September 2008 Archives

Presidential Debate

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I watched the presidential debate and found it interesting, for the most part. I was not happy with Jim Lehrer and his performance. He seemed to want to “mix it up” a little. I’m not interested in a debate that becomes a shouting match and on that point McCain impressed me. He remained cool and stayed focused; Obama got a little irritated at times.

I do not like the way the media and the pundits try to determine a winner. This is not a college debate team where points are scored. This is a debate where people are supposed to give views and demonstrate how they perform under pressure. The determination of a winner then boils down to whether or not you thought your candidate performed as expected.

And for the record, Obama does NOT know the difference between strategy and tactics.

MSU-7 : GA Tech-38

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Bottom line, MSU does not have an offense. Whetehr the problem is the coordinator, the style of offense, or the players themselves, Croom is going to have to make some adjustments--this season--or it will get worse and calls for a change in the head coach will grow. So far I have not heard many calling for Croom to leave, and I am certainly not doing so, but if he does not take action, and take it soonn, I predict those few cries I have heard will be louder and more numerous near the ned of the season.

Tyson Lee did play and put the first offensive points on the board in two weeks. At last weeks game the fans were calling for Lee to be put in and if he had been, perhaps we would have won that game. Lee impressed me with how he thinks on his feet and can get something out of nothing. If he had beetter blocking and his receivers were a little more consistent in hanging on to the ball, who knows what could happen.

I attended the 2008 Air Force Ball in Columbus tonight with my wife. I was there actually representing the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Military Affairs Committee but Navy uniforms were authorized so I added a touch in joint service. It was held celebrating the 61st birthday of the Air Force and the 66th anniversary of Columbus Air Force Base. We had a good time, with good food, with good people. Harding Catering handled the food and I have never had Bridget serve anything I didn’t like.

The guest speaker tonight was Major General Michael Gould, Director of Operations and Plans, US Transportation Command. He did a really good job with is talk. Like most, not all, but most, flag and general officers he was able to give a talk that was on topic, had the right amount of humor and serious content, and was of an appropriate length. Sounds like it is easy to do until you try it yourself and realize how difficult it can be. Of course the central theme was the excellence of the Air Force and the pride in CAFB and among those serve. But the greater theme was family and keeping them first. He made some excellent points but, unfortunately, it is difficult to do, especially in today’s world with today’s OPTEMPO. On the other hand, by doing what we do, we allow others to have that family time.

My wife and I actually danced to two songs. Doesn’t sound like much but for someone who does not dance (me) it was a lot of dancing. I really did enjoy the night. Happy Birthday Air Force!

The McCain interview on "The View" has been reported on the web is several places which is why I know of it. Does anyone with half a brain actually watch that show? From what I have heard about it it is not a talking head head but a talking empty head show.

Reportedly, John McCain stated that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Curt who strictly interpreted the Constitution. The McCain interview on "The View" has been reported on the web is several places which is why I know of it. Does anyone with half a brain watch that show?

Reportedly, John McCain stated that he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court who strictly interpreted the Constitution. To which Whoopi, the idiot, replied, "Do I have to worry about becoming a slave again?" Okay, idiot Goldberg, just when were you ever a slave? Never! So you could never "become a slave again". Second, is Whoopi so stupid that she does not know what "strictly" means or perhaps she does not know what he Constitution says? In fact has she ever read the Constitution? (All who think not say “aye”.)

You see Ms Goldberg, those of with brains who understand English and have read the Constitution know about this little thing called the thirteenth amendment, ratified on 06 December 1865 (long before you were born) which says, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." If a justice "strictly" interprets the Constitution then he/she most assuredly could guarantee that you would never be a slave. Of course this is only applies to slavery as in involuntary servitude--being a slave to your own ignorance is not covered by the Constitution and can only be remedied by yourself.

One the things that is often misunderstood about those of us of the conservative bent is that we are opposed to change. We are not. I am aware of no conservative who objects to the amendments to the Constitution. Our objection is to judges and justices who change the Constitution based on their “interpretation” of it. The Constitution can be amended and the process is clearly spelled out in the Constitution itself. We can also enact new laws, through the legislature. It is not the job of the judiciary to create new laws or rights based on how they choose to interpret the Constitution.

"Read, Think, Write, and Publish' by Admiral Jim Stavridis, U.S. Navy, US Naval Institute Proceedings, August 2008, pp.16-19.

In the August 2008 issue of Proceedings, Admiral Jim Stavridis, USN, Commander of US Southern Command makes a compelling case for military officers, actually military members, to air their ideas. In his article entitled “Read, Think, Write, and Publish”, he quotes Benjamin Franklin as saying “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing” and then Admiral Stavridis adds, “Do both!” The John Adams motto “Read, Think, Write” has long since been adopted by the Naval Institute, and is also my personal motto, and now Admiral Stavridis asks that we all adopt it but take it a step further and publish. [John Adams actually said “Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”]

Such a request is not without its risks, however. Putting ideas out in the open can be a dangerous thing at many levels, especially at the personal level. Reciting the widely-accepted mantra of the day, or merely restating the obvious is usually not risky. But then again, it accomplishes very little. The best writings, in my opinion, are those that get people to think. Even if in the end the opinion expressed is not widely accepted or the idea is relegated to the trash can, the act of getting the thought started is worth the effort. Of course the audience must be willing to listen and willing to have an open debate and that, unfortunately, is not always the case. When an unpopular opinion is expressed publicly, whether is right or wrong, does not matter, it can carry a high personal price. This is something I recently learned the hard way.

My former church had been going through rough times. The internal issues, which are too numerous to list here, but which were, in my opinion, not being addressed. The Session was, again in my opinion, too concerned about not hurting feelings or not offending someone than they were in doing the work they were supposed to be doing. Now I must be clear here that this is not a condemnation of any individual member on the Session or in the church—the problem was one of the organization as an entity. There were strong members of Session but the Session as a whole was unwilling to look at the problems. Membership growth had stalled, if not declined; weekly attendance was falling; the number of people removing their names from elder ballot was rising; and the minister was being blamed for all of this. Sermons were, according to those dissatisfied, “too intellectual”, “too long”, “not exciting”, and a host of other things.

The church, over my objection and against my vote, removed the minister and then pronounced the problem was solved and we needed only a healing period. I was ready to leave then, like many of my friends did, but I stayed in hopes of being able to get things back on-track. However, what followed were group discussions and surveys which resulted in little and ignored those of us who were not into group therapy. Further, those like me were being told that we needed to get with the plan. But I had a finger on the pulse of the church membership and I knew that roughly a third of the church members attended so sporadically that they were clueless as to what was happening. Another third was happy because they “got their way”. The final third was still hurt, not happy with the things were going, but were either sticking it out to try to make things better (like me) or were sticking around because they did not feel comfortable going to another church.

Recognizing this I chose to write an article for the church newsletter. I had written them in the past and they often would stimulate some thinking. The article was entitled “A Message to Garcia” and referred to the story by Elbert Hubbard which recounted the struggles of Rowan to deliver a message to General Garcia in the Spanish-American War. I pointed out that there were those of us who were still not healed and that problems remained the church. I acknowledged that there were also Rowans’ within the church who were trying to deliver the message that all was not well. Interestingly, I also pointed out that the motto of our church was “Open hearts, open minds”, in hopes that the message would be heard.

What I found was that the church seemingly no longer had an open mind. The reactions to my article ranged from “I was wrong, everything was fine”, to “who is Garcia?” There were also those who came up to me and thanked me for saying what needed to be said. Rather than stimulate debate it raised defenses of those who wanted to pronounce the church healed. Further, it was stated that if I had concerns I should take them to the Session and not publish such articles. There was even brief discussion of having Session or a committee review articles before being published. Call it what you will but in my book the church with open minds was seriously discussing censorship.

The price I paid was coming to the conclusion that it was time to leave. I hated to leave; I had really hoped that things would turn around and get better. I joined another congregation in town and have been very happy ever since. They put God first in the church and their membership is growing. My old church has seen little to no growth and even fewer members are leaving their names on the ballot for elder elections. They now have a new minister and I truly pray things get better. However, before I left, the interim minister resigned. I have this hope because there is a need for such a church and because I still have friends who attend there. There are also some friends who attend there, share many of my thoughts and concerns but, for whatever reasons, are not comfortable joining another church.

I still agree with Admiral Stavridis and John Adams, but I am now keenly aware that reading and writing do not necessarily result in thinking, and there may well be a high personal cost associated with the publishing.

Read Different, Think Different

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Read Different, Think Different. Books that will change how you view national security. Armed Forces Journal, V. 149, N 1, August 2008, pp 12-15.

Col. Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (Ret) author of the The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, also authored the cover story of the August issue of the Armed Forces Journal. He lists some books that he says will change how you view national security, and I would add will change how you view the world in general. His list is:

Chaos: Making a New Science, by James Glick
Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means, by Albert-Laszio Barabasi
Commander’s Appreciation and Campaign Design, Army Pamphlet 525-5-500
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steve Johnson
The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change Series), by Clayton M. Christensen
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, by James Surowiecki
The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why, by Richard E. Nisbett
Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Helix Books), by John H. Holland
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, by Ray Kurzweil

Pre-Professional Day at Meridian

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I got up early this morning and drove to Meridian Community College for their pre-professional day. I talked for about 20 minutes or so on engineering, its benefits, and told the students a little about what it takes to prepare to enter the profession. I then met with some students in the passageway and gave them more information.

Once again, I chose to go sans PowerPoint. In part because I’ve been doing this so long I don’t need to rely on the slides to tell me what to say; also in part because there is no need to put hard data up on the screen because seldom does anyone take notes in venues such as this. The talk was a little off, in part because I was feeling out of sorts. I slept fitfully and went to bed a throat that was beginning to get sore and was worse when I woke.

In spite of how I felt, I need get to meet with some good students. Some will make it to engineering, some will find other options. I ran into some students who were determined to go out of state to school because they wanted to get away. That bothered me somewhat. It has always bugged me when students say they don’t want to leave home but today I realized that wanting to “blow this joint” bothers me just as much. My advice was to not make a long-term decision based on short-term circumstances. In other words, we have an outstanding engineering college so why leave just to leave and possibly attend a lesser school? Stick it out for another 4 years and then “blow this joint” with a good education, entrance to good grad school (unless they want to stick around for that too—we have a good graduate program as well), or with a good job?

The faculty at MCC continues to impress me with the care and concern they show for their students. They do a good job.

MSU-34 : SE Louisiana-10

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Saturday could not have been a better football night. It was a little warm at kick-off but once the sun went down it was great.

MSU looked good but there were still some dumb mistakes. SE Louisiana scored first which I think got us fired-up...and it should have. I'm still not sure we out-played SE La I think we just played them down. We will have to do much better if we want to win against some SEC teams.

The University of Missisippi lost which always makes things better for MSU fans.

Back in July I made a presentation on engineering ethics to the annual meeting of the Consulting Engineers Councils of Alabama and Mississippi in Panama City Beach, Florida. I had planned to turn it into a little mini-vacation but my wife broke both her ankles and couldn’t travel. It turned into a quick drive down, do the presentation, and get back home—two nights and one day away.

I tend to be very critical on myself and I gave myself a B or B- on the presentation. But I just got the feedback sheets and it looks like the audience gave me an A to A+. Some comments were that the best part of the presentation was the presenter! Can’t beat that. I always sweat these presentations because ethics can be a very boring and very difficult topic to present.

Sarah Palin Impressed Me

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Sarah Palin impressed me with her speech tonight at the RNC. Yes, as the news “reporters” have mentioned so many times, I am sure it was written for her, but then aren’t all speeches written for politicians? The point is she delivered it with force and it touched on some important parts. I was especially impressed with the number of Obama votes of “present”.

I have had several discussions about which position is more important in the sense of decision-making and I come down strongly on the side of governors, and even mayors. As executives they have to make decisions and their decisions can be attributed only to themselves. They cannot hide behind other senators or representatives. They cannot get a feel of how the vote will go and then go with the flow. They cannot say they did not cast the deciding vote. When an executive make a decision it is a personal one. Governor Palin has certainly made decisions. She has not voted “present”.

Palin also hit a home run on the family issue. She is from a small town and she has a family with problems—like the rest of us. She is from the part of American that most of us grew up in, not San Francisco and LA or New York and Boston. It will also be interesting to see how the blue collar vote comes in now. While the dems talk a good game, it is laughable to think of Obama or Bidden ever actually have worked in a factory. Palin’s husband, on the other hand, is not s supporter of unions, he is a member of one—and a commercial fisherman to boot.

The talk about McCain was also good I think. It seems the maverick is back which appeals to people like me but puts off some other republicans. I will also admit that McCain’s character is not flawless but I do think it is good. He has made mistakes as we all have but his time in Vietnam has proven his character. Most dems I talk to float out the standard line that being a POW does not mean you will be a good president, and they are correct. However, it is character that counts in a president. Neither Bush nor Gore ran on a 9/11 platform yet that has defined the Bush presidency as it would have a Gore presidency.

Further, it is not the fact that McCain was a POW that matters; it is the whole Vietnam experience. When the USS Forrestal had the missile incident and McCain was injured, he did not ask to be sent home or to take a few days off. He asked to be transferred to an undamaged ship so that he could continue to fly sorties. When he was shot down and tortured, he did not crack. When offered the chance to go home early, he said he would only go home after everyone captured before him had gone home. It is times of adversity that a person’s true character comes out and that is why I prefer who has been tested and proven himself over someone who has only talked.

Obama’s mantra of change also bothers me. Change can be good or change can be bad. As a friend said once, “The bank is raising their interest rate. Yea! Oh, it is on loans and not savings.” I have also observed time and time again that people resist change. So why are so many people on board with change? I have no idea. I also doubt there will be significant change, regardless of who gets elected. Remember the promises made if only the democrats could control Congress? This has been a very ineffective Congress and I think Pelosi will be recorded in history as one of the least effective speakers. So much for promises of change.

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