American Elephants


The Federal Bureaucracy Hard At Work by The Elephant's Child

It’s a new record for improper payments dished out by federal agencies — an all time high of $125 billion in questionable payments after years of declines.

There were tax credits for families that didn’t qualify for tax credits, unemployment benefits for people who were employed, Medicare payments for treatments that might not have been necessary. This is  up by $19 billion over the previous year. The overpayments were spread across 22 federal agencies, though Medicare and Medicaid fraud and the Earned Income Tax Credit together accounted for more than $93 billion in improper payments.

I heard on the radio that we apparently have some of the world’s oldest people receiving Social Security benefits. Since they are apparently older than the oldest woman who was celebrated in the media at 117, it’s fairly safe to assume that they are illegal immigrants receiving benefits by stealing someone’s identity.



Today is National Freedom of Information Day by The Elephant's Child

9271_1280x800As the highlight of Sunshine Week, the White House celebrates by removing the federal regulation that subjects the Office of the Administration to FOIA requests. Actually many agencies within the federal government won’t respond to FOIA requests until they are successfully sued. ‘Others play the waiting game, the “we can’t find it” game, and the “fine, but it’ ll cost you” game, and now the Office of the Administration will play the “We don’t have to”game.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

The administration’s backlog of unanswered requests has grown to more than 200,000, growing by 55 percent just this last year. it also cut by 375 people the number of full time employees paid to look for the records requested. The Freedom of Information Law is heralded globally as a model for transparent government. Much celebrated, but  fitfully complied with. More than ever, it censored materials that it turned over, or fully denied access to them — in 250,581 cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union received a 15 page response to a request for information on the Justice Department’s policy of intercepting text messages on cellphones — every single page was blacked out from top to bottom.

Heavy redactions are a common government trick, and agencies are adept at exploiting any ambiguity in the law to prevent the release of requested records. The Washington Examiner has a list of some of the outrageous avoidance techniques that demonstrate just how far an agency will go. It’s not clear if they are actually trying to hide something or if they are just exercising what they believe to be their prerogatives, as important government agencies.

Remember the protective nature of bureaucracy and their reluctance to release anything that might reflect badly upon them. Transparency and truth-telling are dangerous steps. Who knows just how they might use that information? They might try to eliminate an agency, or cut its funding. Better to hunker down and stall.



How to Become Gluten Intolerant by The Elephant's Child

From the Ultra Spiritual Life, with JP Sears, A chuckle for today.



The Nature Of Bureaucracy Is To Grow. They Must Be Stopped. by The Elephant's Child

The EPA has awarded a grant of $15,000 to the University of Tulsa for devising a low-cost wireless device for monitoring the water usage of hotel guest room showers. The device is meant to fit most existing hotel shower fixtures and should wirelessly transmit data to a central hotel accounting system. The system will provide hotels with the ability to determine how much water  is used, and how to assist hotel guests in modifying their behavior to help conserve water.

The EPA is remarkably interested in modifying the behavior of the American people. Theoretically, their tasks were defined by the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, which Congress enacted but failed to clearly define, probably because they thought at the time — that it was simply common sense.

When doing their job and making law, Congress needs to keep in mind the nature of bureaucracy. Bureaucrats are well paid (presently much better than their equals in the private sector) and they want that to continue. To make it continue they must use up their budget in the current fiscal year so they can request more for the next fiscal year. They also need to show what important things they are accomplishing with their current budget, and thereby what they could accomplish in the next fiscal year with more money. Accomplishing their assigned tasks is not enough — they must establish their importance and prestige.

Tyler W.Johannes PhD is an associate professor in the University of Tulsa’s School of Chemical Engineering told the Washington Free Beacon that researchers hope to see the technology adopted by all major hotels and used across the country.

They begin with an assumption that the average hotel shower lasts 8.2 minutes, and using 17.2 gallons of water per guest per shower. they want to get than down initially to 7 minutes. A link to Home Water Works recommends five-minute shower, and suggests using discarded cold water for watering plants. Actually they just recommend a Navy shower — ask any sailor of your acquaintance.

The EPA press office quickly realized that this was not going down well, and insisted that the EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower, it’s meant to provide the hotels with technology to do the monitoring, and the hotels can figure out how to encourage their guests to think of water conservation. And if they don’t… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. “This is part of a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) a student design competition for sustainability. The marketplace will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology.”

There’s a little disconnect here. Under the Al Gore rules of Climate Change, the melting glaciers and polar ice is supposed to result in rising waters that will flood the coastllines, and we’re supposed to have a water shortage? They could always work on desalinization plants.




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