a permanent, though not formalized, rift with his wife); then murkily colluded to buy-off the World Bank staffer with a substantial bump in pay and a State Department reassignment. Yes, that Ethics Committee. They are now shocked and stunned that this conflict of interest might have interfered with Mr. Wolfowitz's duties (Gasp!).

Yes, He Is Our Problem
Well, what is President Bush to do now. He appointed the guy and will reappoint his successor. The Left is making quieter hay about this situation than usual because......think about it.

Setting aside whether you like the decisions and influence of Wolfowitz or not--or whether you like Republicans or Democrats for that matter--we have been taught over the last fifteen years that personal lives do not matter. Morally, I agree that serial infidelity can indicate a lack of philosophical and moral standing that should not be ignored. But how can the Democrats and the media (et al) now stand up and claim "If we had only known!" Remember that the left-leaning side of the media built a presidential campaign--and supported an entire Presidency--on the premise that it just didn't matter.

Well....whose pigeons are coming home to roost? Whose ever pigeons they are, it sure doesn't smell very good, does it......and I think that some of it is stuck to the media's shoes.

Be well,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Riddle of the Sphinx Amongst Wistful Memories

Four Legs in the Morning
Early in our lives we are in awe of them. We hang in rapt attention upon their answers to all of our questions in total acceptance as if gospel. In fairness to our parents we must remember that they are humans--and as such they are more like us than we care to consider. Any mis-step or failing that we have had, it is likely they also failed and tripped many of the same ways and included a certain unique subset of their own. We become disillusioned with our folks usually to the extent that our expectations are unrealistic. This is compounded by the necessary inclusion of a measure of hero-worship and respect incumbent in the parent-child relationship. Otherwise, few of us would have ever gone to bed on time nor attended class when other interests beckoned.

Two Legs in the Noon
But as time advances, the hero-worship tempers into a different kind of respect. Sometimes one wonders how the folks managed to get through it at all--especially at the time when you are wondering for yourself if you will be able to endure. So--from the vantage point of this male writer--instead of gazing at Father as "Superman," we begin to look at him as the experienced soldier who has marched into battle ahead of you and cleared a little of the path. Instead of seeing mother as linen-wrapped saint and healer of all boo-boos, she morphs into a defining reference point of wife and care-giver.

Three Legs in the Evening
Later still, as one reaches the dreaded middle ages, your parents' role can feel inverted. The world you live in--the technology, speed, and standards experienced in your halcyon days--can be estranged from them. You are called upon to help them understand the world because certain aspects of it have left them behind. But help them you do, in much the same way as they helped you when for you the world was new.

Further, by your forties you have had the opportunity to see your parents fail; and in their failing you have seen them both shine and fail miserably. You realize that they are just like you--or, more correctly--that you are just like them, but different. Respect remains to a degree, but that respect is more focused on specific accomplishments and attributes rather than on the whole. All vestiges of hero-worship have faded with the years, and you may find yourself reciting the moral and philosophical lessons to the generation that came before you as often as you do to the one that follows.

Tell Me Soon
What remains for us as we don our temporal and temporary mantles--as we take our parents position as the caretaker of the generations--as we find our faith, sometimes lose it, and then hopefully find it again--is love. Our love for them and their love for us.

Be well,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Saint Cripsin's Day Falls in May This Year

Recent efforts and travels have kept me from my blogger's keyboard and dedicated to more wordly pusuits. The struggles of a friend have called to my mind one of Good Bill's most famous soliloquies. Forgive my lack of attention and read the better words of another.

"What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmorland. No, my fair cousin:
If we are marked to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will, I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It ernes me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace, I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more.
Rather proclaim it presently through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart. His passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the Feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a-tiptoe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall see this day and live t'old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say "To-morrow is Saint Crispian":
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin's day."
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

Henry V, Act IV, scene iii

Be well,