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NASA Employee Suspended For Blogging At Work

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the but-i-wanna-blog-now dept.

Government 211

BobJacobsen writes "FCW has an article about a NASA employee that was suspended for blogging on government time. Seems the unnamed employee's 'politically partisan' blog entries were a violation of the Hatch Act. The article ends with a chilling quote from the government's Special Counsel in the case: 'Today, modern office technology multiplies the opportunities for employees to abuse their positions and — as in this serious case — to be penalized, even removed from their job, with just a few clicks of a mouse.'" Thing is, he was soliciting campaign donations and writing partisan stuff.

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fair enough (5, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570805)

Sounds fair to me. Anyone who wastes time at work posting on internet sites should really expe... shit the boss is coming.

Re:fair enough (1)

IronWilliamCash (1078065) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570871)

Sounds fair to me. Anyone who wastes time at work posting on internet sites should really expe... shit the boss is coming.
Finishing that sentence was a bad idea anyways, since the majority of posts on slashdot would not be here if it weren't for slacking employees. (Myself included)

Re:fair enough (3, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571797)

There have been studies that showed employees as being more productive when they take several short breaks throughout the day. Unfortunately, many managers still don't believe this, and will insist that workers constantly work on their projects, even at the expense of productivity.

I guess it makes sense in a twisted kind of way. When people are paid for their hours, the part of you that wants to get what you pay for would insist on those people working those hours, not "slacking off." Then again, it generally makes more sense to pay people for the task that they're doing. If they can get the task done quickly, more power to them.

Re:fair enough (3, Funny)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570909)

Don't worry, it's not like they'd put in a filt###*($&(*((___NO CARRIER

Obligatory (5, Funny)

teslar (706653) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571089)

As seen on bash.org [bash.org] :
<Ben174> : If they only realized 90% of the overtime they pay me is only cause i like staying here playing with Kazaa when the bandwidth picks up after hours.
<ChrisLMB> : If any of my employees did that they'd be fired instantly.
<Ben174> : Where u work?
<ChrisLMB> : I'm the CTO at LowerMyBills.com
*** Ben174 (BenWright@TeraPro33-41.LowerMyBills.com) Quit (Leaving)

Re:fair enough (1)

clam666 (1178429) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571139)

I just hook my phone up to the USB port and use the external internet connection when I'm wasting time at work. Why go through the firewalls and proxy servers who don't even allow me to download pr0n to post random useless crap?

I refuse to be fired for my pr0n love. It's a legal disability.

Re:fair enough (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571283)

"It's a real disease with doctors and medicine and everything!" - Chazz Michael Michaels

Re:fair enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571333)

The guy needs an iPhone :>

Re:fair enough (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571347)

So running your own business does have it's uses :-)

Re:fair enough (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571745)

It's not as much about wasting time as it's very much against federal rules to do anything political while on the job.
It's sad but warranted. He could've been more careful.

Um (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570813)

..makes sense to me.. at least he wasn't fired

He should have been fired (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571025)

This was an inappropriate thing for him to be doing, and he knew he was breaking the rules. He should be fired, not suspended. If he can be suspended for 180 days without affecting anyone elses workflow, then he clearly isn't doing anything important anyway.

A more important issue is what this says about the bloat and inefficiency at NASA. If an employee can spend years working on their blog at work, it is because they are not being given enough real work to do.

Re:He should have been fired (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571289)

This was an inappropriate thing for him to be doing, and he knew he was breaking the rules. He should be fired, not suspended. If he can be suspended for 180 days without affecting anyone elses workflow, then he clearly isn't doing anything important anyway.


A more important issue is what this says about the bloat and inefficiency at NASA. If an employee can spend years working on their blog at work, it is because they are not being given enough real work to do.

Obviously you're new to this procrastination thing. Let me explain.

See that big pile of stuff to do in your "in" box?

Ok, put that aside for a minute.

Now go read Sluggy Freelance. [sluggy.com]

Ta daaa~! Welcome to the US Workforce!

Re:He should have been fired (4, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571531)

You clearly are clueless. You've probably never even held a job, let alone run a business or supervised anyone.

You don't get fired from any job for anything but the most egregious actions, like embezzlement or not showing up without calling in (or in Disney World if you are a Pluto, lifting your leg at a fire hydrant or cursing in public).

First, unlike you teenagers, adults go to work to earn a living. Supervisors, unlike the corporations they work for, empathise with this. You don't deprive a person of their livelihood for something trivial.

