Adventures in Bureaucracy
Thursday, July 26, 2007
DHS turnover isn't very high any more -- provided you don't count TSA as part of DHS, that is. Apparently part of it is due to the huge increase in bringing on interns, who may eventually move into management positions. I don't know how I should feel about that. Sure, in three years I may be working for a 27 year old, but at least that person will have spent SOME time learning the ropes.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The news seems totally surreal to me. The election is still more than fifteen months away, so why is this all front-page news? Can't all these Senators actually get back to doing the jobs they're supposed to be doing instead of campaigning the whole year? On second thought, when I look at what the Senators actually DO when they're in session, maybe it's better that so many of them are away.

Television news is even more dismal, and I try to stay away from it as much as possible. No, I much prefer radio, and these have been interesting times for radio in the Washington area. OK, that may be an overstatement, but there have been some changes that I have noticed. Smooth Jazz has a new morning show, and so far I haven't taken to it. They haven't been able to program the morning slot since they stuck Marcus Johnson in with Jackie Allen, and it's been uncomfortable ever since. Not that I'll actually go to the trouble of finding a new station. Elliott may be fine for the drive into work, but that's not what I want to wake up to every morning. My nerves are in bad enough shape as it is.

But there is good news. WJFK has finally programmed something good in the slot after Don and Mike. It's been one train wreck after another since Ron and Fez left, with some awful show about relationships for the last several months, but the Big O and Dukes have promise, even if they do look like they're about sixteen years old.

They're afternoon people though. My favorite morning person is without a doubt traffic reporter Lisa Baden. She may be the only reason I turn on Channel 7 in the morning, because Good Morning America has gotten pretty bad. Some unkind person has written that she's like nails on a chalkboard, but I think she's a rarity in the current broadcasting world -- someone with her own individual personality. Image any other traffic reporter doing this:

My favorite Lisa Baden moment was when she described the current traffic situation as crazy, then proceeded to sing the song, a la Patsy Cline.

And speaking of Channel 7 in the morning, who keeps finding this site by searching for "Adam Caskey"? I don't know why I keep getting these references in the referral log. It's not to the level of "Jan Hooks and Bette Davis", which I think has been the number one draw to this site, or "Visa Waiver" or "songs about bureaucracy", but it's persisent. Whoever you are, you'll probably want to fast forward to 2:22 in the clip.
There really is a weblog for everything. Here's Northern Virginia Housing Bubble Fallout, which amuses me somewhat less than that last post. However, as a renter, I can look at the site with a clinical sense of dispassion and marvel at the big deflation of the outer suburbs. It also looks like a lot of the properties are being put on the market within two years of the last sale, which either means that the Washington area has an exceptionally mobile population, or that a lot of people got caught standing up when the music stopped.
Some things just make me laugh. Like the following:

Some people say that Beyonce is one of the greatest female performers ever, and let me tell you, this video makes it hard to argue. Especially the part when she goes wig first down the stairs but gets right back up and starts lip-syncing again. That really reminded me of a young Tina Turner.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I just heard a radio commercial for "The Phantom of the Opera", now playing at the Kennedy Center. Every time I hear the commercial, I think of Homer Simpson: "Ooh, I am the gayest super villain ever! Beware my scented candles!" Andrew Lloyd Webber and I just don't mix.
Monday, July 09, 2007
"Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy". (via, via)

Or as I call it, business as usual. Except for the torture and prisons and stuff.
More passport news, and this is kind of embarassing.

Point: U.S. passport application backlog will not abate any time soon, with a turnaround time in excess of ten weeks.

Counterpoint: India promises a three-day turnaround for passport applications.

Why so long here? One reason: Guyanese man arraigned for passport fraud in New Hampshire.
And another: Former Celebrity Bodyguard Sentenced for Identity Theft.

For your complete edification, a brief round-up of international passport fraud news:
Five charged with manufacturing counterfeit passports in the United Kingdom. And they were caught with 1800 of them.
Two held for passport fraud in South Africa.
Identity theft case in New Zealand.
Indian fraud ring in UAE.
I had almost the same reaction:

Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis, a 24-hour, 7-continent concert series designed to "trigger a global movement to solve the climate crisis," took place on Saturday and boy was I inspired. Who better to tell me how I can save the planet by commuting to work on a donkey than a bunch of actors and musicians who arrived on private jets? Nobody, that's who. I could barely even wait to get home to throw my appliances out the window and start collecting rainwater after seeing Fergie sing a song about big girls not crying and Kanye West butcher The Police. Congratulations, Earth! Help is on the way!
Thursday, July 05, 2007
I will admit to a certain sense of schadenfreude when I read about the Department of State's passport issuance woes, since it's usually MY department that monopolizes all the bad press. Every time I talk to anyone from State I hear that the passport backlog is the single dominant fact of life over there -- mandatory overtime, work reassignments... and now this. Consul at Arms has some feedback, in the measured, even language of a professional diplomat. As opposed to the somewhat more direct and forceful and somewhat profane language I hear when I talk to the people I know off the record. It looks like they're even pulling in the trainees. On the plus side, it should do wonders for reinforcing the classroom study of the citizenship provisions of the INA.

However, this brings up an issue I've been wondering about for quite some time, but particularly during the time the Senate was considering new immigration legislation -- a topic that I scrupulously avoided mentioning here. I am happy the bill got scuppered, and mostly for pragmatic reasons, as there is no way on earth the Department of Homeland Security could possibly cope with an influx of twleve to twenty million new applications, with all the associated checks and clearances that would be necessary for each one. Does Congress ever consider the actual mechanics of changes in laws? The State Department's current problems stem directly from legislation to extend the passport requirement for U.S. citizens to include those coming home from within the Western Hemisphere. Now all those people who would go on a Caribbean cruise or a weekend getaway to Cancun or Toronto with their birth certificates and driver's licenses now require a passport for re-entry. And that's an awful lot of people.

In my experience, sweeping new legislation usually works the same way each and every time.

Step One: A bill with a clever acronym is enacted, requiring big changes to the status quo.

Step Two: The bureaucrats in the executive branch try to figure out exactly how to change procedures and regulations, and often try to figure out exactly what the intent of Congress was in the first place. This takes months if not years as all the ramifications and conflicts with other existing laws become clear.

Step Three: It turns out that the new changes are going to be very expensive, and agencies never have the resources to take care of the new responsibilities without dropping the old.

Step Four: Compromises are made, and nobody is happy with them.

Step Five: Congress opens an investigation to find out why its new legislation is not working out the way they planned.

Step Six: Eventually sweeping new legislation is proposed to fix the problems.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
There are advantages to living in the capital city of the Top Nation in the world -- the fireworks display on the Mall was absolutely spectacular. And to make it even better, I got on the first westbound Metro after the display before the hordes from the Mall started clogging up the system. Woo hoo!
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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