Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top Ten Heroes

[From Dr. Doris Branson, based on her presentation to the Philosophy Club, The Villages, FL. You may obtain download a copy of her Powerpoint slides here.]

Down through the ages since the beginning of the recorded word there existed the idea of a special type of entity called the hero. Man or woman; they exemplified that essence of the hope for the future.

The epic heroes of the Greeks and Romans are very different than the heroes of today but they still must have certain characteristic to fulfill the unconscious archetype of the hero. The slide show presented at the philosophy club reiterates the evolving hero in literature.

When I presented this to the Philosophy Club, discussion centered around the people that most exemplified heroes to the members. The range of the top ten heroes was most interesting and thoughtful. There was discussion about heroes for children today and do they have legitimate heroes. Some of the people selected as heroes ranged from ancient philosophers to politicians or religious leaders.

Selecting the top ten heroes is very personal. Who would your top ten heroes be and why? Please Comment!

Doris Branson

Monday, June 20, 2011

Edison, Tammany, Labor Relations, and Forward Pricing

When I was a teen, my contemporaries chased girls and worshiped sports stars. I did electrical experiments and my boyhood heroes were Thomas Alva Edison and Mr. Wizard!
In those days I was most interested in the technology behind Edison's clever inventions. I did not fully appreciate his real genius which was making them into commercially-successful, practical products the public needed and wanted to purchase. Nor did I realize the system engineering aspect of his work. His incandescent light bulb would have been useless had he not pioneered the electrification of Manhattan and other city centers.
I just read a book originally published in 1910 titled EDISON, HIS LIFE AND INVENTIONS By Frank Lewis Dyer (General Counsel For The Edison Laboratory and Allied Interests) and Thomas Commerford Martin (President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers). The book is available free for the iPad at the iTunes store, or may be downloaded to your PC from this link:

Here are some highlights with which you may not be familiar:

1) Government Inspectors

To electrify the downtown area of New York City, Edison had to bury miles of copper wires encased in iron pipes. That required the permission of the city government, controlled by the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine. Then, as now, the politicians claimed to be looking out for the safety of the public. However, as Edison tells the story, all they really wanted was pay-offs.
"When I was laying tubes in the streets of New York, the office received notice from the Commissioner of Public Works to appear at his office at a certain hour. I went up there with a gentleman to see the Commissioner, H. O. Thompson. On arrival he said to me: 'You are putting down these tubes. The Department of Public Works requires that you should have five inspectors to look after this work, and that their salary shall be $5 per day, payable at the end of each week. Good-morning.' I went out very much crestfallen, thinking I would be delayed and harassed in the work which I was anxious to finish, and was doing night and day. We watched patiently for those inspectors to appear. The only appearance they made was to draw their pay Saturday afternoon."
2)  Trading Jobs for Tammany Favors

The corrupt Tammany Hall machine allowed businesses to violate zoning regulations in return for jobs for their supporters.
"The street was lined with rather old buildings and poor tenements. We had not much frontage. As our business increased enormously, our quarters became too small, so we saw the district Tammany leader and asked him if we could not store castings and other things on the sidewalk. He gave us permission--told us to go ahead, and he would see it was all right. The only thing he required for this was that when a man was sent with a note from him asking us to give him a job, he was to be put on. We had a hand-laborer foreman--'Big Jim'--a very powerful Irishman, who could lift above half a ton. When one of the Tammany aspirants appeared, he was told to go right to work at $1.50 per day. The next day he was told off to lift a certain piece, and if the man could not lift it he was discharged. That made the Tammany man all safe. Jim could pick the piece up easily. The other man could not, and so we let him out. Finally the Tammany leader called a halt, as we were running big engine lathes out on the sidewalk, and he was afraid we were carrying it a little too far. The lathes were worked right out in the street, and belted through the windows of the shop."
3) Labor Troubles Solved by Automation

