Saturday, October 01, 2022

What The Hell We Waiting For?

You may notice this blog as a certain... philosophical viewpoint when it comes to donald trump.

Mostly that he's a lying, crooked, bankrupt, racist, sexist, brain-dead, ill-read, ill-tempered, Russian-bought, law-breaking Shitgibbon of the lowest order.

I admit I've kind of been calling for trump's immediate arrest and placement in handcuffs and perp-walked to the nearest SuperMax for awaiting his trial dates without bail, probably even before I started blogging in 2006 (The sonofabitch killed the USFL and the Tampa Bay Bandits back in the 1980s). It's been frustrating to sit here - even as more criminal misdeeds go public and he's practically bragging he's getting away with shit - and wonder what the hell is taking so long.

Rude Pundit is with me on being frustrated with the failure of the legal system so far:

This is the kind of shit that plagues my brain at 3 a.m. when the whiskey is wearing off and the drugs just aren't holding the bullshit at bay anymore. Right now, a plague of lawsuits and investigations ought to be making Trump wonder if he'd rather live the rest of his miserable life in the UAE, Russia, or Indonesia when it comes to places without extradition treaties. And I know, I know, I fucking know that you want to be optimistic, even gleeful, thinking, "There's no fucking way he gets out of all of this." I mean, c'mon. If nothing else, E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit accusing Trump of raping her has to bring him down. She's got DNA evidence, after all. 

It's not just that we've been burned before (although I'll brag that I stopped leaping at every "We got him!" moment a long time ago). It's that when Trump gets away with it, the story shifts. The Mueller Report has become nothing more than a failed witch hunt (which it wasn't). The impeachment over Ukraine has become part of the "Russia hoax" (it's not a hoax and the phrase has become so broad as to encompass anything that even mentions Russia and Trump). Trump prances all around his red state yahoo fests, lying about this shit with extravagant abandon as he pushes closer and closer to simply saying, "Kill everyone not like you..."

And it's not just that Trump's gotten away with so much throughout his life. How many regular, working and middle class stiffs does he have to dick over before the rest understand they're being conned? How the fuck did it take so long for some entity in New York to seriously go after his entire ass? And why do they always stop short of actually arresting someone who has blatantly flouted the law? I'm honestly pissed as hell at Cyrus Vance and every AG and DA who allowed Trump and his shit children to remain free to fuck over more people...

It's been noted before, that the legal system favors the rich over the poor: Partly because the rich can afford better lawyers, but mostly because the legal system is all about "who owns what" and favors the rich in the first place.

trump's benefitted from a legal system that makes it hard to prove financial fraud, that creates a number of loopholes and exemptions that let him "do business" because we dare not overburden our Capitalism with regulations. he's benefitted from laws that give bankrupt businessmen like himself chances to file for Chapter 7-11-whatever and evade accountability to his creditors, and to keep doing that over and over even though by the third time he filed for bankruptcy someone should have noticed the trend and held him criminally liable before he ruined more businesses.

It's nice that there's NOW a criminal trial trump is facing this October for his company's acts of fraud, although it's just the company facing sanction and trump could walk away from jail time. It's nice that's there a slew of civil court trials trump is facing for tax evasion, acts of fraud, and defamation regarding his slandering of women he's sexually assaulted. It's nice that trump and his electoral fraud lackeys are facing likely state criminal charges in Georgia (and maybe also Arizona and Michigan). It's nice that there's NOW federal investigations into trump's overt refusal to abide by laws regarding Presidential records and illegal possession of CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS. But where the fuck was everybody back in the 1990s when trump's bankrupt malfeasance - and possible ties to Russian mobs - went public... and still nobody did anything before he got worse?

I am also with Drew Magary over at SFGate (maybe paywalled). Just indict him already

And so we come to said special master, Judge Raymond (British accent) Dearie, whose appointment has not stopped the Department of Justice from poring over some of the most sensitive documents they seized earlier this fall from Mar-a-Lago: documents that Trump definitely accidentally absconded from the White House with after his term as president came to an end.

Dearie has not been kind to Trump’s lawyers and even tried to force Trump to appear in court under oath. These plans were scuttled by a federal judge Thursday, but the special master’s moves are just one of many signs that the walls are closing in around our beloved Don-Don. The Department of Justice is still actively engaged in a criminal investigation of Trump. One of Trump’s most vocal defenders in the past is currently arguing that the former president’s attempts to ward off the probe may in fact be aiding it. I love it, unironically, when Trump hires people who he assumes will protect him and then they’re like, “Actually, f—k this guy.” And there are so many people like this out there! Fantastic...

It is time, both procedurally and metaphorically, to f—k Donald Trump. After all, if the guy who defended Trump against presumed white knight Robert Mueller thinks that Trump is in a highly f—kable position, let’s go ahead and take advantage of that.

It’s well past time, really. If you disdain Trump as much as I do, you’ve been on a six-year-long catharsis hunt in which every victory — even the 2020 election! — has felt hollow. I thought Trump was finished when he fired James Comey. I thought he was finished when Mueller was drafted to investigate him. I thought he was finished when he got COVID-19. You get the idea. It’s been an agonizing stretch in which all of us have had to live through Donald Trump being president, Donald Trump violently refusing to stop being president and then Donald Trump threatening to become president again. All Americans deserve a break from his bulls—t. We voted Joe Biden into office for this very reason.

And yet, here Trump remains. Still here. Still not officially f—ked. For six years, I’ve been waiting for a cavalry that always arrives unarmed. I’ve been counting on Democrats to put Trump’s head on the chopping block when that party’s leaders all share a bizarre reticence to prosecute him because they believe that indicting Trump is an indictment of the American Idyll or something. It’s possible that Trumpism is a fad and will die out on its own. Perhaps as soon as November, when a red wave that the dreaded polls supposedly once foretold fails to materialize. But given the damage that Trump and his cohorts have wrought, it feels wrong, IS wrong, to hope nature takes its course with this movement. I’ve done the hope thing. I did it in 2008. It only got me here, so you’ll excuse me if hope and I aren’t on the best of terms right now. 

What I require, and what is there for the taking at last, is action. All of this due diligence has to be for something, and not just for due diligence’s sake. If Democrats want me to have faith in their precious institutions, then what I need is for those institutions to do what the label on the “Institutions” box promises and indict this man. I’m as sick as you are of the “Today would be a good day to charge Donald Trump with high treason” brand tweets that have polluted the internet since his inauguration, but the receipts are flooding in and the excuses have all sunk to the bottom of the sea in a beautiful, idiot boat. Truly, today WOULD be a good day for the hammer to drop.  Don’t wait until after the election, when Republicans will have f—ked with an election that they have already pledged to f—k with. Don’t gimme some bulls—t about how there’ll be another civil war if we dare to prosecute Trump because I already watched the insurrectionists try to start that war and fail miserably. Most of those people thought they were going to a furry convention or something. And don’t put on your law degree and tell me about dangerous precedents and how fluid the definition of “crimedoing” is. I’ve been watching this s—tshow for six years now. I know what I’m looking at. I’m looking at robbery, treason, fraud and awful nutrition habits. Everyone knows what went down, what is going down and what Republicans WANT to go down. And I think I’ve had enough of the down parts...

To all the expectation that trump's rabid fanbase will rise up in acts of violence, we seen a part of that already back on January 6th. Yes, there will be violence, but that's going to happen no matter what we as a nation do to hold trump accountable for his crimes. Even if the legal system steps back, says to itself "oh dear we shouldn't do this, it'll set a terrible precedence for future assholes to abuse the law for partisan hackery," it's too late. trump's rabid fanbase will turn violent even if they get their way, because they will believe the legal system will let them get away with anything now. The Far Right wants their civil war, because they need the blood of their enemies to fulfill their Turner Diaries utopia. Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

trump keeps thinking he's protected, that he's safe, that he's one of the beautiful elite and that he's not a sucker who can ever lose. trump is running on that because Gods help us for 50 years the legal system let him run free even as the damage in his wake piled up higher than Trump Tower.

It is way past time to throw donald trump in a jail cell, take away his smartphone and shut down his social media accounts, slam that door shut, and call him a "sucker" as the guards walk away. Let trump brood in the darkness of his own making, because he's been such an inept con artist who only benefitted from fellow corrupt cronies and a lax legal system.

He's been leaving the clues to his follies and failures everywhere for decades, taunting our legal system and threatening to commit more crimes. Just stop him. Just fucking stop him, will you?

Seriously. We jailed Martha Stewart for less.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Get The Damn Vote Out: 2022 Blue Wave Edition

I keep saying "Elections matter" because guess what, they do.

There has been at least since the 2008 election cycle a glaring reality - one that our mainstream media refuses to admit, because they dare not lose "access" to Republican elites - that one political party - hint Republicans - has gone batshit insane. Obsessed with retaining power even as they sink into political minority status, the modern GOP has sunk into conspiratorial alternate-reality mind screws of their own making. We've seen what happens when they had trump pose for them as their standard bearer in the White House, and it wasn't pretty. And the Republicans want the nation to go back to that... permanently.

We're at the point where Republicans are openly pushing an agenda to pass a national abortion ban - to hell what they said about states' rights - to make every American woman second-class breeding stock, and going after Social Security and Medicare as though those safety nets for our elder citizenry are threats to the Far Right's Way of Life.

We're seeing what Republicans are doing at the state level: attacking gay/lesbian/trans teens as Dreaded Other; wrecking school curricula by denying any texts that dare call out our nation's racist history; and persecuting/abusing legal migrants from Central/South America through political stunts, harassment, and lies.

And Republicans are going after everyone's power to vote, because they know damn well keeping voter turnout down is the only way they can stay in office.

This is what Republicans want, and this is what they think will keep them in minority-majority rule for the next 10 100 years.

We dare not let them win.

We've seen what happens in 2018 and 2020 when voter turnout exceeds Republicans' desires. We've seen it happen this year in Kansas already, where a massive women's turnout flipped a midterm amendment referendum on abortion on its ass. 

Massive voter turnout by Democrats and left-leaning Independents work. Massive voter turnout keeps our nation's democratic traditions alive. Massive voter turnout defeats a lot of Republican attempts to steal away our rights.

There's a lot at stake this 2022 midterms, especially at the federal level: If the Republicans gain control of either the House or Senate (or worse, both) then our government becomes logjammed and nothing will get done. The Republicans - grown increasingly rabid under trump's leadership - have already promised retribution towards President Biden for what they feel is partisan attacks on trump for what are in reality legal investigations into trump's misdeeds. They will do everything in their power to hinder, delay, or break up any current investigations into trump's role in the January 6th insurrection; they will press hyperactive attacks on Biden's son Hunter to weaken Joe Biden's standing among voters; they will stage vote overrides of Obamacare and every big-ticket bill Biden just got passed this year knowing full well Biden's veto will save them from whatever disasters would happen if any of those bills were repealed.

It's imperative that Democrats retain control of the House. This may not be likely, due to the extreme gerrymandering that happened in Red and battleground states like Texas, Wisconsin, and Florida. But it IS possible for Democrats to blunt or reduce that gerrymandering, by reaching high turnout numbers that negate the district rigging. Voting for the U.S. House matters.

The U.S. Senate numbers are slightly better only because gerrymandering doesn't affect state-wide votes. There's even a likelihood the Dems can increase their 50-50 status in the high chamber with two (and even four) seats flipping Blue. It would secure any need for Biden to fill more judicial and executive vacancies without Republican interference: It could include enough left-leaning reformers into the Senate who can end the filibuster logjam mechanics and free up future Senates to vote more clean and effective bills into law. Voting for the U.S. Senate matters.

It's harder - I will admit this - for elections to affect the state results, especially in Republican-held states that have gerrymandered everything across every corner of each state. But turnout can still work, especially for the state-wide Governor races. If Dems can gain enough Governor seats, that can setback a number of extremist legislative bodies from doing further harm to their states (although as Wisconsin and North Carolina showed, a lame-duck GOP lege can try to strip Governors of enough power to weaken such changes). Voting for the Governors and state-level legislatures matter.

Let the call go out to every registered Democratic and Indy voter: This midterm matters. Voter turnout matters. Get the vote out, and do everything you can to prevent the Republicans from denying your access to the ballot box.

If the Republicans win, this could be honest-to-God the last honest election the Republicans will ever let us have.

As a personal note, I am currently in the path of a massive Hurricane Ian that threatens to shred central Florida. If I don't make it out alive, I want a promise, I WANT YOU TO PROMISE ME AMERICA, I want a promise that 69 percent of you - Democrats, Left-leaning Independents, Pro-Choice and Pro-Immigrant Republicans who are still out there (yes you are) - will show up this November and vote a straight-down All-Democratic Blue Wave ticket.

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, AMERICA.

And for the LOVE of God, do NOT vote Republican at any level. Blue Wave 2022!

Good luck.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hurricane Ian Rolling In

It's become legend that whenever Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel shows up on your beach, you're getting doomed with a hurricane...

So here comes Hurricane Ian aiming for the Tampa Bay area with Jim goofing off on Clearwater Beach. More from Michaela Mulligan at the Tampa Bay Times:

After a night of intensification, Hurricane Ian has emerged as a major hurricane Tuesday — still following its track toward Tampa Bay.

The Category 3 storm is just off the coast of Cuba, about 10 miles south of Pinar Del Río and 130 miles southwest of the Dry Tortugas, according to an 8 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. Ian is moving north at about 12 mph and is expected to turn toward the north-northeast while beginning to slow Tuesday night into Wednesday.

Forecasters predict the center of Ian to move over western Cuba Tuesday morning and then emerge in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, where it likely will strengthen...



I'm a little further inland (Polk County), and if the storm keeps tracking straight north - or better turns west - I won't get hit with anything serious. Still, this is the first year I've gotten sandbags for my porch doors, which were vulnerable to the last hurricane that passed by.

This year, given the uptick in climate change and the noticeable erosion of the Florida coastline, my home metro of Tampa Bay may be hit real hard with lasting - and tragic - damage. Too much residential development along the coastline has made us too vulnerable to big storms like this, and we're looking at serious flooding and power outages to last well into next week.

I may try to get a few more blog articles in before the storm hits, so we'll see.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Quick Update on trump's Legal Woes As We Head Into October 2022

The past week has been a little busy for donald trump's lawyers, so let's recap.

You might remember that trump had found a district judge he appointed to throw up roadblocks to the FBI's digging into all the classified materials they caught him with, when Judge Cannon agreed to his demands for a Special Master to delay everything. Well, the Justice Department appealed that, going to the 11th Circuit to allow the feds to continue their work. The judges at the 11th - including two who were appointed by trump - threw a smackdown on Cannon and trump in response (via Emptywheel):

While reserving judgment on the merits question, the opinion was nevertheless fairly scathing about Cannon’s abuse of discretion. Some of this pertained to her jurisdictional analysis... But two important implicit admonishments of Cannon’s actions pertain to the deference on national security that courts give to the Executive.

The opinion calls the scheme that Cannon had set up — allowing the Intelligence Community to continue its intelligence assessment but prohibiting any investigation for criminal purposes — untenable. In support, the opinion notes that there’s a sworn declaration from FBI Assistant Director Alan Kohler (the only one in this docket) debunking Cannon’s distinction between national security review and criminal investigation. It notes, twice, that courts must accord great weight to the Executive, including an affidavit. The opinion notes that “no party had offered anything beyond speculation” to undermine this representation...

In another section, the opinion makes a finding that goes beyond where the dispute before Cannon has gone (but not beyond where the dispute before Special Master Raymond Dearie has). Even former Presidents can only access classified information if they have a Need to Know. (Italics for the appellate decision)

[W]e cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings. Classified documents are marked to show they are classified, for instance, with their classification level. Classified National Security Information, Exec. Order No. 13,526, § 1.6, 3 C.F.R. 298, 301 (2009 Comp.), reprinted in 50 U.S.C. § 3161 app. at 290–301. They are “owned by, produced by or for, or . . . under the control of the United States Government.” Id. § 1.1. And they include information the “unauthorized disclosure [of which] could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.” Id. § 1.4. For this reason, a person may have access to classified information only if, among other requirements, he “has a need-to-know the information.” Id. § 4.1(a)(3). This requirement pertains equally to former Presidents, unless the current administration, in its discretion, chooses to waive that requirement. Id. § 4.4(3).

Plaintiff has not even attempted to show that he has a need to know the information contained in the classified documents. Nor has he established that the current administration has waived that requirement for these documents. And even if he had, that, in and of itself, would not explain why Plaintiff has an individual interest in the classified documents...

In short: trump had no privilege to claim.

And then there was the 11th Circuit ruling about Cannon's authority to intervene in the first place. Back to Emptywheel:

The summary of this case is a really remarkable description of what has already happened (I’m sure it helped the clerks on that front that they had no page limits). Ominously for Trump’s case, the opinion starts the narrative from the time he left the White House and lays out several moments where Trump failed to invoke privilege or declassification. Trump likes to tell the story starting on August 8 when the FBI arrived at his house out of the blue...

This means trump can't stick to his story that he always had the right to possess these documents when he really didn't. I digress, back to good part:

In Trump’s reply to DOJ’s argument that he couldn’t own these documents, the opinion notes, he specifically disclaimed having filed a Rule 41(g), which is where someone moves to demand property unlawfully seized be returned...

Cannon, the opinion notes, claimed to be asserting jurisdiction under equitable jurisdiction even while treating Trump’s request (in which he had not made a Rule 41(g) motion) as a hybrid request...

Half that page of the opinion consists of footnotes, recording that Trump’s claims about Rule 41(g) have been all over the map...

trump and his lawyers are wary of filing actual paperwork - that Rule 41(g) - on ownership because if they do, and the courts rule he had no right to classified materials in his possession, he'll basically be confessing to breaking that particular federal law. Instead, they claim everything and anything just on say-so in the hopes a favorable court will buy that defense. Oh, right. I'm interrupting. Back to Emptywheel.

The opinion doesn’t come to any conclusions about all this nonsense from a jurisdictional position. It doesn’t have to. But it did capture conflicting claims that Trump made and Cannon’s reliance on a “hybrid” claim to avoid pinning Trump down.

The reason the 11th Circuit didn’t have to resolve all this is because, regardless of which basis Cannon claimed to have intervened, Richey governs (which is exactly what Jay Bratt said in the hearing before Cannon, as I laid out here).

And the first prong of Richey — and the most important one — is whether there has been a Fourth Amendment violation. Cannon says there has not. That should be game over...

While this is an appellate ruling, trump can arguably push the matter further up the chain - is SCOTUS next? - but one interesting development from this ruling was how Cannon went back and revised parts of her court ruling to fit the demands of the 11th Circuit... which apparently makes it harder for trump to appeal those parts. Interesting.

Meanwhile, the Thing Cannon Set Up - the Special Master situation involving a court-approved arbitrator over the documents in question - settled on Judge Raymond Dearie to serve in that capacity, and he promptly kicked trump's lawyers in the collective tuckus in ways that showed trump wasn't getting an easy out (the AP News but quoted via the Guardian):

The independent arbiter tasked with inspecting documents seized in an FBI search of Donald Trump’s Florida home said on Tuesday he intends to push briskly through the review process and appeared skeptical of Trump lawyers’ reluctance to say whether they believed the records had been declassified.

“We’re going to proceed with what I call responsible dispatch,” Raymond Dearie, a veteran Brooklyn judge, told lawyers for Trump and the Department of Justice in their first meeting since his appointment last week as a so-called special master...

Though Trump’s lawyers requested the appointment of a special master, they have resisted Dearie’s request for more information about whether the seized records had been previously declassified – as Trump maintains. His lawyers have consistently stopped short of that claim even as they asserted in a separate filing on Tuesday that the department of justice had not proven that the documents were classified. In any event, they say, a president has absolute authority to declassify information...

But Dearie said that if Trump’s lawyers will not actually assert that the records have been declassified, and the department of justice makes an acceptable case that they remain classified, he will be inclined to regard them as classified.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “that’s the end of it.”

In a letter to Dearie on Monday night, the lawyers said the declassification issue might be part of Trump’s defense in the event of an indictment. Trusty said the Trump team should not be forced at this point to disclose details of a possible defense.

He denied that the lawyers were trying to engage in “gamesman-like” behavior but said it was a process that required “baby steps”. He said the right time for the discussion is whenever Trump presses forward with a claim to get property back.

Dearie said he understood the position but observed: “I guess my view of it is, you can’t have your cake and eat it...”

A US district judge, Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who granted the request for a special master, had set a 30 November deadline for Dearie’s review and instructed him to prioritize classified records.

Dearie, a Ronald Reagan appointee, made clear during Tuesday’s meeting that he intended to meet the deadline...

Other reports have it that Dearie is looking to wrap up by October, likely because he already sees the reality that there's not much to separate between the classified documents and anything trump claims as privileged. Granted, that's my speculation. No matter what, trump's traditional gaming of the legal system - delay, delay, delay - isn't going to work here.

The other big bombshell from last week was the breaking development in the state of New York's civil case against trump, trump's family, and their corporation. As mentioned earlier when I looked at the big four legal matters dogging trump, AG Letitia James had wrapped up her interviews for the grand jury, and apparently had enough to take it all to court seeking major damages and a long-overdue crippling of trump's crooked financial empire (via John Cassidy at the New Yorker (paywalled)): 

The lawsuit that her office filed in State Supreme Court alleges that, from 2011 to 2021, the Trump Organization’s financial statements systematically exaggerated the value of at least twenty-three of his properties and other assets—from his Fifth Avenue triplex apartment and his daughter’s penthouse on Park Avenue to his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, and his far-flung network of golf courses. “The number of grossly inflated asset values is staggering, affecting most if not all of the real estate holdings in any given year,” the lawsuit states. It also says that Trump’s alleged deceptions reaped him and his co-defendants financial benefits worth up to an estimated $250 million, and asked the court to force him to repay these gains, plus interest.

In addition to Trump, the lawsuit names his children Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka as defendants. In 2014, the complaint says, Ivanka was granted an option to buy a penthouse at Trump Park Avenue for $14.3 million, but the apartment was valued in the Trump Organization’s 2014 “Statement of Financial Condition” at $45 million. According to the lawsuit, Trump’s son Eric was “taking the lead” on Seven Springs estate, a large property in Westchester County, New York—which Trump bought for $7.5 million, in 1995, but between 2011 and 2021 valued at up to $291 million. The complaint also alleges that, in 2016, the Trump Organization misled an outside appraiser that prepared a valuation of the Seven Springs property, which it then submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in support of an application for a conservation easement “that ultimately, and fraudulently, reduced Mr. Trump’s tax liability by more than $3.5 million...”

In short: trump lied about how valuable his properties were when it came time to profit from them, and then lied that the properties were valueless when it came time to pay taxes on them.

Where Trump and his businesses crossed the legal line, the complaint alleges, was in producing false financial statements that grossly inflated his net worth to “induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, and to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.” The complaint identifies numerous loans and insurance policies that it said were granted at least partly on the basis of claims Trump made about his wealth in a “Statement of Financial Condition”—a list of his assets and liabilities that the Trump Organization produced annually...

This is where there's more good news:

James said her office is also referring her case to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the I.R.S. In the absence of actions by those agencies, the potential sanctions facing the Trumps, if James wins her case, are a big financial penalty, the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the Trump Organization for at least five years, a prohibition on Trump or the Trump Organization buying any new commercial real estate in New York during the same period, and a ban on any of the Trumps named in the lawsuit serving as an officer or director in any businesses licensed or registered in the state.

Effectively, James is trying to banish Trump and his family from doing business in their longtime home state...

James apparently uncovered criminal acts in all of the fraud trump and his people committed during their shell games with property values. It would be pretty to think that despite the City of New York's failure to bring more criminal charges against trump, the IRS will go after him for tax evasion like they've done to every mob boss since Al Capone. 

It could be argued that even after all this, trump and co. could simply relocate their business efforts to a more favorable state and restart, except that James is looking to keep trump from doing any business with any entity in New York. That covers New York City, and THAT - the financial capital of the world - covers nearly every bank on the planet. Meaning if James wins her case, there will be no way for trump and his adult progeny to do business they way they've done - through sketchy loans to pay off other sketchy loans - for at least five years.

It would kill trump not to run any kind of con job at all. trump has no actual value outside of his scams, he's a clown living on credit. A victory by AG James would be a fate worse than death for trump.

Bring it. Bankrupt the bastard. Send him into financial exile for the rest of his short life. And be rid of trump forever.

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Great Russian Skedaddle

I love that word, 'skedaddle.' A silly-sounding word but with purpose. An SAT word you study in high school. Three syllables long with just the right rhythm. Ske-dad-dle.

Skedaddle: (intransitive verb) to leave immediately : RUN AWAY, SCRAM : especially, to flee in a panic.

I've been thinking about the word 'skedaddle' ever since Russia's dictator - finally coming to terms with the massive loss of troops in his disastrous invasion of Ukraine - pushed his puppet government into passing laws allowing him to start up draft/conscription of at least three-hundred thousand men to restock his invasion force. Via Greg Myre at NPR:

Despite this track record, Putin's latest gamble may be his biggest yet. In the face of battlefield setbacks, the Russian leader has doubled down. Russia will mobilize 300,000 additional troops — a number larger than the original invasion force — and Moscow also appears poised to annex Ukrainian territory under its control...

Putin's move addressed growing criticism from pro-war Russian nationalists at home, who say Russia is in danger of losing because it hasn't unleashed its full fighting force.

Yet Putin called it a "partial mobilization," and continues to call the conflict a "special military operation." This appears to be a nod toward Russians who have misgivings about the military adventure in Ukraine...

Even with his blatant control of Russian media, Putin seems to fear calling for a massive conscription effort because internal tensions - aggravated by decades of corruption - would trigger nationwide protests.

Well... even the partial mobilization triggered those protests. To Charles Maynes also at NPR:

Russian President Vladimir Putin's order to mobilize more troops to bolster his struggling military campaign in Ukraine has been rippling across Russia, as the military swiftly drafts new recruits and signs of discontent appear to spread.

Putin announced the decision Wednesday, framing it as a "partial mobilization" that he insisted affects only a small percentage of Russians with a background in military service.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered an immediate call-up of 300,000 additional troops — even as multiple news reports suggested the real number could be three times as many.

The Kremlin has tasked regional governors with overseeing the draft and stiffened penalties for refusal of service or desertion to 10 years in prison...

Despite government assurances only those with military service background will be drafted, multiple reports are emerging of draft papers being sent to people with no prior military experience...

Avtozak Live, a volunteer human rights monitoring group, reported as many as nine arson attacks had been carried out on military recruitment centers or government buildings across Russia.

Rights advocates say police detained more than 1,300 people in protests that erupted in dozens of Russian cities following Putin's address — with crowds yelling "No to war!" and "Putin to the trenches!..."

Anti-war activists have called for additional protests against mobilization over the weekend.

And when Putin gave the announcement that he was looking for a few 300,000 men to 'volunteer' as cannon fodder fertilizer for Ukrainian sunflowers, a noticeable number of Russian men in the designated victim demographics - anyone 18 and older with a pulse - seem to have made the collective decision to skedaddle (mmm, love that word) for the Canadian and Mexican wait this isn't 1965 Russian borders. Maynes' coverage also noted what's happening at various checkpoints:

Amid uncertainty over the scope of the draft, news reports and social media posts showed long lines of cars backed up on Russia's border crossings with Finland and Georgia, to the west, and Kazakhstan and Mongolia to the south.

Tickets for flights out of Russia to countries with visa-free travel — such as Armenia and Turkey — are either sold out or have soared in price...

To mix it up a little, here's Pjotr Sauer and Dan Sabbagh at The Guardian:

Long lines of vehicles continue to form at Russia’s border crossings on the second full day of Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation, with some men waiting over 24 hours as western leaders disagree over whether Europe should welcome those fleeing the call-up to fight in Ukraine.

The Russian president’s decision to announce the first mobilisation since the second world war has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

Witnesses on the border with Georgia, a popular route used by Russians to leave the country, said that some men resorted to using bicycles and scooters to skip the miles-long queue of traffic jams.

Footage from the scene circulating on social media appears to confirm these reports.

“I have been waiting in my car since Thursday afternoon,” said Anton, who declined to give his surname fearing it might complicate his travel. “Everyone is worried that the border will be closed by the time we get anywhere close to it,” he added...

For context, here's a map of Russia detailing the borders Russia has across Eastern Europe and much of Asia:

Wait, this is RISK. This is probably how Putin's generals are 
strategizing their war effort. No wonder they're losing, you can
NEVER hold Ukraine in a game of RISK. You should take
Australia first
...

Okay wait let's refer to the Guardian's more accurate map.

Russia is a looooooong country - it spans 11 time zones! - so
there's a lot of borders that Russians can flee across...


Every Russian guy sober enough to understand how fucked the war in Ukraine has become are fleeing in a panic. In short, this is a Skedaddle.

Putin is doubling down on making this conscription (don't call it a mobilization like it's a good thing, this is forced military servitude) because Ukraine's recent success shredded much of the ground forces he had there and he needs as many bodies as possible to hold onto whatever he can claim. As mentioned earlier, Putin is also forcing the occupied regions of southern Ukraine - the Donbas in particular - to "vote" on a rigged "annexation" so that Russia can claim to the world that it's Ukraine invading Russia... even though most other nations would never recognize such a brazenly illegal move.

Putin is relying on the one last resource he can utilize in his war to conquer Ukraine: Manpower. Russia's overall population at 143 million is 100 million more than Ukraine's (43 million), and just on simple numbers in a slogfest Russia should be able to outlast Ukraine to conquer a bloodied landscape.

But in his desperation, Putin is overvaluing quantity over quality of armies. By all reports, Russia's armed forces are poorly trained, poorly motivated, poorly supplied... and everything that's happened since this February has proven how poor Russia's performance has been in a straight-up fight with an army that can fight back. While Putin is emphasizing in conscripting men with previous military experience, there's no guarantee those men have good enough experience in the first place, and there's no sign of them having the discipline and motivation to perform any better than the first wave of troops Putin sent in. Most military experts in the West argue that Putin needs to train his conscripts, which would take months... and Putin doesn't have months at this rate. He will send raw untrained victims to the front lines and hope to Zerg Rush Ukrainian forces by sheer attrition.

And while Putin can bring up 300,000 new bodies - if his "recruiters" can shanghai enough of them - or even a MILLION troops to continue his war, there's every sign that Russia has run low on any weapons and supplies those troops can use. Russia is deep into negotiations with China and North Korea to buy up any ammo they can use. That would still take massive logistics efforts to move all of that from the eastern end of things to the western front of Ukraine... and this war has demonstrated Russia is terrible at logistics. He is basically throwing more lives into the woodchipper of doom here, with no other goal than to hope Ukraine runs out of bodies first.

One last thing to consider how this conscription effort hurts Russia. Not just the brain drain of the best and brightest skedaddling for their lives, because they're the smartest ones to understand that fleeing is the best option: Putin is pulling away manpower that Russia relies on in their economy back home. He's taking menial workers, construction workers, office workers, anybody who couldn't run fast enough or who had reasons - likely family - to stay behind. He's disrupting the lives of millions of homefront Russians by doing this, and he's risking their anger if his war of attrition lingers ever onward.

Putin's running out of time, so he's stealing from Russia's very population thinking it will buy himself more time at everyone else's expense.

I warned before about Putin becoming more hated than feared. Disrupting the lives and livelihoods of millions of Russians is how you become more hated. This draft isn't saving Putin's time, it's hurrying his demise.

This is not going to end well for Putin or for Russia. We can only wait and pray that saner heads ensure the end is not in nuclear fire.

In the meantime, here's the soothing sounds of Christopher Cross and Michael MacDonald singing the one song on every Russian's playlist:



Thursday, September 22, 2022

With My Mind, It Makes It Unreal

Okay, with all the craziness in the past twenty-four hours, there's a little too much about trump's legal woes to cram into one blog article at the moment, but I will focus on this (via Crooks & Liars):


No, seriously, what the hell?

I understand a little that trump is desperate to gaslight his way out of a legal jam here, by claiming every classified document the FBI recovered at Mar-A-Lago was secretly declassified - so he can avoid the serious espionage charges he's facing - but he can't fit those lies into the reality that NOBODY who worked for him can confirm he gave any "standing order" to declassify the documents he kept. So he's taking the "when the President does it, it means it's legal" argument and pushing it into the meta-level by claiming "when the President THINKS IT, it means it's legal."

That argument still runs into the problem that NOBODY ELSE CAN READ HIS SHIT-FILLED MIND, and can confirm what documents were declassified or not.

Jesus. This is like claiming "Well, in my mind I ate a slice of pie, so that pie must have been real." Or worse, imagining that you're secretly married to (insert current fantasy sexy actress/model) and that it's alright to stalk her now.

YOUR MIND DOESN'T MAKE IT REAL, trump. THE LAW MAKES IT REAL. And the law says you took documents you had NO RIGHT to take.

Insert GIFs of President Bartlet headdesking to infinity here.

Iran Again: The People Will Not Stay Silent

My home Internet is dead (again) so I am struggling to blog through other means (again) so I am back with a quick observation about yet another popular uprising in Iran over the theocratic bullying that's killing their own people (again). Via Bill Chappell and Joe Hernandez at NPR:

Iranian women are burning their hijabs and cutting their hair short in protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died after being arrested in Tehran by Iran's notorious "morality police," who enforce the country's rules on hijabs and other conservative Islamic modes of dress and behavior...

Amini, 22, died on Friday in northern Tehran. She had been arrested on Tuesday and reportedly was taken to a hospital shortly afterward.

Amini suffered multiple blows to the head before she died, according to London-based broadcaster Iran International.

Amini was arrested in her brother's car during a visit to see family members in the capital, the outlet reported. She was originally from Saqqez in Kurdistan province...

"This is Iran's George Floyd moment," British-Iranian actor Omid Djalili said in a video posted online, drawing a parallel between demonstrators who want change in Iran and Americans who called for police reforms after Floyd's death in custody.

Social media has been buzzing with the unrest. On Wednesday morning, top hashtags in Iran included posts about police responses to ongoing protests over Amini's death and another that essentially states, "No to the Islamic Republic..."

Iranians outraged by Amini's death have been demonstrating for nearly a week, with some women setting their headscarves on fire in the streets.

Video shared by BBC lead presenter Rana Rahimpour shows women standing on top of burning police cars, railing against the Islamic Republic.

"One question is whether this will stay as a hijab protest or mushroom into a larger anti-government movement," NPR's Peter Kenyon said on Tuesday.

At least seven people are reported to have been killed since the protests began throughout Iran, the BBC reported...

The Iranian people are frustrated, again. The Shi'a theocracy that overtook their country back in the 1970s has remained notorious about their punishing and abuse of women creating a segregated society obsessed with keeping women second-class citizens. Even the men - fathers, brothers, husbands - are pissed about how the brute force "morality police" have been brazen in their assaults on women whose only crime is to be a woman in the first place.

I wrote this back in 2009, when things looked a bit hopeful that the anger among the majority of Iranians would have been enough to force the government into at least serious reforms

Now, it's 2009. Ayatollah Khamenei basically calls a questionable election result too early and too eagerly for Ahmadinejad. Even though enough Iranians know among themselves there's no way Ahmad could have won all those provinces so handily, even with widespread reports of ballot box tampering and fraud. Now acting like a bullying teenager caught in a weak lie, Khamenei is threatening violence on anyone who dares question him, and starts acting in a very Shah-like manner with violent arrests, use of acid sprays, the works. Thing is, for all of Khamenei's rhetoric against the Brits, and the Americans, and Zionists and 'foreign interlopers', the Iranian people know that's not really true. There's no evidence the Brits or the Russians or the Americans tampered with the election. It wasn't BBC or Fox News rushing to proclaim Ahmadinejad the winner "by divine will" inside of an hour after the polls closed. This time, the Iranians have no one to blame but their own leaders. And that's why I think the protests are going to continue, because Khamenei is now the target of blame. The violence will get worse, which is the pity of it all, but it's not gonna stop until he's gone...

Unfortunately that was 13 years ago and the Ayatollahs aren't gone, Khamenei is getting old enough for health rumors to flourish but the institution propping him up is still in power.

It's heartbreaking to realize that even with all the outrage that erupts repeatedly across Iran whenever the corrupt priests in power abuse the citizenry, those corrupt powers have remained in place in spite of the obvious outrage against them.

It's heartwarming to know that even with decades of that abuse, the people haven't given up. The Iranians are still fighting back, and one of these days a faction of the power elite - the military, the reformers in office biding their time, someone potent and capable - will turn on the Ayatollahs and bring true freedom to the Iranian people.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Florida Ballot Amendments 2022: Short But Not Simple

It's September in an election midterms cycle, so you know what THAT means!!!

PIZZAAAAAAA!!!!

...wait, I'm on a diet now. Back up, let's rethink this. Oh, now I remember.

STATE BALLOT REFERENDUMS!!!

I'm gonna do what I often do - link to Ballotpedia's page on 2022 Florida Referenda - and then provide a little commentary on why certain amendments deserve your vote and certain other amendments don't.

An interesting note about this year's referenda: There were no voter-petitioned (Initiated) amendments put on the ballot this cycle. Either the requirements for those type of amendments got stricter, or nobody had an issue that reached high enough voter interest to get enough signatures to make it. There is a possibility the pandemic made it harder during 2021-22 to get volunteers and registration tables set up to get those signatures. Still, I do wonder. If anybody in the know can tell me, please leave a comment.

Now, to the issues.

Amendment One: Disregard Flood Resistance Improvements in Property Value Assessments

The title is wordy and a bit confusing. The synopsis tells us a Yes vote means "authorizing the state legislature to pass laws prohibiting flood resistance improvements to a home from being taken into consideration when determining a property's assessed value for property tax purposes." Voting No obviously means it won't let the state do this.

What this involves is giving homeowners options to make flood resistance improvements without such expensive items impact the property value assessments that tax appraisers would use to increase the tax value of that house. Meaning a form of tax deduction on what people will owe on those properties.

On the one hand, it falls under the Far Right obsession with lowering tax revenues that the state could collect on, which IMHO hurts our state's ability to build up funds to pay for shit like schools, roads, clean water, social safety nets, etc. On the other hand, it provides a tax credit of sorts for those who DO redevelop their property to better withstand flooding issues.

It should be a huge warning sign that even state Republicans admit that climate change is getting severe enough that flooding is a bigger problem than ever. It'd be nice if they passed more laws to combat the root cause to ensure flooding recedes as a problem (aheh).

This would be a reasonable YES vote for most voters. I just wish we had better amendments that didn't focus on cutting taxes our counties would need.

Amendment TwoAbolishes the Florida Constitution Revision Commission

You might recall four years ago (2018) we had a slew of amendments on the state ballot that exceeded the number we'd see for normal referendum cycles. What happened was a constitution-required Revision Commission was at work that year. Every 20 years, that Commission shows up - filled with Governor-nominated political hacks - to put any number of amendments that the legislature may have wanted done but couldn't get past their 60 percent supermajority... and maybe any popular voter initiatives that couldn't get enough signatures.

Problem in 2018 was - and if you link back to what I posted about that cycle - the Commission crammed together a series of multi-issue referenda: Each Commission amendment had two or three disparate issues under consideration, meaning people who were voting Yes for one thing were forced to vote Yes for other things they would otherwise had voted No.

As I noted on one of the amendments that had non-related matters to vote on:

They're trying to get people to vote for the one thing that matters - the victims' rights - to one thing that the legislature ought to do itself - raise retirement age - and then to one thing that would make our legal system worse - denying courts from getting administrative input.

It angered a lot of people, even some of the Republicans, and it led to the Legislature agreeing to the idea of abolishing the 20-year Commission outright.

Here's the problem: The Commission itself is not a bad idea.

The reason for that Commission is obvious: Political logjams in the Legislature prevents certain popular issues from getting resolved; also the strict requirements for public initiatives are needed to prevent our ballots from getting swamped by extremists pushing bad agendas. The Commission is a third option, one that if applied properly could allow voters to pass needed reforms that our state government might not make.

What really went wrong in 2018 was that the Commission had no set guidelines on how to proceed - it sets its own rules rather than by court or legislative mandates - and so abused their power to cram - also called "bundling" as many unpopular and partisan ballot referendums alongside popular ones in an attempt to screw over the voters. Instead of abolishing the Commission, our state needs to reform it by setting rules and requirements to ensure it works properly.

We need to make it so that the Commission CANNOT cram multiple ballot issues onto one "bundled" amendment. Each issue should stand alone. That would be a major improvement right there. Then, there needs to be a set limit of Commission-based amendments - say, a top ten of amendments that passed their committee votes - so that way the ballot doesn't get overwhelmed, and then any left over by the Commission can be converted into public initiatives for signatures and hopefully make it onto the next election cycle's ballot. I would also argue that the membership of the Commission should not be by governor appointment (which allowed then-Governor Scott to fill it with hacks) but by popular vote: Have voters choose an open ballot of candidates in the previous election cycle, make it so each major party nominates UP TO 25 candidates (the candidates should have requirements to run to ensure no extremists get on ballot), and the top 37 vote getters go in meaning it will be an automatic mix of both parties.

Just those three fixes alone would work. Straight-out abolition of a reform method would hurt the state in the long run.

I would argue NO against this amendment. There are better ways to fix the Commission, not kill it.

Amendment Three: Yet Another Homestead Exemption for Certain Public Service Workers

If there's anything predictable about the Republicans in our legislature, it's that they want to create more and more exemptions to the Homestead Exemption on property taxes. Just keep on making it harder for counties to pay for themselves, Tallahassee! /headdesk

At some point I swear Florida Republicans will eliminate property taxes altogether, at which point everything will be paid through sales taxes that hurt the poor the most... /more headdesk

This time around, the exemption idea is for "Additional homestead property tax exemption on $50,000 of assessed value on property owned by certain public service workers including teachers, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel, active duty members of the military and Florida National Guard, and child welfare service employees." I thought they've already passed a ton of exemptions for law enforcement and military residents already, but hey let's give them $50,000 more of a tax cut shall we?

At least this time around they're providing tax cuts for the more "liberal" leaning professions like teachers and social workers, so this is not as bad an exemption push as the earlier ones. Any benefit to our beleaguered teachers and family welfare workers is a nice thing to consider

The only problem with this exemption? It doesn't seem to cover OTHER public service employees like county and city officials. LIKE LIBRARIANS!!!!!!! YES, I AM ANGRY I'M GETTING OVERLOOKED. I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE HYPOCRISY, I CARE ABOUT GETTING MY CONDO'S TAXES DOWN!!! AAAAUUUuuugggg.... cough cough... um, sorry about that, got a little self-serving there for a moment.

Look, previous experience has taught me that these Homestead exemption amendments are popular and tend to get passed in spite of my pro-tax (in moderation, in short "tax the rich 'cause they're the only ones who can afford to anymore") world-view. It's likely a lot of teachers and their families will vote for this, which is a broad voting base on its own. This ballot affects enough people in what they'll view as a positive that they'll likely support it.

I'll just sit over here grumbling to myself about the slight to librarians and tell you I'm personally a No on this.

--

This is, as mentioned earlier, a relatively quiet amendment cycle for Florida. It should be relatively easy for everyone to remember. If anything, the amendment that means the most this term - Amendment Two abolishing the Revision Commission - is the one I really want voters to say NO to. That's what matters here.

Also, I want a huge Democratic / Blue Wave turnout this midterms to vote that asshole DeSantis and every other Republican out of office, but you should have learned that by now.

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, FLORIDA DEMOCRATS!