Quotulatiousness

February 21, 2013

The sequester rhetoric ratchets up: “By Friday, expect him to be invoking plagues of frogs and flaming hail”

Filed under: Economics, Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:43

Nick Gillespie rounds up the latest batch of rhetorical shit being spewed by both sides over the looming sequester:

Here’s what President Obama is promising will happen if the sequester goes through as he wrote it (yes, it was his idea, as a way of forcing a compromise):

    “If Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness. It will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research,” Obama warned in a speech at the White House, flanked by emergency workers. “It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.”

By Friday, expect him to be invoking plagues of frogs and flaming hail. As I noted earlier this week, the $85 billion figure that gets invoked is wrong; cuts in fiscal year 2013 will amount to $44 billion or about 1.2 percent of all federal spending. We’ve been hearing for a long time that sequestration alone would kill about 700,000 jobs.

That’s a claim taken as gospel that is based on what can be called “ugly modeling” at best. Because virtually all government spending is counted by definition as adding to GDP, any cut thus means reductions in activity and jobs. Add to that the idea that projectionists routinely assign a multiplier of more than 1.00 to government spending, so that each dollar the feds spend magically creates more than $1 in economic activity.

The country’s experience with recent stimulus spending should give pause to all of us (if it doesn’t, watch this). When the stimulus manifestly failed to reduce unemployment by its own predictions, its architects and defenders in the press nonetheless pronounced it a success and claimed that it saved us from an ever bigger problem. The real problem, you see, was that the stimulus wasn’t big enough. All it takes is a government failure for stimulatarians to channel their inner Andrea True.

Yet there’s every reason to believe that stimulus spending has a multiplier that is well below 1.0, meaning that every dollar that’s spent generated less than a dollar of activity, resulting in a net drain on economic activity. Think about it in a different context: Virtually everybody understands that when local governments shell out massive tax money on sports stadiums, the local economy doesn’t see any net benefits. If you’re lucky, existing entertainment dollars may be spread toward sports facilities, but nobody seriously believes any more that such spending grows the overall economic pie or stimulates anything other than owners’ and players’ bank accounts (in fact, simply having a major professional team in your metro area shaves about $40 per person per year). If building white elephant stadiums and museums with public dollars worked, Cleveland would be the hottest town in the country.

RCAF still confident that Sea Kings will last long enough, hopefully

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:27

Sea King unit patchDid you know that the Canadian military is still waiting for the delivery of their new helicopters? This leaves the military brass with little to do but put on a show of confidence and perhaps cross their fingers behind their collective backs:

The head of the Royal Canadian Air Force says he’s confident the military’s 50-year-old Sea King helicopters can stay in the air long enough for their troubled replacements to arrive.

“It’s good for a while,” Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin said of the Sea Kings, in an exclusive interview with Postmedia News Wednesday.

“In the short term, the Sea King can fly. Eventually I’m going to replace some equipment on it if I want to keep it flying longer, but I’ve got flexibility.”

That flexibility will likely be needed amid recent reports that the air force won’t receive the first of its planned Sea King replacements, U.S. aerospace giant Sikorsky’s Cyclone maritime helicopters, until 2015 — seven years later than scheduled.

Here’s the long, twisted history of Canada’s attempt to replace the venerable Sea King helicopters:

  • In 1963, the CH-124 Sea King helicopter (a variant of the US Navy S-61 model) entered service with the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • In 1983, the Trudeau government started a process to replace the Sea Kings. That process never got far enough for a replacement helicopter to be ordered.
  • In 1985, the Mulroney government started a new process to find a replacement for the Sea Kings.
  • In 1992, the Mulroney government placed an order for 50 EH-101 Cormorant helicopters (for both naval and search-and-rescue operations).
  • In 1993, the Campbell government reduced the order from 50 to 43, theoretically saving $1.4B.
  • In 1993, the new Chrétien government cancelled the “Cadillac” helicopters as being far too expensive and started a new process to identify the right helicopters to buy. The government had to pay nearly $500 million in cancellation penalties.
  • In 1998, having split the plan into separate orders for naval and SAR helicopters, the government ended up buying 15 Cormorant SAR helicopters anyway — and the per-unit prices had risen in the intervening time.
  • In 2004, the Martin government placed an order with Sikorsky for 28 CH-148 Cyclone helicopters to be delivered starting in 2008 (after very carefully arranging the specifications to exclude the Cormorant from the competition).
  • Now, in 2012, we may still have another five years to wait for the delivery of the Cyclones.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, warship edition

Filed under: Humour, Media, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:56

One of the most influential propaganda films of all time meets one of the least. BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN: a mashup trailer created by Josh Nelson.

H/T to Mary Ann Johanson, via John Scalzi.

Looming cutbacks to US military include general officers scrambling for a soft landing

Filed under: Business, Humour, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

It’s a tough world out there. It looks like it’ll be getting tougher for soon-to-be retired US military leaders:

Sources revealed today that a top U.S. Marine General is “extremely hesitant” about plans for his possible retirement, indicating a greater problem with military transition assistance programs.

General John Murphy, the former commander of Fleet Marine Forces-Pacific, is looking toward a future in the private sector, but he says he may have to lower himself to take any position in order to support his family.

“It’s scary out there with the economy the way it is,” said Murphy in a telephone interview with The Duffel Blog. “I’m certainly hoping that I can secure a job as a D.C. lobbyist or a consultant to a defense contractor. But shit, I’m just not sure anymore. I might have to degrade myself and be a military analyst at Fox News just to feed my goddamn kids.”

Murphy’s worries underscore a major problem of assisting military members on their way out of the service. Junior enlisted personnel usually go through a weeklong Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, but the classes for general officers have serious drawbacks.

“The enlisted classes set the guys up for everything. They basically pave the way for them to go college, give them job placement, the whole nine yards,” said Michael Phillips, a counselor with the TAP program. “But for Generals, they need to do a lot of the work on their own. Most of them have to search for at least a few minutes in their rolodex to find a contact at BAE Systems or Lockheed before they have an executive position.”

Reason.tv: How Patent Trolls Kill Innovation

Filed under: Business, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

“My statement to someone that is the victim of a patent troll lawsuit is that you are completely screwed,” says Austin Meyer, who is himself the target of a so-called “patent troll” lawsuit.

Meyer is a software developer and aviation enthusiast. His two passions intersected in the ’90s when he created a flight simulator called X-Plane, which quickly grew in popularity, outlasting even the once-popular Microsoft Flight Simulator. As many software developers do, Meyer made his application available on mobile devices like the iPhone and Android. And this is where he first ran into trouble.

A company called Uniloc has sued Meyer for patent infringement over a patent called, “System and Method for Preventing Unauthorized Access to Electronic Data.” When a computer runs a paid application, one way that developers can assure that a customer has actually purchased the application is by coding the application to match a license code with an encrypted database. This is a method that most paid applications on the Android market use. It’s a method that Meyer argues has been in use since at least the late ’80s. This is the idea that Uniloc claims to own.

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