Standing Up To Bullies

January 13, 2017

A member of the family behind LL Bean is refusing to be bullied by anti-Trumpers calling for a boycott of the company because she made a personal contribution to a pro-Trump PAC. Meanwhile, conservatives are reportedly fighting back by ordering merchandise from LL Bean. All this furor, despite the company’s insistence that it is politically nonpartisan.

A second controversy also broke out after President-elect Trump tweeted his praise of LL Bean and urged Americans to support them. Some slammed this as an inappropriate presidential endorsement of a product, but Trump isn’t President yet. He also came under fire for hypocrisy because Republicans criticized Obama for trying to “pick winners” in the marketplace, and here he is promoting one company over others.

Just to be clear on the difference: Trump praising LL Bean is equivalent to Obama going to an auto plant whose workers’ union supported him and saying that people should support their great American-made product. It might be self-serving, but it’s also within the standard pro-American-business cheerleading role of the President. The criticism of Obama for “picking winners in the marketplace” centered on using our tax money and/or government contracts to reward political supporters, like the half-billion dollars the government guaranteed for the solar panel company, Solyndra. That's not just praising an American company, it's using our money to give them an unfair advantage that their competitors didn’t have. Although considering how Solyndra went down the drain and took our money with it, maybe that proves government really can’t pick winners in the marketplace, even when it tries to stack the deck.

Interesting Timing

January 13, 2017

Interesting timing. On her way out the door, Attorney Gen. Loretta Lynch has approved an internal inquiry by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General into the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. IG Michael E. Horowitz says it comes in response to requests from the public and several lawmakers.

So. When FBI Director James Comey announced publicly that the Bureau would not recommend charges against Hillary for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State, was he following established “policies and procedures,” or was he not? It’s curious that this examination has been ordered by the outgoing administration rather than being tabled for the incoming one to consider. Don’t know about you, but I’d love to have been a fly on the wall during those conversations.

For more details, click here.

One reason Donald Trump was elected President is that millions of Americans trusted him to use private-sector knowledge and experience to help solve seemingly intractable problems in government. One of his new appointments, especially, demonstrates that their trust was well placed.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has been tapped to advise the President on cybersecurity issues. He’s the best of both worlds: not only does he know government bureaucracy like the back of his hand, he also has moved into a private-sector career as a cybersecurity consultant. His many years in law enforcement and his leadership during and after the worst attack on American soil add to his stature. First on his agenda will be to bring together experts from the business world to share their insights and suggestions for combatting cyber intrusion.

It seems that while others in politics are using the cybersecurity issue for political gain in this period of transition, President-elect Trump is already grabbing it by the horns. His hiring of Giuliani for this purpose signals that he’s not fooling around. Imagine for just a moment that Trump lost the election and the ultimate decisions about safeguarding our nation’s cybersecurity were being made by...Hillary Clinton! But then come back to the real world and smile.


Back In The News

January 13, 2017

You’d think that anyone who could actually build a clock would know when his 15 minutes are up. But that doesn’t seem to apply to Ahmed “Clock Boy” Mohamed, or more precisely, to his opportunistic father, both of whom are back in the news this week. You might recall the 2015 incident in which the 14-year-old brought a digital clock he claimed to have built to his school in Irving, Texas (critics said it was actually a Radio Shack clock he’d simply dismantled and put into a pencil case, which gave it an alarming similarity to a time bomb.) When he plugged it in during class, a concerned teacher altered school officials. Police questioned Ahmed and found him unresponsive, but he was released after a few hours, after they determined the device wasn’t dangerous.

The incident garnered a bonanza of lucrative sympathy for Ahmed, from gifts of free computer equipment to scholarship offers to an invitation to the White House from President Obama to an offer to come live like honored guests in Qatar. But it also stirred widespread suspicion of his family’s motives. Even Bill Maher pointed out that in today’s dangerous climate, any teacher who was confronted with something that looked like a bomb would be negligent to just take a student’s word for it that it wasn’t.

His father, Mohamed Mohamed, squandered any remaining sympathy by demanding $15 million from the city of Irving and the school district. He later filed a defamation lawsuit against a number of conservative media figures who had suggested the whole incident might have been a hoax designed by the father to spark an incident that he could brand as Islamophobia and sue over.

Now, the update: this week, that case came to court. The judge asked Mohamed's attorney to cite any false or defamatory statements. After she spent what the defendants’ attorney called “a painfully embarrassing 15 minutes flipping through reams of paper” and coming up with nothing, the judge dismissed the suit against the media figures. A lawsuit against the mayor of Irving still stands, but she’s challenged it as well. Let’s hope that will also be tossed out, and we’ll never have to hear about this family again.

Still, before we let this blessedly slide into the dustbin of history alongside various old P.T. Barnum sideshow acts, it’s worth clicking the link to learn about a term you might not have heard before: a SLAPP lawsuit. It’s a tactic used by certain groups who abuse the legal system to try to silence critics and thwart the First Amendment through the threat of expensive lawsuits. You might be hearing that term a lot more often, but let’s hope all such lawsuits end up slapped down, the way this one did.

Meryl Streep's Speech

January 9, 2017

As expected, last night’s Golden Globe Awards gave Hollywood stars a chance to cry over the end of the Obama era and posture self-righteously about Donald Trump. But the one who’s getting the most press is Meryl Streep, for turning her acceptance speech into a combination attack on Trump for allegedly mocking a disabled reporter and a rallying cry for Hollywood stars to act as a sort-of truth squad defending the media. Here’s a quote:

“We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That's why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists. Because we're going to need them going forward. And they'll need us to safeguard the truth.”

Meryl Streep is a gifted actress, possibly the best of her generation, but let’s get real: a guardian of the truth she is not. The last time she waded into public policy, it was to attack the use of Alar on apples, an overblown scare that bankrupted a lot of mom-and-pop apple farmers. She helped stir up a hysterical fear of cancer caused by Alar, even though, as the American Council on Science and Health reported, to get a dose of Alar equivalent to what was fed the mice in the study, a human would have to drink 19,000 quarts of apple juice every day for life. Cancer would be the least of your worries, since you’d drown in apple juice on day one.

Likewise, she couldn’t even get through her speech last night without repeating “fake news.” Here’s a link to a video showing that Donald Trump was not mocking the reporter’s disability but just using a gesture he uses all the time to indicate anyone who’s flummoxed about something. The idea that he was targeting the reporter’s disability came from a concocted Internet meme that juxtaposed two still photos.

Read more.

But I will say this on Ms Streep’s behalf: I agree with her that we need a press that will safeguard the truth and call the powerful on the carpet for every outrage. For the past eight years, I’ve wondered what happened to that press, as they ignored outrageous lies (“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” “ISIS is the JV team,” “Bengazi was caused by a YouTube video,” etc., etc.), looked the other way at blatant corruption and malfeasance, and ignored attempts to unfairly interfere in the American presidential election (I refer to the DNC undermining Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton getting debate questions in advance, letting her campaign suggest questions for her opponent, etc.) We now know, thanks to WikiLeaks – and let’s face it, their own admission – that the media were not acting as a watchdog but as a willing lapdog, shilling for and colluding with one candidate while relentlessly attacking the other. Of course, NOW they’re ready to be fierce watchdogs again.

That’s the type of outrageous corruption and hypocrisy at the highest levels of power that cries out for a Hollywood movie exposing it all, a la “All The President’s Men.” I look forward to seeing that movie, although I won’t hold my breath.

Say, you know who would be great as Hillary Clinton? Meryl Streep! Read more.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2017

Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! And not a minute too soon!

I hope you’re not nursing a hangover from last night. But if you are, at least take solace in knowing that the long national binge drunk that was 2016 is blessedly over. Last year saw Americans battered by a politicized media and over a billion dollars in attack ads designed to drive us all further apart and into warring fiefdoms. While far too many Americans remain “bitter clingers,” refusing to stop fighting a battle that was over in November, let’s hope they’ll come to realize how much of that anger and animosity they feel was ginned up by political theater, invented by consultants who profit and gain power from fomenting divisiveness.

For the rest of us who just want to make America great again, that starts with putting the election in the rear view mirror. We need to keep our eyes on the tough road ahead, and not let the profiteers of division distract us from all the things we have in common. Let’s hope and pray there are no more disasters, be they natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, or manmade disasters, like the terrorist attacks in Berlin, Nice, San Bernardino and Miami. But let’s bear in mind that if disasters come, nobody should care if they’re in red states or blue states. Wherever and whenever our fellow Americans are hurting, we all pitch in to help.

Let’s make 2017 a year to rediscover the things we have in common, and join hands instead of pointing fingers. Maybe reconnect with those Facebook Friends who unfriended you just because you didn’t see eye-to-eye on some political issue. If there’s one thing previous New Years have taught us, from the Y2K scare to the Mayan Calendar, it’s that despite all the apocalyptic gloom and doom talk, the world didn't come to an end. Life goes on. And life is what you make of it. 2017 could be the greatest year ever if we all agree that come what may, we’re going to make it great.

If you can't be that optimistic, then just be happy that 2017 isn't an election year! And here's more good news: the 2020 presidential campaigns won't start gearing up in earnest until at least October.