Morning Ed: World {2016.04.06.W}


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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51 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Poland: With summer approaching and climate change increasing, it makes sense that Polish would shed its heavy Soviet era monuments for lighter post-Communist ones.

    Vox: File under no duh. When you move abroad you combine all the difficulties of a really big domestic move like from one coast to another and have to get used to an entirely new culture and way of doing things.

    Bollywood: I thought that this was going to be a story about Bollywood favoring fairer skinned Indian female actors so was mildly surprised.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    Refugees: It was never about the economics. It was always about the politics.

    Leaving the US: I’m surprised more people of education / means aren’t aware of this. But maybe it’s because I used to deal with expats of my employer and have friends who were on TDY. I think it’s a lot easier to renounce your US citizenship than become a resident. Like the article says, you’re still a US person and have to deal with all the crap and get none of the benefits.

    Bollywood: Yawn.

    Monsanto: Lulz.Report

  3. Avatar notme says:

    ‘Jackie’ must testify in lawsuit over Rolling Stone rape story.

  4. Avatar notme says:

    Leaving the country: It was interesting at first to learn about all the paperwork but then sadly drifted off into an anti republican rant. It’s too bad more liberals that threaten to leave don’t keep their word.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:


      I left the United States almost 10 years ago, spurred by the cumbersome process of finding a preschool for my then-2-year-old daughter. There were applications, group interviews, personal interviews, and essays to write — all for the privilege of paying $20,000 a year to send a toddler to play.

      My frustration with preschool reflected a general dissatisfaction I had with life in New York.

      It’s too bad there are no places in the United States that aren’t New York.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Also, it’s just breathtakingly stupid that you would want to move to another country because you want to avoid paperwork.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain says:

          So far as I can tell, a considerable amount of their ongoing problems are because they wish to be USians residing in Argentina rather than Argentine citizens — Argentine passports would seem to solve most of those complaints.Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Yes, it would have been easier to leave NYC for another place in the US than to leave the US altogether. Especially, if their jobs aren’t tied to a particular city or geographic region. It makes you wonder if there was really another reason.Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          The area she found to be ‘home’ is in the poor quadrant of Argentina, the part with real income levels more like those of Ecuador or Peru than like those of the rest of Argentina.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The fuck? That’s the most first-world problemy thing I’ve ever heard. I stopped reading when I got to that paragraph. I don’t need to listen to another word this person says, ever.Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          It is in relation to the amount of trouble to which she went in response to her problem. On an absolute scale, it cannot top ‘my GPS made me drive through the ghetto’.Report

  5. Avatar j r says:

    My frustration with preschool reflected a general dissatisfaction I had with life in New York. Everything felt too complicated, too expensive, and injected pointless competition into all aspects of life. I couldn’t see raising my daughter like that.

    Hmm… I’m from New York and I always found life there to be no more complicated than anywhere else, I had no more difficulty living within my means than anywhere else I’ve lived (other than that year in Afghanistan; that was dirt cheap), and other than pickup basketball I can’t say it was particularly competitive.

    Living abroad is, as they say in Spanish, complicado. Which is a polite way to express what is actually a logistical nightmare.

    I also recently moved abroad and it was a pretty straightforward process. I’m detecting a pattern with this woman.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Not exactly surprised that you’d have an easier time navigating things than “random writer on the internet”. NYC is a horrible place to be poor, and always will be, but if you’re “well off” it’s a fun place to live.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        This woman was even in a position to be contemplating 20k a year preschools. Where do you think she comes from? More importantly, where do you think I’m from?Report

        • Avatar Fortytwo says:

          20k a year for preschool is high, but not that far off. My family lives in a moderate cost American region. We paid 13k for preschool (day care). Even the cheapest places were 9k, and those were not somewhere we wanted to go.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I imagine employer sponsorship takes care of a lot of the hassle. Also, what country did you move to? Argentina isn’t really known for its quality governance.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        IIRC the writer says they both are freelancers. And if they are thinking of 20K US for preschool, they are not middle class or below.

        “My husband and I both work online. Our clients are all over the world, so we don’t depend on Argentine law or economy to make a living. Both of us do more than one thing. I write, teach, and design graphics. He’s an artist, but you can also hire him to analyze statistics or create a presentation. Such flexibility keeps us nimble so we can work from anywhere, and should we have to leave Argentina, we can choose from various forms of work wherever we go.”Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          I would tend to assume trustafarians as well. I cannot imagine you’d earn well enough on what she’s describing to afford pre-school with college tuition scale prices.Report

          • Avatar dhex says:

            depends on how much per hour you charge. a couple willing to push hard for clients could yank out a 150-200k/yr hhi (presuming they were good, of course) pre-taxes.

            fwiw, the cheapest pre-school in northern astoria was 1300/month for four days a week, and it was kind of lousy (awesome looking inside, but the people running it were ugh – also huge waitlist regardless). the local montessori (and not cool yoga mom i can’t even spell time management montessori, but i yell at you three times i don’t care if you’re two montessori) was 1700 for full-time, 5 days a week.

            short version: 20k/year for preschool is, in many neighborhoods, not anywhere near impossible for something that very few people outside of nyc would consider “ritzy”.Report

  6. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    I wonder if the same people who think the idea of taking down Confederate memorial is “destroying history” is OK with taking down Communist memorials. Personally, I always think taking down memorials to tyrants is a positive thing.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      Well, there are no “same” people since we’re talking about two different countries.

      However, I’d say yes in both cases. If I’d lived in a communist country, that managed to free itself of that yoke, I’d want reminders. I’d want reminders to the future generations of that struggle, and to serve as a warning to never let it happen again.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1954 was a rather more gruesome locale than the peri-bellum South. Not sure how Robert E. Lee qualifies as a ‘tyrant’ (or Woodrow Wilson, while we’re at it).Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        But a state that was explicitly founded upon slavery can fairly be described as a “tyranny”, right?Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          No. Such a state is a caste society, rather like Athens in the 5th century BC. “Tyranny’ refers to political practice, not social relations.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          Are we talking “state” as a “nation state” or a “state” in the terms of say, Virginia is to the US?

          “Cause, although it was called the Confederate States of America, it really wasn’t a nation state. At best it lived a short violent life.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        You impress me to no end. I’ve never seen any other person on the internet who was so willing and able to turn their critical thinking faculties on and off depending on the political slant of the topic.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “They owned slaves therefore we can use any awful term we like to describe their society” is not exactly a shining example of critical thought, hoss.Report

      • Avatar Fortytwo says:

        Russia was not in great shape before the revolution. Just read Dosteovski or any history concerning the serfs or the 1905 rebellion. The maddening thing is that if the Tsar had gone through with the promised reforms in 1905 things may have been much better.Report

        • Avatar Art Deco says:

          What serfs? The last remnant of serfdom would have been the redemption bonds issued consequent to the emancipation statute. These obligations were cancelled in 1906. Russia in the generation before the war was in the midst of a slow motion agrarian reform wherein parcels were consolidated and allodial rights conferred on the peasantry.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Then you’re fine with Daesh tearing down pre-Islamic temples in Syria – those Greek gods and Roman emperors were total dicks.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Then you’re fine with leaving the Nazi flag flying over Paris.

        Now its your turn.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          One or two more big attacks in the next year, they’ll bring it back. (More precisely, the tricolor will start to carry the same meaning)Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

            It is an interesting question, though, which parts of history we want to preserve and why.
            I remember in my tour of Paris, the Ponte Neuf I think it was a historical medieval bridge over the Seine, and Napolean widened it. There were calls for the widened sections to be deleted to “restore” the original bridge, but now the Napoleonic additions are themselves historical.

            So I can see how in a century or two, a bust of Robt. E. Lee may be viewed by people the way we view a bust of Caligula or something, just an historical artifact, stripped of all meaning.

            In fact, if the Confederacy and all its assorted heroes were to be stripped of all meaning and viewed as nothing more than historical oddities, I think I speak for all liberals in saying that would be delightful.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Personally, I’m OK with busts of Robert E Lee in the south. To me, they are representative of a certain failings of human nature and so are important reminders of how how we arrived at where we are right now. That’s history, ya know?

              Other people would look at those busts as a symbol of some Cause that was Lost, tho, and view them as signifiers of a truth inaccessible to me. Recognizing that confounds my own views a bit to be sure.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                I have pretty much the same posture, that the Confederacy means nothing to me but an anachronism.

                Sort of the same way I view Stalin, my many denunciations notwithstanding. Lenin, the Bolsheviks, hammer and sickle, that’s all just funny historical trivia

                But you and I don’t hold power in the South, or in Russia where there are many, many more people who take this stuff deadly seriously, and where the are people walking around with living memory of the terror and injustice that the monuments and symbols represent.

                No one tears down a monument unless they feel threatened by it, and no one defends one unless they attach an important meaning to it.

                ISIS blows up these monuments because for them, the Roman Legions are actual, living entities, advancing on the Moslem world. People still fly the Stars and Bars because they believe the wrong side won the war.

                “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”Report

    • Avatar El Muneco says:

      I’m usually one to slag off the TSA, but this isn’t bad business. Getting a project of any size done under FAR for as little as $1.2m is better than I would have expected given their usual level of professionalism. Well done, TSA.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        In my experience, one of the things that government agencies are extraordinarily bad at is software acquisition. Occasionally you’ll find a manager who has assembled a small group of people who do a good job of writing modest amounts of software, but all agencies suck at purchasing. I got to sit through a number of post-mortems on screwed-up software acquisitions while I was on the legislative staff. There are a number of reasons for the screw-ups. First on my personal list is that governments can’t specify their way out of paper bag. I once went through most of a CD-ROM full of specification documents, and finished with no more idea of what the system was supposed to do than I started with. Second is that the purchasing rules are well suited to — and it’s as stupid as this sounds — making sure that no one is stealing a few lines of code to take home for their kid to use as school supplies. It works for staples; for software, not so much.

        Governments aren’t alone. We’ve had one-upmanship comment threads here before about the worst cases in corporate practice. Mine was a project at one of the giant telcos that went through 150M 1990-ish dollars and got precisely zero lines of usable code.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          There’s a reason cost+ has gotten pretty attractive for places (private or public) that know they’ll need a lot of X type of work. Better to contract out for a workforce (let someone else handle all the overhead) for predictable costs.

          Places like NASA complicate it a bit more — the cash might come from 30 programs into one “engineering” contract (for, say, Goddard or Ames only for instance) and they’ll have order numbers for everything. Some will be “ongoing” — Bob works on Project X, a popular and always improving tool for Ames — so Bob’s company will basically just get paid for Bob’s time. But other people might be working on a half dozen jobs with a defined start and finish (‘Build us X”, Prototype us Y. Solve problem Z”) and they’ll have to keep their charge numbers straight so that NASA can make sure Timmy solving problem Z didn’t spend X’s money……

          But it clears up a TON of overhead costs, and allows a lot of outside money. It’s generally pretty win-win if you can get someone to fork over 100k to have Bob solve their private problem (or at least spend 80 or 120 hours working on it) or 500k to have Timmy and Jenny use the expensive fab tools to create a one-off or prototype. It’s money that NASA can then use elsewhere, and doubly so if it’s a type of work that’s generally “crunch then lull” patterns. It REALLY sucks to have to lay off people you KNOW you’ll need in six months.Report

        • Avatar El Muneco says:

          Heh. Another thing the government doesn’t do well is small projects. Either it ends up being part of an omnibus (hopefully packaged along with things that are functionally, rather than coincidentally, related) – as it appears from below that was actually the case here – or it just ends up scaling up by default to the minimum size that the regulations will notice. Or, as James White noted in one of his “Sector General” books: if you’re doing procurement, don’t order in ounces, order in tons, or they’ll think it’s a misprint.

          I cut my teeth doing DoD work. I even spent some time working in Configuration Management policy, so I even got to see a bit of how the regulations that specify how the sausage will be made are made.

          People look at government projects and see a vapor trail of zeroes and point and laugh – but that’s just how things have to be at that scale, given all the often conflicting requirements of the procurement process. Then, when you factor in that no one estimates software projects well (for a value of “no one” that isn’t literally zero, but not nearly as high as it should be), …Report

          • Avatar Michael Cain says:

            It’s not clear that there is such a thing as a “small” piece of government software any more. Here in Colorado, we had a 51st state movement (they seem to have shut down). I had a chance to talk to some of the organizers. At once point, I said something to the effect of, “You’ll have to let me lecture for a minute.

            “Consider that as a state, you’ll have to administer the US Dept of Ag’s SNAP programs — used to be food stamps. Unlike some federal programs, it’s not optional. It has to be computerized, because the DoA requires you to run software that supports their audit interface. There are availability requirements for that interface that are pretty damned close to ‘always’, so you’ll need the appropriate level of redundancy.

            “Now, food stamps requires that you consider Social Security income in determining eligibility. But not what the applicant tells you is their SS income — you have to use the data from the SSA. They will only send the data to one computer system in the state, so your food stamp computer will have to be either ‘I accept that data and distribute it to other state systems’ or ‘I have to support whatever interface the state system that gets the SS data requires.’ The SSA changes the data format from time to time, apparently simply because they can.

            “You can’t use either stamps or checks any more, you have to use EBT debit cards. You’ll need a contract with one of the EBT provider banks. Your food stamp system will have to conform to that bank’s interface for accepting the data.

            “Employers in your new state will insist that you run a state/federal unemployment insurance program in your new state, which has to conform to a set of functionally similar but different in the details federal Dept of Labor requirements. They’ll insist because if you don’t, their UI taxes will be about triple compared to what they were in Colorado.

            “If you decide to participate in Medicaid, it gets a whole lot worse.

            “It’s bloody expensive to be a state these days.”Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:


      Yet this app was apparently worth tens of thousands of dollars to the TSA.

      While the documents don’t mention the randomizer app by name, documents detailing the $336,413.59 contract were provided to Burke in response to a FOIA request for documents relating to the randomizer software. Other publicly available records show the app was part of a larger contract with IBM worth more than $1.4 million.

      The total development cost for the randomizer app was $47,400, a TSA spokesperson told Mashable, which was part of the $336,413.59 contract. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what else the contract entailed.

      It’s possible it also included the tablets themselves, which could account for some of the additional cost.

      Common mistake when scanning contract documents is to see the contract total and not realize that it’s further broken down.

      “Total development cost” is far more than a coder’s time. It covers everything from HR overhead (creating TOs, or DOs or equivalent), manager overhead, all those farking meetings to get an idea of what TSA wants, more meetings where TSA hates your version because it doesn’t look like what they imagined but never told you, more back and forth until it does look like what they want (but STILL won’t actually tell you because everyone is an idiot about that, private or public). Then research and more meetings because they find the word ‘pseudo-random’ upsetting, or because it picked “right” five times in a row so is clearly broken, etc. Then probably at least two meetings to talk them out of stupid ideas (no, it doesn’t need to be ‘on the cloud’) or finding out they want to track metrics (which means adding that in because they never asked) or something like that.

      Then there’s testing, prepping documentation,and basically “proving” they got what they wanted. (None of which is a public sector thing. This is designing software for anyone on a custom basis).

      Oh, and all the paperwork and overhead designed so that TSA can look for ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The TSA *IS* Fraud, Waste, and Abuse.

        The fact that some of this FWA made it into the pockets of hard-working app designers is an upside.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          I’m just talking general contracting rules for government contracts, which have a TON of overhead because of “waste, fraud, abuse” so they require the ability to audit you at what feels like an atomic level, because no telling when some Congressmen needing a poll boost decides to “investigate”.

          OTOH, I work in sciences and engineering — we’ve seen a ton of politically motivated audits designed entirely to generate headlines, not results. (WE SPEND 200,000 on beaver mating patterns!. Or in English, “We pay one scientist, one intern, and a Fish and Wildlife guy to do their jobs. Two of them are salaried and already on the payroll — either as civil servants or contracted, and one works for peanuts. IF they weren’t studying your falling beaver population, they’d be tackling a different parks problem).Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “TSA paid $1.4 million for Randomizer app that chooses left or right”

      Prove that your screeners aren’t fucking bastard racists who send all the black people to the left (which is TOTALLY A SLOWER LINE, DON’T YOU TRY TO LIE) and let all the white people go to the right. PROVE IT. PROVE. IT.

      Oh, a computer program? Well, I guess that’s okay then. I won’t file a discrimination lawsuit that costs you two million dollars to handle.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        47,000. Not 1.4 million.

        1.4 million was an entire contract, covering a ton of services. 370k, roughly, was the total cost of the TSA program in question, but given they’ve specified 47k was the outlay for programmer time (assuming that doesn’t also roll in general IT services) the rest was most likely hardware (they procured the tablets and installed the software), training, etc.

        What the other 1.1 million was for I’ve no idea.

        I’m part of a multi-million dollar contract myself, but we don’t claim one fabbed prototype cost that entire amount. It’s just one job out of many.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          You’re…not really responding to anything I wrote, here. Just thought you might like to know that.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            Oh, didn’t realize that was you quoting. Sorry. I was just pushing back on the 1.4 million number again, because seeing clearly incorrect things is irritating..

            All of which started because some idiot journalist can’t read a procurement order.Report