Things Fall Apart

Politics wasn’t a thing in my house when I was growing up. We weren’t one of those families that watched a lot of news or sat around the dinner table talking about politics or the day’s top stories. It’s not like these things were never discussed – it just came up way less than other stuff. And that’s pretty much the way politics was for me until the last few years. A non-issue. I never truly cared about who the president was or who my local representative was…and I found talking about politics boring.

I’ve always had left-leaning friends, right-leaning friends and party agnostic friends. The only important thing for me was that they were nice people and enjoyable to be around. And I think, perhaps naively, that a good amount of America was like that when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s.

I wish life was still like that. It’s not.

America, to me, has turned into a borderline police-state country where there is far more hatred, dis-trust and vitriol than there used to be. I don’t think the genie is going back in the bottle.

Six or so years ago, I remember having a conversation with my dear friends Dave and Leo about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president. Both of them are far more interested and knowledgeable in politics than I am (to the point where I believe they have a seperate text thread about it) and I distinctly remember asking them if any president in their lifetime had ever really, truly had any effect on their day-to-day lives. My point was that all three of us were so lucky to be born white and male and not oppressed by our race or gender as so many others are. We can be empathetic and sympathetic (and we are), but we will never truly know that feeling of oppression. Anyway, I sensed that point hit home with them.

And then came President Donald Trump – and my point about the president having an effect on our everyday lives became, well, wrong.

But let’s get back on track – how did we get here? I’ve always been a fan of Matt Taibbi, ever since he wrote for Rolling Stone. I like his tone and his almost frantic style of writing. I also like his content, so I pay for it. I especially love his approach to politicians and politics – he’s not afraid to call out anyone, anytime, anywhere, any party. So I fully subscribe to Taibbi’s notion that there is one bullseye we can place on why America has turned into what it has: the media and the wild west of the internet/social media.

Think about it:

  • Cable News: The advent of Fox News in the early ’90s wasn’t viewed at the time as anything groundbreaking or titanic. It was a greedy white-male capitalist who saw that CNN was having some success and he wanted a slice of that cake, too. It wasn’t until later in the decade when Fox, CNN and MSNBC started to become more outwardly and obnoxiously partisan. All three, and now countless others, are now cesspools and garbage disposals for partisan talking points. Worthless. Just feeding the narrative of what people want to hear, at the expense of truly balanced reporting, which is not easy to find on TV anymore. The national networks (CBS, NBC, etc) have 19 minutes per night and god forbid those broadcasts be too controversial because, well, ad dollars and access. These cable news networks have splintered us and turned us against each other.
  • Social Media: this is almost too easy a target. The first wave was impossibly fun: memes, cat videos and the real dopamine hit of connecting with old classmates and friends and also finding like-minded people who you would *never* otherwise meet. The world shrank immediately and boy, was that intoxicating! You mean somebody else in America likes listening to Southern Culture on the Skids as much as I do? Golly! Fast forward to today, and it has turned into a nasty, nasty place where “brave” people hide behind keyboards, feeling emboldened to toss bombs of verbosity at anyone who doesn’t think like they do. Algorhithms only show them the content that feeds only their political beliefs and it all just sucks them further into their netherworld. This is poison. It just pulls the left lefter and the right righter. And yet I can’t seem to fully tear myself away from social media, largely because…cat videos and windows into my friends lives.

Anyway, I agree with Taibbi that these two things have become poisonous and there’s really no going back. No political third party or revolutionary politician is going to lead us out of this as long as there’s partisan media and algorithims to tell us ONLY what we want to hear. If some third political party emerges and becomes a regular factor, it just means another cable news network will come up where that party line will be the exclusive message. The cat is out of the bag – and it’s an ugly hairless cat that pukes up a lot of hairballs. I don’t know the solution. Part of me wants more regulation of these things, but how?

All I can do for now is a) not watch or support cable news to the best of my ability, b) use social media less; Facebook and Twitter are off my phone and c) really, truly try to understand all sides to a story and respect people’s perspectives as much as I can.

What do you think?

Verizon Yahoo = Verihoo?

Verizon Yahoo = Verihoo?

With the Verizon Yahoo thing so hot and heavy in the news today, I was reminded of the email I got from them last week. First, some background: I’m a FIOS customer who gets TV-Internet-Landline service from them and in general, I’ve been pretty happy with the service. Much like everyone else, I can’t believe how much I pay for it.

If there was only a company that could show me live Bruins games on my TV without having to pay for FIOS, I’d cancel Verizon within 10 seconds.

Anyway, so last week this email comes merrily dancing into my inbox:

verizon

Do you see what they did there? For the simple reason that my router is “older,” I am now being charged an extra $2.80 per month……unless of course I want to buy a new $60 router.

Well, my router appears to work fine. I don’t NEED a new $60 router. So now I have to pay extra each month for one that is working smoothly? What gives there? Does anyone see this as ridiculous?

What if other companies did this? Am I going to get billed an extra $5 per month from the Toyota dealer because my Highlander is now seven years old? Is my plumber going to charge me extra on my Gold Status account membership because my house is over 100 years old?

Well, shit. This should work both ways. I should be allowed to charge Verizon! I mean, they own AOL! Hah! AOL! And now they own Yahoo! Those two entities are old and decrepit! I should get money taken off my bill for their stupidity in owning these two worthless properties. Now it appears as if I’m helping fund the Yahoo purchase because my router is TWO years old!

I may want to stop here, actually. It probably won’t be a coincidence when my Netflix starts cutting out and getting choppy because I wrote this. Ouch.

I love you Verizon. Mostly. Kinda.

Hiring People Over 45

Hiring People Over 45

Between all the noise out there about the election, people walking off cliffs playing Pokemon GO, terrorism and whose lives matter, I came across this article this weekend about the lack of hiring of people over the age of 45. The article also mentions how the suicide rate and drug/alcohol abuse rates have spiked for the 45-54 year olds.

I consider myself blessed that my recent job search only took 10 weeks. I think the hallmark moment for me, as I look back at it, was how many roles I was qualified for (maybe even over-qualified) that went to younger, less experienced people.

Obviously, I cannot say why that occurred. The logical explanation would be that they’ll work for far less money, but I’m also not vain enough to rule out that personality matches, nepotism and of course age may have been factors.

I’m hearing this “ageism” thing more and more, though and know people my age in the job market right now who are experiencing the same thing.

One example. I began an interview process during the first week of January with a very well-known company based here in Massachusetts. Similar to my previous role, they had multiple storefronts around the country, an online business and a need for someone to handle digital marketing and social, among a few other things.

Right up my alley. I walked into the interview with the hiring manager and he spent the first 5 minutes telling me how perfect my experience was for what he was looking for. He even called me a “unicorn,” which in this case meant a “rarity.” Kind of ridiculous, really, and a term that is thrown around a little too much these days.

Anyway, two interviews went very well. But I didn’t get the gig. It’s rare to receive any kind of feedback about why you didn’t land a role, but lo and behold, this fella gave me one! He said the person who got the offer had significantly more experience.

The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can find out more. The person who got the role graduated from college less than 8 years ago and had exactly 2 years worth of experience in the particular business they were hired for. Was I bitter? Not really. I had other irons in the fire, but it sure felt a bit like age may have played a role there. Or maybe the guy was simply a liar. I’ll never know for sure.

Couple this with another emerging trend called “the gig economy” and I don’t expect things are going to get any easier for my age set. The gig economy is defined as the growing percentage of people who aren’t beholden to one company, but perform a multitude of jobs for different companies. In a word, freelancers. The article quotes an Intuit study that says 40% of all U.S. workers will fall into this category by the year 2020.

hiring people over 45

Corporations would love for this number to get to 40%. Or more. They get their ticket virtually punched to a) a cheaper workforce, because there’s always someone willing to do it for less and b) they won’t have to pay workers any full-time benefits.

The world is changing. All the time, in every way. There’s hardships no matter how old you are. We can look with envy to the younger, darker-haired workforce (the millennials!) being able to land jobs easier because of their age and/or willingness to work for less, but many of them are dealing with a crushing amount of debt and a social landscape akin to a verbal wasteland. The true effects on the economy as a whole because of that growing debt has yet to materialize, but it’s not a reach to say it’s not going to be good.

These millennials are also the first generation where nobody is looking anyone in the eyes. It’s all head down, digital 1’s and 0’s. The sociological and even physiological effects of this are years away.

I’m lucky I have a job with benefits at a great company, because so many don’t – and a lot have simply given up. In the last year, I’ve also quickly recognized that it could easily be me, anytime. Terrifying.

Debt, the gig economy, unstable global markets, terrorism, the millions and millions of people migrating – literally walking – away from unstable economies. The list goes on. And on. Scary.

And no matter how much I educate myself further or try to learn new things, it may not even matter. Frightening.

The Sport of Politics

The Sport of Politics

I’m going to write about politics today, but I’m not going to be political. There’s more than enough out there to read about the all candidates – or whatever you want to call them. Today I’m just talking about the sport of politics.

I think ever since the ’80s I’ve heard politics occasionally referred to as a blood sport. Hell, it’s probably been described as such since the EIGHTEEN-80s. This election cycle, though, makes me laugh a little. Not because of the folly that surrounds people like Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton, but because the major media websites are now literally making it look like sports.

I mean, look at CNN’s Election 2016 home page.I’m not trying to sound like an old curmudgeon, but that is ridiculous. Sports-like headshots with the eliminated “teams” greyed out? ESPN is probably jealous.

Did you notice that they now do the National Anthem before debates? And that the candidates are introduced over the PA? I don’t recall this ever happening until this election. It’s sports! Come on. It’s kind of hilarious.

One of my earliest memories is when I was five (almost six) and Jimmy Carter had just been elected president.  We had just moved to Lancaster, MA and maybe had been there for a year or so. It was March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, and Carter made one of his first public speeches since being elected – and it was about a mile from my house, over in Clinton, MA.

Unbelievably, there is no footage at all of this on YouTube.

I don’t remember a word of what was said, though it all appears to be here. I do remember being on someone’s shoulders. Likely my dad. I could have this wrong, too, but I think we were with my aunt and her family, though I may need to confirm that, because other times I think we were with our Lancaster friends the Lloyds.

Since then, each election cycle seems to have gotten more and more ridiculous, with each race an almost shameless sprint toward who can create the most buzz in the media. But I’m not going to bitch about that here today. I’m here to ask a simple question – where does it end?

I’m posting this almost 39 years to the day of Jimmy Carter’s speech in Clinton. Doesn’t matter whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of whatever party Vermin Supreme is in, but there’s no denying that elections were not as much of a spectacle back then as they are now.

Which leads me to this question: 39 years from now in 2055 (gulp), I want to seriously know what you think elections will look like. What will all of our kids be witnessing? Do you think it’ll be the same slow, weird burn we’ve seen in the last 20, 30, 40 years? Or do you think it’ll be a drastically different landscape by then?

I’d love to hear some predictions!

The Other Side

The Iowa caucuses are now a month away. Politics……sigh. Despite my huge interest in historical non-fiction and current news events, I generally don’t like talking about politics and usually I can’t put my finger on why. I’d just rather know and focus on a person’s core personality and demeanor before I know anything about their political views.

I don’t ever want political views to cloud my relationship with people because it’s not fair to anyone if they are pre-judged based on those beliefs. The only thing you are allowed to pre-judge people on is their musical taste. OK, I’m kidding. Maybe.

Anyhow, if you’re a repeat visitor on this blog you know that I tend to lean leftward and I don’t put it out there aggressively, nor do I push my beliefs on anyone. I don’t put signs on my lawn and I don’t post on social unless it involves a politician doing something really dumb or funny. Like this:

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One thing I do try, though, is to listen and understand the opposite opinion of the one I have. Which is why I’ve begun reading “The Life,” the new Ronald Reagan book which came out recently. Reagan was the head honcho from 1981 to 1989, a time period where I went from 10 to 18 years of age. Suffice it to say I wasn’t paying much attention to politics back then. It was more like hockey, school, girls and music. As time has passed, though, I’ve learned enough to know he was a polarizing figure, much like any other president.Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 2.46.18 PM

However, in the modern era, he’s the one president that I don’t know all too much about and I need to fix that. I begrudgingly I bought his estate some dinner and purchased the book.

I’m only into the 1950s right now so it’s too early for me to pass any final judgements on him, but I can say that I am pleasantly surprised with the book. I always thought he was an A-list actor, but that’s actually far from the truth. He had a cup of coffee with a single nomination, but never got to the upper echelon for actors.

I also was surprised to learn that his interest in politics hit him much earlier than I thought. His failing to get acting jobs pushed him to be more involved in the union dealings of the off-camera/industrial part of the movie-making business in Hollywood and that’s where his foundation was laid in politics.

I have a good sense of how I am going to feel about Reagan at the end of the book – probably not well. With that said, there is a moral to today’s post – keep an open mind. You will come across great people and good friends in your life who believe the exact opposite of you. Whether it’s personal or professional, you’ll do yourself a heck of a lot of good if you try to gain perspective from the other side. I can’t think of a single time when it hasn’t served me well and opened my mind.

This song, by Tommy Womack, is a killer. Worth a listen and so well-written. Will make you smile.

Nothing To Believe In

Cripes. I drive a 2002 Toyota Camry, which I bought new off the lot. I’ve driven all 85,000 miles of it and I think I’ve had to bring it to the shop once, for a tweak on the brakes. Oh, there was that time it had to be fixed when our house painters dropped a ladder on it. Oops. Then there was that time when my neighbor side-swiped me in our shared driveway at our old house. Oops. But those weren’t mechanical failures. Of course, I bring it in every 5-6K miles for scheduled service and I’d like to think that’s helped with why I’ve had so little problems with it.

This recall, though, has so quickly spun Toyota from golden boys to rust faster than you can say “GM in the eighties.” It has turned the car industry on its heels! Suddenly it’s A-OK to buy American and Toyota will KILL you! Can you imagine saying that even one year ago?

My car is NOT on the recall list. But with all these stories coming out about how Toyota secretly danced around the fire on its production snafus and how they wiggled out of them, I find myself wondering what’s going on under my hood? Should I ditch the car? I paid it off in 2005 for god’s sake! I’ve been enjoying no payments and clean bills of health on it for almost five years now! But who knows?! And why should I even take .0005% risk when I have two precious boys often riding sidecar with me? Now that I’ll be driving to work every day soon, should I bite the bullet and get something else? It’s horrifying. It’s like the sweet girl from next door gets popped for robbing banks and selling heroin.

Then I read this, from this morning’s Boston Globe. Are there more out there that haven’t been recalled yet? I kinda think there are and that Toyota is just going to stretch out the recalls so the shit doesn’t hit the fan all at once for them. Who can you trust? What would you do?