The Android Phone Virus Scam

I’ve written about this gambit before, but today I encountered an especially egregious example of one.

While perusing an article found at reddit, one of the pages I visited popped up with this:

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My phone started buzzing like crazy, the progress bar went all the way to the right, and i was told that I had a myriad of viruses. All I had to do was download “Psafe” to get my phone clean again.

As I tried to back out of this steaming pile of moose droppings, I was presented with the following sequence of screens, with concomitant “Urgent!” vibrations – in other words, there was no way out:

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If these popups are to be believed, my poor Android had become virus central, and I might as well just throw it away and buy a new one.

But by now you should know that this is all nonsense, designed to trick the unwary and the gullible into downloading Psafe, a supposed protection application from the Play Store. How a legitimate application, if that’s what it is, can resort to such scummy promotion techniques is beyond me – unless it’s the typical drivel put out by affiliate marketers. Be that as it may, tactics like this are enough to sour me on a piece of software forever – and tell others to stay away from it as well.

Another example.

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I really work hard to keep the content of this blog family-friendly. This kind of stuff makes me want to send vulgar open letters to the people who do this, but I’ll have to content myself with putting it out there so other people might also be warned.

If you get junk like this on your Android, it’s not infected. Restart your phone you can’t get out of the loop, and if it’s really bad, reinstall your browser.

And never, ever, use Psafe for anything – a company that stoops to these methods of despicably dishonest advertising does not deserve your business.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

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A visit to a dark corner of my soul

One of my Facebook friends just posted the following question:

“Just a thought….who does the Muslim world and ISIS support for president?”

The obvious answer is “Clinton” – the implication being that Trump would unleash Hell on Islamic terrorists and nuke them back to the stone age, or something similar.

In reality, Daesh does not support anyone for president, because Daesh does not believe in Democracy – but rather in Shari’a law under theocratic rule. If the extremists had their way, New York City might look like the image below, which appeared shortly after 9/11:

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The problem with jingoism and xenophobia is that they know no bounds and do not require facts… just a gut-level fear of the unknown, of the different. Hence Donald Trump’s calls for the exclusion of all Muslim immigrants to the US, deportation of Muslims, issuance of identity cards to Muslims – all these have resonated with a segment of American society who have been terrorized by the terrorists.

A digression:

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In the episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation entitled “The Survivors,” Kevin Uxbridge (brilliantly played by John Anderson) portrays a Douwd, an immortal being with godlike powers who fell in love with a human woman. When his wife was killed by a consummately evil race of beings known as the Husnock, Uxbridge explained:

I saw her broken body. I went insane. My hatred exploded. And in an instant of grief… I destroyed the Husnock… You don’t understand the scope of my crime. I didn’t kill just one Husnock, or a hundred, or a thousand. I killed them all. All Husnock, everywhere. – Are 11,000 people worth… 50 billion? Is the love of a woman worth the destruction of an entire species?

This theme was echoed in Attack of the Clones, in which Anakin Skywalker tells Padmé Amidala about the Tuskens who kidnapped and killed his mother, “I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children too.”

The desire for ultimate vengeance upon those who have harmed us or our loved ones seems to run deep in the human heart, witness the Hatfields and the McCoys, the internecine conflicts of the Balkans, the Middle East conflicts, the Tutsis and the Hutus, and so many others.

And as I experienced that day of infamy in 2001 when our nation was stabbed to the heart by unspeakably evil men, my soul went to that darkest of places. On that day, had you offered me the Elder Wand and told me that by simply waving it, all Muslims everywhere would simply cease to exist, and every one of their holy sites would be reduced to a glowing lake of slag, I probably would have waved it without a second’s hesitation. Such was the depth of my anguish at the emotional insult of that day.

It has taken a long time, but I was obliged to take those sentiments and wall them up behind the barricade of reason.

