Bloggers Beware! (If You Work at a State University in Wisconsin)

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Republican Party of Wisconsin has made an open records request for the emails of a University of Wisconsin professor of history, geography and environmental studies in an apparent response to a blog post the professor wrote about a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Professor William J. Cronon, who is the president-elect of the American Historical Association, said in an interview on Friday that the party asked for emails starting Jan. 1.


The request was made by Stephan Thompson of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. In his request, Thompson asked for emails of Cronon’s state email account which “reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.”


Most of the names are Republican legislators. Marty Beil is the head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union and Mary Bell is the head of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.


Thompson was not immediately available for comment.

The article notes (twice!) that the blog is unaffiliated with the University, and is in the private sector. The blog post in question is here.


The Capital Times has coverage as well, while James Fallows/The Atlantic weighs in.


Here is the email sent to the University of Wisconsin, according to Professor Cronon:

From: Stephan Thompson [mailto:SThompson@wisgop.org]
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:37 PM
To: Dowling, John
Subject: Open Records Request

Dear Mr. Dowling,


Under Wisconsin open records law, we are requesting copies of the following items:


Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.


We are making this request under Chapter 19.32 of the Wisconsin state statutes, through the Open Records law. Specifically, we would like to cite the following section of Wis. Stat. 19.32 (2) that defines a public record as “anything recorded or preserved that has been created or is being kept by the agency. This includes tapes, films, charts, photographs, computer printouts, etc.”


Thank you for your prompt attention, and please make us aware of any costs in advance of preparation of this request.


Sincerely,


Stephan Thompson


Republican Party of Wisconsin


608-257-4765

An interesting aside: In Virginia, the Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli (R), subpoened a professor’s emails. See here. More on VA AG Cuccinelli here.


I think this episode raises important questions regarding the independence of scholars employed in public universities, and the future of freedom of thought and discussion in academia, even when those activities are conducted on non-state property and in non-state, non-official venues.


Note 1: To my knowledge, I have never met or talked with Professor Cronon (it’s a big university!).


Note 2: This post was written on my personal netbook, using my home DSL. — Menzie Chinn 11:45 CDT, 3/25/2011.


Update, 3/26, 12:52pm Pacific: Apparently the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) website is down. Here is a cached version.


Update, 3/28, 6:50pm Pacific: The American Historical Association, the professional association of historians, has released a statement:

March 26, 2011


AHA Deplores Effort to Intimidate William Cronon


The American Historical Association deplores recent efforts by the deputy executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party to intimidate William Cronon, a distinguished professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the incoming president of the AHA. For more than a century, professional historians have drawn on their research to engage in wider debates about politics and society. Working within that tradition, Professor Cronon has used his deep knowledge of American history to provide a historical context for the recent events in Wisconsin. In the process, he has enriched our understanding of the present as well as the past. If the Republican Party of Wisconsin had followed its own finest principles, it would have challenged his historical account and invited him to participate in a public conversation about the issues he has raised. Instead, it has demanded that the university supply copies of emails to and from Cronon that mention certain politicians and activities.


The purpose of the state’s Open Records Law is to promote informed public conversation. Historians vigorously support the freedom of information act traditions of the United States of which this law is a part. In this case, however, the law has been invoked to do the opposite: to find a pretext for discrediting a scholar who has taken a public position. This inquiry will damage, rather than promote, public conversation. It will discourage other historians (and scholars in other disciplines) employed by public institutions from speaking out as citizen-scholars in their blogs, op-ed pieces, articles, books, and other writings. We call on public-spirited individuals and organizations to join us in denouncing this assault on academic freedom, and in asking the Wisconsin Republican party to withdraw its request, and to participate in a forthright and fair public conversation about the issues Professor Cronon has raised. To remain silent is to acquiesce in an attempt to deprive not only Professor Cronon, but scholars everywhere, of the right to address public issues.

Update, 1:55pm Pacific, 3/29: Apparently, the open records requests trend continues, moving on to Michigan. From Capital Times:

A free-market oriented think tank has made a broad public records request to at least three Michigan universities which house departments that specialize in the study of labor relations, report both Talking Points Memo and Mother Jones.
These reports state the Mackinac Center For Public Policy, which is based in Midland, Mich., submitted the Freedom of Information Act requests to centers at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.
These requests reportedly ask for emails from professors that reference Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin, Madison or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Courtesy of TPM, here is the request from Mackinac Center.

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105 thoughts on “Bloggers Beware! (If You Work at a State University in Wisconsin)

  1. Ricardo

    Minzie,
    The request says:

    Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account…

    When you work for the state you have to expect the state to have access to everything you do under the state umbrella. Why are you surprised that the state would invade your privacy if you choose to use state provided equipment and services? The solution is to get everything out of state hands and stat indoctrination, and return education to the people.

  2. CoRev

    Menzie, /sarc/the two notes make you to appear a tad paranoid. Why? Isn’t this the US of A where personal attacks are discouraged? /sarc off/
    Scott Walker and the other republican leaders and their families apparently had several death threats. There are reports that uniformed police officers were part of the demonstrators, leaving doubt as to how well these threats are being/might be investigated. So a little shared paranoia may be appropriates, especially if there is a question about how involved were these fine UWI staff members in inciting the demonstrations.
    Elections and political actions have consequences.

  3. Aram ZS

    While that is an impressively despicable way to take advantage of freedom of information and open records laws, it is pretty much legal. It is the same law that allows journalists to request government records. As with any public university, you can’t have one without the other. Public funds went to maintaining that email which means that the public has a right to know what it is used for.
    Of course, as an employee of a public institution, we also can use our discretion when it comes to choosing to use a different email for things we might not want in public.

  4. Bob_in_MA

    It’s a slimy tactic, but anyone using a work email account anywhere should never write anything they wouldn’t want their employer to see, or be made public.
    I never understood why people get in this position, you can get a free email address at Google or Yahoo in 30 seconds.

  5. anon

    “were these fine UWI staff members in inciting the demonstrations.”
    Sorry, CoRev, but there the demonstrations were entirely peaceful. Red herring: fried!
    and Ricardo: “state indoctrination”??? Wow! Who’s paranoid here? “return education to the people”?? Who do think the UW professors are?
    Funny, years ago, it probably didn’t matter that people taught themselves and believed all sorts of ridiculous things. But in the modern world of ours with nearing 8 billion humans the age of irresponsibility is gone. No more is it acceptable to teach that there is no carbon dioxide related global warming or that evolution is fantasy and the story of creation fact. NO MORE should that be tolerated.
    Give me that state indoctrination, cause it is the only thing good for you!!!
    Disclosure: I am a UW-Madison graduate, and I had a great Evolutionary Biology course there, in which I received one of very few A’s (genetic drift anyone?). And I can’t stand ignorance! And I’m convinced that the C-student Walker has it out for educators who continually exposed his lower intelligence throughout his childhood.
    Did I say I hate ignorance? And petty neuroses.

  6. Gus Satkowski

    No political party has a monopoly on bone-headed statements or tactics. This is not an excuse for the Republican Party, but even if they are 5 times as likely to engage in such behavior compared to their colleagues across the isle, it is no excuse for an economist, like Menzie Chinn, to pretend to look at the facts objectively when he reports no cases of suspect behavior on the left. His continued story selection bias is a disservice to economics.

  7. Laura

    I look forward to reading legal analysis on this issue. I don’t think it’s nice for the Republicans to use FOIA in this manner. But I didn’t think it was nice for the Democratic legislators to flee to Illinois to avoid voting on an issue they didn’t like.
    Based on my limited knowledge it seems like the professor has to comply with the request. His concerns about student names showing up in the e-mails rings false to me as that is easily handled by redacting their names and e-mail addresses.
    I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with a “FOIA doesn’t apply to tenured professors” exception even though I’d come under that umbrella.

  8. Ricardo

    anan,
    I think the the UW professors are employees of the state realize that they were hired because of their state bias and their promotions are dependent on how well they play the state bias game. Just how many conservatives do you believe are on the UW staff?
    You do not need to be paranoid to understand that state education is always state indoctrination. It is the state that determines curriculum, it is the state that determines education requirements and course selection.
    My daughter was required to take a course in her university study that had a module on sexual preference bias. If you don’t see this as indoctrination then you don’t know what is. My children were taught to have respect for anyone and their views. They do not need some teacher running films of homosexual activity when they should be teaching academics.
    I do not object to the homosexual content as much as I object to the total waste of my daughter’s academic time. I also object to paying a teacher full professor’s wage to propagandize about his sexual preference, and I would have the same objection if the course content was about heterosexual activity or monogamy or any other indoctrination.
    This kind of teaching is not going to warp my daughter. She is perfectly secure in who she is and she knows that it makes no difference to me whether she is heterosexual or homosexual, but I had to pay hundreds of dollars for this indoctrination.
    And this is just one of many ways the state indoctrinates students. For example in introductory economics courses do teachers offer students alternative reading to counter Keynesian indoctrination? Usually alternatives are mentioned, ridiculed, and then ignored. The only way you can get alternatives in an introductory economics course is in a private school. Alternatives are sometimes available as separate courses but introductory courses always indoctrinate in the state preference.

  9. spencer

    Gus. I assume you are making the same complaint against Greg Mankiw that you are making against Chin.
    Right?
    Or do you just make such accusations against those who do not agree with your biases?

