11 November 2008

Veterans Day, Thanks!

Help Public School Military Kids by donating to a Teacher Request at DonorsChoose! Two of my favorites:

Tell Us A Story (Expires: Dec 01, 2008)
Preschoolers with autism learn to tell others their favorite stories through puppets. I teach a preschool class of students diagnosed with autism. Some of my students are able to talk and communicate and others are not. I teach on a military base where many of my students' parents are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Carpet Graphing - Reading Space (Expires: Mar 16, 2009)
Students enrolled in 6th, 7th and 8th grades Family and Consumer Science electives want to offer their time and learning by sewing and embroidering blankets to donate to Soldier Angels. Soldier Angels is a volunteer-led non-profit organization providing aid and comfort to military soldiers and their families.
Donate to Project Valour-IT (Army Team!)

Thanks, Google. It did not go unnoticed!

Google's 2008 Veterans Day Logo

13 July 2008

Straight Talk on Social Security

UPDATE: Josh Marshall

The debate about Social Security is the same as it was in 2005 and in most respects the same as it was in 1965. You have one group who believe in the current system -- which is an intergenerational bargain, insuring a baseline level of retirement security as well as insurance against premature, disability and for dependent children. The other side -- McCain's side -- thinks this is just wrong, morally and economically. And in its place they want to create a system of individual private investment accounts -- similar to a lifetime 401k.

That's the essence of the debate.
In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps thirty years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.
Progress and Prospects Under the Social Security Act. May 25, 1937
To be concrete, if we adopt the pay-as-you-go system, we must make absolutely certain that at the same time we not only balance the budget but proceed to retire the government debt within the next generation through the imposition, let us hope, of progressive taxes, in order that we do not reach a period in the future when the burden of the interest charges on a large public debt and the burden of a large government subsidy to the Federal Old-Age Insurance plan cannot be sustained through current taxation.
A Statement on the Automatic Increase in the Tax Rate Under the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance System. November 27, 1944
In my testimony before this Committee last January, I made the following statement: "In the history of social insurance throughout the world the major difficulty of social insurance systems has been the lack of adequate financing of old-age retirement benefits. It is always easiest to delay levying the necessary insurance contributions, thus perpetuating and strengthening the belief that the insurance benefits are meager and the costs of the insurance system are low. Inevitably, when the time comes to increase the taxes, many reasons can always be advanced as to why the imposition of the additional taxes is unwise or impossible. In this country we are still in a position to avoid these mistakes by getting clearly established now that if our people want social insurance they must be willing to pay for it. The time to obtain the necessary contributions is when people are able to pay for the insurance and are willing to pay for it because they can be shown that they are getting their money's worth. If we should let a situation develop whereby it eventually becomes necessary to charge future beneficiaries rates in excess of the actuarial cost of the protection afforded them, we would be guilty of gross inequity and gross financial mismanagement, bound to imperil our social insurance system."
Framing the Social Security Debate: Values, Politics, and Economics. 1998
Competing reform proposals reflect contrasting views about the nature of the Social Security problem and how to solve it. This book examines issues about privatization, national savings and economic growth, the political risks and realities in reforms, lessons from private pension developments in the United States, and the efforts of other advanced industrial countries to adapt their old-age pensions to an aging population. It also poses philosophical arguments about collective versus individual responsibility and the implications of market risks and political risks for stable and secure retirement income policy.
The Real Deal: The History and Future of Social Security, p. 227. 1999
The original architects and builders of our Social Security system, such as Arthur Altmeyer, anticipated exactly the situation we face with pay-as-you-go financing. They thought it would prove to be unfair to future workers, and they did not want to see that eventuality materialize.
The Real Deal: The History and Future of Social Security, p. 202. 1999
We hope that this has convinced you that a pay-as-you-go Social Security system is not without risks. Americans are in this program for an entire lifetime and the risks are considerable. Think about it -- taxes were raised and benefits cut in 1977. Taxes were raised and future benefits cut in 1983. Now we see that the system has a large long-term deficit. Unless we consider changing its very structure, we will have no choice but to raise taxes and cut benefits once again. There aren't a lot of choices for fixing Social Security other than straightforward tax hikes and benefit cuts -- that is unless we set about designing a system that increases our nation's saving rate and ultimately increases the wealth of our children and grandchildren.
An Overview of the Social Security Program. 2001
From Social Security's earliest days, a contentious issue was whether the benefits that workers and their families received should be prefunded using the taxes that those workers paid, rather than the taxes paid by current workers. As the program was enacted in 1935, revenues dedicated to Social Security would have exceeded outlays by enough to build up very large surpluses. In effect, those excess revenues would have helped fund, in advance, the benefits that the same workers would receive later. Opponents of prefunding argued that such an arrangement would result either in pressure to increase spending or in federal government ownership of private assets. Later expansions to the program, along with postponement of increases in the payroll tax rate that were originally scheduled to occur during the 1940s, essentially moved Social Security to a pay-as-you-go basis.(23) That pay-as-you-go structure has worked, although with many changes in taxes and benefits along the way. But it has worked largely because the labor force has grown rapidly during much of the program's history. That situation is about to change, as the number of Social Security beneficiaries begins to increase much faster than the number of workers.

25 May 2008


Remember Me

Soldier's ShrineFm 7-21-13 :: Appendix C :: Section III- Memorial Ceremony

Memorial ceremonies are patriotic tributes to deceased soldiers....

In most cases, the unit prepares a program that may include a biographical summary of the deceased soldier with mention of awards and decorations. The following elements are commonly part of a memorial ceremony:
  • Prelude (often suitable music).
  • Posting of the Colors.
  • National Anthem.
  • Invocation.
  • Memorial Tribute (e.g., remarks by unit commander or a friend of the deceased).
  • Scripture Reading.
  • Hymn or other special music.
  • Meditation (quiet moment for attendees to reflect).
  • Benediction.
  • Last Roll Call. This is a final tribute paid by soldiers to their fallen comrade. It has its origin in the accountability roll call conducted by the unit First Sergeant following combat. Although sometimes painful to listen through, the Last Roll is called with the conviction held by soldiers that all unit members will be accounted for, and none will ever be forgotten.
  • Firing of rifle volleys.
  • Taps.

Pentagon Memorial
"The memorial should instill the ideas that patriotism is a moral duty, that freedom comes at a price, and that the victims of this attack have paid the ultimate price...We challenge you to create a memorial that translates this terrible tragedy into a place of solace, peace, and healing."

The Media Store
Tune: Sixteen Tons

Some people say a man is made out of mud
A soldier's made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood, skin and bones...
A mind that's sharp and a back that's strong

I served sixteen years, and what did I get?
My flag-draped casket all over the 'net
St. Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go
They gave my soul to the Media store

Woke up one mornin' and the sun didn't shine
Boots, rifle, beret made into a shrine
My voice was absent when they called roll
the Chaplain said, "God bless his soul!"


They carried me slowly thru the drizzlin' rain
and laid me gently on the ramp of the plane
My Brothers in Arms honored my name
A "cost of war," it's a cryin' shame


Flag-draped caskets came home before
but you weren't there, before the war
You got your photos but there'll be no more
There's no honor in the Media store

A media protest clouds Marine's final journey
But what bothers me is the way the somber ceremony to honor a man who died for his country got manipulated by the media to create outrage.
Yeah, because those cemetery vultures can't get enough special care and feeding at another man's funeral.

01 April 2008

IO, IO, It's off to blog I go!

Jay Rosen pointed me to a blog post over at Noah Shachtman's Danger Room called Military Report: Secretly 'Recruit or Hire Bloggers'.

Oooooh, scary. Shachtman even links to a .zip file copy of the report at cryptome.org! [Because, uh, it's not publicly available? Why, yes it is! link updated, also at USAF Air University]

If you don't know anything about blogs, blog metrics (i.e. sites like technorati) or have never heard of the web's power law (or long tail, which isn't mentioned in the report), then this might be an OK primer. The only eye-catching part of the first 18 pages of the report, for me anyway, was a graphic of Peretti/Bennett's micro-middle-mass media ecology ("infosphere" in the report).

If you do know that stuff, fast forward to page 19, Implications for Influence Operations. Influence Operations are a subset of Information Operations (IO) and are not unique to the military. For example, "culture jamming" is a form of influence operations. So is advertising. Military Information Operations have been around for a while and I'd argue the military was slow to notice the blogosphere. Starting on page 19 of the report, there's about 7 pages of reading pertaining to blogs and IO. Here's a paragraph from the report's conclusion:

One of the significant limitations of this paper, as an initial foray into military use of the blogosphere, is that much of the information available concerns American blogs, run by Americans, largely for an American audience. Military use of the blogosphere must necessarily focus on foreign blogs, bloggers and audiences. However, because some factors, such as the scale-free nature of the Internet and the psychological basis of influence are universals, we hope to lay a general basis for military use of the blogosphere that can be adapted to specific tactical circumstances by information operators.
I don't think Shachtman's post does a good job of representing the report or informing anyone about IO. For example, Shachtman quotes from the report, "clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers" and "Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering." He even provides a long blockquote, with a very strange ellipsis! Below I've provided the preceding paragraph and the first paragraph of Shachtman's blockquote, in italics, with the ellipsis removed:
This discussion of communities leads us to another point of difficulty in using blogs for IO. Segmentary opposition and its gentler cousin, in-group/out-group dynamics, may prevent a foreign audience from taking an overtly U.S. government-run or sponsored blog seriously. Even American blogs show a high incidence of ethnic clustering,39 and the deep-seated fissures between major tribal groups, and often between subgroups, frequently define traditionally tribal societies like those in Afghanistan. Even if there is no widespread preconception about U.S. use of propaganda, it may be easy for foreign audiences to dismiss the U.S. perspective with “Yes, but you aren’t one of us, you don’t really understand us.”

In this regard, information strategists can consider clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers or other persons of prominence already within the target nation, group, or community to pass the U.S. message. In this way, the U.S. can overleap the entrenched inequalities and make use of preexisting intellectual and social capital. Sometimes numbers can be effective; hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering.40 On the other hand, such operations can have a blowback effect, as witnessed by the public reaction following revelations that the U.S. military had paid journalists to publish stories in the Iraqi press under their own names.41 People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust. [emphasis mine]
Does that make a difference? I kept the endnotes and linked them because I thought you might enjoy Daniel (of Fake Steve Jobs fame) Lyons' screed linked from endnote 40. I don't know why it didn't get linked by Shachtman in the blockquote. Strangely, Shachtman did link to a NYT story about the Iraqi press roughly corresponding to endnote 41 which, if I was Mark Mazzetti or Borzou Daragahi, I'd be a little upset.

Anyway, I read Danger Room occasionally and sometimes enjoy it. This one, not so much. If you are interested in blogs that cover IO well, I'd recommend SWJ or MountainRunner. You might also be interested in the University of Nebraska at Omaha blog: Information Warfare Online Resources.

Thanks for the pointer, Jay!

Propaganda: Can a Word Decide a War?
A culture of information empowerment down to the lowest levels needs to be inculcated among senior government officials, permitting for clear guidance provided to subordinates, risk mitigation procedures established, and, perhaps most importantly, acceptance that this will not be a zero-defect undertaking.

Winning hearts, minds, trust, and credibility, in the end, requires a local approach. Consider a major US metropolitan area. Neighborhoods take on their own personalities, driven by socio-economic factors and ethnic and racial identity, among other considerations. Value sets are different among the diversity of communities that make up the melting pot that is a large American city. It should not be difficult then to understand how it is nearly impossible to influence perceptions among audiences in a foreign country with a “one size fits all” set of messages and actions. Long-term US presence and engagement in foreign nations allows for a deeper understanding of cultural differences. These cultural underpinnings combined with the hard work of relationship building allow for effective tailoring of messages and the successful identification of key influencers. Engagement is the key whether it is by US soldiers in their area of operations, diplomats on Provincial Reconstruction Teams, US Agency for International Development workers, or nongovernmental organizations.32 Where no US presence exists, efforts must include recruiting key individuals for US exchange programs, people who will tell this nation’s story upon their return home.

24 March 2008

23 February 2008

The Mom Song

via Xark, by Anita Renfroe.

Get up now
Get up now
Get up out of bed
Wash your face
Brush your teeth
Comb your sleepyhead
Here's your clothes and your shoes
Hear the words I said
Get up now! Get up and make your bed
Are you hot? Are you cold?
Are you wearing that?
Where's your books and your lunch and your homework at?
Grab your coat and gloves and your scarf and hat
Don't forget! You gotta feed the cat
Eat your breakfast, the experts tell us it's the most important meal of all
Take your vitamins so you will grow up one day to be big and tall
Please remember the orthodontist will be seeing you at 3 today
Don't forget your piano lesson is this afternoon so you must play
Don't shovel
Chew slowly
But hurry
The bus is here
Be careful
Come back here
Did you wash behind your ears?
Play outside, don't play rough, will you just play fair?
Be polite, make a friend, don't forget to share
Work it out, wait your turn, never take a dare
Get along! Don't make me come down there
Clean your room, fold your clothes, put your stuff away
Make your bed, do it now, do we have all day?
Were you born in a barn? Would you like some hay?
Can you even hear a word I say?
Answer the phone! Get off the phone!
Don't sit so close, turn it down, no texting at the table
No more computer time tonight!
Your iPod's my iPod if you don't listen up
Where are you going and with whom and what time do you think you're coming home?
Saying thank you, please, excuse me makes you welcome everywhere you roam
You'll appreciate my wisdom someday when you're older and you're grown
Can't wait till you have a couple little children of your own
You'll thank me for the counsel I gave you so willingly
But right now I thank you not to roll your eyes at me
Close your mouth when you chew, would appreciate
Take a bite maybe two of the stuff you hate
Use your fork, do not burp or I'll set you straight
Eat the food I put upon your plate
Get an A, get the door, don't get smart with me
Get a grip, get in here, I'll count to three
Get a job, get a life, get a PHD
Get a dose of,
"I don't care who started it!
You're grounded until you're 36"
Get your story straight and tell the truth for once, for heaven's sake
And if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump, too?
If I've said it once, I've said at least a thousand times before
That you're too old to act this way
It must be your father's DNA
Look at me when I am talking
Stand up straighter when you walk
A place for everything and everything must be in place
Stop crying or I'll give you something real to cry about
Brush your teeth, wash your face, put your PJs on
Get in bed, get a hug, say a prayer with mom
Don't forget, I love you
And tomorrow we will do this all again because a mom's work never ends
You don't need the reason why
Because, because, because, because
I said so, I said so, I said so, I said so
I'm the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom, the mom!!
Ta da!!!