Saturday, December 3, 2016

Permanent Record Cards

[Gentlereaders, for those of you keeping track, this week was supposed to be the third letter to my (eventual) grandstickies and great-grandstickies. So far, I've been relaying my impressions of the recent presidential reality show and its subsequent aftershocks. I'd planned on discussing why I think the Donald, the Wizard of Oz of the new millennium, won in spite of the fact that most of the members of the infotainment industry who specialize in this sort of thing predicted otherwise.

I tried. But I'm up to here with the nonstop daily speculations, and the speculations about speculations, of the 24-hour news cycle. If George Washington found a way to be transported forward in time to our era I think he would want to know at what point we had decided to switch to an elected monarch, and why. Well, at least we get to pick our king or queen and can fire them in four years. 

The reason, of course, for the nonstop daily speculations, and the speculations about speculations, is because The Gubmint is so large, so powerful, and in hock up to just below Uncle Sam's nose. Not exactly what George and his homies had in mind. 

I'll return to the subject of how the Donald pulled it off next week. In the meantime, below is something I wrote a while back about The Gubmint, a business that lives off of The Gubmint, and my adventures in Catholic grade school. 

Spoiler: 2,700,000,000.

Begged question: If Mr. Peabody could perfect a WAYBAC machine, did he ever try his paw at going way forward?]



For reasons not worth bothering you with, I googled the phrase, "total number of civilian employees of the US federal government" which, I thought, was the sort of query that was so obvious and straightforward that the answer would not only be the very first hit, Google might even display the number within the first hit, obviating the need to even click on it.

Nope.

The very first hit was a page published by opm.gov. Clicking on it brought up a chart that displayed civilian and military employment numbers from 1962 to 2014. OPM? hmm, I wonder, what that might be? I went to the opm.gov home page and encountered a large and impressive blue and gold banner (that included a shield) for the NATIONAL BACKGROUND INVESTIGATIONS BUREAU.

What!?! Uh-oh, they've finally got me. Sister Mary McGillicuddy wasn't telling a little white lie in an effort to control/motivate the little heathens in her charge. I actually do have a Permanent Record Card, and the NBIC has caught up with me. Well, it was a good run, it took them almost six four decades to get around to me. They must really have a huge backlog.

I started thinking about all of the sins/transgressions/bad grades/etc. I had accumulated in my 39 years here on Earth. Wait a sec', that's just an ex-Catholic thing. Oh, sorry, those gentlereaders (and my G & G-Gs) that didn't go to an American Catholic grade school prior to when it became possible to be an American Catholic and still believe pretty much whatever you want, this must be confusing.

All through Catholic grade school (my parents couldn't afford the tuition so I don't know if this applied to Catholic high school at the time) we were warned that we had a Permanent Record Card and that it would follow us for the rest of our lives. Our PRC not only contained a detailed listing of all of our grades and such, any given nun or lay-teacher, any given year, had the power to write anything they wanted on our card.

I have an image in my head of a huge, shabby, nondescript warehouse located in a seedy, decayed neighborhood somewhere in inner city Pittsburgh. One of its many large, cavernous rooms contains thousands of dusty file cabinets filled with Permanent Record Cards.

The average potential employer doesn't even know that it exists, or that there are warehouses just like it scattered all over America. But The Gubmint, the gubmint, private detectives (legitimate and otherwise), and the world's espionage agencies know.

After my heart rate and breathing returned to normal and my more or less rational side reasserted itself, I thought, wait a minute, my computer hasn't locked up, powered down, or exploded. No one is crashing through the door screaming, "Get down, everybody down!" like they do on TV. Not so much as even a bogus warning message that terrible things were about to happen if I didn't do as instructed.

Phew! That was embarrassing. Dana, my imaginary gentlereader, and Marie-Louise, my beautiful muse, started giggling and high-fiving each other.

I ignored them and then set out to determine, what exactly is The National Background Investigations Bureau? So, I clicked on the about button of opm.gov and discovered the following.

Vision Statement: "The OPM will become America's model employer for the 21st century." Go big or go home! (or, be vague and relax, there's a lot of years left in the 21st century).

Mission: "Recruit, retain and honor a world-class workforce for the American people"

Ahh! It's The Gubmint's HR department. I'll bet OPM stands for Office of Personnel Management. Okey dokey. Wait a minute... this adventure began when I clicked on opm.gov and the big, scary National Backgrounds Investigation Bureau banner appeared on my screen.

I returned to opm.gov and discovered an < and a > at opposite ends of the big, scary banner. My bad. I started clicking on >s and discovered other banners. This agency must be huge. Well, considering the size of The Gubmint, I guess that makes sense. I went exploring. Oh yeah -- the web pages go on seemingly forever. Not exactly shocking, been there, done that.

[Update. If you go to opm.gov you will most likely encounter a different first banner than the one I did, they change and rotate them.]

If you've never experienced the joy of wandering around any of the websites published by The Gubmint, pick any -- The Gubmint -- entity you can think of and go a-googling. Tabs will multiply faster than the interest and penalties on an IRS judgment.

Also, you might discover one or more private businesses that depend on The Gubmint teat. For example, on this particular journey, I discovered something called FCW (Federal Computer Week --  I'm not sure exactly how I landed there) which is a weekly magazine that "... provides federal technology executives with the information, ideas, and strategies necessary to successfully navigate the complex world of federal business."

Huh? Well, FCW is owned by the 1105 Government Information Group, and according to themselves, "... is the leading provider of integrated information and media to the government market." They do this via five different publications that specialize in keeping track of what up, in five different sectors of The Gubmint.

[Dana, my imaginary gentlereader speaks. What's yer point? Is there a point to any of this bonkercockie?  Oui, ze point please, chimes in Marie-Louise, my muse]

In case you're wondering if I have a point, of course I do, don't I always? -- eventually.

I set out to discover how many civilians work for The Gubmint and discovered that The Gubmint is so huge that a privately owned, for-profit firm exists that makes money by supplying information to employees of The Gubmint -- about The Gubmint.

Where does the money come from? They sell advertising to firms that sell goods and services to -- The Gubmint.

Insert background sounds of a busy bar (murmur, murmur -- clink, clink, etc.) here

"So, where do you work?"

"I write for a publication you've never heard of called Federal Computer Week, its..."

"You must be kidding! Everyone at work is passing around an article from FCW titled, "Government Needs Digital Transformation to Reverse Sliding Satisfaction."  

"You're kidding me! a friend of mine did that one. Where do you work?"

And they lived happily ever after.

Have an OK day.

[By the way, starting Wednesday, 12.7, there will be a new tab on my website, Random Randomnesses. This is a place for me to post, well, random randomnesses, as they occur to me. Sort of like my abandoned Tuesday/Thursday mini-post idea, without the commitment. Check back Wednesday for more details and my first random randomness.]