Colonial Injustice and the Border Wall

Colonial Injustice

I just read an interesting article about how President Trump is diverting a large amount of money from various military projects in Guam in order to build the Border Wall and how it illustrates Colonial Injustice.

In the article the spokesperson for Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian expresses the following sentiment: Our organization is conflicted about the means in which the pause was achieved because these are two instances of colonial injustice, one impacting the other. Let me explain.

The United States is in the process of moving about 5,000 Marines from the island of Okinawa in Japan to Guam. The reason they are doing this is because the Marines and everything required to support them is causing a great deal of congestion on the island. The cost of the move is over $8 billion dollars which includes building all sorts of support infrastructure on Guam including a well, a live-fire training range, and a munitions storage facility.

How is all of this related to Colonial Injustice? It’s a bit complex but basically there are people both in Japan and Guam who have no desire to host a large group of Marines along with their attendant requirements. Now, to be fair, there are also people from those nations who eagerly embrace the U.S. Military presence because of the tax dollars that come with it. That enormous amount of money buys us foreign support but also creates a great deal of resentment.

Imagine the government of France decided to put a huge military base in St. Louis, Missouri. There would be those who would welcome the influx of money but others who would not appreciate the presence of a foreign power’s military arm on their land. The soldiers so housed would certainly commit some crimes as has happened in Okinawa and Guam.

This is part and parcel of Colonial Injustice. We use our money to house our military in foreign lands against the will of some of the people of those nations. We essentially bribe our way into their country.

Some of the people in Guam, the group aforementioned specifically, is unhappy their nation is being further occupied by U.S. troops and their land is being taken for the facilities to house and train the Marines. Again, to be fair, the government of Guam is more than happy to take our money and not everyone is opposed to the expansion. Still, I think it’s reasonable to call how we base our soldiers all over the world against the wishes of at least some of the people of those nations Colonial Injustice.

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian doesn’t want the United States in Guam and they are happy the money for the project is being diverted and delaying the move. They delay means the Marines will reside on Okinawa for longer than was planned. Thus, the conflict of emotions for the group because they empathize with the people of Japan who don’t want the Marines there anymore.

The United States has become a colonial power committing injustices in foreign lands on a scale almost beyond imagination. This engenders a great deal of resentment in the populations of those countries but serves us by extending our military capabilities.

I’m not saying there are easy answers here, but I absolutely think we have far too many foreign bases and, in the long run, the activities associated with being a colonial power do not serve our interests.

Tom Liberman

Prison Camps on Coast Guard Ships

coast guardThe New York Times just published an article which detailed how low-level drug smugglers from South and Central America are being held on Coast Guard ships for months at a time under appalling conditions. There is the usual righteous outrage that we could do such horrible things to people but I’d like to focus on the damage it is doing to the young volunteers who serve and protect our country.

What is happening is relatively simple. 1986 a law was passed in the endless and useless War on Drugs called the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. It empowered the Coast Guard to search and seize drugs from any ship in International Waters, even if there was no evidence the drugs were intended for sale in the United States. A small amount of arrests were made on a yearly basis after that but everything changed in 2012 when it was decided to use this law to seize and arrest on a large scale.

These arrests are taking place far from the United States and there is no inexpensive way to bring the suspects to trial. Therefore, the prisoners are kept aboard Coast Guard ships for months at a time. The Coast Guard ships have no facilities so the prisoners are kept chained to the deck and fed at a barely subsistence level. The fellow in charge of all this was General John Kelly, now White House Chief of Staff. He strongly believes we need to expand the War on Drugs.

The men and women who serve aboard those Coast Guard vessels are largely idealistic and want to make the nation a safer and better place. What we are doing is wrecking them. No human can participate in chaining other humans to a deck for months at a time while feeding them little food and come away unscathed. What Kelly is doing is failing to make the United States a safer place and is destroying the moral and ethical compass of an entire generation, our people.

This is the natural extension of the horrors that occurred at Abu Ghraib and lays at the feet of Kelly. Kelly and his allies argue the prisoners are not being mistreated and the law is being followed but they completely forget the women and men who are carrying out their vile orders. These people, the best and brightest our nation has to offer, are learning we can and should treat others like animals. This is not a lesson easily unlearned. I can only imagine the nightmares being forced to do something like this would cause me and I’m a grown man.

Hundreds and perhaps thousands of our young Coast Guard volunteers are being ordered to participate in what can only be called immoral actions. They are being told by their superiors, supposedly morally sound officers, to engage in these actions, to watch as men are tortured. In these circumstances the vile among us rise while those who are good and decent must hide, quit, or simply go along because they see no other choice. What horror.

The long-term effect of these actions on the Coast Guard as a whole, on the men and women who issue the commands, and those tasked with carrying them out are incalculable. The people who are being forced to do these things will go on with their lives, they might join other branches of the military, they might become law enforcement officers, they might take roles in our government. They are forever damaged and will carry on with the lessons they are learning. That is a danger to us all.

Shame on you, Kelly and all the others involved in this ruination of the young men and women of the Coast Guard. Shame.

Tom Liberman

Why did General Grigsby Get Demoted for Having an Affair?

general wayne grigsbyGeneral Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. was demoted from Major General to Brigadier General for having an affair with another officer. He is the sixth such general in the last year to be demoted for such activity. Why? What about marriage infidelity would cause him to do his job less effectively? Why should anyone be demoted from their position? I think it’s an interesting question.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the army, or any employer, has the right to discipline their employees as they see fit as long as it doesn’t run afoul of the Constitution of the United States. However, I think it’s important to keep people who are good at their jobs in their positions even if they have human failings. We all have human failings. We all lie. We all make mistakes. In the military, there are potentially lives at stake. If Grigsby Jr. is an outstanding officer in every way, demoting him is detrimental to the military.

It’s also entirely possible Grigsby Jr.’s wife was perfectly happy for him to have affairs. It wouldn’t be the first marriage where such things were tolerated. It’s a well-known fact one of the finest generals in the history of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, carried on a long-term affair with his secretary. Would the country have been served by firing or demoting Eisenhower?

To be fair, it’s certainly likely having an affair can cause real issues in a command. It’s entirely possible there was good reason to demote Grigsby Jr. Certainly the circumstances of this case seem to indicate the demotion might well have been justified. That his behavior was negatively affecting his ability to command. I’m just worried by the fact so many officers are getting removed from their position for this personal issue.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d be more comfortable if the military stopped using having an affair as the excuse to demote officers. Let’s judge people by the job they are doing. If the officer has lost control of his command, demote her or him for that reason. If the affair is having a detrimental effect on the other soldiers, demote for that reason.

What concerns me more is that I consider it undeniable the military is quite aware other officers are having affairs and is not doing anything about it. This smacks of cronyism. The officers in good standing are allowed to have their affairs while those who fall out of favor are subject to a strict interpretation of the rule. Even if this isn’t happening, even if the military only moves to make changes when the affair becomes detrimental to the command of the unit; there is the appearance of impropriety.

When the military first demoted Grigsby Jr. they cited lack of confidence in his ability to control his command. Good enough for me. Why elaborate? Why have specific examples of behavior that will result in potential issues? Because then you have to be consistent. If you punish one officer for doing something, you must punish all who behave that way. At least if you want to be consistent.

The question should simply be if the officer doing a good job.

Tom Liberman

Fyre Festival and the F35

fyre festivalWhen things go wrong in the private sector we have lawsuits available to redress the problem. When things go wrong in government, not so much. I’d like to take a moment to compare the Fyre Festival and the F35 Lighting II.

First the Fyre Festival. A couple of fellows named Ja Rule and Billy McFarland came up with an idea to have a music festival on an island in the Bahamas. The plan involved popular music artists and supermodels, ticket prices were extremely high. Everything went wrong.

Many people might say that the entire plan was a mistake but I’d disagree. One of the reason things went so badly is the number of people who paid to attend were far greater than the venue could accommodate. That clearly means people were quite interested in going to the festival.

A similar thing happened with the F35. It’s easy to say let’s build a single jet that does everything three other jets can do. We’ll save tons of money by having one plane with interchangeable parts. It seems like a good idea.

After the good plan is arrived upon, it is vital to hire pragmatic people who understand the details necessary to complete the project. People who understand the practicalities of organizing a complex festival or a technically challenging weapon’s platform.

That’s the problem with dreamers. They stop their ruminations seconds after telling everyone what a great idea it is. And it might well be a great idea, but without a plan and realistic implementation therein, it cannot come to fruition.

