Experts Lose Their Rigging

Oh man, how I hate experts. At least I hate experts who get swallowed by their own expertise.

They know things the rest of us just guess at. They perform important studies. They increase the sum of human knowledge. They could be useful advocates for Truth – with a capital T – Justice and everything that’s right.

But so many simply do not know how to talk understandably.

I get especially irritated by experts who are on my side.

Four years ago, I got to an unusual meeting.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was just being organized to keep the little folks from being ripped off by the big folks.

Pretty much everyone had been nickeled or dimed or dollared out of some amount by some obscure sub-clause that nobody but lawyers knew about.

Anyone who has ever seen the insurance ad about turning to page five and finding that it says blah blah blah blah knows that we live in an asymmetrical world of legal language brokering.

Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was about to become one of the big folks that would be on the side of the little folks that most of us are.

Well it was about time.

Someone at the new agency decided to get democratic – with a small ‘d’. So they held informational hearings around the country. That was so they could tell ordinary everyday people, the little folks they wanted to protect, about the new agency. And they wanted to hear from folks around the country.

At the St. Louis meeting, the nice folks from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began by carefully explaining to us that REO considerations in lending had to be taken into account. Uh huh. REO.

As the evening wore on, they got to interest differentials. One of the more conservative experts used big words to get around the actual low down.

What the conservative was trying hard not to say was that if life was more fair, then people couldn’t be cheated, then return would go down, then corporate risk would increase, then rates would go up, then life would be unfair.

You see, we have to be cautious about unanticipated consequence. More fair leads to unfair. So maybe we should just leave ill enough alone. Cheating ordinary people means more profits which will lead to lower rates.

Got all that? Such was his interest differential concern.

Most of those on the panel who disagreed were just as obscure.

A lot of verbiage had to get to the cutting room floor before their arguments got through the film. And only one of the experts seemed capable of pushing back in clear, standard, non-jargonized English.

Earning an honest buck was a better way to increase profits than squeezing consumers by cheating them. And, by God, the new agency would draw blood from large corporations if they tried to make unsuspecting consumers bleed.

I’ve been thinking of those blah blah blah experts as I listened to a television discussion of election rigging.

Donald Trump, and the more delusional of his supporters, believe that elections are stolen by a combination of illegal immigrants who sneak into the United States to steal jobs, and come out of hiding to vote illegally, and legal voters who sneak around voting multiple times.

Republicans have been making that argument since the dawn of the new century. They have used it as a reason to make voting harder for those who don’t drive cars: low wage workers who ride the bus to their jobs, retirees who don’t drive anymore, students who walk to class. Eligible voters who do not drive tend to vote more for Democrats. So there you have it.

So… voter suppression gets kind of easy. Demand photo IDs, make it as inconvenient as possible to get a non-driving photo ID, then, in case some folks get photo IDs anyway, make voting places in some areas very hard to get to by bus.

You can justify voter suppression by telling folks that we need to prevent voting fraud.

There are two short answers to the voter fraud argument.

  1. It doesn’t happen. Elections do not get stolen that way.
  2. It can’t happen. Elections can’t get stolen that way.

How do we know it doesn’t happen? Well, people have looked.

A major 5 year study by the George W. Bush administration was intended to document voter fraud. In every election in every local, state, and federal jurisdiction, they found just a few cases of in-person fraud. And, in those very few cases, it was always for some other reason than to steal an election. A candidate wanted to establish a residency requirement in order to run, a battered wife on the run wanted to keep her identity from any public record. That sort of thing.

That result was recently replicated by an intense study by Loyola College. Out of more than a billion votes – that’s billon with a ‘B’ – in years of elections around the country, there were only 31 cases of anyone voting when it was not legal. 31 out of a B-b-b-billion.

That’s how we know it doesn’t happen.

How do we know it can’t happen? By reading the law.

Stealing an election through in-person fraud involves a massive conspiracy with lots and lots of participants. Penalties are very high. Long prison terms along with very high fines. It will only take one person to crack under that sort of pressure and expose the entire foolish operation.

So elections are stolen through ballot stuffing, jiggling the totals. You know: backroom manipulation. Nothing that a voter ID will affect. Nothing that Donald Trump is interested in.

Nothing that can be accomplished to steal much of anything nationwide.

So, CNN brought in a couple of experts. Two experts who read their words from page six. Blah blah blah blah.

Julian Zelizer takes a swing at why we’re safe from the voter fraud that Donald Trump tells us should terrify us deep into our timid souls.

There’s been controversies when elections were contested and decided in Congress, which was in 1824. But it’s virtually impossible in 2016 to rig an entire election. It’s decentralized. It’s fragmented. And there’s very little evidence that this could happen.

Well isn’t that convincing!

Decentralized. Fragmented.
What the hell does that mean?

Very little evidence.
So what? Do we wait for it to happen?

So Douglas Brinkley takes a shot.

Well, you know, calling a whole election rigged is very extreme. That’s saying democracy utterly doesn’t work.

Convinced yet? If you didn’t already think rigging an election is extreme, and if it hadn’t occurred to you that rigged elections pretty much would make democracy not work, utterly not work, you really shouldn’t be voting, or driving, or feeding yourself without a bib.

Poor Julian bravely digs downward. He goes to 1960, where Democrats in Illinois were accused of stealing the election for John F. Kennedy. What does he say about that?

In 1960 in Illinois, there’s a lot of evidence that Republicans stole tickets — stole votes downstate, so in some ways it would balance out.

So everybody in Illinois was voting lots of times? And both sides did it? And that’s supposed to convince us that voter fraud doesn’t happen? It’s enough to make baby Jesus cry.

Listen up. Nobody accused anyone in 1960 of voting twice. Folks in Illinois and Texas were accused of behind the scenes changing of totals. No voters were involved. And investigations in 1960 didn’t find enough of that to make a difference.

Trump and company aren’t accusing election officials of changing totals.

Today, even those behind the scenes changing of totals are almost impossible. Those opportunities don’t exist anymore. The first vote counts are by purely non-human means. We have electronic checking and cross checking, later verified by human ballot counting. That last human part is done by bi-partisan teams. All sides are in on the watching, and the tabulating, and the totaling, and the verifying.

  • Decentralized – Fragmented
  • Calling a whole election rigged is very extreme
  • Very little evidence
  • That’s saying democracy utterly doesn’t work
  • Republicans stole votes … it would balance out
  • Oh for the love of our Living God.

Why can’t they talk Americanized English? It isn’t that hard.

Listen up:

  1. Stealing elections through voter fraud doesn’t happen.
  2. Stealing elections through voter fraud can’t happen.

Can we please, please, be clear on that?

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Sum of Fears, Money as Speech,
Donald as Kim, Black Like Trump

  • Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives argues against Hillary Clinton’s startling Pledge to Overturn the First Amendment. Makes me feel old, not noticing such an amazingly newsworthy pledge. Turns out she was talking about limits on undeclared and unlimited amounts of money in political ads. So I didn’t need to drop my teeth on the table after all. Mr. LaFerrara’s argument rests partly on the old assertion that money is free speech and partly on a new distinction – wealthy business interests are not buying influence at all. Only access. You know: friendly chats about policy.
  • driftglass patiently points out that, no, Donald Trump is not the moral equivalent of North Korea’s weird hair dictator Kim Jong-un. He goes on to explain that Donald’s claims of a new, unprecedented movement are false. Said movement is very old, with clear precedents.
  • At The Intersection of Madness and Reality Rippa reports as Van Jones speculates on what the reaction would have been if Donald Trump was black.
  • At Crooks and Liars, Francis Langum (Blue Gal) points out the obvious – the efforts by CNN to maintain news balance by hiring Trump surrogates as journalists has backfired spectacularly.
  • At The Moderate Voice David Robertson suggests that Donald Trump supporters have embraced political atheism.
  • My friend T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, takes a break from ugly political life and explores the actual beauty of nature. Seems a shame, dragging him back to his criticism of President Obama for working so hard to preserve some of that nature by affecting human generated climate change (“He was going to unite us all and even make the rising sea levels recede, if you will recall”).
  • Vincent at A wayfarer’s Notes answers his alma’s questionaire on how his formal education enhanced aspects of his life, then appends a scathing review of the assumptions behind the questions. Two people you never want to tick off: Michelle Obama and Vincent.
  • Glenn Geist takes the stage at Mad Mike’s America and compares what we fear with what actually threatens our lives and well being.
  • James Wigderson explains that his column of 10 years has been dropped by the local paper. An instance of opinion suppression, perhaps? James is an honest man. He points out that the move was simply part of staff cutting motivated by nothing more than budget cuts. With any luck, we can hope his blogging will continue.

