Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Uncounted

I saw on the Facebooks today that CNN has a new interactive on their website called The Uncounted. It's all about military dependent suicide.

What's the big deal? Nothing new in our world, right? We've been watching this happen year after year. We even had a suicidal ideation comment on Left Face a couple of years ago, which was scary and awful and incredibly sad. Authors across the mil-sphere have tried to bring this to public attention, but it hasn't really caught on.

Now, though, we have a major news network placing the series front and center on their website. Families who struggle--spouses, parents, siblings, sprogs--do count. They do matter. But we've been told through the inaction, inattention, and disinterest of military brass, that we don't count. We remain uncounted.

Thinking about this subject today took me through a windy brain-journey that ended with memories of speech after speech where the CO thanks us, the spouses. "You have the hardest job in the Navy," they've told us year after year. "Keeping the home front secure is tough, but your support helps our sailors focus on their important and often dangerous jobs."

This has always bugged me, but this morning, I realized why, exactly, these moments of faux gratitude are so damaging.

It's because of the message underneath the thanks.

It's because these little love notes are actually reminders of what our jobs really are.

Keep the home front secure. Take care of all the financials so service members can focus on the job that really matters.

Keep the home front secure. Be the only parent, functionally a single parent, for kids who miss their deployed mom/dad and might be acting out. Even though you aren't financially doing it on your own, you need to function as if you've got all the bases covered so service members can focus on the job that really matters.

When shit goes sideways, don't whine to your deployed spouse about it. Because s/he has a bevy of more important issues to worry about on that ship. That job is important, and they can't be distracted.

Keep the home front secure. It's a tough job, but it's your job to do.

Your job is support. And anything that distracts you from this job--your own career (which we don't actually want you to have, or else we wouldn't PCS you out of state every two fucking years), friends that don't understand what comes first in your life (the home front), interests that require your spouse take leave (while he's stationed on a ship? HA! Good fucking luck)--is to be avoided because it weakens the home front.

This might not be too awful if the job weren't compulsory or if there were compensation. But there is no compensation. All the money and benefits go to the service member. Only if you've given ten fucking years of your life to military marriage do you qualify for half of the service member's retirement (should s/he make it to retirement). And only if the worst happens do you ever receive benefits directly to your bank account. Because the employed person is the service member.

We don't fill out a W-2. We don't earn benefits or retirement of our own. Yet here we are with the "toughest job in the Navy." Lucky us.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Modest Proposal

A serious issue in the US military, one that has taken years to slowly percolate, has recently become a central point of concern and contention. It is one that most definitely needs to be addressed, as it affects military readiness. But finding a solution has been difficult as politicians and those representing service members butt heads over how best to define the issue and remedy the problem.

The issue: how to pay for all the things.

The solution, according to Congress, the President, and four gregarious taintgrenades, is "entitlement reform."

Which is a fun way of saying, "take away money earned from people who don't legally have the voices to complain and call it *fair*." It is the most popular solution according to most members of Congress and a whole lot of taintgrenades.

I would like to propose a modest solution that will solve many issues. It requires only three actions:

  1. Congresscritters earn extremely generous entitlements for a quarter of the time served of military personnel. Clearly, it's only fair that they, too, share in the pain as the country learns fiscal responsibility. Instead of earning a generous retirement when they come into their political positions after having already established a career, and able to resume that career after their political terms have ended, and since they also have a very clear ability to earn a living from speaking engagements after their terms are over, they don't really need that retirement. Instead, this money should be forfeited in order to ensure we can balance our budget.
  2. Retired generals and admirals have typically given thirty years of service or more when they retire. Those who go on to earn metric fucktons of cash through defense contractor work or "think tank" employment might have only ten years of retirement before they earn their full COLA. To be fair, they won't miss any of their retirement, as they were part of a minority (as officers of high rank) able to easily secure employment built on their military experience. For those ten years, until they reach age 62, their entire retirement could likewise be used to balance the budget. Extrapolating on the logic of Congress, service and earned entitlements are inversely proportional; therefore, those who've served longer deserve the entitlements less.
  3. The staff of USA Today, Reiham Salam, Michael Moffett, Senator Hagel, Rep. Paul Ryan, and their cohorts have a flavor reminiscent of tea and crumpets. We should eat them. They would provide excellent sustenance during the months of unemployment. Warning: they're not vegan.
This proposal, which I offer with all modesty, could either ensure service members might have the COLA they were promised when they agreed to serve...or it could be a show of solidarity from those who believe military personnel are greedy bastards who got into this fucked up shitshow of a career path for the money.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tee Vee Portrayals: Fox's Enlisted

