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Belmont Club

The Field of Schemes

December 3rd, 2013 - 1:51 pm

Lee Vyborny, one of the “plankowners” of the NR-1 mini nuclear submarine recalls how Electric Boat became a victim of its own success during the Cold War. As more submarines were built both the unions and corporate freebooters started to cash in on the apparent river of gold which the burgeoning contract portfolio represented. Vyborny signed on to the follow-on NR-2 project as an engineer and discovered that beneath the glittering exterior which he had admired from afar the system was beginning to putrefy.

business was booming at EB. Things could not have been better for the largest employer in both Rhode Island and Connecticut, and the 688-class attack boats and the monster Trident submarines were pulling in a seemingly endless supply of money. The yard was filled with twenty thousand people and the thunder of their machines.

So it was a great surprise when I discovered that the shiny apple was rotting fast on the inside. I was among some three thousand engineers on the EB staff who worked jammed together in a pair of five-story brick buildings. Management offices occupied the outside edges near the windows, while in the center area the desks were arranged end to end in long rows. Each engineer was given thirty square feet of space and the desk took up twenty-five of it. There was only eighteen inches of space behind each desk – just enough to pull open the drawers. If a person in the middle of a row wanted out, everyone between him and the aisle had to stand and push his chair in. We on the NR-2 design counted ourselves fortunate to have a small glass-enclosed space. It really set us apart, and we guarded it zealously.

However, the tight quarters was not the main problem. Ironclad union rules clashed with an unrealistic workload in the design departments and in the shipyard. This brewed a recipe for disaster. Engineers, for instance, were only allowed to make free-hand sketches of their projects. Any straight line had to be drawn by a union draftsman. All typing, no matter how few lines or characters, had to be done by a union secretary. As a result, schedules slipped, the backlog of subs to build grew, design changes accumulated, costs mounted, and the navy grew impatient. EB had too much work, but also idle and inefficiently applied resources.

After years of unrelenting, fast-paced effort, first in the navy and then at school, the enforced slowdown left me shocked and bewildered. Union representatives would creep by our offices and peer through the glass partitions to insure no contract rules were being violated, while mid-level managers would also frequently check to see if any engineers were slacking off. Therefore, we kept the appropriate props in plain view, usually a stack of blue-line drawings with pencil marks scrawled all over them. If you wanted to stretch your legs, you picked up a sheaf of papers and walked somewhere quickly, as if on an urgent mission, because strolling casually was frowned upon. …

As bad as things were for the engineers, the incredible amount of wasted time in the shipyard was killing the company, for down by the Thames where the work was being done, restrictive union rules affected everyone.  A welder needing to move a heating element just one inch to complete a job was required to inform his boss, who had to schedule a union electrician to show up and do something the welder could have taken care of in a moment.  Almost two dozen trade unions protected their contracts with a vengeance, and the slightest violation resulted in a grievance.  The average worker who welded or installed equipment in the hull sections spent only two hours a day actually on the ship performing his job because of the continual coming and going involved, and that little bit of time was often ineffective because the workplace was so crowded.  The yard was working three shifts, but much was not communicated from one to the next, and even more time was lost to rework.  In order to speed up the delivery of subs, more people were hired, but that only made the situation worse.

It worked real good. After the NR-1 there was never an NR-2.

The same sort of misfortune seems to have befallen Venezuela. Its oil riches attracted rentseekers like flies to honey. And the biggest rentseekers of all are the Men of the People. Even the Guardian knows that the enlightened ones have done in what should have been the richest country in the region.

“Living here is like a cartoon,” Becerra says. “Most of us can’t find milk to drink, let alone to produce, and the president’s best plan is to lower the prices of TVs.”

She was referring to president Nicolás Maduro’s recent moves to get shopkeepers to slash their prices. Maduro has spoken of jailing retailers, criticising the “speculation and usury” that he blames for Venezuela’s economic woes.

Those excuses sound exactly like the reasons now given for the failure of Obamacare. Salon accuses the “right” of “sabotage” and warns that conservatives will be sorry when Obamacare finally delivers paradise on earth.

The trouble starts with their gleeful rubbing of hands over the Healthcare.gov rollout. Gloating about the website is unwise for a couple of reasons. First, the website’s design and implementation was conducted by a private government contractor, CGI Global, not by government employees. There are many lessons to be learned from the website’s problems, but one of them clearly seems to be this: The privatization of government services, a key goal for the Republican Party, can work very poorly.

Accounts of the Obamacare implementation read like a how-to manual in inept contracting with outside corporations, and the administration deserves to take a hit for that. But the problem isn’t that government created the website. A larger part of the problem lies in the fact that it used a private contractor to do the job.

Yep. A private, no-bidding foreign contractor, with a record of failure in Canada managed by former classmates of certain relations to President Obama. “If you build it they will come.” The only problem is, you might not like who the they are.

The California Health Exchange issued a report on who had enrolled in Obamacare to date.   According to the report “the oldest age brackets 45-64, are overrepresented [in the enrollments] compared to the population.”  A side by side comparison between the California Health Exchange enrollees to date and the underlying population looks like this

Obamacare

Obamacare is filling up rapidly with older and less healthy population who by and by will pull the low risk premium payers underwater with them.  They can hardly be blamed.  Grabbing free Obamaphones and subsidized insurance is in self-interest. It is offering it in the first place that is Policy suicide.  Willy Sutton, the robber, was once asked why he stuck up banks.  ”Because that’s where the money is,” he explained.

The money was once at Electric Boat and in Venezuela.  So people came to “improve” it.

What eventually straightens things out is arithmetic. And arithmetic is no respecter of persons. Even as president Maduro of Venezuela reached a peroration on how he would put the capitalist roaders and profiteers in their places the electric grid of Caracas crapped out. The Jefe General Maximo Comandante El Presidente del Pueblo found himself talking into a dead mike.  But he never saw it as the revenge of arithmetic; never perceived in it the Hand of God or the Workings of Physics. To the locomotives of history the facts don’t matter. Only conspiracies do. So naturally he thought it was the work of saboteurs.

A power outage briefly darkened Venezuela’s capital and other parts of the country in what President Nicolas Maduro said was an act of sabotage against his socialist government.

The blackout began shortly after 8:00PM on Monday night, as Maduro was addressing the nation about his plan to reduce inflation battering the automotive industry.

Within minutes, people in downtown Caracas could be heard banging on pots in an act of protest.

Maduro, deprived of the airwaves, then took to Twitter to say that he and his aides were monitoring the “strange blackout that occurred in the same place as the last act of sabotage”.

Later, when power was restored, he ordered the armed forces on maximum alert to prevent attacks that he said were being planned by his opponents against the electric grid and the nation’s oil installations.

Maduro in recent days had warned that his opponents might try to sabotage the electrical grid to gain advantage in nationwide elections for mayors taking place on Sunday.

The late President Hugo Chavez used to levy the same charge, also without presenting any evidence, as blackouts became more frequent in recent years.

Yet the reason the blackouts have become more frequent was spelled out in the electric company’s own report, which warned the grid could collapse in 120 days; that 8 of a major installation’s 20 turbines were out of commission and the whole thing was running on fumes.  There was nothing strange about the blackout. The only wonder was that it didn’t happen sooner.

We can confidently say that when Venezuela goes belly up the socialist geniuses will go elsewhere. One such genius, Heinz Dietrich, a European socialist academic who served as Hugo Chavez’s mentor, has already concluded the situation “deteriorated essentially because of the lack of rigor with which Chávez understood and applied Dieterich’s rigid understanding of socialism. On 15 August 2011 he submitted an article to the website kaosenlared.net where he explained the reasons behind his definitive break-off with Chávez.”

And so parasites move on, looking for another place to suck dry.  As I pointed out earlier, to be a real Man of the People you should ideally wear a Rolex.  Transparency International rates Venezuela one of the most corrupt countries on earth, worse than Zimbabwe and in the same category as Eritrea, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea Bissau.  This is rarely mentioned in “progressive” universities.

This grift has been going on for a long time. Long before Kevin Costner made the movie about the Field of Dreams, Carlo Collodi’s Pinnochio described a place called the Field of Miracles. Entrusted by his father Gepetto with some coins Pinnochio encounters “a fox and a cat. A white blackbird tries to warn Pinocchio of their lies, but is eaten by the Cat. They convince him that if he plants his coins in the Field of Miracles outside the city of Catchfools, they will grow into a tree with one or two thousand gold coins.”

What a deal! Something for nothing and your kicks for free. It has always been thus. “If you build it they will come.”  But who comes? That’s the question. Progress doesn’t always work out the way we think.

Ninety years of progress in Egypt

Ninety years of progress in Egypt


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Top Rated Comments   
"Engineers, for instance, were only allowed to make free-hand sketches of their projects. "

That sounds familiar. In my first job out of college I would design something to be manufactured in the USAF shops. But after I made a regular drawing of it, it had to be redrawn by a real govt draftsman, who would make a nice pretty drawing but delete information that he found inappropriate. Then it got sent through the bureaucracy to be manufactured. By the time it got to the shops the official drawing was in tatters. I would get a call asking that I come explain what this thing was. I would then take my original sketch to the shop and they would say, "Oh! We can make this! Sure!"

I think the reason the Feral Govt often gets along so well with unions is that they are so much alike, triumphs of process and privilege over practicality and performance.

By the way, yesterday the Illinois legislature voted to cut state worker retirement benefits in order to address their vastly underfunded retirement program. The SEIU and others are outraged.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
When reality stomps theory and the reaction is denial, then the 'theorists' actual investment is one of ego with their expressed 'noble' desire for truth or justice but part of the con.

"Professional liberals are too arrogant to compromise. In my experience, they  were also very unpleasant people on a personal level. Behind their slogans about saving the world and sharing the wealth with the common man lurked a nasty hunger for power. They'd double-cross their own mothers to get it or keep it." - Harry S Truman, from a 1970 interview
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The people at Salon are bigger idiots than is considered normal even ffor Leftists. “Privatization” is not getting a private firm to build something for the government to operate; rather it is outsourcing the whole kit and caboodle to a private company. Using private firms to build products to government specification for use by government agencies is in fact the normal government way of doing business, like the USAF buying aircraft from Boeing or Lock-Mart. Buying tickets for government personnel to travel on commercial airlines rather than transporting them by government aircraft is an example of privatization.

The most outstanding example of not using a private firm in recent history is the Space Shuttle program. NASA not only set the requirements for the system but designed the basic concept for the vehicle. Private firms did build the hardware, but only in the way NASA wanted it done. The result was a system that was supposed to be the cheapest way ever devised to put payloads into space but turned out to be by far the most expensive; it cost 114 times as much as it was supposed to. Even in DC, where cost overruns are the norm, 114 times your cost estimate is considered to be noteworthy.

So the Right sabotaged Obamacare because it was “gleeful” over the fact it went Tango Uniform on Day One? I wonder if that same approach will work with Iran’s nuclear program? If we are gleeful enough will the Mad Mullah’s bomb slag down? I don’t know, but that sounds better than the Obama Admin’s “Let them build it and then they will give it up” approach.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (35)
All Comments   (35)
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Wretchard says: Grabbing free Obamaphones and subsidized insurance is in self-interest. It is offering it in the first place that is Policy suicide.

The latest "fix" for 404Care: Insurers are now being asked to "estimate" how much the government will owe them for policy subsidies, never mind that the back end of the website isn't finished:

"Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for CMS, said the government will make the payments to insurers for premium tax credits and cost sharing on time.

'We are committed to making sure they get paid in January and we will continue to work with them on that process,' she told reporters.

The administration is planning a 'workaround' for payments, said Daniel Durham, vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at America's Health Insurance Plans.

Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to 'true up' payments, he said."

http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/12/04/usa-healthcare-payments-idINL2N0JJ00S20131204

What could possibly go wrong?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Speak truth to power!!!

How the media has fallen short. They ought to be so ashamed they cannot look themselves in the mirror.

But Walter Pavlo of Forbes has stepped forward.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/walterpavlo/2013/12/04/fmr-bp-engineer-kurt-mix-lays-out-defense-at-trial/


"To prove that Mix purposely deleted those message strings to hinder anything seems like a long shot. First, one of the three text message strings Mix deleted, from his personal iPhone, was between he and his sister, who had nothing to do with the operation. I would say that is not relevant and should not have even made it into the prosecution’s opening statement … but it did."

...

"Second, the next message string deleted was with Mix and Wilson Arabi, who is expected to testify. Wilson was a long time friend of Mix’s and was a contractor to BP tasked with an administration role, totally unrelated to engineering calculations, flow rate, or anything related to stopping the oil spill. In fact, Arabi is not even an petroleum engineer … he’s not any type of engineer and none of his communications with Mix were technical in nature. McPhee and her defense team discovered in April 2013, over a year after Mix’s arrest, that the FBI and prosecutors had withheld notes from an interview with Arabi that their text exchanges were just friendly banter. All 182 text entries that were deleted have since been recovered, McPhee even held up a copy of them in court. She encouraged the jurors to “… read them, each and every one of them.” My guess is that those would be a boring read.