Second, it costs the employer money to place a person in any given job. There are hiring costs and training costs, and then it takes time for a new employee to get up to speed. That's not to mention unemployment insurance benefits.

If the person's getting his job done, you don't fire him, you use lesser punishment.

Many (actually most I've worked at) jobs have slow periods and times where there is too much work to keep up with. When I worked in the merchandise division at Disney in the early '80s, for example, there would be a half hour of tedius, mind-numbing boredon followed by more "guests" (as Disney called their customers) than one could reasonably keep up with.

Other jobs have had days with nothing to do but read the paper, followed by overtime. Life doesn't always run on a smooth schedule, kid.

Re:He should have been fired (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571875)

They suspended this guy for 6 months without pay. He's going to be looking for another job, and the only kind of job he's going to be able to find (paying anything close to what he was making before) will expect him to be there for more than the term of his suspension. Suspending him like this is just a way of firing him without having to deal with unemployment--you don't get unemployment if you quit, even if you quit because you were suspended without pay.

Re:He should have been fired (2, Interesting)

AMuse (121806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571761)

Really? The fact that an employee in an org with 50k employees had time to blog says a lot about the efficiency of the entire org?

And "Spending some time on their blog in the years X, Y and Z" is not equivalent to "Spending three years (X+Y+Z) on their blog". The article also never mentioned that the suspension wouldn't affect anyone elses' workflow. If the org did things right, they have backups for every employee with any real responsibility. What if he had to spend 180 days recovering from a bad car wreck?

You know you're posting to Slashdot during work hours, right. I hope you're not posting from work! (yes, I have the day off today.)

That said, I agree that this person should be fired for the violations of the Hatch act. Government positions are not to be used as a political platform.

Re:He should have been fired (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571967)

>This was an inappropriate thing for him to be doing, and he knew he was breaking the rules.

It was not only inappropriate, but also illegal. He wasn't just breaking the rules, he was breaking the law. There are different standards for public employees. It is one thing to read /. or blog about tech or Futurama or why Hello Kitty should be shot. You can't do politics. Period. Well, unless you're Karl Rove and can disappear the evidence.

Re:He should have been fired (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23572005)

It's because more funding is allocated to overhead, sales and managing than the science. Source here [wikipedia.org] .

Yeah, that's sort of an inappropriate use of work (1, Redundant)

yincrash (854885) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570815)

Just like posting on slashdot :)

Eh.... (4, Insightful)

AmonEzhno (1276076) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570817)

Honestly, the employee knew he was breaking the rules and if he was writing partisan stuff, I don't want to say he deserved it, but he knew what he was doing.

Re:Eh.... (3, Funny)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570995)

What does cheese have to do with it?

Re:Eh.... (1)

BForrester (946915) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571213)

You can be fired without severance for surfing parmesan snuff, aka, cheese porn.

Well gosh. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23570821)

Thing is, he was soliciting campaign donations and writing partisan stuff.

Then he should have had a little discipline and waited till he was home.

Re:Well gosh. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571997)

Thing is, he was soliciting campaign donations and writing partisan stuff.

Then he should have had a little discipline and waited till he was home.


No no no no!

Clearly to have been disciplined he must have been a hateful, knuckle-dragging, racist, misogynistic, greedy, lazy RNC hack that somehow was mistakenly hired (probably due to the habit of lies and deception practiced by all conservatives), rather than an upstanding and valuable employee that simply was enthusiastic and patriotically participating in his God-given right to love the DNC!!

So... (5, Funny)

imyy4u3 (1290108) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570843)

how do you blog with "just a few clicks of a mouse?"

Perhaps the Special Counsel should be fired for "being a total idiot."

He did work at NASA.... (4, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570931)

There are programs that write sports articles. There's only so many ways to write a short article relating the results of an athletic contest, so newspapers have programs that do it.

Can't imagine it would be too difficult for a NASA engineer to write a program that automates political blogging to the point that you can get a new post out with a few clicks. Especially considering the 'quality' of some of the blogs out there....

Political autoblogging form (5, Funny)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571221)

Well, folks, it's happening again! The

( ) New York Times
( ) LA Times
( ) Washington Post

is reporting that the government

( ) is censoring scientists with unpleasant news.
( ) is going to cut back program _________.
( ) has been engaging in warrantless wiretapping.
( ) wants to raise taxes.
( ) plans to institute new product regulations

This is just another case of

( ) Big Government ramming itself down our throats!
( ) the War on Science!
( ) how conservatives are killing the safety net!
( ) government punishing anyone productive!
( ) how the country's becoming a totalitarian dictatorship!

