Skip to main content

I've spent the past 20 years of my life working in government, at all levels, mostly in the state of Texas, where I achieved the highest position one can achieve without being elected to office.  I'm a proud Yellow Dog of the old school and for the last three years I've been in Washington.  Washington politics works radically different than the way we do things back in Austin.  Not better, not worse...but different.

And though I'm an old hand at making things work in government, coming to Washington and learning a new game has been a culture shock to me.  I never realized how little Americans really know about how this town works (and doesn't work).  Even those of us that are politically savvy cannot really appreciate the Washington process until we've lived.  

For your information - and for my own catharsis - this is the first in an occasional series of diaries on my life in the Beltway.  

I work for a large government agency.  It doesn't matter which one - nor does it really matter what my position is.  However, let's just say it's not the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and I'm not a janitor.  

The first thing you need to know about Washington, DC is that it's a closed system.  There might as well be sentries stationed at the Beltway entrance ramps to keep out the influx of non-Washington thinking...and people.  Washington likes to present itself as an expansive cosmopolitan city, like the other great capitals of the world, but's it's not.  It's essentially an artificial city-state.  As we all know, it was built on a swamp on some real estate nobody wanted - but which was close enough to George Washington's personal estates to allow him to make mad cash off of the place, as a partner in the local brick works, canal, etc.  The city was literally built on a tradition of using government largesse to pad private account books.  

The Washington of the 18th and 19th centuries was nothing like the Washington of today.  Old Washington was seedy and dirty.  It was a working city - a hot, nasty "hard duty" station, filled with half built buildings, chop houses, a smelly canal, hookers, and mosquitos.  The Washington of today is really the Washington of FDR and JFK.  Franklin, for the most part, built all the modern buildings that give Washington it's look as a world capital and Jack cleaned up the city.  He got the strip clubs off Pennsylvania Avenue and made Foggy Bottom the kind of place elites wanted to live in.  

Washington's heydey was the 1950's.  That's when it hit its highwater mark as the nerve center of the Free World's Cold War against international Communism.  And the 1950's is where Washington has remained.  It's still a place where young men wear seersucker suits and bow ties, with short sleeved button-down shirts.  Women still wear dark dress suits with pearls.  Avoiding the use of "new technology" is seen as something that's desirable.  My office, for instance, didn't get desktop computers until the mid-1990's - and the ones we currently have aren't even fit for word processing.  Obama is the first president to use a laptop and Blackberry routinely.  And the Oval Office still doesn't have a proper computer.  Writing out your work on legal pads is not seen as ineffecient, but as an heroic defiance of the onslaught of the outside world.  

Washington is a sleepy town - a working town.  It's one of the world's top tourist attractions, but the people who live and work in Washington float above all that.  After six months in the city, the tourists become invisible...the streets might as well be empty.  You begin to learn which bars and coffee shops the tourists don't go to.  A few local pub owners pride themselves on being "for the locals" and are actively hostile to tourists.  (Pro Tip: The Post Pub across from the Washington Post building is the bar you go to if you want old Washington.  Obvious tourists might not be served.)  

Locals learn to visit the Monuments at night and the Smithsonian - never.  Most government workers don't live in DC and commute in (hence the traffic and crowded trains.)  Others have weekend houses in their home states or at Cape Cod or the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I confess to being a weekend Pennsylvanian, myself.  In short, Washington empties out at night.  Downtown is the sole domain of tourists and drunken interns by 8pm.  

The best analogy for Washington is the French royal palace and estate of Versailles during that nation's ancien regime. The French monarchs decided the best way to manage their unruly aristocrats was to gather them altogether in a single artifical city, isolate them, and keep an eye on them.  As such, the government became insulated to the uncomfortable reality outside.  

The Washington Caste System

Understanding how Washington works means understanding that it functions based on a caste system - an aristocracy, if you will - just like old Versailles.  Though the President, on paper, is co-equal with Congress and the SCOTUS, Washington is the President's town.  Virtually everyone here works for him and the Executive Branch has, by far, the largest footprint in town.  Capital Hill is thought of merely as an enclave into which one "must go" on unpleasant errands.  It's rare when government workers revolve their jobs through the three branches.  

The Inner Sanctum

At the center of Washington sits the White House.  It occupies the heart of town like a spider in the middle of its web.  A lot of people work "for the White House,"  but that doesn't always mean what it sounds like it means.  You can work "for the White House" and never set foot in that building.  The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, for example, is filled with "White House staffers" - most of whom will never catch a wiff of Obama's aftershave.  

One can measure one's level of power in Washington by the location of one's office and, literally, by the location of one's parking spot.  If you can pull your car through the secure White House gate, park, and walk directly into the West Wing annex, then you are, truly, a person of immense power.  This power is derived, quite simply, from your access to the president and his immediate staff.  Your influence, literally, is derived from your proximity to the Boss.  

I plan to write a further diary later on about exactly how this sytem works.  But in short, power is derived in Washington based on your access to higher levels of power.  If you can get your ideas, your white papers, and your memos into the hands of important people - then you can be said to have power.  You can be a high ranking appointee and not have an ounce of influence, or you can be a middling level civil servant and have virtually unlimited access.  It's all based on how you play the game.

Dukes and Lords

In the wake of 9-11, the question on everyone's lips was: why can't agencies in Washington communicate?  Why can't the FBI, the CIA, and NSA all talk to each other?  Simple.  Every government agency is it's own fiefdom.  Each agency is run by a presidential appointee who acts as the the President's viceroy within that agency.  They have near absolute power to run their little kingdom as they see fit.  And, with their advice and consent, the president then appoints a full roster of "Senior Executive Service" staffers who are placed in the leadership roles of these agencies.  

These "SES'ers" make up the ranks of department heads, chiefs, special advisors, special assistants, etc.  They are typically harvested from the ranks of the senior civil service (Grades GS 13-15) or, in rarer cases, from outside the government.  They tend to be appointed to their position at a time when their personal politics and outlook are favored by the sitting administration - though they may hold these positions through multiple administrations, regardless of political change.  A good SES'er, once they achieve that position, learns quickly the art of garnering favor with whatever administration runs Washington.  In all honesty, it's too heavy a task to completely clean house on all presidentially appointed positions every four or eight years.  

Each SES'er tends to view their little area of the government as its own microcosm of the larger government as a whole.  Like a feudal lord, they're allowed to do their own thing - paint the walls how they like, use software that may or may not be standard, hire contractors (or not) to perform certain functions, etc.  As a result, the whole government is essentially stovepiped.  Because there is no uniformity or standardization across the board in any single agency, there can be no uniformity across the whole of government.  As a result, agencies can't be expected to "talk" to one another because offices within those agencies don't even "talk" to one another.  

The Squires

At the bottom of the governmental hierarchy is the career civil service staff.  This is the "meat and taters" of government - the people who do the work.  They are hired based on a rigorous process of competition (which, incidentally, is weighted heavily towards favoring military veterans) based on their skillset.  The upper levels of the civil service have the same pay cap as SES staff members (though they cannot compete for the HUGE cash awards SES'ers are allowed access to).  So you can go through your entire career as a civil servant, make just as much money, and have just as much influence as an appointee without the added risk of being able to be easily fired.  As a result, the civil service is a deeply entrenched institution.  To run the government effeciently - to get things done - no matter who the president is, they have to have the support of the civil service.  

Civil Servants are good people...they're the "working class" of Washington.  They tend to lean Democratic because, except at agencies like the FBI or the Pentagon that favor authoritarian employees in the first place, Dems are favorable to supporting the government.  There is however, an argument that the mandate to give veteran's preference in civil service hiring is actually a backdoor attempt to force the civil service further to the right, politically.  

