The e-mail Monday from Henry L. Longest II, a senior official in the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development (ORD), was positively breathless about a "unique opportunity" to take part in a survey to "enhance leadership" at the agency and "ensure liberating collaboration and engender trust."
The questionnaire, called the "Appreciative Inquiry Research Study," was sent to hundreds of ORD employees. Longest, a 32-year EPA veteran, said the survey was "specifically designed to complement the existing work we have done on climate assessment."
The first 10 pages are typical queries about how you like your job and such. Then, under something called "Differential Positive Affect," folks were asked to rank agreement, on a scale of 1 to 7, with some of these questions:
I am a very flirtatious person.
A higher power is looking out for me.
When I'm attracted to someone, I am overwhelmed by desire.
I regularly attend religious services.
I can think of several personality traits that turn me on sexually.
I've often imagined being sexual with a friend, colleague or acquaintance. (Clearly designed to "ensure liberating collaboration.")
Almost everybody has something sexy about them.
I have dated a lot of people.
Under "Social Anxiety," employees were asked, on a scale of 0 to 4, to rank agreement with such questions as:
I tense up if I meet an acquaintance in the street.
I have difficulty talking to attractive persons of the opposite sex.
I become self-conscious when using public toilets. (Makes for a tough day in government office buildings.)
I get nervous that people are staring at me as I walk down the street.
It would make me feel self-conscious to eat in front of a stranger at a restaurant.
Under "Mindful Presence," employees are to answer on a scale of 1 to 6:
I tend to walk quickly to get where I'm going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.
I drive places on automatic pilot and then wonder why I went there.
I snack without being aware that I'm eating.
I approve bizarre questionnaires?
There are other interesting questions about each employee's "social network," frequency of contact with parents -- and whether with one more than the other -- number of close friends, religious attendance and prayer. The questionnaire also asks for a listing of groups to which employees belong.
What a great idea, but, alas, the spoilsports at ORD -- an office that includes EPA's science adviser, the National Center for Environmental Assessment and various scientific laboratories -- didn't want to play, even though the survey was a freebie, offered to EPA by the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
So "effective immediately," Longest wrote in an e-mail the next day, "please disregard the Appreciative Inquiry Research Study survey. . . . Do not complete the survey or, if you have already taken it, do not turn it in. This project has been suspended indefinitely." So much for a "unique opportunity."
"I apologize to any ORD staff who were discomforted or offended by some of the questions on the survey," he said, which were "excessively intrusive."
As Emily Litella used to say: "Oh. I'm sorry. Never mind."
Taking the Pulse of the Senate
Sign of the times in the Senate: The Associated Press reports that a workman yesterday put up a sign on the front door of the new Senate majority leader's office with gold-painted letters saying, "William H. Frist, M.D."
Frist (R-Tenn.), a heart and lung surgeon who has an unerring ability to happen upon folks in need of medical attention, officially took over the leader's job Monday. Until then, the sign on the door had former GOP leader Trent Lott's name. Lott (Miss.), of course, had to step down after he got all wistful thinking about what a fine thing segregation was. For the past several days the sign on the door said only, "Republican Leader."
The Gamut: Nixon to Bush II
Daniel Schechter, chief of staff to Drug Czar John P. Walters, is retiring from the government this week after a 30-year career at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Schechter is a rarity, a career chief of staff at a Cabinet-level agency -- a White House agency, no less. Schechter is being succeeded by his deputy, Chris Marston.
The Corps, the Corps, the Corps
AmeriCorps has hired three top officials, with John Foster-Bey, who worked with nonprofit youth programs and more recently has been at the Urban Institute, tapped to run AmeriCorps' largest operation, the state and national program. David L. Caprara, a Bush I Housing and Urban Development Department official and Virginia state official and more recently head of the American Family Coalition, a Rev. Sun Myung Moon-affiliated group, was named director of VISTA; and Wendy Zenker, a long-time Department of Education official and most recently the chief operating officer at the Corporation for National and Community Service, takes over as head of the National Civilian Community Corps.