HT:

( ) Digg
( ) Slashdot
( ) Technorati
( ) The other blogger who's a carbon copy of me

Re:Political autoblogging form (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571423)

someone mod parent up.. my points ran out yesterday.. and this has tobe one of the best forms i have seen in a while

Re:So... (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570941)

Click on 'update blog'.

Right Click on some text, highlight selection, select 'copy'

Right click on text box, select 'paste'

Click on 'submit'

Re:So... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571035)

I think that the special counsel should only be fired if they can be shown to be pedantic on Slashdot.

Re:So... (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571767)

I think that blogging with "just a few clicks of a mouse" is indicative of the level of actual content present in most blogs today.

Gotta follow the rules (2, Insightful)

sparhawktn (818225) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570853)

I have to be mindful of when I am at work shouldn't this apply to everyone else?

why a lower standard for government workers? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23570877)

many (maybe most) people would be disciplined for doing ANY blogging on company time. why should government workers be held to a lower standard?

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (5, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571141)

They aren't. Many companies also allow personal use of the internet (with varying rules regulating that use). Many companies don't. Many government entities do. Many don't.

Is it OK to spend 5 minutes in the hallway talking to co-workers about the big game last night? Some places/bosses wouldn't care. Others would. Some places give you breaks and lunches. Many professionals don't a whistle that blows telling them it's break time. They manage their own time.

There is no "one size fits all here". And certainly no "lower standard" you could guess at based on the article.

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (2, Insightful)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571737)

I'm sure you recognize the distinction, but I want to get it out there and be clear.

Many companies also allow personal use of the internet (with varying rules regulating that use). Many companies don't. Many government entities do. Many don't.
It's not just "personal use" we're talking about here. It's partisan politics. Random Government Agency can have an Acceptable Use Policy defining how much personal business you can do on gov't time. (Usually, it ain't much.) RGA's AUP gets trumped by the Hatch Act, which specifically prohibits using government time and resources to engage in partisan politics. And that's how it ought to be. People who work for the government are generally interested in it. (Causality runs both ways on this one.) Can you imagine how much SLOWER it'd run if we were allowed to work politics on gov't time? My god. You'd never see anything done.

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (-1, Troll)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571929)

> It's not just "personal use" we're talking about here. It's partisan politics.

Engaging in "partisan politics" is your "God given" right as an American.
This sort of thing should not be viewed as any more or less sinister than
ordering flowers for your mother, checking the latest headlines or seeing
what's playing at the local GooglePlex.

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571577)

many (maybe most) people would be disciplined for doing ANY blogging on company time. why should government workers be held to a lower standard?
I think the whole thing is bullshit. If you have free time at work, it's free. It's not like any job keeps workers busy 100% of the time. It's probably a bad idea to do that anyway, they'll just burn out.

People that get disciplined for blogging or surfing probably have a company that is so totally incompetent they have nothing to do for weeks at a time and a manager who wants to intimidate them. The point is to make everyone else keep their heads down and act busy.

I'd bet money if you filmed the people that made up the kangaroo court that suspended him, they're not exactly overworked either.

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571679)

I'd like to see what his actual productivity was compared to that of his former co-workers who are allegedly still working.
  Almost everyone goofs off on the job sometimes. Some knuckleheads haven't figured out that the computer can watch you even when the boss's back is turned. This of course, was a waste of OUR money which is why it was a federal crime. I don't know what circumstances prevented his removal from his position. I find it irksome that he gets his job back in 180 days, and apparently can't go to jail. No mention of his reimbursing us for the wages he stole either.
  I guess I should work for the government.

rrrrr.. WRONG (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571749)

Oops. my bad.
No problem with wasting company time on his blog. It was only the political slant that was evil.
Gotta RTFA.

Re:why a lower standard for government workers? (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23572049)

This of course, was a waste of OUR money which is why it was a federal crime.
That's not how it came across to me. The Hatch Act seems to be an attempt to prevent conflicts of interest by restricting the types of activities in which federal employees can engage. http://www.osc.gov/ha_fed.htm [osc.gov]

I'm surprised by the restrictions, but what seems most important at this point is the following:

These federal and D.C. employees may not- ...
# engage in political activity while:

        * on duty
        * in a government office
        * wearing an official uniform
        * using a government vehicle
This is very specifically about "goofing off" by engaging in political activity while on duty and in a government office, not about federal employees goofing off in general.

He deserved it... (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570879)

...as long as he was campaigning for the other guy.

