200px-The_Searchers.jpgWe all go through various phases with our relatives -- of understanding, compassion and perspective. There was a time in my late teens and early 20s when I couldn't abide my grandfather. Then, to me, he was a racist, sexist relic. My mom had taught me that respect for elders was not a given (she thought that unquestioned acquiescence led to authoritarianism), that respect was meant to be mutually earned regardless of age. This is why I didn't understand her continued reverence for him as he criticized her for hiring a neighbor boy to shovel the walk for her after she broke one of her ribs (it wasn't her leg, by God!) or her expectation when he breezed into town unannounced during finals week (I was an undergrad in summer school) that I would join the two of them for dinner rather than study. Couldn't he call ahead? Wait until after my exam? It would never occur to him to enter my schedule into his decision-making factors.

When we did meet for dinner it was at an Asian Fusion sort of restaurant called the Mustard Seed. At one point during the meal he gazed around the room and loudly declared with awe and disgust, "Boy there sure are a lot of fat people in here." Sure that one of the targets of his comment at a nearby table had heard, I was mortified. This was one of the many prejudices that he was open about. In general he freely used racial epithets, still carrying the WWII-era perception of "Japs." He was surprised that there were none there since we were at an Asian restaurant.

During all phases of my relationship to him, my Grandfather reminded me of the caricature of John Wayne -- tough, looming large, self-reliant. He was among the last of the "real cowboys" who earned their living out on the range and then went on to become a Montana rancher.  He was over 6 feet tall, charismatic, and when in his element possessed a sureness and decisiveness that I've come across in few other people. The general reverence for him and lore around his life made his presence larger than life in our family always -- he never hired anyone to do anything he could do himself, worked every day of his life that he could, created a cattle empire with his wits and a fourth grade education, in his 70s crawled a mile through the snow with collapsed lungs and a broken back after a tree fell on him and then drove home opening 4 barbed wire gates along the way, etc.  I considered him our own personal John Wayne since he shaped my family's views about self-reliance, individualism and discipline so completely that no one could even identify them as values -- they just were part of our unspoken expectations (ones whose questioning led to inevitable conflict and change over the years).

Despite this overpowering association (and maybe because of it) I had never actually seen a John Wayne movie until watching The Searchers the other night. I don't call many movies weird, but it is: disjointed, blatantly but self-consciously racist, contradictory, inconsistent in tone, filled with unrealistic battle scenes, magnificently beautiful, and peppered with great and terrible acting (the Yankee soldier! Why?). Apparently it's widely considered the best American western. There's so much subtext, it's hard to know what to think of it. But John Wayne's character, Ethan, is unquestionably intolerable. He's vilely racist, sadistic, vindictive and generally awful. Though equipped with many of the skills necessary to rescue a niece captured by the Comanches from his post-Civil War settler relatives (he fought for the Confederacy), he's really the last person you'd want to go on a five-year search with.

Really, I didn't know what to think of the film or how it related to my Grandfather. As much as he reminded me of John Wayne, he was also like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, with boundless energy, a sense of fun, and a tendency to break into song at unexpected moments. He was also very charming. Though openly racist, I couldn't imagine him harboring any racism so hateful as Wayne's Ethan character (who would rather kill his niece than allow her to continue living with the Comanche like she wants). So I did what I always do after seeing a movie, and started poking around Wikipedia for background and review links.

Roger Ebert's struck a chord:

In ''The Searchers'' I think Ford was trying, imperfectly, even nervously, to depict racism that justified genocide; the comic relief may be an unconscious attempt to soften the message. Many members of the original audience probably missed his purpose; Ethan's racism was invisible to them, because they bought into his view of Indians. Eight years later, in ''Cheyenne Autumn,'' his last film, Ford was more clear. But in the flawed vision of ''The Searchers'' we can see Ford, Wayne and the Western itself, awkwardly learning that a man who hates Indians can no longer be an uncomplicated hero.

Wow. Soon after reading those words I had an epiphany about my relationship to my grandfather and to the United States' complicated history, relationships which were in many ways a reverse of the Western genre's trajectory. I began only being able to see flaws, exclusions and imperfections -- the multiple ways in which the protector-of-the-world America that I had been taught to admire as a child had never lived up to its own ideals, and was acting in direct contradiction to them. It was hard to be enthusiastically patriotic when patriotism seemed in so many ways tangled with nostalgia for America as the Western hero that we could not question. National discourse during my formative years (80s and early 90s) made patriotism and genuine moral engagement with our bloody and ugly past seem mutually exclusive.  Similarly, how was I to resolve the fact that my grandfather was (as far as I knew) a man of integrity within his sphere (i.e., didn't cheat people in business, treated his neighbors well), and accomplished in so many ways, but who really did believe that I was less of a person because I was female, and wouldn't have been able to tolerate most of the people I knew?

I don't want to give the impression that over time I learned to become tolerant of prejudice in general or any prejudices specifically. It's not as though I would have once condemned the Western hero and now embrace him. Rather, I became able to see my grandfather as an individual in a particular historical time and place.

Also, over time, I began to see ways that I could remain vigilant against my own prejudices and critical of our current and historical exclusions and injustices, and still patriotically celebrate American ideals. 

The shift with my grandfather partly took place through my reading Mildred Walker's Winter Wheat, which takes place during WWII in an area not far from where my grandparents ranched from the late 1960s onward.  It's now been at least 14 years since I read it, so I don't remember it well -- though I know it had anti-fascist themes. Most of all, it made me fall in love with the Eastern Montana landscape, which gave me a way to connect with my grandfather.

He had read the book and loved it too -- it was something he and my aunt shared. Now I was curious and interested in him and his life in a way that translated as respect -- I never knew that he sought my curiosity and interest and that without them I had always been disrespectful without meaning to be. On visits he was now eager to take me out to see his land. Rolling along hills in his SUV, we would drive over 10-foot-tall pine trees and they would spring back up like dandelions underfoot. He would describe destroying knapweed using spent engine oil. Clearly my feeling of connection to the land was different from his (I didn't eat much red meat or use any type of herbicide). To him the land was the cattle, and if a tree stood in the way of his showing them to Mom and me, or if the invasive knapweed threatened to overtake their nutrition, he would do what it took. He was proud of his herd, and the tens of thousands of acres they ran on, because they were his achievement.

His father lost everything when the hotel he built burned down. His mother abandoned the family when he was young, leaving the care of numerous children to his father (my mom says that when Kenny Rogers' "Lucile" came on the radio, he would switch it off). He survived the Depression and worked as a miner in Butte during WWII. He built a hotel in Billings which my mother ran while attending high school and taking care of her 6-year-old younger sister; the rest of the family lived hours away on the ranch. His goal in life was to succeed where his father wasn't able to and leave his children financially comfortable -- girls too, which apparently is still a rare practice among ranching families.

So, no, I now understood, a man who expected his 15-year-old daughter to run a motel on her own while caring for her younger sister would not be someone to make sure that my finals schedule coincided with his travel plans.  By the end of his life, a couple of years later, we had a relationship that was closer than I could have imagined. It was harder than anything for him to be laid up with the cancer that claimed him -- it embarrassed him to be seen incapacitated and weak. (Incidentally, his insensitive and inappropriate interjections may have been related to Aspergers Syndrome, a possibility a 20th century cowboy would not likely have explored.) My last memory of him is of carrying his great-granddaughter in to see him (she was around 3) and his just being in awe of her and smiling and wistfully saying to us, "You're so young, so full of life." I love his region and that land because of its beauty, my childhood summers there, because it shaped my mother, and because he's a part of it now.

The act of loving land is not some sort of timeless, ahistorical virtue. My love of the landscape, and appreciation of what my grandfather's life's work provided, is tempered by the history of the West in general, and the knowledge that other people crossed his acres freely before there was barbed wire.  He was able to acquire them because of his personal talents and initiative, but also because of characteristics he didn't choose. It would have been difficult or impossible for non-whites to have been able to get the credit and engage in the deal-making necessary, and certainly for a woman of any race. He at one time built wealth by leasing land from the Northern Cheyenne to run his cattle.  

Since our lives have been under siege (and our opportunities methodically, systematically limited), it's been difficult to clearly think about what my individual responsibility is as someone who has had opportunities because of this sort of personal/material history. The key seems to be being able to ask the question "What can I do?" Further formulation of the question and the route to the answers are a work in progress.

In many ways, my grandfather probably was a protector of Mom and me. If he were still alive, we would have had someone to help shield us from all of the Montana lawlessness and charlatanism. But we don't have our own personal John Wayne. We just have to have faith in the possibility of fairness, justice and tolerance of critical patriotism in the 21-st Century West. 

~~
tammany-cartoon.gifIf someone representing a company you were in charge of had genuinely cyber-harassed and threatened a vocally disgruntled customer, wouldn't you be all over the situation? Wouldn't you want to act quickly to narrow down the number of people you supplied photos to -- the ones the individual described while cyber-harassing the customer? Wouldn't you want to work with law enforcement to get the harasser's IP address from the web site where the illegal comments were made? Since your company would be legally responsible for the threats made on your company's behalf, wouldn't you want to ensure the customer you were doing all you could to sever any and all ties with that individual?

