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Veterans Affairs Has 346 Workers Who Do ONLY Union Work

(from Judicial Watch, in part)

An estimated 346 employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs do no actual work for taxpayers. Instead, they spend all of their time doing work on behalf of their union while drawing a federal salary, a practice known as “official time.”That’s according to a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. But exactly what those VA workers are doing and why so many are doing it is not clear. The VA doesn’t track that, and the GAO report offers no clue.

Rep. Jody Arrington, R-Texas, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, thinks the number on 100 percent official time may be much higher. He also notes that the 346 workers don’t include those who spend most, not all, of their time doing union work.

“The lack of accountability at the VA when it comes to monitoring official time suggests it might be worse,” said Arrington, who has introduced legislation that would require the department to track the use of official time, among other reforms.

Pointing to the waiting list scandals at the department, Arrington said the official time situation is reflective of the “broken culture at the heart of the VA” and adds, “I haven’t heard one good, acceptable reason why the practice has continued.”

The VA was not eager to discuss the matter with the Washington Examiner. After several days of inquiries, it responded with the following statement: “VA believes that the appropriate use of official time can be beneficial and in the public interest as stated in the Federal Service Labor-Relations Statute, which governs how executive branch agencies treat official time. VA takes the position that labor and management have a shared responsibility to ensure that official time is authorized and used appropriately. VA practices are in compliance with the Federal Service Labor-Relations Statute.”

Official time is allowed under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. The idea behind it is to ensure that a federal employee who is also a union official won’t be penalized for being away from work if he or she is negotiating a contract or addressing a worker grievance, for example. It is essentially a trade-off for the limitations put on federal unions, such as prohibitions on striking.

At least 700 federal workers do nothing but work on official time, according to the GAO and data obtained from various Freedom of Information Act requests. The VA uses official time far more than any other agency.

“Employees spent approximately 1,057,00 hours on official time for union representation activities … In addition, the data show that 346 employees spent 100 percent of their time on official time,” the GAO found in a January report.

It is possible that even those figures are conservative. The GAO said the said the VA’s poor monitoring meant the data was “inconsistent and not reliable.”

The GAO didn’t know what the employees are doing with all of that time. “We just didn’t get into that in that particular study,” said Cindy Barnes, the GAO’s director of education, workforce and income security issues and author of the report.

Part of the explanation is that the VA is one of the largest federal agencies with 373,000 workers, making it second only to the Pentagon in the sheer size of its workforce. About 250,000 VA workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements, according to the GAO, citing 2012 data. Arrington puts the covered figure at 285,000.

By comparison, the Department of Homeland Security has 240,000 workers and the Department of Commerce has just under 44,000 workers. But those departments get by with proportionately far fewer people working exclusively on official time. DHS has 39, while Commerce has just four.

Another factor is that the VA’s workforce is represented by no less than five unions: The American Federation of Government Employees, the National Association of Government Employees, National Nurses United, the National Federation of Federal Employees and the Service Employees International Union.

National Nurses United representative Irma Westmoreland was the only union official willing to talk about the practice with the Washington Examiner. She is one of five nurses union members who work exclusively on union time at the VA. The union has another nine who spent 80 percent of their time at the VA on official time, she said.

Westmoreland said her work was necessary because nurses can’t simply stop taking care of a patient to do something like address a worker grievance. People such as her do the union work and make it possible for the other nurses to focus on providing care.

“I have to travel across the country working with 23 VA facilities in four time zones,” she said. “The management teams want somebody at 100 percent official time so they don’t have to pull somebody out of care.”

But not everyone at the VA is involved in care. So what are the other 341 exclusive official time workers doing? Westmoreland had no insight.

“I don’t know how the other people do it,” she said.

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox told Arrington’s subcommittee in February that official time involved activities such as “designing and delivering joint training of employees on work-related subjects and introduction of new programs and work methods that are initiated by the agency or by the union.”

He added that “in no way did the [February GAO] report suggest that the use of official time presents problems for the department.” The report sought only to quantify the amount of time used.

Arrington argues that the practice has to change if the VA is ever to be truly reformed. He has sponsored the Veterans, Employees and Taxpayer Protection Act, which would require the VA to track the use of official time. It also would prohibit employees involved with direct patient care from spending more than a quarter of their work hours on union activities and bar any VA employee from spending more than half of their time on official time.

The legislation would effectively put VA employees under right-to-work protection. The VA would be prohibited from agreeing to union contracts that force workers to join or otherwise support a union as a condition of employment.

Westmoreland said she has no trouble with better tracking the use of official time but warns against putting any limitations on its use.

“It makes it very difficult if you cannot have set official time,” she said.  (The Washington Examiner)

Our tax dollars at work?  Hardly.  The most regular visitor to the White House during the last administration was a big union guy.  One hopes this has changed, and that the inappropriate union influence in the federal government has ended.Or, as least, tricked down to STOP!

 

Is THIS That To Which We’ve Come?

I truly hope not!

A dear friend (and regular reader of this humble blog) recently attended a talk presented by the President of the Arizona Republic (newspaper).

The president outlined her personal history, then presented what was countenanced as  ‘the toxic culture that is America today’.

Summarized by my friend, as follows:

She was part of the historic decision of the paper to endorse Hillary Clinton for President, the first Democrat ever endorsed for President in the paper’s 126 year history.  She was only part of that decision.  The board, heavily conservative, many of them Goldwater Republicans, considered their decision very carefully.  They discussed the options, giving no endorsement at all, endorsing a third-party candidate, or Clinton (which they eventually did).
For them, it was never a partisan  choice, they had endorsed John Kasich in the primaries. For them, it was on their consideration of fitness for office.  They knew it was weighty decision.  They knew it would cost them business.  They knew that it would be an unpopular choice for many in a Republican dominated state.  But an endorsement of Trump was never in the cards for them.  Something I didn’t know, but was interesting to learn.
What they were unprepared for, was the volcano of ugliness that followed.  Death threats came in by the hundreds.  Targeted personally toward individuals on the board.  Things like:  We know where you live.  We know where your children go to school.  We know the license plate on your car.  We know where you park.  We are going to do to you what was done to Don Bolles.  You will die.  We will kill your family.  Hundreds of these.  Every day.
Threats came by phone, by mail, in person, via email (of course).  People attempting to sell subscriptions were spat upon, had guns brandished in their faces.  It got so bad that the Republic ceased trying to make in-person subscription sales.
One extreme right-wing Catholic group spammed her email 5000 times a day.
Her response, in part:
I was horrified.  This is America?  This is what we do to people who disagree with us politically?  I’ve had my share of political arguments.  I’ve vented anger, but I never imagined anything like this.
Thankfully, nobody was actually killed, although there were several assaults.
All over an ENDORSEMENT.  A simple statement of opinion.
It is ongoing.  She said that she now “only” gets 2-3 death threats a day.  Although, every time Trump calls the press “enemies of the people” or complains about the press, there is another spike.
One man calls every day, just to say, “I hate you and think you should die.”
This is what we’ve come to.
Well, I’m not going to be a part of it any more.  I will state my opinions, exercise my freedom of speech, but I will never again engage in behavior that dehumanizes or could be perceived as threatening to people who disagree with me.
Civil discourse begins with me.  I hope it doesn’t end there.
I’m interested in this blog’s readership response, if any.  Of course, any non-civil discourse or threats will be dealt with as appropriate.
I’ve my own opinions on the matter, which I may present at a later date.
Anyone?

 

Just When You Thought The Supreme Court Was Going To Be ‘Safe'(!)

…or at least follow The Constitution!

Gorsuch Will (May?) Not Shift The Balance Of Power On The Supreme Court As Much As You May Think

Via comment by Unknown Reaper on The three numbers that will keep Democrats from bl…

Fortunately, Gorsuch appears to be one of the rare breed of judges that actually cares what the U.S. Constitution and our laws have to say.  In that respect, he is very much like Scalia

 On Tuesday, President Trump announced that he would nominate Neil Gorsuch to fill the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Gorsuch currently serves on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, and he was confirmed unanimously by the Senate when he was appointed to that position by President George W. Bush in 2006.  Gorsuch appears to have some strong similarities to Antonin Scalia, and many conservatives are hoping that when Gorsuch fills Scalia’s seat that it will represent a shift in the balance of power on the Supreme Court.  Because for almost a year, the court has been operating with only eight justices.  Four of them were nominated by Republican presidents and four of them were nominated by Democrats, and so many Republicans are anticipating that there will now be a Supreme Court majority for conservatives.

Unfortunately, things are not that simple, because a couple of the “conservative” justices are not actually very conservative at all.

courtesy of Brock Townsend
It ain’t over ’til the blind scale lady sings?

Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All!

(from TFB)

Just Dyeing for Custom Magazines – The Ultimate RIT Dye Guide by GunMagWarehouse

PMAG_Rainbow

Released to collective “Huh?”, Magpul’s Sand colored magazines have been an odd duck. The “Sand” coloration scheme has been slow to grow on the market. In fact, I have never seen one on the range for the thousands of AR’s I have been around. My theory is that the color is too light to strike the attention of the tactical and tacticool crowd. It’s closer to white than it is brown.

However, the Sand colored magazine does have a major argument in its favor, its can be customized to nearly any color, albeit with a bit of work. The Sand colored magazine can be dyed using various COTS products to nearly any color. As such, my hat’s off to the guys over at GunMagWarehouse, who put in the work to create the near full rainbow of colors and show shooters what the Sand colored magazine can look like.

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While GunMagWarehouse does not disclose the specific method by which they dyed the magazines (they say that’s another installment), the most common method is near boiling water (180 F), 4 ounces of dye, and 30 minutes of exposure.

The total cost to dye a magazine is typically inexpensive, barring the sweat equity. The dye clocks in at ~$3 for 8 ounces, which will color quite a few magazines. Just be careful not to spill the dye water! Its permanent in most cases.

Check out all the colors over at GunMagWarehouse. 

Now, my magazines are whatever color in which they came.  When I’ve been lucky enough to have more than one (as for my 1911s, Glocks or AR15s – when I had them 😦 ) I used a scribe to etch a number on the base plate.  Or a Sharpie™ marker!

If only I’d such a collection as to need want multiple, color-coded magazines.

Easter is coming, you know!

The Great ( ) Hope

(I was gonna put WHITE in there, but didn’t wish to mislead!)

Well, it seems this Nation is indeed separated into two three factions:  Those who support the President-elect, and those who hate him.  (And those for whom the jury remains out).

I don’t think our long national nightmare is yet over…

Remember FOUR EIGHT years ago, when the Electoral College put a Black man into the White House?  And many on the Right referred to him as The Black Jesus?  Because the Left viewed him as the solution to all things ‘wrong’ with the Country.

And, after all, he wasn’t George W. Bush (or his weak carbon copy John McCain?  Or Mitt Romney?)

Hope and Change?  Fundamentally transform?  (Pick one).

Well, now (if we’re thinking racially), we’ve replaced a Black man with a White man.  (Not that other Black candidates weren’t possible – Condi Rice?  Mia Love?  Clarence Thomas?…)

If we’re NOT thinking racially, Mr. Trump is a populist.

He doesn’t appear to have read recent Supreme Court decisions, or, the U.S. Constitution, however. (wanting to ban flag burning, for example – reprehensible speech though it may be).

And Gitmo will remain, as will massive surveillance.  As will issues with guns, illegal immigration, terrorism and civil liberties.  Pending court decisions on the next administration’s actions.

And, I think many folks are harkening back to the days of Norman Rockwell.  (The 40’s, 50’s?)  Burying their heads in the sand, because we no longer have a Leftist President.  Of whatever color.

Those of us who are concerned with civil liberties need to continue our watch into the next administration.

Lest we become blindsided colorblind.

Somali “Community” Given Special Access to Secured Areas of Airports

(from Judicial Watch)

Somali “Community” Given Special Access to Secured Areas of Airports

The Obama administration’s willful failure to recognize the potential threat from radical Islamists here at home continues to place Americans at risk.  The latest example of this will shock you and in is found in just 31 pages of records we pried loose from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The records reveal the Department of Homeland Security has given Somalis “community engagement tours,” including security briefings, in secured areas in at least three major U.S. airports – Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Columbus, Ohio.

The briefings provided to the Somali groups were so sensitive that in 14 instances the agency redacted portions of the records under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption (B)(7)(e) the law-enforcement “risk circumvention” exemption, which reads:

Exemption 7(E) of the Freedom of Information Act affords protection to all law enforcement information that would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law.

In one instance, Customs and Border Protection exempted under (B)(7)(e) a portion of a February 16, 2016, “Minute by Minute Agenda” provided during a tour/briefing of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). The material that was withheld from Judicial Watch as too law-enforcement sensitive – but provided in full to the Somali group – included a section entitled: “TSA Overview — Processing [Redacted].”  The invitees were provided briefings of the Global Entry system, APC [Automated Passport Control] system, secondary screening procedures, baggage-screening procedures and given tours of the holding cells/interview rooms.

Notes from the February Minneapolis St. Paul Airport tour indicate: “Current CBP and TSA job vacancies” were discussed. Attendees responded with requests for DHS outreach efforts during Somali community events to further advertise these positions to interested individuals.”

The newly released records also reveal:

  • In addition to the Minneapolis Airport tours/briefings given to Somalis during 2014 and 2015 – and first revealed by Judicial Watch in August 2016 – tours of U.S. airports and security briefings also have been provided to other groups at airports in Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio: “Once we agree on the dates we will select the time based on prayer schedules. Another idea could be the roundtable to take place at the airport after the tour. We have done that before in LA and Columbus and it worked well both times”.

  • The timing of the Minneapolis Airport tour given to a group of Somalis in February 2016 was scheduled between 6-8pm because it would “accommodate prayer times well”

  • During the “annual” tour, federal authorities granted excursions of the facility’s “secure areas.” It is also noted that two parties in the previous year “did not pass vetting.”

  • The invitation extended to the Somalis for the Minneapolis Airport tour addressed them as “Dear Colleague,” and promised “walking people through CBP’s process, walking people through TSA’s process” and provide “a step-by-step tour of our operations, designed to offer a greater understanding of airport processes and procedures.”

Eight senior ranking Homeland Security and Customs officials were tasked with accompanying and briefing the Somalis on the February 18, 2016, Minneapolis Airport tour, including the Minneapolis Area Port Director, the Assistant Port Director, the Watch Commander, a Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Senior Policy Advisor (flown in from Washington), the TSA Federal Security Director and TSA Deputy Federal Security Director.

The documents show Customs officials reporting that one of the invited individuals had given “CBP Chicago a hard time” following the last tour and noted three of the invitees had had investigations against them, which had since been closed.  Another invitee had an active investigation pending.

Logically, information that is too sensitive to provide to Judicial Watch and the public should not have been given to a “community engagement tour.” The U.S. government has been aware for years that Minnesota is a hotbed of Somali terrorist-cell activity. The behind-the-scenes tours and security briefings of the Minneapolis airport very well could have created a threat to public safety.

We’ve been on watch for this issue for some time.  In August 2016, the JW Corruption Chronicles blog reported on the Muslim airport tour story: “The Obama administration gave Somali Muslims behind-the-scenes tours at a major U.S. airport after the group complained to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about feeling harassed and profiled, government records obtained by Judicial Watch reveal. The special security tours not offered to any other group occurred at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after Department of Homeland Security roundtable meetings with local Somali leaders to obtain feedback for ‘modifications to practices that would allow for operations to be more culturally sensitive.’”

I have no problem with law-abiding Muslims who are in the United States legally.  I do, however, take issue with those who intend to do us harm, and with unequal protection of the law!

Would we have given the same access to Mexican immigrants?  Or former IRA member?

SERIOUSLY?!  Political Correctness is killing us, now possibly literally…

Not A Gunsmith, Part Tres’

In our last episode…

I had gone shooting with friends, and marveled at the significantly lighter trigger of my friend’s Smith & Wesson .38 snubbie.

Having carried my electroless nickel S&W 442 for going on 22 years, with the stock 14 pound trigger(!), I thought it might be time for improvement.

Duh.

SO, I order a Wilson Combat spring kit through Brownell’s (for a whopping $9) and excitedly awaited it’s arrival so I could swap out the springs and share in the love… *:x lovestruck

I received it in about four days, found my brand X gunsmithing screwdriver, and went to remove the S&W sideplate.  Two screws in, I discovered that screw #3 was NOT loosening!  Not too much of a surprise, as the cheap screwdriver shaft was turning in the handle (!), and I had never had the sideplate off.  Ever.

I own a second (better quality) gunsmithing screwdriver.  However it remains beneath a pile of unpacked boxes.  And between being disabled, having back problems (and just not wanting to) there it remained.

Suggestions were made for screw-loosening oils, but without a decent tool, it wasn’t going to happen…

My roommate said she had a quality gunsmithing screwdriver, and offered it for my use.  I jumped at the chance.  But Life got in the way.  For almost two months.  Sigh.

FINALLY, I had the tool and the time.  And access to the You Tube videos regarding J-Frame Smith smithing.  And I began the task at hand.

That stubborn screw continued to be stubborn – but not impossible.  🙂

The sideplate was finally removed, and with some minor difficulty ( I repeat, I am NOT a gunsmith), the mainspring has been replaced!!

And the trigger pull went from fourteen pounds to a whopping EIGHT!

I’ve not yet replaced the trigger return spring (Wilson give me three from which to choose!) and the instructional videos have instruction regarding stoning certain surfaces to smooth them up.  I’m not certain I’m up for that.  As Inspector Harry Callahan said, “Man’s got to know his limitations.”

FTC – I bought all the screwdriver sets (except my roommate’s), the spring replacement kit and the revolver.  Go and buy your own!

a stock photo. My piece has a little corrosion damage on the sideplate. Unattractive!

a stock photo. My piece has a little corrosion damage on the sideplate. (that whole nasty sweat issue.)
Unattractive!

How To Spot A Concealed Handgun

The Art of Manliness (a blog to which I sometimes refer) not only addresses etiquette, style and proper behavior, but also delves into ‘manly’ things such as camping, hunting, shooting, unarmed combat and other esoterica.  (Of course, many of these subjects may be of interest to women, as well!) 🙂

A recent guest post was entitled as above.  I’m posting it below, in it’s entirety, not just to entertain and inform, but to show those who do carry behaviors and appearances which may bring to them unwarranted attention.

Enjoy!

How to Spot a Concealed Handgun

By A Manly Guest Contributor on Oct 21, 2016 02:10 pm

The following is an excerpt from 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition — The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster. A follow-up to Clint’s first bestseller — 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation — this new survival edition offers primers on any survival situation imaginable, from wilderness scenarios, to terrorism and kidnappings, to natural disasters.

100-deadly-survival_final

CONOP: Concept of Operations; COA: Course of Action; BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front

Individuals who carry a handgun professionally are well attuned to the range of mannerisms that can indicate the presence of a concealed weapon within their vicinity. Civilians, too, can learn to familiarize themselves with these signs and signals. When combined with suspicious behavior, the suspected presence of a concealed weapon should put bystanders on high alert.

Body Language: People carrying handguns tend to subconsciously telegraph the location of the weapon via their body language. They may reflexively palpate the gun to make sure the weapon is still safely in its holster, subtly re-position the weapon prior to sitting or standing, or shift their weight away from nearby bystanders to avoid accidental contact with or theft of the weapon.

Asymmetry: Another telltale sign is asymmetry in clothing. Guns are heavy and bulky, and thus will betray signs of their presence to anyone who’s paying attention. An outside-the-waistband holster may cause a visible midline bulge, while an ankle holster may cause a bulge or tightening of the fabric at the lower leg. A gun held in a jacket pocket will weight down one side of the jacket unevenly.

Environment: Hot or inclement weather can make concealed weapons easier to spot. Rain, wind, or sweat can reveal the outline of a gun, which will generally be much easier to hide under multiple layers of cold-weather clothing.

Negligence: Weapons are also frequently exposed due to temporary negligence, flashed or inadvertently dropped as a gunman reaches for his wallet. Dropped weapons are an all-too-common scenario at public urinals, where inexperienced perpetrators may thoughtlessly unzip their pants — thereby releasing the tension that was holding up the holster.

The post How to Spot a Concealed Handgun appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

When Is A Gun Store NOT A Gun Store?

GUN STORE

NOT the Glendale store!

Of course, there’s that store in Glendale, Arizona, (in)famous for allowing straw purchasers to buy quantities of guns for them to smuggle South-of-the-Border, at the behest of the federal government.

The end-recipients were cartels, who used them to murder their own people, and some Americans, and more recently (it’s been reported) some Europeans.

I’ve heard tales of stores who sell to private citizens, pretending they don’t know they are selling to straw buyers, who ultimately sell to unknown folks this side of the border.  As little attention is paid to smuggling into Mexico, it’s possible sales are to individuals (including Mexican police officers) who are simply flaunting U.S. and Mexican gun laws to try to protect themselves from the cartels!  And, being the capitalists they are, the gun dealers are looking the other way, knowing if they don’t do the sale, the store up the street will!

When outlining this post, another example came to my memory.  Not far from the now-defunct Royal Bookstore (as recounted in these pages), a small gun shop appeared.  The ubiquitous U-shaped glass display case, containing perhaps 40 handguns, and some long guns on the wall.

With a staff of eight or nine guys, all visibly armed!

SERIOUSLY – how can they afford to pay that many clerks?

I’d stopped by to check out their wares a couple of times, and the last time found them to be closed.  I then went to the nearby bookstore to see if they knew what had occurred.  It seems the gun store had been a front for a bookmaking operation!  This explains the large number of staff!

Hopefully, with Gunwalker (Fast & Furious) having made the front pages through the death of federal agents, legitimate gun stores have tightened up their procedures and are no longer allowing straw purchases!

Interestingly, the Glendale store remains in business!  :-0

 

Did You Ever Notice…?

(With apologies to Sixty Minutes’ Andy Rooney)

Did you ever notice, when a ‘large’ crime, or terrorist act occurs, that The Left immediately (before the ink or blood is even dry) screams to have guns, all guns, some guns, evil-looking guns, ‘high-capacity’ guns, military-styled guns, ‘assault’ weapons, Saturday Night specials, ‘assault clips’ (etc.) BANNED?

Regardless whether or not the aforementioned firearms were even used in the heinous attack?

AND, The Right usually responds by screaming at the Left for their attempts to restrict individual rights, and purchases as many of the potentially banned firearms as possible? And the many gun rights organizations demand request we send letter of protest and as many dollars as possible to their lobbying arm to thwart the Left’s attempts at restrictive legislation?

(Of course, this doesn’t work as well when the gun restrictions are mandated by executive fiat!)

BUT, rarely does such legislation ever see the light of day(!)

While I support efforts by gun rights groups to help us keep our freedoms, I am reminded that many such organizations would cease to exist (or in the least be downsized) if money was not proffered by us.

Not unlike The American Cancer Society, The Jerry Lewis MD Telethon, Party X, Party Y, yatta, yatta.  If we didn’t send money, they would dry up.

But gun rights would not be extinguished.

Because we, as individuals, would have to pick up the gauntlet.

And perhaps that’s WHY they exist – our laziness as individual citizens(?)

Please visit the links on my humble sidebar (or, make an effort to find those with whom you agree on your own!) and join, make a contribution (or contributions).  Write letters and emails.  Call politicians and bureaucrats!

TAKE ACTION to support those causes near-and-dear to your heart!

Because being an ‘armchair adventurer’ is one thing.  Being an ‘armchair citizen’ is something altogether different!

 

"Round up the usual suspects."

In Loving Memory…