Thursday, July 23, 2015

Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones

The US military has some very colorful expressions – many, if not most, simply not appropriate for this publication.  One of the idioms that I always found to be deliciously descriptive yet imaginatively intriguing was the phrase, “Self-licking ice cream cone.”
The first use of the phrase is thought to have been in a 1992 paper by Pete Worden, then a US Air Force officer, titled “On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones” critical of  NASA's bureaucracy.   Worden later worked on Capitol Hill, an experience that led him to say that NASA actually stood for "Never A Straight Answer.”  Ironically, after his retirement as a Brigadier General, Worden became the Director of NASA's Ames Research Centerin California.

 Worden, being a little unconventional, was known to occasionally appear in costume, “usually dressing as either Darth Vader, a wizard, or after arriving at NASA, as a goat herder.”   This behavior resulted in an “inquiry from Senator Chuck Grassley that led to an investigation by the NASA inspector general's office into a private project to photograph a group of Viking re-enactors….Although concluding that no government money had been spent on the Viking re-enactment, the investigation itself was estimated to have cost between $40,000 and $600,000.”  Only our Government can waste like that.

America’s prosperity has enabled a standard of living unmatched in human history.  It also has allowed for excesses and intemperance to the point of impending self-destruction.  Unfortunately, Americans, like our bureaucracies, are prone to obesity.   
The General Accountability Office (GAO) reports, “From 2004 to 2012, the federal non-postal civilian workforce grew by 258,882 employees, from 1.88 million to 2.13 million, an increase of 14 percent.”   According to a June 22, 2015 publication of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 35 percent of men and 37 percent of women were obese, and over 65 percent of the United States population is overweight. Clearly, in many instances, bigger is not always better.

What can prevent this proclivity for counter-productive growth from leading to our self-destruction?  Most likely, reduction will not occur until the pain produced by the problem of unbridled growth becomes so severe that reduction becomes more attractive than an externally imposed dieting plan or an uncomfortable girdle.   Thus the intrinsic problem with the self-licking ice cream cone – it simply doesn’t have the will-power to stop itself. Perhaps nowhere is the self-licking, self-fulfilling nature of government bureaucracy more evident than in the government school system teacher unions.

Richard Berman, reporting on the 2014 elections explains, “Teacher unions have spent hundreds of millions of dollars obstructing reasonable reforms to ‘last in, first out’ hiring policies, seniority-based pay, and teacher tenure that could improve the status quo that protects unions and incompetence in the classroom at the expense of students. In practice, this means quid pro quo agreements with political candidates where campaign contributions are traded for promises of an anti-reform agenda.” 

Consider this cautionary tale of Government’s attempt to reform itself:

The government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of a desert. Recognizing someone may steal from it, they created a night watchman position (GS-4) and hired a person for the job. Then they said, "How can the watchman do his job without instruction?" So they created a planning position and hired two people: one to write the instructions (GS-12) and one to do time studies (GS-11). Then they said, "How will we know the night watchman is doing his job correctly?" So they created two management positions.  Then they said, "How are these people going to get paid?"So they created a timekeeper position (GS-09) and a payroll officer (GS-11). Then they said, "Who will account for all of these people?" So they created an administrative position and hired three people: an Admin Officer (GM-13), an assistant Admin Officer (GS-12) and a Legal Secretary (GS-08). Then they said, "We have had this organization in operation for one year and we are $22,000 over budget, we must reduce overall costs," so they fired the night watchman. 

Ronald Reagan described the self-licking nature of government’s insatiable
appetite this way, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!”  

The Era of Big Government is here, and you WILL like it.  And if you don’t, expect a call from the IRS or some other self-licking eternal entity.


Reg T said...

Our leaders, especially those who _grow_ government, are often unsung heroes. When you think of how wildly successful Obama and Holder have been at implementing Obama's promise to "transform" America, I think that Mr. and Mrs. Obama and Mr. and Mrs. Holder (she being famous as an OB/GYN doctor co-owning an abortion clinic in an 80% black area of Georgia, helping black ladies and teenagers rid themselves of unwanted "tissue" that interferes with their lifestyles, and probably profiting in a similar manner as Planned Parenthood has admitted to profiting) should be recognized with gifts appropriate to their efforts to mold America more to their liking.

I would suggest that perhaps the citizens of this soon-to-be-great country could show our appreciation of their endeavors by providing them each with a bit of jewelry - Winnie Mandela™ Necklaces. All four of them would look simply adorable adorned in such fashion, don't you think?

BTW, I feel certain that Planned Parenthood's marketing of unwanted babies is much more fiscally rewarding for them than Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" would have been.

[Proviso: Col., if you feel this is too far over-the-top, feel free to delete it. I won't take offense.] said...

Reg T - I fully appreciate your comments - climate change has produced a drought for the Tree of Liberty - it is in desperate need of watering.

The necklaces you reference remind me of the fires the farmers light down here to protect the peaches and ward off the effects of a freeze.

Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures. This all makes me think of a song by Casting Crowns:

- not sure what it will take for us to wake-up.

Reg T said...


Yes, we old timers used to call those "smudge pots". While burning to protect the trees, they tended to produce a rather black smoke. I believe, from what I have read, that Winnie's necklaces did the same.

It is significant that most of the people who were made to wear those necklaces - including the very first victim, who was (per what has been published) a 14-year-old girl - were black themselves. Hasn't that always been they way, that blacks have been victimized far more often by other blacks than by whites? (Beginning with the black tribes that started the slave trade, by capturing and selling other black tribes they had defeated.) If they could see the truth, that they have been victimized by their own people, the race baiters like Sharpton and the abortionists like Holder, we might not be faced with the turmoil and hatred we currently are experiencing on both sides.

I'm afraid, though, that it is probably too late to correct the education of the last few generations of blacks who have been taught by their own people - like "reverend" Wright - and by the socialists in the schools and communities - to hate "Whitey". And many of us who would previously have felt otherwise have been negatively affected by affirmative action, the "knockout" and "polar bear" games, flash crowd destruction, looting and vandalism, and - coming soon to your neighborhood - forced integration of communities against the will of the people living in them. Not to mention the obvious racism of the Federal Department of (what was) Justice, which refuses to behave in a fair and impartial manner. (The latest I'm aware of being the $29 million DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime gave to the eight families of _eight_ victims of a black church shooting, and $0 to the 20+families - and 30+living victims - of the Fort Hood shooting, the Fort Hood community providing their own funds to assist those folks, IIRC.)