2 October, 2009


Category: Government,Law,Work — Moose @ 3:12 am

Let me spell out why I’m upset at my field office, the one balking at following the directions from headquarters.

When a contracting officer of the U.S. federal government signs a contract, on behalf of the government, he or she assumes personal liability for any screw-ups he makes in the course of letting that contract. If he orders a contractor to do something, without the funds or authority to compel the contractor to take that action, he can be personally liable for the debt owed by the government to the contractor. That’s a Big Deal, no matter how you look at it, given that a great deal of my Big Gubm’nt Agency’s (BGA’s) contracts are worth multiple-millions of dollars, well in excess of the typical federal government employee’s salary.

In my role as legal counsel, looking at the fiscal responsibilities of the federal government and its accountable officers, my professional opinion rendered in the course of my employment can relieve a contracting officer of personal liability. If I tell an employee to take a certain action and that action is later found to be incorrect by a competent tribunal, the employee who followed my advice will not be held liable for following that advice. He or she sought the advice of counsel, and followed it, for better or worse. That’s a big deal, because we’re dealing with the public’s money, and if someone truly defrauds the taxpayers, they should be held liable for that fraud. So letting someone off that hook is not something to be done lightly.

Obviously I have no desire to defraud the government of funds; this money is my tax money as well as the usual federal taxpayer’s, and I don’t want to see it misspent when I can avoid it. So it’s distressing to me, personally, when a field office of my BGA questions my integrity, implicitly, by continuing to question the opinion my office has rendered in a particular case. The idea that I would casually hang a fellow federal employee out to dry, or that I would place the finances of my BGA in jeopardy, is personally abhorrent to me, and it causes me a great deal of distress when our field personnel assume that I would be so cavalier with their and the taxpayer’s finances. I think that’s what stressing me out about this latest brouhaha with the field, that implicitly they are questioning whether I am acting properly in my role as counsel to protect them and the head of my BGA. And the idea that they think I’m acting against their and the taxpayer’s interests, whether overtly or subtly, is a smirch on my professional integrity, and not something I take lightly. Thus, I’m distressed over the situation, as much as they are likely distressed as they contemplate taking an action which might cause them a great deal of personal debt. I don’t want that for them, nor do I want something to go wrong for the taxpayer or the administration (regardless of party), so I’m stuck in a very difficult situation until I can convince them that we’re not going to subject them to personal liability, something they’re not quite ready to accept.

6 March, 2009

Wandering Decisions

Category: Dating,Friends,Government,Habits,Law,Queer,Schadenfreude,Work — Moose @ 12:44 am

Insulating yourself from the world is so much easier. If you have no contact, there are no boys to have to meet, and be interested in, and turn down, or say yes to, or decide among. And that’s comforting, not having to decide. “But how can you know what you want, ‘Til you get what you want, and you see if you like it?” Meh. Boys are so difficult.

That said, I ran into Doug on the way to dinner. Was good to chat in person, even for only two Metro stops. I do miss being as social as I was. But I’m going to get busy soon with my new triathletes as they gear up to their July race, and work is absolutely freakin’ insane now (I was out at the bar tonight and got email indicating that OMB disagreed with the position we’d taken, taking the position I’d originally taken inside the agency on a particular issue before I was overruled – schaden-correct-view-of-the-law-what?? Friday will be interesting.).

And then there’s, of course, a boy who’s flirting from tonight. As well as boys from previous nights. And boys I’d like to get to know, and boys I’d like to avoid encouraging (despite trying to be polite). Boys are, well, odd. And they force decisions. The gentleman whom I had the date with last weekend is out; he snored, and smoked, both pretty annoying on their own, but deadly in combination. There was another man I was sort of interested in from previous contacts online and in person, but he wasn’t there tonight when I was at the bar, so another gent who was more insistent seems to have gotten my attention for the immediate moment. Despite my warning him off, he’s still interested, so we’ll see how this goes. Dating is difficult, but I’m not trying to race to one definite goal, so we’ll see where the various wanderings take me

27 February, 2009

How Not To Get Started In Gubmint

Category: Annoyances,Law,Politics,Work — Moose @ 10:42 pm

Our new political leadership, at the urging of certain offices who have an axe to grind, has decided that the lawyers in the BGA are the source and instigators of all delay or other ills affecting the BGA. I actually had one political tell me to my face, in regard to some impossible language coming our way in the upcoming appropriation, that we collectively were being “insufficiently creative.” As if all there is to lawyering is to wave our hands and declare that red is green to suit the immediate political desires of the leadership. As I recall the last administration had their attorneys do some “creative” lawyering, and that turned out just swimmingly (not). Little twerp.

Needless to say, this has not made working terribly pleasant at the moment, especially in the face of the extraordinary demands on us under the stimulus act.

Adding to the difficulties are the normal issues with any transition, getting the politicals on board and up to speed, and also just getting our senate-confirmed folks nominated and through the senate vetting process. The tax woes of earlier nominees have caused an increased scrutiny of all nominees by the white house, thus further slowing the process (plus the desire to have cabinet secretaries all in place before lower appointees are nominated).

We’ll get through this, but it would be nice to have more, and less hostile, political leadership in place in the face of these extraordinary needs.

23 October, 2008

All Set Up/Engaging

Category: Geek,Law,Mood,Motivation,Stuff,Work — Moose @ 11:41 pm

The computer arrived and is now all set up. Oh, I need to back up.

Ordered a new MacBook last week. The iBook was completely out of memory, and things were running noticeably slower as newer protocols came out, so it was time to move up. A late birthday present to myself.

Anyway, so it arrived yesterday, and after much gnashing of teeth and scrambling to find an extra ethernet cable, all of my settings and files transferred over and everything is all well and good and nice. The screen is wider than the 14″ iBook, at least in appearance (the screen resolution is better, 1280×800 versus 1024×768), even though it’s a smaller screen (13″). It feels more “widescreen” than the iBook did, and I’ve had fun stretching the winders out to match the edges.

The thing that has surprised me the most about the move over was that it moved all of my programs over as well – not just the user data associated with them. So I did not have to go buy a new copy of MS Office, I didn’t have to redownload all of the chat programs, though I have had to upgrade some of the programs as I’ve run across them because this is on the newer Mac OS (10.5), and it’s intel chips versus powerpc chips.

Enough of that for now.

Work was, wow. Had a meeting with another BGA where, after much invoking of the names of senior officials of the other BGA, we got ourselves to where we needed to be (namely, getting the fucking money out of their little paws – hence my involvement). It was fun to get over to a different BGA, see their security procedures, etc. The building reminded me of my co-op, lots of aluminium and glass, very mid-century. Fun stuff.

Then, another agency was getting snippy with us over some policy calls, so I ended up hunting down crap for the political head of our office to go over and give them the smack down. That actually started before I even left home, and I ended up stopping in with our budget office and telling them I didn’t care what a budget analyst at the other agency thought about our legal authorities, and that we weren’t going to play telephone if her counsel’s office had a problem they needed to contact us directly. Which was partially aimed at my own budget office, because they have a ton of new hires, and we might as well set them straight from the beginning, otherwise my head deputy will jump down their throat the first time one of them dares to utter (or even worse, repeat) a legal opinion from a non-lawyer (he’s really touchy about our office’s prerogative there – I’ve seen him summarily dismiss opinions from non-lawyer peons from other agencies and ban them from future meetings, and he gets his way there. Yowch).

So, was running around like mad on those and a couple of other things, which was both fun and exhausting. I like it when we’re that busy, it’s so much more engaging and satisfying.

24 September, 2008

Funding, Perhaps?

Category: Home,Law,Stuff,Television,Work — Moose @ 9:52 pm

Looks like we’re getting funded through March 6th, with lots of plus-ups for inaugural activities. Whee. They stuck in the raise for calendar 09, too (yay), but didn’t provide any additional funds to pay for it, so we have to suck it out of existing cash on hand (boo). A couple of other problems in there for my BGA, but we’ll deal.

Spastic day, what with the bill language being released at midnight, the House voting to pass it, and multiple phone calls and meetings over various provisions. Glad the work day finally ended. Tomorrow will be slightly less spastic, I hope, with a nice break in the middle for a going away lunch for a coworker who’s leaving us for another BGA.

Cleaned up more junk here, and just test-fired the oven (empty) to see how the temps match my oven thermometer. Seems to be slightly cooler than the dial, so I’ll see if there’s a way to adjust the dial, or I’ll just have to keep in mind that it’s not quite 25 degrees cooler than the dial says it is. Caught up on Heroes from Monday, and zapped more junk out of the queue without watching it (The Last Samurai? Ew). Now it’s early crash time. I missed the bike ride this morning because of an early meeting, so perhaps I’ll get back out there tomorrow morning instead. Depends on how well I sleep – definitely on a deficit so far this week.

23 September, 2008

No Way To Run A Government

Category: Body,Food,Friends,Health,Knitting,Law,Politics,Work — Moose @ 10:27 pm

I cannot help but think the four men sitting in front of Congress today were quite full of shit. All of this while the Congress still hasn’t even funded the federal government for the next fiscal year, and can’t seem to decide on how they’re going to temporarily fund us, and for how long. This is, as I’ve often said, no way to run a government.

