Who defends this?

In all the back and forth about who is responsible for the “unsustainable”, in the words of Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, Federal deficits, much blame is assigned to the Bush Administration as well as the current occupant of the White House. While the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration cannot be denied I have a more pertinent question for the current administration based on the following two facts as reported by USA Today:

Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

Who is responsible for this and who is even attempting to justify this in the midst of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression?

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Not Really Helping

jobsMuch talk of late from Washington on the need to create jobs. Both the Democrats and Republicans seem to be heavily engaged in the battle to convince the country they “care” about the issue and are just that their proposals are just the ticket to make it happen.

That the issue only moved to the forefront after Scott Brown created a mild stir in the Massachusetts Senate election begs the question even more why it took that to make this THE MOST IMPORTANT THING but, in the end, it doesn’t matter why and I suppose we, the great unwashed masses, should just be appreciative for the attention being paid to the matter.

But I’m not all that appreciative because what I see being proposed betrays the clear lack of understanding of why and how jobs get created in the first place.

Of this there seems much agreement: that “Small” business creates and employs most people in this country. But “Small” business encompasses such a broad swath in that an individual running a business out of their home that employs only themselves as well as a company with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue are both considered “small”. It is easier to say what is not a small business than to define what is. General Motors is not one. Bank of America is not one. And the company I own is and has been over the last couple of years been getting smaller all the time.

The Republican solutions and even elements of the Administration’s all have a heavy doses of tax credits as the centerpiece of their prescription. This fails to recognize that companies don’t pay taxes that such credits would partially offset until well after the economic activity to generate the profits that are to be taxed on has occurred. So, in effect, these proposals say to an business owner: “if you go hire someone and by so doing somehow grow your business as a result and hopefully make a profit in so doing we will give you a credit so you won’t have to pay so many taxes next year”.

What is wrong with this picture?

It should be obvious to any member of a Junior Achievement program in high school. If I had the business and the money to hire someone and by so doing I would make more money I would already be doing it. I don’t know a single business owner that is trying to not grow his business and not trying to make more profits.

The problem is that there isn’t enough business demand out there and that there is not access to the capital required to invest to build the new widgets, develop the new service, to find the new customers that will generate the profits that Washington so craves by the taxes they get to collect from.

What small businesses need is new business and the wherewithal to go get it. In the mean time us business owners are just hanging on for survival. I”m sure there are some who are making it, some even prospering. I’m sure a number of “small” businesses in Washington that are lobbying Congress for tax credits for small businesses and health care exclusions, and “green” job training credits are doing just fine. But for me you can keep your tax credits as I don’t know many companies that are seeing their businesses grow and getting a tax credit sometime in the future for hiring someone I don’t have the business to support hiring just ain’t gonna happen.

That this seems to be the centerpiece of Washington’s “solution” says more about how much they just don’t understand, in a way that, frankly, should be scary when you think of all the other “solutions” they are proposing to the problems that confront us.

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Afternoon Pastime in the Past

James M Baker0001Today was a day to go back. Back to a simpler time that was, in no way simple. Today, through internet enabled ability to visit grave sites and memoirs; dispatches and databases; I was able to discover some links in my past to events our nation sleepily has begun the sesquicentennial commemoration just this past year.

The War Between the States, the Civil War, the War of the Rebellion, or, my all time favorite term having been raised in the South with links going back to when Virginia was a Colony, “The Late Unpleasantness”. In what was perhaps the most significant event in our all so short history, The Civil War happened 150 years ago. In perhaps a measure of times constant advance, if not a stern reminder, I recall, when in the third grade, my mother taking me out of school to attend the Centennial Commemoration festivities at Appomattox of the Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant.

My trek took me back to Louisa County where all of my paternal ancestry is rooted back to the mid 1600s. But today I didn’t travel that far and concentrated my research on just one relative who served during the war. He was my Great Great Grandfather, my father’s father’s mother’s father – James Mansfield Baker. I had heard and been told that he, as a boy of 18, had served as a courier for Lee’s HQ. Alas, I was not able to find any online record of his service listed in the archives searchable online today. But I was able to find a reference in the book “The Baker Family of England and Central Virginia” that was written by his nephew, William Thomson Baker. In it he wrote:

James Mansfield Baker, the fourth child third son of Alfred M. and Mildred (Thomson) Baker was born 1845 about the time the old home of the Bakers, Walnut Hill was built.

When the Civil War started in 1860, he was only fifteen. As soon as he was eighteen in 1863, our grandfather gave him the finest saddle horse left on the plantation and sent him straight to General Lee’s headquarters where he offered his and his fine saddle horse’s service to his country.

Uncle Jim says that General Lee’s adjutant hardly saw him for looking at his horse; and said; — “Boy can you really ride that horse: — is he fast?” Uncle Jim assured the general’s adjutant that he could ride the horse and that his horse was fast and able; whereupon he and his horse were assigned to General Lee’s headquarters as a courier for the remainder of the war. (By 1863 good horses were scarce in the Confederate Army and Uncle Jim always said that his horse was more valued far more than he.)

Carrying orders from one command post to another and often in the thick of battle taking messages to commanding officers to attack – to retreat – to change their tactics or to charge, etc. Uncle Jim must have had many hair raising experiences.

All I know is that I could listen to him relate his war stories by the hour and I still think that John Easten Cooke’s fiction not Dr. Douglas Freeman’s history in no way can thrill me as did my Uncle Jim. Anyway he certainly saw a lot of the “Late War” and was a master of telling about it, (history or fiction).

He further wrote of spending time with him traversing back and forth across Louisa County when running a campaign for election for County Clerk while his uncle was running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delgegates. William lost his seat but James was elected serving but one term in the legislature in the 1912-1913 session. It was during these sessions, criss-crossing the county in horse and buggy that Uncle James regaled nephew William about his adventures during the War.

If the story is accurate then James joined Lee’s Headquarters shortly after his birthday in 1863. James was born on April 19 so he likely joined Lee’s HQ just prior to the great battle of Chancellorsville not all that far from the Walnut Hill homeplace in Louisa County where he lived. We are left to imagine the things he endured as surely he was in the midst of Lee’s most daring victory just west of Fredricksburg. The invasion of Maryland followed leading to the clash at Gettysburg that marked the high water mark of the Confederacy. The long retreat and the bitter fighting in the Wilderness followed, uncharacteristically, a few miles closer to home at Spotsylvania Courthouse, the Union finally having found a commander in U.S. Grant that, knowing the superiority in men and material the North enjoyed, would take the carnage Lee’s veterans would inflict and still advance to take yet another blow. Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, Saylor’s Creek, and finally, Lynchburg being denied as refuge for Lee’s starving remnants, the end at Appomattox. How much did Jim see? Did he deliver the fateful dispatch to Ewell, urging him to press and take Culp’s Hill at Gettyburg? Did he hurry to Richmond to advise Jefferson Davis in the pew at St. Paul’s that Lee could no longer hold at Petersburg and that Richmond must be evacuated? Was he there to deliver the orders to cease fire and hold position while Lee made his fateful ride up the Lynchburg Turnpike to the Mclean House where Grant would offer such generous terms, largely I believe out of his esteem for Robert E. Lee, that Lincoln would have to rescind some of them days before his death?

We will never know for he was likely only a Private who’s name is lost to the history pages. But as a witness he must have seen perhaps more than any other Private in the conflict. It is an eternal shame that his words are not recorded for posterity. I recall, when very young, my Grandfather telling the tale of Stonewall Jackson getting shot by his own men at Chancellorsville. I recall little but the way my Grandfather, L.W. Bibb, Jr., who’s mother’s father was James Baker, telling of the story struck me as if he had been there when it happened. I imagine he had heard the story told often, perhaps directly from one who was there, seeing history being made amongst the sound and fury.

Today, through the miracle of the internet, I was able to establish one new connection. The Library of Virginia has an online collection of photographs and, I was able, by downloading a composite photograph of the members of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1912 and applying some digital editing, to meet my Gr Gr Grandfather Baker, the one-time courier for the great Robert E. Lee, for the first time. I’m proud to say I’m related.

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The First and Foremost

ConstitutionCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Having found the Articles of Confederation lacking to the point of being worthless, the founders met and hammered out the document which was to become our Constitution and, upon being ratified by New Hampshire on June 21, 1788, became the supreme law of the land having received ratification thereby of 9 of the 13 Original States meeting the threshold established by its authors.

It was not a sure thing. Looking at the vote totals by the delegates in each of the states we see that Delaware seems to have harbored no opposition voting 13 to 0 for ratification. States such as Massachusetts only went 187 to 168 and Virginia, by far the largest state at the time, voted only 89 to 79 despite the principal proponent of the document being native son James Madison.

A rallying objection was the lack of explicit guarantees regarding civil liberties – that being a sore point given that the Revolution itself had been waged in part in opposition to a tyrannical government that seemed to think nothing of boarding its soldiers in private homes at its whim among other impositions.

And so in what was perhaps its first significant act the newly formed first Congress were presented with a slate of 12 proposed amendments which it passed in due time sending them to the states for ratification. Only ten were passed by the states in a reasonable timeframe becoming our “Bill of Rights”. One never passed and one, not having a deadline written into its language, languished for over 202 years finally being passed as the 27th amendment.

But the first to pass and therefore in my mind the foremost was the language heading this posting.

It has been argued and litigated often exactly what those words or some portion of them mean but there can be little debate that the fact we can say, or someone else can say to us, pretty much whatever they want (the crying “fire” in the crowded theater and such the notable exception) enables us to be exposed to varying points of view whereby we are free (”thought” not to be judged until the advent of “hate” crimes), to make up our own minds.

And so I am left with two recent examples where concern and outright attack on this most sacred of freedoms has occurred.

The first regards the recent Supreme Court Ruling striking down much of existing campaign finance law restrictions on who, and how much, organizations can give to political campaigns. The second concerns the ongoing controversy regarding an ad to be run during the airing of the upcoming Super Bowl broadcast.

This is not to weigh the merits of the ad in the case of the latter nor the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of the former as this is simply to ask of the opponents: What are you afraid of?

In all cases the speech that will occur in the case of the ad tomorrow and the speculated speech that will occur by the feared torrent of new money flowing into campaign coffers will have the source identified and, lest there be any confusion regarding that, one can be assured the opposition will use its first amendment rights to clarify the situation aided by the press, whom as noted in the language above, enjoy protection to, well be free.

It seems to me the epitome of arrogance to suggest that people are so easily duped as to have one ad on TV or any number of them in the course of a campaign will overcome whatever modicum of judgment they might possess forcing them to adopt a position they otherwise would never reach. I admit, when seeing the videos of the “man on the street” interview segments where the voter just leaving the polling place is asked something like “Who is the Vice President?” fails to even offer a clue as to the answer while being able to recite from memory all the Jonas Brothers middle names as well as the names of each of their first grade teachers being somewhat concerned as to the qualifications of our citizens to think for themselves.

But, in the end, I come back to that the burden to change minds and to influence opinion is placed on the speaker not the speakee and that, as the founders so eloquently put it, nothing may we do should stand in the way. If it works for the Jonas Brothers its good enough for the rest of us.

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Long Day’s Journey

visitorsmI think too much about things I shouldn’t care about. Or care too much about things I shouldn’t think about. I’m not sure which is the more accurate formulation or perhaps, I’ve just entered a phase of my life where I have absolutely NOTHING GOING ON and this is how that gets manifested.

I am a pessimist and I hate that. I’ve run into the wall too many times and now, as opposed to before when younger and more idealistic when I would bounce up and plow ahead just knowing that somehow I would punch through, I just want to give the wall a wide berth.

Truth is its envy. Yes I know it’s one of the seven and I feel “less than” admitting it, but if its one thing I have going for me it is I’m insightful into what is going on inside me even if I’m not always forthcoming to the world at large. Two failed marriages tend to focus oneself inward if you allow it.

The source of my pessimism is the further loss of innocence, another, as if one needs more evidence, that there are standards and there are double standards and a nation formed on the prospect that all men are created equal seems to daily want to add a bunch of qualifiers to that. Idealism – so passe. Why can’t we just get over pretending that equality – in opportunity, in reward, in even who gets to play the damn game let alone win it – is not something we’re prepared to uphold standards to anyway.

Perhaps that means I’ve been hopelessly naive, a romantic stuck with notions of purity of intentions just primed to be stripped of all that bullshit that was fed to you about duty, honor country and so forth that was preached to be so core to some of our institutions. But I’m not so naive to have ever believed it all. After all politics has been corrupt in Chicago for as long as there have been Ward bosses which, I’m not sure how long that has been but it has been a long time.

So why the loss of faith? Why the sullen surrender to the belief the slippery slope to hell has been irreversibly initiated?

The United States Naval Academy, a fine institution nearly as old as our Republic, has decided to “look the other way” at a Midshipman’s violations of his oath and the schools honor code.

At another time, at another school this would just be one example of the THE WAY THINGS ARE and not much would be thought of it. I’m reminded of a couple of quotes from Winston Churchill from the time of WWII. In the early part of the war Greece was invaded by the Naxis. Britain had a mutual assistance pact with Greece. Members of his government urged Churchill to ignore the pact when Greece called for aid as their own defense needs were the greater peril. Churchill remarked in a speech where the subject was covered, “…there are rules against that sort of thing.”, and provided some limited, yet ultimately, futile aid. Later, after the Allies triumphed over the Naxis in North Africa he remarked, “this is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end, it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

Likewise a star athlete getting special treatment at the Naval Academy is not the end. But there are rules against that sort of thing and, if any institution in the land should uphold them, one would hope that one founded upon our highest ideals would not discard them with so little regard.

I always thought they really were that much better than the rest of us with our situational ethics and callous discarding of principle for principal advantage. Now it seems they are not, – at the highest level of the Institution no less. Given how far we’ve strayed from our ideals is it any wonder the “best” among us wouldn’t simply join the “rest”. So if this is not the end then is it not right to question if it is not the beginning of it?

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Suspension of belief

sotuI was prepared to listen to the State of the Union speech last night expecting not to hear much with which I agreed. But, as was often in the campaign of 2008, I heard things I found myself shaking my head in agreement with.

Who could not agree we need to improve our education system? And I was surprised to hear the words “nuclear power plant” in the context of being part of the solution to our future energy needs. The call to address “earmarks” and the reminder that “that is what we were all sent here for” in the context of addressing the real problems that vex us reminded me, as if I needed it, that our elected officials seem to have forgotten that most basic of fact.

But there was that defiant tone as well. That “I’m still fighting to get done what I want to get done and if you stand in my way you are going to suffer my rath” tone that seems so arrogant when, so much of the country seems to be opposed to, if not what he has been trying to get done, certainly the manner in which he has been trying to do so.

The call for the Parties to work together rings hollow in that the last I checked it was only Democrats that were invited to the private meetings at the White House along with the special interests like Unions that were crafting this latest deal, or that latest exemption to the health care bill. How can you with a straight face say you want to work together when all indications are that your party has no interest in doing so?

How can you call for earmark reform when it is your party, with solid margins in both houses of Congress, who larded up every spending bill they worked on and you signed them without uttering a peep about how unseemly the practice of earmarks has become?

So I heard the words, just as I heard them in 2008 and enjoyed the sound of the music. Did we hear a true commitment to realign the direction of his administration? No. On the contrary we heard a deepening commitment to stay on the course he has charted thus far.

So while I heard words with which I can agree, based on the preponderance of the ever mounting evidence, I just can’t believe he means them as to do so would require, yet again, a suspension of belief in what my own two eyes have shown me in the last twelve months.

My hunch is that members of his own party approaching election this November, will in large numbers reach the same conclusion, choosing to discern his intentions, and the probable effect on their electoral prospects, based more on what he does than another chorus of resounding words that increasingly ring all the more hollow.

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Where our leaders come from

Richard Cohen, a political commentator whom I seldom agree, his positions on the issues trending more toward the left than my decidedly right leaning tendencies find comfort, has offered up analysis on the nature of celebrity culture in the rise of our current crop of leaders.

Within six years of being elected to the Senate and with no previous political experience, Edwards was the vice presidential nominee. He was on the ticket with John Kerry, who lost, it’s true, but he was still on the ticket. As Spiro Agnew or, for that matter, Eliot Spitzer proved, in politics nothing is certain.

On the same pages we also read that support within the Senate for a special commission designed to perform the duties our elected leaders themselves find unable to discharge is failing to muster enough votes to be enacted into being.

The federal debt has exploded to an incomprehensible $12.1 trillion, and the nation continues on its path to becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China. Yet lawmakers can’t even agree on a modest proposal to form an independent debt commission and then vote on its recommendations.

The one thing reasonable people from whatever political persuasion can agree is that our nation faces a looming fiscal crisis, if in fact we are not in the midst of one, the likes of which threaten our nation’s standing in the world, if not the survival of our current form of government.

In times of crisis leaders are required to rally and persuade the course of actions that are necessary to confront the crisis and to make those kind of sacrifices that are not in our own selfish interest but rather unite us to confront the common enemy, to vanquish the common foe. It is a time for the very best among us, the elite if you will, the “wise men” – an expression that fails in its masculine formation to acknowledge that it may be, in fact, a wise woman that provides the essential contribution. The long history of the world tells us that it is not likely the popular choice as it is not “populism” but rather “realism” that will lead us forward, avoiding that which is convenient but confronting that which is hard.

At our founding it was the elites of the time, who by the examples of their selflessness, adherence to principles, and “endowed by our Creator” that provided the steadfastness of purpose, the inspiration for greatness, of which we all may be called to strive.

Washington, Jefferson, and the whole crowd, while often deeply divided in outlook, managed to muster the strength to remain true to the higher calling of fidelity to assuring that “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” remained in the forefront of our consciousness.

And now, as Cohen points out, we have this rise of instant messiahs – whether the likes of John Edwards on the left or Sarah Palin on the right – as rallying points for our collective salvation of the increasingly divided factions our loyalties accrue. That we have elected a President that, only now, many are acknowledging we in fact know very little should not be solace to those of us that oppose his policies. The growing difficulties we face as a people demand solutions, not sound-bites; action, not heated rhetoric. And yet, increasingly those with whom our collective trust has been placed have not led, have not offered a vision around which to rally, and finally have contributed to the very lack of confidence in our institutions that create an environment where its seems it is every man for himself and sweetheart deals and narrowly drawn exclusions to our laws have replaced the call for universal sacrifice so necessary to maintain the unity to weather the storm.

After the dawn of WWII the British people abandoned their long and broad based reservations and rallied around a voice who had long cried out alone from the back benches of its Parliament, Winston Churchill, to lead them in their greatest time of peril. Ideally suited for the task he is widely credited with saving, not just the British nation, but by extension, western civilization.

While I cannot place my hand on the recorded statement, I recall reading the words of Professor William Manchester, writing of Churchill’s many gifts that made him so essential to confronting the crisis, in commentary on his unfinished trilogy on his life, “The Last Lion”, stating words to the effect, “I know of no office for which he could obtain election to today”.

