Before you continue, read ‘Puter’s post here for context*. And note, I’m going full-Puter with my footnotes.
Done? Ok, ‘Puter’s take on the issue is fine but let’s get to brass tax. The money quote from the NPR piece is this:
it is years behind schedule and millions over budget
Both sides of this transaction are to blame. First, the government has no spine. When a contractor begins to fail – let me repeat that with emphasis: when a contractor BEGINS to fail, the government needs to take action. They cannot let a program get “millions” of dollars over budget and “years” behind schedule. The root of the problem, in GorT’s professional** opinion, is that the government – largely in an effort to minimize efforts around acquisition and contract management, issues massive contracts that are 5+ years in duration and require aging software development methodologies. This combination has led many government agencies to an untenable situation: allocating 75%+ to their IT operations and maintenance budget and some portion of the remaining 25% towards new systems and upgrades. “Oh, but ‘the cloud’ will save Christmas for us”***, they say. Pffft. Again, many government agencies don’t understand what ‘the cloud’ is and there are many large integrator-type companies**** that still don’t know how to properly utilize it in order to realize the savings. But again, the root is that the government wants to make contract acquisition and management (on their side) easy.
This problem is nothing new. GorT’s first job was on a massive federal contract to update the systems that air traffic controllers use from airport towers to the enroute centers (that handle planes in between airports as they cross the country). It should have been issued as a number of smaller contracts to address individual pieces – but instead it was one big contract that eventually got the axe by Congress after years of mediocre progress.
On the other side of the contract, many federal contractors are satisfied in responding to the government’s Requests For Proposals (RFPs) by regurgitating what was asked for and not pushing back telling the government that there’s a better way to do this. And due to the ultra-competitive landscape, large contractors are working to submit the lowest cost bid as the government favors these LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) awards. Well, never was there a case more applicable for the phrase: you get what you pay for….ugh, does anyone else think we should reword that to: you get that for which you paid? That preposition at the end bugs me.
We need to change the way things are done. Smaller contract terms, smaller contract amounts. If you’re going to fail, fail fast and fail cheap. It’s better if a $500k contract fails than a $3B contract. The government should consider what the operations & maintenance cost is on their contracts – if that is a growing tail, kill it. If the contract proposes proprietary data formats or data storage schemes, avoid it. Do not get locked in to a single provider.
ScottO said on twitter: “Join me in advocating the elimination of the IRS” and I couldn’t agree more. I still remain convinced that our tax code should be simplified such that at least 90% of Americans should be able to file via a postcard.
Lastly, if someone asked me to use my 25+ years of experience in developing federal-level computer systems, I wouldn’t pick Assembly as my primary language. I get that programming languages hadn’t evolved to the degree we have now when this system was put in place so choices were limited.
* GorT has programmed assembly on mainframes. 6502 Assembly on my Atari 800 was my 3rd programming language.
** 25 years of federal contracting experience developing IT systems with multiple successful deliveries (at/under budget and schedule), MS in EE/CS
*** For those that don’t get the reference, this was a quote for, if I remember correctly, for a Microsoft commercial for doing photo editing in their cloud infrastructure where the wife, worried about getting the Christmas cards out, remarks that, “the cloud will save Christmas” for them
**** GorT has worked for a few of these type of companies and is hoping his current one doesn’t evolve into one. You all know the names: Lockheed, SAIC, CACI, Leidos, Boeing, etc. etc.
Read this story from NPR on the recent IRS computer crash. ‘Puter will wait right here while you do.
‘Puter heard the story driving home from work yesterday on All Liberals Embittered or whatever NPR calls its taxpayer-funded afternoon low-toned liberal hootenanny.* Say what you will about NPR’s politics, but those liberals sure do tell a good story.
‘Puter enjoyed the story, particularly the part about the IRS’s master file being housed on a computer mainframe somewhere in the hills of West Virginia.** The story provides a worthwhile view of the IRS siphoning off oodles of cash for God knows what while allowing its customer interface and collections software to crater from neglect.
But that’s not what really interested ‘Puter. This quote is.
But Mihm says being an early adopter ironically led to today’s problems at the IRS. The agency still uses a computer language from that era called Assembly that few know anymore. “It’s quite antiquated,” he says. But Mihm says, with so much of the IRS’ data encoded with Assembly, “it’s very had to sort of start entirely from scratch and build an entirely new system.
So the IRS has a database coded in Assembly, “a computer language … that few know any more.” ‘Puter laughed out loud as he drove across the still-frozen Upstate tundra as the snow continued to fall. ‘Puter was pretty sure he knew one of the few who are fluent in Assembly. When ‘Puter got home, he called this person to confirm his suspicion.
