The problem is Washington, D.C. — by guestblogger Sally Zelikovsky

[Note from Bookworm:  As of now, the video embed of Pete Stark you'll see in the post below has only 97 hits.  It should have a million hits.  Pete Stark is, and always has been, an exceptionally nasty piece of work.  However, Democratic acts in Washington make it clear that what he says is what they think.  Also, please note his disdain and dislike for the people he represents and for Americans in general.  And now, back to Sally....]

Do you doubt whether or not your representatives are listening to you?

Do you question their sincerity in doing their job?

Do you wonder if they truly understand what their responsibilities are in representing their districts in Washington DC?

Do you suspect that your representative has nothing but disdain for the average American citizen?

Do you hear rumors about representatives maligning and mocking their constituents, not taking them seriously and being woefully misinformed on the issues important to every day Americans, the guys and gals on Main Street?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then watch this representative in action and see for yourself, firsthand, what Washington DC thinks of you.

The problem is not Main Street or Wall Street.  It’s Pennsylvania Avenue and Capitol Hill!

[Bookworm here again:  For those of you who don't know who Sally Zelikovsky is, especially those of you who are Bay Area conservatives, please check out the Bay Area Patriots website, which is her baby -- and a lovely baby it is.]

Ageless principles from Ronald Reagan

This is Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “Time for Choosing” speech.  What’s fascinating about it is that, while some of the details are dated, the overarching principles are as fresh today as they were almost 50 years ago.  That’s because freedom is an ageless concept, and that’s what Ronald Reagan is articulating.  As we watch our Federal government increasingly erase our individual liberties, we should pay ever more attention to Ronald Reagan’s understanding of the relationship between a free American and his (or her) federal government:

Hank Johnson’s geography and the cost of private sector employment *UPDATED*

Yes, you’ve already seen this video of Rep. Hank Johnson from Georgia (Cynthia McKinney’s old district), but I’m going to show it again, if for no other reason than to appreciate the Admiral’s incredible polite restraint.  An officer and a gentleman, that’s for sure:

Many have noted that Rep. Johnson is ill, which may account, not just for this bizarre delusion, but for the myriad delusions that populate his brain:

I contacted Rep. Hank (D-Goin’ down for the third time) Johnson’s office and asked them if the good Representative had any other fears he wished to share. I was told that Rep. Johnson also fears:

-Future missions to the moon will cause Earth’s satellite to “go all crazy and spin out of orbit”

-Drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge will mean “heavy drilling equipment will cause the poles to shift and Kansas City will end up as the new North Pole”

-Excessive use of the office microwave will cause “the oxygen in the oven to interact with the atmosphere, making it overheat and burn away.”

You can laugh at his delusions or mourn the ravages of disease, but what you cannot avoid is that this guy is getting paid on the public dime and that he turned is mental energies, such as they are, to a yes vote on Obama Care.

In the private sector, Rep. Johnson would long since have been politely placed on early retirement, and someone competent would have replaced him.  In the wonderful world of politics, though, Johnson gets to waste people’s time (poor Admiral) and, worse, have an effect on America’s policy.

Remember, please, what a squeaker the health care vote was.  Had Johnson been in his right mind, perhaps (and yes, this is an extreme hypothetical given the district from which he comes) he might have put the brakes on the whole thing.  As it was, Pelosi probably took gross advantage of someone who is mentally dysfunctional.

Your government at work, people.

UPDATE:  Lissa suggests that the Ace of Spades content is satire.  She’s probably right (although the post went up on March 31, not on April 1).  The sad thing is I can’t quite tell.  Johnson’s original statement is so utterly insane, that anything else insane that is attributed to him has the gloss of reality.  Satire only works when there’s some bright line, no matter how slender, between reality and spoof.

UPDATE II:  Neo-neocon says that what we’re actually seeing is a long-running gag between two old friends.  If that is the case, I would suggest that in Congress, before television, in front of an audience that doesn’t get the joke, is a bad way to have fun.  My kids often try to defend an insult by saying “it was a joke.”  I’ve repeatedly told them it’s only a joke if the audience gets it.  On the other hand, considering that Neo’s own post came out on April 1 — well, where’s the reality in all of this?

Hall of mirrors, here I come!

