Wednesday, May 28, 2014

From FLIP FLOPS.... to SLIP SLOPS...to CAN'T STOP!

     

Flip-flops can be lethal.  Yes, that’s what I said.  Lethal! Flip-flops can kill.  I know.  It almost killed my son.  He was riding his bike and approached an intersection that was clearly marked: STOP!  BIKERS AND WALKERS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY.    

A woman driving an SUV slowed to a stop.  My son started across the road when, suddenly, the driver accelerated and hit him broadside.  He first landed on the hood of her car, bounced off, and fell into the street.  If she hadn’t found the brake when she did…

How did this happen?  The driver was wearing flip flops.  Her foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator.

More and more accidents and near-accidents are being linked to uncontrolled acceleration or brake obstruction caused by flip flops sliding off drivers’ feet and getting stuck between or under floor pedals. 
                            
To cite a few cases:  a woman in update New York recently lost control of her car and hit three pedestrians who were standing on a sidewalk.  All three pedestrians died. According to police, the driver’s flip flops got tangled in the floor pedals, and she lost control of her car.    
                  
In 2010 a bicyclist was killed in Florida by a pickup truck after the driver’s flip flops got trapped between pedals.

In 2012 a truck driver wearing flip flops crashed through a store front and into the store.  Fortunately, no one was killed.  What happened?  The driver’s flip flops jammed under the accelerator pedal.

In 2012 a bicyclist was struck and killed in Pittsburgh by a driver in a pick-up truck whose flip flops got trapped between floor pedals. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that crashes due to pedal misapplication happen about fifteen times a month.  That’s 180 times a year; however, the U.S. has done next-to-no research on accidents or near-accidents caused by flip flops.  England has.   

 

Sheila’s Wheels, a British insurance company, surveyed over 1,000 drivers and found that 60% (600) drove wearing flip-flops, of which one-third blamed their shoes for causing an accident or near-accident.  From this data, the company extrapolated that flip flops were responsible for 1.4 million accidents or close calls a year. 

What makes flip flops the devil’s driving shoe? 

1.     Flip flops get stuck under and between control pedals, leading to over-acceleration or slow brake application. 

2.     Thin, soft soles brake .13 seconds slower than closed shoes. At 60 MPH,  .13 seconds equals 11 feet – possibly the difference between life and death. 
 
3.     It takes twice as much time to move between the gas and brake pedals when wearing flip flops than it does when wearing closed shoes.  

Flip-flops cause more than car accidents.  Of the estimated 11,000 people who were hurt riding escalators in the U.S. in 2012, approximately 10% were caused when hands and feet became trapped in the equipment. 

In 2012 in Washington, D.C, a teenager’s flip flop got stuck in a metro escalator.  When he reached down to retrieve his shoe, four fingers of one hand lodged in the stairs.  It took emergency personnel 40 minutes to free him.  He was one of the lucky ones.  He kept his fingers…whereas, this woman …     

                             
…wasn’t so lucky when her flip flop had an argument with an escalator, and the escalator won.  

Metro systems now warn riders about the potential danger of wearing flip flops (as well as crocs and high heels) on escalators, especially on hot summer days when rubber and other soft materials are more likely to sink into escalator steps.  
 
And if all that doesn’t convince you to flip your flops into the nearest garbage can, consider these findings from the Academy of Podiatric Medicine.  Flip flops offer no arch support, no heel cushioning, and no shock absorption; consequently, when worn for prolonged periods, they can cause tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and micro-tears (as well as blisters and stubbed toes).  Running or jumping when wearing flip flops often results in sprained ankles, fractures, and severe ligament injuries requiring surgery.  

Twenty thousand Brits visit doctors every year because of foot problems, at a cost of 40 million British pounds.  Many of these injuries and surgeries are blamed on long term wear of flip flops.   
  
Flip flops are also a breeding place for Staphylococcus Aureus, a deadly germ that can invade your body and kill.  One lab found 18,000 bacteria on a pair.    