What happened with the Fyre Festival and the F35 is no one was willing or able to do the necessary hard work to pull either off in a timely fashion. There are two important differences. The first is the festival could actually fail whereas the F35 was going to continue on no matter how far delayed and how much money it cost.

The second is there is redress for those who suffered or lost money at the festival. For the taxpayers, there is no redress. Our money is gone. It is spent. There is no way to sue and get it back.

All the warning signs were there for both the event and the plane. The venue was horribly inadequate and it was apparently suggested to the organizers the festival simply be cancelled until next year. They chose to go on with it and now must suffer the consequences of the disaster. That’s a good thing, that’s what happens in the business world.

The technology to create the F35 really just didn’t exist and no one had ever done anything like it before. It relied on inventing technological solutions where none existed. It became clear fairly early on the three versions would not be nearly as interchangeable as hoped, the entire purpose of building the single plane. Costs skyrocketed as the plane’s deployment became delayed by years. Congress decided to go on with the project despite these problems.

This contrast of the private sector and government is stark. When someone shoots for the moon and ends up falling short, there must be consequences. Instead, we are the ones punished by being forced to foot the bill for their folly. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully tired of politicians spewing out wild dreams and foregoing all practical planning. When things go awry, they just throw more money at the problem.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could file lawsuits against our politicians when projects they mismanage go hugely overbudget and even fail entirely? It seems like a nonsensical idea but we live in a nation where we get to elect our representatives. We can do whatever we want if we just vote for like-minded people.

Not that I’m holding my breath.

Tom Liberman

Shayrat Air Base Launches Fresh Attacks Undeterred

Shayrat-Air-BaseSigh. Double Sigh. Triple Sigh. It’s a mess. A big, horrible, horrific, terrible, nightmarish mess. Syria. The Syrian Civil War rolls along. Long before Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapon attack on Khan Shaykhum on April 4, 2017; over 300,000 died in the war. Many of them children.

The images of the terrible chemical attack somehow managed to touch the sensibilities of those who were completely oblivious to the hundreds of thousands dead prior to that.

President Trump launched a supposedly devastating attack on the Shayrat Air Base which “severely degraded or destroyed” the base according to the United States military. So degraded and destroyed were they that Assad ordered and carried out raids from the base within 48 hours. According to sources not the United States, the military base was lightly damaged and, because the Syrians had warning of the impending attack, almost no planes were lost and there were few casualties. The majority of the Tomahawk missiles missed their targets.

Sigh.

Our political leaders told us there would be an immediate change in Syrian policy.

Sigh.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced they will deploy more air defense systems in Syria to counter future threats.

Sigh.

I get it. Assad is a horrible person. Using chemical weapons is awful. But what do we hope to accomplish? What possible good can come from this attack? What possible good can come from almost any action we take? If we somehow overthrow Assad does anyone imagine things will be better? Those that take over will somehow be wonderful humanitarians?

Why are we there? Why the drumbeat to war? Our interventionist policies have wrought nothing but horror throughout the Middle East, horror for the inhabitants of those countries, and horrors for innocents all over the world.

It’s nauseating to do nothing while terrible things are happening in this world. I get the urge to punish wrongdoers. I understand the rage at the inhumanity of Assad and his allies. I just don’t see anything good coming out of an intervention in Syria. Nothing.

If the action you’re taking isn’t going to do any good, aside from making you look like you’re doing something when you’re not, maybe you should think about not taking said action.

Just a thought.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy all About Freedom

When Religion is Just an Excuse – Monifa F. Sterling

Monifa-SterlingI happened upon a story about a young Marine who was given a bad conduct discharge when she refused an order. The order involved three pieces of paper she put on her monitor, computer, and inbox.

The papers had the words, no weapon formed against me shall prosper on them. This is a rather obscure biblical quote that is basically about prevailing against those who accuse you of wrongdoing.

In this case Cpl. Monifa F. Sterling was in a long-running dispute with other Marines and was facing several charges of disobeying orders. These included not taking her post when ordered. Here is the entire case for those who want to read. I’ll summarize.

Sterling injured her back. A medical report suggested that officers might exempt her from wearing “C” uniforms which could prove uncomfortable and also recommended she be exempt from standing watch or performing guard duty because of a “stress reaction”. Her superior officer decided that Sterling should wear her “Charlies”. Sterling refused. Officers spoke with the medic and then again ordered Sterling to put on her Charlies. Sterling refused multiple times.

