Dollars and Eyeballs

While everyone else on the conservative side of the blogosphere today is marveling over the concurrent train wreck of the Biden-Trump “debate” last night, and the “deer in the headlights” reaction from the Establishment Media over their horrible realization that they can’t possibly pull any kind of media veil over the wreckage – I just thought that I might wander off on another tangent. I’ll meditate and marvel a little on there on how a national retail corporation pulled decisively back from the brink of a Bud Light-like, company-wrecking disaster. I speak of the Tractor Supply turn-around. I should like to have been eavesdropping in the C-level suite of Tractor Supply’s headquarters, when everyone concerned there realized that going all out for progressive causes like DEI/DIE, the Pride Mafia and open borders was about as popular with their rural and suburban fly-over country market demographic as a case of genital warts. I would assume that the meeting where they realized “Oh-krep-on-a-biscuit-we-gotta put a stop to it now before we lose our phony-baloney jobs!” was pretty epic.

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Turks and Chinese, Help us Make the Ammunition

(The title of this post was inspired by a WWII song:  Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition)

WSJ has an article about a new artillery-shell factory in Texas, which is run by General Dynamics.  The plant makes 155mm shells and is part of an effort to increase the US output of these items from 30,000/month to 100,000/month.

The plant is highly automated:

Walking past new hydraulic presses and orange robots handling semifinished artillery shells, U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth had a question for a manufacturing company executive.

“Do the Russians have this technology?” Wormuth asked Ibrahim Kulekci, chief executive of the Turkish firm that designed and installed key machinery in the plant.  

Kulekci said they wouldn’t get it from his firm. “Keep it that way,” Wormuth responded.

The Turkish firm, Repkon, supplies the heavy presses used to form the steel, which no US-based vendor could provide in the required time frame.  I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mr Kulekci’s statement…but what if his government decides differently at some point?  Even if we already have the presses here in the US, what if we need further expansion?  How effectively can we continue to operate the existing presses if product support and spare parts from the vendor are cut off?

These are not imaginary issues.  During the Gulf War, a Swiss company, Swatch AG, and its Micro Crystal division refused to send key components used in the bomb guidance equipment used on the JDAM missile–it’s not clear whether the company was acting on its own initiative or at the direction of the Swiss government. And in 1939, the French licensed the design of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine (the engine that powered the Spitfire and Hurricane, among other airplane) and contracted with the Ford Motor Company to manufacture these engines.

But when war was declared on September 3 of that year, Henry Ford–who had strong neutrality and ‘antiwar’ beliefs–pulled the Ford equipment and people. No Merlins for you, Mr Frenchman!

I find it interesting that Secretary of the Army Wormuth asked about Russia rather than China, or about both.  And speaking of China:  the robots in the plant are made by a German company called Kuka…which has been owned (since 2016) by the Chinese appliance maker Midea.  Again, what if Midea should decide, with a little encouragement from their government, that they aren’t interested in selling these robots to the US anymore, or indeed supporting the ones that they have already sold?

It may well be that General Dynamics management had no realistic alternative to these sourcing decisions given the time frames required.  But the US has gotten itself into a situation where almost any sustained military operation can be significantly impeded by decisions of non-US countries and companies to cut off critical components required to make munitions, aircraft, or other key items.

I’m reminded of the UK’s shell crisis of 1915, which led to the appointment of David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions, and, shortly thereafter, his election as Prime Minister, replacing Asquith.

We need serious action to improve defense supply chain resilience, and it needs to be focused on actual results, rather than just wildly handing out money for favored political constituencies.  It strikes me that maybe Doug Burgum would be a good man to head up such an effort.

I’m also reminded of a Kipling poem:

Batteries Out of Ammunition

If any mourn us in the workshop, say
We died because the shift kept holiday

Takin’ Care of Business

Months ago in a Facebook comment thread populated by those sorts who glorify trade unionism, I conjured the following scenario: in an office setting, employees show up to work one day and find that some sort of Rapture has whisked away the world’s managers. Focusing on one single company, what are the repercussions? The responses were unanimous: nothing would change, the workers would continue to do their jobs. This illustrates a prejudice common to the left and foundational to Marxism, the notion that managers don’t really do anything.

One of my chief criticisms of public education is that it neglects to teach the workings of the business world in general. This was evident even before the ’60s counterculture took over the education establishment. I’ve long felt that comprehensive instruction on how various industries function should start at least as early as the beginning of junior high school (which my Protestant self unintentionally coincided with bar mitzvah age).

My initial concern was that too many adolescents grow up with insufficient knowledge of the business world to make rational career choices. Career development should not start with a trip to the guidance counselor’s office in 12th grade, or (like me) with a vague notion that computers are the future so a degree in computer programming should be pursued. (Demonstrating that “career” and “careen” have the same root word, I never worked in programming, and wound up in monitoring an ATM network.) There’s another vital ingredient to finding vocational direction that the classroom setting cannot facilitate: learning and discovering one’s individual talents. That rests on personal relationships.

Aside from benefits to career development, better education about the world of commerce also breaks down misconceptions about managers, other professions, and various types of businesses.

It Was Funnier In a Movie

Wondrous to behold, in these degraded days, an equally-degraded national media blob, nakedly and unashamedly going all-out as the Democrat Party’s publicity department. Yes, we always knew – or it became clear to us over the last decade or so – that the major news publications, to include the broadcast version as well as the most notable internet sites – skewed progressive. They got down on their knees and worshipped the Kennedys back then, and just carried on, quaffing deeper and deeper of the intoxicating brew that proximity to power appears to provide. They haven’t yet got off their knees and realized in the cold light of day what their job ought to be, which is our loss. Ah, well – we do have the conservative side of the internet, social media, and the ability of everyone with an up-to-date cellphone to record video of anything interesting happening right in front of them. (Like Hillary Clinton being rushed away from a 9-11 memorial event and flung into the back of a van like a sack of potatoes.) And it would seem that the national media machine is losing consumers and viewers in substantial numbers, so we have that to cheer us up, at least a little.

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Grand Canyon

On our way home from California at the beginning of the month, we stopped over at Flagstaff and made a side trip to see the Grand Canyon. A view from the South Rim – and that isn’t even a look at the bottom of the Canyon. One of my life ambitions now is to be able to spend about a week at El Tovar, and to see the Canyon at sunset, and at night.
(There are more pictures here at my author blog, and a fuller account of our excursion to the Canyon.)