Thursday, August 29, 2013

Something About Bert

No, not Bert of Bert and Earnie fame, but the current Bert of Georgia transportation fame. We all remember Bert Lance and his involvement during the Carter Governor years, but now we're talking about Bert Brantley who is a top bureaucrat in our nascent Tollway bureaucracy. In a recent AJC article exposing research concluding that the I-85 Lexus Lanes really are Lexus Lanes our new Bert offers some prize quotes.

First he blasts the research done by Southern Environmental Law Center declaring the study "flimsy". Well of course the study is flimsy Bert. That would be because you and your bureaucrat buddies refuse to a) publish detailed information or b) do the study yourself. In fact, we'll wager you don't publish the data at all but use the formality of Open Records requests to dissuade acquisition of the information.

When it is suggested that marching forward on other tollways in Georgia should be gated by understanding the impact of the I-85 HOT lane which was intended to be a pilot program for just that purpose Bert drops this jewel:
"...there's still plenty of time to learn as we move forward. Do you sit back and do nothing?"
Wow Bert, really? So why did you wait on commissioning the detailed data analysis? Is that because it is a foregone conclusion that you're going to "move forward" with these other projects come hell or high water? Why weren't you giving routine weekly reports on the details of lane usage beyond peak pricing? We're one eighth into the twenty first century now Bert and it has become painfully apparent that everyone who wants to has access to and can leverage real time analytics. Oops. Isn't that exactly what the HOT lane operation does to dynamically adjust the fares--real time analytics?

What we have here is another government agency with a hidden agenda and if past behaviour is any indicator of future behaviour then this agenda is intentionally hidden because it is largely about moving public money into well connected private hands.

Thanks Bert for all you do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Welfare Mommies

Conjures a potent image, eh? Makes you think of some pregnant ne'er do well surrounded by four other kids including a pregnant teenage daughter. A woman with no visible means of support 'cepting Unca Sam yet sporting the kind of manicure that make you wonder how she can even use that smart phone.

Now imagine how pissed you'd be to learn that only those who receive this welfare are afforded the opportunity to vote on matters concerning the operation of the program from which they benefit. In effect you only pay the bills but you don't actually get a vote. Pretty pissed you betcha.

When you consider that public education costs around $10K per student per year then that family of five or six down the block is as much on the dole as your imaginary welfare queen. And the bit about disenfranchising mere payers into the system? Well, that's happening. Right here in DeKalb.

Recently a group of parents came together to vote in favour of establishing a charter cluster. Several things made this interesting including the fifty percent plus one majority required to go forward. But that was just counting votes.

What is more interesting is how votes were apportioned. As this vote was structured the parents were merely "trustees" of their children's vote. And only for those children who could attend a school in the cluster even if they are not currently attending. So, a parent with four children eligible to attend get's four votes. Those with children in college, under age or simply blessed with bareness get no vote. Notta.

Some are calling this a "Mommie Brigade". We'll just call it the largest entitlement program in America.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vote With THEIR Money

DeKalb County Schools seem to be doing an upstanding job of pissing folks off lately and while this is causing a lot of consternation and whining in the blogosphere not much is really getting done. Why? Because, to quote Dr. Phil, the whiners don't understand their "currency". And their currency is simple: money.

Ironically parents in DeKalb actually control that money. Not by way of the local taxes, but by way of the state funding. You must understand that each and every child, sleepy or rested, hungry or full, stoned or sober arrives with significant state funding (figuratively) in their book bag. And parents can take that money away by simply withholding their child from school.

A sick-out is a short-term shout out not likely to make a significant dent in the County budget especially given the return to "creative" accounting so what we need is something better. We need homeschoolers. If everyone who can homeschool, and many more can than you might think, took that simple step they would send forth a powerful, lasting message.

They are just getting cozy with their smoke and mirrors budget so now is the time to act and it only needs to last one semester--though you may find you like it and simply never look back at the hell you've been putting your children thru. And if concentrated pockets of parents take this path they can share the work load across families. And the cost is no more than filing some papers, a few good books and a fast internet connection. This is simply not as daunting as some believe.

Thurmond makes no effort to hide his disdain for Dunwoody and much of the rest of North DeKalb. It is time for those folks to eliminate as much of his funding as they possibly can.

Money talks...Thurmond walks.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fight Or Flight

The days drift by
They don't have names
None of the streets here look the same
And there's so many quiet places
Smilin' eyes match the smilin' faces

And I have found me a home
I have found me a home
You can have the rest of everything I own
'Cause I have found me a home
The recent trend in the Blogosphere of the Wold is to assign monikers to teams involved in our little skirmishes, or at least deprecating ones to those holding the opposing position and this seems like fun so for the purpose of this diatribe we shall do the same. In the first corner the formerly retired champion making a comeback is the contingency known as "More Dunwoody Than You" aka "Mo Wood" and in the opposing corner the young upstarts, Dunwoody's collective agents of change, our very own Cheese Hunters extraordinaire, the "Jeezer Cheeser".

What has Mo Wood back in the ring facing Jeezer Cheeser is a skirmish over a skirmish, specifically the "Battle for Dunwoody". Mo viewed the conflict between Dunwoody and Dekalb in simple terms with clearly stated, limited objectives much like Stormin' Norman in the first Gulf "war". Once the City was established and our taxes stayed here payin' for Police, patchin' potholes and pavin' parks they considered the war over. Job well done, but more importantly, job DONE.

Jeezer, young and hotheaded was more like Patton and seems in it to never win it, to never say that the last battle is fought and won, but to slog on in a never ending campaign to battle against what he sees as the forces of evil. By and large this means anyone who wants to keep Dunwoody a sleepy little Bettendorf. Just a bit too quaint for Jeezer. Plus Jeezer is a fighter and is itchin' to take all comers.

Mo's position has the merit of simplicity: Mo "bought into Dunwoody" when it was a sleepy bedroom community and though Jeezer cannot believe and will have none of it, actually LIKED it that way. Mo's complaint with DeKalb was the same as his issue with Jeezer which is that DeKalb and now Jeezer want to take away the life Mo has vested interest and much money in.

Jeezer is the more complex creature even to the point of incredible. It isn't clear how Jeezer got to Dunwoody, given there were no real secrets about the "Dunwoody sense of place" but we'll go out on a limb and suggest that Jeezer has close family members held hostage who will be killed should he leave the Wold. We're romantics like that.

Now Jeezer is promoting himself as the next new thing, heavy emphasis on "new" as Jeezer is an evangelist for the inevitability of change. Jeezer has clearly never been to Darien CT where the good folk living there have kept the clock rolled back to the mid 1950's. That fine existence proof notwithstanding Jeezer is hell bent on change, his change and not just for himself but for Mo and everyone watching from the stands.

But Jeezer is facing Mo's rope-a-dope and wearing himself out. Even in these early rounds many of his formerly ardent supporters are losing hope and more importantly faith in his mission and his tactics. They are asking of themselves the same question others are asking of Jeezer: if the hostage story isn't true, why fight--isn't flight the most efficacious option?

And many are seriously considering that option. Upon finding that Dunwoody isn't their nirvana, not the Hell's Cherubs Home of Cycling, not the tree-hugger's paradise, not the neo-urban funk capital and certainly not a haven for folk-artsy folk who take their Hippocratic Oath of Ecology VERY seriously they are voting with their feet.  And what's to stop them? Dunwoody fared better than most in the recent real estate crunch and as it turns out there are many places nearby in the Metro area that actually ARE what Jeezer wants to force Dunwoody to become. So a brief analysis of "time left on the planet" vs "fight for something I can migrate to" is leading many to the path of migration. Maybe Dunwoody is Smart after all.
Most of the people who retire in Florida
Are wrinkled and they lean on a crutch
And mobile homes are smotherin' my Keys
I hate those bastards so much
I wish a summer squall would blow them all
The way up to fantasy land
Yeah they're ugly and square, they don't belong here
They looked a lot better as beer cans

Yeah, and that's why it's still a mystery to me
Why some people live like they do
So many nice things happening out there
They never even seen the clues
Whoa but we're doin' fine, we can travel and rhyme
I know we been doin' our part
Got a Caribbean soul I can barely control
And some Texas hidden here in my heart

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More Isn't Always Better

The American way of life seems based on the notion that if some is good more must be better. Certainly this has been adopted by educracy who advance the notion that everyone absolutely must have a college degree and an advanced degree where ever funding permits. No brains required.

Turns out reality doesn't support these notions of overfunding higher education. A couple of articles in the Atlantic warrant a read and expose the farce.
We've been hearing, mostly from those with a vested in interest in convincing us, that we just do not have enough PhDs and that furthermore we don't have enough home-grown PhD candidates and are therefore forced to import and arguably increase our import of foreign degree candidates or holders. Sadly the job market strongly disagrees with the premise that the more advanced the degree the better the job prospects and the higher the pay. And this problem exists for the STEM fields where we have technology rock stars like Bill Gates promoting the notion that we need unlimited H1B (and H2B) visas because we're not pumping out enough highly trained tech talent. Where is he when newly minted PhDs are being forced into un- and under employment? Why isn't he waving six figure job offers under their noses?

Anecdotally a recent Ga Tech graduate with a freshly minted EE PhD found work very hard to come by. Being resourceful he updated his resume removing mention of the PhD in favour of his Masters degree and started work at IBM within two months. Making over six figures.

Corporate America may just not hire you if you're "over educated" but academia eats their young. In the world of higher education a PhD in Mathematics (the truly universal language) is most likely to get you a job as a "post-doc", academia's term for "wage slave". That's assuming you get a job at all. Then there is the path split between teaching and research. If you're inclined to teach then that advanced degree in Math might get you a university job, perhaps even tenure track but you'd be very fortunate if it commands a salary much over $50,000. If you're research oriented your prospects and pay are better, but only if you walk in the door with funded research in your back pocket.

So why is it that academia promotes this scam? Mostly because there is much upside and little or no downside. Professors with tenure are not really impacted by the fact that fresh graduates add to the burgeoning pool of the over-educated and underemployed. In addition no one really cares that these new grads would dramatically undercut tenured salaries as these professors have their "job for life" and are not subject to the kind of cost-benefit evaluation used in the corporate world. College administrators are adherents of the "grow or die" philosophy and are incented to expand their department without much regard to what happens after the student stops paying tuition.

So at the end of the day we're educating too many folks to an unnecessary degree and wasting resources to do it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Another One Down

It isn't like this is IN a school zone, it's conveniently just outside the school zone and this isn't the favourite stomping grounds of anyone on council. So...

Ooh, let's go
Steve walks warily down the street
With the brim pulled way down low
Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet
Machine guns ready to go

Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this
Are you hangin' on the edge of your seat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat - yeah

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust, eh
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

How do you think I'm going to get along
Without you when you're gone
You took me for everything that I had
And kicked me out on my own

Are you happy ? Are you satisfied ?
How long can you stand the heat
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Look out

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust, eh
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

Oh take it
Bites the dust - bite the dust hey
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust, ow
Another one bites the dust, hey hey
Another one bites the dust, heeey
Ooh show down

There are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man
And bring him to the ground
You can beat him
You can cheat him
You can treat him bad and leave him
When he's down, yeah
But I'm ready, yes I'm ready for you
I'm standing on my own two feet
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
Repeating to the sound of the beat
Oh yeah

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust, yeah
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust
Shoot out
Hey, alright

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bragging Are We?

Seriously? See the problem? Right there...below the "&" in the top sign. See:

Are we REALLY bragging about SACS accreditation? In Dunwoody?

For those who've been on missionary work in Cote d'Ivoire for the past couple of years Dunwoody has become a hotbed of Public School secessionists with one group dedicated to creating a new school district and another creating an independent charter cluster. More importantly, Dunwoody is the center of gravity for the successful effort to obtain dual accreditation freeing our schools from the stranglehold of, you guessed it, SACS.

And the chief educrat overlording SACS is not exactly held in high esteem 'round 'bout here. Surely some are wondering if these "bragging rights" are obtained with simple payola or if there are "in kind" services required to get screwed over by SACS.

The only thing they could have done that would be worse is if they added a tagline of "Site of the Rusty Schneiderman Assassination" to their signage.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Friggin With The Riggins

Those of you out there in business-land probably have from time to time had to make a decision on what your company should purchase and decide on which vendor to select. And you've probably had to justify that decision to higher ups. If you've done much of this you have also run up against rules about just how this is done. These often include "competitive bid", "minimum number of bids" and the every popular "lowest cost".

If you've done this much you also know how to scam the system--colloquially known as "bid rigging". The core of all these techniques is creating, and then manipulating a "scoring system" where the details of the rubric -- the weightings for each value -- are buried deep beneath a spreadsheet teaming with numbers. All to look cold, analytic and official. Another tried and true technique is to include in the RFP items that are finely crafted to favour your pre-selected winner. Generally you want these to be easily overlooked and not something as egregious as "employs my cousin at twice the pay of those who do real work" or "has a long term relationship with a high ranking official" or better still "brought a brand new sixty inch plasma to my super bowl party and forgot to take it home". These are the kinds of blatant malfeasance that gets folks, like Pope and Reed, dragged into court. Even subtle missteps cause bureaucratic heartburn as we have recently witnessed with the re-letting of bids for Department of Community Health's plan management.

We all know it happens and we suspect it happens more in government than in the private sector. We also know how to do it and it would surprising if we didn't recognize it when we see others do it. So those of you out there in the Wold that recognize one of these, take close hard look at the proposal selection for our latest mini-me NSA wanna be effort--the Iron Sky Watching You Proposal.

When you look at the score sheet one thing leaps out. Iron Sky is by far the most expensive of the bids but it also scores highest (bigger is better) on the "cost" metric. By a factor of four over the lowest price bidder. In fact, Iron Sky is higher than the amount budgeted which should have been a very precise "estimate". Read on to decipher why that might be.

In the pre-award promotional effort Iron Sky was ballyhooed as the anti-privacy provider for Sandy Springs--the big sister we want to be if we grow up. Hooray for that. What seems to be glossed over is the relationship between Iron Sky and the City of Norcross which just happens to be the former employer of the Dunwoody City Manager. Now this is of little or no consequence and can be written off as nothing more than a coincidence except for the opacity of City Hall and the rather strange conclusion that the highest price bidder wins the "cost war" by a such a large margin. Now you're beginning to wonder why that estimate wasn't spot on.

In real estate there is the concept of an "arms length deal" which is critically important when contesting a property assessment based on the most recent sale price. Basically "arms length" means there was no prior relationship between the two parties and the property changed hands in a fair deal at market price. Now look at our Iron Sky deal and you decide if you see an "arms length" deal or just another Dunwoody arms deal.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How Many Legs Does A Dog Have?

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
-- Abraham Lincoln
Do you have a college education if you call four years of remediation after receiving a high school diploma college?

The undeniable fact that the answer to this commonly held delusion is "NO!" is sinking in even with the most left leaning amongst us who are now suggesting that we need educations that result in salaries greater than school loan repayments.  The call is now for four year degrees commanding a salary in the business world and though reluctant to admit it they have distanced themselves from their previous position in support "critical thinking" as the be all end all of education.

The bigger problem is that what they want to call a "college education" isn't. New hires require four year degrees not because we've amped up the requirements for entry level jobs as much as we have so epically failed with public high schools (and private high schools are prep academies) that colleges have expanded their role (and their income) to provide remediation. Colleges are the new high school because they are teaching high school material at a high school level. A college education that does not make.

While a four year degree in psychology may help the student understand why they spent their teen years in angst or deal with daddy issues it does little to set them apart from the illegal immigrant when it comes to the job they're immediately qualified for--at McDonald's. And no one, least of all the matriculating college, wants to inform the young psychology student of their best possible employment prospects--as a social worker which may make the job at Mickey Dee's attractive.

We need fewer people with superficial exposure to high finance and more who really understand how to apply amortization and depreciation to an ongoing business. We need more plumbers, more electricians and more HVAC technicians. Is there an HVAC company in the Southeast who isn't sifting thru resumes from Mechanical Engineering graduates but who would prefer to have half as many from A/C field technicians? We need fewer Computer Science majors masquerading as programmers and more IT and Network technicians--let's not call the "technician tail" an "engineer leg."

More than all that we need fewer educators and more teachers. We need to understand that when we as teachers and parents abdicated our responsibility to rank and sort and thereby guide we did a great disservice to our children and our society. We need to acknowledge that "the trades" are not purgatory for those deemed "not smart enough" and recognize that these endeavours require as much literacy and numeracy as being a doctor or a lawyer. The electrician who cannot read and understand the electrical code and any changes will not go far. The home remodeler who cannot calculate time and materials or the number of days between two dates will not be in business very long. A machinist who can calculate feed rates or an HVAC tech who can do heat load calculations is far superior to a "rule of thumb" man. These are not jobs that tolerate those who are illiterate, innumerate or allergic to lifelong learning.

Finally, we need to be honest with ourselves: calling four years of remediation college doesn't make it college.