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!

And there are more:harryMeghanBUrgerKing cropped fixed

“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:

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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.

2017

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

2017

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 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:

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.

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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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