First, I want to say to people who might or might not blog on Spousebuzz that the f-bomb is always okay. It's how we stay sane. And sometimes it slips out when our spouses are being unwitting dickbags.

It's fine.

Second, I want to say to people who might or might not comment on Spousebuzz when the OP says she's struggling with how we have to kinda give up our careers to follow our service members all over hell and back: your "maybe your childhood dream was actually to have lots of happy baybeez and lurve your husband" has earned you a big, fat gofuckyourself. You so missed the point, and your answer trivializes the OP's career goals and is just about a vat of viscous bollocks*. Slow claps to you. Very, very slow.

Third, a few Left Face bloggers got some links from a producer's assistant tonight so we could view the pilot episode and a few additional episodes of this new series called Enlisted. The pilot? Well, there's a good reason the producer, Kevin Biegel, apologized for it. I've heard a few say it's insulting, and I can definitely grok that when "Rear D" is portrayed as the sadsack crew who are even too dumb to figure out how to do jumping jacks and who wear American flag nail designs and who walk around with their blouses wide open,  and no covers over their long hair**.

Here it is, if you want to see for yourself. You should probably pass, though.

Just. Wow. But Biegel insisted we at least try one post-pilot episode and reserve judgment until then. I tried two. And now I'm judging.

I have developed a kind of mil-life Bechdel test for TV, movies, books, etc. It goes a little something like this:

  • Are there milspouses/milsos (i.e. service members don't exist in a vacuum)?
  • Do they and/or the service member have to deal with some fucked up, stressy situations?
  • Do they get to avoid shitshows like reunion pr0n, dependapotamus or similar portrayals, and scenes that gloss over all the actual, real stressors they have to deal with on a daily basis?

If all three answers are "yes," congratulations! You get a cookie.

Clearly, very few portrayals of the military life on screen pass. Sadly, very few of the books I read as part of my day job pass this mil-Bechdel test. Most of the books I come across (or end up editing) gloss over #3 on this list. Hardcore. So do movies and the telly, when milspouses are even factored in.

And that's where I'm finding Enlisted also falls down. It's my kind of humor - very Scrubs only with soldiers on a base instead of doctors in a hospital. And like Scrubs, it takes a second from the verbal sparring and hijinks to glance through the peephole at more serious aspects of the military experience. But it still glosses. Take the second episode, for example (we will pretend the pilot never happened). The main character Pete *just wants to be alone*. It's kind of implied that he's maybe got a touch of the PTSD. That's just...well...

Again, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, it sucks that so much PTSD is in the media conveying the idea that every service member returning from Afghanistan (or Iraq back when) is a bomb waiting to explode in a PTSD flashback...which leads to almost a pathological need to touch on it in any mil-portrayal. On the other hand, couching this subject in humor is super tricksy, and I just don't think it came through the other side. Mostly because it was there vaguely for five seconds of a 22-minute episode, and by episode 3, it was gone. Maybe it comes in again later? I don't know. But it gets such light treatment, I don't know if I trust it coming around again. Better would have been for Pete to go through the ridiculousness that is the Army "suck it up" attitude that's been hard at work killing soldiers in record numbers of suicides. Or have this be a small running thread for a secondary character who's just come home. There are other ways to do this than "sometimes, because shit maybe got real over yonder, soldiers just need to be alone for a while." I didn't even get the whiff of PTSD until that comment was made, but it's at least a trope and bordering on a cliche to see this as shorthand for a psychological concern.

The second episode's serious moment is during an "FRG" meeting. The FRG meets in probably the nicest Army base housing I've ever seen (not that I've seen a lot, but jesus crispy christ do enlisted Army get shit on with some 3rd world housing units, and this looked more like the huge tracts of new faux-stucco North County San Diego houses). Then, it's like 5 women and a soldier who comes to mansplain to the wimminz how to get their FRG shit done (what??). Despite there being female soldiers all up in the cast, there were no mil-husbands in that living room. And their meeting discussions? Which color paper to use for the care packages.

Okay.

One wife speaks during the serious moment, and it is a totally fucking legit concern. Her DH has been deployed for over a year, and she's worried. Yes! This! This is precisely the shit we need in milspouse portrayals to close that military-civilian divide. This is the shit that will give civilians the context they need to understand why reunions are so fucking intimate and wonderful and difficult and awful and exciting all at the same time...and why reunion pr0n is therefore exploitative and voyeuristic and unbalanced in its storytelling. This is the shit we need.

But then she gets another line. And this line gives me a sad.

"Does he know I haz all the feels?" she asks the soldier who's never deployed ever.

And I tear out my hair. It's at this point I realize the producer does, indeed, have veterans advising him, but they're likely old dudes, judging by some of the milspouse portrayals. And he probably has ZERO milspouses advising. Because, yet again, we're an afterthought, and our own conflicts and struggles mean about jack and shit unless our lives can be turned into a completely ridiculous soap opera on Lifetime. Huzzah.

The show has some funny moments. I lolzed it up during the cooking contest, and I think YodaMan will have his own set of lulz if he sees the disaster preparedness training (zombies FTW!). I really like how Sgt Perez is portrayed. She's a kick ass woman, and even though she's a secondary character, she ninjas a lot of scenes and delivers some throat punches on her way out the door. (Just, please, for the love of all that is holy, don't develop a romance there. Leave this relationship in the friendzone, I beg you. I edit romance novels for a living, and *I* think this one's better left alone.)

The banter is fun, and though much of the setting is still unrealistic, it's better than the pilot's setting. Also, hairs were cut and blouses were buttoned and covers are appropriately doffed and donned as far as my Navy knowledge goes, so we're definitely on an upswing.

I guess we'll have to wait and see. I'm sure this season's shows are already written, edited, and in whatever pipeline teleplays go through. But if this show survives into another season, maybe it will pick up some meatier plot threads. Maybe it will pass my mil-Bechdel test later. For now, I'm going to have to urge everyone who's curious to miss the pilot, skip right to the second episode (really, here's all you missed: Pete punches his CO and is busted down and sent back to Florida, where his two brothers are also stationed), and judge for yourself. I think some will like it just fine. I think some will hate it with fire. Either way, I do believe Mr. Biegel when he says, "Please just know the show comes from a place of love for my family that did the job, not Hollywood holy-ier-than-though-ness."***

Me? I'll figure it out later, when I'm no longer worried about how we're going to make up the $100k Congress just cut from our retirement pay. For now, it's merely one more voice threatening to trivialize our trials and exploit our tribulations. I'm hoping it won't, but in the last 19 years of living in the lap of mil-luxury, I've learned to expect the worst, hope for the best, and invest in vegan cheez**** to get me through the rough patches.


* That's bull balls, in case you were wondering. Viscous ones.

** I know the other services do covers different than the Navy. Or maybe it's something about how they salute without a cover on? I can't remember. I just remember thinking how fucked up it was in ROTC. Consistency, people. No roof, cover on. No cover, no salute. Exception: fucky ship sitches. Ta da! Now nobody's confused unless they're on a fucky ship.

*** Though that's the second time this week a producer has dissed on Hollywood to me. Is this a thing?

**** Kite Hill, bitches. That's some tasty shit. So ridiculously expensive, but it's almond milk cultured just like real cheese. Om to the nom.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

You guys! YOU GUYS. It's time to vote some motherfuckers OUT.

First, from  Stars and Stripes comes this news:
The yearly value of a 20-year military retirement would be cut for the current force steadily until age 62 under a COLA cap provision in the “bipartisan” budget deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the House and Senate budget committee chairmen.
The cumulative effect would be to cut the lifetime value of military retirement by roughly $83,000 for a typical enlisted member who retires at age 40 after 20 years’ service.  The typical officer retiring at age 42 after 20 would lose about $124,000.

WHAT THE GLORIOUS FUCK IS THIS BULLSHIT?
Even better is the following quote from Paul Ryan:
“We think it’s only fair that hard-working taxpayers who paid for the benefits that our federal employees receive are treated fairly as well,” said Ryan. “We also believe it’s important that military families as well as non-military families are treated equally and fair.”
You got that, everyone? The sacrifices and taxes service members have given do not count as paying in for federal employee benefits.

In short, our congresscritters apparently have the same level of respect and concern for the well-being of service members as rabid pro-life conservawanks have for single mothers and their newborns. Which is to say, fuckall.

In short, Paul Ryan, Patty Murray, and anyone else who supports this wee piece of greasy, turd-flecked, smeg-smeared legislation is a sultry and portentous queef promising a veritable tidal wave of skeezy lobbyists' burbling babyjuice.

So here's what I sent to my congresscritters and the president and anyone else who needs to know that it is NOT FUCKING OKAY TO PROMISE ONE THING TO OUR SERVICE MEMBERS, SEND THEM TO FUCKING WAR WHILE THEIR FAMILIES SACRIFICE AND SUFFER IN LESS VIOLENT WAYS BACK HOME, AND THEN GO "PSYCH, UR DUMB AND NOW WE'RE GIVIN ALL UR MONIES TO CORPORATE FARM SUBSIDIES AND GIANT TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH LOLZ ENJOY UR RETARMENT DERPYDERPS."

Please reject the provision within the Bipartisan Budget Act that cuts the
annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for uniformed service retirees by
1 percent each year until age 62.

The cuts will have a devastating and long-lasting impact. By age 62
retirees who serve a 20 year career would lose nearly 20 percent of their
retired pay. This is not the compensation we were promised in exchange for
our sacrifice. What sacrifice?

Aside from my husband's sacrificed earnings (he could easily make twice
his military salary as a civilian but chooses instead to serve this
country), we have also lost my career (it's hard to have one when you move
every two years), stability for our children regarding home and education,
proximity to family and friends, consistency in our marriage as well as
time together, and quality medical care for our family.

In response, our government is considering thanking us for our sacrifices
by breaking its promise and taking even more of our compensation away?

We are at 19 years now. Twelve years ago, we considered leaving the Navy
for a civilian life, but when 9/11 happened, we both rededicated our lives
to this country. I have sacrificed my own success, earnings, and career
prospects for America. I have sacrificed time with my family because of
geographic and financial barriers the Navy provided us. I have sacrificed
pieces of myself every time I've had to hold my child through night
terrors and enraged outbursts during a deployment. I've sacrificed my
peace of mind as I sat with barely held breath at the news of confirmed
but unnamed deaths in Afghanistan because the Army needed more bodies over
there, and my husband--a man whose job is to keep communications and
weapons going strong on ships--was commanding convoys in a landlocked
country. We. Have. Sacrificed.

And this is our thanks?

Well, thank you right back.

This WILL affect retention. Twelve years ago, when we were preparing for a
civilian life, if we'd known how little regard our government would have
for his service and dedication, we would be pro-military civilians right
now, yelling long and loud about the disrespect and disregard and blatant
disdain you have for our country's warriors.

If you do not reject this provision, you are the reason this country fails
its citizens.

Bisses and Smoochies,
SnarkyNavyWife

I encourage you all to write your congresscritters, too. Unless, you know, you don't care about the military taking it up the ass yet again with nary a reacharound in sight.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Because otherwise I'll ragestomp...

I'm having a shittastic day between my job and people in general being twatbaubles, so I did this. I apologize in advance.


(to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas")

For our twelfth year of marriage*, my sailor gave to me
Twelve PCSs
Eleven sets of curtains
Ten lonely birthdays
Nine hours' notice
Eight days to make tape
Seven foreign bar tabs
Six holes in my resume
Fiiiiiive cancelled vacaaaaaays
0400 PT
Three section duty
Two civilian shirts **
And laundry that smells like ship.


