American Elephants


Great Moments in the Green Bureaucracy’s Regulatory Adventures. by The Elephant's Child
May 7, 2010, 7:30 am
Filed under: Environment, Humor, Junk Science, Law | Tags: , ,

Henry Payne recounted this delightful classic —  reprinted by the Mackinac Center —  in Planet Gore at National Review.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a hapless bureaucracy in Michigan’s capital city, with careful attention to the rules and regulations of  Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994.  Here is the DEQ letter to a private landowner reprinted in all its indignant, bureaucratic fury.

DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
LANSING MI 48909-7973
December 17, 1997
CERTIFIED

Mr. Ryan DeVries
2088 Dagget
Pierson, MI 49339

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.  You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity: Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department’s files show that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations.  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998.  Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division


The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s infamous regulatory war against beaver dams — the clueless, indignant bureaucrats had probably never seen a beaver.  They’re really kind of cute.  And they will never, never live this one down.



The Tyranny of Bureaucracy, or Death by a Thousand Threads. by The Elephant's Child

Conservatives praise the free market.  Liberals prefer big government, and many simply do not understand what the fuss is all about.

Alexis de Tocqueville explained it many years ago in his masterpiece Democracy in America. Tocqueville saw the transformation of a free society, not in melodramatic terms like a military coup, but as a slow, creeping death.  The power of the centralized government will gradually expand, meddling in the tiniest corners of our lives.  We will be immobilized, like Gulliver, by innumerable rules and regulations, hundreds of annoying little restrictions that become more and more binding until eventually we are paralyzed.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately.  It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will.  Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated…

Tocqueville describes the new tyranny as “an immense and tutelary power,” and its task is to watch over us all, and regulate every aspect of our lives.

It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.

We are to be seduced.  American democracy will end not with bludgeons, but with the emergence of a vast welfare state that manages all the details of our lives and corrupts our character.

The…sole condition required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it.  Thus the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced, as it were, to a single principle.

I came across a story, of all things, about a maker of bourbon.  A company went “green”, but not as demanded by the EPA.  Not forced by a mass of regulations and mandates devised by environmental  busybodies or by rules passed by Congress “for the children”.  Maker’s Mark was faced with the challenge of how to dispose of the spent grains from the distillery process.  They turned to a firm called Ecovation.  Do read the story of what they did with the thick slop that was once a refuse product.

Innovation?  The government will produce innovation.  They will create an agency, or perhaps a committee or a commission. They will appropriate funds, issue directions, establish rules, add  mandates, a schedule, and a vast chain of command, a hierarchy that must approve each step.  Something may be created, but it won’t be innovative or creative, for the impulse for innovation is stamped out by petty nitpicking, and bureaucracy is the home ground of petty nitpicking.  In a hierarchical organization the next one up on the ladder must approve, so that the one on the next rung will approve.  And so on, and so on.  It is how societies die.

That is what the fuss is all about.



Extraordinary Adventures in Bureaucracy. by The Elephant's Child
October 2, 2009, 1:15 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Law | Tags: , , ,

• The AP reported on a letter sent to Lisa Snyder, a suburban mom, by the Michigan Department of Human Services. She was warned to stop watching her neighbors’ children while they waited in the mornings for the school bus. Ms. Snyder was kind enough to do this as a favor for her friends who are working mothers.  Preliminary reports do not indicate whether the warning letter was backed by possible criminal penalties.

• Small-time entrepreneur and inventor Krister Evertson of Wasilla, Alaska was arrested at gunpoint by SWAT-clad FBI agents.  He was unaware that he had to put a federally mandated sticker on his otherwise lawful UPS package.

• A few years ago, Kay Leibrand, a 63 year-old grandmother was arrested by police at her home of 30 years in Palo Alto, California.  She had failed to meet some bureaucrat’s ruling on how high her hedges should be.

• Retiree George Norris, 66 years old, had his house ransacked by armed agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  His home-based business was cultivating, importing, and selling orchids.  He ended up serving two years in prison, finally getting free of federal supervision last December — at the age of 71, for what amounted to paperwork violations.

In July, a bipartisan hearing was held by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and ranking member Louie Gohmert (R-TX), where both Krister Evertson and George Norris’ wife Kathy testified.  Scott is Chairman of the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, so I suppose that’s it, though it seems a little excessive for a missing sticker and incorrect  paperwork.

What is clear is that poorly drafted legislation or overbroad laws can be used to turn ordinary Americans law-abiding lives into a police-state nightmare.   Lawmakers need to spend as much time eliminating bad laws and making sure that the new laws that they are drafting cannot be used so irresponsibly against innocent people.

Jennifer Granholm, Michigan’s Governor, has quickly called for amendments to the law that her Department of Human Services used to threaten Lisa Snyder for not having registered as a daycare with the state.

Thanks to “The Foundry” at the Heritage Foundation for this story.



More Tales From the Crypt, er, National Health Service. by The Elephant's Child

A search is on for the source of a maggot infestation in the operating theaters of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Aberdeen.  The discovery has caused the closure of three operating rooms, and postponement of procedures.

Two “decontamination cleans” have been carried out, and surgical procedures are scheduled to go ahead on Monday and Tuesday.

The general manager of child health services, said: (bureaucratic language alert!) “I can reassure parents that at no time were any children at risk of coming into contact with the maggots.”…

“Clearly infestation of this kind is very unpleasant, and our advisers will continue to try throughout the day to identify the source.  I am satisfied this is not a reflection on staff or standards of cleanliness in the hospital.”

Yes, this is a scare story  from the United Kingdom.  But in spite of the theater of Mr. Obama’s Health Care town halls, he and his advisers are already talking about rationing.  Old people nearing their statistical life expectancy should not expect anything expensive.  There is  a reason why the “town halls” are filled with Obama supporters, the questions are submitted in advance, no dissent or criticism or unpleasant questions are allowed.

President Obama talks about saving money, better care, everyone insured, but this is nonsense, once again.  A major way to reduce costs is to bring some sanity to medical liability.  Doctors’ costs for liability insurance are astronomical.  The cost is high because of “pain and suffering” awards.  That is, if a doctor, for example, cuts off the wrong leg, ordinary damages should make the victim of malpractice whole.

“Pain and suffering” damages, which supposedly recompense you for your unhappy feelings, are where trial lawyers make their outrageous fees and where they earned their sleazy reputations. A limit on the amount of such awards might stop trial lawyers from “channeling dead children” to arouse sympathy.

Much of President Obama’s financial support comes from trial lawyers.  There will be no limits on trial lawyers.  Which is why Obama was booed at his American Medical Association speech.



Newspeak: cultural cancer in the brave new world by The Elephant's Child
December 8, 2008, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Education, Freedom, History, Socialism | Tags: , , ,

From The Times in London:

Traditional subjects such as history, geography and religious studies will be removed from the primary school curriculum and merged into a “human, social and environmental” learning programme as part of a series of education reforms.

Under the plans, information technology classes would be given as much prominence as literacy and numeracy, and foreign languages would be taught in tandem with English.

The reforms are the most sweeping for 20 years and aim to slim down the curriculum so that younger children can be taught fewer subjects in greater depth.

Sir Jim Rose, author of the interim report to be published today said that the changes were aimed at producing a curriculum for the 21st century.

Why is it always “for the 21st century?” You can always tell that it is a really sappy program if they have to tell you that it is new and fresh by identifying as century appropriate.  And be sure to indoctrinate the kiddies in environmentalism, so they can turn in their parents if they don’t recycle.

Teachers get really bored teaching the same thing over and over. A new batch of little kids, and you have to start over teaching them their letters and beginning reading and beginning numeracy again.  Computers are more fun.

I suspect we were far better off back when we had teacher’s colleges that offered a two year course in how to teach elementary school children to read, write and cipher with a little beginning science, geography and history thrown in.

Schools are no longer teaching kids basic math because now the kids can do it on a calculator.  They are just poorly equipped to figure out the tip on a bill in a restaurant or make change if the power goes off or even add, subtract or multiply if they don’t have their calculator at hand.  Schools no longer teach cursive writing because kids will mostly use a keyboard.  But children cannot write a simple thank you note, as you have perhaps noticed.  When was the last time a sales clerk (excuse me, sales associate) counted your change back to you?

The 10,000 word Oxford Junior Dictionary published by Oxford University Press is intended for the use of UK schoolchildren, large numbers of whom are increasingly not English.  Words considered no longer useful for children have been removed, words related the Christmas like “carol, holly, ivy, mistletoe,” fantasy words such as “dwarf, elf, goblin” or words related to Christianity  such as “altar, bishop, chapel, minister, monastery, monk, nun, psalm, saint or devil,” and even such ordinary English animals like “piglet, magpie, starling, weasel or wren.”  They have been replaced with words like “blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, chatroom and celebrity.”  How very, very important that an English child should know the word “celebrity.”

Roger Kimball also discusses language today.

Last winter, Department of Homeland Security issued a document called “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations form American Muslims.”  While you ponder why the Department of Homeland Security is gathering recommendations about how to combat radical Islam from American Muslims, let me mention a few things this document recommends.

Because we are supposed to be “communicating with, not confronting,” Muslims, the document advises us not to “insult or confuse them with pejorative terms such as ‘Islamo-fascism’ which are considered offensive by many Muslims.”  The word “progress ” is OK, but — George Orwell where are you? — “the experts consulted” rejected the word “liberty” “because many around the world would discount the term as a buzzword for American hegemony.”

He goes on to say:

While emissaries from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security are making Herculean efforts not to do or say anything to “offend Muslims,” radical Muslims are busy extending the list of things they are offended by while also seeking new ways to  insinuate elements of Sharia law into the West — a mode of theocratic imposition that, far from being “fully compatible” with secular democracy, is something close to its antithesis.

Do read the whole thing, linked above.

It is time to reread George Orwell’s 1984 and familiarize yourself once again with “Newspeak”.   There is a disease abroad in our bureaucracies that seems to involve a worm in the brain.  Highly contagious apparently.



Hooray for the Irish! by The Elephant's Child

Let’s hear a cheer for the Irish! We dance an Irish jig! We thunder on our bohdran! The Treaty of Lisbon, which we have written about before, is intended to be a new constitution for the European Union. The Constitution was turned down earlier by the French and the Dutch. Well! EU Bureaucrats were offended, and to prevent a replay of such rejection, the bureaucrats turned the constitution into a treaty, so that no one would have to bother their little heads about anything so unnecessary as an actual vote. Subject governments quickly approved the “treaty” except for the Irish where the people were guaranteed a vote, by law. Today the Irish rejected the treaty.

This is an American view of something that is admittedly, none of my business. But, to an American mind, giving up your national sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy should at least be put to a vote.

The French minister for European affairs told LCI television that “The most important thing is that the ratification process must continue in the other countries and then we shall see with the Irish what type of legal arrangement could be found”. So there. Andrew Duff, British MEP said ” I think the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, will have to explain himself at the summit.” The New York Times quotes French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner saying: “It would be very, very troubling that we would not be able to count on the Irish who counted a lot on Europe’s money.”

The striking economic growth of Ireland’s economy was due, not to EU subsidies, but to radical tax cuts and deregulation which have boosted the Irish to genuine prosperity. That the Irish might not want to subject their economy to the vast corrupt bureaucracy of the EU. seems more a matter of common sense than rebellion.



Losing Your Freedom… a Little at a Time by The Elephant's Child

How much are you willing to allow the government to interfere in your life? To what extent are you willing to give up personal freedoms? We have already been told what kind of shower heads we may have, and what kind of toilets we shall have in our bathrooms. Soon, we will have to change from incandescent lightbulbs to the fluorescent kind. California is considering outlawing fireplaces. When is enough enough? When do you get out the pitchfork and march on city hall or your congressman’s office?

Today, the Japanese government institutes its compulsory “flab checks” for all workers over the age of 40. To stem Japan’s “soaring obesity,” the health ministry has mandated that all waistlines among its 56 million workers over age 40 be below ‘regulation size’ of 33.5 inches (for men). Any company failing to bring its employees’ weight under control — as well as the weights of their family members — will be fined up to 10% of its earnings by the government.

According to government officials as reported by the Independent, 27 million Japanese — that’s about half of all adult workers! — have health indices (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI) that don’t meet ideal numbers. They will be targeted for mandatory medical intervention. That means compulsory medication, because, as we know, health indices have been set so low that most adults with normal aging will fall on the wrong side.

You can imagine the array of weight loss gimmicks and health and fitness machines now being marketed. And “special undergarments” for Japanese businessmen (girdles) are now popular. [Read the whole thing.]

This is happening in a country with almost no fat people. We live in a country where both of the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination want to install government-controlled health care. If you find the idea of government-paid health care appealing (and please remember that the only money the government has, it gets from you) then, having given them control of the purse-strings, you have given them control of your health and your body. It might be wise to keep the Japanese in mind.

Certainly a part of this is the current “fad” of deep concern about obesity, in the media. When the buzz reaches a certain level, bureaucracies feel they must “do something”. And that, too, is a problem.

“A free society, if it is to remain free, requires citizens who take the risk of standing up to be counted, on the issues of the day.”

~Walter Wriston



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