Saturday, December 22, 2007


If I Were President, Episode #2

This idea comes from two contradictory forces at work in the capital.

On the one hand, you have a President that always has to deal with currying favor with various legislators to gain their support for various laws and policies he wants to enact. On the other hand, DC and the surrounding areas has grown into one of the most pricey, traffic-laden, HR-recruiting nightmares in the country. A final factor in this line of thought is that DC was rather centrally located back with the USA was only 13 States on the Eastern Seaboard. But now, DC is far removed from most of the country and, many say, out of touch with the rest of the country.

Thus, I have the idea of decentralizing the Executive Branch operations out of Washington DC. By locating major Executive Branch secretariates in the States, the President instantly opens a dialog with the Senators and Representatives in those districts. The President, in effect, has a lot more pull with the legislature because he has control over thousands of jobs within the legislators' districts. The President is also able to serious impact the standard of living within the DC area by getting away from the idea that every major operation of the government must be established in Washington, DC.

For example, you could come up with a variet of good locations for many of the secretariates of the Executive Branch. My personal preference would be to locate the various branches in second tier cities where costs of living are lower and standards of living are high. Here are a few thoughts:

I also feel like the overall number of programs that are active across the branches of the executive need to be simplified, rationalized, and reorganized. Decentralizing gives the branches an opportunity to do major restructuring and downsizing, since it's a well-known fact that you lose a large number of existing employees when relocating a corporate office.

Note that I'm not endorsing downsizing the staffing levels of the government for its own sake. Instead, I'm suggesting that we take each of the major program areas and rework them to take best advantage of simplification and information technology. For example, there are dozens and dozens of programs available farmers from not just the Department of Agriculture (e.g. grain subsidies, land conservation fees, etc) but also from the Department of Education (e.g. job retraining, education programs for farmers to switch from tobacco to other crops) to energy (e.g. credits and subsidies to distill their own machine-grade ethanol fuel). Why not have "Farmer Assistant Agents" in a call center who can help with all of these programs instead of different staffers in each and every one of these programs? For that matter, why have a zillion programs administrated by a vast number of organizations that know nothing about each other and each with their own requirements for paperwork, making life miserable for the farmer?

After doing a careful analysis of all the different programs, it's possible that the staffing levels (and the number of programs) don't need to change at all. Maybe only staff needs to move from some departments to others in order to properly serve their constituencies. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that an organization that employs around three million people doesn't have a few thousand that could stand to go. The decentralization process would give the government an ideal opportunity to offer severance packages to anyone not wanting to relocate with their new HQ.

Of course, moving a department out into the States would also have a huge impact on the local economy in the region it were to locate in. This can provide some very big benefits to the local economies and job prospects of folk in those regions.




Thursday, December 20, 2007


Those Dirty Rats Aren't so Dirty After All

I've always been a big proponent of thinking expansively and in broader, more disconnected ways. A lot of people would call this thinking outside the box. But I tend to think of it as simply allowing more options into your set of alternatives. My biggest intellectual assets have been breadth of understanding, not depth. My biggest intellectual inspirations are books like "Connections", "Guns, Germs, and Steel", and "The Ghost Map". These books all very clearly show that the greatest innovations come from individuals with keen minds and wide, interdisciplinary skills. In other words, the best inventions come from people who know a little bit about a lot of things, not those who know a lot about one or two things.

Here's a great example - clearing mine fields. Most people think about solving this problem using very expensive equipment and, most expensive of all, human beings (expensive, most notably, in terms of lives lost). When those solutions aren't practical, some countries use trained dogs (which are very expensive to acquire, train, and keep happy). Poorer countries will simply unleash a flock of sheep in a mine field and hope that gets the job done, but in a third world country, a flock of sheep is worth a fortune.

Enter the broad-thinker. Why not train ubiquitous and much-hated rats, who have a great sense of smell, to sniff out mines? Turns out, it works incredibly well:



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Treat yourself to a moment of laughter

This is so darn funny. It also makes me thankful that I don't have quads!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Braces are off and the bars & locks are going up!!!

Sometimes your kids don't understand that you simply HAVE to capture the moment, even if you have to take more pictures than you want to. In Emily's case, I'd take a couple pictures trying to show her last day in braces. But they didn't turn out too well. Consequently, her expression practically screams "Dad, please finish before I start hitting you!"

Every now and then I look at my daughter(s) and see not my daughter, but a beautiful woman - a beautiful woman that other boys/men are staring at. Needless to say, all those males died bloody and horrible deaths at my hands, nostrils, or whatever.

Of course, that's happened plenty of times before she got her braces off. However, it happened during lunch after I took Emily to get her braces off on Monday last and I suddenly realized she's reached that teenage girl age where it's impossible for a guy to tell if she's 14 or 24. Now that the braces are gone that tagged her as a school kid, she could easily pass as a college student. This does not make dad happy.

On the other hand, the fact that she's a happy, smart, well-adjusted young woman DOES make dad very happy. Can't you see it in her face? I'm sure she won't be smiling when she sees the new penitentiary strength bars I've installed on her windows and 5-bolt locks installed on her doors - the outside of her doors.

And if she does happen to meet a guy who's willing to run the gauntlet with me to date her, I'm saving the picture below for the slide show that I'm preparing for her Prom Night. It'll be in the long slide show of her pooping her pants, barfing, picking her nose, etc. Lovely, ain't she?

I love you, Emily!!!



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