Saturday, August 20, 2011

I filled me a sachel full of old pig corn

This is far more real life, and real politics, than I usually cover, but I feel it's worth a mention: the West Memphis Three are finally off death row.

Sort of.

What does that mean? Well, if you don't know anything about the West Memphis Three, these boys--well, hells, they're not boys anymore, that's the deeper tragedy--were arrested for the slaying of three Boy Scouts in Arkansas in 1994. Though there was evidence to suggest another party did the killing, this was overruled in terms of the things the Arkansas police knew: that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. wore black, were presumed to be Satanic worshippers (they were pagan, not Satanists), and had been arrested for shoplifting and vandalism prior to this event.

Because of the disturbing aspects of the case (the boys in question were eight years old, were tortured either before or after their murder, and there was evidence of rape), the three young men were bound over for trial, convicted, and Echols, at least, was sent to death row. (Even though evidence, suppressed at the time, surfaced that Terry Hobbs had killed the three boys.)

As Echols came in under conviction of child murder and raped, he was immediately seized as a toy by the inmates; after repeated rapes, he was moved to solitary confinement, where he has spent the bulk of his prison time since that date. Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment as an accessory, and Misskelley separated from the trial, hoping to get a better deal, but was also sentenced to life imprisonment.

This is where the Alford plea comes in. A little-used legal procedure, it dictates that the accused is in agreement that there is sufficient evidence to result in a guilty verdict, while asserting innocence. It's not well-known, even by most lawyers, and it's a tribute to the minds behind their legal team that discovered it at all. I don't know if it was attempted, and then abandoned, previously to this, or if it was ever attempted at all, but I do know this--if it had not been for the state suddenly moving, after over a decade, to actually execute Echols, none of this would have happened.

But after over fifteen years in solitary confinement, Echols, and his two compatriots are now free. Still under burden of the guilty verdict in Arkansas, and under ten years' probation from that state, but finally, they're not trapped in their cells, wondering when the axe will fall. It's a dark victory, to be sure, but it's a victory nonetheless.

Now, back to the Escapist.

Nuke_em_05 from page 47: Escapist: If you're going to get into a contract, make sure you can meet your end of the agreement.

EC: If you are in a contract, don't meet your end if they aren't meeting theirs.

Contracts are legal business documents. You don't enter contracts "as friends" on "good faith". You enter a contract knowing your obligations and what you are due, and expect it.

I know James was "only trying to help out" the Escapist by saying "no worries" on payments, but what he should have done is said: "pay up, renegotiate, or back out". Right away.

As for the RocketHub business, there has clearly been tons of miss-communication and assumptions.

From what I read here, the Escapist has no say as to what the funds go to, at all. They did not "donate" publisher's club memberships or t-shirts, they expected to be reimbursed for cost.

For the Publisher's Club memberships, the first 50 (with a $15 donation), actually cost the effort $5 each (they got $15, but owed Escapist $20), so the first 50 actually cost the charity $250.

Hopefully the T-Shirts cost less than $20 to produce. If the statements are correct, however, the 1754 shirts over a stated $36,450.00 works out to $20.78 per shirt (actually sounds about right, to be honest), which means the $20.00 donation left EC losing $0.78 per shirt.

241 of the $50.00 donation publisher's club subscriptions would gross $12,050 for the charity, but cost $4,820 to reimburse the Escapist, leaving $7230 for the charity.

So, that's a total of $5,070 owed to the Escapist on that issue (T-Shirts aside).

All the details are fuzzy, though, communication is key, folks.

For future reference, if you are doing an auction or sale for a charity, there are two ways to do it:
1. Have the items donated and sell them below cost/retail (100% profit)
2. Buy the items and sell them above cost with the "doing good deed" be an incentive to purchase through the charity and spend more. Or buy at cost and sell at retail so the purchase incentive is the profits go to charity, while not spending more than retail.

It looks like EC took option 2 and did it wrong.

(from the media album)


SpaceGhost2K, some hours later (yes, still on the 10th): There are only two people related to The Escapist that I have had any personal involvement with, and even that was on a very limited basis: James Portnow and Susan Arendt. Even with my limited contact with these two people, I can tell you that I'd trust either of them with the keys to my car. I'm not sure how Susan got dragged into this. I saw her name mentioned a couple of pages back, being compared to someone else or something. I don't care. All I know is that if there are shenanigans going on, I refuse to believe she played any part in them.

Having read the point-counterpoint-countercounterpoint posts by the two parties, the fault seems pretty clearly to me to rest on the shoulders of The Escapist. The contract was: EC makes content, TE pays them. EC fulfilled their part of the contract for one year. TE fulfilled their part for one month. After that month, I don't see how that contract could still be considered legally binding. TE had violated the terms of the contract. Period.

It's also clear that TE donated nothing toward the fundraising effort. Did they donate cash? They've not said so. Did they donate goods? No, they were to be paid for the t-shirts that were "donated", although they did agree not to make a profit on them. Did they donate services? Yes, and no. They agreed to donate Publisher Club Memberships, but those are intangible items like donating horse armor. They're not "out" anything. I've read comparisons that point me to the EC video on "piracy" but that doesn't apply here. They are not out the cost of a Pub Club membership if they give it to me, because I wouldn't use it.

Lastly, I read that one site said they would not allow the fund raising effort because they didn't do charity. That means this effort was recognized as a charity. It was created to fund one charitable effort: fixing Allison's arm. The funds that were left over were going to be put toward a second charitable effort: an indie incubation project, from which no one at TE or EC would receive any money. How TE ever came to the conclusion that it would be appropriate to use those charity funds for the non-charity purpose of paying the money they owed to EC for services rendered is beyond me.

And with that, we reach page 55, and a comment from someone that corrected something I'd believed from the first few posts on this topic.

bob1052: It wasn't just [to] get Yahtzee to PAX.

A quick google search taking the first link

Sydney to Seattle
United Airlines Economy flight.
Listed 11/08/2011
fr $1547*

For a round trip it would cost $1547. Obviously this is not how much it cost back then but I doubt it would be off by more than 10 times.

What they wanted to do was get Yahtzee to PAX, as well as a large number of their other employees, and then instead of Yahtzee signing various things at a booth or anything, they wanted to rent out a convention hall to have a party that only people who gave $100 or more could attend.

I'm not sure how to not see it as a working vacation.

Huh. Okay, I did not know that. That puts the Escapist's "fundraising" drive to get Croshaw to Seattle in a much less favorable light. Plus, at the time of this writing, that price had dropped to $1538.

Uszi responded to this, of course: Suffice to say that the cost was not to fly Yahtzee economy, they intended to fly him business class. They are also going to pay him for attending, since he would technically be working and not going on vacation. The additional cost was to fully cater an event including a bar for the people who contributed $100 or more, hence why it was 21+.

Which is all well and good, save for the part where they wanted to raise $20,000 for the total cost of getting him from Sydney to Seattle, and then charge folks extra--in point of fact, double the cost of their PAX three-day pass in the first place--just to have a chance of getting in (not a definite, pay your C-note, you're in deal). If we go by the first link given through the same service, that raises the total cost of a first-class ticket to $6168. That leaves $13,832 free for a suite at one of the seven hotels around the convention center. Let's be generous and--even though no hotel suites are available at this time--book him in an imaginary suite at the Alexis, near the center. They average $418 per night; let's be generous again and book him for a full week. That's $2926. Let's be more generous and toss him $1000 for food, and another $1000 for personal spending funds. $4926 plus $6168 is $11,094, so where's the other $8906 going to go?

FINALLY we get to August 11th, and we start that day off with a personal message from the one who started this thread in the first place.

TypeSD: Ok, here's the skinny. Enough with the personal attacks.

Also, stay the hell on point.

Until the email exchange is published, hopefully sometime today, we'll not be clear on anything. so far it's just I said, he assumed, he said, I assumed, going on.

Save...the emails still haven't been published. Not looking good.

Kian2: Since you haven't been to RocketHub, you might also not know that RocketHub is not strictly speaking a charity site. It's a crowdfunding site. People don't just give out of the kindness of their hearts. They are offered incentives. The cheapest donation (a dollar) gets you mentioned in the credits of an episode. There is cooler stuff offered for heftier donations. Two people put up $5000, which gets them a week with James, for them to decide how to spend (help with advice, game design, or just hang out?).

From this perspective, besides the advertised goal, you get a bunch of goodies with your donation. So even if they spend the money in a way you find objectionable, you are also getting your money's worth in goodies. This is what the offers they mention are, and which they suggested as the main draw to continue donating.

Which handily covers 99.9% of the cases you are so concerned about. They said you could get goodies for your donation even after they had all the money they needed. Can you imagine the outcry if people only heard about the drive after it was over, and couldn't even get a chance to get the goodies? In fact, rewatching the episode, the way they originally framed it is "Buying an extra show for a dollar and helping Allyson
[sic] out while you're at it."

If they get the goodies, then the money spent is going towards what they wanted. If someone tells you 'I have all the money I need, but I have some goodies left over you can get if you donate I guess', and you donate, you have to be aware that they are going to be deciding what to do with the money left over.

Which leaves, I suppose, the people who donated between them reaching their goal and their first official announcement. We are, of course, talking about a window that is less than 24 hours. They set up the fund on June 29, and the banners would have gone a bit after that. They raised the 15k they had set out to get on that same day, before the bulk of the community even heard about it. They reached 25k in six hours, and in the time it took them to ammend the video it had continued to grow.

Now, this was obviously in response to someone, that I'm not bothering to quote--you can look it up if you like, I'm just trying to get through this--and I'll also say that the episode itself, past that initial announcement and the link, is actually a pretty good take on race in games. But this particular quote I wanted to draw attention to, because--disregarding the "they're being dicks" reactions post this mention, this was a charity run. Think in terms of SLRFL here--it takes the folks behind the Relay nearly half a year of plodding forward to raise these kinds of funds.

The Escapist community, with only a handful of previous mentions, raised the cost for Allison Theus' surgery in six. hours.

That, as Daniel Floyd said, is insane. Also incredibly cool, because that means a bunch of gamers, who have more than enough reasons to pay out for other things, among them, other charities, saw the plight of a fellow gamer and artist who would literally lose what she knew how to do in this world if not operated on. That's not hyperbole, that's fact. And, because of the way the injury was evaluated by her insurance company (and this is the US, so it doesn't matter which insurance company she has, they're all bastards on this), having it declared a "pre-existing condition" meant that not only wouldn't they fund the surgery, but they wouldn't fund any physical therapy afterwards.

In six hours Allison Theus had those funds. In one-fourth of one day she had her life goal confirmed, and could go ahead with the surgery to save her arm. That kind of turnaround is unheard of in charitable work, and while the swag may have been part of why people donated, that wasn't the main reason.

More on the next entry.

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