The Comey hearing

The Comey hearing (June 8th 2017) was when James Comey first appeared before the Senate after being fired as FBI Director by US President Donald Trump. Trump admitted he fired Comey because of the Russiagate investigation, which was (and still is) looking into possible secret ties between Trump’s people and Russia, both before and after the 2016 election.

What Comey confirmed:

  • Trump asked for his loyalty.
  • Trump secretly asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser.
  • Comey kept memos of his meetings with Trump, writing down what was said right after each meeting.

What Comey said in addition about Trump and the Russiagate investigation:

  • He kept memos because he did not trust Trump to tell the truth. He did not feel the need to do that with Presidents Obama or Bush.
  • After being fired, he leaked a memo to a friend in New York, a Columbia Law School professor, so that news of it would get into the press and lead to the appointment of an independent investigator. Robert Mueller was so appointed. Comey has complete confidence in him.
  • Comey was “stunned” when Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation, but does not know if it amounts to obstruction of justice. That is for Robert Mueller to determine.
  • When Trump asked him to drop the Flynn investigation, he phrased it as “I hope” – yet cleared the room before informing Comey of his “hopes”. Comey took it as a command, not a wish. He disobeyed it since the president has no right to tell the FBI to drop an investigation.
  • Comey told Trump that he was not personally under investigation, but refused to say so publicly, as Trump wanted (he had asked Comey to “lift the cloud”). The investigation was not over and so Trump was not yet in the clear.
  • Comey turned over his memos to Mueller, so they are now part of the Russiagate investigation.
  • No one from US intelligence asked him to stop the Russiagate investigation.
  • Comey is very sure that Russia hacked the election and tried to affect the outcome. All that is in doubt is whether Trump’s people worked with the Russians.
  • Obama talked to him at great length about Russian hackers, while Trump never even brought it up.

The most disturbing piece is that last one: it seems that either Trump knew or does not care.

Obstruction of justice is what brought down Nixon in Watergate. “The cover-up is worse than the crime,” as they say.

Trust: Of course, all of this is only Comey’s side of the story, even if it is stated under oath. But Trump is such a huge liar I trust Comey way more.

The press: While Comey did note that some reports in the press have been way off, in the main it seems to me they have got it right. Whatever Trump Derangement Syndrome or “media hysteria” they may suffer from, it has not impaired their judgement too much.

– Abagond, 2017.

Update (June 13th): Since the hearing, Trump and his people have denied that he is a liar, that he ever asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation or asked Comey for his loyalty. Trump accused Comey of perjury and leaking. When asked if he is willing to testify about his side of the story under oath, Trump said “100%”.

Today, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, appeared before the Senate. Like Trump, he is also strangely incurious about Russians hacking the election: he says he has never received a briefing on it nor asked for one. 

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Note: The following is based on my understanding of chapters two and three of “The Destruction of Black Civilization” (1987) by historian Chancellor Williams. I want a summary that I can look back at later.

Chancellor Williams divides the Nile Valley into:

  • Lower Egypt – the Nile Delta, north of Memphis and the great pyramids.
  • Upper Egypt – Egypt upriver from the Delta. At its heart, and at the root of Black history itself: the city of Thebes.
  • Nubia – the Nile south of the First Cataract, the point beyond which sea-going ships cannot pass.

The past 6,017 years:

  • In -4000 Egypt, then called Chem, was Black. Asians begin to move into Lower Egypt in large numbers. In time it becomes like another country.
  • In -3100 Black Africa now begins just south of the Delta. Lower Egypt is now mainly Asian and Afro-Asian, becoming largely brown. Menes takes over both Upper and Lower Egypt making them into one Egypt. In the name of brotherhood he puts into place a policy of integration: everyone is Egyptian regardless of colour. Non-Blacks take advantage of this. They move into Upper Egypt in large numbers and move up in society to take high positions of power. Egypt, though, will remain largely Black for at least the next 750 years, “the most glorious pages in the history of the black world.” This was when the great pyramids and the Sphinx were built, when Egyptian civilization took shape and reached its heights.
  • In -2133 Black Africa now begins at the First Cataract, in Nubia. Egyptians now see themselves as neither Black like Nubians nor White like Asians, but something in between.
  • In the -600s Nubia takes over Egypt. But its success is short-lived and makes clear that Egypt is now lost to Black civilization.
  • In the +600s Arabs take over Egypt, soon to reach its present levels of brownness.
  • In 2017 Black Africa begins with what we now call South Sudan. The ancient land of Nubia has become the largely Arab and brown nation of Sudan. The civil war in which South Sudan won its independence is part of a process that goes back thousands of years.

Race consciousness: It seems like Williams is reading his own US race consciousness back into history. But it is not as simple as that: he knows, for example, that classical Greek and Roman writers were not race conscious: they knew Egyptians had darker skin but made little of it.

Race consciousness in Egypt was created by Asians. Williams:

“The melting pot of the races began around the northern perimeter. The end result was always the same: The Blacks were pushed to the bottom of the social, economic and political ladder whenever and wherever the Asians and their mulatto offsprings gained control. This scheme of weakening the Blacks by turning their half-white brothers against them cannot be overemphasized because it began in the early times and it became the universal practice of whites, and is still one of the cornerstones in the edifice of white power.”

– Abagond, 2017.

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This went to #9 on the US R&B chart in 1974. It is a cover of a British hit by Sunny. The record company told Douglas that she “sounded great, but too black.” Despite that it sold a million copies worldwide, 30% of them in metropolitan New York alone.

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Hiya honey
It’s me I want to see the doctor today
“Cos ever since you’ve been gone
I’ve had a pain deep down inside
He said, there’s nothing really wrong with me
I’m just missing my man, so honey
Please, come on home as soon as you can

Doctor’s orders say, there’s only one thing for me
Nothing he can do ‘cos only you can cure me
Says in my condition love’s the best physician
He’s prescribed a potion full of warm emotion
Every day a lovin’ spoonful to be taken
It’s the only way to stop this empty heart of mine from breakin
Won’t get better till you’re back again
He told me, doctor’s orders need your loving arms to hold me
Darling, now I know there ain’t no doubt about it
I’m so hooked on your love, I can’t live without it
You’re away but please don’t treat me like a stranger
Doctor’s orders say, one kiss from you and I am out of danger

“Please say you understand how I feel honey
I know you’ve got a lot of things on your mind
Oh, but I’m missing you so bad
Please, oh please, come on home”

Doctor’s orders say, there’s only one thing for me
Nothing he can do ‘cos only you can cure me
Says in my condition love’s the best physician
He prescribed a potion full of warm emotion
Now I know there ain’t no doubt about it

Source: OldieLyrics, Wikipedia.

a 1949 media diet?

For August 2017 I am thinking of going on a 1949 media diet. That means all books, newspaper and magazine articles I read, all music I listen to, and all the films and television shows I watch must be from the year 1949 or before. Back in 1949, nearly everyone was on a 1949 media diet, just as now nearly everyone is on a 2017 media diet.

Content matters, not the form of delivery. Since I do not live in 1949, I will have to use the 2017 infrastructure to get at the older content: DVDs, YouTube videos, Google searches, translations, compilations, etc. That will probably mean seeing some ads from 2017.


  • Books: Read at least four.
  • Magazines: ???
  • Music and radio: AOL Radio’s 1940s oldies station. If possible, listen to some of the radio shows from 1949, like, oh, “Amos & Andy”.
  • Film: One 1949 film each Saturday. There seem to be plenty of old films you can watch for free on YouTube. That is how I watched “Pinky”, which is from 1949.
  • Television: I am not sure if there are any old television shows on YouTube. If not, I will go without watching television. Not a big deal since most people did not have television in 1949.
  • News: I will not be able to keep up on the 2017 news, though some of it is bound to reach me by word of mouth. If possible, I will try to keep up on the news for August 1949.

Two exceptions: This blog and anything I need for work. If two or more commenters request a post-1949 topic, then I will break my diet, but only for doing research for that post.

H.G. Wells English: I will write posts in H.G. Wells English. I mean that in two senses: First, I will only use words, spellings and names for things found in H.G. Wells, in particular his books:

  • 1895: The Time Machine
  • 1896: The Island of Doctor Moreau
  • 1897: The Invisible Man
  • 1898: The War of the Worlds
  • 1901: The First Men on the Moon
  • 1920: The Outline of History

Second, I will write in what I call science fiction mode: I will have to make clear the meaning of any word not found in those books, just as Wells had to make clear what a Morlock was in “The Time Machine”.

I am not a fan of his prose style, so I will not take it that far.

In theory, though, anyone who has read and understood those books should have no trouble reading and understanding the posts I write in August 2017.

Why 1949? It was an “ordinary” year when my mother was alive and I was not, so it is in that strange shadowland between my own life and straight history. Film noir adds to the effect. It was also when Orwell’s “1984” came out, one of my favourite books.

At this stage I am just thinking out loud. If and when the time comes, I will post a Programming Note laying out just what I will do.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Malik Ambar

Malik Ambar in the 1620s.

Malik Ambar (1548-1626) was a slave from Ethiopia who became a military commander and kingmaker in India, fighting against the Mogul Empire. He founded Aurangabad, now a city of over a million people. Many in India who have heard of him do not know he was Black.

The African Diaspora in Asia: Today there are Black people in Iraq, Iran and India whose families have been there for hundreds of years. Some came as merchants or soldiers of fortune, most came as slaves traded by the Arabs.

India has the largest number, over 50,000. They are called Siddis or Habshis. Today most are Muslim and poor and live in ghettoes. They have been there since at least the 600s. Their glory days were from 1300 to 1700 when most were slave soldiers, some becoming generals, government ministers and even princes. Some married into royal families – or founded royal families of their own.

As late as 1833 there were three Black princes who ruled parts of India. And it was not till 1870 that the British defeated Janjira, founded by Blacks just down the coast from Mumbai (Bombay).

Early life: Malik Ambar was born Chapu, in Harar province in eastern Ethiopia. His parents were poor and sold him to Arab traders, who in turn sold him in Mocha, Yemen. From there he went to Baghdad in Iraq, then Iran and, in time, India. He became a Sunni Muslim.

Education: Unlike in the West, education and slavery were not a contradiction. In Iraq he learned finance and administration. In Iran he learned irrigation. In India he learned statecraft and military tactics (and came up with some of his own).

India in 1500.

Ahmednagar: He wound up in the land of Ahmednagar on the west coast of India (see map). There he served the high minister, Chengiz Khan, who was also Black. So were many in the army.

Freedom: In about 1595 Khan died and Ambar was freed. He joined the army and soon became a general.

Mogul Empire in the 1600s.

Fighting the Mogul Empire: When the capital of Ahmednagar fell to the Mogul Empire, Ambar escaped at night with his troops and broke through enemy lines. By 1610 he commanded an army of 50,000: 20% were Black and largely Muslim, 80% were Maratha and Hindu. The Mogul Empire was unable to defeat him, even when they outnumbered him. Ambar understood guerrilla tactics better than they did. He also made an alliance with Janjira, whose Black admirals cut off Mogul supplies.

He married his daughter into the royal family of Ahmednagar and put his son-in-law, Sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah II, in power. Ambar then restored the fallen kingdom.

He founded what became the city of Aurangabad, building palaces, an advanced irrigation system and so on. He was a patron of the arts, which is why we have a picture of him. And, although a Muslim, he helped to support both the Hindu and Christian religions in his realm.

After his death, Shivaji, the grandson of his right-hand man, went on to break the back of the Mogul Empire.

Ambar’s tomb, circa 2016.

Thanks to Gro Jo for suggesting this post.

– Abagond, 2017.

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Latasha Harlins

Latasha Harlins (1975-1991) was an unarmed 15-year-old Black girl in South Los Angeles who was shot in the back of the head over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. She was killed by Soon Ja Du, a Korean American shopkeeper. Du thought she was shoplifting. When police arrived they found Harlins dead – with $2.00 in her hand.

This is the “Latasha” and the “bottle of juice” in the songs of Tupac Shakur.

Empire Liquor, South Central Los Angeles, 1991. South Central was renamed South Los Angeles in 2003. Photo via scpr.org.

On Saturday March 16th 1991, less than two weeks after video came out of Los Angeles police beating up Rodney King, Harlins walked into Empire Liquor Market Deli to buy orange juice. She put the bottle in her backpack, placing it so that it was sticking out, and walked to the counter with two dollars in her hand.

Du: “You bitch, you are trying to steal my orange juice. (starts pulling Harlins’s sweater) That’s my orange juice.”

Harlins: “Let me go. Let me go.”

The video from the security camera shows Harlins hitting Du. Du falls, gets back up and throws something large (a stool) at Harlins. Harlins puts the orange juice on the counter and walks away. Du shoots her. Harlins falls.

The verdict: A trial jury found Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter and using an altered handgun. The two charges together can get you a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Judge Joyce Karlin, 1992. Via metnews.com.

Judge Joyce Karlin, who is White, said during sentencing:

“Statements by the district attorney (which) suggest that imposing less than the maximum sentence will send a message that a black child’s life is not worthy of protection, (are) dangerous rhetoric, which serves no purpose other than to pour gasoline on a fire.

“This is not a time for revenge”

“Although Latasha Harlins was not armed with a weapon at the time of her death, she had used her fists as weapons just seconds before she was shot.”

“But for the unusual circumstances in this case, including the Du family’s history of being victimized and terrorized by gang members, Mrs Du would not be here today.”

“Did Mrs Du react inappropriately to Latasha? Absolutely.

“Was Mrs Du’s over-reaction understandable? I think so.”

“[Mrs Du] led a crime-free life until Latasha Harlins walked into her store”

All but making Du the victim and Harlins the criminal. Yet even the police said that Harlins was not shoplifting. Nor was Harlins a gang member, as Karlin insinuates. She was a cheerleader, a summer camp counsellor and was active in her church.

The sentence: In November Judge Karlin sentenced Du to five years probation, 400 hours of community service and a fine of $500. Du also had to pay Harlins’s funeral and hospital expenses. No prison time.

In April 1992, a higher court upheld the light sentence.

A week later the police who beat up Rodney King walked free. Los Angeles burned for six days.

Du’s liquor store was burned down. Most of the other businesses that were hit were also Korean American.

– Abagond, 2017.

Sources: especially LA Times (1991); “The House That Race Built” (1998) edited by Wahneema Lubiano; YouTube (security camera video); Google Images (photos). 

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The video above shows The Holograms performing the song at an LA bar in 2008. For better sound quality, listen to the studio version at ReverbNation. The Holograms are an Asian American girl band from Los Angeles.

Thanks to Solitaire for suggesting this band.

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