UPDATE: Neo sent me an email confirming that she was making the joke, not Johnson.  I suspected that, but Johnson’s behavior was so over-the-top, and Willard’s response so exquisitely composed, I could almost be convinced that it was theater.  Also, Neo has a delicate touch and did a lovely job with her satire.

UPDATE III:  Assuming any truth in this report, Johnson himself makes no mention of a long-standing friendship and practical jokes.  Instead, he claims that he was building an elaborate metaphor.

Elaborate metaphor?  Elaborate hoax?  I don’t know but, again, it’s dangerous to make a joke if you’re in power and your audience isn’t in on the joke.

I contacted Rep. Hank (D-Goin’ down for the third time) Johnson’s office and asked them if the good Representative had any other fears he wished to share. I was told that Rep. Johnson also fears:

-Future missions to the moon will cause Earth’s satellite to “go all crazy and spin out of orbit”

-Drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge will mean “heavy drilling equipment will cause the poles to shift and Kansas City will end up as the new North Pole”

-Excessive use of the office microwave will cause “the oxygen in the oven to interact with the atmosphere, making it overheat and burn away.”

About the race questions on that census form

Country of origin strikes me as a reasonable question for a census, although it’s not constitutionally mandated.  (The Constitution just allows for a head count.)  Race questions are obviously simply to satisfy the grievance mongers in America.  So I pass on this advice from The Corner:

Sending a Message with the Census [Mark Krikorian]

John: I haven’t gotten my letter from the Census Bureau yet asking me to make sure I fill out the questionnaire. But when I do fill it out, I’ll use it to send a message.

Fully one-quarter of the space on this year’s form is taken up with questions of race and ethnicity, which are clearly illegitimate and none of the government’s business (despite the New York Times‘ assurances to the contrary on today’s editorial page). So until we succeed in building the needed wall of separation between race and state, I have a proposal. Question 9 on the census form asks “What is Person 1’s race?” (and so on, for other members of the household). My initial impulse was simply to misidentify my race so as to throw a monkey wrench into the statistics; I had fun doing this on the personal-information form my college required every semester, where I was a Puerto Rican Muslim one semester, and a Samoan Buddhist the next. But lying in this constitutionally mandated process is wrong. Really — don’t do it.

Instead, we should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — “Some other race” — and writing in “American.” It’s a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, “American” was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

So remember: Question 9 — “Some other race” — “American”. Pass it on.

Haircut — a parable

Got a brilliant email today:

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you, I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist was pleased and left the shop.

When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I cannot accept money from you , I’m doing community service this week.’ The cop was happy and left the shop.

The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Congressman came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, ‘I can not accept money from you. I’m doing community service this week.’ The Congressman was very happy and left the shop.

The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

Liberals laugh at business — even when they concede that it functions better than government

Last night, I went to hear Atul Gawande give a talk promoting his new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  The book’s premise is a simple one:  In an increasingly complex world, even experts benefit from a routine checklist that requires them to focus on the essentials necessary to their task.  The best checklists are not too detailed, and leave room for individual or team autonomy.  Gawande, a surgeon, came up with the idea when the World Health Organization asked him to investigate how to decrease unnecessary deaths associated with surgery.  After investigating similar complex situations (building tall buildings or airplanes), Gawande concluded that checklists that force people to remember what should be obvious (but nevertheless gets forgotten or overlooked), and that enable teams actually to function as teams, were the way to go.  Boeing was a huge inspiration for this.

I came away from the talk convinced that Gawande has a point (perhaps because I’m a checklist and outline person myself).  I was also impressed much less favorably by his devotion to the notion of government controlled health care (he’s all for the Frankenstein monstrosity wending its way through Congress).  Aside from my own prejudices, his manifest delight in the health care bill made no sense as he told anecdote after anecdote demonstrating that it’s the business sector, not the government, that is best able to adapt to his recommendations.  This became most clear when he talked about Hurricane Katrina.

Gawande noted that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA descended on New Orleans with the Checklists from Hell.  They were overly detailed, denied any personal responsibility, and prevented FEMA employees from adapting to the situation on the ground.  These government generated checklists, rather than heightening efficiency, rendered government employees ineffectual.

Gawande paused after this description.  Around me, all the people in this liberal, elite San Francisco audience nodded their heads wisely.  “That dumb Bush and his corrupt administration,” you could practically see them thinking.

