Saturday, July 11, 2009

An almost-perfect baseball night.

The Mets are breaking my heart yet again, but tonight they gave me a nice tease. Jeff Francouer proved to be an impact player in his first at-bat as a Met, driving in two runs. Although four runs in total off of eleven hits isn't especially efficient, four runs proved enough, as the Reds scored un oeuf thanks to a characteristically good performance by Santana and flawless relief by Feliciano and Rodriguez, as well as error-less defense.

Meanwhile, the Yanks get taken down a peg by Los Angeles de Anaheim, and the Red Sox regain undisputed first place in the Short-Attention-Span League East. The only downer, from my viewpoint, is the Rays' loss to Oakland.

Update: The "little tease" has now been extended. Meanwhile, another Red Sox win and Yanks loss puts the Bronx Bullies further behind.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Aerospace socialism.

Back in the day, Ed Koch was a congressman representing the district on Manhattan's East Side that had been John Lindsay's before he became mayor. During Koch's congressional incumbency he coined the term "aerospace socialism" to describe the regime governing military procurement in this country: the all-too-cozy relationship among defense contractors, the Pentagon, and the congressional committees charged with oversight of the defense budget.

Unfortunately, that regime is still alive and well, as this article from today's Washington Post attests. The F-22 fighter program started, perhaps characteristically, with what the prime contractor and the Pentagon knew was a lowball cost estimate intended to make it palatable to Congress, as one former defense procurement official admits, adding that he's not proud of his role in this. An aircraft designer, Pierre Sprey, is quoted as saying the F-22 program was deliberately made "too big to fail, that is, to be cancellation-proof." In addition:
Lockheed farmed out more than 1,000 subcontracts to vendors in more than 40 states, and Sprey -- now a prominent critic of the plane -- said that by the time skeptics "could point out the failed tests, the combat flaws, and the exploding costs, most congressmen were already defending their subcontractors' " revenues.
Most troubling is the statement of former Pentagon weapons testing expert Thomas Christie that the F-22's enormous costs have caused the Air Force to ignore the rest of its arsenal, putting it on a course of "what we used to call unilateral disarmament."

Update: Obama says he'll veto an appropriations bill if it includes funding for F-22s beyond what the Defense department wants.

7.21 update: Responding to the President's veto threat, the Senate today voted to strip additional F-22 funding from the defense appropriations bill.

Monday, July 06, 2009

One of the "best and the brightest" is gone.

Robert S. McNamara, who died today at 93, may, in President Kennedy's estimation, have been the brightest of them all. He came to public service, as JFK's and later Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense, from the presidency of Ford Motor Company, where he and his fellow "whiz kids" succeeded with a new toolkit of statistical techniques that refined the earlier, blunter techniques of Fordism and Taylorism. He brought that toolkit to Defense, and to the conduct of the war in Vietnam, where the emphasis on statistics was reflected in the periodic "body count" reports. His decisions led to the death or maiming of many thousands, both American and Vietnamese.

He later acknowledged that "we were wrong" (he never said "I was"), in the apology shown in the video clip above.