A NATION IN DECLINE

By Ron Munden  — 6 June 2019

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— President Abraham Lincoln

For the last 30 years I have said that the United States is a country in decline.  I thought that within 100 years that the U.S. would drop to a second-tier nation status like France and Italy.  I predicted the decline would happen because of our failing education system, the country always focusing on the short term rather than addressing long term problems.  Also, the decline in the moral fiber and the courage of our people.  I think my generation did not match up to “the greatest generation” and those generations that followed my generation have done no better.  Finally, the United States has become a nation driven by greed.

Let me carve out one group of Americans – our military personnel are the exception to the characteristics that I described above.  Unfortunately, the military is only about 10% of our population.  Not enough to carry the rest of us free loaders.

In the past couple of years, I have revised my outlook.  I think Abraham Lincoln’s prediction is correct and I think the country is on a 25-year fight plan to losing the freedoms we know today.  We might touch down sooner.

Several factors have accelerated the nations race to the bottom.  First the rapid increase in income inequality is increasing discontent and government leaders actively work to divide our citizens, not unite them. The nation’s lack of interest in climate change will introduce major stressors and instability throughout the world.

Recently in an interview one historical writer said the United States is in a war and the war is a civil war.  That comment is validated every time I take a look at social media or read anything that echoes how people feel.  Increasingly I find myself being drawn on the battlefield even though I know that it is a battle that no one will win.

We are quickly becoming a nation of hate and discontent. 

At some point those in charge will have to make a decision:

  1.  Let the nation disintegrate and break into parts or
  2.  Institute a totalitarian form of government — taking away many of the freedoms we know today in order to preserve order.

What will Happen?

In my opinion, the direction is clear.  The “money people” will not want to lose what they have and they will welcome a totalitarian form of government that preserves order.

It has been a good run for the country but things are about to change.  In the future the United States will move from a true democracy to a totalitarian body dressed in democratic outerwear.  The United States we know today will be gone.

This will happen weather you believe in global warming or not.  Not addressing climate change will just accelerate the rate of decline.

Footnote 1: While I do believe that Mr. T has wet dreams at night about becoming that totalitarian leader.  It will not happen.  He was born 15 or 20 years to early.

Footnote 2:  My son and I are the only remaining living members of my family.  He is in bad health and most likely I will outlive him.  The Munden clan will not be here in 20 years.  I’m glad.

Footnote 3:  Even though some other nations are beginning to spend money and other resources on addressing the world’s most pressing problem, the United States is not.  Since the United States is not being proactive, its failures will impact all nations so in 25 years every nation may find itself in decline.

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CHANGE IS IN THE AIR – MOBILIZE MARSHALL

By Ron Munden

By Ron Munden

I think many will agree that over the past 10 years I have written more critical articles about Marshall than anyone else.  I hope so because that has been my goal.

In 2006, I was appointed Project Manager for the Tourism Task force over the objection of then City Manager Frank Johnson.  This is the only time that I worked on a City project.  The entire experience was less than perfect but there was one incident that convinced me that I should not waste five minutes working with the City.

By 2007, the Task Force had selected a contractor and the contractor had provided the first deliverable.  They provided a list of 54 best practices that should be implemented in preparation of the detailed tourism plan that was the final deliverable.

I was confident that we could complete these 54 items during the 6 months that we would be waiting for the final plan.  Before returning to Marshall I had worked for the Department of Defense {DoD} for over 30 years and most of that time had successfully managed a variety of projects.  Based on that experience I wrote a web-based project management software package based on proven project management techniques.  The software provided tools for managing the implementation of each task and just as importantly it provided transparency so every citizen of Marshall with a web-browser could review the status to the project whenever they wanted.

I loaded the first set of data into the software so I could demonstrate it to the Task Force.  At the next meeting I provided the demo.

The software included all the standard project management date like:

. Item due date

. Item completion date

. Responsible organization

. Responsible person

. etc.

I was shocked at the response to the demo.  Assistant City Manager Janet Cook explained that was not the way that we did things in Marshall.  She explained that the city did not assign specific due dates. When Marshall developed a project plan, due dates would state, “to be completed in the 2nd quarter of next year.”  And most disturbing, I assigned responsibility for completing a task to a specific person.  The City would never do that.

Finally, she said that she thought we should sit back, take some deep breaths and do nothing until the contractor provided the final report because the contractor might change their minds on these 54 best practices during the next six months.

The Task Force voted.  All the city employees on the Task Force voted to do nothing.  A couple of hotel representatives on the task force agreed.  The other private sector representatives voted to proceed.  It was a split vote.  I decided not to push it.

In Ms. Cook’s brief three-minute description of how Marshall managed projects, she described a system that violated every project principle that I had been taught in my 32 years in DoD and my three years at Booz Allen Hamilton.

That was the day that I gave up on Marshall successfully completing any project.

The Task Force did nothing during the next six months.  On the night the final tourism plan was approved by the City Commission, the City Manager announced that he was abolishing the task force.  Using Marshall’s “breathe deep and do nothing” project management system, the City spent over $3 million dollars of Hotel Occupancy Tax money and accomplished nothing.

The City has used those same techniques during the last 10 years on the yet to be completed Memorial City Hall renovation project.

For over ten years I have felt that Marshall was hopeless.

But starting in 2019 I feel CHANGE IS IN THE AIR.

Saturday’s “Mobilize Marshall” meeting validated this feeling.

I think many strategic plans are as worthless as the paper they are printed on.  In Marshall’s case I would substitute “always” for “most.”  But that was the past — today I feel different. 

For the first time since I returned to Marshall, I heard magical words coming from a Marshall City Manager’s mouth.  Words like “accountability”, “measurement”, etc.

Also, based on my brief observations and conversation, I think that Marshall now has a City Manager with leadership skills and is a subject matter expert on managing a city.  I get the feeling that when he says something, he means it. A rare trait.

With the exception is the period Buzz Snyder was the interim city manager. In the 18 years that I have been in Marshall we have not had a city manager with leadership skills.  In that time none have had broad city management skills.

I think the new City Manager, Mark Rohr, can successfully lead the charge to “mobilize Marshall.”  History may prove me wrong, but I don’t think so.

Finally, based on conversations with key city employees, I think at least some bought into Mr. Rohr’s management style and are eager to follow his lead and improve Marshall.

Twelve years ago, I lost all hope that Marshall could ever succeed.  Today I think the stars have realigned and success is possible.

It is time for Marshall to reject the “breathe deep and do nothing” attitude.  As they say, “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

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THE SINKING OF THE USS GUITARRO – WELL THERE GOES THAT WEEKEND

By Ron Munden

At 0730 on the morning of May 16, 1969, I was driving to work at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.  All my thoughts were on plans for the up-coming weekend.  Little did I know that was all about to change.

As reported in the press:

Napa River Sinking

On May 15, 1969, Guitarro’s construction was still underway when Guitarro sank while moored in the Napa River. Guitarro had taken a sudden down angle causing most of her forward hatches to go underwater. Massive flooding occurred through the large open hatches and attempts to close large watertight doors and hatches were largely unsuccessful due to various lines and cables that ran through the doors and hatches, thus preventing them from closing. Three days later the ship was refloated, with damages estimated at between $15.2 million and $21.85 million USD.

By the time I reached the shipyard the place was operating in what could be described as panic mode.  Sinking a ship at dockside is not good!

Even though I recognized that the shipyard had a big problem I did not think I would be involved in any way.  By noon I recognized that I was wrong about that also.

I was told that shipyard workers planned on pumping the water out of the ship and bringing it to the surface as quickly as possible.  Before they could begin pumping, divers had to weld hull patches on all the openings and make each compartment airtight.  They expected this would take an additional 24 hours so pumping could start by noon on Saturday.

 There was one very big concern – ship stability.  They feared that if the submarine was partially pumped and rose to the surface the free surface effect of the remaining water would give the ship (technically submarines are called boats) a negative stability and it would capsize and bury the conning tower in the mud.

Management had selected a seasoned naval architect who normally worked on research projects to develop a pumping sequence that would ensure the ship maintained positive stability at all time. I was very surprised to learn that this engineer had specifically asked that I be assigned to assist him.  To this day I have no idea why he selected me.

This was not a simple problem and the pump sequence calculations had to be completed in 24 hours in order to support the schedule for raising the ship.

Prep work began. The 20 or so drawing boards in the area where I worked were all cleared off.  The lead engineer began making a list of drawings that would be needed to make the calculations.  Other people were sent to plan files to collect the drawings.  This began a series of trips to plans files.  When a person looked at one drawing it often referenced other drawings, so people were sent to retrieve the reference drawings.   By 4pm, the end of the day shift, most of the drawing boards were holding a collection of drawings.

Then it was quiet.  It was just Bill, the senior naval architect, and me.  We were looking at a stack of drawings.  To be honest it was Bill and his handy man.  By this point I had been reading the Principals of Naval Architecture for about a year and had taken two quarters of Naval Architecture classes at Berkeley.  I had no idea how to solve this problem.  Fortunately, Bill did.  So, we started the process one step at a time.

I was never one of those students that stayed up at night studying for a test in college.  In fact, I never did it.  But fueled by coke, and candy bars I worked through the night and never thought about being sleepy.   By late morning on Saturday we delivered the pumping sequence to the salvage officer’s team.

