I’m not avoiding telling you what I know. I’m at work right now, and not able to post very well (the email client stinks, and I can’t visit Blogspot at work.) This evening I promise to break things down from my point of view. Obviously, that’s only going to tell you what I know and what I think is going on.
The short version, as I see it, goes like this:
1. Oleg Volk agreed to carry on with The High Road after Rich Lucibella closed The Firing Line. Since Rich had already registered the www.thehighroad.org domain, he “gave it to Oleg.” (In quotes because those are Rich’s words.)
2. Oleg enlisted many of us from the old TFL staff to help. He also enlisted Derek Zeanah to provide hosting and IT services. We were all volunteers, including Derek.
3. Fast forward to this summer, when Oleg, Derek and others discover that there is an opportunity to make money from THR, whether by selling the domain to an outside party or by accepting advertising. Can you guess where the party ended?
4. Oleg seemed to be leaning toward a business offer that made many of us, myself included, wary to the point of suspicion. Derek proposed an alternative that many, myself included, thought might be preferable. The details aren’t important right now; there were honest differences as to the best course, and that’s all we need to know for our purposes here.
5. When Derek decided that Oleg would make a rash decision (and to be fair, I believe Derek thought Oleg’s decision would benefit Oleg but leave everyone else out) he revealed that Oleg was not actually registered as the owner of www.thehighroad.org. Derek had transferred the registry and passcodes into his name and keeping from Rich, and had never passed them on to Oleg. Derek used his control of the registry and database passcodes to deny access to Oleg so that Oleg would be unable to complete any business transaction involving THR. This is where Derek and I part ways.
6. Over the past several weeks, several attempts have been made to reconcile Oleg and Derek and mediate their dispute in private. No solution has been found. Eventually, Oleg made the decision to bring a lawsuit to force Derek to give up his control of the domain. In response, Derek shut down THR yesterday. I don’t know what message is there today; I can’t access THR at work.
7. I believe Oleg will eventually prevail in any lawsuit. In my mind, the bottom line is that even if one accepts that the ownership of the domain is currently in dispute, the last person who had undisputed ownership was Rich Lucibella. Rich Lucibella told Oleg, Derek, and the TFL staff that he wished to transfer the rights to www.thehighroad.org to Oleg Volk. He gave them to Derek because he believed that Derek, as Oleg’s agent, would complete the transfer to Oleg. In effect, Derek intercepted the rights and held them for himself, and he now proposes to use them. But this is not a football game; interceptions don’t count. Under Derek’s theory, if you pay your investment manager $10,000 and direct him to invest it in the fund, he could keep it since he had possession of it at some point.
8. Both Oleg and Derek claim to believe that the other has honest intentions. I don’t believe either of them on that score at the moment. However, I do think each is doing what he thinks is necessary, not only for himself but also for THR. We can convince ourselves of almost anything with very little effort, after all. That said, as I said before, I expect Oleg to prevail in any contest of law. Derek has claimed that Oleg contemplated utterly destroying THR and therefore must be stopped. If that’s true, it doesn’t change anything. If the place belongs to anyone, it belongs to Oleg. If he wanted to destroy it, he would be within his rights. I might never speak to him again after that, but I wouldn’t stop him. In fact, Rich Lucibella shut down TFL entirely. Twice. The difference was that Rich’s host and IT guy, like the rest of us, cringe in mortal fear at the thought of crossing The Lucibella. For better or for worse, nobody is afraid to cross Oleg.
9. The question that stays in my mind is not whether Oleg or Derek will win in the end. The question is, what will be left of THR when the winner is finally declared? THR is a community. It has no geographic, religious, historical or cultural bonds to hold it together, only a shared passion for shooting and firearms. This could easily destroy it.
10. Keep in mind that this is my opinion. It’s based on what I know. What I know is undoubtedly not the whole story. What I believe is even less reliable than what I know.