NASA Manager’s Computer Searched for Kiddie Porn

03/31/2006: James Robinson, an executive with the In-Space Propulsion Technology division of NASA, could be in some serious trouble.

Apparently, NASA technicians–searching the computer for flesh-colored tones–found 189 child pornographic images on his machine.

It is also suspected that his computer had been used to send child pornography movies. The recipient was an undercover postal inspector.

If the allegations prove true and Robinson ends up being charged and found guilty, then this will serve as a testament to the extent that pornography can impair a person’s judgment and bring a person down.

A senior exec with NASA, Robinson was no doubt among the cream of the crop: NASA doesn’t hire dummies. He is very likely a quite accomplished engineer who has an otherwise brilliant mind. However, porn can wreck it big time.

Some may ask why I support such crackdowns, being a libertarian.

With respect to pornography, it is evil. Period. It is destructive to individuals and families. I know of women whose marriages were destroyed because their husbands were addicted to porn. That addiction also impacted the children. The horror stories are one hundred percent true on that front.

That said, I generally oppose the prohibition of adult pornography. Why? The government apparatus necessary for regulation would border on Orwellian. Every man who hits the CNN/Sports Illustrated web page could find his Internet traffic being sniffed by a government entity. While I don’t go to that site, I’d still find that level of regulation to be antithetical to basic liberties.

As for child porn, I favor passive law enforcement. That means police would not be actively sniffing the Internet traffic with every household, but–as evidence is gained (such as people sending kiddie porn to undercover agents)–crimes would be aggressively prosecuted.

My dream job: going undercover to help nail some of these nutbrains who solicit sex with kids. However, instead of meeting a 13-year-old girl or even a Dateline NBC reporter, they would end up staring at the barrel of my Remington 870 Tactical Magnum. 😉

On Immigration, Part 1 (Assimilation and English)

03/31/2006: in 1965, my dad legally came to the United States from Iran.

  • He worked hard–in excess of 60 hours per week.
  • He paid taxes.
  • He learned English.
  • He received no welfare benefits, as he worked for a living.

When I was born–and I was 6 weeks premature–I had an extended hospital stay. My dad paid for that, too; he set up a payment plan with the hospital. No taxpayer-funded health care.

As a result, he satisfied the expectations that we should all rightfully have of all immigrants:

  • You come here legally.
  • You work for a living.
  • You pay taxes.
  • You abide by the law of the land.
  • You learn English.
  • You must assimilate to our culture; as it is not our duty to assimilate to yours.
  • If you become an American citizen, you are no longer a Mexican, or an Iranian, or a Spaniard, or a Frenchman, or an Aussie, or an Englishman: you are an AMERICAN!!!

If you cannot handle that, then don’t come here or apply for citizenship.

Those are perfectly reasonable expectations that any nation should have of her immigrants.

While I am respective of other cultures, this is the United States of America. While I am proud of my Kurdish-Iranian heritage, I will not kid anyone: I am an American.

And this leads me to one of the biggest roadblocks toward true, substantive immigration (and education) reform: we do not have an official national language.

We need a Constitutional Amendment declaring English our national language, and we must require all immigrants to speak and write English.

If I go to China, I must learn Chinese if I expect to gain decent employment.

If I go to France, I must learn French if I expect to have a chance to prosper.

If I go to Iran, I’d better be working on my Farsi.

This is the United States of America, and you need to learn English.

Shame on us for not requiring that.

Celizic: MLB Has “Culture of Cheating”

03/31/2006: I agree 100% with Mike Celizic on this one. The media is being less-than-honest by targeting Barry Bonds, when in fact the chronic steroid use among players is something for which MLB–and mainstream media–provided tacit approval for nearly 15 years.

As Celizic points out, we have many Hall of Fame players who made a career out of cheating. Whitey Ford, Don Sutton, and Gaylord Perry–with the help of their catchers (who, in Ford’s case, included Yogi Berra). Many hitters modified their bats–shaving them, corking them, adding too much pine tar–to get an extra edge.

As for performance enhancing drugs, amphetamines have been an integral part of MLB culture for nearly six decades.

Make no mistake: the current “investigation” is all about Barry Bonds.

This is because MLB wants a good reason to keep Bonds out of Cooperstown. The sportswriters, who vote on Hall of Fame candidates, hate Bonds–because he is less than amiable to them–and are trying hard to find a reason not to vote him in, in spite of his outstanding career.