Donald and the Snake

Patchogue was like many small communities dotting the farm country of Suffolk County, New York.

The minority part of the community was small but growing. Immigrants were a special target and had good reason to stay in their own area. They had learned from bitter experience not to report incidents of harassment to local police.

Those in uniform often reacted with hostility against immigrants. Immigrants were outsiders, enemies of the community they were sworn to protect. Even acts of anti-immigrant violence were best kept from authorities.

Police hostility was representative of the white community at large. Politicians were elected on anti-immigrant platforms.

At age 17, Jeffrey Conroy had not been known as an anti-immigrant kid. His sister from his father’s previous marriage was half Puerto Rican. But he fell in with a group that took community attitudes to a higher level. He hung out with anti-immigrant buddies. He had a swastika tattooed on his thigh.

He and his friends had a hobby. They called it “beaner hopping.” They went on late night hunts for immigrants who had not obeyed the unofficial rule to detour around the community. When they found and chased down a victim, the fun would begin: a beating was in order.

On the night before election day 2008, as America prepared to put into office its first black President, Marcelo Lucero finished a hard day working in a dry cleaning store and walked toward home with a friend. Jeffrey Conroy and his gang were on the hunt that night. They spotted Lucero and his friend.

There was a lot they didn’t know about Marcelo Lucero. They would not have cared about most of it. This was their third hunt in a week and all they cared about was the hatred and the fun.

They did not know that he was from Ecuador or that he was 37 or that he had lived in the United States for almost as long as members of the group had been alive. They did not know he worked long hours in the dry cleaning store and sent most of his wages home to his aging mother. They did not know that his mother, back in Ecuador, was recovering from cancer.

They also didn’t know Marcelo Lucero was done with running. He and his friend took off their belts and used them to fend off the gang. One of the boys managed to get through. He punched the immigrant in the face. The two victims chased off the gang. It was an unusual turn-about. During the melee, one of the young bullies had been hit in the head by Marcelo Lucero’s belt.

Jeffrey Conroy was furious. This was not the way it was supposed to be. Immigrants were supposed to run, be chased, be caught, and be beaten. They were not supposed to stand and fight. They were definitely not supposed to hit Jeffrey Conroy.

The enraged teenager unfolded a knife and stabbed Marcelo Lucero until he was dead. For the first time, the hunt had ended with an actual kill.

It took a couple of years for the murder case to get to court. Marcelo Lucero was attacked and killed in 2008. In 2010, six of Jeffrey Conroy’s hunting buddies were convicted and sent to prison for anywhere from 6 to 7 years. Conroy, the actual murderer, was sentenced to 25 years.

The killing and trial divided the little community. Traditional antagonism toward immigrants has been met by a small but growing sentiment that things went too far. There had been other incidents in surrounding communities: the homes of immigrant families had been fire bombed, day workers had been attacked on the street, two immigrants were kidnapped, beaten, and released.

But the murder of Marcelo Lucero, by a gang of teenaged nighttime raiders on the prowl for immigrants to beat up, was somehow singularly shocking to the community.

The neighborhood is still divided. Politicians are still elected in anti-immigrant campaigns. Immigrants walking to and from work are still harassed. Actual violence still happens, although the frequency has lessened. A Department of Justice investigation has prompted a less hostile police presence.

In 2011, a year after the trial, three years after the midnight murder, the killer’s father appeared at a small play based on the incident. He expressed to the audience his sorrow. He also offered a plea.

I’m sorry for what’s happened, but I feel that the problems of a nation fell on a 17-year-old child.

In 2015, a ceremony marked the anniversary of the killing. Local papers carried a photo of a little girl in prayer. The picture went to the larger New York City area when it appeared in the New York Times.

The violence and death happened in the small parking area of a commuter train station of the Long Island Rail Road. The station has become a sort of marking place for periodic remembrances. The parking lot at which Marcelo Lucero was murdered is at the end of a little street called Railroad Avenue.

From the parking lot, you can look up the street and see the entrance to the Emporium Hall. The photo of the little girl in prayer and the story of the ambush and murder caught the attention of much of New York – – including the Trump campaign.

They specifically chose the Emporium for a rally, within sight of the killing.

Donald Trump himself appeared. He had been holding rallies in communities around Suffolk County known for anti immigrant activism. By the New York primary, he had incorporated into his stump speech a poem based on a pop song that had briefly become a hit in the mid-1970s.

The song was about a woman befriending and helping a selfish, uncaring man. Al Wilson sang the musical metaphor in which the untrustworthy man is represented as a poisonous snake. A pretty woman finds the half-frozen snake about to die, and cares for him until he is healthy once more.

Now she stroked his pretty skin
and then she kissed and held him tight.
But instead of saying thanks,
that snake gave her a vicious bite.

The Snake by Al Green

As the woman is bitten by the snake, she asks why he has returned her kindness with poisonous death. Mr. Trump took to reading the answer, applying the lesson to refugees fleeing certain death in Syria, some seeking safety in the United States.

“Oh shut up, silly woman,”
said the reptile with a grin.
“You damn well knew I was a snake
before you took me in.”

Believe me folks, believe me. Believe me.

Now, we all understand. Our country has to start getting tough.

Tough. Very, very tough.

In reality, refugees fleeing from war torn areas are vetted, investigated over a period lasting about 2 years, before being given sanctuary in the United States. Although tourists from abroad do account for a number of attacks, refugees have been responsible for no attacks at all. None.

In one community rally after another, Mr. Trump read his adopted poem about immigrants in Suffolk County as poisonous snakes.

But when he got to the Emporium, the rental hall a few hundred feet down Railroad Avenue from the killing of Marcelo Lucero, he had a special message. He put aside the little poem cautioning his audience about the snakes that were immigrants. He left his metaphors for surrounding communities. He had a more direct message for this specific neighborhood.

So, at the Emporium, within sight of the murder, near the periodic plays and yearly ceremonies and perpetual mourning for the life that had been taken by a roaming band of tough guys, Mr. Trump spoke directly to neighborhood tough guys about jobs being taken from them by those who were not even Americans.

I can’t believe. I know some of the guys in this room. they’re so tough. Some of the tough guys I know.

I can’t believe you guys would allow that to happen. What the hell, are you getting soft?

They’re getting soft on me, I don’t believe this. Right?

They know what I’m talking about.

Donald Trump, April 14, 2016

In the days following his message to neighborhood tough guys, the tough guys who would know what he was talking about, within sight of the murder of an immigrant by neighborhood tough guys, Donald Trump went back to reading his little poem to other rallies in surrounding communities.

You damn well knew I was a snake
before you took me in.

The poem about the poisonous snake and the venom it carries.

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Assault Boast Tape, Joy, Johnson, Safety Net Politics

  • Last Of The Millenniums reacts to the now famous tape by offering a few brief, compelling videos and a short summary to suggest that Donald’s attitude toward women was already knowable.
  • nojo at Stinque runs counter-point to Kübler-Ross applying Seven Stages of Joy to contemporary politics.
  • Vixen Strangely at Strangely Blogged, reacts to the unusual argument by third partyite Gary Johnson that his ignorance on everything in the world will make him a great President.
  • Jack Jodell at The Saturday Afternoon Post can find no other realistic option than voting for Hillary.
  • Capt. Fogg at Human Voices has become impatient with comparisons of Hillary’s Wall Street utterances with Donald’s plans for regulation.
  • tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors listens as Republicans explain what they will do to vulnerable citizens in the event, however diminished the likelihood, that Donald Trump wins.
  • Corruption investigations into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have been ended by a conservative state supreme court, and that ruling has been quietly affirmed by the US Supreme Court. So now, Wisconsin conservative James Wigderson wants an investigation into leaks about the investigation.
  • T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, has been a harsh critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, considering it an example of distructive identity politics. But he is greatly impressed by a forceful defense of BLM by ATT CEO Randall Stephenson. So perhaps words and ideas matter when accompanied by a willingness to listen.
    Personal note: T. Paine is a friend who has offered reassurance and prayer when we were told that our own young Marine had been under fire in Afghanistan.
  • When Vincent at A wayfarer’s Notes rambles a little, straying from his topic, he often produces incidental brilliance that offers unexpected insight. He does that a little this time, as he considers how decisions are often made by the absence of choice, and decides that what is demonstrated is the distinction between a hope and a plan.

Hospital Charges Father $39.95 for Holding Newborn Son

found online by alert reader TB

From KTLA 5 in Los Angeles:

A new father says he was charged nearly $40 to hold his baby after his wife gave birth at a Utah hospital.

Reddit user “halfthrottle” posted an image of the hospital’s billing statement under the headline, “I had to pay $39.35 to hold my baby after he was born.”

The photo, posted Monday, has been viewed more than 2.8 million times within 24 hours.

– More –

Donald and the Dish

It was a staple of humor when I was a small child. Black and white animation from Disney, Looney Tunes, and Merrie Melodies carried slap stick that went beyond the Three Stooges. You don’t really have to calculate stunt risks when animation takes over.

One occasional bit involved a flurry of falling dishes. As the plates descend, our hapless leading character rapidly darts about barely catching one after another, precariously balancing a growing tower of dishes. Things stabilize, the plates have been caught, the tower steadies. Then our hero sees the final falling piece. He drops the entire stack, dishes smashing to the floor, as he rescues that one final plate.

Okay, so even as a kid I didn’t laugh. But the attempt by some ancient cartoonist did turn out, decades later, to serve as a reference point as I watch the frenetic efforts of an enraged Donald Trump to lash out at every enemy.

Mr. Trump says he saw thousands of people in New Jersey celebrating the attack on 9/11/2001. He insists a reporter had written a story that backed him up. The reporter contradicts Mr. Trump’s account. He says that what he actually wrote was that he attempted to confirm rumors, but that he was unable to substantiate even one such instance.

The reporter is disabled. He has a painful chronic illness that severely inhibits movements of the joints.

Mr. Trump responds to a laughing audience in a twisting and jerking physical mocking of the reporter.

Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, I don’t remember, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said.’

Donald Trump, November 24, 2015

The audience laughs at the crude caricature and joins in his jeers.

Senator John McCain is widely acclaimed as a hero for his courage during 5 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He criticizes Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric. He is quoted describing a recent visit by Mr. Trump to Arizona as “very hurtful to me because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”

Donald Trump’s response:

He hit me, he’s not a war hero.


He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, I hate to tell you.

July 18, 2015

A Fox News personality questions him about his treatment of women.

She gets out and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

August 7, 2015

A Muslim couple loses a son. The son has died in combat defending his fellow American troops. They criticize him and so he demands answers from the grieving mother.

His wife — if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She — she was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.

July 31, 2016

And, of course, the beauty queen, Miss Universe.

I know that person, that person was a Miss Universe person, and she was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst. She was impossible, and she was a Miss Universe contestant and ultimately a winner who they had a tremendously difficult time with as Miss Universe.

But, of course, that was not all.

She was the winner, and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her.

September 27, 2016

A disabled reporter, a prisoner-of-war hero, a conservative woman journalist, the mother of a combat hero killed in a war, and a former beauty contestant are all the same in the egalitarian vision of Mr. Trump. They are enemies, non-loyalists who have turned against him.

It seems to go beyond thin skin. Every criticism becomes an attack. Every attack is a threat. Every threat is deadly. No incoming missile can be allowed to go unanswered.

They deserve it.
He hit me, he’s not a war hero.

There is no proportionality. The atavistic instinct is always the same. When you get slapped, you hit back. When you get hit you punch. When you get punched, you roll out a cannon.

She hit me first.
She gets out and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions.

Even the smallest slight must result in a massive retaliatory nuclear response. Others may bring a knife to a gun fight. Mr. Trump will bring an atomic dirty bomb to a thumb wrestling contest.

They’ve got it coming.

The lack of balance permeates his business life. He has a strange history of bringing defamation suits into court against small business owners and lone workers who complain about not being paid what they are owed.

On a national stage, the habit of a lifetime has become a continuing self-inflicted wound. The only surprise is the ease with which he can destroy his own national image in order to hurt the feelings of a former Miss Universe, for accusing him of being mean.

After all, the public will understand. She hurt his feelings first. That same public must know what Donald has always known: What doesn’t kill you can only make you want to get even.

The lessons of infancy return. I watch an old cartoon revived by a new character.

He rapidly darts about barely catching one falling plate after another. Then, hearing that a one time beauty queen accuses him of unattractive snideness (…Not only that, her attitude…), he will drop the entire stack in one stunning smash.

He can’t resist. He has to go after that last dish.

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