September 30, 2021

Back from the undead:

The Military-Industrial Complex raises its ugly head once more


Editor’s note: While trolling the Internet for potato salad recipes, Ms. Missouri was shocked! Shocked! to happen upon the following. She will be in seclusion for a few days to recover.

“SILICON VALLEY SEEKS Closer Pentagon Tie,” blares a page two U.S. News-section headline in the September 8, 2021 issue of the Wall Street Journal. Given that “industrial” these days means the Big Tech industry, and that in the last few years employees of several Big Tech companies have protested and even managed to reverse their companies’ cozying up to the gummint, this rather comes as a surprise. Has some gremlin managed to sabotage a WSJ headline? Have the former hippies and other riffraff now occupying the commanding heights of Silicon Valley lost their little lizard minds and become lick-spittle supporters of the military (AKA killers and water-boarders of innocent civilians, torturers of innocent terrorists at Gitmo and at various black sites around the world, conductors of random experiments with AIDS and COVID-19, and other crimes against humanity too numerous to mention)?

None of the above, it turns out. Apparently having filled the national government with acolytes of Bernie Sanders, the top echelons of the military with wokist generals and admirals, and the bureaucracies with activist lefties, the techies no longer view the ruling regime with fear and loathing. To the contrary, they delight in exercising arbitrary power over the masses. As the old-style 20th-century liberal Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

Thus, one of the biggest sleazeballs of Big Tech, Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google (the former “don’t be evil” people), turns out to be the chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence created by Congress in 2018. Other luminaries on the panel include, as vice chairman, Robert Work, former U.S. deputy secretary of defense; Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon; Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle; and top scientists from Microsoft and Google. A report of the NSCAI this year proposed a scheme whereby the Pentagon would increasingly move to using software and hardware from commercial sources. The article, by Ryan Tracy, points out that Big Tech has “ambitions to win more of the billions of dollars the Pentagon spends on procurement annually, a market historically dominated by contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp.” Some believe that if Big Tech gets too much of the pie, “regulating these companies will become even more difficult if they hold additional sway as critical defense contractors.” Imagine!

So is anyone out there going to be surprised by the next piece of news in this article? I doubt it. “The Artificial Intelligence commission’s recent findings [‘Findings’? ‘Findings’! You mean like Columbus finding the New World? Or a conclusion reached after an investigation? Actually, it’s a statement of a decision by some entity claiming authority to make such a statement.] OK, “... findings have nonetheless won support from the Biden administration, the Pentagon, and Congress. ‘You have made crystal clear that our country needs to play catch-up, and fast,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Mr. Schmidt and other commission members at a conference in July.” Way to go Antony! Maybe they can help you militarily exit other U.S.-occupied countries with less chaos than in Afghanistan.

So how do Biden and the Pentagon propose to catch up fast? “The commission envisions the military and intelligence bureaucracy working more like a large tech company, with a vast cloud-computing infrastructure enabling teams of engineers to constantly test new software and upgrade capabilities.” Sounds like the kind of public-private partnership we can all profit from. Of course, coming with it would be other successes of the tech sector such as protecting institutions against the stealing of technology, the purloining of user data, and being held for ransom by computer hackers such as the Russian groups Energetic Bear (AKA DragonFly, Koala, and Iron Liberty, focusing on industrial control targets, especially oil and gas), Voodoo Bear (which has spent the last three years terrorizing Ukraine and infecting power grids around the world), and Palmetto Fusion (targeting the energy sector), as well as various assorted North Korean groups such as Lazarus (which hijacked Sony and took over hospitals in the UK).

Other recommendations by the commission include (wait for it) “boosts to tech-focused research, training, and recruitment efforts.” Follow the money, and here we are. Schmidt is quoted in the article as saying, “What I’ve observed about the government bureaucracy is you go in, and you push — and if you push really hard, you can really make something happen.” Hallelujah! Schmidt has been up to this since Obama Defense Secretary Ash Carter named him to head the Defense Innovation Board, evidently concentrating on innovative ways to get more and more out of U.S. taxpayers’ pockets. Schmidt and other tech-industry advisors have gotten pivotal Pentagon and Congresscritters to back such innovations as creation of a special technology chapter in the National Defense Strategy (don’t ask), which sets the parameters for Pentagon spending, and for “speeding up the process for buying new software.” The article includes a dour note: “Google, Microsoft, and Amazon declined to comment.” No kidding. So verbose in other venues and so introverted when their hands are in our pockets.

And so, far from having a silver stake pounded into its heart, the new Military-Industrial-High Tech-University complex is alive and well and back at its post, hauling in the silver. Or as Mr. Work, vice chair of the NSCAI, put it: “From the president on down, everyone is saying, ‘OK, we are in a competition with China.’” How far down this goes is not specified, but one doubts that Strakon was consulted, heavy hitter that he is.

Work (alas, my computer keeps trying to type “Woke”) goes on, “We are not organized to win the competition, and if we do not correct that, we are doomed to lose it.” Progressives, look at the bright side: if we follow the recommendations of Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Work, we will be doomed to destroy the U.S. of A. And if we don’t, we’re doomed to lose to the Chicoms. Either way, Bernie Sanders and Che win! And Big Tech, having monetized pretty much everything else, will have monetized “national defense.” One wonders whether they are aware of what the Chicoms are doing these days to slap down their Big Tech? I won’t tell if you don’t.

This leads us to a brief primer on the Feasance Theory of Government. There are three basic explanations for the performance of governments, bureaucrats, and those who participate in private-governmental partnerships. (Yes, I know, you can find “private-governmental partnership” in an honest dictionary of politics under “Fascism.” But who knows that these days?) The three explanations are nonfeasance, misfeasance, and malfeasance.

In the first case, nonfeasance, governments misfire because they don’t do anything or don’t do what they are supposed to do, such as Adam Smith’s triad: defending against external bad guys, defending against internal bad guys, and protecting the market against interventionism by forces foreign and domestic. (Sorry, anarchist libertarians. No wonder Murray Rothbard disliked Adam Smith and F.A. Hayek.) There are no known ruling groups that adhere to this theory.

In the second case, misfeasance (or stupidity), governments misfire in their actions because of incompetence. (Anarchist libertarians know that governments are at best misfeasant. So did von Mises.) The U.S. Republican Party largely falls into this category.

The third case, malfeasance (or cupidity), is the deadliest of all: governmentalistas are not just incompetent, but also are motivated by the potential pleasures of being an “insider,” the attractions of money and the dreams of avarice, and the enticement of the lust for status and power, including a hankering to manage the lives of others. Most of the Democrat Party falls into this category. The formation of power complexes relies on the deadly and insidious charms of malfeasance. (In Ronn Neff’s terms, this is where “polite totalitarianism” comes in, at least at first.)

This doesn’t explain everything, but it does illuminate a good deal. Next time you encounter would-be members of the Big Tech-Military-Industrial-University complex, ask yourself which one of the feasances is manifested. And keep your hand on your wallet.

In 2015, Google’s corporate motto became “Do the Right Thing” replacing the outmoded and pajama-boy “Don’t Be Evil.” Only when one realizes that what “the Right Thing” means depends on one’s worldview, philosophy, and goals, does he or she recognize the problem. Neff’s January 2021 “Morality and Practicality” speaks directly to this.

For example, for Google (and Facebook and Twitter and almost all of the rest), the issue of abortion is a pragmatic question. The result is that, for them, in abortion up to and perhaps even slightly after the baby has zoomed down the birth canal — as all people of good will agree — the plug can be pulled on the little unwanted-guest/interloper/trespasser any time. One wonders how effective drones would be in the OB-GYN ward. Ω

September 30, 2021

Published in 2021 by WTM Enterprises.

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