Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Did She Do To Deserve This?

A couple of days ago I was browsing the Yahoo newsfeed, and started reading through an article about the financial bailout money. Here's a link to the article. The article seems a bit less like news and more like commentary, but it does tell an interesting story. But then I read an inconspicuous paragraph in the middle of the story that blew my socks off. I can't figure it out. Here it is, in its entirety:

Others, such as Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Carissa Ramirez, offered to discuss the matter with reporters on condition of anonymity. When AP refused, Ramirez sent an e-mail saying: "We are going to decline to comment on your story."
So, let me get this straight. A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley was approached by an AP reporter, asking her to give information about where the money had gone. Ramirez says, "Hey, I can tell you about that, but my bosses will burn me for it, so you can't use my name." The AP says, "No thanks, we don't want the secret information" (since when does the AP turn down anonymous reports about anything), "and not only that, we're going to publicly tell everyone that you offered to squeal on your bosses. Good luck with your next promotion."

Why in the world would the AP, or maybe more specifically Matt Apuzzo, do such a thing? It's incomprehensible. Apuzzo had so many other options. He could have made no mention at all of the offer to share information anonymously (it wouldn't have significantly altered his story). He could have mentioned that the offer was made and refused, without mentioning the name of the person who made the offer. But, instead, he makes a point to mention her full name, mention that she offered to speak anonymously, and in so doing, without advancing his story at all, destroys her career.

And also, it seems, hurts the AP's chances of getting offers of anonymous information from similar whistle-blowers in the future.

I did a Google search for "matt apuzzo" "carissa ramirez", to see if there was anyone else commenting on this. I turned up about 2 million links pointing to the original article. It was obviously a popular piece with wide circulation. I found one link to another blog (Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes), commenting on the same thing I noticed. It even provides a potential alternate explanation. Not a convincing one, but an explanation all the same.

I half expect to find that Ramirez unceremoniously dumped Apuzzo's brother or something, and that sneaking that in was Apuzzo's way of getting childish revenge. But I figure we'll never really know.


A Warm Seasonal Embrace...!

That is, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to Mark and MB and Kevin and Purple Kangaroo and all you other, um, embraceable ones out there in Embracing-the-Risk land!

Your usual provocative, challenging, and risky topics will return after the holiday break (and after those of us in the Pacific Northwest dig out from under the more-than-usually seasonal weather conditions...!).

Goodwill to all, Stevie.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Immigration Reform and Politics

While I strongly believe there needs to be some way to give illegal immigrants legal protection and there should be a way to keep terrorists from setting up shop in the US, I'm not sure much of what passes for immigration reform these days is very helpful to the situation.

* On the one hand, I'm concerned that if we were to greatly limit immigration to this country, we would be losing out on some of the greatest risk takers and innovators to this country. I don't think the immigration rate is too high. On the contrary, I think it would be a travesty to see it cut in half.
* On the other hand, if we were to just let people in in the same numbers that we do now through some legal means, I'm afraid that it would create a huge bureaucracy and eliminate some beneficial weeding out. It is risky to come to the US now. That weeds out many people who would likely become free-riders.
* On the other hand, people lose their lives unnecessarily, a culture of lying is encouraged and people without legal status have by definition a precarious legal situation and are often taken advantage of by employers.
* The current situation is awful in many respects, but I'm honestly not sure that creating a bureaucracy capable of dealing the current numbers of immigrants would be much more effective in attracting a better mix of people to this country.

Border control used to be done culturally as tribes rejected all outsiders. However, this forced immigrant groups to congregate together in ghettos with little hope of breaking the cultural barriers and succeeding in the way that our open society allows today.

I guess my immigration ideals are
1) Maintaining high immigration numbers through legal means
2) Keeping the standards for entrance high enough to weed out the unmotivated and freeriders, while keeping them reachable by the hard working poor. Is this even possible?
3) Giving the vast majority of participants a path to citizenship.
4) Instituting real penalties for illegal behavior (e.g., if you are convicted of a crime while in the guest worker program, even once, you can never become a citizen and your allowed time in the country is greatly shortened).

Honestly, though, I don't hear politicians of either party talking about this sort of thing. Am I just spending too much time under my rock these days? Are there any serious politicians who are pro-immigration and yet want to see fundamental changes to the status quo? Surely greater minds than mine have thought about this situation from a pro-immigration perspective.

As a side note...
Some people think that it is the social policies of the GOP that cost it the last election (and will cost it future elections until it changes). I say hogwash. It was congressional corruption that cost it the Senate and House several years ago, and it was the economy that cost it the current election. Also, I think it is nativist tendencies by many in the GOP that are one of the greatest threats to its future. Immigration isn't going to slow much, no matter who is in office. Their importance in the electorate is only going to grow. Also, immigrants are some of the people most open to free-market ideas. The dream of most immigrants is to come to a land of opportunity where corruption and lack of basic infrastructure does not stand in the way of success through hard work. Immigrants also tend to be conservative socially. As I see it, it is history and tradition more than policy (outside of immigration friendliness) that ties the immigrant community to the Democrat party. For instance, McCain had much more history than Obama with Hispanic communities, and it was overall very positive, yet he lost their vote. I know of numerous Hispanics in my community that thought that was a travesty. In my experiences with immigrants (legal and illegal), they have far more in common with the free-market ideas and social values of conservatives. Personally, I think they are a much better fit in the GOP than in the Democrat party... on all fronts but immigration. The sad thing is, the congress is controlled by Dems, and I really don't see them working to help the immigrant any more than the GOP. As I see it, the immigrant friendliness is in many ways a facade for the Democrat party.

I've thrown out a lot of ideas here and was in many ways thinking out loud. I would encourage discussion, especially if you disagree.


Poverty, Race and the Role of Government

"People don't change because the government intervenes with a social program. It never happens. They change when they become exhausted with their suffering. The civil rights movement was the greatest of reform, certainly in my lifetime. It happened when people said, 'That's it. Kill us if you want, but we're not going to live the segregated life anymore. We're exhausted with this. Enough. And then change happens.'" - Shelby Steele (around 4:45-5:30 in part 5/5 of his interview with Peter Robinson)

In some ways, I'm conflicted about the above quote (and certainly disagree with many other things throughout the interview). I certainly think that people don't overcome pathologies like illegitimacy that keep people poor through great society programs, but I think Mr. Steele is perhaps discounting the role of the government in instituting policies that make it possible for people to overcome their poverty. Child labor laws and general support of good education is essential to families overcoming poverty. Children need to be at school and not at work if their family is to ever overcome poverty. Also, education needs to matter. An embedded racism that looks at the color of one's skin instead of one's qualifications keeps people in poverty. Racism wasn't a part of my upbringing. There are several biracial marriages among my extended family and friends, and nobody thinks twice about it. However, I'm not sure that is as common as one would hope, and I have met some racist (and otherwise seemingly respectable) people over the last 30 years who would never marry or hire a person with a different skin color.

So, how far has America come and what remains to be done in eliminating racial inequity? What role do you think the government has to play in the change that still needs to happen? What is the role of individuals?