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Monday, January 31, 2011

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, powerlineblog.com. 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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  1. My guess is that the law firm loses no opportunity to describe itself as foursquare in favor of diversity.

  2. I think it can be assured that some very powerful administration official exerted pressure on the law firm. I almost, stupidly, thought I could narrow it down by describing such as Anti-Christian.

    Dopey me.

  3. Some diversity is more equal than others.

  4. This is absolutely ridiculous. He was clearly, as you note, working on the "good, bad, and the ugly" theme--perhaps not the most elegant structure, but it's certainly more than adequate for a blog post.

    I, too, was appalled that there was not prayer said in the religion of the dead (they were Christians and Jews). Have we become so "pc" that now we have to have a parade of religious types speak/pray/intone over Christian and Jewish dead? Can you just imagine if the dead had been from a Native American tribe, and we'd had a *gasp* rabbi or priest say the prayer? This is totally bogus and an absolute disgrace to that law firm.

    Fuzzy Slippers (and this is why. I like eating and having a roof over my head, and the leftist fascists stop at nothing to destroy the lives of conservatives. What's a few more homeless people or people on unemployment when your goal is to impoverish everyone and silence anyone who doesn't think that's a nifty plan?)

  5. If he was a liberal blogger, he would be allowed to apologize for any ‘misunderstanding’ or ‘offensive' statement because everyone would know that his heart is in the right place.

  6. From Meggesto's bio at Akin Gump, where he is identified as a member of New York's own Onondaga Nation:

    "James T. Meggesto advises clients regarding American Indian law and policy. His practice focuses on representation of Indian tribes, tribal governmental instrumentalities and tribally owned corporations in complex litigation and transactional matters covering a wide variety of issues. From the platform of a full-service law firm, Mr. Meggesto is able to service the needs of tribal clients no matter the particular issue."

  7. Wow. Just wow. I feel so bad for the guy, and what he must have gone through. Who is the senior partner at that law firm, Al Pacino?

  8. Sorry, as a partner in a law firm, his first obligation is to do nothing that could endanger the law firm, specifically he cannot do, say, write anything that would result in their being sued.It is called fiduciary duty -remember Professor. If he were to get sued and it resulted in loss of income for the firm that effects everyone. If he wants to write about politics he can leave the law firm, but he does not have a right to endanger other partner's reputations and livelihoods.

  9. Professor, I have to side with Mirengoff on this one. The whole "native" prayer was a disgrace.

    As a Native American, I found the ramblings of Dr. Gonzalez embarrassing. Instead of having a prepared traditional prayer, he rambled, on and on and on. Without purpose or point.

    Gonzales is, as anyone on the rez would tell you, more Mexican than Yaqui. He carries a Hispanic name, he was raised in the barrio, not the on the reservation, and is simply another Ward Churchill, but one with some DNA that leads back to the Yaquis.

    Arizona does have a large Native American population, but it would have been so much more proper to have the faiths of those killed and maimed by the shooter standing together, each offering a small (and short) prayer for those who were harmed. A priest, rabbi, minister, all who could do their part in the memorial. To my knowledge, not one of the people shot were Native American.

    Carlos Gonzales acheived a dual purpose; he represented the Hispanic segment of Arizona (at a time when the U.S. Government is suing Arizona for trying to protect its citizens against invaders) and it kept the memorial pretty much secular. And the large feather and bandana was just overkill.

    Again, as a Native American, I was insulted by Dr. Gonzales' "prayer". And I was appalled that someone who is obviously educated would be so unprepared and make us Native Americans look like idiots.

  10. @Elise - As I said in the post, if the firm justified its actions based on the fear of loss of a client, that would be one thing. But it didn't do that, because Mirengoff didn't criticize a client of the firm. Instead, the firm chose to portray him as racially/culturally "insensitive," and we know how that sort of charge can hurt when made falsely.

  11. The whole so-called memorial service was insensitive. I tuned in sometime into Obama's speech. I have never attended a memorial service where there were whistles, cheers, clapping and a complete pep rally, political rally atmosphere. I turned it off in absolute disgust. Later I saw a clip of Gonzales doing the Yaqui thing. By then I knew that no native Americans were among the dead. I don't know which was more disgusting, the pep rally, Obama not controlling it, the absolute cultural insensitivity of the University of Arizona or the political pundits (on the right) who lauded Obama's speech. My opinion of a bunch of them dropped several notches.

    Had I attended because a family member was among the dead, I would have ostentatiously left in absolute disgust.

    Mirengoff caught part of the folly and seems t have payed the price for noticing the emperor's new clothes.

  12. Professor, my guess is that the law firm felt that Mirengoff's words would come back to bite them in some kind of policitally correct crazy way in an era when everything is viewed through PC glasses. He was not being insulting to the mourners, or the Yaquis. Gonzalez had already acheived that purpose.

    Again, as a Native American, the "prayer" was nothing more than pointless ramblings, and deserved to be criticized. It seems that in his 15 minutes of nationally televised fame, Dr. Gonzales resorted to theatrics, not tradition.

  13. What Mirengoff wrote was tone-deaf. I saw the post at the time it was fresh and my instant response was a silent "Uh oh.".

    He had every right to write what he wrote. And his partners have every right to respond the way they have.

    Mirengoff acted stupidly. There are far less potentially offending ways to make the point he made. It really should not surprise anyone that people are watching what goes on in the major blogs.

  14. Thank you for this. I had been wondering what the story behind the apology and subsequent departure were. This answered a number of questions.

  15. And this is why I support anonymous blogging. If the whole blogosphere was written in a way that wouldn't reflect poorly on anyone's employer, it would be a dead boring place.

  16. "Mr. Meggesto is currently a member of the Washington office’s diversity committee."

    What a surprise.

  17. This brings up a point that I once made to John Hinderaker when he asked "How much courage does it take to post under your own name?" I don't remember the exact words I used but it went something like this: Some of us can be held to legal consequences and we don't exactly know where the line is so we draw a very broad line of widely-spaced dots.

    The point is that although we have freedom of speech in America, our employers can effectively stifle us if we are not willing to risk the consequences by speaking up. That is why some of us feel the need to defend that anachronistic US Constitution that our cultural elites in such contempt. It's the only thing protecting us from the devil.

    In my case, I'm self-employed but what I say in public can run afoul of oversight regulations for what constitutes non-approved online advertising. Why risk it? It is frustrating to have to refrain from commenting on my area of expertise but I can sleep at night.

    Mirengoff's problem appears to be more about his company's right to protect its interests than anything sinister. They probably want to avoid getting drawn into a public spat by nipping the problem in the bud. They have bigger fish to fry. He's not an idiot and his apology should be the end of it. I'm sure Mirengoff will be back good as ever.

  18. "I can't blame Mirengoff for confessing to sins he never committed."

    You might not, but I can, Bill. What price principle? My wife recently resigned as editor of the local fishwrapper when the publisher caved in to an advertiser's pressuring about articles not favorable to him. The price? Gag the reporter(s) in return for continued advertising bux. That's a dog that don't hunt; it reduces the Fourth Estate to the status of a glorified "Thrifty Nickel" want ads sheet and she'll have no part of it. Shoot (no vitriol or threats implied), Mirengoff is hardly an unskilled minimum wage worker in a shop, going on welfare if he's fired. Does he believe in what he writes or not? Are you guys just blogging till it gets a bit tough, or are you blogging to accomplish something? And if the latter, what are you trying to accomplish? Meanwhile, my wife is looking for a job. Want a contributor with some balls?

  19. having been tagged as ethnically insensitive, he was vulnerable.

    The rules of leftists extend beyond Stalinism. Mr. Mirengoff must expect the public crusade against him to continue until the last milligram of public advantage has been wrung out of the event by his oh-so-outraged employers AND the clients and casual spectators who use him as a hammer against them. He'll be spared the nine gram sentence, but will represent a 'kick me' symbol rendering any law firm vulnerable to the poisonous custom of the anonymous denunciation. He won't last six more months at Akin Gump.

    His observations on the insertion of an irrelevant piece of ethnic theater in place of a prayer relevant to the faith(s) of the victims were spot on - I recall my own 'yes!' on reading them. The political community organizers who choreographed that Arizona service had just imposed one more cynical symbol in place of respect for the victims' relatives, well knowing that the manners - yes, manners, and good ones too - of the community of relatives would suffer it in silence, and Mr. Mirengoff well and truly busted them for it.

  20. Mirengoff acted stupidly. There are far less potentially offending ways to make the point he made.

    Yeah, and President Obama used the same attack against the officer who, in the course of duty, questioned Dr. Gates .

    A gentle reminder of the existence of the First Amendment should suffice to explain that Mirengoff has a better right to his own words than any critic who insists on a more 'enlightened' syntax.

  21. This brings up a point that I once made to John Hinderaker when he asked "How much courage does it take to post under your own name?"

    He may wish to pose the question to Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and a host of other who have employed a nomme d'plume.

    I find the Powerline bloggers to be a bunch of bloviating establishment gasbags, and I won't mourn Mirengoff's absence from the blogosphere (he was the worst, IMO), but he certainly deserves better than being drummed out of his blog to the disingenuous tune of firm protectionism.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. I have always been a fan of Power Line and Mirengoff. What Mirengoff did was get on the wrong side of the squirrelly executive committee of Akin Gump. Akin is a wannabe top tier law firm that has the numbers, but has never achieved the reputation to be a first tier firm in the USA. So they are forced to rely on secondary sources of income, such as lobbying and Indian gaming for their revenue. Akin needs to understand that lashing out at a conservative to pander to Indians is not a one way proposition. Conservatives can and should react in the same way as Akin feared Indian Gaming interests would react - and who really sends more business? Bruce McLean, the Chairman of Akin should know better than to demean himself by issuing the statement that he made. A law firm that employs the likes of 1st Amendment expert Rex Heinke should know better. This appears to be a case of some very self interested lawyers who control the business of Indian gaming clients and Indian tribal lobbying, bullying a partner for exercising free speech away from the office in a private capacity. It is of course no-coincidence that in addition to Akin's Indian partner Meggesto who slandered Mirengoff with the false and damaging slur of being racially "insensitive," that other heavy hitters (in every sense of the word) who are dependent on the Indian practice of Akin Gump are also part of Akin Gump's polit bureau alongside Bruce McLean. Akin must understand that they are not essential lawyers for any matter in any field, and by slandering and throwing a respected conservative blogger under the bus, there will be ramifications from those who are conservative and fans of Power Line. Akin will never know the extent of the work they never get from among the thousands of potential significant sources of business and referrals who read Power Line and have plenty of other choices for their legal representation.

  24. You guys need to look at the bright side; he has burnished what I'm sure was an already resume in victimology! Imagine how his excitement over being able to be more resentful. Oh, woe is the rich, powerful white man in America. It is for shame that they express contempt for other religions in a public place without being "oppressed". I suppose he'll have to silently weep all the way home...in his Jag.

    By the way, how hysterical it is that conservative now list "compassion" and "diversity" as pejoratives.

  25. timb ...

    you have obviously never read PowerLine ...

    first they came for the "rich" white guy ... but you are not a "rich" white guy so you don't care ...

  26. There are some who accept the cost in name and fame of trying to keep thought, word and deed united. Their spouses and children have much to be proud of.

  27. Dear Professor Jacobson- I do not talk out of turn by the way. I have been involved for over twenty-five years with rather large law firms and it is absolutely de rigeur that all employees and partners are required to go through hours of sensitivity training. In other words, if it can be presumed to be biased in any way, it is to be avoided as you hold the entire firm up to ridicule never mind possible negative financial outcomes. It does not have to be directed at any one particular client. It is the overall arching reputation of the law firm that is at stake not the relationship with anyone client in particular. The activity, be it words or overt actions do not even have to reach to the level of impropriety, it merely has to be the appearance of impropriety that leads to derision and destruction of reputation. Quite frankly the partner at Akin should have known better.He had no right as a partner of that law firm to put Akin Gump in that situation. And yes, all it takes is one person questioning your reputation for everything you worked for your entire life to be destroyed. If he wants to destroy his life he can, but he does not have the right to take the reputation of the entirety of Akin Gump with him.Quite frankly he is very lucky that the management committee only had him withdraw from Powerline and did not find a way to remove him from the law firm completely.

  28. @Elise, you say "if it can be presumed to be biased in any way, it is to be avoided ...." Who is the judge of that? Some hypersensitive fellow partner? Bloggers? The firm's clients?

    What about affirmative action? Who gets disciplined for a policy which discriminates on the basis of race albeit with various justifications? Obviously no one does.

    Mirengoff merely made a point that there should have been Christian prayers also, and that the particular person giving the introduction (who I referred to as a tribal leader, but I'm not sure that's even true) did not acquit himself well. How is that possibly, in any rational world, evidence of bias?

    Or is it all so subjective that we simply defer to those with the loudest mouths?

  29. The expression of anything less than starry-eyed adulation for politically correct minorities: insensitive, offensive, and "wholly inconsistent" with the Left's values.

    Screaming, clapping, and cheering like maniacs; handing out free commemorative t-shirts; and "branding" a memorial service with a cheesy slogan left-over from Obama's 2008 presidential campaign: wholly consistent with the Left's values.

    Liberals are a pathetic disgrace. Every single one of them.

  30. ..an obvious signal that the Obama regime really is going to try to become a dictatorship...

    The fancy pants lawyers are just trying to stay out of the gulags...

  31. Another problem with Elise's theory is now anyone. at any law firm, who gets involved, in any way with partisan politics, is now fodder for being dismissed.

    Elise also tells us "presumed to be biased in any way". What kind of gobbledygook is that? Are we now down to the lowest common denominator again and using the "if anyone, any where MIGHT be offended" criteria. What a sad state of affairs Elise describes.

    BTW, Elise, I am offended by your responses. Please resign. Oh wait, you are anonymous. I guess that makes it OK.

  32. Just trying to imagine if victims had been from that tribe and there had been a Christian prayer and the wrong sort of blogger had referred to it as 'some sort of Connecticut Episcopalian thing', or 'some sort of Southern Baptist thing'.

    It might have been considered mocking and insensitive in certain quarters.

    Whether it would rise to a scandal I'm not sure.

    Would probably depend on a number factors, only one of which was whether the people offended were clients, also the blogger's general value to the firm, previous statements that might have embarrassed the firm, the general desirability of setting a precedent of partners who express strong public association with one side of the political spectrum.

  33. Paul Mirengoff has blogged at Power Line for many years. The "Power Line boys" have often been featured on television news programs for interviews and panel discussions, and they have been in the public eye on favorable terms for quite some time.

    So was Akin Gump supportive of Mirengoff's visible and popular role as a well-known blogger prior to the Tucson memorial post? Because, you know, his public appearances might have been good for business. Surely his employers were not unaware of his blog or of the potential for controversy inherent in virtually all political blogs. Did they spin on a dime to condemn someone whose past reputation was beneficial to them? If so, their attitude now is even more despicable.

  34. I am a practicing attorney (former BIGLAW) who has conservative to libertarian leanings. Periodically I post comments on conservative websites. I only post under a pseudonym due to concerns about career issues.

    Mirengoff is toast. He won't survive a black eye like this at BIGLAW unless he has his own clients who are loyal to him, not to Akin Gump. And if he does he probably should leave and take his clients with him. The statement from the Firm's chairman is like a bullet to the brain.

    BTW, this is why you should have an "anonymous" option for posting, William.

  35. If the post wasn't really all that bad, then why did Mirengoff scrub it?

  36. Steve J.: are you purposefully obtuse?

  37. "And yes, all it takes is one person questioning your reputation for everything you worked for your entire life to be destroyed."

    "Mirengoff is toast."

    Those both are violent statements. And they are threats. And they are trash talk. And both statements are by lawyers. But before all, they are cowardice posing as street smarts by shadowy self-promoters.

    Insensitivity is a self-promoter stealing a memorial service for a political rally, insulting and afflicting sorrowers into the bargain. Insensitivity is acolytes lighting the skirts of innocents.

    Career destruction (aka toast) is when your spouse and children view you has having caved to illicit demands or impulses. Did Thomas More do that? Or James Graham? Or the signers at Arbroath and Philadelphia? Shall we imagine that man does not know who he is?

    I'll tell you whose career is toast: whoever values it more than truth, more than love, more than loyalty, more than duty, more than shame.

  38. In an earlier comment I wrote;

    "Mirengoff's problem appears to be more about his company's right to protect its interests than anything sinister. They probably want to avoid getting drawn into a public spat by nipping the problem in the bud."

    After everything I've read on this subject today, I now believe that this comment was wrong. Akin Gump is tightly wedded with several interests that must have been posing a problem professionally for Mr. Mirengoff and forcing him to choose his words carefully in his posts for some time now.

    But as the professor pointed out, he wasn't disciplined for any business reasons relating to conflict of interest. He was publicly humiliated based on a lie. I don't find fault in Mr. Mirengoff for issuing an apology. This wasn't worth throwing away your career over. And the truth is plain to see for anyone interested in truth. This wasn't a case of racial insensitivity but rather another case of political correctness run amok.

  39. Steve J asks the frivolous question of why Mirengoff removed the post. It is an easy assumption he did that for the same reason he posted an apology. It was a requirement of Akin Gump.

    I point Steve J to Powerline where they say:

    "As you probably know, Paul Mirengoff has taken a leave from blogging and has, for now anyway, resigned from the Power Line masthead".

    The door is still open. Although, the truth be told, I never much cared about his English football blogging.

  40. "Just trying to imagine if victims had been from that tribe and there had been a Christian prayer and the wrong sort of blogger had referred to it as 'some sort of Connecticut Episcopalian thing', or 'some sort of Southern Baptist thing'.

    "It might have been considered mocking and insensitive in certain quarters.

    "Whether it would rise to a scandal I'm not sure."

    Of course it would have been considered a scandal, by all the usual suspects: It would have been cultural imperialism. It would have been imposing foreign Christianity on believers in indigenous religious traditions. It would have been seen as insensitive and oppressive, not to mention patriarchal, sexist, and offensive.

  41. We can but speculate, but let us use Occam's Razor to guide our speculation.

    The one person we know took offense at Mirengoff's post is Meggesto -- his fellow-partner who'd already put the partnership on the spot.

    I think R.S. McCain is probably wrong in his inference that the firm was acting to protect itself from a threatened loss of revenue. Akin Gump is frickin' huge, and three or four lawyers' cumulative annual billings would not amount to a big enough sum to swing any partnership vote (or, more realistically, executive committee decision within an implied proxy based on the probably valid expectation that they could swing any partnership vote).

    What Meggesto could threaten the firm with was probably not so much the loss of a materialy source of revenue which he controlled as it was the prospect of vastly more bad publicity. OTHER CLIENTS would be concerned if this escalated into a firm-wide food fight, which is why BigLaW firms so rarely survive public firm-wide food figthts. But Meggesto could certainly make a credible threat to take his team and his clientele and move across the street in his martyrdom -- think Richard Gere singing "Razzle-Dazzle 'Em" in "Chicago." He could say -- and I hypothesize (as purely a wild-ass guess) that he probably said or at least hinted at saying -- "Either Mirengoff goes or I go!"

    At this point the institutional pressure becomes huge to impose a compromise on everyone. Everyone stays, there's a minimum of outrage or further publicity -- but yeah, Mirengoff may have been obliged to pull the post and eat some public crow.

    Whether the terms of the compromise also included him leaving Power Line or whether that was his own choice, as a strategy for avoiding future vulnerability, I don't know.

    Last point: Akin Gump is an amazing and amorphous creature, almost unique on the American legal scene in a number of respects. It has a culture that makes the court politics of Augustinian Rome seem pure and straightforward by comparison. I am absolutely and positively certain that Mirengoff has partners who would have been very sympathetic to his predicament. But you're looking at the result of a negotiated compromise that presumably reflected Mirengoff's own assessment of his relative strengths and vulnerabilities vis-a-vis Meggesto and his other partners. And as an institution, they're superbly well experienced in juggling competing interests; they're counsel for presidents, princes, and occasionally paupers, and they navigate conflicts like the best Olympic kayaking teams. So this result was engineered. It wasn't something that anyone stumbled into.

  42. One other thing sort of bothers me, and I'd hate for this point to be misinterpreted as me intending any criticism or belittling of Mirengoff or anyone else concerned. But:

    Except for the fact that it involves a blogger in particular, this is really kind of a dog bites man story.

    I'm sorry for Mirengoff, and I think he got a raw deal. But there is a long, long, long history of American lawyers whose careers have waxed and waned based in no small part upon their politics and political connections. Lawyers still debate whether, in defending the British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre, John Adams was being principled or crafty (in a contrarian sort of way), and it's unclear whether the publicity was a net plus or minus for his law practice, but there was no doubt that by making that association he would make himself more attractive in the eyes of some clients and less in the eyes of others.

    Anyone who has any position of even moderate power and status -- and I'd extend that description to any Akin Gump partner without a second thought -- is also vulnerable to being attacked based on things he or she has written or said or done. Sometimes it's a legitimate expose and sometimes it's a cheap smear, but a creative advocate with a microphone can always find some angle to mount this kind of attack. That this should bite Mirengoff at this particular time is damned unfair, but careers and fortunes are routinely made and lost on the basis of unfair and unfortuante events.

  43. The Left is supressing the right to criticize any action by a member of a preferred group. The claim is that these criticisms support violence or show racism.

    As conservatives retreat from the field of verbal (/del battle)  (/del confrontation)  polite insistence, our only choice is to "go code" so as not to offend anyone.

    === ===
    Without "target", we will only be able to "direct our attention to". Without "attack", we will be left with "raise our concerns in respectful ways". We will sink below the waves of hyper-civil discourse, while our opposition friends of differing viewpoint use these same (/del weapons)  symbols against us with (/del devastating)  more than a bit of uncomfortable effect.

    We have prepared for this eventuality. We now implement Contingency Plan 36.
    === ===
    Metaphorically Speaking

  44. Give me a break - this whole thing is about the left suppressing conservative speech. Akin and other biglaw firms had no problem representing terror linked asylum seekers, Al Qaida and Taliban and other miscreants as long as Bush could be attacked in the process. Not a peep was heard about "sensitivity." They would fight for the opportunity to represent Julian Assange for free. Just look at the biglaw firms who housed more than a dozen partners who represented Gitmo detainees pro bono - contributing the profits made by their partners from corporate America to a political strategy designed to undermine the Bush Administration. See http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202428688933

    This is not about stirring up controversy, its about chilling the conservative speech of Miringoff with tactics that would make Alinsky proud, Isolate and undermine the speaker with false assertions of "ethnic insensitivity" (code for racism).

  45. Diversity has nothing to do with the actions Akin, Gump has taken against this partner. Politics does. One of Akin Gump's major clients and players is George Soros. This firm handles much of Soros' business for various entities.

    Akin, Gump makes no secret that they are a Progressive law firm, therefore, we should not be surprised.

  46. Paul Mirengoff was mistreated.

    I was a daily reader of PowerLine for several years, but I stopped visiting there abruptly and entirely because Paul Mirengoff's constant criticism of Sarah Palin became intolerable to me. With Mirengoff no longer coloring the atmosphere, I will probably start visiting there again.

    Nonetheless, Paul Mirengoff was treated unjustly. His rights and good character (he's a decent man who articulates his positions extremely well) were abused and violated by an intrusive employer.

    The post in question was mild and entirely correct- the contribution by Carlos Gonzales was inappropriate and demeaning to the occasion. If anyone insulted and diminished the Yaqui religion and reputation, it was Gonzales. I challenge anyone to sit through the video of his rambling talk and not feel embarrassed. That 'memorial' was a disgrace to everyone involved.

    I'm sorry for how Mirengoff was mistreated. That was wrong. I'm also sorry that he didn't stand up for his principles and convictions.

    Best regards, Peter Warner.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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.)

  52. Presumably, there is far more relevant information regarding this incident than has yet to surface publicly. We may never know many key facts.

    That is not surprising, as lawyers are able, and often required, to hold dear information that even priests and spouses are occasionally be required to divulge.

    Hence, I can only conclude that there must be a more plausible explanation thereof, at least one more likely than the variety of explanations that have yet been posted, such as in the comments here, and elsewhere.

    Now, I'm not being critical of anyone's analysis, least of all Professor Jacobson’s insightful post. But to me the extraordinary decision made by Paul to stop blogging, just does not compute with anything I've read yet.

    Could there possibly be a provision in the firm's "social media policy" (if they indeed have such a policy) that subjects partners to potential future censorious action on the basis of a vote . . . a "prior restraint" of sorts? I cannot imagine such a thing, but who knows?

    What if Paul had simply issued the typical "passive voice" apology as a way out, you know . . . "If anyone was offended by what I wrote, I would offer my sincere apologies," . . . and then toughed it out as the nasty reaction hit? That would at least compute with what we know.

    But he didn’t. He fully conceded that he understood how others interpreted his words in the way that they did, and he sincerely apologized. Well, that made him a bigger man than most . . . so why wasn’t that the end of it?

    His real apology, combined with retracting the post (as he did), would certainly be more than any liberal reaction I ever recall anyone taking.

    Was this voluntary? If so, is Paul Mirengoff just being too hard on himself? I'd say by a long shot, but decent people do have to feel comfortable in their own skins.

    The problem is that a person who can write as clearly and forcefully as this, has now been effectively silenced -- at least for the time being.

    And now is not the time.