Posted: April 9, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads, just because | Tags: Ali Alexander, Charles Donohoe, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, foreign gifts, grand jury, January 6 investigation, Mark Meadows, Phony DHS investigation, Proud Boys, Secret Service, State Department, Trump administration
Kitty on the Fence, photo by Andy Sewell
Some big Trump criminality news broke yesterday, and today there’s more news on stories we’ve been following over the past week. Here’s the latest:
This one was posted late last night at The New York Times: Trump Officials Failed to Provide Accounting of Foreign Gifts.
The Trump administration left office without providing the State Department with an accounting of the gifts former President Donald J. Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials received from foreign governments in 2020, the department disclosed late Friday.
The department said that as a result, it could not fully account for the gifts officials received, the latest example to emerge in recent months of how the Trump administration’s flouting of laws and norms about the day-to-day operations of government now makes it harder to determine whether anything improper took place.
“It’s flagrant and it looks terrible,” said Richard W. Painter, the former top ethics lawyer for George W. Bush’s administration. “Either it was really stupid or really corrupt.”
Under federal law, each government department and agency is legally required to submit a list to the State Department of gifts over $415 its officials received from foreign governments. The measure is intended to ensure that foreign governments do not gain undue influence over American officials.
LOL We already know that the Trumps were under “undue influence” from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and likely more countries.
The department said it had tried to collect the information about the gifts Trump White House officials had received but had failed to come up with an accounting.
“As a result, the data required to fully compile a complete listing for 2020 is unavailable,” the State Department said in a footnote to its list of gifts government officials received that year….
Country Cats, Rosemary Margaret Daunis
In February, it was revealed that classified documents and gifts from the White House had been improperly taken to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, a matter federal authorities are now in the preliminary stages of investigating. Around that time, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol learned that significant chunks of time were missing from White House call records from the day of the attack….
The State Department’s inspector general reported in November that tens of thousands of dollars in gifts given to Trump administration officials were missing. They included a 30-year-old Suntory Hibiki bottle of Japanese whiskey given to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, worth $5,800, and a 22-karat-gold commemorative coin valued at $560 given to another State Department official.
Many more items are missing–read about the rest at the NYT link.
Three interesting follow-up stories on the fake DHS guys who were busted for bribing Secret Service agents.
CNN: Many questions remain in impersonation plot that duped federal agents, prosecutors say.
(Highlighting added by me)
The Daily Mail: Stash of assault rifles, body armor, passports with multiple visas, and sham uniforms found in penthouse of ‘fake’ Homeland agents – including one with ‘links to Pakistani intelligence.’
A motion for detention of the two men who were arrested Wednesday for impersonating federal agents includes a slew of damning evidence, including images showing several different passports, visas and IDs.
The prosecutors are requesting Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Sher-Ali, 35, be detained due to a slew of evidence found in a raid of their units in a luxury apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C….
Taherzadeh told law enforcement in an interview after being taken into custody on Wednesday that Ali was the one funding their lavish lifestyle and seemingly endless stream of gifts, but claimed he wasn’t aware where the money was coming from.
Debbie Criswell, Best spring day
The question remains, however, on what Ali and Taherzadeh’s motives were in getting close to people with White House access by impersonating government agents.
Secret Service agents assigned to details for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence are among those being investigated for accepting lavish gifts and partying with Taherzadeh and Ali, who alleged they were agents with the Department of Homeland Security.
At least one of the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) agents receiving free rent from Taherzadehand Ali was assigned to the detail protecting Harris’ residence at Number One Observatory Circle at the Naval Observatory, sources at the building told DailyMail.com.
Another, sources claim, was on the presidential protective detail and regularly traveled with President Biden on Air Force One.
The new information comes after an affidavit released Wednesday revealed that one of the witnesses in the case is a secret service agent that worked on First Lady Jill Biden’s protective detail.
Again, the added highlighting is mine. There’s much more at the link, including photos of the defendants and the evidence.
Justin Rohrlich of The Daily Beast interviewed a “former friend” of one of the imposters: Homeland Security Conman’s Arrest Is ‘Karma,’ Says Former Friend.
A man arrested this week for allegedly posing as a phony Homeland Security agent in a years-long ruse that fooled at least four members of the Secret Service—one of them on first lady Jill Biden’s security detail—has been busted for passing bad checks, allegedly created a fake company to win a city contract, and stiffed a close friend and business partner before skipping town, according to state court records and interviews with two former associates.
Arian Taherzadeh, 40, was arrested by the feds at his Washington, D.C., apartment complex on Wednesday….
Barn cats in Spring
In an interview with investigators following his arrest, prosecutors say Taherzadeh admitted to posing as a DHS agent and said he also falsely told others that he was an ex-Army Ranger. However, he put much of the onus on Ali, telling the feds that “Ali was the individual that funded most of their day-to-day operation but Taherzadeh did not know the source of the funds.”
“You could call it karma,” a former friend and business partner in Kansas City who started a now-defunct IT consultancy with Taherzadeh told The Daily Beast. “I got burned a couple of different times and I finally walked away.”
The friend said he’s extremely curious to know what Taherzadeh’s end-game was.
“Part of me just wants to tell you, it’s because he could,” he said.
The tale of the con is a long story. You can read it at the Daily Beast link.
January 6 investigation news
I know you’ve probably heard about this bombshell story from CNN yesterday: CNN Exclusive: ‘We control them all’: Donald Trump Jr. texted Meadows ideas for overturning 2020 election before it was called.
Cat Country by Rosemary Margaret Daunis
I actually think the NYT is underplaying the important of this development, but here’s a bit more from the article:
The grand jury subpoena Mr. Alexander received suggests that prosecutors have greatly widened the scope of their inquiry to include not only people who were at the Capitol, but also those who organized and spoke at pro-Trump events in November and December 2020 and on Jan. 6, 2021.
In an indication that the inquiry could reach into the Trump administration and its allies in Congress, the subpoena also seeks information about members of the executive and legislative branches who were involved in the events or who may have helped to obstruct the certification of the 2020 election….
Mr. Alexander took part in two so-called Stop the Steal rallies in Washington that preceded the former president’s event at the Ellipse, near the White House, on Jan. 6 — one on Nov. 14, 2020, and the other a few weeks later on Dec. 12 — as well as events in the key swing state of Georgia in December.
In the run-up to those gatherings, Mr. Alexander came into contact with a host of rally organizers and with right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers militia and the 1st Amendment Praetorian that provided both public and personal security at the events.
The Washington Post on the plea deal with Proud Boy Charles Donohoe: Proud Boys leader admits plan to storm Capitol, will testify against others.
A North Carolina man who was one of the leaders of the far-right Proud Boys as they assaulted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, pleaded guilty Friday to two felony counts with a minimum sentence of nearly six years in prison, but agreed to cooperate against his co-defendants in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.
Court records filed Friday show he has already provided numerous insights into the group’s plans and their intention to disrupt the congressional electoral vote confirmation….
Donohoe, 34, of Kernersville, N.C., admitted to conspiring to help organize an attack on Congress by angry supporters of then-president Donald Trump and to assaulting law enforcement officers. Donohoe is the first among six of the charged Proud Boys’ leaders, including longtime chairman Enrique Tarrio, to admit to both organizing an attack on Congress and assaulting law enforcement officers.
By Warren Kimble
On the plans for and carrying out of the assault on the Capitol:
As early as Jan. 4, prosecutors said, “Donohoe was aware that members of MOSD leadership were discussing the possibility of storming the Capitol. Donohoe believed that storming the Capitol would achieve the group’s goal of stopping the government from carrying out the transfer of presidential power. Donohoe understood that storming the Capitol would be illegal.”
On the morning of Jan. 6, the Proud Boys marched away from the Ellipse before President Donald Trump began his speech, and did not return. Instead, they went to the Capitol shortly after 10 a.m., the statement of offense says, and Donohoe posted that his group numbered “200-300 PBs.” Co-defendants Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs mustered the group, the statement says, and “Donohoe understood that Nordean and Biggs were searching for an opportunity to storm the Capitol.”
By 1 p.m., the Proud Boys were being instructed in messages to “Push inside!” Donohoe reposted the message to other group leaders. Donohoe admitted throwing two water bottles at police trying to prevent the mob’s advance. At 1:37 p.m., Donohoe took a picture of co-defendant Dominic Pezzola holding a riot shield that had been snatched from police.
Donohoe then found another Proud Boy who “initiated an altercation at the front of the crowd,” the statement says. “Donohoe pushed forward to advance up the concrete stairs toward the Capitol. The crowd overwhelmed law enforcement who were attempting to stop their advance.”
Despite all the whining from Twitter lawyers, it sure looks like the DOJ is conducting a serious investigation that could reach all the way to Trump.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! Spring is on the way.
Posted: March 3, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: House January 6 Committee, January 6 investigation, Joshua James, Maria Prymachenko, Oath Keepers, Roger Stone, Russia, seditious conspiracy, Stuart Rhodes, Ukraine crisis
May That Nuclear War Be Cursed!, 1978, Maria Priymachenko
There was so much breaking news yesterday, and the flood of information continues this morning. I’ve been focused on the crisis in Ukraine lately, but yesterday the January 6 investigation came back into prominence.
Before I get to the latest news from Ukraine, I want to share an article from Vice about Maria Prymachenko, a Ukrainian folk artist whose work Dakinikat and I have been using for our recent posts: Russian Forces Destroyed the Wild and Beautiful Art of Maria Prymachenko.
Amid the intense battles that broke out approximately 50 miles northwest of Kyiv on February 25 during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Museum was burned, according toThe Kyiv Independent. “Another one of the irreparable losses of the historical-cultural authority of Ukraine is the destruction of the Ivankiv Historical-Cultural Museum by the aggressor in these hellish days for our country,” wrote the museum’s director in a message on Facebook. As a result, the Ukrainian Minister of Culture, Olexandr Tkachenko, requested that Russia lose its UNESCO membership.
It is not yet confirmed how many pieces in the museum’s holdings survive, but the destroyed artifacts reportedly include roughly 25 works by the celebrated Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko, who died in 1997 at the age of 88. Beloved for her saturated gouaches and watercolors on paper, Prymachenko was known to transform cultural motifs (yellow suns and graphic, stencil-like flowers) into vivid and wildly imagined narratives, in which elephants longed to be sailors, horses traveled to outer space, and villagers hijacked giant serpents.Today, nearly 650 of her works, dating from 1936 to 1987, are also held by the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Applied Art, in nearby Kyiv. Whether or not the Ivankiv museum was targeted intentionally, its loss is pointedly a blow to Ukraine’s cultural history, its collective spirit, its artistic soul.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1908 close to Ivaniv, in the village of Bolotyna. Her father was a craftsman and carpenter; from her mother and grandmother, she learned Ukrainian arts of embroidery and hand-painting Easter eggs. From an early age, with no formal fine art training, Prymachenko began to create a way of working that stemmed from her encounters in forests and wildflower fields, surrounded by animals….
Our Army, Our Protectors, (1978), Maria Prymachenko
Around 1936, Tetiana Floru, an artist from Kyiv, saw Prymachenko’s embroideries for sale in the Ivankiv market and invited her to join the Central Experimental Workshop of the Kyiv Museum of Ukrainian Art, an assembly of folk artists from all over the country. It was life-changing for Prymachenko, who in Kyiv underwent surgeries for complications from childhood polio that finally allowed her to walk. In 1936, her works were included in the First Republican Folk Art Exhibition in Kyiv, which later traveled to Moscow and Leningrad, and the following year some of her drawings were presented in the International Exhibition in Paris, where she received a gold medal and the blurb of a lifetime from Pablo Picasso….
“I bow down before the artistic miracle of this brilliant Ukrainian,” Picasso reportedly said, visiting her exhibit in the same year he painted Guernica. Another admirer, Marc Chagall, also fell under the spell of her paintings: When he began to paint animals into his own magic realist scenes in his native Belarus, he called his creatures “the cousins of the strange beasts of Maria Prymachenko.” Other relatives in this imaginary zoo: the animal renderings of Henri Rousseau, Niki de Saint Phalle.
If you’re interested, read the rest at Vice.com.
Here’s the latest on what’s happening in Ukraine:
Newsweek: Ukraine Forces Reportedly Kill Russia General Andrei Sukhovetsky in Blow to Invading Army.
A top Russian military figure has been killed in the war in Ukraine according to local news outlets citing a social media post by his colleague.
Ukrainian news outlets were reporting that Andrei Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, had been killed on Wednesday.
Media outlets cited a post on VKontakte announcing the death, written by Sergei Chipilev, a deputy of the Russian veterans group, Combat Brotherhood.
Black Beast, 1936, Maria Prymachenko
“It is with great sorrow that we learned of the tragic news about the death of our friend, Major General Andrei Aleksandrovich Sukhovetsky, on the territory of Ukraine during a special operation,” his post said, without specifying the circumstances.
Christo Grozev, executive director of fact-checking website Bellingcat, tweeted news of the death, adding that if confirmed it would be a “major demotivator” for Russian forces….
News of the death was also reported by Russian media outlets. Lenta.ru carried the story, while Alexander Kots, a correspondent for the mass circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, described the death in a post on social network Telegram.
Defense One: ‘The Convoy Is Stalled’: Logistics Failures Slow Russian Advance, Pentagon Says.
A 40-mile column of Russian invaders has stalled on the way to Kyiv, opening itself to attack by Ukrainians, a senior defense official told reporters Wednesday.
“We believe that the convoy is stalled,” the official said. “They are not moving at any rate that would lead one to believe that they’ve solved their problems,” which still include a lack of food, fuel, and spare parts.
Some Ukrainian troops have also targeted the convoy, although in limited fashion, the official said.
The Threat of War, 1986, Maria Prymachenko
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service posted a video of a captured Russian soldier who says he and his unit were sent across the border with only three days’ food.
“Putin expected to capture Ukraine in three days,” Ukraine’s security service wrote above the video, which could not be independently verified. “By the order of the top Russian leadership, the phones and documents were taken from the fire brigades, removed food and water for three days and sent to war with Ukraine,” the agency said, according to the English translation of the post.
Insufficient food is among the missteps that have slowed the Russian advance, and perhaps edged Russia into more ferocious and indiscriminate use of missiles and airstrikes. As of Wednesday, Pentagon officials had counted roughly 450 such strikes on Ukrainian targets.
The senior defense official said Pentagon leaders expect the invasion to accelerate as Russia adjusts and gets provisions to its forces inside Ukraine.
Nataliya Gumenuk: We have no illusions: we know Putin will try everything to bomb us into submission.
As soon as the curfew was lifted in Kyiv, I drove around to understand what had happened to our capital overnight. For two full days residents had not been allowed to go out, even during the daytime. Russian saboteur groups were identified, and random street fights took place.
I did not recognise my city, with checkpoints in the old town, with people digging trenches, bridges being fortified and the subway turned into a bomb shelter.
