I just met you, and this is crazy. Here’s my number, so Comey maybe

Well, it did not take long for another head of a major federal organization to be relieved under the nascent presidency of Donald J. Trump. And this time, it will have major ramifications.

Tuesday was otherwise a relatively boring day until breaking news dropped in the early evening, capturing every news channel’s full attention.

The resignation of U.S. Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson.

I take pride in knowing I’m maybe one of four people in the world who knows that happened yesterday.

Obviously, the dismissal I’m actually referring to was the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Arguably the most well-known FBI chief since J. Edgar Hoover, Comey will forever be remembered as the man who may or may not have influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

His decision to disclose to Congress that the bureau was re-opening the Hilary Clinton email investigation – an extraordinary deviation from the bureau’s normal investigation protocol of maintaining confidentiality – without acknowledging that they were also investigating Donald Trump will forever go down in infamy.

Within one year, I predict that the words “Comey Letter” will have its own Wikipedia page.

James Comey fired

No one will shed any tears over the firing. In fact, some may look at is as long overdue. Doubts to his credibility from both parties was casting a dark cloud over the FBI.

But I don’t think there’s any question that the timing was extremely odd. It would have been commonplace if Trump removed Comey at the beginning of his presidency. It’s his turn at the helm, and it would have been understandable if he wished to start anew.

But why wait three months? Especially after he previously announced that Comey would keep his job?

If anything, it continues a pattern of unpredictability and spontaneity that makes his administration seem disorganized and incompetent. He also told Preet Bharara he would keep him on as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Weeks later, he fired him.

And now here’s the same story with Comey.

What’s the common trend? Both men were investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. That doesn’t look good for Trump. Saturday Night Massacre, anyone?

Trump cited Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation as his rationale, but it will take weeks to parse through the specific details of the events that led up to the firing. Already, it’s being reported that Comey had requested additional resources to further his investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.

At the end of the day, though, this is just another bad day for our democracy. You have one side calling this move “authoritarian” and “Nixonian,” and the other lauding it as a “decisive.”

It’s hard these days to be liked in Washington. James Comey learned that the hard way.

And now, Donald Trump must find a replacement to lead the agency that may or may not still be investigating him, while obtaining Senate approval.

That will end well.

It wasn’t hard to predict that we were in line for four years of chaos. Let’s just hope 2020 brings us a cast of inspiring figures who wish to make a run for the presidency, because we’re going to need something to be hopeful about.

And this time, James Comey, when October 2020 rolls around … keep your god damn pen to yourself.

 

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The head-scratching ‘controversy’ over Beauty and the Beast’s openly gay character

James Comey speaks.

Speak again bright angel. For thou art as glorious to this night, being o’er my head, as is a wingèd messenger of heaven, unto the white, upturnèd, wondering eyes.

Last time James Comey opened his mouth to the public, his words resulted in a Donald Trump presidency.

This time, Comey’s appearance before Congress places a major cloud of suspicion over our current president.

But it’s important to understand exactly where we go from here. This investigation may take months — if not years — to complete. Until then, we won’t categorically know if Trump or his allies are guilty of any type of collusion. And I say that knowing full well that Republican officials had no problem declaring Hillary Clinton “guilty” before having any semblance of evidence of quid pro quo between the State Department and donors to her foundation.

James Comey

What these remarkable statements by Comey do accomplish in the short term, however, is putting a fracture into Donald Trump’s integrity.

Trump has lied, and lied, and lied some more, and until now it’s done nothing to weaken his power or influence. For months, he denied that he has anything to do with Russia.

Well, this isn’t coming from journalists anymore. It’s not from pundits or Democratic lawmakers. This is the director of the FBI. One can hope that today’s events give people a greater appreciation of the type of man our president is.

Stay tuned.

Now let’s discuss something that is the complete opposite of a scandal. Beauty and the Beast.

The film, starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens and Beast, broke the opening weekend box office record for the month of March this past weekend, grossing $170 million domestically.

But some people are choosing to talk about the fact that the movie includes Disney’s first explicitly gay character. 

A drive-in movie theater in Alabama is refusing to show the movie, and even some countries are considering boycotting it.

Now, before we go ahead and hold all Republicans, conservatives and Catholics responsible for this nonsense, let’s remember that not every one feels the same way as the people who own this Alabama drive-in. Indeed, the Christian Post seriously questioned the backlash.

But it’s even more nauseating to hear about the opposition to the character when you consider its genesis.

Josh gad BatB

The original Beauty and the Beast, the animated classic that everyone loves, was co-composed by a gay man, Howard Ashman, as he was dying with AIDS. Ashman’s friends have publicly stated that the Beast and his “sickness” was intended by Ashman as a direct metaphor for the AIDS epidemic that began decimating America in the ’80s.

Ashman died in 1991, the same year Beauty and the Beast was released.

So if you liked the original movie — which you’re lying if you don’t — then you should know that it wouldn’t exist without a gay man. Neither would the Little Mermaid, for that matter, which Ashman also composed. Oh, and he also had posthumous song credits on this smaller, low-budget animated film called Aladdin.

More of a Lion King fan? Elton John says hi.

The more recent Beauty and the Beast is directed by Tom Condon, who is gay. And people speculate that his decision to make a character gay was in direct homage to Ashman.

Given that history, criticizing Beauty and the Beast for having a gay character is no different than criticizing more than two decades of artistic innovation that led to so many of the joys present in today’s culture as well as in all mediums of entertainment. It’s equal to criticizing the person responsible for enriching millions of childhoods.

And for what it’s worth, Ewan McGregor, who plays the candlestick Lumiere in the film, also thinks the controversy is stupid. 

It’s easy to hate something.

What’s harder is to take the time to understand why.

One can choose to be close-minded and let things that conflict with your archaic worldview cause you to be angry. Or, you can be open-minded and accepting and happy.

To the former, there’s plenty of room at the table to join us.

Be our guest.

Goodbye, Kobe Bryant. We hardly knew ye.

Before we get to today’s topic, we first have to tie up some loose ends on a few rather large news stories that have surfaced recently.

Remember the anticlimactic Apple/FBI battle? Remember the discriminatory North Carolina law that angered everybody? Remember that privileged teenager from Texas who got away with murder because his attorney claimed he suffers from “Affluenza?”

Well, there’s updates in all three of these stories, and they involve suspicious hackers, a governor’s about-face, and well deserved jail time.

First, the Washington Post exclusively reported yesterday that it was professional hackers who received a one-time fee from the FBI to crack the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter, after they contacted the bureau with knowledge of a flaw in Apple’s software.

Apple FBI2.jpgWe don’t know who these hackers are — I’m sure they’re so proficient at hacking that they can actually make a living off of it — but it’s pretty cool to know that anybody could just contact the U.S. government and help them solve a problem.

Yo, FBI, if you need blogs tips, I’m here. Just sayin’.

Secondly, Goveror Pat McCrory of North Carolina, facing intense ridicule following his “religious liberty” ordinance last week, and the threat of two major companies in PayPal and Deutsche Bank to call off proposed expansions within the state because of it, issued an executive order on Wednesday that will attempt to scale back the law so it does not encourage discrimination.

But most analysts say it’s smoke and mirrors, or too little too late, mainly because McCrory said nothing about retracting the most controversial part of the law, which disallows transgenders from using the bathroom of the gender that they now align with.

And finally, that Affluenza bitch, Ethan Couch? Yeah, he’s going to jail for two years. Thankfully.

But enough about the news.

Let me talk about Kobe Bryant. One of the most prolific athletes athletes of the last 20 years, the Kobester will call it quits after his team’s last regular season game on Wednesday night.

And yes, it took the final day of his NBA career for someone to finally call him “the Kobester.” I take full credit and I could not be more proud.

In truth, it’s been pretty upsetting to watch Kobe play this year. We’re used to his Kobe Bryant.jpgdominance. His ability to take a game over. But this year, it’s been like watching your beloved 19-year-old cat clinging to life.

You know it’s over, but you refuse to admit it.

However, at some point, you just got to put it down. And that’s why, after tonight’s game versus the Utah Jazz, the Lakers ownership will take him out back and shoot him like he’s Lenny from Of Mice and Men.

Oh wait, that’s not how it’s going to happen? He’s just going to ceremoniously retire and spend the rest of his life in his Newport Beach mansion? How … sad.

In all seriousness, for sports fans, Kobe Bryant has been synonymous with the game of basketball. Almost all people under the age of 30 never even watched basketball without Kobe Bryant.

He’s won five NBA titles, thrilled us with an astounding 81 point game 10 years ago, is the league’s third highest leading scorer of all time, and probably raped a women.

That last one is obviously not a career accomplishment, quite the opposite, but it is indeed something he’ll always be remembered for.

So it’s an and of an era, no doubt, even if he’s going out with a whimper on a team that will finish the season with no more than 17 wins, good for second-to-last in the entire NBA.

Peace, Kobe, I’ve already sort of forgotten you.

But thanks for the memories, I guess?

We were all deprived of the mega FBI/Apple showdown we’ve been waiting for

Ever since the news erupted that Apple CEO Tim Cook had refused a federal judge’s court order to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, it set in motion one of the more highly anticipated clashes in recent memory.

It was a debate of national security versus civil liberties. The government versus the tech companies. Washington versus Silicon Valley.

People from all over chimed in on the conversation. CEOs of other major tech companies. Presidential candidates. The infamous whistleblower Edward Snowden. And of course — me.

It wasn’t so much that people were dying to know what was on the San Bernardino shooter’s phone — for all we know there may have been nothing there that would have even helped the feds with their investigation.

But it was set to become a landmark case that would set a precedent of how far the U.S. government can legally intrude into into its own citizens’ personal data for investigative purposes.

Apple FBI.jpg

Tim Cook was the one taking a moral stand. He was going against the most powerful organization in the world in the United States government, and he was doing it to prevent us, the consumer, from being exploited by the very same bureaucracy that exists to protect us.

It’s drama at its finest. The stuff movies are made of. It’s the Batman vs. Superman we really wanted, one without Ben Affleck.

And then, today, the government dropped the case because they found a way to open it without Apple’s help. The end.

Talk about anticlimactic! Geez.

It’s like going to the movies, ordering your ridiculously overbuttered popcorn, smoking a doobie in the bathroom, and then taking your seat, rearing to go, only to have an usher come up to you and tell you in one sentence how the movie ends rather then allowing you to actually watch it.

We were deprived of what would have been some world-class drama.

The irony, of course, is that now Apple is the one that is demanding the government to let them know how in the world they managed to open it, so they can continue to improve their own security moving forward.

And the government has absolutely zero obligation to tell them. And just like that, Tim Cook transforms from a martyr into a fool.

The battle is still far from over. Another instance will surely pop up, most likely sooner than later, where the government will request a company like Apple to unlock a device for what they claim are for national security purposes.

But it still won’t be the same. Sequels are never as good as the original.

Especially when the original didn’t live up to the hype.

I blame Ben Affleck for everything.

Privacy — that thing everybody knows they should care about … but still doesn’t.

If it wasn’t for the whistle-blowing NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we would likely never know the extent in which governments invade privacy in order to protect national security.

And there’s really no doubting that government agencies like the FBI are trying to catch the bad guys. But with practically no oversight and regulations against them, it’s only natural that unlimited power will eventually be abused.

But since Snowden’s revelations regarding the U.S. government’s surveillance of its own citizens in 2013, privacy has at least entered national consciousness. This is the digital age, where technology is advancing at an exceptional pace, and the means in which governments can track us are becoming more and more intrusive.

At the same time, terrorism is still a significant threat, and if advanced technology can be used to thwart potential attacks on our country, why not use it?

iPhone hack.jpgThe fundamental question has become this: how much of our privacy are we willing to sacrifice in order to allow our government free rein to track suspicious behavior? Is there a limit?

If you ask Apple CEO Tim Cook, the answer is yes.

The company on Tuesday rejected a federal court order to essentially create a universal backdoor method that could unlock every iPhone and divulge all of the information inside of. The FBI wants it so they could unlock the phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Why Apple is so adamant about refusing this order is because they purposely created their latest operating systems with encryption that couldn’t be unlocked. No such method exists to universally unlock every iPhone, a policy Apple instituted to protect consumer privacy.

The creation of a universal “skeleton key,” Apple insists, would not only give its wielder the potential to unlock any phone at will, but also presents the risk of it falling into the hands of international hackers.

Which is exactly the reason why Apple never created one.

The FBI claims that it would only be used on a one-time basis — a notion that Apple says is impossible to guarantee; once the knowledge of how to unlock every phone exists, it can never be erased, they say.

It’s truly a complicated issue, one in which you can understand both sides of the Tim Cookargument, and may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. Which, in turn, would make it a truly landmark case that could set the standard for privacy moving forward.

Snowden, meanwhile, made his stance perfectly clear, calling this the most “important
tech case in a decade.” As did Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who also expressed his support for Apple (although somewhat belatedly).

Unfortunately, I still don’t think this is enough to pique the average person’s interest — at least not for more than a few days. And the reason is simple: people understand the importance of privacy, and would never want their own personal information to be made accessible, but yet, they refuse to believe that they are seriously at risk.

Who in the world would want my information, is what most people ask.

And they’re not wrong. No one probably does. But the moment we surrender the desire to protect our privacy is the moment it ceases to exist. And by extension of that, we also surrender a bit of our freedom.

… says the guy who has detailed his life and thoughts in a blog almost every day for more than six years.

I’ll shut up now.