US report pins down bogus degrees

The BBC is reporting that some US nuclear scientists may not be as qualified as they say they are.

Investigators have established that 28 top federal employees including nuclear monitors possess bogus college degrees and the phenomenon may be much bigger.

This all sounds familiar, where have I heard this before?

One told the GAO he had obtained a master’s degree for $5,000 though he had neither attended classes nor sat tests.

The certificate, drawn up on the basis of his “life experience” and past studies and described by the man himself as a “joke”, helped him to advance in his career.

Yes those life experience degrees are certainly worth the paper they are written on.

Author sues blogger

I just came across this in my referral logs, it’s curious how Technorati actually misses alot of the inbound linking.

It seems like alot of people out there may have commented on the affair without me even realising. A good weblog though, he says of me…

Blogger Gavin Sheridan maintains an excellent blog (Gavin’s Blog) which I have been reading off and on for some time now. So it was a shock for me to see that he has been asked by Gray’s attorney to retract statements he made about the writer (namely that Gray is a “fraud”).

I always find it interesting to hear about people reading me, and I have no idea who they are. Very Irish name, but living in Shanghai…

Lawsuits are from Mars

I should have blogged this earlier, but a story appeared recently in a San Francisco legal periodical. Brenda Sandburg had the story, published in the Recorder and on Law.com

Irish blogger Gavin Sheridan got plenty of free legal advice after a San Francisco lawyer objected to one of his postings.

Sheridan reprinted a friend’s blog mocking the educational background and
many marriages of John Gray, author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” The item got around the Internet and caught Gray’s eye, or at least his lawyer’s.

Last month David Given, of San Francisco’s Phillips, Erlewine & Given, sent Sheridan a letter demanding that he retract libelous statements made about Gray in his Nov. 17 post on https://www.gavinsblog.com.

“The relationship guru who constantly promotes himself as ‘Dr. John Gray’
and lists a ‘Ph.D.’ has only one accredited degree, a high school diploma,”
the entry says. “Neither his BA nor his MA is from an accredited institution of higher education.”

Not true, Given said. The author received a legally valid Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University in 1982, when it was a state-approved university. Marin County Superior Court ordered the Novato school to cease operations four years ago. Given also pointed out that Gray obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Maharishi European Research University in Switzerland.

Given did not return calls seeking comment.

“Never having received such an e-mail before, I decided to ask the blogging
community — ‘blogosphere’ — the totality of all people who self-publish their journals online, what I should do,” Sheridan said in an e-mail message. “They responded — in droves.”

Sheridan said several U.S. lawyers e-mailed their advice, and a lawyer in San Francisco, whom Sheridan declined to identify, helped him draft a response at no charge.

“I live in Ireland, and I publish a noncommercial, passive Web site that is hosted on servers located in the United Kingdom,” Sheridan wrote in a March 28 letter to Given. “A California state court would have no personal jurisdiction over me, under well-established law.” He cited the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ 1997 ruling in Cybersell v. Cybersell, 130 F.3d 414, 419.

“As a public figure, Gray could not prevail in a suit unless he showed that I acted with ‘actual malice,'” Sheridan continued. “You complain of only five words of which I was the original author — ‘John Gray is a fraud’ — which are ‘classic rhetorical hyperbole which cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts.'”

My response to John Gray's letter

Dear Mr. Given:

I am writing in response to the letter you sent me, dated March 9, 2004, regarding a November 17, 2003 post I made on my weblog that referenced information on another website regarding John Gray (“the post”). In the letter, you stated that my post was libelous and demanded that I publish a correction on my website, pursuant to Section 48a of the California Civil Code. I decline your request, because I do not believe that my statements were libelous, based on my review of your letter and of California case law.

As a preliminary matter, I am astounded by your suggestion that you might initiate legal action against me in California. I live in Ireland, and I publish a noncommercial, passive website that is hosted on servers located in the United Kingdom. Legal proceedings in California would pose an undue and unreasonable burden on me, and a California state court would have no personal jurisdiction over me, under well-established law. See, e.g., Cybersell, Inc. v. Cybersell, Inc., 130 F.3d 414, 419 (9th Cir. 1997) (holding that there was no personal jurisdiction over a Florida corporation that conducted “no commercial activity” on “an essentially passive home page on the web”).

Even if a California court had jurisdiction, it is clear that my statements were not libelous. It is indisputable that John Gray is a public figure under U.S. law. According to his own website (http://www.marsvenus.com/detailedbiography.php), Gray is “the best-selling relationship author of all time,” and the author of “the number one best-selling book of the last decade,” having sold “30 million Mars and Venus books.” As a public figure, Gray could not prevail in a suit unless he showed that I acted with “actual malice,” that is “knowledge that [the weblog post] was false” or with “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964). It is highly unlikely that you could meet this burden, given that my post quoted a web page containing information about John Gray that I believed to be true.

Based on the information on your letter, I cannot conclude that my post was false, much less libelous. Despite your blanket statements that my post was “false” and “libelous,” you did not dispute the specific information in the post regarding Gray’s biographical information, such as the claim that John Gray received his undergraduate degree from an unaccredited institution. Additional research I have undertaken has not revealed information that suggests that my post was false, and the post was an accurate quotation of a source (buzz.weblogs.com) upon which I relied. You complain of only five words of which I was the original author “John Gray is a fraud” which are “classic rhetorical hyperbole which cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts.” Seelig v. Infinity Broadcasting Corp., 119 Cal. Rptr. 2d 108, 117 (1999) (internal citation and quotation omitted). Such statements are not libelous under California law. Id.

Given that my post was not libelous, I decline your request for removal of the post and the posting of a correction on my website. I assume that you will not pursue this frivolous claim any further.

Sincerely,

Gavin Sheridan

More debate

Yet more debate on this whole situation. This discussion is very interesting, its much different to the ongoing discussions in the blogosphere. People here seem to be bringing the credentials of Rick Ross into question rather than that other guy.

Another interesting blog that I had not seen before, Overlawyered, has a brief mention of the story. The stories on it are all good reads, very informative.

Slugger has also weighed in with his views on the story.

Gavin's Trumpet

John Howard over at For What It’s Worth writes a lengthy piece on the ongoing legal saga I find myself in.

John articulates his views in a concise and clear cut manner, as one would expect from a lawyer. He takes it in two sections, law and facts. He believes that any case brought against me would not win. He concludes:

Bottom line: Gavin’s statements appear to be true. Usually one bullet is sufficient to kill the fish in the barrel, and that should do it. If Gavin wants to fire a few more, he could point out that even if it’s false, I didn’t know that it was (in fact, there is a lot of stuff online that appears to confirm Gavin’s statements); even if I knew it was false, you could never prove I knew that; even if you could prove I more likely than not knew it, you can’t prove clearly and convincingly that I knew it was false . . . .

What about malice? The only malice I see on Gavin’s site is from Gray’s attorney—maybe he should look up “malicious prosecution.”

I would like to thank John for his summing up of the situation. It is a great read for any bloggers that might find themselves in this situation in the future.