The Shame at America’s Borders

Yesterday on February 27th, the New Yorker published a piece about the ordeal of Mem Fox, a well-known Australian author of children’s books, who was coming to the US to be a keynote speaker at a conference in Wisconsin.

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Read the article. You should hear her own account of the events – but I suspect it doesn’t do justice to what Ms. Fox must have been feeling – and what all the other people must have been feeling – as they were detained, barked at, yelled at, bullied, and humiliated by “professional agents.”

“When asked for comment about Fox’s account, Jaime Ruiz, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX, said,

“That is not how we treat passengers. We treat passengers with respect and professionalism. We have zero tolerance for passengers being treated unprofessionally.”

Well, Jaime, guess what – that’s how you *do* treat passengers. It happened. It was real. Any sort of statement or apology should include an assurance that steps will be taken to change things. Because it was not just Ms. Fox that was treated that way – it was an entire roomful of other human beings, many who did not even speak English and who don’t have the social status to get on the public radar.

The Greeks have a saying: “Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει και κόκαλα τσακίζει” (The tongue has no bones, but it breaks bones.) Your dismissive statement will not heal the deep cuts to the spirit of this gentle lady, and all the other gentle ladies and gentlemen whom your agents treat with all the delicacy of a fourth-grade bully with his posse behind the school.

Another report at the Washington post states,

After returning to her home in Adelaide, Fox filed a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and received a “charming” email in response. “I took it as an apology from all of America,” she says.

While I’m glad the embassy responded positively, and that the apology was well received, I have no doubt that the memory of the experience will never truly fade. One kind diplomatic functionary is good, but to eliminate this kind of abomination change must start at the top – because attitude rolls downhill. And from what I’ve seen, it’s the attitude at the top that is enabling this kind of jingoistic, xenophobic vileness.

Ms. Fox, I’m deeply ashamed by the actions of my government, and very sorry this happened to you.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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Some thoughts on hearing loss from reddit

In a recent post at /r/lifeprotips, user /u/briskyfresh posted a Life Pro Tip entitled, “LPT: Your hearing is not invincible. Please lower your volume when listening to music. Bring earplugs to concerts. Do not make the same mistake I made.”

User /u/goodhumansbad posted the following comment, which I found relevant as I have loved ones with hearing loss.

Something a lot of people, especially younger people, don’t realize about hearing loss is how much MORE there is to it than just “needing to listen to things louder when you’re old” or “some ringing” to varying degrees. My father has hearing loss which he incurred on the job – he was a radio DJ in the 60s/70s and between the sound levels at work and the sound levels at concerts he went to for reviewing purposes, he did permanent damage to his hearing. Tinnitus is one element, hearing loss of certain frequencies is another.

But the most toxic thing about his hearing loss is how it’s affected his relationships. He is increasingly isolated as time goes by; he tunes out of conversations because he can’t understand people in a crowd, so at every party we go to I look over and see him sitting there either playing on his phone or looking glazed or smiling & nodding… but he’s always the first one to want to leave somewhere, dragging my mother with him because he’s bored. So socializing has just become a chore.

It’s also affected his relationships at home; he never hears us the first time we ask a question, but he’s convinced it’s because we’re mumbling (we aren’t). So he gets really irritated, even angry, and is frankly always ready to be in a bad mood.

Imagine if every single casual question your roommate/wife/husband/sibling/child asked you filled you with annoyance-to-rage. “What would you like for dinner, Dad? Dad? Can you hear me?” “What?” (said with a cold glare). “What would you like for dinner?” “WELL I DON’T KNOW WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS.” (said with total irritation, like we’re being a huge pain in the ass). All of this rudeness, all of this anger, comes from being deaf as a post.

It would be tempting to think my dad’s just an asshole with no manners, but he isn’t – when he has functioning hearing aids and this problem is greatly reduced, his entire demeanor is different. He’s easy-going, appreciative, participates, listens. But when his hearing aids aren’t working, as they aren’t now, he’s rude, ornery, dismissive, and critically doesn’t listen anymore because he know’s it’s just too much work and he won’t hear it all anyway.

I’ve known several people who’ve lost their hearing later in life, and they’ve all experienced this anger. It pushes people away, it isolates you, and leaves you feeling miserable. My great grandfather was stone deaf by his 90s and apparently used to occasionally pick up his walking stick at the dinner table, when people were talking amongst themselves (big family) and if he couldn’t hear them he’d just straight up clear the table with the stick. Imagine how angry you’d have to be to do that? This was a man who adored his family, and was never in any way abusive or difficult before his deafness really set in.

I thought this was worth sharing for those who either experience this or have friends or family in the same situation. Naturally, no one’s situation is the same, and YMMV.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A Democratic Manifesto

 

I originally shared this as a post from someone at Facebook named Patricia Rollins Trosclair. As it turns out, it was stolen content; the original author contacted me to set the record straight.  Here is the original post:

Some people are saying that we should give Donald Trump a chance, that we should “work together” with him because he won the election and “he is everyone’s president.” This is my response:

I will not “work together” to build a wall.
I will not “work together” to persecute Muslims.
I will not “work together” to shut out refugees from countries where we destabilized their governments, no matter how bad they might have been, so that we could have something more agreeable to our Oligarchy.
I will not “work together” to lower taxes on the 1%.
I will not “work together” to increase taxes on the middle class and poor.
I will not “work together” to help him line the pockets of himself and his cronies.
I will not “work together” to weaken (or demolish) environmental protection.
I will not “work together” to sell American lands to companies which then despoil those lands.
I will not “work together” to remove civil rights from anyone.
I will not “work together” to waste trillions more on our military when we already have the strongest in the world.
I will not “work together” to alienate countries that have been our allies for as long as I have been alive.
I will not “work together” to slash funding for education.
I will not “work together” to increase the immunity the police already have when they kill people of color (or anyone!) who is unarmed and does not pose any real threat.
I will not “work together” to take basic assistance from people who are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder.
I will not “work together” to allow torture and “black ops” prison sites.
I will not “work together” to “take their oil.”
I will not “work together” to get rid of common sense regulations on guns.
I will not “work together” to eliminate the minimum wage.
I will not “work together” to suppress scientific research, be it on climate change, fracking, or any other issue where a majority of scientists agree that Trump and his supporters are wrong on the facts.
I will not “work together” to criminalize abortion or restrict health care for women.
I will not “work together” to increase the amount of nations that have nuclear weapons.
I will not “work together” to put even more “big money” into politics.
I will not “work together” to violate the Geneva Convention.
I will not “work together” to give the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists a seat at the table, or to normalize their hatred.
I will not “work together” to deny health care to people who need it.
I will not “work together” to increase the profits of the insurance companies.
I will not “work together” to deny medical coverage to people on the basis of an alleged “pre-existing condition.”
I will not “work together” to increase voter suppression.
I will not “work together” to normalize tyranny.
I will not “work together” with anyone who is, or admires, tyrants and dictators.

I will not “work together” with Donald Trump or anyone who supports him, as I view him as an enemy of this nation and the principles on which it was founded.

Signed,

Thomas J. Gray

I share this because I agree – in large part – with these ideas. As a species, we need to focus more on being human than enriching the already wealthy or killing one another for fractions of a Pale Blue Dot, as Sagan so eloquently stated.

I have disabled comments on this post because I’ve had quite enough of partisan bickering, and there are millions of places on the net where I can hear dissenting opinions should I choose to; I don’t need that kind of negative energy in my “online home.”

The Old Wolf has spoken.


PS: The author also posted this:

Patricia Rollins Trosclair, I am calling you out for your plagiarism. If anyone else reading this likes the post and disapproves of plagiarism, please re-post this and sign your name below mine so that 1) people will see the original post, and 2) Patricia Rollins Trosclair will learn that it’s not nice to steal someone else’s writings and then try to pass that off as their own.

Marketing by terror

I’ve mentioned Android webjacking before, but here’s another example. Things like this are not usually “viruses” on your handheld device, but rather malicious code embedded in a legitimate website by unscrupulous advertisers.

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First, this exploit makes your phone buzz like a hornet that’s just been pinched in a vise, and locks your browser. No going back. Second, vulgar sites? No, actually this popped up when I was trying to leave a comment at retailcomic.com. I trust the site not to hide exploits like this on purpose.

 

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The claims on these “warnings,” along with being written in questionable English, are absolute lies: “If the problem can not be resolved immediately , the viruses will spy your phone, and destroy your SIM card, delete all your contacts.”

Now I’m just following the trail to see who’s behind this.

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Looks like someone is hawking an app (surprise, surprise):

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A comment at the app’s site complained, and the developer responded; notice the salutation “Dear,” usually seen on Nigerian scam emails but certainly a red flag that the app developer is not a native English speaker.

 

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Despite the apology and denial of malicious intent, I would be very suspicious of apps that are advertised in this way.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Income by deception: they’re not even trying any more.

Have a look at a few screenshots from my Android a couple of days ago:

 

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Hilarious joke collection. OK, I’m always up for a new laugh or two. But beware: popup ads like this are rarely honest or ethical, and often sleazy and deceptive. Let’s see:

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Starting to smell a rat, but let’s just go down to the next level:

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Well, the joke’s on me – and anyone who clicks these links. This transcends the concept of clickbait, which usually offers some kind of content in order to get people to the pages where ads are displayed. Now they’re eliminating the middleman altogether.

And people wonder why fake news gets such traction.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Doctors: Then and Now.

It’s tough to find a doctor you can trust.

I’ve written before about Dr. Max Jacobson, a New York City physician that my mother loved dearly, and I was delighted to have had some personal experience with such a famous (or infamous, or notorious, depending on whom you talk to) character.

Subsequent searching turned up a little bit about Max in a book called Schmucks with Underwoods, Conversations with Hollywood’s Classic Screenwriters by Max Wilk:

“Have you ever ead Erich Maria Remarque’s novel Arch of Triumph, the one about the Paris hotel where arll the refugees are living? Well, there’s a character in there, a doctor, a German refugee, living in Paris, and in order to keep himself alive, he’s performing abortions in dirty kitchens… you know who that doctor really was? Dr. Max Jacobson… the same guy who is now in New York!”

The notorious Dr. Feelgood?

“The one and the same Dr. Feelgood!” said [Billy] Wilder. I knew him extremely well – in Berlin, he was my doctor. Talk about writers in exile! Here’s this doctor, in exile, he cannot get a diploma, so he performs abortions… You know how old this guy is today? He has to be in the early 70s! But what a difference from his days in Paris, eh? Whenever he comes out here to L.A., I see him . Or I meet him on planes, he is accompanying Mr. Cecil B. DeMille to Egypt, because Mr. DeMille is going to do a new version of The Ten Commandments, during which Mr. DeMille has himself a heart attack, but Dr. Feelgood pumps him full of his amphetamine magic shots, so Mr. DeMille can still climb ladders and shoot the scenes – with maybe 6,000 extras all standing around!”

And there is also a list of other famous show business and political people who were the patients of the same Dr. Max Jacobson, ranging from our late president Kennedy, with his bad back, to Alan Jay Lerner, and Tennessee Williams, to a raft of other such celebrities, all of them devotees of Dr. Feelgood’s little satchel full of magic elixir shots.”

That last sentence reminded me powerfully of the lovely story by C.M. Kornbluth, “The Little Black Bag,” a follow-up tale in the world of “The Marching Morons.” If only we had such doctors…

As an add-on, in the linked article I mentioned “a New York publication some time before 1968;” thanks to the miracle of the Internet, it turns out that the relevant article from New York magazine was actually published on February 8, 1971 – so I was close. Nobody who ever met Dr. Max could possibly misunderstand to whom “Doctor C” referred, and I remember people in my home discussing the article with much amusement as almost all of our visitors were either patients of or familiar with him.

But back to reality, the first doctor I ever knew was Dr. Arthur F. Anderson, my pediatrician.

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This photo is of Dr. Andy, as he was lovingly known to his patients and their families, was taken at his retirement celebration in 1967. He was an immensely kindly gentleman who always put me at ease, made me airplanes out of tongue depressors and rubber bands, and wrote with a fountain pen full of bright blue ink.

In an oral history of Dr. David Annunziato, an Amityville-based pediatrician who passed away in 1995, I found this little tidbit:

I had great teachers. Bill [William] Dock was the professor of medicine. Charlie [Charles A.] Weymuller was the professor of pediatrics. And Charlie Weymuller, though he was a quiet man, apparently knew everybody. You know he knew [Rustin] McIntosh at Columbia [University College of Physicians and Surgeons], [Luther Emmett] Holt [Jr.] at NYU [New York University], Sam [Samuel Z.] Levine at [Weill] Cornell [Medical College]. The man he told me was the smartest pediatrician in the world was a man I only met once, and he was at Lenox Hill [Hospital]. His name was Anderson.

That could be no one else but Dr. Andy; I had my tonsils out at Lenox Hill Hospital in 1954, and I’m pretty sure that he was watching over my case if he himself did not perform the surgery. Which makes it obligatory that I cross-post something from my Live Journal, because it’s relevant to Dr. Andy and Dr. Weymuller, and much better than what I could reconstruct here.

March 21, 2009

Memories come in the strangest ways.

Brooke McEldowney, in his webcomic Pibgorn, just finished up a story arc that lasted a few days short of two years. That’s not as tortuous as Freefall time, but still a good piece of slow-paced fiction.

The new arc which began last Tuesday is entitled (Note to Jef Mallett: Yes, that is an appropriate use of the word) “Pibgorn and the Volcano on 77th Street and Park Avenue.” Forum members immediately brought up satellite images of the intersection, and it turns out that Lenox Hill Hospital sits on that corner.

I grew up in New York, and that rang a bell. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why it was familiar, aside from the tragic recent death of Natasha Richardson). Was it where I was born? Nah, that was Lying-In Hospital, converted in 1981 to luxury condos (note the baby tondos still adorning the façade).

It just came to me. It’s where I had my tonsils out when I was around three. Unlike Bill Cosby and his ice cream, my memories are different. I remember being alone, shots, and starvation.

When you’re three, you hate shots anyway. Somehow, my beloved pediatrician, Dr. Arthur F. Anderson, managed to avoid being associated with needles, choosing instead to send his evil henchman, the sadistic Dr. Charles Weymuller (in actuality, probably a very nice man) to my home for the requisite torture sessions in which my delicate heinie was violated with ten-foot red hot pokers. But in the hospital, I have this memory of an endless line of nurses armed with jackhammers, marching into my room like clockwork every five minutes to give me shot, after shot, after shot. It was probably only one, but hey, I was three, and alone in a strange crib in a strange place. I still don’t especially care for needles.

Compounding the torment was the fact that they refused to feed me. I was so happy when they finally said I would get some chicken noodle soup. Well, if there was any chicken or any noodles in the soup they brought me, it must have been strained out by the underpaid kitchen staff to supplement their meager salaries, because “broth” would have been too generous an appellation. That hospital stay was not fun.

I was so hungry when I finally got home… they fixed me mashed potatoes with butter, and I was so famished that in my haste I accidentally bit the finger of whoever was feeding me.

And I hadn’t thought of these things for at least 30 years…

In the ensuing years I’ve had numerous other physicians, some better and some less so; bedside manner matters, but a doctor’s interest in you as a person – his or her willingness to address your issues above and beyond the 8 minutes per patient that seems to be standard these days – is critical. A couple of  bright stars stand out: I was privileged to have Dr. George Van Komen, a superb and caring physician, as my primary care provider for a time, and my current doctor is not only a physician but also a friend, which counts for a lot.

But I still miss Dr. Andy.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Beware the Zeus virus (No, you’re not infected)

I’ve written about scams that get you to call a phone number and help bad guys access your computer before. Here’s another variety you need to be aware of.

My wife’s computer has had this happen twice in the last few weeks (click the image for a larger view):

zeus-virus-scam

Chrome is locked up – you can’t close the tab, click away, or do anything else except kill the browser in Task Manager. A computerized voice repeatedly intones, “Your computer is infected. Your data is being stolen. Call this number for support…” You can imagine that this would be very frightening to someone who is not computer-savvy, and a lot of people will fall for it.

Just to see how the scam works, I called the number (855-335-8826 – don’t call this number) and got an agent with a foreign accent (sounded Indian or Pakistani to me) asking how he could help. Putting on my “geezer voice,” I told him that my computer was talking to me and telling me that my data was being stolen.

  • Agent: “Have you downloaded anything lately?”
  • Me: “No.”
  • Agent: “I will direct you through a couple of steps so I can access your computer and help you fix this problem. Look at your keyboard in the lower left – do you see the Window key? I want you to press that key, together with the letter ‘r’. [Note: he wants me to run a program.]
  • Agent: “Type the letters ‘hh’, then a space, then the letter ‘t’ in the ‘open’ box. Then press the “OK” button.

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  • Me: “Ok, I did that.” [This is what I get]

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  • Agent: “Do you see the little question mark in the upper left hand corner? I want you to click that and select the option that says “Jump to URL.”

url

  • Agent: “Now type this in the box: ‘www.support.me’

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  • Me: “OK, I’ve done that.” [This is what I get]:

support

  • Agent: “I will now give you a 6-digit code to enter into the box. Your number is 925837. Please type that into the box and click ‘Start Download’.”
  • Me: Do you really think I’m going to allow access to my computer by a bunch of scammers? Get a life. *click*

What’s going on here is that if I had entered the number, I would have given complete control of my machine to a random scammer, and from that point he could have

  1. Stolen sensitive data like passwords, contact lists, or financial information.
  2. Infected my computer with malware
  3. Taken control of my machine and woven it into a spamming botnet.
  4. Other things more horrible that I wish to contemplate.

There are websites out there that tell you how to remove the “infection” that causes this popup; most of them exist to shill programs like Zemana, Malwarebytes, and HitMan Pro. Free versions of these are legitimate, but don’t be conned into buying “Pro” versions unless you really need their features. Others may ask you to download their own proprietary removal tool. Be wary of such sites.

The key here is that if you get the “Zeus” malware popup, NEVER CALL THE NUMBER. You’ll just be opening yourself up to fraudsters who want to do very bad things to you and your computer.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.