Monday, February 2, 2015

no-kill animal shelters

Note: This article is copied from http://www.peta.org/living/companion-animals/nathan-winograds-redemption-kill-clue/. I have omitted a picture of an injured pet from the site because I find such postings tasteless and offensive. Otherwise, I have not changed the article.

If you have ever spent time volunteering at an animal shelter, you’ve seen it: the endless stream of dogs and cats—scared, lonely, confused—aching for a kind word or a reassuring touch. Some of them have been abandoned by their guardians, others have been rescued from the streets, but they all have one thing in common: They are victims of companion animal overpopulation. Nathan Winograd, former executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA in New York, has seen the crisis firsthand but somehow maintains a firm “no-kill” position.
Every year, 6 to 8 million animals are left at U.S. animal shelters and half of them must be euthanized. The statistics alone show the severity of our country’s companion animal overpopulation crisis. Yet one so-called animal advocate, Nathan Winograd, is trying to convince the public that animal overpopulation doesn’t exist.

Nathan Winograd Misplaces Blame

In his crusade to make all animal shelters “no-kill,” Nathan Winograd blames the shelter workers—who have devoted their lives to caring for homeless animals, giving them a chance at a home, and providing them with a painless death when no other humane alternative exists—for the euthanasia of millions of animals every year. This is akin to blaming hospitals for deadly diseases. This false “logic” lets the real culprits off the hook: people who breed (or fail to spay or neuter) their animals and people who buy animals from pet stores or breeders instead of adopting homeless animals from shelters. No one wants to see animals euthanized—least of all, those who have to perform it—but denying that a crisis exists and blaming those who have devoted their lives to ending it is misguided and solves nothing.

Too Many Animals, Too Few Homes

Nathan Winograd’s calculations ignore the hundreds of thousands of puppies and kittens produced by breeders and sold in pet stores every year. When these animals are added to the millions of homeless animals who enter shelters each year, the number of animals in need of homes far exceeds the number of homes that are theoretically available to them. What’s more, not every household that is considering acquiring a cat or dog (even those that currently have animals) is a “responsible” home that would pass a shelter’s screening requirements.

The Key to a ‘No-Kill’ Nation: A No-Birth Nation

Our goal is a future in which no animal must be euthanized for lack of a good home, but that time will only come if we stop the problem at its source, by spaying and neutering animals to prevent more of them from being born. Even if we could somehow find homes for the 6 to 8 million cats and dogs who will enter U.S. animal shelters this year, what about the 6 to 8 million animals next year and the year after that? Let’s stop this cycle by practicing our ABCs—animal birth control. Always spay or neuter companion animals, and never buy them from a breeder or pet store.

Crowded Cages, Disease, and Death

Being blamed by their detractors for euthanasia, while the real culprits for the massive companion animal overpopulation crisis go unchecked, has intimidated many open-admission animal shelters into implementing dangerous policies and practices in an attempt to reduce their euthanasia statistics.
  • After the Tompkins County SPCA in New York—where Nathan Winograd served as executive director and implemented a “no-kill” policy—became extremely crowded, it began accepting animals by appointment only and stacked animals in cages throughout the facility, including the laundry room and kitchen. According to a subsequent shelter director, the shelter slashed its adoption fees and lowered its standards for the homes in which it places animals—significantly increasing the risk of abuse and neglect—in an effort to move more animals out the door.
  • Austin Animal Services announced reaching “no-kill” status in January 2012. In July 2012, The Austin Chronicle reported that the department was seeking a $1 million increase in funding because the Austin Animal Center (AAC) “is way past full. Hundreds of animals are in foster homes, and shelter staff have had to be creative in order to house the overabundance of animals sleeping under AAC’s quonset [sic] hut roofs. As of last week, wire crates filled with kittens could be found on tables in the shelter’s main conference room. For months, staff has been finding room for dogs in cages in the stray- and surgery-holding areas.” A City Council member “referenced anonymous statements from shelter volunteers claiming that the staff is overburdened, that health and safety issues are being overlooked, [and] that they’d seen one dog receive chemical burns on the pads of its paws after being returned too quickly to a recently cleaned cage.” In June 2013, the city released a news release with the headline “Animal Shelter: Find a home for your pet, do not bring it here” and gave away animals free of charge when the shelter had 100 dogs and cats for whom there was no housing. The city reported that the shelter was housing 1,000 animals at the time.
  • The owner of Angel’s Gate animal hospice was charged with cruelty to animals months after investigators searched the facility. The official investigation was prompted by an undercover investigation by PETA, which documented that paralyzed dogs were dragging themselves around until they developed bloody skin ulcers while their wheeled carts hung on a fence unused, animals with open wounds and respiratory infections were deprived of veterinary examinations and care, and animals were kept in diapers for several days, causing urine scald.
Examples like these abound when shelters are pressured to put lower euthanasia statistics above animals’ welfare.

