Thursday, February 28, 2019

The .50-caliber Kevlar vest:
Cohen testifies on Capitol Hill

MICHAEL DEAN COHEN testified before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday and called President* Donald Trump everything but a child of God. This was more or less expected; Cohen and The Don parted ways as friends and colleagues a long time ago.

But the depth of detail Cohen offered the committee’s interlocutors into the workings of TrumpWorld was stunning, with an unprecedented scope and scale to his revelations. Cohen, who twice delayed his appearance in Congress, might take an occasional look under his car over the next few months.

Cohen, who once famously said that he would “take a bullet” for Trump, spent more than eight hours in the unusual position of firing back at the man he worked for for almost a decade, with full-throated responses to barbed questions asked by members of the House committee. Cohen replicated his previous role as bullet magnet, only this time he was dealing with the rhetorical artillery of truculent Republican congressmen and women deeply pissed off.

But it all started with Cohen reading 20 pages of prepared remarks that laid the man bare, and offered to the public what may well be the proverbial smoking gun of a document, the one that may directly implicate the president of the United States in a documented violation of campaign finance laws. Even the excerpts of that 20-page salvo are powerful in themselves. Candor, even in small doses, can be a weaponizing thing.

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“He is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat. ...

“Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.”

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation – only to market himself, and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’ “He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign — for him — was always a marketing opportunity.”

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IN QUICK ORDER, Cohen tried to navigate the indelible Howard Baker question: What did Trump know and when did he know it?

“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes. ...

“Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails. In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’ ... ”

“It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes. I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. ...”

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Then, on to the matter of hush money paid to adult film star Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels):

“I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1, 2017 – when he was President of the United States – pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me – the word used by Mr. Trump’s TV lawyer -- for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year – while he was President. ...

“The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.”

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THEN, OF COURSE, there was the matter of the genesis of the relationship with certain people from Russia ...

“Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, “Dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

“Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father’s desk – which in itself was unusual. People didn’t just walk behind Mr. Trump’s desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: ‘The meeting is all set.’ I remember Mr. Trump saying, ‘OK good…let me know.’ ”

Monday, February 25, 2019

Blackface history month

They stand side by side in the grainy photograph, facing the stark, blinding full-on light of a camera flash: the grinning stereotype and the hooded enforcer, two antagonists posing for a picture in a kum ba yah meet & greet from the bizzarro world.

The dapper grinning gent on the left is a white man wearing stage makeup or shoe polish, chocolate syrup or any number of other, temporary agents with which to darken his face. The person on the right is dressed as a full-hooded member of the Ku Klux Klan.

The photo is from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page of Ralph S. Northam, who is now the Democratic governor of Virginia. Northam is either one figure in the photo or the other. He claims not to remember which one he is. ...

Read the full essay at The Omnibus @ Medium

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Liam Neeson and the Outrage Age

WHEN YOU first heard it, it sounded as if Liam Neeson was offering an expression of life imitating art, speaking in an outtake from any of his Taken trilogy or Gangs of New York, or from Non-Stop or The Commuter, or a scene from his latest film, Cold Pursuit: the famed Oscar-nominated Irish actor as the bludgeoning avenger, the everyman prowling the streets, seeking justice — or at least vengeance.

But Leeson’s admission in a Feb. 4 interview with The Independent, was a deeply personal one, and all too real. The actor said that some 40 years ago while living in Northern Ireland, he was told by a friend that she’d recently been raped. “I asked: Did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person.”

Thus marginally informed, Neeson apparently wandered the streets brandishing a club and looking for a person of color, identity unknown. He told The Independent: “I did it for maybe a week, hoping some black bastard would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could ... kill him.” ...

Read more at Geeks

Image credit: Neeson: ABC News.
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