“Do you enrol everybody who shows up?” we asked a young guy in charge. “Almost all, but I do not accept those under 18,” he said. “And there are a lot of them. I wouldn’t be able to look their mothers in the eyes. I fought in 2014-2015 in Donbas, so I know what the war is.”
It’s a predominantly male group but there are three women. The youngest is a lawyer. “What Russia has already done to the civilians has made us act,” she said. She had not told her family of her decision to fight. They live in a small town on the Ukrainian-Russian border, which has been partially destroyed. Another woman, in her 60s, said she was a nurse. Her husband had joined the defence units and she felt she needed to be with him. The last was a retired officer. She enrolled because her son had already joined the Ukrainian army. “When our grandparents, who remember the second world war, were wishing for peace, we didn’t understand why,” she said. “But now I know.”
Four Drunkards Riding a Bird,1976, Maria Prymachenko
The figures say one thing, experience another. The official toll of civilian deaths is 350, but after seven days’ fighting, there cannot be a single Ukrainian who doesn’t know somebody who has been touched by tragedy. There are more than 1,600 wounded….
“Those of you who have come to ‘rescue us’, just go away,” cries a woman holding a baby at Kyiv’s main station. “We were all right before you came. Just leave. All I have is some cash and a backpack.” Like thousands of people here, her mission is to go somewhere else, anywhere. The Ukrainian railway allows everybody to ride without tickets, including foreign citizens, and is running extra trains to the west.
We count the hours: seven, 20, 70, 100, 144: hours of the Ukrainian army on its own, its citizens holding off one of the mightiest armies in the world, which is now being bolstered by support from Belarus. The count becomes symbolic. For those under bombardment, each hour seems like a year.
Read more at the Guardian link.
AP News: Russian forces seize key Ukrainian port, pressure others.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces captured a strategic Ukrainian port and besieged another Thursday in a bid to cut the country off from the sea, as the two sides met for another round of talks aimed at stopping the fighting that has set off an exodus of over 1 million refugees.
Moscow’s advance on Ukraine’s capital has apparently stalled over the past few days, with a huge armored column north of Kyiv at a standstill, but the military has made significant gains in the south as part of an effort to sever the country’s connection to the Black and Azov seas.
The Russian military said it had control of Kherson, and local Ukrainian officials confirmed that forces have taken over local government headquarters in the Black Sea port of 280,000, making it the first major city to fall since the invasion began a week ago.
Heavy fighting continued on the outskirts of another strategic port, Mariupol, on the Azov Sea, plunging it into darkness, isolation and fear. Electricity and phone service were largely down, and homes and shops faced food and water shortages.
Without phone connections, medics did not know where to take the wounded.
More Ukraine reads:
The New York Times: A War the Kremlin Tried to Disguise Becomes a Hard Reality for Russians.
Military Times: Ukraine jets hit Russian column; Russia has used thermobarics, Ukraine military says.
The New York Times: Anxiety Grows in Odessa as Russians Advance in Southern Ukraine.
January 6 prosecutions
This is huge: yesterday a January 6 defendant w ho worked closely with Oath Keepers leader Stuart Rhodes has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Law and Crime: Oath Keepers Member Pleads Guilty to Seditious Conspiracy and Obstruction in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack, Will ‘Fully Cooperate’ with Feds.
A member of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia group charged in the Jan. 6 siege at the U.S. Capitol has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress. He vowed to “fully cooperate” with the federal investigation into the attack.
Joshua James, 34, is the first member of the militia group charged with seditious conspiracy to plead guilty to that charge. At a hearing Wednesday, he confirmed that under the plea agreement, he will “fully cooperate” with the government’s prosecution and testify before a grand jury and at trial.
The seditious conspiracy and obstruction charges, both felonies, carry potential jail sentences of 20 years each. The seditious conspiracy charge is the most serious charge yet in the federal government’s sprawling prosecution of those who participated in the Jan. 6 siege.
This Ukrainian Ram Did Not Gather His Crop, Maria Prymachenko, 1976
James was named in a 17-count indictment that also charged Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes. According to prosecutors, James and the other Oath Keepers made plans to bring a variety of weapons to support the mob of Donald Trump supporters who violently overran police to swarm the Capitol building in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden‘s win in the 2020 presidential election.
At Wednesday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, James confirmed the Statement of Offense submitted in connection with his plea, which outlines the actions James took in support of the plan to overturn the election and keep Trump in office…
Here are a couple of things James admitted to:
In advance of and on January 6, 2021, James and others agreed to take part in the plan developed by Rhodes to use any means necessary, up to and including the use of force, to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power….
In the weeks leading up to January 6, 2021, Rhodes instructed James and other coconspirators to be prepared, if called upon, to report to the White House grounds to secure the perimeter and use lethal force if necessary against anyone who tried to remove President Trump from the White House, including the National Guard or other government actors who might be sent to remove President Trump as a result of the Presidential Election.
Read the rest at Law and Crime.
James is also close to Roger Stone and was communicating with him the morning of January 6, 2021.
House January 6 Committee investigation:
The New York Times: Jan. 6 Committee Lays Out Potential Criminal Charges Against Trump.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Wednesday that there was enough evidence to conclude that former President Donald J. Trump and some of his allies might have conspired to commit fraud and obstruction by misleading Americans about the outcome of the 2020 election and attempting to overturn the result.
In a court filing in a civil case in California, the committee’s lawyers for the first time laid out their theory of a potential criminal case against the former president. They said they had accumulated evidence demonstrating that Mr. Trump, the conservative lawyer John Eastman and other allies could potentially be charged with criminal violations including obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the American people.
The filing also said there was evidence that Mr. Trump’s repeated lies that the election had been stolen amounted to common law fraud.
Corncob Horse in Outer Space, 1978, Maria Pryachenko
The filing disclosed only limited new evidence, and the committee asked the judge in the civil case to review the relevant material behind closed doors. In asserting the potential for criminality, the committee largely relied on the extensive and detailed accounts already made public of the actions Mr. Trump and his allies took to keep him in office after his defeat.
The committee added information from its more than 550 interviews with state officials, Justice Department officials and top aides to Mr. Trump, among others.
It said, for example, that Jason Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior campaign adviser, had told the committee in a deposition that Mr. Trump had been told soon after Election Day by a campaign data expert “in pretty blunt terms” that he was going to lose, suggesting that Mr. Trump was well aware that his months of assertions about a stolen election were false. (Mr. Trump subsequently said he disagreed with the data expert’s analysis, Mr. Miller said, because he thought he could win in court.)
The evidence gathered by the committee “provides, at minimum, a good-faith basis for concluding that President Trump has violated” the obstruction count, the filing, written by Douglas N. Letter, the general counsel of the House, said, adding: “The select committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the president and members of his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The filing said that a “review of the materials may reveal that the president and members of his campaign engaged in common law fraud in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.”
This post is way too long, but so much is happening! Have a great Thursday, Sky Dancers, and please share your thoughts a recommended reads with us.
Posted: December 16, 2021 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: bell hooks, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, feminism, January 6 investigation, Omicron variant
Yesterday we lost bell hooks (born Gloria Watkins), feminist theorist, poet, and activist.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read her work, but I was impressed by what I read about hooks this morning. Dakinikat was inspired by her, so perhaps she will share her thoughts today and/or tomorrow.
Lucy Knight at The Guardian: bell hooks, author and activist, dies aged 69.
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, has died aged 69.
Her niece Ebony Motley tweeted: “The family of @bellhooks is sad to announce the passing of our sister, aunt, great aunt and great great aunt.”
She also attached a statement, which said that “the family of Gloria Jean Watkins is deeply saddened at the passing of our beloved sister on December 15, 2021. The family honored her request to transition at home with family and friends by her side.”
The author, professor and activist was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, and published more than 30 books in her lifetime, covering topics including race, feminism, capitalism and intersectionality.
She adopted her maternal great-grandmother’s name as a pen name, since she so admired her, but used lowercase letters to distinguish herself from her family member. hooks’ first major work, Ain’t I a Woman?, was published in 1981, and became widely recognised as an important feminist text. It was named one of the 20 most influential women’s books in the last 20 years by Publishers Weekly in 1992.
She went on to write Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center in 1984, All About Love: New Visions in 2000 and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity in 2004, continuing to draw on themes of feminism, race, love and gender.
Since 2004, she taught at Berea College in Kentucky, a liberal arts college that offers free tuition.
In 2016 hooks wrote in the Guardian that Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was “capitalist money-making at its best”, but criticised the notion of “freedom” depicted in the lyrics. “To truly be free,” wrote hooks, “we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal wellbeing and joy.”
“I want my work to be about healing,” she said in 2018 when she was inducted into the Kentucky Writers’ Hall of Fame. “I am a fortunate writer because every day of my life practically I get a letter, a phone call from someone who tells me how my work has transformed their life.”
From The Literary Hub:
hooks’s first published work of theory, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, was published when she was 29 but written when she was an undergraduate, launching a four-decade-long career of writing and teaching, with a focus on classroom accessibility. hooks’s extensive body of scholarship and poetry—that remains and will continue to remain relevant—was consistent in its generosity, emphasizing the importance of loving communities to challenging systemic inequalities. Hooks believed a “militant commitment to feminism” was not at all at odds with joy and humor; in fact, that love “is the necessary foundation enabling us to survive the wars, the hardships, the sickness, and the dying with our spirits intact.” As she told The New York Times in 2015,
“We cannot have a meaningful revolution without humor. Every time we see the left or any group trying to move forward politically in a radical way, when they’re humorless, they fail. Humor is essential to the integrative balance that we need to deal with diversity and difference and the building of community. For example, I love to be in conversation with Cornel West. We always go high and we go low, and we always bring the joyful humor in. The last talk he and I gave together, many people were upset because we were silly together. But I consider it a high holy calling that we can be humorous together. How many times do we see an African-American man and an African-American woman talking together, critiquing one another, and yet having delicious, humorous delight? It’s a miracle.”
hooks’s family said contributions and memorials can be made to the Christian County Literacy Council, which promotes reading for children, or the Museums of Historic Hopkinsville Christian County, where a biographical exhibit is on display.
From the New Yorker piece:
I came to her work in the mid-nineties, during a fertile era of Black cultural studies, when it felt like your typical alternative weekly or independent magazine was as rigorous as an academic monograph. For hooks, writing in the public sphere was just an application of her mind to a more immediate concern, whether her subject was Madonna, Spike Lee, or, in one memorably withering piece, Larry Clark’s “Kids.” She was writing at a time when the serious study of culture—mining for subtexts, sifting for clues—was still a scrappy undertaking. As an Asian American reader, I was enamored with how critics like hooks drew on their own backgrounds and friendships, not to flatten their lives into something relatably universal but to remind us how we all index a vast, often contradictory array of tastes and experiences. Her criticism suggested a pulsing, tireless brain trying to make sense of how a work of art made her feel. She modelled an intellect: following the distant echoes of white supremacy and Black resistance over time and pinpointing their legacies in the works of Quentin Tarantino or Forest Whitaker’s “Waiting to Exhale.”
Yet her work—books such as “Reel to Real” or “Art on My Mind,” which have survived decades of rereadings and underlinings—also modelled how to simply live and breathe in the world. She was zealous in her praise—especially when it came to Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust,” a film referenced countless times in her work—and she never lost grasp of how it feels to be awestruck while standing before a stirring work of art. She couldn’t deny the excitement as the lights dim and we prepare to surrender to the performance. But she made demands on the world. She believed criticism came from a place of love, a desire for things worthy of losing ourselves to….
This has been a particularly trying time for critics who came of age in the eighties and nineties, as giants like hooks, Greg Tate, and Dave Hickey have passed. hooks was a brilliant, tough critic—no doubt her death will inspire many revisitations of works like “Ain’t I a Woman,” “Black Looks,” or “Outlaw Culture.” Yet she was also a dazzling memoirist and poet. In 1982, she published a poem titled “in the matter of the egyptians” in Hambone, a journal she worked on with her then partner, Nathaniel Mackey. It reads:
I enjoyed reading this piece from 2019 by Min Jin Lee in The New York Times: In Praise of bell hooks.
In 1987, I was a sophomore at Yale. I’d been in the United States for 11 years, and although I was a history major, I wanted to read novels again. I signed up for “Introduction to African-American Literature,” which was taught by Gloria Watkins, an assistant professor in the English department, and she was such a wonderful teacher that I signed up for her other class, “Black Women and Their Fiction.”
Gloria — as we were allowed to address her in the classroom — had a slight figure with elegant wrists that peeked out of her tunic sweater sleeves. She was soft-spoken with a faint Southern accent, which I attributed to her birthplace, Hopkinsville, Ky. She was in her mid-30s then but looked much younger. Large, horn-rimmed glasses framed the open gaze of her genuinely curious mind. You knew her classes were special. The temperature in the room seemed to change in her presence because everything felt so intense and crackling like the way the air can feel heavy before a long-awaited rain. It wasn’t just school then. No, I think, we were falling in love with thinking and imagining again….
I was 19 when I took hooks’s classes, and I was just becoming a young feminist myself. I had begun my study of feminism with Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, among other white women, and perhaps, because I was foreign-born — rightly or wrongly — I had not expected that people like me would be included in their vision of feminist liberation. Women and men of Asian ethnicities are so often neglected, excluded and marginalized in the Western academy, so as a college student I’d no doubt internalized my alleged insignificance. bell hooks changed my limited perception.
Her book of theory taught me to ask for more from art, literature, media, politics and history — and for me, a Korean girl who had been born in a divided nation once led by kings, colonizers, then a succession of presidents who were more or less dictators, and for millenniums, that had enforced rigid class systems with slaves and serfs until the early 20th century, and where women of all classes were deeply oppressed and brutalized, I needed to see that the movement had a space for me.
What else is in the news? January 6 and the never ending pandemic.
January 6: Could it be that the investigation is really heating up?
David Rohde at The New Yorker: Is There a Smoking Gun in the January 6th Investigation?
William Saletan at Slate: The Chilling Lesson of Mark Meadows’ Text Messages.
The New York Times: Meadows and the Band of Loyalists: How They Fought to Keep Trump in Power.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/15/us/politics/trump-meadows-republicans-congress-jan-6.html
Kyle Cheney at Politico: The Jan. 6 puzzle piece that’s going largely ignored.
Kyle Cheney at Politico: Jan. 6 investigators mull whether Trump violated obstruction law.
CNN: Jim Jordan sent one of the texts revealed by January 6 committee.
The Washington Post: Role as Trump’s gatekeeper puts Meadows in legal jeopardy — and at odds with Trump.
Georgia Public Radio: Exclusive: More Georgia Secretary of State’s office officials interviewed by Jan. 6 committee.
The never ending pandemic
CNBC: Omicron symptoms could seem like a cold — but don’t underestimate this variant, experts warn.
AP via KTLA: U.S. faces a double coronavirus surge as omicron variant advances.
Ian Bogost at The Atlantic: I’m Starting to Give Up on Post-pandemic Life.
Yasmin Tayag at The Atlantic: Don’t Be Surprised When You Get Omicron.
Ed Yong at The Atlantic: America Is Not Ready for Omicron. The new variant poses a far graver threat at the collective level than the individual one—the kind of test that the U.S. has repeatedly failed.
Have courage and enjoy the present moment. There’s no telling what will happen next.
Posted: July 29, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Department of Justice, Donald Trump, infrastructure bill, insurrection, January 6 investigation, Jeffrey Rosen, Mo Brooks
Max Beckman, Woman in Chair Reading at Beach, 1939
Yesterday Joe Biden got another big win when his infrastructure bill got more than 60 votes to begin consideration in the Senate.
The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.
Senate Democrats and Republicans banded together on Wednesday to advance a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s aging infrastructure, overcoming months of political deadlock on one of President Biden’s signature economic policy priorities.
The day of breakthroughs began with news of a deal, as a bipartisan bloc of 10 negotiators coalesced around a package to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. The announcement from some of the group’s leaders, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), capped off a series of frenetic talks that nearly collapsed amid behind-the-scenes battles about the new spending and how to pay for it.
With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.
The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who have struggled for years to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents had called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked bridges, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually move toward delivering on those promises….
The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden this spring put forward a roughly $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan funded largely through tax increases that Republicans swiftly rejected. But the administration’s top aides ultimately proved willing to be flexible in the months that followed in how they pursued some of the president’s priorities. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”
The infrastructure bill that started moving forward again Wednesday is undeniably large: It calls for new federal spending of about $550 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the cost of the Interstate Highway System, after adjusting for inflation.
Irving R. Wiles, Sunshine and Shadow Woman
But the bipartisan deal is less than a quarter the size of the $2.6 trillion plan that President Biden proposed in March, which included $2.2 trillion in spending and around $400 billion in tax credits. It’s also significantly smaller than the counteroffer the White House proposed in May, which scaled back spending by $500 billion, and it leaves out many of the Democrats’ biggest ambitions.
Democrats have also put forward a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that they intend to pass through a process known as budget reconciliation, which requires fewer votes.
This budget is expected to contain some of the pieces that were left out of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement — including investments in housing and education; child care; research and development; manufacturing; and clean energy. But moderate and progressive Democrats currently disagree on what will be included.
There were six major areas in Mr. Biden’s original infrastructure proposal: transportation, utilities, pollution, innovation, in-home care and buildings. Almost all these areas were scaled back or eliminated in the bipartisan plan, with one exception: pollution cleanup.
Three major areas of President Biden’s original proposal were not included in the bipartisan deal: buildings, in-home care and innovation. The bipartisan plan also left out $363 billion in clean energy tax credits.
Trump Crimes Breaking News
Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett at The Washington Post: As Trump pushed for probes of 2020 election, he called acting AG Rosen almost daily.
President Donald Trump called his acting attorney general nearly every day at the end of last year to alert him to claims of voter fraud or alleged improper vote counts in the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
The personal pressure campaign, which has not been previously reported, involved repeated phone calls to acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen in which Trump raised various allegations he had heard about and asked what the Justice Department was doing about the issue. The people familiar with the conversations spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal and political issues that are not yet public.
Rosen told few people about the phone calls, even in his inner circle. But there are notes of some of the calls that were written by a top aide to Rosen, Richard Donoghue, who was present for some of the conversations, these people said.
David Brayne, Woman reading
Donoghue’s notes could be turned over to Congress in a matter of days, they added, if Trump does not file papers in court seeking to block such a handover. In addition, both Rosen and Donoghue could be questioned about the conversations by congressional committees examining Trump’s actions in the days after the election.
The Justice Department recently notified Rosen, Donoghue and others who were serving there during the end of Trump’s presidency that the agency would not seek to invoke executive privilege if they are asked about their contacts with the president during that period.
That posture — which the letter to Rosen calls a departure from normal agency practice — means that individuals who are questioned by Congress would not have to say the conversations with the president were off-limits. They would be able to share details that give a firsthand account of Trump’s frantic attempts to overturn the 2020 election and involve the Justice Department in that effort.
January 6 Investigation News
Politico: Jan. 6 select-panel Dems confident they can corral ex-Trump aides.
Lawmakers on the Jan. 6 select committee describe their probe’s reach as still undefined, saying in interviews that they have yet to formalize the confines of an already closely watched and fast-moving investigation. Minutesbefore the panel’s first hearing on Tuesday, however, its members scored a key win thanks to a legal opinion from President Joe Biden’s Justice Department that allowed them to freely seek witness statements from former Trump administration officials.
“That means the likelihood of any resistance from the committee’s work from former [Trump] employees or current employees is not an impediment,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs the Jan. 6 probe, said in an interview. The Biden DOJ’s decision “expedites” the panel’s work digging into the insurrection, he added….
The panel only recently hired its senior staff and launched its website — and it has more work to do before it can seek out potential Trump-adjacent witnesses such as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Woman Reading at a Dressing Table, Henri Matisse, 1919
“I think the true scope of the investigation is still under development,” Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), a member of the select panel, said in a brief interview. “I know that we will build on work that’s already been done by other committees.” [….]
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another select committee member, echoed Luria and Thompson about the still-undefined scope of the investigation. But he said it was critical that the panel examine coordination efforts by the extremist groups that marched on the Capitol that day — a process that includes studying the hundreds of criminal prosecutions helmed by the Justice Department.
“[We] want to know who was the ultimate organizer and who paid for all of this action and how did it come about and are they still out there,” Raskin said.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who on January 6 told the insurrectionists to “start taking names and kicking ass,” has been busy destroying his own defenses for his actions on the day of the attempted coup.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Mo Brooks Accidentally Gave Up His Immunity From Eric Swalwell’s Insurrection Lawsuit.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would not shield Rep. Mo Brooks from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s lawsuit against the fomenters of the Jan. 6 insurrection. The DOJ’s decision may seem surprising: After all, Attorney General Merrick Garland has continued to protect Donald Trump from E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit, signaling a broad view of elected officials’ immunity from civil suits. In Swalwell’s case, however, the Justice Department seized upon comments demonstrating that, at the Jan. 6 rally, Brooks was acting not as an elected official, but as a politician seeking to influence future elections. Ironically, it was Brooks himself who made these statements, under oath, in an effort to evade this very lawsuit. The congressman’s legal defense has turned into a legal liability.
Frédéric Soulacroix (1858-1933), French painter.
Swalwell’s lawsuit marks a serious effort to hold Brooks, Trump, and Rudy Giuliani accountable for their conduct at the rally that preceded—and incited—the Jan. 6 insurrection. He sued all three defendants for civil rights violations, as well as more garden variety misdeeds known as torts. In this case, Brooks’ alleged torts included negligence, aiding and abetting common law assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and bias-related crimes. Brooks sought to dismiss these tort claims by invoking the Westfall Act. Under this statute, a federal official facing a civil suit can ask the Department of Justice to certify that they were acting within the scope of their employment when the alleged tort occurred. If the DOJ agrees, the United States is substituted as the defendant. And because the U.S. cannot be sued for a wide range of torts, that substitution usually ends the case.
Predictably, Brooks asked the Justice Department to certify that he was acting as an employee of the federal government carrying out his official duties at the Jan. 6 rally. This argument is hard to swallow. Then again, so was Trump’s assertion that defaming E. Jean Carroll was a presidential act, yet Garland’s Justice Department still endorsed his theory. What appears to have made the difference in this case is Brooks’ own inadvertent admission that he was acting as a campaigner, not a congressman, on the morning of Jan. 6.
This admission was prompted by a claim at the heart of Swalwell’s lawsuit: that Brooks urged the crowd to commit violence at the Capitol. Central to Swalwell’s theory was a segment of Brooks’ speech in which he declared: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Brooks continued:
“Now, our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives, to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: Are you willing to do the same? My answer is yes. Louder! Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
In a long, rambling affidavit, Brooks tried to counter this allegation by reframing his call to begin “kicking ass.” He testified that, in this passage, “I am talking about ‘kicking ass’ in the 2022 and 2024 ELECTIONS!” [….]
This narrative provides perhaps the most self-defeating explanation Brooks could possibly muster at this stage in litigation. As the Justice Department pointed out in its Tuesday filing, “activities specifically directed toward the success of a candidate for a partisan political office in a campaign context” are “not within the scope of the office or employment of a Member of the House of Representatives.” That’s because it is not the “business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Representatives thus cannot invoke the Westfall Act’s protections when they are engaged in “campaign efforts.”
Jim Newell at Slate: Turns Out Mo Brooks Was Wearing Body Armor to Trump’s Very Peaceful Jan. 6 Rally.
Back in December, Brooks was the first House Republican to say ahead of the congressional Electoral College certification that he would object to certain states’ electors. On the day of the certification, Jan. 6, he then gave a fiery speech at President Donald Trump’s rally at the Ellipse where he told the assembled crowd that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!” Months later, he still argues that Trump would have won the election if only “lawful votes” were counted.
Brooks, like Republican leaders who tried to counterprogram the hearing with a press conference yesterday, thinks a proper investigation would look at why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office wasn’t “doing a better job with respect to the Capitol Police and their level of preparation.”
Then, to prove his point about preparation, he revealed a new detail to me: that because of a tip he’d received about potential violence, he’d been wearing body armor at the very same Ellipse speech in which he encouraged rally attendees to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
“I was warned on Monday that there might be risks associated with the next few days,” he said. “And as a consequence of those warnings, I did not go to my condo. Instead, I slept on the floor of my office. And when I gave my speech at the Ellipse, I was wearing body armor.
“That’s why I was wearing that nice little windbreaker,” he told me with a grin. “To cover up the body armor.”
Who was this source? The Committee is probably going to want to hear from Brooks about all this.
Could it have been this guy?
I have a few more links to add in the comments. What’s on your mind today? This is an open thread.