When bureaucrats get bored

June 30, 2010

Boredom must be a real problem for bureaucrats, especially in the European Union. How else does one explain jackassery such as this?

EU to ban selling eggs by dozen

Shoppers will be banned from buying bread rolls or eggs priced by the dozen under new food labelling regulations proposed by the European parliament.

Under the draft legislation, to come into force as early as next year, the sale of groceries using the simple measurement of numbers will be replaced by an EU-wide system based on weight.

It would mean an end to packaging descriptions such as eggs by the dozen, four-packs of apples, six bread rolls or boxes of 12 fish fingers.

The Government appeared to have been caught out by the change, but yesterday Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, signalled Britain would now step in to prevent the rule being enforced.

MEPs last week voted against an amendment to new food labelling regulations that would allow individual states to nominate products that can be sold by number rather than by weight.

Individual countries are currently allowed to specify exemptions but the new rules under discussion make no such provisions.

The changes would cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds as items would have to be individually weighed to ensure the accuracy of the label.

That last should read “…needlessly cost the food and retail industries millions of pounds…” Sure, standardization has some benefits, but how much will EU consumer benefit as compared to the expenses born by the companies (which they’ll pass on to consumers)? Is it really worth it?

And why even bother? What pressing Union-wide need was there for this rule? Doesn’t Brussels have anything better to do? Doesn’t the European Parliament care about this further micromanagement of daily life by a distant bureaucracy?

I think we know the answer to that.

PS. And America is on the same path.

(via Dan Mitchell)


Evidence that big government hurts the economy

June 30, 2010

In this Center for Freedom and Prosperity video, Dan Mitchell provides graphic evidence that government growth beyond a certain point actually hurts a nation’s economic performance:

While Mitchell doesn’t explain why this is true (something he does in other videos), the reason seems clear: government spending is inherently wasteful as money is often diverted to sub-optimal, politically oriented  purposes (such as vanity airports and bridges to nowhere), and that money is not disciplined by market forces. In other words, national governments’ wasteful deployment of capital is not punished by those governments’ going out of business. Furthermore, this money is taken out of private hands and consequently is no longer available for productive uses such as investing, saving, and job creation.

That isn’t to say all government is bad. By providing open markets, the consistent rule of law, and a strong protection of property rights, government actually helps create the conditions for prosperity. Beyond that point, however, it becomes a parasite, sucking the lifeblood from its host, the private sector.

If Mitchell and other free-market economists are right (and I strongly suspect they are), then one of the best things the federal government could do would be to reduce federal spending from its current 40% of GDP to about 15-20 percent.  That, however, is something that will not happen under the Democrats, and I have to wonder if even a Republican government would have the courage to make the needed cuts, given all the political oxes that would have to be gored.

Probably not, until the national consensus itself changes. And that may not be as far off as you think.

(via International Liberty)


Is incompetence an impeachable offense?

June 29, 2010

I ask that only half-tongue in cheek, because right now I am ready to put the whole Executive Branch on trial, from Obama down to the night janitor. Time and again in the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster, we’ve been treated to one mind-boggling example of hitherto unimaginable ineptitude after another. First there was the overall lackadaisical response. Then we learned of miles of containment boom sitting in Maine, unused and unwanted, even though the scale of the disaster called for every square foot of it and more.

Now comes the capper. Word has been going around for weeks that foreign governments had offered their expertise and equipment to help deal with the crisis. As I said at the time:

When your neighbor offers to help put out a fire on your property, don’t you say “yes, thanks?”

Hell yes you do!

But, we were told, the situation wasn’t quite as it seemed. Not as bad as it looked. The Dutch weren’t being blown off and, by the way, Sarah Palin is an idiot.

Guess what? It’s worse than we thought and the idiot lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

Avertible catastrophe

(…)

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with “Thanks but no thanks,” remarked Visser, despite BP’s desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer –the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment –unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, “We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water–the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that.” In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls “crazy.”

The Americans, overwhelmed by the catastrophic consequences of the BP spill, finally relented and took the Dutch up on their offer — but only partly. Because the U.S. didn’t want Dutch ships working the Gulf, the U.S. airlifted the Dutch equipment to the Gulf and then retrofitted it to U.S. vessels. And rather than have experienced Dutch crews immediately operate the oil-skimming equipment, to appease labour unions the U.S. postponed the clean-up operation to allow U.S. crews to be trained.

A catastrophe that could have been averted is now playing out.

Funny. I thought it was the American instinct to “dive into action” in an emergency. I guess it goes dormant whenever we have a President who’s “too cool to care.”

Meanwhile, the Gulf states are seeing their beaches destroyed and economies ruined in a disaster that could have been prevented, all because we first turned down the best available help and then dragged our feet after accepting it to appease labor unions. This lack of urgency and initiative and any sense of priorities falls squarely at the feet of President Obama, who could have set relief efforts in motion much faster had he actually kicked some bureaucratic tail, instead of just talking about it.

But that would interrupt tee-time, wouldn’t it?

Tell you what, Mr. President. You go golfing, but, before you leave, how about putting someone in charge of this who actually knows what to do to clean up the mess?

After all, she was right about the Dutch.

(via Ace)

LINKS: More from Fausta, who brings us the news that the Feds have finally asked for help, and Allahpundit, who links to this beauty.

Pardon me, but I need to pull my hair out.  At wits end


More proof missile defense works

June 29, 2010

Good thing Obama is cutting funding for missile defense; otherwise he might be forced to face the fact that it works:

The test involved the intercept of a short-range unitary target in the endoatmosphere (inside the earth’s atmosphere). The target, representing a short-range ballistic missile threat, was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform located in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii. Upon acquiring and tracking the target, the THAAD system developed a fire control solution and launched an interceptor missile, which acquired and successfully intercepted the target missile. The intercept occurred at the lowest altitude to date for the THAAD interceptor missile, which has the capability to engage targets both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere.

Here’s video of the test in action:

McKittrick at Closing Velocity provides some more fun facts for skeptics. Here are a couple:

  1. It was a nighttime intercept, which has been touted by skeptics to be some sort of impossible challenge.
  2. The target SCUD was launched from the decommissioned USS Tripoli, mimicking the oft-referenced scenario of a sneaky, rust-bucket freighter lurking off the coast of a major city.

Click through to read the rest.

Now, you’d think that with potential ballistic missile threats from Iran and North Korea, any American president would want to put in place systems to shoot down single missiles or small-scale attacks. You would be wrong. Let me remind you of then-Senator Obama’s promise, which seems to be one of the few he plans to keep:

I’m certain missile defense has plenty of technical challenges remaining to be dealt with, and no one believes it’s close to being a shield for North America in case of a massive attack, but it strikes me as more than a bit irresponsible for the administration not to pursue this for defense against smaller attacks when the technology seems so promising.

UPDATE: Hot Air relates the disturbing news that the Obama administration may be open to killing missile defense via a treaty.


Transparency Watch: Oh, that 40-grand!

June 29, 2010

Somewhere in my memory, way back around the time Obama was elected and a new era of Hope and Change had dawned for America, the then-candidate promised us a new era of transparency in government.

That was then, this is now:

White House aide failed to disclose $40K payout

President Barack Obama’s political director failed to disclose that he was slated to receive a nearly $40,000 payout from a large labor union while he was working in the White House.

Patrick Gaspard, who served as the political director for the Service Employees International Union local 1199, received $37,071.46 in “carried over leave and vacation” from the union in 2009, but he did not disclose the agreement to receive the payment on his financial disclosure forms filed with the White House.

In a section on his financial disclosure where agreements or arrangements for payment by a former employer must be disclosed, Gaspard checked a box indicating that he had nothing to report.

Bill Burton, a White House spokesman, told POLITICO Monday that Gaspard was in the process of correcting his disclosure form to reflect that he did in fact have an agreement for severance.

“We have made the small administrative change to this year’s and last year’s forms to indicate that part of the final payment to Patrick reflected their typical severance of one week of pay for each of his nine years of service at Local 1199 of SEIU,” Burton wrote POLITICO in an e-mailed statement.

Such financial disclosures are governed by federal law, but Stan Brand, a former House general counsel and ethics expert, said the Justice Department is unlikely to pursue an investigation unless they suspected a “knowing or willful” intent to deceive.

Call me a paranoid, racist, dangerous right-wing potential extremist (and don’t forget “Nazi!“, too), but I find it hard to believe that someone could just forget $40,000 paid out to him by his former employer, especially when he needed the money to pay down nearly $80,000 in debts.  Hey, it happens all the time, right?

Oh, and the former employer happens to be a powerful union allied with one’s new boss and his political program. And that union’s then-head was and is a frequent visitor to the White House.

What a coincidence.

