Don’t Label Me

By Erik Dolson

Yesterday, a man I’ve worked with and deeply respect said I wasn’t really a “liberal.”

He’s a “conservative,” and it’s one of his favorite light-hearted jabs when we agree on something before we move on to disagree about something else. Perhaps I shouldn’t move on so easily. By saying I’m “really a conservative,” my friend resolves the conflict that he respects the thinking behind my opinons.

We all dismiss with labels rather than reflect on the arguments. Maybe it’s easier to change the label than face the agreement.

I’ve dodged “boxes” most of my life. I’ve long said I was a “political economist.” To me, the ideologies of the left and right were more faith-based than data-based. Both ignore that the laws of economics are about as immutable as the laws of physics and we waste incredible energy and resources oblivious of that fact.

Rather than recognize the benefits of the other’s ideology, each seems inclined to ignore the cost of their own and emphasize the cost of the other.

Liberals seem to believe that no one should be responsible for themselves; conservatives forget that we all benefit when we take care of each other, and there is a role for government in warding off economic anarchy. My conservative friends believe too many “undeserving” are stealing the fruit of their labor, my liberal friends see the top one percent using privilege to steal from everyone else while trashing our common treasure.

Another good friend and I were out shooting the other day. I made some crack about the inconsistency of being “liberals who enjoy guns.”

“It’s NOT an inconsistency,” he fired back (sorry). He is more rigorous in his thinking than I am, and fine-tunes his labels more precisely. But consequently, he may have even more difficulty communicating to a world that prefers easy, broad-brushed colors of red and blue.

Believing that Trump is an intellectual derelict, as damaging to America as Covid-19, an ineffectual immoralist, a fountain of selfishness, hate and anger, doesn’t make me a “liberal.” Neither does my belief than no person in America should be without healthcare.

Believing that English should be our national language and a baker should be able to bake a cake for whom he chooses does not make me a conservative.

When do labels stand in the way of our agreements, and keep us from getting something done?

Why bailout stalled

By Erik Dolson

Republicans are using the national pandemic to enrich themselves and their friends. Democrats want to help Americans. It’s about that simple.

Trump wants to put Steve Mnuchin in charge of distributing bailout money. Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, the company at the center of “Main Street bails out Wall Street” during the Great Recession. (see photo of Mnuchin and wife above — Chicago Tribune)

Mnuchin thinks economic health starts with big business in New York. The rest of us are expendable. Under his plan, how much money will go to Trump family hotels?

Need another example of Republican priorities? After receiving inside information that the economy was in trouble, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, (whose husband is chair of the New York Stock Exchange) appear to have sold massive amounts of stock while reassuring America that everything was okay. 

Everything is not okay, especially because of the Republican party of oligarchs and plutocrats. This pandemic is worse because of their actions and inaction.

Democrats want to give relief to ordinary people who are out of work, those worrying how to pay rent or make house or car or insurance payments. Democrats want to make sure these people have sick leave so they don’t spread the virus. Democrats want to help Americans see a doctor!

Trump did not cause the Corona virus, but his policies and those of the Republican party have made the consequences much worse for the working men and women of America.

Those Trump insulted for the last three years — scientists, the Federal Reserve, and yes, bureaucrats, are trying to help average Americans survive.

They know their duty is to all of America, not just padding the lives of the top 1 percent.

The Strength of America

By Erik Dolson

Three weeks ago today I headed back up to Canada. I needed to prepare the boat for her trip up the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Anacortes in Washington state, where work was scheduled to be done about a week later. It was pleasant in Victoria, even without my car. The city is beautiful, I worked on the boat, enjoyed the nearby restaurants, went to the gym, rode my wheel.

I read news about the Corona virus, about a death in a Seattle nursing home, but it all seemed far away.

A nice weather window opened up a day earlier than I planned, and the trip up the strait was uneventful. After three nights in a marina, Foxy was hauled out of the water and put on stands to paint the bottom and install a new depth, speed and temperature sensor compatible with modern electronics.

I stayed on board the boat, despite the occasional 33 degree F weather and winds that howled through the rigging.The Corona virus, hitting San Francisco and then Oregon, still seemed far away: I could shop at Safeway without enduring lines too long, buy a coffee at Starbucks and sit and read the news.

Work on the boat lasted a little longer because of weather and by the time Foxy was back in the water, travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada were being discussed. There were rumors that ferry schedules were changing. If I took Foxy back to Victoria, if Canada would even let me in, travel back and forth was going to be difficult. So I took the boat to Friday Harbor instead, and drove back to Oregon about three weeks after I left.

The world had changed.

