Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering 9/11/2001

It's been seven years since the planes were aimed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Yet even while we were in shock from the tragedies and filling the church pews, some clergy were already counseling us to seek inside ourselves to change that which provoked the attacks.

In other words, they told us to blame the victims for the crime.

I reject that interpretation. After all, the radical jihadists have made it quite clear that they have no desire to share the planet with us infidels.

Four years later, 9/11 fell on a Sunday and my pastor opted to use a memorial litany that made my blood boil. So I wrote a letter to my pastor in protest, "Why I didn't go to Church today", dissecting the litany and proposing a new one. Herewith is my Litany for Liberal Christians:
We have focused on our own short-comings as individuals and as a nation with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but failed to move forward and seek constructive ways to build a better world.

We have been fearful of change, clinging to failed policies and ideologies, unwilling to face realities that don't fit neatly into how we understand the world works.

We have learned the wrong lessons from history, focused on our mistakes and ignored our victories.

We have cheered when cartoon heroes fight evil doers, but declined to call evil by name in the real world. We have apologized to our enemies for our very existence while rebuking our leaders for fighting that evil.

We have been hypocrites, piously intoning our commitment to freedom and self-determination for all people, freedom of religion, economic justice, and women's rights, while castigating those who are working to achieve those lofty ideals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, and elsewhere.

We have been timid in our Christianity, instead making sacrifices at the altars of "multi-culturalism" and "political correctness" that have sapped our strength and undermined the Great Commission to proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Great God, forgive us.

Related posts:
Why I didn't go to Church today
Litany for Liberal Christians
Overcoming Evil with Good
Stuck on Stupid
Creating Positive Change

The more things change...

When I visited Leningrad in 1984, our tour group visited the Museum of Ethnography. We had an unusual group: 37 women engineers, three husbands, and 1 male tour guide. Our city Intourist guide was thus inspired to share a feminist joke while we viewed a life-size scene of two Russian men sitting at a small table in a home's parlor with a wife(?) standing behind them circa 1900. It went something like this:

A husband and wife went out to dinner at a restaurant where there was a band and dance floor. After a while, the manager came up to the table and addressed the husband.

"Oh sir, your wife is a vision of loveliness. I would be most honored if I could have a dance with her."

"Thank you, but we're just here to eat dinner," the husband replied.

After a while, the manager came back. "Oh sir, I implore you to let me dance with your wife this evening. She lights up the room. She is a beautiful flower. I will pine away if I can't dance with her."

"Thank you, but we're just here to eat dinner," the husband repeated.

A third time, the manager came over to plead his case. This time, however, the wife responded, "Thank you, but we're just here to eat dinner. Please leave us be."

The manager flew into a rage, and turning to the woman, spat out, "Shut up bitch! Can't you see that two gentlemen are conversing?"

Creating Positive Change

In September 1984, I visited the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union with a People-to-People tour organized by the Society of Women Engineers. We traveled to Shanghai, Bejing, Moscow and Leningrad over the course of two weeks. China was just beginning to open up to Western visitors. In Beijing, we were housed at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, in the same quarters that Henry Kissinger used while opening diplomatic relations during the Nixon administration. We were in the USSR just after Andropov had died, Chernenko was in power, and Gorbachev would take over in a few months.

I was struck by how different the attitudes and outlooks were between the two cultures. In China, where they were getting ready to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the PRC's founding, the attitude was "yes, there were grave mistakes made in the past, but together we are building the future!" The people were optimists, proud of their accomplishments, forward-looking, and very curious about us Americans.

In Russia, where almost 40 years after the end of WWII sugar was still rationed, the propaganda line amounted to, "If you only knew how much we suffered under the National Socialists (Nazis), you'd understand why we haven't gotten anywhere." The people tended to be morose, passive, and seemingly proudest about the glory days of the Czars! (The post-war restoration of Petrodvorets, the Summer Palace, is an amazing story in its own right. The Nazis had razed it during the seige of Leningrad, leaving only the foundation and one wall standing.)

I tell you this tale because I see a similar attitudinal divide between the Democrats and Republicans. And attitudes matter. I wrote after the 2006 elections:
The stories we tell ourselves say a lot about what we want to do, and what we think of ourselves. Stories help us tether abstract ideas to the real world, providing concrete examples of the principles the leader wants us to consider. The language we use is important, for it can inspire us or depress us, encourage us to find new answers or chastise us for trying to change the system. We can imagine the best of all possible worlds, or worry ourselves into a pit of despair.
The Democrats denigrate this country, lecture her people, and belittle our accomplishments: change for them is couched as being against what is wrong.

The Republicans celebrate this country, encourage her people to greatness, and build on our accomplishments to make America greater and stronger ethically, economically, and spiritually. Fred Thompson said to the RNC:
[W]hat we're doing at this convention is also important to our country, because we're going to nominate the next president and vice president of the United States of America.

We do so while taking a different view of our country than that of the other party. Listening to them, you'd think that we were in the middle of a Great Depression that we're down, disrespected, incapable of prevailing against challenges that face us. Now, we know that we have challenges. Always have, always will. But we also know that we live in the freest, strongest, most generous and prosperous nation in the history of the world and we're thankful for that. [Emphasis added]
I still remember President Reagan and his ability to inspire me with his vision for our country. He was an aspirational leader, preaching hope and high ideals:
And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way. My fondest hope for each one of you -- and especially for the young people here -- is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.

May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism. And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.

President Reagan delivered this speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston.

Related posts:
Inflection Point
Changing the Conversation

Update: Check out Dr Sanity's post, "GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION"
...McCain, with a little help from Palin, in a short time has suddenly made most of the non-committed Americans realize the kind of change they really want:
-They want to be proud of America again and not be constantly told how 'evil' it is;
-They want America to get on with winning its wars without all the PC posturing and military bashing;
-They want government to help the less fortunate, but not to tax those who work hard to the extreme; while financially rewarding those with poor judgment and a grand sense of entitlement. Americans want to help out "the little guy"--probably more than any culture (and we are the most giving culture in the world); but we help them so they can get back on their feet; not so they can constantly put their hands out for more. As a culture we still believe there are consequences for bad judgment and behavior (though sadly, that attitude is becoming more politically incorrect every year as more and more "victims" vie for cash handounts and special treatment).
-They want government not to stand in the way of the their life, liberty and the pursuit of their happiness.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Reforming Congress

In his acceptance speech last Thursday, Senator McCain said:
We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.

The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you.

Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as President. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not.

Instead of rejecting good ideas because we didn't think of them first, let's use the best ideas from both sides. Instead of fighting over who gets the credit, let's try sharing it. This amazing country can do anything we put our minds to. I will ask Democrats and Independents to serve with me. And my administration will set a new standard for transparency and accountability.

We're going to finally start getting things done for the people who are counting on us, and I won't care who gets the credit.
The harsh reality, however, is that intransigent majority leaders in Congress such as Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Senator Reid, can and will oppose every good idea from a Republican President unless it is to the obvious benefit of the Democrats. Consider today's editorial from the Wall Street Journal, "Quicksand for Judges":

Since the beginning of the year, the Senate has confirmed a total of four nominees to the federal circuit courts -- including Democrat Helene White, whose appointment to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was part of a compromise with Bush nominee Raymond Kethledge. The confirmation of Judge Steven Agee on the Fourth Circuit was likewise the product of a deal between Virginia Senators Jim Webb and John Warner, displacing the nomination of highly respected nominee Duncan Getchell, who withdrew in frustration at the interminable wait.

And who can blame Mr. Getchell? According to the Committee for Justice, the average number of days from nomination to confirmation for circuit court nominees has risen to 348 days during the Bush Administration from an average of 238 days under President Clinton. Nominations by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan made it through in an average of 69 days each.

That sorry record has been overlooked in the media, which is good for Majority Leader Harry Reid because it belies his multiple promises. In a letter to us in June, Mr. Reid said Senate Democrats would "treat President Bush's judicial nominees with more respect than President Clinton's received from a Republican Senate."

Today that looks like a whopper. In President Clinton's final two years of office, a Republican Senate confirmed 15 circuit court judges and 57 district court judges. Merely to match that record, Senate Democrats will need to confirm five more circuit court nominees and nine more district court nominees when they return for a session that will only last a few weeks.

Even White House capitulation hasn't earned any Senate concessions. In recent months, the White House has repeatedly dumped "controversial" (read: conservative) nominees in favor of candidates who either came off the lists of home-state Senators or had otherwise garnered the blessing of liberals on the Judiciary Committee. Yet even "moderate" nominees like Glen Conrad on the Fourth Circuit haven't been spared last-ditch obstruction tactics. When Mr. Conrad was nominated in May, Mr. Leahy suggested the nomination may have come too late.
This doesn't bode well for Mr. McCain when he becomes President. His efforts with the so-called Gang-of-14 to get President Bush's judicial nominations through the Senate did little to improve the process overall, and were irrelevant once Democrats took control of the Senate again under Harry Reid. After the 2006 elections, Hugh Hewitt wrote:

From June of 2001 through April of 2005, the Senate's Democrats radicalized the nomination process, further dismembering a process already disfigured by their disgusting attacks on Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, and which had not recovered despite the GOP's rejection of such tactics during the confirmation hearings of Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer.

Finally, in April of 2005, the GOP's 55 member majority had identified at least 50 from among its numbers to confirm a ruling from the Senate's Chair that would have delivered on the promise of "up or down votes on the floor of the Senate for all judicial nominees," by declaring that it was not acceptable under Senate rules to filibuster judicial nominees.

Had such a vote occurred, a crucial part of the constitutional order would have been restored. There would have been political aftershocks, but the vast majority of GOP senators and, crucially, the voters and donors who had elected the 55, were ready to fight for this key principle.

