Masters of War

Masters of War

As a kid, we always received daily newspapers. We’d get the Worcester Telegram in the morning, the Clinton Daily Item, and the Evening Gazette at night. Of course, much like the rest of America’s newspapers, they’ve gone through massive upheaval with the onset of the digital age. The Item and Evening Gazette don’t really exist anymore. The Telegram seems to be holding on somehow. Interesting side note: I had a girlfriend my junior and senior year of high school whose father was the Managing Editor of the Worcester Telegram. I thought that was so cool! He’s now in the “New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.”

My mom would read through the newspapers each day, and I would only be allowed to read them myself after she was finished with them, but as soon as she put them down, I picked them up and combed through. I’ve always loved the physical newspaper and even now, I receive the Boston Globe and New York Times on Sundays, delivered to my porch.

Back then, I thought of newspapers as actual authorities – balanced reporters doing the hard work to inform Americans of important news and local information. My, how times have changed. Today I harbor no “good old days” notion that the press back then wasn’t somewhat influenced or coerced by large corporations or government entities who needed to steer Joe Smith on Main Street in one direction or another. Of course, it happened back then and there’s plenty of evidence to show it, but today it’s getting really hard to trust any mainstream media outlet.

You should really read The Twitter Files. Dare I say it might be the craziest and most important thing you’ll read in years. I won’t spoil it all for you because it’s a whopper, but in short, government agencies have been strong-arming and partnering with Twitter and other social media outlets to totally shape the content you see on social media platforms to the government’s narrative. Social Media literally took direction from the government on whose accounts to ban, where to slap “fact check” labels, etc. It’s nauseating…and fascinating. If Elon Musk has done one good thing, it’s releasing all this information to longtime journalists who are not beholden to mainstream media anymore. These aren’t cranks either – we’re talking about Matt Taibbi at TK News and Bari Weiss crew at The Free Press – people who in the past wrote for national publications (Rolling Stone, New York Times, etc) and do not pull any punches against Republicans or Democrats. They are truly part of the only real “free press” we have left. You would be well served to subscribe to their Substack news feeds, which you can sample before you buy. I pay for both now after sampling their output for a couple of weeks. They are interesting, talented, serious, funny, they break real news – and they serve YOU.

And The Twitter Files? Good luck finding out about it in any national mainstream publication. They won’t touch it for the most part. They’re just as much in bed with the government. And listen, I’m not some far left or far right nut job, ok? I’m a pretty normal person that is curious, into news and I want it straight, without influence from meddling and shape-shifting entities and organizations. TK News and The Free Press give that to me (and you) far more than the mainstream press and tv news do. I dare you to read TK or Free Press and tell me otherwise! Which isn’t to say that the New York Times or Boston Globe are BAD newspapers. There is plenty of good content in both. But there’s also plenty of content that I now am forcing myself to question. And that’s not good.

Matt Taibbi – TK News
Bari Weiss – The Free Press (and read her excellent resignation letter to the New York Times)

Here’s a couple of good recent tidbits from The Free Press’s last newsletter:

? Latest from the Twitter Files: The Twitter Files—internal documents, emails and chats involving the past Twitter regime—continue to show how the U.S. government sought to silence its critics. The latest, from Matt Taibbi, shows that Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the head of the House Intelligence Committee, specifically asked the social network to ban a journalist, Paul Sperry. Even Twitter employees, usually perfectly happy to censor the politically inconvenient, balked at this

Nellie Bowles, The Free Press

? Of course this is happening in the U.S.: A new law in California paves the way for doctors to lose their license for “dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.” That sort of behavior is now considered “unprofessional conduct.” 

Longtime TGIF readers know my stance, but for all the newcomers: Misinformation and disinformation are real phenomena. But most of the time these days the words are political terms applied to any information a ruling clique doesn’t like. Often, it’s used by progressive journalists who want to see various voices censored on social media. 

In the case of Covid, many, many very real facts were considered mis-and-disinfo. Like: The vaccine does not prevent transmission of Covid. That was considered fake news, verboten. Had this law been in place you would have lost your medical license for saying it. In that case, people saw with their own bodies that, although vaccinated, they were very much coughing. But thanks to this new law that muffles doctors, who knows what we won’t know going forward. 