* It's been 19 as of the end of this month, but you know. Song.
**Just enough for the weekend [sic]!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dear Media and Conservawanks: Please to Engage in Aural Self-Love Now kthx

Nothing has been more ridiculous and annoying to me in the last many weeks than all this fucking wangst over the ACA website, and I'll tell you why.

It's manufactured. And it's bullshit.

TL;DR/BLUF: The entire contract system is flawed, the process models used by contractors guarantee either severe bugs or perpetual delays, and the media and cock-waving conservatives can suck the dick I don't have.

Allow me to share some tidbits and yarn-spinnin' to elucidate this not opinion but straight up, no shit, absolute fucking FACT.

The software industry has a problem, one which I suspect is shared across the more general tech industry, especially when you're talking safety-critical systems. Because code can be intricate and have unintended side-effects (aka bugs, aka undocumented features hurr hurr) when human error and varied platforms are factored in, the industry has adopted process models to ensure code is created and adjusted, from requirements gathering to release, in an orderly and safe fashion. Regardless of the model of development, there is always some administrative process model around that development. So for example, if you use a spiral development process, you might have meetings at each cardinal point in development, and these meetings might be just a handful of the total number you engage in.

In other words, process models often require a metric shit-ton of man-hours in meetings and coordination and administrative bullshit intended to make you more efficient but actually...don't. I saw this during my internship at BAE Systems, which was working at the time to move from the SEI (Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon) CMM (Capability Maturity Model) Level IV. They were already at Level III, which roughly translates to "all our processes are documented and we have a shit ton of meetings kthx." I also saw this during my time at Conexant Systems, which wasn't on an official mission to create an official process for all software/firmware/whateverware development. We still had meeting after meeting after meeting, though not as rigid and regimented as at BAE. I'm pretty sure the difference is that BAE is a government contractor and Conexant was making cable modems and shit. BAE made its money by stringing along the government agency requesting their help. Conexant made money by releasing cable modems into the world. See where I'm going?

Cut to my time in Bahrain, where I was hired to administer the GCCS-M system but actually ended up doing a ton of special projects. I was still supposed to handle the message traffic system--at the time, it was JMHS--but my trouble tickets ended up being routed to the IT group, which used two Excel spreadsheets to track trouble tickets, so someone else was getting all my dirty work, and I wouldn't know unless I looked over their shoulder at the spreadsheet. I wasn't okay with that, so I decided to create a helpdesk system everyone would be required to use to submit a trouble ticket for JMHS.

I nosed around, procured an unused desktop, loaded it with Linux and Apache and MySQL and Perl, and went to town creating a web-based system. Two hours later, I realized it would be super easy to open up the options to pull in trouble tickets for all systems the IT department was handling. A webpage would be hella better to deal with than those ridiculous spreadsheets, right? So I asked the chief if he was down with this evil plan, and he said yes. He gave me the parameters and inputs they'd need, and the next day, I had a more robust system created. I took another few days to test it, expand it a bit more, and make it prettier, and then I asked the chief to test it.

Within a week, we had outside testers. Within two weeks, it was released to the entire base, and it was being used. The spreadsheets went away. And then someone asked the question:

Hey, didn't we pay for a system like this?

Yes. Yes, they had. It was called Remedy, and it was already a year late being delivered. I knew my system was a temporary bandaid while we waited for Remedy's delivery, which was supposed to be in four to six months, and I was fine with that. If I'd thought Helpdesk (my system) was going to be more permanent, I'd have actually used some software engineering on it and not just created a kluge pot of code.

Over the next several months, I added functionality and even extended the web forms to allow other requests: funding, awards, reimbursements, etc. Before I knew it, that little desktop was doing a whole fuckload of work, and I was kinda proud of it.

Then one day, two dudes showed up in my trailer. "Hi, we're from whatever company."

"Oooookay," said I.

"We're working on Remedy, and they sent us out here to find out if you have new requirements we need to incorporate."

