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!

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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.

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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?

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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.”

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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:

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.