Punish the Innocent?

Last night I read how the ordeal experienced by Connecticut’s Colindres family is being repeated. To make a long story short: immigrant husband of a citizen wife and father of little children citizens, is scheduled for deportation — again. This follows an earlier pause, granted by a Circuit Court less than an hour before a mid-August deportation flight, giving the family a few months of hope mixed with uncertainty. Now the sword hangs over their heads again.
A related case in Indiana involves deported restauranteur (employer of about twenty) Roberto Beristain. Like Joel Colindres he is innocent. Technically, to those relying on lawyerly logic, being undocumented contradicts innocence. Here’s my reaction to that: If rules must reign supreme then they need to be consistent. Over 500 years ago those who came before us started a sequence of events eventually seizing all of continental United States from the native Americans. Should all of us be deported?
These things don’t happen in a vacuum. A new film The Other Side of Hope depicts the life of a MidEast refugee who, after losing most of his family in an explosion caused by a missile from an unknown source, lands in Finland. There, as anywhere, he’s regarded with suspicion and treated as an intruder.
It isn’t only the bureaucracy that makes migrants’ lives miserable. Too many among us actually approve of sending these innocents away, breaking up their families. I don’t claim that we have to turn off the music or give up moderate amounts of legitimate pleasure. But to remain unconcerned about the plight of millions in continuous misery?!? Nero fiddling as Rome burns? No, hell no.
We lack the power to make this all better but we can at least refrain from making it any worse. Fortunately there are some who really can introduce change. From a mid-December 2017 60 Minutes program: A former neo-Nazi skinhead became co-founder of the nonprofit organization Life After Hate. What convinced him to change? Someone he was attacking made eye contact; for the first time, he realized the hurt he was causing. `Nuff said?


Just a quick note: the spammers have “won” — I deleted all comments and will block all future ones. Unfortunately that blocks the good along with the bad, but there are too many people who have nothing better to do than propagate material that is useless or worse. The truth is that I never did find enough time to follow comments and, recently, the amount of time available for moderating those has contracted even further.

I know a compliment when I get one. This is about two of those.

At  Jim Murray’s Saturday night Karaoke, after I sang an old Whitney Houston number, two young black guys made it a point to find me and shake my hand.

Not just young, but decades younger than I am. I’m gratified.

Probably most of the people there didn’t notice that because my experience was not at all exceptional; the place was alive beyond description. With ages ranging from 20-somethings to old duffers (like me); male and female; and — straight to the point of this: about half white and half not white, together in song. Together is no exaggeration; I gotta emphasize it again: Those guys-&-girls/blacks-&-whites/hipsters-&-duffers were together. That’s why the place could be so alive.

It’s not unique. That same description fits the tennis courts where I try to hold my own against better players.

It just doesn’t matter who’s white and who isn’t. The same is true, by the way, at the gym where I work out. The subject came up at the Karaoke bar in a conversation with the wife of one of the other singers — what a contrast from TV scenes close to here. WHY is the news from Baltimore so disastrous ??

An engineer/wannabe-singer can’t know what the answer is — but I’ll venture to say what the answer isn’t:

It definitely isn’t because members of different reces can’t get along. It isn’t because Baltimore is hopeless. Our city is clearly in big trouble; we can’t pretend otherwise. At the same time we need to recognize an old statistic: a small percent of the people cause a huge percent of the major problems. Better minds than mine have struggled with that irony for ages. I’ll leave it to those heads-higher-than-mine to apply that now.

SO: The only thing offered here is a reminder of observations just stated.  That’s about one percent of one percent of one percent of what’s needed to fix our city. But the importance of it prompted me to add this third blog, after five years, to this site.

Still another unforgettable face appeared among news media pictures this week. This time it was from Syria. Her face joins many others showing unmistakable effects of tragedy, with abundant past examples from this planet we inhabit –
* a boy, 5 or 6 years old, with his brave older brother and mother, staring uncomprehendingly at an opaque box cocontaining the remains of a father killed by a cluster bomb in Desert Storm
* another boy, accompanied by several Iraqi siblings, minutes after both of their parents were killed because ofof a misunderstanding at a roadblock
* a man, overcome by grief, carrying the body of his beloved wife who had just died (was it starvation in BiBiafra? With so many disasters who can recall?)
* plus so many more — enough to fill more pages than the number available.

