Why Is Bishop Malone Enjoying Retirement Time, Instead Of Serving Jail Time?

The database at Bishop-Accountability.org, which documents the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic church, shows that abuse by priests has been reported in all 50 states.

In the state of New York there are eight Catholic Dioceses.  According to The New York Times, the Buffalo Diocese had been relatively insulated from the abuse scandals until 2018.

What happened in Buffalo in 2018?  Keep reading…

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The Buffalo diocese in red.

The Buffalo Diocese is one of the Northeast’s largest, with 600,000 Catholics.  Six hundred thousand faithful, many or most of them attending church in more than 150 parishes.

And in some of those churches were and are priests who have and probably still are sexually abusing people.

Why were those abusers in the Buffalo diocese still performing as priests?  Why are those abusers still performing as priests?

This is baffling to me because…

Hasn’t the church abuse scandal been front-page news since the Boston Globe broke the story in 2002?

Didn’t the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – in that same year – establish this charter of procedures to deal with accused child sex abusers in the clergy, including a “zero tolerance” policy for accused abusers:

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Didn’t Pope Francis – in 2013, shortly after becoming pope – announce the creation of a Vatican committee to fight sex abuse in the church?  And publicly apologize for the Vatican’s actions, expressing regret that “personal, moral damage” had been “carried out by men of the Church”?  And also urge any priest who had enabled abuse by moving an abuser to another parish to resign?

Didn’t this same pope host a conference of bishops in Rome this past February to talk about sexual abuse, where he vowed “to combat this evil that strikes at the very heart of our mission”?

Didn’t the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meet this past June with a focus on the church sex abuse scandal?  Where they committed to bishops holding each other accountable for committing sexual abuse and covering up the crimes committed by their fellow bishops?

And didn’t this same group come up with a toll-free number to call to report abuse?

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Though, after reading that paragraph – never mind that one.

Didn’t yet another group of U.S. bishops – this time from New York including Malone – meet with the pope as recently as this past November:

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What the hell did Malone and the pope talk about?

Pope:  So, Malone, how’s it going?  Hidden any more documents lately?
Malone:  Oh, you know – all is calm, all is right.  Bright.  Whatever.

Isn’t this the church on track to spend another $4 billion settling clergy abuse lawsuits?

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Isn’t this the church that’s been promising “transparency” so often, ad nauseam comes to mind?

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Yet in the Buffalo diocese, Bishop John Malone had files about abusive priests that he was hiding from the public.

What happened in Buffalo in 2018?

In 2018, abuse survivors in the Buffalo diocese began speaking publicly, and the local news media began to investigate.

The media found that at least some of the accused priests were still in the pulpit.

Responding to pressure, in March 2018 Bishop Malone released a list of 42 priests accused of abuse over decades.

Enter the whistleblower:

Siobhan O’Connor had worked closely with Richard Malone as his executive assistant for three years.

She’d seen 117 names on a draft list in the diocese’s secret files.

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O’Connor with Bill Whitaker of “60 Minutes”; she is how I spell “HERO.”

She began photocopying documents.  Just before she quit her job in August 2018, she anonymously leaked the church documents to a reporter at Buffalo television station WKBW.

The hundreds of pages O’Connor uncovered included personnel files and memos.  They revealed that for years Bishop Malone allowed priests accused of sexual assault such as statutory rape and groping to stay on the job.

According to The New York Times,

“The leaks revealed Malone, who had led the diocese since 2012, as clinical and protective in his dealings with church lawyers about abuse, seeking to limit disclosure of church secrets to minimize their damage.”

Then in October 2018, O’Connor appeared on 60 Minutes:

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The 60 Minutes story noted,

“In Bishop Malone’s first six years in Buffalo just one priest was put on leave.  It was only after this scandal broke in March [2018] that he suspended 16 more for abuse.  None have been kicked out of the priesthood.”

In addition to O’Connor, other people were included in the 60 Minutes segment but, the program also noted, “Bishop Malone declined our requests for an interview.”

Probably because Malone was too busy running around, telling everyone he was not going to resign – he did that a lot, and loudly:

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But then he did this:

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But don’t feel sorry for Malone.

According to a 12/10/19 article in the Buffalo News, Malone, is now referred to as “Bishop Emeritus.”

“Emeritus” meaning “the former holder of an office, having retired but allowed to retain their title as an honor,” and a misnomer if I ever heard one.

The Buffalo News provided this checklist of the cushy benefits of Malone’s retirement:

  1. At least $1,900 per month in stipend and pension benefits, according to guidelines set in 2010 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
  2. Appropriate housing and board within the diocese where he last served.  The housing should include the use of a private chapel and housekeeping assistance.  If the bishop emeritus chooses to live outside of the diocese where he last served, that diocese is still obligated to pay for appropriate housing and board.
  3. Health and welfare benefits, including major medical and the full cost of medical retiredand hospital care.
  4. Home healthcare, assisted living and long-term care facilities.
  5. An office and secretarial assistance.
  6. Paid funeral and burial expenses.
  7. An insured car.
  8. Paid travel expenses for provincial and regional meetings, USCCB meetings, visits to the Vatican, installations of other bishops, and other functions that involve meeting with colleague bishops.

In the same Buffalo News article, when the writer was asked if Malone would be charged, he said in part,

“Revelations of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups similar to those now surfacing in the Buffalo Diocese have been uncovered in dozens of other dioceses around the country and rarely resulted in criminal prosecutions.

getoutofjail“In 2012, Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph became the first Catholic prelate in the country to be convicted of protecting from prosecution a priest who had child pornography.  A judge found Finn guilty of a misdemeanor for failing to tell police that one of his priests collected lewd images of young girls on his computer.  Finn was sentenced to two years of probation.

“A Philadelphia jury in 2012 convicted Monsignor William Lynn, a supervisor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, of covering up clergy sex abuse, but the conviction was voided on appeal in 2016.”

In other words, instead of Malone being here:

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He’ll be here…………………….or perhaps here………………………..or maybe here:

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Monaco?

California?

Costa Rica?

Or (see #2, above) Malone will be wherever he “chooses to live outside of the diocese,” since “that diocese is still obligated to pay for appropriate housing and board.”

Memo to Malone:

Wherever you decide to park your bony ass…

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Update 12/17/19:

The pope recently made a “big announcement” about abolishing a secrecy policy in clergy sexual abuse cases:

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Here are some of the highlights from The New York Times article:

  1. “It’s now (see above) acceptable – but not required – to turn information about abuse claims over to the police, prosecutors and judges.”

But – why not required?  No explanation forthcoming.

  1. “In recent years, church officials in the United States and some other countries have shared with civil authorities information about some sexual abuse allegations.  But that cooperation, in theory, defied a decree adopted in 2001 that made the information a ‘pontifical secret’ – the church’s most classified knowledge.”

Not only was the church hiding information about the sexual abuse, there was actually a decree against sharing information with civil authorities from the “pontifical,” or highest, level.

  1. “The rule announced on Tuesday was also a product of the February meeting, the Vatican said.”

This is referencing the bishops conference the pope held in Rome in February, which I talked about earlier.  It took the pope 11 months to make this watered-down decision?

  1. “This is a sign of openness, transparency and the willingness to collaborate with the civil authorities,” Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of the Vatican’s communications office, wrote in a commentary.

There’s that word “transparency” again.

  1. “The Rev. Hans Zollner, a member of the Vatican’s child protection commission, said, ‘This is pretty much revolutionary.’”

Really?  “Revolutionary”?

Let’s see if the hundreds of thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse agree.

Victims:  Everyone who agrees, give a big cheer!

What’s that we’re hearing?

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Finally – not that there will ever be an end to this story – in contrast to the Times story that said the top-secret decree had been around since 2002, NPR noted that it had been around since 1974.

If so, that means it was in place during the time of, and clearly with the approval of, five popes:

Paul VI 1963-1978
John Paul I 1978
John Paul II 1978-2005
Benedict XVI 2005-2013
Francis 2013-Present

Here’s the headline from the NPR story, and here’s that word again:

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This story will never be over until there truly is…

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Say It Ain’t So!

When we hear about men behaving badly, we’re rarely surprised.

Politicians, entertainment industry people, military, athletes – it seems like it’s become the story du jour.

From sexual abuse to financial fraud to breaking and entering, the bad behavior, large and small, has been – in my smug opinion – the boys’ bailiwick.woman with halo criooed

“Women are better than that,” I smugly think.  “Women are so honest, we have so much integrity.”

I am so wrong.

Recently there’s been a spate of women behaving badly stories, in San Diego and elsewhere.  I’ll classify their behavior as “Minor League,” “Major League” and “Out of the Ballpark.”

Minor League:  Breaking Into Zoo Enclosures

A North Dakota woman, 18-year-old Ashlee Brown, was visiting the Bismarck Dakota Zoo when she noticed something sad in the primate enclosure.

