Is There A Lesson In The Wisconsin Elections?

picture of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Scott Walker, Governor of the State of Wisconsin

Depending on which newspaper you read, or which network news you watch, there are many lessons that might have been learned. I think it is simpler than that, and it doesn’t take a lot of bandwidth to explain.

Here we have a state governor who effectively stuck his finger in the eye of Big Labor by legislatively out manoeuvring state employee unions, and canceling some of their awesome political power. Therein lies the genesis of the fight. It was all about power.

When it came to crafting messages for the electorate, the argument was always economic. To the voter it was all about money, and the unions could not argue on that basis. Union employees would not be fired, and their pay would not decrease. But, here is the winner. Union members would be forced to fund part of their pensions and part of their healthcare. Every private employee in Wisconsin was already funding their own pensions, and a good bit of their healthcare if they could afford it.

Logically, why should the taxpayers of Wisconsin fund all of the state employees pensions and healthcare when they couldn’t afford to pay for their  own? In retrospect the results were obvious.

The unions did not lose any rights. They lost the power to blackmail the citizens of Wisconsin into paying more and more for state services, higher and higher union pensions, and using non-competitive healthcare providers. The power to take money from a population is not a right. The unions message could never could dominate, and the governor’s common sense message won.

I believe this election will have little effect outside of Wisconsin, but the unions are gearing up for a similar battle in Ohio. A skillful governor can use the same tactics on the unions in Ohio because I don’t believe the unions understand why they were defeated.

Being outspent seven to one is the union excuse, but that number that doesn’t stand up to inspection. The unions paid workers to go door to door, and to protest Governor Walker’s events. A good bit of the governor’s money came from small donors outside of Wisconsin.

This will be the mother of election years.

D-Day Remembrance

picture of cemetary in France with American War Dead Graves
Thousands of American Soldiers Are Buried At Normandy

Today is June 6, 2012. Sixty eight years ago , over 6,000 American soldiers became casualties at Normandy, and about 2,500 of those died. That’s a lot of soldiers, but that is not the whole story.  About 3,000 other Allied troops died that day. They were from England and Canada.

Around 19,000 French civilians were killed in the bombardments leading up to and during the Normandy invasion. The Germans lost around 80,000 soldiers. Casualties are usually lighter on the winners side, but the blood shed for the future generations of Europeans, Englishmen, Canadians, and Americans was very high. I believe we improved the future for the German people, too.

Today is a day to be remembered. It was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, one of the most egregious and cruel regimes in modern times. Their legacy was genocide, and we can never forget.

Even today, there are entire nations and religions that deny the evils perpetuated by the Nazi’s. Islamic leaders in Iran deny the holocaust because they hate Jews. Indeed, they are dedicated to finishing the extinction of the Jewish people. How others overlook this documented goal of an entire nation is a sign of danger in itself.

Today, we are faced with some of the same choices that the German people faced. Do we move our government into a socialist entity like Nazi Germany (National Socialism), or do we strive to keep free markets and free people as our goals. Do we rob ourselves of free speech by instituting a fairness doctrine, or do we insist on our sacred rights of being able to say anything about anything?

Our choices diminish daily with the arrogance and ignorance exhibited by our leadership in Washington, DC. We need to make the choice for freedom, now, or we will learn the meaning of the words written by Frederich Hayek:

Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.

Honor freedom and make your choice for freedom while you have the chance. Maybe we will not have to fight another World War II to get it back if we pay attention, now.

A Fellow Named Hansen

Yes, I know I am not a poet, but sometimes I just have to jump in and sully the art. This piece  of work is inspired by an article at Watts Up With That.

A Fellow Named Hansen

There’s a fellow named Hansen
Whose science is quite handsome
And awards grace his pocket we’re told
It pops eyes out of socket to see that gold rocket
Of fame and science so bold

With NASA his sigil
Al Gore at the vigil
His cronies jump in for the fame
They get Mr Fenton to plan the whole lemon
“Shout down the others” the game

It’s methane and ozone
He says in the old days
That will wreck Gaia’s beautiful work
All those farting cows and belching sows
Will destroy our best efforts on earth

As the decades move on his conscience has gone
And his science has now become moot
Now it’s the coal trains and sports cars
That will kill the whole planet
And all of his grandkids to boot

That fellow named Hansen
Whose wealth is quite handsome
Because of his politics and stuff
His science is bad, his arrest very sad
It’s his time to give it all up

Diddy’s Kid Got A Big Scholarship

In the news on Yahoo is the story that Diddy‘s son, Justin Combs, has won a $54,000 scholarship to UCLA. Diddy, the richest rap artist in the world, has a net worth of about $500 million as noted in this Wikipedia article.

