Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Alphabet Soup Edition

1

Ooh, that's a toughy.

Would you like my opinion on What to Expect When You're Expecting?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 7:41 PM
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Professionaly, I'm inclined to take the job at GA2. Morally, I'm inclined not to.

Then don't. Problem solved.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 7:45 PM
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Take the government job if the country is a democracy, and don't otherwise.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 7:48 PM
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Huh. I'm not sure, but I want to say it depends on what you would do for GA2. Even if the government's evil, people still have to, e.g., send their kids to school, drink clean water, and so on -- the people in the country are better off if it's well run in practical respects, even if things are otherwise bad, On the other hand, if you'd be working as an interrogator for the secret police, that's a problem.

And the real world situation is probably between the two of them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 7:53 PM
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Yeah, would you be entrenching the power of the government? If not, what's the problem?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:00 PM
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If it were me (and I too regularly attend demonstrations!) I'd ask myself not only what I'd be doing for GA2 but also how much of my life I'd be obliged to hide from my colleagues, whether there would be work consequences for my politics, and whether I would routinely be required to make nice with people who hold abhorrent views. To me it would be worse and more corrosive to have to lie about my politics and be nice to terrible people than to merely work for a government whose views I oppose. After all, many of us basically oppose our own government here and now even in its center-liberal incarnation.

My politics are important to me. I've noticed that when I can work in jobs where I'm open about my politics, am able to take time off for demos and can seriously disagree with people I am then more inclined to be politically active. Spending all day listening to right-wing conversations and not rocking the boat tends to shift my norms; I get more and more used to right wing bullshit and more and more apathetic, I do less, I care less. You've got to preserve the activist in you, that's the most important thing.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:02 PM
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Speaking of which, crap, I've got to be up at zero o'clock for a demo. Good night.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:03 PM
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Frowner's right about the personal issues (I say as someone who worked for a law firm with Very Bad Clients); even if what you're doing isn't wrong, working with people you can't talk to all day eats away at you.

On the broader issue -- I'm a little confused by GA1 and GA2. It's the same government, right? Was it less of a problem when you took the first job, or is GA2 a more evil department somehow -- why are you worried about the morality of it all now when you weren't before?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:11 PM
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Two quick thoughts:
1) You seem to be bored professionally in two jobs very quickly; it might be worth reflecting about whether it's the jobs alone that's the problem, or there is some other source of dissatisfaction.

2) I'm not sure what you mean by "the government of which GA2 is a part", at least in a way that distinguishes GA2 from GA1 (where you seem to have had no such moral qualms.) I'm guessing, though, that there is either a new guy in charge or the position is significantly more political or something. And you are bothered morally in a way that suggests that we're not talking about something like working in the GAO or fighting forest fires on federal land during the Bush Administration. If it were me, I'd listen to my moral instinct on this one. You have a job, and there will be others.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:18 PM
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It is surprising how much large organizations are affected by the personalities of the individuals who head them. How far up the chain of command before you reach a political appointee? If this person is unscrupulous, in over their head, and simple-minded, then a whispered accusation that you are politically unreliable to this person will become a problem for you. A team of decent people in an otherwise bad or badly structured organization is pretty fragile. Inquire politely about two or three steps up the chain of command is my advice, and listen carefully for signs of fear.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:21 PM
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I'm with Frowner and Cala. If you start feeling pangs of guilt before you've even taken the GA2 job, don't take it, especially if IO is stable if dull.

If your relationships at IO are that close and that important to you, I think it would be far more productive for you to speak up there and improve your lot with them than to look elsewhere so soon. Ask your manager or the old prof or anyone who's short-handed if there's something else you can take on, anything that would complement what you're currently doing. Exhaust the situation you're already in before you turn to the morally questionable to spice things up.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:28 PM
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If you think you are going to be morally uncomfortable in the GA2 job before you go, you probably will be. (You might be morally uncomfortable in the job even if you hadn't thought so in advance, but the fact that you think so in advance is pretty good evidence that you will be, IMO.)

On the other hand, just because you think the GA2 job will be interesting or professionally helpful does not mean that it will be. That's much harder to assess before you get there, as your experiences with GA1 and IO show.

Accordingly, I would suggest you give more weight to your negative expectations about the GA2 job than your positive ones; so if you're in equipoise or close to it without doing that weighting, you shouldn't go.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:28 PM
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Of course, I'm living the counter-example: three weeks ago I left the private sector to go take a staff job in the chaotic environment of a state university, just in time for the announcement of furloughs, and am annoyingly, gibberingly happy that I did so. So, there's that.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:31 PM
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I agree with LB and Frowner that working in an environment that is controlled by right wingers is, in itself, a huge problem for your quality of life and work satisfaction. My dad, whom I had always assumed would die at his office, recently retired because working for a law firm where every other partner was a member of the Federalist Society was just too much of a drag.

Listen to your moral sense, because it is actually a better guide to life satisfaction.

Also, please give us more hints about your country and its political situation.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:35 PM
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I echo pretty much everything above, especially LB's points about the specific work you'd be doing. Staying at DOJ could be honorable under even the Bush administration if you were in a division that was, say, pursuing civil rights cases.

Overall, I think this probably falls into the "would you want your actions to be reported on the front page of the newspaper" category. It sounds like you wouldn't.

If what you're after is a well-paying job with lots of travel, I imagine you could find something else which might not be world saving but wouldn't violate your morals.

Or what Jesus said, which is my true gut reaction.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:38 PM
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am annoyingly, gibberingly happy that I did so

Yay for RMMP!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:39 PM
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8,9

Yes they are. At the time I took a job with GA1 the government, although already "evil" was doing its best to get re-elected, and so was pretty much trying to please everybody. Recently it has started to show its true colors by clearly aligning itself with the more conservative groups (the religious fundamentalists, the anti-immigrants, big business and so on).

Also, I'd just returned home pretty much broke and in debt, so needed a job desperately.

6 makes a very good point. At GA1 that wasn't an issue, as it was and still is a rather irrelevant and forgotten would-be government think-thank. At GA2 it probably would be, as the agency pretty much runs government social policy.

Then there's also the issue of job-hopping and possible future consequences thereof.

Did any of you go gung-ho career first politics later job-hopping at the start of your careers? How'd that work out?


Posted by: career vs. conscience guy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:43 PM
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I'm guessing the country is the DR but I understand if the question asker doesn't want to confirm that.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:43 PM
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The head of such government is taking all the neccesary steps to perpetuate himself in power (the abortion thing being part of securing the support of the catholic church), and is a demagogue of the worst kind. I belong to various left-leaning movements, including the women right's movement, and regularly take part in demonstrations.

I think this is what is known as 'a bad sign'. The essential problem, besides the moral issues is the practical one of, what happens when the government gets pissed off at you for being... 'politically unreliable'? We live in interesting times, and in interesting times government employees with the wrong connections tend to have a real bad time of things. 'A real bad time' can range from being sidelined and prevented from leaving, to being canned and forced to stay in the country working some menial job, to being shot in the head and dumped in a ditch.

Honestly, it sounds to me like working for IO is one of those dreary time-serving tasks that preserves your future pathways to better and brighter things.

max
['You kinda sound like a mouse eyeing that tasty cheese in that trap over there.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:44 PM
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18: My almost certain guess as well, but what do I know.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:45 PM
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Did any of you go gung-ho career first politics later job-hopping at the start of your careers? How'd that work out?

I find this sentence very confusing. Could you give us a rewrite?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:46 PM
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15: Staying at DOJ could be honorable under even the Bush administration if you were in a division that was, say, pursuing civil rights cases.

I agree with this completely in principle -- some institutions are insulated enough from politics that it isn't a problem. (And some parts of the Bush DOJ fell into this category, I think.)