Specifically, a sad siamang.  And there is nothing sadder than a sad siamang:

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“I know!” thought Ashlee.  “I’ll, like, hop the guard rail and touch that sad siamang and, like, take a selfie with him.  That will, like, cheer him right up!”

So Ashlee hopped the guard rail, touched the primate, took her selfie, and got busted.

She pleaded guilty to trespassing, was fined $300, and will be on unsupervised probation for nearly a year.  She can keep the incident off her record if she stays out of trouble during that time.

And if she, like, stays out of zoo enclosures.

Unlike Ashlee, Gloria Lancaster’s foray into an animal enclosure was on a rescue mission – specifically, to rescue her dog.

A worthy endeavor, except that her dog had gotten into the camel enclosure at Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish, LA.

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There are no photos available of Gloria.  Caspar, however, is always ready for his close-up.

Gloria, 68, crawled under the barbed wire fence.  The camel, Caspar, had invited neither Gloria nor her dog into the enclosure, and was understandably miffed.

So Caspar sat on Gloria.

Caspar weighs 600 pounds.

Trapped, Gloria did what anyone would do – she bit Caspar.

As one TV station delicately put it, “allegedly on the camel’s private parts.”

Gloria is claiming injuries but she’s not getting much sympathy.  She did, however, get citations for criminal trespassing and leash law violation

Caspar, on the other hand, is getting lots of sympathy and media attention:

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And antibiotics from his veterinarian.

Did I mention this happened on a Wednesday?

Hump Day.

Major League:  Rob From The Rich And Give To…Yourself

I don’t know much about investing, and I’m OK with that.

But even I know that if someone promises “returns of 15 to 25 percent in one year…”

They’re lying.

And I know that if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) comes after you…

You’re in big trouble:

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That’s what happened to Gina Champion-Cain, 57, of San Diego.

Gina – to know her was to love her.

The city even declared June 28, 2006 “Gina Champion-Cain Day.”

She was a successful, high-profile, and had many business interests – coffee shops, lifestyle brands, San Diego restaurants, and rental properties.

download (1) croppedUnfortunately, it appears Champion-Cain was less than honest about the money she received from 50 investors.

To the tune of $300 million.

The SEC filed the complaint in which it alleged that Champion-Cain’s ANI Development had fraudulently raised hundreds of millions of dollars since 2012 by claiming to investors that they could profit by issuing short-term, high-interest loans to people applying for alcohol licenses in California.

In some cases, she promised investors those returns “of 15 to 25 percent in one year,” according to the SEC.

Instead of using the investors’ money to make those loans, Champion-Cain is alleged to have directed “significant amounts of investor funds” to a company that she controlled.

Soon, nearly a dozen of Champion-Cain’s restaurants were closing or had already been shuttered.

A court-appointed receiver is now involved.

I reckon no one is calling her a “Kickass Entrepreneur” anymore:

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But as bad she is, here’s the lowest of the low:

Out Of The Ballpark:  Ripping Off Our Military Members, Veterans And Their Families

The Armed Forces Foundation was a legitimate charity, established in 2001 to protect and promote the physical, mental and emotional wellness of military service members,Armed Forces Foundation cropped veterans, and their families

I say “was” because it closed in October 2016.

That was shortly after the organization’s president, Patricia Driscoll, 41, was indicted on eight felony counts in September 2016.

For misspending more than $900,000 of Armed Forces Foundation money for personal purposes starting in 2006.

On personal shopping trips, legal fees, and paying bills for Driscoll’s private defense-contracting business, prosecutors said.

Driscoll was convicted in September 2018 of two federal counts each of wire fraud and of tax evasion, and one count of first-degree fraud.

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Driscoll:  We know whose bucks paid for this bling.

She faced a maximum 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and a maximum 10 years for first-degree fraud.  Tax evasion carries a statutory maximum of five years.

Instead – and baffling to me – Driscoll was sentenced only to 12 months and one day in prison, 36 months supervised release, a period of home confinement, 360 hours of community service, and must pay $154,289 in restitution and $81,779 in a money judgment forfeiture.

I can’t quite figure how you “misspend more than $900,000” and pay only $154,289 in restitution.

Driscoll isn’t going to prison anytime soon.  In late 2019, the sentence was stayed pending appeal.

There’s an online article at sportingnews.com that talks about a Driscoll video that went viral before it was removed from YouTube:

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The article quotes the video of Driscoll saying this of herself:

“I am a mom, a businesswoman, a patriot, a socialite, and a whole lot of attitude.  I have the reputation for not being the nicest person in the world, and I’ve earned it…I don’t care if people hate me for who I am or what I do because I’m not going to change.”

The article also says one of her employees at the Armed Forces Foundation called her “one scary b—-” and, “You don’t want to mess with Patricia…If you cross her, she’ll grab you by the nuts and twist them and tear them right off.”

Whew.

All that, and stealing from our military, veterans, and their families, too?

Women behaving badly.

Step aside, boys.

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Driscoll didn’t rob a bank – she robbed our military, instead.

Update:  January 9, 2020

 Oh, No!  Yet Another Woman Behaving Badly?

I described Patricia Driscoll’s bad behavior as “out of the ballpark,” meaning lowest of the low, for stealing money from military members and their families.

I may have to re-think who is “lowest of the low,” due to this recent story:

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The former Mrs. Florida, aka Karyn Turk, pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor charge of Social Security fraud after stealing her elderly mother’s Social Security checks instead of using the money to pay for nursing home care.

Turk (2)Now a federal judge has sentenced Turk to a month in prison, followed by five months of house arrest.

The judge also ordered Turk to perform 100 hours of community service at a nursing home – a reminder of the time she never spent with her own mother who lived for three years in a Lake Worth facility, ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Palm Beach Post article.

Instead of using her mother’s Social Security, Veterans Administration and pension checks to cover $219,000 in nursing home bills, Turk used the money to pay for shopping sprees, dinners out, and for a nanny to watch her children, said Palm Beach County sheriff’s Detective Vaughn Mitchell.

Stealing from your mother?

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We’ll Always Have…

Recently I read a review of a book, Barnum:  An American Life by Robert Wilson, and this paragraph resonated with me:

“…there appeared a self-promoting blowhard of a man with an easily branded name and a poof of noticeably weird hair.  He conjured fortunes and then lost them in spectacular catastrophes.  He would eventually catapult himself into political office as a Bible-hugging Christian, committed to reclaiming American virtue.  His proper name would become a common noun, a contemptible exclamation and novel profanity.  Through it all, he found one way or another to seize the gaze of the media, often by slipping to the press short bits of provocative writing, Hats (2) smallerthen known as squibs.  His name was Phineas T. Barnum.”

Phineas, or P.T. Barnum (1810-1891), was the mastermind behind the world-famous circus spectacle that came to be known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

I couldn’t help but think that the reviewer was drawing a parallel between P.T. Barnum and Trump.

Here’s the same paragraph, with slight alterations in bold:

…there appeared a self-promoting blowhard of a man with an easily branded name and a poof of noticeably weird hair.  He conjured fortunes and then lost them in spectacular catastrophes.  He would eventually catapult himself into political office as a Bible-hugging Christian, committed to reclaiming American virtue.  His proper name would become a common noun, a contemptible exclamation and novel profanity.  Through it all, he found one way or another to seize the gaze of the media, often by slipping to the press short bits of provocative writing, known as tweets.  His name is Donald J. Trump.

This got me wondering if there were other parallels between Barnum and Trump.

Further research lead to an astonishing number of them.

Here are some of the parallels I found:

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Why Is Tina Fey Letting A Guy Lick Her Face?

When the TV is on, I’m usually – at most – paying half-attention to it.

I might be reading, or doing something in the kitchen.  (No, not cooking.  You’re confusing me with someone else.)

I’ll glance up at the TV from time to time, which – if it’s commercial television – generally reinforces my belief that most programs on commercial television are lousy, and all commercials are awful.

It was one of those happen-to-glance-up times that I saw this guy licking Tina Fey’s face:

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Who is this guy?

And why was he licking Fey’s face, and then picking up her purse with his teeth and shaking out the contents?

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What I was seeing was so awful that the advertiser, and the product being advertised, completely missed my radar.

What was that a commercial for?

And why was Fey – one of my heroes – allowing that guy to lick her face?

Since I like Fey, this warranted some investigation.

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Fey anchoring “Weekend Update.”

My perception of Fey is that she’s smart, funny, and something of a trailblazer.  She joined the writing team of Saturday Night Live in 1997, when writing for TV was still very much a male bastion, and eventually became the show’s first female head writer.

She began appearing in SNL sketches, including the coveted spot as co-host of Weekend Update, while she continued as head writer.  She left the show in 2006 – more about that below.

But it was during the 2008 presidential election, when she returned to SNL to create and own the impersonation of Vice-Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin that, for me, Fey transitioned from admired writer/actress to hero:

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Palin (left) and Fey as Palin.  Fey nailed it.
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Fey as Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.  Poehler:  “I believe that diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy.”  Fey:  “And I can see Russia from my house!”

Then back to SNL in 2016 for this:

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SNL, 2016:  Palin (left) endorses Trump; Fey as Palin endorsing Trump.  Fey:  “I don’t think this guy should be president.  I’m just here cuz he promised me a spot in his Cabinet!”

If you haven’t seen these, find them on YouTube.

In the meantime, Fey was busy – in 2006, creating and starring in the TV show 30 Rock which ran for seven seasons, writing screenplays, starring in and/or producing movies, appearing on TV shows, winning numerous awards, getting married, giving birth to two daughters, writing a book.

So, Tiny Fey:  Not only smart and funny, but also rich – here’s Fey’s bank account in 2019 according to the website Celebrity Net Worth:

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So why did she make that awful commercial?  She sure doesn’t need the money.

More investigating.

I’d said earlier that the commercial was so awful that the advertiser, and the product being advertised, were not even on my radar.

It turns out that the face-licking ad is one of two Fey has done for Allstate Insurance.  The face licker is an actor named Dean Winters, personifying the idea of mayhem, i.e., “disorder, confusion, chaos.”

I found this article in AdAge:

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The article says,

“In the new TV spots, Fey plays a driver using Drivewise, a nine-year-old product that tracks how carefully someone drives and offers perks accordingly:

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“In one commercial, Winters plays a rambunctious Saint Bernard pup eager to distract the driver; in another, he plays a critical mother-in-law whose cutting remarks provide the same level of distraction as the dog.”

The AdAge article goes on, as do other articles about the Fey/Allstate ads, but none of them answered my burning question:

Why did Fey do this?

I even googled “why is tina fey doing allstate commercials” and got 124,000 results – but no answer.

I suppose I’ll never know.

And I suppose one of these days I’ll be half-watching TV and Fey’s other Allstate ad – the mother-in-law – will come on.

Does the mother-in-law lick Fey’s face, too?

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Me?  Get Fooled By A Scammer?

There are so many current telephone scams, and the goal of each is to separate us from our money.

The scammers are creative and relentless – and it’s only getting worse.  Here are just a few examples from this Washington Post article:

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Scammers target immigrant communities with urgent calls claiming ambiguous legal trouble.

Scammers pose as representatives of the Chinese embassy and contact U.S. metropolitan areas with large Chinese populations, trying to trick Chinese immigrants and students into revealing their credit card numbers.

phone scammer_07 croppedScammers pretend to be a representative from a bank, a debt collector or cable company who needs to discuss “an important business matter” such as debt collection and billing information.

Scammers mimic actual Internal Revenue Service (IRS) telephone numbers at assistance centers, tell victims they owe money to the government, and urge them to pay through a gift card or wire transfer.

Scammers pose as charitable organizations, preying on the generosity of Americans who want to help those affected by the natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.

Scammers trick people into answering their calls with a scheme known as neighborhood spoofing, in which they manipulate caller ID information so that their actual phone number is masked.  Instead, the calls appear to have been placed locally, and when we see a number that matches our own area code, we’re more likely to answer the call.

Scammers steal your money with Medicare scams, Social Security scams, concert and sports tickets scams.

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But of all the telephone scams – and there are many more – I think the most heartbreaking is “romance scams.”

And I mean heartbreaking, literally.

Romance scams start through online dating websites, social media, email and telephone to make contact.

The victims are male and female, straight and gay, and of all ages:

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They all have this in common:

Broken hearts and lost money:

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The Internet abounds with their stories, so I’ll share a personal story instead.

My brother is someone who – like most of us – would have laughed if anyone had suggested he’d fall for a romance scam.  “Not me,” he would have said.  “Never!”

He’s a college graduate, has a great job, and he’d been around long enough to know that grocery shopping, housework, cooking, laundry and even ironing (yes!) don’t just happen.  He’s a nice-looking man, he works out, and has a great sense of humor.

But – like many singles – he’d been through a long, dateless dry spell and decided tocouple cropped check out some dating sites.  He met a woman a half-world away, and they seemed to click.  Their conversations transitioned from chats to extended skype exchanges.

They both seemed smitten.

About two months in, she told him her mother was ill, then didn’t mention her again until a few conversations later.  This time she said her mother was getting worse, and they couldn’t afford her mother’s medicine.

My brother has a big, compassionate heart, and he sent her a few hundred dollars.

Then she claimed she was also sick, and she didn’t get paid if she didn’t work, and…

Her requests escalated from there.

