The face of a walrus

Walrus Awake: An Open Letter to My Diagnostician

Hi Dr. S.,

This is actually one of those “open letters” that people who like to write like to write — people like me. It’s “open” in the sense that in addition to sending it to you, I’m also posting a slightly redacted version of it on my personal blog. The idea here is that in the past year or so since you diagnosed me with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I have learned a great deal about autism, or at least my own idiosyncratic flavor of it, and I have started this blog in order to write about these discoveries in the hope that they may help others.

In any case, before I get to the real purpose of this letter, I would like to express again my deep gratitude to you for detecting that I am autistic. This new information about myself has initiated a transformation in my life, and I’m feeling quite optimistic about the long-term outcome.

The short-run, however, is a whole other walrus.

This letter is about that walrus. In fact, if you visit my blog post you’ll see an actual picture of the animal in question — a truly handsome beast, in my opinion, and totally worth the mouse click and short wait it will take for your browser to load.

In any case, I have some bad news to share with you. Remember that mediation conference you participated in last April 24, 2017 at the so-called “Equal” Employment Opportunity Commission? Well, apparently that was all just a set up. As it turns out, the three other individuals there aside from us — the attorney, my boss, and even the “E”EOC mediator — they were all just putting on some sort of show. The sole purpose of that show was to get my signature on a worthless “E”EOC mediation agreement so that my boss could then fire me without that loose end dangling around in the wind for everyone to see. And they did fire me, less than a month later. They fired me and they definitely did not fulfill the two promises they made to me in that worthless “E”EOC mediation agreement that we signed at the end of that conference. More specifically:

  1. They did not transition me to that new position they told us that they found for me, and
  2. They did not work with my autism specialist (Dr. C.) to determine my correct reasonable accommodations.

They just blew off the mediation agreement, in the same way that I just now there blew off the “E”EOC confidentiality agreement we also signed. And by the way, I feel totally comfortable blowing off that confidentiality agreement, only because they felt so comfortable blowing off the mediation agreement. Believe me, I hope they press charges against me (they won’t).

Furthermore, the only reason you were there was to make it all seem legitimate. I’m sorry to tell you this, Dr. S., but these people used you. They used you like a weapon in order to deprive me of my right to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and my Constitutional Right to due process under the law. I bet you never suspected you could be weaponized like that.

But it gets worse. You see, when they fired me, they threw me and my family into an unpredictably long period of unemployment and financial free-fall that only ended 5 months later when I found another job. The total cost in missed salary and benefits was about $40,000, and that doesn’t include the cost of all the emotional distress this corporate posse-of-the-popular put us all through. By the way, that emotional distress began at least as early as October, 2016 (possibly earlier, even) and eventually caused (among other problems) a relapse in a chronic medical condition my wife has to manage, and which was only quelled after she followed a two-month course of steroids.

But it’s not all bad news, because it’s actually illegal to do what they did. Turns out there’s a Civil Rights Statute — Title 18 USC Section 241, Conspiracy against Rights, under the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI — that empowers a sentencing authority to impose a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or a maximum prison sentence of 10 years upon any “…two or more persons [who] conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…”

And that’s exactly what these fools did. They blocked me from my ADA protections, and they blocked me from my Constitutional Right to due process. And that is a federal crime.

What I find especially ugly about this nonsense is that they appear to have done this so smoothly and comfortably that I have to guess they do it all the time. To the extent that my guess is correct, then I’m neither their first victim, nor will I be the last — unless they can be stopped. But I don’t think stopping them will be easy. The fact that the “E”EOC actively participates in this sort of wickedness suggests that stopping them will not be easy.

But we do have at least one resource on our side, because another mistake these fools made is that they tried to pull this scam on me. That was a huge mistake. Boy, they really stepped in it when they did that. I can tell you right now that I am definitely not a good victim for this kind of foolishness. Nope. Not at all. These people really botched things up this time. They have messed with the wrong autistic man, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember if I’ve ever told you that for me sometimes, being autistic is like I have a dead walrus chained to my ankle and that I’m dragging it through wet sand. In that image the weight of the beast represents the struggles I have living in a world that has been designed for and built by “normal” people; and the stench of the rotting carcass represents the impact autism can have on my social relationships — the social rejection, alienation, isolation, etc.

Well, as it turns out, this walrus of mine is not really dead after all. Turns out, this whole time he’s just been sleeping.

But now he’s awake, Dr. S. These fools woke my walrus.


