Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Lots of news is happening this morning. We lost another great American, Harry Belafonte; another Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, is revealed to be corrupt; E. Jean Carroll’s civil case accusing Trump of raping her years ago and defaming her by calling her a liar goes to trial in New York today; shock waves from the Tucker Carlson firing are still being felt; Atlanta DA Fani Willis reveals that that she will announce significant indictments this summer. Finally, President Biden announced his bid for reelection in a video.

The New York Times: Harry Belafonte, 96, Dies; Barrier-Breaking Singer, Actor and Activist.

Harry Belafonte, who stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and who went on to become a dynamic force in the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was 96.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Ken Sunshine, his longtime spokesman.

At a time when segregation was still widespread and Black faces were still a rarity on screens large and small, Mr. Belafonte’s ascent to the upper echelon of show business was historic. He was not the first Black entertainer to transcend racial boundaries; Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others had achieved stardom before him. But none had made as much of a splash as he did, and for a few years no one in music, Black or white, was bigger.

Born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants, he almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” His album “Calypso,” which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. Coming just before the breakthrough of Elvis Presley, it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.

Mr. Belafonte was equally successful as a concert attraction: Handsome and charismatic, he held audiences spellbound with dramatic interpretations of a repertoire that encompassed folk traditions from all over the world — rollicking calypsos like “Matilda,” work songs like “Lead Man Holler,” tender ballads like “Scarlet Ribbons.” By 1959 he was the most highly paid Black performer in history, with fat contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace in New York.

Belafonte also attracted Hollywood, “the first Black actor to achieve major success in Hollywood as a leading man.” But movies and music weren’t as important to him as his work for Civil Rights.

More from the NYT obituary:

Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King’s home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King’s life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968….

In an interview with The Washington Post a few months after Dr. King’s death, Mr. Belafonte expressed ambivalence about his high profile in the civil rights movement. He would like to “be able to stop answering questions as though I were a spokesman for my people,” he said, adding, “I hate marching, and getting called at 3 a.m. to bail some cats out of jail.” But, he said, he accepted his role.

In the same interview, he noted ruefully that although he sang music with “roots in the Black culture of American Negroes, Africa and the West Indies,” most of his fans were white. As frustrating as that may have been, he was much more upset by the racism that he confronted even at the height of his fame.

His role in the 1957 movie “Island in the Sun,” which contained the suggestion of a romance between his character and a white woman played by Joan Fontaine, generated outrage in the South; a bill was even introduced in the South Carolina Legislature that would have fined any theater showing the film. In Atlanta for a benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1962, Mr. Belafonte was twice refused service in the same restaurant. Television appearances with white female singers — Petula Clark in 1968, Julie Andrews in 1969 — angered many viewers and, in the case of Ms. Clark, threatened to cost him a sponsor.

There’s much more fascinating history at the NYT link.

Next the Gorsuch corruption story:

Politico’s Heidi Przybyla reported that Neil Gorsuch concealed a relationship with a law firm with frequent appearances before the Supreme Court: Law firm head bought Gorsuch-owned property.

For nearly two years beginning in 2015, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sought a buyer for a 40-acre tract of property he co-owned in rural Granby, Colo.

Nine days after he was confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, the then-circuit court judge got one: The chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, one of the nation’s biggest law firms with a robust practice before the high court. Gorsuch owned the property with two other individuals.

On April 16 of 2017, Greenberg’s Brian Duffy put under contract the 3,000-square foot log home on the Colorado River and nestled in the mountains northwest of Denver, according to real estate records.

He and his wife closed on the house a month later, paying $1.825 million, according to a deed in the county’s record system. Gorsuch, who held a 20 percent stake, reported making between $250,001 and $500,000 from the sale on his federal disclosure forms.

Gorsuch did not disclose the identity of the purchaser. That box was left blank.

Since then, Greenberg Traurig has been involved in at least 22 cases before or presented to the court, according to a POLITICO review of the court’s docket.

They include cases in which Greenberg either filed amicus briefs or represented parties. In the 12 cases where Gorsuch’s opinion is recorded, he sided with Greenberg Traurig clients eight times and against them four times.

In addition, a Denver-based lawyer for Greenberg represented North Dakota in what became one of the more highly publicized rulings in recent years, a multistate suit which reversed former President Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change through the Clean Air Act.

Gorsuch joined the court’s other five conservative judges in agreeing with the plaintiffs — including Greenberg’s client — that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority by regulating carbon emissions from power plants in the decision that makes it more difficult for the executive branch to regulate emissions without express authorization from Congress.