When we siblings suggested that he was being scammed, he didn’t believe it for a minute.  This lady was different.  She wouldn’t do that.  She genuinely cared for him and he wanted to help her.

Especially since she’d told him she loved him, not once, but several times.

Block (2)And she’d promised to pay the money back, all of it.

When my brother finally accepted that she was not going to pay him back, he ended the relationship.  She continued posting on Facebook how much she loved him until he cut that off, as well.

He was sadder and poorer, but wiser.

Like my brother – like most of us – I, too, believed I could never be scammed.  Not by that phony IRS thing, or the bank scammers, or that neighborhood spoofing stuff, none of it.

Now, here’s what I believe:

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Update:  While I was writing this post…

My phone rang.

When I don’t recognize the caller’s name or number, I don’t answer, so he left this message:

“Laura, my name is Tim Presley.  I’m contacting you in regards to a case that is in the process of being filed through San Diego County.  The case is not being filed against you, it is being filed against a Christina (unintelligible).  I’ve been instructed to make Computer hacker with mobile phoneyou aware that your name and address is listed as the most likely location for her.  At this point (name? unintelligible) still has the legal right to contact the Proceedings Office filing the case to update her information.  However, once this case is filed, that will no longer be an option.  The phone number to that legal department is gonna be 855-337-4536.  When she calls, she’ll provide her case number 605233.  This is considered legal notification by telephone and Christina will be located at your residence unless I am (unintelligible) otherwise.”

I don’t know anyone named “Christina.”

I didn’t call the number.

But the words “case,” “being filed,” “San Diego County” and “legal” got my attention.  So did the information that “Christina” was listing my home as “the most likely location for her.”

This sounded like it might – might – be on the level.

So I went on the website for the San Diego County Superior Court and searched for “case number 605233.”

And there it was – a legitimate court case number.CourtSealLarge

The name on the case wasn’t Christina, and it was filed back in 1988, but I thought it was worth checking, so I called Superior Court.

I spoke with a very nice woman and explained why I was calling – that I suspected a scammer.  She looked up the case with the number and told me that “The entire case was dismissed.”  She checked for my name and said it wasn’t associated with the case.

I asked how the scammer could have gotten an actual Super Court case number, and she suggested that they might have “made up the case number and got lucky.”

I doubt it.

Let’s recap:

  1. The scammer had my first name, telephone number, and knew I live in San Diego County.
  2. The area code of the number he called from matched mine.
  3. He identified himself, making himself sound legitimate.
  4. This was a person, not a recording, well-spoken, and he had no accent.
  5. He used attention-getting words.
  6. His tone was urgent and somewhat threatening – “will no longer be an option.”
  7. He was obviously reading from a script – no stumbling over words, no hesitations.

How did the scammers get an actual Superior Court case number?

I was still pondering that the next day, when I heard from “Tim Presley” again.  This time there was more urgency in his voice, and his message was definitely more threatening:

“Laura, this is Tim Presley contacting you once again in regards to a case being filed in the San Diego County.  I reached out to you several times yesterday and all correspondence have been ignored.  At this point they are intending on proceeding phone scammer croppedwith the order of location for Christina (unintelligible) at your residence.  Understand that she still has the legal right to contact the office filing the case.  I’ll provide that information to that office once again, just so there’s no way for you, or her, to say you had no prior knowledge of this matter.  That phone number’s gonna be 855-337-4536.  Her case number is 605233.  This is considered a final legal notification by telephone, and Christina (unintelligible) will be located at your residence unless I am (unintelligible) otherwise.”

He lied when he said he’d “reached out” to me “several times yesterday.”

Gosh, a lying scammer.

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Update 11/27/19:

I can promise you that this recent scammer victim also believed it could never happen to her.

We all know better — until we don’t:

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“Don’t Shoot The Messenger”?  How About THIS Messenger:

surprise croppedHas a family member, friend or acquaintance ever shown up at your door, uninvited?

I hate that.

How about a group – adults and children, at your door, uninvited?

Expecting an invitation to enter your home, expecting that you’ll gladly drop whatever you were doing because nothing you were doing could be more important than their uninvited appearance?

Uninvited…and possibly – unwelcome?

It happened to my husband and me over the holidays.

Only it wasn’t at the front door – it was in our family room.

And it was a group – adults and children, 17 of them.

In one second my husband’s and my peaceful afternoon was interrupted by a buzz on his smartphone, followed by an explosion of people and music and noise.

It was members of my family, on the other side of the country, raucously celebrating the partyholidays, and deciding to include us in the fun.

It felt like our home had been invaded, and indeed – it had.

By Facebook Messenger.

A brand-new experience for me.

I’d never heard of Facebook Messenger, much less been in it.  On it.

Whatever.

But suddenly I saw a room full of relatives on the phone’s screen, and up in the screen’s corner, my own stunned face staring back at me.

Now, before you say anything, even with my lack of experience I know I didn’t have to allow the party into my home.

I could have said, “Oooo – bad time, can we do this in a half-hour?”  Then at least I would party_03have been prepared, and I could have spiffed myself up a bit instead of appearing to one and all in my bathrobe.

Instead I stammered, “Wh – what the heck is this?”

And just like that, one family member – evidently the iPad Commando – started walking around the room, pointing the camera at each person and shouting, “Say hi to so-and-so!  Say Merry Christmas to so-and-so!”

And one by one, every family member and I said “Hi!” or “Merry Christmas!” and then they promptly walked off camera to get back to the festivities.

As the iPad Commando turned the camera on herself and her face filled the screen, the background noise continued unabated.  “How did you connect us?” I shouted.

“Face (unintelligible) enger!”  she said, which I later learned meant “Facebook Messenger.”  Then she walked into the kitchen to show me the deserts spread out on the counter, waiting for the horde to descend en masse.pie cropped

Damn!  Is that apple pie?  And I missed it!

I missed my family.

Later, I did some research about Messenger, and started thinking it might be cool technology.  I could maybe see how it might be a good thing.

I imagined a parent connecting face-to-face with a child away at college, or a service member on deployment seeing the smiles of a spouse and children, or my showing Aunt Myrtle the gorgeous sweater I’d bought with her gift card.

If the weather was lousy I could “visit” with someone in a hospital if they felt like it, or domess with hearts my book club on Messenger, or offer a friend a digital “shoulder” to cry on.

And I could Messenger my hubby when he’s upstairs, just to tell him I love him, and see his smile.

Maybe I’ll look into this Messenger thing.

Yup, I’m being dragged, kicking and screaming…

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This Ploy Is So Blatantly Obvious, It Actually Deserves The Word…

Recently I was reading an article, then stopped and thought, “Didn’t I just read this the other day?  Are they running the same story again?”

The answer is, different articles, same story:

States Purging Voter Rolls

First, in Wisconsin:

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Then in Georgia:

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Two states, with a common thread,

From the Slate article about Wisconsin:

“…in a massive purge that would disproportionately affect minorities and Democrats.  The decision rests on a dubious interpretation of Wisconsin law pushed by a conservative group that seeks to weaponize state records against left-leaning voters.  If upheld, the ruling could increase Donald Trump’s chances of winning the closely divided state in 2020.”

From the article about the Georgia purge by the nonprofit Common Dreams, a quote from the advocacy group All Voting is Local:

“Voter purges pose a distinct threat to our democracy, causing disproportionate harm to the very voters who have long been disenfranchised:  people of color, low-income voters, and those who move frequently.”

The common thread:  The words “disproportionately” and “disproportionate.”

Wisconsin and Georgia purging so many voters in such a short time frame is new, but purging voter rolls is not.

In August, the Brennan Center, a non-partisan law and public policy institute, published this:

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And said,

“The Brennan Center analysis found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.”

The article goes on to say,

“This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

What is Shelby County v. Holder?

I found this article in The Atlantic very enlightening:

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Regarding Shelby County v. Holder, the article says,

“In that 2013 decision, the Supreme Court invalidated a decades-old ‘coverage formula’ naming jurisdictions that had to pass federal scrutiny under the Voting Rights Act, referred to as ‘preclearance,’ in order to pass any new elections or voting laws.  Those jurisdictions were selected based on their having a history of discrimination in voting.”

So, jurisdictions that had a history of discrimination in voting had to pass federal scrutiny before they passed new voting laws.

But the Supreme Court did away with that, and that unleashed a firestorm of voter purging that began in 2013 and has steadily increased.  According to the Brennan Center article:

“The median purge rate over the 2016-2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Trump was elected on November 8, 2016.

17M-01 croppedAnd the purging has been surging ever since – this from the Brennan Center article:

“The latest data from the Election Assistance Commission shows that between the presidential election in 2016 and the 2018 midterms, more than 17 million voters were purged.”

And when your name is purged, you may or may not know about it.  You’ll go to your polling place, and be denied your right to vote.

A big, ugly surprise.

Now, purging voters for the right reasons is not only legal, it’s mandated by law.  If someone moves out of state or dies, of course their names should be removed.

But there’s another reason voters are being purged, one I find especially pernicious.  Take, for example, in Georgia.

Where voters are being denied their right to vote simply because they haven’t voted for awhile.

According to a December 17 CNN story,

“The removal comes as part of a new state provision signed into law earlier this year.  Under the provision, the state must remove registration records from the voter rolls that have been deemed ‘inactive’ for more than three years.  A voter is categorized as ‘inactive’ if they don’t vote in two general elections and have had no contact with board of elections in that time.”

“Signed into law earlier this year.”

This year.coincidence cropped fixed.jpg

Imagine that.

Now imagine that you live in Georgia and you haven’t voted for awhile.  You haven’t moved, you haven’t died, and you’re on your way to vote in the next election.

You arrive at your polling place only to be told, “You’re not on our list of registered voters.”

Georgia’s CTA (Cover Thy Ass) move was sending a pre-addressed, postage-paid confirmation card that asked voters to confirm or update their information.  The “inactive” voters were marked for removal after failing to respond to a within 30 days.

But suppose the card didn’t make it to its destination?  The Postal Service has been known to misplace, misdirect, or inadvertently shred our mail a time or two.  More like a mail_01 croppedzillion.

Or suppose you dutifully completed the card and dropped it in the corner mailbox, and the Post Office misplaced, misdirected or inadvertently shredded it.

Or supposed that confirmation looked like junk mail – which it probably did – and who has time to wade through the pile of junk that shows up in our mailboxes every day?

Whatever occurred, in Georgia you can be denied your right to vote only because you haven’t voted for several years.

According to that CNN article, Fair Fight Action spokesman Seth Bringman said,

“In our view, it is a First Amendment right not to vote, and it is unconstitutional to take away a Georgian’s right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections.”

So here’s where we are.

Between the presidential election in 2016 and the 2018 midterms, more than 17 million voters were purged.

And according to this article:

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December 13:  A state judge in Wisconsin ruled that the state could begin canceling the registrations of 234,000 voters – seven percent of the electorate – who did not respond to a mailing from election officials.

December 16:  The Georgia Secretary of State removed 309,000 from the rolls – four percent of the electorate – whose registrations were labeled inactive, including more than a hundred thousand who were purged because they had not voted in a certain number of previous elections.

Mother Jones did the math:

“These numbers are large enough to swing close elections.  Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by 22,000 votes; the number of soon-to-be purged voters is more than 10 do the math croppedtimes his margin of victory.

“Democrat Stacey Abrams failed to qualify for a runoff against Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race by 21,000 votes; the number of purged voters in Georgia is 14 times that.”

And – no surprise – here’s that word “disproportionately” again:

“These purges appear to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning constituencies, including voters of color, students, and low-income people who tend to move more often.”

Blatantly obvious?

Oh, yeah.

Now let’s you and I do the Election Day math.

Your state:

Voters_01 (2).jpg

My state:

Voters_02 (2).jpg

Every state:

Voters_03 (2).jpg

Update:

Here’s an earlier story from October, one that didn’t get the attention that the Wisconsin and Georgia voter purges got, but is sickeningly similar:

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According to the article, this past summer a group of elected officials in Ohio, mostly all moderate Republicans, decided that rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the government would release the full list of 235,000 voters to be purged, and give the list to advocacy groups.  And…

“The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors.

“The result:  Around 40,000 people, nearly one in five names on the list, shouldn’t have been on it, the state determined.”

One ironic example:

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Jen Miller, “inactive voter.”

Jen Miller, the executive director of the League of Women Voters.

Miller got the list of 235,000 names and found her name on the list, flagged as an inactive voter.

“I voted three times last year,” said Ms. Miller.  “I don’t think we have any idea how many other individuals this has happened to.”

And there’s this more recent story:

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It says, in part,

“Democrats and liberal advocacy groups…are worried that their voters are hurt the most by these cleanup efforts.  That’s because low income, minority and young voters do tend to move around a lot.  So they are disproportionately affected.”

There’s that word again.

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Update 12/18/19:

How many more?  I think this opinion piece in the December 18 Washington Post put it well:

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The article says in part:

“Many states operate on a use-it-or lose-it principle:  If you haven’t voted in a couple of elections, the state sends you a notice, and if you don’t respond, they strike you from the rolls.  Then the next time you show up to vote, you find that you’re no longer registered.

“Republicans deny that they have any partisan motives; they claim that voter purges are just a way of cleaning up the rolls.  But we all know the truth:

“If purges didn’t work to suppress Democratic votes,
Republicans wouldn’t be so eager to do them.”

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