IN THE NETPLEX

P> First, some abuse from a reader.
Dear Doc: I love your column; it is the first thing I turn to when reading WT. I was therefore concerned when it appeared that your faithful editors were doing you ill by changing your artful prose.
I refer to the Dec. 21, 1995 issue, page 30 wherein you say that you are reading "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Edward Gibbon. Obviously they are toying with you. As you know (by looking at the title page) the correct title is: "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," thereby turning your literary allusion into an illusion. Do not let them do it again.

Regards

Dan Reiss

The Doctor has committed an egregious error; he hopes his editors burn in hell.

During the long hours of involuntary furlough -- due both to inclement weather and continuing questions about the Doctor's status as an essential employee at WT -- the Doctor noticed increased news coverage of all things related to the former Soviet Union. Whilst in the act of cogitating on this and other matters, the Doctor ran across the following trivia: In 1961, President and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the now-famous term "military-industrial complex," or MIC, in his farewell address. "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," he said.

Upon hearing those words, the godless commies in Moscow whipped up their best capitalist-bashing rhetoric to prove that American society was beholden to the interests of blood-sucking military contractors.

But try as they might, faceless Soviet bureaucrats couldn't resist the temptations of hypocrisy. During the Brezhnev period, Soviet military bigwigs gathered into an advisory group known by the Russian acronym VPK. In English that acronym stands for the Military Industrial Commission, or MIC.

It was here that the captains of the Russian military industry made decisions that sucked the life from the Russian economy -- even as they skewered the West for doing precisely the same thing.

The story of the former Soviet Union's military-industrial complex is ably told by Roald Sagdeev, a former Soviet scientist and space program director who now teaches at the University of Maryland. His life is not devoid of irony; in addition to having appeared before the advisors of the Soviet VPK, he is also married to the daughter of President Eisenhower. His recently published memoir, "The Making of a Soviet Scientist" should be required reading for all those suffering from military-industrial complexes. He writes that the VPK forced the elaborate system of military contractors to produce new weapons systems through a combination of threats, medals and special perks. The budget planners in Russia's equivalent of the Office of Management and Budget played no role in allocating funds; they simply added up the numbers given to them by the bigwigs. It's as if the industrial chieftains at Lockheed Martin/Loral had the power to convene the National Security Council behind closed doors and tell them what the real, non-published defense budget should be in the next year and which projects to fund -- with no threat of disagreement from any branch of government.

Whoops! Isn't that how the $30 billion black budget in the United States works? "I love this town," one defense bigwig was overheard saying at Fedora's Cafe in Tysons Corner during the recent blizzard. "It's a $30 billion market based on insider trading."

But the Doctor's favorite part of the book concerns John Denver. Some years ago Denver, while on a Rocky Mountain High, apparently contracted a powerful urge to fly in space. His first attempt failed when the selection committee passed him over as a passenger on the doomed Space Shuttle Challenger. So he attempted to scratch this itch again when former U.S.S.R. president Mikhail Gorbachev visited the United States in 1987. He approached the General Secretary to inquire about the possibility of buying a trip to the Soviet space station. Gorbachev was hard up for cash to feed his military industrial complex, so he cooked up the idea of selling commercial space services. He told Denver he could go to the heavens for $10 million, to which a New York businessman said he'd pay half -- provided Denver would receive only a one-way ticket.

Send acronymial questions and answers to technews@technews.com with "Dr. Acronym" in the subject line.


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