The hypocrisy of Hollywood

First published October 24, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

Who would have imagined that liberal Hollywood and conservative Fox News Channel had so much in common: Both appear to have created a culture where male predators thrived.

Claims by George Clooney and Matt Damon that they’re shocked to learn about producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment and abuse of women over decades was as hypocritical as Megyn Kelly’s feigned outrage at Bill O’Reilly for his alleged bad behavior.

In promoting the movie ‘Suburbicon,’ which stars Matt Damon, director Clooney said he was aware of Weinstein’s behaviour.

“Most of the rumours I knew, were from Harvey himself: ‘I had an affair with an actress or that actress,’” said Clooney. “Somebody knew. There were people that brought young actresses to his hotel room.”

Clooney and many others knew, too. But did he he ignore the rumours because mega producer Harvey launched and fuelled his career by casting him in big films?

In a separate interview with NBC’s Today, Matt Damon likewise talked out of both sides of his mouth. He said that he “knew the Gwyneth story” — that Weinstein allegedly harassed the high-profile actress — because “Ben [Affleck] had told me about it.”

Damon knew Weinstein Paltrow story but told Today’s Natalie Morales that he didn’t know what he could have done. Hmmm … how about speak up about it when it happened? But Damon, like Clooney, owed the start of his career to Weinstein.

The New York Times recently broke the allegations about Weinstein’s notorious behavior, but Clooney blamed the media for not exposing Weinstein. Huh? “Whoever had that story and didn’t write it, should be responsible. I want to know what kind of ad dollars were spent from the Weinstein Company and Miramax,” Clooney scolded. He even had the audacity to add: “We should have known this.”

You did know this George; but you, Matt, and the rest of Hollywood chose to ignore it and remain silent. From what we have been told, it was Hollywood that created a monster, not the media.

Male predators who use their positions of power and influence to sexually assault and harass women are despicable. Yet employers and employees who enable these men’s behavior in the workplace, for their own monetary and personal gain, are equally culpable.

Keeping silent about the pervasive culture of sexual harassment during her meteoric rise at Fox News Channel, Megyn Kelly — now at NBC — is speaking out, trying to portray herself as a champion of women’s rights. Since the New York Times published a story that Bill O’Reilly paid $32 million to settle sexual harassment allegations brought against him by a former Fox News contributor, Kelly has been grandstanding about how she complained about Bill O’Reilly to her bosses when both women were at FNC.

This week, in the opening monologue of an episode of her eponymous show, Kelly declared: “O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behaviour is false. I know because I complained.”

In a self-righteous tone, Kelly read an e-mail complaining about O’Reilly that she sent to Fox co-presidents Bill Shine and Jack Abernathy two months before she left the network.

Kelly concluded with “The abuse of women … it has to stop.”

Kelly looks like an opportunist. Toward the end of her tenure at Fox, Kelly sat on a powerful perch, as one of, if not the superstar of the network. She was unstoppable, and so could have helped stop the apparent misogynistic culture at Fox. If only she had complained much sooner than she did.



Commend Trump for taking action

First published October 15, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

If you’re a Republican president with a do-nothing GOP majority in Congress — which refuses to pass your (and their) agenda — you take matters into your own hands.

This week President Donald Trump did the work the GOP campaigned on for seven years: He began dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through executive order.


“For a long period of time — since I’ve started running and since I became president of the United States — I just keep hearing: ‘Repeal and replace, repeal and replace.’ Well, we’re starting that process, and we’re starting that in a very positive manner,” Trump declared.

Under Trump’s executive order, insurers will be allowed to sell less expensive policies to people, like me, who don’t receive health insurance through an employer. This means a 50-year-old man won’t have to pay for coverage for other people — like maternity benefits — that he will never use and which raised the cost of his monthly premium.

Aside from mandating that every individual buy insurance, Obamacare required that insurers force individuals to pay for “minimum essential coverage” like maternity leave even if they weren’t using it.

Perhaps, that’s why my old plan became unaffordable at $607 a month. My new plan is just as bad. I pay $367 a month with a $5000 deductible for care I don’t receive so that I can subsidize care for other people. No wonder 6.7 million Americans dumped their costly insurance in 2015 and paid the tax penalty instead, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Other actions in the order direct agencies to consider loosening regulations on short-term plans that people buy when they are in between jobs. The administration will also consider blowing up the individual mandate that requires every American to buy health insurance.

Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer groused loudly that Trump bypassed Congress, “sabotaging the system, using a wrecking ball to single-handedly rip apart our health-care system.” I guess Chuck forget about the wrecking ball of skyrocketing premiums that Obamacare has caused over the past seven years or insurers fleeing markets, leaving some regions of the country with one or no health plans to buy.

Schumer also had no problem when President Barack Obama bypassed Congress to unilaterally rewrite U.S. immigration law with his executive order — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — granting amnesty to non-citizens.

But when a white, Republican president exerts his executive privilege to free Americans from the costly stranglehold of unaffordable health insurance, Democrats and the liberal media depict him as the bad guy.

