Catching Up On The News

4 Feb

So, I am once again delinquent in my blogging duties.  Aside from a significant uptick in job duties due to massive layoffs at my day job, I am in the final stages of initial funding for a startup and am working with Marc to develop a new website.  I’m also married and have two kids.  KTHXBAI!!#@#

So, I’ve been busy.

A quick rundown on stuff I would have blogged about last week and this week if I had more time.  Perhaps I will revisit some of these things in a week or two.

New WNYMedia blog which focuses on upstate issues and recommends upstate secession.  Cool stuff.

– Along with a couple of other local techies, I am planning the first Buffalo BarCamp.  What is a BarCamp?  Glad you asked!

BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants. The first BarCamps focused on early-stage web applications, and related open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats. The format has also been used for a variety of other topics, including public transit, health care, and political organizing.

Essentially, smart people get in a room, set a loose agenda, break into groups and discuss/plan technology and ideas.  We’re hoping to use this as an early stage incubator for local tech startups.

– The Cleveland Common Council did something that is kind of unheard of around Buffalo, they got together and set an agenda for the year.  They laid out in measurable terms what they wanted to collectively accomplish in 2009.  Setting a strategic vision, laying out milestones of achievement and measuring progress is something that every governmental entity ought to do each year.  Legislators should be focused on big picture ideas and not focused on whether Mrs. Kaziejorski on Sobieski Street has a recycling bin.

With a set agenda, the Common Council can collectively work towards accomplishments with the state and federal delegations.  It’s also a step towards public transparency and accountability.  Win.

– We’ve spent and are spending over $100,000,000,000 on the reconstruction of Iraq.  The good news?  Well, there isn’t much.  The bad news?  Well, lots.

There are 154 open criminal investigations into allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging and theft in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, said Gimble, the Pentagon’s principal deputy inspector general.

Contracting scandals have happened for decades, but the scale of the dollars stolen from the US Government is beyond anything in history.  First thing the Obama Administration should look into is killing off Cost Plus contracts and forcing contractors to stay on budget with transparent accounting mechanisms.

Michael Steele as Chairman of the RNC?  As Jon Stewart put it on The Daily Show the other day…if Barack Obama is Tickle Me Elmo, Michael Steele is Giggle Time All-Mo.  A cheap knockoff.  In fact, he has been a steady failure at everything he has ever done before being elected to an office he wasn’t really qualified to occupy.  Kinda like George W. Bush.  Hope and Change!

– How much can the City of Buffalo and Erie County save by migrating away from desktop PC’s, Microsoft licenses, and proprietary desktop application software?  Well, the Army Intelligence Center saved $31MM by doing so.  Perhaps it’s an idea worth considering.  When we talk about cost cutting at the government level, we focus on the cutting of services, not reducing the cost of provisioning those services.   Sure, unions and onerous public employee contracts interfere with discussions about savings in personnel, but we can save money by reducing licensing and maintenance costs, lowering power consumption, enabling web services and virtualizing.

Jim Heaney at The Buffalo News (whose blog kicks a serious amount of ass) did a great job at detailing the inherent conflict of interest between public employee unions and state government.   I believe that state employee unions should be abolished or banned from lobbying or making donations to political campaigns.  No questions asked.

– Also, if you want to fix the problems in America, you need to fix the systemic infection, not the secondary systems.  Change Congress.

http://blip.tv/play/gbNQ0sRBiuYz

6 Responses to “Catching Up On The News”

  1. KevinP February 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    Yeah,

    So BarCamp was totally not what I envisioned when I first saw the name.

    Very disappointing…

  2. Christopher Smith February 4, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Well, we’re hosting the first one in a bar. So, there’s that.

  3. Ethan February 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm #

    ok, first: “Legislators should be focused on big picture ideas and not focused on whether Mrs. Kaziejorski on Sobieski Street has a recycling bin.”

    the fact that this isn’t totally obvious to basically everyone and their mother is the foremost reason for WNY.FAIL at all, ever. It’s just not 1908 anymore, folks. Actually, it never was.

    Second, “First thing the Obama Administration should look into is killing off Cost Plus contracts and forcing contractors to stay on budget with transparent accounting mechanisms.” ha ha ha ha ha… ok, well, anyway, after getting that out, I have to say they sure as fuck better, and more. Beyond that, it’s too late for “the first thing,” and frankly, better than that as an end in- and of-itself would be _that,_ wrapped up in a big, fat abuse of executive power investigation which led to actual trials. oh, so let me repeat: ha ha ha ha ha.

    Third: “we can save money by reducing licensing and maintenance costs, lowering power consumption, enabling web services and virtualizing.” See One. The problem is that we’ve been so conditioned by the right since the early 1970’s that we generally deem services “entitlements.” So, instead of looking at where cost cutting can really be made, we trash the entire thing. asshattery.

    Fourth, and finally: I’m hugely pro-union, in the private sector. I’ll never, ever, trust for-profit organizations not to screw employees in favor of the shareholders. But, I’m a lot less enamored with public-sector unions. It’s not that I trust The State not to screw over workers, I don’t- they certainly will, and thus the damn unions have to be. But, ideally, The State has a lot less incentive to, and shouldn’t screw over workers– when it happens, it has more to do with politics than economics, I think. I can actually imagine trusting a state to treat it’s employees better than a company. Though to be fair, there’s few if any actual states I’d in fact trust in that regard. Bhutan, maybe.

  4. Derek J. Punaro February 5, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    BarCamp sounds cool. Kind of an expansion of local technology-specific user groups, but not specific to any particular technology?

  5. KevinP February 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    “I’ll never, ever, trust for-profit organizations not to screw employees in favor of the shareholders.”

    Ethan, I have one question: why?

    As an employer how is it in my best interest to screw over my workers? All that ensures is a demoralized workforce that doesn’t care about their jobs or the customers. It is in my best interest to treat them well so that they look forward to work, perform better than our competitors, and treat our customers right.

    Most American small businesses work with a similar mindset.

  6. Ethan February 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm #

    Kevin-

    I know you’re an employer, and I rather imagine you treat your employees quite well, so don’t get me wrong; it’s not inevitable.

    To be sure, I agree that it is not in the long-term best interests of the employer to mistreat their employees. But even a brief glance at the history of labor in the industrial & post-industrial age makes it pretty clear that, as sound as that logic might be, it hasn’t stopped worker exploitation. Many laws & regulations had to be enacted to reduce it in this country, and it was always the workers, not the employers, who had to organize and fight for things like child labor laws and 40-hour work-weeks, maternity leave, etc. So no, the evidence of history and the human tendency for greed together suggest we can’t just assume employers will treat labor well.

    I do think the small business v. giant, multi-national conglomerate mega corporation distinction matters, here, by the way. It is harder to treat your workers poorly when you know them well and see them a lot, have personal relations, all that. Harder, but not impossible, of course: whenever there is an asymmetry of power, one must be on guard for exploitation.

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