  10. Ricardo

    All corporations have the right to read what in on your corporate computer including external correspondence. Why should teachers be immune?

  11. Barkley Rosser

    CoRev and Gus,
    There may or may not have been death threats or other cases of “suspect behavior on the left,” but the idea that Cronon’s post had anything to do with any such matters or could be characterized as such is itself utterly boneheaded. He is a political independent and centrist who reported on a the factual activities of this particular political group, and then got a great deal of attention for doing so nationally, and on a non-state blog. You two are seriously out to lunch, not for the first time in the case of CoRev, who seems to have a problem with knowing facts when they walk right up to him.
    Needless to say, not only does this move by the Wis GOP look like McCarthyism, it is just going to highlight Cronon’s blog and its contentns and the significance of it. They are multiply shooting themselves in the foot.
    I am speaking as someone who not only has all his degrees from UW and has taught there at times, but was once a Republican in the State of Wisconsin. The party has simply fallen off any perch of rationality or reasonableness or even sanity.
    For the record, indeed William Cronon with whose work I am well acquainted, although I knew his father (a former dean) better than him, is one of the leading scholars on the campus, author of several widely cited and very influential works. It is not an accident that he is the president of his professional association. This is really the wrong person to be going after, especially given that he is not some leftist or ideologue.
    As for you, Menzie Chinn, clearly you need to watch what you write here, or the McCarthyite bugaboos will come after you too (with CoRev and company cheering them on)!!!

  12. KevinM

    Repeat this out loud until you understand:
    “The computer I use at work is not personal property. What I do with it is not private.”
    “The computer I use at work is not personal property. What I do with it is not private.”
    “The computer I use at work is not personal property. What I do with it is not private.”
    “The computer I use at work is not personal property. What I do with it is not private.”
    etc…
    Rookie mistake!

  13. Joseph

    Whether or not it is legal to get access to a professor’s email is not the real issue. Whether or not one should consider email private is not the issue.
    The issue is that the Republican Party is using a big club to try to intimidate anyone who dares to question their policies. This isn’t a question of legality. It is a display of thuggery and intimidation, an attempt to damage their opponents.

  14. C Thomson

    Despicable! Tragic! The death of the academy,ribbet,ribbet,ribbet…
    Where will it end? The Gulag. MacCarthy. Defunding NPR. The vileness…the evil…
    Meanwhile, back in the world…

  15. CoRev

    Barkley says: “There may or may not have been death threats or other cases of “suspect behavior on the left,” but the idea that Cronon’s post had anything to do with any such matters or could be characterized as such is itself utterly boneheaded.”
    No evidence in the email is therefore no problem for him.
    Joseph says: “The issue is that the Republican Party is using a big club to try to intimidate anyone who dares to question their policies.”
    While he completely forgets of the days of thousands demonstrating. How big of a club was that, along with the taunts and threats?

  16. Anonymous

    This is dirty politics indeed, but I do find it a tad hypocritical that Menzie takes the righteous stance that this is a violation of the independence of scholarly thinking and yet I’m fairly certain that, given the opportunity, he wouldn’t think twice about posting juicy tidbits of Gov. Walker’s emails.

  17. 2slugbaits

    CoRev Scott Walker and the other republican leaders and their families apparently had several death threats.
    This Thompson character is a political hack, not a member of law enforcement. If these death threats are legitimate (unlike many of the so-called “death threats” that a lot of GOP politicians have been alleging), then that is a police matter. Sounds like you would have gotten along quite well in the old Soviet Union where the Central Committee of the Party performed law enforcement functions.
    There are reports that uniformed police officers were part of the demonstrators, leaving doubt as to how well these threats are being/might be investigated.
    Oh, now I see. You’ve aligned yourself with the Black Helicopter crowd. The reason the Wisconsin Republican Party wants to do its own investigation is because public law enforcement officers are all part of that big corrupt union movement. Nevermind that Walker’s bill excluded law enforcement.
    Menzie Just be glad you don’t work for the federal government. Not only is it a “no no” to run or post to a blog using government computers, it’s also illegal (note…not just a firing offense, but illegal) to visit certain web sites on your home computer if the web site posts classified information (e.g., NY Times, WikiLeaks, etc.). It’s not illegal for private citizens without clearances to visit those sites, but it is illegal for a federal employee with a clearance to visit such a site even on his or her home computer. Got that? If you don’t have a clearance it’s okay to read leaked classified documents; but if you do have a clearance then it’s illegal to read leaked documents on the web….even if you were the author of those documents!!! The world is just weird.

  18. Gus Satkowski

    Anon: “I received one of very few A’s (genetic drift anyone?). And I can’t stand ignorance!”
    Maybe you can’t stand ignorance, but you make no effort to hide your love of self arrogance. Strong work.
    Spencer: Yes, I do have similar complaints for Mankiw. You may have noticed, unfortunately, that on his blog he does not allow comments. I do give some credit to him and other prominent economists like Krugman whose partisanship is clear in their credentials. There is no hiding that Mankiw has strong affiliations with the Republican Party. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under the latter Bush, for example. Krugman doesn’t dispute his liberalness, though as most do, feels truth has a bias towards his philosophy. Menzie Chinn, on the other hand, denies his bias. And if it makes you feel better, I think the right side of the political machine does generate more garbage than the left, and I do spend more of my time being critical about the misanalysis and tactics of the right.
    Barkley: Sorry you feel that I am “out to lunch” for wishing for more academic integrity. If Chinn wants to come out and say, as Krugman does, that the “facts have a liberal bias,” then fine. It’s just particularly disappointing that Econbrowser started out relatively non-partisan and strongly academic but one particular author’s subject matter has become disproportionately partisan.

  19. Menzie Chinn

    CoRev: I just wanted to be clear; my apologies if that offends.

    Anon (12:58): You write “GET OVER YOURSELF AND DROP THIS STUPID OBSESSION.” This sentence is not, as far as I can tell, grammatically correct construction. Please clarify.

    2slugbaits: I worked in the Federal government from 6/00-6/01, so I am aware of the multitude of rules that apply to the use of government equipment. That being said, I had thought there was something different about academia, as illustrated by Chancellor Biddy Martin’s comments.

    Gus Satkowski: (12:46pm) I would be interested in seeing your compilation of examples of conservative academics subjected to corresponding requests.

    Regarding your second comment (4:03pm), please verify/document your assertion “Menzie Chinn, on the other hand, denies his bias.”

    On the other hand, I might say you have a definite view. From your comment of 9/9/2010, 11:55pm:

    Wow, Menzie. What a shameless, disingenuous, deceitful, and epic failure of integrity, though perhaps a stunning propaganda piece. Academics should be disheartened by this partisan stunt in your suggesting there is no “ever-expanding” government sector. It’s one thing to be frustrated by conservative and libertarian philosophies on the role and size of government. But if you seriously do not understand why the data you presented here in no manner supports your claim, you have no business claiming authority on this subject and do a tremendous disservice to economics and logic in general.

    This statement seemed a bit hyperbolic at the time, but I think I now understand how you think.

    Thank you once again for your measured and unbiased comments.

  20. nilys

    CThompson wrote:
    “Despicable! Tragic! The death of the academy,ribbet,ribbet,ribbet…
    Where will it end? The Gulag. MacCarthy. Defunding NPR. The vileness…the evil…
    Meanwhile, back in the world…”

    All of those things have happened in the real world. Things like that happen all the time. Only those deserve freedom who struggle for it every day.

  21. Gus Satkowski

    Menzie: Very good use of your search engine/archives, as always. As you might have guessed, I post under different names (one name per economist blog site, not pretending to be multiple bloggers). You could probably just look that up via I.P. addresses that register with Econbrowser, say with another name over on Hamilton’s side, for example. Certainly he is non-partisan in his postings, and of course this would not help you with my critical postings on conservative blogs, but that’s not my problem. Yet you just repeated my point about your propaganda. Your argument: I’ll show you that Gus is wrong about me engaging in propaganda..by showing him critical of my propaganda!! Nice!

  22. Lance

    I know many professors who use external e-mail services (gmail, AOL, Yahoo!, etc) to avoid the potential possibility of administrator review, except for certain communications which are required to be sent to/from university e-mail.

  23. Gus Satkowski

    Menzie Chinn: I almost forgot to address your second point on your 4:25pm post. You state that you want corroboration that “Menzie Chinn, on the other hand, denies his bias.” Before answering, to be clear, are you saying that you deny employing partisanship methods via story selection bias? Or are you saying you never claimed that you were unbiased? Both/Neither? Just want to make sure I know what I am replying to.

  24. KC

    Yes, the request is legal but the post likely does not fall under the definition of “record.” But then again, I’m just a law student that is a semester shy of his degree so I could be wrong.
    The following is taken from 19.32 DEFINITIONS ["Record" does not include drafts, notes, preliminary computations and like materials prepared for the originator's personal use or prepared by the originator in the name of a person for whom the originator is working; materials which are purely the personal property of the custodian and have no relation to his or her office; materials to which access is limited by copyright, patent or bequest; and published materials in the possession of an authority other than a public library which are available for sale, or which are available for inspection at a public library."]
    I really enjoy this blog, but I see a lot of unnecessary bashing that does not add value to this site. I’m not exactly sure how posting an article and several links on the subject matter is biased. I also find it interesting that the individuals bashing Professor Chinn have not noticed that the writer that serves as the primary source explaining this issue is completely biased in favor of the requester. The journalist is not a legal authority but pontificates on the legal merits of the request. Furthermore, this journalist should try to adhere to the canons of journalism:
    “While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of — truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.”