Turning Animals Away

Promoting adoptions, utilizing foster homes and volunteers, and encouraging guardians to work through behavioral or other issues that may otherwise cause them to relinquish their animals are all good policies that every shelter should follow. But when the shelter is full and there is no place to put even one more animal, what does a “no-kill” shelter do? Most simply refuse to take animals in, which leaves them at the mercy of people who don’t want them. This, too, often results in tragedy:
  • At the Hancock County Animal Shelter in West Virginia, a man purposely ran over two kittens in the facility’s parking lot after being told that the shelter couldn’t accept them.
  • At the Venango County Humane Society in Pennsylvania, a man who tried to surrender his dog threw the dog from his truck and repeatedly ran over him after being told that he needed to make an appointment and come back later.
  • After being told she would have to come back another day because the Mahoning County Dog Pound in Ohio did not have room for four dogs for whom she could no longer care, the animals were abandoned in a nearby nature preserve, including an epileptic Chihuahua in need of medication.
  • A Mississippi news outlet reported that some animals who are turned away from “no-kill” shelters are then “dumped alongside roads, abandoned at a neighbor’s house or shot and killed.” As a woman took her three dogs to an open-admission shelter, her husband said, “It was either that or shoot them.”
It’s true that “no-kill” shelters don’t euthanize animals, but by turning animals away, they sometimes condemn these same animals to terrifying, painful, and violent deaths. Open-admission animal shelters accept every dog, cat, bird, rabbit, hamster, rat, and any other animal who comes through their doors. They don’t pick and choose, accepting only the young, healthy, behaviorally sound animals who might be quickly adopted. They pledge to help every animal in need, even when the best they can offer is a painless release from an uncaring world. Please support open-admission shelters and help end the need to euthanize animals for lack of good homes by having your animals spayed or neutered and by urging everyone you know to do the same.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Benghazi Coverup

I frankly don't care what happened in Benghazi. 4 people were killed. I regret that. But I look at the big picture.

The Republicans and Fox News talk about Benghazi non-stop. 4 people were killed. Suppose it was all Obama's fault, or Clinton's fault.

Benghazi dead: 4

But Obama ended the war in Iraq. 4,493 people died there. Bush was responsible for that. So we could make a little arithmetic problem that even Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina can understand:

Bush responsible for deaths in combat: 4.493
Obama responsible for deaths in combat: 4

But of course, Obama also ended the war in Afghanistan. 3,387 people died there.

Also, Bush ignored intelligence warnings that a terrorist organization was planning to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. This led to the 9/11 attacks that resulted in 2,996 deaths.

Bush responsible deaths in Iraq:              4,493
Bush responsible deaths in Afghanistan: 3,387
Bush responsible deaths on 9/11:            2,996
Bush responsible deaths total:               10,876

So we have the totals here from my special investigation of deaths caused by US Presidents:

Bush: 10,876
Obama:      4

All right, Republicans. You've spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours investigating 4 deaths in Benghazi. Now tell us what you've done to investigate the 10,876 deaths caused by Republican lies and stupidity in the Bush administration.

Friday, January 16, 2015

No to the Kochs and the Keystone Pipeline XL

Holly Masri wrote an email to Mark Warner, Senator from Virginia, where she lives:

STEAMED. Senator Mark Warner just sent me a lo-ong response for why he supports Keystone XL, and will continue to support it. Full of every talking point in the Republican arsenal, all of them long disproved. Some of you may enjoy my response... even though he'll almost certainly never see it: Mr. Warner: Oh, please. Your talking points are insupportable, scientifically, economically, morally, and in all other ways except that they apparently support YOU, and those who pay you. It's obvious you bend over plenty far enough... I just hope the petroleum industry supplies you with good grease, you heinous, pandering, bastard!!

This was the email that Warner sent her:



Dear Ms. Masri,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

After six years of study and debate on this project, I believe it is time we move forward, which is why I voted in favor of approving construction for the Keystone XL pipeline on November 18, 2014. The legislation fell one vote short of the 60 it needed to pass. A State Department environmental review found the project will not significantly add to global warming, it will create jobs, and it will allow the U.S. to increase its energy security. I support an all of the above approach to energy policy, including alternative energy, solar, wind, certain biofuels, and nuclear. 

