Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

“But, boss, you said to put all the important people on the list.”

So ran Howard Bashford’s alibi the day after he revealed the name of the CIA’s station chief in Afghanistan, putting the spy’s life in danger.

“The station chief is important, right?” he continued, literally sweating under the glare of Amy Handleman, President Obama’s assistant associate deputy chief of staff. “You told me to make a list of the ‘important people’ the president would meet with in Afghanistan and to distribute the list to the news media, didn’t you?”

Handleman sighed. “The CIA station chief’s name is supposed to be a secret,” she said. “You’re supposed to keep secrets.”

“Well, yeah,” said Bashford, “but you said, ‘Make a list of the important people President Obama will meet with in Afghanistan.’ Then you said, ‘Distribute the list to the media.’ You didn’t say, ‘Leave out the name of the CIA station chief.’ You didn’t say, ‘Keep the station chief’s name secret.'”

“This is gross incompetence!” snapped Handleman. “When we recruited you out of Crawford Notch Community College, we thought you would understand what ‘secret’ meant.”

Bashford began to whimper and sniffle, “You said, ‘Make a list …'” But Handleman interrupted, “Just get out of my sight!”

Later, meeting with her boss, Jill Poke, associate deputy chief of staff, Handleman lamented, “Why did we ever hire Bashford? He doesn’t have the brain of a gnat!”

“We can’t hire smart people,” explained Poke. “If we did, some of them might be smarter than you – or even me, or my boss or even the president himself.”

“But I thought smart executives hired smart subordinates so blunders like this station chief fiasco wouldn’t happen,” said Handleman.

“I think you’ve put your finger on it,” said Poke.

Rank ratings: In keeping with his determination to do as much damage to the nation as possible in the next couple of years, President Obama is dusting off his plan to have the federal government “rate colleges.”

The justification is: “Every year, the Department of Education provides more than $150 billion in student financial aid in the form of grants and loans.” So, the government should rate colleges to make sure students get the most bang for the federal buck, ensuring “taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely …”

Education Department bureaucrats also say, “Higher education is the key to the middle class, and a highly educated workforce is vital to our economic strength and success.”

“In the future,” the administration declares, “the new ratings system will transform the way federal aid is awarded by tying aid to institutional performance so that students are able to access additional aid at higher-performing colleges.”

It will do this by assessing such factors as:

  • “Access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants;”
  • Affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and
  • “Outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.”
  • A pledge to identify “colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as those that are improving.”

Say, doesn’t this sound swell? But for some reason we found it disquieting, so we called up Department of Education spokeswoman Tillie Quails, who explained, “We are so concerned that students have a chance at the middle class, we’re going to have to intimidate colleges that don’t toe the line.

“Sure, graduation rates, earnings and the like are good things, but because federal dollars are involved, we want to make sure students also learn the right things. This means we’ll have to start looking at course offerings. Is an understanding imparted of income inequality, capitalism’s inequity, the system’s exploitation of minorities and women? Is there enough diversity in the student body and faculty?

“We won’t be lending money to students who want to attend institutions that don’t measure up.”

“So this is why the administration nationalized the student loan industry!” we exclaimed.

“Boy!” she said. “Are you late to the party!”

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