  25. dkahn

    Gus: please stop complaining and move on. Also, retrieving electronic records cost a lot of money.

  26. 2slugbaits

    It seems to me that one of the dangers with going down this road is that it conflates the intended purpose behind the open records laws. And the inevitable workaround is that political officials start using nongovernment computers to do what is effectively governmental work. The open records laws and information management types have focused on the use of government owned property, but for different reasons. Proponents of open records laws cite the inherently public nature of government email and such, while IT types are typically concerned about government workers consuming bandwidth and servers for what are essentially unofficial reasons. But now we have the Wisconsin GOP abusing the intent of the law and apparently using it as a witch hunting opportunity. I’m not opposed to witch hunting if there really are witches out there….Sarah Palin’s email traffic seemed to more than justify concerns abour real witches; but I do worry that eventually people will seek to get around these laws by using personally owned computers to effectively conduct government business in order to skirt the law. Again, we saw Sarah Palin doing this by having her husband write emails on their home computer and we saw Karl Rove do this when he used GOP computers to conduct what was really government business. The almost inevitable result will be an expanding of the definition of government duties to include just about anything government workers write whether at home or at work.

  27. jonathan

    You should put together a book of your comments and annotate some. I can think of a couple of sections just from this assortment. My favorite today is the one that begins: “I think the the UW professors are employees of the state realize that they were hired because of their state bias and their promotions are dependent on how well they play the state bias game. Just how many conservatives do you believe are on the UW staff?” It’s neat to see such ignorance of how academia works combined with political bias from a commenter who uses the name of a famous economist, presumably because he (or she) fancies himself an expert. It’s really quite remarkable.
    Though my favorite this week was the one that started, “You do realize that Keynesian economics has been thoroughly discredited?”
    Now if you’d post a little about evolution, you would attract a whole nother set of cranks.
    BTW, my take is that sure this is intimidation but the response should be to say, “So what?” The school will give out whatever emails fit the request, as required by law, and then it falls to the GOP to make a stink. Remember, if they make a stink and try to politicize academia, then they’re picking a fight I can’t see them winning; they become Glenn Becks raving about elderly social studies professors’ plans to destroy capitalism. If someone wants to become extremist, you let them because extremism loses elections.

  28. 2slugbaits

    dkahn Also, retrieving electronic records cost a lot of money.
    Exactly. Almost everything that the Wisconsin GOP is doing will end up costing the taxpayers more money. But then again, it was never about the taxpayer; it was always about putting Wisconsin in the red column in 2012. The taxpayer will take it in the shorts thanks to the GOP’s antics. There will be court challenges, recall elections, and a movement away from deferred nonwage compensation to contemporaneous wage compensation. All of that will be paid for by the Wisconsin taxpayers. That kind of governance explains why Scott Walker was practically run out of his Milwaukee county supervisor job.

  29. Gus Satkowski

    dkahn: Thanks. This is what I am asking Menzie Chinn to do – stop complaining exclusively about only one partisan side by way of story selection bias, or just not pretend that one is looking hard at all economic news and say something similar to Krugman such as “truth has a liberal bias”. As time goes on it seems the Republicans are even more wrong on economic and other issues and deserving of more criticism than the left. That is not to say, however, that the left is undeserving of nearly any criticism and that there are essentially no noteworthy stories that put the right in a favorable light.

  30. Ivars

    I am still looking for a hypothetical reason for a sharp (30-40%) correction of silver but not oil in few weeks time. Is another credit crunch possible in coming weeks? Is there a too big to fail bank that has relation to silver that may fail in coming weeks? JP Morgan? I hear JPM has got some silver vault clearance in 2 days, hastily. Why? What does that mean? Can JPM collapse due to silver contracts or whatever related to silver it has accumulated due to some external shock, or just because silver is overpriced?
    Has JP Morgan or any other big USA bank too big exposure to Japan? In case it goes nuclear, and defaults (or many of its enterprises default)?
    There will be no bailout this time, that is sure. Thanks for any answers.

  31. 2slugbaits

    Gus Satkowski That is not to say, however, that the left is undeserving of nearly any criticism and that there are essentially no noteworthy stories that put the right in a favorable light.
    This is a very strange comment in light of your connecting it to Krugman and given what Krugman just wrote yesterday about the darling of the left, modern monetary theory (MMT). If we lived in a less absurd world then moderate conservatives, centrists and moderate folks on the left could probably be a lot more self-critical in public fora. But we’re not talking about your father’s conservatives.

  32. Gus Satkowski

    2slugbaits: obviously I disagree that this contradicts what I have said (I said almost always or almost never, but not absolutely always or never; one would hope that most can agree that any pattern that follows greater than 95% percent of this time qualifies as almost always or almost never). But you bring up a great point about Krugman’s post yesterday. Once in a blue moon he does post some things like this, and credit is rightfully due here. You will also find that I do comment positively on his blogs when the partisan wall comes down briefly and even if it is an item championed by the left but clearly academically driven.

  33. Anonymous

    2slugbaits: I also agree that there has been marked devolution over the years among conservatives to the point of frequent and repeated acts of ridiculousness.

  34. tj

    I think you all need to step back a minute and ask how you would feel if someone made a death threat against your son or daughter. I know I would leave no stone unturned to find the perpetrator. The opinions of few political opponents wouldn’t mean squat. Add the nasty political climate in Wisconsin to the mix, and you are going to get some people pushing the envelope.

  35. Rich Berger

    Blog post? I understand he wrote an oped in a paper called the NY Times. boo-f’ing-hoo! Don’t use work email to do non work stuff if don’t want it read.

  36. Menzie Chinn

    Gus Satkowski: I never asserted I was unbiased.

    I’m trying to figure out what you want me to do here. Suppose it’s 1861; am I supposed to equally cite news articles supporting and opposing slavery?

    Fast forward to 2011; should I be looking for articles that say that the concept of the open records law is good? I’d be glad to do that, but I didn’t state that I thought they were bad. In fact, this blogpost doesn’t say anywhere that the request was “bad”, or “illegal” (something that many commenters have missed). All I wrote was that the episode raised “important questions”. If that is incendiary partisanship, I think you have bigger problems than with just my posts.

    Finally, if I may quote one of my favorite macroeconomists, in regard to reading my posts on Econbrowser, you are “free to choose” to click past.

  37. Menzie Chinn

    Rich Berger: The open records request was made four days before the NYT op-ed was posted online. Unless the Wisconsin Republican Party is imbued with the power of prescience, I think it safe to conclude, in line with most accounts, that the request is a function of the blogpost.

  38. 2slugbaits

    tj You’re argument is absurd on the face of it. Nowhere in Thompson’s request for emails does he ask for anything that references Gov Walker’s children. Read Thompson’s request. He’s only interested in finding criticisms of Walker’s policy. He’s clearly intending to try identify and intimidate UW and faculty members sympathetic with the unions. And honestly, if you were really trying to “leave no stone unturned” would you pick some old history professor as the first stone to unturn? If the answer is yes, then you probably don’t want to interview for a job with Pinkerton.

  39. Mark A. Sadowski

    Some reflections on this incident:
    1) Practical.
    Use multiple email acounts and keep them well segregated. I have four. Two of them are academic and the email traffic on them strictly relates to those institutions. I have an email address relating to my internet provider that I use primarily as a commenting contact and financial affairs. I have a gmail address that I use for things of a more personal nature. Never use a computer that is not your own for personal matters. This system works well for me.
    2) Academic Freedom.
    If this FOI request is granted I predict it will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. Individual faculty, staff and students inevitably consider and advocate positions that will be at odds with one another’s views and the views of people outside of the university. The right to explore freely and freely express their points of view will be greatly undermined.
    3) The Tea Part is not about freedom.
    The Tea Party is an astroturf movement financed by the Koch brothers and organized by ALEC. In every case where their members have been elected there has been concerted effort to take away basic rights and freedoms and seize control of local institutions. They represent corporate interests that evidently knows no boundaries when it comes to the use of threats, intimidation and harassment in order to silence dissent. Peer behind the curtain and what you see would make the most fervant totalitarian proud. It’s about as Orwellian as things get.
    4) This will backfire.
    By all accounts prior to this incident Bill Cronon was centrist, being a life long independent and deliberately non-political in nature. His professional interest as a historian was always to research and understand the full spectrum of American political opinion and to discuss them in a thoroughly objective fashion. The fact that he is the president of his own professional association should speak volumes. His crime was in attempting to pull back the curtain of deception, and reveal the truth. How this will impact his objectivity going foreward only he can say. How this will impact many other’s perceptions of the Tea Party I am fairly certain.
    P.S. It’s despicable acts like this that made me a Yellow Dog.

