Let's run the numbers
Monday, July 07, 2003
Just how bad is President Bush's record on job creation?
Billmon has an answer here.
I'll reprint his wittiest lines:
Just how bad is President Bush's record on job creation? It's like asking: "Just how bad was that fire aboard the Hindenberg?"
Tip O'Neill used to complain that the problem with the Democrats is they keep turning voters into Republicans. The problem with the GOP, it seems, is that it keeps trying to turn them back into Democrats again.
Go to his website, The Whisky Bar, and take a look at his numbers. They'll give you pause. Who's the only president since Truman who's had a decline in number of jobs in the country? Guess who.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
From my undisclosed location
I was just reading the paper here in my undisclosed location, which rhymes with Shmattanooga, and looked at the editorial page. Both of the letters to the editor dealt with the alleged wrongs of the Clinton Administration. Guys, it's been three years. If you want to bitch about him that bad, repeal the twenty-second amendment and let the big dog run again. Otherwise, open yourself a big can of STFU.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Bush Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Fight War On Criticism
Has The Onion started running real news stories? Read on and decide for yourselves. I'll be back in a few days.
WASHINGTON, DC—Citing the need to safeguard "America's most vital institutions and politicians" against potentially devastating attacks, President Bush asked Congress to sign off Monday on a $30 billion funding package to help fight the ongoing War On Criticism.
"Sadly, the threat of criticism is still with us," Bush told members of Congress during a 2 p.m. televised address. "We thought we had defeated criticism with our successes in Afghanistan and Iraq. We thought we had struck at its very heart with the broad discretionary powers of the USA Patriot Act. And we thought that the ratings victory of Fox News, America's News Channel, might signal the beginning of a lasting peace with the media. Yet, despite all this, criticism abounds."
Critical activities, Bush noted, have not returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels, when well-organized, coordinated attacks on his administration were carried out on a near-daily basis. But in spite of the National Criticism Alert Level holding steady at yellow (elevated), administration officials warn of severe impending attacks.
"We've become too complacent," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "We've grown accustomed to thinking of criticism as something that only happens to people in other political parties. But this administration needs this funding to counter a very real threat to its reputation."
Monday, June 30, 2003
Busy Busy Busy
Working like a fiend this week, and getting ready for a trip home for the holiday weekend. So, I don't have time to read all of the pundits online. What to do? Check out the brilliance of Busy, Busy, Busy which provides distillations of the longwinded bloviations. Brad Delong mentions it on his site today, and I think it deserves repeating to all three of my readers. Such fine things, including this blurb from my buddy Charles Krauthammer:
Shorter Charles Krauthammer: No 'Roe' Replay On Affirmative Action: The Supreme Court's affirmative action decision is socially ruinous, a legal travesty, and a good thing as it circumvents a potential Roe-style political backlash against my side.
Oh, and I've added some new blogs to my blogroll. Check them out at your leisure.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Took the Political Compass test
Thanks to Tiger, who has a link to this on his page. Granted, some of the questions are poorly worded, and it definately doesn't cover all aspects of political philosophy, but it was fun. And I ended up slightly to the left of Ghandi and the Dalai Lama.
The Political Compass
Jim's Political Compass Results
Friday, June 27, 2003
Strom Thurmond Dies at 100
Impressive for his longevity, intolerable because of his early views on race. Certainly a mixed bag.
"We cannot — and I shall not — give up on our mission to right the 40-year wrongs of liberalism," he said during his last campaign. "The people of South Carolina know that Strom Thurmond doesn't like unfinished business."
His voting record was pro-defense, anti-communist and staunchly conservative; his tireless devotion to constituent services was widely revered.
Wonder what Trent Lott will say? Keep the recorders handy, guys.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
OK, now which one of you is the real God?
Yesterday, on Brad DeLong's blog, I picked up a bit from Ha'aretz, where W. is quoted saying:
"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."
Didn't they make fun of Woodrow Wilson believing he had a hotline to the almighty? But, you see, it gets better from here. He may not be talking to the right God. Or at least not the one Pat Robertson's 700 Club talks to:
On April 30, 2003, America was positioned as the catalyst to jump-start the so-called "solution" to the Middle East crisis. As U.S.-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in, the "Road Map" peace plan was set in motion.
The very next day began the worst month of tornadoes in American history, more than 500 in a single month. Normally, 1,000 tornadoes hit the United States each year, but this year, in just eight days in May, 375 twisters ripped across the heartland of America.
