Archives for June 2013

The attempted extortion of Paula Deen

[Originally published at American Thinker 6/30/13 — article corrected to name Food Network as a sponsor who dropped Ms. Deen as opposed to the Food Channel]

The real story behind the Paula Deen scandal can be summed up in a single word: greed. The American judicial system and the media are being used as formidable weapons in a brazen attempt to extort money from Ms. Deen, in my opinion.

This isn’t a story about racism. It’s all about the money.

The mainstream media have reported with glee only some of the gory details as Paula Deen’s financial empire continue to crumble. The Food Network, Wal-Mart, Target, and the publisher of her bestselling cookbook all have abruptly terminated their relationship with Ms. Deen. The firestorm erupted after it was widely reported that Ms. Deen gave a deposition in a civil lawsuit in which she admitted using the N-word.

Rarely if ever mentioned by the national press is the context in which the word was used, or the reason the deposition became public knowledge.

No one is interested in defending the use of that particular word, including this writer.

But for the record, the specific instance in which Ms. Deen admitted to using that specific word was in the privacy of her own home, used to describe a robber who had pointed a gun at her head. The mainstream media also doesn’t seem to care that Ms. Deen could easily have lied about that specific incident, yet chose to tell the truth under oath.

Apparently there’s a zero tolerance policy when certain people use the forbidden N-word.

Never mind that the epithet was uttered in privacy, after Ms. Deen had suffered considerable duress of being robbed at gunpoint.

That the usage became public knowledge only when Jackson’s attorney began conducting a smear campaign intended to inflict irreparable harm on Ms. Deen’s businesses also seems to be irrelevant information to the drive-by media.

The motive for the lawsuit has been made abundantly clear. Plaintiff Lisa T. Jackson wanted $1.25 million dollars that didn’t belong to her, so she decided to sue Paula Deen and her brother.

Attorney Wesley Woolf left no doubt about the real motive of the plaintiff in January, when he sent a letter to Deen’s attorneys demanding a $1.25 million dollar settlement. Woolf threatened to conduct the negative publicity campaign currently underway, making clear the consequences if their extortion demand was refused when he wrote (emphasis added):

…[the] economic losses they [Ms. Deen and Mr. Hiers] will experience if we are caused to bring this matter to a public forum. … Exposure of the racist and sexist culture of her corporate and personal life is going to permanently and irreparably damage the value of her brand.

In her deposition, Ms. Jackson was forced to admit that she never heard Paula Deen utter a racial epithet, never knew her to discriminate against an employee based on gender, and never knew Paula Deen to sexually harass anyone.

Both plaintiff and defendant are white, making racial discrimination against Jackson an impossible charge to prove.

That would seem to make the accusations put forth in the lawsuit against Ms. Deen frivolous.

It has not been widely reported outside the local press that Jackson sent Deen and her brother a letter praising and thanking them both, only a few short months before filing suit. In an effusive letter she wrote:

When I came to work for this company, as a person, I felt hopeless. I needed something, some opportunity that could provide me hope as an individual, as a woman, to make it on my own. At 15, homeless, without parents and with a young child, my life was headed in a direction no one could ever assume positive. As you know, I did what I had to do to survive, but it clearly was not the freedom or happiness I ever hoped for… When I started working for Bubba, he gave me an opportunity that allowed me, over time, a freedom I have never experienced. He allowed me, for once in my life to take care of myself and for once, have faith in myself as a person and as a woman to know that I could do it on my own; y’all were my Aunt Peggy… I have been given opportunities that I never thought possible, all because of you and Bubba.

The person who wrote that letter now wants $1.25 million dollars? For what?

Let’s forget for a moment that Quentin Tarantino and Chris Rock have both made a lot of money using that same word with recklessness and impunity, all under the guise of artistic license.

Obviously, the word isn’t strictly verboten.

But the really interesting question is this: who profits from Ms. Deen’s admitted use of the word, nearly thirty years ago?

There is a reason she was included in the lawsuit. She has the deepest pockets for Ms. Jackson to pick, using the legal system and the media to do her dirty work.

Obviously, this isn’t a case about seeking justice.

It’s about character assassination and Lisa T. Jackson’s shameless grab for $1.25 million dollars.

Another Jackson — Jesse Jackson — recently jumped on the Paula Deen bandwagon when he announced in the Huffington Post that Paula Deen could be “redeemed.”

How much do you think that will cost her?

The Paula Deen bandwagon

DeenToday Atlanta mayor Kasim Reid just made it official. Everybody and their brother is taking shots at Paula Deen.

Reed went on Meet the Press and declared that her past use of the “N” word was “very unfortunate” and “totally unacceptable.”

The Food Network already fired her.

Even my least favorite political cartoonist jumped on the bandwagon, this time associating celebrity cook Paula Deen with the Ku Klux Klan. And yes, the cowardly Mike Luckovich once again left the comment section closed.

I don’t own any of Ms. Deen’s cookbooks, but I might have to buy one on general principle, even though I have no plans to use it.

The politically correct have spoken unanimously to condemn Paula Deen for an apparently unforgivable sin.

I loathe political correctness. I only care about fairness and justice.

Now when I was a kid, growing up in Savannah, I’m sure that I heard the “N” word a quite a few times. I’m also sure that I’ve used it in the distant past myself when I was very young and foolish, before I understood the insult it represented.

Since I can’t remember when and I’m not sworn under oath, I won’t be apologizing for any specific incident, or for being stupid when I was younger.

I will say that I’m sorry that I’ve ever used the word. Mea culpa.

Now, I’ll politely ask you to get over it. It’s not like the “N” word has been scrubbed from our culture.

In fact, the last time I heard the “N” word used with alarming frequency was when I watched a Quentin Tarantino movie called Pulp Fiction.

The “N” word is also very popular with rap artists. In fact, I’ve heard many interesting words used in the guise of song lyrics. My point is that some people can still say the “N” word with apparent impunity.

Why, if it’s so offensive?

I’m not advocating permission to use the word. The reverse is true. I’d like everybody else to stop using that word, too.

But I think somebody who’s apologized for something that happened in private several decades ago ought to be cut just a little bit of slack.

For the record, I have never been what you would call a fan of Paula Deen. When I have seen her on TV, my habit has been to change the channel.

Her accent seemed put-on for my tastes; exaggerated, and I felt it parodied my own Southern accent.

Yet today, I find myself writing this article in her defense.

She’s being financially ruined. Her television career just took a major blow. I can only feel sorry for her. Political correctness, and telling the truth in a deposition under oath,  is apparently going to end her career.

Let’s get something straight–I hate the “N” word, with a passion. It dehumanizes people, just for having a slightly darker shade of melanin than mine.

We’re all the same, inside.

I don’t hate people, but I can hate a word. I can also hate how people use words.

Once upon a time, Paula Deen was robbed at gunpoint by a black man, and part of her physical description of the assailant to her husband included the “N” word. Understandably, she was still a little upset about having a gun pointed at her head.

Please understand; I’m not defending her use of that word. I would have preferred she use a term like “human scum” myself, but we’re all human.

We all make mistakes.

She said she was sorry. Time to move on.

If Bill Clinton could say he was sorry for committing adultery in the Oval Office and still be named Father of the Year, why can’t Paula Deen keep her cooking show after using one regrettable word, several decades ago?

Please note that in her testimony, plaintiff Lisa T. Jackson admitted under oath that she never heard Paula Deen make a racist remark, never saw her discriminate against an employee based on gender, or sexually harass anybody.

That seems to make the lawsuit against Paula Deen frivolous. She’s being charged with guilt by association of her blood relationship to her brother.

Nevertheless, the damage to her career has been done.

Who are we to refuse forgiving the sin of one who has repented and begged forgiveness?

 

Separation of church and state

jeffersonThis video is profoundly disturbing on a couple of levels. While an unglued, obviously deranged woman was busy assaulting innocent people, she was also claiming to teach children about a subject she clearly knows very little, if anything about — the U.S. Constitution.

It never ceases to amaze me, how many people can believe they know things with certainty, yet are absolutely, and often provably wrong.

Take, for example, my atheist friends enamored with the phrase “separation of church and state,” often citing it as their favorite part of the Constitution.

The problem is that the phrase “separation of church and state” cannot be found in the U.S. Constitution, or in any of its amendments.

Here’s my most cynical offer — I’ll pay one thousand dollars reward to anyone who can show me where the exact words “separation of church and state” appear in the Constitution.

No, I’m not being generous.

I’m very confident I’ll keep my money because I know where the phrase originated, verbatim; it came from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to assure the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut that freedom of religion in our new nation would never be limited to one official church.

And don’t try to tell me they are in there somewhere, in spirit. If you’re an atheist, you don’t believe in spirits, do you?

The words specifically in our Constitution guarantee freedom of, and certainly not from, religion.

“Separation of church and state” only meant there will never be a state-sponsored church, like the Anglican Church was in England.

That meant Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and all others were all free to worship their own versions of God, as long as they did not infringe upon the right of their fellow American citizen to do likewise.

And nothing more.

Father’s Day

I’ve got a couple of things to get off my chest this weekend.

I probably could have combined two blogs into one titled “Things that make me want to vomit” , but I’d rather stay on point.

Say what needs to be said, and then get back to work.

I’ve got to finish Premonition. And I’m working on it. So here’s a quick thought…

I won’t be celebrating Father’s Day this year.

This has nothing to do with my children, or that my father is dead. It has everything to do with Father’s Day becoming a joke this year.

When I read that the National Father’s Day Committee chose to honor Bill Clinton as 2013 Father of the Year, I forced down the bile that reached the back of my throat.

Seriously? Bclintonill Clinton?

Forget politics for a minute. Forget the fact that this is a man that we know committed adultery in the White House and lied about it under oath. Forget that Clinton’s license to practice law was suspended for five years for committing perjury.

I’m not saying Clinton is the absolute worst father in the world, but really — Father of the Year?

Remember Bill didn’t just cheat on Hillary while Chelsea still lived at home, he humiliated his wife on national television.

Bill committed adultery, lied about it, and got caught. Hillary defended Bill as the persecuted victim of a “vast, right-wing conspiracy”, making her look very foolish after DNA evidence was produced.

Exactly what sort of example did this “Father of the Year” set?

Chelsea learned that men who are rich enough or powerful enough can get away with anything.

They can disrespect their wife and marriage vows to the point of contempt with impunity.

From her mother, Chelsea learned that with enough money or power at stake, a woman married to a cheating husband should shut up and tolerate it.

Apparently, the only thing that really matters is politics.

Who will be next year’s nominee, Tiger Woods?

If nothing matters except power and money, he’d be perfect.

Travesty of justice: corrupt cronyism and Barkley the Schnauzer

I was born and raised in Savannah.

It will always be home in my mind, no matter where I live. Coastal Empire was the title of my first novel for a reason. Savannah is in my blood.

But today, that blood is boiling.

Last weekend I was back home, visiting friends, when an article in the Savannah Morning News caught my eye.

The story was about a dog named Barkley, Savannah Chief of Police Willie Lovett, animal control, and a “volunteer” named Diane Abolt. I’ll briefly summarize the salient details to be found in the article.

Diane Abolt legitimately had first claim to adopting Barkley by virtue of being the first person to fill an application. No favoritism was shown.

No argument from me on this point; she had dibs on the dog.

However, Abolt failed to adopt Barkley within the standard time frame, forfeiting all claims under the shelter rules that apply to everybody else.

This is pretty much universal, standard animal shelter procedure.

As the saying goes: you snooze, you lose.

People change their minds all the time, so you never hold a dog for one particular person. You certainly don’t hold a dog after the waiting period has expired, especially when another fully qualified adopter is patiently waiting in line.

The goal is to place as many healthy animals as possible into loving forever homes, not play favorites. A kennel run occupied by a dog that ought to be in its forever home takes up valuable space and could cause an otherwise adoptable dog to be euthanized simply due to overcrowding.

It’s how the animal rescue and adoption business works, or how it’s supposed to work.

The next applicant in line after Ms. Abolt happened to be Chatham animal control shelter manager Jodi Lewis, who promptly adopted Barkley after properly executing all of her paperwork.

To be absolutely clear: the dog legally belonged to Mrs. Lewis and her family from that moment forward. This point should not be in dispute. Lewis has the paperwork to prove it.

If Chief Lovett hadn’t been able to exert undue influence over Mrs. Lewis due to her position as a county employee, this would never have been an issue. His threats would have been idle and carried no weight.

The chief couldn’t threaten to arrest Lewis; she hadn’t done anything wrong.

She still hasn’t. Instead, the chief did something egregiously wrong. He abused his power.

Lovett had the authority to threaten firing Lewis if she refused to surrender the dog, and so he did.

Now after serving on the board of a local Humane Society in the Atlanta area and with years of my own experience with animal rescue, I think that it’s safe to say I know a little bit about animal rescue and how it should work.

I even wrote a book about dog fostering called Always a Next One.

While I might not know the intimate details of how Chatham County animal control is run, I do know a fair bit about how normal operations are conducted. And none of this was necessary.

If she really wanted Barkley so much, all Diane Abolt had to do was pick up the phone and give a reasonable excuse for not appearing during the waiting period, which she now claims was due to illness. Abolt was well known by animal control and probably would have been cut some slack.

She could have called or otherwise made arrangements to adopt the dog if Barkley was truly that important to her. Yet Abolt did nothing in a timely fashion, and the dog legally, morally and ethically belonged to the Lewis family.

This shouldn’t even be a news story. But the “Mother Teresa” of animal rescue (according to husband Russ) just couldn’t let Barkley go.

So Abolt used her personal connections to usurp the ways things normally work. Flaunting his power, Savannah Chief of Police Willie Lovett intervened on her behalf, making this into a major news story.

The adoption of a dog from animal control normally doesn’t even merit a mention in the news. The Chief of Police using the full weight and power of his office to threaten, intimidate and coerce his employee to surrender a dog that legally belonged to her made it major news.

Clearly, Chief Lovett believes he is above the law. Is he?

The fact that Mrs. Lewis is a county employee should be irrelevant to the matter, but Lovett made it relevant. He threatened her job — over her dog.

How would you feel if this trampling on your rights and threat to your livelihood happened to you? Don’t laws apply to the police as well as the general public? To paraphrase The Lone Ranger, If Chief Lovett represent the law, I’d rather be an outlaw.

If the chief worried as much about  murder, robbery and assault as much as he apparently cares for meddling in the private affairs of an employee under his power and control, I might not be afraid to walk around downtown Savannah after dark.

To top it all off…what makes this story particularly odious? Adding insult to injury, Abolt didn’t even want the dog for herself.

Using Lovett as her weapon of choice, Abolt demanded the dog from Lewis, only to give it to somebody else she chose through her “volunteer” organization.

The poor dog’s last chance to stay in his rightful home is apparently in the hands of Savannah city manager Stephanie Cutter.

Hope springs eternal that justice will ultimately prevail for Barkley, but it’s with guarded optimism.

Lovett has a reputation for heavy-handed tactics. Remember this chief has forced some of the best people in the Savannah police department out and into early retirement during his tyrannical watch. One notable example is retired detective Gerry Long.

It seems that Mr. Lovett doesn’t tolerate those who dare question his perceived absolute power. Apparently he’s a petty and vindictive man, as well as a bully. It’s probably a good thing I no longer live in Chatham County.

As Lord Acton once famously observed, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Ironically, the name of Abolt’s alleged volunteer rescue operation run out of her garage is F.A.C.T.S. — an acronym for “Friends of Animal Control–Team Savannah.”

After these shenanigans, I seriously doubt Ms. Abolt has any remaining friends affiliated with Chatham County animal control.

Spam attacks with strange consistency

hoveroundThis is really weird.

My inbox is under some bizarre form of a spam attack.

I’m currently being inundated with emails that are marketing two vastly different style products.

The only conceivable common denominator is that both provide some form of transportation, albeit two vastly different ones.

The first set of emails come from Hoveround wheelchairs.

Because I’m still ambulatory, I don’t quite understand how I got on their prospective customer list.

Perhaps some internet widget has somehow monitored my habits, identified my addiction to writing, and determined that I will soon follow in the wheelchair tracks of George R. R. Martin and become too unhealthy to even walk to the mailbox under my own power.

The other barrage of advertising is offering to help me “find great rates on luxurious private jets.”

gulfstream_g650Since I can’t even afford to buy a new luxury car at the moment, I can’t imagine where this marketing spam attack is coming from, either.

Now if I could afford my own private jet, I would have to support a local Savannah business and buy a Gulfstream G650.

Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

But, this begs the question: what does the internet know about my future personal needs that I don’t?