When we elect leaders as President that, in just six years prior count among their achievements just a few short years in the Illinois legislature and rally around former governors with little beyond an uncompleted first term to vouch for their suitability to confront the crisis we face, why is it not surprising that we resort to populist rhetoric, instead of difficult calls for sacrifice, when confronting difficult and dangerous threats at home and abroad.

Where is the offering of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat…” so obvious in their requirement, so lacking in a voice to issue the call?

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Unflattering Image

Yesterday I was reading various opinion pieces on the blogs I frequent and the image shown here appeared:Teleprompter
It had the following caption:

President Barack Obama,
accompanied by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, speaks to the media
after a discussion with 6th grade students at Graham Road Elementary
School in Falls Church, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I had saved the picture and actually posted it to my FB page so my friends could see that the President seems not to go anywhere, nor speak to any group, without his teleprompter, including, it would seem, a classroom of sixth graders.

Those who have a knee-jerk reaction to defend the President will note that the caption states this was for remarks to reporters after he had a “discussion” with the students. Well, alright then, its only when the cameras are likely to roll that the show must truly go on. After all we can’t have any “heckuva job Brownie” moments from this President, him being the One we’ve been waiting for and all.

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Oh really?

Apparently the President thinks we don’t get it an he needs to speak “directly to the American people”

In the first and only year of his Presidency so far he has given 158 speeches and 411 interviews. That includes two speeches to Joint Sessions of Congress in addition to Tuesday’s planned State of The Union.

Critics of the President during last years election campaign highlighted his lack of experience having only served a partial term as a US Senator, some time as a Illinois State legislator, a college professor, and community organizer. But he got a lot of kudos for being a great speech giver with a cool, unflappable demeanor. After last Tuesday’s upset in Massachusetts the President seems to think if he just talks more and shows some populist anger he will connect better with the working class independent voters who were so key to his own election in 2008 and Scott Brown’s this week.

But its not going to work. He’s already tried it giving far more speeches and gaining far more favorable media coverage than any President in recent memory.

People are getting sick of hearing him talk, whether calm, cool, and analytical or angry, impatient, and indignant. They want action and not the sort of action the administration has been focused on.

So give on on talking more direct to the American people Mr. President. Come back when you actually have got some accomplishment to talk about.

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Government Bid

We read the statistics about the poor state of the economy and, unless it has impacted you directly, it is hard to grasp what is meant by article titles such as “America’s Fading Military-Industrial Base”. Well yesterday I received, in concrete ways I had not before been able to quantify, just what it means to be part of this fading part of the American economy.

My company manufactures metal parts, machines them from raw steel, aluminum and other materials for larger manufacturers in the Defense, Aerospace, and Medical industries. What most don’t realize perhaps is that the large Defense Manufacturers in this country do not actually manufacture most of what they supply to the government. They integrate sub-components, they design and specify, they assemble from parts made by, in most cases, literally thousands of small businesses like mine all over the country.

Business, of late has been terrible and, based on the trends shown in charts such as these, are not likely to improve in either the short or long term.defense spending

And so, in an effort to obtain more business I, like many others, have been looking for direct opportunities with the Government to bid on new business, the normal channels of business being moribund at best of late.

The facts are that the Navy, at a weapons systems laboratory in the western United States, had a requirement to machine and manufacture 30 pieces each of about a dozen different parts for a some prototype engineering project. A bid package consisting of engineering drawings and specifications was prepared and bids were solicited via the Government web site created for that purpose. Clever lads at the Government, indeed.

Seeing this opportunity I downloaded the package and, weary from the lack of business and having determined that we could actually make the parts, labored the better part of two days preparing a bid package. The parts were of moderate complexity, not so simple a Caveman could make them but not requiring Michelangelo-like talent either. After engaging in multiple phone calls with the contracting officer and, in turn, the actual engineer who had completed the drawings I decided to submit a bid even if one of the features on one of the parts would be nigh impossible to fashion. My thought being, after talking to the engineer, that he was open to modification of the part specifications seeing how he really didn’t realize that he was asking the, if not difficult, the impossible in what he had provided. An inexperienced in the ways of manufacturing, as most of them seem to be, mechanical engineer, married with a powerful Computer Aided Design program like Solidworks, can create masterpieces of design that, while wonderful to behold in 3D animation on a computer screen simply cannot be manufactured by mere mortals constrained to the physical world versus the virtual reality so enabled by such advanced technology.

Alas, I finalize my submission after certifying I, as owner of the company was or was not an Alaskan Native American Woman who was a Disabled Veteran and that my business was or was not located in a Historically Underutilized Business zone even as I was thinking, just give me enough time and this business zone will certainly qualify. That plus the usual certification I did not pollute the air, poison the streams, trade with terrorists, or fail to pay my taxes, on time, all the time, forever, amen.

Hitting send on the computer to upload my response I had the strange feeling that I was worried about this bid as, while hoping we won as we needed the business, also equally hoped we lost as it was not something with any follow on potential I could see, it was hard to convince myself we would actually make money should we win, and had a better than even up chance of losing our ass on the job.

After receiving email confirmation and a chirpy “thank you for submitting your bid” email from the Contacting Officer there was nothing to do but wait. A wait that can take days or, just about forever in these things without any rhyme or reason ever offered as to why. Its the Government after all and if you need further explanation – go the the Post Office and try to buy stamps – in a hurry. IT IS JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Much like getting in the wrong line at McDonalds, unknowing the person in front is ordering for three kid’s soccer teams, when all you wanted was the sinful Cinnamon Roll and a cup of coffee on Saturday morning.

But in this case resolution came swiftly – well relatively – in that the answer was delivered, again via email, less than one week later.

Cheerfully, and I must hand it to this civil servant no surliness here, and again via email the results were announced. For this tiny, one shot job that in normal times I probably would not have even bothered with the effort to prepare a bid, the government received not three, not 10, not even 20 replies. No there were, from all corners of the USA, 50 separate bids.

In departure from normal practice, this Contracting Officer displaying her inexperience, lack of proper training, or failure to be assimilated by the enthusiasm killing blog that is the civil service, posted not only the number of bids received, the winning company name, and the winning amount but rather ALL the names of ALL the companies that bid and ALL the amounts they bid and furthermore had nicely arranged them in a spreadsheet sorted from lowest to highest with the the lowest on top and the name of company further accentuated by the nomenclature “the Winner!” as if this cheerful addition would somehow sooth the 49 losers who, having no doubt in large measure arrived at the same point I had with similar reservations and anxieties.

The facts being bare the error was compounded by the fact that, on emailing the results the poor lass had not been educated in the difference between blind copy and courtesy copy on the email distribution line and therefore the contact emails were available and visible to one and all.

Never mind – to the chase.

50 bids received
Average Bid Amount $35,623.04
Median Bid Amount $29,850.00

The Standard Deviation which those who paid attention in Statistics Class or are hopeless nerds will recall gives a measure of the spread of the range of bids was $21,242.24.
For bonus credit advanced students could develop a reasonable approximation of what the range was but since I already have the answer and, if you are still reading this just want to get to the damn point, I will.

Top Bid: $108,150.00

And the winner was: $9,011.20

Moral of the story. For nine grand I doubt if it is possible to make money and to deliver the parts. For $108K it would take tremendous effort not to be able to complete the job and not realize enough profit to spend six weeks on Tahiti in a 5 star resort (double occupancy, modified American plan, airfare included).

That fifty companies are so desperate to chase this thing? Evidence that, as the title of the article referenced previously declares: America’s Industrial Base is indeed fading and fading fast.

I’ll leave it to the reader to draw conclusions as to whether the jobs lost, and the capabilities lost perhaps for good, are something to be concerned about as Goldman Sachs reported the average year end bonus to all its employees will be in excess of $443,000 each.

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