One Day As an Appearance Attorney

Wake up at 6 AM, down two bottles of water.  You don’t eat breakfast on this day, because you’ve made a ritual of not eating breakfast during the days you appear before a judge.  The first and only time you tried it went badly, and you learn from your mistakes.

Next comes the kids.  The youngest is up first, then the eldest.  You make them both breakfast, and have a talk with each.  In the meantime, you’re preparing your files for the day ahead of you.

Drop the kids off on getting them ready with spouse’s help.  You then head back, down a Bolthouse Farms’ glass of Green Machine juice as a “breakfast” since you’re trying to evolve along with the requisite supplements you’ve learned help jog your memory and bring your cognitive abilities together, then you hop in the SUV and head to court after a cold shower and decking yourself out in a nice suit.

Parking is $8 for what will account to two hours’ time in the building. You resoundingly curse as you insert the credit card, get the ticket, and place it on the dash because the people who run the lot are assholes that will boot your car the moment they suspect shenanigans with your parking pass.  After paying and grabbing the briefcase and file folder, you head to court.

The courthouse is full of sights and smells alien and fearful to the layperson.  To me, it’s like welcoming an old friend into my home.  There’s the slight tinge of must from mold emerging somewhere in the building, possibly in the holding cells at the basement where alleged “cons” are held pending arraignment via video magistrate.  A nice, easy din of vocal chatter as I head down the hallway lined with glass to the main foyer where voting booths are set up that don’t open until noon.  I know the courtrooms in which I must appear and have made phone calls the day prior to both judicial assistants, letting them know I’ve got the Houdini-like task of appearing in two places at the same time.

They all have my back.  They always do.  In a shitshow like a local Bar, the assistants take care of those who treat them well.  It’s one reason I know every clerk by name and keep birthdays in a special calendar for each.  It’s why when Christmas comes around every clerk gets a Christmas Card with a special thank you note from me.

First stop is the courtroom with the judge who has an axe to grind and loves the respect.  By the way, I should mention at this point I’m not really on these cases as an attorney of record.  I’m just covering for an attorney who didn’t either decide or want to come from their home state to get a simple judgment taken care of.  At any rate, when I appear in front of the first Judge, I express deep regret for the attorney who “couldn’t make it,” because this judge loves propriety and has a fondness for respecting her robe.  The bailiff calls the Defendant’s name twice outside the court.  Hearing no response, I ask for a default.  The jurist grants it, signs the order, and hands me the file to get a copy for the attorney whose ass I just saved.

The file doesn’t go to the Clerk just yet.  I take a detour into Courtroom #2, where I’ve spoken with the judicial assistant the day before.  She’s flagged my file so the judge knows I’ve been in another court first thing.  Unfortunately for me, that means I’m waiting until the judge hears everything else.

I wait and get to hear another attorney whose opposing counsel on a case I’m working.  Never met this person before, but within minutes I know who this attorney is and that this attorney has real difficulties actually presenting a cogent case before a judge.  I keep a few notes as extra ammo in one of several black notebooks I carry, then get my few shots in for the second default of the day.

After the bailiff calls the Defendant’s name twice with no response, I get my second win of the day.  I go celebrate with a steak.

For the two appearances, I earned less than $100.  That’s cool by me.  I did it more for the court time and the chance to write about it than anything else.  I think most of all, I just missed having the ability to turn the screws in a low-cost, low-stress manner for people who needed a little help getting closure on a case.

Because the clients come and go, but the people in the Bar you work with until you retire or drop dead.

A Special Guest Message

 

I received the following accompanied by litigation demanding publication of this post.  As Mediation is Dead  believes in effective communication, I’m running this “guest opinion piece” until such time as the litigation is resolved.  If you’re still reading this, it’s Thursday and I’m in a mood. And this is totally a parody. 


Hello.  My name is Attorney Keith Nguyen.  You might have heard about me recently in a very unflattering article in the Houston Press regarding a young lady who I no longer represent and is currently the subject of a lawsuit from my firm.  Don’t worry, we’re suing the Houston Press too, since they didn’t call me by my proper pronoun, which is Attorney, just in case you want to stay clear of your own personal lawsuit.  I want to take the time to address some of the horrible things being said about me on social media and review sites.

First, no, I did not try to steal “War C.” from Irvine, California’s personal collection of bondage gear.  I didn’t feed his dog chocolate, and I most certainly didn’t threaten to defile the corpses of his grandparents.  Those statements are atrocious and shocking.  I’ve never even been to Irvine!

Second, “Jon C.” from Ridgewood, New York, I’ll have you know posting pictures of Lionel Hutz in reference to my firm is legally actionable too.  Your adorable picture with some funny words attached to it is considered “hate speech” under 87 USC §§ 1776, subsection (b)(3:16), and right now we’re FOIAing Yelp to get your name and address so we can sue you for that.

All this nonsense about our firm’s staff being unable to speak proper English is racist as well.  And the comments that we’re a “bunch of snakes” is out of line too.  The current litigation is absolutely just and proper, and you jerks with keyboards getting your jollies off by leaving one star reviews with snide comments or links to that damn Houston Press article isn’t helping at all. Don’t worry, we’re working with Yelp to have all your accounts “permanently suspended.”  If it works for Ghostbusters and Twitter, it’ll work for me and my firm.

Honestly, I don’t know where this whole “inability to take criticism” thing is coming from.  I handle criticism just as well as any other lawyer.  Why, yesterday one of the partners came into the office and admonished me for inaccurately spacing a case citation and I only spent forty minutes sobbing into my pillow that night.  That’s a great display of stoic behavior, worthy of any attorney I’ve ever seen.  Just because my firm is suing a 20 year old college student who said bad things about me online doesn’t mean I can’t take constructive critiques.

And before any of you get started commenting on this post about how this lawsuit stifles this young lady’s “free speech,” it’s not protected by the First Amendment because I’m not the government, so you can just go back to your mother’s basement and figure out some other argument.  Your actions online have consequences in the real world, and that’s what this young lady’s finding out as a result of the suit brought by my firm.

Look, I’m all for free speech, okay?  But it has to be taken in moderation.  As Justice Schenk famously held in an often-cited Supreme Court Opinion, “You can’t shout theatre in a crowded fire and the Constitution is a suicide pact.”  That’s from the U.S. Supreme Court.  The BIG one.  So think about that before you start mouthing off about me or my law firm.  I can cite case law.  I could probably sue you into bankruptcy by staring at you.  That’s how great of a lawyer I am.

So just let this go, okay?  Don’t talk about it or we’ll sue you.

Regards,

Keith Nguyen

[like I said at the top, this is a PARODY and NOT ACTUALLY KEITH NGUYEN]

Dance with the Devils in Dallas in September

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m quite happy to announce that I’ll be appearing at the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Association CLE in September called “Voir Dire: Outside the (Jury) Box.”  My appearance comes thanks to my fellow practitioner in the deceptive arts, Mark Bennett, he known also as the Texas Tornado and the Statue Slayer.

My appearance is part of a project Mark and I have worked on for a little while, a bit more in the realm of higher-functioning thinking than where most CLEs normally go.  Specifically, I got it in my head some time ago whether there was a way to combine some of my heightened skill sets in the realm of mentalism, magic, and hypnosis and apply it all to a trial setting for criminal defense attorneys. Some of the material the attendees in September will see might seem a touch far-fetched.  It will definitely blow a few minds.  When the attorneys attending this seminar leave, they’ll have a better understanding of how the mind works and why learning skills like cold reading and suggestion are essential tools for any attorney during voir dire.

Every bit of the lecture I’m giving is fine-tuned, field tested, and ready to make the criminal defense attorney leave prosecutors speechless.  I’m pulling no punches here in discussing details on attention management, suggestion, the “wrongless approach” to jury selection, and so much more. At the bare minimum you will be entertained in a fashion no other CLE lecture will give you for the money.

Then there’s Mark Bennett.  You’d gladly pay the dough just to hear the man speak and give his opinions on any number of subjects.  However, Mark’s quite big into improv, and from what I gather there’s a lecture called “Improv in Jury Selection,” so expect Mark’s contribution to this amazing CLE to be nothing less than absolutely spectacular.

The event is September 8-9 in Dallas at the Sheraton by the Galleria.  If you’re interested in signing up for the course, you can do so here.  Won’t you come dance with two devils in the Dallas lights?

I promise you it’ll be a CLE you’ll never forget.

DCS Rules of Engagement.

I’ve gotten a couple of calls requesting help from residents in the Volunteer State with issues regarding the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) or Child Protective Services (CPS) ever since my article on the “Vulnerable Persons Registry” went live at Fault Lines.  While I appreciate all the requests, I can’t help everybody.  My time and energy is limited, but there are a number of tips I can provide people experiencing issues with either DCS or CPS.

A couple of housekeeping notes before we begin.

  1. None of this is legal advice.  That you pay for.  This is free.
  2. Your mileage may vary depending on your state with these tips.  I’m dealing specifically with Tennessee here.
  3. If you’re not in Tennessee, you might have different acronyms (i.e. DCF in some states as opposed to DCS).  I’m using Tennessee’s for clarity and my own ease.

If DCS shows at your door, lock the door, tell them to get a warrant, and start recording the conversation.  

The first type of interaction most people have with a DCS or CPS worker is via a request to look around the residence and talk to your kids “to make sure they’re okay.”  This is a patently false statement on their part, as DCS workers showing at your door means someone called in a report of child abuse or neglect against you and a caseworker at your local office found the claims worthy of at least an in-house review.

Andrews v. Hickman County, Tennessee, a 2012 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case held DCS workers are subject to the same restrictions when entering private property as police officers.  If they’re asking to come into your residence and “look around,” that’s the equivalent of asking to search your home, and you’re allowed to refuse that search and ask DCS to get a warrant.  If they continue to persist in their efforts to come in and search your home, simply wish them a good day and tell the caseworker they’re not allowed in your residence until they produce a warrant.

The Department and its caseworkers don’t like this holding.  When the decision was originally announced in December of 2012, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services head brass in Nashville announced no caseworker would remove a child from a residence before a three day probable cause hearing occurred. This position wasn’t overturned in Nashville until a number of Juvenile Court judges and magistrates spoke out openly against the policy, opining the Department’s failure to act could put some children in danger.

Record the conversations with any and all interactions you have with DCS or CPS workers.  They’re aware how much you care about your kids, and they will attempt to scare you with any number of outlandish statements.  The tone changes drastically if they’re being recorded.  It changes even further if you show them you’re recording their every statement.  I’ve had great fun sticking a voice recorder on the table at every single DCS meeting I attend and seeing the nature of the conversations change.  Regardless, the material you gather in every recorded interaction may be of use to you and your counsel later.

Get an attorney the moment DCS shows up.  Don’t answer any DCS questions or sign any documents DCS provides without having an attorney look them over first.

If DCS contacts you to “come in” and talk about a “crisis situation” in your household, your next call should be to a family law professional in your area.  Make sure DCS knows you won’t be attending the meeting absent counsel.  They will tell you that you don’t need an attorney, and they may get adversarial and hostile to you if you let them know you want counsel present.  That should give you an understanding of just how badly they want you to incriminate yourself.

Another great aspect of having an attorney present, even if it’s just for the first meeting, is the unspoken signal to DCS that you’re a headache they don’t want.  DCS workers love their jobs when it’s easy and compliant parents just sign the forms, complete all the steps in a permanency plan, and go on to another phase in life.  If you show up with an attorney present who plans on fighting all the issues DCS claims are present in your residence, then you’re potentially more trouble than they care to deal with.  This especially helps before a Juvenile Court Magistrate gets a Department Petition To Adjudicate Dependency and Neglect or Delinquency Petition on their desk.

One important note regarding “Delinquency” petitions.  I’ve seen cases where parents are carted before a Youth Services Officer (YSO) after kids act out at school or in another place and told if they don’t sign a Delinquency petition on their child the kid will be removed.  This is a half-truth, and a dangerous one.  It is true that a Juvenile Magistrate or Judge might find your child’s circumstances worthy of a Delinquency adjudication.  That doesn’t mean you have to sign off on a Delinquency petition on your own child at risk of having that child removed from their home.  Furthermore, if you sign a Delinquency petition on your kids, you run the risk of having a Petition to Adjudicate Dependent and Neglected (D&N) filed against you.

Ask about your status on the Indication (Vulnerable Persons) Registry.  Demand to see the indication letter if one exists.  Exhaust all remedies.
Finally, we get to the indication registry.  If you’ve had a D&N petition filed against you in Juvenile Court, you’re probably “indicated” as a person who “potentially” committed child abuse or neglect.  If a DCS Caseworker comes to your door and talks with you, there’s a good chance you’ve been “indicated” as well.  Ask about your status on the Indication registry or Vulnerable Persons Registry.  If the DCS worker acts clueless, demand to speak to someone who knows what they’re talking about.  This is a live registry that as of February 2015 went live and actively reports “indications” for people suspected of child abuse or neglect.  This list is used to deny people homes, jobs, and access to places where kids might be present.  You could potentially find yourself on the list and not know it until someone with a web browser and internet connection decides to snoop on you!

There is a letter that is to be sent to all “indicated” parties.  It informs them of their status on the registry, the allegations that gave rise to an “indication,” and outlines steps to challenge the indication.

It is imperative you challenge the indication letter. If you do not, you will be stuck on a list of people who actually abused children and the elderly and were found guilty of those offenses in a court of law.  There will be no distinction, and if you don’t timely challenge the letter within the dates proscribed you won’t get a second chance.  You will remain on the registry until a court overturns your status on the registry or the bureaucrats in Nashville get a clue.

Keep these tips in mind and leave with one parting thought.  DCS and CPS workers have badges, ranks and official titles.  They also have the state-sanctioned ability to deprive you of your rights and liberties.  These are things we grant police officers, and yet we treat DCS and CPS workers differently because they’re ostensibly not looking  for criminals.  They’re doing a “thankless job” for “the good of the children.”  Don’t fall for that line of bullshit.  Treat every interaction with DCS or CPS, no matter how minor, like it’s an interaction with cops, and you’ll come out better for it.

Banning Milo, Redux.

A quick follow-up to a post from last week regarding Twitter’s “permanent suspension” of Milo Yiannopolous follows.  If you’re so inclined, you can read my original thoughts before continuing.  It’s cool, I’ll wait.

I was surprised at the reactions Milo’s ban received.  Many people responded with “I’m glad he’s gone” and outlined the “horrible” ways this “monster” had treated people.  Funny enough, most people couldn’t identify a single way Milo treated them horribly.  It was all anecdotal stories they’d either read about or heard from other people.  More tellingly, no one could justify Yiannopolous’s Twitter ban beyond the standard tropes involving the First Amendment, free speech, how Twitter was a “private company,” and so on.  Evidence, or the lack of evidence, regarding the “Dangerous Faggot’s” alleged coordinated attack against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, didn’t matter one bit.  It was all about the narrative.

That narrative ignored a basic understanding of what phrases like “targeted attack” means, as well as “hate speech (quick hint, there’s no legal definition of “hate speech” in America.).”  It also indicated a bizarre line of reasoning that retweeting “racist” comments on line and “exposing” said thoughts for the world wasn’t the same thing as directing a targeted attack against another user’s account.  Those who prattled such tripe in my direction seemed a touch blind to statements like “Get her” and “I’ll blow you up.  If you tweet hateful things at me I’ll retweet it so all of my followers see it and come after your punk…”  None of this surprises me, after the work I’ve done for a couple of months now.  What did surprise me were the people who came rushing to the defense of censorship.

Those who spoke in favor of silencing Yiannopolous were arguably people who depend on free speech the most.  There were performance artists, musicians, and stand up comedians all telling me “words can and do certainly hurt people” and that being pro free speech was only a good thing “during the days when you could beat a man within an inch of his life.”  People whose very livelihoods depend on pushing the boundaries of what you can and can’t say in public flocked to the side of silence.  The display absolutely confounded me, until I started to think about the deeper issues behind this pro-censor stance.

There’s an element of profit at stake, for starters.  The only way you’re really guaranteed a steady income in the entertainment industry is if you display to the public your commitment to the “correct” way of thinking. Any question of authority, any attempts at dissidence will only cost the artist money.  Even if the dissident position is one with which the artist actually agrees, they will deliberately silence themselves to make sure that extra paycheck is available while establishing a name and brand recognition for their work.

Worse still, there’s an implicit tone of rejection for those who dare express wrongthink as artists.  All it takes is one incorrect statement that doesn’t jibe with the current buzzphrases of “diversity” and “inclusion” and you’re squarely in the crosshairs of the Internet Outrage Machine.  Once you’re a target for the digital mobs ready to scream their offense, you’re done.  Your career is finished, or you’re going to at least lose out on the possibility of millions in the process.

In that sense, you might be able to forgive the artist for choosing a life of self-censorship.  The businesses that stand to benefit the most from an open, robust exchange of ideas are the ones that stand to lose out the most when the content creators actually express ideas outside the mainstream views of normalcy.  It’s only good capitalism at work, then.  Everyone likes to own nice things, and many artists have families to feed.  The biggest issue with the “anti-Milo” stance, especially when it comes to the arts, is by limiting the “free speech extremist” you’ve officially shifted the Overton Window on your own work to a position with which you might not be entirely comfortable.

Love him or hate him, the “Dangerous Faggot” always stood on the side of free speech and free expression.  His outlandish stunts on college campuses designed to poke fun of speech codes and grandstanding with people ranging from Christina Hoff Sommers to Dave Rubin all serve a point.  If his ideas and speech aren’t acceptable at the most outlandish of times, then there’s a good chance your “moderate” or “nuanced” view won’t stand the test of time as the politically correct “regressive left” comes to shout down any opposing voice.  Once the modern “Nero” is eliminated from the public’s discourse, then your more “principled” view might very well be next for elimination.

Worse still, eliminating Yiannopolous’s “hate speech” from the digital domain doesn’t make the web any “safer” than before.  It just allows newer forms of hate to fill in the cracks, ones the mobs of “social justice [insert Dungeons and Dragons class of your choosing]” deem appropriate.  Shortly after Twitter smacked Yiannopolous with the Banhammer, a post appeared on Medium, the Twitter owned “platisher’s” Daily Digest slamming Milo, calling him part of the “A-List con men” at the Republican National Convention.  It didn’t serve any purpose than acting as the new official stance on what form of hate was acceptable for modern society: a hatred of those who stood for free speech.

The dangerous line we tread when eliminating people like Milo Yiannopolous from the public eye is choosing a life of hedonistic, intellectual comfort over a forced examination of the ideas and people with which we disagree.  So many of us already engage in this practice daily with block buttons and lists.  The creation of those echo chambers leads to the treacherous line of reason where we automatically assume we’re right, and those who express a different view are guilty of the sin dubbed Wrong On The Internet.

When self-inflicted, it does little harm to the rest of society.  The public elimination of figures like Milo Yiannopolous through outside third parties with massive amounts of power, like Jack Dorsey and Twitter, is a more egregious sin as we’re told by those with the real technological power what to think, absent suffering penalties.

Proof God Exists, Three Years Ago

I got conclusive proof three years ago God exists.  That proof came to me at 6:55 AM in a hospital in West Knoxville, the day my daughter came into the world.  I sit here with her by my side now that she’s three years old and can’t imagine a life without being a Dad.  And fatherhood makes the world a better place, as long as you’re willing to put in the time.

I still remember the day I found out I was going to have a kid.  I was in a state of surprise and total shock at the same time.  Mrs. S. and I’d talked about it, but that soon?  The day after my birthday I find out I’m going to be a Dad?  I had no idea what the hell I was going to do.  I’d represented the worst of the worst during my time in Juvenile Court.  Would I get to that point?

For some reason I remember the first thing I did on finding out I’d be a Dad was take a full day and watch “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.”  I don’t know why this was therapy for finding out I’d be a father soon.  I guess in my heart of hearts Sugar Bear was the epitome of everything I despised about all the parents I’d seen pass through the system, and I wanted to make sure that I never had a chance in hell of ending up like that.  It was strangely cathartic.

The next thing I remember were the tests.  There’s a bit of a streak in our family tree for certain genetic issues to pop up, and we wanted to at least assess the possibility of our child coming into the world with one or more of those issues.  That was a weird bit of business, going to a hospital and getting my mouth swabbed while nurses stumbled to draw blood from my wife.

Next came the classes.  Sweet Christmas the “classes,” which told you everything from the appropriate baby-wearing device of the minute right down to graphic footage of live births both naturally and via C-section.  I’ve watched some graphically violent horror films in my day; I still enjoy one on occasion when my kids aren’t around.  I can tell you I averted my eyes when the nurse putting the films on that day grinned and said “This can get a little graphic for the guys in the room.”

I remember the day the tests came back.  No issues with any of the predetermined genetic markers, though we’d resigned ourselves to love the kid no matter what if they did come up.  That was issue number one.  The second was the child’s gender.  “Do you want to know?” asked the geneticist.  “Yes,” we both exclaimed loudly.

“You’re having a girl.”

Those words made me jump up and do a victory lap around the room for some reason.  I don’t know why; two years later we’d welcome our son and that was a touch more emotional of a moment for me.  In any event, next came the “baby showers” where we’d get every gadget, gizmo, and gewgaw known to mankind for kids.  And diapers.  So many diapers, I didn’t even begin to fathom we’d need them all, and yet we certainly did.

Then came the big day.  I remember it fondly, because we’d done everything absolutely right up to that point.  Mrs. S.’s family was in town, and we’d just had lunch at a nice steakhouse next to Compound West.  She was tired, and wanted a nap.  I went to lay down on the couch and fiddle with some iPad game, when the magic words hit: “My water broke.  It’s time.”

That statement sent a bolt of lighting through my brain and kicked my adrenaline into overdrive.  I grabbed the bags, got the car ready, and off we went to the hospital of choice.  I remember most of the details of the next half-day, but I won’t go into detail here.  All I can tell you is that at 6:55 AM that day in July, I became a father to a lovely baby girl.  That moment, I knew that God existed, because when I saw her, my world changed.

I knew what it was like to see a human being I’d helped create.  I knew she would need me, and I’d always be there for her.  I knew that I’d be in for a long, probably bumpy road going forward, but I didn’t care.  I was a father at that point, and I was determined to give her the best life possible.

Today, three years later, I’d like to think I’ve got a good handle on everything Dad-related.  I can tell you right now that’s a delusion.  Every time I think I’ve got the “father figure” role sorted out, my kids give me a good dose of humility and remind me I know a lot less than I think I do.  Getting a chance to play with my kids on the weekends and weekday evenings, making them breakfast every morning, all of it’s worth every second I get.

Being a father really does make the world a better place.

Banning Milo

It was nice while it lasted, but the ruse is over.  The “free speech wing of the free speech party” dropped their ruse of holding a platform for all voices when Twitter, late last night, permanently suspended “conservative provocateur” Milo Yiannopolous’s @Nero account.

It didn’t take Twitter long to let the world know following the formation of their Trust and Safety Council that Yiannopolous, an editor for Breitbart, was a marked man.  They took away Milo’s precious blue “verified” check mark, a sign letting the world know the account was his and not one of the numerous fake accounts bearing his name.  The last straw in Yiannopolous’s antics, apparently, was his bashing of “Ghostbusters” star Leslie Jones.  Some called Milo’s work an “organized campaign of online harassment” eventually leading to Jones quitting Twitter.

That didn’t last long.  Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, eventually reached out to Jones, and the two conversed via DM.  Then, last night, Yiannopolous joined the ranks of the Twitter Banned, standing beside people like Robert Stacy McCain and Got News’ Chuck Johnson.  This banning is different, though, and it’s one Twitter might regret in the days to come.

Within hours of Milo’s @Nero suspension, the hashtag #FreeMilo started trending on Twitter.  Right now it’s sitting as #1 on my “Tailored Trends” topics.  Adding the hashtag into Tweetdeck produces a torrent of tweets on the subject, ranging from people fully in support of Milo to those gleefully rejoicing in Milo’s ban, and suggesting those upset about the issue join him and delete their accounts.  In essence, by removing Milo from the social media platform, they managed to amplify the “Dangerous Faggot’s” presence more than ever before.  It’s also highlighted Twitter’s disingenuous stance on free speech.

Make no mistake, Twitter is a private company, free to select who uses its services and who doesn’t.  And they’re free to select what they term “harassment” or “hate speech” and silence those voices.  But in taking the anti-Milo side, Twitter stands on treacherous grounds of doing something no one in their camp wants to do: prove him right.

During Yiannopolous’s last appearance on Dave Rubin’s “Rubin Report” show, Yiannopolous predicted Twitter would eventually shed its chosen mantle as a bastion of free speech and stand as a platform only devoted to allowing those ideas it deemed “safe” or acceptable.  They’ve done just that with the banning of Yiannopolous, and even allowed others to posit wilder stances than his, such as the ban’s “targeted” nature as it came right before Yiannopolous attended a “Gays for Trump” party during the Republican National Convention.  The ruse is gone, and Jack can’t take it back.

Worse yet, Twitter managed to give credence to the throngs of “men’s rights activists,” or MRAs, who claim women can’t handle criticism on the platform.  It also places Leslie Jones in a negative light, as a female comedian, arguably someone who should be able to handle criticism from hecklers or otherwise with ample savvy, was outed as someone who needed a Twitter knight in shining armor to activate the Trust and Safety Council’s jackbooted digital thugs and suppress Milo’s voice.

It’s an odd stance for a social media platform to take, especially one so allegedly pro free speech, and ostensibly the bastion of the marketplace of ideas.  A gay man with a fetish for black dudes is silenced for criticizing a black comedian.  In the meantime, pro-ISIS accounts are allowed, and tweets advocating for the killing of cops are prolific.  Even Jones, originally clutching her pearls and whining about how something had to be done to stop all the hate, is back on Twitter denouncing “white people shit.”

Yiannopolous’s presence has yet to end on Facebook, which poses an interesting conundrum for Mark Zuckerberg and his team.  They’ve already been outed as anti-conservative through leaked information, when word circulated his team internally wanted to stop Donald Trump from becoming President.  Zuckerberg, firmly in the crosshairs of the free speech world, invited a number of prominent conservative talking heads to his offices in California and affirmed his commitment to promoting all values, no matter what.

The ball is then ostensibly in Facebook’s court, and can be used to breathe fresh life into a platform now largely seen as an echo chamber for those still using it.  If Mark Zuckerberg takes a strong stance and blows the doors open for any and all, firmly distinguishing Facebook from Twitter, it will send a powerful message and bring the disenchanted back to the land of “likes” and “pokes.” If Zuckerberg remains silent on the issue, or worse yet adds fuel to the fire by endorsing the ban of Milo Yiannopolous, then both social media platforms will suffer.

Only time will tell, as the story is less than a day old and yet gaining international attention.  One thing’s for sure, and that’s striking down Nero only makes him more powerful and amplifies his voice than one would possibly imagine.

Convention: Prologue

Day one is in the books, and people are already talking.  Depending on who you ask, The Convention is either the biggest political event until November or a dumpster fire burning brightly.  Cleveland is rocking hard with all manner of lunacy the likes of which haven’t been seen since Drew Carey had that damn song playing in my head.

You can’t keep an eye on the press for this one, you understand.  You have to go to the people on the ground and find the things they’re seeing, watch what they’re viewing through their own varied, distorted filters.   It’s not that hard, really.  Journalism as we knew it is dead.  Anyone with an iPhone and access to Periscope can show you what’s really happening, and what’s happening in Cleveland at the Convention is incredibly moving in the same sense a reality TV show is moving.

On the floor, chaos erupted when the last minute #NeverBeast voters attempted to pull some sort of political stunt.  They thought they had enough votes to force a “roll call” vote, which from my understanding of the process would have technically unbound every pledged delegate and allowed all to vote as they believed necessary, conscience or otherwise.  This was their last ditch effort to defeat the Beast’s campaign, and the “NEVER” crowd gave it the good old college try.  They even made the mistake of trying to catch the media’s attention on the matter too.

That was the problem.  The media saw the “revolution” and wanted in on the shining moment when the American people were told their votes didn’t matter, that the delegates were going to spoon feed them some vanilla candidate that wanted nothing more than to pander to the delicate sensibilities of the GOP’s mighty elite.  Cameras and audio rolled in as the throng of angry, butthurt, Beast opponents cried “ROLL CALL! ROLL CALL!” over and over again, shouting down every speaker that took the Convention floor.

The people who wanted to vote their conscience, it turns out, had a different strategy in mind.  They were ready to vote their “conscience” by embarrassing those who were Anti-Beast publicly, in the eyes of the world.  The Roll Call Vote was rejected.  People were embarrassed by their friends and loved ones.  It got so hot inside the Convention hall Colorado walked.  Hard to say why Colorado’s delegates decided to walk on the first day of Convention.  I guess they longed for their non-genetically modified weed, and didn’t remember to bring enough from home.

You know what Colorado forgot?  When you ask people to vote between their conscience and self-interest, people are always going to crank the lever that reads “self-interest.”  That’s human nature, bound into the scripture that is our genetic code.  Any time you tell a person to act a certain way for the “common good” and that “common good” doesn’t jibe with their self-interest, they’re going to  vote the exact polar opposite of what you think is the “common good.”  Every other delegate got it.  Those who kept screaming in the HASHTAG NEVER movement didn’t understand the Beast represents their self-interests.

Once the stupid left, we got the pageantry.  Bad movie star and daytime TV actors telling us building border walls were the same as building walls to keep your neighbors off your lawn, searching for Pikachus or whatever virtual animal Nintendo places around your property lines.  The Beast apparently pandered to those who in the eyes of some were racist, others simply ill-informed or not well spoken.  Point is he let the crazy out and had their say right from the get-go, so the main-event level squad was saved for the rest of Convention.

The last speaker of the night?  The wife of the Beast, here to tell us all why her husband would live up to his promises and Make America Great Again, but not before the Beast entered in all his resplendent glory.  People shat all over his appearance.  Some called his use of Queen’s “We are the Champions” cultural appropriation, of that I’m pretty sure.  Others said his use of backlighting and fog machines equated to a WWE-style entrance.  None of that mattered.  He appeared before his adoring throngs, and gave his blessing before his wife’s speech.

News outlets today already blare of more “cultural appropriation” or “plagiarism” of the speech heard round the world.  It doesn’t matter.  None of it matters.  The truth is that if most of you cared about that bullshit you would have stopped this garbage a long time ago.  The words that blare from your sewers about “cultural appropriation” and “plagiarism” and “racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist” all lost their meaning the more you used them to silence the voices you didn’t care for.

Today we’ll no doubt have more shenanigans, riotous acts from simpering fools sitting outside the Convention hall, and whines of grief when the Beast is nominated.  And there’s nothing you can do about it. Don’t like where we are right now?  Tough.  This is the fruits of your labor in making our society more “tolerant,” “inclusive,” and “just.”  Your fight for “equality” in everything made the Beast rear its head.  Your continued cries of “OMG LOL REALITY STAR WTF” made him gain wings.  Your continued free press, mocking of the “poorly educated,” and ignorance of his specially tailored soundbites, brought you to this point.

Bask in it.  Drink it all in.  There’s nothing we can do but sit back and watch at this point.

Stupid Hot.

The heat’s reaching record highs here in the Volunteer State.  It’s gone from Tennessee summer level muggy to what people would call “stupid hot.”  With that “stupid hot” brings a major component.  People are starting to act stupid, and the stupid is getting contagious.

I listen regularly to local talk radio.  Not out of a sense of wanting purposefully to yell at talking heads who have the ability to hang up on me at any time, you understand.  Sometimes it’s a good way to check the pulse of those around you on situations and events that unfold in real time.  Talk radio is the local equivalent of the digital space that gives us a chance to really see how an area feels about a given issue.

Right now the stupid is so hot it burns.  And yet, underneath the stupid, there’s a level of strange truth that i can’t seem to imagine as plausible.  What happens when something you see as so obviously wrong, so asinine it burns, becomes something that actually sounds believable?  Are we in a new plane where crazy is the New Normal?

The latest talk around the hayseed water fountain is that the rash of cop killings and deaths of black men is a distraction.  The type those who run in the higher functioning circles call “false-flag” operations.  They say the current crop of shootings are a means to an end for the current President to declare martial law.  They say when he does it means he gets to suspend any and all activities and speech with which he disagrees.  That includes a Presidential Election, which he’ll keep quelled until he gets a chance to either install who he wants as President or remains President for the rest of his life.

I sit back and dismiss the hayseed water cooler talk.  It’s not based in logic or reason, I say.  It’s not something that could feasibly happen since too many moving parts are required for a stunt like this to occur.  The government can’t be that terribly smart, can it?  Can we really expect of our nation’s failed leadership some sort of criminal movement, wiping their collective asses with the Constitution, to make sure one party stays in power and continues to keep that power until someone or something makes the collective conscious of this nation say “NO MORE” and rise up in arms as an attempt at restoring American values?

No.  The current guy has done enough to mess with what freedoms we have.  This is the guy who’s been ineffectual in his attempt to be all things to all people.  He was able to tell the public they’d have their doctors and then told the doctors and insurance companies they’d get what they wanted under his scheme of medicine.  He told the cops one minute he was their only salvation and then turned the next to tell those whose voices cops silenced with bullets they needed to “look to peace.”  He told people a good “beer summit” would solve the world’s problems while condemning the use of lawful tools to defend a person and that person’s property.

In our current climate, the guy who’s got 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s got it wrong for not choosing between Team Mystic, Valor, or Instinct.  In his attempt to be all things, he’s none of the things.  And when you support nothing in an attempt to pander your way to justice in a mealy-mouthed fashion then the only thing you’ve left is dishonesty.

And dishonesty is in vogue these days with those who hold political office.  Sure it’s always been a thing that people who sought power embraced, but now it’s official.  The top, elevated spokesperson for Being Left about something has 67% of Americans saying they don’t think she’s honest or ethical.  Yet the other guy, the one who is so honest about being an asshole, is thought of so horribly people who wouldn’t normally vote for the Head of Being Left And On The Right Side Of History are starting to say “I’ll just have to hold my nose and vote #ImWithHer.”

Our climate picked a side.  The end result was either a choice between dishonesty and corruption or an honest asshole, and because no one wants to be labeled a racist, misogynist, ableist, or other stupid label that means nothing then we have those who are quietly participating in the stupid by picking the dishonesty, or those who are actively participating in the stupid by loudly bellowing their support for the other side and then telling the world if they don’t act now the price will go up come November or sooner when the Nation is at Martial Law.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here, watching the world get stupid hot, and the surrounding throngs caught in the system burn hotter and hotter.

Notes on the Fault Lines Debate

Today I debate my fellow Fault Lines contributor Noel Erinjeri over whether African-Americans killing cops is justified.  There’s a couple of points I want to make in light of this debate.

  1. While I appreciate our managing editor, Scott Greenfield prefacing the debate this morning by making it clear neither Noel or I truly believe killing anyone is the answer, I want to state it again.  I do not believe killing another person for any reason is justifiable.  I do not believe violence is the solution to any problem, unless you’re a trained professional fighter and the problem is “beat the other guy.” This was a debate, and I picked the side of “violence is justified” because I wanted the logical exercise.
  2. Our fellow co-contributor, Greg Prickett, believes the debate as framed is too narrow.  His take is that this issue extends far beyond African-Americans and Black Lives Matter. I agree with him on this point, but as this is a debate, Noel and I were constrained to argue a specific, narrowly-tailored question.
  3. Someone will inevitably tell me that I have no place in this argument because I haven’t “lived the black experience” or something like that.  To those who would make such an argument, I tell you now to piss off.
  4. Someone will inevitably ask either Noel or I if there’s a solution to the problem.  I think any solution to the issue of ending police violence against African-Americans will run into the H.L. Mencken variety, but I will offer a few ideas below on how we can begin.

First, eliminate the section 1033 program that gives police departments access to military hardware.  All police departments with equipment under the 1033 program have sixty days to arrange for pickup or disposal or face fines and sanctions at the Federal level for failure to comply.  It’ll be rough without war toys for a little while until the cops finally figure out the whole “community policing” approach works better than “comply or we kill you” with the communities they serve.

Second, stop training cops with a warrior mentality.  Eliminate “warrior” culture from police forces.  No cop needs to see the community they serve as a battlefield and every potential encounter with civilians as an unseen threat.  They’re people too, and a return to the days of police patrolling “beats” and knowing the neighborhoods they monitor would be a positive step forward.

Third, eliminate Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights from collective bargaining agreements struck between police unions and governments.  This is a huge deal, and most people don’t know in the wake of a shooting like Alton Sterling’s or Philando Castile’s, cops have enhanced rights above and beyond those of an average citizen. Placing police on the same level as those without a badge in the wake of a death would help restore some trust among the communities affected by these deaths.

Fourth, end proactive policing for protests and demonstrations.  Yes, it’s important to make sure no demonstration gets out of hand and turns into a riot.  However, confining protests to “safety zones” or keeping the protest monitored heavily with a police presence only invites those who want to antagonize other parties into doing so.  Once one side antagonizes the other, then the entire debacle spirals into nothing but arrests and more anger.  Targeted arrests and detentions only lead to more over-crowding of jails, and that’s a problem we don’t need in any police district.

There is no easy, concrete solution to this troubling boiling point at which we find our nation.  There are a number of steps we can take to begin addressing the issue in a positive fashion that won’t see constitutional rights violated and a start towards real justice begin.

Something has to give.  The cycle of violence, while potentially foreseeable and preventable, cannot stand.