They must be using the Tammany Hall definition of “transparency.”

(via Ed Morrissey)


When you’ve lost the cab drivers…

June 28, 2010

Nile Gardiner, one of the Telegraph’s US-based correspondents, has often harped on President Obama for his poor handling of what had been excellent and close relations between the US and Great Britain. From the return of the Churchill bust to the dumping of Uighur terrorists in Bermuda (the security of which is Britain’s responsibility) to publicly leaning toward Argentina in the revived dispute over the Falkland Islands, it’s become clear that Obama doesn’t care about the “special relationship” between Britain and the US, and perhaps even holds that country in contempt. (Some Americans might argue that he feels that way about this country, too.)

The most recent major irritant has been the Obama Administration’s bashing of BP for the Gulf oil spill, which has gone far beyond what’s deserved to treating the company (a big Obama donor) into a whipping boy and extorting $20 billion from it for a slush fund trust fund. The pensions of millions of Britons (and, I might add, Americans) depend on dividends from BP shares, and they don’t like the prospect of the company’s finances, and thus their pensions, being crippled in the service of Obama’s political needs. While Gardiner knew that Obama’s popularity was dropping among the upper classes of the UK, he was shocked on a trip home to learn he’s losing even the man on the street – in this case, the cabbies:

In a series of meetings with leading opinion formers in the UK, I barely heard a good word said about the president’s handling of relations with Britain or for that matter his presidency in general. In contrast, when he first entered the White House 17 months ago, impressions of Barack Obama across the Atlantic were overwhelmingly positive.

But the disillusionment with Obama extends far beyond the political and media elites. I was particularly taken aback on this trip by the level of animosity towards Obama’s leadership expressed by some London black cab drivers, who have also turned against the US president, especially over his handling of the BP issue. In numerous trips across central London I asked cabbies their opinion of the Obama presidency and in particular his handling of BP. Without fail, the views expressed of the president were overwhelmingly negative, and there was a strong belief among many drivers that Obama is anti-British.

I mention London cab drivers, not only because they are the best taxi drivers in the world by a mile, but also due to the fact they usually take a keen interest in politics and international affairs, and are often a good barometer of British public opinion. If Obama has lost the sympathies of the average London black cab driver, I would argue he has lost the support of the British people too.

Gardiner goes on to make a good point: America and Great Britain are closely involved in some of the most serious issues facing the world today. From active combat in Afghanistan to the nuclear threat posed by Iran and the shadow war against jihadist Islam, to name but a few, the two governments are cooperating closely. But Obama’s serial disrespect of Britain and, now, his overdone attacks on a major pillar of the UK economy are creating a groundswell against him that could threaten that alliance.

No one is excusing BP from its liability in this disaster; even BP has said time and again it accepts responsibility. But Obama needs to stop using BP to distract from his own ineptitude in the Gulf and start doing what’s needed to clean things up, before permanent damage is done to one of our closest alliances.


Don’t cry over spilled milk – call the EPA!

June 27, 2010

Yes, according to the EPA, cow’s milk is now classified as “oil:”

Having watched the oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, dairy farmer Frank Konkel has a hard time seeing how spilled milk can be labeled the same kind of environmental hazard.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is classifying milk as oil because it contains a percentage of animal fat, which is a non-petroleum oil.

The Hesperia farmer and others would be required to develop and implement spill prevention plans for milk storage tanks. The rules are set to take effect in November, though that date might be pushed back.

“That could get expensive quickly,” Konkel said. “We have a serious problem in the Gulf. Milk is a wholesome product that does not equate to spilling oil.”

Remember that the next time you wonder why the price of milk has gone up. And it’s not that I don’t believe agricultural pollution can be a problem, but with the Earth vomiting tens of thousands of barrels of real oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, you’d think that the EPA would have more pressing matters to deal with, instead of spilled milk. Then again, if their boss isn’t worried…

But some politicians should be. This won’t play well in any big dairy state, not just Michigan, whether it’s California (“It’s the cheese!”) or Wisconsin, which has such large dairy industry that it bills itself as “America’s Dairyland” and where liberal Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is in a tough reelection battle. It’s another intervention and expense imposed by a regulatory agency at a time when most believe government does too much and has too much power. And, as the party of government and the party pushing for a vast expansion of an already intrusive government, the Democrats are doing a bang-up job of turning the public’s suspicion into electoral anger.

Come November, they may be crying over more than a spilled glass of oil milk.

(via Legal Insurrection)