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April 21, 2008

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I wish I could be as sanguine as you about the changes come January. Don't get me wrong--I don't expect the propaganda will be as bad, in large part because the media won't play along with either Clinton or Obama like they have with Bush, but I don't expect them to actually do their jobs any better either. We're talking about corporate media here.

Ear rings?

I'm glad it's not the other way around,

You mean, organizing your floors and washing your earrings? That doesn't seem so bad.

[Alas, this joke would work better if you hadn't so carefully used a semicolon. I just read Eats, Shoots and Leaves so I couldn't help noticing. Welcome back!]

Looking at dsquared's blog (something I am surprised I don't do more often), I found an interesting article on zimbabwe

We're talking about corporate media here.

With respect, I'd like to suggest that we're talking about much more than just corporate media.

Global defense spending in 2004 was just over $1 trillion, with a 'T'. Just less than half of that expenditure went to companies in the US defense industry.

That's a lot of money.

Thanks -

Absolutely correct, russell. Here, incidentally, are the top recipients of defense industry cash this election cycle. In first place is Hillary Clinton, followed by John Murtha.

Overall Democrats have received more defense industry financing than Republicans this year. The defense industry, like many special interests, tends to give more money to whichever party controls congress. And they generally get what they pay for.

I, too, am not optimistic about real change come January.

Glad you're back! (I have this image of a wolf wearing earrings...)

On my first transAtlantic trip, having spent most of my time in the US waking up at the hour I would have woken in the US, one night I stayed up till 2am, slept like a log for some hours, and woke with the oddest feeling. I checked the clock, I checked the light outside, but it was no good: I didn't know what the time was. I never knew I had a time-sense until then, when it went away.

(It came back. I learned to manage the weirdness of having a wonky body-clock better on subsequent transAtlantic trips.)

Curiously, it manages better if the trip takes me completely out of sync: it didn't bother me at all in China, any time zone, and it bothered me less in California than in Maryland or New England: when I stayed in New York I was alone in a hotel room and when I woke early I just went out as soon as it was even vaguely light.

I am rambling about time zones because, it's rather depressing but I agree: it is unlikely that any subsequent administration will put this resource away, now it's become available and acceptable to use.

Hmm. I generally try not to invest much hope in politicians generally; the alarming thing about Bush, for me, is that even those things I normally take for granted as providing for some measure of restraint in awfulness are lacking. But I do think that Obama actually understands and cares about the Constitution, certainly nt enough to be perfect, but enough to give me some confidence that he will not go in for the wilder excesses of the Bush years.

Likewise, I have to hope that McCain will be better on torture, at least. (Yes, I know, he did cave on waterboarding, but to the extent that what we actually do is driven by what the President cares about, an area in which he can set the agenda himself instead of being reactive, I do hope he'll be at least a slight improvement. Please note the word "slight".)

I can't wait for January.
I emailed a friend this sentiment just last night.

Seems to me that as more and more Administration malfeasance is being exposed, Bush probably can't wait for January either. Mercifully, he doesn't seem to have power to do anything else except run out the clock.

What an unbelievably flawed Presidency we have seen over the last eight years. In my 58 years there's been nothing that even remorely equals it. Hell, Bush makes even Nixon look good.


Welcome home hilzoy. The one hour change to/from DST messes me up for a week so I really sympathize with the jetlag. I’d have to go with marking my territory over cleaning though…

On the generals… Ouch. One of those stories I need to digest for a while, but my initial reaction is akin to discovering that I handed over my life savings to a con man, or a bunch of them in this case. These “gentlemen” implicitly had my respect, and they played a big part in shaping my opinions on the war.

FWIW, I work for a major defense contractor, and I never, ever use the kind of leverage offered by the company I work for to influence politics. In other words, I don't participate in any PACs. I've just never been comfortable with the business of attempting to purchase my own job security.

Ick.

Better to live or die on merit, I think. But maybe that's just me paying too much attention to my inner John Galt.

Oh, and welcome home++, as well. I tend to neglect the cleaning bit and just go straight to sleeping, but I tend to otherwise neglect the cleaning bit as a matter of policy.

My personal, completely rectally-extracted theory regarding jet lag is this: For truly epic trips, you just give up on trying to adjust in a day or two; it's hopeless. But for shorter trips, we harbor this illusion that it's no big deal; we'll adjust right away. For me, it always takes a few days. When I was traveling east coast to west coast on business a couple times a month, I just wouldn't even try to adjust my inner clock. Instead, I'd be getting up, chipper, at 4am and going on a 5-mile run. And I'd have the streets to myself.

That's tough to do on jaunts spanning 4 or more time zones, though.

Welcome back Hilzoy.

I just voted in PA and as I was entering from my car I was mobbed by 3 or 4 (I forget) Hillary people. They were trying to tell me that 3 Clinton delegates on the ballot (in PA you pick 7) "were actually pledged for Obama" and to vote for them. Right... and I am Santa Claus. Politics as usual from the Clinton camp.

[I don't think they appreciated my Obama T-shirt :( ]

Glad you're back! (I have this image of a wolf wearing earrings...)

Funny, and I got the image of hilzoy "marking her territory" by ...

Ohh, never mind. Welcome home. Are the bruises from your fall healing OK?

