MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 4/20/2010 - 10 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Sniping at Starbucks. Latte foam on the street. From Federal Triangle to McPherson Square to Dupont Circle - the shape of our government is changing. And, it's getting ugly in Uncle Sam's gang land. Civil servants are no longer civil. The tone in and around the Beltway changed when the iPhone bust onto the streets. The BlackBerry-iPhone feud is setting a new vibe, pitting cube mate against cube mate, fracturing departments - even dividing families.

Who'da guessed fruit could be so divisive? So, who are your homies and what does your gang connection say about you?

Well, BlackBerry means business. The Apple means pleasure - hasn't it always? If your boss sees you fooling with your BlackBerry, you're a workaholic. If they see you with your iPhone, you're goofing off. Did you know you can program your DVR at home from an iPhone? Yeah, there's an app for that.

The iPhone screams hip and devil-may-care. The BlackBerry whispers stodgy and uptight. Even the iPhone app names say cool - "Urban Spoon" would be "Restaurant Guide" if it were a BlackBerry app.

The BlackBerry says muscle. The iPhone says bling. If signal quality, battery life, and durability matter most, bite the Berry. The iPhone leaves the BlackBerry in the dust as an Internet browser. If fast, pretty, and intuitive matter to you, chew on the Apple.

In the movies, the piece you pack speaks volumes about you - from Dirty Harry to Bond to Kermit the Frog. The phone is our weapon of choice. And, most of us only have room for one heater in our purse. But, hold the phone - newsflash. There's a special group of renegades who think they can play both sides of the street. Yep, I'm talking 'bout the "two-phoner" crew - double-fist gang sign. These schizos think it's cool to wear a BlackBerry on one hip and pack an iPhone in a pocket - and that never works the other way around. They're lawless types. Don't believe me? Heard one Federal CIO say "I'm married to my BlackBerry, but I'm having an affair with my iPhone." Approach two-phoners with extreme caution.

Typical of gang cultures - the feud has created its own language. The "crackberry" - we need to shake America's drug dependence. The BlackBerry "yawn" - when one person checks their phone, so does everybody else. BlackBerry "chin" - aging eyes confront poor font settings. Set to "stun" - new approach to silencing. Do you think people are really laughing out loud when they write LOL?

And, what, I hear you ask, about people that opt out of the feud - those that don't like fruit? What about Droiders? The Google gang is new to our 'hood. The Droid says nonconformist. It's too early to tell how these anarchists will fare. Oh, and what about people whose phones aren't smart? Time to hang it up, homie - and shame on you if you bring a knife to a gun fight...

Posted: 4/1/2010 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Running sprints in the gym. Thought I'd been shot. Achilles' tendon. Snap. Surgery. Six weeks in plaster. Upside. Chance to walk a mile in another person's shoes - or shoe. What's it like to have a disability? No fun. Stairs are not your friend. Curbs are a nuisance. Oh, and wet floors in the bathroom - you might as well stock the pond with piranhas. People mixed. Nearly all have good intentions. More than you'd think are too self absorbed to hold the door.

Timing interesting. Telework Exchange, MeriTalk's sister organization, and the Federal Managers Association have a new study on Uncle Sam's performance in hiring Americans with disabilities. Why the focus on such a narrow audience? How many Americans do you think have disabilities? More than I thought. 54.4 million, that's more than one in six of us. In October last year, President Obama asked agencies to lead in hiring and supporting employees with disabilities. So what does the study tell us? Top line, our government needs to do a better job taking its own medicine... Let's look at the numbers.

First, 71 percent of Feds say their agencies are committed to hiring employees with disabilities. Eighty-four percent say their agencies offer "reasonable accommodations" to employees with disabilities.

But, here comes the failure to hold the door. Half Feds say their agencies lack the tools and training to employ Americans with disabilities. Only half say their agencies offer telework or technical-support options. Less than one quarter offer job share or personal-care assistance.

Here's the curb stone. Thirty-six percent of Feds involved in approving new hires or promotions aren't familiar with Schedule A - the hiring waiver that empowers Feds to hire Americans with disabilities. Shockingly, 58 percent aren't familiar with Executive Order 13163 - President Clinton's 2000 executive order which committed the Federal government to hiring 100,000 disabled employees in five years. Forty percent haven't received adequate training to effectively manage employees with disabilities.

And, worst of all, here's the wet floor. Forty percent say their agencies aren't monitoring, or they're unsure if they're monitoring progress related to hiring, advancement, and/or retention of employees with disabilities. Forty-four percent don't know who is responsible for hiring, advancement, and/or retention of employees with disabilities in their agency.

The bottom line is that today, disabled employees hold just 1 percent of Federal positions - and these employees are leaving Federal service at twice the rate of their hire. According to OPM, there are 2.8 million Federal civilian employees. More than a decade after President Clinton's Executive Order 13163, we have less than 28,000 disabled employees - what happened to the goal of getting to 100,000 in five years? We applaud OPM's recent initiatives in this area. But we need to move beyond behaviors to see a real change in outcomes.

If you're interested in hearing what the White House thinks about this topic - and importantly, its plans to get it right - stop by the Telework Exchange Spring Town Hall Meeting on April 8. Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for disability policy at the White House, will deliver a keynote speech "Reducing Unemployment for People with Disabilities." Mr. Dale will review the study and talk about how Federal telework initiatives can open new doors for Americans with disabilities. And, President Obama certainly has religion about telework and the "flexibility revolution." Wednesday's Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the White House underscored that this administration will not tolerate yesterday's outdated personnel management excuses. The time is now for Federal telework. Register at And, if I see you there, thanks in advance for holding the door.