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How appropriate!  The Department of Homeland Security is about to choose the location for its headquarters facility, and it has apparently decided on St. Elizabeth's Hospital, which began life over 150 years ago as the Governor Hospital for the Insane and then became the United States Government Hospital for the Insane.  Its most notable resident at the moment is John W. Hinckley, the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan.

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that:

Federal officials are looking to move some of the Department of Homeland Security offices to the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in Southeast Washington, a plan that would create a massive federal facility and possibly relocate thousands of regional employees.  Federal agencies could eventually occupy as much as 4.5 million square feet on the west campus of St. Elizabeths, a historic site with breathtaking views of downtown, according to the General Services Administration and city officials involved in the effort. In comparison, the Pentagon has a floor area of 6.5 million square feet.

Okay, so, this doesn't deserve to be on the recommended list, so please don't recommend it, but I think it's worthy of a diary.  I posted it as a downthread comment on an open thread, haven't seen it elsewhere, and think it deserves a bit more exposure.

Without denigrating current and/or former psychiatric patients (a category which includes some of my closest friends), this is not just a psychiatric facility.  It is an old-style "insane asylum."  Throughout the Capital region, people joke with each other "you're acting like you should be in St. Elizabeth's!"  St. Elizabeth's is a euphemism for insanity.

We have a tendency in Washington to refer to Government entities by the areas in which they are located.  So, for instance, the State Department is colloquially referred to as "Foggy Bottom" (which is funny enough by itself).  Congress is colloquially referred to as "Capitol Hill" or simply "the Hill."  People speak of the State Department's actions as coming from Foggy Bottom:  "Foggy Bottom clarified its position on North Korea today."

So how appropriate, then, that we may soon be able to refer to the Department of Homeland Security as "St. Elizabeth's" and to any decisions it makes as coming from St. Elizabeth's, as in:  "St. Elizabeth's announced today that awarding the ports contract to a firm controlled by a country that helped to finance the 9/11 attacks was perfectly reasonable."

Originally posted to DC Pol Sci on Sat Mar 11, 2006 at 10:11 AM PST.

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