A 48-year-old homeowner who interrupted a man rummaging through his bedroom asked him who he was and what he was doing in his home.
"I'm a robber," the man replied, according to police.
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It was a big event for Log Cabin Republicans in California yesterday. Some conservatives pretty much boycott the group of gay Republicans. It was significant that the group had gotten State Senator Bob Huff as a speaker. Bob Huff was elected six years ago, and quickly made a name for himself. He has worked on a Republican approach to jobs: local redevelopment agencies in urban areas. Insurance and real estate interests like him a lot.
A year and a half ago, he was chosen by fellow Republicans as leader of the state Senate Republican Caucus. That was just a little over two years after he first became a Senator. Not bad for someone known as a moderate Republican.
The head of the Orange County Taxpayers Association also spoke, along with Senator Huff. That organization is a little controversial for a different reason. Republican officials sometimes attend Association conferences. They pay hefty fees to attend, and then bill those fees to taxpayers.
What the Log Cabin Republicans did not realize, and the Orange County Taxpayers Association did not realize, and Senator Bob Huff did not realize, was that they were all committing voting fraud. At least according to any fair application of the definition carried by the newest conservative outrage.
At the top of the public announcement the California conservatives had issued an invitation:
NOTE: BRING YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT TO THIS MEETING!
It is similar to many events.
Gathering absentee ballots from many, many voters and turning them all in at once is completely legal in California. It is legal in a lot of states.
It is legal in Arizona. But, in Arizona, a fellow wearing a tee-shirt with the name of a local advocacy group, Citizens for a Better Arizona, showed up at election offices with a box full of ballots. There is a video that documents the event. It has gone viral in conservative circles. Conservatives are beyond angry. They are freaked.
It may sound a lot like the "BRING YOUR ABSENTEE BALLOT" to the Republican event in California, after which someone will be delivering them to California election offices. But conservatives around the country have noted two aspects in Arizona that I do not see in California.
One is that the fellow in Arizona was challenged by a stranger demanding to know who he was and what he was doing. The fellow with the ballots suggested the stranger perform an anatomical improbability. The stranger turned out to someone holding a position in the Republican party.
The Republican summarized the confrontation for a local publication. The fellow "was a vulgar, disrespectful, violent thug that has no respect for our laws." Well, "vulgar" and "disrespectful" seem to fit, don't they? But violent? Thug? No respect for our laws? That might seem like a strange set of observations. How did the Republican arrive at that?
Well, there is one possibility. Conservatives around the country have noted that the fellow transporting the ballots appeared to be Hispanic. It seems to be an important factor to many.
The headline at World Net Daily reads: 'Violent thug' caught stuffing ballot box
Conservatives are experiencing a bit of a transition in narrative. Voting restrictions are designed to make it harder to vote for Hispanics in Texas, Native Americans in South Dakota, and African Americans in any GOP stronghold. Republicans justify those moves as preventing voter fraud. They point to restrictive ID requirements as keeping illegitimate voters from casting ballots and keeping legitimate voters from voting more than once.
It is a little difficult to use that reasoning for some moves: moving voting locations to inconvenient places, limiting times of voting in ways that promote unreasonably long waits at the polls, eliminating early voting days, cutting voting staff, holding up legitimate voting applications. And the logic behind ID laws that hold up large numbers of legitimate voters does begin to fall apart with a lack of actual fraud by voters.
The transition is one of definition. A new narrative is developing in conservative circles. Prevention of fraud as it has been traditionally known is fading as an issue. Prevention concerns a new definition of voter fraud. It is becoming the participation of those who vote for the wrong reasons or who do not have sufficient financial assets. Mitt Romney's 47% are, for some, part of the voter fraud issue.
The definition of wrongful voting is transmuting to include those who vote wrong.
And of course, we shouldn't forget the occasional Hispanic voter who follows the law, delivering legitimate ballots, from legitimate voters, to a legitimate election place. Especially an Hispanic voter who is rude to a Republican who wants to interfere.
Now defined as a violent thug caught stuffing a ballot box.
NEW YORK/WASHINGTON Oct 26 (Reuters) - The White House has told states that have imposed mandatory quarantines for some travelers from Ebola-hit West Africa that the policy could impede the fight against the disease, while the first health worker isolated under the rules plans to sue.
Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed in 21-day quarantine in a New Jersey hospital after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, will contest her quarantine in court, her attorney said on Sunday, arguing the order violates her constitutional rights.
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Chicken Little Doesn't Have Ebola After All (6:09) - Click for Podcast
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The Ebola panic in the US has outgrown the Ebola virus itself. But the public may be waking up from the night fright.
Negative ads can backfire, especially if they make voters laugh at the sinister accusations.
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Conservative James Wigderson gives free space to a critic with just about the response length the anonymous message merits. The message ends with "You don’t think ANY other newspaper would publish your tripe." I dunno. You just can't please some critics. I kind of like the tripe Wigderson writes.
Dwight Eisenhower was once asked what he did, before he was Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, as an aide to General Arthur MacArthur. His answer was a terse, "Studied Drama." Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot reviews a high point for MacArthur, as MacArthur's skill, a great deal of luck, and the beneficence of a generous divinity led to a critical Pacific victory.
Danielle LeNoue thought she was out of the EDC Cross Country Championship race on Saturday, October 11, just as she was approaching the finish line, but then she got an unexpected boost from a competitor.
She told KMBC, "It was past the 2-mile mark, close to the finish line...It happened instantly and felt like a pop in my knee, down I went. My left leg."
That's Devils Lake Senior Melanie Bailey underneath LeNoue. The North Dakota teens don't go to the same school, but that didn't matter. Bailey just wanted to do the right thing and so she carried LeNoue across the finish line.
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From the Post-Bulletin:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. is snuffing out smoking in its offices and buildings.
The nation's second-biggest tobacco company informed employees Wednesday that beginning next year, the use of traditional cigarettes, cigars or pipes will no longer be permitted at employee desks or offices, conference rooms, hallways and elevators.
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From WISTV, South Carolina:
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to six charges of using campaign funds for personal use and resigned from the state House of Representatives during a court hearing Thursday morning.
During the hearing, Harrell entered the plea deal and agreed to three years probation, a $30,000 fine, forfeit all money in his re-election campaign account, pay $93,958 to the state's general fund, not run for any public office for three years, and resign from his Charleston seat immediately. Harrell will also undergo a polygraph test and testify in other cases, according to the plea deal.
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The Ebola panic in the United States has dramatically outgrown the Ebola virus itself. Were it not for the death of a man initially turned away from Presbyterian Health Hospital in Dallas, the panic would be a massive exercise in comedy. The hysteria would have been hysterical.
A man in Florida got drunk in a bar, which is probably the place you would expect that. As police showed up to remove him, he is accused of trying to scare them off by saying he was infected with Ebola. They took him in, had him medically examined, and determined that he was full of something other than the disease. He might be full of sand, but he did not have Ebola.
Falsely claiming to have an infectious disease is apparently a crime in Florida, a law more sensible than some legal standards in that state. So the fellow was taken to court to face charges. The judge read the charge, saw the word "Ebola" and immediately cleared the courtroom. Prisoners, everybody except the man who had been determined to be uninfected, were taken out into a hallway. Presumably His Honor eventually figured out that over-reacting to every false claim was no way to administer the justice system.
A teacher in Maine had the misfortune of visiting Dallas for an educational conference when the Ebola virus was reported. She had been ten miles away from Presbyterian Health Hospital. But the school told her she could not come back to class for three weeks. Gotta be safe, you know.
In Mississippi, a Middle School principal went to Zambia in Africa for his brother's funeral. Zambia is 3,000 miles away from any country with any citizen with any sign of the Ebola virus. But so many parents protested, the principal evacuated himself, taking personal leave to avoid more panic.
Nobody knows yet how to eradicate the Ebola virus. There is no vaccine. But substantial research has been done. There is a lot known about it. It is not airborne, despite hysterical claims by Fox News pundits. It is deadly and infectious up close when someone has symptoms. It can't be caught at a distance. The quarantine period is 3 weeks, but if symptoms don't appear within a few days, the danger is over.
Still, there are legitimate concerns.
The Center for Disease Control is a considerable reservoir of knowledge. Their experts are very good at training and preparing local medical people. But they did not impose themselves in Texas until Presbyterian Health Hospital requested their help.
That hospital had been astonishingly casual about the training and preparation that had been recommended for months by the CDC. Even after it became evident they had a serious situation on their hands, they were breathtakingly lax. Hazmat suits were not provided for days to nurses working directly with the first Ebola patient. When they were provided, they did not fit properly. The head portion would not connect to the rest of each suit. So they were sort of stitched together with tape.
Duct tape is a wonderful invention. It is the Swiss Army Knife of adhesion. It can be used for almost anything. So the hospital left its nurses to fight Ebola with duct tape.
We need to re-examine our current system of private care. For-profit medical facilities can be expected, like any free enterprise institution, to be primarily motivated by profit. To weigh life and death risk against this year's bottom line may not be the best method for the next possible pandemic.
We can only imagine the first conversation that prefaced the first signs of that first fatality.
"May I see your insurance card?"
"I just arrived from Liberia."
"That's nice. Your insurance card, please?"
"I'm very ill and I've been in a country with the Ebola virus."
"Do you have insurance?"
What will happen next time, when an actual pandemic becomes a real possibility?
It is the campaign season, and Republicans do like to campaign on fear. Some have dropped ISIS as an imminent danger to ordinary citizens in favor of Ebola. A few have ingeniously combined the two with hatred of immigrants. The Rube Goldberg invention is a hybrid fear that terrorists may have infected themselves with Ebola, and infiltrated the United States by entering Mexico and coming across the border with all those kids.
Republicans had once thought policy "czars" were a fine thing. Those were the days when President George W. Bush appointed them. Then Republicans opposed the entire czar concept as soon as President Obama followed the same practice. Then they demanded that President Obama appoint a czar to deal with the Ebola crisis. When he did, they went back to protesting against the appointment.
They were for it before they were against it before they were for it before they were against it.
The thought for a while was that Ebola might provide enough boost for a Republican wave election. It still might.
But the timing could be a little off. News of hair-on-fire fear is being supplanted. Headline writers are turning to stories about genuinely exposed people coming to the end of their 21 day quarantine, free of symptoms. The rest of those in the US who contracted the virus are recovering, reading about themselves on the front page.
The evidence so far is that citizens, for all their Night-of-the-Living-Dead panic, might not be changing their votes. The Texas Chainsaw Medi-scare may be approaching the closing credits. The public Ebola binge may leave only a next-morning hangover.
It is possible the fever is about to break.
From the Alabama Media Group:
Three times last year Madison County jailers watched small-time criminals die before their eyes, according to a series of three lawsuits filed in federal court.
Each argues that Madison County withholds the most basic medical care in order to save money, banking on the insurance of the medical contractor to cover any resulting lawsuits.
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From Alaska Dispatch News:
At a Wasilla High School assembly Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Don Young didn’t temper his notoriously abrasive personality for his young audience.
Numerous witnesses say Young, 81, acted in a disrespectful and sometimes offensive manner to some students, used profanity and started talking about bull sex when confronted with a question about same-sex marriage.
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From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Speaking at a Republican Party field office in Waukesha on Monday, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee talked up the closeness of the governor's race in Wisconsin and the need to get Scott Walker supporters to the polls.
Sharon Day, the co-chair, told the audience, "It's not going to be an easy election, it's a close election. Like I said, much closer than I can even understand why.
"I don't want to say anything about your Wisconsin voters but, some of them might not be as sharp as a knife."
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Was it fair in 1991 for Democrat Edwin Edwards to remind Louisiana voters that his Republican opponent, David Duke, held a leadership position in the Ku Klux Klan? I think so.
I'm okay with negative ads. If they don't distort the facts, if they don't outright lie, if they are pertinent, if they don't grossly violate ethical boundaries, I'm okay with them.
I am a distinct minority. Voters are sick of negative ads. Poll after poll has demonstrated this to the point where it has become conventional wisdom.
Yet candidates still run negative ads. The reason is simple. Negative ads work. Negative ads make the candidate running them a bit unpopular. They make the target way, way unpopular. So a lot of campaigns become, not so much a race to the bottom, but rather a race below the bottom, a race into the mud.
Candidates want to win in a landslide. Most will settle for winning in a mudslide.
Certain things can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of a negative campaign. If there are three viable candidates running, negative ads run by one candidate about another can destroy the targeted candidate. But they also will often lower the image of the candidate running the ad. That can benefit the third candidate, the one who did not run the ad, and who was not the target.
Another practical lesson from those who are paid to know is that a purely negative ad campaign is less effective than a campaign that uses both negative and positive ads. "My opponent eats live kittens for lunch" is less effective than "My hobby is rescuing neighborhood pets from tall trees and returning them to grateful owners, but my opponent eats live kittens for lunch."
The race for Governor of Maryland was supposed to be a cakewalk for Democrats this year. Their candidate Anthony Brown is not all that popular, but Republican Larry Hogan has a well deserved reputation as a bit of an extremist. A recent ad by Brown slammed Hogan as an opponent against any regulation at all of firearms. A friend sent me a link. The ad shows an empty office chair, abandoned toys, a shopping cart, and an empty set of swings, each in juxtaposition with an assault rifle. The ad, complete with sinister voice and ominous music ends with:
Assault weapons don't belong in Maryland, and neither do Larry Hogan's dangerous ideas.
That sound at the end is a new bullet clicking into the chamber. It is one of dozens of similar commercials, each with the same motif. All are accurate, all are a fair representation of Larry Hogan's positions. The Democratic campaign in Maryland contains very little about the Democratic candidate. The focus is all about the Republican.
My friend remarked, "When we saw the ad, we both burst out laughing." The Democrat maintains an advantage. The race is much closer than anyone expected. One recent survey puts Republican Larry Hogan within 3 points of Democrat Anthony Brown.
The negative campaign ads most likely to backfire are the ads that are so blatantly and recognizably untrue, they lose credibility. Mitt Romney may have lost Ohio and Michigan in 2012 when his campaign ran ads about Chrysler exporting jobs to China. Chrysler conducted their own informal campaign that, in effect, called Romney a liar.
Democrat Kay Hagan is running a very tough race in North Carolina. Her Senate career may not survive to a second term. The amazing thing about the race is that she ever got to the Senate in 2008.
In that year, she was up against very popular Senator Elizabeth Dole. She was not expected to come close, but she ran a pretty good campaign and started closing the gap. Dole was still expected to win, but the win would be more narrow than anyone had thought.
So Elizabeth Dole ran an ad that essentially accused Hagan of running as an atheist. The ad began with Elizabeth Dole's introduction, I'm Elizabeth Dole, and I approve this message. It ended with Kay Hagan's voice: There is no God.
But the voice was not Hagan. It was the voice of an actress and a photo of Kay Hagan. Kay Hagan was actually a member of a Presbyterian church and had been a Sunday School teacher. The ad became nationally famous. Pretty much everyone in the universe condemned it. Sure enough, the race was not close. Kay Hagan won by 8½ points, and became Senator Hagan.
Missouri is an interesting home to write from. Next door in Illinois, incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn has pretty much everyone so angry at him, with budget shortfalls, cuts in services, and increases in taxes, it seemed the only votes he could count on were his own and his mom's. In fairness, he had inherited the mess from Rod Blagojevich, the comically corrupt governor who ended up behind bars.
But Governor Quinn is now credited with a small lead over his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner.
The Republican has been running an ad that connects Quinn to the over-the-top laughably crooked Blagojevich. Well, they are both Democrats, so fair enough, I suppose. Illinois has had a marvelous number of successive governors, Democrat and Republican, go to jail. One is a personal hero of mine, George Ryan, a Republican whose investigations and studies may end the death penalty throughout the nation. Yeah, he belongs in prison, but sometimes heroes who are corrupt are still heroes.
As I see it, Republicans may pretty much blow it. Their ad does not stop with connecting Quinn with Blagojevich thievery. They connect him with any Illinois Democratic Governor that got into trouble within the last century. That's literal, not figurative. The ad ends this way:
Corruption, patronage, cronyism, investigations, prison. Now Pat Quinn wants four more years? 100 years of failure is enough.
Wow. Who knew that any politician was that old?
Will a Republican running in 2104, a politician not even born yet, have to answer for George Bush and Dick Cheney?
Nobody likes negative ads. Nobody but me, that is. But they will always be with us. Negative ads can work, if they are not the absolute only message, if they are not so silly and over‑the‑top, they become the stuff of comedy.
If your candidate wants to throw mud, try not to throw it against your own wind.
For your listening amusement: