R. Kelly's big fall is well deserved

Also, the FBI's role in the 1/6 riot, and what did Trump know?

Along with riches, fame and power, all men since Adam have been tempted by sex. R. Kelly, the man who sang “I Believe I Can Fly” in 1996, whose list of two dozen Grammy Awards spans three decades, was convicted of nine out of nine counts, including racketeering, violation of the Mann Act, sex with underage girls, and attempting to bribe an Illinois public aid official.

Law enforcement had been pursuing Kelly for sexual crime allegations since the early 2000s, and in 2008 he was found not guilty of child pornography charges by a Cook County jury.

The feds finally caught up to him in 2019, when he was charged with racketeering and hauled into the Brooklyn, New York U.S. District Court. Chicago is not done with Kelly either. He faces charges of fixing his 2008 trial, and four more indictments for sexual abuse; and a solicitation case in Minnesota.

The New York Times raised a valid question: if R. Kelly has been dogged by tales of abuse since the 1990s, why did it take three decades for him to get punished?

I think we can discuss the details of the answers for a long time, and cite the experiences of women (and men) abused by the rich and powerful—and the famous. It comes down to all three temptations. Perhaps, as some assert, it was an assault on Black culture that these accusations were made back years ago. Perhaps these were just accepted perks of stardom.

But I think it’s really the fact that fans of the famous tend to look the other way, and the abused tend to face shame, threats, and, of course, receive money in exchange for their silence.

Anyways, it’s decidedly good news that the #MeToo movement has seemed to turn a corner on race, sex, money, fame and power being a shield against punishment for years of habitual, planned, and systematized abuse. Amen!

R. Kelly faces the possibility of life in prison, and he deserves every day of it for the decades of crimes he’s been convicted of committing. In a roundabout manner, this brings me to a broader point on crime and punishment. I’ve never been a fan of “three strikes” laws. It seems a cheap way for politicians to “clean up the streets” and appear to be a staunch “law and order” officials. It takes little thought and delivers guaranteed results.

That three small robberies or the theft of a bicycle would get the same punishment as years of abuse, or a murder, seems to violate the basic premise of justice, that the punishment fit the crime. We do not mete out sentences for the sake of quantity, to simply whisk people away to prison because they’ve fulfilled some magic quota of “bad stuff.” But those laws equate justice with some notion of repetition as crime in itself. They are horrible and their victims are frequently the convicted.

Punishment should be a deterrent, and therefore should be sufficient to make anyone think twice before acting on the impulse for crime. In the case of the rich and famous, it has always worked the other way. They got away with it, with a wink and a nod and sometimes even admiration. At worst, when exposed, the celebrity class lost their panache, or their jobs, but not their freedom. Not until Bill Cosby—and at his age it was barely a deterrent at all—was there some kind of real accountability for sexual crime for those hiding behind a gilded shield.

I’d rather see every three-strikes non-violent criminal released from prison and replaced with the R. Kellys of the world, who have used their fame and power as leverage to destroy the lives of young women (and men!). Let the predators serve those long years.

A few more convictions and maybe the message will be received by Hollywood producers whose profligate use of the “casting couch” has been an industry standard for far too long. Some more prosecutions and maybe the thug culture and those rappers who love to brag about their own conquests would reconsider what they’re promoting.

Juries and witnesses should feel empowered to protect the innocent, or at least to protect the weak from the strong and nigh invincible of the rich and famous celebrity class. The bigger they are, let them fall even harder.


How the Proud Boys was infiltrated by an FBI informant on Jan 6

The New York Times ran a story Monday about an FBI informant marching with the Proud Boys on January 6th.

In the middle of an unfolding melee that shook a pillar of American democracy — the peaceful transfer of power — the bureau had an informant in the crowd, providing an inside glimpse of the action, according to confidential records obtained by The New York Times. In the informant’s version of events, the Proud Boys, famous for their street fights, were largely following a pro-Trump mob consumed by a herd mentality rather than carrying out any type of preplanned attack.

I do want the Congressional Special Committee on January 6th to complete its investigation, to follow the money, subpoena the records, to hear testimony, and get to the bottom of the events that nearly knocked American democracy to the bloody mat early this year.

I believe this is what they’ll find, when all the dust settles.

Then-President Donald Trump won’t be directly tied to any of planning of the attempted insurrection. Whether he wanted it to succeed or not is a matter of opinion, and is also a Rorschach test. Trump supporters will never believe their man was behind an attempt to suborn and overturn the Constitutional process governing the succession of elected executive power in America. Trump enemies will never believe he wasn’t behind it.

But Trump didn’t believe in using email. He rarely recorded conversations (except when others did). He was circumspect in making direct requests that could be interpreted as conspiratorial. He used indirect pressure, public statements, his online presence, and promises of praise to get people to do his bidding. It’s always been difficult to follow any useful audit trail of Trump’s intentions since they are all filtered through others’ perceptions.

I’m as certain as I can be that if Trump got his way, and Vice President Pence violated the Constitution on January 6th, and somehow, through the most unlikely and illegal means, Trump remained in office, he would have taken power without a second thought. I’m also fairly certain that Trump harbored no actual illusion this would occur. He knew that he had lost, and that the scenario he called “rigged” was simply the playing out of the mail-in voting behavior of Democrats. Trump himself spoke it when he predicted he’d win on Election Day, then lose three or four days later.

Trump knew how this would play out if he lost, but he thought he would hang on and win. The election was not as close as his actual win in 2016, but it wasn’t a drubbing by Joe Biden either. The election was close.

January 6th was a grifter’s grift. It was the last gasp of any remaining means with the tinge of law (which had been exhausted) to prevent Joe Biden from taking office, and a perfect time to gather the true believers to Washington D.C. It was an event where Trump and others got to whip up their crowd, and then Trump went back to the Oval Office to wait and see what they would do.

The FBI was no stranger to the groups that gathered on January 6th. They knew the Proud Boys would show up, and they had their undercover man with the group. They also likely knew all about the Stop the Steal movement, the websites, and the money flowing in.

Over 500 people are now charged with felonies for the riot on January 6th. Most of these people were caught up in an unplanned action, meaning they had no idea they’d end their day with an illegal romp through the Capitol, fighting police, pushing and being pushed through doorways they had no business stepping into, and in some cases, striding around the Senate floor, or sitting in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s chair.

Some of the planners were there at the Capitol specifically to cause mayhem. But most were there to attend a rally and hear the president speak. They thought maybe he could pull another rabbit out of his hat and prove actual election interference. It didn’t happen—it won’t happen—but the people who heard Trump believed nobody else was listening.

The records describing the informant’s account of Jan. 6 — excerpts from his interviews and communications with the F.B.I. before, during and after the riot — dovetail with assertions made by defense lawyers who have argued that even though several Proud Boys broke into the Capitol, the group did not arrive in Washington with a preset plot to storm the building.

Frankly, it frosts my butt to hear that over 500 people will probably do jail time for attending the rally and getting caught up in something a few people actually planned, while some of those few people were probably also cooperating with the FBI to pin it on the 500 who didn’t plan it.

The dark mood started three weeks after the riot when it suddenly emerged that Enrique Tarrio, the group’s leader, had himself worked as an F.B.I. informant well before he joined the Proud Boys.

Mr. Tarrio was not at the Capitol on Jan. 6, having been ordered by a local judge to stay away from Washington after his arrest days earlier on charges of illegally possessing ammunition magazines and burning a Black Lives Matter banner after a pro-Trump rally in December. He is currently serving a five-month sentence on the charges.

That’s not justice.

The FBI knew of and had links to the Proud Boys and other groups planning to attend the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. They had embedded informants and other information sources in those groups. They could have pulled the alarm bell and caused more stern action that day, while the National Guard was held back, and Capitol and Park Police were planning for a rather well-behaved crowd.

The fact the FBI didn’t sound any alarm is either due to there being no alarm to sound—that the groups who planned the mayhem weren’t on the FBI’s radar; or it’s because the FBI and the Proud Boys and others didn’t themselves feel that sense of alarm. It could be that the events simply got out of hand as things developed.

Either way, it’s not justice for the leaders and informants to get off with a hand slap, while others have their entire lives ruined and those people had no idea of the magnitude of their crimes, or that they weren’t just following the instructions of their president.

But nobody will be able to tie it directly to Trump.

I know I have an unpopular opinion here, but I think that every single 1/6 rioter who didn’t damage property and has expressed remorse for their actions should be released, and have all charges dropped. I think perhaps a dozen or so deserve prison, and some of those are the very people the FBI cut deals with.

I think we need to begin to heal, and that needs to start with the federal government calling off the legion of Inspector Javerts, and have people who marched on the Capitol, even entered it, return to their lives. For those few dozen who planned mayhem, throw the book at them, pick it back up, and throw it again.

The deterrent to another January 6th is for voters to remove from office every politician who refuses to condemn the actions of the president who helped incite the crowd, the planners, funders, and then main actors who led the crowd. They should all go. Every last one of them. No dog whistles. No informal connections, no funds. Any link should disqualify them from office.

The FBI knew all about what was planned about January 6th. They didn’t raise an alarm. For the president to have planned the insurrection, under the nose of the FBI that worked for him, without raising the alarm at all, would be the act of someone with super powers. Either Trump is a subtle genius, more subtle than James Bond, or he was as he’s always been, a hopeful, opportunist grifter playing the hand in front of him. It can’t be both.


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