By contrast, said Gawande, you could see the effective use of checklists from . . . long pause . . . “Wal-Mart, of all things.”  He paused for the obvious laugh line, and the audience obliged.  What a joke that the fascist Wal-Mart commercial dictatorship would function better than government.  Gawande clearly agreed, yet he went on to describe a Walmart behaving efficiently and humanely during the disaster.

Because its checklists weren’t rigid or overly long, Wal-Mart employees had a certain degree of latitude in the face of an enormous crisis.  Ultimately, Wal-Mart asked only that the managers check in with headquarters daily so that they could pool information and exchange ideas.  Within one day, while FEMA was still turning away supplies because they weren’t on a given employee’s checklist, Wal-Mart had arranged for free medicine to be handed out to be people who were dependent on their medicine (diabetics, for example). They were also providing essential supplies to FEMA, which was incapable of accessing its own resources.

What neither Gawande nor the audience seemed to comprehend was that this outcome wasn’t surprising, it was obvious.  Government is a bureaucratic entity ultimately responsible only for more government.  It is driven by fear, not by outcome.  The fear each employee has that he or she might get downgraded on the civil service list, the collective entity’s fear of a funding cut, its leadership’s fear that each member will fail to ascend in the government ranks, and so on.  It has no responsibility beyond its own bureaucratic survival.  If it goes through the motions, and sort of gets the job done, it will continue to exist.

Business, however, must be infinitely adaptable in the Darwinian world of the marketplace.  It cannot afford complacency or rigidity.  It cannot afford the risk of litigation for failure.  It can react with incredible speed, since management doesn’t have to go through a bureaucratic or legislative process in order to change a checklist or procedure.  If Gawande really believes in his lists, the last thing he’ll want is for them to be government controlled, because they will never improve.  Instead, they will stagnate in bureaucratic limbo, good enough, but never better.

Gawande’s talk left me more certain than ever that, while our health care system needs reform, handing the details over to the government is a sure recipe for a FEMA-level disaster.

A community beset by violent crime turns its energies to . . . stopping smoking

I live in Marin County, one of the most affluent counties in America.  It is an extremely well-managed community (although budget cuts might have their effect here too).  Crime is low, streets are clean and well-maintained, and lovely flower beds and hanging pots brighten public walkways.  Our libraries are well-stocked and well-staffed, our town offices pleasant to work with.  It is a prime place to live, that’s for sure.

Across the Bay from me is the City of Richmond, California.  Richmond has some major industry, since Chevron has a ginormous refinery there (ugly during the day, a bizarre fairyland, because of the lights, at night).  It also boasts a vast regional Social Security office, a Kaiser hospital, a cool model train museum in the charming historic Pt. Richmond district, some shopping centers, a BART station, and other stuff of ordinary life.  Sadly, Richmond also has one of the worst crime rates in California. It’s no surprise that, in Marin, crime stories in the news routinely report that the perpetrator wasn’t local, but came over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge for the easy pickings here.

Beset by troubles, the Richmond government is taking seriously its responsibility to . . . stamp out cigarette smoking.  Yes, one of the most violent cities is apparently directing significant energy and resources to ensuring that its citizens do not get one last cigarette before their gang banger executions:

Richmond, not usually associated with stellar air quality, won praise Tuesday for protecting its residents’ lungs by enacting some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the country.

“We have lots of challenges in this city, but we can also be at the forefront of change,” said Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. “We managed to pass some groundbreaking legislation and we’re very proud of this recognition.”

The American Lung Association lauded Richmond for turning the organization’s annual tobacco-control grade from an F to an A in just one year, due largely to a first-in-the-nation law the City Council passed in July that bans smoking in apartment buildings.

The city also barred pharmacies from selling cigarettes and banned smoking in parks and other public spaces.

[snip]

“What this says about Richmond and its leadership is extraordinary,” said Jane Warner, head of the American Lung Association’s California branch. “They took a bold move, expecting to get political backlash, but in reality they didn’t. It’s phenomenal.”

Richmond, home to one of the largest oil refineries in the country and numerous factories, has some of the worst air quality in the region, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Richmond has the region’s second-highest rate of sulfur dioxide, which is linked to lung cancer and respiratory problems. Only Crockett has a higher rate.

McLaughlin said the city’s authority over industrial emissions is limited, but tobacco legislation is relatively easy to enact. The smoking ban in apartments met almost no opposition.

