High crimes and misdemeanors

April 20, 2019

     On Thursday, 23 months after the appointment of the Special Counsel and nearly a month after he submitted the report to the Attorney General, the Mueller Report was finally released to the public.   Even though the section on evidence of coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia was heavily redacted, the 448 page report painted a damning picture of a campaign eager to profit from a massive Russian effort to interfere with our elections and a President determined to thwart any investigation of that fact, (Source:  “Trump’s aides were eager to take Russian dirt on Clinton. But it wasn’t a conspiracy, Mueller report said,” by Kristina Phillip, USAToday.com, 4/18/19).

     Volume I of the Report details the extent of Russian efforts to subvert our democracy.  It describes an effort that began in earnest in 2014 and involved the manipulation of Americans through sophisticated use of social media, as well as a hacking operation that obtained e-mails from the Clinton campaign, DCCC and the DNC, which were strategically released to inflict maximum damage on Clinton’s campaign, (Source: “Executive Summary to Volume I,  Report on The Investigation Into Russian Interference into the 2016 Election, Volume I, by Special Counsel Robert Mueller).  Much of the information in Volume I tracks what we already know, thanks to the indictments, plea deals or convictions of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen and the Russian Internet Research Agency. Continue reading “High crimes and misdemeanors”

Notre Dame

April 17, 2019

 

Our Monday afternoons were jolted by images of the iconic Notre Dame de Paris engulfed in flames.  Horrified, we watched video footage of the roof of the cathedral obscured by billows of smoke, as 500 firefighters battled the blaze.  Many of us posted our own pictures posing in front of the venerable landmark, since no trip to Paris was complete without a visit to Ile de la Cite to see the flying buttresses and rose windows firsthand.

The sight of Notre Dame on fire was jarring.  We believed that this edifice, which has been a Paris landmark since 1345, was indestructible.  After all, it withstood the French Revolution and the Nazis.  While we were relieved that there was no sign of terrorism or arson, Notre Dame’s narrow escape from total destruction was a troubling reminder that nothing is permanent.  A magnificent cathedral that took 200 years to build was nearly wiped out in a matter of hours by a conflagration with accidental causes. Continue reading “Notre Dame”

Privilege over justice

April 12, 2019

 

Even by the degraded standards of the Trump era, the chaos, contempt for the rule of law and naked racism displayed by the motley band of miscreants in this administration over the past several days stands out.  We began the week with the purge at the Department of Homeland Security, followed by numerous articles featuring efforts to rehabilitate Kirstjen Nielsen’s shredded reputation.  With the ascendancy of aspiring Nazi, Stephen Miller, some journalists bought the absurd spin that Jared Kushner, was Miller’s polar opposite and was trying to make a grand immigration deal, (Source:  “Miller and Kushner on a potential collision course in Trump’s border crisis,” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, The Washington Post, 4/10/19).  The idea that the shallow dilettante with the cozy relationship with the murderous MBS and Miller are anything other than two sides of the same coin is a sick joke.

Many of these same journalists were hoodwinked by Bill Barr’s avuncular mien and establishment credentials into believing him to be an honest broker, rather than the corrupt partisan hack appointed for the express purpose of burying the Mueller Report and helping Trump evade accountability.  Given that Barr auditioned for the position by writing an Op-Ed attacking the investigation, the decision by some journalists to contort themselves to spin Barr’s accusation that the FBI was “spying” on the Trump campaign as a mere synonym for surveillance was bizarre, (Source:  “The Bigs Can’t Handle Bill Barr’s Cons,” by Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo,  4/11/19).  With that one sentence, Barr revived Trump’s widely discredited “Deep State” conspiracy, red meat that fed the disordered fever dreams of Trump’s fetid base. It was a deeply cynical move by someone who would rather weaponize his pedigree to destroy democracy, than share power with women and people of color. Continue reading “Privilege over justice”

Incipient genocide

April 9, 2019

 

Sunday night, we learned that distaff Goebbels, Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign by Trump for the crime of being “insufficiently brutal,” (“Kirstjen Nielsen Enforced Cruelty at the Border.  Her Replacement Could Be Worse,” by The Editorial Board, The New York Times, 4/8/19).  Consider for a moment what it means that the person responsible for the family separation policy that ripped 3000 children from their parents and placed them in cages; the person responsible for detaining migrants in facilities so frigid that the migrants call  them “hieleras,” (iceboxes); the person apparently undisturbed by the deaths of 22 immigrants in CPB custody over the past two years , was not cruel enough.

