Wasted: Government Conferences with Big, Huge, Scary Bills

A few months back, the nation was outraged to hear about the money spent on a conference for the GSA (the Federal General Services Administration).  They put on a conference that managed to spend almost a million dollars – on party favors, trinkets, psychics, and other such baloney.  Somehow, through all the bureaucracy required in this government agency, a whole heck of a lot of unnecessary, insultingly wasteful activities and things were authorized and enjoyed.  It’s really quite shameful.

For more information on the absurdity of the GSA Conference Scandal, visit the Huffington Post.

Because this was such a massive scandal and because it was grotesquely wasteful, I hoped it was an isolated incident.  It was not.  Not even close.

I was sad to hear that the VA is now under investigation for a similar scandal, though this seems even worse.  The alleged number I keep hearing is … $5 Million Dollars.  As in, $1,000,000 times FIVE.  As in, $5,000,000.00.

Not only is this number shocking, the fact that it was approved in such a bureaucratically controlled system is also shocking.  Think about all the different people who had to authorize that.  Think of all the different people who emailed each other about.  In my experience, bureaucracy, through its inefficient back-and-forth, prevents a lot of big waste.  Sure, it wastes a lot of time because people are going back and forth, and it can be incredibly frustrating.  Yet, it does somehow manage to keep wasteful spending away a good amount of the time.  I mean, the last time I had to buy bubbles for work, I had to prove in three different ways that it had a business purpose.  How does this happen?  How could enough people have thought this was okay?  How could anyone spend $5,000,000 on two conferences?

Ahh!  Shouldn’t this be stealing?  Am I just crotchety?

They somehow spent $5 million on two conferences.  This is so much money.  This is money that could have created jobs, facilities for patients, or supplies for staff members.  These could have been research dollars.  That money could have funded so many good things that would have impacted VA patients, staff, and students.  Instead, that money went towards two internal conferences.

These weren’t even national conferences where information, best practices, and cutting-edge research could be shared. These were internal staff conferences about procedures, policies, and other easily emailed stuff.  Team building should not cost millions of dollars.  You can build a team with talking.  You can build a team by going hiking.  You should never waste that much money just to have a giant meeting.  It is absurdly irresponsible.  It is disrespectful.  It is shocking.  It is sad.

Maybe you are asking yourself, “How much does a normal conference cost?”  As someone who has planned both state and national conferences, I can confidently say, “A hell of a lot less than $2,500,000.”  To get specific, I believe a national conference with 500 attendees can easily be planned for under $100,000 a day – that would cover food, facilities, materials, even some “splash” items, honorariums (payment to speakers), and lodging for some of the guests.  That’s $200 per person.  That’s reasonable.  That’s possible.

I strongly believe that frugality is next to cleanliness (I won’t get into godliness). I also strongly believe that government agencies should be frugal, very frugal.  Now, government employees should be paid fairly, should receive benefits, and should be happy and comfortable; I do not believe we should expect people to sacrifice their paychecks to work for the government.  That said, I don’t think the government should approve stupid conferences that cost so much they will eventually cost someone their salary.  The money wasted on frivolous things at a conference is money that will never go to an employee.  In a time of major lay-offs, controversy over programs that help people, and massive deficits, I expect government agencies to spend smartly.

I would rather see money go towards any number of social programs that benefit people’s lives.  I highly doubt that those employees’ lives were deeply affected by these conferences.  I would wager that the employees could have learned all the same information for a lot less money.

Money should be going to schools, medicine, research, food, welfare, police, teachers, benefits, and many, many other programs – not conferences.

More on Mr. Akin’s Bullshit (“Legitimate Rape,” etc.)

First, he begs for Forgiveness….

It makes me so mad that he is saying that his issue is “the words” but not his “heart.”  Yes, the issue is about words.  When politicians, when men use words like this to discuss rape, they put it on women.  In our culture we tell women to not get raped, instead of telling men not to rape.

When women are forced to jump through hoops and relive their traumas to prove they were raped, they are being forced and traumatized again.  Abortion is legal and it’s staying that way.  Maybe we should focus on educating men that sexuality is about choice, agency, and mutual desire.  Men should be taught respect and self-control.  Women should be allowed to be sexual and men should be better than raping.  Let’s expect more of the men in our culture.

Let’s stigmatize raping, not being raped.  Victims are victims and they should not be ashamed.  Rapers are evil and they should never be excused.  All rapes are real and legitimate.

For Todd Akin to use these words makes me so angry.  For him to go on and “explain” that women who are raped cannot get pregnant… What the hell?  Who is this guy?  How can someone be that stupid?  Sorry, but pretty much anytime sperm goes into a lady’s vaginal crevasses she has a chance of getting pregnant.  That’s kind of how it works. Ugh.

Todd Akin is one of many politicians making shit up about women’s rights and bodies.  I’m sick and tired of men pretending like they understand rape and abortion.  Actually, a whole heck of a lot of men understand a lot about women – some even understand that there are things they can’t understand.  Many Republican politicians seem to be confused about vaginas, babies, rape, abortion, pregnancy, periods, and other such issues.  I would love to throw some tampons (new, don’t worry) at all the Republican senators… That would be amazing.

Leave our vaginas alone.  Unless you are invited, stay away.  Stay away.

Then, some really amazing grannies take him down.  I love when old ladies swear…

 

This girl also wrote an amazing song about it…

Only Forcible or Legitimate Rapists Need Apply

Okey dokey, Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Do we really need to go over this again? What the fuck were you doing during high school Biology and/or Health class, or did you spend the entirety of high school asking Jesus to punish you for your teenage boner from looking at Prom Queen Kelly Ann Simons too long? Todd Akin (R-MO)–you may remember him from the “forcible rape” debacle of a bill he co-sponsored with none other than our new pal Paul Ryan (R-WI)–apparently told KTVI-TV the following on Sunday: “From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

I would like to tell the men of the U.S. Congress something very important: the female body is not magic. The vagina is not a mysterious pit that has the power to discern the motivations of the penis entering it and conveniently stop a pregnancy if the dick looks or acts rape-y. Since when did the discourse around the female body slide back into the mentality of fourth grade boys who have heard shady rumors from kids two years older than them that have grossly misunderstood their sex ed classes? (Sidenote: these are the same people who think we shouldn’t teach sex ed in school. Apparently “magical vaginas” should be the standard for biological knowledge of sexual intercourse.)

After apologizing for his comments, Akin went on to say he screwed up; what he really meant wasn’t “legitimate rape” but “forcible rape”:

Akin appeared as a guest on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s radio show. When asked about what he meant by the term “legitimate rape,” he said, “I was talking about forcible rape, and it was absolutely the wrong word.”

His bad, guys. But seriously, what the fuck!? How has some nonsense term like forcible rape even entered our general lexicon? What the hell does it mean? And one of the idiots who co-sponsored the initial “forcible rape” bill nonsense is running for Vice President of the United F*&$ING STATES OF AMERICA!!! This isn’t a problem of terminology. Rape is forced. Any rape is legitimate because it’s RAPE. If somebody puts their dick in you and you don’t want it there, that’s rape. It doesn’t matter how you were dressed or what you ate for breakfast. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how skinny or fat you are, how old or young you are, whether you’re dressed like a prostitute or a housewife: if you say no, it fucking means no. It doesn’t mean that it’s not rape if she’s wearing booty shorts and he does a lot of begging and then just does what he wants.

Do we really need to parce rape into different degrees of culpability on the part of the rapist? Rape is rape. Period. And on top of this, citing some nonsense pseudo-science about mystery secretions and hormonal changes under stressful situations makes every woman who ever says no and is violated and impregnated a dirty, lying whore. Scientifically.

The discourse surrounding not only rape but women’s rights to control their bodies (and one doesn’t even have to look to the issue of abortion anymore, just birth control!) is in the toilet. From personhood amendments to ultrasound probes to “forcible rape,” there’s a lot of finger pointing at and distrust of women as a class of people. I thought we had made strides in this department. I guess not. I’m just hoping this forcible rape nonsense doesn’t turn into a steaming pile of forcible bullshit in November.

You can stop whining about how hard it is to be young now.

More and more often, I’ve been seeing articles bemoaning being in your twenties (in particular, Thought Catalog and the HuffPost Blog love making lists on this topic). I wrote a goofy version (at least I like to think so) myself–far less, well, serious and doom-y. But I’m really, really, REALLY getting tired of people bitching and moaning about being twenty-whatever in combination with one of the following:

A. Not having a job. I get that this is frustrating. I do. Having a degree that you worked hard for and that you can seemingly wipe your ass with sucks. However, there is not some sort of cosmic significance to your lack of employment. We have a shitty economy. We are, realistically, in a rec(depr)ession, and you’re pretty much at the bottom of the ladder. It is, yes, adversity that you have to work through, but plenty of other people have worked through it before you. It is not something special for our generation, it does not make you better/unique/more self-aware. You’re also the one who refuses to do menial labor because you’ve been fore fed some bullshit about it being below you for the last two decades. You annoy me. Shut the hell up already.

B. Being single. And drunk. And single. Okay, I get it. You’re lonely. And you’re verging on being a full-blown alcoholic. This has nothing to do with being in your twenties. Being drunk and lonely is not a profound experience, nor is it the special property of the young.

C. Feeling directionless and using your blog to whine about it. Blogging always straddles that strange line between making your point and getting whiny in order to elicit sympathy from total strangers. One thing that is true about many people in their twenties (but also true of many teens and even a boatload of baby boomers) is a need for constant reassurance/confirmation from their social circle. Why else would social media be so addictive and so conducive to the humblebrag?

D. Being too far or too little self-aware. It depends on who you ask on this one, but for all the time you, author of blogpost/article, are spending reflecting on being in your twenties (instead of oh, I don’t know, living them) I sure hope you’re erring on the “too much” side of this equation. Honestly, quit taking yourself so seriously. Chances are, by the time you hit your mid twenties, you’ll experience something that will change the way you see the world or yourself. That’s healthy and appropriate. Whether that’s losing a beloved grandparent, having to break off a long-term relationship, or even getting a first phone call from a collections department, all of these things can force you to crawl out of your (supposed) vodka-induced coma from part B of this list and re-evaluate your shit. It’s called life, and it is not special or particular to being a young adult.

E. Whining about being broke. Your parents are paying (or stopped paying) your rent/grocery bill/phone bill/bar bill/healthcare bills (think Lena Dunham à la Girls). You live in New York/L.A./Miami/Chicago. Um. What did you think was going to happen if you moved to a HUGE metropolis and had, if we refer to part A, NO JOB? Shit is expensive! I hope your parents have already paid off the house they have in Happytown, USA because even a shitty studio apartment in some of those places is probably going to have them forking over twice as much as they did for their mortgage. Give me a break. Stop acting like they’re obliged to be paying for your dumb ass to live the high life while remaining totally oblivious to all of the benefits you do have, like parents who are not only willing but able to help you with your rent.

F. Jerking off to your own perceived intellectual, social, and cultural superiority. We get it. You have clever Tweets. Who knew so much wit could be packed into a mere 140 characters? Your Instagram photos each have the perfectly selected filter for the five hundredth picture of your cat, or the one where you’re holding up a half-drunken PBR at some skeevy neighborhood bar you like because it’s “pure” (that is, you’re the only person under forty inside of it). Your Tumblr is both thought provoking and delightfully cheeky in the 21st century intarwebs sort of way. You’ve read (and get) Derrida and Naked Lunch. You need to remind your Facebook friends how brilliant and unique and clever and unique and underground and unique and unique and unique you are. Did I mention you’re unique? And your blog, OH! Your BLOG. It is so deep and meaningful and there’s just so many feelings you need to discuss.

The biggest problem is that there’s a good chunk of “twenty-somethings” who aren’t anywhere near this obnoxious, self-righteous, self-absorbed, and arrogant.

We live on our own. We have jobs. We pay our own bills. We might have put ourselves through college. We aren’t stressing that we don’t have the newest version of the iPhone. We still don’t really “get” Twitter. We’ve (self-consciously) learned how to resist the humblebrag. We take care of our parents, financially, physically, or emotionally. We appreciate cheeky internet humor as much as the next guy, but don’t feel compelled to base our entire self-worth on it. We, too, sometimes drink to much, have a crisis of conscience and confidence, and really–really–enjoy watching Girls. We just don’t take to the virtual streets and feel it’s necessary to tell the world each passing detail of our lives, or record them in photographs, preferring to experience them without a camera lens in our face or our fingers racing across the touch screen of our phone to check-in on Facebook 24/7. And quite frankly, we’re sick and tired of getting lumped in with people who do act those ways and do those things. I’m looking at you, New York Times.

So, let’s be real. Being in your twenties, like being in any other conveniently-named age range, has its ups and downs. Sitting around pampering your bruised ego on the internet or looking for affirmation of your feelings and your self-worth from your peers, known or unknown, is a (bad) choice, not a feature of an age group. It’s okay to feel pissed off because you’re unemployed or because you can’t find a boyfriend; it really is. But it has nothing to do with your age.

File This Under “Things That Make Me Hate the World/Want to Cry”

This is terrifying because this person bought a 50,000 euro (that’s $61,780 USD) bottle of champagne, but I also have to laugh because they paid 10 euro for Coca Cola. Middle-American upbringing FTW.

This exists. Okay, not so much that this exists, but that there’s enough material for something like this to exist; and not just exist but flourish. “Rich Kids of Instagram” is a Tumblr site on which the author posts pictures of young people of outrageous familial wealth showcasing their moral bankruptcy and total disregard for reality on their Instagram accounts. Oh, and like any good Millennial, their expertise at bragging. Go figure. This makes me kind of terrified, or as the kids would say,

#omgfearthefuture

Just… yuck.

A Happy Thought for Sunday

After hearing that Chad Johnson head-butted his wife the other day, this makes me feel a little bit better.

Quit Crying About Your Silver Medal

10,500 athletes from 204 countries are participating in the Olympic games this year. There are 302 events in 26 sports. That means there will be 906 medal winners, give a few people for teams, etc., maybe 1,300 people total. In other words, about 12% of athletes competing will win medals. 8% will win silver or gold. 4% will win gold. (Yes, I realize the math is a little fuzzy since people can win multiple gold medals, or multiple medals, and this is not a rare occurrence (see Phelps, Raisman, etc.), so assume these numbers are extra friendly.

I am so sick and tired of watching people give their all to a race or a competition and then bitch about getting a silver medal. Do you realize you’re the second best competitor in your sport in the world and in the top 8% of people in any sport in the world? Seriously. SERIOUSLY. Stop whining.

Sure, it’s disappointing to work very hard and, if your goal is a gold medal, not to win that. I get it. You’re a competitor and you want to be the best. But don’t sulk. I’ve seen so many people sulking at this Olympic games that it blows my mind. I watched nearly every girl on the Russian gymnastics team crying through the entire competition because they weren’t in first place. I’ve seen runners crying at the finish line because they didn’t cross it first. I’ve seen Mckayla Maroney with her arms crossed on the podium because she didn’t win gold in her signature event.

But I’ve also seen men congratulating their competitors on high bar who blew their own performances out of the water to push them to second place. I’ve seen Jamaican countrymen embrace each other after winning gold and silver in the 100m dash, their smiles lighting up the entire stadium. And then I saw this:

And to all the athletes who stand on the podium with a silver medal and are disappointed, you could take a lot of lessons from this young woman. It’s okay to be disappointed that you didn’t win the gold, but don’t cry about it. You are on the medal stand. Think about how many people who trained just as hard as you and who may not possess your natural aptitude for your sport, or not to the degree you have it, and are sitting in 4th, 5th, or 10th place. If you gave it 100% and you’re in second place, that’s okay. That’s still pretty damn good. If you made a mistake and you’re still on the podium, that’s even more amazing. It means you’re so good that even on your off days, you’re number two in the world. And sure, it’s okay to wish that you had done something different, stuck a better landing, run a little more evenly, made your turn in the pool a little bit smoother, but that’s nothing to cry about. It’s called motivation.

Gabby Douglas: Incredible Olympian, Adorable Human, Great Hair

This is Gabby Douglas.  She is an adorable human being.  She is also a powerhouse Olympian who just won the GOLD MEDAL in all-around women’s gymnastics.  Thus, she’s kind of a big deal.

OLYMPIC GOLD, PEOPLE.

A lot of people are excited that she won the gold medal, and I am definitely among them.  I love seeing an American take home the gold, but what is even more special about this particular victory is that Gabby Douglas is the first black athlete to win gold at the Olympics for gymnastics.  She will be getting a whole bunch of endorsements in the coming months and years, and she deserves it.

What doesn’t she deserve?  Being criticized for her hair.

Apparently, her hair has become an issue.

As many bloggers, tweeters, writers, and people that don’t matter have weighed in – her hair doesn’t matter at all.  She matters a lot.  Her hair, however, is of no consequence.  In fact, no Olympian’s hair is really of any consequence.  Olympians usually have the hair of people mid-workout… You know, ’cause they’re in the middle of playing sports.

Here are examples of other Olympian’s hair:

Shawn Johnson, Olympian

So, is this hair fine?  It seems fine to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nastia Liukin, Olympian

And, is her hair okay?

 

 

 

 

 

 

My point is, I’m pretty sure her hair look fine.  She’s pretty sure too.  Here’s what she said, “What’s wrong with my hair?” (Great question.) “I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short; it doesn’t matter about my hair.” Her advice to anyone who thinks it’s worth debating? “Nothing is going to change. I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it,” she said.

She so darn impressive.  Shut up about her hair.

When I see this picture, I am simply stunned.  I am certainly not thinking about her hair.

Dude. That’s impressive.

Say all you want, this Olympian will be laughing all the way to the bank.

2012 Olympic Drinking Games

Making the Olympics even more fun. You’re welcome.

Drink once if any of the following happens:

  • Interviewer asks athlete “How does it feel to win X medal?”
  • Athlete sets world record
  • Athlete sets Olympic record
  • The USA wins an event
  • The host country, Great Britain, wins an event
  • NBC has a fluff feature
  • Fan cam shows an athlete’s parents/family
  • Fan cam shows a celebrity
  • NBC shows an ad for tomorrow’s Today Show
  • An athlete in a post-event interview says they feel “blessed”
  • An athlete in a post-event interview says they are “speechless” or any variation thereof
  • Announcers call event “unbelievable”
  • Announcers call event “incredible”
  • Announcers call event “amazing”
  • Athlete cries during medal ceremony
  • Announcers suck Michael Phelps’ proverbial dick

 

 

Finish your drink if:

  • An athlete gets injured mid-event and must drop out

 

Finish two consecutive drinks if:

  • NBC screws up and spoils a result not yet shown on TV

NBC, you’re sucking up the Olympics like your primetime schedule.

There are lots of things I like about NBC. Brian Williams is awesome. Richard Engel is super badass. They hired Howard freaking Stern as a judge on America’s Got Talent. Bob Costas pretty much got Jerry Sandusky to confess on the air. Those are pretty awesome things.

HOWEVER. They are sucking up their coverage of the Olympics.

  • Why did I never get to see ANY footage of American men or anyone else on the rings for the men’s gymnastics events?

    Apparently, this wasn’t worth showing.

  • Why did they completely cut Gabby Douglas’s and Aly Raisman’s routines on the balance beam (purportedly Raisman’s best event after the floor routine) in primetime coverage? Yet they showed the two Russians and the Chinese woman in their rotation…
  • Every single interview goes essentially thusly: How is it winning [insert level medal here]? How does that make you feel? To which everyone responds in some variation of “It’s overwhelming; I can’t put it into words.” And if I hear the Today show hosts ask one more kid if they slept with their medal under their pillow last night, I will strangle all of them, even though I kind of love Savannah Guthrie.
  • Only showing major events in primetime kind of sucks because it’s too easy to spoil it for yourself… *frowns at Twitter.*
  • NBC can’t even keep their own spoilers under control: see Missy Franklin’s first gold medal:
  • Moments before airing Missy Franklin’s tape-delayed Olympic victory in the 100-meter backstroke, NBC ran a promo for Tuesday’s edition of “Today” that said this:

They’re waiting for NBC to show the missing balance beam routines, too.

“When you’re 17 years old and win your first gold medal, there’s nobody you’d rather share it with.”
The network had yet to show Franklin’s win when it ran the “Today” teaser that included this photograph of the teen sensation standing on the medal stand with the gold draped around her neck.

  • Local coverage of the Olympics is nonsense. It’s like a giant masturbation fest for local news sportscasters who are all running amuck in London. I feel awful for Londoners; I felt particularly awful when our local sportscaster thought it’d be hilarious to ask everyone in the vicinity of Big Ben what time it was in an effort to get them to look at the giant clock. That’s worth a fork in my eye.
  • NBC decided it made more sense to cut a tribute to the victims of London’s 2005 terrorist bombings. They showed a clip of Ryan Seacrest’s interview with ass kissing of Michael Phelps instead.
  • Ryan Seacrest. Enough said.

    NBC: sucking up the Olympics since 1964.