An Advocacy Problem in the ‘What’s Needed’ Department

It hardly seems normal (or acceptable) to read in separate articles in my morning’s Washington Post, that federal facilities right here in our country are running too short-funded to protect themselves. This, while Boeing and Northrop haggle over who is most deserving of a $40 billion contract for refueling planes. Further along in the tanker piece, one must suspend belief to choke down the admission that an end-contract for these planes may well exceed $100 billion.

$100 billion and yet the Federal Protective Service had its budget slashed by–who else?–Homeland Security. These guys (and women) protect nearly 9,000 Federally owned and leased buildings.
The FPS used to be part of the GSA (General Services Administration), but that was in the days before this privatizing-crazed administration outsourced everything from V.A. services employees to armed guards and foreign quasi-military thuggery.

Security Provider Cuts Patrols
Federal Protective Service Faces Financial Problems

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008; B01

police agency in charge of protecting many federal buildings is so
short-staffed that it has cut outdoor patrols aimed at detecting
suspicious individuals and car bombs, according to a report to be
released today.

Well, what the hell, they’re only suspicious individuals and suspected car-bombs, so what is that compared to the actual, known and recognized lobbying activity carried on daily in support of weapons. We gotta have weapons, people. Weapons are the only way through this era of planetary discontent.

Which brings up the question of advocacy in a government that has become so diffused and downright opaque in its character that no one knows who is running the show. Congress writhes in the impotence of no longer even knowing whom to subpoena and is forced instead to bore itself and its constituents in waves of meaningless committee hearings.

When it, tremblingly gets itself together, draws itself to its full height, puffs out its chest and actually serves a summons, it is ignored. Not only ignored, but dismissed without penalty. The list of powerful no-shows is long and infamous, running out the clock in the waning days of a presidency as well as a Congress. In circumstance after circumstance, from terror to torture, from collapsing bridges to a deteriorating National Mall, from contracting theft to congressional enabling, we have allowed our nation and its protections to be quietly slid out from under us.

Alarmingly, distracted as we are by American Idol, there is no advocacy for the deteriorating bureaucracy that runs the nation’s business. Bureaucrat has become a dirty word and privatize has taken its place, although it is the hardworking Washington bureaucrat who kept us afloat in the years before Ronald Reagan made of him a laughingstock. Consider what privatization has brought us in the way of

  • a military that cannot fight and includes bloated weaponry programs designed for wars that will not be waged
  • a badly-named and unfortunately directed department of homeland security (I refuse to dignify it with capitals) that wastes money, squanders resources and loses its talented leaders while constantly bumping into the furniture on issue after issue
  • a nation where rhetoric replaces reality, where bridges collapse on the way to fiscal responsibility and schools graduate the illiterate while leaving no child behind
  • a business community shackled to the vagaries of investor-return, that ravages corporation after corporation in the name of quarterly profit, where no one is left to answer the phone.
  • a service-industry oriented society where the taped message “your call is important to us” has replaced any interest in the customer service for which they are named
  • the numbing daily assault on our sense of fairness and justice as one after another after another of our cherished values is crushed beneath a ceaseless lack of advocacy

The Washington Post continues;

. . . The protective service provides security for more than 1 million
federal employees at about 9,000 buildings in the D.C. area and across
the country. Caught in a cash squeeze in recent years, the agency has
reduced its staff by about 20 percent, to 1,100 officers, the study
said. They oversee about 15,000 contract security guards at the

. . . The report traces the protective service’s difficulties to its absorption by the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. The service lost a $139 million annual subsidy it had received as part of the General Services Administration
and slid into financial turmoil. The protective service responded by
reducing officers and focusing them on overseeing the contract guards.
The service said it would seek help from local police forces in
responding to crime at facilities.

The report criticized that
strategy, saying that it “has diminished security at GSA facilities and
increased the risk of crime or terrorist attacks” at many buildings.

many facilities, officers no longer patrol to prevent or detect crime,
the report said. As a result, “law enforcement personnel cannot
effectively monitor individuals surveilling federal buildings, inspect
suspicious vehicles (including vehicles that could potentially bomb
federal buildings) and detect and deter criminal activity,” the report

The service also reduced officers’ hours at many locations,
the study said. Adding to the difficulties, many of the service’s
security cameras and X-ray machines have been broken “for months or
years,” the study said.

The report highlighted problems with
contract guards, who generally work at fixed posts and do not have
arrest powers. Oversight of the guards is inadequate, with some posts
inspected less than once a year, it said.

In one incident, armed
security guards stood idly by as a shirtless suspect wearing handcuffs
on one wrist dashed through the lobby of a federal building with a
Federal Protective Service officer in pursuit. The building was not
identified in the report, but officers speaking on the condition of
anonymity said it was a court-services facility in the District.

This is what neo-conservatism has wrought. Born of a reactionary response to the ’60s counter-culture, conservatism panicked and dropped its pants to the likes of Norman Podhoertz and Irving Kristol, these ‘new‘ conservatives who advocated the ignoring of America in an orgasm of foreign intrigue. Between this disguised liberalization of the old wire-rimmed glasses conservatives and the advent of the Harvard Business School’s reverence for quarterly profit, America has steadily tanked.

For my own part, I am no teary-eyed liberal. Participant in all or part of eight decades, I believed then as now in being left the hell alone, doing the nation’s economic dishes instead of stacking them in the sink and dusting under the beds of infrastructure. I do not believe in

  • selling off the country’s Interstate highways,
  • allowing the airlines to destroy the safety and efficiency of air travel,
  • outsourcing our military to Blackwater and Haliburton,
  • bribing our congressional representatives
  • or holding harmless the thieves and crooks who have hijacked American business for their own gain.

For over three-quarters of my life I held the belief that conservatism depended upon actually conserving something and I hold that belief today, even after the shame that every Republican president since Richard Nixon has brought to the term. Under their tutelage, we no longer have a currency that means anything, have become the largest debtors in the world, lost our manufacturing base, are well on our way to losing agricultural leadership as well and have steadily degraded our society into an orgy of selling each other whatever cheap crap can be imported from China–all in the name of neo-conservatism.

My old daddy taught me that you pay your bills, work hard, treat people fairly and make your way as well as possible through the life you were given to live. How he hated FDR’s New Deal, not because the country was stronger than that but because he felt institutionalized charity denigrated and trivialized the private concern we all felt for one another as citizens.

Now his–and my–conservatism has been twisted and perverted into a state where it is no longer recognizable.  We have become the unwilling and unwitting victims of political hype and demagoguery of the worst kind–chained to our fate by the thievery of language. Mistaking the back-slap brand of  compassionate conservatism for something that actually conserved, we have had our roads, bridges, sewers, currency, rights to privacy, ecology, our world reputation, safety and international regard cashed in and traded for a lifetime of debt.

If you think Barack Obama will be able to pull us out of our fifty year slide into irrelevancy, I wish you well and hope you are right. I will vote for him because he is–above all–an advocate.

Amazingly, in this changed world where up has become down, he sounds very much like my old daddy.
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