Wednesday, 23 March 2011

In Passing

“Don’t you know there’s a crisis on?”

Instapundit links a New York Times story on how relief efforts by the U.S. military[1] are helping to strengthen Japanese-American ties.  The Times reporter notes one wrinkle:

At the crowded refugee center in Minamisanriku, where 250 survivors slept on the floor, Mr. [Osamu] Abe [local official] said the most urgent thing needed was medicine for colds, fever and allergies.  But the American airmen said they could not hand out medicine without the permission of the Japanese government, which they did not have.

Something similar happened after the deadly Kobe earthquake in 1995, when foreign medical supplies and even doctors were turned away at the border by Japanese bureaucrats.

This time, the Americans promised to ask the Japanese for quick permission to hand out American-made medicine, and for help in translating the directions into Japanese.
That brought to mind another example, from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal(“Main Obstacle Stalling Aid: A Severe Shortage of Fuel” by Kanna Inagaki, Eric Bellman, and Toko Sekiguchi, link not available):
In one city that lost hundreds of residents from the tsunami, all but two gas stations were destroyed.  Officials received barrels of gasoline from Japan’s Self Defense Force but had no facility licensed to handle the flammable material. City officials are pumping gas into emergency vehicles wht a hand cranked pump in the back of their emergency headquarters.

“We have no choice but to take this extraordinary measure,” said one local official, who asked not to be named or placed for fear of having their makeshift gas station closed by authorities.
Glenn comments:
The consensus-based Japanese bureaucracy doesn’t seem to deal with emergencies as well as with peacetime.
Well, I don’t have a lot of confidence that our homegrown officials would perform much better under the same circumstances.  Fortunately, there are still parts of America where bureaucratic obstructionism in the face of disaster would be met with a smartly-delivered smack upside the head.

[1]  Related:  Operation Tomodachi

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Monday, 14 March 2011

In Passing

Haven’t quite “got it” yet

“We just can’t let go”  Dept

Last Thursday’s Investor’s Business Daily carried an editorial (“Light, Liberty, And...”) praising Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and her Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act (HR.849).  I agree: Any effort to overturn 2007’s infamous incandescent-lamp ban – a goal that’s item #1 on Jeff’s list – is certainly praiseworthy.
But the devil, as usual, lies in the details.  And it turns out that the details in HR.849 don’t actually repeal the ban.  Instead, they attempt to block the ban’s enforcement  by imposing some “impossible” conditions:
...Bachmann’s Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act would rescind the CFL mandates unless three conditions are met.  First, the bulbs must show “net savings in the combination of monthly electric bills and expenses for new light fixtures to accommodate the new required bulbs.” ...  Then it must be proved that mandated use of CFLs “will reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2025.” ...  Finally, it must be shown that “there are no public health risks from the mercury in replacement bulbs at home or in any public building.”

The GAO [General Accounting Office] would make these determinations, but Bachmann believes they can't be satisfied.
So should HR.849 pass, the ban wouldn’t be eliminated altogether; instead it would survive as subterranian cruft, waiting to be awakened as soon as somebody at the GAO can be convinced to say, “Go!”.

There are two things wrong here:

First, at a time when we have an Environmental Protection Agency that declares carbon dioxide a “hazardous pollutant,” and an Attorney General who is blind to voter harassment provided it’s done by “his people” the Black Panthers, should we trust unelected (but politically-aware) bureaucrats to continue to agree that “conditions” are not met, no matter how “impossible” they might be?

And second, the bill itself shows that in her third term Bachmann has gone native- succumbing to the dreaded D.C. Tinkering Syndrome.  Because
The bill should read: “Americans can buy whatever kind of light bulb they want.”
instead of giving us a clean repeal and a clean slate, Bachmann’s bill tweaks the law to achieve her desired outcome.

This same thing would have happened with last term’s HR.968, the failed attempt by John Shadegg (R-AZ) (and 23 cosponsors) to do something about the horrible unintended consequences of 2008’s Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.  Instead of eliminating the problem provisions and replacing them with something sensible, the HR.968 authors spent twelve-hundred-some words over 53 paragraphs in carving out a series of “small business” exemptions.[1]  The problem: The bad parts of the existing legislation would have remained, still ready to nail any business that might ever grow “too big” to be “small.”.

It’s almost as if there’s an Iron Law of Washingon Power: Once assumed, power is never relinquished, and the best we peons can hope for is that our “representatives” might act to minimize the horrors.

As one IBD commenter noted,
The bill [HR.849] should read: “Americans can buy whatever kind of light bulb they want.” ...  We don’t need another politician or lawyer, just action: direct and simple.

Indeed.  Direct and simple appeals to me:  Up-or-down votes on legislation that says what it means.  Not this endless patching and trimming that creates so much undergrowth that eventually no one, including the people who pass the laws and those who have to enforce them, can really know what the law is.  And I’m especially fed up with legislation so obscurely-worded that gives hiding places for both its supporters and its opponents.

Although Bachmann isn’t on the list, she still couldn’t make HR.849 a 1-sentence bill.  That, along with the disappointing performance of Republican leaders on the budget, shows that when it comes to changing the attitudes in Washington, our friends there haven’t quite “got it” yet, and we voters still have much to do.

[1]  Meanwhile, the company whose lead-contaminated Chinese imports started the whole ruckus, Mattel, has been repeatedly exempted from CPSIA provisions.  Ain’t crony capitalism wonderful?

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 19:45:21 GMT | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Monday, 07 March 2011

In Passing

A friendly reminder...

Jeff Goldstein, from a couple o’weeks back:

King Obama’s America
What you can’t have:
1. incandescent bulbs
2. high-flow shower heads
3. large capacity flush toilets
4. cupcakes / bake sales / pizza parties / vending machines at school
5. oil drilling/exploration/refineries
6. salt
7. health care choice
8. spilled milk
9. unregulated farmer’s market produce

What you can have:
1. a fresh new needle every time you want to shoot heroin into the webbing of your toes.
2. ...
Just a reminder for Republicans:  To the extent that you fail to move to remedy those 9 “can’t haves,” you are part of the problem.

And we’ll be keeping that in mind, come fall of 2012.

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Saturday, 05 March 2011

In Passing

Security, there’s nothing like it!

Skool Daze  Dept
Via Radley via Glenn:
COURTLAND[, VA]—A Southampton Middle School student was suspended Thursday for opening an exterior door for a visitor.

“Students are not allowed to open the doors, and if anyone does, they will be suspended,” said Dr. Wayne K. Smith, executive director of administration and personnel.

A districtwide policy prohibiting students and staff from opening doors to the outside was recently adopted after a $10,800 security system was installed...

All of the schools’ doors are locked during the day. Visitors must ring a buzzer and look into a camera before office personnel can let them in. - Tidewater News, February 26, 2011
Any school district that employs a doctorate-level “executive director of administration and personnel” is most likely way overstaffed and needs to have its budget cut immediately.

(Oh, and I’d love to have their “security” contract.  In 2008, Southampton Schools spent almost $85,000 for security cameras.)

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 17:09:42 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Wednesday, 02 March 2011

In Passing

Iran arrives late, misses the point

Great. NOW they tell us!  Dept
The Guardian:
Iran has threatened to boycott the London Olympics unless the organisers replace the official logo, which Tehran claims spells out the word “Zion”.
Erm, when the logo was announced (back in 2007), there was a whole big discussion about what it “looked like.”  And the consensus was that although it sucked, “Zion” had nothing to do with it.

(Aaah, they’ve probably realized that all their athletes and coaches were planning to defect.)

Via Meryl via Insty.

Diamond Geezer:
But hey, if this embarassing debacle inspires a few fewer kids to become PR consultants and marketing executives when they grow up, then it may just have been worthwhile after all.

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 17:37:50 GMT | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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