Bureaucrat Beat: Government-Ugly, Big-Fat Bonuses and Santa on Slimfast?

Have you ever noticed how…well, ugly government buildings are, mostly? Like they want courthouse_-mono.jpgout of their way to build structures with no personality, no beauty? We could be charitable and say that this architecture is egalitarian, representative of all tastes or none, but what we prefer to say is it’s ugly. In the Eastern Sierra there are two notable exceptions – the courthouses in Independence and Bridgeport. Both, fairly old and of interesting architecture. For that alone, they are worthy of preservation. Mono County is ahead of the game on this point. The old courthouse has received some improvements to keep it going. The Inyo Courthouse is the forgotten white elephant with nary enough electricity to keep things going at times. Herein may lie a New Year’s resolution for the Inyo officialdom.

Speaking of resolutions, the feds could use a few. Gentle persuasion? Hardly. The Administration has pushed and shoved for a bill that would protect phone companies and other communications firms from lawsuits if they allow warrantless eavesdropping of our phone calls and emails. This does not feel right. So far, most phone companies have denied government access, fearing invasions of our privacy. Yeah!

In the new year, how about the government show a little more respect for our privacy. They can spy on real suspects with warrants. There is really no time problem on that.

One more resolution for America’s big corporations: Knock off the humongous bonuses for the CEO’s at our expense. According to Bloomberg News, the top securities firms handed out nearly $38 billion in seasonal bonuses, the highest total ever. In contrast, ala Ebeneezer Scrooge himself, a poll by Lake Research Partners for the Change to Win Labor Federation found that only 16% of respondents believed that their children’s generation would be better off financially than their own. American Dream up in smoke – poof!

After these rants, the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom staff agreed we should pull out Dale Carnegie again with his principles of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Hey, we need friends, too! Under the “Become a Friendlier Person” section, we see that we should…smile. Okay, we’ll get the oil can and loosen up the corners of our mouths a bit. Here’s another good one. “Give honest, sincere appreciation.”

We can do that! Before the holiday, news went out that a student at the Mammoth Lakes Eastern Sierra college Center gained the award of Student of the Semester. Matthew Scollin. College officials gave Scollin a certificate of appreciation, an alumni pin, a $250 cash award and a special remembrance gift. His name also went onto a perpetual plaque honoring all recipients through time. According to reports, instructors Christine Abbott and Matt Hightower nominated Scollin for his writing and creative analyses of literature. Others also supported him. His overall GPA, class participation, extracurricular activities and community involvement were considered. Scollin carries a 4.0 grade point average. His major is Political Science and Public Policy. Scollin also hopes to earn a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduation. We add our thank you to the young man. A hopeful note for the new year of hard work toward education and service.

See! We can bring on the positive side.

Back to craziness. Before the holidays, according to the Boston Herald, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson gave a presentation on childhood obesity in which he said something to the effect that Santa Claus should slim down. He is quoted as saying, “It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise. It is absolutely critical.” I guess his mom never told him that Santa is, well, not a people. Does he think the Easter Bunny should cut down on chocolates?

Our representatives in Sacramento may turn to some mythical characters for advice on the new budget. Real people haven’t done so well figuring out the big $14 billion budget deficit. The Governator doesn’t want to raise taxes and he’s hinted at cuts in education and social programs. Santa will find out he’s been naughty!

Other budget observers have suggested that California consider closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest and making big corporations pay their fair share. California is apparently the only state in the country in which oil drilling isn’t taxed. There’s a starting point!

Here’s another troubling statistic. The State’s prison budget has increased nearly 80% in the last five years. We will only quickly mention, again, that California’s Treasurer Bill Lockyer has called what goes on in Sacramento “Tooth Fairy” budgeting. Lots of major wishful thinking.

Back to Dale Carnegie. We will now mention Very Pleasant People we have encountered in 2007. Tom Smith, in charge of many things at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, including restaurants, and member of the Mammoth Community Water District Board for many years. Tom has made real contributions to the Mammoth Lakes community and is a nice person to boot. We caught up with him at a wine tasting in Town.

Craig London, Veterinarian and long-time contributor to the Bishop community. He lately reminded me that I n 1989 then-Congressman Charlie Wilson rode as the Grand Marshall in the Mule Days Parade. Craig was head of the Mule Days Committee that year. Wilson is the subject of Tom Hanks new film, Charlie’s War. Thanks for that Craig and for caring about our pets.

We’re off and running toward 2008, folks, here in Curmudgenville where we too smile and even laugh. Keep the comments coming.

With that, this is Benett Kessler, signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your views on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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