Archive for April, 2009

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Peeling back the veneer of defense programs

April 29, 2009

There was an article that ran in the Washington Times yesterday whose headline was, “Plan to cut weapons programs disputed.”  The basic gist of the article was that Obama’s plan to reorganize defense spending (not cut, since he is expanding the defense budget by $20 billion to a total of $534 billion, a point often overlooked by opponents of his plan) is going to destroy American jobs, namely the F-22 Raptor, a state of the art, kick-ass plane guaranteed to provide air superiority for the next thousand years (but that hasn’t been used once in either Iraq or Afghanistan, despite what the ‘Iron Man’ movie would have you believe.) 

Now that's a program worth funding!

Now that's a program worth funding!

For example, the article quotes Jeff Goen, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers chapter in Marietta, GA, (which is only one of the 44 states the F22 is built in) who states, “It doesn’t make sense that our government is looking at trying to save or create jobs at the same time it’s talking about cutting something like this [the F22].” What I love about this argument is that it completely strips away the thin veneer of strategic necessity and gets right to the core of the issue.  Usually, whenever people try and talk up defense programs that are threatened with termination, they frame it in a strategic context, such as, ‘we need [insert program here] because it’s vital to our national security.’  It doesn’t matter what the program is or what it is supposed to do, it is always claimed to be vital to the welfare of our national security.  Not this time.  This article states point blank that the only reason people are upset about the proposed cancellation of the F22 is the potential loss of jobs.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but at what point did economic impact factor into decisions regarding the procurement of weapon systems?  I always thought that the weapons we bought were based on objective analysis of future threats and what was needed to combat them.  OK, so I never really believed that, but still, it’s a nice thought.  Anyways, back to the article. 

 

historical_costs

Now that we have finally gotten past the BS argument that these soon-to-be-cancelled programs are ‘strategically important’ and admit that all we are really concerned about are jobs, that then begs the question of, ‘why not use the military as an economic stimulator?’  Strangely enough, there is precedent here:  The great depression ended not because of massive social programs, but because of WWII, which required that millions of people go to work in factories that were suddenly spewing out more industrial products than at any time in world history.  So why not simply do this again?  Well, since you asked, it’s because the military already has most of what it needs!  Prior to WWII, the military had nothing compared to today where emergency war supplies are simply sitting on ships and in warehouses waiting to be used – building a couple hundred planes or ships will do nothing to stimulate the economy in the long run simply because it’s not enough.  At the height of WWII, defense spending equaled 42% of GDP, whereas today, even with the proposed increases, it will remain below 5%.  In case you don’t have an advanced degree in economics (don’t worry, neither do I) 42% of GDP is UNBELIEVABLY HIGH, and short of an imminent nuclear apocalypse, we will probably never again see anything that even remotely approaches WWII levels.  In other words, for the military to act as an economic stimulator, we would have to increase our defense spending from it’s current level of 4% to 42% of GDP.  The only way that would ever happen is if the Soviets suddenly parachuted onto the football field of a Midwest high school.  (In which case, all we would need is a high school football team armed with hunting rifles – Go Wolverines!) 

us_vs_world

As a side note, I have one question I would like to ask these defense hawks:  How is it possible that the total cost overrun for all our defense programs is greater than the total combined defense spending of the NEXT SIX COUNTRIES ADDED TOGETHER yet we still don’t spend enough on defense?!  I fully understand the threats that are out there and I fully concur that they need to be addressed, but how is it that we spend so much money on defense relative to the rest of the world yet never feel safe?  It is perhaps becuase we’re spending money on the wrong things…? 

Anyways, to wrap this whole thing up, ignoring that Obama is actually increasing the defense budget, and that these ‘poor, soon to be out of work machinists’ will simply get transferred from the F22 line to the F35 line (which is built by the same company), all these people who are up in arms about the defense budget have accomplished is show their true colors:  It’s not national security that drives their concerns, it’s their pocketbooks, and that is a flimsy pretense on which to base one’s national security strategy.

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Disaster movies

April 27, 2009
So close...

So close...

This weekend I watched the remake of ‘The Day the Earth stood still.’  Terrible.  I was with it all the way until the end when Keanu decided that humans were worth saving.  What a load of crap!  When will they make a disaster movie that caters to the segment of the population that wants to see humanity get wiped out!  Huh?!  I’m not saying I’m eagerly anticipating the day the human race goes extinct, I’m just saying that from the earth’s perspective, we’re like a houseguest that has over stayed our welcome – all six billion of us.  Think of it this way:  Everything on this planet exists in perfect balance with everything else – except for us.  The entire system is self-regulating – the ultimate proof of the feasibility of free markets – but then homo sapien comes along and throws the proverbial monkey wrench (pun intended) into the system and messes up the whole thing.  My theory as to why we keep making things worse is because at some point a little strand of dna mutated that left us with the desire not only to exist, but the desire to improve our existence.  And therein lies the problem (at least from the earth’s perspective).  Everything else on this planet simply wants to exist – to quote Homer, ‘all you do is sleep and eat and mate and sleep…where do I sign up?’  We, on the other hand, don’t seem content with that existence, and therefore we spend our days seeking ways to improve our existence, but unfortunately for the earth, since everything that happens on this planet is a zero-sum gain, the improvement of one comes at the expense of another.  I take great comfort in the idea that at some point humanity will go extinct, and the earth will forget all about us, and everything will go back to its perfectly self-regulating existence.  I take great comfort not because I like the idea of an impending apocalypse, I just like the idea that in the end, anything we do just isn’t that big a deal, and that eventually the earth will heal itself and start anew.  I just wish I could be around to see it – but since that would defeat the whole point, I’ll continue to wait for the movie.

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Authorized pirate headgear

April 24, 2009

piratehat

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Oh, my, I was only looking for the sport’s section!

April 23, 2009
Try looking inconspicuous while reading this!

Try looking inconspicuous while reading this!

Just when you think it’s going to be another boring ride on the Metro, fighting for a seat, shoving some fat-ass out of the way, leafing through the depressing news that seems to pervade my morning paper, I find this:

http://www.expressnightout.com/content/2009/04/super_secret_joe_shusters_secret_identit.php

I like to imagine the entire population that makes up the Metro riders of the greater DC area all showed up at work today a bit more flushed than usual…something tells me today (and tonight!) is going to be good for DC!

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Top ten responses to Washingtonian cover

April 22, 2009

picture2011

Here are my top ten ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks I would make if I was walking on the beach and ran into the above pictured scene:

10.  Did Congress have to approve that package?

9.  I take it the White House has a good gym?

8.  How many copies of the budget can you bench?

7.  At least something in this economy is getting stimulated!

6.  I didn’t realize number crunching worked your abs!

5.  When you shook hands with Hugo Chavez, was it like Rocky meeting Drago?

4.  I haven’t seen guns like that since the war of 1812!

3.  Too bad we can’t use those things for waterboarding!

2.  I take it Easter Egg rolls are great for your core?

1.  When do we get to see the picture of Michelle?

 

And the top runner up:

Does the Secret Service even bother with the bullet proof vest?
 
 
 

 

 

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Michael Bay Movies

April 21, 2009
'I think we should see other people.'

'I think we should see other people.'

I just watched the trailer to Transformers 2.  At first I wasn’t sure if I was watching a clip from ‘Armageddon’ since the opening scene IS IDENTICAL!!!!  Is Michael Bay just phoning it in?!  Do all his movies have to start with giant fiery balls of goo destroying well known landmarks!?  And for that matter, what are the odds that the Eiffel Tower would always be the first thing on this earth to get blown up by giant hunks of burning space crap flying through our atmosphere?!  I mean, come on!  The Eiffel Tower isn’t that big!  Not only that, but it isn’t even solid – you would think at least one of these fiery balls would fly through the tower without hitting anything right?!  Were the French mean to Michael Bay when he was backpacking around Europe after film school?  Is that why?  Ugh.  Anyways.

Watching Michael Bay’s movies is like being involved in a self-destructive relationship:  You go to the movie, hate it, swear you’ll never watch another one again, then some time goes by and the DVD gets released, and you say to yourself, ‘Oh, it wasn’t that bad, maybe we can still be friends.’  So now you own a copy of a crappy movie that you didn’t like, and some more time goes by, and before you know it the sequel comes out, and you think back to all the good times you had, and you think, maybe we can make it work this time, so you go to see the movie, and within the first five minutes you remember exactly why you broke up in the first place, but too late, you’ve already bought your ticket so you might as well stay for the whole thing.  And on and on and on…until one day you wake up, look at your DVD collection and realize that Armageddon and Transformers are still in the plastic wrapper…2 years later!  And that’s when you realize it’s time to break up for good…but the box is so shiny…and you love seeing things get blown up…oh, maybe I’ll just skip to the good scenes, maybe it’ll work this time…hey, is that a dinobot in the new Transformers movie…I love dinobots!  Oh, Michael, I can never be mad at you!

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April 16, 2009

navy