Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Further Proof Republicans Can't Understand Statutory (w/ Update)

You know, for a guy who's trying to be on hiatus, I'm not staying away from this blog all that much.

I did say I would pop back in from time to time, if the news be worthy enough of comment, and while YES there is something else I need to blog on that's a serious matter, the schadenfreude of commenting on stuff like this is too easy to pass up:

Such as yet another hypocritical Republican elected official getting investigated for sexual misconduct of a VERY scandalous nature. Per the New York Times, but I have to quote it through Yahoo! News because I'm a cheap bastard:

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is under investigation by the Department of Justice for a sexual relationship he allegedly had with a 17-year-old girl, the New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The investigation was started in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General William Barr, the Times reported. The agency is looking into whether Gaetz, a close ally of the former president, violated federal sex trafficking laws by paying for the young woman to travel with him outside of Florida. 

Gaetz has yet to be charged with a crime. 

Earlier Tuesday, Axios reported that Gaetz, who is 38, had told associates he was considering not seeking reelection so that he could pursue a job opportunity with the staunchly conservative network Newsmax...

I dunno if jumping from Congress to a media job is going to save him, because what Gaetz did at the time - apparently two years ago when he met the young woman - violated Florida Statutes 794.05:

794.05 Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors.—

(1) A person 24 years of age or older who engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084...

To be serving in the House of Representatives, you HAVE to be over 25 (Gaetz was 36 at the time this allegedly happened). The girl in question was 17 when this allegedly happened. The girl's ability to give consent doesn't apply: Statutory is statutory. Gaetz is facing a serious felony charge that would involve jail time (up to 15 years), and no media outlet is going to let him broadcast from Cell Block Six.

And somebody like Gaetz who is SUPPOSED to know the laws - federal and state and otherwise - should have known better.

But no, he did not (allegedly). He didn't even care (allegedly). Gaetz, a big bullying blowhard for the Far Right talk shows, likely thought the laws never apply to HIM (considering his history of getting out of legal jams...).

Back to the Times report (this link may end up behind a paywall):

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl...

So there seems to be (allegedly) a Republican-led sex trafficking ring operating in Florida, of which Gaetz became a target of investigation involving the charges against Greenberg. There is a likelihood of other Florida-based officials being caught in the same orbit.

And that's the thing, isn't it. The hypocrisy of a Republican Party that parades around as God's chosen, screaming at everyone else for our heathen ways, even as they themselves commit sins both sacrilegious and secular. Yes, we catch Democrats in the act of treating young women in abusive and degrading ways, but they don't go around throwing stones at other glass houses, planting the Ten Commandments in our front yards while violating at least six of those Commandments behind closed doors.

The schadenfreude of watching another holier-than-thou Republican confront their sins (allegedly) would be fun to enjoy, except for the fact these Republicans are abusing their powers in office to make the rest of us suffer for their own sick amusement.

Gods help us.

(Note: And yes, I *do* watch Letterkenny for the memes.)

Update 4/2: As all sex-and-money scandals unfold, so too is this one, ensnaring a number of other Republicans and revealing just how deep the rot goes. As Betty Cracker puts it over at Balloon-Juice:

Man, this Gaetz-Greenberg scandal has everything. Snot-nosed rich boys who use their daddies’ money and connections to buy office – check. Arrogant Trump-humping douchebags who think their power enables them to act with impunity – check. Abject morons who leave a trail of literal receipts behind to incriminate themselves – check...

It's even getting worse than what Betty Cracker covers. TPM is reporting how Gaetz was constantly showing off nude photos of his sexual conquests on the floor of the U.S. House. That even then-Speaker Paul Ryan had to call Gaetz to his office to remind him about decorum and behavior in Congress. 

This is something from last year in the Orlando Weekly, for God's sake, reported in 2020 but overshadowed by the pandemic: Gaetz may be part of a gang of Florida elected officials as far back as 2013 who were "scoring points" going after women employees or co-workers at the state legislature. Jesus. The last time I heard about this type of behavior it involved a rape-gang of high schoolers.

The bad behavior has always been there. It's been his family's wealth, his political ambitions, and his white male Frat Boy (tm) Privilege that's allowed him to be this bad for so long.

And now think about all the other white male Frat Boys (tm) we know out there in their 30s and 40s who never grew up and still act like this, running around in the halls of power between Wall Street and K Street.

It's always been this bad. The same entitled assholes running around shilling fear and rage on the talking head shows while raping and pillaging behind the curtains because nobody will stop them until it's too late. When the hell are we really going to clean this shit out of the top floors?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Blood In the Streets Across America 2021 (w/ Update)

We're still recovering from the trauma of what happened in Atlanta only for new trauma to arise in Boulder Colorado a week after that, and this weekend with mass shootings across different cities of Chicago, Virginia Beach (again), and Memphis, and...

There's a sick joke out there that you can tell Americans are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic because we're going back to the "normality" of having mass shootings every week.

Here's the dilemma. A vast majority of Americans want basic steps of gun purchase regulations to improve the public safety. Eighty percent of Americans - crossing political and cultural divides like no other issue, even including Republican voters - want universal background checks. Yet thanks to the paranoid and corrupt practice of the gun-nut lobby (FUCK YOU, NRA), the Republican Party leadership opposes every minimal regulatory suggestion and obsesses over an absolutist position on "Shall Not Be Infringed."

To the vast majority of Republican voters who back universal background checks, do this nation and do yourselves the favor of dropping out of the Republican Party. Just quit it. Just go to the county elections office and refill your registration and check off "No Party Affiliate" instead of "Rep". You don't have to switch to "Dem," just drop out of a political party that does not give a fuck about our nation's public safety.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN. I will keep screaming this every day the GOP refuses to take firearm safety seriously.

(Update: Not more than THREE HOURS AFTER I POSTED THIS): Ahhhh SWEET JESUS, we got an active shooter targeting park rangers at the Everglades National Park this evening! I know this is Florida but for CHRIST SAKES CAN WE STOP THE GODDAMNED SHOOTINGS!

Friday, March 26, 2021

You're Just Like Suez Traffic, So Hard To Float Through to You

(Update 3/28/21: Thanks to Infidel753 for adding this article to his Sunday blog round-up!) 

Me boots and clothes is all in pawn,
G'down ye blood red roses, g'down!

It's flamin' drafty round Cape Horn,
G'down ye blood red roses, g'down
Oh ye pinks and poses,
G'down ye blood red roses, g'down! 

- Blood Red Roses, old sea shanty

You're just like crosstown traffic, so hard to get through to you.
Crosstown traffic, I don't need to run over you.
Crosstown traffic, all you do is slow me down.
And I'm trying to get on the other side of town.

- Crosstown Traffic, Jimi Hendrix

I know I'm technically still on hiatus, I know there's about five other major news stories and political BS I need to rage against, but this is so funny a disaster I can't pass it up (via Amanda Mull at The Atlantic (paywall likely)):

...The boat, of course, is the Ever Given, a massive container ship operated by the Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen, which probably now wishes its name wasn’t painted on the boat’s sides in such enormous letters. On its way from China to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, the boat accidentally Tokyo drifted to a stop in Egypt’s Suez Canal on Tuesday, where it has been stuck sideways ever since. Efforts to refloat the Ever Given so far have been futile; the heavy construction equipment and fleet of industrial-strength tugboats assigned to that job have been successful not at dislodging the ship’s bow from the canal’s sandy shore, but at demonstrating this big-ass boat’s stupendous girth in photos. The ship, which is longer than the Empire State Building is tall, looms over literally everything—construction equipment, palm trees, nearby buildings. The Ever Given is Manute Bol to the human world’s Muggsy Bogues...

I’m obsessed with the dang boat because people like me and you are not really supposed to be aware of what boats like her are up to. You’re not supposed to think about, or even notice, global freight, but the Ever Given has made cartoonishly noticeable some of the crucial infrastructure of global capital, which is usually invisible in most people’s daily life. She has done so with an absolutely sublime visual gag, improved by every new detail about the problems the ship is causing and every new photo of the impotent human measures being undertaken to fix them. Peruse the surrounding waterways on any of the internet’s maritime trackers, and you’ll find the beginnings of a far more significant problem: More than 150 other absolutely huge shipping vessels, transporting everything from live animals to crude oil, are waiting on either side; the barge ran aground at a point where the Suez has only one lane, which means that traffic is blocked in both directions.

Every time I add some new morsel to my stash of stuck-boat information, I’m reminded of those clips I used to love as a kid on America’s Funniest Home Videos, in which some guy gets nailed in the groin by his overly enthusiastic golden retriever. In this case, the guy is a complex web of financiers and shipping magnates and insurance companies, whom the sideways boat will cost approximately one zillion dollars. The Ever Given is standing athwart one of the most important shipping lanes in the world, yelling “Oops!” She is ruining everything, and at least for the moment, she cannot be (un)stopped...

METAPHORS! Metaphors everywhere!

I begged on Twitter for someone to design a website dedicated to updates on Ever Given's status and HERE IT IS!


Yes, it is

I promised a donut but the guy who designed it doesn't want donuts and so he's encouraging us to donate to this charity instead.

In the meantime, we're looking at the reality that a lot of global trade is stymied by this disaster, so it's not all fun and games. Most traffic that needs to keep moving - stuff that can't wait, like livestock or perishable goods - may have to take the longer route around the African Cape, which isn't entirely safe (was notified there is an emergency canal nearby but it's smaller and slower so still time-consuming).

We're also talking about the canal workers stuck in overtime struggling with this. Already hailed as a hero is the sole excavator working on digging out the Ever Given's bow to help get it unstuck from the sand. I am currently seeing about sending a shipment of donuts to him.

This isn't entirely schadenfreude, because it is a serious matter and we do need to consider how global trade relies too much on overwhelmed transportation systems. But on the other hand, you think back to how you and your college buddies got that sofa stuck in an apartment stairwell and just laugh and laugh and...

Update 3/29/21: This morning, the Ever Given was FREED from its sandy prison and sailed onward! ONWARD! LET US SING SONGS NOW OF THIS DAY! (listens to various parody versions of "Wellerman") NO DAMMIT A REAL SONG!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Hit Me With Your First Vaccine Shot

Given my situation working in public, and considering my health - I have a couple of factors that would make COVID-19 lethal to me - when the opportunity to get the vaccine for the coronavirus here in Florida came up this week (when DeSantis dropped the age requirement from 60 to 50) I took it.

I got a relatively quick appointment set up for Wednesday, left work for an hour, got the first round of the Moderna vaccine - the only one available at that Publix store - and tweeted the results:


Apparently, that metallic taste on my tongue - just on the right side, and it was temporary it went away after I had dinner later that night - sent up a flag because earlier today I got a message from an NBC News reporter who wanted to ask me questions about it.

It is a common regret on social media that the vaccine is not
working like radioactive spider bites or something similar...

After a few hours of texting, he got sufficient information from my experience and added it to a quick article about this odd effect in vaccine shots: It is actually a bit common for people to get that metallic taste, even though no one knows how our taste receptors can pick up "metal" as a taste in the first place (article written by Erika Edwards):

 In addition to arm soreness and a little malaise, some people are reporting an unusual side effect following their Covid-19 vaccinations: an intense metallic taste that can last for days.

The experience is "like having nickels in your mouth," said John Howard, 45, of Columbia, South Carolina. The sensation came on within minutes of receiving his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination this past week. He tried to get rid of it with coffee, then mouthwash. Twenty-four hours later, the metal taste remained...

He is not alone. Dave Bischel, 52, of Sacramento, California, said he tasted something that reminded him of nickels after both of his Pfizer shots. The metallic taste went away after a few days.

And Paul Wartenberg, 50, of Mulberry, Florida, said he tasted metal for several hours after his Moderna injection. It disappeared after eating dinner...

(I had asked for the report to not include my photo from Twitter, although it seems hypocritical of me to post that tweet here.)

While rare, developing a metallic taste after a vaccination is not unheard of; in fact, it's a side effect that's been documented with other vaccines, antibiotics and pain medicines.

"We've seen a few individuals with unusual taste after vaccines, commonly a metallic taste that lasts for several days," said Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease expert and the director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee...

"Metallic taste is interesting, because we really don't know the biological basis for it," Nancy Rawson, vice president of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said. "There is no metallic taste receptor..."

Apparently there is. Or at least our memories of having put metal things in our mouths - hello, childhood between birth and 5 years uh 10 years hold on let's be honest 35 years old - lets our tongues think we know what metal tastes like. It could be the taste buds that would respond to things that are salty or acidic would retranslate to "that weird toy you put in your mouth in kindergarten that hopefully wasn't lead." Then again, we put metal eating utensils like spoons and forks in our mouths all the time, that could be the taste our memories are harking back to...

It certainly didn't taste like that playing marble I accidentally swallowed back when I was five (it hasn't shown up in any MRIs since), that's all I can tell you.

In the meantime, my second shot is scheduled for late April (the Modern shot has a 30-day waiting for the live, very serious shot). I will see you then.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Blood in the Streets of Atlanta: Violence Towards Women, Violence Towards Asians.

Let's break this down to the most basic explanation to what happened this past week across the Atlanta metro.

An angry guy with a gun shot and killed Asian women. If that doesn't sound racist to you, if that doesn't sound misogynistic to you, then YOU have a goddamn problem because that's EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS. (To the NPR article by Bill Chappell, Vanessa Romo, and Jaclyn Diaz)

The sheriff's office said Long confessed to the crime and told officials about a "temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate." They said it is too early to determine whether he'll be charged with a hate crime.

Six women of Asian descent are among the dead, raising suspicions of a hate crime. Long claims race did not play a role in his decision to target the businesses, authorities said, relaying details from questioning the gunman.

Long is believed to have "frequented these places, and he may have been lashing out," Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said after noting that the suspect indicated to investigators that he has a sexual addiction.

Tuesday's violence has amplified fears in the Asian American community, which has already been experiencing a spike in attacks and harassment since the coronavirus pandemic began...

The murderer - do not say his name - allegedly visited the spas earlier. He knew where he was going and as soon as he got that gun (without background check, without waiting) he knew exactly what he was going to do.

No excuse he and his defenders throw out there should stick. He targeted Asian women (his rampage did include White women and two men), and he targeted women who did nothing to him except exist without his permission and outside of his dominance.

What the murderer did is no different from a lot of other murderers and purveyors of domestic violence. There is a serious problem in our nation - no, scratch that, when you consider what happened in the United Kingdom recently with Sarah Everard, when you consider how Turkey is formally removing itself from an European committee addressing violence against women (implying they no longer care and may even encourage it), when you consider rape as a war crime is happening in every civil war and border clash out there, there is a serious problem with our planet - when it comes to addressing the underlying misogyny to a lot of the violence out there.

Racism is a serious trigger for acts of violence, but the amount of violence committed against women ought to horrify you. How many mass shootings in the United States revolve around domestic abuse culminating in one final act of gunfire?

How important is it that we as a nation pass a Universal Background Check for gun purchases, and making sure domestic abusers are included in those checks? How vital is that our Congress pass a new Violence Against Women Act that should force our lax law enforcement agencies to treat domestic abuse as a serious threat to public safety?

Both of those bills have passed the House this month, thank God. But they're held up now in a Senate that debating whether or not to get rid of the Filibuster, a tool of obstructionism likely to block those bills from passing like the majority of Americans want them to.

God damn our nation's history of racism - not just towards Blacks and Hispanics but also tragically towards Asians from Chinese to Japanese to Filipino to Vietnamese and so many others - and God damn our species' history of sexist-driven violence towards women.

We need to make our laws act towards both injustices before more people - WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS DAMMIT - are killed for the rage and bloodlust of angry white men.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Year of Pandemic, And Where We Stand Now

It was a Tuesday of March 17 2020, and the schedule for my library had me covering Tuesday evening shifts as a supervisory staffer until 8 PM with a number of part-timers (I was also the interim library manager at that time). I'd been busy before that getting an early dinner before 5 PM, so the interoffice emails I need to check from time to time hadn't been read until 20 minutes past that, after having helped a patron with printing jobs.

It turned out the city manager's office sent out an order closing all public areas at 5 PM for the city around 4:00 PM just as I started dinner. /headdesk

If there was any good news to this faux pas, it was that the library was barely in use that night, and had been for a lot of nights ever since the reports of COVID-19 hitting the cruise liners in December. Our main patrons are mostly the retirees of the community, and many of them had either not traveled down to Florida as snow birds from their northern residencies or they made the personal choice to stay home and avoid getting infected. Our daily visit numbers since January 2020 had dropped significantly.

Our city residents had proven more foresighted than our own state and federal leaders - you might recall trump himself was dismissing concerns right up until March 11 when the World Health Organization declared an official global pandemic - to where you saw places around town practically empty of shoppers or visitors. The local movie theater was mostly (more than half) empty the last time I went to see a film (Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey for you trivia buffs) that Saturday January 26.

The only place where it wasn't empty of shoppers were the grocery stores: Publix had been wiped out of toilet paper by the first week of February. But I digress.

What happened once I saw that email from city hall, I had summoned the part-timers together to have them tell the few remaining library users we had to close due to the emergency pandemic order. We didn't get any complaints and they vacated rather quickly. We did our standard floor check to make sure everything was shut down, corners cleared, bathrooms cleared, stairwell and elevator cleared, all that. Then I sent the part-timers home while I finished up making CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE signs for the front doors and changed the phone message for the library with the same emergency information.

I then made sure to email and call staff where I could to inform them the library was closed to the public but that we still had to work, such as handling hold requests to other libraries in the county and to the Books-By-Mail service. Once I took care of that, I sent myself home locking up for the night. I remember glancing at the library while standing in the parking lot, the sun was just beginning to set with the sky turning purple twilight, and I wondered what was going to happen next if we were ever going to open again that year.

I need to go back and check my personal notes, but I think we didn't get to that re-opening until September...? I think we had curbside service in August...

There were a lot of hazy days between then and now. We had to change our summer reading programs for the kids into virtual viewing events on Facebook and YouTube. We had to close our meeting rooms and cancel all library programs (I personally miss the computer training classes I hosted most months). Our library volunteers - many of them the elderly residents from the nearby retirement communities - still can't come back because as a public facility we're still a high-risk vector.

I can't tell you the number of times I have to go around on the computer floor to ask our users to keep the bloody masks over their faces. If I sound rude to anyone, it's because it's been months of being open and with signs everywhere asking our patrons to respect the mask rule, and they're STILL draping them over their necks instead of their mouths and noses. I'm sorry, but I'm not the problem here, people! PLEASE keep the masks on! Argh.

So here we are in March 2021, with the last three-four months of vaccine implementation and a gradual sense that we are seeing better days ahead. Even here in Florida where our self-serving idiot governor DeSantis is messing around with the vaccine deployments to richer likely Republican neighborhoods instead of more-deserving poor communities and essential workers, we're seeing a good number of daily treatments that are outpacing the number of new cases. Most observers are hopeful we'll see effective vaccine coverage by late May. Biden himself is aiming for a July 4 full vaccination deadline.

It's just a question now of when myself and my fellow library staffers get our chance at vaccination. Some of the older staffers have (anyone 65 or older qualified, last week I think they dropped it to 60) but the rest of us are still waiting. You'd think that city employees - who are in the public work areas meeting people all the time - would be a priority group, but sadly no...

Still. Hopeful days ahead.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Ides of March 2021


Celebrating a guy who got the month of July named after himself!

Let's go to the tape!!!! 

Yeah, the day could have gone better for Julius.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Hiatus Update: Holy Sh-t One of My Cousins Is In an Indie Rock Band

Just saw a family update on Facebook passing this around from New Noise magazine and DAMN.

Formed in 2017, So Badly is a four-piece dream-pop indie rock band from Fredericksburg, VA. Four years later, the band is ready to release their debut album, Lemon Blue, on March 12...

So Badly was established in 2017 by Sarah Kinzer (they/them), Grace Howie (she/her), and Kevin Coleman (he/him) in Grace and Sarah’s college apartment. It started as vocal and two guitars but blossomed from there as Howie learned bass.

The first drummer added was Annie Frazza (she/her) who was with the band until late 2018, followed by current drummer Daniel Drees (he/him). They recorded their first LP in early 2020 and eventually replaced Coleman with current guitarist Frida Salmoran (they/them).

Samples of their music are linked at that magazine article.

Sarah is daughter to my first cousin on my mom's side (makes her second cousin if I know my genealogy), my cousin is a music college professor with some recording history of his own, so she's following in his footsteps.

To HELL with that, Sarah's LIVING THE DREAM, people!

Check her band's album out, America! 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Pay Attention, America. Biden and His Democratic Allies Are Getting Shit Done.

We interrupt this hiatus with a Big Fucking Deal. Congress passed a fiscal pandemic relief bill that President Biden signed this afternoon with almost immediate improvements in our fight back to normalcy (via Jacob Pramuk at CNBC):

The plan will send direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. Direct deposits will start hitting Americans’ bank accounts as soon as this weekend, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

The bill will also extend a $300 per week unemployment insurance boost until Sept. 6 and expand the child tax credit for a year. It will also put nearly $20 billion into Covid-19 vaccinations, $25 billion into rental and utility assistance, and $350 billion into state, local and tribal relief.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said before signing the legislation. “And giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country, a fighting chance.”

Other things Americans need to understand about the American Rescue Plan relief package:

  • No Republican in both the Senate and the House voted for it.
  • The Rescue Plan boosts health care coverage to more Americans, solidifying Obamacare and ensuring health recovery from the pandemic can get taken care of.
  • No Republican in both the Senate and the House voted for it.
  • The Plan expands food stamps (SNAP) funding, increases financial aid to K-12 schools, and is set to hopefully cut child poverty numbers by half, on a scale we haven't seen since the 1960s.

You can see in real time an entire political party refusing to work towards the best interests of their nation and the majority of our citizenry, including a solid plurality of Republican voters who were okay with the ARP relief packages. The Far Right zeal for obstruction and destruction continues apace.

This is what we're going to see over the next two years: Republicans refusing to do the right thing and attacking Democrats over ludicrous and unproven accusations of culture war nothingburgers; while Democrats just go to work and get shit done.

And we're facing a serious possibility the Republicans will cheat and vote-suppress their way back to power in Congress in 2022 all because not enough Americans will pay attention to what's happening here.


Back to our regularly scheduled hiatus.

Monday, March 01, 2021

March 2021: Hi, Ate, Us.

I think that's how you speel it.

Okay, look, I need to take some downtime with the blogging here. I have other writing projects that I *really* need to focus on and this is a distraction from that. 

Just to let the nine followers of this blog know that I submitted four articles to the Florida Writers' Royal Palm Awards for consideration, along with the murder hornet short story, so we'll see how that all turns out.

I will likely return to this blog if anything major happens in the political arena here in Florida or in the world (say, if criminal charges against trump drop in New York or Georgia or DC or something). But in the meantime, keep cool you krazy cats.