Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lesson’s That Won’t Be Learned

So here we are, five days after the beginning of the Baltimore Riots.  By now every talking head has had their say.  The President, always an opportunist, has blamed the Republican’s for not providing enough funding for inner city programs, and all the wise and wonderful politicians have weighed in on the potential causes, ranging from simple police brutality to a sense of hopelessness from the disparity of wealth and lack of opportunity for the poor, mostly caused by the Republicans and the 1% they are supposed to represent.  Finally, Mr. Sharpton has pulled himself away from his demanding MSNBC schedule to offer aid and comfort to the Mayor and her city council.
Those on the left, and on the right will naturally blame the other, for we are no longer capable of recognizing the grains of truth in each others position.  We don’t want gray, we demand black and white answers.  Even if those answers drive further division between blacks and whites and do nothing to address core issues.
Let’s pause for a moment and look at the political reality of Baltimore, as highlighted by Allen West.  Mr. West’s politics aside, I challenge anyone to dispute the fundamental facts.  This is a predominantly Democratic Party run city where the black population is not some small minority without representation.  The Democratic Party has controlled this city since 1967, yet in those 48 years they have not found a way to address the problems of poverty and racial equality for this microcosm of America. What they have done is what every politician has ever done, cater to their political contributors and give lip service to the poor.  They have poured huge sums of money into the inner Harbor, while effectively fencing off the poor.  The average income for a Baltimore citizen is $41,385 per year compared to the state average of $73,538.  What, in the last 48 years, has the Democratic leadership done to address that disparity?  What types of jobs have they brought in? 
We talk about training and education, certainly a hot topic in today’s society.  What has this city done to train its youth to support the emerging technology? Of course the liberal answer is we need more money and the associated more government.  That is always the answer.  We need to pay our teachers more, we need to pay our administrators more, and maybe some small percentage of every dollar will actually go to improved programs for the youth.  Maryland spends, on average, $13, 871 per student, which puts them in the top tier of per/student investment in the United States.  I wonder how much of that actually finds it way into inner city classrooms for life shaping education?  We won’t realize that more centralized management, larger bureaucracy and the advent of a nanny state administration destroys the initiative of those who would be different in how they teach.
What, you may ask, is the difference between education and training? For this discussion I will use the lessons drawn from my training as a Navigator in the USAF.  Training is the process we use to teach someone to do something.  It doesn’t matter if it is to be a good plumber or a good navigator.  We teach the individual skills, reinforce their importance, and finally evaluate the student’s ability to apply those skills.  They are usually measured against some baseline, but may also compete against others in the class.  For example, in Navigation school I learned about the stars, how to use a sextant, and how to located three stars to determine my actual position of the earth.  We did not spend time talking about Einstein’s theory of relativity or the expansion of the universe since the big bang.  These things were not critical to the task I was to learn.  Learning to be a good plumber is the same.  You need to understand some fundamental things like gravity, and hydraulic theory, but mostly you need to know how to connect pipes, install things in accordance with the local codes, and determine how to estimate the cost of a job.  Training involves practice.
Education is different.  It used to be the intent of education was to open your mind to the possibilities of the world and universe around you.  Today I am not sure that is still the case. We spend so much time talking about how far behind the rest of the world we are, and indoctrinating our youth in the “correct” ways to think of things that we seem to have shut down the idea that youth should challenge rather than accept the status quo.  Today we have more professional “educators” than at any time in our history.  What kind of challenges are they presenting to our young?  Apparently education today is more closely aligned to what we called indoctrination in the old days.  Perhaps that is why the Democrats are so high on everyone getting more education rather than legitimate job training.
Can we expect our politicians to take an introspective look at what they should do different?  Not likely!  Hell, we as individuals won’t do that so why should the politicians?  We will continue to point fingers at the other side, we will continue to indoctrinate our youth in the ways of bigger government and we will continue to jump to decisions, looking at only one side of an issue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Simple Thought

