Drain the Swamp

The phrase “drain the swamp” can be traced back as far as 1830 but has frequently been used since the 1980s by American politicians [1].

Since the 2016 presidential election the old phrase “drain the swamp” has taken on a whole new meaning and brought to light that perhaps there are two swamps in Washington. As an aside, the phrase in question does not mean a literal swamp, which are actually environmentally valuable ecological wetlands, but refers to the skullduggery that goes on in our nation’s capital.

The two swamps in question are: the White House (WH) centric one and the one most of us are familiar with in reference to the shady dealings among our elected representatives especially when it comes to lobbyists. Continue reading

The Immigration Dilemma

We often hear people say that “we are a nation of immigrants” or that “this nation was built by immigrants” as if that somehow justifies the liberal attitude many people hold regarding immigration. These comments seem to have their origin in the great migration from the late 1800s to early 1900s when many people emigrated from Europe. Some of the immigrants who arrived no doubt had criminal intents but most, like my great grandfather, who immigrated to America legally in 1882 came mostly in search of greater economic opportunity and to fully assimilate into the American culture. This was 66 years before the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which authorized for a limited period of time the admission into the United States of 200,000 certain European displaced persons for permanent residence.

I, like many others, was born and raised in a city with several large immigrant populations. Among them were the Germans, Polish, Italians and Irish many of whom who came to the city to work in the steel mills or came with skills to start their own businesses as my great grandfather did. While some members of these populations tended to concentrate in their own ethnic neighborhoods they also brought an enjoyable diversity of culture and foods to the city as a whole; a process that has repeated itself in many major urban areas of our country. Perhaps this is why today’s immigration problems are so heart wrenching and difficult to discuss.

The intent of this blog post is to present some history on the complex problem of immigration in light of some issues that have come up in recent years and to finally offer some suggestions for change on both sides of the immigration equation. Continue reading

Thumbs at the Ready

The Department of Health and Human Services reports that children spend more than 7.5 hours daily in front of a screen which is a concern among two-thirds of parents. Even teens are beginning to recognize that they spend too much time in front of screens. Some parents are taking steps to reduce their children’s screen time and technology companies, in order to address this screen addiction, are implementing features to measure and warn people of excessive screen time.

I was recently reminded that the issue of screen time is not new. There was a time that children in particular spent hours sitting zombie-like as if in a trance within a foot of a 20 inch TV. Responsible parents in those days would admonish their children to back away from the screen for fear of damage to their eyesight. Children usually ignored these requests and the parent would just have to turn the boob tube off.  This is much harder to do these days what with the proliferation of the small screen devices such as tablets and smart phones that children as young as 3 have in their personal possession. Continue reading

Say No to Social Media

The revelation regarding Facebook, reported here and elsewhere, and a collection of bad actors consisting of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communication Laboratories aka SCL Elections and third party apps that use Facebook’s own API developed to collect and use your personal data has, hopefully, brought to light that you are the product that is being sold for their profit. Ad revenue alone for mostly Facebook and Twitter was estimated at $41 billion worldwide in 2017 and this does not include the lucrative repeated sales of your personal data through the so-called dark web, as reported here. The ad revenue alone amounts to some $6 per year for each of the 7 billion people on this planet. Continue reading

Use *57 To Trace Spoofed Caller IDs

The phone rang and the caller ID showed a local number. Even though I’m aware of “neighbor spoofing”, a popular devious and fraudulent trick used by telemarketers, I uncharacteristically answered it instead of letting it go to the answering machine.

“Hello,” I said, which was followed by silence on the other end. I was about to hang up when a voice, obviously a recorded message reading from a script, said something to the effect that my credit was fine but I was to press 1 to contact a representative to setup a plan to pay off my credit card debt or I could lose my high credit rating. Continue reading

Targeted Divisiveness

Targeted divisiveness primarily refers to the use of social media by an individual or organization, especially through the use of bots, to search through user posts and profiles looking for characteristics that can be used to target that individual with multiple messages to amplify a cause that would pit one group against another. This could correctly be called propaganda. The difference nowadays with social media is the ability to target specific individuals based on self revealed preferences. Ads on social media work in much the same way except they are focused on selling a product or service. Continue reading

Caught in Telemarketing Hell: 7 Tips On How To Deal With Nuisance Phone Calls

Until the early 90s most of the phone calls we received were from friends, family or the occasional wrong number. By 1991 telemarketing became a big business which led to widespread abuse and resulted in the passage of the FTC Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. This act established the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry  but it was not until 2003 that registration on the Do-Not-Call list became available.

Unfortunately, most of us know by now that listing your phone numbers on the federal Do Not Call Registry is, for the most part, a joke but it is something you must do. Among the loopholes are provisions that election campaigners and organizations that you have done business with in the past can ignore your entry on the list.

This last provision is particularly troublesome. How many times have you received a call from a telemarketer whose charitable organization you have never heard of before thanking you for your previous support?  If this has happened to you then your phone number has been shared on a sucker list with other similar unscrupulous organizations. Continue reading