Throats Slashed! Sold Into Human Trafficking!

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Oh my God. Did you hear? Homeless people are getting their throats slashed. Women are being grabbed in parking garages and sold into human sex trafficking. Children are being grabbed up off the streets. The media isn’t telling you about these things and the police are hiding these terrible stories from you.

More and more this is the sort of thing I see on my social media feeds and it’s almost always bullshit. The difficulty here is that all it takes is one person making something up. Then some well-meaning people share it thinking they’re helping, usually with a ‘Be careful out there’ warning to their fellow social media users.

I’ve been covering Tacoma homicides for over a decade now. Over the years I’ve received countless ‘tips’ about all sorts of horrific and gruesome murders that never happened. I will do my due diligence and contact the police department, the Medical Examiner’s office, and local reporters to see if there is any meat to the rumors, but there rarely is.

It’s gotten to the point where I can spot a lie before I research it. Here are some things to watch out for.

Lack of Detail: Exactly where did this happen? Who was involved? What did they look like? What time was it when it happened? How many perpetrators were there?

Sensationalism: If the story sounds outrageous and there isn’t any media coverage whatsoever of the story, then it’s likely false because the media LOVES outrageous stories. Last week I saw a story about a guy who stole an airplane from Sea-Tac. When it first appeared on social media I was skeptical, but within minutes the story was picked up by mainstream news because a story like that when true is worth covering.

Personal Anecdote (and nothing else): Personal accounts of terrible things are always compelling, but they’re also among the least verifiable forms of evidence. That’s not to say that everyone who tells you something terrible that happened to them is lying. But if there is no other evidence to back up their story, it’s healthy to be at least initially skeptical.

Secondhand Information: Occasionally I’ll get emails from people who will tell me that my depiction of a homicide is inaccurate because they know a guy who was there and… But of course if I ask to talk to that guy, they can’t produce him.

Now it should be noted that in all of these cases it’s possible that the story you’re being told is actually true. Sometimes things happen quickly and it’s hard to give details as to what happened. Sometimes the true story is so sensational it sounds false. Sometimes things happen to you and you have no evidence that they did. Sometimes you hear a story from someone and never talk to them again. This is why it’s good not to just assume that they’re lying to you.

Instead what I suggest is to believe the story until you find reason not to, but not to share the story until you have some sort of corroboration. Multiple sources are good. Confirmation from authorities or experts is better. Physical evidence is even better.

Ask questions. If someone says something happened and they talked to the police, ask for the incident report number. If someone tells you something incredible happened, ask for the source of that information.

Do your own research. If someone has supposedly been killed, ask the Medical Examiner’s office. Contact the police department’s spokesperson. Check various media websites.

Be respectfully skeptical. There’s no reason to call someone a liar until you have evidence that they are one. The truth is occasionally hard to prove. My rule is fairly simple when it comes to sharing information: Trust, but verify. If it can’t be verified, depending on the source I might still believe it, but I’m not going to share it.

– Jack

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A Better Lie

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It has taken eight years of work to get my first novel ready for publication and now, I can finally announce that you can pre-order a special early edition of A Better Lie through my IndieGogo campaign. There are only 100 copies. Each is signed and numbered.

A Better Lie is a novel about a handful of employees at a flower shop who start selling alibis to their customers as well as flowers. It’s also about an affair that gets out of hand and a heist connected to the Russian mob. On top of that it’s a bit of a tour of Tacoma.

I’m the sort of person who believes you should get an idea of what you’re buying before you buy it. So in that spirit, I’m sharing a special short about a character from A Better Lie. Let me introduce you to Augie.

– Jack

Augie

by Jack Cameron

“This is a great apartment…”

There was a pause after he said it. Augie was fairly certain the boy could not remember his name. Augie didn’t mind. He wasn’t sure of the boy’s name either. Tony, Troy, something with a ‘T’.

