Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Problem with Boeing


The 787 Dreamliner is a breakthrough in commercial airliner technology. It’s use of advanced composites, Quet Technology Demostrator engines and ergonomically-designed interior promise 20% reduced fuel consumption, significantly quieter performance, and greater passenger comfort. I like the plane.

Today Japan’s two biggest airlines grounded their 787 fleets for safety checks after one was forced to make an emergency landing. These problems are not because of the bold design of the airplane. The problem is Boeing’s over-emphasis on profit.

Originally, Boeing intended to construct the Dreamliner in Washington, but only if the state approved a twenty-year, $3.2 billion package of tax credits. Officials ultimately conceded, but Boeing took its toys and went to play elsewhere anyway when South Carolina lured it across state lines with the promise of a whopping $900 million subsidy package aka taxpayer dollars, and a non-union plant to set up shop in. The National Labor Relations Board accused the company of violating federal labor law by moving aircraft producton out of it’s Seattle facilities to non-union plants. The case was dropped recently after Boeing agreed to raise wages and expand production in Washingston.

Instead of building the complete aircraft from the ground up in the traditional manner, final assembly would employ just 800 to 1,200 people to join completed subassemblies and to integrate systems. Boeing assigned its global subcontractors to do more assembly themselves and deliver completed subassemblies to Boeing for final assembly. This approach was intended to result in a leaner and simpler assembly line and lower inventory with pre-installed systems reducing final assembly time by three-quarters to three days. Although intended to shorten the production process, 787 subcontractors initially had difficulty completing the extra work, because they could not procure the needed parts, perform the subassembly on schedule, or both, leaving remaining assembly work for Boeing to complete as “traveled work”.

I have a very good friend that worked for one of these sub-contractors in Rockford, IL. He’s a brilliant engineer. He told me about the enomous pressure Boeing put on them to complete their work by their deadline. Boeing constantly threatened the sub-contractor with fines. My friend tells me of many, many months working 70-80 hours per week. Getting called into 2am meetings. Careers flamed out because of the stress. Substance abuse ran rampant. Families suffered.

I hope no one gets hurt or killed flying on the 787. I hope the shareholders get handed a big bill to remedy the teething issues plaguing what was once a promising breakthrough design.

Specious Reasoning


“If you make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns!” I hear this every time after a mass shooting. Pundits like to point out that whomever committed the atrocious deed would have obtained their weapons regardless of the legality. It’s so illogical of an argument I do a face-palm every time I hear it.

From the inception of the NICS (National Instant Criminal background check System) on November 30, 1998, to December 31, 2011, a total of 140,882,399 transactions have been processed. The NICS prohibits people from possessing guns if they were convicted of a felony, addicted to drugs, committed domestic violence or were involuntarily sent to a mental institution. Of these, the NICS has denied a total of 899,099 transactions. It’s not nearly enough to stem the illegal flow of weapons.

Prior to the late 1980’s it was very rare for a convicted Felon to be able to petition successfully their right to own a gun. It was then that the NRA began to heavily lobby Congress to permit States to dictate these reinstatements. This gradual pullback of what many Americans have assumed was a blanket prohibition against convicted Felons from owning guns has permitted thousands of Felons to have their gun ownership rights reinstated every year. And it’s gotten scant public notice.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, President Bush signed a law to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It incentivized states to submit records of people legally barred under Federal Law from purchasing guns. The 2007 improvement act was supposed to speed development of the system by providing grants to states to help pay for hunting down records and setting up electronic databases. But Congress has handed out just a fraction of the grants allowed. Last year, $125 million was authorized under the law, but just $5 million was appropriated. More than half the states have not yet provided mental health records. The NRA has made it tougher for states to comply — by successfully lobbying for a provision in the 2007 law that requires an appeals process so the mentally ill can seek to have their gun rights restored. States must set that up before they can receive federal grants to help collect records! Federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Defense, also have been slow to submit relevant records. Meanwhile, as many as 2 million mental health records are not in the system.

The ATF published a study citing that straw purchases accounted for almost one-half of all illegal gun trafficking. Corresponding research points that nearly two-thirds of these straw purchases originated at only 1% of licensed firearms dealers. The results of these investigations demonstrate that ATF must vigorously enforce existing federal regulation of FFLs, and of all gun sellers at gun shows. For this to work effectively, ATF will need increased funding from Congress, as the agency currently lacks the resources and organizational structure to succeed in combatting illegal gun trafficking and ensuring that FFLs comply with federal law. The NRA has consistently lobbied Congress against additional funding for the ATF for greater enforcement of existing law.

More than 6 million gun sales are unscreened – those from gun transfers, “private” sellers, and purchases at gun shows or made online do not fall under the requirement. This is the “Gun Show Loophole.” Think about this for a minute. It’s insane.

Saying that gun control won’t stop a criminal from obtaining a gun is an illogical fallacy. You can’t take a sampling of one criminal and extrapolate it against a sampling size of millions of gun transactions.

We’re making it too easy for criminals and the mentally ill to buy a gun. I’m looking forward to the President’s Task Force recommendations tomorrow. This shouldn’t be so hard.

New Year’s Resolution


2012 was brutal. The confluence of raising two teenage daughters, Alex battling a severe medical condition, the fallout of not riding anywhere nearly enough and the continual financial struggles have taken it’s toll. The beginning of this New Year I made a resolution, one that I shared with Alex and the children.

“To care more about those people that truly matter, and to care less about what others think.”

It’s a simple resolution in principle, but difficult to achieve. My inspiration comes from these six quotes:

The secret to a successful life is hardly a secret; it requires you to be self-centered as all fuck, is all. So long as it’s not at the expense of others, make yourself the center of your universe. You only get to do this ONCE, so try to take as much stress out of the process as you can.
– Unknown –

You don’t get to tell me what to do ever again.
– Lester Burnham (American Beauty) –

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
– Steve Jobs –

He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
– Hunter S. Thompson –

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes.
– William Gibson –

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
– Winston Churchill –

Is this selfish of me to think this way? I don’t think so. If I’m going to make the most of what time I have left that means I’m going to step on some people’s toes along the way. I’m looking out for #1. So be it.