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Archive for the 'Government' Category

July 8th 2009

Let Government Do It – That’s The Answer


ox News Radio on Sirius doesn’t get many paying advertisers at night when I frequently listen to it while driving home from meetings, so I get to hear a lot of public service announcements from the federal government.  Oh, joy.

One that’s running a lot nowadays features a little girl who’s afraid to go to sleep.  It turns out she’s afraid because of what happened during Hurricane Katrina, but don’t worry, the soothing voice of the announcer tells us, just bring the little girl to us, the government, where there are caring people ready to make everything all better.

What?! Isn’t that the family’s job? The pastor’s job? When did America become so trusting of the government that a parent would hand a frightened child over to a bureaucracy?  Surely they know that this is the sort of thing you should expect from government:

A multi-million pound initiative to reduce teenage pregnancies more than doubled the number of girls conceiving.

The Government-backed scheme tried to persuade teenage girls not to get pregnant by handing out condoms and teaching them about sex.

But research funded by the Department of Health shows that young women who attended the programme, at a cost of £2,500 each, were ‘significantly’ more likely to become pregnant than those on other youth programmes who were not given contraception and sex advice.

A total of 16 per cent of those on the Young People’s Development Programme conceived compared with just 6 per cent in other programmes. (Daily Mail)

That’s what that mom with the frightened child should consider – if the rate of little girls going crazy in the general population is six percent, it’ll be 16 percent for those given over to the U.S. Department of Love & Caring.

Now let’s see … the Prez tells us we’ll be healthier if we just let government take care of our health care ….  Sure – that sounds like a great idea!


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May 27th 2009

“Transformation” Secretary LaHood Vs. The Car


ay LaHood has caught Obama fever and it’s wracked him so badly that you’d never know our new Transportation Secretary is (was?) a Republican, or that he once understood, quite literally, what plays in Peoria, the congressional district he represented until the One gave  him the Nod.  Now suddenly a righteous evangelist for bikes over cars, he’s no longer interested in keeping government out of our lives; instead, he’s working to use government to, as he puts it, “change our behavior.”

I prefer a different spin:  He’s using government to force change on us.  As George Will lamented recently,

But LaHood is a Republican, for Pete’s sake, the party (before it lost its bearings) of “No, we can’t” and “Actually, we shouldn’t” and “Not so fast” and “Let’s think this through.” Now he is in full “Yes we can!” mode. Et tu, Ray?

Will sat down for lunch with LaHood a while back to ask him about his newfound love of transformational government, and LaHood was not about to cover up his newfound giddyness over having the power to rip people out of the cars they love and stick them on bicycles:

Indeed, about three bites into lunch, the T word lands with a thump: He says he has joined a “transformational” administration: “I think we can change people’s behavior.” Government “promoted driving” by building the Interstate Highway System—”you talk about changing behavior.” He says, “People are getting out of their cars, they are biking to work.” High-speed intercity rail, such as the proposed bullet train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, is “the wave of the future.”

Yes, my fellow Americans, one day you’ll take a train or your bike to the soccer game, riding the inherently inferior transportion of the future to the inherently boring game of the future. Sigh. I remember when the transportation of the future was the Jetson-mobile, larking its way through the clear, clean skies. Now the car of the future is the bicycle?! A mode of transportation that went out of style in 1910?

The DC press corps apparently read Will’s column, so when LaHood appeared a few days later at the National Press Club, they pounced, according to CNS:

At the National Press Club on Thursday he attempted to respond to George Will’s column and to explain his vision for using the power of government to change people’s transportation behavior and to change the nature of American residential communities.

“We want to really–and notwithstanding the fact that George Will doesn’t like this idea–the idea of creating opportunities for people to get out of their cars–and we’re working with the secretary of HUD, Shaun Donovan, on opportunities for housing, walking paths, biking paths,” said LaHood. “If somebody wants to ride their bike, if–to work or to the place of employment or to other places–mass transit, light rail–creating opportunities for what we call livable communities.”

The moderator of the press club event asked LaHood: “Some in the highway-supporters motorist groups have been concerned by your livability initiative. Is this an effort to make driving more torturous and to coerce people out of their cars?”

LaHood answered: “It is a way to coerce people out of their cars.

“Yeah,” he continued, “I mean, look, people don’t like spending an hour and a half getting to work. And people don’t like spending an hour going to the grocery store. And all of you who live around here know exactly what I’m talking about. You know, the dreaded thing is to have to run an errand on a weekend around here or to try and get home at 3:00 in the afternoon or even 5:00 in the afternoon.

Someone tell LaHood people don’t like having to ride a bike through rain, snow or dark of night to work.  Or having to go to the grocery store every day because the trunk on the ol’ Schwinn just isn’t all that big.  Or having to get shoved into a crowded subway, where the pervert du jour can rub up against you. Or having to pay $75 for a cab because the boss kept you late and you missed the last train. 

Someone tell LaHood that the minute streetcars, then cars, made it possible to get out of the idealized planners’ vision of a compact urban core, we did, fleeing by the millions to suburbs, where we continue to live because we don’t like crack dealers on the street corner, gangstas in our kids’ schools, and car alarms going off at 3 a.m.

One reporter asked LaHood to respond to conservative concerns that he’s just another fascist know-it-all loon he’s supporting government intrusion into our lives.  His response?

“About everything we do around here is government intrusion in people’s lives,” said LaHood. “So have at it.”

Meanwhile, GM bond-holders did not respond warmly to government mandated depreciation of their bonds, forcing the automaker to the brink of bankruptcy.  The GM that emerges could be as much as 70 percent government-owned.  And who, then, would become a pivotal decision-maker for GM’s future?  Roy LaHood, the man who lives to make cars less attractive than bikes and subways.

It’s a brave new world.  Full speed backwards! 



January 26th 2009

Your Government In Action


uestion #1: Who’s big idea was it to put government in the middle of the digital TV conversion game? After all, the government doesn’t operate TV stations (yet), sell TVs (yet) or run cable/satellite systems (yet). But there they are, managing the consumers’ switch to a consumer product.

Question #2: Did anyone think they’d do it well? No, I thought not:

The Senate today approved a four-month delay in digital TV conversion. The Obama administration sought the delay because the government program to provide coupons for converter boxes needs more money. (AP)

Question #3:  Why should any federal money be required?  Is TV now a constitutionally guaranteed right, so every loser, meth head, spendthrift and bum (not to mention otherwise delightful poor people) is entitled to a government voucher if they can’t come up with the 12 cents or whatever that’s required for a converter?

Can we at least get them to pay us back when Obama starts sending them welfare checks tax refunds?

The broadcast industry, wisely, had no comment.  PBS offered up that the government goof would cause its network alone $22 million in extra power costs, since they’ll have to continue to have two systems fired up for another four months.  The total cost of this screw-up will be far, far greater.


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January 23rd 2009

Management By Government – Lessons In Ineptness


s the Obama Admin stands poised and ready to impose their statist regime on America, injecting government into every layer of our life in the grand tradition of FDR, it’s not a bad idea to spend a little time analyzing just how government performs.

Here’s a handy case study:

Facing forecasts of wet weather that could flush tons of urban trash out to sea and onto local beaches, Los Angeles County authorities scrambled Thursday to reinstall a boom across the outlet of the Los Angeles River to keep debris out of Long Beach Harbor.

The boom had been decommissioned Monday because the county Department of Public Works ran out of money to keep it operating.

The problem, according to a spokesman for the department, was that a company which had been paid $450,000 to operate the boom this year [sic? $450,000 in three weeks?!] — and remove the trash it harvested — had completed its contractual obligations ahead of schedule.

As a result, Frey Environmental Inc. of Newport Beach on Monday was ordered to take the boom out of service while public works authorities sought permission from the county Board of Supervisors to renew its contract.

Complicating matters, the board canceled its meeting Tuesday because several members had traveled to Washington to attend the presidential inauguration. (LA Times)

It’s expected that trash will flow unfettered to sea until well into February.  Now, we used to just let that happen because none but the fringes of society cared much whether trash washed out to sea or not, but now at least the enviro-packed regulatory agencies care greatly, so they have imposed regulations (more statism) with fines to boot, in order to force municipalities to pick up after their littering citizens (more statism).

Imagine what would happen to a private sector manager if  his operation had to shut down for several weeks because he let a contract run out.  Expect no such repercussions here.

What you can expect is higher costs, since Frey needlessly had to shut down and now will have to re-start its operations – and because one branch of government, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, will impose a hefty fine on another branch of government, Los Angeles County, for being out of compliance with the trash TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) regulation.

So government incompetency leads to  higher cost government and fines, which government does not have to pay. We do.

And they want us to trust government with our health!

Hat-tip: Jim, whose group Trails 4 All has picked up tons of trash from local watersheds without being forced to by government.


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May 31st 2008

Slouching Towards Statism

I‘ve been thinking a lot lately about our globe’s two basic forms of governance — Statist nations that see the people as a means to government’s ends and Individualist nations in which government represents and protects the will of the people.

I can find no better illustration of the Statist form than this clip of a Chinese small truck undergoing a 40 mpg front-end crash test. It’s just 33 seconds long, so do click it (and excuse the oddly constructed note at the end).

This is undeniable evidence of what happens when production is put into the hands of a Statist government. China’s government certainly had access to car safety technology — it’s stolen all sorts of other technology, after all — but it willfully decided to keep the cost down in order to advance the state’s goal of moving goods cheaply in order to expand the economy. (Notice how the goods being carried probably suffered little ill effect — something that can’t be said of the human occupants?)

In America a few years ago, Ford Explorers began to roll over because Ford was recommending too low a tire pressure in order to offset the top-heavy nature of the Explorer’s design. Compared to the Chinese truck, this was a less willful act — executives didn’t foresee deaths, but almost 300 died and 700 were injured. (That stat has to be compared to the 12,000 SUV rollover deaths and injuries in other SUVs before any blame can be ascribed specifically to Ford’s Explorer team.)

As a result of this, Ford was targeted for lawsuits and the Explorer fell from its perch as the #1 selling SUV to near oblivion.

No stats are available for deaths in the Chinese truck, but obviously if it had been as popular in the US as the Explorer was, and was operated at US highway speeds, its death count would have been spectacularly morbid. But what choice do the citizens of Statist China have? The nation manufactures all their automotive options (and the others are just as bad; see clips here, here, here, here.) And Chinese citizens certainly can’t sue their government.

China’s Statist mindset was also evident in the recent earthquake, where the collapse of schools and possible collapse of dams is more evidence that the state was more interested in taking care of its business than it was in taking care of its people.

Contrast that to Individualist America. When earthquakes hit or tornadoes threaten, where are we told to evacuate to? Schools. To us, protecting the next generation is our tantamount goal. To China, it is merely to educate them. (We could use a bit more emphasis on education, however …)

Last week, we helped one of our water district clients win regulatory approval of a 266-million-gallon earth dam reservoir just up-valley from a high school. There wasn’t a peep of protest, despite an extensive outreach campaign to inform the public. Why? Because people here have cause to trust our dam construction techniques and our government’s watchful control. Why? Because they don’t have any experience with dam collapses, since collapses are so rare.

Do you think the Chinese government would have carried out an outreach campaign? Would they give the Chinese people a voice in the decision-making, or would they just slap a shoddy dam wherever they wanted? The weak, threatening dams throughout the earthquake zone give us our answer.

One last example. When the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant failed, thanks to our Individualist state’s reams of regulations designed to protect the public no matter the expense, no one was injured. Some radioactive gas was released; it dissipated; that was it.

In Statist Russia, where nuclear power plant technology was developed to speed production of power to feed Soviet industry, not to protect the Soviet citizens, when a failure hit the Chernobyl plant, there weren’t the same safeguards:

All the Chernobyl reactors were of a design that the Russians call the RBMK–natural uranium-fueled, water-cooled, graphite-moderated–a design that American physicist and Nobel laureate Hans Bethe has called “fundamentally faulty, having a built-in instability.” Because of the instability, an RBMK reactor that loses its coolant can under certain circumstances increase in reactivity and run progressively faster and hotter rather than shut itself down. Nor were the Chernobyl reactors protected by containment structures like those required for U.S. reactors, though they were shielded with heavy concrete covers. …

No commercial reactor in the United States is designed anything like the RBMK reactor. Cohen summarizes several of the differences:

1. A reactor which is unstable against a loss of water could not be licensed in the United States.

2. A reactor which is unstable against a temperature increase could not be licensed here.

3. A large power reactor without a containment [structure] could not be licensed here. (source)

Such is the nature of radiation that we will never really know how many people were killed by the Soviet Statists. In 2006, the World Health Organization estimated up to 9,000 people died or will die of cancer because of the incident. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency governed by the WHO and 16 member nations, published an estimate of 6,700 to 38,000 in a peer-reviewed journal. Greenpeace came up with 93,000 to 200,000, an overestimation typical of environmental hysteria cultists. (source)

But what of America’s nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere over Nevada and Utah — were we behaving as a Statist nation? There were obvious strains of Statism in the decision to test bombs there, driven by heightened Statism that occurs during times of external threats to the nation. But there were also two arguments countering Statism in the testing: First, the nation picked the most remote, unpopulated part of the nation for the test, which reflects concern for the individual, and second, we didn’t really know what we were messing with — unlike the Soviets who made a willful decision in the design of Chernobyl.

I could go on: Katrina vs. Myanmar, hot weather deaths in Paris vs. St. Louis, or the poor Chinese school kids who died when the fireworks they were required by the state to manufacture during school exploded. But the case has been made. Putting the government first is bad for the health, welfare and happiness of the people.

And yet, there are factions in the US — let’s call them Democrats — who want to give more power to the state. They want the state in control of education, health care, what we eat (fat bans in Dem stronghold of NYC), what we hear (the renewed Fairness Doctrine debate), how marriage is to be defined.

Despite myriad examples of what happens when power is taken away from the people, they press on towards greater and greater collectivism. And they’re winning. The zenith of conservatism — the Individualist state — in the modern era was reached in either the 50s or the 80s depending on your perspective. Since then, America has been sliding over our protests towards collectivist Statism.

There will be no improvement in the short term since all three remaining presidential candidates (Is Hillary still remaining? I haven’t checked in the last hour.) are all more Statist than Individualist, and Congress should be firmly in the control of the Statists for at least one more election cycle. I’m a believer in pendulum swings, and I trust America will come up with another Reagan at some point … but the question is, how much irreversible damage will be done before that occurs?


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May 6th 2008

Bush’s Next Firing

Mr. President, send out the letter today canning this guy. He’s Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and from what I can tell, he’s using our troops to wrangle some more money from his programs.

How else can you explain this?

The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government’s top psychiatric researcher said.

Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven’t provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington.

Really? These are numbers we can believe?

Let’s see. There have been about 4,500 deaths of US troops on both fronts and 430 suicides among the 1.7 million US troops that have served in the two combat theaters.

For Insel’s prediction to come true, suicide frequency will have to grow ten-fold. While that seems unlikely at first blush, you have to remember that when the war ends, the number of combat fatalities will stop growing, but suicides will continue for years afterwards. Insel is obviously figuring that over time, the suicide stats will slowly build until one day they pass combat fatalities.

But how long will have to pass before Insel will say that war was not the primary factor in the suicide? Two? Ten? Twenty? It is improbable that even without enough mental health clinics in rural areas that Insel’s prediction will come true within a reasonable number of years.

Besides, will every suicide of a war vet be attributed to the war even when there are obviously other more significant factors?

Finally, in blaming the lack of government-funded mental health facilities, Insel overlooks other sources of counseling: health insurance funded programs, a guy whipping out his wallet and paying for it himself, families taking care of their own, or counseling through churches and other caring organizations.

It couldn’t be more obvious that Insel is trolling for dollars and has figured out a way to cook the stats to justify the argument.

Look, I think anything less than first class care for returning vets stinks, especially since the cost differential between so-so care and stellar care is inconsequential. A lot of returning vets will need counseling and they should be able to get it. If they’re living far out in the sticks, they may have to go somewhere other than a neat little clinic funded by NIMH. C’est la vie. People who live in the country understand this phenomenon and choose to live there nonetheless; it doesn’t mean every West Virginia holler and Oklahoma crossroads needs an NIMH crew at the ready.

What I don’t like is a federal bucks-hunter distorting the problem, then riding it into the budget gladiator arena, hoping it’s the right weapon to take money away from some other deserving program — especially when his weapon of choice reflects badly on on war effort and the valiant men and women who are fighting it.

One suicide is too many … especially when someone is exploiting it.


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April 22nd 2008

Finally, Some Fiscal Responsibility in California!

The California Citizens Compensation Commission — who would expect revolutionary work out of such a group, appointed as it is by the governor, and therefore hardly answerable to the people?

But the six commissioners took a look at officials whose salaries they have jurisdiction over through a vote of the people in the passage of Prop. 112 in 1989, and they didn’t like what they saw. Here are those salaries (source):

Elected Officials Monthly Salary Annual Salary
Governor $17,681.56 $212,179
Lieutenant Governor $13,261.17 $159,134
Attorney General $15,358.43 $184,301
Secretary of State $13,261.17 $159,134
Controller $14,145.25 $169,743
Treasurer $14,145.25 $169,743
Superintendent of Public Instruction $15,358.43 $184,301
Insurance Commissioner $14,145.25 $169,743
Members, Board of Equalization $13,261.17 $159,134
Speaker of the Assembly $11,136.56 $133,639
President Pro Tem of the Senate $11,136.56 $133,639
Minority Floor Leader $11,136.56 $133,639
Majority Floor Leader $10,410.29 $124,923
Second Ranking Minority Leader $10,410.29 $124,923
All Other Legislators $9,684.01 $116,208

Today, they said, “No more!” and voted against raising any of these salaries. Here’s a bit of the SacBee report:

“We have a deficit of $7 billion” that news reports say will double by this summer, [Charles] Murray, of San Marino, said during the short meeting. “Everybody has to take a cut.”

