Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP The Nineteen Eighties - Oh, and Everyone Else, Too

Hours after the internet trickled out news about the death of Farrah Fawcett, it exploded with the news that Michael Jackson was dead.

Personally, I mourned the death of the King of Pop long before yesterday's news. Those of us who grew up with greased up kids sporting a red jacket and white glove, choreographing dances to Janet's Black Cat and being terrified of the music video for Thriller, Michael Jackson has been long gone. The iconic dance, style and voice will be an inspiration for many Justin Timberlakes to come, but the delusional, space-alien-Michael? Hopefully it will act as a huge, flashing PSA against manipulating and hounding child stars.

While I am sad to lose the King, in reality we lost him a long time ago. We can be respectful of his career and influence, without letting the media overwhelm us (a Google News search for Michael Jackson results in over 10,000 articles about his death). Let's not become distracted in a time of the aftermath of the Iranian election, gubernatorial hypocrites and liars, captured US journalists in North Korea (have we already forgotten about them?), Somalian piracy and the rise of suicide bombings there, and rising violence in the Iraq war that our troops are still fighting.

So, if you're going to take a moment of silence for Michael Jackson today, take five, maybe even ten, and incorporate some of the world's more pressing matters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Higher Taxes vs. Public Transportation Safety

Yesterday evening, at 5pm, a Red Line train near the DC/Maryland border, collided into the train directly in front of it, jack-knifing and piggy-backing on top of it. As of this morning, WMATA had reported 6 confirmed deaths and dozens of injuries, and rescue attempts were still clearing the bodies and injured victims.

The National Transportation Security Board (NTSB) blames the Metro for non-compliance to safety recommendations. Seems logical. The train that was stopped was a 5000-series, newer model, while the train that lost control and crashed into it, was a 1000-series model, which the NTSB recommended retrofitting or replacing. The scary part is that the Metro refused on the basis of taxes.

Maybe if the Metro, the only public transportation without guaranteed funding, had some sort of stable cash flow, they could make long term adjustments and address safety concerns. Hopefully this accident will cast light on the flawed system and bring about a dialogue about insuring safety.

On a personal note, this accident occured outside of my station, during rush hour. Not only were my fiance and I at risk, although we serendipitously met in Arlington instead of going straight home, but we had to haggle with a cab driver, get through blocked roads, and fork over $50 in order to get home. And we had the cash to make it happen. Most of DC's residents do NOT. Shuttles are ineffective, and many can't afford to make it to work.

Socio-Economic tensions? Ahhh... smells like DC.

Monday, June 15, 2009

U.S. Government Wasteful? Nah...

The last few months, I've had to really bite my tongue over government waste. I've been contracting with a Small Business Programs office at the Pentagon, and on Friday, they terminated our contract after a series of rifts between the company and the office.

This office was like an elementary school playground. It had bullies, kids who picked their noses and slept through class, and crossing guards and hall monitors who had basically no real authority.

Except these weren't rowdy kids with nothing better to do. These were GS-12s and GS-15s, getting paid six-figures, doing practically nothing, traveling to meaningless conferences and events, and taking every Friday off. Sometimes taking several weeks at a time off.

Just letting you know, your tax dollars pay for that office. A hamster's cage of pathetic creatures who want to shake things up just to advance their careers. Tasteless, really.

They forced us to hire at least four staff who we would not have normally hired, and then terminated without warning, so those staff, plus half a dozen others are out of a job, as of today. These are people that this office insisted on hiring, because they were the best for the job, and they didn't even give them the consideration of a warning shot.

We are a small company, so firing 10 people is about HALF of our normal staff. And this is the model for treating small businesses at the DoD - from a Small Business Programs office? Chew on that for a minute.

I'd love to quantify all the ways they waste, and oh, I do have that information.

For those of you who are interested in Government Contracting Waste, feel free to use the following resource:

Make a public access username and password. The only difference is that there is a 90 day delay for DoD data, for security purposes.

you can download free training resources at

I suggest the Data Dictionary, which will help you sort abbreviations and codes out.

Whatever you find, make public. Some of us have our hands tied, but the government is responsible to its constituents, right?