Budgeting for Christmas

Northrop B-21 Raider

All I want for Christmas are a few new toys! Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and its ensuing bloody struggles have put war back on the table for this year’s holiday season. With Black Friday already fast receding in the rear-view mirror, the Pentagon is wasting no time to cash in on this year’s events and has telegraphed its preferred choices of items to be found beneath its tree. Two items, one this week unveiled, the Air Force’s B-21 Raider stealth bomber ($200B) and the other this week contract awarded, the Army’s V-280 Valor helicopter ($80B), would make any young general squeal with delight when finding either of them on Christmas morning. It is Christmas though, so why not both? As any smart kid knows, if you want to wake up to finding an “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”, you need to begin campaigning early for it. Otherwise, you could get your eye shot out, ask Ralphie.

Ukraine and the world by proxy has endured ten-months of the most awful, atrocity filled conflicts. Against all odds, the Ukrainians have halted the Russian invasion of their country and are now beating it back. Personified by Time magazine’s selection of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy as this year’s Person of the Year, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated their courage and deserve our respect and more. And more has been given. The combination of Ukrainian muscle and Western matériel has proved to be a winning team. Already this year, the US has given $40B in military assistance and another $37.7B slug of money is on the table now, hopefully to be given before those Hunter Biden’s laptop wielding House Republicans can come to power and gum up the works.

These sums pale into insignificance when set against the total US defense budget of $715B for 2022. The Russian army is being destroyed for pennies on the dollar. For 5.6% of our annual defense budget, one of our top tier threats is being removed. Plus, the revelation that Russia’s defense industry is a Potemkin village generates other strategic and diplomatic wins for the US. Look at Pakistan. Countries shopping for weaponry are now more likely to buy American than that other cheaper brand. Countries now wanting to buy American will also have to tow the American line. I am looking at you Saudi Arabia. Maybe the US defense industry should give Ukraine a discount for all the great press? Not bloody likely. Finally, helping Ukraine beat Russia surely also sends a powerful signal to China that the US and its allies are strong and determined when challenged on issues of core importance. This may raise questions in the mind of Xi Jinping vis-à-vie Taiwan.

Support for Ukraine should be a no-brainer for any true American and not some political football. At least financially, our support for Ukraine offers more bang for the buck than any new bomber would. If you cannot find a way to do the right thing with your heart, then try your pocketbook. 

Cyrano’s

Cyrano’s

We had dinner this week with a bunch of Kaldi teammates. We chose the venue, Cyrano’s, which considering our party was probably not the best choice. Cyrano’s in its current incantation is very loud. Considering that our party comprised sexagenarians, septuagenarians and even one octogenarian, being hard of hearing was endemic to the group. Conversation across the table was difficult. Going forward, this monthly gathering will shift to a late lunch schedule and one of our savvier West County compatriots will pick the next location.

Now that the midterms are supposedly over, except for the continuing steady drip, drip of ballot tabulation and the obligatory runoff elections and recounts, life is settling into a new normal. Trump and the GOP are now in incrimination mode, fighting among themselves and I am loving it. Putin judging that the Republicans would not be coming to his rescue after all, figuratively pulled the plug on his occupation of Kherson. Let us hope that he does not then go on to literally pull the plug on that city’s upstream dam and flood the place. Although, I suspect that he will not lose this opportunity to wash away his many sins there. And then there is the question of what the heck is Elon Musk doing to Twitter?

He has just introduced his new Blue Twitter feature, where for the low, low price of $8 a month anyone can punk anyone else. Just today, “verified” blue checkmark twitter accounts posted the following, while purporting to be:

  • Pepsi: Coke is better
  • Nestlé: We steal your water and sell it back to you lol
  • Lockheed Martin: We will begin halting all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States until further investigation into their record of human rights abuse. #WeAreLM
  • American Girl: Felicity owned slaves
  • BP: Just cause we killed the planet doesn’t mean we can’t miss it 😥
  • Eli Lilly: wait a second… is profit motivated medicine… bad? sh!t
  • Chiquita: “We’ve just overthrown the government of Brazil.” The real Chiquita tried to do damage control from one of these fake verified accounts, “We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Chiquita account. We have not overthrown a government since 1954.”
  • Tesla: BREAKING: A second Tesla has hit the World Trade Center.

