Sunday's NYT had an interesting piece on the fast-growing exurb of Frisco. But the WSJ's Q&A today with Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly was a say-nothing story. Frisco is exploding with a pop now of 82,000. What draws residents? More house for the buck. Child-centered opportunities for stay-at-home moms (dads), conservative neighbors, and good schools. The school reputation is amazing, given that Frisco has gone from one elementary a decade ago to 18 today and four more scheduled to open next year, and a second high school already added. The drawbacks? "Life is framed by the hours spent behind the wheel" -- particularly for business commuters to downtown Dallas. As for the WSJ's Marketplace front interview with SWA's Kelly...LaGuardia next year? Maybe yes, maybe no. And maybe somebody else gleaned a nugget that I didn't see.
Bill ParcellsWith regard to yesterday's Cowboy disaster Norm says we need to keep in mind that you are never as good as you appear when things are going well and you are never as bad as you appear when things tank. But there was one embarrassing moment that said a lot about the team. Norm says the embarassment was Bill Parcells.
George H. HeilmeierThe December 12th issue of Business Week profiles one of our community’s most prominent individuals in an article entitled "Voices of Innovation". George Heilmeier’s contributions to scientific research over the past four decades have led to major technological breakthroughs in such wide ranging areas as flat screen TVs and stealth bombers.
The Business Week article tells the story about how Heilmeier’s "dissertation on organic semiconductors led to …. a breakthrough discovery at RCA Labs" where George Heilmeier was working at the time. This proved to be the first key to the development of the LCD which would become the future of TV sets. George Heilmeier was only 28 years old.
The sad part of the story is that RCA eventually abandoned its research and development efforts with respect to LCDs. The Japanese picked up the ball and ran with it. Today, according to Business Week, the LCD business is dominated by Japanese, Korea and Taiwanese companies. It is a $39 billion business. The Japanese belatedly honored Heilmeier for his LCD innovations this past November by awarding him the Kyoto Prize which comes with a $425,000 cash award.
George Heilmeier left RCA in 1970 when he was selected to be one of 17 White House Fellows in 1970 and spend a year working in the Executive branch of the federal government. He was assigned to be a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense. That is when I got to know George as I was Associate Director of the White House Fellowship program at the time. In a group of 17 very smart people (including top flight West Point and Naval Academy trained military leaders along with up-and-coming corporate leaders), George Heilmeier was clearly head and shoulders intellectually above the rest of the group. The funny thing about Dr. George Heilmeier then (and, as best I can tell, he hasn’t changed since) is that, while he had (and has) strong views on a wide range of subjects, you never got the sense that George had a big ego. This was somewhat surprising to find in a man with such credentials and achievements. In that way, George reminds me of my old boss Ronald Reagan who combined strong convictions and a quiet self-confidence with personal humility. There was a saying on President Reagan’s desk which is apt of the way both men led others: "There is no telling how far you go if you don’t mind who gets the credit."
George Heilmeier has had a very distinguished career. He stayed on at Defense after his White House Fellowship year was completed and headed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 1975 to 1977. He then went to Texas Instruments where he became Chief Technology Officer in 1983. Heilmeier was named CEO of Bellcore in 1991 and he retired in 1997. He still consults for a number of major companies.
In the Business Week article, here is George’s take on the future of U.S. science: "Heilmeier is generally upbeat about the outlook for U.S. science. But he does have some concerns. ‘There’s more hype in research than ever before,’ he says. ‘A lot more.’ Nanoelectronics is especially guilty, he believes. ‘The hypemeisters may be good at winning funding, but you don’t win by dumping in money. You win with insightful ideas.’"
Let’s just hope there are other 28 year old George Heilmeiers out there somewhere in the U.S. engaged in the kind of research that may one day lead them on a path like Dr. Heilmeier’s which (in the words of the Business Week author) "made him an icon of U.S. innovation in both civilian and military circles."
For the person who says, "When they pay me more ... I'll do more!", I learned long ago that if if did more than I was paid to do ... I was soon paid more ... or a newer and better opportunity opened up to me. It is like saying to the stove, "when you warm me up stove, I'll put some wood in you" ... the more wood you put in ... the more heat you get out and the person who chops their own wood warms himself twice.
Scientifc research has shown that a dose of laughter is good for the heart, mind and soul, because it makes blood vessels work more efficiently. A separate study found that depression can raise the risk of heart and other vascular diseases. Learn to laugh, love, live and enjoy life. You will live longer and healthier! Keep Laughing ... Keep Living!
Ok so the Boys looked like chumps in getting kicked 35 to 7 by the hated Redskins. But the fact is the two teams have an identical record and are still in the playoff hunt. This was a day when the NFL's best got booted and lost their perfect record while the worst, the hapless Houston Texans, doubled their wins to two. In the NFL everyone is getting squeezed into the middle and everyone in the middle is getting squeezed. Mike says in this world one game can mean a season.
In its’ November issue, Texas Monthly magazine published a story by Senior Editor Mimi Swartz with the inflammatory headline “Hurt? Injured? Need a Lawyer? To Bad!” The story can be simply summarized: Small group of rich business types spend millions to pay off the legislature to pass a tort reform bill that locks poor deserving Texans out of the Court House to the benefit of these same rich business types. In this case the villains of the story, the rich guys, come packaged in an organization called Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR).
Needless to say the TLR didn’t like Ms. Swartz’s article and provided Texas Monthly with a lengthy brief claiming to set the record strait. Texas Monthly responded it would allow TLR to present a condensed version of its accusations and apologize for any mistakes but warned it would rebut the rebuttal. TLR passed and responded on its own Web site and via a direct mail campaign. Now Texas Monthly has posted TLR’s original six point rebuttal of Swartz’s story along with its rebuttal of that rebuttal on the Texas Monthly Web site. Unless you are a lawyer my advice is not to bother reading either - unless you lack a life.
So how fair and balanced was the article? First, a disclaimer: I ran a firm in the mid-90s (Temerlin McClain PR) that worked for the TLR and I managed the account. Let me add that I was not just a disinterested hired gun working for a pay check. I believed in everything the TLR was about. While at Texas Business and later at the Dallas Morning News I regularly outraged trial lawyers with stories, columns and editorials calling for reforms they saw as a threat to their incomes and, if you grant them sincerity (and I do) – a threat to justice for average folks.
So what was my take on Swartz’s article? Was it an editorial or a fair and balanced discussion of tort issues? Neither. It was a wet kiss for the Texas Trial Lawyer’s Association (TTLA). The title said all, and carefully selected, but mostly accurate, facts were presented to back up the title. While that may bother the TLR it doesn’t bother me. I did that to the Trial Lawyers all the time. And Texas Monthly is not the Texas Lawyer. Legal briefs don’t sell magazines - human interest stories do.
What Swartz did do was wave a bloody shirt. The trial lawyer style is to present a handful of egregious cases and suggest there is no amount of money to adequately compensate the wronged (they are usually right). Their argument then proceeds to assert that whatever problems the system might have it could not be fixed without denying these poor souls due justice. In other words: Look at the trees not the forest.
That was because the forest was dying. The soaring cost of insurance premiums in Texas was causing doctors to retire early, placing an enormous burden on small businesses, and making out-of-state companies think twice before doing business in Texas. Indeed, many small businesses were “going naked” (carrying no insurance). If it was hit with a law suite a “naked” business just went out of business leaving a lot of unemployed people and a plaintiff with zero.
The problem with the system was that juries were willing to make huge awards to the desperate little guy because they felt he deserved help regardless of fault and since the insurance company was paying – well, what the hell. Of course, it was really you and I paying either through higher insurance premiums of our own, or higher prices charged us by businesses trying to cover higher premiums.
The Trial Lawyers have always dismissed the idea that headline grabbing billion dollar awards have any affect on insurance premiums. They correctly note only a tiny percentage of cases ever go to trial and of those a tiny percentage ever delivers outlandish jury awards. What they don’t say is that these set the risk ceiling. Insurance companies look at what they might have to pay in a trial based on the few that actually go to trial. If they see an upside risk of say $100 million they might rather settle for policy limits of $10 million than defend a case they otherwise think they can win and pay zip. Call it justice by actuary.
The problem wasn’t economic damages that could be fairly easily and accurately fixed but “punitive” damages awarded by juries for subjective pain and suffering. These damages were out of control. Juries were coming to see the tort system as a matter of wealth redistribution. The tort reformers were about taming these punitive damages. Yet, punitive damages are where Trial Lawyers make their money.
And this is the crux of the matter. It is absolutely true that most Texans cannot afford a plaintiff’s lawyer on even a slam dunk case. Trial lawyers take cases based on “contingency fees” that allow them to collect a big percentage of punitive damages. A large prospective settlement means a large prospective fee and so trial lawyers will tote the note for the case (actually there are investors often willing to fund law suits). If you cap punitive damages you cap Trial lawyer income. If the sad people in Swartz’s article are unable to find lawyers it is because the lawyers don’t think they can make enough money not because the law locked anyone out of the court house.
Texas Monthly defends the article by noting Swartz ends her tale with a fair and balanced summation: “In the battle between the trial lawyers and the tort reformers, each side accuses the other of excessive greed and mendacity; each side is convinced that only its side represents the truth. The middle ground is reserved for the all-too-human collateral damage of a bitter ward involving big money and partisan politics, seemingly without end.”
I’ll grant that while neither side wins a “warm and fuzzy” award both sides are mostly sincere. I’ll grant both sides represent big money. I’ll grant that trials lawyers are mostly Democrats and reformers overwhelmingly Republican. But I cannot grant that placing “all-too-human collateral damage” between the two illustrates fair and balanced. This was a wet kiss.
The wonder of the Internet is that most of it is free and interactive collaboration is encouraged. A lot of people don't like that. A lot of people plan to do something about your fair use rights. If you value those rights, says Doug Bedell, you had better stand up for them.
“I believe that children are the future….” So goes one of the 1990s most cloying, yet irritatingly catchy songs. “Teach them well, and let them find the way….” I’ll bet the treacle melody is already running through your head right now. Hard to get out, isn’t it? Try slapping a classical CD into your PC—Mozart, maybe. Let good music drive out the bad.
Still, the sentiment is sound. And like most clichés (such as “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”) it’s anchored in the truth. Such simple realities, which are easily obscured by ideology, don’t go away just because we hide our eyes.
Careful parents know that the help they give their children in choosing a college will make a profound difference in how they turn out—in the development of their souls as well as their scholarship or success. That’s why millions of dollars are spent every year on tutors, SAT preps, campus visits, expensive applications, and 1000-page college guides. But too few of these resources address what is really the central question of college education—what does a given school teach, how well, and why? That is what we try to do in Choosing the Right College, a regular publication of Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Serious high school students also want to know what College best fits their interests.
In the current edition of Choosing the Right College, which I edit, over 130 schools are covered in greater depth than you’ll find anywhere else. Here is what we have to say about Texas schools which are covered. They are in alphabetical order:
This Installment: Texas A&M University
This school has undergone rapid changes during the last 40 years, none greater than in 1963, when the college converted itself from an all-male military academy to a full-fledged coeducational university. But Texas A&M, which every year hosts a traditional candlelight “Aggie muster” ceremony, has retained much from its military-school past. The university still sponsors the Corps of Cadets, which, with 2,000 members, is the largest uniformed body of students outside the three U.S. service academies. And it is still in agriculture and mechanics that the university excels. However, A&M is actively attempting to improve its liberal arts programs.
The agricultural and engineering programs at Texas A&M have been and remain among the finest on campus. Roughly 20 percent of the undergraduate population majors in some type of engineering. Virtually every engineering program offered, from aerospace to petroleum, ranks among the top 20 in the nation, and several are among the top five.
The university’s offerings in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are certainly extensive. A student interested in this area can even major in somewhat obscure fields like agricultural journalism, dairy science, or wildlife and fisheries sciences. The College of Veterinary Medicine is widely considered to be one of the most advanced in America .
In 2000, the college was the birthplace of the first animal specifically cloned for disease resistance. (For the record, we’re not at all convinced that this is cause for rejoicing.) After testing hundreds of cattle, Bull 86 was found to be naturally disease-resistant to brucellosis, and resistant to tuberculosis and salmonellosis under laboratory conditions. Cells from Bull 86 were used to produce a genetic clone, Bull 86 2 . Since then, Texas A&M researchers have also cloned goats, pigs, and cats, making the university the “first academic institution in the world to have cloned four different species,” according to the university. Happily, the Texas legislature seems likely to ban human cloning—setting at least some limit to the mad science practiced at College Station .
The university’s former president, Ray Bowen, left the helm in 2002 to take a faculty position in mechanical engineering. He was replaced by Robert M. Gates, who served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the early ‘90s. Bowen’s departure and Gates’s arrival were welcomed by many at the university. Bowen had made several moves that some alumni thought were aimed at conforming A&M to the progressivism often characteristic of elite public universities, such as Bowen’s Vision 2020 report, a set of 12 recommendations designed to make Texas A&M one of the top 10 public universities in the nation by the year 2020. One of the goals posited by the plan was to “diversify and globalize the A&M community.”
To achieve this result, Bowen adopted a “plan that will require students to take six hours of international or cultural diversity classes.” Conservatives contend that the plan was implemented merely to pacify critics who say that A&M students suffer from their culturally - deficient surroundings. One conservative student says that the multiculturalism requirement is “just one step in a larger plan to sacrifice the values that make A&M special” for greater academic reputation and prestige. The student follows this assertion with the worst accusation one can make against an A&M president: “He wants to make us just like the University of Texas .”