Catholic Conflicts, Christian Abandon, Wiki, Weak Pillars

  • James Wigderson breezes past the Trumpian blunders at the Al Smith Dinner this past week. Have we ever heard a candidate booed by the clergy at past dinners? James reminds us briefly that both candidates have disagreements with the Catholic Church. Which is pretty much saying that neither candidate is Catholic, right? Although many seem unaware that I am an alert observer, I knew that already.
  • Capt. Fogg at Human Voices notes a right wing headline about Hillary’s secret plan to force Christians to abandon Christianity, and advances his thesis that the internet now allows folks to tailor an alternate reality.
  • The Big Empty goes all elephant-in-the-tea-party, suggesting that the more significant difference between the sides of the ideological divide is one that is not often considered.
  • nojo at Stinque is not alarmed by Donald’s refusal to accept the results of a national election. In fact, far from weakening a pillar of democracy, that sort of rejection of principle highlights its strength. The Republic is safe.
  • Vixen Strangely at Strangely Blogged, briefly reviews the history of James O’Keefe, which history mainly involves videos heavily edited to show the opposite of what the unedited versions show. What the unsophisticated among us might call “lying.” Vixen wonders about the hiring of O’Keefe by Donald Trump..
  • Green Eagle puts back of hand to the forehead at the latest scandal posted by Wikileaks. Has to do with a family member of one of the staff and a windshield wiper. Such is the current state of the conservative/Putin political alliance.
  • Last Of The Millenniums has taken a closer, documented, look at Julian Assange and Wikileaks, as have I.
  • Infidel 753, who provides insight about such things, examines the imminent liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest city held by ISIL, and the only significant stronghold left outside of Raqqa in Syria. Infidel suggests that, even if Mosul falls before the election, the victory itself will present problems for President Hillary Clinton.
  • At The Intersection of Madness and Reality, Darcwonn distils the hypocrisy in the NFL concerning domestic violence and presents Josh Brown.

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.