One of the features of the Weekly is an excerpt from News of the Weird, six or so stories the editors find particularly interesting each week. Here are three that were selected for this week's edition that I, too, found particularly interesting. First, in local government:
Catch-22: NYPD officer James Seiferheld, 47, still receives his $52,365 annual disability pay despite relentless efforts of the department to fire him. He had retired in 2004 on disability, but was ordered back to work when investigators found him doing physical work inconsistent with "disability." However, Seiferheld could not return to work because he repeatedly failed drug screening (for cocaine). Meanwhile, his appeal of the disability denial went to the state Court of Appeals, which found a procedural error and ordered that Seiferheld's "disability" benefits continue (even though the city has proven both that he is physically able and a substance-abuser). [New York Post, 7-12-2011]Then in Federal government:
Once hired, almost no federal employee ever leaves. Turnover is so slight that, among the typical causes for workers leaving, "death by natural causes" is more likely the reason than "fired for poor job performance." According to a July USA Today report, the federal rate of termination for poor performance is less than one-fifth the private sector's, and the annual retention rate for all federal employees was 99.4 percent (and for white collar and upper-income workers, more than 99.8 percent). Government defenders said the numbers reflect excellence in initial recruitment. [USA Today, 7-20-2011]Apparently this inability to relieve someone for cause extends from municipalities all the way up to at least the Federal Bench:
Of the 1,500 judges who referee disputes as to whether someone qualifies for Social Security disability benefits, David Daugherty of West Virginia is the current soft-touch champion, finding for the claimant about 99 percent of the time (compared to judges' overall rate of 60 percent). As The Wall Street Journal reported in May, Daugherty decided many of the cases without hearings or with the briefest of questioning, including batches of cases brought by the same lawyer. He criticized his less lenient colleagues, who "act like it's their own damn money we're giving away." (A week after the Journal report, Judge Daugherty was placed on leave, pending an investigation.) [Wall Street Journal, 5-19-2011, 5-27-2011]And, oh hell, let me throw in one more example of .gov employees giving away other people's money:
Gee, What Do We Do With All This Stimulus Money? The Omaha (Neb.) Public School system spent $130,000 of its stimulus grant recently just to buy 8,000 copies of the book "The Cultural Proficiency Journey: Moving Beyond Ethical Barriers Toward Profound School Change" (Two stars on Amazon. By all means, read the reviews.) -- that is, one copy for every single employee, from principals to building custodians. Alarmingly, wrote an Omaha World-Herald columnist, the book is "riddled with gobbledygook," "endless graphs," and such tedium as the "cultural proficiency continuum" and discussion of the "disequilibrium" arising "due to the struggle to disengage with past actions associated with unhealthy perspectives." [Omaha World-Herald, 7-11-2011]Those four examples came from one single week of News of the Weird.
But none of these items are "of strange or extraordinary character" today. They're just Standard Operating Procedure for our government, be it municipal, county, state or federal. The entire system is occupied by people who share an overwhelmingly similar worldview, a worldview not shared at all by the overwhelming majority of the people they supposedly "serve." That's one reason why we won't be voting our way out of this mess. It goes way beyond the people who get elected and the ones whom they appoint. I mean, it's not like it's their money they're wasting.
Screw it. I'm going to Reno.