For people in the news business, August is the cruelest month. Just check the above-the-fold stories in your local paper or the lead item on the evening news to see what passes for news. Except for revolutions and civil wars abroad, there is usually nothing there.
The opening of your town’s professional football training camp may be the biggest event of the week. At least to desperate editors. So how slow are things? So slow that…
One of the national tabloids recently led with yet another new angle on the death of Princess Diana. She died in a Paris car wreck in 1997. August, in fact. Now the mainstream media, which usually laughs at the tabs, is checking it out. There is also another tabloid report that President Kennedy was actually killed by one of the agents protecting him. It is August after all.
In a noble — if probably vain — effort to fight back and admit that things are slow, (and to show the diversity of federal occupations) we reported on the seizure of 22 chicken skeletons at the Port of Baltimore. Customs and Border Protection snagged them, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Agriculture Department scientists were called in. Why make a federal case out some chicken bones? Why profile chickens?
They were from China, where, among other things, HPAI (potentially deadly bird flu) has been found. In chickens! Funny story, until you know the details. It happens all the time, all over the country. Uncle Sam’s reps are watching to make sure that deadly stuff — from bombs to bugs — don’t get a free ride into the U.S.
In last week’s column, we asked feds to tell us about their interesting and little known jobs. And what they would do if presented with a chicken skeleton? A number wrote back about their fascinating jobs. Many of the public comments (check them out) became political, attacking either President Obama or former President Bush for real and imagined problems. But nothing about chicken skeletons.
However, a few people did respond to the after-all-its-August challenge about what they would do with a chicken skeleton. A couple, as you can imagine, we can’t print. But they were, uh, colorful and funny. Thanks anyhow.
Meantime, Bill from Groton, Conn., proposed a partisan, tongue-in- cheek, recipe for the impounded chickens. He said they should be used “… as the centerpiece for a diorama under construction at the Harland Sanders Heroes Hall and Museum in Kentucky, hopefully completed in time for the 100th anniversary commemoration of the introduction of the ‘Bucket O’ Mashed Potatoes’ (with gravy and a slathering of a butter-like substance) side dish to the KFC menu. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be introducing a bill to make this a national holiday with parades of morbidly obese primary school children waddling down Pennsylvania Avenue to The National Mall.”
Smith of the IRS said, “just a thought … Halloween is only two months away. In Northern California, decorating for Halloween is about equal with decorating with Christmas. In my town, it exceeds Christmas! I think that chicken skeletons would be a wonderful addition to the graveyard I’ll be putting up in my front yard in mid October.”
Another reader said that a pair of chicken skeletons “decorating the guest room would keep the in-laws from overstaying their welcome.”
Finally, as a tribute to our almost-always-on-vacation Congress, which may shutdown the government when it returns, a fed in Fresno, Calif., says of the skeletons, “I would put one in the front seat of every member of Congress and send a couple to the White House.”
When life deals you furloughs make … Furloughade? One of the things many federal workers say motivates them to choose a career in public service is the ability to help other people. But when those same feds have to take an unpaid furlough day due to sequestration, not only are they losing a day’s pay, they’re losing an opportunity to help others.
Tiny DoD office earns only federal award for workplace flexibility When the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies furloughed its workforce this summer, its staff felt the pain of a 20 percent pay cut just like the rest of the Defense Department’s civilians. But the tiny DoD agency says it was able to avert some of the huge productivity losses other parts of the Pentagon felt during the six weeks of partial downtime because of a flexible work plan it already had in place.