“Hi, Mom. It’s ‘Puter. Yeah. I love you too. Say, I was just listening to NPR and … Yeah, Mom. I know, but listen a minute. They had this story on the IRS’s mainframe and a database coded entirely in an old language they said no one knew anymore. No, not COBOL. No, not FORTRAN. Yep, Assembly. You used to program for [an unnamed government agency] is Assembly, didn’t you? I knew it!”
So, yeah. ‘Puter’s Mom’s not only among the first female coders, but her retained knowledge could eventually be put to use in rebuilding the IRS’s database. That is, if the IRS gives a crap about modernizing its database and wants to pay her going rate. And ‘Puter’ll be the one negotiating her going rate.
Small world, isn’t it?
* When the All Things Considered hosts introduce themselves saying, “I’m Mary Louise Kelly,” or whatever, ‘Puter likes to say back to the radio, “I’m Ghettoputer Gormogon. Nice to meet you, Ms. Kelly.” This drives Mrs. ‘Puter nuts.
** Or the swamps of Jersey. Whatever. #Rosalita4Evah
‘Puter, as is his wont, read this morning’s Wall Street Journal as he exercised. Two birds, one stone and all that. There, ‘Puter encountered this editorial, Crowding Out K-12 Education.
The editorial states recent teachers strikes are a direct result of overspending in other areas, namely Medicaid and state pensions. For instance, Oklahoma’s Medicaid spending has risen from 14% of the state’s general fund in 2008 to 25% last year. Kentucky showed similar catastrophic increases in Medicaid spending, from $4.9 billion in 2008 to $9.9 billion last year. One in four Kentuckians is enrolled in Medicaid.
While the federal government picked up a large share of the increased costs since Obamacare’s inception, costs are now shifting to the states in accordance with the statute’s provisions.
This increased spending was foreseeable result of Obamacare. ‘Puter and many others said as much when Democrats were busy cramming the massive government entitlement down America’s unwilling craw. We begged states not to accept Medicaid enlargement because it would lead to exactly this, busted budgets and crushing taxes on citizens.
But that’s not what ‘Puter wants to discuss. ‘Puter wants to go meta on you, real blow your mind kind stuff. This real story in this editorial is the coming war between and among various elements of the Democrats’ voting base. Stick with ‘Puter here.
The teachers strikes are the first shots in a war between two Democrat base stalwarts: teachers unions and the poor/welfare recipients. There isn’t enough funding (or tax increase room for that matter) to keep both constituencies happy. Medicaid is chewing up education dollars, and teachers are pissed off.
“How dare you treat us like yesterday’s news? We aren’t just some cheap floozy you can use and lose, pump and dump! We’re respectable unlike that new whore that’s caught your eye!”
This is how ‘Puter imagines teachers’ union executives talking to legislators and governors about Medicaid recipients.
Carry this logic out. What funds going to current Democrat constituencies are liberal states going to cut to transfer to which other liberal constituency? This is the stuff of nightmares for the Democrats. The coming funding wars could well tear the Democratic Party apart.
Do you cut Planned Parenthood funding to transfer the dollars to teachers’ unions? Do you cut LGBTQ outreach funding to pay for increases to Medicaid? And ‘Puter hasn’t even gotten into the inherent social issue division within the Democratic Party.
Democrats have run out of other people’s money to spend. The teacher strikes are just the first skirmishes. The fiscal strife will exacerbate and lay bare the divisions on social issues, and decades-old rancor will bubble to the surface.
The Democrats’ civil war is coming, and it’s not going to be pretty.
GorT has been remiss in following up his earlier posts about Boy Scouts and merit badges in particular. Today, I am sharing thoughts on a three merit badges: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World. At first blush, these sound like they could have a strong nationalistic, socialistic, or communist bent to them. But fret not, they are civic educationally focused. All three are required in order to earn the Eagle Scout rank.
Citizenship in the Community is focused on your local community government – think town or city level. A scout needs to identify where various buildings are located such as the city government buildings, fire stations, police stations, hospitals, etc. They learn the difference between elected and appointed positions and what the local or state government’s structure is. Of note, to GorT, are two specific requirements:
- 4a – (in reference to choosing an issue important to your community) – find out what branch of local government is responsible for this issue.
- 7a – Identify three charitable organizations outside of Scouting that interest you and bring people in your community together to work for the good of your community.
For the first one, I can’t tell you how many grown adults in this country do not understand the roles and responsibilities and limitations each branch of government has. This critical piece of civics is key to being a knowledge voter in our country.
With regards to the second, I’m impressed that Boy Scouts is pointing out that non-government entities are a primary place to look to in order to help promote things for the good of the community and not the government. Also, it encourages the scout to learn more and get involved with a charity*.
Citizenship in the Nation might be the key merit badge when it comes to educating a young man on civics (as it does seem poorly done in our education system). I don’t think I can pick out any specific requirement that is more relevant than another as they are all on point. The requirements range from learning about historical landmarks and context to understanding the founding documents of our nation (Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, etc.) to knowing the three branches of government, their functions, and why checks and balances are important. I suggest you click through to read the requirements. And for those of us of voting age, if you can’t confidently address each of these requirements, I’d suggest a refresher. Maybe use them as a set of topics to get smarter over the next few weeks.
Finally, there is the Citizenship in the World merit badge. This may be the one worthy of some scrutiny when pursuing. While having some key requirements like:
- Explain what citizenship in the world means to you and what you think it takes to be a good world citizen.
- Explain how one becomes a citizen in the United States, and explain the rights, duties, and obligations of U.S. citizenship. Discuss the similarities and differences between the rights, duties, and obligations of U.S. citizens and the citizens of two other countries.
- Do the following:
- a. Pick a current world event. In relation to this current event, discuss with your counselor how a country’s national interest and its relationship with other countries might affect areas such as its security, its economy, its values, and the health of its citizens.
- b. Select a foreign country and discuss with your counselor how its geography, natural resources, and climate influence its economy and its global partnerships with other countries.
It does have some requirements that, as a parent, I’d might want to guide my son a bit:
4c. Select TWO of the following organizations and describe their role in the world.
- 1. The United Nations and UNICEF
2. The World Court
4. World Organization of the Scout Movement
5. The World Health Organization
6. Amnesty International
7. The International Committee of the Red Cross
8. CARE (Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere)
9. European Union
Hint: I’d lean towards the Red Cross and Interpol. Regardless, this merit badge’s requirements do educate the scout on some key items on a global scale. Something that they should keep in mind when reading current news and events.
* Charitable participation hits on many aspects of the Scout Law. A boy scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
‘Puter was pleasantly surprised at Mass last Sunday. ‘Puter fully expected some namby-pamby, feel good take on the First Reading along the lines of “MUH COMMUNISM IZ TEH BESTIST!!!1!” from one of his parish’s priests.
Here’s the reading in questions for your edification (Acts 4:32-35):
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.
Imagine ‘Puter’s surprised when Fr. McFormerbarristerenglishman launched into a stemwinder about the evils of Karl Marx, communism generally, and their perversion of the biblical exhortation to communally share with others.
‘Puter was rapt (mind you, this was around 07:50 Sunday morning) as the priest denounced Marx for creating a corrupt ideology that slaughtered millions. ‘Puter’s priest pulled no punches, directly disabusing the Boomer hippies in the pews of any notion that communism was ordained by God, as they are wont to claim.
‘Puter’s priest pointed out the fundamental evil of communism (versus the communalism described in the Acts passage) is the destruction of free will and property rights. ‘Puter found himself nodding along, and had to restrain himself from standing and applauding at the end of Father’s homily.
Mass is always good. Sometimes, Mass is great.
‘Puter recently traveled to Scotland. It is truly a beautiful country, full of history, and brimming with decent beer. As a public service to our readers, ‘Puter’s put together this handy list of things everyone who visits Scotland should know before arriving.
- Not everyone in Scotland is named Scott. ‘Puter learned this after calling a bunch of women at the pub Scott, and being met with an incomprehensible tangle of allegedly English words and a flurry of fists.
- The Scottish unit of currency is the haggis. Scottish establishments will also accept the ear of one’s enemy, which is roughly equivalent to 1.2 British pounds.
- Scottish grocery carts (or, as they call them, Fergus MacGregors) have four independently moving wheels. One can walk sideways with them down the aisles. One ought be careful so doing, however, lest one find one’s self followed around the local Tesco at 22:00 by a local policewoman, as ‘Puter found out.
- Hen parties (bachelorette parties) are out of hand. In the Edinburgh airport Clan ‘Puter was treated to three separate groups of “ladies” headed for various warmer locales. One of the brides-to-be proudly displayed everything God gave her in a skin tight leopard print unitard and no apparent undergarments of any type. Much spillage. Very side bewb. Mrs. ‘Puter was not amused by Tablet and my ogling.
- Corollary to the above: Do not tell your wife she, too, could wear a leopard print unitard with no underwear to the airport and get the same treatment. And never, ever suggest it would make it easier for her to get through security.
- Corollary to the above corollary: Hen party brides-to-be seem to assemble a cohort of not nearly as attractive comrades to be in the wedding party.
- In Scotland, Catholics and Protestants spent centuries destroying each other and their creations. It did not work out well for anyone involved.
- The Jolly Judge just off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is a great pub.
- Yes, the wind is always honking off the ocean directly across the links at St. Andrews. ‘Puter also assumes the temperature hovers around 38 degrees there year round as well. Scottish people are undeterred by the weather and will stroll the beach while being blasted with sand commenting on how delightful the day is.
- Scotland has one snow plow. ‘Puter saw it heading north on the M9 closely followed by a grit/salt truck. ‘Puter assumes they were fleeing an unruly mob hell-bent on destroying them for the crap job of snow removal they do.
- Driving on the left is more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule.
- Scottish people can consume more alcohol in one sitting than any other group of people ‘Puter’s ever seen. ‘Puter very much enjoyed this attribute of the Scots.
- Scottish cuisine involves meat, offal, and maybe some root vegetables on the side. The cuisine is washed down with scotch or beer. You will not encounter green vegetables or water in your travels. Bring your favorite constipation remedy. You’ll thank ‘Puter.
- The Fife accent makes ‘Puter giggle.
- Scotland’s national identity is really, really wrapped up in its military history, which history, to be fair, is awesome.
- World War I killed a whole lot of Scots and there are memorials everywhere. There was one in the parish church where Clan ‘Puter attended Easter Mass.
- Scots are pasty and white, just like people in Rochester where ‘Puter lives. ‘Puter felt right at home.
Scotland’s a great place to visit. The country’s beautiful and the people are genuinely nice. ‘Puter highly recommends it as a travel destination.
No, I’m not talking about Stormy Daniels, the latest GIF ‘Puter posted on Twitter, all the dishes the Czar left in the sink, or where the clandestine White House Bunker is. I’m talking about the one topic that the media, the democrats, and the the whole March For Our Lives group won’t talk about with regards to gun violence: the American societal acceptance of the destruction of the family.
From the Sun Sentinel on March 1, 2018:
The list [of mass shooters with broken homes] goes on and on, as Brad Wilcox will testify. He is a professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, studied school shootings in 2013 and found all the perpetrators had either had a mother who never got married or had seen a divorce in the family. CNN once looked at the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, noting that, of the seven killers under 30, only one had his biological father around his whole childhood.
Consider a joint federal study showing that 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes; as often as not, mass shooters are simultaneously suicidal. Robert Sampson, a Harvard sociologist, has observed that urban violence is concentrated in neighborhoods with mostly single-parent homes. A Michigan State University study found 75 percent of examined adolescent murderers were from fatherless homes. The Centers for Disease Control says 85 percent of children with behavioral disorders have only a mother in the home. Wilcox also says children with both married parents around are less likely to drop out of school, to become drug addicts or to grow up impoverished.
A oft overlooked statistic in the last few weeks is that 26 of the 27 deadliest mass shootings perpetrators were largely raised in a fatherless environment.
This is a difficult topic to address but instead of addressing it – likely due to a fear of offending someone – we are sweeping it under the rug. Maybe my liberal friends will claim this is more “whataboutism”* but, like many of them ask about gun control laws: why not try to do something?!? If we kick this can down the road, it isn’t going to improve on it’s own. This is going to take a concerted effort. Maybe before I move on, I should highlight some other statistics:
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
- 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
It isn’t just fatherless homes, in my opinion, but rather it is a change in our culture and a lack of holding people accountable. In this case, be accountable for the life you just helped create. I truly believe that children with a sense of responsibility and an understanding that actions have meaningful and real consequences are likely not going to be the next school shooting criminal.
The other part of accountability is the lack of accountability we hold our government (local, state, and federal) for enforcing the laws in place. Before we spend the taxpayer money on passing new gun laws (many of which would likely not have stopped many of these shootings), can we fix the enforcement of the laws on the books. Fix the various databases and information sharing systems for background checks. Fix the reporting of mental health issues and violent behaviors such that they would be ineligible under CURRENT laws to acquire a gun. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but I believe that the Parkland shooting was preventable if just some – not even all – of the enforcement problems were addressed. I would like to see one journalist ask David Hogg or Emma Gonzalez, “Do you think it was a legislative problem or an enforcement problem that led to the shooting and why?” Followed up with, “are you aware that there were multiple failures in the implementation and enforcement of current laws that would have likely prevented the shooter from obtaining a gun and being in the school that day in that condition?” I doubt I’ll hear either anytime soon. In the meantime, the dirty little secret will continue to be whispered because to talk about it would be “whataboutism”
* Whataboutism is the epitome of the liberal reaction to have a rational discussion and debate about a topic. Anything outside of their specific agenda is decried as the opponents just screaming, “What about…”? I actually think the texting while driving has a very real parallel to the gun debate – somewhere between 4 and 10 times the number of teens die from texting while driving accidents per day than by guns (when you include suicides, accidental shootings, incidental shootings, and mass shootings). In both cases, there are existing laws that make some aspect of the action illegal (hence, crime, right?!?) There have been ZERO marches to raise awareness or combat texting while driving. Where are the OpEds and the Hollywood events to address the issue? Can you imagine for a moment a national campaign to ban the sales of smart phones to teenage drivers?