Civil servants have the power of the purse and the power of boots on the ground.  A powerful civil servant that runs a procurement office or a human resources department can cause any given agenda item that comes within their sphere of influence to crash and burn.  Or they can back it, fund it, and support it, making it a huge success.  In short, White House administrations that shit on government workers often find it hard to get government workers to do their bidding - and they have virtually no power to fire and replace them.  

NGO's

Non-governmental Institutions.  Lobbiests.  Public interest firms.  Concerned citizens groups.  These organizations are the bread and butter of Congress and a huge pain in the ass for the Executive Branch.  They get their agenda passed by pouring unheard of amounts of cash, prime rib, and golf into Congress.  Congress loves money, steak, and fucking off on the links more than their own mothers and are, frankly, bought cheap.  However, these organizations have far more limited power to influence the Executive Branch, due to lobbying restrictions.  Therefore, their power is derived from the "power of the threat."  They can continually threaten to sick their buddies in Congress and in the press on the Executive Branch at any time if they don't get their way. NGO's that are good at this are to be feared, others are typically just ignored.  If you want to start an NGO that "gets shit done" you come to the table with big money and you don't act coy about spending it.  

The Media

It's an utter myth that the Washington press corps is somehow a check on the government.  It IS the government.  They office out of our buildings, eat lunch with us, marry us (or hop into our beds), go out drinking with us, and get damn near every piece of "news" they print from the mouth of one of their booze buddies.  Andrea Mitchell, for example, is the archetype of the Washington media insider.  She's married to one of the most powerful men in this town, goes to all the elite parties, can walk in any agency like an employee, and yet puts forward the facade of an objective journalist.  No way.  An inside the Beltway journalist is just as much a part of the government as a senior White House staffer.  They're not a check on the system at all, merely an extension of it.  

This was one of the more shocking aspects of Washington life that I became aware of.  In the Lone Star State - we didn't trust the media.  We didn't like them.  We didn't let them office out of our buildings.  We didn't eat out with them.  When they were around we kept our mouths shut.  The media was meant to be avoided, unless they were needed as a means of getting some kind of agenda item "out there."  Not so in Washington.  The media, here, is an integrated part of the government itself.  And the only requirement to being a successful member of the press corps is that you're willing to kiss the ring of whomever has power - regardless of which party is holding it.  

*

That's a "lite" summary of the lay of the land in Washington.  These are the players.  In subsequent diaries I'll be discussing how all these groups interact to get things done - or to avoid doing things.  We've already touched on the question of access as the route to power.  Next time we'll go into how that works, as I take you inside the cocktail party circuit and we look in on "the daily briefing."    

Originally posted to CrazyHorse on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 09:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Word (10+ / 0-)
    An inside the Beltway journalist is just as much a part of the government as a senior White House staffer.  They're not a check on the system at all, merely an extension of it.
  •  wow ... I knew Washington was fucked up, but wow (7+ / 0-)

    So how do we change all of this?  It took a bloody revolution to get rid of the real Versailles ... though Japan's imperial court actually preferred cocktail parties to politics and couldn't have held onto power even if they'd cared to.

    To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

    by Visceral on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 11:01:48 AM PDT

    •  I'll probably do a summary... (24+ / 0-)

      ...diary on what you could do to change it.  In all honesty, there's some simple fixes but some which would be, on the surface, very painful.  Here's my take.

      1) Expand the civil service.  There are too many appointed positions which require Congressional approval and which are political.  These are jobs which are workaday and should go to the "best qualified."  Obama has requested this, but it's a non-starter.  

      2) Seriously curtail government contractors.   There are huge sectors of the government - the Pentagon, for instance - which is so beholden to contractors they have the audacity to order their eployees to campaign for a candidate like Romney so they can keep their jobs.  Contractor work can and should be done - more cheaply - by government employees.  Contract companies act as a fifth column within the government to enhance the power of lobbyists and undermine reform.

      3)  Enhance diversity.  Washington hires people who went to school at a select number of East Coast uni's:  Harvard, Yale, Columbia, GWU, Georgetown, and Columbia.  Those school act like an annex for most DC agencies.  As a result they crank out an elitist population that feeds on itself.  It's not keyed in to the real needs of Americans and, therefore, it tends to enhance the climate of out-of-touch Washington.  Hiring state school grads (like me) and people who didn't grow up in Washington would be a major start.  This town desperately needs new blood.  

      4)  Media outlets need to reform how they do business and how they have a relationship with government.  They need to be advocates for the people - they need to almost have a hostile attitude toward government to cover this beat.  No reporter should be on the Washington beat more than three years.  They're too easily bought off.  Why media nurses this system is beyond me.  

      5)  Lobby reform.  Enough said.  It's a mess.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:03:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great, great post... (16+ / 0-)

        I'm a little afraid to reveal too much of my own thoughts on this for fear of recrimination, but I came to D.C. a few years ago, and I've never read a more accurate, eloquent description of the culture and structure of this city. This diary, and this comment on some much needed reforms/changes, do an excellent job of not only pointing out some relatively well-known cultural aspects of D.C., but highlight the implications for governmental functions, democratic governance, and the well-being of the rest of the country that rarely get attention.

        Since moving here, my friend and I often lament the apparent lack of conviction, philosophic depth, and self-awareness that comes from the professionals of the city. The people we meet go through great lengths to maintain an apolitical facade, hesitate to discuss anything remotely controversial, stick to beltway media scripted analysis and talking points for conversation, and suffer from a truly stunning amount of group-think (seriously, it sometimes feels city-wide). Few if any even pause to contemplate absurdity, corruption, and fallacy of the systems in which they participate (and often profit from). This particularly applies to contractors.

        I can only describe my experience of moving here as shifting from a naive attempt to answer a calling to work on important policy issues to craft solutions to many of the nation's problems into a depressed realization that the nation's capital is truly run by a narcissistic elite that runs from apathetic to sociopathic (with only a minority of decision-makers truly dedicated to public service). And the twenty-somethings that will inherit this place are even scarier. Typically status-obsessed, under-informed, superficial people whose entire motivation for living in working in the city seems built around Facebook and Twitter status brags to the people back home.

        Anyway, I completely understand and can relate to the culture shock, that's for sure, and it makes me feel much better knowing that I am not alone. An interesting piece of DC for your next diary would be the non-government related locals, the people who have been in DC for decades and typically remain an unnoticed, invisible, permanent underclass living in serf-like servitude to the rest of the city. They seem particularly cheated by the city-state status of the District.

  •  Great Diary (8+ / 0-)

    I've been aware of this fiefdom mentality for some years now, it happens all the way down that stove pipe even to the ending of the program hierarchy.

    I work for a PHA and see it at the regional agency level.

    The joke is, you can do whatever you want and never get fired. But the minute you disrespect someone? Goner.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:47:15 PM PDT

  •  I haven't seen many bowties at all around here, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ConfusedSkyes, Larsstephens

    and I'm the only one I know who wears them. Oxford dress shirts do seem to be the majority, but not with short sleeves; MOF, I still remember one sweltering day when I was walking downtown, trailing puddles of sweat, and marveling that the suited hordes I encountered didn't seem to be sweating at all.

    What other LIBERAL LIES do you have? (just read a bit of some infuriating a-hole's comments about how LIBS lie with every dreath they take.)

  •  Might one wonder if the fate of the US royalty (6+ / 0-)

    may be presaged in the fate of the royalty that hung out at Versailles, back in the day of "Apres moi le deluge" and "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche?" One has to ask if there is a prayer of "reforming" this enormity, short of walling in the place and cutting off all access to the "mother's milk" that keeps it going -- the real wealth that so fractionally gets dispensed back to the rest of us for the stuff we really need, after extracting a tranche, a mordida, that would make honest people gag and rise up if they saw the accounting.

    Not, of course, that anything much really changed for the sans-culottes, after the Terror and all that...

