Friday, July 01, 2022

Dreading The Oncoming Storm

I've probably left enough clues on this blog by now that I live in Florida, have been ever since my family moved down here when I was seven. I've also left enough clues that I'm really hating the growing realization that this state leans too far conservative on political issues, and I'm stuck here surrounded by coal-rolling Bible-thumping MAGA morans.

But this past month in June - especially as the Far Right Roberts Court issued their extremist legal decisions on abortion, voting rights, prayer in school, and finishing up with gutting federal regulatory power - that constricting, painful feeling became overwhelming.

I've had conversations in-person with two different people this past week, both of them talking about fleeing for the safety of Blue states and which ones were the easiest to move to (I'm partial to Virginia, but I hope Youngkin is a goddamned aberration up that way and the residents learned they got hoodwinked).

One of my co-workers honestly asked me, "Are we going to have another civil war?"

I once blogged I believed another civil war in the United States was a bad idea, that it was coming from cranks and foreign "experts" who were shilling fantasies over reality. However, ever since trump bullied and lied his way into the White House, with the Far Right media gaslighting and calling for open insurrection, and with more than a third of our nation actually believing his Big Lie of stolen elections I've been reconsidering the insane partisan rift between Far Right and The Rest Of The Nation has become too violent to ever get repaired.

I'm not the only one worried about this. Stephen Marche at the Guardian sees the same divide and believes it's no longer an "If" it's now a question of "When and Where":

Accelerating political violence, like the attack in Buffalo, increasingly blurs the line between the mainstream political conservative movement and outright murderous insanity. The question is no longer whether there will be a civil conflict in the United States. The question is how the sides will divide, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how those strengths and weaknesses will determine the outcome.

The right wing has been imagining a civil war, publicly, since at least the Obama administration. Back in 2016, when it looked like Hillary Clinton would win the election, then Kentucky governor Matt Bevin described the possibility in apocalyptic terms: “The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood. Of who? The tyrants, to be sure. But who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren,” he told supporters at the Values Voter Summit...

The struggle over abortion has already revealed how the divide plays out. Anti-abortion factions control the pseudo-legitimate court system and the poorer states in the Union. Pro-choice factions have responded, first of all, with their superior financial resources. Oregon started the Oregon Reproductive Equity Fund with $15m. New York is establishing a fund to make the state a “safe haven”. California governor Gavin Newsom plans to add $57m to the state budget to deal with out-of-state patients...

Incipient civil conflict in the United States won’t be formal armies struggling for territory. The techniques of both sides are clarifying. Republican officials will use the supreme court, or whatever other political institutions they control, to push their agenda no matter how unpopular with the American people. Meanwhile, their calls for violence, while never direct, create a climate of rage that solidifies into regular physical assaults on their enemies. The technical term for this process is stochastic terrorism; the attack in Buffalo is a textbook example.

The leftwing resistance is more nascent but is also taking shape: if you’re rich and you want to stay living in a democracy, the time has come to pony up. If you’re an engineer, the time has come to organize. The conclusion is not at all determined. Neither side has an absolute advantage. Neither side can win easily. But one fact is clear. The battle has been joined, and it will be fought everywhere...

I've noted before, unlike the first Civil War where the geographic boundaries were distinct, this second Civil War will be more along demographic dividing lines within each state. The Far Right won't likely have states seceding, but will have their governors, their wingnut preachers and pundits, and other regional elected officials rallying their followers into terror attacks on liberal targets (they know they won't survive attacking military forces head on, they'll go after civilian targets like schools and nightclubs and stores like they've already been doing the last 25 years). The Progressives and Center-Left populations will likely take non-violent routes like street protests and calls for strikes, but will come to rely on whatever remains of a Democratic-led federal government responding to the insurrection as they are now (with arrests, court trials, and pleas to sanity).

The results of the coming midterm elections will determine the "where" and "who" this civil war will decide itself. 

If the Democratic Party retains control of both parts of Congress, the Far Right will scream "stolen votes" and declare all Dem results within Red States invalid, throwing elections to Republicans in spite of the voters. This could trigger outright secession efforts in battleground states like Texas, Georgia, or Florida.

If the Republicans flip control of Congress - or gain control of either the House or Senate - the Democrats will point to Republicans' extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression and denounce the unfairness of Republicans' minority rule. It's unlikely the Blue states will call for secession - as it would undermine President Biden's authority and go against the liberal viewpoint of federal powers exceeding the states - but more likely throw as much of the legal system into chaos nationwide as well as interfere with any Republican attempt to impose their wingnut laws on everyone.

How bad the fighting will get depends on which way the United States military intervenes in all this. While they're not supposed to fight in our own borders against technically our own people, if open secession and/or insurrection takes place, whoever is President can employ the Insurrection Act and call on the armed forces to act then. donald trump wanted to use that law to declare the 2020 election results illegal and the Blue states in rebellion, but the legal experts and military leaders told him no (It's believed if counter-protestors had gone to Capitol Hill to fight against trump's rioters, he could have justified it then. But when it was just his own people committing violence, he couldn't declare them in insurrection and so didn't do it). If Biden is forced by escalation of violence in the streets by the Far Right, he could invoke the Insurrection Act against them, but it will depend on which way the Joint Chiefs and the rest of the military will accept it (there is a possibility that a sizable percentage of personnel are Christianist extremists and could start undermining military effectiveness at the least).

Given the nature of the partisan division - that it's along party lines across every state, and that it's along educational and ethnic and income lines within every state - there really is no safe place in America when (not if) the extremism of the Far Right - either in denial of a Democratic midterm victory or in vindication of a Republican one - triggers a series of violent acts in soft target areas (The Far Left, for all the complaints from conservative pundits about the dangers of Antifa and Black Lives Matters, are not that violent).

There's a storm coming. Stirred up by decades of Far Right Culture War bullshit.

I keep saying this: None of this will end well until Republicans are completely out of power and their wingnut foot soldiers all in jail for the bloodshed they're about to inflict on the rest of us.

Gods help us.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Get The Damn Vote Out for Dems In 2022 Or Suffer Forever

So of course the week I decided I need a break from blogging was also the week this nation's ultraconservative Supreme Court decided to drop all the bombs on America.

In one ruling, the Far Right-dominated Court decided to gut Separation of Church And State by making it legal for religious private schools to take public funds without restriction.

In another ruling, the Far Right-dominated Court decided to gut our Miranda Rights, making it easier for cops to refuse to tell people they're dragging in for interrogation that they have rights to remain silent and have their lawyer present, and making it more likely the cops will force people to endure unwarranted interrogations until they confess to shit they didn't do.

In another ruling, the Far Right-dominated Court decided to overrule a New York firearm concealed-carry law, by arguing that the individual right to carry weapons is guaranteed in the Second Amendment (the overriding "Shall Not Be Infringed" phrase) and Fourteenth Amendment (which other legal experts are saying is a misreading of what the 14th stands for).

And of course, what we've all dreaded since someone leaked the first draft of Alito's Dobbs ruling, the Far Right-dominated Court today nuked abortion rights by overturning the Casey and Roe decisions.

It should be noted that a majority of Americans support Separation of Church And State, they support Miranda Rights against an aggressive police force, they support gun safety laws, and they support a woman's right to decide her own health and well-being in case they need an abortion.

Of course, with all of these decisions going AGAINST what a majority of Americans support, the public opinion against the Supreme Court is at an all-time low (dropping to 25 percent and looking to crater from there). 

But the Far Right Minority basically running our country doesn't give a fuck, does it? All they care about is their Culture War, their religious fervor to rule or ruin, and the willingness of an emboldened Far Right judiciary to dig even deeper into madness by going after our rights to marry, our rights to birth control, our rights to privacy, our rights to even vote...

I warned about the sins of Minority Party Rule years ago, before Senators like Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins and before demagogues like trump kicked our nation into the pits of Hell.

...When you look at the current leadership in DC, you'll see a Republican Party led by the likes of (then Speaker) Ryan, McConnell and trump who all know they do NOT need to answer to the majority - they need to placate their minority base - and so they govern as they please, even in the face of polling numbers that mark them as some of the most unpopular life forms in modern memory. All they have to do is stoke their base to turnout for the midterms, all they have to do is keep their deep-pocket funders rolling in their tax-free profits, and let gerrymandering and voter suppression do the rest.

The only thing holding a Minority Rule Party like that accountable is The Reality-Based World. Bad governance leads to mistakes, which leads to disasters, which leads to outrage and angry majority voters who finally get sick of it all and try their best to flip the bad actors out of power...

It would be pretty to think that all of those millions of American citizens (around 100 million last we checked) able to vote but had refused for some reason or another - apathy worse above all - will now realize what the hell is at stake here and turn up to register to vote now, and better yet show up in November in the midterms to vote heavily in favor of Democrats to throw every lying unethical crooked Republican out of power.

Right now, voter turnout is the only realistic plausible way to end Minority Party Rule, to end the death grip Republicans have on our nation's well-being, to counter every wingnut legal decision that this skewed Supreme Court is going to hit us with for the next 10-20 years until we can clear that bench and replace with jurists who recognize what our rights - our right to choose our health, our right to be free of religious domination by zealots, our right to be safe from a violent police state, our right to assemble freely in public without fear of gun nuts, our right to live - truly are.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, AMERICA, STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN. Save our nation, save our legal system, save each other.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Personal Matters as of June 2022

My moods are getting the better of me. I'm losing focus and unable to complete some tasks I need to finish.

I gotta unplug for awhile. I don't know when I'll be back to blog. Maybe when I get some of my projects finished.

 

Friday, June 17, 2022

History of a Third-Rate Burglary

On June 17, 1972 at 2:30 in the morning, a third-rate burglary took place.

Well, it didn't get very far. The team of burglars did a sloppy job of breaking into the offices they targeted, the guy with the walkie-talkie had turned down the volume so he couldn't hear the lookout warn them of any cops arriving, and when the cops caught them in the act the burglars had a lot of incriminating evidence on them pointing to other people being involved with the attempt.

It turned out the burglars had broken into those offices a month prior, and had gone back in to take more photos of sensitive documents and replant illegal listening devices (aka "bugs") they felt weren't working properly.

With all that, the cops took the burglars to jail, charged them on whatever crimes related to their break-in, and brought them before a judge for arraignment and bail.

That's when one of the burglars informed the judge he had worked for the CIA, one of the major spy/intelligence agencies in the United States government.

And that's when the third-rate burglary into the Democratic National Committee's offices at the Watergate complex started to turn into a big story, one that the federal government couldn't silence, growing until it engulfed a Presidency and scarred the public trust for fifty years.

Today, Watergate is viewed as the greatest political scandal in American history. All the others that came before - Andrew Jackson's Spoils system, the graft of U.S. Grant's administration, Tammany Hall, Warren Harding's collective scandals topped by Teapot Dome - and after - Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, Bill Clinton's Whitewater - none of them can match the hubris, reach, and tragedy of Richard Nixon's self-inflicted political downfall. Any other scandal that comes along, one of the first things the media does is add the suffix -Gate to it. Even other nations picked up on it.

I've tried analyzing scandals throughout my years of blogging, wondering about how to measure out what was a legitimate scandal and what was a nothingburger. Over time, anything the Far Right screamed about turned into nothingburgers, while any scandals involving them - especially after con artist trump moved into the Oval Office - were ranking right up there between Watergate and Teapot Dome in terms of corruption, abuse of office, open acts of insurrection, and straight-up graft.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Watergate scandal, we're neck-deep into investigating the scandals brought about by trump's rage, idiocy, and greed. 

As I've said before: history is repeating, first as tragedy and second as farce.

I wonder if I'll be around in fifty years to honor the anniversary of Trumpgate.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Congress Catching Crooked trump Cashing Out his Own Base

The Select House Committee investigating trump's Insurrection is ongoing, but we need to take a moment to note how they revealed trump's con artist habits.

Basically, trump used the Big Lie of a "stolen election" to rip off his supporters for about $250 million. Via Amanda Marcotte at Salon.com

During the entire two and a half months between Election Day and Jan. 6, Trump was shaking down his gullible supporters for cash that he claimed would help fight "election fraud." Those funds, however, largely appeared to go into the pockets of Trump and his allies. 

"The big lie was also a big ripoff," declared Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during her opening remarks on Monday. She argued that the campaign used "false claims of election fraud to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from supporters who were told their donations were for the legal fight in the courts." In reality, however, most the money — which is estimated to be a cool $250 million — went into a super PAC. From there, it was redirected into the coffers of Trump himself and towards various friends and family members...

I've noted before that trump's entire political career was part of his ongoing criminal business empire, designed to line his own pockets to inflate his worth while leaving bankruptcies and damage in his wake. Given opportunities to rake in millions of campaign funds - even money he himself never raised, but took from the Republican coffers meant for other campaigns - trump would think only for himself, not for whatever cause he claimed it was for.

Thing is, what trump and his lackeys did that post-election cycle - solicit funds from people under false pretenses - opens him up to criminal charges for wire fraud. Via Lachlan Markay at Axois.com:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Amanda Wick, the committee's chief investigative counsel, zeroed in on what the Trump campaign's fundraising emails described as its "Official Election Defense Fund."

Those emails were central to a Trump fundraising operation that brought in about $250 million after the 2020 election, in part by promising the money would fund legal challenges and other efforts to overturn the election.

In reality, the committee alleged, millions of dollars were funneled to vehicles like Save America — a leadership PAC set up by Trump after the election — and other political and advocacy groups with ties to top Trump aides...

"The select committee discovered no such fund existed," Wick revealed in a pre-recorded video, citing taped depositions with two Trump campaign staffers.

"Not only was there the 'Big Lie,' there was the Big Ripoff,'" Lofgren said.

"It's clear that [Trump] intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn't exist and used the money raised for something other than what he said," she added in comments after the hearing...

Legal experts say this line of inquiry is a clear effort to show that the Trump campaign and its allies may have used fraudulent tactics to raise money in the months after the 2020 election, when many top officials privately knew their claims of voter fraud were false.

"This is an allegation of textbook wire fraud," Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and white-collar crime professor at George Washington University, said of Lofgren's comments...

As Lawrence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, notes on his Twitter feed:



The Big Lie of a stolen election becomes the motive behind millions of stolen dollars. Real crimes are taking place here.

Attorney General Garland better follow through on this, and charge trump for his crimes.

Justice must prevail.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Crazy Busy Week Ahead

Monday is going to be the start of one crazy week:

The House Committee investigating trump's Insurrection is going to present Day Two of their indictment, following up on a surprisingly strong opening night that pretty much accused trump of setting and staging the riot. Day Two is reportedly going to delve into how trump knew he lost the 2020 election but decided to undermine the electoral process and stage a coup. The television ratings by the way - 19 million viewers - put the audience around Sunday Night NFL numbers, which are pretty strong (Tucker Carlson's prime time show on Fox Not-News by comparison draws around 3 million)

Twitter is aflutter that this is the week the Supreme Court officially issues its rulings on abortion - specifically the case involving Mississippi's ban - that can effectively mean the end of Roe and abortion rights. Madness will surely follow.

Congress reportedly reached a "bipartisan" deal on gun regulations / safety laws that is supposedly Cloture-proof so it can pass the Senate and then arguably the House for ratification. It won't address the more serious needs - an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, et al - but it will address age requirements for purchases, more funding for mental health (no guarantee THAT will go where needed), and restrictions on domestic abusers having firearms in an attempt to reduce domestic gun deaths. It will be the first major gun safety legislation passed in 30 years (!) and while it won't be enough it will be interesting to see if the more positive elements - especially that domestic abuser restriction - can show success in saving lives.

Ukraine remains a war zone but there's signs that Russian attempts to secure the Donbas aren't working and that Ukrainians are mounting decent counterattacks. Granted, the experts were thinking Russian forces wouldn't last past May, but all of the momentum and global support remains with Ukraine. Russia is reportedly falling back on weapon supplies and equipment from the 1960s (!) which doesn't bode well for their long-term ability to wage war.

Oh, and the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team - yes, there's been ice hockey in Florida since 1992, people! - are going to their third straight (after winning back-to-back) Stanley Cup Finals (facing Colorado) looking to be the first NHL team since the 1980s New York Islanders to have three straight championships. It's a dynastic possibility, which would put this Bolts team atop the list of Greatest Hockey Teams of ALL TIME. And to Michael Wilbon who derisively mocks Tampa as "not real hockey town" and "SEC" - while ignoring A) the attendance records the Lightning set in the 1990s playing in a half-filled baseball dome, proving there's a fanbase for a Hockey Town and B) the SEC (Southeastern Conference) is a college conference that revels in national championships every year - all I gotta say is SUCK IT WILBON.

I may not even find time to blog about all of it. We're busy at the library with our Summer Reading programs. /sigh

Work is work.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Today: Going Public on Insurrection

After about a year of relatively cloistered investigation, aside from charging a number of Republicans refusing to testify with Obstruction - Hi, Peter Navarro! - The House Investigation Into donald trump's "Proud Boys Capitol Conniption Carnage" of January 6 2021 is going to air public presentations on what they've uncovered starting tonight after Jeopardy! finishes up.

So how should the average American tuning in to this program view it all? Let's steal entire content, uh link to Ben Jacobs at Vox for more:

The legal and political impacts the public hearings will have are uncertain. Even with all the attention they are sure to get, few expect findings will massively shake up public opinion or shift the political winds for Democrats, who currently face dismal poll numbers for midterms elections. There is no scenario in which the work of the select committee leads to Donald Trump being frog-marched out of Mar-a-Lago, or even with top Republicans publicly denouncing him in the same way they did in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Instead, the test for many on the Hill is whether the hearings can, at the very least, produce sufficient momentum to ensure passage of reforms they hope would prevent efforts like the one taken after the 2020 election from happening again...

Well, I don't care what Jacobs says about the unlikelihood that trump will get arrested at the end of all this: The real hope out here is that the congressional hearings will provide enough spark to get Attorney General Merrick Garland OFF HIS TIMID ASS AND ARREST EVERY TRUMPIAN ASSHOLE - trump INCLUDED - WHO RIOTED IN OUR NATION'S CAPITOL! LINE 'EM UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERF--- Ahem, back to Jacobs:

Thursday’s primetime hearing will be the first installment in a series of hearings throughout this month and perhaps into the summer. It will begin at 8 pm ET and be carried live by the major broadcast networks, most cable networks and online (but not on Fox News)...

That's because Fox Not-News pundits have been warned by their legal counsel that anything they say in televised rebuttal can be used against them in a court of law. But I digress.

The committee’s goal over the course of the summer is to lay out the effort to overturn the 2020 election in detail, not just its culmination in the attack on the Capitol but the step-by-step effort by Trump to reverse his loss, including efforts to pressure local officials and plotting with figures like lawyer John Eastman and Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark to provide some sort of legal justification for his actions.

Democrat Elaine Luria of Virginia, a member of the committee, told Vox that the hearings will provide an “opportunity for people to have a comprehensive, chronological and thorough” accounting of the events leading up to January 6...

The real test is simply what revelations come from the hearings. The past 18 months have seen an endless trickle of news out about the events leading up into the attack on the Capitol. This hasn’t just happened in court documents filed by the committee or in leaks about its proceedings. There have been best-selling books on the topic that have broken new ground.

The question is whether what emerges from the hearing, either as a new discovery or as a viral moment of some kind, can break through. And, of course, even if it does, it’s unclear what impact it will have on public opinion...

In truth, the Far Right MAGA cultists won't believe any revelations will be criminal for them, because they genuinely believe they're the good guys in all this.

But this should help Democratic voters - and the Independent voters who are still rely on coherent thought - remind themselves of what's at stake in the upcoming midterms and the importance of turning up to vote to ensure the Republican wailing about "fake votes" is too overwhelming for them to lie about.

For myself, I'm hoping there's enough evidence already to indict trump's inner circle who ran the riot war rooms, and that by the end of the month we'll have handcuffs on not just Navarro but also Bannon, Stone, Eastman, and the rest of that clown car of chaos.

Get to it, Garland! ARREST THOSE MOFOS (rage rage rage)

(why YES, I am biased just a little against goddamned rioting seditionists)

Monday, June 06, 2022

It's D-Day 2022

Time to celebrate D-Day!


"WAS IT OVER WHEN THE GERMANS BOMBED PEARL HARBOR?! HELL NO!"

...

wait, back up a minute...


 

Sunday, June 05, 2022

The Aftermath of trumpian Scandals, Still Acted Out

One of the sadder thoughts I carry with me is how - looking back on it now - I had so much hope that the Mueller Report - into Russia's involvement in the 2016 Elections cycle and their involvement in trump's attacks on the American electoral process - would expose all of trump's sins and hold him accountable.

Alas.

Even with all that Mueller did find regarding the Russian end of the scandal - which produced real results, numerous arrests/plea deals/convictions, and exposed the facts of how foreign influence in our elections is an ongoing problem - the investigation closed - thanks to incoming Attorney General William Barr who rewrote and redacted the final report - before any direct links between trump's 2016 campaign and Russian operatives could be proved. At best, Mueller found evidence that trump obstructed the investigation, but he couldn't pursue an arrest and tried to get Congress to file impeachment (which they failed to do. The Democratic House decided to impeach over trump's misdeeds with Ukrainian military aid). 

That should have been, for better and worse, the end of that.

Except for trump's misbegotten narcissism, which casts himself as both Hero and Victim with every action taken against him.

Just as the Mueller investigation wound down, trump kept pushing the narrative that the FBI shouldn't have been investigating him for his ties to Russia in the first place. he insisted on a conspiracy theory that the "evidence" that started the Mueller probe was tainted: That it came from a hastily written and half-proved Steele Report that was started by Republican operatives trying to stop trump during the 2016 Primaries, instead of the FBI getting bits and pieces from other criminal investigations and clues well before the Steele Report was even started. trump argued, and kept screaming ever after, that he was the victim of an illegal spying campaign by both Obama and then Hillary Clinton using their ties to the FBI to embarrass the "ever-innocent donald trump."

So as Barr entered the scene to shut down Mueller's probe, Barr also fished around for a special prosecutor to follow up trump's claims of victimhood, and found one in US Attorney John Durham in Connecticut to handle that investigation.

Tasked with finding any malfeasance among the FBI investigators, and with any persons in Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaigns that may have done any illegal misdeeds, Durham has spent the last three years following any accusation that trump and his handlers insisted were real.

To summarize what Durham found during his witch hunt investigation into the FBI and Hillary's campaign: Not a lot.

If I can refer to Margaret Carlson at Washington Monthly about the uselessness of Durham's efforts:

Durham’s mission was impossible. Robert Mueller successfully convicted every bad actor he’d charged—more than three dozen—and stopped short of Trump because of a Justice Department memo saying a sitting president couldn’t be indicted. Mueller’s investigation was investigated and found to be predicated on sufficient, credible evidence by Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed. They had to, there’s so much out there...

Barr set the tone for the inquiry by taking Durham on a James Bond–like three-star hotel, four-star eating tour of Rome to interview a peculiar professor we would never hear about again. From there, the probe dragged on. In 2021, Durham eked out a guilty plea from the former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith that he altered an email, with information he believed was true, to quickly fill out a surveillance warrant on Page, who frequented Moscow. Durham wanted Clinesmith, the first in his family to go to college and with a wife expecting their first child, to be incarcerated for six months for behavior that showed “his strong political views and/or personal dislike of [Trump].” Manna to Trump, if he were paying attention. The judge gave Clinesmith one year of probation (Editor's note: not even much of a slap on the wrist)...

If you recall Mueller's work - and several other special counsel probes throughout the decades - one of the key tools is getting lower-rung persons involved in shenanigans to plead out and then flip the higher-ups they can prove were committing other illegal acts. You can see Durham was trying to get several people he caught in relatively minor lies into flipping. And yet, none did.

Because no matter how much trump - and trump's cultists - yell and scream about it, the most likely scenario about how the FBI did its job investigation trump and the Russians is that, well, the FBI did its job. The people in Hillary's and Obama's orbits had no reason to flip for Durham because there was nothing really there in the first place.

Leading up to Durham's biggest failure yet to turn a gaslit lie into fact (back to Carlson):

The question is urgent after a Washington, D.C., jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty in Durham’s biggest case to date, charging the lawyer Michael Sussman with making a false statement. It followed on a meeting Sussman had with the FBI general counsel, James Baker, to inform him about information he had been given about curious activity between the computer servers of Donald Trump’s campaign and the Alfa Bank of Russia. Baker told Durham that Sussman hadn’t revealed his firm’s connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, although he admitted that his memory on the point had evolved. 

That gave Durham a premise for charging Sussman with a false statement by omission. It gives the rest of us a premise for thinking Durham is a Justice Department careerist out of gas. After the (Not Guilty) verdict, the jury foreperson said that the government’s time “could have been spent more wisely” than on a “possible lie to the FBI.”

Whatever Sussman did (which is so meager an omission and so minor an issue), to the jury it didn't rise to the level of guilt that Durham (and trump) needed. The truth about Sussman's warning to Baker didn't even seem to be at issue. Durham just wanted to catch someone close to Hillary in a lie. No one else bought it.

Without that guilty verdict, Durham's next court trial - going after Russian Igor Danchenko, accused of lying to the FBI about the contents of the Steele Dossier - is looking more like a show trial beating a dead trumpian horse.

I'm not the person you need to read on all of the miscues and screwups of Durham's flawed probe. Emptywheel is a far more dedicated and informed resource, and this is just one of many things she found wrong in Durham's work:

This entire three year process was launched with no evidence that a crime was committed, and it seems likely that only the Kevin Clinesmith prosecution, which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz handed Durham months after he was appointed as a fait accompli and which could easily have been prosecuted by the DC US Attorney’s Office, provided an excuse to convene a grand jury to start digging in the coffers of Fusion GPS and Perkins Coie.

There was no crime. Durham was never investigating a suspected crime and then, as statutes of limitation started expiring, he hung a conspiracy theory on a claimed false statement for which he had no solid proof. Eight months into Durham repeating those conspiracy theories at every turn — conspiracy theories that Durham admitted would not amount to a crime in any case! — a jury told Durham he had inadequate proof a crime was committed and that the entire thing had been a waste of time and resources...

Compare that to the Russian investigation, which was started to figure out which Trump associate had advance knowledge of Russia’s criminal hack-and-leak operation and whether they had any criminal exposure in it...

The answer, by the way, was that at least two Trump associates had advance knowledge, George Papadopoulos and Roger Stone, and Stone shared his advance knowledge with Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, among others. By all appearances, DOJ was still investigating whether Stone had criminal exposure tied to his advance knowledge when Barr interfered in that investigation in February 2020, a fact that Barr hid until the day before the 2020 election.

With the Russian investigation, there was a crime: a hack by a hostile nation-state of a Presidential candidate, along with evidence that her opponent at least knew about the related leak campaign in advance. With the Durham investigation, there were only Fox News conspiracy theories and the certainty that Donald Trump shouldn’t be held accountable for encouraging Russia to hack his opponent...

There should be some sense of relief from those of us on the sidelines watching this theater of the absurd play out to a diminished whimper. It would be nice if it did.

But trump will not let go of his fear and his rage and his victimhood. He kept screaming after the decision that the "legal system is CORRUPT" and isn't letting this damage to his ego go away.

For trump, the grievance is the only way he can convince everyone else he wasn't in cahoots with Putin to fuck up our elections. And he wants to clear a path to redo those dirty tricks when 2024 rolls around.

Gods help us. This train wreck isn't over yet.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Tiananmen Anniversary 2022

Another June 4th, another round of China squelching protestors out of fear (via AP News by way of NPR).

Heavy police force patrolled Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Saturday after authorities for a third consecutive year banned public commemoration of the anniversary of the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, with vigils overseas the only place marking the event.

For decades, Hong Kong and nearby Macao were the only places in China allowed to commemorate the violent suppression by army troops of student protesters demanding greater democracy in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed.

The ban is seen as part of a move to snuff out political dissent and a sign that Hong Kong is losing its freedoms as Beijing tightens its grip over the semi-autonomous Chinese city...

And it's not just been the Tiananmen freedom protests that China's government has cracked down on.  Eduardo Baptista at Reuters documented how the quarantine lockdown earlier this year drove up anger and protests across Shanghai and other provinces (paywalled so I can't provide any quotes).

Also a reminder that China is conducting an ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs population (via Zoya Wazir at US News & World Report): 

Multiple reports from human rights and civil society organizations have found that Uyghurs have been detained in prisons and internment camps since at least 2017, with other abuses starting even earlier.

While the Chinese government argues that these re-education camps are meant to provide Uyghurs with vocational training to combat poverty, separatism and Islamic extremism, Jewher Ilham – a Uyghur rights advocate with the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region whose father, prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, has been detained in Chinese prison since 2014 – says that the Chinese government’s definition of extremism is intentionally broad to allow for mass detentions...

Today, 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Muslims are estimated to be in internment camps in Xinjiang, according to the Associated Press.

(Kelley Currie, the former U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and the U.S. representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women) adds that the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs hinges on ethnic discrimination and a discomfort with their assertion of their distinct ethnic identity...

Foreign policy experts keep telling us that China is one step removed from being a true global superpower. They keep forgetting China can't unleash its full might because it's tied down suppressing their own citizenry.

One day, China will be free. Their leadership's own corruption will consume itself sooner rather than later, and all we can hope for is that a lot of innocent people both in China and across the globe won't suffer from that selfl-immolation.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Blood On the Streets of Tulsa (w/ Updates)

(Update: Thanks again to Batocchio for linking me to Crooks&Liars' Mike's Blog Round-Up!)

Because the National Rifle Body Count Association wants its blood money (via Rina Torchinsky with NPR): 

Police in Tulsa, Okla., say the shooter's doctor was among those killed Wednesday during a mass shooting at a medical building. The shooter had complained multiple times about pain following back surgery and sought additional treatment in the days prior to the attack, police said.

The shooting on the campus of Saint Francis Health System left five people dead, including the gunman, according to police. Two doctors, Preston Phillips — who had treated the gunman — and Stephanie Husen, were killed as was Amanda Glenn, an employee, and William Love, a patient, according to The Associated Press...

The gunman apparently felt ongoing back pain that the treatment didn't correct, and became angry at the doctor and the office that treated him. Driven by that anger, the gunman did this:

At 2 p.m. Wednesday — hours before the shooting — the gunman purchased an AR-15-style rifle from a local gun shop, Franklin said. The shooter also purchased a semiautomatic handgun on May 29 from a pawn shop.

Do you understand? As soon as the angry guy got his AR-15 murderstick (it's not so funny how THAT weapon is the preferred assault rifle for these mass shootings), he went on his shooting spree killing "everyone who got in his way" on his path of vengeance. No sign of a background check done, no waiting period, no cool-down, no training period, no mental health check, nothing.

He got his assault rifle and immediately became a murderer. Killing doctors, killing a staffer, killing a patient who had nothing to do with his treatment. And then killing himself knowing he was fucked forever.

One of the frustrating realizations about all of these mass shootings criss-crossing our nation is the repeating patterns to them all. It's like there's a script to this:

Step One: A guy - and it's usually a guy, often White but sometimes Black/Latino/Asian/Arab - gets pissed off about a personal injustice or perceived slight. It may involve his job, it may involve a legal dispute, but nine times out of ten it'll involve women.

Step Two: The guy comes to believe he has no legal recourse to respond to the slight, or else believes the legal system is already conspiring against him. He also refuses to seek mental help support, because he's been raised to think that's for pussies.

Step Three: The guy, getting angrier, buys a gun or twelve. If he's REALLY angry or his anger is focusing on a large group of people, he will buy an ArmaLite Rifle aka the AR-15 (the Murderstick of CHAMPIONS). This is a major problem: Nearly every firearm used in the mass shootings we keep witnessing were purchased legally or acquired legally by an ally/friend/family member, oft-times within days of the shooting events.

Step Four: A moment will trigger the angry guy into picking up his weapons - and all the ammo clips he can carry - and heading out to a place that is either the source of his woes or a place where his preferred target "audience" can be found.

Step Five: Mass shooting gets reported on the major networks. More money for the NRA!

These ongoing acts of gun violence keep involving the same three things: The number of angry guys walking among us; The relative ease to purchase and employ firearms powerful enough to kill tens of people in mere seconds; And our nation's inability to push legal reforms or public aid to solve those first two problems.

If we're going to resolve the ongoing gun violence crisis in the United States, we're going to have to come to terms with this fact: Either we get rid of the Angry Guys threatening acts of violence against us, or we get rid of the Assault Rifles that make it too damned easy for them to kill.

It's honestly impossible to get rid of Angry Guys. That would involve passing laws mandating every hot-tempered person out there check in with a psychologist or health care worker to talk them down from their rage, and that would go against a lot of privacy laws (you'll definitely get a lot of lawsuits from guys angrily disbelieving they have anger issues in the first place).

Also, to you people who would argue "Oh let CHRIST'S LOVE into your hearts" as a cure for Angry Guy Syndrome, that's a load of shit. Half these mass shooters claim to be loving Christians already when they pick up their murder weapons to kill those they deem unworthy of God's grace (just look at the so-called Christians shooting up synagogues and grocery stores). Mandatory Religion is not the solution you want it to be.

And thanks to the Second Amendment and a Supreme Court skewing to an extreme Far Right agenda, it's gotten harder to get rid of the assault weapons. Even though we've had a history of banning the AR-15s and their copycats for ten years rather effectively until 2004.

The United States is a toxic brew of fear, hate, rage, and easy access to military-grade firepower.

The shootings will continue until morale improves, or until there's no one left as target practice for the NRA to profit from.

P.S. As I type this, there's reports of a mass shooting in Racine, Wisconsin. It's at a funeral service for a Black man who was shot and killed by cops. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.

P.S.S. Following the Racine shooting, there was a shooting at a church in Ames, IA. The killer turned out to be an Angry Guy ex-boyfriend of one of the two killed college women. For the LOVE OF ACTUAL GOD, PEOPLE...

Monday, May 30, 2022

On Memorial Day, A Cinematic Reminder That Civilians Die and Survive In Wartime

It's the last Monday of May, the day where we think back to the soldiers who died and survived the various wars we've sent them to fight.

It's a time to visit the cemeteries, plant flags at the statues and plaques honoring the fallen, and break out the binge watching of Band of Brothers and any World War II movies we got for check out from the library shelves (or in these modern days, streaming off a service). 

But as a real war rages on in Ukraine - and as a decades-long war in Syria continues its bloody stalemate - we need to remember that it's not just soldiers who are caught on the battlefields.

Far too many wars over the centuries were fought near cities, towns, settlements, places where the common folk were struggling to survive on their own without raiding parties or sieges laying waste to their communities. As the wars grew bigger, as the mechanized armor developed and grew, as the air became a war zone all its own bringing bombs dropped from above, the range of destruction by war spread. By the first World War, entire nations could get enveloped, occupied, devastated, flattened into poppy fields. By the second, the entire continent of Europe was on fire, with few safe havens to flee.

Every place - from the Home Front of London, to the occupied streets of Paris, to the bombed-out neighborhoods of Warsaw, Stalingrad, Leningrad, so many other cities - knew the horror of war.

This fact got my notice a few years ago when - during a channel surf looking for something to watch during summer break - I came across a little-heralded Italian movie titled The Four Days of Naples. As a history buff - especially for WWII - I kept watching it, as I had started up at the moment when the story really kicked off.

For those who don't remember what happened to Italy in the Second World War, the nation had fallen to Fascist control - the originator, in fact - by the mid-1920s in response to their failings in the previous war, and their leader Mussolini had attempted to forge the nation into a military regime. Thing was, they weren't the Romans of old, and most of their military plans - conquering much of the Mediterranean from Greece to Africa - were flawed and wasteful. When Nazi Germany came along as a military ally, Italy signed up to form an Axis Powers with them... and quickly turned into the junior partners as the Nazis were more thorough - and nasty - when it came to war.

By the time Mussolini and his generals flubbed their 1940 invasion of Greece - which forced the Germans to finish the job for them, and affected their ability to invade Soviet Russia - the Italian population were pretty much done with the Fascists leading them.  By 1943, with the Allied forces of Free France, Great Britain, and America knocking at the door from Sicily, the Italians were ready to surrender and be done with all the scarcity, starvation, disease, and the bombing raids decimating their cities.

This is where Four Days of Naples opens, early September 1943, with the citizenry hearing word that the Fascist government had collapsed. With that, the streets erupt with Neapolitans - the term for "Citizen of Naples", no not the ice cream that's NEOpolitan - celebrating, thinking that for them the war is over.

Unfortunately, their city and indeed much of Italy itself has a lot of German troops based there... and the Germans were not about to surrender to the Allies. Nor were they going to give up such prime real estate like the rough Italian terrain...

(The YouTube link below is to the entire movie, it may have fallen into public domain but please respect any copyright laws if needed)

The film is based on the real-life events of that September 1943, focusing heavily on four days - September 27 through September 30 (with October 1st being the day the Allies arrived). The director Nanni Loy employed what's known as the Italian Neorealist style: Where the storytelling focuses on the poor or working classes, intermingling various story threads for each characters weaving a larger story towards the conclusion. It also relies on filming in location (no sets or stages), and working with non-professional actors (although one or two actors would play some of the more emotionally demanding roles).

What you get is a kind of semi-documentary feel to the film, especially with Four Days where the incidents unfold spontaneous in the way the real-life events did. And the events we're watching were astounding.

What the Germans did to Naples after the Italian Fascists fell was to turn it into occupied territory, ending whatever hopes the locals had that their war was over. The army began taking civilians hostage in order to force the rest to comply to their orders. The Germans also began conscripting the men to serve either as forced labor at their "work camps," or turn them into front-line cannon fodder for their planned defensive effort to keep the Allies from reaching Central Europe through the south.

The brutality of the German round-ups became too much for Neapolitans, and by September 27 the Germans were accosted by civilians, mostly women who braved the machine guns to rescue their husbands and sons. With that, the city was in open revolt.

In Loy's film, the chaos of the moment carries every scene forward, from the brutality of the Nazis towards the defiance of the Italians. Entire scenes are breathtaking as we witness them: The most brilliant sequence when an entire neighborhood overlooking an alleyway full of Germans erupts into a rainfall of every possible piece of furniture that could get thrown from the windows.

We're carried along by the drama of the characters themselves. We're introduced to a Hollywood-handsome Italian sailor, with the early scenes - flirting with a melancholic young prostitute, riding a bike through the city as celebrations begin in earnest - hinting he would be the main POV character of the entire movie. (Spoilers: He's the unnamed sailor executed by the Germans at the beginning of the occupation to send the people of Naples a warning) We come across mothers greeting their sons who had gone into hiding to avoid army conscription, only to see those young men seized by Germans, driving those mothers to rebel. There's a couple - the man loves the woman, but she married a wealthier man long before - playing out a melodrama that happened a lot apparently during the Big War. There's a school of orphans, led by a teenage resister who rebukes their schoolmaster when the city rises up against the occupiers. There's a little boy lost in the chaos of the uprising, eagerly chasing from one fight to the next to watch the battles, innocently unaware of the dangers of war...

When the movie came out in 1962, the Second World War was still fresh in the memory for those who lived it (the film itself relies on the damaged buildings that had remained standing for almost 20 years as background). Four Days was a moderate success, and had even been nominated for several awards (for Best Foreign Film and for a Best Screenplay award with the Oscars). And then, well, it's almost hard to find. There doesn't seem to have ever been a DVD release honoring it. I'd rarely seen it on the cable networks ever since I saw it years ago. Someone on Twitter thankfully pointed out the YouTube link to me.

It's an important film. Unlike most war movies that focus on the battles, or the generals, or the soldiers, this was a film that focuses on the civilians who get caught in the crossfire, and the many moral - sometimes noble - decisions they have to make to survive.

I hope you all watch this. It's a breathtaking perspective of what war is for those who don't want to fight in one. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Where We Stand, Where We Fall

You can stand where I stand, but you will not see what I see.


You would think, year after year of constant mass shootings numbing the national psyche, that Americans would cheer on the simplest solution towards ending gun violence: By getting rid of the goddamned guns.

After all, every other nation struck by a mass shooting tragedy went on to pass harsh laws restricting ownership, banning certain types of firearms, and limiting the lethality of both gun and bullet.

Mass shooting at Ecole Polytechnique in Canada back in 1989?  Canada required gun safety classes, 28-day waiting periods, universal gun registration, and magazine clip capacity limits. After a mass shooting in Nova Scotia in 2020, they're trying to ban 1,500 (!) models of military-style assault rifles as well.

Mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania back in 1996? Australia banned all semi-auto rifles and pump-action shotguns, and pulled off a gun amnesty and buyback program that took 250,000 guns off their streets.

Mass shooting at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland back in 1996 with semi-auto handguns using high-capacity cartridges? British Parliament passed legislation banning those types of handguns, and they maintain strict laws about the types of assault rifles allowed along with registration and certification for gun owners.  

Mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019? New Zealand banned semi-auto rifles, limited magazine clip sizes, and made modifications illegal. Like Australia, they hosted a buyback program to get as many of those guns off their streets.

Mass shooting in Ohio, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and any other Red State (or states compromised by Far Right / NRA lobbyist control) across the United States? Watch the Republicans in power pass new laws making it easier to get assault rifles and even worse avoid any certification or license.

What's maddening is how the Far Right, pro-gun politicians and pundits all proclaim how "if we ban guns, all it will do is make it so only criminals have guns." With the implication that we would see an increase of crime and gun violence because of it. However here in the United States, we get the inverse: Making it easier to get guns makes it easier for the angry guys who conform to the mass shooter profile means we still get the high body counts.

Note this: Nearly every mass shooting in the United States has been from someone who made legal purchases (or got the guns from someone who did) of those firearms. It's the legality of the process that horrifies along with the death of so many innocent lives.

Note this: We had an assault rifle ban in the United States for ten years - 1994 to 2004 - which wasn't renewed under Republican George W. Bush's administration (and maddeningly enough we never got it reinstated under Obama when we had a chance between 2009-10). It shouldn't surprise anyone that once the ban lifted, assault rifle sales went up and so did the body count (chart via Financial Times article by Justin Jacobs):

Everything from 2005 rightward to 2022. Those dots
multiply... and get bigger...

This shouldn't surprise us due to one thing: Most other nations do not have a Constitutional Amendment codifying the existence of firearms and what restrictions the states (and Congress) could impose on them. The Second Amendment is a very big reason why the U.S. can't just ban every firearm, as the Supreme Court spelled out with their Heller ruling back in 2008.

But that Second Amendment is a bit of a problem. When you read it - A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed - you'll notice the first half of the deal involves the regulation of state militias. The pro-gun forces tend to ignore that half, obsessing over the second half saying the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

They treat that "right" as an absolute, avoiding the whole part of "well-regulated" that could be used by Congress and our states into passing firearm regulations. You'll see them on social media insisting on SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED - all caps, for emphasis - as though it's a mantra, no worse dogma.

Because that dogma creates the very huge problem we have now in the United States: We have a very dedicated, very insistent, and potentially very violent minority of Americans - not even every gun owner is this paranoid and devout about the SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED dogma - who believe so much in their absolute right to own firearms that they will NEVER give them up or even allow any restriction on gun purchases to hinder their quest to buy even more weapons to an arsenal already filling up their gun sheds.

Search social media for families happily posing in their houses, driveways, back porches with every rifle and handgun they own. You will see them with hundreds of firearms they cannot possibly need. It's like an addiction, a craving to buy more weapons as though they'll be going out of fashion next week.

They buy that many because a lot of them do fear that sooner or later the federal government is going to get frustrated by all the mass shootings, and that a permanent assault rifle ban will finally get passed (and even a conservative Far Right SCOTUS would have to uphold).

And a good number of these gun worshippers buy up all these guns because they genuinely believe they will be in a shooting war - if they're not already - to overthrow what they view is a corrupt, demonic federal government.

Look at every "Come and take them," "Pry them from my cold dead hands," "Second Amendment solution" threat the gun nuts toss out there on social media. They genuinely believe they can take on a massive federal government - not just the agencies like the FBI or DEA or ATF, but the U.S. military both National Guard and standing armies if called upon to fight an insurrection - and win a "new revolution" for a truer, purer (Whiter) US of A.

These gun-worshipping acolytes can't stop because they dare not. And they're convinced a majority of "True" Americans - not the 65 percent who want a ban on all assault rifles, not the 80 percent who want universal background checks - will fight with them.

The gun nuts of America are convinced they are standing for their grand, godly cause of murdering everyone they view as a threat.

The rest of us are going to fall to their guns because of that.

This was never going to end well.

And the trigger moment - when we're no longer on the knife's edge of the Far Right's Culture War, falling into the blood-pits of insurrection and chaos - is closing in.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Blood on the Streets of Uvalde

No other country outside of an actual goddamned war zone has to go through this shit.

YET ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING.

This time in Uvalde, Texas. This time with 19 elementary schoolkids and 2 adults shot to death by another angry guy with fucking guns (via Vanessa Romo at NPR): 

The number of people confirmed killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has risen to 20, according to Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Estrada told CNN that 18 children and two adults are among the dead... (Note: death toll updated to 19 children by 10:47 PM)

The suspect allegedly shot his grandmother before he entered the school. Thursday was meant to be the last day of the school year, according to the school's website.

In a brief news conference hours after the shooting, Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo confirmed some of the details offered by Abbott. Arredondo called the bloodshed a "mass casualty incident" but did not specify the number of dead. The chief also told reporters that the gunman acted alone and is deceased...

The school year for those kids was going to end this Thursday. Now for 18 families those kids will never come home. All because of an angry guy who, when he recently turned 18, went and bought military-grade firearms and decided to use them on children.

ON CHILDREN. 

WHO NEVER HARMED ANOTHER SOUL. WHO NEVER GOT THE CHANCE TO LIVE, TO BREATHE, TO GROW UP AND GROW OLD.

GODDAMN THE SHOOTER WHO KILLED THEM.

AND GODDAMN THE SONS-OF-BITCHES WHO MANUFACTURED THE WEAPONS, AND SOLD THEM TO HIM AND HUNDREDS OF OTHER ANGRY GUYS WHO GO ON SHOOTING SPREES.

You know something? This is a goddamned rigged game. This is a goddamned setup. The National Rifle Body Count Association has its hands all over the gun-making industry, and so they make money off of every gun sale, and every mass shooting is like an advertisement to the gun nuts to go and buy more guns which is more money to the NRA National Body Count Association.

It's a hell of a racket. Even organized crime mobs aren't this evil. At least the Gambinos and the other Families don't make money off of school massacres.

I swear, we need to go after the NRA National Body Count Association for Racketeering, for criminal conspiracy to commit murder, because these motherfuckers KNOW that every gun - especially the assault rifles - they're selling there's a decent chance it'll get used in a mass shooting.

THEY ARE MAKING MONEY OFF OF MURDER, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

THIS WILL NOT STOP UNTIL THE GUNMAKERS CAN'T MAKE MONEY OFF OF OUR DEATHS ANYMORE.

Voting out the pro-gun politicians won't be enough (although that needs to happen too). These sons-of-bitches need to pay for all the blood spilt in the glory of their rich lives while they mock our existence.

Goddamn them. Every dead child not just in Uvalde but all across America, all across the last 30 years of their fanatical worship of their God of Death, is on them.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

I Survived Orlando MegaCon 2022, I Hope

It's been awhile since I've done one of these blog reports from the cosplay front lines, hasn't it?

A major reason has been, well, from 2020 until now it's been insanely unsafe to host a massive crowded shindig due to this little thing called the COVID-19 GLOBAL PANDEMIC. Skipping 2019 may have been by choice - I recall that year there were no major celebrities that interested me to attend - but 2020 and 2021 were not.

Even going to THIS year's MegaCon ran the risks because 1) Not everyone is yet vaccinated, especially in Florida and 2) There is yet another uptick in COVID cases due to a new variant spawning again.

And yet, even with the vax and the boosts, even with some assurance that if I do catch COVID it - knock on wood - won't be dangerous to me (I have several health risks, I decided this year to go.

So hold onto yer steampunk hats, kiddos, there's a ton of photos and videos to document the atrocities!

Just because 90 percent of the attendees weren't masked,
didn't mean I had go unmasked. I'm still trying to observe
the niceties, thank you.

 This year's MegaCon was not at the West Concourse but the North/South building. It made for an odd alignment of space - the middle area for the vendors and artists/celebrities, the North Concourse for certain events and promotions, and the South Concourse for cosplaying and other events - meant you had to run back and forth if you wanted to partake of one event and then another.


The line to get in, after the outdoor line to get tickets, which
this year involved getting a sensor badge for some reason, and involved
jumping through 5-8 more hoops than usual to get things verified.

Always taking pictures of the escalator lines to show the variety
of cosplay at work. Saturdays are the big costume contest days,
so LOTS of cosplay...


It's R2-D2!
Always rolling the comic con like a pimp.

The local Lego fan club setup with their models and
cityscapes, complete with working trains!

The cosplay area on the Third Floor of the South Concourse.
One of the hardest parts of the con to reach, and difficult
to walk through once it got packed with cosplayers.

One of the many cosplay groups - this one the DC villains
(with maybe Beast Boy?).

The Lego room got busier as the day progressed.

One of the big draws of any Con: The celebrity autographs
and photo lines. It's difficult to even get close enough in these lines
to see who the celebrity is, for this line it's Dante Brasco!
(pause) Zuko. (pause) You never watched Avatar? NO, NOT 
THE ONE WITH THE GIANT CAT SMURF ALIENS.
(sigh) Rufio from that Robin Williams
Hook movie, okay?

 This was around 12:00 PM. Saturdays are usually the busiest of any weekend Comic Con.

In a nice personal surprise, I had found out my nephews
Tommy (right) and Drew (middle) had gotten their own tickets to attend MegaCon
on their own (they are now in college!!!) (Guy on the left is Drew's friend Garrett).
I had worried that I had dragged them to the Tampa Bay Con years ago,
but it turns out they liked the experience and wanted to visit the Orlando
one. Nephew Drew (middle) is even in cosplay this time, can you guess
which character/movie he's cosplaying?


Back up at the Third Floor Cosplay Zone,
this time all the Scarlet Witches are gathered
to promote THE MULTIVERSE!!!


You don't see that many winged cosplay, so when I saw that
redbird outfit I rushed to get a picture from the escalator.
I should have gone back around to get a closer pic.

All that walking since 8:30AM and by 2:30PM I was a mess.
Dammit, MegaCon, where are the benches
to help a tired old fart rest???

There weren't that many Q+A sessions this year, so this one by
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti was a treat!

Taken by 6:30PM, as I was waiting for the
Jay and Silent Bob show at 7:30PM.
This is where most of the Con begins to shut down
for the day... and half of everybody was
heading out before the thunderstorms rolled in!

One of the draws this year was an evening performance by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, better known as Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). It's something my brother Phil enjoys, so I offered to buy him a ticket for the evening event. There were headaches involving the reality the special event was separate from the comic con, but I got them straightened out by the time Phil showed up at the door. Still this was more complicated than it needed to be, con organizers... 

Brother Phil, proof of life that he was here for
the chronicles of Bluntman and Chronic!

One of the pains of any comic con: The waiting is the hardest part. Coordinating scheduled events to cope with any emergencies - or the overwhelming size of crowds that packed MegaCon as a return to post-pandemic normalcy - meant the scheduled start of the show (7:30PM) didn't happen. The autograph lines for the View Askew 'Verse cast - especially for Smith and Mewes - were longer than expected, so they were caught wrapping that up so as not to offend those fans. But that meant the fans at the show were stuck.


This was actually the cleanest the restless crowd had gotten during
the hour-long wait. When you got a crowd that grew up on 30 years
of dick and pot jokes, some of the antics could get pretty risque.

The MegaCon organizers did what they could to appease the masses, with a couple of giveaway contests and a brief trivia quiz that surprisingly stumped a lot of people. But finally, after the autographs were done... Jason had to go pee and Kevin had to go unwind (let's just say it was a herbal relaxant and keep it at that, trust me it was for medicinal purposes!). THEN, we finally got the show we waited for.

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith!
(pause) OH CMON YOU HAD TO HAVE SEEN
MALLRATS BY NOW!!!

As always, it was Kevin spending half the night extolling his fellow Hollywood celebs and being a genius storyteller (some people have a fcking knack for it), with the second half of the show turned into a Jay and Silent Bob script read for a comic short story, where they brought up volunteers to use weird-ass voice impressions. All I can tell about that is one guy voiced his character like Forrest Gump to huge laughs, the woman voice did a decent Southern drawl, a second guy did a brilliant Scottish brogue, and then they called up a third guy who, Gods help us, nailed a Walken impression for the ages. IT BETTER BE ON THE DAMN PODCAST, KEVIN.

By then, it was 10:30PM, long fcking day, I dropped Brother Phil off at the hotel - he was sticking around for a Sunday breakfast with the nephews - and I braved the I-4 traffic to make it home and feed the kittehs.

Actually surviving the whole day, getting home by 12:05AM
just so Mal could hit me in the face with his tail.

There ye have it, fair mortals. What do ye think?

Should I brave the Tampa Bay Comic Con later this August (That is, if I haven't caught COVID at this one? We'll see in 5-12 days...)?