BILLIONS in Medicare Fraud Thanks to Medical Professionals NOT Trial Lawyers



The Justice Department announced today that “Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in eight cities has resulted in charges against 91 defendants, including doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $295 million in false billing.” The alleged charges are reqally disgusting: a Detroit doctor allegedly billed Medicare for treating dead patients and for treatments lasting more than 24 hours in a day; a supervisor at a Miami community health center allegedly threatened residents of a boarding house that he managed with eviction unless they attended the center so he could overbill Medicare; and so on. As the press release from DOJ states, the defendants treated Medicare as “a personal piggy bank.” And the DOJ press office informed me that NONE of the 91 charged in this new effort was an attorney.

This is just the latest in a long string of indictments and arrests by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which has charged over 1,100 defendants for allegedly billing Medicare more than $2.9 billion in false claims in just two years. And the overwhelming number of defendants in the cases are medical professionals – doctors, nurses, medical device company officers, and so on. And the perpetrators of the BILLIONS in Medicare fraud are not trial lawyers, the men and women who ensure that Americans can exercise their rights guaranteed under the 7th Amendment to the Constitution.

When the new “SuperCommittee” charged with meeting the provisions of the debt limit agreement start looking for big health care dollars to save, they should focus on Medicare fraud foisted on the taxpayers by medical pros. That’s the REAL waste in the health care system.

Designated Terrorist Financier Trying to Keep Victims Out of US Courts



In my post of September 15 titled Seven Reasons Why Protecting 7th Amendment Should Be Republican & Tea Party Priority, I noted that, “the 7th Amendment has been an important tool for the pursuit of terrorist financing, and civil lawsuits have resulted in some important judgments. The family of David Boim, an American killed by Hamas terrorists in Israel, successfully won a $156 million judgment against the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation for its role as the biggest Hamas fundraiser in the U.S… A former official of the NSC under Presidents Clinton and Bush testifed to Congress that, ‘civil litigation can substantially enhance the financial consequences that such entities face’ (referring specifically to terrorist financiers).” The actual and alleged financiers know this, which is why they’re pulling out all the stops to keep the victims of their attacks from pursuing justice in U.S. courts.

An incorporated charity identified by the U.S. as a terrorist financier is now opposing a civil suit filed in federal court by trying to assert that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction over it, simply by reason that it is a corporation and not an individual. If the attempt is successful, it will gut an important component of civil anti-terrorism penalties. Individuals who wish to raise funds in the U.S. to fund terrorist attacks overseas might only have to incorporate in order to avoid civil suits in U.S. courts by the terrorists’ non-American victims.

First, some background. In October 2009, Sri Lankan family members of those killed and injured in bombings committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, a.k.a. “Tamil Tigers”), filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that founders of a group called the “Tamil Rehabilitation Organization” provided millions of dollars in funds used for LTTE terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. The complaint was filed under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 (“ATS”), which grants non-U.S. citizens access to the U.S. courts to seek justice for violations of “the law of nations,” regardless of where the violations occur.

The Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) was designated by the Treasury Department on November 15, 2007, for serving as the funding and procurement network in the U.S. for the LTTE, which has been on the official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997. In the 2007 designation, the Treasury Department noted, “In the United States, TRO has raised funds on behalf of the LTTE through a network of individual representatives. According to sources within the organization, TRO is the preferred conduit of funds from the United States to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. TRO also has facilitated LTTE procurement operations in the United States. Those operations included the purchase of munitions, equipment, communication devices, and other technology for the LTTE.

And the Tamil Tigers were a terribly deadly terrorist group at that time, as also noted in the 2007 TRO designation. “The LTTE is a terrorist group that has waged a violent secessionist campaign for over two decades to secure a separate state for Tamil-majority regions in Sri Lanka’s North and East. The conflict between the LTTE and Sri Lankan military forces has claimed over 60,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan citizens.”

Here’s the issue raised last month by TRO that threatens civil suits by non-Americans against terrorist financiers. On November 23, TRO’s attorneys filed a Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. In a Memorandum filed with the notice, TRO’s attorneys asserted that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in Kiobel, et al., v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, et al., that “the ATS does not confer subject matter jurisdiction over corporate defendants, because such liability is not a ‘specific, universal, and obligatory norm of international law.'” TRO’s attorneys thus claim that the 2nd Circuit decision immunizes TRO from any liability for funding the Tamil Tigers’ terrorist attacks, solely because it is a corporation.

Think about this outcome of the Kiobel decision and a potential dismissal of the lawsuit against TRO: Hamas could consider resuming fundraising in the U.S., through an incorporated “charity,” for attacks against Israelis overseas, knowing that the Israeli victims could not pursue justice in the U.S. and penalize Hamas’ fundraisers here. And it would be accomplished solely through judicial decision and without any input by Congress.

Not all federal courts agree with the 2d Circuit decision in Kiobel that immunized corporations from liability under the ATS. The 11th Circuit and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeals held in other cases that ATS claims may be brought against corporations, thus setting up a possible Supreme Court case over the conflicting appellate decisions. But the Supreme Court has already refused to enable American 9-11 victims to hold Saudi financiers liable for funding Al Qaeda, so it could foreeably close the courthouse door to foreign terrorism victims, even in cases in which the funding was raised in the U.S.

Congress need not wait for the Supreme Court to possibly immunize terrorists from raising funds in the U.S. by using incorporated charities. Congress could and should act to enable those foreign victims to hold the terrorist financiers liable for their fundraising in the U.S.

Drugmakers Obamacare Federal Tort Reform updated June 7



House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee have uncovered evidence of closed-door negotiations between major drugmakers and the Obama Administration in connection with the enactment of Obamacare, under which the former promised to back it with $80 billion in revenues in exchange for the Administration’s promise to protect the industry in various ways, e.g., oppose the importation of drugs from abroad. It was Crony Capitalism at its worst, and the House E&C Republicans are right to expose and condemn it. I assume other health care-related companies touched by Obamacare made the same kind of deal and look forward to seeing the evidence.

BUT… some of the same Republicans condemning Obamacare Crony Capitalism want to protect the same industry, and all health care-related companies, in federal law by severely limiting awards in medical malpractice and all health care-related lawsuits. This is Tort Reform Crony Capitalism, and it’s as bad in principle as Obamacare Crony Capitalism. And they’re equally unconstitutional, according to House Republicans’ favorite legal experts and many House Republicans.

So House Republican leadership would reward the very same health care associations and companies that gave us Obamacare!WHY?! This is what I can’t comprehend about the charge to include a federal medmal bill in Republican “Repeal & Replace” plans. I don’t find that chapter in my “Practical Politics 101” textbook!

UPDATE, June 7: I discussed these issues today on the ‘What’s Up’ radio program, broadcast daily on 12 radio stations and on channel 131 of Sirius satellite radio. Download and listen to Segment 1 here and to Segment 2 here.

Do Republicans Want Wage Controls Enforced By Federal Judges



Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will debate and vote on H.R. 5, the “HEALTH” Act, which would institute federal controls for the first time on lawsuits filed for health care injuries and deaths. In this post I want to focus on one aspect of the bill: a federally imposed limit on certain wages earned by lawyers. to be enforced by federal judges. To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been imposed by Congress on the legal profession. It’s also an indirect way of silencing the 7th Amendment right to a civil jury trial through a defunding mechanism.

Section 5 of the bill imposes the following limits – this would be FEDERAL LAW – on the contingent fees that a lawyer can charge his client for services in connection with a health care lawsuit:

(1) 40% of the first $50,000 recovered in the lawsuit;
(2) 1/3 of the next $50,000 recovered;
(3) 25% of the next $500,000 recovered; and
(4) 15% of the amount of the recovery in excess of $600,000.

And the bill authorizes federal judges to reduce the contingent fees by fiat: “In any health care law suit, the court shall supervise the arrangements for payment of damages to protect against conflicts of interest that may have the effect of reducing the amount of damages awarded that are actually paid to claimants… (T)he court shall have the power to restrict the payment of a claimant’s damage recovery to such attorney, and to redirect such damages to the claimant based upon the interests of justice and principles of equity.”

So the bill imposes federal wage controls on just one industry, lawyers who charge contingent fees, regardless of the amounts normally charged by an attorney in the normal course of his business. And the bill – a bill pushed by REPUBLICANS – lets federal judges cut the contingent fees to be paid for any reason, with no real limit on a judge’s authority.

