The word last week that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had briefly been advertising for a motivational speaker to use "magic tricks," "brain teasers" and other tactics during an upcoming conference no doubt prompted a few laughs. And it brought an element of surprise, given it's hard to see why NOAA felt the need to go beyond its own in-house staff.
After all, ousted NOAA law enforcement chief Dale Jones, kicked sideways two years ago and now serving as a fisheries analyst while still raking in more than $150,000 from U.S. taxpayers, showed he was pretty adept at making documents disappear through a masterful shredding operation with an Inspector General's investigation in the works.
Then there's NOAA counsel Deirdre Casey, who's still with the agency but has been transferred out of Gloucester. She showed a pretty deft hand at conjuring up "evidence," putting through a bogus affidavit for a search of the former Gloucester Seafood Display Auction despite having prior knowledge of a "discrepancy" in the document she still pressed forward.
Heck, when you think about it, they and their colleagues — right up to NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco — have all done a pretty fair job in their efforts to try to make an entire class of American worker, the small-boat, independent fishermen, disappear from the seas, much the way independent family farmers were driven from America's agricultural landscape more than two decades ago.
There is, of course, nothing funny about any of that.
Indeed, NOAA's ad — posted a week ago today, then taken down less than 48 hours later, before Lubchenco's dysfunctional agency became more of a federal laughingstock than it is already — shows just how hopelessly out of touch this bunch has become.
According to the ad, the winning bidder was to take "a multidisciplinary approach using experiential exercises, physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor and team-building exercises designed to demonstrate how to stimulate creativity, encourage active participation, and practice needed skills and competency." All of that was aimed at drawing a presenter who could discuss the educational theory of "multiple intelligences," developed by Harvard University's Howard Gardner.
Nowhere, of course, did it indicate how that might help NOAA officials and employees better deal with Gloucester's, New England's and America's fishermen. And the best assessment of the whole magical venture came from U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
"This is a new low even by Washington's standards," he said, "... taxpayer abuse, pure and simple." It doesn't take a magician to recognize that.
By withdrawing the ad, we can only hope NOAA has indeed scrapped the "motivational" magic tricks.
But this initiative should give federal lawmakers new fodder for making a NOAA regime change once and for all, in favor of fair leadership — and maybe a little common sense.