Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Reality of Oakland

It won't be discussed much in 'big' news media...but the Oakland City Council met yesterday and decided to ago ahead with the plan to license four marijuana production plants. We are talking industrial-sized facilities here....with full up growth, packaging and processing.

Yes, we are the threshold of a US city turning into a "Wal-Mart" of marijuana. My best guess is that the authorization of four facilities will double by summer of 2011, and probably reach to twenty by the end of 2012.

The reason? Oakland is operating with the philosophy that they are now approved and won't face any federal trouble. The other side of this story is that they believe that the effort will make millions of dollars in taxes and sales for Oakland. They also have this funny idea revolving around "green-jobs".

How do you convince folks that this is a great idea? Well....they produced evidence over the past couple of years of a rise in electrical fires in the city....due to marijuana being grown indoors with poorly wired lights.

You have to stand back and look at this entire effort and what will likely occur.

First, Oakland will end up with a Amsterdam-like label. They will also end up with tourism, with folks traveling hundreds of miles...to come and buy joints freely. I'm not suggesting that Oakland is a true Amsterdam-like city....because it's probably one of those towns you'd rate after Memphis and New Orleans.

Second, the minute that we switch national administrations....the Republicans will arrive and then shut down everything. So if you were stupid enough to invest heavily into this big-production scheme....you have a short span of time to make success and cover your bills.

Third, the mom-and-pop operations throughout Northern California...probably will be taken out of business or vastly limited on where they can sell their wares to.

Frankly, I'm NOT really sold on the tax and revenue side of this. People might get used to this, or they might start to cheat on the system and sell off to the side....avoiding the taxation game entirely. I'm guessing the cops won't care...because they aren't going to arrest anyone for anything relating to grass sales. Then you have the final touch of reality...government regulations...even at the city level....can only increase (you only have to step back and look over the past forty years).

METRO Story of the Week

Most of you know that I bring up the subject of METRO...our bus and subway system....almost weekly. It's never a positive comment....if you will notice.

This week....we had the older gal who is the Metrobus manager.....who was suspended for 13 days (don't ask why this was rounded to 13 days....in METRO...it just is).

The reason? Well....she came out to a graduation speech back at the end of April....and gave this speech which apparently was deemed as "inappropriate and offensive". Various comments were made against older folks, young black dudes and Asians.

On the positive side....at least this episode didn't involve any wrecks or crazy folks with METRO. You really have to admire the public affairs guy who works for the organization. He probably works sixty hours a week.

My Snuffy Story

This is a true story. There was a defense-related operation of high importance....around the late 1970s in the US. They had main frame computers, with technology that was mostly centered around the mid-1960s.

There had been talk of upgrading but they were continuing screwing up the design by adding and subtracting the future system that ought to be delivered. So they were surging ahead....with equipment and software that was outdated.

The code was the key to the effective operation of this highly sensitive system. It was a group of mostly junior NCOs who sat around and added or deleted the code.

If you talked to the leadership....none of them grasped the significance of the code....and they saw the massive apparatus as more of a "Taj Mahal" than anything else.

Behind this entire group....was a contractor team....who had the big job of making sure that the outdated system simply kept working....one way or another. Naturally, they were paid well.

One day, Sargeant Snuffy....a junior NCO....came up and was basically labeled a malcontent kind of guy. The leadership decided to dump on Snuffy.....and make sure that Snuffy was pushed out. Snuffy was one of the young guys who wrote code (that mattered in this case). The military was finally successful in the end....pushing Snuffy out of the military.

They asked Snuffy what he was going to do as he out-processed. He said....he'd stick around the local area and wait for a job.

Around a month later....someone in this massive computer complex began to realize that the system was starting to take longer reaction times. Folks started to note this as a daily event. The contractor team checked pieces and parts. The government guys got worried. Folks wrote code to speed up the process....but the next day....it just got slower. The leadership got fairly worried over this. Their massive dreams of this forthcoming new system....was several years away.

At some point of desperation....someone remembers Snuffy. They decide that via the contract vehicle....they could bring him in.....after all....his clearance was still open. So the company offers a very temporary kind of contract to Snuffy. He comes in....and after twenty-four hours....he's speeded up the process by fifty percent....finding a glitch here and there. Another day passes and he finds another problem. After a couple of days....Snuffy has the system back at 100 percent.

Naturally, the leadership was viewing the whole apparatus as the "Taj Mahal" and didn't really stand back to ask why Snuffy was successful when the others weren't. They just wanted it to work.

The company ended up offering under-appreciated Snuffy a job, which paid very well. Snuffy came in and helped to make sure the old and obsolete system that the government owned....kept working.

The guy who told me the story....simply stood back as all of this occurred....and just kept shaking his head at how no one asked questions at the end....they just accepted this idea that Snuffy was really smart.

The Washington Post Second Article

The second part of the Washington Post articles on contractors and intelligence occurred today. A good bit centered around the way that contractors cost more than government workers.

There wasn't much argument against this 'cost' factor.....which I found kind of funny.

The government gets stuck into this corner because they see a necessity to do something with a deadline involved....and once you start thinking this way....your operation is screwed if it's 100 percent government worker.

An example. When Larry, your government worker leaves....you quickly move to get a replacement. There's an ad, resumes are sent in, and this long process starts up. From the closure of the ad....until the new guy arrives....it could well be twenty to twenty-four weeks. If there are screw-ups or problems....add another sixteen weeks....maybe even twenty-four more weeks.

In my government agency....we advertise these government jobs. When the job closes.....there's this typical four-week period where the HR filtering system goes into effect and eventually dumps the folks felt qualified. We had a case recently where three resumes were handed. I think our guys were hoping for at least ten to fifteen. As our guys read the three resumes....none really showed any potential. So we re-advertised.

The second time around....there were more choices but then we ran into a funny episode. The number one pick said "sure"....but he wanted to enter NOT at step one of the grade offered.....but like step three (a $6k difference). This took up another week as we finally declined him and moved to candidate number two....who repeated the same game. Finally candidate number three ended up agreeing to step one and we closed this somewhere around week 37. Contractors would have taken six weeks max....from closure of the ad....to the guy arriving.

There's this other problem involved in the game as well. Clearances. In a lot of cases, the government is willing to hire the guy and wait four to eight months for him to get a clearance. This means that Larry arrives and just sits around....collecting checks....and doing nothing as we wait for his security clearance. The contractor team? Well....they hire the right guy with the clearance ready to go. They don't wait.

Then you have this odd plus-up with contractors. If you have a project which has taken off and suddenly is important....you can turn to a contractor team and say that you need 100 intelligence support folks in three months for a major project. You write the preferences of the 100 positions, and then the contractor goes out to hire.

If these were government positions....by the time you figure the fight with the local HR folks, and the various forms of paperwork involved....then you've got around eight to twelve months involved in the process. The contractor team beats that every time.

The Post fails to ever consider retirement costs in any of their article....which I found interesting as well. The typical contractor company? They offer up a 401k deal....and that's it. You get three bucks for each three you contribute, and that's the end of the retirement deal. You invest for your own future.

The government? Well...first, there's the retirement pay at the end of your career, which could add up to $60k a year if you keep making the steps at the right time. It could even go beyond the $60k. A regular clerk for thirty-five years....could easily walk away with $30k. Then you have TSP.....the 401k government plan....where they match your funds just like the company does. So they are paying more long after you are gone.

The need for computer experts that the Post mentions? Yeah....the government is massively entrenched into bigger and better hardware and software. Frankly....they can't maintain an edge....without paying for the expertise. But go over to Sears, or Vanguard, or Google. They are in the same boat and hire the same kind of help.

My feeling over what the Post is aiming at for an agenda? Probably another OMB organization that functions like a hiring post similar to what the government workers have. This massive apparatus is what makes government employment comical....being applied against contractors? The aim is a bunch of bureaucrat guys running the doors to the contractor kingdom? You just crossed off half of the advantage of using contractors.

So far, the journalism factor of these two articles isn't exactly surging toward that Pulitzer Prize....if you ask me.