Archive for February, 2007

The Real Victims of Extraordinary Rendition: American Bullies

February 19th, 2007 No comments

The Politico
Paul Abercrombie

Like many Americans, I’m disgusted and embarrassed that my country sends people to other nations to be tortured under so-called “extraordinary rendition” programs. And that the CIA operates secret prisons around the world. Here are but two more sorry examples of needless outsourcing of American jobs. Consider that every American elementary and high school has at least one stand-out bully. Most schools have several of these proto-sadists – often one or more in each class. The number of students enrolled in elementary and high school topped 49.5 million in 2003, the most recent date for which there are census numbers. By even conservative calculations of, say, one super bully per 1,000 students, that’s 49,500 Americans who, when they graduate or are expelled, are seeing their best potential careers go overseas. It is outrageous that the U.S. government outsources torture to foreign bullies (even if they are from countries that are “friends” of America), when these jobs could be performed by Americans, in America, and for about the same wages. Google your high school or elementary class’ worst tormentor and chances are you’ll discover him (or her) wasting his talents leading a prison gang or toiling as an airport luggage handler. Why let them pummel fellow inmates at taxpayers’ expense, or manhandle suitcases for seven bucks an hour, when they could be waterboarding or electrifying the privates of suspected terrorists for the same money? And, as studies show, people work best when they enjoy what they’re doing. What’s more, if we’re operating prisons that are, strictly speaking, secret, why do they have to be overseas? Anyone who’s ever rented a villa in Tuscany can tell you what that’ll do to your wallet (note to CIA accountants: keep an eye on those sneaky service charges you discover on your credit card bill only after you’re back home). Indeed, if a secret prison is so secret, why bother having it overseas? You can neither confirm nor deny its existence as easily if its undisclosed location is Baltimore or Bucharest. And as the American real estate bubble deflates, hellhole properties with thick walls and few neighbors can be had for a song in cities and hamlets from coast to coast. Rather than wasting American dollars on abducting and secretly flying (on fancy civilian jets, no less) hundreds of suspected terrorists (and people whose names sound like they could be terrorists) thousands of miles to be tormented by foreign sadists, on property whose landlords are non-Americans, let’s keep these jobs at home. It’s not enough just to buy American. Let’s bully American.

Copyright 2007 The Politico.

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OFFICE SPACE: CAREER COUCH; When Flirting at Work Is Flirting With Trouble

February 18th, 2007 No comments

New York Times

Q. You often see two colleagues flirting with each other in the office, and their behavior offends you. What can you do?

A. Speak up. Paul A. Falzone, chief executive of eLove, a dating service in New York, said that the moment when flirting at work begins to affect your concentration, you need to take action.

”Your job is your livelihood,” Mr. Falzone said. ”If someone or something is interfering with that scenario, it’s time to step up and be more assertive about it.”

Q. What behavior constitutes consensual flirting?

A. The definitions vary. At most workplaces, interactions like a wink, a bashful smile, giggly laughter or a brief touch may be considered harmless. Still, there’s a fine line between friendly behavior and inappropriate innuendo.

Scott Kudia, president of the Kudia Company, a relationship consulting firm in San Diego, said that joking about sexual intimacy and soliciting after-hours dates could be considered overkill. Mr. Kudia added that employees who engage in some public displays of affection, like massaging, hugging, groping and kissing, have gone too far.

Q. Is such overt behavior acceptable in an office environment?

A. Never. Bob Kustka, president of the Fusion Factor, a consulting firm in Norwell, Mass., says that while it’s perfectly reasonable for employees to gravitate toward those they see most often, there is plenty of time for them to fraternize outside the office. ”Work is for work,” he said. ”If your colleague wants to pick someone up, that person probably should do it on his own time.”

Many companies have sexual-harassment policies that protect against a ”hostile” work environment that may result from certain kinds of flirting. Some companies have also set up legally binding parameters for relationships in the office.

Eric Dowell, a lawyer at the Atlanta law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, said that these policies are known as ”antifraternization” or ”love” contracts. Some of the policies forbid workplace dating altogether. Mr. Dowell noted that some state courts were still deciding whether these contracts violated privacy rights.

Q. To whom should you raise your objections about workplace flirting?

A. If you feel comfortable discussing the subject with the colleagues themselves, start there. Approach the two privately and tell them how you feel. Specify the behavior that upsets you, and politely ask them to stop. Finally, have them acknowledge your request, so you know they understand it.

Amy Applebaum, president of Bootcamp for Your Mind, a career coaching firm in Los Angeles, said: ”Simply by voicing your concerns, you’re saying to the colleagues, ‘This is not O.K.,’ and, ‘It’s time for a change.’ ”

Of course, if at least one of the two has a spouse at home, the situation may be more complex. Ms. Applebaum said that in such a case, if you confront your colleagues directly, it is important not to meddle or to judge them.

”The relationship between these people and their husbands or wives is none of your business,” she said. ”All you should worry about is the flirting and how that makes you feel.”

Another option is to take complaints directly to the boss. Evelyn Cogan, professor of business law at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, said that employees pursuing this route might want to compile a chronological list of offending incidents, to document a pattern. ”You want to give as much detail as you possibly can,” Professor Cogan said. ”The more you can tell your employer about the situation, the more they’ll have to go on when they investigate things for themselves.”

Q. How should you expect your colleagues to react?

A. That depends on your workplace and your relationship with the pair. If you are close friends with both, and they were not aware that their flirting was irksome, they may be grateful that you brought the issue to their attention. If you are not too friendly with them, they may respond scornfully.

If other colleagues find out what you’ve done about the situation, their reactions are likely to be mixed. Some may applaud the strength of your convictions; others may label you as a tattletale or a prude.

John Heins, senior vice president at Spherion, a worker placement firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says that employees who choose to speak up must be ready for responses of every kind. ”It all comes down to group dynamics,” he said. ”If your colleagues feel you are a whistle-blower or someone who can’t be trusted, you might find yourself on the outside looking in for quite some time.”

Q. Can people lose their jobs for flirting at work?

A. Absolutely. Heather Brock, a lawyer at the law firm of Fowler White Boggs Banker in Tampa, Fla., said that companies in some states might be required to start a sexual-harassment investigation the moment an employee complains about the situation to a boss or to human resources.

Generally, Ms. Brock said, the investigation process ends in some form of discipline for the offending party or parties. In some cases, this amounts to probation or sensitivity training. In other cases, because most companies retain employees at will, the situation could end in dismissal.

”Depending on the climate at your company, the punishment for simple flirting can be pretty significant if your behavior annoys the wrong person,” Ms. Brock said. ”When employees consider what’s at stake, one would hope that it makes them think twice about flirting at all.”

Copyright 2007 New York Times.

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