transcribed for you…

In Atlanta on Friday, America’s greatest winner said (to a smattering of applause from an all-time record crowd, a historic crowd, gigantic, standing room, lined up outside the immense, overflowing hall all the way to the Georgia/Florida border):

“Now Democrats and the media have launched, and they are partners, you know that, the deranged, hyper-partisan impeachment witch hunt, a sinister effort to nullify the ballots of sixty-three million patriotic Americans, it’s not happening, by the way, it’s failing, it’s failing fast, it’s all a hoax, it’s all a hoax, it’s failing fast… Democrats are willing to destroy the foundations of our society and the pillars of our justice system, and judicial system, in their craven pursuit of power and money.”

And God bless these United States.  (See my previous post for a quick fact check, I’ll get off this nauseating subject soon, hopefully)

Republican talking point about impeachment — not entirely true

Update:  This is what you do when you fuck up and say something that is factually wrong.  You acknowledge your mistake and correct it.   Novel idea, I know.  Here we go.

WHOOPS, this Republican claim about Clinton’s impeachment not starting until his second term is entirely true. I was wrong about the date, completely and clearly wrong.   He was elected to his second term in 1996.  The impeachment began well after that date, as the Republicans have been pointing out in support of their idea that Democrats are trying to nullify the will of the voters who put Trump in office. (see footnote 3)

It’s not that Republicans didn’t do everything possible to hobble, compromise and humiliate Clinton before impeaching him, it’s just that they didn’t have firm grounds for it yet during his first term.  The story line of how they got the Clinton perjury and obstruction charges gets a little complicated.

The Supreme Court didn’t allow Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against sitting president Bill Clinton to go forward until 1997, during Clinton’s second term.  It was a unanimous Supreme Court decision, by the way.   Once that lawsuit was allowed to go forward the Jones lawyers were able to subpoena Monica Lewinsky.  Monica Lewinsky was grabbed by the FBI under Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s direction (they called the grab “Prom Night”) and threatened her with a long prison term for her perjury in an affidavit (denying having had sex of any kind with Clinton) she wrote in connection to her subpoena in the Paula Jones suit.  Kenneth Starr’s team got the goods on Lewinsky and her affair with Clinton from her confidant Linda Tripp, who gave them audio evidence of the affair and led them to the Blue Dress with Clinton’s DNA (in the form of his semen) on it.  

The impeachment was started in October 1998, during Clinton’s second term — well AFTER his reelection in 1996, after Starr’s team had secured Clinton’s perjury relating to Lewinsky also lying about it in the Jones case (thrown out of court, appealed and settled by Clinton prior to the appeal being heard with an $850,000 payment) [1].   Familiar conservative lawyers played key roles in the case. {2]

I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I wrote this piece I posted the other day  — and apologies to Brian Lehrer, he was right as rain.  Take the following with a grain or two of salt– my facts are dead wrong in relation to WHEN the impeachment started, it wasn’t right before the 1998 presidential election, that’s for sure.   I’ve corrected the errors in the original, like so:

Republicans have taken to calling the Trump impeachment inquiry an unprincipled, anti-democratic Democratic end-run around the will of the People. [3] Let the American voters decide in 2020, they say.   They point out that when they were in power they didn’t start the impeachment against the hated liar and fornicator Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton until after his re-election.  I heard Brian Lehrer repeat this inaccurate statement the other day on his otherwise excellent Impeachment, a daily podcast (I need to drop Brian a line, he’d want to know).

History is history and, although it is easily enough forgotten and ignored,  you can look up the dates that certain things happened and read certain undisputed details of public events.   You can make a confident declaration about some verifiable event in the past and simply be — inaccurate.  (AS I WAS IN THIS POST, AS TO THE TIMING OF CLINTON’S IMPEACHMENT)   It’s very easy to verify things like dates using the phone in your pocket 24/7– if you’ve got the time (or if you think for as long as it takes to recall that presidential elections occur every four years, 00, 04, 08, 16 etc.) . Just the facts, ma’am (though no longer in support of my original idea):

The impeachment of Bill Clinton was initiated on October 8, 1998, when the United States House of Representatives voted to commence impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, for “high crimes and misdemeanors“. The specific charges against Clinton were lying under oath and obstruction of justice. The charges stemmed from a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Clinton by Paula Jones and from Clinton’s testimony denying that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  The catalyst for the president’s impeachment was the Starr Report, a September 1998 report prepared by Independent Counsel Ken Starr for theHouse Judiciary Committee.[1] 

You can look it up, or just read the summary here.  One month before the 1998 presidential election [WTF?  the election  was two years earlier, the date is always a multiple of four– ed.], Newt and the boys started taking America back.   Talk about your October surprises.