While in Israel, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns told a group of left-wing activists that "common sense" would override the conservative and Christian viewpoints concerning the road map.
May 9th, 2003, President Bush addressed students at the University of South Carolina. Bush called on the Palestinians to embrace the road to peace, and see the flag of Palestine raised over a free nation.
Hours later, tornadoes returned and Oklahoma City again became the bulls-eye for deadly twisters, reducing what was left of businesses and homes to splinters and bricks. The tornadoes of May devastated the Midwest with the third worst property damage in American history. Since then, the Road Map has endured a rocky road to June, coinciding with what may be America's most rain-drenched spring in history.
On the East Coast there have been less than 10 rainless weekends the entire year. And in the West, certain crop-eating pests are having their best year in six decades amid dry conditions.
Perhaps their gods can get together and do lunch. (Thanks to FARK for the 700 Club story.)
Blogger was down, and Medicare
Otherwise I'd have gotten these posted last night. Enjoy.
Also, check this article on Yahoo! news about Medicare and a memo that details the cost of this new prescription drug plan. Basically, it will increase premiums for people who stay in traditional medicare by 25%. The Democrats on the Hill have asked for the memo, and it is not forthcoming from Medicare's Chief Actuary, because he has been threatened with dismissal if he releases it. Go read.
Recording Industry to Sue Internet Song Swappers
I'm trying not to use bad language to describe the disgust I feel right now about the record industry. They've apparently decided to start suing individuals for trading music on P2P networks like Kazaa, for which they can claim $150,000 in damages per occurance. So, if you have 100 songs on your hard drive, they sue you for $15 million dollars. It's time for a boycott. Boycott major label CDs, and boycott the movie industry for supporting this.
I'm trying to think of when I last bought a new CD in a record store. Or listened to commercial radio. Been a long time, and was when I was outside of the Washington, DC area. Radio sucks here, and I haven't had the time to go in search of a decent record store, preferably with a good used CD selection, like I used to have in Knoxville and Chattanooga(McKay's and The Disc Exchange). I've picked up some CDs at shows and concerts, but not in record stores, and not on Amazon.
Wonder if my not buying CDs, and people like me who can't find anything we like on the radio, are the reason that sales have declined? (Can I blame this on Clear Channel? It'd be nice, but that's not the entire answer.) Or is it because the number of new albums released has declined. You can get more information on that from this article in The Register. If you want the raw data, click on the link at the bottom of the article. Used to be these numbers were on the RIAA website, but they were "redacted". Such a civilised word for the practice of deleting information that raises unpleasant questions.
Remember when CDs came out, and they said the price was high because they were new and expensive to produce. And now, they say they're expensive because all of the development they have to do for artists? So, why are tapes still cheaper?
Speaking of which, do you remember when the major record labels got sued for antitrust violations for price fixing, and lost? Apparently they were colluding to fix prices with the record stores. Do a search on the net, you'll find out more about the settlement. But most people, even those who have bought a ton of CDs over the years, haven't heard about it. And there wasn't much mention of it in the mass media.
Apple has made a step in the right direction, with 99 cent downloads you can burn for yourself onto CD. But why should we pay the same price for CD material when we're providing all of the physical product, and they don't have the inventory and distribution costs? Drop it to 50 cents and you'd have everybody behind you. Or drop the back catalog stuff even lower, to 25 cents, since its already been paid for either in popular sales or as a tax write-off, and charge 99 cents for the new stuff. Video stores do it all the time. But the record industry would rather control everything. They don't want to lose the money they make as a middleman, as a controller of the acts, and as a controller of the distribution channels.
About all we can do is quit giving them money to use to bully us. There's really no reasoning with the thugocracy of money. Fritz Hollings and Orrin Hatch are bought and paid for. We won't get anywhere going to the government to help us. So, quit buying CDs from major labels. Quit going to movies, quit buying movies on tape or DVD. Boycott the bastards. Screw the bullies.
And burn your Dixie Chicks CDs. They're one of three dozen artists and groups supporting this. Goddamit, I'm sorry I supported them for bashing W. There I go, using bad language again.
Mrs. Datanerd is angry
As all of my longtime readers know, Mrs. Datanerd is a librarian. And she's using bad words about the Governor of Florida, who just fired the head of the State Library in Tallahassee. Governor Bush lost his fight with the state legislature to shut down the State Library in Tallahassee, and move the collection, at first to Florida State University, except they didn't want it. Anyway, here's an excerpt from an article in the Tallahassee Democrat:
Sears' firing comes two months after the Legislature rejected Gov. Jeb Bush's plans to move the Library's circulating collection to Nova Southeastern University in Broward County. Bush's plans to reconfigure the Library drew vocal protests from librarians, the public and key legislators - culminating in March when nearly 250 protesters ringed the R.A. Gray building that houses the Library.
Imagine 250 protesters, made up of librarians. Seems like that would raise some eyebrows when that many people worked up about a library.
"It certainly would have a chilling effect on other state employees," said Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee. "Even if the perception were there. The close proximity in the time to those events - her being let go and the efforts to keep the library in Tallahassee."
Said Mark Neimeiser, political representative for the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, "The whole business of 'at will' employees doesn't mean we should throw out employees with years of experience who've done a good job. This administration has a history of making political choices which will hurt the public service."
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
We are not the enemy
Some history notes: I live in Alexandria, Virginia, just south of DC. After 9/11, the army base south of here, Fort Belvoir, closed two roads that had been open to the public, without public consultation or warning to the community. Because of this closure, traffic on Richmond Highway has gotten a lot worse, and Mount Vernon hospital is citing the closure of these roads as a reason for possibly moving or shutting down.
Last night at a town hall meeting, one woman stood up and shouted "We are not the enemy!" You can read more about the meeting in the Washington Post today.
When 9/11 happened, the people put up with additional security measures, because we were scared, and because we wanted the government to get us secure quickly. Since then, though, there has been very little discussion of the cost in terms of our lives of those security measures.
Security is one thing, but the various governments (local, state, and federal) are not taking into account the human cost of the security, and are not trying to minimize these costs. When we start asking them to count the human cost, they usually say "No, security" and wave us away, as if by asking we're part of the problem. We're not the problem, we're the citizens who make up this country. It's time to start reminding the government that we are not the enemy.
Friday, June 20, 2003
The Topic Today: Bubbles in the Economy
Steven Roach and Paul Krugman are on the same page, at least in terms of today's topic, another bubble cycle. And where will this take us?
It's hard to know where and how this all ends. The Fed's strategy seems to be aimed mainly at buying time -- hoping for a gradual and benign endgame to the post-bubble workout. That's certainly possible. But there's also the distinct possibility that the Fed is hoping against hope. I would personally assign equal odds to the chance that there will be a more treacherous moment of reckoning. My concerns in this latter regard stem from the increasingly ominous current-account implications of a saving-short US economy. Courtesy of outsize Federal budget deficits and massive multi-year tax cuts just enacted by Washington, it is not that farfetched to envision a net national saving rate that falls from a record low of 1.3% in the second half of 2002 to "zero" over the next 12-18 months. If that were to occur, the current-account deficit could widen sharply further from its record 5.1% of GDP just reported for 1Q03 into the 6.5% to 7.0% range by the end of 2004. Such a massive and ever-widening US current-account deficit could well set the stage for the ultimate post-bubble endgame -- a full-blown dollar crisis that would deal a lethal blow to the global economy and world financial markets. (Emphasis added)
But even if that happy scenario comes to pass, it's hard to justify current stock prices - because if the economy booms, the low interest rates that might conceivably make stocks worth buying at 30 times earnings will soon go away. If and when businesses start borrowing again, they'll have to compete for funds with the federal government, which will be running $400-billion-plus deficits as far as the eye can see. Meanwhile, foreigners won't keep lending us $500 billion each year; in fact, private investment inflows into the United States have already dried up.
Oh, and the banana-republic policies now being followed in Washington won't just drive up interest rates; they'll probably generate a full-blown fiscal crisis one of these years. That can't be good for equity prices.
Both of these articles mention the growing federal deficits. Right now we have an enormous current account (primarily trade in goods) deficit with the rest of the world. Foreign persons, corporations, and goverments have lots of dollars. And, right now, they like them and use them to buy dollar-denominated securitys in the U.S. But as our national savings goes down, we depend more and more on foreign sources to finance our government deficits. And if they decide they don't want any more dollar-denominated securities, because of weakness in the dollar, they will sell the dollar, driving its value even lower. It becomes a vicious cycle, as we saw in South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia in the late 1990's.
