The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The civil service, or how to stay out of the slammer, in one easy lesson

My apologies for being nearly invisible here for the past few weeks, but the best laid plans of mice and men aft times gang agley, as Robert Burns put it. Life has a nasty way of imposing its own demands on one’s writing schedule, whether you want it to or not, or even if you know what agley means or not; I know I don’t.  This morning my co-workers here at the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread reminded me that I have been laboring here for my daily bread  for twenty-six years, yesterday being the anniversary of the inglorious day that I first wandered into this dump as an employee.  This, plus the fact that we have had a slew of recent retirements here, now means that I have been laboring here longer than anyone else has been laboring here, which in itself, apart from the actual number of years I’ve been doing this, is pretty damn depressing.  Combined with the actual chronology, it was enough to make me vaguely suicidal in an annoyed sort of way. I tamped down quickly on my immediate urge to sever an artery with my own teeth and went out for some pizza.  There’s not much that a nice hot slice of pizza can’t make better, and if can’t actually make it better, pizza makes the bad news seem less depressing.  I’m thinking of wangling the pizza concession on the Day of Judgment; I figure the saved will like a nice hot slice to celebrate and the damned will need something to lift their spirits before they become toast on a more or less eternal basis. 

In any case, I should point out that twenty-six years in the civil service has convinced of one great lesson: no matter how well you’ve covered your ass, you can always cover it better.  This leads inevitably to the scandals the Internal Revenue Service has gotten itself embroiled in.  If we listen to the big shots in Washington, the targeting of the Tea Party in particular and the American conservative movement in general was just something those crazy kids out in Cincinnati dreamt up all by their lonesomes without any sort of input from the head honchos, and especially without the input of anyone within breathing distance of the former junior Senator from Illinois.  Yes sirree, no one here in Washington was involved at all.  Cincinnati is out there in flyover country, Mr. Chairman, and flyover country is a nice place to visit, or so people have told me who’ve been there, but I’ve never been there myself and I’ve never talked to anyone who has.  They do strange things out there in the Ohio River valley and it may be the fault of the funguses.  I have to tell my rheumatologist if I ever want to go to the Ohio River Valley because there are funguses there that might interfere with my medication, so no, I couldn’t tell you why those people out there might want to do this sort of thing.  It’s Ohio, Mr. Chairman, and they do things differently out there.

The problem with blaming the frontline civil servants is this: it’s bullshit.  Sorry if that offends, but after twenty-six years here I can tell you that no one, but no one, at the frontline level of the civil service, even someone in as small a shop as my egregious mold pit, sticks their neck out like this without someone higher up in the food chain telling them to do so.  The only times I have ever gotten my ass chewed out big time here is when I cut people slack I shouldn’t have in direct violation of the policies spelled out in our staff manual.  It is inconceivable to me that long-time civil servants working at the Federal level in an agency like the IRS just did this because it seemed like a good idea at the time and because they didn’t like the political opinions of the applicants; their jobs do not include vetting groups on the basis of partisan politics; civil servants are not, or at least they shouldn’t be, in the business of helping one party or another win elections.  No, the only, and I mean the only, way the people in Cincinnati did this is because their politically appointed bosses in Washington wanted this to happen, and they only way those bosses gave them these orders is because they got the approval from the top.  There may not be a smoking gun in this case, but there is no possible way that people at the frontline, the middle management, and the top tiers all decided to break the law and suppress the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of Americans without our erstwhile Illinois Incitatus and his clique of Chicago political thugs giving them the go-ahead.  Civil servants do not think outside the box, folks, we are one with the box, we are in psychic unity with the box, we are the box. We don’t do things that can cost us our jobs, our pensions, and land our sorry asses in prison spontaneously. We just don’t, that’s all.

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