Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Air Taxis -- A Work in Progress:

Please Stand By.......

My apologies anyone who happens by for not yet posting the follow-on to my last post. I was just going to give a brief overview of the Air Taxi concept and how the Eclipse and other Very Light Jets (VLJs) were positioning themselves to capitalize on the 'Air Taxi' market-to-be (Although there are currently air taxi services none match the promised scope of the new paradigm). I am working diligently on the subject, but it has grown to the point that I must break up the follow-on into at least two separate segments: The factors driving the Air Taxi concept will be the subject of Part 2, and an appraisal of the contenders (aircraft and operators) will be in Part 3.

Gee….This is just like my REAL job in aerospace: I’m behind schedule, but I’m going to give you more in the delivery.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Eclipse 500 Wins the Collier Trophy

Now THIS is cool

Innovation and Paradigm Shifts: Synergy of the Economic and Cultural Elements of Power.

I’ve been following the Eclipse story since it began. It was formed by a small group of big-name leaders from a fairly diverse set of tech industries, many of whom are real ‘airplane’ people who have the vision and wherewithal to create an innovative jet for a target market that didn’t (and doesn’t) yet exist.

The idea is pure genius, because the new market doesn’t have to materialize for the jet and company to succeed. The stand-alone effort itself forces a revolution in the light aircraft and executive jet industry using breakthrough technologies such as friction-stir welding and low-cost integrated avionics/systems, which lower costs and prices dramatically: the Eclipse 500 is about half the cost of its closest competitor. Eclipse is poised to protect their edge in the Very Light Jet market through proprietary interest in the new technologies. A third key technology, an extremely low cost engine design didn’t work out in time to meet Eclipse’s schedules, but it got them far enough down the path of development to gain an established light jet engine builder’s interest in the potential market for an engine that would meet Eclipse’s needs.

If you placed your order and deposit at the start of the project, your airplane will cost less than one million dollars (plus the opportunity cost of having your deposit money tied up for the duration of course). To give you an idea of what kind of a ‘legacy’ aircraft you can get for that kind of money, think of an older piston-powered airplane with a turboprop conversion. Maybe. If you are a real good horse-trader. The costs of buying and operating are so reasonable, my own physician (FAA medical examiner), who has a Beech Baron now, is thinking about getting an Eclipse.

Next Post: Eclipse Part II -- Changing Air Travel.
If the new market does materialize in a size and scope that the makers of the Eclipse envision, it will force the already ailing airline industry to make further changes as well to respond to entry of a new competitor, the Air Taxi service.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Fed Consumer Survey: Demographics and Economic Recovery at work

The Fed just released the findings of the latest (2001-2004) survey of consumer finances aptly titled: Recent Changes in U.S. Family Finances: Evidence from the 2001 and 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Let me categorically state up front that it appears the Fed paid for generally sound methodology (a hallmark of NORC), and that reasonable care was taken in executing the survey. The survey’s limitations were properly noted in the report; and although most people probably wouldn’t recognize them, they should be obvious to those with the most interest in the survey.

The ‘bottom line’ finding of the survey is that between 2001 and 2004, the growth rate of the mean and medium income was lower than the previous two cycles. See chart above.

Fed Releases Survey of Consumer Finances Molehill, MSM Builds Mountain Range
(AKA: Thank goodness we have the UAE Ports non-scandal right now, or else the Left would have their phasers set on ‘Shrill’.)

Now that the findings have left saner realms and have entered the wilds, a Google search yields no fewer than 277 (as of 20:50 Hrs Central Time US) ‘news’ references to the survey. Among the first thirty items returned we find:

Wages not keeping pace with inflation, survey finds
Median net worth slows from 2001
Barely gaining
Incomes fell from 2001-04, Fed says
As debt rises, wealth leveling off
Debt, lower wages clip net worth growth
Average inflation-adjusted family income drops in 2004
Family incomes dropped 2.3% 2001-2004, Fed says

It looks like about 1 in 5 media sources resisted (this time) the dark side. Apart from the inability to tell a mean from a mode or a median, most of the MSM evidently can’t tell a 'lower gain' from a 'loss'. Or in some cases, if they had bothered to read the report at all, they would have seen the gain that was experienced, was already adjusted for inflation.

Study's Limitations Prevent Leaping to Conclusions

There’s some insight to the methodologies used in the study available elsewhere on the Fed website, but there is plenty within the document itself to keep me from drawing any kind of ‘negative’ reaction with the information that has been released. I have questions about some things that are not explained, but just going over what is explicit in the report should suffice in understanding my ambivalence. Here is a couple of examples:

First, much or all of the reduced growth, as seen in the chart above, could be explained by a single point made within the report (Page A2):

The U.S. economy was in a mild recession through much of 2001, and real gross domestic product was flat for the year. However, this pause in the growth of real GDP was followed by some pickup in 2002 and sharper gains of 4.1 percent in 2003 and 3.8 percent in 2004.

So we spent 2001-2004 climbing out of a recession. If one has any kind of memory at all, one would remember that most of that time being called a time of ‘jobless recovery’ in the press and by others. The jobs that would have raised the growth rate in median and mean income came later in the recovery. Continuing the same paragraph…

However, this pause in the growth of real GDP was followed by some pickup in 2002 and sharper gains of 4.1 percent in 2003 and 3.8 percent in 2004. The unemployment rate, which had peaked at 6.5 percent in mid-2003, fell to 5.1 percent in 2004.

But if that isn’t enough to explain all of the ‘lower growth’, perhaps the following (page A1) is:

Several demographic shifts had important consequences for the structure of the population. The aging of the baby-boom population from 2001 to 2004 drove a 2 percentage point increase in the share of the population aged 55 to 64. Overall population growth was about 3 percent, and, according to figures from the Bureau of the Census, 58 percent of the growth was due to net immigration. Also according to Census estimates, the number of households increased 3.6 percent—a rate slower than the 5.5 percent pace in the 1998–2001 period—and the average number of people per household remained close to two and a half.

So we have significantly more people at retirement age during this last survey period than previously, and over half of our growth rate is from immigrants who traditionally fill entry level jobs at higher rates than the general population. These factors alone could account for most of the reduced growth. In my industry (aerospace) alone, we are experiencing a huge earnings (and brain) drain due to the bulk of the workforce reaching retirement age:

As noted by the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry, "Statistics from a variety of sources indicate that the aerospace workforce is "aging" and that 26-27 percent of aerospace workers are eligible to retire by 2008. The average age of production workers is 44 in the commercial sector, 53 in defense, and 51 at NASA.

Aerospace is not the only high-pay technical area that has this problem, but to understand the impact of retirees leaving high-paid jobs just in the aerospace sector, consider this testimony made in the House of Representatives Committee on Science in 2003:

The aerospace industry is a powerful force in the U.S. economy, contributing over 15 percent to the Nation's Gross Domestic Product and supporting over 15 million high quality jobs

You read that right: One industry = 15% of the GDP. At my company, they started retiring in droves about 1996, and hardly anybody is staying longer than they have to. We can’t hire young engineers fast enough, and they don’t make nearly as much as the old hands in this “knowledge worker” industry.

There are some other things that could have inordinately affected the results of this survey compared to past cycles. For example, this time around the Fed treated company-financed pension plans differently. There is also the big unknown in the effects of oversampling the upper income group (due to much lower survey response rates) and how that might vary from cycle to cycle. And I want to now mention the obvious factor I have studiously avoided to keep things manageble up to this point: A little event called September 11, 2001 -- the full impact of which could not have been felt before the end of the previous survey cycle. Finally, if one wanted to split hairs (and if this was done by anybody but NORC I would) the whole idea of using a survey instead of a census would make this too suspect for concrete conclusions.

Read the survey report and the referenced materials. You will end up yawning over this ‘story’ as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Enjoy the Yale Free Press....Typos and All

I hadn’t checked in at the Yale Free Press for a while because I thought they weren’t updating it anymore. I was contemplating removing it from my ‘favorites’ when I was pleasantly surprised to find they’ve started posting new stuff.

I was doubly happy to find TWO relevant pieces to recommend:

Assassination as a Tool Update

Looks like I’m not the only one who recognizes that sometimes assassination could be the best course of action. Read Kerri Price’s “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Mugabe?”

Liberal Colleges are (gasp) Liberal!

The YFP conducted a Freshman Poll and found:

“nine out of ten respondents labeled themselves “liberal,” “leftist” or, worse, “socialist.” When asked to list their political heroes, the left-leaning frosh favored Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton.”

So it looks like it is pure GIGO* at some universities.

Couple this with the resignation of Larry Summers as President of Harvard (Hat Tip: American Thinker) due a vocal (read ‘rabid’) ‘plurality’ of PC faculty, and you have to just wonder why these places are still referred to as ‘Elite’ when all they are is 'Exclusive'.

BTW: I don’t see a lot of Ivy League job applicants, since I am (mostly) just involved in hiring Engineers. But when I do, their job application goes straight to the bottom of the pile, and they have to work their way up in the stack during the interviews. They'll always get fair consideration: I work from the going in position that even Harvard can't keep all the good people out.

*Garbage In, Garbage Out

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Army of Davids, Gatekeepers, and the Global Warming Debate

Information is Royalty – Instant Access is Divinity

I experienced two independent events today that have a common element: Barriers to communication and information are disappearing. They are not doing so voluntarily, but are being forcibly knocked down.

First Encounter:

I looked at the newspaper rack as I went through the turnstiles to work this morning and noticed the top headline was something I had read all about online. Yesterday.
Before I went to work.

I immediately thought about Glenn Reynolds’ meme in his new book: Army of Davids. It’s not released yet, but the subtitle reveals the general thrust of it: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths. I’ll probably buy this one instead of borrowing it from the library, because it’s a concept with major implications in all areas where there is competition (which essentially means ‘everything’). There are also direct implications in my Military Operations Research work. Gatekeepers are potential chokepoints or 'centers of gravity': potential weaknesses that can be exploited.

There are a lot of constructs for thinking about how information (or anything else for that matter) is created, accessed, and distributed. ‘Stocks and Flows’ and ‘Producers and Gatekeepers’ are two of the more widely known constructs. The thought occurred to me (once again) that newspapers would be a lot better off if they changed their business model from getting incomplete or incorrect information out as fast as possible to a business approach that would provide more accurate detailed information on complex news. This would leverage their inherent advantage in research resources and production capability, and stop a losing battle against the millions of ‘Davids’ who have picture phones and camcorders and are on the scene everywhere. Let the ‘Davids’ get the ‘instant’ word out: Newspapers could give us the ‘meat’ of the story.

I don’t hold much hope of it happening though. It looks like the allure of the ‘scoop’ still holds sway.

Second Encounter:
(Sidebar for Full Disclosure: I am an Anthropogenic Global Warming Skeptic. I understand the difference between models and reality, data and evidence, anecdote and proof.)

So tonight I am researching the latest Global Warming news and I come across an interesting post at Climate Audit. What caught my eye, beyond the excellent article referenced, was this comment (#12, emphasis mine):

My father-in-law, Dr AB Hollingshead, a noted social scientist and department head at Yale in the 60s and 70s were [sic] discussed the weakness of the peer review processes over a couple of beers in my back yard in 1973. He pointed out that most shifts in scientific theory comes at generational boundaries, as those protecting 20-30 years of academic work die off, allowing the next generation to stake their reputation on new ideas and better information. He saw peer review as nothing more than a job protection mechanism, newly minted academics conformed to the current dogma, or they do not get published. In a [sic] publish or perish environments, this could have long term implications for young professors, but it was job protection for the old guard. In dad’s view when the old guard died off, there was a window of opportunity to introduce new ideas. Now, we have outsiders like Steve and Ross, who are not waiting for a generational boundary to identify the errors of the old guard and providing new insight to the problems of calculating past temperature trends from cherry picked tree rings.

That last sentence aptly identifies the Climate Audit authors as the ‘Davids’ of this little corner of scientific controversy.

A little later in my daily reading on the same subject, I came across this excellent opinion piece, highlighting the point that (from my POV) Climate Alarmists seem to think as little of the ‘Anti-Alarmist’ Davids, as the MSM does of theirs:

Phil Maxwell makes the snide comment that “most of the Global Warming Deniers are elder members of the scientific community desperately carrying on a rearguard action”. It is indeed true that a large proportion of these independent scientists are retired people. They can afford to be independent.

Thus, from the news of the day to pressing scientific issues, the Army of Davids are on the march.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Space Force?

Every now and then I want to unload with a more substantial topic than the 'Outrage of the Day'. So here goes...

Separate Space Force? Someday
A lot of 'futurists out there want a Space Force now.
and yeah, I've been thinking about this for a while.....


The discussion surrounding a possible separate military service responsible for "Space" has been heating up for years. Critics of the current system that has the Army, Air Force and Navy participating as components of a joint Strategic Command (an arrangement that has existed since 2002) feel the current system, like the system before it where individual service components reported to a unified U.S. Space Command, does not offer real advocacy for "Space".

The usual criticism is that the system merely perpetuates the relative apportionment of the "space pie". Whether or not the criticism is valid is not germane to the question of a need for a separate space service. What must be done is to use the principles and rationales that were behind the creation of the existing services, and overlay them on the current question of a separate space force. Using this methodology it will become obvious that there is no valid reason for creating a separate Space Force at this time.

Core Problem

The main difficulty in addressing the problem is that the individual service branches and the parent Department of Defense (DoD), as institutions, do not fully understand the reasons for the continued division in their responsibilities. They fail to understand the reasons because they do not recognize them. This failure comes about largely because the two most senior of the three independent services, the Army and the Navy have their conceptual roots in ancient history, and so the issue has not been thoroughly examined, or even greatly reflected upon, for centuries. It is also due to the fact that the third service, the Air Force, is still so new that some still believe it should be part of the other two services, and that the Air Force's own self-perception as an institution is still evolving(1).

Service self-perceptions have been further muddied in light of the Goldwater-Nichols (2) Act which, among other changes, made the nine unified combatant commands' Commanders (formerly called CINCs) directly responsible to the President through the Secretary of Defense. These Commanders are America's "warlords", who command organizations that have "broad, continuing missions" and are "composed of forces from two or more military departments (3).” Thus, the chain of command above the actual combatant commands now circumvents individual service chains of command and cultures. The individual services are no longer directly connected to, much less responsible for, the conduct of war.

Dilettantes and partisans assert that we have unnecessary overlap in the Roles and Missions of the different Services. Some have so grossly oversimplified the Service structures as to assert the US has ‘four air forces’ (4) or ‘two armies’(5). Setting aside resolving this issue for a moment, let us examine the specifics of the individual Service’s approach to the exploitation of the Space milieu.

Service Views on the Stewardship of Space

There was not even an American Air Force when the first military use of space occurred: the Nazi's V-2 rocket entered space on its sub-orbital hops from mainland Europe to England. At the end of the war, the Army and Navy vigorously pursued their own space programs using captured German technology as a seed for their own programs. The Army and Navy orbited the first and second United States military satellites respectively. The Air Force, as a new service in its own right, began immediately investigating military uses of space.

The Army and Navy saw (and still see) space as critical to performing their mission, and all services acknowledge that the Space dimension of warfare is going to grow even more important. This relevance to all the services drives their concern for space.

The Army and Navy stake some claim related to their role on land and sea, but only the Air Force has laid definitive doctrinal claim to space as a service-specific area of responsibility. All see space as part of a "continuum"(6) in which they operate, but the Navy and Army see it as part of a continuum of different environments through which they project force. Only the Air Force views space not as an extension into a different environment but as part of a continuous environment that is one of air AND space:

“Our Service views the flight domain of air and space as a seamless operational medium. The environmental differences between air and space do not separate employment of aerospace power within them.”(7).

It is this concept of the medium, central to the Air Force view, which caused Air Force General Larry D. White to coin the term “aerospace,” in 1954, and also later led to the Air Force being assigned the land based leg of the strategic "Triad"; ICBMs.

So all the Services find “Space” a critical element to their mission. When will Space warrant it’s own separate Service?

Looking Back To The Origins of the Existing Services

As mentioned earlier, the key to justifying the origin of a separate Space Force is found in the origins of the existing services.

The concept of an "Army" precedes recorded history, or at the very least has existed since history began. An army's purpose was (and is) to advance or defend some social construct. Since warfare only occurred on land, ancient armies were responsible for the total defense needs of a society.

In ancient times, a state’s ‘navy’ was the sum total of all it’s sea-going fleet of merchant ships. Around 1200 BC, the first recorded sea battle occurred between the Egyptians and the Sea People. This first battle was between sea-borne infantry forces carried aboard small ships designed for other purposes. If the nature of man has not changed too much over the centuries, there can be little doubt this battle on the ocean set off the first calls for an independent combat Navy: But for centuries that followed, the Navy's sole combat purpose was to transport the Army to far shores for use in land battles. While occasionally sea combat occurred, it was always in context of supporting land-based objectives, by ramming the enemy and using foot soldiers engaged in close combat. Eventually, technologies were developed for sea-based combat, such as purpose built ships with catapults (the first naval artillery). Over time the growing importance of sea-borne trade to a society's survival also created a need to protect that trade. The focus then shifted to exploiting the sea medium as a means to directly support societal objectives, not exploiting the sea medium to support land-oriented combat. In short, control of the sea became an important objective in its own right.

Roles and Missions Vs. Mediums and Methods

Modern discussions of the different services have focused on how their Roles and Missions are unique yet mutually supportive. But ‘Roles and Missions’ are the ‘what’ in how Service responsibilities differ and are merely products of the differences in ‘Mediums and Methods’.

The ‘Mediums and Methods’ are the ‘why’ we have different Services.

For centuries now, the purpose of the Army has been to exploit terrain and the Navy's has been to exploit the sea to support societal (now national) objectives. When man first began to fly, a new medium for conflict and exercising National Power became available. It’s an environment distinctly different from the others, in that it is a three-dimensional and global medium. Like the earliest naval combat example, it was originally viewed in the context of its usefulness to the other mediums, but over time has become important in its own right (non-withstanding the fact that there are those who would see the Air element as forever a supporting element.)

The other services still use the air (now aerospace) as an environment in exploiting their primary mediums, as the Air Force also uses the land and sea in exploiting aerospace. The key to understanding the delineation among the services is to understand that while they all use the land, sea, and aerospace mediums, each one is only responsible for development of methods to exploit one of the mediums. Thus, instead of thinking of the services in terms of Roles and Missions, it is more appropriate to think of the delineation in terms of Mediums and Methods.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act has driven home this concept, by completing the separation of the individual services from the direct responsibility to conduct warfare operations and explicitly tasking the individual services for providing the right forces, through training, research and development, and acquisition, to exploit their respective mediums under a joint service effort.

Air and Space or Aerospace?

So at what point does Aerospace yield to "Space"? As stated earlier, the key to justifying the origin of a separate Space Force is found in the origins of the existing services. Each service is chartered to exploit a medium for national defense. The need for each service to become a separate entity came about when its medium and operation within that medium became important in its own right to a societal interest. At this time, all space operations (8) are important as a support element to or sub-part of operations in the other mediums, and clearly within the concept of Aerospace. As the 'space' portion of Aerospace becomes a more critical part of what would previously be considered pure "air" operations, it would probably be appropriate for the Air Force to become the Aerospace Force.