Image Credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

James Blackledge, CEO of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company

An Open Letter to James Blackledge, CEO of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company

In “Good Faith”? — Why Mutual of Omaha’s “Code of Ethics” Is Recklessly Incoherent Bullshit

“…As an employee, you have an obligation to know and follow the Code as well as to encourage, promote and practice exemplary business conduct. You also are accountable for reporting potential violations of the Code. There are a number of reporting mechanisms available and there will be no retaliation for raising issues or concerns….”

— James Blackledge [photo], CEO, Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company1

Dear Mr. Blackledge,

In my opinion your company’s Code of Ethics and Business Conduct is recklessly incoherent bullshit. For example, on page 8, under the heading “We Are Responsible for Voicing Our Concerns”, we read.

“…You have a responsibility for promptly reporting any issue or concern that you believe, in good faith, may constitute a violation of the the Code or any other Mutual policy. Reporting in ‘good faith’ means you have given all of the information you have and your report is sincere. You are also encouraged to come forward if you encounter a situation that ‘just does not feel right.'”

What does that mean, “in good faith”? I know the paragraph seems to explain it, but I do not understand the explanation either. What does it mean to report “all of the information” I have regarding such an issue or concern? What does it mean for such a report to be “sincere”? And just what exactly is an “issue or concern” that “may” constitute some violation of the company’s Code or policy? And perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to have a “responsibility” to make such “sincere” or “in good faith” reports?

Please do not misunderstand these questions. They are neither rhetorical nor disingenuous. And although I am autistic, I do not have an intellectual disability (there’s a difference). I assure you that I do have my own way of answering these questions. I absolutely have my own private meanings for the terms under consideration — what I personally happen to mean when I use them; what I in fact think they really ought to mean.

But you see, therein lies the problem. Because last May 19, 2017, I actually got fired for acting on my (apparently mis–) understanding of these terms. I somehow got myself unceremoniously sacked for trying to fulfill what I had then understood to be my “responsibility” to make such “sincere”, “in good faith” reports about an “issue or concern” that I believed “may” constitute a violation of the company’s Code or policy.

See, I did all of that, and then I got fired for doing so. Which is supposedly against the rules. Right? Isn’t that what you mean when you say “…there will be no retaliation for raising issues or concerns….”? And yet, that is exactly what happened to me.

Furthermore, this apparent “misunderstanding” of mine wound up costing my family and me some $40,000 in missed salary and benefits, accrued during the 5 months of unemployment and financial free-fall that it took me to find another job. What’s more, there’s a much larger and heavily relevant contextual narrative that actually began 9 months earlier in August, 2016, and which involved so much emotional distress throughout that it eventually provoked a relapse in a health condition that my wife must manage and which required her to take a two-month course of steroids.

But as if all of that weren’t bad enough, this new job I have — the company that I’m now working for has pretty much the exact same recklessly incoherent bullshit in its own Code of Ethics. So, I hope you can appreciate just how important it is to me and my family that I make some sense out of this insanity — that I find some coherence in all of this rampant, bullshit, business-ethics incoherence.

Now, when these individuals fired me, they had the audacity to allege that I was being fired for some unspecified “violation” of company policy. At the time they refused to be specific, but I found out 6 months later from the company’s attorney that the “violation” in question was allegedly not one but many violations, most of them described too vaguely for me to even know what they’re referring to, but among which was the following very specific one, that did come complete with dates and named witnesses2:

“…For example, on April 26, 2017, Mr. Autistickish contacted Ms. Huntress [i.e. my boss at the time], asserting he wanted to file a complaint against Director of Production Management Aquaman because Mr. Aquaman, a senior leader in the Department, had allegedly tried to ‘hijack’ Mr. Autistickish’s meeting. Mr. Autistickish included with his complaint an excerpt from an instant message exchange in which he admittedly told Mr. Aquaman, ‘Don’t you ever, ever piss on one of my meetings again.’ Mr. Autistickish then also sent a follow-up e-mail to Mr. Aquaman further berating him for his alleged conduct…Mr. Aquaman complained to Ms. Huntress as well as to Human Resources….”

