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Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I won't insult anybody's intelligence. We all knew who was going to get the Gulf Coast clean-up contracts.

"Haliburton - We Make Money Off Your Pain"

They're happy to make money off your pain, someone else's pain, whatever.

Recently, while my company was preparing a quote for some printing for a publically funded university, we were required to fill out a form showing that we had no "conflict of interest." That is, we had to state that neither I nor any of my co-workers are employed by said university.

Conflicts of interest seem to be the basis of American "democracy."
My bet would be that you'll only hear what you want to hear, but I'll give you another perspective on these big money, big scope gov't contracts you rail against with impunity. You can choose to listen or continue to stick unabashed; to the you know exactly what happened(ing), all people working in Washington are evil syndrome, all one big multi-level conspiracy, etc…

My line of work can be very boring to talk about most of the time and is grows more boring to actually do with each passing day, but I've also gained quite a bit of insight on how contracts are handled both in the private sector, and with the government (we have some very large contracts with FEMA, Homeland Security, NSA, etc...). I have many colleagues who have moved on to work for, or have come from the government contracts management orgs inside the Beltway (our HQ is on the Dulles toll road), some during the Clinton admin, some in the last five years. Here's what they tell me makes situations like Iraq reconstruction ( day one post major hostilities), and day one post Katrina ethically challenging and politically tough in the offices of contract management.

Sparing you the uber boring and academic parts of the various methods employed to competitively bid out multibillion dollar contracts, lets just accept this one frustrating, but unavoidable fact, this shit is complicated beyond words and takes a crap load of time to execute even in the most favorable circumstances. Most of it’s related to legal oversight of the process, T’s & C’s, and requirements drafting, but also the time it takes evaluating the bids, the “apples to apples” analysis if you will (could be the most overused supply chain management cliché in existence). At my company, our supply chain organization is regarded by many others in our industry as being one of the smoothest and expeditious when if comes to bidding and executing contracts. Guess what? It STILL takes a year or more to bring a contract to signature even for the most innocuous and inane of commodities, and I’m not even talking about multiple services and multiple commodities, this is the case when we go out for bid on a single item most of the time. While the processes have been improved over the years to speed it all up, there really is no avoiding the time it takes to do it right, and even then you can still award the contract to the wrong guy (trust me, I’ve seen my share of bad contracts here).

Why is this relevant to this discussion? Because in both situations my friends in contracts over in DC (poor souls that they are and they thought the bullshit here was bad), not the big wig talking heads blathering on in the press, or those associated with any administration, the ones who actually do WORK evaluating and handling the bidding process on these very contracts all say the same thing, when you’re talking about situations like those mentioned above you lose the one thing that the process of fair bidding requires and that is time. You CANNOT let a country you’ve just bombed into the stone age sit in ruins while you take two years to properly evaluate a multibillion dollar rebuilding contract no matter whether you agree with the reason for the invasion or not. You CANNOT wait two years to begin rebuilding New Orleans while you put together a proper bid package that would withstand the level of scrutiny it will surely undergo through out it’s execution. No, time is of the essence and the default weed out process associated with these situations starts with this question: What companies are actually CAPABLE right this moment to actually START working.

This criterion immediately eliminates 98% of those who would otherwise bid on contracts like this. In fact, very few have the bandwidth and resources to mobilize assets and people to foreign countries, or even here domestically in such a compressed timeframe.

I haven’t read anything about it just yet, but your post makes it sound like Haliburton is going to be doing work in NOLA.

They were on a bidders list for a pretty big contract with my company two years ago along with GD, Tetratech, and Bechtel. I can tell you this for certain, Haliburton is a HUGE company. Completely shadowing their closest competitor with seemingly boundless resources. They did not get our business for price reasons I’m to understand, but I can certainly see why they would get emergency no bid gigs because of their ability to rapidly deploy legions of resources right away.

This is a simple truth and not Dick Cheney propaganda campaign of rationalization. Now, does Haliburton get favor over others that might be equally qualified, I don’t know. My colleagues have never seen anything that indicates so, but that doesn’t mean that strings are being pulled at higher levels. While they concede that the process is wrought with opportunity for fraud in many areas, they say that any direct White House level interference/influence would be hard to pull off without being ratted out at the levels they work at by some whistleblowers that hate the administration. My colleagues are hired employees, not appointed.

The real questions beyond the bullshit rhetoric (the ones you should be asking) are why does the U.S. gov’t (not just GW but all administrations prior) not have contracts lined up for these situations BEFORE something like wars and disasters occur, contracts that can go through the normal laborious, but fair process? This is why I tire of yours and others partisan rants about Haliburton being the Charles Foster Kane evil empire. Your ranting against one or two dolts in the White House when you should be railing against the REAL issues here whichgo back many years and transcend many administrations. NOLA needs help right away. They need massive amounts of resources, coordinated on multiple platitudes. There is NO time for a competitive bidding process, even though there should have been contracts in place (in actuality there are many in place with FEMA and other agencies, just nothing to cover such a large disaster obviously).

A few companys will probably get no bid contracts for work no doubt. It’s not a optimum situation by any stretch, but it’s one that has to be worked.

Haliburton has a distinct advantage in many situations because of their size. They were big long before Dick Cheney. They certainly use this advantage to their benefit when possible. I would also be inclined to believe that they get a higher premium because of this unique advantage which sucks for us taxpayers. What you should be lobbying for, what I’M lobbying for here is to minimize, or at least reduce the instances where we HAVE to pay Haliburton et al no bid contract pricing by getting ahead of the game and being proactive. Alas, that’s not as fun or interesting as making fun of Dick Cheney’s unfortunate first name, or quite as exciting and divisive as demonizing the White House, big business, FEMA, etc… It just like my job, boring and full of minutia.

I like that your mad about things like this. And if you can suspend your hatin’ for a minute you’d realize many others like me are on your side when it comes to what we want for this country and it’s people during times like these. I’d just rather you direct it at what the REAL problems are even if it ends up being directed at the same leadership you railing at now. Said in another way, if your going to yell, yell about the right things for christsake.
that's why we need to get rid of the money.

it doesn't seem like a conspiracy, just good old "the rich have control because they're the rich." Democrat, Republican, people will make a buck if they can.

Think of the jobs created by the mounds of paperwork. We can't put those people on the street.

Where is the actual money?

more importantly,

what kind of butterfly?
Hey, I would bet the ranch on this one thing... If you are willing to relocate to NOLA, one of these big firms will pay you a lot of money to work for them down there. In my current situation, I'd probably be pusuing an opportunity down there right now myself, except that New Orleans is WAY too fuckin' hot, I mean fucking hot ALL the time, 364 days a year, has no ACC college football team, and is NOT Garrison NY. The last thing being my wife's plug. OK it's mine too, but I'd miss having ACC football to watch.

The butterfly you inquired about is actually a rare African Papilio Antimachus...
Just so we're clear here. I don't doubt you for a single moment. You should be blogging this, not me. This is my blog, and I hate Bush. End of story. I will continue as I have been. I promise I'll blog something that won't make you wince soon, but just now, I have an issue with a nimrod some assholes elected President.
Did Haliburton really get the contract? I have not heard of that, but if it's true it's just plain inexcusable. No amount of eloquent, sensible-sounding rhetoric from Tony Alva can make it right. We lefties see them as the evil empire (I almost wrote umpire)because we have seen nothing to the contrary. $5,000 a month for a humvee - COME ON. And for that they say they can't armor them. If you bought one from Hummer you could have it gold plated for what the US govt. pays.
Yeah! Get 'em Clarkie!
"Yeah! Get 'em Clarkie!"

What the f...?

Jackson's original post implied that Haliburton had been given some work in NOLA. As I stated in my comments, I hadn't read anything to substantiate it, nor have I since. I guess he just made it up.

"No amount of eloquent, sensible-sounding rhetoric from Tony Alva can make it right. We lefties see them as the evil empire (I almost wrote umpire) because we have seen nothing to the contrary."

