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Bailouts and pirates and bombs! Oh, My!


Sunday, September 28, 2008


Posted by John Keller

We do live in interesting times, whether that's a curse or not. U.S. government leaders just this morning reportedly reached an agreement to bail out the embattled U.S. financial system for about $700 billion. Meanwhile, if you thought pirates were just something out of the movies, think again. And how safe are we if international terrorists want to take a shot at influencing the U.S. elections?

News out of Washington early this morning has it that we have a financial bailout deal. We'll know by tomorrow if this urgent, fast-track plan to spend nearly a trillion dollars to buy bad loans will go very far in calming out turbulent investment markets. Keep an eye on the stock markets when they open Monday.

I'm still skeptical that this is the best way out of the mess we're in.

The bailouts ...

In particular I'm worried about how this hugely expensive plan will influence U.S. defense spending over the next couple of years. It's bound to put a squeeze somewhere. We'll have to borrow a lot of money to keep defense spending even close to current levels, which is what I think will happen.

I made a prediction in a blog last week that the bailout plan might about clean out existing government cash supplies, leaving us to rely on foreign lenders to pay for things like military spending, roads, and other things American citizens expect.

I was quoted in the Wired Danger Room Blog last week predicting that NOTHING will be left for defense spending after the bailout. What I REALLY meant to predict was that no ready cash will be left, and we'll have to borrow what we use to pay for military equipment, operations, and salaries. I know it's one of the last refuges of scoundrels to claim that I was quoted out of context. My wife always tells me I should be careful what I say. Maybe I should listen to her.

I know it's meant at least somewhat in jest, but I keep thinking about the so-called Birk Economic Recovery Plan that's been making the rounds on the Internet. This plan suggests that instead of giving close to a trillion dollars to the banks, the government ought to split up that bailout money among taxpaying U.S. adults. This would enable them to pay off their mortgages, buy cars, and save for their kids' college ... that is, solve the financial mess, take care of ordinary folks, and let the weak-sister banks go out of business. Yeah, I don't suppose something like that could ever work.

The pirates ...

Now to other news of the weird, piracy on the high seas appears to be on the rise ... except they're using machine guns these days instead of swords and pistols. Somali pirates in an attack the other day off the Horn of Africa took a haul that would render Capt. Jack Sparrow speechless. The pirates took a Ukrainian freighter that, much to their delight, contained 33 Russian T-72 main battle tanks and ammunition in its holds.

Think anyone in the world might want to buy some tanks and ammunition? Me, too, and I'll bet those pirates are taking bids right now.

We'll see of the pirates get a chance to move their armored booty, however. The Russians are not too happy about this, are sending at least one warship to the area in attempts to recover the armored combat vehicles and perhaps punish the pirates.

The U.S. Navy apparently is getting in on the act, too. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) reportedly is keeping an eye on the ship containing the stolen tanks. We'll see who prevails in this standoff over the next couple of days.

I wouldn't bet on the pirates, however, unless they're very sneaky and resourceful. The Howard is an Aegis destroyer with surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine rockets, torpedoes, Phalanx close-in weapons systems and a five-inch rapid-fire deck gun, as well as electronic warfare countermeasures, decoys, passive detection systems, and a hull-mounted sonar. Plus, it can steam faster than 31 knots -- more than a match for a Ukrainian freighter.

I know members of the U.S. military have been brushing up on their foreign language skills lately. I wonder how you say "Avast, ye scurvy craven dogs -- prepare to be boarded," in Arabic?

... and the bombs

This just in: have anything important on your calendar for October 7? If you do, you might think about how to reschedule. Reports are floating around out there that we might be in for another terrorist attack that day.

A private research firm called the Northeast Intelligence Network says that Tuesday, October 7, is a likely day for potential attacks on New York and/or Washington, and that attacks might involve nuclear weapons.

Yes, I know. Some folks out there believe the Northeast Intelligence Network is a bunch of kooks, but take a look at their reports and judge for yourselves. Might international terrorists want to try influencing the U.S. elections, which will be less than a month away from 7 Oct.? They did it in Spain, and they might try it here, too.

I know I'm sounding alarmist, and maybe I am. I do know that I'll feel a lot better if we can make it to Thanksgiving without any major disasters.

Post a Comment

2 Comments:
Blogger Gunwaldt said...
Regarding the Birk bailout plan, the math is just wrong. $85 Billion divided by 200 million comes out to $425, not $425,000. This is the type of math that got us into trouble initially.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 11:32:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Steve said...
I saw that same email touting $425,000.00 for everybody, but the math was off by a few zeroes. Hey, what's a factor of 1000 between friends?

Anyway, never mind the puny $85 billion for the AIG bailout, look at the more recent $700 billion proposal. If you divide that by the number of mortgages in the US (much less than 200 million) then you end up with something approaching $75,000 each. Hey, now I'm starting to get interested...
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 12:04:00 PM EDT  


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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.


Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.


John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.