As I understand -- the essence of science is to question, to ask why in the hopes of deeper understanding.  It seems contradictory then for so many who claim to believe in science to accept that God cannot exist.  Is it that God does not exist because their flawed concept of God doesn’t fit within the theories that limit their understanding, or is it because they abandon the essence of science and refuse to question what they cannot understand?
A friend shared a video of a talk given by Father Robert Baron entitled “Aquinas and Why the New Atheists are Right.”  It offers much to consider with regards to the impossibility of defining God.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I find I am less willing to suffer fools than I was even a few years ago.  The last thing I saw as I left work last evening was a poorly written, fragmented, and incoherent e-mail from a software technician lambasting me for questioning the potential of a project he was working on.
Now if I had sent my concerns to him, or I had actually called into question his ability to write the routines that are suppose to make all the pieces work I think he may have had a reason to engage me in this issue.  But I didn’t, I wrote to the program manager, or the one who is supposed to function as the manager -- asking if we are going to continue spending money on a project that is ill defined and as a result unlikely to succeed.
This exchange, as minor as it was, got me to thinking.  We have become a nation of intolerant fools.  We form our opinions, build the walls of self-righteousness around them and hurl whatever weapons we have from the parapets.  We no longer talk and we no longer listen.  I wonder, as we lose our grasp on the fundamental English language structure and merge into some kind of hybrid of English, Electronic shorthand, "ghetto" and Spanish will we actually destroy one of the threads that has historically bound us as a nation?

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Interesting Question

Author John Pepple, in his book The Left's War Against the Poor, proposes the left has hurt the poor for decades; exploiting their vulnerabilities in the name of a liberal agenda pushed by the rich, an agenda that seeks to destroy capitalism and redistribute wealth by the state.  He proposes that a leftist agenda developed by the poor would look significantly different than the one we see in America today.  I wonder?

What are the impacts from the growth of government, the increased regulation on society, and the creation/expansion of state managed social programs?  Have we actually seen them leading to a smaller group of poor and a larger, more vibrant, middle class?

 For all the talk by the left of how the rich are getting richer, what do we actually see with the creation of work that will lead to a future for the worker?

Let’s start with the establishment of minimum wage, or living wage if you prefer.  Historically we expected to see individuals enter the job market with few skills and employers would hire these individuals for less than what they paid their experienced workforce in a sort of apprenticeship approach.  Then we collectively decided everyone should have a minimum wage, based not on the economics of the marketplace, but on what the politician’s thought fair.  There are three possible outcomes for this:  the cost increases to a business would be passed on to the consumers, the business costs would be maintained by reducing the workforce, or the business would become non-competitive and fail.  In all cases the poor and middle class are the ones affected.  In the short term the minimum wage employees see a positive outcome, but that benefit is short-lived.

This is becoming increasingly apparent today as we move forward with automation using intelligent and adaptive robotics.  One has only to ask, as the cost of a worker becomes more than the cost of a robot, how long before a worker is replaced?   Take, for example, the auto industry.  At its peak, the United Auto Workers union had almost 1,500,000 employed members, working for the “Big Three.”  Today union membership is down to around 360,000 with about 600,000 retired members drawing their pensions.  Granted, with the foreign competitors entering the market with US manufacturing facilities there are more employed in the industry than I note here, but I use these numbers to illustrate that as the cost of the manufacturing process went up and demands for quality increased many have been replaced by the robots we see so frequently in the auto commercials, displacing these skilled workers who were making good salaries.

I make the point of worker displacement, not to condemn unions, for I believe they serve a useful purpose, but we must understand they serve a selfish interest first, just as Corporation management does.  The fact is, American unions have selfishly placed all their support behind the liberal agenda that will make union leadership secure, while sacrificing the rank and file as necessary.  Was it the unions that drove GM and Chrysler to bankruptcy?  No -- it was short sighted management who could not foresee the shift in economics, or if they could, they had limited options to deal with them due to earlier decisions not to allow the unions to share in the decision process and develop a stake in the companies survival.

Robert Reich, a stalwart of the liberal elite leadership, opined recently that economic recovery was stagnant because the workers were not getting salary increases; instead that money was going instead to the 1%.  Until we took money from the rich to give to the poor there could not be a recovery.  A wonderful idea clearly in line with what we expect to see from an individual who would have the state own all business, but as we cease being a entrepreneurial center where will capital be created?  Surely even Mr. Reich understands government does not create wealth.

