The Dying New Year’s Eve Fight Tradition

A tradition used to exist in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that some promotion would run a New Year’s Eve super card. The largest promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) bucked tradition this year and held their card Friday nigh with UFC 207. Now the World Series of Fighting has taken the mantle with a card. The question is why did the largest promotion in the world drop the ball on the New Year’s super card tradition?

The New Year’s Eve fight card, as best I can tell, started with Dream Stage Entertainment’s (DSE) PRIDE Fighting Championships. The Japanese entertainment company staged its biggest card of the year because most of Japan observes December 31 to Janary 3 as a quiet time to spend with family and reflect on the year that was, as well as the year to come. Most families would sit at home and watch television, so DSE used that time to focus as many eyes as possible on its product and fighters.

DSE’s PRIDE during its heyday, and the years of the traditional super cards, were packed with talent, fights people wanted to see, and always carried a big fight feel. It was MMA’s version of the Super Bowl, if football suits you more than combat sports. Star athletes like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, and Takanori Gomi would make appearances on these nights. Each fight was memorable, and the card’s opening, the “Parade of Fighters,” always defined “spectacle” for an athletic event.

If watching something like that doesn’t get you excited to see a night’s worth of fights then nothing will. That’s WWE-worthy spectacle in place with real fighters, and that’s just the start of the fights. Unfortunately, PRIDE got mixed up with the Yakuza and tainted the promotion’s reputation. Once word broke that DSE’s top brass had dealings with organized crime it made the promotion’s ability to secure visas for out of country fighters nearly impossible. Without the drawing power of “The Russian Cyborg” Fedor Emelianenko or the potential of a CroCop knockout win, eyes turned toward singing contests.

With PRIDE on its last legs, the promotion turned to American rivals Zuffa, headed by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The Fertitta brothers would buy out PRIDE. Initially the two companies would remain in operation, acting as competing entities. This idea wouldn’t last long, and the final Dream Stage Entertainment PRIDE show opener strangely seemed prophetic of that.


The use of “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?” to open the show speaks of days gone by, good times past, and something ending. Although the opener speaks of “New Beginnings,” the final PRIDE, dubbed “Kamikaze,” was really the last blaze of glory for the Japanese bastion of MMA. The organization would soon close up shop, and the talent the promotion could sign would head to the UFC.

Moving to the UFC would prove difficult for many PRIDE alumni. “CroCop” and “The Axe Murderer,” Wanderlei Silva, would be two fighters that struggled in the American juggernaut. The dimensions of the UFC’s “Octagon” were different from a PRIDE ring, forcing the fighters to relearn the ways you could cover the distance to your opponent. Flaws in fighting styles were laid bare as former PRIDE greats struggled with new regulations and time periods.

The UFC would hold a few notable New Years Eve cards, but they eventually stopped with television deals rolling in. Tradition meant nothing when you had deals with Fox Sports and Reebok. Now the new owners, WME-IMG are looking towards competing with the Super Bowl for eyeballs, which doesn’t bode well for ratings in America. Promoter Dana White’s saying about everyone going to the street corner where a fight is might ring true, but in America the Super Bowl dominates television.

While the promotion is finally developing new stars like Conor MacGregor, replacing the old guard like Tim Silva, Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, Chuck Liddell, and more, it’s hard for fight fans to see business owners who know nothing about the product tank an MMA stalwart because they don’t know a damned thing about what they got for their money.

 

 

Understanding MILO, Understanding Donald (Update)

The world learned yesterday MILO, the self styled “Dangerous Faggot” landed a quarter million dollar book deal. A bunch of people lost their collective ever loving minds over this. As of this writing MILO’s book, “Dangerous,” sits as the number two best seller in all of Amazon. The crazy part is his book won’t be out until March of 2017! How does someone who describes himself as a “virtuous troll” achieve such instant success over a book that isn’t in print?

Understanding the cultural phenomenon that is MILO means understanding the America that elected a reality television star President. You may love it or hate it, but you’ll have a better grasp of the America that allegedly rejected “progressive” values. Taking a moment to examine the events of the last twenty-four hours surrounding MILO’s book deal will help you get a better grasp of where America stands culturally as we move forward into the new year.

MILO represents a rejection of identity politics. 

Identity politics have been quite the rage. It’s common to see someone start a social media post labeling themselves “As a” before launching into an argument or stating a position. When your “As a” label is offended, it gives you a chance to express your outrage and call someone a racist, sexist, transohomophobic bigot. That outrage sets the internet social justice posse in motion, silencing you for your viewpoint. It makes you think twice before you hit “post” or say something in public.

