Giving Thanks

boys walking

I have been quite a laggard in postings. My apologies to my loyal reader. As the turkey roasts, I am thinking about the thanks I am giving.

  • I am thankful that the 17-year-old hooked me up with my new favorite band. Great music to prep Thanksgiving Dinner by.
  • I am thankful that the Spouse has cooked dinner pretty much every night since September 15. AND has done the dishes, too.
  • I am thankful that the 14-year-old has introduced me to the FIERCE sport of wrasslin’. Little girls cried during the last meet. Fierce, I tell you.
  • I am thankful for working in the Bush administration. Without those guys, I would have never learned new levels of tolerance–and never loved so many Republicans. Yes, they are people, too.
  • I am thankful that we have good health insurance, didn’t get dumb in the mortgage market, live within our means and have stable jobs. I pray that the new guys–with our help–make changes so that more people can give this set of thanks next year.
  • I am thankful for Facebook. Sounds dumb, but it’s like living in a far-flung dorm–low pressure way to be in the lives of people you care about. (Sibling, get on the stick!)
  • I am thankful that my mother is a fighter. She has been in rehab 3 times over the past year, after a fall, a broken ankle, and then major GI surgery. Each time we worried that she might be too tired to push her 85-year-self through rehab. And each time she proves us wrong.
  • I am thankful that I have the best spouse, kids and dog in the whole wide world. Bar none. No one can dispute this. Don’t even try.

And I am thankful to you, my loyal reader. I write this mostly for me, but am thankful that you take some of your time to think with me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’

No, not THIS Michael Jackson, but the one from homeland securitySo, another top, highly paid official is leaving the Bush Administration, because he needs to make more money. This is on the heels of Tony Snow, recently White House Press Secretary, who left earlier this month because he “ran out of money.” He said he took out a loan to make ends meet, and can’t support his family of five on $168,000. That’s more money than 93% of U.S. households earn each year.

So now, another public servant who has been sucking $168,000 out of the federal trough has also had to give up public service.

“The simple truth, however, is that after over five years of serving with the president’s team, I am compelled to depart for financial reasons that I can no longer ignore.”

What is this guy saying? He is compelled to depart for financial reasons he can’t ignore? Hunh? Can’t live within his significant means? This is a guy that was called “whip smart when it came to budget and operational details, a real manager.” Yet he can’t figure out how to live on a salary higher than 9 out of 10 Americans. Like does he gamble? Lose a bunch of money in the stock market? In over his head with a subprime mortgage? Owe money to a loan shark? Bought alot of travel on his credit cards?

Or maybe he lost everything in Katrina and is suffering from a slow recovery process. Oh wait, it was his department that caused that whole mess. Enough worry about Katrina victims when you are having your own money trouble. Yeah, go get another job.

Sir, Yes Sir

Prince Humperdinck from the Princess Bride. He is an arrogant man, not used to being trifled withOccasionally, my job duties include trying to save my organization from itself. Bad decisions or worse implementations. Times when people who are extremely well-qualified to practice law decide that they are therefore well-qualified to do everyone else’s job, too. Like, they made it through Harvard Law, so how hard could it be to to engineer the space shuttle?

This afternoon, I had a first-time visit from a “senior counselor” to the big cheese. It had to do with recommendations I made for a project. Turns out that he didn’t think my recommendations would fly. Not that they were bad, but that they flew in the face of what the Man wanted. I proceeded to restate my case for the good of the organization.

“Wow,” he said. “This is really refreshing.”

I didn’t know where this was going.

“Really refreshing. Usually, people just say ‘yessir!’,” and he shook his head. He wasn’t mad, just bemused.

The 15-year-old thinks that the guy went home and said to his wife, “I think that is the first time that someone disagreed with me.”

Somehow I don’t think that I will be rewarded for being the first.

In or Out?

It’s like the cool kids. The “in” crowd. The OC or Beverly Hills 90210. The ones that the high-school Alphas take into their circle. You know, like the Bushies.

Between shutting out career Justice Department lawyers, inexperienced appointees at NASA telling scientists what to say, putting political appointees in charge of all regulatory policy undercutting career staff and experts, and, overall, increasing the number of Schedule C–political appointments the wagons are circled tightly.

Today’s WashPost and others report that Monica Goodling–former Justice Department official and of the 5th Amendment fame–may have questioned applicants for career jobs about their political affiliation. I guess she was thinking, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Or something.

It’s very discouraging for career civil servants to be ignored. Not invited to meetings. Not consulted or overridden in their areas of expertise by inexperienced political hacks. To be told by a senior agency official, “I don’t know you [federal worker], but I trust the political appointee to my right” really makes for a bad meeting.

Lots of the Politicals are terrific public servants. But if the main qualification for critical jobs, like rebuilding Iraq, is ties to the Bush-Cheney campaign, something is amiss. If leaders in political jobs do not trust career staff, if career staff are seen as lazy bureaucrats, if career staff are outside of the decision making process we have government by the seat of our pants and government being pulled out of a youthful buttocks. Oh, and wasting a bunch of resource$$.

Ultimately, the important work of governing suffers. The Bushie A-Team is long gone, and many agencies are being led by the 5th stringers or vacancies. Yet there is work to be done–in education, health care, terrorism response, information sharing, the environment, poverty eradication, immigration reform, international relations, support for returning and especially injured veterans and much more.

But it looks like we might have to wait for the remaining Bushies to vacate their posts. What a shame when there are so many good people–many of them career civil servants who are also Democrats, Republicans, Independents or Other –who are so ready to do real work.

High school is over! The OC and Beverly Hills 90210 have been cancelled.

Toles Cartoon (c) Wash Post