Turn off the corporate media and listen to a really good podcast on Ring of Fire with Sam Seder as he talks about the Barr hearing and interviews John Nichols.
Turn off the corporate media and listen to a really good podcast on Ring of Fire with Sam Seder as he talks about the Barr hearing and interviews John Nichols.
Bill Barr, after being threatened with a subpoena by Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, appeared before the House on July 28, 2020. There was no reason for anybody who has watched Barr with increasing outrage and fury, as he has politicized the administration of justice in this country, to hold out much hope that these hearings would reveal much.
Democrats are hopeless at taking on people with even moderate intelligence in a hearing setting. They refuse to adopt an aggressive approach to Republican authoritarians. They are so concerned with being “nice” or “polite” or “well mannered,” they never anticipate the depths of obfuscation and bad behavior to which the Republicans are willing to sink.
When I switched channels over to MSNBC from TCM where I had been contemplating hiding in escapism for the duration, there was nothing but noise, loud, irritating, obnoxious noise. Then, the camera switched to a screen inside the committee hearing. On this screen was a video, displaying images of protesters, tear gas, confrontation, people pounding at fences. What? Isn’t this the Barr hearing?
It was the Barr hearing. What was going on was that bad-boy Jim Jordan, the crazed ex-wrestler who refused to report his colleague for sexual abuse, had introduced as an “opening statement” a long, selectively edited campaign video purporting to give an accurate representation of the protests occurring in various cities in the United States. The video employed one of the right’s main strategies, fear, creating fear and therefore anger in their base. That’s what Fox News does 24/7.
If you watched the video divorced from any other news, you would think the country was descending into total chaos and violent anarchy. That is exactly what the Republicans wanted to portray. They spent the rest of the hearing, pounding home the point and punching the key words over and over – protest, chaos, anarchists, violence, crime, hate…”my constituents are afraid.” As usual, the Republicans had all been briefed on the key words to use during the hearing to drive home the point. Like faithful soldiers, they complied.
This is a strategy they have used for decades. Even years ago, ten or fifteen Republicans would be interviewed independently on television. All of them would use the same words and phrases to describe a situation, to get their point across, to insert their frame on the news. They are good little soldiers, obedient and loyal and willing to do and say anything. That’s one of the many reasons we need to fear them and fight them.
But, even though, Jerry Nadler scolded Jordan for violating Committee rules by not notifying committee of the intent to show the video, the damage was done.
Why are Democrats always like Charlie Brown with the football? Every time, they stand around and watch Lucy put the ball on the ground, suspecting nothing. Then, they watch Lucy yank the ball out from under them. Then, they issue a scolding after the fact, or ignore the behavior with dignified silence.
Why didn’t Jerry Nadler know the Republicans were going to play this video? Why didn’t he review it? There had to be people in the hearing room, setting this up. If I had been burned as many times as the Democrats in hearings, I would have informants everywhere and somebody watching that room from the minute the doors were unlocked.
And, if you want to argue that Nadler couldn’t have known about the video, why didn’t he stop it? If showing the video violated the rules, why didn’t Nadler stop the video? Why didn’t he demand it be stopped when he saw that it was – a propaganda campaign ad that grossly misrepresented the situation? Nadler can’t walk but somebody could have been told to go and stop that video if it violated Committee rules. But, Jerry Nadler (and other corporate Democrats) refuse to enforce the rules?
I watch a lot of politics. I have spent most of my adult life reading about, watching, writing about, studying politics, specifically politics and crime. But, now, when one of these big hearings is scheduled, I start feeling queasy in the morning. I feel obligated to watch, to witness this descent into authoritarianism. But I don’t want to watch. As someone said yesterday on Twitter, how can these hearings always end up being a loss for both sides?
I know corporate Democrats are largely cowards, feckless cowards who will not fight, or enforce the rules even when enforcing the rules would be to their advantage. But, how did we end up with such a sorry lot? And, what are they afraid of?
I think part of the answer lies in the fact that Democrats are living in a culture in Washington that no longer exists. They can’t seem to accept, acknowledge, understand, that they are facing ruthless authoritarians who will resort to anything, anything to win. They act like if they just stand erect, stare directly ahead of them and behave in a dignified manner (watch Adam Schiff), this ruthless, gutter fight for power on the part of the Republicans will disappear.
In fact, Joe Biden has said just that. He has stated that when we get rid of Trump, all his Republican friends are just going to go back to “normal” and we can return to a bipartisan Kumbaya that hasn’t existed for decades. Republicans haven’t been “normal,” haven’t participated in this gentleman’s club of bipartisanship for decades. And, they aren’t going to do so now. People keep saying we need somebody who can “unite us.” No, that’s not what we need. We need somebody who can marginalize and neuter these rabid authoritarians, see them for what they are, and push them as far away from power as we can get them.
An interesting “tell” here is the ability of the “squad” and some of the other recently elected Democrats to run circles around these career corporate Democrats in hearings. They are not still living in a culture that doesn’t exist.
First, they aren’t afraid. They aren’t afraid to use their common sense and ask questions that make Republicans squirm. They ask the sort of questions that these career corporate Democrats would rather die than ask. Secondly, these women come prepared. They generally don’t just read a prepared statement like they’ve never seen it before, stumbling over what are supposed to be their own words. Third, they usually actually show up and listen to the hearings. They don’t just appear and read a series of questions like bad third-grade actors. They know what has gone on in the hearing and are capable of adapting to the situation. Fourth, these women were by-and-large elected in an upset. They have not been groomed by the DNC. They were elected with a skill set that was larger than just being able to raise money and kiss butt. When I watch people who have been on capitol hill for decades perform at a committee hearing, stumbling through the text of canned questions written by their staff, I always think: They are there because they can raise money, lots of money. That’s the only reason they are there. The DNC supports these types of candidates over other candidates that are more qualified because they can raise money and will behave.
The DNC has worked tirelessly to keep new candidates from emerging in the Democratic party and has created a blacklist for consulting businesses who work for candidates challenging incumbents. The Congressional Black Caucus actually supported an incumbent, Elliott Engels, over a progressive black challenger. This tells you how institutionalized these Democrats have become. The DNC is actively working to keep people in Congress who will play ball, who will not enforce the rules, who will not fight, and who will not ask the tough questions.
Recently, I read an interview of somebody in the music industry. She said: “Oh, they don’t look for talent anymore. They look for somebody with the right look and a compliant personality.” That’s what the DNC looks for and they are selling us down the drain by doing so. That’s why an important hearing makes my stomach hurt.
This is a podcast well worth listening to.
Broken: Jeffrey Epstein
Season 1 Episode 5 “An Outsider’s Way In.”
This is a fascinating story about the reporter Julie Brown and her history of digging in the Epstein case. It makes an important point about journalism. Brown’s history was much like that of the girls who were exploited by Epstein. She was not a child of privilege and connections like most of the corporate press today. Chris Cuomo, the white haired guy on CNN. I like to think of this group as the “Bonfire of the Mediocre.”
Someone recently said that the music industry doesn’t look for talent anymore. They look, she said, for a certain loon and a compliant personality. That just about sums up the corporate media. It’s a waste of time.
For those of you interested in why some of us are so reluctant to jump on the Joe Biden bandwagon, please take the time to listen to this podcast.
This is a video of the cars parked along HWY 17 in Brunswick , Georgia. These brave people gathered to protest the government inaction in the case of the killing of Ahmaud Aubrey. These people gathered in front of the house of Gregory McMichael who along with his son armed himself and pursued Aubrey through their neighborhood, finally shooting and killing him.
When a team from CNN was later filming at the same location, automatic weapon fire was heard in the background.
The two men were finally arrested after two months of inaction and shifting the responsibility for the case around rural Georgia.
Deep State Radio Podcast
Interview with Sarah Kenzior about her new book “Hiding in Plain Sight.”
Notes from the interview:
I don’t know how many more days like this I can handle.
Roger Stone, convicted for witness tampering, lying to Congress and obstructing an official proceeding was today sentenced to 40 months in prison. The media immediately turned the judge, who rejected an initial Justice Department recommendation that Stone get between 7 and 9 years, into a hero.
Ari Melber on MSNBC (who evidently considers himself the Consoler in Chief) once again had guests on to tell the American people that the judicial branch is holding steady, the last bastion of integrity and justice. The institutions, so he claims, are holding.
Well, I’ve got news for Ari F…ing Melber, the institutions are not holding. The executive branch is a criminal enterprise masquerading as a government (Sarah Kenzior), the Congress is toothless and being led by the nose by a collection of thugs who are either being bought off or extorted or who are just so craven for power they will do anything. This same group of thugs is appointing new federal judges at breakneck speed. Their nominees are so inept and ignorant they would never ever get near a courtroom as a judge unless there were a thoroughly corrupt administration shoveling them into lifetime positions. The media is controlled by corporate interests and mediocre star reporters who laugh and joke their way through crisis after crisis after crisis. The institutions are crumbling before our eyes.
Neither the corporate press nor the members of Congress are brave enough to see what’s happening and convey the seriousness of the situation. The institutions are holding, they say. Nothing to see here. It will all be alright.
It reminds me of something that happened to me in Scotland years ago. I went along with a friend to a house where the father of the family had thrown himself out a window. Fortunately, he fell into the lovely Scottish garden below. I was charged with sitting with the young son. At some point I said: It’ll be alright. The kid’s head snapped around and he stared at me with incredulity and contempt. “Alright,” he said. “Alright? My father just jumped out of a window.” I nodded. “You have a point.” I said.
Sentencing for white collar (political and corporate) criminals is already an obscene joke in this country. Take a look at Jesse Eisinger’s recent (and totally ignored) book “The Chickenshit Club.” Eisinger details what happens these days to prosecutors who try to aggressively prosecute white collar criminals. It’s an endeavor which is against their career interests. Most white collar (corporate and political) criminals are not prosecuted. The Justice Department almost always does deals with their attorneys before they come to trial. A trial is considered time-consuming, expensive and unnecessary. Smart prosecutors are expert negotiators and deal makers. As Eisinger points out, not only have prosecutors learned that they put their careers on the line if they fail to negotiate a deal, the institution itself has lost the expertise to prosecute cases and take them to trial.
Line prosecutors in the Stone case, though, did go to trial. These prosecutors risked their careers but they proved their case and then recommended a sentence that was squarely in the middle of (already lenient) sentencing guidelines. Their reward? William Barr intervened, overruled them and after they resigned in protest sent his cronies into court to claim that DOJ had reconsidered the sentence recommendation and decided a lesser sentence was appropriate.
Then, when most of us who are sane and love the law and the concept of justice noticed, when something like 2000 former DOJ officials wrote a letter of protest, Barr sent his minions back into court to say that it had all been a misunderstanding.
Nobody who has a brain can mistake this series of events for anything but what it was – an attempt by Barr and Trump to see if they could simply throw caution to the wind and direct the sentencing of one of Trump’s buddies. They tried, they got some push back, and they backed off to some extent. But, make no mistake about it. They will try again, and they will probably succeed. This is (like the pardons) a softening of the ground.
Because of this, what was needed from the courts was a strong statement that high-level government officials cannot just dictate prosecution and sentencing. What we got was the same “chickenshit” response from Jackson we saw previously from Mueller (who defined his investigation so narrowly it could not really be effective). Jackson compromised, caved, backed down.
Earlier in the day, Seth Abramson tweeted that Trump used professionalism against people. He predicted that Jackson would give Stone a lenient sentence in the name of being “reasonable,” or “fair” or “unbiased” or “professional.” In doing so, she failed to send a message that the justice system is going to fight.
This morning, when I first heard the reporting that she was talking tough in court, I knew we were in big trouble. In highly publicized cases like this, when judges talk tough, they sentence light.
“What did you expect.” My partner said to me as I was pacing around the house indignant at the lenient sentence and the reaction of the corporate media.
“I know, I know” I responded “but it’s like knowing somebody’s going to die and having it actually happen.”
“You thought you might be wrong?”
“I was hoping, hoping I might be wrong.”
But, I was not wrong. Of course, I was not wrong.
Tuesday night, Ari Melber had Melissa Murray on his show and she told a story about lecturing students. She was talking about Nixon vs. Fitzgerald. She told her students that in immunizing the president from civil suits the courts did not make him a king. He was still subject to other checks – the impeachment process, the free press, the effect on his legacy. Her students, 112 men and women learning to be lawyers, laughed at her. Well they should have. I would have laughed at her.
Murray, as much as I love her, is another of those people (like Joyce Vance, Chuck Rosenberg and others) who’s identity is bound up with believing a fairy tale. That fairy tale is that there are people with integrity who will stand up to injustice, corruption and the destruction of democracy. The fairy tale is that these people will step up and save us. They will not. We live in a society largely made up of conformists, of cowards, of people who are too timid and too comfortable to rock the boat. Their careers and their inflated salaries are more important to them than their county, democracy or justice.
Jackson said in her decision today that the truth matters. Maybe, but justice evidently does not.