October 2008 Archives

Lots of Talk, No Action

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Barack Wrote a Letter… Wall Street Journal, 29 October 2008, p. A16

The Wall Street Journal had a telling article about Obama’s work on the subprime lending crisis. In his 07 October debate, the Journal says, Obama stated that he “’never promoted Fannie Mae’ and that ‘two years ago I said that we’ve got a subprime lending crisis that has to be dealt with.’” The Senator wrote some letters to the Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke. The letters, says the Journal, called for decisive action. Obama suggested that they “’consider options’ and that ‘the relevant private sector entities and regulators’ might be able to provide ‘targeted responses.’” My favorite line from the article is “Then in paragraph four, the Harvard –trained lawyer dropped his bombshell: a suggestion that various interest groups get together to ‘consider’ best practices in mortgage lending.”

This scares me to no end. For all those who tout the Senator’s vast experience at “community organizing” this is the result of that experience. An executive makes decisions; an organizer gets people together to talk. When the Senator was blowing the top off of this crisis all he wanted was to get people to talk. We need decisions in Washington not gripe sessions. The lack of leadership in this candidate is astounding. The number of people who fail to see that lack of leadership is scary.

USAF Band and Singing Sergeants

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The United States Air Force Band, joined by The Singing Sergeants presented a wonderful concert on the campus of Mississippi State. Much of the music presented was what you would expect from a military band, good marches and service songs, all performed to perfection. This band added some other excellent music including a Concerto for Trumpet that was outstanding—and I say that having played the trombone in high school.

What I really found interesting was the Singing Sergeants and the Journey through Oz they performed. Dressed in costume, they performed an arrangement of music based on the three renditions of the L. Frank Baum’s book which include The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, and Wicked. All-in-all it was a great concert.

Tonight a group from the college drove over to Birmingham to have a dinner with some teachers from area schools. We had a good meal, met some nice people, and shared some information with them about our college. Our hope is that these teachers and administrators will in turn share their knowledge with their students. We’ve done these in the past and had some others planned for the future. Right now we are waiting to see how the economy is going to do before we plan too much.

Presidential Search

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IHL has elected to not reopen the search for president. It’s a mistake, in my opinion, for several reasons. First the board does not seem to realize that perception is reality and the perception/reality is that anyone selected from this pool is the second choice. There is also rumor that one of the preferred candidates had associates bring forth the charges against Watson resulting in magnoliagate so he will be doubly-troubled. Third, and I think most important, the board’s own consultant said at the beginning of the process that the pool of candidates would be limited by having the interim in the mix. Well, he is not in the mix now so I suspect a much different pool of candidates would result.

What really troubles me is the reports that the previous presidential search had a pool of candidates of 100 but this one has a pool of 13.

I’m feeling pretty good about the dissertation now; I wasn’t just a short time ago. I met with my dissertation advisor and we discussed some higher level topics. The next steps are to complete a high level outline of the proposal—structured but without all of the prose inserted—and we’ll discuss that. Then I can fill in the details and have the proposal ready to go. Once that is done the rest is data analysis and a little more writing.

My goal is to have the outline ready by Thanksgiving. We can discuss it before Christmas break and Christmas can be used to add the prose.

Disturbing Comments

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There have been some comments made recently in the news that truly disturb me. Let me state clearly that only allegations of wrong doing against Vance Watson have been made and, t my knowledge, no one has all (or even any) of the facts yet. There has been a rush to judgment based on opinions but not on fact.

But what bothers me are statements such as those made by the Central Mississippi Chapter of the MSU Alumni Association chair Fred Nichols. In a Clarion-Ledger article on 04 October Nichols is quoted as saying "It's a shame all of this came out so close to the selection". My question is why? The shame is that there may have been wrong-doing here. I fail to see the shame in it coming it out now. When is a better time for it to have come out? After the new president has been announced?

Bad news does not get better with age and the sooner it comes out, the better. The shame is that there may have some things done that are in violation of state law; not that they came out.

I have also been amazed by the number of conspiracy theories that have surfaced about this. I've heard and read of just about everything: From search committee members wanting to spread rumors to put "their" candidate in a better light; to other officials positioning themselves for future appointments. About the only thing I haven't heard is that Elvis or UFOs have been involved in some way. But I have not given up hope. It looks like it will a few weeks before the state auditor completes his investigation so there is plenty of time for someone to work Elvis into this.

Vice-Presidential Debates

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Palin did well. I don’t like trying to pick winners and losers of debates but if I were to say who won, it would be Sarah. Biden seemed whinny to me most of the night and he, like Obama, do not understand that George Bush is not running for re-election. Palin connected with people I think. Biden didn’t.

Interestingly, I’ve been switching back and forth between Fox News and CNN to see differences in reporting. According to Fox Palin killed Biden; according to CNN both exceeded expectations. Prior to the debate it seemed everyone was talking about how important this debate was but now that it is over, perhaps because Palin did so well, the talk is that this debate is not going to change too much. We’ll see.

Biden also seemed to have a few facts wrong. We’ll how that shakes out over the next few days.

What a man! I attended the Colin Powell talk tonight and was more than impressed. I read his autobiography many years ago and was impressed then but seeing him in person was even more impressive. He is clearly a very intelligent person and has a keen sense of humor. His talk was informative and entertaining.

We had some students present who embarrassed me, and their fellow students. Some kid (yes, kid) showed up on the floor wearing a “colorful” t-shirt and black and white checked shorts. Most everyone else was wearing business dress. Perhaps he thought he was cool, but I, and even the students sitting near me, thought he was ridiculous and an embarrassment to the university. Some students even called that he be taken off the floor.

Questions were submitted to General Powell and read by students who apparently had some role in deciding which questions to ask. One question dealt with how you could work with someone and work on topics you disagreed with. The implication was that General Powell continued to work on the Iraq war even though he disagreed with President Bush. The General set the student straight and noted that the question assumed he and the president disagreed. He clearly stated that he did not. He was in agreement with going to war but differed in how things were handled after the fall of Baghdad. Another question was so boggled and senseless I can’t even remember what it was. I only remember that the General did a great job in handling it with dignity. I was impressed with the answers given but disappointed in the questions asked.

His talk covered his time in the military, his time as SecState, retirement, and his outlook on life--he looks ahead, not to the rear.

General Powell is definitely a speaker to hear given a chance.

A Meeting and More Work

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Be careful what you ask for you just might get it. I attended the Mississippi Engineering Society’s Board of Directors meeting today. In my report from the House of Delegates I suggested that we look at considering the Bachelor’s plus 30 issue currently before the profession at our Winter Meeting. Everyone agreed…And I was put in charge of arranging the discussion. It will be a little work but I think it will be well worth it.

Other business: We are reconstituting the Council of Past Presidents, of which I am a member, and we have a short list of initial tasks. It looks like the past presidents will look at things with a more strategic view and that may take a little longer than you might want a committee to look at. We also are looking into establishing a Council of Fellows to increase the number of NSPE Fellows from Mississippi and mentor members who wish to become fellows at some point in their careers.

Dissertation Meeting

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I met today with my dissertation adviser and I think we made some progress. I’ve been struggling a lot with the topic I want to pursue, not because I don’t have any ideas but because I don’t want my dissertation to turn into a decades-long project. It looks like I am going to focus using engineering education and the EC 2000 criteria from ABET to evaluate organizational change. I’m interested in why some organizations change quickly, others do not, and some never do. What factors are involved?

Engineering education will provide the database for the study but it should have applications to many other areas. For example, how has military education changed as a result of the resurgence of counterinsurgency warfare? How will business practices change as a result of the current economic problems?

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