Showing posts with label bureaucracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bureaucracy. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2012

The second-to-last refuge of scoundrels

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, "policy" is the last way station before you get there.

And "policy" is why ditwad administrators at a ditwad school district in Carrollton, Ohio, won't let a high-school senior "walk" with his classmates at graduation this year.

You see, Austin Fisher has 16 unexcused absences this year -- the limit is 14 if you want to go to prom or participate in the graduation ceremony at Carrollton High School. And it doesn't matter why you're inexcusably absent.

For example, missing school to care for your cancer-stricken mother. Your terminally ill cancer-stricken mother. When you're all she's got.

WJW television, Fox 8 in Cleveland, reports:
Let Fish Walk.

The phrase is taking over the small town of Carrollton, from car windows to signs at local businesses. It’s a grassroots effort for 17-year-old Carrollton High School senior Austin Fisher, who has made it clear that his role as ‘student’ comes second to his role as ‘son.’

“He’s been my hero, my rock,” says Fisher’s mother, Teresa, as tears stream down her face.

Teresa has been battling breast cancer for six years. Last year doctors told her it was stage four–terminal. Through months of chemo and radiation, she leaned on Austin.

But being his mom’s lifeline meant sacrificing school.

“I missed a lot of school for that. Running her to cancer treatments, staying home when she was in bed–it’s just me and her at the house,” Austin explains.

The varsity baseball player, who worked two jobs when his mom was too sick to work at all, racked up 16 unexcused absences. That is two more than the Carrollton school policy will allow for a student to attend prom or walk at graduation.

The news was devastating.

“Those are the moments you cherish,” Teresa says. “I said, Austin, hold your head up, don’t be negative about it. I said, they’ll look at this situation, they’ll come around.”

But Austin says a meeting with his principal proved otherwise.

“They can’t change it. They said guidelines are guidelines. It won’t be changed. I can’t walk,” Austin explains.
A COUPLE of millennia ago, longstanding policy dictated that a woman caught in adultery be stoned to death. Jesus Christ thought better of that, stopped "policy" in its tracks and told the woman to "go and sin no more."

Of course, we know where stuff like that got Him.

Policy dictated it. Just like policy in the Carrollton school district is coming down like a ton of bricks on a teenage kid who knows WWJD . . . and then does it. Some things never change in this life.

I have a new strategy for the seniors of Carrollton High School -- "If Fish doesn't walk, none of us do."

Sometimes, life requires that you put your mortarboard and tassel where your mouth is. And, in the process, bring down the full weight of an entire town of enraged parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles down upon the temple of the holier than thou.

UPDATE: You can't make twits smart or scoundrels virtuous -- at least not in a day -- but you can turn the heat up so much on your average bureaucracy that it cries "UNCLE!" as a matter of self-preservation.

Late developments in the story come from The Repository newspaper in Canton, Ohio:
Austin said that although his story exploded in the last three days, he has known since January that he wouldn’t be permitted to walk at the ceremony.

Upon finding out, he said he immediately went to Principal Dave Davis, as did his mother, but Davis told them, “Rules are rules.”

Petitions were circulated in January, but were confiscated, Austin said.

On Monday, as the story went viral, classmates wore “Let Fish Walk” T-shirts to school.

That afternoon, Austin and Teri met with Fogler and the two building principals, Davis and Jason Eddy, along with an attorney for the district.

Teri agreed to not talk with the media as part of the agreement.

According to Austin, the group discussed the negative publicity the school has received.

“I never intended that,” he said emphatically.

He said the administrators argued the number of absences for the first semester to be 17 days, not 16.

In the end, the decision was reversed.
WHEN YOU genuinely scare chickenshits, they rarely go quietly (or penitently) into that good night, but they do go. That's because while they generally don't much care about doing good, they do dread looking bad.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Usher us out, the whipped and the feckless

Beauty: Unhip, unhappening, un-now, un-Catholic?

The Catholic Church is under assault from the brownshirts of the Movement for Deracinated Sexuality and its Vichy government in Washington.

Our bishops decry the fiscal destruction of Catholic social services and health care by bureaucrats who insist, in the name of equality, that the church give its blessing to what it theologically and morally cannot. They fret that Catholics are being pressured not only to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but render what is God's, too.

We all talk about Jesus' command to "take up your cross and follow me," but we all hate it when our turn comes. They killed Him. On His account, they'll kill us, too, given the chance. On to Calvary.

But what really irks me is not that secularists resort to persecution in the name of liberty. That's their nature, like it is the nature of dogs to eat their own vomit.

No, what irks me is that my church -- through its sins and sins of omission -- has made it so damned easy for the devil. Half of those aggrieved bishops have been asleep at the switch, it seems; the other half have been tearing up the track, and now everyone is shocked,
shocked the train's come undone.

There's the lack of catechesis, which is a fancy way of saying we haven't passed the faith down to our young for the better part of half a century now. And, of course, there's the Catholic sex-abuse scandal.
That's a fancy way of saying Satan is running amok in the sanctuary.

THEN THERE'S the Catholic War on Beauty, waged mercilessly by the liturgical betters of the schmucks in the pews, since the first day in 1964 that somebody handed a guitar to a coffeehouse-washout folk singer and said "Go do Mass. And be relevant."

Being "relevant," of course, means "Ignore the accumulated wisdom and beauty of the ages, compiled through the blood, sweat, tears and prayers of the communion of saints." Sometime around 1964, I imagine, that prototypical anti-Dylan first decided "Kumbaya" would be really cool to sing at Mass.

It had to have been like letting the Ebola virus loose at a preschool. A mere couple of decades later, we had whole Masses written by Marty Haugen. My God, Harry Truman just dropped The Bomb on beauty.

On transcendence.

On our ability to . . . check that . . . on our
desire to look upon the face of God.

Looking upon our own deformed visages in sanctified self-worship is so much more satisfying to us now. Which explains the implicit arrogance of "Gather Us In."

But it's worse than that.

For instance, one has to wonder whether the Haugenification of the Catholic Church is manifestation or, to some degree, causation. It's the whole chicken-or-the-egg question: Did our abandonment of holiness and responsibility lead to the godlessness that spawns ugliness and banality, or did our utilitarian embrace of ugliness and banality in the name of "relevance" render us unable to see God?

How does one "see" God, after all, this side of heaven? One sees God in beauty . . . which we Catholics largely have abandoned in the name of utility. That and liturgical lounge lizards.

Maybe it's a moot question now. Maybe what we have here is a feedback loop of mundane wretchedness, both artistic and spiritual. Not to mention moral and behavioral, as in the case of The Scandals.

Whatever the case -- and this gets me back to where we began -- the church now is under attack from a hostile culture and government because we succeeded in losing the culture, something which never is won in the first place so much by argument as it is through aesthetics and witness. Beauty can bypass the brain and its defenses to conquer the soul, and American Catholicism thus has unilaterally disarmed.

And our culture now belongs to the barbarians.

On the bright side, though, martyrdom historically has been an effective witness, too. So there's always hope.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Culture shock, demonstrated

I guess word takes a while to reach Massachusetts.

This sometimes results in good-government consultants not having heard, and then in people being shocked. Which, given the reputation of New Orleans and Louisiana, is itself just a little bit shocking.

Anyway, this "turnaround consultant" came to the Crescent City to advise Mayor Mitch Landrieu on how to slide the city an inch or two toward the good side of the "government generally works, people generally care" continuum, and he didn't quite run screaming into the humid night . . . but it was pretty close there for a while.

Really, the guy hadn't seen anything like it. And it's not like he just fell off the proverbial turnip truck or something equally clichéd.

AFTER EVERYTHING had been studied, his recommendations drawn up and his report tendered to Landrieu -- and after he presumably had cried into a few stiff hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's -- David Osborne talked to the Times-Picayune:

Osborne, who has advised dozens of cities on streamlining efforts, said Thursday that New Orleans faces myriad, deep-seated problems, the likes of which he has never encountered.

"I was kind of shocked," said Osborne, who served as a senior adviser to then-Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review initiative. "I think they inherited the least competent city government I'd ever seen in this country and the most corrupt -- a really tough experience. I just haven't run into this level of dysfunction before, and I've been doing this work for almost 25 years."


Other observations about city operations included poor customer service, a focus on relationships rather than results, centralized authority that gives little power to rank-and-file employees, contracting and internal workforce systems that lack rewards and penalties, unnecessarily complex purchasing procedures, a fragmentation of city services among independent boards, and poor working conditions and equipment.

"These people, they feel hopeless," Osborne said of morale among city employees. "It's drinking from a fire hydrant. There's so much work coming at them, and they can't keep up with it, and a lot of it is paper rather than automated. And then there's skill issues: secretaries that can't type. I mean, stuff that you just don't see other places."

NO, you don't.

I have written about this. A lot.

Maybe it could have been fixed if the victorious Union hadn't bailed on Reconstruction after only a decade and a half or so. Nation building, after all, always is a long and messy process, and the Yankees didn't occupy the Gret Stet long enough to even make a dent in the cultural underpinnings of a whole heapin helpin' of dysfunction and non-American thinking.

So there you go. As we in the expatriate community like to say about Louisiana (and this goes double for New Orleans), it's a great place to be from.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A foundation of . . . sand

Oh, what a tangled web he weaves when Bobby Jindal first practices to deceive.

Here's a good one, from an op-ed piece the Louisiana governor had today
in The (Shreveport) Times:
When booms did begin to arrive, it was too little and too late in many areas, so we proposed a 24-segment sand berm plan to protect our shoreline by using the natural framework of our barrier islands to help block and trap oil for collection before it gets into our marshes. Even after we demonstrated the effectiveness of sand berms, it took us weeks to convince the Coast Guard to approve even six segments from this plan, and then longer for us to force BP to fund the work.

In what has now become a pattern, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife shut down our dredging operations on the northern Chandeleurs
[sic] Islands recently where we had already created 4,000 feet of land to protect our interior wetlands from oil impact, and indeed it has already worked to stop oil. A U.S. Department of Interior official said they were worried that our dredging operations would hurt a bird habitat nearby. The only problem with that is we were dredging in a permitted area in open water and there isn't a place for a bird to land for a mile.
IN THE PHOTO above, you can see all the earth-moving equipment several feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, atop one of the governor's "effective" sand berms.

The trouble with building sand berms in the middle of the ocean, however, is that the waves wash them away absent something to hold them together -- riprap, or grasses and other vegetation, for example. Obviously, nothing's holding these berms together.

ABOVE is one of the berms off the Chandeleur Islands on June 25. Next is that same berm July 2, photographed from a higher altitude.

AND THEN . . . last week. Even accounting for the possibility of a really high tide, that doesn't look like engineering success -- or an effective oil-spill barrier.

YOU UNDERSTAND the need to try even iffy propositions, given the urgency here and the consequences of doing absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, the chance of doing anything useful on the Louisiana coast is diminished by the Mexican standoff between the dithering, incompetent Obama Administration and the hyperventilating, mau-mauing (and clueless) tag team of Jindal and the perpetually apoplectic president of Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser.

I had wanted to think the best of folks like Nungesser and Jindal in this, even though I see Jindal as, alas, an even bigger disaster as governor than Kathleen Blanco. In short, I've been away from Louisiana long enough that my Spidey senses have atrophied some.

In other words, I f***ed up. I trusted that a collection of Louisiana politicians couldn't be that stupid or --
alternatively -- cynical.

READ for yourself what had to say Monday about what a boondoggle this is, a news item based on a retired professor's blog post. And reflect now that this crew is all about building giant rock jetties across an inlet by Grand Isle.
A dramatic series of of aerial images show that plans to build artificial islands to block oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill from reaching Louisiana's sensitive marshland appear to be crumbling. Literally.

Two months ago, against the advice of many coastal scientists, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal began furiously campaigning for the construction of six artificial islands to hold back the advancing oil. The federal government quickly granted Jindal his wish, and construction on the islands has been continuing apace.

But images taken of one construction site near the northern edge of the Chandeleur islands appear to show the sea washing away a giant sand berm over the course of about two weeks.

The first image . . . was taken on June 25. The second and third . . . were taken from roughly the same vantage point on July 2 and 7. All three images were first published yesterday by coastal scientist Leonard Bahr on his blog, LACoastPost.

Bahr, a former researcher at Louisiana State University, spent 18 years in the governor's office, advising five administrations on their coastal policy.

"There have been a number of plans over 20 years to save the coast," he said. "But after Katrina, it morphed into 'coastal protection,' which gives me pause."

The crucial difference is that within the Jindal administration, coastal policy has been cast as a war between man and the sea. Plans have been devised to build massive levees and other earthworks to defend the Mississippi River delta and its marshes from the Gulf of Mexico.


"Building what they call 'the Louisiana wall' makes sense at first, but the science doesn't support it," Bahr said. "The science should be leading this issue, but it isn't. It never has."

Unfortunately, the berms project has charged ahead in this vein, seeking to build (and spend hundreds of millions of dollars) first, and ask questions later.

LET ME say again: I was wrong. And CNN and Anderson Cooper are just as wrong -- probably more so -- for giving mau-mauers like Jindal and Nungesser a nightly pass to swamp unsuspecting viewers with pure propaganda when they no more know their ass from a hole in the ground than do Obama's nincompoop bureaucrats.

Then again, these Yankees can be forgiven, I suppose, for not knowing the score. I should have known better, that Louisianians -- particularly their elected officials -- have an almost limitless capacity for losing their s*** in a crisis. This almost always results in people running around, wild-eyed, saying crazy things and doing things even crazier.

Remember Ray Nagin's and police chief Eddie Compass' blood-curdling-yet-utterly-false reports about all the rapes and murders in the Superdome after Katrina? And the FBI is still cleaning up the aftermath of New Orleans cops killing innocent civilians in Algiers and on the Danziger Bridge.

God knows what fresh hell will come out of this one-two punch of federal deadheads and Louisiana pieces o' work.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The third hosing is the charm

First comes Katrina and a demonstration of just how well the feds build levees and floodwalls.

Then comes the unending bureaucratic nightmare involved in trying to rebuild what Uncle Sam destroyed.

And just when you think you see that light at the end of the tunnel . . . it turns out to be the 8:15 to Houston, it has a full head of steam, and the engineer is drunk at the throttle.

That's right boys and girls, the Road Home program bites Louisianians in the ass yet again, as reported here by The Associated Press:
Imagine that your home was reduced to mold-covered wood framing by Hurricane Katrina. Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government provided-trailer that gives off formaldehyde fumes you finally win a federal grant.

Then a collector announces that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.

For thousands of Katrina victims, this may be a reality.

A private contractor under investigation for the compensation it received to run the Road Home grant program for Katrina victims says that in the rush to deliver aid to homeowners in need some people got too much. Now it wants to hire a separate company to collect millions in grant overpayments.

The contractor, ICF International of Fairfax, Va., revealed the extent of the overpayments when it issued a March 11 request for bids from companies willing to handle "approximately 1,000 to 5,000 cases that will necessitate collection effort."

The bid invitation said: "The average amount to be collected is estimated to be approximately $35,000, but in some cases may be as high as $100,000 to $150,000."

The biggest grant amount allowed by the Road Home program is $150,000, so ICF believes it paid some recipients the maximum when they should not have received a penny. If ICF's highest estimate of 5,000 collection cases — overpaid by an average of $35,000 — proves to be true, that means applicants will have to pay back a total of $175 million.

One-third of qualified applicants for Road Home help had yet to receive any rebuilding check as of this past week. The program, which has come to symbolize the lurching Katrina recovery effort, has $11 billion in federal funds.

ICF spokeswoman Gentry Brann said in an e-mail Friday that the overpayment recovery effort was made inevitable when insurance and other aid to Katrina victims was eventually measured against what an applicant received from the Road Home program.

Brann said there was a sense of urgency in paying Road Home applicants, and ICF knew applicants might eventually have to return some money.

"The choice was either to process grants immediately or wait until the March 2008 deadline (for submitting Road Home applications) before disbursing any funds," Brann said in her e-mail.

Brann pointed out that 5,000 collections cases would represent a 4-percent error rate for the Road Home that is "quite good for large federal programs."
EVERY TIME I try to formulate a comment on this, I just keep falling into black-hearted, seeing-red fury and thoughts that mass violence might be an appropriate response, given that this follows nearly two years of red tape, bureaucratic bungling and extreme delays in getting compensation for anyone.

James Kunstler would name -- has named, actually -- a blog after just the sort of mess contractor ICF has made the Road Home program into. And now this.

And the hell of it is, professional liars (or so it would seem, at least) employed by the contractor expect us to believe the company has done a bang-up job with the whole thing.

If I'm Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, here's my response: I call all the top ICF executives to Baton Rouge for "urgent consultations" on the program. Make it mandatory that all the top executives of the company attend to "hash things out."

When they arrive at the governor's office for the meeting, state troopers immediately take them into custody. Fraud charges are filed. Bail is denied.

And then the state prosecutes with all the speed ICF has exhibited in paying out awards to flooded-out Louisiana homeowners. As those execs sit in the general population of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Justice requires it.