I guess his canidate lost. (1)

Higaran (835598) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570893)

Because if the guy won, then his higher ups would be the canidate in a way, and that guy wouldn't care. If I saw some one that helped get me in office do something like that the most I think he would get would be like a week off, not 3 months, but if it was for my opponent then I'd push the max sentence. This kind of reminds me of the stuff that ex-governor Rayn's lackies did back in the day.

Hatch Act (5, Informative)

Lxy (80823) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570903)

Since I didn't know about this Act, I searched and found:

This [osc.gov] nice writeup. Bottom line is, this guy's a federal employee soliciting funds and pushing a political agenda on work time.

This of course has nothing to do with blogging, as you could replace "blogging" with "making phone calls" or "mailing letters" or "stalking people at the coffee maker".

Re:Hatch Act (0, Flamebait)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571041)

Remind me, while Bush is campaigning and fundraising for McCain, who is paying him to do that?

Re:Hatch Act (5, Informative)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571189)

Remind me, while Bush is campaigning and fundraising for McCain, who is paying him to do that?

If you would have read the linked resource in the parent post that you responded to, you would have known why that isn't a violation of the Hatch Act. This is a list of who cannot participate in partisan activities [osc.gov] . You will notice that the president does not fall into that heading. Not to mention that every US President that I can remember has politicked for members of his party, so I don't know why you are singling out ole George.

Please mod up (1)

PadRacerExtreme (1006033) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571315)

Oooo to have mod points.....

Re:Hatch Act (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571729)

That's "young George". Well, because he's doing it just now. And don't feel bad about not answering the question that I actually asked. After all, we all know how much of a stickler for following the actual letter of the law young George is.

Re:Hatch Act (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571825)

When your original point is shown to be moot, simply get pedantic, repeat the point and add another ad hominem. Nice repartee.

Re:Hatch Act (1)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571837)

How did he not answer your question? Click the link he gave you....

Re:Hatch Act (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571971)

This is a list of who cannot participate in partisan activities.

If you read above that section you'll see there are still quite a few limitations on employees who can participate in partisan activities. (NASA is not on the list either.) But the list you have impose further restrictions on some people. Like members of the FEC and intelligence agencys.

And there are some rules governing how the costs are divied up. Al Gore got in trouble for using his office phone, as opposed to his home phone (which is also paid for by the federal government, so yay symbol.)

Re:Hatch Act (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571271)

Bush is "on-call" 24 hours, but that does not mean that he's "at work" that whole time. Just because he works from home doesn't mean that everything he does at home is on work-time. Just like every other president.

I was a Bush supporter, but I certainly didn't begrudge Clinton for campaigning for Gore. Now, maybe if he'd accumulated a large pile of accidental pocket-vetos, I'd be a little more upset. (Bush doesn't veto nearly enough, though, so it'd kind of be a relief for a change)

Re:Hatch Act (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571555)

Someone who holds an elected office is not necessarily a government employee. It would be a bit absurd to pass a law forbidding politicians to campaign, but you certainly don't want government employees in their control doing their campaigning on your dollar.

Re:Hatch Act (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571071)

Who would have thought Orrin Hatch would ever do anything good?

Re:Hatch Act (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571471)

Who would have thought Orrin Hatch would ever do anything good?
I dunno. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Hatch Act (4, Informative)

richmaine (128733) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571299)

I was (before retirement) a NASA employee for 35 years, and I do know the Hatch act well... as I ought to, it being drilled into us every year at mandatory and really boring "ethics" training. I feel it mandatory to quote "ethics" because it was just about laws and nothing about actual ethics, the subjects two having less correlation than one might hope. The article, and most of the posters here, are seriously misrepresenting the Hatch act.

In particular, the Hatch act has nothing to do with whether you are at work or not. The Hatch act prohibits a government employee from doing pretty much anything political even on your own time and with your own equipment. It is pretty draconian. And, of course, it only applies to peons; those high-level muck-a-mucks who are most likely to be abusing their positions are exempt. The excuse for all this is that it "protects" the employees from political pressure. Pretty lame excuse, though.

The bit about doing this stuff on government time is completely unrelated to the Hatch act. That's a distinctly separate offense, and one for which there is much less excuse.

It is unclear from the article whether the suspension was really because of the Hatch act offense or the use of government time.equipment. I suppose it could have been both.

Re:Hatch Act (4, Informative)

AMuse (121806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571839)

Rich: These days the Hatch act interpretation, at least at NASA, is a bit more loose. From what I've been told, us peons can do nearly any political activities we want while on our own personal time, but nothing during work hours, or using government equipment. Bumper stickers are still OK on your car. Supervisors are held to a bit more strict of a standard I think, since they could force employees' hands.

