Friday, October 28, 2016

ABC v MMS: from Humble beginnings to 20/20 investigation

I guess you could call it Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Trudeau: tonight's episode of ABC News' weekly show 20/20 will feature a segment on a fringe "church," the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, which has come under fire for pushing a "miracle cure" called MMS.

Here, from the ABC News web site, are articles related to the story that will be on tonight's 20/20, with Brian Ross reporting (10 p.m. Eastern Time, 9 Central).

Judging from the noise on Facebook so far, it would appear that the villagers are surging forth with their pitchforks and torches. But they are not, as it turns out, pursuing Jim Humble or other purveyors of this "miracle cure." Instead they're after ABC, and Brian Ross in particular, whom they are accusing of being biased, deceptive, sensationalist, evil, unscientific, and (of course!) part of the Big Pharma plot to keep people from accessing real cures for horrid diseases. Take a look at the discussions here and here, for instance. The pro-MMS camp seems to be out-shouting the skeptics. They are a very passionately devoted group of folks, many of whom claim to have experienced the healing powers of MMS firsthand.

And Jim himself is leading the villagers, particularly on Facebook, it seems.

Familiar territory
I'm no stranger to this saga. I've written about Jim Humble, the main perpetrator of the MMS scampire and founder of that ersatz "church," a couple of times on this Whirled. (My favorite doctor blogger, Orac, aka Dr. David Gorski at Respectful Insolence,
has also written about Humble and his MMS "cures" a few times.)

So what's the deal about Kevin Trudeau and those six degrees and so forth? Well, maybe it isn't even six degrees.

Humble first captured my interest because among many other things, he is a vanity book publisher who publishes
the German-language works of the deranged "Dr." Leonard Coldwell, the former Bernd Klein of Germany and an all-too-frequent guest on this Whirled. (Coldwell unsuccessfully sued me last year for writing about him.) Humble also publishes or distributes the works of other quacks, including works by the late Hulda Clark, a supposed expert on cancer cures, who died of...I hate to say it... cancer. Through his German-language web site, Jim Humble Verlag, he not only peddles books and other info-frauducts but also sells a slew of supplements.

And Coldwell, as those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time almost certainly know, first caught my interest because he is a former cohort of
imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, whom I've written about numerous times and whose shenanigans have also been previously documented by ABC News. Coldwell was a big part of Trudeau's scammy Global Information Network (GIN) until he got fired in spring of 2012. Ever since then he has been a rabid critic of Trudeau.

Here is
one previous post where I wrote about Jim Humble; the part about him is actually at the end, in a May 2015 update. It was mostly in the context of my earlier speculations about a "Heroes of Cancer" European book tour that Coldwell had claimed he was going to go on along with two much better-known cancer quacks, Stanislaw Burzynski and Tullio Simoncini. In fact that "book tour" turned out to be a "health congress" (frauduct expo) in Kassel, Germany, sponsored by none other than Jim Humble. The "congress" was originally scheduled to be held on different dates in several cities in Europe as well as the UK, but most of the events were cancelled, most likely because of skeptics' protests and trouble with health authorities. (And according to a very recent report on the ABC News site, one of the "bishops" of the Genesis II "Church" in Ireland has been convicted on charges related to pushing the MMS frauduct.)

Coldwell, who as you probably also know
is not and never has been a real doctor of any sort, claims to have "the only answer to cancer" and he boasts that he has a 92.3 percent cancer cure rate. He has gushed about his close friendship with Jim Humble, whom he considers to be a fellow warrior for truth: one who, like Coldwell, is continually being unjustly hounded and pursued by the medical establishment, Big Pharma, the New World Order and of course the evil mainstream media. Or so goes the "help, help, I'm being repressed!" narrative so fiercely embraced by the Brave Maverick Doctors/Healers and their loyal fans.

Phony churches offer no sanctuary
Like Jim Humble, Leonard Coldwell also had a "church" for a while, the Church of Inner Healing, LLC, which, in the spirit of Jim Humble et al., he apparently used to protect himself from liability for doling out medical advice. The business is now listed on the business data sites as "no longer active," or "dissolved," though the "church" is still listed as a chartered member of Universal Ministries (see South Carolina, Mount Pleasant on this link). As well, Coldwell has numerous other LLCs and other types of businesses both in the US and his native Germany, so he presumably has plenty of ways to funnel his money and avoid not only tax liability but also legal liability for his fake-doctorin' shtick.

As for Humble's Genesis II "Church,"
here's what one of the ABC reports has to say:
It would be a violation of federal law to sell such a “miracle cure,” but ["Archbishop" Mark] Grenon claims he is protected because he is part of a church and the “miracle cure” is a sacrament that is not being sold but is offered for a “donation.”

“It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card to sell snake oil,” said [Dr. Steven] Novella [of the Yale School of Medicine]. “You make a donation to the church and you get it as a sacrament? Who really believes that?”

Federal prosecutors have already convicted one distributor of the “miracle cure” who shipped the solution through a company he formed.

And officials say the claims of religious freedom will not prevent prosecutions for sales of such cures.

“The cloak of religion does not protect illegal conduct from prosecution,” said Ben Mizer, the U.S. principal deputy assistant attorney general, in an interview with “20/20.”
Indeed, another MMS peddler, 45-year-old Louis Daniel Smith of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced on October 27 to more than four years in prison. The Department of Justice web site says:
After a seven-day trial in June, a jury convicted Smith of one count of conspiracy to commit multiple crimes, three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead and one count of fraudulently smuggling merchandise into the United States.  Evidence at trial showed that Smith operated a business called “Project GreenLife” (PGL) from 2007 to 2011.  PGL sold a product called “Miracle Mineral Supplement,” or MMS, over the Internet.  MMS is a mixture of sodium chlorite and water.  Sodium chlorite is an industrial chemical used as a pesticide, for hydraulic fracturing and for wastewater treatment.  Sodium chlorite cannot be sold for human consumption, and suppliers of the chemical include a warning sheet stating that it can cause potentially fatal side effects if swallowed...
... According to the evidence presented at trial, Smith created phony “water purification” and “wastewater treatment” businesses in order to obtain sodium chlorite and ship his MMS without being detected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  The government also presented evidence that Smith hid evidence from FDA inspectors and destroyed evidence while law enforcement agents were executing search warrants.
So it would appear that the Church of the Holy Bleach has its first real martyr, even though Smith reportedly was not a church member.

As for Jim Humble, it appears that ABC had a "contentious encounter" with him. Here's more from the article quoted directly above:
Asked about allegations that he is more a con man than a religious leader, Humble said they “ain’t true.”

He also said he is living in a small apartment, barely making ends meet because other church leaders in the United States have failed to send him his “cut” of the money raised from training seminars.

In a newsletter sent to his followers after the “20/20” encounter, Humble backed off his claims that the church sacrament cures any disease.

“Today, I say MMS cures nothing!” he wrote. Now the founder of the church, who spent the last dozen years promoting MMS as a cure-all, says MMS is just one of a number of “important health tools, to combat the ill effects of poor foods, and chemicals that make us sick.”
Yup. And ol' Jim just happens to sell a bunch of those "important health tools" through his online store, and through no telling how many other sites, organizations and individuals in no telling how many countries. So if I were you, I wouldn't spend too much time weeping for Humble because those other "church leaders" in the U.S. are screwing him out of frauduct proceeds. My guess is that, notwithstanding his cries of poverty, he is doing just fine on his own.

My hope is that ABC -- or someone! -- will dig a little deeper into Jim Humble's offshore scams and hustles as well as the U.S.-based ones; I think that if they were to do so they would be able to scare up some evidence that Humble is far from the poor man he claims to be. My further hope is that maybe they'll snare Humble's pudgy little pal Coldwell in their investigative nets as well. That investigation is long, long overdue.

ABC, are you listening?

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Drumpf: the nakedest emperor of all

Our favorite little fake robot, Salty Droid, had been silent again for a while after his last post about the Herbalife scampire. I wasn't too concerned because I knew he was busy with other Matters of Consequence having something to do with Salty Droid 2.0, but I still missed him on his blog. Well, now he's back, with a resolution to help see us through the final daze of this appalling U.S. presidential campaign. In his inaugural countdown post, dated 18 October, he wrote:

Twenty days until the election … here comes twenty fake robot posts about the worst piece of shit of Earth. I don’t have enough substance to fill that many posts :: but it seems that those without substance are free to rave like lunatics … and that I can fucking do with the best of them.
That was soon followed by a post about Trump's performance in the third and final (and I have to admit that using the word "final" makes me a little uneasy) presidential debate.

