From me and mine, to you and yours - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
It turns out that electronic voting machines have already caused
problems. An example: During the last election in Scurry County,
Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates
struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. The county
clerk investigated and found that a faulty computer chip had caused
the county's optical scanner to record Democratic votes as
Republican. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount
(using a replacement chip in the scanner), the Democratic
candidates won by large margins and the original results were
And there have been many similar examples (see web links below).
Many people just shrug this off as scare mongering, or just
an occasional problem equivalent to "ballot-box stuffing".
Or perhaps, it's just too difficult to think about.
Well, think on this. What happens if, without any audit trail
or paper record, there is no possibility of a recount - manual
or otherwise? If a touch-screen voting machine is messed with,
or crashes (which happens) there would be no way to tell how
people actually voted. So, what will we do? Ask the courts to
rule on who won? Again?
From me and mine, to you and yours - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
It turns out that electronic voting machines have already caused problems. An example: During the last election in Scurry County, Texas, two unexpected landslide wins for Republican candidates struck election clerks as just one coincidence too many. The county clerk investigated and found that a faulty computer chip had caused the county's optical scanner to record Democratic votes as Republican. After two manual recounts and one electronic recount (using a replacement chip in the scanner), the Democratic candidates won by large margins and the original results were overturned.
And there have been many similar examples (see web links below). Many people just shrug this off as scare mongering, or just an occasional problem equivalent to "ballot-box stuffing". Or perhaps, it's just too difficult to think about.
Well, think on this. What happens if, without any audit trail or paper record, there is no possibility of a recount - manual or otherwise? If a touch-screen voting machine is messed with, or crashes (which happens) there would be no way to tell how people actually voted. So, what will we do? Ask the courts to rule on who won? Again?
The Haythornthwaite Invensys predicamentOn Nov. 23, 2003, Invensys admitted that it could run out of cash by June 2004. In a letter to shareholders Invensys chairman Martin Jay wrote that the company probably would not be able to meet a June 2004 deadline to repay $1.5bn (£885m) of debt. Just days later, a US and UK pension shortfall of £634m($1.08bn) was revealed.
Clearly Martin Jay was cognizant of his fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders when he wrote that letter, albeit reluctantly. Now Invensys will be hard-pressed to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy. Knowing the situation, potential buyers will figure it's a fire sale.
If YOU were Invensys CEO Rick Haythornthwaite, what would YOU do?
You're a smart guy, age 46, you have a good track record (albeit primarily with selling a cement company for a good price); you've taken charge of a FTSE 100 blue-chip company that has dived like a dot.com to less than 5% of its value; the company is in debt to the tune of a couple billion and the banks are breathing down your neck; you know virtually nothing about automation (though you figured you could learn quickly); you hired a few hotshots (at least you thought they were hotshots) who hired more hotshots to rejuvenate the company which refuses to be rejuvenated; you've committed to selling of the good parts of the company at a good price to give yourself a chance to save the losers; you find the good companies are not selling for the price you thought you'd get; your Chairman writes a letter to shareholders admitting that the company will probably default on the debt; after climbing a little the stock has dived into the tank again; your board has decided to move the company HQ to the US and you don't wish to move. So, what would you do?
Apparently, Rick Haythornthwaite is hanging on. He cannot simply give up and quit now. Or can he?
The flip side of the Wal-Mart phenomenonSam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962 and it is now the world's largest company. With sales of about $250 billion, it is larger than all but 30 countries in the world, employing over 1 million people with 3,300 retail stores in the US alone, and 4,500 in several countries worldwide
The scale can be hard to absorb. Wal-Mart is bigger than ExxonMobil, General Motors, and General Electric. The company sells 4 times more than Home Depot, the number-two retailer. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined. It is, in fact, so big and powerful that it has become an entirely different order of corporate being.
Wal-Mart wields its power with just one goal: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. The prices Wal-Mart will pay its suppliers, and will charge shoppers, are expected to drop year after year. But few, outside the company and its 21,000 suppliers, know the high cost of those low prices. To meet Wal-Mart's demands, most of its suppliers have had to lay off employees, close US plants and manufacture offshore.
Wal-Mart is accelerating the loss of American jobs to low-wage countries such as China. Imports from China alone have doubled in the past 5 years. In 2002, Wal-Mart bought $12 billion from China, about 10% of all Chinese exports to the US.
Wal-Mart is as a vast pipeline that gives non-US companies direct access to the American market. The centralized Wal-Mart system connects Chinese and other suppliers into its digital network very quickly. So there is a big switch to overseas sourcing, much faster than anything ever possible before.
Wal-Mart's relentless drive to squeeze out costs is at least partly responsible for the low rate of US inflation. A McKinsey study suggests that about 12% of the US economy's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone. Last year, 7.5 cents of every dollar spent in any store in the US (other than auto-parts stores) went to Wal-Mart.
None of Wal-Mart's stores are unionized. In 2002 about 33% of the employees were temporary. The company is the target of persistent unionizing efforts, but has aggressively fought off all attempts. But this success for the centrally controlled behemoth has changed the local landscape in a lot of communities, and caused a lot of hardship with drastic changes in the tax-base.
While the Wal-Mart still appears to promote "Made in America", about 83% of Wal-Mart products are NOT made within the US. Anti-Wal-Mart activists report that some contract companies use prison slave labor in China. In Bangladesh in 1992, a Wal-Mart contractor was reported to be using teenagers in "sweatshops", 80 hours a week, at $0.14 per hour. So, how much of these cheap prices come from sources like that?
This relentless drive for lower-prices - where will it end? The search for lower costs at all costs is not limited to just Wal-Mart - it just highlights the problem. In the global village, cause and effect are clearly visible, and often the end may not justify the means. Thinkaboutit...
The Wal-Mart you don't know:
Automation Unplugged - Pinto's PrefaceYou might enjoy these extracts from the Preface of my book:
I've helped specify instruments for systems integrators in Singapore and Beijing, and a gold mine in Borneo. I've been through the customs lines in New Zealand and San Paolo, Brazil, where they wondered what I what kind of contraband I was carrying as they picked out the Action Paks from my suitcase. I have dropped my rugged industrial computer 3 feet to the floor, impressing German audiences with the thud and convincing them to use it in a major printing press.
I've sold industrial instruments that have helped British and French engineers drill the Channel Tunnel. I've helped British Steel make steel in Sheffield and watched a roll of molten steel move past the window outside, as the bar graph tracked its progress on the screen in the cozy cage over the catwalk. I've helped start up Heinz ketchup machines, baby-diaper-making machines, bottle-filling machines, pineapple slicing-and-dicing machines. I’ve been to cement plants in Mexico, coffee plants in Brazil, sugar plants in Australia, automobile plants in France and Spain.
I can go on with these memorable scenarios for a few pages more - but you get the point. Industrial automation is NOT just one application or market. It is a conglomeration of fragmented applications and markets. That is at once the problem and the challenge. The products and instruments and systems are used for a bewildering variety of problems and requirements. The knowledge is specialized, the product usually customized, the quantities are not huge. But the problems are always challenging, and the results rewarding.
"Automation Unplugged" is now available online from the ISA website and several others (see web links below).
Pseudo scientific constantsDick Morley's humor-net came up with this interesting list (original source unknown) which I think you'll enjoy.
eFeedbackMichael Tsoukias, [firstname.lastname@example.org] warns from his own practical experience with electronic voting:
"The advantages are numerous:
"This is a concern that I heard from many voters. I have raised it to the local County office and was ignored. It does not help that all four of the nation's electronic voting equipment are reported to have very close ties to one major party - guess which. It looks like we are exchanging convenience for a lower degree of security.
Interesting sidelight: Out of 11 volunteers that operated the previous election here, 8 of us are immigrants. The turnout was less that 20% in Mayoral/city/municipal elections. There is a runoff next month because there was no clear winner, and again, of the volunteers for the next election 6 of 8 are immigrants. Draw your own conclusions..."
"All in all, I find that he seems to touch on a problem we see today. Party and "group ideology" are leading to an end to rational discourse on subjects important to our democracy. People should be aware that it is not for our country, or our flag (or any other symbol, for that matter) that we must fight for, but we should be fighting for our own individual freedoms and liberties that we live under. Any threat, external or internal, to our system of government and our personal liberty should be what we must guard against."
"The USA has a policy in place to militarize space over the next 15 years. There is a comprehensive PR work already published on the matter. I've seen it. Could have been a superbly crafted piece of disinformation, but I doubt it.
"Possible fly in the ointment? Chinas burgeoning middle class foments a popular democratic uprising, overthrowing the self perpetuating meritocracy, and settling, eventually, on a constitutional democracy. A period of maximal instability a la Russia lasting about 5-7 years.
"The US has its eye on the ball, but the gopher holes on the field of play are going to break ankles. International affairs is not the subtle ballet we are led to believe by Clancy et al, but a rather unsophisticated display of paranoia and egoism, and always to the detriment of humanity at large.
"Please, oh please, tell me I'm wrong!"
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