Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Haitus Humbuggery and Book Leave

By Jeff Huber

I’ll be putting the column on the back burner for the rest of the year in hopes of completing the first draft of Sandbox Generals by Baby Jeebus Day.  In lieu of an actual essay that requires disciplined and organized thought and writing, I’ll be posting a headline or two that’s caught my eye lately and something form the work-in-progress that covers the territory.

This week I came upon this story about the V-22 Osprey, the lean, mean Marine killing machine that even Dark Lord Cheney couldn’t put to death.  Even Big Dick can’t fight Daddy Warbucks.

A comment on the budget impasse:  I used to maintain that the difference between Republicans and Libertarians is that Republicans want someone else to pay for the roads and Libertarians don’t think we need roads.  The gap seems to have narrowed to the width of a gnat’s eyelash toward the Libertarian ideal. 

How dare he say those true
 things about me?  Curses!
When it comes to the defense budget, though, war spending is like Jell-o:  there’s always room for it.  Heck, war’s our biggest job creator!  And on that note, please give your consideration to the following public service preview:

Unknown to just about anyone besides the inner Centurion circle—which included Buzz, which meant Jack knew about it too—was that one of the first things Fix unfarkled, once he found himself in the human skin-upholstered seat of power at the head of the petrified round table in the Voodoo Hunker Bunker at the bottom of the hole beneath the White House, was to get rid of most of that expensive crap like stealth bombers and aircraft carriers and flying submarines and SCUBA tanks and pretend like he hadn’t gotten rid of them. 
Fix got that idea from his trusty but unwitting adviser Jack, who had suggested in his column that the only way to get the Pentarchy to scrap most of its arsenal would be to do allow it to do so in secret while continuing to charge its maintenance and operating costs on the tax payers’ revolving charge account with China.  The way weapons acquisition worked, Jack explained, was that once the arms industry had a contract to build fantastical killing machines, it put the Government in a conundrum, a pickle, a jam, a fait accompli, a Catch-22 if you will. 
As soon as the industry got a contract to make X numbers of Death Doodads for Y dollars per copy, it revised the Death Doodad’s cost estimate to reflect, say, the rising price of suntan oil at Ipanema Beach in Brazil, vacation spot for the thousands of Brazilian workers who grew and harvested the bananas that the riveters who riveted the wings and rudders and keels and tires on the Death Doodad in North Buttplug, South Dakota peeled and sliced and placed on top of their children’s’ bowls of breakfast cereal every morning.  As per federal regulations regarding compensation of employees of firms under federal contract to provide goods and services relating to national security, the inflated bananas necessitated a raise in said employees cost of living allowances (COLAs).  The COLA increase, by law, had to be a set percentage of the annual earnings of the employees, and the increase had to apply to all employees of the company under contract whether that employee worked directly on the Death Doodad or not.  Otherwise an employee might be unfairly punished by being transferred from riveting the Death Doodad to screwing rubber nipples to the tops of baby bottles, thus losing income needed to buy his or her children food sufficiently nourishing to compensate for the ketchup soup and baked bean burgers they were eating at school.    
I'm afraid we've experienced cost
overruns with the Death Doodad.
Darn the bad luck!
The riveters received sufficient extra pay to purchase the pricier bananas.  That alone wouldn’t have had that much effect on the per-copy cost of the Death Doodad.  Things got expensive as the COLA percentage increase was applied to the compensation packages of the chief executive officers and finance officers and operating officers and administrative officers and training officers and safety officers and human resource officers and horoscope officers and presidents and executive vice presidents and vice presidents and executive assistant vice presidents and so on.  When the smoke finally cleared, a half-percent increase in the cost of Brazilian bananas could jack the per-copy cost of X Death Doodad from Z bazillion simoleons to 2Z bazillion or even 3Z.  
And if Congress didn’t play along and pass the 2 or 3Z appropriation, the contracting company’s chief propaganda officers, most of whom by Sandbox Generals day had been trained by Flip or one of Flip’s protégés, launched an ad campaign on the Big Brother Broadcast decrying that Congress was taking the bananas off of the cereal of the children of honest American Death Doodad Riveters. 
As soon as the defense contracting company got the new appropriation for the Death Doodad, its researchers discovered that the Doodad didn’t do what it was designed to do if it didn’t have a Destruction Dealie attached to it.  Destruction Dealies wouldn’t have been so costly except that they had to be made from non-stainless steel, an alloy that could only be manufactured by a process specially invented that took the chromium out of stainless steel.  And no, steel that hadn’t been turned into stainless steel wouldn’t do for reasons having to do with aerospace-age chemistry highly classified (heh!).  

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.


  1. I don't think libertarians actually believe that we don't need roads, they just think that there should be a toll booth every 500 yards. After all, if somebody isn't making a quick buck, then the "free market" isn't working.

    Sorry to see you cutting back on the incisive commentary, but glad to know that the book sequel is on the way. It will make a fine present for the Baby Jeebus. He's been getting really tired of myrrh every year, or so I hear.

    And if Pen and Sword goes down for good, well, I guess we'll just have to start reading, eh? ;-)

    The book excerpt is magnifico, btw. All I can say is, I hope it doesn't get, um, overtaken by events. You know, this crazy modern world we live in. That looks like it's about to explode.

  2. Haven't heard, or read of this kind of "destruction" since the 1940's. And, it wasn't done by Americans.

    The destruction of books, is the destruction of ideas......

    Keep writing Commander. My feeling is that books will survive Bloomberg.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Thanks all for the nice words.


    I think the web and virtual books have taken on the role of the secret literary society in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.


  4. Too good not to share.

  5. Way too good not to share. Thanks, EL.


  6. Good luck with the forthcoming book. To help fill the void here while you labor on your project, I'll just chip in with a few somewhat-related observations, in both poetry and prose. For example:

    I once had the good fortune to take some graduate courses in Buddhism and Sanskrit from a former Sri Lankan ambassador to both the United States and France. During one lunch-time discussion with him about the Tamil insurgency in his country, I inquired why his government had refused America's offer of military assistance. His terse reply:

    "If the Americans come, they will just draw an arbitrary line through a temporary problem and make it permanent."

    What elegance and economy of expression!

    I meditated upon that pithy, concise wisdom in the context of my own desultory deployment to Southeast Asia as a counter-insurgent nobody in the Nixon-Kissinger Fig-Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72). After awhile, the Professor's words began to re-arrange themselves in verse form. Soon, I had a stanza to start with:

    "If offered help, you'd best refuse
    For if you should relent
    They'll draw an arbitrary line
    Through problems transient
    And complicate them all so as
    To make them permanent"

    Then things spontaneously took off and eventually became: "Boobie Counter Insurgency," another episode in the unending verse chronicle of "Fernando Po, U.S.A., America's post-linguistic retreat to Plato's Cave."

    Somewhat along the same lines, I've reworked an essay I started some six years ago when exasperated (yet again) at the American military's fondness for embracing absurd metaphors -- a.k.a., thought-terminating cliches -- in lieu of actual, comprehensible strategy. Hence: "George Armstrong Custer Bush"

    and "Custer's Next Stand."

    We all have to pass the time somehow ...