Sunday, November 23, 2014

A More Perfect Union Part 1 Improving Voter Turnout, and the Voting System in General.

I had intended to post this on Election Day, but things being how they are (and me not having an organized workspace) I have put it off.  Well I sm trying to Remedy the situation.  This is the first part of a series on Ways I have come up with to Improve the working of OUR government, and the state of our Democracy as a whole.

For Years I have heard lamentations about Voter Turnout and complaints about things like Gerrymandering, both parties being sides of a coin, politicians being dishonest and more worried about their own hold over the reigns of power, etc etc, ad Nauseum.  For the most part I agree with all these statements and feelings.  Our system IS broken, the 2 parties are more worried about being AGAINST the other side than actually being FOR something.  the 2 Party system makes Us v Them partisan politics the norm and a vital part of each sides propaganda machine, and We, the People all too often come out as loosers in the process.  So I would like to put forward a few meagre proposals on how we can fix or alleviate at least SOME of these problems.

1: Direct election of the President

This is a fairly straightforward proposal, and one that I think will go FAR to remedying a few of the problems.  Eliminate the Electoral College.  The EC was, to my way of thinking, a much needed and creative way to deal with the election of the president in the colonial period.  It was an innovation or compromise that dealt with the Technological Limitations (quite nicely I might add) faced by the Founders and the Many States.  In a time when sailing ships, horses, and canals were the fastest mode of travel, our nation NEEDED a way to collect the votes from the districts up to the state level, and then transport them to a central point from which to tally them at a federal level and declare a winner.  However those technological limitations are no longer in place.  In this time of instantaneous communication around the entire world, we do not NEED to hold onto this archaic system.  nor Should we Want to.

I perceive a few reasons why.  1: Direct election would improve voter turnout.  Whenever Direct election gets brought up, many people will say something like "then the major cities will be the ones electing the president, and all the (read conservative) heartland will be out of luck"  well, that might be a valid point IF the major cities were completely homogeneous.  however, in truth, they are not.  Most STATES aren't even as homogeneous as they seem.  People who argue with that point neglect to consider the large population of NYC who are Conservative (or for that matter the Upstate NY conservatives, or mid state Jersians who are conservative... or the Tennesseans, Texans, Georgeans, etc who are Liberal.)  as it stands now, Many States are considered "safe" due to their historical EC

2: RunOff/ Preferential voting system for President

This is a fairly simple idea, that I imagine would improve voter turnout AND open the doors to third (and fourth, fifth and sixth parties)  Instead of voting A OR B OR C... the voters would rank them A then C Then D Then B.  a threshold would be set (perhaps 65%) that would be required to elect the president.  IF, in the first round of tallying, no candidate crossed that threshold, than the candidate witht he lowest total would be eliminated, and all of his or her voters would have their SECOND choices tallied into the total... rinse and repeat if noone crosses the line, until ONE candidate obtains "the prize"

Under this form of national election (or state election for that matter) there is NO problem with 3rd parties "wrecking" an election.  Perhaps Perot would have won in 92, if enough Rs and Ds put HIM first, THEN their party candidate... or Nader, or Stein. or Johnson... etc etc.

Now there IS one problem I forsee with this idea, and that is getting the same candidates on Every Ballot, therefore I would propose that "Any Candidate who obtains a place on 15-20 state ballots is AUTOMATICALLY placed on EVERY ballot"  Thusly allowing smaller parties, who might not have a big bankroll the ability to obtain national status and at least a chance at the Highest office

3:Proportional Representation in the Senate

Now, I will grant you that this one is a stretch, Honestly, I am not even 100% sure I like it, not to mention it would require a Constitutional Amendment... However i think it is an interesting idea, and one that we should at least have a vast DISCUSSION about.  AGAIN this is aimed at undercutting the stranglehold that the 2 parties hold over our government.  Psychologically it would foster a sense of cooperation, conciliation and compromise, not only among our elected leaders, but among the people as well.  It would ALSO serve to strengthen our Third parties, preparing them to field Viable Candidates for national and state wide offices.

This would work fairly simply, instead of each state electing its pair of senators, there would be a national senate referendum BY PARTY, and any party that passed a certain threshold (perhaps 5 or 10%.. we would want it fairly low) would gain a proportional representation in the Upper House of the Congress.  This would allow third parties to amass a coalition across state lines, and among the ENTIRE population and have an easy path to having a voice in the Federal Government.  Instead of a third party needing to get 40-50% of a statewide vote, they would only need that SIGNIFICANTLY lower bar, nationwide.  Libertarians, Greens, Social-Democrats, Family Rights parties would ALL have an equal chance to get a "seat at the table".  Further more, IF we wanted to go "full parliamentary model" we could grant portions of the Federal Government/ executive branch power to this portion of the government, (say the FBI, EPA, Natl Guard, FEMA, and Boarder Patrol for examples) leading to a majority of the senate having direct control over those offices... however that would ALSO allow for multiple minority groups to form COALITION governments and override whichever party was the Majority.  Once Again, fostering unity and bi (or Tri) partisanship and cooperation within the halls of power.

4: End Gerrymandering and long term Incumbency

This is a Big one.  As far as I am concerned, all congressional districts should be computer drawn, based SOLELY on population, and not on race, creed, or political affiliation.  There are a couple of computer models that would also work (see them HERE) that can take other things into consideration ( completely balance the parties within districts, making them always competitive, hewing closely to existing political divisions like county and city lines, etc)  The Ideas all have some merit, and should probably be left to the individual states to choose which one is best for the states itself... albeit limited by Computerized, and making individual districts competitive, not organized to favor one party over another... and I would make "bug splat" districts prohibited (you know the ones with multiple 'fingers' and big swirls... in other words, districts should be as contiguous and 'basic geometric shapes' as possible.  A straight Population style could look like "pie slices" in each state, or another pattern.