  40. Gus Satkowski

    Menzie Chinn: You mention some material used in your August 29, 2009 post “Of Ideologues and Ranters” (http://www.econbrowser.com/archives/2009/08/arnold_kling_ca.html) when you brought up the 1861 example. Certainly there were and are still very highly esteemed public figures around this time and prior who held views repulsive to most anyone today. Go back a few more decades and some of the founding fathers are good examples. Let’s forget about even supporting slavery, many frankly owned slaves. It seems a no-brainer today how that is contradictory to everything we know and what should have been known, but it still happened. Even those who were ahead of their times in 1861 got other important things wrong. There will undoubtedly be those who look back at the economists of our day and marvel at how many got things right or wrong. Yet none of us is so wise to have infallible foresight. Is nearly 100% of what Republicans do today shameful? Maybe, but only time will tell. Odds are though, that it’s not quite 100% and that history will show that they did do at least a few good things.
    If you want me to put a direct question to you, I would ask this: Is it correct that your story selections are purely coincidental, an accurate reflection and sampling of economic news and facts as you see them, largely unmotivated by personal political leanings, or something else entirely? My personal concern is that the left gets it correct more often than the right, but doubt this happens nearly 100% of the time, which I think a reasonable breakdown of your topics suggests.
    Most of you posts, in and of themselves are reasonably argued, so it is not an individual post I am singling out here. My concern here is the pattern of story selection. For example, to those unfamiliar with any given basketball player, he could be good or bad at his game, but if I keep reporting footage of him bricking shot after shot, most people will think he is terrible whether he really is or not, whether he does this 5, 25, 50, 75, 95, or 100 percent of the time. Each individual report may be 100% correct and individually with merit, but the sum can tell a very different story. That is my biggest concern with your postings.
    But let me go back to the article I referenced above. Although you said you were “ready to take up the challenge” by Arnold King when he bet that “Kwak cannot find a blog post of Chinn’s where he made a policy point against Democrats/liberal or for Republicans/conservatives”, you have not really done so. You identified a few cases about your personal beliefs, but did not actually show blog post topics. New Gingrich and others of similar persuasions probably think the democrats/liberals have adopted at least a few good positions. But since he is a strong partisan, one would not be surprised to hear him rarely mention these. And among other reasons, we should therefore look at what he says with heavy skepticism.
    A great quote, by the way. To your credit, and liberals in general, as opposed to those leaning the other philosophical direction, liberals are more receptive to adjusting and re-evaluating their viewpoints as new facts and compelling evidence present themselves. Perhaps another relevant quote to this topic and to all who are champions of academic thought: ”you must always be students, learning and unlearning till your life’s end…”

  41. RobJ

    Gussy, dear,
    If you want fair and unbiased posts, you might want to start writing your own blog and see how many here seek you out. (My estimate is 1-2 at maximum). My eyes and brain are bleeding from reading just two of your comments.
    Complaining about “unfair” partisanship or bias on a blog is like going out in the rain and complaining about being hit by raindrops. If this site charged a subscription, then I’d have a little charity for you. Camping on a blogsite space and calling names to the blogger is a little. . . petty? I use the term very objectively, by the way.

  42. Steven Kopits

    Cronon, in his blog, seeks the origins of the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin. He turns first to the Koch brothers, but dismisses them as an indequate explanation. He then turns to ALEC, and attributes success of conservative policy largely to ALEC’s superior capabilities. Thus, conservative policy is a function of unique leadership and organization.
    This is a possible explanation.
    Of course, an alternate explanation would be the changing priorities or values of voters. But why would this be? How do we go from a ‘compassionate conservative’ Bush to an Obama victory to the Tea Party and Scott Walker?
    Bush was voted out for one of two reasons: incompetence (causing the recession) or a desire for more egalitarian policies. Certainly on the right, Obama was viewed as interpreting his mandate as an egalitarian one–hence, universal healthcare was a priority, that is, a big spending program with a significant re-distributive component.
    On the right, this was interpreted as a socialist attack and directly gave rise to the Tea Party. Now this is an interesting organization. The moniker ‘Tea Party’ speaks to a small government philosophy; but check out their websites, and they speak of ‘Tea Party Patriots’, a socially conservative notion. And Tea Party members tend to be older; they want to be both fiscally and socially conservative, just as they were during the Reagan administration.
    Bu why did Tea Party members not turn to the Republican Party? Why was there a need for a Tea Party at all? Because social conservatism under Bush was seen as analogous to ‘big spending’. Republicans, in many cases, did not stand for small government at all, but rather for expensive paternalism, and the Tea Party presented an opportunity to re-unify patriotism with small government. In economics-speak, the Tea Party re-united the principal-agent (desire vs duty) conflict within the individual, and that’s a comfortable place to have it. Rather than having to choose between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism, Obama’s perceived egalitarianism allowed Tea Party members to be both again–and the Democrats took a huge drubbing in November as a result.
    So where, then, are the egalitarians? When I was in Hungary, this was clear. The social conservatives crowded the boundary from the right; the fiscal conservatives from the left. The egalitarians were not on the median voter boundary at all!
    And they’re not in the US either. Why not? Because socialism fell in 1989, and egalitarianism lost its legitimacy. How do we know? What’s the color of the Republican Party? It’s red. But red is the color of communism, and of insurgent parties in general. The Democrats are blue, the color of the establishment. More precisely, blue is the natural color of government–it belongs to the fiscal conservatives. If it didn’t, the color of the Democrats would still be red–the color of socialism. So the fiscal conservatives, being on the median voter boundary, should rule the left. They should be balancing the budget and cutting spending. But they’re not. The egalitarians misinterpreted the 2008 election as a mandate for egalitarianism, when it was only a call for competence.
    The consequence of this misreading is the danger is that the fiscal and social conservatives unite, and together now represent a majority of the electorate. And that gets you Scott Walker. So I interpret the events in Wisconsin as the continued implosion of the egalitarian legacy from FDR (or 1917, if you prefer) to Carter (or 1989 and Bush Sr?). It appears communism is still unwinding, and if Cronon is wants an explanation for the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, perhaps that’s where he should look.

  43. Michael Cain

    “When you work for the state you have to expect the state to have access to everything you do under the state umbrella.”

    Depends on the state. In the state where I was a member of the permanent non-partisan legislative staff, the courts had ruled that my working papers were not subject to open records requests, even if made by the governor or a member of the legislature. E-mail, spreadsheets, notes from interviews, all of that was subject to subpoena in an actual lawsuit, yes, but not to open records requests.

  44. Steve

    I have lived in Wisconsin most of my adult life.
    Corrupt politicians have been bribed with money by public employee unions. This has resulted in obscene benefits to public employees only.
    Now, the cat is out of the bag and the good people of the state are now aware of how they were had.
    What is the limit of what to do with these wrong-doers ?
    Should the gains be clawed back ?

  45. Mark A. Sadowski

    @Steven Kopits,
    Social conservatives vs. fiscal conservatives vs. egalitarians? What happened to people who are just are against the use of threats, intimidation and harassment in eliminating dissent?
    I guess they didn’t exist in Hungary (at least as implied by your account).

  46. 2slugbaits

    Steve Kopits What’s the color of the Republican Party? It’s red. But red is the color of communism, and of insurgent parties in general. The Democrats are blue, the color of the establishment.
    Utter BS. Up until 2000 the networks used to alternate colors…one election the GOP would be blue and the next election the Democrats would be red. No one paid any attention….it was just a device for visually displaying who won each state and the colors were irrelevant. It was only with the long, drawn out 2000 election that the media settled on the “blue states” and “red states” that we know today.
    The Tea Party is just a hard right faction within the GOP. Always has been and always will be. It’s old, white, old, conservative, old, middle class and old. A better name for the Tea Party would be Greedy Geezers. And most of them can’t even get the history of the actual Boston tea party right…the tea act itself actually lowered the price of tea. At the time The Boston Tea Party was considered a shameful act even, which is why we still do not know with any degree of certainty who was actually involved in the dumping of the tea. They all kept their mouths shut for 50 years.
    The GOP won big in 2010 because younger Democrats stayed home and geezers didn’t. That’s not unusual in off-year elections. But there’s also been a lot of buyer’s regret over the 2010 election. Most polls are showing that if the 2010 election were held today the GOP would not do very well. We can be pretty sure that Walker would have lost by a wide margin. It looks like he’s less than even money to retain his job with the now all but certain recall election early next year.

  47. measton

    The consequence of this misreading is the danger is that the fiscal and social conservatives unite, and together now represent a majority of the electorate. And that gets you Scott Walker. So I interpret the events in Wisconsin as the continued implosion of the egalitarian legacy from FDR (or 1917, if you prefer) to Carter (or 1989 and Bush Sr?). It appears communism is still unwinding, and if Cronon is wants an explanation for the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, perhaps that’s where he should look.
    Well polls suggest Walker would be voted out of office now. The majority side with the unions in terms of maintaining collective bargaining.
    USA today – MADISON, Wis. — Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.
    March 3rd- new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Wisconsin voters shows that just 39% favor weakening collective bargaining rights and 52% are opposed

  48. Ivars

    Steven Kopits: “It appears communism is still unwinding, and if Cronon is wants an explanation for the anti-union legislation in Wisconsin, perhaps that’s where he should look.”
    Absolutely correct. The momentum is still towards the right, as opposed to communism, whatever it means. So there will be even less unions than now in the USA.
    Why Tea Party- because middle class is not represented by anyone- its only unions and big corporations.
    Now, if Tea Party turns into force representing middle class, ( provided Dems continue the economic meltdown started or continued by Bush) , they will sweep both existing parties away, and then forget about egalitarianism, it will be hard work and rewards by input. No free lunch.
    When middle class rules , it can get pretty sadistic on both extremes (Unions and Big Capital) that ruled before. Like in Nazi Germany, Hitler had principally unwavering support from middle class immediately after the recession of 1929 and following set in (BUT NOT BEFORE) , even through his war launches , killing of jews and slavs etc. etc.
    So, provided there is continued economic meltdown on the aftermath of great recession of 2008 and following reaction ( that is 100% given, I think, if we add to normal double dip the Japan, peak oil, and revolutions all over the globe) , the next elections in the USA will bring either directly or after elections the extreme right- unwinded communism- middle class ( not by income but by philosophy) to the power. A REAL third party, and new down to earth, non-elitist, populist leader. I am sure Sarah Palin will run independent when she finally makes up her mind. She is Your “Hitler”, if You will. Even Barak has started to make wars all over the place, wait till someone like Sarah gets to military power which she admires.
    Wait just few months to see this movement gather strength again, and sweep away both RED and BLUE parties.
    There is nothing Mr. Chinn here can do about it. The flywheel of history has already got the extra punch in 2008, nothing is going to stop it.
    As an opposite answer to the USA going “fascist” China will move more to the left, “war communism” in 2012-2013.

  49. Steven Kopits

    Mark -
    In general, as Ivars notes, egalitarians and social conservatives tend to focus on outcomes; fiscal conservatives (liberals) tend to focus on process, because liberalism (of the classical sort) is about the property rights of the individual (the principal, in principal-agent theory), which is ultimately insured by due process. By contrast, both the far left and far right tend to view personal liberty as subordinate to ideological priorities.
    As for Hungary and the Kopits’s, I have earlier commented about my uncle George. You can read about him or his work in the FT, WSJ or the Economist. There are brave, dedicated people in all countries, Hungary included.

  50. Menzie Chinn

    Gus Satkowski: No, the choice of articles is not random. I see where economic analysis — or what passes for economic analysis — is wrongheaded and comment there, using as a springboard articles from mainstream media. In order to maintain domestic harmony, and remain productive in my day-job, this means I limit the number of posts I make per week (by the way, for those bored of the Wisconsin topic (e.g., Ivars and beau), please note the Wisconsin posts have been largely in addition to the macroeconomics posts, not supplanting them).

    Can I help it if those in a certain party believe that Nobel laureates in economics aren’t qualified to be on the Fed Board of Governors, or believe that cutting unemployment insurance is a good way to reduce the budget deficit, or that global climate change is either unproven or doesn’t have a sizable component driven by human activities? If I can find similarly misguided views prevailing in the other party, surely I will mention it. But there is so much material to work with in the party in question.

    By the way, you still haven’t responded to the query I had on 3/25, 4:25pm: What conservative academics have been subjected to similar open records requests as that aimed at Professor Cronon? You suggested there was some sort of equivalency, and I have yet to see any evidence of such.

  51. Ivars

    Menzie:”for those bored of the Wisconsin topic (e.g., Ivars and beau), please note the Wisconsin posts have been largely in addition to the macroeconomics posts, not supplanting them).”
    Actually, looking at my own responses I can say I am not bored once the matter is expanded a bit outside particular state I know little about… Which is always possible:) -discussions can get very heated and interesting.
    I think nowadays , more and more politics will move into economic blogs as what is happening now politically (e.g MENA, Europes falling governments) has so big influences on economics and vice versa (e.g QE2, oil prices).
    Which in the end, in fact, makes the blog more active, as lively discussions develop in comments, not so much about the particular topic in the post.
    59 comments per post is a good result in Econbrowser.

  52. Barkley Rosser

    CoRev, Steve K., and Gus S.,
    Of course emails from publicly used computer are open game. However, let us not be foolish here. Asking for someone to go through all of them for some political end (clearly what is involved here) is a waste of time, money, and simply harassment.
    Walker did not run on ending collective bargaining by public sector workers. He sprang that on the public after in office, and the polls show it is very unpopular and he would lose the election if it were held today. As it is, several GOP senators will probably get recalled due to this. That there were demonstrations? Tough bananas, that happens if somebody without running on it pushes something very unpopular.

  53. Warren

    I read Dr Cronon’s post when Professor Chinn flagged it. It is a dispassionate account by an objective historian, and is in no way a biased diatribe. Paul Krugman takes on the matter in an N Y Times column,appended below.
    I have traveled and briefly worked in a number of repressive dictatorships, including the old Soviet Union and several of its then-satellites. The palpable constant fear felt by the scientists — privileged people, as long as they said and did nothing offensive to the informers and secret police — with whom I associated was contagious. The American radical right seeks to impose a similar suppression here of all political, historical, religious, and scientific concepts and information incompatible with its own mythology. Such suppression is not a monopoly of communist societies. Few readers of Econbrowser have a memory of the great capitalistic fascist dictatorships and the war against them, and those who now support the radical right should expand their knowledge of 20th-century history.
    ================
    AMERICAN THOUGHT POLICE
    By PAUL KRUGMAN
    New York Times, March 27, 2011
    Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”
    So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians.
    If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.
    The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.
    The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.
    Back in 2009 climate skeptics got hold of more than a thousand e-mails between researchers at the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia. Nothing in the correspondence suggested any kind of scientific impropriety; at most, we learned — I know this will shock you — that scientists are human beings, who occasionally say snide things about people they dislike.
    But that didn’t stop the usual suspects from proclaiming that they had uncovered “Climategate,” a scientific scandal that somehow invalidates the vast array of evidence for man-made climate change. And this fake scandal gives an indication of what the Wisconsin G.O.P. presumably hopes to do to Mr. Cronon.
    After all, if you go through a large number of messages looking for lines that can be made to sound bad, you’re bound to find a few. In fact, it’s surprising how few such lines the critics managed to find in the “Climategate” trove: much of the smear has focused on just one e-mail, in which a researcher talks about using a “trick” to “hide the decline” in a particular series. In context, it’s clear that he’s talking about making an effective graphical presentation, not about suppressing evidence. But the right wants a scandal, and won’t take no for an answer.
    Is there any doubt that Wisconsin Republicans are hoping for a similar “success” against Mr. Cronon?
    Now, in this case they’ll probably come up dry. Mr. Cronon writes on his blog that he has been careful never to use his university e-mail for personal business, exhibiting a scrupulousness that’s neither common nor expected in the academic world. (Full disclosure: I have, at times, used my university e-mail to remind my wife to feed the cats, confirm dinner plans with friends, etc.)
    Beyond that, Mr. Cronon — the president-elect of the American Historical Association — has a secure reputation as a towering figure in his field. His magnificent “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” is the best work of economic and business history I’ve ever read — and I read a lot of that kind of thing.
    So we don’t need to worry about Mr. Cronon — but we should worry a lot about the wider effect of attacks like the one he’s facing.
    Legally, Republicans may be within their rights: Wisconsin’s open records law provides public access to e-mails of government employees, although the law was clearly intended to apply to state officials, not university professors. But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.
    Someone like Mr. Cronon can stand up to the pressure. But less eminent and established researchers won’t just become reluctant to act as concerned citizens, weighing in on current debates; they’ll be deterred from even doing research on topics that might get them in trouble.
    What’s at stake here, in other words, is whether we’re going to have an open national discourse in which scholars feel free to go wherever the evidence takes them, and to contribute to public understanding. Republicans, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, are trying to shut that kind of discourse down. It’s up to the rest of us to see that they don’t succeed.

  54. Steven Kopits

    Menzie -
    If you put ideology at the top, then in fact a Nobel Laureate may not be the right choice for a given position. Values have a strong emotional content and are not amenable to easy reconcilation. Intelligence is more about optimization. So for a given ideology,a Nobel Laureate will be better than a guy off the street, but for different ideology, may be a terrible choice. Take Secretary Chu. No one doubts he’s a nice guy or very smart. But the feeling is he’d like to see oil and gas go away, which is fine, except that it will constitute 95%+ of the transportation fuel supply for the next five years. So the administration is way behind the ball on current and likely oil prices. They may be doing things right, but they’re not doing the right things. And that’s because of ideological proclivity, notwithstanding formidable intelligence and otherwise fine moral character.
    You might try putting ideology at the top of an analysis, and see if you think it has merit. So,
    For a given ideology,
    Values sub x = f(reward, effort and risk)
    where “x” can be egalitarian, liberal or conservative
    This is the same objective function as for the corporation, (but we really do need to include risk–for the corporation as well). The corporation has “x” normally set to “liberal”, with money serving as a proxy for individual property rights (ie, the goal is to increase the value of the holding of the shareholder).
    Now, conservative ideology has a wrinkle here, because the unit of analysis is the group, not the individual. This is due to increasing economies of scale (two heads are better than one). Human society is virtually predicated on this notion–it is fundamentally related to speech. Companies, nations and states all derive from this, and of course, this is related to specialization.
    However, egalitarians hate (and liberals don’t like) this conservative sort of structure because it implies a hierarchy. A socially conservative structure involves allocation of effort, reward and risk from the group level to the individual–it is characterized by power relationships. Further, the leadership of the organization is well-positioned to influence this allocation. There is plenty of scope for abuse–just ask the Egyptians or Libyans.
    In this world, the individual is expected to subordinate his personal priorities for the benefit of the whole. The term for this is ‘being a team player’. For Marxists, it’s exploitation. For economists, it’s being an agent.
    In any event, if you use an explicitly ideological framework, then intelligence becomes one element in the mix, but not the only one; and, if so, we may also entertain other elements which might also be important. Further, this approach opens the door to a more systematic analysis of conservatism (and culture and corporate culture), which is sorely lacking at present.

  55. Six Ounces

    Welcome to the real un-free world where most of us:
    1. Are not allowed to blog during work hours on work equipment
    2. Where everything we say is representative of our employer regardless of how many disclaimers we make
    3. Where our employers can and DO fire us because of 2.
    4. Where we must temper everything we say, remain anonymous, and restrict our speech out of fear of 3.
    If you want to blog, do so on your own time and on your own dime, expect to take responsibility for what you say, and don’t use your university position as credentials for your opinion.

  56. Barkley Rosser

    Six Ounces,
    To whom is this directed? Menzie Chinn? There is no evidence that he is blogging on work time or on a work computer? William Cronon? He most definitely did not do so.
    You are out to lunch.

  57. Gus Satkowski

    Menzie Chinn: You are correct. I did not respond to anything about “what conservative academics have been subjected to similar open records requests as that aimed at Professor Cronon?” I never said there was equivalency on this topic and I also agree that the right certainly wins this shameful award when it comes down to open records. Ethics should usually trump legality. But that was never my argument and don’t see how within this single topic there was suggested equivalency. Again, I have argued in this string that this was not about the equivalency within this given post, rather about all topic selections in total. I just think that there are sometimes economic topics of merit, like what Paul Krugman posted a few days ago about MMT, that don’t always cast the left as angels and the right as demons. Again, I don’t suppose the right is correct half as often as the left on any given topic, but doubt the left is correct 100% of the time.
    There are nearly limitless topics to critique the right on, but unless you think the left is flawless, the once in a blue moon critique of the left would be reassuring, if for no other reason than that your right leaning readers would be more receptive to your critiques of their politics.

  58. Brian

    Mr. Chinn,

    I share your disturbed thoughts regarding intellectual freedom in the academic world, or it’s supposed intellectual freedom, and if that university is publically funded I fail to see how any of the equipment there could not be used for one to express their views, even, and especially if, they are critical of the government or the university itself (within the confines of the law).

    However, I think your approach to the matter will do little good, as it simply conforms to the problem of partisan politics, that is, you direct the reader indirectly into the position that this is somehow the agenda of the Republican party as opposed to authoritative pwers in general–regardless of political party any actions to curtail intellectual freedom should be resisted regardless of their party affiliation. I certainly find the above actions disturbing, but I equally find it disturbing that President Obama avoided any Congressional debate over Libya–no need to surpess thoughts on a discussion that never even began.

    As for partiality, well, how of us is simply mechanical, and only a fool would suspect that they were above such things, and hence the importance of intellectual freedom and discussion: the eye was not designed to see itself.

  59. Joshk

    As a taxpayer I don’t want gvt employees at UW using tax payer resources to try to get even more of my money than they already are. We’re well past the limit.

  60. Six Ounces

    “He most definitely did not do so.”
    Barkley, how in the world do you know Cronon did not blog or conduct political activities on UW time using UW computers? There are no date or time stamps on any of his posts. The FOIA request came because of reasonable belief that that was the case, and citizens have a right to request information through FOIA, regardless of their motives. You’re not suggesting that FOIA is unjust, are you?
    If he doesn’t use university time and equipment for blogging and political activism, then the FOIA request will return zero results. The FOIA was very specific about what content it was seeking. UW employees are barred from partisan political activities using university equipment and time. Supporting any recall election would qualify.
    You might want to read this:
    http://www.wisconsin.edu/govrel/camprule.htm
    Federal employees are barred under the Hatch Act, and many states have similar laws. The Hatch Act also extends to state and local employees which receive funding primarily from federal sources.
    In any event, the issue isn’t what he said but when and where he said it, and in what capacity. Universities are not free soap boxes for political activism – or at least they should not be. We have too much work to do with research, teaching, and university service to indulge in our political extracurriculars, and it’s not a service to taxpayers or students.

  61. James

    My work email belongs to my employer. They can search it any time they like to see if I am engaged in activities that are non-work related. In most organizations, do so makes you subject to disciplinary action. If this prof was engaged in personal politicking on his employer’s dime, he should face the consequences.

  62. Menzie Chinn

    Aram ZS, Bob_in_MA, Ricardo, James:
    Consider a hypothetical. We know speeding is illegal. Suppose the government decided it was necessary to have a police car tail you as you drive all day to see if you drove faster than the posted speed limit, on the basis of the fact that your car was able to go faster than the speed limit. Would that be legal? In some sense, I’d guess it would be (although I’m no lawyer). Would it be right? Well, that is potentially a different matter.

  63. James

    Menzie:
    I think your cop car analogy is false. A better analogy is that you commit a crime and a prosecutor asks a judge authorize a search warrant to look for specific evidence that you did commit a crime.
    I just saw Krugman’s typical over-the-top response about “Thought Police.” The only Thought Police I am aware of exist in academia and enforce liberal orthodoxy and politically correct thought.

  64. rootless

    @2slugbaits:
    You wrote:
    “Just be glad you don’t work for the federal government. Not only is it a “no no” to run or post to a blog using government computers, it’s also illegal (note…not just a firing offense, but illegal) to visit certain web sites on your home computer if the web site posts classified information (e.g., NY Times, WikiLeaks, etc.). It’s not illegal for private citizens without clearances to visit those sites, but it is illegal for a federal employee with a clearance to visit such a site even on his or her home computer.”
    Do you have a source for your claim that this includes any home computer? I have read this somewhat differently. According to what I read, this includes personal computers that access government systems, but not any home computer. See:
    http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20101206_5274.php

  65. rootless

    @Six Ounces:
    You wrote:
    “Barkley, how in the world do you know Cronon did not blog or conduct political activities on UW time using UW computers? There are no date or time stamps on any of his posts.”
    If I understand this right, you don’t know that either. Or anyone else knows that. So on what is the suspicion that Cronon may have done something illegal founded? Apparently, on nothing. There is just someone else, some Republican hack, who doesn’t like Cronon’s political views he has expressed in public, and now this someone else tries to find a way to damage Cronon using other means. Right?

  66. rootless

    @James:
    You wrote:
    “If this prof was engaged in personal politicking on his employer’s dime, he should face the consequences.”
    And on what is the suspicion that Cronon may have done so, which apparently serves as rational for you to defend the action regarding his work email, founded? On the grounds that Cronon has expressed some views in public, which are obviously not liked by someone else (perhaps including you?)?

  67. James

    Menzie, rootless,
    I believe the legal term is “probable cause.”
    Again, whether you like it or not, there is no expectation of privacy with your work email.
    Professor Cronon is entitled to his political views and to act on them as he sees fit. However, he is not allowed to get paid by the state to promote them. This is really a clear cut case, specious allegations of McCarthyism notwithstanding.

  68. rootless

    @James:
    You write:
    “I believe the legal term is ‘probable cause.’”
    Probable cause: http://www.lectlaw.com/def2/p089.htm
    It says:
    “Probable cause
    A reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.[...]
    When there are grounds for suspicion that a person has committed a crime or misdemeanor, and public justice and the good of the community require that the matter should be examined, there is said to be a probable cause for, making a charge against the accused, however malicious the intention of the accuser may have been. And probable cause will be presumed till the contrary appears.”
    Now, my question was what are the grounds for such a reasonable belief in the case of Prof. Cronon? That he expressed a view in public, and this view has been disliked by someone else or by you? Or what else has Prof. Cronon done, so that placing him under such a suspicion was reasonable?
    You wrote:
    “Professor Cronon is entitled to his political views and to act on them as he sees fit. However, he is not allowed to get paid by the state to promote them. This is really a clear cut case, …”
    And the question is, on what ground do you state the suspicion Prof. Cronon has violated this to promote his political views. Please could you explain this and not just repeat the suspicion in your answer again?

  69. Menzie Chinn

    James: Let me get you down on (virtual) paper here. You are asserting that a blogpost describing the activities of ALEC constitutes “probable cause” that Professor Cronon violated university rules by engaging in political activities using university equipment and facilities? Please be so kind to answer yes or no, so I (and readers) can be certain of what you are stating.

    Assuming your answer is “yes”, then let me pose another hypothetical: if I were to write a blogpost criticizing a key export of Wisconsin, say cheese, would that constitute “probable cause” for asking for all my emails, to see if I had contacted anti-cheese groups? This seems to follow logically from your definition of “probable cause”.

  70. James

    Menzie,
    Perhaps “probable cause” is too strong a term. Let’s just say doing so makes you a potential target. Knowing that your work email is not private and open records laws allow people to request access to it for particular items means that you need to mind your p’s and q’s.
    You are free to write about cheese, politics, whatever on your personal blog, but if it rubs someone the wrong way, they apprently have a right to make sure you’re not using state resources on state time to advocate your cause. Don’t like that? Change the law.

  71. Menzie Chinn

    James: Thank you for the clarification. I agree, the Wisconsin Republican Party is apparently within its rights to request emails. I suspect that Tail Gunner Joe did not violate any laws when he averred he had a list of names.

  72. James

    History — The Venona Tapes, the works of Klehr and Haynes (See The Secret World of American Communism)– show that Senator McCarthy, while perhaps pulling numbers out of his keister, underestimated Soviet infiltration into the government.

  73. James

    Menzie,
    One can be correct (qualitatively), but off (quantitatively).
    However, I don’t think making stuff up is justified, because I don’t believe the ends justify the means.
    But, I can understand how some on the right want to use Alinsky’s Rules against him (their political adversaries) even though it reduces them to the level of their opponents.

  74. Six Ounces

    First of all, probable cause applies to POLICE searches, not searches by university officials of their own university equipment.
    And yes, I do not have any idea whether he used university time or equipment. I do not know, one way or another, whether the people who filed the FOIA request have such a reasonable belief.
    But that is a red herring. A FOIA request does not require justification. The ability to file a request is independent of the filer’s motives or intentions for the information.
    Since it’s the RIGHT of the requester to ask for the information, it is not YOUR privilege to even ask them why or for what purpose they intend to use it. Frankly, it’s none of your damned business! You are suggesting we infringe the rights of citizens to request public information.
    What part of FREEDOM OF INFORMATION do you not understand? Taxpayers – any taxpayers – whether a journalist, a Wisconsin housewife, or a “Republican hack” have as much a right to file a FOIA request as anyone else entitled to that information.
    You don’t have to like it, but you have to eat it.
    If you think leftist hacks haven’t made similar FOIA requests to chill the speech of conservatives, you are naive.
    Cronon’s freedom of speech is not the subject of discussion, although that’s how the leftist narrative is being spun. He is actually free to express opinions of a political nature using his university email account.
    The only relevant issues are:
    1. Is the FOIA request a legitimate obligation of the university to provide?
    2. Is Cronon actually engaging in political campaigning with university resources.
    The cop car analogy is woefully inadequate. It’s so far off the mark, it’s worthy of ridicule as a desperate measure. Start with the premise that it’s a GOVERNMENT vehicle, the driver is a government employee subject to strict rules on the use of said vehicle, and the search or surveillance is conducted by the government entity specifically responsible for the vehicle, and you begin to see where the analogy falls apart.
    When analogies fail, it’s always a good idea to revert to reality.

  75. Menzie Chinn

    Six Ounces: I repeat my previous query: What is the equivalent example of an open records request made to an academic critical of a Democratic administration? You assert there are many examples, but I’ve not heard one yet.

  76. James

    Conservative academics get weeded out so you have a very small sample size to begin with, and the ones that remain are savvy enough to keep a low profile. Old Japanese saying: the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
    The question, Menzie, is what issues do you have with FOIA requests? Only certain ones are proper?

  77. rootless

    @Six Ounces:
    You wrote:
    “And yes, I do not have any idea whether he used university time or equipment. I do not know, one way or another, whether the people who filed the FOIA request have such a reasonable belief.”
    So there is no evidence known to the public, which provides any grounds to place Prof. Cronon under the suspicion to have violated university rules. And it looks very much like that some Republican hacks have started a fishing expedition and smear campaign against someone whose views they don’t like with the purpose to damage him in another way.
    “But that is a red herring. A FOIA request does not require justification. The ability to file a request is independent of the filer’s motives or intentions for the information.”
    No, that’s not the red herring. The red herring is to argue that the FOIA requester acted within their rights, when this wasn’t the issue at hand raised by Prof. Chinn or anyone else here critical to the action taken against Prof. Cronon.
    “Since it’s the RIGHT of the requester to ask for the information, it is not YOUR privilege to even ask them why or for what purpose they intend to use it. Frankly, it’s none of your damned business! You are suggesting we infringe the rights of citizens to request public information.”
    Who is “we” in the last sentence? Are you affiliated with the group that has taken this action against Prof. Cronon? At least you seem to identify sufficiently with those so that you use this including pronoun.
    As for infringing rights. Actually, you just have denied that I had a right to ask about the motives of the FOIA requester and the purposes of their action. That may be what you wish, but what part of freedom of speech don’t you understand? You don’t determine whether it’s my business. If I want to make it my business, it’s my business. I have every right to ask about the motives and purposes that drive the FOIA requester and make comments on it. Your conclusion, that I didn’t have such a right, because the FOIA requester acted within their rights, is logically a non-sequitur. I just can’t enforce an answer from them to my questions.
    You don’t have to like it, but you have to eat it.
    “If you think leftist hacks haven’t made similar FOIA requests to chill the speech of conservatives, you are naive.”
    Tu quoque argument. But interesting that you say this, since you claim in the next sentence it wasn’t about Prof. Cronon’s freedom of speech.

  78. CoRev

    Let’s translate Menzies’s question. “What is the equivalent example of an open records request made to an academic critical of a Democratic administration? You assert there are many examples, but I’ve not heard one yet.”
    Menzie requests a search for 1) Academics which already seriously limits the search as most academics are liberal. But, even more importantly sets a limit on the search(s) that doesn’t normally exist as a category. Who is an academic? What organization is that academic representing when submitting the FOIA? 2) Then he limits the already limited search to being critical. This further requires the searcher to understand the inherent subject of the FOIA 3) Adding even another limitation of a Democratic administration. Assures that the searcher is limited to three administrations within the past forty years.
    Nesting limitations is a nice way to eliminate or at best limit discussion over a subject.
    Here’s a link that illustrates the impossibility of answering Menzie’s question. http://www.scribd.com/doc/36819075/EPA-FOIA-Logs-August-2010 Is there anyone here that does not think the number of EPA FOIA’s in 2010 shown in this list did not include an academic as an expert witness for the law firms or corporate requesters?
    Way to go Menzie! Make a question out of an impossibly limited scenario.

  79. rootless

    @CoRev:
    The claim that was made was as follows:
    “If you think leftist hacks haven’t made similar FOIA requests to chill the speech of conservatives, you are naive.”
    The assertion is leftist have had made SIMILAR requests “to chill the speech of conservatives”.
    So what are you saying now? That we are supposed to just accept an assertion as true, because you know a list of reasons why it was too difficult to back up this assertion? And then the fault was at the side of the one who asks for evidence, or in this case for examples? Or if you think that Prof. Chinn has used a too confining interpretation of “similar”, you are free to lay out your own criteria of what constitutes “similar” and then provide the evidence or the examples.
    Otherwise, if you can’t back up a factual claim just don’t make it.

  80. CoRev

    Rootless, gimme a break!!! Look at Menzie’s question: “What is the equivalent example of an open records request made to an academic critical of a Democratic administration?” versus the original: “”If you think leftist hacks haven’t made similar FOIA requests to chill the speech of conservatives, you are naive.”” There is almost no similarity between the assertions.
    I’ve already commented on the impossibility of discerning the goals of either assertion of FOIA requesters.
    If we want to generalize the: “…chill the speech of conservatives,…” phrase to include any method used to embarrass conservatives, then the record is replete with examples. NYTimes, the ACLU, and the many other liberal groups routinely use FOIAs to gather ammunition for such purposes. Bush’s military records is one such example.

  81. Menzie Chinn

    CoRev: Go to this page of economists against the stimulus bill compiled by Cato; I think at least a few of them would be considered conservative. They all seem to be in universities (and many in fact public universities). It seems to me that there are plenty of conservatives in academia, thereby falsifying your assertion that it’s essentially a null set.

    Further, it would be of interest to know if any of these individuals had been subjected to an open-records request, such as that directed at Professor Cronon, or directed at the three universities in Michigan by the Mackinac Center.

    I agree this would take some work. Here is something simpler. It should be easy for you to determine for instance if anybody at GMU Economics had been subjected to a similar request as that instigated by Virginia AG Cuccinelli.

  82. rootless

    @CoRev:
    I guess we just have to disagree then, what constitutes “similar”, if you think that requesting information about the military record of the holder of the highest executive power in the United States is similar to making a professor with an academic institution a target of a politically motivated fishing expedition and smear campaign, just because this person has expressed a view in some blog post one doesn’t like.

  83. CoRev

    Menzie, taking a limited set, academics, and further restricting it to conservative economists in academia, just further limits the criteria. But the critical limit is still discerning the intent of the FOIA/open records request.
    No, I do not intend to spend any more time in researching impossibly restrictive criteria to prove your own convoluted argument.

  84. Barkley Rosser

    For all of you all up in arms that “Cronon must pay the consequences,” I do not think there is in fact any rule against politicking on one’s professional time at UW, although I could be mistaken on that one. It is the place all about sifting and winnowing, where conservative legislators long ago tried to fire the founder of the AEA and the UW Econ Dept, Richard Ely, for, well, supporting workmens’ compensation, shame on him. Sound familiar?

  85. Six Ounces

    Hmm, where did I put my registry of all the FOIA requests ever filed so I can find at least a few examples of liberals who made requests just to antagonize conservatives? Oh well.
    I’ll type this again SLOWLY so all you dense people can understand it better:
    1. There IS a law, Barkley, that says political campaigning on government time and equipment is ILLEGAL in Wisconsin PUBLIC institutions. I provided a direct link to it. There is a federal law governing federal employees, most states have such laws, and many private entities have such rules.
    2. The servers of the UW system are PUBLIC PROPERTY and public citizens can make FOIA requests about their use. Their motives or intentions are none of your damned business. They have a RIGHT to make a FOIA request for the use of THEIR tax dollars. They do not have to provide you any justification. You can certainly ask about their motivations, intentions, and comment on it, but there is nothing you can do to stop it.
    3. The FOIA request is for specific information, and if no such emails or activities exist, the FOIA request will return zero results.
    4. The laws and regulations do NOT stop someone from expressing political opinions or otherwise communicating about political topics. They prohibit campaigning, electioneering, politicking, or whatever you want to call it. Cronon telling someone he doesn’t like Walker or his policies is NOT a violation of law. But actively campaigning for a recall effort or some other legislative measure IS prohibited. That is what the FOIA is seeking. There does not need to be any cause, justification, evidence, speculation, or particular reason for requesting public information. Again, what part of FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Do you not understand?
    5. The entire premise of this blog post is that the FOIA will have a chilling effect. It will not. It will prevent illegal activities. We already know quite well what Cronon believes. This is just more leftist victim mentality. Dozens of bloggers are parroting this same story as if some eggregious afront to liberty has taken place. Take a valium or smoke a joint.
    6. How about when leftists protest en masse to stop conservatives from speaking on campus and commencement addresses. Does that count as chilled speech? Do I need to look up examples for you or are you adult enough to admit it. Or do you have selective memories?
    You’re a bunch of whining cry babies. You’re pissed off the political momentum has turned against you and you’re lashing out in desperation. Pathetic!
    Like I said in my original comment, welcome to the REAL freaking world where your employers actually have a say about what you do on their dime and with their stuff. Go home and work on your own damned computers! Besides, I’m sure you’ve got research, grading, teaching, and committee work to do.

  86. aaron

    Barkley, I did not want to get involved in this thread at all, but I got bored on opend the thread. As a FED employee it was made very clear that partisan politics on government resourses is a very big NO, NO.
    From the few things I’ve gleaned, this is way beyond that point. People were making serious death threats. And, whether the person involved actively participated or not is not very relevant.
    FOI makes anything on written or downloaded on a government machine subject to public scrutiney (not to say that all may be divulged, but all may be reviewed). Even in the private sector, any machine owned by one’s employer is subject to review by the owner, unless otherwise agreed upon by the owner.
    That doen’t mean that all information can be publically released, but it is subjected to legal review and all information (not classified or proprietary, unless criminal) directly related to a valid FOI request can be released.
    One simply can’t expect anything done on either a government or employers maching to be private unless there is a privacy agreement in place. Even then, criminal behavior would be excempt.

  87. Barkley Rosser

    Have been incommunicado at a conference in China. But both of the last two of you are overstating it.
    Six. The laws are against partisan politicking. This has usually been interpreted as advocating partisan candidates during elections. That is clearly not what Cronon has done. Sorry, no crime here. Forget it.
    Aaron.
    Death threats? If you think that somehow Cronon had anything to do with them or that investigating his emails is going to remotely reveal anytning about them, well, I have a bridge to sell you in Brookly. Get real, you all.

  88. 2slugbaits

    rootless Do you have a source for your claim that this includes any home computer? I have read this somewhat differently. According to what I read, this includes personal computers that access government systems, but not any home computer.
    Sorry for the tardy reply. I’ve been visiting airports. The answer is yes, there are many sources. Here are a couple:
    http://www.smashtheman.com/2010/12/home_page/us-censures-federal-workers-reading-wikileaks-is-illega
    The memo was sent to general counsels at various government agencies explaining that the publication by Wikileaks does not alter the “classified” status of many of the documents. The memo explained,
    “Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority.”
    Employees were also warned that the standard as explained applied at the employee’s home too.
    And that is correct. Federal employees were given memos from their departments stating that the OPM ban applied to home personal computers as well.
    Or…
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2010/1207/US-to-federal-workers-If-you-read-WikiLeaks-you-re-breaking-the-law
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/10/us-ban-staff-wikileaks-official
    But there one thing that the media stories got wrong. The ban not only applies to federal govt employees without clearances, it also applies to federal employees with clearances who do not have a “need to know.” Access to classified documents requires both a clearance and a need to know.

  89. Six Ounces

    Barkley, a recall campaign is political politicking. And if Cronon made no emails related to any form of politicking (or other illegal or prohibited activities), then the FOIA request will receive a negative response.
    We don’t know (and especially YOU don’t know) what he has not done until the FOIA request is satisfied.
    AGAIN (and again and again), the filers have a RIGHT to ask for this information. Dr. Cronon has received, at some point in his career, a policy notice from UW regarding IT use. Perhaps even every time he logs onto his computer, he receives a warning that university emails are subject to scrutiny and that he has no expectation of privacy.
    The law CLEARLY does not restrict private opinions, however it does extend to every form of political action involving an election or vote of ANY kind.
    The petitioners DO NOT NEED any cause, reasonable or otherwise, to request information available to the public under FOIA.
    Quite frankly, you’re being intentionally dense merely to defend an indefensible position. Honoring the FOIA does not IN ANY WAY infringe on Dr. Cronon’s rights. Not honoring the FOIA request infringes on the rights of the petitioners.
    That’s the way it is. Now go into the corner and suck your thumb.

  90. Menzie Chinn

    Six Ounces: Still waiting for the documentation of equivalency.

    In any case, UW has released the emails it asserts is covered by the request, with no evidence of misbehavior. The Republican Party of Wisconsin it has no intent to appeal. See here.

    And yes, Tail Gunner Joe had the right to do what he did. It was (and is) a separate matter whether it was the “right” thing to do.

  91. rootless

    @2slugbaits:
    I don’t really see confirmation for your claim under the links you have posted here.
    The first link is the only one that cites the full text of the model memo from which you quote something. In my eyes, an original text of the memo trumps any other second hand news report about the memo where the important statements are not cited explicitly.
    In the text of the memo it says as follows regarding on what computers federal employees are not allowed to read classified documents released by Wikileaks: (emphasizing by me):
    “Except as authorized by their agencies and pursuant to agency procedures, federal employees or contractors shall not, while using computers or other devices (such as Blackberries or Smart Phones) THAT ACCESS THE WEB ON NON-CLASSIFIED GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS, access documents that are marked classified (including classified documents publicly available on the WikiLeaks and other websites), as doing so risks that material still classified will be placed onto non-classified systems. This requirement applies to access that occurs either through agency or contractor computers, OR THROUGH EMPLOYEES’ OR CONTRACTORS’ PERSONALLY OWNED COMPUTERS THAT ACCESS NON-CLASSIFIED GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS.”
    The quote from the memo says that the prohibition to access those Wikileak releases concerns electronic devices, including personally owned ones, that access government systems or where the web is accessed through government systems. There is nothing in the model memo that says this includes any personally owned computer of an employee or contractor, even if no government systems are accessed with it.

  92. Barkley Rosser

    Six Ounces,
    You are seriously out to lunch. I never said that this gang did not have the right to make the request. I said that making it was unwise. There are many things that people have the right to do which are stupid and immoral.
    Go suck your own thumb and think more carefully before you type garbage on a publicly read blog, although you have a sort of anonymity with your cute moniker, so I guess you can get away with saying nonsense.

  93. 2slugbaits

    rootless The first link is the only one that cites the full text of the model memo from which you quote something. In my eyes, an original text of the memo trumps any other second hand news report about the memo where the important statements are not cited explicitly.
    Well, I did get the OPM memo as well as the memos from the Department Secretary, the G2 staff and the base legal office. As one of the links said, “Employees were also warned that the standard as explained applied at the employee’s home too.”
    All of the memos emphasized that there are two separate issues, which I think you are confusing and conflating. There is an issue regarding improper use of government computers, but that is always and everywhere true, so there was no need to put out special direction to government employees. The reason special memos were sent out was to emphasize that this was not only a matter of proper use of government IT equipment, but it was also something that extended to various espionage acts, which is why it is illegal for govt employees with a clearance to access classified documents at Wikileaks even on their home computers. Note, the issue is not using a home computer to access a govt server to access Wikileaks (you can’t anyway), but accessing it using only personally owned equipment. In fact, the memos explained that you cannot even read a newspaper that publishes the documents. So this isn’t about improper use of govt equipment; it’s about thought police.
    The reason I brought this up is that as govt agencies increase their surveillance and control over govt IT resources (which they have a right to do), the inevitable tendency will be to shift things to privately owned systems. But this raises new problems because it means essentially govt work is being done on privately owned computers. This sets up a conflict over who owns the information on the machine…is it govt owned because it involves govt business, or is it privately owned because it sits on a privately owned machine? Governments will become more intrusive and want to expand their reach into private home computers. This is what happened with Todd Palin when the Palins tried to circumvent laws by conducting state business over home computers and private emails. Or when Karl Rove got caught mixing govt and GOP party information on both govt and GOP party owned computers. Or to take another example, climate scientists who learned their lesson and decide to conduct business using personally owned computers rather than govt machines. The long term risk of what the Wisconsin GOP is doing will be to encourage state employees to “hide” even more information, some of which may well be governmental in nature and not purely private. They are opening a Pandora’s box here.

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