Thursday, September 29, 2005

Demotivational Friday: Clueless


Inspired by the good people at Despair.com. This is a real picture from Reuters. The caption reads:

A colony of gentoo penguins rest in a minefield at Kidney Cove, at stretch of beach across the Falklands Islands' capital Stanley, September 9, 2005. Most of the 150 minefields were laid around the capital Stanley when Argentine forces landed there in April 1982 to claim the islands taken by the British in 1833. The British armed forces defeated the Argentines 10 weeks later in a brutal war that killed 650 Argentines and 250 British.
For some reason, I find penguins funny, and penguins waddling unwittingly into a minefield hilarious. I'm not quite happy with the Forrest Gump pseudo quote, but I couldn't think of anything better.

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Welcome Friends!

As you may have noticed, SomeGuyInDC is now a pseudo group blog. (Technically, I guess I should rename it SomePeopleSpreadAcrosstheNorthEastCorridor, but that doesn't have the same ring to it).

This is great for me, as my friends are smarter then I am and better writers. And each blog entry should now have the name of the proper author beneath it. And on the right hand side, you can now see little pictures to represent the authors.

Welcome Sneezy D, La Femme Nikita, and Qui Gonn Jesse!

If anyone else wants to join, please let me know. The more people join, the lazier I can be!

Li'l FEMA Rascals


Dateline: Edmond, Oklahoma, mid-November, 1950, Mrs. Perlmutter's fourth grade class.

Mrs. P: And just where is your book report, little Mikey Brown?
Brown: Book Report? We were supposed to do a book report?
Mrs. P: It was only assigned the first day of school, Mikey.
Brown: Uhh...I was completely unprepared for this, Missus Perlmutter!!
Mrs. P: Very well, you receive an F for the assignment.
Brown: Do I still get recess?
Mrs. P: Mmm... yes. (Groans from the classroom)
Brown: Both?
Mrs. P: Mmmm...
Brown: Oh, c'mon, pretty please?
Mrs. P: Oh, alright. (More groans)
Mrs. P: (recovering) but only if you help little Davey Paulison in his report on "What Thanksgiving Means to Me."
Brown: You got it, Missus Perlmutter!

(A week passes)

Mrs. P: Davey? Mikey? Where's my report?
Boys: Uh...We forgot, Missus Perlmutter.
Brown: Oh, and Missus Perlmutter? The copy of the book you gave me to write the report on had lots of ripped pages, and scribble scrabble all over it. The book was completely dys.. dys...
Mrs. P: Dysfunctional?
Brown: Yeah, yeah, that's it. I shouldn't have gotten an F, it's not my fault.

What next, people? Are Gov. Rick Perry, and Bill White and the other mayors of Texas about to fall under the accusing pointer finger of li'l Mikey Brown? This is just another case of the gov't. being nothing more than a No-Homerz Club just worried about what it can get for itself. FEMA's ENTIRE POINT OF EXISTENCE (yes, I had to yell) is to be the flagship in helping our American citizens when these things happen. And they DO happen. And in the year 2005, with all of this crazy technology available to us peons, and the absoludicrous amount more available if you're in the NHC, you mean to tell me they WEREN'T PREPARED?? Li'l Mikey Brown should go to bed without dessert forever, as far as I'm concerned. And no, that's not a veiled threat...just an allusion to the analogy I wrote above. He shouldn't be kicking back, getting paid to do nothing. He should be wondering how he's going to pay his mortgage. He should be sitting on a milk crate while Alfonso Ribeiro takes his couch away.

Just my pair of Copper Lincolns...



Madeja look! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Politics: Best Campaign Website Ever

Campaign websites are generally sterile, boring, rarely updated wastes of time. But this one is the most hilarious reading I've had in weeks.

From the "About Me" section...

I have what most would consider a "“checkered past" and have paid the price several times over. I am a convicted white-collar offender (ex-felon). In 1998, I spent fifteen months of a twenty-one month sentence at the minimum security Federal Prison Camp in North Las Vegas, Nevada for security and tax violations that occurred in 1992.

Being convicted does not necessarily mean being guilty but long ago I decided I couldn't win this battle so I "“productively" served my time. Looking back I can honestly say; "I believe this sentence was payback time for prior business practices that were not always above board." I believe some were due in part to my lack of knowledge of the law. This is a part of my life that I'm not proud of but it is a part of my past and believe me, I've learned a very costly lesson from it. To prevent others from making the same mistake, I intend to propose that basic law classes (both criminal and business) be taught in our public school system.

During that time I was a constant visitor to the law library and began to help other inmates with their legal issues.

