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Archive for the ‘Political Correctness’ Category

This post could be entitled, “So many dumb bureaucrats, so little time,” but let’s have some fun and turn it into a contest. Which bone-headed decision by a local government best exemplifies mindless bureaucracy, politically correct nonsense, and government waste?

Contestant Number One is Sgt Brian Albert of the Baltimore County Natural Resources Police, who fined two men $90 each for the vicious, horrible, nasty crime of …(please don’t faint)… rescuing a deer. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. Two hardened criminals used an inflatable raft to free a helpless animal, but they flouted the law by not wearing life jackets. Since I already did a blog post about a man being fined for rescuing a wounded deer, I guess the moral of the story is that bureaucrats don’t like Bambi.

Contestant Number Two is the Metro Police in Washington, DC, which has decided to harass random travelers by searching their bags before they board the subway. This is akin to the TSA’s mindless bureaucracy – but even worse. There surely are nut-jobs who would like to blow up Americans, but they could do that on a bus, on a crowded street during rush hour, or any other place where a large number of people are gathered. Heck, they can drive a car into a crowd. Good intelligence by the CIA and FBI is the way to stop these crackpots, not empty security theater that makes life more difficult for law-abiding people.

Contestant Number Three is the St. Paul School District in Minnesota, which has turned all schools into “sweet-free zones.” This ban also applies to salty foods, however that is defined, and deals “a blow to booster clubs and parent organizations, too, which won’t be able to sell hot chocolate, doughnuts, candy bars and cookies at school events.” I actually agree with Michelle Obama that American kids are overweight, but I also know that government intervention isn’t going to solve the problem unless we want a police state that bans video games, TVs, computers, and the other technological developments that are responsible for sedentary kids.

Contestant Number Four is Battlefield High School, in Haymarket, VA, which disciplined 10 unrepentant gang members. What did these thugs do to warrant detention? Brace yourself and make sure no children are looking over your shoulders, because these hoodlums belong to a particularly nasty group called the Christmas Sweater Club and they got in trouble for handing out miniature candy canes. One school administrator (Mrs. Grinch?)  explained that “not everyone wants Christmas cheer,” thus turning Jay Leno’s parody into reality.

So who wins the prize? I’m not technologically advanced enough to include a poll with this question, so the only thing we can really conclude is that governments do dumb things. That’s true at the national level, the state level, and the local level.

I just wish I could write like Dave Barry. He had a hilarious column many years ago that was based on various examples of government stupidity. This post is more likely to make you cry rather than laugh, which is not good at this time of year. Nonetheless, feel free to comment if you think one of these stories stands out.

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Reason TV has a new video in their great Nanny-of-the-Month series. The winner is a San Francisco politician who pushed through legislation to ban restaurants like McDonald’s from including toys in happy meals.

Here’s a great idea: How about banning politicians from trying to tell us how to live our lives? Our Founding Fathers surely would agree, but I guess that’s asking too much in the modern era. But is it too much to ask that maybe politicians focus on real issues, such as undoing the mistakes they’ve already made?

If Supervisor Mar really cares about his city, he should be pushing legislation to reduce excessive pay, benefits, and pensions for bureaucrats. These are the policies that are pushing San Francisco closer to fiscal collapse with each passing day. When the city declares bankruptcy, I don’t think the average person will be overly concerned about whether McDonald’s is offering happy meals.

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Here’s a change of pace. Instead of doing separate blog posts on the following two stories, I’m curious to see which one generates the most irritation/anger/disgust from you readers. The first option comes from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which is appropriately upset that Government Motors…oops, I mean General Motors…is back in the business of lobbying and dishing out campaign contributions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with petitioning government and participating in the political process, but I don’t think individuals or companies should be doing it with money taken from me by a coercive government.

General Motors is 61%-owned by American taxpayers, who were less than thrilled when forced to buy GM by Presidents Bush and Obama. We can only imagine how GM’s unwilling owners will react now that the company is once again spending freely on lobbying and political campaigns. The Journal reports that the company has been particularly kind lately to Midwestern Democratic incumbents while shovelling out a total of $90,500 in campaign donations so far in the current election cycle. On the lobbying side, The Hill newspaper reports that GM has spent $7 million in the four quarters since exiting bankruptcy, retaining a who’s who of Washington hired guns. This may sound like the business model of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac all over again, but remember that the failed mortgage giants at least had to shut down most of their Beltway influence operation once they explicitly became wards of the state. GM has your money and now it apparently has the license to use it to lobby Congress and support its political friends. …There’s also the intriguing legal matter of the United Auto Workers union still lobbying Congress and supporting political campaigns even after becoming a partner with the government in the automobile business.

The second option embarrasses me greatly, because it is a sign of bureaucratic nonsense from my beloved University of Georgia. A student got in trouble for sending an email to the Parking Services division to gripe about the lack of scooter parking. The snot-nosed bureaucrat who received the email apparently got the vapors because of this sentence: “Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals? Can I expect you guys to get off your asses and put in a corral near there some point before I fucking graduate and/or the sun runs out of hydrogen?” This led to the student being subjected to real threats and potential disciplinary action. Fortunately, the great folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education came to the rescue and the craven bureaucrats at UGA backed down.

The University of Georgia (UGA) has withdrawn charges of “disorderly conduct” and “disruption” filed against a student after he sent a mocking e-mail to UGA Parking Services to complain about the lack of parking spaces for scooters on campus. Although Parking Services specifically asks students for both “negative & positive” comments on its performance, student Jacob Lovell spent nearly a month under the threat of punishment after submitting his e-mail. UGA backed down after Lovell came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“Jacob Lovell just wanted to park his scooter on campus, and when he found it a frustrating experience he sent a joking e-mail to the department that had asked for his feedback. But when it received his e-mail, he was threatened with punishment!” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Only on a college campus could a clearly flippant response to requests for complaints about parking on campus be turned into a judicial investigation for disorderly conduct.”

…On August 17, 2010, Lovell e-mailed Parking Services with his complaint about its service. His flippant and joking e-mail mused, “Did you guys just throw darts at a map to decide where to put scooter corrals?” and otherwise made fun of the department for what he perceived to be its poor job of providing parking for scooters.

Four hours later, Parking Services replied, “Your e-mail was sent to student judiciary.” On September 3, 2010, Associate Dean of Students Kimberly Ellis sent Lovell a letter charging him with two violations of UGA’s University Conduct Regulations, stating, “Specifically, it is alleged that Mr. Lovell engaged in disorderly conduct and disrupted parking services when he sent an email to them that was threatening.”

…The letter required Lovell to make a disciplinary appointment by September 13. Ellis informed Lovell that failure to do so would result in his record being “flagged,” rendering him unable to add, drop, or register for classes. Lovell complied with this requirement on September 13.

Meanwhile, on September 10, FIRE wrote UGA President Michael F. Adams, explaining that Lovell’s grievance was protected by the First Amendment. FIRE also repeated to President Adams that UGA maintains unconstitutional speech codes in addition to the regulations used against Lovell’s protected speech, and that administrators could be held personally liable by a court for the violation of students’ constitutional rights, as a federal judge in Georgia ruled recently.

On September 14, Ellis informed Lovell that she “did not find sufficient evidence to move forward” with the charges and that the matter was now “closed.”

So which story is more nauseating? In the grand scheme of things, the General Motors story is more meaningful because the company is stealing our money and then using our money to lobby for more handouts. Yet I can’t help but think the UGA story is very symbolic of arrogant and stupid bureaucracy. as many of us have experienced on our trips to a DMV or our efforts to get through security at airports. Every encounter creates the risk that a job-for-life bureaucrat may decide to make your life miserable.

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Jeff Jacoby analyzes the absurd tendency of local governments to coerce residents into costly – and inefficient – recycling programs. As a resident of Fairfascist…oops, I mean Fairfax…County in Virginia, I already am painfully aware of this bureaucratic impulse.

…[R]ecyclables will all go into 64-gallon “toters,’’ which will be emptied at curbside on trash day.

…Then I start reading the fine print. It turns out that when the town says it is “eliminating sorting,’’ what it means is that glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but not drinking glasses or window glass. It means plastic tubs are OK to toss in the toter, but plastic bags aren’t. It means that while cardboard boxes must be flattened, milk and juice cartons must not be flattened. Reams of office paper are fine, but not the wrappers they came in. Tinfoil should be crushed into balls of 2 inches or larger; tin cans shouldn’t be crushed at all. I don’t think the green police will haul me off in handcuffs if I try to recycle an ice cream carton or a pizza box, but the town has warned that “there will be fines’’ for residents whose “recycling protocols’’ don’t measure up to “basic community standards.’’

…To be fair, things could be worse. Clevelanders will soon have to use recycling carts equipped with radio-frequency ID chips, the Plain Dealer reported last month. These will enable the city to remotely monitor residents’ compliance with recycling regulations. “If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables. Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine.’’ In Britain, where a similar system is already in place, fines can reach as high as $1,500.

…Does any of this make sense? It certainly isn’t economically rational. Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal. In 2004, an analysis by New York’s Independent Budget Office concluded, according to the New York Times, that “it cost anywhere from $34 to $48 a ton more to recycle material, than to send it off to landfills or incinerators.’’

“There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’

But if recycling household trash makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, why does it have to be compulsory? Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.” Now whose idea of exciting is that?

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Imagine having your child suspended for two years because he took a toy gun to school. Sounds absurd, right? Well, it’s real life in Broward County, Florida.

Samuel Burgos has fond memories of his friends at school, but he only gets to see them in pictures now.

The 8-year-old boy hasn’t been in school for a year and will likely miss another year if the Broward County School Board has its way.

Burgos was suspended from school in November after a teacher found a toy gun in his backpack. But when the boy went to register to go back to Pembroke Pines Charter School, he was told he will be expelled for this school year, too, as part of the county’s zero tolerance weapons policy.

…School board officials said the rules are quite clear and that the toy gun constituted a weapon. A school board report on the incident mentions that Samuel showed the toy gun to another student and it was capable of firing projectiles.

That’s all it takes for it to be considered a weapon.

“This is in his backpack and it’s a toy. It’s not a real gun. It’s a toy,” said Magdiel Burgos, twirling a plastic gun.

The school board said they would admit Samuel into a correctional school for problem children who have been expelled located in Hallandale Beach.

…”I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”

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Having played sports all my life and having been involved in sporting events with my kids, I’m a big believer in practicing and teaching sportsmanship. Simply stated, you ease up on a team once you have a big lead. But sportsmanship, like other virtues, is not something that should be imposed – especially when the goal is to foster a false sense of self esteem. That’s why the new rules from a Canadian soccer league turning big victories into defaults are so absurd. Here’s a blurb from the National Post:

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default. …Kevin Cappon said…the league’s new rule will coddle sore losers. …Kevin’s father, Bruce Cappon, called the rule ludicrous. “I couldn’t find anywhere in the world, even in a communist country, where that rule is enforced,” he said. …“Everybody wants a close game, nobody wants blowouts, but we don’t want to go by those farcical rules that they come up with,” he said. “Heaven forbid when these kids get into the real world. They won’t be prepared to deal with the competition out there.” Paul Cholmsky, whose four- and six-year-old boys play in the league, said the intended goal of a default-lose rule might backfire in teaching life skills. “If there’s one team that’s consistenly dominant and one team that’s not, well, that’s life,” he said. …Mr. Cale said the league’s 12-person board of directors is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair. The new rule, suggested by “involved parents,” is a temporary measure that will be replaced by a pre-season skill assessment to make fair teams.
http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/06/01/win-a-soccer-game-by-more-than-five-points-and-you-lose-ottawa-league-says/  

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