We've got two respected economists today pounding on us about asset bubbles. I think they're right, and I'm not sure how in the hell we can dodge this bullet. About any policy that would deflate the bubbles would be contractionary, taking money out of the economy right now when we need it in there to help prop it up. Trouble is, that money is just contributing to the latest bubble cycle. And these two esteemed economists don't give us any advice on how to deal with this.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
For those of you who have been with me since May, you may be wondering about how my workouts are going. Well, it's about a month and a half, and I'm still hitting the gym 3 times a week. Just got back a few minutes ago. Feeling the burn. Takes a bit longer now to get my heart rate up into that cardio training range, and a bit longer than that to get to the cardio straining, oh my god I'm gonna die range. Mrs. Datanerd says she can see the difference. I've lost 8 pounds so far, would like to lose another 15 before the end of the summer. Maybe I'll post pictures if I make it.
Now all I want is a very large glass of scotch.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
So I vote for 4 new blogs.
From The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase:
Transparent Eye: Dreaming of a Chirac Assassination
The SchoolHouse Review: How NOT to diversify
I probably wouldn't have voted for "Dreaming of a Chirac Assassination" had I not had a strange dream during my nap this afternoon concerning Charles Krauthammer and other talking heads raising the total amount of heat in the universe by blathering on endlessly. I had to keep him from overheated political speech or the world would end. Quite the challenge.
UPDATE: Tiger says some kind things about me, and these other bloggers, in his The New Weblog Showcase Review II. Thanks Tiger!
Another Vote for a New Weblog Showcase entry
From The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase:
I know this is probably bad for me: Grown Up Passion
Maybe the problem is not that the Dems aren't saying the right things ... maybe the problem is that the left wing equivalent of the right's talk radio is NPR.
I like her work. I've thought for a while that the left has a problem getting its message out because we tend to overthink and want to be intellectually rigorous. While the right doesn't care, lets fly with the most outrageous whoppers, never comes back to clean up their mess. Then they use our intellectual purity on us, accusing us of fabricating. So we go and cite a bunch of articles, while they've moved on to other accusations.
Oh, I like the gratuitious Ibyx shots too. Only thing I'd change is the black text on funky blue-purple background can be hard to read in Mozilla.
Friday, June 13, 2003
Back to North and South (Korea, that is)
I was initially troubled by a post on Eschaton(Atrios) by Lambert tonight. I'm not so sure about this, though. Here's the quote from military.com:
The U.S. is now moving rapidly to relocate its forces in South Korea well to the south of the DMZ. I suspect the real reason is to move them out of range of North Korean artillery. At present, if we launch airstrikes on North Korea, Pyongyang can respond with a massive, World War I-style artillery bombardment of U.S. ground troops that could kill thousands. The sudden withdrawal of Americans to positions south of the Han river reveals our intention to go after North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities. A possible North Korean riposte: demand Japan expel all American forces or kiss Osaka goodbye.
I just don't buy it. As our troops are withdrawn from the DMZ, our troops are replaced by ROK (Republic of Korea, aka South Korea) army troops. We wouldn't pull back, to leave them as obvious cannon-fodder. More likely, we are pulling back as part of a complex geopolitical charade.
When the Korean Armistace was signed, there were three parties. North Korea, China, and the U.S. The South Korean goverment was not involved and did not sign the armistace. This is why the North Koreans demand to have peace talks with the U.S., bypassing the South Koreans. This is why the U.S. is withdrawing its troops. Once they no longer patrol the border, they are no longer a threat to the North, and no longer need be a party to peace talks.
To maintain geopolitical stability, they can do as good a job in Osan, but without the direct threat on the North. And, the U.S. war plan for the penninsula already plans on losing the DMZ and Seoul, so why keep troops there anyway? Yongsan Army Base is on prime Seoul real estate.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Speaking of Bill Bryson
I'll hum the "Waiting for the elevator" song  while you go read this piece on CNN.com about him and his book, *A short history of nearly everything.
 Bryson, Bill. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.
Why, because I've entered my little piece of cyberspace into the New Weblog Showcase. And I'll be linking to the best ones in this weeks list here. And Brian's Study Breaks look interesting. But I'll be goddamned if I'm going to link to the meshugener who's link is saying "Smokers save lives". I'm an ex-smoker, a ex-two pack a day man, and it's an addiction. It's a disease. It's closely related to depression.
If a person wants to do that, it's fine. But I'm not going to justify their behavior as a social good. If you are a smoker a pack a day or more, you're a junkie. Get help. Take the patch, take the pill. They work. I know. I had to do both, but it broke the back of the addiction.
From The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase:
Brian's Study Breaks: Afghan Nation-Building
"This issue highlights a core problem in the Afghan reconstruction efforts: What is Karzai's means of unifying the country? As became clear from Bob Woodward's Bush at War, the most important early factor was money - we hired the warlords as mercenaries, and set up a state on the theory they would learn to profit from stability. However, they see their real power in their armed forces, and Dostum knows that if he loses that connection he becomes less worth the attention of the different power blocs. One thing to remember about Afghanistan is that even before the civil war there was never much central control by the government...the concept of the nation-state taken for granted by Western policy-makers really doesn't exist there. Hence, Karzai's main tool, a plea for Afghan unity to become a modern nation-state, may not be the best tool for the job, even worse than the Taliban's religious ideology. The government needs to sell itself as the guarantor of stability and prosperity, which requires military forces to make it safe to run an economy. And the famous "Afghan army" has been slow to develop indeed. As it is, I worry that the Afghan government may be trying too much too quickly politically. The RFE-RL-reported leaks about the Afghan constitution say it will call for a strong central government. In the absence of a basis for unity on the ground, trying to write it into the constitution is a serious mistake. "
3,000 antiquities looted
Howard Kurtz, in his WashingtonPost.com column, today calls the media to account for its deception about the 170,000 antiquities stolen from the Iraq National Museum, saying that "The actual number: 33. Yes, some of the booty was later returned, but 169,967 items? Maybe Don Rumsfeld was right that TV kept showing the same vase being carried away over and over."
Actually, Kurtz is wrong. 170,000 pieces weren't stolen. 3,000 were. The 33 that Kurtz cites is the number stolen from the "... 8,000 or so exhibit-quality, world-class pieces of jewelry, statues and cuneiform clay tablets." He cites the same article, All Along, Most Iraqi Relics Were 'Safe and Sound' that mentions the 3,000, yet doesn't mention this number at all, preferring to say "Only 33" were stolen. He then uses this as an opportunity to link to Andrew Sullivan and his blood feud with the New York Times.
This is the sort of sloppiness Howard Kurtz is supposed to be looking for and reporting on. Instead, he indulges in it himself. Bad critic, bad bad critic.
Oh, and does this mean that the Sippar Library has been found as well? That would make Mrs. Datanerd happy. But the Iraqi National Library is still completely missing, burned, or looted, so I don't have a whole lot of hope.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Other things on the current reading list are Bill Bryson, *A short history of nearly everything, and Timothy Garton Ash's The File, the story of the author reading his own Stasi file. If I can just make time to get more into it. I have one book (Chalmers Johnson) I read on the Metro to work and back, one book (Bryson) I read at night before bed, and one book (Ash) that I read in my easy chair downstairs. And that's the one that get's neglected.
Monday, June 09, 2003
Bush Asserts Iraq 'Had a Weapons Program'
Note, he is changing the terms of the debate. It used to be 25,000 liters of anthrax. Now it's that he had a "weapons program".
"The credibility of this country is based upon our strong desire to make the world more peaceful, and the world is now more peaceful after our decision," Bush said.
Remember this. I'm in the process of reading Chalmers Johnson's book Blowback. It's one of those books you wish you had read when it came out in 2000, because it talks about the effects of U.S. imperialism in the third world, and mentions Osama bin Laden by name as a figure we hadn't heard the last of. His basic premise is that our imperial posture across the world, as the "sole remaining superpower" will cause unintended consequences in the form of increased violence. I'll talk more about this later.
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Administration Seeks Overhaul of Federal Workforce
So far, the Bush administration had done a lot of things that I never thought they'd be able to get away with. Let's make a list:
I have been surprised by how much the Bush Administration has gotten away with, by waving the magic wand and saying "national security". This one, though, will be a real stinker. They are wanting to overhaul the Federal Civil Service system of employment, replacing it with something they claim will be more responsive and efficient.
I'm suspicious. There is a reason the Civil Service system is set up the way it is, to protect professional Federal employees from political forces and poor management. When you start "reforming"  the civil service, one of the key issues to address is how these "reforms" will affect protections from abuse by political administrations and management.
The article in the Washington Post today mentions several changes the administration wants. One change that they are seeking is to streamline the disciplinary appeals process, so that, "Rather than take their claims to the Merit Systems Protection Board, workers would have to go through a faster internal appeals process devised by their agency." In other words, if someone in the agency is fired, the appeal would be heard by people appointed by the person who fired him. This doesn't sound impartial at all. It's not quite as vicious as the private sector, where under the bizarrely named "Right to work" or "At will employment" laws a person can be fired for any reason, any time. But having an internal board is just window dressing to make it palatable, and does not get to the root of protecting employees from partisan political actions.
Defense employees could no longer count on the guaranteed annual pay raise that many federal workers hold sacred. Officials would implement pay-for-performance systems in which compensation would be tied to annual job evaluations, with poor performers getting little or no raise, or perhaps even a pay cut. The General Schedule, the current 15-grade pay system, would be replaced by more general pay ranges in a system known as pay banding.
This is fine as far as it goes. But by abandoning the graded pay system, we get away from the ideal of "Equal pay for equal work". How else can we guarantee equal pay for the equal work, regardless of sex, race, or political affiliation? How will raises be evaluated? What safeguards are in place to prevent raises from being based on internal agency politics or partisan needs instead of the hard work that the administration claims will be the standard? Again, these questions haven't been answered.
"Also mentioned as significant possible changes at Defense and other agencies are more latitude in offering bonuses and other incentives in recruiting top talent, and the ability to hire job applicants 'on the spot' -- or at least more quickly than the five months or so the current process requires." This will allow hiring of political cronies into top government positions. When this administration came into power, it made a small stink over the number of former administration political appointees who had "burrowed in", or shifted from political appointments to career civil service appointments. This will make that process easier, not harder. How will we make this a competitive process, where all qualified candidates are considered, and the top qualified candidate is the one selected? This has not been addressed either.
The Bush administration has a professed low opinion of the Federal workforce. It is fashionable to bash upon "gummint" employees, for whatever reasons. Hell, I used to do the same, before coming to Washington, DC, seeing how hard they work, and later joining the Federal workforce myself. You would think that rather than bashing it in public, the administration would be praising it for its hard work. After all, the administration controls the employees, not the other way around. And if the Administration is unhappy with the Federal workforce, why doesn't it try to work out changes, instead of bashing? Because if it bashes it enough, then it will be easier to pass sweeping changes through Congress, destroying protections for the Federal workforce, just like it has tried to do with the environment. The big difference is that Federal workers aren't as cute as caribou, and aren't as endangered, yet.
(As an aside, do you think that federal employees are fairly compensated? I do, generally. Pay is about the same, maybe a touch higher than in the private sector, but not much, and not always. The retirement plan is about the same as you'd get in the private sector, similar to a 401(k) with 5 choices, 2 bond funds and 3 stock funds. Health insurance is more expensive than I used to pay in the private sector. Although it has more options for employees, the employee shoulders more of the burden [I think it's around 25%, which is more than the 15% I used to pay in the private sector.] We get a few other holidays, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and President's Day, but we don't get some, like the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. The job security is a benefit that the private sector doesn't have. If they eliminate that, then the federal workforce will have no draw for people, and actually will have a negative impact on the perceived future value of federal employment.)
Yes, the bureaucracy can be a straightjacket, and some people are drawing paychecks without doing enough work to justify their existence. From my experience, it's the same in any large organization, public, private, for-profit, non-profit. There are Byzantine rules, indecipherable pieces of paper which must be filled out in the proper way, and officious pains in the ass who make it difficult to order supplies and reserve conference rooms. The key difference is that, in addition to office politics and insane requests from the front office, the Federal workforce can have political pressures brought to bear on it. And this administration has shown that it wants to politicize all other forums, so why not the federal workforce as well.
Instead of bashing and posturing, let's have an honest, responsible discussion of the role of the Civil Service and it's reform. If done right, it would take a little time, but would get at least 75% of the Federal workforce behind it, and probably about the same number of the general public. They don't like the slackers, and would love pay for performance. If it were truly pay for performance, and not a fig leaf for cost-cutting and rewarding political cronies. Trouble is, this administration is adverse to honest discussion, preferring misdirection and misinformation; fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
 Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest, has a good definition for "reforms" (including the scare-quotes):
Another lexicographical note; when I use the word "reform" here, I mean it in its normal sense, the sense in which advocates of reform throughout the ages have used it. In other words, I am using "reform" as shorthand for "a disgraceful attack on the common man by those better off than himself, which is made to look less disgraceful by lying about it".