That would go a long way to ending the plague of incumbency and 'safe districts' that undermines the BASIC PROMISE of the Democratic Process.  If that was coupled with a "hard" or "soft term limit law (soft would be a limit on # of terms in a row a senator or congressman could serve, with a single or double term "break" in the middle... like 2 or three in a row, with a single term break before running again)

Once again, I don't have a complete preference among one or another plan for this one, so perhaps it would best left to the "many states" so that many options are tried.  Honestly, this one would be a great idea for a national or statewide party to make as a cornerstone and enact within their OWN party, without the force of law, IMHO that party could make some SERIOUS political hay out of doing something that might HURT the party in the short run, but which was in the best interests of the PEOPLE and our democracy (to be Honest, I only see one party doing this, since the other one already has a very strong base and power platform for that base... but that MIGHT be my partisanship showing through)

5: Presidential Incumbent Ticket

This is something that I have been toying with for a few years now, and something that could add a VERY interesting dynamic to the political landscape.  However it would only work with the first two (specifically the second) change already in place.  With this idea, any incumbent president would run on a separate ticket to the ticket of his party.  As i said, it would only REALLY work with Run-Off style elections, to avoid a 'perot' style problem of splitting the ticket, or splitting Support.  But, I think it might serve as a VERY interesting "vote of NO Confidence" in a sitting president, if they were forced to face, not only challengers from OTHER parties, but from within their own.  (McCain v Bush v Kerry in 04?? might have had a different outcome... especially if Wes Clark was another option... Or Even Romney v Obama v ((shudder)) Hillary in 12)

 Over the last decade as I became more politically active and astute.  I started out with nothing more than a deep seated sense that Something was Wrong and I have been seeking out ways to fix those problems ever since.  These are a few of the ideas that I have come across, gleaned from other political systems, writers, thinkers... ideas that i gleefully appropriate from a multitude of disparate sources of every possible political stripe and try to work into my OWN complete Synthesis of a 'MORE perfect Union" of man and government.  A BETTER form of government, or at least one that learns from the lessons of the past and attempts to FIX those mistakes and problems that have come from the weight of two centuries of lawmaking (and all the attendant Social and Technological advances that have happened in the intervening years)

This Kind of reflections and advancement is what the Founders intended when they laid out rules on how to change and amend the Constitution.  For us to be able to Modify and Change the structure of government and Fix, completely the problems that have accumulated within our legal system and Governmental structure.

What Say You All?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Did we REALLY loose the "Independant spirit of America"

In spending so much time floating around the internet, I repeatedly come across the idea that over the last few decades (or more) we have collectively 'lost' the "independent spirit" that 'won the west'.  Articles and Pundits, Politicians and Commenters have seized on this idea like a lifeline, an explanation for all our ills.
A Holy Fact that we are somehow less than those idealized pioneers who crossed the plains seeking a better life, the glamorized cowboys, the Poly Express riders, and all the others who created this nation solely by their sweat of their brows and their plucky independence.

This rhetoric was in full view during the Bundy Ranch Standoff, with the Militia members (and Bundy himself) taking the role of "Heroic Americans reclaiming their birthright".

However, is that view really correct?  Was that the driving force of the west, and did we REALLY loose it?  to both questions, i answer a resounding no.

The summer before my Sr. Year of HS, My parents took me on a 2 week road trip through the northern mid west states.  Wall Drug, Cody Wyoming, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Mt Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument and elsewhere.  Of course my mothers love of museums and historical sites came to the fore.  In the museums, and the inevitable book purchases (fiction and non) i saw a different picture, learned a different story.  It seemed to me, then and now, that the 'independent spirit' was more of an 'Interdependent' one.

So much of the settling of the west was a story of group effort, communalism, mutual support for mutual benefits...  the single biggest influence on the western expansion was probably the Homestead Acts which were (grab onto your chairs folks) SOCIALIST know, the federal gvmt buys something then gives it away...

however they WERE a prime motivator in the settling of the west.

Beyond that, individuals banded together, for the good of all, in wagon trains, towns, communities... the towns of the west were created for the purpose of mutual support.  the 'individuals' recognized that their lives were improved with the support of other 'individuals'.

so much of the history of the west is a history of communal good.  the water wars, the fight between ranchers and free range cattle herders, the state and local funding of railroads....

throughout our national history, communalism, interdependence has been a driving force.  Ben Franklin, held up as an ideal of the "self made man" was a communalist at every stage of his life (just read his autobiography)... from reading groups, to lending libraries, to fire departments.... yes his version had an "individual" style of "buy ins".... but it still recognized the interdependence of humanity.  A similar Idea to JFKs "a rising tide lifts all ships"  Franklin wanted MORE educated and literate people so more people would read his newspapers.

one of our national quotes is "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately"  What is this if not communalism?

Why is it that today, all we hear about is individualism... which seems like code speak for "i got mine, you can all go pound sand" or "ill take what i want and dont care if it hurts you"

while greed and selfishness has always been (and probably will always be) a part of human society, Was it and SHOULD it be something we hold as an ideal? 

I say no.  American history is chock full of stories about groups of people fighting against single greedy people who want to benefit off the sweat of others, and at almost every turn, Americans have resisted and smacked them down... until today.

Today we are stuck in a Gordon Gekko view of reality... "greed is good"... but its NOT!  Greed, at least unfettered greed,  is one of the basest and most destructive concepts in the human psyche... it destroys, devours, and debases the human spirit and soul for purely material benefits.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Thoughts on the Minimum Wage

The minimum wage has been in the news a lot as of late, and as any one of my friends can attest, I am firmly in favour of the minimum elders fought and died for it...

However that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement.

Allow me to present my ideas.

1:I like the Australian idea of different minimum wages for different jobs...dishwashers don't have the same "customer service" aspect as a counter entry level job in a mine is different than an entry level job in a convience store... I think it is perfectly reasonable for an entry level job in (let's say) a foundry, or machine shop to pay a lower wage, with the reality being that those workers will have a better learning curve and more opportunities for advancement...
The skills they learn are easily transferred to other jobs...

But what about the store clerks? do you tell New employers that you learned the skill of staying calm when you have a line of 10people, all wanting a deli sandwich, and you could engage 3of them @the same time....keeping their orders seperate... one in the microwave, one in the toaster, and starting the next....switching effortlessly between them????  Isn't that a skill???   How about maintaining a smile, regardless of your personal shit.... another skill ...

The debate about min wage thrives on the lie that fast food and supermarket and convenience stores run on US kids...

Take a moment to go in and look around...there are LOTS of middle age people in those stores.

Which brings me to my second point.

2:The minimum wage should have a progressive base.

Hs and college age kids are STATISTICALLY less reliable, less capable, and work less...more likely to goof out...etc...

Give a 20yr old a kid of their OWN to support and care for...he or she is More likely to be in every day...responsibility and all that...So shouldn't we recognize and reward that???

Same with older people,Late 20s, early 30s are again, more likely to be on time, and less likely to call off for partys, because they are hung over.... or even Sick.

So, here is my proposal...
We make the minimum wage progressive...