He watched from the bed as the boy walked around his apartment. The boy had his shirt off. Augie was enjoying the view. This boy was probably half Augie’s age with skin so white it looked like milk. He had that farm-boy-in-the-city look to him. Augie wondered how many times the boy had done this sort of thing. The boy picked up a framed photo from the dresser. Augie almost forty years ago standing next to his friend Daniel. Dan the man. It didn’t matter where they were, Dan could score enough reefer for him and all of his friends. The photo was taken in Quang Tin Province, Viet Nam. Two weeks later Daniel was dead. Shot by a sniper.

“Whoa.” The boy said, “Is this your dad?” Augie couldn’t help but smile. He’d be sixty-eight in a month but he didn’t look it at all.

“How about you stop playing with my stuff and start playing with me?” The boy smiled and crawled into bed with him.

Augie woke up around one in the morning. The boy was gone. He got up. He checked the top right drawer of his old oak dresser. His wallet and keys were still there. He glanced around to make sure nothing else of value was missing. He noticed a Post-It on his front door. It just said, “Thnx. Put my # in your phone.”

Augie grabbed his cell phone and checked the contact list. He had well over three hundred contacts in here. He went to the T’s but nothing jumped out. Oh well.

Augie smiled. As finding companions online went, this one was fairly successful. They both seemed to have fun. No one was hurt and all was well with the world. He opened the refrigerator and found that he was wrong. The boy had taken something. His last beer was gone.

Awake and thirsty, Augie threw on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. He grabbed his wallet and keys and walked out the door. It was a nice night. And MSM was only a few blocks away. He decided to walk it. The MSM Deli was known for great sandwiches and one of the best beer selections in the city. It was also open 24 hours and frequented by police officers.

As Augie passed an alleyway he noticed a short, jittery looking guy standing near the entrance of the alley. Down the alleyway about a hundred feet further, there was a large man doing a bad job of hiding. The jittery guy began to approach Augie and then stepped away. These guys were two of the worst muggers Augie had ever seen. If Augie were even ten years younger, he might cause these guys some problems just on general principle. But as it was, he kept on walking.

At MSM, Augie selected a can of Wingman Ace IPA. It was a Tacoma brew and Augie liked to buy local. He paid the cashier, who put the can in a brown paper bag. Augie stepped out of the place, opened the can, but kept it in the bag. He took a long drink as he passed a police officer walking in. If the cop were a hard ass, he could have given Augie a problem, but cops didn’t usually bother the customers of MSM without good reason.

Augie spotted the jittery guy again about half a block away. Still standing in the alleyway. Augie finished the can before he got there and tossed it on the ground. He wanted his hands free if this turned into something. The jittery guy stepped into Augie’s path.

“Y-you…you got a light?” Augie eyed this guy trying to determine if he was already high or shaking due to withdrawal. Whatever the case, this guy was dumb as a post.

“You don’t have a cigarette.” Augie looked back into the alley. “Where’s your friend?” “Wh-what?” “The big guy. I’m supposed to reach in my pocket for a smoke while the big guy approaches me and then demands all my money or something, right?”

“Wh-who are y-you?” The jittery guy took a few steps back.

“You’re not wrong.” Augie heard from behind him. As he turned around, he felt the punch. It hurt like hell, but he pretended not to notice. He stayed standing, though he wanted to fall. He wanted to show these guys he could take a punch.

“Wait.” Augie said. He could taste blood in his mouth. He ignored it. “You should know something first.”

“What’s that?”

“Two things. One, you’re going to have to beat me unconscious or dead because I’m not giving you anything.”

“What’s the other thing, tough guy?”

“You’ll win. I’m too old to stop you, but I promise you, before the fight is over, you’re going to lose an eye. Possibly both. I will make it my final act in this world. Now I’ve got about eighty bucks in my pocket and a couple of maxed out credit cards. You decide if that’s worth wearing a patch the rest of your life.”

Augie got ready to kick this guy in the crotch as hard as he could. Then the guy said, “Taylor, forget this guy. Let’s go.”

