An album (or two) in my head 0066

album review harriet tubman and here lies man

I listened to Harriet Tubman’s latest album again — it’s crazy Deep Space Blackout, where the all-so-dope trio sees our Colson Whitehead and raises it with an ion thruster. Spaceways, Inc. is smiling all the way from Saturn. I’ve also been getting my sway on with a dancefloor-friendly release of vintage Metal, blended into Afrobeat.

harriet tubman araminta album

Harriet Tubman
Sunnyside Records

I’ve always felt — with no intended disrespect to the beloved protest hymns in current rotation — that a reimagined freedom soundtrack is due.

So listening to Araminta multiple times had me wondering if Harriet Tubman’s been harboring similar thoughts.

Blacknuss to the future was all but assured with the power trio of bassist Melvin Gibbs, drummer JT Lewis and guitarist Brandon Ross leading the journey, but the addition of award-winning trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith accomplishes something I didn’t think was possible: the music is more powerful and nuanced than ever.

Araminta connects the diasporic styles of Rock, Blues, Jazz, Dub and Electronica, sharing the stories of struggle that need to be told — and without compromise. 

Through adventurous sonic prose, the band screams, visualizes and whispers “freedom” all at once, from the blistering improvisational interplay to the tracks’ titles. Shoot, the album title came from the birth name of arguably the most famous antebellum freedom fighter in history.

Araminta’s brilliance also comes from the way it shuns the common, transactional view of history in favor of drawing a time continuum of events and icons like Selma, Chester Himes, Nina Simone, the band’s namesake, slavery and even former President Barack Obama, all the while launching their dense musical approach from the dual foundations of Blues and Free Jazz.

Electronic invocations of Hendrix, Miles, Chicago Blues and the band’s own explosive style flow through each other to assemble a single fist in salute to ancestors, the living, and seed who may someday yearn to be free.

While this isn’t a formal album review and I don’t officially publish best-of-the-year posts, I’ll still say that Harriet Tubman turned in one of the best releases of 2017.

here lies man album review

Here Lies Man
RidingEasy Records

Let’s start by dealing with the risk bands flirt with they infuse any form of West African music with other styles: creating corny-azz gimmicks.

Too many bands fail to respect the clave in these instances …

Put another way, how in the hell can you breed offspring with their Mutha and not appear ridiculous?

And I think this is one of the reasons why Here Lies Man works well — the 70s Metal guitar and Psychedelic haze the group brings to global African Roots music comes from a place of respect.

The result is an audio chemistry experiment where you’re listening to the difference between compounds, mixtures or something much worse than the latter.

Africa hasn’t created distant daughters and sons, y’know.

Here Lies Man completely gets the idea that an over-the-top effort is not required to sound genuine or achieve organic fusion.

They simply respect the clave.

The songs — where I’ll admit their riffs are stretched to the limit at times — are meant for dance floors. The furious rhythm section sees to that. Keyboard phrasing supports Afrobeat integrity, while Marcos Garcia (Antibalas) turns in some interesting vocal work. The underlying Funk remains a constant.

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While Mueller has the keys, he can make a drive-by investigation of Team Trump and that Malaysian fund scandal

jared kushner and yousef al otaiba

In addition to playing the role of World War III’s firestarter in his idiotically dangerous take on creating peace in the Middle East, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been on my radar for an additional reason: his name keeps appearing near alleged financial scoundrels in reports I’ve been reading since last summer.

This is why I’ve been hinting on various channels that while the whole Team-Trump-and-Russia election collusion accusations are hard to prove — assuming an adjacent and coherent fact concerning the whole matter exists at all — there may be stronger case to be made for obstruction of justice or money laundering.

My focus on the latter charge began with the whole idea of real estate and finance — two businesses the Trump family is deeply engaged in — being historically fertile grounds for washing money.

Like I mentioned months ago, it simply makes sense for special prosecutor Robert Mueller — whose open charter includes investigating the collusion charges — to make a drive-by investigation of an unrelated matter, and possibly strike gold.

We all know that stranger drive-bys have happened

In addition to all the reported financial transactions Kushner tried to execute with practically the same countries he has politically engaged in the Middle East peace process, there was an interesting article I read this past summer in the Malaysia Chronicle, which has since been deleted. All that remains is the headline:


1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Berhad, is a Malaysia-based sovereign investment fund that has been quite an esoteric topic among many American media consumers. That will or should change.

Here’s the abridged voodoo about the scandal: investigators from at least six governments, including the United States, suspect 1MDB stole and laundered approximately $4 billion of the Malaysian public’s money through shell companies and fake accounts across the globe to fund the luxurious lifestyles of 1MDB executives and possibly Malaysian government officials — including the fund’s founder, Prime Minister Najib Razak. Reports say that Razak received about $1 billion in wired funds through the scheme.

In addition to founding 1MDB, Razak chaired the fund’s board of advisors before stepping down. He continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Think of 1MDB as Malaysia’s Watergate.

The deleted Malaysia Chronicle piece mentioned that a Swiss-based private bank handed over 900 pages of documents that financially link United Arab Emirates ambassador to Malaysia and Silicon Valley investor, Yousef Al Otaiba, to Jho Low, a 1MDB principal.

Otaiba — considered one of the most well-connected Ambassadors in Washington — and Kushner are close friends, well as collaborators in the ongoing Middle East peace exercise. According to Politico, the two speak by phone weekly.

Any financial relationship Otaiba (allegedly) has with 1MDB would be politically toxic, and possibly criminal.

President Barack Obama’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the 1MDB scandal as “astonishing greed.” She announced a civil suit during the summer of 2016 which seeks to forfeit over $1 billion in laundered money supposedly used by the fund to acquire US assets.

President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions called 1MDB “kleptocracy at its worst,” and filed a suit this past June, seeking an additional $540 million.

But … three strange events happened.

First — President Trump invited Prime Minister Razak to visit the White House. A puzzling move, given how much life the 1MDB scandal still has globally — especially in Malaysia — and the civil proceedings initiated by the US.

Second — during their their September 12 joint press conference, the two leaders never referenced the 1MDB scandal or the Justice Department’s lawsuit.

Third — weeks after claiming the additional $540 million against 1MDB, The Justice Department suspended their lawsuit(!)

Okay, the official statement is that the Justice Department is suspending the lawsuit to avoid interfering the criminal investigation underway. They also mentioned how the criminal investigation will “take time.”

I’m no special prosecutor, but I smell game.

Why would the Justice Department suddenly suspend a civil lawsuit, only weeks after adding more than a half billion dollars to their claim?

If Mueller isn’t sniffing around 1MDB, he should. It’s worth a shot.

The longshot is he’ll find financial ties between Kushner and Otaiba. The latter’s already been linked to 1MDB, and Kushner’s no virgin to dirty money suspicions.

But there may be a bigger catch.

The strange case of Prime Minister Razak smacks of textbook obstruction of justice behavior or worse — several levels higher.

Or perhaps Mueller will ignore 1MDB altogether out of confidence that he has something even bigger in the pot to cook …

song currently stuck in my head: “undisco kidd (gay marvine edit)” – funkadelic

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Searching for Russia conspiracies everywhere — including Malta

Daphne Caruana Galizia

Here’s yet another hastily-written anti-Russia piece, presumably from THE RESISTANCE, for the sake of stoking neocon wet dreams of a new Russia boogeyman.

Ultimately, there’s plenty of money to be made in fear …

Political Dig recently published a story about the assassination of Malta investigative journalist and Panama Papers exposé contributor Daphne Caruana Galizia, but with a curious focus.

Of all the individuals. And [fake] companies the Panama Papers exposed for curious — if not shady — financial maneuvers, PoliticalDig made no general mention of who these people or corporate are, but managed to make one specific, you know, dig:

… including a revelation that Ivanka Trump helped her father [Donald Trump’s] Panama hotel venture with the help of an alleged international fraudster with ties to Russian money launderers.

It’s probably a good time for me recite my usual disclosure when I write anything about President Donald Trump and Trumpland.

I don’t believe Trump has the intellectual curiosity or mental stability required to be Commander in Chief …

But I also know a Let’s Feed Into Cold War 2.0 game when I see one.

The PoliticalDig writer seemed to leave out how the Panama Papers connected two Malta government officials in Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s administration, Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, with opening bank accounts across the globe through secret companies.

Galizia received frequent death threats as a result of the searing posts in her blog Running Commentary, where she detailed accusations of corruption within Muscat’s administration and the oligarchs supposedly connected to him.

After Galizia’s death, her children publicly demanded that Muscat resign for deliberately failing to protect the popular journalist from the hostile environment that surrounded her.

Members of Malta’s Parliament also want Muscat to resign, based on suspicions raised by the Panama Papers’ findings.

A not-so-trivial number of Malta locals suspect a connection between the Muscat allegations and Galizia’s murder.

But somehow, PoliticalDig goes straight for the “Big Bad Russia” angle.

Who knows, perhaps Russians with dirty money and Trump connections had some role in detonating the car bomb that killed Galizia. Arrests have been made; time will tell.

But the knee-jerk reaction of connecting Russia to every bad event in the world — and without thoughtful consideration of any evidence — is getting old.

And the larger risk THE RESISTANCE can potentially face with these “Russia is everywhere” stories is outrage numbness, if you feel what i’m saying …

song currently stuck in my head: “you don’t love me” – willie cobbs

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West and Coates should look East

cornel west ta nehisi coates

Can we not acknowledge that there are deep disagreements among us with our very lives and destinies at stake?

— Dr. Cornel West in Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle, Guardian, Dec. 17, 2017

Quoting Dr. Cornel West’s words seemed to be a good initial approach as I partially unpack his hit on Ta-Nehisi Coates in yesterday’s Guardian news site.

I think there are clear differences in the way many African descendants view the struggle for equality and justice.

And unlike some of you, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that.

My opinion is born from university days, when my dormitory director — an avuncular older Black woman with full-time spine of steel — concerned herself with one main goal: help to grow the leadership potential in the young predominantly Black men who resided in the dorm.

I was the dormitory president, which meant I interacted with the director — let’s call her Mama Kay for the moment — for extended periods on a near-daily basis.

My social views back then were far to the left of hers, and she made sure I knew that every time we spoke.

Her only concern was to develop strong Black men in the dorm.

Protests? “No agitation,” she said.

Colonialism in Africa? “Not my interest right now.”

Interesting response. But I’ll keep moving.

Malcolm and Martin? “Martin, and don’t bring up the other one’s name.”

While we exchanged our different points of view, her drumbeat of “Developing strong Black men in this dorm” remained steady.

How could I argue with that point?

Mama Kay and I found a way to work past our differences and help to create an environment that supported young Black men, myself included, in their journey towards leadership.

Through programs and other initiatives, we also created an environment that helped the dorm residents to explore broad viewpoints across the African Diaspora and beyond, which included inviting one of the university’s most left-leaning history professors to discuss world issues in the dorm lounge — a night where young and fiery spirits argued among themselves hours after the professor left.

My point is that opposing points of view are going to exist among African descendants, but that doesn’t mean unity can’t exist to address common goals.

I don’t recall Coates being very vocal about how President Barack Obama turned a sovereign African nation into a jihadist cesspool and did nothing after immediately learning that ethnic cleansing took place in the same country. History now shows that the “bomb to protect” citizens justification for bombing Libya was a fairytale. And then there’s that Syria problem. Plus, contrary to what Coates may think, there’s a wide gap in the world views of President Obama and Malcolm X.

But I also don’t recall Dr. West disowning his buddy Tavis Smiley for taking impoverishment loot from a bank with a reputation for predatory lending, among the institution’s other crimes against the poor. In my opinion, West should’ve cut off Minister Louis Farrakhan a long time ago — for the most obvious reasons, if you know what I mean.

I could write over a dozen posts that picks apart either Coates, Dr. West, or the people they’ve been drawn to.

But instead, I hope the two cats can unite around some common struggles. Lawd knows we have plenty …

song currently stuck in my head: “cause of it all” – howlin’ wolf

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Reimagining Black Alabama and Doug Jones’ odyssey

alabama black belt poverty

Now that the Alabama Senate election is over …

(Laughing) Well, for most of y’all

I can share some updated thoughts while weaving in Doug Jones’ upset victory over Roy Moore.

My thoughts haven’t changed, mind you.

And Lawd knows I still think the correct candidate won.

I simply did something quite deliberate in my pre-election post that isn’t typical of me: made a contrarian viewpoint without pitching a tent and spending some time to explain it.

Now is the time to dig deeper.

Let’s start with the “Black vote in Alabama put Jones in office” meme.

I’ll always give the head nod to any news about Black folks exercising the same rights the ancestors fought and established.

But all the exit polling I’ve seen for nearly ten years tells me that Black Alabama consistently shows up to vote for Democrats — IN HIGH PERCENTAGES. Here’s a 2008 snapshot example from CNN:

Alabama black voters 2008

During that same near-10-year period, there has been no change in the Black Alabama voting population as a share of the State’s voting electorate.

Black Alabama was a critical part of enabling Jones’ win but they simply did what they’ve always done: show up and vote Democrat in the 90-plus percentage range.

The big change occurred among a sufficient number of White Alabama voters, typically loyal Republicans, who voted for Jones out of an understandable disgust for the Republican Moore.

So why is the mainstream media big-upping the Alabama Black vote — hinting at a unique 2017 behavior — without telling the blatant lie that we’re weren’t just witnessing business as usual?

Not sure. I can only speculate that White Liberals are attempting to gaslight Black voters as a way to encourage the latter’s engagement in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Mind you that African American voters across the country weren’t as excited about voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it showed (or not!) in their voting participation.

So a few empty praises from The Wizard to Black Alabama for displaying powers they’ve consistently displayed could encourage broader voter engagement down the road.

I also think we need to sober up a bit more about Jones’ win: he barely beat a Negro-slavery pining, suspected child raping, religious fundamentalist zealot last Tuesday.

Put another way, a Negro-slavery pining, suspected child raping, religious fundamentalist zealot almost beat Jones last Tuesday — and came within two percentage points of doing it.

Or, a large number of White Alabama voters put THEIR GOD before their morals and almost elected a Negro-slavery pining, suspected child raping, religious fundamentalist zealot last Tuesday — and came within two percentage points of doing it.

Emphasis placed on THEIR GOD because I don’t know of any God with a desire for Moore as a statewide official.

Alabama black belt residents

While much of Alabama’s Black Belt looks like an underdeveloped nation thousands of miles away with more than a third of them testing positive for a third-world disease, candidate Doug Jones’ campaign pitch remained generic, and with a dearth of messaging specific to Black Alabama’s challenges.

Jones’ has an interesting assignment for the next two years: figure out a way to help Black and White Alabama while appearing reelectable in 2020 — and without gaslighting either side …

song currently stuck in my head: “love is on the way” – kenny bobien & jose burgos

[Photo credit: Tom Waters Photography.]

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Losing Alabama — the choice between Doug Jones and Roy Moore

Who is Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones?

Not sure if his supporters care to know much beyond the two most obvious things.

He’s not his Republican opponent, Roy Moore.

He convicted the [1963 Birmingham] church bombers.”

And there’s that ridiculous campaign piece designed to convince readers how Jones is sharp on the issues most important to Black folks, and is ready to lead. Or something.

People of color seem to often find themselves caught in this kind of game.

One where your team is playing a prevent defense while losing — and it’s not even halftime — prompting your field optics to forge an alternative vision for victory: limit the amount of future damage and keep the other team’s scoring to respectable blowout margins.

I don’t fail to see this as a remix of the 2016 presidential elections where Democrats’ messaging was built on the “Clinton isn’t Trump” premise.

But in fairness, Democrats haven’t been this close to winning an Alabama Senate seat in years, and no one has yet accused Jones of preying on teenage girls.

My problem is what I don’t see when I visit Doug Jones’ campaign website: ANYTHING.

There is a disturbingly scarce amount of specific mention regarding issues unique to Alabama. I saw one, perhaps, which dealt with healthcare.

His priorities, as he calls them, could have been lifted from any Senate campaign in the country.

It’s as if Jones never walked around his own state, or his handlers presented him with a tunnel for creative freedom when crafting a message.

So, I’m going to help this discussion along by presenting two specific Alabama problems.

Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, toured cities in Alabama last week and declared the living conditions in parts of the state’s Black Belt “very uncommon in the First World.”

Alabama’s majority-Black Lowndes County has been so severely relegated to developing-world poverty status that more than a third of its residents have been tested positive for the hookworm parasite.

Meanwhile, Doug Jones reaches out to Black Alabama with this campaign ad:

But it’s not like the evangelicals and poor White people of Alabama — the state that ranks number four among its peers in household poverty and hovers around the bottom decile in national education attainment — enjoy the luxury of choice in this Tuesday’s election. They’ve made accused child predator, Roy Moore, their choice for Senate.

I can’t even fake a surprised expression about Moore being mute on hookworms in Lowndes County, or not proposing a micro-Marshall Plan for Alabama’s Black Belt as a component to his broader Make America Great Again vision.

But Moore’s supporters have been coached to know that he isn’t Doug Jones and that the fate of the Republic rests on how many abortions can be limited, how many people can carry guns and how many times a metaphorical slave-chasing, suspected pedophile can publicly praise God before he can seem more credible than all of his accusers.

I can only hope that a higher moral force will guide the victor after Tuesday.

Otherwise, Alabama will continue to lose …

song currently stuck in my head: “dark” – nicole miglis

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Atlanta, inequality, Keisha Lance Bottoms and this strange fascination with an airport

Atlanta’s mayoral race is one of those stories I should have rapped about a long time ago. Just never got around to it.

I couldn’t predict Keisha Lance Bottoms’ victory but I also didn’t think Vincent Fort — my choice — would be the next mayor.

Most of the candidates appeared neither confident nor specific about how they would extract the poor and people of color from the whirlpool of income inequality and exodus from the city with one of America’s highest Gini coefficients.

This aforementioned thought then made me consider how Tuesday’s election was going to become a two-track contest.

One — who’s going to finish outgoing mayor Kasim Reed’s job of gentrifying whatever remains of Black and Brown Atlanta.

Two — who will big businesses trust most to manage the city’s airport concessions, which generate over a billion dollars a year in retail revenue, not to mention the highly lucrative and linked airline terminal construction contracts.

From the time that the second and former wives of respective mayors William Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson won a contract to open a video arcade in an Atlanta airport terminal in 1980, to the recent scandal which found engineering firm PRAD Group raided by federal agents and the city’s chief procurement officer busted on bribery charges, Atlanta’s airport concession and construction businesses’ longstanding financial ties to city politicians have been deemed unusual, at minimum.

This is why I became curious about the airport concession businesses’ interest in supporting Keisha Bottoms’ candidacy.

I mean, big businesses don’t typically bet on horse races for feel-good humanitarian reasons.

Assuming Bottoms survives the recount called by opponent Mary Norwood, we’ll have to see how this airport relationship and city revival will play out.

But I will say that Bottoms can’t address gentrification in the manner she recently described without resolving the income inequality issue.

Stay tuned …

song currently stuck in my head: “we can live forever” – joey negro and the sunburst band

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Sunday Smack: Big, Responsible Tobacco?

Is it possible to be a “responsible company operating in a controversial industry” like tobacco?

song currently stuck in my head:“planet queen” – t rex

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To Save Society by Destroying It


Evangelical White Southerners — in normal times — would cite their Christian values as they disqualify accused child molester Roy Moore’s Alabama Senate candidacy.

But … these evangelicals feel their way of life is under attack in an increasingly rotting world that’s falling under the influence of amoral Liberals. Moore is viewed as a one of the few saviors to the besieged society they cherish.

Liberals — during normal circumstances — would call for the resignation of Senator Al Franken, who’s been accused groping a woman.

But Franken is also viewed as a savior to whatever remains of a good Liberal society that’s currently under an existential attack by tyranny.

This isn’t linguistic embroidery on my part.

The current Governor of Alabama has declared herself a Moore supporter, whether or not the allegations against him are true, and justified her resolve by citing the important policies, and court decisions to be made by Senate-confirmed judges, that lie ahead.

In other words, saving society is a top-of-mind priority for the Governor.