Of course they did. More meetings to create more code to lengthen the amount of work they're putting in to get more money from the government.

They gave me a condescending smile. "We heard you wrote a little program to track trouble tickets. Would you mind showing us? We'd like to see what you're working with so we know where our deliverables stand."

I gave them a condescending smile. "Sure. But you should know it's much more than trouble tickets. Let me show you." I gave them a five minute quickie tour of the ticket system, the reporting, the graphs and statistics, etc. Then I gave them a tour of the awards requests, the budget tracker, equipment acquisition requests, and all the other doodads I'd added to the system.

One of the dudes cleared his throat. "So, how long did it take you to develop this?"

I had to think for a minute. It had kind of grown organically over the past three or four months since the Iraq invasion, but it was only one small thing that took up my time. "It took about a week for just the ticket tracker. The rest has just grown over time. I couldn't really say, but I've been working on it since January."

They -- and I'm not fucking shitting you here -- literally paused, looked at each other, did some of that silent nerd-speak, and then looked back at me. "A week?"

"Just for the ticket tracker. But that includes testing."

Then the other dude kinda does that little snort-laugh of ultimate dudebro dismissiveness. "How many people are on your team?"

Ha! A team. I wished. "I don't have a team. It's just me."

And then I'm not shitting you when I say they took over the extra cubicle in the trailer and sat with their heads together the rest of the day. They glanced at me a few times, noodled around on our helpdesk system a while, and then left. I never saw them again.

It took another four years for Remedy to be delivered. FOUR. YEARS.

Why? Because this is process development with government contractors. They come up with requirements, divide the work, pull in subcontractors to deal with pieces of code they don't have the time or manning to deliver on, and then commence the endless cycle of meetings and confab.

Here's what's particularly tasty: I was told the base didn't want to move to Remedy because its functionality didn't match the helpdesk's, and it wasn't as stable--it crashed. Keep in mind I had not been there for two years at that point and hadn't upgraded any of the helpdesk pieces. I'd tried to teach some folks Perl so they'd be able to tweak code and fix bugs, but I was told it *just ran*. This freaked me out because I hadn't built it for longevity, and they were really, truly relying on that system, but Remedy appeared to be a step down for them.

Do you see where I'm going here?

When you're talking about software systems delivered by contractors being paid every time they have to reevalute the requirements and add new functionality, of course they're going to stretch out the time to delivery. But even if they're on a tight deadline and know they have an absolute, no-shit delivery date, there are still so many moving parts to the process model between a contractor and all its subcontractors that it is impossible to properly implement and test a system before delivery.

I repeat: When there is a fixed, no-shit delivery date, it is impossible for government contractors to properly implement and test a system before delivery.

Software contractors are so accustomed to a way of doing business (where maximizing profit involves extending the delivery of the product) that when they have a very rigid timeframe for the development and testing of the deliverable, they cannot fit all the fuckdickulous process elements (meetings, development and testing cycles, etc.) into that timeframe.

It's the nature of the beast and the way government contracts work. The entire fucking system is flawed, and those who rely on the end products are regularly screwed over as a result. YodaMan was involved in a crapton of acquisitions while we were there, and I got to see what happens when we deal in contracts with civilian vendors. THE SYSTEM IS FUCKED. It's set to protect the vendor, tax dollars be damned. And once a company has you snared, they can keep you snared. For, apparently, half a decade. Or more. Gods only know how bad it is when you're talking about really complex mechanical/software systems, like an entire spy plane or some shit.

So when I watch CNN and Fox News, and when I read wankfests online, all pointing fingers at "Obama's website" and talking about what a black eye this is for the administration, I want to junkpunch some fuckers. Because here's what I GUARANFUCKINGTEE happened:

  1. The ACA comes with a deadline for mandatory enrollment.
  2. Republicans have been doing everything in their power to turn off the ACA.
  3. There had to be a firm deadline for delivery OR ELSE.
  4. Pressure came down like a waterfall, and the poor, unsuspecting contractor who literally doesn't know how to function outside of that process model choked. They delivered something they knew was fucked up because they could not delay.
Where does Obama blame come in? Pressure delivery. Not coming in and saying "we have to delay rollout." That's it. But you know what? EVERYTHING DELIVERED HAS BUGS. Microsoft Windows has bugs. Apple's shit has bugs that drive people off cliffs and into trees, apparently. Code has bugs. But prior to code, other systems had bugs. There are a lot of moving parts to every new system implemented by a large group of humans since the beginning of time, and this insistence by media and conservawanks that the enrollment run perfectly from day one is ridiculous. 