I loathe cigarettes with unrivaled fervor, but I find it very disturbing that a citizenry that is beset by the worst types of violent crimes should be denied the right to smoke in their own homes.  I also find disturbing the fact that the City is manifestly directing a great deal of energy towards dealing with a problem that is, as much as anything, a personal choice, rather than a public crime.  I know I’ll hear about the children who are saved from a life smothered by Daddy’s and Mommy’s cigarette smoke, but I still think that it’s better if Mommy and Daddy aren’t gunned down.

Interestingly, practically-perfect-in-every-way Marin has failed the cigarette smoking test:

Measures taken by Marin’s cities and county government to curtail cigarette smoke have improved slightly but continue to fall short, according to a new report card from the American Lung Association.

The annual study gave five Marin cities failing grades, while four got D’s, two received C’s and Novato, which passed sweeping tobacco control legislation in 2008, garnered a B, one of only 11 jurisdictions statewide to do so. The marks were a slim improvement over the association’s 2008 report, in which seven of Marin’s cities received failing grades.

The report card based its grades on three categories: laws to encourage smoke-free air outside places like restaurants, movie theaters, and ATMs; regulations on smoking in multi-unit housing; and reduction in sales of tobacco products, particularly to minors, through the creation of local licensing of tobacco sales.

Perhaps our local Marin governments are just paying lip service to this whole ALA thing, since the fact is that there is little smoking in Marin.  I can go weeks without smelling cigarette smoke.   You see, in Marin, we have the strongest possible disincentive to smoke:  it’s socially unacceptable — and that is a very good reminder that societies can police themselves simply by setting acceptable standards of behavior without the need for government intervention.

The Wall Street Journal’s sober assessment of the fascist (yes, I mean it) EPA ruling

I can’t do better than to quote from the Wall Street Journal on the EPA ruling, which constitutes nothing more than an undemocratic takeover of all business activity and most government activity in this country:

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said yesterday that her ruling that greenhouses gases are dangerous pollutants would “cement 2009’s place in history” as the moment when the U.S. began “seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform.” She’s right that this is an historic decision, though not to her or the White House’s credit, and “seizing” is the right term. President Obama isn’t about to let a trifle like democratic consent impede his climate agenda.

With cap and trade blown apart in the Senate, the White House has chosen to impose taxes and regulation across the entire economy under clean-air laws that were written decades ago and were never meant to apply to carbon. With this doomsday machine activated, Mr. Obama hopes to accomplish what persuasion and debate among his own party manifestly cannot.

This reckless “endangerment finding” is a political ultimatum: The many Democrats wary of levelling huge new costs on their constituents must surrender, or else the EPA’s carbon police will inflict even worse consequences.

[snip]

For now, this decision moves into the courts, and years if not decades of litigation. Yet the decision really is historic: The White House has opened a Pandora’s box that will be difficult to close, that is breathtakingly undemocratic, and that the country, if not liberal politicians, will come to regret.

Obama overlooks the obvious when it comes to job creation

The jobs summit is at an end and Obama has given lip service to the private sector.  He doesn’t really mean it, though.  How can he, when he makes statements such as this one:

Mr. Obama said he would entertain “every demonstrably good idea” for creating jobs, but he cautioned that “our resources are limited.”

That is hogwash.  Our resources are not limited.  We have over 300 million resources.  They’re called Americans.  The limited, stultified, bureaucratized, unimaginative, slow-moving government shouldn’t (and, as a practical matter, can’t) be creating jobs.  Instead, the American people should be doing that.

This means that the abs0lute best way to maximize economic resources is to give more money and control back to the greatest resource America has — her own citizens.

This would be the same government that wants to take over the entire health care system

You know, whether you’re going for success or failure, think big.  Right now, the government’s failure rate at Medicare is pretty small potatoes, but think what it can do when it owns the whole system:

More than $98 billion in taxpayer dollars spent by government agencies was wasted, much of it on questionable claims for tax credits and Medicare benefits, representing an increase of $26 billion from the previous year.

In all, about 5 percent of spending in federal programs in fiscal year 2009 was improper, according to new details of a government financial report that were released Tuesday. Saying the overall error rate was similar in 2008, officials attributed the $26 billion jump to some changes in how to define improper spending as well as an increase in overall spending due to the recession.