We can also still run for and hold local office as long as we're not violating any conflict of interest rules.

Re:Hatch Act (2, Informative)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571393)

This of course has nothing to do with blogging, as you could replace "blogging" with "making phone calls" or "mailing letters" or "stalking people at the coffee maker".
It should also be noted that JSC has a fairly reasonable policy towards personal use of IT resources. It's more or less the same thing with use of phones and mail. Personal use in an unto itself isn't an issue. Personal use becomes an issue when that use incurs a undo cost to the Government, interferes with work, supports a personal business, etc. So as has been pointed out, blogging is not itself the problem.

Being a Federal employee involves a lot of extra baggage folks aren't always aware of. I wouldn't be surprised if the person in question didn't realize what they were doing was an issue. However, I also wouldn't be surprised if they did. I know a few Civil Servants who avoid going out to lunch with a vendor simply to avoid the issue of gifts (even though such lunches tend to be very productive and common-place in the private, commercial world... and even quite legal in Government circles if you're mindful of the rules).

Re:Hatch Act (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571407)

Hmm...but isn't it a general complaint among scientists that work they view important doesn't get government funding just because their work isn't trendy. Blogging and campaigning for funds doesn't seem like too bad of a thing because the scientist is providing a service of explaining what the heck they do to the general public. It seems like lack of good general scientific journalism is the reason why we're in the sorry state we are today, where academic research funding gets continually cut because other things seem much more important.

Re:Hatch Act (1)

mc900ftjesus (671151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571433)

But blogging is so hip. People replaced the term "web journal/log/diary" with "blogging" to feel more important when they talk about how their cat did something cute and drone on and on about their truly insignificant personal life.

Well, (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23570905)

Well, how I feel depends on what political bias the employee had.
If the employee's views agree with mine, then they are jackbooted fascist thugs for suspending him.
If I disagree with those views, then the employee has every right to deal with this inappropriate use of paid time.

Yep, sounds about right (3, Insightful)

Zooperman (1182761) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570913)

Yeah, if you get caught using company computers to do personal business like that, of course you're going to get nailed. That is true in most private sector companies, and especially true in government agencies where the rules are even stricter. There's no story worth reporting here. Guy did something wrong, and he paid the price. Period. Move along, citizens...

Government jobs (3, Informative)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570917)

Are very hard to lose, unless you break a few simple rules, like using govt. property for personal reasons, or blogging about politics.

Re:Government jobs (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570975)

Are very hard to lose, unless you break a few simple rules, like using govt. property for personal reasons[REMOVED ,] or for blogging about politics.

Sorry to be anal about the grammar, but there is a significant difference. You implied that one could get in trouble for blogging about politics. The actual article is about getting in trouble for using gov't property to blog about politics. And to solicit donations. Such use is against the black-letter law.

Re:Government jobs (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571857)

Actually, the weather's pretty nice for a three month vacation, except his is unpaid. Maybe he can go to work full time on someone's political campaign, sort of keep a hand in. Maybe they'll just loan him a computer.

Ideally... (4, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570935)

Ideally, the State should be above Politics. However, its somewhat impossible to expect that the people who work within the State will not have political leanings and agenda.

That said, whatever political activism people want to take part in should use their own time and their own equipment -- unless their job IS political activism. TFA doesn't say what this guy's job is, but I seriously doubt it"s "chief nasa suck-up to potential future presidents."

If he's using NASA equipment, NASA time, and identifying himself as a NASA employee, then he's basically creating a situation in which causual observers might be forgiven for assuming that NASA is endorsing "candidate x"

Quite frankly, it doesn't make sense for a department, which is often the subject of political punches, to want to be seen as interested - because if "their guy" lost, then the other guy will take it out on them.

Sucks for this guy, but if you work at NASA you should be smart enough to know better.

Why blame the Internet? (4, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570947)

People have been fired for not doing what they were supposed to do. People can get fired by solving crosswords all day and do nothing else.

There often however is an unfair difference between surfing Playboy and reading the Playboy magazine during the office hours. One is easier to detect and prove then the other. It will be used often as an excuse to fire people, because prove is so much easier to get.

At least In Belgium you need a valid reason before you fire somebody without having to pay weeks or months salary, so they will need this proof. People drinking coffee and having cigarette breaks all the time are much less likely to get fired on the spot.

It has to be said that many companies in Belgium will do the firing of people in several steps. Vocal warning, 2 or thre written warnings, firing the person.

Re:Why blame the Internet? (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571125)

it's more or less the same in the UK. Though looking at playboy would probably get you fired on the spot.

Not Surprising (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23570977)

There's probably a need to be stringent here. Being lax with someone that's using their work time at a governmental job to perform political activism really isn't an option. This is one of those areas where these types of actions (censure or terminating an employee) are sensible or even necessary to keep from either actual or apparent impropriety.

The last thing that you'd want is a governmental official padding out governmental positions with a wink and a nod to employees who divert government resources (including their time) to promoting their party. Most politicians probably don't even want to be anywhere near that sort of thing because of the fallout.

Federal Employees give up some rights (1)

stevew (4845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23570999)

My wife was a federal employee for 20 years. From what she has explained to me, you essentially give up some of your rights to take the job.

one restriction that I remember is that she wasn't allowed to take part in protests. Workign in San Francisco, that must have been an every day opportunity she was missing out on!

So I don't find it at all suprising that someone who is doing campaign activities got zapped.

Re:Federal Employees give up some rights (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571537)

If someone pushed the issue I'm sure they could get that particular restriction removed as unconstitutional.

Re:Federal Employees give up some rights (1)

AMuse (121806) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571877)

Steve: To clarify, federal employees (civil servants) are allowed to take part in civil protests. What they are NOT allowed to do is go on strike against the government.

So, taking 8 hours of personal leave to go to SF and join a protest is cool -- going on strike and picketing your place of employment is not. (However you can still quit your job, then picket all you want.)

Ballmer egged for crime (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571017)

Microsoft is more than a convicted monopoly, it is a fucking mafia, the DOJ is too busy jailing non violent pot smokers and scouting the forests for marijuana rather than focusing on pieces of shit like Ballmer and co.

Got eggs?

Workplace policies on blogging (2, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571021)

I know the folks who maintain our work's various policies and get brought in when discussing the computer-related ones. Typically policies are in place so that when a person's behavior (in person or online) get out of hand, they can point to a policy and say "you need to change or you'll be let go".

One specific to blogging appeared, with the usual wording about appropriate use of our company's name and so on (I think they wanted public affairs involved any time the name was mentioned in a blog). I came up with a list of obvious problems it raised, there was an outbreak of common sense, and all blogging language was removed.

Personally I feel that policies shouldn't be specific to online behavior if at all possible. Instead it's best to remain neutral to the form of communication and shape policies around it. For example, if we have a policy against hate speech, I wouldn't want to see employees writing hate speech on their blogs while they're at work (we let employees get online during breaks as long as it doesn't interfere with their work). What they do with their own time at home, of course, should generally be their own business.

just a few clicks away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571029)

The issues of "only a few clicks" ignores the point of those clicks. Someone can perform a few clicks to find child pornography and end up going to jail for years.

Clicks don't kill people, people kill people!

I guess he's right, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571057)

I worked at the Census Bureau and posted on blogs like Daily Kos fairly regularly. I don't think it's at all an uncommon thing.

Hardly chilling (1)

Snap E Tom (128447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571065)

In college, I worked for the USDA as a student assistant. They take the Hatch Act very seriously, and I don't blame them. Why should my tax dollars pay a guy to politically work against things I'm against?

Re:Hardly chilling (1)

Snap E Tom (128447) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571073)

Er, ".. work for things I'm against."

Nothing to do with goofing off at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571075)

It's a Government Employee doing political campaigning on government time and with government equipment. Which any idiot can see is a bad thing, and amazingly there actually are rules against it.

One of the few things Hatch did right (1)

patrik (55312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571091)

I generally dislike Hatch, but this is one of the few things he did right (assuming there are no other gotchyas in this act). Government employees are there to serve the people not to serve the interests of some politician. When they are at home they can do as they wish, but bureaucracy is messy enough without bringing the politics in.

On the other hand, this person should be quite proud of his/her-self it takes some doing to get fired from a government job :P.

Re:One of the few things Hatch did right (1)

prakslash (681585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571717)

You seem to be referring to Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The Hatch Act has nothing to do with Orrin Hatch. It is named after Carl Hatch who helped enact it in 1939.

Maybe the interweb caused this... (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571101)

I blame the internet for this one too. Mars Climate Orbiter [wikipedia.org]

William H. Gates Can't Wag My Dog (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571157)

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=390138&cid=21711174 [slashdot.org]

"No, you're wrong. Microsoft's "evil", insofar as I'm concerned, has to do with the companies and technologies that never had a chance because someone at Microsoft decided to steal it, buy it or just destroy it. That someone was often William H. Gates. The Personal Computer Revolution was largely stolen from us, because we all got forced to go the Redmond way. There's no point in going over Microsoft's other evils, such as the fact that it is a Grade-A government-certified illegally acquired-and-maintained monopoly. Now, monopolies aren't necessarily evil or illegal but Microsoft's is, on both counts.

And don't try to excuse them as just being, you know, basically decent people who make honest mistakes. Microsoft is a criminal organization that has maintained a consistent pattern of unlawful activity throughout its entire corporate existence. And so far as Apple and Google are concerned, it sounds like you're excusing Microsoft's bad behavior because well, you know, Apple and Google might be as bad, but we don't know yet so let's give Microsoft a pass for now. Look nobody knows whether we are alone in the Universe but the question of whether that company is good or evil has been answered.

They were taken to court over the issue of their monopoly status and lost. So yeah, Microsoft is evil, and the pattern of general nastiness persists to this very day. Why do you think the European Union is giving them such a hard time? Have you been following the OOXML fiasco, with Microsoft attempting to buy their way into a standard? No, I suggest you keep Googling Microsoft: it's obvious you've not been around long enough to have experienced their evil firsthand.

I've been in the software business since before Microsoft was a gleam in Bill Gates' eye, and I've seen the damage he and his brainchild have caused.

Bill can give all his money to charity if he wants, but there's no Undo button for what he's done."

No Surprise Here (3, Informative)

reallocate (142797) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571163)

No surprise here. First, taking time out off your job to do personal business -- blogging or anything else -- is a fine way to get in trouble with your employer. Just common sense. You'd get in trouble for taking an hour every day at 3 o'clock to go running.

Second, the Hatch Act has, for decades, prohibited partisan political activity by federal employees. There's good reason, if only because those employees make decisions every day about how and where to spend taxpayer money.

Third, the provisions of the Hatch Act are made clear to every federal employee when they accept the job.

I work in government (3, Informative)

MistrBlank (1183469) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571175)

They give you enough notification when you start your job that you can not use work time to basically influence partisan political activities, particularly raising funds. There are a ton of restrictions for what you do while not on duty as well. But above all, as others have said, he used work time to perform non-work related activities, so the fact that it was Internet or even politically related is irrelevant.

He knew what he was doing. (1)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571595)

Thank you, you win.

I, too, work for .gov. I know about the Hatch Act. They train us on it every year or two. I know to keep my partisan stuff to myself while at work. I can be flamingly red or blue at home, but at work, a non-offensive shade of gray. You get a slap on the wrist for screwing around (reading /.) at work. You get in much deeper trouble for porn, warez, hate speech, working for somebody other than the People (side jobs) or partisan politics.

He's only suspended, not fired, which makes me think it's not a "looking for an excuse to fire him" thing. Had the headline read "NASA Employee Suspended for Violating the Hatch Act", it'd be a Barbrady story. (Move along, looky-loos. Nothing to see here.)

This guy was suspended for violating policy, just like you could be at your job. Only thing is, for us "policy" is, as often as not, federal law. You, the taxpayer, (assuming you're a USA-er) are paying me for this post (which is why it's public domain if posted during normal business hours Eastern time) and paying him to shill for one candidate or another (didn't read, doesn't matter). If you think either is a waste of your money... well, you're probably right. I'll get back to work on Crystal Reports now if you want, but you probably benefit more from this than that. :)

Consistency? (1)

Mike_K (138858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571185)

Okay, I get that he was misbehaving and has been punished.

But how many times in recent past have we found that modifications on Wikipedia have been coming from the government and been overly partisan? And what happened to those employees? Nothing, as far as I can remember. What about all those e-mails sent through partisan servers from the White House because it was, well, partisan? How were these employees punished?

The government (and other employers) should set a policy and stick to it. Many employees find themselves with huge amounts of downtime these days, and forcing them to sit there and stare blankly at their screens is not a solution anybody can reasonably expect to work. Many people play solitaire, and nobody cares. I read news and occasionally post to Slashdot. And since being partisan is apparently not a problem (unless it's a new policy, in which case I'd like it enforced en masse) I would think the employee has a case. Especially if s/he was supporting the "wrong" party.

m

a censored society/it could never happen here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571193)


conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is WINDing DOWn now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

This happens more then you think... (2, Insightful)

hyperz69 (1226464) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571257)

Realistically the Hatch Act is often used by bosses who want to cut dead weight *or weight they don't like*. If your in good with the boss and your views mix with his, then happy blogging.

I would have no issue with this, if the rules were applied evenly across everyone. The reality is that it isn't. Just like many other Acts and Rules it is simply applied as a tool by higher ups to get what they want.

Should the guy have gotten busted, YES! He broke the rules. I don't disagree with that. Is the rules being applied evenly across the line... Left and Right... Upper Management and Lower Peons? Nope.

I would love to know what side this guy was on. If he was working Elephant or Donkey. Maybe someone knows? *Not that matters either way. Both Republicans and Democrats can be dickheads when they want to* ;)

I wanted to be mad! (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571291)

But, on balance, I don't want my money funding political blogging and fund raising.

I think that was a fair outcome.

Wow, maybe we have some rational laws after all.

Hatch Act of 1939 (1)

Tabernaque86 (1046808) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571369)

Hatch Act of 1939 [wikipedia.org]

The Hatch Act of 1939 is a United States federal law whose main provision is to prohibit federal employees (civil servants) from engaging in partisan political activity.
While NASA receives funding from the government, is a NASA employee considered a federal employee?

Re:Hatch Act of 1939 (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571655)

Since it's got "Administration" in its name, I'm guessing it's actually part of the government.

Re:Hatch Act of 1939 (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571807)

A NASA civil servant is a federal employee. A NASA contractor is not.

Good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571425)

Anyone at NASA stupid enough to think that one guy is any different from the other in the current political climate doesn't deserve my tax dollar.

Reminds me to one of our consultants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23571437)

A freelancer who worked for a client for us. He was thrown in a horrible project, and blogged about it. Not only did he mention the product and the client, but vented about how horrible the code was, how the team sucked and how the software was a unmaintanable mess

It all went unnoticed, until the potential customer, a contract the client was trying to get by hard work hence the rental of additional consultants, Microsoft, did a quick online research. Hit his blog, and decided to NOT buy the product.

That guy was sent home, and can try to start his carreer over.

Whats the problem? (1)

drik00 (526104) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571599)

If you don't like the policy where you work, get a new friggin' job. In case you've forgotten, NASA is a government organization, so this does not seem like a far fetched "unfair" policy that it is characterized as being.

Everyone's workplace has rules...

begin rambling:

People these days seem to have forgotten one of my main tenets of a successful capitalist economy: the workers' right to chose. It seems that people these days have completely forgotten about that because they're scared of getting bumped from their comfort zone, or they're living far beyond their means and any lapse in the paycheck stream will cripple them financially. Marx came up with his theories in the fear that people would get married to their jobs and unable to better themselves in a capitalist system. I say it's all about choice, and having the BALLS to make the best choice for yourself and your family.

end ramble.

Have a nice friggin' day,
J

Er, gotta say it... (1)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571603)

Definitely a redundant sentiment, but I have to say it:

In other news, employee is shocked by the revelation that disrobing and defecating on his boss' desk during business hours was "probably not a good career move."

Worst (2, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571621)

headline... evar. How about this instead: NASA Employee Suspended for Violating Hatch Act

This stuff went on on Usenet... (3, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23571709)

There was one fellow, well known back then, who deliberately tried to get people he didn't agree with shut up by emailing the sites near the end of their posting path and asking "innocent" questions about whether the company had filed the cost of their Usenet connections as campaign contributions. Given that Usenet at this time was still pretty underground, often run by network admins on spare machines, this had the potential for causing a lot of fuss and of course completely blew the unwritten "Usenet stays on Usenet" rule out of the water. He was completely dumbfounded by the response he got and went on a years-long campaign against the evil Usenet cabal who were allegedly trying to shut HIM up. I don't know if he ever understood what the problem was.

yuo fAil it. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23572039)

Already dead. It is a BSD box that since we made the 'superior' machine. states that there conducted at MIT about bylaws see. The number do, and with any some of you have Sadness And it was I ever did. It and promotes our resound as fitting over a quality would you like to log on Then the subscribers. Please *BSD has steadily OpenBSD guys. They need your help! If you answered can be like A super-organisEd BSD sux0rs. What [7ux.org]? Are you BSD's filesystem And the striking to keep up as were taken over BSD's filesystem SLING you can A CONSCIOUS STAND [mit.edu] found could sink your watershed essay, surprise to the something that you dying. All major of FreeBSD Usenet

Pissing Around (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23572053)

NASA is really going down the crapper... wait, that's not working either.
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