Long, busy day at work doing things I can’t talk about. Whee. I’ll mention the old adage about not wanting to see laws or sausages being made and leave it at that. And it’s going to start early tomorrow, too. Whee.

Got to see Dean, Richard and Gene for dinner this evening, which was quite nice. I find myself almost wishing for Metro rides across town as it gives me time to sit/stand and knit. I think I got a good 1/2 inch to an inch done on the hat I’m working on now. The downside is that my foot’s now sore again after walking around.

Tomorrow evening should be nice and quiet, with more needed straightening to do, but otherwise nothing is on the schedule, and I’m looking forward to that.

16 May, 2008

Thoughts on the Marriage Cases

Category: Law,Queer — Moose @ 12:01 pm

Wanted to jot down some quick “day after” thoughts on the in re Marriage Cases decision that was handed down yesterday in California.

Procedurally, the case is now remanded back to the Court of Appeals for action consistent with the Court’s opinion. Clearly, part of that action is the invalidation of the parts of the marriage law, both for in-state and for recognition of out-of-state marriages, which limit “marriage” to opposite-sex couples. Same-sex couples will be able to marry once the Court of Appeals takes action. What is less clear is the status of those who have entered into domestic partnerships under California law. The Court did not explicitly address the domestic partnership statutes in the final part of their decision. It’s now unclear how the Court of Appeals and/or the legislature will address the issue.

From my limited view of California law (culled pretty much entirely from the decision), part of the elligibility for a domestic partnership was inelligibility for marriage. If the courts were to read the new availability of marriage as invalidating current domestic partnerships without making the partners go through the usual 6 month process for dissolution of the partnership, that might not be a bad thing. What I don’t see them doing is automatically converting partnerships to marriages, at least not by the court alone. The legislature could make such a thing a possibility, and I would hope they would do so for partnerships where one of the partners has died (since other rights and responsibilities for partnerships were added retroactively even for partnerships where one member was deceased, according to the decision), but I would not impose the full structure of marriage on those who entered into a partnership without their express consent.

The other thorny issue is those partnerships where the main reason was for support of the elderly, and not for “marriage light.” Not even going to touch that one, but it would be good if they kept that part of the partnership law in place.

In any case, those folks who are in valid domestic partnerships under California law now find themselves in a legal limbo, not knowing where they’re going to come out. Will the courts declare them de facto married? Will their partnerships get dissolved without being married? Will they have to go through the six month process to dissolve the partnership in order to get married? The Court didn’t address this, which was a weakness of the decision, in my opinion.

The other interesting note in the decision was the Court’s explanation of how the Governor was correct to veto the two attempts by the legislature to pass full gay marriage statutes. In essence, because Prop 22 was passed by initiative and because it did not allow for the legislature to change the law without putting the change to a vote, as is required by the California constitution. The statutes would not have been upheld by the courts, and as such the Governor was simply exercising his constitutional duty to veto legislation which he (properly) did not feel was constitutional. See footnotes 16-17 and the surrounding text. Knowing that puts his veto in a much better light, especially viewed together with his opposition to the current attempt to amend the state constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples.

I won’t get into the classification of “sexual orientation” as a suspect class under California law except to say, “Wow, that was unexpected, yet quite, quite cool.” Smarter folks than I would better address all of the ramifications of that.

15 May, 2008


Category: Law,Queer — Moose @ 1:40 pm

The slip opinion (.pdf file there) of the California Supreme Court in in re Marriage Cases is a doozy – 172 pages.

But let me tell you, reading the summary in the first 11-12 pages is a joy.


Category: Law,Mood,Politics,Queer — Moose @ 10:32 am

I feel irrationally nervy about today’s announcement from the California Supreme Court in their consolidated same-sex marriage cases.

16 April, 2008

Looking Up

Category: BC,Biking,Law,Motivation,Running,Work — Moose @ 8:55 pm

Promised myself yesterday that I’d allow myself to sleep in this morning so I’d be better rested for the meeting on the Hill, and I’d head home and do my long run after work. Did the sleeping in, did the meeting (which went fairly well, all things considered), got home and almost wussed out on the run. Quickly decided that I wasn’t feeling blah, I was just feeling lazy, and that wasn’t a good enough excuse not to run, so off I went. Shaved 4 minutes off the 6.6 mile loop I’m currently using for my long run, which felt pretty good.

After the meeting on the Hill and subsequent conversations with my various supervisors, I feel like I have a better grasp on what I’m doing to tighten up this memo. Tomorrow is all about editing and tightening, so it should be interesting. I think we’ve tracked it all down, we just have to do more than just describe the law now (synthesis!).

BC arrived safely in England and seems to be happy to being visiting his relatives there. That was happy news via SMS this morning.

Hopefully it’ll be warm enough in the morning to ride.