Author: Andrew

I'm an officially minted writer and a new father, an amateur essayist, and a fairly dapper nerd.

Why Government Bureaucracies are Un-Fixable

Megan McArdle gets the nature of the problem, in a very sensible article on the VA.

  1. You can’t fire government bureaucrats – especially not en masse, so matter what you do, old patterns re-emerge.
  2. Every “reform” just adds a new set of directives and rules without trimming or significantly changing the old ones.

What that means in plain English is that when you put reforms in place, you can’t just rip out the stuff that’s not working and do something different. What you’re actually reforming is the process, and because many of the current elements of the process are functionally mandated by other government rules, or court rulings, or bits of legislation that your reform effort didn’t amend, you have to layer your reform on top of the system you wanted to reform, rather than in place of it. Many of your reforms simply stack another layer of bureaucracy on top of the bureaucracy that was already causing problems. This is a problem that CEOs don’t face, unless they’re in some heavily regulated business such as banking or oil refining.

Most important, it is easier to change some parts of the system than others, and much easier to give something than to take something away. So it was relatively easy for Barack Obama to tell the VA that they had to do more to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. It seems to have been very hard to change the claims process to make it move faster or to hire more staff to help things move more quickly. The result was an even bigger backlog — and, since the reforms commanded the staff to move more patients, more quickly, the temptation to “juke the stats” to make the waiting lists appear shorter than they were.

So, while fully intending to make the VA work better, the Administration made it even worse.  And to a certain extent, this isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s not a question of having people who care more or are smarter – this is how bureaucracy functions. George W. Bush made a serious effort to make the VA work better, too. It did not.

So if every good-faith effort to fix a bureaucratic system just makes the thing more complex and counterproductive (Hi, No Child Left Behind!), what is to be done?

bureaucracy-cartoon

Why I’m Not Talking About Elliot Rogers, and You Shouldn’t Be, Either.

So a guy decides that he’s not getting sex enough, and that he’s gonna kill some people, and that will show them all . . . something.

Read that again. Did you notice the part where it doesn’t make any sense? Like, any at all?

Let’s go with that.

Let’s not turn Rogers into the latest representative of our favored demonologies – mysogynist, beta male, child of divorce, closeted gay, gun culture, feminazis, what have you. A few sophistic flips will make him stand in for any or none of them. And everyone knows that. So unless you’re talking to someone who already belongs to your particular ideological tribe, your learned discourse is going to meet rolling eyes. So let’s just…not.

Let’s not assume any more about Rogers than he was a disturbed young man who decided, quite deliberately and with malice aforethought, to explode, and take as many with him as he could (four men and two women, as it turned out). Let’s not use him, and the pain he’s caused six families, as another excuse to shout at each other on the Internet.

Let’s just skip to the end, where we shrug our shoulders and recognize that whatever was going on in this young man’s mind was beyond our ability to help, and we forget about it. Because it was, and we’re going to. He was sick, and he killed six people. There is no why. There is no answer. Homo homini lupus est.

Jeff Goldstein is Still Awesome

I don’t go over to Protein Wisdom as often as I used to, because Homer was right: no one wants to listen to Cassandra. And Goldstein has been too often right these last several years to qualify as anything other than a prophet of our times.

But sometimes, dammit, it’s lovely to hear the truth so refreshingly conveyed:

All of which is a rather lengthy way of telling you, with all due respect, Senator Paul, that Mitch McConnell can go fuck himself sideways with a frozen swordfish — and if you feel the need to strap it on to make him feel less like he’s simply masturbating, that’s your call. But count me out.

Regards,

Jeff Goldstein

proteinwisdom.com (an erstwhile important blog whose “Purity” and refusal to give go-along “conservatives” a pass has led to a campaign of marginalization; which doesn’t make what it has to offer any less correct) – See more at: http://proteinwisdom.com/#sthash.pBeVrzKD.dpuf

And there you go.

Die, Leviathan, Die.

They Had a Dream | The Weekly Standard.

“It is actually harder to do some of these things in reality than we thought when we put it down on paper,” a book review in the Washington Post quoted a former Obama health care adviser as saying. This can stand as the last word for the great aspiration, and the people who held it. They wanted their chance, and they got it. They had it. They blew it. They’re done.

Read the whole thing.

Watch Jon Stewart Not Make Connections

First, the obligatory clickbait:

‘Motherf*cking Sh*t!’ Jon Stewart Goes on Furious Rant over VA Scandal.

Oh, Stewie is hot and bothered, and the jokes are teh funny! Elbows get thrown at Obama himself. Utter gobsmacked disbelief at how no matter how mad they get, the guys at the head of the government can’t get the VA to provide health care in anything like a timely manner.

All the while, expecting that ObamaCare is going to improve the healthcare for rest of us.

I look forward to his delightful rants when it doesn’t. They won’t accomplish anything, but they’ll make me feel superior to the old clown.

Which is about the best I can hope for at this point.

Neil deGrasse Tyson and the value of philosophy

Andrew:

Philosophy is the Mother of Science, in whose skirts the child hides when it’s scared…

Originally posted on Scientia Salon:

1-12-14-Neil-deGrasse-Tyson-inside-alternate-ftr by Massimo Pigliucci

It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse Tyson [1] has done it again: he has dismissed philosophy as a useless enterprise, and actually advised bright students to stay away from it. It is not the first time Neil has done this sort of thing, and he is far from being the only scientist to do so. But in his case the offense is particularly egregious, for two reasons: first, because he is a highly visible science communicator; second, because I told him not to, several times.

Let’s start with the latest episode, work our way back to a few others of the same kind (to establish that this is a pattern, not an unfortunate fluke), and then carefully tackle exactly where Neil and a number of his colleagues go wrong. But before any of that, let me try to halt the obvious objection to this entire essay…

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