With California under an order to “shelter in place,” I went to Costco Saturday morning for food that would last me a few weeks if need be. I was in a lane one away from where I needed to be to make a turn so I accelerated quickly, but the car next to me raced to block me out instead of letting me in. Hmmm.

At 9:30 in the morning at Costco, people were pushing carts piled with toilet paper and paper towels out the door. Inside, there was no hamburger or toilet paper left. I bought a jar of peanut butter, some eggs, bricks of cheese, a few steaks I could cut in half, OTC medications I’ve come to depend on.

People weren’t functioning very well. Some would stop in the middle of an aisle and stare off, no doubt checking things off a mental list. I can’t carry all that in my head so my list was on paper. Others blocked an aisle while disagreeing with a warehouse worker who said that Costco was not in control of toilet paper shipments.

There was anxiety in the air, and I could feel it try to get to me. I wondered if social anxiety was more infectious than the virus. I made the decision to bury my frustration and pushed my cart around them, saying “excuse me.” Maybe too loudly. I had to accept that the changing world affected some more than others.

I went to Trader Joe’s for the oats I like to eat at breakfast, but there was a long line out the door, longer than I wanted to wait for a can of rolled oats. Instead, I walked over to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy some simple dumbbells, since my gym is now closed. But Dick’s was closed too, except for curbside delivery.

So I went over to the nearby Sportsman’s Warehouse, thinking they might have some dumbbells. There was a line there too, but it seemed to move quickly, so I waited. As I got to the front, a sign said that ammunition purchases were limited to two boxes per customer, and they were out of 9 mm handgun ammo.

I thought about that for a minute.

You can’t shoot a Corona virus with 9 mm ammo. It just isn’t sporting, and there’s the possibility of collateral damage. So obviously, the run on ammo was in anticipation of social chaos. Did ammo hoarders think all those people who didn’t stock up would descend in clouds to steal their toilet paper? Didn’t ammo buyers have any left over from when they panicked and cleaned out the shelves when Obama was elected?

The fact that some of them seemed almost giddy at the prospect of social collapse made me a bit uncomfortable. It made me wonder if I had enough ammo at home. In that moment I knew social anxiety was contagious.

Maybe I’m still taking the world the way it used to be for granted, but look, I get it. A “shelter in place” is something we haven’t seen in our lifetime, and we’ve been left pretty much on our own to deal with it. The world has changed.

But still, the enemy is a virus, not each other, right? Everybody grabbing and hoarding and shooting are symptoms of social disorder that will make it worse, not better, right?

So I’ve had to slow down my defensive reactions a little bit. I’ve had to pause a second longer before I say something, or change lanes, or make judgements. Even that might not be enough. In fact, I may have to go out of my way to help someone else, a stranger perhaps, if they seem to be having a hard time.

Maybe that might be the strength of America, that we can put down our differences and give each other a hand when times are tough? I think I’ll give it a try.

Boeing rot again on display

By Erik Dolson

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dave Calhoun has now stepped in another large pile of his own deposit. Think of it as interest on the Boeing’s inheritance from General Electric (G.E.). Just more of the same from the plane maker.

Calhoun was trained by G.E. Chairman Jack Welch, who died last week. Welch was known as “Neutron Jack,” nicknamed after neutron bombs that killed people but left buildings intact. The Welch style of management was ruthless, including termination of 10% of all employees every year.

This had consequences for morale. Several recent Boeing CEOs were from G.E. or heavily influenced by that company. Morale at Boeing suffered, as well.

Boeing’s Calhoun was quoted in an interview that appeared in the New York Times last week as laying the blame for Boeing failures on previous CEO Dennis Muilenberg. “If anybody ran over the rainbow for the pot of gold on stock, it would have been him,” Calhoun said. The problems at Boeing, he said, “speaks to the weakness of our (former) leadership.”

What Calhoun failed to say, possibly because he is incapable of it, was that as an important outside board member, his leadership was part of that weakness as yet another alumnus of General Electric, touted during the 80s and 90s as the zenith of corporate capitalism. In fact, the Welch legacy may be turning out to be a failure when not implemented by Welch.

Growth at all costs, huge payouts based on stock price, and ruthless cutting of costs (talent and expertise) in the effort to increase profits (and bonuses for management) may have resulted in destruction at Boeing and other companies where Welch protoges landed after drinking the G.E. Kool-aid.

That beverage also involves public relations at the expense of honesty. Last month, Calhoun said that emails and texts between Boeing test pilots lamenting the build quality and training of pilots on the 737 Max represented a problem with emails and texts, not the airplanes themselves or culture at the company.

It should be noted that Calhoun stands to receive a rather large fortune if he can quickly get the 737 Max approved by the FAA  and flying again.

