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January 17, 2014

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Open thread?

Shouldn't we impeach Obama for not going far enough to control the NSA?

No.

Not before we have put all ex presidents still alive on trial (plus a few cadaver synods for those that escaped justice the natural way). After the inevitable hemp fandango dance party we can give the current office holder a time limited second chance to redeem himself before he can join his colleagues. ;-)

Oh yes, and the seats in Congress will get electrified with a public trigger mechanism. The charcoal produced could alleviate some other problems too.

I'm surprised by the sympathetic tone I think I detect in this post. Here's this fellow who apparently has been employed at the same place for some years, wondering if he ought to continue to basically rip off his employers or should he grow up and start doing the job he was hired for?

And then we learn that he has used for amusement images of people under his authority or control to some extent, without asking their permission. This practice is generally considered unprofessional at the very least. And *then* we hear that he has been using his employer's resources for personal purposes. This is virtually always frowned upon, if not explicitly forbidden. And now he's fired? *Of course* he's fired! How could he not be fired! And he deserves it.

Plaintive? *Of course* he's plaintive. people like that always have a complaint. If not a dozen.

Sapient: No.

Hartmut: Before we put Carter, Clinton or even the Bushes on trial, what about Henry Kissinger...?

Older: You said pretty much what I thought. "Tard Wars"? Sounds like something a Bush appointee would do.

Well, plaintive has the same root at 'complain', so I think my description is etymologically pretty correct. My sympathetic tone tends to revolve around the fact that this was what people in my business call 'a teaching moment' where you can hopefully get the attention of someone and have them change. Also, given this

Mary Stroud, director of the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, testified that Powers placed a photo of one patient's face onto the body of an obese person holding a beer can.

"These patients are civilly committed," Stroud testified. "These patients don't have the capacity to consent to that sort of thing. They are under our care and supervision, and we can't join in on things that are poking fun at them."

Given that Stroud is Powers' boss, there is a 'I am shocked that there is gambling here!' vibe.

I agree with Older. This guy is, quite simply, an asshole. In fact, I think that his former employer should sue him after they fire him. When you're in a position of power over people, you can't just humiliate and degrade them for fun. That's just sick and revolting behavior, and I kind of wonder if he limited his antics to only degrading patients with photoshop or if progressed to using violence.

Kissinger first--you never know when he might kick off and a conviction should be easy. Once the precedent is set of a Western war criminal successfully prosecuted, then we can start going down the list. (Sharon, unfortunately, escaped already). Obama would be fairly far down on the scale, but it might make him think twice about the drone program.

Eventually, after all the serious malefactors have had their day in court, maybe there will be time to look at relatively trivial cases, things like the stealing of classified information.

Does being an asshole mean that you shouldn't get unemployment benefits?

A common standard is: getting fired for cause or volontary quitting = no benefits (the cause should of course be open to challenge).

Yes, LJ, if you were fired for being an asshole specifically towards those who worked for you, then you shouldn't be eligible for unemployment benefits. (If you just have a terrible personality, that might be another question.)

Does being an asshole mean that you shouldn't get unemployment benefits?

If your abuse of people under your protection (which was totally illegal) broke the law and that's what caused you to get fired, then yes of course: you should not get unemployment benefits. Those benefits don't apply to people who were fired for cause.

For those interested, Crooked Timber takes a whack at Sean Wilentz, who used to do hatchet jobs on Obama in the 2008 primary campaign and has now apparently done a hatchet job on Glenn, Snowden, and Assange.

link

The comments are interesting too--a couple of people are pointing out that "libertarian" has a broader meaning than what it seems to mean in the US (if one takes the Pauls as the defining examples).

I asked a question nobody over there has answered so far--is Sean Wilentz worth reading when he writes about 19th century American history, as opposed to his modern day political hit pieces? Anyone familiar with his work? I have one of his books, but like many of them, it sits there waiting for me to read it (The Rise of American Democracy).

I quite enjoyed Sean Wilentz's "hatchet job" on Greenwald, Snowden and Assange. In what way is his characterization of them incorrect?

This story reminds me of Yglesias point about the Wolf of Wall Street

Endlessly retelling stories about the lowest-rent and most egregious frauds around ultimately becomes a barrier to understanding. Scumbags like the guys in the movie don't get invitations to the White House. But it's the guys who have the ears of the people in power you should be worrying about.

It looks like the system was totally broken. (hence my first line) so I don't think that peeing on the the lowest one on the totem pole is all that helpful.

LJ, I don't understand your point: this seems like the system working exactly correctly. A man in authority over abused and degraded people and was fired for it. Our real systemic problem is how rarely this happens.

I mean, a huge number of prisoners are raped either by prison guards or with their tacit approval. A large number of students are abused by their teachers or with their approval. We have an enormous problem in our society where we force people to be under the control of state institutions and the people working in those institutions don't take proper care of their charges. This is one of the rare cases where the system finally worked. Would that it did so more often.

Is there any level of abuse that you think would merit firing?

Turbulence, reading the whole story, you might note that several other employees resigned or were terminated. This was also in the story:

"It snowballed," he said, citing the written requests he received from colleagues to produce specific photos for their amusement. "It got way beyond what I ever intended."

It seems that there was a systemic problem there. Perhaps the director was the new broom that swept everything clean, though I thought that this would generate a different kind of story. But I wonder if the others who were terminated got their unemployment benefits and I think that if they had, the story might have read differently. But it was an open thread, so there wasn't any 'point'.

As far as your last question goes, you could have easily left it off and said you disagree, but you can't resist trying to pick a fight, so we are done here.

It's not a matter of the guy just being an asshole. It very much seems like he was willfully and wantonly violating HIPAA laws as well. That is serious and absolutely a firing offense in a hospital environment.

I'm sure you enjoyed the hatchet job, sapient. You could, if interested, go over to the Crooked Timber blog, read the post and the threads and participate in the arguments. Glenn appeared a couple of times already, pointing out ways in which his critics are wrong. No need to repeat it all here. You can even make a case yourself if you're feeling more energetic than I am.

That is serious and absolutely a firing offense in a hospital environment.

But that's not what his benefits were denied for, at least according to the story.

I'm not saying that what he did was wrong and I hope that I would voice my objection at first, not wait for several years, but I found the juxtaposition of his plea and one sentence paragraph to be an interesting contrast in styles and the deployment of 'adult themed' to justify a decision open thread-ish. (i.e. not having a particular 'point')

...Wise ruled that Powers knowingly violated the state's computer-use policy, which amounted to workplace misconduct.

So IOW he was fired for cause. And that is what his benefits were denied for.

I'm sure you enjoyed the hatchet job, sapient. You could, if interested, go over to the Crooked Timber blog, read the post and the threads and participate in the arguments. Glenn appeared a couple of times already, pointing out ways in which his critics are wrong. No need to repeat it all here. You can even make a case yourself if you're feeling more energetic than I am.

Thanks, Donald. I have little use for Crooked Timber. I've tried going there when I've been bored here, and I just can't deal with the consistent and relentless emoprog* vibe.

But, because you did link to it, I did read the post and some of the comments (in fact, all of them, as of when I read the thing).

The first sentence of the first comment gave me a tummy ache. It reads "Wilentz would have a better argument if he said that pushing back against the growing power of the security state was absolutely warranted."

Well, sure. People have been "pushing back" against the NSA (and the "security state") throughout my entire lifetime. That's because the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, various state police forces, and all manner of law enforcement officials in the federal and state governments, sometimes abuse their power. This is not necessarily because they do things in secret programs. Abner Louima was abused by New York City police officers after he was arrested OUTSIDE a Brooklyn night club. The New York City stop and frisk policy is no secret. You name a law enforcement organization that hasn't had abuse in its history. That doesn't mean that law enforcement is bad. It doesn't mean that cops are all bad. It doesn't mean that the government is bad. Secret CIA assassination attempts were bad, but it doesn't mean that the CIA was bad. Glenn was once against the outing of Valerie Plame (and good for him), but now he's all about "outing" even though the thing "outed" is a matter of Congressional record.

Basically, there is a huge number of people who are afraid that the federal government (our representatives) can use for national security a piece of infrastructure, a communications system, that it (we) created and made possible, which corporate entities and individuals now find indispensable. They (we) invented it. We use it. We, as individuals, do have a certain expectation of privacy in some of what we do with it, although the degree of our privacy is still up in the air. But corporate phone log records that are external evidence of our use of the networks? Stuff that AT&T, Verizon, etc. can look at? I don't think so.

