Thursday, October 25, 2012

The phone rang. "You're nothin' but a two-bit whore" he chortled in that deep, rich baritone that had become so familiar over the years. I knew what he was referring to but, being built the way I am, had to ask what he was talking about.

You see, I trained Steve back when we were in the service together. He got out first and took a real job while I went on a couple of other adventures before doing the same. He worked hard and became the manager of a major corporation's regional service shop.

I got out and took a real job while going to college using those free GI Bill bucks Uncle Sugar gave me for the mere act of raising my right hand, then started a little company down the road. Steve and I competed, on several levels. On that particular project my company had successfully eaten his lunch, again... as well as breakfast, supper, and all of his snacks.

For a week.

I politely reminded him the least I was ever paid for any job was 54 cents an hour, a tad better than four bits, which meant I had a little more dignity than a mere two-bit whore. Besides, it was a project he'd turned down and we all have to pay our dues when we're just starting out in a career or new business. That 54 cent an hour project ultimately got my company up, running, and off the ground so we could compete with much larger companies... and due in large part to the efforts of good employees, win. Every time? Not hardly, but enough that we all could, and do, earn a decent living.

This morning as I sat smoking a cigar and drinking coffee, waiting for the sun to come up while hoping what ever the gang was agitating over by the pond was a 'coon or a 'possum and not a skunk, because I'm short on ingredients for our deskunkification tonic, I cogitated on a comment President Obama made during the last debate with Governor Romney the other evening. Like the crack he made earlier this year about business owners not building their businesses, he commented that business growth and the encouragement of entrepreneurial endeavors would require investment by government.

Au contraire, mein freund... as my Italian buddy and favorite wrench flipper might say.

Students of history, real history, might think back to our lessons and remember that, like real artists, inventors and Captains of Industry didn't count on government subsidies to support their efforts. No, they did all the preliminary work and then either operated from their own resources or found a patron to assist them financially so they could finish developing their concept.

At the turn of the 19th century Eli Whitney conceptualized development of standardized parts, then sold congress on the idea of buying weapons with interchangeable parts. Did he do this with a government subsidy? No. He was looking for a better way to manufacture parts for his other products, like his cotton gin, so he could earn more money with less effort.

That prostitute.

Did our government subsidize the efforts of Henry Ford when he invented what's become our modern day assembly line? Or Samuel Fay when he invented the paper clip? How about John Loud when he invented a device for marking leather that eventually led to development of our modern day ballpoint pen? Or Johannes Gutenberg for his moveable type printing press? Or Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley when they experimented with the evaporative cooling effect used by the Cannon Manufacturing Company, later Cannon Mills, when they dripped water onto moss draped over fans to cool their manufacturing plants, thereby inventing what eventually became the modern day air conditioning industry? How about a little company called Laminex when they developed a process, and product, that replaced the wood siding of the old "Woodie" automobiles with a textured plastic laminate?

No. Each of these was looking to make their own lives easier, or to make a buck. Capitalism, and prostitution, at its finest. The experiments of Franklin and Hadley also led to refrigeration. Um, I think that's a pretty big industry too.

Samuel F. B. Morse didn't just sit down one day and say to himself "I'm going to invent the Morse Code." No. It was a result of an artist, Morse, who wasn't able to get home before his wife's death while working on a portrait out of town because the communication mechanisms of the day were so slow. He became committed to developing telegraphy. Thomas Edison didn't invent the electric light bulb for home and commercial use. His vision was to replace oil lamps on whaling ships. Uh, open flame, wooden ship... sounds like a disaster in the making to me. And there were many in the day.

The end of the Second World War was heralded around the world with the simple Morse Code sequence dit-dit-dit-dah, which is also the opening sequence of Beethoven's Symphony #5.

George Westinghouse with his Westinghouse Electric and Thomas Edison with his General Electric were tremendous rivals in the development of electric power systems. Edison wanted direct current systems. He had used a principle of physics discovered by Michael Faraday whereby a hunk of wire moving in a magnetic field would generate an electric current to invent an electric power generator. But much of the power was lost in transmission. Enter ultra cool, suave and debonaire Serbian cat, engineer Nikola Tesla, to invent an alternating current system we still use today. Huge amounts, 50 percent or more, of the power generated today is still lost in transmission, but losses are lower with AC than DC and it's easier to use in many other respects. Guglielmo Marconi infringed upon at least 17 of Tesla's patents, 48 or 49 patents of others in total, in his quest to develop a viable system of wireless data transmission. Tesla eventually won when he challenged, but still died a pauper.

Dr. Walker G. Wylie, namesake of Lake Wylie on the Catawba River at Charlotte, and his brother financed the Catawba Power Company which, in turn, eventually became the largest electric power company in the world, Duke Energy. Alexander Bell was turned down when he requested financial assistance from Thomas Edison, a grand I think, to complete development of his telephone device... then just a few years later the company named for him bought Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of Western Union, and almost absorbed Western Union as a whole, with nary any assistance from government except to stop total absorption of Western Union.

Bill Hewlett and David Packard founded their company not to produce computers and printers as Carlie Fiorina envisioned, but to produce electronic test and measurement instruments. They became one of the best and largest in the world. Tektronix became the largest manufacturer of oscilloscopes and video monitoring equipment. John Fluke began manufacturing meters to measure electrical quantities and became the de facto standard of industry for precision metering.

The transistor was invented by Bill Shockley's gang at AT&T Bell Labs. Basic research in physics leading to such theoretical proofs as the Big Bang Theory and others was performed in the same joint. Another humongous research project there was the plasma state of matter. Why? Lightening was cleaning their collective clock destroying microwave repeater equipment. The first integrated circuit prototype was invented by Jack Kilby while working for Texas Instruments. Robert Noyce and Jean Hoerni at Fairchild Semiconductor put it in silicon with a less expensive process.

We all know the names IBM, Thomas J. Watson, Steve Jobs, and The Woz. Apple Computer is all great and wonderful, but when IBM got into the personal computer business and opened the architecture of their system so other companies could easily interface with it, unlike Apple's closed architecture, they created the explosion of computing, networking, and industrial control accessed on our desk tops, bench tops, lap tops, and on the go that we've seen in the past 30 years.

Prostitutes all... renting or selling their services for pay so they and their families could live better. They used the tools available to them to build something greater for themselves and, in the process of doing so, they dragged everyone else with them.

There are something over 1,800 patents directly related to women's b'aziers. It could easily be stated most of these were developed by men trying to get closer to those, um, cute little bottles, but how much money is spent every year to manufacture, sell, and purchase those devices? And never mind the market for bloomers.

Jamsetji Tata is considered the father of Indian industry. His vision, sans government investment, created what has become one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the world, The Tata Group, and includes Tata Motors. In fact, the Tata Nano is touted as the least expensive 4 wheeled vehicle in the world. How cool would it be to have a pair of those?

But government is going to invest in business. How's that worked out for us to date? To be sure, all the individuals, and their companies, cited above had contracts with their government, sometimes several governments, but before those contracts happened they had to produce something to show, something elected officials and their appointed functionaries could look at and hold in their hot little hands.

Government, by definition, creates nothing... as long as we exclude hot air. What they give away to those who wouldn't hit a lick in a pie factory, developer dudes, non-profit organizations, and others who would go to them with their hands out must first be taken away from someone who will, and has, worked to earn those resources, someone who creates a product or service for which others are willing to pay good money.

How's that welfare system working for us? Why are deli foods, the most expensive food items at the grocery, WIC eligible purchases? NASA? Why is it that when Boeing took over management of the International Space Station project from NASA back in the early '90s they cut 10 Million buckaroos from the project... in the first week. How about all of those 10 grand hammers and toilet seats. Research? How does knowing whether or not a chimpanzee gets turned on by monkey-porn benefit humankind? Global warming? That Hansen cat from NASA's been awfully quiet since coming out of hiding to flap his jaws a little back in August, right before we started experiencing unseasonably cool temperatures and the folks at The Farmer's Almanac forecast snow this year for Christmas.

How has doubling the price of gasoline in the past 4 years been working for us? Is everyone happy about the attendant increase in other goods and services that's resulted from the increase in gasoline? I often wonder how some government math wizard can tell us that using ethanol in our gasoline, giving us a 3 percent decrease in price but a 10 percent decrease in mileage, can be economical. This, not to mention the government subsidy of ethanol production, subsidies to distributors for adding ethanol to their formulation, the energy required to produce ethanol, and the other related costs.

But government knows best, much better than we prostitutes who build more and more economical products to sell less expensively so we can put more money in our pockets at the end of the year.

Early in our nation's history, this greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, our founders were wont to state they could find nothing in our Constitution or other founding documents allowing use of public treasure for charitable purposes. Over and over and over again it was stated and written that government's function is only to provide and support a military to protect our citizens, build our roads, protect our borders, regulate commerce, and keep the peace. That's all. To do otherwise is to violate the basic precepts of our nation's foundation... equality of opportunity to do what we do best. To do otherwise is nothing more than subordinating the rights of one group, those who produce, in order to make the rights of another superior, those who take.

How long will that last?

I sure hope BooBoo Bear never grows into his feet.

Royce E. Burrage, Jr.

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