Space will become an important medium in its own right when stand-alone activity in space becomes important to national interests. When space becomes an important medium in its own right, separate from its support function to operations in other mediums, space will warrant a separate service charter to exploit and develop the medium of Space sans "Aero." This will likely occur after we are living and working permanently in deep space, executing non-earth-centric operations and then only after we are out there with a more significant investment in resources and personnel. Examples of this kind of environment includes permanent self-sustaining space-borne activities, such as Lunar or Lagrangian-based large scale manufacturing concerns, that cannot be effectively protected or developed by Aerospace forces. Eventually, as extra-terrestrial colonization is established, a Space Force will be necessary to ensure free trade and movement among far-flung interests.

(1) See The Masks of War and The Icarus Syndrome by the late Carl Builder for excellent analyses and summaries of the service branchs' self-perception.
(2) See Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 at http://www.ndu.edu/library/pubs/gol-nich.html for a complete summary.
(3) Ibid
(4) Senator Sam Nunn on the Senate Floor, 1992. http://www.cdi.org/adm/617/
(5) Richard D. Hooker, America’s 2 Armies, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/jfq_pubs/jfq0806.pdf
(6) An excellent example of this is found in Space is an Ocean, a briefing on the Naval Strategic Vision for Space by the Strategy and Policy Division (N51), Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, retrieved 1 March 2002 from http://www.hq.navy.mil/n3n5/Topsight/space/spaceTP3/tsld001.htm
(7)United States Air Force, The Aerospace Force (Washington D.C., 2000), i. See also, United States Air
Force, America’s Air Force Vision 2020: Global Vigilance, Reach, and Power, (Washington D.C., 2000), page 3.
(8) See The Transformation of American Air Power by Benjamin S. Lambeth. “A functional or operational, as opposed to a systems, approach to thinking about space power application should make the differences between orbital and atmospheric operations irrelevant.” Page 258 (Cornell University Press, 2000)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Assassination: Another clear candidate for the Exterminator.

Moron ups ‘reward ‘ for killing Danish cartoonist
(Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin )

Really! Sometimes I think the worst thing about being a slow-to-take-offense free and democratic society is that our peaceful inclinations are always misread by our potential enemies as evidence that we are ‘weak’ and won’t fight under any circumstances. How many times has the United States ended up fighting a war, because we were pushed too far?

Let’s see, for starters :

1. It is why we were ‘late’ to enter World War I after initially declaring absolute neutrality.


2. Why a ‘pacifist’ national mood made FDR support the Allies surreptitiously against the Axis for so long. Had Japan not blundered and attacked us, would we have ever entered the war or would all of Europe be German-speaking?

I hope I am wrong, but I think we could be looking back in 5 to 10 years and realize that since September 11, 2001, world events to-date have been a precursor to another conflict that could rival WWI and WWII in scope. It all depends if the ‘other side’ wises up to the idea the West can only be pushed so far.

To finish on an ‘up-note’: our tolerance and desire for peace seems to always make the ambitious losers of the world overplay their hands too quickly, and that allows us to overcome, usually at a great cost that could otherwise have been avoided. (OK, so that very last part was kind of a downer)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Assassination: An Underappreciated Tool in the Toolbox

Assassination is a Facet of The Military Element of Power
The recent announcement of a large reward for the murder of a Danish cartoonist by a ‘cleric’ in Pakistan highlights a dynamic in the current war against Islamofascists that isn’t being discussed openly in the West. Hopefully it is being discussed privately among the Western leadership.

The subject is assassination and subversion: more specifically, the selective assassination of certain so-called 'leaders' calling for the destruction of the West, and the active subversion of their power structure. These ‘leaders’ are actively seeking to destroy Western Civilization, and impose dhimmitude upon the West. Their selective death and/or disappearance would frustrate and inhibit potential replacements. This will do nothing about the burning hate behind the remaining fascist’s ideology, but it will ensure that their hate stays within a tighter circle of fanatics...because it is a lot harder to foment trouble when you can’t scream at the top of your lungs about it.

How to (Mostly) Stem the Tide of Islamofascism
It seems to me quite sensible to develop a coherent strategy for dealing with these vermin as individuals without having to go to the trouble and cost of conventional warfare for the following practical reasons:

1. If action must be taken, the elimination of a relatively small number of troublemakers is a far more moral and desirable option than placing large populations under the threat of total warfare. Taking this approach would not necessarily pre-empt use of general warfare for other compelling reasons.

2. Assassination would more fully exploit a Western advantage in asymmetrical warfare. It capitalizes on the weaknesses of the Islamofascist organization along tribal lines. Decapitation of organizational leadership creates greater internal friction among factions and potential successors in these kinds of groups as compared to democratic organizations with tried-and-true formal rules of succession.

3.Assassination will create distrust between the heretofore cooperative elements, such as the different allied organizations operating under the Al Qaeda umbrella

4. The current aversion to assassination as a military option is a relatively modern phenomenon. Serious consideration of the assassination option will shed new light on the flawed logic that proscribed it in the first place.

To preempt any silliness asserting that we shouldn’t use assassination as a tool because someone else could try and use it against us, let me point out that they have already tried to use it.

Campus Idiots & Honoring Heroes

Threats to the Cultural Element: University of Washington Activists Find Ignorance is No Impediment (Hat Tip: Black Five)

Since the 1960’s, 'Activists' have run amok on university and college campuses. When the original rebels-without-a-clue became the academic 'establishment', a self-sustaining incubator for self-important wackiness was created. The known instances of academia's lunacy are legion. But the idiocy du jour is a particularly delightful example of why children, especially those earnest, caring ones still in college and have yet to have held a REAL job, should be seen and not heard (from).

I am speaking of course, of the University of Washington’s Student Senate voting down a proposal to honor the late Greg “Pappy” Boyington.

Boyington was a UofW Engineering grad, legendary fighter pilot, leader of men, and wearer of the Congressional Medal of Honor. A common man who became a war hero, and a tragic all-too-human figure who fought his personal demons most of his life. One of my favorite quotes comes from him: "Show me a hero and I’ll show you a bum".

I saw him in 1979 at the Mojave Air Races. He was autographing and selling books and other memorabilia. I 'knew his story’ before then of course, and perhaps because of this he look just a little more stocky, older, and battered (think pugilistic) to me than he really was, but MAN! even in his sixties he looked like one tough Marine.

So why would the Student Senate turn down a proposal to honor this great American fighting man and UofW graduate?

It seems the most vocal resistance came from two ‘Senators’ for two very “PC” reasons.

‘Senator’ Ashley Miller apparently believed the honor was inappropriate because "many monuments at UofW already commemorate rich white men." One might find this somewhat 'racist' remark surprising, given Ms. Miller’s commitment to “...working to overcome institutionalized racism…”.

But it is hard to see how Ms. Miller’s goal to “produce a more informed, diverse and equal campus community” can come to fruition when she is so grossly ignorant of the reality that 'Pappy' Boyington was neither ‘rich’ nor ‘white’. He was a Sioux Indian (some ‘sniffy’ types might say he was only ‘part’ or ‘half’ Sioux, but I know if you’re ‘of the tribe’ you’re ‘in the family’), and he worked his tail off to get through school.

‘Senator’ Jill Edward's comments that she "didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce" would be beyond belief if one was not used to seeing this sort of thing on campuses. I am certain most Marines would expect a ‘Student Senator’ representing the weighty interests of a campus Croquet Club to espouse such an ignorant position. Kill people = defend America against the Fascists: it's all the same thing to some people. I suspect a lack of a positive male influence in her upbringing, but that is only a guess.

These are the faces of campus activism today. The first represents 'activism' for activism's sake. In Flight Test we identify this kind of behavior as "All Smash and No Vector". The second is representative of the kind of 'moral equivocation' that seems to manifest itself when one raises children without a firm moral compass. Such an upbringing that leads to simplistic thoughts like "War has never solved anything".

An interesting sidebar in the Culture Wars. Have you ever noticed that when something so blatant and outrageous such as this occurs and then receives widespread criticism, sophists on the left start whining about some ‘manufactured outrage’ ? Why, it's almost as if some people think that outrage isn't appropriate at times....

OK Last Housekeeping Post...For real this time

I don't type.

My Father was a champion, trophy winnning, speed typist in high school and when the Navy found out, he almost never got to fly on his PB-4Y ASW airplane in his real job as a Plane Captain (We AF types call them 'Crew Chiefs').

He insisted that I never learn, and since my schooling was in the days before 'typing' became 'keyboarding' it was good advice. Until I retired from the AF I always had a secretary or a typist to do this sort of thing. Then the Information Age came about and they laid off most of the admin support in aerospace companies. Now I get paid very-senior Engineer wages to type very slowly.

Bottom Line: I make mistakes. Some are fat-fingered. Some are format errors.
Tough. Don't tell me about it. I know it already.

It's why I have my reports proof-read and my technical papers peer-reviewed.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Last of the Housekeeping: The Socratic Method

Readers to-date will have (no doubt) noticed that I seem to attempt ‘illustration’ of the different Elements of Power rather than provide a definitive ‘proof’.

This is true.

They should also have noticed that I tend to pose questions that on the surface might be considered rhetorical, since I appear to not expect an answer.

This is not true.

I expect an answer, but (mostly) only in the reader’s mind and not in a direct reply back to me. This "Socratic" approach is one I feel is particularly well suited to keeping posts succinct, and to stimulate arguments pro and con in the minds of the readers.

I admit it: I have been known to be wrong, on rare occasion, and am not above changing my position if I am shown a ‘better’ one. I expect, when I open up the 'comments', a few readers of conviction will challenge or expand on the examples I provide. If those comments are particularly powerful and compelling, they could be a basis for revising or reinforcing my posts. .

