+ The seismic activity recorded after the South Koreans announced that Trump would meet with Kim Jong Un in May was triggered by the detonation of John Bolton.
+ Bolton has been skulking around the White House grounds lately, angling to replace HR McMaster as Trump’s National Security Advisor. In a desperate attempt to abort any agreement with the North Koreans, the mad neocon has been calling for a “massive attack” on North Korea, apparently to keep Kim Jong Un from making peace with South Korea.
+ Last August, Johnnie Jermaine Rush was crossing the street shortly after midnight near the local baseball stadium in Asheville, North Carolina, when he was accosted by two police officers, one of whom, Verino Ruggiero, was a trainee. Rush was on his way home from his job as a dishwasher at the nearby Cracker Barrel. The encounter that followed was captured on the body camera of the other cop, Officer Chris Hickman.
Ruggiero approaches Rush and shouts, “You didn’t use the crosswalk four times in a row.”
“All I’m trying to do is get home, man,” Rush responds. “I’m tired. I just got off work.”
“I’ve got two options,” Ruggiero threatens. “I can either arrest you or write you a ticket.”
Rush seems to resign himself to the absurdity of his situation. “It doesn’t matter, man,” he says. “Do what you got to do besides keep harassing me, man.”
At that point, Ruggiero’s partner, Chris Hickman, orders Rush to put his hands behind his back and prepares to cuff him. Then Rush takes off with the cops in pursuit. They soon tackle him and pin him to the ground, where he is tasered, beaten and choked to the point where Rush screams in pain and yells out, “I can’t breathe.”
After the incident, a police supervisor arrived on the scene. Rush tried to explain what happened, but the supervisor kept interrupting him saying, “You’re lying. You’re lying! My officer would not do that.” The supervisor refused Rush’s pleas to view the body cam footage.
When they got back to the station, the cops piled up the charges, citing the beaten man with impeding traffic, second-degree trespassing, assaulting a government official and resisting a police officer.
The police video of the brutal encounter was uncovered earlier this week by the Asheville Citizen-Times, prompting widespread outrage in the city and the resignation of Officer Hickman.
MSDNC used to cover these horrific abuses in some detail. No room now with wall-to-wall RussiaGate coverage.
+ It appears that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is zeroing in on Blackwater chieftain Erik Prince for his role in a strange meeting last year in the Seychelles Islands. The January meeting involved representatives of the United Arab Emirates, a Russian banker named Kirill Dmitriev, and George Nader, a Lebanese-American fixer who, after being detained at Dulles Airport by the FBI, is now spilling his guts to Mueller’s team. What was going on here? The speculation has been that the UAE, which has loaned billions of dollars to Russia for an infrastructure project, was setting up a back-channel communication between the Russian government and Team Trump, with Prince in the role of secret emissary.
But Prince dismissed this theory when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee in November. He told the committee that he had been in the Seychelles to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed of UAE, for whom he is setting up a private army. Prince denied that he was acting as an envoy for Trump and claimed that his meeting with Dmitriev, who runs the $10 billion Russian Direct Investment Fund, was little more than a chance encounter in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel.
“We chatted on topics ranging from oil and commodity prices to how much his country wished for normal trade relations,” Prince testified. “I remember telling him that if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Josef Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, then certainly Donald Trump could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism.”
But Nader’s information (and perhaps that of Michael Flynn, who is also squealing to Mueller) seems to undercut Prince’s testimony, perhaps leaving the mercenary open to charges of perjury.
If Mueller can take down Prince, the whole investigation will have been worth it. Some may gripe that the offense is too petty and that Prince should have prosecuted for war crimes against civilians by Bush or Obama. True enough. But you take what you can get. This was a debate that I had for many months with Alexander Cockburn over Clinton. There were probably 100 crimes Bill should have been impeached for and lying to Ken Starr about getting blow jobs from Monica Lewinsky was the most trivial. But if Clinton had been convicted by the senate and removed from office in 1998 might the senseless and bloody war on Serbia have been prevented? Similarly, if Mueller nabs Prince, it may prevent his company from slaughtering more women and children.
+ Speaking of the Clinton impeachment, some of you will remember Clinton’s personal secretary, Betty Currie, who found herself in the center of the Lewinsky scandal, when it came out that Currie had collected gifts that Bill and given to Monica and stored them under her bed until they were subpoenaed by Ken Starr. The tokens of their romance included a marble bear, a hat pin, two brooches, a t-shirt from Martha’s Vineyard, a blanket and a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which the presidential cad had also given to Hillary.
Currie was called to testify before Starr’s grand jury on January 28, 1998. Ten days earlier Clinton had summoned Currie into the White House on a Sunday and tried to shape her testimony, telling Curry in regard to Lewinsky, “We were never alone, right?” After Currie revealed this conversation to the grand jury, the tampering became one of the elements in the obstruction of justice charges against Clinton.
Flash forward 20 years. Trump, increasingly unnerved by Mueller’s probe, has been talking to witnesses about their testimony before the grand jury, including former chief of staff Reince Preibus and White House counsel Doug McGahn. After McGahn’s testimony, the New York Times ran a story claiming that McGahn had told the grand jury that Trump had asked him to fire Mueller. Trump was enraged by the disclosure and ordered McGahn to put out a statement denying the New York Times article. McGahn refused, but the Currie precedent for impeachment seems to have been met.
+ I know porn when I see it…
+ Putin may not have kompromat on Trump, but it looks like Stormy Daniels does, including photos, texts and videotape. This week Daniels filed suit to break the Non-Disclosure Agreement that has gagged her from talking about her affair with Trump since late October 2016. The suit, which crams more juicy disclosures into 5,000 words than the Starr Report did in 3,000 pages, argues that the NDA, prepared by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, is invalid because Cohen has publicly spoken about it and because the document was never signed by Trump (aka, David Dennison). Daniels received $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about the relationship, which began in Lake Tahoe in 2006, four months after Melania had given birth to Baron. In true Trump fashion, the president stiffed his own lawyer for the payment, thus exposing both Trump and Cohen to possible violations of campaign finance laws. Similar hush money payments made by John Edwards through a series of cut-outs to his mistress and baby mama Reilly Hunter during the 2008 presidential primaries got the former senator charged with six counts of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. Edwards was acquitted of one count and the jury deadlocked on the others.
After news of the affair dribbled out in February, Daniels claims in her suit that Trump and Cohen took new actions to “intimidate” her and “shut her up.” She alleges that Cohen secretly filed a one-sided arbitration case against her without providing Daniels any notice of the proceedings. The “hush agreement” calls for Daniels to be assessed a $1 million fine for each violation of the NDA.
The details of the affair are far from salacious, largely because Trump seems to be a rigidly conventional sexual partner. According to Daniels, their sexual encounter was “textbook generic,” involving only “one position,” as might be expected “from a man his age.” Despite his alleged fear of catching an STD, Trump did not use a condom that enchanted evening in Tahoe. Before hopping into bed, the Great Seducer had boldly promised Daniels a star turn on his failing TV show “The Apprentice.” Of course, Trump reneged on that pledge and Stormy, who felt she had been had, later said prophetically of Trump: “Karma will always bite you in the ass.”
Thank you for your sacrifice, Stormy. A troubled nation turns its eyes toward you.
+ So the Senate just voted (63-32) to proceed with roll backs of many of the Dodd-Frank banking regulations. 16 Democrats and Angus King joined all of the Republics in voting “yes”. Here are their names: Bennet (CO), Carper, (DE), Coons (DE), Donnelly (IN), Hassan (NH), Heitkamp (ND), Jones (AL), Kaine (VA), Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (FL), Peters (MI), Shaheen (NH), Stabenow (MI), Tester (MT), Warner (VA), King (ME). The Democrats, who (besides Goldman Sachs) needs them?
+ Gary Cohn (ex-Goldman COO) is being widely praised for walking out on Trump over his aluminum & steel tariffs. Cohn is described as a Democrat who supports free trade, crafted the tax bill & didn’t have the guts to leave when Trump praised rioting neonazis. Tells you a lot about the Democrats.
+ 13 cities around the world are expected to experience temperature increases of more than 2 degrees celsius within the next 10 years, lead by Moscow, Helsinki, Ottawa and Trondheim.