Because most of us in the U.S. haven’t had those experiences, many of us tear up maybe once or twice in a decade. That leads to the belief that we just don’t care (“out-of-sight = out-of-mind”). Don’t believe it; those reminders of others’ shattered lives are enough to make anyone burst out crying. The question is: WHAT CAN WE DO to prevent those tragedies? The disasters that have already happened, being in the past, can’t be retrieved — but what can be done to bring any comfort to those who suffered through devastation ??

Past events that none of us have any power to change clearly indicate looking beyond ourselves for answers. For those who believe in God that means: IN THE LONG RUN (in the final analysis) “the last shall be first … ” — if I didn’t believe that I couldn’t write this because I wouldn’t have any idea at all.

A related question: what can be done to help prevent any FURTHER tragedies? OK, here I have to extend beyond my reach in attempting to answer that one. Immediately it must be admitted — I don’t know what the answer is but only what the answer ISN’T. The answer ISN’T to follow the advocates of hatred. I’ve always believed that names like bin-Laden never represented Islam, but “pretend”-Islam, accepting murder of innocents (including women and children). Another example: Zarkawi, not content to murder Christians but other Muslims as well. The pattern repeats and repeats over again throughout history.

The philosophy tracing (at least) as far back as Napoleon (“When France is at war against England, then ALL of France is at war against ALL of England”) — was obviously dead-wrong. The Muslim woman whose face prompted this writing had nothing to do with 9/11/2001; I care about her. Having no power of my own I can only derive assurance that God will take care of her. There’s no doubt in my mind that, at some time, God will do that — the same God recognized by all “sons-of-Abraham” (whether Christian or Muslim or Hebrew).

When will we EVER learn that monsters who lead by killing have no legitimate call to lead? “My-way-or-the-highway” brought ruin not only to Hitler and Stalin but also to more recent examples (Timothy McVeigh among tons of others). If Muslims will let an outsider (I’m a Christian) recommend an alternative, let me suggest the name of Sistani. I easily recognize him as a man of God.

Admittedly it’s easy for me to say: Muslims, disown your extremists as we in the U.S. must disown ours. Your task is harder than mine (no one will kill me for debunking Rush Limbaugh) but still it’s equally imperative. It is widely recognized that the overwhelming majority of Germans in mid-1900’s DID NOT WANT Nazis in power. The Nazis were organized while others were terrorized. Again this was far from a unique case in history; the results were perfectly clear, even as they unfolded. The same lesson now applies to the vast Muslim majority: Stand united against the criminals who hijack your culture and who threaten to destroy your legitimacy for generations to come. Overrule them. Anyone else trying to do that for you will fail, with disastrous results.