Augie spit some blood on the ground and smiled. That was it. The boy’s name was Taylor.

END.

To read more about Augie, pre-order A Better Lie at IndieGogo.com.
(Link not working? Copy this: https://bit.ly/2LSG0MI  )

To Protect And Serve

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It took me a long time to understand people who hate cops. I grew up a middle class straight white boy in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t have much trouble with police. When they did show up, I’d talk to them and they’d go away. And for far too long I was under the impression that this was how most people interacted with your average American police department.

My view of police officers growing up was that they were the good guys. They were the heroes. They were the men and women risking their lives on a daily basis to protect our society from chaos and harm. Some of my favorite television shows and movies involve good cops trying to do good work.

For a time I even worked for law enforcement. For two years I transcribed police records for the Law Enforcement Support Agency which handles records from the Tacoma Police Department, Puyallup Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, and Pierce County Sherriff’s Department. I went on ride-alongs with police officers. I learned what kind of people become cops and what being a cop is like. And for the most part, I gained tremendous respect for the police in general.

It was exhilarating reading and transcribing 50+ police records every day and seeing what their day to day life is like. One cop described it to me as ‘vast amounts of time of complete boredom punctuated by moments of absolute terror and action’. I’ve read hundreds of accounts of local police officers saving lives and making the streets safer.

That’s not to say that I saw nothing wrong. I lost count of how many times I transcribed phrases like, ‘suspect apparently fell on pavement’ or ‘suspect hit head on top of police car’ or ‘suspect lost a few teeth after we cuffed him and lost hold of him’. There was even a guy known for going through pairs of boots at an alarming rate due to the amount of people he kicked with them.  But most of the reports weren’t like that and the reports that were, I told myself were reports in which ‘bad guys’ got hurt. So what? Right? Does anyone really care if an accused rapist gets his ass beat by cops?

I learned that there are basically three kinds of cops or at least three primary motivators for cops.

There are the Boy Scouts. These are the Captain America sorts who genuinely want to help and embody the spirit of protecting and serving their community. These are what people tend to think of as good cops. If you have to personally deal with a police officer, this is the guy you want.

There are the adrenaline junkies. These cops joined the force because action movies made being a cop look like an adventure and what other job puts you right in the thick of it like being a cop? These are the cops who love a foot chase because of the unwritten rule that if ‘you make us run, we make you pay’. They love a car chase too. Anything that gets the blood pumping. These guys can go either way and it’s largely a personality thing as to whether or not they’re going to end up being a positive part of the police force.

Then there are the bullies. These are assholes who picked on other kids growing up in school and quickly learned that the only way to keep picking on people is to get some authority. These are the guys who will bounce your head on their car. They’ll take your license and not give it back just to fuck with you. They’ll arrest you for domestic violence and ask your wife out. They’ll make sure your arrest comes with at least a little bit of pain. These are the last kind of cop you want personally dealing with anyone you care about.

A good police department has the right mix of all three.  You need the boy scouts to keep the department honest. You need the adrenaline junkies because they’re never going to freeze or bitch about the danger. And you need the bullies to hurt people who are hurting people. Finding the right mix is difficult.

If you’re a boy scout cop, the worst part is you’re likely doing your job in a way that benefits the community but never makes the papers. The result is that the public thinks that you’re all bullies because wild dogs make more noise than domestic ones.

Before it appears that this is just me telling you how great cops really are, understand that I said all of that, so that I can say the next part with what I feel is a fairly informed opinion on the topic.

For the most part my defense of police officers and police departments can be seen as essentially #NotAllCops. This is a weak argument in favor of cops because ‘not all cops’ means ‘some cops’.  And if it’s your loved one lying dead in the street with bullets in him from a police issued gun paid for by your tax dollars and the only reason he’s dead is the color of his skin, saying ‘not all cops’ isn’t helpful. In fact it’s cruel. So what if not every cop is willing to murder an unarmed black man just because they can. The fact that any one cop would is bad unacceptable. It’s like having 1% cancer.

Unfortunately it is more than one bad cop. Over 1,000 people lose their lives to police bullets every year in this country. The Black Lives Matter movement was the result of an epidemic in lethal run ins between people with brown skin and the police departments across this country. It’s a simple slogan asking for the simplest of rights. A right that any true conservative should care about: the right to life. This is why NFL players take a knee for the anthem contrary to what you might have heard from Fox News or the White House). It’s the simple idea that when the police show up, they’re there to help everyone because black lives matter too. Sadly that is far from the reality we live in.

The problem is that the actions of police departments across this nation show again and again that black lives do not matter to police departments. In fact, this is where everyone seems to agree. The systemic racism of police departments throughout America is so well known that in Charlottesville, three of the most popular flags the Nazi thugs marching in the street flew were the Nazi flag, the Confederate flag, and a black and white flag with a thin blue line representing the police.  The combination of African Americans being killed by police, actual Nazis infiltrating the police force, and officer after officer getting little if any punishment for killing people of color has made it practically impossible for one to differentiate between those who fly the thin blue line flag who are just supporting the police and those who would feel at home in Hitler’s Germany.  And increasingly, the difference barely matters. Once the killing of a certain group of people is allowed, the only real difference is number of dead. Then the only question to be asked is how many you’re willing to allow to be killed before you pull your support?

Much like how so much of our news media has been corrupted, the same can be said of our police departments. Just as we need good journalists we also need good cops. The answer cannot and should not be that there should be no police whatsoever. Such talk is anarchy and while I know anarchy has its fans, I’m not one of them.

This is why though I am an atheist I take the ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ approach to police departments. I like the idea of police, but I hate how they’re going about it. Those who hate cops make perfect sense to me now. I don’t hate all cops. I hate the bad ones and applaud the good.

I want to share a bit of a thought experiment. Imagine having such a sense of civic duty and righteousness that you want to risk your life on a daily basis genuinely making your city a better and safer place in the most direct way possible as a police officer in your town. Now imagine being that person and having to deal with the modern day militarized, gung-ho, racist occupying force mentality of the modern police department in any sizable city. Not every cop is experiencing that. Some are there for all the wrong reasons. But some are exactly those guys.

The last thing I want to say is to any cop reading this is that you stop being a good cop the second you let a bad one keep hurting people you’re supposed to protect and serve. I know speaking out against fellow officers is dangerous both from a career and personal standpoint, but I was under the impression you joined the police force to risk your life for what’s right. Do that. Be the hero I looked up to as a kid. It’s the only way things get better.
– Jack Cameron

The ICE-age Must End

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I’m going to use this article as a place to add things we know about the children who have been stolen from their parents by the United States Government under orders from Donald Trump.

I feel like this is something that I shouldn’t even have to write about. What sane person capable of empathy or compassion would need someone to explain why stealing children and putting them in cages is wrong? If you’re in favor of such a policy you lack sanity, compassion, or empathy. Or maybe all three. I don’t know.

So lets start with what we don’t know. Right now we don’t know what records ICE is destroying, but we do know they have plans to destroy records of abuse, sexual assault, and death. I’ve personally seen paper shredding trucks arriving at the for-profit prison here in Tacoma that is currently holding at least 22 parents of children who have been stolen from them. We also don’t know how records have been destroyed that could have reunited families, but we do know that some records have been destroyed.

We know in Victorville, California in the Mojave desert, the facility is overcrowded and lacking medical staff and has had multiple cases of scabies and chickenpox. A current member of the medical staff at that facility said, “It’s gone from bad to worse ― there are going to be some detainee deaths,” Check out this article from The Nation if you want to get an idea of what these facilities are really like.

We also know that at least one ICE employee used his status to steal the identities of immigrants. When they aren’t stealing identities, they’re roughing up people just for the hell of it.

Some might ask what this dramatic increase in immigration enforcement is all about. It’s not about an increase in immigrants. Immigration to the United States has been going down. It’s about ICE modifying their rules so that they can grab pretty much anyone they want to like a modern day gestapo. This is allowing them to grab up people who are legal residents of this country as reported in the LA Times.

If all of this isn’t enough to give you pause and realize that our immigration policies have severe flaws that rise to the level of crimes against humanity, then maybe the fact that after stealing these children some were literally given to human traffickers who will sell them into the sex trade to the highest bidder will. This comes not from some fringe media, but the New York Times.

Do you need to hear that the children who weren’t sold to be whored and fucked were tied naked to chairs and beaten? They were. Do you need to hear that at least one sex offender was in charge of these children? He was. Do you need to hear how the present administration thinks reuniting a child with her parents and adopting that stolen child out to an evangelical white family is basically the same thing? They do. Do you need to hear that pregnant women have been abused and had miscarriages because of the way ICE treated them? They were. Does the danger of you child being stolen from you go away if you are a United States citizen? It doesn’t. 

And before you think that the present regime (it’s difficult to call this group of criminals, con men, authoritarians and white supremacists an ‘administration’) is going to stop stealing children who are stripped, beaten, raped, and sold to whore mongers, they’ve budgeted for an increase in these Trump Camps.

Before you think they’re destroying records just for fun, there’s money in it. They’re charging desperate parents up to $800 for cheap DNA tests to find their children.

A common argument made by the anti-immigration crowd is that they should just come here legally, but it turns out that even if you play by the rules, in some cases children are still stolen. Including a 3-year-old who was taken from his father who had crossed the border legally.

ICE needs to be abolished. The people behind this inhuman, psychotic, genocidal program need to be punished and imprisoned. One can only hope that if they are, they are treated with the same courtesy they have shown the desperate men, women, and children coming here for a better life.
– Jack Cameron

 

Avengers Infinity War

 

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Slight Spoiler (This scene is not in the movie)

Avngers Infinity War (Non-Spoiler)
Back in the 1990s when I was really getting into comic books I would tell people how Marvel should just start making Movies and TV shows that all take place in the same universe like they do with comics. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something I wanted for decades before it happened. And after ten years they’re finally reaching their end game for a storyline they started in 2008.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo had an impossible job: Take characters from 18 previous movies, some technological, some tactical, some magic, and some cosmic, and make a coherent story that ties up storylines that were spread throughout movies from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is similar to what Joss Whedon had to do with the first Avengers movie except multiplied into double digits. Most of all, they had to have Thanos, a character with less than five minutes total screen time all together, be as fearsome and dangerous as he’s been built up to be. I’m happy to say that the Russo brothers not only pull this off, but go far beyond that.

With so many characters, it’s no surprise that some characters do not get much to do or say. What is surprising is how few characters I can say that about. The Russos did a fantastic job of giving even secondary characters a good moment or two.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Infinity War is how Marvel earned this. Taken on its own, Infinity War is a non-stop action slugfest. Taken with the 18 films that have led up to Infinity War and this fight is one of the most earned fights in cinema history. One of the key things that plague DC Universe movies is that they simply have no patience. The first Avengers movies was the fifth MCU movie. They did five whole movies without much more than a wink or a nod at each other. DC did exactly one movie (Man of Steel) that didn’t explicitly have direct connections to the other movies. Imagine if Captain America: Civil War was the second movie in the MCU. It wouldn’t have made any sense because we don’t yet really care about the characters. Now imagine the opposite. Imagine if Batman vs Superman wasn’t the second movie in an ongoing franchise. Instead it’s the 13th movie (like Civil War). Suddenly the stakes of Batman and Superman fighting actually matter. There’s a classic moment in the first episode of Community when Jeff Winger says, “I can pick up this pencil, tell you it’s name is Steve and go like this…[breaks pencil] and a part of you dies just a little bit on the inside.” That’s basically storytelling in a nutshell. DC is under the impression that the important part is breaking the pencil. They’re wrong. The important part is naming the pencil. It’s only after we know the pencil has a name that we care. If we don’t know the characters we can’t care about them.

The action in Infinity War is unrelenting and incredible. Given all of the things going on with so many characters it is impressive as hell that they were able to do everything they did without making it confusing.

 

Overall, Infinity War is a fine addition to the MCU and the best of the Avengers movies in my opinion. In order to talk more about this and its connection to the comics that inspired it, I need to get into spoilers.

Infinty War (SPOILERS!!!!)

Infinity War impressed me on a number of levels, but I think one of the best things about it is that it put millions of viewers in a position comic book fans find very familiar. When reading a comic book, if one of the side characters die, you know it’s kind of serious. If one of the major characters die, you know it’s really serious. And if half of the major characters die, you know they’re almost definitely going to be brought back. This was true the first time Thanos snapped his fingers and killed half the universe back in 1990.

Check out the list of dead from Infinity Gauntlet #2 (Note that only Black Panther is disappeared in both the comics and the movie.)

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There are of course significant differences between the comics and the films, but one of the other surprising things about Infinity War is that it has a lot of things in common with the comics. In the comics Thanos is in love with the entity Death. She’s resurrected him and told him to kill half the universe. And so he gets the Infinity Stones to do so. In the MCU abstract concepts aren’t entities (yet). So instead they give him the motivation of feeling the universe is dangerously overpopulated. This also comes from the comics. There’s an issue of Silver Surfer leading up to Infinity Gauntlet in which he makes much the same argument.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that unlike comic books (usually), we have to wait a whole year to find out what happens next.

This gives Marvel a great opportunity to integrate their TV stuff. They could easily have episodes of Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, Luke Cage, or any of the other upcoming seasons of Marvel shows in which half the cast disappears into dust. If history is any indication, Agents of SHIELD will touch on it while the other shows will not.

While it’s true that they’ve killed off characters we know are coming back, (Sony isn’t going to let Spider-Man die after only one of their movies.) it’s still impressive to end a movie that’s likely going to make a billion dollars in less than two weeks with the bad guy killing half the universe and smiling at the sunset. When DC killed Superman in BvS they felt the absolute need to put hovering dirt above his coffin to make sure even the dumbest person in the theater knew he was coming back. With Marvel, at least they had the guts to kill them dead.

What happens next? Well I can tell you what happens in the comics. If you don’t want to know, skip this paragraph. In the comics it’s the Silver Surfer who falls through Dr. Strange’s roof to warn everyone about Thanos. Then half the universe disappears. Then the rest of the heroes show up to save the universe. Of course Thanos is all powerful and it does not go well. Eventually Thanos tries to become one with the cosmos, but he retains his mortal body. Nebula gets her hands on the gauntlet and puts everything back how it was, but that includes her being on fire. She loses the gauntlet only to have Adam Warlock pick it up and save the universe. Of course in the MCU, Adam Warlock has only been hinted at and isn’t likely to save the day. That role seems to be filled by another hero, Captain Marvel.

Captain Marvel is the symbol you see on Nick Fury’s space pager in the after credits scene. She’s a human named Carol Danvers who has quite the colorful history in the comic books. Carol is an old spy pal of Wolverine’s, got her mind, personality, and powers stolen from her by the X-Man Rogue in Rogue’s first appearance, ended up getting a whole new power set and becoming a space pirate for a while before eventually going back to being an earthbound superhero who is more than comfortable in space. These days she’s taken up the role of Captain Marvel and runs Alpha Flight Station, an orbital platform that tries to keep the Marvel universe safe from near constant alien invasions.

Of course in the MCU, since they have yet to get the rights to the X-Men back, most of that isn’t going to happen in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie or in Avengers 4. Instead I expect that there will be a variation of the Nebula moment (given that she’s still alive) and everyone who got killed by Thanos with the snap of his fingers will come back (though Heimdal and Loki are probably dead for good). I’m personally holding out hope that Avengers 4 is going to give us at least a hint that the next big overarching storyline is Secret Invasion.

That’s all speculation naturally. Officially, next up for Marvel movies is Ant-Man and Wasp which takes place shortly before Avengers 3 and Captain Marvel which takes place in the 1990s. It’s going to be a long year waiting for Avengers 4, but I get the feeling it’s going to be worth it.

NOTE: This review was featured in my weekly newsletter, Notes From Table 30. The comments section is for those who want to talk about this review and other content from the newsletter. Not a subscriber to the newsletter? You can do that right here.

Trumpism is the new McCarthyism

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“Around the country he flew, reckless and audacious, stopping long enough to make a new charge, to exhibit a new list, a good newsworthy press conference at the airport, hail-fellow well met with the reporters, and then on to the next stop, the emptiness of the charge never catching up with him, the American press exploited in its false sense of objectivity (if a high official said something, then it was news, if not fact, and the role of the reporter was to print it straight without commenting, without assaulting the credibility of the incredulous; that was objectivity). It was like a circus; he was always on the move, his figures varied, his work was erratic and sloppy, he seemed to have no genuine interest in any true nature of security. It sometimes seemed as if he too were surprised by the whole thing, how easy it was, how little resistance he met, and so he hurtled forward to newer larger charges. But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, his charges had an equally damaging effect: they poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying those things unless there was something to it. And so the contamination remained after the facts, or lack of them, evaporated….

All of which did not displease the Republican party. The real strength of [him] was not his own force of brilliance, it was the acquiescence of those who should have known better.”

The above quote is from David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest. He is talking about Senator Joseph McCarthy. He goes on to talk about how McCarthyism only lasted a few years but the impact of his relentless and meritless hunt lingered for decades and heavily influenced our view of communism leading into the Vietnam War. I kept all of this in mind as I read and reread the above passage because the description above, though written decades ago sounds for all the world like Trump since 2016. If Donald Trump is this era’s McCarthy, what can we learn from the past about where we are headed?

Both men have a habit of making things up. Both men have a habit of playing the victim. Both men like to act as though they are the only hope for America. While there are certainly plenty of differences between the two, as the quote above attests, the two had some striking similarities.

McCarthy’s impact on the 20th Century in America cannot be overstated. It was the echo of McCarthy that kept Americans believing in the myth of monolithic communism. That helped the United States misinterpret the war in Vietnam as a war against communism rather than a war for an independent Vietnam. This would prove catastrophic for both countries and kill over 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.

Keeping this in mind, when it comes to Trump’s behavior towards immigrants and refugees, how much of his attitude towards these people is going to be reflected in his supporters decades after Trump is out of office? What poison is Trump putting into our American culture? And if we are aware that he’s poisoning the culture, is there a way for us to counteract that? Will these vilifications lead us into some future conflict that could be avoided if only some people were not taken in by his lies? I do not know the answers to these questions, but I feel like they are questions that should be in our heads as the Trump regime goes on.

Part of me wonders if the similarities between the two men are actually coincidence. Perhaps Trump purposefully modeled Joseph McCarthy’s tactics. Is that giving Trump too much credit? Then again, maybe this is just some sort of American archetype that appears from time to time to take advantage of people’s fears and exploit paranoia and bigotry. Just how much is history repeating itself?

Unlike McCarthy, Trump is being investigated by the FBI. There is the chance that maybe now that all other checks and balances have failed to stop him, that Mueller’s investigation will end this sham of a Presidency. But how much destruction will happen before that happens and how will Trump echo through the coming decades? In many ways I fear the damage has already been done.

I try to take a bit of comfort in the McCarthy/Trump comparison. Just a few years after the height of McCarthyism, Joseph McCarthy was dead. History correctly views McCarthy not as a hero trying to save America but for the proper villain that he is. One can only hope that a similar fate awaits Trump in the future.

– Jack Cameron

Anatomy of a Scam

577578-phone-scamsThis morning I received a call from a restricted number. I do not answer calls from people I do not know. I let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later I checked it.

“This is an urgent message for Mr. Cameron. My name is Valerie. I’m calling you in reference to a complaint that has been forwarded to my office. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the pending actions that may be filed against you, you’ll need to contact the firm immediately at 855-899-0269 and the file number you’ll need in reference is *****. This does require immediate attention and it’s important we speak with you or we will be forced to make a decision without your consent. “

I called the number back. A guy calling himself Logan Baker answered. I gave him the reference number. He said the last four of my social security number and asked if that was correct. It was and I told him so. He said that I had an outstanding balance of $1197.92 from an Emergency Room visit at Tacoma General Hospital in November of 2012. I’ve had some health problems over the years and I had no idea if I was in the ER in November of 2012 or not. It seemed likely though.

He said that since they were suing me the account was not on my credit report. He said that they were willing to drop the lawsuit for a settlement of $521 and that said settlement offer had been sent to me via mail 45 days ago. I told him I did not receive any such documentation. He confirmed my home address. I told him I did not get any documentation whatsoever for him.

He also told me that there I would soon be served paperwork by a process server and that once that happens they would be unable to offer me the settlement of $521. He suggested if I want to pay that amount I should duck the process server until I pay them. He claimed that he could not stop said process server from serving papers, but then a few minutes later said he could ‘hold the account’ for five hours if I needed time to get the money together. I told him to go ahead and do that and told him I’d get back to him.

I thought about the information they had given me. They accurately knew that I had been to Tacoma General Hospital. They accurately knew the last four of my social security number, my phone number, and my home address. But that’s literally all the information they had. It wasn’t enough to convince me that they were who they said they were, but they might be.

I then talked with a friend who knows about this stuff. He gave me some advice. I looked in all of my paperwork and eventually figured out that I was likely not in the Emergency Room in November of 2012 as that was before most of my health issues. I called Multicare and asked them if they knew anything about this lawsuit. They said that they send all delinquent accounts to the same collection agency and that they had no information on any lawsuit. I contacted the collection agency. They said they had exactly one thing in my name and that thing was from 2014 and was being disputed.

At this point it was fairly clear to me that I was not being sued. I was being scammed. So I called Logan back. I asked him for his firm’s name and address. He gave it to me:

Stallings & Associates
1430 Truxton Ave. 5th Floor
Bakersfield, CA 93301

I thanked him for the information and told him I would get back to him.

I did a little digging. I found their website. https://www.stallingsandassociatesllc.com It is the most bare bones, anonymous law firm website I have ever seen. I have seen websites for fictional lawyers that had more presence. This is a website called Stallings and Associates in which they do not mention who the hell ‘Stallings’ is. In fact not one human being is mentioned. Instead it has the improbably sentence: “Our Knowledgeable Staff is a leader in its field, with significant experience and expertise in resolving complex financial or commercial disputes.”

I then did a little more digging. It turns out that the fifth floor of 1430 Truxton Ave. is run by a company called Pacific Workplaces. These guys provide office space and work space for companies and individuals who need it. I figured Pacific Workplaces is on the up and up. So I contacted them and let them know that ‘Stallings & Associates’ are scam artists and that maybe they should rethink allowing them to use space.

So instead of getting $500 from me, Logan and his friends may be getting an eviction notice.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE: I just received the following email from Pacific Workplaces:

Mr. Cameron:

Thanks for taking the time to sharing your information with us.

As happens we have instructed the 3rd party that provided us this client that we would like to part ways.

UPDATE 2: Since posting this article, I’ve received emails, Facebook messages, and comments about how these guys are still at it. If they contact you, see if you can get their mailing address from them and any other identifying information and leave it in the comments section. Thanks.