Read the rest at the link. It’s time for Dick Durbin to investigate the lack of ethics on the Supreme Court or step down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On to Trump’s rape trial, where jury selection has begun.

NBC News: Writer E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump goes to trial in New York.

A trial is set to begin Tuesday on E. Jean Carroll’s civil claim that Donald Trump raped her in a New York City department store in the 1990s — but it’s unclear whether the former president will show up to testify in his defense.

Carroll, a magazine writer and columnist, alleges the attack took place in a Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, when the “playful banter” she’d been engaged with the businessman took a “dark turn.” She alleges in her lawsuit that Trump “seized” her, “forced her up against a dressing room wall, pinned her in place with his shoulder, and raped her.”

Trump has called her allegations “a con job,” a “hoax” and “a complete scam,” which led Carroll to sue him for defamation. Trump maintains his comments aren’t defamatory and are the truth.

“It’s ridiculous” to think an incident like that could happen in a department store, he said at his deposition in the case, according to court filings. “So I say that sometimes to people. And I say can you imagine this? The concept of this? And it’s me. I — you know, a very famous person. It’s a disgrace. Frankly it’s a disgrace that something like that can be brought.”

Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday morning in federal court in lower Manhattan — just blocks from where Trump was arraigned earlier this month on criminal charges of falsifying business records in a separate case involving hush money payments to women alleging affairs with him; Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges and has denied those affairs and any wrongdoing….

The judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, is using an anonymous jury for the trial, an unusual move for a civil trial but one he said is necessary.

“If jurors’ identities were disclosed, there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump,” the judge wrote in a decision last month.

The judge is allowing other women who have claimed sexual assaults by Trump to testify and the “grab them by the pussy” tape will also be introduced. There much more to read at the NBC link.

People are still discussing Fox News’ firing of their biggest star, Tucker Carlson and trying to figure out why they did it. The best thing I’ve read about it this morning is by Charlie Sykes at the The Bulwark. It’s a long and detailed article, so I recommend reading the whole thing.

Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark: Tucker’s Demise. Fox “parts ways” with a uniquely toxic voice.

It wouldn’t have been especially surprising if the head on the spike had been Maria Bartiromo, or Judge Jeanine, or even Laura Ingraham. But it was Tucker whose body was tossed from the ramparts — and the media/political universe reeled.

Coming less than a week after Fox settled Dominion’s lawsuit for $787.5 million, the timing of Tucker’s defenestration is suggestive, but it’s still not clear exactly what happened. Tucker was actually not among the worst of the election deniers, and had carefully distanced himself from the most toxic lies pushed by Trump World figures like Sidney Powell.

I wish I could tell you that Tucker’s demise was the result of a sudden spasm of decency at Fox; that he was sacked because of his open bigotry and embrace of the racist Great Replacement Theory; or because of Fox’s revulsion over his Putinism; or a belated recognition of the human cost of his vaccine denialism.

I would love to think that Paul Ryan rolled out of bed Sunday morning, got Rupert on the phone, and said that his conscience simply wouldn’t allow him to stay on the Fox board if Tucker was allowed to continue dumping his toxic sludge into the body politic….

I would like to think that the trauma of the Dominion case finally forced Ryan & co. to confront Tucker’s blatant revisionism of the January 6th insurrection, or that the company was repulsed by his deeply dishonest faux documentaryPatriot Purge, his weird obsession with blaming a Trump supporter named Ray Epps for being an FBI agent who provoked the insurrection; or his cynical manipulation of January 6th footage to downplay the violence aimed at Capitol police.

It would be somewhat reassuring to think he was fired over the rank hypocrisy — of saying one thing in public and quite another in private— that was exposed in his text messages.

I would like to think all of that led to a dramatic pivot at Fox.

But that’s probably not what happened.

Sykes then recounts a number of theories (with links) about why Tucker was unceremoniously shown the door. Check them out at the The Bulwark link. It could have been the lawsuit by former Fox producer Abby Grossberg; the misogynistic atmosphere in Tucker’s workplace, including referring to women with the “c” word; or his criticisms of Fox upper management in texts and emails revealed in the Dominion lawsuit.

The Wall Street Journal reports: “The company took issue with remarks Mr. Carlson made that were derogatory toward the network, people familiar with the matter said. Much of the communications were redacted in court documents but became known internally to senior Fox management, the people said.”

In other words, Tucker’s arrogance, chronic assh*lery, and hubris may finally have caught up with him.

Tucker had come to think of himself as bigger than Fox. The Murdochs begged to differ.

Byers speculates that “late-stage Murdoch, perhaps chastened by his Dominion headache, and all the future litigation to come, may be more focused on enjoying his own twilight days rather than ceding his platform to a born-on-third-base narcissist who privately behaves like he’s bigger than the Fox brand. In the end, as the events of Monday reminded us, there’s still only one guy in charge at Fox.”

A couple more Tucker pieces to check out:

Brian Stelter at Vanity Fair: Why Tucker Carlson’s Exit From Fox News Looks Like an Execution.

Max Tani at Semafor: Rupert Murdoch’s management grows erratic.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: EXCLUSIVE: DA says indictment announcement coming this summer in Trump probe.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday said she would announce this summer whether former President Donald Trump and his allies would be charged with crimes related to alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election.

Willis revealed the timetable in a letter to local law enforcement in which she asked them to be ready for “heightened security and preparedness”because she predicted her announcement may provoke a significant public reaction.”

In the letters, Willis said she willannounce possible criminal indictments between July 11 and Sept. 1, sending one of the strongest signals yet that she’s on the verge of trying to obtain an indictment against Trump and his supporters.

“Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public,” Willis wrote to Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat.

Similar letters were hand delivered to Darin Schierbaum, Atlanta’s chief of police, and Matthew Kallmyer, director of the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency.

“We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety of those we are sworn to protect,” Willis wrote. “As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to prepare.”

Trump has called for mass demonstrations in response to overreach from prosecutors — triggering concerns about violent unrest not unlike the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection he promoted.

Finally here is Biden’s reelection announcement video:

Whew! That’s a lot of news. I hope you’ll find something here to interest you.

15 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a fantastic Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!

  2. dakinikat says:

    Well, two for-profit spaceship projects blew up this week. One included a rather expensive taxpayer robot headed for the moon’s surface. The other blew up a landing pad built with taxpayer money. How about we just better fund NASA and get those smarties amongst us in there coming from good, better-funded public universities. Seems to have worked better that way than farming it out. I watched the moon thing today I must say the Japanese ran a two-hour commercial while the thing was orbiting to land. I was sorry to see all those bright young people on that project look so sorely disappointed but you should have seen the list of sponsoring companies. Whoa.

  3. Va in SC says:

    RIP Mr.Belafonte….I grew up with Harry Belafonte records,tv specials,films and viewing his activism…..He was professional, elegant and truely a Renaissance man. He will be missed.

  4. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Wow. They are dropping like flies. Big business shouldn’t control the news media, but that ship sailed long ago.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    Tucker Carlson was the biggest ass@ole at Fox. Even bigger than Hannity and Ingraham if possible.

    He helped to incite the Jan 6th insurrection. Undermined law enforcement. Made Ray Epps and his family flee for their lives. Praised Russia and other tyrannical dictators. Made Dr. Fauci into a villain. Stood before the public and deliberately lied and lied and lied. If there was ever an anti American getting paid millions to spread fallacies and conspiracies every night of the week look no further than Tucker.

    Whatever led to his firing it was long needed. He fed “the deplorables” only what they wanted to hear regardless of how it was received. He gave them what they wanted and did so knowing full well it was not the truth.

    But look for the same rot to appear in his place. The same agenda that is based solely on “owning the libs” because that is what spells power to these wretched people. As long as Trump breathes there will always be Trumpism gnawing at the fabric of the nation.

    Only his departure will the US begin to heal from this insanity. It will be only a blip in history where America came close to losing its mind over a committed conman and his empty headed followers who shared the same hateful beliefs.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Trump: “…it’s me. I — you know, a very famous person” as if famous people should get away with rape, fraud, stealing classified information. I look forward to him losing and Jean Carroll winning.

  7. NW Luna says:

    I’m relieved that Biden’s ad includes many pictures of Kamala radiating energy, grace and authority. It was not right that some Dems were talking her down and saying Biden should chose another VP. As far as Biden’s age, we should know that much research backs up that healthy older people can maintain cognitive ability to a very old age. Older people are far more heterogeneous than younger, so you can’t make generalization for cognitive abilities for everyone of a certain age. I worry that many younger people will lump everyone over 70 (lol, 60 or 50 knowing young people) into cognitive impairment.

    BTW, Kamala 2028!

    • bostonboomer says:

      I agree. Both of my parents were high functioning in their 80s. My mother was still pretty with it at 90.

  8. NW Luna says:

    The Supreme’s arrogance needs to have consequences. If the Chief Justice being asked to testify is rare, that’s because the past justices acted more professionally than the current justices.