Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Off to Hong Kong

Blogging will probably be pretty sparse as I am about to leave for Hong Kong on business for the next month.

I will try to pop in and sound off when I can.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Girl Friday - 070607

What a lovely view out that window.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bringing The Title Home

For the past 6 years, the Nathan's Famous Hotdog eating contest has been won by Takeru Kobayashi, a diminutive Japanese man. It just seemed an affront to the USA, a country considered world wide to have an over active appetite. Now the title has come home:

San Jose's Joey Chestnut won the dubious distinction Wednesday of being the world's fastest eater, setting a new record at the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest in New York and snatching the title belt for the Americans.

Chestnut ate - if you could call it that - an astounding 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes. That's a rate of one dog every 10.9 seconds. Takeru Kobayashi, the Japanese competitive eating champion who has won the contest for the past six years, placed second, ingesting 63 dogs during a stomach-turning race to the finish.

Sucks To Be Them

There is no question that I find the government structure of most of Europe to be despicable, but this latest round of garbage coming from the EU elites is really beyond the pale. After the proposed EU monstrosity of a constitution (PDF) went down in flames to the will of the European people, the bureaucracy has decided to do an end around and shove the constitution down the people's throats, whether they like it or not. Only this time they are calling it a treaty (PDF), that way they don't have to let that pesky proletariat stand in the way.

So its screw you to the people. They must be taking lessons from US pols and their immigration stance. Hopefully, the people of the EU will shake the walls of their governments like we did here in the US and force them to drop this.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Et Tu, Paul!?

OK, so it pains me to report that Dr. Paul, my choice in the Republican field, is not untainted by the scourge of pork (PDF). I haven't been able to actually get the pdf to load for me, but I will be interested to see what it contains.

While Paul's voting record remains exemplary, I am greatly troubled that he has taken his place at the trough. I guess that partly explains how he has been able to get repeatedly re-elected against the odds.

My only consolation is that at least he fessed up when asked, which is more than can said about most.


Girl Friday - 062907

There's more than just sugar, ethanol and bikinis coming from Brazil.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Government Admits It Is Wasting Your Money

It is painfully obvious to anyone paying even a little bit of attention that the federal government wastes a ton of money on programs that are useless or that it has no business being involved in in the first place. Well, it seems that the Office of Management and Budget has figured this out as well.

As part of a program they call ExpectMore.gov, they are using a system called the Program Assesment Rating Tool (PART) to determine the "effectiveness" of government programs.

The Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART, for short, is a questionnaire designed to help assess the management and performance of programs. It is used to evaluate a program’s purpose, design, planning, management, results, and accountability to determine its overall effectiveness.

Based on the evaluation, recommendations are made to improve program results.

To reflect that federal programs deliver goods and services using different mechanisms, the PART also has customized questions depending on the type of program. The seven PART categories are: Direct Federal, Competitive Grant, Block/Formula Grant, Regulatory, Capital Assets and Service Acquisition, Credit, and Research and Development.

The PART questionnaire is made up of the following questions:

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest or need?

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other federal, state, local or private effort?

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Are budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Using the answers to these questions, programs are divided into two main categories, Performing and Not Performing, with each having sub-categories. So, had did various government programs fare? Not well:

Based on our most recent assessments, 25% of Federal programs are Not Performing.

The actual breakdown by subcategory looks like this:

To date, we have assessed about 96% of all Federal programs. Here's how they stack up, by rating.

Distribution of Program Ratings
Number of Programs Assessed 977
Effective 17%
Moderately Effective 30%
Adequate 28%
Ineffective 3%
Results Not Demonstrated 22%

Of course, even this gives a rosier picture than is warranted. That is because of the way each program is assigned to one of the sub-categories:

The answers to questions in each of the four sections result in a numerical score for each section from 0 to 100 (100 being the best score). Because reporting a single weighted numerical rating could suggest false precision, or draw attention away from the very areas most in need of improvement, numerical scores are translated into qualitative ratings. The bands and associated ratings are as follows:

Rating Range

Effective .............................................................. 85-100

Moderately Effective ............................................... 70-84

Adequate .............................................................. 50-69

Ineffective .............................................................. 0-49

Now I don't about where you come from, but where I come from a score of 50-69 is not adequate. Just ask any school kid if those grades are considered adequate. They equate to Ds and Fs which is hardly adequate. My dad would have planted his foot firmly in my fundament if I brought home grades like that. Of course it is no surprise that the government is letting the government off easy. When taking that into account, you find that fully 53% of programs are not up to par.

Taking a look at some of the programs in the Not Performing category, we find such gems as this:

Dairy Price Support Program

USDA maintains a minimal price to dairy farmers by buying excess milk in the form of nonfat dry milk, butter, and cheese. The government owned dairy products are stored in warehouses until the dairy products are sold or donated. This program is one of several USDA programs that support dairy farmers.

Results Not Demonstrated

A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.

The program has not demonstrated results.

The program began in 1949 to assure an adequate supply of milk, but has not been updated in response to changing industry conditions. The U.S. dairy industry has matured as a global leader in milk production, while current challenges include: price variability, consolidation, global trade, and environmental impacts.

The program has major design flaws that limit its effectiveness.

The program is considered trade distorting because it can maintain U.S. prices above world prices. Dairy production represents 11% of all U.S. farm receipts, but this program accounts for over 30% of permitted trade distorting support under World Trade Organization rules.USDA manages the government owned dairy products resulting from this program for multiple purposes.