@ Slarti: though it's nice to know your personal code of ethics would preclude you
from abusing your position at a "major defense contractor" for political ends (would that this manifestation of Slartibartfastism were more widespread!) - but is your position there one with a great deal of interaction with the public? I.e., does the public rely on information from "LTC Slarti" as a credible input in forming their opinions about your company?

The NYT article raises two issues, IMHO, about the Pentagon's/Administration's manipulation of information regarding Iraq: the overt peddling (via "respectable" ex-military frontmen) of optimistic happy-talk instead of realistic assessment of the situation is just one. The other, the seemingly hopeless entanglement of the uniformed military with its "civilian" Industrial Complex is another: and, to my mind, far more important.


does the public rely on information from "LTC Slarti" as a credible input in forming their opinions about your company?

No, I'm not in PR. I'm an engineer. Occasionally I get to bump elbows with customers, but it's nearly always 100% technical.

And no, I'm not military, or ex-military. I suppose if we were to pick a rank-equivalent, I'd probably be an experienced major or a fresh LTC. That's more a gauge of my expertise and responsibility than it is of how many people I supervise.

The most political my job ever gets is where it comes to protecting our intellectual property. This is not widely advertised, but to an increasing extent, military programs are developed "on spec", as it were (using corporate IRAD money). This accomplishes all sorts of things, not the least of which is that technologies developed under IRAD belong to US, not the government.

There are all kinds of upsides and downsides to doing business this way, but I don't pretend to be conversant with any major subset of them. I do know that the customer likes some aspects (lower risk and lower apparent development cost) of it, and we definitely like retaining IP. Keeping the IP allows us to develop some common core technologies and use them, relatively intact, on multiple programs.

This is all more than a wee bit OT, but I think it's at least related.

As for entanglement of the military and the MIC, part of that is good, and part of that is not good. The good part is that the defense industry absolutely has to understand its customer, in order to be able to effectively fill customer needs. To do that, we fill all kinds of positions with former military, from technicians and mechanics all the way up to program managers and customer liasons. There are all kinds of rules in place to make a clear line between customer and contractor, but that's not to say those rules are perfectly effective. Google-search "Darleen Druyun" for a case in point.

OCSteve: "One of those stories I need to digest for a while, but my initial reaction is akin to discovering that I handed over my life savings to a con man, or a bunch of them in this case."

I hate it when that happens. You ought to be able to trust them. I hope they read your comment and feel ashamed.

OCSteve, what Hilzoy said. I know I fight a constant battle against cynicism and resignation. 'taint fun.

This is not widely advertised, but to an increasing extent, military programs are developed "on spec", as it were (using corporate IRAD money). This accomplishes all sorts of things, not the least of which is that technologies developed under IRAD belong to US, not the government.

Yes and no. Historically, most IR&D monies are reimbursed via indirect charges to DoD contracts. Annual expenditures on IR&D are around $3B; since all but approximately $1-1.5B is recovered by defense contractors, we're talking about a drop in the bucket relative to the defense pie.

As for entanglement of the military and the MIC, part of that is good, and part of that is not good. The good part is that the defense industry absolutely has to understand its customer, in order to be able to effectively fill customer needs. To do that, we fill all kinds of positions with former military, from technicians and mechanics all the way up to program managers and customer liasons.

This is the crux of the problem. Unfortunately, the current system vividly differentiates between technicians and mechanics and the program management- or customer liaison-types.

Historically

I work on a program right now that was developed entirely under IRAD. Our company recovers the development cost by making sales, but we've invested well in excess of $100 million of our own money. It's not e development contract; it's a production contract, so we get to keep our developed IP. We sell the government functioning hardware, not a hardware design and code.

It hasn't always worked this way, but it's been this way for nearly a decade. Other companies have "bought in" to other programs in a similar way.

I have probably gotten some detail or other of this wrong, but in essence, it's the way things work, and that way is fundamentally different than the way things worked a couple of decades ago.

Maybe I should have have used another word than "historically."

My data refers to the period from the early 1990s to the present. YMMV but I'd expect the $100M your company invests in IR&D will be recovered. Private industry, particularly those who answer to shareholders, are loathe to do IR&D without the strong possibility of payback.

Defense industry IR&D funding is remarkably small. I'd guess defense industry advertising eclipses IR&D funding.

YMMV but I'd expect the $100M your company invests in IR&D will be recovered.

Sure, provided we make our sales. If we don't make our sales, then we're screwed. Let's say we do make our sales, and let's say that our sales come to $2 billion, total, for this one program, over a stretch of a decade or so. Let's say we make 7% on that two billion, after corporate income tax. We've spent $100 million, we earned $14
0 million, so we've gotten $40 million on $2 billion worth of sales. If we do $4 billion in sales instead of $2b, things begin to look a bit better.

Private industry, particularly those who answer to shareholders, are loathe to do IR&D without the strong possibility of payback.

That's because you're gambling with your profit. If you don't do any IR&D, you might as well be putting together truck axles. If someone guarantees your IR&D funding, that's awfully convenient. It's almost the same as a development contract.

I'm not arguing defense IR&D spending overall; I have no idea how defense measures up to other industries. In my (limited) world, though, IR&D is generally targeted at what's going to feed the development of contracts that you know will be put up for bid a few years from now, or targeted at making current products better.

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