Saturday, August 12, 2017

Statues Don't Get Up and Move

One person is dead and 34 were injured in the wake of a protest that saw Americans parading under a flag bearing the Nazi swastika turn violent, as fights broke out and a domestic terrorist drove a car into the crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia today.

Let that sink in for a moment. Someone was killed today. A lot of your fellow citizens were injured, half of them in a street fight with other citizens and the other half in an act of domestic terrorism. Not Islamic terrorism, which we hear so much about, but white nationalist terrorism. But perhaps the most stunning image of today’s news was not the physical violence or the car assault, but rather young American men proudly marching under the Nazi banner. We fought a war against the Nazis. Thousands of Americans gave their lives fighting for American values and against the un-American, fascist, and hate-mongering philosophy of the Nazis. While, unlike the Nazi regime, America allows free expression of even the most heinous beliefs, anyone who feels the need to carry a Nazi flag through the streets of America should pick themselves up and leave our country. If you’re rallying behind a Nazi flag then this is not your country and those of us whose families have fought and died for America and everything it stands for want you to go.

The violence took place in a city park. I’ll tell you its name later. Ostensibly, the protest was over the removal of a statue. That’s right, someone is dead tonight because of a piece of stone in a park. But it’s not really about the statue, not directly. The removal of the statue is what we can call the inciting incident. This is what attracted the people we’ll refer to as outside agitators. Agitators seize on an inciting incident and use it to promote their own agenda. In this case, we didn’t just have local citizens concerned about a park statue: we had groups, each with its own agenda, on both the far left and the far right. They came to clash; some even dressed in paramilitary outfits with shields and weapons and could easily have been mistaken at first glance for police. Others showed up with torches evoking memories of the Ku Klux Klan burning crosses in the previous century. But make no mistake, these agitators were not there because of the statue; they came looking for a fight and they found it.

So we have an inciting incident, local citizens concerned about the removal of the park statue, and groups of outside agitators intent on exploiting the situation and the media presence to further their own agendas. Oh, and one deranged individual who decided to mow down protesters and bystanders with a car. The groups ranged from an anti-fascist organization and Black Lives Matter on the political far left; and the Alt-Right, the KKK, and the neo-Nazis on the political far right. But let’s talk about that statue.

We need to examine both sides behind the inciting incident. Since this matter involves such polarizing groups, many of you probably believe there is only one side. But if that’s what you truly believe, then you’re part of the problem not part of the solution. Yes, the Alt-Right, the KKK, and the neo-Nazis are among the most odious humans scum ever to crawl from the primordial ooze. But that makes it even more curious that anyone, especially so many young people, would literally and figuratively march beneath their banner. The question we must ask is why, and while in some cases, such as those of the outside agitators, it could be summed up as simple hate-mongering, for others it is a matter of societal alienation and disenfranchisement. Far left liberals may be creating their own far right monsters.

The statue commemorates Gen. Robert E. Lee. Lee was a great man and a great general who chose the wrong side of the Civil War. I say chose, because both the North and the South wanted him to lead their troops; he was that well respected by both sides. The antebellum South had both a proud history and a shameful one. Beginning with Reconstruction, Southerners were browbeaten over their shameful past and attacked whenever they sought to assert any part of their antebellum culture. Yes, slavery was a large part of that culture, but it’s simplistic to paint the North as good and the South as evil, or to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Southerners must acknowledge the shameful parts of their history but Northerners must also acknowledge Southerners are entitled to their own heritage. Likewise, history is a matter of record and not something that should be changed in an Orwellian manner to suit the political climate of the day.

The statue used to sit in Lee Park, named for Gen. Robert E. Lee. Now it sits in Emancipation Park, named for the freeing of American slaves. No, the statue didn’t get up and move; it’s a statue, they don’t do that. The park was renamed. Gen. Lee’s name was taken off the park (which was then renamed for the cause he fought against) and the city voted to remove his statue. Basically, this was an attempt to rewrite history. It was an affront to Southerners whose families fought and died under Gen. Lee’s command. But more importantly, it was an attempt to erase history. History is important. Monuments and place names are important because they remind us of history. Even bad history. Especially bad history. Philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We should not erase historical monuments that represent unpleasant periods of the past, but rather we should preserve them as a valuable lesson for all who come after us.

We should encourage people to visit Robert E. Lee’s statue and read his biography. It should serve as a teachable moment to learn about the man’s conflicted life during a period of our nation’s conflicted history. It should not be discarded, just as history should not be whitewashed.

Far left liberals need to stop creating opportunities for far right agitators to seize upon. There should never have been an inciting incident in this case. By renaming Lee Park and removing the statue, the message being sent to Southerners was not that slavery was wrong but rather a total repudiation of their entire heritage, both the good and the bad parts. . They feel they are being marginalized in their own country or in their words “replaced.”The reaction of many is naturally to become defensive  -- the young particularly, because they are seeking their own sense of identity, and are therefore easily brainwashed into becoming fodder for the far right groups.

We must see that there are two sides and rather than discounting one side’s views or grievances entirely, or allowing ourselves to become indoctrinated by the extreme left or the extreme right, we should approach inciting incidents with an open mind and a willingness to learn the history behind them and to use that as a teachable experience. Understanding each other, where we are each coming from, and why we believe as we do is the first step toward conflict resolution. Failing to do this invariably leads to the violence we’ve witnessed today.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Girls Have Cooties

Now that the fires of the Fourth of July barbecues have cooled to embers and the previously unfurled flags have been folded and placed back into storage for another year, it’s time to consider the dangers of patriotism.

Patriotism is like ice cream: A little bit is a wonderful thing, but too much leads to bad consequences. Patriotism is defined as proudly supporting or defending one’s country and its way of life. It sounds reasonable until you realize the “Us versus Them” mindset lies at its foundation.

From the time we were children, we’ve been indoctrinated with the “Us versus Them” dichotomy. The world is divided into two groups and you must pick your side or be assigned to one camp. Boys to the left, girls to the right. School sports captains divide the physical education class into two teams. Students at large cheer for their school against the competing team. At Sunday school, children form new groups based on religion. It’s always “Us versus Them” whether it’s gender, sports, or religion.

The obvious problem with the “Us versus Them” dichotomy is we always have to be better than “them”. Boys are better than girls. My team is better than your team. My god is the real one. When you divide the world into two competing groups, no one wants to be on the losing team. The first problem with patriotism is that it can lead to nationalism: excessive or fanatical devotion to a nation and its interests, often associated with a belief that one country is superior to all others. In America, we call this “American Exceptionalism”: the belief America is the best country in the world because it chose a different and better path than any other nation.

Nationalism leads to two even more dangerous propositions: jingoism externally and xenophobia internally. Jingoism is extreme patriotism expressing itself in hostility toward other countries. Unscrupulous leaders will often play on jingoism, whipping up public fervor to take their nation into war. After all, it’s “Us versus Them”. Their very existence poses a threat to our way of life, so such leaders ask Us to Rally-‘round-the-Flag and march into battle against Them. While on the home front, such leaders or political aspirants will stoke the flames of Xenophobia: an intense fear or dislike of foreign people, their customs and culture, or foreign things. This targeted hatred of “Them” often quickly turns violent, taking the form of physical attacks on individuals, pogroms, or genocide.

Perhaps more insidious is the subtle effect of nationalism: the devaluation of the life of anyone who is not one of “Us”. I found the answers to these two questions from an online quiz to be illuminating. The first question was “Are some human lives worth more than others?” Overwhelmingly, the response was ‘no’. I disagree. Each individual makes a positive or negative contribution to society, so those who contribute positively are of greater value. Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Plato, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare: their lives were more valuable than those of Jack the Ripper or the Boston Strangler. If Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, and Mother Teresa are on a sinking ship and there's room in the lifeboat for only one of them, who would you choose to save? If you answered 'no' to the question, then we'll flip a coin to decide who lives while the others go down with the sinking ship.

Yet, what I learned from the quiz answers was most people say, if not believe, all lives are of equal value. But that’s when weighing individual lives against each other. The second question was more revealing:“True or false, the life of one of your fellow citizens is more valuable than the lives of 10 foreigners.” Once again, an overwhelming majority placed me in the minority by answering ‘true’ to this question. The same people who thought all lives were equal added the corollary that  "our lives” are more valuable than “10 of theirs.”

Why would one human life be worth more than 10? I would argue it might depend on the individuals: say, one foreign humanitarian vs. 10 American convicts; or one American murderer vs. 10 foreign schoolchildren. But the respondents weren’t balancing individuals; they were comparing groups, looking at “Us versus Them” and concluding “we” are always far more valuable than “them”. The insidious effect of nationalism is the devaluation of the life of anyone who is not one of “Us”. We see examples of this constantly in news reports where “129 people were killed, including three Americans” implying the American lives are somehow more valuable than those of the other unfortunate people. 

Girls have cooties. Your team sucks. Your religion is false. I am better than you.

Divisiveness is destructive. It’s one thing to take pride in America because of the democratic beliefs on which this country was founded but we must be careful pride does not become hubris that leads us to believe we are better, or our lives more valuable, than anyone who by happenstance was born somewhere else.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An Independence Day excerpt from My Book

And now, on this Fourth of July, an appropriate excerpt from my new book, Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger:




On this day commemorating the founding of our republic, it is appropriate to take a moment from our barbecues and fireworks displays and reflect on the state of our country and our society. Recently, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts backing political campaigns and spurred the development of superPACs, effectively ruled money equivalent to speech. But speech can take many forms, and depending on the nature of that speech, past courts have found it necessary and indeed advisable to place certain limits on it. There is a distinction between information and political propaganda (misinformation and lies). When massive amounts of money are spent to distribute misinformation to an uneducated, and frankly, ignorant populace, the result is not democracy but aristocracy. Our society had devolved into a citizenry so poorly educated that when surveyed, 40 percent thought the Civil War preceded the Revolutionary War. Americans knows more about the Kardashians than the Kennedys. American society is composed of "low information voters" who make decisions based on snippets and soundbites instead of researching and learning about the important issues of the day. The plutocrats are now spending untold millions on such snippets and soundbites to misinform and misguide poorly informed voters.

There has been an enormous transfer of wealth in American society, from the middle and upper-middle classes to the highest stratum of the upper class, on a scale not seen since the Gilded Age. But what the plutocratic billionaires have yet to realize is, once they have filled their coffers to the brim by draining the financial blood from the rest of society, there will be no one left to afford to purchase their goods and services, and their financial empires will crumble. They seek a return to 19th century economics, when the plutocracy grew rich through a cheap labor supply and a growing nation of consumers to purchase the goods they manufactured. But long before America outsourced its jobs, it had outsourced its manufacturing base to Japan,  Korea, and China. America is no longer a manufacturing nation; it is a consumer-based nation, and the consumers - whose jobs have been shipped overseas or made obsolete by technology we embraced too rapidly without regard to consequence, whose wages have fallen, whose benefits have been cut, and whose incomes have failed to keep pace with greed-driven inflation - can no longer afford to consume.

The plutocrats distract the masses with high tech toys, reality TV shows, and political kabuki theater. The Romans had a name for that: bread and circuses. Give the peons enough food and entertainment and they will shift their attention from what goes on behind the curtain by those who govern them.

Did you know that the gulf state of Qatar provides each of its 250,000 citizens with free cradle-to-grave healthcare and public education? All without taxing its citizens. Of course, they can afford to do this because they are an oil-rich nation and they have made trillions of dollars selling that oil to America. We Americans are subsidizing free healthcare and education, not for ourselves, but for the Arabs. Why? Because we continue to cling to an outmoded mode of transportation - the automobile powered by the internal combustion engine, devised in 1806. We could put a man on the moon, but not devise a better transportation system (for example, like the high-speed rail systems of Europe and Japan)? Of course we could. But there are plutocrats whose fortunes are maintained through the oil and automotive industries, providing them a strong disincentive to change the status quo. We need to replace the automobile industry, which is based on a centuries-old technology, pollutes, has created massive sprawl, and ties us to oil, a commodity controlled by our enemies. The only ones benefiting from it are the oil companies and the car manufacturers.

The same is true of pharmaceutical companies, who have the same strong disincentive to devote their research and development budgets to curing diseases, when it is far more lucrative for them to create pills that merely treat diseases. Better to have a perpetual market for their product than to harness their collective scientific brainpower to eradicate disease and eliminate the need for their wares.

Our country is in trouble and needs leaders. Instead, we are presented with buffoons: Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry... the list goes on, ad nauseam. Where are the men of the caliber of Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, LBJ, FDR, Hubert Humphrey, let alone men like Lincoln, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, or John Jay. The current contenders have made a mockery of the presidency, just as jurists like Clarence Thomas sitting on the court where John Marshall, Hugo Black, and William Brennan once sat is farcical. Need I comment on the pathetic state of Congress, with its 9% public approval rating, as it fills its chambers with Tea Party nutcases like Rand Paul and Allen West? When Chris Wallace, of partisan Fox News, asked Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell one simple question: "You insist on repealing Obamacare - if you repeal it, what will you and the Republicans do to insure the 30 million uninsured Americans who will get insurance under Obamacare?" He answered: "That is not the issue." Wrong answer, Senator Bozo. That's precisely the issue. You've shown you and your clown party don't have answers, just partisan lies and attacks.

The only solution is to work to replace these people, who have slipped into leadership positions of our government, with qualified, responsible, progressive reformers. This entails recruiting such individuals and financially backing them so they can be elected. It also requires those of us who are educated to speak out - publicly, loudly, and often - to debunk the misinformation and lies spread by the plutocrats and their lackeys.