For seven years, Republican members of Congress promised to repeal Obamacare. And Sen. Ted Cruz’s epic 2013 “Green Eggs and Ham” filibuster that briefly shut down the government in an attempt to repeal Obamacare even though there was no chance in hell of that happening. But in 2017, with a Republican president finally in the White House, the GOP-controlled Congress still couldn’t get it done.

Republicans choked not once but three times when finally given the opportunity to repeal the ACA they claimed to despise so much. It’s nice to see Trump deliver on campaign promises the GOP Congress won’t.

Sad to see Trump Defend the Indefensible

First published August 19, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

Nearly eight months into his fledgling presidency, President Donald Trump seems to be committed to no one but himself and his perverse ideas of what makes America great.

Exhibiting his hallmark brutish behaviour, Trump doubled down in his defense of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

“There is blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it,” Trump declared angrily, in a freewheeling, impromptu press conference Tuesday.

Answering questions from reporters, Trump blamed the tragedy in Charlottesville on “the alt-left,” rather than on the neo-Nazi, who plowed his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump barked in reply to a reporter’s question.

Certainly there were counter-protestors (some who engaged in physical tactics), including Black Lives Matter advocates, at Saturday’s white nationalists rally. But they didn’t kill Heyer or injure 19 other people.

Please note: I have roundly condemned the Black Lives Matter Movement, particularly in my book Con Job, for the violence that group has caused, including the deaths of Dallas police officers in 2016 by one of their sympathizers.

The thing is, there is no “alt-left.” But the alt-right exists: they’re the white supremacists, who also happen to be hardcore conservatives…the same mob which rejects any Republican who supports inclusion, by labeling them as ‘cuckservatives.’ During the 2016 presidential election, these racists felt very comfortable taking off their hoods and supporting Trump.

And what’s indefensible is for the President of the United States to defend these groups in any way!

In response to Trump’s deplorable behaviour, CEOs began fleeing his White House business councils. First to take a moral stand was the black CEO of Merck, Kenneth Frazier, who stepped down from the American Manufacturing Council.

Of course Trump’s response was to insult Frazier on Twitter:

“Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison said this, in a statement about her resignation from the White House’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative:

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville.”

As Trump’s councils were fast becoming councils of one, the president pulled the plug — on Twitter of course.

Yet, Trump wasn’t even getting started with his insults and unyielding resolve to behave like a spoiled toddler…okay, maybe a teenager.

In a litany of tweets the morning of Aug. 17th, Trump praised the glory of the Confederacy.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You…can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”

I agree that we should not set a precedent by tearing down monuments; because we’d have to start destroying everything built by slave hands: Monticello, Mount Vernon, the White House, Congress.

But neither the Confederacy nor its history was beautiful for blacks. And it’s beyond immoral to see our president defending a time in America where whites owned blacks as property and fought a bloody war to keep that right.

Is Trump trying to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain or make America racist again? He’s quickly insulting his way to one of the worst presidencies in history…and quite possibility something unfathomable.

Trump reluctant to denounce white supremacists

First published August 13, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

Why is President Donald Trump so reluctant to denounce white supremacists who support him?

During the campaign, Trump “denounced” the endorsement of David Duke, a renowned white supremacist, rather than outright condemning and rejecting him. White supremacists turned Charlottesville, Va., into a violent scene reminiscent of the hatred wrought by bigoted whites upon blacks during the civil rights movement. Duke was in attendance.

And Trump again was reluctant to condemn the hate.

It took him over an hour to respond after a racist madman drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one person and injuring 19 others. While the president seemed to dither about what to say, others — including his wife — called it exactly what it was.

“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville,” First Lady Melania Trump tweeted.

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members planned the Unite the Right rally to protest the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Trump — a normally effusive serial tweeter — took until after 1 p.m. to finally tweet:

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

Calling this hate by its name “white supremacy” would have been a more appropriate response for Trump, especially since dozens of these white nationalists were wearing Make America Great Again hats (Trump’s campaign slogan), as reported the Washington Post.

Instead, during a press conference in New Jersey after the tragedy, Trump again avoided calling racists by their name.

“The hate and the division must stop and must stop right now. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides,” Trump declared. This was not the occasion to cling to his anti-PC mantra, which is what he seemed to be doing.

There’s only one side, as former vice-president Joe Biden tweeted. And Trump could say the name of the side that in Charlottesville who caused the hatred and violence.

When asked by a reporter at the press conference if he wanted the support of white nationalists, Trump said nothing. A president brings the country together when he leads by example.

In contrast, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish and married to a Jared Kushner, also Jewish, tweeted words the president can’t seem to.

“There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

And then Duke quoted Trump’s tweet in a tweet that read:

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

Perhaps, therein lies the answer to the troubling question of why Trump can’t find the courage to say more.

As a native of Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, I know all too well how some whites like to cling to their heritage of hate.

Monument Ave. is a grand boulevard in Richmond, littered with statues of Lee and other notable Confederate warriors. Thank God the war was won by the right side.

In America, you’re entitled to your free speech. But you’re not entitled to kill people with it.

Trump’s fleeting loyalty

First published July 27, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

In the peripatetic White House of President Donald Trump, no one knows which way the wind will blow. One minute you’re in and Trump’s best friend, and the next you’re out like “fake news.”

Former FBI director James Comey and newly-dismissed White House press secretary Sean Spicer know all about losing that loving feeling from Trump. But it was a surprise to many, probably to Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself, when Sessions became Trump’s latest punching bag. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in 2016 but memories and loyalty are fleeting to Trump.

There’s buzz that Trump and his advisers are strongly considering firing Sessions. If Trump cans Sessions, his most ardent supporter, he will officially be running a tyrannical presidency oblivious to any accountability and one vulnerable to a massive downfall.

In a New York Times interview last week, Trump assailed Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation — now being conducted by independent counsel Robert Mueller. Why didn’t Trump express this anger months ago during Sessions’ confirmation hearing? Or when Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation?

Presumably, Trump is angered by the fact that Mueller’s investigation is heating up due to the sloppiness of his campaign staff — most notably his son Don Trump Jr. who met with a slew of Russians promising dirt on Hillary.

Trump expressed his displeasure with Sessons on Twitter: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

Trump wasn’t nearly done. In a Rose Garden press conference Tuesday, Trump continued his verbal thrashing of Sessions. When asked by a reporter if he would fire Sessions, Trump responded: “We’ll see what happens.”

“I’m disappointed in the attorney general,” he added. “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have picked somebody else.

“It’s a bad thing not just for the president, but also for the presidency,” Trump said. “I think it’s unfair to the presidency.” Then he added he wanted Sessions “to be much tougher on leaks in the intelligence agencies that are leaking like they never have before…You can’t let that happen.”

The Washington Post and other news outlets reported Sessions plans to announce several criminal investigations into the leaks of intelligence to the media. Either Sessions is running scared or simply trying to placate our brutish President with a bone. The attorney general said he won’t resign but Trump is clearly trying to humiliate Sessions out of office.

Making matters worse, the Republican controlled Congress can’t do what Republicans have promised to do for seven years and what Trump won the election on — repealing Obamacare.

House Republicans passed a bill but Senate Republicans are standing down the challenge. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, with a slim 52-seat majority, can’t muster the 50 votes he needs to pass a repeal bill or anything in between.

And what is Trump doing to help? He’s berating GOP Senators on Twitter of course.

Not the best way to get the people you need in Congress to help you do “so much winning” that you promised to voters during the campaign.

It’s hard to understand what Trump is trying to achieve as president. But what’s clear is Trump demands loyalty but gives it to none.

How much longer are supporters going to enjoy Trump’s theatre of the absurd?

Trump and son mired in Russia controversy

First published July 12, 2017 in the Toronto Sun

While candidate Donald Trump ran on an America First platform, it sure seems that in President Donald Trump’s White House, Russia takes centre stage.

Trump is either tweeting about Russia, CNN’s coverage of Russia, defending friends and family against collusion with Russia, or praising President Vladimir Putin as a partner in cyber security. Not for nothin’ but trusting Putin to fight election hacking is like placing America’s national security in the hands of terrorists.

No wonder liberal news giants like The New York Times can’t get enough of Russia: Trump’s feeding the beast. The Times reported a series of stories on Donald Trump Jr.’s giddiness to meet with a “Russian government attorney” to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

First, Don Jr. explained in a statement to the Times that during the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.”

But the problem is that statement wasn’t exactly true. Under duress from learning the Times was going to publish another story on the contents of the email exchange, Don Jr. posted the emails on Twitter. And — just like with dad Donald — it did anything but help his cause.

The emails have Russia all over them and give the appearance of collusion. The bottom line is that they aren’t helpful to Trump’s defence in the four different government investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to win the election.

In a June 3, 2017 email to Don Jr., Rob Gladstone, a British publicist, said he was reaching out to him on behalf of Russian music star Emin Agalarov.

“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” (According to The Times, the title Crown prosecutor is a British term. The equivalent in Russia is prosecutor general of Russia.)

Emin’s father Aras Agalarov, as reported by the Times, “boasts close ties with Putin” and worked with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia in 2013.

Goldstone explicitly added in the email to Don Jr.:

“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support of Trump.”

Minutes later, Don Jr. eagerly responded: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

This meeting request doesn’t sound like adoption talk. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kusher, son-in-law and Trump White House advisor, also attended the meeting.

Don Jr. told the Times that during the meeting, Veselnitskaya’s “statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense.” Essentially, she had no dirt on Clinton and the Times conceded as much.

“The precise nature of the promised damaging information about Mrs. Clinton is unclear, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was related to Russian-government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.”

While there’s no evidence Putin hacked any votes — per former FBI director James Comey’s Congressional testimony — he did hack the Democratic National Committee’s email and tried to influence the election.

But how could Don Jr. be so naive? And when will his father rise above the mountain of Russia-conspiracy controversy to actually govern — and get things done with a GOP majority in Congress?

Either this Russia/Trump thing is on track to be “the greatest witch hunt in political history,” or be the cornerstone of the