Taking the current wage as a base...
7.50 an hour... 16-18yr olds...basic wage
18-20.... more likely to be out of the extra $40- $80a week goes a long way during those "party years"...So is 9.50 all that onerous? Or even 8.50.... One to two bucks more...(I would lean towards one)

20-25...mostly doing the same but a little more responsible...more likely to be living on their own... but with a roomie or that they are in the "workforce" shouldn't they get a bit of a raise????

How about marriage???? Insurance companies recognize marriage as a stabilizing concept ....why not the minimum wage???? A married person is more likely to be on time, and do more work than the minimum required.... so why SHOULDN'T they be justly compensated???

And THAT isn't even bringing up things like Shift Differential....hs kids CAN'T work at night... college kids need sleep...30yr olds can... and 3rd shift has more responsibility...

Make the minimum wage laws progressive in this way, and we could employ more teens, and give the "working poor" more money in their pockets...which means less welfare,and more money going into the economy....

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hindsight is 20/20....or The Supreme Screwup, Blowback, and Foreign Policy.

In the light of the events currently unfolding in Iraq, I would like to take a quick look back at recent history, and attempt to apply some of the ideas and precepts that I have learned and formulated over the past decade.  Some of these ideas are things I remember thinking at the time, as I learned about unfolding conditions in the initial aftermath of our invasion, and some of them have percolated and                      over the years as I read more, learned more, and began to synthesize what is becoming my own ideas on Foreign policy, specifically regarding the GWOT.  (how stupid a name... war on terror.... that's kinda like starting a war on air strikes, or naval blockades... terrorism is a TACTIC...  this mindset is a BIG part of our subsequent missteps)

Now lets go back and remember Iraq as it was, before Dubya's "shock and awe" campaign (something that at the time and STILL sounds a lot like 'terrorism' to me).  Iraq was stable, secular, fairly well educated and westernized nation.  They had a fairly strong sense of National Identity, with the exception of the Kurds in the North, who have been separatists since Iraq was created by the western powers in the aftermath of WWI.

Granted Saddam was a fairly brutal dictator, although not one of the worst ones, truth be told.  his SONS on the other hand, THEY were bad news, and as Bill Maher suggested this week on Real Time, we should have left HIM in place, and just assassinated the hell out of his sons... Incidentally Richard Clarke, who has served in Counter Terrorism leadership positions in the Bush1, Clinton and Bush 2 administrations (where he was one of the more critical opponents of Dubya's Neo-con Chickenhawks) basically agreed that this was a better solution.  Now if our nation and administrations didn't have such a hard-on for war uber alles, perhaps we could have worked WITH Saddam to have a slow, moderated transfer into a more democratic, freer nation during his remaining years, and after he died.  Not overthrowing him, but working WITH him to make movements toward increased autonomy, increased freedoms, increased civil rights, etc.  But that would be a major diplomatic undertaking, which would require years of effort on our part ( it would have probably been cheaper money wise, and definately in terms of blood)

But that is a pipe dream, so lets apply the tactics, strategies and ideas that I have begun to lay out in previous posts.  to summarise

Bottom Up Engagement
        Remember, a strong society needs a strong foundation upon which to build.  the reconstruction as we did it, both in Iraq and Afghanistan was a top down model, concentrating on the major infrastructure, stock markets, government, constitutions, etc... Major mistake on our part.

Local "Ownership" of Reconstruction.
       Again a major mistake on our part, we brought in outside workers, outside companies to do the work of reconstruction, ignoring the unemployed and skilled modern labor force that ALREADY existed in-country.  localized improvements with local labor improves not only the sense of OWNERSHIP of those improvements, but by putting the people back to work, it increases their sense of normalcy... something that was sadly missing during the aftermath, and somthing that drastically increases the ability of factions to recruit people.

Crossing SubCultural / Religious Lines
        We can learn a lot from history, specifically David Kilcullens writings and the operations of the British Empire in SE asia, that by removing recruits for security, police and army forces from their day to day lives, sequestering them together across factional lines, an Espirit de Corps can be instilled, and this basic seed of stability can be created with a core unity, and common desire/goal of creating a better future for ALL parties.

we do this when training our OWN army, and it works well (the camaraderie and brotherhood of the fighting forces is a basic tenant of the modern army)... why the FRAK did we not follow these time tested ideas in Iraq?

Get out of our Fortresses, and engage with locals on a Civil, 1on1 basis.
        This is another idea that I kinda came up with on my own, from my knowledge of the N.Ireland "troubles" (and a lot of empathy/imagination), and as I learned more, I found the basic concept was one that permeated through a lot of writings, from Richard ClarkeGen Rupert SmithGen Tony Zinni, and H. John Poole to various articles, essays, websites, etc.

You might notice that many of these ideas have a similar focus and function,  Building and strengthening the unity, joint identity and cooperation among factions.  Building a nation from the bottom up, and (much like Habitat for Humanity) creating a sense of interaction, interdependence and involvement within society. This investment by civilians not only gives them a better sense of ownership in their own future, but also the joint future of the country.  It gives them Real Concrete reasons, not only to RESIST insurgents, and factional groups seeking to divide the country, but also kneecaps the radical groups ability to recruit from civil society.

in otherwords, its a win-win.  It combats radicals from BOTH sides of the equation... However, on tho the bulk of things.

Firstly, and this is something that REALLY bothered me in the immediate aftermath.    Back in 04/05, I worked in a convenience store, and thus i had daily access to lots of newspapers and magazines... which i consumed voraciously.  I kept seeing references to Iraqis having problems with heat at night (deserts are FREAKING COLD at night) as well as having basic starvation problems.  I wondered, 'why the FRELL did we not plan for this'... Its not like destroying their infrastructure (powerplants, refinerys, etc) wasn't a basic cornerstone of the war plan (imo, stupidly, since the GOAL was regime change, which ultimately means the US administering the nation for at least a brief period of transition and reconstruction... but that was probably due to the profiteers having too much of a say in the initial planning).

Would it have been SO difficult to have a container ship or 2 stationed in the Gulf loaded to the gills with Blankets, camp stoves, nutritional staples (rice, grain, beans, spices, etc) space heaters, etc?  that way they would be pre positioned, and all ready to go.  This could have been easily coordinated with NGOs since they have a slightly better capability and much more experience providing for basic needs in war zones (Drsw/oBorders, Red CrossIntl, peace corps, etc...)  It SERIOUSLY bothered me that such a basic, and foreseeable, need was ignored in the rush to war.

Better Tactics for "peacekeeping" patrols... or lessions I have learned from Scifi

 We are about to get into more theoretical areas here.  Just a Warning.