Just sayin’…

 

[1]   Wikipedia:

Jones’s suit was dismissed as lacking legal merit prior to Clinton’s impeachment and the exposure of the Lewinsky affair. But in August 1998 Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky, and compelling evidence that he had lied about it under oath in the Jones suit, was brought to light. At that point Jones appealed the ruling, and her appeal gained traction following Clinton’s admission to having an affair with Monica Lewinsky in August 1998.[1]

On appeal, Clinton agreed to an out-of-court settlement, paying Jones and her lawyers $850,000 to drop the suit; a substantial portion of the settlement was expected to pay Jones’s legal fees.[2] Clinton’s lawyer said that the President made the settlement only so he could end the lawsuit for good and move on with his life.[3] Jones and her lawyers have said the payment is evidence of Clinton’s guilt.

[2]  Wikipedia:

[Ann] Coulter first became a public figure shortly before becoming an unpaid legal adviser for the attorneys representing Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against President Bill Clinton. Coulter’s friend George Conway had been asked to assist Jones’ attorneys, and shortly afterward Coulter, who wrote a column about the Paula Jones case for Human Events, was also asked to help, and she began writing legal briefs for the case.

Coulter later stated that she would come to mistrust the motives of Jones’ head lawyer, Joseph Cammaratta, who by August or September 1997 was advising Jones that her case was weak and to settle, if a favorable settlement could be negotiated.[21][137] From the outset, Jones had sought an apology from Clinton at least as eagerly as she sought a settlement.[138] However, in a later interview Coulter recounted that she herself had believed that the case was strong, that Jones was telling the truth, that Clinton should be held publicly accountable for his misconduct, and that a settlement would give the impression that Jones was merely interested in extorting money from the President.[21]

 

[3]  Leave aside that the will of the People was to elect the almost equally unpopular Hillary Clinton, by about a 3,000,000 vote margin.  Trump won the Electoral College, fair and square, by about 78,000 votes in three brilliantly played key states.

Jamal Khashoggi dismemberment notes

I recently found these notes from a year ago in a pile of drawings.   They track the shifting lies told about the deliberate, gruesome murder of a Saudi journalist critical of the super-wealthy, rabidly power-mad. mass-killing “reformer” Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) who came to rule Saudi Arabia after jailing countless possible rivals from the gigantic royal family, including his mother, I believe.  

The line Americans are always fed about the modern-day monarchy running an extremist religious state is that they are friends of the US, they supply petrol and buy billions of dollars worth of US armaments regularly.   Job creators.  Dubya Bush was photographed holding hands with a Saudi prince right after 9/11, as well-connected Saudis, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, were allowed to secretly leave the US en masse before any other planes were cleared for take-off, and before the FBI could interview them.  You remember Trump did that sword dance with them on his first state visit anywhere as president, the one with the glowing orb they all reached out to.

American news started reporting the shifting story of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist critical of MBS. Khashoggi was a US resident who worked for the Washington Post.  Saudi Arabia initially claimed to have no idea what happened to the pain in the ass journalist who was last seen going into the Saudi embassy in Turkey to get some papers he needed so he could get married.  No idea, the Saudis had no idea what could have happened to him.    Trump was good with this strong denial, he noted it was a “strong denial” — which should be good enough for most people.  

To follow up, and prove their innocence,  the Saudis released a surveillance video of a man Khashoggi’s basic height and weight, dressed in the clothes Khashoggi was wearing when he entered, leaving the embassy under the watchful eye of the camera.   See?  Nothing to see here, the fucking guy left the embassy, we didn’t kill him, he’s setting us up, fucking lying fuck that he is.   Then, oy, another twist, new information from leaking traitors in Turkey, with no respect for diplomatic immunity,  revealed some troubling things including flight records that showed a Saudi hit squad, with close connections to MBS, including a surgeon with bone saw being flown into Turkey for a few hours, to do a specific job.  Khashoggi’s  body was never found, a troubling detail later explained by the surgeon and the bone saw.

Anyway, you can read my notes on the hit, I think they’re fairly accurate.   As always in such matters, the guilty parties will never be held accountable in any way.   That is how real power works, yo. [1]

 

20191107_043818.jpg

 

{1] See, e.g., Edward Norton’s masterpiece Motherless Brooklyn.  Note the speech the Robert Moses character delivers to the gumshoe in the movie’s penultimate scene.

Free Speech Zuck (draft 2)

A young multi-billionaire’s unfettered right to get even richer vs. sensible protections for a fair and honest election.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated, unequivocally,  that political campaigns have an absolute right to lie on Facebook, as much and as long as their budgets allow.   Facebook will continue to deliver personally targeted ads that are completely false.  These ads, after a spin through the  through Facebook customer profile algorithms, are targeted to  influence the demographic most vulnerable.  In the case of political ads, this demographic is older white men and they are often vulnerable to provocative lies that stoke their feelings of fear, anger and resentment  — “low information voters”, guys like Joe Sixpack who get their news primarily from places like Facebook.   There is no law against politicians lying and Facebook claims no responsibility for the damage its massive opinion machine has already done to our democracy.  Its policy will continue on into 2020, come what may.

It’s true, of course, that there is no general law against lying, unless you lie under oath before a body that can punish you for perjury.   Under limited circumstances a lie that damages someone’s reputation is punishable as libel.   There are regulations on the advertising industry that prevent outright lying — the wiggle room in these regulations providing a fertile field for creative geniuses of the advertiser’s art to do interpretative dance in.   As a general rule, though, Mr. Trump and Mr. Zuckerberg are absolutely correct, there is no law against simple lying.  

Mark Zuckerberg allows incendiary “political” lies to take wing on his supremely influential opinion-sharing web platform, as a way of expanding freedom of speech.   He clumsily presents his true aims as lofty ones.  Facebook, he says, is dedicated to advancing democracy and “freedom of speech” in the proud tradition of men like Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass.   He has one aim, though, being the richest and most powerful man in the world.

If he was a more truthful person, the thirty-five year-old wunderkind might concede that the reason he kisses up to the darkest powers that be is strictly business, all about the bottom line.   Zuckerberg is most concerned with increasing his already seventy billion dollar wealth.  He knows that his right to unlimited additional billions of dollars depends on nobody regulating his massively lucrative and influential, worldwide business.

Lies are indispensable to ambitious people with shady things to hide.  For this reason transparency — sunlight, Justice Brandeis’s  best disinfectant for harmful speech– is the most abhorrent thing to the beneficiaries of lies.  The most successful spreaders of public lies are also most adept at blotting out sunlight.

Our current president is a reflexively untruthful man. He claims to know more about military strategy than the generals, disputes the findings of American intelligence services, refutes the veracity of reporting that shows statements he made on live TV, brags about his unlimited powers under Article Two of a constitution he has certainly never read and professes expertise in many other things things he knows nothing about.  

One thing he does know, probably better than anybody in public life — if you have powerful forces and a ton of money behind you and you lie continually, audaciously and forcefully, you can get away with almost anything — as he has so far.  Key to making the lies stick is making people dismiss all news of evidence as “fake”, unfair, biased reporting by corrupt, partisan, dangerous  “enemies of the People” who are fucking liars.  Liars also try to convince people not to believe what they see with their own eyes.

People with shameful secrets hate leakers, whistleblowers, rats.   A disloyal, leaking rat secretly recorded Mark Zuckerberg recently as he candidly addressed his troops at Facebook and the CEO’s comments were made public.  Part of the transcript was his response to what would happen to the company if someone like Elizabeth Warren, who expressly seeks to regulate gigantic, unaccountable super-companies like Facebook, becomes the Democratic presidential candidate and wins in 2020.  Zuck said they’d bring a lawsuit against the government to prevent any regulation of Facebook’s incredibly lucrative operation:

“Does that still suck for us?  Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government.  That’s not like the position you want to be in.  We care about our country and want to work with our government to do good things, but look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”

What is the thing that is “that existential”?   Facebook’s CEO’s absolute God-given American right to make maximum profit by any means necessary.   There is no shame in America about a man with thousands of times more money than he could ever spend if he lived a thousand years doing everything in his power to get more wealth.   It’s as American as, well, owning other humans to increase your wealth and wiping out people living on valuable land you want for your own.

Like slavery and ‘ethnic cleansing’, the cult of American oligarchs’ (even canny, self-made ones like young Mark Zuckerberg) entitlement to unlimited, unlimitable wealth  has to become a relic of a more bestial time — or just stick a fork in any notion of truth, justice and the American way, let alone an inhabitable planet for hundreds of millions of climate refugees.  

Trump’s election was largely achieved through his mastery of “Social Media”   His innovative, intuitive weaponization of Twitter, aided by his billionaire-backed campaign’s brilliant coup in securing 78,000 surgically targeted votes (gathered from every key district needed for their Electoral College victory), made him the president.   Trump in 2020 is, literally, the end of any further illusion of majoritarian democracy in our divided experiment in republican self-rule. 

Where does Facebook’s insistence on remaining entirely self-regulated come into Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to become the worlds single richest man?   Why not allow a board of some kind to review political ads for easily finable falsehoods?   Especially after we learn that political advertising accounts for only a tiny fraction of Facebook’s robust profits.  Come on, Zuck.

The potentially lost political ad revenue is clearly not the reason Zuckberg won’t limit unscrupulous politicians’ right to pay to lie their asses off on his platform.   That type of corrupt, lying politician is least likely to want to regulate Facebook, they love Facebook as much as Trump claimed to love Wikileaks back in 2016 when he was a candidate, as much as Trump loves America.  

The choice between a long, expensive court fight with a president who wants to limit the ability of lying demagogues to use an unregulated, hugely influential public platform to come to power or  a lying demagogue president to ensure mutually beneficial business as usual?    You decide which of those outcomes sucks less for Free Speech Mark and the rest of us.

 

 

There’s no law against lying for personal and political profit, so there!

A young multi-billionaire’s unfettered right to get even richer vs. sensible protections for a fair and honest election.

Facebook has stated, unequivocally,  that political campaigns have an absolute right to lie on Facebook, as much and as long as their budgets allow.   Facebook will continue to deliver personally targeted ads that are completely false, sent to influence the demographic most vulnerable to provocative lies that support their feelings of fear, anger and helplessness  — “low information voters” — who get their news from places like Facebook.   There is no law against it and Facebook claims no responsibility for the damage its massive opinion machine has already done to democracy.  Its policy will continue on into 2020, come what may.

It’s true, of course, that there is no general law against lying, unless you lie under oath before a body that can punish you for perjury.   There are libel laws that allow people falsely accused of damaging things to take their accusers to court and get public vindication and restitution from the person/entity who slandered them.   In a specific circumstance, where deliberate falsehood can be proved to a jury, that’s a law against lying for personal profit, if that lie is detrimental to the reputation of a competitor or critic (and causes monetary harm), but it’s far from a law against lying for profit.   There are regulations on the advertising industry that prevent outright lying — the wiggle room in these regulations providing a fertile field for creative geniuses of the advertiser’s art to do interpretative dance in.  

As a general principle, as the life-long actions of our current born wealthy president demonstrate, as the dazzling self-made wealth of young Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook demonstrates, lying to become richer or more powerful is no vice.   Pettifoggers refer to this kind of transactional lying as “puffery”, a form of extreme manipulative exaggeration that is arguably not actual “lying” lying.   Mr. Trump has used this legal term to describe some of the more egregious lying he does from time to time.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dances around lying, and openly allowing “political” lies to take wing on his supremely influential opinion-sharing web platform, speaking of his true aims as advancing “freedom of speech” and being in the proud democratic tradition of men like Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass.   Zuckerberg knows that his right to unlimited additional billions of dollars (and bear in mind, at age 35 Mark only has a little over $70,000,000,000) depends on nobody regulating his massively lucrative and influential, worldwide business.

