Saturday, April 26, 2008

Egocentric blogging

I'll admit it, when I heard Keith Olbermann name Ercon Corporation his "worst person in the world last night, I thought, "F***, there goes my post." Let's face it, "Worst Person in the World" has become the shoddiest segment of a show that started getting sloppy months before the election season started. "Condemn first, ask questions later," might be a conservative's idea of the modern liberal M.O., but it isn't mine.

Now WWL follows up Thursday night's report on creative levee repair with this:
After initially telling Eyewitness News a Lafayette based company did the work on those joints, the corps now says the work was done by laborers hired by the corps.

There go the easy jokes about Ercon proclaiming itself the "Leaders in Safety" or its boasts of "innovaive engineering." That only took a couple of clicks to find, but it took several to find that the company's registered agent was a personal injury lawyer whose firm offers "effective legal
representation to individuals who have been seriously affected by the
negligent or unlawful acts of others." So much for that joke about innovative ambulance chasing. Obviously, such jokes would be pointless now, as the blame lies with the Corps and not with Ercon -- I wonder if Olbermann will apologize Monday.

Of course, as Jeffrey and Celcus point out, the Corps' admission of responsibility still leaves unanswered questions. Can we really believe that this was an isolated incident? Or was this the only case of anybody witnessing the corps' "innovative engineering?" I'm still curious about how it took two years for the story to break.

Frankly, a Dec. 2005 article from Engineering News Record (unfortunately pay wall protected) makes me wonder if anybody actually knows who's responsible for what:
Capturing the full picture of the federal contracting effort is difficult, as hundreds of contracts are being awarded by many agencies and there is no unified database capturing it all, Brett explains. "It's a mess down there," he says. "It's all over the place, and unfortunately, it's going to be like that for the next few months." Adds Debbie Walbert, an industry analyst with the firm, "I had one contracting officer tell me it's like counting raindrops--while it is raining."

It has been reported on (4/27/08) that the flood walls in St. Bernard Parish constructed by ERCON have been stuffed with with NEWSPAPER.
This corporation was a subsidiary of another corporation back then and has since changed hands. It's history needs to be investigated. It looks like corporation + government to me.
It changed hands in the last two years? I know that Energy Ventures acquired it from GulfMark in 1997, but that it changed hands at some point since. I wondered if it happened between 2002 and 2003, because that when its federal contracts more than doubled. That big a jump, in the absence of something like Katrina reconstruction, made me think that the company either acquired political influence or became minority/woman and/or veteran owned status.

I did a little research, but don't really have the time to do much. I certainly have questions about both the Corps and some of the companies involved. I wanted to post something but wanted to be careful what I said based on hunches -- I certainly wasn't that anxious to make a couple of obvious jokes. I'm glad you added something. I especially wanted to be careful, because the Ercon in Louisiana and Fla. doesn't seem to be related to the Ercon in Houston, but it does seem to be related to Orion construction in Houston. With several Ercons and more than one ownership changes, it's more than I have time to look up online.

From reading that Engineering News Record article, the slow response of the Corps and everything I remember, I wouldn't be surprised if the Corps was awarding contracts without clearly defined responsibilities. There wasn't just pressure to get the work done, there was pressure to satisfy a lot of political constituencies.

It's a two year old story, but the response that the person who inquired about the newspaper got sounds more like something a subcontractor would say than a laborer. But that's based on somebody's recollection of what was said.
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