Our basic plan for reconstruction and occupation couldnt have been designed better to increase radicalism and factional insurgency if we tried.  the gargantuan military base we constructed (and which has suffered from cost overruns and shoddy workmanship since day one) served only as a symbolic reminder of what can ONLY be interpreted as American Imperialism.  Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

Rather than that huge permanent construction behemoth that was plagued by cost overruns and shoddy workmanship from day one (mmm... military contractors...) we COULD have used smaller, more temporary bases within "hot spots" and cities.  These would be supported by larger temporary bases  in the desert as central points of strength and supplies, perhaps even using Carriers, not only as mobile airstrips, but as "decompression" bases with witch to rotate troops in and out of the war zone for short periods of "peaceful" work. (perhaps this would have reduced the PTSD issues our soldiers are facing)

Operating from the large temporary bases, miles out into the desert (easier to defend against using IR goggles to detect people approaching against the cold of the desert.) company sized patrols could go into the city, and split into "camping" platoons to "inundate" a larger area within the town and provide security 24/7, unlike the moving patrol and return to base model we did use.  These camping platoons could have integrated squads of my Modified Rangers as 'force multipliers' and Corps of Engineers squads either as integral parts, or as daily "in/out" teams to asses needs, plan future projects, recruit and direct local workers for those projects, and even do some simple cosmetic work, ala the Broken Windows theory of policing.

These Camping platoons would move their camps on an irregular basis, 2 days her, 3 days there, bouncing from business park, to library, to hospital, to school, to strip mall, All within a small area.  A neighborhood, a 10 block square, etc.  while they were there, They would interact with the civilians... buying food from local vendors, patrolling a local park or strip mall for a series of days.  IF (and that's a BIG if, considering the training and propaganda fed to our troops)they interacted with those locals in a respectful and civil manner it would create more good will towards us, AND return a sense of normalcy to the people.  That kind of longer term 24/7 situational and area awareness MIGHT have also reduced the danger of IEDs...

As these Platoons and Companies rotate through the towns and cities, making small daily improvements, plans for the next time they are there, preparing local workers for bigger jobs, etc, they also create Secure zones.  Compare this to the concept we followed, the "green Zone" where we had daily patrols (which ended when night fell) and created ONE SINGLE safe area.  Under MY process, we create myriad smaller "safer" zones, shorter term, sure, but reaching FAR more people in an everyday, "on our doorstep" kinda way... AND with the promise that in a week or so, we come back with the tools and equipment and materials that the LOCAL CIVILIANS can use to improve their own neighborhoods.  or even one group of buildings.   bring in a generator (or, since this is the middle east, a FRAKKING SOLAR ARRAY ) some lumber, tools etc, and the experience to use it.

As these "camping Platoons" move through the cities and towns, they would create "zones of improvement" a building here, a park there....bringing in and INVOLVING the local citizenry in the reconstruction and improvement of their neighborhoods AND future....

Getting the locals involved.  involved in their OWN future... creating it, building it, and (most importantly) OWNING it.... That way, when the radicals blow something up.... they arent blowing up "infidel occupiers" but buildings and jobs and parks that the PEOPLE have worked for....

we should have done this from day one.  any IDIOT could tell you that this is the way to INSURE  long term stability.....

Then we keep coming back!  week after week, the troops come back.... one time they bring a solar array for the locals to install on a building, the next time some flowers and a couple soccer nets...a couple (locally rented) dump trucks or pickup trucks to remove the rubble....

and this kind of "bottom up" concept of reconstruction goes on EVERYWHERE.... changing home bases every time, building and improving everywhere we go...and turning it over to CITIZENS....

for a good Fictional display of this, i HIGHLY recommend USAF vet (and talented writer) Michael Z Williamsons book The Weapon  (well, I Highly recommend any of his writings.... hes a DAMN talented writer, with a libertarian bent, and GREAT military SF stories.... including one of the BEST first contact books ever...EVER Contact With Chaos .... no seriously, its AWESOME

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MORE education ideas...

I recognize that many of the ideas I have put forth seem to have a big price tag attached... more teachers means more salaries... modifying schools for big "communal" classrooms...etc.  well,ok, however there are also big savings built in as well... using older students as instructors being a big one, another that I haven't made would be WAY LESS MONEY FOR EXPENSIVE SPORTS...  However I would like to take this time to propose another place that the system can not only save money, but also provide Adult education.

Imagine a HS where adults could trade teaching for learning...Or assisting for learning...not just in the HS,but with the community college (or even the state land grant college, like Rutgers in nj)    let's say 1yr of 2classes instructing for 12course credits of college courses, or (and?) Auditing any HS course...

The benefits are myriad... from the continued education of adults, kids being exposed to other ideas (both via instructors, and adults in the classroom...I would love being in a HS history class, to ask about things like the labor movement, Nazis killing socialists,etc...)... but above all, strengthening the bonds of community....

This ties easily into MY concept of "progress by looking to the past" a child, I read not only the "little house" books, but many others that were semi biographical from similar years, and I remember one series (I'm sure my Mother still has them) that was short stories that a girl got from her Gram by looking at grams button collection...each button was a new story....well, there was one about an adult going to the little red schoolhouse so he could learn to read, in his 40s....

Yes, I recognize that this can be angrily called "social engineering".... to which I reply

So Frelling What is....and how is building a stronger community bad??? Will your kids get exposed to ideas you don't share???   Unequivocally YES, sure... however you have just as much possibility of exposing other parents kids to YOUR ideas... and in my NOT so humble opinion, that is a damn good thing...we ALL need to be exposed to ideas we don't hold...ideas outside our comfort zone, it's the very basis of education.....

the Failure of Economic Libertarianism

I pledge allegiance of the multi-national corporation
And to the profit, for which they stand
One interlocking Directorate, under NO government, indivisible.
With monopoly and cheap labor for All.
                              -U.Utah Phillips-

     The main difference between myself,and other libertarians is in the realm of economics.  This is partially due to my upbringing, and also my studies of history and the social sciences.  You see, while I generally agree with them that our nation needs laws that support small businesses, encourage innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors, and don't place too many roadblocks or onerous regulations in the way of those important economic activities... I strongly disagree with the lengths most libertarians are willing to go.

You see, I have NO desire to return our great nation to the Gilded Age.  To me, that would be an enormously bad idea.  However, that is what economic libertarianism leads to.  In fact, I believe that we are quite a ways down that particular path already, with"right to work(for less) laws, the fight against the minimum wage, and income inequality

Libertarians have some valid concerns regarding regulations and the law's interference with small businesses, however, in MY mind, much of that isn't due to well meaning(but sometimes nutty) liberals, but to BIG businesses intentionally perverting the law to stymie competition.  It is in the corporations best interest to limit the market share of competitors

Take the meat packing laws ( Meat_Inspection_Act at Wikipedia )  This was a important bit of legislation, aimed at ensuring a safe and healthy food supply for the American people.  These days, through shrinking budgets for inspectors, and laws upon regulations upon other laws, federal,state, and local... these laws oftentimes serve as protections for the big guys, to the detriment of small farmers and local communities
Michigan turns small farmers into felons
organic farmers fight against Monsanto

When, as is somewhat true today, the government becomes a tool of big business, society, as a whole, suffers.  However, lazzais faire economics would allow either a complete return to the 19th century of child labor, dangerous worksites, and no worker protection... Or a complete take over of government by business...neither option being in the best interest of the nation, or society.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Little Red Schoolhouse part 3

As children grow into young adults, we are confronted with a strange dichotomy...on the one hand, they are better suited to the"standard" style of education (sitting passively for long periods and listening) but they are also becoming more rebellious to authority.  They are more willing and able to listen, and are more likely to challenge.

They are seeking to discover and create their place in the world, their sense of identity,personality and individuality.  They simultaneously try to belong to, and rebellious from society as a whole...

This should not only be respected, but ENCOURAGED...U.Utah Phillips said it best to 2500 students..."you are,yet again,about to be called 'America's most valuable natural resource'...have you seen what we do to our 'valuable natural resources???'
Natural Resources (listen, it's short and worth it)

We NEED the next generation to challenge us... not only the orthodoxy, but US individually.  If I/we can't defend a belief to a 16yr old, perhaps it should be changed...and we should take this time, when we might still influence them , to allow, and welcome their challenges..

Ok,this post will be a 2parter, at least...too many thoughts...

So, in the upper grades, I suggest a class...over an hour in length, graded on a pass/fail level, based SOLELY on participation... I'd like to see small classes (20-25students) mixed ages... perhaps not even graded...(Ok, I admit, I'm stealing this completely from Heinleins "starship troopers"....but it's still a good idea...)... he called it "history and moral philosophy".... "current events and ethics" works just as well..."challenging ideas" is perhaps even a better name...

This would be an environment where students and adults could discuss anything and everything...personally, I would put it at a part of the day when parents, and other adults could come in and have their say, about local,statewide,national or international ideas and events...

Debate them...argue them...(perhaps the instructor could assign short papers that would serve as extra credit for other classes.... "In 3000 words minimum argue for religious expression in government" or "present the math favoring high inheritance taxes" or "present the ethical reasons for high marginal tax rates" or"defend removing Native Americans from their land")

And THAT is the allow young minds to form and defend their own allow the next generation a place and time to create their own thoughts,ideas,beliefs and rationales... to challenge debate them.... and through the process of debate, to encourage the young adults to become part of society.....

Idea number 2 is an national exchange student program... The United States are a huge country, with hundreds,if not thousands of distinct cultures and stories...we are a miniature world, and our children can only be strengthened by being exposed to other subcultures, and we have hundreds of them...could you imagine how much stronger our nation would be if our children were exposed, bayou to mountain, NYC to Midwest farms, Seattle to Salt
Lake, desert to forest... exposing them to all the vibrant,wonderful,and lovely variations of humanity that are a part of American society...

It would help us understand, and respect each other, if we were exposed to each other... if we saw each other as human, and normal, before we paid attention to our differences....

More to come....

my ideas about a "well regulated militia" today

This is the follow-up to my previous post, and in many ways the meaning behind it.

Same scenario, however open carry laws require participation with,and training by local police and perhaps even the national guard.civilian militia, police auxiliary, whatever name you would like to give it, they would be trained and experienced in working with law enforcement.  (For those of us who also believe that armed civilians exist to protect against government overreach, knowing the governments playbook is a vital resource.)

9:30 PNG starts his spree...
9:35 having rehearsed this, AC 1-4 (the closest) go into action...1+2 guard the doorway to the hall, while 3 activates the "building wide" militia channel, and 4 calls the police.  Every Armed Citizen in the building knows that the PNJ is on the 12th floor

9:40 ACs on other floors are guarding stairwells and elevators.  Lower floors are being evaluated...and"extra" ACs are carefully moving to the 12th floor... meanwhile, AC 3 and 4 have begun sweeping their floor and have found the first victim, first aid is applied and the path of PNJ has been reported to the rest of the militia and police.

Since drills have been done, and the ACs are all on the same page, working as a unit, and not individuals people are evaluated in an orderly fashion, quickly and safely.

10:05 by the time SWAT arrives and is ready to move, they already have a good working knowledge of the situation, and have better situational awareness, with PNJ cooped up in one corner of the building,with minimal hostages....the ACs have set up choke points to deny PNJ movement, and are ready to assist SWAT in their jobs...

Isn't that a better scenario than the first one???  I recognize that sometimes I can come off as "anti guns" , however that is far from the truth.  I want to own them, ..I greatly enjoyed the shooting sports as a child (it was probably the biggest reason I stuck with scouting for as long as I did)... I even believe that citizens should be allowed to own full auto weapons...IF they have been trained in their use, and those citizens have PROVEN to be responsible, reliable, and dedicated.

Sorry, I don't want to live in Deadwood, or Tombstone...both cities that ultimately banned guns within city limits...

I think citizens, involved with a shooting should have to jump through just as many hoops to get their 'carry privileges' back as an officer does...and I think that they should have to go through just as much training as officers do to obtain that privilege in the first place...

And I think that it should be legal to carry brass knuckles, a long knife, a 'tire thumper', rapier, etc.... guns, ok... but my knife, used for work gets confiscated.... THAT'S some frelled up logic.

Friday, May 30, 2014

my fears on a "guns everywhere" society

A major part of the reasons I started this blog, was to present ideas on how to restructure and improve our country and its laws...

This grew out of some conversations I have had on' the book' with sometimes rabid, but always friendly,civil and sane "pro gun" people.

It's of no surprise to my readers that I object to "guns everywhere" laws, because I don't believe it makes us safer... obscure as he'll wouldn't go yo a bar with open carry... NOT because I am scared of guns, but because guns and alcohol SHOULDN'T MIX.... it's bad for all involved...but I digress... let's consider the current argument "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun,is a good guy with a gun", and imagine a school or workplace shooting with more guns.

9:15   psycho nut job enters building with the intention of getting revenge for slights (real and imagined)... he's visibly armed, but that's ok, cause of open carry.... never mind he hid an extra 9 clips in his desk...)

9:25.  PNG shoots first victim.
Someone in office, also armed, grabs gun and stands up.... png, already aware of that weapon shoots her.

9:26 PNG gacks 2other bystanders, on his way to his next target.
Down the hall, armed civilian 3,4 and 5 go "was that a gun shot???" And begin to move
Further down the hall, AC6, with nothing but good intentions, has already grabbed his gun, and is in movement.

9:27      AC6 is moving down the hall when 3and 4 leave their office... seeing each other, guns are aimed and orders are yelled... remember, NONE of them really have any idea about what is going on.... luckily, no-one is shot.

PNG moves through another hall, to hunt his other targets... kills the janitor...

9:30.  Armed citizen 12 turns a corner, to see AC 8....both thinking the other is a "bad guy" opens fire... 12dies, 8is wounded....
Elsewhere, PNG runs into AC 4.... AC 4 takes a moment to double check her target, and PNG kills her
Elsewhere, AC14 and 8 engage in a random firefight, because 8 spent too many hours on video games, including 6 hours last night on (insert war game here)....   8s "ammosexual" weapon is a 9mm automatic, 30shot clip, with armor piercing bullets....8people are wounded, 3critically....but the weapon fire raises EVERYONE'S STRESS AND ADRENALINE LEVEL...

9:32 AC 3 accidentally shoots himself in the foot...

9:35 PNG kills 5more people.
AC 9 kills AC 5 accidentally, and wounds 6 more

9:50...police first responders arrive.....

Welcome to the clusterfrak.

AC 9 runs towards the police, dripping with adrenaline, she forgets to lower her (safe sane and legal weapon..... the police gun her down....

Meanwhile, the PNG has been moving through the building....

At 9:57 AC 15 shoots and kills PNG.... however NO-ONE KNOWS

10:02 heavily armed SWAT arrives, and starts moving innocents out....

AC 6 and AC 13 shoot at each other, because 13 SEEMED to be moving towards the exit (and thus the innocents) so 6 took a shot...wounded another innocent.....

13had modified his pistol to full auto....she returns fire, and kills 4 more innocents....

Are you beginning to see the problem I have with open carry, and lax firearm laws??????

Monday, May 26, 2014

Whatever Do I Mean

When I write, think, read and learn, I have some definitive end points in mind,  and sometimes I use mental 'shorthand' to sum up those goals and ideas.  In the future, I would like to use this title to expand on some of these ideas.  Today's topic seems to be economics, so without further ado, the first-ever column...

Whatever Do I Mean when I say a "strong and healthy economy"

First off, this can be used to describe both macro and micro economies, using much of the same points and goals...because if most of our micro economies are strong and healthy, than our national 'macro' economy would also be strong and healthy... it's the nature of the here we go...

A strong and healthy economy is:

 We only have to look at Detroit or Pittsburgh to see the problem
with economies that rely on a narrow range of businesses for its economy.  Detroit was cars, Pittsburgh was steel... and when that business has problems, the economy as a whole shares those problems...unless there are other options, other businesses, other employers.

So a Strong and Healthy economy is one that has a lot of companies from a lot of sectors of economic activity... cars, construction,  manufacturers, furniture, service, etc,etc.

 A good economy has few barriers for inclusion... small businesses are encouraged,invited and welcome...even if they challenge existing companies....(perhaps even ESPECIALLY if they challenge the status quo)   just look at Tesla motors and the problems they are having with states outlawing their business model...Or the subsidies, tax breaks, exemptions,etc that oil and natural gas companies get which puts a barrier in the way of alternative energy sources...(or the states that make selling electricity back to the grid illegal, putting the kibosh on personal power generation...)

So a Strong and Healthy economy is one that welcomes and encourages New players, and innovation.

Smaller is Better.
 A good economy has many smaller companies, with more competition.  As I pointed out in my last post, smaller companies, wether mom&pop stores, or state wide/regional chains often pay their employees better(and that doesn't include the other benefits of small company loans, or owners paying for loyal employees surgery...)
 Small companies also spend more of their profits in the local economy, increasing the amount any dollar "loiters" around,generating more economic activity)... lack of uniformity across the country also increases the sense of"area identity" which works in favour of internal tourism...camping, road trips, etc (I once traveled 8 hrs for fish and chips... Argyle's forever

So a Strong and Healthy economy is one that is weighted towards small businesses and regional chains, as opposed to massive conglomerates and MegaCorps, and enacts legislation with this in mind.

MORE OWNERS, more profit sharing
 A good economy has much of the prosperity going to the 30% - 70% of the economic ladder...the middle of the country...The middle class...let's be completely honest, we are the real 'job creators'.... all of economics tells us that DEMAND is the most important part of the supply/demand specific moments, that equation can(and has) been thrown out of wack.... however FUNDAMENTALLY demand is long as the purchasing power exists to support that demand...and suppliers are not held back from providing the goods and services that are demanded

So a Strong and Healthy economy is one that puts profits lower on the economic ladder, so that the middle class (who spend more of their paychecks on a weekly and yearly basis) can fully support and enjoy the benefits of a demand side economy

Is there anything I missed??? I welcome your comments


Laughing at Laffer

I would like to take a moment to discuss the "Laffer Curve".  For anyone who is unfamiliar with it, it is an economic theory that somewhere between 100% and 0% tax rate, a country will maximise its revenue, and above that level, it will begin to loose revenue as the economy stagnates.  (More here )  In 1974,when Arthur Ladder famously scribbled the bell curve on a napkin, it was probably true that the top of the economic ladder was taxed at too high a rate... however it is also true that under this theory we might (probably have) swung too far in the opposite direction.

The Curve was (and is) a central thesis behind supply side economics ( aka trickle down or voodoo economics).  Again, at that specific moment in time the country might have needed some supply side policies, freeing up personal wealth and disposable income which would lead to a boom in small business, innovation, and an overall healthier economy. (Although I would argue that the policy should have been slanted more towards the middle of the economic ladder than what actually happened)

These policies had, at their core, an implicit bargain between the holders of capital (the top rungs) and society at large... If we lower their tax "burden", we would be magnanimously rewarded by the mystical,all mighty 'invisible hand of the market' with renewed prosperity, more and better jobs and opportunities, and a strong and healthy economy.  An economy that had ample jobs that provided not just a life, but a GOOD life, and the chance to climb the ladder through hard work, loyalty and dedication.

