|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Ties That Bind
Tuesday, April 25th, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|Across the river from the nation’s capital, the Department of Defense’s Pentagon is the largest office building in the world. Suburban Langley, VA, is home to the expansive campus of the CIA. In Washington proper, the Treasury, FBI, and State Department are housed in famous landmarks. The Legislative and Judiciary branches reside in buildings whose splendid neo-classical facades are instantly recognizable throughout the world. With staffs numbering in the millions and budgets totaling over a trillion dollars, these mighty federal enterprises are as potent as they are vast. They represent the apogee of fame, wealth and power. And yet every single one of them is deeply envious of an obscure, underfunded agency quartered in a decrepit old brownstone in an alley off Connecticut Avenue.
The Federal Agency Department, or FAD, does not have clearly delineated responsibilities. Its budget, never large, is allocated by clerks of the House Appropriations Committee on April 1st of every year, after which the clerks generally have a hearty laugh and a few beers. FAD has no press officer, no web site, and no public spokesman. A relic of the administration of President James K. Polk, the department was created after Polk annexed Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington. It was felt that with the sudden vast expansion of U.S. territory, a commensurate increase in government officials was required. Though FAD was not given a mandate at the time, eventually, it was thought, there would be plenty for it to do. Over the years the reasons for its existence became forgotten. Thanks to a largely hereditary corps of intensely loyal officials, FAD has survived handily for the past fifteen and a half decades.
This page learned of FAD in an accidentally declassified document released by the new Department of Homeland Security. DHS, perhaps recognizing a certain kinship with FAD, considered adding the department to its ever-expanding portfolio of government agencies. Upon review, DHS determined that FAD had no discernible function, and was therefore more trouble than it was worth. This was a major victory for the Federal Agency Department, and a tribute to its remarkable survival skills in the Washington jungle.
TNN visited FAD headquarters to see how the department was handling its latest triumph. On a gray April morning, we rang the bell of the unmarked door at number three Knox Alley. There was no answer. After our fourth ring, a small peephole slid open and a muffled voice asked “who goes there?” We presented our credentials, and after some discussion were admitted to FAD HQ. A small, pale man, dressed in an antique frock coat, offered his hand.
“We do not customarily entertain strangers” he said solemnly, “but since you are so persistent, and because in truth we have not had a visitor in many years, we will make an exception. I am James Knox Childress, the tenth, Deputy Director of the Federal Agency Department. Our Director, Hezekiah Polk Childress, the ninth, would have answered the door but he is unavoidably detained this morning in his office, fixing a leak in the roof. His office” Childress added, “is at the top of the building.”
A bent figure appeared from around a dim hallway, glanced at us, then scuttled quickly back in the direction from which it came.
“That was Assistant Director Fontenoy James Childress, the eighth. He is rather shy. May I offer you some coffee?”
Childress led the way down a dark corridor to a back room, in which an ancient wood stove was glowing redly. An old-fashioned coffee pot bubbled on the stove top, while three wizened old men warmed themselves before the open grate. All were officials of FAD, and all were named Childress in varying degrees. Childress explained that President Polk’s wife’s maiden name was Childress. The original employees of the department were all in-laws of the president, a system that worked so well no one had seen fit to change it in a century and a half.
We sat comfortably before the fire on ante-bellum packing cases; the department, Childress said, was still moving in. TNN remarked on the notable absence not only of furniture but also telephones, televisions, computers and electric light. Childress chuckled and his aged relatives rubbed their hands.
“Don’t require any such” the Deputy Director said firmly. “Not, at least, for the moment.” The old men exchanged winks. TNN raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“It’s quite simple. We have been waiting for a hundred and fifty years to take our rightful place in government. Our patience, after lo these many decades, is soon to be rewarded. You see, while we have remained in obscurity here, more prominent departments of the government have been irrevocably damaged, one after the other, by the present administration. Defense is crippled by an endless two-front war and serially incompetent top leadership. The CIA is buffeted by the misuse or willful disregard of its own intelligence. The Treasury presides over historic budget deficits, the Judiciary is forever tainted by its partisan support of the president’s selection in 2000, and State, between former Secretary Powell’s presentation to the U.N. on Iraqi WMD and Secretary Rice’s ‘thousands of strategic errors’ remark, is a bad joke.”
There was a muffled cackle from one of the aged Childresses, which quickly turned into a wracking cough. Once quieted by his fellows, the Deputy Director picked up the thread:
“The Senate and the House are swamps of lobbyist payoffs and pietistical rhetoric. The FBI will never recover from its failure, in the face of compelling evidence, to avert 9/11. Even the Federal Reserve, in its support of the president’s tax cuts, is utterly compromised. FEMA we know all about, and things are no better at Interior, Education, and Health and Human Services. As for the Department of Homeland Security, we have already won our first skirmish against them; final victory is just a matter of time.”
“Oh yes. Every agency of government under the present administration is quite broken. The governmental vacuum thus created will be filled, one day very soon, by the Federal Agency Department. By assuming control of all government departments, we will finally fulfill the vision of our founder, James Knox Polk.”
I looked around the shabby kitchen, with its peeling plaster and uneven floorboards, and at the doddering old men nodding their heads in unison at the Deputy Director’s words. My doubts must have been apparent, for Childress rapped his walking stick on the ceiling. We were joined by a young woman sporting fair hair and a determined chin.
Childress beamed and said “meet our future. As you are doubtless aware, First Lady Laura Bush was born Laura Welch. Allow me to present Assistant Deputy Secretary Georgiana Laura Walker Bush Welch. The first.”
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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