charlie rangel

Rangel’s Birthday Party ‘Damn Sure Ain’t No Funeral’

Representative Charles Rangel celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday night, an event that many New York Democrats did their best to avoid due to the ethics charges against him. Chadwick Matlin was there.

A black man gets out of a car in front of the Plaza Hotel. An onlooker, unaware that this man is not Charlie Rangel, screams, “Happy Birthday, Chucky Boy!” It would be a sweet gesture if moments earlier he hadn’t also yelled, “Happy Birthday, Crook!”

Inside, Chucky Boy is the center of attention, making his way through the grand ballroom’s cherubs and crystal. As he approaches the stage, more supporters swarm, and he can only be seen by tracking the path of the flashbulbs.

Onstage, he grabs a microphone. “Yo!” he says. The crowd won’t shut up, so he shushes them repeatedly. Then: “I’ve been to a lot of funerals lately, but this damn sure ain’t no funeral!”

That gets him everyone’s attention, but he quickly loses it by name-checking every old friend in the room. After running out of individuals, he turns to ethnicities. “Are the Koreans in the house?” Soon after, Congressman Joseph Crowley introduces David Paterson, the evening’s master of ceremonies, as “a man who’s known trials and tribulations himself.” Embattled politicians from Harlem are not in short supply this evening.

For the next 45 minutes, Paterson invites nearly every politician in the house to get up and say a few words. The only big names who abstain are former mayor David Dinkins, who earlier in the evening fended off a heckler with some sign language, and current congressman Anthony Weiner, who made a surprise appearance after suggesting he might not make it. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: “Charlie has lived the old adage better than anyone. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Mayor Bloomberg: “A few people couldn’t be here tonight because, as they tell it, either they had to get a haircut unexpectedly, or they were sure they’d have a headache.”

Al Sharpton, speaking to the media, says, “You have started and executed the political crucifixion. But stay tuned for the political resurrection. Charlie Rangel will rise from the ashes.”

By the time Dionne Warwick gets onstage, the crowd is restless. But the first note out of her mouth puts an end to that. The cameras are rolling, and soon she has the entire room singing.

For good times, and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for.

Afterward, Rangel stands center stage while the crowd sings “Happy Birthday,” arms outstretched like a bird stretching his wings for the first time in weeks. He bows, stands up straight, and clasps his hands to his chest. Then, with his family by his side, he walks over to his birthday cake, bends over the candles, and takes a deep breath. Out go the lights.

Update: Rangel is a hell of a dancer.

Rangel’s Birthday Party ‘Damn Sure Ain’t No Funeral’
donald trump
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“There is a misconception about Trump which is American and French: saying Trump is an accident, and when Trump leaves power, everything will go back to business as usual. That’s the dream of Washington, D.C.” – @GerardAraud:
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Another entertainer-executive on the world stage

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian and political novice, scored a crushing victory over incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine’s runoff presidential vote Sunday, according to exit polls, in a resounding rebuke to the country’s political establishment.

The national exit poll, which consisted of results from a number of polling agencies, showed Zelenskiy winning 73.2 percent of the vote compared to Poroshenko’s 25.3 percent — a margin of victory of nearly 48 percentage points.

The comedian, who has promised to clean house among Ukraine’s ruling elite, will likely find fulfilling his supporters’ high expectations difficult — not the least due to his dearth of political knowledge: His only brush with Ukrainian politics has been to play the president in a popular television show called “Servant of the People.”

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Mueller’s first post-report comment: “no comment”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was caught on camera for the first time following the release of his bombshell report into Russian election interference and allegations of collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Captured by an MSNBC camera crew on the street on Sunday morning, Mueller declined to comment when asked about details regarding his report, in which he concluded there was no evidence of conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. 

An MSNBC reporter asked if Mueller would “testify before Congress” and whether Trump would be indicted if he were “anyone but the president.”

Multiple reporters lobbed questions at Mueller as he got into his car on Easter Sunday, but the former FBI director simply said “no comment.”

Mexico has become a lot less welcoming for caravans

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Some 1,300 migrants spent the night in Escuintla and were heading north to the town of Mapastepec, Chiapas. Mendoza and José arrived in Mapastepec on Saturday. They joined thousands of stranded migrants waiting to see if local authorities provide them with a temporary permit or visa to work in Mexico or whether they would continue their trip to the U.S. border.

Makes perfect sense

Asked Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani on @MittRomney statement he was “appalled” that Trump team “welcomed help from Russia”…

He called Romney a hypocrite and said “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians…it depends on where it comes from.”
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Romney is getting some delayed credit for calling attention to the threat of Russia during the 2012 presidential campaign, but…

I guess I’d be prepared to concede that Romney was prescient about Russia had he said in 2012 that the big Russian threat was that the GOP would decide to embrace complicity with Russian computer crimes in order to secure [a] partisan advantage, but that’s not how I remember it.

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McGahn’s law firm is off the Trump campaign’s payroll (in an apparent retaliation)

The Trump campaign has hired its own in-house attorney for its 2020 reelection bid — shifting future business away from Jones Day, the law firm, that has represented Trump since his first run for president. Campaign officials and advisers cast the decision to hire Nathan Groth — a former lawyer for the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — as a money-saving move, supported by the businessman-turned-president who loves to cut costs.

But close Trump advisers say the decision also stems from disappointment with the White House’s former top attorney and current Jones Day partner, Don McGahn, whose behavior has irked the president and some of his family members. Taking business away from Jones Day is payback, these advisers say, for McGahn’s soured relationship with the Trump family and a handful articles in high-profile newspapers that the family blames, unfairly or not, on the former White House counsel.

“Why in the world would you want to put your enemy on the payroll?” said one adviser close to the White House. 

Because the last strongman in Libya worked out so well, no doubt

President Trump continues to be one of the world’s biggest fan of authoritarians. From the Times:

President Trump on Friday abruptly reversed American policy toward Libya, issuing a statement publicly endorsing an aspiring strongman in his battle to depose the United Nations-backed government. The would-be strongman, Khalifa Hifter, launched a surprise attack on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, more than two weeks ago. Relief agencies said Thursday that more than 200 people had been killed in the battle, and in recent days Mr. Hifter’s forces have started shelling civilian neighborhoods.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement a few days after Mr. Hifter’s militia began its attack that “the administration at the highest levels” had made clear that “we oppose the military offensive” and “urge the immediate halt to these military operations.” Most Western governments and the United Nations have also condemned the attack and demanded a retreat.

Mr. Trump, however, told Mr. Hifter almost the opposite, the White House said Friday. …

Although this is not the first time Mr. Trump has praised an Arab strongman, his expression of support for Mr. Hifter appears to be the first time that Mr. Trump has embraced an aspiring authoritarian who is not yet in power and may never get there.

At Brookings, Jeffrey Feltman explains why nothing good will come from this:

With the White House now publicly applauding Haftar, a long, drawn-out, devastating battle over Tripoli seems inevitable. Trump has snatched leverage for diplomacy out of the United Nations’ hands. Powerful militias from the coastal city of Misrata, mobilized to defend Tripoli, and others opposed to Haftar (and ostensibly backing the internationally recognized government headed by Fayez Serraj, the authority that—warts and all—the United States and the rest of the international community has heretofore officially supported) show no signs of backing down. Given their fierce animosity to Haftar, they are unlikely to be bought off as some local militias were during Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army’s march south and then west in recent weeks. The indiscriminate nature of the fighting foreshadows the potential of widespread destruction and civilian casualties. Over 30,000 are already displaced out of a city of approximately 1.2 million inhabitants. For all of Libya’s chaos since Gadhafi’s fall in 2011, the number of civilian casualties has remained relatively modest compared to the Syrian and Yemen catastrophes. Unfortunately, that seems about to change.

As appealing as Haftar’s pose as a supposed strongman might be to an authoritarian-infatuated White House, he is not Libya’s savior. The stability he promises would rest on brute force that would incite violent opposition. Posturing as an anti-Islamist to the West, he draws on Salafi support linked to Saudi Arabia. His so-called national army includes militias and those who have committed horrific human rights abuses.

Yankees and Flyers back away from singer Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” amid racism controversy

Per CNN:

For years, baseball’s New York Yankees and hockey’s Philadelphia Flyers have played singer Kate Smith’s famous rendition of “God Bless America” during games. But those long-time traditions have been halted over allegations that other songs performed by Smith – one of America’s biggest singing stars during the early 20th century – are racist.

Smith is closely tied to the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers because she performed “God Bless America” before Flyers games in the 1970s. A year after her 1986 death, the team erected a statue in her honor outside of its arena. Now the team won’t play her version of the song during games and will cover up her statue. …

Deadline adds:

Known as the “Songbird of the South,” Smith sold tons of World War II bonds by performing ‘God Bless America’ during the 1940s. The Yankees revived it after 9/11 and have used it for the past 18 years during the traditional 7th inning stretch.

“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” said a team statement. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”

The songs in question included Smith’s 1939 version of “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” from the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals.” It was considered satire at the time and was recorded by Smith and also by Paul Robeson, a black actor and civil rights icon. Smith also sang and appeared in a video for the jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which contains racist lyrics and imagery.

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A great way to spend a Friday

Per pool: “Today the President played golf with Rush Limbaugh and a couple friends”