Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Joy of Cooking... Bureaucrats!!

So... I was trying to get my business expense report submitted and it wasn't good enough that the online system we have in place at the company I work for (which shall remain un-named!) is a convoluted mess and harder than a rubic's cube to use. I submit the report and get it tossed back for not itemizing the rental car section and making the GPS a personal expense. We send of an email to ask why the GPS isn't reasonable and get the following response:

"GPS is an add-on to the rental car and is considered a personal expense. If your program would like to reimburse it, it would be considered unallowable and would require your Business Group Director’s approval. As for the reasonable consideration…the only thing I can say is that this is only the 2nd time since January that I was made aware of an employee seeking reimbursement for GPS navigation. It is not part of what we would consider a standard travel expense.


Now that was just too friendly and helpful for words - not to mention being irrational when it comes to any practical exposure to the word "reasonable" so I wrote a response:


If your new to an area and you need to get around efficiently with no wasted time or effort it makes a hell of a lot more sense than juggling a map book or Google mapping it while you're driving. A car provides the means to get where you need to go - directions provide you with the knowledge to get there - especially when meeting venues are being changed on the fly. That's reality. If it's a personal expense then so be it - but that's policy, which, in my experience, is formulated and then rarely reviewed to keep it in touch with "on the ground" reality. When that policy was formulated there probably wasn't GPS available. That would make the policy, and thus the "standard" travel expense, at least 3 years out of touch with the new reality.

When all the OTHER add on expenses associated with operating the vehicle are refused because I'm covered by my own car insurance (that I pay for) or they are un-necessary fluff, it seems slightly ludicrous to make an issue out of a GPS charge that helps me do my job better AND and be a more compelling representative of ########## in the competitive marketplace we call defense industry.

Just so we keep things in perspective -
1) I bought my own laptop for business travel needs

2) I buy my own car insurance WITH coverage for rental cars for business travel needs

3) I pay for any other incidental expenses during business travel

4) I (now) will be paying for my use of a directional device for business travel needs

But as my business travel and responsibilities increase, there is NO indexing of my compensation
Oh, that's right! - that's because I'm supposed to be able to get reimbursed for reasonable expenses.

As for your response to the word "reasonable" - I can't account for what you have or have not been informed of, what you have or have not remembered, or any other aspect of the historical period you mention, but the points noted above do present the basis for "reasonableness", using the reasonable person theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_person).


Then it occurred to me - why send this back to her when I can send it to the world! She wouldn't get it because she's a bureaucrat and bureaucrats don't connect with reality. They hide in verse and phrase because they couldn't do their jobs if they didn't - but there are lots of other folks who will get it so here it is for general public consumption. Till next time! :-)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Panem et circensus

In the March/April 1995 edition of Log Homes Illustrated, the editor, John H. Leeper, wrote:
" It is the nature of mass news media - and particularly television - to concentrate it's coverage on the spectacular, the unusual, the sinister, and the absurd. After all, circus side shows have drawn crowds for centuries, while reasonable debates of substantive issueslack mass appeal. of course, the problem with the "side show" approach to issues is that the barker with the loudest voice or the most garish slogans usually get's the lion's share of the attention. Voices of reason are left to beg in the streets. Therefore, it should be no wonder to any of us that when decisions are made on the federal level, they often turn out to be the wrong decisions. Elected officials listen to the cries of their constituents and their financial backers who, in turn, listen to the carnival barkers loudly shouting their propaganda slogans. In other words, I am a firm believer in the statement of the late cartoonist Walt Kelly, creator of the comic strip Pogo: "We have met the enemy - and he is us!" I also like a quote from rock musician Jerry Garcia: "Constantly choosing the lesser of two eveils is still choosing evil."

The only way to resolve complex problems in a society is first to realize they are complex and there are no simple answers. Next, we have to tune out the barkers and start looking for the opinions of men and women inclined to thoughtful consideration rather than hysteria or myopia... Perhaps it is time to turn down the volume and start listening to the "still, small voices" of reason who are all around us, but are simply ignored."

To which I simply add "No truer words were ever spoken!" Depending upon your choice of circus, you can hear Glenn Beck, or Lou Dobbs, or Rush Limbaugh, or any number of others trying to get you to pay attention to their personal freak show. Let's calm down and listen to the voices of reason. Think about it - you KNOW it's a freak show, and you know it's fun to watch but would you choose who's going to lead your community based on what you saw at the circus?

Remember, "Panem et circensus" - It was Juvenal that coined this system, a mechanism of influential power over the Roman mass. "Panem et Circensus", literally "bread and circuses", was the formula for the well-being of the population, and thus a political strategy. This formula offered a variety of pleasures such as: the distribution of food, public baths, gladiators, exotic animals, chariot races, sports competition, and theater representation. It was an efficient instrument in the hands of the Emperors to keep the population peaceful, and at the same time giving them the opportunity to voice themselves in these places of performance.

Makes you think, doesn't it? "If all they need to do to keep power is provide food and circuses... so much for the informed electorate!" The more times change the more things stay the same.