Third, the text message string deleted between John Sprague and Mix were stated by the government as being between “Mix and his supervisor.” The truth is, Mix and Sprague were also good friends for over 10 years and the deletion of the text string, like the others, were of a personal nature. In fact, the act of deleting the text string occurred when Sprague sent a photo of Mix working away at his desk … a few feet away. Mix saw the photo, laughed and deleted it … along with the string of texts the two had exchanged from months before.

Fourth, there is no evidence that Mix attempted to obstruct his alleged obstruction. All three of the recipients were never contacted by Mix to assure that they too deleted the message string. In fact, Mix never even notified any of them that he had deleted the innocuous messages."

...

"So how did Mix’s case make it all the way to federal court. A federal grand jury was told that Mix worked on the project, was a key engineer in determining the flow of oil from the well and deleted texts associated with his work on the well when he was told not to. One may ask, “ Didn’t the grand jury see the text messages in question?” The answer to that is “NO“, again, something else prosecutors knew but McPhee only discovered a year after Mix’s arrest. That type of information is also something the current jury will never hear … but this jury will see the message contents.

Mix did leave a trail of evidence of his work and, more importantly, his state of mind as he undertook his task to stop the oil spill. A avid duck hunter and sport fisherman who grew up in New Roads, LA, Mix understood what was at stake when he went to work. When he first got on the job for BP he wrote down reflections, his goals, on the work ahead … here are a few:



““I honor my environment by my clean-up effort and commitment to future containment.”

“Effected co-workers. I honor my teammates with care and creativity instead of criticism.”

“Legacy. I honor them by making our offshore wells safer for their co-workers and their children.”

These are from a graduate of the petroleum engineering program at Louisiana State University.

Mix is not the face of BP. He is the face of a region devastated by BP. A region still trying to recover .. just like Kurt Mix."

FREE KURT MIX!!!

CHU LIED!
DOLPHIND DIED!
CHILDREN CRIED!

AND NICE GUYS, LIKE KURT MIX, PLUGGED THE DAMN HOLE, JUST AS MALIA OBAMA ASKED HER DADDY TO DO FOR HER. A TASK HE PROVED TOTALLY IMPOTENT TO PERFORM.

19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
'' ... between he and his sister ...'' (!!!!)

Don't they have any editors there?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The quote details the prosecution's charges. He was charged with obstruction of justice for deleting a text message string to his sister.

"Each count of obstruction of justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2013/12/trial_of_former_bp_engineer_wh.html#incart_river

Do you have the gonads to fight the DOJ against a possible sentence of 40 years and $500,000 ALONE?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sen. Tom Carper got off a good one-liner at the hearing regarding digital currency, specifically bitcoins.

When the question arose as to the identity of the anonymous founder of bitcoins, he asked the witness, "It wasn't Al Gore was it?"

General laughter erupted.

The witness replied, "He hasn't denied it."

“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” - Saul Alinsky
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Engineers, for instance, were only allowed to make free-hand sketches of their projects. "

That sounds familiar. In my first job out of college I would design something to be manufactured in the USAF shops. But after I made a regular drawing of it, it had to be redrawn by a real govt draftsman, who would make a nice pretty drawing but delete information that he found inappropriate. Then it got sent through the bureaucracy to be manufactured. By the time it got to the shops the official drawing was in tatters. I would get a call asking that I come explain what this thing was. I would then take my original sketch to the shop and they would say, "Oh! We can make this! Sure!"

I think the reason the Feral Govt often gets along so well with unions is that they are so much alike, triumphs of process and privilege over practicality and performance.

By the way, yesterday the Illinois legislature voted to cut state worker retirement benefits in order to address their vastly underfunded retirement program. The SEIU and others are outraged.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
“it had to be redrawn by a real govt draftsman”

Working for United Technologies in the eighties I too was supposed to do all of my work in a notebook. Did everything on my drafting board instead. I designed some injection molded plastic bezels and we ordered the tool off of my drawing (hand drawn title format… only the pros were allowed official stationary). 3 months later when the union drafting shop was done I did an audit of hours, hard to do because they had a tendency to change the charge numbers but found they had charged 16 hours for my 1. They were a formality… pulled the actual part numbers which they controlled. Turns out the guy had been paying contractors for hours not worked and splitting the difference. Unionism means corruption.

BTW – designed equipment that was installed on the NR-1. Tiny spaces. The brass went out to Woods Hole to look at it. Me, I just had to design the packaging and installation for the instruments.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
FREE KURT MIX!

The government's persecution of Kurt Mix has begun.

http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2013/12/trial_of_former_bp_engineer_wh.html#incart_river

In its opening statement, the DOJ has admitted the problem, "Saulino described Mix as BP's "go-to guy" on flow-rate issues after the spill."

Private sector competence versus governmental incompetence. THE NARRATIVE has been challenged by Kurt Mix. He is a living testament to the fact that governments are, to borrow a phrase well known locally in New Orleans, "Stuck on stupid".
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Projection. Leftists are emotionally criminals. They accuse others of engaging in conspiracies because that is what they would do. Similarly they accuse others of racism etc.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Amen to that.

They crave power over us and erroneously believe the feeling is mutual.

Or you could say there is one thing where we agree with the Lefties - they want to have power over us, while we also want to have power over us.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some conservative politician in Idaho(?) proposed mandating that all high school kids read 'Atlas Shrugged', by the Great Prophetess Ayn Rand (peace be upon her) in order to graduate.

I think he was onto something. She sure as hell was.....
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Chris Matthews says Barack Obama is a "a brilliant writer" other than the fact that he gets all the words wrong. Speaking of Obamacare, Matthews says:

“I think I would compare it, Andrea, to a brilliant writer, perhaps, with a great theme who turns in a paper with a lot of misspellings or bad handwriting,” he told MSNBC colleague Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday. “It’s a bad way to roll out something. With all the great strengths, potentially, of a national health care system along these lines, the way it was rolled out has hurt it.”

http://redalertpolitics.com/2013/12/03/obama-is-like-a-great-writer-who-turned-in-a-messy-paper-chris-matthews-says/

The hole is more than the sum of the parts.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Or a brilliant TV "journalist" whose commentaries consistently consist of logical fallacies, outright lies, distortions, contortions and incoherent rantings.

Why is it that all these liberal talk show hosts and guests always talk so damn fast and so damn loudly?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two reasons, generally:
1) they are so full of BS they must let some out lest they pop
and
2)The faster they talk, the less able you are to confront them with their un/intentional fallacies in logic and fact.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
...and deeper than a mountain top
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Back in the days of the Iron Curtain, there was for a time an acute shortage of milk in East Germany. There was none in the stores, none to be had anywhere. The government-controlled media set up a continual drumbeat: "There is plenty of milk. Don't let anyone tell you that there is no milk." East Germans joked, "If you need milk, take your pail to the radio and fill it up."
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot of similar jokes were circulating in all eastern block countries as well, but in reality the shortages in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia etc were nothing in comparison to their mothership = SU.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
So, is it that nobody in the Democratic party ever read 1984 or Brave New World, or that they consider them instruction manuals?

I'm living the micro version of this, the latest installment is that staff is quiting or being forced out, not necessarily the most skilled - as those left long ago - but now the ones with the most spirit. And as they leave do things improve? I'll give you three guesses. The demands and rhetoric go up as the deadline approaches. We got a nice 500 word missive from one of the new suits this afternoon (again, he sent out the same or most of it when he was elevated a few weeks ago) that tells us to think positive, or something like that, but of course does not TOUCH any substantive issue in any way, shape, or form. The project will, obviously, go into panic mode just like the Obamacare site, a week AFTER the delivery date, although only an idiot would ever think things were going well for months beforehand.

And I saw much the same thing happen OMG it's about 40 years ago now, when southern California - Orange County - was the home of six or more minicomputer companies, leading edge through about 1974, and then suddenly fell off against DEC, DG, HP, Prime, and other companies mysteriously located elsewhere. Why? Well, that's a big question, but what I saw is that as one company failed, all the personnel were soaked up by the next company, and then they failed too. It was like they were hired to fail. For the most part, the individuals I saw riding this train were OBVIOUSLY unqualified and incompetent from the start, but somehow that made no nevermind. General Automation, Computer Automation, Microdata, Iris, Varian Data Machines, and I'm forgetting a couple more, dried up and blew away. Caught the plague or something. Hmm, Xerox Data Systems, wasn't that in El Segundo, too near apparently?

Large organizations do not necessarily avoid even the most blatently obvious downward spirals. And be careful if you try to pick up the pieces.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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