I’ll be the first to concede: Bonds is probably a scumbag toward the media. He is rude to reporters, plays the game only for himself, and is one of the most selfish players in the MLB today.

However, as Schmidt points out in Clearing the Bases, Bonds is the best pure hitter in MLB history. Steroids or no steroids.

It would be nice if all sports stars had sterling character. As a lifelong Roger Staubach fan, I appreciate great athletes who are also great citizens. Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann are also fine examples.

However, many otherwise fine citizen-athletes have faults. My childhood hero–Julius “Dr. J” Erving, an outspoken Christian athlete–was making extramarital housecalls. Ditto for Evander Holyfield.

Similarly, Lawrence Taylor–arguably the greatest linebacker in NFL history–is well-known for his drug problems, which have wrecked his life off the field. Ditto for the tragic cases of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, whose drug use shortened their careers and hindered their ability to prosper after retirement.

Barry Bonds is no exception. He is not the amiable athlete everyone wishes he were; he is rude to reporters, and he is not a team player. The same is probably true of Jim Rice, who has been blackballed out of the Hall because he was hostile to the media.

But–even without steroids–Barry Bonds is a Hall of Fame caliber hitter who deserves a place in Cooperstown. Who are writers to deny him while saluting Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Whitey Ford, and others who stretched the limits of propriety to get a competitive advantage–with MLB supporting it every step of the way?

From the Good Folks at I Love Jet Noise

03/30/2006: This, from Joatmoaf at the blog I love Jet Noise, who reports a memo distributed to the CO at a Navy base in the Middle East:

To: All Commands

Subject: Inappropriate T-Shirts

Ref: ComMidEastFor Inst 16134//24 K

1. The following T-shirts are no longer to be worn on or off base by any military or civilian personnel serving in the Middle East:

* “Eat Pork Or Die” [both English and Arabic versions]

* “Shrine Busters” [Various. Show burning minarets or bomb/artillery shells impacting Islamic shrines. Some with unit logos.]

* “Napalm, Sticks Like Crazy” [Both English and Arabic versions]

* “Goat – it isn’t just for breakfast any more.” [Both English and Arabic versions]

* “The road to Paradise begins with me.” [Mostly Arabic versions but some in English. Some show sniper scope cross-hairs]

* “Guns don’t kill people. I kill people.” [Both Arabic and English versions]

* “Pork. The other white meat.” [Arabic version]

* “Infidel” [English, Arabic and other coalition force languages.]

2. The above T-shirts are to be removed from Post Exchanges upon receipt of this directive.

3. The following signs are to be removed upon receipt of this message:

* “Islamic Religious Services Will Be Held at the Firing Range at 0800 Daily.”

* “Do we really need ‘smart bombs’ to drop on these dumb bastards?”

4. All commands are instructed to implement sensitivity training upon receipt.

I need to buy some of those t-shirts! 😉

As for sensitivity training, I’d say the Islammunists need it.

What Have We “Accomplished”?

03/29/2006: If a person cannot worship as he or she pleases, then is the country really free?

If a person cannot leave the country as he or she pleases, then is that country really free?

Forget about religion. This is not about Christians converting to Islam or Muslims converting to Christianity. This is about basic human liberties.

Fact is, we claim to have “liberated” Afghanistan from Taliban rule. If people are not free to worship, or seek refuge elsewhere, then have we really “liberated” them?

What is the difference between the Islammunist leaders who make government policy now and the Islammunists–Taliban–we helped rout?

If what we have accomplished is the installation of a more America-friendly Islammunist regime in Afghanistan, then we need to call to account all of our policymakers, from President Bush on down.

If this represents our “success”, then have we really accomplished anything?

Can General Motors Survive?

03/28/2006: Few people are as hard on General Motors management (and union reps) as yours truly. I spent my first three years out of college working at various General Motors plants, as an Engineering Systems Engineer for EDS. (EDS was a subsidiary of GM back then, and was responsible for the information systems at GM.)

I was there in 1992, when GM recorded the $23 billion annual loss. It was depressing, but most of us knew that most of that loss was on paper. The consultants on the plant floor–charged with accelerating the adoption of synchronous manufacturing–were convinced that GM (and the American auto industry) had turned things around. The quality gap was closing.

To a point, they were right. Improvements were made, and GM would return to profitability.

Unfortunately, the consultants were wrong on another front: while GM incorporated some modern manufacturing and engineering methodologies, overall corporate culture had not really changed. Underneath the talk of synchronous manufacturing and Just-In-Time, GM remained an Old Economy company with an Old Economy mindset stuck in the midst of a global economy that now threatens to leave GM on the ash heap of economic history.

It is as simple as that.

It is not that GM managers are stupid; in fact, GM hired some of the highest-achieving college grads. Trouble is, those managers have spent decades in a company that rewarded people for thinking inside-the-box. (And GM bureaucracy is as bad as–in some cases worse than–the most bloated government agencies.)

It’s not that GM engineers are not bright, either: GM was known for hiring outstanding graduates from Purdue, GMI, and University of Michigan. I knew the people who developed the products that led to the creation of Magnequench, which was part of GM back then: they were spectacular engineers from General Motors Research Laboratories. In the field of magnetic research, few scientists or engineers could hold a candle to John Croat.

No. The problem is not the competence of the people that GM has hired: it is their corporate culture, which has rewarded employees for thinking inside the box for the better part of the last six decades. General Motors is an Old Economy company–whose business and engineering processes are still tied to that paradigm–trying to stay afloat in the New Economy.

(1) They have too many vehicle platforms.

(2) They have too many brands.

(3) Their vehicles do not share the degree of commonality among parts that their competitors do.

(4) In spite of remarkable improvements in quality, GM still suffers from the stigma of past blunders.

(5) Their strategists tied GM’s future to large trucks and SUVs, leaving GM vulnerable to spikes in fuel prices.

(6) Their legacy costs include slushy handouts–such as the Jobs Bank–to uncontrollable expenses such as retiree pensions and health coverage. Some employees have spent upwards of ten years in the Jobs Bank collecting large salaries for doing nothing.

(7) Their R&D processes are slower, as time-to-market (TTM) is much higher than that of Toyota.

The reason for this is that Toyota and Honda–New Economy companies–have embraced concurrent engineering, integrating R&D, manufacturing, and maintenance. In New Economy companies, this integration of R&D allows for more rapid product development and also better manufacturing–which leads to better quality measured by fewer defects–and better maintainability. Their R&D, manufacturing, marketing, finance, and HR units work together. At GM, those units have been known for huge rivalries.

That’s not to say that GM has not embraced any of these concepts; however, in a New Economy company, this involves integrating a corporate-wide mindset of innovation and process improvement. GM has embraced some methods, but not the outside-the-box mindset that is necessary to make them work.

That leads me to the fundamental problem with GM management: they all need to go. It’s not that they are bad people; however, they are not the right people to remodel a company to think outside the box. It’s time for new blood, new brains, new ideas, a whole new way of doing business.

Rick Wagoner and the entire executive team need to go.

While offering the buyouts to hourly workers was a step in the right direction–as is the reduction in salaried employees–that is only part of the solution. After all, no company ever cut itself into prosperity.

GM must make some hard decisions:

(1) Which brands will survive and which will be dropped or sold?

(2) How to integrate marketing, R&D, and manufacturing?

(3) How to properly fund and integrate both product and process innovation?

(4) How to close the quality gap, both in perception and reality?

(5) How to bring employee and retiree compensation to a New Economy standard?

The last element will impact everything, as GM has legacy costs that will impact them for at least another generation. While GM retirement compensation is of the defined benefit variety, New Economy companies have incorporated defined contribution (i.e. 401(k), 403(b), 457) plans.

Defined contribution plans place responsibility on the individual to manage his or her assets, while pensions place the economic burden on the company to provide financial benefits to employees beyond their years of service.

As a result, GM will face serious hurdles in covering those costs and regaining competitive strength. With its bond rating well into junk territory, her cost of capital will make it difficult to formulate a capital structure that will bring recovery.

The possibility: by selling GMAC and other business units, and by shedding hourly and salaried workers, GM will be able to raise the capital to satisfy its immediate legacy costs and bolster R&D processes. This may help stop the bleeding and return GM to financial stability in the short term. If that happens, then perhaps the bond ratings will improve–lowering the cost of capital–allowing GM to negotiate bond offerings that will meet future legacy cost structures at favorable rates.

Meanwhile, new GM employees–union and non–will be subject to New Economy standards. That means defined contribution plans and health savings accounts, and less-comprehensive health insurance.

If GM wished to be really creative, they might offer retirees a “buyout” of sorts: offer retirees a financial incentive to convert their pension into a 401(k) plan. This would involve taking accrued pension benefits and investing them in a 401(k) account carrying the investment structure selected by the retiree (perhaps in consultation with a financial advisor provided by the union).

