Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: July 2019

Celebrity Fascism in America

I am so not impressed with news people and pundits coming forward lately to condemn Donald Trump. I’m trying to figure out where have they been? Were they in America in 1989 when Trump insisted that the innocent Central Park 5 should be put to death?

Trump’s 1989 Ad in the New York Daily News
Credit: Photograph: NY Daily News Archive

Were they in America in 2008 when Trump insisted that President Barack Obama was not an American-born citizen? Where were they in 2016 when he attacked Sen. John McCain? Where were they when he signed an Executive Order banning Muslims from entering the country?

The Media Embraced Trump

Yes, they were here. In fact, it was the media that gave Donald Trump his celebrity status as a Presidential contender. They turned Donald Trump into “just another candidate.” Trump was someone they knew – a television celebrity. The media respects Trump, much like Roger Ailes (his good friend) or Harvey Weinstein. According to writer Will Bunch, one study found that in 2015, Trump’s total airtime on network TV was 234 minutes. Compare that to just 10 minutes for Bernie Sanders. All the while, mainstream media maintained that Trump is not a fascist, and fascism could never happen here.

Yet, here we are. Not without warning. There were numerous writers who called the Donald out as an American-made celebrity fascist. For example, in July 2016, in the New Yorker Magazine, Adam Goplik pointed out that:

““Trump is unstable, a liar, narcissistic, contemptuous of the basic norms of political life, and deeply embedded among the most paranoid and irrational of conspiracy theorists. . . . he came to politics as a racist, a proponent of birtherism.”

We All Knew He Was A Celebrity Fascist

I can hardly believe that anyone else really, genuinely did not know that Trump has “a scheming mind, attuned very well to the ways in which hatred and intolerance can be manipulated.” His advocacy against the Central Park 5, his shrill birtherism slurs against Barack Obama were mere precursors to his recent attacks on the Squad and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Indeed, people in New York were not under any illusions about who and what Trump is. In the past week, government officials around the world have acknowledged that they are not under any illusions about Trump’s threat to the world as a proponent of fascist ideas. The horrific chants in North Carolina on July 17, 2019 forced world leaders to come clean with their real views about Trump’s racist regime. They recognize celebrity fascism in America.

Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

In 2016, in the wake of the presidential election, I wrote a piece entitled “Will He Keep His Promises?” Unfortunately, the answer 35 months later is “yes, he will, and yes, he is.

Celebrity Fascism Steals the Show

Donald Trump is a veteran entertainer. He likes nothing more than stealing the show. Donald Trump is very good at stealing the show, having been mentored by media moguls like Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon. So, every time he is threatened by bad news, he takes to Twitter and steals the show with outrageous tweets. Our attention is thus, not on the funding of inhumane concentration camps by the federal government, but rather on his ridiculous tweets.

SO what exactly did Rep. Elijah Cummings do to trigger Trump? Elijah Cummings is the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. According to one investigator, Elijah Cummings “is probably the single most dangerous person to Trump” in this post-Mueller era.

The Oversight Committee has successfully won the right in court to subpoena Trump’s financial records from his accountant. The Committee plans to issue subpoenas for emails and texts that high-level White House officials sent on personal accounts discussing official business – subpoenas that apply to Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. So Trump attacks Elijah Cummings (and an entire city) to deflect attention from an investigation that threatens to unmask his administration, his fraud and his family.

As we struggle against celebrity fascism in America, we must remember 3 very important lessons:’

  1. this period that writer Andrew Wood describes as catastrophic poverty, wealth inequality, and environmental degradation that has engulfed Ameria started long before Donald Trump decided to run for President;
  2. Trump is a master manipulator and his attacks on other elected officials for standing up to his immoral actions – such as incarcerating immigrants and using the government to enrich himself and his family – are designed to distract attention from the underlying atrocities and illegal actions that he is engaged in;
  3. last but not least, “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

Pelosi v. The People

Nancy Pelosi’s Purple Manolo heels, Pride Day SF 2019.
Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

OMG, I love those shoes. Too bad, Nancy Pelosi stepped in so much SH-T wearing these beautiful purple shoes. These are the shoes Pelosi was wearing the day she trashed the Squad in an interview with NY Times Reporter, Maureen Dowd.

On July 6, 2019, Pelosi dissed the Squad big time. According to Pelosi, “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

What triggered Pelosi was the Squad’s courageous opposition to a Senate bill to fund Trump’s concentration camps. Pelosi rejected the Squad’s call for stronger protections for migrant children in the overcrowded border shelters and passed the bill. She clearly capitulated to Trump and Mitch McConnell. No doubt, she was embarrassed by the national news coverage of “her striking defeat” and the Squad’s public exposure of the conditions in the camps.

I think the story that really pissed Pelosi off, though, was the Huff Post article: “What The Hell is Nancy Pelosi Doing?”

The Tip of the Iceberg

Unfortunately, Nancy’s nasty step in those awesome purple shoes was not the first attack on the Squad. It started in January with Ilhan Omar and the Congressional attempts to censure her. Then, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership aligned with Trump to suppress any suggestion that Israel’s racist oppression of the Palestinian people might become part of the conversation in Washington. As VOX pointed out, Omar’s defenders “argued that she [was] being attacked in bad faith as a Muslim woman of color who dares to criticize Israel.” We all know it is absolute heresy in Washington to criticize Israel. We all know that Israel is “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” Right? Rep. Omar apparently did not get the memo.

It appears that the Democrats are intent on taking down each member of the Squad, including Omar, AOC, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. The party machine is highly upset that AOC took out Rep. Joe Crowley. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is still likely embarrassed that it supported the white man that Ayanna Pressley defeated last summer. He was another long-serving Democratic incumbent who the people booted out. Pressley’s comment about “black faces that don’t want to be a black voice” probably hit a little too close to home for some long-serving CBC members.

Let’s face it – these are some badass sisters who are all about kicking a** and taking names. These upstart youngsters are clearly making more positive news than Pelosi has in decades. And, they are rallying the Democratic base in ways that she never has. This is not how Washington is supposed to work. Hence the backlash.

Pelosi v. The People

What is really disturbing, however, about Pelosi’s attacks are that she had to know she was in essence “colluding” with Trump. He is rabidly xenophobic, racist and sexist. Pelosi opened the door for Trump to attack the Squad. She facilitated it in February and had to know it would be repeated in July. Every member of the Squad has received death threats. Pelosi’s rebuke of Trump in more recent days does little to assuage the perception that Pelosi is “in bed” with the Republicans.

Notably, the sisters in the Squad were not the only ones that called out the Dems’ complicity with Trump. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls the measure “a betrayal of our American values.” It warned Pelosi that “[W]hat happened today is unacceptable, and we will not forget this betrayal.” The 90-member Congressional Progressive Caucus also issued a scatching rebuke of Pelosi’s work to pass the bill. So, it turns out that Pelosi’s attempt to isolate the Squad as outliers is neither appropriate nor accurate.

The Wrong Answer

“If the left doesn’t think I’m left enough, so be it, she said, breezily” to Maureen Dowd.  Well, Ms. Pelosi, that’s the wrong answer. Right now, the Democratic Party is in crisis because the old guard is too dismissive of bold progressives like the Squad. Like our own Barbara Lee.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Hakeem
Jeffries and Barbara Lee at a press conference on April 28, 2017.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We have not forgotten that Rep. Barbara Lee should have been the first Black woman to hold a leadership position as the Chair of the Democratic Caucus. Instead, Congressional Democrats selected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, an advocate for charter schools and admirer of Ronald Reagan. Pelosi’s decision to create a new position for Lee does not make it any less insulting to Black women that we are not considered “good enuf” to lead.

Pelosi’s actions to prevent Trump’s impeachment this year brought to mind Abraham Lincoln. Historians concede that Lincoln’s main goal was not to free the slaves but to maintain the union at all costs. In fact, Lincoln was prepared to protect slavery in order to maintain the nation. It seems that Pelosi is willing to accept violations of our moral and/or constitutional standards to maintain unity in Congress at all costs. Like Lincoln, I imagine that her efforts will fail.

Is Pelosi The Next Joe Crowley?

Congressional Democrats are feeling very threatened, for good reason. In most places, Democratic incumbents are selected by the party machine, and not by the people. As I noted last year, their “elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.” Hence, Pelosi v. The People is a real statement as the progressive movement reflects the sentiments of local activists not aligned with the Democratic Party.

Here, at home, Pelosi faces an authentic challenger in Shahid Buttar. He is an immigrant of Pakistani descent and a Stanford-educated lawyer. Shahid is an activist for LGBTQ rights, sane environmental policies, immigrant rights, campaign reform and the peace and Occupy movements. His well-written Op-Ed piece on why Trump should be impeached has been widely publicized.

This is his second challenge to Pelosi’s seat. Last time, he started late, came from nowhere and got less than 10% of the vote. This time, if the Republicans run a candidate, he might survive the primary.

Pelosi currently appears invincible in her SF District. If she continues to step in sh-t, that could change. Even if she does it in those beautiful purple (and very expensive) shoes. STAY WOKE!

Only 16 Votes

Credit: Gabriella Angotti-Jones for The New York Times

Tiffany Caban’s Election – Part 1

Tiffany Caban is losing her election to Queens District Attorney by only 16 votes. Only 16 votes could decide the race. The criminal justice system in Queens impacts 2.4 million people. The race highlights the dangers of “provisional ballots” and the power of absentee ballots.

Election officials initially tossed out an estimated 2,500 provisional ballots. Some people registered too late to vote in the primary election. Others moved and did not re-register in time. Some voters forgot to sign and swear they were registered Democrats. On the flip side, usually the most reliable and conservative voters cast absentee ballots. Absentee voters vote early and those votes usually decide the race. That conventional wisdom may prove true in Queens.

What’s At Stake in Queens

Tiffany Caban’s race for District Attorney has captured the attention of the nation. Her story, in case you missed it, is an original American story. She’s young, a mere 31 years old, of Puerto Rican descent, a former Public Defender and the first in her family to graduate from college. Bringing all of her real life and world experience, she put together a broad coalition of progressives, formerly incarcerated folks, sex workers and undocumented immigrants.

New York based Working Families Party, Real Justice PAC, Color of Change, Our Revolution and Democrats for Socialist America (DSA) also supported Tiffany. Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krashner, Singer John Legend, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former NY gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon and the New York Times newspaper all endorsed Tiffany.

Only 1 major labor union endorsed Tiffany Caban.

According to the New York Times, the Queens District Attorney’s office is woefully out of step with the community it serves. The office features high racial disparities in prosecutions and routine violations of the right to counsel. It has no dedicated unit to address wrongful convictions and no oversight of abusive landlords.

Who is Melinda Katz?

Melinda Katz, Tiffany’s opponent, is an established player in New York politics. Melinda has been the Queens Borough President for 6 years. She will be termed out when her term expires in 2021. She is running for her 6th elected office in 25 years. In her long political career she has not shown any interest in criminal justice reform. She has not led any challenges to mass incarceration in New York.

In 1995, Melinda voted as a member of the New York State Assembly to reinstate the death penalty. On the City Council, she voted to increase penalties for low-level offenses and create a new category of crime (gang recruitment). She also favors increased police surveillance in city schools. Every elected member of Congress from New York except one, and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed Melinda.

Not surprising, big labor unions like SEIU, Teamsters, Firefighters and the building trades all support Melinda Katz. Melinda has no courtroom experience even though she is a lawyer. Her last real gig was as a lobbyist for real estate clients at Greenberg Taurig. The firm has a scandalous history, including a$7.6 million fine in 2006 levied by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to settle allegations that the firm helped cover up a bank’s financial misconduct. Greenberg is also Rudy Giuliani, former NY mayor and current Trump surrogate’s old law firm.

The Democratic Party Favorite

Here’s how one local writer described Melinda’s ties to the Queens Democratic Party:

Katz has also cemented her ties to the Queens Democratic Party, which is often criticized as one of the last bastions of calcified political power in the city. The Party protects and promotes its own and, in any race, brings to bear a large cadre of local, state, and national elected officials that originated from its ranks or owe it some allegiance, as well as the allies of those officials, other local party officials like members of the state committee, political club members, and others.

The Queens Democratic Party was previously headed by Congressional representative-turned-lobbyist Joe Crowley, who lost to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has been fundraising for Katz.”

According to one commentator, Melinda Katz ran on the traditional campaign of fear and racism. As she notes, “Law-and-order feminists have long used the idea of professional white women’s safety and reputation against young women activists of color.” Yet, she’s ahead by only 16 votes.

The Wrong Side of History

In August 2018, Shaun King lamented the absence of the Democratic Party in the fight for criminal justice reform. He asked “Does the Democratic Party really care about black people or do they just want our votes?”

The reality, reflected in the Queens DA race, is that the Democratic Party is very much present. On the wrong side of history. This was obvious in the 2018 Alameda County District Attorney race. According to the local Democratic Party Chair, Robin Torello, incumbent DA Nancy O’Malley “fights for our Democratic values of justice, equality and civil rights everyday.”

Credit: Pamela Price for District Attorney 2018

Every one of O’Malley’s answers are inconsistent with the California Democratic Party platform. Nonetheless, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee, the Sierra Club and Senator Kamala Harris all endorsed O’Malley. After that, less than 100 days after winning re-election with financial and logistical support from the Democratic party machine, O’Malley endorsed the anti-choice Republican candidate for State Assembly over a Democrat. Fortunately, the Republican lost her seat.

Only 16 Votes

I pray that Tiffany Caban can get at least 17 more votes. Still, the hard lesson for progressives is that we have to “flip” the party. We have a chance to do just that in Alameda County in March 2020. If you are not a registered Democrat, you must re-register and do it early.

One estimate is that a million independent voters (registered as “no party preference”) in California risk not being able to vote for president or local Democratic party representatives in the March primary. In other words, independents who want to change the status quo in March 2020 best re-register to vote as a Democrat. You can change it back later.

In California, the drop dead date to re-register to vote by mail in the primary is January 15, 2020. So, you can only vote by mail for local Democratic party officials if you are a registered Democrat by January 15, 2020. If you want to vote in person, the final date to re-register to get a Democratic ballot is February 17, 2020.

Across the country, we see this is where “the petal meets the metal.” We really need everyone to “#DEM-ENTER” ASAP.

If you can please help Tiffany pay for the recount in the Queens DA race, go to her webpage at cabanforqueens.com and make a contribution. Tiffany is a corporate-free candidate.

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