And then Senator McCain threw the principle --and many fine nominees-- under the bus. The window dressing for this surrender was the confirmation of some fine judges. But, and this is a key "but." they would have been confirmed anyway after the vote on the "constitutional option."

The Gang of 14 did not even work in the term now ending. Many fine nominees who ought to have received votes under the "deal," didn't. They may never get them.

It is commendable that Senator McCain and Governor Palin are well-versed in bipartisan efforts. However, in order for McCain to fulfill his campaign promises most effectively for lower taxes, judges that won't legislate from the bench, and less government intrusion in our lives, he needs Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

Vote Republican this fall! Contribute to the GOP! Get active!

I'm supporting Mark Ellmore for Congress representing Virginia's 8th District and Jim Gilmore for Senate.

The Downside of Acquisition Reform

Recently, I attended a "Hot Topics" Forum at the Defense Acquisition University. The topic was the Defense Science Board Task Force Report on Developmental Test & Evaluation. The speaker (non-attributed) discussed the findings and recommendations from the report, substantially covering the Executive Summary of the report.

The Task Force was "asked to recommend changes that may contribute to increasing the number of programs undergoing Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) being evaluated as Operationally Effective and Operationally Suitable." The Task Force examined practices for Army, Navy, and Air Force. The main findings include:
  • The high suitability failure rates were caused by the lack of a disciplined systems engineering process, including a robust reliability growth program, during system development
  • Sequential workforce cuts in the last ten years had a significant adverse impact on the DoD acquisition capability
  • Acquisition personnel reductions combined with loss of guidance documents and retirement of experience senior industry and government personnel have exacerbated the adverse impact
  • Strong OSD and Service leadership commitment is vital to solving the major acquisition problems which include widespread suitability deficiencies
  • The implementation of Acquisition Reform provided flexibility but, when combined with an eroding workforce, sometimes resulted in less discipline in program formation and execution
  • DT&E needs improvement but changes in test processes will not remedy systemic program formulation and execution deficiencies
  • Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability (RAM) shortfalls are frequently identified during DT, but program constraints (schedule and funding) often preclude incorporating fixes and delaying IOT&E
  • Additional emphasis on integrated testing will improve T&E process efficiency as well as allow for program cost reductions
The cover letter states: "The single most important step necessary to correct high suitability failure rates is to ensure programs are formulated to execute a viable systems engineering strategy from the beginning, including a robust RAM program, which includes reliability growth, as an integral part of design and development. No amount of testing will compensate for deficiencies in RAM program formulation."

To put it another way: you can't test in quality.

Many program managers, both in the government and private industry, consider a thorough development test program too expensive, so it's often short-changed in funding and/or schedule from the start. The fact that test & evaluation (T&E) is typically the last phase in the development process means that T&E gets squeezed further if the product development exceeds budget or is late because it's the last opportunity to try and bring the overall program in on time and on budget.

Unfortunately, without a comprehensive strategy to build in quality -- both in product development and program management -- the program manager often has to pay even more for testing than originally estimated due to rework/redesign and subsequent retest to deal with the inevitable problems. There's never enough time to do it right, but there's always enough time to do it over.

There is a political point to be made here. Both Presidential candidates promise "change", but the intent and implementation of the change can be worse than maintaining the status quo.

One of the maxims I learned long ago is that HOW change is implemented goes a long way toward its ultimate success. The Congress' approach to acquisition reform needs to be rethought: their mandating personnel cuts without regard for the side effects have created worse waste and overruns than when they started.

Related posts:
Airbus Discovers Integration Matters
Not the way to roll out software!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mistakes and Redemption

A caller to Hugh Hewitt this evening mentioned how redemptive the Palin's approach to their daughter's pregnancy is.

It brought to mind one of the most prominent out-of-wedlock pregnancies in history: Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth. The child she bore would change the world. Joseph wasn't really happy about the situation, since the baby wasn't his and the opportunity for scandal was large. But he had a dream and it changed his mind. As Matthew's Gospel records (KJV):

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
1:22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
1:24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Joseph accepted Mary and loved her and the child she bore. What a wonderful example for the rest of us.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Political Calculus

My two cents on the political reasons for canceling the evening events for the Republican National Convention today.
  1. Hurricane Gustav, aside from being a reminder of the devastation wrought in New Orleans by the levee breaks after Katrina, will pre-empt media attention from anything going on in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The fact that the media are pushing the Katrina comparisons to hype the drama of a natural disaster-in-the-making doesn't help.
  2. Why give talking points to the Democrats? Katrina tarnished the Bush administration, the Dems like to say that McCain is another Bush, and even if he isn't, the Dems would hound the Republicans for "partying" and not feeling the pain of the victims.
I think this is another example of McCain's OODA loop being inside the opposition's. He pre-empted their entire line of attack by changing the ground rules again.

Astute Blogger
has more.

Related Katrina posts: "Angels in Disguise", "After the Storm", "The Great Trailer Debate"