Thursday, January 28, 2021

Waste for Show...

 "In a society dominated by the fact of commercial competition, money is necessarily the test of competition and wastefulness the sole criterion of power..." -- Upton Sinclair

It's Story Time here at the Death Star. Gather 'round, Minions, while the Overlord regales you with a tale both comic and tragic, and as always, the lesson comes at the end.

Some years ago, in another life, I was once employed by a Japanese financial company (which will have to remain nameless, because I'm not certain if the NDA's are still operative some 30 yeas later). The origins of this particular job, are thus:

In 1990 it was discovered that American financial firms did approximately 95% of all automated/electronic (that is, by computer-thingy means) trading on Japanese exchanges. Japanese firms did exactly 0% of trading by automated/electronic means on American exchanges.

This was a national disgrace. To the Japanese, I mean. Somehow, somewhere, some Japanese dude discovered this fact and it pissed him off. It didn't matter whether the trades made by Americans on Japanese exchanges were profitable, or that the number of them was relatively small -- for although electronic trading had been going on all over the world since the 1970's, the volumes involved were miniscule as compared to what we do today. The point was that Japan, which at this time was beginning to become an "economic powerhouse" should be a leader in this field and that it wasn't even a leader in the field within it's own borders drove some old Japanese men to apoplexy and maybe even seppaku.

(An aside: the Japanese economic juggernaut proved to be no such thing, for a variety of reasons we don't need to get into right now, but the palpable sense of fear the prospect induced in some rich white guys and politicians at the time was often bordering on the hysterical. The people who lived in that fear and made dire predictions about the end of American economic hegemony were either not very bright or had a secret agenda, for their hype never matched reality. And every few years, people just like them emerge from under the rock where they live to trumpet similar nonsense as if it were Biblical prophecy, so that in my lifetime, America is/was supposed to have been/will be overtaken by China, South Korea, India, The European Union, South America (for some reason, Brazil is everyone's favorite bugbear), and the truth of the matter is it never happens.

It never happens for a variety of reasons, most having to do with culture (for another thread) and the fact that none of the aforementioned potential assassins ever mustered the industrial base, the population, the access to resources, and much more, to be successful over the long term. Instead, what happens is that conditions arise that gives them a narrow advantage for a short time -- say, low labor costs, lack of competition -- which doesn't last.

That all of these potential-dollar killers are often financed by Americans... and aren't profitable without access to the American market, goes totally unremarked upon. Back to the regularly-scheduled rant).

To remedy this gross, racially-motivated "injustice" (because Japanese are some of the worst racist motherfuckers on the planet. Most East Asians are, incidentally. It's all that "Divine Race" claptrap of theirs) a vast sum of money was spent to create ________ Research Institute of America from scratch by a parent company whose net worth was estimated at  the time to be 40 times greater than that of Merrill-Lynch (at that time the biggest US financial firm, now a mere appendage to Bank of America).

An entire office building was constructed.

A princely sum was spent on the latest and greatest in mainframe computing systems from IBM.

The best and the brightest (Yours Truly, the tender age of 22) was recruited to solve this "problem".

An absolute shitload of cash was spent purchasing an "integrated electronic trading and back-office consolidation" suite of software from ______ (NDA in effect? I would later work for this firm, too) that _______ never got to work, but the Japanese were going to give it the old Kamikaze try.

It sounds impressive. One might get the impression that it was a mighty undertaking. You might even believe it was all about technical innovation and achieving a milestone in information technology.

You'd be wrong.

Because the first indication that something was not kosher was that it became apparent to anyone with three functioning braincells that the effort was doomed before it ever began. The main issue was that even the mighty IBM mainframes and associated hardware of the day were not up to the task, doubly so when the stupid decision was made to purchase the stuff outright (not to lease it) and what was purchased was the bare-bones version of everything that was already obsolete as it was being installed. Upgrading meant purchasing an entirely new data center, an expense measured in tens of millions, and due to the rate of advance in technology at that time, meant doing so every three-to-five years.

The second indication was The Wall.

The Wall was a giant window, a glass barrier that separated the Data Center from the hallway behind it, and which ran the entire length of the building. Those of us trapped inside this fishbowl with the Heavy Iron -- the full panoply of high tech equipment was festooned from entrance to exit along this Wall -- were given strict and absolutely-serious instructions that we were never to turn and face The Wall, despite the flashes of photographers or any noises we might hear over the overpowered air-conditioning. We were instructed to "at least look busy" at all times, and encouraged to perform various status-checks and maintenance routines several times an hour, just to have something to case a tour came through.

Because that was the purpose of The Wall: to give frequent tours of Roundeyes in Captivity of the mighty effort being made by _______ Research Institute of America to erase the stain on the National Honor of not making a few hundred trades a day on American exchanges to other Japanese, or to the Japanese press, all of whom would make the pilgrimage from The Land of the Rising Sun to the Swamp on Staten Island to watch this Potemkin display of futility as if it were something to be celebrated.

In the end, the entire enterprise failed because what was being asked was not technically feasible, after going through the trouble of creating a "showplace" data center the project it was built to support was grossly underfunded, and because the impetus for the entire thing was emotional and not rational, someone back in Japan finally got his head out of his ass and decided the investment was not worth the return.

By the time someone drove a stake through this vampire's heart, I was already gone (and on to my second Japanese employer, and it was from this experience that I discovered that all the people who had described Japan as an economic ogre were ignorant -- they at least had never met any REAL Japanese, at least not long enough to discover that the propensity for innovation and rapid adaptation to a changing marketplace simply did not exist. I met some absolutely brilliant and wonderful Japanese people during these years, but I came away from the experience believing their methods were rigid, the tradition of bowing to authority was too ingrained in the national character, and that there was no fucking way they were sending their best to America, and so the expected results never materialized(because this second Japanese firm teetered on the brink of disaster for many years, as well, until the Japanese reluctantly gave control of operations to the Smelly, Big-Nosed Gaijin Americans).

It was all a colossal waste of resources committed for the purposes of "saving face", as they say in Japan. If there was any useful output from the entire project, it was this: throwing resources at invented problems in an ostentatious manner, according to hidebound and useless ideas and processes and pretending there is virtue in it all doesn't work.

And so we come to the lesson part of our tale, Minions.

Cocoa will be served soon.

As we look through our own version of the glass wall, upon the showplace sewer that is Washington, D.C., we see the same philosophy that led the World's Biggest to waste tremendous amounts of time, effort and money at work in the mundane operations and make-work protocols of the early Biden Administration.

A press secretary who can't answer questions without virtue signaling complete nonsense and whose response begs deep reflection upon the (lack of) economic acumen of the people in charge.

A transportation secretary-wannabe who parades his gay spouse within a Senatorial confirmation hearing for no apparent reason other than for show, who then makes a remark so condescendingly-stupid that you begin to believe that 'Murica dodged a bullet when this fool failed to make the Presidential grade.

A proposed HHS secretary whose main selling point is mental illness, setting up the confused dialectic that public health is best left in the hands of someone who is self-hating and mentally ill and who has serious problems with objective reality. Considering we've just had an entire year where the public health "authorities" and "experts" have all gone mad, I guess this is apropos, but it doesn't inspire confidence in anyone, nor should it.

And if we could just stop here -- because this would be enough, in normal times -- I would be happy, but there's another example of incredible waste happening down the block from the White House, where the truly fucktarded people have gotten the bright idea to impeach a man who no longer holds office, and the whole thing interrupts my viewing of Judge Judy on a Friday afternoon because we have to watch a gang of seriously bad and bitter people go through the motions of marching a piece of paper from the House Chamber to the Senate (don't these idiots have e-mail? Fed-Ex would have gotten it there overnight, but then we wouldn't have been subjected to the heavenly treat that is listening to Nora O'Donnell speaking out of both sides of her mouth and rectum, simultaneously, for hours on end, or have Stephanopolus preside over a manufactured drama as if he were a real journalist).

This reminds me of Post-Cromwell England, where the hated (and very-late) Lord Protector's body was exhumed and hung, just to rub it in.

Normally, I would tell you that this would all be par for the course when democrats are in the ascendant, because it is. In my lifetime, whenever a democrat regime assumes power imbecility and pretentiousness flow automatically and can be counted upon as surely as the fart precedes the turd, but there is an especially odd flavor and rancid redolence about this nonsense that far surpasses what we're used to.

And one is left to wonder just how far this new-and-improved, super-concentrated, 50%-more-fuckwit-in-a-designer-package, same-cast-of-ridiculous-characters will go before implosion occurs, and someone realizes that it's all for show, a colossal waste, and serves no useful purpose, but we're stuck with it barring some unforeseeable, cataclysmic event.

It almost (almost) makes you miss Hillary. At least her stupidity had the ultimate, realistic-and-understandable goal of lining her pockets. This version is simply a process of...I can't even find the words.

But, hey, it's not like the people in charge are actually paying for this stuff, is it? The true criterion of power, if I may disagree with Mr. Sinclair, is the ability to waste the resources of others on the vastest scale.

And call it "leadership".

Just don't turn and face the Glass Wall.

UPDATE: Fixed some grammar and an incomplete sentence.

No comments: