Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 6, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 6, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

March 5, 2015

Homeland security: reason versus truth

Filed under: Budgets and Spending,Congress and HLS — by Philip J. Palin on March 5, 2015

I don’t know anyone who was shocked when DHS funding was further delayed by contention between the House and Senate. This blog anticipated as much on January 29, and might have done so much earlier.

There was some surprise in the Department, at the White House, and on the Hill when last Friday’s first vote failed.  There had been an assumption our recently re-elected Speaker (or at least his Chief Whip) would be able to accurately discern the disposition of his conference.  Apparently not.

The most surprise I have heard has been reserved for Tuesday’s bipartisan comparatively low-drama resolution of funding for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year.  And for anyone who was once nerdy enough to have their own dog-eared copy of Robert’s Rules of Order, our surprise is enhanced by a certain delight in hearing how Rule XXII played such an important part (see page 36).

As I try to think this through on Wednesday morning, there has not yet been time for most of the consequences to play out.  But — so often an optimist — I am ready to declare Tuesday to be a triumph of reason.

In offering this observation I am also attempting a broader claim regarding the nature and role of reason in homeland security.

On my Grandpa Palin’s back porch just above his favorite chair there was a needlepoint reading: “Come now, and let us reason together.”  This is a partial verse from the first chapter of the prophecy according to Isaiah.

As with any literature worth the name this chapter can be read in many different ways. But one rather literal reading is as an invitation by God to a profoundly sinful and therefore broken people to enter into relationship… into conversation… into shared consideration.

The original Hebrew translated as reason is transliterated as yakach.  Depending on context this can be translated as argue, convince, judge, decide, and more.  It is derived from an ancient root meaning to be in front, in a clearing, in the sunshine, face-to-face.  Whatever else, there is a suggestion of achieving perceptive clarity.

In the first chapter of Isaiah this clarity is achieved by community and involves seeking justice, relieving  the oppressed, considering the fatherless,  and caring for the widow (verse 17). Evidently such activities undertaken together are clarifying.

Before this becomes even more a homily, for your consideration: Clarity is different than certainty.  Community consensus is different than individual insight.  These distinctions are crucial to the effective exercise of pre-Cartesian reason.

And, I suggest, we suffer from an excess of post-Cartesian reason.  Several weeks ago I happened to read: “In November 1628 Descartes was in Paris, where he made himself famous in a confrontation with Chandoux. Chandoux claimed that science could only be based on probabilities…. Descartes attacked this view, claiming that  only certainty could serve as a basis for knowledge, and that he himself had a method for attaining such certainty.”

I perceive this over-simplifies Descartes, but well-summarizes his cultural impact.  It is — back to homiletic — the modern era’s most profound and treacherous sin: The belief that certainty is possible — in some cases, necessary — engenders fruitless delay, pernicious pride, over-confidence, unnecessary conflict, manifest complications, perpetual frustrations.

This is especially the case whenever the problem involved is innately uncertain: as is the case with much of homeland security.

What pre-Cartesian reason encourages is clarity of decision and action that does not — because it cannot — depend on certainty.  This is reason that arises from shared humility, ongoing conversation, vigorous argument, careful listening and a commitment to advancing a vision of the Good that is as tentative as it is tangible.

On Tuesday those most certain of right and wrong lost the vote in the House.  It was, I hope, a clarifying experience… potentially for all of us.

March 3, 2015

DHS budget theater: still not very funny.

Filed under: Budgets and Spending — by Christopher Bellavita on March 3, 2015

As you can see from the random selection of cartoons below, even otherwise reliable political cartoonists can’t come up with anything amusing, insightful, ironic or even nasty about the continuing congressional stage play over homeland security funding.

It’s as if – like congress – cartoonists are just going through the motions.  There’s no creativity, innovation, or leadership.  They seem to simply be waiting for the next deadline to turn something in.

Just like the cartoonists.

Judge for yourself.

Dhs 10 2015 03 01 22 27 25

Dhs 9 2015 03 01 21 44 53

DHS 8 2015 03 01 21 43 50

Dhs 7 2015 03 01 21 42 38

Dhs 6 2015 03 01 21 39 14

Dhs 5

Dhs 12 2015 03 01 22 39 51

Dhs 11 2015 03 01 22 38 50

Dhs 2 2015 03 01 21 34 09

Dhs 3 2015 03 01 21 35 16

Homeland security 1 2015 03 01 21 31 26

Dhs 14 2015 03 01 22 42 15

Dhs 13 2015 03 01 22 41 07

Dhs 4 2015 03 01 21 37 46

Yep. See you next week. Right after the second act.

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