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June 11, 2008

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We need a new chancellor, as it happens. But I'm not sure which one of the above is the pick of the litter.

you wrote

the world's funniest dissent

could you give me a hint where the jokes are?
i clicked the link but .... ;=)

Cargol, who at the time was a married father of two children

There's a tale to be told in those three words.

Thanks -

Hypatia, the dissent begins on page 273 (that is, PDF page 23).

hilzoy -- About Kozinski, the guy thought, for whatever reason, that this was not a publicly accessible site. It is used by his family and friends to store stuff -- the material in question was thought to hold amusement value for Kozinski's inner circle.

If he has to recuse himself over this matter, that would a damned shame, because you will look far and wide to find a more ardent, living (Hugo Black being dead) judicial proponent of the First Amendment than Alex Kozinski. He's exactly who should be presiding over that absurd pr0n case, brought to us because the religious right successfully lobbied Bush to have the DoJ establish a "task force" to bring just such prosecutions.

The website was easily findable once its existence was disclosed. And the cached versions available via the wayback machine have been scrubbed clean.

Hilzoy, I just think your underestimating the strength of the selection effect of creeps towards positions of authority.

It's quite a competitive labor world out there, and in such a world people who have a screw loose have a decisive advantage! Meritocracies don't punish people with near-pathological persistence.

How is it that sociopaths so consistently seem to maneuver themselves to the top of power hierarchies?

Sure, the effect is milder here than in other countries because of the quality of our institutions, but it's still there.

Combine that selection effect, a mild bout of delusions of omnipotence, and a Y chromosome (which brings along with it its attendant strange preoccupations) and you've got a recipe for trouble.

"I'd say signs point to recusal."

There's a spectrum. At one end you have total pervs, at the other end you have total prudes. I'll grant you that the perv should recuse himself, if you also grant that the prude should recuse himself. Furthermore, the public pressure against both should be equal - a judge should have to prove that he uses porn as much as the average American if he wants to preside over an obsenity trial.

Gov. Gibbons, meet Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

I agree with Mona regarding Kozinski. Although this was pretty foolish of him.

Still, I wonder how the reporter got wind of Kozinski's stash. From reports, the "collection" was publicly available only in the loosest sense, in that if you found the website and the correct (hidden) subdirectory, you could access it.

Perhaps some interested party sold him out on the eve of a significant obscenity trial. The timing is simply too perfect.

I've been around a long time and have yet to encounter a dick grabbing kinda guy..

But people who like pornography..yes..lots

And old guys who write far too many stupid text messages to pretty females... maybe yes.

We can rank them, worst to best:

Cargol
Gibbons
Kozinski

Was the directory really hidden, or was it a directory that other, publicly available documents were in? From Google it appears that the site was set to allow directory browsing, so if someone simply looked at a URL like http://alex.kozinski.com/whatever/article.pdf and decided to try looking at http://alex.kozinski.com/whatever/ to see what was there, they could have found things he might have thought were private (and Google and the Internet Archive might have found them as well).

Y chromosome (which brings along with it its attendant strange preoccupations)

Dear Ara:

I have known people without Y chromosomes to make up stories involving unauthorized uses for a lava lamp. I have known other people without Y chromosomes to mock them by re-enacting the stories with action figures (and a lava lamp) and posting pictures thereof on the Internet.

The result was, admittedly, *howlingly* funny, but does not speak to any correlation between Y chromosomes and strange preoccupations.

I fear our whole species has to take the blame for this one.

Yours in a spirit of scientific inquiry,

etc etc.

The video was probably the video of a donkey chasing a guy who had his pants falling down. It's funny, not perverse.

This one most likely.

It seem that the judge is a /b/ tard.

This one most likely.

It seem that the judge is a /b/ tard.

Was the directory really hidden, or was it a directory that other, publicly available documents were in?

Hmmm... I don't know KCinDC. Perhaps I misunderstood the article.

FYI, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog relays the following statement from the Ninth Circuit:

With regard to the article in today’s Los Angeles Times, the computer server is maintained by one of the judge’s sons. It is not government property. All family members use it. Pictures, documents, other items of personal and family interest are stored on it. After the story broke, one of the judge’s sons contacted him to say he had uploaded much of the items referenced in the story. The server and its contents are a private matter. It was not meant to be accessible by others and the judge had no idea it was. Had he known, he would have been more careful of its contents.

From: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/06/11/report-judge-alex-kozinski-maintained-porn-on-personal-web-site/#comments

Von, I don't expect a newspaper story to get technical details right. Sure, there was no link to anything from the site front page, but there was plenty of stuff in Google. I don't doubt that the content wasn't meant to be accessible by others, but it looks like it was and didn't require some master hacker or mole to find it.

I’ve spent several hours trying to decide how/whether to respond to this post. I find it unsettling for a personal reason, and I’m still not sure whether responding to it is just more of the same thing that unsettles me, or not. I hope not.

Owen Cargol lived within hailing distance of me during the years when he was the president of the University of Maine at Augusta. His kids are almost exactly the same age as mine and spent a fair amount of time at my house. I didn’t know him or his wife well, but in all my experience of the family (much more of the kids than of the adults) the Cargols were lovely people.

Everyone I know who knew the family -- and some of my friends were very close to them -- was stunned when the allegations against Owen came out in 2001. No one I’ve talked to has ever heard the slightest whisper of anything out of line on Owen’s part when he was at UMA.

I know this is just anecdotal evidence from someone who knew and liked some other human beings a long time ago. But from what little I know, my anecdotal evidence is only a little bit thinner than the evidence on the basis of which Owen was forced out of his position at NAU, and which is now being dredged up in great detail on at least two other websites (more on that later) for no reason that I can see except that a couple of bloggers decided it’s yet another nice stick to beat the Bush administration with.

Owen was never tried in a court of law. If he did what he is accused of doing, then he’s one (more than usually) messed up human being, and his inability to recognize that and/or do something about it has caused some serious harm. If he didn’t do what he is accused of doing, then...someone else has caused some serious harm. Either way, an awful lot of damage has been done. I don’t think it’s funny, either way.

So partly I’m reacting (over-reacting, quite possibly) to what strikes me as the kind of half-silly title of this post: *Shudders.* Maybe it wasn’t meant in a half-silly way (I adore Hilzoy, so I’m reluctant to assume it was), but that’s how it came across to me.

One thing it’s making me realize is that this kind of scandalous story is so common these days that I have become a bit forgetful of the real pain of real people that inevitably lies behind it. I have sometimes reveled in the revelation of hypocrisy, especially on the part of -- gasp! -- Republicans who have worked hard to make sure life stays more difficult than it needs to be for gay people, then been revealed as possibly having indulged in homosexual behaviors themselves. But now, when the subject of the scandal is actually someone I once knew, I want to say: why dredge up this old story (on two other websites, if not this one, at great and wallowing length)? Really, why?

An odd thing: Hilzoy (surprisingly, given her usual care with such things) didn’t provide a cite for the paragraphs she quotes about Cargol. Googling, I found them in an article dated today at www.insidehighered.com, which referred in turn to a recent blog post at www.progressivehistorians.com, which dredged up the original story at nauseating length. (I am not going to post full links. If anyone really wants to ponder the mysteries of a story looking for “traction,” the material is not hard to find.)

Another odd thing: In the Progressive Historians blog post about the Cargol story, there is this:

Then came the bombshell: on November 13 [2001], the Associated Press reported that Cargol had "resigned over allegations of personal misconduct...involv[ing] sexual harrassment." Four days later, the Arizona Daily Sun published the contents of the allegations, which Cargol himself had chosen not to dispute. The article is behind a subscription wall, but I was able to obtain a microfilm copy.

The odd thing here is that there’s no subscription wall. I searched the Arizona Daily Sun’s website and found 27 articles from a 4 month time period, including the unsavory lines from an email that Hilzoy quotes, in about 30 seconds. I don’t think this means anything except maybe a blogger who has too little search-savvy or too much self-importance, but it does make me wonder...again...really, why?

Russell wrote:

Cargol, who at the time was a married father of two children
There's a tale to be told in those three words.

There’s always a tale to be told (not that that’s news to Russell). But those three words are kind of odd too: no matter what has happened to the Cargols’ marriage (last I knew they were still together, but that was several years ago), Owen is still the father of those two children.....

I don’t have any conclusion to come to, I’m just sad. I have tried my best all my life (as I assume we all have), but I have done things that the prudes would string me up for if they got a chance, and I have also done things that caused pain and damage to other people (and myself for that matter) because I was just human. I don’t have a clue where the lines should be drawn against someone who has done damage in the past, much less someone who was only accused of doing damage in the past. I just got the feeling, reading Inside Higher Ed and Progressive Historians, that there’s a little too much rejoicing in one’s own superiority going around, or to put it the other way around, a little too much wallowy rejoicing in other people’s failures.

Behind the failures, there’s always a tale to be told. Usually a painful one.

JanieM: The basic frame of mind in which I wrote this was: why on earth are these people doing these things? I read the Nev. governor story first, then the Cargol, and somehow, the naked women painted to look like cows pushed me over some edge or other, and made me think: yow, has something got into the water?

I don't necessarily think that all three of them should be punished for what they've done, or anything. Even before I read the update to the Kozinski story that von posted (and which was not available when I wrote it; I wish it had been), I didn't think that his story called for more than recusal. I should probably have been clearer about that.

I got the Cargol story from Inside Higher Ed (and thanks for pointing out that I forgot to put in the link.) I clicked through to the NAU newspaper's blog, which supported the story. I wasn't particularly thinking that it reflected badly on the Bush administration; I couldn't see that it did, necessarily, since he seems to have been chosen by John Agresto, and I don't have any idea whether he was a good or a bad hire.

I just thought: what? huh? -- which more or less explains the title. I'm sorry if it seemed flip.

Hilzoy -- As I said, I may have overreacted, but my comment about a stick to beat the Bush administration with was a reaction to the opening lines of the Inside Higher Ed article:

The missteps in Iraq are well documented by now.

Library shelves could be lined with books that criticize the poorly constructed endgame, the insufficient troop levels and the disbanding of the Iraqi military.

Regardless of that, thanks for the response. As for me, I suspect something has always been in the water...and that what's changing isn't how much strangeness people perpetrate, but how much more often it's brought into the open. In some ways this is a good thing, but I don’t think we have any better idea than we ever did about how to deal with "strangeness" -- especially since in relation to sex and sexuality there's no consensus about what constitutes harm and what doesn't (some people think allowing me to marry the partner of my choice would harm them....I disagree, of course, she said wryly), and that's not even to mention the horrendous damage done by false allegations of stuff that virtually everyone would consider harmful.

Just not an easy subject, I guess.

JanieM: I don't think you overreacted. It's always good to remind people that the people they read about are, well, real. I'm glad you wrote what you did.

JanieM,

Thanks for that very salutary reminder that the people behind the scenes are in fact, well, human, and inevitably the story is more complex that it appears to be when squashed down into the two dimensional reality of our glowing screens covered with pixels.

This is what I was writing about the other day when I said that you have a distinctive voice which I miss when you don't have time to comment. You have a good ear and eye for putting some complexity back into the picture and restoring that 3rd dimension which is sometimes missing.

Thanks and welcome back.

As for naked women painted to look like cows, my thoughts immediately turned to the ad shown here, which features Traci Bingham in a PETA advertisement advocating vegetarianism.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ, Thanks.

As in the non-bloggy world when more than one version of a person's name is used, I'm inspired to ask whether you have a preference about what people call you.

I've seen TLT, TLTABQ, LeftTurn, and maybe some others. Do you have a preference? Given your druthers, would you always prefer the full splendor of ThatLeftTurnInABQ?

Janie: You're right that it's wrong to dig deep into all the sordid details of someone's life as "another nice stick to beat the Bush administration" without considering the human being behind the story. Particularly going into full-length, lurid detail about that person's history, as the other blogs you mention did.

Still, it does seem a valid brief illustration - without needing too much detail or turning the man himself into a political bludgeon - of the ineptitude and insensitivity of the Bush administration and our 'reconstruction' effort in Iraq. Considering the incredible firestorm that would come out of the head of a major American institution in Iraq sexually harassing an Iraqi, you'd think they would be very careful about appointing someone who's been accused and resigned before.

JanieM: Thanks for sharing that. It gave me a lot to think about.


On Kozinski: There is a real downside to this connected world we live in. One thing I have stressed to my nieces and nephews (high school going on college age) again and again is not to get involved with social networking sites etc. It’s important for people to understand that anything you put on the Internet, even if you think you are sharing it only with friends or family a) can be found by someone and b) will likely be there forever.

This is especially important for young people to understand. It seems harmless to post a picture or go off on a really good rant.

More and more companies are googling perspective employees to see if anything turns up. And if you make an enemy for any reason that stuff is out there waiting to be found.

And then, those of us with a bit of google-fu and an outlet for new information like to dig stuff up just because we can. It’s often just to see if we can add new information to a story or change the spin – but it is way too easy to forget that real people (and not just their online presence) are involved.

JanieM,

"LeftTurn" is probably my fav since to my ear it sounds more casual and friendly than the anagramic combinations of letters, but I'm happy to be called anything that references my somewhat too-longish-for-casual-use handle in some way, whatever suits each comment writer is fine with me.

Thank you for asking.

OCSteve, you bring up an interesting point that Google, et. al. are putting into practice that dreaded thing we were always threatened with back in the old days when I was in school, "this will go down in your permanent record!", which was always said by a teacher or other authority figure, in tones of great solemnity.

I think it wasn't until high school that I figured out just how hopelessly incompetant the bureaucracies of that era were, and how laughable was the idea that each of us had a big thick dossier being compiled somewhere with a tale of our various petty misdeeds.

Now that this concept is starting to become a reality via the intertubes, do you think we will eventually adapt by learning to cut people more slack for their foibles and follies? Or perhaps learn to pretend to look away and not notice things which are socially awkward. I am given to understand that this social skill is better developed in some cultures (e.g. Japan) than in the USA, and I am wondering if we will eventually move in that direction.

Another point regarding online personas: has anyone else who is a frequent reader of this blog noticed that for a non-trivial number of the comments from the regulars, you can tell who the author is after reading only a sentance or two, without making it to the bottom of the comment to see their handle? I find it very interesting that stylistic and thematic clues are that strong.

LeftTurn: Now that this concept is starting to become a reality via the intertubes, do you think we will eventually adapt by learning to cut people more slack for their foibles and follies? Or perhaps learn to pretend to look away and not notice things which are socially awkward.

So far I think we tend to look away for the most part. I do think that more slack will come as the next generation replaces us old farts.

has anyone else who is a frequent reader of this blog noticed that for a non-trivial number of the comments from the regulars, you can tell who the author is after reading only a sentance or two, without making it to the bottom of the comment to see their handle?

Definitely. I can tell a hilzoy/Gary/Jes/Thullen comment within two sentences usually. Many others. I can spot your comments now after a relatively short time.

LeftTurn, I think the long term danger of personal information proliferating on the internets is less than it may appear. The ease with which information may be added is a double edged sword: it also means anyone can add random crap and claim that it represents me. Completely unauthenticated information is untrustworthy information. Over time, I expect that we'll see a lot more spoofing which will in turn lower the confidence people place in an online search.

Beyond that, I think people will learn not to care about most of what they find in a google search on a prospective employee. I mean really, is your life so long that you can afford to look at the myspace and live journal pages for prospective employees? You do a quick google search to see if there have been any local news reports about local teen fired for child abuse or somesuch.

I have this crazy naive view that deep down, Americans care more about respecting privacy boundaries than might be obvious on first glance. Consider Bill Clinton's adultery: people were repulsed at the invasion of his privacy and a lot of people I spoke with were perfectly happy with him lying about highly personal matters like that.

