HTTP Error 404: Jobs not found

Al Kamen
Columnist October 20, 2011

As President Obama was leading a much-ballyhooed bus tour to promote the creation of American jobs, a glitch back at home raised questions about the government’s job-filling capabilities.

“We need to put people back to work right now!” Obama told a cheering crowd in North Carolina.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Well, maybe not exactly now. Depends on what the meaning of now is.

Leaving aside the question of whether Obama’s plan would actually create new jobs in the private sector, the government couldn’t even manage to offer desperate, unemployed voters the chance to apply for public-sector jobs. That’s because USAJobs, a Web site overseen by the Office of Personnel Management that acts as a clearinghouse for federal job postings, repeatedly crashed and malfunctioned while Obama’s bus merrily rolled along.

The site’s bugs started when the OPM relaunched it Oct. 11 after ending a long-running contract with Monster.com, which had actually operated much of the site, our colleague Emily Heil reports.

The resulting technological breakdown threw job seekers into a frenzy, and many took to Facebook to vent their frustrations. A sample:

“How come i can neve get in??? always says it too busy”

“This is a lesson in ‘if it aint broke’ . . . ”

“Maybe the Feds have stopped hiring people and the new website is a ruse.”

The OPM countered with a couple of awkward YouTube videos this week explaining that they’re adding more servers to handle increased traffic and asking users to keep trying.

In a gesture of patriotic magnanimity (or just savvy marketing), Monster offered to let government agencies list jobs on its own site free of charge — for a month.

“As a public service, we’re offering these free postings to ease the burden during the transition and to help connect federal agency employers to qualified talent,” the company’s president said in a news release.

Timing is everything

Patton Boggs, the law and lobbying firm, had long planned to throw a little fete Thursday night in honor of Ali Suleiman Aujali , Libya’s ambassador to the United States.

But the event at the firm’s offices took on new meaning Thursday when Aujali’s old boss, longtime Loop favorite Moammar Gaddafi, was killed as revolutionaries stormed his last stronghold.

The deposed dictator’s death just hours before the canapes were to be passed around makes Aujali one of the biggest “gets” in town — and gives the revelers an even bigger reason to celebrate.

Though the new government in Tripoli is only a few months old, Aujali is no stranger to Washington — he was, for years, Gaddafi’s envoy to the United States. Aujali switched over to the opposition early on, as soon as Gaddafi started killing peaceful demonstrators.

The reception invite promised “hors d’oeuvres and refreshments” while power brokers toast regime change and possible financial opportunities.

Party on . . .

News from Libya’s neighbor

Speaking of Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who gets much credit as the key administration advocate for U.S. action in Libya, was in Malta on Tuesday to chat with government officials, inaugurate the new U.S. Embassy and announce the nomination of a new ambassador, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, a career diplomat whose posts have included high-level jobs in the Middle East.

The new ambassador would replace Douglas Kmiec, a prominent Catholic law professor who worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations but backed Obama in 2008. Kmiec resigned this year after an inspector general’s report criticized him for emphasizing religion instead of diplomatic matters.

Malta has become a critical jumping-off point for U.S. efforts in Libya, which is only a couple of hundred miles away.

The gavel comes down

An excellent junket for federal judges is no more. The controversial Foundation for Research on Economics and Environment (FREE) — which since the early ’90s has taken hundreds of federal judges to beautiful Montana for a week of what critics called corporation-funded wining, dining and bemoaning the evils of environmental laws — is closing up shop.

The head of the foundation has decided to no longer invite the judges, Legal Times reported this week. The “handwriting had been on the wall” in recent years, said Doug Kendall, head of the pro-environment Constitutional Accountability Center, which has been leading opposition to FREE’s program.

In 2006, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. approved rules requiring FREE to disclose its corporate donors and judges who go to the seminars to report them within 30 days. In addition, a judicial ethics committee ruled that judges couldn’t sit on FREE’s board. The moves may have put too much sunlight on the junkets.

Not to despair. Black-robed folks looking for free junkets and cash can still give speeches at international or national conventions, universities, and other fine venues.

Call the Keystone Kops

Paging Sherlock Holmes. It’s the Case of the Vanishing Comments at the State Department.

Seems a batch of letters criticizing construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline have gone MIA. The Sierra Club electronically submitted the missives this summer to a contractor conducting an environmental review of the project at the State Department’s direction.

But enviros were surprised when the contractor, Cardno Entrix, claimed to have received only about 180,000 comments opposing the project. The club maintains that its members and those of its allies alone had submitted nearly 270,000.

That means about 90,000 have vanished — perhaps bungled, perhaps digitally purloined?

Critics, including the Sierra Club, wonder whether Cardno Entrix may be too cozy with TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline.

Cardno Entrix said it doesn’t take press calls — probably because reporters make fun of its name — and referred us to the State Department. A spokesman there said that if the Sierra Club could show that it made the comments in time, it would include them in the record officials will use to make the decision.

Still, the missing comments, critics say, are par for the course.

“We’re looking at mismanagement,” a Sierra Club official said. “Bordering on something that really smells funky.”

The game’s afoot!

New blood at OMB

The Senate on Thursday confirmed the long-stalled nomination of White House aide, Heather Higginbottom , a longtime aide to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Higginbottom’s January nomination had been stalled by objections from various GOP senators and most recently by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who, a spokesman said, wanted the OMB to move on publishing Iran-sanctions regulations.

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