There is a Place for Border Walls

There is a place for border walls. 


Walls are not bad. 


And neither are all people.


But some people are bad.


And we have the right to be protected from them. 


Walls help to manage the flow. 


Not everyone can just go whatever, whenever, wherever. 


Surely, some people need to move to and fro. 


But we must decide who and when and where. 


Walls define spaces and ownership.


Not every place and thing is everyone’s.


People have property rights as do sovereign nations.


Not everything is strictly defined.


There is the commons that we share. 


But also there is a mine and a yours. 


That’s how economics functions and how people give and take. 


Walls help separate and secure. 


Bridges help connect and transport. 


They are not mutually exclusive. 


I’ve never seen a house, company, organization, or government without walls. 


And neither have you. 😉


(Credit Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)

Virtual Government–Yes or Nonsense

Virtual Government--Yes or Nonsense

The Atlantic (2 June 2013) asks why do we even need a government these days–why not just have a virtual one–where you just “buy” the government you want, the size, the capabilities, and you tailor it for your needs?

The author sees government as menu-driven, like a videogame, by a “rotating dial,” where you choose whatever government suites you best.

In this world of virtual government, people are seen turning to private sector alternatives to get capabilities, customer service, and prices that are better than the government’s–in some cases, this may actually work, like with private insurance.

However, this article goes beyond this notion to where government is not tied to the physical boundaries of the real world, but rather to virtual jurisdictions, citizenship, and even values held or abrogated.

While I agree that raising the bar on government is a good thing–expect more for less–and partnering with the private sector can make government more efficient, the idea of wholesale shopping government around is quite ludicrous:

– Will we hire mercenaries instead of having an armed forces?

– Will we rely solely on CEOs to conduct our diplomacy?

– Will justice be doled out by vigilantes?

– Will private inspectors alone regulate food, drug, and the financial system?

While compared to an iPad wheel for making service selections, Government is not the same as a library of songs or movies that one scrolls through to pick and choose what one likes and dislikes.

Like the old joke about the difference between family and friends…you can choose your friends, but you can’t just choose your family!

While government can provide services virtually, it cannot be a government entirely sliced up by choice–where you opt-in for what you like and opt-out for what you don’t–if that were the case, we would all selfishly take and never contribute to the greater good.

For example, “Hey, I like social entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, but I don’t particularly care for contributing to space exploration or research and development for certain diseases that I may not be genetically predisposed to.”

There is a civic commons where we must share–the prime example is a fire department. If I choose not to contribute, then the fire department still has to come to put out the fire or else it can spread to others.

In the end, we are not just a collective of individuals, but a nation bound together by core values and beliefs, and shared interests and investments in the future–and where by sharing the risks and burdens, we fall or rise together.

Like anything that you are seriously apart of–family, religion, organizations, and work–we take the good and work on the bad, rather than just immaturely throwing it all or in innumerable parts away.

Yes, government should only do functions that are inherently governmental, and we should avail ourselves of all the talent and expertise in the private sector for the rest, but no, we should not wholly think that we can replace government with loose and shifting ties on the Internet and purely profit-driven private sector players.

If Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda serving as modern virtual governments are the best examples of what can be accomplished, then we should all be running (not walking) to good ‘ol Democracy of the U.S. of A.

Virtual government as a way to provision services as well as competition and augmentation by the private sector is great, but becoming a stateless state will not solve the large and complex problems we must face, not alone, but together.

Even though bureaucratic waste and abuse is bad, the system of debate, negotiation, checks and balances, basic human rights, and voting is good, and we should not just throw out the precious baby with the dirty bathwater. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Divided We Fall

Fallen_bridge

Checks and balances in government is a great thing.

Our founding fathers were brillant in building it into the constitution to place limitations and constraints on unbridled power.

Yes, we the people…of the people, for the people, by the people.

But recent fighting in government has shown that it is lately more about–of the politicians, for the politicians, by the politicians.

Unfortunately, everyone seems to be fighting everyone–not only across the party aisle, but between state and the federal government, and between branches of the Federal government, itself.

How does this work (or should I say maybe not working up to its ideal)–let’s take an example:

Yesterday, the healthcare law passed by Congress more or less along party lines, and signed by the President, was upheld by the Supreme Court in a suit brought by 26 states, and is being promised or threatened (depending which side of the aisle you are coming from) to be repealed by the next administration

Ah, there you have it–everyone seemingly going against everyone else and fighting what is considered progress to one side, but is harmful from the other’s point of view.

Let’s try another one–also just from yesterday:

Attorney General Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress in the majority Republican, House of Representatives, with Nancy Pelosi, members of the Black Caucus, and other democrats walking out of the vote.  And this is to release papers on “Operation Fast and Furious” in the Justice Department (the Executive Branch) that resulted in the death of a border agent, Brian Terry of another Federal Department, Homeland Security, 11 miles from the Mexican border. But the papers were held under Presidential Executive Privilege from being released to a Congressional oversight committee. Now this turns to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue or drop, but he is a Presidential Appointee that reports up to Attorney Holder, and could end up the courts to decide.

I can hardly catch my breath now, but a third one this week on immigration:

The Arizona law, with controversial provision SB 1070 that permits law enforcement to check immigration status, when there is reasonable suspicion, of people arrested or detained was ruled on by the Supreme Court, and this provision was upheld. But other provisions were struck down, such as it being a State crime to be an illegal immigrant or to hire one. One presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has called the law a “model for the nation,” while the current administration has felt otherwise.

Some would say this is the way it is supposed to work–this is the way we get issues worked through, grievances addressed and ensure fairness, equity, and that the right thing is being done.

But others may look at this and call it partisanship, ineffective, a waste or time and resources, one step forward and two steps back, a circuitous path to nowhere, a witch hunt or as Representative Alan Grayson said a “circus,” at times.

With huge threats facing our nation on virtually all fronts–from unemployment and the stagnant economy, to our national deficit, falling global competitiveness, ongoing threats of NCBR and cyber terrorism, not to mention natural disasters, chronic illnesses, human rights, poverty, pollution, and food and water shortages–we certainly have a lot to deal with.

The concern is that if we cannot work and move forward together with common resolve–as partners rather than competitors–to create genuine solutions rather than to bicker about who’s right, wrong, and to blame–then divided, we will fall.

We have a choice–unite and put the national and global commons above our own self-interests or yield to an uncertain and most frightening future.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Daniele Bora)

>Civic Commons-A Lesson In Sharing

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Love this concept on Civic Commons that was presented at the Gov 2.0 Summit (2010) and is now becoming a reality.

Presented by Bryan Sivak the CTO for DC–Civic Commons is about governments collaborating and building technology once and reusing multiple times, rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again–a critical enterprise architecture principle.

Governments have similar needs and can share common solutions–products and projects–for these.

A number of successful examples:

1) DC and San Francisco building Open 311 (which I wrote about in a prior blog).
2) Minnesota building a $50 Million Unemployment Insurance System and then sharing it with Iowa who implemented it at less than 1/2 that.

Some initial products that have been committed:

1) White House IT Federal Dashboard
2) Track DC (Operational Dashboard)
3) San Francisco Master Address Database Geocoder
4) New York Senate’s Open Legislation Application

And more will be coming…all of which can be used and improved upon.

It is great to see so many state governments collaborating–across the Nation–from Seattle to LA, Boston, San Francisco, NY, and Chicago. Moreover, they are coordinating with the Federal Government, as well as with supporting organizations, such as OpenPlans, Code For America, O’Reilly Media, and more that are helping with coordination, facilitation, and support.

This is another great step in breaking down the silos that separate us and becoming more efficient in working together and learning to share what can benefit many.