Archive for September 2008
Our thoughts go out to GSA’s Bev Godwin and her family. Godwin is the director of USA.gov and Web Best Practices in GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications.
Godwin’s son, Ross, was in Dallas. I don’t have the full details, but… last week, he was apparently robbed, his car was stolen and he was shot. He has survived, thank goodness, and I have heard that he is out of the hospital.
If I get any other information, I will pass it along. As always, keep Ross and Bev Godwin in your thoughts. And I’ll post if there is anything that we can do for the family.
So we all have been watching the financial mess. In fact, it was so curious yesterday that all the cable networks literally had split-screens, with one eye focused on Wall Street and another on Capitol Hill as House members voted down the financial rescue bill.
The big question: What does this mean for the government world. We have been trying to get our arms around it on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris. Yesterday, we had Jeremy Grant, an emerging technologies analyst for the Stanford Group Company’s Washington Research Group [hear the interview here .mp3]… , Director of External Relations for the TSP, talking about what it means for feds retirement plans [hear the interview here .mp3] … and the remarkable Stanley Collender, who is known as a one of the leading experts in federal fiscal and monetary policies having worked on the staff of the House and Senate Budget Committees [hear the interview here .mp3].
But what do you think?
What does the impact of the financial mess mean for government?
“We haven’t seen this much demand since the 9-11 commission report” was posted on the site in 2004, said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the House.
“We’re being overwhelmed with Web traffic about the bill.” Ventura said the Web site is working, but many computer users are getting the equivalent of a busy signal when they try to visit the site. Once users are on the site, it works at reduced speed. “You have to keep trying and eventually you get in,” he said. Ventura said the slowdown is expected to last until Tuesday, when demand is expected to decline with the House in recess.
In the meantime, technicians planned to work through the night to fortify the system. “Our computer people aren’t going anywhere,” Ventura said.
Another GSA move — or lack of move, that is: Josh Sawislak, who has been a senior advisor to the administrator and the acting chief emergency response and recovery officer, who had been slated to leave GSA… will be sticking around. GSA Acting Administrator Jim Williams told senior staff this morning.
Sawislak’s wife, who is also a fed, has been transfered to a new post overseas. And Sawislak had been planning to leave GSA to join her overseas.
But Sawislak will be sticking around through the end of the administration.
Early on, Sawislak was seen as a FOL — friend of Lurita, as in former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan — but has gained respect within the agency. He has been working overtime in recent months as the acting emergency response and recovery officer with the seeming parade of hurricanes in the past few weeks.
And when I was at FCW, I had him on the FCW- Federal News Radio show. You can hear that here.
A very happy birthday to Lena Trudeau, the program area director for strategic initiatives for the National Academy of Public Administration. I actually put Trudeau and Frank DiGiammarino, NAPA’s president of strategic initiatives, on the cover of Federal Computer Week earlier this year talking about their initiative, The Collaboration Project. The Collaboration Project is wonderful place where they are pulling together of examples of collaboration… and real lessons learned.
So, as I’m apt to do… what happened on this date:
1789 The U.S. War Department established a regular army with a strength of several hundred men.
1829 London’s reorganized police force, which became known as Scotland Yard, went on duty.
1957 Baseball’s New York Giants played their last game at the Polo Grounds before moving to San Francisco for the next season.
1982 Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules laced with cyanide claimed the first of seven victims in the Chicago area. (The case remains unsolved… Read more on today’s Writer’s Almanac.)
1988 The space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., marking America’s return to manned space flight following the Challenger disaster.
2005 New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released from 85 days of federal detention after agreeing to testify in a criminal probe into the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity.
Sharing Trudeau’s birthday:
* Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) turns 66
* Mike Post, the TV, film theme composer, turnes 65
* PBS journalist Gwen Ifill turns 53
* Comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay turns 51
* Jill Whelan, who played Capt. Stubing’s daughter on the TV show “The Love Boat,” turns 42
Famous people born on this date:
From PRI’s Writer’s Almanac:
* Pompey The Great (9/29/106 BC – 9/28/48 BC), the Roman statesman and general of the Roman Republic
* Francois Boucher (9/29/1703 – 5/30/1770), the French painter, engraver and designer
* Horatio Nelson (9/29/1758 – 10/21/1805), the English naval commander
* Caroline Yale (9/29/1848 – 7/2/1933), the American educator of the deaf
Yes, the first debate was Friday night, of course — the most watched presidential debate ever with some 57 million viewers.
In my view, it was a refreshing break from the debate over lipstick and pigs — a very wonky affair of two smart people talking about what they would like to do for the future.
They did mention government issues a few times.
One was the issue of cost-plus contracts vs fixed-cost contracts.
Sen. John McCain argued that fixed-cost contracts are more cost efficient.
Here is what he said as transcribed by the NYT:
Senator Obama has the most liberal voting record in the United States Senate. It’s hard to reach across the aisle from that far to the left.
The point — the point is — the point is, we need to examine every agency of government.
First of all, by the way, I’d eliminate ethanol subsidies. I oppose ethanol subsidies.
I think that we have to return — particularly in defense spending, which is the largest part of our appropriations — we have to do away with cost-plus contracts. We now have defense systems that the costs are completely out of control.
We tried to build a little ship called the Littoral Combat Ship that was supposed to cost $140 million, ended up costing $400 million, and we still haven’t done it.
So we need to have fixed-cost contracts. We need very badly to understand that defense spending is very important and vital, particularly in the new challenges we face in the world, but we have to get a lot of the cost overruns under control.
I know how to do that.
In a cost-plus contract, a vendor is paid for its total costs of doing the work plus an award fee if it meets specific performance objectives. In fixed-price contracts, vendors work for a fee agreed upon ahead of time, so their profit depends upon finishing the work in a reasonable time.
One other topic: The federal spending Web site, USAspending.gov. He mostly mentioned it in regard to his ability to work across party lines because the bill creating the site was co-sponsored with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma).
They did it on the Medicaid prescription drug bill and we have to change the culture. Tom — or John mentioned me being wildly liberal. Mostly that’s just me opposing George Bush’s wrong headed policies since I’ve been in Congress but I think it is that it is also important to recognize I work with Tom Coburn, the most conservative, one of the most conservative Republicans who John already mentioned to set up what we call a Google for government saying we’ll list every dollar of federal spending to make sure that the taxpayer can take a look and see who, in fact, is promoting some of these spending projects that John’s been railing about.
Coming up Thursday — the VP debate.
Events on this date:
1781 American forces, backed by a French fleet, began the siege of Yorktown Heights, Va., during the Revolutionary War,
1787 Congress voted to send the Constitution to state legislatures for their approval.
1850 Flogging was abolished as a form of punishment in the U.S. Navy.
It was on this day in 1066 that William the Conqueror of Normandy arrived on British soil. He defeated the British in the Battle of Hastings on October 14, and on Christmas Day, he was crowned King of England in Westminster Abby. What is the link between that event and words like “religion,” “prayer,” and “preach.” Read more in today’s Writer’s Almanac.
Other people birthday partying today…
R&B singer Ben E. King turns 70
Moon Zappa (I remember him as “Moon Unit Zappa,” but… I could remember incorrectly) turns 41. (Maybe you can’t be “Moon Unit” at 41?)
Actress, singer (“Lizzie McGuire”) Hilary Duff turns 21
And others born on this date through history:
One of my personal heros was born on this date: On Sept. 28, 1901, Ed Sullivan, who entertained millions of Americans with his long-running Sunday night variety show, was born. (More over on Wikipedia, of course.)
Also William Paley (9/28/1901 – 10/26/1990), the American broadcaster who led CBS for over 50 years.
So I’m spending a fairly lazy Saturday watching speakers from the recent Web 2.0 Expo in New York. One of the speakers at the conference was Gary Vaynerchuk — who, wonderfully, spells out his name phonetically on his Web site, so it is vay-ner-chuck. Vaynerchuck oversees the Web sites Wine Library (and, from there, I found out that there is a wine social networking site, Corkd. Ah, isn’t the world amazing!)
Anyway, as I said, Vaynerchuck spoke at the Web 2.0 Expo, and while is presentation is mostly geared to Web 2.0 folks, I think there are lessons here.
(Editor note: If you are easily offended by language, you may want to pass. While I wouldn’t say he is profane, it is not family viewing.)
I think he makes some of his observations are right on target — and can be applied to government.
* Care about what you do — This is one of my favorite messages from his presentation. After all, these days, if you don’t like what you do, do something else! Please! You won’t be happy, and, almost as important, you’ll make the people around you unhappy. Do something you love.
* Good work requires work — I had a conversation with outgoing FBI CIO Zal Azme that aired on Federal News Radio yesterday afternoon. Azme has done a fairly remarkable job turning the FBI’s IT organization around. And he was saying all the things that one is supposed to say. (Hear the full interview here. .mp3 ) But one thing is definitely true — we mostly know what we are supposed to be doing. The fact is it isn’t easy to do it. Or else everybody would be doing it. There is some magical pieces — the humanness of it all — that makes it happen. But it can’t happen without work — and sometimes hard work.
* Content, content, content — or, in the government case — mission, mission, mission — Do good work, and people will find you!
Vaynerchuck’s presentation is well worth 14 minutes.
From Steve Kelman’s post:
Kurt Kelman… was an immigrant. Born in Vienna, Austria, he was 19, and just graduating from high school, when Hitler took over the country in 1938. He immediately decided to leave. A few months later, he got a train ticket to Basel, Switzerland, just over the German border, but with no passport, he would have been unable to enter the country legally. Just over the German border, he jumped off the train as it rounded a bend, and walked into the city to a refugee organization, which took him to a small village to hide. Turned in to the police by a suspicious local farmer, he was put in jail (he didn’t have any money to pay a fine) and then expelled, fortunately to France and not back to Germany.
Well, for one-third of the people in at least one survey, the answer was obvious: their smart phone!
A NEW survey conducted for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts finds that over a third of smart phone users would pick their BlackBerry over their significant other if they absolutely had to choose one to live without. Gulliver has covered PDA addiction before, noting that users show signs of addiction “similar to alcoholics“, but this survey result has to represent some sort of new low. The 35% number wasn’t the only depressing survey result, but if you’re a heavy CrackBerry user, you already know the rest:
The vast majority of people (84%) say they check their PDAs just before going to bed and as soon as they wake up, 85% say they sneak a peak at their PDA in the middle of the night, and 80% say they check their e mail before morning coffee. A whopping 87% of professionals bring their PDA into the bedroom.
(And yes — the photo is from BlackBerry events going on around DC right now. This one happened to be outside the Regan Building. The BlackBerry and its team of assistants were pointing people to BlackBerry’s government Web site, blackberrygov.com. The photo is taken with my iPhone… but I have both an iPhone and a BlackBerry.)