Three Things You Need to Know - January 8, 2018

Bannon's Ghost Writing Debut

After reading Michael Wolff’s new book, I’m posthumously giving it a working title. Hell hath no FIRE AND FURY like a Steve Bannon scorned. “Fire and Fury” must have been easier to fit on the binding. They say the Devil’s greatest accomplishment was convincing the world he doesn’t exist, but Wolff rivals this in convincing his readers that this book actually about Trump rather than his real pro… I mean AN-tagonist.

Oh there’s plenty of juicy Trump details to chew on during this 300+ page bomb dropping bonanza. I’m sure some of it is true, A LOT is just rumor, but - make no mistake - this is not a book about Trump. The description of the book on the front cover, “Inside The Trump White House” is merely the vehicle used to highlight the real focus of this narrative… Steve Bannon.

I say NARRATIVE, because that’s primarily what you’re getting here. You get 5 parts confirmation of what we already knew about Trump. YES, his election caught everyone by surprise… apparently even his own campaign. YES, Trump and his team had close to ZERO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE and stumbled their way through the first nine months. This is all confirmation of what we already knew. You also get 5 parts rumor and tabloid-level gossip. Did Trump REALLY not want to win and rather just use his candidacy as a launching point for a new TV network? Is his marriage with Melania THAT bad? Does Trump REALLY try and bed all his friends’ wives? We’ll probably never know. That sure didn’t stop Wolff from publishing it though.

Regardless, the other 90% of the book was all Bannon narrative. Trump’s picture on the cover was equivalent to bookstore clickbait. Bannon and his agenda was constant throughout the entire book. According to Wolff, Steve was the only one in the administration that was smart, well read, and had a plan. Even things that could be considered as critical of Bannon, were nothing that he wouldn’t readily and wholeheartedly admit about himself anyway.

For Bannon, Fire and Fury was about launching his next phase. To separate and distinguish between Trumpism and Bannonism. This was the last paragraph:

“The disruption had just begun.

Trump, in Bannon’s view, was a chapter, or even a detour, in the Trump revolution, which had always been about weaknesses in the two major parties. The Trump presidency—however long it lasted—had created the opening that would provide the true outsiders their opportunity. Trump was just the beginning.”

Buckle up ladies and gentlemen. The next few years might be a wild ride.

Time Is Up Golden Globes

Justin Timberlake, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, and mostly everyone at the Golden Globes last night, all wore the same thing: lapel pins with the words “Time’s Up” on them.

They wore the pins to show their support for all those who have experienced sexual misconduct, especially in the entertainment industry.

How very brave of these celebrities to compromise the integrity of their designer outfits with a lapel pin!

Give me a break.

It’s just another empty gesture by the Hollywood elite.

They tried to make a meaningless, indulgent award show into something more than just a meaningless, indulgent award show and failed miserably.

If Hollywood was genuine in their interest to stop sexual assault, they would have stayed home.

They should be embarrassed to attend the Golden Globes after all the years they condoned the actions of their peers and never uttered a word.

But they can’t turn a chance to celebrate themselves down.

And when the host, Seth Meyers, joked about Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey’s demise, they boo-ed him.

They gave Kirk Douglas a standing ovation and special award even though he has long been rumored to have raped actress Natalie Wood when she was 16 years old.

Meryl Streep couldn’t say one bad thing about Weinstein all night, only vaguely referencing him by telling Ryan Seacrest, “I think that people are aware now of a power imbalance and it’s led to abuse and we want to fix that.”

How courageous!

It just goes to show that Hollywood has apparently not learned its lesson. They can dress in black and wear lapel pins, but that’s not adequate contrition for their sin of silence.

“Time’s Up” on your hypocrisy, Hollywood.

Fire and Fury

“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff. You may have heard of it. Judging by the media coverage about it over the weekend, it was the only thing that mattered in the entire world.

So much for changing the narrative in 2018.

A book like “Fire and Fury” is business as usual. Dozens of books like this are written about every president while they’re in office. It wouldn’t even really be newsworthy except that the President heaped attention on it. And that’s a problem the President needs to fix.

Here is the simple solution for a President who so obviously wants to be liked: he must accept the fact that at least half the country will never like him. Just stop griping about books like “Fire and Fury,” because there will be a new book just like it every few weeks for the next three years.

The President tweets as if this is a winnable game. It’s not. He can’t control what the critics say, but he can control how he responds. So, he should just focus on his job. Show that he cares more about the country than criticism about him.

Americans are sick of the daily grind of this war on the president. The President won’t be able to stop the media war against him, but he could certainly stop throwing gas on the fire with every tweet.

A year into the Trump presidency, you would think this incessant game of he said/media said would have died down. But we’re stuck in the same annoying loop.

So what if this annoying game doesn’t stop in 2018? What do we do? You and I have a choice to make about today and about this new year – are we going to be part of the solution or part of the problem?

Making America Great Again has unfortunately become a punchline, but shouldn’t that really be the goal of every American, regardless of politics? It’s our job to build a better country in spite of the politicians and media. What can you do to make your home great again? Your neighborhood? Your community? How can you serve a fellow American today?

Less focus on the President, the media, and your side winning. Less focus on ourselves. More focus on serving others. That is what matters most.

MORE 3 THINGS

This was one of the first homesteads in the area in the 1880's and was just begging to be brought back to its original glory — with a touch of modern. When we first purchased the property, it was full of old stuff without any running water, central heat or AC, so needless to say, we had a huge project ahead of us. It took some vision and a whole lot of trust, but the mess we started with seven years ago is now a place we hope the original owners would be proud of.

To restore something like this is really does take a village. It doesn't take much money to make it cozy inside, if like me you are willing to take time and gather things here and there from thrift shops and little antique shops in the middle of nowhere.

But finding the right craftsman is a different story.

Matt Jensen and his assistant Rob did this entire job from sketches I made. Because he built this in his off hours it took just over a year, but so worth the wait. It wasn't easy as it was 18"out of square. He had to build around that as the entire thing we felt would collapse. Matt just reinforced the structure and we love its imperfections.

Here are a few pictures of the process and the transformation from where we started to where we are now:

​How it was

It doesn't look like much yet, but just you wait and see!

By request a photo tour of the restored cabin. I start doing the interior design in earnest tomorrow after the show, but all of the construction guys are now done. So I mopped the floors, washed the sheets, some friends helped by washing the windows. And now the unofficial / official tour.

The Property

The views are absolutely stunning and completely peaceful.

The Hong Kong protesters flocking to the streets in opposition to the Chinese government have a new symbol to display their defiance: the Stars and Stripes. Upset over the looming threat to their freedom, the American flag symbolizes everything they cherish and are fighting to preserve.

But it seems our president isn't returning the love.

Trump recently doubled down on the United States' indifference to the conflict, after initially commenting that whatever happens is between Hong Kong and China alone. But he's wrong — what happens is crucial in spreading the liberal values that America wants to accompany us on the world stage. After all, "America First" doesn't mean merely focusing on our own domestic problems. It means supporting liberal democracy everywhere.

The protests have been raging on the streets since April, when the government of Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would have allowed them to send accused criminals to be tried in mainland China. Of course, when dealing with a communist regime, that's a terrifying prospect — and one that threatens the judicial independence of the city. Thankfully, the protesters succeeded in getting Hong Kong's leaders to suspend the bill from consideration. But everyone knew that the bill was a blatant attempt by the Chinese government to encroach on Hong Kong's autonomy. And now Hong Kong's people are demanding full-on democratic reforms to halt any similar moves in the future.

After a generation under the "one country, two systems" policy, the people of Hong Kong are accustomed to much greater political and economic freedom relative to the rest of China. For the protesters, it's about more than a single bill. Resisting Xi Jinping and the Communist Party means the survival of a liberal democracy within distance of China's totalitarian grasp — a goal that should be shared by the United States. Instead, President Trump has retreated to his administration's flawed "America First" mindset.

This is an ideal opportunity for the United States to assert our strength by supporting democratic values abroad. In his inaugural address, Trump said he wanted "friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world" while "understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their interests first." But at what point is respecting sovereignty enabling dictatorships? American interests are shaped by the principles of our founding: political freedom, free markets, and human rights. Conversely, the interests of China's Communist Party are the exact opposite. When these values come into conflict, as they have in Hong Kong, it's our responsibility to take a stand for freedom — even if those who need it aren't within our country's borders.

Of course, that's not a call for military action. Putting pressure on Hong Kong is a matter of rhetoric and positioning — vital tenets of effective diplomacy. When it comes to heavy-handed world powers, it's an approach that can really work. When the Solidarity movement began organizing against communism in Poland, President Reagan openly condemned the Soviet military's imposition of martial law. His administration's support for the pro-democracy movement helped the Polish people gain liberal reforms from the Soviet regime. Similarly, President Trump doesn't need to be overly cautious about retribution from Xi Jinping and the Chinese government. Open, strong support for democracy in Hong Kong not only advances America's governing principles, but also weakens China's brand of authoritarianism.

After creating a commission to study the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote last month that the principles of our Constitution are central "not only to Americans," but to the rest of the world. He was right — putting "America First" means being the first advocate for freedom across the globe. Nothing shows the strength of our country more than when, in crucial moments of their own history, other nations find inspiration in our flag.

Let's join the people of Hong Kong in their defiance of tyranny.

Matt Liles is a writer and Young Voices contributor from Austin, Texas.

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