30 Sep

Report: Workers got full pay and bonuses for little work


(WSB Radio) – In a new report, internal investigators say more than $5 million in federal resources were wasted at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as a group of workers were allowed to draw full pay, benefits and bonuses while doing little actual work for several years.

“The volume of hours charged to Other Time – which were hours that paralegals were paid their full salary, but were not working – was remarkably high and troubling,” reported the Inspector General at the Commerce Department.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
30 Sep

Libertarians sue Kentucky public television for First Amendment violation


(Libertarian Party) – A federal constitutional lawsuit, filed today against Kentucky Educational Television in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, stems from its new exclusionary policy regarding public debates, eliminating Libertarian participation. The plaintiffs in the case are Libertarian David Patterson’s campaign for U.S. Senate, the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, and the Libertarian National Committee.

“I firmly believe that there is something wrong here,” Patterson said of the new debate inclusion criteria. “An Open Records Request showed that KET modified the criteria multiple times during the campaign season. The suspicious timing and ever-increasing thresholds seem to be created to ensure I didn’t get to participate. They knew what the ramifications of those changes would be, and chose to act anyway.”

Under the last version of the criteria, only Democrats and Republicans would have ever previously qualified to participate in KET’s debate. The ACLU has called on KET to use the original criteria, under which Grimes and McConnell were invited and under which Patterson qualifies for the debate.

Attorney for the plaintiffs Chris Wiest stated, “Certainly public broadcasters like KET are entitled to impose objective criteria for debate participation, but what they cannot do and what KET internal email indicated they did, is impose such criteria to engage in viewpoint discrimination with the purpose to exclude particular candidates in contravention of the First Amendment.”

Carla Howell, political director of the national Libertarian Party, noted that support for political alternatives is extremely high. “Recent polls show that 53 percent of Americans don’t think Democrats or Republicans represent Americans, and that 58 percent of Americans want an alternative party. Numerous polls also show that Americans want what the Libertarian Party delivers: much less government and more freedom.”

Ken Moellman, state chair of the Libertarian Party of Kentucky, raised ethical concerns. “Beyond any of the legal questions, the ethical ramifications of KET’s actions are clear; they have violated five of the nine planks of their mission statement, as they acted to mute the voices of a growing political movement. Based on polling, at least 250,000 Kentuckians will have their voices squelched by KET’s new criteria. As a taxpayer funded organization, they have a great responsibility to act impartially and to reject pressure — whether implicit or explicit, internal or external — to squelch alternate political viewpoints.”

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
30 Sep

Equal Work? Government Has No Idea What That is


(Selwyn Duke for SmallGovTimes) – “Equal pay for equal work!” the mantra goes. “Women get only 73 cents on a man’s dollar!” These are oft-heard slogans, and we may well hear them again during the fall campaign with the War on Women afoot.

Now, going beyond the rhetoric, it’s not widely known but nonetheless true that the intersex pay gap is attributable to different career choices men and women make: women tend to choose less lucrative fields (e.g., soft sciences instead of hard ones), work shorter hours even when “full time,” are more likely to value personal fulfillment and job flexibility over money, are more inclined to take time off, generally have less job tenure and more often decline promotions. But while I’ve examined these factors at length in the past, the topic today is something more fundamental. This is that there would be a problem with even a well-intended equal-pay-for-equal-work scheme:

Hardly anyone knows what equal work is.

And the government hasn’t the foggiest idea.

Recently I mentioned how women tennis players now receive the same prize money as the men at Grand Slam events (Wimbledon; and the US, French and Australian opens) and how this is hailed as a victory for “equality.” Yet since the women still only play best of three sets but the men best of five, this actually means the men must work longer for the same pay. Even this, however, doesn’t truly illuminate the issue: what actually constitutes “equal work” in professional tennis?

I’ll introduce the point with another example. The top 10 female fashion models earned 10 times as much as their male counterparts in 2013. Is this unequal pay for equal work? Not really.

While I don’t know if women models’ job is more labor intensive, I know they don’t get paid because they’re capable of posing, wearing clothing, standing under hot lights or parading down runways. It’s because their “work” helps to satisfy a market — and it satisfies a bigger market than the men’s work does.

Note here that while people today frown upon discrimination based on innate qualities, integral to doing the women models’ work is being female. If the male models were women, they might be able to do the same “work” and satisfy the market equally.

Likewise, does the “work” in tennis directly have to do with number of sets played? As an aspiring 12-year-old tennis nut, I’d sometimes play 10 sets a day under the sweltering summer sun, but no one thought of compensating me and I never felt oppressed. Professional tennis players earn money because they satisfy a market, and the men’s “work” does this more effectively than the women’s. And how would we characterize this more valued work?

It is success on the men’s tour — people want to see the grandest stage in the game.

Thus, the only way a woman in tennis could do work equal to that of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal is to compete on, and succeed equally on, the ATP Tour. Of course, a woman who could would not only enjoy the same prize money (it’s greater in men’s tennis overall), but would become a sporting sensation and might very well receive endorsements dwarfing the men’s. So her “work” then could actually be greater.

There are endless more mundane examples. A woman gynecologist I know will only hire female assistants because she believes it makes her patients more comfortable. Not only is this an example of why sex discrimination is often justifiable, but what if she was forced to hire a man? If the patients were indeed less comfortable — and, therefore, perhaps less likely to visit her practice — would that man truly be doing “equal work”?

Now consider female police officers. Forget for a moment that standards on forces were long ago lowered to accommodate women based on “disparate impact” theory and that Eric Holder is currently suing the Pennsylvania State Police for treating women equally. Imagine a study found that people in general, and the criminally inclined in particular, found male officers more imposing and therefore were more likely to mind their p’s and q’s around them. Would, then, even a highly competent female officer be able to perform “equal work”? And if not, and reflecting the phenomenon with fashion models, wouldn’t being male (or at least appearing so, to head the “transgender” argument off at the pass) be integral to the “work” of policing?

What of a female reporter in male athletes’ locker rooms? Not only wouldn’t it be allowed if the sexes were reversed, but if those men were less comfortable and less likely to be forthcoming in their comments — or even if they just had to modify their behavior — could her “work” really be equal to that of a male reporter’s?

Next, my local hardware store provides knowledgeable workers, all men, who render valuable advice on products and how to perform various home repairs. If it was determined that people found a female in that role less credible and were then not quite as likely to buy from the establishment, would even a highly competent woman be able to do “equal work” in that capacity?

What about the little West Indian restaurant, with all-black workers, I loved when I spent a few weeks in Tampa? If hiring a white person made the eatery seem less authentic and negatively affected its appeal, would that individual be able to do “equal work”? The same, of course, could be asked about a black person working in a German restaurant. In these cases race would be integral to the “work.”

And what of a homosexual Boy Scout troop leader? If his presence made parents less likely to enroll their boys in the organization, could he be capable of “equal work”?

Of course, one knee-jerk reaction here is to say that people “shouldn’t” view female cops or hardware specialists, or homosexuals differently than anyone else. But this is a moral argument of questionable morality, as it applies a bias in selectively objecting to market biases. People take little issue with gynecologists or day-care centers that won’t hire men, with male models being paid less or with ethnic restaurants hiring only non-whites. But try only hiring only male cops or employees; compensating a male hardware specialist more handsomely; or, as with Abercrombie a few years back, valuing employees who don’t wear hijabs over those who do. You may have an experience with the DOJ or EEOC that’ll make a dance with the IRS seem pleasant.

We could also talk about how we “should” value work. If we were deific or at least angelic, we would certainly value a mother-of-four’s labors or Mother Teresa’s loving charity more than Facebook and completely devalue rappers’ vulgarity. And even though I earn less than mainstream-press profferers of pablum, I consider my work infinitely more valuable. But flawed though market determinations may be, they’re still the best guide available.

Even within this worldly context, though, some may say there’s more nuance to the matter of work than my examples express. They may contend, for instance, that female police and hardware specialists might have strengths that counterbalance or even outweigh their weaknesses. And guess what?

I agree.

My examples could possibly be lacking.

And this just buttresses the point: virtually no one — if anyone — can properly assess what constitutes equal work in every situation.

This is yet another reason why the matter of work and pay is none of the government’s business. Are bureaucrats, politicians and judges qualified to determine what equal work might be in the thousands of professions in America? Government isn’t God; it’s not even the market, which can be defined as economic democracy expressed through purchasing decisions. When it intrudes into the economy it’s more like Hitler trumping his generals during WWII and deciding on military strategy: an autocratic agency as incompetent as it is arrogant.

Contact Selwyn Duke, follow him on Twitter or log on to SelwynDuke.com

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
30 Sep

Army can’t track spending on $4.3b system to track spending, IG finds


(Washington Examiner) – More than $725 million was spent by the Army on a high-tech network for tracking supplies and expenses that failed to comply with federal financial reporting rules meant to allow auditors to track spending, according to an inspector general’s report issued Wednesday.

The Global Combat Support System-Army, a logistical support system meant to track supplies, spare parts and other equipment, was launched in 1997. In 2003, the program switched from custom software to a web-based commercial software system.

About $95 million was spent before the switch was made, according to the report from the Department of Defense IG.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
29 Sep

Feds Spent $300,000 Studying How to Ride Bikes


(Free Beacon) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) spent $300,000 studying how “humans interact with bicycles,” the latest example of what a House committee chairman calls waste in the agency.

The premise for the project, which was conducted between October 2009 and June 2013, was that bicycle dynamics are “poorly understood,” and researchers set out to come up with new designs to encourage more Americans to bike to lower their carbon footprint.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
29 Sep

California bans government sales or display of Confederate flag


(Mercury News) – Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation prohibiting California state government agencies from selling or display items displaying the Confederate flag.

Brown’s office on Thursday announced signing AB2444. It was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton after his mother saw replica Confederate cash sold at the Capitol gift shop.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
29 Sep

Why did the USDA buy submachine guns?


(CNN) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s internal audit arm has 85 shiny new submachine guns, locked and loaded.

They’ve long had a small police force, and they’re not alone, thanks to a mostly forgotten provision in the behemoth 2002 Homeland Security Act that allows federal auditing agencies to equip themselves with agents who carry guns.

Criminal investigators at agencies like the USDA, the Small Business Administration and NASA can carry firearms.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
29 Sep

Illinois judge rules police entitled to Swat raid over parody Twitter account


(Guardian) – The police hadn’t even come for him. When four fully-armed officers of a Swat team burst into Jacob Elliott’s house in Peoria, Illinois in April they were looking for the source of a parody Twitter feed that had upset the town’s mayor by poking fun at him.

It transpired that one of Elliott’s housemates, Jon Daniel, had created the fake Twitter account, @peoriamayor, and so incensed the real-life official, Jim Ardis, with his make-believe account of drug binges and sex orgies that the police were dispatched. Elliott was just a bystander in the affair, but that didn’t stop the Swat team searching his bedroom, looking under his pillow and in a closet where they discovered a bag of marijuana and dope-smoking paraphernalia.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
29 Sep

U.S. surveillance programs threaten freedom of press, report says


(Reuters) – U.S. surveillance programs are making it more difficult for government officials to speak to the press anonymously, two rights groups said on Monday.

Large-scale surveillance, on top of the Obama administration’s crackdown on national security leaks, threatens the freedom of the press and the right to legal counsel, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare
28 Sep

SS may soon search tourists blocks away from the White House


(NY Times) – The Secret Service is considering screening tourists and other visitors at checkpoints before they enter the public areas in front of the White House in response to the episode Friday in which a man with a knife managed to get through the front door of the president’s home after jumping over the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to law enforcement officials.

As part of the screening, the Secret Service would establish several checkpoints a few blocks from the White House, the officials said. The screening would likely be limited to bag checks and not include measures taken at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, which include metal detectors and body scans.


FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterestStumbleUponRedditDiggBufferGoogle BookmarksNewsVineBlogger PostWordPressShare