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.


A Special Guest Message


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

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You might have heard about me recently in a very unflattering article in the Houston Press regarding a young lady who I no longer represent and is currently the subject of a lawsuit from my firm.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Keith Nguyen

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

Proof God Exists, Three Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re having a girl.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Convention: Prologue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid Hot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please Help Prevent A Litter

I should be working today.  I should be happy that I have the freedom to play “Have laptop, will travel.”  I should be happy I’m hard at work for clients in need, serving with great pride as the “voice of the voiceless. ”  I’m not in any of those positions right now, because I’m fucking pissed someone decided to rob thirty people of the ability to get their pets spayed today in Morristown.

Damage Photo One

Prevent A Litter Connections is a low-cost spay/neuter organization that uses a mobile clinic.  It travels to rural areas using an RV “repurposed” as a surgical facility.  Last night, it was parked in Morristown, Tennessee, ready for thirty surgeries scheduled today despite the air conditioning unit blowing out last week.  Those surgeries didn’t happen because someone, most likely in an intoxicated state, broke into the RV and caused heavy damage.

Damage Photo Two

When one of the PAL staff arrived this morning she caught the guy rummaging through all the supplies.  He’d busted the window pictured above and was heavily intoxicated.  The staffer screamed and the guy screamed back before trying to make a timely run for the hills.  Fortunately, police arrived quickly, the guy arrested, and taken to a hospital in an ambulance.  I’d say most likely he’ll get his day in court, but the big problem remains thirty families had to be called today and told their pets wouldn’t get treatment.  There’s a good possibility thirty-one will get the same call tomorrow.

Damage Photo Three

In an attempt to drive off with the RV and all the goodies inside, the dirtbag damaged the steering column as well as bust the one window providing any sort of airflow in the mobile clinic.  We don’t know how much, if any, of the sedatives used during the procedures were taken, or surgical supplies stolen.  Luckily, Prevent A Litter’s got people on site right now assessing the damage and totaling what needs to be done in order to start helping people and their pets again.

Damage Photo Four

Spaying and neutering your pets is important and will help them live longer, happier lives.  It decreases roaming behaviors, stops aggression in males and eliminates heat cycles in females, and reduces the risks of your pet developing cancer.  It prevents the spread of rabies and other diseases, and reduces pet overpopulation.  It’s a treatment worth paying for, and still many low-income families can’t pay a regular vet to perform the surgery.  That’s why we need Prevent A Litter up and running again as soon as possible, and why I’m asking for your help.

We’re still figuring out how to get things fixed quickly so Prevent A Litter’s work can get back up and running quickly.  In the meantime, I’ve taken the liberty of establishing a GoFundMe for Prevent A Litter so they can fix the RV and get back to work.  You can find it here.

Any donations you can make are great, even if it’s just a dollar.  If you can’t donate, that’s cool too, but I’d appreciate at least the small help of sharing this blog post on your social media website of choice.

Let’s get Prevent A Litter back to work.

Musings on the Term “Death Wish”

“It’s a good day to die.” If you read that statement or hear those words uttered, what impact does it have on your emotional state? Do you worry for the person who says it? Does this indicate a lack of mental health? Or could it simply mean the person who understands that phrase lives a life without fear of what comes next?

Is it wrong to have a “death wish?”

A glance at the dictionary doesn’t lend a favorable or positive result. You’ll see terms thrown around like “mental illness,” “callous disregard of one’s well being,” “suicidal,” and “depression.” This most likely comes from a fear of death rather than negative associations with someone professing a death wish. This is understandable, since most love life and have no desire to leave the world behind. That’s a good thing. Humans are creatures with an interest in self preservation. Without that I’d question someone’s sanity.

What if a “death wish” signals no fear of death?

Death is inevitable for all humans. Despite our advances in technology and work towards preservation of life we will all one day perish. I don’t state this to sound morbid. I examine this as a way of asking why we worry about or fear something that’s going to happen but hasn’t happened yet. Fear is natural, but it can be controlled.

Psychologist Paul Ekman once characterized fear as an internal response to external stimuli. If, Ekman noted, you drive your car into a guard rail during a rainy night while attempting a turn you might notice yourself tense up and begin to sweat, see your pulse race, and your breathing quicken. That’s fear in a nutshell. Once you recognize this you can be mindful of the situations in which you experience fear and develop new methods of beating these fears.

How would you respond to imminent death?

It’s easy enough to tell yourself or others you don’t fear death. If you face the potential of dying, would you act differently? Would you beg and plead for your life? Would you go through the time tested stages of grief? Or would you shrug, knowing there’s no need to fear an inevitability? If you fear death, why does it scare you?

Are you afraid you didn’t accomplish enough?

This isn’t surprising. Many harbor deep seated beliefs they didn’t do enough or weren’t accomplished in their lives. These are suggestions of a mindset that includes “fail,” “wrong,” and “hurt.” If you believe in yourself and regularly engage in positive self talk this won’t be as much of an issue for you.

Are you afraid of what will happen to your loved ones?

This is also a common fear, and not entirely unfounded. Final expenses are steep, and no preparation or advance planning will definitely cause an impact. If you don’t have a will it’s going to cause problems and potentially start an estate fight. On the other hand, our species is remarkably resilient despite all the dumb stuff you read about in the news daily. Most likely your friends and family will carry on just fine if you pass. There will be grief, and they will be sad, but life will go on.

Are you scared of potential pain from dying?

Have you actually experienced a close call with death? If the answer to that question is “no” then you are expressing a fear of something you don’t even know will happen. Why worry over pain anyway? If you’re reading this and haven’t lived in a bubble all your life you’ve most likely experienced pain and gotten past it. There’s no need to fear pain.

There’s other justifications people use when describing a fear of death. Most all revolve around a lack of information or concern over something in the future. Take time to live in the present day, see the world in a positive light, and you won’t fear death. When your time comes, you’ll reflect on life and say “It’s been a great ride.”

If today you’ve lived life how you wanted and are happy, then today is a good day to die indeed. Don’t fear death, embrace a love of life.

I am, and I am not

I Am.

An attorney.

A mediator.

A conflict resolution professional.

A communication theory fan.

A theatrical pickpocket, hypnotist, and card cheat.

A writer.

A rogue with a love of reading about con men and the con game.

An affiliate partner for certain businesses.

Someone who strives to be honest, fair and plain in language with all people.

A father.

A husband.

A friend to a very small group of people.

An unapologetic Freemason.

I am not 

Your fucking therapist.

No seriously, I’m not.  Especially if you’re not paying me.  There’s only a minor amount of bullshit I’ll take from you if you’re paying me, and when you call me, email me, text me, whatever method you use, and attempt to take up the limited amount of time and energy I have I will probably not take it very kindly.  Don’t like it?  That’s your problem, not mine.

I’m putting this out there for everybody to know because it’s got to be ridiculously clear-cut.  I’ve spent enough time today dealing with OPFs (other people’s fuck ups), especially ones from people who owe me money and are unapologetic when they call and tell me they’re not honest enough to honor an agreement.  When I’m paying someone else for goods and services, I expect those services to actually work and for people to do their jobs.  It’s amazing how many people just don’t give a damn when performing their jobs.   Yes, it’s gotten me a little upset.  I’m not really sure why I used the word “upset,” because upset would mean I was even the slightest bit angry, and I’m really not.  There’s a reason for that.  I don’t like spending time, even a short amount, having to meditate and engage in self-hypnosis to get back to a default state of relaxed confidence.

Despite all of this, I get to know that I’m going to a meeting with some business investors tonight and make up for losing about two hours of my day to asshats.  That’s $800, thank you, and I’ll be taking the payment within fifteen days’ time.

And I’ll still keep writing, because I can do that.  Even on days when I have an absolute shitstorm brewing around me, I’m still standing.  I almost died once because I gave a damn about what other people thought. Now that I have restricted that field of “give a damn” I’m a lot better off.  We’ll talk about that soon enough.

In the meantime, know that when I get people who want to waste my time and energy to the point where I have to go “reboot” my brain with a healthy dose of positivity then I’m not exactly in the best of minds.  I’m probably going to do something to screw with you if you’re not someone I really care about.  I have the ability to switch off the “give a damn” mechanism in my head, because I invested in being the best I can possibly be for this environment.  I am the person people fear when they see me walk into a room, and the person some people love when they see me show up.

I took the Bar Exam with one eye.  I was hospitalized after a brush with death.  I’m still standing.  You cannot beat me.  You cannot put me down.  Every time someone struck me down, I always rise more powerful than they can imagine.  That’s how I work, because that’s what a Professional Opportunist does.  I had a meeting today with someone who took an NLP technique taught regularly in the states and then made it better within fifteen seconds.  That’s the calibre of person I work with.

Get on my level or get the fuck out of my way.

[/end rant]

Buy the book that teaches you the “Wrongless Approach” to life.

Laughs For Jasmine *UPDATE X4

I’m proud to announce “Laughs for Jasmine,” a fundraising drive co-sponsored by “That Midday Show,” a radio show on 103.9 FM in Knoxville,  and Mediation is Dead.  We’re raising money until the end of April for Jasmine Wade, a two year old girl with stage four brain cancer.

Jasmine’s story is rough.  She’s two and has brain cancer.  Both her parents have lost their jobs as they travel to Memphis and St. Jude’s hospital for Jasmine’s cancer treatments.  I’ve verified all this through Jasmine’s aunt and have taken the time to contact Jasmine’s parents.  I’ll be going to meet the family soon.

In the meantime, I’m going to ask those of you who have enjoyed “That Midday Show” in Knoxville for any reason to go to the Patreon for That Midday Show and even donate a dollar. Likewise, if you’ve enjoyed my work here at MiD or at Fault Lines, please just go donate even a buck.  Every bit will help, but we’re going to make this good for anyone who decides to donate, because this is a kid with brain cancer and their family can use the help.

If you donate $1, we will give you and your business/organization a shout out on the air.

If you donate $5, we will give you the $1 reward and we’ll discuss any topic you want on the show.  Bear in mind if you go this route we’re on broadcast radio and subject to FCC regulations, so keep it in the fairway.

If you donate $10, we’re going to give you the above rewards, plus we’re going to play any song we can for you as part of the show.  Even though it’s a comedy/talk show, we still play music.  Keep the FCC regulations in mind when you select this reward.

If you donate $20, you get all the above rewards plus you get to state your case, on air, to settle the debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich.

If you donate $40, you get all of the above plus a special crafted video from Puppet Pro Wrestling Superstar Foam Cold Steve Allsewn.  Foam Cold will do shout outs, roasts, anything you want on his YouTube channel. Thanks to comedian Lance Adams for negotiating this with Foam Cold!  OH HELL YEAH!!!

Donate $100, and we’ll give you all the above plus a rare “That Midday Show” shirt in the size of your choice, signed by as many comedians and talents we’ve had on the show as possible.

We even have a special reward as of today’s broadcast.  If you donate $100 and specify by mentioning the hash tag #Laughs4Jasmine on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll be able to get comedian Jeff Danger to come perform at your birthday party.  This offer is one time only, first come, first serve.  Just twit @thatmiddayshow on Twitter with the hashtag #Laughs4Jasmine and tell us you want Jeff Danger when you pay your $100 and you’ll inject a little Danger into your next birthday party.

Another release, as listed in the updates.  As a “one time only” deal, if you donate $50 and specify by twitting @thatmiddayshow with the hashtag #Laughs4Jasmine you can receive a complete collection of author Michael David Anderson‘s works.

This post will be updated as I get more rewards from people.  But there’s nothing stopping you from helping Jasmine and her family in their time of need.  If you’d like to donate but don’t have the money to do that, you can do us a solid by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter with the hash tag  #Laughs4Jasmine.  If you want to donate a special reward, email me and we will work it out.  This drive is running through April, and will end on April 30, 2016, when we will donate all the proceeds to Jasmine and her family.

We’re doing this because the saying “Laughter is the best medicine” has some merit.  Comedy can heal your soul when you’re really stressed or upset about an issue.  Right now the collective Scruffy City Comedy Community has the ability to do some real healing by giving to this cause, and we’re going to make it count.

Let’s all share some laughs for Jasmine Wade and her family.

UPDATE: We are in talks with The Longbranch Saloon for a benefit on April 26th for Jasmine Wade.  Details to follow.

UPDATE x2: If you’re going to the Einstein Simplified show at the Blue Slip Winery in Knoxville tonight (April 12), there’s going to be a tip jar out for Jasmine.  Show starts at 8:15.  If you’re not going, why not?

UPDATE x3: Added to the “one time only” donations category is a collection of works from author Michael David Anderson.  Donate $50 and you will receive signed copies of his books “Teddy” and “Wake,” copies of his poetry collections, the Kindle releases, and a copy of his upcoming Kindle Single, “Desynchrony: A Sullivan Doyle Story” when it releases.  This is an incredible value and I’d pay $100 for it, but Michael Anderson wants to make sure you donate to Laughs for Jasmine with this prize, so he’s set it at $50.

UPDATEx4: Spoken with comedian Lance Adams and he’s now offered the following, which is going in the rewards.  You donate $40, you get all the rewards below that total, plus you get a special recorded message from the world’s most prominent Puppet Professional Wrestling Superstar, Foam Cold Steve Allsewn.  Foam Cold will do shout outs, roasts, whatever you want.  It’s up to you.  Just let us know when you twit @thatmiddayshow with #Laughs4Jasmine on your donation that you want Foam Cold.

How To Spot And Avoid Fraud Charities

The internet is filled with scammers wanting a quick buck.  The worst in my book are fraud or sham charities, and I’m going to outline some tips on how you can spot them and avoid them with the help of stand-up comic J.C. Ratliff.

Yes, he has green hair.

Yes, he has green hair.

J.C. knows all about fraud charities.  He was contacted by one and almost ended up tarnishing his reputation by dealing with two people who wanted to use the Wounded Warrior Project’s name to fleece people for money.  I talked with him about the experience.

“They wanted me to do a roast of all these big name celebrities,” Ratliff told me via telephone on the road to another gig on the Quit Your Day Job Comedy Tour.   “The big name was Trace Adkins.  These two were getting money from outlets like WBIR (a local television station) and other groups.  Next thing I know, all of these stars start to pull out of the event.  Then organizations that donated money ask for their money back.”

“All of a sudden, the rules changed on me.  I was told to dye my hair black.  I wasn’t going to host the roast, I was going to be a part of the roast.  Next I couldn’t insult the celebrities.  I had to go after the companies that donated money, which any sane person would realize is incredibly disrespectful.  The whole thing smelled rotten at that point so I decided to back out.”

And it’s a good thing Ratliff did, because it wasn’t long before the couple in charge of the benefit and their company were the subject of an investigation by the Tennessee Secretary of State and the Knox County District Attorney’s Office for potential fraud.

“Wouldn’t you know it?  The day Trace Adkins actually released his tour dates it turns out he was booked at a show in West Virginia the night of the “fundraiser,” Ratliff said.

The internet, and sites like GoFundMe, have made scamming people out of their money even easier.  Sometimes celebrities will even exploit the site and their fans for personal gain. Moshe Kasher is a benevolent example.  Tila Tequila is a bit more selfish an example.

Moshe Kasher set up a GoFundMe to illustrate the absurdity of people who actually have money to pay for things using a charity website to just avoid paying for expenses.  In May of 2015, Kasher created a GoFundMe to pay his rent even though he explicitly stated he had the money to pay.  He just wanted his adoring fans to pay his rent for him, and he was completely honest about it.

About a year ago, I moved into a larger house and my rent went up by a factor of nearly double. At the time I felt that that would be ok, as my income had gone up enough to be able to afford my rent. I was right. My income has only increased since then and each month I am easily able to make my rent payment. 

HOWEVER, I do not want to pay . It seems frivolous for me to spend my own money…when I can turn to the kindness and support of…most especially, my FANS, to help me pay my rent.

This is why I am turning to all of you. I keep wanting to use the phrase, “I need your help” but it’s important to me to be honest. I don’t need your help at all; I simply want your money to be spent in place of my own. (Emphasis added)

Kasher wasn’t using the site for any purpose other than to illustrate a point.  People who can pay for stuff with marketable skills they have don’t need to be asking for charity on a site designed for charity.  It got laughs, but Kasher’s GoFundMe was eventually pulled.

Tila Tequila was a bit different.  In January of this year the reality TV star began a GoFundMe to have her fans pay for her to move out of a home costing her $4500 a month in rent.  She promised in return all donors would get a phone call from her.  All of this is great until you realize Tequila’s net worth is about $1.5 million.

Tila Tequila used GoFundMe to exploit her fans’ sympathy.  She leveraged being a single mother and appealed to the emotions of her fans in order to fleece them from money she could have spent. 

Her GoFundMe got pulled too.

So how can you avoid working with charities or giving your money to charities that are frauds or scam situations?  J.C. Ratliff has several tips to help, and he was happy to pass them along.

1. If your point of contact isn’t the charity, that’s a red flag. 

“If you’re dealing with a middle man, that’s where the problems come in.” says Ratliff.  “Your first point of contact should be the organization, or someone with the organization.  If they’re not, ask why.  If you can’t get a good answer, then walk away fast.”

2. Meet the people you’re going to raise money for. 

“Conference calls and email chains are great, but they don’t beat human interaction,” says Ratliff.  He’s right.  The best practice is to meet the people face-to-face so that you can know who you’re dealing with.  “Phone calls are forgeable.  Emails are forgeable.  If you have a face to face meeting with the person, that’s different.”

3. Meet the people the charity supports. 

“Say you’re working with a charity that’s going to build a house where parents that have kids with cancer can stay.  Ask to meet the kids with cancer.  If you can’t get that from the charity, walk away,” says Ratliff.  Very good point.  If the people you’re going to raise money for can’t take you to the source of where your funds will be heading, then it’s a warning sign.

4. Ask up front how much of the money raised is actually going to the cause.  

This may seem like an “uncomfortable” question to ask, but it’s one the charity should be able to answer without hesitation.  More often than not, charities spend more money on themselves than on the causes they champion, and the biggest names are often the worst scammers.

Take the Susan G. Komen foundation, for example.  Every month in October various major organizations begin soliciting money heavily for Komen’s breast cancer research efforts.  The NFL sells pink jerseys and has pink items that give money to the Susan G. Komen foundation.  Very little money given to the Komen foundation actually goes to breast cancer research.

The site “Charity Navigator” ranks the Komen foundation two out of four stars possible for their work.  According to their research, the Susan G. Komen Foundation actually only spends $0.12 out of every dollar raised for them on breast cancer research.

And yet people give the Susan G. Komen foundations millions of dollars for their “efforts.”

“The Komen foundation says the reason they don’t actually give that much out is because they’re over extended and under staffed,” said Ratliff.  “They’ve been that way for a decade.  What does that say about their ability to do business? I’m not a lawyer but I think there’s been court cases filed against them.”

It turns out a two second Google search will show you law review articles about how litigious the Susan G. Komen foundation really is.

Keep an eye out on these tips when you’re looking for a cause to support.  It can mean the difference between money going to the right cause versus you lining someone’s pockets for no reason.

And if you’re a fan of great comedy, buy J.C. Ratliff’s debut album “Hope is a Virus”. It was recorded inside the last legal whorehouse in Tennessee. Also look up J.C. on Twitter @JCRatliffComedy.