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Al Mariam’s Commentaries

In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Brutus hesitatingly joins an assassination  plot hatched by conniving Roman senators afraid to lose their power if Caesar declared himself Emperor and became dictator of the Roman republic.

Karin BassBrutus was a dear, trusted and loyal friend of Caesar, but he was had, hoodwinked and bamboozled by Caesar’s senatorial enemies who convinced him that Caesar must die to preserve the republic.

Once the conspirators lured Caesar into the senate, they gang stabbed him to death.

In his death throe, Caesar looks at Brutus and in his last breath says, “Et tu, Brute?” (“You too Brutus?”).

Karen Bass Brutus was also a good, loyal and trusted friend of Ethiopia.

She was a loyal representative of her Ethiopian American constituents in the California State Assembly and in Congress.

Bass has traveled to Ethiopia several times. In 2018 Bass visited Ethiopia and discussed human rights violations with torture victims of the terrorist TPLF.

Bass issued a Proclamation and put an entry in the Congressional Record recognizing Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed when he visited Los Angeles on July 29, 2018.

Bass visited Ethiopia in September 2020, less than 2 months before the TPLF terrorists launched a sneak attack on the Ethiopian Northern Command.

Ethiopian Americans in Los Angeles voted and raised funds for Bass for well over a decade.

I must confess I am personally indebted to her. On February 22, 2007, Bass  sponsored Assembly Joint Resolution 12, a resolution I drafted.

Bass Brutus was a good friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians.

Unfortunately, like Shakespeare’s Brutus, Bass was also had, hoodwinked and bamboozled by modern day US Senators and House Representatives to stab Ethiopia in the back.

On June 22, 2021, Bass, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, issued a press release casting unfounded doubt on the Ethiopian election:

I am deeply concerned about the provisions of the national elections in several regions of Ethiopia… Elections were not held in many regions of the country and several political parties were not allowed to participate. Voter registration was low and there was a limited number of election observers.

It was all a BIG Lie.

The truth is the party of PM Abiy Ahmed won by a landslide in an election certified by the African Union as peaceful, free, fair and credible.

Elections were not held in a few areas because of terrorist war unleased by the TPLF.

The political parties that chose not to participate did so on their own without any government pressure.

On August 10, 2021, Bass issued a press release stating, “I am deeply concerned by the recent calls from the Government of Ethiopia to expand the size of its armed forces… This expansion has resulted in human rights violations and increased suffering…”

While Bass mentions the terrorist TPLF once, to make it look balanced, the statement in its entirety is a deceptive and ignorant indictment of the Ethiopian government for alleged human rights violations, population displacement and suffering.

Bass completely omitted reference to the fact that the entire humanitarian tragedy in Northern Ethiopia was caused solely by the terrorist TPLF.

On May 28, 2021, Bass introduced H.Res. 445 calling on the Government of Ethiopia and the Government of the State of Eritrea to remove all Eritrean troops from Ethiopia” and commanding “all belligerents in the conflict”, including “the Ethiopian National Defense Forces to cease hostilities” and conduct “independent investigations of credible atrocity allegations.”

Bass indulged in the false equivalency that the Ethiopian government and the terrorist TPLF were on par with each other.

Bass had the audacity and arrogance to trample on Ethiopia’s sovereignty and tell the government of 115 million people what to do by legislation sitting in her posh office in the US Congress. She is either willfully ignorant or a patsy of terrorist TPLF lobbyists.

On November 13, 2021, Bass under considerable pressure from her constituents and Ethiopian American voters took a stand and condemned those who “threatened to ‘oust Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – through political negotiation or military force if necessary – and install a transitional government’ made by the alliance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front with the Oromo Liberation Army.”

On December 21, 2021, under intense pressure from her Ethiopian American constituents, Bass co-wrote a letter to Biden asking him to “reconsider his decision to suspend Ethiopia’s eligibility on such an abrupt timeline and allow time for all parties in Ethiopia to take the necessary steps to end the conflict, deploy humanitarian aid to those who need it, and continue negotiations to garner peace.”

Writing an electronically-signed letter is no big deal as a staffer could prepare and send it without Bass even seeing it. Of course, Bass never received a response nor did she follow up to find out. It was just window dressing to placate the constituents.

When Representative Tom (Malicious) Malinowski introduced HR 6600 (Imposing Crippling Sanctions on Ethiopia Act, officially labeled as “Ethiopia Stabilization, Peace, and Democracy Act”) and conscripted 15 co-sponsors, Bass’s name was conspicuously absent.

How could such an impactful legislation on the oldest and one of the most important African countries be introduced without Bass’ knowledge and approval as the chairwoman of the Africa Subcommittee?

While Bass did not want her constituents to detect her fingerprints on the highly controversial HR 6600, she had clearly signaled a threat in November 2021 that  “Congress will continue to work with this administration and ensure all appropriate measures are brought to bear for a peaceful and immediate end to this crisis.”

HR 6600 was introduced on February 4, 2022, two months after Bass and friends issued their statement, and made good on their threat of appropriate congressional measure, namely crippling sanctions.

Suffice it to say, as Chairwoman of the Africa Subcommittee, head of the Black Congressional Caucus and as Biden’s short-listed potential vice-presidential mate, Bass had the clout and could have done a lot to bring Ethiopia and the U.S. closer and promote peace in Ethiopia.

Minimally, Bass could have applied pressure to delay Ethiopia’s removal from the AGOA regime.

But Bass chose to side with the terrorist TPLF and took commands from Susan Rice, the Princess of Darkness!

Should Ethiopian American voters in Los Angeles support Karen Bass?

Whether Ethiopian American voters in Los Angeles should support and vote for Bass should depend on one question: Does Bass have the moral character and political integrity to lead the second largest city in America?

By moral character I mean to refer to ethical behavior and professionalism that guides the actions of an elected leader. Does the leader act on principle or avoids taking action because of moral cowardice (fear of becoming unpopular, criticism)? Does the leader choose political expediency (seeking political advantage, gain, convenience, opportunism) over doing the right thing? Does the leader engage in political correctness (sugarcoating political language resulting in political paralysis and inaction) with the outcome of political paralysis? Does the leader practice political cynicism (use the voters to get you into office and promptly lose them)?

By political integrity I mean to refer to the quality of a politician to be free from undue influence of special interests, ability to provide access to all especially the “wretched of the earth” to have meaningful opportunities to be heard and openness and transparency in welcoming public scrutiny of their decision-making processes and decisions. Political  corruption, including self-dealing and self-aggrandizement, is a manifestation of lack of integrity as it involves the subversion of policies, institutions, rules of procedure and decisions for private gain.

On my score of moral character and political integrity Karen Bass gets an “F.”

In 2021, the University of Southern California (USC) gave Bass a full scholarship worth $95,000 while she served in Congress!

Bass’ excuse for accepting the $95 grand was that she could not complete her master’s degree because she had to juggle “the demands of an online master’s program during her first three terms in Congress.”

That is a non sequitur. Getting a master’s degree and serving in Congress are logically and factually unrelated.

Congress is not a graduate school and there is no reason Bass should get nearly$100 thousand for being a congresswoman-cum-aspiring-graduate student.

But Bass’ lame excuse is betrayed by per  crocodile tears for millions of others crushed by student loans.

In 2013, Bass advocated a “Student Loan Fairness Act” and criticized existing law arguing “total outstanding student loan debt in America has surpassed the $1 trillion mark”,  that “as a result of these debts, millions of Americans are not buying cars, purchasing homes, starting businesses, or otherwise realizing the American Dream and we “are trying to pay our national debt on the backs of students.”

Promoting the “Student Loan Fairness Act of 2019”, Bass said:

We need a fair and simple federal student loan repayment system which seeks to alleviate the financial burden of student loan debt on college graduates and support them as they begin their careers and lives. By creating an equitable system to ease student loan debt, we can lessen the financial impact on the next generation while jumpstarting the economy, creating jobs and promoting financial responsibility for higher education.

In 2021, Bass pleads poverty and justifies the charitable donation of nearly one-hundred thousand dollars she received from USC because she had to juggle “the demands of an online master’s program during her first three terms in Congress.”

Millions of Americans complete their university/college education (and not just online sitting in front of a computer) juggling work, family and community service without $95,000 dropped on them outta nowhere.

The fact of the matter is that Bass makes $174,000 a year as a member of Congress with all sorts of perks, including world class medical care insurance.

After Bass retires/leaves Congress she will get 80% of  her Congressional pay, or a lifelong pension of $139,200.

Bass can also make hundreds of thousands of dollars as a consultant after she leaves Congress, and after a year, she can work as a lobbyist representing clients in Congress.

The average social worker in the US with master’s degree (Bass’ online masters is in social work) makes $67, 350.

I am sure there are thousands of people with a master’s in social work carrying crushing student loans and making monthly payments.

Bass can certainly afford to pay for master’s degree work (which she says she has substantially completed) from her own resources.

There is ABSOLUTELY  no justifiable reason for Bass to get a windfall of $95 thousand without even asking for it!

Student loan debt in the U.S. in 2021 totaled $1.73 trillion and average student debt in 2016 was $37 thousand.

The fact of the matter is that “more than 60% of the student debt is held by the bottom quartile of households (those with a net worth of less than $8,500).”

The American Council on Education observes:

African American students are more likely to borrow than students from other racial and ethnic groups pursuing similar types of degrees, and are more likely to borrow relatively large amounts. They are less successful in repaying their loans and more likely to default. The issues facing this group of students are obscured by discussions that paint student debt with a broad brush. Racial differences in pre-college circumstances, in the types of institutions attended, and in post-college earnings all contribute to the difficulties African American students face in college and beyond.

Is it fair Bass should get $95 grand free and clear to complete her masters ONLINE! and the rest of American students get stiffed with $37 grand in debt!

Is it fair that Bass should get $95 grand free and clear when African American students are likely to default?

But that is not the whole story!

Bass got the “scholarship” before she even applied to the social work program!

The USC dean who handed Bass the scholarship, Marylyn Flynn, was indicted on federal bribery charges in October 2021 in the same kind of free under-the-table transaction with another Los Angeles politician.

Flynn was indicted for the corrupt scholarship/professorship deal with Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

In a 35-page 20-count federal indictment issued on April 2021, Ridley-Thomas and  Flynn allegedly “agreed to provide a relative of Ridley-Thomas relative with graduate school admission, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and a mechanism to funnel Ridley-Thomas campaign funds through the university to a non-profit to be operated by the relative.”

In return, it was alleged “Ridley-Thomas supported contracts involving the Social Work School, including contracts to provide services to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health (DMH) that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.”

A political action committee sponsored by the Los Angeles Police Protective League began airing ads that sought to tie Bass to the federal corruption case targeting Ridley-Thomas and Flynn.

Bass protested and threatened to sue the League PAC for defamation and claimed her “gift” from the University of Southern California was approved by the House Committee on Ethics.

But Bass offered no details on the circumstances of the USC offer.

The question is, “Did the House Ethics Committee have full information on the ‘gift’ of $95 thousand and the fact that the ‘giver of the gift’ is under indictment for exactly the same kind of ‘gift’ given to Bass?”

Why wasn’t Bass indicted, at least investigated, for her apparent conspiracy with Flynn?

No doubt, USC is the largest employer in Bass’ district.

So, was  it quid pro quo?  (A little somethin,’ something’ for something, something under the table?)

Reading the poll tea leaves

According to the latest poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and The Times, Bass had the support of merely about half of likely Black voters surveyed, plus 40% of white liberals. Rick Caruso, the rival candidate, had support from 24% of likely LA voters while Bass was supported by 23%.

A May 20, 2022 survey released by the Communities United for Bass for LA showed 37% of likely voters backing Caruso and 35% favoring Bass, among a field of about a dozen candidates.

The Los Angeles primary election is set for June 7.

Los Angeles City and County primary election rules may appear odd to some.

The top two winners advance to the general election — unless a candidate receives over 50% of the vote.

The two candidates who get the most votes in the primary then proceed to the general election in November — unless a candidate gets 50% + 1 of the votes, in which case they win the general race outright.

Most observers believe Bass and Caruso will duke it out on November 8, 2022.

In light of the election rules, the June 7 primary could be the only time people in LA vote for a mayoral candidate.

Black voters make up just under 1 in 10 of the city’s likely voters, while white liberals — among the largest blocs of voters in the city — make up about 3 in 10.

Bass is pinning her hopes on support from areas she has long represented, the historically Black and increasingly Latino neighborhoods of South L.A. and the liberal left.

Should Ethiopian American voters vote for Bass Brutus?

In Act 3, Scene 2, speaking through Mark Antony delivering the funeral oration, Shakespeare writes of  the “Noble Brutus.”

The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest
For Brutus is an honorable man.

Bass Brutus is NOT an honorable woman and Ethiopian American voters, and all  Angelino voters should deny her the opportunity to make Los Angeles Los Hellgeles!

My endorsement of Rick Caruso to become next mayor of Los Angeles to follow!