Edison was generous with his employees and he expected loyalty in return.
"After our works at Goerck Street got too small, we had labor troubles also. It seems I had rather a socialistic strain in me, and I raised the pay of the workmen twenty-five cents an hour above the prevailing rate of wages, whereupon Hoe & Company, our near neighbors, complained at our doing this. I said I thought it was all right. But the men, having got a little more wages, thought they would try coercion and get a little more, as we were considered soft marks. Whereupon they struck at a time that was critical. However, we were short of money for pay-rolls; and we concluded it might not be so bad after all, as it would give us a couple of weeks to catch up. So when the men went out they appointed a committee to meet us; but for two weeks they could not find us, so they became somewhat more anxious than we were. Finally they said they would like to go back. We said all right, and back they went. It was quite a novelty to the men not to be able to find us when they wanted to; and they didn't relish it at all. ...
"One of the incidents which caused a very great cheapening [of the cost of production of light bulbs] was that, when we started, one of the important processes had to be done by experts. This was the sealing on of the part carrying the filament into the globe, which was rather a delicate operation in those days, and required several months of training before any one could seal in a fair number of parts in a day. When we got to the point where we employed eighty of these experts they formed a union; and knowing it was impossible to manufacture lamps without them, they became very insolent.
"One instance was that the son of one of these experts was employed in the office, and when he was told to do anything would not do it, or would give an insolent reply. He was discharged, whereupon the union notified us that unless the boy was taken back the whole body would go out. 
"It got so bad that the manager came to me and said he could not stand it any longer; something had got to be done. They were not only more surly; they were diminishing the output, and it became impossible to manage the works. He got me enthused on the subject, so I started in to see if it were not possible to do that operation by machinery. 
"After feeling around for some days I got a clew how to do it. I then put men on it I could trust, and made the preliminary machinery. That seemed to work pretty well. I then made another machine which did the work nicely. I then made a third machine, and would bring in yard men, ordinary laborers, etc., and when I could get these men to put the parts together as well as the trained experts, in an hour, I considered the machine complete. I then went secretly to work and made thirty of the machines. Up in the top loft of the factory we stored those machines, and at night we put up the benches and got everything all ready. Then we discharged the office-boy. Then the union went out. It has been out ever since."  
4) Forward Pricing

I thought "forward pricing" was a relatively new idea. However, it turns out that Edison made use of this practice, which is selling initial production runs well below cost to build a market, at prices that would be achieved at later mass production quantities.
"When we first started the electric light we had to have a factory for manufacturing lamps. As the Edison Light Company did not seem disposed to go into manufacturing, we started a small lamp factory at Menlo Park with what money I could raise from my other inventions and royalties, and some assistance.
"The lamps at that time were costing about $1.25 each to make, so I said to the company: 'If you will give me a contract during the life of the patents, I will make all the lamps required by the company and deliver them for forty cents.' The company jumped at the chance of this offer, and a contract was drawn up.
"We then bought at a receiver's sale at Harrison, New Jersey, a very large brick factory building which had been used as an oil-cloth works. We got it at a great bargain, and only paid a small sum down, and the balance on mortgage. We moved the lamp works from Menlo Park to Harrison.
"The first year the lamps cost us about $1.10 each. We sold them for forty cents; but there were only about twenty or thirty thousand of them.
"The next year they cost us about seventy cents, and we sold them for forty. There were a good many, and we lost more money the second year than the first.
"The third year I succeeded in getting up machinery and in changing the processes, until it got down so that they cost somewhere around fifty cents. I still sold them for forty cents, and lost more money that year than any other, because the sales were increasing rapidly.
"The fourth year I got it down to thirty-seven cents, and I made all the money up in one year that I had lost previously. I finally got it down to twenty-two cents, and sold them for forty cents; and they were made by the million. Whereupon the Wall Street people thought it was a very lucrative business, so they concluded they would like to have it, and bought us out.

Ira Glickstein

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sarah Palin Right On Paul Revere's Ride?

Could Sarah Palin have been right on when she described her idea of the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere?

Say what? Yep, I read it on, of all places, the MSNBC website. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43285196/ns/politics/ [Scroll to the bottom and click on "Show more text"]


Pretty much the story as told by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, http://poetry.eserver.org/paul-revere.html
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, ...

"..Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

... And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

... It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
... It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
... It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.

... So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---...

Do you remember anything else?


The MSNBC site linked above quotes her as saying:
"He who warned the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms by ringing those bells, and makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed."
Say what? Did you ever hear that Paul Revere WARNED the BRITISH ??? And RINGING THOSE BELLS ??? And, we were going to be FREE and ARMED ???

Where did she get that from?

OK, if you go to that linked MSNBC site, scroll to the bottom and then click on "Show more text", you will read:
... Revere did give up some details of the plan to the British that night, but after he had notified other colonists, and under questioning by British soldiers ... Revere revealed "there would be five hundred Americans there in a short time, for I had alarmed the Country all the way up," ...

So, Paul Revere, in essence WARNED the British soldiers who questioned him after his ride, that there would soon be FIVE HUNDRED AMERICANS, ARMED and ready to protect our freedom.

And, during his ride through all those towns and villages, how did Paul Revere alert all those sleeping Americans? Did he go from house to house and wake them all up?

Of course not, he went to each Church, roused the keeper, and, by the sound of the Church bells, awoke and alerted everybody, informing them of the message he had received via the two signal lanterns hung in the Bell Tower of the Old North Church.

And, what was the main purpose of the British advance up through Medford and Lexington towards Concord? Well, it was to attempt to confiscate the stash of arms hidden there.

That explains this stanza in Longfellow's poem:
You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

Ira Glickstein

PS: Sarah Palin is mocked for the slightest error or apparent error. At the same time, our President, arguably the most academically intelligent leader we have ever had, can write "24 May 2008" (a couple weeks ago in Westminster Abbey) as the date and year when it was actually 2011. The President forgets the YEAR, which is certainly more important for anyone to know than the story of Paul Revere, and Sarah Palin gets busted for her short-hand answer about the REAL story of Paul Revere warning the British and sounding the bells. Media bias? You Betcha! Amazing! http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=302953

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Second Warning. Preventing Economic Armageddon

[From Doug McDonald - The proprietor of this Blog does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in this Topic]

I don't know how many of you are aware of the great triumvirate [Rubin, Greenspan, and Summers, left to right, pictured here] steamrolling over Brooksley Born to keep her from regulating derivatives back in the late 1990's. Ms. Born, at the time, was the head of the "Commodity Futures Trading Commission" (CFTC). She was a lawyer who had worked with derivatives for 20 years and knew how dangerous they were in the hands of greedy Wall Street risk managers with no oversight. These three self ordained members of the economic intelligentcia, all of whom are still running around free amazingly enough, along with another know-it-all, Senator Phil (nation of whiners) Gramm of Texas, convinced Pres. Clinton to sign the bill removing the regulation of derivatives from the CFTC. Born had no recourse but to resign. The rest is history and Summers is now teaching his ideas to young impressionable lawyer/politician types at Harvard. God bless America!

Try to control your temper as you watch this PBS FRONTLINE documentary aptly named “The Warning”.


Well the great triumvirate is gone but now there are others who are trying to do it again to another brilliant and knowledgeable women, Elizabeth Warren [photo to left]. Please look into this and convince yourself as I have that we need to rein in the greedy narcissists on Wall Street and their buddies in congress.

We can't think Republican or Democrat here. There is too much money flying around to both parties. Google "Elizabeth Warren" and please do a little homework and look into the background of Elizabeth Warren, the “Congressional Oversight Panel” and the "Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)". If you come up with a reason not to have Warren as head of the CFPB please let the rest of know what it is.

Here is a dialogue between David Gregory and Mitch McConnell on “Meet the Press” Sunday May 29, 2011.

David Gregory: Elizabeth Warren, would you back her or would you join Republicans to block her nomination?

McConnell: Well we’re pretty unenthusiastic about the possibility of Elizabeth Warren … uh … we’re pretty unenthusiastic frankly about this new agency and we’ve sent a letter to the President saying some changes need to be made in the CFPB, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, because as it’s currently constituted it answers to no one and I think could be a serious threat to our financial system.

Here are a couple of links illustrating her knowledge and brilliance. Even the pundits are overwhelmed.


She is obviously so much more knowledgeable than the other people on the panel. This nation needs Elizabeth Warren.


Listen to her put these two pundits in their place and talk their language about how ridiculous the current regulating agencies are.

Here’s an indication that she won’t be pushed around but she needs help. She has to become known to everyone in the U.S. The electorate has to understand how brilliant and knowledgeable she is. She could be the savior of this country’s economy if given the power to EFFICIENTLY and CONSTRUCTIVELY regulate Wall Street as only she can.


Here are some things you can do thanks to the Coffee Party Annabel and Eric <annabel2.0@coffeepartyusa.com>:

1) Write to President Obama, and demand that he not be bullied. He must nominate Elizabeth Warren to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He knows that she is the most qualified for the job. In two days, we have already sent over 1,000 letters.

2) Write to Congress, and let them know that we want strong consumer protection. An independent agency with Elizabeth Warren as the director can be the start of a firewall protecting us from abusive banking practices that led to the financial crisis of 2008. In two weeks, we've already sent 14,000 letters.

3) Join the thousands of Americans who have commented on Patrick McHenry's Facebook page to let him know how we feel about bullying and corruption.

4 Join the Coffee Party Elizabeth Warren Facebook page, or, volunteer for this initiative

I have two issues that I intend to spend the rest of my life promoting:

1. Political Transparency

2. Electorate Education

I believe that the solution to these two issues, by definition, solves all the other problems in our government.

I may need some help.