We were suckers to believe it initially, and we have been getting shafted ever since.

Admit it, we were gullible... we WANTED it to be true, after all, that was how the country had worked in the 50s and 60s, things had just stalled.  So freeing up some $$$ and putting it in people's hands (and wallets) would jump start the economic engine...Right??

We desperately wanted it to be true, because many of us harbor secret (or not so secret) business ideas and plans, and we had become convinced that we would be the beneficiary of that prosperity. (My plan includes a deli/coffee music, educational speakers, and maybe a 2nd run movie theater....)

The sad fact is, all those small businesses and personal dreams would have created broad prosperity and decent, good paying jobs... it's a truism in micro-economics that smaller companies pay workers better than corporations that directly compete (it's harder to screw over people when you see them everyday,know their families, etc)

However, I am just tired of hearing "The Curve" solely used to promote another tax cut at the top, when it can just as easily be used to argue in favour of RAISING the tax rate at the top...especially since those who have already benefited from the low taxes (at the top) have abjectly failed to 'trickle down' the wealth and opportunities we were promised for 30 years.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Education, a side note.

I would like to take a moment and discuss the source of my ideas.  Please note that my ideas are borrowed,not only from the older models of public education, but from modern private schools, the known benefits of homeschooling/UNlearning, and a lifelong interest in HOW we learn.

I have borrowed much from both the Montessori and Waldorf models, specifically when it comes to lessening the rigid structure of school at the younger ages, and lowering the student/teacher ratio.  Bringing in volunteer instructors, and older students as instructors is mostly my own idea, although it is used, to great effect with my local Head Start program.  Doing this has the benefit of being basically free, while improving the ratio and involvement of the local community.

Unlike most other"education reform" ideas, this has the benefit of being time tested and having a PROVEN success rate... This isn't a "Radically New" model, but a "Radically Old" one.. all I am trying to do is scale it up to the size that we need...

A Little Red Schoolhouse,part 2. 4th through 7th grade.

Beginning in the 4th grade, students would begin transitioning into a more "classic" classroom environment, with different teachers for different subjects.  They would also have more specialized classes, like current events/history, science, etc, structured in the standard format.  However it would also be beneficial for the students to have longer "free study" classes that cross grade levels (perhaps even joining older students of HS age)

In these "open periods"it would be advantageous to bring in guest lecturers/teachers... from parents, HS and college students, local business owners/leaders,politicians,etc.  The students themselves could(and should) be allowed and encouraged to give their OWN talks or lessons.

This freedom encourages the love of learning, decreases the feelings of being"trapped" and powerless in school, and gives the children a sense of control over their own education.  Having them give talks has 3 benefits
 1:reinforces the knowledge they have learned
 2:exposes others to subjects they might not have otherwise learned about.
 3:teaches the children public speaking skills and how to present information.

These "kid led lessons" shouldn't be graded in the standard format, critiqued /graded by both the students themselves and by a few teachers/guest instructors.

Also beginning at this age, students who need additional help with basic skills should spend some of their time helping out with the younger students(with loose oversight).  Leading younger students with basic skills (math, spelling,geography,etc) activates a different part of the brain than studying them, and it avoids some of the stigma of being"held back" or taking"remedial classes.

The regular classes begin at this point, again taking pains to keep class size small and using "student teachers" from upper grades.  The benefit of small classes, outside instructors and the free learning is that students can go more in-depth on subjects that interest them, both on the individual and group levels.

For the regular classes, students should have a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly presentation or debate period (or more often if necessary/desired)

It is important to note that I have said NOTHING about testing or homework up till now.  Yes there will need to be testing (yes, including standardized tests) ,however it shouldn't be the "high stakes" style of testing that we have become so enamored with in the recent past...rather it should be more "informal" with most subjects, with weekly/bi-weekly quizzes so the teachers can keep on top of the students progress.

Stay tuned ,faithful readers, for part 3, to HS and Beyond!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Class Sizes and the little red schoolhouse model of education reform.

I was watching the documentary "The War on Kids" this afternoon, and one teacher made a point that he had 100students, and if he spent 5 min with every student, that was 500min, or more time than he had all was so well put,and simple,it rocked me back.

Most studies hold that teacher/student ratio is Very Important, especially when it comes to younger students, the elementary school age. (A recent review of the major studies statesConsidering the body of research as a whole, the following policy recommendations emerge:
*Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
* The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
* The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.

This is a central idea behind my education reform ideas, which I call the "Little Red Schoolhouse" model, after the school in "little house".  And before I get to far, Yes, I recognize that this is, imo, a UNIVERSAL model... as much as I dislike "one size fits all" solutions.  The reason this is universal, is because it gives maximum amount of choice and control to the teacher and local level on practices and curriculum, while instituting something that is proven to work.

So, the specifics.  In the pre-k to 3rd/4th grade, students would be in a classroom with a ratio of not more than 1:12, regardless of class size.  In fact, it might be prudent to have classes of 40-60 in the same room at this point, so students could"float" between instructors, following the students individual interests, with each teacher on a different "subject" at any one time.
Integrating the ages might also be beneficial at this point, so older students could help younger ones as well as have easy access to what we currently stigmatize as "remedial"education, without the stigma.  Additionally, we need to slow down some of our requirements, and go back to what worked in the past, specifically, rote learning of basic math, spelling bees and lists, etc.  This was very effective in the 30s-60s, and helped create the greatest boom in educated citizens this country has ever seen.  And integrating some of the Montessori and "unlearning" ideas which were a part of the classic model can only help
Now the older students get transitioned into more standard classroom models, keep them closely tied to the younger students.  You could start with separating 3rd grade out for "special"classes... current events, basic sociology, in depth history classes, local history, field trips, etc... in bigger schools, this would expose kids to the rest of their age group(and give younger kids something to look forward to)
The downside of this plan, politically, is that it doesn't provide quick's a long term plan... but that isn't a reason to dismiss it.  If this method was put in place today, , we could easily start by bringing older students into the room as "aides" to assist with the younger students for subjects the older students are weak in (many times, teaching a subject reinforces the knowledge of that subject)

I'll cover older students in another post

Please comment, debate and disqus

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A More Perfect Union

Two of the basic problems that Americans agree on, regardless of ideology, are voter turnout, and lack of parties, third, fourth and more...  in some ways these problems are interconnected... and would you believe that I have already found the answer??? (And it's pretty simple)

First, eliminate the electoral college, and make the president elected by direct vote.  Contrary to the right wing fears, this would Not make the president get elected by a few big cities(since most of them are very diverse,politically...) What it WOULD do is put EVERY vote into play...