The material below concerns the tragic effects, placed on the shoulders of our veterans, from wrong decisions on a massive scale.  Already visible, this problem can only grow with time.  Let me insert a brief mention of two references, to introduce the topic:
[1] “Forgotten Heroes”  NEWSWEEK March 5, 2007, pp.29-37.
[2] The latest assessment of dismal performance in the defense industry, (GAO-08-467SP March 31, 2008)
I could go on and on, but I’ve already done that – in person and in print, getting nowhere. This is way way too big for one guy swimming upstream.  It needs concerted effort by a group with NO aspiring billionaires in it. Our country has a crisis that will take several non-opportunistic informed people to avert future calamity. All I can do now is draw attention to this “elephant that everyone is ignoring” — and even that limited objective runs into a brick wall. Aside from technical journals, magazines won’t publish what I’ve written below (I’ve tried several since 2004), and every organization believes that this is some other organization’s problem. Meanwhile our veterans continue to suffer tragedy after tragedy.  Does anyone care to stand up and say how wrong this is?
A lot of us know something is wrong.  I know how to fix part of it (see JamesLFarrell.com).  I’ve written and spoken on this subject for years,  everywhere possible, sending my writings to dozens of people at high, low, and intermediate levels in government, industry, academia, and, military plus veterans’ organizations (all with different sets of priorities; one recipient found it provocative; another wondered whether this writer was “crazy”).  Still, many informed (in some cases highly influential) individuals agree with me but no organization has focused the realization into a plan.  The challenge is to bring the collective wisdom of these groups and individuals together.  Why can’t that happen, especially now when so many heroic individuals sacrifice life and limb halfway across the planet? The consensus is: it’s too big and too many jobs depend on the status quo – it “can’t” be changed.  I don’t accept that; I want to challenge corporate managers to change the climate.  Here are some meaningful ideas.
For criticism of the defense industry, the familiar cry about fraud won’t hit the nail on the head.  No one goes to the slammer for poor practice.  Usage of sub-par methods isn’t justified, of course, but it isn’t illegal.  It isn’t even unethical if done out of ignorance, but that isn’t the subject to be explored here.  Our big corporations, with top priority attached to short-term profit, often find it useful to avoid approaches known to be superior.
In avionics (from AVIation electrONICS – a major cost factor for warplanes and other aircraft), a number of reasons can explain why this problem is so insidious, and why it produces poor performance and/or a cost explosion.  Understanding this doesn’t require technical expertise:
* Expensive items in the defense budget include many separate subsystems.
* Subsystems come from independent suppliers uncommitted to each other.
* Subsystem suppliers often try to expand into providers of complete systems.
* Subsystems can be designed to work well with “our but not other” equipment.
* More control over a system means more control over modification costs.
* Modifications bring major profits, reducing motivation for early success.
* Slogans constantly express commitment to excellence – but only verbally.
* Excellence in separate parts does not at all guarantee excellence overall.
* Companies carry ideas of “proprietary” products and concepts to extremes.
* System integrators lack enough time, access to proprietary info, and clout.
* Overseers, if wise enough to master the issues, lack time to investigate.
* Superior methods are often misrepresented as needlessly complex overkill.
To those aiming at solutions, “vendor lockdown” is a familiar phrase.  You can see the rationale; something like (“You have our ___ and it works best with the way we do __ – anything else will cost more”).  Common-sense standardization, proposed for compatibility among separate parts, could have and should have been accepted over a decade ago.
One trend that is slowly gathering momentum is effort to restore the former expertise in agencies of the armed services (relying less on corporations).  That step could relieve some problems just listed (e.g., by eliminating
from competition proposed approaches with proprietary claims).  Until that becomes a reality, there are steps that could be taken now.  The defense industry’s obligation to place troop support at the top of the priority list
could hardly be more obvious; it shouldn’t even have to be mentioned.  Unfortunately the reality is: it not only needs to be mentioned; it needs to be shouted.  At the same time, nothing will be accomplished by bashing corporations whose cooperation is needed to fix this problem.  So – to those with clout in the defense industry: forget your career for a moment  This is about your conscience.  Wouldn’t you welcome a climate where rational planning could enable goals aiming toward long-term (instead of short-term) profit? Doing the right thing benefits the business eventually.  Relearn how to wait.
Time after time I’ve heard luncheon speeches warning about how the U.S. can’t afford careless spending of the defense budget.  Everyone agrees that it was a wonderful speech – and immediately proceeds with business as usual.  Where’s the reality?
No illusions here about avionics procurement reform solving the whole problem. There are other items in the Defense Department inventory and, furthermore, documented abuses by the war service industry are worse than issues just discussed here.  Still, a legitimate way to fix something big is to fix each part.  The captains of industry need to prove that there are some things more important than profit-now.  Help me refuse to quit – NOT for my sake but for those who shoulder the burden.  Those are the real heroes; we all know that.  A country that fails its best heroes can’t possibly stay strong.
From government, industry, academia, and, the military there are hundreds of former administrators with organizational skills I lack.  Many of them, for retirement or other reasons, are not putting those abilities to use, Here is a worthwhile – even urgent – objective that could be served by awakening organizational skills now lying dormant.  Here’s a “template:” In the musical play 1776 – and in the YEAR 1776 – the characters had differences of opinion and limitations like everyone else.  That didn’t prevent them from hammering out a very important agreement.  Something like that needs to happen, to reform all industries organized for the purpose of protecting troops put in harm’s way.  Eisenhower warned us about this decades ago.