Sadly, legacy costs may make Chapter 11 inevitable for GM. I hate that, because retirees would be the ones to suffer: many of them lack skills to re-enter the workforce and find work that would compensate for the money lost. Many have health care needs that would be impacted by reduced insurance coverage.

However, this whole case study reveals fundamental lessons in economics:

(1) There is no free lunch. That Milton Friedman truism is a scientific fact. No solution that I–or anyone else–proposes would make everyone happy or reduce everyone’s suffering. Any way you look at it, people are going to lose jobs. Retiree benefits would either be reduced (in pensions) or put at greater risk (in 401(k) plans). Any way you look at it, health coverage would either be reduced (by scaling back coverage) or put at risk (by shifting responsibility through HSAs).

(2) As with point 1, economics is less about solutions and more about tradeoffs. Mounting legacy costs will make it hard–if not impossible–for GM to compete with Toyota. On the other hand, if GM files Chapter 11 it will impact the entire economy, as well as the taxpayers who will end up footing the bill for the pensions that GM would dump onto the already debt-plagued Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

But to answer the question of whether GM can survive? I’d say there is still a lot of hope. GM has weathered many storms: the Great Depression, the fuel crunch of the 1970s, the stagflation and high interest rates and recession of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the emergence of Japanese competition, the dot-com bubble, and the aftermath of 9/11.

GM has been a great company whose leaders–in good times and bad–compensated workers generously (GM was once dubbed “Generous Motors”). When CEO Rick Wagoner made the case that GM was working hard to do the right thing for America–such as 0% financing in the aftermath of 9/11–there is an element of truth to that. I’d also make the case that GM has largely tried to do right by her workers.

That’s why I’m rooting for GM to return to greatness. The situation is critical, but–if the directors make the right hard decisions–GM could become the turnaround story of the century.

Pete Rose Weighs in on ‘Roids Scandals

03/28/2006: Pete Rose may be making the most sense in the major league steroid scandal.

MLB didn’t even have a steroids policy until two years ago. In fact, the case could be made that MLB owners tacitly supported the proliferation of pharmaceutical performance enhancers.

Think about it: the aftermath of the Rose gambling scandal and the strikes that scratched the World Series were devastating to the bottom lines of many owners. Sure, Cal Ripken’s consecutive game streak was a high point in the 1990s, but home runs are better for ticket sales.

So when players started juicing up, many team coaches, managers, and owners probably turned and looked the other way. If the steroids were prescribed, then no laws were broken. Since MLB had no rules banning steroids, no rules were broken either.

When Mark and Sammy were slugging it out, some folks wondered aloud about the bulk of the players. Mark was using androstendione, which was perfectly legal at the time.

Then Barry Bonds–already a great hitter with Hall of Fame numbers–bulked up rapidly and started jacking fastballs into the water faster than anyone.

Then Rafael Palmeiro surprised everyone with his power longevity: 3,000 hits and 500 round-trippers.

Everyone knew something wasn’t right, and when Jose Canseco penned a book accusing Mac and Raffy–among others–of juicing up, no one wanted to believe him. When Ken Caminiti, a former MVP whose career was cut short by drug issues, confessed to juicing up and suggested that such activity was widespread, no one wanted to believe him either.

When Raffy wagged his finger before Congress and denied steroid use, we all believed him. Although, when Bonds played dumb and Mac ducked the question, we started to worry.

Last year?

Bonds missed 148 games, citing the aftermath of surgeries.
Sammy Sosa had one of his worst years.
In the biggest shocker to date, Raffy tested positive for steroids.
Giambi had a respectable year, but far from his MVP numbers.

This year?

Bonds is getting clobbered left and right. He continues to play dumb, in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary. He’ll pass Babe Ruth, and maybe even Hank Aaron. But it’s even money whether he will make it to Cooperstown.

In the midst of all the hysteria, Rose is one of the few–Mike Schmidt being the other–who are being sensible. What these players did before the advent of testing is one thing. I would be loathe to hold that against a player. That is comparable with pitchers such as Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton–both of whom are in the Hall of Fame–who threw spitballs and were known for doctoring the ball.

I would have no problem voting Bonds into the Hall; however, I’m not sure that an unjuiced McGwire or Sosa would have numbers befitting Cooperstown.

However, any player who tests positive should be punished to the fullest extent. That means no Cooperstown for Raffy or any other player who comes up positive for the juice.

Then again, I also believe Rose belongs in the Hall.

Vox Day Hits Cultural Conservatives

03/28/2006: In addressing a recent Brent Bozell column, Vox had this to say:

I rather like the Veggie Tales, (in the background, that is to say, the music is much better than most kiddie schlock), but this sounds absolutely hilarious. It reminds me of the time that Big Chilly’s little brother’s school choir – public school, of course – had a concert, but changed the words of the song “God is Watching Us” to the very creepy, pedophilic “They are Watching Us”. The choral director couldn’t figure out why people in the audience kept cracking up.

Christians face enough genuine challenges in secular society without going out of their way to invent new ones. And vegetables singing about eternal damnation is funny, so just accept it and spend your energy figuring out how to get your kid out of the secular mind-warp facilities.

It is unseemly for Christians to adopt the victimization/protest model of their opponents. We have the Light on our side, there is no need to indulge in passive-aggressive Gramscian deception.

Tangential note: As a creator, what I find incredibly annoying about people such Hagelin and Bozell how that they’ll devote space infinitum to talking about eeeevil products that they dislike, but seldom bother to so much as mention Christian books, movies and games that might provide a worthwhile alternative. Ironically, the only way to ensure coverage in the Christian is to combine children or elements of the sacred with decapitation, sodomy or witchcraft.

As someone who spent many years supporting many cultural conservative causes–I’m still socially conservative, just not politically active–I absolutely agree with Vox on this one.

Did Jesus ever play victim? Did Peter, Paul, John, or any of the apostles ever play victim? Did Stephen protest over the validity of the lynch mob of thugs who stoned him?

In many parts of the world–especially those dominated by Islammunists–Christians are subject to far more than ridicule. Do you see them playing victim? Anyone who thinks Abdul Rahman–who nearly was excecuted for converting from Islam to Christianity–is an isolated case is smoking something I want.

Yet here in America, Christians get all bent out of shape when Hollywhackjobs take to lampooning them.

Don’t count me among the whiners.

If you don’t like the television programming, then change the station or find a cable channel that suits your preference. Better yet: turn your TV off altogether. (I’ve turned my TV on once in the past 18 months. Living without the tube is in fact quite liberating.)

As for books, there are plenty of Christian writers whose quality is high caliber (well…maybe not quite as good as Tom Clancy, but–then again–few people come close.) Bodie and Brock Thoene, Terri Blackstock, Randy Alcorn, and Davis Bunn are outstanding writers who provide effective plots, top-notch character development, and even suspense–all while addressing matters of Christian living.

If you want objective reporting that is high-caliber, read the Wall Street Journal. Print subscriptions are just inside $100 per year, which is less than an X-box or an I-pod and less than many pairs of sneakers.

As for those who insist on reading classics, don’t forget C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien: arguably the best literary one-two punch since the canon was closed. And don’t just read the most popular books: Pilgrim’s Regress is one of my favorites by Lewis.

That’s not to say that secular authors and artists are to be avoided; far from it. In fact, I read books from a variety of authors, even those whose views with which I don’t agree. Christians should read secular authors. Don’t shut out the world; engage it. (What do you think Paul did at Mars Hill?)

When one understands the framework that drives an author, analyzing his or her writings can be quite educational. I had a Christian professor for philosophy class as an undergrad: he had me reading Sartre, Camus, and Ayn Rand. All three were hardcore atheists; my faith hardly suffered for reading them. (That same professor turned me on to C.S. Lewis, too.)

Brave New World and The Communist Manifesto should be required reading in high school. Along with Animal Farm, 1984, Dr. Zhivago, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Gulag Archipelago, and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

If anything, Christians need to be exposed to frameworks that are antithetical to the basic freedoms and liberties that we take for granted in America (and are driving us toward totalitarianism that has enveloped many a society).

Like Vox, I’m not all worked up over video games: I’m just not a gaming nut. On my Richter Scale, the X-box doesn’t even register. If I had kids, I’d be too busy teaching them real skills (computers, robotics, amateur radio, finance, and–for home defense, sporting, and stress relief–how to responsibly handle firearms). Now if I can find a stable, mature Christian female who can put up with me… 😉

Screw the video games: who the heck needs video games when you can blast some steel and clay targets with various calibers of artillery?

As for movies, everyone should complain. My gripe is not that Hollywood is anti-Christian: their recent movies–with few exceptions–just plain suck. Toward that end, I vote with my pocketbook.

All said, Christians need not engage in the one-sided whining that has defined activist groups, the latter of whom are–to quote that great philosopher, Gen. Honore–stuck on stupid.