Aren't you tired of seeing presidential campaigns spend their time and money on"battleground" states, and ignoring "safe" ones???  With direct elections, EVERY vote counts...the whole country would be the "battleground"... every person would be valuable,in and of themselves...

Think about many "R"s stay home on election day in "blue" states?   Likewise "D"s in safe "red" states?   If every vote and person mattered in the election... the100k conservatives in NYC(or more)... the100k libs in Dallas...

Now that "fix" solves the turnout problem... how about the third party question.... well, runoff voting... instead of voting for A or B, we vote in preference order... for instance, in the 2004 election, my FIRST pick was Gen. Wes Clark..(imo the best choice @the time... mil experience, terrorism experience, and a proven track record of taking care of the troops...) then perhaps Bernie Sanders, or Ron Paul ...THEN kerry...and only as the last possible choice was "W"...the shrub...

Runoff elections , regardless of the threshold that a candidate has to reach, are the perfect method of giving outside candidates a chance...  of course there would have to be a "ballot access" provision.... perhaps if they can get on 20 states ballot then they are automatically on the ballot in all 50states...30 states initially would also be acceptable...

These simple changes could help save our country and democracy... at least I imagine so... what do you think????

on Economics

Until such time as the wealth and benefits of our increased GDP, and productivity begin to trickle down to the people who actually CREATED it, the laborers,workers,inventors, Than we will continue to need and require a method to redistribute that wealth, so it can cycle through the economy again, and continue providing the benefits of a growing economy.

I wrote that a while back, in response to a radical libertarian... and it's still true...trickle down economics,while it has SOME reasonable ideas, fundamentally forgets that wealth naturally trickles UP at every stage, as profits are taken out of every transaction.

It is a mark of a healthy and strong economy where those profits are shared by many people, at many levels of the economic ladder... like the American economy of the 1950s.  When we had local chain stores...Filenes, 2guys,pharmhouse,etc...Where the profits were made closer to the local population, and spent in many other local companies... Where the owners knew their employees (and families,and problems...and thus paid them better...

MegaCorps, huge conglomerates... the massive corporate entities that we see today,can only view workers as faceless (and thus replaceable)cogs in the machine, mere numbers in a ledger... which weakens our economy, and diminishes all of us as Human beings.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Utility of Force (or how to restructure our military and "defeat"terrorism)

Os previously stated, one ofthe most important tasks when it comes to defeating asymmetrical forces (aka terrorists,guerillas,insurgents,etc) is removing their supporters (both direct and indirect support) and, perhaps more importantly, separating the recruiter from a pool of possible recruits.

However, other than the hackneyed cliche "winning hearts and minds", America lacks a cohesive strategy, or short term tactics to achieve this goal... It isn't enough to cut off the head, kill the active fighters, for,like Hydra they grow back... No, we must comprehensively wither the whole body, dry up the pool within which the rebels swim and leave them flopping on the ground, deprived of the very things that give them life.

To this end, we need to get out of our strongholds, bases, fortresses and embassies, and engage with the common people, the local leaders... the families and religious leaders, the businessmen and tradesmen,  the farmers and shopkeepers... and in this engagement, help them provide other options to improve their OWN future.  Assist them in providing a counter narrative to the one that extremists are providing, specifically that the "west" wants to destroy their way of life, and violence is the only answer.

Right now, there is a surge in normal Muslims who are fighting to provide this counter narrative, from Malala, to Maajid Nawaz (view his TED talk here...good viewing.. )  however we aren't doing much to help them, if anything, we are shooting ourselves in the foot, and helping our enemies.

Keeping this goal in mind, I would suggest the US Army Rangers as a unit are almost ideally suited to pursuing this goal, after all, interacting with indigenous populations are one of the core reasons they were formed in the first place.  With minimal retraining, and a few additional skills, the Rangers could easily fill the role of projecting our humanitarian and psyOps mission into the villages, towns and hamlets and begin withering the support that fanatics rely upon.  Additionally, these skills would build upon the skills that Rangers presumably already posess.

            The Mission
Operate independently, with little immediate support, away from bases in the hinterlands of war torn,unstable, and strife-ridden areas/nations.  While on long patrols, interact and interface with indigenous populations,leaders and commoners, creating good will via humanitarian, educational and material aid.  In doing so, assist the local population take a firmer hold on the conditions of their daily lives, and future.

Wow, what a mental jumble of buzzwords, corprospeak and cliches... if I added a couple "proactively"s or "synergy"s, it would be worthy of Dilberts boss.   Allow me to paint a picture.
Rangers go on a long patrol, 2-3weeks at a time... perhaps numbness or better armored vehicles (as non threatening and "military"looking as possible)  with 24/7drone surveillance(perhaps a variable force drone for direct air support @ the control of the men on the ground...not, I repeat NOT controlled by REMF`s )

They enter a villiage,  at least a few of them speak the local language, or a common dialect... they have a good working knowledge of the culture and customs, so they are respectful and open with the people, and know how to approach them... while they are there, they eat WITH the citizens, and assist with the chores of day to day life in the village..  during their visit, they assess the needs of the populace (for next time) and help improve the area... perhaps digging a new well, or irrigation ditch, or latrine...perhaps building and teaching about composting and waste recycling... perhaps a few of them carried a lb of nails/screws and a hammer/screwdriver...Or a "waterwheel" (like the girl invented),  a bag of new seeds, these are gifts... they also have copies of "Where there are no Drs" (a book that drs w/o frontiers designed for out back communities to diagnose and treat medical problems)

After a few days or a week, they give thanks to the community and move on, headed to the next villiage...only to return in a month or least half of the same guys to the same villiage, building on the previous relationships... only the next time they have a breeding pair of goats, some chickens, the fixings for a "bloom the desert" style  firehouse...

The important thing is not to GIVE presents, give a fish, but teach them to fish... give them tools and knowledge so they can take ownership of their lives and futures...sow the seeds of contentment.... (and perhaps even pass the info over to the myriad NGO`s that seek to do this work)

And THAT is the very most important thing, crosspolinating knowledge and information with the other groups who seek to help people, and, like "Habitat for Humanity" letting THEM take ownership of their future, and the skills,knowledge, and instruments of that future....because, if a terrorist blows up a damn that we's our Dam... if they destroy a "bloom the desert" project that the locals have toiled on, day in,day out... it's the LOCALS project...