By 2pm I was in my car ready to drive home.  It had been an interesting day and a half.

I decided to sleep-in Sunday morning.

That was not to be the case.

At 6:30 Sunday morning I received a call.  I was told that the salvage team had raised the sub and were preparing it to go into drydock.  Someone had decided that they may be able to save more equipment from salt water damage if they filled some compartments with fresh water, added soap and pumps, which in effect, made these compartments a washing machine.  This would significantly change the submarine’s configuration. So, they needed another set of stability calculations.

I’ll save my Sunday adventure for another day.

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HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE

By Ron Munden – April 29,2019

It has been over 50 years since I moved to California and almost 20 years since I returned to Texas.  Maybe it is because I am getting older or just because I am bored but for some reason memories of those first few years in the San Francisco Bay Area keep popping into my mind with increasing frequency. Recently I decided to capture these memories so I can at least use them as content on my websites.  I am recording them as they flash into my memory so this will not be a chronological record of that period.  I will try to provide the general timeframe when the events occurred.

As part of my agreement with the Navy, I agreed to work at San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard for a year before entering the University of California, Berkeley.

I was assigned to the Scientific Section which was part of the 1200-person Design Division.  The Scientific Section had about 30 people and worked on Naval Architectural problems.  When I reported to the office, I had no idea what a Naval Architect did.  During the first few weeks, I was taught how to do the basic calculations that were the mainstay of the work assigned to the group.  I was also shown a reference book — The Principals of Naval Architecture.  This was a 11-inch by 17-inch book about 2 inches thick with a green cover.  I was told this green book was the bible of Naval Architecture.  This turned out to be true.  It was the only Naval Architectural text used at Berkeley along with tons of xeroxed materials.

At the Shipyard the day shift ended at 4pm.  Because the building I worked in contained classified material the building was normally locked at 4:30pm.  However, on Tuesday and Thursday, the Design Division worked overtime and the building remained open until 10pm. 

I really wanted to learn something about Naval Architecture.

Although I did not work overtime at this point, I began staying late on some nights and studied the Big Green Book.  A senior Naval Architect from another part of the division, who always worked overtime, noticed that I was always at my desk alone and reading when he passed my desk.  He ask me what I was doing.  I told him I was trying to learn something about principles of Naval Architect by reading the green book.  After that he would drop by at the swing shift dinner break and answer any questions I had.  So, I had a personal tutor.  I enjoyed my study periods and learned an amazing amount with the help of my tutor.

I loved my work at the shipyard, but I hated the work habits of many of the government workers.  Some would sit at their desk reading a newspaper.  Others would gather in groups and bullshit for hours.  At the end of the shift people would begin lining up 15 minutes early at the time clock.  At 4pm a bell rang, and people would punch their timecards and run out of the building.  I refused to do this so was always one of the last people to leave the building.  

The Chief Design Engineer, the senior person in the division, would walk the hall between the open bays of drawing boards.  He would always walk with his eyes looking at the ceiling, so he did not see what was going on around him.

Finally, the timeclock problem got so bad that senior management decided it had to get involved.  The Chief Design Engineer decided he would personally go and talk to each work group.

When he got to my group, he gave his canned speech about not going to the timeclock early.  He ended his speech by saying, “Here in the Design Division we start, and we stop when the bell rings.”  

The other 25 or 30 people in my group nodded their heads.  Unfortunately, I did not stay quiet.  I said, “I guess that this is why so many people at the shipyard act like school kids.”  My remark did not make anyone happy.  The most unhappy person was the Chief Design Engineer.  He did not seem pleased that the most junior engineer in the group would open his mouth.  I can say without question he never liked me from that moment forward.

A case in point.  In 1967 the shipyard had no engineering computers and all work was done on desktop calculators or slide rules.  The calculation my group did most often was to calculate the linear least square.  Since some of the data sets were very large it could take an engineer up to 8 hours to complete a single calculation.  Since there was a high chance of error and the calculation was critical, a second engineer had to repeat the calculation to ensure the results were correct.  

About 6 months after the time clock speech by the Chief Design Engineer, the Design Division got its first programmable calculator.  It was assigned to the Scientific Section.  Since I had taken programming classes in college and loved programming, I was excited. I took the manuals home on the first weekend and learned how to program the machine.  During the weekend I wrote the code so an engineer could key in the data, push a button and the machine would crunch the numbers and print out the result of the linear least square calculation.

On Monday I keyed the code into the machine and after testing the code I showed it to my supervisor.  He immediately recognized the value of the application and showed it to his supervisor.  They decided they needed to have the Chief Design Engineer come down for a demonstration.  

The Chief Design Engineer came to our office and my supervisor explained the value of the software and said it would save many hours of engineering time.   He then had me key in a small data set.

Before I keyed the instruction to begin the calculation, my supervisor said, “this is Ron Munden and he is the engineer that developed this code.”

With that the machine began to do the calculation.  Thirty seconds later the printer began printing out the results on a dot matrix printer.  After looking at the machine for a few seconds, The Chief Design Engineer said, “that machine is very loud” and walked away without saying another word.

I was a little disappointed but not discouraged.  The following weekend I wrote my second program — the Bra Program.  Input was very simple.  The engineer keyed in A, B, C, or D and the machine would print out a crude image of a bra at the proper size.

This time my supervisor did not invite the Chief Design Engineer down for a demo.  However, word spread quickly and many of the 1200 engineers and technicians dropped by and produced their own personal output from the program. 

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THINGS DON’T ALWAYS WORKOUT THE WAY YOU PLAN

By Ron Munden

It has been over 50 years since I moved to California and almost 20 years since I returned to Texas.  Maybe it is because I am getting older or just because I am bored but for some reason memories of those first few years in the San Francisco Bay Area keep popping into my mind with increasing frequency.

Recently I decided to capture these memories so I can at least use them as content on my websites EastTexasExposed.com and iEXPOSED.us.  I am recording them as they flash into my memory so this will not be a chronological record of that period.  I will try to provide the general timeframe when the evens occurred.

I will start by story by describing how I ended up in California.  That was never part of my master plan but I definitely had a master plan.

By 1966 I had worked for Marshall architect George Rodgers for about 5 years.  I went to work for him when I was in the 11th grade.  My first job was holding one end of a tape measure when George had to develop set as-built drawing for house so going to renovate.  Over the next couple of years, I learned a lot and was given increased responsibility.   Prior to this job I had worked in my father’s body shop for about 9 years. I hated that work, but I loved the work I did for George.  George paid me when I was doing production work — he also sent time teaching me some drafting techniques between production work.  My father never wanted me to be a bodyman. That’s the reason he put me to work in the shop when I was 9 years old.  He often told me that if I did not get an education, I was going spend my whole life working in that shop. He encouraged me to lean drafting. He helped me build a small drafting table. Most nights I worked on that drafting table improving I techniques.  The summer after my freshman year in college Mr. Rodgers hired me as a full-time draftsman for the summer.  It was a dream job for me.

After spending 3 1/2 year at Austin College playing football and studying liberal arts, I transferred to UT Austin.  George encouraged me to get my degree in Architectural Engineering.  It did not take much encouragement.  That is exactly what I wanted to do.  By 1965 George and I agreed I should graduate with an engineering degree, get my PE license and come back to Marshall and go into partnership with him.  I though my future was set.

But things were about to change …

During the first semester of my senior year at Texas I got cold feet.  By this time, I was married.  I begin to worry about my wife being too literal for Marshall and was concerned she would not fit-in in Marshall.  I was very concerned that this could impact George’s business.

It was at his point I wrote the hardest letter that I have ever written.  I wrote George a letter and told him I had decided it would be unwise for me to returning to Marshall – our plan was not feasible.  It was a difficult decision but in retrospect it was one of I best decisions I never made.  

So, going into by last semester at UT, I have no idea what I wanted to do. I did what so many students that don’t have a plan do — I decided to go to graduate school at Texas.  So, the Spring semester I dual enrolled and took my first graduate course.

Since by this point, I had been in college for 6 years I had a light load my final semester.  I had never traveled so I decided to travel this semester.  In 1967 engineers were in demand.  If you interviewed a company, there was a good chance they would offer you a plant trip.  So, I interviewed not based on what type of work the company did but where it was located.  I interviewed 14 companies and got 13 job offers.  Almost all were a potential trip.

One day a entered the placement office and noticed that San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard was going to hold interviews.  I thought, “I don’t have a trip to San Francisco.  I going to interview that company.”

The interview started off poorly.  First, I found out that the shipyard was a government organization. I that always said I would never work for the government.   Then they said that the government did not offer plant trips.  This was almost a show stopper.  A trip was the only reason I was doing this interview.

Then the recruiters said the magic works – “There is a shortage of Naval Architects in the country.  With your grades you can get into Berkeley so if you come to work for the Navy, we will pay you to go to school to get your masters degree in Naval Architecture.”

I left the interview not knowing exactly what a naval architect was but absolutely sure that I wanted to be one.

Three months later, two days after graduation from Texas I was in my car driving to San Francisco.

Within a period for 6 months the plan I had made developed almost 5 years earlier had gone up in smoke.  I was not going to get a degree and return to Marshall as a structural engineer.  I was going the University of California, Berkley if I could find out where it was located.

Sometimes your plans just do not work out.

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