+ Reports are flowing in that Amazon’s Alexa AI device is arbitrarily resisting commands, making strange noises and laughing at users. It’s time to pull the plug on Bezo’s version of HAL 9000, before it’s too late…
Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.
+ ICE agents tracked a 10-year-old girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, with cerebral palsy who has lived here since she was 3 to a hospital where she underwent emergency gall-bladder surgery and arrested her at the hospital afterwards. She is now being held in an ICE prison.
+ At meeting of pipeline companies in Houston this week, Kelcy Warren, the chief executive officer of Energy Transfer Partners, unloaded on environmentalists and Native Americans who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. “For example, talking about somebody that needs to be removed from the gene pool,” Warren fumed, “we had people drilling holes in our pipe.” Oil execs used to say shit like this in private & reporters like Ken Silverstein & John Stauber would have to dig deep to expose their malignant corporate banter. Now they feel free to boast in public about their desire to kill activists for acts of vandalism, which, of course, they’ve done many times (See Ken Saro-Wiwa.)
+ Barbara Ehrenreich:
A lot of children depend on free school lunches, so the West Virginia teachers made food packages for them before going on strike and have continued to try to feed them. This is our dystopian welfare state: severely underpaid teachers trying to keep poverty-stricken kids alive.
+ One-third of the women imprisoned in the world are locked up in the US.
+ Since 1967, more than 15,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and dumped in Israeli prisons.
+ Two years ago a woman named Nicola Cottone was arrested and taken to the police station in Schenectady, New York. While she was in police custody, two officers repeatedly slammed her head onto a bench, splitting open her scalp. A internal investigation into the incident released this week revealed that one of the officers, Lt. Mark McCracken, took photos of Cottone’s bloody head and shared them with fellow cops, boasting: “This is what happens when someone hits one of my men.”
+ In 2016, Terry Lee Morris was facing trial in Tarrant County, Texas on charges of soliciting sex from a minor. During his appearance before Judge George Gallagher Morris was asked to enter his plea. Morris refused to answer, saying that he wanted the judge to recuse himself on the grounds he was biased against Morris. The judge became infuriated and told Morris to stop “making outbursts” in his courtroom or “I will use the shock belt on you.” Morris, like most defendants in Gallagher’s court, had been strapped with a stun belt capable of delivering a 50,000 volt charge for 8 seconds. The belts are marketed as a precautionary device meant to immobilize violent defendants. Morris repeated his request that Gallagher remove himself from the case, where upon the judge turned to his bailiff and said, “Hit him.” The bailiff pressed the button jolting Morris with 50,000 volts of electricity, enough to cause excruciating pain and seizures. Again, the judge asked the writhing Gallagher if he was “going to follow the rules” Gallagher exclaimed that he was “being tortured” just for making a legal request. The judge instructed his bailiff to “hit him again.” This week the Texas Court of Appeals threw out Gallagher’s conviction, ruling that the barbaric actions of the judge violated his constitutional rights. The judicial torturer, however, remains on the bench.
+ The Abu Ghraib mentality didn’t start in Iraq. It was the inevitable product of the vicious American “justice” system.
+ From Citibank to the West Bank, the unremitting awfulness of Chuck Schumer. Here’s the senate minority leader at AIPAC:
Now, let me tell you why – my view, why we don’t have peace. Because the fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East. The view of Palestinians is simple, the Europeans treated the Jews badly culminating in the Holocaust and they gave them our land as compensation. Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace. They invent other reasons, but they do not believe in a Jewish state and that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin…
+ Want a profile in courage? Look no further than presidential aspirant Kamala Harris, who demanded that her address to AIPAC be kept private.
+ At the NFL combines, LSU running back Darrius Guice was interrogated about his sexual preferences by NFL scouts. One asked him: “Do you like men?” Perhaps only Mike Pence’s office rivals the NFL for public displays of unrepressed homophobia. But maybe the teams should start asking prospective players: “How do you like your brain: bruised, mashed or scrambled?”
+ 169 homeless people died on the streets of Seattle last year. That’s a grim record. According to a new report from the King County medical examiner, 697 homeless people have died in Seattle since 2012.
+ Americans blow $450 a year shopping while drunk. Why not get high instead? You’ll shop slower, though you may end up ordering a Jeep-load of drunken noodles.
+ Xeni Jardin: “Laugh all you want about Stormy Daniels. She got paid $130,000 and he’s fucking us every day for free.”
+ Silicone may float, but the valley won’t…
+ Thursday was the first time in his presidency that Trump had briefly walked into the White House press room. Could he have mistaken it for the restroom? Would he have been wrong?
+ It must be spring in Oregon. The tree frogs are singing so loudly they’re drowning out the sound of Wolf Blitzer’s voice. Praise the lord!
+ When Trump supporters browsed at Revolution Books in Berkeley…
+ Shall we gather at the Klamath?
+ Steelworkers join the nuclear cabal: Roxanne Brown of USW speaking at this week’s Advance Nuclear conference: “We believe climate change is the biggest environmental issue of our time, that it won’t be solved without nuclear, and USW workers are ready to get work to solve it.”
+ Is Google now the world’s most dangerous corporation?
+ By day Dayanna Volitich taught social studies at Crystal River Middle School in Florida, by night under the name Tiana Dalichov she spouted anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi bile on her Unapologetic Podcast. This is a kind of progress, I suppose. Forty years ago, many of my high school classes (history, geography, civics, biology, philosophy, English) in the suburbs of Indianapolis were the state-sponsored equivalent of white nationalist podcasts…
+ Things teachers can say in Florida and still not get fired….
+ James Baldwin explained to the Paris Review why he felt compelled to flee New York for Paris:
I was broke. I got to Paris with forty dollars in my pocket, but I had to get out of New York. My reflexes were tormented by the plight of other people. Reading had taken me away for long periods at a time, yet I still had to deal with the streets and the authorities and the cold. I knew what it meant to be white and I knew what it meant to be a nigger, and I knew what was going to happen to me. My luck was running out. I was going to go to jail, I was going to kill somebody or be killed.
+ When Deleuze met Guattari…
+ Trump was caught on tape speaking to some swamp creatures about his admiration for President Xi’s elevation to Mao-like stature in China. “He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump said. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.” Memo to Donald: We’ve actually had several presidents serve for life: Harrison, Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, FDR, JFK. Are you sure you want to join that list?
+ There’s a refreshing honesty about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as she deflects one question after another to other agencies, departments and staffers. Her know-nothingness is transparent, almost to the point of pride. A Sanders press briefing reminds me of the hilarious press conference in Joseph Heller’s Good as Gold when the Kissingeresque lead character becomes a Washington sensation after answering nearly every question with “I don’t know.”
+ Director David Fincher on the film business:
I always wanted to give a lecture at film schools. You go in and you see all these fresh faces, and you say: “You! Stand up, tell me about your story. Tell me about what your film is going to be about.” And they start and you go: “Shut up and sit the fuck down!” And if they do, you go: “You’re not read.” Because the film business is filled with shut-up and shit-the-fuck-down. If you are going to let something like that derail you, what hope do you have against the transportation department? What hope do you have against fucking development executives?
+ Has anyone seen the 1970 German film of Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, directed by Herbert Vesely? I’d give away our two cats to find a copy. Day by day that book seems less like fiction and more like prophecy…The wonderful Pnin (the master’s best novel) is something of a retake on its themes, more playful and less raw. But these are not playful times.
More Miles Than Money
What I’m listening to this week…
So I’m recreating a vinyl collection from scratch. Here are the latest 10 acquisitions…
11. Out to Lunch by Eric Dolphy
12. Pieces of a Man by Gil Scott-Heron
13. Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division
14. Sign o’ the Times by Prince
15. In Step by Stevie Ray Vaughn
16. Gravity by Alejandro Escovedo
17. West Side Soul by Magic Sam
18. Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin
19. Jazz Samba by Stan Getz & Charlie Bird
20. There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly and the Family Stone
What I’m reading this week…
Astral Weeks: a Secret History of 1968 by Ryan Walsh
Dark Land, Dark Mirror by Jonah Raskin
The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past by Shaun Walker
No Torture, No Executions
Vladimir Nabokov: “The fact is that since my youth – I was 19 when I left Russia — my political creed has remained as bleak and changeless as an old gray rock. It is classical to the point of triteness. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art. The social or economic structure of the ideal state is of little concern to me. My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of the government should not exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions.”