This bill establishes federal wage controls on the legal profession, pure and simple. It’s an extraordinary abuse of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution (from the same people who rightfully complain about ObamaCare’s abuse of the same clause). It provides sweeping new powers to the federal judiciary. NONE of these impacts are “conservative” or “Republican.” If those provisions in Section 5 are enacted, it will open the door to other federal wage controls on all legal services, and then on all services for which a commission is paid, such as by real estate agents. WHY would Republicans in Congress even consider federal wage controls on lawyers, after resisting them so strenuously on corporate executives during debate of the Dodd-Frank bill? WHY would Republicans in Congress want to give federal judges MORE power?

By the way, the bill will force federal judges to define and interpret the meaning of the phrase “health care lawsuit” and other new terms in the bill. What’s “Republican” or “conservative” about that?

Two weeks ago, I discussed eight reasons why Tea Partiers and conservatives should reject this bill. Here is a ninth: Interference by the federal government with the wages to be paid under contractual arrangement to attorneys who represent victims.

P.S. I campaigned and worked for Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan would never have proposed wage controls on any sector of the American economy, and he would have vetoed this bill.

Clinton Bush Counter-Terrorism Officials Agree on Need to Enable Civil Suits Against Terrorism Financiers



I wrote yesterday on the recent court cases which leave non-state foreign terrorist financiers virtually immune from civil suit, and the proposed “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” which would empower American terrorism victims to exercise their 7th Amendment rights in federal courts aginst such financiers. During today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue and the Act, former senior officials of the Clinton and Bush National Security Council agreed that the court rulings were wrong; they urged the Congress to enact the Act to not only obtain compensation for deaths and injuries, but also to deter future attacks as a matter of counter-terrorism policy. On that last point, they differ sharply from some commentators who inexplicably see no benefit to easing the filing of civil suits against terrorists, an issue I discussed on June 28 in my post on recent changes in federal pleading standards.

Richard Klingler was Associate Counsel, and then Senior Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and was also General Counsel and Legal Adviser on the National Security Council staff in 2006 and 2007. Now a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, he was one of the principal lawyers representing victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in their suit, also discussed yesterday, against certain Saudi-based entitites and Saudi individuals. You can download his testimony from the Committee’s website, and here is an excerpt of his comments on the Act:

The Act is an important counter-terrorism initiative and focuses on redressing injuries incurred within our borders, where our nation’s sovereign interests are greatest. The Act is required in large part due to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ unfortunate and clearly erroneous construction of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) and application of the Due Process Clause, as well as by the Administration’s narrow construction of a FSIA exception to sovereign immunity for suits addressing tortious acts, including acts of terrorism. The Act would ensure that victims of terrorism will secure redress for acts of terrorism committed on U.S. soil, even if initiated abroad, and would increase the prospect of holding those responsible to account for their actions. This applies not only to victims of past acts of terror, but also to those who are, unfortunately, very likely to join their ranks, and it applies to those who would foster and support terrorist organizations as well as to those who more directly commit acts of terror.

The Act would also increase the nation’s ability to deter and prevent further attacks of terrorism.Although civil litigation plays only a small part in countering terrorism, relative to the efforts of our armed forces and intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement officials, its role is not negligible. The Act would increase the scope of civil litigation directed against those who materially support terrorism, which may prove especially effective when directed against the financiers of terror and by providing incentives to foreign states to ensure that those closely affiliated with them neither seek to harm expatriate communities within the United States nor further the efforts of terrorist organizations. And, the Act would increase the likelihood that federal courts will extend their powers broadly to entertain suits against those who would support terrorist actions directed against the United States and its interests.

Lee Wolosky served on the National Security Council during the Clinton and Bush Administrations. A partner at Boies, Schiller, & Flexner LLP, he is now assisting efforts to seek compensation from the Arab Bank for its involvement in funding Hamas terrorists. An excerpt of his comments:

Along with the threat of governmental fines and sanctions, the prospect of substantial civil damages can deter deep-pocketed corporations or individuals from doing business with terrorist organizationsCorporations, self-avowed charitable organizations, and other large entities will continue to provide material support for terrorist organizations until it is financially unpalatable for them to do so. Although government sanctions are clearly an integral part of the effort to stem the flow of funds to terrorist groups, civil litigation can substantially enhance the financial consequences that such entities face. This proposed bill will make it easier for litigants to sue those who provide support to terrorists who kill or injure Americans. It will thereby deter future such support.

DOJ Files Charges Against Tsarnaev Congress Needs to Determine What Feds Knew or Missed



The Justice Department has charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property at the Boston Marathon. Read the affidavit HERE.

Having assisted American victims of terrorism for eight years in their quest to take terrorists’ money, I’m pretty sure that what the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings most of all is The Answers and The Truth. To a person, terrorism victims have told me that they care more about finding the whole truth about the attacks that killed or injured their loved ones than obtaining compensation for the attacks. The Boston bombing victims deserve no less. They want to know what the feds at the CIA, FBI, DOJ and State Department knew about the Tsarnaev brothers and what they missed. They want to know to whom they might have confided in any mosque in Boston; why the FBI didn’t follow up on the 2011 review of Tamerlan Tsarnaev; why they didn’t recognize him immediately when pictures and videos of the bombing became available; and what the feds knew or missed about his trip to Russia last year, including who paid for it. They want to know if he was part of a larger group, with potential “sleeper” cells waiting to pounce elsewhere in the U.S.

Too many of us were dissatisfied into the “investigation” into the Benghazi attacks, especially the victims’ families. The Obama Administration’s lack of disclosure of the events surrounding the deaths of our diplomats and their security personnel stands in stark contrast to the 9-11 Commission’s thorough and mostly open investigation of the events leading up to the attacks on September 11, 2001. It wasn’t perfect, but it that is the standard we should set in the review of the Boston Marathon bombings. Nothing less will renew our sense of trust in the federal anti-terrorism effort, shaken after the Marathon bombings.

We can’t have a Benghazi on American soil. Congress should subpoena every possible document, interview every official involved, and hold as many hearings as possible to forge a single, complete narrative of the brothers’ radicalization, their training in explosives, and their plans to bomb the Marathon and possibly other targets.

Let the subpoenas fly and the hearings begin.

Earthquake GOPs Favorite Constitutional Scholar Opposes Federal Tort Reform Bills



Prof. Randy Barnett of Georgetown University Law Center is arguably the GOP’s favorite Constitutional scholar. He co-authored an amicus brief for the National Federation of Independent Business in the 11th Circuit review of the State of Florida’s anti-ObamaCare case; he has written often about and testified to the unconstitutionality of ObamaCare before the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee; and he’s among the leading experts on the original intent of the Founding Fathers’ writings, including the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Just last week, he appeared with Congressional Republicans to announce the introduction of the Repeal Amendment, which would allow states to repeal federal laws under certain conditions.

So it’s stunning that Prof. Barnett has written two pieces today on the unconstitutionality of any federally enacted tort reform, beginning with H.R. 5, the Republican-sponsored “HEALTH Act,” which would severely limit all health care-related lawsuits. In an op-ed appearing in the Sunday edition of the Washington Examiner, Prof. Barnett wrote:

Congress is now considering the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011.” This bill alters state medical malpractice rules by, for example, placing caps on noneconomic damages. But tort law — the body of rules by which persons seek damages for injuries to their person and property — has always been regulated by states, not the federal government. Tort law is at the heart of what is called the “police power” of states… Indeed, if Congress now can regulate tort law, which has always been at the core of state powers, then Congress, and not the states, has a general police power. This issue concerns constitutional principle, not policy: the fundamental principle that Congress has only limited and enumerated powers, and that Congress should stay within these limits. Constitutional law professors have long cynically ridiculed a “fair-weather federalism” that is abandoned whenever it is inconvenient to someone’s policy preferences. If House Republicans ignore their Pledge to America to assess the Constitution themselves, and invade the powers “reserved to the states” as affirmed by the Tenth Amendment, they will prove my colleagues right.

And in a piece on his blog hosted on the pages of the “Volokh Conspiracy,” he added to his objections as follows:

When I first heard that the House was planning on pursuing tort reform, I was skeptical that there was a constitutional basis for this effort at the federal level, but thought maybe there is some legitimate federal power that, if cleverly deployed, could influence tort law at the state level. So I was disappointed when I read the law firm report on which the sponsors of the bill relied for ‘constitutional authority.’ The report justified the bill under the ‘substantial effects doctrine.’ Not only does this post-New Deal doctrine extend Congress’s power well beyond the regulation of interstate commerce, it does so, not by independently determining whether the activity being regulated actually has a substantial affect on interstate commerce, but instead on whether Congress had a ‘rational basis’ for believing that it did. Thus does the Court defer to Congress, while the House Republicans — just like Congressional Democrats — defer to the Court’s assessment of constitutionality. This ‘double deference’ is one of the secret (to the general public) tricks by which the branches of the federal government can claim to be adhering to the Constitution while actually ignoring it. It is one of the ways important passages of the Constitution’s text became ‘lost.’

But the ‘findings’ of the bill are even worse:

“EFFECT ON INTERSTATE COMMERCE

“Congress finds that the health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce and the health care liability litigation systems existing throughout the United States are activities that affect interstate commerce by contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care system providers.”

These ‘findings’ are based on the effects on interstate commerce, not only of the ‘health care and insurance industries,’ but also of ‘health care liability litigation systems throughout the United States’ — that is, on the affects on interstate commerce of state courts themselves! So Congress has the power to regulate tort law because state courts affect interstate commerce. By this principle, Congress has a general police power over any matter not adjudicated by state common law courts.

Prof. Barnett’s logic is irrefutable, if you believe in restoring the original intent of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. If, instead, you adhere to the position that the post-Wickard line of Supreme Court decisions justifies H.R. 5, then… get ready for ObamaCare.

This is an intellectual earthquake. Prof. Barnett’s two pieces and the posts and letter by Constitutional conservative Rob Natelson of the Independence Institute trump the theories behind the business community’s long war to pre-empt all state laws and courts and deprive us of our Constitutional rights. Now the battle in Congress is fully joined. It’s the Founding Fathers vs. the U.S. Chamber. It’s the original intent of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to limit Uncle Sam’s power vs. new judge-made doctrines expanding Uncle Sam’s power. It’s the moral authority of principle and conscience vs. the naked power of business-side PAC dollars and scores of lobbyists. If GOP Congressmen and Senators vote their conscience, it’ll be no contest. Call your Congressman and tell him to save the Constitution and Bill of Rights by opposing H.R. 5.

Academic Bias Turns Rob Natelson Into Conservative Hero



Rob Natelson retired from the University of Montana Law School last year and joined the Independence Institute in Colorado, thus relieving himself from a years of persecution and discrimination for being a vocal and active conservative. In 2004, after the law school had failed to recognize his prolific scholarship, denied him the opportunity for a sabbatical, and then refused to assign him to teach constitutional law, he filed a discrimination complaint, and the UM President ruled in his favor. The dean of the law school at the time admitted that their poor treatment had nothing to do with Natelson’s work or professional conduct with his students. This week, the law school paid him back for that victory (and probably his anti-ObamaCare stance) and dissed him one last time, denying him an emeritus status that seems de rigeur for other retiring professors there. Natelson described his lonely road at UM in a comment on Volokh Conspiracy, the legal blog: “For the first five years I was on the faculty, I was not politically active and my views were largely unknown-and I was treated rather well by both faculty and students. After I became involved in politics (strictly on my own time, of course), things became quite different. (As a Reagan conservative, I was essentially a minority of one among faculty.) And the more visible politically I was at any given time, the more negative the response.”

But, like many instances of academic bias against a real conservative, the only thing that UM has really done has been to turn Rob Natelson into a conservative hero. His case has been discussed on Real Clear Politics and a number of conservative websites, in addition to being noted on legal blogs like Volokh and the ABA Journal. But I didn’t need them to tell me about Rob Natelson’s principles or resolve. I’ve come to know and appreciate Rob Natelson as a respected scholar and Constitutional conservative, as well as a nice guy, through a series of e-mails with him as he tried to persuade Congress to reject an unconstitutional federal medical malpractice law. His letter to the chairmen of two House committees and blog posts warning Congress of the ramifications of that law planted sufficient doubt in the minds of Republican lawmakers that tort reformers tried to counter him with an analysis of their own, and it fell flat. Many scholars would’ve shied away from criticizing powerful lawmakers over one of their favorite bills. But fortunately Rob Natelson isn’t like most scholars.

BP Breaks Its Promises Feinberg Doesnt Stop Them Congress Heads For Vacation



On July 19th, independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported that Gulf Coast fishermen had been told that BP and the $20 billion Feinberg-managed fund would subtract money they earn while working on the cleanup effort from any future damages claims, breaking an express promise by BP made to fishermens’ attorneys. He quoted from a letter sent on May 3 to an Interim Liaison Counsel for the BP cases in which A.T. Chenault, a lawyer representing BP, promised, “Lastly, we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have.” I can report that as of this afternoon, those fishermen are still being told that their cleanup earnings will offset their claims filed against BP for lost business earnings. Obviously, Ken Feinberg’s firm, which is being paid by BP as he establishes the fund, has done nothing to force BP to keep the promise less than two weeks after the disaster by its attorney to families of the victims. And it’s important to remember that BP still hasn’t signed any legally binding agreement to pay anything to anybody for any damages.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House is now on its August recess, and the Senate will join it later this week, after it votes to confirm Elena Kagan as the next Supreme Court Justice. The latest Senate bill introduced to deal with maritime liability limits is really weak compared to the House-passed SPILL Act; it not only doesn’t give the workers in commercial fishing industry, the most dangerous most dangerous in America, their 7th Amendment right to ask a jury to hold a fishing company accountable for negligence, but it fails to even do the minimum needed for the families of the 11 men who died onboard the Deepwater Horizon in the rig explosion. Incredibly, the bill language leaves open the potential that the families will receive no compensation, because it doesn’t repeal the Limitation on Liability Act, not even for personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Senators supporting the commercial fishing and shipping industries have successfully cut the SPILL Act in half. But it won’t really matter what that language says, because the half-loaf maritime liability bill is buried inside an energy bill that, on its own, has virtually no chance of enactment.

So Congress will be on vacation while (1) Feinberg lets BP lie to the fishermen who clean up its mess and cut their damage claims; (2) BP gets away with the “Exxon Valdez” modus operandi of ducking a legal commitment to paying all the damages; and (3) the families of the victims, including widows and orphans, still lack a clear roadmap to either recovering for the full amount needed to continue to live or to even exercising their Constitutional rights to pursue BP and its partners in court. BP will have no incentive, let alone legislated requirement, to do anything but stretch out its recovery responsibilities over a 20-year period, as Exxon did.

The Founding Fathers would not be impressed.

Contact – The 7th Amendment Advocate



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On Constitution Day, Don’t Let Tort Reform and Forced Arbitration Threaten Your Rights
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog
Bipartisan Demands That GM Drop Civil Immunity Claim in Bankruptcy Court
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog
Happy 799th Anniversary, Magna Carta & Civil Jury Trials!
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog
Any “Conservative Governing Vision” Should Promote This “Sacred” Right
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog
Look Who’s Forging Right-Left Coalition to Stop Crony Capitalism
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog
(Updated) Pro-Seventh Amendment Conference on March 21 at Regent U. Law School
on The 7th Amendment Advocate Blog

Not Having Beer For Sale Everywhere



Between legal gay marriage and decriminalized marijuana, you’d think this Commonwealth of ours is as morally corrupt and Commie-loving as our many detractors would have you believe. I look forward to the day that San Francisco falls into the ocean due to a catastrophic earthquake and Boston values will finally become the war cry of the conservative talk show set.

What separates the myth of Boston as a super-liberal Valhalla and its reality is that we can’t buy beer at just any store in the state. What is that? Things would be a whole lot easier for this kid here if I could pull over at the Shell on the way home and grab some beers. But no, not in this nanny state. Instead I have to walk — walk for fucks sake! — up to the subway station and then do that weird hand switch with the beers every three minutes on the ride home because I’m too atrophied to be able to carry a 30 pack of Stroh’s ten blocks. Is there any logical reason for this? You’d think that the Puritans, who died out approximately 400 years ago, wouldn’t still have an iron grip on our liberties, but apparently you’d be mistaken.

So to protest I’m going to walk up the street with just under an ounce of weed and gay marry a buddy of mine so I can get free health benefits through his work. Hopefully, we’ll be able to lug two 30 packs back to my place for the reception. Woah, wait. I can get affordable health care through the state? Alright, cancel that marriage license. Still though, this religious beer rules shit is ridiculous.

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Saying You Liked the Book Better



This one seems like shooting retarded fish in a barrel, and yet everyone, including me and you and every other person you’ve ever talked to do this all the time and are probably doing it right now.

We do understand the impulse. There are certain conversational prompts that subconsciously elicit an automatic response from people. Like when someone brings up whatever jerkoff northeastern college you went to, or the backwater town you came from, you are automatically compelled to identify yourself as one of their tribe. It’s Pavlov’s dog shit — which, by the way, bringing up Pavlov’s dog is on the List as well — or some prehistoric caveman response system. It basically means don’t stab me with a rock and rape my family, except in this instance you’re talking about belonging to some dickhead author’s cult of personality (Authors.) and not where the best place to hide from dinosaurs is.

Knowledge is power, right? When you let the person you’re talking to know that you’ve gathered information they aren’t necessarily privy to, you’re trying to come off like some Heart of Darkness motherfucker returned from parts unknown with news of the mysterious. But instead you’re just a dude who’s been all the way to Border’s and back on a mission for Oprah. Magellan with a kindle over here.

Save it, we all know the book was better. And we all know you’re a douche, but you don’t have to come right out and show us every chance you get, do you?

Small Talk at the Dentist



Spoiler alert, but this one has got kind of a twist ending. It turns out that no matter how bad you thought listening to some East Asian second son who shamed his parents by going to dental school instead of becoming a surgeon prattle on about the weather or the Red Sox while he’s got a metal spike jammed into the inside of your face was, the opposite is far, far worse. Dude I’m seeing right now, you know,

dentally

, does not say shit the entire time. I just had a crown put on yesterday, which if you don’t know is like a hat for your tooth, except it costs a thousand bucks and makes it feel like you’re chewing on a stone for the rest of your life. The procedure takes about three hours on the first visit, which is bad enough. But try sitting there in stone, grim silence while you stare into another man’s eyes. It got to the point where I wanted to pull the drill out of my mouth and ask the dude how his fantasy football team was doing. Just the whir of a tiny bone saw and the meaty, metallic smell of decayed tooth being burnt away by a drill to keep me company. If I hadn’t already had to ride the bus to get there in the first place I might have easily imagined that this was my own private VIP area of hell.

Literally anything would have been preferable to staring into that gaping, silent void. Come to think of it, someone write that shit on my tombstone.

Happy International Unfunny Liars Day re-post




Re-post of a re-post of a re-reun of a simulacrum.

 
You know what needs to go on the list? Buffalo wings.  Football too. And blow jobs. All of those things are awful. LOL Just kidddddding you guys! I’m just hoaxing you. Those things aren’t on the list.  It’s  actually just international unfunny liars day today. The day we get to make things up and drop comedy bricks on each other with abandon. Like the fact that you thought this was a new post, but it’s really just a version of the same one I wrote last year for April Fool’s.

It’s also a tradition for newspapers and magazines to run phony stories which are either so obviously fake you sort of have to wonder what the point is, or believable enough to be true and get your attention for five seconds only to reach the stunning twist at the end which is basically this: just kidding. But the joke is on them, because no one reads newspapers and magazines any more. (Actually that joke is also on me.
Fuuuck.)

Here are some good ones I just looked up in five seconds on Wikipedia, which is like the April Fool’s Day of information:


Last year The Guardian announced that it would be the first newspaper to publish exclusively on Twitter.

Everyone probably had a good pinkie-raising chuckle reading this over their morning tea. Won’t be so funny in five years when it’s actually true though will it?

Every year National Public Radio in the United States does an extensive news story on April 1. These usually start off more or less reasonably, and get more and more unusual. A recent example is the story on the “iBod” a portable body control device.In 2008 it reported that the IRS, to assure rebate checks were actually spent, was shipping consumer products instead of checks

.

It also runs false sponsor mentions, such as “Support for NPR comes from the Soylent Corporation, manufacturing protein-rich food products in a variety of colors. Soylent Green is People.

Hoooo-boy, is there any one less funny than a chin-bearded 55 year old with a rainbow Democrat bumper sticker on his tote bag?

Oh wait, of course there is:

On April 1, 2009, on the heels of the autho industry bailout, Car and Driver claimed on their website that President Barack Obama had ordered Chevrolet and Dodge to pull NASCAR funding. The article was removed from the website and replaced with an apology to readers, after upset NASCAR fans protested on the Car and Driver website. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter notably fell for the joke.

OK, so NASCAR fans and Ann Coulter are fucking morons, everyone knows that, but a lot of the credit for this souffle of comedy failure has to go to the magazine itself too. Here’s a quick comedy lesson for the five people reading this site, all of whom should know better anyway: Saying something as if it were true, but actually meaning the opposite [!] is not a prank. It’s called lying. It’s also called irony, but never mind that for now.

Here’s another good one I fell for last year

, because like every other god damned holiday apparently April Fool’s is going to start flopping over the top of its allotted space. (Like your love handles in those skinny jeans, say.) In this one the editor of Deadspin, the sports blog where commentors compete to string Simpsons and Caddyshack quotes together the fastest beneath articles about mean coaches and athlete penises, the editor posted a fake write up about his arrest for a DUI. Turns out it was all a joke. Should have seen that one coming, I suppose. That seems entirely implausible that a thirty something sports fan would get a DUI. Nicely played, Deadspin.

It’s gotten to the point where even things that are supposed to be true are hard to believe on this jovial day of mischief. If you turned on the tv right now last year and they told you, say, Rhode Island was being washed away in a deluge, would you believe it? I know you wouldn’t care, but would you believe it?

“Water flowed like a torrent around the Warwick Mall, with rapids approaching the front doors of a Macy’s and an Old Navy store and putting a movie theater under water. Cars were submerged up to their roofs. Oil slicks floated on top of muddy water through neighborhoods,” the story reads. “The heavy rain is the latest setback to Rhode Island, which has struggled for months with an unemployment rate nearing 13 percent – about 3 percentage points higher than the national average. Some of the areas worst hit were business districts, including the area around the Warwick Mall, one of the state’s major shopping areas.”

Got to be a joke right? No one in Rhode Island can actually afford to go shopping. Haha, just kidding guys. I love Rhode Island. (No I don’t.) Or do I?

See what I did there? That’s how April Fool’s pranks are done my friends, painfully boring, awkward and just sort of depressing for everyone involved. Like living in Rhode Island in general, you might say.

The List is a man and he walks among us




Having to listen to anyone talk about anything anywhere is bad enough, but when you combine the impressive powers of banality of a Watertown, MA townie with the vast cultural void of a self-identifying “Italian” and roll all of that into a collapsed circus tent of a giant with a floppy purple eggplant head who spends all his time at the gym rehashing sports talk radio bits with barely interested guys unlucky enough to be standing in his sweat blast zone what you get is the literal embodiment of the List.

So, congratulations everyone. You can stop searching because I found our guy. Turns out he looks a lot like the alternate universe version of Kevin McHale where instead of smoking dudes on the reg on the low post he dedicated his life to dunking cheese pies into his teeth.

In this universe, however this dude is all too real. I sort of want all of you guys to meet him. List field trip?

That reminds me, I need to get one of those speech to text features on my phone because I could probably just point it at his face every day and the List would write itself. That way I wouldn’t have to put in all this hard work like I do all the time.

So why not just avoid this guy, you might ask? He’s got one of those smoke-burnt fog-cutter voices that blasts everything within a 100 yard radius with sketchy accent germs, and he goes about six foot nine, both ways. Easier said than done. And there’s no acquaintance too casual, or too disinterested that won’t stop him from calling out across the room in greeting. No worries if there’s no one around to repeat ESPN talking points to in person though. He’s got the burner on standby and a contact list full of friends to shout at on a moment’s notice.

So, stay tuned for updates from my man’s daily lectures. Like today’s turd-cutter wisdom about ethnicity:

List Man: Hey man. How’s the kid?
Quiet Mustachioed Fellow: Good, thanks.
LM: Hey, where are you from?
QMF: Guatemala.
LM: No shit, my wife’s from Guatemalan. I been there. Your kid is halfie though, right?
QMF: Um.
LM: Hmmm. He doesn’t look Spanish, your kid. He’s white.
QMF: Well, my wife is from El Salvador.
LM: Nah, your kid looks white. He don’t look Spanish.
QMF: …
LM: He don’t look Spanish.
QMF: Well, I, um…
LM: Yeah, I been to Guatemala once.

[Enters black guy]

LM: What up

16 Cost-Effective Ways to Grow a Company Culture That Helps You Keep



Is Your Grass the Greenest?

