Diary

Department by Department: How Government Really Works

 

Ok, this is another excerpt from Red on Blue that I’m about finished with.  It is long and for some it will be boring, but for all of you who really, really want to eliminate government departments, this is your chance to see how they actually work and what you can do to make them work better.  The format is kinda sucky but it is the best I can do going through a couple of versions of Word and coypying it into RedState.  So, give me your thoughts.

 

Department by Department

 

The Majesty of the Law:

Most real people do not have a clue what a Law Department or Attorney General’s Office is about.  That is probably a good thing, since they would not like it if they knew.  There’s a long-standing saw about how nobody should ever see sausage or laws made.  While that saying is about the legislative process of articulating laws and is certainly true there, it is even truer in the executive branch function of deciding which laws to enforce and against or for whom.  If you believe all the lawyer propaganda about the search for truth, I have a bridge I want to talk to you about.  In today’s world, Law is usually just a search for political advantage as the Law School elite defines advantage.

 

Law Departments are not big by comparison to departments like Health and So-called Services or Transportation, but the patronage and contracts they dispense are in many ways more important.  Serving as stint as an Assistant Attorney General or District Attorney is a well worn path for young lawyers to go from nobody to partner.  Getting a contract to represent the government in a big bucks lawsuit is a surefire path for a law firm to follow from obscurity to fame and fortune.  Both the lawyers and the firms really, really want this kind of opportunity and will do bad things to get it.

 

I have no experience in dealing with an elected Attorney General or District Attorney, but if they are not friends of yours, it will be a daunting prospect.  The only thing I can see is that you have to have friends outside the government who will help keep an opposing AG or DA honest.  If the AG or a DA opposes you on some vital issue, you are likely to be hamstrung in bringing government resources against him; they are the government too.  To the extent that it is legal, you can coordinate with the Party and aligned interest groups to intervene against him in suits or to attempt to join in as amici.  You can also use your considerable political power against him, but since in many states AG stands for Almost Governor, he is likely almost as powerful as you are.  If your legislative body is friendly, you can certainly put his staff and money into play.  If he wants to oppose you, let him figure out how to do it with no staff and no budget.  You may not be able to tell him what to do, but a legislative body can.  It is hardball, but it works – it will be noisy however.  If both the legislative body and the AG are unfriendly, you are on your own and it is all politics – ask Swartznegger.

 

I have worked with a lot of appointed Attorneys General, and I’ll admit that I have wished for an elected AG more than once, though I got over it.  Republicans can be astoundingly naïve about picking AGs.  Republicans are commonly defensive about their appointments, so the temptation to go for the solid gold resume is often insurmountable.  If your pick graduated cum laude from Hahvud, Yale, or Stanford, her credentials are beyond reproach, right?  Take this to the bank: if your potential nominee went to an elite law school, everything she heard from every one of her professors was inimical to everything a Republican office holder is about.  Now there are some lawyers who never became mind numbed liberal robots and some who got over it, but you had better make sure your nominee is one of them.  The last thing you want is some Allen Dershowitz clone implementing or defending your policies.  Get to know your nominee really, really well before you put her name forward.  If she starts talking about penumbras and emanations, be afraid, be very afraid.  If you do not understand what that means, you need to get someone close to you who does.

 

Most governments employ a bunch of lawyers.  Their status varies from government to government; some are essentially political appointees, some are merit system but non-union, some are unionized – and you need to try to do something about that.  Some are pursuing government service as a way to get experience before going to private practice (watch them closely), some are working for the government because they like the work and government lawyers do not typically get the long hours and thankless work common at the lower levels in a firm, and some are government lawyers because they would starve to death in private practice.  Obviously, if the AG or DA doesn’t work for you, you cannot do much about the quality or activities of his staff except watch their activities closely and make the elected AG or DA pay if he crosses you.  If the AG or DA works for you, you and she need to be on the same page, and she needs to supervise the subordinate lawyers closely.  As I discussed elsewhere, a lawyer can throw a case or manipulate its outcome at will, and only another lawyer will even know it.  Watch them closely to make sure they are really doing what you want done.  Close supervision will get rid of the political ones and the incompetent ones pretty quickly.

 

Taking a matter to an administrative forum or the courts is just as much a political act as setting a policy, promulgating a regulation, or sponsoring legislation, and all the same pressures are brought to bear on whether and how you do it.  Political amateurs want to pass or repeal laws in legislative bodies; professionals want to promulgate or rescind regulations or provoke situations that will lead the dispute to court on grounds of their choosing.  When you take office, immediately find out what matters are pending before administrative tribunals and courts.  Buy time by getting extensions or continuances as necessary and take a look at your position on each and every one; if the matter fits your agenda, keep it going, if it doesn’t find a way to get out of it through settlement or withdrawal.  There is no reason to use your political capital in carrying on your predecessor’s agenda except in the unlikely event that it also fits your agenda.  Be very careful about cases that are just ever so important to people who became your new-found friends during the campaign; they might have become your friend just to get you to drop that case that is pending appeal to the Supreme Court.  It may very well need to be dropped, but make sure that dropping it is consistent with your programmatic objectives, not just a favor for a friend, and get ready to be accused of doing a favor for a friend.  Elsewhere I discussed the importance of timing in court battles, and your law department has a lot to do with that timing.  Watch everything they do, and make sure they’re doing it for you and not someone else.  It isn’t that lawyers are untrustworthy; it is just that they are lawyers, and they can’t help it – it is in their character.

 

Taking Care of People:

 

The biggie in almost every government today is Health and So-called Services.  There is no point in a work like this to argue about whether state or local government should do these things; the thirty pieces of silver were taken long ago.  You get the government the way it is when you’re elected or appointed, so there is not much opportunity to decide what it does, you just deal with how it does it.

 

Were it possible, the best thing to do would be to ban anyone with a background in the social sciences from any supervisory or managerial position; these people simply cannot make a decision.  Whatever else the government schools have done in the late twentieth century, they’ve produced a whole class of allegedly educated people who simply cannot think logically or critically.  These people will spend the first twenty minutes of any meeting discussing whether all the people ordered or invited to the meeting “feel good” about having the meeting.  Then, they will spend a few hours trying to achieve a consensus about whether or not anything should be done, then another few hours trying to achieve another consensus about what should be done – on the condition that they achieved a consensus on whether or not something should be done.  And then they will waste some more time discussing whether or not everyone feels good about whatever they did or didn’t do.  These are simply useless mouths.

 

If you cannot do anything much about the programs these people purport to execute, you certainly can do something about how they execute the programs.  These are the “caring and sharing” people in your government.  They can’t or won’t make a decision, they absolutely flee from the slightest hint of controversy, and couldn’t bring themselves to criticize or discipline an employee – as long as they “like” the employee.  They move in herds, engage in total groupthink, and so long as you are one of the group, you can do no wrong.  If a person or entity ever falls out of the group’s favor, these “caring and sharing” people are astoundingly vicious.  Those out of favor become a sort of Weberian “other,” or to use a homier analogy, they become the “sick chicken” and are pecked to death and eaten by the group.  Most of the disciplinary actions I’ve abandoned or lost in arbitration have been Health and So-called Services cases.  Most bureaucrats will joke about people coming to work and finding they have a new office with no windows and a seat that flushes; these people will actually do it – I’ve seen it.

 

The first thing to do is develop and ruthlessly enforce budgetary and performance standards.  The social services types spend money more enthusiastically than even a drunken sailor could imagine – after all, the “most vulnerable of us” have needs.  And they have meetings and conferences more often than Moslems have prayer.  It would probably be cheaper to send them to Mecca, but they prefer DC, New York, San Francisco – especially San Francisco – and other stylish and expensive places.  When they are looking for a raise, which is most of the time, they are eager to tell any who will listen about their professionalism and years of schooling.  But, for such highly educated people, they certainly seem to need a lot of “training,” also usually in some stylish and expensive place.  See everything I said above about controlling traveling and training, be ruthless, and fire a few people.  It won’t change them, but it will slow them down.

 

One key to reining in their budgets is re-drawing their organizational charts.  The herd mentality shows here: every manager surrounds himself with a retinue of useless mouths, door openers, and briefcase toters.  A typical operating subdivision of a social services function will have more overhead than a coalmine.  Move all the infrastructure functions to the highest level possible, get rid of as many supervisors and managers as you can, and get rid of all the Assistant Deputy to the Deputy Assistant parasites.  You do not have to fire them; just re-organize and lay off all the useless mouths.  That way you don’t have to deal with legal inconveniences like “just cause.”  You will probably get some constructive discharge grievances if the work is unionized, but that places a very high burden on the union and the employer usually prevails.  You will get some whining press about how these selflessly dedicated public servants are being ousted by uncaring and mean-spirited politicians, but it won’t last much longer than any other root canal.

 

Developing and enforcing measurable performance standards will get vehement resistance, but you must do it.  The employees will wail that their work requires long years of study and high standards of professional judgment, so only another highly skilled professional can measure their accomplishments – and certainly no uncaring, mean-spirited politician should be able to hold them to account.  Even though I think that most social so-called science is just post-modern shamanism, I’ll give the “professionals” the benefit of the doubt on therapeutic strategies and the like, but uncaring political types like me can damn well measure how many patients/clients they see, how long they see them, how long they are patients/clients, and, most controversially, whether they can screw them – yes, I am using that word in its carnal sense.  Likewise, we “unprofessionals” can set and enforce how many client contacts case workers have, how long the contacts are, how long a case is open, how well documented a case file is – there are all sorts of objective performances measures that can be established and enforced.

 

As I discussed above, you will have a hard time finding a Republican to run a social services agency, especially if you follow the norm and go for someone with a social sciences background.  A social sciences brainwashing does not normally produce Republicans.  Unless it is cast in stone or statute somewhere that you must hire someone with a social sciences background, just go with someone with good management skills; you’re not hiring them to be a social worker or psychotherapist, their job is to manage budgets and make sure people do their jobs.  Someone with a medical administration background is also a possibility since they are not as likely to be as mind numbed as the social sciences types.  Be nice to whomever you hire because you are dumping a huge load on them.  If you put a layman in charge, be very careful how programmatic decisions are made and to the extent possible let the program people make them.  Your and your managers’ jobs are to stop them from wasting money and time on the programs.  Only when you have a firm grip on the business practices should you turn to analyzing programs and deciding which to continue or modify.

 

Once you have established good business practices and performance measures, you have to enforce them and here the real work begins.  Because they are so highly educated, the first and only Commandment is: Thou Shalt Not Judge.  So what if John only saw three clients when the standard is ten when he is a “good person?”  So what if thirty-year-old Sara confused sex with therapy for fifteen-year-old Jim when she is a “good person?”  I’m not kidding, that is the response you will get.  And if you want to discipline John and fire and prosecute Sara, you are a bad person who is being judgmental and intolerant.  Just sit the supervisor down and ask him if you have a problem with him or with Sara and John.  You will have to fire some supervisors and quite a few Saras and Johns.  You will never change their thinking but you can change their behavior and shut them up.  Fear works.

 

Roads and Buildings:

If your department of Health and So-called Services isn’t your largest unit, your department of Transportation (or in old fashioned states, Highways) probably is.  Unlike the rampant waste of the DHSS, here you have just plain old-fashioned graft and corruption – and incredible laziness.  If your DOT also has your public facilities, you have doubled the opportunity for graft, corruption, and laziness.

 

Almost anywhere this work is done under a union contract, it takes three guys to do one guy’s work; there is the guy with the shovel, the guy standing there with him to hand, hold, and fetch, and the leadman to watch the other two.  If you add another guy with a shovel, you get another hander and holder and another leadman.  Now that you have six guys on the job, you have to have a non-working foreman to watch them.  So to get two guys working unenthusiastically with shovels, you have five other guys standing around, and you do not want to think about what they are being paid by the hour.

 

The pork barrel feeding frenzy in Washington has poured transportation largesse into the states, and the Boston Big Dig is only the worst example of how the pork has been wasted.  Much of the work – all in the union states – is done at Davis-Bacon wage rates and the looting of the Treasury only begins there.  First, while Davis – Bacon, originally a racist law to protect the unionized Northeast from Southern contractors using Black labor, ostensibly protects “prevailing” wages on public contracts, actually nobody gets paid that much except on public contracts.[1]  Private businesses could not survive with Davis – Bacon wage costs, so you have to have an IV line straight to the State and federal treasury to pay them.  Second, many of these projects, especially the largest and most controversial, are done under what are styled “project labor agreements” in which the construction unions are guaranteed the work and the members before the job ever begins – something that can only be done legally in the construction industry.[2]  A private company can and actually might challenge a union’s right to represent the employees if there is a doubt as to its majority, but a Democrat government never would do such a thing or allow one of its contractors to do so.  A sane Republican might balk at these cozy arrangements, but there are good political reasons not to do so, at least not until you have a very firm grip on power.  By letting some of this stuff stay in place you can avoid exciting the trades and crafts unions in your area and exploit the growing schism between the old time unions and the pure public employee unions – of which, more later.

 

Everything I said earlier about controlling money and stuff is true here but more so because here is where the real money is and here is where many of your friends and contributors may be players.  Remember, Republican supporters tend to have businesses and property, and they really would like to make a little money from time to time – you were supposed to help them with that.  Remember?   People pay really well to have their useless property rather than someone else’s condemned at a very high price under imminent domain.  Those people are on the lookout for one of your right-of-way agents who might be a little less than scrupulous.  There’s always someone out there who’d like you to use his gravel, or his topsoil, or his asphalt, or especially, rent his office building.  Mid-level bureaucrats are making all these procurement decisions and, depending on the area, they will have everything from Mafiosi to billionaires trying to influence their decisions.  The economic and lifestyle pressures on Narcs makes better movies, but the pressures on your procurement people are just as great and they usually make less than the cops.  Probably only shipbuilding has been more corrupt and for longer than road building, so you are not likely to be the one that cleans up the industry, but you do need to take reasonable precautions to protect your administration from scandal.

 

Dealing With Bad Guys:

And then there are the boys in blue.  Law ‘n Order and Republican are practically synonyms, so there should be a working symbiosis between the boys in blue and your administration.  Yes, but …  Every state and almost every city and county has some sort of law enforcement unit and some sort of jail or prison guard unit – in unionized states don’t call them guards; they are correctional officers or in California correctional peace officers.  They get very touchy about being called guards.  Once they reach the status of correctional officers they are very well paid and if you add “peace” to the title, they become exceptionally well paid and very politically powerful.

 

The Cop Shops are different from the departments discussed above.  Only in some of the really blue places are they inherently corrupt, but people like us don’t have to worry about them, we don’t live there and we sure as Hell aren’t getting elected there.  In the places where real people live, the police forces and the fire-fighters and the jail guards are basically honest operations.  That said, the police and jail parts are always going to attract some bad people and there are always bad things going on there.

 

Real cops – state police, city police, and some sheriff’s officers – deal with really bad people, sometimes in really dangerous situations.  The good ones and even the ordinary ones deserve your respect and support.  They deserve to be well paid and politically secure, but they do not deserve the halo that the media and the Democrats have placed over them since 9-11.  The media don’t know any better and the Democrats know a political issue when they see one.  I’ll admit to a certain admiration for people who will run into a situation that other people are running out of, but I will go ahead and be the iconoclast here; the “first responders” who died on 9-11 were proud and brave but they died because of non-existent situational awareness and abysmally bad command and control.  Since the average American does nothing more dangerous than take the tag off the mattress, the word hero has been cheapened to the point of meaninglessness.  Just doing your job, even a dangerous job, does not make you a hero.  The purpose of this semi-rant is to prepare you for what you are going to hear from all the boys in blue whenever they want something.  The 9-11 Halo over “America’s Heroes” is costing everyone in America a bunch of money.

 

Only teachers have more pervasive unionization than fire and law enforcement employees.  Even many Southern right-to-work states that prohibit organization of other public employees allow police and fire organization.  Almost every Congress sees federal legislation for police and fire collective bargaining, often including the most insidious form of collective bargaining, interest arbitration.  Most states that have public employee bargaining have some form of interest arbitration for police, fire, and jail employees.  It does not have to be, but interest arbitration is usually a very, very bad thing.

 

Since police, fire, and jail employees’ services cannot be done without for even the shortest period of time, they are not allowed to strike even in full collective bargaining states.  When the public employer and the union cannot reach a voluntary labor agreement, the employer and the union choose an arbitrator and submit their respective proposals to him or her and the arbitrator decides what the agreement will be.[3]  This process is called interest arbitration.[4]  If you don’t know any better, this might seem like a good, fair system.  It can be, but it usually isn’t.

 

As I discussed earlier, arbitrators are keenly aware of the political climate in a particular government.  With a Democrat or weak Republican government, they will just avoid the hard decision and make the unions happy.  While you are thinking that will not happen with you in charge, be aware that the most common criterion for arbitrators’ decisions is comparability to other jurisdictions.  If your blue neighbors have given away the farm, the comparable will be giving away the farm.  You can appreciate the importance of this if you look at what California under Gray Davis gave to law enforcement generally and correctional officers specifically.  Interest arbitration and whipsawing between jurisdictions have made unionized law enforcement officers and firefighters among the best paid and most secure public employees.  Law enforcement and some firefighter units tend to stand a bit aloof from other public employee unions and many are not affiliated with the AFL-CIO.  Law enforcement units tend to be more conservative than other public employee units and you may be able to garner some support from them, but they will never really be your friends though they might try to act like it sometimes.

 

To the boys in blue, there are cops, crooks, and victims, and the cops spend more of their time with the crooks than the victims.  Civilians are not even a part of their world – unless they’re pretty.  Cops live in their own world and they have erected a blue wall of silence around it.  As I discussed above, even your appointees will see themselves as having more in common with the boys than with your government.  The good ones and the ordinary ones won’t lie, but they won’t necessarily tell the truth and you have to ask them exactly the right question to get anything out of them.  This is true even of the ones that are at least nominally your friends.  You must always be mindful that a cop’s real source of power is the arrest he didn’t make and the information he kept to himself.

 

Bad cops give bad a whole new meaning because they are very good at being bad and their brothers in blue and even some prosecutors cover for them.  You will always have some cops that like to physically abuse arrestees (they call it “thumping” them).  You will always have some cops that will let the prostitute go for a little sample of her, and occasionally his, wares.  The temptations of the drug trade are well known and all too true.  And it is undeniable that there are some women who just cannot resist a man in uniform and cops are well aware of that fact.  The Alaska State Troopers once won an award for being the best-dressed police force in the country.  Cynics that we were, the labor relations staff joked that the only thing wrong with the uniform was that the zipper should have been in the back.  We had transferred our fair share of them out of some small town or village one step ahead of a vengeful husband.  And they aren’t always subtle about it; as I write this, the headline in today’s paper is about one of Alaska’s finest taking a plea for not bothering to obtain consent from at least four different women in a small Alaska town – busy boy.  So far it has only cost us about a million dollars.

 

Correctional Officers – COs – are cops confined to a small area.  Some are cop wannabes and have a chip on their shoulder from not making the force.  Some others are retired military and aren’t much into letting work interfere with their stately progress towards vesting another retirement.  The qualifications and background checks usually are far less demanding than for cops, so some of them are not stellar characters to begin with.  In the course of their work day, cops work with both crooks and civilians and from time to time get to do nice things and deal with nice people; COs don’t.  From 40 to 84 or more hours a week, COs are locked up in jail with the lowest forms of human life and after a while, it shows.[5]  Rest assured that every one of the temptations that cops on the street face are faced by COs in a jail, they just cost more inside.  If anything, the opportunities for physical abuse are greater in a jail than on the street.  Drugs are plentiful in most jails and somebody has to let them in and cover for their presence.  And while there are a few sweet girls who just embezzled a little money to feed the kids, most women in jail are veterans of the drug and sex trades and are inured to violence.  They are also very good at getting over on weak-minded men.  Alaska only has a little over 700 COs and I long ago lost all track of how many forced resignations or dismissals I had been involved in for what we euphemistically call “undue familiarity” with inmates.  And the male COs certainly do not have a monopoly on it.  Interestingly, in all the years I never had but one male fight the dismissal and never had but one female not fight it.  Once a female decides a convict is her man, the decision is cast in stone – just ask the widow of the CO in Tennessee shot by the former corrections nurse helping her convict escape in August of ‘05.

 

I could regale you with cop and CO stories almost endlessly because I lived in the world of arbitrating their discipline and dismissals and negotiating with their unions for the better part of two decades.  The CO union is one of my clients today.  One thing I liked about the Palin Administration is that they did enough stupid stuff for me to make good money off it.  Cops and COs live in a filthy world and your law enforcement appointees will come out of that world and feel more commonality with its denizens than with mere civilians.  Except in the big cities that nobody reading this book as more than a know your enemy course will ever get elected in, the departments are pretty clean and pretty well run; the problems are with the people – the ones you deal with and the ones who work for you.  You will never stop bad things from happening with cops and COs; they live with the dregs and sometimes it rubs off.  You must, however, make it clear to your appointees that they are not to tolerate it or cover it up and make it clear that if they do, they will be the first casualty.  And keep an eye out for that unmarked car tailing you and that strange guy in the corner booth who seems just a little too interested in what you are saying and doing.  By the way, did it ever occur to you that the lithesome thing in the spaghetti strapped cocktail dress that just sat down beside you might be working undercover while you’re thinking about working your way under her covers?

 

Masters of Disasters:

I have the advantage of writing this as I watch the greatest breakdown of governmental control in modern America; the New Orleans flood.  This is aimed mostly at state governments, since that is where I come from.  I write from a place where ultimate disaster is not an if but a when.  If I stay here long enough, I probably am going to die in an earthquake or tsunami – and if I don’t, it won’t be because of the government.  The Atlantic Coast has its hurricanes and floods, the Pacific Coast has its earthquakes and tsunamis – I’ll take a hurricane any time, anyone with a brain has time to get away.  The rest of the country has tornados, spring floods, ice storms and all the other things that Mother Earth serves up to us.  If you come to power in a formerly Blue state or in a state that has a doughnut city, any natural event is a political issue, and it is your fault.

 

Take note of what President Bush said in a press opportunity a week after Katrina struck; “we’re problem solvers.”  See what I said earlier, leaning on David Horowitz, about the political consequences of problem solving.  It is a politically tenable strategy to never solve problems – it is the Democrat stock in trade; but it doesn’t work for Republicans generally and specifically it doesn’t work in response to a natural disaster.  You have to do something, even if the people you are doing it for don’t deserve it.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the poor schmuck that lost his house doesn’t deserve your help, I mean the district assemblyman or councilman or mayor who just screwed the pooch.  You are going to have to fix his screw up and then take the blame for it.

 

Different governments put their Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) analog in different places; some in the office of the governor or mayor some associate it with the military or law enforcement.  FEMA and its state and local analogs are strange and difficult agencies.  Nobody had much even heard of FEMA until the end of the Cold War.  For most of its history FEMA was a blacker than black agency, maybe blacker than the CIA.  Its mission was American reaction to a Soviet nuclear attack, so you can bet it owned a lot of companies and had a lot of money, and you weren’t going to find out where that money was or came from with a FOIA request.

 

Bill Clinton was America’s first post-Cold War President and was – is – the highest form of the lowest political order.  Slick Willie didn’t have to deal with no stinkin’ Cold War, and he found all that beautiful money that FEMA had.  Slick Willie found a “disaster” in just about every congressional district in which a Democrat was running.  Somebody ought to tally how much money he gave away in eight years, but a good example is the Koyokuk Flood in Alaska in the early nineties.  For a flood that affected about 250 souls, the US spent about $70 MM, but a Democrat from that area was running for Congress at the time.  We could have bought every family in the area a condo in Maui and given them $100K a year for life for less, but it helped the Democrat to get a little less soundly trounced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska).  In the Clinton era, FEMA was just a device to contribute money to Democrat campaigns; all the storms and hurricanes were dealt with by state, local, and occasionally federal resources, then FEMA came in and poured out money, and maybe bought a few votes.

 

You would have to be an Administration insider to know enough to speak truly authoritatively, but I believe that the Bush Administration over-reacted to Clinton’s politicizing of FEMA by relegating it to a backwater role in the Department of Homeland Security.  I think that FEMA actually did a pretty good job with Katrina.  FEMA is not designed to be a first responder; its job is to try to restore normalcy after a disaster.  FEMA has or can get a whole bunch of money, and is pretty good at getting it to people, but its job is not disaster relief if that is defined as getting people off roofs or digging them out of collapsed buildings.  Think ATM for the Administration.  The Clinton propaganda machine put FEMA jackets on the scene at every disaster without ever saying what they were doing.  FEMA is a bureaucratic agency that does bureaucratic things; it doesn’t save people[6].

 

You need a good bureaucrat to run your emergency management agency, but he or she should not be a highly visible member of your administration.  Clinton truly loathed the military and did not want the bellicose image of OD green associated with his “caring and sharing” lot, and consequently Clinton used those blue and gold FEMA jackets to show that his administration was on the scene.  FEMA and its state and local equivalents are good at spending and distributing money, not saving people.  Clinton propaganda made an unrealistic expectation for the agency by making it so visible.  Your presence needs to be in camouflage, Army or Marine green, or Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard blue.

 

In the twenty-four hours before Katrina struck New Orleans, President Bush was in a damnable position.  He had to beg the school marm governor to order merely voluntary evacuation; he took the precaution of declaring a disaster well before the storm even struck.  Then, as a matter of law, he had to sit back and wait until the mayor and the governor “got off their asses” – to use Mayor Nagin’s words – and asked for Federal assistance.

 

This is one area where William Faulkner was right when he said, “the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”  A part of the price for Southern support for Hayes in 1877 was the complete removal of Union troops occupying The South.  That bargain and the passage of the posse comitatas law put stringent limits on the use of federal troops for any law enforcement purpose in a state.  In the simplest terms, somebody wearing OD green cannot come into a sovereign state absent the governor’s invitation.  That just came back to bite Jefferson Davis and Judah Benjamin’s descendents, and more importantly politically, the descendents of their slaves[7].

 

President Bush could have stepped in on the morning the hurricane struck; it was obvious to any thoughtful observer that Louisiana was about to be overwhelmed, but at what price?  His only legal authority was to declare that a state of insurrection existed in poor, Black, Democrat, and victimized Louisiana.  As I recall, that is something like what President Lincoln did in April of 1861, and a few years of unpleasantness ensued.  Now it isn’t likely that the rest of The South would have risen in arms to aid their Louisiana brethren facing hordes of invading Yankee Vandals, but the Poverty Pimps and left wing would have done about the same thing politically.  Spin this: George Bush declares that a Black male Democrat mayor and a white female Democrat governor are not competent to handle it all, and his oil man, honky dog Republican federal administration is taking over.  You can bet that Jesse Jackson would be praying that a Federalized National Guardsman, or better yet some highly trained killer from the 82nd Airborne – preferably fresh from Iraq, would shoot some poor oppressed Black looter who’d just stolen a plasma TV because his family had no food or water.  The President was at their mercy, and now he cannot even defend himself without being accused of “blaming the victims.”  In a nation that looks to government for everything, that has not educated anyone in thirty years, and which uses television as bread and circuses, that is just the way it is.

 

The moral of this story is do your own disaster planning and be prepared to fend for yourself for three to five days – and don’t whine.  Your people are a lot tougher than your bureaucrats and the reporters, they’ll be OK.  As Churchill said, we did not get to be who and what we are by being made of sugar candy.  Get on TV and radio and be a leader.  Guliani’s police and fire management screwed the pooch on 9-11, but Guliani and Kerik got on TV, they acted like men, and nobody has dared to talk about how bad the first response really was.

 

Your first response is local police and fire then state police; we’ve talked about their good and bad, but most of them will do their job.  Next is the National Guard and they can be a problem.  Legally, they work for the Governor, but they are all ex-active military and get paid by the Fed, so they tend to think of themselves as something other than the governor’s subordinates.  At the field level, say Captain or Major and below, they are good troops, maybe not as sharp as an active combat unit and a little out of shape, but generally good at what they do.  From Lieutenant Colonel up, they can be a problem.  From Light Colonel up, if they’re good, the active military is going to keep them and promote them.  From Light Colonel up, if you are not going to become a Brigadier General in the active military, you are going out of the military or to the National Guard, and as often as not, you bring an attitude.

 

A governor has to pick an Adjutant General, the commander of his National Guard, and in most states this is a cabinet position, so you get to pick him or her as a political choice, usually subject to confirmation.  This position is usually an afterthought – oh, yeah, I do command the National Guard, who can I put in charge of that?  Think hard about this.  With any luck it won’t matter who you pick, nothing will happen, but if something does happen, this is probably the most important appointment you’ll make.  There are going to be a whole bunch of charming devils with eagles on their shoulders out there for you to pick from.  And they are good guys; you met them at the Rotary, they are socially and politically active, and they talk a good fight.  You might run into an extraordinary one that defies this advice, but be careful about that charming devil, especially if he or she is wearing that eagle in the Guard[8].

 

Today’s American active military is the scariest thing the world has seen since the Roman Legions.  I am a fairly serious student of history generally and military history specifically, and I must admit that the leadership of the modern American military is astoundingly bellicose[9].  The coolly efficient lethality of a modern Infantry rifle squad is greater than the lethal power of a whole country a century ago – these people are scary.  You are going to have to be a good leader to follow this advice, but you need to find a man who has led these troops in combat to be your Adjutant General.  You need a man, and I do mean man because thankfully we have not yet put women in these positions, who has led brave men in desperate battle – OK, I stole that line from “Patton.”

 

Ignore that charming Colonel you met at Rotary.  It does not matter if the guy you find was a Sergeant when he was in, you get to make him a Brigadier General.  If you can find one among your friends and supporters, an older, retired combat or combat support commander is who you are looking for; a retired General or Admiral is better and will be better accepted by the troops, but a Sergeant will do.  You want somebody who when you need him will kick ass, take names, and get it done, and to Hell with bureaucratic niceties.  This person is not likely to play well with others or be a good bureaucrat.  These are guys like Lt. Gen. Honore, the task force commander in Louisiana, who will angrily dismiss a Congressman’s allegations against him as “BS” on national television.  It is worth your while to spend a little money to hire a bureaucrat or two to make sure his bills get paid, and you might have to apologize a time or two for something he says.  If something bad happens, he’ll save your butt.

 

Educating the Kiddies:

It is hard at a personal level for me to deal with this: my great-great grandfather was a teacher before he joined the Army of Northern Virginia and was killed in Mahone’s counterattack at the Battle of the Crater in 1864.  My grandmother, a teacher, was maybe the greatest influence in my life.  She always told me that if I couldn’t speak, read, and write Latin and at least read Greek, I’d always be a barbarian – she was right.  She had ten years of what passed for public school in 19th Century Georgia and two years of “Normal School.”  In her eighties she could still recite long passages of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in Latin, quote Shakespeare and the King James endlessly, and rattle off out of her head the proofs to those Geometry theorems that were driving me to distraction.  My sister is today a teacher in a public school in rural Georgia.  Teaching, real teaching, is a noble profession.  The craft that the Ed Schools, Educrats, and National Extortion Association have conspired to produce is anything but noble.

 

The world was a better place when the highest authority in education was a county school board comprised mostly of practical, hard-handed farmers and small town merchants.  Since the advent of state and, especially, federal departments of education, there has been a precipitous decline in our literacy and our culture.  If we had learned in the ‘50s or even early ‘60s that the KGB had developed a plan to do to our culture and productive capacity what the education schools, educrats, and the National Extortion Association have done since World War II, we would have pre-emptively nuked the Soviet Union to stop it.

 

Some states are still pretty close to that hard-handed farmer ideal in the administration of schools, but they still have to deal with NEA teachers, Ed School “educated” educrats, and State Board approved curricula.  Then you have to agree to celebrate diversity, develop self-esteem, and all that other rot to get the federal funds back that were confiscated from your state to begin with.  Others, particularly in the West, have state run education systems with no farmers to act as a brake.   In the West, there is no hope.  There are lots of people who are lots smarter than I who have broken their pick on the education mess.  All I can say is that it should be self evident to anyone who even pretends to be a Republican that the current state of public education is criminal.  Anyone who believes in republican democracy must believe in a free public education, but it is clear that our experiment in government monopoly education has failed.  This is one place where I won’t pretend to offer a solution within the current structures.  The only thing I think is a really good idea is to force the political subdivisions to have their school board elections on General Election day so the School Board will be harder for the National Extortion Association to buy.  I know that you can try to run it with the same diligence that I recommend for Health and So-called Services and you will make the mess better, or at least less wasteful.  But that said, saving a little money and meeting a few performance goals won’t stop our children from becoming left-wing mind numbed robots who feel really, really good about being ignorant.  I’m usually pretty arrogant about my ability to solve problems, but here I have no solutions to offer as long as the current government monopoly continues.  Unless you can enact and get court approval of vouchers, good luck.

 

The typical teacher has little more than a high school education in subject matter and usually was no more than a mediocre student.  Their college curriculum was the minimum required subject matter and the rest was all pedagogy – how to teach stuff you don’t know.  The pedagogy is mostly sophistry and shamanism; there is no academic rigor in an Ed School.  A literate janitor armed with a copy of McGuffy’s Reader, published in 1876, can teach a kid to read better than an “education professional” teaching with “sight reading” or “whole language” Ed School techniques.  Anyone who knows their multiplication tables and is willing to sit their kids down and make them work through My Dear Aunt Sally (Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract) is a better math teacher than all the “New Math” scholars.  And the plain old subject, verb, object analysis of grammar was just so boring that the teachers couldn’t be bothered to either learn it or teach it.  English is a dead language.  Over a drink, I’ll tell you what I really think.

 

At a practical – for God’s sake do something – level, do away with tenure.  Tenure is a foolish notion for production workers like K-12 teachers.  There is no practical distinction between teachers and school janitors; they are bought for a body of skills and follow a prescribed regime of work.  The teacher’s body of skill takes a little longer to acquire, so we pay a teacher more than a janitor; that’s the only real distinction.  Tenure and academic freedom may, just may, mean something at a university where research and a “life of the mind” still maintain a vestigial existence.  But teachers follow a state board prescribed regime of spouting curriculum just as mechanically as the janitor follows a checklist in mopping the floors and cleaning the restrooms.  K-12 teachers do not do seminal research and probe the edges of human knowledge, they spout board approved politically correct pabulum contrived to produce mind-numbed robots.

 

The whole notion of free speech or academic freedom is meaningless, even a non sequitur, in the public school context.  A teacher spouting a lesson plan based on a Board approved curriculum is not engaging in personal speech; she is the voice of the government that pays her.  The 1st Amendment protects the individual right to speech, not the government’s speech.  Short of shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre, a teacher can say whatever she wants in her private capacity, but between the school bells – do they still have bells? – she speaks for the government; she is, in fact the government speaking.  The 1st Amendment isn’t even relevant here.  She is paid by the government to say what the government pays her to say; there is no personal speech involved.  If the government pays her to say the Earth is flat, between the school bells, the Earth is flat, and was created by God in seven days – if that is what the lesson plan says.  Of course, there might be some 1st Amendment problems there.  In any event, a teacher is paid to speak for the government; freedom of speech is for her own time.

 

Either explicit legislation, state court holdings, or union contracts guarantee teachers dismissal only for cause, so they aren’t going to get fired for running afoul of a band of peasants with pitchforks and torches.  All tenure really means is that a bad teacher gets a bite of the apple before the board, before an arbitrator, and before the courts before they can get the dismissal they deserve.  It is difficult enough to discipline or dismiss an ordinary public employee under the just cause provision of a state personnel act or a union contract, adding the additional hoops imposed by tenure makes it nearly impossible and very, very expensive to dismiss a tenured teacher.  Since they are so hard to fire, they don’t often get fired and can keep on spouting crap into skulls full of mush.  If you can afford it, home school your kids and use your power in government to make other parents able to afford it.  When the “education professionals” are working at WalMart and the people working and shopping at WalMart can privately educate their kids, the world will be a better place.

 

Revenue, Resources, and the Environment:

State governments have enormous power over agriculture, fishing, logging, and mining.  City and county governments often regulate these as well and in addition make and enforce zoning and use laws controlling real estate development.  In addition to controlling use, both governments can influence use by taxation policies.  Between the two, government can determine whether you can use your property, how you use it, and ultimately whether your property is worth anything or you can make any money from its use.  That is real power, second only to the power to lock you up or kill you.

 

Running these departments is no different from any of the others; control the money, people, and stuff, and don’t let people do bad things.  That part is simple, and all you have to do is follow out what I’ve laid out above.  Doing that will keep you out of the little troubles and the little scandals.  But, these departments can give you really, really big problems.  Here there be MONEY, real money.  Health and So-called Services and Highways or Public Facilities live on taxes and transfer payments.  That is peanuts compared to the kind of real wealth that comes out of the ground, the lakes and rivers, and the ocean.  It could be permitting a gold mine or oil well in Alaska, granting water rights on the Colorado River, approving a building permit adjoining the Nantahala National Forest in Georgia, or, God Forbid, building a refinery in California; somebody has a bunch of money riding on your decision.  While these are local or state decisions, they are all national issues.

 

When Farmer Brown gets tired of losing money and his children don’t want anything to do with farming, Farmer Brown sells his 160 acres to Acme Development, buys a motor home and sets off to Arizona or Florida.  Unless Farmer Brown’s place was in that great Cartesian Paradise, the Great Plains, his land has irregular borders and was maybe one – half tended farmland.  The rest was woods, creeks, lowlands, and the high ground that Great-Grandpa Brown built the family house on.  Acme Development applies for zoning and building permits to build a residential subdivision, and all Hell breaks out.  The South Podunk Conservation Council, a subsidiary of the Sierra Club, challenges the development alleging inter alia that there are protected woodpeckers in the woods, the creeks have some rare, precious and beautiful fish in them, the lowlands are a priceless, non-renewable resource, and the old Brown Place is so unique that it should be on the National Register of Historic Places.  And to make it more interesting, Acme Development gave you a whole bunch of campaign money.

