Friday, June 02, 2006

We Are Destroyed By What We Disdain

Check out this post over at TAPPED (The American Prospect) about the comically convoluted labyrinth of formulas supposedly used by Homeland Security to determine the terrorist risk rating of various U.S. cities--a system that somehow designated Washington, D.C. as "low risk" (partly on the ground that it has no hotel casinos or theme parks).

I see two possible explanations for this idiocy: (1) The absurd system that Homeland Security is blaming for its ludicrous risk assessments is merely a cover for decisions that are, in fact, purely political. (2) The department actually based its decisions on their system, which is ridiculous because it was devised, approved, and used by people who don't know how to run an actual organization and in fact pride themselves on this disability (disdaining "bureaucracy," "red tape," "big government," and all that).

In one of his wonderful books on baseball, sabermetrician Bill James observes that people who believe that baseball statistics are meaningless refuse to learn what statistics really mean and therefore end up believing the stupidest theories about the sport, trapped by their own willful ignorance. Something of the sort happens regularly to the Bush administration. Disdaining government, they refuse to think about how to conduct it with intelligence and efficiency, and therefore end up perpetrating some of the most bizarre bureaucratic screw-ups ever seen--from the Medicare drug program to Katrina to Iraq.

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