John Klossner

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Klossner: We're here! We're here! We're here!

In the Mark Twain short story, "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," there is a description of the the patriarchs and prophets in Twain's heaven, and one of the people described is a tailor from Tennessee named Billings, who was allowed to walk at the front of the line of prophets, ahead, even, of more-noted personalities. As the Captain's guide explains:

"That is the heavenly justice of it -- they warn't rewarded according to their deserts, on earth, but here they get their rightful rank. That tailor Billings, from Tennessee, wrote poetry that Homer and Shakespeare couldn't begin to come up to; but nobody would print it, nobody read it but his neighbors, an ignorant lot, and they laughed at it. Whenever the village had a drunken frolic and a dance, they would drag him in and crown him with cabbage leaves, and pretend to bow down to him; and one night when he was sick and nearly starved to death, they had him out and crowned him, and then they rode him on a rail about the village, and everybody followed along, beating tin pans and yelling. Well, he died before morning.

He wasn't ever expecting to go to heaven, much less that there was going to be any fuss made over him, so I reckon he was a good deal surprised when the reception broke on him."

The Multiple Award Schedule Advisory Panel knows the feeling, and is probably hoping for similar oversight.

The MAS was created by Lurita Doan while she was head of GSA, and remained after her departure. Some observers have justified the panel's existence by pointing out that GSA has taken no action to disband the panel. As endorsement goes, this lies just above "we have the furniture, I guess they can use it."

Congressman Henry Waxman has questioned their worth.  Letters to the editor -- OK, a letter to the editor  is pouring in complaining about another layer of bureaucracy.

One side issue that intrigues me is how a panel functions when no one is recognizing their existence. Does anyone stop by their desks on coffee runs? Do they still get invited to agency parties? Are they allowed to help themselves to Halloween candy from the bowl on the receptionist's desk? Does conversation become awkward when panel members enter the room?

How do you get attention? Or, more accurately, how do you get positive attention, not the "who are you and what are you doing here" kind? This panel is making legitimate proposals, but nobody will listen to them anymore. They're not important enough to pay attention to. How do you get respect in government? Does the loss of someone championing your cause mean the loss of your legitimacy?

More importantly, what do you do if your obscure panel still comes up with good policy ideas? The MAS is paying attention to the intricacies of schedules contracting, not exactly a hot topic at the recent presidential debates. Anyone paying attention to schedules contracting should be heard, or at least viewed with a quiet awe.

And, I hope, given their reward before they leave this life.

Posted by John Klossner on Oct 16, 2008 at 12:18 PM


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