As the day unfolded, it became clear that the source of Trump’s rage was Nielsen’s apparent unwillingness to flagrantly break the law, rather than merely skirt it.  Nielsen may have been a callous, gaslighting racist functionary, but her ouster was merely the first of many dominoes to fall in what is clearly a purge designed to leave a hollowed out Department of Homeland Security with only powerless Trump toadies at the helm.  By Monday’s end, Trump had fired Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, in the process being sure to leak the derisive nickname he gave Alles because of his physical appearance.  The leak was strategically designed to obscure the revelation that  not only did Yujing Zhang attempt to bring four cellphones and a “thumb drive infected with malware” into Mar-a-lago, but that she also had nine USB drives, 5 sim cards and a device to detect hidden cameras in her room (Source:  “Chinese Woman Arrested at Mar-a-Lago Had a Hidden Camera Detector, Prosecutors Say,” by Frances Robles, The New York Times, 4/8/19). Continue reading “Incipient genocide”

All politics is local

    All week the press has been gleefully covering the growing list of accusations that former Vice President Joe Biden has a habit of being inappropriately physical and affectionate in a way that makes women uncomfortable.  Lucy Flores opened the floodgates with her piece one week ago, describing how Biden grabbed her shoulders and kissed her hair in a manner she called, “blatantly inappropriate and unnerving,” (Source: “An Awkward Kiss Changed How I Saw Joe Biden,” by Lucy Flores, TheCut.com, 3/29/19).

    Flores’ story unleashed a flood of similar anecdotes, accompanied by photo montages showing Biden nuzzling noses and giving impromptu shoulder massages to an array of women (and some men).  Despite all of the hand wringing, this isn’t complicated — don’t touch people who don’t want to be touched. The truth is, this is just Biden being Biden— an exuberant and often inappropriate, if fundamentally decent man.   Continue reading “All politics is local”

RIP Nipsey Hussle

April 2, 2019

 

Los Angeles and the broader hip-hop community were left reeling by the senseless, cold-blooded execution of rapper and entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle, on Sunday.  Hussle was killed outside of his Marathon Clothing store in broad daylight, (Source:  “Grammy-Nominated Rapper Nipsey Hussle Shot and Killed at 33,” by the Associated Press, The New York Times, 3/31/19).  Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was a loving father of two and a loving partner to Lauren London, mother of his youngest child, (Source:  “Rest In Power, Neighborhood Nip,” by Panama Jackson, Verysmartbrothas.theroot.com, 4/1/19).

Article after article showcased Hussle’s entrepreneurial spirit, detailing how he sold limited edition mixtapes for $100, rather than sign with a major label. Just last year, Hussle opened up Vector 90, a co-working space and STEM center in South Central.  In Hussle’s words, “In our culture, there’s a narrative that says, ‘Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers.’ And that’s cool, but there should be something that says, ‘follow Elon Musk, follow Zuckerberg,” (Source:  “With a new STEM Center and a revolutionary marketing strategy, Nipsey Hussle is music’s biggest disruptor,” by Sonaiya Kelley, The Los Angeles Times, 3/16/18). Continue reading “RIP Nipsey Hussle”

Whitewash?

March 28, 2019

 

In the last forty-eight hours, the news media has been consumed with the latest developments in the Jussie Smollett case.  On Tuesday, prosecutors dropped all of the charges against him and sealed his record, apparently in exchange for Smollett’s forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and doing sixteen hours of community service, (Source:  “Why the prosecutors dismissed the charges against Jussie Smollett,” by Deanna Paul, The Washington Post, 3/28/19).  Countless hours were devoted to venting anger over the speculation that Smollett had gotten away with something. The Chicago Police Department was furious and Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared the case disposition a “whitewash.”

Their performance is proof positive that irony is dead.  We should believe that the same Chicago Police Department that operated a secret facility from 1974-1991, where Police Commander Jon Burge tortured Black men in order to extract confessions from them, is outraged at this supposed miscarriage of justice?(Source:  “A Digital Archive Documents Two Decades of Torture by Chicago Police,” by Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, TheAtlantic.com, 10/26/16).  We should believe that Rahm Emanuel, who buried the video of the murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for a year, is an advocate for greater transparency? (Source:  “Laquan McDonald was shot down by the police, and he took the mayor’s career down with him,” by Dahleen Glanton, The Chicago Tribune,  9/6/18). Continue reading “Whitewash?”

Slow motion coup

March 26, 2019

 

We have all been sitting in stunned silence since the Mueller report landed with a thud, wondering how two years of investigations could have ended like this.  Mueller maintained his monk-like silence, content to deliver his confidential report to Attorney General Bill Barr, a reliable Republican hatchet man with a reputation for erasing Republican scandals.  True to form, Barr condensed an 87 page report into a four page summary which never quoted a complete sentence from Mueller, but managed to definitively state that there was no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government and to conclude that, in his own judgement, Trump had not obstructed justice, (Source:  “4 things we learned from Barr’s summary of the Mueller report,” by Daniel Bush, PBSNewshour.org, 3/24/19).

Those of us who foolishly pinned all of our hopes on Mueller delivering the coup de grace to this lawless, wildly unfit charlatan were left deflated.  Yet, rank speculation aside, there is no way to know from the snippet taken out of context what doomed a collusion finding. The only way to really know what Mueller concluded is to read the actual report in its entirety. Proof that the truth is far more complicated than Barr would have you believe is evident in how quickly McConnell blocked Chuck Schumer’s effort to release the full report, (Source:  “McConnell blocks Schumer effort to call for public release of Mueller report,” by Rebecca Shabad and Frank Thorp V, NBCNews.com, 3/25/19). Continue reading “Slow motion coup”

Us

March 24, 2019

    Friday at 5:00 p.m.  the news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr.  In his letter to Congress, Barr stated that he “remained committed to as much transparency as possible,” and that he could brief them on the report’s “principal conclusions” as soon as this weekend, (Source:  “Mueller Delivers Report on Trump-Russia Investigation to Attorney General,” by Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Benner, The New York Times, 3/22/19).

    Despite the complete lack of any actual knowledge of the contents of the report, the news media felt compelled to report on this bombshell news.  Word from an anonymous senior Justice Department official that no further indictments would be forthcoming fueled speculation that Mueller’s final report could be a “massive boon”  to Trump.  Once again, the press defaulted to lazy sports world analogies, without having seen so much as a syllable of the actual report themselves. Continue reading “Us”

Choose wisely

March 20, 2019

    While we were still reeling from the aftershock of the racist terrorist attack in New Zealand, or busily grabbing our popcorn to watch the Twitter feud between Trump and Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George Conway, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that may have flown under the radar.  Nielsen v. Preap is an ominous sign of how each branch of government is contributing to a two-tiered white supremacist society, with insurmountable barriers for Black and Brown people.

      In Nielsen v. Preap, the Court ruled, by a 5-4 majority, that ICE could detain immigrants indefinitely, without bond, if they had previously been convicted of a crime.  In the case at hand, the respondent, Mony Preap, was a lawful permanent resident with two drug convictions. Although Preap was released from custody for those offenses in 2006, ICE used them as the rationale for his apprehension in 2013, seven years later, after Preap was released from jail following an arrest, (Source:  Nielsen v. Preap, 586 U.S.___ (2019)). Continue reading “Choose wisely”