Watch: now that I’m through with housekeeping, the news of the world will be boring.
Or will it be like Rossanne Rosanna Danna used to say: ‘Its always something!’

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Cultural Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Cultural

I saved this one for last, because if you look at all the elements, this one element is influenced by and influences the others the most.

A Nation-State's Cultural Element of Power determines (to varying degrees) the nature of the Military Element. For instance it will be a major determinant in whether a Nation-State builds a military and support system that is technologically advanced and comparatively small (Qualitative Emphasis) or manpower intensive with simpler weaponry (Quantitative Emphasis).

China today could be said to be transforming from the latter to the former, and as part of that effort is trying to become a leading producer in modern technology. Whether their Cultural and Organizational Elements’ dependency on ‘One-Party’ rule can survive the transformation of their Economic Element will be interesting to watch. In the PRC (Communist China), we are seeing a Nation-State with all the Elements of Power under pressure to, or being willfully driven to, change without upsetting the Party’s stranglehold on all facets of the population’s existence. Yeah, they think they can avoid the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Cautionary Note on Civility

This is another housekeeping post for me to direct some readers to in the future, when I start inviting comment.

I am comfortable with parliamentary debate, friendly conversation, or rabid flaming -- sometimes in the same paragraph. But I do none of it gratuitously, so if someone takes issue with my ‘tone’ I’ll refer them here as a reminder:

Yes, I went to a mix of religious and secular public schools. Yes, I went to college. For a long time. I  attended many different colleges and universities chasing degrees and losing credits every time I was transferred. If I go for any more degrees at all it will be probably for another Master's, possibly in  Military History. (I've seen too much B.S. associated with people getting their PhDs, and it only narrows your job possibilities.) I was first 'published' in 1985 and the last time in 2010, on topics ranging from future UAV development, to Systems Engineering, Failure Mode Effects Testing, and Military Operations Research.  I get asked to write abstracts for other people because my abstracts always seem to be selected. I know how to build a cogent case for any position I hold, and hold only positions that can be properly supported by classical rhetoric.     

But! I also spent more than 20 years as an enlisted man, and about one third of that as an AF Senior NCO. I worked with things that go "BOOM!" the entire time (IYAAYAS!), some of it in the air, some on the ground. and all of it involving Life and Death. I have a very low tolerance for BS artists, whiners, lame intellectuals, and Squishy Christians. If you don’t like how I handle them…well, I don’t really give a Rats As...oh Hi Mom!

Updated the 'Education' part (This was first written while I was still pursuing my latest degree)

If It's Not One Thing It's Another

My Apologies. Personal business and an injury in the family is keeping me from completing the cycle of Elements. Hope to finish off with the Cultural Element tomorrow...day after at the latest.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Demographic Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Demographic
Winding down here to the last two elements, and (wringing my hands) I'm saving the Cultural Element for last. Use of the phrase "Demographics is Destiny" has become somewhat of a cliché, but it is no less true because of it. The Demographics of a Nation- State have a great influence on its well-being and continued success. I could wax ad infinitum about how important Demographics are, or link to an almost inexhaustible pile of resources that do the same thing (Just see how long the list is when one Googles 'demographics is destiny' or 'demographics are destiny'), but this one example that follows should more than make it clear how important Demographics are to National Power.

A Case Study in Demographics as Weakness: Saudi Arabia

With 26 million people living in Saudi Arabia, 1 in 5 are foreign ‘guest workers’. Services essential to maintaining the current civil structure of the Kingdom are performed by these foreign workers: most working under deplorable conditions that persist only because of people fleeing desperate situations elsewhere are duped and then trapped. If the pipeline of ‘guest workers’ performing the dirty work should dry up from the word getting out in the right places, or the higher-paid technical talent get tired of dealing with the Kingdom and its ways, the Saudi economy would be crippled. Saudi Arabia’s already thin social fabric would likely disintegrate (with the most virulent wahabists on top no doubt) as 99.9 % of the remaining native population asserted their dissatisfaction with the top 1/10th of 1 percent that makes up the House of Saud ...and especially the 1/10th of 1 percent of the House of Saud that wield any real power.

Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of multiple forms of Demographic weakness: overdependence on foreign labor for even the most mundane tasks, insufficient number of native workers with technical skills, and poor distribution of talent and skills in the general population. And we won’t even delve into the existence of insufficient (by design) educational, social , and business systems that forever prevent the full development of a full half of their potential talent pool (women) But perhaps the House of Saud doesn’t worry about these things at all….as long as the oil and money keeps flowing.

Of course, we shouldn’t think this kind of thing is unique to Saudi Arabia. What about the willingness of many in the United States to turn a blind eye to the problem of the uncontrolled influx of illegal aliens? (Yes, if someone is here illegally they are still an alien - they did NOT ‘immigrate’, and I refuse to surrender this point to the PC language police) What is the true cost/benefit of ‘illegals’ to not only the economy but to the American society? As a Nation, I believe we are only beginning to understand the nature and scope of the problem.

And then there is Western Europe. Among other things, like the murder of Theo Van Gogh and last year’s rash of violence that spread across France, I would also wonder if they perhaps are reconsidering their historically laissez-faire approach to immigration and assimilation?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Economic Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Economic
It is quite easy to think of the Economic Element of National Power as the fuel that keeps the other elements going. While that is true as far as the statement goes, that would be only part of the story. The Economic Element is the power (or weakness) of a Nation State in maintaining or expanding it's output in goods and services -- and how that output affects or is affected by other actors in the global economy. It is also the power (or again, weakness) of a Nation State in managing its dependencies on external events and actors.

There's a lot of situational truths to what is good or bad in appraising an entity's Economic Element, and they will reveal themselves in future posts on relevant world events. As a teaser, I would ask the reader to ponder: Is having a negative trade balance with another country a good thing or a bad thing?

The short answer is: "it depends".....which is only marginally less infuriating than the most famous of Economics weasel words: "All other things being equal"...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Already Slacking Off

Apologies, but I am a little under the weather today, and the meds are disassembling my higher brain functions. Later~

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Organizational Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Organizational

The Organizational Element of National Power is the net effect of a Nation State’s organizational structure and function on its overall ability to carry out and implement its agenda on the world stage. How a Nation State is organized affects its ability to react or adapt to a changing world, and how well it will endure over the long haul.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11/01 could be two examples where a Democratic Republic experienced events that perhaps a dictatorial regime might have prevented. But they are also examples of how a Democratic Republic could endure events that would have toppled a dictatorship.

This element of power isn’t all at the upper levels either. From the three branches of Federal Government down to the states, counties, and town councils, how each part of the organization overlaps when necessary, or is clearly delineated and apart from the rest, will contribute or hinder the most efficient and effective way for a society to function in a changing world. It also includes the ways and means by which civic and service organizations interact with the official organizational entities, when civic and service groups are chartered to act in support of the organizational entities' charters.

The Organizational Element, could be said to be the framework by which other elements are most (or least, or anywhere in-between) effectively exploited by a Nation State.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Geographical Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Geographical

Gee! There is a lot going on in the world that I’d love to weigh in on, but I promised myself I’d take care of all the groundwork and housekeeping first.

Anyhoooo…..The Geographical Element is one that most people wouldn’t think of in terms of National Power unless they really stop and think about it.

The Geographical Element of power is all the net power of a Nation-State that comes from its physical location and composition. Geography is the one element that is influenced least by a society: unless that society is engaged in something like Westward Expansion, building empires, or engaged in other means to gain geographical territory.

Geography enables counties with lots of arable land in the right latitudes to build on their economic power through agriculture. It enables tribal fiefdoms, who would otherwise be marginal actors on the world stage, to wield disproportionate influence on world affairs simply because they are sitting on large percentages of exploitable energy resources. Geography keeps darned near the entire Canadian population living within 50 miles of the US border.

Geography preserved the English people when Hitler found out he couldn’t cross a channel as easily as he had marched across Western Europe. Geography is the reason the country (and canal) of Panama even exists, and why Communist China (PRC) seeks to expand its influence there today. There are so many more examples, and no time to even hit all the best ones....

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Military Element: An Introduction

Six Elements of Power: Military

I didn’t pick this element to begin with because it is nearest and dearest to my heart (its not), but because for the purposes of this blog, it is probably the easiest to characterize to a sufficient degree.

This does not mean the Military Element is any less complex than the others; it is just that, in the United States anyway, it has some of the clearest lines drawn around it. Like a lot of free societies, we have specific charters and responsibilities that are formally and explicitly stated for the military, its structure, and its implementation. In ‘less free’ societies the purpose and activities could sometimes be generously described as ‘capricious’.

In a free society, the Military Element of a nation’s or state’s power is the sum total of ALL combat, combat support, command, control, and intelligence apparatus and resources used to project and employ armed force (sometimes violent) for the purpose of exerting the will of the nation or state on an actor or actors (external to the nation or state).

For mature national entities, the primary purpose of the Military Element is to act as a deterrent against adventurism and malice that can spring from friction with ‘less mature’ actors on the world stage. The secondary purpose is to successfully defend and promote the interests of the nation-state when that deterrence has failed.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Elements of Power

Six Elements of Power
If one should exercise a favorite search engine using the terms "Elements of Power", "National Power", or "Elements of National Power", one might find that the terms are used to describe all sorts of things or characterize 'power' in many varied, but highly abstract, terms.

The Elements as described here, I believe, are the best descriptors and characterizations out there. And while I think it is possible there could be equal characterizations, I doubt there can be better ones.

I should note that any good Air Force NCO of my era will recognize these elements, as this is the way Elements of Power were taught in Leadership Schools and Academies.

The next few postings will expand the Elements one-by-one, and then transition into a discussion of how they are interrelated.