A Letter To The President

Trump's world

Dear President Trump,

It has now been nearly two years since you assumed the reins of power in this nation. During that time, you have managed to transform this nation into an international laughingstock. You have managed to ridicule each ally we have relied upon over the past 70 years and you have sought out the comforting embrace of authoritarian strongmen around the world. You have implemented policies that degrade those attempting to come to this nation to work, while defying any attempt at development of a comprehensive immigration plan in favor of simplistic, wasteful and environmentally harmful policy of installing a physical barrier across 2000 miles of trans-national border.

You have exhibited a total lack of emotional strength by insisting upon having your own way, and if you cannot get your own way, you pick up your ball and go home. Or go golfing. You spent over 1/4 of your first year of the Presidency at one of your own golf clubs, while the nation lacks diplomats at many of the embassies around the world where serious foreign issues need a strong American presence. You have created a brand new word linkage – when you hear the word No, it must be followed by the word Collusion, even though to any reasonable outside observer, they keep seeing more and more evidence of coordination and communication between members of the Trump campaign and representatives of Russia and its government. Coordination of activities and joint communication are two of the key components of collusion, even though collusion, in and of itself, is not a crime. However, using the actions coming from the coordination of activities to ensure success in your election does violate criminal statutes.

You demonstrate the attention span of a golden retriever as you flit from one superficial engagement to another, while totally ignoring the real problems facing this country and the world. You use the 280 character limit of a social media platform to announce huge military initiatives that had not been discussed with allies and Congress. You use that same platform to insult and demean anyone who deigns to disagree with you. You insist that your gut is smarter than thousands of PhD scientists on any and all subjects. Only you can solve the problems!

You use your position to enrich your family through extortion of your supplicants to put up their money by using your hotel facilities. You continue to insist that there is no evidence to link MBS with the death of Jamal Kashoggi, despite all of the mountain of evidence available via your intelligence services and the Turkish government. You continue to insist that there is no evidence of Russian government interference in creating influence campaigns in the US, and in the dissemination of stolen communications from the DNC. That despite the unanimous consensus of all who have investigated the situation and reported on the extensive Russian meddling.

You sit at cabinet meetings with your arms crossed in a pose of defiance, while your sycophants chant your praises and ooze with obsequiousness. You insist that your administration has accomplished more than any other US administration ever (cue the laughter from the international community), while you terrorize your own cabinet members with dismissive tweets and public statements of non-support. You allowed the Republican party to enact a tax reduction plan that makes our long-term deficit balloon, while whispering sweet susurrations about unprecedented growth, growth that will fade away into recession in 2019.

In all areas you have touched, the stench of your sleaze sticks and your efforts become doomed. At this point in your administration, I have only one recommendation for you.


Get a dog.


A dog will give you the unbridled devotion that you so obviously crave. It will open your eyes to the fact that you can verbally abuse the animal, and it will still come up to you, eyes wide open, tail wagging, affirming that you are the greatest creature in its existence. You need a dog to open your empathy ducts, since it is obvious that being the President of the United States has done nothing to make you human. Time to turn to the animal kingdom to arrest this descent into madness you have imposed upon this country.


Technological Change Over A Career

Control room

I went from college into a career with DuPont starting in 1976. After an initial assignment, I worked in a process that used a DEC PDP-8 computer for data monitoring and for control of certain critical process parameters. This was in a process that produced hydrogen cyanide, so reliability of the computer system was critical. This computer, when it was booted up, required setting toggle switches in order to start the sequence. Then a paper tape was run through a reader, and the system would lurch into operation. This modern machine also used punch cards for program input.

By 1984, our company began to use IBM PC’s. To have this type of power upon your desk was amazing. These were not used for process control, but enabled us to have the power to write and distribute through an e-mail system documents that bypassed the old strictures of communication. If you can imagine now living within a hierarchical system that required all communications to be written by hand, approved by supervisors, typed by a secretary, then copied and sent through corporate mail systems, that was the world as it existed in my company. It was the same as existed in most other companies around the world. It was also a first introduction to the ability of technology to replace jobs. Secretarial positions shrank in number once they were not needed to serve as a key link in the communication process. Those who remained either had to be flexible enough to pick up other skills, or became administrative assistants to those high-ranking administrators where it was still valued to have someone to serve as an intermediary.

In the late-1980’s, the chemical process I worked with had a computer used exclusively for process monitoring. We had gotten past the toggle-switch and paper tape process, but I learned techniques for data compression. For each variable that was monitored, you got to choose how much change you would allow in the value before another data point was recorded. Computer memory was still limited, so it was necessary to use a bit of judgment to tweak each setting so that any signal noise was eliminated, but significant changes in variables were recorded and could be graphed. This computer also held the statistical program Minitab, which helped in determining correlations and other relationships between variables. I began using that program in 1991 to start tracking the performance of my 401K investments, a spreadsheet I maintained until my retirement in 2014.

This process had computers to monitor variables, but it still had individual control loops. Each variable that needed to be controlled had a piece of equipment on a panel board. Out in the field, a sensor would provide a reading that would be transduced into a 3-15 PSIG (Pounds per Square Inch Gauge pressure) signal in the field. That signal would be fed into a small metal tube and routed back to the control room, where it got transduced back into an electrical signal, and fed into the controller. We would use controller logic to provide the optimum settings for this particular loop to keep the loop stable. There was also a signal splitter that sent the signal to a chart recorder, where a paper chart was fed through and multi-colored inks were used to display multiple variables onto a single recorder. Normally there was a maximum of three variables on a single chart recorder. The electronic signal was also sent to the monitoring computer as well. Now, if modifications were made in the field, say for a new piece of equipment, it would require running a new piece of tubing from the field back to the control room, placing a new controller into the metal board, and installing all of the sensors and transducers to enable the system to work. The entire process was labor and capital intensive, and required a significant amount of operators, electrical and instrument (E&I) mechanics, and engineers in order to maintain a plant and keep it operating safely.

During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the next change in process control occurred. Distributed Control Systems were commercialized. These computer systems replaced all of the controllers on a panel board with two computer consoles and a pair of keyboards for entry of commands. These computers used wire pairs directly from the field to provide their input, so no longer were 3-15 PSIG transducers or metal signal tubes needed. You always installed extra wire pairs in a wire bundle from a field signal box back to the DCS so if you expanded the number of controls or signals in the field, it only required installing the last leg of the wiring in the field.

The displacement of workers with computerization was huge with this step. The number of E&I mechanics used to keep these systems up was much fewer than before with all of the signal transducers and individual controllers and chart recorders. Chart recorders were totally dispensed with, as all records were retrievable via computer. And fewer control room operators were needed, since no longer was it necessary to go up and down the control panel and record readings every few hours. A single operator could maintain the entire process by himself, and the back-up operator could be assigned into the field for a portion of his shift (most but not all operators were male). Even with engineers, there were fewer needed, since control loop tuning was all but eliminated with the new algorithms available in the computerized systems. There is no wonder why the population of workers in my plant kept going down, year over year. It became a ritual that every 2-3 years, we would undergo a purge of excess people. Not all of it was due to automation, since world economic conditions rendered multiple chemical processes uneconomical, but at least half of the reductions in force were due to automation.

So during the roughly 15 years while I was directly supporting chemical manufacturing, constant changes in technology kept paring the need for employees of the company. At the same time, the support staff kept shrinking as well. Whereas we once had an entire group of workers tasked with maintaining and updating blueprints (I can still remember the ammonia aroma of a freshly printed blue-print), they left once all print updates were done on the computer. Since most documents traveled by e-mail, the need for physical mail distributors went way down as well. Combine that with the growing international competition in the chemical industry, and you will understand why the plant I worked at in West Virginia did not hire any hourly employees for a period of 20 years. If you really want to know why the middle class has atrophied in the US, just look at the jobs that were displaced due to technology improvements during the time from 1975-1995. And the technological changes have only increased since then. That is why the talk about Making America Great Again by revitalizing manufacturing rings hollow. The direction manufacturing has taken involves replacement of people by technology, allowing a smaller number of people to maintain a growing production output. We’d best be thinking about how to restructure the workforce to pay wages that reflect the value society places upon the work, rather than weigh everything on the scales of economic efficiency.