MILO is part of the cultural nexus that holds up the viper of identity politics, cuts off its head, and throws both pieces of the snake into two separate fields. His “Dangerous Faggot” college tour holds talks with themes like “Feminism is Cancer,” “Fat Shaming Works,” “Why Do So Many Lesbians Fake Hate Crimes?” and other ridiculously outlandish topics. The stated purpose of each talk is to make people laugh, piss people off, and maybe make people think.

It would be easy for people to dismiss him if he were simply a white guy. Under the mantle of identity politics, he gets a following for being a gay Jewish Briton with a German mother who has a propensity for dating black guys. It also makes him damned near bulletproof from the Social Justice mobs.

People love him for his outlandish antics, and his talks are often to standing room only crowds as a result. When college campuses pull off a stunt that either shuts down a talk or cancels it completely, it makes headlines. Shouting him down only amplifies his voice to the people that want to hear him.

Silencing MILO only makes his voice stronger, and people hate that. 

The “Heckler’s Veto” is a common tactic for those who want to silence someone with whom they disagree. Shouting someone down produces no honest conversations that lead to productive exchanges over big ideas. Yet society continues to do this and ask for “honest conversations” at the same time. You can’t have an honest discussion if you’re unwilling to listen to the ideas and concepts you can’t stand to hear.

Silencing MILO, for some reason, only makes his voice that much stronger. It’s the real life equivalent of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Darth Vader “Strike me down, Lord Vader, and I shall become more powerful than you can ever imagine.” When Twitter suspended MILO’s @Nero account during the Republican National Convention he dominated press row the next day. Every time a campus shuts down or protests one of his talks it’s a newsworthy story.

This is why MILO’s book deal dominated the media world for twenty four hours and put his book at number two on all of Amazon. Announcing an alleged quarter million dollar advance for a book due in March caused an incredible number of celebrities to decry Simon and Schuster for “normalizing hatred.” The Chicago Review of Books announced it wouldn’t review a single S&S release in 2017.

The effect of this was an insane number of pre-orders for a book that’s going to launch with a $26 hardcover price. A comparable hardcover sells for approximately $17. This is what people mean when they speak of voting with their money. People want to hear what MILO has to say so much they were willing to launch money at him three months before his book ships.

Understanding MILO means understanding America in 2017. 

If you take a moment to examine the meteoric success of MILO, you will understand why we have Donald Trump in the White House. Both men represent a group of people tired of being told they were a bunch of things they weren’t, like racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, bigoted, ableist, or whatever label you could put on them. Both men listened to the America that was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore. Both men took time to listen to those more concerned about rising health care costs and lack of employment than discussions of which bathroom or pronoun to use.

Both men were unapologetic in their actions. Both men said and did whatever the hell they wanted without fear of repercussion. When people tried to shut both men down the public that was mad as hell lashed back with time, money, and energy most thought never existed.

Examine MILO. Instead of trying to shut him up, take a moment to understand why he dominates public discourse. When you understand that, you’ll understand America in the coming year.

Watch American Milo here.

MILO is in Silenced: Our War on Free Speech.

His YouTube Channel is a repository of his college talks.

UPDATE: “Dangerous” is now the number one book in all of Amazon. The self-styled “Most Fabulous Supervillain on the Internet” strolled past Carrie Fisher’s “The Princess Diarist.”

Score one for the bad guys.

Has Pantsuit Nation Imploded?

Pantsuit Nation started as a secret Facebook group where supporters of Hillary Clinton came to coordinate wearing pantsuits on election day. Once Clinton didn’t win the election, it became something of a collective grieving space for those who couldn’t believe we didn’t have our first female president. All that changed one week ago when Libby Chamberlain, the group’s founder, announced she’d landed a book deal.

The Huffington Post quickly called Pantsuit Nation a “sham.” Apparently someone didn’t like the New York Times reporting on Chamberlain’s book deal the previous day. Chamberlain also filed a trademark application for Pantsuit Nation, despite allegedly seeking no profit or compensation from the group’s activities. HuffPo writer Harry Lewis called the move “a branding machine.”

Elizabeth Chamberlain has every right to make a living. Are her activities a “sham?” Is she guilty of scamming people? All signs, from this deception artist’s perspective, point to “no.”

Assuming the facts least favorable to Ms. Chamberlain, she isn’t under any obligation to abstain from profits under a book deal she signs. People are allowed to make money in America. That’s part of the good stuff in this country. Starting a Facebook group isn’t illegal, and getting a book deal for “stories” told in the group is a testament to the power of social media.

Ms. Chamberlain is under no obligation to pay any participant who chooses to submit a story for her book. If that changes, I’ll change this post. What sticks out as interesting is her decision to only include stories submitted with express permission. Obtaining that “express permission” would arguably require sending each potential participant a contract for signature and return. The terms of such a document would be worth examining, and each participant would be well advised to look over the “permission slip” with an attorney.

She also, according to my understanding, does not owe the collective, invitation-only Facebook group she created any sort of “duty” to tailor its activity to anyone’s liking. That argument’s been tried before at other sites, and with no rules placed other than what Chamberlain and the group’s admins set the “duty” is whatever Chamberlain and her friends say it is.

The issue people seem to take with Chamberlain’s actions is they’re not active enough. Over at Slate, Christina Cauterucci finds several members of the (approximately) four million member Facebook Group wanted to do more than just share their stories. A book didn’t live up to their expectations.

“We came to fight Trump,” [one Pantsuit Nation member] continued. “Instead, [Chamberlain] made a coffee table book? Really? Not only are there millions of us, but we are passionate and ready to go. A coffee table book feels like a kick in the teeth.”

A book may not have been what brought Pantsuit Nation together. That book may be the group’s undoing. But for now, if Elizabeth Chamberlain happens to make money off the Facebook group she created, that’s not a scam, sham, or any other negative word you might choose to label it. Asking for additional transparency won’t do any good. Someone got lucky and secured a book deal.

Unfortunately for the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, they can’t even be happy about that.

I accepted an invitation some time back to Pantsuit Nation for reasons I can’t explain. Part of me was fascinated at the alternate reality some of its members saw. Another part of me was curious at the alleged fear its member base “felt” in the aftermath of President Elect Trump’s rise to power.

Now that it’s disintegrated to infighting, it’s time to move on. There’s more important battles to fight, and more conflicts worth discussion than the self-destruction of Pantsuit Nation.

The book deal Elizabeth Chamberlain has is far from a potential scam. Some people just can’t accept her refusal to do more. That’s expectation management, not deception.

When Civility Is A Lost Virtue

Civility used to be considered a noble cause. Polite discourse was the norm. That’s no longer the case in a world where people who harass at a woman are considered “heroic.”

By now the world knows the story of Dan Goldstein, a man who found out Ivanka Trump was on his JetBlue flight, chased her down, and yelled at her about how her father is ruining the United States before being escorted off the flight. His husband, Hunter College professor Matthew Lasner twitted prior to the incident “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil.” JetBlue “reaccommodated” both parties on the next flight.

Keep this in mind through a filter of the following statement: “Perception is reality.” You’ll need that for later analysis.

Why Lasner and Goldstein chose to do what they did is up to them. Three questions are worth examining in this scenario. First, why did Dan Goldstein think it appropriate to harass Ivanka Trump and yell at her about how her father was “ruining” the country? As much as you may adore or despise Donald Trump, he’s done nothing yet to “ruin” this country. He’s yet to take the oath of office. All we know is he’s decided to tell a bunch of people who he thinks are good people to advise him in the President’s cabinet. Goldstein did nothing more than yell at a woman who happens to be the President-elect’s daughter until he was taken off the plane for it.

Take the name “Ivanka Trump” out of the same scenario and Goldstein is the villain in anyone’s eyes. He’s a guy who decided to yell at a woman on a plane until he was escorted off. Yet because the Pantsuit Nation crowd lost the election, and they can’t begin to understand why, the one response left is to keep getting angry about it, painting the President and his family as some sort of new world Hitler, and justifying it because reasons. It’s unacceptable to harass anyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, pronoun choice, or whatever justification you dream up.

Question number two is why Matthew Lasner felt compelled to twit to the world his husband’s impending actions? Harassment is still a crime, and since airports are covered under Federal law, Lasner “virtue signaled” to the world his husband’s intent to potentially cause a criminal act. While it’s unclear whether Ivanka suffered any fear of imminent death or even “substantial emotional distress” because of Goldstein’s outburst, it’s generally not a good idea to broadcast to the world your husband’s decision to potentially commit a crime. The twit is deleted, but screenshots are everywhere, and if Ivanka chose to sue, well, it’s not hard to imagine someone doing a quick Google search to find it as evidence.

Finally, why does anyone think this is acceptable, much less laudable behavior? Take the Trump name out of the equation and Goldstein and Lasner are absolutely the asshole villains in this scenario. Yet because it’s the President elect’s daughter, and therefore the perception is “Lady Hitler,” it’s considered appropriate. One writer for @midnight and the Onion even considers the act “heroic.”

And to make a broader point: liberals need to stop being nice. Right away. Now. This sham of tolerance and civility has done nothing for the Democrats and everything for the GOP…Stop being nice. Stop. Stop it…Keep shouting in their faces. Keep confronting them wherever and whenever possible. Show that you’re willing to actually fight for something, goddammit, even if that entails temporarily looking mean.

Joe Randazzo’s skin in this game is unclear. Yet he’s on the path to something worth discussing. “Tolerance” and “civility” got conservatives nowhere for eight straight years. Taking the moral high ground on every position bought no political capital. At some point, conservatives started using the same tactics the left used, realizing the only way to win was a shift in strategy. This was something the “progressive liberal” front couldn’t stand. They decided to shift strategies, and go high when conservatives went low.

That strategy shift, attempting to become morally superior, didn’t work. The nation called the newly labeled “regressive left” out on its bullshit. It led to the election of a President Trump. Now that those who stood #WithHer lost, they’re upset about it, and coming unhinged. Not that they were ever really in the business of being nice, as Randazzo points out.

The “tolerant” liberal needs to go away for a while because, the fact is, liberals aren’t that tolerant anyway. They’re mean and they’re mad and they are barely able to hide it anymore.

The myth of the “tolerant liberal” is a myth on full display for eight years straight. While people fought over bathrooms, worlds burned. When people argued over stupid videos about “privilege” and “institutionalized” racism, others mocked the deaths of people who didn’t vote the same way they did in a Presidential election. And yet at every turn, the conservatives just took the punches until they decided they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

If perception is reality, then the reality is the nation that voted in President Trump perceives each screed like Randazzo’s as one more bit of proof the regressive left can’t handle civility. They were never interested in being civil, or having honest discussions about a damned thing. All they wanted was to tell everyone what to do, what to say, and how to think, and act like nannies while doing it.

Civility is dead. It may exist somewhere as a faded memory, but both sides of the aisle are now only interested in anger.

 

Taking Communication Seriously

We don’t communicate effectively because we don’t take communication seriously. I recently came to this startling conclusion after, predictably*, listening to the Jim Cornette Experience.

During a recent broadcast, Cornette, a former pro wrestling manager turned social commentator, lamented the passing of pro wrestling as he knew it because none of the new generation knew how to take “the business” seriously. No one had it drummed into their heads “the business” was something where you created a suspension of disbelief. This created a generation of workers who equated matches with video games. Crowds who chant “this is awesome” no matter the actions of the heels or the babyfaces.

The same holds true for communication. We don’t communicate because newer generations don’t take the art of communication seriously. Worse, technology makes it easy for all to simply ignore the art of effective communication. Why attempt the nuance of a face to face conversation with someone, or a simple phone call, when you have texting, email, Facebook Messenger, or Twitter at your disposal?

When it’s simply words on a digital screen, the nuance of speech is gone. Once you stop interacting with others, you lose the ability to read facial expressions and body language. The person receiving your message is left to their own devices to figure out what the hell you meant. Sometimes they’ll lose the message you intended and go for the exact opposite.

That moment of digital interaction as opposed to the flesh and bone connection of human beings is an easy, thoughtless choice. It’s also a dangerous way to live. Those who choose to cut themselves off from society run dangerously high risks of mental illness. That’s because people are genetically social beings. We need human interaction. Losing that means losing a portion of what makes you a human.

Yet we encourage this. It’s now easier than ever to order your groceries through a smartphone and have them delivered curbside to your car. We discourage visits to local retailers because Amazon makes it so easy to pay with one click. And food? Simply have it delivered to your door with a few clicks of a button. No need to deal with pesky waiters and waitresses ever again!

This disconnect also makes it easy for people to live in echo chambers by never experiencing an unpleasant thought, word, or deed. If you don’t like someone’s social media posts, it’s easy to simply block the offender for life. Take issue with something you see at website of your choosing and label it “fake news.” And if someone does something you find “problematic” simply cut them out of your life instead of addressing the problem.

We take communication as seriously as pro wrestlers take the business seriously. It’s just easier for us to take the digital way out instead of having honest conversations about big ideas. This leaves the genetic aspect of our lives to a ruinous waste, but who cares? Better to punch a button on your iToy or say “Hey Alexa, send a Christmas card to my uncle” than actually take time to tell that person how much you mean to them.

Want to know why we’re divided societally? Thank your emoji-addicted pals.

*If you don’t know why this came “predictably,” you’ve not spoken with me at great length.

Has the Constitution Failed Us?

The Medium post from a ThinkProgress author starts predictably by slamming the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United has failed

This is not fine.

A fairly damning statement, but one worth a consideration. Let’s take a look at the arguments. The author first asks questions designed as an appeal to emotion. Time to hit all the social justice high points. There’s an argument about the election being “stolen” by the loser twice in sixteen years. Two questions designed to play into racism, whether by slavery or through civil rights. One concerning the increasing game of “deficit chicken” our legislature plays with repeated fascination and escalation. All often repeated talking points, and ones the regressive left plays with great fascination.

Then there’s the kicker point, equating the Constitution with a holy text.

Americans speak of our Constitution as if it were a religious text. To label a law “unconstitutional” is not simply to say that it violates some procedural rule or legal technicality, it is to label it fundamentally unAmerican. To do so is to question the values of any lawmaker despicable enough to support such a law, and to suggest that those values are at odds with who we are as a nation. (my emphasis)

The hell you say. No, labeling a law “unconstitutional” doesn’t make it “fundamentally unAmerican.” Those who support a law labeled “unconstitutional” aren’t despicable, no matter how much you want to place value judgments on them. It means a court held a law incompatible with some core principle in our nation’s founding document.

Where’s the point in all this? Oh yeah. That “religious text” brought us President Trump.

Now, our country is facing a man of superlative ignorance…(ed. note, stricken all the usual racist, sexist, homophobic, LITERALLY HITLER statements) And the Constitution has placed this man in the White House…(ed. note, stricken the rest of the fear mongering quotes)The Electoral College has voted. Trump will be our next president. This is what the Constitution hath wrought.

No, actually it didn’t. The vote ushering in the Era of the Donald was the product of a nation tired of being told it was racist for not kowtowing to your latest hash tag. It was a vote prioritizing families eating over who uses what bathroom. A vote repudiating identity politics as a whole. The Constitution didn’t place the United States in a position where an entire group of people said they were mad as hell and weren’t going to take it anymore. Bowing at the altar of “progress” did.

But please, do continue.

It did this because our Constitution remains the product of a compromise with moral monsters who believed that human beings could be owned as property…(ed note, again striking a good portion of the nonsense)It did this because our Constitution fosters voter ignorance. It did this because our Constitution can be gamed — and was gamed quite successfully by the Republican Party.

The first sentence of that quote is one worth exploring, but with some nuance. Robert G. Parkinson’s excellent book “The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution” suggests, going back to original sources, that some of our Founding Fathers might have “gamed” the Southern colonies into signing off on the Declaration of Independence by creating fake news stories of British insurgents paying off slaves to revolt against their masters. Driven by fears of internal revolt, the “moral monsters” then agreed to join the rest of the colonies in a united force against the British as an attempt to establish independence.

If anything is owed to the “moral monster” sentence, it would be a need to compromise, to keep the lie a secret for as long as possible until slavery could be abolished. As far as the rest of that quote is concerned, the Constitution doesn’t foster “voter ignorance.” That’s on the individual voter. And no party “games” the Constitution until you start whining about how your side lost.

The next arguments posed are how the Electoral College, that impossible villainous group of swine who didn’t succumb to the whims of those who stayed home, are horrendous assholes. They’re nothing but activists who pledge to do a certain thing: vote the way they’re told, by the group of people who actually tell them to do so. There’s an argument over how unAmerican giving each state two senators is. An amusing rant over how the Supreme Court “sat on its hands” during the years African-Americans suffered real tragedies during the Civil Rights movement. A final screed on the number of roadblocks it takes to write a new law onto the books.

Yet here we still are, despite this “failure,” two hundred and forty years after a group of colonies decided they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. That’s an amazing run for a “failure.” But if you want to label that document holding some of those fundamental rights you cherish so much a lost cause, remember there’s always a way out.  Take all those well-informed people you care about so much and trigger an Article V convention. No, I’m not going to ‘splain to you what that is. If you’re ready to declare the American Experiment dead, go look it up yourself.

But should you manage to trigger that Article V convention, know some of those rights you cherish so much might just leave you as quickly as the ones you hate. While you might get rid of that nasty Second Amendment that keeps so many shooty bang-bang thingies in the States, someone else might decide that First Amendment that gives you the right to call the Constitution a “failure” needs to go too. Let’s get rid of that nasty Fourth Amendment stopping cops from looking into what’s on your cell phone, or searching your car without a damn good justification. And the Fifth and Sixth amendments are kind of stupid anyway, what with granting you the right to remain silent and speedy, just trials.

Call that document granting you the Fourteenth Amendment you admire so much a “failure” all you want. If you want to enact change, there’s a way to do it. But remember when you do that you’re sacrificing all the rights you hold dear at the expense of those you find odious. It’s an all or nothing procedure.

Your move.

 

Electoral Grief and Contribution

Today is either the day our President Elect becomes President, or something bizarre happens, depending on who you talk to. Our Electoral College casts their votes, and we will soon know the 57th President of the United States.

Watching the Pantsuit Nation crowd become absolutely unhinged over the election results is a bizarre sight. They’re almost going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief over going #WithHer and not getting their way. Chris Matthews nearly went Bible Belt Baptist on election night, muttering with disbelief over President-Elect Trump’s plotted victory. People still can’t believe it happened, and mutter their complete disbelief eight years of identity politics were dismantled in one night. That’s textbook denial over a month after Election Day.

The anger soon followed. Cries of #NotMyPresident rang across the nation. Here in my beloved Scruffy City we had protests of “Brick by Brick, Wall by Wall, Racism Has Got To Fall.” Some protests on the West Coast turned violent. Even today some remain steadfast in their desire to unleash fury on anyone they feel responsible for a Clinton defeat. Huma Abedin, James Comey, Russia, are all targets of outrage. The potential for mob violence against an elected President is so great it’s costing our country millions of dollars per day in security costs alone, depending where you look.

With every new cabinet pick the media winds up the outrage machine. Hit piece after hit piece cranks out the moment Trump makes a new decision. One wonders if Trump, the target of immense ridicule and scorn from the press the moment he announced his candidacy, isn’t enjoying fucking with the media every day. Want to make folks upset over education? Put someone in the cabinet who loves private and charter schools. Want to get the labor crowd unhinged? Get the guy from Carl’s Jr. in as Labor Secretary. Housing and Urban Development? Ben Carson. You’d think they’d get tired after continually expressing so much outrage to the point they “literally can’t even” and move on.

It seems as if the dedicated are working their way through bargaining and depression at the same time. Many turned to the Electoral College and asked daily for electors to “vote their conscience.” Some did so kindly. Others resorted to death threats. Another bargaining tactic involved Russia again once a report allegedly linked the nation to some sort of interference through “hacking” in an attempt to make Trump President. That led the push to hold off the Electoral vote until an “independent investigation” could conclude and the Electors informed on just what cybercrime, if any, influenced the election.

Depression comes in the form of some announcing their loss of finding a partner with a Trump Presidency. Others actually filed divorce proceedings when they learned a spouse voted for Trump. Kate McKinnon, the SNL actress portraying Secretary Clinton, appeared on the show the Saturday after Election night in a white pantsuit singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in what appeared as a gesture of mourning. McKinnon would return to the show on December 17 in a disgusting spoof of the film “Love Actually” begging the electors to not vote Trump.

What the folks going through these stages of grief don’t understand or grasp is the root cause of why their side lost. They have yet to reach a point in their own personal grasp of the election called “contribution.” That term comes from a book called “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen. It refers to a person’s acceptance of what they did, however small, to cause a certain outcome.

It’s easy for us to engage in “naming and blaming” according to Stone, Patton and Heen. We do this all the time. Identify the source of what we personally feel is the problem at the center of our lives and then assign a level of blame to the subject. Our blame may be justified. What takes time and effort is the “contribution,” because it requires you to look in the mirror and figure out what you personally did, however small, to contribute to the issue that caused the dispute.

For those grieving that a woman president isn’t getting election results confirmed today, the contribution factor could vary. It could be a sense of outright hubris, that the “most qualified candidate” didn’t get her way into the White House. It could be apathy, since so many people stayed home during voting hours. It could be a failure to grasp some people care more about jobs than who used what bathroom. Your mileage may vary.

Until the grieving understand why they feel how they feel, they will only remain in misery. The rest of us will move on.

Expectation Management and Mediation

“Expectation Management” is key for any party entering mediation. Lawyers representing litigants in mediation must help their clients with this valuable component, or they lose the client’s trust. Failure to adequately provide clients with realistic expectations of the process is another component of why mediation is dead.

Expectation management is as simple as it sounds. Clients entering mediation must understand the mediator is not going to massage their fragile egos, give them a tummy rub, and hand the case in full to them. As previously discussed, most mediators don’t follow their training and engage in “evaluative case analysis.” Lawyers love this, because they are used to the trenches and what jurists will rule. Mediators take the easy way out and appease the lawyers, because that’s how they get paid.

The client, or party entering mediation, doesn’t have the same view as the mediator or their counsel. Their view is that all will be resolved amicably during the mediation session, that the mediator is interested in hearing what they have to say, and will work to give them everything they want and desire outside of court.

The client’s expected scenario never happens, and they almost always end up dissatisfied with the outcome of mediation. Some lock into a “get it done” mindset, and then end up with “buyer’s remorse” after the reached agreement is a binding court order. Others will simply resent their lawyer for not getting them everything they wanted. Some might even take the unnecessary step of accusing the lawyer of malpractice.

Combat unrealistic expectations. 

If you are the litigant, know when you go to mediation you will not get everything you want. Understand you will be forced into a position where you will be told this is the best possible way to settle your case. Understand you will be under pressure from all sides to “settle” if necessary, including the so-called “mutual cheerleader,” your mediator. If you don’t like the deal, walk. Tell your lawyer you don’t like the deal, and that you want to walk. He or she might try to talk you out of it, but the final, signed mediation agreement is binding on all parties. You are only comfortable with a deal if you find it fair.

If you are a lawyer, prepare your clients for mediation. Let them know the results they want are not what they’re going to get. Start asking them about a Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and its counterpart, the Worst (WATNA). Set a game plan for the mediation. Let the client know they might be there all day, so if there’s child care or other arrangements that must be considered those need to be dealt with before the mediation ever starts.

Unrealistic expectations and failure to manage client expectations lead to impasse. They are both reasons Mediation is Dead.

The Phone Call and Expectation Management

It’s late afternoon when the phone rings in my office. I don’t recognize the number, but I answer.

“May I please speak with Mr. Seaton?”

I identify myself.

“Hi I’m (name omitted). You probably remember me. We went to school together way back when, I wanted to see if you were available for legal services.”

I pause here to let the reader know this line is one every single fucking attorney hears on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s a case of mistaken identity. Sometimes people just lie. Regardless, the line is an attempt to establish familiarity with the attorney, and worm into the lawyer’s good graces.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Well I…” This is the point where the prospective client then begins a long-winded spiraling tale about his or her woes, usually at a rapid fire pace in an attempt to get free legal advice on their issue. Phone calls like this happen all the time. Newer lawyers will stay on the phone with the prospective client and eagerly share their hard-earned knowledge. I have shit to do.

“Wait a minute,” I respond. “I want to make the best use of your time, so let me ask you a few questions.”

“Okay.”

I ask the questions I need to determine whether I take the case or not. I tell the caller my policy on consultations, discuss the fee for the consult, and ask when they’d like to schedule.

“Well, I have to talk with my spouse, and it’s almost Christmas, and…”

Again, I pause to let the reader know the Christmas line is just that. A line to signal the quoted price for my time is too high, and an appeal to emotion wrapped in a nice little phone blurb. Again, I cut the caller off. I give the caller three available dates and times, and let the caller know when they speak with their partner and decide a time I’m eager to help.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”

I’ll most likely never hear from this person again.

The caller meant well. They were conditioned through a series of advertisements from bigger law firms about how the consultation would be free, how their problems would be answered with one phone call. They have a false expectation in their minds about the delivery of legal services. It’s all supposed to be free, and the person who takes the case does so because they have a boatload of money and are just in this profession for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Except we are people who like to get paid for our work too. We have overhead, costs, and sometimes staff to pay. Once all that is paid, we have to put food on the table for our families and pay for our home expenses. Those who can’t or don’t get paid end up finding another line of work. It’s as simple as that.

My time is valuable. So is the person who calls. That’s why I developed a system over the years of learning how to cut through the weeds, get to the point, and let the caller know I’m available when they’re ready to pay. Absent that, there’s no point in staying on the phone when others who have paid, who earned my time and attention, need my help.

When you call, be prepared for a short call. It’s not that I don’t want to hear your problems. It’s there’s only so many hours in the day, and so much work to do.

Mediation Trainers Versus Mediation Reality

Mediation trainers do their students a disservice by separating truth from reality. It’s understandable, because mediation is focused on an idealistic view of conflict resolution. The reality is worth consideration, and failure to teach that reality or understand the mechanisms that cause mediations to fail, are a reason why mediation is dead.

Most schools of mediation teach a style called “interest based mediation.” This line of thinking asks the mediator to push aside a party’s positions (I want x amount of money or extra time with the kids) and focus on interests (why a litigant wants money or extra time). If a mediator can uncover a party’s interests, they can focus on “expanding the pie” and getting both sides to come up with creative strategies that will meet everyone’s needs. This results in a “win-win” scenario for all.

The reality is when sides meet for mediation they won’t be focused on their interests. Usually when parties get together for a mediation they’re so focused on the raw emotion of the case they can’t look past how much they hate the person on the other side of the table. The mediators who don’t use some method of attention distraction (white board, flip chart, large monitor) only add to the problem, since the parties will be focused on how much they hate the other person. When both sides are represented by attorneys, the lawyers will focus on the positions. It’s what we do. There’s no time for tummy rubs when you’re negotiating a parenting plan.

Mediators are taught initially the best practice is to keep both parties at the table and get them to talk through their problems, with the aid of the mediator, and eventually come to a final conclusion. The reality is a stark contrast. Usually the mediator will issue a brief “opening statement” outlining the process, the rules, and his or her role. The parties will then get a chance to make statements regarding what brought them to the table in the first place. These statements will usually be made by counsel, since once the parties reach mediation most simply don’t want to talk to their soon to be ex spouse.* After that, the parties are ushered into separate rooms, and the mediator abandons his** training completely, listening to both sides and then taking offers from room to room.

This tactic, “Shuttle Diplomacy,” leaves a revolting taste in the mouths of those who believe in the ideals of alternative dispute resolution. But mediators require business, and those who are savvy enough to keep a recurring stream of lawyers coming in the door know this style is preferred. It’s not that mediators are keen on abandoning principle for money. It’s that they want business and prefer to keep a steady stream of income. It’s usually not the clients selecting the mediator, after all, so good business sense would involve catering to the lawyers who pay your bill with the client’s money.

Another tactic lawyers love that mediators hate is called “evaluative case analysis.” Alternative dispute resolution models are called “alternative” for a reason. The default “dispute resolution” mechanism is called “litigation.” If a mediator is keen on using interest based mediation, discussions of what might happen in court should be off the table. The focus should be on what the parties’ needs and wants, in that moment, are. Yet far too many mediators find it completely acceptable to walk into a room and tell a client “You’re in this court and Judge (x) will most likely rule this way if you go to trial, so it’s better off if you settle here. It’ll save you time and money, and it’ll make sure you get most control of the settlement you want.”

Evaluative case analysis is not mediation, and the pressure it places on a litigating party is severe. Instead of looking to an alternative route to settlement the mediator tells parties the best time to close the case is right then and now. It implants a fear of losing control in a situation where a litigant probably already feels out of control. And saving time and money are crucial to litigating parties since professional services cost money. This method implants a suggestion in the litigant’s head that only in the present moment can they take control of their lives again and reach an effective outcome. It’s dangerous to the client and unprofessional for the mediator. Yet it works, and attorneys nod, because attorneys are trained to think of how a certain judge would rule in a similar setting.

Another route in which trainers fail their students is in setting hour goals and breaks. My general rule of thumb is after four hours of mediation time I perform a “check in” to see if the parties still want to continue. This is because most people aren’t used to marathon negotiation sessions. Yet we expect them to sit in a room with their lawyer for eight or nine hours until a case is settled. That’s against the grain for the layperson, and it causes a dangerous psychological component to the mediation I call the “get it done” factor.

The “get it done” factor is a moment when a litigating party breaks down in mediation and just starts agreeing to everything. It’s not that they actually agree to what is being said, it’s the litigant’s mind shutting down and simply wanting to sign whatever is necessary to leave. Most mediators see this as a positive sign and encourage the party, cheering them on as they keep making agreements they may later regret. The attorneys are happy to see the case take positive steps forward. What no one observes is the person taking steps they may later regret because they want out of the mediator’s office and to return home.

When that party returns home and reads the signed document that will eventually become a binding court order, there’s a good chance they will experience “buyer’s remorse” very quickly. Since the document they signed is now binding on the other party too, the remorseful litigant will start to find ways their ex violated the document. This causes return business for lawyer and mediator alike, since most mediators insert language into their documents suggesting mediation as the preferred method of handling disputes. The smartest mediators make the client and lawyer sign or initial every page of the agreement, so if a litigant or their attorney take the document before a judge one of the first hurdles to overcome is an explanation of why there’s a dispute over an agreement containing your signature on every page.

Those training mediators would do prospective ADR students a better service by teaching the ideal model and then peppering that model with a good dose of reality. No law student is harmed by learning the case law and receiving a dose of how the studied holding actually plays out in a courtroom. The same standard would best serve mediators and produce a new breed, one that knows how to execute the art form and what will happen when they encounter pushback. Trainers are oblivious to this or don’t care, and the split will continue to give mediation a bad name.

The disconnect between training mediators and practicing mediators is yet another reason Mediation is Dead.

*Mediation is most common in family law cases with children. This is why I used this as an example.
**The “his” is intended only to keep this from getting cluttered with pronoun abuse.