Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What Does Arya Say to the God of Death? Anything She Damn Well Wants To

In the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell, how fared our heroes?


Okay, I kid. Only 99 percent of the Dothraki and maybe half the Unsullied and about 20 percent of the Wildlings and about 85 percent of everybody's vision because if your flat-screen TV wasn't set to the highest Brightness setting you couldn't see a DAMN thing.

As I figured, Beric and Theon were toast. Lost Edd, likely the final Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (since the Wall is gone and the White Walkers are dead). I didn't want Lady Lyanna Mormont to die (NOOOOO) but at least she killed a giant wight before she passed on. Her cousin Jorah Mormont was marked for doom as the perpetual Friendzoned bodyguard of his Khaleesi, but I had hoped he'd survive... nope. But he went out defending his queen and Daenerys really really felt bad about it so there's that. Almost lost Sandor but Beric slapped some sense into him before he bit the ballista. Completely forgot about the Red Woman Melisandre but she showed up at the last minute and used her firebending to defend the castle before quitting this world like a boss.

Every other major and secondary character survived, which means they're now faced with the priorities of taking on a well-rested and fully-powered Cersei at King's Landing. But they can all thank one character for finishing up this part of the epic storyline by wiping out the zombie apocalypse.

Yay Arya.

Sheesh. You'd think she'd won a Super Bowl or something.

Well, okay, so a lot of people were really impressed that she...

Okay, so everyone's completely freaking out over Arya...

Look, to any of the assholes out there calling Arya a "Mary Sue," you have no fooking clue. She's a badass. End of story. Well, not really ended because GEORGE RR MARTIN NEEDS TO WRITE THE DAMN END. Ahem.

Valar Morghulis

A Lobby Choking On Its Own Con Game

One of the more bizarre elements of trump's Darkest Timeline is how one of trump's most powerful allies - the NRA aka National Body Count Association - is falling apart.

Having been one of the Republicans' deepest-pocket fundraisers, the NRA should have been reveling in winning the 2016 election cycle against hated gun-safety Democrats and expanding its power as more Red States pursue insane agendas like arming teachers. Instead, this is happening (via Adam Wren at the Daily Beast):

As allegations of financial mismanagement thrust the NRA leadership into turmoil this weekend, with its president Lt. Col. Oliver North ousted Saturday in the wake of critical stories by outlets such as The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal, the Scotts are among a number of members here who told me they think the association has lost focus on its original mission and needs a leadership change ahead of a Monday board of directors meeting. “I think one of the reasons people aren’t going to join as much is they either need a leadership change or they need to switch how they’re doing business,” Allan said. Both Allan and Jim complained about the increasing number of expensive-looking fundraising mailings they receive seemingly each week in the mail requesting more money. On Friday, news broke that North tried to force Wayne LaPierre, the association’s chief executive, to resign.
On Saturday morning, LaPierre received a standing ovation at the beginning of the members meeting. He was seated next to Oliver North’s empty chair and placard. First Vice President Richard Childress, the former NASCAR driver, took the dais awkwardly, explaining that he found out at 7 p.m. Friday that he would be presiding over the morning’s meeting. As he read a letter from North explaining that he would not be renominated to serve in his role, the room fell silent.
“There is a clear crisis and it needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment,” North wrote in the letter read by Childress. North warned the organization could lose its tax-exempt status. Indeed, on Saturday, The New York Times reported that the New York Attorney General had opened an investigation into the association’s tax-exempt status. Members rebuffed a no-confidence vote against Pierre, voting instead to leave that issue to the board, which meets Monday...

So what exactly the hell is going on?

Drunk on their own success, maybe?

To me, I'd argue it's a combination of things.

It's a leadership headed by LaPierre who'd been in power for decades, convinced they are an untouchable gang who could set themselves higher salaries and never get voted out for it. Their internal elections process is a tightly-controlled vetting process that's bound to screen out any moderate voices from getting nominated in the first place.

One result of the same a-holes being in charge is that the decision-making calcifies. Most of them will share similar ideology regarding guns (and other cultural and economic issues). In their minds, whatever worked in 1989 will work in 2019. They'll double-down on a "solution" - MOAR GUNS -  when it doesn't work, because that's the only solution they'll know. There probably hasn't been an original idea on that board since 2000. This also means they will go "on offense" to defend a policy, such as increasing calls for more guns in public places like schools because the alternative equates to losing.

In the process, they alienated more and more members - ones who are rational about not having guns in schools, or who agree to the argument for universal background checks - into quitting or ignoring the growing demands for fundraising. I can sympathize: I've gotten sick of the constant emailing for fundraising help from candidates I raised money for years ago... and I actually *want* them to succeed. Yes, I will send you $25 for now, but dammit stop emailing EVERY HOUR FOR IT. /headdesk

Ahem. Back to the point. The extremist positions the NRA have shifted towards have scared off more and more people who understand how dire the situation in the real world is. That leads to less money in their coffers. Even as their expenses - trying to start their own media outlet, indulging in higher pay for board members - go up. Not enough people are buying into their gun-worship narrative anymore.

It doesn't help that the NRA is under legal scrutiny for money laundering for the Russians. Some of the deep-pocket allies that could keep their finances afloat do not want to mix their money into a pot that might lead to criminal charges.

Granted, this isn't the first time the NRA has faced financial woes. When researching this article I came across reports from the 1990s about how they were facing their end times. But when it seemed the organization was gasping its last, they apparently changed their internal rules to agree to more questionable tactics.

But this time it's different. There's state attorneys looking at their finances now. Serious civil and criminal allegations are out there. A bill for the gun-nuts' bad behavior is coming due.

Couldn't happen to a meaner, bloodier sack of death-worshipers. I hope they arrest the crooks. I'd love to see LaPierre scream about his gun rights, only to have the judges remind him that the Second Amendment is not a license to commit fraud.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We're At War With Russia. Congress Needs To Act.

While the debate to impeach or not impeach rages, there's a part of the Mueller Report that requires direct and immediate attention:

Russia interfered, meddled, messed with our 2016 election cycle.

And they're threatening to do it again.

Referring to Amy MacKinnon at Foreign Policy:

Indeed, there was one conclusion in the 22-month investigation that no one in Washington was disputing on Friday—with the possible exception of Trump himself. It came on Page 1: “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
Russia experts say the extensive detail about Russian activities in the Mueller probe reveals much about Moscow’s game plan—and what U.S. counterintelligence officials should watch for—in future elections, starting with 2020.
“Make no mistake: They are at war with us. Whether we want to recognize it or not,” said Daniel Hoffman, who served as CIA station chief in Moscow under the Obama administration...

What Russia - and their authoritarian boss Putin - wants is full Western destabilization. They want Europe in-fighting, torn asunder by Nationalist factions. They're meddling in election after election, trying to taunt republics and democracies with the belief that such governance is weak.

You think Russia will pull back, now that they've been exposed through Mueller's investigation into their tricks? No, no they won't:

...It was also an operation that Russia intended to be discovered, knowing the backlash it would cause, Hoffman said, suggesting that the political strife over the Mueller report is itself evidence that the Kremlin’s tactics are still succeeding.
“I think the fallout [from the discovery of Russia’s role] is far more damaging. It’s an amplification of their themes,” he said. “The strategy was to pit us against ourselves.” And having discovered how well that strategy has worked up to the present, Moscow will be encouraged to keep applying it.
“All the partisan fodder here is going to make it difficult for Democratic and Republican lawmakers to come together and form a real strategy to counter Russia,” Hoffman added...

Russia is counting on the Republicans to run interference, to block any attempt to impose tighter security on our electoral system. There's a lot Congress could do in spite of any trump intervention, such as imposing harsher sanctions on Putin and his cronies and passing reforms to improve our Internet and technology security to crimp Russia's cyberwar stunts.

But will a Senate run by Mitch McConnell - who already blocked for trump (and Putin) by denying Obama's request to reveal the early evidence of Russian meddling - agree to make moves that he would automatically assume hurts his chances of retaining control? McConnell remains the center force of partisanship in Congress - obstructionist and rule-breaking - who is in many respects causing more damage to our nation than anything trump wants to do.

The smartest move Pelosi and the Democratic House should do right now is issue stronger sanction laws against Russia, dare McConnell to ignore a move that most Americans would support. It's the most obvious, bipartisan move Congress could make.

We're at war, Mitch. You're going to have to choose a side: America or Putin. And it's not really a choice, you sonofabitch. Side with Putin and history condemns you forever.

Getting Published In 2019: Strangely Funny series

You may notice I have a side gig as a short story writer, having gotten published in a few anthologies, most of them in an ongoing humor-horror series called Strangely Funny.

Volume VI (of VII, yeah it gets complicated) just dropped on Kindle ebook. It's got my latest short "How a Vampire Gets A Tan."

Click here please and thank ye.

Hopefully it's funny enough to warrant interest from this blog's seven readers. Do me a favor if you purchase a copy, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon about it. Those reviews do help. Danke.

I'll get a novel finished someday, hopefully before George RR Martin does. I wanna prove I can write faster than you, George!!! /argh

Geek Time: Who Survives The Battle of Winterfell

So with the final season of Game of Thrones about to enter its biggest moment - the long-awaiting BIG BATTLE BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD - is there any thought towards who lives and who dies?

Ah yes, I've been here before. The riddle Varys offered to Tyrion about the game itself: who wields true power? Power of life and death? Power of forgiveness and endless vendetta? Power of fire and ice, the elements of the world?

Mostly the fans will care about this: Who's gonna live or die?

Well, actually they care about George RR Martin FINISHING THE LAST TWO DAMN BOOKS, WRITE LIKE THE WIND GEORGE.

Ahem. Back to "Who lives and who dies?"

This actually falls under how high fantasy literature works, via tropes/archetypes, which I actually commented on at my librarian/writing blog. To quote... well, myself:

I've seen the Twitter explode over a major television episode before, but not like this where the fandom was seemingly "OMG How could they do this?"  And one of the tweets caught my eye: someone arguing that Robb Stark - one of the key victims of the massacre - was meant to be the hero of the story, the avenger of his fallen father, etc.
But the thing is if you pay attention to any of the High Fantasy tropes, even when Deconstructed, you might notice that Robb Stark was never meant to be the hero of the story...
Mixed into all this is The Hero's Journey, the Jungian/Campbellian method of storytelling that lends itself best to High Fantasy (and pulp fantasy) literature.  In most respects, Robb doesn't fit the cycle at all: his call to adventure is more an act of vengeance against the family that betrayed his.  While it falls into the narrative of Seeking Justice (SEE the legend/myth of Horus), Robb is not out for any Enlightenment nor is he setting the natural balance of the world back in place (i.e., the return of the Rightful, Once-Promised King).  In some respects he doesn't fulfill the Prophecy...
The obvious choice of being the Hero is Daenerys Targaryen.  A bit of a gender flip but she qualifies: the prophecy of the Prince Who Was Promised fits her (birth under the right stars, her childhood, her travels, her proving her mystical dragon power).  As the last known member of her royal family, it's her throne by blood-right.  She's undergone various journeys of self-discovery (the Hero's Journey) that has unlocked more magick to her, has suffered setbacks but survived.
By sheer volume of POV chapters, Tyrion Lannister (also the most popular character yet) could by that designation be the most likely candidate of being the Hero.  The unliked and unloved member of a powerful, corrupt family, the one member with any recognizable decency as a human being, quick with words, adept at politics, victimized not by his actions but by a world that can't handle a dwarf as lord or hero...  It would again be a twist on the concept of Hero (you were perhaps expecting someone 6'4" with broad shoulders, a gleaming sword and amusing comedic sidekick?) to have him end up surviving the whole mess and uniting the kingdoms under a peaceful rule.
Another candidate is Jon Snow, bastard son (as generally believed) of the Fallen Good Father figure of Eddard Stark.  Treated coolly by his adoptive mother Catelyn, Jon is nonetheless on great terms with the Stark family.  Jon accepts a Call to Adventure by volunteering to do his service as Night Watch on the Wall (a key stronghold against wildlings and the zombie-like Others), and undergoes many unnerving quests and tests of character.  It was Jon who insisted on the children adopting a set of orphaned direwolves (mystic animal guardians associated to the Stark crest).  With Robb as the decoy hero now fallen, Jon now fits the bill as the heroic heir of House Stark.  Given no one really knows who his mother is, that Eddard refused to reveal the secret, that Eddard was present at his sister's mysterious death, said sister having been abducted/raped(?) by the Targaryen heir... there's a very reasonable fan theory that Jon may be the Prince Who Was Promised.  (Note: there is a slight problem with this as Jon is getting stabbed to death at the end of the latest novel.  He could, of course, survive the ordeal... something a Hero does in the Campbellian cycle)... (Follow-Up Note: In the TV show he *did* get better).

I've listed those as the three likeliest survivors to win the Iron Throne, and so far they haven't let me down. Given how they're likely to survive to the series finale, I'd give Dany, Jon and Tyrion a pass on the Dead Pool list.


That leaves about eight to twenty fan favorites to worry about.

Let's focus Starks first:

  • Sansa? Had turned from airhead princess into cold-hard Queen of the North. She's endured things, man. I doubt a Night King can put her down now. Either her, Arya or Dany will put an end to Cersei (who will survive because HER fate is the series finale).
  • Arya? She's gone from tomboy to sellsword to faceless assassin able to kill any man up close (Needle!) or far away (throwing knives and arrows!). She got it on with her childhood crush Gendry. She's done everything but finish her list of enemies... and that means Cersei better hide...
  • Bran? He's gone from crippled thing to warging seer to the Three-Eyed Raven. In some ways, he's already dead to the world, so dying in a final confrontation with the Night King (who seems to want Bran deader than dead) wouldn't be much of a shock. But he has achieved Gifts and powers beyond the known, and may be fated to live/die another way...
  • Theon? Not really a Stark and indeed caused much of their earlier misery when he betrayed them to gain favor with a House (Greyjoy) that abandoned him. But he suffered immensely for his folly and found some redemption saving Sansa and then his own sister. He's offered to defend Bran personally as they wait in the trap being set for the Night King. Theon's probably toast.
  • Samwise uh Samwell Tarly? The bookworm. Jon's bumbling sidekick who turns out to be the truest friend. A Secret Finder. The first one who actually killed a Walker and found out it's dragonglass that could work. He's still not really a good fighter, but he's brave enough to stand when it matters. He kind of needs to live because he has a destiny to confront a corrupt Maester citadel that refuses to save the world.
  • Gilly? Samwell's wildling girlfriend. She's raising a sister-daughter (raped by her own father, that's how effed up this world is) but smarter and braver than most other characters. Stuff her into a fridge and they will riot in the bars. So I think she lives.
  • Lyanna Mormont? She's ten. She's dead serious about defending the North and standing with the Starks through thick and thin. She may be a bigger ass-kicker than Arya. In the name of the Old Gods and the New, don't kill her.
  • Ghost? Jon's Direwolf, one of the last to survive (Arya's Nymeria is the other). He's too cool to die. He's gonna put in a good kill before the series ends.

The other Heroes of Westeros:

  • Gendry? He's not a true warrior - he's more the smithy - and he's done something - sex with his One True Pairing Arya - that usually condemns a minor hero to a tragic death. But he's a bastard son of Eddard Stark's oldest friend, the one honest character among the heroes, a figure of the Common Man who may yet achieve better things for a future world. Also, if he dies Arya might break the Fourth Wall and kill the show's producers. So he might survive...
  • Tormund? Leader of the Wildlings, ardent and unwanted suitor of Brienne, fearless warrior of the cold. Armed with dragonglass, he could prove worthy and survive. But a strong hero has to fall in this battle to make it meaningful, and he's a likely target to do so.
  • Edd? Last Commander of the Night's Watch. Sarcastic ally to Jon. He might die like Tormund to highlight how deadly this battle will get. But he's been a survivor of other major battles and may yet survive this one.
  • Beric? Leader of the Brotherhood without Banners, a True Believer in the Lord of Light who's been dead and risen more times than I've had hot dinners. He possesses a wight-ready weapon of a flaming sword and may be difficult to put down in a fight... but if the Night King kills him and resurrects him as a White Walker that would be an ironic fate.
  • Davos? He's no fighter, he'll tell you as much when you ask. He's arguably the sanest man in the Seven Kingdoms who gives counsel probably better than Tyrion could. He's completed several journeys following one banner (Stannis) and another (Jon). Lost a son to war and gained a spiritual one in Gendry. Lost an adopted daughter to madness (Shireen) and may yet rescue a child of the North when (not if) the Crypts they're hiding in turn into death traps. He deserves to survive to see a better world, but he could die to make the day more tragic.

The Lannisters and their allies at Winterfell:

I mentioned Tyrion earlier as a likely survivor - he has one final problem (his lying sister) to confront - so that's moot.

  • Jaime? He started off as the Kingslayer, a betrayer, someone who tried to kill Bran (crippling him), fought against the Starks, had incestuous relations with his sister Cersei that doomed much of the kingdom to the Hell they're about to face... but has also gone through a Redemption Arc of trying to do the right thing that made him more heroic than other villains could be. Honestly brave, even with one hand gone a good fighter for the battle to come, he will play a key role this episode... but will he survive? He's completed much of his redemption - turning against Cersei at last, confessing his sins to Bran the one he hurt the most, knighted his redeemer Brienne - but has one last part to complete: confronting his love and betraying the one he should have betrayed long ago...
  • The Hound (Sandor)? He has a terrible fear of fire that could make him useless in a fight - especially if Beric turns and wields his firesword against Sandor. Thing is, Sandor's got one fight left in him. CLEGANEBOWL“What they did to you doesn’t matter. It’s not how it ends for you, brother. You know who’s coming for you. You’ve always known.” Two men enter... 
  • Podrick? Faithful squire, Sex God among men, worst fighter on the battlefield. But he's the sweetest, purest Lannister ally in the game. They can't kill him... They shouldn't...
  • Brienne? A woman warrior in a world that frowned against her role, her arc has been to prove herself a Knight and Die (Live?) for a cause greater than herself. She loved the one man who showed any kindness (Renly, an early casualty of the Game) and may be in love with the only man who showed any respect (Jaime). The previous episode gave her what she desired most: actual knighthood, given by Jaime as the noblest act he's ever done (and she knows it). In every respects... she's doomed. Prime candidate of the Hero(ine) the fans love most whose death will break a million viewers' hearts. As long as it's a good death...
    Actually, I kid. She's gonna survive, marry Jaime, and have like seven daughters who grow up as the next Kingsguard.
  • Bronn? He's not showing up yet, so he's good until he has to show up to either betray his best friend Tyrion, his best boss Jaime, or his financial backer Cersei...

Daeneyrs' army and followers:

Khaleesi and her dragon will survive, but the rest are in trouble...

  • Jorah? A Mormont who betrayed his family name, who then betrayed a woman Khaleesi he came to worship (even love). Patron Saint of the Friendzone. He's come to terms with the fact she will never love him, and found out his own father Jeor (who served as Jon's Lord Commander on the Night's Watch) passed on his legacy to Jon. He's survived greyscale and more Suicide-By-Sellsword attempts than any man alive. He's got nothing to live for and every reason to die a martyr (likely saving Dany from a cold death). So of course he's gonna live.
  • Missandei? A freed slave who's become Dany's closest confidant and friend. A witness to history and potential speaker for it. She kinda has to live but she's in a relationship that can doom characters like her...
  • Greyworm? Leader of Khaleesi's Unsullied army, the best and most tight-knit unit on the battlefield (think US Marines). While much of that army can fall, he's the one with the name and face-time for fans to root for. He may be gelded but he's still a man, in love with Missandei. Um, yeah. That could kill them both.
  • Dany's Dragons? Drogon is hers, named for her lost first husband (and genuine love). Rhaegar is Jon's... so he might die because Jon is more of a Wolf (Ghost!). Viserion (named for her evil older brother who died Season 1) is already an Ice Dragon under thrall to the Knight King. He'll die in a one-on-one version Drogon...

The White Walkers:

Um, they're already dead. That's the problem.

  • But in particular the Knight King. He lives, his army grows. He dies, the entire army dies with him. Thing is, while Cersei is a major villain she's just a flea compared to the dire threat the Knight King presents. Killing *him* too early makes the remaining episodes seem anticlimactic. There's a possibility the Knight King loses the battle of Winterfell... but survives somehow to remain a final threat to our heroes when the final battle commences in King's Landing.

So that's what I got.

Valar Morghulis

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Slight Glitch In the Mueller Reading

Well I said I was going to read the Mueller Report, right?

I went and downloaded a free copy to my B&N Nook a couple nights ago, yep.

And... it's in a PDF format that doesn't zoom in very well. When I try to enlarge to read, the page freezes up. It's gotten quite vexing.


So I am looking at two options. One: read it off a regular computer where the PDF enlarge function won't vex me. Two: pay actual money for an ebook copy that might have better enlarge function.

I'll report back shortly.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Blood in the Streets of Sri Lanka

This is not good:

At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in a series of bomb blasts that hit luxury hotels and churches across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, leaving the entire country in a state of lock-down.
The first wave of attacks struck at the heart of the country's minority Christian community during busy Easter services at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on Sunday morning.
Additional blasts ripped through three high-end hotels, the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury, all in capital city Colombo.

What I hate about ANY extremism - white supremacists, religious nutjobs, etc. - is how they intentionally go out of their way to make everyone else bloodied and miserable and wounded and dead.

The bombers intentionally went after places of worship, to speak against their hatred of God. They went after tourist locations, to make sure they got the world's attention.

And now, they're gonna revel in their violence and taunt the rest of humanity for "our" weakness in the face of their bullying.

Against such violent empty men we should stick to this response.

We Are Stronger Together. We And Our Loved Ones Are Still Better Than You.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Anniversary: Columbine

Sometimes you just say one word and everyone gets what you're saying.


We'd had shootings before. We'd had mass shootings before. We'd had school shootings before. But this was a turning point in our nation's sad long history of gun violence.

With Columbine, there came this awareness of the immediacy of the act. Our news coverage - in 1999 with 24/7 cable news, today with livestreaming social media - could make a school shooting in any part of the country a sudden kick to the collective gut. It's the kind of violence that can't be ignored, aimed at our families and our communities.

Columbine became a focal point for others on the edge, driven to seek their vengeance against anything and everything. The second a school shooting happens, the earliest question tends to be "was it someone inspired by the Columbine shooters?" and sadly it's common enough for the answer to be "Yes." The Parkland shooter researched Columbine before he went on his own rampage.

And Columbine became one of those turning points where America couldn't come to terms with our violent gun culture. Despite efforts in the 1990s to restrict firearms and limit access to military-level weaponry, we had by 1999 a gun show loophole that the shooters exploited - underage gun purchases were/are otherwise banned - and which is still in existence.

Confronted with a growing problem of easier access of firearms to the wrong people, we've had the NRA and their political allies refuse time and again to allow greater gun safety laws, to limit the kind of damage a mass shooting like Columbine can inflict. Thanks to their inaction/interference, we've had far too many mass shootings since April 1999. Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. Parkland. And too many to count.

Parkland happened just last year. Close to the anniversary of Columbine. There's been a lot of media attention about the synchronicity between the two tragedies, and the survivors of one are reaching out and connecting with the others as a kind of bookend.

Except it's not the end of it. We're still dealing with a nation where the political leadership won't listen to or connect to the vast majority of people who are begging for an end to out-of-control gun violence.

Columbine wasn't a beginning, more of a warning alarm. Parkland isn't the end, more of a reminder that our schools are targets.

It's been twenty years of one tragedy. Right now, I dread the fate of whichever poor school in twenty years has to share its pain with Parkland survivors.

Goddamn us.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Summer Blockbuster Season 2019: I'm Not Ready

This summer is coming up faster than expected, and in some ways I'm not ready for some of the films that are due to break loose starting next week:

I mean, YES on Avengers: Endgame and YES on Godzilla: Gonna Slap Me a Ghidorah and YES on Spider-Man: I Got Better. I might actually go see MiB if only because Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson were fantastic as teammates in Thor: Immigrant Song. But the rest? For some reason, not really pumped about John Wick again even though I loved the first and liked the second (I worry about serial escalation making it more absurd than it should be). I don't agree with Disney live-action remakes of their animated movies, never understood the appeal. Lost interest in Fast & Furious when it turned into James Bond (and I like James Bond... but on its own merits). The X-Men movie is actually the hardest pitch for me: I'm not a huge fan of the rebooted timeline and Dark Phoenix looks like an attempt to remake the Last Stand fiasco but not in a good way.

Where's the Leonard Elmore adaptations? For awhile there in the late 90s, those were fun summer movies, crime thrillers with a dash of humor. Sigh, regrets...

Addressing Presidential Misconduct in 2019

Update: While I'm grateful that Tengrain has linked me up to Mike's Blog Round Up this Easter morning, please don't read me! Click on the link below and go read Yoni's work in full! ...just do me a favor and keep track of this blog, pleasekaithanx (P.S. been busy writing Camp NaNo and all, haven't gotten past the intro of the Mueller Report... busy busy busy)

I'm still reading the Mueller Report - and tracking the madness on social media - so there's little I need to say on the subject right now.

Yoni Appelbaum over at the Atlantic, however, has made a compelling argument for the Democratic House in Congress to take the step Mueller is urging them to take: File articles of Impeachment against Trump.

A basic principle lies at the heart of the American criminal-justice system: The accused is entitled to a fair defense and a chance to clear his name. Every American is entitled to this protection, from the humblest citizen all the way up to the chief executive. And that, Mueller explained in his report, is why criminal allegations against a sitting president should be considered by Congress and not the Justice Department. The Mueller report, in short, is an impeachment referral.
In his report, Mueller took pains to detail why he “determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” as to whether the president had broken the law by obstructing justice. He began by noting that he accepted the opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)—which issues guidance for the executive branch on questions of law—that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
That, Mueller explained, posed an insurmountable problem. A normal investigation would end with a prosecutor deciding to bring charges, or to drop the case. It’s a binary choice. But “fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment when no charges can be brought.” Ordinarily, a criminal charge would result in “a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case.” But if Mueller were to state plainly that, in his judgment, the president had broken the law and obstructed justice, it would afford “no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.” In other words, because a sitting president cannot be indicted, making such a charge publicly would effectively deny Trump his day in court, and the chance to clear his name...
But there is another, simpler way to understand Mueller’s report. A footnote spells out that a criminal investigation could ultimately result in charges being brought either after a president has been removed from office by the process of impeachment or after he has left office. Mueller explicitly rejected the argument of Trump’s lawyers that a president could not be guilty of obstruction of justice for the conduct in question: “The protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person—including the President—accords with the fundamental principle of our government that ‘[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.’”
But if Mueller believes a president could be held to account after he leaves office, he also spelled out another concern with alleging a crime against a sitting president: the risk that it would preempt “constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”
The constitutional process for addressing presidential misconduct is impeachment...

There is a lot of buzz in social and Beltway Media arguing that a Democratic House shouldn't try an impeachment that's doomed to fail in a Republican-controlled Senate. The fear is that trump would use the Senate vote as "vindication" - as he's shown so eager to crow every time he avoids accountability - and claim himself a victim to trick enough undecided voters to align with him again in 2020.

The thing is, the Mueller Report as we're reading it - even with redactions - is exposing an Executive administration running amok, eager to commit crimes at trump's whims and seeking out corrupt deals at the expense of the Public Trust. There are solid arguments to make that the House has to do its job as a balancing check on a corrupt administration.

Even if it doesn't mean impeachment proceedings starting this Monday... it ought to at least ramp up the oversight on every committee to hold trump and his staffers accountable for every lie and act of deceit they've done.

Back to Appelbaum about the appropriate use of Impeachment:

As I wrote for this magazine in January, impeachment is best regarded as a process, not an outcome. It’s the constitutional mechanism for investigating whether an executive-branch officer is fit to serve. It requires his accusers to lay out their evidence in public, provides the opportunity for witnesses to be cross-examined, and ultimately forces the House of Representatives to decide whether to impeach—that is, to approve charges that will force a trial in the Senate—or to drop the inquiry, thereby clearing the accused...
...Mueller has now delivered 10 credible allegations of obstructive behavior on the part of the president. For all of Trump’s bluster, those claims are now a matter of public record, and will hang over his presidency, despite the decision of his own appointee to clear him in the matter.
The constitutional mechanism for resolving this situation is impeachment. The president... deserves a chance to clear his name. The public deserves a chance to examine the evidence against him. And his supporters and opponents alike deserve the clarity that only convening impeachment hearings can now provide.

trump is corrupt. We've known that since Day One. All Mueller's done with his Report is document the atrocities. Congress has evidence now to act on that Report. They need to.

They Redacted the Table of Contents?

Okay, I took a few minutes last night to begin reading the Mueller Report, and as a librarian my first horror was finding the chapter titles in the Table of Contents itself redacted.

Harm To Ongoing Matter is already a twitter meme.

Seriously? This is how bad it's going to get?

And there's a chapter about "Possible 1030 Violation By Personal Privacy" listed. I'm sorry, but we're talking about someone violating computer fraud laws and we ought to know who that is. If it's not an "Ongoing Matter" which seems to be the main reason for a lot of these redactions, and it's not a liable matter, this is a person whose name NEEDS TO BE referred to either Congress or a DoJ prosecutor's office for charges.

Release the unredacted Mueller Report to Congress. Damn you, Barr.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Redacted Mueller Report

Well, it's out. The Twitterverse has been afire since Barr dropped it, with a lot of comments here and there. For the sake of keeping it simple I'm just going to log to my main blog source Balloon Juice starting with Betty Cracker's early take and you can go down the rabbit hole from there.

Oh what the hell I'll add Emptywheel too, with a link to the excoriation of Barr's conduct covering up for trump.

For my part... I've been busy at work today so I'm going to make an effort to read the Searchable PDF version of the Report (follow that link yourself). I want to get my own understanding of what's in there and avoid relying too much on everyone else's interpretations of what happens from here.


"That's GUILTY! GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY!" - unabashedly stealing from "Doonesbury"

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Things You Need To Remember About Thursday April 18 2019

Tomorrow is supposed to be when trump's Attorney General Lackey General Barr releases the Mueller Report to the public.

Here's the first thing you should understand:

This is not the real Report.

This will be a redacted - probably heavily redacted - copy of a report that will hide absolutely everything embarrassing (if not documented illegality that Mueller couldn't make a solid court case for) related to trump's behavior during his 2016 campaign and into the early parts of 2017 when trump was trying to stop the FBI from exposing Michael Flynn's bad behavior as his National Security Advisor.

This is part of Barr's attempt to defang any possibility of Mueller's investigations providing a link between the Russian hacking into the 2016 elections that he proved to a grand jury and the trump campaign's eagerness to work with Russians from 2015 onward.

To refer to Michael Stern's observations at Slate:

Here are just some of the ways that Barr has failed the public and the Justice Department he heads.
First, there is a huge piece of the puzzle that is missing in the countless articles that take, at face value, Barr’s claim that he cannot release much of Mueller’s report to the public because it contains grand jury material.
Yes, it is true that federal rules governing grand jury secrecy stop the Department of Justice from releasing testimony that occurred “before the grand jury.” However, there is a practice that is common among federal prosecutors that would allow for the release of the substance of most grand jury testimony without violating the secrecy rule.
While much of the material from these interviews is the same as what is said before the grand jury, the grand jury secrecy rule only prevents grand jury testimony from being released. It does not act as a bar to the release of interview reports that hold the same information. And so, while grand jury testimony must not be publicly disclosed, the attorney general has the authority to disclose interviews of witnesses who appeared before the grand jury. This material could appear in the version of the Mueller report Barr is set to release on Thursday. But these reports will likely present damning evidence of campaign links to Russia and obstruction by Trump and members of his administration. If Barr’s past actions are any indicator, he will do all he can to prevent their release.
From all signs, much of Mueller’s full report, including the interviews, will be missing. As Congress tries to pry the full report loose from Barr, it must ensure that Barr’s public redactions do not include interviews of witnesses who appeared before the grand jury. Since any such redactions cannot be based on Barr’s claim of grand jury secrecy, their release is fair game...

Second: Lacking the details of the investigation will make Barr's presentation ripe for conspiracy-mongering (on both sides). The Far Right will argue there's things in the report hiding proof of HILLARY'S criminal misdeeds, while the rest of us will remain convinced that there had to have been some quid pro quo going on between trump and Putin. To quote Ben Mattis-Lilley at Slate:

Before James Comey got fired, before Robert Mueller was even a twinkle in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s bewitching hazel-green eyes. Before the obstruction question, before offshoots like the Michael Cohen campaign finance case and Trump Tower Moscow and the inaugural fund. At that point, the public knew two things: one, that Russia had likely orchestrated a hacking and propaganda campaign against Hillary Clinton, and two, that Donald Trump’s advisers had made squirrelly efforts, both during the Republican National Convention and the presidential transition period, to advance Russia-friendly positions regarding economic sanctions and the war in Ukraine.
And, to badly paraphrase David Mamet, if there’s a quid and there’s a quo, there is probably a pro. Had Trump been trying to do favors for Russia’s ruling oligarch-gangsters to reward them for sabotaging his opponent? And did they sabotage his opponent because they knew he’d in turn make it easier to launder money into the U.S. by eliminating sanctions against them?
That possibility became the central mystery of Mueller’s investigation into “collusion”: In Rosenstein’s words, the special counsel was tasked with investigating “links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” And when Attorney General William Barr released his March letter summarizing Mueller’s conclusions, he quoted the special counsel as having written that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” But Barr didn’t explain how that conclusion had been arrived at, and given that Mueller’s report is defined by a law as a summary of “prosecution and declination” decisions, the most long-gestating question it might be able to resolve when it’s (partially) released on Thursday is why the special counsel decided that a number of publicly known links between Russia and the Trump campaign did not constitute a chargeable conspiracy...
To me, that's the sticking point: Barr failed to explain Mueller's conclusions and substituted Barr's own... and Barr is NOT an unbiased actor in this matter. He's covering for his boss in ways an Attorney General should not behave.

Third: I cannot recall the earlier Special Counsel reports being redacted in any way. In particular, the Starr Report from 1997-98 contained a lot of details - much of it unrelated to Ken Starr's original investigations into Bill Clinton's Whitewater deals - that came from grand jury testimonies, something that Barr's covering up here.

We are facing the likelihood of Mueller's redacted report not even corresponding to news we've long known about trump and the Russians, which makes it even more likely the House Democrats will fight Barr to get the grand jury testimonies released and unredacted.

Fourth: This is not the end of the investigation. Mueller farmed out part of his findings to other Justice Department offices, especially the ongoing trials for the likes of Roger Stone. Unless - damn him - Barr tries to use HIS redacted copy of the Report to shut the whole thing down.

At which point I hope to God Mueller comes back as Special Counsel and hammer Barr with an Obstruction charge for that. Yeah, I'm hoping this happens.

Tomorrow is going to be a crazy day.

Gods help us.

P.S. As John Cole puts it over at Balloon-Juice:

That is all.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Cruel Month for a Cruel Administration (w/Update)

April is the cruelest month. - T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"

(Update 12/29/19: Thanks to Batocchio for accepting this as my Jon Swift submission for 2019!)

There's so much to go over and it's all coming in too fast I can't keep up with the blogging outrage. But here's where we are at halfway through April 2019:

trump is continuing to treat the shutdown of the Mueller Investigation as "vindication" even as evidence piles up his new Attorney General Barr gave the order to shut it down. Adding onto that is Barr's refusal to give Congress an unredacted copy of the Mueller Report - which never seemed to happen to previous Special Counsel reports, definitely not Starr's Report on Bill Clinton - meaning trump is covering up whatever Mueller found out that hadn't made it to the courts for trial.

trump is dropping more public statements about going after his critics and political opponents, accusing them of "treason" over unfounded beliefs that he was being wrongly investigated. He's been pushing Barr - and his new AG seems willing - to open investigations into the investigators.

The Democratic House finally had a committee - the Ways and Means - request trump's hidden tax returns and did so in a way the IRS and Treasury Department could not block without facing the threat of jail time. trump's buddy Secretary Mnuchin refused to turn over the tax returns. It's now a question of what the committee's response will be (right now they've extended the deadline but at some point someone's going to have to flinch in this Game of Chicken).

The problems at the southern border are getting worse, where the immigration system we had that was working is at the point of collapse. trump's obsession with ending illegal immigration has intermixed with the legal system of asylum seekers. As a result the asylum courts are backlogged to forever with no relief in sight.

trump wants to physically shut down the border with Mexico altogether, mostly out of spite. The fact this move would immediately destroy a multi-billion import/export economy means nothing to him.

trump has been asking about intentionally transporting the millions of incarcerated immigrant families to Blue State "Sanctuary Cities" with the intent of punishing those cities for defying him. While the Sanctuary Cities are mostly saying "Let them come, we will shelter them" the reality of such a sudden influx of people would overwhelm their social services ranging from housing to food to basic medical care. The likelihood of the humanitarian crisis turning into a deadly disaster goes high, with trump and his Republican Hate League certain to blame it on the cities' inability to cope.

We still don't know what happened to thousands of stolen children.

On top of that, verifiable reports are coming out that trump is telling law enforcement underlings - especially the Border Patrol people - that he wants them to lie to judges and he wants them to break the laws constraining trump's desire to shut the entire asylum system down. And that when they get arrested for breaking those laws, trump is promising to pardon them in a blatant abuse of pardoning power. trump is basically telling people to break laws for him, period.

And just to show trump isn't all focused on hating Mexicans and Central Americans, he's spent this weekend bashing Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the extent that her personal safety is in danger. Going on a selectively edited quote from a false extremist, a fellow Congressman Dan Crenshaw accused Omar of attacking 9/11 victims and trump followed through on that crap.

At this point, you need to follow this link to Adam L Silverman's article at Balloon Juice and read the whole thing. As a foreign intelligence guy and terrorism expert, Silverman can see exactly what's happening here:

There is much more exposing the fraud that is Mohamed Tawhidi at the link. Unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw saw was someone claiming to be a Muslim cleric bashing Congresswoman Omar for saying something she didn’t say, which gave him both an excuse and a rhetorical weapon to go after Congresswoman Omar to score political points. This was, unfortunately, all Congressman Crenshaw was actually interested in.
So what did Congresswoman Omar actually say? Not the barbered clip taken out of context, but the actual remarks? I’m glad you asked. Here are the full set of the remarks before the barbered clip put out by Tawhidi and then amplified by Congressman Crenshaw. This portion of her remarks begin around the 12 minute mark of her speech and immediately follow Congresswoman Omar discussing how Muslims, in regard to fully claiming their civil liberties, can liberate themselves...
Unfortunately Congressman Crenshaw’s political and rhetorical attack was picked up and transmitted by Brian Kilmeade, the left boob of Fox News’ morning show A Blonde with Two Boobs on a Sofa, which is also doing business as the President’s Daily Briefing. And that’s how it got to the President who then decided to take the gasoline pump, turn it on, pump gasoline all over, light a match, and throw it in. Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post decided that wasn’t a visible enough conflagration, so they threw a crate of fire crackers onto the pyre.
All of this, from the fake imam who conservatives and extremists on the right love to quote to Congressman Crenshaw doing exactly what you’d expect him to do in amplifying and weaponizing Tawhidi’s rhetorical hit job to the President finding a way of making it all about him because he cannot stand it if anyone else is getting any coverage to Rupert Murdoch’s minions making it worse, the die has been cast. Right now, somewhere in the United States, at least one white man who most likely describes himself as both a “patriot” and a “good Christian”, but possibly a “good Jew”, is planning to assassinate Congresswoman Omar in order to save the Republic from her. And at least one of these white men will be smart about what they are doing. They will hold their planning close. They will not make a threatening phone call and leave their real names with a staffer. They won’t tweet that they’re going to shoot her or cut her throat or whatever other snuff fantasy gets them off. They will, instead, quietly plan all while stewing in their own juices until their own internal pressure has built to the point where they decide to take action. And that day, which will, unfortunately, eventually come, will be a very, very, very bad day for America...

If you think angry rhetoric is just venting, that it's just the price for Free Speech... Just remember what happened to George Tiller. It's the same goddamn thing happening with the media over-inflating the danger, riling up the easily riled wingnuts, and just waiting for a fuse to get lit. And then when (not if) Omar is attacked - even if she gets out of it wounded - those same demagogues will step back and say "oh we didn't MEAN for it to happen, First Amendment bitches" and move on to the next target of their hate speech.

I've been primed for a while now for this darkest timeline to get worse, and the last six months IMHO there's been an escalation in hostility among the Far Right. The shit has been getting real, but damn I know that this is just DEFCON 3 level of madness. All it's gonna take is one more crazy plan by trump to become "law" and we're DEFCON 1 and the mess turns bloody.

And I haven't even touched on the goddamn wingnuts going after abortion on a scale that could lead to women getting the death penalty for anything the wingnuts deem as baby-killing (just let the hypocrisy of that world-view horrify you for about, oh, the rest of your life).

We are so very extremely royally fucked right now.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Trailer Alert: THIS IS IT


Well, that and a fully unredacted Mueller Report. (I shouldn't joke. There's a story about a family where the dad went to the hospital dying and one of the last things he said was "Shit, I'm not going to see the Mueller report, am I?")

So this is it, OLD GODS AND NEW. I need to live this long, at least. I don't want to die, not now, not with the world like this, but at least grant me this one boon to survive and watch the last official Star Wars saga film EVER. (Spinoffs are unavoidable at this point)

WILL THERE BE EWOKS? Maybe, one shot suggests being on Endor's Moon.

WILL THERE BE PORG? Well, Chewie's gotta eat SOMEthing...



ALSO I should be getting new Jedi robes soon.



Well, kinda.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Before the Plunge

Building off of yesterday's big news of DHS Secretary Nielsen getting sent to the corn field, we're getting these reports now (via Jake Tapper at CNN):

Last Friday, the President visited Calexico, California, where he said, "We're full, our system's full, our country's full -- can't come in! Our country is full, what can you do? We can't handle any more, our country is full. Can't come in, I'm sorry. It's very simple."
Behind the scenes, two sources told CNN, the President told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don't have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, "Sorry, judge, I can't do it. We don't have the room."
After the President left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told...

trump was essentially telling border agents to lie to judges and ignore court orders... telling them to ignore the legal system that's supposed to maintain order across our nation. The supervisory agents may have tried to walk back what trump said, but trump's ranted about doing this for a good while... it's just now he's directly telling federal officers to break the law (and he's going to expect them to do that).

Never mind the fact trump is lying about the country being full. It's not like we're packed shoulder to shoulder. And like I've said before, if a boatload of Norwegians showed up trump would gladly welcome them and send them to emptied Red States where there's maybe three people every fifty miles. I could bore you with employment reports suggesting we need more workers in various industries, but trump would ignore those truths and stick to his desire to ban every Latino from our land.

There's a moment in storytelling called the Moral Event Horizon, when a character takes a plunge into the deep end of the Dark Side and never looks back. trump has always been a walking disaster, a monster roaming the countryside, but there were still constraints and forces that were holding him back from acts of barbarity that could doom us all.

trump is finally cutting every last restraint. Half of Homeland Security is run by "acting" department heads, likely doing jobs without official approval (to make it easier to avoid accountability later). Nearly every agency across government is understaffed and bleeding workers, making it hard to get things done by the book (if at all). he's positioning himself to issue direct commands, and everyone taking his orders getting prepped to break every last shred of legal checks and balances.

I've been doomsaying this for the last three years, I know. It's been bad news leading into worse news day after day, and every dark sin becomes "normalized" before we even realize the damage done. And yet we keep on treading water...

But now it all feels more dangerous than ever before. trump is ready to cross a line about the immigration crisis (most of which he's exacerbated anyway). I'm talking about a line where not only will our government break its own laws... a lot of people are going to get hurt and killed - intentionally - in the process.

This is the moment where I am genuinely convinced we are going to get bloodshed. Open acts of violence and repression. Something we haven't really seen on a grand scale since the 1960s.

I am straight up afraid for my country tonight. What the hell is going to happen to us...

Sunday, April 07, 2019

The Damage Done by Nielsen and Her Fellow Haters

Update: Hello again, Crooks and Liars readers, from the Mike's Blog Round-Up! Big thanks to M. Bouffant for the referral. Please enjoy your visit!

I was writing something else to blog but this came up today that requires comment.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is resigning. Via Dara Lind at Vox.com, here's more:

Nielsen, the sixth head of the Department of Homeland Security and Trump’s second appointee (she was confirmed in December 2017 after John Kelly left to become White House chief of staff), has arguably been the most aggressive secretary in the department’s short history in cracking down on immigration — with her legacy likely to be defined among progressives by the “zero tolerance” prosecution policy of late spring and early summer 2018 that resulted in the separation of thousands of families at the US-Mexico border.

She is one of the key figures in a policy that separated children from families and put babies into jails. This wasn't "zero tolerance" this was zero humanity.

None of it appears to have been enough for Trump.
Nielsen’s resignation was preceded on Thursday night by the abrupt withdrawal of the nomination of acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Ron Vitiello to formally lead the agency, with Trump telling reporters Friday morning that he wanted to go in a “tougher direction.” While it’s not yet clear whether Trump requested Nielsen’s resignation or not, it certainly appears as if that “tougher direction” is extending to a new DHS secretary. (Earlier in the week, it was reported that Trump was considering a White House-based “immigration czar” to coordinate various immigration-related agencies — most of which are under the aegis of DHS.)

Do you realize what's happening here. trump desires finding someone to put in charge of a sadistic immigration policy who will make it worse.

Trump has taken out his frustrations on Nielsen before. In spring 2018, he reportedly threw a tantrum at her during a cabinet meeting over why she didn’t just “close the border” (a threat he brought back last week, though Nielsen and other officials made clear he would only be able to close ports along the border). After the 2018 midterms, he reportedly decided to ask for her resignation as part of a post-election Cabinet shakeup, but appears to have changed his mind.
But with nearly 100,000 migrants apprehended by Border Patrol agents along the US-Mexico border in March, Trump is yet again ruminating angrily and obsessively over immigration, riffing in speeches about telling migrants “we’re full” and “go back.”
You and I both know that he's only screaming "GO BACK" to just the Latino immigrants. And the Asian immigrants, and the African immigrants. I guarantee you trump will greet a refugee boat of Norwegians washing up on the Maine shoreline with open arms and a goddamn welcoming parade. Outside of that, trump wants his goddamned Wall and his bloodlust against Mexicans (and Central Americans) sated.
Nielsen couldn’t make that happen, because no one could, because it’s impossible. The US can’t — even with a wall — physically prevent the entry of unauthorized immigrants onto US soil. And once on US soil, they have certain rights — including the right to request asylum...

These are rights set down by international treaty - something we signed onto and under the Constitution has to be treated as law - and what trump is looking to do is ignore all of that to fulfill his racist obsessions. All it will take is a compliant Senate to agree to whatever hateful wingnut - I'm hearing voter-suppressor Kobach, but am willing to bet Stephen Miller would love the opportunity as long as he doesn't face scrutiny - will take the job next.

There is nothing to celebrate here. Yes, a terrible person is dropping out of power but she is leaving behind a disaster filled with ruined lives that will take years to repair (if at all). There are still missing children, goddammit, and Nielsen has to answer for every single one.

Once this goddamn blight is out of the White House, there better be a Human Rights Commission to hunt every violator of immigrant and asylum seekers' rights down and hold them accountable for the dead and missing and scarred. Time to shove Nielsen, trump, and every goddamn Republican who signed off on this policy into one of those cages they've been using at ICE facilities.



Thursday, April 04, 2019

What Could Possibly Go Wrong If the Feds Stop Protecting Us From the Homegrown White Violent Fringe

On this anniversary remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, I want to point out a situation that should be getting a lot more coverage in the national media than it is (via Betsy Woodruff at the Daily Beast):

The Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism, The Daily Beast has learned. Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism—including white supremacist terrorism—is growing.
In the wake of this move, officials said the number of analytic reports produced by DHS about domestic terrorism, including the threat from white supremacists, has dropped significantly. People in and close to the department said this has generated significant concern at headquarters...

It's probably been greeted at trump's Mar-A-Lago parties with the popping of champagne bottles. Just as we're seeing in public more evidence that the angrier, more heavily-armed factions of the Far Right are striking out at the targets they hate the most - sending bombs to trump's public enemies, stockpiling weapons and plotting attacks on Congressional Democrats, growing reports of American Nazis vandalizing Jewish and Muslim communities - and getting none-too-subtle prods from their idol who refuses to condemn their bloody rampages.

Back to Woodruff:

Former officials pointed to a spate of domestic terror attacks in recent years as evidence that DHS erred by shuttering this branch. From the massacre that left 11 people dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue to a shooting targeting Republican members of Congress in June 2017 to bomb threats that a deranged Trump fan directed at prominent Democrats and CNN, violent attacks informed by homegrown hatred have left Americans increasingly terrorized...
Pressed on whether DHS disputes this reporting, a senior DHS official pushed back.
“The same people are working on the issues,” the official said. “We just restructured things to be more responsive to the I&A customers within DHS and in local communities while reducing overlap with what the FBI does. We actually believe we are far more effective now.”
But Sgt. Mike Abdeen with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told The Daily Beast that his office used to receive a significant amount of material from I&A, but that the communications have dried up in recent months. For the last six months, he said, I&A has been mostly silent. He added that this has been consistent with broader changes in how the department communicates with his office.
“It’s been very quiet lately,” Abdeen said. “It’s changed with the new administration. It doesn’t seem to be as robust, as active, as important—it is important, I’m sure, but it’s not a priority. It doesn’t seem like engagement, outreach, and prevention are seen as a priority as we used to see in the past. There were roundtable meetings in the past, there was more activity, more training, more seminars. Now it seems like it’s gone away.”

There's a reason for that.

trump has made it clear before he likes being the Bully in the room. Even with the Mueller Report in his pocket, he wants his revenge on everyone he thinks isn't being fair (i.e. worshipful of) to him. trump enjoys the idea he has a rabid mob literally at his command, and has been baiting his crowds into increasing hatred towards the enemies - Media, immigrants, Blacks, libruls, anyone not wearing a MAGA hat - he knows are out there.

he also knows his time is limited. Despite his efforts to silence the Mueller Report, nobody is buying his and Attorney General Barr's "Summary" trump claims EXONERATES ME WOOHOO. House Democrats are starting to rev up their investigations into trump's multiple misdeeds, finally requesting his tax returns for examination (under an unusually-worded investigation into the "auditing of Presidential taxes" in the first place). They've also voted to use subpoenas on Barr and the DoJ for the full unredacted version of Mueller's Report, which the leaks from Mueller's staffers - people who haven't leaked in two years - are telling us did not exonerate trump at all and may be worse than what Barr's Letter suggests (leading up to the possibility of BARR getting charged with Obstruction on this... ooooo).

What's happening is that trump is doing whatever he can to tie one arm behind the collective backs of our federal, state and county level law enforcement agencies ahead of any upcoming hate rallies by the White Nationalist types that are sure to spawn when (not if) trump is directly threatened with arrests or impeachment. I don't wanna be the guy to throw conspiracy theories like this out there... BUT...

I'm someone old enough to remember the worst terror attack before 9/11 in the United States was pulled by a determined wingnut with a handful of friends.

I'm enough of a history student to remember not just the Klu Klux Klan behind lynchings and attacks on Blacks and Jews across the nation post-Civil War, but involved in mass raids into Black communities from Rosewood to Tulsa to Wilmington. We had attacks on Civil Rights marchers and Birmingham teens recorded on our television broadcasts. Today is the anniversary of the death of Civil Rights' staunchest and most eloquent defender for God's sake.

I'm enough of an American to recognize that we Whites persecuted and rounded up Native tribes into forced marches and unwanted lands, that we excluded Asians and attacked their communities, that we shipped Japanese into internment camps.

Our nation has a sordid history of race relations that almost always turns on white mobs arming themselves and attacking The Other on any pretext: mostly out of fear, and mostly driven by rage.

It isn't paranoia to think this. It's history.

And trump is trying to repeat that history as a means of keeping himself in power.

The best way to do that is to rig the game. After all, cheating is the only trick trump knows.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The National Security Risks Are Coming from WITHIN trump's House, Y'all

So this is a story that's been percolating for awhile, and I've only gotten around to writing about it because the plot twists are getting thick.

Seems this past Saturday, a Chinese national was arrested at trump's Palm Beach Mar-A-Lago resort: Yujing Zhang claimed to be there for an event - promoted by a Chinese madam of a local chain of massage parlors - but had been discovered in another location at the resort carrying multiple electronic devices (four(!) smartphones for example) and a flash drive with malware on it. According to that article from the Miami Herald, Zhang's been charged with making false statements and being in a restricted area.

As for the Chinese madam story, oh man does this go full Florida (link to David Rothkopf's article at the Daily Beast): Cindy Yang is a regular Mar-A-Lago attendee, who has been selling her access to trump's private resort to other Chinese businesspersons back at the mainland. She had been the owner of a Jupiter FL massage parlor where a police sting uncovered various upper-income well-to-do men would come in for... ahem, not massages (I think the services are called "hummers" in polite circles). One such gentleman was the super-rich owner of the New England Patriots (and one of trump's closest billionaire buddies, which begs a couple questions of how Kraft - from Boston area - ever heard about this dinky little parlor out the outskirts of South Florida). Yang may have sold that particular storefront but still owns others across the country... and was with trump at Mar-A-Lago watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl this past February.

As for Mar-A-Lago itself, it's one of trump's preferred hangouts on his golf weekends, getting away from the White House so he can hang out behind his own gated security with other grifters and wannabes. While the place is guarded with walls and security and limited access, trump's resort has been called a massive security risk since his first trip as Loser of the Popular Vote (this is a Reuters article from February 2017!):

President Donald Trump’s handling of U.S. security information at his Florida resort came under congressional scrutiny on Tuesday as a watchdog panel asked the White House to explain reports that Trump dealt with a sensitive foreign policy issue in view of club guests.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, head of the House of Representatives oversight committee, sent a letter asking the White House for details on how Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responded to a North Korean ballistic missile test while visiting the Mar-a-Lago golf resort over the weekend.
Photos taken by private guests in the club’s public dining area showed Trump and Abe conferring and looking at documents while surrounded by their aides following Pyongyang’s missile launch...

I'm just gonna stop right there.

Remember all those cool spy movies from the 1960s, where James Bond would break into a high-security building, whip out a small camera and take pictures of top secret files, get into a fist-fight with a careless guard, and then slip out using a spy gadget to get him to the nearest Asian massage parlor?

Today, all Bond gotta do is go to the massage parlor first, get an invite to Mar-A-Lago, and then break out his iPhone (or British smartphone equivalent) to take pictures of sensitive and likely classified materials before calmly walking out the front door.

Right now, our greatest security risk isn't some disaffected hacker in the basement of the CIA complaining about his paycheck and selling off secrets to an undercover crew.

Our greatest security risk is the crooked sonofabitch selling access to his own goddamned resorts he shouldn't even be owning under our Constitution's Emoluments Clause. It's this corrupt bastard who can't keep bragging or showing off to his fellow corrupt buddies whenever possible and in clear view of questionable guests and invitees who use foreign money to buy their way in.

And we're coping with a trump White House where it's become clear that trump intervened to grant security clearance to MANY persons in his inner circle who are major security risks.

We're at a point where our own intelligence agencies can't trust the one person they're supposed to hand all their intel. Actually, we've been at that point since Day One of the trump dumpster fire. It's just now we're at the point the proof is out there.

Along with anything else trump let his Mar-A-Lago guests take pictures of.