JFK summed it up best in his inaugural address (condensed): "The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe: the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God...Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. ...We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty...United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do, for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder...If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich... So let us begin anew, remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us... And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

The world is very different from the one into which we were born. We have the means to abolish human poverty, yet instead allow our country's great wealth to sit in the hands of less than 1% of its population. Perhaps the new generation of Americans, born in this 21st century can reverse this trend, provide our country with world class health care, education, and public transportation, and restore the liberties stolen from us by the Bush Administration under the guise of protecting us. Perhaps they will produce leaders who, unlike our current congressmen and candidates, realize civility is not a sign of weakness and cooperation, negotiation, and compromise are far from anathema to the proper functioning of government. Perhaps, but I doubt it. As Lincoln said, "A house divided cannot stand." I have been amazed to see so many of my poorer friends reach out to help others in need, while many of my wealthiest friends are quick to adopt an Ayn Rand attitude of every man for himself. The solution to our nation's ills will only come when the plutocrats and those still reasonably well-off join with their less fortunate brethren and ask, as did JFK, not what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country and their fellow citizens.

Happy Birthday, America. Enjoy your Fourth of July fireworks and barbecues. They fiddled while Rome burned, too.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Born in the USA

I recently attended a naturalization ceremony. The last time anyone in my family became a naturalized American citizen was four generations ago, back at the turn of the nineteenth century, so this was a unique experience for me. It took place in a government building, in a large room filled with prospective citizens and their guests. A little boy, whose mother was becoming an American citizen, sat next to me in the guest section. Two television monitors were positioned on either side of the stage at the front of the room. A Statue of Liberty replica stared out at us from its perch on the table beside the monitor closest to me, surrounded by dozens of miniature American flags. I smiled at the little boy. “I think you’ll get to bring one of those home with you.” Sure enough, a woman came by, passing out flags to the children.

Music played through the speakers, as we waited for the ceremony to begin. A black man sung an odd rendition of America the Beautiful, off-key and adding his own improvisations. But the strangest song on the playlist was Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, perhaps both the most unlikely and inappropriate tune for the occasion. The video monitors displayed an articulate welcoming message from President Barack Obama, followed by an inspiring message from former UN Ambassador and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She described how she had fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child to escape the Nazis, and returned to her homeland later, only to have to flee again as a teenager when the communists took over. She became an American citizen, earned a PhD, and rose to be one of our country’s most distinguished diplomats.

Her visage was replaced on the monitors by a slideshow while the Star-Spangled Banner played in the background. It was a song filled with great meaning, but as with many songs, people often repeat the words without truly appreciating what they mean. As the crowd around me blindly mouthed the words, I looked down at the little boy next to me. I wanted to explain to him what it was we were hearing. I wanted to tell him how Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, inspired as he sat aboard a ship in the harbor watching the bombs bursting in the air. It was during the War of 1812. He was aboard the British warship HMS Tonnant to negotiate the release of American prisoners. While they were on board, the British attacked Baltimore, bombarding Fort McHenry. When dawn came, Key saw the resilient American flag waving above the fort. He wrote a poem later set to music that became the Star-Spangled Banner, America’s national anthem.

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

It means something. It’s not just a bunch of words or a catchy tune. Our young nation was at war, invaded by the mightiest army in the world. A month earlier, in August 1814, the British had set fire to the White House, forcing President James Madison and his wife Dolley to flee the presidential residence, never to return. The capitol had also been set afire, and for the first time since the American Revolution, a foreign power had captured and occupied Washington, DC, the American capital. The Battle of Baltimore could have signaled the end of the American Experience… But “by the dawn's early light” the “broad stripes and bright stars” of an oversized American flag were “gallantly streaming” over Fort McHenry, having replaced the smaller, tattered storm flag that had waved defiantly through the 25-hour “perilous fight”. I wanted the little boy next to me to know that.

The slideshow sped past an image of the plaque on the Statue of Liberty. The neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor representing the Roman goddess of freedom was a gift from France. It was a magnificent gift, but it was quite large and needed a pedestal on which to be placed. A fundraising effort was started to procure money to construct a pedestal. Jewish poet Emma Lazarus donated a sonnet entitled “The New Colossus” to be auctioned off. In 1903, her poem was inscribed on a bronze plaque on the pedestal’s inner wall. This child of immigrants described the statue: “A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome…”

The most famous words of Lazarus’ sonnet are: “"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…” Could any words be more meaningful and significant to a room full of immigrants moments away from being granted full citizenship? I wanted to pause the slideshow on that image of the plaque and read the entire sonnet so the little boy next to me, and everyone else, could appreciate the enormity of the sentiment expressed so eloquently by Emma Lazarus.


But the image passed in a fleeting moment, having appeared on the screen before us for only the briefest of instances, in keeping with modern America’s impatient, fast food, finger-on-the-remote-control, limited attention span culture. Each year, Americans celebrate their freedom on the Fourth of July with fireworks and barbecues, seldom pausing to reflect on the origins and meaning of the iconic symbols representing the holiday. Perhaps this year, all Americans, new or as Bruce put it, “Born in the USA”, might ruminate on their significance.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

“Hold My Crown”

Revealing how it would defeat the deadly scourge that has plagued it for so long, the West unveiled its secret weapon against terrorism this week: a 91-year-old woman dressed in blue.

At the start of WWII, King George V and Queen Elizabeth I sent their daughters, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret to sanctuary at Windsor Castle, 30 miles from London. Princess Elizabeth, 13 at the time, did not want to go but obviously had no say in the matter. When the Nazis began their daily bombardment of London during the Blitz, the king and queen refused to flee London, despite Buckingham Palace being hit on nine occasions. Many said London had become too dangerous for them, but they would not leave. As the bombs fell all around them, they chose to remain and stand with their people. It was a terrifying time to be a civilian living in London, never knowing when the next air raid siren might sound or when a bomb would explode nearby. But the populace responded to the terror as did their royal leaders and refused to give in to terror or those who perpetrated it upon them.

At the height of the war, in 1942, Princess Elizabeth wanted to volunteer as a nurse in bombed-out areas of London, but the king forbade her because he thought it too dangerous. So instead, the determined 16-year-old signed up at a labor exchange and learned to drive and repair trucks for the war effort. The future queen of England became a mechanic alongside other girls her age to fight against the Nazi terror.

So her actions this week, 75 years later, come as no surprise. When a fire destroyed a high-rise apartment building in London on June 14, killing 79 residents and injuring countless more, it recalled scenes of buildings destroyed and people killed in that same city during the Blitz. But this time, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May declined to visit the site to meet with victims and survivors. Cabinet member Tobias Ellwood explained her decision was based on “security concerns” for the prime minister’s personal safety. Days later, 91-year-old Queen Elizabeth II and her grandson Prince William showed up at the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire and met with victims, survivors, and aid workers. As Adam@thegaymeradam so succinctly summed it up on Twitter:

Theresa May : “I couldn't speak to residents of Grenfell Tower because of security concerns”
The Queen : “Hold my crown…

The once plucky princess showed her grandson, her nation, and the world how it’s done. Leaders must lead by example. They cannot lead from behind. They cannot allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear, no matter how valid the threat may be. At 91, Queen Elizabeth II showed the same intrepid spirit she did at 16. It is that spirit the terrorists wish to break. The goal of terrorism is not to kill people. The violence and death resulting from terrorism are a means to an end. The goal of terrorists is to instill fear and terror. When we give in to that fear; and when we change our behavior, our laws, or the very nature of our free society, then we are conceding victory to the terrorists.

