Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shining Moments in Government

In my Sunday post, I summarized McCloskey's argument that government is subject to the same failings as the free market only more so. In order to argue that government should ameliorate some societal ill supposedly caused by free market failure, it is only intellectually honest to require proof that government can do better, or at a minimum not make things worse. Right on queue, two articles popped up in the local paper that illustrated this principle at work.

From the U-T:
The former deputy director of California state parks at the vortex of a financial scandal has a string of criminal convictions, including a felony DUI, and spent 12 of his 23 years in state government on court-ordered probation.
. . . has admitted carrying out a vacation buyout program in 2011 that state officials have deemed unauthorized. Lopez himself benefitted from the program, which cost more than $271,000. His former boss, parks Director Ruth Coleman, accused Lopez of also playing a role in hiding $54 million in two special funds at the parks department.
. . .
Beginning in 1988, five months before he began his state career as a “student assistant” at the Employment Development Department, Lopez was convicted of a misdemeanor for theft, according to court records.

He was also prosecuted for driving under the influence in 1989, 1992 and 1994, according to Sacramento County court records. He’s also filed for bankruptcy and has been the target of two workplace sexual harassment lawsuits.
This is one of the huge problems with government. It took 23 years to get rid of this guy? Say it real slowly, because twenty-three years is a long, long time. And the left wants to let government be in charge of ever larger parts of our lives? Too bad he wasn't at the DMV with access to our social security numbers and other private information, which he could have made lots more money using than the paltry $271K he snagged.

Image from TSA blog, describing imaging technology.

Meanwhile, the TSA is busy protecting us by "racial profiling?"
. . . more than 30 officers involved in the "behavior detection" program at Logan contend that the operation targets not only Middle Easterners, but also passengers who fit certain profiles — such as Hispanics traveling to Miami, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward.
. . .
The officers said their co-workers were increasingly targeting minorities, believing the stops would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding arrest warrants and immigration problems, in response to pressure from managers who wanted high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals, The Times reported.
So the TSA is allowed to unionize, and they immediately turn racist? Is this cause and effect?

From the Boston Globe:
The assessors look for inconsistencies in the answers and other signs of unusual behavior, like avoiding eye contact, sweating or fidgeting, officials said. A passenger considered to be acting suspiciously can be pulled from the line and subjected to more intensive questioning.

That is what happened last month at Logan airport to Kenneth Boatner, 68, a psychologist and educational consultant in Boston who was traveling to Atlanta for a business trip.

In a formal complaint he filed with the agency afterward, he said he was pulled out of line and detained for 29 minutes, as agents thumbed through his checkbook and examined his clients’ clinical notes, his cellphone and other belongings.

The officers gave no explanation, but Boatner, who is black, said he suspected the reason he was stopped was his race and appearance. He was wearing sweat pants, a white T-shirt, and high-top sneakers.

He said he felt humiliated. ‘‘I had never been subjected to anything like that,’’ he said in an interview.
Of course he did, and it doesn't matter if he was white, asian or any other ethnicity. The TSA daily humiliates millions of Americans, its just a question of how much. The TSA is supposed to keep us safe in the air. Even if a criminal boards an airliner, but he isn't a terrorist, why should the TSA care? What gets into their heads that they are now junior G-men?

And here is a little tidbit from my own job in the federal government; almost as outrageous for its waste. The Congress is understandably upset with wasteful IT spending at the Department of Defense. But for years, the department has basically ignored the Congress about getting its act together on the issue. Out of frustration, they based what I consider a bit of ill-advised legislation, even if the intent is understandable. The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits spending on information systems technology that could be contained in a data center without the approval of very senior people within the department. The mindless interpretation of the statute by senior bureaucrats in charge of IT but clearly no experience has resulted in the following absurd result.

A group of researchers at my work have a small experimental project that needs a $300 ethernet switch to allow some PCs to talk to an antenna. Somehow, this is interpreted as meeting the above definition of a data center, so the paperwork to request a waiver from the act will consume at least $1000 of labor effort. But an ethernet switch of the type needed could no more be useful in building a data center, than could taking your vacuum cleaner motor and jury rigging it to be an alternator for your car. Sure, theoretically it might be possible, but is so far fetched as to defy credulity. Meanwhile the project will suffer untold delays costing who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars in wasted effort waiting for a $300 part.

When the left, and even the right, wants to put government in charge, they had best explain why it is better than the private sector solutions; because the cases I have listed aren't ordinary, but are frequent enough.


  1. TSA Agents Caught Smuggling Cocaine and Heroin at Atlanta Airport

    1. I guess that is unfair, how about central planning failures lead to "economic suicides" in Europe