Thursday, November 19, 2009

Criticism of

A Facebook friend of mine recently repeated the meme that the Obama administration had spent $19 million on the website, and that the erroneous information that has shown up there is all Obama's fault. He also cited examples from Oklahoma and Arizona of spending attributed to nonexistent congressional districts.

In fact, the data is provided by the states, who actually spend the money, not the feds. The feds just compile the statistics. Now, I grant you that it's not that hard to write software to audit the data for validity, and it should have been done. I also find it extremely humorous that the two states he cited as examples of fishy spending are controlled by the GOP, not by Democrats.

Nobody has spent $19 million yet. The GSA awarded a contract in July for $9.5 million to build a new version of the website, substituting crappy and expensive Microsoft SharePoint for the current open source Drupal-based website. There are options for up to $9 million in additional payments through 2014 for upgrades and ongoing maintenance. I don't know if those amounts include the salaries of the staff who process the data from the states. My friend also claimed that the website could have been provided by GoDaddy for $200 a year. It is not possible to run a website with the volume and interactivity requirements of for $200 a year. However, using open source server software, commodity hardware, and a standard web application framework, it could probably be done very well for less than $1 million, plus annual maintenance.

IMHO as a software professional, the decision to use M$ is stupid and wasteful, but GSA procurement rules favor M$ almost to the exclusion of anything else. It is next to impossible for a federal employee to purchase a Mac or a Linux PC.

The GSA rules and the GSA decision makers predate the Obama administration, so sticking Obama with the blame for this is a stretch, even for my friend. Let's remember that the GSA writes rules subject to legislative oversight. The Dems have only controlled Congress since January, and given all the crises that were inherited after 14 years of Republican misrule in Congress and 8 years in the White House, I somehow doubt that hardware and software purchasing rules have risen to the top of the priority list. I agree, though. These Newt Gingrich-era rules need to be changed, and quickly.

Will the $19 million ultimately be spent? Absolutely. That's how every bureaucracy works. Allocated budget that is unspent is lost. There are no rewards for parsimony in a bureaucracy. That is just as true in corporations, too. Private enterprise does no better than government in this area.

That's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I wish I was 1/10th as smart as Teddy Roosevelt

During his tenure in the White House, Theodore Roosevelt had shown how powerful that office could be in marshalling reform sentiment. He believed that the president had to be responsive to the will of the people, but that he also had an obligation to lead and not merely follow the mob.


Rich Germans demand higher taxes

Wealthy people who actually give a damn about their fellow citizens? Unthinkable!

From the BBC


I've tandem-jumped twice, in 2003 and 2007. Both jumps were part of 21st birthday celebration weekends for our daughters Emilie and Katie, and both jumps were in Las Vegas.

The first jump was exhilarating. We jumped from a converted cargo plane that held eight pairs of jumpers. I was the last to go, after my daughters Sara and Emilie and my nephew Chad. The view was fabulous -- we could see the Strip, Lake Mead, and Hoover dam on the way down. I remember standing in front of the door, waiting to go, and looking down 10,000 feet to the desert below. What a rush!

The second jump was terrifying. We jumped from a converted four passenger Cessna that had all the seats removed except for the pilot. We sat on the floor, and when it was time to go, we had to clamber out onto a narrow strut under the wing and stand outside the plane without hanging on to anything until the jump master was ready. My guy was a daredevil, and he executed a barrel roll out of the plane without telling me first. I nearly lost my goggles and glasses, and spent the time in free fall frantically trying to get them back into position. The view was pretty lame, just desert and more desert, as we jumped with a different company from a different airstrip.

I will jump again when my niece Amanda turns 21 in about six years because her dad is afraid of heights and won't go with her. Probably not before then, since it's a rather expensive hobby and because I don't want to tempt fate too often...

What is it with politicians from South Carolina?

A [Republican] deputy assistant attorney general who said he was on his lunch break when an officer found him with a stripper and sex toys in his sport utility vehicle has been fired, his boss said Wednesday.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

More news you won't see on Fox

What kind of person can equate an attempt to provide health coverage to all Americans with the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews? I just don't understand...

Matthew Yglesias » Scenes From a Tea Party

What a shocker!

A Republican chicken hawk blocking improved benefits for our deserving veterans. I wonder what Rush Limbaugh will have to say about this?

Take Action: Senator Coburn Blocking Vets' Aid - Will You Stand Up To Him?

More fun and games from South Carolina

Federal judge nixes SC license tag with cross

I'm a Christian, and I don't understand why these so-called Christians don't follow Jesus on this one:
“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5)

The Tragedy of the (Unmanaged) Commons

A Libertarian acquaintance insisted that I read The Tragedy of the Commons by Garrett Hardin. I also read Hardin's later comments about his 1974 essay, in which he said:
"Individualism is cherished because it produces freedom, but the gift is conditional: The more the population exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment, the more freedoms must be given up...Yet the slightest attempt to limit this freedom is promptly denounced with cries of Elitism! Big-Brotherism! Despotism! Fascism! and the like. We are slow to mend our ways because ethicists and philosophers of the past generally did not see that numbers matter."
It's obvious that Hardin was a smart guy who grew wiser with age. However, I suggest libertarians pay attention to everything he said, not just the cherry-picked parts that fit libertarian dogma.

More insanity from South Carolina

Apparently it's now illegal for any Republican to work with Democrats to make the world a better place.

The Associated Press: US Sen. Lindsey Graham censured by SC county GOP