Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: 8/28/05 - 9/4/05

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Celebrate Labor Day by donating to the Red Cross

There are thousands of folks who will be glad you did.

I'm off-line for a couple of days at the in-laws in beautiful Soldotna. Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Who is in charge? I got some clarification from experienced Emergency Management/FEMA folks up here.

The biggest unanswered question down in the chaos that is New Orleans - who is in charge and what are they in charge of?

I ended up talking extensively about just that with Emergency Management personnel at my job. Here is what I understand from them:

1) New Orleans local and Louisiana state governments are responsible for public safety...with assistance from the military. That is the clear mission of the National Guard in the absence of local law enforcement. Additional efforts cannot be fully mobilized until that is locked down.

2) Movement/transport and placement of civilian personnel also falls within the mission of local law enforcement and/or the National Guard, with assistance from the military. While Homeland Security and FEMA can provide logistical aid, FEMA cannot provide personnel for that type of operation as it is once again a safety issue.

3) Levee repair and flood-water drainage are FEMA/primarily Corps of Engineers functions. Another reason the huge budget cuts to New Orleans and Mississippi Valley Civil Works programs are an immediate problem is because each District has a specialized team they contribute to FEMA operations...the flood control teams are located in New Orleans and Mississippi and have been heavily effected by the cuts.

4) Structural repairs and construction after water drainage is complete will be partially handled by FEMA/the Corps but mostly contracted out. (And it appears some or all of that is already going to Halliburton KBR.) Alaska has one of the structural teams so that is when they will be deployed. Everything is a guess, but experienced folks don't believe those teams will be able to go in until around November. That is really scary.

Secretary of DHS Chertoff and Undersecretary Brown of FEMA SHOULD ABSOLUTELY be heavily called to task for their lack of knowledge as to their own responsibilities, what the tasks are and who they belong to. This has been a MAJOR contribution to the extreme confusion over "who is in charge" after Katrina and has probably put what FEMA personnel are down there in danger due to anger and frustration.

However, criticism of FEMA response is premature and misplaced...and a really convenient attempt to divert attention and blame from the incompetence of the New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor.

Ann Coulter is a Stupid Bimbo, Part Deux (co-starring Sean Hannity as her sidekick, the Boy Bluster)

Wow, more in the same week from the shrill shrew whose dark roots match her black heart!

(Is it obvious that I'm having fun with this? Consider it a break from the despair in New Orleans.)

The Arizona Daily Star decided that Coulter's column was about as entertaining as acid reflux, so they dropped her on her mini-skirted derriere.

Our despicable duo, desperate to divert the public from her deplorable employment record (past firings include MSNBC, The National Review, USA Today, Centre Daily, The New York Observer) decided that a serious spin-job was the secret.

On the August 30 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter suggested that anti-conservative bias was the impetus behind the Arizona Daily Star's August 28 decision to drop Coulter's syndicated column.

According to Coulter, the Star, like MSNBC, has "had excellent success in keeping conservatives out." In fact, the Star made clear that Coulter was dropped because her "shrill, bombastic and mean-spirited" commentary was unpalatable to even its self-identified conservative readers. And rather than "keeping conservatives out," the Star replaced Coulter's column with that of another conservative: Fox News host Tony Snow -- a fact Coulter and Hannity neglected to mention.

(One small detail they also ignored is that Coulter has been fired from some of the most conservative media outlets around - The National Review, Centre Daily and The New York Observer.)

Tune in tomorrow when our pathetic pundits pair up to accuse the Pope of liberal bias!

Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo

Ahhhhh...that felt good.

Wait, let me say it again.

Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo. Ann Coulter is a stupid bimbo.

And this is why...

On The Radio Factor, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter opined that New York firefighters are "Americans" not New Yorkers and that citing them as an example of New Yorkers helping out victims of Hurricane Katrina is like "citing the Christian Club at Harvard."

In making the claim, Coulter was defending claims she made earlier on the show to guest host Al Rantel that "I'm waiting to see if New Yorkers will run to support the suffering victims of Katrina," and that she had doubts because "New Yorkers don't consider themselves a part of the rest of America." A caller challenged her remarks as "just flat-out hateful, divisive, and contribut[ing] to the politicizing of a tragedy," adding that New York firefighters had begun sending supplies and personnel to the Gulf Coast, to "reciprocate the outpouring of support they received and aid that they received after 9-11." Coulter responded, "I mean, to be citing firemen who are from New York, no, they are Americans," and then said, "New York firemen are a completely different breed. I mean, that's like citing the Christian Club at Harvard."
Come to think of it, "stupid bimbo" is putting it nicely.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

More blame towards FEMA for Katrina response...from the pot to the kettle...

"This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control. We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

- Terry Ebbert, New Orleans Homeland Security Director
Yup...Homeland Security is quick to point the finger....


I've worked with FEMA folks for 10 years in helping to deploy civilian federal employees to hurricanes over that same amount of time. It's a fucking crime how FEMA is the scapegoat here when Congress and George W. Bush did everything but shovel dirt on it since 2001.

Don't blame FEMA for disorganization...aim higher!

I wish folks would stop blaming FEMA for the delays in rescue efforts.

FEMA does not have a bunch of permanent employees. It is the joint effort of a number of Federal agencies military and non-military, who provide the employees from their ranks to do everything from high-level coordination to ice distribution. Those agencies allow their folks to be trained, prepared and taken away from their jobs to deploy anywhere that FEMA is providing services.

Right now, lots of the folks who normally are deployed through FEMA are presently deployed somewhere else for 6 mo/1 year stints. THAT INCLUDES PEOPLE WHO ARE TRAINED AND EXPERIENCED AT COORDINATING EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONS. That place is...you guessed it...Iraq/Afghanistan.

On top of that, we already had a hurricane this year that did some damage, though not anywhere near the levels of Katrina. However, some of the FEMA people have been deployed there.

Then, let's add one more piece...Bush's complete whacking of the Federal budget. Most of the Federal agencies have hiring freezes due to the pounding their budgets have taken as money is redirected to Iraq, so they can't allow for attrition (i.e...as people move on, retire, etc...they can't hire behind them). However, that doesn't mean that the agency workload has gone down in the least. As a matter of fact, ours is up through the roof. So, when we are already short-handed, THEN have folks deployed in Iraq and THEN FEMA desperately needs folks in New Orleans, it takes a few days for these already-stretched-thin agencies to do some juggling.

I've been watching FEMA work for ten years. They usually have folks there within 24 hours...AND THEY DID in New Orleans. However, the numbers they require to even make a dent are staggering.

One last thing, FEMA CANNOT MAKE A MOVE without top-level permission. There are folks here who have their bags packed and are ready to go, but they still don't know when and where they may be deployed. Normally, these folks would already be gone by now, so there is some major top-level SNAFU happening somewhere holding things up. Of course, safety is always a factor. However, there are plenty of places down there in Louisiana and Mississippi that could use the help and don't have any gunfire in the streets.

There are folks saying "quit picking on Bush" and maybe the point now is to get help to those poor folks. However, this country is going to eventually need a long discussion as to why such incompetence was displayed during the first several days and President Bush is one of the folks who will need to be answerable.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina's aftermath - the blame game

How quickly they forget.

Back in 2003, Slate did an article which seemed to reflect the views of the "saviors of the environment" in the lower-48 regarding Corps of Engineers Civil Works projects. They were tickled pink that Bush was whacking the Corps budget (i.e. "Coring the Corps") that controlled projects that:
focus on civil works that reflect the agency's addictions to concrete and the control of nature. The corps has dredged and deepened America's ports and harbors, armored and manhandled America's rivers, and pumped sand onto America's beaches. It has built thousands of dams, dikes, locks, levees, seawalls, and floodgates, often justified by dubious economic benefits.

(Note - this is where my "Alaska Liberal" sensibilities clash with the the bunny-hugger agenda.)

Suddenly, many of my fellow-liberals out there are pointing out how evil Bush was for cutting the Corps budget in New Orleans without mentioning that there were many environmentalists supporting it.

Yes, Bush did whack the Corps civil works waterways budget. Starting with the FY04 budget, the Bush Administration cut money from all of the Corps of Engineers Civil Works budgets all over the country. Hardest hit was the Mississippi Valley and 1600 miles of the U.S. coastline including...you guessed it...the Gulf Coast.

Hell, it's been so bad that some of the Districts are scrambling just to dredge the silt build-up in their ports/harbors enough to get commercial ships in and out of them!

Even though the Corps and others warned of the consequences, nobody seemed to pay attention or they agreed that it was a good thing. When the 2006 budget came out and Louisiana projects were cut to almost nil, they started warning folks about the hurricane consequences. Their warnings were ignored.

Until now. Dead bodies floating in the water kinda makes an infrastructure look important, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Republicans conducting "witch hunts," say scientists

As I originally read in The Huffington Post, the Guardian writes how some environmental scientists who are also the leading experts on global warming issues are accusing the Republicans of conducting a "witch hunt" against them.

Some of America's leading scientists have accused Republican politicians of intimidating climate-change experts by placing them under unprecedented scrutiny.

A far-reaching inquiry into the careers of three of the US's most senior climate specialists has been launched by Joe Barton, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce. He has demanded details of all their sources of funding, methods and everything they have ever published.

Mr Barton, a Texan closely associated with the fossil-fuel lobby, has spent his 11 years as chairman opposing every piece of legislation designed to combat climate change.

Interestingly enough, the strongest language AGAINST these tactics come from house science committee member, Republican Sherwood Boehlert:

But the strongest language came from another Republican, Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the house science committee. He wrote to "express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation".

He said it was pernicious to substitute political review for scientific peer review and the precedent was "truly chilling". He said the inquiry "seeks to erase the line between science and politics" and should be reconsidered.
He was right...the next paragraphs are "truly chilling."
A spokeswoman for Mr Barton said yesterday that all the required written evidence had been collected.

"The committee will review everything we have and decided how best to proceed. No decision has yet been made whether to have public hearings to investigate the validity of the scientists' findings, but that could be the next step for this autumn," she said.
What's next? Will the committee accuse them of being "pro-terrorist" because their findings don't agree with Administration policy?

Anchorage Teachers Vote "NO" on New Contract

The strike vote is today.

It's really not looking good sports fans.

But don't get me wrong, I believe that the teachers should get what they are asking for.

1) The money is more than reasonable, considering the cost of living has hit them harder than any other teachers in the country.

2) Their health care costs are the same as mine - which isn't a good thing. I believe that teachers, who are surrounded by little bacteria generators every day, should have the best health care available.

It's just that a strike will really suck from a logistics standpoint. *sigh*

"Waste, Fraud and Abuse in U.S. Gov't Contracting in Iraq"

For those who have not read it, here is the link to Bunny Greenhouse's testimony on July 27th at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing: “An Oversight Hearing on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in U.S. Government Contracting in Iraq.”

Some exerpts:
- The independence of the USACE contracting process was unquestionably compromised with respect to the issuance of the Restore Iraqi Oil contract, known as RIO. I observed, first hand, that essentially every aspect of the RIO contract remained under the control of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (“OSD”). This troubled me and was wrong. However, once the OSD delegated responsibility for the RIO contract to the Department of the Army, control over the contracting process by the OSD should have ceased. However, the OSD remained in control over the contracting process. In reality, the OSD ultimately controlled the award of the RIO contract to KBR and controlled the terms of the contract that was to be awarded even over my objection to specific terms that were ultimately included in the contract.
- I immediately questioned whether the Corps had the legal authority to function as the Army’s delegated contracting authority. The Corps had absolutely no competencies related to oil production. Restoration of oil production was simply outside of the scope of our congressionally mandated mission. How then, I asked, could executive agency authority for the RIO contract be delegated to the USACE? I openly raised this concern with high level officials of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I specifically explained that the scope of the RIO contract was outside our mission competencies such that congressional authority had to be obtained before the Corps could properly be delegated contracting authority over the RIO contract.

