Thursday, January 31, 2013

The ship is about to hit the sand...

 
 
 

"She struck where the white and fleecy waves
      Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
      Like the horns of an angry bull"

The Wreck of the Hesperus

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Many years ago I was working on a very difficult project. After struggling for a week or two, my boss called me into his office for a status update. I confessed I was having a hard time. It was not for lack of effort - I was giving it my all. Expecting understanding, I heard this instead - "As this company, we pay for results, not effort". Wow! What a wake up call. I excused myself, redoubled my efforts, and completed the project to his satisfaction.

I thought about that incident in my past as I watched the send off for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While testifying at the Benghazi hearings, much of the discussion turned into a love fest, mostly by the Democrats. Even some Republicans also chimed in. "Madam Secretary, you will go down in history the best Secretary of State we have ever had!" "Madam Secretary, if not the best, very close to it!". When quizzed by one of the networks  which of her accomplishments was the most noteworthy, the answer was "travel". No other Secretary of State has traveled more. After four years of nonstop travel, the world has got to be a better place - right?

Wrong. Lets look at the facts. We helped take out Muammar Gaddafi as part of the "Arab Spring ". In the world of bad guys, Gaddafi was a light weight. However, for reasons unknown to most, we decided to join the action and support the "rebels" in Libya. Our new friends, the rebels, now have their hands on U.S. supplied small arms and are suspected in being complicit in the slaying of our Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi. In fact, some believe that Al Qaeda was part of the opposition to Gaddafi and now has established a foothold in the country. Libya is now a hot mess and we don't really know who is in charge, what the future is, and who is our friend over there.

The situation in Egypt is even stranger than in Libya. Whereas Gaddafi basically behaved himself since President Reagan ordered Naval forces to cross the "line of death" and  bomb him, Hosni  Mubarak has been a friend and a partner in peace. Even though we were not involved in his overthrow by rebels as in Libya, we turned a blind eye. The result - the Muslim Brotherhood are now in charge. Ever since Mohamed Morsi tried to grant himself unlimited powers, all hell is breaking loose. The only thing that stands between chaos and anarchy is the Egyptian Army. So far, they have kept the pot from totally boiling over.  We are betting the long odds that Egypt will settle down with a stable government and will not menace its people nor Israel. How are we making that bet? By sending the latest upgrade of F-16 fighters and parts to manufacture M1A1 tanks. If we lose this bet, Israel will have to deal with yet another hornet's nest.

We can't forget about our old friend Bashar al-Assad of Syria. His brutality to his own people is nothing less than horrific. After almost 60,000 dead in Syria, the end is not yet in sight. However, the stakes recently got higher when it was disclosed that Assad might use deadly chemical weapons against his own people. Many think that Assad has quite the war chest hidden away in the Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. In addition, other believe (including Hillary's husband) that before the the Iraq War, Saddam also had quite a stash. Those too, might be hidden in the valley. In any event, after helping Libya get rid of Gaddafi, we have not lifted a finger to stop this slaughter of innocent Syrians.  

Finally, we can't forget about the 600 pound gorilla in the room - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. The good news this week is he secured new centrifuges which can spin five times faster than the ones he currently has. The result - he will have material for a working nuke even faster. Time is running out quickly before Israel, with or without us, takes care of this clear and present danger. Many experts think the clock is ticking and action could start as soon as early spring. When it starts, it could involve the entire region, and beyond.

Well, there you have it. A legacy for our departing Secretary of State. There are more areas of concern, but for right now, I will just address the Middle East. Rather than swooning all over her at the Benghazi hearings, I would have preferred someone on the House or Senate panel tell her in America, we reward people for results, not travel.
 


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Once Upon a Time in the West....

 
 


"Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good"

Thomas Sowell


Once upon a time, in a world broken by war, depression, and misery, there arose a country in the West that would change everything for millions of freedom loving people. It was a country born of a bloody revolution, founded by freedom loving visionaries, and settled by a people whose imagination was as broad as the country itself. It was a country which became a beacon of liberty, of hope, for all to see and follow. This country, our country, continues to be unique and exceptional. However, powerful forces are now at work to reduce the extraordinary to ordinary, and maybe even less.

Years ago on a business trip to the United Kingdom, one of the men I was working with told me something very interesting. He said "I really envy you Yanks. Sometimes I wonder if you realize what you have". Not really expecting this comment, I asked what he meant. "You have freedom. I can travel to America, and if I wanted to, hop in a car and just drive. You can't do that in Europe because we don't have the land". He was right. We have an extraordinary amount of land with a wonderful highway system to explore it with. We have enough rest areas, motels, eateries, and gas stations to go as long and far as desired. But the driving was not his point. His point was we had the freedom to do it. We are a free people and our freedom is daily on display for the world to see.

All the way through the 20th century, when the world was in trouble, America was looked to for help. From both World Wars to severe economic turmoil, when the call for help came, the response was decisive. When people are hungry, America supplies as much food as needed; when a natural disaster of any type strikes anywhere in the world, America supplies relief and aid; when a country needs financial assistance, America often gives loans or gifts.

For many decades, America was the place where things were invented and then made. People had the freedom to imagine, and then turn that imagination into products. America's wanderlust continued even after the country was settled. The seven seas were explored, the poles were crossed, and then in 1969, using just spit, a promise and a big dream, America landed on the moon. America's victory became a victory for all of mankind as people on every continent became part of this milestone event. Yes, America is the land where people could dream big and do big. It is a place many wanted to come to visit or live.

As we enter the 21st century, our great nation is under stress like at no other time. In the past, we have survived many catastrophic events and have come out stronger. However, we might not be able to survive our own complacency. We are drowning in a debt created only by us. We just had an election where over 60% of the people that voted did not know our Constitution was the prevailing law of the land. That should be no surprise as we no longer teach the Constitution or civics in many of our schools.  The authority in our Constitution and the Holy Bible are questioned daily by some who are consumed by change and moral relativism. Our dreams have become daydreams as many are more interested in taking from this country than giving back to it. In short, this great country, a country like the world has never seen before, is one the verge of becoming irrelevant, maybe even obsolete. 

It has often been said if America sneezes, the world catches a cold. The world needs a strong America. It is time to take our country back from the forces of evil and complacency. This country is gift given to us, to the world, by the Most High. Time is running out. Time to wake up. Time to once again to experience "Morning in America". We owe the world and our children no less.

  





Are these to be the good old days?



"And stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days"
 
Anticipation
Carly Simon
 

I had some strange thoughts as of late. Is it possible that things are going to get so bad many will look back at this time as "the good old days". As I have aged, I have tried not to become too nostalgic. It is hard though. I had some good times living in the 80's and 90's. Not always a bowl of cherries - just interesting times - very interesting. I have lived though the drunken orgy of the dot com run up and then suffered the hangover from the dot com bust. When it was good, it was very good. The party was on. There was money to be made.

I know. If more of us had done homework, we would have seen the bust coming. I was working at Big Blue at the time, and we were knee deep in the party. Many business partners and clients were internet companies. I did wonder at times where all the money was coming from. How in the world did these internet companies make money? Born and raised in the "brick and mortar" world, I would feel like Alice in Wonderland in this fast and crazy new world of IT. I went along with the crowd, invested in some dot com start ups, and then waited for my ship to come in. Heck, many said the NASDAQ would soon hit 10,000. I ignored my instincts and the training I received in business school. I followed the Pied Piper, and when the bust came, I lost big.

Today reminds me of the dot com days. The Dow is ready to hit and exceed 14,000. Record highs! Only one minor problem. The metrics are all wrong to support these numbers. Our economy is still anemic, Europe is on life support, China is slowing down, and our debt is becoming Greece. Not to mention the fact the war on terror goes on and the Middle East is ready to erupt. As the old saying goes, "The ship is about to hit the sand". Life could become very tough, very quickly. Our life style could be forced into a change which could last for years, maybe forever. Many could be looking back to January 2013, thinking these really were the good old days.

Today, we found out that the economy is in contraction. We have gone from anemic growth to negative growth. A normal, sane economy would react to this news by a huge drop in the market - for days. Not today. Thanks to our up is down, black is white economy, with a bit of QE forever thrown in for good measure, the party is on! We are going for Dow 14,000 baby! Meanwhile companies like Boston Scientific just announced another 1,000 pink slips, and our debt is still growing by $4B/day.

It has been said the hippies of the sixties are now running the show in Washington. That may or may not be true. I will say this however - the crew we have steering the ship of state often times appear clueless. Some feel they are not clueless - they are malevolent. They are trying to wreck the economy. In any case, if our economy tanks due to either omission or commission, the result will be the same - a catastrophic financial future. So if these are the good old days, party on! We will worry about the hangover tomorrow. 

The Immigration Mess


 


"Hopping the fence or wading the Rio Grande River isn't part of America's immigration process"

 
Ted Nugent


Oh boy. This is going to be a tough one. First and foremost, let me get this on the table. I am pro immigration. Always have been, always will be. My great grandparents were immigrants. Most people who live in this country also had relatives who immigrated at some time or another. This is not going to be about immigration. This will be how we have taken our well oiled machine of legal immigration and gummed it all up. Now it is a real mess.

I have never seen or heard of anyone, not a soul, on the Conservative side of the fence say he or she was against immigration. I have however, heard many, including myself, say they were dead set against ILLEGAL immigration. As in true form, the other side has painted Conservatives and Republicans with a broad brush of being immigrant haters. Not true, not even close.

I watch a show on Nat Geo called Border Wars. As many wasteful things there are to watch these days, this show is not one of them. It is interesting, fascinating and sometimes scary. It is the story of our brave men and women on the Border Patrol and how they try to plug the holes in our very porous southern border. Greg Gutfeld on the Fox show The Five said it best yesterday - "It is easier to sneak into America than it is to get into Disneyland". Our borders are a mess. Even though we have spent billions on fences and additional security, in many places, if you can swim the Rio Grande, you are in.

My solution has always been this. To stave off any critics from Mexico, we should adopt their immigration policy. It seems to work for them. According in a 2010 article by Michelle Malkin, all is not that easy south of the border. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has blasted America over and over again for its racist immigration policy. La Raza and forces on the Left in this country agree with him. Lets first look at some facts about the "generous" policy our good neighbor to the south has in welcoming strangers (per Michelle Malkin):

The Mexican government will bar foreigners if they upset “the equilibrium of the national demographics.” How’s that for racial and ethnic profiling?
– If outsiders do not enhance the country’s “economic or national interests” or are “not found to be physically or mentally healthy,” they are not welcome. Neither are those who show “contempt against national sovereignty or security.” They must not be economic burdens on society and must have clean criminal histories. Those seeking to obtain Mexican citizenship must show a birth certificate, provide a bank statement proving economic independence, pass an exam and prove they can provide their own health care.
– Illegal entry into the country is equivalent to a felony punishable by two years’ imprisonment. Document fraud is subject to fine and imprisonment; so is alien marriage fraud. Evading deportation is a serious crime; illegal re-entry after deportation is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment. Foreigners may be kicked out of the country without due process.
– Law enforcement officials at all levels — by national mandate — must cooperate to enforce immigration laws, including illegal alien arrests and deportations. The Mexican military is also required to assist in immigration enforcement operations. Native-born Mexicans are empowered to make citizens’ arrests of illegal aliens and turn them in to authorities.
– Ready to show your papers? Mexico’s National Catalog of Foreigners tracks all outside tourists and foreign nationals. A National Population Registry tracks and verifies the identity of every member of the population, who must carry a citizens’ identity card. Visitors who do not possess proper documents and identification are subject to arrest as illegal aliens.


Wow! It takes stones for Mexico to complain about our immigration policy. Well they did, and now our Administration wants to "fix it" so we can get 11 million (or higher) ILLEGAL immigrants made legal so they can hopefully vote Democratic for years to come. By the way, we "fixed" this broken system before under President Reagan. Still broken. How do we know it will work this time? We don't.

We are not the only country that accepts immigrants. Most nations do. However, in most countries, you need to show that you are a "wagon puller" and not a "wagon rider". And to prove this take a whole lot of documentation. It is important in many countries that when they accept immigrants as citizens, these new citizens assimilate, speak the language and contribute to the economy. 

So here we go again folks. Yesterday, the President hopped on Air Force One and flew to Las Vegas to deliver a fiery speech on immigration reform. "If Congress cannot act as soon as yesterday, I will do it!". This stunt cost the tax payers $1.5M, but who cares? It is only money, and this issue keeps us from worrying about that "stupid debt issue" we keep hearing about. This group we have in Washington are amazing. Nobody in history has been better at clogging up the news cycles with "stuff" and thereby overwhelming the system. The legacy is being written day by day - and it is not going to be pretty when it is over.

 
 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Littoral and the Zumwalt





"Littoral"  - of, relating to, or situated or growing on or near a shore especially of the sea
m-w

Welcome to the new age of warfare. This is where we remember about how things were done in the past, and then adopt new systems of war fighting into the fleet. We have a new class of ship coming into the fleet which look as it they were designed on a George Lucas Star Wars set. We are no longer fighting the Soviets. We are fighting an aggressive enemy, not fighting for a specific county, not wearing a uniform, and not knowing any boundaries. Whether we like it or not, this is our new battleground, our new reality.

So what is this "littoral" as it relates to the Navy? According to Navy Technology.Com, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is designed to:
 
"Satisfy the urgent requirement for shallow draft vessels to operate in the littoral (coastal waters) to counter growing potential 'asymmetric' threats of coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and the potential to carry explosives and terrorists on small, fast, armed boats."

In other words, this ship was designed to counter today's threats. As good as the AEGIS combat system is (and it is that good), for today's threat we needed something different. The LCS ships are nothing like the AEGIS ships. Whereas the AEGIS ships have numerous capabilities to counter numerous threats, the LCS has a very specific and narrow mission. It relies on stealth and speed rather than defensive weapons. Currently, the Navy had three of these ships in the fleet and many "first of class" problems are being discovered and fixed. Dozens more of these ships are authorized to be built, so they will be an important part of the fleet for years to come.

The Zumwalt, named after former CNO Elmo Zumwalt, is a much different ship class than the LCS with a much different mission. ADM Zumwalt was the CNO when I was a white hat in the seventies. The ship has been nomenclatured to be part of the DD-21 Class, then renamed the DD (X) Class and now it is the DDG 1000 Class. Anyway, this new ship class which had already gone through downsizing, right sizing and design changes, will be nothing like the LCS class. The only similarity will be the unique appearance. When it is launched later on this year, the Zumwalt will look like a combination of the old "ironsides" ships from the Civil War and something that came out of the death star in Star Wars. It will have 21st and maybe even 22nd century technology infused throughout the entire hull. Most of this technology is not yet mature enough for the battlefield. Once it proves out, it is designed to eventually replace the to the Burke Class AEGIS Destroyer. It will be everything the Burke Class Destroyers are and hopefully a whole lot more.

Simply put, the Zumwalt is a ship design to kick butt and take names. If it is cutting edge, the Zumwalt will have it.  It will have everything from a low radar profile to an integrated power supply. The power supply will supply electricity to the ship, and lots of it. The technology will really need to catch up with the concept as the amount of power required to run the engines, the rail gun (when added) as well as the free electron lasers (when added) will be enormous. It will look bad, and if the technology can prove itself, it will be bad. It will only need a small crew to be fully manned, and the operating costs to deploy this ship are much less than current platforms.

Currently, the plan is to build three DDG -1000 destroyers and then evaluate. If these ships can do all that we hope, the size of the ship class could be increased. Since the technology is still immature and needs more development, more of an upgraded version of the Burke Class Destroyers will be built in tandem. In any event, the Navy is moving out to meet all threats, both current and future.

Pound for pound, it is hard to beat the Navy as a deterrent against most if not all threats. I am sure there are many other things going on "behind the curtain" at NAVSEA, SPAWAR and DARPA that we don't know about which are even more fascinating. Things we will need in the future to keep us safe and free. If we don't screw things up by cutting way too deep in our defense budget, the Navy will continue on for many years to protect the homeland as well be "a force for good".



 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our Shield





AEGIS - A shield or breastplate emblematic of majesty


Merriam - Webster
 
 
This will be the first of a two part analysis of the United States Navy. Since the Navy, like the rest of our national defense, is on the chopping block with sequestration, this article will focus on one very important  part of the Navy as it presently exists. The next article will deal with the Navy as it could look in the near future if it survives the cuts.

I worked on the AEGIS Program since the late seventies. When I first started, I remember seeing a movie at work on how this system would work when used in anger. The company I worked for made the shipboard computers which would power the AEGIS combat system. This much needed program had been on the drawing board for a while. The Soviet Union had developed a large and very strong Navy. They were  capable and not afraid to use it. We knew the Soviet order of battle. If push ever came to shove, the Soviets would come after the United States using saturation attacks. These attack would simply overwhelm the defenses of a U.S. carrier task force by using a multifaceted attack of land, sea and air forces.

The solution the planners came up with almost qualified as science fiction. It was pushing the technology envelope to and sometimes beyond its limits. Each task force would have two new Cruisers that would have this new combat system. Instead of using conventional radar, the AEGIS system would utilize a new phase array radar known as the AN/SPY-1. This new radar could track multiple targets from multiple sources at once. It was in constant contact with all weapons systems via the Combat Information Center. In the AEGIS movie, once the AEGIS Cruiser came under attack, the weapons systems would fire so fast, so furious, the ship looked like a roman candle.

The first big change to the system happened just shortly after it was introduced to the fleet. And this change was a big one. Each Cruiser would have the brand new Mk-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) integrated into the AEGIS weapon systems. Each Cruiser would have 8 each 8 cell VLS modules fore with same number aft. Each cell was capable of firing either a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, a Standard Missile (SM) 1, or the very powerful SM 2. Everything on this ship was built to counter the Soviet threat. The SM 2 was added to "shoot the archer". We wanted to make sure we could shoot any stand off platform before that platform could unload its payload on the fleet.

The next change was to introduce a smaller ship into the AEGIS family. The Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer (DDG) was born. This was a smaller ship carrying a smaller payload. It had 32 fewer VLS cells than a full up Cruiser. However, it was faster and more maneuverable than the cruiser. In addition, now there were more missiles with more missions. They were being developed to go into the existing or new VLS cells for the destroyer or cruiser. The NATO Sea Sparrow is one that was developed at that time. They were smaller, so four could be put in one quad pack to be used in a single VLS cell. This new class of destroyer would take over for the Cruisers once the Cruisers had gone through their build out. Pound for pound, this destroyer was just as tough as its big brother. However, as good as this new weapon system was to counter the Soviet threat, a new problem had now evolved - the Soviet Union threat was gone. All of a sudden we had a robust fleet built to counter a threat which was no longer there.