I kept reading (as I have before at Crooked Timber) to try to find some other view. But it's like when I used to read Greenwald's blog comments. They're almost all the same. I may have detected one subtle, polite dissenter, but his comment was unanswered. As to Glenn, I have no use for reading his self-justifications. I wish he'd stick to rescuing animals - I understand that he's good at that, and I applaud him for it.

From my previous comment:

*emoprog, according to Urban Dictionary: "A pejorative used by hawkish, austerity-loving conservatives who think they're Liberals because they're not or barely not racist or anti-gay. Emoprogs make fake Democrat get their undies in a bunch because emoprogs insist that Democrats act like Democrats and not like Reagan Republicans."

For the record, I'm not hawkish (as I've opposed almost all of the wars of my lifetime, including the Vietnam War, the war in Central America, the war in Grenada, the war in Iraq under Bush II, and probably a few others that I'm not thinking about). I'm also not austerity loving in that I believe in generous federally organized social programs. Also, I believe in a strong, effective, federal government, which has responsibilities such as human rights, welfare, environmental protection and national security. I'm not a "libertarian" who believes that we can all hold our breath and hope that terrorists never attack again, or that the "free market" will save us all.

Perhaps Urban Dictionary's definition of "emo progressive" is what I mean (and "emo progressive" is the term I should, therefore, use):

Emo Progressive (or "emoprog") is a self-described liberal or progressive, often with libertarian leanings, whose political orientation is to be angry, dissatisfied and unhappy with the state of the nation at any given time, because in their view, liberal policies are not being implemented quickly or forcefully enough. They have particular contempt for Democratic presidents.

Emoprogs are ideological purists who disdain compromise and incremental change, which they see as "selling out" liberal ideas like full employment, an end to all wars, state secrets, and liberal social policy.

Emoprogs dislike Republicans but reserve their greatest disdain for Democratic presidents, whom they relentlessly attack for not meeting a set of ideological goal posts that are constantly adjusted to ensure that the president will be deemed a disappointment, "not progressive enough" or "just like a Republican" no matter what policy achievements are made.

Emoprogs routinely dismiss or ignore congress' role in making or impeding policy, believing presidents can simply "use the bully pulpit" and "fight" in order to overcome constitutional or legislative obstacles.

Emoprogs have a strong affinity for 3rd party politics as a way to punish Democratic presidents. They are especially hostile to President Obama and deem anyone who expresses a lack of ill will toward him to be "Obamabots" and enemies of liberalism.

Example1: After Eric Holder announced congress had blocked the Justice Department from trying 9/11 mastermind KSM in civilian court, social networks lit up with emo progressives complaining that President Obama had broken his campaign promise to end military tribunals. Their criticism did not mention congressional Democrats who helped block Holder.

Example2: Emoprogs dismissed healthcare reform as a failure, saying President Obama should have used the bully pulpit to achieve a single payer system, despite the fact that Sen. Harry Reid made it clear that such a plan could not pass the Senate.

I'm not sure abut the other stuff, but we like Coldplay, too.

Turbulence, reading the whole story, you might note that several other employees resigned or were terminated. This was also in the story:
"It snowballed," he said, citing the written requests he received from colleagues to produce specific photos for their amusement. "It got way beyond what I ever intended."

I really feel sorry for this guy: he is compelled to do whatever anyone asks of him. People ask him to humiliate and degrade folks who've been committed, and he can't say no, he must comply! God help him if anyone ever tells him to f**k off and die.

But it was an open thread, so there wasn't any 'point'.

Oh of course there was no point to the post. I would never expect a point in one of your posts and this one was just as insubstantial and formless as one might expect. When I wrote of your point, I was thinking of the rather pointed comment that preceded mine, the one where you wrote it looks like the system was totally broken.

As far as your last question goes, you could have easily left it off and said you disagree, but you can't resist trying to pick a fight, so we are done here.

Alas, there was no fight picking here, just curiosity. As I explained above, there is a huge problem in our society of people at the mercy of state institutions being abused or insufficiently protected, whether they be students or prisoners or patients committed to psychiatric institutions. The reason this problem persists is that many people (I'd wager over 27%) believe that such people don't deserve real protection and that state workers shouldn't be punished for abusing those in their care. This belief is very common and hardly a mark of sociopathy, so I don't see why you'd take offense.

The reason this problem persists is that many people (I'd wager over 27%) believe that such people don't deserve real protection and that state workers shouldn't be punished for abusing those in their care.

I agree with you, Turbulence, that the people in private, state and federal institutions deserve good care. I would say that every human being deserves excellent care. But saying that doesn't make it so. Our society doesn't pay much for care of people who deserve it, and caring for people appropriately is a very grueling job.

When I read lj's post, I felt depressed, but not surprised. I wish that everyone in our health system (actually, I wish that everyone) were compassionate, responsible, mature, discerning, able, willing, etc. The guy may have been justifiably fired, but it was a systemic problem. And when only the underlings are fired for systemic problems, it's not a fix. Same with Abu Ghraib.

The emoprog is just another dismissive label, the sort of thing you'll find in the comments section at Balloon juice, where the obots and the Glennbots (more labels) have at it as we do here, but on a level generally so dumb it makes my eyes bleed. (Not that our disagreements are on a high intellectual plane). People don't always fit neatly into categories. I don't and many of the people over there don't either. I have emoprog tendencies, but think some of the "emoprog" positions as you outline them are stupid. There's a wide range of views on the left and what you've done is eagerly embrace a label that gives you permission to dismiss everything someone might believe once the label is slapped on them. They're heretics--"emoprogs". You don't like the "vibe" just means you don't like the fact that on some issues you disagree with them.

You don't want to argue at Crooked Timber--that's your right. You'd be outnumbered. I don't want to argue much either. ( In fact I just deleted a paragraph where I started to argue with you on the usual subjects.) But don't pretend it's because they're all just too emotional for you. That's just silly.

Turbulence, I'd ask you to avoid the profanity. You don't need to change anything else, we generally put up with the kind of abusive rhetoric that the rest of your comment is an example of, but I have to wonder if the worker had the same feeling of moral superiority that you bring to the table. Anyway, thanks for your attention to the posting rules.

Donald, since you brought up the Wilentz article here, and provided a link, I thought you might want to discuss it, including answering my simple question as to what specific points he made that were in error.

Defenders of Snowden claim that it doesn't matter what he thinks, or what his agenda is. What matters is only the fact that he "started a conversation" by revealing classified information (some of which was clearly harmful to United States interests). Same with defenders of Assange - it's all about his actions, not his agenda. As to Greenwald, his writing is destructively disingenuous. Wilentz brings forth some information that sheds some light on why he holds the views he does.

Wilentz brought up some inconvenient truths about these people. I enjoyed reading it, and having my beliefs confirmed that these people aren't interested in doing anything particularly noble or constructive.

So, to summarize: LJ thinks that the system is broken because if some bottom-level person has done something bad, it must follow that persons higher up the ladder have also done bad things, and therefore, the SYSTEM IS BROKEN!!11!!!

This does not necessarily follow. If one of my children takes money from my purse without asking, it does not follow that I must be taking money from someone else's purse. More likely, my child has followed an example set by someone closer to his height and age.

The system *worked*, because 1) someone noticed that this wanker was doing wrong things, 2) someone fired him, and 3) someone upheld the firing as justified. I don't care what reason was used to justify it, there were plenty of reasons available.

Finally, let's not get too nice to talk to ourselves. I went back over Turb's comments and didn't find any profanity, except (possibly) the phrase "god help him," which, frankly, I do not take as profanity. If there is a god, this former employee needs his/its help.

And if we are obliged to believe that every case of rottenness goes all the way to the top, then we are doomed, and never mind that better world. It could only last a short while anyway, before someone at the bottom ruined it for all of us.

While it is nice to try and summarize my thoughts, but I think you didn't get it quite right. (I tend not to think in all caps) At any rate, if you have a case (like this one) where multiple employees were fired or 'resigned in lieu of termination', I think that is systemic. Sapient points out that this is probably the norm and Turbulence helpfully points out that 27% of the population are sociopaths as a way of explaining some his comments (I liked the 'Alas', that was cute) which seems to cut against your point that there is just some bad guy at the bottom, since the guy was going around for years doing this, which sounds like a broken system. I say sounds like because we don't know all the details, but if you want to bring more to light and relay them here, be my guest. If the system is just fine and dandy, would you be happy if your child were civilly committed there, now that the evil malefactor has been sufficiently punished? Do you think rooting around in someone's internet cache is something that we should regularly do? Or do you not care what reasons one justifies an action, you are just happy the guy got what was coming to him. (this leaves aside what exactly is an 'adult-themed' website, a collocation which sounds rather tame)

About profanity, if you look at this comment a little more closely, I hope you can see it. (I've gone back and adding **, but hélas!, changed nothing else.) I believe that you are new here, which is fine, but this blog has a long tradition of asking people not to use profanity.

It was initially because profanity caused problems for people reading this at their work (you know, the reason the guy got his benefits denied so I hope that no one reading here is going to get their benefits denied because of us!) We have a constantly resurfacing debate about this, but it is the current consensus that by making people think a moment rather than pop off makes for a better atmosphere here. As you can see from Turbulence's comments, it doesn't always work, but it does provide an ever so slight speed bump to try and deal with the topic rather than make personal attacks. However, if you feel the same way as Turbulence, we always try to put the author's name at the very top so you are under no obligation to read it. Thanks.

" I thought you might want to discuss it"

Nope. The CT thread is open to you, if you wish to defend the Wilentz piece.

Sapient points out that this is probably the norm and Turbulence helpfully points out that 27% of the population are sociopaths as a way of explaining some his comments

Alas, you've misread my comments. I wrote that this belief is very common and hardly a mark of sociopathy; that means the people who believe this are NOT sociopaths. Indeed, I expect that many of them contribute significantly to their communities.

Do you think rooting around in someone's internet cache is something that we should regularly do?

No one went rooting around this guy's internet cache. The computer he was using didn't belong to him, it belonged to his employer, and since it belongs to them, they're perfectly free to do whatever they want with it.

it does provide an ever so slight speed bump to try and deal with the topic rather than make personal attacks

Not in this case it doesn't. Who exactly was being personally attacked when I wrote God help him if anyone ever tells him to f**k off and die.

Alas, you have also misread my comments, I asked that you not use profanity. I didn't say anyone was attacked. I get that you want to indicate the depth of your feelings, but that doesn't mean that you get a pass on the posting rules.

About the 27%, I apologize, I thought that you felt it was unacceptable that "such people don't deserve real protection and that state workers shouldn't be punished for abusing those in their care" and my point is that if 1/4th of the people feel they can abuse people in that situation whenever they have an opportunity, that contradicts Older conservative's belief that it was just one person at the bottom of the heap and not rest of the folks working there who may have stood by and let it happen or even encouraged it.

The computer he was using didn't belong to him, it belonged to his employer, and since it belongs to them, they're perfectly free to do whatever they want with it.

'adult themed websites'. Sounds like they were hunting for a reason, no? Older Conservative clearly picked that out when he said "I don't care what reason was used to justify it" Why not take the reason you give, that he wanted to "humiliate and degrade them for fun"? They excluded that because his supervisors were aware of what he was doing. But while you feel it is unacceptable for him to do it to others, it is perfectly fine for you to go off on someone. You are just being honest.

I try to tell students in teacher training that if you treat people in a particular way, they will generally respond to your expectations. However, I also tell them that they may only be interacting with them a short period of time and the other pressures may be making them bully others, or feeling they are superior to the tasks they are given. I'm not sure how I should treat you to have you stop acting less like a jerk, but if any of the commentariat have any suggestions, I am listening.

LJ, it is really weird how you wrote a post defending a guy who abuses powerless committed people, got called out on it by a bunch of commenters, and then managed to write a bunch of comments implying that I abuse people or break the law, all in a desperate attempt to make the thread about me.

Unlike the subject of this post, I haven't committed any crimes or violated my employment agreement. And despite your more, ah, fantastic assessments, I haven't actually abused anyone in this thread. I'd ask you to cite some of this "abuse", but I know you won't and I'm much less interested in me being the subject of this thread than you are.

you wrote a post defending a guy who abuses powerless committed people

What I said was
This story is a depressing one, but I thought this was the most plaintive note.

Feeling sorry for someone != defending someone

Wondering if maybe someone had told him to knock it off earlier, this wouldn't have happened is not defending him.

It's good that you can pick out the implications in my comments, but you might want to try and work on figuring out the implication inherent in a question like Is there any level of abuse that you think would merit firing?.

If you don't think that this whole exchange is the result of you picking a fight with me, I think you need to think about the way you express yourself. Maybe being a little more "insubstantial and formless" might be just the ticket.

Firing = a teaching moment.

It is so rare in public employment. Refreshing to see that it actually occurs from time to time.

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Whatnot


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