First. thanks for referring to me or my comments as sensible. I hope I can take that as a compliment.

As for the rest, seeing big successful companies as "evil empires" by the mere fact that they are big and successful, defies logic. I don’t work for Haliburton, so I have no better access to information about them than anybody else. I can only base my opinion on my own experience, research, and limited sources. I’ve been with the company I’m currently employed with for 11 years. I was working here when we were less than 200 people and were 2 months from bankruptcy. We had a lot of forces working against us, including oppressive government regulation. We are now a Wall Street darling, cash flow positive, and employing 80,000 people. While I’ve chosen to look for new work recently, for the life of me, I just can’t find anything about “The Company” that is inherently evil. Am I blind, an unknowingly brain washed capitalist, over ambitious career climber, GOP dick sucker, a big business loving fuck the little people opportunist, etc, etc, …? I really don’t think I am. Maybe I’m wrong. I just sort of think of myself as a regular guy.

I guess that’s what my biggest grouse is when it comes to political debate these days and this blog is proving to be no different. Nobody wants to listen anymore. That perhaps, first and foremost, believe things just might be more complicated than what gets shouted as slogans and vitriol filled mantras across this imaginary isle. I can admit that I am this way to some extent myself, but I made a conscious decision a few years ago to start LISTENING. I read quite a few blogs now. Most are of the liberal bent. I want to know what others are thinking, what they base their opinions on. I’m prepared to hear things that are contrary to my current beliefs on anything and everything. I’m prepared to change my mind if warranted. I just want to hear why I should.

Where I stand now? I haven’t seen anything that has changed my mind from the opinion I held going into the last election, which is we’re all being fooled into believing that Red vs Blue, con vs lib, etc… makes a difference at all, when the truth is that it is just as likely and probable that John Kerry would have fucked up New Orleans disaster relief himself. It’s the system, the infrastructure itself, that needs fixing. Look no further than the transportation bill that just passed and see the disgusting amounts of bipartisan pork attached and tell me this has anything to do with which side of this bullshit isle one sits on. Being suckered into believing that it’s all about Dem vs Rep is what I believe Green Day refers to as being "An American Idiot". It’s nothing more than subterfuge. Why not? Keep us all arguing about meaningless shit and the status quo remains.

The Chinese thought they were right about everything and built a wall around their empire only to wake up one day and discover they were wrong and the whole world had passed them by. The wall is now a tourist attraction.
Speaking of the Wall, we're now coming up on the Twenty-SIXTH anniversary of its release, so I guess we better finish up the packaging.
You MUST finish the packaging.

I saw some skateboarder guy actually jump the Great Wall. Maybe you guys need to create an event involving skateboarders. At least have copies for Tedstock.
We'll have skateboarders jump over copies of "The Wall" at Tedstock.

Since CD's are wafer thin, it might not be as exciting as jumping the Great Wall, but it'll be exciting nonethless.

I didn't make it up. As if I would. I am now beggining to take offense.

It took me less than two minutes to find the article I refered to, how long did you spend?
"As for the rest, seeing big successful companies as "evil empires" by the mere fact that they are big and successful, defies logic." [Commence diatribe about listening]

What defies logic is how you can spin what I say into what you think you want me to say. You can take that as a compliment as well, but the first one was more sincere and without tongue in cheek. I never said anything about the company you work for, or the ubiquitous "Company" - I was speaking very specifically about Haliburton itself. They are no better than the gas stations in Atlanta that charge 6 bucks a gallon when they feel a strong wind coming on. Just off hand, Haliburton has been sited for overcharging in the hundreds of millions of dollars, they've "misplaced" substantial quantities of heavy equipment, they use offshore subsidies to get around US regulations and do business with rogue nations (that was under Dick Cheney's watch), a government investigation determined that Haliburton's practices are nothing short of embezzlement. Soldiers still go into battle without proper equipment. Haliburton is running the show, and quite frankly, they are not doing a very good job. And most importantly, as Chrispy brought up, there's that pesky little issue of "conflict of interest." I have nothing against capitalism as long as it is tempered with some compassion and some ethics. I don't see this mess as a fault of capitalism, I see it as a waste product of collusion. In the real world, if you don't fulfill your contract, if you steal or cheat, if you do seriously unscrupulous things and get caught, ... you lose your job. It's time for Haliburton to get fired.
Well, Jackson, if you look for "articles" in "newspapers" or on "websites" to get "supporting evidence" or "further information" to back your "statements" you're clearly just getting in line with the "liberal media."
Chrispy is funny... and Hue B. naughty.
Wow. Thanks for citing your statement Ted. I am officially sick to my stomach now. Read this one if you really want to vomit. It was one of the things linked to your article.