Not Organic Bouquet CEO Robert McLaughlin.

In the four days since the exchange below where I asked him to apprise me of progress in tracking down the supposed Colombian cyber-harasser and cooperating with law enforcement, I've heard nothing. He says he hopes he and I could "come together on a positive project" one day yet has taken no action yet to remedy my bungled order (what caused the criticism that led to the harassment in the first place), and continues to contradict himself or make outright false statements without seeming to see the need to account for them. Very weird, non-CEO behavior, which just makes it seem more and more like he was the supposed Colombian. [If links aren't working, try the end of the post.]

Below McLaughlin does rightly point out that I made a mistake. The apparent tracking of my online criticism of his company and attempting to bully me into removing critical comments seemed creepy and intimidating enough to be considered cyber-stalking, so that's how I described it. Apparently that was an inaccurate description, and since the exchange below I have described the behavior according to the legal terminology that the FBI points us to: electronic harassment and electronic threats. Cyber-stalking has to do with violent threats, while this supposed Colombian supplier was only threatening to "watch" and "follow" me and ruin any and all future employment prospects. My apologies for not yet understanding the correct terminology.

Since Mr. McLaughlin has been so inconsistent and unbelievable and taken so little action to convince me that he was not the one who conducted the cyber-harassment and threats, I still sincerely believe that it was him (or someone he allowed to write on his behalf or using his email address). 

Monday, May 24, 2010, Kyeann Sayer to Robert McLaughlin:

Mr. McLaughlin,

I was equally surprised that my straightforward, factual comments on Sustainlane turned into a "war" in which I very patiently responded to long, bizarre and viscous attacks by someone representing Organic Bouquet. It's strange -- you seem to be using the fact that your company representative took such action to justify your having used that cyberstalker's arguments about me in your own Better Business Bureau rebuttal. I don't see how you can expect me to consider such rationalizations any sort of sincere effort to explain or take responsibility. Since you now admit that you used the cyberstalker's false, slanderous arguments about me and my intentions in your BBB report, how do you explain your writing yesterday that you didn't know anything about me or my intentions? What that you write am I meant to take seriously or find believable?

If you were not the cyber-stalker (given your overall lack of believability I still honestly doubt this), I am formally requesting that you take action commiserate with the seriousness of this situation. I will supplement the report I made to the FBI with your BBB report. I have asked Sustainlane for the IP information of the cyberstalker but they have not provided it. You should be interested in obtaining it yourself or work with law enforcement to do so since OB is legally responsible for what was written. From an investigative perspective, if you genuinely believe it was someone in Columbia, you must be able to narrow down who you sent the photos to and who of those individuals would have been instantaneously available to rebut my comments, and who would have been on the computer at that times of the comments. OB has commented on a review below mine; the company has a history of responding to comments on Sustainlane. If it was a supplier in Columbia, I can imagine that you would be as committed as I am to discovering who it was so we can report to the proper U.S. authorities which foreign agent acting on your company's behalf has threatened me. I would also imagine that the company would want to sever its relationship with a company or individual who would take such reckless, illegal action. That is the outcome I expect. These practical steps are the actions of a CEO who takes felony cyberstalking and intimidation seriously.

Please apprise me of your progress. I will continue to update my blog, reporting on how the company takes (or does not take) responsibility for such a serious crime and how federal law enforcement responds to my report. What I have written so far includes the facts surrounding what happened, my analysis of them, and my opinions regarding them. If you find a factual error please let me know. I have posted links to your responses, and pasted parts of them into posts, so readers can judge for themselves.   I will not be intimidated by cyber-threats, or any baseless effort to equate my legal on-line writing with them.

I formally request answers to my consumer questions about the sustainability of your growth model and how it has affected domestic employees and the company's overall environmental impact. Just as the public personal attacks seemed designed to deflect such questions, I suspect that your continued vagueness relates to a lack of desire to answer those questions. You might also still want to send me a correct order and credit my SkyMiles account -- these are concrete actions (rather than vague pronouncements about a "positive project") that would demonstrate sincerity now and would have eliminated your company's need to respond illegally to a negative review in the first place.

Sincerely,

Kyeann Sayer


On Mon, May 24, 2010 at 3:34 PM, Robert McLaughlin wrote:
Kyeann,

I appreciate your reply...to be honest I don’t know what to make of all the emails and blogs...... No one representing this company has blogged or posted, no one had been asked or paid to post anything, its a normal process for us to forward pictures to our third party fulfillment centers and suppliers when emails are received good and bad..there are so many employees in that 3rd party chain and I don’t know where things went from there, but as I mentioned, I told everyone to stop when you sent the links. Either they deleted the posts or you did, but it seems to be gone...I have no control of whoever posts, but I’m happy they’ve stopped.

Regarding my BBB response, I have to admit that I was suspicious of how a poor service issue could explode into a war between a disgruntled customer and others on a blog at our expense...my apologies, I have no proof of anything other than what you stated.

I can assure you we have looked at our internal processes and customer service to see where this could have been avoided....this entire situation goes so much against the grain of the good nature of this company that I’m shocked at this result.

I understand your freedom of speech and to post as a consumer or advocate that received poor service, but I do ask Formally that you remove all misstatements such as Organic Bouquet or myself being cyber stalkers or supporting cyber stalkers...those are false statements and equally egregious as the posters you have a problem with....and I appreciate your attention to the details.

Such a regretful situation and we really need to move forward..I would hope that could come together on a positive project one day

All the Best

Robert


~~

Very weird, non-CEO behavior, which just makes it seem more and more like he was the supposed Colombian.

The apparent tracking of my online criticism of his company and attempting to bully me into removing critical comments seemed creepy and intimidating enough to be considered cyber-stalking, so that's how I described it.

Apparently that was an inaccurate description, and since the exchange below I have described the behavior according to the legal terminology that the FBI points us to: electronic harassment and electronic threats.  
cheerleader-yelling-into-megaphone.jpg[If links aren't working on your browser, go down to the end of the post.]

After ignoring for ten days the fact that someone claiming to represent Organic Bouquet committed the federal crime of cyberharassing and threatening me, CEO Robert McLaughlin has finally offered a strange and unconvincing response.

Again, this is a free speech issue. We're talking about a company purposefully targeting and threatening a vocally dissatisfied customer and attempting to bully her out of exercising her right to criticize the company. What is so scary about questions surrounding whether OB's PR matched its practices, or whether its current growth trajectory was sustainable? All of these questions should be fair game for a company that represents itself as "green" and "socially conscious." McLaughlin seems to have responded not because he was concerned about any illegality or how these threats were affecting a former customer, but because I blogged about him.

To put his response in context, after a terrible product and customer service experience, I had written a review of the company on Sustainlane.com. On May 13, venomous cyber-harasser Andes B. wrote in response

My rep at Organic Bouquet sent me your pictures. In those picture [sic] I can see tulips obviously from another company and receipts from local grocery stores where you obviously bought other flowers as part of your research on flower companies. You’re a disgrace and should be reported to the appropriate credible journalist organization for breaking the code of ethics and acting in a manner that is unbecoming of an American or international journalist.

I had sent pictures of the second set of wrong and wilting flowers I received to personnel at Organic Bouquet and was amazed that someone in Columbia supposedly already had them, and was ready to comment on my reivew within hours of my having written it. I immediately sent a link to the cyber-harassing threats to Mr. McLaughlin and wrote to him:

Healthy tulips from my own yard, the roses you sent that never opened in the background, and some receipts amount to some sort of scheme to sell an article? Bizarre. Can't you fight your battles directly with facts rather than having me personally attacked?

Mr. McLaughlin ignored my message and chose not to address the fact that someone was advocating on behalf of Organic Bouquet in a felonious manner. He took no steps to assure me that the threats were empty, or would cease. Instead, the day after he was notified of the illegal online threats, he elected to use the same arguments in his rebuttal to my Better Business Bureau complaint:

Ms. Sayer is a freelance writer with a history of aggressive behavior in search of a major headline. She provided pictures not only of flowers she received from us, but in the background what appears [sic] to be flowers from other sources as well. It is my suspicion that she is doing research for a story and she has attacked us on blogs…

So at this point McLaughlin has been notified of the cyber-harassing and has received my clear denial about my order having been part of any weird scheme related to a story.  He chooses not to address the fact that while I posted a truthful account of my experience with the company and raised questions about its growth model using facts gleaned from publicly available articles, someone representing OB cyber-harassed, smeared and threatened me. Rather than objecting to the attacks in any discernible form, he used my online review as evidence of my supposed scheming for the Better Business Bureau.

And today (Sunday), apparently after someone notified him about my post regarding the cyber-harassing and threats, he has finally been bothered to address the issue. He writes, in contradiction of his own Better Business Bureau filing:

I understand you had a regrettable consumer experience for which I attempted to reconcile with you..... The exchanges you had with a person online claiming to be our supplier is not condoned or requested and certainly not me in anyway. [sic].

So, again, he doesn’t condone them, but doesn’t address why he failed to inform the cyber-harassed and threatened customer of that, or why he used the cyber-harasser’s arguments himself. He doesn’t address how this commenter happened to have the pictures that I supplied to the company. He continues, strangely:

I don’t know anything about you.... what your intentions are or were..... I assumed from your original email that you received poor service for which I personally tried to help you resolve....very regrettable that we were unsuccessful in making things right for you....and your actions and back and forth posts do leave me perplexed as to your motives.

Huh? So, he has told the BBB that my ordering my Mother’s Day bouquet from OB was some sort of grand, journalistic scheme. He knows that I have a copy of his filing. Yet, he tells me today that he doesn’t “know anything about me” or “what my intentions are or were.” Despite this claim, he was certainly confident enough to make up information about me and assign motives to me in his BBB report.

Mr. McLaughlin seems very confused. I asked him to clarify these points. I’m still interested in having my questions about downsizing answered as well. Since all of this seems to have been a smokescreen to avoid answering those questions, though, I’m not holding my breath.

[Continue reading for working links.]

~~
North-American-Silva221.jpg[Update 5/24/10: Finally, ten days after being notified of he illegal cyber-harassing and threats, apparently in response to this post, Mr. McLaughlin offered a very tepid and unconvincing response.]

What is with "progressive" companies like Whole Foods, TreeHugger, and now Organic Bouquet  using weird/dirty tactics to deflect criticism? (If the links don't show up on your browser, you can find them at the end of the post.)

This very strange situation wouldn't have been something to write about here except that what should have been a dispute over a commercial transaction settled through legitimate channels quickly devolved into a civil liberties issue. Rather than use facts to dispute my claims, Organic Bouquet chose to attack me personally and use threats and intimidation in an effort to cyber-bully me out of criticizing the company.

The short version of the story is that after a really horrible product and customer service experience I took a number of actions, including writing a negative review of the company on Sustainlane (again, active link at the end of the post). In response to the review, someone claiming to be one of OB's Colombian suppliers wrote a bunch of nasty comments attacking me personally and eventually threatening that "Our association of floral exporters in Colombia, California and Ecuador need to follow you and advise your every potential employer of your inability to be fair and objective in your reporting." This person had copies of pictures that I had sent the company (to show the sad and pathetic state of the second order of wrong flowers they sent), and used them to concoct a story about my motivation for complaining.

Somehow, readers were meant to believe that my whole motivation for making a Mother's Day order and then complaining when it was wrong (and then the replacement order was wrong, and the company refused to do anything about it because it had issued a refund I didn't request), was all some sort of complex plan to "get a big headline." Weird, since I have made three other recent orders from the company without event or complaint because the company did not mess them up. The company itself has to perform pretty craptastically to get me to the point of feeling the need to speak out.

So, I reported the totally creepy comments to the FBI since they are so clearly a violation of federal law and in my now three-year long history of near nonstop harassment and intimidation no one has been so sloppy and careless as to carry it out in such an obviously illegal and traceable manner. At that point it seemed clear that the commenter was writing on behalf of Organic Bouquet, but I thought it might be someone hired to make positive comments for the company on blogs, or to defend criticism of the company and that this person went too far. Though I definitely thought OB was of course legally responsible since this person was acting on their behalf, I wouldn't have dreamed that the CEO himself would possibly pathetically disguise his identity in an effort to defame me in defense of the company.

Then, I received Mr. McLaughlin's rebuttal to a report I had filed with the Better Business Bureau. It was written the day after the online threats and contained the same weird accusation about my pictures supposedly illustrating that I was ordering multiple bouquets of flowers from different companies as part of a story I was supposedly writing. I couldn't believe it. Really, the same person had to have written it or to have had access to the same arguments and definitely the same pictures. I wrote to OB PR and Mr. McLaughlin himself for a confirmation or denial that he was the cyber-harasser, and received no response. [Update 5/24/10: Finally, ten days after being notified of he illegal cyber-harassing and threats, apparently in response to this post, Mr. McLaughlin offered a very tepid and unconvincing response.]
lady-justice.jpgIf my Senator is co-sponsoring the Justice Bill, he should be into protecting citizens of his own state from ongoing and pervasive civil liberties violations.

I don't have any sort of rescue fantasies, but wonder, who will have the courage and fortitude to help us out of this mess and ensure that no one has to endure anything like it again? If not my Senators (will Baucus demonstrate that he's not completely owned?), then who? Is there a Serpico in our midst? The UN? I mean, it's ridiculous. I've written so many letters on behalf of prisoners of conscience, and now I'm going on 2.5 years of virtual imprisonment in the U.S. I have to believe that someone out there cares more about justice and integrity than membership in an unprincipled patronage system. The reason the U.S. is assumed to be so great is because we supposedly don't need international observers or rescuers to swoop in and save its citizens from one another. Right?

Dear Senators Tester and Baucus,

I write because I need your assistance to combat pervasive and intractable corruption in our state. My mother and I have encountered judicial malfeasance, unfathomable corruption of the legal profession, and discriminatory, untruthful local law enforcement. We believe these overall gross violations of our rights have been made possible by lax regulation of intelligence contractors and agencies working in tandem with local agencies. In response to FOIA requests, I got the runaround from the FBI and a “Glomar” response from the NSA. The civil rights attorney I hired to help me ended up lying about which agencies he contacted and withholding documents. My mother and I cannot fight such insidious and pervasive interference in our lives alone.

We need the help of senators who are not afraid to upset the current balance of cronyism in Montana.  We are targets of entrenched Republican and Democrat interests seemingly because of our sex, religious affiliation (or lack thereof) and political affiliations and activities. It is very possible that local polluting industries have funded interference in my life at one time or another for at least ten years simply because I was part of a campaign to work with the union and management at Stone Container to stop poisonous dioxin emissions in our valley.

If you are courageous men who are not hemmed by the coal or any other lobby, if you are men who believe that human and civil rights extend to all people in your state and not just the back scratching elite, then please step up and help us. The current strategy seems to be to make the administrative and legal processes of seeking assistance so drawn out and impossible as to drain all of our energy and financial resources. We need men of conscience who truly believe in the best of democratic and republican ideals to keep their compact with the electorate and not the entrenched interests of a corrupt few.

About a year ago, I contacted Senator Tester and described some of the gross violations of my and my mother’s civil rights and liberties. He suggested that I contact local law enforcement. After many more months of harassment, and actual and attempted harm to our persons and property, we did finally contact the Missoula Police Department. We have come up against lies, evasion, and overall discriminatory treatment. Again, we need the help of individuals in a position of power who will use the position that the people of Montana have entrusted them with to take a stand against corruption and cronyism. Every effort is being made to ensure that we cannot do it on our own.

I request that representatives from each of your offices contact me so that we can find a way to work together to ensure that my mother and I emerge from this morass in one piece, and that no citizen of this state will ever have to endure such politically- and socially-motivated hijacking of supposedly neutral local and federal agencies again.

Senator Tester, as a co-sponsor of the Justice Act, I believe it would be unconscionable to leave two citizens of your state who have seemingly been victims of Patriot Act Excesses out in the cold.  We could easily serve as “poster children” for the necessity of reform. Please show us that your commitment to constitutional safeguards is more than mere talk.

Respectfully,


Kyeann Sayer

Did RAND Brand Me a "Terrorist"?

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21278.jpgCommuting in Los Angeles is an experiment. Just when you think you have a routine down that gets you home in under an hour, there's a surprise. You could find yourself cruising down the 10 and then suddenly at a standstill: that's right, Lakers at the Staples Center. As you're unexpectedly moving at a snail's pace one August morning you remember that it's time for the UCLA kids to clog the freeways and your commute time will double for the next four months. Many days accidents were the culprit. Often I would rely on a web site dedicated to traffic reporting to know when I should go home -- that such web sites exist illustrate how much traffic jams affect all of our lives every day.

Unpredictable, snarling traffic could be fodder for many an ethical discussion. If an ambulance can't reach me because of Lakers traffic, are the Lakers responsible? The Staples Center? The city planners?

The death and destruction related to automobiles is normal to us. There were 41,059 traffic-related fatalities in the US in 2007 alone. We've clearly collectively decided that this astounding loss of life is acceptable in our auto-centric culture.

Sometime while working with RAND I was at dinner discussing this with an acquaintance who worked in the office next to me. I'm not sure he was actually a friend. I believe he worked for Bruce Hoffman on some terrorism-related research but it could have been Brian Michael Jenkins -- I don't remember. He might have just been eliciting comments, as I now realize so many did in those years. We discussed Critical Mass, the bicycle protests where bicyclists flood the streets apparently to create an experience for drivers similar to the one they face every day. I had never taken part in one and am very unlikely to because I can barely ride a bike.  He said that people shouldn't take part because if they did, they might be responsible for emergency services not being able to get through to someone in need.

I agree that would be terrible, and if I were a part of any large event that was the obvious culprit in preventing someone from getting essential medical care I'd feel awful. But traffic is so random. We don't consider a Lakers game a terrorist event when the traffic jams caused by it result in delays in all our lives -- in emergency situations or not. So, people involved in Critical Mass, who are on their bicycles, on the street to point out how violent and destructive our car culture is (not only in terms of direct destruction of human life, but astronomical CO2 levels that affect not just local communities but the whole planet) should be held to some higher standard of responsibility because their purpose for being on the street en mass biking is political in nature? What about jams caused by political conventions? It's complicated territory.

At that restaurant in that moment in time I thought that taking the risk to take part in such a demonstration despite the fact that a concurrent fateful act might make it difficult to get an ambulance through would be worth it because overall it might draw attention to the manner in which our reliance on cars kills so many. But it was all hypothetical, because, as I alluded, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 21 and barely can. I had not intention of ever taking part in Critical Mass.

You would have thought I had approved of the most heinous atrocities known to man. By the end of that conversation my companion could barely look at me, and didn't speak to me much again. At first I thought it might have been simply that he was not used to being disagreed with, but came to believe that my comments about Critical Mass seemed to completely change his view of me -- like, change my category from nice friendly person to "bad person".
If my mom can't be declared incompetent, then she should be portrayed as a criminal. That's what the justice system is for, right? To ruin people's lives through civil and criminal conspiracy. To keep completely baseless law suits alive through the collusion of unethical attorneys until all options to wrest their property, livelihood or reputations from their control have been extinguished. That's what the taxpayers want from their District courtrooms.

It seems to be a very Rovian technique, accusing your opponent of what you have done. And we seem to have stumbled upon another of those efforts in the midst of this construction lien law suit that has been a pretext to steal property, drain time and resources, discredit, and declare incompetence (Mr. Geiszler told my mother's first attorney, at one of their first meetings that he planned to subpoena her medical records -- in a construction lien case that she was defending herself against). After most of those efforts failed, we now believe that this latest attempt was to try to make it appear as though my mother was engaged in civil conspiracy instead of... the numerous individuals working together to make it appear that way.

If my mother was the criminal mastermind, rather than David Ryan, then he and John Boyle would be off the hook for attempting to take over her property without her permission? And then Loken and the scores of others who have taken part in this absurd and epic effort to devalue the property and harass us wouldn't be in the wrong? All the legal malpractice that was committed would be nullified? Because rather than hapless victims trying to improve property and live productive lives, we would be the perpetrators then. Oh, how simple for everyone.

Wanted: A Lawyer Who Cares About the Law

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So, we have just fired the third attorney who has engaged in criminal conspiracy to sabotage the case being defended against Steve Loken. This attorney's malpractice was so blatant and his manner so caustic and abusive, he seems to be among those who believes there will never be consequences to his actions. Really, Loken could no have ordered a more ideal attorney to serve his needs.

Add to this another very questionable ruling from Judge Deschamps (with procedural/clerical errors as well) that gives us one more appealable issue. It's hard to gauge his strategy. He's still making very prejudicial rulings that will make him look so bad in the eyes of an appellate court. One surmises that he bets it won't get that far... So does he assume we'll be "incompetent" or dead? Or that Mr. Loken will finally throw in the towel? Or we'll be forced to settle for some unforeseen reason?

So, we are in the position once again to find an attorney. One that is not a sadist who seemingly derives joy from putting his client in powerless and dangerous positions. A lawyer who automatically acts in his client's best interests rather than fighting tooth and nail to do all he can to ruin the case. I can't imagine the day when a lawyer will actually act on my or my mother's behalf.

So -- anyone out there? Know any lawyers who care about their clients and the law? Who are immune to whatever amalgam of energy industry and right wing funding still intent on ruining our lives? Not every lawyer in this state can be corrupt to the core.

(A month and a half and no word from Chief Muir... or anyone at the Mayor's Office, the City Attorney's Office, The County Attorney's Office...)

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There's an organized crime strategy that I haven't heard discussed, but has become very evident in my encounters with attorneys over the past three years: lawyers/firms who take on clients only so that they can ruin or interfere with their cases and/or affairs. There must be an instruction pamphlet for this somewhere.

The dominant image of this type of behavior is some sort of Italian Mob interference rather than the specific targeting of environmentalists, feminists or non-Christians. Since those seem to be the characteristics about Mom and me that have sustained a well-funded overall life interference campaign, I imagine that others are targeted for similar political/social characteristics.

The forms of malpractice we have encountered are just too consistent for these tactics to be isolated to us. Attorney/client interference seems to be a favored means of depriving "undesirables" of their Constitutional rights. Here are some examples -- I'll do some more editing and adding later.

(I am not qualified to give legal advice -- the anecdotes here are my experience and I take no responsibility for what anyone does with the information. But I hope it's helpful!)

1. Bait and Switch (Fraud)

The unsuspecting client can be lured into hiring an attorney who promises to provide specific services or take the case in a certain direction. The problem is, most retainer or other attorney-client agreements don't allow for spelling out in detail why someone has agreed to hire a specific attorney or firm. To ensure that our interests are protected, we have started to add Addendums to contracts that stipulate what has been promised, and our understanding of what the firm has agreed to do.

Chief Muir Contradicts Himself...

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For starters: here is what Conspiracy Against Rights is. It has nothing to do with space aliens or black helicopters.

It's always scary when people in positions of authority give different explanations for their procedures based on what is most convenient at the moment, all while trying to blame you for their choices.

I'm not sure what all occurred in the conversation that just took place between Chief Muir and my mom. She's summarizing it, and she asked him to put his strange contentions in written form so that there would be a record of them. Though he refused to take an official statement from my mother when she offered, he is going to take one from Alain Goodman. Yay for impartial police work.

In response to my inquiry about the report that she filed about Alain Goodman accosting her, Muir told me in writing that he could not comment because it was reported by her. Fine.

Today, he told her that he never responded to her because he was waiting for "corroborating evidence as to how [her] complaint fits into [my] overall conspiracy theory." (Though I specifically said we were waiting for action on her complaint and wanted to know the process of obtaining a restraining order...) He didn't want to stir up the neighborhood with "unsubstantiated claims." He also said to her that he had requested more information about the incident from me but I had refused to supply it.

So... when I am interested in knowing when the police are going to follow up with my mother about an assault, responding would violate her privacy. Yet, they can't follow up with her because they're waiting for something from me?

And -- her complaint just ended up on Muir's desk without any official record of her having filed it. My understanding is that no action can be taken on an issue unless there is a recorded complaint filed. Though she did not file it in relation to the overall harassment situation (indeed, until recently Chief Muir hadn't even agreed that he would examine evidence in that light -- I'm not yet sure he has), he just left it on his desk and awaited more info from me? Rather than following up on an assault? And when I asked him about it he said (on official police stationary) that he couldn't respond?

Clearly, this is some sort of backfill explaining.

Even better: apparently, he has heard from a third party that the incident did not occur out of the blue as my mother was walking down the street with croissants, but the frightening encounter was somehow a response to my mom's taking a picture. That's not the case (mom didn't have a camera with her), but even if it were, since when is someone allowed to assault someone else because he or she is being photographed? And why would a police officer decide to omit any official record of a complaint based on some third party claim? Aren't they still obligated to follow up and get a statement from the complainant about what occurred?

This third party called and complained about Mom's having taken a picture before he received her complaint. But -- I called Sergeant Richardson immediately after it happened. I wrote about it right away. So -- why does that call about photography somehow cancel out my Mom's written complaint about assault? Why does what other people say carry so much more weight than what we say? I have repeatedly asked about any documentation or official complaining about us from the neighbors and have just gotten very vague, non-specific answers.

People have been working overtime to make our taking of photographs of people who exhibit odd behavior in front of our home, or of vehicles who park in the proximity for no apparent reason, as some sort of crime. We do it defensively as stalking victims to document the odd/stalkerish/harassment behavior in the neighborhood. We have explained to our neighbors why we do it and have asked them to contact us with any concerns. If there is some legal issue about taking photographs on the public street, I'm sure that someone in some sort of official capacity can let us know.

Sergeant Richardson indicated to me that it was perfectly legal for Alain Goodman to stand on the sidewalk and photograph our property. I can't imagine that it's illegal for us to stand on our own property and photograph the street. Though these people take pains to get us to interact with them, we never do.

Anyhow -- the double standards and multiple explanations are odd.

It seems as though Chief Muir's next rhetorical tack (since "insincere" didn't quite work out) is the woo-woo, crazy ladies conspiracy angle. Again, conspiracy is when two people get together to plan to do harm/make mischief/deprive people of their rights. The way that Chief Muir contradicts himself, fails to give sufficient legal/procedural explanations for his or his officers decisions, engages in slippery policy, and strives to come up with reasons that our claims are illegitimate, suggests to me that he has spoken with at least one other person about ways to deligitimize our claims or keep them from becoming official police record. Given what he and Sergeant Richardson have written, and how they have responded, this is legitimate interpretation. But I can see why Chief Muir would want to promote an inaccurate interpretation of what conspiracy means rather than one that might apply to him or to officers in his department.

He said he would let my mom know in writing by the middle of next week why he chose not to follow up on her assault or create any official record of it.

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.