Monday, July 26, 2021

Brief Notes On the Price of Political Pandering July 2021

It's become clear in 2021 that the Republican Party still kneels and begs for table scraps at the foot of the eternal Shitgibbon known as trump.

As the near-unstoppable cycle of election campaigning kicks up for 2022, a number of high-profile Republican candidates at the state and Congressional level have spent a lot of effort playing to trump's unstable world-views and conspiracy rants. Noticeable among these sycophants is George P. Bush, son of... one of the Bush brothers, hold on let me check the Wikipedia biography oh yes it's JEB! - who is entering the political stage by running for state-level office in Texas. Specifically for State Attorney General, running as a challenger against the incumbent Ken Paxton.

Normally, intraparty challenges are rare outside of the purity-test extremists taking their shot at the office-holder they deem insufficiently RINO. It's kind of hard to paint Paxton as a RINO given all the crazy-ass stuff he's done as AG... and that's just the legal stuff. Another big reason for Bush's challenge is that Paxton is currently indicted on corruption and securities fraud charges, something that ought to have driven an honest crook to resign for the good of the party. It's just with this modern Republican Party, corruption charges is now a goddamned badge of honor to these guys.

In order to win, George P. has spent his early days campaigning even further to the right than Paxton, going so far as to openly worship at the foot of trump (party kingmaker) himself. All of this in spite of the open contempt the Bush family itself has towards trump, whom they view as destroying a Republican Party they built and once dominated themselves.

But hey, one of the things about the Bushes, if you ever watched them from Bush the Elder from the 1960s on through to Bush the Lesser in the 2000s to weak Fredo uh Jeb! the Exclamation Point: A Bush running for office will pander and debase themselves as much as needed to win that office.

So where did all of George P.'s love affair for trump lead him?

trump still went with the openly (allegedlys) corrupt Paxton. Why not? trump must figure Paxton will cut him into Paxton's piece of the action...

Ergo, to this bit of schadenfreude:



I wonder what George P. will do now. Probably crawl back to the Bush Family Compound and convene a session with their current elders to decide the next step of revenge against Paxton. I wonder how many judges in line to handle Paxton's indictments still owe a favor or three to the Bushes... 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Why Aren't We Doing The Smart Thing - Back to Lockdown - To Combat the Newest COVID Wave? Because IDIOTS...

As the COVID-19 pandemic gets worse with the Delta variant heading towards the end of July 2021, there isn't as much anxiety as we had back in July 2020. Instead, this time there's a shit-ton of anger building up among the vaccinated towards the contrarian, ignorant, brain-dead, Fox-Not-News-worshipping UNvaccinated SOBs that make up our trumpian neighbors.

Even David Frum is pissed:

In the United States, this pandemic could’ve been over by now, and certainly would’ve been by Labor Day. If the pace of vaccination through the summer had been anything like the pace in April and May, the country would be nearing herd immunity. With most adults immunized, new and more infectious coronavirus variants would have nowhere to spread. Life could return nearly to normal.

Experts list many reasons for the vaccine slump, but one big reason stands out: vaccine resistance among conservative, evangelical, and rural Americans. Pro-Trump America has decided that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty...

The Far Right are driven by Purity Tests: if any of them even flinches or looks like they're changing their mind on something, that person gets driven out. And right now the Purity Test requires these contrarian SOBs to oppose COVID vaccination on the flimsiest of pretexts, based on bad information from fellow contrarians who are neither experts nor correct.

Pro-Trump vaccine resistance exacts a harsh cost from pro-Trump loyalists. We read pitiful story after pitiful story of deluded and deceived people getting sick when they did not have to get sick, infecting their loved ones, being intubated, and dying. And as these loyalists harm themselves and expose all of us to unnecessary and preventable risk, publications—including this one—have run articles sympathetically explaining the recalcitrance of the unvaccinated...

Biden’s America is home to vaccine holdouts too. But state and local leaders in Biden’s America have spoken clearly and consistently about the urgency of vaccination. The leaders in Trump’s America have talked a double game: Like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, they urge vaccination one day, then the next they fundraise by attacking public-health officials such as Anthony Fauci. The consequence of DeSantis’s weeks of pandering to COVID-19 denial: More than one-fifth of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States are arising in the state of Florida—24,000 recorded on a single day, July 20...

Compassion should always be the first reaction to vaccine hesitation. Maybe some unvaccinated people have trouble getting time off work to deal with side effects, maybe they are disorganized, maybe they are just irrationally anxious. But there’s no getting around the truth that some considerable number of the unvaccinated are also behaving willfully and spitefully. Yes, they have been deceived and manipulated by garbage TV, toxic Facebook content, and craven or crazy politicians. But these are the same people who keep talking about “personal responsibility.” In the end, the unvaccinated person himself or herself has decided to inflict a preventable and unjustifiable harm upon family, friends, neighbors, community, country, and planet...

We are not going to see an end to this until both the monsters distributing misinformation and the fools eagerly lapping it up answer for their sins. And by then, half our school-bound kids (our states are forcing everybody back to in-person classes!) will likely be sick and dying.

Goddamn these goddamn wingnuts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Winners and Losers on trump's Bad Day

Ahh, this has been one of those days where the Schadenfreude ("malicious joy") was tasty and warm.

First Part: I don't know if I ever told you my sports fandom, but as a long-time Tampa Bay resident I am true to my school when it comes to rooting for the Bucs (NFL), Lightning (NHL), and the Rays (MLB). Ah, if only Arena Football was still playing... 

You might have noticed it whenever I rant against donald trump: Thanks to his moronic ass, he manipulated the USFL - a spring pro football league that was struggling but popular - back in the early 1980s into a legal fight against the rival NFL that backfired on him, killed the USFL, and ended the Tampa Bay Bandits franchise. So yeah, that still hurts.

Anywho, right now is a great time to be a Tampa Bay sports fan. Our Lightning hockey team just accomplished back-to-back championship seasons (2019/2020 and 2020/2021), a difficult run in any professional sport. The Bolts have been one of the more successful southern ice hockey teams, proving the haters - the traditionalists who argue hockey should be played in cities that actually get snow - wrong with Stanley Cup wins in 2004 and a valiant effort in 2015.

Over in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the hunt for another AL East division title, having won that last season en route to their second overall World Series matchup (sadly losing to the L.A. Dodgers in 6). The Rays are at the top of the baseball world the past 13 years (since 2008) as one of the small-market teams that figured out a winning formula that's garnered a number of wild card berths, division titles, and so on. Even in the dire situation of playing in one of the worst ballparks, under constant threat of relocating, the Rays are winners while large market teams struggle to stay above .500 in the wins column.

On top of that, the Tampa Bay Bucs are coming off the high of a Super Bowl victory this past season. The first pro sports franchise in the area (1976), infamously one of the worst teams in the NFL having the first ever winless season in 1976 and losing their first 26 games, the Bucs were a laughingstock franchise due to bad ownership and dumb decisions (their rookie drafting faux pas remain some of the worst in league history). Things turned around with new ownership in the 1990s, a good coach finally leading the team (Dungy!) although he got traded out for another good coach (Chucky!) who did get the Bucs to their first Super Bowl in the 2002 season... only to have it all crash and burn by 2008 when Gruden's unbalanced team-building (over-reliance on expensive free agents) bankrupted the cap space and the team sunk back into malaise.

The Bucs went through another series of questionable coaching hires - ahem #FireSchiano - and desperation to find a franchise QB, leading up to the 2020 season when the team made the fateful decision to let could-have-been Jameis Winston go and bring in a veteran team leader... Tom Freaking Brady.

A little bit more later on about how big a move that was, because combined with an already great receiver corps (and adding Tom's BFF Gronk to the Tight End roster) and a developing defensive unit, that lineup had the Bucs' first winning season since 2010, the first playoff spot since 2007, and one of the biggest mind-blowing playoff runs in NFL history leading up to a 31-9 smackdown of the previous SB winner Kansas City Chiefs (told you back-to-back championships are hard to make).

There are few sports cities that have seen ALL of their franchise teams make the championships the same year, fewer still to have all of them WIN those championships (dammit, Rays...). Like I said, what a time to be a Tampa Bay sports fan. CHAMPA BAY, people!

We've made boat parades a thing, everybody!



Brady throwing the Lombardi Trophy at 1:05 on the YouTube clip became an instant meme.

That all said, what happened today was a recent sports tradition of the winning team visiting the White House to get congratulated by the President of the United States. So today the Buccaneers went, led by Tom Brady, who made some rather pointed jokes about his 2020 performance and the ongoing performance of a particular person by the name of trump (via Jonathan Chait at the New York Intelligencer): 

Brady made two jokes at Trump’s expense. First, he made fun of Trump for refusing to accept defeat:

Tom Brady: "Not a lot of people think that we could've won. In fact, I think about 40% of the people still don't think we won."

Biden: "I understand that."

Then, twisting the knife, he made a second joke:

Brady: “We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me Sleepy Tom. Why would they do that to me?”

While this sounds more gentle than this first joke, it is in fact much more deeply vicious. In Trump’s mind, Biden is a pathetic loser, and he is the winner. Like Tom Brady.

Yet here was Brady, inverting the whole hierarchy. Biden is the winner, like Brady, and Winners now are guys who get called sleepy by the Losers for making a small mistake on the way to their triumph...

I've mentioned before that trump's ego is driven by the need to be seen as a Winner at all times, as much as driven by the fear that he must never be seen as a Loser (or Sucker as he calls it). As Chait also notes:

In Trump’s mind, the two men were parallels to each other: both Winners, and natural companions on the basis of their mastery of their respective fields. “He’s a friend of mine, he’s a great guy, and he’s a great athlete obviously, but he’s a winner,” Trump told TMZ in 2016. “I think Tom is totally innocent. I think Tom is — first of all, I know him, he’s such an honorable guy, and I’m with him all the way.” Trump has repeatedly expressed his regret that he “could have had Tom Brady” as his son-in-law, rather than the nerdy Jared Kushner.

The relationship always had an asymmetric quality. Brady repeatedly expressed discomfort at Trump’s public adulation, and has declined to talk about who he voted for. In 2017, he skipped a White House invitation to celebrate a previous Super Bowl win, citing his need to attend to his ailing mother. The snub, according to the Washington Post, sent Trump into a rage...

Getting dissed like this in public will undoubtedly drive trump even further into madness. But what can trump really do? Any insult he lobs at Tom Brady will be weak and laughable. Brady has proven himself a Winner on the global stage multiple times, the only Quarterback in NFL history to win SEVEN Super Bowls and named MVP five times, holding nearly every passing record in the book, pulling this all off well into his mid-40s when most QBs retire by their 30s, and poised in 2021 to make a serious run for yet another Super Bowl with a veteran Bucs team that lost no talent from last year and may have an easier run this season.

Brady's a goddamned Winner. All trump can do is pose and pretend and brag lie about wins he never really achieved.

And now, the Second Part of the Schadenfreude Day: 

One of donald trump's closest business buddies Tom Barrack got himself hit with a ton of federal charges involving foreign shenanigans during the 2016 elections (shades of Manafort's and Flynn's shenanigans all over again). From Carrie Johnson at NPR:

Thomas Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump's who chaired the former president's inauguration committee, was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that he acted as an agent of a foreign government.

Note: when the report first got out, the Justice Department had to clarify that Barrack wasn't getting arrested over the investigation into questionable fund-raising for that inauguration committee. Yeah, that's still ongoing...

Prosecutors said Barrack, 74, parlayed his close ties to the Trump White House to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates.

Along with Barrack, Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colo., and Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, 43, a UAE national, are accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the Middle Eastern nation between April 2016 and April 2018. Grimes worked for Barrack at an investment management firm.

Prosecutors said the three defendants did not provide the required notification to the U.S. attorney general that they were acting as agents of a foreign government.

Barrack is also charged with obstructing justice and lying to federal agents...

Court papers said Barrack exploited his close ties to Trump as far back as the 2016 campaign when he inserted language favorable to the UAE into a speech about energy policy. Prosecutors said Barrack also asked for a wish list of policy goals at various points throughout the Trump administration, and they said he advanced the UAE's interests in television appearances and an opinion article...

Barrack is the latest person in or near Trump's inner circle to be charged with federal crimes...

It's like you need a scorecard to keep up with all the people in trump's personal circle getting hit with federal felony charges. Seriously, I've been doing a mental check of all the people I've ever known from high school to now, how many of them have been charged with felonies, and out of hundreds of people I can't recall a single one. Okay, my family's history of speeding tickets don't count.

I mean, just think about it. Just with the campaign handlers from 2016 - Paul Manafort dealing with Ukraine (when it was a Russian puppet state), Mike Flynn dealing with Turkey, Steve Bannon dealing with China, Roger Stone dealing with Russia - trump had too many connections to too many corrupting influences, especially linked to Russia.

All of it based on trump's desperation for wealth backed by foreign powers, so trump can pretend being a billionaire Winner when he was really a clown living on credit.

What a Sucker trump's turned out to be.

What a day to be a trump hater! MMmmmmmmm, tasty tasty Schadenfreude indeed. Now bring us more tax evasion arrests from the New York grand jury PLEASE AND THANK YOU...

Monday, July 19, 2021

Too Little Justice Or No Justice At All (w/ Update)

Update below:

You'd think the legal system under a Biden administration would be fighting harder to punish both the liars and thieves that made up trump's administration, or at least go after the January 6 Insurrectionists with more fervor.

Alas on both counts. Although some justice is served for one of the rioters, it still doesn't seem like eight months is enough does it? (via Ryan Lucas at NPR): 

A Florida crane operator who walked onto the Senate floor during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison and two years of supervised release.

Paul Hodgkins' sentencing is the first in a felony case stemming from the deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. It is viewed as a potential bellwether for how other Capitol defendants charged with similar offenses are likely to be treated.

Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to a single count of obstructing an official proceeding. On Jan. 6, he marched from then-President Donald Trump's rally near the White House to the Capitol, where he walked inside and onto the floor of the Senate while carrying a red "Trump 2020" flag...

You could argue that Hodgkins by pleading to a felony does some measure of mercy, but dammit there are still too many who participated in that attempted coup who haven't even been caught yet, and there are too many trumpian supporters eager to try another takeover. We ought to be seeing more felony charges against these rioters, more than just the single indictments of Obstruction that our Justice Dept. seems to think sufficient enough.

Another act of injustice reported today relates to trump's corrupt Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who was facing the possibility of Perjury charges relating to false testimony he gave before Congress during his tenure. Due to legal chicanery, Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland decided not to press the matter further, stirring up commentary like Paul Waldman's at the Washington Post (likely behind paywall):

There’s a temptation to view what Ross did as simply politics, which in a way it was: When he repeatedly made false statements to Congress under oath about the administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, Ross was operating in the service of a broader lie being repeated by multiple Trump officials and advocates. But that makes it worse, not better...

I can’t say why they decided Ross’s case did not warrant prosecution, though it’s true that people are not often prosecuted for lying to Congress. That doesn’t mean it’s unheard of, however. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former factotum, pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress on Trump’s behalf. Figures in the Watergate and Iran-contra scandals were also indicted for that crime.

Upon taking office, the Trump administration decided it wanted to add a citizenship question to the census for the first time in 70 years. The reasons were plain: The administration was doing its best to intimidate immigrants, both documented and otherwise, and a citizenship question would make them fearful about answering the census. That would make their communities look smaller, which would then deprive them of resources and political power.

But the administration couldn’t just come out and say that. So it came up with one of the dumbest cover stories in an administration that was full of them: adding a citizenship question to the census, they said, was necessary for the Justice Department to properly enforce the Voting Rights Act. It made no sense at all, and nobody believed it for a moment.

But on two occasions, Ross was questioned under oath about it and made specific factual assertions — assertions that were false. Ross testified that his department (Commerce has authority over the Census Bureau) only pursued the citizenship question because it was asked to do so by the Justice Department.

But emails obtained in a lawsuit revealed that not only was that false, but Ross and his aides had pressured a reluctant Justice Department to essentially create a bogus paper trail that would give support to the lie that the whole thing was the department’s idea...

In a sane and just world, it's that kind of deceit in government that ought to trigger warrants and court trials. But why not, why allow one of trump's biggest corrupt cronies to skip merrily away from ANY accountability? Back to Waldman:

It wouldn’t be too surprising to hear that the department figured it wasn’t a serious enough crime to justify indicting someone so high-ranking. But that’s just the trouble: When you communicate that you can perjure yourself before Congress with impunity, the result will be more perjury.

And it reinforces the idea that in politics, anything is justified — manipulating the system, lying to the public, lying under oath, anything — and you might well get away with it. At this particular moment in our history, is that a message we want to send?

It's as though there's a strain of cowardice within Democratic ranks that pursuing justice against partisan and corrupt Republicans could stir up more trouble for themselves rather than push back against the lies that break our nation further into pieces.

The only way we can rebuild America is to return to our efforts to build towards justice. We need to hold the likes of Ross - and William Barr, and Steve Mnuchin, and trump himself - accountable for the lies they spewed that warped our reality.

I just wish Biden and Garland and other Democratic leaders realize that, and act soon. trump's lies keep spreading every day that we don't do anything about that.

Update 7/20: It turns out myself and the other Paul - and other commentators - jumped the gun on this. The decision to NOT go after Ross for perjury was done under Barr's watch, not Garland's.


So, apologies to Merrick Garland.

(beat)

Um, why isn't Merrick Garland reversing Barr's bad call here and prosecuting Ross anyway?! CMON MAN.


Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Insanity of Olympics in a Pandemic Year (w/ Update)

Update 7/25/21: So, obviously, the IOC and Japan didn't cancel the Olympics... and there's already a slew of positive cases turning up that are bound to spread. Also, many thanks to Infidel753 for including this article in the Sunday Link Round-Up!

We don't like it, but the COVID pandemic is still going strong because not enough vaccines are out there across the globe, and yet here our governments go forcing an Olympics event - delayed due to 2020 pretty much shut down by the pandemic's beginning - onto an athletic population exposing each other to Gods knows what (via Wynne Davis at NPR):

With less than a week before the opening ceremonies begin at this year's Tokyo games, at least two players on the South African soccer team have tested positive for COVID-19 inside the Olympic Village.

The two players, Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi, are the first athletes to test positive for the coronavirus at the site of the Olympic Village in the Japanese capital. A video analyst for the team, Mario Masha, also tested positive.

All three have been isolated, along with those who were in close contact with them...

The announcement of the new cases comes at a moment of deep trepidation inside Japan about the wisdom of holding the games, with Tokyo already under its fourth state of emergency since the pandemic began. With vaccination rates in the country lagging behind those in the United States and much of Europe, there are fears that an influx of thousands from around the world could spark new outbreaks. The state of emergency will mean no spectators during the games inside the capital, but even without international fans, more than 18,000 people are expected to come in for the games.

Though the results announced Sunday are the first cases to appear in athletes, there are growing concerns that others will test positive before competition begins later this week...

COVID can hide in a person between five to fourteen days, meaning the negative tests yesterday won't cover for the positive tests likely to trigger next week at the start of the Olympics itself.

While a majority of the athletes may be vaccinated, and most of the on-site workers as well, that's no guarantee of complete immunity. The vaccines help in reducing the harmful effects, and reduces the likelihood of spreading the virus further, but there's still odds that COVID could spread and affect far too many athletes to effectively hold the sporting events.

Seriously. We are in no current shape to have an Olympics right now. The IOC and the many nations participating in this need to step back, cancel the damn thing.

We've cancelled Olympics before, when world wars condemned us. We've had boycotts between the two sides of the Cold War. Did it break the hopes of athletes of those eras who missed out? Yes, there were many who missed their chances to shine on the global stage. But at least we didn't risk their lives in the process.

There's only one reason the IOC is pushing to get these Olympics done: Money. Television broadcasting rights are in the billions, a lot of advertising revenue at stake, and dammit someone at NBC (and any other overseas networks) will want to get paid for this.

But we're risking the reality that too many athletes intermingle -it's one of the few joys of this international event for them - and they're bound to become vectors of the pandemic towards each other. Even with Tokyo refusing to provide solid beds and condoms to discourage the sex that happens each Olympics, there's other ways of socializing and moments during competition when COVID can spread in an instant. And then you'll have hundreds sick all at once, unable to participate and likely infecting those still unvaccinated.

The Olympics organizers might be praying to every deity in the phone book, and it WILL take divine intervention to make sure most of the Olympians survive this summer.

It is utter madness we are relying on that instead of common goddamn sense. Cancel the Olympics.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

DeSantis Is Dancing On Our Graves Right Now

I just posted a few days ago how the COVID pandemic is on an upswing in Florida - and the whole nation - and yet our state's Republican leadership isn't doing a goddamn thing to fight it. Hell, the supposed Governor of the Sunshine State is fucking mocking the pandemic with his campaign merch (via Digby quoting from the Washington Post): 

“Don’t Fauci My Florida,” read drink koozies and T-shirts that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign team rolled out just as his state sees some of the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, new infections and deaths per capita in the country. It’s the latest example of Republicans running on their opposition to virus-fueled shutdowns and mask mandates. A pandemic hero to some and villain to others, Fauci has become a high-profile target.

While the merchandise is focused on Florida before the 2022 gubernatorial race there, DeSantis is seen as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. A key part of his pitch: He resisted public health experts’ calls for stricter measures against the spread of the coronavirus, spurring criticism on the left and praise from the right for keeping his state’s schools and economy comparatively open...

While discussing the Florida budget this summer, DeSantis said his state’s rosy financial outlook would not have been possible “if we had followed Fauci.”

“Instead we followed freedom,” he said.

His campaign’s “Team DeSantis” Twitter account announced the new merchandise Monday. The Fauci items are listed alongside “Keep Florida Free” hats and red koozies that take aim at face coverings with a DeSantis quote: “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”

Every ICU doctor and nurse would like to ask DeSantis' marketing geniuses this: "How the hell are they going to drink a beer with a ventilator tube down their throats?" 

The campaign team did not respond to The Washington Post’s questions Tuesday, and Fauci did not respond to a request for comment...

DeSantis and his Republican buddies are touting "freedom" but what they're really doing is KILLING THE UNVACCINATED IN FLORIDA.

Christ. This isn't freedom: This is genocide.

As Digby herself notes:

That (fighting the pandemic) is meaningless to him. He’s owning the libs and that’s the key to success in the GOP.

He’s also killing his own voters — only the unvaccinated are dying at this point and most of them are Republicans — which seems to be politically foolish but whatever. But now that kids are getting it, and young parents, this seems even more cruel than before. In fact, it should be criminal that these right wing nihilists aren’t doing everything they can to tamp down this virus...

Our state leadership can't be bothered with deaths unless it's something that screws with their Narrative. Like the unborn fetus they so brazenly defend except for the point after that fetus is born because then that newborn has no postnatal care or social aid waiting for it.

In this situation, DeSantis can't be bothered with COVID not because our vaccination program defeated it - our vaccination rates haven't reached that point - but because he never really believed COVID was a serious threat to Florida's residents, and he'd rather push the narrative that he's been great for state business.

But DeSantis isn't all that great for business or our schools or our communities because at this rate in another two weeks our hospitals are going to be overwhelmed and half the state is going to have to close down no matter what with half the workforce and half the school populations sick or dying on us.

Let me repeat. This isn't freedom: This is genocide.

And it's DeSantis' responsibility, which he's refusing to accept. Which makes it his fault.

Goddamn him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Brief Observation of Watching trump's Lawyers Get Shamed (If They Ever COULD Be Shamed) in a Court Of Law

So there was some fun to be had on Monday when the lawyers that had been running around post-elections in late 2020 had to appear before a judge to answer for their shenanigans (via Adam Klasfeld at Law&Crime): 

In the first federal court reckoning since the failure of the so-called “Kraken” litigation, a judge on Monday told pro-Trump lawyers Lin Wood, Sidney Powell and their co-counsel that she was concerned that their legal team allowed dodgy affidavits to be filed.

“The court is concerned that these affidavits were submitted in bad faith,” U.S. District Judge Linda Parker said in a blockbuster remark...

More than half a year ago on Dec. 7, Judge Parker decisively rejected Powell and Wood’s effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Michigan in a scathing, 36-page ruling.

“Plaintiffs ask this court to ignore the orderly statutory scheme established to challenge elections and to ignore the will of millions of voters,” Parker wrote. “This, the Court cannot, and will not, do.”

“The People have spoken,” she added.

Named after a mythical octopus-like creature, the “Kraken” is the name that Powell gave to her quadruple-armed effort to overturn election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. Each bid failed, and every appeal was rejected. Parker convened the hearing on Monday to consider whether every lawyer who participated in legal offensive in her court should face sanctions, up to their referrals for disbarment proceedings...

You kind of need to read all of Klasfeld's article: In the details are various acts of fraud, questionable witnesses (like this "Spyder" who claimed to be Army Intelligence but turned out to be an Army mechanic), and various efforts by Lin Wood to distance himself from any legal liability of the shenanigans he signed up for.

via GIPHY


Which all kind of led up to this quote:

...Systematically questioning what, if any, vetting the “Kraken” legal team performed on a stack of affidavits, Judge Parker tore apart the allegations inside one of those declaration.

“This is really fantastical,” Parker said.

“How could any of you as officers of the court submit this affidavit?” she added...

My observation here is: Why the hell isn't Judge Parker whipping out Ye Olde Hammer of Contempt of Court to toss each of trump's inept and inaccurate lawyers straight into jail cells? Under any measurement of Common Sense, Wood and Powell and the others committed serious unethical acts and perpetuated an ongoing fraud on both the nation and the electoral process. Those lawyers made themselves look like fools - without evidence of fraud, without any legal history to back up their claims - and mocked each courtroom doing so.

I understand what Parker is doing now is reviewing the matter for sanctions, which seem to imply fines and disbarment charges when she makes her ruling. However, she should be able to issue Contempt charges under her own power as Judge, as a means of maintaining control of her courtroom.

Either there's a concern that going this route turns trump and his lawyers into martyrs, or that there's possibly a standard of judicial ethics restraining Parker (or any other judge that has do deal with trump's decades-long attack on the legal system) from going there. 

But from where I'm sitting, EVERYTHING that trump and his legal lackeys have done have been open and blatant acts of contempt towards everything the rule of law should stand for.

Contempt of Court is the FIRST thing those bastards should be held accountable for.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

America MUST Learn From Its Flaws

I've already said my thoughts about the Republican attacks on teaching history - their fear about how racist our past has been and how that racism defines us now - but it helps to hear from another voice like Rude Pundit, who spells things out in a more blunt but effective manner

When I was applying for jobs in academia years ago, I figured that, depending where I was applying, my whiteness and maleness would work against me or in my favor. It never occurred to me to resent the idea that I might lose out to an equally qualified non-white person or a woman because I believe that diversity in education is an imperative to maybe, perhaps one day overcoming or at least ameliorating the effects of racism and sexism. On more than one occasion, some other white guy would ask me if I was upset that I might lose out on a dream job because of affirmative action or diversity hiring. 

And my answer was always the same: "I'm not angry at people today for getting jobs. I'm not angry at people today for considering race and sex as factors. I am pissed off as hell at all the stupid, racist, sexist white men in the past who fucked it all up." 

See, what gets me, time and again, is trying to conceive of all the people whose genius, whose talent, whose abilities were never even given a chance because of the actual laws and the unspoken rules of white male domination and oppression. If you really think about it, that loss is overwhelming. It's incalculable. And it is frankly entirely rational, entirely normal, entirely expected that trying to wrap your head around it is going to make a white person feel like shit. 

Frankly, we white people should feel shame. We should feel anger. And rather than deny those feelings, rather than repress them and revolt against them, we should embrace them, learn from them, and grow from them. Otherwise, we'll just keep doing all the things that make future whites ashamed and angry, perpetuating the very system that we're pretending we've defeated... 


History is not some distant memory, some tale to be told over dinner or a campfire like a fable of old. History is living, reaching from the past affecting the actions we take today as we attempt to redefine our futures.

If what you get from that is that white people are bad and that you don't want to feel bad, that's on you. For chrissake, as a white person, why wouldn't I feel like shit about the fact that the country wouldn't exist without the enslavement of one race and the genocide of another, both done by white people? Why wouldn't I feel like shit that the white-run government didn't enforce the very laws that it created to bring about equality between the races? Why in the world wouldn't I feel like shit about lynching and terrorism by whites against Black people? As someone who grew up white in the south, why wouldn't I feel like shit about the Supreme Court-endorsed apartheid that prevented Black people from prospering for a hundred years after slavery? Why wouldn't I feel like shit about policies like red-lining and banking discrimination and environmental ghettoes? We're now talking about things white people have done in my lifetime, not 400 years ago

Goddamn, you'd have to be so deep in denial, so delusional, so sociopathic to not think that whiteness has been used as a weapon against non-white people. Don't tell me not to feel like hell. Tell me how you agree that we need to accept it, teach it, learn it, and change it...

The Republicans - driven by their cultural conservativism and their religious puritanism and their greed - dare not confront that past because it exposes the sins they are committing now in their pursuit of permanent political power. They cannot share that power with others they deem inferior by race and by gender and by creed. So they wage war on our nation's own history, to purge it of our sins like Rosewood and Tulsa and Sand Creek and Camp Logan and Port Chicago and the Trail of Tears.

Rather than learn from those horrors, the wingnut Right would have us all forget it... so they can repeat those mistakes in the here and now.

We're seeing the results already of the conservative witch hunt against teachers exposing racism: A Tennessee school board fired a teacher for quoting Ta-Nehisi Coates' works. Say hello to the modern update of Jim Crow, America. You're not reading this in your history books, you're reading this on today's Twitter feed.

Republicans don't want us to learn, Republicans don't want America to reform and refocus and improve. They don't want to do the smart, simple thing that Rude Pundit and I agree our nation needs to do:

A truly great country doesn't have to keep saying it's great. A truly great country can handle more than one idea about itself. A truly great country is one that recognizes its mistakes and treats them as the chance to become, what's the phrase, "a more perfect union," as our flawed, racist, but, yes, wise founders said.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

COVID-19 Is STILL a Threat, Florida

This may be 2021. There may be vaccines out there to help us reduce the risks of the coronavirus, but we're running into mutant strains of COVID (currently the Delta strain) alongside the problem of people refusing to get vaccinated. THAT is causing the infection counts to go back up. Follow the report from Ian Hodgson with the Tampa Bay Times for example: 

The highly contagious delta variant is spreading rapidly in Florida and is the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus in the country, according to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC data released Tuesday shows that the delta variant accounted for 13.2 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Florida as of June 19. That’s up from 2.3 percent as of June 5.

“We shouldn’t be surprised at how quickly the delta variant is spreading here,” said Derek Cummins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida, “given what we saw elsewhere in the world where it took over...”

New infections and hospitalizations have increased in recent weeks as the delta variant spreads. Nearly 16,000 new coronavirus cases were detected in Florida last week, a 35 percent increase over the week before. Florida also saw 1,963 new hospitalizations from June 27 to July 4, an increase of 18 percent.

As more and more elderly residents are vaccinated, fatalities due to the coronavirus continue to fall, with 213 new deaths recorded in Florida in the past week, down from 280 per week early last month...

The elderly in Florida may be close to full vaccination rates, but what about the rest of the state's population? Teens, college-age adults, even those in their 30s and 40s aren't close to getting covered. 

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state are still below levels seen as recently as April, but are a worrying sign as vaccination rates stagnate across the state. Fifty-three percent of eligible Florida residents have been fully vaccinated, and 62 percent have received at least one shot.

The delta variant may be as much as 50 percent more infectious, according to a Public Health England report published last month. This means the virus will spread faster, especially among unvaccinated individuals...

It's been pretty much six full months of an aggressive vaccination campaign, and we're barely past 53 percent full protection.

While the death rate may be down the infection rates aren't. The good news, those fully vaccinated tend to suffer the least from the COVID symptoms. Bad news: Nearly every COVID-related death in the nation comes from the unvaccinated. From Carla K Johnson and Mike Stobbe at the AP Newswire:

Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who weren’t vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.

An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 107,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 1.1%.

And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average...

In Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, with only about 33% of the population fully protected, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising.

“It is sad to see someone go to the hospital or die when it can be prevented,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted as he urged people to get their shots.

In Seattle’s King County, the public health department found only three deaths during a recent 60-day period in people who were fully vaccinated. The rest, some 95% of 62 deaths, had had no vaccine or just one shot...

In the St. Louis area, more than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, said Dr. Alex Garza, a hospital administrator who directs a metropolitan-area task force on the outbreak.

“The majority of them express some regret for not being vaccinated,” Garza said. “That’s a pretty common refrain that we’re hearing from patients with COVID...”


WE ARE NOT OUT OF THE GODDAMNED WOODS WITH THIS PANDEMIC, AMERICA. The sad sick thing is that our nation's population both seem unwilling to go back into quarantine - the drawn-out isolation for much of 2020 drove us mad apparently - and unwilling to fully embrace a vaccine program that is proving to work well helping people survive. 

We've gotten to the point where Biden's yelling and begging to the American people to get covered is falling on deaf ears. Even the Republican governors like Hutchinson in Arkansas are trying to get their own - and it is mostly the Republican base refusing to get their shots - and they're failing.

Do we as a whole nation even have the willpower anymore, are we burned out from fatigue? Are we all resigned to letting this pandemic get the better of us?

Gods help us if we have.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Four For the Fourth 2021: What We Were Really Fighting For During the Revolution

When it was all said and done, for our rights as a new nation... for Life, Liberty, and the Property Rights of... oh wait, we traded that out for Pursuit of Happiness, sorry... we truly fought for our rights to brag about our best sports teams!


The Iggles of Philadelphia said some brutal things about Captain Brady falling off a cliff, but I'm pretty sure the British changed their tune when Brady won more battles over the Ramhorns of Los Angeles and the Chieftains of Kansas City.


We fought for the right to root for Tampa Bay to have some of the best winning teams of recent memory! GO BOLTS! GO RAYS! GO BUCS!!! CHAMPA BAY

THAT'S WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT, ENGLAND! WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT WINNING!!!

START THE FIREWORKS!!!

Four for the Fourth 2021: How Does The World See America?

Okay, so, while Americans go about enjoying the 4th of July as our Independence Day, just how do other nations perceive the UTTER GREATNESS OF EAGLELAND BOO RAH!


Well, on the bright side, they see us teaming up with lions to shoot zombie Hitlers...


Thank GOD we have Chris Evans giving us America's Ass...


What would Jack Kirby - uh, Captain America - do? OH YEAH, PUNCH HITLERS.


Oh CMON we're not all about pizza and hamburgers and cursing every other word... (realizes I'm grilling bacon cheeseburgers for dinner this 4th) Oh SONOFABITCH...

I'm sure the Europeans are going to be more accurate when describing Americans!


We're LOUD?! WE'RE LOUD?!?!? OH CMON... and again with the food! We got our food from YOU peeps! /cries

Maybe we should ask the aliens showing up in all those recently released UFO reports...


...sigh...

Four For the Fourth 2021: A Son Of Immigrants

He was born in Berlin in 1857

For what I've been told, he came to the United States through Baltimore (not everyone entered the nation through Ellis Island, after all) looking for work in construction, probably in bridges. I think he had an engineering background, one of the few books he left behind to us is on Road Making by W.M. Gillespie, and it's filled with handwritten notes (and it's really dinged up).

If I recall my family's oral history right, he married a fellow immigrant named Rose who hailed from Ireland.

My Aunt Dot visited recently and shared a photo of him. This is so far the only photo I have of my great-grandfather Ernst Paul.


This is the man I am named after.

This is the immigrant who came from Germany to settle in the United States and start a family here.

He is why I consider myself the son of immigrants.

I should not be the only one who should think that way. 

We Americans are all - in some form or another, and voluntary or otherwise - the sons and daughters of immigrants from a hundred other countries and a thousand different cultures.

On this 4th of July, on EVERY 4th, we Americans should take a minute and remember those who braved the journeys and took the risks to make it to a new nation, to put down new roots, to BUILD America into what it is today. Regardless if our ancestors came from Germany or Ireland or France or China or Japan or Vietnam or Mexico or Peru or Brazil or Nigeria or Egypt or India or anywhere else on this Small Blue Dot floating in sunlight.

We are all, each of us, the sons and daughter of immigrants and GOD BLESS every single one of them coming today to America in genuine search of the Dream (good job, good home, good families, good futures).

This Independence Day is as much for them as anyone else.

Four for the Fourth 2021: Wake Up To FREEDOM

THIS IS WHAT I GET FOR SLEEPING IN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY!

 


AUGH WHAT IT'S SUNDAY AND THE 4TH I CAN SLEEP IN IF I WANT (goes back to bed)

(cats hop all over me to get them BREAKFAST)

Alright alright...


Saturday, July 03, 2021

Anniversary: Looking Back Again at Gettysburg

On this day in 1863, General Lee ordered Pickett's Charge across the wide-open fields of Gettysburg, into military infamy. So important was this battle, our nation maintains a national park surrounding the city of Gettysburg itself. So it is vitally important to remember, as you read the maps of the national park, that at no time did the Confederate forces reach that McDonalds' drive-thru right off of Business US 15!

...what? 

They didn't have McDonalds' back then?! How historically inaccurate is THAT!!! Damn the man. No wonder Pickett was pissed afterwards, he wasn't able to get any Shamrock Shakes!

I blame Time Lords the Time Variance Authority.

Seriously, I wonder sometimes what it would have been like for the locals to grow up in the middle of a national monument.

(Note: I had originally inserted a You Tube clip about the battlefield preservation, but the more I watched it the more I worried it was a big-ass advert to sell memorabilia, so I deleted it. I will insert instead a better, more honorable You Tube clip)



Thursday, July 01, 2021

How So Serious

So, as to the details of the big news event: The grand jury investigating the trump Organization's "questionable business practices" officially charged the Chief Financial Officer Allan Weisselberg and the Organization itself (apparently you CAN charge a corporate entity) on 15 counts covering tax fraud, grand larceny, filing false instruments, and improperly loading rolls of toilet paper the wrong direction. Here's the explainer via Andrew Prokop from Vox:

The charges allege that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization did not properly pay taxes related to $1.7 million worth of “fringe benefits” Weisselberg received as part of his salary — most notably apartment and car leases for Weisselberg and private school tuition for his grandchildren. The specific charges also include conspiracy and grand larceny, but those too are related to these fringe benefits. Both Weisselberg and the company pleaded not guilty.

But reports in recent months have made clear that Vance’s investigation is focused on more than just corporate perks. He has also been probing matters close to the heart of the Trump Organization’s business practices, examining whether the company overvalued certain properties to score favorable loan terms while undervaluing them to pay less in property taxes. He even obtained Trump’s tax returns after a battle that went to the Supreme Court...

It's a question of understanding just how trump and his CFO were trying to cheat the tax system:

As CFO of the Trump Organization, Weisselberg received an official salary. But he also received various lucrative perks on top of that — “fringe benefits.” These included:

An apartment lease: Trump’s company paid the lease and utility bills for an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that prosecutors say has been Weisselberg’s primary residence since 2005.

Car leases: Trump’s company paid the leases on two Mercedes-Benz cars used by Weisselberg and his wife.

Private school tuition: From 2012 to 2017, either Trump or a Trump trust paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition to a New York City private school for two of Weisselberg’s grandchildren.

Though fringe benefits such as these aren’t technically part of an employee’s salary, they have monetary value and as a result should be considered taxable income paid by the employer. (Certain types of fringe benefits, like employer-provided health insurance, are excluded from taxation, but most aren’t.)

Prosecutors allege that both the Trump Organization and Weisselberg participated in a scheme to avoid paying taxes on these perks. They argue that the Trump Organization should have paid payroll taxes, and that Weisselberg — whom they allege also hid his New York City residency — evaded more than $500,000 in federal taxes, more than $100,000 in state taxes, and more than $200,000 in New York City taxes...

I recall seeing a Twitter post questioning "Why even play around with these schemes when trump could have simply paid Weisselberg better or at least properly report these benefits for tax purposes?" A good answer to that may be due to what trump (and Weisselberg and others) were trying to avoid: Accountability for their debts.

Another Twitter thread, this one from Kurt Eichenwald, notices in the details how trump's financial empire is low on real cash, riddled with debt, and unable to function like a normal company:







Basically, trump may think he can lie and bluff and cheat and call it good business, but the banks he tries to deal with can't. They have to answer to the government where they operate, and to that body of laws regulating banking practices, and they need to cross every T and dot every I otherwise regulators can fine the shit out of them and even shut them down. If they can't trust the client they're dealing with, they'll stop dealing with him.

And they should have been avoiding trump already. By the 1990s his bad habits of borrowing like mad and bankrupting like mad scared away most American-based banks. trump was able to find overseas buyers for his bull, Deutsche Bank in particular. But now, if Eichenwald is right, every one of those banks ought to be freaking out and making phone calls:



I've mentioned it before: the gambit for the Presidency was trump's last big con. He had always been a "clown living on credit" posing as a billionaire to his admirers when he had no true value to his name. He had nothing else waiting for him past that. He had been running from scheme to scheme, trying to find something that would make him a real billionaire instead of the puffed-up fraud his debts made him seem. That was it for him, he had nowhere else to go. It was one of the biggest reasons why he was so desperate to steal the legal election away from Biden: delaying the inevitable call from his creditors that would bankrupt him forever.

The criminal charges that still await trump on this - as soon as Weisselberg gets a good plea deal, he'll flip, and the only thing Weisselberg has of value is whatever dirt he has on trump - are still pending, but it's the hit to his gaslighting ego about wealth and success that will be an even bigger blow. Once the bills come due, he won't even be able to lie to himself anymore.

Right now, the way these numbers are looking, the amount of debt trump is drowning in, *I* might have more worth than donald fucking trump.

Sucks to be you, donnie.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

History Is Already Judging trump (w/ Update)

(Update: Many thanks to Jon Perr at Crooks&Liars for offering up this article to Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please check out the other articles here, and keep an eye out for Sunday because I like to do a FOUR FOR THE 4TH blogging run on Independence Day!)

This took up a bit of Twitter conversation today (up until the bombshell news of Cosby walking out of jail for his sex crimes). C-SPAN, the all-politics cable network, hosted a 2021 polling of Presidential Historians (damn, I did not get a phone call from them after my 2013 character reviews, I need to file for credentials to get on the next poll) that covered everyone from Washington to trump to see who ranked best and worst. Biden doesn't get graded yet because his term hasn't finished: It is also nice to see two of the ones who served the shortest terms - William Henry Harrison and James Garfield - get considered.

If you looked at the polling parameters, C-SPAN did a pretty good job of breaking down the factors ranging from economic policy to foreign policy to intangibles of leadership (persuasion, morality to name two). Working all of that together, and you get a list that puts donald trump down in the Bottom Five of Utter Failure.

I do think JFK's a little too high on this list...

No sign of the Shitgibbon yet...

THERE he IS! Tied with Pierce...

I know I am a bit biased when it comes to seeing trump dead last in any polling, but alas Historians take their business of judging history serious, so they had to give The Loser Of the Popular Vote (Twice) a fair shake. trump STILL ended up nowhere near the pinnacle of greatness he kept shilling himself to be.

If there are any surprises for me, it's that James Monroe isn't ranked higher, Coolidge and JFK both seem ranked a little too high IMHO, and my boy Chester A. Arthur needs a better agent. But I am not at all surprised at how low trump is held in esteem by those who study history and politics and who have a pretty good idea by now who merits acclaim and who gets the scorn.

If you've read just this blog alone, you'll have tracked a number of moments where trump failed this nation in terms of handling crises, in terms of persuasion, in terms of competency, in terms of coherent foreign policy, all of that. And this is all coming from a guy who's technically an amateur, I'm writing all of this as a hobby of sorts, personal venting, that sort of thing. You should notice this polling is with the professionals weighing in, with a better understanding of the Presidency and its effects on our present character and future direction. And man, they know trump sucked. 

When the only ones graded Worst than you (trump at 41st) are Andrew Johnson (43) and James Buchanan (44) and you tied with Franklin Pierce (42), you really need to re-evaluate your place in the universe. Dude, the guy who died in thirty days ranked higher (40) than you! (Addendum: The three worst all happen to be the Presidents who did the most damage either leading into the Civil War or during Reconstruction: Pierce aggressively pushing the hated Fugitive Slave Act; Buchanan enforcing the hate Dred Scott and contributing to Bloody Kansas instead of calming it, as well as dereliction of duty during the winter of 1860 when the secessionists seized federal forts and armaments; and then Johnson who threw away the early gains of Civil War victory, sabotaging Reconstruction and sowing the future for Jim Crow segregation for another 100 years.)

I work in a library. Ever since 2016, there have been a number of books about trump, about his campaign and his character and his administration and the utter chaos and madness he brought to both our nation and the world. Right now, we're getting a slew of preorders of titles written by Beltway journalists and esteemed historians critiquing the trumpian era (it takes about six to eight months from January for the postmortems to get edited and sent to galleys). For every one Far Right book I see on the distributors' lists, there's about five to seven books detailing the sins and follies of trump's White House.

History is already judging trump.

Yet the damn Republican Party thinks he's still a winner, that they can campaign again for him in 2024.

Gods help us if that ever happens (again).


One Sentence Thought About the Legal System Letting Cosby Walk On His Sex Crimes

There are sixty women, AT LEAST SIXTY WOMEN, who came forward to report how Bill Cosby drugged them, sexually assaulted them, publicly humiliated them, and they had enough evidence for a Pennsylvania jury to find him guilty of sexual assault on three of those women, and even with all that the state's Supreme Court lets Cosby walk free overturning those convictions because an idiot district attorney from an earlier administration gave Cosby a verbal agreement of immunity when he testified beforehand in a separate legal matter, and now there are thousands if not millions of women who endure sexual harassment and rape in this country who realize they may NEVER see any modicum of justice from a legal system and nation that seems to punish women for their sex

Sunday, June 27, 2021

This Week: Threatening Us With a Good Time (w/ Updates)

Last Friday, this news dropped (via Tom Winter, Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian at NBC News):

The Trump Organization is expected to be hit with criminal charges as soon as next week by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office in a case that Trump attorneys say is tied to tax-related conduct, multiple people familiar with the matter tell NBC News...

Now it's not like they will arrest a corporate entity (although having it shamble aboot like Frankenstein's Monster would be an apt metaphor), but targeting specific individuals in that organization who had a say in the activities leading up to alleged criminal misdeeds.

This also means that despite our nation's fondest hopes, they're not arresting trump himself (although it would be a nice birthday present on the 4th of July). At this stage of Vance's investigations and grand jury deliberations, we're likely talking about the lower rungs of trump's empire. That the DA's office is tipping their hand that it's all tax-related, we're likely looking at the biggest target being the Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg being prepped for the perp walk.

NBC News first reported this year in an interview with Jennifer Weisselberg, Allen Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, that the Manhattan DA was probing schemes where Trump employees including the Weisselbergs were able to avoid paying taxes in exchange for benefits such as an apartment...

NBC News confirmed this week that investigators had also been probing Matthew Calamari, the former Trump bodyguard who's now the company's chief operating officer. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the focus on Calamari, cited people close to the matter who said Calamari was being investigated over whether he received tax-free fringe benefits from the company.

Vance has been investigating a variety of allegations of financial improprieties against Trump's company. Court documents show that Vance is probing "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization," which could include falsifying business records, insurance fraud and tax fraud.

The investigation appears to have picked up steam in recent months, after Vance's office won a lengthy battle to get ahold of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns and underlying financial documents in February...

This is more serious and damaging to trump than the Mueller Investigation. Vance and the New York Attorney General's office are digging directly into trump's own financials, and going at one of the few people who's had direct dealings with trump on tax-related matters. Allen Weisselberg is someone Michael Cohen - who was also deep into trump's financial mischief - repeatedly name-dropped during the early unraveling of everything when it got out trump paid off women who had affairs with him to avoid scandal during the 2016 campaigns.

What is happening here is the prosecutors are trying to get Weisselberg to flip on trump: They likely have all the paper trail they need from trump's tax returns to show he was cooking the books on his property values, but they need direct testimony from someone who was there to confirm who made the final calls on the lawbreaking. So far, Weisselberg hasn't flipped: Without any incentive at the moment, he has no reason to.

Putting him in handcuffs and a jail cell tends to be a big incentive to testify. And even then, Weisselberg has to know he's not the real target of all this. All he's waiting for is a sweetheart deal when it gets to be clear he has to play that particular trump (pun intended) card.

This is all fun and games until someone real high in this organization gets fingered. Maybe not trump himself but definitely one or more of his own kids he's been using as underlings in most of his shadier con jobs. Then it REALLY becomes fun and games.

We'll see this week if this merits a popcorn GIF or a goddamned street party GIF. 

Update Wed. 6/30: CNN is breaking that arrests are expected this Thursday July 1, Weisselberg in particular, involving "tax crimes." Mostly to do with perks and bonuses that apparently were not reported as income. Considering that higher-ups in the trump Organization would have had to sign off on at least some of those actions, we should expect at least one family member if not trump himself getting charged later on.

The Tragedy In Surfside

For all the craziness this weekend, nothing has been more tragic than the collapse of a condominium in South Florida. Via Laurel Wamsley at NPR

There are now 159 people unaccounted for in the partial building collapse in Surfside, Fla., Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday — a rise from 99 people a day earlier.

Three more bodies were found in the rubble, bringing the number of fatalities so far to four. More than 100 people have already been accounted for...

"We will continue search and rescue because we still have hope that we will find people alive," Levine Cava said. "That is why we are using our dogs and our sonar and our cameras — everything possible to seek places where there may still be people to be found..."

She said that people evacuated from the building are being provided food, shelter, cash to assist with their basic needs and grief counseling at a family reunification center, where families and friends can await any news of their loved ones.

President Biden approved an emergency declaration on Friday morning authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The cause of the building's sudden collapse early Thursday morning remains unclear...

One pattern emerging is that the 40-year-old building (from 1981) was showing signs of aging out and becoming a risk. Back to NPR, with reporting from Matthew S Schwartz and Brian Mann:

A structural engineering report provided to the Champlain Towers condominium association in 2018 found widespread problems that required extensive repairs "in the near future."

The consulting group that wrote the report noted Saturday that the document "detailed significant cracks and breaks in the concrete, which required repairs to ensure the safety of the residents and the public..."

The engineering report, dated Oct. 8, 2018, includes pictures of cracks in the concrete columns of Champlain Towers South. The report found "major structural damage" to the concrete structural slab below the pool deck, caused by waterproofing that was "beyond its useful life" and needed a complete replacement.

It warned that "failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extent of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially."

The nine-page report, authored by Morabito Consultants, listed several areas of concern with the now 40-year-old building. The main issue was that the concrete slab was flat, rather than sloped in order to drain off water. That means any water simply sits on the waterproofing until it evaporates...

Sticking in my mind is the statement from the husband of a woman who called the night of the disaster while he was in DC on business. His wife was panicking about the condo shaking, and that the swimming pool had disappeared into a sinkhole... before the line went dead. She's still among the missing.

Any further reading into the Champlain Towers will point out how it was built atop reclaimed wetlands, which is not the sturdiest ground to build on. That a local Florida International University professor who studies these things had found the building was sinking (although he'll establish that effect wouldn't have been the direct cause of the collapse).

And as someone who's lived in Florida almost all my life - having witnessed the rise of the state population from the 1980s onward and the massive development of condo towers, business complexes, luxury hotels, and other massive buildings up and down the entire peninsular coast between New Port Richey to Jacksonville - let me note that this is likely the beginning of all those big towers falling.

Any decent study of Florida history will tell you that the Sunshine State has been home to massive overdevelopment of coastal lands, as well as propping up suburb after suburb alongside shopping malls atop swampy ecosystems that were needed to handle flooding issues (especially from the annual hurricane seasons). It doesn't help that a lot of that construction over the years of growth - I would argue late 60s as the start date when air conditioning made it more comfortable to live in Florida, as well as the Space Race and tourism making Central Florida a business mecca - was shoddy, questionable, and prone to collapse. Hurricane Andrew's visit in 1992 exposed a lot of those sins... and yet for all the talk about improvements to the building codes, there's still a lot of short-cuts and cost-cutting going on that leaves a lot to be desired.

We're coming up to the 40-year mark of the early rounds of massive development across Florida, all these buildings just as old as Champlain Towers if not older: Many of them likely cracking from years of erosion, or aging out of questionable construction materials lacking in the rebar or other reinforcements to help keep things up.

That warning report was in 2018. There doesn't seem to be any sign that the building management or homeowners' association was acting on that report by the time of this disaster. They were apparently getting another cost evaluation done a few days before this happened. A serious sign of foot-dragging on something that turned out required a lot more urgency.

Ever drive along the Florida coast? Especially South Florida, the exotic jewel of the Caribbean waters? I lived down there for about 9 years, mid-90s, as more construction was going on. Nearly every inch of the Atlantic coast had towers, massive skyscrapers, high-value property overlooking the ocean, some of the most beautiful vistas in the world (if you could see any of it past the towers). A lot of them built right on the edge, crowding out any sandy shores of beachfront... and all of it sinking into that ocean as the sea levels keep rising.

This Sunshine State has been living high on the constant development of land into businesses and residences (and almost all of it high-value, nothing for the low-income families still struggling to find apartment space). All of that construction and yet no care or concern of the long-term impacts we're only now starting to see. The powers-that-be wanted all this development but don't want to spend any money to renovate, upgrade or repair.

What worries me is how this isn't all new: We've been getting warnings for decades that all this overdevelopment was going to bite us, and we've been getting warnings the last five-ten years that we need to start repairing all the places we have before it gets too late.

And now it's getting too late.

I am so sorry so many lives had to disappear like this for our state to get one more warning sign. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

DeSantis Bringing Back the Thought Police to Florida

Jesus, the news this day from my crazy-ass state of Florida. As Betty Cracker mentions at Balloon Juice, Gov. DeSantis is cracking down on librul Thoughtcrime at our public universities

After whining non-stop about tech company “censorship” when private businesses enforced their terms of service on Agent Orange (AKA trump), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis showed us what honest-to-dog censorship looks like when he signed a bill banning the 1619 Project and discussions of critical race theory in Florida’s public schools. Now he’s out to identify thought-crimes at state universities...

Betty refers to the Miami Herald article from Ana Ceballos covering this:

In his continued push against the “indoctrination” of students, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation that will require public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support “intellectual diversity.”

The survey will discern “the extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented” in public universities and colleges, and seeks to find whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom,” according to the bill.

The measure, which goes into effect July 1, does not specify what will be done with the survey results. But DeSantis and Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, suggested on Tuesday that budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students...

And as Betty notes, the goddamn governor can't even define what the hell it is he's looking for:

When asked, DeSantis didn’t name any instances of indoctrination — he says he hears “worries” from parents. But lack of evidence that legislation is needed to address a problem is no obstacle to DeSantis, who follows the Trump-GOP model of government by trolling. DeSantis couldn’t identify a single example of critical race theory being taught in K-12 public schools, or trans girls dominating girls’ sports teams, or widespread voter fraud. Yet he championed and signed legislation addressing all these fictional problems...

So under threat of slashed budgets to universities already under tightened restraints, this survey will be forced onto professors, faculty, and students all in the great name of purging "indoctrination" of unwanted thoughts. Arguably this is against the Republicans' hate for Critical Race Theory but in truth it's a potential purge of ANY liberal or progressive belief as punishment for refusing to toe the Far Right Wingnut line.

And if any of this sounds familiar to you, it's because we as a nation have been through this shit before: the Red Scare of the post-World War II era, commonly known as the McCarthyist Era named for the bullying Senator who oversaw a major purging of public and private citizens.

But that's not all. Florida went through its' own purge against "indoctrination" at the state level, officially called the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee but better remembered as the Johns Committee for the SOB who oversaw that shit-show. Openly formed as a response to the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregating public schools (a clear act of racism by the by, Gov. DeSantis), state senator Charley Eugene Johns led that committee against any civil rights activism and then expanded it to hunt down suspected homosexuals especially at the major state university of the time, U of Florida in Gainesville. Basically, giving themselves the power to ruin any lives they wanted to hurt. Students got expelled, faculty and librarians were fired, and everyone else failed to defend their due process rights because they feared retaliation if they even did that.

From the Independent Alligator newspaper covering things at UF, article by Meghan McGlone, here are some of the sins that the Johns Committee inflicted on people

The year was 1958, and while other students were worrying about class and their lives off campus, UF sophomore Art Copleston was in the University Police’s basement.

A single lightbulb hung by a string over a wooden, four-legged table with a tape recorder placed in the middle. Blinds covered the windows, and two UPD officers sat with Copleston.

A UPD officer said he knew Copleston was gay. Then, he ordered the student to tell him the names of everyone that he knew on campus who was gay.

Copleston said he sat there for hours that day, and was brought back to that room four or five more times. If the officers could prove that he was gay, they told him, they could kick him off campus...

In many cases, UPD forcibly removed students and faculty from class and interrogated them without a legal representative present. Interrogators threatened to expose their sexual orientation during a time when “exposure would mean social death,” (UF Lecturer Steven) Noll said.

At the time the committee was at UF, (college President) Reitz did not stop the committee’s acts. He needed money from the state to develop the university, Noll said, and the Johns Committee was a state committee. He also believed that being gay was a major problem in American society.

In a 1988 interview, Reitz called anyone who was gay “a complete aberration.” He also communicated with Johns through letters, thanking the committee for its work...

Organizations on campus have addressed the Johns Committee’s history at UF, including LGBTQ Affairs. Its history recognizes the committee leading to the dismissal or resignation of faculty and students. It also recognizes that Reitz cooperated with the committee.

Director of LGBTQ Affairs Tiffany Richards declined to comment on LGBTQ Affairs’ history, or the fact that its office is held in the Reitz Union, a building whose namesake supported the committee. Graduate assistant of LGBTQ Affairs Logan Neser did not respond to The Alligator’s emails or calls.

Florida State Senator Lauren Book wrote a resolution late last year asking state legislators to acknowledge the injustices the Johns Committee caused and apologize to the victims of the committee. The bill failed March 14 in the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability...

Instead, it seems the Florida Legislature along with DeSantis decided to go the other way and bring that intimidating bullshit back. And bringing back the same hammer - the threat of cutting funds - to ensure the colleges comply.

DeSantis and his lackeys are not railing against "Critical Race Theory," they're railing against any study of racism at all, and opposed to any effort to confront racism as the problem it is. In the process, they're setting up the weapons they and the Far Right can use to attack anyone they view as deviants, not just transgenders and gays/lesbians, but also feminists and women who stand for pro-choice, anyone they deem "socialist" or worse if you happen to speak against income inequality. Just how far you think this slippery slope is when this kind of "investigation" goes after anyone "anti-religious" or non-Christian (which you're bound to find at a large university with active Muslim AND Jewish groups).

We've seen this movie before, Florida. And goddammit, it wasn't that great the first time.

This remake of the Real Witch Hunts of the 1950s is going to be directed by an even worse artist in DeSantis who has no vision and is working from a lousy rehashed script, pandering to a viewing audience of raging angry White folk who view anyone educated as "elitist" and evil.

What the Florida Republicans are attempting here are direct violations of everyone's First Amendment rights to Peaceably Assemble and the Freedom of Speech. They're going after the academic ideals of open debate and honest discourse, seeking to intimidate enough people to go silent and avoid punishment at the hands of the State of Florida.

This shit shouldn't stand. Every student and every teacher need to fight back. Your rights, your very lives are at stake even if you roll over and let DeSantis and his bullies win.

They want to impose silence, and they will want your scalps. Don't let them do either to you.