July 31, 2009

Cash for Clunkers suspended

I love watching car crashes like this. Cash for clunkers suspended.

The government designed a program to get car sales moving, thinking it would last till November.

The Great American Public took one look at it and stormed the dealers, meaning that the entire four month budget has now gone in four days.

And, umm, these are the people who are going to deliver national health care?

July 31, 2009 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2009

Craig Fugate

Craig Fugate is Obama's choice for the head of FEMA. Fortunately Fugate seems actually to be capable of doing this job, has experience. For Craig Fugate was the head of Florida's emergency response system.

President Barack Obama is tapping a Republican appointee to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He's nominating Craig Fugate, who's been director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management since 2001. Fugate has been praised for steering the state through several devastating hurricanes.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano calls Fugate 1 of the most experienced emergey managers in the country. She says his work in Florida "serves as a model for other states."

I have to admit, it's not just that he's a Republican that interests (why in hell would the political affilianction of someone in a job like this matter?) but rather who appointed him?

In October 2001, Fugate was appointed the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management by Gov. Bush. After the events of 9/11, the division was tasked with the role of managing the Federal Homeland Security funding and developing Florida's Domestic Security Strategy with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The program has since been recognized as a model for other states.

In September 2003, the Florida Emergency Management Program became the first state emergency management program in the nation to receive full accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

Fugate led the response to some of the worst hurricanes in the Florida's history in 2004 and 2005, and he has helped the state cut response times to impacted communities during recent hurricanes.

He seems competent, certainly, but did you see that bit about who appointed him?

Fugate, who faces Senate confirmation once he is nominated, has been director of Florida's Division of Emergency Management since 2001, chosen by former Gov. Jeb Bush. He was retained by current Gov. Charlie Crist. Both governors are Republicans.

Before that, Fugate was the agency's assistant director for more than four years.

Fugate has been praised for helping guide Florida through several devastating hurricanes in the past decade. He was criticized in 2005 for not distributing enough ice, water and other supplies immediately after Hurricane Wilma. Fugate had warned residents before the storm that they should have enough supplies for three days after it passed, but many did not and that overstressed the system.

Napolitano called Fugate one of the most experienced emergency managers in the country.

"The work he's accomplished in Florida serves as a model for other states," Napolitano said in a statement. "He will be a tremendous asset to FEMA and it's employees."

Fugate's department was held up as a national model after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He said then that the state had been preparing extensively for the threat of terrorism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and had done exercises for several possibilities, including cruise missile attacks.

Did ya see it?

Yup, he was appointed by the last President's brother, Jeb Bush. Good to see that one of the family appoints on the basis of skill, no?

Yup:

U.S. President Barack Obama picked Craig Fugate, the top emergency response official in Florida, on Wednesday to head the federal agency that was widely panned for its response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Obama, who criticized the Bush administration's response to the hurricane disaster in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast during the presidential campaign, said his choice to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would keep such "failures" from happening again.

"From his experience as a first responder to his strong leadership as Florida's Emergency Manager, Craig has what it takes to help us improve our preparedness, response and recovery efforts," Obama said in a White House statement announcing his intent to nominate Fugate.

"I'm confident that Craig is the right person for the job and will ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated," he said in an apparent reference to the response to Katrina.

Former President George W. Bush was widely criticized for the government's slow emergency response to Katrina, which hastened a slide in his popularity and left a lasting stain on his legacy.

How remarkable, appointing bureaucrats because they're good at being bureaucrats. Tsk.

You think it might catch on?

March 4, 2009 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2008

FBI Wiretaps

The FBI Wiretap story has to be our favourite one of the week:

A telephone company cut off an FBI international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a U.S. government audit released on Thursday.
   

The Justice Department's inspector general faulted the FBI for poor handling of money used in undercover investigations, which it said made the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices.

   

It cited the case in which a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in terrorism and intelligence cases, was disrupted due to an overdue bill.

   

"Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence, including an instance where delivery of intercept information required by a ... FISA order was halted due to untimely payment," the audit said.

How are they supposed to catch criminals if they're so damn incompetent that they cannot even pay the phone bill on time?

January 13, 2008 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

Zoe Williams: Amnesty, Catholic Schools and Abortion

An interesting question. Given that Catholic schools are now being advised to limit their interaction with Amnesty International over abortion policy, should Catholic schools continue to be recipients of tax funds?

Are we really happy to sit back and pay for this?

That's the thing about taxation: you don't have to be happy about everything which is done with what is taken from you. You are subject to the tyranny of the majority: they all get to vote on what your money is spent on.

Given that Catholics are taxed to pay for the abortions that Ms. Williams so thoroughly approves of, yes, it seems only fair that Ms. Williams ends up paying taxes for things she does not approve of.

September 19, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Class Sizes

Something for everyone in this report from the OECD.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "While Britain has now achieved the average spent on education by industrialised countries there is much more to do.

Of course, a union leader is going to call for more spending...but OK, we're spending the OECD average.

Class sizes in Britain are among the highest in the developed world despite huge increases in education spending, an international study reported yesterday.

Despite the average level of spending, we've still got large class sizes. So one group of people can go off and point out that clearly, it's not how much money, but how it's spent. Perhaps too much of it is getting caught up in the bureaucracy, not enough actually reaching the front line (a favourite point of mine of course)?

Only six other countries - Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, Chile and Israel - have more children in primary school lessons, it was disclosed.

However, another point does arise. I've not heard that the schools in Israel or Japan, for example, are terribly bad, despite their having larger class sizes. Indeed, on things like literacy etc, I've heard that they're rather good. So class size, at the primary level, might not actually be a good indicator of a good or bad system.

But then the OECD, contrary to pupular belief, doesn't always pick up particularly good objective measures.  You might recall that in their survey of where was and where was not a tax haven, the UK was one and Monaco was not. By their, objective, measure.

September 19, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

Babysnatchers

Interesting.

A dramatic rise in the number of newborn babies seized by social workers for forced adoption has failed to reduce the murder rate among babies.

Despite the action by social services, intended to protect children at high risk, the number of deaths has actually grown.

Critics claimed that the figures showed that social workers were tearing apart innocent families, while failing to protect babies at the greatest risk.

They might actually have a point there:

In 1995, when 540 newborns were removed for adoption, there were 17 murders in which the victim was less than a year old. A decade later, in 2005/6, 1,400 were taken, yet the murder total rose to 24.

"Do something" is a very powerful political driving force. Do the right thing less so.

September 16, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 11, 2007

Luvvies and Artistes

Poor oppressed little things:

But the loss earlier this year of £152m over the next four years of lottery funding committed to the arts and heritage, coming on top of earlier losses, was a serious blow.
...
For this, adequate public funding is essential.


Arts Council England gets some £500 million a year of Treasury dosh. That's the ransom the luvvies and artistes insist upon to support the rest of the welfare state. If chavs are to have their tabs money then the dim younger sons and daughters of the upper middle classes should also have their dole.

Abolish the lot of it.

September 11, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Big Surprise

The architect of Gordon Brown's strategy for increasing the NHS's annual budget by £43bn over the past five years will today deliver a stinging criticism of the inadequate return the investment has yielded, the Guardian can reveal. Sir Derek Wanless, hand picked by Mr Brown to review the NHS in 2002, will say it is not yet on course to deliver the first-class healthcare system that was promised because the benefits of extra spending were eroded by poor productivity...

Bit of a surprise, eh? Pump money into a centralized system and what goes up is pay, not production. Could have used a little supply side reform perhaps, before all that money was pumped in? Even, perhaps, a little less supply side reform before all that money was pumped in? (Don't forget that reform of said supply side can make things worse as well as better.) For we had GP fundholding then, and we have something almost exactly the same now, just that for most of the decade inbetween we didn't have it. What we appear to have now is just about the same as the structure in 1997, just at a higher wage level.

Well done, top marks there to New Labour.

September 11, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

Wisdom Indeed

It's just a little odd to see it in The Observer:

State hand-outs are good for saving people from poverty and starvation; they have no proven record of saving people from themselves.

So let's design the welfare state to do what it can do, shall we? A simple flat payment to everyone to ensure that they not starve and do not suffer (absolute) poverty.

September 9, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Your Tax Money at Work

What an excellent idea:

All expectant mothers are to be given a one-off payment of around £120 that they will be encouraged to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables as a way of protecting their children from diseases and incurable conditions later in life.
...
The payment - the first by a government that is allied to a specific health target - would be given to women when they are seven months pregnant. It would be linked to them receiving professional health advice on how to maintain a proper balanced diet, and give up drinking and smoking.


Let's splash a few tens of millions, ooooh, say, £70 or £80 million in fact, on some eyecatching initiative that won't in fact do any damn good. The part of pregnancy where women need to be very careful about vitamins, booze and fags is during the time that the embryo is developing, not when it is developed and growing (might have the words wrong there but I mean while the nervous system is connecting etcetc, rather than simply getting bigger).

So, let's give them the money for such things in the 7 th month, when the embryo is pretty much fully developed and is in fact only growing in size. Excellent idea, don't you think?

I wonder if anyone else is as cynical as I am: the reason for not offering it earlier is that any earlier than 24 weeks and someone can take the money and then have an abortion. Or is that too, too cynical?

September 9, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack