In Memoriam: Pat Summitt

It’s a weird day on Rocky Top.  Pat Summitt, the iconic coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols Basketball Team, passed this morning after a battle with early-onset dementia, also known as Alzheimer’s Disease.  An icon is gone from the world of college sports, and someone who transcended sports in general to become bigger than the sport itself.  From all of us, Pat, thank you for your accomplishments.

Pat Summitt, arguably the winningest coach in college basketball history, managed to change what was considered a “rec” or “intramural” sport in women’s basketball at UT into a powerhouse winning eight national championships.  If you’re not from Knoxville, you’ll have a hard time understanding what it was like trying to find a parking spot near the Thompson-Boling Arena during nights the Lady Vols played during Summitt’s reign as head coach.  People flocked to see her teams.  Coaches flocked to see her secrets in not just winning ball games, but motivating students.  All day on local radio and TV stories of Pat Summitt’s legacy have been floating around.  Funny thing is that if you looked at it from her perspective, none of what’s being shared would be “legendary.”  It was just the right thing to do.

One story I’ll not forget soon involved a fundraiser for breast cancer held at Thompson-Boling called “Think Pink, Bleed Orange.”  Every spectator at the game that night was to receive a T-Shirt reading that slogan.  Unfortunately, due to the Athletics Director’s fuckup, Summitt was told only enough shirts would be available for those sitting in bowl seats to court side.

“You mean only the rich people will get those shirts?” Summit asked.

“Yes ma’am.” replied the Athletics Director.

“That ain’t right.”  Summitt then proceeded to find out how much money was necessary to fund everyone in the building getting a T-Shirt that evening and wrote a check for the remaining amount, out of her own pocket.  She never asked for a reimbursement.

More impressive than her basketball wins is her success rate for graduating athletes.  Under Summitt’s tenure, 100% of all Lady Vols players graduated from the University of Tennessee.  An alleged tradition went something like this: Coach Summitt didn’t care how late her students were out past a game; if you had class the next day you were in one of the first three rows, front and center, and ready to go when the professor came in the room.  Miss class, you didn’t play.  Simple as that.

The level of respect Pat Summitt showed everyone was astounding too.  So much so, that when news broke Summitt was in the last hours of her life, it broke in the media only yesterday.  The media loved Coach Summitt so much for the way she treated them (including home cooking and homemade ice cream) and the respect she’d shown people all over Tennessee they placed a voluntary “gag order” on reporting her condition until it couldn’t be held back anymore.

Local historian and comedian Shane Rhyne summed up Pat Summitt’s legacy better than I could on Facebook.  I’m quoting him here, because his stats are better than anything I could muster.

A few things worth noting about Pat Summit:
1. She had a 100% graduation rate. 100.
2. She became the winningest coach of all time not by playing cupcake schedules, but by challenging herself & her team. Almost 50% of her career games were coached against ranked opponents.
3. She did not expect perfection, but she did expect effort.
4. She believed the key indicator to a team’s future success was not how they played together on the court, but how they treated each other off of it.
5. She believed every player’s contribution had value to the team’s success. She rewarded everyone, including scheduling away games in or near a senior’s hometown, so friends and family could see her play for the famous Lady Vols, even if it meant scheduling a game against the #1 ranked team in the nation on their home court.

Today and in the future, schools and coaches will be investigated, studied, and questioned about academic standards, legal issues, and assorted scandals. There will be administrators, athletic directors, coaches, and boosters who will try to tell you that sometimes you have to cut corners or relax your standards if you want to field a winning team.

You owe it to her legacy to point to Pat Summit and tell them, “She didn’t.” (my emphasis)

Truer words will never be spoken now or in the future about a college sports icon.  Pat, from all of us on Rocky Top to you and yours, thank you for taking that “rec sport” and turning it into a national phenomenon.  

And we all owe Pat’s legacy that much.  Never cut corners.  Ever.

Thoughts On The Liberal Redneck

Many of you have seen the Liberal Redneck, Trae Crowder, on video either through Facebook or other means funded by the New York Daily News.  He’s now their “Redneck in Chief,” and managed to get himself to a national platform where he can spread a message and get paid doing what he loves.  I’m happy for Trae, but just remember he’s spreading the message of those he’s paid to speak for.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  He’s a comedian.  Part of a stand-up comic’s success is reaching a national audience.  Trae managed to find that when it came to politics through his “Liberal Redneck” videos. He’s done well with them; many go viral and he’s gotten a position with the New York Daily News.  I don’t think all his videos represent the whole Trae Crowder, but that’s cool too. You can be an ad man and not represent the whole truth of being you.

When you see the “Liberal Redneck,” just remember he’s being paid to support a certain narrative that works for him.  That’s all.  He’s funny, and he deserves to be paid, but if he was the “Conservative Redneck” he wouldn’t get a day’s worth of air play because of his positions.  If he came out more nuanced than an extreme Liberal’s position to do nothing less than “shatter” Southern stereotypes he’d not have the attention he does now.

Trae, I’m honestly happy for your success if you’re reading this.  You deserve it.  You busted your ass with Drew Morgan, Corey Forrester, and D.J. Lewis, and you came out on top.  Bravo to you.  There’s nothing wrong with taking orders from the NY Daily News and supporting that if it feeds your family and you get national attention.

However, it does behoove your national audience to know that you’re not a NY Daily News slave.  Your political views are more than what you’re paid to say.  You have a better mind for politics, the world, and life in general than what the NY Daily News allows you to vent as their “redneck in chief” and if you really aired some of your views then they’d fire you in a heartbeat.  I won’t discuss that, because you need the money and you deserve the fame you’re getting.

But let’s be honest.  The News is telling you to say certain things, and you do it because it gives you a great paycheck.  That’s fine.  Just admit that you have more nuanced stances than what the NY Daily News tells you to say and we’re good.  We’re good right now, as I write this.  I just want the world to know the “Liberal Redneck” is a bit more grounded in reality than the views he puts out on the world’s stage.

Let’s not forget the accent either.  Your videos are filled with the southern drawl most people expect of the barefoot hillbilly type.  Yet when you do club shows it’s completely different.  You actually sound like you’re a decent human being.  Why do you let the NY Daily News make you their token “hillbilly” from the South?  I would imagine the money, but I’m often wrong.

In any case, Trae Crowder, the “Liberal Redneck,” is a credit to the Scruffy City regardless of his political leanings. If you’re a comedy club owner you’re a fool to not book him.  If you want him to speak you’re a fool to not contact him.  Just remember when you do it’s all about the message Trae Crowder’s been told to spread so he can keep making money.

And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

Rant in D Minor.

This will have no substantive value.  It is a rant for your own pleasure and entertainment.  Right now I’m getting this shit off my chest, and I’ll use my platform to deal with it.  I call it “Adventures in Parenting With Unrepentant Fuckwits,” or “What Happens When You Make Me Go Full Gorilla At 6 PM For Stupid Shit.”

As an homage to Bill Hicks, let’s shorten it to “Rant in D Minor.”*

One reason I relish being a solo practitioner and my own boss is because I love my kids and want to be there for them when a crisis situation occurs. About 10:15 this morning one of those crises moments happened.  My wife rings my cell phone.  It’s her vet tech, and she puts me on speaker.

“Your son is running a 101.9 degree fever.  You need to go get him.”

Cursing like crazy at this point, I hop in the car and dash off to the day care.  They’ve got rules there, rules I can’t complain about for protection of children against contagious diseases, and one of them is if your kid has a fever running over 100 degrees then they have to be without fever for 24 hours, pain medication and fever reducer free.  I’m just glad it’s the son though, and not both the kids, because if it’s both then I’m getting nothing done besides telling my daughter it’s not okay to lick the television.

We get back to the house and I give my son some Motrin.  His fever goes down immediately, and I get a strong suspicion he’s teething again.  Every single time he’s cut a tooth he gets a fever, and this was no different in my head.  He ate well, took a good nap, and I got some work done until he got up (Including three, yes three posts at Fault Lines you’ll be able to read tomorrow).

When my son awakens he’s not in the best of moods, but it’s to be expected.  Temperature’s still low, though.  By dinner he’s lethargic, not willing to eat, his fever’s gone back up, and I’m starting to get worried.  My wife, who is home by this point, confirms our son is teething.  It’s not just any teething, it’s a molar, which means it’s painful as all hell for him.  Fortunately, there’s a remedy for such things, but I have to go get it from a place called “Bohemian Baby.”  It’s an all natural teething oil called “Punkin’ Butt,” and the stuff works wonders.  My wife says she can either go or I can go get it.  I opt for the latter decision because of a couple reasons.

The first is that when it gets to a certain time of night and my kids are tired, they turn into the pint sized equivalents of drunks at the bar on last call.  My daughter is the one white girl who doesn’t want to leave and is protesting loudly because she’s just downed her twelfth shot of Jager and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”  My son is the bro who’s ready to fight anyone over anything, and protesting loudly because he just lost his last game of Beer Pong or Flip Cup.  Reason two is that “Bohemian Baby” is about two miles away,  I just ordered Chinese food, and I figure I can get the oil, be back in time for the kids to go to bed, and nothing go wrong.

I make it to “Bohemian Baby” and there’s a sign on the door that they’ve moved locations.  However there’s people inside this store, and it looks stocked.  A lady opens the door and asks what’s going on.  I ask if I can purchase a container of “Punkin Butt.”  The lady, who is lit brighter than a Christmas tree and smells as though she’s just stepped out of a Colorado dispensary, says “We have that, but like, we can’t sell it to you here.”

“Why?”

“Because this is like our online distribution store now, you know?  You want to buy it in town, you have to go to the West Town Mall location.  That’s our…what do you call it…um…yeah man…”physical location.”

I politely explain my situation and ask if I can make an “online purchase” somehow at this store.  She declines, and tells me the place to go is “Next to Sears, so you don’t have to worry about going in the whole mall, man.  I mean that’s a good thing, right?  At least I wouldn’t go near one of those mass commercialism centers.”

I thank the young lady, and turn to leave.  She says “Wait.  You’re going to want to go to the…wait…is it the first Sears entrance or the second Sears entrance?  I’m….wait….I think it’s the first Sears entrance.”  None of this exchange meant a damn thing.  There’s no telling what this stoner meant by “first” or “second” entrance, and there’s no telling even if she knows what planet she’s on.  I thank her and drive to Sears.

When I get to the entrance of Sears that leads into the mall proper, “Bohemian Baby” is nowhere to be found.  I ask at least three store owners if they’ve heard of “Bohemian Baby” and where the location is.  None of them know where this store is, if it’s open, or what it’s about.  If you know me, by this point you know it’s an exercise in restraint for me to continue keeping my cool.

One store owner, the guy running a place called “Wireless Toyz,” points to a mall cop and says “Hey man!  The Mall Dick will know where the place is!”  Thankful for finally sensing a useful function of a Paul Blart, I ask the guy where Bohemian Baby is located and if he can point me in their direction.

They’re on the other side of the fucking mall, and closing in twenty minutes.

I used to train Parkour regularly.  I do cardio regularly as a morning routine, if it’s walks, runs, cycling, or otherwise.  I can tell you with absolute certainty the next few moments consisted of me running for Bohemian Baby faster and more nimbly than David Belle’s iconic chase scene from District B-13.

I make it to the store as they’re slamming their gates shut.  My foot lands in the door of the store.

“I’m sorry sir, we’re closing.”

“No, you’re making one more sale tonight.”

I’ve been told in moments of sheer anger I’ve developed a certain penchant for a “thousand yard stare.”  It worked tonight, as the young lady planning on shutting down her shop asked what I desired most.

“One container Punkin’ Butt, please.”

“Will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“Are you a member of our rewar…”

“No.”

“Do you…”

“No.”

I hand her my card, sign off on the dotted line, and leave.  My kids are in bed asleep now, and we got our Chinese Food this evening and wine.

If I ever see that fuckwit from the “online distribution center” again, even if it’s in my office on an emergency matter, right now I’ll refer her happy ass out the door to someone else.

These are the things you do when you’re a dad.  You deal with the fuckwits of the world, and you do your best to protect your kids from them.  Soon I’ll write a post about the three kinds of Dads I’ve encountered in family law.  I just hope I do my father justice by setting an example for my kids.

*D is for Dad, in case you were still puzzled.

Life Lesson: Keep Your Cool

I’m in the middle of an excellent read by H. Graham Swafford, Jr. called “Go to the Pound and Get a Dog…Then Learn to Fly an Airplane.”  It contains numerous “Life lessons” from Swafford, a family and criminal defense lawyer in Jasper, Tennessee.  Bearing that in mind, I want to take a short moment and offer my readers a “Life Lesson” played out in the Family Law trenches, time and time again.

On Losing Your Cool With Your Ex: Don’t Do It. 

There will be times when you’re tempted to yell at your significant other during your divorce case.  It’s understandable; divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences people can go through.  The worst thing you can do during the divorce is allow yourself to show anger towards the other litigant.  It means they have the “victim card” to play, and they’ll play it to the hilt if it gains them an advantage in the courts.

That advantage, played out time and time again, usually goes to the wife.  The longer the couple is married, the more each spouse learns the foibles of the other and how to exploit them.  Usually the wife is the one who will learn just how to piss her husband off enough until he loses his cool and flies into a rage.  Then Bambi’s got enough leverage to go to her attorney, play up a sob story, ask why Bubba decided to yell at her like that, and the attorney gets to play Bubba up as someone with “anger issues” in court.

Worse still, if Bubba and Bambi have kids, those “anger issues” will play out terribly for Bubba.  More than likely Bambi will delve into Bubba’s history (real or imagined) as a drunk and drug addict, and then beg the judge for extra support, including alimony.  If you’re dealing with a small town judge, this is almost a certain victory for Bambi.

People in your life, especially those closest to you, will know the real “trigger points” that play you like a fiddle.  In a high pressure, high stress scenario like divorce those people, especially your soon to be ex, will more than likely pull those trigger points and play your response to their levels.  Know what your trigger points are, know they’ll likely be used against you, and when you see the gamesmanship occur, step back!

If you feel the need to respond to the other party’s jabs, learn to do so in a fashion that won’t sink your chances should you find yourself in court. Learn techniques like the “Jerry Intervention” or “Insult by Proxy” to deal with those moments when you need a cathartic release.  Other good mechanisms include Wim Hof breathing and self-hypnosis for relaxation.  If you’re focusing on your breathing or have the ability to trigger a relaxed state by saying “Relax” three times then people won’t get to your rage points.

Keep it cool, calm, and collected, and you’ll walk out the better for it.

  1. Some people will tell me that with my level of practice in the law I should not be giving a “life lesson,” nor do I know what the hell I am talking about.  I can state with absolute certainty this applies to every single family law case I’ve tried and other family law practitioners would affirm my point.

Orlando: Lessons Learned

Orlando’s recent series of unfortunate events included one sparking national debate where a nutcase managed to make his way into a nightclub and kill or maim at least 100 people solely because they loved someone of the same sex.  I’ve waited some time to throw in my opinions regarding the Pulse shooting out of respect for the dead and their families.

I will address my opinions on the subject today.  There’s lessons to be learned from the Pulse shooting, important ones about human nature, communication, and reactions in times of crisis.  We can and probably will ignore them.  In the hopes someone will listen, I offer those lessons here.

Love those around you in the darkest times. 

There’s a standard pattern that follows every one of these tragedies.  First comes the shock. Then there’s depression.  The cycle culminates with incredulous outrage and a demand for action.  All of this is solved by simply loving those around you when they need it most.

Orlando gets this at the local level.  People are lining up in droves to donate blood, volunteer in any way possible, and donate time, energy, or money if possible.  Even Truett Cathy’s Chik-Fil-A, a restaurant chain vilified once for taking a position on “traditional marriage,” contributed food to those in need.  The rest of us?  The message of love isn’t exactly sinking in.  Take a good, hard look at social media and see the clickbait headlines, the “they deserved it,” the “unfriend me if you think (x)” and  my special favorite, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”  I’ll get to that in a moment.

Here’s a better idea.  Why not take a revolutionary idea and, as noted legal scholar and humanitarian Jonathan Cena once said, “Rise Above Hate?” Are you angry about the Pulse shooting?  Then call someone up and tell them you love them.  If you have kids, hug them.  Hell, just ask someone on Facebook Messenger if they’re happy.  If they say “yes,” then say “I’m so glad to hear you’re happy. Good for you” and leave it at that.

Tragedies further agendas, and Orlando is no exception. 

After the shock and the outrage, something has to be done. There’s always a call for action, and this time there’s no difference.  On one side, you have “push the Muslims out and stop Muslim immigration.” On the other, it’s the tired “gun control” rhetoric for which no one can come up with a sensible, reasoned answer grounded in logic and sound policy decisions.

As you listen to your favorite talking head in the days and weeks to come, remember that lesson.  When the Left tells you it’s time to put someone who’s on a terrorist watch list on a “no gun buy” list, they’re doing so for a reason.  When the Right tells you it’s time to ban Muslims, they’re doing it for a reason.  Tragedies bring with them emotional requirements for action, and all sides are exploiting Orlando for their own personal gain.

“Gun Control” isn’t the solution here.  Especially not repealing the Second Amendment. 

In the aftermath of Orlando, Rolling Stone took great pains to find a Con Law “professor” who would give them the mechanism they desired for ridding Americans of pesky firearms: repeal the Second Amendment.

It’s a nice appeal to emotion and social justice.  And the issue of individual citizens being able to own, keep, and bear firearms in light of the D.C. v. Heller holding is definitely controversial, one Fault Lines managing editor Scott Greenfield called an “impressive piece of lawyering.” Some agree with the issue, some disagree. The takeaway point is that when you start discussing “bans” on guns, or “repealing” the Second Amendment, you have to remember those discussions involve serious words.  And despite what SJWs would have you believe, words do actually mean things.

When you say “ban,” you’d be well served to remember what “ban” actually means in the context of the law.  When you say “repeal,” go back to the first sentence.  The law isn’t some nice, touchy-feely instrument that brings you fairness.  Nor is it a scalpel used to trim that which you disagree from the mass you find palatable.  It is a bludgeon, and when you start modifying laws you don’t like don’t be surprised when the extra “law” of unintended consequences kicks in.

Some people don’t like the Second Amendment, or the privileges it brings. I get that.  If there’s truly a need to repeal it, then that document Trevor Noah of the Daily Show referred to as the “drunk grandpa who says things at times we don’t agree with” has a mechanism built in so we can change things.  But, going back to SHG, before you hit the “repeal” button on the Constitution remember there’s other rights people would love to see modified or taken entirely from us.  The First and Fourth Amendments might just as well get removed along with the Second, but no one in the aftermath of the Pulse shooting seems to think about that when screaming “REPEAL.”

There are gay celebrities speaking out about this issue, and tech companies are silencing them. 

Listening to the Sean Hannity show last night, I heard a caller speak about the “gay sect” of Hollywood, denounce them as cowards, and ask why no gay celebrities were speaking out about this debacle.  I ask this “industry insider” a question: Does the name Milo Yiannopolous ring a bell?  He’s been speaking out about the impact of Islam on gay culture for some time now, at the possible expense of his life.

Milo’s been attacked during his tours on college campuses.  He wanted to hold a talk at a nearby university in Orlando but couldn’t when the college had no way of guaranteeing Milo’s safety.  While attempting to find an alternate venue, Twitter suspended Yiannopolous’s account.  It’s unsurprising, really; they “un-verified” him after the Trust and Safety Council formed to appease those Milo offended by speaking truths.

Rather than cower down, Milo went to ground zero in Orlando, flanked by security, and gave his press conference.  He stood in the face of the public and the press and said what the world needed to hear.  This isn’t “radical Islam,” it’s “Islam,” backed by statistics, and no amount of blame shifting or apologia would fix that.  In response, Twitter suspended Milo’s account for another 24 hours.

Other social media companies are silencing those who speak out about the homophobic components of Islam.  A major LGBTQ publication’s page has been removed from Facebook for violating “terms of service.”  Post “Islam is like Hitler” on Facebook and watch as you get your account suspended for a day’s timeout.

The Left’s Reaction To Orlando Proves They Don’t Care About Gay People. 

No matter how much the media wants to spin it, the tweet from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump proves he cares more about the LGBTQ community and their rights than anything done by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Yes, he’s a blowhard.  Yes, he’s a braggart.  Call him all the things you want, but the first reaction from the Left was “This is a gun issue!  It’s not  an Islam issue! Islam is peaceful! Guns are not!”

It was a follower of Islam who wrecked the lives of 300 people in Orlando at the Pulse, and that was the first time a Democrat achingly forced the words “Radical Islam” out for public consumption.  In other countries, followers of Islam believe homosexuality is immoral and should be made illegal, that Sharia law should be enacted (which makes a woman’s testimony 50% less credible than a man’s on the witness stand), and think it perfectly acceptable to throw someone off a building just because they happen to love someone of the same sex.

If you are a part of the LGBTQ community, and want to know who cares about you more than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, take a second look at Donald Trump.  It’s clear the establishment doesn’t care about you.  They’d rather put a religion at the altar of the Oppression Olympics than people who’ve been unable to marry in this country for centuries.  A vote for a Democratic president is a vote against LGBTQ people, their allies, and the rights of those to love as they please.

It may be uncomfortable for you.  But it’s time to Make America Great Again.

Compound Communication Update: Soundcloud

We’re moving the Collaborative Compound Podcasts back to a regular schedule, and we’re moving them to Soundcloud.  That means RSS feed integration, iTunes, Stitcher, and otherwise support, and more, which means you’ll get more Mediation is Dead Content than before, where you want it, when you want it.  We’re about empowering people through communication skills, and that requires constant evolution.

I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from my Blab and Periscope sessions.  That’s all well and good, but podcasting is a major business these days for people who need a message broadcasted to the world.  Originally, I’d used a platform called Spreakr since it was an iPhone app and I could record straight from my iPhone 5S.  I learned something very quickly from those initial Collaborative Compound Podcasts.

The first thing I learned is Spreakr is shit compared to other platforms.  There’s little to no visibility for your podcasts, the WordPress plugin is buggy at best, and the limited functionality makes it hard to record something people want to listen to.

The second was the message transmitted to the world wasn’t getting received in the right places. If you want your message heard in the right areas you’ve got to go the route of regular content updates to Stitcher, iTunes, and the rest of the podcast aggregators out there.  Spreakr didn’t have the same visibility, so it had to go.

All of this is in testing mode, mind you.  One thing I’ve learned since beginning Mediation is Dead is the practice of forming an online business and presence is very much a learning game.  One of my favorite podcasts by Mike Cernovich detailed the formation of Danger and Play, as well as the Mike Cernovich podcast.  He freely admitted he didn’t know what he was doing when he got started and his business was very much a “learn as you go” enterprise.  I like that sort of “wrongless approach” to life Mike has, so I embrace it ruthlessly as I work to spread my message.

I went from a Twitter handle of TVDog to my current, @clsesq, which now extends to Instagram and Snapchat.  I evolved from Spreakr to Soundcloud, and continue to work with Periscope and Blab in order to spread the message of better communication to end conflict so parties can stay out of the court system.  I’ve learned content monetization, SEO optimization, and more just based on a desire to get my message to the world and a preference for being resourceful over begging people continually to help me out.

And that take on resourcefulness, the ability to evolve your work, continues to make the entire enterprise fulfilling each day.  Learning is a great endeavor, but when you undertake learning with a desire to evolve in knowledge then it’s a killer combination.

That’s all for now.  Transmissions from the Compound are forthcoming, and I guarantee you won’t want to miss any of them.

Fault Lines: Join Us

Several months ago I reached out to Scott Greenfield, the managing editor of Fault Lines, and asked for a shot at writing on the site.  I sent a submission, as the worst he could do was say “no.” Today I write three to four times a week at Fault Lines, the only online legal magazine featuring criminal law analysis from professionals ranging the scope of the criminal justice system, including three Federal judges.  And it’s time for more to join our ranks, according to the managing editor.

Fault Lines isn’t a place to come if you’re looking for someone to nod their head, pat you on the tummy, and confirm you’ve got the correct opinion.  There are times some of the contributors posted articles that made me want to destroy my laptop.  Andrew King, our prosecutor, is the one usually responsible for this.  We harbor no bias and examine all views, even if I usually think Andrew King is wrong about everything.
Content isn’t just the best part of Fault Lines  As I’ve said in the past, any asshole can express an opinion on the Internet, and many unfortunately use the Web to make people dumber.  Fault Lines brings you insight from all perspectives across the system we can muster in a smart, reasoned fashion currently in the system.  We have criminal defense attorneys, an active prosecutor, three Federal Judges, and an ex cop turned lawyer.  We’re always looking for more perspectives, and I know one we’d love is an active duty cop.

There are requirements for Fault Lines.  You have to be able to stick to deadlines no matter what.  You have to be able to write in a reasonable, coherent fashion.  You also need to be fairly bulletproof to criticism, as our commenters often demonstrate.  And you need to make sure when you discuss an issue, you get the law right.   If you possess the necessary qualifications, we want you.

Since writing at Fault Lines I’ve been on the radio discussing legal issues pertinent to Tennessee, I’ve managed to piss off a few prominent politicians as an effort to effect change, I’ve gotten business, and continued improvement in my content output as a writer.  If you want to write, and want a national platform, and would like to get better at your writing, the best shot you have is applying for Fault Lines.

If you want to give it a shot, here’s how to apply.

A short DCS rant on medicine

One of my kids might be sick, and I’m fucking pissed that I can’t talk about it more than where I do here or even discuss the nature of the illness because the most corrupt organization in Tennessee, the Department of Children’s Services, could take my son if they wanted to based on him being sick with a virus that’s only treatable with Motrin and Tylenol.

Mrs. S. and I both put our kids in preschool following my son’s first year birthday.  The biggest rationale was when my daughter went to “daycare” at three months some fuckwad of a parent sent their child to the daycare with RSV.  It’s a common virus, and every kid gets it at some point.  When you get it earlier in life, though, it makes things difficult.  In my daughter’s case, it meant two trips to the ER with an IV stuck in her tiny hand wondering if she’d make it past the day.

We waited a year for my son to get past that point where RSV would affect him in such a manner.  That was easy enough, and when our in home caregiver couldn’t provide services anymore then we were able to get them into preschool, and a good one, which is apparently important these days. Then the bad stuff started happening.  I got notes on the door three kids had been confirmed with “Hand foot and mouth disease,” in my son’s room.  He’d been irritable a couple of days, but seemed fine.

Today after his nap, he woke up irritable and couldn’t be placated with food, beverage, or anything else.  He was grumpy all afternoon, didn’t eat dinner, and went to bed early.  It’s now 10:30 as I write this and I’m on vigil to make sure my daughter doesn’t decide to bang on the door of her room to wake my son up.

Tomorrow we will take my son to the doctor.  We will make sure he has a confirmed diagnosis, because that’s what day cares (and families visiting in town) want.  We will have to reschedule our weeks for the illness if he’s suffering from hand, foot, and mouth disease, and there’s a chance I could get it.  But my wife will keep working, because despite her clinic being broken into by a tweaker scumbag she’s a soldier and will keep on working to make low income families have healthy pets.

I’m lucky to write where I’m able.  I’m lucky to be able to do work when I can.  What infuriates me about this matter is that I’ve seen families separated because the kids had “hand, foot, and mouth disease” on removal by DCS, which is inane. Social workers thought their knowledge better than a doctor’s, and because the kids were in “pain,” the parents lost their kids.

The moral is simple.  Never trust DCS, CPS, or any other agency claiming the good of your children is their goal.  Lock the doors, record the conversations, and make them get a warrant.  Then call a lawyer.  You will be better off in the long run.

 

 

Transmet, Journalism, and Modern Media

“Journalism is just a gun.  It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim right, that’s all you need.  Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world.” –Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan #3 (November 1997)

Transmetropolitan (what I will refer to from this point on as “Transmet”) was a central point in getting me back into comic books.  The bleak, sci-fi series by Warren Ellis featured a deranged Hunter S. Thompson like writer named Spider Jerusalem who found himself focused on the Truth, no matter how painful or ugly it was for people.  Throughout the wildly popular series, a central theme that kept running was the power of the media, the power of authority, and the constant need to expose corruption and lies through the truth.

Warren Ellis wrote those words almost two decades ago, speaking to the power of journalism.  Spider’s work was different from that of his colleagues in that he focused exclusively on the Truth, rather than the comfortable pabulum most of those in The City wanted to hear or the talking points politicians needed.  His relentless obsession with the truth meant Spider took beatings from police, attacks from hitmen, and his own work censored by the President.

It never mattered to Spider.  No matter the attack, he never backed down.  He destroyed his foes through the power of the Truth and his ability to influence his readers through a unique, special take, and in the process toppled a corrupt government.  By the end of Transmet’s run, the world is a better place for Spider’s work, and his “filthy assistants” are set to carry on his life’s mission: the pursuit and exposure of the truth.

Why don’t we have a Spider Jerusalem in our midst today?  Why does the media stick to narratives instead of fact-checking and doing honest reporting?  Why do they bow and scrape to the establishment rather than muckrake like a motherfucker, question everything authoritarians say, and then raise hell?  Has the media lost its spine or has it simply just lost a Spider ready and poised to strike with venom?

I ask these questions because right now in the aftermath of an Orlando shooting by an Islamic terrorist claiming allegiance to ISIS, American media is taking great care to make sure no one hears anything other than “Not all Muslims” and “Islam is a religion of peace” and “There was an assault rifle involved!  Oh my goodness, let’s ban all the guns!”  When a Presidential candidate’s Twitter account signals being correct on Radical Islam being a threat to the United States, he’s dismissed as “shameful.”  Meanwhile, when the other presumptive candidate issues a “woman card” for sale on her website featuring the bathroom stall image of a woman, no one raises hell over that.

I ask these questions because when a Presidential Candidate erupts into a frenzy over the qualifications of a judge to hear a case against him, the media vilifies him as a “racist” and continues to frame the discussion over and over again, with Jake Tapper at CNN even being lauded for continuing to press the issue in front of that candidate.  Yet no one seems to be questioning the other candidate’s questionable past of hiding her husband’s continued sexual assaults by calling them “sluts” and “bimbos” and then playing to her alleged strengths by being “pro women” this election cycle.

I ask these questions because when a rally is shut down because of “peaceful protests” that later turn out to be the work of an organized criminal gang the media falsely reports on it.  I ask these questions because when an alleged assault is revealed a hoax the story quietly goes away without full and fair apologies.  I ask, especially, when a story goes from “Dad kills son for being gay” within 24 hours to “More to this death than we originally thought” just due to a bit of fact checking and hell raising by people like you and me.

Spider’s biggest concern was that he’d reveal the truth and people wouldn’t listen or wouldn’t care.  Unfortunately that nightmare is occurring in real time, right before our very eyes.  We can mute those on Twitter who don’t share our worldview.  Facebook is worse; the almighty Algorithm only shows you that which you want to see.  There is no more room for Spider’s brand of truth in the 21st Century.  There’s only room for shared delusions of “fact.”

We need a Spider Jerusalem right now, more than ever.  This year, our election cycle mimics that shown by Transmet in the Beast and the Smiler.   I won’t reveal too much, but if you do a bit of digging and think a little bit you’ll be able to figure out which candidate I find the Beast and which I find the Smiler.  And with both parties needed a massive revival, it’s time the media gets a good thrashing from the Angry Chair Leg of Truth by someone unafraid, almost bulletproof to take on the mainstream media.

One issue of Transmet contains a quote from a favorite writer of mine, H.L. Mencken.  I leave you with this here.

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.  Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it.  And even if he is not romantic personally his is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.

Is there a romantic among us?

Will the real Spider Jerusalem please stand up? 

Costello v Zavodnik: Promise Kept

Earlier in the week horror writer Michael David Anderson asked me on Facebook for my take on a story about a man sued for $30,000 over a $40 printer sold on Craigslist.  Before I begin my analysis of the Doug Costello/Gersh Zavodnik legal battle, I need to discuss a couple of prefatory notes:

  1. Never ask me for advice or my legal take on Facebook.  I don’t trade my knowledge without a price.  Facebook isn’t a place where the attorney-client privilege is respected, and I have clients I have to take care of.  Plus, there’s always the chance someone might construe what I say as legal advice.  However, Anderson manned up and donated to repairing Prevent a Litter’s mobile spay/neuter unit, which you should do too.  So Michael Anderson gets his article here.
  2. None of this should be construed as legal advice.  As mentioned in #1, that’s stuff you have to pay for.
  3. This involves an Indiana case.  I am a Tennessee attorney.  Therefore, all of this is analysis.  Are we clear?

Now then, let’s move on.  My take on the thirty grand printer lawsuit is simple.  Doug Costello sold a vexatious litigant named Gersh Zavodnik a printer, tried to handle the entire thing without getting an attorney, suffered for it, and will probably continue to suffer.  This is a case study in why you should get a lawyer the moment you receive any sort of lawsuit or legal threat instead of relying on Avvo, RocketLawyer, Legal Zoom or any of the other bullshit “disruptive” legal tech companies.

Back in 2009, Costello sold Zavodnik a printer through Craigslist.  The sale, including shipping, amounted to less than $75.  What Costello didn’t know was that Gersh Zavodnik is an infamous Indiana pro se (self represented) litigant, notorious for filing lawsuit after lawsuit over internet purchases.  It got so bad the Indiana Supreme Court told him “Stop it” two years ago.

Court records show Zavodnik has filed at least 123 civil lawsuits in Marion and surrounding counties since 2008. Most revolve around Internet sales and purchases gone bad.

He also is a party to 34 cases before the Indiana Court of Appeals, including 23 requesting the appointment of special judges to hear his complaints because of previous tiffs with the judges handling those cases.

The 2014 Indiana Supreme Court opinion in Gavodnik v. Harper isn’t the kindest treatment one could expect from jurists.  In the first page, the Court blasts Zavodnik as a “prolific, abusive litigant” who regularly blasts out voluminous filings placing an unnecessary burden on the Court.  In 2013 the Indiana Supremes threatened sanctions, and in the 2014 opinion they declined once again “as a matter of grace.”  However, the Harper opinion provided guidelines for courts on how to sanction abusive litigants like Zavodnik, who repeatedly files suits in order to stop people from “stealing his money.”

The only person on the receiving end of theft was Costello, who found himself liable for approximately $30,000 in damages after failing to respond to Requests for Admissions filed by Zavodnik in Marion Superior Court.  There were two sets: one asking Costello to admit he’d breached a contract to the tune of thirty grand and another asking Costello to admit he’d cause damage meriting awards of $300k to $600k for Zavodnik.

Here’s the thing about Requests for Admissions: If you don’t answer them in a certain time frame in most states, the person who sends the requests can then, as a matter of course, move to have the entire set of admissions legally admitted by law, on the record.  Costello claimed he never received any of the Requests for Admissions, but that didn’t stop Zavodnik from moving to have them all placed on record as true for the purposes of his suit.  Eventually, Costello got smart, hired an attorney after he realized the awards granted Zavodnik might bankrupt him, and then moved to have some of the admissions withdrawn.

The Trial Court granted the six figure admissions as withdrawn, because the damages were for “unspecified reasons.” However, they left the $30,000 plus award in place because it was for a specific admission.  The breach of contract was untenable, and Costello had to pay for that admission.  Hold on, we’re not done yet.

Costello and his attorney appealed the verdict, and the Indiana Court of Appeals blasted the Trial Court for not recognizing Zavodnik’s repeated history of vexatious litigation, skewered them for not adhering to the Indiana Supreme Court’s 2014 guidelines on how to deal with litigants like Zavodnik, and then remanded the entire case back to trial court with instructions to see whether this case should proceed due to Zavodnik’s “repeated, flagrant, and continuing failure to comply with Indiana’s Rules of Procedure.”

The bottom line is this story isn’t finished.  Yet, despite all the hoopla and Costello’s emotional response to Zavodnik’s work, there’s some lessons to be learned here.

  1. Watch who you do business with.  Zavodnik had a history of suing people for online purchases, and Costello still sold the printer.
  2. Hire an attorney the moment you get papers served on you.  If Costello had retained counsel the moment Zavodnik started this bullshit then most of this emotional and legal mess wouldn’t be a problem.  Yet it is, because Costello thought it cheaper to handle the matter himself.  Yes, attorneys cost money, but we also make things go away faster than those who try to handle matters on their own.
  3. Vexatious litigants like Zavodnik exist, and if you’re smart you’ll avoid them by hiring an attorney.  Most of us can make things like this go away quickly, but Costello chose to handle the matter pro se until the time potential damages were six figures.  Get the lawyer first, and the investment will be worth it.

    So there you go.  Assholes like Zavodnik will plague our legal system until more judges start cracking down and issuing sanctions.  It’s not a comfortable feeling, but it’s the truth, and the best way to avoid all the heartache isn’t to handle this matter yourself.  Hire an attorney and you’re automatically find yourself in a better condition than Doug Costello.

    And to quote noted legal scholar Enzo Amore “And You Can’t Teach That.”

Also buy Michael David Anderson’s books “Teddy” and “Wake” here.