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I admit that every time I see images of 9/11, or hear of a new atrocity committed in the name of Islam, I can still hear Fortunato’s bells jingling behind that wall. That day scarred my psyche for all time. I doubt I will ever fully heal, but I refuse to give in to the bestial urges.

With all of that in mind, I cannot support as president of this nation a man who would demonize fully one fourth of this world’s population for the actions of a few deranged and deluded madmen. Yes, those few are dangerous, and a threat to global security. But this is not Riyadh, or Tehran, or Darfur – this is America, and Muslims are as much a part of our country as the Catholic immigrants from Italy and Ireland, or the Jewish immigrants from the global diaspora. The enemy is ignorance, the enemy is extremism. We must be vigilant, but we must also be human.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

It’s not the lesser evil, it’s the greater good.

For a long time I’ve been complaining to myself, about every four years or so, of having to choose between the evil of two lessers. Over the course of my life, my politics have been all over the spectrum, from Democrat in my youth (think McCarthy and McGovern), to a 40-year stint of drinking the GOP Kool-Aid (I still think Reagan had the best interests of the nation at heart, but Cheney & Co. put an end to my straight-party history), to Libertarianism (too close to Anarchynarchy for comfort), and back to the Dems since 2008, because like many Americans, I really was hopeful for some change, particularly in the economic arena.

While I don’t agree with all his politics or agenda, our current President has had a pretty good run if you look at the numbers. Those on the evangelical right tend to see him as Satan incarnate, the enemy of all righteousness, attacking foundations of “moral America” with jackhammers and wrecking balls, but despite what the John Birch Society would have you think, no religious code is enshrined in the Constitution; morals remain, thanks to the First Amendment, a matter of personal choice and personal accountability.

Bernie Sanders was the first real breath of political fresh air I have experienced on the national stage in my entire life. I worked for him, I stumped for him, I contributed my $3.00 (several times over, if the truth be known), I was a caucus captain for him in Maine, and I was really hoping for someone in the White House who would pay less attention to politics or private interests than those who have occupied that seat of power during my sojourn on earth.

Now those hopes have been extinguished, and once again I am left to choose between two people whose politics I do not endorse, and must choose the lesser evil. Or perhaps not.

Donald Trump is a caricature of all that is wrong with politics, a real-live Oliphant cartoon (I deeply regret this great commentator’s gentle slide into retirement, especially during this circus of an election season), Tammany Tiger in the flesh, the ghosts of Leona Helmsley, Imelda Marcos, and Joseph McCarthy brought back to life in one horrible package of xenophobic one-percentism. The prospect of a Trump presidency terrifies me, and the thought that a fraction of this country approaching 50% thinks he would be good for this country leaves me with cold sweats.

Despite my own feelings, I have a huge circle of friends who support both Trump and the GOP, and there are parts of their fears and frustrations that resonate with me. The “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot referred to with regards to American jobs – not to Mexico, as it turned out, but rather to Asia – is of deep concern. The rotting factories of America, the economic terror that is snapping at the heels of a far-too-great segment of our nation’s families, the social unrest, and a general trend in our country toward an “anything goes” outlook are valid concerns in the minds of many people. The growing fear of Islamic extremism is a real phenomenon; remembering that the enemy of freedom is not Islam but rather extremism of all stripes and ignorance has become ever more difficult since 9/11, an event that scarred my soul and twisted my Weltanschauung despite my being aware that it did so. But championing trickle-down economics and outright jingoism and fear-mongering are not the answers to these pressing problems, and these are precisely the principles upon which Donald Trump has built his campaign.

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On the other side of the aisle we have Hillary Rodham Clinton, part of the “Buy one, get one free” package that we inherited under the presidency of her husband. During the Billary days, there was a joke circulating that was so cruel and petty that I can’t repeat it here, but it underscored the notion that both Bill and Hillary were crooked and dishonest. It’s worth considering that much of the “crooked Hillary” rhetoric that seems to have become part of the American psyche could be the result of a decades-long smear campaign by her opponents on the right, but for good or ill it has affected me. I don’t know if I trust her to act ethically and honestly for the good of America’s citizenry, and that’s admitting freely that as a person, I don’t know her from Adam’s off ox. The Clinton presidency appears to be settling on the positive side of the historical ledger, but the moral lapses of our 42nd president, followed by the web of deceit and duplicity that followed, add to the general feeling that having this team back in the White House will do more good for them than for us.

Coming back to Bernie Sanders, there is a segment of his constituency who have adopted the “Bernie or Bust” philosophy… and I understand that as well. My franchise under the Constitution is precious, and casting a ballot for someone I don’t support seems like squandering that franchise. I supported Bernie so fervently that it seems folly not to ignore the dominant candidates and cast my ballot for him as a write-in, or vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to bolster third-party strength. But that’s not the attitude that Bernie himself has adopted; he’s a career politician, has stayed on message for over 3 decades, and he understands clearly that politics makes strange bedfellows.

From where I stand, Senator Sanders’ support for Hillary at this time is an effort to make the best of a less-than-optimal situation. Even his decision to run as a democrat was a calculated political move, and one that paid greater dividends in the long run than having run as an independent might have done. I like what he stands for. He has a lifetime in the political trenches. I trust him. And if he’s asking his supporters to support the Democratic candidate at this point in time, it makes sense that I do so now.

From a faith-based standpoint, I should be on the far right. I believe that there are certain standards of conduct that, if followed, will bring greater overall happiness to mankind than the alternatives. But I am also a fervent supporter of free agency which I see as the core principle of our earthly probation; the whole concept of “I don’t believe in eating cake, so you may not have any either” just doesn’t fly with me. As a result, the efforts of the Christian right to impose morality on the nation by political activism is just as worrisome as the jihadis who would impose Islam on the world by the sword.

So there’s the dilemma. I can’t just stay home and not vote, because that would be an insult to those who dedicated their lives to creating a republic where my franchise is guaranteed. I can’t really justify voting Libertarian or Green, because neither party has a hope of winning in the general election, and I can’t write Bernie in for the same reason, as much as I would love to see him at the helm of state. I can’t vote GOP, because the Republican Zeitgeist at this moment in time seems to revolve around a world that works for the rich, the few, and the holy.

Yes, I think there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery in the political process this year, perhaps more than in the past. I think the DNC basically shafted Bernie and his supporters with a cactus, and that the game was essentially rigged from the start. But in the end analysis, I have to ask myself “Which party’s ideals intersect most strongly with my own?”

The answer, for myself, is clear. I will vote for Hillary in November, not because she is the lesser evil but because I believe she will accomplish the greater good. But in the meantime, I will continue to work for and support candidates at the local and congressional level who support the ideals that Bernie Sanders offered the nation: equal opportunities for all, a political process free of corporate money and influence, universal healthcare, universal human dignity, and – in the words of R. Buckminster Fuller – “making the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Try Moxie, they said.

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My first introduction to Moxie came as I read Stuart Little in the 1950s. Stuart, on his journey to find his lost love Margalo, stopped at a gas station and asked about something to drink.

“Have you any sarsaparilla in your store?” asked Stuart. “I’ve got a ruinous thirst.”
“Certainly,” said the storekeeper. “Gallons of it. Sarsaparilla, root beer, birch beer, ginger ale, Moxie, lemon soda, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dipsi Cola, Pipsi Cola, Popsi Cola, and raspberry cream tonic. Anything you want.”

At the time I had no idea what Moxie was, but was delighted to find out later that it was a real thing, unlike the Dipsi, Pipsi, and Popsi colas mentioned. And yes, it’s definitely an acquired taste. It’s reminiscent of root beer or sarsparilla, but the dominant flavoring is gentian root, which brings a bitterness to the drink not found in other soft drinks (unless you’re fond of Campari soda, not usually found outside of Italy.) God forbid anyone should make a soda version of Fernet-Branca!

But Moxie is different, and refreshing. The bitterness doesn’t bother me, in fact it makes the concoction more satisfying on a hot day than something that’s just overly sugary. I may like it for the same reason I like chestnut honey, which I discovered on a trip to Slovenia – wonderfully full-bodied, with that same distinctive bitterness which offsets the sweetness nicely.

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Originating around 1876 as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food,” Moxie is closely associated with the state of Maine and was designated the official soft drink of Maine on May 10, 2005. Its creator, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine. (Extracted from Wikipedia)

For the longest time, Frank Anicetti ran the Moxie Museum in Lisbon, Maine; this year saw the closure of the store, which was at the heart of Maine’s annual Moxie Festival since 1913.

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Frank Anicetti serves up Moxie ice cream

But even though the Kennebec Fruit Company store is gone, Moxie will stay close to the hearts and stomachs of Mainahs; there’s still the Matthews Museum in Union, which has an entire wing devoted to Moxie.

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The Moxie Wing at the Matthews Museum in Union, Maine

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Now in the interest of full disclosure, I’m still a Pepper, and always have been. In my years sojourning in Europe, I discovered that Europeans – while they find Coke and Pepsi palatable – generally look upon Root Beer and Dr Pepper as tasting like medicine. With that in mind, I suspect Moxie wouldn’t find much of a market in Vienna or Ljubljana… in fact, it might be just enough to turn even our best European friends into a torch-and-pitchfork waving mob.

But such is life. The poor souls probably wouldn’t appreciate nattō either. They have my sympathy. For the moment, I’m happy to be in Maine, where Moxie is readily available.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Trading Stamp Era

In a previous entry about things gone but not forgotten (by me and my generation, anyway,) I mentioned S&H green stamps.

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Trading stamps were incentives given out by grocery stores and gas stations in the same way as stores do with coupons, reward-cards, and other come-ons today. You’d collect the stamps, paste them in books, and then take your books to a redemption center somewhere and exchange them for consumer goods.

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Based on the amount of your purchase, the checker would dial up the amount you spent on a machine like the one above, and the thing would dispense stamps in 1, 10, and the coveted 50 variety. The last one was great because you could fill up an entire page in the book with just one lick.

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Depending on the area of the country you lived in, there were different varieties of stamps available. The ones I recall in addition to the S&H Green Stamps were:

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Gold strike stamps

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Page from a Gold Strike Stamp Catalog. This was not cheap slum; the premiums had significant value if you were willing to collect enough books.

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Blue Chip Stamps. If you’re curious about that “cash value one mill” (equivalent to 1/10 ¢) thing, have a gander at this article over at Mental Floss.

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Blue Chip Promotional Ad

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Plaid Stamps, particular to A&P.

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Pages from a Plaid Stamp catalog.

I remember helping my mother gather and lick and apply these things and looked forward to her regular trips to the grocery store. I can’t recall what, if anything, she ever redeemed her books for, but the memory of the collecting is very clear. While the craze faded shortly after, I’m glad I was able to live through this interesting bit of cultural history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Loan Sharking: Alive and Well

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I recently had brought to my attention the existence of a company called “LoanMe,” which pre-qualified a redditor for a $10,600 loan at an APR of 99.75% with a $70,000 payback.

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I knew credit cards had outrageous interest rates of 18% and above, but I had no idea they were being outdone by orders of magnitude in the world of high finance.

Have a look at rates available in Utah from this company:

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This is from LoanMe’s own website – with the next column in red calculated out  by me and showing the total payoff.

For a $5,000 loan you’d be paying $36476.04 in interest over 7 years. For an even smaller loan of $2600, you would pay $15729.80 in interest over just shy of 4 years.

Predatory practices of this nature are incomprehensible; I thought we had laws against usury in this country, but I guess we don’t.

Be careful out there, and avoid those who would rob you in broad daylight under the loving protection of the law.

The Old Wolf has spoken.