While I was writing, a friend posted this story on Facebook, An Engineered Drought, talking about the current California water crisis.  It links most appropriately with the next point I’d make about the elites leading the liberal movement.  In the name of environmental protection they have for years blocked the development of the infrastructure necessary to support the demands of a growing population.  We can all get on board with the idea of saving the California Condor, or perhaps even the snail darter, but if we are going to move into areas that were historically barren and then expect we will have all the water we want, what sacrifices must we make?  Again, as this drought develops the politicians whose failure it was to recognize and plan accordingly, will find the scapegoats they need to shift blame, but at the end of the day the liberal elite will not suffer, it will be the poor and middle class that have been brought to support those illusions we have created.  We need look only as far as Berkley to see who will suffer when the water is turned off and businesses close or just to the North in Marin County to see who won’t.  Somehow the elites (on either side), and the politicians they buy, never seem to feel the affects of their failed positions.  It is always the poor and the middle class.

Along those same lines we are now engaged in the discussion on global warming, or climate change.  Granted -- most conservatives have done a miserable job understanding the issues, articulating alternatives, or perhaps understanding how close we are to a tipping point, if there truly is a tipping point?  But the hypocrisy of the elites who will condemn the right and then step aboard their own 747, while their wives fly on a separate 767 from the east to the west coast for a party kind of boggles my mind.  If there is ever an example of that cliché “do as I say, not as I do” this has got to be up at the top. Elites, whether liberal or conservative, quickly develop a sense of entitlement that moves them beyond understanding.

But let’s stop for a moment and talk about the human impacts of the regulations the government has implemented in the name of the greater good.  Clearly we need to abandon coal, whose use is a great offense to environment and is, in the opinion of the government-funded researchers, probably one of the biggest contributors to green house gases.  If we abandon coal, we will put out of work sizable portions of the Appalachian work force that make their living in this industry, we will close a significant number of power generation plants, and we will drive up the cost of most products made in the United States because of the increased energy costs this decision will force.  That is unless there is an economic replacement.  So tell me what is that economic alternative? 

Who is affected by this decision the most?  Is it the corporation or the worker?  The corporations, if they are to survive, will not absorb much of these costs, they will either find a way to reduce in other areas, like employee compensation or by increasing their product costs.  The later will depend on the global market and when we compete against a country like China who has not made the decision to abandon coal the question will be “are we competitive?”  I think the answer to this is obvious, but if not -- I would point out something said by the late Steve Jobs when asked why his products were manufactured in China.  The answer was along the lines of he could not find affordable place in the US with the necessary workforce or infrastructure. We move even further away as the cost of energy goes up.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Life's Journey

Life’s Journey

I am blessed beyond all that I should be, but that is not to say my life is perfect, for since I am human it is not possible.   As we enter this most reflective of seasons it is a good to consider life’s gifts and the challenges.   I have no great desire to proselytize, and it is certainly not my intent, but I do wonder from time to time for those that who have chosen to place their faith only in themselves how they balance the joys and the sorrows of life?

My life has been a journey; in fact all our lives are such.  We are moving, always moving, for if we don’t we lose our way and struggle to understand the changes.  There was a time when I thought God had forsaken me, a time when I believed there was no greater being to share my pain, my fear, or problems.  I, like so many today, thought that religion was a crutch, and the cause of the world’s conflict.  Without religion we would all be rational and peace would reign.  As I grew older I came to recognize the foolish arrogance of this and changed my views to those that carry me forward today.

Man is a flawed being, as a psychologist points out we can place society into three classes.  There is the flock, peaceful people who seek only to find the joy of life, live for their families and form the basis of society.  Then there are predators who prey on the flock, seeking their own survival at the cost of others.  Finally there are the guardians, those who will sacrifice themselves to protect the flock.  I’ve been privileged to serve with these men and woman, I’ve watched as some made the ultimate sacrifice to save their flock.

Easter should remind us that Christ stood to protect us from evil, giving us life through his sacrifice.  He has risen so that we may be assured of life.

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