Friday, December 31, 2021

Year 2021 As Tragedy And Farce

(Update: With many thanks to Driftglass for including this article at Crooks & Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up! Please do me a favor and review my best articles of 2021 for submission to Florida Writers' Association's annual Royal Palm awards!)

As the year ends, today becomes a moment to look back and wonder at how we survived it at all.

(Christ. As I type this I just got word that Betty White passed away. FUCK YOU, 2021, DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE WILL YA)


The tragedy of the year stems from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now rolling into its second year. Even with a vaccine program in place, even with all we know about how to fight COVID and how to reduce the risks... we're ending this year with a dangerously effective Omicron strain that's threatening to force shutdowns of workplaces and schools in spite of the Far Right forces obsessed to ignore the risks to stick to their own crazed Narrative.

The tragedy of 2021 got worse as donald trump - stinging from his Electoral losses in 2020 - refused to play by the rules of the Constitution and sent in mobs of insurrectionists into the halls of Congress to force that body from confirming the vote counts. For all the digging into the events of January 6th, we're barely seeing major arrests and serious punishments of the rioters and the culprits that we know so far who planned the whole attack.

If there'd been anything major going on all year long, it was the war of attrition between the madness of the Pandemic and the madness of trump's Big Lie. A lot of other crazy things happening in 2021 tended to tie into either ongoing crisis.

If there was any saving grace to this past year, it was how much of a farce the trumpian War On Reality could become.

The arguments trump forced his handlers to take - in arguing over stolen votes that were never stolen - led to those handlers and lawyers getting taken to the woodshed by judges who cut through every gaslighting lie they offered. These were lawyers who showed no sign of understanding the Constitution or election laws from beginning to end. The next sight we need to see of these inept lawyers should be them losing their license - like Giuliani - to practice law.

Everything coming out about how trump's inner circle coordinated and planned the January 6th Insurrection would be pure comedy if it didn't involve serious crimes. The very idea that they created a PowerPoint presentation to show trump how they planned it - and a sloppy PowerPoint at that - would be the crowning moment of funny whenever future Hollywood producers film the streaming miniseries about the riots.

As for the efforts in 2021 to fight the Pandemic, trump's early drum beats to push an anti-vax agenda to humiliate Biden and keep the nation in chaos led to the growing realization that trump's actions were literally killing off their own Far Right voting base... forcing trump's more recent calls to vaccinate falling on deaf - even hostile - ears.

Both nightmare and comedy at the same time in the same crises.

No wonder 2021 feels like a bad dream refusing to end.

Gods help us in 2022. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Breaking: Justice For a Moment For Abused Young Women, But More MUST Be Done to Serve Justice Forever

Was going to write something else, but this news broke while I was stuck at the train crossing on State Rd 60 earlier this evening. Socialite Sex Trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty by jury on five counts (via Jasmine Garsd and Vanessa Romo at NPR):

A federal jury deliberated for five full days before finding Maxwell guilty on five of the six counts she faced, including the sex trafficking of a minor. The 60-year-old was acquitted of enticing a minor to travel with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in 2019 while in a Manhattan correctional facility.

Throughout the trial, jurors heard from four women who accused Maxwell of luring them into Epstein's lavish homes to have sex with him and other powerful men. Over three weeks, the women described how Maxwell, who dated Epstein in the 1990s, presented herself as a friendly older sister, earning their trust with gifts and shopping sprees. Two of the women testified they were 14 years old when Maxwell coaxed them into engaging in sexual acts with Epstein. One woman testified that Maxwell was present and even participated in some of the encounters...

Epstein, as noted earlier, died under questionable circumstances back in 2019 when the legal system re-opened cases they found out were illegally pled out against the wishes of Epstein's victims back in 2007. Between them, Maxwell and Epstein had ties to multiple political and business figures who were alleged - then and also in this trial - to have sex with these underage girls as trade-off for business deals and favors that Epstein would exploit. Back to the article: 

It's a case that has captured international attention and sparked countless conspiracy theories. And there's plenty of fodder: Maxwell and Epstein, who were a couple in the 1990s and early 2000s, surrounded themselves with wealthy and powerful men, including Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

Over the past few years, a steady stream of women have accused Maxwell and Epstein of abusing them when they were underage. Some have also said the couple forced them to perform sex acts on famous men such as Prince Andrew and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Both deny these accusations...

These men can deny all they want, but the evidence is all there, and this jury saw enough of it to convict Maxwell of sex trafficking to these men of power. And they were named in this trial: One witness mentioned meeting donald trump back in the 1990s, another witness - one of Epstein's pilots - detailed a veritable list of Who's Who traveling to Epstein's residences where a lot of the sexual abuse took place.

At some point, all of these sins connect to each other.

Maxwell's conviction is a good day for justice in defense of many women and girls who are sexually abused and raped by those in power, but it dare not end here.

This conviction is meaningless if the prosecutors fail to go after the men of wealth and power who profited from Epstein and Maxwell's actions, who abused these young women for their own perversions. They had enough evidence to prove Maxwell was working much like a madam/pimp, recruiting teen girls and molding them into playthings.

There's already a lawsuit filed against ol' Randy Andy that's due to get a hearing next week. There ought to be more of them, if there is to be any true justice in this world.

If men of power like Clinton and trump and Gates - and even those not connected to Epstein like Matt Gaetz and Roy Moore and a thousand others across the spectrum - are allowed to walk away from this scandal untouched, it will merely grant them the ability to find the next wannabe pimp willing to recruit and farm out young girls for abuse and rape and worse.

If there's evidence Bill Clinton had sex with any of these women when they were teenagers, charge him. If Bill Gates did, charge him. If donald trump did, charge him. If Prince Andrew did, charge him. If there's evidence Alan Dershowitz got more than the massage he claimed he got, charge him.

Going after the Pimps is one thing. Going after the Johns is where the justice matters.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Anniversary: End of the Soviet Union

It's an event from 30 years ago that signaled a major tidal shift in the long river of history. On this Christmas Day back in 1991, the leader of the Soviet Union - ye olde USSR, the stronghold of Communism since World War I, the scourge of Capitalist Western Values, shaky ally against the Nazis in World War II, the superpower rival to the United States since 1945 - Mikhail Gorbachev resigned from his office as President and ended the Soviet Union once and for all.

Via Vladimir Isachenkov at AP News:

People strolling across Moscow’s snowy Red Square on the evening of Dec. 25, 1991 were surprised to witness one of the 20th century’s most pivotal moments — the Soviet red flag over the Kremlin pulled down and replaced with the Russian Federation’s tricolor.

Just minutes earlier, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced his resignation in a live televised address to the nation, concluding 74 years of Soviet history.

In his memoirs, Gorbachev, now 90, bitterly lamented his failure to prevent the USSR’s demise, an event that upset the world’s balance of power and sowed the seeds of an ongoing tug-of-war between Russia and neighboring Ukraine.

“I still regret that I failed to bring the ship under my command to calm waters, failed to complete reforming the country,” Gorbachev wrote.

Political experts argue to this day whether he could have held onto his position and saved the USSR. Some charge that Gorbachev, who came to power in 1985, could have prevented the Soviet breakup if he had moved more resolutely to modernize the anemic state-controlled economy while keeping tighter controls on the political system...

Thing was, Gorbachev really couldn't: No one outside of a full-on autocrat could have forced through the economic reforms because the political corruption and economic corruption were too intertwined. Just look at today: Putin has the political power but does so through economic corruption which is sapping at modern Russia's strength. An autocrat in Gorbachev's situation wouldn't have made any attempts at reform in the first place, he'd have kept the stagnant system chugging along.

It would take a book - no, a library full of books - to go into how the Communist Utopian ideals of the 19th Century gave way to the revolutionary violence of Lenin's overthrow of Tsarist Russia, and the steps towards corruption - the rise of Party elites, the rise of Stalin to place all power into autocratic rule, the buildup of party bureaucracy that calcified Soviet society, the Greed of elites that always threatens every economic system we know, and everyday state-sanctioned brutality that dulled the Russian population into despair - that created by the 1980s a Soviet empire incapable of maintaining itself without serious reforms.

With respect to Gorbachev, it was that need for reform that led to his rise to high office in the first place. Problem was, the reforms that were needed most - honesty from leadership, cracking down on party corruption, curtailing the high costs of maintaining a war footing in a 40-year-long Cold War that included policing their own Eastern European "allies" (occupied territories, really) - were reforms that Gorbachev's own party couldn't abide.

During all of Gorbachev's early steps to fix a broken empire, the Soviet Union was hit hard by the reality of their own corruption causing for example the meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor, exposing not only their engineering failures but their political failures to respond effectively to crises. The empire itself came to an end when Gorbachev freed the Eastern European nations to decide their own policies to enact local reforms: Instead, nearly every nation from Poland to Bulgaria to Czechoslovakia to Hungary to East Germany broke off from Soviet influence as their Communist regimes collapsed with mass uprisings and protests overthrowing them (Only Romania fell through mass violence and bloodshed, alas). By November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and Communism as an economic utopian ideal fell with it.

Whatever ideology Gorbachev was trying to use to keep the Soviet Union itself intact wasn't sticking. The push for Glasnost - open transparency of the political bureaucracy - and Perestroika - economic reforms to shift away from Communism to a more Socialist model - met with pushback by lower rungs of the system that preferred the corrupt status quo. Any economic reforms implemented failed with supply shortages and mismanagement.

By 1991, resistance to reform led to rebellion by a faction of Community Party leaders who wanted to go back to the way things were under Stalin Khrushchev Brezhnev. In August - responding to Gorbachev's plan to decentralize power to the 15 Soviet states that made up the USSR - that faction staged a coup attempt by "arresting Gorbachev" and passing power to Gorbachev's VP Gennady Yanayev, with the faction becoming a "Committee" overseeing the "state of emergency" they themselves were staging.

In the bleak style of Russian humor, they failed. Nothing they did went right. It was like the coup plotters believed that all they had to do was capture Gorbachev, go on state television to announce a calm transfer of power, and the majority of the population would just roll over like always.

Except too much had changed by then. In the Machiavellian measurement of "being Loved or Feared," the old Soviet hacks thought they were still Feared. But decades of party corruption had turned much of that fear into Hatred, and the Russian population - along with the other ethnicities that made up the USSR - had seen enough out of the Soviets to rise up in protests against the coup.

Helped by the fact that Gorbachev's decentralization plan would have empowered them, the regional leadership - especially Boris Yeltsin, a political rival of Gorbachev - called for the protests and avoided arrest. Attempts by the coup to shut down radio stations failed. When they called in troops to establish control of Moscow, the brief skirmish left three protestors dead and only enraged the mobs more. There was this quiet realization that the plotters hadn't thought this through, and hadn't counted on escalating any crackdowns.

Whereas Stalin wouldn't have hesitated to send in tanks and let his secret police round up everyone for executions, Yanayev and his bunch couldn't work up the nerve. Which was a good thing for the protestors and for history in general. Without that threat of violence to back them, the plotters turned on each other (several committed suicide) and were arrested themselves.

It was Soviet Communism's last dying gasp.

From then on, Yeltsin held the upper hand over Gorbachev, who no longer had a Soviet state or Communist party he could control. The decentralization plan went through, creating a Commonwealth of Independent States by early December with Russia itself a federation. By then, Gorbachev's departure wasn't a matter of If it was a matter of When, and Christmas seemed like the best time to do it.

Thirty years later, we're still dealing with the ramifications.

Russia as its own state is still a major global player: A permanent stock of nuclear weapons will do that for a nation. In terms of economic power, it's actually slid out of the top bracket - nations like Brazil and India generate more GNP - and they're still struggling to regain any foothold there. 

The corruption that led to the end of the Soviet Union never went away. The kleptocracy that defined the Communist Party re-emerged with the oligarchy - and organized crime - that controls Russia today. Putin's authoritarian power flows from the greed of the national elites, each side feeding off the other to keep Russia broke, stagnant, and hungry to steal from every other nation around them.

In some respects, the threat was never Communism, nor was it Capitalism. It's Greed. A universally recognized human sin that caused the collapse of one empire (USSR), consumed its remnants (Russia), and threatens our American empire here.

I'd wish that was the lesson from history the rest of us could have learned.

Friday, December 24, 2021

COVID Fatigue At the End of 2021

So here we all are as a planet, rushing out of 2021 headlong in 2022 with the slow realization that this latest COVID-19 variant called "Omicron" - why yes, it COULD be a Transformers villain - is rampaging across humanity as the most virulent and infectious variant yet.

And the collective response of at least the American population is "What the hell, now? On the holidays??? Let me at least fly home next to 180 maskless passengers on this plane so I can see my relatives before we all turn up positive for COVID."

Yup. That's where we're at.

It's been more than two years now - if you date the outbreak back to November 2019, at least back to March 2020 when even trump couldn't ignore it anymore - that the entire planet has been coping with this lethal virus and we honestly can't keep up with it, if we ever did.

The isolation / cabin fever of lockdowns early on - combined with the overwhelming over-reliance on social media (Hi, Twitter!) that numbed our common sense - generated what could be best described as "COVID Fatigue," this jaded ennui of losing a certain amount of empathy or concern for self-care and the care of others. 

As a set of vaccines showed up that could combat the spread of the pandemic, a lot of people took that to mean they could get the shots and become fully protected even though what the vaccines DID were to slow the transmissions and reduce the more lethal side-effects - like shredding your lungs and hearts - to prevent more death. It's still not really safe to go about unmasked even if you are vaxxed.

It did not help matters that a sizable chunk of our humanity is made up of contrarian nay-sayers, people like anti-vaccinators who think every scientific medical treatment is a lie or a scam - or in some cases, a Biblical prophecy to Mark us all for the Beast - and would prefer to treat themselves to "holistic" or wholly implausible "natural" cures that did more harm than good. The efforts by Fox Not-News and other Far Right outlets alongside a number of Republican governors like Florida's DeSantis fighting CDC guidelines and federal vaccination mandates - pushed by a Republican party leadership that wants the pandemic to continue under Biden's administration so they could blame HIM for the hundreds of thousands dead and dying - have only added to that contrarian reality where too many of our neighbors and family members are still unvaccinated and fully vulnerable to a lethal fast-spreading disease.

This latest flareup - the Omicron variant that's proven to transmit faster than previous COVID versions, and those were already quick - is just happening to occur during the part of the year in America that happens to involve our busiest family-oriented holidays: Thanksgiving through Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Saturnalia/ Kwanzaa/ New Years. Given how nearly everyone gave up those holidays for 2020 - as the vaccines had yet to clear safety protocols - it is looking like too much to ask for everyone to give those days up again for 2021.

So here we all go, driving off to visit with the folks or the kids/grandkids, traveling to exotic locales for the holidays and New Year's Eve, easily carrying viruses with us that won't show any symptoms until it's too late, and a lot of us refusing to mask up even as we mingle among the thousands of us who haven't gotten vaccinated to prevent further spread.

And count me among those people who selfishly went out in public just as the Omicron numbers are multiplying faster than they ever did with Delta.

My twin brother, like myself, attended University of Florida (Go Gators). Unlike myself, he could afford season tickets to home games, which qualified him to a good deal on bowl game tickets to Tampa's Gasparilla Bowl this year hosting UF playing against University of Central Florida (where his son, my nephew, attends right now). So there was a family reason - I received the invite, thank you Brother Phil - to pack into Raymond James stadium with 60,000 other sports fans of both schools Thursday night to see which in-state school program could beat the other's (DAMMIT GATORS YOU HAD ONE JOB! /cries).

I had gone to a comic con this past November, but it was to a small, city-level event with maybe a couple hundred people. It was also before the Omicron variant was out there and when the Delta variant seemed to have burned itself out. I still dreaded it, and took enough precautions to avoid physical contact and maintain social distancing, and I masked whenever I could.

I used to be a heavy movie goer, attending a new film release - or occasionally rehashing a film I liked - nearly every weekend right up until February 2020 - last movie I saw in the theaters was "Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey" how that's for a trivia answer - and one of the things I hoped to do after getting the vaccine shots was going back to the theaters. Except I haven't. Even as the blockbuster movies I want to see - Black Widow, Shang Chi, Eternals, Godzilla vs Kong, The Suicide Squad - on the big screen came and went, I could not work up the nerve to go to see a single one of them. The latest Spider-Man movie, MAYBE I might go see that while it's out now, but I still cannot bring myself to risk going to a crowded, cramped theater. 

The bowl game last night, I took the risk, and I am so regretting it. Last night was different. Multiplying-the-attendees-into-tens-of-thousands different. Granted, much of the game-watching is spent outdoors where the spread of COVID is less likely to happen, you're still in a situation where there's NO social distancing available and a high risk of being too close to an asymptomatic person long enough to get exposed. It was like being in twenty movie theaters at the same time, and I dreaded hearing anybody coughing to spike my paranoia any higher.

The good news, I've been vaccinated and boosted. I also took a mask with me and wore it as often as possible (only taking it off to eat a hot dog and drink bottled water).

Bad news is, I might have been the only one at that game who stayed masked for much of the night. Maybe one other guy was masked in our seating section, but nearly everyone else I walked past getting in and out of the stadium - other than vendors and staff (and NOT security!) - went without a mask. Even my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew only wore their masks heading into the game: Once it started and after it ended, they went unmasked.

Yes, I am that paranoid about mask-wearing anymore. Working in a public library will do that to you during a pandemic.

That's how bad it is right now with the Omicron variant bearing down on all of us. Too many of us uncaring, unworried with the responsibility of doing even the bare minimum of protecting ourselves and others against a virus because those minimums - wearing a mask over our faces - has become too much a burden.

We all need - myself included - to be more careful during this winter as COVID flares back up again. At least mandating wearing masks in public. Lockdowns would help but too many Red States will fight those again as economy-killing, and given the holidays situation we won't see any move on THAT until after January 2nd.

So here we are, waiting for COVID to get worse again.

Gods help us.

Stay healthy.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

And So Manchin Burns the Nation

I've said this before: There is nothing more dangerous and destructive to the United States than a self-serving arrogant tone-deaf Senator.

Yes. This means Senator Joe Manchin out of West Virginia just shot his own Democratic Party in the collective foot again. From Russell Berman at The Atlantic (paywall): 

With a few short sentences on Fox News, Senator Joe Manchin today dashed the dreams of Democrats by coming out firmly against President Joe Biden’s signature legislative proposal. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there,” Manchin said of the $1.75 trillion bill that the House passed last month.

His opposition after months of negotiations adds to a hellish winter that followed a brutal autumn for Biden, who is presiding over yet another resurgence of the pandemic, stubbornly high inflation, and an electorate that has soured on him. Now, Manchin has seemingly demolished the centerpiece of the president’s economic agenda in Congress, validating the warnings of progressives who for months held up the passage of a bipartisan infrastructure bill because they feared the West Virginia centrist—who, in a 50-50 Senate, essentially wields a veto pen among Democrats—would do exactly what he did...

Anyone wanting to blame Progressives in this fight ought to punch themselves in their own faces. The Far Left held up their end of the bargain only to have Manchin - posing as a Centrist but in reality he's a crass opportunist hiding his personal greed behind the excuse of bipartisanship - pull his card out of the castle to let it all tumble down.

I'm a self-proclaimed Moderate (not a Centrist) and even I can't understand why Manchin is pulling these stunts other than to keep his own pockets lined with lobbyist cash while his own state of West Virginia slides deeper into poverty.

I have to refer to West Virginia resident John Cole at Balloon-Juice, who has long seen Manchin up-close in action and has loathed the corrupt Senator's behavior for years:

Yes, Manchin knocked bunch a bunch of beers on his houseboat last night, woke up this morning and drove his Maserati to the tv studios, and opened his piehole. It’s more of the bad faith bullshit, and I don’t know how much of it he will walk back or if he even will, or he is just setting the stage for his colleagues and the WH to shit on him so he can peace out and join the Republicans or go Independent. I don’t know, and I don’t really care any more, the man is dead to me...

I don’t know why this is so hard for Joe to explain. I’d think it would be pretty easy to explain extending the child tax credit, black lung benefits, lowering prescription drug prices, expanding medicare, providing home health care for the elderly, and so on to West Virginians. Especially considering that West Virginians are some of the poorest, sickest, and oldest Americans, as well as having a large community of miners with black lung...

The only ones profiting from Manchin's stubbornness has been Mitch McConnell and his fellow upper-class warriors of the Republican ranks. They're reveling in the self-immolation between Democrats all the while making sure that our nation never does ANYTHING to address poverty, hunger, suffering of families, and reconnecting millions to the American Dream of good jobs, safe communities, and a future for our children. And they don't even have to lift a finger: Manchin is doing all of the dirty work for them.

There is still a chance the Democrats will go back and repackage the major parts of Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda, and still a chance they could pass something short-term to placate the likes of Manchin, but I doubt it. Manchin is strutting here like a god-emperor Corrupt Senator of the Gilded Age, unconcerned with the damage he leaves in his wake while heading to his expensive racecar en route to his personal yacht.

Gods help us. This is how we're rolling into 2022.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

All I Want for Saturnalia 2021

'Tis the season for wishes and hopes as the winter solstice brings 2021 to a close.

And I look out upon this world with all this going on:

And I just wanna wish the Roman God Saturn for a simple little thing:


I wanna wish for a safe and safe Saturnalia to come true just for once, can't we all agree to that, someday...? 

Friday, December 10, 2021

A Terrifying Brush With Tragedy This Week

I woke up to this news and it terrified me.

We almost had yet another college mass shooting event, this time the threat was at Embry-Riddle in Daytona (via Claire Metz at WESH Orlando): 

John Hagins was arrested at his off campus apartment Thursday after two other students alerted authorities of the suspect's alleged threatening statements.

Officials have no doubt classmates of 19-year-old Hagins, an aeronautical science student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, averted tragedy Thursday, the last day of classes before winter break.

According to the arrest report, last week Hagins began talking excessively about purchasing a gun and the gun being able to fold so it could fit inside of his backpack to take to the school...

Hagins also allegedly told the student witness he would purchase a silencer so he would be able to shoot inside the school library...

"He referenced Columbine," Daytona Beach police Chief Jakari Young said. "He said once he was done at the firing range he was going to campus to enact a Columbine.

Hagins is charged with terrorism, written threats to injure or kill and attempted murder...

Some of the photos and video clips show the wanna-be gunman packed extra clips to ensure as many targets hit as possible.

And when I say targets I mean "students, professors, campus staff, and anybody else that would satisfy his bloodlust."

And when I say this news terrifies me, more than any other recent gun-related nightmare our nation has witnessed during my whole lifetime, I mean this one hits me close to home.

I have a nephew attending Embry-Riddle in Daytona right now.

Do you hear that, gun nuts? Did I stutter, National Rifle Body Count Association?

One of YOUR fucking "lone wolf" shooters was about to kill or wound a family member.




These mass shooters, these gun nuts going off in our schools and our malls and our churches, THOSE MURDERERS ARE COMING FROM YOUR WORLD, YOUR CULTURE, YOUR OBSESSIONS AND OUTRIGHT WORSHIP OF THE GUN. We didn't ask for these rifle-toting sociopaths but YOU ALL keep insisting they have their chances to KILL the rest of us.

This would have bloodied my family.




Thursday, December 09, 2021

Quick Question to the Nine Readers of This Blog: It's Jon Swift Roundup Time!

Batocchio has sent out the call for the annual blogging highlights, and I would like to ask the readers of this blog out of all the crazy stuff I've written this 2021, which one should I present as the best of the brat?

I'm kind of leaning towards the Irrational article, although the articles about the tragedy of Surfside has its points to make, and the Fall of Afghanistan has a lot to say about the failures of our nation after 9/11.

Please do me a favor and help get this in by Saturday December 11th, thank ye. You can leave a comment below or if you hate the comments setup you can tweet me @PaulWartenberg or yell at me on Facebook.

Sunday, December 05, 2021

DeSantis and His Minute Men Militia

It's been pretty obvious since trump's fall after the 2020 election results that some of the more ambitious Republicans are positioning themselves to run in 2024 (hoping that trump - who still rules the GOP voting base - will be sidelined with court trials and prison time).

The worst of the lot is my own state's governor, Ron "Let COVID Kill You" DeSantis, whose pandering to the Fox Not-News audiences is starting to exceed the trump himself. DeSantis has been eagerly playing to the anti-vaxxer crowds - hiring every cop or firefighter or city worker who quit their jobs in places mandating vaccines, for example - and demonstrating all of the virulent hatred that trump deployed but with more political savvy.

Which brings us to his latest political move, one that should be setting off every alarm in the system: DeSantis wants his own damn army. Via Steve Contorno at CNN:

DeSantis pitched the idea Thursday as a way to further support the Florida National Guard during emergencies, like hurricanes. The Florida National Guard has also played a vital role during the pandemic in administering Covid-19 tests and distributing vaccines.

But in a nod to the growing tension between Republican states and the Biden administration over the National Guard, DeSantis also said this unit, called the Florida State Guard, would be "not encumbered by the federal government." He said this force would give him "the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible." DeSantis is proposing bringing it back with a volunteer force of 200 civilians, and he is seeking $3.5 million from the state legislature in startup costs to train and equip them.

States have the power to create defense forces separate from the national guard, though not all of them use it. If Florida moves ahead with DeSantis' plan to reestablish the civilian force, it would become the 23rd active state guard in the country, DeSantis' office said in a press release, joining California, Texas and New York. These guards are little-known auxiliary forces with origins dating back to the advent of state militias in the 18th century. While states and the Department of Defense share control of the National Guard, state guards are solely in the power of a governor.

The proposal from DeSantis comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's directive warning that National Guard members who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus will have their pay withheld and barred from training. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had requested an exemption for guard members in his state, which Austin denied...

I can immediately point out a flaw in DeSantis' reasoning: If he wants to supplement the state's standing National Guard, he could just simply recruit more volunteers to the Guard. He's playing this as wanting to forge a home guard that won't be encumbered by federal vaccination rules, but he could play obstructionist over the pandemic without this kind of power grab. He wants something more, which begs the question:

Q: Why the hell else create a free-standing military unit answerable only to him? 

A: Because it'll answer to him and not to the United States' military chain of command that the National Guard has to answer to. This is DeSantis' chance to make himself into a wannabe field general with his own tin soldiers - brought in without any outside review or oversight, meaning they could be the Goddamn KKK for all we know - to do his dirty work.

Ja'Han Jones at MSNBC has his concerns, mainly that DeSantis can't be trusted:

States technically have the power to establish defense forces that are independent from the National Guard, and 22 states currently do. That’s an issue worth discussing and debating, but the most pressing issue right now is that the right-wing governor of Florida can’t be trusted with a military force of his own. 

DeSantis said re-establishing the state guard would “make sure that we have the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.”

“Some of that will require us to be able to have access and use support in ways that are not encumbered by the federal government, that don’t require the federal government,” he added. 

Don’t let that hodgepodge of political jargon fool you: There’s no reason whatsoever to believe Ron DeSantis would use his army of militarized volunteers to do anything but wreak havoc on vulnerable people.

This is the same person who hastily deployed the Florida National Guard to patrol anti-racist protesters demonstrating in response to George Floyd’s murder last year. This is the person who championed an “anti-riot” law struck down by a federal judge this year after plaintiffs claimed it was “designed to target those who protest police violence...”

Jones doesn't mention it but DeSantis has been waging a war against his media and pandemic critics, a fight that can easily escalate if he's got 200 Minute Men Brown Shirts Florida Men at his beck and call with the power to detain people and use firearms with little or no provocation from others.

Because abuse of power like this happens. We've seen it repeatedly under trump and other bullies in office.

This is straight out of the playbook used by the fascist villains of Upton Sinclair's It Can't Happen Here. Christ. We're replaying the same goddamn nightmare of having trump in the White House calling on his Oath Keepers and Proud Boys to "Stand Back and Stand By," which we saw come to fruition during the January 6th Insurrection to subvert the 2020 election results.

What DeSantis is doing here can well be replicated by other Republican governors across the nation, and the ones who already have a state-controlled militia to start thinking about how they can turn those troops into their own personal praetorian guards. They can turn these militias into private police rounding up and harassing anybody opposed to the party in any way, from public stances over abortion and police brutality all the way down to refusing to wear those damn MAGA hats.

Think I'm joking? Think back to all the sh-t happening for COINTELPRO... and that was illegal. What's being asked here will be legal, governor-seal-of-approval, all out in the open (just not broadcast on Fox Not-News for public consumption) and nobody will be able to challenge it until too much damage and suffering has happened.  

It can happen here, and it's escalating.

Gods help us.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Oakland High Shooting: Red Flags Everywhere

"He said Bro. Red flag."
- unnamed student surviving the Oakland High shooting, before classroom flees from the possible shooter. It turned out that was a sheriff's deputy looking to evacuate the room, who chose a poor time to use 'hep slang'. Watch that video. Nearly every student freaked when he said 'Bro'.

It's not even a joke in this pandemic reality that the United States' "return to normalcy" for 2021 included the return of mass shootings

We've gotten so blase about gun violence at our schools that no major media outlet noticed until this week we're up to our 28th school shooting and our 641st mass shooting for the year. And we've still got December to go.

What made the Oakland High shooting in Michigan stand out were the circumstances that led to that fateful Tuesday November 30. A series of decisions and actions that should have raised concern and triggered a secure response that kept getting ignored or overruled.

A timeline should help highlight what went wrong (via Becky Sullivan at NPR):

The 9 mm Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol used in Tuesday's shooting at the high school in Oxford township, a small community north of Detroit, was purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun shop, authorities said. His son, Ethan Crumbley, was with him at the time of the purchase, they said.

Jennifer Crumbley referred to the gun as their son's "new Christmas present" in a social media post, McDonald said during Friday's news conference. She added that the gun was stored unlocked in a drawer in the parents' bedroom.

The day before the shooting, an Oxford High School teacher reported Ethan Crumbley, a sophomore at the school, after the teacher spotted him using his phone to search for ammunition, the prosecutor said.

School officials left a voicemail and email for Jennifer Crumbley, who did not respond, according to McDonald. But Crumbley sent a text message to her son that said, "LOL I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

Then, on the morning of the shooting, the prosecutor said, Ethan Crumbley's teacher found a drawing on Ethan Crumbley's desk of a handgun, bullet and shooting victim, with the words "blood everywhere" and "the thoughts won't stop, help me."

Disturbed, the teacher informed school authorities, who called both James and Jennifer Crumbley to the school; they were told they would be required to seek counseling for their son.

"Both James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to ask if their son had his gun with him or where his gun was located, and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun, which he had with him," McDonald said.

The parents "resisted the idea" of Ethan Crumbley leaving school at that time, McDonald said. Afterward, Crumbley returned to class. Just before 1 p.m., he entered a bathroom wearing a backpack, then came out with the pistol in his hand and began shooting, authorities have said...

At every single point where the parents made the situation worse, I noticed myself shaking my head and muttering "Jesus Christ..."

Just the idea that his parents thought a handgun would make a nice Christmas present for their teenage son is a serious red flag to me. Until I saw someone point out on social media that on Black Friday - the high holy Consumer Day of holiday shopping - there were around 187,000 legal firearms purchases. Historically, Black Friday seems to be a great time (sarcasm mode) to stock up on murder weapons.

Guns?! FOR CHRISTMAS?! In religious terms, a day honoring the birth of one of humanity's greatest seekers of Peace and Hope for all??? In secular terms, a day for family and friends and ugly sweaters snuggled in against the cold winter outside (Northern Hemisphere only, Southern Hemisphere gets beach trips and sand castles)??? /headdesk

Back to the timeline, where the parents' behavior towards each growing alarm about their son's openness at school about pursuing - obsessing over - guns, ammo, and acts of violence kept ignoring his deteriorating mental state. When the mother texted "LOL don't get caught" that should have been a moment for herself to wake up and realize "Wait, he's getting caught at school obsessing over guns maybe we need to calm him down." Christ, she thought it was funny. I wonder how her reaction would have been if Ethan was caught scanning PornHub videos at school instead of the Guns & Ammo shopping page.

One thing bothering me - and probably haunting the school officials from now until forever - is the point where the school authorities had both parents and Ethan in the office, why the hell didn't they inspect Ethan's bookbag then? I thought the schools had exemptions to search students' belongings if they could show cause for others' safety.

Then again, the parents would have likely thrown a major conniption. Given what we know now - with the report that Crumbley's mother wrote a letter praising donald trump for his Second Amendment support along with rants against illegal immigrants threatening her livelihood as a realtor - any attempt in that principal's office to see if Ethan was packing a gun would have led to lawsuits or a physical altercation. The rights of the privileged gun nuts - usually upper income, usually White, always paranoid and aggressive - will always outrank all other rights in this NRA Utopian America.

Instead, there were no altercations, just the Crumbleys insisting that Ethan remain in school, giving him one more opportunity to show off that Christmas gift to the world.

Even then, it looked like the parents were abandoning their own son to his demons, his rage, his fate.

The only time either parent expressed any concern was after the shooting started, when Jennifer Crumbley sent a cover-your-ass text message "don't do it." By then it was already too late. James Crumbley reported the gun "stolen" from his house, but by then law enforcement had a pretty good idea James allowed Ethan full access to "his Christmas gift".

All of this damage done, four teens killed, more wounded, all because one family worshipped the gun more than they worshipped the Christmas Spirit.

All of this leading up to one of the more interesting twists in our nation's ongoing gun violence crisis. For the first time in recent memory, the parents of the school shooter are facing manslaughter charges. As mentioned in Becky Sullivan's NPR article, this is a rare move indeed:

"These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send a message that gun owners have a responsibility. When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences," (Oakland County Prosecutor) Karen McDonald said...

The involuntary manslaughter charges for the suspect's parents are highly unusual for a school shooting. But Michigan's criminal code does not give prosecutors more straightforward options: The state is not among those with laws that specifically target children's access to guns, nor does it have a negligent gun storage statute, according to the Giffords Law Center, a research group that advocates for gun control laws.

The Oakland County prosecutor advocated for strengthening the state's gun laws at her news conferences this week, calling the laws "woefully inadequate."

In addition to the rare step of charging the shooter's parents, prosecutors' decision to charge the younger Crumbley with terrorism is unusual in Michigan. The criminal complaint accuses Crumbley of "intending to intimidate or coerce" the high school community.

"What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now, who can't eat and can't sleep and can't imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school? Those are victims too, and so are their families and so is the community," McDonald said at a news conference Wednesday. "The charge of terrorism reflects that..."

Given McDonald's enthusiasm to pursue more serious charges, I doubt that terrorism charge will stick. The Nation Rifle Body Count Association is sure to step up to file a complaint, arguing that gun ownership isn't an act of intimidation or threat, trying to protect their fellow gun-worshipping fanbase from any similar charges brought against them when they open-carry everywhere.

But the charges against the parents should be a welcome change to see about reducing the risks of guns in our schools. Far too many times, the absence or abandonment of any parental figure working to keep their kids away from guns has led to those school shooters getting their hands on those murder weapons. A number of times, those shooters were coming from a home where parents pushed those guns onto them, teaching them a mindset that those weapons were everyday common, simple to use, and that those things gave them power over everyone else.

No more. I hate to break it to the parents, but dammit you got to teach your children the dangers of firearms and the risks they carry. Of all the red flags parents are supposed to keep an eye out for - drug use, sexual harassment or assault, bullying (either as victim or perp), petty theft, vandalism, listening to bad Country music, other troubling signs of teen behavior - the likelihood of gun violence ought to top the Parenting To Do list.

If we can hold parents accountable for their guns, if we as a nation can start getting into those parents' heads that they have to treat their guns with better personal security, if we can make these gun nuts realize they DON'T have to treat firearms like Christmas toys...


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Turkey Sacrifice Day 2021: Unleash the Gravy

And now that I've gotten the somber, reflective 2000th post out of the way:


And in case the turkeys ever DO mount a counter-attack:


And don't forget the gravy:

VICTORY OR DEATH! VICTORY OR DEATH! VICTORY OR... ooooh wait save some room for the pumpkin pie.

Post 2000: The Road Travelled and the Road Ahead

Reaching my 2000th blog rant with this essay. With all the madness still going on this 2021, building on the madness we've witnessed since the year 2000 itself, this is a moment for reflection and introspection.

Looking back, I had started blogging to talk about reforms, needed Constitutional amendments to make our broken federal system correct itself. Along the way, I found myself diving into the partisan debates to the point I became a sideline critic. I think it was the aftermath of the 2008 elections - when Obama came to office and the Republicans doubled down on the obstruction - where I realized that sensible reforms were unlikely as long as one of the two major parties - who know which one, I'll give you a hint the name rhymes with "Republi-can't" - was batshit insane. I'll keep referring to John Cole about this forever and ever:

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

And he wrote that back in 2009. That was my wake-up call about how broken everything had gotten and was going to stay that way.

None of the changes I keep blogging in favor of - the end to gerrymandering, an end to the logjam in the Senate caused by Filibusters and Secret Holds, fair primaries for the Presidential campaigns, holding liars accountable, holding corrupt politicians accountable, getting rid of deficit-inducing tax cuts for the super-rich, holding the media accountable for their follies, building a better brighter world for our children to inherit - are going to happen because there are enough corrupt powers in high places - not just the whole Republican Party but also enough "centrist" Democrats eager to maintain their own power and wealth - who would rather keep the corrupt status quo or even make it worse.

Even when these reforms would benefit the Democratic Party overall - especially eliminating the gerrymandering going on right now that would skew U.S. House seating to Republican control in spite of the real demographics favoring Dems - we are all witnessing delays and foot-dragging due to the rigged Filibuster rules even with the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and with Democratic President Biden sitting in the Oval Office prepared to sign any electoral reforms into law.

It would be pretty to think that eventually things will break in favor of reforms and opportunities for most Americans still struggling day to day. It won't come through thinking, though. It's going to have to come through action, especially the ones in office who have an obligation to fix the damage getting done and give us all an opportunity to breathe again.

It will take more commitment that just mere blogging, obviously. I have to - as much as the rest of us - do my part to push and motivate in the real world, to march when the moment of action arises, to speak in public when our voices should be heard, to vote and encourage others to vote to break the suppressive efforts the corrupt powers push down on us. 

Everything I've seen the past decade-plus while writing this blog has documented this spiral path downward, through the highs of witnessing Obama's transformational administration and the lows of trumpian rage, incompetence, and misrule. All the ongoing bloody struggle between the irrational and rational factions of America, with occasional glimpses of hope that this madness will pass.

That's what I have right now, looking ahead to the rants and posts awaiting me in the future on this blog. Just a little more hope.

Just a little more... 

Monday, November 22, 2021

How Are We Going to Explain This Crazy Shit To Future Conspiracy Nuts?

I can't believe I'm wasting one of my blog posts before reaching the 2000th article on this, but dammit this needs mentioning (via Michael Williams at Dallas Morning News (paywall)):

Weeks after they first gathered near Dealey Plaza, dozens of believers in the furthest fringe of the QAnon conspiracy theory remain in Dallas, expecting long-dead John F. Kennedy Jr. to reveal himself in the city where his father was assassinated and usher in the reinstatement of Donald Trump as president.

While their beliefs are patently absurd, the fervency and devotion of this particular group, along with their loyalty to a leader known as Negative48 and unwillingness to leave Dallas, is unique — and cause for alarm and concern, according to an expert who has followed QAnon for years.

“I think what you’re seeing here is really, undeniably a cult,” said Mike Rothschild, author of The Storm Is Upon Us, which chronicles the rise of, and fallout from, QAnon.

The leader of the group is Michael Brian Protzman, a Washington man who amassed a following on social media with his version of gematria, a Hebrew numerology language. Interpreting codes that include numbers and letters, and using elements of Christianity and QAnon, his followers have come to believe that Kennedy, who died in a plane crash in 1999, will reappear in Dallas and commence a new Trump administration.

Some of Protzman’s followers believe President John F. Kennedy wasn’t assassinated in 1963; others believe he was, but then resurrected as a messiah shortly thereafter. Despite the failure of either Kennedy — or other dead celebrities who were expected, including Michael Jackson and Princess Diana — to appear during the initial Nov. 2 rally that drew hundreds to downtown Dallas, a hardcore group of Protzman’s followers remain in Dallas, expecting their arrival...

Part of this does read a lot like the Rapture-type fringe groups who pray for Apocalypse, waiting for a Messiah figure to pop up, grant them boons while laying waste to this poor corrupt world, and bring about a new era of peace of prosperity for the REAL True Believers.

But this is something well past the almost-benign nature of those cult-like behaviors of yore. These new Believers have tied their hopes to more direct physical matters: the ongoing rabid rallying done by donald trump and his Far Right media enablers looking to rile up their victims for more cash and more bloodied streets.

These QAnon cultists pining away in Dealey Plaza aren't waiting for a Jesus to preach to them the Gospels again: They are waiting for a sign from two long-dead historical figures - one of them who left Dealey Plaza 58 years ago with a gaping head wound! - to grant them the license to go on a rampage to put trump back in a White House he lost by both Popular and Electoral votes.

This isn't funny. This is scary shit.

And this ain't a First Amendment issue, this is a Baker Act moment. Those crazies need to get taken in for psychiatric evaluation right fucking now.

The crazy train for the entire Far Right faction of our nation has been on this downward spiral for years now, and it's not stopping until they are stopped.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Infrastructure Week: Biden's Big Win

It was literally a running gag during the trump years that whenever trump was looking bad in the news he would go to Twitter and announce a massive INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK where he would push for Congress to pass him a massive government program to repair our nation's aging roads, bridges, electrical grids, etc. Only for Congress to go "Well, um, any ideas on that boss?" and for trump to scream back "LET'S BUILD MY WALL!" Even with full Republican control of Congress before 2019, it never happened. Even with the Democrats controlling the House and actively wanting a deal even a weak bipartisan package, it never happened. trump himself kept nuking it.

In short: Nothing ever happened with Infrastructure Week.

So of course, now it's 2021 and it's Joe Biden's turn in the White House and while it's taken months since he rolled out his Infrastructure proposals for Congress to pass, it finally happened last week with a $1 trillion bill passing the U.S. House - after sitting on it for a month or three trying to get the Senate to agree to a budget deal the Progressives wanted passed first - and ending up in front of President Biden for his signature this afternoon.


...So what the hell's actually in it (via NPR)?

Roads, bridges, major projects: $110 billion - This could go a long way towards upgrading aging bridges, something we needed done for decades.

Passenger and freight rail: $66 billion - the rail system has also aged out, although public transportation may be less affected than the improvements to shipping and supply chains.

Public transit: $39 billion

Airports: $25 billion

Port infrastructure: $17 billion

Transportation safety programs: $11 billion

Electric vehicles: $7.5 billion - there needs to be a big push towards installing more charging areas to extend electric cars' viability.

Zero and low-emission buses and ferries: $7.5 billion - the possibility of electric buses for our cities and suburbs.

Revitalization of communities: $1 billion

Broadband internet: $65 billion - this is a big fucking deal where I live in Central Florida, where my county doesn't have broadband/cable connections across most of the rural areas (Libraries are helping out with lending Hotspots for Internet availability to our communities, but it's not enough...).

Power infrastructure: $73 billion - Hello, Texas, care to upgrade that broken grid

Clean drinking water: $55 billion - what this offers is the chance for poor communities like Flint to get rid of lead-based piping for real, get better filtration systems, and bring healthy water to everybody.

Resilience and Western water storage: $50 billion - this looks like a plan to deal with the ongoing droughts of the Southwest and California states...

Removal of pollution from water and soil: $21 billion - always a must, always needed especially here in Florida...

There's still a major social works (Build Back Better) bill that has to pass the Senate - and thanks to Manchin and Sinema it probably won't - but for now this is a major legislative win for the Democratic Congress and for Joe Biden's administration.

Here's hoping they can build on this for 2022 and 2024.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Far Right Contempt

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding Humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.
-- The American Crisis, Thomas Paine

It's been a few months of the US House select committee investigating donald trump's call to Insurrection on January 6th, during which there's been some drama and then not a lot happening. The reason for the public inaction is that the committee's subpoenas to people close to trump and who are now known to be involved in the planning stages of trump's "Stop The Steal The Election Rally"

Welp, back in September, that committee tried to call the likes of Steve Bannon, one of trump's more reliable dirty tricksters - in spite of Bannon being on the outs every so often when Bannon tried to cover his own ass instead of his boss - to provide the documents in his possession related to January 6th as well as testify before that committee. Bannon basically told them to eat sand. The committee put it up to a House vote to hold Bannon in contempt in late October, which they did. They then referred the matter to the Department of Justice, because apparently Congress doesn't have the direct power to slap handcuffs on sons-of-bitches.

For the past month, social media was filled with call after call by people demanding the current Attorney General Merrick Garland to just hurry up and file an arrest warrant on Bannon. Even though there was evidence behind-the-scenes that the Department was being slow but diligent: Missing a step in procedure could wreck the whole case, and Bannon's lawyers made careful arguments that needed dismissing first.

Well, this Friday the wait ended. Via Carrie Johnson at NPR:

Steve Bannon has been charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the legislative committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

Bannon, who was a political adviser to then-President Donald Trump, is charged with one count for failing to appear for a deposition and another for refusing to hand over documents.

The Justice Department's move exposes Bannon to fines and as much as a year of jail time for each count. It follows weeks of deliberation by prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, who will oversee the criminal case.

"Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "Today's charges reflect the department's steadfast commitment to these principles..."

So there's that done. Now onto the 30 to 50 other people in trump's orbit threatening their own acts of Contempt.

Holding people in Contempt of Congress has, by the by, happened often. G. Gordon Liddy of Watergate infamy was held in Contempt, but he never served time because he pled out to a suspended sentence and was already in jail for other Watergate activities.

If you ever track the history of the Contempt charges, it's a mug's game to determine which gets upheld and which won't: Depending on who's in charge at Justice, the Attorney General (hi, William Barr!) could well play a Delay Delay Delay game until the matter disappears. Other times, those held in contempt reach an agreement to provide something to the committee that would satisfy them...

But in Bannon's case it doesn't look like he will make any deals. Because that committee wants trump on a silver platter for his role in the plotting - and there's already a number of media reports how deep trump was involved - and they're going after everybody within 6 feet social distancing of him. If Bannon gives up what he's got, he's putting the burden on others who have closer ties and bloodier hands than he does.

Bannon's smartest move here is to pull more delaying tactics, refusing to even listen to plea deals and throw every dismissal tactic in the law books to get off. This all depends of course on how many others in the Inner Circle of coup planners also get hit with Contempt warrants and find themselves in a situation where they would plead out and screw Bannon (remember in this game kiddos the ones who plea deal first get the safest deals). It also depends on if Bannon is literally held in Contempt at a district jailhouse, which would cut into his profits and his enjoyment of the rich life. You may think some guys are "tough enough" to do a stint in Cell Block 6, but one look at Bannon - Christ, he's in worse shape than me - should tell you he ain't anywhere near "tough" in the dictionary.

Here's hoping the Justice Department follows up and puts all the big names in the lockdown. And that the next round of subpoenas include trump himself.


Oh by the way this is my 1,997th blog post. I'm three away from 2000!!! We'll see what's happening when I get there.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Bonfire Night 2021: Remember Remember the 5th of November, and Where January 6 Might End

Our cultural cousins in the UK are celebrating Bonfire Night this day, which is their version of the 4th in terms of fireworks, revelry, and drunkenness. To them, it's in honor of the successful intervention against the Gunpowder Plot and the capture of Guy Fawkes, a key plotter responsible for the explosives packed under Parliament that could have well killed all of the British Government during the early years of James I(IV)'s reign.

Y'all remember Guy Fawkes.


The Guy responsible for the V For Vendetta / Anonymous Masks.

 Yeah, that Guy.

It's where we get the term "Guy" in the first place. Well, maybe. The word origin dictionaries would clear that up. ANYWAYS I DIGRESS.

The way things happened in British cultural history, Guy Fawkes evolved from an outright villain - he was going to blow up the King AND Parliament to overthrow Protestant rule! - into a somewhat noble anti-villain due to a grudging respect for his dedication (he held out against torture with a coolness that impressed James himself) and zeal in the face of a grey-and-gray moral world (the running joke that Fawkes was "the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions" in spite of the fact his intent was to KILL A BUNCH OF OTHER GUYS).

And so as our cousins across the pond celebrate with beer and fireworks and "Penny for the Guy," we need to watch how a modern holiday evolved from an insurrectionist plot set in motion more than 300 years ago.

Remember, remember
The fifth of November
The Gunpowder treason and plot;

I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot...

Because our nation just went through a bit of an insurrection as well just this past January.

In the months since, our legal system has been chasing after, arresting, and pleading out hundreds of trumpian rioters to answer for the damage and deaths caused that day. So far, other than screwing with the defendants' dietary needs, the accused haven't been put on the rack under the King's supervision for torturous confessions (something about the 8th Amendment it seems), and it doesn't look right now that many of the rioters are going to see the same fate that Guy and his co-conspirators received for their plot. So they got that going for them, which is nice.

However, we are cursed with the reality that a number of the rioters were colorful, crazy-ass morans who already inspired a number of memes and jokes. Especially this guy (sadly not named Guy, and sonofabitch he has a Wikipedia page before I did):

Do you think 300 years from now Americans are gonna be honoring the January 6th Insurrection with Bonfire nights and "Penny For Angeli"??? What rhymes with QAnon, for God's sake???

Remember Remember
The Sixth of Janu
... dammit it won't even rhyme now!!!


Thursday, November 04, 2021

Quick Word: NaNoWriMo 2021 Ongoing

I might not be on this blog much this month because National Novel Writing Month is back and I really really really need to focus on that.

Also, I'm a little pissed at Virginia voters right now and writing that whole state out of my will, WTF Virginia anything Youngkin (sp?) does to screw up your state is going to be on you now.

Also also, I really think Joe Manchin is officially more evil than Mitch McConnell right now because he keeps cutting at his own party's attempts to improve American lives for no other reason than to be an asshole to everybody making less than $77,000 a year.

Also also also, the Qanon nutjobs not only believe now that JFK Jr. is still alive and well and supporting trump but also that John-John's dad JFK (you know, the guy with a fcking rifle shot hole in his fcking head since Nov. 22 1963) faked his public assassination and was set to return this past weekend to publicly support trump for 2024 as well. Never mind the fact that EVERYONE'S SEEN THE ZAPRUDER FILM DOCUMENTING JFK'S GAPING HEAD WOUND, if Jack was still alive he'd be 107 YEARS OLD, which is kind of very very very very very fcking rare to see in a dead guy.


Some Novembers, the shit in the real world can't compete with the sci-fi fantasy stuff I try to write.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

What If: Gaming Out The Far Right's War (w/ Updates)

This is where the mindset of your average Far Right trump-worshipping Fox Not-News consuming wingnut is today (via Raw Story (paywall)):

An audience member asked a disturbing and stunning question at a speech given by close Trump family ally and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk in Idaho on Monday, but instead of denouncing and disavowing the question itself as being anti-democratic, morally repugnant, illegal, based on falsehoods, and against his repeatedly avowed Christian values, Kirk offered an equally disturbing response.

"At this point, we're living under corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny," claimed the unidentified man, as Media Matters reports. "When do we get to use the guns? No, and I'm not — that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?..."

Charlie Kirk tried to downplay it, trying to deflect the blame onto the liberals the wingnuts are desperate to kill:

"They are trying to provoke you and everyone here. They are trying to make you do something that will be violent that will justify a takeover of your freedoms and liberties, the likes of which we have never seen," Kirk fear-mongered...

But Kirk can't hide this reality. Just look at the Far Right today. Driven by trump's Big Lie about a "stolen election" that wasn't. Inundated with misinformation across Facebook and Twitter and Dark Web rabbit holes. Every night Fox Not-News has wingnut talking head after wingnut talking head attacking Dr. Fauci and any vaccination efforts to end the COVID pandemic, clinging to unproven conspiracy theories and desperate to undo any efforts by Biden to bring America back to normal. There's Tucker Carlson violating every journalistic ethical norm shilling a ludicrous "false flag" story about the January 6th Insurrection, trying to both vindicate trump's coup attempt and hide the facts of what really happened at the same time.

The entire Far Right political environment is full of rage and hate right now, has been at this level ever since trump entered the White House and turned into the Hater-In-Chief. And none of this has calmed down after Biden won in 2020 and tossed trump to the curbside.

And this isn't a recent development. How far back to the wingnuts' "Librul Hunting Licenses" idea go, back to Obama's era or Bill Clinton's? Remember the John Birch Society putting up Wanted flyers for JFK accusing him of treason? The Far Right call to violence towards everyone they deem Liberal - and thus in their eyes Un-American - has been going on for decades, if not a full century of post-Civil War "Redeemer" and Klan-led violence.

This is the world we live in now: Daily threats of violence from enraged, ill-informed Far Right wingnuts raiding every school board meeting and driving every county elections official into hiding.

The question(s) remaining: Just how far is this all going to go? Where is the tipping point? When is that "other shoe" finally going to drop?

If you follow the likes of Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, he's already noted that our nation has been enduring a low, simmering violent insurrection for some time. Not necessarily the violent backlash of the southern conservatives against the Sixties Civil Rights movement (there was kind of a cut-off point in the Seventies), but more along the anti-government flareups of militia groups inspired by the Turner Diaries and anti-immigrant haters feeding off of ancient anti-Semitic "Replacement Conspiracy" bullshit. What's caused all this to flare up now was the reactionary response to having someone like Barack Obama become President in 2008. The so-called Tea Party that rose up to challenge Obama's economic and health care policies quickly shifted into the old habits that kept the Far Right hating for decades.

To Silverman (and others in the Intelligence Community tracking national threats), it's stochastic terrorism: A situation where a person or group (usually ethnic/racial/gender) is targeted with demonization, to the point where an individual or small group is enraged enough to act against that target. In short: Fear-mongers/Rage-mongers accuse others of being EVIL and those mongers' audiences react with violence towards those others.

We've seen it with George Tiller, we've seen it with abortion clinic bombings, we've seen it with Black churches getting burned down, we've seen it in Charleston where an enraged racist killed Black parishioners at a prayer service, we've seen it with attacks on Jewish temples, we've seen it in Charlottesville, we've seen it on the Capitol steps this past January 6th.

We're already in this stage of violence, with no end in sight. As long as the Far Right media spews out their misinformation, as long as they point out others for demonizing, as long as they skirt the ethics of the First Amendment to sell their fear and hate without accountability, we won't see an end of the bloodshed.

What's for debate is the escalation

Fear and hate are like drugs. At some point, the same hit isn't going to give you the same high. You start upping the dosage, looking for that high, never mind the damage the drug's toxicity does to your body, mind, and soul.

Just railing against Libruls and Black Lives Matter protestors and Immigrants and Muslims and Jews and Women won't cut it. Someone's going to want to push further into acts of insurrection. Not just the Republican voting base that does all the screaming, but a Republican leadership finding themselves egged on by pressure - from trump, from that rabid base - to openly rebel against a Biden regime they deem tyrannical.

The ongoing anti-vaccination movement, for example, has done a good job of getting Republican governors to reject the science and argue for FREEDOM against mandates to get vaccinated for workplaces and schools. Thing is, legal history has supported federal mandates before and even this hard-conservative Supreme Court will be loathe to overrule precedence. So any Republican Red State governor is going to run into a political conflict they might not win.

The pressure from the Far Right base to reject federal authority is going to increase, no matter how the GOP leadership will try to manage the message and keep the anger and violence limited to controllable outbursts. You can see it now from the anger of the mobs at the wingnut rallies. Any threat to the Far Right Narrative - any official investigation into the January 6 riots leading to arrests of the major ringleaders, any official shutdown of trump's Big Lie of a "stolen" election, any successful enforcement of the vaccine mandates - is going to require a disproportionate reaction from the Republicans that could trigger honest-to-God open warfare.

It most likely won't be straight-up secession. The political dynamics of such a move - even for a big state like Texas - would create utter chaos and likely fail (much faster than it did in the 1860s). I could go into greater detail of the problems building a new nation-state in the 21st Century can be, and I might do so later on... 

With secession an unlikely event (for now), what will happen will be an ongoing legal battle between the Red State governments filing lawsuits against the U.S. government: To delay and obstruct any final enforcement of anything long enough for the 2022 or 2024 elections coming into effect and changing the political landscape to favor the Republicans (this is where all the damn gerrymandering of Texas, Florida, and Georgia is gonna suck). Insubordination and obstruction from the state agencies instead of open secession.

But if the Republicans delaying tactics fail, if their attempts to suppress voters and gerrymander things to hell and back fail, if the Democrats hold onto Congress in 2022 and then Biden wins re-election 2024 in spite of Republican howls of stolen votes, we can expect things to escalate even more. Because those losses will only enrage the Far Right base to believe trump's Big Lie even more.

At that point, the arguments against secession would go out the window. Convinced that they are losing power - similar to how they feared things would go in 1860 - and falling to minority status, the Far Right conservative elements will fall back into the desire to just quit what they'll see as a game rigged against them. In spite of the reality they have never proved in the past they were cheated, and likely won't prove it in the future.

So if it comes that far, will we see actual secession?

Any Red State looking to split from the United States in protest will find few overseas allies to help them, for starters: The most likely suspects - Russia, China, and Iran - just happen to be anathema to a majority of Americans, create an open act of hypocrisy (seeing how many Far Right ideologues hate those nations in principle), and create further schisms among their own secessionist ranks.

Those Red States will also find few financial allies. National and global banks will be reluctant to do business with a rebel state, and may pull back doing business with any corporations that tries to operate there. Considering many Red States already have low Gross Domestic Products, and rely too much on federal subsidies, those states will find themselves with economic crises right off the bat.

Even the need to start your own currency - the U.S. government is not about to let a seceding state rely on the federal dollar - would be a major headache. You'd have to consider exchange rates to other currencies, run the risk of inflation, and establish a fiscal policy to manage the money you have (or need to print). With few banks or foreign nations likely dealing with you - lest they anger the United States, which is still an economic powerhouse - any loans to provide a fiscal foundation won't be there for you. Considering the mindset of the Far Right, they'll likely try to set it to a Gold Standard (which could lead to inflation and immediate Panics) or worse go with a bitcoin (which would be vulnerable to speculation).

A small populated state without much of a tax base or commodities of value will find itself isolated real quick. A singular state in secession will get cut off from most interstate trade and shipping. Train shipping will also get cut off. Supply chains could fall apart. Considering the U.S. government will be in a hostile mood, you're likely to see your seaports and airports shut down. Any tie-ins to the nation's power grids will get cut off. If you think you can survive on your own electrical supply, just ask Texas how that worked this past winter.

Of the Red States that COULD pull of seceding on their own, Texas has enough resources and financial wealth to pull it off. However, they'd STILL run into the hostility of the remaining United States government cutting them off from any overseas allies. They'll even run into the hassles of suddenly having Mexico as a neighbor, which could come knocking with an army at the Rio Grande to discuss just where the border really is (remember kids, the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War was with the UNITED STATES, not Texas).

That's not even getting into the trouble any Red State will have with their own residents. Sure, in some Republican-led states the population is thoroughly conservative and eager to fight. But even in places like South Carolina or Kansas or Iowa or Indiana, there are pockets of Democratic Blue. 

A seceding Red State is going to run into the likelihood of their Blue Metropolises seceding themselves. There is historic precedence: During the Civil War, most Confederate state had pockets of resistance from various counties or cities dominated by people who still thought of themselves as Unionists (or hated the slaveowners' political control). The current political landscape is the same: Much of the Republican control in large-populated Red states (Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio) are only that way due to extreme gerrymandering. The dense metro areas (Houston and San Antonio/Austin, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa/St. Pete, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland) in those states are reliably Democratic and would resist any secession efforts.

Even then, this isn't 1860. Back then, it took time and effort to flee a state if you were no longer politically accepted anymore. Any Whig/Republican in the South by 1861 either kept their heads down and mouths shut, fled to the safety of a friendly county, or spent time more than once in Confederate jails until Union armies liberated the place.

Any Blue Democrat in 2024 can hop into an SUV with their family, pack up for a month's vacation, get the hell out of the Red State, stay with relatives in a safe Blue State until the secessionists are rounded up by the National Guard, and drive back to file any insurance claims on any damage their Red State neighbors may have inflicted on their homes in their absence. The Red State secessionists may try to blockade the Interstate highways but those would be the first points retaken by federal agents to ensure refugees can get out okay.

If the Red State in question succeeds in seceding, expect a brain drain of the more educated, more wealthy Democratic residents fleeing, reducing the value and business strength of that Red State. Colleges would likely shut down (especially as more liberal young adults will flee for their lives). Any educational investment generated by universities gone.

And if any Red State governor is foolish enough to call for secession, they better not plan on sleeping in the same bed two nights in a row. In this day and age, the U.S. army doesn't even have to drop paratroopers on your location to arrest you for treason: They can just fly in drones to target your cell phone's GPS and make you say bye-bye. Considering how the rest of the world views the wingnut trumpian factions with contempt, the only ones who'll file a war crimes complaint to the UN would be Russia and Bulgaria (maybe Brazil).

That's just the basic stuff I can game out if any Red State Republican leadership - any trumpian cultist - think they can win a fight here against the federal government if things escalate the way they want.

The end result no matter what - until the madness can break, until the liars are held accountable and facts and truth can reclaim our sanity - is still going to be suffering of innocent lives, bloodshed, and heartbreak.

But they can't win. The Far Right just can't win. They think they have the numbers but they don't. They know they have the weapons but they can't shoot us all. They think they have the rich and powerful on their side but the elites will abandon them in a heartbeat if their own asses are on the line. They think they'll own the courts and they believe they'll reclaim the reins of power, but they're not as good at cheating as they used to be, and the Constitution that forged this nation is stronger than they think.

All we have to remember is that we - the real Americans, the diverse, the loving and living, the moderate and the liberal and the progressive - outnumber them, and all we have to do is stand united and fight back.

(Update 11/5/21): Thanks again to Batocchio for adding this blog to Crooks & Liars ongoing Mike's Blog Round-Up! I'm a bit busy this month with NaNo but I may post every so often if something crazy happens...

(Update 11/9/21): We got demagogues like Dan Bongino out here encouraging his audience to rise up "against vaccine mandates" and that "we outnumber them" when talking about confronting evil liberals. We got Senator Ted "Cancun" Cruz openly talking secession for Texas in front of college students just in case Republicans don't retake the federal government in 2022/24.

This isn't idle talk. This is the ongoing Far Right Narrative pushing the stochastic terrorism of demonizing The Dread Other Libruls to further extremes right up to the point where another insurrection/coup takeover takes place. These wingnuts are spoiling for a fight, and it's horrifying how the mainstream media still laughs it off as "Free Speech" pandering. Right up until the blood spills...