October 2007


I read a story recently in the Worcester Telegram that has simultaneously outraged and saddened me to the point of tears. The story, A textbook case by reporter Jacqueline Reis, tells the story of several students at the Worcester Technical High School who cannot do their homework because they don’t have textbooks to take home! The school’s budget simply won’t allow for the procurement of an adequate number of textbooks for all the students in attendance there. And furthermore, the school has resorted to giving CD-ROM versions of the books to the kids due to the lack of print books. However, most students don’t have computers because they are from low-income families. So, they have to resort to other means, like going to Youth Centers that have computers, to do their homework. Talk about your classic Catch-22 situation, with these unfortunate kids caught in the middle of it all.

I won’t comment on the cause of this situation…there simply aren’t enough keystrokes to contain my outrage and contempt for this occurrence! But I think that it is obvious that the government-based education system cannot adequately handle this situation, AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW! This situation cries for public support if it is to be fixed.

I challenge everyone who reads this blog, particularly those in central Massachusetts, to start talking about this issue. Talk to your employer(s) and see if they can help this situation. Contact your university and see if there is something that they can do to help. See if there is a way that you can personally donate any amount to the school in order to get these kids books.

These students only have one chance at adolescence and to enjoy a formative education. How can we expect to give them the foundation of learning if we first don’t give them the individual bricks of learning — books? We cheat them out of a precious learning experience and we discourage their opportunity to become productive citizens. All because the lack of some damnable books.

I think that if this same situation occurred in a tony suburb of Worcester that there would be renting of garments, gnashing of teeth and there would be a groundswell of outrage by the taxpayers in the community. And I assure you that there would be action taken, and the problem would be solved! Unfortunately, because the kids without the textbooks are poor, and for the most part minority students, their families don’t have the wherewithal financially or politically to adequately attack this problem. This is where other people, institutions and corporations MUST take up the flag and somehow find a way to help! This is a civic responsibility that we all have, and it is a landmark of our American heritage: to help those in need.

I can’t think of a greater need than textbooks by high school students! When this situation is allowed to exist in 2007 America, the slogan “No Child Left Behind” rings so very hollow. Left behind? These kids obviously never got a start in the first place.

And it is an outrage and humiliation that we all share in.

Maybe the situation in the Congress has finally gone way around the bend. Off the deep end. Over the top. If you don’t know what I mean, then use the comments of Representative Peter Stark (D-CA), one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s inner circle, to make your own decision. You can view and listen to his comments here on YouTube. Or you can read them for yourself:

First of all, I’m just amazed they can’t figure out, the Republicans are worried we can’t pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don’t care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where ya gonna get that money? You going to tell us lies like you’re telling us today? Is that how you’re going to fund the war? You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement. This bill would provide healthcare for 10 million children and unlike the President’s own kids, these children can’t see a doctor or receive necessary care…

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)

You simply can’t make this stuff up! The venom on the Democratic side of the aisle is so poisonous that Rep. Stark, arguing for the politically bloated S-CHIP program, goes into that almost hallucinogenic attack on the President. The worst part is that there has been no condemnation of his remarks by the Democratic leadership or by ANY rank-and-file Democratic legislator. To me, this means that there is a tacit approval of Stark’s comments, like on the raving mad Daily Kos left-of-center website, where Stark actually posted THANKS to the moonbats there for their almost unanimous support of his comments! Again, you can’t make this up! This is the way those folks on the left side of the political aisle really feel. They hate Bush, they hate Republicans, they hate conservatism! There isn’t the collegial, “better luck next time” attitude and calm, rational discussion and negotiation when it comes to political disagreement. Rather, the left has chosen the ad hominem, slash-and-burn tactics first perfected by Democrats during the Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination hearings so many years ago.

This was/is the “politics of personal destruction” that was falsely decried against the Republicans, during the Monica/impeachment era, by the Bill Clinton administration. For Clinton, it was a talking point to regain political respectability — but now, this tried-and-true Democrat tactic has mutated into a practice that resides somewhere between fantasy and reality. And it is red-meat sustenance for the true believers.

Rep. Stark has obviously toed the waters on the fantasy side. And he has gone even further than that — his comments are vicious and ultra-partisan…and I petition they are wholly un-American. They serve no useful purpose, other than to denigrate and destroy his political foes. They do, however, reflect the desperation of his party and the bankruptcy of ideas from which he and the Democratic leadership suffer. I can just hear the Democratic strategy session: “So, we can’t get our latest attempt to pass this bloated medical insurance program legislation, S-CHIP, because that lying, war-monger Bush vetoed it. We need to do something…FAST! Should we go back and negotiate with the White House to craft a bill that satisfies us both in a spirit of compromise and patriotism?” “Nah!, Let’s go REAL negative!” “After all, it’s only Bush and we’ve done a GREAT job making him a national villain — reviled by countrymen and foreigners alike!!” “Go for it Pete!”

Stark’s comments are madness! We citizens shouldn’t have to endure this nonsense in our governance. Eventually, someone has to exert leadership and act as an adult. Not like a spoiled, petulant child!! This single event should be a clarion call to all citizens and voters that term limits for the Congress are not only appropriate, but necessary. It should also be a reminder that we are all Americans, regardless of our party affiliation or our entrenched political beliefs. If we can’t coalesce around that one fact, then the USA is in REAL trouble.

Uh oh... The PANIC BUTTON!!!

 

Time IS Running OUT!!!

 

Not much time left…are we truly facing Doomsday?!?!?!

 

GO SOX!!!!!!!!!!

It will be interesting and humiliating as a law-and-order citizen to watch Ms. Niki Tsongas get sworn in as the newest representative to the Congress from the MA-5 district, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

I just hope that during the ceremony that she carries through with the courage of her convictions and instead of raising one hand, she raises both. Why, you ask? Because she has already indicated that she has surrendered to the Islamist nutbars in Iraq and to the countless millions of illegal trespassers here at home. It sounds like a sound bite, but she is the prototype 2006-era “Surrendercrat”! And a fiscally liberal one to boot.

In her acceptance speech, she indicated that there will be few social programs that won’t get her vote. Her call of “Lets get to work” should give the imbeciles who didn’t turn out yesterday to vote (against her) the ass-ache that they most richly deserve. They will have an ass-ache from the numerous times they’ll have to access their wallets in the not-too-distant future, if Congressperson-elect Tsongas and her posse in Washington get their way. Given the current climate of peevish one-upsmanship in the “revived” Congress, I think they will.

And if today’s disgraceful performance by the Democratically-controlled Senate to bolster and abet “sanctuary cities” is any indication (the vote was 52-42 to defeat the measure denying federal funds to those cities with sanctuary policies), we will all need to reach for our wallets and swallow a lot of national pride.

Cherish today my friends, because I fear that we are in the last of the golden days of the USA. Get use to being an overtaxed and under-represented has-been. The only thing we can hope for is that this pathetic house-of-cards that we call a Federal government collapses under its own weight — hopefully sooner than later, and then we can pick up the pieces and attempt to do things right the next time around!

We certainly couldn’t do any worse than what’s happened till now.

Political doyenne Anne Coulter let fly with a comment yesterday on Tucker Carlson’s show on MSNBC that the National Inquirer was reporting a breaking story of marital infidelity. A common topic in that periodical to be sure, and quite unremarkable, until we find out that the alleged infidelity involved presidential candidate John “Good Hair” Edwards. It’s very interesting that not a single mainstream media outlet has reported a word about this potentially explosive story. Why not? Contrast this with the toe-tapping, wide stance imbroglio that ensnared Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho. What was so interesting about this story in light of the country’s newfound tolerance of persons with such proclivities? Well, Sen. Craig has an enormous personality defect — he’s Republican, and at the time of the story was acting as a senior adviser to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. It’s OKAY to bitch slap those unwashed Republicans…and the media does it with a relish only equalled by that of a 12 year old playing “Whack a Mole” at an arcade.

What makes the Edwards story radioactive to the media outlets? Is it that the story originates from the Inquirer? After all, I’m sure the Edwards exposé shares column space with a piece of prose labeled “My Cat Is ET”, “Salami Sandwich Looks Like The Virgin Mary”, or some other such literary tidbit. I don’t think so: After all, the Inquirer broke the Monica Lewinski story and several other important news stories recently. Sure, it’s not the Times, but there is at least the whiff of credibility based on their past reportage.

It’s obvious why there hasn’t been a larger splash to this story. John Edwards is a Democrat (and for those of you who are slow learners or have reading issues — he’s a DEMOCRAT), and therefore exempt from the “politics of personal destruction” (PPD). You see, PPD is reserved for those damnable bastard Republicans who would support the veto of S-CHIP, support the failed war in Iraq, share a common party with Dick Cheney, etc. Why would a liberal-leaning reporter carefully research a potentially damaging news story tip (regarding a Republican) when they can drop the political a-bomb on the hapless subject? But put the shoe on the other foot, and the story is made of Kryptonite and the reporter becomes Clark or Clara Kent. It is dropped quicker than a hot potato…or summarily ignored!

So, for the unfortunate Republicans, the story just won’t end. Humiliation, embarrassment and political damage must be exacted. And the story must have legs, for weeks and weeks, until an intervening disaster knocks it from the forefront. But for those enlightened Democrats…well the general thought in the media is forgive and forget: Out of sight and out of mind!

Wouldn’t you be alarmed at a headline that cried “The Government is Stealing Your Life!”. Your first thought is that this is an absurd, sensational claim. But wait one minute…hear me out on this, and the notion that this thievery is going on right before your very eyes isn’t so outlandish.

We all know that time equals money. We are all payed at some rate for the hours that we spend at our employers. And guess what? We’re all taxed according to the amount of money that we make in the form of Income and Social Security/Medicare taxes. But you’re asking yourself “I know we pay taxes, where’s the time thievery?”

Today, approximately 54% of the citizens of the United States pay Income taxes. Thats right, 54%! According to the National Taxpayers Union, in 2005 (the last year for which statistics were available) the percentage of income tax paid by income level was:

Percentiles Ranked by AGI

AGI Threshold on Percentiles

Percentage of Federal Personal Income Tax Paid

Top 1%

$364,657

39.38

Top 5%

$145,283

59.67

Top 10%

$103,912

70.30

Top 25%

$62,068

85.99

Top 50%

$30,881

96.93

Bottom 50%

<$30,881

3.07

Note: AGI is Adjusted Gross Income
Source: Internal Revenue Service

Certainly it must be obvious that we’ve got a dilemma here! If you listen only to mainstream news media accounts, those “bad old rich folks” (meaning those earning greater than approximately $31,000 per year) are just not paying their “fair share” of taxes. These greedy bastards use loopholes and tax law trickery to reduce the amount of taxes that they pay. They’re freeloading off the backs of “the poor”. Well, generalities and hyperbole aside, the facts (ah, those pesky facts again!) indicate that things are actually to the contrary of all those claims. I hope you can see that it is easy to negatively emphasize income and class divisions by playing to the envies and jealousies of the have-nots — it’s just like shooting fish in a barrel.

However, we need more information before we can see the time thievery in all its glory. Now, according to our Federal government in the 1040 income tax instruction booklet that actual taxpayers are provided, the income and outlays of the government are:

If we inspect the “Outlays” chart real carefully, we see that over 50% of our Federal government expenditures go to some social program in one form or another (Note: If you click on the chart, an easier to read copy will appear in a new window). Well, unless I’m crazy, working people simply do not receive social benefits or entitlements from the government. But this fact may not be universally known because a small portion of taxpayers file a 1040 form, and as we have seen even more simply don’t pay income taxes!

Thus if approximately 50% of the people pay for the lives and welfare of the remaining 50%, then I claim that we have time thievery being practiced by our government! If your tax rate is 20%, then the government is depriving you of the benefits of 20% of your work time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could ramp your work schedule back by 20% (1 day!!) and still bring home the same pay? The folks on the outlay side of the equation get 100% of your work week to freely live their lives! Right? So why not you! The reason this can’t happen is that our elected politicians realize that there is a huge pool of voters who derive benefit from the government on the backs of those who work and earn and pay taxes. It is easier for crafty pols to play fiscal Robin Hood with your hard-earned taxes though the abhorrent practice of wealth re-distribution than it is to ask all citizens to share the burden, or to re-configure the social programs to save money. And it is a simple truth that those that work simply don’t complain (much) about their tax burden…they’re too busy working! But those who derive their living from the “Outlays” don’t hesitate to remind their representative politicians of their fury if benefits are reduced. Freebies and an associated vote are a powerful political force indeed.

How can this situation be fixed? Many folks cringe at the notion of a flat tax for all, but it is the only way that all citizens become stake-holders in our society. And we need to have meaningful reviews of social programs by non-governmental agencies in order to reduce waste and fraud. We need to break the give/receive chain of events that has become an accepted political practice in Washington (I give you goodies, you vote for me). Yeah, I know I’m a dreamer…but we are cultivating a class of worker bees and a class of drones in our modern society.

Otherwise, I assert, that we workers will continue to be unwitting victims of time thievery. And it is all for the personal gain and edification of the very same politicians who will claim in the future that higher taxes and greater social outlays are required. During the upcoming political season, culminating in next year’s presidential vote, I ask you to keep this question first and foremost in your mind: “Just how much more of my time, my life, am I willing to sacrifice in order to make that candidate look good?”

I hope like me you reach the conclusion “Not one second more!”

The directive by the European Union (EU) to ban hazardous substances in electronic products is a well-meaning attempt to bar the use of human unfriendly materials like lead from large-scale manufacturing, wherever possible. This directive, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances, or ROHS for short (usually pronounced “rosh” or “ro-has” in the industry), has had far-reaching effects on the electronics industry. Simply put, the elimination of lead from electronics devices, has been a costly and time-consuming proposition.

Lead is (was) used in electronics, predominantly in the form of tin-lead solder. Back in the 1940′s, the telecommunications industry (i.e. Bell telephone) encountered perplexing, random failures in their equipment. Studying the failures, there were no time, temperature or environmental causal relationships that were readily apparent. To make a long story filled with much effort and cost very short, the Bell scientists found that the cause of these failures was the formation of tin whiskers on tin (plated or otherwise) surfaces or on surfaces that bore tin solder. The tin would form long metallic filaments and with time eventually short-circuit the electrical or electronic devices in the circuit. After considerable work, and with much intensive metallurgical study, the solution was found through the addition of lead into areas containing only tin — in the form of tin-lead alloys. These alloys resulted in a spectrum of specialty solders and platings that inhibited the the filiary growth of tin whiskers. This practice worked for 50+ years, and billion and billions of products were manufactured utilizing tin-lead solder. In fact, the use of tin-lead solder allowed man to walk on the moon and explore the outer planets!

Today, with the adoption of ROHS, we now return to the past. The law of unintended consequences has recently reared its ugly head in the form of random failures of electronic devices. In fact, tin whiskers have been blames for silencing a satellite, interrupting some critical military equipment and causing regional outages of telecommunications networks worldwide. The trouble with this failure mode is that we may never know the scope and extent of the problem. If the problem affects a consumer item, such as an electronic toy or other gadget intended for amusement purposes, it may get disposed of without fanfare. Other equipment that fails (computers, iPods and the like) may get returned (under warranty or not) for repair, and depending upon the number of failures and which components are affected, the failure mode may never be determined because of cost considerations. This is because if the whiskers form within the package of a high-density integrated circuit, their minute size may lead to their being overlooked or mis-identified as another failure mode altogether.

Photomicrograph of Tin Whiskers.

Photomicrograph of Tin Whisker Formation.

I’ve had experience with tin whiskers in the past; around 25 years ago when I worked in the semiconductor industry. The company that I designed products for used a great variety of specialty solders and fastening alloys in the construction of their products. There were several different, complex products that were being manufactured for space and severe environment military applications that for various reasons could not have lead alloys in their construction. As a result, tin and tin alloy solders were employed. To make another long and somewhat arduous (and probably boring ) story shorter, the cause of the production problems that we encountered was tin whiskers. In fact, the majority of the whiskers that I observed were less than the diameter of a human hair in length! Thank God we employed a rigorous test regime to screen out potential failures, so no affected products escaped into the “wild”. But it was a sobering learning experience that taught me to look before I leap, and sweat ALL the details with an attitude of caution and skepticism.

So, I think that the next few years will be “interesting”, to say the least. Despite the industry-wide efforts to provide cost-effective and reliable alternatives to lead-based solders, there is probably much more work to be done based on recent reports. If you have a high dollar value piece of electronics that fails for no apparent reason, and you get push back from the seller or the manufacturer as though it could be abuse or misuse on your part, then you may want to consider that tin whiskers could be the failure mode. Inasmuch as I have several radios, stereos and televisions that were manufactured from the 1960′s to the 1990′s and they still work perfectly fine (although some show their age from constant use!!), I fear that any product that bears the “ROHS” logo that I might purchase won’t fare so well in the future.

This whole issue, I fear, is going to cost many people and companies a lot of money. In the end, I hope that we don’t see failures occurring in applications where humans may be put at risk, or killed, because of a catastrophic failure due to tin whiskers. Or how many “ROHS-ized”, mission-critical, electronics-based weapons will fail and put soldiers in greater harm’s way? I guess only time will tell.

[NOTE: There are many excellent sources of information on tin whiskers and their effects. A particularly good resource is the work being done at NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Laboratories. Their home page is found here.] Happy reading!

Tasty crow!

I admit it. I made a huge mistake!

I pushed the Panic Button last week when I thought the Red Sox were going to blow their division lead and let the Yankees overtake them. Now, with the cushion of a weeks games being played…including the successful ALDS win by the Sox over the shell-shocked Angels…I watch the Yankees down 6-3 to the Indians in the 8th inning of Game 4 of their ALDS series…I realize the error of my misplaced tap of that button!

So, in an effort to appease the sports gods, I hereby eat some well earned crow!! I can’t promise that I won’t paw at the button again. But I surely won’t announce my intentions to the whole world (again) if I decide to do so!!!

GO SOX!!!

Special interest groups, and I include the Democratic party in this category, are using a very successful strategy to push their agenda. I think if you’re honest and perceptive you will recognize these actions:

  1. Get ‘Em While They’re Young,
  2. Use Fear, It’s A Great Motivator,
  3. Promise Goodies and Play Up Class Divisions.

There you have it! The three nuggets of wisdom driving most of the political issues that confront us in today’s world. For example, the global warming nuts use 1.) and 2.) to push their agenda. They have successfully co-opted many (or most) science curricula in primary and secondary schools, including many Ivy League colleges. And the consequences of global warming for us unfortunate humans are usually cloaked in fire-and-brimstone: We are doomed to bake in an atmospheric Hell of our own making if we don’t change our misguided ways.

In a similar manner, the Democrats foist their liberal agenda upon us by pushing 1.), 2.) and 3.) upon an increasingly greedy and self-absorbed American voting public. They promise “entitlements” and give-aways…usually aimed at “the children”. Certainly who can deny goodies to seemingly deserving children. I guarantee you not a single representative in Congress seeking re-election will touch this third rail of politics. And if it is done…like President Bush’s veto of the bloated S-CHIP program, then the action is decried as harmful to children, and an unconscionable act by uncaring people.

I have one word for this strategy. Smart! Playing to the proclivities and predispositions of the voting public, who by the way are becoming increasingly dependent upon the government for their health, welfare and living, is a growth activity. There is political profit in indoctrinating the young, scaring the crap out of them to keep them in line, and then promising or giving them goodies (by punishing those bad old “rich” folks). This is a recipe for re-election and infinite incumbency.

But I tell you that this a self-destructive tactic. The tipping point occurs when there are far more government-citizen co-dependents than there are actual workers or “rich” folks whose wealth may be redistributed. When we reach and exceed that point, then we cease to be a country with core values that include independence, initiative and self-reliance. And we will suffer an increasingly speedy downward spiral from our place of primacy and world leadership to a place as a has-been second or even third world nation.

The choice of where we end up as a nation is up to you — to all of us, actually! Your vote is precious and shouldn’t be used capriciously — or for personal gain. Look past the promises of goodies and give-aways, and focus on the issues that affect us all, like national defense and taxes. Citizenship, and the corresponding right to vote, are privileges and shouldn’t be used as means for the end of self-enrichment. This will take great restraint and self-control, but it can and must be done if we are to survive as a viable nation in the future.

But the Democrats know us better than we know ourselves, and they count on our collective selfishness to propel them and their programs deeper and deeper into the fabric of our lives and our society. So don’t say you didn’t see the end coming…you were warned! Just prepare yourself for the onslaught during this political season: But also try to see what’s behind the promises, the goodies and the fear-mongering.