Re: Instrumented toilet seats

From: Spike Jones (
Date: Tue Jul 18 2000 - 23:28:05 MDT

John Clark wrote:

> How about a $250 shower curtain? That one was explained away as a
> "Amortization of research and development expenses" but somehow that
> didn't entirely make things clear to me.

They do wacky things like this in the military. They mighta been
looking for a curtain that the sailors could wrap around themselves
and use to escape a fire or something. You wouldn't want to try
that with the commercial variety.

The reason I tend to be jaded about the scandals is twofold. First,
the military does use commercial grade equipment wherever it can,
in fact they buy it in such quantity they get terrific deals.

Secondly I am reminded of an incident that occurred to me shortly
after I got outta college. A shipment of sidewinder wings were delivered
to the Navy that had one dimension slightly out of tolerance. The base
of the wing is about 1.7 inches across, and most of that shipment were
about .004 inches too narrow at the base. The wings cost about a
thousand dollars each, and there were 400 of them in the shipment.

Legally, the Navy could have shipped them back and made the contractor
eat the cost, but in fact there was no reason why the discrepant wings
couldnt be used, and no one could think of any reason why the tolerance
couldnt be lowered a bit. Just in case, they gave me a few of the wings
and asked me to put them thru a series of tests. The wings attached
using eight screws which had a nyloc patch. I figured I would simulate
the wear on the nyloc by chucking the screws in a drill and running
them in and out of a hole 50 times, which is way more strenuous
than the worst the sailors would dish out. I then attached the wings
with the pre-worn screws and put them thru every test I could think
of, vibration, thermal shock, high temperature soak, low temp, everything,
and the wings performed just fine, no different than the compliant wings.
So, the Navy lowered the tolerance 5 thousanths and accepted the
lot, made Raytheon pay for the test series, about 3k$ as opposed to
420k. Case closed. Or so we thought.

A certain Washington political columnist, Jack Anderson, got wind
of the incident and wrote a scathing article on how the big wasteful
government was using its resources to bail out the big wasteful
defense contractor, and so on, a ton of bullshit. To make a long
story a scandal, Jack pretty much invented a coverup story where
none really existed.

I see it as a holdover from the Watergate days: Woodward and
Bernstein became the hero of every young reporter. Now every
young reporter wants so badly to uncover a government scandal
that they are willing to invent one. I see newspapers more and
more try to spin the news, not just report the news. The famous
$x00 hammer is a great example, the meme that will not die. Our
government has plenty of actual scandals, they need not make
them up where they dont exist. spike

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