Does America’s Finest City Have America’s Funkiest Sidewalks?

Many of San Diego’s 1.5 million residents refer to their home as “America’s Finest City,” and with good reasons:



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But there are some people – residents and visitors alike – who disagree.

Some of those are people who – unfortunately – make headlines like this:

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Because they injured themselves when they fell on a San Diego sidewalk that looked like this:


It appears that San Diego has a lot of sidewalks – around 5,000 miles – and many of those sidewalks are extremely funky

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, an assessment in 2015 found 108,706 sidewalk repairs were needed.  As of mid-January 2019, just over 27,000 of those repairs had been completed, leaving 81,000 more.

Plus any new problems that have arisen, and we can assume they have arisen:

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Sidewalks aren’t something most of us think about.  We stroll on them, jog on them, walk our dogs on them, go to work or out to dinner or to the grocery store on them.

All without thinking about them.

Sidewalks are just there, and we rarely look down at them.

Perhaps that’s what happened to bicyclist Clifford Brown in central San Diego in 2017 – he was watching where he was going instead of looking down at the sidewalk.

Specifically, this sidewalk:

Payout nearly $5 million

Brown was launched 28 feet on his bike which tore some of his spinal cord ligaments, knocked out several teeth and caused brain damage that left him incapable of functioning independently.

Not all injuries are as serious as Brown’s, and few, if any, settlements are as big as Brown’s – $4.85 million.

But even with smaller settlements, San Diego has been forced to cover more than $11 million in injury payouts for sidewalk lawsuits over the last five years.

To be accurate, “San Diego” didn’t pay more than $11 million – taxpayers did.

But who is responsible for sidewalks that look like this?


The answer:  “It depends,” said one helpful lawyer.

Again, according to the Union-Tribune:

“While the city is responsible for sidewalk damage caused by vehicle crashes, water main breaks and trees within the right-of-way, state law makes property owners responsible for the normal wear and tear of sidewalks adjacent to their property.”

OK, so property owners are responsible, and…

“Upon notification of a broken sidewalk, the city will mail the abutting property owner a notice of liability.”

And you, as a good citizen, start looking into fixing that #*%!#*! sidewalk.

Then, from San Diego comes this surprise:

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More than $2,000 in city permit fees before you fix your sidewalk:

“While permit fees vary by location, city officials said they typically amount to more than $2,000 per repair.  That includes a traffic control permit, a right-of-way permit, a mapping fee, a maintenance fee, a records fees and an inspection.”

That’s right.

In San Diego you can’t just be a good citizen and hire a contractor to remove the broken sidewalk and replace it.

You must secure city permits as listed above.

hard hat on phone_01 croppedLet’s delve a bit into just what all that bureaucratic bullshit is for:

“Traffic control permit”:  This is the San Diego city employee in a hard hat and orange safety vest who, during your sidewalk repairs, stands at the curb next to the sidewalk, waving traffic by while he plays AdventureQuest 3D on his phone.

“Right-of-way permit”:  These are two city employees in hard hats and orange safety vests who will drive to the broken sidewalk location, look at it and say, “Yup, that sucker needs fixing.”

“Mapping fee”:  This is the city employee back at City Hall who uses Google Maps to pinpoint the exact location of the broken sidewalk, needed by the two “right-of-way permit” guys (above) before they go look at the sidewalk, even though they have GPS in their city vehicles.

“Maintenance fee”:  These are 16 city employees in hard hats and orange safety vests hard hats_0-3who stand around watching your contractor and crew repair the sidewalk, all the while debating if the San Diego Padres will still suck this season.

“Records fees”:  These are the five city employees in the Records Department playing AdventureQuest 3D on their phones with the “traffic control permit” guy, and will get around to recording your sidewalk repair…eventually.

“Inspection”:  These are the eight city employees in hard hats and orange safety vests who stop by after the sidewalk work is completed and say, “Yup, that sucker is fixed.”

So the property owner is hit with permit fees plus the cost of the sidewalk repair, and what often happens is…

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“…the average repair cost to the homeowner is over $3,000, which is simply too costly for many homeowners.  As a result, very few residents pay to fix city sidewalks, and the backlog continues to grow, especially in low-income communities.”

And when you see all those fees San Diego tacks on to get your sidewalk fixed, you may very well think, “Nah.  If somebody gets hurt, let ‘em sue the city.”

