Do We Miss Richard Simmons?

I met Richard Simmons once in my life. He was traveling through the McGhee-Tyson airport in Three Stooges pajamas. I stopped and said hello, and he insisted we take a picture together.

The creator of “Deal a Meal,” “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” and other wildly iconic fitness gimmicks was a fixture in media for some time. Then in 2014, he disappeared. Simmons didn’t return phone calls from friends. He stopped talking to people that visited his Hollywood Hills mansion.  Something was wrong.

Was Richard Simmons missing? Did someone kill him? Was he being held hostage by his housekeeper? Apparently speculation ran so rampant Simmons did an interview on the Today Show last year to let people know the rumors of his demise, capture, or otherwise were completely unfounded.

That’s not good enough an explanation for Dan Taberski, one of Simmons’ friends, a Daily Show producer, and former regular at the “Slimmons” exercise classes Richard taught up until his “ghosting” from public life. In an effort to get some closure or answers regarding the fitness celebrity’s disappearance, Taberski launched a weekly podcast in the vein of NPR’s “Serial” called “Missing Richard Simmons.”

When I first read “Missing Richard Simmons” was “like “Serial,” but better,” I had to give it a shot. The first two episodes have been interesting, and I’ll continue to give it a shot into the third episode. It’s full of stories about Richard Simmons and his interactions with the public. It also raises a very troubling question: Does Simmons owe the public an answer as to why he’s peaced out of public life?

Taberski seems to intimate the answer is “yes” through the two episodes he’s cranked out so far. His rationale is that with the amount of people Richard Simmons helped lose weight over the years, simply refusing to speak to anyone isn’t good enough. There are some, possibly Taberski, to whom Simmons owes at least a courtesy call or text saying “I’m taking a break.”

This view smacks of entitlement, foolishness, and a complete disregard for Richard Simmons as a human being. The sad thing is Taberski manages to acknowledge without saying in two episodes exactly why Simmons is entitled to remain “missing,” and either doesn’t understand or is cleverly keeping the audience listening to find out.

Two episodes in we learn Richard Simmons is a very emotional caring person who can be described as a giver of the highest sort. He saw a calling in helping people who didn’t look like gym rats get fit and stay fit, so he actively pursued that calling. It made him millions, but the money wasn’t as important as the lives he touched. That would explain why up till his sudden disappearance, Simmons still taught exercises classes for twelve bucks a head.

Eventually, the giving wore out.  There’s only so much a person can give of their time, money, and energy before there’s nothing left to give. If one follows this basic axiom and applies it to what we know about Richard Simmons, his obsession was giving people the gift of health and making sure they stayed healthy. Simmons gave and gave until there was nothing left in his tank. As a result, he decided to go into isolation until he could recharge his batteries.

Taberski, the Slimmons regulars, and those whose lives were bettered by Richard Simmons are right to care. It’s as if a close friend kept a great, positive relationship with you for an extended period of time and then stopped talking without any explanation. If they want to hear from Simmons again, the best thing all parties could do is take one simple principle to heart.

You are entitled to nothing. The world owes you nothing. 

This is true in relationships, business, hell all of life. You are owed nothing, even if it’s an explanation why one of your business associates decided to stab you in the back. No one “deserves” an explanation from another human why they decided to hit “unfriend” on Facebook. Yet we feel we are deserving of such issues, and that only speaks to the hedonism and narcissism of our modern society.

If Richard Simmons wants to stay missing, he can stay missing. He’s earned his money. He’s made his relationships. Like any adult, he’s free to do with them as he pleases.

Until the next episode catches my attention, I won’t be missing Richard Simmons, and honestly you shouldn’t either.

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.

Taking Action, Filming Gatlinburg

There is a time to talk, and a time to take action. With Gatlinburg and Sevier County, today I begin taking action.

In three hours time, with the assistance of Scooter Downey from True Legend Films and Cernovich Media, I will begin showing the world just what happened in this region. Through the power of social media, you’ll be getting a first hand look at the disaster that rocked East Tennessee last week and the efforts people took while the fires still burned to rebuild.

What in the fresh hell are you doing? 

When the fires started burning, no one, including local news, understood the gravity of what happened. At 5 PM Monday local radio reported due to smoke from forest fires officials were going “door to door” in efforts to start a “voluntary evacuation.”

Social media told a different story. Area residents were going door to door from local businesses and homes telling people to get out of Gatlinburg because the town was burning. By 7 PM the town was in full-blown evacuation mode. All this information came through social media. The major media outlets failed us.

We’re going to the scene. We’re telling the stories no one’s told. We’re asking the uncomfortable questions that need asking. We’re bringing you the truth, firsthand, on the scene.

How did you get this started?

When I got word of the fires, I took to Periscope to give people as much news as I could get from firsthand sources in the midst of the inferno. I knew the local news failed area residents, so I wanted to get accurate information out to the world in the best fashion I knew how.

I didn’t expect the response. Hundreds of people viewed my Periscopes regularly. I got questions from people as far away as Massachusetts asking about certain structures, expressions of concern and heartbreak, and questions on how to help. This is because Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County are more than just places to people locally. They are areas full of memories for people nationwide.

Eventually certain people took notice, and this project was thrown together as quickly as possible to get the true story of the Gatlinburg fires out to the world.

What “true story” are you telling? 

The national press treated this fire like a puff piece. No one outside this area understands the impact this will have on the region because even local outlets aren’t telling the complete story.

There have been reports the Red Cross is turning away relief efforts. This is incorrect.

The body count reported every day has been more than what anyone reported.

More importantly, no one’s been talking about how a community came together from day one to say “What can we do to help?” A local radio show host got a call from a guy who lost his home in the fire. This guy called in while sitting in his van in a west Knoxville Wal-Mart parking lot asking for a place to just park for the night so he wouldn’t get hassled. The radio host kept him on hold and opened up the contest line to people who could help. Within minutes the contest line was jammed.

We aren’t just going to the scene to tell you about the disaster. We’re telling you the stories of the everyday men and women who made the relief efforts possible. We’re talking to those who organized benefits at a moment’s notice. This is the story of a community that rebuilds because it knew no one else gave a damn.

We’re going to show those of you nationally how you can help too.

Where can we see this?

Follow Scooter Downey on Periscope. Follow me on Periscope. You’ll see everything we see if you follow @clsesq and @TrueLegendFilms in real time.

Are you doing anything grey or illegal? 

I’m a lawyer with responsibilities to my family. We are doing nothing grey or illegal to get this story out.

Why do you care so much? You weren’t directly affected.

I didn’t lose anything tangibly. However I have friends who lost everything. Others who volunteered their time, energy, and efforts without asking or being asked. Their stories need to be told.

What pissed me off is when people started making light of this as if it were a political issue or a reason to advance their own personal agenda. Michael Ian Black, a famous comedian, twitted a joke making light of this disaster. Other psychotic nutjobs gleefully mocked the deaths of “trumptrash” while attempting to mourn the deaths and loss of those who voted for their chosen political candidate.

This isn’t about Trump, Hillary, Obama, Black Lives Matter, ISIS, or any cause you want to smear or advance. This is about a disaster created by a historic drought, a lack of preparation for something this catastrophic, and a community that came together while the world around them still burned.

Oh shit. This actually sounds like something we need to help. What can we do?

1. Follow @clsesq and @TrueLegendFilms on Twitter to catch the Periscopes we bring you.

2. If you can chip in $10, text REDCROSS to 90999. That gives the Red Cross $10 to direct in any areas they need. They’re running the shelters, so they will appreciate the help.

3. Another confirmed outlet is Dolly Parton’s “My People Fund.” You can donate some coin there to an incredible relief effort. Dolly Parton set up this fund to provide families in the region who lost their homes in the fire $1000 per month for six months. Given the number of residences lost that goal will be a high bar to hit, but we’re going to see it happen.

4. Go to the region and have fun. See a show. Visit Dollywood. Support local businesses if you can. The economic impact is going to be huge as this area thrives on tourism, so every business needs support.

We’re about to embark on a wild ride. Hope you follow us.

Gatlinburg is Burning, And You Can Help

Gatlinburg, a Northeast Tennessee tourist destination, is burning. No one is discussing the severity of this outside the local news media, and they’re not doing much. Here’s the best information you’ll find on the subject in one spot. As I get information that is verified, I will update this post.

1. How did the fire get started? 

Before Gatlinburg caught fire, approximately sixteen thousand acres of forestry were caught up in wildfires. This was due to a combination of arson and a severe drought in the region. We’ve not had a good rain in months, and that plus jackasses setting fires despite “burn bans” being issued across the region means unprecedented amounts of wildfires. We’ve had firefighters from all over the nation come help out the region, and for that we are truly grateful.

Last night (November 28, 2016) our region got some rain. It also got serious winds, ranging in the realm of 80-100 MPH gusts. This took fires already burning in the Smoky Mountains, knocking down trees and casting burning embers into the city of Gatlinburg.

Before the fires actually started wind damage to existing structures threatened people. Luke Walker, a seven foot tall pro wrestler, was a touch angry on social media that people were being seated at Bubba Gump’s while wind blew siding off the building. The best answer is a combination of wind, existing flames, and a lack of real rain caused the fire.

2. How bad did the fire get?

Really bad. Worse than you’re hearing on any major news outlet or local. When Luke Walker realized the smoke alone was enough to harm people he started running from business to business telling people to get out of Gatlinburg as quickly as possible. The tourists and business owners didn’t take him seriously, until the flames started to get out of hand, destroying several memorable structures.

Local news outlets reported as of 5 PM EST yesterday first responders were going door to door asking for a “voluntary evacuation” of Gatlinburg.  While this is not in dispute, as of publication Gatlinburg is in “mandatory evacuation.” Pigeon Forge is not, despite reports to the contrary.

The flames and smoke were enough for one eye witness to describe it as “Dante’s Inferno.” Vinnie Vineyard, a local taxi service owner, took one of his vehicles into town repeatedly evacuating people until he finally crashed around 8 AM today. He drove through flaming debris and excessive winds. During his night of evacuations he described the smoke as so thick and black you couldn’t see the headlights of the other drivers on the roads.

The fire actually spread into Pigeon Forge, potentially harming a bald eagle sanctuary in Dollywood, a local theme park. Fortunately, it didn’t get far enough to harm any animals in the park.

Another major point of concern was Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which housed numerous aquatic creatures you can’t just pack up in a bag when you’re told to leave. Fortunately, it’s been confirmed the aquarium wasn’t harmed by the fire even though the hills around it were on fire. Marine biologists and staffers are currently tending to the animals in the aquarium and will continue to do so through the facility’s re-opening.

3. How bad was the damage?

The Gatlinburg fire destroyed numerous local landmarks and places of interest. A wedding chapel is destroyed. “Mystery Mansion” is gone. Other areas are questionable, and that’s because the fire’s been contained enough and the smoke cleared for people to actually get boots on the ground and assess damage.

Hundreds of people lost their homes. Several resorts are burnt sticks. It’s hard to give an accurate account of what is standing and what isn’t because the reports from “news” outlets are conflicting with firsthand accounts I’m getting on social media.

As of this writing, over 200 structures are confirmed destroyed. There are still structural fires being fought. Thousands are in shelters set up by the Red Cross.

Three fatalities are confirmed. No names given at this time.
There is a standing curfew in Sevier County from 6 PM to 6 AM. Emergency personnel are asking anyone to stay away from Sevier County at the moment. People may be well intentioned but it’s still an active emergency scene. Residents in the area are asked to refrain from mobile usage so emergency crews can effectively communicate.

4. Holy shit. What can I do to help? 

Glad you asked. First, the easiest thing to do is text REDCROSS to 90999. That will chip in $10 for the Red Cross so they can do what they need to help however possible.

Second, check out Friends of the Smokies. They’re doing a fundraiser right now.

If you’re looking to donate tangible goods, more to come on that. Just keep in mind the best thing to do is find a local drop off point for a major donation site and go there. Attempting to get directly to Sevier County will do you and those in need no good.

This is a disaster no one ever saw coming. It’s a punch in the gut to so many in this region. The outpouring of support is great to see, but this is just day 1.

More to come.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thoughts On The Liberal Redneck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Lesson: Keep Your Cool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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