16 (Cost-Effective) Ways to Grow a Company Culture That Helps You Keep Your Keepers

by Dr. Joanne Sujansky

In today’s highly competitive business world, your employees have a lot of options. KEYGroup’s Joanne Sujansky shares some innovative ideas on how to keep them from seeking greener pastures — without breaking the bank.

Employees matter. No, they really matter.

In fact, as the forces of globalism and the proliferation of technology relentlessly level the proverbial playing field, it’s safe to say that the men and women who work for you are everything.

Think about it. Your competitors have access to the exact same resources as you. That means infinite choices exist, not only for your customers, but for your employees as well. According to Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D, CSP, if you’re not seeking ways to nurture them and meet their needs, they will seek greener pastures — and your customers will follow them over the fence.

“Many leaders don’t realize that the rules of business have changed almost overnight,” says Sujansky, founder and CEO of KEYGroup. “The old paradigm says that your primary focus should be on keeping your customer happy. The new paradigm says the employee has taken over that spot. Keep her engaged and she’ll keep your customers happy. Neglect her needs and she won’t be so concerned about keeping her end of the bargain. In the end, not only will she go elsewhere, your customers may follow suit.”

Make no mistake: when employees start searching for greener pastures, it’s a bona fide disaster. After all, your employees are the face of your organization. They build strong relationships with customers and vendors, they know the ins and outs of your operation, they train new hires and indoctrinate them into the company culture. On top of that, when you lose great employees, it hurts customer retention and the morale of the rest of your team.

And every time a great employee leaves, you have to shell out the cost of rehiring and retraining his replacement — a cost that studies have shown could range from 70 to 200 percent of that person’s annual salary. You also lose that employee’s institutional memory, another great asset for your company.

Clearly, preventing “greener pasture” syndrome must be top priority for today’s leaders. And while it might sound self-evident, the best approach is to make your pasture the greenest. Ultimately, that means becoming what Sujansky calls a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Organization, or VEO: a company with a culture that allows that elusive sense of employee ownership to flourish. But in the short run, it means making your company a place employees truly want to be — and “lip service” won’t do the trick.

“You might be proclaiming that you are the leading company in your industry or marketplace in huge letters on your mission statement,” says Sujansky. “But if you’re not backing up that sentiment in the day-to-day realities of the workplace, employees will quickly realize the truth.

“And by the way, it isn’t always cash that makes green pastures green,” she adds. “When salaries are commensurate with the marketplace, other factors take priority. Good people stay where they are challenged, where they have the opportunity to develop and contribute, and where their employers take care of those meaningful little things that make their lives easier.”

So here’s the million-dollar question: What are these secret little things that will help you keep your employees engaged and productive? And on behalf of all of the non-mega corporations out there, how can you do it without breaking the bank?

Here are 16 easy-to-plant (and inexpensive!) “seeds” that will help your pasture be the greenest for your future and current employees:

Seed #1: Don’t misrepresent your culture. Engaging your employees starts with the first time you interview them. What do you say to your new hires about the company? Is it really an accurate representation of how your organization works? Do you tell them about exciting opportunities only to hold them back from new assignments until they “pay their dues”?

“When new employees find out how things are really done, not only will they resent you, they’ll likely find somewhere else to work,” says Sujansky. “One insurance company learned this lesson the hard way. The company took on 12 new hires whose values they felt matched the company’s. However, after only two years, all 12 of the new hires had left, citing the same reason: The values leaders said they stood for were not actually upheld. This company could talk the talk, but they couldn’t walk the walk. Every company should be honest about the kind of work environment it represents.”

“If your culture isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, tell your new hires about the type of company you are striving to become, tell them how you are going to get there, and how they can help you get there,” she adds. “They’ll find the honesty refreshing, and it will help them get off to a great start.”

Seed #2: Learn the rules of engagement. Bored employees are neither happy nor productive. To keep your employees engaged and satisfied, present them with challenging assignments and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop.

American Century Investments pays 75 percent of employees’ tuition when they take a course that isn’t related to their job. If you are limited with funding options, you can always help employees to use their special skills and talents in their everyday job. (In other words, let your employees graze in other parts of your company’s pasture, and sometimes in entirely new pastures!)

“Not surprisingly, employees appreciate it when their employers take an interest in their future inside and outside the company,” says Sujansky. “A great way to do that is by providing opportunities for employees to improve on their skills or learn a new skill they can use in their everyday jobs. Either practice provides you with an opportunity to create a well-rounded, productive employee.”

Seed #3: Cross-pollinate your culture by embracing diversity. It takes a lot of different influences — diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual preference, lifestyle, geographic origin, education, personality, values, experience, socio-economic background and so forth — to make your pasture the greenest. A diverse workforce creates an energy that can rarely exist in an environment of uniformity. Companies that bring together a diverse group of people to get the job done are richer, more stimulating and, frankly, more fun.

Leaders need to encourage the involvement of all team members who, in turn, need to feel comfortable about offering suggestions and challenging ideas or practices. By hiring employees from all walks of life, you’ll create an environment where differing ideas flow freely. Learn how to use these ideas to better your company, and you’ll create an environment where top talent wants to stay.

Seed #4: Be a good corporate citizen. Once upon a time, the corporate heads of many organizations had one concern: “How much money can we make, and how fast can we make it?”

Well, money still matters, of course. But today’s employers are finding that they have to care about more than just profits if they want to keep their employees happy. The environment, health, and safety have never been more in the spotlight; as a result, employees want to work for companies who take these factors into consideration.

In fact, a study by the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College found that 30 percent of employers say that good corporate citizenship helps them recruit and retain employees. Good corporate citizens maintain high ethical standards, decrease the negative effects their company has on the environment, and give back to the community. A great example of a good corporate citizen is Patagonia, whose environmental activism program works to protect undomesticated lands and waters.

“There are many ways to become a good corporate citizen,” says Sujansky. “You can reward employees who carpool or use mass transit to get to work, you can set goals to reduce the amount of energy your organization uses, you can schedule monthly trips for employees to help out at local soup kitchens or get involved with programs such as Relay for Life or the March of Dimes.”

Seed #5: Give praise where praise is due. If someone does a great job, let him know. It’s that simple. And then let his co-workers know. And then let his customers know! Recognizing a job well done isn’t an expensive proposition, but it will mean the world to your employee.

“A good way to achieve employee recognition on a regular basis is to create an employee recognition program,” says Sujansky. “You might give managers the authority to reward their employees on the spot — say, with a gift certificate or a small cash bonus right then and there.”

Kimley-Horn & Assoc., an engineering consultancy headquartered in Cary, NC, even allows fellow employees to reward one another with $50 bonuses. Employees not only enjoy the rewards themselves, but they also see that what they’re doing truly matters.

Seed #6: Get creative with benefits. You don’t have to provide your employees with onsite medical care and state-of-the-art fitness centers. In fact, you probably can’t. But do realize that your employees are looking at benefits other than those that meet the norm — such as health insurance and a 401(k) — when considering the elusive “happiness” factor. These “normal” benefits are really the price of admission because employees can get them almost anywhere. It’s up to you to think outside the box and figure out the benefits that will…well…benefit them the most.

“There are many inexpensive ways to satisfy your employees; you just have to use your imagination,” says Sujansky. “Take a note from Qualcomm. In addition to offering an amazing healthcare package, the company caters dinner for employees who work late, a relatively inexpensive perk that is sure to please hungry, hardworking employees.” Other options include providing access to dry-cleaning services, treating all of its employees to lunch once a week, or providing them with on-site educational programs delivered by local experts or company vendors in a wide variety of fields.

Seed #7: Be aware of the changing needs of your employees. Keep in mind that as your employees progress in life, their needs change. After having a child, an employee might want to travel less than before the child was born.

As your baby boomer employees get older, so do their parents. Be understanding when they need to take time off to take care of the health needs of Mom or Dad. And never give them a hard time when they need to take care of their own health issues.

By understanding the changing needs, you show sensitivity to what’s going on their lives. You demonstrate that you see them as people, not just cogs in the machine. Not only will you build loyalty with your employees, but you will help them bring stability to their personal lives — which means when they are at work they can place all of their focus on getting the job done.

Seed #8: Realize that great employees thrive under great leaders. Your employees won’t leave you for that greener pasture unless you drive them to it. The buck starts and stops with their leaders. In fact, it’s commonly said that employees don’t quit their job, they quit their manager.

“Employees of great leaders will go to the ends of the earth to do a good job for them,” says Sujansky. “The flip side is that employees with poor leadership will simply go.”

The take-away lesson? Pay attention to your front-line managers. Keep a close eye on their relationships with employees, and get rid of bad managers when necessary. If your employees see that you care about who you enlist as a leader, they’ll feel more secure and will work even harder.

Seed #9: Conduct “stay” interviews regularly. Great employees like to hear about what they can do to make the company even better. Regular “stay” interviews provide a great opportunity for leaders to compliment their high performers on their great work and also to inspire them to do more to take the company to the next level.

“Use these interviews to gauge how well you are meeting your employees’ needs,” says Sujansky. “Be open and honest with your employees, and always seek out their suggestions on what you and the company can do to improve.”

Seed #10: Create the kind of environment where people can do their best work. Is your work environment restrictive and stifling, or is it freeing and innovative? By allowing your employees to develop and implement their own ideas within your organization, you’ll be able to help keep them passionate about their work.

To show its appreciation for innovation, Google allows their engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on independent projects. You should also make sure your employees have what they need on a basic level. Do they have the equipment they need? The right computer programs to work efficiently? Nothing frustrates an employee more than not having everything he needs to get the job done.

Seed #11: Help employees to achieve work/life balance. In today’s high-tech world, it is easy to set employees up so that they can work from home. Here’s the problem: too many companies do this and then expect employees to be “on call” 24/7. If you give this impression, even subtly or unconsciously, you’re disrupting their work/life balance.

Employees in today’s workforce saw their parents give their lives to companies while missing soccer games, recitals and family dinners, only to be laid off at age 55 without much hope for finding other employment. Today’s working generation seems to share the sentiment of ‘We’re not going to let that happen to us!’ They actively seek out companies who make providing a true work/life balance a priority.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) went so far as to place someone in charge of helping employees maintain work/life balance. “Providing flexible hours or allowing your employees to work from home shows them you value the lives they have outside the office,” says Sujansky.

Seed #12: Insist that your employees take vacations. As an employer, you might be thinking, “If they would rather keep working than take a vacation, who am I to stop them? The more they’re working the better it is for us!” Several studies show that employees who take vacations are less stressed, lead a healthier lifestyle, and are even at lower risk of having heart disease. All of that means lower healthcare costs for you.

Furthermore, employees who get away from the office are less likely to suffer burnout, a problem that harms productivity levels. If it isn’t possible for employees to take a full week off, encourage them to take shorter, more frequent vacations.

“Here’s a great opportunity for you to lead by example,” says Sujansky. “Take time off to show them how important you think it is, and when they are enjoying their own time off, don’t call them with problems that can wait until they return. Always encourage your employees to leave their laptops and work-related papers at the office. If they are able to completely disengage, they will come back with renewed spirits — which, in turn, will help them reach their company goals.”

Seed #13: Create an environment of trust between employer and employee. Employees are happier and work harder when they feel like they can trust their leaders. They decide which leaders they can trust based on how their fellow employees, company vendors and customers are treated.

As a leader, do you treat all with whom you come into contact with respect? Do you behave ethically and hold others accountable for their actions? When you have to take tough action, like terminating someone, do you follow proper steps and treat the person with dignity in the process? If an employee sees you treating someone else poorly, whether it’s a vendor or a fellow employee, his level of trust diminishes and he starts to care less about doing a good job for you.

In addition, remember that trust is a two-way street. Your employees need to feel that you trust them as well. To prove this, companies such as Chaparral Steel and Nucor Steel have opted to get rid of time clocks, and Best Buy has increased productivity at its headquarters by allowing some employees to make their own hours rather than work the typical 9 to 5 shift. By monitoring their employees less, the focus for both the employees and their leaders is placed on the work at hand. And because employees in these companies feel trusted and appreciated, they do a great job to show their gratitude.

Seed #14: Rid your pasture of weeds. The weeds in your figurative pasture are those poor performers and negative employees who stifle the good attitudes and high performance of their fellow employees. If you’re not pulling out your weeds, then it’s likely their counterparts won’t stick around and keep working with them. They’ll choke out your best performers.

“Any environment where employees are not held accountable for their actions, whether they’re positive or negative, can create a poor working environment,” says Sujansky. “The greenest pastures are never filled with weeds, so keep that in mind when you are growing and developing yours.”

Seed #15: Use internship and mentoring programs to grow and nurture new talent. These programs allow promising prospects and employees to learn what your company culture is all about while also developing their own professional skills. They offer a win-win situation for your company because they allow you to get a good look at new talent without paying out a huge salary or making a long-term commitment.

The Egg Factory, LLC, offers what they call the Innovation Challenge to help interns learn about innovation and entrepreneurship. Many journalism internships, including those offered by The New York Times, send their interns right out to find stories, and some of the best programs allow interns to shadow the company’s top-tier executives.

Seed #16: Take a seasonal approach to showing employees you care. “There are any number of ways to do this,” says Sujansky. “Be creative. In summer, consider giving half-days off on Friday, or give a half-day off before an employee’s vacation to help her minimize the stress of leaving town. Even something as simple as providing fresh fruit or flowers for the office can make an impact. At the holidays, bring in gift wrappers or give employees a day off to take care of their seasonal shopping. These ideas aren’t expensive, and they go a long way toward showing employees that you care.”

“Striving to keep employees happy and engaged is not just a nice thing to do,” says Sujansky. “It’s the right thing to do if you want to create a successful business. Furthermore, it’s not just a matter of trying to retain people for retention’s sake to avoid the high cost of recruitment, for instance. Engaged employees are creative, productive, motivated and brimming with good ideas. Not only will they stay, they’ll be fully committed to their jobs and to the company’s success.”

# # #

For more than 25 years, Joanne G. Sujansky, PhD, CSP, has been helping leaders to increase business growth and profitability by creating and sustaining what she calls a Vibrant Entrepreneurial Organization. Her expertise, insight, wisdom, humor and practical solutions have made her a highly sought-after speaker for keynote addresses, seminars, conferences and workshops. She has brought fresh concepts and effective techniques to executives and audiences in 30+ countries around the globe.

Sujansky has written numerous articles and books on leadership, change and retention. The founder of KEYGroup, she is an award-winning entrepreneur. Earlier in her career, she held management- and director-level positions across several different industries. She is past national president of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), and is a recipient of its highest honor, the Gordon M. Bliss Award. An active member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), she has received its highest earned designation, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP).

For more information, visit www.keygroupconsulting.comor www.joannesujansky.com.


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10 VBS Ideas for Small Churches



10 VBS Ideas for Small Churches

Small churches face logistical challenges when carrying out a vacation Bible school that large churches don’t even worry about. LifeWay Research, via the Baptist Press, offers 10 ideas for making VBS more feasible. These tips are among the list:

  • Co-op with other small churches in your area.
  • Ask local businesses to sponsor some part of your Vacation Bible School in exchange for publicity.
  • Ask church members to buy or donate a specific item.

To read the full list, visit the source.

Source:

The Baptist Press: 10 VBS Tips for Smaller Churches


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ACLU Attacks Gideons School Over Bible Handouts



Members of Gideons International and the Findlay City Schools in Findlay, Ohio, are facing scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union after Gideons stood near a school building to pass out Bibles to students as they left school.

The Associated Press reported that the ACLU is threatening to sue in what they say is a blatant disregard for the separation of church and state. According to the report, fifth grade students from all five of the city’s elementary schools left class one day in March and were escorted to nearby sidewalks where Gideons gave students free Bibles. Students were not required to take Bibles.

Findlay City School Superintendent Dean Wittwer said the district is reviewing its policy for receiving materials from community groups. Christine Link, the executive director of ACLU for Ohio, told reporters that it’s unacceptable for the school to sacrifice class time for easy access to Bibles.

Conflicting reports from WTVG-TV in Toledo, Ohio, however assert that the students received the Bibles after leaving school  – outside of the parameters of the school day. It’s also not clear whether or not the Gideons were standing on sidewalks or on school grounds.

Chris Brooks, principal at Bigelow Hill Elementary School in Findlay, told reporters, “You’ve got to look at the context of the community. This is a Christian community. I’m not saying everybody is, but that’s where Findlay is.”

Gideon Bibles contain the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. Many of them are pocket-sized.

Findlay has a population of about 38,000 and is 50 miles south of Toledo and 100 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio.

A New Acoustical Model for Contemporary Worship



Worship music hasn’t undergone many significant changes — until the last two decades, that is. In this time, worship music in many churches has rapidly moved from traditional worship forms using organ, piano and choir, to band instruments consisting of drums, bass and lead guitars, keyboards and amplified vocals.

These changes in worship forms have caused acousticians and sound system designers to look for new models for their designs.

Traditional Worship

In many mainline denominations, worship has traditionally been led using organ, piano and a choir as the primary sources. The church congregation also enjoyed hearing each other’s voices as part of the worship experience. Both the organ and congregational singing enveloped the worshiper, giving the feel of being part of a heavenly choir.

Sanctuaries designed with fairly reverberant or “live” acoustics provided this feeling of worship. The room needed enough reverberation to support organ and choral music, but not so much that the spoken word of God could not be clearly understood.

Standards were developed with recommended reverberation times based on a room’s cubic volume and particular uses. It was generally desired to have more bass or low-frequency reverberation than high frequency to give the room warmth, especially for organ music.

Contemporary Worship

As a younger generation has brought the music they grew up with (rock-and-roll) into the church, congregations began to experience a great deal of frustration with typical “traditional” church acoustics. Drums and bass guitars lost any form of definition or separation. Punchy, upbeat music became muddled and overbearing. The answer seemed to be to design rooms with very muted acoustics so that there was little to no reverberation or acoustical energy left in the room. Although this worked quite well for band music and speech clarity, it greatly inhibited congregational participation. The feeling of being part of a heavenly choir was replaced with the feeling of a kick drum in your belly! The rooms became quite lifeless and congregants felt as if they were singing by themselves, therefore they held back and did not enter as enthusiastically into worship.

Enter a Whole New Approach

Although there are still a number of traditional worship congregations enjoying organ and choral music, the current trend seems to be moving toward praise and worship music, some of it very contemporary. A number of these refer to themselves as “seeker-sensitive,” desiring little to no congregational participation. These churches are targeting non-religious people who don’t know the songs and might not want anyone to hear them sing.

However, the majority of congregations we have worked with, that are moving to more contemporary music, still desire to be a part of a heavenly choir, even though drums, guitars, and a praise team lead the worship. The problem has been, if the room reflects enough acoustical energy to surround the congregation, the percussive nature of band instruments runs together, resulting in very poor-quality band music. If the room is acoustically muted enough for excellent band music, then the members of the congregation feel as if they are singing by themselves.

Working together as a sound system designer and acoustician, we have developed a completely new model for the design of contemporary worship spaces. We wanted to find a way to control energy in the room for praise type music while maintaining nearby reflected energy for congregational singing.

This new model consists of two acoustical environments working together. The upper ceiling (“outer environment”) is an acoustically dampened shell with absorption to control bass frequencies and prevent acoustical energy from remaining in the room longer than desired. The inner shell consists of acoustical “clouds” or gyp. board reflecting planes fairly low over the congregation or choir, as well as shaped, sound-diffusing walls providing reinforcement of congregational singing.

In addition, some of the wall planes might also have sound-absorbing panels of variable thickness to remove low-frequency sound energy. These are designed to prevent echoes from the platform area or from the sound system loudspeakers, and to minimize unwanted resonances or focusing effects.

Control of high sound levels on the platform from the band instruments or monitor loudspeakers is also crucial. Since everything is amplified, overhead acoustic reflectors are not necessary, and the area above the platform can be made highly sound-absorptive. This also provides a flexible area for special theatrical lighting, curtains, screens, etc.

This new model proved to be extremely successful in a recently completed 2,200-seat sanctuary for McKinney Memorial Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas. The worship style is very contemporary, with a band and praise team and sub-woofers, and yet the congregation still desires to experience the worship through singing. Reverberation is quite muted for lower frequencies while higher frequencies are a little higher than normally achieved.

The main difference is that the acoustical clouds suspended over the congregation provide acoustical energy back to the congregation quickly, without bouncing many times around the room (which would result in longer reverberation times). Controlled low-frequency energy and quick reflected energy to the congregation is the best of both worlds. The result is music, which is punchy without being “muddy”, and speech that’s very clear and intelligible.

It’s equally important that the sound system be designed specifically for this acoustical environment. Contemporary worship places high demands on sound systems and must be considered as part of the whole package.

Noise (The Hidden Factor)

The other important element in the success of this model is low background noise most commonly produced from the building HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning System). Higher background noise levels mask out or cover up the congregational singing, preventing people from hearing the cumulative effect of a roomful of beautiful singing. Without the reduced noise levels, the acoustical model above will not be effective.

Not only does this background noise mask out congregational worship, it also covers up the subtleties of music and harmonies from the praise band. It also forces the sound system to be operated more loudly, resulting in a forced or amplified sound rather than a pleasant or natural sound for speech. A quiet room allows the pastor to lower his voice for effect and still be clearly heard. An intimate, conversational style of teaching seems to be preferred in most of the contemporary churches with which we work.

The acoustical engineer must work closely with the project mechanical designer in order to design a quiet system. Many mechanical designers are trained to design efficient systems for moving air, but have little training or experience in noise control. This is also true for the mechanical contractor. It’s best if the acoustical engineer is hired to check the installation to be certain guidelines have been followed.

Construction

We have found it important for the building designers and building contractors to be able to work closely together to achieve the desired results. There are many construction factors that affect noise, acoustics and sound isolation issues. Most contractors don’t place noise control and acoustics as top priorities, and often “value engineer” projects to reduce budget. This often has an adverse effect on the quality of the worship from an acoustical point of view.

There needs to be some assurance that guidelines will be carried out as intended. We have often partnered with design/build firms to be certain both design criteria and construction objectives are met. Site visits and post-construction testing are other ways to insure that this happens.

In Summary

Worship in churches has changed dramatically! Design and construction of worship centers is far different than it was just a few years ago. The standard approach to acoustics and construction won’t yield the results desired by the modern church. New models of acoustics and construction must be carefully considered in any new worship center where the worship style is contemporary.

# # #

Chris Jordan Bill Johnson represents Acoustic Design Associates and Chris Jordan of Electro Acoustics & Video, Inc.


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A Sound Choice in Audio



By Ahniwake Webb

Anchor Audio provides specialized solutions for sound system needs. As an industry leader for 25 years, the company enjoys a reputation for producing high-quality, rugged sound systems for professional users. Based in Torrance, Calif., the manufacturing facility encompasses 30,000 square feet, enabling Anchor to engineer and build all products locally.

According to the company, Anchor is the largest manufacturer of portable, professional sound systems in the world and the only manufacturer offering a full range of portable audio products. It provides a complete line of portable audio and public address systems as well as lecterns. With an expansive product line, the company enables its users to reach small indoor audiences, large football fields and every crowd in between.

Anchor Audio established itself as a leader in the industry with its commitment to quality, value, reliability and customer service. Every product is rigorously tested before it leaves the Torrance factory. Anchor’s six-year warranty is one of the longest in the industry, and is a testament to the company’s never-fail engineering standard.

Distributing through domestic and international vendors, the company has succeeded in building a reputation as a specialist in vocal reproduction. With about 850 audiovisual dealers in the United States, Anchor’s sound systems host an immense end-user base ranging from cable access TV and schools to independent video producers and community theaters.

The church market is one of Anchor Audio’s primary target markets. “It has been an integral consideration of the development of our portable sound systems,” says Marketing Manager Debbie Lombard. “We focus on the needs of churches in both our indoor and outdoor audio systems throughout our product and technological developments.”

Anchor Audio is continually looking to improve and re-engineer products, Lombard says. “With end-users becoming more technologically savvy and well versed in audio products, we strive to enhance product performance and scales of efficiency,” she adds. The company prides itself on introducing a new product every 18 months, on average. It plans to launch a millennium sound system next summer.


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ANOTHER New Church



Recently, my niece from Los Angeles came in for a visit to see my wife and me in Anderson, S.C., a community of fewer than 70,000. While here, we took her for a drive through Anderson. After we finished, I asked her what she thought about our community. She said, “I can’t get over the number of churches here — they’re everywhere!”

If you take a ride through Anderson, you’ll discover within the first few miles that she’s right. It seems there’s a church on every corner. As a matter of fact, there are more than 250 churches in this relatively small southern town !

One of the questions that I had to deal with in 1999 when casting the vision for NewSpring Community Church was, “Does Anderson really need ANOTHER church?”

The answer was yes!

Even though there seemed to be a church on every corner, according to research, nearly 48 percent of residents in our county didn’t attend church on a regular basis.

I’ve lived in Anderson for more than 15 years and understand this community quite well. The realization I came to was that people hadn’t necessarily rejected God; they’d rejected the Church.

I decided to rally a group of about 15 people around me and cast the vision for something different — not better than what we already had in Anderson, just different. We’d still adhere to orthodox Christian doctrine; however, our methods would be different from the churches in the community that were servicing the other 52 percent.

At NewSpring Community Church we decided to focus on three main things:

Creativity —I happen to believe that the Church should be the most creative place on the planet. It has often been said that if church is boring, then don’t blame God — blame the Church.

Many churches in our society have become boring and predictable, thus causing people to lose interest and to find better things to do with their time. So, we decided to use creative elements in worship. We use a variety of worship music — we even incorporate secular music from time to time. We also use high-tech lighting, videos, drama and set designs. Our desire is for people not just to come to church, but feel engaged and to have an experience with the living God.

Relevance – One of the arguments that many people in the unchurched community use when referring to church is that the Bible is boring and not really relevant to the things we are dealing with in today’s society.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

A key element I discovered during the time when I was doing “field study” (visiting other churches) was that pastors were giving some excellent history lessons and teaching incredibly profound theological insight. People were leaving with a lot of information, but they didn’t necessarily know how to apply it to their everyday lives.

As a pastor, I can talk all day about predestination and the peccability/impeccability of Christ. Nevertheless, the person in the back row whose marriage is falling apart, or is dealing with a troubled teen, doesn’t really care. They want to know how Jesus can help them today.

So we decided to not only focus on teaching solid theology, we also decided to work extremely hard to show people why that particular theology matters.

Excellence — I remember the first church where I was on staff. There was a man who got up to sing. This man began singing, and I actually thought it was some sort of skit. It was so bad I thought my ears were going to bleed. My first thought was, “There’s no way this can seriously be happening!”

If we were honest, we’d have to admit that we’ve all witnessed the same thing. The Church is the only place on the planet where people who can’t sing are allowed to sing; people who can’t teach are allowed to teach; and people who are rude and inconsiderate are allowed to serve as greeters and ushers.

So when we began NewSpring, we made the commitment: We would only do what we could do with excellence. We’d only allow people to serve in areas in which they could excel. Needless to say, we’ve found this to be very effective.

I’m the first to admit that we’re in no way “the perfect church.” We aren’t even close. However, I sincerely believe that if a church will lift up Jesus and desire to see people passionately connected to Him, and they’re willing to not confuse their methodology with their theology, then serious advances can be made in reaching this world for Christ!

In the past six months, our average attendance at NewSpring is up over 1,200 new people — and, most importantly, more than 300 people accepted Christ as Savior in the past four weeks.

That’s why we started “another church” in an already “over-churched” community six years ago.

**************************

Pastor Perry Noble leads  NewSpring Community Church in Anderson, S.C.

Adopting an Open Media Platform



by Phil Cooke

In my new book, “The Last TV Evangelist: Why the Next Generation Couldn’t Care Less About Religious Media … and Why It Matters,” I present the case that the digital media revolution is far more than just having a Facebook page, watching comedy clips on mobile phones or text messaging. The fundamental transformation that will impact everything in the future is the word “open.” “Open” will have massive implications for culture, politics, education, business and religion. It will cause a massive shift in the way we find, process and relate to information, and its impact will spill over into relationships, church, family structures and more.

If we, as ministry leaders, don’t understand and respond to this change, our impact will eventually disappear. Let me explain it this way:

Here’s the difference in the closed media world of the past and the open media world of the future:

  • Closed: A church or nonprofit decided how to talk to its donors.
  • Open: Donors decide how to talk to organizations.
  • Closed: People watched or listened to what you wanted them to see or hear.
  • Open: The audience is in charge.
  • Closed: Political power was the method of choice for impacting culture.
  • Open: Cultural engagement is the way to impact the culture.
  • Closed: Famous pastors and evangelists were celebrities.
  • Open: Personality-driven ministry will decrease.
  • Closed: Christian leaders could control information.
  • Open: In the digital age, information can’t be controlled.
  • Closed: TV was the hub of marketing and advertising campaigns.
  • Open: TV has become TIVO – we skip commercials.
  • Closed: Programmers controlled the message.
  • Open: The audience influences the message.
  • Closed: Consumers bought what marketers promoted.
  • Open: Consumers buy what their friends endorse.
  • Closed: YouTube and Facebook were fads.
  • Open: YouTube’s content is as good as traditional advertising.
  • Closed: Mobile phones were for making calls.
  • Open: Mobile phones are now the single most important gadget in people’s lives.
  • Closed: Bloggers were a little nutty.
  • Open: Bloggers are the new influencers and truth-tellers. They even cost a national network news anchor his job.
  • Closed: Pastors want to be on a major Christian radio or TV network.
  • Open: With IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), social networking, podcasting, mobile programming and more, the traditional networks will continue to exist, but won’t be the only key to reaching your audience.

Think of a world that’s experiencing a two-way conversation instead of the traditional one-way model. …

Continue…

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Arkansas AG Supports Current Church Gun Ban



09/30/2009

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has stated publicly that he thinks a court would uphold the current Arkansas law that forbids all people, even concealed-carry permit-holders, from bringing guns into churches.

McDaniel is responding to an opinion request from state Rep. Beverly Pyle, who proposed earlier this year amending the law to allow people to carry guns into churches. The bill was defeated in a Senate committee but could resurface.

McDaniel based his opinion chiefly on the fact that the regulation is not unique to churches but includes all houses of worship.

Source:

The Baxter Bulletin: Ark. AG Defends State’s Ban on Guns in Church

Related Content:

Guns May Be Allowed in Arkansas Churches

Arkansas Approves Church Gun Bill


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28 Years — Top 28 Broadcasts



PHOENIX — Focus on the Family turned 28 on Mar. 26. Its flagship daily radio broadcast, hosted by Dr. James Dobson, is heard on more than 2,000 U.S. radio facilities by more than 1.5 million listeners daily.

Since the beginning, the broadcast has dedicated itself to informing, supporting and encouraging parents and families. Below is a list of the Top 28 broadcasts of all time, as well as featured guests.

1. Teacher of the Year — Guy Doud

2. Love Must be Tough — Dr. James Dobson

3. I Will Never Leave Thee — Darlene Rose

4. Tilly — radio drama

5. God’s Way or My Way — Frank Peretti

6. God Uses Cracked Pots — Patsy Clairmont

7. Experiencing a Fulfilled Marriage — Patricia Ashley

8. A Man Called Norman — Mike Adkins

9. Your Attitude: The Key to Success — Dr. John Maxwell

10. Incredible Worth of a Woman — Gary Smalley

11. Healing Childhood Traumas — Stephanie Fast

12. No Two Alike — Cynthia Tobias

13. How to Know You’re in Love — Dawson McAllister

14. Shaping the Will Without Breaking the Spirit — Dr. James Dobson

15. Learning to Communicate — Dr. John Trent & Gary Smalley

16. I, Isaac, Take You, Rebekah — Ravi Zacharias

17. Spiritual Warfare: The Story of Stephen Morin — Margy Mayfield

18. Healing the Past and Moving On — Carolyn Koons

19. Family Stress: When Relationships Break Down — Dewey Bertolini

20. The Greatest of These is Love — Corrie Ten Boom

21. Positive Parenting — Zig Ziglar

22. Love for a Lifetime — Dr. James Dobson

23. What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women — Dr. James Dobson

24. A Message to Teens About Sex — Fran Sciacca

25. Fundamentals of Child Discipline — Dr. James Dobson

26. Adrenaline and Stress — Dr. Archibald Hart

27. Love Healed My Wounds — Dave Roever

28. God Made Us a Family — Dick Gauch

To order a copy of a broadcast, call 800.A.FAMILY or visit www.family.org.

3 Presbyterian Churches Leave Denomination



02/26/2009

Three Indiana Presbyterian churches have gained permission to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and join with the more conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

The three congregations are Covenant Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, First Presbyterian Church in Frankfort and First Presbyterian Church of Nappanee.

The congregations disagreed with the larger church’s movement toward a more liberal view of sexuality. Presbyteries across the country are examining the possibility of ordaining gay and lesbian clergy. The denomination might remove a section from its constitution that reserves ministry for those who practice sex within the context of marriage and abstain in singleness.

The source article did not address property implications for the three congregations.

Source:

The Christian Post: 3 Presbyterian Churches Dismissed from Denomination

Related Content:

Charlotte-Area Presbyterian Churches Drop Gay Pastor Ban

Church Pays $1.75M to Former Denomination to Keep Building


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