Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Of horses and bayonets...

For those of you who missed the debate, you might be hearing Republicans shouting 'Obama compared naval ships to horses!' and other such nonsense. He didn't. He may have been patronizing to Romney in this clip (OK, so he was totally patronizing), but he did not equate horses to naval vessels. He did, however, make use of a nice rhetorical argument I've made use of myself. Romney was deriding Obama for the fact that the US Navy has fewer ships now than it had in the past. Obama's point was that we're working smarter, not harder. We don't need as many ships as we had 50, 70, 100 years ago, because now we have more high tech warships. Just take a look at the specs for the USS George HW Bush, the US's newest supercarrier. And believe me, until you've been on an aircraft carrier (and I have been on several), you have no idea of the size and scope of these floating cities of war-making. Believe me when I say that one modern supercarrier is worth a whole fleet of ships from fifty years ago. So do we need to keep the same number of ships we had back in 1916, or do we need to work smarter, not harder?

I spent two and a half years as a US federal government employee under George W. Bush. During this time the agency that hired me was transitioned out of the US Department of Defense and into a different arm of the US government, the US Office of Personnel Management. (This was done in order to route more money to the war effort.) In order to cut operating costs, the folks at OPM initially argued that we should have our workplace internet access revoked. (I should point out that our job was conducting background investigations for people getting US government security clearances. After 9/11. Under George W. Bush.) Thank the gods they came to their senses and decided that well, maybe it was OK for investigators to have internet access after all. The thing is, there was an OPM representative who was sent to our field office prior to the beginning of the transition in order to ease the process. She and I had several rather heated arguments, in which she vehemently argued that there was no need for investigators to use the internet because "the internet is just a tool, and we have plenty of other tools at our disposal - we got along fine for decades without the internet, we don't need to be wasting money on it now!" My response was always that we got along fine for centuries with horses, but she wasn't arguing that we should trade in our government vehicles for horses and buggies was she? 

Now did I just equate the internet to horses? Don't be daft. I did, however, just use the same exact type of argument the President used.

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