Archive for September 28th, 2006|Daily archive page

A Mis-Gnomer

The headline in the Daily Mail reads ‘Man vows to fight garden gnome arrest threat.’

OK. I agree, the article is an excellent piece of fluff. But I’m sorry, I have to take exception to the headline.

Does this mean that a garden gnome threatened to arrest this gentleman? Is he defending his lawn ornament from unlawful imprisonment? No. He is being threatened with arrest because of his garden gnome.

For shame Daily Mail, for shame. This headline almost gave me a heart attack – um – cardiac arrest.
Hat Tip: Mimi Smartypants

Heads Up: James Inhofe – Climate Alarmist

Over at ScienceBlogs, Matthew Nisbet (among others) is all hot under the collar about Mr Bonehead Senator James Inhofe. .

Mr Inhofe gave a floor speech attacking the media coverage of global warming and specifically Andrew Revkin’s new book The North Pole Was Here. Revkin is blogging back and requested links to his Amazon Blog. There you go Mr Revkin. You, dear reader, might do the same thing. Revkin’s book is aimed specifically at younger readers (age 10 and up) so if you are looking for something for your children, it might be a good idea to check it out.

 Don’t miss David Roberts deconstruction of this speech over at at the environmental blog Gristmill

Mr Inhofe on the other hand might want to go feed a polar bear – with his brain. Wait! Then the poor little polar bear would go hungry. Never mind.

It’s Not a Cover Up

Hey, who needs censorship! Not Newsweek.

I heard about this a couple of days ago, but over at Crooked Timber you can identify the most important news in the US this week during an election year .  Actresses!

Of course other parts of the world see things differently.

But Newsweek isn’t covering anything up, up front – on the cover.

Another Martian Opportunity

Wow! The Martian rovers made the Washington Post yet again. Opportunity was on the front page on Monday and made page 3 yesterday!  This is TOO COOL!

After an arduous 21-month journey, the Mars rover Opportunity edged close enough to the rim of a large crater yesterday to send back its first photos of the bottom and rocky sides of the dramatic site. What they showed left researchers increasingly confident that their robotic explorer had reached a scientific gold mine that will dramatically increase their understanding of the planet’s history.

NASA scientists said the rover came within about 15 feet of Victoria Crater’s rim and was scheduled to climb over a small sand dune last night and stop right at the crater’s edge.

I’ve been following these little guys for what seems like forever. Well, at least since they landed. I try to stop by the homepage about once a week and check how things are going. I also pick up a fair amount of background information watching the Bad Astronomy or the Planetary Society blogs.

What NASA does so much better then ESA is information dumping. You can access all the raw images as soon as they are downloaded. Sure this has caused some marsbats (sorry couldn’t resist) to think there were dust bunnies on Mars, but for me, it is just too cool to be able to see exactly what is going on in almost real time. The only thing missing is a slightly more ‘personal’ mission blog, perhaps from the interns working on the project.

After looking at Mars, why not take another short hop and go look at the beautiful pictures NASA keeps taking of Saturn.

Police Academy: A Comedy of Errors

The Washington Post highlights yet another case of a greedy contractor coupled with poor oversight by the Corps of Engineers.

Even though the Baghdad Police College was touted to be one of the success stories in what the US military termed the “year of the police,” the reality looks much different. In a report to be issued next week, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. will be calling the project a disaster.

The contractor, Parsons Corp., has been implicated in previous construction failures including prisons, clinics and hospitals, was charged with rebuilding the 1930s era police college. It didn’t go very well.

The Parsons contract, which eventually totaled at least $75 million, was terminated May 31 “due to cost overruns, schedule slippage, and sub-standard quality,” according to a Sept. 4 internal military memo. But rather than fire the Pasadena, Calif.-based company for cause, the contract was halted for the government’s convenience.”

Col. Michael Herman — deputy commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers, which was supposed to oversee the project — said the Iraqi subcontractors hired by Parsons were being forced to fix the building problems as part of their warranty work, at no cost to taxpayers. He said four of the eight barracks have been repaired.

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis. [my emphasis]

I wonder if the phrase “the governments convenience” is double talk for “You screwed up so badly we never want to see you again!” or simply “Ooops, You got caught.” I also note the people being called to task here are the Iraqi subcontractors and not Parsons. I wonder why. Are the Parsons people better connected? The Iraqis are thrilled, I’m sure.

What probably happened was a combination of inexperience and mismanagement. Many of the people directly involved in the project were probably new to something of this scale* and started off doing a good job, or at least trying to do a good job. As things started to slide, they attempted to get help or at least tell someone what was going on. Management responded with, we can’t give you more time, there is no more money, just get the job done. Just like every other government contract. Eventually even the most motivated just pushed paper and waited for the contract to end. What I call an internal resignation; you still go to work, get your paycheck but you no longer mentally work for the company, you’ve already quit.

 *Let’s face it, how many people do you need to rebuild a country. The good ones with experiance are pretty far and wide and  have probably gone home to better jobs leaving the rest to the newbies.

I think it’s the amount of government reconstruction in Iraq that is causing much of the problem. I doubt that many of these projects are that much worse than any other large scale construction project. But, since almost everything in Iraq needs rebuilt, all of these projects are simultaneously crashing. It highlights the failures of ‘business as usual’ both on the sides of the contractors and on the side of the government.

I’d love to believe that the individuals in the Corps of Engineers are simply stretched far too thin and have neither support from the upper echelons nor the time to properly oversee all the construction activities. This coupled with an increasing frustration both with the war effort (Why are we here?) and from the Iraqi civilian population (Why are you here?). I’d like to believe that – but unfortunately the Corps is a huge bureaucracy and has never really been more than mediocre at overseeing projects. (Katrina anyone?)

At least this lined up with all the other Police Academies: absolutely humorless.