Category ►►► Bureaucratic Bullroar
January 29, 2013
Not Very Sporting
The ushering in of the Second Age of Obama has already revealed some fascinating glimpses of our nation's future. Take, for instance, the decree just handed down by the Department of Ignorance -- er, Education -- mandating the "reasonable" accommodations that schools must now make to ensure that disabled students can participate in sports programs:
Under the latest rules, schools must tweak traditional programs to give qualified disabled students a shot at playing as long as they can do it without fundamentally changing the sport or giving anyone an advantage.
For instance, a visual aid instead of a starter pistol for the deaf runner would be easy to implement, while adding a fifth base to a baseball field to shorten running distances would be considered too big a change.
If alterations to a traditional team aren't feasible, schools must create a sports program that is open to disabled students, the order says. If there aren't enough students, schools should seek to create district-wide, regional or mixed-gender programs.
Let's forget for a moment that a federal agency making such a sweeping change on a whim that affects every public school in the country is antithetical to the concept of federalism. And let's put aside the notion that such a change, as well-intentioned as it is wrongheaded, should have to go through a legislative body rather than be forced upon citizens by bureaucratic fiat. Hell, let's even ignore how much the thing is gonna cost cash-strapped school districts that can barely afford the programs they already have.
The bottom line is this: the rule will just make schools drop sports programs entirely.
Think it won't happen? You only need to take a look at the havoc wreaked by Title IX (mentioned in the quoted article as the greatest thing since boxed wine). The story hails a huge surge in women's participation in college sports because of that law, but in reality Title IX has decimated overall participation in non-scholarship intramural sports. Colleges rightly decided that it was far easier to cancel those programs than go to the trouble and expense of making sure they were fully compliant with the law.
I'm sure that some schools will make good-faith efforts to make the accommodations mandated by the new regs, and for a little while it might even work. But the vagueness of the language leaves open the huge potential for abuse, and all it will take is one juicy lawsuit and the attendant media coverage that follows for schools to figure out it just ain't worth it. After all, what's "reasonable" is in the eye of the beholder -- at least as far as trial lawyers are concerned.
July 30, 2008
Midnight Plus Several Hours, Waiting to Get Home
Well, once more the California Highway Patrol has demonstrated its complete lack of interest in serving the humble motorist. As of Tuesday night State Hwy 76 near Valley Center where I work as a newspaper editor was closed again for interminable hours, as it always seems to be whenever a big rig crashes near the intersection of the highway and Rincon Ranch Road, which seems to happen a lot! That’s near the foot of Palomar Mountain, home of the famous observatory. It’s a road that sometimes winds like a sidewinder on mescaline.
Although traffic has increased dramatically on this rural highway in recent years due to the number of casinos that have sprung up, the state has yet to do anything to make the road more safe.
This night there was apparently a death, and a spill of fuel that required hours of cleanup by Haz-Mat.
So, like hundreds of other people, I'm waiting to get the word to be allowed to go home on the only way in or out that doesn't involve driving several hours out of the way. Finally, about 1:30 a.m. I call the CHP dispatch office and am told by a dispatcher that traffic is being allowed through one lane at a time. I drive from my office to the intersection of Valley Center Road and Hwy 76, where a bored looking, typically arrogant CHP officer tells me that no dispatcher ever told me that traffic was being allowed through. "I don't know who told you that, but it wasn't one of our dispatchers."
Strange, I tell him, but I'm pretty sure I dialed 1-858-637-3800. "I can understand your concern," he says, clearly not understanding my concern.
I return to my newspaper office and call the dispatch number and am told that well, the information was put up incorrectly and that they have to keep track of lots of information, sorry about that, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, I've driven about 15 miles out of my way based on their faulty information. With the price of gasoline the way it is these days, yeah, my cranial blood vessels are engorged with suppressed annoyance!
Oh well, par for the course when you're dealing with the CHP and CalTrans and other agencies who routinely shut down Hwy 76 and then don't bother to talk to each other, and don't give the slightest damn about residents who are inconvenienced by their total lack of communication.
Let me make it clear. I don't begrudge the CHP keeping a road closed to conduct a death investigation and to clean up a mess as long as necessary. What I do begrudge is the "public be damned" attitude of your typical CHP officer when dealing with the people who pay his salary.
I've seen this happen time and time again in San Diego County during the last year as a result of the wildfires and the resulting dangers posed by mudslides. The needs of residents who must use those roads to go to home and work are treated with a cavalier disregard bordering on contempt. It doesn't just happen to me.
It happens to hundreds of people almost every time there is an accident. This time it happened to me. Next time it'll happen to you -- and the attitude of the CHP will be, "We're overworked, so naturally we get our facts messed up sometimes. Get over it!"
February 22, 2007
Whack-a-Mole and Seal-a-Hole Redux
I already used this analogy before; but there's nothing wrong with it and no reason not to trot it out again for another spin around the park. So there.
Defeatists often portray the Iraq war as an elaborate game of Whack-a-Mole: we drive the terrorists (Sunni or Shiite) out of one spot; they pop up somewhere else. But in reality, we have been playing a different game for a long time now... and the president's new strategic change of course has just made that game a lot more likely to succeed.
I quote myself... and heavens, is there anything we of the chattering class like better?
If you see somebody playing a game where he keeps whacking plastic moles on the head with a mallet over and over again for hours, it would be easy to conclude he's playing Whack-a-Mole. In that game, the moles pop up again and again from the same holes; every time you whack one, it goes down, only to be resurrected moments later.
But when you look closer, you discovered that every time the player whacks a mole, the mallet stays stuck in the hole, permanently blocking it. The player grabs a new mallet and whacks the next one, sealing off another hole. You notice that the moles never come popping up through the sealed holes, only through the holes that are still open... and you also notice that there are a finite number of holes -- and the player is rapidly sealing them up.
This is a new game called Seal-a-Hole, and it has a very different dynamic from Whack-a-Mole: the normal game is one of futility; the game continues until the player gets tired and quits or he runs out of money. But Seal-a-Hole actually has a victory point: when all the holes are sealed, the game is over -- and the player, America, has won.
Even though Seal-a-Hole is not futile, it nevertheless requires a great deal of patience; there are many, many holes, and each hole has a mole who must be whacked. Some of the holes, such as Sadr City, are very big and will require many mallets to properly seal. But if we have the courage and fortitude of our American forebears, we will seal those holes... and we will win.
It's interesting to note that murders in Baghdad have dropped markedly, and attacks are drifting outwards, as Baghdad proper becomes a harder and harder target. StrategyPage notes that, despite all the hullaballoo about suicide car bombings, the actual murder rate in Baghdad has plummeted by more than 70% since the president's strategic change of course began. (Hat tip to the Victory Caucus):
Despite the jump in terrorist bombings in the last few days, the death toll in Baghdad, since the security operations began two weeks ago, has declined by over 70 percent.... American intelligence analysts have also used predictive software to analyze terrorist attacks and movements, and determined the best places to put the new checkpoints, and what to look for....
It will take several months before it is known who won the Battle of Baghdad. It's all a matter of crime rates. If the murder rate comes down, you've won. Actually, the murder rate has come down over the last year, but not enough to become news. Eliminating the suicide car bombings would be a real victory, as these operations are largely for the media. Militarily they mean much less than the gun battles between police and terrorist (Sunni or Shia) gangs, or the raids on terrorist safe houses. At this point, the Sunni Arabs are fighting a media war. On the ground, they have lost. But until the media confirms this, they can keep it up.
Remember -- we're only a couple of weeks into the plan, and we have only augmented our forces by a single brigade (with four more to enter March through May). Besides sending in more troops, we have:
- Changed the rules of engagement (ROEs);
- Redeployed our forces into a more aggressive posture;
- Buddied-up with both Iraqi Army and Iraqi National Police units;
- Ended "catch and release";
- And secured political backing from Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (authorization to go after Sunni and Shia with equal fervor).
We've already whacked a number of moles: we killed quite a few, captured others, and drove a lot of very big moles right out of the country (such as Muqtada Sadr, Iranian puppet, and his top lieutenants). Now we're busily sealing the holes.
Let's give the new strategy some time, for goodness' sake.
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