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Bernie Ziebart

The Engineering Perspective

The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.

Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.

Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.


Conflict within the NRA

NRA, gun control

After the Newtown shooting, the National Rifle Association, with roughly 4.3 million members, deactivated its Facebook page, had stopped tweeting on its Twitter account and had been issuing a "no comment" to any media outlet seeking a response.

But late Tuesday, the group broke that silence with a statement:

"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

There are two major forces at work within the NRA.  With the increased talk of gun control, the NRA has added an average of 8000 members per day and has received an large influx of contributions.  But since the statement was released, the NRA website has been overwhelmed by member furious at the thought of the NRA softening its opposition to gun control. Of course, the official statement didn’t explicitly state that it would moderate its position, but it gave a tone of moderation.

The NRA is seen as the primary restraining force to gun control, but its members believe this it is also providing less restraint against government than is desired.

Some NRA members have demanded to see the books to determine if money was a factor in the new moderate tone. With just a cursory look at the main sources of revenue in December, it became clear that Karl Rove may have influenced the NRA into a softer stance. The NRA has received over $600,000 in donations from Crossroads GPS and Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads. Although this amount of money is significant it represents a small percentage of income. During the 2012, the NRA spent a total of $17.6 million on political campaigns; including $243,000 on Tommy Thompson’s Senate campaign.

Karl Rove is not a well-liked individual in conservative circles. His support of many pro-choice, big government candidates has angered many conservatives, but his disdain for the second amendment is a particularly sore spot.

The NRA is a 501(c)(4) group and is not required to disclose its donors. But in order to maintain 501(c)(4) status with the Internal Revenue Service, social welfare must be the main focus of these groups, so they cannot have more than half of their overall spending go toward politics. Therefore the expenditures are public documents.

Many NRA members are openly talking about their displeasure with the NRA and joining the GOA (Gun Owners of America), a gun rights lobbying group which is much more rigid in its ideology.  But with the tremendous influx of new members and money, the NRA appears to have momentum and even the most conservative members do not want to hurt that momentum.  Thus they are stuck between great displeasure over the lack of response by the NRA and the excitement of the rise in membership.

While members look for a convenient spot to jump ship, the lament is that nearly every conservative group gets hijacked by moderates sooner or later. 

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