Lies are indispensable to ambitious people with shady things to hide.   We had a recent president, George W. Bush, whose father was wealthy and influential and, though he supported the American war in Viet Nam, used his connections to get his boy, George, into an elite National Guard fighter pilot unit that would keep him out of combat.   The young man was a heavy drinker, also fond of cocaine, and so he didn’t make it back to base for a mandatory medical exam that would have found cocaine in his system.  He went AWOL, as one does under such circumstances, and never completed his elite unit National Guard service.    His father took care of this for him — it was only many years later, once he was the 43rd president of the United States, that enterprising reporters dug up the story.  Dubya never denied it outright, he didn’t have to — the documents the first network report was based on turned out to be forgeries!   The lying liberal media!   Heads rolled, including the head of the longtime CBS anchorman who broke the story, the underlying truth of which was never disputed.  It is more likely than not that the forgeries of actual records (long ago destroyed) were provided to the lying press by Karl Rove, the amoral genius behind Bush’s presidential victory.

When Dubya ran for reelection, against a man who had served with distinction in Viet Nam, his campaign got busy smearing his opponent, John Kerry, a decorated soldier (who had volunteered for combat service) with a false narrative.   They hired a team to claim that Dubya’s opponent had served disgracefully in Viet Nam– the truth was, according to these veterans (who claimed to have been on the river patrols with him), that he’d been no hero, he’d been a coward and a liar.   The slandered John Kerry, took the high road, instead of confronting Bush about the lies and challenging him to publicly compare his shady military record with Kerry’s record of decorated combat service.   Kerry lost the presidential election of 2004, based, in part, on the ferocity of the lying attack by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” or whatever the hit squad of political assassins called itself.   Kerry also lost because he was perceived as being less of a “man” than Dubya because the wealthy “elitist” Kerry didn’t defend himself against the scurrilous attack on his good character by agents of “man of the people” (and fellow Yale Skull and Bone-ser) Dubya.

Fast forward a few years and we have a compulsive liar in the White House.   He literally can’t help himself.   It is his reflex to lie, because he needs to constantly convince others, and himself, presumably, that he is the greatest in whatever the topic under discussion is.   He knows more about military strategy than the generals, disputes the findings of American intelligence services, refutes the veracity of reporting that shows statements he makes on live TV, brags about his unlimited powers under Article Two of a constitution he has certainly never read and professes expertise in many other things things he knows nothing about.  

One thing he does know, probably better than anybody in public life, if you have powerful forces and a ton of money behind you and you lie continually, audaciously and forcefully, you can get away with almost anything — as he has so far.

I won’t say that people who believe Trump’s continual lies are necessarily stupid, though some undoubtedly are.   It is the rage and powerlessness so many of us feel in an in-your-face unfair America that Trump exploits with his most incendiary lies, like one seen by five million people on Facebook recently:  Joe Biden gave the Ukrainians a billion dollars to cover up the corruption involved in Hunter Biden’s lucrative job in Ukraine.   It may not be true, it may be demonstrably false, in fact, but, goddamn it, Biden is a smiling sack of shit! (I may agree with this [1], though it doesn’t convince me that he managed to raise a billion dollars to pay off corrupt Ukrainians to protect his son’s name and his own political career — the claim itself is absurd).   

Why does Facebook allow this kind of obvious tinfoil hat conspiracy theory slander, in a paid ad, on its immensely influential platform?   Zuckerberg was grilled about this before Congress recently.   He managed to avoid giving a single intelligent answer to any of the questions he was asked.   He has no answers because — Madam Congressman, I have no legal requirement to give an answer or even a reasonable rationale since, in fact, the law finds, I believe, that I am under no legal obligation, as CEO of the world’s most powerful influence machine, to do anything but tap dance here, under oath, until this very uncomfortable session is over.