Nellie Bowles, The Free Press

? Vaccine-skeptical, sit this one out: When Damar Hamlin, a football safety for the Buffalo Bills, got hit in the chest and collapsed on the field, who was ready to jump in and opine but the vax skeptics. On Tucker Carlson, there was speculation that Hamlin was suffering vaccine-induced myocarditis. 

Obviously there are vaccine side effects that were under-reported and lied about, but that does not mean anyone with an injury or anyone who dies young was killed by Pfizer. Just like progressives see a twinge in their ankles as #longcovid, the conservative vax skeptic movement is a hammer looking for nails. 

Nellie Bowles, The Free Press

So…who do you rely on for the truth? Who do you trust?

A Shot in the Arm

A Shot in the Arm

A few months ago I posted a couple of things on Facebook about the new bivalent COVID vaccines and my uncertainty about getting them, as they hadn’t been tested on any humans yet, just mice. And we’re not like mice. I tried to make it clear in my social posts that I am not anti-vax at all. I willingly and excitedly got the original COVID vaccine on April 12, 2021 (J&J) and then I went ahead and got the booster as well on November 12, 2021 (again, J&J). So I did not get the mRNA version from Pfizer or Moderna. It wasn’t my choice – I showed up at the big vax factory and they moved us like cattle through the lines – they pointed and told me “go over there” and that was that. “Over there” just happened to be the Johnson & Johnson area. I also get a flu shot every year.

So now that I’m doing more long-form writing on my blog, I can explain more clearly how I’m feeling about this.

With that now framed up, this bivalent COVID vaccine gave me pause. As mentioned above, they skipped what I consider a kind of important step, which is testing on humans. I am generally averse to taking a shot of something that hasn’t been tested on humans. Because the Johnson & Johnson shot is not available anymore, any booster I get will have to be Pfizer and Moderna, which is a different technology than the J&J was.

My hesitance is largely rooted in a few things:

  • The lack of testing on humans. This is becoming less of a factor as more time goes by and we see an overwhelming amount of people reacting fine to it. Still, I think it’s logical to say that the rollout of this new booster to the masses in September was, effectively, the trial. YOU were the experiment if you got the shot this fall. And that’s fine. I’m not here to criticize, to each their own. I just decided to sit it out for a little while and not be a part of the experiment. And god bless the humans who volunteer for vaccine testing, by the way. They are kind of unsung heroes. Hesitance level: fairly low
  • Deep distrust of Big Pharma. Try to make sense of what Pfizer and Moderna are putting out there for data around trials and adverse reactions – it’s hard. Very hard. They do that on purpose, you know. These companies are *selling shots* – they are public companies beholden to shareholders and driving revenue. They are not looking out for you at all. You might also feel like the CDC or the FDA are more trustworthy and perhaps they are. But the FDA gets 75% of it’s funding for its drug division by…Big Pharma. Ouch. That feels like a very concerning conflict of interest. It wasn’t that long ago that doctors and patients were told that Oxycontin was perfectly safe and non-addictive. We cannot forget this. Hesitance level: medium
  • The shots don’t seem to work as well as Moderna and Pfizer told us. This is one of my biggest issues. One of my favorite tweets at the beginning of the original vaccine rollout was the CEO of Pfizer, who tweeted that Pfizer’s testing of the vaccine showed 100% effectiveness in blocking transmission entirely. The New York Times ran a piece on December 7 that is worth reading about this, focused on how “Covid-19 Isn’t a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated Anymore.” The article leans more towards the age of people getting it, but has some interesting data around mortality with Covid-19. Hesitance level: medium-high

The share of deaths among people vaccinated and boosted grew significantly as well, from 12 percent in January 2022 to 36 percent in April.

New York Times Op Ed, December 7, 2022
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla

These three things all give me pause. They don’t make me anti-vax and if anything, over the last few months I’m coming around to getting the shot. I’m not there yet, but maybe I’m getting there. I do feel pretty strongly that I have good reasons to wait.