[Kathy] Sands, a retired banker and former mayor of Auburn, said a vote to reduce top government officials’ salaries would send a message about their performance.

“We don’t have a budget and they’re not working any overtime to get it done,” she said. “People have said that to me. They’re not doing their job.”

Not only that, but two members of the committee asked for an opinion on whether they have the authority to cut salaries. The decision, presumably to be rendered by the $184,301 a year Attorney General Moonbeam, will be coming along shortly.

There are two labor representatives on the six-person commission. So guess: How many votes there were against freezing the salaries? That’s right. Two.


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April 7th 2008

Thank You, Sputnik!

When Ronald Reagan launched the Star Wars missile defense system initiative, the Soviet Union responded by collapsing.

Thirty years earlier, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States responded by creating DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

What a good deal we got!

DARPA is turning 50 this year, and it’s been a productive half-century, as Stephen Barr at WaPo points out today.

If we went no farther than the Internet, DARPA would have been successful enough. Lawrence G. Roberts led a small DARPA team that in 1967 designed the network that evolved into the Internet. He describes it as:

“Putting A and B together and getting Z. Taking obscure things and seeing there is an intersection there.”

That doesn’t seem like the normal way government agencies do things, but DARPA isn’t like other government agencies, which is why it has given us much more — the fundamental technology behind the computer mouse, the Saturn booster rocket, stealth technology and pilotless drones. On the drawing boards: two-way speech translation systems, artificial limbs controlled by the brain with dexterity and sensation feedback, and who knows what else.

All of which begs the question: How can this government agency be so darned effective when most wallow in bureaucracy, lack of inspiration and waste. There is a reason: DARPA isn’t like other government bureaucracies:

Unlike most federal agencies, DARPA operates with little red tape. It has only two management layers, encouraging the rapid flow of ideas and decisions.

About 240 people work at DARPA, and 120 of them are program managers and office directors on appointments of four to six years. The agency does not own or operate labs, but sponsors research carried out by industry and universities.

By rotating technical professionals every few years, DARPA has “a constant freshness of people and energy,” [agency director Anthony J.] Tether said. “Everything else we do stems from that.”

Small, compact, outsourced, fresh. Imagine what could happen if we DARPAtized all levels of government!

Perhaps they could do so research in that area … and given the nature of government, by the time DARPA’s centennial comes around, nothing will have gotten better.


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April 4th 2008

Yeah, Let’s Hand Health Care Over To These Guys!

As the great health care debate rages, and Dems continue to demand that we entrust our nation’s health care system to some sort of national iteration of the Department of Motor Vehicles, consider this very brief clip:

Yes indeed! The government bureaucrats did in fact fire the seasoned supervisors who couldn’t speak Spanish instead of the untrained recruits who couldn’t speak English.

Will this bizarre turn of events make Oregonians feel safer when the fires start burning?

Extrapolating, will you feel safer going into surgery, knowing the best surgeons were fired because they didn’t speak the Spanish, Romanian, Urdu or Tagalog spoken by the scrub nurse?

hat-tip: Jim


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March 27th 2008

Fools Who Trust Big Government

In this week’s Watcher’s Council readings, there’s a bright post, Have a Clear Identity, from Hillbilly White Trash on Dems and the GOP that includes this:

With all that division within their ranks why are Democrats so good at keeping their little fleet of ships all sailing in the same direction? It is precisely because the Democrat party is so fractured and fractious that it is so good at keeping order within its own ranks. It is a matter of survival. If they couldn’t keep everyone more or less in line the party would fly apart and they would never win an election.

What unites Democrats is a desire for continued increase in the size, scope and power of government at the expense of the individual.

That’s a good working definition, although I might simplify it to “faith in government’s superiority.” As a Christian, I’m used to challenges to prove my faith, and I can dish as well as receive, so what is the Dems’ justification of their faith in government in light of stories like this:

SACRAMENTO (Sac Bee) — California prison administrators and clerks reviewed the file of Sara Jane Olson multiple times since December, failing to catch the miscalculation that led to the premature release of the former 1970s radical, officials confirmed Thursday.

Olson, 61, was paroled March 17, a year before her sentence was to end. She was re-arrested five days later after the error was caught.

We’ve often heard people jibe the Dems, saying, “Would you trust your health care to the Department of Motor Vehicles?” Let’s add to that, “Would you trust your security to the Department of Corrections?”


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