Saturday, March 14, 2015

It Has Been an Interesting Week (in review)

Earlier this week 47 Republican Senators sent Iran a letter explaining the rules for US approval of international treaties.  This has created quite the firestorm.  The author and spark behind this was the freshman senator from Arkansas, the Honorable Tom Cotton.  So far he has been labeled everything from a traitor to a mutineer.  Where is a good yardarm when you need it?  Every expert the media and White House can find has been brought out to smack him down.  Heck, even Meagan Kelly has taken him to task.  There are some interesting comparisons made at Legal Insurrection, a politically conservative blog.

From what I’ve observed, the letter is foundationally correct in its statements to Iran that the Senate must approve treaties if they are to be binding.  This flies in the face of what has been reported about the President’s plan to just sign the agreement as if it were a binding document, perhaps thinking the Iranians were not smart enough to know the rules we in the US must play by.  What is causing the controversy is a group of Senators interjecting themselves into what is historically the role of the Executive.  As LI points out good ol’ Tom Cotton is not the first to do this, but he carries on a tradition employed by a number of Democrats when they didn’t like what a Republican President was doing.  Examples cited are Congressional engagement with Nicaragua’s communist regime, Senator Kennedy’s attempt to reach out to Yuri Andropov of the USSR, and the Honorable Ms. Pelosi’s uncoordinated trip and lunch with President Assad of Syria as she attempted to broker a deal between Syria and Israel.

As an interested citizen with no voice in the issues -- the only thing I find amusing in this whole affair is how outraged everyone is when, after six years of an administration that repeatedly shows its disdain for coordination with a Republican Congress they find that very same Congress acting without its blessing.

And then we have Ms. Clinton, presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party for the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  Good golly Miss Molly, she set up her own server because conducting official business through the government's system was just so darn inconvenient.  I understand many say “what’s the big deal? It was all personal stuff, and she should be allowed to do what she wanted to do.”  To those I would offer the following questions.  Why do we have a national archive and why do we have classified and unclassified systems?

Believe it or not the US Government actually has laws that define what constitute official records, how they are to be handled and where they are to be stored.  Just for the record (pun intended), based on my annual training in records maintenance, I can assure you E-mail does constitute an official record.  I checked, and you know I didn’t see Ms. Clinton’s server as one of the places they should be.  A while back, during the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, we got all up in arms about the government spying on us, and our Congress created the “Freedom of Information Act” or FOIA (5 USC § 522) that President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1966.  This statue allows any citizen to make a request for information from the Government and obligates the government to make a good faith effort to provide that information as long as it does not compromise national security, or personal privacy.  What better way to avoid FOIA release  than not keep it where it belongs so it can’t be searched for and provided as appropriate?  Not that Ms. Clinton would ever consider that, it was simply a matter of convenience.  Who likes to carry around both a private device and a government device, especially when the demands on the entourage to carry all the other stuff like luggage, meals, bullet proof vests (for getting into and out of war zones), and flowers to give that homey touch to the government jet is so great. 
So now comes Citizen’s United in its lawsuit against the Department of State, for its failure to answer FOIA requests for the passenger manifests on Ms. Clinton’s flights as SECSTATE.  According to the NY Times, it seems Judge Gladys Kessler, District Court, District of Columbia, has ordered the State Department to begin turning over the manifests by April 5th.  I assume the DoS will appeal.   
Isn’t government transparency a great thing?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Oy vay – What a Dilemma

Remember not too long ago, oh about three months or so, the President wanted to open up immigration, allow everyone to stay and become workers and not be deported?  The Congress (mostly just the Republicans in Congress) where all up in arms!  The President, they said, was exceeding his authority; he was acting outside Constitution when he issued his executive action.  To hear them the President wouldn’t work with them, and it boils down to agendas.  So the President’s lawyer wrote their Executive Order, he signs it, and off we go…

The Democrats and all their supporters were clearly on board.  It was the right thing to do, to gain them more voters.  I don’t remember hearing much from the unions on this, so I’m going to assume for the sake of argument they are, at this point, supportive of their party of choice.  Because what is good for the Democrats is good for the unions, right?

Well then a District Court Judge Andrew Hanen 
in Texas said, “whoa, not so fast” and issued a temporary injunction preventing implementation of the EO based on some pretty narrow grounds about the administration not following their own policies.

The Administration of course rushed in and filed an emergency motion to lift the injunction, but in the course of that filing the DOJ acknowledges the administration had already implemented 3-year immigration reprieves (versus the allowable 2-years) before the EO had gone into effect.  The net result is they admit to deceiving the Judge in his initial hearing on the injunction.  So he orders a delay while he studies the issue.

To this, as if not confusing enough, come the Illinois Republicans – arguing that immigration absolutely should be expanded and the sooner the better.  Of course this is good, but it got me to thinking.  Who will be hurt when the legal labor pool suddenly blows through the roof, does anyone really care about that?

I assume if the Illinois Republicans are now arguing for reform, the Wisconsin gang will not be far behind, and didn’t they just sign a “right to work” law where all this cheap labor will be able to come in, be hired, and join the labor pool without becoming union members? It will be an interesting next two years as everyone scrambles to secure the most out of this new, cheap labor force.  With no pressure to increase wage rates, based increased supply and diminishing demand, I don’t see much the Democrats are going to do to slow down the disparity between the rich and the middle class; in fact it seems just to opposite to me.  They are doing all they can to make the rich richer by flooding the middle class labor pool. The Republicans are slowly coming to realize the opportunities.

So, when the lights finally come on for the union rank and file do you think they will understand how their politicians have just undercut any negotiating leverage they may have had by expanding the businesses access to a labor force willing to work for less?  I’m guessing not.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On Respecting the Office.

I saw a posting on Facebook today that reminded me of some lines from the HBO Movie, Band of Brothers. In the scene Capt. Herbert Sobal, who had once served as the Company Commander when Lt Winters was a platoon leader, is walking by and purposely tries to avoid recognizing his former subordinate who now serves as a Major. Major Winters calls him to task with the admonishment "We salute the rank, not the man."

The posting I saw was from someone I assume to be a supporter of the President, commenting on some post about the President and his agenda.  The comment went along the lines of being tired of the disrespect for the office of President and it is ignorant to be that way.  These kinds of things give me something to consider and from time to time form the basis for my observations on the nature of man.

I guess I’ve been aware of how our nation treats the office of President since at least the mid-1960s when I started to understand our government and watched as the anti-war movement grew to oppose first Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon.  But if you look at political cartoons you can see parody, ridicule and disrespectful sentiments as far back as you care to research.

The ability to question, criticize, condemn and ridicule is, I believe, inherent in the fabric of American politics.  The office of President is an elected position, not an anointed one.  The only thing different with this President is the issue of race as both a cause and a defense. 

And then we have the advent of social media.  Over the past 15 years we have seen an explosion in the vitriolic tenor of so many average people who believe they can hide behind some avatar or pseudonym and cast racial, ethnic or sexual slurs with impunity.  It is not limited to just the President, ask Curt Shilling.  In his blog 38 Pitches he is dealing with some degenerates who’ve threatened his daughter.  

So, if you are concerned with people posting disrespectful things about the President I suggest you look first at what you post about those who you disagree with.  I see a great number of liberal mimes talking about conservative politicians who may take a position they find distasteful or wrong.  There is much to be learned from those mimes on how to belittle, or disrespect the individual.  Ad hominem attacks seem to be the style of the day.   If it is okay to support their approach then you must accept the same approach from the right.  Of course we have an amazing ability to rationalize why we are right and they are wrong so I don’t hold out much hope we will all become civil any time soon.

There was an individual a couple of years ago to took great umbrage with an acquaintance who posted a picture of President Obama in a pose and poster that resembled one of Hitler, he was outraged that anyone could post that calling it a racist act.  When it was pointed out that George W. Bush had the same thing done to him by the left when he was President his response was that Bush deserved it since he was a war criminal.  I’m sorry if you’re outraged over criticism of one President, but not another, based solely on your political beliefs, then you don’t have a leg to stand on and your rhetoric is purely political with no moral basis.  To borrow a phrase from my mother “look at the pot calling the kettle black!”

In conclusion, I too agree it would be nice if we respected the office of President, but I don’t hold out much hope as long as we enjoy the protection of the first Amendment.  The one thing I worry about is as the government's ability and desire to track and attack those who criticize it expands we will see the end of our rights and the nation I’ve lived to defend.  We have on a number of occasions come close to this, and with new technologies we are closer still.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Augustine's Laws -- or how your Government really works.

The January 2015 Defense Acquisition Research Journal reprinting of Augustine’s Laws regarding Major Defense System Development Programs.  Although they are probably familiar to those in the defense acquisition business it was my introduction to them. 
Norman R. Augustine first proposed his laws to highlight the problems with government acquisition and program management of major defense items.  Originally written over the course of several years in the late 1970’s and early 80’s they have been unfortunately vindicated by the experiences of the last 48 years.  Mr. Augustine has served in a number of government and industry positions including Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, Secretary of the Army, Chairman of the American Red Cross and President of the Boy Scouts of America.  He has a B.S.E. and M.S.E. in aeronautical engineering from Princeton University, and over 33 honorary Doctorates.
I would like to comment on a few of them, but for those who are interested in his book, Augustine's Laws - Amazon.  (I would note the published set may differ slightly from those originally published in the Acquisition Research Journal (hereafter referred to as ARJ)
Law I:     By the time of the nation’s tricentennial, there will be more government workers in the United States than there are workers.
Mr. Augustine notes that the rise in the percentage of civilian workers employed by all levels of government has been pretty much on a straight line up since the origin of our nation.  Everything since he first wrote this in 1978 supports his conclusion that 100% of our work force will be government employed within the next 50 years. It doesn’t matter if it is a Republican President or Democrat -- more and more government agencies are made and pay salaries that outstrip the commercial standards for all but the top.  Do you wonder who will pay for that? 
Law II:    People working in the private sector should try and save money if at all feasible.  There remains a possibility that it may someday be valuable again.
A review of government receipts as a percentage of Gross National Product suggests that by 2120 the government will have all the money that is generated in the US Economy.  As noted in the first law, that leaves a gap of about 50 years between when everyone works for the government and when they have all the money.  This leaves, as Mr. Augustine surmises, the possibility the last person left in the private sector will have to support the entirety of the nation’s work force.  If we look around I wonder if we are seeing acceleration in the government’s control, through the slowdown of the GNP growth.
Law III:  One-tenth of the people involved in a given endeavor produce at least one-third of the output, and increasing the number of participants merely serves to reduce the average performance.
“The contributions made by a group of people working in a common endeavor tend to be highly concentrated in the achievements of a few… As one digs deeper into the barrel, so to speak, in order to increase manning on a given task, the average output is merely driven downward…”
Law VIII:  In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft.  This aircraft will be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3 ½ days each week, or alternatively, by the Air Force and Navy six months a year, with the USMC getting it every Feb 29th).
Perhaps his most famous law – I think we clearly see the accuracy of his prediction in the cost of modern fighter and bomber aircraft and the continuing reductions in the numbers that are affordable each year.  A simple check of the Air Force Fact sheets available on the AF Public Website shows how valid his observations were.  As Mr Augustine points out this should really be known as Calvin Coolidge’s Revenge, honoring the President who once asked, “Why can’t we buy just one aeroplane and let the aviators take turns flying it?”
Law VII:    There are many highly successful organizations in the United States.  There are also many highly paid executives.  The policy is not to intermingle the two.
To quote from Mr. Augustine’s 1982 article in ARJ, “Law Number XVII examines the incentive system – and demonstrates that managers who produce exceptional results can expect the rewards they receive to be increased.  Unless, of course, those rewards stay the same or go down.”  He goes on to cite that great capitalist Nikita Khruschev who when speaking on the benefits of the incentive program said, “Call it what you will, incentives are the only way to make people work harder.”  Of course, Mr. Khruschev was speaking Russian and something may have been lost in translation or when his shoe hit the podium.
We see the reality of this observation clearly in the marketplace today, with the best and brightest going to such highly incentivized companies as Citicorp, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and others.  On the government side we have Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and of course the ever popular and efficient USPS.
I would add that many of the 5o some observations (or laws) deal with the inefficiency of the Congress.  Let’s leave with the thought that Congress as far exceeded even Mr. Augustine’s expectations when it comes to inefficiency and ineptitude.
There is another great management guide called Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, but I’ll save that book review for another day.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...