Saturday Links

Saturday, May 19th, 2012
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26 Responses to “Saturday Links”

  1. #1 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    Maybe I’m missing something, but 1.8 million in overpayments over 14 years, for an office with a budget in the billions, amounts to something like 0.0001% of the DOE budget. The payments were cut off as soon as the error was discovered and the recipients are repaying $1 million of it. Compared with much of the private sector waste I’m familiar with, that sounds pretty darn cost-efficient to me.

  2. #2 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    RE: Chicago
    Ah CPD is already making friends. What can we expect from one of the most thuggish PD’s in the U.S.. Stay away from Chicago this week unless you want a peek at what a police state really looks like! The Chicago PD approach to dealing w/ protests is yet another reason why Chi Town may be the most statist city in the U.S.. But I guess we can’t put all the blame on da city. After all, the feds are in this up to their necks too.

    As a “downstater,” Chicago is kind of like a theme park to me. Nice to visit once in awhile, but I wouldn’t want to deal with it every day.

  3. #3 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    RE: Houston PD beatdown…
    “Blomberg told media after the verdict was rendered the incident had nothing to do with race, and that Holley was simply a “fleeing burglary suspect.”

    Well, former Officer Blomberg, is this the standard procedure for taking a burglary suspect into custody then? Are you Judge Dredd now? Apparently your Chief thinks you went overboard. But fear not, the union boyz will probably take care of you until you are able to get hired on to some small town PD that doesn’t give a fuck about the background of its new officers.

  4. #4 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    RE:Whiskey Lube…

    Huh huh, it says whiskey dick. Huh huh.

  5. #5 |  Radley Balko | 

    Compared with much of the private sector waste I’m familiar with, that sounds pretty darn cost-efficient to me.

    I love this argument. Every time some IG report uncovers some ridiculous story of waste or abuse, the response is to compare the amount wasted in that particular story to the overall agency budget. Or better yet, to the overall federal budget. As if that somehow excuses it. Or as if the waste uncovered in the instant story is the only waste ever uncovered at DoE or the federal government.

    The point is that in the private sector, there’s a strong incentive to limit waste in order to keep costs down, because you have competitors. There is no such incentive in the federal government. Hell, there usually isn’t even an incentive to avoid embarrassment, or the fear of losing your job. Note that the problem was first noticed in 1998, and nothing was done. Note that no one has been fired. Note that the four contractors who attempted to swipe nearly $2 million from taxpayers are still federal government contractors.. Note that even the IG’s report refuses to name them.

  6. #6 |  Radley Balko | 

    . . . and the recipients are repaying $1 million of it.

    This is also not quite right. Princeton University is paying back $1 million. Not the contractors who got the largesse.

  7. #7 |  tim | 

    The point is that in the private sector, there’s a strong incentive to limit waste in order to keep costs down, because you have competitors.

    All things being equal I agree with you but this is a facility for fusion and plasma research. Would it even have competitors? And would private organizations even be doing this type of research?

    Our company just recently uncovered payments to a vendor for a product we stopped using 5 years ago. No one got fired. Shit happens. I really don’t think this article is a prime example of government waste.

  8. #8 |  Doubleu | 

    Federal government recommends that prison staff convicted of sexual assault be terminated. Well, yeah. You would think.

    The union disagrees.

  9. #9 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Kris Hermes, of the National Lawyers Guild said: “There is absolutely no evidence of molotov cocktails or any other criminal activity going on at this building.”

    A tenant who agreed to host the out-of-town protesters says the police did seize his home-brew making equipment, including buckets, beer bottles and caps.
    —–

    I think I get it. Beer bottles, having alcohol, are improvised “cocktails”
    and therefore the bottles, caps and brew would be used as anti-NATO
    missiles.

  10. #10 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    The point is that in the private sector, there’s a strong incentive to limit waste in order to keep costs down, because you have competitors. There is no such incentive in the federal government.

    Are you talking theory or practice? Because certainly there are theoretical incentives against waste in government, most of which ultimately come down to elections (staff who are directly elected, staff who are appointed by others who are elected, staff who are supervised or audited by others who are elected or appointed, etc.).

    In practice, those incentives don’t always prevent waste or fraud, certainly. But theoretical private sectors incentives don’t always work in practice, either. How much is spent on bogus per diem travel expenses in the private sector? How many people who take advantage of such waste have been penalized or even named? How does that compare to federal or state government?

    Without having some sort of evidence for these questions I don’t think one can make a persuasive case that government is actually less efficient at any particular industry than the private sector.

  11. #11 |  jb | 

    At one time I was in the government and working in procurement. At the end of every fiscal year I was instructed to ensure spending was no less than the year’s allocated budget. I have never seen that practice outside of government.

  12. #12 |  jb | 

    That’s when a cop gets busted for harassing a photographer, when the photographer is another cop. But really, why wasn’t it that the cop with the camera wasn’t the cop suspended?

  13. #13 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Sleeping on the job is just about the lowest tier of offense possible for a police officer. If it isn’t, it damn well should be. There are often compelling reasons for a cop to pull over for a nap. For example, a few years ago a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy struck and killed a cyclist after falling asleep at the wheel. The amount of death and injury that can be prevented if cops admit that they aren’t immortal and pull over for a nap when they’re too tired to drive is huge. Keep in mind that cops are often assigned irregular shifts, which can wreak havoc on sleep patterns.

    The best thing to do is to train them to keep their radios audible when they nap so that they can be readily roused in the event of an emergency. Adrenaline can carry most people through the duration of a service call, but not through a routine shift if they’re at the point of collapse.

    Americans need to learn that pretending that fatigued driving isn’t dangerous doesn’t make it safe. Thousands of people get killed on our roads every year thanks to this attitude. Atavistic hubris has a way of getting people dead.

    This particular case in Connecticut is of a different sort. A hotheaded desk officer dealing with a bunch of wisecracking dipshit colleagues by brandishing his service weapon suggests that an agency has shitty hiring and command practices and a number of officers in need of decertification. This is, however, a very unusual case of sleeping on the job. Cops who are assigned shifts that they can’t complete without endangering themselves and others on account of fatigue need to be ready and willing to tell their colleagues and especially their commanders that they absolutely needed the sleep. We’ll all be safer once they do so.

  14. #14 |  derfel cadarn | 

    One might hope that any government worker at any level of government convicted of sexual assault or any other felony would be terminated.

  15. #15 |  Jack | 

    OT: Interesting story…

    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/valleyfever/2012/05/karl_jack_frost_says_jogger_in.php

    (BTW “Jack” in the story is no relation to me)

  16. #16 |  perlhaqr | 

    Andrew Roth: Not to mention that a sleeping cop is a cop who isn’t out beating on people or arresting them for bullshit.

  17. #17 |  perlhaqr | 

    Radley: http://www.pixiq.com/article/cop-who-beat-student-for-untucked-shirt-jailed-on-rape-charges

    Shot his ex-wife’s husband 24 times, got transferred to a new department, beat up a 15 year old for not tucking in his shirt, and now raped a woman after threatening her with a knife.

  18. #18 |  Jim Collins | 

    I’ve never seen any incentive to cut costs when I worked for the Federal Government. JB has it right, we were to spend everything in our budget and then try to get extra funding. If you didn’t to that, your budget was cut in the following year.

  19. #19 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    OK, the whisky lube story was wonderfully silly, but how could you pass up the one below it?

    “The Worst Liquor Flavors Of All Time”

    Peanut Butter and Jelly vodka. The mind boggles. Every time I see something like that (or bubblegum flavored schnapps) I remember a friend of mine who worked in a liquor store in College Park MD. They had a shelf unit near the door, right by the register, with every oddly flavored booze imaginable. He called it “Every really bad idea a Frat boy has even had, in one place.”

  20. #20 |  crzyb0b | 

    It wasn’t the DOE that made the overpayments, but PRIVATE CONTRACTOR’S who run the lab.

    As for the argument that the private sector has an incentive to limit waste and abuse, that is horsehockey. The private sector only has such an incentive if the cost of enforcement is less than the cost of of the fraud or waste. I worked for a major US corporation that had a policy of paying EVERY invoice received less than $250, WITHOUT verification of its accuracy. This was because it was cheaper to tolerate the limited fraud then to put the accounting resources into eliminating it. And I know that similar rules are common practice.

    My private and public sector experience has taught me that waste and fraud are much less prevelant in the public sector, because of the political pressure from bad stories has created a multilayered bureaucracy to audit everything The upshot is that the taxpayers money is wasted on excessive auditing and fraud detection, rather than having that expense balanced against a tolerable fraud/error rate. If walmart loses a million dollars on some screw up (and they do it all the time) it ISN”T news.

  21. #21 |  Personanongrata | 

    •Interesting article about the ecosystem of the U.S. Senate.

    The US senate has always been pond scum to me.

  22. #22 |  Personanongrata | 

    “We’re not going to talk about it. It’s an ongoing investigation,’’ said Police Supt. Garry McCarthy

    Secrecy is the way of the tyrant.

  23. #23 |  markm | 

    Why is Radley insulting archaic bacteria?

  24. #24 |  Steven | 

    “My private and public sector experience has taught me that waste and fraud are much less prevelant in the public sector, because of the political pressure from bad stories has created a multilayered bureaucracy to audit everything The upshot is that the taxpayers money is wasted on excessive auditing and fraud detection, rather than having that expense balanced against a tolerable fraud/error rate.”

    This is so true. The amount of bean counters at the DOE is just insane. Instead of doing good science/technical consultation/whatever the main incentive for the various agencies under the DOE umbrella is to not appear in bad news stories like the one linked to.

  25. #25 |  Johnny Clamboat | 

    “My private and public sector experience has taught me that waste and fraud are much less prevelant in the public sector, because of the political pressure from bad stories has created a multilayered bureaucracy to audit everything”

    Do the names Sarbannes and Oxley ring a bell? They should, if your private sector experience is anything beyond alleged.

  26. #26 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    I am in agreement with crzyb0b on this. I have worked in the private sector (mostly) for 30+ years, and despite all of the supposed incentives to avoid waste and unnecessary spending, there are all manner of bizarre boondoggles, duplicate projects, and ludicrous over-spending that I have encountered, especially in large corporations.
    The myth that private sector businesses are an oasis of efficiency compared to government is just that – a myth, especially when large businesses are involved. The most likely explanation for the continuation of this myth (apart from the obvious explanation that it fits the narrative of people who are reflexively anti-government) is that private sector corporations are more able to sweep a lot of the nonsense under the carpet. They don’t have to face the possibility of public visits to D.C. to be grilled by congresscritters, for example.
    The reality is that all large organizations eventually become sclerotic and inefficient, no matter who owns them or runs them.

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