Denying that the communications between pilots accurately represented a crumbling corporate culture, where engineering decisions were overruled by managers under the gun to cut costs, frightened they might lose thier jobs if they failed to do so, Calhoun said the emails and texts would stop.

How reassuring.

Now, Calhoun has turned on the top managers of Boeing that he supported while he was a crucial board member and they were putting profit ahead of safety.

And he has implied it was the fault of pilots who were overpowered by software that flew two of his jetliners into the ground, software that did not exist on aircraft they were trained on. These pilots apparntly did not read the fine print in manuals that accompanied the new planes. Shame on them.

The loss of 348 lives had nothing to do with greed and failure to provide adequate instrumentation and training.

His hand in the till while he is cracking the whip, Calhoun has defended his salary and is in full CYA mode, rather than being accountable. This is the G.E. way when followed by men other than the admittedly brilliant Jack Welch, who was dealing with a fat corporation in another era.

The leadership at Boeing is still in denial, which means the company has not yet hit bottom. This is not over. Even NASA recently suggested that agency no longer trusts the company.

Small wonder. Boeing will not recover until the company redevelops the honesty required to admit and then publicly correct rot caused by 40 years of misdirected leadership. Boeing builds airplanes. Airplanes need to be safe, not just profitable.

There was another capitalist icon of the 1980’s era who seems to have been forgotten in recent decades: W. Edwards Deming, who was essential to the rise of Toyota and other Japanese automakers. Like Welch, Deming was a believer in statistics and process control, and the elimination of defects in manufacturing.

But Deming also advocated team building (rather than cutthroat competition among fellow employees), distribution of responsibility and accountability (as opposed to top management collecting absurdly valuable stock options via intimidation), and listening to those actually doing the work (as opposed to firing or smothering dissenting voices).

Calhoun has to go. He is not the man for this job. No graduate from G.E.’s school of abusive management is. Perhaps Boeing could lure Dan Davis, former director of Motorsports for Ford Motor Company, out of retirement for a couple of years. Davis has a resumé and a style that Boeing needs about now.

Back to where we started

By Erik Dolson

It took a few hours but Foxy is mostly ready to make the trip up the Strait of Juan de Fuca tomorrow. Leaving Victoria is melancholy, like having dinner alone in a favorite restaurant, but we’ll be back in a couple of weeks, a month, or later in the year. It’s hard to say, there are too many factors not under my control. I’m trying to focus on what I can control and adjust to outcomes that will be what they will.

I’d like to get out of here about 7 a.m., which means 8 a.m. and I have no clue why but that’s been the case for years when starting out. It’s weird, but I’m rarely late for an arrival. But if I’m going to beat what looks like pretty strong currents against us when we arrive at Guemas Channel, an early departure is a must.

Or I’ll lay over in Friday Harbor. It’s good to have a backup plan.

The tool bag is up in the cockpit, sails are uncovered, jib sheets run. No, I don’t plan on sailing and weather for tomorrow looks calm. But the sails are my back-up propulsion in case of engine failure.

My buddy Roy gave me a good lesson the day he signed me off as competent to be out there. He sent me forward to untie the sail cover when Foxy was heaving through pretty high chop. I learned it’s hard to hold on and at the same time use both hands to untie even simple knots. Some tasks are better wrapped up when it’s calm and Foxy’s tied to the dock.

Especially when single handing.

Even so, I’ve probably forgotten some things and made decisions that could come back to bite me. The dinghy motor is still on Foxy’s transom. Mounting it on the dinghy is a tough job by myself — I’ve done it, which is why I know. So, while I made sure the dinghy is inflated in case I need a life boat, I’ll depend on oars if I do. Which reminds me, I need to charge up the hand-held radio because using oars in the Strait of Juan de Fuca seems just ridiculous.

But jack lines are tight from bow to cockpit, my harness and life vest are on the cushions above along with my heavy weather coat. I’ll practice with the somewhat-new radar and the Automatic Identification System tonight, though I doubt the radar will be required. Still, better to have a handle on it.

It’s been five months since Foxy’s been off the dock. This is our first trip of 2020. It’s not far — we (that would be Foxy and me) are just headed back to friends at Marine Servicenter in Anacortes where she was recommissioned four years ago. Or was it five? She needs another couple coats of anti-foul paint on her hull, we’ll grease and check the Maxprop, enlarge a through-hull for a new water speed sensor. Maybe reroute some plumbing. Maintenance that can only be done on the hard.

Then we’ll splash and either head back to Victoria or maybe just to the buoy at Friday Harbor. Wherever we are on the water, that will be home for at least as long as we’re there.