I will totally point and laugh at the contractor, though, for being a typical software company and an even more typical government contractor. They are to blame for this mess in the end because, like most companies of their ilk, they lack perspective and the willingness to transcend their process model.


But all this political shit-throwing and blame is bullshit, and every time a pundit opens his/her maw and waxes on about the ACA website, I want to kick that person in the mouth. They have no fucking clue what they're talking about, have no idea how software is built, and have no idea how flawed the contract system is. If they did, they'd know this isn't a political football to be tossed around, but an indictment of an industry in serious need of an overhaul.

Also, business as usual since no rollout ever has been perfectly smooth, kthx now stfu.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Unrepresentative Rick Crawford (R-AR) Can Kiss My Brown Star

I've kvetched here before about my congresscritter, specifically how he blocked me from his Facebook page after I sent him a letter and then -- on his FB page -- compared all of Congress and the Senate to a bunch of pre-teens fighting over a pair of 7 jeans and a tube of glitter lip gloss. Given the current state of affairs in DC, it's no wonder I have a need to kvetch yet again. One of my senators is a total cockshit. The other seems about as effective in DC as a crusty skidmark in a pair of tighty-whiteys. And my representative? A smegstain as far as I'm concerned. Yay Arkansas.

This whole thing is bullshit. I'm pissed for my country because it's clear that the more repugnant members of Congress are more engaged in dickwaving and earning their pay from lobbyists than they are in doing what's right for our nation. I'm pissed for myself because I was supposed to leave for a trip to Arkansas tomorrow, and it's not going to happen because leave is CANX due to shutdown drama. Yet I still have to be there next weekend for an obligation, so now I'm paying out the ass for hotel, flight, and rental instead of the cost of gas to get us there in a car. You're welcome, environment. You're welcome, bank balance. Commissaries are closed. Yay. The clinic is at 50% manning. Super yay (let's take bets on what the wait time is in the pharmacy when non-shutdown times are averaging 3 hours). The Yodester is working fucking insane hours because he's doing the job of...I don't know, seems like about 20 people? And those 20 people are sitting at home, unpaid, when because of sequestration their jobs were already somewhat on the line. When they get back to work, I won't be surprised if half of them haul ass for greener civilian pastures. And that's going to rock since sequestration has put a hiring hold on the command. So buh-bye Yodester. See ya when we PCS. Maybe.

Alas, I have no time for real wangsting, and I'm sure what I have to say is shit you guys are feeling now, too. So instead, I'mma share my two letters to my congresscritter because my third eye is telling me that I'll be writing him a lot more, and eventually he's going to answer. And then I will share his smegstainery with you.

First up, my Please Be Reasonable About Sequestration email from 2/12/2013, the one I sent right before he blocked me on the FB.

Dear Congressman, 
 Thank you for providing your e-mail address so that I could contact you directly. I’m writing to you because of my concern regarding sequestration and the effects its threat already has on the military. You’re no doubt aware that funding for necessary training, travel, and deployments has already frozen, placing service members in danger, the mission in the air, and families once again left holding the bag. 
 Sir, half of one percent of Americans serve this country. Another half-percent of Americans are military family members, at the mercy of the military’s needs and demands, and we all serve—in our own way—as faithfully as our service members do. 
 Sequestration places the burden of our economic woes squarely on the shoulders of the one percent. This is not right. This is not fair. This is not support for those who have already sacrificed so much in the last ten years. I followed my husband to Bahrain in 2002 and worked as a contractor in the command and control center during OIF, and since I was considered mission essential, I was not among those family members who evacuated when terrorists threatened the lives of the dependents living in Bahrain. I was six months pregnant, but I stayed there with my atropine cartridges and gas mask, and I worked next to the brave service members supporting the mission...and sometimes even heading directly into danger. 
 I have been a Navy spouse for eighteen years. I have sacrificed through deployments for longer than ten years. My children have had nightmares, suffered from depression during an interminable two years when the needs of the Navy trumped the needs of our family, picked up and moved away from friends and the familiar. We all sacrifice, each service member...each family member. 
 And by the inaction of both houses of Congress, you threaten to burden us even further. You are effectively demanding we sacrifice even more. 
 Congressman, we are close to breaking. We are tired. We are worn. We have given and given and accepted the leavings—the moldy housing, the second-rate healthcare (I assure you my experiences at Bethesda have not been as satisfactory as yours might have been), the pay that is by no means on par with our civilian counterparts, the incomplete families, the “single parent” lifestyle of deployment, the frightening increases in violence and suicide. Everything we are and have is dictated by the military. My own career must be portable because of the needs of the Navy. My children aren’t guaranteed consistent education because of the needs of the Navy. And now, we are at your mercy. 
 If you support the troops—if you truly are a patriot who believes in the mission of our armed forces—then you will step up, compromise, and find some middle ground so that the service members and the families who tend to the “home front” are not asked to stretch beyond our breaking point. After all we’ve given to this country, we deserve better from our elected officials. When our country calls upon us, we respond. 
 Now it’s your turn.
  
Yours,
[Snarky]



And then my letter from today, 10/4/2013. Now that we've seen some pretty horrible shit happening thanks to sequestration (including a small town's demise...and that's only what YodaMan has within his purview), and given the current fuckwittery and taintlickery going on in DC the last couple of weeks (particularly), I thought another email might be called for. 

Dear Congressman,
  
Your insistence to continue this shutdown, even after the people have spoken, even when your constituents are suffering during this Tea Party tantrum, even when the ACA has cleared all three branches of government, is reckless and juvenile. That you are reported to be in Representative Boehner's "inner circle" means you could approach this crisis intelligently, as if you actually care for the needs of your constituents (though based on the resolution you proposed on Tuesday, the good of your constituents seems to be the furthest thing from your mind). It means you could inject the voice of reason, compassion, and concern into this insane situation. And if you care one whit for the state of this country and its citizens, you will work to end this ridiculous effort.
  
But, you know, Tea Party. I understand you all seem to enjoy ignoring or twisting poll results that don't support your extremist views. And in this case, I understand that means you're all clinging to the refuted belief that most Americans don't want the ACA. So as much as I'd love to see you actually do your job and be a leader and representative of your community, I'm not going to hold my breath. After all, you and yours supported sequester-level cuts that are now wreaking havoc on the military (and we should know--my husband [is in a position to see what's going on] and comes home every day, disgusted by the effects of sequestration and inaction on the part of our "representatives"), and despite every opportunity to fix this insanity, you've continued to push to overturn the ACA instead of working to help the people you serve. I fully expect to be as disgusted in your idea of representation and service a year from now as I am today. 
 And for what it's worth, I'm sorely disappointed in your (or your staff's) decision to block me on your Facebook page. It's a coward's tactic, to respond to harsh but civil public criticism by silencing the critic. However, it's your page, and I respect your right to moderate it as you see fit, even when my worst critique compared all congressmen and senators to a bunch of pre-teens. I just wonder whether you've considered how this affects your reputation as a representative. If you refuse to hear my voice--if you refuse to engage in a discussion regarding your decisions and opinions or at least listen to dissenting opinions--that makes you UN-representative. It also makes me wonder whether you have confidence in your own stance. 
 Most Sincerely,
[Snarky]

What really sucks is Crawford has the potential for good in him. In the past, he's declared that not all of the healthcare bill was bad, and he proposed a surtax on millionaires. Clearly, he has the potential to do good things--to work on that whole middle ground thing--and yet he's got to be an itchy taint merkin instead. 

I'll let y'all know if he bothers to respond. I doubt it, though. He's too busy doing this on the floor of the House: