Fiscal Cliff Follies

The phony Republican outrage after Tim Geithner’s visit to Congress yesterday shows what a pickle they are in. Geithner carried to the Hill the same proposal Obama made to Boehner and Co. last Friday, but this time the Speaker went public with his outrage as if he had never heard the proposal before. According to insiders, that’s because Boehner didn’t think Obama was serious last week and only now realizes the President is serious as a heart attack.

Time is on Obama’s side. If the Republican leadership won’t yield before December 31, the Bush Tax Cuts go away and Republican’s get blamed for raising taxes on the middle class. You can bet a bill changing that gets passed within days and so all this talk of fiscal Armageddon is pure nonsense. The bigger question for progressives is how to hold on to the big cuts in the Military budget that were part of the sequester. As Christopher Drew has pointed out, there is so much waste and incompetence in Pentagon weapons budgets, that cutting the billions from their budget is desperately needed to force them to get their house in order. This is where the Liberal-Libertarian coalition against the Military Industrial Complex has got to step up to the plate.

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17 Responses to Fiscal Cliff Follies

  1. Hugo St. Victor says:

    House Majority leadership pulled the same stunt last time. Their gripe was that they disliked the manner in which the President, his cabinet secretaries and staff negotiated. How’s that for privileging style over substance, personal pride and self-serving politics above the national interest, Mr. Speaker, you prima donna in pants? Also, Jon you are so right about the filibuster. Personally I would trust Harry Reid with milk money, but I hope that the more trustworthy Senate Rules Committee gets it right. They’ve got to be careful especially not to broaden the override powers too much. And I hope they’ll curtail the senatorial “courtesy” practice of allowing the Member recognized on the Floor to relay the filibuster baton to colleagues not recognized by the Presiding Officer. That’s not cricket. On your final point, there a a few — too few — Republicans who want smart cuts in military spending. Sometimes a scalpel can remove more flesh than a machete can.

  2. len says:

    Note – goals are essential but promise control is everything:

    a) Too many mission types consolidated into a single system without considering performance implications, thus the model variants with lower than expecting parts sharing (say increased production costs at every line item cost deliverable)

    b) Accelerated production schedule to bring more economic entities online faster (social nework overwhelmed professional network), so they didn’t wait to implement after flight trials. Dumb.

    c) Item b enabled because new technologies claimed it was possible to simulate all contingencies thus ignoring prime rule of unknown-unknowns. Daft.

    A, B and C caused delays so mission environment changed thus negating the advantages of the advancements when deployed. Oopsie.

  3. JTMcPhee says:

    “This is where the Liberal-Libertarian coalition against the Military Industrial Complex has got to step up to the plate.”

    (Cue the young Natalie Wood, moping along in the back seat of that old gray Nash: “I believe… I believe….”) Waiting here for Kris Kringle, myself.

  4. Rick Turner says:

    The first question to ask of the MICC is “What’s the mission?” The second question is, “Why?” The third is “So what do we get out of it?”

    Underlying that is the whole issue of whether we should be trying to make the entire world over in our image… Is that sane? Is it moral? Are we effective in doing it?

    And then there is the issue of whether or not we’re doing well right here at home. If you go for this report: then we’re down around 17th in the world for quality of life. Hmmm. Maybe we shouldn’t be forcing our mediocrity upon others. Note that #1 is Switzerland…when was the last time they sent troops anywhere other than the Vatican?

    Of course the reason we’re doing so poorly is because of illegal aliens and Democrats wanting to give it all away to unwed mothers…

  5. Fentex says:

    Note that #1 is Switzerland…when was the last time they sent troops anywhere other than the Vatican?

    That is unfair to the U.S’s history. Comparing Switzerland and the U.S military responses to international issues seventy years ago doesn’t flatter the Swiss.

    As Christopher Drew has pointed out, there is so much waste and incompetence in Pentagon weapons budgets

    The F35 was, is, and shall remain an exceptionally stupid idea. It was only ever possible because of the unending increase in U.S military spending. If the U.S military had a rational budget the F35 as a concept would never have been mooted by anyone in the first place.

    You cannot build one fighter that is all things to all requirements, the very idea demands outrageous expense in attempting the impossible. It was always a boondoggle.

    I don’t think cutting U.S military spending is going to free as much cash as many would hope, but it will hopefully curtail the influence of M.I.C oriented policies, giving other view points more room to breathe in Washington.

  6. JTMcPhee says:

    “room to breathe?” Nice hopeful thought. Bound to rip out its bottom and sink in deep water on the rack labeled “Big Money” and reef called “Bureaucareerism.”

  7. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Len, I really “appreciate” yor intelligence, and on the field scale ….ALPHANUM…VERT AXIS SOURCE QUALITY / HORIZ AXIS INTEL IMPORT….grade it A2. More seriously, I’ve got a few questions, and a couple of concerns lest I and others misinterpret it. I reckon your Thanksgiving went much as mine did, partly for similar reasons. Best of luck with your new job.

  8. len says:

    Programs like the F35 get legs with Senators and can’t be cancelled easily. There are other reasons since much research and development gets wrapped into these programs. To be fair, though, the majority of systems work is in model upgrades, not new systems. Some new developments are being cancelled in favor of upgrades and materiel swaps. Note the systems like the Chinooks that have been operational for over 50 years and still are upgraded. That’s a good run and true in general of the rotary aircraft industry. Same for the C130 but not so much for the fighter aircraft jocks who are always looking for faster better and not cheaper. Those are egos headed for a wall they can’t move called unmanned systems.

    When they get a good general purpose mission-wide system that is designed for upgrade, they do a good job. When they build to very specific missions, not so much.

    I wish Congress could think a bit more like systems engineers and a little less like marketing whores.

    Back to the SEC championship. The Tide is up by three at the half. A lot of pain being dished out. If I were the Fighting Irish, this game would make me ache all over.

  9. Rick Turner says:

    SEC championship? Securities and Exchange Commission games? Yeah, Wall St. is up twenty points…they always are…

  10. Hugo St. Victor says:

    len, I too wish that Congress could act more like systems engineers. For example, I use every day a basic tool of a Systems subsiary, Industrial/Production Engineering; namely the venerable Gantt Chart, and have been working for four years to reduce its rudimentaries for use by underforming inner schools. That battle would be uphill for most all members of Congress. I’ll go out on a limb and assert that the best members right now, in both houses, are the applied scientists therein, physicians.

    I’ve reviewed your initial post in the most careful reading I can muster. I think I get its sequential and then dependent logic. Let me reassert my old position that simulation modeling based on gaming can help as aids in foreseeing counterproductivities and random, stochastic imponderables including those affected by human behavior, be it selfish or moral. Before you laugh me out of court let me say that I was only ever interested in working with people who do that stuff because of a great concern with politicians’ love of often structural education fads that take, unconsidered, huge cohorts of children as human subjects of ill conceived policy experiments. Sim/Modeling/Sim.2 convinced me, after 10 years of participatory study, that they are prospectively a socially responsible hammer for killing bad “money bills” potentially harmful of children. Not so daft, such appropriate use.

    Therefore I’m really distressed to learn from you that the misuse and overuse of these sophisticated applications of Systems Engineering are now a pecuniary plaything of the MIC. Unless I’m mistaken you imply that the methodologies routinely are perverted deliberately to delay and thereby to drive up the cost of proposed Defense procurements such as our beloved F35, or the Bradley Fighting Vehicle or the Abrams tank. Am I getting your transmission? Because if so then this cynical practice, while it doesn’t surprise me, disappoints and saddens me, because the coterie I’d drafted have worked and risked for so long to use the technologies merely as a prophilactic against bonehead policy reform and unconscionable profligacy.

    Can’t those tools be used eqally for counterfoil purposes during policy formation? Yes, the spirit is willing, the flesh weak (in the case of most politicians, the K-Streeted flesh is weak, period), but God, len, is there really a poltergeist in the sim machine? I mean, in one kriegspiel (DOD/DOE) I my own bad Mephistophelan self was type-cast as a study in political temptation. Three days’ worth of my Strassbergian depictions of a politician’s borderline behaviors and hinky, self-interested, legally loopholing decisions. My lame but accurately hammy acting was observed carefully on several dimensions, the resultant data to serve as food for some mysterious algorithms for modeling. Believe me, only patriotism could lure me to dramaturgy.

    Was my time, and that of my rather ethical techie friends in high places, wasted? Can’t good people such as yourself use these implements to throw sand in the gears of the budget-grinding MIC, the next, still bigger, ed fad?

  11. len says:

    I’m saying, without insight to actual details and based on the article, they oversold what they could successfully model in the aircraft performance. Simulations are not a substitute for experience. Reading the article it appears they tried to parallelize testing and production. Because the aircraft is a system of systems, that means some of the systems were likely less mature than others and how that factored into the manufacturing and assembly schedules likely forced a mix of immature and mature systems into the aircraft. Both the individual and composite result is a highly unpredictable machine in an unforgiving flight regime at the limits of known and unknown performance.

    It isn’t a scheme. It’s promise control.

  12. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Got it. This helps me to understand better the right uses of simulation modeling and systems analysis. So thank you. Also, six weeks ago I submitted a proposal to FEMA that impinges some of this. Nothing to do with building flying white elephants of course, though FEMA probably would be great at that too.

  13. Rick Turner says:

    How does basic greed figure into those simulation models and system analyses?

    That’s the real problem…one man’s waste is another man’s profit…and we sheep are out here to be fleeced and then turned back out into a rocky and cold field…

  14. len says:

    @rick: It means the civil servants aren’t doing their jobs of controlling the contractor. In the article it talks about replacing the lead with a new lead (say general, etc.) to get the project under control or get it ready to be shelved. I say shelved because projects with a lot of time and resources in typically don’t die. They are expensive phoenixs that come back to life under a different name. It is very tough to kill a program. when it isn’t a fiscal orphan. So long term, again, try to procure models that have upgrade paths figured across the numbers and kinds of missions and if it is too mission specific, be very parsimonious.

    OTOH, the danger in that kind of thinking is the raid in Mogadishu where the mission planners allocated specific types of assets suitable to peace keeping but not to a raid in the middle of the day in what turned out to be a very hot landing zone. The fishhead there was we should not have been there at all.

    If we don’t learn from experience and enable that to be passed along as policy or training, then we get to have a lot more experience.

  15. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Rick, that’s the crux for me too & the small group of modelers, kriegspielers, systems analysts I’ve tried to pull together over the years. McPhee and Bullard especially would get what I mean when I say that some of these guys have worked so deep in the shit for so long that they’re almost afraid to ask whether the tools they’ve mastered are necessarily instruments of the Devil’s Music. Not everybody turns rare imported woods, man. They grew up doing shit like anticipating the outcomes of an American reactor meltdown, or the likeliest flight characteristics and military losses of a squadron of F117As in an Arabian sandstorm. During Clinton’s administration, though, a few of us got clearances to meet with those haggard merles brain-to-brain and heart-to-heart, to explore the potential of peaceful uses of such exquisite tools. It isn’t lost on them that at the center is the question we here always ask, if only by implication. It’s a question of moral philosophy. It outstrips us. We still don’t know. Obviously your ethical question bugs Fentex like hell too. There’s a guy at Champaign/Urbana, Nick Burbules, who’d be really helpful on this score, and another at MIT, Eric Klopfer, but they’re both overburdened in their own bailiwicks and frankly in the current MIC climate I don’t even know whether we all still could get sufficiently overlapping clearances even to sit down and discuss it. DOE would have to be the convener but everything’s been so tetchy after 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. What does that tell you man? Jesus. Obviously it’s gross to ponder the prospect of something so nihilistic as an algorithm for ethical split-second decision making, though Turing did consider the problem. It was one of his endogenous tortures, so compounded by the cruel exogenous ones. But look, when we anatomize the banalities and turpitude of MIC behaviors, or sick shit like the Whole Language fad or the witless rush to reduce class sizes, it’s important at least to try to account for the stray moral man or woman. I’ve found that, as rare as they are, they can spot each other unmet from fifty paces down the corridors of the Russell Building. K Street, though, I dunno. No mathematics for that place. That boulevard calls for a carpet bombing by some seriously good music!

  16. Hugo St. Victor says:

    len, the “fishhead” you disclosed, for me is the fish hook. I git it.

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