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Re: Special message for Lurker's

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On 6/11/99 EDT, Dennis S. Wish PE, Editor SEAINT Online, wrote:

>We live a political society where the number of voices often speaks louder 
>than the issues. SEA chairpersons and board members are inclined to identify 
>the volume of input over the relevancy of the argument.

>I can't be more clear than to simply say "If you agree or disagree you need 
>to state it so that those in a position to make change can see strength in 

>Please spend a moment to show solidarity to the opinions that you strongly 
>agree with for the sake of our future...  There is no more convenient way
to >participate in the workings of the Structural Engineering Profession
than >with a short E-mail expressing your support or rejection of an opinion.

While the manner of using this list for policy advocacy without overwhelming
it in "amens" is an open question, the value to the "troops" of this list
and others, and of e-mail in general, is only at a beginning. The highest
value in personal e-mail may be to go outside the usual chain of command in
airing errors by one's leaders.  This reaches well beyond Dennis's urgings,
but has a remarkable track record as per a story that arrived in my mailbox
last Saturday: 
*First, e-mail has unprecedented value to subvert untruthful or mistaken
leadership positions, through e-mail's use by subordinates like us to inform
one another behind the backs of those who traditionally manage and control
information. The Seaint list is already serving this purpose very well.

*Second, as Dennis noted, e-mail is a convenient tool for subordinates to
inform those above us, such as SEA committee chairpersons and board members,
who are "in a position to make change." This is working to the extent such
leaders are willing to read and heed the messages.

*Third and most radical, e-mail is a splendid tool to go over the heads of
unheeding SEA officials and inform the highest levels of public policy
makers. It serves to curb disingenuous or naive representations by one's

A vivid example of this insubordinate third use of e-mail is in Army Major
Donald E. Vandergriff's article in the June 1999 issue of the U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings, a noted military professional association forum and
journal now in its 126th year.(home page:

Major Vandergriff's article is titled, "truth(--nospam--at)", and its
relevance to SEA leadership, SEA member treatment by the leadership, and
code formulation and control practices, will be apparent with but little
added imagination.

Here's the story, acording to Major Vandergriff, who is serving as asst prof
of military science at Duke University, Army ROTC:

In September 1998, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the heads of all the US armed
services) testified to a shocked US Senate Armed Services Committee that
there were serious readiness problems. But the previous February, the same
top admirals and generals had testified there were no readiness problems;
the services were purportedly as capable as when Desert Storm was won in 1991.

Q: Why this embarassing about-face in front of Congress? 
A: E-mail from the ranks.

"Thousands of middle- and junior-grade officers, NCO's, and troops from all
the services have used the new electronic infiltration tool called e-mail,
and exposed the denials of declining readiness by senior military leaders.  

"These e-mail infiltrators bombarded not only their superiors (who did not
appear to listen) but also their elected officials who, after initially
ignoring their pleas, finally had to do something to reply to the flood."

Major Vandergriff points several fingers at senior military leaders'
shortcomings, items that likely have parallels in SEA leadership. The
belatedly conceded decline in military readiness was attributed by the Joint
Chiefs to all manner of problems stemming from lack of money, but "nothing
was said about leadership as the cause of declining of readiness." Among
leadership problems, the major says, "Our military is fueled by a culture
that views argument directed toward higher command as disloyalty," and warns
of "the dangers inherent in a military culture that discourages free thought." 

Need I remind anyone of the majority reaction on this list, especially
reaction from SEAOC "higher command," to Dennis Wish's free-thought argument
against the "Seismology Committee uber alles" attitude expressed by one of
their number in an official SEAOC magazine article to the membership? And
has anyone noticed how SEAOC releases in modern times always put a happy
face on all matters, as though the duespaying readership were to be treated
like they were merely mushrooms under cultivation? 

USNI Proceedings asks, "Will e-mail become the only truth-teller?", and the
editor boldly highlights Major Vandergriff's key point that "e-mail remains
the only way the truth will continue to rise from the ranks to disclose true

My Amen goes to Dennis, Shafat, and SEAOSC for this fine, free-thought forum
that's the only one we've got. Whom to deluge with gainsaying and
truth-telling e-mails remains to be revealed, if it's not to be each other
on this list. But speaking up is essential, and e-mail a prime way.

Charles O. Greenlaw  SE     Sacramento CA