A prominent Franken supporter and former presidential candidate — in the absence of an investigation that would filter facts from fiction in this freshly-discovered Franken allegation — attempted to find gradations of disgusting behavior with respect to sexual assault against women by saying that Franken at least apologized for his acts.

Compare that reasoning to the “it-was-a-long-time-ago” defense given to Moore.

While red and blue tribes debate over which part of molestation is less evil — sexually assaulting 14-year old girls versus doing the same to non-consenting adult women — the warring defenders of society seem to share a common mission.

To protect society by destroying it …

song currently stuck in my head: “yes lord” – hastings street jazz experience

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Donna Brazile on DNC Rigging — Lies, Realness Or What?

After looking at journalists pound the tweet button for more than a week as if it were a defibrillator — and perhaps it was — in mortal defense of the Democratic National Committee against disgraced ex-interim Chair Donna Brazile’s allegations of primary elections-rigging, I think it’s time for me to share some thoughts about simple facts that have been deliberately ignored or overlooked.

Let’s start by framing three questions.

Is there any element of truth to Brazile’s accusations?

Hell yeah. And the proof is simple we’ll get that later.

What, if anything, did Brazile get wrong?

The part about two agreements, or at least the way some journalists have spun it, doesn’t make Brazile look good.

What’s her motivation to tell on Dems today?

For the moment, Brazile’s fillip remains as much a mystery as her more recent backtracking the initial claims. I’ll place speculation to the side for this piece.

My main point helps to address the first question: the agreement Brazile referenced that gave the Clinton campaign PRE-NOMINATION CONTROL over the DNC’s operations, messaging and hiring of personnel is very real.

That’s why I’m so confused about Brazile’s backpedaling.

Instead of reading Joy Reid’s tweet novel about this episode, read the agreement for proof.

Not the the joint fundraising one that was signed in 2016.

I mean, yeah — read that, of course …

But I also want you to read the first agreement, dated August 26, 2015.

The agreement outlined how Clinton’s presidential campaign — also known as Clinton for America or CFA — will fund DNC operations with a minimum monthly “Base Amount” of $1.2 million but under certain conditions.

HFA’s obligations under this agreement, and the release of the Base Amounts each month are conditioned on the following:

One of those conditions involved hiring a DNC Communications Director deemed “acceptable” by HFA:

With respect to the hiring of a DNC Communications Director, the DNC agrees that no later than September 11, 2015 it will hire one of two candidates previously identified as acceptable to HFA.

The same “acceptable to HFA” lens applied to the hiring of DNC staff members in three departments: communications, technology and research. (Laughing) But the DNC has final say in hiring after that.

With respect to the hiring of future DNC senior staff in the communications, technology, and research departments, in the case of vacancy, the DNC will maintain the authority to make the final decision as between candidates acceptable to HFA.

August 26, 2015, folks.

More than five months before the first 2016 Democratic National Primary was held and almost a year prior to Hillary Clinton winning her party’s nomination, an agreement was signed that defined how a political candidate’s campaign team will exercise messaging and personnel control over an impartial political organization.

You don’t need a Russian hacker or Wikileaks to read the document. Just head over to NPR’s website.

The argument about whether or not Brazile had mixed up the two DNC agreements in her head quickly becomes an irrelevant exercise since the signed agreement that gave Clinton’s campaign messaging and personnel control over the DNC was took place months prior to the second agreement being finalized.

And whole I don’t want to make this piece about Bernie Sanders, it’s important to note that Sanders never entered an agreement with the DNC that had such control provisions.

The last line of defense deployed to protect what seems to be a clear case of improper campaign behavior within the Clinton camp and the DNC is the dumbest one: the agreement’s intentions toward the end of the document:

Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to violate the DNC’s obligation of impartiality and neutrality through the Nominating process. All activities performed under this agreement will be focused exclusively on preparations for the General Election and not the Democratic Primary. Further we understand you may enter into similar agreements with other candidates.

The early part of the agreement defines all this control the Clinton team would have over the DNC — in exchange for money — (laughing) and a line is tacked at the end which more or less says “We don’t mean for the agreement to appear impartial??

This is why I keep saying over and over and over and over: the DNC needs salvation, but they keep running from it …

song currently stuck in my head: “all day, all night” – carmen lundy

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