Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Buildup To When It All Explodes

On top of all the nightmares - the pandemic, the mass unemployment, the escalating decay of America's global standing, the purging of federal oversight to curtail corruption, probably even the arrival of freaking Murder Hornets (thanks a lot, 2020) - one of the darkest yet consistent patterns of these trumpian years has been the public displays of racism. The blatant cruelty towards immigrants and the intentional separation of families as punishment. The demeaning and derogatory language towards Muslims, towards Chinese and Asians, towards Blacks.

All of it building off of a Far Right, conservative-backed Culture War that had been raging years before trump showed up on the political stage to make it worse.

As Adam Serwer noted, for all historians to document forever: The Cruelty Is the Point.

And this week, after months of outrage after outrage, it all exploded across the United States.

The buildup started earlier this year in February, when a black man Ahmaud Arbrey jogging through a mostly-white neighborhood in Georgia was shot and killed by two (further investigation upped the number to three) white men who claimed Arbrey was a suspected burglar. When their story fell apart (there were no burglary reports filed to back up their claim), the local law enforcement still refused to pursue the matter even as the outrage went national. In early May, a video made by the third suspected killer - released by him hoping to prove his buddies' argument - was shown demonstrating Arbrey was unarmed, tried to run around his attackers, got "boxed in" and was still shot to death. Within days, the state of Georgia took over the investigation and arrested the shooters. There is still anger and outrage at how slowly the justice system even responded to the matter, with serious allegations of how at least one of the shooters having ties to that justice system implying privilege and protection for them.

And while all of that was going down, earlier this month in Minneapolis things got worse, when George Floyd got arrested over a possible counterfeit $20 (I originally heard it was a bad check bouncing) and it led to his death-by-cop (via Catherine Kim at Vox):

The death of George Floyd, 46, was captured on video and was later widely shared on social media. In the footage, an officer pins Floyd’s neck to the ground as Floyd is begging, “Please, I can’t breathe” — a moment that closely resembles the pleas of Eric Garner, a black man who died from an officer’s chokehold in 2014. Another police officer watches the scene unfold as bystanders voice their concerns for Floyd. One person comments that Floyd has a bloody nose while another yells, “Bro, you’ve got him down, let him breathe at least, man...”
Although the video doesn’t capture the moments leading to the arrest, the Minneapolis Police Department said they were responding to a call that a man was trying to use a $20 counterfeit bill, according to the Star Tribune. In a statement, the police department said officers arrived at the scene to find Floyd — who matched the description of the suspect — sitting on a car and appearing to be intoxicated. They added that Floyd physically resisted the police and seemed to be “suffering medical distress,” which is why they had called for an ambulance.
The police’s excessive use of force seemingly has no excuse: The department does not permit the technique that was used to pin Floyd’s head to the ground, according to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Four officers involved in the case were fired by Tuesday afternoon, and the FBI has now opened a civil rights investigation on the incident...

Just to point out: The knee-to-neck method is specifically prohibited by the police department as policy, and the cop violated that policy. The cop kept his knee on Floyd's neck for eight minutes (from the probable cause filing), and Floyd was clearly dead five minutes in. He kept his weight on Floyd's neck for three extra minutes to make sure.

And from there, our nation went into the cycle of protest, and police crackdown, and shockwave of more protests to where stores have been smashed, building set on fire, and thousands hurt with rubber bullets, batons, and worse.

Right now nearly every major city has seen its marches, and several of them reporting serious destruction and harm.

Making things worse: Reports of "outside agitators," of people - a good number of them white folk - are intentionally causing the arson and damage as a means of escalating the rage and hate. At a moment our nation needs to calm down and avoid bloodshed, we're instead racing towards street war.

This feels different than the last big wave of protests against police brutality, back when Ferguson ripped apart communities and forced an ongoing debate between "Black Lives Matter" and "Blue Lives Matter." But when you watch that video clip of Floyd's murder, of his gasping "I can't breathe" in a dark echo of Eric Garner, how can you accept the argument that there's not a campaign of intimidation and force by law enforcement upon the minorities of our cities?

We had different political leadership back in 2014, when Obama was there to speak to our better angels and prevent the spread of violence. But this is the Darkest Timeline now, with trump in the Oval Office, and trump has been busy sending out more tweets to threaten "thugs" with lines like "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Christ help us. trump's not working to mend the wounds, he's looking to rend us further into violence against each other, so he can steal a little more, cheat a little more, ruin this nation's future a lot more.

This does feel like a civil war this weekend, the divisions not by state line but by cultural obsessions and willingness to spill the blood of men and women who are marching for the sheer simple call of "No More Police Brutality."

This year 2020 just gets worse all the time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Just the Facts Jack In This Age of trumpian Bull

One of the more frustrating things about The Darkest Timeline has been how trump would take to his Twitter account to post and retweet nonfactual statements, wild accusations, and straight-up lies.

However over the past week or so, trump has gone overboard pushing a discredited conspiracy theory about former Congresscritter-turned-MSNBC-talking-head Joe Scarborough, a story involving a staff worker who died at a district office back in 2001. It's gotten so bad that the woman's widower sent formal letters to Twitter and the press begging for the social media outfit to use its authority to delete the offending tweet(s).

The public outcry against trump's abuse of Twitter's code of conduct had been an ongoing protest ever since 2017 - no previous President Loser of the Popular Vote has been so vulgar towards the general population the way trump has - but this moment seemed to have crossed a line even for the notoriously lax Twitter bosses.

The next time trump went to Tweet an outrageous falsehood - about the legitimacy of vote-by-mail - Twitter took the extraordinary step of adding a footnote that basically accused the Tweet (and trump) of being wrong. Let's refer to Gilad Edelman at Wired for the rest:

What prompted Twitter to finally break the seal was a two-tweet tirade about the supposed dangers of expanding vote-by-mail during the coronavirus pandemic...
Later that evening, Twitter added a note to the bottom of the tweet: a big exclamation mark and a message reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” which linked to a Twitter Moment fact-check. “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” read the bold heading. Beneath it came some bullet points on vote-by-mail, followed by a curated feed of tweets picking apart Trump’s various recent claims about it...
The Twitter spokesperson said that flagging Trump’s vote-by-mail tweet was the debut of a similar policy to protect “civic integrity” by correcting false information about voting or the census. Twitter didn’t say so, but it surely helped that this particular tweet contained one nugget of rock-solid, certifiably false information: the claim that California was sending ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” In fact, ballots are going only to registered voters...

This is, for the most part, the first time trump has been contradicted in real-time pretty much to his face (nearly every other countering in the media has been indirectly through op-ed articles and pundit shows).

It's telling that Twitter still hasn't confronted trump on the personal attacks he's done on their service, which are offensive and wrong and deserve him getting his account suspended (AKA Twitter Jail). Still, any little bit helps... Because trump's response to getting punched back has been to lash out in full meltdown. Via Charlotte Klein at Vanity Fair:

Trump threatened to regulate or shut down social media companies the day after being fact-checked by Twitter. “Republicans feel that social media platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” the president wrote in a post on Wednesday. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

Funny thing about the First Amendment, it's not on trump's side here:

The president, notes the Associated Press, does not have the power to “unilaterally regulate or close the companies, which would require action by Congress or the Federal Communications Commission,” and Trump’s call to expand regulation on such tech giants “appeared to fly in the face of long-held conservative principles on deregulation...”

Anything trump tries to do to punish Twitter will likely lead to lawsuits taking years to resolve, by which time trump could be out of office (and fleeing for a country without extradition).

The facts, obviously, aren't going to slow trump down on this. he's threatening to issue an Executive Order (remember when Republicans attacked Obama for his EOs?) to compel Twitter and other social media outlets - Facebook and YouTube, both services facing increasing pressure to police their websites for disinformation over COVID-19 and other conspiracy nutcase theories - to bend to his will. trump doesn't have the legal standing but he has the ego of the bully to make life harder for the companies attempting to curtail his - and his cronies' - ongoing efforts to gaslight the world.

But the facts should matter. And these social media sites have an obligation, not only to the First Amendment but also to the common interest of properly informing the public. Forcing trump to confront his falsehoods in real-time, cutting off the Russian bots trying to overwhelm our attention with disinfo, and making sure Americans have the correct facts ought to be their agenda here on out.

Because as we've seen with three years of trump's gaslighting, lies and disinformation kills.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Quick Notes On trump's Schemes for the 2020 Convention

Given the other things to condemn trump for during this pandemic crisis, ignoring the obvious need to cancel a large gathering of his OWN PARTY is three different levels of stupid, but that's what we should expect anymore. Via Daniel Politi at Slate:

President Donald Trump began Memorial Day with a threat, warning that he was seriously considering moving the Republican National Convention from Charlotte if there are no guarantees that the state will have lifted any restrictions on how many people can gather in closed spaces by late August. In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump said he needed guarantees from the Democratic governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, that Republicans would be able to fill Charlotte’s Spectrum Center to capacity during the convention...
Cooper, Trump insisted, must “immediately” give Republicans an answer “as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied,” Trump wrote. If he can’t guarantee that then the GOP will have to “reluctantly” another site for the convention, “with all of the jobs and economic development it brings...”

A few points where trump is wrong: Political conventions do not bring a lot of economic development or jobs; It is - even under these risky circumstances where a lot of places have cancelled conventions- difficult to find another large-sized convention facility to move to on short notice, so in some respects trump is bluffing here; and anybody even thinking of showing up at an event with more than ten people - all of whom are coming from 50 states plus territories bringing any variant of coronavirus with them - is basically condemning about two-thirds of fellow attendees with a virus that's gonna wreck their lungs, kidneys, and other major organs.

There's a reason why the comic-cons and library cons and marketing cons are all cancelled or delayed: nobody is stupid enough to host these things right now, no matter how much pressure the CEOs and Republicans are pushing to re-open.

Of course, trump is both projecting and deflecting when making his decisions. Back to Politi:

The president’s tweets also come a few days after the New York Times reported that Trump was open to participating in a smaller convention, although he reportedly often wondered to aides why they couldn’t simply move it to Florida, where the reopening process is moving along more quickly. Trump has also openly wondered whether North Carolina’s Democratic governor would try to hurt Republicans with rules regarding the convention. “It’s got a Democrat governor, so we have to be a little bit careful with that, because they’re playing politics,” Trump told a Washington Examiner columnist earlier this month. “They’re playing politics, as you know, by delaying the openings.”
Cooper has insisted that his decisions regarding COVID-19 restrictions have nothing to do with politics. “A pandemic cannot be political,” Cooper told CNN. “If it is, we lose that ability to work together.”

There are several terrifying aspects at play here. Above all, trump seems to think the pandemic is a partisan hoax meant to embarrass himself and the Republicans who are pushing quick re-openings to re-spark an economy that's nowhere near safe and ready.

Second point, trump's thoughts about Florida is likely not about Orlando or Tampa or Miami's Convention halls - which can handle such events - but likely his Doral resort (trump may say otherwise, but I doubt the heavily Democratic-controlled metros will play ball with him because they'll want the same CDC regulations as North Carolina/Charlotte) so he can make money.

Third point, trump may be accusing the Dems of playing politics but he's the one trying to use this issue to force NC Governor Cooper into speeding up any re-opening schedule to favor trump. Look at how trump is trying to use the threat of "lost jobs and economic opportunity" should the convention move away. That's a stick-no-carrot approach that trump has used before, which doesn't work too often because without that "carrot" Cooper has no reason to submit to trump's whims here.

If anything, should trump and the Republicans try to host ANY kind of gathering while this pandemic is taking place, they are taking a serious risk with not only their health but the health of every resident in Charlotte or elsewhere forced to handle this ill-advised convention.

There are other ways to do this now. Just not with trump's sociopathic ego-stroking need to play to a cheering crowd in front of him.

But this is how trump rolls, isn't it. His ongoing sadistic need to serve his own while everyone else sickens and suffers.

Horrifying stuff, America.

This is not the time for trump's ego to make more of us sick.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Quick Memorial Day 2020 Rage Post

So I know this is Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the start of THE SUMMER SEASON, but this is 2020 and we're three months into an official COVID-19 Pandemic and one of the key things we need to be doing is SOCIAL DISTANCING and avoiding crowded places, which is why there's no Summer Blockbuster Movie Summer to be pining over - I am missing my Wonder Woman sequel, damn you trump - and why whatever meager travel plans I had for my birthday this month are on hold and why for the LOVE OF GOD we need to be avoiding the beaches and water holes and yet here's a bunch of things on Twitter and the news outlets about how FAR TOO MANY of our fellow Americans are breaching the safety guidelines, JESUS CHRIST, such as reports coming out about the turnout at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri:

...They appear to show people gathering at Redhead Lakeside Grill and Yacht Club in Osage Beach at Lake of the Ozarks. We've blurred the faces in the photos, until we learn more about the event, and why so many people were allowed inside.
The pictures show people close together, with no masks...
5 On Your Side reached out to the Camden County Sheriff's Department who said, the state does have social distancing guidelines, but "It doesn't seem people are following it very well here."
The Sheriff's Department has not been called to any incidents so far, and said they do not have any penalty to enforce because there are no orders in place to require social distancing...

For all the morans running around screaming "TYRANNY" about their "FREEDOM" to NOT wear masks in public and all, there's actually few laws in place to enforce these things. It's meant to be voluntary, in that PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO RESPECT THE REALITY THAT SOCIAL CONTACT CAN SPREAD THE VIRUS, SO JUST FCKING DON'T DO IT. /headdesk

And of course Florida - even though we've been better than most in being that voluntary and self-aware about social distancing - even the Sunshine State had to go crazy for Memorial Day weekend because guess what happened out at Daytona Beach already:

...Police believe the crowd that shutdown traffic in the city was part of an unofficial event shared on social media.
“Traffic is completely shut down with probably 200 people in the middle of the road,” a voice from the helicopter said over radio. “Trying to figure out what’s going on. It’s people, looks like they’re climbing on top of a car,” the pilot can be heard saying over the radio...

Subsequent Twitter posts showed mobs of shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.

And this can't be the only place. Think of how many states have famous gathering spots, beaches and parks that thousands go to for the big summertime events... I'm in Florida, from Jacksonville to Daytona to Cocoa to Melbourne to Palm Beach to Pompano Beach to South Beach to the Keys to Sanibel to Sarasota to ALL of Pinellas County's gulf side to Weeki Wachee to Panama Beach to Pensacola, goddamn we are Beach Party Central and I dread how many residents went crazy this weekend just out of decades of social conditioning to party on a three-day weekend.

What the GODDAMN HELL, America.

You're getting told by a number of Republican politicians that "all is well" and you lot go on a Darwin-Award-worthy jaunt that will get half of you showing COVID fevers within the next 5-14 days.

This is the second wave we've been warned about. And we were nowhere near finishing the first wave of the pandemic.

We are so royally fucked.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Florida Pandemic Update: Republicans Caught Fudging the Numbers

This has been breaking since last night, via Langston Taylor at the Tampa Bay Times:

One day before a top Florida Department of Health data manager lost her role maintaining the state’s COVID-19 data, she objected to the removal of records showing people had symptoms or positive tests before the cases were announced, according to internal emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis said she had been fired.
According to the emails, department staff gave the order shortly after reporters requested the same data from the agency on May 5. The data manager, Rebekah Jones, complied with the order, but not before she told her supervisors it was the “wrong call...”
The dashboard that Jones managed is the best official source for in-depth data on how the deadly pandemic is moving through the state. Studying it is the surest way to know where outbreaks are growing and where testing is being done. Without access to the data, Floridians would have to rely on the word of officials and politicians without being able to verify for themselves...
In her Friday email to subscribers of a COVID data listserv, Jones said she was reassigned on May 5 “[f]or reasons beyond my division’s control” and warned that whoever took over may be less straightforward.
“As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it,” she wrote.
“They are making a lot of changes. I would advise being diligent in your respective uses of this data.”
Jones also told CBS12 in Tallahassee on Monday that she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen” the state...

DeSantis did this before when a medical expert challenged the narrative that the GOP Governor was trying to sell to the public a month ago. That narrative, by the by, is that "ALL IS WELL!" and we should re-open the entire state to business so that corporations can resume generating profits at the expense of everyone's health and safety.

For DeSantis to justify reopening just six weeks after shutting things down to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, he has to have numbers showing a consistent decrease in infectees getting reported. If there's even one day of the numbers going up, it breaks the count and resets to a new one. Given how the virus can flare up - even in contained locations like Singapore and South Korea, a surge can happen - it's next to impossible for the numbers to behave the way DeSantis wants.

So he'll do the next best Republican thing he can think of: Lie about the numbers. And he can only get away with that if he can control the data.

There's a huge problem to all this: Florida, like a lot of places in the U.S., does not have enough testing kits and resources to check the population on a regular basis to identify and isolate hot spots at a given notice. Without that, a high number of our neighbors and coworkers and family members are going to be walking around spreading COVID without warning until it's too late. Flare-ups will be unavoidable.

This is also in violation of what had been a strong set of transparency rules - the famed Sunshine Law - that is supposed to keep our leaders accountable to the voters.

And because DeSantis will now be lying about the numbers, they will be uncountable. Leaving him and his Republican cronies unaccountable.

This is a major scandal for Florida. Our own leadership is intentionally working to hide or fake the numbers of an ongoing health care crisis just so they could force a lot of poor residents back to work, just so the rich can get richer while the rest of us get sick and risk dying.

What the hell can the residents do to fight back against their own government?!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Rat-Tailed Donny Is a Second Hand Hood

Everyone else is documenting the crazy, but what the hell here's my twelve cents after hearing about trump's latest "What The Goddamn HELL Is the Shitgibbon Saying Now?" marathon. Via Zack Beauchamp at Vox:

On Monday afternoon, President Trump told the press that he’s taking a drug called hydroxychloroquine as a preventative to ward off the coronavirus — a practice for which there is no evidence and that could, in theory, have negative side effects as serious as hallucinations and heart failure.
“I take it,” Trump said. “So far, I seem to be okay.”
Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that a non-randomized study from a French lab, publicized in March, initially suggested could be used as a treatment in fighting the coronavirus. In March, Trump frequently touted the drug, calling it “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” But further studies have concluded that it is not effective in many cases and should not be routinely used to treat patients.
As previously noted at this blog, at Vox, and elsewhere, the hydroxychloroquine doesn't help against COVID and actually increased the death rate, most likely from the negative effects mentioned earlier. In short, it's NOT a drug you should be taking unless you're dealing with an actual condition - malaria, I think lupus - it's meant for. Back to Beauchamp:
Trump seems to be taking it not as a treatment for COVID-19 — he’s apparently tested negative — but as a preventative to protect himself from contracting it. There’s no medical evidence supporting the idea that this would work, and the risk of potential psychiatric and cardiac side effects, which are serious, would likely strongly outweigh any (hypothetical) benefits...

One of two things:

1) Either trump really is taking a drug that has no proven effect in combating COVID-19, which has documented side effects that could leave him (more) brain-damaged and dying from heart attack. He's doing this despite the likely medical advice he's supposed to be getting from the experts supposed to inform him on how to combat the pandemic, which shows AGAIN the poor judgment and obsessive self-destructive behavior trump's been showing for decades.

2) trump is lying. Either to allay any fear he himself is sick, or lying to keep his fanbase ill-informed, dependent on him instead of the experts, and likely getting those ill-informed dupes to buy more of the drug - is there any amazement that a solid number of his critics think he's getting kickbacks on drug sales? - to use without care or concern.

Nearly everybody I know on Twitter pretty much talked me into believing the latter instead of the former. Option 1) is so reckless and lethal that even a moran like trump wouldn't seriously volunteer himself to do. Option 2) fits his modus operandi of bullshitting the public, posing himself as a decisive, gung-ho leader, and then backing off with another round of lies to pretend he never said the first set of lies anyway.

The Twitter hashtag #HESLYING was a popular trend for the whole afternoon.

But this is what trump is stuck with. he refuses to make the hard choices - keep up the social distancing, take the economic hits of closing half our public spaces, spend money on keeping people alive and out of debt - that our nation needs right now to survive not just the next few months but what's looking like the rest of the year (and well into 2021).

trump wants that easy rescue. he wants a magic elixir at the doorstep to cure all ails and solve all woes.

trump is still digging hard for a miracle cure.

Problem is, he's pushing a deadly drug like some street-corner hoodlum that'll kill us faster than the virus.

Problem is, trump is digging our graves instead.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tell It to the Judge, trumpshirts

There's a lot going on today so I may blog more than once, just letting you know.

One thing I'm waking up to is a follow-up on a thing I blogged last week, about how Attorney General Barr (trump's Roy Cohn) forced the withdrawal from Michael Flynn's plea bargain in order to force the judge overseeing the matter to end the case. In order to make it look like Flynn should never have made a plea deal in the first place, in order to make it look like Obama's Department of Justice and Mueller's investigative team entrapped Flynn without cause.

You have to remember, Flynn was a major contact between a lot of foreign players, not only Russia but also Turkey, and was getting caught in a lot of questionable plots to where the entire Intel Community was waving red flags about him. Flynn was also one of trump's inner circle handlers, which made the connections between trump and Russia a lot harder to ignore.

One of the earliest moves Mueller made during the inquiry into what and how Russia did to meddle in the 2016 election, the special prosecutor was able to get Flynn to plead down to "lying to investigators" in order to avoid jury trials over some of the more flagrant stuff Flynn - and his son - was caught doing. It was a foundation on which a lot of other cases and plea deals involving trump's people was based.

When trump was able to get Barr set up as Attorney General, Flynn changed his mind on the deal, and had been trying to wrangle his way out of it. The move Barr pulled last week was the final step - so it seemed - to let Flynn off the hook. No deal, no case, and then trump and his buddies can start claiming everything Mueller did was a conspiracy, a setup by Obama and the Deep State (the whole #Obamagate thing we've been seeing re-emerge this past week by Russian Twitter Bots) to destroy trump's God-approved destiny.

However, like a lot of trumpian schemes, this one wasn't thought out well enough. Judge Sullivan overseeing this matter had ways to keep the case going, and last night he used those steps and even opened up the availability of another weapon to hold Flynn (and Barr) accountable. To Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine:

First, earlier this week, a retired judge and two former U.S. Attorneys pointed out that this apparent legal coup does not have to end the matter. In an op-ed, the three legal eminences argued that the court has the power to bring in outside legal advisers to argue the case, even if the government has dropped its prosecution, and potentially still sentence the defendant.
Then, earlier this evening, the New York Times reported that Barr’s lawyers misled the court about the testimony of a key figure in the Flynn case. The Justice Department told the judge, Emmet Sullivan, that FBI notes indicated its agents only interviewed Flynn in order to trap him into lying. An FBI agent involved in the Flynn interview told the Department this wasn’t true, a fact the DOJ failed to include in its request to let Flynn go.
Then tonight, Judge Sullivan dropped a bomb. He announced that he would not simply rubber stamp Barr’s maneuver to free Flynn. Instead, he is bringing in a judge to review the case and provide the pushback against Flynn’s defense lawyers that is missing now that the DOJ has essentially joined in with Flynn’s legal team.
What may matter even more is the judge Sullivan picked for this job: John Gleeson, a former mob-busting prosecutor and, more to the point, one of the co-authors of the Post op-ed urging Sullivan to take this step...

I'm not there in person to witness much of this, but I get the impression that Sullivan is pissed.

I get the impression that Sullivan did not like getting lied to by Barr and the DoJ lawyers undercutting their own plea deal. That Times report that lawyers misled the judge on testimony is usually the point where said judge throws people into jail for contempt of his/her court.

I recall Sullivan is someone who, when AG Barr redacted the Mueller Report, fought to get parts of it unredacted for his review of Flynn's plea deal (The Justice Department refused). Sullivan did confront Flynn back in 2018 with the words "you sold out your own country," reportedly due to information Sullivan has on Flynn's corruption that hasn't been made public (yet).

And we're looking at the possibility that Sullivan can add charges regarding Flynn's misconduct in his courtroom. The reality that Flynn changed his testimony - at least once - while the plea deal was still on the table makes him open to a contempt of court perjury charge. Via Adam Gabbatt at The Guardian:

...Sullivan... said he had asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to recommend whether Flynn should face a new criminal contempt charge for perjury. Gleeson has also been asked to make the case for why the DoJ’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case should be rejected...

What this does mean is that Flynn's lawyers have more work on their hands. This means Barr and his DoJ team cannot wash their hands of this and walk away. This is being done with an outsider in Gleeson who can't be pressured by Barr or trump to play their game of "loyalty or fired."

What this means is that trump, his inner circle of corrupt bastards, and his Russian cronies cannot pretend this whole thing was a manufactured Obama/Hillary trap. Sullivan seems dead set on making sure someone - Flynn - is held accountable for the sins they caused.

This puts the pressure back on trump. Sure, he could pardon Flynn, he's done that for a number of people undeserving of mercy. I do question if a pardon frees someone held on a judge's contempt order, but we'll find out. And the pardon runs the risk of Flynn being vulnerable to further testimony without Fifth Amendment protections. It also means Flynn has to admit he did (some) of the things he's being pardoned for, meaning trump can't hide the connections his 2016 campaign had with foreign powers (especially Russia).

trump and Roy Cohn Bill Barr are not going to sweep this under the rug like Putin hoped they could.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Where Florida Man and Pandemics Collide. Also Known As "Hey, I cruised down that crazy-ass road when I was a teenager!"

I grew up in Florida, specifically the north end of Pinellas County, so whenever something hits the social media involving anything between Port Richey to, well, Clearwater my ears perk up. Today was one of those days when this started trending (via Heather Monahan at WFLA a local affiliate):

Gyms have been closed since Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide safer-at-home order last month to slow the spread of coronavirus. That executive order expired when the state started the first phase of reopening last week.
But Florida’s gyms – at this point – aren’t allowed to reopen until the state reaches Phase Two of the governor’s reopening plan.
A group of 20 to 30 people gathered outside the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater on Monday morning to protest that, calling for gyms to reopen now so employees can get back to work and customers can return...

You should read the retorts. Sad but expected.

I should point out the demographics of my olde stomping grounds: Pinellas' current population - if these protesters were genuinely from the area - is about 969,000 peeps. Clearwater itself is currently around 104,000. Even with that specific a sample (and with Clearwater the county seat, they could have drawn from Tarpon Springs to Gulfport) that's barely nothing.

Seriously . Thirty protesters tops isn't even enough to qualify for a brawl at a Dunedin biker bar.

Anywho, the lack of massive protests is of interest because one thing the national punditry is puzzling over is how below the COVID-19 infection and death rates the Sunshine State has been since mid-March. Considering how 1) Governor DeSantis dropped the ball on early closure announcements, 2) the beaches in particular were open for Spring Break, raising the ire of everyone else in the univeres, and 3) our state is particularly vulnerable with the high number of elders who are most threatened by any pandemic, the fact that our rates are nowhere near similar cases like New York or Georgia caught enough attention even back in April at Vox, and the local paper Tampa Bay Times did an article recently about it (via Adam Playford, Kathleen McGrory, Steve Contorno, Caitlin Johnston and Zachary T. Sampson):

Medical professionals saw a trajectory of cases that tracked alarmingly close to the early days of the outbreak in New York. They implored Gov. Ron DeSantis to swiftly shut down the state. He waited two weeks.
After the state shut down, the predicted tsunami did not arrive. Temporary hospitals sit unused. Ventilators were never in short supply. The death count, though tragically nearing 1,800 today, remains short of what many feared...
The analysis indicates that while Florida’s politicians debated beach closings and stay-at-home orders, residents took matters into their own hands.
By the time each county shut down, there had been large reductions in activity, the cell phone data shows. People in the worst-hit counties were overwhelmingly staying home weeks before DeSantis’ order went out — and even before the much-earlier orders issued by local governments...

I can personally attest to that from where I live. When the news started growing back in January, a lot of public social areas near me saw a drop in turnout. One harbinger IMHO was all the horror stories about cruise ships getting quarantined (Florida is a major departure point with a lot of seniors taking those trips). By first week of February, the local multiplex was mostly empty. When I went to see Birds of Prey its opening weekend, I saw the smallest turnout for a blockbuster comic book movie in ages and it was for a movie that was actually well-received and hyped. I knew right then people were avoiding each other.

And I work in a library, with reasonable attendance numbers especially in the winter when the snow-birds are here... and yet the door count and circ numbers and computer users (!) were halved by the first week of February. March was no better right up until we got the city order to close for public safety. 

The Times reporters went to look for data to back up the anecdotes. They used tracking methods to see where the people went (and didn't go):
Floridians, it turned out, weren’t waiting.
They severely cut back on going out in public before any government forced them to, according to a Times analysis of cell phone tracking data.
The Times obtained information from Google and two other private companies that use location data from apps on millions of cell phones to determine whether people are socially isolating.
Each company’s data works differently. But it all showed the same thing: In every county in the state, significant decreases in movement began before shutdown orders were issued.
Miami-Dade has had the largest outbreak in Florida. But in the five days preceding the county’s March 26 stay-at-home order, more than half the phones tracked by one of the firms never traveled more than a mile. That represented a drop of more than 80 percent compared to data the firm, Descartes Labs, collected from mid-February to early March.
Data from another company, Unacast, showed that the average distance traveled in the county had been cut nearly in half. Visits to businesses Unacast classified as nonessential, based on guidelines issued by various state governments, dropped at least 65 percent.
Similar patterns repeated across Florida...
That is not what epidemiologists expected, said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist who specializes in disease modeling and has been advising the state on the outbreak.
"What you see in Florida is that people started social distancing much earlier,” Hladish said. “Whether it’s because their schools closed or they were watching the news, they seemed to have started to act before they were explicitly told, ‘Don’t go out.’ That early action is almost certainly the biggest factor in why things weren’t worse here.”

In short: DeSantis and the other state leaders may have been idiots, but the rest of the state wasn't. We may be crazy, but we're not THAT crazy. So that's my eyewitness testimony.

Back to the Times article.

The state’s sprawling cities and random strokes of good fortune may also have worked in Florida’s favor. But public health experts warned that as Florida reopens, its good luck could change with one asymptomatic disease carrier stepping into a large nursing home.
"The thing that is really easy — because this is silent and because it may not be immediately impacting you — is you get really complacent about it,” said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University. “There is a lot of opportunity for this virus to grow exponentially, if it's given the opportunity."
Already, residents’ willingness to stay home appears to be shifting...

The sad news?

Even with all this going on, the political pressure to re-open things faster than before is growing. It's not the 30 protesters along Ft. Harrison Ave., it's the lobbyists and GOP leadership in Tallahassee rushing things without concern that we don't have enough testing kits and we're still not ready for a bigger wave of infected.

If you look at the Times charts, they all show the county numbers ticking upward this May, when more and more people chafed at the social isolation. Now with a Phase 1 restart that's reopened a number of businesses - as long as staffs and customers practice masks, gloves, and sanitizing guidelines - we could see a greater uptick as asymptomatic people mingle with the yet-untouched.

I would like to think most of the Floridian residents around me are still savvy enough to recognize the risks. We're nowhere near the safe levels of testing and protection that would justify going to sporting events, concerts, movie theaters, biker bars, and gyms. It's not an impulse toward "freedom" that should push us towards such self-defeating urges. It better be a desire to avoid harming others, a modicum of responsibility to our loved ones and everyone else's.

This is gonna be a rough month in Florida.

Please, fellow crazy folk. Don't go too far into the madness.

Friday, May 08, 2020

A Librarian-Writer-Jedi-Pirate-Wannabe Looks Back at 50


I remember I first wanted to become a writer when I was still in single digits, around maybe 8 or 9 years old, trying to write stories and slowly learning the mechanics of plot, character development, and the need for white-out goo while using an old-style typewriter.

I remember wanting to be a Jedi from A New Hope onward. Too bad my midichlorian count is too low my lack of faith is disturbing.

I didn't get too much into the being a pirate thing even while growing up a Tampa Bay Buccaneers sports fan. I really didn't get into it until I saw Emma Thompson's version of Sense and Sensibility where Edward points out "Piracy is our only option. ...What is swabbing anyway...?"

Becoming a librarian in real-life happened in college, when I worked in the Cataloging department with bindery processing at University of Florida. My Journalism studies were floundering (I graduated with barely a C average in those classes) and it had gotten to where I was there more to work in the library than to take the classes (things might have been different if I was able to switch majors to something I was getting better grades in like History or Political Science, alas my parents were paying out-of-pocket - I missed the scholarship requirements by a single grade in high school - and they needed me to finish as quick as possible). Anyway, long story short, I went to South Florida to get my Masters (THAT I got an A average in) and went straight into working in libraries ever since 1994.

There was that dark period during the Great Recession where I lost my job as a librarian in 2008 and spent four years struggling to regain full-time employment, up until 2013 when Bartow Library took a chance on me and I've been there ever since. There were times I was hoping the Obama administration were hiring, but I kept missing my chances to drop off my resume with him and damn it all I wasn't able to get my shot at being in the room when it happened.


In terms of all the other things, I've got the pictures of me being a Jedi, not so many of me being a pirate, and a good number of me being a mostly self-published writer. I keep running into the writer's block - the usual problems with chronic depression, work-related stress, real-world anxieties from horrific political dis-leadership and a current pandemic - of unfinished stories all over the place, and I should be using this time I still have to finish at least one of them to feel the accomplishment of completion again.

There's still a lot in my life I haven't done that I wanted so much to do when I was younger: To travel to places to see the world (Grand Canyon, Prague, London, Ireland, the coasts of Spain to Italy, Japan), to break out of my shell and learn social skills, to be better as a friend, to figure out how to flirt proper with ladies, figure out relationships (how to start one, obviously), stuff like that. There's a lot there that I should have done and figured out when I was younger - the regrets of being 20, and then 30, and then 40... - and part of me knows with all that's going on that I don't have many chances left.

So there's me, looking back at 50. I'll add pictures of the cake for today a little later.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

As Though Wiping Away Every Sign of trump's Crimes

This was a hammer dropped today: Attorney General William Barr, in an attempt to negate the early parts of the Mueller investigation into criminal ties between Russia and everyone in trump's Inner Circle, forced the Department of Justice to withdraw from the plea deal agreement with Michael Flynn. Via Emptywheel:

In advance of a status report due tomorrow, Brandon Van Grack withdrew from the Mike Flynn case... (Emptywheel quotes from the AP Newswire for more details)

Van Grack was apparently the point person on the Flynn courtroom case, and without him the government can longer proceed...

While Van Grack has withdrawn from all Flynn-related cases before Emmet Sullivan, he has not yet withdrawn from two other open cases he’s on, and he signed his withdrawal FARA Chief.
As noted in this post, Sullivan has discretion over whether to accept this withdrawal...

Sullivan is the trial judge overseeing all this, including the plea deal. The deal itself apparently is far enough along that the judge can still accept it, but without a prosecutor to argue for that it's unlikely to happen.

Emptywheel covers a lot of the issue with the case standing in a separate article:

Note that just Acting US Attorney Timothy Shea signed this filing, which may create a similar kind of dynamic at the DC US Attorney’s Office regarding this action as Barr’s interference in the Roger Stone sentencing did. Barr transparently removed the Senate approved US Attorney for DC, installed his flunky, and then had his flunky renege on statements that DOJ (even DOJ under Barr) had made in the past. It is a breathtaking abuse of power, and it’s likely that Sullivan will regard it as such.
I encourage you to follow Emptywheel's link, because she lays out the three key parts of Shea's arguments and then spells out how each of them are flawed, and how Barr's DOJ is making arguments that already failed in Sullivan's court room and still fail a lot of legal logic anyway.

This kind of self-sabotage to a court matter that had been in the works for years is an obvious attempt by trump to get his cronies to sweep away the history of his involvement in Russia's actions against the United States during the 2016 elections.

trump has always been upset about the situations involving his campaign helpers like Paul Manafort - found guilty in a trial early on - or Roger Stone - who also risked a trial and was found guilty as well - because while they didn't directly prove what trump did to cheat, the close interconnection of criminal to criminal - all of it tied to either trump or Russia - was a guilt-by-association that could dog trump for whatever time he's got left before his scams run out.

As such, trump would scream and proclaim it was all a conspiracy, all a witch hunt pushed by a Deep State that favored the "more evil" Hillary and Obama.

And now, with the likelihood that Flynn - who had been caught in a web of backroom deals and crazy plots - will walk away with a clean slate, trump is likely going to crow the whole thing was never real. Unlike the risk of pardoning his cronies - because those pardons could compel them to testify against trump himself later on - this creates the wriggle room trump and his media allies can use to hammer at critics until the media - and the rest of the nation - give up and look away from these eyesores.

Criminals love to deny that the crimes they committed - even when caught - never really happened. Even with the pile of bodies and burning wreckage left in their wake.

trump just happens to be at the head of a crime cartel able to force those lies onto our entire nation.

he and his cronies would wipe away every last shred of evidence from the history books if they can.

We dare not let them.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

When Cinco De Mayo is on a Taco Tuesday, With Revenge of the Sith On Our Minds

#CincoAtHome, America. General Zaragoza didn't fight off the French at the Battle of Puebla so that you all get sick with COVID-19 today.

If you wanna honor the Sith as they take their Revenge, do your part to pre-order from your local TACO TRUCK AT EVERY CORNER and pick up curbside service to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

To help, the LA Times has Five suggestions to do Cinco right.

These are easy things to do, America. Sith Responsibly.

Monday, May 04, 2020

May The 4th Be With You 2020 Edition

We really shouldn't be comic-conning any time soon, so a brief look back at all the comic-conning I did:

May R2D2 always be your wing man!

I wish I had gotten cleaner pictures of Carrie Fisher when I had the chance :( 

One thing happening is the Disney-Plus streaming service is releasing Rise of Skywalker today, and promoting the hell out of #MayThe4thBeWithYou on social media, which is a reminder for me to someday go back and review both it and The Last Jedi, which is tricky because yes I do have problems with those movies and I have to come to terms with that.

In the meantime, don't let the Sith get you down.
Stay safe. It's what Baby Yoda would want you to do.