Although that is a viciously misleading rendition of what actually happened3, it does bear enough resemblance to the truth to warrant comment. At the very least I can confirm that yes, I did in fact tell Aquaman in an IM exchange to not “ever, ever piss on one of my meetings again.” I can also confirm that I included that IM excerpt in my complaint about Aquaman to my boss, Ms. Huntress. But even if we assumed that the whole paragraph were factually accurate (it is not), I would still like answers to a number of questions. Once again, these questions are neither rhetorical nor disingenuous — they are sincere questions that I’m asking, because I do not know what the answers are, and I’m hoping you can help me understand them:

  1. Is there anything in the above account of what happened to suggest that my complaint about Aquaman was not “sincere”, or that it was not made “in good faith”?
  2. Is there anything in the above description to suggest that I did not provide “all of the information” that I had? Based on what you read above, do you think I left something out that I should have included?
  3. Is there anything in the above description to suggest that I did not really believe that Aquaman’s attempt to hijack my meeting may constitute a violation of company policy? For example, the company’s anti-harrassment policy?
  4. Is there anything at all about the above description that suggests that my behavior throughout was not a sincere, good faith attempt to fulfill my express mandate as an employee to promptly report any issue or concern that I believe, in good faith, may constitute a violation of company policy?

To my view, the answers to all of the above are in the negative: my complaint about Aquaman was utterly sincere; it included all of the information that I had to offer about it; I truly believed (and still do) that Aquaman’s attempt to hijack my meeting the way he did was against company policy — it is a form of harassment, and it was brutal, unprofessional, and wholly gratuitous; and finally, I absolutely made the complaint in order to fulfill my mandated responsibility as described in the company’s Code of Conduct.

To the extent that one agrees with me on these points, then by Mutual of Omaha’s own definition, Mr. Blackledge, and even as described so misleadingly above, my complaint about Aquaman was made “in good faith”. And yet, for some reason this event was offered by the attorney in question to Federal Investigators for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in explanation for why I lost my job. This event was actually presented as an act of misconduct — a reason for why I got fired on May 19, 2017.

I don’t believe that the above is the end of the story with regards the recklessly incoherent bullshit in Mutual of Omaha’s “Code of Ethics”, but I do believe it illustrates the general point.

I hope that’s useful, quite sincerely.


1 From “A Message from Our CEO”, Our Mutual Commitment, MUTUAL OF OMAHA’S CODE OF ETHICS AND BUSINESS CONDUCT, last accessed Jan. 11, 2018. Although I have never actually worked for Mutual of Omaha, the company is quite similar to a company that I worked for, and their published “Codes of Ethics” are virtually identical. In fact, the problems I’m discussing in the above letter are in pretty much every corporate ethics document I’ve ever seen. To the extent that they are identical, they are all of a piece: recklessly incoherent bullshit. I’ve chosen to target Mutual of Omaha more or less at random.

2 I’m using DC Comics characters to hide the identities of the individuals in question. I have several reasons for doing so, which I have explained elsewhere.

3 It is beyond the scope of this letter to explain why it is viciously misleading. For background and the complete text of they attorney’s version of what happened, see What I Did Not Do To Get Fired From My Last Job

Boston waterfront

Being Autistic Feels Like Touring Boston with a Map of Albany (Sort of, and for Me at Least)

“A map is not the territory it represents…”

Alfred Korzybski

Google Map of Albany, NYSo, this is not totally right, but I think it’s the right place to start:

Suppose you’ve come to Boston for a summer vacation, but you’ve accidentally brought a map of Albany to guide you. Because most cities have much in common with one another, your map of Albany is not totally useless. Every now and then there is, say, a Maple Avenue in Albany that happens to have a museum on it much like Boston’s own Maple Avenue has a museum on it.1 Ok, ok, so, the museum in Albany is an art museum whereas the one in Boston is for the whaling industry, but heck, they’re both museums and they’re both on Main Street, and whaling sounds kind of interesting so you go with it.

But let’s face it, Albany ain’t Boston, and you quickly discover that however useful it might be just by chance in some cases, your map of Albany is a constant source of frustration. You are constantly getting into misunderstandings with others about how to go from point A to point B. Or sometimes you might, for example, walk into a Police Station and order a dozen donuts. Or occasionally you sit down for a nice picnic in the middle of a parking lot. And then there are all the crazy looks you get from people when you ask them simple questions like “What happened to the New York State Museum? It’s supposed to be right here!” [Pointing at a hardware store.]

I don’t want to speak for all autistic people; and even though I have accumulated 5+ decades of experience living with my own particular, idiosyncratic manifestation of autism, I am really nothing like a true autism expert (in case you didn’t realize that), but for me at least I can say with great confidence that autism is a lot like touring Boston with a map of Albany — sort of.

The above scenario is the right place to start, I think, but I have one more hefty detail I need to add which is that for me it’s really more like I actually am in Albany, with a map of Albany, and it’s really everybody else that has a map of Boston.

See, I actually (sincerely, truly) believe that I’m the one with the right map, and that I’m living in a city full of people all of whom are stumbling around with maps of some other city, and not necessarily the same city at that. So, it’s not quite the same situation as the first one I described, but it winds up causing similar problems: a great deal of frustration and mutual misunderstanding. It can also make me extremely stubborn, because I am quite sure that I really do have the correct map, and I cannot for the life of me understand why on Earth I would use a map that I am quite sure is the wrong one.

I hope that’s useful.


1 I don’t know if Albany and Boston both have a Maple Avenue with a museum on it, but let’s just imagine they do for the sake of the argument.

What I Did Not Do To Get Fired From My Last Job

If for some reason you wish to know what I definitely did not do to get fired from my last job, then please read this PDF document.

Now, you are of course perfectly welcome to jump right to reading that maliciously unflattering piece of trash fiction if you want to, but it might help if you had a little background first:

Background

For two years I worked as a full-time employee at a company I’ve decided to call the XYZ Insurance Company — a for-profit, publicly owned billion-dollar, global, multinational insurance and financial products and services company, with resources so vast that when the company lost upwards of 2 billion dollars in 2016 it more or less shrugged it off and announced to the world “oh, well, you win some, you lose some.”

For two years I worked as a “Production Management Consultant” in the company’s global IT hub as a level-2 production support analyst, although please don’t ask me to explain what that means, because I never did actually figure it out. One thing I could never understand is why the company uses the misleading term consultant in a job title for its own employees. I was a full-time employee for the company, not a consultant. In any case, don’t quote me on this, but I think my main job was just to help my boss, a woman I have decided to call Huntress, manage the 70-or-so real consultants (i.e. contingent workers) she had in her employ.

I worked for Huntress for nearly two years, and then about three weeks before I got fired I was transitioned to a new position and a new boss, a man I have decided to call Robin the Boy Wonder (“Robin”).

Then, three weeks later, late in the afternoon on Friday May 19, 2017, Robin called me at home and then conferenced in an HR representative, a woman I have decided to call Supergirl. Speaking as though reading from some script, the two of them politely informed me that I was being fired because of what they alleged to be some “…violation of XYZ’s Code of Conduct and XYZ’s Email and Other Electronic Communication policy.”

When I asked them to clarify what that meant, they just repeated what they had said, and offered no new information. I tried to explain to them that I am autistic, and that whatever it was they were referring to it was just a behavioral manifestation of autism. I tried to explain that firing me for being autistic was illegal. I told them that they were breaking the law. But they did not believe me, and stood their ground. I became frustrated, and then angry, and then livid. I promised them both that I would prove to them that they were breaking the law. I didn’t know it at the time, but I have recently discovered that one of the laws they broke is Title 18 USC Section 241, Conspiracy against Rights.

This Federal Civil Rights Statute, under the investigative jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), empowers a sentencing authority to impose a maximum fine of $10,000 and a maximum prison term of 10 years or both, in the event that “… two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;….”

More specifically, I believe that Robin and Supergirl, working under the legal guidance of an attorney I have decided to call Batman, and alongside several others, most of whose names I can only guess, did “conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate” me in my home State “in the free exercise or enjoyment” of my Constitutional Right to due process, and to my right as an autistic person to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

As a side note, in addition to breaking this law (and others), by calling me in my home to fire me like they did, Robin and Supergirl also foolishly left in my possession the company laptop computer I’d been using for two years, and on which had accumulated, through the performance of certain normal data analysis tasks I had performed for the company, the Social Security Numbers, names, addresses, birthdays, etc. of thousands, possibly tens of thousands of XYZ’s valued customers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I ever found out that a company of which I was a customer, and to which I had entrusted knowledge of my SSN, name, etc., had foolishly left that information in the hands of an autistic man whose Civil Rights they’d just violated, and who was absolutely livid about it, I would take my business to a company with higher data protection standards.

In any case, a few days later I filed a charge against the company with the so-called “Equal” Employment Opportunity Commission (“E”EOC; apparently “equal” as long as you don’t have a psychiatric disability such as autism, despite the organization’s self-congratulatory advertisements to the contrary). A couple of months later the “E”EOC pretended to help us mediate, which failed disastrously, and then a couple of months after that, the “E”EOC’s so-called “investigative” unit pretended to investigate my charge, which was also a disaster.

As part of the “E”EOC’s failure to investigate my charge, the young woman who pretended to investigate it, whom I have decided to call Batgirl, accepted from Batman (remember, the attorney representing XYZ) a document that he tried to pass off as something that “E”EOC calls a position statement. In that alleged (sham of a) “position statement”, Batman tells Batgirl what I definitely did not do to get fired from my last job.

Please click here to read Batman’s largely fictional version of why I got fired from my last job. In future posts I will be debunking this vicious bullshit line by line.

Please Excuse my Autistic Obsession with Title 18 USC Section 241

A hand holding an ace of hearts playing card.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

I’d like to apologize for my current autistic obsession with Title 18 USC Section 241.

I know that in general I’m not supposed to play the autism-card, but I really don’t see how else to explain it — and this is not for lack of trying. I assure you, I have tried repeatedly and with numerous people to explain this obsession so that it makes sense to to them, but so far even the friendliest responses have been — however politely so — implacably skeptical. I’ve reached the point where really the only thing left is to throw up my arms and say “oh, well, autism strikes again!”

If that seems like a cop out, well, I’m sorry for that too.

To be honest, and only in a strictly rational, dryly intellectual sense, even I can see that Title 18 USC Section 241 is probably the last thing I should be obsessing about. Back in October I found a great new job, with a great company, and which allows me to make a decent living writing and fixing computer programs — really the only thing I’ve ever tried to do  professionally that ever showed any stable-career potential, even though I have never actually been able to fulfill that potential.

And the really cool part is that I can do this full-time from home!

It was incredibly lucky for me to get this job. For my family and me it was like winning the lottery. It’s really the first dream job I’ve ever had, and it’s perfectly obvious to everyone in my life, and even I can see quite clearly — again, in a strictly rational, dryly intellectual sense — that I really ought to be obsessing about my new job, instead of Title 18 USC Section 241. Even worse, my obsession with Title 18 USC Section 241 is distracting me from my work and making it difficult to focus, thus threatening to eventually add this new dream job to my long list of career failures.

But that pit bull in my skull doesn’t seem to care about any of that.

I mean that figuratively, of course. I know that this “pit bull” is just me. In fact, I’m actually being somewhat disingenuous in talking about it like that, as though this imaginary animal’s motives were somehow inscrutable even to me — somehow not my own. But that’s not quite right. To be perfectly candid, I really do think I understand exactly why I’m so obsessed about Title 18 USC Section 241 — why it has become the most important focus of my life right now, why I think that even if it does eventually fuck up my current job, then, well that’s just too friggin bad — this law is simply more important than that. I have no problem whatsoever explaining this to myself. Within the confines of my own skull, it all makes perfect sense to me. Furthermore, and believe it or not, despite my many attempts and consistent failure to do so, I even still think that I might successfully explain my reasons to others — to you, even — if only I would just keep trying, and trying, and trying.

Which, of course, is exactly why I keep writing about it. Because from where I’m standing — given my own unique and admittedly autistic perspective on the world — I can see quite clearly just how utterly important this law actually is, even if the rest of you cannot…yet.

 

 

 

 

 

Autism Is Not An Intellectual Disability

Portrait of Albert Einstein

Evidence suggests 62% of autistic people have normal to superior intelligence. Although it’s too late to give Einstein a formal diagnosis, biographical evidence strongly suggests he was autistic. Image Credit: Pixabay

I’m wondering how common it may be for people to misunderstand autism as some form of intellectual disability. To the extent that someone were to misunderstand autism in this way, we might predict that he or she would find it hard to believe that a given autistic person actually has any sort of disability at all, given the lack of an intellectual one.

I suppose the argument would look something like, “Mr. Autistickish may have autism, but he clearly does not have any sort of intellectual disability, therefore he’s not disabled.” Such a conclusion may seem especially warranted if the skeptic believes the commonly held false belief that mere intellectual prowess (a.k.a. “intelligence”) — is the beginning and end of successful achievement.

According to a 2008 study by the Center for Disease Control, it does appear that some 38% of autistic children also have an intellectual disability, which suggests that if all you know about a person is that they are autistic, and you simply guess that the person also has an intellectual disability, you’d be correct about 38% of the time, and those aren’t terrible odds. But it also implies you’d be wrong 62% of the time, which is to say that autism predicts normal to superior intellectual functioning much more often than not.

The upshot here is that autism — however often it may be associated with intellectual disability — is not at all the same thing.