 

The greenies get to triple dip in opposition to your government and Acme Development.  They administratively challenge the permitting at every step, then they challenge the permits once granted in the state courts and simultaneously in the federal courts.  There is even a fourth bite sometimes; they challenge your state court decision in the federal court if they can assert a federal question.  All the time that they are mounting the administrative and judicial challenge, they are mobbing public meetings, standing around singing songs and carrying signs, and relentlessly writing letters to the editor accusing your administration of sacrificing the precious environment to greedy, grasping, uncaring special interests and accusing you of being bought and paid for by those special interests.  If all this sounds vaguely familiar, the greenies come from the same ideological place and use the same playbook as the public employee unions, but they are harder to deal with than the unions since they don’t all work for you.  You can find the ones who do work for you and make their life more interesting though.  This is another place where federal grants set up little sinecures for greenie sleeper cells; find them and get rid of them.

 

If your views are those of the typical Republican, you are somewhere between “ people are more important than woodpeckers, fish, wetlands, and old houses” and “we can make it possible for woodpeckers, fish, wetlands, and old houses to coexist with people.”  If you know on taking office that there are excessive environmental restrictions in your government’s permitting processes, change them immediately upon taking office.  Governor Murkowski did this; effectively breaking up some environmentalist cells in Alaska’s government immediately upon taking office.  Doing it this way has the advantage of not having to address any specific pending projects.  The employees and the greenies groused a lot, but it was over pretty quickly.  The suicide move is to step in to change the rules specifically for Acme Development.  If you do and you got money from Acme Development or appointed someone close to Acme, you are going to face Ethics Act or similar charges and if the trying board or court is still Democrat controlled, you are going to be found guilty.  Forget all that law professor stuff about the search for truth; these tribunals are a search for political advantage.  It doesn’t matter if you are ultimately acquitted; the charge will get screaming headlines, the acquittal will get two column inches on page 86 a year later, and you will have been successfully branded as a tool of Acme Development.

 

A big company like Acme can thread its way through a regulatory morass and it really does not need your help on the technical and legal side of the process.  Acme knows this and the greenies know it too.  Acme can afford the lawyers and experts; what they cannot afford is time, and the greenies know it.  So the greenies and their allies, witting and unwitting, in the bureaucracy just drag out the zoning and permitting process until Acme throws in the towel.  Here you can legally provide assistance at little political risk; keep the process moving.  Ride the bureaucrats mercilessly to meet or beat all the timelines and do not let them catch you up in the “need more information” game – that is the bureaucrat corollary of the Democrat “we can do it better” game.  And don’t even think about bending or breaking the rules; it will bring your administration down.

 

Most of the issues involving resources, the environment, and taxes are more public policy than strategy and tactics, so I am not really addressing that in this piece.  If you are an ideological conservative, you know where you are on these issues.  The Left hates private ownership and personal discretion.  If you love these things you will not let your government interfere with private ownership and personal discretion.  After that, it is all just strategy and tactics.


[1] State departments of labor track what the various occupations are being paid and establish the “prevailing wage” in the area.  That’s the theory; the reality is that the highest wages, those reserved for major construction projects, are set out as the prevailing wage.  Thus, any government financed project pays the very highest wages.  Add those wages to the productivity restrictions in the typical union contract and you begin to see why the Great Wall of China could not be built today.

[2] It is easier for them to “organize” a government, especially a legislative body, than to go out and organize the work.  “Silkwood” and “Matapan” notwithstanding, the typical union organizer is no attractive, Hollywood character and their message does not resonate with anyone outside acadaemia and Hollywood.  They could never organize skilled construction workers in any but the bluest states but they can get a government to give them the work and the members.

[3] Some state bargaining laws set out the method of choosing the arbitrator and the criteria the arbitrator is to apply, some do not.  Most reserve some approval or appropriation authority to the legislative body to avoid constitutional separation of powers issues between the executive and legislative branches, but some, especially in the really blue states, do not.

[4] Teachers often have a derivative of interest arbitration in which the arbitrator’s opinion is styled as “advisory” to the school board.  Not coincidentally, the school board usually takes the arbitrator’s advice.

[5] Many prisons have week on – week off schedules of seven 12-hour days on followed by seven days off.  Think about locking yourself up in a prison for twelve hours a day seven days a week.

[6] I have to be fair here: there are some FEMA people, Type One response types for example, whose job is to get in there right now and establish command and control, but that is not the agency’s primary mission.

[7] For those with a relatively recent government school education, Jefferson Davis was the US Secretary of War and a Senator from Mississippi, Judah Benjamin was a Senator from Louisiana..  Later in their careers they were President and Secretary of State, respectively, of the Confederate States of America.  Benjamin, born in South Carolina and transplanted to Louisiana, was the first Jew to be elected to the US Senate and the first Jew to hold a Cabinet office, albeit in the Cabinet of the Confederate States.  As an aside, Beauvoir, the house where Jefferson Davis lived out his days, was one of Katrina’s casualties.

[8] Understand, though, that some officers just have bad timing.  An up and coming young Lt. Col. in ’91 who was inured to the thinking and politics of the Reagan/Bush years was absolutely persona non grata for advancement during the Clinton years.  WJC didn’t want any of those bellicose generals.  Likewise, a lot of officers on the way up during the GWB Administration will be lucky not to wind up in a concentration camp during Comrade Obama’s administration.

[9] I have a son who is an Army Infantryman and who has spent quality time in famous resorts such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo,” so this is firsthand knowledge.