Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday, December 7 is...

President's Day (Ivory Coast)
Dia del Diablo (Guatemala)

Sorry, it's been a few days, I'm working a lot more than I'd planned lately, and you, noble reader, are the one who suffers. It's just the way things work.

A ton of belated reads for you today, though:

This story from yesterday's Register is worth a read purely for this quote:

"They were playing around with fireworks like a lot of the rest of us have done at one time or another," said Des Moines Police Detective Jack Kamerick. "They are all good kids. But if you're going to have a bottle rocket war it would be a lot better to do it outside. It would still be illegal but at least you wouldn't burn up a house."
House and Senate Democrats have picked their committee leaders. I remain cautiously optimistic: I think this year is a tremendous opportunity for a lot of good things to get done, but I'm hearing a lot of half-hearted "let's work slowly" talk. I don't think enough people realize what the voters will say in two years if we don't accomplish anything. And I don't think enough people remember that it may be 50 years before we get another opportunity like this one.

An open dislike for Michael Gartner is spreading into the community at large. We're closing in on two months since I called for him to resign. At the time, I was accused of "screaming fire in an empty movie theater." But today, the search for a new president at the U of I is completely halted, and he's still refusing to answer questions. Add "President of the Board of Regents" to the list of things I'm nominating Nick Johnson for.

Krusty has an interesting read up on the potential move to get the offices of the State Auditor and Secretary of State out of the Statehouse to make more room for other things. He seems to think it's a bad idea:

Do we really need to kick out an elected State Auditor and an elected Secretary of State to make room for staff? I think some staff people think a little bit to highly of themselves. The people of Iowa should be able to go to the State Kapitol and easily visit their state wide elected officials. Vaudt and Mauro should not be pushed out to make room for unelected staffers.
I think there's two points worth making here:

1) The Secretary of State's main office is already outside the capitol. He maintains an office in the statehouse, but he's rarely there. I've been in the office several times and I've never once actually seen him there.

2) It's not like these guys spend all day sitting on their front steps greeting constituents. If you walk through the Capitol, it's cool to be able to see the sign and point at the office for Secretary of State and Auditor, but it's unlikely at best that you'll be able to walk in and launch an impromptu meeting.

Citizen access is important, but I think the actual impact of having the Auditor and Secretary of State at the statehouse is overblown.

Bret Hayworth had an interesting conversation this week on the state and evolution of media. I think he makes an interesting point on the possible overpromotion of web content to a generation that's largely computer illiterate, but I think he misses a more important one: As much as the web has grown, it will only continue to grow as current generations get older and create a world where everyone uses it.

There's a new conservative blog out there: Cyclone Conservative. In their third post, they jumped right into the rumor mill and suggested, once again, that Ed Fallon is running for Congress. I refuted this months ago, and I attempted to refute it again this time, but they've pulled my comment. This is exactly what we need: More thin-skinned gossip mongers.

Finally, let's talk Hawk-I. Yesterday, the Register reported that the Hawk-I program misspent $6.7 million, $3.5 of which will have to be returned to the federal government. State 29 immediately jumped on this, calling it the reason state government can't be allowed to run health care. Chris Woods was quick to jump to the other extreme, blaming the marketplace and private contractors. Truth is, most of the blame should fall on one group:

State government: It's pretty apparent that the Department of Human Services hired private contractors to run Hawk-I and did a world-class job in failing to supervise them. There's no way around that. And when you're looking at a program as large as Hawk-I, that's unforgivable. When IWD was failing to supervise CIETC, the same thing was true. Heads rolled at IWD, and I'm confident heads will roll at DHS. Hopefully, the replacements at both posts will learn this lesson. But the question remains: how many times does this need to happen before we pass legislation keeping state organizations from outsourcing without responsibility?

This brings us to another problem, though:

Oversimplified politics: There's a simple reason the DHS outsources projects like this: they don't have the staff or capacity to do it themselves. And they can't compete with the private sector to hire and retain the kind of employees they would need to do it. But they also can't receive increased funding, because the right would label it as "wasteful government" and the people who voted for it would lose their seats.

So, because we've simplified the debate down to "less government, lower taxes" vs "big, expensive government," we're getting the government we paid for. Then we're paying for its mistakes.


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