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Boeing, Spirit, Tragedy, and the Rest of Wichita and the World

Along with the New York Yankees and Boston Celtics and the Wichita State University Wheatshocker basketball teams and until recently the Wichita Wingnuts double-A baseball team, we take an avid rooting interest fortunes of the Boeing Company. Our beloved Dad spent most of his exceptional career as an avionics engineer and eventually high-ranking executive at the company, and he has considerable holdings in its high-priced stock, and the rest of our city is similarly invested in Boeing.
The population of Wichita, Kansas, doubled when its home-grown Stearman division of the Boeing Company was churning out the much-in-demand B-29 Bomber during World War II, and Boeing remained a significant chunk of the local economy while our beloved Dad was keeping the B-52 a state-of-the-art long range strategic nuclear bomber through the Cold War. Boeing moved out a while back, not long after our beloved Okie Dad moved on to Connecticut and then Pennsylvania and the Boeing helicopter divisions where they were fighting the lower-intensity wars against Islamist radicalism and other pesky post-Cold War problems, but Boeing gave a sweetheart deal on its offices and factories and well-trained worked force to its biggest sub-contractor, Spirit Aerosystems. Although Spirit also has lucrative contracts with Airbus, the European Union-subsidized rival to Boeing which now has an oddly bigger presence in the city than Boeing, and although our city’s economy has wisely diversified and is no long so reliant on Beech and Cessna and Learjet and the rest of “The Air Capital of the World’s” still sizable aviation sector, a dip in Boeing’s stock price is still a hard blow around here.
Boeing’s stock was down 5.3 percent on Monday, following the weekend’s crash of a Boeing 737 on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on Sunday, which followed a crash of the same model on an Indonesian airline flight that went down in October. China, one of Boeing’s biggest clients, has temporarily grounded the aircraft, several smaller countries have followed suit, and although the Federal Aviation Administration and our remaining allies in the European Union and the rest of the First World haven’t followed suit it’s bound to be bad for Boeing’s business, and for all its shareholders here in Wichita and around the world.
With all due sympathy and respect to those doomed fellow humans on the Ethiopian and Indonesian airlines, we hopefully expect that Boeing will persist. Forgive us our First World chauvinism, but we figure there’s at least an outside chance that the tragedies had more to do with the Indonesian and Ethiopian airlines than any snafus at Boeing or Spirit, and even if not we’re sure that both the Boeing and Spirit engineers are already on the over-time job of fixing whatever went wrong. We can’t quite be sure these young punks they have on the ┬ájob nowadays are quite so smart or dedicated as our beloved Dad, who once ended a family vacation to the Rockies after he heard on the car radio that a B-52 had been shot down in Vietnam to help take care of that problem, but Dad was once a young punk himself and is still a very shrewd investor, and he seems to trust them. We’re still nervous fliers, despite growing up in the “Air Capital of the World” with a brilliant avionics engineer as our beloved Dad, but by now we’ve learned to endure the occasional turbulence.

— Bud Norman

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Pomp, Circumstance, and the Unvarnished Truth

‘Tis the season for college commencement speeches, and the controversies a few of them annually cause. Even the most controversial commencement speeches are usually forgettable affairs, but we did take notice of the one that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered on Wednesday to the most recent graduates of the Virginia Military Academy.
Tillerson was once the well-regarded and objectively successful chief executive officer of the multi-national and very big deal Exxon Corporation, but during his brief tenure as Secretary of State he was harshly criticized from both the left and the right. The left resented his corporate downsizing of the State Department and seeming abandonment of diplomacy as a means of American influence, the post-President Donald Trump right found him insufficiently committed to an “America First” isolationism and militarism, and even from our newfound perspective on the sidelines he was so clearly ineffectual we were glad to see him replaced by our formidable former District of Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo.
Even so, Tillerson’s bold address to the VMI graduates give us hope that he’ll prove one heck of an ex-Secretary of State. Although he never mentioned Trump by name, Tillerson opened the speech by talking of his own higher education in engineering and the need for structural integrity, the similar need to maintain the personal integrity that is prized by every great faith and every tradition, and the importance of maintaining longstanding alliances and the challenges of an ever changing world,and it was obvious to anyone on the left or right or on the sidelines that he was talking about Trump. He also described a “growing crises in integrity,” recalled his alma mater of Texas A&M New Testament motto of the “the truth shall set you free,” and warned that if citizens ‘becoming accepting of ‘alternative realiities’ that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on the pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
Just in case it wasn’t clear enough that Tillerson was talking about Trump,Trump’s under-penalty-of-law financial disclosure forms were simultaneously admitting that he had indeed lied to the media and the nation aboard Air Force One about his $130,000 payment to a porno performer who quite credibly alleges a one night stand with the future president. Tillerson couldn’t have possibly predicted it, but Trump’s inevitably Nobel Peace Prize-winning negotiations with North Korea about its nuclear weapons program had hit hit a sudden snag, Trump’s bellicose “America First” stance on trade had complicated relations with out our longstanding allies in southeast Asia and elsewhere, and those widely reported reports that Trump’s sudden conspicuous friendliness to a Chinese telecommunications that was previously sanctioned for intellectual property theft on spying on Americans coincided with the Chinese government’s $500 million dollar investment in a Trump-branded development deal in Indonesia.
We’ll have to wait and see how that all turns out, as Trump likes to say, but in the meantime the guy he appointed and then fired as Secretary of State seems to have the upper hand with commencement speech. We always voted for the current Secretary of State when he was running for our fourth congressional seat here in Kansas, and hold out hope that he’ll somehow negotiate some settlement to the latest crisis on the Korean peninsula that doesn’t leave hundreds of thousands of people dead, but his ineffectual and defenestrated predecessor’s words about the need for integrity and acknowledging truth ring disquietingly true.