My President held a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, and, wouldn’t you know, news was made. Here is what folks remember, what they are talking about:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say:
“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now! Out! He’s fired. He’s FIRED!”
Of course we talk about that. Disrespecting the symbol of our country is powerful stuff, and likely will get a reaction. Genuflecting does not strike me as especially disrespectful, but that’s me. Your mileage may vary.
Public officials don’t usually try to get private citizens fired for their opinions. It’s supposed to work the other way around.
So President Trump made folks a little protective of their right to protest.
What I find of interest is a fascinating story that seems to fascinate nobody except me. That same Presidential speech did a more than rattle the cages of free speech advocates. It also went into a tale of human-cartoon-hybrid fantasy, a Who Framed Roger Rabbit scene without Jessica Rabbit.
At about the 34th minute in the rally, we were introduced into an entirely new realm of fairyland magic.
It seems we need more protection from Mexico than anyone dreamed. The great wall planned by my President now needs to be invisible. That is because the technology of ancient times has been creatively reintroduced in a surprising way.
The enemy is using catapults to send hundred pound sacks of drugs over the Great Wall. Unsuspecting Americans, milling about as they will on the US side of the border, are being clobbered by these huge, flying objects.
Those hundred pound bags.
Those hundred pound bags of illegal drugs.
That’s the problem with a mere concrete wall. You cannot see through it.
But you can’t see anything, right? So now, they take drugs, literally, and they throw it. A hundred pounds of drugs, they throw it over the wall. They have catapults. But they throw it over the wall, and it lands and it hits somebody on the head. You don’t even know they’re there. Believe it or not, this is the kind of stuff that happens.
So you need to have a great wall but it has to be, uh, has to be see-through.
Trump supporters seem to have an endless tolerance for this sort of thing, this Lewis Carroll reasoning. The Queen speaks to Alice:
I believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
I sometimes wonder if my President is actually not the madcap personality he seems. Does he instead wake up in the night wondering what new absurdity he can get his crazed followers to believe? How far can I get them to go today?
His loyalists do manage to absorb each new alternate fact with remarkable ease.
Sadly, some fantasies have the capacity to leave scars. Immigration delusions are backed by calculated Trump-ordered government programs of alternative facts.
An imagined tsunami of illegal immigrants, heavily suffused with rapists and murderers are flooding in from Mexico.
Law enforcement resources were redirected by the Obama administration, to great effect. Illegal immigration was reversed at our southern border during the Obama years. As Mr. Trump became President Trump, more undocumented immigrants were headed back toward Mexico than were trying to come in.
The crime rate among immigrants is low. The crime rate among illegal immigrants is lower.
Makes intuitive sense. Why would we expect someone trying to avoid authorities to turn around and attract attention?
Immigration rhetoric is not the only attack on reality.
Some fantasies are designed to damage democracy itself. The myth of rampant in-person voter fraud has become a near theology.
Which brings us to a favorite bête noire, one of many in this strange administration.
The Trump administration recently enrolled discredited voter suppression activist Hans von Spakovsky to document the case. von Spakovsky has devoted himself to justifying ways to make voting harder, especially in minority communities.
In 2002, the Bush administration had become fully engaged in justifying efforts to limit voting. They launched a five year study, examining voter roles from virtually every election in the nation over a five year period. Out of hundreds of millions of votes cast, they were able to find only 120 cases of voter fraud. They had unintentionally proven the opposite of what they had intended.
What is not as well known is that Hans von Spakovsky, then a member of the Justice Department, tried to interfere with the study. The number of memos and calls to the Republican chairman in charge of finding cases of fraud became so numerous, the Republican chairman called him on it. A quiet investigation, focused on von Spakovsky and others, held that the final report was accurate, but was inconclusive about the impact of von Spakovsky’s attempts to influence it. von Spakovsky incorrectly claimed vindication.
The logic exhibited by von Spakovsky often provides an interesting study in statistical manipulation and empirical distortion.
For example, he recently cited a Pew Study urging election reform. He claimed it proved his case. So I read the study.
I found one set of statistics especially telling.