The terrorists' goal is to terrorize us. The way to defeat terrorists is by not letting them achieve their goal. When a nation’s leader cowers in the face of potential danger, the terrorists have won. But when a 91-year-old woman displays the audacity to go boldly where she is needed by her nation without any regard to the ever-present threat of terrorism, she chalks up a victory against it. You can hear the air hissing out of the balloon. The terrorists’ real weapons aren’t bombs and bullets; they are fear and terror. Deprive them of that and they are defeated. They no longer have a raison d'être to exist, or to kill or maim, if doing so will not achieve the desired result of a terrified public and leadership.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pre-Order Your Copy of Issues in Internet Law!

Now available as an electronic download to your computer, laptop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, Android devices, Chromebook, and other e-readers! Save up to $10! Download the 11th edition of Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law from VitalSource !

The 11th edition of Issues In Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law has been updated for 2017 with the latest cases and trends in Internet Law. Of particular note are major changes in the areas of online privacy, and the European Union.

Topics include:

Privacy: Invasion of Privacy, Public Records, Workplace Privacy, Employer & ISP Monitoring, Data Collection, Data Retention, Data Breaches, the Right to be Forgotten, E-Mail & Chat Room Privacy, Web Site Privacy Policies, Behavioral Marketing, Flash Cookies, Device Fingerprinting, Privacy & Children, Metadata, Border Searches, FISA & the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA, FISA Court, PRISM, XKeyscore, EU Privacy Directives;

Free Speech: Defamation, SLAPPs, Gripe Sites, Revenge Porn Sites, Mugshot Sites, Blogs & Vlogs, Obscenity & Pornography, Harassment & Hate Speech, Prior Restraint, Repression, Student Speech, CDA, Anonymous Speech, Commercial Speech, Expressive Conduct; "Fake News";

Social Media: Misuse, Ownership, Coerced Access, the Courts;

Cybercrimes: Spam, Phishing, Identity Theft, Spyware & Malware, Cyberstalking, Cyberbullying, Computer Trespass, Wardriving, Virtual Crime;

Intellectual Property: Copyright, Trademark, Patent, Trade Secrets, Creative Commons, Linking, Framing, File-Sharing, Fair Use, Public Domain, Work-Made-For-Hire, DMCA, VARA, Domain Name Disputes, Keyword Advertising, America Invents Act;

Business & the Internet: Internet Taxation, Internet Interstate Commerce, Web Contracts, e-Discovery, Corporate Securities, Crowdfunding, Reg A, Reg D;

European Union: Directives and Regulations; the General Data Protection Regulation; the Police and Criminal Justice Data Protection Directive; the Privacy Shield;

Also:Cloud Computing; Digital Currency; Right of Publicity; the Internet of Things; Web Accessibility; Net Neutrality; Online Reputation Management; Social Media Monitoring; Podcasts; Geofiltering; Digital Journalism; Hyper Local Web Sites, Digital Estate Planning; Sexting; Facial Recognition; E-Books and many more subjects.

Concisely written and covering a broad range of topics, this is the most current book of its kind!


Reviews:

“Concise overview of Internet-related legal issues.” (Law Library Journal)

“Although it deals with the complex legal issues surrounding the Internet, it is written in layman’s terms and illustrated with ‘ripped from the headlines’ court cases.” (Amazon)

“The concepts and issues are presented in a way that is sufficiently rigorous but very easy to read, making the book one I can recommend.” (Computing Reviews) * “A valuable resource, well-researched and well presented.”

“I want a copy on my bookshelf always within arm’s reach.”

“The anecdotal nature made it easy to understand the underlying legal concepts.”

“It is imperative that schools adopt this book in a way which would help young students gain knowledge about the various issues involving the Internet.” (Indian Journal of Intellectual Property Law)

“Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law will be a welcome addition in both academic and public law libraries… It should be acquired by libraries for its concise overview of Internet-related legal issues.” (Law Library Journal)

All the Time in the World

Mackenzie Mortimer just wants to go home. An accident had flung him into the far future where he had an incredible adventure in The Tomorrow Paradox yet now he longed to return to present-day Serenity Valley, USA. But something had gone wrong. He looked around. This wasn't Serenity Valley, or even America. Mackenzie found himself in occupied Belgium in-between the Nazi invaders and the Belgian Resistance. Lost in a dangerous world where life is cheap and death lurks around every corner, the 21st century teenager finds his modern suburban values at odds with a world at war. He arrived as an innocent boy but, if he survives, can he leave unchanged by the horrors of war?

🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻 

She knelt, pulling a knife from her boot, and pressed the sharp blade against Mackenzie’s neck. “Or, I can slit your throat now.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Don’t get any ideas. I’m a light sleeper and I sleep with my knife under my pillow."
*        *        *        *       *       *
The tip of a black leather shoe poked Mackenzie in the shoulder. He awakened, chilled by the cold floor beneath him. Mackenzie’s eyes followed the black patent leather up from the shoes, along the black trousers, and up to a brown shirt accented by a black scarf secured through a leather knot and a black cross strap running from the right shoulder down to the left hip. A badge displaying the black Lion of Flanders on a yellow shield adorned the shirt’s left cuff, and above it was an armband emblazoned with an intimidating swastika.
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s not a spy. He’s a young boy who will blunder right into the hands of the Nazis if he isn’t helped.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“I didn’t ask you to come. This isn’t a game. If someone describes us to the Gestapo, they will hunt us down and kill us.
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You didn’t have to kill him. I would’ve found a way to get us out of here.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You have a lot to learn. I hope you live long enough to learn it.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“In this war, we are all soldiers... not everyone wears a uniform.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s been like a brother to me for my whole life, yet he’s so brainwashed that he’d believe it was his duty to send the girl I love to her death.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora gazed at her with hardened eyes. “There is no such thing as childhood. Not in Belgium since the Occupation. Not in Europe since the war began. Childhood is a time of innocence; the Nazis destroy innocence wherever they find it. They trample it beneath their jackboots as they march across the continent.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Innocence, once lost, can never be restored. My childhood is gone forever, as is the childhood of every boy and girl who hears the sound of a storm trooper’s boots.” Flora shook her head. “No, Monique, we fight for their unborn children so they might grow up in a different world, in blissful innocence, unable to imagine what we are living through. We fight for the future; the present is damned.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"Maybe where you come from, people can stand on a street corner and say whatever they want. But not here; not in occupied Belgium. Here, there are consequences for speech; serious consequences. People who say the wrong things disappear. These are scary times."
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora looked away. “There are times I try to recall what life was like before the war... those mundane days, when the littlest of things would seem like the end of the world. We got upset over the most unimportant matters, yet I know there were times of unbridled happiness... even if I can’t remember what such joy felt like. Each day the war goes on, it steals the joy from our lives until we have nothing left.” She stood behind his chair and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I’m sorry, Mac.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Oberführer Trommler, I am Finn Peeters and this is my friend, Jan Martens. We’ve uncovered a suspected Resistance member in our midst. He is an American teenager living in Antwerp. His name is Mackenzie Mortimer.”

🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺


All the Time in the World: Some people have it, and some don’t. Available now at these fine retailers:




Even better: Get all 3 books! The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)






Have You Got A Minute?

Mackenzie Mortimer does. And you'd be amazed at what he can do in a single minute with a pocket watch that can freeze time.



The final novel in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy has just been published! Click here to learn all about the series, and for links to order the books in multiple formats (paperback, Kindle, EPUB, Nook, iTunes, and more!)

Available in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB! Order the whole trilogy now:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)

The Tomorrow Paradox (Book 2)

All the Time in the World (Book 3): order from:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Apology to Donald Trump

After careful reflection and due consideration, I’ve concluded I owe President Donald J. Trump an apology. I admit, I was peeved when I learned of all the prominent writers, journalists, and civil libertarians who have recently been banned from President Trump’s personal Twitter feed. And, I must also confess I was jealous, and deeply hurt, as a writer who so often addresses political and social commentary, that I had not been banned too. I thought perhaps it had been an oversight, so I devoted more energy and column inches to writing about Trump and his ties to Russia; and the unqualified and dangerous people he has hired to staff his administration; and the outrageous lies he continues to tell daily, and downright pathologically; and the harmful effects his policies and actions will have on average Americans (or at least those with a net worth of less than $9 billion). But despite my commentary on my syndicated blog, and on Facebook and other social media, and in diatribes at Duffy’s Tavern during Happy Hour (which has admittedly lasted only 30 minutes or less since January 20), I have not received the Holy Grail of my peers: official notification of being banned from the Donald J. Trump Twitter feed.

Tonight though, my hopes were buoyed as I discovered what I believed to be the problem: apparently, I had never bothered to follow the Donald J. Trump Twitter feed. I mean, why would I have? If I wanted a daily stream of lies and “alternative facts” on my newsfeed, I would subscribe to David Leisure so I could relive his delightful mendacities embellished in his Joe Isuzu alter ego. Little did I realize that was the price I would have to pay to earn my official banishment from Trumplandia. It was turning out that one little screenshot stating “You’ve Been Banned” was harder to obtain than a diploma from Trump University.

I picked the perfect day to follow the Donald J. Trump Twitter feed. Our fearless leader, at least according to Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, is celebrating his 71st birthday. I knew my first post on his feed would have to be to wish him a happy birthday. So I wrote “Happy Birthday, Donald!” and included a picture I had taken at one of his rallies (a lesser writer might point out that my article on the Trump rally I attended, along with this photo and many others, appears in my book More Essays of a Reluctant Blogger, but I’m certainly not going to do that, because that would be a tacky way to plug a book. Besides, you can buy the book from Amazon simply by clicking the link below… No, not there; move your cursor a bit to the right).


So I sent the tweet, as you can see below if you’re reading this on my KeithBDarrell.com website; or, if you’re reading this on one of the syndicated feeds, here’s a link: https://twitter.com/Keith_B_Darrell/status/875246152064671745


Immediately after tweeting, I realized I owed President Donald J. Trump an apology. It was definitely improper and impolite of me to address the president of the United States by his first name. This is a terrible breach of etiquette and protocol, so now I’ll have to retweet my birthday greeting with that correction, as I await the elusive Holy Grail of the Twitterverse. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Four Little Words

I’ve written a lot in this column about the failings of American business, but I neglected to point out that most of them stem from the demise of the “Ma and Pa” small business at the hands of Big Business, whether corporate-owned or corporate-controlled franchises. When individuals own their own businesses they are fully invested in them, both financially and emotionally. Not so, the wage slaves of the corporation. Middle managers seek only to please the home office, not the customers they serve, while hourly employees are more finely attuned to the stroke of the clock as it nears quitting time than to customer service. 

Small business owners who are deeply invested in their business and therefore care about their customers can still save American business. They are the heart and soul of what makes America great, not the billionaire industrialists paying below-subsistence minimum wages to their employees while huddled in the White House with one of their ilk conspiring to gain even larger tax cuts from the pocketbooks of their middle and lower class employees and customers. But how can a small business owner hope to compete when the deck is stacked in Big Business’ favor?

When I was a boy, my stepfather owned a toy store; four of them spread across town at one point. Then, a chain store called Lionel Playworld entered the market. They had dozens of toy stores all over the state. They bought inventory in large quantities to supply all their stores and were able to negotiate bulk discounts. If a toy didn’t sell well in one area, they were able to transfer inventory from one store to another hundreds of miles away, not only helping them with inventory control but making it appear to the customers as if they had a burgeoning and ever-changing product selection. They could buy what were then prohibitively expensive advertising spots on television and radio and say “Come to the Lionel Playworld nearest you” and divide the cost among the dozens of stores within the state. The same economies of scale applied to the full-page newspaper ads they took out in the major metropolitan newspapers. All of this also built remarkable brand awareness for the toy store chain.

My stepfather’s family-owned business simply couldn’t compete against the economies of scale employed by the chain store. Our four stores became two, which struggled for several years before eventually shuttering. But the thing about Big Business is that there’s always a bigger fish. A few years later, a larger toy store chain called Toys “R” Us spread across the country employing the same economies of scale that Lionel Playworld had, but on a much, much larger scale. I imagine my stepfather may have felt some degree of schadenfreude when Toys “R” Us put Lionel Playworld out of business.

Back when I was earning my MBA from one of the Top 20 business schools in the nation, I noticed the proliferation of franchised hair salons like Supercuts and Fantastic Sam’s. This led to an incident that has now become an iconic model of how small businesses can effectively compete against better financed corporate and franchised competitors. A sole proprietor who had operated his hair salon for many years charged $25 for the shampoo and styling service. He had calculated his profit margins and knew this was what he had to charge to pay his staff, his rent, and his advertising and other expenses and still make enough profit to live on. All was well until the franchises came to town, including one that opened directly across the street with a big sign in its window advertising “$10 haircuts.”

The franchise, through economies of scale and cooperative advertising programs offered by the corporation, could afford to undercut its competition. There was no way the sole proprietor could compete on price. He would be losing money with every haircut. The situation was grim. Customers would drive down the street, look to the left at the small salon charging $25 and then to the right at the sign in the store window advertising $10 haircuts. It didn’t matter that the sole proprietor had been a pillar of the community for many years; that he knew and greeted every one of his customers by name; that he and his stylists were very good at their jobs; or that they were friendlier and even offered better customer service than the franchised chain salon. This was a no-brainer: $10 or $25 out of your pocket. What would you, as a customer do? 

More saliently, what would you, as a small business owner do? He could not compete on price. He could not compete on location or proximity because his competitor was only a few feet across the street. He could not match the advertising available to the franchise from its economies of scale. He could not compete on value, because he was charging two-and-a-half times more than his competitor. But as he looked out the window across the street, he noticed an empty billboard behind his competitor’s store. He rented the billboard and painted a large arrow pointing from the franchise to his own salon across the street and added four little words. His customers began returning in droves. Business at the franchise dried up, and it soon had to close.

You see, while the proprietor could not compete on value, he could compete on perceived value. He believed he had a better-trained, professional staff and that the quality of their service was infinitely superior to the assembly line approach of the franchise. People care about how much they pay for the product or service, but they care even more about what they get. When they walk out of a hair salon, they want to look good; really good. Especially if they’re headed for a job interview or a dinner date. So when they drove down the road and they saw the sign in the franchise salon’s window advertising  $10 haircuts and then saw the billboard with the big arrow pointing to the sole proprietor’s hairstyling salon with the four little words written in large bold letters stating “We fix $10 haircuts” the message was clear. And ironically, the more the franchise promoted its cheap haircuts, the better it made the small business look.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull America out of the Paris Climate Accord in his Rose Garden speech famously justifying his decision by stating “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” There’s just one problem with this… and it’s not what you think.

The problem is not that 195 nations – all but Syria (which is in the midst of a civil war) and Nicaragua (which argued the agreement did not go far enough) – meaning basically the entire world, is in agreement with the accord Trump is against. The problem is not that climate change does not exist. The problem is not that, as Trump has argued, climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government. All of this is irrelevant because we have now passed the point at which there is anything that can be done to prevent the devastating effects of climate change, which will eventually end all life on this planet. The good news, at least for you and me, is that it will be long after our lifetimes before this happens. It will probably be in several hundred years, so while we will have to suffer short-term effects like hurricanes and floods and earthquakes, life will go on… For a while.

There was a time, a decade or so ago, when we could have reversed the damage and saved the planet. But we didn’t. We denied the problem existed, because we all know that if you ignore a problem it goes away. We debated the issue long after the scientific evidence eliminated any need for debate, because as with any issue that becomes politicized there is always money to be made from both sides of the issue. Frankly, it’s amazing that almost every nation in the world ultimately came to agreement; on a planet where nation has fought nation for time immemorial, and man has fought man since Cain killed Abel, 195 countries got together in one place and reached a consensus. My friends can’t even agree on pizza toppings. But they waited too long. Sorry about that.

Of course, there’s always the possibility there will be a scientific breakthrough; perhaps some new technology yet to be conceived that will allow mankind to save the planet. After all, we still have a few centuries before the end and science has come a long way in the last 200 years. Or maybe you believe in miracles (cue Jefferson Starship music). The bottom line is that the Paris Climate Accord is nothing more than kabuki theater: it will not reverse the inexorable result from climate change.

But it does matter when the nation considered to be the most powerful country on Earth and the leader of the free world for more than the past 70 years shatters the first truly worldwide agreement on anything. Working together in furtherance of common goals that benefit the entire planet is a worthy endeavor that should be encouraged, not discouraged. But that’s still not the problem.

Trump summed up his reason for pulling out of the accord in a simple slogan that his supporters are now using to hold rallies: “Pittsburgh, not Paris”. It sounds good to them; it resonates with Trump’s “America First” philosophy, placing nationalism over globalism, and sliding from patriotism into jingoism. Except there’s one problem: the phrase is meaningless. More than that, it exposes the stupidity and ignorance of anyone who rallies behind the cry “Pittsburgh, not Paris” wearing their “Make America Great Again” caps and their “America First” buttons. You see, the Paris Climate Accord has absolutely nothing to do with Paris. This is not a case of Paris over Pittsburgh, or France over America. This is not about nationalism or patriotism. The only reason the agreement is called the Paris Climate Accord is because that’s where it was signed. The signatories had to meet somewhere: it could have been in Pittsburgh, or Montréal, or Tel Aviv, or Brussels, or Nebraska. It just so happens, they met in Paris, so they called it the Paris Accord.

The agreement does not benefit Paris, or France: it benefits every nation on the planet because it is designed to save the planet. Climate change is not a local issue; it is a global threat. I can imagine the dinosaurs staring at the distant meteors streaming toward them as a Trumpasaurus exhorts them  to ignore the threat because their local grazing pasture will be safe. Dinosaurs were large creatures with tiny brains; humans are supposed to be much more intelligent. If a politician can get millions of Americans to believe the Paris Climate Accord is a “deal” that somehow favors France to America’s detriment simply because it has the word “Paris” in its title, then we have a really big problem. Not the climate change that will end life on the planet centuries from now or the related repercussions we will suffer in the meantime, but rather the mind-numbing, gobsmacking ignorance of the American people right here and now.

In the same speech, President Trump reiterated his nonsensical rationale for abrogating the accord: “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France. It is time to make America great again.” He also asked, “At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?” The answer, for Mr. Trump and those who accept his reason unquestioningly and unthinkingly, is November 8, 2016: the day America elected Donald Trump as its president.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Trump and the Bloody Stump

I have never cared for television personality Kathy Griffin. I find her crass, crude, and not particularly funny for a so-called comedienne. However, at a time when she is the recipient of opprobrium from both the political right and the left, including the media and the current president of the United States, I find it necessary to do what no one else has the intestinal fortitude to do and defend her constitutionally-protected right of free speech and call out the hypocrites who are shamelessly attacking her for their own purposes, be they political or merely a bid for higher ratings.

Griffin was making a political comment when she posted a tasteless photo on social media of herself holding a prop designed to resemble the severed head of Donald Trump, covered in blood. We do not have to agree with her politics, the sentiment of her expression, or the crudeness with which she expressed it. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expressly protects the rights of free speech and free expression. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled not all speech is equal and therefore not entitled to equal protection, however. Commercial speech is entitled to less protection than other forms of speech because speech designed to sell you something isn’t essential to democracy. The most important form of speech is political expression because without the freedom to express, exchange, and debate political thoughts the very concept of a democracy would be impossible. Therefore, courts have ruled that political expression must be protected no matter how much some listeners or viewers may abhor, object to, or oppose the content. This is the very basis of our American democracy.

The right-wing conservatives, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Trump supporters, and Alt-Right propagandists who had no objection to spreading cartoons of America’s first black president and his wife displayed as African gorillas, or showing a watermelon patch in the White House garden, or lynching President Obama in effigy, are now “shocked, shocked to find” (to quote Captain Renault in Casablanca), Griffin’s obviously fake photo of a beheaded Donald Trump. Hypocrites.

The left-wing media and political establishment, including the liberals and the progressives, have leapt to the airwaves to attack that Jezebel Kathy Griffin. Some do it defensively because they know Griffin’s post makes those like themselves who politically oppose Trump look bad; others do it because the post violates their notions of “political correctness”, which is ironic as political correctness is one of the greatest dangers to free speech and in most cases emanates from the left rather than the right of the political spectrum. But this is the same political left that once recognized the importance of free speech by defending the constitutional right of American neo-Nazis to hold a march through the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois in 1978, knowing the tremendous emotional pain and affront to human dignity the Nazis would inflict on the Jewish residents. But the same left-wing that stood with the Nazis to support their constitutionally-protected First Amendment right of free speech are today denying that same right to Kathy Griffin. Hypocrites.

I am reminded of the Kefauver hearings in the U.S. Senate investigating violence in comic books. EC comics publisher Bill Gaines was asked about one of his comic book covers that showed a man with a bloody axe holding up a woman’s severed head. “Do you think that is in good taste?” he was asked. Gaines famously replied, “Yes, sir; I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.”

Gaines’ point was that the cover could have been far more gruesome but that it was drawn to convey its message with enough shock value to attract attention but not with the degree of realism that would detract from its message. Kathy Griffin’s obviously fake photograph that looked like a Halloween mask splashed with red paint was her attempt at political expression. It was, as I have described Griffin herself, crass, crude, and not particularly funny; but it is constitutionally-protected free speech and she has every right to express herself. And for that, she has received condemnation from Americans who have forgotten that this country is based on a right of free expression, and she has been fired by CNN, a cable news network presumably devoted to and dependent on the right of free speech. Hypocrites.

Donald Trump tweeted (of course): “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!” If there is anyone in America who should be ashamed of himself, it is Donald J. Trump. I am sorry if Barron is “having a hard time with this” – although I suspect this is another example of Trump using someone else’s identity to convey his own hurt feelings (Trump used the alias “John Barron” while pretending to be a publicist to promote his business affairs with reporters) – but there are a lot of 11-year-old children in America who are having a hard time with the budget Trump is submitting to Congress. These children live in families whose lives depend on the government safety net Trump is dismantling. These children, already facing the loss of school lunch programs, will go to bed hungry each night when their families no longer receive food stamps. These children will become homeless when their disabled parents lose their Social Security Disability Income or their Supplemental Security Income, as both programs are cut or eliminated. Some of these children and their families will die when they cannot afford the medical care or drugs they need to stay alive without Medicaid, or Medicare. This is not hyperbole; Americans are going to die and it is because of the actions being taken by Donald Trump.

So I’m sorry if your child is having a hard time with a photo on the Internet, Mr. Trump. Millions of other people’s children are going to be having a much harder time because of you. So if you want to spare Barron any future distress, you might look to your own actions and think before you do something that will negatively impact millions of Americans, particularly the poorest and the youngest. Think about whether Barron, when he grows up to be the fine young man I’m sure he will be, will look back at each of your actions today and be ashamed of his father.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

All the Time in the World

Mackenzie Mortimer just wants to go home. An accident had flung him into the far future where he had an incredible adventure in The Tomorrow Paradox yet now he longed to return to present-day Serenity Valley, USA. But something had gone wrong. He looked around. This wasn't Serenity Valley, or even America. Mackenzie found himself in occupied Belgium in-between the Nazi invaders and the Belgian Resistance. Lost in a dangerous world where life is cheap and death lurks around every corner, the 21st century teenager finds his modern suburban values at odds with a world at war. He arrived as an innocent boy but, if he survives, can he leave unchanged by the horrors of war?

🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻 

She knelt, pulling a knife from her boot, and pressed the sharp blade against Mackenzie’s neck. “Or, I can slit your throat now.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Don’t get any ideas. I’m a light sleeper and I sleep with my knife under my pillow."
*        *        *        *       *       *
The tip of a black leather shoe poked Mackenzie in the shoulder. He awakened, chilled by the cold floor beneath him. Mackenzie’s eyes followed the black patent leather up from the shoes, along the black trousers, and up to a brown shirt accented by a black scarf secured through a leather knot and a black cross strap running from the right shoulder down to the left hip. A badge displaying the black Lion of Flanders on a yellow shield adorned the shirt’s left cuff, and above it was an armband emblazoned with an intimidating swastika.
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s not a spy. He’s a young boy who will blunder right into the hands of the Nazis if he isn’t helped.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“I didn’t ask you to come. This isn’t a game. If someone describes us to the Gestapo, they will hunt us down and kill us.
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You didn’t have to kill him. I would’ve found a way to get us out of here.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You have a lot to learn. I hope you live long enough to learn it.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“In this war, we are all soldiers... not everyone wears a uniform.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s been like a brother to me for my whole life, yet he’s so brainwashed that he’d believe it was his duty to send the girl I love to her death.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora gazed at her with hardened eyes. “There is no such thing as childhood. Not in Belgium since the Occupation. Not in Europe since the war began. Childhood is a time of innocence; the Nazis destroy innocence wherever they find it. They trample it beneath their jackboots as they march across the continent.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Innocence, once lost, can never be restored. My childhood is gone forever, as is the childhood of every boy and girl who hears the sound of a storm trooper’s boots.” Flora shook her head. “No, Monique, we fight for their unborn children so they might grow up in a different world, in blissful innocence, unable to imagine what we are living through. We fight for the future; the present is damned.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"Maybe where you come from, people can stand on a street corner and say whatever they want. But not here; not in occupied Belgium. Here, there are consequences for speech; serious consequences. People who say the wrong things disappear. These are scary times."
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora looked away. “There are times I try to recall what life was like before the war... those mundane days, when the littlest of things would seem like the end of the world. We got upset over the most unimportant matters, yet I know there were times of unbridled happiness... even if I can’t remember what such joy felt like. Each day the war goes on, it steals the joy from our lives until we have nothing left.” She stood behind his chair and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I’m sorry, Mac.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Oberführer Trommler, I am Finn Peeters and this is my friend, Jan Martens. We’ve uncovered a suspected Resistance member in our midst. He is an American teenager living in Antwerp. His name is Mackenzie Mortimer.”

🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺


All the Time in the World: Some people have it, and some don’t. Available now at these fine retailers:




Even better: Get all 3 books! The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trumped: The Return of Democracy

I’m happy I lived long enough to see this day. I wasn’t sure I would. I knew it would come, eventually. I’ve always had faith in America and its institutions, even if I’ve lost faith in some of its populace. Our long national nightmare is not quite over but the rest of the American people have begun to awaken. Beginning with President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey eight days ago and the appointment of former FBI head Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russiagate, American democracy will be saved.

This is not hyperbole, or melodrama, or an overreaction. Over the past five months, American institutions have been under assault from both foreign and domestic enemies, and America has come the closest it has ever been in its 241-year history to its collapse as a failed state and transformation into an autocratic dictatorship. The campaign to destroy American democracy may have been instigated by and backed by Russia and its former KGB mastermind Vladimir Putin but its implementation was carried out by an American citizen and his coterie. The plan was simple, and not original: it has been implemented many times by Russia in many countries around the world. 

The first step was to tear down the democracy’s institutions. Putin’s surrogate began by attacking the credibility of the incumbent president of the United States. Donald Trump made the outrageous claim that President Barack Obama was not an American citizen. He insisted Obama had not been born in this country, that his birth certificate had been faked, and that he was therefore not legitimately president of the United States. Trump then ran for president himself, violating all political norms by attacking his primary opponents, not on policy positions, but through argument ad hominem. “Low-energy” Jeb Bush. “Little hands” Marco Rubio. “Look at that face” Carly Fiorina. “Lyin” Ted Cruz. He compared Ben Carson to a child molester and called Sen. Lindsey Graham “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen.” Once he had secured the Republican nomination, Trump turned his attention to the Democrats: “crazy” Bernie Sanders and “crooked” Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the campaign and into his presidency, Trump relentlessly attacked one of the greatest institutions of democracy: the fourth estate. He claimed the media were “dishonest” and their reporting was “fake news”. His spokespeople pushed “alternative facts” while he stood at the podium and dubbed the media “the enemy of the people.” This is how tyrants come to power and stay in power: by subjugating and controlling the press and with it the free flow of information. His goal was to turn the people away from the truth and to replace legitimate news sources with his version of the truth: alternative facts.

Trump took another page out of Putin’s playbook by attempting to discredit the judiciary, another pillar of democracy. During the campaign, Trump attacked  U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, arguing the judge’s Mexican heritage should disqualify him from hearing a civil case against Trump. When Republican-appointed Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary injunction against Trump’s illegal “Muslim ban" executive order, President Trump attempted to delegitimize him by calling him a “so-called judge.”

Immediately upon entering the White House, Trump began his presidency by ordering his press secretary Sean Spicer to lie to the public about the size of the crowds at his inauguration. Lying became a hallmark of the Trump administration. As with many autocratic, banana republic  tin-plated dictators, Donald Trump embraced nepotism, turning his election into a family affair. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, and weeks later his daughter, Ivanka, were installed in offices in the West Wing of the White House. As is the practice of many banana republic dictators, Trump brought his own private security team to the White House, yet he still drained the U.S. treasury siphoning millions of dollars for Secret Service security for Trump tower in New York, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and his adult children on their worldwide business travels.

Trump continued his attack, this time on American values by installing a white supremacist and anti-Semite as his de facto Chief of Staff, a move that spurred the alt-right movement and led to dozens of physical attacks against Muslims, Jews, gays, and blacks. For the first time in its 241-year history, America is no longer seen as the bulwark of freedom and democracy. Instead, comparisons were made to the early days of Nazi Germany. There was a sense of fear among minorities in America. The land whose harbor bore a great statue welcoming immigrants was now, under President Donald Trump, closing its door on refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Less than three months into his presidency, Donald Trump fired all of the country’s U.S. attorneys general -- including the man he had promised not to fire, Preet Bharara, the New York attorney general whose jurisdiction encompassed many of Trump’s businesses. Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she raised questions about Trump-appointed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s inappropriate ties to Russia. Trump fired FBI director James Comey, the man investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, after he asked Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn and to pledge his loyalty to Trump. This is what autocrats do: they make anyone who gets too close to the truth disappear. But that’s not how democracy operates. America is a nation of laws, not of men. And in a democracy no man is above the law, not even the president.

This is not the end; it is merely the beginning of the restoration of our democracy. It will not happen overnight. The truth must come out, and it will set us free.  Robert Mueller will use his broad powers as special counsel to ferret out the truth over the months that follow. We will learn who else within Donald Trump’s coterie had dealings with the Russians, and there will undoubtedly be new names added to the list that already includes Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump campaign aide Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump advisor Roger Stone, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, Trump advisor J.D. Gordon, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The investigation will also reveal who in our government played a role in the attack on America. We already know Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was told about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election 10 weeks before the election and resisted the Obama administration’s proposal that eight senior lawmakers write a letter to state election officials warning them of the possible threat posed by Russian interference. We already know that a month before the Republican party nominated Trump, when then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a private conversation with top Republicans that Donald Trump was on Putin’s payroll, that current Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan “immediately stop[ped] the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy,” according to the Washington Post. Who else high up in our government knew what was going on? What did they know and when did they know it?

These are the questions Americans demand be answered. There will be many complex and shocking details yet to come. Already, we have seen President Donald Trump invite Russian spies – and make no mistake, that’s what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak are – into the Oval Office, along with Russia’s state-controlled propaganda press who no doubt placed electronic listening devices there during their visit, while the American press was specifically excluded. We’ve already seen President Donald Trump reveal code-name Top-Secret intelligence to the Russians, thereby endangering the lives of the men and women who procured this information and jeopardizing our relationship with the nation and its intelligence agency – Israel’s Mossad – that gave us this highly classified information. In fact, that action alone jeopardizes our relationship with every country with whom we share intelligence, as they will no longer feel safe entrusting us with their secrets.

The destruction – or “deconstruction” of American institutions, as Trump’s de facto Chief of Staff Stephen Bannon describes it – is nothing more than slow motion treason. Next month, June 19 will mark the anniversary of the day Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for giving Top-Secret information to the Russians in 1953. How will we deal with similar treason in 2017?

Some Trump apologists argue giving Top-Secret information to the Russians is not treason because the president can declassify any intelligence information; others argue a president cannot be criminally indicted (an open legal question). To me, these arguments echo President Richard Nixon’s justification "When the president does it, that mean's it's not illegal." I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now.

The investigation will continue into 2018. If Trump has not resigned, it is likely the Democrats will take control the House of Representatives and begin impeachment proceedings. One might reasonably ask why the Republicans would not want to hold impeachment hearings immediately. After all, even if Trump were to be impeached and removed from office, the Republican vice president would take over and the Republicans would still control all three branches of government and be able to enact their legislative agenda without this distraction. Their reticence therefore cannot be partisan; there must be another reason. They’re not putting party ahead of country, so what is it? As I asked, Who else high up in our government knew what was going on? What did they know and when did they know it? Impeachment hearings would eventually get to the truth and answer these questions, and there are some who do not want their roles publicly known. However, with today’s appointment of a special counsel there will be an investigation and the truth will come out. This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017



The final novel in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy has just been published! Click here to learn all about the series, and for links to order the books in multiple formats (paperback, Kindle, EPUB, Nook, iTunes, and more!)

Available in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB! Order the whole trilogy now:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)

The Tomorrow Paradox (Book 2)

All the Time in the World (Book 3): order from: