Monday, February 22, 2021

New INC. Magazine column by Howard Tullman


Don't Shut Out the People From Your Past

Social media has made it way too easy for former employees, partners, and bosses to contact you. Including folks you only half remember, or worse, want to forget. But don't be too quick to trash that message. 


After 50 years of starting successful businesses in various industries, and having thousands of employees, not a month goes by -- especially in challenging times like these -- without multiple emails, calls, referrals, business plans, requests, solicitations, and other inquiries from people I've once worked with through myriad media channels. If you think that LinkedIn is a helpful tool, think again. It's a time sink, and a shameless, standing invitation for introductions.

Some of these individuals I distinctly remember; some I could never forget; some I tell myself I should or may remember; and others I politely pretend to recall. But I do try to respond to every one of them. Even if, truth be told, they might not have been such a bargain the first time around. Nothing is as responsible for the way we fondly remember the good old days (and the folks who were there) than a fading memory. Others ask me why I'd go out of my way for Bob or Jane, pointing out some insult or shortcoming of theirs in the distant past. "Loyalty" is often a big part of these conversations. To be honest, some people are more offended on my behalf than I would ever be -- even if I remembered the incidents in question. The motives of memory are rarely entirely pure. Some of these people remain forever bitter about slights and imagined injuries. The best and most successful entrepreneurs I know aren't anchored to the past ups-and-downs -- they're always looking ahead. And they're really big on second chances.

Once you open the door, though, you have to be very careful in these conversations with people from the dim past. They might be ancient history to you, but they may be holding on to a particular moment or memory that's very special to them which involved you. You don't want to accidentally drain the joy from their recollection by admitting that you have no idea of what they're talking about. Honesty and too much candor aren't always virtues. You have to wield the truth with care.

I often say, in talks, classes and columns, that no one becomes successful in the past. That doesn't mean that it's a bad bet or foolish investment to spend the modest amount of time it takes to reconnect and try to help people from the old days. Just as long as you don't end up spending too much time sitting around, as Bruce Springsteen would caution, thinking about those old glory days. Some people spend all their time looking forward to the past. Don't waste too much time looking backwards unless that's the direction you're headed.

There are plenty of good reasons to reach out and respond to these inquiries as long as you're careful not to make a hash of the whole thing. There's a definite risk that your "good deed" won't go unpunished. But consider it a worthy and worthwhile effort for these reasons among others:

-- First, and selfishly, because you never know who's going to bring you your future. They may be pitching you on your next great opportunity, or opening doors to new markets, key prospective employees, or future investors. No one's too busy to spend a few minutes listening.

-- Second, because only arrogant morons think that they're "self-made" successes and forget all the people who helped get them there. No one is a success all by themselves and you may find that these past team members were the very ones who helped complete the package, get the critical work done, and made you and your business the raging success that it turned out to be. You'll never know if you don't ask. And you may owe them a lot more than you'd think or like to admit.

-- And finally, because it's the right thing to do -- to extend a helping hand if you can -- whatever the ancient history may have been. Remember that we remember not what we choose, but what our memory permits and, as often as not, the times, things, and people we recall are more likely to be "the way things weren't" rather than the way things were. But whatever they were, they're gone.

Memory revises itself constantly in part to warm and sweeten past events in order to shield us from prior hurts and disappointments. And because, while we all think we have pure and photographic recall, some of us no longer have the necessary capacity. There's the past and then there's the story we choose to tell about it. Nothing is ever as rosy or rotten as we tend to recall. It's the way we never were.

One of the risks you run in reaching back is that the memories of your early friends and employees may hinder you from being the person you've become or are trying to become. It's hard to return home and seek work as the latest "golden boy" at the fanciest firm in the city when your old buddies remember you as the clown from the wrong part of town. You never know when you're making a memory that may come back to bite you.

Another risk is that there are just some people that you can never do enough for. And often, they won't take "No" for an answer. It's a very slippery slope and you need to set the boundaries right from the start. "Here's how I can help, if at all, and here's what I can't or won't be able to do."  In these cases, once it becomes clear that the "ask" is just too much, you need to remember that an honest refusal is much better than an insincere promise or an unnecessary delay. And, of course, ghosting someone is the worst of all. Tell the truth and duck. Don't just disappear.

And finally, you will inevitably run into situations where the person pitching you is a failed founder. I know, I know -- some people insist that it's a sacred badge of honor and something to be proud of, but I'm not one of them. This can be the hardest of all situations to handle because these men and women may look great on paper and certainly have the right attitude, but they bring a whole lot of pain and baggage with them. You have to be very careful before you bring them on board, or tout them to others, or sic them on someone else.

But the bottom line is that, as long as you are smart and careful about the way you go about this whole inevitable process, it's almost always worth the time to take a look. What comes around goes around and someday you may need the same kind of lift.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021






Can Our Businesses Save Us From Our Government?

Our legislative representatives in Washington don't seem to care about anything other than themselves. At least we are seeing some sense of responsibility among our corporations. 


It's so sad to watch the colossal amounts of time wasted in painfully over-extended House and Senate proceedings that get knowingly dragged out by the formalistic reliance of old men and women on stupid and arcane voting protocols like the baseless and incessant demands for roll calls of the "ayes and nays." Or the fact that Senate procedural rules preclude President Biden's ability to include a $15 minimum wage as part of the pending relief package. We're watching arthritic aging in real time. These out-of-touch, fossilized and embittered people spend their days looking forward to the past.

Forget anything as complicated as abandoning the filibuster. These public servants can barely put one foot in front of the other and make their decrepit ways to their chambers and back, as their staffs labor to explain to them what little in the way of consequence or progress may have happened while they were on the floor chatting with their pals. Seniority has spawned - with a few notable exceptions, like the Speaker - senility, sycophancy, and pervasive paralysis in the once hallowed and now much diminished halls of the Capitol.

These pathetic poseurs perform for the benefit of their theoretical -- but honestly indifferent and disinterested -- "constituents." The repetitious, cantankerous, showboating by new and old legislators alike, who play at "respectfully" addressing each other in stilted and meaningless language, serves only themselves. We'd all benefit if they would simply speak the plain truth, should they happen to stumble upon it, about the liars, traitors, and seditionists in their very midst.

Comity in Congress was killed by the Republicans in less than a decade, and there's only the faintest hope in some minds that all vestiges of duty, frankness, and honesty haven't also been extinguished. With straight faces and ultimate obliviousness, the newest entrants proudly confess that they hire staffs focused on communication and fundraising events rather than developing and advancing legislation, or doing the other critical committee work of Congress. Because all that really matters to them is the exposure and the bucks. Since the Supreme Court foolishly equated money with speech, it's the only thing these grifters care about. They know for certain that the worst possible mistake any of them can make is to fall short on their cash calls to their prospects and donors. The terribly sad question is, who will save us from ourselves and our worst instincts?

And, as millions continue to suffer and starve, as vaccines wait for distribution and are sometimes wasted, and as thousands of Americans die each day, these hypocrites and phonies continue to prance and play at their stupid and silly power games. Rancid Rand Paul refuses to wear a mask on the Senate floor. Lauren Boebert tries to bypass new metal detectors with her gun and abuses the Capitol police just days after the deadly January 6th debacle -- which she supported and encouraged -- killed one of their fellow officers. And yes, they had to have another party-line vote over fines for the idiots who refused to follow the new security rules.

There's no shame left among these assholes and no end in sight to the damage they do every day to our country. Trump and his willing disciples replaced facts and function with a crass and dishonest methodology predicated on fear and favoritism. Any normal business run for even a day like the ongoing congressional clown show would be long gone and little missed.

Basic legislative steps, implementing simple solutions, unwinding Trump's many traumatic missteps, and initiating new and straightforward curative actions will take weeks, if not months, to accomplish because we're stuck with literally dozens of ignorant and ill-intentioned clowns and cowards in our national governing bodies. Of course, many of the state legislatures are even worse, but that's a topic for another time.

We're watching the slow and painful death by a thousand cuts and crazy kooks of a system of governance that survived every manner of affront and assault for centuries. And no one seems willing, able, or interested in its redemption as they care solely about advancing - at whatever cost - their own selfish and sordid agendas and ambitions.

Having emerged from four awful years of every kind of misbehavior imaginable and 30,000 plus falsehoods by a Liar-in-Chief who should already be in jail, whatever the hopes for restoration that Biden offers remain sadly mired in the cesspool of greed, corruption and indifference that is our Congress today. Imagine a civics teacher trying to explain to our children how the system was designed and intended to work in the tragic light of how poorly and ineffectively it operates these days. How fully it's been co-opted and captured by special interests, lobbyists, lunatics, and pitiful and cowardly people whose sole interest is in their own re-election. The system the Founders designed would seem like a dream of long-gone democracy, or a wild fantasy.

One faint light at the end of this awful tunnel is the possibility that the many corporations that have withheld new PAC donations (or sought refunds) from the 160-plus Republicans who voted against democracy will stay the course and cease funding these traitors and seditionists. But the rotten system runs pretty deep when you learn that Microsoft's PAC gave donations to seditionist Sen. Josh Hawley, and that Microsoft CEO Brad Smith says he didn't even know about it. Not his department, he said.

"Good enough for government work" used to be a high compliment and an expression of pride of craft as well as something to aspire to. Today what we accept as appropriate governance is basically inept and noisy inaction and incompetence. The crass and common people we now elect to office reflect - not our highest goals and ideals - but the lowest possible denominators and the most. as opposed to the least, objectionable of candidates. Because those are the kinds of nut cases and loonies who initially prevail in our local primary systems, where only the extremists on both ends of the spectrum take the time to vote.

The best we can expect and hope for from a neutered and divided Congress, given their connivance and acquiescence, is that they do no more harm than Trump has done. It's a very low and very depressing bar.

FEB 16, 2021

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Saturday, February 13, 2021

When a President Sabotages His Own Country


When a President Sabotages His Own Country

Donald Trump may hug and kiss the flag, but he is undermining our election’s legitimacy and our government.


By Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

  • Nov. 4, 2020, 1:36 p.m. ET

In the end, the biggest interference in America’s elections didn’t come from Russia, or China, or Iran or North Korea. It came from the president of the United States.

As I write this, we still don’t know for certain who won the election, although Joe Biden seems in a strong position to win the White House and Republicans to retain the Senate.

But we do know for certain that President Trump lied to the public early Wednesday morning when he claimed victory and sought a judicial rescue from voters. His brazenness undermines our election system and the very idea of a peaceful transition of power.

It’s hard to imagine that the Supreme Court, however politicized it may have become, would go along with such a charade. I don’t believe that Trump, if he loses in a clear-cut way, will be able to remain in office; if he tries to barricade himself in the Oval Office, he’ll be escorted out on Jan. 20.

Yet what Trump has already done is what the Russians have always tried to do: cast doubt on American elections and destabilize the United States. The 2018 federal indictment of Russian election hackers alleged that they were engaged in “information warfare against the United States of America,” by fostering confusion and distrust that impair the integrity of elections and damage the legitimacy of the government that emerges. That’s precisely what Trump is now doing. He may hug and kiss American flags and pretend to be a great patriot, but this is a betrayal of our country.

If Biden wins after this poisoning of the chalice, he will inherit a badly divided country after an election that many will deem illegitimate, and it will be harder to govern and more difficult for the United States to exert influence around the world. It’s one thing for Russian hackers in St. Petersburg to sabotage our government; it’s far more tragic when the president does the same from the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke right after Trump and did not repeat the president’s claim of victory or his call for the courts to intervene. But Pence let his boss’s lies stand, and most leading Republicans have also kept quiet.

Trump’s latest attack on the integrity of America’s electoral system and on the peaceful transfer of power — the litmus test for any democracy — comes after years of other lies and efforts to discredit the electoral system. And yes, it’s true that it is an electoral system that has obvious undemocratic elements, but these aren’t what Trump has been talking about.

Biden will easily win the popular vote by millions of ballots, and yet the outcome is in doubt only because of the Electoral College. Between 2000 and 2016, in two of the three times when Republicans won the presidency, it was while losing the popular vote. And if the Supreme Court does weigh in on this election, one-third of the justices were appointed by Trump after he lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes.

The Senate has similar issues. The current Democrat senators represent 14 million more voters than the Senate Republicans, but it’s the Democrats who are in the minority because of the outsize influence of low-population states.

Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, has bluntly said, “we’re not a democracy” but a republic (actually, we’re both). Lee, along with Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, even recommended repealing the 17th Amendment, which provides for direct election of senators. If senators were again chosen by state legislatures, Republicans would gain a few seats.

More broadly, much of the Republican Party seems to fear voters and believes that its best path to victory is to suppress voting or even, in the case of Harris County, Texas, discard ballots. We no longer have poll taxes and grandfather clauses to disenfranchise Black voters, but G.O.P. officials modernized the barriers to voting by people of color. One careful study published in Scientific American last year found that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods are 74 percent more likely to have to wait more than 30 minutes to vote than residents of white neighborhoods.

Trump himself said in March that he opposed efforts to encourage more voting because “if you agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Yet here’s another thought: Perhaps Republicans and Democrats alike have been too quick to assume that higher turnouts are inevitably bad for G.O.P. prospects.

This election appears to have had the highest turnout in 120 years, and Biden and Trump may end up as the No. 1 and No. 2 winners of the popular vote in American history. Trump had the support of millions more voters in this election than four years ago.

According to exit polls, Trump won votes from 18 percent of Black men and 36 percent of Latino men, along with those of 58 percent of white men.

The Democrats had a great deal going for them in this election: a nominee viewed as soothing and electable, streams of new outrages from Trump, frequent revelations of corruption or improprieties involving him, denunciations of him from family members and former aides, and above all a mismanaged pandemic that killed 230,000 Americans and devastated the economy.

Yet many voters saw all this and were unfazed. Dr. Irwin Redlener, an expert in managing health disasters, says that Trump won nine of the 10 states with the highest prevalence of coronavirus.

So as I fret about Trump’s efforts to do Russia’s work and delegitimize this election, I also keep wrestling with this question: How is it that so many millions of Americans watched Trump for four years, suffered the pain of his bungling of Covid-19, listened to his stream of lies, observed his attacks on American institutions — and then voted for him in greater numbers than before?

More on the 2020 election


Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on InstagramHis latest book is "Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope." @NickKristof  Facebook

Trump’s Lawyers Repeated Inaccurate Claims in Impeachment Trial


Trump’s Lawyers Repeated Inaccurate Claims in Impeachment Trial

The three members of the former president’s legal team made a number of misleading or false claims about the events of Jan. 6, antifa, the impeachment process and voter fraud.


By Linda Qiu

  • Feb. 12, 2021Updated 7:52 p.m. ET

As they mounted their defense of the former president on Friday, Donald J. Trump’s lawyers made a number of inaccurate or misleading claims about the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Mr. Trump’s remarks, the impeachment process and 2020 election. Many claims were echoes of right-wing talking points popularized on social media or ones that were spread by Mr. Trump himself.

Here’s a fact check.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers were misleading about what happened on Jan. 6.


“Instead of expressing a desire that the joint session be prevented from conducting its business, the entire premise of his remarks was that the democratic process would and should play out according to the letter of the law.” — Michael van der Veen, lawyer for Mr. Trump

False. In his speech on Jan. 6 and before, Mr. Trump repeatedly urged former Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of the Electoral College votes, saying Mr. Pence should “send it back to the States to recertify.” Mr. Trump continued his speech on Jan. 6 saying he was “challenging the certification of the election.”


“Far from promoting insurrection of the United States, the president’s remarks explicitly encouraged those in attendance to exercise their rights peacefully and patriotically.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is exaggerated. Mr. Trump used the phrase “peacefully and patriotically” once in his speech, compared with 20 uses of the word “fight.”


“As everyone knows, the president had spoken at hundreds of large rallies across the country over the past five years. There had never been any moblike or riotous behaviors.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is misleading. While no other Trump rally has led to a siege of the Capitol, there have been episodes of violence, sometimes encouraged by the president. Less than two months before the riot on Jan. 6, Mr. Trump waved to supporters who had gathered in Washington to protest his election loss and who later violently clashed with counterprotesters. Previously, other supporters had attacked counterprotesters, and in one case a BBC cameraman, at several Trump rallies. Mr. Trump called one victim “disgusting” and offered to pay the legal fees of a supporter who had punched a protester.


“Given the timeline of events, the criminals at the Capitol weren’t there at the Ellipse to even hear the president’s words. They were more than a mile away engaged in their preplanned assault on this very building.” — Bruce L. Castor Jr., another lawyer for Mr. Trump

This is misleading. It is true that the Capitol was first breached before Mr. Trump had concluded his remarks, but this does not rule out the possibility that some rioters were inspired by his speech. In fact, several have said that they were.

For example, Robert L. Bauer, who had attended Mr. Trump’s rally on Jan. 6 and entered the Capitol, told law enforcement that when Mr. Trump told the crowd to march to the Capitol (about 16 minutes into his speech), many heeded those words. Mr. Bauer “reiterated that he marched to the U.S. Capitol because President Trump said to do so,” according to a criminal complaint.

Mr. Castor’s reasoning that Mr. Trump could not have incited the crowd to riot because the siege was preplanned also ignores an argument that House managers had made this week: Mr. Trump had spent months trying to invalidate the results of the election and encouraging his supporters to act.


“At no point was the president informed the vice president was in any danger.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is disputed. Comments by Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, suggest otherwise. This week, Mr. Tuberville recounted that he and Mr. Trump had spoken just as the Capitol was breached before the phone call was cut short.

“I said ‘Mr. President, they just took the vice president out, I’ve got to go,’” Mr. Tuberville said.

They made inaccurate references to antifa, left-wing protests and the 2016 election.


“One of the first people arrested was the leader of antifa.” — Mr. van der Veen

This is misleading. Mr. van der Veen was most likely referring to John E. Sullivan, a Utah man who was charged on Jan. 14 with violent entry and disorderly conduct. Mr. Sullivan, an activist, said he was there to film the siege. He had previously referred to antifa — a loosely affiliated group of antifascist activists that has no leader — on social media, but he has repeatedly denied being a member of the movement.

The F.B.I. has said there is no evidence that supporters of the antifa movement had participated in the Capitol siege.


“As many will recall, last summer the White House was faced with violent rioters night after night. They repeatedly attacked Secret Service officers, and at one point pierced a security wall, culminating in the clearing of Lafayette Square.” — Mr. van der Veen

False. This timeline is wrong. Law enforcement officials began clearing Lafayette Square after 6 p.m. on June 1 to allow Mr. Trump to pose with a Bible in front of a church, not because of a breach. Additional security barriers were installed after those events, according to local news reports and the National Park Service.


“The entire Democratic Party and national news media spent the last four years repeating without any evidence that the 2016 election had been hacked.” — Mr. van der Veen

False. United States intelligence agencies concluded years ago that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 election. The Republican-led Senate agreed last year that Russia had disrupted that election to help Mr. Trump.

They mischaracterized the impeachment process.


“The House waited to deliver the articles to the Senate for almost two weeks, only after Democrats had secured control over the Senate. In fact, contrary to their claim that the only reason they held it was because Senator McConnell wouldn’t accept the article, Representative Clyburn made clear they had considered holding the articles for over 100 days to provide President Biden with a clear pathway to implement his agenda.” — David I. Schoen, another lawyer for Mr. Trump

This is misleading. Democrats had considered delivering the article of impeachment earlier, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, then the majority leader, precluded the possibility. In a letter on Jan. 8, he informed Republican lawmakers that the Senate was in recess and “may conduct no business until Jan. 19.”

Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, suggested withholding the articles longer after Mr. McConnell made his timeline known. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Clyburn suggested Mr. McConnell was “doing what he thinks he needs to do to be disruptive of President Biden,” but Democrats might respond to that tactical delay with one of their own to “give President-elect Biden the 100 days he needs to get his agenda off and running.”


“Our Constitution and any basic sense of fairness require that every legal process with significant consequences for a person’s life, including impeachment, requires due process under the law, which includes fact-finding and the establishment of a legitimate, evidentiary record. Even last year, it required investigation by the House. Here, President Trump and his counsel were given no opportunity to review evidence or question its propriety.” — Mr. Schoen

This is misleading. The point about lack of “due process” is one that Mr. Trump’s lawyers and supporters had argued during his first impeachment and one that law scholars have dismissed.

There are no “enforceable rights” to due process in a House inquiry, and while those rights exist in the Senate trial, they are limited, said Frank O. Bowman III, a law professor at the University of Missouri and an expert on impeachment.

“One justice suggested something like that if it were found that the Senate was deciding cases on a coin flip, that might violate due process,” Mr. Bowman said. “Anything short of that, basically court’s not going to get involved.”

Moreover, a senior aide on the House impeachment team said that the Trump legal team was given the trial material, including all video and audio footage, before the start of the proceedings.

They repeated Mr. Trump’s false claims about voter fraud.


“Based on an analysis of publicly available voter data that the ballot rejection rate in Georgia in 2016 was approximately 6.42 percent, and even though a tremendous amount of new, first-time mail-in ballots were included in the 2020 count, the Georgia rejection rate in 2020 was a mere 0.4 of 1 percent, a drop-off from 6.42 percent to 0.4 percent.” — Mr. Castor

This is misleading. Georgia elections officials have repeatedly debunked this claim, which conflates the overall rejection rate for mail-in ballots in 2016 to the rejection rate specifically for signature mismatch in 2020. (Ballots can also be rejected for arriving late or not having a signature, among other reasons.)

In 2016, Georgia rejected about 6.4 percent of all returned mail-in ballots and 0.24 percent of those ballots because of signature-matching issues. It is unclear what the 0.4 percent refers to, but in both 2018 and 2020, Georgia rejected 0.15 percent of mail-in ballots because of signature-matching issues.


“President Trump wanted the signature verification to be done in public. How can a request for signature verifications to be done in public be a basis for a charge for inciting a riot?” — Mr. Castor

This is misleading. Contrary to Mr. Trump’s belief and Mr. Castor’s repetition of it, Georgia does verify signatures. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state noted that the state trained officials on signature matching and created a portal that checked and confirmed voters’ driver’s licenses. In a news conference last month debunking Mr. Trump’s claims, Gabriel Sterling, a top election official in Georgia, explained that the secretary of state’s office also brought in signature experts to check over 15,000 ballots. They discovered issues with two, and after further examination, concluded that they were legitimate.

“Shockingly, the disinformation continues,” Mr. Sterling tweeted during the trial.


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