With all that wealth, a lot of people think that Diddy’s son, Justin Combs, does not deserve the scholarship. According to the article, some taxpayers think that the $54,000 should go to others, less fortunate than Combs. It sounds kind of logical.

However, the scholarship is for Justin Combs to play football at UCLA. For that $54,000, he is expected to do hard physical work, putting his body at risk, and to do well in his classes. This is not a slam-dunk for the kid.  I suppose that you could make the case that UCLA recruited Justin so that his daddy could donate millions of dollars to the program, but that’s a stretch.

Justin Combs played corner back at a New York prep school, and carried a 3.75 academic average while doing so. Justin Combs is the example of what the student athlete should be, and I imagine UCLA is proud to have him.

Justin Combs scholarship was awarded for his performance, not his father’s reputation or wealth. In my opinion it belongs to Justin. If the taxpayers in the State of California want to means test all college scholarships to state supported institutions, they have that right. Just don’t gripe when the athletic programs fall short of providing their millions to the universities.

What do you think?

The Engineer’s Burden

Yep. I am an engineer.

I have to put up with all sorts of abuse like bad jokes and questioning looks from liberal arts majors whenever I make an indisputable point. For your future reference, whenever an engineer makes a point in a discussion, it is always indisputable. That’s the way we roll.

picture of the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, A Great Engineering Achievement

Things have gotten so bad that even my good friend, Nick, is sending me those tasteless jokes that tend to circulate on the internet. Here are a couple of those insults.

1. Two engineering students were biking across a university campus when one said, “Where did you get such a great bike?” The second engineer replied, “Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, “Take what you want.” The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, “Good choice: The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you anyway.”

2. To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

OK. You get the message. Just why are people promoting these obviously false, and sick views of one of the most upstanding professions in modern civilization?

Easy-Peazy.  Others are envious of our knowledge and power over their lives.

An engineer’s education is exacting. As engineers, we had to master the collective academic areas of physics, mechanics (static and dynamic), electricity, electric field theory, magnetism, mathematics, materials science, quantum physics,  thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics.

Mathematics is our basic tool, and logic is our guide.

No other academic major in the university had such a demanding, and rigorous set of requirements. Others, lacking the intellectual ability to become engineers, went on to majors in medicine, law, art, and business with a heavy dose of recreational drugs and beer. While liberal arts people were playing cards in the student center, we were in labs, busting our butts to keep our heads above water academically.

Here’s another one of those insults.

Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features.

 Do you see what I mean? People are jealous. They just can’t stand it!

Now, if you translate all that to the blogosphere, you can see that when an engineer comments on a subject, he has already thought it through, and is presenting the best solution or criticism available. It is possible that he can be a bit off base when he doesn’t use Google to check his historical references.

Although I have not been a practicing engineer in many years, the education lives on, and on, and on. Once an engineer, always an engineer. Many times engineers have graduate degrees in business. So, be careful when arguing with that combination.

Engineers have made the technological world what is is. Think of the internet, cellular phones, HDTV, radio, airplanes, automobiles, smart phones, computers, push-up braziers, and silly putty. Well, maybe not the push-up bra, but if an engineer was not involved in that one, he should have been.

All these things make up our modern world, and the modern world expects more from us, every day.

There is a burden to being an engineer. It is difficult to be more knowledgable than your neighbors without telling them. It is even tougher to keep one’s mouth shut on the job when you know infiinitely more than your boss. We are learning that our burden is to build a better world, and not emabarass all the lack-luster players in the process. After all, we need others to say, “Do you want fries with that?”

Engineers rule!

Honor To Our Brothers

Picture Pearl Harbor as viewed by Japanese plane on Dec 7, 1941
Pearl Harbor from Attacking Japanese Airplane

Today, I want to memorialize two 19-year-old men who were killed in wars, my brothers Charles and Jimmy.

Charles was the first-born in the family, and was born into a poor, rural household. The year was 1923, and the Great Depression was just around the corner. The entire South was in poverty in the early twentieth century, not having gotten over decades of discriminatory Reconstruction, depression, and destructive farming techniques.

On February 4, 1941 Charles enlisted in the Army at Ft. McPherson, GA. He was radio operator, and was sent to the Hawaiian Department.  That was before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 of that year. He got there in time for the attack, and eventually wrote a letter to his younger brother, Ray, telling him of the experience. We still have copies of that letter.

After the attack, personnel were confined to the base. Charles got an opportunity to go on an air freight mission, ferrying a load of aircraft parts from Hawaii to Christmas Island. The plane got off course, and eventually ran out of fuel. My brother radioed in the coordinates, speed, and course, but they were never heard from, again. A resulting search turned up nothing.

Charles is listed as Missing In Action on June 16, 1942.  More than a year later, my parents received a death certificate from the Army Department listing the MIA date as June 16,  1943, an obvious error. My Dad flew into a rage, and called the White House, cursing and telling them of the error. Mom and Dad, later, received another certificate with the correct dates.

My brother Jimmy was just in high school when the Korean War broke out. My parents signed for Jimmy to join the National Guard so that he would not be drafted into the Army to serve in Korea.

Picture of 155 mm Howitzer
155 mm Howitzer – Still In Use

The US was in trouble in Korea, and President Harry Truman nationalized the National Guard. My brother was sent to Korea as part of a 155 mm howitzer gun crew. If you are not familiar with this cannon, it was big, with the shell being over six inches in diameter.

We received lots of souvenirs from Korea like silk smoking jackets (everybody smoked in the 1950’s) and  Korean currency. At least once, we received battlefield photographs showing dozens of dead Chinese troops. Although I don’t remember what happened to the pictures, I do remember pictures of corpses lying on the ground, dozens of them, looking like so many rag dolls thrown down in random positions. I was six years old, and didn’t understand what had happened.

On December 23, 1951 the crew had been firing their howitzer for over 24 hours. As they were re-loading the smoking hot gun, the round exploded in the breech. The entire gun crew was killed. This is the story told to our family by the Army.

Almost twenty years later as a graduating engineer interviewing for a job, I talked to a recruiter with a company that had manufactured 155 mm ammunition during the Korean war. He told me that there had been a problem with defective rounds. Today there would have been investigations and law suits. Back then, we only knew that Jimmy was dead.

Here is a description from the records of the Korean War Veterans Honor Roll:

Sergeant (last name deleted) was a member of Battery C, 196th Field Artillery Battalion, X Corps. He was seriously wounded while fighting the enemy in North Korea on December 23, 1951 and died of those wounds the following day. Sergeant (last name deleted) was awarded the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

These two men were so young to have paid such awful prices. We remember and honor them, today.

Note: 5/29/2012 – A perusal of the Tennessee National Guard web site states the following:

During the Korean War, Tennessee mobilized 11 units, with four seeing combat in Korea. The 196th Field Artillery Battalion received a presidential unit citation for helping to repulse the massive Chinese invasion in 1951.

Let’s Tag The Buggers

picture of rfid device next to a grain of rice for size comparison
RFID Device Compared To Grain Of Rice

Every now and then, somebody takes a bad idea and turns it into something that can benefit all. Some San Antonio, schools are losing money because they don’t know whether or not all the students show up at school. Now, you would think that a simple roll call would solve that problem. But, nooooo… Not in today’s America.

You see, high school students may or may not be in home room. They may be taking their last smoke before class, thereby keeping their nicotine and thc levels up to par. Or, maybe they are running late, not having spent the last of their lunch money in the poker machines down at the corner convenience store. Students can be unreliable when it comes to showing up on time.

Now, that causes problems with the school’s cash flow because most states partially fund the school systems based on attendance. Ouch! If the kids don’t show up everyday, the school systems can lose money.

Enter the RFID tag. This means Radio Frequency Identification tag, a technology that has been used on railroad freight cars for decades, and in other industries. The schools will put RFID tags into the students identification cards, and an RF sweep of the classroom will make it easy to take the attendance roll. I don’t know how they are going to get the ID’s of the kids still smoking at the Seven Eleven.

This brings me to make a modest suggestion. If the RFID in the student’s ID card is a good idea, why not go all the way and just put it on or in their bodies, somewhere? Well, why not? The little turkey’s will forget to bring their ID’s, anyway. Then, somebody will start paying other students to carry their ID to class, thereby being counted as present. Believe me, if the system can be cracked, a bunch of high school students will do it.

In the last few years we have seen a terrible surge in kidnapping of small and school age children. My little idea of putting an RFID tag on or in their bodies seems pretty sound to me. I know, some people will rebel on the grounds that their kid’s privacy will be invaded. There would be a trade-off between privacy considerations and safety.

Maybe the RFID system will not work well for my proposal. Maybe there are other technologies out there. One of the weaker features is that the RFID tag has no inherent power. It is triggered by local microwave transmissions remote from the tag. The tag re-emits a very low power microwave signal dependent on the strength of its received signal, and that would make it hard for a police helicopter search, for example.

However, with hearing-aide and pace-maker battery technology, you can launch a low power, but much stronger signal.

My heart breaks every time I hear of a four-year old child being abducted, or a seventeen year-old girl being dragged into a car, raped, and her body being dumped by the roadside. Will we ever be able to harness technology to fight these senseless crimes?

I think a simple RFID tag for each child would be beneficial. Let me know what you think.