On Keeping Referrals Personal

Yesterday I had a nice chat with another attorney on the practice of client referral. Some of the material we discussed might be beneficial to lawyers starting their careers, so I thought I would share a few takeaways from our discussion. If you’re a non-lawyer, some of this might benefit you too, but this post is mostly for people in the legal profession.

There are times when someone like me has to admit they simply can’t help a client coming into the office. I work in limited fields, and if the matter is something requiring extremely specialized information I have to tell the person sitting across the table from me “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with this. Let me see if I can find someone who can help you.” This is where I pull out my list of lawyers in town I trust and begin a referral process.

Never refer a potential new client to someone who can’t get the job done. 

Sure, there’s a never ending supply of bankruptcy lawyers, personal injury attorneys, and child support lawyers. That’s the nature of this business. The difference is that I won’t send someone to another attorney unless I know that lawyer is competent, professional, and will get the job done for the client.

If I know someone in that field, I’ve got a copy of their business card saved in Evernote. I keep separate notebooks grouped by practice area in Evernote (personal injury, bankruptcy, etc.) and copies of those business cards scanned for each. I will then write down the attorney’s information for the potential new client and then tell them I’ll be making a call on their behalf to let the lawyer know that person is coming.

If I don’t know someone who can help them, I’ll simply apologize, let them know I’m not the person for their job, and refund their consultation fee.

On the occasion I might be able to give someone some business, I call that attorney, let him or her know to expect a certain person, a brief discussion of the type of case, and let them know that person will be coming or calling by saying “Chris said to call you.”

Check in to see if the lawyer got the business. 

Once I make the connection, I set a reminder about seven days’ out from the date I make the referral to see if the prospective new client came to the other attorney and sought counsel. Usually I’ll get one of two responses: “Oh yeah, thanks. We did business” or “No, unfortunately we didn’t do business.”

“Doing business” is shorthand around here for “Yes, the client came in and signed the contract and paid the fee.” If the lawyer did business with the client, I’m happy for them.  If the client no-showed, or they somehow didn’t come to terms, I’ll usually toss out a “bummer” and offer to buy said lawyer a beer the next time we catch up.

Make sure to say “Thank You” for a referral. 

I’m of a mind that if a colleague refers me business and it ends up with money to feed my family, there’s a thank you coming to that colleague. It means they thought of me when they couldn’t help somebody, and it means they think I’m good enough for the job. That’s as good time to express some gratitude.

I don’t send money or participate in “kicking back” any of my fee to that lawyer. Some states may have rules against that. Personally it’s not my style. What I do is keep detailed notes on the interests of my colleagues and then make sure they get a very personal gift along with a nice, handwritten “thank you” note.

Here’s an example: I have a colleague who does crisis level domestic relations work. The kind that makes me cringe. He’s really good with high-maintenance clients. I’m not. He likes a certain type of Shiraz. If he sends me business, and the client and I do business, this guy’s getting a bottle of that Shiraz delivered to his office with a “thank you” note.

I have a thing for rare playing cards. When I refer out people to other attorneys, I always find it nice when I open the mailbox and find a deck or two of Madison Rounders, for example, with a thank you note.

Keeping the “thank you” personal is a way of showing you actually care about your colleagues enough to pay attention to their interests. It goes a long way, especially if you work in smaller communities. After all, the clients will come and go, but you’ll be working with the same lawyers for a good chunk of your career.

What to do if everything goes south? 

There are times when you will refer a client to someone, just knowing in your heart of hearts it’s a perfect fit. You know that client will work well with the attorney, and you know it will be a match made in heaven. You know the client will pay.

Then everything goes nuts. The client doesn’t pay. The two have a falling out. What do you do at this point?

This is a good time to review the three stages of an effective apology.

  1. “I’m sorry.”
  2. “It was my fault.”
  3. “What can I do to make it right?”

Most people forget parts 2 and 3. Let’s take a page from history to see how to remedy this situation.

Back in the infancy stages of my practice, a well meaning lawyer referred a guy we’ll call “Trucker Dan” to me for a child support case. “Trucker Dan” was behind on his child support payments. Dan was so far behind on his child support payments the local cops were ready to arrest him unless he paid in full what he owed his baby mama.

I met with Trucker Dan, we signed a contract, and I asked for payment. He told me he didn’t have the money that day, but he’d pay me the next day. After his hearing was finished, and I pulled his ass out of the fire.

I naively accepted this proposal. And pulled Trucker Dan’s ass out of the fire.

The next day I went to my mailbox and found an envelope with Trucker Dan’s name and address on it. It was a thick envelope. I went inside the office and opened it, thinking Trucker Dan decided to pay his bill in cash.

Turns out Trucker Dan never intended to pay me. The envelope was stuffed with coupons from fast food restaurants and truck stops in the total value of the price I’d quoted him, along with a note that said “I never had the money to pay you to begin with, and I’ve lost my house so I can’t pay you. I hope this makes up for it, and I’m really sorry.”

After loudly cursing a few times and taking a few deep breaths, I then called the lawyer who referred Trucker Dan my way. Said lawyer got parts 1, 2, and 3 right. When asking how to make this right, I said “Your guy paid me in coupons for food. I want dinner at (x) restaurant.”

“You got it.” my colleague replied. “Just go there tonight.”

So I made plans for dinner at that restaurant that night. I ordered a steak. I had a beer. When the time came to pay for the check, the wait staff said “Sorry sir, but we can’t accept your payment. It’s been taken care of.”

I tipped the waiter and left. The next day the referring lawyer got a thank you note for standing by their word.

There you have it. Hopefully this helps people who’ve not had the same life experiences as I ease their way into practice with a better relationship amongst colleagues. Referrals are great sources of business, but if you don’t handle it right you’re the one who comes out looking bad.

Getting Better Sleep

Sleep is absolutely crucial to the body. If you don’t get enough of it, your body and mind won’t function properly.  However, there’s a difference between getting “enough” sleep and “quality” sleep.

The aim is for “quality” sleep. How you get there is your own journey. I’ve worked hard at this issue, as I’ve been a chronic snorer for most of my life. Snoring stops you from reaching that quality level of sleep the body needs to rejuvenate itself.

It also stops Mrs. S, one of the lightest sleepers in the world, from quality sleep. When she’s continually tired because of my snoring, something must be done.

The first step was a device called the “snore stopper.” Originally meant as a gag gift for Christmas, the damned thing was essentially a shock collar strapped to your wrist at night. When the device registered sound, it would send a “gentle electric pulse” to nerves in your wrist that prompted you to switch positions.

Two issues prevented the snore stopper from working well. The first was a sound machine present in our room at the time I first started using it. This meant I was getting shocked all night long, snoring or otherwise. The second issue was tolerance.

Apparently a person can get used to being continually shocked overnight to the point where they will become non-responsive to the device’s “gentle electric pulse.” That plus the device’s continued need for batteries and replacement “conduction pads” (gel strips allowing for a greater shock) meant the snore stopper stopped being effective pretty damned quickly.

Currently I’m getting the best sleep I’ve had in ages due to a suggestion from a store clerk at Walgreens. Mrs. S. begged I get some Breathe Right nasal strips one evening just to see if they would work. Someone who worked at the store pointed me in the direction of “Air” snore sleep inserts. They are silicone bands you place in your nostrils before retiring for the evening with a lavender coating.

The idea is to open your nasal passages so anything restricting your airflow is minimized. Plus there’s a sort of lavender coating on the band, so you’re smelling lavender as you fall asleep. Apparently lavender is a scent designed to promote relaxation and sleep. I’m not one to care much for the homeopathic bullshit that gets tossed around, but it’s a nice smell.

I’ve used the inserts for about two weeks now and the difference in the quality of my sleep is dramatic. For the first few days I woke up foggy, but not brain dead coffee zombie mode. Today I woke up at four thirty in the morning, wide awake, and without a stitch of coffee in me. I was ready to kill the day before my son woke. I got both kids breakfast, ready, and off to school in record time without waking Mrs. S. once.

If you’re a snorer, give these a try. It may help you reach your optimal self.

POSTSCRIPT: There are some of you reading this that see anything about “snoring,” freak out, and immediately insist the person who snores schedule a sleep study and fitting for a CPAP machine. Sleep apnea is a terrible condition, and I lost an uncle to it. Not every person who snores suffers from sleep apnea, though, and automatically getting a CPAP machine when something simple will suffice.

Cumulus and the Slow Burn of Terrestrial Radio

Last night I got word Cumulus Media, a Knoxville based terrestrial radio conglomerate, fired half the staff in a “cost-cutting” measure. The losses ranged from ad executives, on-air talent, and more as yet to be determined across the spectrum of their stations.

This isn’t something anyone with an eye on the world of radio couldn’t have seen. A local business incubator/startup meeting saw a legendary radio personality glumly admit “terrestrial radio is on its death bed, and maybe it’s time I started looking for work elsewhere.” That’s a grim statement from someone in the trenches and firmly rooted in the radio business.

Cumulus isn’t to be blamed for the decision to cut costs. Fewer people are listening to talk radio, no matter the personality. With the prevalence of satellite radio and podcasts, people are less interested in what’s available over the airwaves locally. That means ad revenue once plentiful to the radio organizations is getting more and more scarce.

Yet decisions have to be made, especially in the areas of news and talk. Do you work with local talent interested in showing their chops to the world if given the chance? Or do you keep paying out the exorbitant fees and ad percentages to guys like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to keep your conservative cred? It’s a tough choice to make, as the local talent would have to make an immediate impact and show they could bring their chops to the table.

On the other hand, you have the big names like Rush and Sean who would attract listeners at the right times. The problem becomes that these are national shows, not local, and there’s going to be less listener interaction with Rush and Sean than the local talent. And part of the appeal for the local “call-in” shows is for the listener to have his or her few moments of glory for the day on the radio.

The Cumulus talent let go in the coming days will have some difficult choices to make. Do they go the terrestrial radio outlet and find another station at which to work? The sports guys might be able to land a gig at another station, since their job is to cover mankind’s successes. Someone with a talk show that has an esoteric bent might not fit in the alt rock or country station of choice.

Satellite radio is basically a no-go unless you’ve already got a national platform. The Breitbarts and wellRED types will get a show at the drop of a hat, because the game in town is getting the biggest and best talent at the biggest dog in the yard, SiriusXM. Even there, where the FCC allegedly has no restrictions, the satellite talent still has issues with the “social consequences” of what they say. Just ask Anthony Cumia.

I have a feeling the talent with Cumulus that left will go the podcasting route. It’s an easy barrier for entry, the cost for each would be minimal, and there’s no restrictions on topic, language, or subject matter unless the hosts place it. Monetization of the product would be simple, and those with a dedicated fan base could make a monthly donation or subscription type service work.

Dave Rubin’s done it. He left ORA and went completely fan-funded. It was a big step for him, but now he’s free to talk with whomever he wants about whatever he wants. There’s no reason the highly motivated talent without work now couldn’t do the same. And something tells me un-shackling from the FCC’s restrictions would produce some amazing content you wouldn’t hear from the talent otherwise.

The Internet, podcasting, and YouTube are some of the greatest areas to earn money as an artist, talent, or creator. Guys like Mike Cernovich and Victor Pride will show you how to do it if you just do a bit of research and put in a little bit of effort. Whether the new radio ronin will take their advice is another matter entirely. Sometimes it’s just easier for people to stay in a rut instead of forge a new path and try new outlets.

Cumulus will have some time for reflection in the wake of their cost-cutting. If, as I suspect, it was done to keep the bigger names on the air, was it really worth the measure when local talent would take the spot in a heartbeat and run with the ball in ways the front brass couldn’t expect? There’s no easy answer to this. No one ever said life in any business was easy.

In the meantime, I’ve taken the time to dip my toes into this new world. This is still a formative project, and something I’m really excited about, so stick with us. You can find my newest experiment on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn.

Sit down with me for an hour. I hope you like what you hear.

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.

 

 

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.

 

James Strikes Back, People Forced To Listen

I recently discussed Twitter’s suspension of Project Veritas Action’s James O’Keefe. At the time of that post, I questioned whether the videos O’Keefe and his undercover reporters were the cause of the ban. As O’Keefe pointed out, Twitter’s rationale was a tweet naming Wylie Mao, the Clinton campaign staffer, in a link to the Project Veritas Action video itself.

At the same time, I also wondered if any of this stuff would make a difference.  Would people previously blind to exposed rank and file corruption see the light of day through O’Keefe’s videos? They were great evidence low-level people didn’t care, but could they directly implicate any of the higher-ups in the Clinton organization? In short, would any of this have an effect on the public? Finally, why didn’t the mainstream media discuss any of these videos?

Over the last forty-eight hours, Project Veritas Action has released two videos detailing even more damning evidence of corruption in the Clinton campaign. O’Keefe claims new videos will be released each day until November 8, Election Day. Part one of the expose involves how Democratic PACs deliberately organized incidents to “incite violence” at Trump rallies and events.

After this video’s release, Scott Foval was fired from Americans United For Change. According to O’Keefe, this video sparked request after request for comment from Project Veritas Action and requests for interviews and appearances on television. Each, James said, was spiked at the last minute due to fears of retaliation from a Hillary Clinton administration.

Yesterday’s release was even more damning. Here, Bob Creamer of Democracy Partners and Scott Foval discuss ways to commit voter fraud on a massive scale with Project Veritas Action reporters. They also talk with Cesar Vargas, founder of the Dream Action Coalition, about ways to influence the Latino vote. In a time when claims of this election being “rigged” are ringing in conservative circles, and dismissed at the highest levels of establishment power, this video was too much to ignore.

After the release of this video, people cried out en masse. They demanded the videos and their footage get coverage in mainstream circles. They not only got their wish, Project Veritas claimed another scalp as Robert Creamer, the “dark hat” Scott Foval expresses such adulation for “resigned” from Democracy Partners.

Click the link above. Go to the CNN story. Watch the video. It’s important that you see the way mainstream media frames the stories they want you to hear.

Video produced by discredited conservative activist James O’Keefe…

Both the Clinton Campaign and the DNC denounce any role in any sort of violence…

They insist it was “bar room talk” and none of what was discussed actually happened…

Project Veritas has been known to offer misleading video out of context…

James O’Keefe, they add, is a convicted criminal, with a history of doctoring video to advance his ideological agenda…

CNN, finally forced to cover O’Keefe’s work, also noted in their video the DNC plans to “investigate” O’Keefe to see if he did anything illegal in obtaining the video footage that makes up his videos. This says several things about the DNC, the Clinton campaign, and this election cycle.

  1. The mainstream press is afraid to cover anything negative about Hillary Clinton, because they want to be on her good side if and when she assumes the office of President of the United States.
  2. If they are forced to discuss something negative about Clinton or her campaign, they will resort to the lowest tactics possible in an attempt to discredit the source or tell their audience “move along, nothing to see here.”
  3. Any “investigation” into O’Keefe’s videos gives Project Veritas Action more credibility with each release. If there’s truly nothing going wrong, they wouldn’t feel a need to address the video content.
  4. Discussing any criminal record James O’Keefe is a tired cliche the media uses every time they want to discredit a person or source. It’s the same as “He had priors” when discussing a victim of a police shooting or “negative interaction.” This time they’re using it for political reasons.

Go to Project Veritas Action’s YouTube page. Subscribe so you get the updates as they come out. They’ve shaken the establishment badly enough to where they’re forced to respond, and now the lying mainstream media has no choice but to comment on that which they feared the most: truth.

In the meantime, let’s see where James O’Keefe leads us next.

Ellen Pao Can’t “Include” Peter Thiel’s Free Speech

The message sent by Silicon Valley, an area with a culture resembling something from George Orwell’s nightmares, is clearer than ever today. You are not allowed to have the “wrong” opinion in politics. You may not donate to the campaign of your choosing. If you step out of line, you will be punished. Just ask Ellen Pao, the head of Project Include, who announced yesterday her organization’s decision to cut ties with Y Combinator after Peter Thiel, a part time investor, donated $1.25 million to the Trump campaign.

Pao, a serial litigant in the court of feelings, starts off slow in announcing her tantrum over Thiel’s donation.

Diversity and inclusion are hard, especially in tech. Doing them right means agreeing on values, setting standards, calling out bad behavior, and sometimes firing people. (emphasis added)

That bolded statement refers to Y Combinator’s decision to not cut ties with Thiel after news broke of his donation to the Trump campaign. Sam Altman, the organization’s president, defended their decision to maintain relations with Thiel in a series of tweets Sunday night. Two notable ones are below.

5) Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want.

6) Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society. We can’t start purging people for political support.

These are principled statements from someone in an industry where people lose jobs over a single offensive tweet. Altman is correct in his assertions that we must hear all sides, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel. Furthermore, cutting ties with someone over political issues isn’t just asinine, it’s completely un-American. Despite this, Pao sees Peter Thiel’s continued presence at Y Combinator as outrageous.

 [We] are completely outraged to read about Thiel donating $1.25 million to Trump, “apparently unfazed by the storm around the candidate in the last week following the broadcasting of lewd conversations.”

Outrage is a strong motivator for irrational decisions. If not checked appropriately, it can cause people to commit stupid actions and justify them under preposterous grounds. Here, Pao sees Thiel’s campaign donation as one form of speech that is completely unacceptable from someone who holds a different political view. This is “hate speech,” and while United States courts have yet to define “hate speech,” Ellen Pao is like Justice Potter Stewart defining hard-core pornography. She “knows it when she sees it.”

While all of us believe in the ideas of free speech and open platforms, we draw a line here. We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but

this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence. (emphasis added) 

Ellen Pao’s attempt at virtue signaling to those who believe in free speech and an open exchange of ideas ends at the bolded word in that quote. Usually, when you see someone say “I believe in free speech, but” it means they really don’t believe in free speech. They only believe in that speech with which they agree. And her assertion a campaign donation is “advocating hatred and violence” is completely void of logic or reason.

Thiel donated money to Donald Trump’s campaign. He spoke on behalf of Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention. It’s not as if he firebombed a campaign office and spray painted a message for Democrats to leave town on the side of the building. Yet this donation is enough to make Ellen Pao, self appointed spokesperson for marginalized and oppressed groups everywhere feel “unsafe.”

Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behavior strike fear into so many people is unacceptable. His attacks [on minorities] are more than just political speech; fueled by hate and encouraging violence, they make each of us feel unsafe…[Project Include’s] mission is to give everyone a fair chance to succeed in the workplace. “Everyone” means all groups to us, but we draw a line at individuals who fund violence and hate.

So an openly gay Republican who donates to the candidate of his choice is where Ellen draws the line. That’s cool; it’s not as if the guy who founded PayPal needs Project Include or Ellen Pao’s help in the workplace. Peter Thiel doesn’t need a “fair chance” to succeed. He’s already there. What Ellen Pao is saying without explicitly saying it is Project Include doesn’t want gay conservatives who back Donald Trump involved in their mission to promote “diversity and inclusion.” Thiel is just an easy target.

While she might consider herself “punching up” in her decision to pull Project Include’s support from Y Combinator, Ellen Pao is also sending a message to every member of the LGBTQ community who holds conservative views or supports Donald Trump. We don’t like you, we don’t want you, and if we find out you’re not saying and doing the right things to support our personal mission of “diversity and inclusion” we will withhold our support from your project.

We have hope for YC…We saw an opportunity to work with YC companies interested in building vibrant and diverse organizations, and we actively invited YC as a contributor to our VC Include program…But Thiel’s actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include. Because of his continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC. We hope this situation changes, and that we are both willing to move forward together in the future. Today it is clear to us that our values are not aligned.

Yes, Ellen, it’s clear your values aren’t aligned with the higher ups at Y Combinator. Project Include doesn’t support free speech, especially when it comes from a conservative speaker. Project Include only wants to hear from people who make them feel “safe.” And Project Include doesn’t give a damn about LGBTQ conservatives who back the Republican candidate, no matter how much they might say otherwise.

Maybe Project Include isn’t as committed to “diversity and inclusion” as they would like to think. Maybe it’s time for them to admit that. Then, and only then, will Ellen Pao and her organization exhibit any intellectual honesty after such a farcical move.

Burning Ken Bone

The Town Hall presidential debate’s darling wasn’t either candidate or the moderators. It was Ken Bone, an unassuming man reminiscent of a character in Mike Judge’s film “Office Space.” He asked the candidates a question about their stance on how they’d balance a need for sustainable energy while minimizing job layoffs.

For a brief, shining moment, Ken Bone was America’s Superhero. Major media outlets declared him “the man who won the second presidential debate.” Costume stores and internet forums started shopping around for the perfect Ken Bone Halloween costume. People on Twitter lauded him for his “realness.” They enjoyed his use of a disposable camera while capturing the night’s events. Bone even landed a promotional deal with Uber as a result of his overnight fame.

Then, just as soon as the love began, the Internet Outrage Machine cranked up to full throttle, and Ken Bone was Burned. Now, a Google search of his name returns the following headlines:

“Ken Bone Is Actually Kind Of An Awful Guy”

“Ken Bone’s Disturbing Reddit History Shows He’s Not Nearly as Adorable as We Thought.”

“Ken Bone Forgot to Delete His Reddit Porn Comments, Said Trayvon Martin Killing Was ‘Justified'”

“Ken Bone Leaves Seedy Comment Trail on Reddit.”

How did all of this happen?  Easy. William Turton, a “journalist” for Gizmodo, looked into Bone’s Reddit posting history, and posted his favorite finds. When Bone attempted an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit, the Outrage Machine cranked into full throttle over his thoughts on Jennifer Lawrence’s physique, his personal opinion of Trayvon Martin, and more. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. All comments are things you’ve probably heard in the past from friends, neighbors, or relatives. You may not have liked them or found them personally suited to your tastes.

This doesn’t matter to those who want to virtue signal their way through life, attempting the lock-step correct thoughts and actions of those who march in the social justice traveling band. Once something a blogger found as potentially offensive to the sensibilities of those who call themselves “oppressed” and “marginalized” the bait was set. All the mob needed were someone to sharpen the pitchforks and light the torches.

Since I began writing this post, it appears as if cooler heads are starting to prevail. Forbes published an op-ed attempting to remind everyone that Ken Bone is a human just like the rest of us.  The contributor, Fruzsina Eordogh, opined his rise and fall as an internet star was a symptom of just how divisive this election cycle had become. She remarked it was the public’s choice to hate him, instead of remembering Ken Bone as “just one confused and overweight man, and not some corporate, media, or self-projected manifestation…just one man, not worth being mad about.”

Maybe Eordogh’s right. Maybe we shouldn’t have to worry about destroying the life of a man who dared ask a question about a subject that mattered to him during a town hall style presidential debate. Maybe making a person into an “internet sensation” and then tearing apart his life is out of order. There’s even a good possibility people will see the way Ken Bone was treated and refrain from ever participating in the political process again. That’s not something we want, and maybe it’s time to actually return to civility in the way we address one another.

Wait, there’s a second page on this Forbes story I hadn’t seen yet. Let me click through to it.

Oh.

Full Disclosure: I was NEVER EVER on the Ken Bone train, or took a trip to his Bone Zone. I thought he was dumb, from his sweater to his question, from day one. 

Just to save you a few clicks, the links in that block quote go back to some of the headlines referenced earlier. So Forbes’ Eordogh doesn’t really even believe the words she penned for the site. She took time to pen out her required word count and then added a disclosure calling him “dumb” and referencing the sources attempting to dehumanize Ken Bone. Way to go, “journalism.”

 

Malice Like A Rolling Stone

A short one today, but this is a big deal.  Your “holy shit” moment of the day comes from Judge Glen Conrad, who recently issued an opinion sending Nicole Eramo’s defamation case against Rolling Stone Magazine to trial.  The judge found a material question of fact existed for a jury to consider if Rolling Stone acted “with malice” in publishing the now-debunked Sabrina Rubin-Erdley story “A Rape On Campus.”

Nicole Eramo sued Rolling Stone for defamation in the wake of the article’s publication, addendum, then retraction after “A Rape On Campus” had been exposed as a “journalistic failure” and the claims of “Jackie’s” rape “wholly unsubstantiated” following a police investigation.  Both sides moved for summary judgment.  It didn’t look good for Nicole Eramo, as she was considered a “public official, public figure, or limited-purpose public figure.”  That meant a higher standard for the case kicked in, and Eramo would have to show by clear and convincing evidence that “A Rape On Campus” wasn’t just publishing false statements that harmed her.  Eramo had the added burden of showing Rolling Stone published these false statements with “malice,” defined at a bare minimum as “reckless disregard for the truth.”

Surprisingly, the Court found there was a question of fact over whether Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus” with “reckless disregard for the truth.”  The opinion notes evidence that shows a reasonable jury could see Sabrina Rubin-Erdley “had obvious reasons to doubt [Jackie’s] veracity” or “entertained serious doubts as to the truth of (her) publication.” The story pitch could be construed as a designed to overlook contradictory evidence.  Rubin-Erdley didn’t investigate some of the named sources at the heart of the story.  Worse still for Rolling Stone, evidence exists their fact-checker was aware of inconsistencies in the story and “Jackie’s version” wasn’t properly vetted.  All this goes to the judge finding a material question for a jury’s consideration on whether this was “reckless disregard for the truth,” and therefore the “actual malice” needed for the defamation suit to proceed.

This is a big win for Nicole Eramo, and poses an interesting scenario going forward.  We now know the media regularly ignores facts and simply works with a pre-determined narrative.  If Rolling Stone has to pay Nicole Eramo as a result of this suit, it could set a precedent for other courts.  Not properly checking sources, publishing information that simply isn’t true, and sloppily copying from the AP’s Big Story could put publications and journalists at risk for defamation suits in ways we’ve not seen before.

Stay tuned.

h/t Robby Soave

One Year In The Blawgosphere

About a year ago Scott Greenfield put the call out for new talent at this website he’d co founded with Lee Pacchia called “Fault Lines.”  The thing that made Fault Lines so unique, so different from all the other blawgs and websites was that its contributors came from all walks of the criminal justice system, and were active participants in it.  I’ve always been a writer at heart, and I loved Scott’s blawg Simple Justice, so I thought I’d reach out to him and see if he was interested in taking on a “baby lawyer” to his new team.

“Maybe.  Send me something.  I might say no” was the response I got back.

That evening I dashed off a piece on the A.J. Johnson rape case, Stephen Ross Johnson’s trial strategy, and how it all framed against the Christian/Newsom murders in Knoxville.  Scott’s response was quick back:

“I want you to write for me.  You have two days a week.  Get your pieces in by 5 PM the day before.  Don’t miss deadlines.”

Tomorrow’s piece is my one year anniversary at Fault Lines.  Below you’ll find some links to some of the favorite stories I’ve worked on over the last year.  Before I get to that, a bit of thanks are in order.

First, to Scott Greenfield:  Thank you for giving me a shot, thank you for letting me write as much as I wanted, and thank you for kicking my ass repeatedly to make me a better writer.  The difference between that first post and the drafts I send in now are night and day.

To Lee Pacchia:  Thank you for helping give Fault Lines some web space.  Thank you for putting me on podcasts and video spots on the YouTube channel.  The stuff you’ve done has made a difference in our world.

To all my co-contributors, past and present: Thank you for your contributions to Fault Lines.  Without you I wouldn’t have as much fun as I do on a regular basis with the site.

And finally, to you, the readers: Thank you each and every week for your comments and contributions to what we do.  Our work is there to make sure that you walk away a little smarter at Fault Lines.

Here’s to another great years’ worth of work pointing out the cracks in the criminal justice system.  Let’s do another anniversary post in a year to see how far it goes.

Some of my favorite posts:

Inquiry Launched After Massive 6th Amendment Violation By Kansas US Attorney

In Tennessee, A Child Abuse Registry Without A Crime

A Judge’s Simple Request Meets A Cop-Friendly Mayor

Don’t forget my spat with the Indigent Defense Task Force:

An Open Letter To The Tennessee Indigent Representation Task Force

Tennessee Indigent Defense Task Force Responds (and So Do I)

Tennessee’s Indigent Defense Task Force Does Nothing

Tennessee Task Force On Lying To The Poor

There was the first ever co-post at Fault Lines with Andrew Fleischman:

Just As The Founders Intended, The Right To Rape Reasonably

And my favorite “joke post” at Fault Lines:

Pokemon Go Must Go

Let’s do this again in August 2017.