Which is true.  American deference to billionaire owners of lucrative companies is well-known.   Regulation of any kind, the lobbyists for such people and entities have convinced Americans, is inherently “job killing”.  Those who propose to regulate industry for the public good, and tax fairly to raise money for programs that improve the lives of all citizens, are misguided at best.  “Tax and Spend” was a Reagan era mantra against any elected “liberal” official suggesting the government should tax wealthy people and corporations and use the money to fund things like research into how to avoid the climate catastrophe that is now upon us full-blown a few decades later.  “Welfare queens” driving around in Cadillacs and buying multiple mansions on the public dime were the real problem in America, according to the conservative view, not intergenerational poverty, not born multimillionaires like Charles and David Koch spending unlimited sums and using every means possible to shift public opinion to create mass support for protection of their abhorrent privilege.

People with shameful things to hide hate leakers, whistleblowers, rats.   A leaking rat secretly recorded Mark Zuckerberg recently as he candidly addressed his troops at Facebook and the CEO’s comments made it into public.  Part of the transcript was his response to what would happen to the company if someone like Elizabeth Warren, who expressly seeks to regulate gigantic, unaccountable companies like Facebook, becomes the Democratic presidential candidate and wins in 2020.  Zuck said they’d bring a lawsuit against the government to prevent any regulation of Facebook’s incredibly lucrative operation:

“Does that still suck for us?  Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government.  That’s not like the position you want to be in.  We care about our country and want to work with our government to do good things, but look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”

What is the thing that is “that existential”?   Facebook’s CEO’s absolute God-given American right to make maximum profit by any means necessary.   There is no shame in America about a man who has thousands of times more money than he can ever spend if he lives to be a thousand years old from doing everything in his power to get more still.   It’s as American as, well, owning other humans to increase your wealth and wiping out people living on land you want for your own.

Like slavery and ‘ethnic cleansing’, the cult of American oligarchs’ (even self-made ones like young Mark Zuckerberg) right to unlimited, unlimitable wealth  has to become a relic of a more bestial time — or just stick a fork in any notion of truth, justice and the American way.  Trump’s election was largely achieved through his mastery of “Social Media” and his billionaire-backed campaign’s brilliance in securing 78,000 targeted votes in every district needed for their Electoral College victory.   Trump in 2020 is, literally, the end of any pretense of democracy in our divided experiment in republican self-rule. 

We learn that political advertising accounts for only a tiny fraction of Facebook’s robust profits.  That’s clearly not the reason Zuckberg won’t limit unscrupulous politicians’ right to pay to lie their asses off on his platform.   That type of lying politician is least likely to want to regulate Facebook, they love Facebook as much as Trump claimed to love Wikileaks when he was a candidate.  

The choice between a long, expensive court fight with a government headed by someone who wants to limit the ability of lying demagogues to use an unregulated, hugely influential public platform to come to power and having a lying demagogue in power who will ensure mutually beneficial business as usual?   You decide which of those sucks less for Free Speech Mark.

 

[1]  Though my first thought about Biden as a smiling sack of shit is his disgraceful lack of humility and character, decades after allowing Anita Hill to be publicly humiliated in confirmation hearings for Clarence “Long Dong” Thomas, when he called to offer a conditional, weak, politically motivated non-apology to Anita Hill for “what they did to you” and wishing he “could have done more”, which, of course, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee he had been utterly powerless to do.    Anita Hill was perfectly right to refuse his insulting “apology”.     Fuck him and the horse’s ass the falsely smiling face-lifted, hair-plugged fuck rode in on.

We never study this part of our history

Americans are famously unconcerned with history.   Even recent history is quickly forgotten, dismissed as “been there, done that.”   The president’s controversial acts are forgotten almost as quickly as he commits them.  All that skullduggery detailed in the Mueller Report?   Old news!   We heard about it already, the president openly and innocently admitted it, the partisan witch hunt completely and totally exonerated the poor guy!  We look forward here in America, not back, like Obama so high-mindedly did with state-sanctioned American torture that was rebranded as “enhanced interrogation” for purposes of immunizing American torturers.   “We tortured some folks,” admitted the president, citing the best of intentions with which good Americans unfortunately did these admittedly wrong things, and we moved on.   America, land of opportunity.