That said, Civil Rights itself was by all accounts a horribly politicized mess, which I suppose goes to show the importance of having good, particularized information before you make a decision like that.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:47 PM
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Ask yourself this: if GA2 were your wife's 16 year old sister, would you really want to go there?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:48 PM
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18

Yes, it is. Don't mind to say, it just didn't seem relevant.


Posted by: career vs. conscience guy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:49 PM
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The head of such government is taking all the neccesary steps to perpetuate himself in power (the abortion thing being part of securing the support of the catholic church Gemenon colony)

President Roslin's just pandering. You can go to work for her.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:50 PM
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Civil Rights itself was by all accounts a horribly politicized mess

Yeah -- I think cases got totally held up eventually -- but I couldn't think of an actual example, so I went with a hypothetical.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:51 PM
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At GA2 it probably would be, as the agency pretty much runs government social policy
maybe you can try to inluence people there to do some good and your career also will get advanced, win-win
i recalled a Japanese diplomat who was signing visas for the Jewish people until the last chance during the wwii


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:52 PM
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influence


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:53 PM
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I'll put in a vote for taking the job at GA2, depending.

The only way I can work with this is by trying to imagine specific examples. I presume the job is service or technical or academic, the poster is internationalized and would be working as a foreign national, G2 is not incredibly dangerous, and llikely less dangerous for a guest worker.

Would I do archaeology in Egypt? Water projects in Central Asia? Communicable diseases in South America, green energy in Central Africa? Even within some pretty brutal dictatorships, I think I would.

You work for yourself and your career, for the people you help, with your team and your peers, with an for a couple levels of superiors. The top guy is very far away from your conscience.

If your political activism will make the situation impossible for your immediate bosses,and you insist on keeping it up, then don't change jobs. But don't they know who you are? You are currently working an an IO, so surely they do.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:54 PM
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21

As in just taking the best position offered at any point in time without any other considerations (political or otherwise), so as to find out where your interests really were.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:55 PM
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29:made irrelevant by 17 ah well


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:56 PM
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2 wasn't meant to sound glib, BTW. But even if you take your moral inclination out of the situation as you've presented it (and you shouldn't, of course), the professional and personal considerations appear to overlap; the relationships you'd risk by jumping ship are both personal and professional, and you'd be leaving a project you've been working on together. It sounds as though opportunities to do new jobs have been opening up frequently, so why not pass on one that presents a moral compromise?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:58 PM
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17: I'm a liberal who worked for conservative political appointees for about a year in the US government. They were personally very nice folks, my own job wasn't a political one, and it was a good experience that I'm not ashamed of. I also had enough other things sufficiently representative of my own politics on my resume that I'm not likely to get mislabeled if it should ever be important in the future. I've known people who did have mislabeling problems, or at least felt that they did, so that might be something to watch out for. I have no experience with how any of this works outside the US context, though.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 8:59 PM
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I'm impressed that Stanley and JP identified the country so quickly, and/or I'm disapointed in my own ignorance for not doing so.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:00 PM
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Chiune Sugihara
so very admirable


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:01 PM
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34: Well, from the details given it was pretty clearly somewhere in Latin America, and most of Latin America has been trending in the other direction ideologically lately, so the list of possibilities was pretty small.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:02 PM
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35: Indeed. A truly remarkable man.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:04 PM
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I'm also disappointed by my typo in 34.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:07 PM
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36: Yup. LBJ knocked down the left in '65. It never came back up.


Posted by: career vs. conscience guy | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:08 PM
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teo: so quick to dismiss even my feeblest accomplishments.

Oh, and to the asker: I'd lean against taking the GA2 job for all the reasons given, but would also be curious if you might throw a bone of even the vaguest type regarding the line of work we're talking here. Could change my thinking.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:10 PM
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With the added condition that, if not, I totally understand and that's fine and no worries.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:19 PM
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We're talking two things here, in both of which I'd be deeply involved. The main one would be developing and implementing a system for the monitoring and impact evaluation of social programmes/policies in collaboration with a brazilian think-tank and possibly an american university. The side project would be a joint government-private sector microfinance venture.


Posted by: the asker | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:20 PM
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That's fine, I'm probably the only person who follows unfogged in the DR. And even if I weren't this thread will probably be buried in the archives in no time.


Posted by: the asker | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:23 PM
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This question has too many free variables.

What does a guy have to do around here, to get a little closure?


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:27 PM
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44: I was trying to press gently for some details, while, you know, respecting the anonymity thing. You could try that?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:31 PM
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I'm kind of confused at the distinction that the original post makes between personal and professional. Obviously I'm operating under my own biases here, but I'm trying to imagine whether it's possible to really disentangle them, especially at the master's-degree level.

My instinct is to echo Cala's 9.1, and add a few questions. What effort have you made to create your own projects at your current job? If the project is "dull" you probably have extra brain space, extra time, or both. Have you dreamed up a pilot project in something or other? Invented a conference presentation? Written an article uninvited? Gone nosing around to find your own funding for something small? Eaten lunch with random colleagues to poke into what they're doing and see if it intrigues you at all?

My experience is that you get out of a job pretty much what you put into it. I'd be wary of thinking that *any* new job is going to offer some big professional bump,* absent a serious investment of creative effort on your part.

*My comments should be taken with a teaspoon of salt, since I have no discernable ambition of any kind and never have had. I like interesting and varied work, period.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:32 PM
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The main one would be developing and implementing a system for the monitoring and impact evaluation of social programmes/policies

How comfortable are you with extreme politicization of said evaluations? Design, implementation, results, write-up of results, framing of write-ups, narrative about the program?

I discovered that I had a very low tolerance when doing similar work for people I more or less agreed with politically. I'm rigid enough taht I can't work for people that don't have a basically internally consistent brand of intellectual integrity. That cuts down on the job-hopping, FBOW.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:37 PM
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45: Sorry, I was making a dumb joke.

I'm not actually interested in The Asker providing values for any of those variables. I've got Stoy diagrams on the brain, for some reason, tonight.


Posted by: arthegall | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:41 PM
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42: The side project would be a joint government-private sector microfinance venture.

Both of the mentioned projects tend to get flushed down the tubes in hard times. Meanwhile, DR hasn't had a real bastard in charge for awhile, but that can change, and quite quickly. Meanwhile, the young tend to be easily bored and convinced of their own immortality; the latter is wrong, and the former can be quite unhelpful.

If you were going to pretend a stunchly conservative young thing for a decade, then I'd say, well, go for it, taking into account the probable permanance. You're young, you can afford to flush a few years down the tubes.

max
['This is really the wrong year to be having this conversation.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:43 PM
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48: I realized after commenting I was probably missing some joke. I say: dumb joke away!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:45 PM
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44: whatever dude you can model the data under uncertainty. Don't even play like that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:50 PM
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I'm impressed that Stanley and JP identified the country so quickly, and/or I'm disapointed in my own ignorance for not doing so.

I was assuming it was Florida.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 9:56 PM
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||
John Edwards is pretty much a dick.
|>


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 11:15 PM
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53: Wow, so he is.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 11:35 PM
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53-4: Sleeping shortly, but I gave it its own thread. Wow.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 5-09 11:44 PM
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27,35,37:

Yup. There's a portrait of him, with a plaque and a short version of the story in my university, and I remember once catching sight of it just in the middle of the day, apropos of nothing, and somehow finding myself almost crying. It's always moving in a strange way to find that such people exist.


Posted by: Unconceivable Awl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 12:52 AM
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Hey, the DR -- living in Inwood/Washington Heights I feel affiliated with the place. Not that that's relevant at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 6:00 AM
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I have no idea what DR even stands for.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 6:03 AM
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Scratch that. After some thought ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 6:04 AM
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The current president apparently lived in Washington Heights from ages 8-17 (1962-1971).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 6:05 AM
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FWIW, 29 reads pretty good to me.

Assuming you're still in your 20s, I don't think there's any professional shame at all in job-hopping, but I know nothing about that sector, so maybe it's different (like, maybe everyone recognizes that these jobs can suck and are boring, but is impressed by people who show sticktoitiveness).

It's funny, Latin America never crossed my mind, despite the hint with the church (after all, the world's biggest church is in Western Africa).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 6:50 AM
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That said, Civil Rights itself was by all accounts a horribly politicized mess, which I suppose goes to show the importance of having good, particularized information before you make a decision like that.

I just heard an awful story about that -- friend of a friend is a Democrat who was working in the Civil Rights division of DOJ under Bush, was nominated for a political appointee position by Bush, and has now seen his nomination withdrawn by Obama.

When I asked the friend, a guy who works at a community college, who told me the story if there was an explanation in his work history for why the new administration wouldn't want to appoint him to something, he said "Well, some of the positions he had to take were kind of unpleasant. When I mentioned that the CC I work at had a support program for black male students, he asked me not to tell him about it, because he'd probably have to sue the CC to shut it down."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 7:46 AM
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||

OT bleg.

I need some advice, and I'd prefer that it not appear on the front page. I'm embarassed about this, but I have to deal with it.

I'm having problems with my Perkins loan. They didn't send me stuff right and have forwarded it to collections.

I called the Department of Education who held the loan, and they said that it's still held by the University. She gave me the University's telephone number

(Also, did you know that the Dept. of Ed won't give out your info if a third party is on the line. Apparently unscrupulous consolidators were using the information to consolidate loans without the borrower's consent.)

I told her that I'd already done that and that they forwarded me to a collection agency. I also mentioned that I thought that this agency was employing deceptive practices, namely they would not agree to send me anything in writing and were only willing to make oral agreements. She told me to call the University, ask to speak to the President ant tell them that I'm unwilling to deal with this agency, though I would be happy to deal with them directly.

I have a hard time imagining that I'll have an easy time getting through to the President. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Should I file some sort of complaint against these collections people with an attorney general? A quick google search revealed that a lot of people have had trouble with them.

I'm happy to report that the Obama administration cancelled their contract to collect unpaid taxes on behalf of the IRS.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 9:42 AM
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Further to 63.

I'm not interested in getting out of this, but I may have been less than perfect about making sure that they had all my info (didn't realize that it was separate from my other loans--stupid, I know) because of serious medical problems. Is there a way to work this angle?

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 9:46 AM
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|| Following up on 63 and 64.

LAWYERS

If I need to involve a lawyer, where should I look for a reputable one?

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 9:47 AM
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My experience has been that once a bill has been turned over to a collection agency, the original creditor probably can't deal with you about it anymore. Comcast gave a bill of mine to an agency once--it was mailed to an old address after I moved, and not forwarded to me--which was super fucking frustrating since I was still a customer who was sending them checks every goddamn month for more than the amount of this deliquent bill, so they really had no reason on earth to believe I couldn't or wouldn't pay. Anyway, the agency seemed to me to be highly unethical and I called Comcast and, after bitching a bit, practically begged them to let me just send them a check for the balance, but they insisted that due to their contract with the agency they no longer had any jurisdiction over the bill and couldn't credit my account even if I sent them a check and I absolutely had to work through the collection agency.

All that to say, try your university, but they might not be able to help you. (You could probably get a response from the President's office, if not the President him/herself.) And definitely talk to the AG if you've got the time/inclination for that. Collection agencies blow. Sorry you're having a hard time.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 9:53 AM
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Huh, Brock.

I know that Mount Auburn sent a bill that was supposed to be paid by my boyfriend's insurance to collections even though, the insurance was responsible. They must have some sort of in-house agency that they set up out of state. He had spoken to Cigna and Mt. Auburn several times, but the people told him that it was automatic, and the collections person was very nice about it. In the end he owed $5 or something, and he wrote the check directly to the hospital


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 9:59 AM
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The group is in Iowa. (So,of course Harkin and Grassley wanted them to keep their IRS K.)

I think that the Iowa AG might not be so eager to help a Mass resident, but I still want to file the complaint.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:03 AM
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And, if I were going to write to them, I think that it would have to be the Chancellor and not the President of teh entire UC system.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:09 AM
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What's the issue with just paying the collections agency? (This may be a dumb question -- I'm sure there's an obvious problem and I'm not seeing it.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:52 AM
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70: They won't agree to a payment agreement in writing, only over the phone, and they pushed me to give them my credit card and electronic check info. They have started to call me several times a day, and I believe that this is illegal--beyond a certain number of times, and I can write to them.

I can't pay them everything at once, and I'd like to get it rehabilitated to improve my credit score. They just seem shady.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:24 AM
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BG, in your shoes I would probably insist on a written invoice of what's owed, and payment terms. Not a chance I'd give them electronic information, but I'd happily send a check for [agreed amount] the minute I get their paper agreement. For that matter, you might send some amount preemptively, as evidence of good faith.

A shortened version of this seems like an adequate reply to any repeat phone calls.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:34 AM
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72: They absolutely refused to send me a written invoice!


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:44 AM
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71: Try getting an address and writing them a letter, copied to whoever you can think of (AG's office in your state, consumer fraud bureau?) explaining that you're perfectly willing to pay them if they give you a payment agreement in writing. Once you've done that, try to shut down subsequent calls with reference to the letter: 'Do you have my file, including my letter of 5/12/09? I haven't received a response. Who can I talk to who's authorized to respond to that letter?'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:46 AM
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Soup's advice is good, except that if they're that pushy by phone, I'd pay by money order. If you pay by check even once, they have your account number and bank routing number and could "accidentally" sign you up for auto-debits.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:47 AM
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73: What does 'absolutely refused' mean? Did it sound like an asshole being pushy with you, or did you get someone calmly explaining policy? With an issue like that, I'd start thinking of it as a customer service issue, and demanding to speak to managers until you get someone who can address the policy issue.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:48 AM
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74: Should I contact my State's Attorney General (Massachusetts) or the Iowa attorney general, because that's where the CGE Group is located. The School is in California, so weird. Would it be overkill to CC authorities in California as well.

Witt, I think that that might be a good idea.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:51 AM
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It could be customer service, but I was transferred to the only person who could access my account and told to request to speak to a particular person in their education department.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:52 AM
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No, I meant talk to the person as if you were complaining about poor customer service. "We have a problem -- I want to pay you, but I can't unless you send me a paper invoice with a payment agreement. I understand that you don't have the authority to agree to send me an invoice. Please transfer me to your manager, or whoever does have the authority to send me an invoice."

And copy all the AG's on the letter. Can't do any harm.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 11:57 AM
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72/74: it's clear you've not dealt with these people, at least not the more unscrupulous ones. While that might seem like a perfectly "adequate reply to repeat phone calls" in theory, in reality it's not anything close to an adequate reply if you keep saying it and keep getting the same response and also keep getting calls dozens of times a day and at inappropriate hours. I think generally many of these agencies are used to dealing with the downtrodden and those with little capacity for recourse, and their methods are pure bullying and intimidation until they get what they want.

We had a different agency calling us many multiple times per day asking for some name I'd never heard of, trying to confirm they had her correct name/address for collection purposes. "I've never heard of that person and she doesn't live at this number" wasn't in any way an adequate response. Most of the time they acted like they simply didn't believe me. Every now and then I'd get someone to agree not to call us any more, but someone else would always call back a few hours later. Other people would say that "this is the number we have on record for her, we're not going to stop calling you until you give us her current number". I even got "we don't actually care who pays the debt, so even if we can't locate [x], if you want us to stop calling this number you could always just pay the outstanding balance."

It's illegal for them to keep calling if you send them a letter stating in writing what I'd said orally ("I don't know this person and she doesn't live at this number"), but for a long time I couldn't get an address out of any operator I spoke with, and the phone numbers were continually changing. Maddening. I eventually found and wrote a letter and made it stop, but good god do I still have some animus.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 12:09 PM
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good god do I still have some animus.

I'm actually feeling some animus on your behalf.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 12:32 PM
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BG -- I do know there are all sorts of strict regulations under the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act for what collection agencies can and cannot do. I think there are also strict liability damage provisions (i.e., if they screw up you get $X, minimum, even if you weren't harmed at all), but my memory is fuzzy.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 1:34 PM
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75 is a good point.

80: jeebus. that's insane. 79 is more what I had in mind, but still.

BG, it seems like your best recourse is to find out what precisely they are permitted to do , and required to do by law. It may even bet that if you present them with this clearly they (the phone jockeys, who after all have little authority) are instructed to bump you up to someone else, or at least to a different script.

It sounds like horrible situation.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 1:59 PM
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It is worth emailing the UC System president and your campus chancellor. They don't personally care, but they do have systems in place to route stuff to the appropriate offices who are responsible for it, and they often care enough about their image to make sure that stuff routed from the president's/chancellor's office gets attention.

82: I think that's why they work so hard to keep you from figuring out who and where they are so you can write and tell them to knock it off. I've had experiences similar to Brock's although less egregious (and I do know where the deadbeat is, but I'll be damned if I'm going to help out a bunch of assholes who are consistently rude, overbearing, and oblivious to their legal obligations).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 2:42 PM
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Also, if you have a name, maybe see if you can track down an agent for service of process in one of the states where they're doing business. Possibly a draft FDCPA complaint sent to that address would get it bumped to someone with authority and a clue.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 2:44 PM
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BG: They just seem shady.

They ARE shady. Someone calling you multiple times a day, claiming to be collecting on a debt, but refuses to send an invoice and instead demands credit card numbers is shady. They are trying to 419 you. And I think that because...

Brock: We had a different agency calling us many multiple times per day asking for some name I'd never heard of, trying to confirm they had her correct name/address for collection purposes. "I've never heard of that person and she doesn't live at this number" wasn't in any way an adequate response.

I'm still getting calls for S/aun H/yes twenty months later! I even went and found the SOB's Myspace page - turns out he's been to, like, seven different schools in the past three years (he's currently in 'massage school'!). Going from what he admits to on his page, he started out going to one of the local colleges for nursing and then bailed out and kept following the for-pay vocational school path downhill until his current exciting endeavour. At any rate, when he skipped, he skipped on everybody: Comcast, student loans, the rented propane tanks (that he still has), credit cards, and just everything. Mind, the guy has a job working for an ISP, or so he claims.

The most frenetic callers have been working for the collection agency chasing the Comcast bill. Sallie Mae has only called a coupla times, and I suspect he owes them a lot more money.

All of the above inclines me to think that a 'collection agency' that won't send an invoice and is demanding credit card numbers is trying to scam you, and their intent is to clean you out. So I wouldn't send an MO because they'll just claim they never got it (if you must, send a cashier's check instead), and I certainly would not give them any checks or credit card numbers.

Honestly, I would call the police and see what they have to say, since this is telephone harassment. (They might bounce you to the Feds, or the state level or they may blow you off, since this outfit might be operating out of the Caymans or some place.) In any event, I would change the number before I gave them anything without an invoice and a mailing address.

max
['If they want to serve you, they can do so.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 2:58 PM
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So, lately, my 65-year old dad keeps telling me stuff he told me the last time we met. Never been very forgetful before. Perfectly normal? He's certainly less forgetful than my grandfather.


Posted by: A Northern Soul | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 4:35 PM
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BG, I was in a semi-similar situation once with an old student loan I had paid off after having it sent to collections only to have the originator send it to collections a second time, erroneously. The thing is, most collections agencies get their accounts by buying them from the originators and so it's quite possible that the folks who made the loan really can't help you because from their perspective the account is paid off and closed out.

In my situation, they tried to work the "we'll come after you day and night" angle and got my hackles sufficiently up for me to start saying, "Was that a threat? Are you trying to intimidate me?" After I explained to one of the sad sacks tasked with calling me that Southern gay boys who are used to getting their way are not easily intimidated by rude people with telephones, they kicked me up the chain to people who could make a difference. It still took repeated shouting matches but the key was to make it clear from the get-go that the usual tactics would not work on me, that I was not scared of them and that I could cuss.

Collections is almost entirely an exercise in bullying. React to them exactly as you would any other bully and clearly state what will be required of them in order to resume a normal business relationship and sooner or later they'll come around. Ultimately, they're in business to collect money. When their usual tactics fail to make that happen they will, perhaps after a very long while, notice.

In addition to the AGs of the states, you should contact the Better Business Bureau in Iowa and file a complaint. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. (There are online complaint forms for both.) You should file every kind of complaint you can imagine, regardless of whether they get this thing worked out for you, because they never should have treated you like this in the first place.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:08 PM
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The law firm I used to work for handled a lot of FDCPA cases. As you can see at that link, the law is very clear about what is and is not permitted, and this company sounds like it's definitely violating at least one section of it.

If you do decide you need an attorney, the National Association of Consumer Advocates would be a good place to start looking. The National Consumer Law Center also has a lot of information on its website.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:35 PM
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Also, saying, repeatedly, something similar to "I asked my lawyer about this and she says we can't pay without a written invoice" is reputed to be at least somewhat helpful.

Also: "How do I know you're not a scam artist? Give me a name and number so I can call you back"

Also: "I have no means of paying electronically now. I've cancelled all my cards and don't have a bank account. I can only pay by cashier's check. What's your address?"

Also: "I'm just about to give birth, can I get your number and call you back". Or "My phone is bugged by government agents. Is there some way we can meet in secret so that they don't know about this?"

Any sort of shit to throw them off script.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 6-09 10:44 PM
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88: I thought about that myself, but the folks at FED AID or whatever say that The Department of Education holds my direct loan and my Perkins is held by the University of California, so they haven't actually sold the loan.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 6:02 AM
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I have a number, and the name of the group. They gave me a first name, but only the last when I asked for it. I think that they may have given me two different last names Allaneese and Jenson. Do I call back to make sure that I can have her last name? I don't want to slip up and say something I shouldn't. I do plan to write to UC to tell them of the violation re refusing to send me anything in writing.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 6:07 AM
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So, lately, my 65-year old dad keeps telling me stuff he told me the last time we met. Never been very forgetful before. Perfectly normal?

IAMA gerontologist, but it seems equally possible that it's regular aging or that it's the beginning of a memory disorder. Did it come on suddenly? Does he forget other things, like where he left the _______? It wouldn't hurt to get it checked out. If cost is a concern, maybe Medicare would be more likely to pay if a doctor checked it out as part of a regular annual check up?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 10:03 AM
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IAMA gerontologist

You are maybe a gerontologist?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 10:37 AM
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I'm A Meticulously Accurate gerontologist. Kraab is not to be doubted on this issue.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 10:41 AM
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Thank you, Sir Kraab! It feels like it came relatively suddenly, which is why I'm worried, I guess.. I haven't noticed anything else, but I only see him once a week. Cost isn't a concern.


Posted by: A Northern Soul | Link to this comment | 05- 7-09 2:01 PM
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Does Medicare pay for Checkups?

When I signed a new patient form at a teaching hospital, it said that all of their primary care doctors recommended annual physicals, and if you were a Medicare patient you needed to sign an agreement recognizing that Medicare would not necessarily cover these fees which could be $1000.00.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05- 8-09 4:39 AM
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