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada filed an application with the U.S. Department of State in 2008 to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast for export. The pipeline requires a Presidential permit from the State Department because it is part of the infrastructure that connects the United States with a foreign county. 

Following TransCanada's application, the State Department prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identifying potential impacts of the pipeline and opened a 90-day public review period. During this time the State Department received a wide range of comments both supporting and opposing the pipeline project. The State Department Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental Scientific Affairs took into consideration comments from more than "400,000 e-mails, letters, and other communications submitted throughout the scoping process by public citizens, government agencies, tribal governments, and interested nongovernmental organizations as well as over one million e-mails, letters, and other communications submitted to the Department during its consideration of the previous Keystone XL application." One of the primary concerns from Nebraska residents was the pipeline's proposed route through the Sand Hills region of their state.

TransCanada then reapplied for a Presidential permit and proposed an alternate route. The State Department conducted a subsequent final Environment Impact Statement (EIS) and issued a report on January 31, 2014. Many groups and individuals have commented on the report, and a broad interagency group of eight federal agencies including the Departments of Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluated a variety of factors prior to making  recommendations on the permit application. The President's Executive Order (EO) specifically mandates that in order to receive a permit the pipeline must be in the "national interest." 

I will continue to monitor developments on this important issue, and will work with my colleagues to put together a sustainable energy policy that will meet the needs of the American people, now and in the years to come. Again, thank you for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my newsletter please visit my website at http://warner.senate.gov



Sincerely,
MARK R. WARNER

United States Senator

In this email, Warner reveals the primary reason for the Keystone Pipeline XL project. The pipeline would transport crude oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico for export. This statement clearly means that the only benefit to the US will be to oil refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, which will profit by refining the oil and selling it to foreigners.

The State Department's Environmental Impact Report, which I will call the Whitewash, states plainly that oil refiners in Texas and Louisiana need to find more crude oil to refine, because oil production has been declining in Mexico and Venezuela. The XL project thus lets fossil fuel exploiters keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere when there is a possibility to produce less. Furthermore, all the US benefits will be going to a few oil billionaires in Texas and Louisiana, the very same vermin who have been using dark money and huge campaign donations to thwart the will of the people. (Whitewash §1.3.1)

We should be crystal clear on this point: the fossil fuel industry will profit by this pipeline. It will not affect oil prices in the US because the oil produced is too dirty to use here. The effect on oil self-sufficiency will only benefit the fossil fuel industry that needs more oil to keep its refineries running. Not only is tar sands oil too dirty to burn in the US, it also uses more energy than other, low-sulfur oil, because it has to be processed in Canada by cooking it with natural gas. The process adds even more CO2 to the Earth's atmosphere.

Warner cites President Obama's statement that in order to receive a permit, the pipeline must be in the national interest. Warner does not explain how enriching a few oil billionaires in Texas and Louisiana is in the national interest. He also does not address the latest scientific findings, published in Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html), that none (NONE) of the unconventional oil reserves in Canada can be burned if the world intends to keep global warming less than 2 degrees.

Warner blithely notes that the State Department took testimony from groups and individuals, but does not mention that every single environment-preservation organization in the world opposed Keystone XL Nor does he bother to explain why, since that is the case, the Congress should approve its construction anyway.

Bad Form, Senator Warner, Bad Form. 




Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Barack Obama, All-Star

At the end of the year, there are always a bunch of retrospective articles on the presidency. This year, history has been kind to Barack Obama. Like, really kind. The stories all list Obama's signal accomplishments achieved against persistent, unreasoning, and sometimes angry opposition.

Obama's performance as the first Black president is like the career of the first African American in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson. Robinson had to put up with the same kind of treatment on the job that Republicans have inflicted on Obama.

The fans booed Robinson and hurled racial epithets. They threw things at him in the field. Opposing players tried to injure him on the bases. Through it all, Robinson kept his cool by following his manager's advice never to let his detractors see him get angry.


Robinson responded to the pressure by becoming a rookie sensation, winning batting titles, and becoming the National League MVP. He was the first major league star to concentrate on stealing bases and scoring runs, rather than hitting home runs.

That sounds to me a lot like what Barack Obama has been doing. As the first black president, he has taken a lot of abuse from the press and Republicans. Not a single Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act, which had been proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a Conservative think tank, and implemented by Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts.

There is one major difference between Obama and Robinson. Robinson had to spend several years in the Negro Leagues and started his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers when he was 28. Failing health forced him to retire at age 37 after only 10 years in the league.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, became president in 2009 at the relatively young age of 47. When he leaves office, Obama will still be in the prime of life at 55. The thought of Obama being active after his presidency must be truly frightening for Republicans. The man they couldn't beat may be spending the rest of his life beating them.

I think that would be a fitting end to his story.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Secret societies and conspiracy theories

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. 

Where's the proof? Writing a story about a secret society and making a pretty graphic do not constitute proof. We need names, dates, places, accomplishments, letters, correspondence to show that events have been planned and executive. And no, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion do not count--they have been proven forgeries. And hatha yoga has absolutely nothing to do with Roman Catholicism, since the core teachings of yoga are over a thousand years old.

This kind of "silly science" takes up time that could be productively spent solving the world's problems. During the middle ages, when Catholicism was the only game in town, the learned priests spent their time speculating about heaven and hell and learning how to detect satanists and witches. They could have been learning about physics and mathematics but they wasted their intellects and precious time arguing about nonexistent spiritual entities.

We only have one lifetime. We can spend it increasing the store of important-sounding nonsense in the world, or we can spend it trying to solve the problems of the world. The choice is entirely yours.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Why Darren Wilson Must Face Civil Rights Charges

I see it all the time. Another clueless person says that Wilson must be innocent because of testimony given at the Ferguson Grand Jury hearings. Wilson was afraid of dying, so he had to shoot an unarmed man. The unarmed man, Michael Brown, was high on marijuana, so he mistakenly charged at the officer who was shooting at him.

There are so many errors in the Grand Jury transcript that even these true believers might notice something amiss. But these people ignore any facts that don't agree with their preconceived ideas. They believed that Obama was born in Kenya. They believed that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster. No evidence was ever produced to substantiate these beliefs, but the true believers still keep the faith.

The true believers read that Darren Wilson shot 12 bullets at Michael Brown, hitting him 6 times. Wilson fired at least 6 times at Brown as the young man was running away. Wilson testified that he was terrified of Brown, and that's why he killed him. Reality check: If Wilson was terrified of Brown, why did he chase him over 100 feet down the block? Shouldn't he have called for backup instead of following the man of whom he was terrified?

The true believers have perused a 800-page transcript of the Grand Jury hearing. Most of them do not know that this was not an actual trial. If it had been an actual trial, there would have been a judge there to explain the law to the jurors and stop the lawyers from using their questions to testify or explain the law. Any one of the serious errors made by the prosecutors during the hearings would be enough to reverse the verdict on appeal--if it had been an actual trial.

If the Grand Jury hearings had been an actual trial, the prosecutor would have cross-examined Wilson for hours, perhaps days, about inconsistencies in his testimony and his actions. Does Officer Wilson believe in demons? How could he recognize that Mike Brown was a demon? What was it about the face of this African-American boy that made Wilson so frightened?

So the true believers, among whom are many violent racists, can point to the Grand Jury decision not to prosecute Wilson as proof of his innocence, despite 6 credible eyewitnesses who described how they saw Wilson gun down a teenage boy because the boy had been walking in the street. True believers believe that every African-American male is a violent criminal. This decision vindicates that belief.

African-Americans and those who speak on their behalf, however, know that police officers harass, stop, arrest, and shoot young black men 10 times as often as young white men, even though it is believed that both white and black men break the law with about the same frequency. At least, the same percentage of whites and blacks in DC say they smoke marijuana, but 86 percent of the arrests are of blacks. That is why the crimes of Darren Wilson and McCullough need to be recognized and the perpetrators punished.

Dorian Johnson's Story

 A commenter on Google Plus asked, "My understanding may be wrong but policy is to shoot fleeing felons isn't it?"

Uh, no. In the first place, you're not supposed to kill a suspect. You're supposed to arrest them and bring them in for arraignment and trial.

Aside from that, the police policy is not to shoot at fleeing suspects--not felons. Remember, he's not a felon until he's convicted of a crime. In fact, it's exactly what a cop is not supposed to do, for a very simple reason. Shooting a gun is hazardous to bystanders. 

Once a bullet leaves the barrel, it can go anywhere. Hit off a rock and ricochet, or the ground, or a car. It can go through walls and kill someone sleeping in his bed.

I contest that Brown assaulted the police officer. That's not what Dorian Johnson said, who was standing right next to Brown at the time. That's what Wilson said, who had to have a reason for shooting at the back of a fleeing suspect.

Johnson said that Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck. Brown was 6'5", but Wilson was driving an SUV, so he could reach Brown. Johnson said Wilson threatened to shoot Brown when Brown tried to get out of Wilson's grasp. That would be the point at which Wilson pulled his gun. My theory is that Brown tried to deflect the barrel of the gun away from himself, which was when he was shot and wounded in his hand. All this is confirmed by the autopsy report.


Wilson's story is not plausible. 
Sure, you can reach into a car, but you can't reach around a cop and grab his gun, not unless it's already out of its holster. Wilson is never going to admit he already had his gun out and was pointing it at an unarmed suspect. A good attorney could have ripped his story to shreds on cross-examination. But Wilson was never cross-examined. Only one side of the story was told to the Grand Jury, which is why I call it a kangaroo court.

The Federal Case

Wilson could still be tried in a real trial, with a judge and an actual prosecutor, because a Grand Jury hearing is not a trial and a decision not to indict is not an acquittal, so there can be no double jeopardy. The governor of Missouri could appoint a special prosecutor, but he has indicated he will not. Of course not. He doesn't want to risk finding Wilson guilty after the extraordinary measures the prosecutor took in getting the Grand Jury not to indict.

There is one other possibility. There is a federal civil rights law on the books. It makes it illegal to deprive someone of their civil rights under color of law, which means that a cop or prosecutor pretends they are following the law when in fact they are breaking it. This "color of law" statute was passed in 1868 to enforce the 14th amendment. For the next 80 years, it lay dormant, as Jim Crow laws were passed in the South and African Americans were systematically denied their civil rights.

In recent years, however, the Color of Law statute has been used against Southern racists who killed civil rights demonstrators or bombed churches. You will read that the statute is difficult to enforce because the prosecutor must prove intent to deprive someone of his or her civil rights, but this is slightly inaccurate. The federal prosecutor must prove that the accused person intended, not just to murder someone, but to deprive someone of their civil rights. This is more difficult than just to prove that a police officer shot someone.

The important word in the law is willful. The prosecutor must prove that the shooter was willful in the act, that he knew what he was doing was not part of his job ("color of law"), but he did it anyway. The bad news is that this would be almost impossible to prove for a single person acting alone. Who knows what was going through Wilson's mind when he pulled the trigger on Michael Brown. He is certainly not going to give us an answer that would incriminate him. 

In his lengthy testimony before the grand jury, Wilson kept on saying how frightened he was of Brown, who looked "demonic". There are a couple of things wrong with his statement. First, he had to know that Missouri state law granted a policeman authority to shoot and kill an assailant if the policeman feared for his life. Second, he had to run 150 feet to get close enough to Brown to be attacked by him. 

The first fact makes it difficult to believe Wilson when he says he was frightened. He has a strong motivation to lie about this fact because he could face punishment if he says he wasn't frightened. The second fact also tends to contradict his statement that he was frightened because he jumped out of a vehicle, equipped with a radio and, presumably, a shotgun, and ran after a man he says he was frightened of. This is not the action of a reasonable man. The reasonable man would stay in the car and call for backup.

Wilson fired two shots in the car. One struck Brown in his hand. The other was embedded in the car door. Wilson struck Brown with five more bullets, one in the arm, three in the torso, and one in the head, the shot that killed him. We know from a digital recording made at the time of the shooting that 12 shots were fired. 

Five shots were unaccounted for. Either Wilson fired those shots as he was chasing Brown, or he fired at Brown and missed him just before he fired the shot that killed him. Since Brown was a large man and almost stationary at the time of the last shot, it seems unlikely that Wilson would miss five shots, then strike Brown with four. Rather, it is likely that Wilson fired the shots while he was chasing Brown.

Willful Action

For Wilson to be convicted under the federal statute, he had to have acted willfully to deprive Brown of his civil rights, in particular his right to live. The problem encountered by the Supreme Court in Screws v. U.S. is that depriving a man of his right to live is the same crime as murder, and murder is not a federal crime but a crime reserved for the states. In order to succeed, the court must decide that Wilson intended to deprive someone, whether Brown or someone else, of a Civil Right. That is the problem facing the federal government right now.

Make no mistake about it, the Justice Department cannot let itself be seen as helpless in the face of gross misconduct on the part of the state. The way around this problem was provided in the case of U.S. v. Price by convicting the murderers of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, of conspiracy to violate the civil rights, not of the Murder victims, but of the black people of Mississippi. The three victims were working to gain voting rights for blacks when they were murdered by the sheriff of Meridien, Mississippi, and a number of Ku Klux Klansmen. The court determined that the murderers were motivated by their desire to prevent blacks from voting, in other words, to deny their civil rights.

A similar charge could be brought in this case. After the death of Brown, the Prosecutor, with the assistance of Wilson's lengthy testimony, was involved in a conspiracy to deny the people of Ferguson their right to petition for redress of grievances. The grievance was the failure of the courts to try Wilson for murder. The police department of Ferguson was involved in a conspiracy to deny the people of Ferguson their right to petition for redress of grievances as well as their right to peaceably assemble.

There is no lack of evidence of these crimes. The police sought, day after day, to suppress legitimate assemblies with truncheons and tear gas. They committed false arrests against members of the press and neutral observers. Their intent was clearly to deny the people of Ferguson their civil rights as defined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Prosecutor released a voluminous transcript which proves that he did not make any attempt to convince the grand jury to indict Wilson. Instead, his deputies interrogated witnesses in such a manner that the grand jury had to assume that Wilson was innocent. Wilson was permitted to testify without cross-examination for hours. The substance of his testimony shows that he was either coached by lawyers on the points of Missouri law relating to police violence, or else was well aware of those details through previous experience.

There is a member of the Ferguson police force who has stated that the whole force was racially biased and prejudiced against the people they were sworn to defend. This prejudice took form in denial of many basic civil rights, such as the right to walk down the street without being harassed, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment as freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

All these violations of civil rights were committed by the police force and the prosecutors of the city of Ferguson. The Justice Department has a duty to see that the perpetrators are punished. Bringing these people to justice should have the same salutary effect on the respect for civil rights in Ferguson as the trial of Scherner, Chaney, and Goodman had in Meridien, Mississippi, in 1964.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Why healthcare.org doesn't work

No one should be surprised that the federal government can't do database interfaces very well. Their computers are obsolete, of course, as are the development platforms they use. They require their programmers to use obscure programming languages that they are not allowed to fix. But the worst barrier between you and the database of your choice is the rigid hierarchy that infects the halls of power.

We know how to develop good technology. Silicon Valley has numerous companies that do it quite well. Google and Facebook come to mind. But the federal government pays absolutely no attention to the rules of program development, among which are the following:


1. Hire the best engineers you can find. Forget about Ivy League credentials and teacher recommendations. My company once hired a high school student who had been helping them with user testing. They waited until he got out of high school, though.

2. Give your developers their head. These developers are like spirited racehorses. If you tell them they must wear a suit and tie and be in the office at 9 am, they will bolt for the nearest exit, where they will find project managers eager to hire them. 

3. Make sure your engineers are creative and flaky. Encourage them to stay at the office by giving them whatever they need. Google gives them espresso and food. There are also game rooms (see below).

4. Let them goof off. My favorite software company developed video games. Anyone in the company could play video games at any time. That was part of the culture. In other companies, the department snitch spies on you and tells the manager you are goofing off. The Roman philosopher Seneca explained it this way: Reading and writing are opposites. You must do both, like breathing in and breathing out. Programming and playing are opposites. You can't have one without the other. One company I worked at had a big red nerf bat. The project manager came to your cube and hit you with it if you were late with your code. The same company had super-soakers (squirt guns). Members of the development team would sneak up on someone and spray him with water.

5. Pay them time-activated bonuses. These usually take the form of stock options that don't vest until a person works for the company for several years. This keeps them working for the company and gives them an incentive to keep producing.

These are just a few of the effective practices used in the computer industry to produce  high-quality software. Here, by way of contrast, are some of the practices of the federal government:

1. Always hire graduates of top Universities. Federalistas believe that they should hire people with good grades who are skilled at pleasing their professors. These people should fit in well in a federal system that prizes pleasing your boss above all other virtues.

2. Always give preferential treatment to veterans. Unfortunately, this hiring practice works against finding good programmers. Veterans learn how to follow orders. Good programmers learn to disregard orders whenever necessary. Their attitude is different. They know that managers can't code, so they don't pay attention when managers tell them how to do something. Good managers, on the other hand, don't give explicit orders to programmers, because they know programmers like to figure things out on their own.

3. Hire stable workers who will stay on the job for many years. This works well when you are looking for people who need to fit in to a hierarchy to be happy. Such people make terrible programmers. Good programmers find problems in other people's code and tell them about it. Good programmers abandon a structured design when it isn't working. Good programmers find new and innovative ways to solve problems.