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Making the Green Zone a Better Place

Yes, It's Lonely at the Top -- but Lucrative

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has ordered more bunkers to help Green Zone occupants master
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has ordered more bunkers to help Green Zone occupants master "duck and cover." (By John Moore -- Getty Images)

Seems that almost all Senior Executive Service employees in the federal government are getting an "outstanding" or "exceeds expectations" rating these days, entitling them to bonuses of many thousands of dollars.

The bonus program, which was set up to reward top-performing executives, "is beginning to look a lot like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon," said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), "where all the children are above average." Dorgan has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate, because "we need to figure out how it got so far off track and fix it."

Actually, it's way better than those kids do. An Office of Personnel Management Survey, Dorgan noted, found that at the politically astute General Services Administration, more than 97 percent of SES folks got bonuses, which averaged nearly $13,000. Only 80 percent of their counterparts at that well-oiled machine known as the Veterans Affairs Department got bonuses, but those averaged $16,626 -- about a 10 percent salary boost.

Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! Well, No.

Speaking of the State Department, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte decided to contract out rather than take part in the annual cabaret foolishness in Manila at the Association of South East Asian Nations meetings, where the various foreign ministers dress up and perform.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice couldn't stand these things and would go anywhere, even to the Middle East, to avoid them. So former deputy secretary Robert "Pavarotti" Zoellick gamely sang "My Darling Clementine" a couple years ago.

But at this week's meeting -- where Japan's foreign minister dressed as a samurai, Australia's sang "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and Russia's Sergey Lavrov wore beach clothing to skewer having to attend -- Negroponte contracted out his performance to professional Filipino singers, who did Broadway tunes.

Not even a little tap-dancing?

Just Sign Right Here, Senator

Hmmm . . . An Associated Press story about a Justice Department investigation of Sen. Ted Stevens's dealings with a wealthy Alaska contractor said an aide, Barbara Flanders, a financial clerk for Stevens on the Senate Commerce Committee, testified before a grand jury in recent weeks.

"Flanders is a longtime aide who helps ensure that Stevens's bills are paid and his personal affairs are in order," AP reported, citing an attorney involved in the case. She was questioned about a home-improvement project and "how the bills were paid."

So do senators have aides handling their bills? Stevens denied any wrongdoing, and Flanders told the wire service: "I work for the Commerce Committee. I don't have any comment on other issues."

Life's a Beach, Even at Guantanamo

And this job opening on Craigslist yesterday:

"Reply to: Great Opportunity for Student taking on-line classes or anyone who wants quiet time to read and hang out at the beach!


* We are looking for a reliable and responsible person with basic office/administrative skills to TDY for 6 months in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and if all parties agree at the end of 6 months contract may be extended. Full-time position with large international company and benefits! If you can read, write, answer a phone, work a fax & basic office equipment then you are qualified. Must have active TS clearance. The work is an EASY 8 hours/day and is 6-7 days/wk. Time to read/study at work. Must show up for work on-time every day. Pay {tilde}$3500/month."

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