Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sieves and Pails

This is a sieve.

This is a pail.

Both have different functions when it comes to fluids. A sieve allows fluid to pass through but catches tiny particles; a pail holds fluid. That is, a pail holds fluid until the volume of fluid flowing into it exceeds the capacity of the pail, then you get a big mess.

No duh, huh? What does this have to do with anything?

Being a project manager, I have developed a pet peeve about problems that are defined improperly and incompletely. Not only does it lead to bad research and outcomes, no matter how proper and accurate the research techniques and methods might be, but the people communicating the problem and its definition look like total buffoons.

Take Michael Chertoff, for example. He is the head of the Department of Homeland Security, or "DOHs" for short. (How increasingly appropriate.) When it comes to immigration, he sees an overflowing pail. How do I know this? He says things like, "We don't have the manpower or funds to handle the number of problems we have". The pail is overflowing.

He's right, to an extent. But taken by itself, he has not defined the entire problem, and doesn't even address the key factor of the problem.

I prefer to look at the immigration problem like a sieve; it lets in all comers, and offers no containment capabilities at all. So, what good is it to complain about the size of your pail when you've actually done nothing to stop the flow of water? If I give you a bigger pail - more money, more power, more control - you've still done nothing to stop the influx of illegal immigrants into the country, and your pail still overflows. DOHs, indeed!

I guess the best way to look at the immigration problem isn't to look at the problem first, but to define what you want the solution to be. My solution would be a large pail with a few strategically placed holes in it, thus allowing some flow of fluid beyond the pail, but giving a large enough containment vessel that the vessel doesn't overflow.

Sounds good, huh? Containment of immigrant processing, but allowing a queuing mechanism to process and permit immigrants to enter the country legally? Yeah, I like it, too.

Now only if we'd solidify the border and start enforcing the laws already on the books.

DOHs around!


David Nightingale said...

Hi Rick,

Your post got me thinking, on the question of why are so many people trying to get in? I wondered about the flow of imigrants from the Europe to the US and the migrants from the US to Europe. You could also look at flows between EU countries. I suspect that this is more balanced than between countries that are less equal in terms of their standards of living.

Perhaps it is not a case of getting bigger buckets and putting holes in them, perhaps you need to find the origin of the liquid and work out why it is headed your way.

Would it cost so much to process and contain as it might to help the country of origin raise its standards?

Its like taking asprin because you have a headache, and taking some more because you still have it. Or working out what is causing the headache and fixing it. In the US it seems to me like you are describing a big leak rather than a dripping tap. May I suggest a plumber :)

Keep blooging


Rick said...


I love your plumber comment. Too bad the master plumber is the one asking for a bigger pail. :-)

I agree we need to know the origin of the problem, but I have the sneaky suspicions many in Washington, D.C. know the answer, but it would be politically advantageous to talk about it.

Allegedly, Bush believes that looser immigration laws will make Mexico stronger. I don't get that; it keeps Mexico from addressing their own problem, allowing them to outsource the solution to the U.S.

I understand Bush is also for an "American Union" similar to the European Union. But, as you mentioned, there is not enough economic equality between the U.S., Canada and Mexico for the union to be equitable.

Rick said...

Oops, I meant "not politically advantageous".