Since, all of these posts have now been subsequently deleted and their originating accounts disabled, these eight offending posts cost their authors a total of $64 and will likely cost Elon and Twitter $15M in lost ad revenue. UPDATE: Twitter now has “paused” issuing any more paid verifications. 

The Red Trickle

The Electorate Has Spoken – Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Last night, the East coast polls began closing at six and almost immediately things turned south in Florida. Within an hour of the polls closing there all statewide races were called for the Republicans, plus three former Democratic congressional seats got flipped (due to gerrymandering), but then things changed. Through the rest of the night, for as long as I managed to stay up and then afterwards, on through the night, things continued to jell. Races that were a foregone conclusion were called for the favorite, while closer races mainly moved from the too early to call category to the too close to call. After eleven, I tuned out when the MSNBC quant called the House as best that he could. He predicted that the Republicans would win 219 seats (only 218 are required to take the majority) ±13. Talk about hedging your bets.

Today, the morning after quarterbacking was in full swing. With few exceptions, virtually all incumbents were reelected. Where there was an open seat that seat still mostly went to the former incumbent’s party. There were a few exceptions. Today is our trash day and Lauren Boebert is getting kicked to the curb. John Fetterman won, bucking all trends. Well maybe not, Fetterman’s victory looks like the keystone race in the night’s rebuilding of the fabled Democratic Blue Wall. Locally here, there was no joy. There are still many races that have not been called and likely will not be for days or weeks to come.

This election’s postmortem looks like it was a Democratic victory. Even if the Dems eventually do lose the house, it will not be by much. Last night was certainly no shellacking. It also looks like the Ds will hold the Senate and maybe even pick up a seat. Exit polls point to three reasons for this Democratic better than expected showing, women voters (Roe, Roe, Roe the vote), young people showing up and of course Trump, the orange elephant in the room. My favorite post-election tweet is, “Before: Rs threatened violence if Trump indicted. Now: after last night’s Trump debacle, Rs ask what is taking Garland so long?”

Loop-de-Loop

Hyperloop

With all the hubbub over Twitter, this last week, the virtual dissolution of another Elon Musk property has gone relatively unnoticed. That would be Hyperloop, another transportation venture that has proposed shooting people underground, through an evacuated tunnel at speeds of 500 MPH. We viewed a touring model of one of these proposed vehicles last week at the National Museum of Transportation. This two-passenger vehicle is designed to ride magnetically elevated above two-rails, in a near vacuum, proposing super-fast, low-energy transportation.

Notice the red logo of the Richard Branson formed Virgin Group on its side. As of last week, Virgin pulled out of Hyperloop and withdrew its name from the project. Also, as of last week Hyperloop paved over its test tunnel in LA and put up a parking lot there instead. Reminds me of a lyric. While not dead, Hyperloop does not seem to be doing all that well. Certainly not as well as the other Musk owned, more prestige projects, like Tesla and SpaceX.

Also last week, Mr. Musk acquired Twitter. It remains to be seen where Twitter will fall on his spectrum of holdings. In one week, he made an ill-advised foray into the Pelosi tragedy, fired a quarter of the company’s workforce, floated the idea of selling its fabled blue checkmark, the platform’s badge of authenticity and has apparently lost a sizeable portion of Twitter’s advertisers, the platforms main source of revenue. What a busy week! With all these goings on it is not surprising that he has not yet had time to end world hunger. I just wish that he would find a little time in his busy schedule to pay a bigger share of taxes.

Black Flag

Image

Black Flag, Kiki Smith, 1989

Pictured here is a greatly magnified image of an ovum with protective cells on one side. Reflecting on life and death at the cellular level Kiki Smith implies reproductive capabilities as well as vulnerability to disease.

Scholar Jenni Milbank writes, “The title of the piece juxtaposes the public claim of nation-state, the flag, with the image of something minutely personal, invisible to the naked eye, indisputably feminine, a human egg. A black flag is the opposite of the white symbol of surrender, evoking defiance and anarchy as well as death. Death and life, the nation and the intimate, are counterposed.”