|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Wednesday, March 30th, 2005
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|Spring has sprung, and money is in the air. The parents of Terry Schiavo have sold the names of the thousands who donated money to their daughter’s ordeal. The New York Times(1) reports that a “conservative direct mail” firm will in turn sell the names to fund-raisers for the causes of anti-abortion, gun, and assorted religious zealots. The faithful who sent money to the Schiavos can now expect their mail boxes to fill with urgent solicitations for cash for others of the faithful. In this transaction, the Schiavos profit from the proceeds of the sale, the conservative direct mailer profits from the proceeds of the re-sales, and the original donors – let’s just say their reward is more psychic than economic. Unless, of course, any of them happen to be in the recycling business.
In other news of the living dead, the Associated Press reports the California Department of Corrections spent $1.27 million dollars for the medical care of six comatose inmates last year – in a mere six months. One inmate alone cost over $850,000, until he died.(2) Of course, that’s small change in a prison budget of $7 billion. Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s 2005 budget includes a $250 million increase for Corrections. The Gropernor does plan to trim $90 million from education and rehabilitation programs for prison inmates, a major money-saving move.(3) The California prison budget now accounts for 8.2% of state spending; higher education, by contrast, eats up fully 11.5% of the state kitty. Memo to Arnie: economies of scale mean cost savings. Throw all those college students in jail, as your hero, Ronald Reagan, wanted to do with Berkeley protestors when he had your job. You’ll save the state a bundle.
But these sums are mere drops in an ocean of taxpayer money. Dissatisfied with the tens of billions that have been spent on the Strategic Defense Initiative, the missile defense system that doesn’t work, Congress has decided to pour more billions into the Hercules C130-J military transport, the plane that can’t fly. This out-sized blister on the backside of aviation is such a dud that even the Pentagon doesn’t want it. According to the New York Times(4), the Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon Inspector General, and the department’s top weapons tester have all declared the plane “unfit for duty.” Congress, however, is eager to lavish dollars on Lockheed Martin, the makers of what seems destined to become the world’s largest school bus. One noteworthy feature of the C130-J: paratroopers can’t jump from the plane without smashing into the fuselage. This makes it the perfect acquisition for the Congressional Sky Diving team.
All of these monies shrink to spare change compared to the Pentagon’s master plan: $1.3 trillion (with a T) to build seventy new weapons “systems” intended to vault the army of Patton and Powell into the 21st century.(5) Networked brigades of lethal robotic tanks, airborne drones, and mechanized soldiers marching, and rolling, into battle, festooned with the kind of high-tech gizmos Radio Shack regulars can only dream about.
It’ll be grand, and more expensive than even Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, the indefatigably whistleblowing civilian contracting official in the Army Corps of Engineers, could ever conceive of. Ms. Greenhouse’s unceasing efforts to expose the profiteering of Halliburton in Iraq are dwarfed by the scale of the Pentagon’s master plan. A woman of unsurpassed dedication and resourcefulness, even Ms. Greenhouse will need help with numbers that wander into thirteen figure territory.
Besides, think how most individual computers regularly go on the fritz. The technical problems arising from a giant computerized military network promise to be formidable. Imagine the consternation of the four star general who launches our robotic forces into combat at the battle’s turning point, only to have the computer respond “FATAL ERROR. Abort, retry, fail?”
If cryptic computer errors, balky high-tech gizmos, and inconceivably large sums of money are to dominate our future even more than they do our present, our next President had better be the one person alive with the most experience of all three. As a bonus, Bill Gates has his own hotline to tech support.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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