There is much more to be said for the AEGIS Program, but I will leave it for later. This star wars type weapons system transformed the fleet into something the world had never seen before. A carrier task force with two AEGIS ships would be almost impossible to sink short of a nuke. This wonder system was named AEGIS for a reason. AEGIS means "the shield". I could not think of a better name for this system.

As a former sailor, I will admit I am biased. I want us to continue to have a strong Navy. We spent billions getting our fleet to where it is today. The "cloners" of the world have watched us, and will soon have something similar to AEGIS. We need to keep improving, keep innovating. We need to do it to stay safe, to stay free. I worked on the AEGIS/VLS programs from 1978 until 1999. They were some of the best working days of my life. The shield is up. We are protected. We need to make sure it stays that way.

Optics

 
 
 
 
"A science that deals with the genesis and propagation of light, the changes that it undergoes and produces, and other phenomena closely associated with it"

Merriam-Webster
 
 
Optics. Another on of these words which has become part of the new jargon. If you look it up in the dictionary, you get the scientific definition as printed above. If you look it up on Google, you will more than likely see examples of fiber optics. Yet in the lexicon of today, optics is mentioned frequently by the talking heads. Simply put, it means how something is visually perceived by the public.

For example, one of the commands I was stationed at while in the Navy had a full length mirror by the main entrance. The purpose of the mirror was to see yourself and make sure you were “squared away” prior to departing. Over the mirror was a plaque that read “You are not in the Navy, you are the Navy”. When you were wearing the uniform of the United States Navy, both you and your conduct were noticed by others. In other words, wearing the uniform, how you looked as well as how you acted reflected on the Navy itself. Optics.

While working in industry during at a performance review, my boss mentioned to me that during a meeting I had crossed by arms. I thought, "Okay, so what?" He went on to tell me he took a class years ago on body language and crossing your arms meant you were not interested. In other words, the optics of the meeting might have suggested that I "unplugged" and had no interest. I explained to him that was not the case - I had a bit of a gut and resting my arms on it was comfortable. In any event, I took that to heart and did not cross my arms anymore in business meetings. Optics.

I am ready to absorb the torting of this word into our lexicon. We have done it before with other words, why not optics? In this world of 24X7X365 news coverage which uses all the new media, the camera is always on. Years ago, Dan Rather wrote a book called The Camera Never Blinks. That was 30 years ago. In today's media, the camera not only does not blink, but has an out and out staring problem.

Lets look at the optics from the last election. In my opinion, they were terrible for the Republicans. The "brand" for the Republicans has always been fiscal responsibility and strong moral standing. First, it was disclosed that the state Republican Party, through mismanagement or under-management was broke. Coming into a major election cycle, the party of fiscal responsibility was broke. Then one of the married leaders in the House had a public affair with a married staffer. Strong moral standing? Ouch! Finally, in a major election of the United States Senate, the Republican candidate did not have enough financial support from the broke Republican Party to take time off from his day job to run against a popular sitting Senator. Result - the Republicans got a "butt kicking" not only for the Senate seat, but lost the State House and Senate as well. Optics.

The term may be new, but the concept is not. How old is it? The bible talks about it. If Christians are to be the new creation, they must be different than the world. When the world looks at Christians and does not see a change in behavior, the world will reject the change. When a pastor or church leader falls victim to an affair or theft, the damage to the church is catastrophic. Optics are important in everything. Military, business, politics and faith. Plain and simple truth.

My advice to the Republicans is this - long before the next election, in fact starting tomorrow, be very concerned about optics. This time, have optics be your friend, not the instrument of your undoing. Similar to the motto at the command I served at, "You are not in the Republican Party, you are the Republican Party". Damn it - this time act like it! 



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Please don't confuse me with the facts!

 
 

 
"Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence"

 
John Adams
 
 
Hold on. I am about to give the other side some props. When it comes to interpretation of facts, misalignment of history, and besmirching the innocent, the other side is magnificent. Before you might think this is just sour grapes, I am going to give some facts to consider on a variety of issues. As I have said before, it is all about the messaging, and they are as skillful and adroit as they come.
 
I know in many respects, the Republicans really blew the last election. They allowed Mitt Romney to be painted as ultra rich, cold, out of touch and stingy. Not too many years ago, John Kerry was running for president. His wealth is just about equal to Mitt Romney's wealth. However, he was not painted with the same brush as Mitt was in 2012. In fact, if the Republican convention had been organized better, the story of Mitt in how giving of his time, talent and resources would have been seen by millions. The FACT is this -  Mitt Romney gives at a minimum 10% of every dollar he makes to his church. In addition he also gives millions more to other charities. In 2011, he gave 30% of everything he made to church and charity. Compare that to presidential candidate Al Gore who in 1999 gave a whopping $353 to charity. Before his marriage to Teresa Heinz, presidential candidate John Kerry gave $0, $820, 2,039, and $0 to charity in the years 1991 - 1995. George W. Bush, who had nowhere near the wealth that Gore or Kerry had, gave between 9% 15% during the period of 1991 - 1993. Yet Republicans are portrayed as stingy and the Democrats are looked upon as generous. Go figure.

The truth is, facts have shown that Republicans are just as capable of spending money as the other side is - usually only not as fast. Republicans are not cheap. On the contrary they seldom end programs and best case, only cut the rate of growth on a select few. In addition, they don't vote for dirty air, toxic water, killing grandma, or uneducated children. They don't want Medicare and Social Security to end. They do however, want accountability and cost containment on some key programs (should be all programs). For that, their message has been twisted and turned to make them appear tighter as Scrooge. By the way, for anyone who does not think that Republicans are capable of spending gobs of money only needs to go back to 2006, when Medicare Part "D" was signed into law. It was steered through the House by Congressman Tauzin (R-LA) and signed into law by President Bush. It was supported and voted for by both sides of the aisle. One minor problem. There was not the required funding, so it has blown a bigger hole in our debt. Bush has been castigated for the debt issues caused by this bill ever since he signed it. Some of his harshest critics voted in favor of this bill. Again, go figure.

The next time you hear a message from talking heads on either side, do your homework. Quite often the facts on most issues are easy to find. Many uninformed or underinformed voters fall under the trance as they drink the kool aid. There is an old saying - everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. True then and true now. Facts continue to be very stubborn things. Do your homework. It is of the highest importance we all stay informed with the truth.
 







 
 

A cup of grace, please...

 
 

 
"Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds"

Elie Wiesel


Our black lab is a runner. Always has been, always will be. Ever since we adopted her, we have been in the practice of giving her a milk bone when she comes inside upon voice command. We want her to be in the habit of coming inside for a treat should she ever accidentally get outside.

One of our former cats would wonder why every time the dog would come inside, she would receive a treat. Before long, when the dog came in for her milk bone, the cat would start to beg. Having a soft heart, I gave the cat a treat every time I rewarded the dog.

One day our oldest daughter was over and saw me give the dual treats. Immediately she challenged me. “Dad, I understand why the dog gets a treat, but why the cat? He has done nothing to deserve any reward.” She was right. The dog received a treat based on merit, and the cat received a treat based solely on grace. Before long, we started calling the cat treats “grace bits”.


For those in the Christian faith, grace is no more than showing others a fraction of the grace that God shows us. Why only a fraction? It is impossible to match the unlimited grace we are given daily. For those not in the faith, grace can still be shown. Many times it is referred to as "cutting slack", "letting it pass" or something similar. The bottom line is this - of all the things we can do to or for our fellow man, grace is one of the most noble.

I remember when I was working at a church of a different denomination than mine. The Senior Pastor of this church would constantly deride the church I came from. Not just a little, but a lot. One day when I was off, I visited the pastor in my home church. I told him of some of the terrible things the other pastor said about our church. Expecting anger from my pastor, I received this instead - "Every day when you walk into that church, bring in two cups of grace rather than one. If that is not enough, the next day bring in three". Sage advice from a very wise man.

Showing grace is showing kindness where none is due. It is forgiving when forgiveness is hard or unwanted. It is turning the other cheek or walking away when all the instincts say to fight. From human terms, grace makes no sense. From spiritual terms, it makes all the sense in the world.

Every year I try to up my grace quotient one more notch. This year I have decided to expand the grace I show others by doing at lease one of the following each day, every day:
  
  • A cheerful word
  • A kind thought
  • A caring deed
  • A hurtful word left unsaid
  • An unkind thought dismissed
  • An unhelpful deed left undone


  • I will try to follow this throughout the year. However, any day that I fall short, I will also give myself grace. Sometimes that is the cup of grace which runs out the quickest. 

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

    The Will to Win...

     
     


    "Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing"

    Coach "Red" Sanders
    1950
     
     
    Winning. Many books have been written on this subject. It is talked about most every week in some sort of a locker room. We have learned how to win, how to win with grace, how to act with class should you not win, and how to keep this all in perspective. We even have a famous former baseball player in a TV commercial telling us the best part of winning is "rubbing it in".
     
    However, winning is real life is much different than sports. In sports, if you come out on the losing end of a contest, life will go on. There is usually another contest next week, or worst case, next season. In war, not winning is life changing, sometimes life ending.

    Companies that win in the arena of ideas do well. Losing means a loss of market share, loss of market cap, or sometimes even a loss of the enterprise. To win is to prosper - to lose is to hopefully survive until the next chance to compete.

    Politics however, is another example of the power of winning. I think we could all take a lesson from the Democrats on winning. They know how to win. They believe NOTHING is more important than winning. Many times it is winning at any cost. The Republicans on the the other hand, do not. We saw it in the last election. Many did not like Mitt, did not like his campaign, did not like he was a Mormon, and so on. The result - 3 million fewer Republicans voted in 2012 than in 2008. Barrack Obama was re-elected by a margin narrower than the 3 million votes. Despite Obama's multitude of faults and failures during his first term, his base wanted to win. The Republicans not so much.

    In Minnesota this past gubernatorial election, we elected Mark Dayton. Here is a man with an empty resume and numerous flaws. Never worked in the private sector, trust fund baby, and when serving as one of our senators, Time magazine voted him one of the five worst senators of all time! There was no way on God's green earth this man should have beat a highly qualified man like Tom Emmer. But he did. Why? As flawed as Dayton was, his side wanted to win more than the Republicans did. The Democrats went for the juggler. They brought up an ancient DUI that Emmer had. The Republicans played it clean on Dayton's background, even though it was littered with problems. Result today - we have a Democratic governor, House and Senate and the tax proposals and health care exchanges are just starting to come down the pipe.

    On final word on the last two presidential elections. In 2008, the Democrats ran someone who was a blank sheet of paper. No resume, no vetting. As much as I admire John McCain, many of Obama's flaws, including his middle name ,McCain put off limits during the campaign. While McCain ran a tepid campaign, many times Obama's team went for McCain's juggler. In 2012, with the stench of Benghazi still hanging heavy in the air, Mitt refused to bring it up in the later debates. Obama's team worked Mitt over with a tire iron - Mitt's team wanted to take the higher road. Result of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns - two terms of a president who should have never even made it though the primary system.

    Maybe as we go forward into the next election cycle, the Republicans need to remember the immortal words of Coach Red Sanders -  "Winning is not everything, it is the only thing".
    Amen to that coach.

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

    Change Agent

     
     

     
    "Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts"

    Arnold Bennett


    Change agent. Agent of change. Years ago I worked for a woman who wanted everyone on her staff to wear this mantra. If you did not want to be a change agent, you best look for work elsewhere. Those who learned to speak "change" did very well working for her. Those that did not, did not. One day I had a sit down with her on the entire subject of change. I told her that I did not think that everything needed change - some things were presently optimal. That conversation quickly put me in the bad category and soon I was working for someone else.

    I listen to Andrew Wilkow most every evening. I like him. He is smart, to the point, and I usually learn something every show. Tonight he was talking about change. That is what brought back memories of working for the change agent lady. He pointed out something very interesting. The current Administration seems hell bent on changing EVERYTHING, whether it needs changing or not. Someone who is suspicious might think the Administration is doing that as a diversion - to take the gaze off our REAL problems. We are being overwhelmed, blinded by constant change.

    The latest solution in search of a problem is the women in combat issue. This is a nutty idea. As a retired Naval officer, I served with hundreds of women. All just as capable as the men I worked with. However, I was in cryptology - not combat. Women are different than men. For the most part, they are not as big, not as strong, however just a tough. There are many things that women can do in the battlefield short of being on the front line. They have done it in the past and have done it with valor. Now that this subject has been broached, it will be the pet rock for the lap dog media for many news cycles to come. Change for the sake of change. Meanwhile, the debt clock continues to go tick tock, tick tock, tick tock to a tune of $4B/day.

    The change which was rolled out today is even bigger. It is Senator DiFi's gun control measure. DiFi, herself a carry permit holder, wants to take as many guns away from law abiding citizens as possible. She and many on the Left believe the Second Amendment was put together in haste, in a different time, and needs immediate CHANGE. We just need to take guns away from the good people and then the bad people will follow suit. It is only because of the good people having guns that the bad people do bad things. The big problem for the Left is this - any gun control measure, no matter how hard it is pushed, is dead on arrival. We know it, they know it. This will not stop the lap dog media from using gallons of ink on the subject. Honest, law abiding citizens who own guns will be referred by the usual names - rednecks, Neanderthals, troglodytes and so on. While all this is going on, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

    To quote from Wayne Allyn Root's article in the Law Vegas Review-Journal from June 2010:

    "Barack Hussein Obama is no fool. He is not incompetent. On the contrary, he is brilliant. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is purposely overwhelming the U.S. economy to create systemic failure, economic crisis and social chaos thereby destroying capitalism and our country from within. Barack Hussein Obama was my college classmate.(Columbia University, class of '83)
    Barack Hussein Obama is following the plan of Cloward & Piven, two professors at Columbia University... they outlined a plan to socialize America by overwhelming the system with government spending and entitlement demands."
     
    Don't be fooled folks. He knows exactly what he is doing. By keeping the news cycles so clogged with crap, the country is being changed right under our noses. We are the frogs in the boiling water. If we don't wake up and hold our representatives accountable, we will find our country in 2016 looking nothing like it did in 2008. We have almost 50 million people on food stamps, millions still out of the work force, millions more on some kind of government assistance, and not a peep out of the press. Southern Europe is not healed, and can still drag the world into another and deeper recession. On top of that, we are going to hollow out our defense department when we still have to deal with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea and the emergence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

    So as we are getting all cuddled up with new change that means nothing, Rome continues to burn as Nero plays a lively tune on his fiddle. What are the people doing? Making merry, and dancing to the sound of the music in the glow of the burning fires. God help us if we don't wake up.

    Higher Ground

     


    "Republicans have lost touch with the messaging, tone and cultural reach needed to capture the majority of the electorate"

    The Blaze


    A question which has plagued me as late it this - how in the world did the Conservative lose the high ground in messaging? I am baffled, I am dumbfounded. The Conservative message is absolute, it is pure. It is the right thing, right now, for what ails this country. However the Progressives have stolen our words and torted the message. Unfortunately, many in the public who are "low information" voters, are blind to this and will continue to buy oil from the snake salesman. As in a battle, we have lost the high ground and have been flummoxed in how to get it back. This is turning out to be a huge problem not only for the Conservative movement, but the country as well.

    A few years ago, some had a bumper sticker which said "Mean People Suck". One day I saw a young man getting into his car at Target. I asked him what the bumper sticker meant. Who were the mean people it was addressing? He replied, "You know, Republicans. They are stingy to poor people." In his mind, Republicans are all rich, pay very little income tax, hoard their money, and by doing so put the poor in peril. In reality, the message should be this - the top 5% of income earners in this country pay almost 60% of all federal taxes.  With the group think in the current Administration, in the next four years, the 60% will probably be much higher.

    A valuable usage word which has recently been hijacked is "sustainable". If there was ever a word the Conservatives should be using over and over and over again, it is sustainable. It should be our mantra. Currently, any Federal or State program which is not sustainable, will be doomed to failure. Most people don't understand that once a program is promulgated, it becomes organic. It develops legs, a life of its own. There is seldom any metrics to see how well a program is doing, what the total cost of ownership is, or if a program has outlived its purpose (if there was one in the first place). Many programs become similar to a "dead man walking". Often times it is harder to end a program than to start one, even when it serves no purpose. Conservatives should be railing against the multitudes of programs that exist in government which are NOT sustainable. Instead we have let the Left use that word to justify the unjust. 

    Another word which  should return to our lexicon is value. Everything we do, whether in Washington or the state capitol, should be looked at from a value proposition. All spending should be evaluated not only as a value proposition, but also sustainability, life cycle, and total cost of ownership. This is not rocket science. This is what most successful companies look at before any major expenditure. Then again, most companies have people employed who are responsible for profit and loss. Simply put, value defined is this - will the final product of this expenditure be worth the resources employed. The answer to this question is never subjective. There are always proven metrics used to quantify results.

    I think the Republicans have lost touch with the message to a degree. However, I think much of the time the message has been hijacked and the Republicans don't have the skills and/or the guts to get it back. I believe the conservative message to be sound. If I did not, I would not be a Conservative.

    Years ago, Marshall McLuhan wrote a book called "The Medium is the Message". The book discussed how the form of a medium is embedded in the message. In his words, this would create a "symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is received and then perceived." The Left has become very good at this, especially using the new media. Maybe this book should be dusted off and be required reading for the Grand Old Party before the next election. Without a solid message capable of being received and understood by many, the wilderness will be our home for many years to come.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Texas or "Tax Us" ?



    "America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation"

    Laurence Peter


    This is an updated article I did a few years ago. I am doing this in honor of the new budget just released by our tax and spend Governor. I have update some of the facts I used before, but some might still be slightly outdated. Overall though, the facts used are still germane.

    This is the story of America. In America, there were two kingdoms. One eshewed taxes, and the other embarrassed them. One large inhabitant of the kingdom that eschewed taxes was named Texas. The other kingdom had many spendy inhabitants, such as New York, California or Minnesota (just to name a few).

    Recently someone who lives in Texas was asked how she was weathering the recession. She answered the question with a question - "What Recession?". Texas it seems, has dodged the bullet whereas many of the rest of us have not. To add insult to injury, Texas does not even have a state income tax. Finally, the unemployment rate in Texas is almost 2% behind the national average (6.1% compared to 7.8%).


    Many "blue states" continue to struggle. In fact, many have unemployment rates either by state measures, or major city measures that are equal to or higher than the national average. The solution in most blue states is to become more like "tax us" than Texas. In other words, where Texas believed that a state tax would be regressive, California has a state tax which tops out at 13.3%. New York is close behind and trying to catch up.

    How did we get this disparity between a state like Texas and many other progressive states in the union. Simple - all of us (but the most radical liberals) have learned a long time ago there is no such thing as a free lunch. In other words, someone always has to pay the bill, pick up the tab. States that are really in hot water such as California and New York, seemed to have forgotten that lesson. The solution always is to tax the producers and let more and more non-producers have a free ride. To quote a prominent politician in Washington, " When we have more people riding in the wagon than pulling the wagon, it is hard to go forward". The producers in high tax states understand what is going on - they are now voting with their feet. For example, recently California lost 10,000 millionaires to lower taxed states. Tiger Woods left to move to Florida, another no tax state. Phil Mickalson might be the next one to flee California. Simple math - the number of producers decreases, the number of non-producers increases and the net result in California has been a $16B deficit.


    What I find the most interesting is this problem has become endemic - it is in most states as well as the Federal Government. Dr. Art Laffer who advised President Reagan as part of this Economic Team, has written and spoken out many times on how much taxes drag on the economy. There comes a point in diminishing returns when the marginal rate becomes so high that the producers simply stop producing. They either take their business elsewhere (out of the high tax state or even the country) or cash in. When taxes are low, productivity and innovation flourish; when they are high, the opposite occurs. This has been proven over and over throughout time.

    When Minnesota had a very liberal senator years ago, the standing joke was, "Don't worry, the good news is we are only going to tax the rich. The bad news is that you are rich". If we cannot control the appetite of government, once the producers start to disappear, then the unsustainable tax burden will fall on each of us. And that will be the beginning of the end for prosperity in America.

    The Following....

     
     
     
     
     

    "The reason we're successful, darling? My overall charisma, of course"

    Freddie Mercury


    This week a new show premiered on TV. It was a good thing too, as many of the shows that I like to watch went into hiatus. The new show is called The Following. It is the story of a serial killer, who is very smart, and very charismatic. People would blindly follow him - some to the extent of committing mass murder or others even killing themselves. Even though this is a fictional show, it shows the power of people whose personalities have this rare trait of being so magnetic, people will follow no matter what.

    For some reason after seeing this show, I thought about how the press acts with our President. He has his own following of people who many times are blind to facts, and only follow the personality. There are reasons why the press today is called by many "lap dogs". They treat this President as if he was a rock star instead of a servant of the people. In the past, the media has treated the occupant of the Oval Office like crap instead of the President. That is, only if he was from the other party.

    Press conferences have the best example of the following. Many tough, thoughtful questions are asked of this President. Questions like "Mr. President, what type of music do you have in your iPod?". Or "Mr. President, how do you like your wife's bangs?". The nation is craving answers on Benghazi, the debt, jobs and so on. But who cares? Our press loves this man and would never put him in a position where he might look bad.

    As much fawning as the media does during pressers, what happened during the inauguration took the cake. It was a bigger love fest than Woodstock. I was actually embarrassed for some of them. The worst of the worst was Al Roker. He got so hyper, so out of the box excited, I thought he was going to poop in his pants (sorry). Chris Mathews received more "tingles up his leg" as he thought Obama's inauguration speech was "Lincoln like". The fact the speech addressed none of the countries most pressing problems and introduced such dead letters as "cap and trade" mattered to none. He was articulate and had a nice crease in his pants. In the media wagon, women swooned, guys had a man crush, and that is all that mattered to this pillar of history.

    It has been a while since I stopped grieving over the death of media in our country. It was fun to try and figure out which side of the political divide members of the media came down on. No more. They proudly wear their unbridled bias on their sleeves. They don't care. They are as shameless as they are ineffective. They no longer matter. They are useless. They make me sick.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Still a Clear and Present Danger

     
     


    "It is better to meet danger than to wait for it"

    Charles Colton


    Last Sunday, as I was killing time waiting for the playoff games to begin, I watched a re-broadcast of one of the Sunday morning talk shows. The show had the usual round table of pundits to discuss the issues of the day. One of the members of the round table was the network foreign correspondent who was home on leave from the Middle East.

    As the moderator was going around the table asking questions about domestic issues, he came to the foreign correspondent. He had a unique perspective on things as during his last stint in Syria, he was captured and almost killed. He was asked by the moderator what the people in the Middle East think about our issues such as debt, guns and so on. The correspondent had a smirk when he answered the question. "They are not the least bit concerned about theses issues - they are minor. What they are concerned about is the continuation of the War on Terror, resurgence of Al Quada, and the role America will play in the future". That was a show stopper. The moderator quickly dismissed that answer and tried to get the discussion back on track. "After the next break" he said, "we will discuss foreign issues".

    What this foreign correspondent said might have been lost on the panel, but is resonated clearly with me. As much as our Administration as well as the networks that support it would like to think that this pesky little War on Terror is over, it is not. There is still a clear and present danger to this country, to the West, and ignoring it will not make it go away. When it was finally time for the panel to discuss foreign issues, this correspondent went though a laundry list of trouble spots. Iran, and how Israel will deal with it, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, the unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, Mali and the Horn of Africa. In just about everyone of these trouble spots there was a common denominator - Al Quada.

    According to the Washington Post, the recent attack in Algeria which caused so much carnage was very well planned. The Post went on to say:
     
    An attack on a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert was conducted by an international band of Islamist militants, apparently including two Canadians, Algeria's prime minister said Monday, Jan. 21, in the first official accounting of the bloody four-day siege. Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal told reporters in Algiers that the attackers wore Algerian army uniforms and had help from the inside.

    This attack, just like the one late last year in Libya, show just how embolden our enemy still is. We can continue to "spike the football" over the killing of Osama, but the sand has filled the hole quickly. Where evil is concerned, the list of candidates to do very bad and vile things is long and endless. A terrorist being questioned after the 9/11 attack told one of the interrogators, "You Americans measure your patience in years. We measure ours in centuries". Translation - they will wait us out. We are tired of this War on Terror and want to get on with immigration reform and re-writing the Second Amendment. Fine with Al Quada. We want to gut our military, reduce our footprint. That too is fine with Al Quada. What has kept us safe since 9/11 has been our vigilance. To move on from that horrible day in September 2001 when our enemies did not, would be the worst of all mistakes .

    When our country was founded and the charter of the government established, the cornerstone responsibility was the protection of the states. We need to remember that. Law abiding citizens who legally own firearms are not the enemy. The enemy is a band of murdering thugs who operate without country, without uniforms, and without hesitation. Our families, our neighbors, our fellow citizens are all still in mortal danger. I say mortal danger as this enemy has shown they will kill without mercy, and kill in great numbers.


    Now that the euphoria of the second inauguration is over, we need to remind our leaders of what the NRA recently reminded us all - the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And that includeds the growing list of bad guys who live outside our borders.

     

    Monday, January 21, 2013

    Making Stuff that Makes Stuff...

     
     

     
    "We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths"
    Walt Disney
     

    For those who have been patently waiting for some of our off shore manufacturing jobs to come home, some good news. Many experts believe in the near future more segments of our manufacturing base will come home. However, the jobs will be filled with "Hal" (the computer from 2001 - A Space Odyssey) and not someone who has a pulse. Yes, while very few have been paying attention, our robot technology has gotten better, cheaper, and more integrated into our manufacturing processes.

    Last week I was watching a show on one of the cable channels. It dealt with how to make gas tanks for cars or trucks. There was some human touch labor in cutting out the metal to start the process, but then it was all robotics. The robotic welds were needed to be so precise, so accurate, that the finished tanks could be inserted directly into the car frame. When this was done by human welders, no matter how skillful, the tolerances were often not tight enough so there needed to be some "tweaking" to make the tank fit the right way. When the assembly line was shown as the tanks were being inserted, there were robots everywhere. Very few people, many robots.

    Years ago I had the chance to work on some robotic technology with Stanford University and a small company in Salt Lake City. It was very interesting to say the least. We were trying to develop a robotic hand, and if that worked, maybe an arm. We were at the point where the hand had state of the art accelerometers infused in it. This hand could hold almost 10 pounds or an egg without breaking it. It was all in the accelerometers. It would hold something ever so gently until it could sense it slipping. Then the accelerometers would slowly, yet instantly increase the grip. It was heady stuff for the early 90's.

    Back to our manufacturing. If we could take politics out of this and just be truthful, our manufacturing will never again be as it was. Technology has moved the goal posts. If you have seen a demo on how a 3-D printer works, you would think you are watching an episode of Star Trek. This technology is just in its infancy, and it is already getting the "WOW" response. It is like watching a replicator from a science fiction movie. In fact, more and more, our robotic technology is moving from science fiction to science.

    So where will the new manufacturing jobs be? Simply put, they will be in making the items which make the items. It will be in the integration of CAD, CAM and CAL into the total automated processes. It will be taking "touch labor" out of the equation wherever practicable and replacing it with automation. Not to sound cold, but where ever that can happen, it will eliminate hourly pay, benefits, sick days and unions. With proper maintenance, robots can work 24X7X365. In addition, it takes the very good work product and replaces it with the almost perfect.

    If we play our cards right, the future will belong to us. Food will become ever more important in a hungry world, and we know more about growing and processing food than anybody. We can also become the world leader in potable water reclamation. We need to keep our fingers in the energy game by developing batteries, capacitors, fuel cells and solar (forget wind). Once again we should look at the feasibility of cold fusion and develop safer methods of harnessing fission. In addition, if we train and educate our young people the right way, our country could once again be the bastion of world class manufacturing. We just need to continue to learn how to make things that make things, and do it better and faster than anyone else.

    The future is out there. We know what we have, what we can do, and what needs to be done. We just need to do it.


    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Assault on our Batteries?

     
     


    "We see portability in electronics being a continuing requirement, higher functionality, better battery life, requiring lower power for the actual electronics"

    David Milne
     
     
    A major part of our "new world" of energy will revolve around battery and capacitor technology. I will be the first to admit, I was more than a dunce on this entire subject. However, when I started with a new company in 1990, the first task I was given was to work on their high technology programs. These programs were "over the horizon" programs - technology so new, so advanced, it was being developed on the fly. Although I only had the opportunity to work on these programs for a year, the learning I received was intense and very interesting.
     
    One of the major  technology programs I was involved in was a new type of propellant for artillery shells. Not to get too technical, but today's artillery shells travel about 1 to 2 km/sec using standard propellant. This new program sought to use a combination of massive doses of electricity and certain chemicals together to allow a projectile to travel as fast as 10 km/sec. The advantage of obtaining this speed was simple physics - a sabot shaped charge traveling at that rate of speed needed no explosive warhead to be lethal. The kinetic force of a sabot hitting a tank would defeat any protective armor allowing the sabot to kill the tank in a fiery ball of molten metal. It was heady stuff, it was scary stuff.
     
    In addition to this technology, the rail gun was also being developed. A rail gun operates the same way, only without the chemicals and much more electricity. Whereas one technology might take as much as 9 megajoules of electricity, the other might take twice that much. To put this simply, that is a lot of capacitors needed to store the required power. Besides weapons, it was also thought this technology might be used by NASA to launch low orbit satellites. To make a long story short, none of these programs ever reached fruition due to the immature technology of batteries and capacitors. 

    Flash forward 18 years. Towards the end of my career, I was doing technology procurement for large company in the Twin Cities. One of the items I bought was a tablet for mobile technicians to use. A common complaint from the technicians was battery life. The battery life on many of the high usage tablets was not optimal. I requested the tablet vendor fly in their corporate battery expert to present current battery technology at the next quarterly review.

    The vendor flew in their expert all the way from Japan. He was knowledgeable, articulate, and able to handle many different questions. I was amazed however, how little advancement had taken place in battery technology from 1990 to 2008. Many of the same problems still existed. The expert from Japan told me his company, along with many others in Japan, were working feverishly on battery technology - however, there were still big hills to climb. I asked him point blank - will we get to where we need to be on this technology, or is this just a fool's errand. He was convinced that batteries are the wave of the future, but not for a decade or two (with luck).

    That brings me to today. We are trying very hard to get cars like the Chevy Volt to work with battery power. What we have found out is this - they will work to a degree, but there are many limitations. Temperature, cycling, storage, running the heater or a/c, just to name a few. In addition, they are expensive and have a slew of negative externalities of production. Lithium rechargeable batteries can still overheat and catch fire - check out the stories with some laptops and cell phones. In fact, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has just been grounded by the FAA for battery issues - like catching fire.

    The next time one of you "green" friends talks to you about the electric car, remind that person of these realities. The technology is not mature enough yet to have a successful "go to market" product. It is expensive, the manufacturing process causes unacceptable pollution, overheating is still a problem, and very few charging stations are around if you need a "jolt". Will we be there someday? I believe so. I think it is worth having some private, and yes maybe even some public investment into this technology. However, not one more taxpayer dime towards any "go to market" products until the maturity of this technology is at an acceptable level.