A popular response to my hesitance is the point that, yes, ok, they lied to us and it doesn’t stop transmission, but it *does* prevent hospitalization and death. So I will make one other interesting point. Each week The Boston Globe publishes a COVID-19 data status for the state of Massachusetts. I can’t speak for the other 49 states, but have a look at the total amount of people hospitalized vs. the total amount of *vaccinated* people hospitalized. The total amount of people hospitalized is around 750 this week, 450 of which are vaccinated. 60% of people hospitalized in for COVID in Massachusetts are vaccinated.

I think where things go off the rails for me is all the fear mongering from the hardcore anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of posts out there about kids and adults collapsing on sports fields. Or people just collapsing on the street or in the course of their daily lives. Or people dying of heart attacks “out of the blue.” All of these things are sad, but they happen. They happened before 2021 and they will happen long after this pandemic is truly abated. But still, they fear monger. When confronted about this, the response is often “but how do you know it’s not from the vaccine? It could have been.” BAH.

There is not a single anti-vax person that can show me data that clearly shows the percent of people dying from the COVID shot isn’t the same as the percent of people dying from the flu shot or any other vaccine. They LOVE to show charts and graphs singularly showing the number of people having reactions since 2021, but when asked to show the percentage of reactions vs. total administered for COVID vaccines vs other vaccines, they go silent. Of course. Because they love fear mongering. OF COURSE the sheer volumne of reactions is going to be higher! The total number of vaccines given starting in 2021 skyrocketed!

Look, I’m not a doctor. This is a topic that people are really passionate about. And I respect and do not criticize anyone’s position on this. But I just wanted to get a longer form explanation of how I’m feeling. Now go get vacccinated! Or don’t! Either way, I’ll still love you.

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.

Hurry ‘Cause It’s Going Fast

Hurry ‘Cause It’s Going Fast

The strangest things can sneak up on you and give you inspiration.

Stephanie told me months ago that I need to read this book, “Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was probably reading something else at the time, or too engrossed in magazines or reading news on my IPad.

I remember looking at it, though, with its pastel colors and its clear self-help subtitle on the front: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I also saw that it was the author who wrote Eat Pray Love and it just felt to me like a book that, perhaps, was more targeted to females, since I’d never seen a male reading Eat Pray Love.

Really, I don’t know. Maybe I just dismissed it as some new-agey thing, but honestly I don’t remember why I didn’t read it right away.

It turns out that the age-old adage about never judging a book by its cover whacked me about the head like a old man wraps his wrinkled hand around a newspaper to whack a dog for shitting on the rug.

Never judge a book by its cover. This adage rings so true most of the time. As I get older, I often walk by people on the street and wonder what’s going on in their life, in their head.

Are they anxiety-ridden? Are they blissful? Mad? Sad? Happy? Manic? I don’t know. I just know that I haven’t walked in their shoes for a single second of time, so I pass them by, without any judgement. It comes with age, believe me. I wasn’t always like that. I like this way better.

It turns out that “creative living beyond fear” has only a little to do with being afraid and has much more to do with……doing. Do stuff. Create stuff. Who cares who sees it? Who cares who likes it or dislikes it? Do stuff. The book is a quick read and it’s quite motivational. More than I ever thought. I’m kicking myself for not reading it earlier. It would have sold more if the cover was black and white.

So what am I going to do? Hell if I know. I’ve had a book idea rattling around in my head for years. Years. I don’t know if I have time to do that. Am I not recognizing some kind of subconscious fear by already saying I might not have time?

Maybe I’ll make time. Maybe it’ll take me six more years. Or maybe I’ll just make some IMovie videos with the kids. Or maybe I’ll just write every day here. But I’m going to do something. I have to.

Part of my job involves creating. Always has. But this is different. At work, I’m creating for someone else, for the goal of an entity. I need to do something for myself. Stay tuned. This is going somewhere.

Elizabeth Gilbert, of all people.

Here’s hoping another six years doesn’t pass without me doing……something.