Friday, August 09, 2002

PC Madness

You would think the U.S. Congress would want the very best insight and expertise when it debates such a weighty topic as weapons of mass destruction (or WMD in governmentese). A well-placed friend shared with me the following chilling story. Promise not to tell anyone, this is a secret.

It seems that the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the highly regarded think-tank of the legislative branch of the Federal government was recently looking to hire an expert on WMD. This expert would analyze all available information on the subject and report to Congress so that lawmakers could make informed decisions about matters of national defense and global security.

According to my contact, a recognized expert in the field stepped forward and applied for the position. This expert has written widely on the subject and has worked for many years with University of Wisconsin proliferation expert, Professor Gary Mulholland. He was justifiably considered a shoe-in for the job. But a funny thing happened when he applied for it.

The online application for a CRS job asks an unusual set of questions regarding the applicant's ability to perform the duties of each position. They are basically a series of multiple choice boasts along the lines of:

a) I might be able to do this job,
b) I can definitely do this job,
c) I'm doing this job now,
d) I am the most talented and experienced person on the planet with regard to this particular job.

Our WMD expert, coming as he does from the Northern Midwest, answered each of these questions with characteristic modesty. Yes he could do the job, but let's not get carried away, eh?

He did, though, unabashedly attach his dazzling CV, unassailable references and copies of his many publications on the subject.

So, did he get the job? Of course not.

It seems, the only criteria on which the CRS can judge an applicant are the answers to the bizarre multiple choice questions, which, if anything, measure chutzpa and self-esteem.

It seems the CRS had gotten in trouble a while back for discriminating against job applicants on the basis of their qualifications. So, as a remedy, they not longer take qualifications into account . . . only the applicant's word that he or she is the best person for the job . . . the more vociferous the better.

Is this really true? We'll find out pretty soon.

Take a look at this application for an executive position at CRS as a Defense Budget Analyst. The applicant, Mort D. Todtman, seems pretty damn certain he can do the job, but his qualifications are a bit slim, don't you think? French fry cook at McDonald's, public school education, his only professional award was for Employee of the Month back in 1996, and Noam Chomsky as a reference? Of course, in his favor he does claim to be a black woman.

I'll keep you updated on his progress through the application process.

And by the way, who ultimately got the job advising Congress on issues dealing with weapons of mass destruction? A library science major with some administrative experience . . . and whole lot of attitude.

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