The Odd Mix

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Location: Virginia, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Of Pups and Ponies

“Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!” Serious (or at least snarky and frustrated) post ahead.

When I was in the military, I spent more time than I like to remember on what we called “Dog and Pony Shows”; or, in the words of a more colorful officer than I, a “Canine and Equestrian Extravaganza”. Whenever a senior officer or dignitary would visit our area; whenever there was a change in our chain of command; whenever there was a major holiday; or whenever someone in charge just got a wild hair stuck you-know-where, we would have a Dog and Pony Show.  No real dogs (usually); no real ponies (with a couple of notable exceptions); just a whole lot of people suffering a whole lot of stress and spending a whole lot of time and effort to put on a whole lot of glitz and a grand old time – and all for the benefit of someone who probably didn’t care anyway.  We would go for long runs. We would shine things (like tanks) that are normally left drab for a good reason. We would stand in very large formations for very long times pretending we could hear the very boring speeches and listening to the band play very bad music.

And then it was back to business as usual. Now what did it cost us?  Well, the soldiers had to be there anyway, so cost of manpower wasn’t an issue.  A drive through the training area would re-drabify the equipment pretty darn quick.  The runs were not bad for physical fitness.  And junior officers are supposed to be stressed – it keeps them alert.  So really it just cost the hassle... and the pain of listening to the really bad band music. And the senior officers and dignitaries were happy they had been honored. No harm, no foul.

Now I work for the government as a civilian and I have discovered a new kind of Dog and Pony Show – one which bothers me a lot more than standing in snow, or marching in the rain ever did.  Because we cannot make our people do impressive (albeit sometimes silly) things to honor our seniors, we show them how much cash we can flush.  It is an apparent competition to see who can spend the most taxpayers’ money sucking up to the big cheeses without getting arrested.

In one agency this year, the head office staff managed to have life sized oil portraits of all of the past agency heads commissioned to be hung in the hall to the head’s office – where few will ever get to see them (even if they wanted to).  Then they had 5x7 reproductions made of each portrait – thousands of them – so everyone in the agency could have a set. In another instance an agency had brass medallions struck and mounted as pins to give to every member of the agency – to honor them (so that the cost could be justified).  One agency had a fish tank put in its cafeteria – a ten foot wide by eight foot high fish tank with an artificial reef!

These are not isolated activities.  Washington, DC is littered with the detritus of the honors shown to upper level bureaucrats. A statue here, a giant bronze plaque there, faceless names and dates graven in every flat stone surface you see.  Fountains, gardens, memorial trees, giant ugly vases, huge bells without clappers… The list goes on and on.

Some of these people have, no doubt done yeoman service to their country – I work near a statue of General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing – and others were no doubt corrupt and criminal.  When honors are deserved, honors should be given.  Great service should be well rewarded.  But occupying a seat and signing papers, while it might take dedication and long hours to climb to the post, does not a hero make.  And we pay them very well indeed to do it.  Spending great gobs of taxpayers’ money – my money – to make them look like heroes is repugnant.  And spending the money on your own boss should be criminal (in my humble, worker-bee opinion).

I ask the question, “Why did you spend. all. that. money?” and I am shushed. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. It’s all legal – shoot, it’s usually lawyers doing it. They ran it by counsel! You see, the honoree never gets to keep the statue or the fountain (though I’ll bet he kept a copy of the paintings) so it isn’t a gift – and that makes it alright, right?

Gahk! This is why I will never climb much higher than I am now, I suppose.  I cannot generate sufficient suction with my lips to kiss up in executive style.  When I should be kissing, I keep laughing … so I don’t start crying.

7 Comments:

Blogger Mom Underground said...

Witty post! I liked it. And since my profile degrades The People who spend taxpayer money to build silly statues, consider me part of your "Amen" choir! My husband used to work for the state and I never learned to appreciate the official state schwag he brought home - the coasters, the insulated cups, the lapel pins, etc.

9:55 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Tink said...

That's ridiculous! Not to mention scary. Oil paintings? Fish tanks with reefs? I'd be offended to have someone that far up my ass, not honored.

11:19 AM, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Lucky Lum said...

Does it not make you sick to your stomach?
Does mine. ugh

2:58 PM, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Katie said...

That was very nicely put - and it makes me sad. Especially when I see on the news (I live in Metro DC, too) how "we can't find enough money to help the DC public schools!" Give me a break.

And thanks for visiting!

7:42 PM, March 01, 2006  
Blogger Katie said...

OK, I just looked up on MapQuest where you live so I could see how close you are to me and HOLY CRAP! You commute that far every day? Mind if I ask WHY?

7:56 PM, March 01, 2006  
Blogger R. Robyn said...

Oh....yeah. The festivities I hold dear. I am still in the military and recently Laura Bush stopped at my base (Aviano AB, Italy) on her way to the opening games of the Olympics. It seemed as if there was no longer a mission! The new mission was to make sure every little detail was perfect for the 20 minutes she spent here. Just ridiclous.

On a side note, thanks for the info about the code, it looks fine to me right now, it's when I put the picture in a post that the sidebar disappeared. I took the photo out and it returned to normal. Now if I could just get my site centered.....

9:19 AM, March 02, 2006  
Blogger WILLIAM said...

Good post. The govt is need of a serious overhaul when it comes to the frivolous spending.

3:11 PM, March 02, 2006  

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