Home / General / I’ve heard of upward failure but this is ridiculous

I’ve heard of upward failure but this is ridiculous



What’s the most important job in America? I don’t know about you, but I’d say Protecting Our Freedoms is right up there. So it’s only natural that when the federal government hires somebody to run any aspect of our national security apparatus, it does the most thorough possible background check on the person. Excellent performance in one’s previous employment is the first thing they check on, right? (Just after they get the drug test back of course).

Ladies and gentleman, I give you your new Coordinator For Improved Cooperation Between National Security Agencies. Because if there’s one thing Graham Spanier knows how to do it’s to make sure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong people.

Update: A Nexis search reveals almost no mention of this story in the media. After the Sarah Ganim broke it the Harrisburg paper in April it was mentioned very briefly in the Pittsburgh Tribune and the National Journal. I guess it’s not news when somebody like Spanier lands a federal government job in the wake of what may well have been the most catastrophic presidency in the history of a major American university.

But wait there’s more: It turns out after he was fired Spanier had to get his top secret national security clearance renewed in order to be given whatever make-work sinecure important administrative position some friends in high places decided he should get. This took four months. So he not only got a job — he got the kind of job that required a bunch of important people to sign off on him getting it.

Ah . . . life in the meritocracy.

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  • i thought microsoft hiring mark penn was a joke; this didn’t even rise to the level of a joke.

    but both are true, which reflects what i feared the most about the criminal behavior at penn state: that, as usual, the people at the top (by which i mean spanier and every single member of the board) would suffer not at all.

    • This is kind of like how investors think their gains are deserved and their losses are unlucky. Spanier in terms of all the other things he did at Penn State would be considered a top administrator, but the, minimally, ONE GIGANTIC THING that he effed up would normally disqualify any little person. Think McQueary is getting any coaching jobs anytime soon?

      • Turgidson

        I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.

  • Malaclypse

    But somewhere a white guy didn’t get hired as a firefighter back in the 1980s, and that is why affirmative action is the greatest threat to meritocracy ever.

  • Well, at least he knows how to keep secret things secret.
    And yes, that’s snark.

    • Cody

      More importantly, he knows how to divert blame. This is an important skill in any government position!

  • To be fair, if anyone understands how to keep sensitive and damaging information secret, it’s Spanier.

  • Well. I guess now’s the time for criminal charges.

  • c u n d gulag


  • Warren Terra

    This is completely nuts. Not only should Spanier be fired, whoever hired him should – for being a mole or something.

  • Scott Lemieux

    A real coup by The Onion hiring Sara Ganim!

    Anyway, apparently you can now bring as many bombs onto a plane as you want as long as you’re a serial rapist.

  • Warren Terra

    Oh, and by the way: leaving everything Sandusky-related aside for a moment, he’s a career academic and university administrator with a PhD in sociology and a practice as a marriage counselor and family therapist. These are all worthy things – indeed, very worthy things – but they offer few obvious qualifications for his new job.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      Though, to be fair to his career aspirations, at this point, I don’t think he has much of a future in family therapy!

    • This has got “political favor” written all over it. Either he’s a Dem fundraiser or some very misguided soul in the Campaign Office thought this would go over well in Pennsylvania. The job itself sounds like the ultimate sinecure.

    • Hogan

      He serves as chair of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, is a member of the National Counterintelligence Working Group, and serves on the Board of Advisors of the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College.

      From an online bio.

      • Paul Campos

        Translation: Careerist scumbag has gift for reworking his academic “expertise” into whatever thing the government happens to be funding at the moment. So it was either this or anti-obesity initiatives for Dr. Prof. Family Therapist.

        • Bill Murray

          don’t forget the wife swapping he could maybe still do that

    • Njorl

      Well, the head of the FBI doesn’t feel appreciated. The head of the CIA thinks domestic espionage is just not real work.

    • DocAmazing

      marriage counselor and familiar with the rapist


  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Though there’s plenty wrong with college football (see Taylor Branch’s 2011 piece in The Atlantic), I continue to think that the Penn State story is less a tale about the misplaced importance of college football, and much more a story about the willingness of our nation’s (still largely white and male) elites to do anything whatsoever to preserve their privilege. This story reinforces that sense.

  • Njorl

    I noticed this:

    Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012,

    at the linked site.

    Which means he was hired when it was known he was a failure, a disgrace and involved in a scandal, but it hadn’t necessarily been confirmed that he conspired to cover up for a serial pedophile.

    • elm

      I went searching for more info on this and found only a Sporting News post from an hour ago linking to this April 11 story.

      Are we sure this is for real?

  • Karate Bearfighter

    Ladies and gentleman, I give you your new Coordinator For Improved Cooperation Between National Security Agencies.

    The linked article just cites an e-mail from Spanier saying he will be working on “special projects”, and I haven’t been able to google-up anything more specific about his job. Is it possible this is just self-serving puffery from Spanier?

  • rea

    Sadly, our national security agencies need a man of his talents . . .

    • efgoldman

      Bad link

      • Scott Lemieux


  • JC


  • Amanda in the South Bay

    What’s even worse is that he was allowed to keep his TS (not sure if it is TS/SCI, maybe?). In my experience, so many young soldiers have to worry about so much stupid crap in their records (often recreational drug abuse, and prior to repealing DADT, worrying about being gay), and often being denied a security clearance for said stupid crap reasons.

    This is a good sign both the clearance process and the political patronage machine are broken.

  • Richard

    Since this is nothing more than the equivalent of a press release by Spanier about a vague government job and since it came out three months before the release of the Freeh Report, there mmay be little if anything of substance here.

  • laurastrand

    Can one assume that he will be in charge of “kid-fucking and other program-related activities”?

  • I was SPEECHLESS learning this. Had no words.

    But F. Scott Fitzgerald did: “They retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness…and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

  • rcobeen

    All we have is an email from Spanier. This sounds like non-news that should have been ignored by the Patriot-News unless they confirmed it, and should easily have been ignored by everyone else.

    • Bill Murray

      Spanier is using this in his verbal defense against the charges in the Freeh report about him, so it does need to be checked out

    • Bill Murray

      It was reported first, I believe, by the Chronicle of Higher Education, but seemed to be from Spanier

  • Bill Murray

    Spanier was also an expert on wife swapping back when he was young

  • Usually just lurk

    This is so typical. At our company the head of software engineering made major decisions to out source almost everything to India, including shutting down two on-shore offices when they were literally half-way through development of major new products that were keys to our strategy.

    The results were as you would expect. Quality was so bad that not only did every deployment of those products fail but we lost long time major customers as a result. The board finally fired the head of software engineering and the new head desperately tried to recover but it was too late – we ended up going private equity and essentially starting over.

    The punch line? The software company that shares a building with us hired the same turkey to take over their software engineering, despite knowing the complete story and history. They figure he’s learned from his mistakes and will outsource more prudently this time. I’m already planning to buy long term put options on their company about 1 year from now.

  • bradp

    F***in’ Free Market

  • timb

    Paul should see this incontinent post


    Takes a brave right winger to complain about fines and defend Paterno, but here’s one and he’s a public employee

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