Exactly why USACE was selected remains a mystery to me.
- I further raised a concern over which contract authorized payment for prepositioning work KBR was doing in anticipation of being awarded the RIO contract. I was generally familiar with the scope of the LOGCAP contract and was under the impression that the LOGCAP contract was being used to fund the initial preposition workbeing done by KBR before the Iraq War commenced. I specifically questioned whether using LOGCAP funding was legal and insisted that a new contract be prepared. My concern over this issue ended when I was apparently provided misinformation that a newcontract had been issued. This is the first time I can recall being overtly misled about something as fundamental as the existence of an underlying contract authorizing work to be done.
- The fact that it was a no-bid, sole source contract meant that the government was placing KBR in the position of being able to define what the reasonable costs would be to execute the RIO contract and then charging the government what it defined as being reasonable. Given the enormity of the scope of work contemplated under the RIO contract, the exclusion of the contractor responsible for pricing out the scope of work to be done under the RIO contract should have been an imperative. Instead, it formed the basis of awarding the RIO contract to KBR.

- Ultimately, I was most concerned over the continuing insistence that the RIO contract be awarded to KBR without competitive bidding for an unreasonable period of time -- two years plus the option to extend the contract an additional three years. I raised this concern with officials representing the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army and the Corps of Engineers. However, when the final Justification and Approval of the RIO contract was forwarded to me for signature -- after the draft had been approved by representatives of the office of the Secretary of Defense -- the five year, nocompete clause remained in place. I could not sign the document in good faith knowing that this extended period was unreasonable. However, we were about to prosecute a war and the only option that remained opened to me was to raise an objection to this requirement. Therefore, next to my signature I hand-wrote the following comment:

I caution that extending this sole source effort beyond a one year period could convey an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited competition.

I hand-wrote this comment directly onto the original document because experience had taught me that a separate memo outlining my concerns could inexplicably be lost. I wrote my comment on the original J&A to guarantee that my concern was not overlooked. Instead, it was just ignored.

The RIO contract was subjected to public scrutiny when, on December 11, 2003, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) issued a draft report concluding that KBR over-charged for the purchase of fuel by $61,000,000. However, the firestorm over this issue was significantly dampened a week later when the Commander of the USACE, Lt. General Flowers, took the unusual step of issuing a waiver absolving KBR of its need, under the RIO contract, to provide “cost and pricing data.” The Corps simply asserted that the price charged for the fuel was “fair and reasonable,” thereby relieving KBR of the contract requirement that cost and pricing data be provided.

However, the manner in which the waiver request was prepared and finalized demonstrates that the USACE Command knowingly violated the AFARS by intentionally failing to obtain my approval, as the PARC. The evidence suggests that the reasons why I was intentionally kept from seeing the waiver request were politically motivated and driven by the DCAA’s conclusion that KBR had overcharged the government for the fuel by $61,000,000, rather than whether the granting of the waiver was in the interest of the government.

Significantly, it appears that a concerted effort was undertaken to ensure that I was kept in the dark about the waiver request. I have every reason to believe that the USACE knew I would object to the granting of the waiver if it had been presented to me for signature. So, I was specifically kept in the dark and did not learn of the existence of the waiver until I read about it in the press. Having reviewed the documentation used to justify the waiver, I can unequivocally state that I would not have approved it because the documentation relied upon to justify the fuel charges as “fair and reasonable” was grossly insufficient.

- As a result stating my concern in writing on the original RIO J&A and as a result of expressing other significant concerns over contracting matters related to KBR, I was eventually summoned to a meeting on October 6, 2004 at which time I was issued a memorandum notifying me that I was to be removed from the Senior Executive Service and from my position as PARC. At that point I knew that my ability to resolve the issues within the USACE had terminated. I had no other alterative at that juncture but to file a formal request for investigation with the then-Acting Secretary of the Army and to appropriate members of Congress.

She did everything right. She did everything by the book: tried to go up the chain, expressed concern to the proper folks, etc...

I hope she wins a HUGE lawsuit someday.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Someone is now officially occupying Bunny Greenhouse's job

From: Strock, Carl A LTG HQ02
Sent: Monday, August 29, 2005 2:15 AM
To: CDL-All-Corps of Engineers
Subject: Acting PARC

Corps Team:

As of 29 August 2005 and until further notice, COL Norbert S. Doyle is the Acting Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting.

LTG Strock
This was sent out to all Corps employees today. For those who didn't read my past posts, I've previously talked about the smear campaign against Bunnatine H. Greenhouse because she dared, as the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting (PARC) for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers HQ, not only to question the ethics of awarding a huge sole-source contract in Iraq to KBR (Halliburton) but she demanded that the KBR representatives be removed from the room during a meeting where THE CORPS WAS DECIDING THE TERMS OF THE CONTRACT. (FYI - their presence was illegal.)

So naturally, her reward was a demotion and a 90-day probation period. (i.e...they are going to fire her.) If we want anymore evidence of her eventual departure, just look at the email.

She is eligible to retire. They told her to retire. Her response?
Over my dead body, said Greenhouse.

"I took an oath of office. I took those words that I was going to protect the interests of my government and my country. So help me God," she says. "And nobody. Has the right. To take away my privilege. To serve my government. Nobody."

Her government and the taxpayers should actually be applauding this woman for her superior ethics and dedicated service to the people of the United States. However, like everything else in the Bush Adminstration, these values are once again turned on their heads and we punish the virtuous and reward the loyal lawbreakers.

I've been accused of being bitter. Perhaps that's true, but I have a lot of company and good reason; bitterness is not ingrained, it comes from years of disillusionment and disappointment in our leaders.

There's a reason the rats are abandoning the ship known as Federal Employment.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Why does EVERYTHING end up being good for the oil companies?

Katrina is 175 mph now - one of the biggest hurricane's on record.

However, she's already a benefit to the oil companies:
Beyond the Gulf Coast, Katrina was "unmitigated bad news for consumers" because it had shut down offshore production of at least 1 million barrels of oil daily and threatened refinery and import operations around New Orleans, said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst in New Canaan, Conn. He said crude oil could top $70 a barrel by Monday or Tuesday.

Yay...death and destruction AND higher gas prices.

Let's ask New Orleans if they believe in Global Warming on Tuesday - if they aren't completely underwater

Well...it's happened. Katrina is Category 5. Her winds hit 160 at about 9:15 AM Eastern. My prayers go out to the people of the Gulf Coast.

While some scientists are saying that global warming could be making storms bigger and badder, other scientists say the effect may not be measurable. I think that what is most on the minds of folks from New Orleans is that they hope Katrina doesn't turn their city into a big bathtub.

I doubt that Kaerick and Monocot are missing Florida right now!

Meanwhile, it seems that the whole issue is about to get much more interesting:

Two environmental groups and four U.S. cities may sue U.S. federal agencies which finance overseas projects which they say contribute to global warming, a federal judge has ruled.

The two federal agencies -- Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States -- had asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to dismiss the lawsuit.

It was brought by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the cities of
Boulder, Colorado, Santa Monica, California, Oakland, California and Arcata,

Judge Jeffrey White ruled on Tuesday that U.S. law allows the groups
and cities to proceed with their lawsuit because they may be affected by
overseas agency-backed projects whose emissions are linked to global
I don't know how they are going to prove this one, but I'll be watching.