Lunch is Finger Lickin’ Good at the National Weather Service

Does your boss supply you with knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups and napkins when you eat lunch? (Fast food employees may feel free to stop reading now.)

The National Weather Service employees serving on the front lines at Fort Climate are angry because Uncle Sam stopped. Who has time to remember the cutlery when you’re fighting “Climate Change?”

Naturally the union filed a grievance, a process where taxpayers again foot the bill, but we are off the hook for place settings.

Complete details in my Newsmax column:

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/U-SCommerce-Department-Dan-Sobien-National-Weather-Service/2015/01/22/id/620109/

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NIH Makes Monkey’s Uncles Out of Taxpayers

The National Institutes of Health has billions of tax dollars to give away each year in the form of research grants. I’m sure that senior bureaucrats have the really famous diseases and maladies already booked up.

That means the newbies have to identify their own causes and studies to make sure that every last penny is given away each year.

Which is why NIH is one of the world’s leading producers of party monkeys and alcoholic mice. Complete details in my Newsmax column. Read it, post it on Facebook or shout it from the rooftops! Thanks.

http://www.newsmax.com/MichaelShannon/Federal-Budget-NIH-National-Institutes-of-Health/2014/09/19/id/595707/

Block Grants Don’t Block Spending

Busy week. My latest column is up on Newsmax.com. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Packers) has a new plan to fight the War on Poverty. And no, it’s not an exit strategy.

Unfortunately, in spite of his best effort, there is less to the plan than meets the eye. Please see for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/mfelxld

We Were Sequestered Before It Was Cool

Sequester pruning

The Obama Administration’s Ministry of Truth has been experiencing some traction problems in the DC area. The scare stories regarding the collapse of the air travel system in the event of sequester are simply not motivating people in spite of the fact the Mainstream Media (MSM) has dutifully spread the word.

We are warned that in the event of sequester, massive TSA layoffs will result in airline passengers waiting up to three hours before they can be groped by a highly–trained government sex harasser. Slashing the budget by two cents on every dollar will also mean TSA guards won’t be changing rubber gloves between touchy–feely sessions.

Female passengers, who undergo nearly nude full–body scans, will be relieved to learn this drastic reduction torpedoes the ink budget. TSA can no longer afford to print particularly comely images for posting in the lunchroom. And since it’s too costly to store the pictures on government hard drives, TSA will ask remaining employees to work overtime and upload the images to their Facebook accounts for safekeeping.

According to the White House, you aren’t even safe on board the aircraft. Air traffic controllers will be awakened from their control tower naps and told to go sleep at home. The few remaining will be grumpy and sleepy, with a consequent slowdown in takeoffs and landings.

Assuming one gets in the air, passengers will be shocked to learn airlines will no longer offer free in–flight meals and instead expect passengers to pay handsomely for sandwiches wrapped and catered by 7/11. Wait, that’s already happened. Sorry, false alarm.

All in all it’s a horrible foretaste of privation and delay, yet not a single Republican Congressman is hanging from a lamppost. In fact there is so much indifference here that Obama has taken his nationwide Hyperventilation Tour on the road.

The reason for our calm in the face of the impending storm is that Metro, our local DC subway system, has essentially been sequestered for the past two years and life has continued. It’s more inconvenient, spontaneous and ad hoc — at least when it comes to arriving on time — but it is life.

I’ve long contended Metro is the only mass trans system run by an improv group, but now the passengers are joining in the fun. Take this week for instance: Tuesday morning on the Silver Line (this is DC, so everything has to do with money) crack Metro crews were testing equipment. As the WaPost reports, one of the brakes began to lock up. Like the spinster on the way to church who assumes a flat tire will heal itself, the crew continued operating the train trying to get off the track before rush hour or looming obsolescence caught up with them.

They didn’t make it. The wheel wore down to a nub, a pantoodler fell off and sliced through 60 cables and the system ground to a halt. The only thing left to do was call AAA and wait for the tow truck.

Metro officialdom predicted repairs would be complete by noon, but it took a total of nine hours. Metro sent alerts to passengers twice and then their thumbs got tired. So between 7 AM and 2 PM Metro passengers were on their own, which is a not uncommon condition. Then a train malfunctioned on the Yellow Line. There was a track problem on the Blue line. And another train shot craps on the Green Line.

And those are just the unplanned shutdowns.

The system regularly closes entire stations on the weekend and as a matter of fact the Reagan Airport station will be shut for three days beginning March 1st. (I guess they figured what with the sequester and all, no one will be flying anyway.)

Metro limits the number of trains on holidays and shuts escalators for months at a time forcing passengers to trudge upward toward daylight from the bowels of the system. Recently on a single day Metro passengers suffered seven electronic thefts and every last one of them was during daylight hours! Thieves evidently rest during the night so they can read the manuals and learn how to download apps.

The reason Metro ‘service’ is such a gamble is management didn’t bother with routine maintenance for the past 15 or so years. I’m guessing the thinking was: We’re the government, what could go wrong? So current passengers pay for the mistakes of past incompetent management, a situation young people are soon to encounter with regard to Social Security taxes.

Frankly, I’m hoping the full effect of the sequester hits when the majority of members of Congress are out of town. That way if they can’t get back, they can’t resume spending.

Social Security: Issuing Checks & Hollow–Points

Hollow–point bullets: a good reason to be polite when you visit the Social Security office.

Some of the more excitable members of the conservative Internet commentariat sounded battle stations when they learned the Social Security Administration (SSA) wanted to buy 174,000 hollow–point bullets.

Had granny decided she was not going passively the next time Paul Ryan tried to shove her off a cliff? Were irate seniors busy sharpening the legs on their walkers in preparation for the coming conflict over paying for Social Security?

The Infowars.com website speculated, “It’s not outlandish to suggest that the Social Security Administration is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest.” And the Daily Caller added the rounds have to be intended for domestic use, “since the SSA has never been used overseas to help foreign countries maintain control of their citizens.”

Which only makes sense when one considers how few foreigners are Social Security recipients, to say nothing of the lack of overseas Social Security offices.

Seeking to allay our fears, the SSA explained the ammunition was for the use of agents in the office of the inspector general that investigate Social Security fraud and other crimes.

That answered the “whom” but failed to address the “why.” The previously alarmed still wanted to know why the SSA was ordering hollow–points, which are bullets designed to expand upon contact with the human body, consequently doing more damage to the target.

The answer was for safety reasons — the bystander’s, not the target’s. As a hollow–point expands it loses velocity, so those rounds tend to remain inside the target. Military, or full–metal jacket rounds, don’t expand as much and consequently a military round is liable to pass through the target’s body and bury itself in a bystander.

For conservatives this firepower controversy is only a distraction. The real issue at hand is why does the SSA have a police force in the first place?

Bureaucrats have an answer already prepared. These agents “need to be armed and trained appropriately. They not only investigate allegations of Social Security fraud, but they also are called to respond to threats against Social Security offices, employees, and customers,” explained an official web post.

But lets look at the numbers. There are 295 agents working in 66 different offices that made a grand total of 589 arrests last year according to the WaPost.

It works out to less than two arrests per year, per agent. That’s hardly a punishing level of enforcement and it compares poorly with the nationwide average of 21 arrests per year for police officers. And it certainly does not justify the cost of duplicating existing federal law enforcement capability.

A better question is why does the SSA have it’s own police force when the U.S. Marshals Service is fully capable of making the SSA’s paltry 589 arrests?

This is why the US has a trillion dollar debt, a bloated, mismanaged government and conservatives who despair of ever reducing its size.  Empire–building bureaucrats duplicate services and programs and a compliant Congress sends us the bill.

Besides it’s just possible that if the Marshals Service had a few more warrants to serve they would occupy themselves with productive endeavors and not have time to cost victims money in the real estate market, as events in Manassas, VA demonstrate. There the service has just presided over the second auction of the old Post Office building that was seized as part of the assets in a fraud case.

Proceeds from the sale of the building are to go to victims who lost money. The first auction was held in April and attracted a bid of $385,000 that was accepted by the auctioneer. Anyone who has ever placed a bid for stolen electronics on eBay knows that means the bidder now owns the Post Office! Except the normal rules of the marketplace don’t apply to the government, which neither understands nor encourages a truly free market.

The feds make their own rules.

So the Marshals Service rejected the winning bid, because explained the spokesperson, “We felt it was too low.” Any real estate agent worth his photo featuring calling cards will tell you a property is worth what someone will pay for it, not what some bureaucrat thinks looks better in the news release announcing the distribution of the money.

The bidders, bless their hearts, increased their offer to $400,000, a sum that was also rejected. And there the situation stood until last month when another auction was held and guess what? This time the winning bid was $355,000.

Assuming this bid is accepted, the Marshals Service’s marketplace ignorance will have only cost the intended recipients of the proceeds $45,000. Unless the Marshals Service intends to hold out for an even lower bid.

But this mistake is consequence–free for the Marshals, just as building an unnecessary police force only enhances the organization chart at the SSA. In the first instance it only costs taxpayers and in the second only tax dollars. And what bureaucrat cares about either?