FDL Membership: The Value Of The Firedoglake Legal Team

As you may know by now, last Tuesday morning Firedoglake rolled out its brand new membership program. Both Jane Hamsher and Teddy Partridge have eloquently explained what this means to both you and Firedoglake. And we are all in it together, and for the absolute worthiest of purposes: an independent media, kick ass activism, intelligent analysis and stimulating discussion.

There is friendship and camaraderie here at FDL, without question; but, let’s face it, the real draw is the quality content. The quality of content was always superb; but it has grown, over the years, to be truly breathtaking across the board. For all of the broad spectrum of coverage here at FDL – from the biting humor and sardonic delight of TBogg, to the cutting edge intersection of entertainment, pop and light politics of Lisa Derrick at La Figa, to the unparalleled and award winning investigative reporting, insight and analysis of Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel, to Jane Hamsher constantly moving the spectrum balance at FDL Action, to the wonderful guests and hosts at Book Salon, to the collective at FDL Main – there is simply nothing in the dead tree press or blogosphere like Firedoglake.

What I want to focus on for a moment, because it is the area I know best, is the incredible legal team you have working for you here. Firedoglake does not just have regular bloggers, or even working journalists, interpreting complex and often confusing legal cases, decisions and situation. No, Firedoglake has a team of professional attorneys at work both in front page posts, and behind the scenes for consultation by all the other journalists to consult with and draw upon. It is a powerful combination that is unmatched anywhere else, and one of the many reasons this site is worth your hard earned dollars of support and membership.

Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York, former counsel to the Inspector General for the N.Y.C. DEP where she investigated threats to the NY City water supply and other environmental crimes, as well as public corruption and fraud, former Examining Attorney at the N.Y.C. Department of Investigation and is expert on fraud, white collar fraud, real estate law and criminal law issues. In addition to all the other issues she weighs in on, Cindy is doing the hard work on mortgage fraud, and has been huge in a continuing series on foreclosure fraud. Perhaps most notable is that Cindy was, all the way back in 2009, the first person to publicly explain the insurmountable and egregious problems with MERS separating the loan note from the deed; thus laying the groundwork for all that has followed in the last two years.

Masaccio, who has let it be known his real name is Ed Walker, is a recovering attorney who spent decades specializing in bankruptcy, secured transactions, financial instruments and business law. He is also a former securities regulator with keen insight on all things financial and economics related. Masaccio told us how the US Attorney in New York was consciously letting statutes of limitation on securities fraud cases expire, gave a primer on the legality of credit default swaps, discussed the legal issues in enforcing promissory notes and, of course, has been all over the foreclosure fraud issues.

We also have others trained in law, like Scarecrow, who was for many years senior counsel for a state energy agency, advising on and drafting state energy policy, legislation, reports, decisions, orders, and managing rulemakings for energy standards, facilities permitting and environmental reviews. He was the first to publicly warn the Governor of California and California Legislators about how the Enron-based rules would screw California electricity consumers and turn the sector on its head. He was exactly right on that as time and criminal trials have proven. Having done policy work for so long, he likes to claim he is not attorney; but his keen sense on regulatory matters and the annoying questions he asks of those in power belie that thought. Look no further than this weekends nuclear emergency in Japan for the benefit of Scarecrow’s knowledge, but he weighs in on a broad range of regulatory issues, including the all important banking industry.

The last member of what is considered the nucleus of the Firedoglake legal team is not a lawyer at all, she is better than that. The indefatigable and Hillman Award winning “Emptywheel”, Marcy Wheeler. Best known for her groundbreaking live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial and her weedy analysis of Bush’s torture memos. Marcy is the independent journalist who schooled the mighty New York Times on the extent of the waterboarding torture occasioned upon Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, which served as a primer of the CIA leak case. She has also worked to hold the Bush Administration accountable for its illegal warrantless wiretapping and, along with some semi-recovering criminal and civil rights attorney named bmaz has given the best coverage anywhere on the seminal al-Haramain case. And do not forget the priceless work from Mary at Emptywheel.

You should also know that when I call this a “team”, it is that in the truest sense of the word. In addition to the work each person does on their own posts, there is interconnected group discussion and analysis not only between individuals, but as a larger discussion group in which all participate. Through these modalities, we not only cross check and add to each others work, we also serve as a sounding board for all FDL contributors in an attempt to bring you, the member, the best and most incisive information and analysis possible. This is a battery of broad based legal skill and analysis that is simply not available anywhere else, whether in the print media or digital media.