USDA is not required to minimize costs, and can choose to sell the inventory back to the commercial market, or incur additional costs to donate dairy products to USDA food assistance programs and other domestic and international charitable organizations.

And this:

Packers and Stockyards

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regulates livestock marketing activities at public stockyards and operations of meat packers and poultry dealers. The program was instituted in 1921 to promote fair and competitive trade of livestock, meat, and poultry.

Results Not Demonstrated

A rating of Results Not Demonstrated (RND) indicates that a program has not been able to develop acceptable performance goals or collect data to determine whether it is performing.

The program lacks well-defined internal processes to determine workload priorities, conduct effective investigations, evaluate investigative findings, and monitor industry activity to determine if regulatory reforms are needed.

The program lacks standard definitions to distinguish regulatory activities from investigative activities.

The program maintains inaccurate and incomplete tracking systems.

What business does the government even have maintaining a minimal price to dairy farmers or regulating marketing activities at stockyards? Even if these programs were "effective", they would still be a waste of money. The list is rife with programs and this and then, of course, there are the programs with the feel good names such as Mentoring Program, Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grants, and African Development Fund.

The website states "As a result, all assessed programs are held accountable for improving their performance and management", but there is no discussion of how they are held accountable. You can be sure that it doesn't include shutting those programs down.

In the end, the ExpectMore.gov program only serves as a tool for people like me to complain about the failures of the government. It is highly unlikely Congress will use it as a guideline for ridding the government of wasteful programs that don't even accomplish there missions. So in that respect, OMB should list ExpectMore.gov on the Not Performing list.

Update: BTW, given the re-killing of the immigration bill, I should also point out that the Border Patrol is in the Not Performing category as well.

(H/T Stephen Slivinski at Cato@Liberty)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time to Stop Pretending

If only the poor Palestinians were left alone by the US and Israelis, they would stop the terrorism and live peaceful lives like normal people, or so we are told. Now many Palestinians are finding out first hand that you should be careful what you wish for.

With the US and Israel basically out of the picture, the Palestinians have turned on each other even more violently than they attacked Israel. There are still some useful idiots trying to find a way to pin this on the US and Israel, but they are finding out quickly that that dog won't hunt.

Fouad Ajami does a good job of summing up what has been obvious for a long time to anyone that actually paid attention rather than just knee-jerking against the Jews.

By the time the fury of the second intifada burned out, as it was bound to, the Palestinians were politically bankrupt and bereft. The Arab world had bigger battles to fight in Iraq and the Persian Gulf; the Israelis, keen to conciliate the Palestinians, had grown weary of them. There was a diplomatic dance, the quartet, which brought together the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations in a halfhearted effort to keep the Palestinian world afloat. But the Palestinians would do all in their power to snuff out those diplomatic efforts as well. Given a chance, by an election in early 2006, to signal their desire for normalcy, the Palestinians voted for mayhem. Two convicted terrorists, Marwan Barghouti and Abu Ali Yatta, headed the Fatah list; all in all, 14 members of the new parliament were serving prison sentences. National movements are often carried away by delirium, their politics can become deeds of self-immolation, and the Palestinians have come to embody the suicidal streak of mass-based nationalism.

This is not a failure of the Bush diplomacy, the disorder now on full display in Gaza and the West Bank. This is the harvest of Palestinian history. What we see is the inevitable fate of a national movement given over to the cult of the gun.

By now it should be clear even to the most ardent supporters of Palestine that they are not interested in peace and could care less about the lives of other Palestinians. They only wish to dominate and force their beliefs on anyone and everyone they can.

Liberal Fairness

There has been much odious talk emanating from the left lately about reviving the so-called "Fairness Doctrine". The main "problem" they cite is the trouncing of "progressives" in talk radio, often claiming it is caused not by market forces, but by some structural defect that is begging for government intervention.

Fortunately, McQ and some spare time and has blown that meme out of the water.

What's that tell you?

It tells you that despite all this twaddle about 'structural problems' in talk radio, that where at least Limbaugh and Hannity and progressive talk go head-to-head, listeners have consistently and overwhelmingly chosen the Limbaugh and Hannity.

Be sure to go and read the whole thing.

Update: The Fairness Doctrine has been temporarily staved off. Of course, it don't be surprised to see it re-appear under a different guise.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Smile For The Camera

It is not often that I have praise for the ACLU, which spends considerably more time and resources trying to push leftist politics than actually standing up for civil rights. However, they do occasionally fight the good fight. Such is the case in St Louis where they are arming the citizenry with video cameras for the express purpose of recording police interaction with said citizenry.

The move by the police to video stops has long been underway and is one that I endorse. This not only helps protect the officers, but also those they interact with. I think all patrol cars should be equipped with these systems.

In the same vein, I think citizens should be taping the actions of the police. Such tapes proved critical in bringing the rogue officers in the Rodney King incident to justice and I am sure there are many more cases where police malfeasance was caught by citizen with a video camera. Unfortunately, there have been a rash of incidents in places such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and elsewhere where police either threatened or arrested people for taping their actions.

Police exist for the sole purpose of protecting the rights of the citizens. They are not our overseers or masters. They are our servants and it is always good to keep them acutely aware of that distinction.