    Want another spyhole into how "policy" and "legislation" are really ground out? If you haven't already, look into Matt Taibbi's "The Great Derangement," for an honest and acute reporter's exposition of how it all really works. And follow that with a recursion to "La Nausee."

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 01:24:07 PM PDT

    •  I am... (10+ / 0-)

      ...well aware of both Matt and his work.  But that is a great resource and very informative.  

      The government has reformed before.  Chester Allen Arthur created the civil service to reform the spoils system.  TR and FDR both engaged in massive governmental reform.  

      I hate to chalk it up to one party, but we're in a Guilded Age situation where the GOP is not a good faith actor.  This was covered on Maddow last night - we have the worst Congress in the history of Congress and that can be laid at the door of the Republicans.  They aren't interested in anything but keeping their jobs and keeping the lobby cash flowing in.  The only way to break the lock on the way things are is going to be at the ballot box.  

      Sadly - that's the toughest place to make change.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 01:32:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do the Republicans make change? I thought they (0+ / 0-)

        just kept every dollar and junket that came their way. (Dem other people seem to do exactly the same.) Maybe if all the lobbyist has in the way of walking-around money is a $100,000 bill, and the intended bribe to get that billion-dollar earmark is only $50,000?

        Hate to be cynical, but given the way the "electorate" is managed and gerrymandered by really cynical and unfortunately too competent people of the Wrong persuasion, what's the hope of making the other kind of Change via the ballotbox? Not to say that Quixotic efforts are not warranted, however hopeless the situation.

        "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

        by jm214 on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 09:59:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes. A fraction being redisbursed in ways (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bnasley, Larsstephens, Corvinus, jm214

      that would really matter. So much squandered by the MIC.

  •  Cool! (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for the add to the Community Spotlight!  Glad people are finding this informative.  That gives me the "umf" to keep this series going!

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

    by CrazyHorse on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 01:36:47 PM PDT

  •  You move in much more rarified (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, Larsstephens

    circles than I ever did, CrazyHorse. In my small office I was somewhat aware of what you describe, but the tourist/local venues were not well known to us. Even higher grades than mine would dine in the Smithsonian members restaurant or the GSA cafeterias. The now defunct Reeves Restaurant was popular with both locals and tourists.

    To paraphrase Robin Leach, you describe a lifestyle I can only dream of.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 02:05:47 PM PDT

  •  Good on so many levels (10+ / 0-)

    I share many of the perspectives on this post, even though I was in government at a far lower level than the writer.  I still got to see the culture in action in my few years working in the State Department.

    The good part of my career was working in embassies overseas.  We still had to bow to and take care of the ambassadors -- who were, of course, never wrong -- but most of our days we were setting our own agendas and doing good work.

    SO here are the rules I developed to describe the Washington culture:

    1)  Any statement is judged and evaluated not by it's content, but by the status of the person making it.  We laugh at many of the obtuse and absurd things said by politicians and bureaucrats, but no one will question them to their face, if they have enough power.

    Violating this and other rules is why I never rose to a senior level.  I was in a meeting once, to review and approve an embassy action plan.  The first statement of the plan was, "We will focus on everything."  I read that and burst out laughing.  No one else in the room shared my humor; this was a statement from a political appointee ambassador, and not subject to question.

    2)  In any action, the goal is not achievement, but control.

    Example:  On the day of the 9/11 attacks, the only effective actions taken in our defense were by the heroic passengers who, alerted to what was going on by cell phone calls to loved ones, attacked the hijackers and crashed one plane before it could reach either the White House or Congress.  I later saw an action plan whose goal was to "control" communications and information in the event of another such attack.  It called for cutting off all cell phone service to ordinary citizens, so that such independent action could not happen again.

    After Katrina, everyone was saying that the problem was that senior managers were not available to approve and make decisions.  No.  The problem was that they had to; the career crisis managers who knew what to do and how to do it could not be trusted to make decisions themselves by the short-term political appointees.  This thinking is common every day, though not with such disastrous consequences.

    Well, there are many out there who can think of more, so I'll cut it off there.  And with another rule in my signature line :: :: ::

    In Washington, whenever anyone does something wrong, everyone else gets punished.

    by Noziglia on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 02:09:29 PM PDT

  •  More, please (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, Larsstephens, Corvinus, ybruti

    We need such rays of light.

    I keep in mind the assessment attributed to Jack Kennedy, that Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.

    Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today. -- James Dean

    by Mnemosyne on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 03:52:44 PM PDT

  •  Loved This (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, Larsstephens

    Though as a human being I have to add, please be cautious of this entirely pseudo-anonymous venue.

    Fascinating viewpoint aside, nicely written...carried me right along, it did (though...it's dark in here...those are eyes...help!).

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 04:55:56 PM PDT

    •  Really. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, salmo, Larsstephens, Corvinus

      It would be lovely to confess my sins in full view of all.  But I am not a journalist and I am not excited about losing my job.  So this level of amonymity is whay it's gonna take to get these written.  Obviously I am not gonna tell you anything that would violate my oath or security agreements.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 07:03:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent diary, very enlightening (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, Larsstephens

    and thats coming from an 'outsider', I live outside the beltway by about 10 miles. I grew up here and currently live here, but hardly ever go 'into' DC, except lately to attend a Nats game. I used to live in DC, late 80's and the worst thing to call someone was a 'tourist'...
    hehehe
    you're right, downtown is empty after dark. seems like everybody is a commuter.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

    by pickandshovel on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 05:19:57 PM PDT

  •  First-rate description and analysis... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, Larsstephens, native

    ...really looking forward to more.

    I put in 10+ years in the civil service and this rings true as a bell.   Don't have time to comment much tonight, but will definitely join in the discussion in future diaries.  

    I have a few "lessons learned" from the experience which I will also share.   But for now, just one.  I learned early on that a good day at work was one where I could stop something stupid from taking place.   And those weren't all that common.  The days I when I could actually see a positive impact from my efforts were even rarer.  

    This isn't quite as negative as it sounds.   Often enough, the task of the day was to keep the machine rolling along tracks that were - at least in my agencies and on my portfolios - more or less headed in the right direction.  And my civil service colleagues were - for the most part - dedicated, smart, and very hard working.  And since the work was highly collaborative, the fact that impact of individual efforts was not discernible is not entirely surprising.

    But the Executive Branch is not a set of change agents or agencies.   And the OP is right on about the peculiar folkways of power in this town.  

  •  Great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, native

    From a west coaster with no civil service experience whatsoever, this is extremely interesting and educational.

    More please!

    One question, are Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Chris Hayes and Ed Shultz insiders, outsiders or what? I generally consider them our only way of getting any real information.

    Try organic food, or as your grandparents called it, food.

    by madame damnable on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 08:58:14 PM PDT

    •  No. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native

      These people are not insiders.  Though I would say Chris Hayes is a "press" insider.  He has friends in the big media he can draw upon. Thom Hartmann and Ed Shultz are not taken seriously around these parts by anyone - they're considered the left equivalent of Rush and Beck.  And so was Olbermann, for that matter...someone you could reliably feed press to and get it out there to your base in a hurry.  

      Maddow is a different creature entirely - full disclosure: I love her.  Seriously, if I could hang with any member of the press it would be her.  But she's a partisan talker and not really considered a "journalist" - whatever that means.  And she GENERALLY does favorable news for the Dems.  But she is actually very smart, so you cannot use her show to spin bullshit.  It's not going to work.  And she is never anyone's first call.  Could she walk into an office around here and do a Big Get?  Hell no.  

      Beltway types live and die by the Washington Post.  I don't know why.  I have friends that work there (again, full disclosure.)  But man, it's an insider's paper.  Politico is on everyone's desk - because it's free.  It literally gets its influence from being free.  And it has an awesome employment section.  

      But I gotta be honest with you - in my building, everyone's TV is tuned to the BBC.  And that's true in most offices I visit.  Believe it or not, we need ACCURATE news to run the government and don't rely on our own.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 05:21:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Trenz Pruca (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, CrazyHorse

    Good Diary. I am looking forward to the follow-ups.

  •  Great diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CrazyHorse, native
    As we all know, it was built on a swamp on some real estate nobody wanted - but which was close enough to George Washington's personal estates to allow him to make mad cash off of the place
    Actually, the Algonquins were very happy with DC. It had nice alluvial dirt and a serious river system. There are still beavers trying to keep their habitat at the National Zoo.

    The DC Indians were hi falutin as 1st nations tribes go and had the national get together there for centuries before the white man messed it all up. Most of the mid Atlantic Indians were agrarian and stationary populations as opposed to the western migratory tribes.

    It was very nice real estate, and still is. The noveau powerful are creepers, real Washingtonians are great and unassuming and very down to earth. It's an amazing city with lots of hidden treasures.

    And I love the Smithsonian. My favorites are Natural History and the East Wing.

    •  I'm with you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native

      I love the city, too and I love the locals...though I am not and cannot ever be one.  I'm still outta the trailer of West Texas and I honestly prefer the Rust Belt cities of Pennsylvania to all this DC lifestyle.  

      I get your point about the Algonquins - of course the same could be said for ALL American real estate, not just DC.  If you want to see DC as they knew it, a visit to Roosevelt Island is a must.  But you get my drift.  They were LONG gone by 1790, having largely been pressured out in the very early 18th century.  Georgetown was here in 1751 and Alexandria and a number of other communities were extant as well.  

      Indeed, it was the swampy goodness of what is now downtown DC that lay open to development - and at the time, everyone knew it would take government money (swamps are people, my friend) to turn it into a city.  

      One of the least known markers in the city is a historical marker that is dedicated to the landowners who gave up their land to build the District.  People walk by it every day (it's between the Mall and the White House) and never see it.  

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 05:28:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  DC and surrounding areas were (0+ / 0-)

        the jewel of the First Nations. Not merely swamp. A river delta.

        It is one of the greenest cities on earth. I admit it has seen better days, frankly I am appalled that no maintenance has been done for years, because of the horrible Republicans. The Mall looks like crap.

        •  Actually, I think the Mall looks so much better... (0+ / 0-)

          ...Bush refused to fund the trash pick up and the re-seeding project and both of those things got done in Obama's first month on the job.  The DC WWI Peace Memorial has been redone and there's now a pleasant walkway up to it.  The King Memorial looks great and that part of the Tidal Basin is all cleaned up.  And the reflecting pool is undergoing a major rennovation.  They also recently announced a plan to to add some new structures, including a restaurant  - which is actually badly needed.  

          The Mall looked like hell before the election when we came up here and, to me any way, it looks better than it has since then - and there's a major plan to improve it.  

          I might have to disagree with you that DC was considered a "jewel" by the natives.  There are accounts that they avoided large swaths of it due to disease.  They knew better than to settle places that could make them sick.  

          There was a large settlement up the Anacostia that retreated before white settlers even came into the area.  But it's my understanding that not even the natives liked the areas that we now consider "down town" such as what we call Foggy Bottom now - this being based on the archaeology.  

          I will say this - it is shocking how green DC is - rare among capitals.  London, for its history, is actually kinda ugly - they old growth is all long long gone.  Rock Creek Park is a national treasure, man, and every American should visit it.  

          No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

          by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 09:20:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Stay UTR (0+ / 0-)

    You are clearly the Deep Throat of your generation

    •  Not hardly! (0+ / 0-)

      There's nothing in this thing that comes close to spilling something truly "secret" or in violation of my terms of employment.

      No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices. - Edward R. Murrow

      by CrazyHorse on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 05:30:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site