And, yet, for all the talent, drive and desire, we here at FDL are nothing without you and your participation. FDL is driven by the energy, passion, and intellectual prowess of the members of this community, from the crowdsourcing and analysis in the comment threads, to the heads up on breaking news, to emails behind the scenes, to the financial support for the effort.

This enterprise cannot work without you. You are already a part of Firedoglake; make it official by becoming a contributing member. Join the greatest show in the blogosphere today! Do it now, and do it large; there is no better value anywhere!

  1. phred says:

    You left out the best bit bmaz, not only does FDL have some of the best coverage anywhere of the intersection of law and politics, but all of you guys are nice enough to answer questions from the peanut gallery : )

    For that I am profoundly grateful, not only to those who post, but those who comment as well. Thank You!

    • bmaz says:

      It is both our duty and pleasure. And I am serious that we get as much out of the discussion as you guys do, maybe more. It is a wonderful dynamic.

  2. jdmckay0 says:

    Mary deserves acknowledgement as well… when any of these EW threads are law intensive, I always scour for her regularly illuminating comments.

    (nice post bmaz!)

    OT: funny cartoon via C & L.

  3. Fractal says:

    Thanks, bmaz. Tried to send in my $120 yesterday but discovered I cannot pay by PayPal, so I downloaded the mail-in form. Probably even quicker that way since the office is in Falls Church, VA, right across the river from me.

    I’ll include a note with my check about some special resources available in the DC area for large-scale database investigations.

    (Now back to my regularly scheduled program: trying to find somebody or some thing tracking the Fukushima CE-137 plumes ….)

  4. Public says:

    This is all really great, but unfortunately the TEAM lead by bmaz decided to look the other way on the crime of the century.

    The academy is now investigating that crime. Personally, I think the work should have started here. Many lives would have been saved, if it had been.

        • NMvoiceofreason says:

          The problem is, like most conspiracy theories, the “9/11 was a set-up” theory has lots of conjecture and little fact. You can show easily that Bin Laden worked for Bush Sr. when he ran CIA, that the Bin Laden family and the Bush family were very close given their geographic separation, that OBL was involved in 9/11, and that Bush Jr. interfered in closing the net around OBL at ToraBora.

          But for those of us here, there just isn’t enough “there” there. Used to judges who routinely call black as white until and unless you can provide an affidavit from both MR.Black and Mrs.White, the standard of proof is more than mere conjecture. I’m willing to listen, but I spent too much time watching the X-files to “believe the lie”.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          This isn’t a bus stop, it’s a conference room-coffee shop. If you feel the need to shout at the moon or to yourself, you’re invited to write your own blog post, directions on the right. If it says something important or even says it well, it’ll be read.

        • greenharper says:

          What I find interesting is the collapse of Building No. 7. Late in the afternoon of 9/11. Just like the Twin Towers,
          neatly in its footprint. In seconds. And with nary a plane crashing in to it.

        • Phoenix Woman says:

          This will be my one response to this in this thread. Further comments on this issue will be referred back to this comment:

          Building #7, complete with photos of the damage the conspiracymongers say didn’t happen: http://www.debunking911.com/pull.htm


          Conspiracy theorists say World Trade Center 7 is the best proof for controlled demolition because it wasn’t hit by airliners and only had a few fires. They also claim that there was a confession from the building owner who said he “pulled” it. But this is deceptive because while building 7 wasn’t hit by an airliner, it was hit by the large perimeter columns of the Tower collapse. It was 400 ft away but the towers were more than 1300 ft tall. As the tower peeled open, it easily tilted over to reach building 7. Below is evidence showing that conspiracy theorists are wrong.

          As you can see from the graphic below, all the buildings just as far away from both towers as WTC7 were hit. The others were either very short buildings which didn’t have to support a massive load above or had no fire. Only Building 7 had unfought fires and the massive load of 40 stories above them.

          Go read the whole thing and view the pictures. It shows not just the existing evidence that debunks the whole “Building 7 proves it was an inside job” crapola, but shows the lengths to which the conspiracymongers will go to twist evidence, ignore evidence, and make stuff up in order to support their theory.

        • sadlyyes says:

          im outing myself here,but i have a photographic memory,and on that day i watched the telly like most people,and heard them say they were pulling the building,i thought nothing of it,not knowing explosives would need advanced planning…as a reasonable person,i conclude it was not an accident

        • BearCountry says:

          Actually, Ken Silverstein is on tape or DVD or however it was recorded as admitting the building was “pulled,” that is, brought down by pre-set explosives. The first responders were sent out of the building so they wouldn’t be hurt in the blasts.

          I’m not going to bother giving links because at FDL there is such a split: those that know that 9/11 is a problem and those who would not believe anything that bush put out except the explanation of 9/11. In fact, I couldn’t even get a question answered by FDL that I asked in email.

        • msmolly says:

          AW, the 9/11 conspiracy stuff just gets old, is all. That and the JFK stuff.

          And I will second the comments about the quality of the interaction here, among commenters and between the author of the post and the commenters. FDL also was my main intro to the blogosphere — I missed the Libby stuff, but I think I got here from TPM in its earlier form.

          I do read a selection of other blogs, including Steve Benen (Washington Monthly), Glenn Greenwald, Paul Krugman, Matt Taibbi, etc. This is the ONLY blog where the commenters are friendly, knowledgeable and poo flinging is not allowed. I feel like it is a family, and that’s important. And I learn tons of good info from the posts and comments.

          I signed up the first day, and sponsored a second membership for someone who needed it. I turned down the swag because I have enough t-shirts & tote bags for a small army, and because I’d rather the contribution support the blog.

          Just my personal story. Chip in, everyone! It is worth every penny!!

        • SouthernDragon says:

          I turned down the swag because I have enough t-shirts & tote bags for a small army, and because I’d rather the contribution support the blog.

          Yo tambien. I joined as a Friend the first day before the discussion turned to making payments. Upgraded to Benefactor the next day.

        • SouthernDragon says:

          I don’t think anybody denies there are way too many unanswered questions about 9/11 but supplying answers from pure speculation and insisting they’re facts ain’t cuttin’ it.

        • sadlyyes says:

          i will not write about it anymore…certain people benefited imen$ley ,i dont believe in coincidence,but thats just me

  5. Teddy Partridge says:

    To Fractal @6: Thank you very much for your support.

    …and: Nicely summarized, Counselor Bmaz. This is a wonderful description of the excellent team we’ve all come to rely on. Thank you!

  6. Gitcheegumee says:

    Might I make a small suggestion?

    What about memorial memberships for those who are no longer here with us,but were irreplaceable contributors,say like Sara,for one?

    I’m sure there are others ,too, that I don’t know of.

  7. cbl says:

    if I had a nickel for every time the legal crew here broke journalistic ground, we wouldn’t be having a membership drive – jes sayin’

    but I do want to offer just one example of what you get here you don’t get anywhere else

    it was the day Elizabeth Warren was formally appointed – naturally, the bulk of the discussion was about the chickenshit nature of Obama’s dodge in making her Special Advisor to the President blah blah blah

    while we were all busy gnashing our teeth and slappin’ around ‘bots, bmaz dug in to the Agency’s original charter and pointed out that per the Charter, appointing her on that specific date meant that Geithner had had total control in defining not just the Agency’s business but how it conducted business with any other govt agency –

    I have never seen that incredibly salient point mentioned anywhere else.

    I’ve had career weedy, wonky types chasing me down, asking me where I got that whenever I post it on other sites – always a tribal pleasure to point them in this direction :D

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That was even faster than I predicted, and more blatant. Daley must have slammed it the table in that refined investment bankster from Chicago demeanor he has, said “Mine’s bigger” and “Hillary, he’s out; or you’re next.” Can’t let the truth put them off message, or prevent them from intimidating the hundreds of potential whistleblowers out there who have been seething since Bush v. Gore.

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    I would attempt to console the legal department*s counselor(s) whose policy experience has superseded their attorney identification. Yet, in the spirit of the automotive repair fraud outfit known on NPR as **Dewey CheatThem and Howe**, I would ascribe to the work of **LHP, Masaccio, emptywheel, bmaz, Scarecrow, and Mary** more than the sort of effort that parses aspens joined at the roots. The legal department is just the beginning of the balance and nimbleness. As other commenters have mentioned, there is substantial input by other legal minds in the respective threads.

    Academia has brought much to the commentosphere at FDL, as well. One of the series of posts about Judy Miller included a commenter who was a professor of middle east studies.

    Some of the tech work of friar William Ockham¶, and some of the bioscience in the Hatfill case, on the site Jane and ReddHedd built wayback have been worth a lot. emptywheel herself has written some incisive analysis on tech matters. The FDLblogreporting on the Quantico circuit was outstanding. Similarly, watching Rep. Waxman see subpoenas disdained thru the eyes of watchdog blogposts at fdl was worthwhile and illuminating; I am expecting Scott Bloch*s counsel to start referencing the missing emails nondiscovery and noncontempt of congress processes as new paradigms for his own dilemma in another version of the officials-too-important-to-be-part-of-the-democratic-process defense.


    ¶ I thought Ockham more lucid on stuxnet than some of the writing in the IT literature.

    Footnote: I found some stuff about the pharmavirus denial of service exploits recently which made me think about fdl*s own excellent NOC workers solid management of the array of sites which are fdl.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      Quality attracts quality. Just in the legal field alone, we’ve managed to get regular commenters like Masoninblue (one of the best death-penalty attorneys around) and Mary (who is flat-out scary in her learning and intelligence).

      • mzchief says:

        Thank you for the correction. I derived that number by reading the temperature indicator that just updated at the top of your post. Nevertheless, it is a tangible achievable goal and I say that folks should get up their gumption and just do it. I see folks inexplicably extending a lot of faith and goodwill by depositing their hard earned dollars in the coffers of other endeavors that demonstrably do not serve their interests. Instead, it would be an act of enlightened self interest to move that faith, goodwill and financial energy to FDL as the pay off has been constructive, tangible and immense. Further, I think it will only improve. That’s what I call sound investing.

        • bmaz says:

          Well, I tell you what, we accomplish a hell of a lot, the only thing hold us back from soaring even higher is the means to get from here to there. It is a worthy investment in all of our futures.

        • demi says:

          bmaz – I’m not sure your tone on this thread is going to drive the membership higher. I could be wrong. Many here like the inclusive voice thingy. Again, I could be wrong. Strictly speaking for myself, when it gets overly judgemental, folks back off or drop off altogether. Considering that there’s a membership drive, I just wanted to voice My Opinion. Hope that’s okay.

        • demi says:

          ((PJ)) – my neighbah! Say it. I haven’t worn a t-shirt with words on it since I had one from a Dylan Tour in the 80’s. But, everyone’s different. Still, I love it when people here speak up, say what they really think and buck the system. This is a system too.

  9. Professor Foland says:

    The legal coverage of the whole Plame affair, especially Reddhedd (as Christy will always be known to some of us), was what brought me here in the first place, and my own eye-opener into how the new (to me at the time) blogging medium would allow a “graduate education” in most any subject, compared to the elementary-school education on offer in most mainstream journalism.

  10. greenharper says:

    FDL is the first blog that I ever followed.

    So I grew up in blogdom taking for granted that blog conversation would be worthwhile. Gradually learned that all of it isn’t. Came to feel sorry for Will Bunch at attytood, in Philadelphia, with a crew whose comments rang all the changes on “So’s your old man!” How does he keep writing, with that as a daily response?

    Posted a report about our Town Meeting’s successful antiwar warrant myself several years ago on BlueMassGroup. Got flamed so violently by my fellow Mass. Dems that I haven’t been back since.

    What I’ve started to realize only recently is that the quality on FDL is no accident. There’s a lot more behind the scenes than shows up on the page except in the results. bmaz’s explanation of the FDL legal think tank is a piece of it.

    I am ever astounded by the specific types of expertise that FDL people bring to their comments.

    This is a new model for journalism in many ways. It depends radically on relationships, for one thing, as well as on focusing specialist but readable expertise on whatever is current, in ways that no MSM reporter can match. One of those thick, annual National Press Club volumes of consultable experts on this or that is no match for what’s here – whatever the issue.

    The only way to keep this is with a new model of financial support. My check’s in the mail for a membership.

    • bmaz says:

      And our thanks and gratitude for that. You are right, there really is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to put all this – the greater FDL – out. It really is a lot of work, and so much of it – like the work the moderators and editors and tech people do – goes unseen, but nothing works this smoothly without it. It is a pretty good value for the advocacy dollar I think.

  11. Twain says:

    The legal knowledge at FDL is very impressive and is readily understandable. I appreciate that and am grateful that this team of experts came together. Thanks for the good work.

  12. Dearie says:

    Folks who don’t want “member benefits” can still donate to assist FDL to continue its wonderful reporting and delightful community. Or, sponsor a regular who may need an assist to become a ‘founding member.’ No one has to wear a t-shirt…..though some of us are really looking forward to doing just that! And if I run across someone in an FDL t-shirt, I’ll smile happily.

    • demi says:

      I hear ya. Fortunately, we’re all different breeds. What may seem delightful to one may be seen as condescending to another. Or, what may seem shallow to one may speak to someone else’s heart.
      I would hope that you would smile at me whether I’m wearing the correct shirt or not. *g*

  13. Scarecrow says:

    Yeah, I agree the “team” includes the commenters.

    I’ve always thought what makes this place special is the interaction between the writers and the commenters, and you quickly discover that there is enormous intelligence, experience, wisdom and decency in those who come here to comment. And they attract others. Intelligence seeks out its kind, it seems.

    My “law practice” often consisted of sitting down with environmental/energy staff and being educated by technical professionals. I just assumed somewhere, there was enough case law to support doing the right thing, so the task was, find out from the smarter people what that is. Seemed to work.

    FDL commenters are the best!

  14. Knut says:

    I’ve been pushing FDL with friends and acquaintances for some time now. We may think we are well-known, but it is surprising how many people who believe what we do and are generally well-informed are unaware of it. Getting them involved will multiply its influence.

    • msmolly says:

      “He/she” as in ME? Didn’t want the swag, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks lugging clothing and other stuff to Salvation Army. In the days I donated to NPR, I always took the “no swag” option, too. The money should go to the “cause” IMHO. I get that some people will proudly wear the shirt and that’s a good thing.

  15. AitchD says:

    The Firedoglake writers who are lawyers impress me no end. Their informed opinions and expertise are free to anyone who reads here — unbelievable. I suppose any startup enterprise includes a lot of pro bono contributions, but it can’t go on forever any more than a sunrise can last past morning. I don’t want these bright, experienced legal minds to go away. I’ve contributed support donations in the past, in my mind I was paying for services rendered. Being an annual financial backer now helps both ways, as payment and as a retainer.

  16. popyeye99 says:

    My thanks to all who comment and the depth of reporting on issues that are important. I appreciate the candor, honesty, and compassion that is exhibited here. Again this is the place I go for my news. Thanks again to all of you.

  17. kspopulist says:

    I’m In!
    It is exhilerating to me just to watch as stories are born and fleshed out and advanced to the front page and then commented on and reworked – yes with so many excellent people – like I’ve read *used to* happen at news desks and editing rooms of the major papers in days gone by. All my life I’ve yearned for that kind of access to raw stories, even if I don’t participate. Thrilling. Seen it in movies, in great literature, telling the story of the flow of info.
    Worked for years early part of last decade to build something like that but despite all our plans and discussions and beating the bushes, drumming up support, there ended up no funding for it to get off the ground. I deduced I needed an army.
    A few years ago, FDL became one of my news sources – cuz I’m one of those poor suckers who feel they *have* to know – but I didn’t venture past the top story when I did come by in my daily perusal. But over time the depth and range of experience offered here pushed me to look deeper. Then I found more people and the homey … comraderie kept drawing me in, again and again.
    This place really is one of a kind and gets better all the time. Daily.

    Testament to all the great people who got it going and keep it so. Every one of them. Amazing.
    And while not a joiner kind of person, this is one organization I am happy to.
    I Humbly Thank All Of You
    If there’s anything I can do to help

    • masaccio says:

      Thank you for joining. As bmaz notes, we all benefit when knowledgeable people put up comments and diaries in areas of their personal expertise. Questions are also immensely important: they show writers of diaries and front page contributions the kinds of things we need to add, expand on, or learn about.

      I’ve been focused on the nature of a public, in John Dewey’s use of the term, and this post and the comments show just what I mean, as do the posts and comments on the nuclear disaster, BP spill, North African revolutions and the entire gamut of things we discuss here.

      We will continue to work on ways to participate in our activism and our writing.

      • kspopulist says:

        ! Masaccio, you and I have similar interests. Really like what you post. Always gives me somethin else to think on. Totally enthuse also in that idea of public good and public action both informing, guiding and necessary in what makes a healthy civic culture but also makes us healthy people. ‘Full human beings’ in the way that Weber talked about, too. But that’s a huge discussion in itself.
        I’m glad to be onboard!