I heard this report, of the hundredth anniversary of a racial slaughter in rural Arkansas, one among many in our bloody history of racial violence, a racist slaughter I’d never heard of.  I’m an American who takes history seriously, and I’ve read a good bit of it over the years, but I’d never heard of this particular massacre. Oddly, like the racist bloodbath in Colfax, Louisiana on Easter Sunday eight years after the end of the Civil War, it didn’t appear in any of the books I read in school [1].   

The Elaine Massacre took place during the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, at a time when some very fine people (including progressive president Woodrow Wilson) were recasting the history of the Confederacy’s bloody rebellion against the federal government as a glorious lost cause for the highest of ideals.   The Civil War, American history students were taught for decades, had not been fought over the constitutionally protected right of the wealthy to own slaves (as every Confederate state’s articles of secession stated) but for “States’ Rights” — local sovereignty, something everyone wants and is sympathetic to.   MAGA, baby. [2]  

I only know about the Elaine massacre because Amy Goodman reported, on October 1:

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Elaine massacre, when white vigilantes in Arkansas massacred hundreds of African Americans in one of the deadliest incidents of racial violence in the nation’s history. The massacre began after black sharecroppers attempted to organize with the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America to demand higher pay for cotton. A new memorial to the victims of the massacre was recently unveiled in the county seat of Helena, Arkansas.

source  

Sure, you can look it up now, in the age of instant information, and find the story documented somewhere (but only, of course, if you learn about it in the first place, somehow):

The sharecroppers who gathered at a small church in Elaine, Arkansas, in the late hours of September 30, 1919, knew the risk they were taking. Upset about unfair low wages, they enlisted the help of a prominent white attorney from Little Rock, Ulysses Bratton, to come to Elaine to press for a fairer share in the profits of their labor. Each season, landowners came around demanding obscene percentages of the profits, without ever presenting the sharecroppers detailed accounting and trapping them with supposed debts.

source

(you will have to overlook the unintended irony of the article’s anodyne title: The Massacre of Black Sharecroppers That Led the Supreme Court to Curb the Racial Disparities of the Justice System — yah, mon, they curbed that shit back in 1923…)

You can also learn things more troubling still, from the same article:

Despite its impact, little about the carnage in Elaine was unique during the summer of 1919. It was part of a period of vicious reprisals against African-American veterans returning home from World War I. Many whites believed that these veterans (including Robert Hill, who co-founded PFHUA) posed a threat as they claimed greater recognition for their rights at home. Even though they served in large numbers, black soldiers “realized over the course of the war and in the immediate aftermath that their achievement and their success actually provoked more rage and more vitriol than if they had utterly failed,” says Adriane Lentz-Smith, associate professor of history at Duke University and author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I.

And as to the fate of the twelve black men convicted and sentenced to death for the alleged murders of the whites who died in the pogrom (the African-American men were the only ones prosecuted in relation to the Elaine massacre in which virtually all of the victims were African-American), this interesting footnote, from the same article (which leads to the title referred to above):

In February 1923, by a 6-2 margin, the Court agreed. Citing the all-white jury, lack of opportunity to testify, confessions under torture, denial of change of venue and the pressure of the mob, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the majority that “if the case is that the whole proceeding is a mask – that counsel, jury and judge were swept to the fatal end by an irresistible wave of public passion,” then it was the duty of the Supreme Court to intervene as guarantor of the petitioners’ constitutional rights where the state of Arkansas had failed.

Tulsa, Oklahoma .  We’ve got a couple of years until the centennial of that massive anti-black rampage.

I think about my concern with this American denial of our history and wonder if maybe I’m just oversensitive because of my peculiar family history.   My father’s side of the family back in Belarus (then known as White Russia) was wiped out by the Nazis with no trace of what happened to them.   My mother’s side lived in a Ukrainian town where local Jews from neighboring areas were assembled in a makeshift ghetto and finally led to a ravine on the northwestern edge of town where several thousand were executed one August night by bullet to the back of the skull.   One searches the internet in vain for any listing of this massacre among the many Nazi massacres of World War Two.  Go figure.