This clowned-faced egomaniac :: full on scammer :: and proud member of Sarah Palin’s no-books club … lost the third presidential debate as badly as he’d lost the first two. But he did make some solid points along the way :: like …
  • Nasty women :: who are too ugly to grope … are ripping babies out of their wombs to support ISIS.
  • Crooked Hillary caused the Middle East.
  • America is a disaster.
  • The cyber emails are a disaster.
  • #lockherup
  • Black people = war zone.
  • War zones = confusing.
  • Syrian refugees are murdering us disastrously because Bashar al-Assad is smarter than President Obama.
  • Why won’t people Wikileaks Sean Hannity?
  • Don the Con shouldn’t have to concede an election to a girl that nobody likes … bigly! #FuckYouAmerica
Apart from the fact that Salty's summary is more coherent than some of Trump's actual word-salad tossing during that debate, I think he nailed it pretty well. And those "solid points" have kept the right-wing foaming-at-the-mouthers pretty busy on social media for the past few days. Some of them just can't stop crying about their conviction that horrible Hillary wants to rip innocent little babies out of the womb hours before they're due to be born. They have zero interest either in Clinton's actual views or the realities of late-term abortion in America.

So let's just let them blather among themselves while we proceed to Salty's final point on that post, which concerns "Donald J. Trump’s next {scam supported} venture ::
Trump TV … which is going to be exactly as successful as Tony Robbins TV."

The following day Salty was back again with a post about Drumpf's attempts to con vulnerable people into thinking they could all get rich selling
a stupid diet program, Silhouette Solutions, through The Trump Network.
Do you want a silhouette that Donald Trump would consider inappropriately ogling :: or do you want your current silhouette … which {let’s face it ladies} wouldn’t be his first choice?

...Here’s how it worked …

  1. Pick the silhouette that you are.
  2. Pick the silhouette that you want to be.
  3. Eat soy isolates instead of food until you get there.
You think that’s a joke :: because it sounds so stupid and this is a joke site … but it’s not a joke … picking silhouettes was the actual fucking gimmick.
The Starter Program was an eight-week deal that cost $1,325. But, noted Salty, "Judging by his current silhouette... it would seem that Mr. Trump couldn't afford his own solution."

Here is a more detailed analysis of Silhouette Solutions, published in August 2015 by a former naturopath. Says she:
I find it telling that Trump ended up selling suspect health products, one of which was designed by a naturopathic doctor, to financially desperate families. Donald Trump is a voracious profiteer.

If Donald Trump became president, the American people can count on a lot of hyperbolic talk with very little intelligent leadership. At least one prominent naturopath might have his ear. Who knows what might happen. There’s always money to be made selling snake-oil.

Trump sold his interest in the diet scam to Bioceutica, LLC in 2012, but the evidence of his pudgy littlefingers being in that pie lives on in Internet archive infamy.
In the previously-linked October 18 post Salty wrote:

I know it seems like the “Trump is conman” story has been eaten by the “Trump is the worst piece of shit on Earth” story … but I think the conman thing is still important. Manipulation of the preprogrammed masses by fake reality celebrities :: the story here … is at the root of all the toxic vines in Trump’s pumpkin patch.
Indeed. There's a devil at the crossroads of politix and Scamworld, and given our celebrity-addicted, entertainment-befuddled culture -- a culture where wingnutty conspiracy narratives are increasingly winning out over nuanced analysis -- it's really not so surprising after all that Herr Drumpf got as far as he did. Frightening, yes, but not surprising.

And not to put too fine a point on the matter, but as I've mentioned before, there seem to be scads of Scamworld luminaries and wannabes who are really into the Donald, imprisoned serial scammer
Kevin Trudeau being one of them, and the notorious Not-Doktor Herr Loony Coldwell being another. It's the old like-attracts-like scenario.
And the sad part is that Drumpf's scams, past and present, are far from unique.

In any case, as I've noted here several times previously, Salty Droid was one of the first and one of the best to nail Drumpf on the latter's Scamworld creds. And I look forward to reading more of his musings as we make our way to what I fervently hope is a rousing victory for that nasty woman, Hillary Clinton. I suppose that it's too much to hope that this season's nakedest emperor, Donald J. Drumpf, will slink into obscurity, but I personally don't care where he slinks, as long as it's nowhere near the Oval Office.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

James Arthur Ray Death Lodge Seventh Anniversary: Never Forget

Note: If you get a sense of deja vu as you read this, it is because I am lifting some of it from last year's anniversary post. It's okay; I gave me permission to plagiarize myself.

I always love October. I love the way it presents itself, more often than not, in such bright and perfect blue and gold -- yes, even down here where we don't have the stunning autumn colors that are seen further north. I love the way October always feels, even more than September does, like a beginning rather than the herald of any kind of ending.

But as much as I love October, there is an undercurrent of sadness in these pristine fall days. Most of the hummingbirds are gone by now, though a scant few stragglers remain, but that's not the core of my sadness. It's more of a general melancholy, rather subtle, perhaps best expressed by Rilke's poem, "Autumn," which is no doubt even more lovely in the original German, though
the version in this blog post is the English translation that touches me the most (yes, despite my agnosticism).

This October day in particular is a sad one, for today is the seventh anniversary of the deaths of
Kirby Brown and James Shore, two participants in New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality guru James Arthur Ray's phony "sweat lodge" in Sedona, Arizona. Nine days later a third participant, Liz Neuman, passed away as well, without ever awakening from a coma.

And after that, the world was never the same for untold numbers of family members and friends of these three lovely people.

I knew none of them, though some of the family members are now my Facebook friends, but I think of them every year at this time. Mostly it is with sadness but also with anger, because the man whose recklnessness was responsible for these three deaths (four, if you count
Colleen Conaway's death at another Ray event in July 2009), served a prison sentence of less than two years for the Sedona deaths. (He served no time at all for Colleen's death, and wasn't even charged, much less tried or convicted, although my understanding is that there was a civil settlement of some kind, eventually.)

And these days, James Ray
is exploiting the Sedona tragedy and his time in prison for his own purposes, still parading as a success guru but with a new hook: he uses the pain and loss of others to portray himself as the hero who has walked through fire.

He may have walked through fire, figuratively speaking, but he did not die by fire, literally, as did James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman.

He may have lost a lot, but he is still alive and capable of writing unmitigated crap such as, "In the process of losing everything...I actually found myself."

That theme -- redemption through profound loss -- is the one that Death Ray is still flogging.

And as October inevitably gives way to November and December, there will still be empty places at the holiday tables of the families whose loved ones were killed by the arrogant recklessness of James Arthur Ray.

Regarding the latter, there are bright spots of joy with the sadness; in the years since Death Lodge, beautiful babies have been born to some of the family members of those who were lost. Life goes on, and for some, October is truly a time of beginnings.

And maybe, just maybe, no one is ever truly lost. Rilke:

...And yet there's One whose gently-holding hands
this universal falling can't fall through.

Kirby Brown's family, trying to create something good from the awfulness wrought by James Ray, is still promoting their non-profit, Seek Safely, whose purpose is to educate people about how to safely participate in the self-help industry. They have recently upgraded the site. Check it out.

I will mention once again, as I always do when writing about this organization, the
Seek Safely Promise. In contrast to previous years, it now appears that several industry leaders have signed the pledge; the page linked to in the previous sentence includes not only the promise but also a list of both those who have signed and those who haven't. But I would be remiss if I were to imply that I believe that signing the pledge is a guarantee that the individual is "okay." For instance, several of the Internet marketing scammers Salty Droid has written about appear to have signed the promise, which may be a big reason that Salty/Jason has turned down requests to speak at Seek Safely events. He really cannot find much good to say about the self-help industry, and for that matter neither can I.

And I notice that Esther Hicks seems to have signed it too, although
the Abraham-Hicks cult has arguably played a part in emotionally if not physically destroying numerous people over the years.

Still, Seek Safely is a worthy cause, especially since a big part of its mission is to educate consumers and prevent them from becoming victims, and I applaud Kirby's family for their efforts.

And me? I'll continue, as I have for the past seven years, to do my part to make sure that people never forget what happened on October 8, 2009.

For insights into the arrogance that led up to Death Lodge, and the arrogance Ray has displayed since then,
see this post, written on the first anniversary of Sedona. Also read Connie Joy's book, Tragedy in Sedona. There's also a public Facebook group, James Arthur Ray is a Felon.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Back into the black hole of politix...

We are well into October, and as the shadow of the U.S. presidential election looms ever larger and darker, I once again feel the possibly irrational urge to inject some politix into this normally non-political blog. For those of you who are sick of my lame punditry because you prefer pure Scamworld topics (or even because you have a long memory and are nostalgic for the carefree snark-fests that were once the foundation of this Whirled), I apologize. For those of you who are sick of the politicking because you are Trump supporters and don't like what I have written about him... well, goodness, it seems that I'm all out of apologies.

The Faux-hio voter fraud scandal
Several factors have drawn me back into this black hole of off-my-normal-beat bloggery, and some of them are related to my normal beat after all. For instance, the stupidest and most evil man in Scamworld,
Leonard Coldwell, used his social media soapbox the other day to share a hoax story from the fake news site, Christian Times. And he wasn't the only one who shared it in all apparent seriousness. The phony story describes "hundreds of thousands" of fraudulent sealed ballots for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that were supposedly found by a Columbus, Ohio electrical worker. On October 1 the Franklin County Board of Elections issued a press release stating that the story was fake and even providing a link to the UK web site from which the Christian Times stole the photo used in the fake story.

Snopes debunked it as well. So did The Columbus Dispatch. Even Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (a Republican) slammed it.

But the story has continued to spread via social media and it is still up, with no retractions or corrections, on
some clickbait sites that try to look legitimate, as well as overtly nutcake ones. Coldwell may be the dimmest and most loathsome entity to share the meme, but as I noted he's far from the only one. And the reason is obvious: it fits in with the wingnutty, Trumped-up "Crooked Hillary" narrative. By extension it validates Trump's own claims (and those of his most passionate fans) that the election is "rigged" against him.

It also feeds into
the persistent myth of voter fraud committed by minority or liberal-leaning voters, a myth that has given rise to stringent voter I.D. laws which seem to have served mainly as a tool to disenfranchise those very minority and liberal-leaning voters. Though there have been investigations into possible voter fraud in states such as Indiana (some have called the investigations "partisan harassment"), it is for the most part not really a thing. And those who are throwing hysterical fits about suspected fraud might do well to keep in mind that some apparent fraud is simply human error. (More on that below.)

Most of the folks I've seen sharing the fake Ohio voter-fraud story are Donald Trump supporters, Hillary haters, chronic conspiracy addicts, or a combination thereof. And most are also -- and not by coincidence -- dedicated Snopesophobes, smugly claiming that anyone who cites Snopes is lazy, gullible, a "Libtard," a mainstream sheeple, or a combination thereof. To these folks, the mere mention of Snopes in a positive light during a conversation is a signal for automatic and immediate dismissal and derision of the person who brought it up. They won't even bother to follow the link and actually read the article. Mention Snopes on a certain type of thread, and prepare to be met with a string of rote accusations against Snopes and oneself that some of us can practically recite in our sleep.

As you may know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time,
my opinion about Snopes is considerably more positive, and my opinion about some of the robotic Snopes-haters... um, not so positive. But I have also learned that it does no good to try to argue folks out of their "Snopes-is-a-liberal-tool" dogma. You can try, but don't be surprised if you get nowhere. As Jef Rouner wrote in 2014:
The first thing to do with a Snopes denier is... nothing. Do not continue the initial conversation. You have already lost your stand, and can do nothing more here. Ultimately, you are having a different interaction from the one you think you are. You thought you were helpfully informing, but they think you're part of a misled general populace that just can't see the monsters in the shadows.

But I never learn. I continue to engage 'em.

The fact is that Snopes
has also been accused of having a conservative/right-wing bias, though I don't believe that accusation any more than I believe the site has a deep liberal bias. And particularly during this contentious U.S. presidential election cycle, Snopes writers have also been busily debunking leftist memes, such as this one about Donald Trump and his remarks about military veterans with PTSD... or this one about his running mate Mike Pence and his supposed remarks about abortion and rape... or this one about the Libertarian VP supposedly giving up the ghost and becoming a Hillary supporter. Snopes has also soundly condemned the clickbait site that spread the loathsome fake news of Trump's death from a heart attack.

But it simply does not matter to some folks.

Some of the Snopes-haters and anti-Hillary meme sharers with whom I have conversed about Trump are good people who were burned in some way by serial scammer
Kevin Trudeau in his mega-scam the Global Information Network, or GIN, which were, of course, hot topics on this blog even back in the day when some of them were still partying it up on GIN cruises, hoping to get rich or change the world. Maybe it's obnoxious of me to keep bringing that up. But I will keep bringing it up anyway.

The Scamworld angle
It appears to me that these good ex-GINfolk simply cannot see that Donald J. Trump is an even worse -- and potentially more dangerous -- scammer than Trudeau ever could be (although granted,
Trump and Trudeau have a few things in common). Though a few people have acknowledged that Trump is far from an ideal candidate, they insist that all of his shortcomings, wrongdoings, and deep character flaws pale in comparison to Clinton's alleged "life of crime."

This is not just about Snopes, of course. There is a deeper problem here, and it has to do with both Scamworld and with politics. The Scamworld angle centers on the fact that some of the Snopes-hating people who were burned by GIN, and insist that they have learned their lesson about scams and scammers, continue to embrace pretty much any conspiracy story that pops up on social media. I would suggest that this enthusiasm for conspiracies indicates they have not really taken their hard-learned lessons to heart after all, and possibly retain a core gullibility that is only thinly disguised by their oft-expressed distrust of the mainstream media and other institutions.

(It isn't that I am always enamored of the mainstream media myself. And believe it or not I am skeptical about government, and am no big fan of big business, and so on. I just don't take an extreme position of automatically rejecting everything simply because it is "mainstream.")

While the nouveau anti-establishmentarians imperiously point fingers at anyone who cites Snopes or other popular fact-checking/debunking sites -- and insist that their contempt for Snopes et al. demonstrates that they are the ones who are awake and aware, and the rest of us are either impaired thinkers or are crooked ourselves -- many are in fact advertising their own credulity to the world. They are showing that while they are willing to automatically reject "mainstream" narratives, they are all too willing to believe any wild-eyed tale spewed out by the "alternative" media.

More to the point here: these conspiracy fans are painting targets on themselves for any potential huckster with a knack for packaging "information" that "They" (i.e. the corrupt establishment/New World Order/Illuminutty etc.) "don't want you to know about."

The forbidden-information, faux-rebel-against-the-establishment shtick
worked well for Kevin Trudeau for many years, and arguably still continues to work for him even though he is currently locked up in a minimum security prison. It has worked well for Trudeau's buddy "Mark Hamilton" (or Mark Scamilton as he is known on this blog), and before that for Scamilton's late daddy "Frank Wallace," and that whole Neo-stink scampire. And it is working very well indeed for career conspiracy mongers such as Alex Jones and Mike "the Health Ranger" Adams, as well as a number of other hucksters and scammers who are also exploiting the secret-info-that-the-lamestream-media-won't-tell-you motif.

None of this is really surprising, though. As my pal Salty Droid has both documented on his blog and has mentioned in private correspondence, quitting one manipulative scam or scammer doesn't cure one of the thinking pattern errors that got them sucked in in the first place. "Manipulation causes susceptibility to manipulation as a side effect," sez Salty. I know he's right, but I am still capable of being surprised by the phenomenon, especially when it occurs among folks whom I'd thought were friends, or at least allies.
The greater danger
If this were just a matter of personal Facebook battles it would be no big deal, even though, to my deep disappointment, I have seen what I thought were solid friendships collapsing in the face of increasingly heated political conversations. And if it were simply an indication of job security for scammers and hucksters that would be bad, but still not necessarily a catastrophe-in-waiting. But it seems pretty clear that the essential political battle is going to continue all the way to the ballots. Though some of Clinton's most virulent haters are not in fact eligible to vote in the U.S., there are many who are. And they could very well be responsible for propelling a dangerously volatile blowhard into the most powerful position in the world.

But it may be that America is screwed either way, as more than one non-U.S. citizen recently told me. For even if the Trumpians are unable to elect their candidate, it is very likely that millions of them will not accept the results of the election. How they will express that lack of acceptance is
a matter of legitimate concern.

Accordingly the growing penchant for conspiracy tall tales --
of which Donald Trump is the current "theorist in chief" -- is more than just snarkworthy blog fodder, though I certainly have been snarking about conspiracies for years. While the Clinton campaign and Clinton herself have made references to various right-wing conspiracies, the conspiracy meme is simply not an integral part of that campaign, and that is in marked contrast to her opponent. Clinton has not been playing the "rigged election" card nearly to the extent that Trump has. (Her concerns about possible Russian involvement in hacking and leaking her emails, in order to influence the election, may be valid, but the jury is still out on that.)

In contrast to Clinton, Trump and his supporters appear to be full-on advocates of the conspiracy scenario. And I don't think Politico was exaggerating when they called the rigged-election narrative
"the most dangerous conspiracy theory of 2016." It is a narrative driven by an almost rabid irrationality, the likes of which we've never really seen in a presidential election in the U.S. From the Politico article:
Recent surveys show Trump is in lock step with his supporters when he raises doubts that he’ll get a fair and square election. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this month found nearly half of Trump’s supporters aren’t confident the votes will be counted accurately, compared with just 18 percent of Clinton’s backers who think the totals will be illegitimate. In August, Public Policy Polling found 69 percent of Trump voters in North Carolina think Clinton would only win if the election was rigged: 40 percent actually blamed ACORN, which officially disbanded in 2010, as the reason they expected mischief.
... many of the moves that federal and state officials make to secure the country’s voting system are being met with skepticism and backlash, and more conspiracy theories. Alex Jones’ program, for one, has done multiple segments questioning whether Obama intends to federalize or even cancel the presidential election. Last month, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp told the Nextgov news service in an email that he worried “the federal government will subvert the Constitution to achieve the goal of federalizing elections under the guise of security.”
The notion of widespread election fraud has been widely debunked both through media investigations and government watchdog reports, but there's no stopping the conspiracy-crazed Trumpsters. Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said that insinuations of rigged outcomes are...
...completely unfounded. That heated rhetoric just undermines faith in American democracy, which works because people have confidence in its legitimacy. That confidence is something that should not be casually and baselessly tossed aside.
But it seems that many folks are tossing it aside, and all for the sake of an over-eagerness to embrace the false narratives and ridiculous tall tales that validate their own self-images as the most moral, the most patriotic, the most truly awakened ones.

In the end, though, and I hope you will pardon the cliche, we're all in this together. If enough people lose confidence in the legitimacy of American democracy, there's little evidence that this will lead us to a new enlightened era of transparency and fairness and liberty and justice for all. To the contrary, we risk turning the corner to chronic instability, transforming our political process into a Third-Worldish scenario of endless coups, revolutions, overt corruption, dictatorship, or any combination of the above. And that will have a devastating effect not only on the U.S. but on the rest of the world as well.

Check out this recent blog post from my husband Ron Kaye:
"How Did We Come To This?"
As we near the day of the election, I cannot help but wonder what lies beyond. I sense that a cataclysmic sequence of events is all too possible, no matter which way the election goes. If a tyrant is elected, we will almost certainly lose most of our allies around the world, and will definitely lose their trust. At the same time, our enemies will be emboldened, knowing that they no longer face a united front consisting of all rational nations and their leaders. Actions once considered unthinkable are now very much a part of the debate. Torture, genocide, and nuclear holocaust are considered by the worst among us to be viable tools for achieving our goals, and the kind of rhetoric we as a country and a world rejected over 80 years ago has become mainstream and deemed worthy of consideration.

I think we all need to listen to our own words, and ask ourselves, Is this the kind of country and world we want to leave our children and their children? Are the lessons we are teaching them really consistent with our proclaimed values as Americans?
What Ron said. It's all pretty scary. So much is at stake. Please get out and vote.

Addendum, 26 November 2016: Well, the election has come and gone, with deeply unfortunate results. Drumpf got the electoral votes necessary to win, but Clinton won the popular vote (by at least 2 million and counting, it appears), and it looks like it's full speed ahead for the Drumpf regime. But the media are all abuzz with accusations of funny business in at least some states, and a call for a recount in those states. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has already raised millions of dollars, some of which are presumably going to pay for recounts in some states.

So does this mean that American elections might be rigged after all and that voter fraud is indeed a thing, contrary to all of the stuff I wrote above? And if I believe that, does it make me hypocritical? Does it mean I've flip-flopped just because "my" candidate lost? In truth... I don't know what to think. And I'm not sure how much good a recount will do, even though so far it appears that there were some dodgy things going on in some precincts in Wisconsin (and possibly Pennsylvania and Michigan) in order to shuffle things in Trump's favor. (Nate Silver, however, said the accusations about Wisconsin are probably B.S.) I simply don't know. In any case, here's a Q&A on Quartz, published November 24, which attempts to clear up some of the puzzlement about the legitimacy of the election results.

And from the Washington Post today, here's a rundown on what the Clinton campaign thinks about the issue.