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    Big Law Firm Takes Down Big Conservative Blogger

    Big Law Firm Takes Down Big Conservative Blogger

    I’m late to this, but the story has not received a lot of coverage in the conservative blogosphere.  Paul Mirengoff of Power Line blog no longer is of Power Line blog.

    Mirengoff is an attorney at Akin Gump, a big law firm with a large presence in Washington, D.C., where Mirengoff works as a partner in the employment law group.

    Mirengoff was one of the founders of Power Line.  While I have disagreed with the folks there from time to time, there is no doubt that the Power Line bloggers are among the biggest names in the conservative blogosphere and make a valuable contribution to the conservative movement.  Any disagreements I have with them are disagreements among teammates.

    So why is Mirengoff no longer at Power Line?

    It all resulted from this blog post Mirengoff made after the Tucson shooting memorial service, in which the service was opened with a prayer, of sorts, from an American Indian tribal leader:

    “As for the ‘ugly,’ I’m afraid I must cite the opening ‘prayer’ by Native American Carlos Gonzales,” Mirengoff wrote. It “apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to ‘the creator’ but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.”

    The original post has been taken down, and I can’t find a Google Cache version, but the post was picked up elsewhere and is available here

    It is clear that Mirengoff was setting up a “the good, the bad, and the ugly” type of structure (originating, I think, from the movie of the same name).  Mirengoff even put the word ugly in quotation marks.  This is a very common device signalling that Mirengoff did not literally mean “ugly” but was using the term in the context of the phrase he was parodying.

    Mirengoff’s post was not an attack on American Indians, the Yaqui tribe, or the participation of the tribal leader in a tribal prayer.  The point of the post quite clearly was on the absurdity of not having a Christian prayer said for Christian victims.  The lack of a Christian (or Jewish) prayer was commented on and criticized by a lot of people, and I agree with that criticism.  The American Indian leader was welcome to participate with a traditional prayer, but if you were going to have a memorial service, why not also pay religious respect to the people you were mourning?

    But that was not good enough for one of Mirengoff’s law partners, James Meggesto, who issued a sanctimonious statement saying he was “shocked, appalled and embarrassed” by Mirengoff’s “insensitive” “web posting” (emphasis mine):

    “As an enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation; as an attorney who has dedicated his life and law practice to the representation of Indian tribes, tribal organizations and tribal interests; and as a partner in the American Indian law and policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, I was shocked, appalled and embarrassed by a recent Web posting by another Akin Gump partner, Paul Mirengoff, who posted on his personal blog an insensitive and wholly inappropriate criticism of the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the recent memorial service held in Tucson, Arizona. As soon as I and the firm became aware of this posting, the firm took immediate action to deal firmly with this unfortunate situation. Accordingly, Bruce McLean, chairman of the firm, issued the following statement: “We sincerely apologize for the blog entry posted by Akin Gump partner Paul Mirengoff on his personal blog, Akin Gump is neither affiliated with, nor a supporter of, the blog. We found his remarks to be insensitive and wholly inconsistent with Akin Gump’s values. Mr. Mirengoff regrets his poor choice of words and agreed to remove his post.” “

    Meggesto doesn’t say who dropped the dime on Mirengoff.  How this even came to the firm’s attention is surprising.   After all, the paragraph in question was pretty mild, part of a larger post and not really much different than a lot of others were saying.  Perhaps some innocent concerned citizen just happened to read Power Line that night and call Akin Gump, but it’s equally likely the watchers were behind it, directly or indirectly.

    The criticism by Meggesto and Akin Gump was disingenuous at best.  There was nothing in Mirengoff’s post which was a “criticism of the use of the Yacqui prayer”; Mirengoff was making a point about the absence of a Christian prayer at a memorial service for religious Christian victims. 

    And just what are Akin Gump’s “values”?  The primary value at stake here seems to be money to be generated from representing Indian tribes and financial interests.  Nothing wrong with that, but Akin Gump should have just said what it really meant:  “We are afraid that left-wing bloggers and others who hate Power Line will make a big deal about this and try to use it against the firm to disrupt our relationship with clients who pay us millions of dollars in legal fees each year.”

    If Akin Gump had justified its actions based on its own financial interests, rather than hiding behind words like “insensitive,” I would have respected its decision (although still disagreed with it).  A law firm has a legitimate interest in maintaining client relationships.  Instead, Meggesto and Akin Gump chose to portray Mirengoff at best as insensitive and at worst as a bigot, which conclusions were not supported by the blog post in question.

    Mirengoff obviously feared for his position at the firm, because he issued a confession/apology worthy of a political prisoner in (insert name of tyranny here):

    “In a post last night, I criticized the use of a Yaqui prayer as the invocation to the memorial service in Tucson. In doing so, I failed to give the prayer the respect it deserves. Although I did not intend this as a slight to the religion or to the Yaqui tribe, it can clearly be interpreted as one. For this, I sincerely apologize to my readers, to the Yaqui tribe, to all tribal leaders and Indian people, and, specifically, to Carlos Gonzales who delivered the prayer. I regret my poor choice of words, and I have removed the post.”

    That Mirengoff, to satisfy Meggesto and Akin Gump, confessed to criticising the use of a Yaqui prayer when his post clearly did not do so, speaks volumes to the pressure Mirengoff must have been under.

    And then Mirengoff left Power Line.  And the post was taken down at Akin Gump’s insistence, which reminds me of how Stalin ordered biographies of purged leaders to be removed from encyclopedias across the country.

    I can’t blame Mirengoff for confessing to sins he never committed.

    Mirengoff probably makes big money at Akin Gump, but like most big firm lawyers, probably does not have his own clients.  So Mirengoff’s livelihood was at risk, and having been tagged as ethnically insensitive, he was vulnerable.  Mirengoff, being an employment defense lawyer, knew better than anyone how his blog post could be twisted and turned against him.

    I guess the only good news is that Mirengoff was not forced to “name names” to get a more lenient sentence.

    I can’t help but think that Mirengoff being a well-known conservative blogger contributed to the fauxtroversy and that there was a double standard.  If Mirengoff were a liberal blogger, and had made exactly the same comments but about having only a Christian preacher opening the memorial service for non-Christians, Mirengoff still would be blogging at Power Line.

    I’m glad I don’t work at a big law firm.  It’s so much easier being an outspoken conservative blogger at an Ivy League university.

    I hope Mirengoff does not give up blogging altogether.

    While I am generally against anonymous blogging, I might be willing to make an exception.  Mirengoff can blog here under the pseudonym Pyotr Yakir

    And don’t worry, Paul, I won’t name names, either.

    Update:  Robert Stacy McCain has more on some of the background. 

    And Eric Boehlert of Media Matters is practically jumping for joy that Mirengoff no longer is blogging, which is what Boehlert had been hoping would happen, Note To RW Bloggers: Could Obama Derangement Syndrome Cost You Your Day Job?

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    Look, I appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone else. But I'm telling you based on personal knowledge of that firm and its partners — I interviewed there coming out of law school and again when I was looking for a lateral move, and I've practiced with and against their Texas-based partners from Houston and Dallas and Austin for many years. BigLaw firms are all about making money. If they can do that by representing clients who are associated with the political right, they'll do that; if they can do that by representing clients on the left, they'll do that. If you think George Soros' companies represent more than a tiny percentage of their business (something that starts with a "0."), you're just badly misinformed about the real world. No, of course, they wouldn't want to lose ALL of their liberal clients, nor all of their conservative ones, nor all the ones which don't fit neatly into either box. They don't want to lose ANY of them, and one of the reasons they've been so very successful is that they manage to keep juggling all those interests, such that their clients would rather keep Akin Gump's clout than switch to a firm which was unconflicted but clout-less.

    Akin Gump reacted the same way EVERY OTHER BigLaw firm would have reacted to such a controversy. That's my take, as a former partner in two such firms who's seen a lot of such disputes play out (most of them very quietly, by design, but occasionally with public footprints like this one).

    That's NOT to say Akin Gump behave nobly or fairly. But by blogging, Mirengoff created vulnerabilities for himself that another partner could use to his advantage in a publicity power play — one that certainly did turn on politics and political correctness. If Mirengoff had been writing at dKos and the complaining partner were up in arms about some post that could be twisted to be, say, anti-military (and therefore likely to offend conservative clients or military-industrial base clients), then the exact same scenario would have played out.

    What I take away from this is that Meggesto and his cronies at Akin Gump have very poor reading comprehension skills and that they let their racial prejudices lead them into making nonsensical arguments.

    In short Meggesto has done everything in his power to ruin his firm's reputation.

    As for Mirengoff… he doesn't earn any points for confessing to a fictitious thought crime. I don't know his personal situation but I have never had a job where I would have abandoned my principles and prostrated myself to a bunch of cartoonish thugs as looks to be the case here. He seems to have the same pliable backbone that most lawyers have when it comes to matters of principle.

    This little episode is a fine illustration of why the legal profession is held in nearly universal contempt.

    But Mirengoff did criticize the use of a Yaqui prayer at the memorial. Not only did he do that, he belittled and demeaned the Yaqui prayer by putting "prayer" in quotes – as if it was not really a prayer – and referred to the prayer as "apparently…some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing."

    If Mirengoff had only stuck to the justified criticism that perhaps a Christian prayer would have been more appropriate for the Christian victims, all would have been fine. But his post obviously mocks the Yaqui's religion and the Yaqui man who delivered it.

    I don’t agree with the premise that because Mirengoff was referencing a Clint Eastwood movie, he didn’t mean “ugly” as in “ugly.” It’s true that Mirengoff put the word “ugly” in quotation marks, but it’s not clear what he intended to convey by that. Certainly something derogatory, don’t you think? I don’t think it was “ugly” as in “beautiful.”

    But assuming that the quotation marks were ironic, Mirengoff then puts the word “prayer” in ironical quotation marks, seeming to signal that he does not regard the prayer of an Yaqui Indian as a real prayer. (Is there another interpretation?) In Mirengoff ‘s view, apparently only Christian and Jewish prayers qualify as real prayers.

    Make no mistake: Mirengoff could have made “a point about the absence of a Christian prayer at a memorial service for religious Christian victims” and he would have been just fine. He went beyond that and used words that plainly suggest intolerance.

    I don’t understand why Jacobson says the critics were “disingenuous at best.” Jacobson apparently believes that Indian community should, like he does, engage in verbal gymnastics to attribute the most benign intent to Mirengoff, when other interpretations are just as plausible.

    If a prominent blogger and partner at a major law firm had called a Jewish or Christian prayer “ugly,” it is fair to assume that there would be controversy and, depending on the on the law firm and its clientele, consequences. In this case Indian tribes were apparently major clients of the firm, so the firm was especially sensitive to the offense. Employees get disciplined and fired every day for saying things that cast their employer in a bad light. Invoking “political prisoners” and “Stalin” is over the top. Mirengoff was entirely free to refuse the law firm’s requests and/or resign. For economic reasons, Mirengoff chose not to. This is understandable, but hardly makes Mirengoff analogous to a political prisoner in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

    I am –and I'm hoping the nation as a whole is getting close to being– mighty damn tired of all the hand-wringing about "sensitivity" (not to mention "civility" and "respect" and blah-de-blah-blah).

    People, we have real problems in this country. Our future, our economic viability, our freedom, our way of self-governing, all this is at stake RIGHT NOW. Insufficient (and/or excess) "sensitivity" doesn't make it into the top-dozen of issues which need our immediate attention.

    Let's focus on that top dozen, and tell the "sensitivity"/ "civility" preachers to cram it. They are personally welcome to be as civil and sensitive as they like, but they've got NO authority to tell me – or you – or us – or anybody – what to do or say, nor what NOT to do or say. They can collectively move to the nearest Sharia state if they want speech control. (Bye, guys, DLTDHYOTWO.)

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