Here’s the interesting twist.  Even though you, the property owner, are responsible for sidewalk repairs…

“According to the current policy and state law, the city remains liable for injuries that result from broken sidewalks.”

As mentioned above, San Diego taxpayers have been forced to cover more than $11 million in injury payouts for sidewalk lawsuits over the last five years.

But somehow, somewhere, a light bulb came on and someone said, “I’ll bet more people would fix their sidewalks if we got rid of those #*%!#*! permit fees!”

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And – hallelujah – that’s exactly what San Diego recently announced:

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There are some catches, of course:

“The city will temporarily waive more than $2,000 in permit fees that property owners have been paying to fix sidewalks.  The fee waiver will take effect within 90 days and extend through the end of 2020, city officials said.”

But even with the time limit, I’m hopeful.

Perhaps in the upcoming months we’ll see a lot more of this:

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And a lot less of this:


And this:

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Update January 28, 2020:

Like cities across the country – like the entire country, in fact – San Diego has infrastructure problems.

And likewise, not enough money to fix the problems – as in, a $2 billion gap, according to this article:

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The article says,

“To get a better handle on how dire the situation is, city officials for the first time divided the backlog of projects into two categories:  priority needs and discretionary needs.

“Priority needs are projects required by state mandates or that affect community health and safety.”

I thought that seemed like a reasonable first step and, of course – the sidewalks situation is something that affects “community health and safety.”

But the article continues:

“Discretionary projects are still deemed necessary for the city to achieve appropriate service levels in its neighborhoods.  But they are somewhat less urgent projects, such as sidewalks repairs, bike lanes and new library branches.”

San Diego, seriously?

As mentioned earlier, taxpayers have spent more than $11 million settling sidewalk injury lawsuits over the past five years.

But San Diego is putting sidewalk repairs in the same group as bike lanes – optional – and library branches, also optional?

No wonder this guy is smiling…

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“What The World Needs Now” …Is It Really Another One of These?

To say that there’s been a lot going on in the news would be the grossest of understatements.

So, amidst all the sound and fury, it’s understandable if we miss a story here or there.

Even a story that was carried in many media outlets including The New York Times, Associated Press, Time, Smithsonian, CBS, NBC, and internationally by the BBC.

First there was the Big Reveal:  A new product had been invented!coming-soon (2)

Then there was the Big Build-up:  Coming soon!

Then the Big Debut:  It’s here!

Never mind that the world already had about 7,500 varieties of this item.

Apparently, what the world needed now was one…more…

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At least, that’s what the researchers at Washington State University (WSU) decided, and then spent 20 years studying and developing.

It’s not the cure for a life-threatening disease.

It’s not peace in the Middle East.

It’s not even a better mouse trap.

It’s an apple.

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Specifically, the Cosmic Crisp® brand apple.

Not only does it have its own registered trademark, the Cosmic Crisp® has a $10 million marketing budget, a website, Instagram account, line of promotional items, and its own transportation:

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I wasn’t kidding about the media coverage:

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Yes, Smithsonian called the Cosmic Crisp “the Beyoncé of apples” which I’m sure was intended as a mutual compliment, though it’s uncertain how Beyoncé feels about that.

Why “Cosmic Crisp”?

According to the Smithsonian article,

“Consumer focus groups helped give Cosmic Crisp its name, which alludes to gas-02 (3) fixedwhite specks on its skin that create ‘the image of stars against red sky,’ writes WSU.  The reality is perhaps a little less romantic; as Ellen Gutoskey of Mental Floss points out, the dots are lenticels, or ‘porous openings that allow the apple to exchange gases with its environment.’”

I think we can guess how Beyoncé would feel about that.

Those same creative folks at WSU also said this on the Cosmic Crisp website:

“…a new variety that will change the face of the industry and win enthusiasm among consumers with a combination of taste, texture, and usability.  The Cosmic Crisp® apple demonstrates how the science of breeding and the art of imagination can work together to create an utterly new and delightful apple.”

“Utterly new”?

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“Utterly new”?


I’d said earlier that there were already around 7,500 varieties of apples, and it occurs to me that the brainiacs at Washington State University might have better spent their time, energy and money developing something we didn’t already have 7,500 varieties of.

But despite all the much-adoing about not much, and the $10 million and the hype and website and Instagram account and spaceship…

I decided to give Cosmic Crisp a try.

And I can tell you this with absolute certainty:

The Cosmic Crisp bears absolutely no resemblance to Beyoncé:

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Trump, I…

I gotta hand it to Trump.

Well, I don’t.

But for purpose of mocking him, I will.


Because his recent activities bring this old quote to mind:

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Trump is that busy person, but he just keeps doing more!

For example, forget “POTUS” – his industrious efforts have earned Trump the new title of:


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And as Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson can affirm, getting impeached keeps you busy!

But last week, Trump still found the time to travel to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF), “an opportunity for the world’s most influential people to meld minds over the world’s economic and political challenges, and, more importantly, to network.”

“Meld minds”?

How would Trump do that?

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Well, no matter, because Trump was still busy at the WEF, bullying Greta Thunberg:

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The article noted,

“In a prepared speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump took the opportunity to take a swipe at Thunberg – who was in the audience – deriding ‘perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse’ about the environment.  ‘They are the errors of yesterday’s fortune-tellers,’ Trump claimed, ‘and we have them and I have them and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen,’ adding that in order to ‘embrace the possibilities of tomorrow,’ we must reject the warnings of such individuals.”

Whew!  A 73-year-old man bullying a 16-year-old.

Now that’s busy!

And coming up with all that great alliteration – “perennial prophets…predictions.”

I am in awe of Trump’s always-admirable alliteration.

Yet while busy at the WEF, Trump also found time for this:

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And Politico even did the math for us:

“President Donald Trump posted more than 140 times on Twitter on Wednesday, surpassing his mid-December record for the most daily tweets and retweets during his presidency.

“The president flooded his Twitter account during the second day of the Senate’s impeachment trial, with 41 posts hitting the internet between 12 and 1a.m., or one every 88 seconds, according to the site, which tracks and indexes Trump’s tweets and speeches.  He broke his all-time record for retweets, with more than 120 by late Wednesday afternoon.”

A tweet “every 88 seconds”?  Just think how tired his tiny thumbs must be!

So Trump was at the conference, busy being TTPTBI and bullying a teenager and typing those tweets, yet he somehow – clearly, he’s a time management meister – was working long distance as well:

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As one media outlet put it,

“His new rule, which will be implemented in about 60 days, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.

“The new water rule for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.”

He’s a time management meister, indeed – finding the time to roll back yet another of those pesky environmental rules and laws.

More long-distance multi-tasking:

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I guess Trump was too busy to remember that, back when he was running for president, he promised to shield entitlements from cuts?

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And speaking of long distance, before he left for the World Economic Forum – while he was busy packing and stuff – he made sure this happened:

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Yup, thanks to Trump’s vigilance, the brand-new U.S. Space Force – not to be confused with the not-new U.S. Space Command – has a brand-new patch on an old Army camouflage uniform:

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Not to be confused with the U.S. Space Command uniform:

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Well, I presume this is the U.S. Space Command uniform, since this guy is Air Force Space Command Commander General John “Jay” Raymond.

And then – Trump returned to the U.S. and was busy unpacking and stuff, but still found the time to attend an anti-abortion rally at the National Mall:

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Talk about transparency personified!

Vote whore that he is, Trump was obviously pandering to evangelists, parroting their language with phrases including,

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House”

“The far left is actively working to erase our God-given rights [and] silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life.”

“Make it your life’s mission to help spread God’s grace.”

“Sanctity of life”?  “God’s grace”?

Whew!  All that pandering and parroting kept Trump very busy!

So, Trump:  WEF attender, teenager bullier, Twitter leader, environment destroyer, uniform creator, parroter, panderer, women’s choice denier…

Trump is the ultimate time management meister multi-tasking TTPTBI.

And he’s has also mastered this skill set:

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Untested Rape Kits:  A Test Of Our Values

One night this past October at around 3am, a man entered a San Diego nursing home and went into a room where several female residents were sleeping.

He sexually assaulted one of the women, age 88.

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Arline at his preliminary hearing.

When staff members heard the victim and her roommates screaming, they entered the room and the attacker fled.

Just six days later a suspect was arrested:  Lusean Arline, age 48.  Arline was identified as the alleged perpetrator through “evidence left at the scene” that was submitted to the FBI Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  Police then tracked down Arline with help from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Arline had prior convictions, including one from 2017 for following two elderly women home to their apartment and exposing himself to the victims.

After his release from prison on October 10, Arline was arrested for a misdemeanor drug offense and jailed until October 24.  He allegedly committed the nursing home sexual assault three days later.

One local TV station noted that Arline has “a long rap sheet”:

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Arline was no stranger to getting caught, and his DNA was no stranger to databases.

DNA – an amazing tool that was unknown in police procedures until the late 1980s, and is now such a common part of our lexicon.  When we hear about a trial that includes DNA evidence, we know that evidence can be a huge part of a conviction.

This time around, Arline is facing felony charges including rape, elder abuse and residential burglary.  If convicted, he faces life in prison.

None of the news stories was specific about that “evidence left at the scene,” but when investigating a suspected sexual assault, police procedure is – if the victim agrees – to collect evidence and preserve it in a sexual assault evidence kit, commonly called a “rape kit”:

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When tested, DNA evidence contained in rape kits can be a powerful tool to solve and prevent crime.

“When tested” are the magic words.

“When tested” are also the problem words.

Untested rape kits.

Because, according to a July 2019 article in The Atlantic,

“Across the country, as many as 200,000 rape kits sit unopened in police storage while assailants – the people whose genetic fingerprints are decisively coded within such kits – are able to dodge prosecution and, in some cases, strike again.”

That means that in the U.S., thousands of people told law enforcement they were victims of sexual assault, and then subjected themselves to the evidence collecting police procedure.  This includes a doctor or nurse photographing, swabbing and conducting an invasive and exhaustive examination of the victim’s entire body for DNA evidence, a process that takes four to six hours.

How invasive and exhaustive?

Here are the contents of a typical rape kit:

rape kit components

And a list of items commonly included in a rape kit:

  • Instructions
  • Bags and sheets for evidence collection
  • Swabs for collecting fluids from the lips, cheeks, thighs, vagina, anus, and buttocks
  • Sterile urine collection containers
  • Sterile sample containers
  • Blood collection devices
  • Comb used to collect hair and fiber from the victim’s body
  • Clear glass slides
  • Self-sealing envelopes for preserving the victim’s clothes, head hair, pubic hair, and blood samples
  • Nail pick for scraping debris from beneath the nails
  • White sheets to catch physical evidence stripped from the body
  • Documentation forms
  • Labels
  • Sterile water and saline

Clearly it is an “invasive and exhaustive examination,” and clearly, these victims wanted the perpetrators brought to justice.  They wanted the perpetrators prevented from assaulting someone else.

They wanted their day in court, to face the perpetrator.

Untested rape kits.

They’re still waiting.

Those 200,000 rape kits went to police evidence rooms.

Those untested kits have a name:  Backlog.

Backlog, because the rape kits have been in the evidence rooms, untested, for months, years, even decades.


Why would any rape kit go untested?

There are lots of answers online; when I googled “untested rape kits” I got 362,000 hits.

First up was, and they’re clear about their position on untested rape kits:

“The backlog of untested rape kits represents the failure of the criminal justice system to take sexual assault seriously, prioritize the testing of rape kits, protect survivors, and hold offenders accountable.” is also clear about the why – why any rape kit would go untested – and the reasons are disheartening:

Untested rape kits.

A lack of clear, written policies among law enforcement for the testing of rape kits.  Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and sometimes those in law enforcement making those decisions are biased; police disbelieve victims of sexual assault more than victims of any other type of crime.

A lack of training and understanding about sexual assault and its impact on survivors and sex offenders, as well as a lack of training and understanding about the importance of forensic DNA, can impact whether a kit is submitted for testing.

A lack of resources – money and people; rape kit testing costs on average between $1,000 and $1,500, and public crime labs are underfunded, understaffed, and overwhelmed.

A lack of clear, up-to-date public crime lab policies to reflect innovations in the fields of forensic science and criminal justice.

That’s a lot of “lacks.”

Another website,, offered valuable insights.  RAINN stands for Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and they reference CODIS, the above-mentioned Combined

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Untested rape kits.

DNA Index System:

“Each time a DNA profile is added to CODIS, it bolsters the strength of the database and increases the chance of catching and prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence and other crimes.  CODIS has continued to grow to include DNA from millions of offenders and arrestees; it now includes more than 10 million DNA profiles.

“The result has been a dramatic increase in the hit rate, or the percentage of cases in which DNA found at the crime scene or in a rape kit is matched to someone in the database.”

A visit to the CODIS website is an eye-opener – it tells us that:

“CODIS’s primary metric, the ‘Investigation Aided,’ tracks the number of criminal investigations where CODIS has added value to the investigative process.  As of November 2019, CODIS has produced over 491,537 hits, assisting in more than  481,098 investigations.”

As of November 2019, in California, CODIS had 82,949 “Investigations Aided.”

Lusean Arline was in CODIS, and that aided his investigation.

Untested rape kits.  Did the police “borrow” the shopping carts for more storage space?

Which brings us back to the 88-year-old victim in the San Diego nursing home.  I don’t know if the evidence was from a rape kit, but if it was, then it was one rape kit that did not go untested.

But what about those other 200,000 untested rape kits?

There is some encouraging news from

“Jurisdictions that are deeply invested in bringing justice to survivors and preventing future crimes have dedicated the necessary resources toward addressing their backlogs and moving cases forward.

“New York City served as a model for the rest of the country when it committed to testing every rape kit in its backlog and aggressively following up on leads and prosecuting cases:

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“Detroit is now working to pull together the resources needed to test every kit in its backlog of more than 11,000 untested kits and to investigate the resulting leads:

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“In Cleveland, prosecutors have initiated cases against hundreds of perpetrators thanks to the testing of their nearly 4,000 kits:

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“And in Memphis, nearly 6,000 kits have already been tested as the Memphis Police Department addresses its backlog of 12,164 kits”:

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And these stories are encouraging.

But based on the image below from an ABC News story in January 2019, there is so much more to be done:

By state

Yes, there is a smattering of good news like this…

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And this…

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But that good news is so far outweighed by the bad news:

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There was good news on December 30 – though few major media outlets chose to tell it:

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But still…

We’re still seeing headlines like this:

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Much Ado About…

To call the British monarchy “staid” would not, in most cases, be an overstatement:

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In fact, any number of British royal family members would take it as a compliment.

And I say “staid” not as a criticism – the British royal family is obviously doing something right.  Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s longest-reigning monarch – 67 years – and the English monarchy has been around since 827 AD or so.

Portrait of Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of England. Undated photograph.
Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901.

I’m also not criticizing because I’ve been fascinated by English royalty for years.  There are so many English monarchs – 61 over a period of about 1200 years – among them your Aethelbald and Aethelred up through multiple Henrys, Edwards and Georges, a couple of Marys and Elizabeths (one being Elizabeth, or QEII, the present-day monarch), and of course, the one and only Victoria.

If we neglected to mention Victoria, she would not be amused.

And I daresay she would not be amused by the big announcement in January that shunted aside all other world news:

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“Stepping back”? Queen Victoria would look down her royal nose and sneer.  “One does not step back!  One does one’s duty and smiles throughout, for God, Saint George and England!  ‘Stepping back’?  Balderdash!”

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The phrase “not amused” was recently echoed, this time in reference to Queen Elizabeth’s response to the decision of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markel:

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It’s not as though “stepping away” from royal responsibilities is something new; QEII’s own uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne in 1936.  At the time Elizabeth was 10, so she certainly remembers that.

So I think the whole thing is – as Brits are wont to say – a…

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If the Queen were to ask me – of which I’m doubtful – I’d say, “Lighten up, Liz!”

And just for laughs – of which I’m also doubtful – I’d tell QEII to check out this subsequent Harry/Meghan story:

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Yes!  When Burger King learned that Harry and Meghan wanted to become more “financially independent,” Burger King stepped up and offered them part-time jobs.

And the episode has provided us with some great laughs, like the above “Whopper Of A Job Offer” – funny!

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“Goodbye House of Windsor, hello Home of the Whopper.”

“If you’re looking for a job, we have a new crown for you.”

“You always have a job in our kingdom.”

“After so many years of living as dukes, it is time for you to start eating like kings.”

Some wit came up with a spin-off of Brexit:

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And an enterprising media outlet even tracked down a 2013 Men’s Health magazine video starring Markel and entitled, Grilling Never Looked So Hot:

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There were lots of photo spreads from the video, like this one:

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Which I think really missed the point of the video:

If Burger King hires Meghan,
she already knows her way around a burger grill:


The burgers are at the lower-right under the Men’s Health logo.

Not that anyone was looking at the burgers.

Though it appears that Meghan and Harry don’t need to accept Burger King’s offer.

Seriously, how much more “financially independent” can you get?

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Ain’t This The Truth?

Allow me to introduce Representative Chris Collins, R-New York and Representative Duncan Hunter, R-CA .

Collins and Hunter were the first two members of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential bid in 2016.

Here’s the trio in 2017 – Trump, Collins (center) and Hunter.


Fast forward to 2019; Collins and Hunter are now convicted felons:


Collins pleaded guilty to insider trading and is a convicted felon.

On Friday, January 17 Collins was sentenced to 26 months in prison and fined $200,000.  He’s had his last headline.

He begins serving his sentence March 17.

Hunter pleaded guilty to campaign finance abuse and is a convicted felon.

Hunter resigned his House seat on January 13.  The only mention in the San Diego Union-Tribune was at the bottom of page A-9.  He’s old news.

His sentencing is March 17.

Here’s my prayer for 2020:

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

The database at, 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…

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:

Sixty Minutes (2)

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:

Resign No (2).jpg

But then he did this:

Resign Yes (2).jpg

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:

Bishop Malone solo (2).jpg

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

Monaco cropped smaller california_01 cropped smaller.jpg costa rica



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…

not welcome.png

Update 12/17/19:

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

NY Times (2)

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?

Silence cropped larger

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:

NPR (2).jpg

This story will never be over until there truly is…

transparency cropped with line

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:

Siamang sad

“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.

Casper cropped
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:

Casper Headline (2)

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:

SEC (2)

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:

Gina Final (3)

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.

Driscoll cropped
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 that talks about a Driscoll video that went viral before it was removed from YouTube:

Patricia Video (2)

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.”


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

Women behaving badly.

Step aside, boys.

patricia and gun cropped
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:

Headline (2).jpg

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?

How Low cropped.jpg

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:

Table_02 (2)

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:


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?

DriveWise cropped larger

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.

weekend cropped
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:

Fey and Palin
Palin (left) and Fey as Palin.  Fey nailed it.
Fey and Pohler
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:

Palin Endorses Trump Fey as Palin endorsing Trump
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:

Net Worth (2)

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:

Ad Age (2)

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:

drivewise_01 cropped

“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?


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:

Wash Post (2)

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.

Security (2)

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:

By Age cropped

They all have this in common:

Broken hearts and lost money:

romance scam_01 cropped

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:

never_01 cropped larger

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.


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.


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…

into 21st century cropped fixed

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:

Slate FINAL (2).jpg

Then in Georgia:

Common Dreams (2)

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:

ATlantic (2)

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:

Mother (2).jpg

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


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:

NY Times (2).jpg

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:

jen miller cropped
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.”

I couldn't vote larger

New Commercial, Same Old Message:  Your Body Is…

Let’s start with some context:Syringe cropped

You go to the doctor and hand him or her $1,000, cash or credit card.  You’re going to have an elective medical procedure, and no insurance companies cover this.

You say, “Doctor, I want you to stick a needle in my face 50 times, around my eyes and in my forehead.

“And in that needle, one of the ingredients will be botulinum-toxin protein, one of the most powerful nerve poisons known.  This toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.

Clostridium_Botulinum cropped
Clostridium botulinum.

“This will cause flaccid paralysis of the muscles where you did the injections, so the muscles can’t contract.  That makes skin relax and soften.

“So these bad wrinkles in my forehead, bad lines between my eyebrows, and bad crow’s feet around my eyes will be all gone.  I’ll look younger, be infinitely more successful, and live happily ever after!

“Or until the toxin wears off in a few months, at which time I’ll return for a refill.”

Context:  Botox Cosmetic treatments.

“Botox” is a brand name – there are several others – and it’s been around for years.  Their website says BOTOX® Cosmetic is “the #1 selling treatment of its kind,” and claims to be:

“The first and only treatment FDA approved to temporarily make moderate to severebotox cropped frown lines, crow’s feet and forehead lines look better in adults.”

“Temporarily…look better.”

Now let’s review a recent Botox TV commercial.

The commercial starts out as do so many others, aimed at females age 12 and over.

The message:  For any female to allow her face, skin, hair, body, etc. to look anything but eternally youthful is:

bad_branding cropped fixed

The commercial starts with brief clips of young, lovely, taut-skinned women – with one young, handsome (token) man thrown in – and a female voice-over urging us to “own your look…with fewer lines”:

Own Your Look (2)

“How?” we wonder, “Please, tell us how!”

The voice-over lady is happy to tell us:

“Botox Cosmetic.  It’s the only one FDA approved to temporarily make

Frown Lines (2)


Crow's feet (2)


Forehead lines (2).jpg

“Look better.”

There’s that “temporarily…look better” again.

We’re now 20 seconds into the commercial, and the disclaimers begin.

Disclaimers we’re not really hearing as more images of young, lovely, taut-skinned women – with a few more young, handsome (token) men thrown in – fill our TV screens.

Here’s what we’re not hearing:

The effects of Botox Cosmetic may spread hours to weeks after injection causing serious symptoms.  Alert your doctor right away as difficult swallowing, speaking, breathing, eye problems or muscle weakness may be a sign of a life-threatening condition.

(“Life threatening”?  Wait.  What?)

Do not receive Botox Cosmetic if you have a skin infection.  Side effects may include allergic reactions, injection site pain and headache, eyebrow/eyelid drooping, and eyelid swelling.

(“Drooping?  Swelling?”  Geez!)

Tell your doctor about your medical history, muscle or nerve conditions, and medications including botulinum toxin as these may increase the risk of serious side effects.

(“Serious side effects”?  Holy shit!)

Disclaimers complete, we’re now 50 seconds in and winding up for the big pitch:




See Results (2)

And you can, indeed, go to the Botox website and see before-and-after pictures, like this one:

Before After (3)

Of course, the fact that “Nancy” is frowning in her “Before” shot, and not frowning in her “After” shot has nothing to do with anything.

I looked at all the images and was not surprised to not see these before-and-after pictures…

Botched Marcelle King larger

Or these…

Botched 1 Jozette Sheppard

Or these…

Botced Carol-Kingscott reversed

Images of people with botched Botox treatments who don’t “look better…

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But do look tragic…

permanently cropped


I recently watched the documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts, in which the actress/activist freely admitted to having had cosmetic surgeries.

Fonda, now 82, has been performing in front of the camera for 60+ years.

“Looking good for the camera” is very much in her job description.

Whether that camera is shooting Grace & Frankie – the Netflix series Fonda stars in with Lily Tomlin, now renewed for its seventh season – or catching Jane being arrested at a protest:

Fonda (2)

Looking good is necessary to Fonda’s career.

Fonda comes to mind because I recently heard about an acquaintance who also had cosmetic surgery.

The acquaintance, whom I’ll call “Ann,” is 43.

She does not make her career in front of a camera, but rather, in front of a classroom.

Family of six.pngAnn is the divorced mother of two pre-teens, and happily remarried to a divorced man, also with two children – a blended family.  Their income is adequate for their family of six, and they tend to spend every penny they earn.

I would describe Ann as attractive, of average height and weight.  She tries every new diet that comes along, and between the kids and her classroom, she gets plenty of exercise.

But apparently, Ann felt her body was “bad,” and needed fixing.

So she had breast augmentation, a tummy tuck and thigh liposuction, all three procedures in one day.

Cost:  Approximately $20,000.liposuction

None of it covered by health insurance.

I’ll never ask where they got the money.

And I’ll never ask why she voluntarily went under the knife – plus anesthesia, pain, recovery, risking infection and worse.

Though I know the most common answer to that question is, “I wanted to feel better about myself.”

college-fund-image croppedIf I did ask, and did hear that reason, I’d have had further questions:

Did it ever cross your mind that putting that $20,000 into a college fund for your kids would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Did it ever cross your mind that using that $20,000 to help pay down your monster mortgage would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Did it ever cross your mind that putting that $20,000 in an easily accessible account for emergencies would make you “feel better” about yourself?

Apparently not.

Instead, Ann spent that money to change her body.

Because her body was…

bad_branding cropped fixed.png

You want “bad”?

How’s this for bad:

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Update from Ann, 12/29/19:

“My belly is flat, the drain plugs are out, my breasts are round.”

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