March 25, 2009

My apologies

Posted in Advice I have no business giving, Nerdiness, The OCD, The WTF at 11:43 am by Dagny Taggart

For what probably seemed like an inappropriate way to return.  The conversation came into my head whilst giggling with Sibling, whose understanding of the inner workings of my brain is unparallelled.  I probably should have taken that into account before thinking to myself, “Well, Sibling laughed for five minutes over that vignette!  I’m sure everyone else will find it amusing, too!”

Yeah.  SO.  A reader with a better sense of humor than I had the grace and good sense to email me the link to this, which is, I must say, both beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.  If the end was a little less senseless (oh, the humanity!), it would have been perfect.  So, thanks!

And now for today’s question:

Why is it that the people nominally responsible for running our country’s legislature are incapable of choosing a staff that actually does research on issues before taking a position?  I’ve seen quite a few letters/position papers signed by members of Congress.  These letters betray a lack of familiarity with the workings of our government with alarming frequency, forcing me to figure out how to tell said members of Congress that they are imbeciles without, in fact, using the word “imbecile” or any of its iterations.  I am also assured that “blithering idiots” is impermissible.

And yes, I realize that these things are generally written by staff, and the Member just signs the darn thing, but then the Member is an idiot for having hired staffers who draft comments on various governmental actions without understanding the issues.

What I would do, if I wanted to work on the Hill?  I’d take a look at some of the publicly available ones (interviews, press releases, letters – some of these are usually available on the Member’s website), research the issue, draft a memo explaining why the document makes the (preferably relatively junior) Member look like an idiot, and include that with my resume.  In my cover letter, I’d explain that I’ve attached an example of why my work would be invaluable to the Member and his constituents.

You know, just in case anyone knows anyone who (1) doesn’t have actual connections* on the Hill, and (2) is more interested in working for someone progressive than someone Establishment**.


*Because Members with actual connections are generally interested in retaining the usefulness of those connections, and are therefore more likely to hire on the basis of connections, of course.
**And by progressive, I don’t refer to a particular party or lack thereof – I mean, someone who is interested in New Ways of Getting Things Done.


  1. Lisa said,

    Fabulous egg adventure…leading to a saddy sad end!

    And, I dunno. What we need on the Hill are more thinky people like you. But wouldn’t you hate it? I would.

  2. vvk said,

    The short answer is that they’re overworked and don’t have the time…

    Most Senator’s have ~6 people on their legislative staff… who divide ALL issues amongst them. These staffers don’t have the time to become fully acquainted with a given issue. So someone who may or may not know what is going on writes a letter. It gets passed around and edited by a couple of other staffers who may or may not know what’s going on. Then it gets passed on to other offices, where other people may read it. Then a couple of LDs (legislative directory) who aren’t experts on the particular issue sign off on the letter and the senator’s may glance at it while walking from one meeting to another… and then it gets handed to an Intern who auto-pens it. This happens hundreds of times a day on the Hill.

    Representatives have much smaller staffs than Senators, so they’re even more overworked.

    This is why lobbyist have so much influence.

  3. Lisa: I’m definitely not cut out for Hill work. Ugh! But I know a lot of people – smart people, who would love the chance to do it.

    vvk: I’m sure that’s true, to a point, for everyone – more for some than others. I do think that regardless of how well-staffed a Congressperson’s office might be, the Congressperson is ultimately responsible for every decision he or she makes – even when it’s a bad one made based on information the Congressperson has reason to know is incomplete.

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