Category Archives: Government Incompetence

Quote of the Day: #Ferguson Edition

Here’s a great observation for Lucy Steigerwald writing from Rare:

Whether the shooting of Brown by Wilson was justified or not, it’s important to remember that there were good reasons people distrusted the Ferguson police’s narrative of events.

Police did everything wrong after Brown was killed. They left his body in the street, they refused to answer questions or identify the officer. They used military tech to answer the protests that resulted. They repeatedly teargassed crowds, arresting peaceful protesters and members of the media.

Officer Darren Wilson shouldn’t be punished for the impression that people — especially minorities — have of the police. If he doesn’t deserve prosecution, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Whether he deserves harsh, little, or no punishment is still up for debate.

Read the whole thing. The entire article is worth quoting but I thought I would just wet your beak.

57,000 Federal Workers On Paid Leave For Months: WaPo

The Washington Post has written about a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that makes the claim that over 57,000 federal workers are on paid administrative leave for over a month.

Tens of thousands of federal workers are being kept on paid leave for at least a month — and often for longer stretches that can reach a year or more — while they wait to be punished for misbehavior or cleared and allowed to return to work, government records show.

During a three-year period that ended last fall, more than 57,000 employees were sent home for a month or longer. The tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone.

(…)

But a forthcoming report by the Government Accountability Office found that 53,000 civilian employees were kept home for one to three months during the three fiscal years that ended in September 2013. About 4,000 more were kept off the job for three months to a year and several hundred for one to three years. The study represents the first time auditors have calculated the scope and cost of administrative leave.

All of this is despite clear government regulations stating that paid time off should never go beyond a few days; the Justice Department, in one example, limits the time to ten days unless the assistant attorney general approves a longer period. However, one particular case – of someone who was put on leave, and wanted a resolution – indicates a clear problem with the left hand not talking to the right:

“Six months went by and we didn’t hear anything,” said Scott Balovich, who was put on administrative leave from his computer job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Alaska. “You’re so anxious. You don’t know if you’ve got a job. You’re getting paid, but it’s no vacation.”

Balovich was kept out of work while investigators examined how pornographic images had gotten onto his computer hard drive. He ultimately was cleared of any personal involvement and returned to his job last week. His attorney, Debra D’Agostino, a founder of the Federal Practice Group, said he “got stuck in the inertia of bureaucracy.”

Linked in the piece is another WaPo report from December 30, 2012, going over the minutia of the federal workers themselves when they get stuck in legal pergatory.

Paul Brachfeld, the inspector general for the National Archives, planned to ring in the new year with his wife with a relaxed visit to their vacation home near Bethany Beach, Del. In October, the couple took a cruise to Puerto Rico. Brachfeld runs every morning in Silver Spring, hikes with Spree, his Jack Russell terrier, in the woods most afternoons and catches up with his adult daughters in the evening. All while collecting his $186,000 government salary.

These days, his life seems like one long vacation. The veteran watchdog for the historical records agency is entering his fourth month on paid time off, one of an unspecified number of federal employees who are collecting paychecks and benefits to do .?.?. nothing. At least nothing to advance the immediate interests of the government.

(…)

In a system that rarely fires people, no one can say how many are on paid administrative leave. It’s one number the government apparently doesn’t track.

There are many reasons for this, and most of them involve a desire to not be sued by workers. Between union contracts, interpersonal squabbles and outright sour grapes, workers are a threat to sue their employer, and when it’s the federal government, there’s additional layers of oversight, obfuscation and confusion worked in. This leads to many people having an interest to prevent that from happening, and those people tend to work slow.

As far as direct supervisors – middle managers – are concerned, putting someone on administrative leave is a win-win situation: they get rid of a problem for whatever reason, and they don’t have to pay the person so they could care less. What’s another $50,000? But it adds up, to the tune of $775m, plus benefits, and asking the government to oversee itself in this case is like asking a wolf to guard the flock.

The answer, however, isn’t necessarily to just make government work right-to-work. Between existing workers unions (which have brought good things to American workers all around, whether they’re union or not), the continued skittishness of the existing job market, and the potential for abuse due to personal or political connections – imagine a Democratic takeover of an office resulting in any Republicans in that office being thrown out onto the streets – going completely right-to-work would be a tremendous shock to the system that would damage workers and cause tremendous instability in public sector work. The only justification for that is that the resulting inefficiency that comes from such high turnover could potentially lead to a reduction in government because the existing one isn’t working, but breaking ones toys to get new ones is never a solid answer.

The answer here is simply stronger enforcement: five working days of leave, with back pay due if no issues are found or if termination cannot be adequately justified. If an HR department cannot build a case for termination within that amount of time, then the worker can go back to work, even if they’re a “threat”. It will force people to think long and hard before going that route. Government bureaucrats who need a fainting couch reading that can simply look at the other side of the argument – full right-to-work, which I’m sure many of my colleagues would argue for – and pick which side they prefer.

Christopher Bowen covered the video games industry for eight years before moving onto politics and general interest. He is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus, and has worked for Diehard GameFan, Daily Games News, TalkingAboutGames.com and has freelanced elsewhere. He is a “liberaltarian” – a liberal libertarian. A network engineer by trade, he lives in Derby CT.

John McCain vs John McCain: Ebola Czar Edition

In 2008, even though the presidency of Barack Obama has been a disaster, the American people picked the lesser of the two evils. It is truly terrifying that John McCain won the presidential nomination of a major political party.

At first, Senator McCain was opposed to using “czars” in government as this tweet obtained by the Huffington Post shows:

Fast forward to now and the Ebola epidemic. What does Senator McCain urge President Obama to do? Appoint an Ebola czar.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) believes President Barack Obama should appoint a “czar” to lead America’s response to Ebola.

“From spending time here in Arizona, my constituents are not comforted. There has to be more reassurance given to them. I would say that we don’t know exactly who’s in charge. There has to be some kind of czar,” McCain said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I don’t think we’re comforted by the fact that we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States,” McCain continued. “Obviously that’s not correct.”

Today, President Obama did just that. He appointed Ron Klain, a longtime advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, to the post. Klain has no apparent healthcare background.
So where does Senator McCain stand on the appointment? Senator McCain blasted the appointment of Klain.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who led the charge calling on President Obama to appoint a health czar to oversee the response to Ebola, says the president’s pick of Democratic operative Ron Klain is inadequate.

“Frankly, I don’t think Mr. Klain fits the bill, as a partisan Democrat, certainly not in any effort to address this issue in a bipartisan fashion,” McCain said Friday evening on Fox News.

“He has no experience or knowledge or background in medicine,” he added.

McCain is correct about the fact that Klain’s sole qualification to be Ebola Czar is that he’s a partisan Democrat hack and as such, he has no business coordinating anything. So what does McCain propose instead?

McCain said on Fox that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell was the logical choice to fill the role of an Ebola czar, adding that she is a “very capable individual.”

Do Senator McCain and President Obama know we already have an Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the Department of Health and Human Services whose job is to….coordinate the government’s response to pandemics like Ebola?

Why do we need yet another “czar”?

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Performance Enhancing? Nope… normalizing… But don’t try to tell the DEA that

There’s a funny thing about my life… I’m not sure if this is comic, tragic, ironic or what…

I spent more than 10 years as a serious competitive powerlifter, football player, wrestler, and martial artist, and another few years as a just a hobbyist.

In that entire time, I never did a single “performance enhancing drug”… Never even tempted to do so.

Now I’m a broken down, fat, middle aged cripple… who the DEA looks at like I’m a drug dealer or abuser of “performance enhancing substances”… just to keep from getting fatter, more broken down, and more crippled.

I’m 8 years into the frank symptoms of chronic illness (which turned out to be a weird and rare kind of endocrine cancer, that almost killed me, and basically destroyed my endocrine system. I have been cancer free for almost 2 years now), and  I am now on damn near the exact combination of drugs that “juicers” would traditionally use for such things.

I take more testosterone every week than most steroid abusers would even think of… and I don’t cycle it, I take it constantly, deep muscle injection every week.

I take an aromatase inhibitor to keep all that testosterone from converting to estrogens and testosterone antagonists (and giving me all the nasty side effects that not cycling off testosterone injections give you). We’re experimenting with that one right now, but we may end up adding an estrogen/estradiol antagonist to the mix on top of the aromatase inhibitor.

By the by… those drugs are normally what they give to breast cancer and ovarian cancer patients. They actually say in the interaction warnings “do not take if you are a man”… unless of course you’re a man whose body is producing too much estrogen, or converting too much testosterone into estrogens and testosterone antagonists, and blocking his ability to produce and use testosterone properly. If you’re not one of those men, it dramatically increases the effect of testosterone (and other steroid hormones) on your body.

I’m on enough primary thyroid hormone to quite literally kill a normal person… in fact, not just “enough”, the amount I take is several times the lethal dosage. It’s still may not be enough for me. The doc just increased it today, and will probably increase it again in 6-12 weeks when we sort out the effects of the new meds. Sometimes athletes abuse thyroid hormones for weight loss, increased energy, and to boost other performance enhancing hormones naturally.

For allergies, and for inflammation pursuant to the endocrine issues, I take two different other steroidal medications (a glucocorticoid and a mineralcorticoid), which act as bronchodilators and anti-inflammatories.

To deal with some of the unfun and nasty side effects and after effects of the cancer (to improve metabolic function, energy, mental acuity etc…) I’m also taking enough creatine to put a normal person into kidney failure… For me, it actually makes my kidneys work better.

Because of the aftereffects of the cancer, the endocrine issues, and the side effects of the medications, I’m on megadoses of vitamins and minerals. I mean MEGADOSES.

Between all of those, my growth hormone production and DHEA production should be elevated through the roof… as if I was taking illegal supplementation of HGH. It’s not… because my endocrine system is so screwed up.

For my edema (another lovely endocrine side effect, which can be made worse by my meds), I take more diuretics than the most abusive wrestler, gymnast, or bodybuilder. I’ve lost 24lbs in 24 hours, and 48lbs in 7 days just from the pills.

For musculoskeletal pain and systemic inflammation, I’m on more and stronger anti-inflammatories than any athlete rehabbing after a major injury (I take 1000mg of etodolac twice a day). I also get periodic shots of antiinflammatory medications directly into my knees.

Those let me get out of bed and walk. Without them… I just don’t.

Between my normal blood chemistry, the damage the cancer did, and the side effects of medications, I’ve got polycythemia, and I’m a hyperclotter. I’m basically naturally blood doping.

To counter the aftereffects of the cancer and make the other meds work better (adrenal and pituitary support), I’m on enough stimulant medication (which is also a bronchodilator) to make the DEA look funny at my doctor… until he explains all of the above.

In fact, the DEA looks funny at several of the drugs I’m taking above. My doctors have had to explain to my pharmacists, and both have had to explain to the DEA… no, I’m not a drug dealer or abuser, I’m not a steroid abusing weight lifter… I’m just a guy who needs this stuff to live.

I should be taking actual pain killers too… I’ve got enough musculoskeletal  damage, neurological damage, and inflammation, that my baseline background pain is pretty substantial.

For those familiar with pain management, I live at about a 3-4 most days, with breakthrough to a 7 on good days, and 6 or 7 with breakthrough to 9 or 10 bad days.

That’s with the meds. Without… there are no good days. There’s just days I can get out of bed, and days I can’t.

I simply refuse to take painkillers. They don’t do a damn thing for me unless I take horse tranquilizer doses, and then they knock me out cold… or worse, leave me sami conscious and barely awake, but unable to think, or concentrate, or really actually sleep. Beside, I don’t like the other side effects.

I’ve learned just to live with the pain, and take what pain reduction I can get with my other medications.

And by the way… this is a MASSIVE REDUCTION of the stuff I used to be taking, during the cancer. My primary care physician and my endocrinologist are both alternative and integrative medicine believers who hate drugs, and only prescribe the absolute minimum necessary.

I’m not overmedicated… if I go off of any of them, or all of them, nothing gets better and it all gets worse. We’ve done differential testing, going off one at a time and seeing the impact then going back on, then varying dosages… I’m definitely not overmedicated.

If anything, there are some other medications that might help me more. We’re very slowly adding things in one at a time, so we can test and measure and adjust.

This isn’t overmedication…

This is what happens, when your endocrine system completely loses the ability to regulate itself. It’s trying to regulate through medication, what the body normally regulates naturally.

It’s what I need to live, and be functional.

The worst thing is though… because of DEA actions, regulations, guidelines, and investigations… Several of my medications, that I need to live, and be productive, and actually be ME?

They’re constantly short of them, or out of them entirely. Sometimes it’s every pharmacy within 30 miles.

They don’t stock them, they don’t stock the dosages I need, or they don’t stock enough to fill my scrips for a month.

I have to get hand written, signed scrips every month, I can’t get refills, and I can’t get more than a 30 days supply at once. If I’m caught with more than a 30 days supply, I can be charged with unlawful possession, and possession with intent to distribute.

I have to hand carry those scrips to the pharmacies, only for them to tell me that it might be a week, maybe two weeks, before they can fill the scrip; because the DEA production quota for that quarter had been exceeded, or the distributors orders were above the DEAs suspect threshold, or because they had sold out of all they could order for that month without the DEA investigating them, or because one scrip of mine was more than the DEA told that pharmacy they could keep in storage.

We won’t even get into what the drugs themselves cost, or what they would cost without the regulatory and compliance burden to deal with these issues.

…And god help me if I actually took the painkillers I should be taking.

All this… because the medications that I need to live and function… are sometimes abused by other people to “enhance their performance”.

… and somehow, some people still seem to think that the “drug war” is helping?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Nanny State Strikes Again: School’s Implementation of Zero Tolerance Goes Too Far

In an effort to control perceived growing violence in schools, Congress passed the 1994 Gun Free Schools Act (GFSA) which required states to implement zero tolerance policies on school property as a prerequisite for receiving federal aid from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2002, Congress repealed this version but reauthorized the zero tolerance requirement under the No Child Left Behind Act. The revised bill expanded the school’s jurisdiction for such offenses from school property to any school-related function. So under the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts would not receive federal funding unless they implemented zero tolerance policies with a mandatory one year expulsion for any student who brings or possesses any firearm on school property or at any school function. School officials are also required to report these offenses to law enforcement agencies.

Have school boards taken these policies too far? Despite no duty or requirement to do so, most school districts have enacted strict zero tolerance policies for other offenses including possession of knives, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. They have also enacted zero tolerance offenses for acts of violence and even expression of speech, all under the guise of protecting students. For example, an honor student in Dearborn, MI was suspended this month for a year because school officials found a small pocket knife in her bag at a football game.  From the Huffington Post:

A Detroit-area high school has suspended an honors student for the rest of the school year over a pocketknife the student says she had by accident.

Atiya Haynes, 17, was caught with the pocketknife at a homecoming football game in late September at Annapolis High School in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. School officials were searching the bags of female students exiting the restroom after a security guard claimed to have smelled marijuana nearby, according to local outlet WXYZ-TV. When officials searched Atiya’s bag, they found no marijuana, but did find a small knife.

Atiya says she did not realize the knife was in her bag. Her grandfather had given it to her over the summer, urging her to carry it for protection when riding her bike through dangerous neighborhoods to her lifeguarding job, according to MLive.

Atiya, an Advanced Placement student, was originally expelled from Annapolis High following the incident. However, on Monday, the school board rolled back her punishment, albeit slightly. Atiya is now suspended for the rest of the year, but will be allowed to take online classes and graduate with her class in 2015, reports local outlet WJBK-TV.

For starters, students do not lose their constitutional rights when they enter school property. Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch Dist, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). The Supreme Court has further held that public school administrators are considered state actors for purposes of Fourth Amendment searches. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985). Students also have a reasonable expectation of privacy in items that they bring to school, even though this expectation is diminished. School officials do not need probable cause to search, like law enforcement would. They may search based on a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and most jurisdictions require that this reasonable suspicion is individualized. One US District Court has held that the scent of marijuana is insufficient to show an individualized reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing if the scent cannot be determined to come from any individual or confined group. Here, the security guard claimed that s/he detected the scent of marijuana “nearby”, but there is nothing to suggest that the scent could be confined to Atiya or anyone else in the immediate area. I would argue that this was an unreasonable search and the knife is just “fruit from the poisonous tree.”

Let’s say, for all intents and purposes, that the search was valid. The punishment still does not fit and is excessive. Miss Haynes is an honor roll student, enrolled in AP classes, and potentially college bound. I would imagine that this suspension will go on her permanent record, which could affect her ability to receive scholarships or even get into certain colleges. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that she didn’t even know that the knife was in her purse. Is this the type of protection that Congress had in mind when it passed No Child Left Behind? In this case, Atiya Haynes is the only child being left behind and she is not the only one. Here are some other examples of overreaching zero tolerance policies:

In 1998, a Colorado school expelled a ten year old student when her mother inadvertently packed a small paring knife in her lunch. Despite trying to do the right thing by turning it in, she was expelled under zero tolerance policies and school officials said they had no discretion. While the expulsion was eventually overturned, her family was forced to move after receiving harassing letters that her family was trying to destroy the school.

In 1999, a Florida high school student was suspended for one year for bringing nail clippers to school. This expulsion was also reduced to a ten day suspension. However, the principal of the school was quoted as saying that he “was not…ready to arm kids with more ammo, to bring more items on our campus and make it an unsafe place.” Forget the fact that the student never used the nail clippers herself. Did I mention that her “crime” was bringing nail clippers to school? Nail. Clippers. This is the kind of “dangerous” activity we are trying to protect students from? Let that one sink in.

In 2013, two Virginia middle school students were suspended for nine months for shooting airsoft guns (similar to BB guns) in their front yard. The school claimed jurisdiction because the bus stop was in front of their house.

In 2012, a six year old student in Maryland was suspended for pointing his finger in the shape of a gun and saying “pow.” The principal sent a letter home to the parents stating that the boy “threatened to shoot another student.” Yes, this will be on this boy’s permanent record.

Similarly, a seven year old Maryland student was suspended in 2013 when he bit his pop tart into the shape of a gun and said “bang bang.” These two events led Maryland State Senator J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore) to introduce the “Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013” to the Maryland Legislature, which would prohibit schools from suspending or expelling students who use any object that resembles a gun, but serves another purpose. In other words, the bill requires school administrators to use a little common sense. Has it really come to the point where we need such legislation?

In 1999, a Missouri high school junior was suspended for ten days when he responded “yes!” to an online message board asking whether students thought that a Columbine incident could happen at their school. As a result, he became ineligible for the National Honors Society and missed taking achievement tests which would have placed him in college level courses.

Finally, we saw the post made by Tom Knighton yesterday about the five year old student who was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation and sign an agreement to not harm anyone or herself because she drew a picture of a gun and held up a crayon, saying “pew pew.” She is five!

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, students who are suspended from school are more likely to suffer psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety from being ostracized. They are also much more likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system and therefore, the “playground to prison pipeline.” The American Psychological Association’s Zero Tolerance Task Force further found that zero tolerance policies had the opposite effect on preventing school violence. This is just another example of overreaching state power and the government, in its “infinite wisdom”, thinks it knows best. We would be better off to eliminate or reduce zero tolerance offenses. Our kids and future generations will thank us.

Albert holds a J.D. from Barry University School of Law as well as an MBA and BA in Political Science from The University of Central Florida. He is a conservative libertarian and his interests include judicial politics, criminal procedure, and elections. He has one son, named Albert, and a black lab puppy, named Lincoln. In his spare time, he plays and coaches soccer.
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