I moved from New York State more than 40 years ago to Missouri, then to Maryland, then back to Missouri. I do not recall it ever occurring to me to search the labyrinth of laws to see if there was some way to rescind earlier registrations. My parents died nearly a quarter century ago, yet reminders to my mother are still delivered here from the Missouri election people.
von Spakovsky maintains that the number of duplicate voter registrations is a strong indication that voter fraud is occurring. It proves no such thing.
The Pew study found my experience unexceptional. In some states, there are more registrations than there are eligible voters. That is because voters move between states more often than ever before. And voters are as mortal as non-voters.
The Pew study summary pointed to the greatest threat to democracy. It is a reduction in voting participation, largely because registration is so restrictive. Here is what the study actually said:
Meanwhile, researchers estimate at least 51 million eligible U.S. citizens are unregistered, or more than 24 percent of the eligible population.
von Spakovsky, and those who quote him, often cite the study. They insist it concludes that we need to make voting harder with more stringent requirements to prove eligibility. In fact, the study pointed out ways to make registration easier for voters, less expensive for state and local government, and more accurate for democracy.
It concluded pretty much the opposite of what von Spakovsky said it did. I hate to be harsh, but it is difficult to read that report without concluding that Mr. von Spakovsky is not an honest man.
He recently testified before Congress, dismissing concerns about voter suppression. One example: stricter identification requirements in Georgia resulted in an increase in minority voting. It was a greater increase in minority participation than in nearby Mississippi, which has looser restrictions. Which proves harsh requirements do not inhibit voting.
This is how that went:
The turnout in Georgia went up in comparison to other states that also went up. I mean, for example, Mississippi: Neighboring state, large African-American population, just like Georgia. The increase in turnout there was only about a third what it was in Georgia.
Can I ask you something? Do you know how much Mississippi grew in terms of black population during those years versus Georgia?
I don’t but I do know in that…
Wouldn’t that have to factor in, then, to the significance of that?
It turns out that the growth of the African-American population in Georgia was more than 3 times that of Mississippi. That was the reason minority participation increased.
von Spakovsky knew that. He was using statistics to lie.
Across much of the south, voter ID requirements have grown so harsh that a few celebrated cases have eventually hit the news. In Tennessee, one elderly woman, with the help of a volunteer, went back multiple times for minor “violations.” She did not drive, but eventually got substitute identification.
The elderly woman had been voting since before the Jim Crow era and was more determined than most of us might have been.
A state worker was later asked why she had laughed at one re-appearance. The worker could not fathom anyone going through that much trouble just to vote. She said it had never happened before in her experience.
That sad experience has been repeated beyond the old confederacy. Substitute IDs have been hard to get, and information on where and how to get them has often not been forthcoming. In some states, residents are told that if they attempt to register with legitimate ID, but the ID turns out not to be approved for voting, they will go to jail.
Better be careful. Better be flat dead certain.
Here is how von Spakovsky proves that voter suppression does not happen:
In Georgia for example, the photo ID law has been in place for six years. They provide a free photo ID to anybody doesn’t have one. They keep statistics on it.
And the statistics show that, with six million registered voters in the state, the number of people who have applied for a free photo ID because they don’t already have one has averaged less than 5/100s of one percent per year. I mean it’s a tiny, tiny percentage.
So getting the very few people who don’t have an ID an ID is very easy.
Get that? The number of people who find the right office, get the right papers, and manage the process, is very small. Which proves that the process is easy.
I do not say that every word uttered by von Spakovsky is untrue. He does manage an occasional “the” or “but”. Nor am I saying that anyone who cites him is deliberately lying.
I just suggest that anything he says, anything said by those who quote him as an authority, should be viewed with great and powerful skepticism. If he points out that the sun has risen, put on those eclipse glasses and look to the heavens.
von Spakovsky is emblematic but he is a small part of a similar expansive whole.
The number of impossible things today’s new breed of Trump conservative is required to believe, believe in every corner of heart and mind and soul, increases each day.
Immigrants are a threat.
The threat is increasing.
They are evil people who take more than they give.
Voter fraud is rampant.
Undesirable people who shouldn’t vote are not barred because they will vote the wrong way.
They are barred because they are illegal.
And now, we must all be afraid, very afraid.
Hundred pound bags of drugs will soon fall upon our heads, thrown into our midst by evil Mexicans wheeling catapults to the Rio Grande.
Only Donald Trump’s Great Wall can save us now.
And even then, only if it is invisible.
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