...

I know if I'm elected to Congress my business experience along with my ups and downs of life will make a huge difference to the people of Nevada and the nation.

No doubt during this campaign both the press and other candidates will bring up my past, but I believe it's just that my past. The mistakes I made are of public record and I can't change them. Lucky for me my offense occurred in California, a state that automatically restores civil rights upon completion of one's sentence. For the last several years I've been both eligible to vote as well as run for any political office. If elected, I know full well I will be under close scrutiny and I welcome it. Thanks for your support!


Wow. Anytime you need to use quotation marks around words like "checkered past" "productively" you really shouldn't run for office.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Life Imitates Art: The way we treat the elderly


Some Guy in DC and I (La Femme Nikita) were talking last night about the absoludicrousness of some of the budget cuts Some Guy posted about yesterday, specifically that these cuts fleece the poor and elderly by raising their Medicare and Medicaid co-payments.


I'm not sure if y'all are pop-culture junkies, or if you remember a television show on in the early '90's called Dinosaurs? One of the episodes, called "Hurling Day," had the main character Earl all excited because his mother-in-law was turning 72, and on that 72nd birthday, all elderly people were thrown into the tar pit.

Then, there's Samuel Beckett's "Endgame", in which one of the two main characters' parents spend their time on stage in trash bins, eventually dying in the bins, and their deaths are barely noticed.

We can laugh at the absurdity of Beckett or the humor of Jim Henson's puppetry, but at the end of the day, are we treating our elderly any differently?

Government: The Revolving Door

As everyone knows by now, ousted FEMA Director Robert Brown is now serving as a consultant to FEMA. This is utterly disgusting.

But what's is truly disgusting is that it happens all the time.

Allow me to peel back the curtain and show you how the government currently works...


Most government functions are actually done by consultants. When Congress passes a law with money appropriated to it, that money and the responsibility for administering it gets assigned to a program office somewhere in the government. But once the program office gets the money, it is almost always handed out to private contractors in the form of grants or contracts.

The vast majority of civil servants don't actually carry out any government programs. They simply administer the private grants and contracts which carry out the government programs, supervise the consultants, and fulfill the many (many many) statistical and methodological reporting requirements to Congress, the White House, independent agencies, etc.

So it is equally common for the civil servants and executive branch appointees who manage them to leave government service in order to work as a consultant. In general, it's much more lucrative.

But, by law, there is a "cooling off period" of a least one year. This prevents you from turning around and using your contacts and influence within your former agency to garner contracts and grants, which by law must be fairly competed for by everyone in the private sector.

All of this can be found at the United States Office of Government Ethics (USOGE), Understanding the Revolving Door: How Ethics Rules Apply to Your Job Seeking and Post-Government Employment Activities:

If you have served as a “senior employee during your last year of Government service, you are restricted for one year from making any representational contacts to your former agency on any matter, regardless of whether the matter involves parties.

The key words here are "representational contacts" which is legal speak for talking to or representing anyone other then yourself or the United States.

But for years now, the Bush administration has skirted the ethics rules. Virtually every senior official I've met or worked with or read comes back as a consultant to the agency that they headed, usually within days or weeks of their leaving government.

Here's how - rather then leaving to work for private industry - they leave, and as a private citizen, get hired by their former agency to offer "expert advice." They are barred from "representational contacts" - so they can't contract or subcontract out for the government - they can't actually carry out any program. They collect a large paycheck off of the public rolls for doing virtually nothing. Sometimes, they attend meetings or write a paper. That's it.

Why do senior Bush Administration officials do this? They do it because it ensures that when they leave, they also get a fat government paycheck for doing nothing. Previous administrations have done this as well, but in general they waited until their "cooling off period" was over, and were hired to do substantive work of some sort. But this is nothing but patronage, plain and simple.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Government: Operation Offset - a Detailed Analysis

The Republican Study Committee has a paper outlining their proposed budget cuts to pay for the Katrina relief efforts. I had to do an analysis of it for my job, and let me tell you, whoever compiled this is nuts.

Dubbed "Operation Offset," (seriously, I can't make stuff up that silly) it is estimated that the plan could save over $949 billion over 10 years.

They sort their proposed cuts by Title, which is an appropriations law thing which approximately 18 people in this country understand. This is an obvious attempt to obfuscate the true impact of the proposed cuts. So I re-sorted their cuts by category: Health Care, Anti-Poverty, Environmental Protection, Defense, etc. And low and behold, it turns out that the Republican Study Committee wants to cut billions of dollars from the poor and elderly and a token amount from Defense, Farm Subsidies, and Corporate Subsidies.

What follows is my chart, a brief analysis, and some commentary...


In millions of dollars - so add six zeroes to the end of each number.


As you can see, the proposed cuts come mostly out of Health Care, Anti-Poverty programs, Research, and Environmental Protection. Notable cuts include:
  • Eliminating Subsidized Loans to Graduate Students
  • Eliminate Fiscal Assistance to District of Columbia
  • Auditing the (poverty level) recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Increasing Medicaid Co-payments
  • Increase Medicare Premiums
  • Lower funding for the Global AIDS Initiative
  • Lower funding for the Peace Corps
  • Lower funding for Amtrak
  • Eliminate funding for next generation high-speed rail service
  • Eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency
  • Eliminate the State grants for Drug-Free Schools
  • Eliminate public funding of Presidential elections
  • Eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS)
  • Paying immigrant wages for government contracting (Davis-Bacon Coverage)
  • Eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts
  • Lower funding for the Centers for Disease Control
  • Eliminate funding for various forms of renewable energy research
This list basically speaks for itself. Why do Republicans hate Big Bird (PBS), seniors (Medicaid), working people (Davis-Bacon), and New Orleans (environmental cuts)?

90% of the cuts are scheduled to come in budget years 2-10. As every Congressman knows, spending cuts only occur if the program is eliminated or if the cut is for the next fiscal year. Five and ten year budget projections are worthless - unless the cut permanently alters a funding formula (which their proposals do in a few instances - such as screwing the poor and elderly by raising their health care costs).

And if you dig into the numbers, you'll notice that cuts to defense and government pork are relatively small and temporary compared to the permanent, institutional cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs, mass transit, environmental programs, etc.

The most insulting accounting chicanery is the "Delay the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill for one year," which is not a spending cut at all, but rather just one year delay in massive spending, which accounts for $30 billion worth of their proposed "cuts."

The plan is also entirely devoid of "revenue side" increases - i.e., delaying the President's tax cuts on the top income brackets, or on inherited estates, etc.

Having said that, the plan does have a few laudable cuts, such as skipping this year's automatic annual pay raise for Congressmen and Senators, and some minor cuts to corporate subsidies.

And the quote on the cover is amusing:

"Give us a quiet room, copies of the spending bills, a box of red pencils, and watch what happens."
-Constituent from New Mexico

I think that pretty much sums up the perspective of a lot of Americans. Government = Bad. Of course, the moment something needs to be done - a road, a hospital, a school, a disaster - well then, we should have been prepared for it years ago. Or if their job, community, or state is somehow helped by the program. Sigh.


Here's the my full break down by category, for the interested. Again, these are millions of dollars, so add six zeros to the end of each number.

Republican Study Committee - "Operation Offset" Cuts by Category






Description 2006 5-Yr. Savings 10-Yr. Savings
Health Care


Delay the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill for One year -$30,800 -$30,800 -$30,800
Reduce Medicaid Administrative Spending -$600 -$4,230 -$12,860
Increase Allowable Co-pays in Medicaid -$90 -$1,970 -$7,730
Block Grant Medicaid Acute Services -$2,300 -$44,000 -$225,000
Increase Medicare Part B Premium from 25% to 30% -$4,650 -$33,500 -$84,770
Restructure Medicare's Cost-Sharing Requirement -$4,750 -$34,230 -$87,460
Impose a Home Health Co-payment of 10% -$1,470 -$11,800 -$31,480
Eliminate Teen Funding Portion of Title X Family Planning -$95 -$511 -$1,322
End the Redistribution of Unused Federal Funds from SCHIP -$20 -$350 -$1,140
Eliminate Childless Adult Coverage in SCHIP n/a -$330 -$660
Eliminate Funding for Penile Implants Under Medicare n/a -$4 -$8
Level Funding for Community Health Centers -$100 -$538 -$1,392
Total Health Care Cuts -$44,875 -$162,263 -$484,622




Anti Poverty Programs


Eliminate State and Community Grants for Energy Conservation -$36 -$223 -$479
Drop Wealthy Communities from CDBG -$837 -$4,330 -$9,064
Convert Rural Community Advancement Program to State Revolving Funds -$12 -$194 -$4,517
Eliminate the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation -$116 -$600 -$1,257
Eliminate the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund -$52 -$270 -$566
Eliminate the Economic Development Administration -$201 -$1,081 -$2,797
Eliminate the Minority Business Development Agency -$30 -$161 -$417
Eliminate the Even Start Program -$114 -$592 -$1,238
Eliminate Funding for the National and Community Service Act -$560 -$3,000 -$6,480
Tie Rent Subsidies for One Person to Cost of Efficiency Apartments -$62 -$894 -$3,146
Eliminate School Lunches for Students Above 350% of Poverty -$125 -$3,150 -$6,690
Remove Ceiling for Collecting Overpayments from SSI -$70 -$425 -$920
Verify Income of Earned Income Tax Credit Participants -$8,500 -$42,500 -$85,000
Eliminate Rural Empowerment Zone Grant -$10 -$54 -$139
Eliminate the Denali Commission -$3 -$16 -$42
Eliminate Native Hawaiian Funding -$40 -$215 -$557
Impose a Fee on the GSEs Investment Portfolio -$1,624 -$8,762 -$19,885
Require GSEs to Register with the SEC and Pay Fees -$490 -$1,250 -$2,710
Raise the Threshold for Davis-Bacon Coverage -$200 -$1,025 -$2,130
Total Anti-Poverty Cuts -$13,082 -$68,742 -$148,034




Scientific Research


Cancel NASA's New Moon/Mars Initiative -$1,493 -$11,511 -$44,042
Eliminate the Science to Achieve Results Program -$90 -$472 -$1,007
Reduce Funding for the Centers for Disease Control -$1,797 -$9,668 -$25,006
Reduce Funding for the Agriculture Research Service -$62 -$334 -$863
Eliminate the Applied Research for Renewable Energy Sources Program -$314 -$1,959 -$4,202
Eliminate the Research Initiative for Future Agriculture Systems -$300 -$1,100 -$2,100
Eliminate the Advanced Technology Program -$139 -$721 -$1,523
Total Scientific Research Cuts -$4,195 -$25,765 -$78,743




Environmental Protection


Scale Back the Conservation Security Program -$58 -$2,216 -$6,676
Limit Future Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program -$14 -$1,910 -$5,285
Eliminate the National Parks Heritage Areas and Statutory Aid -$26 -$134 -$280
Eliminate Federal Grants for Wastewater Infrastructure -$950 -$9,899 -$23,332
Eliminate the Energy Star Program -$75 -$391 -$835
Eliminate the Essential Air Service -$103 -$525 -$1,075
Reduce Bureau of Land Management Construction -$6 -$32 -$83
Reduce Fish and Wildlife Construction -$26 -$140 -$362
Eliminate Funding for the Forest Service’s Economic Action Program -$10 -$54 -$139
Reduce Funds for the Water Quality Cooperative Agreement -$15 -$81 -$209
Reduce Funds for Forest Service Capital Improvements -$60 -$323 -$835
Reduce Funds for the NCRS Operations -$26 -$140 -$362
Reduce Funds for Waste Disposal Grants -$116 -$624 -$1,614
Reduce DOE Environmental Management -$400 -$2,152 -$5,566
Level Funding DOE Departmental Administration Funding -$15 -$81 -$209
Eliminate the Clean Coal Technology Program -$50 -$259 -$543
Eliminate the FreedomCAR Program -$163 -$845 -$1,774
Eliminate the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative -$183 -$985 -$2,547
Total Environmental Protection Cuts -$2,296 -$20,791 -$51,726




Transportation


Repeal the Highway Earmarks in TEA-LU -$25,000 -$25,000 -$25,000
Eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission -$39 -$210 -$543
Reduce Funding for the Airport Improvement Program -$600 -$3,228 -$8,349
Level Funding for FAA Operations -$329 -$1,770 -$4,578
Total Transportation Cuts -$25,968 -$30,208 -$38,470




Foreign Aid


Eliminate US Subscriptions to the European Bank -$36 -$184 -$386
Reduce Economic Assistance to Egypt -$12 -$400 -$1,200
Eliminate Millennium Challenge Accounts -$1,750 -$9,415 -$24,352
Level Funding for Peacekeeping Operations -$93 -$500 -$1,294
Eliminate International Fund for Ireland -$14 -$75 -$195
Level Funding for Global AIDS Initiative -$546 -$2,938 -$7,598
Level Funding for Inter-American Foundation -$2 -$11 -$28
Level Funding for the African Development Foundation -$2 -$11 -$28
Level Funding for the Peace Corps -$8 -$43 -$111
Reduce USAID Operating Expenses -$57 -$307 -$793
Level Funding for the International Development Assoc. -$107 -$576 -$1,489
Level Funding for Asian Development Bank -$16 -$86 -$223
Eliminate Attaché Positions in the Foreign Agricultural Service -$46 -$247 -$640
Total Foreign Aid Cuts -$2,689 -$14,793 -$38,337




Education


Eliminate Subsidized Loans to Graduate Students -$840 -$4,170 -$8,555
Eliminate the National Science Foundation Math and Science Program -$188 -$973 -$2,036
Eliminate the Administration Fees to Schools -$144 -$744 -$1,557
Eliminate the Leveraging Educational Assistance Program -$67 -$345 -$722
Eliminate Federal Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -$400 -$2,152 -$5,566
Eliminate Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts -$126 -$678 -$1,753
Eliminate Funding for National Endowment for Humanities -$143 -$769 -$1,990
Reduce Funds for Bureau of Indian Affairs School Construction -$36 -$194 -$501
Reduce Funds for Cooperative State Research and Education -$110 -$592 -$1,531
Reduce Funding for Department of Education Administration -$6 -$28 -$57
Total Education Cuts -$2,060 -$10,645 -$24,268




Civil Service & Military Personell


Base New Federal Retiree Health on Length of Service -$130 -$1,560 -$6,330
Update the Formula Used for Federal Pension -$50 -$1,305 -$5,170
Charge Federal Employees for Parking -$140 -$720 -$1,540
Eliminate Legal Services Corporation -$331 -$1,781 -$4,606
United States Postal Service Foregone -$43 -$231 -$598
Close the Domestic Dependent School System $18 -$126 -$788
Introduce HSAs as a TRICARE Option -$20 -$807 -$2,367
Total Civil Service & Military Personell Cuts -$696 -$6,530 -$21,399




Mass Transportation


Reduce Federal Subsidies for Amtrak -$250 -$1,250 -$2,500
Eliminate the Next Generation of High-Speed Rail -$20 -$105 -$220
Eliminate the New Starts Transit Program -$1,204 -$6,055 -$12,200
Total Mass Transportation Cuts -$1,474 -$7,410 -$14,920




Government Administration


Eliminate Fiscal Assistance to District of Columbia -$154 -$800 -$1,675
Require IRS to Deposit Fees Collected by Treasury -$91 -$473 -$989
Eliminate Presidential Election Campaign Fund -$55 -$275 -$550
Decline Member Pay Raise -$2 -$9 -$24
Level Funding for Treasury Departmental Offices -$31 -$167 -$432
Level Funding for the Federal Building Fund -$552 -$2,970 -$7,681
Level Funding for OMB -$9 -$48 -$125
Level Funding for GSA -$108 -$581 -$1,500
Eliminate Money-Losing Timber Sales -$130 -$710 -$1,550
Total Government Administration Cuts -$1,132 -$6,033 -$14,526




Corporate Subsidies


Eliminate the Export-Import Bank and OPIC -$84 -$616 -$1,507
Limit the Repayment Period of Export Credit Guarantees -$147 -$735 -$1,470
Eliminate the ITA's Trade Promotion Activates -$401 -$2,125 -$4,579
Eliminate the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnerships -$110 -$573 -$1,210
Repeal the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act -$1,300 -$3,000 -$4,500
Eliminate the Market Access Program -$3 -$231 -$531
Eliminate the Export Enhancement Program -$28 -$151 -$390
Total Corporate Subsidy Cuts -$2,073 -$7,431 -$14,187




Anti-Drug


Level Funding for Andean Counter-Drug Initiative -$9 -$48 -$125
Eliminate State Grants for Safe and Drug-Free Schools -$444 -$2,298 -$4,810
Eliminate the Federal Anti-Drug Advertising -$122 -$631 -$1,320
Eliminate High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program -$227 -$1,221 -$3,159
Total Anti-Drug Cuts -$802 -$4,198 -$9,414




Defense


Speed the Sale of Old and Excess Naval Vessels -$23 -$178 -$444
Consolidate the Military Exchanges -$76 -$796 -$1,882
Reduce DOD Administrative Accounts -$10 -$50 -$100
Restrict First-Responder Grants to At-Risk Communities -$630 -$3,260 -$6,826
Total Defense Cuts -$739 -$4,284 -$9,252




Farm Subsidies


Reduce Farm Payment Acreage by 1% -$31 -$452 -$941
Eliminate Payments to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers -$6 -$32 -$83
Eliminate Citrus Canker Compensation -$10 -$54 -$139
Level Funding for Agriculture Building and Facilities -$20 -$108 -$278
Eliminate the Foreign Market Development Program -$24 -$160 -$335
Total Farm Subsidies Cuts -$91 -$806 -$1,776




Total Proposed Spending Cuts -$102,172 -$369,899 -$949,674



I had to make some judgment calls categorizing a few of the proposed cuts. But I think that the main thrust of the document is clear.

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