My favorite part was this bit about the war in Iraq:

"Halliburton alone has earned more than $9 billion. Pentagon audits released by Democrats in June showed $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and $422 million in "unsupported" costs for Halliburton's work in Iraq."

Let's see that's a 1.5 BILLION dollar tip for 7.5 BILLION dollars of work. I suppose that's only fair. What do the soldiers make? Of course you have to take it with a grain of salt. They were Pentagon audits released by Democrats.
Chrispy can be naughty too!

I swear! (actually, swearing is naughty, so there you go)
Again, I won't defend Haliburton or any company that can be proved to have bilked any person or government on overcharges. My comments were directed at the fact that "Liberals" tend to vilify any "big company" as inherently corrupt an evil by the very nature of their success and size. Hence, the reference to the company I work for. If you don't fit this description Clarkie, then I apologize. I will certainly follow up on the charges you cite re: Haliburton's over charges. If it's true they ought to be fired or worse.

Re: gasoline price gouging in Atlanta. Following the first day of the panic, the governor issued an emergancy order which fined each station $7000 per verifiable occurance of price gouging and instructed distributors that anyone on the list of gouger's would be last to recieve refill services. I was in NYC when it all went down, but a station I fill up at STILL has no gas. Guess they were caught red handed. Nonetheless, an instance of politicians stepping and administering some much needed and timely oversite and justice. I won't forget it when it comes time to vote.

As for referencing the Village Voice for anything other than who's playing where this weekend and movie listings (commence the diatribe about laughing my fucking ass off)

That's like quoting Sean Hannity...
...and remember, judge me not, except by the size of my siesmology. (I finally worked that one in!)
I guess the Village Voice must have their facts wrong, or is lying just like Jackson.

I personally don't think the Voice is even worthy of using for its movie listings, but in this case I don't see how you can make a blanket dismissal. Oh yeah, I guess 'cause it's known as a "liberal" paper.

I happen to believe that there's an inherent evil in any big company. I think it is a natural result of the spreading out of responsiblity and ethics amongst so many people, and I think it's just part of human nature. It might not be malicious evil, but not all evil is.

Commence diatribe about whatever.
Since everybody who matters is reading this thread right now, here's something I just happend upon...

Yahoo News - BERLIN - Germans were ordered Thursday to stay serious when having their photographs taken for new passports, wiping away any grins, smirks or smiles so that biometric scanners can pick up their facial features.

I thought Germany had outlawed smiling during WWII reconstruction. This was what I had understood to be the reason Michael Schenker always had a puss. Maybe it was only a voluntary non-binding order that needed to be passed into law.
It's about time. I've been gettin' REAL sick of those smiley-faced Germans, always smiling and beaming and looking so damn amused in their passport photos.

REAL sick.
I guess the Village Voice got tired of people not taking them seriously. The cool thing about the article that Jackson cited is that any time a statement of fact is made that might be at all contentious, it is linked to it's source article or website. Some of the sites are pretty mainstream. TA, thanks for the apology. I do resemble the remark but I was very careful to keep such generalizations out of the argument.
The Voice may be suspect because of it's 0bvious liberal bent, but it is a published periodical which is bound by law, as we all are. If it were a pack of lies, I assume Haliburton has got some fairly feirce lawyers, and I'm sure the Voice knows it.
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