International Forecaster Weekly

The 5 Stupidest Government Ideas of All Time

Cat guided missiles? You better believe it. You can't argue with the project designer's logic, though. Cats don't like water, thus they would attempt to guide the missile toward any ships in the area. What could go wrong?

James Corbett | August 22, 2015

Those who have followed my work over the years will know that I believe parody and satire to be two of the most important tools for snapping people out of their mainstream conditioning whereby the most ridiculous ideas are normalized and internalized. Making fun of government stupidity and ridiculous "official stories" is also quite effective for knocking politicians, military leaders and other people in positions of power down a peg or two.

    These are not Serious People (capital letters and all) whose ideas need to be carefully considered; they are buffoons who cling to power by virtue of their brutality and the fear and ignorance of the public. In other words, they deserve to be relentlessly mocked and exposed for the clueless bumbling idiots that they so often are.

    Apparently, given the reaction to my 9/11: A Conspiracy Theory video, there are millions of people out there who agree with me on this. Recently I released my "Laughing At Tyrants" DVD compiling my best satire and parody videos in the hopes that it will be a good tool for reaching out to others who might not be able to look at a detailed, serious documentary, but whose curiosity can be sparked by humor and satire.

    In that same vein, I present to you five of the stupidest projects ever schemed up by government. Let us never forget that for every successful plot or scheme from the powers-that-shouldn't-be there are a thousand projects that were just plain idiotic.

    #5: Voluntary Taxation

    Even the staunchest of statists find their faith in government tested around tax time. It takes a peculiar type of cognitive dissonance to plug one's nose each year and fork over your pound of flesh knowing that it will go almost exclusively toward dropping bombs on brown people halfway around the planet.

    In fact, it might just seem like plain common sense to you and me, but some people (namely government grant-funded scientists) find the fact that many people resent paying taxes so surprising they decided to study it. Their results? "In answering our questions, our respondents constructed narratives that connected taxation with exploitation and a loss of personal freedom." You don't say.

    Still, government and its minions go to great lengths to convince people that they in fact really do enjoy paying taxes! Or everyone else does, and if you don't you're probably just weird. In 2007 researchers at the University of Oregon conducted a study that alleged to find that people may think they see taxation as exploitation and loss of freedom, but actually their brain interprets it as a 'pleasurable duty': "The fact that mandatory transfers to a charity elicit activity in reward-related areas suggests that even mandatory taxation can produce satisfaction for taxpayers."

    Uh huh.  Or there's the 2012 study by a team of German taxpayers that found that people who pay higher taxes are in fact happier. Yay taxes!

    If all this were true, one wonders why governments around the world would be conducting extensive research into how best to manipulate people who don't file tax returns into paying their taxes. (The answer? Peer pressure!)

    But some politicians are apparently letting all this propaganda hard scientific research go to their heads. In 2011 a group of Congress critters actually introduced legislation to ask people to volunteer to have the government automatically deduct a greater percentage of their wage to help "reduce the debt." The bill -- officially called the Reduce America's Debt Now Act of 2011 -- magnanimously allows for an employee to ask that his employer deduct a portion of his salary each month. Of course, this would all be carefully presided over by the Treasury, which would be obligated under 31 USC § 3113 to put the money toward paying down the government debt...because the government can clearly be trusted to uphold the letter of the law.

    Of course, the real point is why anyone would feel compelled to help do their patriotic duty to pay down a completely fraudulent and odious debt racked up by the politicians for the benefit of the banksters out of debt money created out of nothing and owed back to the banksters at interest. Or why congress would care about printing off a few more zeros on the end of the debt figure anyway.

    Still, you haven't even heard the kicker yet. As Simon Black pointed out at the time, these voluntary deductions wouldn't be tax deductible. Those poor souls who fell for the scam would in fact be paying taxes on their gift to the Government Sachs workers over at the Treasury.

    The best thing that can be said about this remarkably stupid idea is that it hasn't been implemented...yet. The bill was shunted off into committee where it was never heard from again. But just think: that piece of legislation is sitting their in the bowels of congress just waiting to be brought up from the depths during the next round of pointless debt limit 'negotiations' and political grandstanding -- which is actually due to come up this fall.

    #4: Studying the Mating Habits of Japanese Quail on Cocaine

    We've all heard about wasteful government spending projects, but some of the pork, abuse and sheer stupidity that gets slipped into funding bills and research grants is beyond comprehension.

    For the past five years the National Institutes of Health has been providing an average of $175,000 a year to a researcher at the University of Kentucky to research the mating habits of Japanese quail...while high on cocaine. Thankfully we are assured that this very serious research is all vitally important for understanding risky sexual behavior in general.

    How about the $331,000 National Science Foundation grant to study how likely "hangry" spouses were to stab a voodoo doll of their partner with pins? (Money quote from rival researchers: "it might be a big leap to interpret the results with voodoo dolls as indicating risk for actual physical aggression against a spouse.") But don't worry, the money went to a good place: a previous Ig Nobel Prize recipient.
    Or there's always the $169,423 that the NIH provided a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher to study "Water pipe tobacco smoking among university students in Jordan."

    Although I realize that making fun of research grants to scientists for projects that sound silly to the general public risks downplaying the vital role of scientific study in our society, one wonders if it is at all possible to imagine a universe in which studies like this were not funded by taxation collected at the implied barrel of a government gun. (Voluntary taxation, perhaps!)
    Still, there are certainly worse ways to spend government funny money debt slavery tax booty. Such as...

    #3: Nuking the Moon

    No, sadly there is no metaphor or word play involved in this entry's title. In 1958 the US Air Force approached researchers at the Armour Research Foundation to look into the feasibility of literally nuking the moon.

    The idea, according to the head of the once-top-secret but now-declassified project ("A Study of Lunar Research Flights"), was essentially to say nah-nah-nah-boo-boo to the Sputnik-launching Soviet Union. "It was clear the main aim of the proposed detonation was a PR exercise and a show of one-upmanship. The Air Force wanted a mushroom cloud so large it would be visible on earth."

    The document is well worth reading for the fact that even the scientists involved clearly knew how psychotic the whole idea was. The final report of the researchers starts off with the type of noble space-exploration rhetoric you would expect in a government research project of the time...

        "Rapidly accelerating progress in space technology clearly requires evaluation of the scientific experiments or other human activities which might be carried out in the vicinity of the earth's natural satellite."
    ...until, that is, it's revealed in the very next sentence that "other human activities" apparently means releasing the nuclear Kraken on the man on the moon.

    Among the people consulted on the project: Carl Sagan. In fact, the entire plan was only brought to light in 1999 when Sagan's biographers discovered he had (illegally) leaked details of the classified program on his application for a prestigious Berkeley graduate fellowship.
    Thankfully, the idea was shelved and the Dr. Strangeloves in the Air Force gave up on their dream of seeing a nuclear meteor shower. At least, the Soviets weren't stupid enough to come up with such a crazy idea, am I right?

    Oh, wait, they did. Their project was called E-4 and went along the lines of: "How can we prove we went to the moon! I know! Let's nuke it!" Luckily their plan, too, was shelved, when it was determined that in order for the world's observatories to witness the explosion they'd have to be informed of it in advance, and no one could figure out how best to do that.

    #2: The Stupidest Weapons Ever Built

    Ever heard of the Tsar Tank? No? Well, there's a good reason for that. Although the name "Tsar Tank" (and even it's nickname "The Bat") bring to mind a ferocious armor-plated nuclear equipped fighting vehicle ready to inflict a world of hurt on all would-be opponents, the actual tank in question was just about the least intimidating thing ever to roll out on a battlefield. Built in WWI and described as a "monstrous backwards-facing tricycle," this 'tank' was essentially a gun carriage on wheels. Two ridiculously large front wheels create the backwards tricycle effect, and it carried a crew of ten soldiers who operated two gun turrets and some machine gun pods. The Bat was a rather bloated beasted: designed to be 40 tons and with a top speed of 17km/h, it actually weighed in at 60 tons and could barely reach 8 km/h. As its name would suggest, the behemoth's development was personally funded by Tsar Nicholas II who was duly impressed by an early prototype, but it failed to live up to expectations: the first battle-ready tank got permanently stuck as soon as its tiny rear wheel hit broken ground and the whole project was abandoned.

    But that was WWI. Of course there must have been wacky, useless, poorly-designed ideas that were being thrown around left and right. That kind of stuff doesn't happen in modern militaries, does it? Oh boy, does it!

    Take the Littoral combat ship, aka the "Warship of the Future." It was envisioned as an all-in-one naval vehicle that would use interchangeable modules, helicopters, sea drones and missiles to missions ranging from ocean surface combat to anti-mine and anti-submarine operations. Five years and $37 billion later, the Navy got...a dud. The modules don't work, it can't take so much as a single enemy hit without sinking, and each floating duck clocks in at a striking $440 million.

    Still, the Littoral is not even the priciest dud in the annals of US military history. The winner of that prize goes to the Air Force's $1.5 trillion boondoggle, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 debacle is so legendary it will be taught as the prime example of military stupidity for generations to come. The program was approved in 2007 and already by 2010 things were going very, very wrong. The project was already two and a half years behind schedule at that point and the price per jet had ballooned 50 percent, smashing through a key containment threshold and forcing a thorough overview of the program. In a classic example of the sunken cost fallacy, the DOD doubled down on their insanity and decided the program was now "too big to kill."

    What followed from that point should be perfectly predictable: cost overruns on every aspect of the project and mechanical and design failures that have continued to push back development. The Pentagon has had to ground all their F-35s on multiple occasions due to engine failures and a newly-discovered computer glitch has pushed back full deployment to 2019...a full six years behind schedule.

    The Air Force's response? To throw up their hands and completely revise their strategy for the next 30 years to emphasize the need to get away from projects like this one. So apparently it only takes a decade of screw-ups and $1.5 trillion to get the military to change its mind on something.

    #1: Animals as Weapons

    Maybe you heard the story a few years ago about the military attack dolphins. You know, the elite squadron of dolphin assassins that apparently swam away from their Ukrainian military handlers during training exercises ("to mate with wild dolphins" a former Soviet naval officer speculated to RIA Novosti). You might have also heard those denials from the Ukrainian military that came out later and had your mind put at ease in the knowledge that there were no armed and dangerous cetaceans on their way to a beach near you. But still...

    The Soviets actually did train dolphins for military purposes, including naval rescues or underwater mine detection. Apparently, in 2000 a squadron of specially trained killer attack dolphins were sold to Iran. (No word yet on when the US media is going to start hyping the newest existential threat of jihadi dolphins.) Not to be outdone, the US has its own military dolphin program which it runs under its Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. In 2003 it was admitted that the dolphins had been deployed in Iraq and in 2007 it was revealed that the dolphins had been "trained to alert human handlers to potential terrorists." One wonders if they have had any luck finding Osama Bin Laden's body at the bottom of the ocean.

    But for those who fear that the military couldn't think up anything more insane than attack dolphins, never fear: the government never met an animal it didn't think could be weaponized!

    Bat bombs? Yup. Back in WWII the American military thought it would be a good idea to drop bats with time-delay bombs strapped to them on Japanese cities. Up to 1000 bats could be dropped in specially made carriers that would descend softly to the earth with parachutes. The bats would escape and roost in Japanese buildings before blowing up, setting the Japanese wood-constructed cities on fire. In the end the Air Force realized it was much easier to just firebomb the cities directly, leading to one of the worst war crimes in human history including the infamous firebombing of Tokyo that killed nearly 100,000 people in one night.

    Cat guided missiles? You better believe it. You can't argue with the project designer's logic, though. Cats don't like water, thus they would attempt to guide the missile toward any ships in the area. What could go wrong? (Cat lovers shouldn't worry, though; B.F. Skinner had a much better idea: pigeon-guided missiles!)

    So next time you are tempted to think of the government as a fearsome, all-powerful, all-knowing, coolly-calculating controller of world events, just remember: it's mostly populated by ridiculous, incompetent, half-sane, bumbling morons. This may not be good news, but it's at least somewhat more heartening than the idea that they are all evil geniuses. And hey, if we can't laugh at them what can we do?