Sterling was later assigned to distribute vehicle passes to family members of returning deployed service members a duty which would require her to stand for about three and a half hours. Sterling refused claiming the orders from the medic, a “chit”, overruled those of the officer. Then a major repeated the order to perform the duty. Sterling again refused.

She then placed the three pieces of paper around her desk. Her commanding officer ordered them removed. She refused. The officer removed them. Sterling put them back. She didn’t go up the chain of command, she didn’t file a grievance, she just put them back.

Now she is claiming that this was her favorite bible verse, the three pieces of paper represent the Trinity, and that by having them removed she is unable to freely practice her religions.

Bad language warning. Do not read the next line if you are easily offended.

Bullshit, Sterling. Utter bullshit.

The quotes were not religious, they were about her struggles with her superior officers and her unwillingness to follow orders.

Even if the quotes were actually about her religion, taking them down in no way prevents her from exercising said religion. No one is preventing her from going to church, praying, wearing a cross, or any other normal display of religion. I’m fairly certain that no religious person I know, and I know some deeply religious people, would think that their religion was compromised because they couldn’t tack up a couple of obscure biblical quotes on their desk at work.

Finally, she willfully disobeyed orders. You have to read the opinion fully to get it but Sterling’s chit suggesting she not perform guard duty was related to migraine medication that might make her dizzy. The medicine was to be taken at night so not to keep her from performing her duties. She decided to take it in the morning because she was later going to attend church where she thought she might get a migraine. Did you follow that convoluted argument?

Sterling sounds like the absolute worst kind of entitled child imaginable. No wonder her commanding officer wasn’t cutting her any slack.

What makes me even angrier is that 43 Congressmen are backing her suit. 43! And Christian organizations are backing her as well.

Those 43 Congressman and those Christian organizations most likely all wave American flags like mad and claim they support the military. It’s clear to me that they only support the military when it aligns with their interests. Take note, Marines.

I never served myself but appreciate those who do. I end this post with a heartfelt Semper Fi. Not for you, Sterling, you wouldn’t understand.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

German Tank Sale Story – Stupid Headline

Leopard 2It’s a bit of a stretch but I’m awarding my stupid headline of the week to an article about how Germany recently refused to sell up to 800 of their mainline battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. The article itself is interesting and there is nothing wrong with the headline which actually describes the contents pretty well.

So, what’s my problem with the story? The picture accompanying the story is a World War II Tiger tank! I’ve included a picture of the Leopard II, to which the article refers here in this blog (click the picture or my link above to see the original article).

It’s an interesting decision by the German government based on the fact that Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state that exports terrorism all over the world. The thinking being that maybe Germany should not be selling Saudi Arabia formidable weapon’s systems like the Leopard II even if it means foregoing as much as $25 billion dollars.

There are a lot of other countries in the world where they turn a blind eye to the politics of the nation as long as the cash is green and the gold … well, gold.

I’m not sure who gets the congratulations for the stupid headline victory though. The article was written by Agence France-Presse but reprinted in Yahoo. Either way, nice story but getting the proper picture would not have been difficult.

And to our true allies the Germans I say: Gut gemacht.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Navy Seal Outed – Misleading Headline

Gay Navy SealThis week’s misleading or stupid headline is a double-header! The teaser from Yahoo is really misleading and the headline itself doubles down on the idiocy.

The story itself is about a U.S. Navy Seal who, eleven years ago, was found to be serving while a homosexual. At the time this was against the rules and he faced discharged.Gay Navy Seal

Yahoo runs a scroll in which stories are teased. Here is that image:

This clearly seems to indicate that American hero Brett Jones was discharged from the Navy over his sexual persuasion. That when they found out he was gay they discharged him. This isn’t true but I’m getting there.

Once you click the scroll you get to the image I have at the top of the story.

Accidental ‘I Love You’ Derails Gay Navy SEAL’s Career

This again seems to indicate that Jones had his career ended when it was determined he was a homosexual.

Now as to why the headlines are so misleading. When I read the article I found at that yes, there was an investigation after Jones said “I Love You” on a recorded message to his significant other and this was overheard by a secretary who then reported it.

The result of the investigation? Humiliation in having his security clearance revoked certainly but a discharge? No. The case was dropped and Jones eventually took Honorable Discharge in 2003. Perhaps he took it earlier than he would have but that is speculation. In talking about the experience Jones makes it clear that his Brothers-in-Arms were almost completely supportive. He thanks them for their acceptance.

This fact makes me, if possible, even prouder of the men and women who serve our country and of those in the Navy SEALs even at a time when being gay was not allowed. The fact that they openly accepted him is an incredible example of everything about which I try to write in my novels. What we do is the important thing and nowhere is this more important than on hazardous combat missions.

Brandon Webb, editor of a Special Operations Veteran website, said it very nicely when asked for his opinion on Jones.

The people with whom I’ve worked in the Special Operations community are more concerned with an individual’s contribution to the team, and their ability to do their job exceptionally well, than their race or sexual preferences …,

Would that everyone thought this way.

Jones, by the way, is doing well in civilian life with a husband and son.

The story is wonderful. It’s too bad they had to mislead me with the headline.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

This Week in Stupid Headlines

Stupid HeadlineOnce again Motley Fool rises to the occasion. They are truly the King of Misleading and Stupid headlines. It’s interesting as they purport to be sound financial advisers. Would you take financial advice from someone who posts misleading information? I wouldn’t.

What is the story really about? Do I really need to explain the stupidity that is the headline? Why, yes I do!

The military is decommissioning about 350 Kiowa scout helicopters. They military thinks the upkeep on the machines and the training required for mechanics is not necessary. The article mentions other helicopters doing the job in its place and the cost associated with this; but conveniently forgets drone technology.

The article advises investing in defense companies that don’t make the Kiowa because someone else will have to provide the military with hardware that does this job.

There are reasonable points in the article. The helicopter is being decommissioned. There will have to be a replacement but to categorize it as a “Huge Mistake” and a way that investors can profit from it is utter nonsense.

This week in Stupid and Misleading Headlines brought to you, as usual, by Motley Fool.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Pat Tillman – Atheist in the Foxhole

Pat TillmanThere is a relatively innocuous story in the news about a Marine Corps memo that indicates lack of faith is a potential risk indicator. It’s not a big deal but as I read the comments I saw something I’ve seen often in the past when it comes to atheists in the military.

There are no atheists in foxholes.”

I’ve got one for you and he’s a braver man than anyone reading this post. A more patriotic man than anyone reading this post. A better man than anyone reading this post. His name was Pat Tillman and he died when one of his friends shot him three times in the face at point-blank range.

Then the army covered it up. They ordered soldiers to lie to his family. The doctor who examined him hours after the incident called it murder. The army continues to deny it and we’ll probably never know the name of man who murdered this great hero.

There is another rifle, with better long-range accuracy, that uses the same rounds that killed Tillman and a soldier with that rifle was in the general vicinity when it happened. Therefore the Army says they don’t know if Tillman was shot by his friends or not.

Lies. Filthy lies. Vile lies. Sick lies. Lies to the mother, father, brother, wife, and friends of Pat Tillman. You can bet he had a lot of friends because he was a great man.

I want to be clear, Tillman was not a hero because he was an atheist. It had nothing to do with it. Judging by the comments I read on stories like this the military is slowly moving towards accepting atheists in their ranks. I trust the military to do the right thing in the long run, sometimes it just takes time. I’m not mad at the Marine Corps for this silly little memo. I’m proud of the soldiers who serve this great country of ours regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

I’m proud of the Marines, the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force but I’m not proud of every single member of the service. Those who covered up Tillman’s murder are scum.

I guess I’m just saying to all those people who wrote there are no atheists in foxholes; you’re wrong. I’m asking everyone else to do the same thing the next time you hear that lie.

Are there atheists in foxholes? You bet. Pat Tillman, a far better man than I’ll ever be.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Crony Capitalism and the Abrams Tank

M1 AbramsThere was a story this morning on Yahoo about how Congress was pushing purchases for more of the United State’s main battle tank, the M1 Abrams. When I got back from the gym today I had a difficult time finding the story which means it didn’t garner much interest from the clicking audience. The reason: Republicans have no trouble with wasteful spending if it is on the military. Democrats have no trouble with wasteful spending.

The tank’s service life is winding down and the Army Chief of Staff and others do not want to spend any more money on upgrades or new tanks. They are on record as saying they have enough, they want to spend money elsewhere. Can you guess why Congress is quickly moving to force the army to spend $437 million on new tanks? Crony Capitalism of course.

The tanks are built primarily in Ohio but in other places around the country as well. If that production stops then jobs are lost. I’m not particularly mad at Congressman Jim Jordan who represents the district where the tanks are built. It’s his job to do the best he can for his district. It’s all the other Congressmen who support this that rouse my ire although I expect nothing less.

Crony Capitalism has the word capitalism in it but it is the furthest thing from true capitalism you can imagine. It is simply the government picking which business they want to survive and funding it. It doesn’t matter that this happens to be defense related; it’s just that nearly half a billion dollars is a good amount of money and draws the eye. This isn’t an isolated case. This sort of behavior is extremely dangerous to our freedom.

The reason this is so dangerous to our nation is because the very heart of capitalism is that well-run businesses succeed while poorly run businesses fail. A company that makes a product that no one wants must fail. If it does not the nature of capitalism is undermined. Men and women who strive to succeed and build a strong company, employ good workers at a fair wage, contribute to their community, and otherwise further the ends of the people must be allowed to succeed. When people like that see others who do not run good companies succeed, at their expense, they stop trying. That’s one of the central messages of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead.

We’ve seen time and time again that moneyed interests bribe our politician into rewarding failure. Each time we do this we encourage someone else to fail and discourage those who want to succeed. Failure must be allowed just as success must be rewarded, otherwise capitalism is undermined.

The real point of my post today is that the government far too often is the final decider in the success or failure of a business. Congress has decided, against the will of men and women in charge of the army, that a bunch of businesses in Ohio and other places will not fail. Congress alone has made that decision, not the market. We are the worse for that decision and many others just like it.

This Congressional intervention, this Crony Capitalism, subverts the system so badly that good businesses are destroyed while bad ones thrive. Today, the best way to succeed is to contribute to Congressional elections and running a business properly is less important. The year after year repercussion of this is inferior products made by inferior people. That’s not how the United States became the greatest country in the world and it is in no small way the explanation of our recent decline.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (a story of fear and how a scared little girl learns to overcome it)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

P.S. I just returned from Atlanta, Georgia from my sister’s wedding. To the people of Atlanta: Your road signage is outstanding. Well marked, large, visible, repeated regularly. Excellent job. A big tip of the hat from this St. Louis Cardinal’s fan.

Air Force Software Development – $1 billion wasted

OverbudgetThere was an interesting and still developing story in the news recently about money paid by the government for a piece of software that, to date, doesn’t work.

The reason it caught my attention was not really the dollar amount assigned to the waste but the fact that it was a software development project. That’s something my company does and I’ve been taking an increasing part in that process myself. I helped formulate my first bid recently and am beginning to get a more personal understanding of the concepts involved.

In this case the Air Force contracted for a complex piece of software that would do the job of many other pieces of software in a sort of unified system. There aren’t many details in the story and the contractor in question claims the software largely works. The Air Force spokesman says it does not.

What I want to talk about today is not necessarily the failure of this software but the entire idea of making the bidding process work.

My company is currently working on a piece of software that we seriously underbid. It’s an undertaking that has been going on for years. The thing that’s important to understand is that everyone loses. The company doesn’t have its software and we continue to throw man-hours at the problem without any extra pay. The problem largely arises from poor bidding practices. If the contract had been bid appropriately maybe the company would have said, no way, too expensive. They would have saved money and so would my company for we have spent for more in man-hours than we received in payment.

I see the bidding process with government agencies to be a mixed bag. Some agencies seem to be able to accept appropriate bids while others, particularly the defense department, seem willing to accept artificially low bids only to see projects fail to complete on time and arrive hugely over-budget.

This doesn’t work for anyone. The company that makes the low-bid ends up with the contract certainly but the amount of work they do is not commiserate with the pay and can turn into a losing situation for everyone, see the F35 debacle. The government does not get the equipment or at least only receives some substandard version of the equipment.

In this case what bothers me most is that the company that made the bad bid originally is still being contracted for a number of other government software programs. At the very end of the video they mention another $8 billion in software bids that apparently returned little or nothing.

As with my own company, this kind of thing can happen. People can underestimate bids, things can prove more complex than originally imagined. However, a company that fails this miserably should not get any more money. I don’t think that is the case with some government contracts. They are largely so rife with corruption that a fair and reasonable bid has no chance of getting the contract. I do think this is department dependent. Some departments manage their bids better than others.

The question becomes, how do we manage the bidding process to get the best product at a fair price? With billions and even trillions of dollars at stake the idea that we can remove corruption entirely from the process is naive. With that much money at stake unsavory sorts are going to be drawn in.

Capitalism means that the company making the bid should make money. The contract should then be fulfilled within a reasonable percentage of the original bid and a quality product delivered.

Sadly, I’m of the opinion that the money is so immense and the corruption so entrenched that there are no easy answers. An independent agency with the sole job of evaluating bids seems like a good idea but that adds complexity and cost because you have to pay those people. Possibly some sort of metric based system in which the quality of the final product and the proximity to the original bid are assigned numeric values. These values are accumulated over time to favor bidders with good track records. I’m generally in favor of such metric based systems although corruption in assigning values is still possible.

It’s a huge problem, not so much from the wasted billions, but the idea that if a company regularly fails to properly fulfill bids, said business should not continue to prosper. The very heart of capitalism, of Randian Objectivism, is rewarding success.

I’ve spoken about this many times. If we reward failure the system rots from the inside. This is not capitalism, however, it certainly is what we seem to have today.

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Afghanistan Massacre

WarI wanted to look at a serious topic today in regards to the United States soldier who murdered a number of Afghanistan citizens. From what I see there is considerable debate about the usefulness of releasing the name of Staff Sergeant Bales to the general public. It’s been released so the debate is moot but I think it’s important to understand whether or not releasing the name is good idea.

The argument against releasing the name boils down to the idea that the facts of the case have not been adjudicated in a court of law and giving out the soldier’s name puts his family in a terrible position. He is accused of an awful crime and, even if exonerated, he and they are stained by the accusation forever.

The arguments for releasing the name is that, like anyone charged with criminal behavior, their name is publicly available.

The unusual circumstances are that the crime took place in a foreign country by a U.S. soldier. I’m of the opinion that these unusual circumstances make it even more imperative that his name be released. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the military and political supporters of the war seem to have had a propaganda orientated mindset in place to support the war.

The first incident I remember with clarity was that of Jessica Lynch. She was a member of the Quartermaster Corps and when the vehicle in which she rode was attacked she ended up being captured. The military immediately put forth a completely fabricated story about the event. To her credit, when rescued she told the truth.

The next incident that comes to mind is the treatment of prisoners in the Abu Graib prisoner-of-war camp. Beware, there are graphic images through that link. Again, the military did all it could to pretend that nothing was wrong until picture evidence began to emerge and some consequences were eventually doled out. There is some evidence to suggest that the activities were known to and approved by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

The incident that is most striking in my mind involved fellow atheist and soldier Pat Tillman. The manner of is death, possible murder, was covered up at the highest levels of the military almost from the moment it happened. His parents were lied to, his platoon mates were ordered to lie, military officials actively blocked investigations, and the truth may never be known.

Now, the reason I mention all these events, which occurred under the President George W. Bush administration, is the effect they have on serving military personnel.

Let me digress for a moment. At your work, how does it make you feel when a poor employee is given a raise or promoted? How does it make you feel when someone who breaks rules is covered up for by administration?

Every time we cover up the truth, no matter how painful, we dishonor all the soldiers who serve with honor and distinction. Every time we sweep our dirty laundry under the bed we encourage the dishonorable to go about their business. We discourage the good people and encourage bad ones. Conversely, when we punish those who commit crimes we encourage all those who serve with honor. This is my point. We must release the name of the wrongdoer to show our wonderful soldiers that we support them. It seems, at first glance, to undermine them but it is actually the opposite. Hiding the blemishes only makes the worst sorts bolder in their behavior and the best more timid.

If we hide the soldier who murdered the civilians we do ourselves, his family, his fellow soldiers, and our country no favors. Let the truth shine as brightly upon our mistakes as upon our successes and our nation will thrive. Those who commit crimes must be punished just as those who do good deeds must be rewarded. That is Libertarianism and personal responsibility.

Let me know what you think about releasing the soldiers name in the poll below and share this article if you think it’s a worthwhile read.

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Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist