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Charles Krauthammer Takes a Swipe At Labor And Dems

5:26 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

labor at the table - Rivera Court

labor at the table - Rivera Court

Ugh I don’t even know why I bother to read the Washington Post editorial page. Maybe it is the boost it gives my morning by raising my blood pressure, but in any case I exposed my tender brain-cells the thoughts of Charles Krauthammer this morning.

Chucky has a piece in the WaPo with the title of “The union owned Democrats” the first thing I thought when I read it was “I wish!”. This is a tired old meme from a tired old man. The idea that everything the Democrats do on issues of workplace rules or safety is somehow motivated by the fact that unions overwhelmingly support Democrats.

It could not possibly be because the funders of the Republican party have been wanting to dismantle the counterbalancing force of organized labor for, well, ever. One of the reasons that Ronald Regan has been sainted if not deified by the Republican Party is that he broke the Air Traffic Controllers union and set the DOJ on other unions looking for mafia ties and corruption. It was the start of the major decline of the Labor movement in this country.

What has Krauthammer’s undies in a twist? A couple of things; first off there is the NLRB’s decision to take Boeing to court over the union busting attempt they made by building a factory in South Carolina, which is a right to work state. To be clear (since everyone including Chucky misses this point) it is not about the fact that Boeing decided to build a new plant in a management friendly state, it is their intentions in doing so. You can build wherever you like, but if you do it with the intention of busting your union at your primary facilities, that is illegal.

He also rails against the saving of the Auto Industry by the Obama administration. Take a look:

In 2009, Obama pushed through a federally run, questionably legal, bankruptcy for the auto companies that robbed first-in-line creditors in order to bail out the United Auto Workers.

You know, the successful saving of our domestic auto industry did have some benefits for UAW workers. But they also took on a lot of liability to help out with that. They are now funding the health care that was promised by GM and Chrysler to employees who worked their entire lives on the factory floor. The UAW did it because it would help to reduce the costs of the companies and save jobs, but it was not like they were not taking over an obligation that was the auto companies. It is and was a big blow to the financial health of the UAW, but it was the right thing to do.

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NLRB Takes Boeing To Court For Union Busting

5:27 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Union Thug

Union Thug by LizaWasHere

In another example of disaster capitalism, the Boeing company decided in 2009, at the height of the devastating loss of jobs in this country, to build a new plant to produce the “Dreamliner” aircraft. That sounds like it should be good news, no? Well, according to the NLRB, it was a union-busting move.

Instead of building the plant in Washington State where most of the Boeing aircrafts have been built for decades, Boeing decided to locate its new plant in South Carolina. SC is a so-called “right to work” state with not much labor movement to speak of. Which allows Boeing to hire non-union employees to staff the plant.

The crux of this dispute:  Was Boeing’s decision just a case of the company building a plant where they are assured there will be less union activity, and thus less chance that strikes that would delay the production of the 787’s?  Or was it done to weaken the power of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union representing 25,000 Boeing workers?

This lead to a dispute before the National Labor Relations Board, and now the Board is bringing suit against Boeing for unfair labor practices.

From McClatchy:

Catherine Fisk, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, said the Boeing case is similar to a string of NLRB actions going back decades in which the labor agency charged companies with shifting jobs from union to non-organized workers.

“The heart of the NLRB case (against Boeing) is that opening the South Carolina plant was done for purposes of intimidating the Washington employees from striking again or from being unduly aggressive in their wage demands,” Fisk said

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Water Cooler – USAF To Launch Mini-Shuttle On Classified Mission

7:22 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

X37b-spaceplane-100416-02

X37b-spaceplane-100416-02 by billmcclair, on Flickr

So you think that Endeavor and Discovery are the only shuttles flying? Think again, because under as much secrecy as they can manage the United States Air Force is going to launch the X-37B “mini shuttle” tomorrow morning.

The X-37, like all the X- craft was a test bed vehicle. NASA had Boeing build the unmanned reusable orbiter for them. It never flew for NASA and when funding ran out in 2004 it was transferred to the control of DARPA. They also never flew this little orbiter and now it is the property of the USAF.

The little craft was launched last year and stayed in orbit for 244 days, before being ordered to return to the Earth. What makes this a cool craft is that it is not controlled from the ground via joy-stick but rather has a large and complex set of commands.

For instance when it is time to return to the Earth, the controllers just send the command. The X-37 then notes its position, the position of the designated landing field and then makes all the calculations for a deorbit maneuver itself. It then fires retro’s, and handles its landing, up to and including touch down. Just incase anyone is worried the craft transmit telemetry data that allows ground safety offices to control it if need by after is has the airport in sight.

There is a lot talk about just what the Air Force is doing with this 29 foot long by 9 foot high reusable orbiter. As you can see from the diagram it has cargo capacity and could hold just about anything from a weapon to a satellite.

From the L.A. Times article on the launch:

“It’s a mystery, because the Air Force is being so closed-mouthed about the program,” said Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer and expert in space security. “It leads people to say, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”

Air Force officials have offered few details beyond saying the experimental space plane provides a way to test new technologies in outer space, such as satellite sensors and other components.

“It’s a classified mission,” said Maj. Tracy A. Bunko, an Air Force spokeswoman. The spacecraft will be carrying “reusable technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments, which can then be returned to and examined on Earth.”

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Obsessive Outsourcing Is Expensive, Just Ask Boeing

6:42 am in jerks by Bill Egnor

Ukiah Propbusters, fun-fly

Ukiah Propbusters, fun-fly by soarbuddy, on Flickr

The theory behind the high C level salaries in corporate America are that these gals and guys are so good at the big picture, developing series of strategies to address the needs of the company that they should be paid out the nose. Having worked in those jungles as a process improvement guy, I have come to see that this is really not the case. In general they don’t have a massively well rounded set of skill, it is more that they are one trick ponies. There is the “turd-in-the-punch-bowl” guy who nitpicks projects to death under the guise of caution. There is the gal who wants to take profit out of the workers instead of the customers and then there is the guy who wants to outsource everything.

These techniques do have their efficacy in the right situations, but they are not the solution for every problem. When they are taken too far they all cause problems, and increase cost. Which is the very expensive lesson that Boeing is learning right now.

Boeing has been talking about and trying to roll out its 787 “Dreamliner” for years. It is going to be a technological marvel, when it finally gets in the air. Huge, safe, quite and relatively fuel efficient for a jet. It is also going to be years late and billions (yeah, as in 1,000 million) of dollars over budget. What has caused this massive failure in a flag ship project? In a word; Outsourcing.

Michael Hilzik of the LA Times has a good rundown of how a favorite idea of CEO’s everywhere to save costs turned into a much more expensive project. The basic story is this; in late 1990’s Boeing merged with McDonnell-Douglas and got a new CEO who was all about cutting costs and he thought that the best way to do it was to outsource a lot more of the components of Boeing aircraft.
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Water Cooler – Should NASA Let Private Companies Launch The Shuttle? Hell No!

7:14 pm in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

STS-1 Launch
Pic of STS-1 Launch, courtesty of NASA, via Flickr

I love the Space Shuttles. I went to all the lectures about them when I was a kid; I knew so much about them that when they bad guys stole a Shuttle by launching it off of the 747 carry vehicle at the start of Moonraker, I turned to my Dad on and confidently (and probably too loudly for the theater) said “this is the dumbest movie of all time. There is no way that is possible!”

So when I saw this article, in USAToday, about the possibility of Boeing and Lockheed-Martin asking NASA to let them operate two commercial Shuttle flights a year starting in 2013 I was kind of shocked. No make the horrified.

There is a reason we are retiring the Shuttle program. It costs upwards of $60 million per launch for each Shuttle which is three times the projected operating costs per pound. Other issues include the very real danger of a catastrophic failure like the Challenger and Colombia accidents. Depending on who you talk to (engineers or management) there is a 1 in 100 or a 1 in 1,000 chance of lose of human life in each flight now. Personally I side with the engineers on this, these are aging space craft that were designed in the late ‘60’s and the last computer upgrade I am aware of was to a 386 processor. They are tiered old birds and it is becomes a riskier and riskier proposition to fly them.
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