The family of everybody slaughtered during the Elaine pogrom, the Colfax pogrom, the Tulsa pogrom, surely remembers the people they lost a few generations back, murdered by violent strangers who acted with no fear of legal repercussions.   You tend not to forget that kind of thing, if it happens to you.

Forget history at your own peril, my friends.

 

[1]  There was a footnote in the Constitutional law casebook I had in law school to a case called U.S. v. Cruikshank.  A single line, citing it as a precedent for a more famous case, the aptly named Slaughterhouse cases.   Cruikshank arose out of the organized slaughter of black men, women and children in a rural town in Louisiana. (you will get no sense of the horrific underlying events reading the Supreme Court’s dry, legalistic whitewash that signaled the judicial end of the Ku Klux Klan Act which became unenforceable in light of the Cruikshank decision).

Armed black Civil War veterans were defending ballot boxes in the county seat of rural Grant Parish after the 1872 election (one of the last with wide scale black voting in the former Confederacy until after passage of the Voting Rights Act almost a century later) which was angrily disputed by local whites.  Local whites (led by Cruikshank, et al) arrived in droves, an armed militia, with at least one cannon, and committed atrocities including the murder of prisoners who had surrendered.  

There was clearly no chance for a fair trial in the state court, so the families of the victims, and civil rights advocates,  sued in federal court, under the Ku Klux Klan Act, and things went no better for them there.  Cruikshank and the other killers walked, the Supreme Court found the federal charges against the local whites had been inartfully drafted.  The little remembered Cruikshank decision set an unshakeable precedent, was instrumental in instituting a century of “states’ rights”, giving local authorities the final say in how to deal with violence against its local troublemaking Negroes and those carpetbagging scoundrels from up north. Here’s the Smithsonian’s account of the Colfax Massacre. 

And racist monument makers get the last word, in 1951:

colfax_riot_sign_img_2401.jpeg

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2] “Make America Great Again” was one of Ronald Reagan’s several campaign slogans during his first successful presidential run.   A young Roger Stone, who has a life-sized image of Nixon’s head tattooed on his back, was part of Reagan’s campaign and profited handsomely afterwards as a pioneering lobbyist with direct access to the highest elected officials he’d help put into office.  Stone later became one of Trump’s closest advisers and is, you might recall, awaiting trial for a string of shady dealings on the president’s behalf.  Not much has been heard from the provocative loudmouth lately, now that I think of it.   Stone’s idol Nixon, incidentally, was the first to refer to an impeachment as a “partisan witch hunt.”

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors” does not mean “indictable crimes”

This great article  explains the crucial difference between an indictable crime and the deliberately flexible constitutional standard “high crimes and misdemeanors” for purposes of impeachment.  

The president’s ongoing defense to the impeachment inquiry (and everything else he is busily tying up in courts with his army of lawyers) is that he has not committed a chargeable criminal act, and even if he did (as in shooting someone on Fifth Avenue) he argues that he cannot be arrested, investigated or indicted because of a DOJ opinion stating that a sitting president cannot be indicted. 

It’s a simplistic defense that ignores the long history of impeachment, the meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the Framers used it, and, beyond all that, the ethical standard we hold our presidents to, even the worst of them.

Here’s a paragraph from that article that I found cool, and timely:

Finally, and most pertinently, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon: the first for obstruction of justice, the second for abuse of power, and the third for defying House subpoenas during its impeachment investigation. Article 3 obviously did not allege a crime. But even in the first two articles, which did involve some potentially criminal conduct, the committee was at pains to avoid any reference to criminal statutes. Rather, as the committee staff observed in its careful study of the question, “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is a phrase that reaches far beyond crimes to embrace “exceeding the powers of the office in derogation of those of another branch of government,” “behaving in a manner grossly incompatible with the proper function of the office,” and “employing the power of the office for an improper purpose or personal gain.”

source

Take a few moments and read the article, by law professor Frank O. Bowman III.  Bowman makes his point  clearly — that the term of art is deliberately flexible to cover unimagined rascalities.  He illustrates his point with numerous historical citations.  It’s easy to read, interesting and a very persuasive presentation.   

Refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas is not a crime anyone can be charged with, but it is a ‘high crime and misdemeanor’ for purposes of impeachment where the standard is really abuse of power.