Three Things You Need to Know - January 25, 2018

That's one heck of a sentient phone glitch at the FBI

Which one of these is more believable? Bigfoot, alligators in the New York City sewer, OR the FBI’s recent excuse for “failing to preserve” five months of cell phone texts?

The latest FBI explanation for the missing texts is that it was less “failing to preserve” and more “well crap, we had a glitch.” The “glitch” apparently affected 10% of the FBI. Out of 35,000 employees, that’s about three thousand phones.

Riiight. Let’s pretend for a second that we buy this. This glitch would have to be the most picky, selective and fortuitous glitch in history. Ten percent of a large organization such as the FBI is actually pretty small. Somehow it decided to choose the two people, Struck and Page, that were at the center of potentially the biggest political scandal since Watergate. Was it just going through and randomly picking people it didn’t like?

The seemingly sentient “glitch” then decided to turn on right as the Russia investigation was ramping up. Hey, you never know, maybe all the talk of Russians scared it? Whatever it’s reason was, it kept up the mischief as the Steele Dossier was released and as James Comey was fired. Glitching this select group of personnel, during one of the most turbulent times the bureau has seen in years, sure must have been fun!

But - as happens to everyone having a good time - I guess “the glitch” eventually got tired, because - and this is TOTALLY just a coincidence - it decided to end it’s rampage on the same exact day Muller was appointed special counsel. I know it’s strange timing, but those glitches are some strange cats.

Are you kidding me with this excuse? Are we seriously supposed to believe that the FBI IT technicians failed to notice or fix this for FIVE MONTHS? I mean, was the Imran Awan family doing the FBI’s IT in addition to Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

I don’t know if the FBI is covering something up, but all this sure does look bad. These excuses are getting ridiculous. The American public deserves a full and detailed explanation for what’s going on. If not, they might as well announce the formal opening of investigations into Bigfoot and New York City sewer alligators. At least then they’d be consistent in their absurdity.

Lobbying for Google

It’s in your phone, your car, your home. Now it’s in your government too. Google is everywhere.

In 2017, Google out-spent all other companies in lobbying Washington. It was the first time that a tech company claimed this dubious top honor. Google spent $18 million on lobbying.

They had stiff competition of course. Amazon, Facebook, and Apple each broke their own lobbying records last year. Apple spent 51% more on lobbying than it did in 2016. Combined, the four tech giants spent $50 million.

What are they spending it on? Lobbying operations to try to influence policy on DACA, corporate tax reform, regulation of online advertising, mobile medical apps, self-driving vehicles, and naturally, climate change.

Government and the tech giants are barreling toward a showdown because current anti-trust laws are not equipped to handle these tech companies that transcend various industries. Amazon for example – it’s like an old mail-order catalog company, but it’s also a grocery store chain (after buying Whole Foods last year), and a TV broadcaster that produces its own original shows. Google and Apple are now similarly diverse. These are not like traditional companies focused on a single industry. And there seems to be no end to their growth.

These companies have grown so big, so fast, that – surprise – federal regulators haven’t been able to keep pace. That leaves us vulnerable. Why? Because the tech giants have more data stored about us than any government ever dreamed of collecting on its citizens. Our data is gold to these companies, and if the government wants to protect consumers from exploitation, they’ll have to pry our data from the cold, dead fingers of the tech giants. Not likely. Especially when the tech companies are paying $50 million in lobbying efforts to make sure it never comes to that.

Our constitutional form of government is very high maintenance. It requires constant vigilance. You have to keep an eye on government and business. We must be engaged and educated. Too much government interference is not a good thing. But neither is too much corporate interference.

As much as we enjoy all the services and gadgets from the tech giants, they aren’t looking out for your interests. They have their own agendas, and as we saw with Google last year when they fired James Damore for having an opinion, those agendas are not what you want being peddled in Washington.

Self-identifying may not be enough for Democrats anymore

Elizabeth Warren has a problem.

As 2020 approaches, the Democrats are trying to solve the mystery of her Native American heritage.

All her life, Warren has listed herself as Native American. She claimed she was a “minority” in the legal directory of the Association of American Law Schools.

She is listed as Native American in federal forms at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania.

She even contributed to the Native American cookbook “Pow Wow Chow” and listed her name as “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee.”

But for some reason, Warren has not officially reported her Native American ethnicity to the Senate’s historian office.

And that reason is apparent to every person on planet Earth.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t really Native American.

She is the whitest white woman ever.

She claims family ties to Oklahoma going back to before it was a state, but that doesn’t mean she’s part Indian.

Warren says she grew up hearing tales from her mother’s side of the family that they had Cherokee and Delaware blood in them.

A thorough examination by genealogists has proved otherwise.

They poured over her family’s birth, marriage, and death records and could not find any conclusive proof of Native American ancestry.

Oopsie.

But does Elizabeth Warren lying about her heritage really matter to people anymore?

Can’t she simply get away with “self-identifying” as Native American? It seems like everyone else on Earth can claim they are something they’re not and we’ll go along with it, so why can’t she?

Or do we still value authenticity in a person?

I think we do, or else the democrats wouldn’t be so worried about her unsubstantiated Native American claims.

And that’s actually a really good sign.

MORE 3 THINGS

It's never too early to start your Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa shopping. Or even birthday gift shopping. Especially if that special someone in your life is a Democrat. Because at last count, pretty much all the Democrats are now running for president. And that means there has never been a wider selection of official candidate merchandise to choose from. Whether you're into environmentalism, feminism, classism, socialism, or just plain love, there is a smorgasbord of classy items that you and yours will treasure forever... or at least until the next presidential election.

We have browsed each of the candidates' online stores, so you don't have to (it only took us three months). We have curated only the finest items from each of the Democrats running for president of the United States of America. Without further ado, here is your handy progressive gift guide – or maybe your what-not-to-gift guide.

First, the bargain basement options. Hurry! Time is running out to grab your Beto bandana, or your Delaney pack of golf balls, because at this point Stu has as much of a chance as these guys of getting the nomination.

Tom Steyer, for example – is he still in the race?


https://shop.tomsteyer.com/collections/frontpage/products/tom-2020-pattern-tee


There's way too much Tom here. That shirt's got more Toms than a Caucasian dentists' convention.

For the slightly more moderate Democrat in your life, perhaps they'd like to join the "Yang Gang"…

https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/bumper-stickers/products/yanggang-decal


Andrew Yang is a lock for Math Club president…


https://shop.yang2020.com/collections/apparel/products/math-hat


But for actual president? Well, I wouldn't make plans for how you're going to spend your $1,000-per-month Yang allowance just yet.

If you happen to be shopping for your dog, may I suggest this lovely "Dogs for Delaney" dog collar…


https://store.johndelaney.com/products/dogs-for-delaney-collar


John Delaney's definitely going to secure the canine vote with this kind of outreach. As for any human votes, that's another question entirely.

How 'bout this tastefully understated "Natural Canvas" Michael Bennet tote to remind you he's also still here?...


https://store.michaelbennet.com/michael-bennet-for-america-natural-canvas-tote/


Then again, it's a tote. So, it'll end up on the floor of your closet and you won't have it with you until that one random moment when you're out somewhere and you really need a tote bag. Just like Democrats will really wish they had a moderate when we're in the middle of the socialist nightmare of their creation.

Captain Planet himself, Jay Inslee recently dropped out of the race, but don't let that stop you from picking up what may be the greatest single item sold by anyone in this race…


https://store.jayinslee.com/elvis-the-elves-the-mystery-of-the-melting-snow-by-jay-inslee/


A children's book called Elvis & the Elves: the Mystery of the Melting Snow. Written and illustrated by Governor Jay Inslee. Talk about a whodunnit – how could that snow possibly be melting? Spoiler alert: it's because of evil, white, patriarchal capitalism. And Donald Trump.

Then there's the candidate who thinks you're a moron that can't pronounce his last name: Steve Bullock...


https://shop.stevebullock.com/collections/apparel/products/emoji-t-shirt


Get it? Bull. Lock. Oh, so that's how you say the name that sounds exactly how it's spelled.

There's another candidate who also thinks you need help pronouncing his last name…


https://store.peteforamerica.com/collections/apparel/products/boot-edge-edge-t-shirt


And he is definitely right about that. So, thank you, Pete "Boot Edge Edge." That helps.

Just outside the bargain bin section, but just barely, are candidates like Julian Castro and his "El Presidente" t-shirt…


https://store.julianforthefuture.com/julian-castro-loteria-card-white-tee/


When your last name's Castro, do you really want to go with a weird drawing of yourself as if you're a classic Latin American dictator on a postage stamp?

If you prefer a little "dark psychic forces" battling in your candidates, you'll love Marianne Williamson's "Turn Love Into a Political Force" rally sign…


https://store.marianne2020.com/collections/signs/products/love-rally-sign


"Turn Love Into a Political Force" would be an even better title for a Marianne Williamson album of 80s cover songs. And if you think I'm joking, then you haven't heard Bernie Sanders' classic 1987 folk album, We Shall Overcome. That's not a joke. Well, it is a joke, but it's also a very real thing.

Now, just a quick pause to consider the peculiar baby-wear that way too many candidates are selling…

…including Elizabeth Warren's trans-pride flag onesie. Let me get this straight – we can't force any gender on a child, because that's just cruel. But we can force a political advertisement on a baby? How do we know that baby is actually a Biden or Warren fan? The child may not even be a Democrat or a Socialist at all. That baby might self-identify as a Libertarian, or Republican, or even worse – a moderate Democrat.

Now to the premium items from the premium candidates. Elizabeth Warren – the candidate with the most honesty in her advertising…


https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/apparel/products/impolite-arrogant-women-make-history-unisex-t-shirt

-AND-

https://shop.elizabethwarren.com/collections/drinkware/products/strong-american-unions-mug


Warren's merchandise reflects the woman herself – cold and humorless (watch her "This isn't funny" clip from the last debate here at the 4:27 mark). I'm sure she's really fun once you get to know her. Then again, maybe not.

Speaking of serious women, Kamala Harris wants to be president very badly for you, the people, as you can tell from her "For the People" poster…


https://store.kamalaharris.org/poster-for-the-people/


At $29.99 though, she's sure not charging "people's" prices. Of course, she might be having to pay royalties to a certain someone for riffing on their poster. Just saying.

For the race's number one socialist, there's a whole lot of capitalism going on in Bernie Sanders' campaign. He sells so many delightful items that it's hard to choose. But we did anyway. The most random item is this hundred-dollar, black, "Art of a Political Revolution – Artists for Bernie Sanders Coaches Jacket"…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/artists-for-bernie-coaches-jacket


Coaches across the land will be clamoring for this one. You know, since coaches are such a strong Bernie-socialist demographic.

If that's a little over your budget you might consider a "Feel the Bern" fanny pack, to help store all those government freebies you'll get from Bernie…


https://store.berniesanders.com/collections/apparel/products/feel-the-bern-fanny-pack


This is the only context in which you'll ever want to hear "feel the burn" and "fanny" in the same sentence.

And finally, from front-runner Joe Biden, we have this fine "Women's Fitted Biden Polo." Which is just about the best polo description ever…


https://store.joebiden.com/collections/apparel/products/biden-polo-womens-fit


It promises the kind of snug approach that Biden loves to provide women. Even when they don't ask.

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.