At the end of the day, either an employer wants to hire you or not. If they do, anything on the internets will be a harmless prank or not really you or not important. If they don't, then a misplaced comma in your acceptance speech for humanitarian of the year will be grounds to drop you.

One thing I have stressed to my nieces and nephews (high school going on college age) again and again is not to get involved with social networking sites etc.

Well, they will, anyway: they'll just know not to tell Uncle Steve about it. A bit like telling them not to have sex and not to do drugs, really; it just makes sure they know you're not the person to go to about any difficulties they might be having with what you told them not to do.

More useful advice is in general to outline how to do it safely - ie, pick a consistent username, don't give your real name, don't post photos unless you'd be happy for the whole Internet to see them, don't put down your realworld address, and really don't post photos unless you're OK with your mom seeing them.

(FWIW, the first time my nephew asked me about a couple of illegal drugs and I gave him a factual summary and not a moral homily, I worried about it afterward for months, if not years - I mean, I do rather hope he didn't do illegal drugs, but OTOH, my gut said that going with the truth rather than just telling him not to was the right thing to do, and I'd always felt it was my job to be the adult he could ask weird questions of without getting a lecture, and... and I still wanted to deliver the "Don't do it!" lecture.)

And going back to the bizarre sexual pics on the website: um. The problem with the Internet is that all the things you thought you were only sharing with a few other likeminded people, are in fact right out there in the public square for everyone else to point and laugh at. Let the person who only thinks vanilla thoughts cast the first stone.

Well, they will, anyway: they'll just know not to tell Uncle Steve about it. A bit like telling them not to have sex and not to do drugs, really; it just makes sure they know you're not the person to go to about any difficulties they might be having with what you told them not to do.

See? Two sentences. No doubt it’s Jes (to me anyway).
;)


Kidding aside – yes you are correct. And it has been more as you suggest than “don’t do that because I said so”.

I'd always felt it was my job to be the adult he could ask weird questions of without getting a lecture

Jes,
Speaking as a parent with young kids, I fervently hope that my kids will have somebody like you in their lives at that age to provide that kind of perspective, while doubting that it would be wise for me to try to fill that role myself too directly and too aggressively.

That comes out sounding kinda weird after I wrote it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think kids needs to work out a dialectic between the lecture and the anti-lecture, and having a wise and caring adult at both ends is really a good thing, but a parent has to provide the lecture half of that dialog because if they don't, who will?

ThatLeftTurn: Speaking as a parent with young kids, I fervently hope that my kids will have somebody like you in their lives at that age to provide that kind of perspective, while doubting that it would be wise for me to try to fill that role myself too directly and too aggressively.

This is why God invented aunts. ;-)

FYI, it turns out that my speculation that the LA Times had been tipped off was correct. The story is a strange one:

http://patterico.com/2008/06/11/the-la-timess-tipster-on-kozinskis-porn-cyrus-sanai/

Turbulence: I mean really, is your life so long that you can afford to look at the myspace and live journal pages for prospective employees?

People already are. Significant numbers, too, at least around here.

I highly recommend Lessig's post on the Kozinski mess. Excerpt: "The real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel - and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage."

I agree with Lessig that there's been a huge overreaction, but I have a problem with his analogy between accessing a URL and secretly entering a house through the window. A URL can be assumed to be intended for public access unless there's some mechanism, like password protection, to thwart such access. That's the way the web works.

If Kozinski's server was set up in such a way that his files were accessible merely by stumbling across them (which seems to be the case), and then search engines indexed them so that anyone searching for material related to him could find the files, then that's unfortunate, but it's not in any way comparable to intruding into his home.

Seth Finkelstein has more on how the URL for the directory may have leaked out.

In the event anyone wanders back to this old post, Patterico has a letter up today from Alex Kozinski’s wife on that whole situation, including a charge that the paper sat on the story for some time to maximize the impact concerning the trial.

Direct link doesn’t seem to work but it’s the top post at the moment.

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