                                                    
                                                  
Unfortunately, there are no laws prohibiting drivers from wearing flip flops, although Departments of Motor Vehicles do warn that wearing inappropriate footwear (and bare feet) can be dangerous.  But even if anti flip-flop laws were enacted, how could they be enforced?  Despite laws against texting and talking while driving, I see dozens of people every day doing just that.  The problem is there are too many offenders and not enough police.  Furthermore, enforcing a flip flop law is impossible.  You can  see a driver’s hands and face through a car window but not their feet.       

Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda, may have had it right when he made wearing flip flops a criminal offense, punishable with death.  Yeah, maybe that was a tad harsh, but I’m guessing it got the job done.  
                                                               
THE BOTTOM WHINE:  If the shoe is fitted, wear it; if it isn’t, DON’T!   

                                           


                                                                 Whiningly yours, Carol                                           


                                                           

Friday, May 9, 2014

LANGUAGE USE AND ABUSE

                    
According to linguistics professor Henry Higgins in Lerner and Lowe's "My Fair Lady," Americans haven't spoken the English language in years. If that’s what he thought fifty-eight years ago, what would he say today, given the proliferation of fillers, phrase and sentence reductions, techno-words, and the loss of words indicative of a civil society.      
Fillers are words that carry no meaning but are added to sentences to give speakers time to grope for words and collect their thoughts.   Some of today’s popular fillers include: you know, so, like, and uh (“uh” is the filler of choice for the over-fifty crowd).  I was recently subjected to a “like” speaker at a public lecture.  After some minutes, I became more interested in the number of times he said “like” in a minute than I was in what he had to say.  I made a tally.
                           
At 30 minutes, the lecturer had said “like” 180 times. At thirty-one minutes, I left the room.  The speaker was either unprepared, dishonest, or under the influence of his teenage children.  Possibly all three.
          But don’t think that filler abusers are limited to a particular age, social, or professional group.  They’re not.  They’re everywhere.  President Obama in an NBC interview in August of 2013 used “you know” 43 times.  Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein said “you know” 84 times in a 2010 CNN interview, but the filler trophy goes to Caroline Kennedy, who, in a New York Times interview in 2008 said “you know” 142 times.  For your reading pleasure, a part of that interview is below:
"So I think in many ways, you know, we want to have all kinds of different voices, you know, representing us, and I think what I bring to it is, you know, my experience as a mother, as a woman, as a lawyer, you know.  I've been an education activist for the last six years here, and, you know, I've written seven books.... so obviously, you know, we have ....”
One of the many negative consequences of the electronic age is the public’s increasing impatience.  Our attention span has diminished.  Everyone wants everything fast -- and faster yet -- including language, both written and spoken.  This need for speed has led to the reduction of frequently-used phrases into single words and  abbreviations, such as: do it yourself (DIY), oh my God (OMG), laughing out loud (LOL), best friends forever (BFF), living alone together (LAT), and by the way (BTW) --to name just a few.  E-mails and texts are often truncated, and it’s not uncommon to receive messages such as: “PLZ 4GIVE ALL ERROZ.” (No wonder people can’t spell anymore!)   
But why worry? This trunc8ing of words and phrases in2 letters & symbols will probably die off B4 long.  That’s what happened to the once popular SWAK (sealed with a kiss), written on the backs of envelopes containing social letters and thank you notes.  And if SWAK hadn’t died its natural death, then it would have been pushed into its grave by a modern culture that doesn’t write letters or send thank you notes, much less ever addressed an envelope.          
Technological changes have led to the birth of many words which have, in turn, influenced the popular culture – words like “selfie.”  Selfies are photos people take of themselves on their smart phones, often including one, two, or a dozen of their BFFs. Actor James Franco eloquently explains the joy of selfies in a recent Instagram post:
    
… “sharing a very (sic) kind of intimate portrait…it’s almost like (sic) it’s connected to you putting intimate space out there.  It’s a kind (sic) of this new thing we’re getting used to.” 
                         
   It’s good to know that narcissists like Franco can – in a matter of minutes – take photos of their private parts and make them public.  Of course, if he learns that his phone’s been tapped or that Big Brother is monitoring his library withdrawals (assuming he can read), he’ll be the first to scream bloody murder for invasion of privacy.       
 
            President Obama recently one-upped Franco with a selfie ménage a trois at President Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Not only did this photo set a new low in funeral behavior, it led to the creation of the term "funeral selfie." Selfies, in turn, have given birth to "shelfies," self-appointed harbingers of good taste, who arrange their "art collections" on shelves, then photograph and send them into the blogosphere for the world to see.  The photo below of the two guinea pigs (stuffed, I hope) is an example.    

Other new words include twerking, which means provocative dancing  (What was wrong with the more descriptive term “dirty dancing?”), bitcoin,  wackadoodle,  bestie, and honey jar (I guess it takes too long to say “a jar of honey.”)  Although the “F” word has been around forever, it is now being used in new and different ways.  Traditionally a verb and expletive, it’s also used as a filler, an adjective, adverb, gerund, noun, and pronoun.   We hear Fs all day long: in the media (written and broadcast), in musical lyrics, on TV, in the streets, at the movies, and out of the mouths of babes.  The F word is spoken 500 times in the movie The Wolves of Wall Street (That’s almost three F’s per minute.) and F is proudly displayed on t-shirts, tattoos, coffee mugs, and billboards.   
     
While thousands of new words are added to the lexicon each year, others  --symbolic  of a civil society -- are disappearing from use, like: please, thank you, excuse me, and you’re welcome.  “You're welcome" is being replaced with "no problem," which is counterintuitive because if I thought “whatever” was going to be a problem, I wouldn’t have asked in the first place.     
            Yes, I’m a cynic, but believe it or not, I’m also an optimist and am confident that a future cadre of literate, intelligent, and independent thinkers will rise to stem the tide of language abuse and its negative impact on human communication.  An example of such a person is Hannah Barnett, a high school junior from Chevy Chase, MD, who recently wrote in a class essay: 

"Please put down the selfie camera on your IPhone.  A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but that doesn't justify taking millions of selfies in lieu of having a real conversation.  It comes to the point that we are now photographing ourselves doing nothing worthy of a photograph. We are documenting ourselves documenting ourselves.  More and more, I feel as if we get dressed up to do fun stuff just so we can put it on social media and let other people see that we're dressed up and doing fun stuff!  .... I beg you.  Put down your phones, make eye contact with me, and let's talk."
That student, by the way, is my Granddaughter, and that’s nothing to whine about! 
                                                       Whiningly yours, Carol

Sunday, April 6, 2014

WOMEN WAGING WAR ON WOMEN

           
 Yes, there is a war on women, but it’s not being waged by Republicans, Democrats, Communists, Socialists, or Aliens.  It’s a war women are waging against themselves.  Some do so unwittingly; others for perceived personal gains… while many more contribute to the war by remaining silent, rather than standing up and being counted.    
These warring women come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There are those in political circles who command a wide audience and use that podium to malign other women.  Take, for example, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema who has publicly attacked women who choose to be stay-at-home moms: “These women are leeching off their husbands, or boyfriends, and just cashing the checks … that’s bullshit.  I mean, what the fuck are we really talking about here?” says Sinema.  Political strategist Hillary Rosen condemned Ann Romney for being a stay-at-home mom.  Did anyone cross the aisle in order to support a cause larger than oneself?  And when presidential candidate Barak Obama said in 2007 that “…staying at home to raise children isn’t real work,” did you hear a public outcry?  (By the way, raising children is the hardest work I’ve ever done.)  
When Michelle Malkin was viscously attacked with racial slurs for her political views and threatened to the point that she had to move, where were her supporters?  Who came to Ann Coulter’s defense when she was called a transvestite?   Who confronted Whoopi Goldberg when, on national TV, she described Roman Polanski’s drugging and raping of an unconscious thirteen year old girl as “not rape-rape but something else,” In other words, “something else” not so serious.      
Another group of women waging a war against their own are the self-serving “good wives,” those camp followers who publicly support husbands who have trashed their public posts, violated their marriages, and humiliated their families.  To name just a few: Huma Abedin (wife of Anthony Weiner)

 ……Hillary Clinton (Bill), Silda Spitzer (Eliot, who had the hubris to violate a law HE had passed making payment for sex a Class E felony), and Bronwyn Ingram, fiancee of ex-mayor of San  Diego, Bob Filner (found guilty of sexually harassing eighteen women),
           Sociopaths like the above view such public support as a “green light,” which leads, inevitably, to more of the same.  What this country needs are more Jenny Sanfords, (ex-wife of Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina) and Lorena Bobbitts.     
           In 2012 Carlos Henriquez, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was found guilty of beating and kidnapping his girlfriend.  He was sent to prison for 2 ½ years but served only six months.  Only this year did the Massachusetts House of Representatives decide to deal with Henriquez’ status: to vote him out of office…or keep him in.  The NAACP (with a half a million members) sent a letter to the House, requesting that Henriquez be kept in office. The NAACP president, Juan Cofield said:  “He was convicted of two misdemeanors – not felonies… every day people commit misdemeanors – like jaywalking.”  Beating and kidnapping is likened to “jaywalking”?  Hello women members of the NAACP!  Where were you?  In the kitchen making coffee?
           Politically ambitious women wage another kind of war against women. Take Sandra Fluke, for example, the law school student who just “happened” onto the scene when President Obama was being criticized for his contraceptive mandate.  She wailed like a baby that buying her own birth control pills would “financially tax’ her.  She wanted me (and you) to pay for her to play. 
This is the same Sandra Fluke who is currently traveling through Italy and Spain on spring break with her fiancé, Adam, the son of William Mutterperl, a “one-percenter”  who has contributed to more than fifty political campaigns.   I feel confident that if Adam would ask his father nicely, very very nicely, Mr. Mutterperl would give his little boy $9 to buy a pack of condoms down at the corner drugstore.      
        So thanks heaps, Sandra, for helping to promote an image of women as helpless and irresponsible little girls, so incapable of making life decisions for themselves that they need the Government’s intervention.  The Flukes of this country are not solving any Sisterhood problems.  They are the problem!
Another front on women’s war against women is being fought by the mothers of the 250,000 little girls entered into beauty competitions each year.  What these children learn early on in life is that what’s between their ears isn’t important.  What is … is how they look.   According to the American Psychological Association, “girls who are sexualized early will – when adults -- tend to measure their self-worth on their appearance.” 
        
            
Another warring group against women includes those who use their public platforms for personal gain – rather than for the public good.  Regrettably, one such woman is first lady Michelle Obama.  Note her recent statement to the Chinese press on her trip to China in March of this year: “It’s very rare that I have the opportunity to travel outside of the United States, and it’s even more rare to have the opportunity to travel with three generations – with my daughters and my mother…” 
Seriously?  This from the woman who has established the record for the most vacations taken while in public office, which include numerous trips outside the U.S and  -- most often -- with her mother and children. While in China, Michelle stayed in a 3,400 square foot hotel room that cost $8,350 per night.  This is the same hotel that Vice-President Joe Biden chose NOT to stay in earlier in the year because “It was too expensive.” (Thanks, Joe).  The Obama administration has refused to talk about the price tag for this China trip, but, when hard-pressed by reporters, the White House spokesperson replied: “We got a great bang for the buck.” 
The total “buck” has been estimated to be several million taxpayers’ dollars.  As for the “bangs”
... Michelle played ping-pong, took Chinese calligraphy  
and Tai Chi classes,  took pictures, visited the Great Wall, and operated a robot. 
           Michelle’s other recent and rare trips include her June, 2013 trip to Ireland  (I thought  Ireland was a foreign country, but what do I know?), where she stayed in a $3,000 a night room. This trip is estimated to have cost the American taxpayers $5 million. (Washington Times).  
Two months later, two generations of the Obama family took another rare vacation – this one to Martha’s Vineyard (estimated to have cost $1.2 million.) I hate to sound petty, but by my calculation, if Michelle hadn’t “needed” to return to D.C. all by herself on a private jet – although the president and their daughters were leaving on the same day – 30% of the bill (approximately $364,000 of the taxpayers’ money) could have been saved.       
Other recent but rare foreign-family vacations include Spain, a number of South American countries, and Africa, The three African trips alone are estimated to have cost the taxpayers over one million dollars.  Then there are Michelle’s skiing vacations in 2012 and 2013, which totaled $1,092,000, and the rare family Christmas vacation to Hawaii this year, where they stayed in a 7,000 square foot house and left the taxpayers with a bill of about $4 million. (Daily Mail, United Kingdom).  But seventeen days wasn’t enough for the first lady so she remained in Hawaii for another week after the family left.  This necessitated a not-so-rare need for a second Air Force jet to return her to D.C
 White House dossier, Keith Koffler, estimates that costs of the Obamas four rare vacations to Hawaii have cost taxpayers in the neighborhood of $20 million. 
First ladies can make a difference.  Many have, and although no one ever expected Michelle Obama to be another Eleanor Roosevelt, she’s demonstrated just how frivolous, entitled, and self-serving a woman can be.  Rather than setting a positive image for hundreds of thousands of young women – African American women in particular – she will be remembered as a “vacation junkie,” a first lady who misused the public trust (and treasury) to fill her private bucket list. 
        
           THE BOTTOM WHINE:  The next time someone tries to sell you a bill of goods about how this or that political party is waging a war against women, please tell them for me that this particular war is one women are waging against themselves.

                                                                 Whiningly yours, Carol

Saturday, March 15, 2014

WHAT'S IN A VOICE?


                             
There are some voices that make me want to run for cover. It doesn’t matter what they have to say. There’s nothing that can justify the headache I get listening to them – their whines and whimpers, sighs and highs, killer-fillers, squawking and talking, and I’m not alone. Research shows that listeners care twice as much about the quality of a voice than what the speakers have to say.


At the top of my “I’m outta here” list is the WHINER  (Note:  My whines are exempt because they’re non-vocal). Whiners sound like squealing pigs being led to the slaughter. And looking at them is almost as painful as listening to them -- the way their eyebrows crash into their eyes -- like they’re undergoing brain surgery.




Is it possible there’s an anatomical connection between Whiners’ eyebrow muscles and their voice boxes? Just a thought.

Another annoying voice is the falsetto of the LITTLE GIRL who lives in an adult woman’s body. Their high-pitched screams shrill for attention. “Aren’t I adorable? Don’t you want to pick me up and take me home with you?” No, I don’t, but what I would like to do is put them in a crib, close the door, and not let them out again until they’ve grown up. Another problem with purveyors of the Little Girl Voice is that the content of what they have to say is commensurate with the repertoire of a little girl. 


The good news is… sometimes, you can escape them. That’s because many come adorned with little girl bows in their hair… so, if you see one coming your way, run -- don’t walk -- to the nearest exit.

Have you met up with a WHISPERER? They’re the ones who talk so softly that even if you have 20-20 hearing, you have to crawl into their laps and stop breathing to hear what they’re saying. According to psychologists, Whisperers whisper because they need to control everything in their environment – including listeners.

First cousin to the Whisperer is BREATHLESS, but Breathless has a different objective. She thinks her voice is seductive (a la Marilyn Monroe) and uses it as linguistic foreplay. But when I hear Breathless speak, I don’t think sex. I think she’s in the throes of an asthmatic attack, and I offer her my aerosol spray.

UPTALKERS (akin to the Valley Girls) end statements with upward inflections, turning them into questions. Even statements of unquestionable certainty, such as “My name is Carol,” becomes: “My name is Carol?”

We expect Uptalking from teenagers who are generally too insecure to make definitive statements and are desperate for validation, but now the virus has spread to adults. Fathers of Uptalking daughters have also become Uptalkers, apparently to make themselves appear more friendly and non-assertive to their daughters and the daughters’ friends. This Uptalking disease has gone transgender and transcontinental, having spread from the United States… to Canada… and now to England.

The public, at large, perceives Uptalkers to be empty-headed, uninformed and lacking in confidence. Who would hire an Uptalker? Imagine one addressing a potential customer: “You’re going to like Product XYZ?” This affectation may explain why Uptalkers, when looking for a job, rarely get past the interview stage.

We’ve all been corned by FILLER KILLERS, those speakers who can’t get through a sentence without embedding a number of “huhs, uhs, likes…I means…or …you knows.” I was recently subjected to a FILLER at a 90-minute workshop. After fifteen minutes, I stopped listening, and for the next 75, I clocked the number of fillers in every sixty second segment. The result? Nine per minute, which means an “uh, huh, you know, you mean, or a like” every 6 2/3 seconds.

VOLUMIZERS kidnap a conversation and hold you hostage by talking louder than everyone else. Occasionally a determined but naïve listener will challenge the Volumizer by raising his or her voice, but Volumizers have no intention of giving up their bully pulpits. They respond by ratcheting up their own volume and increasing their speed of delivery, thereby making it near to impossible for a challenger to get a word in edgewise.

If you make the mistake of suggesting to a voice offender that he or she consider working on his/her speech, be prepared for: “That’s my voice. I was born with it, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” True, your voice is, in part, dependent on your DNA, but by the time you reach adulthood, your voice (along with much more) IS your responsibility. Most offenders can fix their impediments themselves … or with the help of a professional.

Remember: you will be judged by the voice you project. Speakers with high-pitched, loud, breathy, upended, whining, or whispering voices are judged to be weak, passive, nervous, empty-headed, insecure, and bullying; whereas speakers with attractive voices are viewed as successful, secure, and attractive.

                                                                  Whiningly yours, Carol

Thursday, January 2, 2014

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS


                 
Once upon a time I could sit on the edge of my bed, touch the floor, and tie my shoelaces.  Our dog could jump from the floor onto the mattress in a single bound, the TV was at eye level, and my king-sized contour sheets hung snugly to the corners of the mattress.  That  was before we bought our new mattress (which I named Mt. Everest) from one of the three mattress retailers, all lined up together in a neat little row on a street as scary as Elm Street (as in “A Nightmare on…”) 
At the time we thought that the line-up of retailers was conceived as a convenience for would-be mattresses buyers -- so we could more easily compare mattress quality and prices. But it turns out that comparative shopping is impossible because each retailer gets a different proprietary name for the same mattress. Retailers can then tell us that they have an “exclusive.”  What’s exclusive is the name on the mattress  -- not the mattress.
 Yeah, now we know, but now it’s too late.
So we innocently went from retailer A … to B …to C, and listened three times to the same mind-mashing mumbo-jumbo about generic foam, space-age foam, memory foam, super-soft foam, medical foam, proprietary foam, cotton batting, latex, wrapped coils, unwrapped coils and padded coils.  The more we heard, the less we knew.  Sellers of mattresses can put car lot salesmen in their back pockets.  How I yearned for the good old days when we had only once choice: soft, medium, or hard.   
As for mattress “testing” on the showroom floor – that’s a farce.  How a mattress feels then … and how it will feel three days or three months later can be significantly different.  That’s because cheaper foams break down very quickly.
Yeah, now we know, but now it’s too late!    
           We never thought at the time of the purchase to ask how high the mattress would rise above ground level.  We should have.  Mt. Everest rises 35 inches off the floor.  That’s approximately one-third the height of the typical 8’ wall -- well into the nose bleed section if you’re on blood thinners.  Thirty-five inch high mattresses also present a challenge getting in and out of bed.  I wonder what short people, the physically handicapped, the elderly and other lap dogs do.  The first time our dog tried to climb Mt. Everest, she almost killed herself. We had to buy her a doggy stairs.  That ran us nearly $100.     
  
There were other problems.  Our contour sheets constantly popped off the corners of the bed.  Gone were smooth, tightly fitted streets – unless we wanted to fork out $200 for a set of deep fit sheets. Then we discovered bed bands (only $15), which promised to keep the sheet corners in place. Snugstraps, sheet grippers, and sheet suspenders all do the same.  
 


Then there was the problem with the headboard.  Pillows kept falling off.  And the old bedspread now hung about 18” off the floor. 
Yeah, now we know, but now it’s too late!
And talk about the mattress weight.  It took two strong men to carry this 125 pound behemoth into the bedroom.  We’ve only had the mattress for three months now, and I’ve already broken four fingernails trying to lift it to change sheets and tuck in the blanket.  Now we understand why retailer “B” included two men to come to your house four times a year to turn over your mattress, but now it’s too late.
Eventually, retailer B will have to send three or more men to turn over mattresses.  Recent research at Ohio State University found that because mattresses absorb body oil, moisture, and dead skin (which attract dust mites) a ten-year-old mattress is likely to have accumulated 100,000 to ten million mites.  Consequently, between the mites and the guck we exude, mattresses could easily gain 30% of its original weight over a ten year period.  This means that ten years from now our 125 pound mattress could weigh 145 ugly pounds.
Yeah, now we know, but now it’s too late!
I was on top of Mt. Everest the other night and wanted to read Vogue Magazine, laying on the night table some distance below me.  I stretched over the side of the bed and grabbed it.  Apparently, after years of women’s plunging necklines and exposed cleavage, necklines are now on the rise. 
That’s what they do, you know – the dictators of fashion.  Once they think a product has saturated the market, they change directions on us.  That keeps buyers buying and the economy moving.      
That’s why I don’t need my tarot cards to predict that in the next few years mattress makers -- motivated by the upcoming market of aging baby boomers and their predictable aches and pains -- will develop some revolutionary new product that gives sleepers better body support without the coils, the foams, the padding and all the rest.  This ground-breaking material will lighten the weight and lower the height of the current mattress, and all makers of ancillary products will cheer them on.         

THE BOTTOM WHINE:  What goes up must come down.

                 Whiningly yours,  Carol 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

PRIVATE VS. UNCLE SCAM'S

                            
     Some scams have been around for years, like paying upfront for a job that doesn’t exist or for training sessions and work materials that never arrive.    There are phony lottery and sweepstake scams, fake retail stores on the internet which look like the real thing, and the ubiquitous “I’m stranded in Timbuktu without any funds. Wire me money!” There are calls from scammers claiming to  represent legitimate philanthropies, asking for money.  One such scam recently netted thieves more than $20 million. 
There are scams using internet re-sellers, such as E-Bay and Craig’s List, wherein a  “buyer” makes a purchase, deliberately overpays, and asks you to wire the difference.   Their check bounces, but your money transfer doesn’t.   





Have you heard about the scammers who copy the code numbers on store gift cards, call the 800 number or check online to see when the card is activated, and when it is, go on an on-line shopping spree.  By the time the legal card owners try to use them, they’ve been maxed out!   
Newspaper and magazine publishers scam you, too.  Say you subscribed to XYZ magazine, and at the end of its subscription life, they renew you without asking (Your credit card is on file.). On top of that, your renewal is oftentimes at a higher rate than the previous year’s. The way to prevent this from happening is to use virtual cards.
Dayna Morales, a gay New Jersey waitress, gets an “A” for originality.  She complained on Facebook that a couple she had served wrote on their credit slip: “I’m sorry, but I can’t tip you because I do not agree with your life style.”  Ms. Morales collected thousands of dollars from sympathetic Facebook friends -- until the maligned couple showed up at the local radio station with the controversial receipt in hand.  There was no note to Ms. Morales on their copy, but there was proof that they had left her a tip – a generous one at that!
There are dozens of ways you can be scammed into accepting malware on the internet: via e-cards and e-invites, holiday apps, screen savers, “fun and free” software, and by contacting friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter who have been hacked into.  Please don't think that scams are the exclusive domain of the private sector. Our government is a major scammer, though their scams – once uncovered – are called “scandals.”  For the last two years alone, we’ve been scamdled a lot (not a typo).      
In 2012 the General Services Administration (GSA), whose mission is to manage the Government’s resources with “the utmost care...allow for no waste,” spent $800,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a four-day Las Vegas retreat for themselves.   Did they make restitution?  If you think the answer is “yes,” I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
             
Then there was the National Security Agency’s (NSA) scam, which gave one man, Snowden, unlimited access to unlimited amounts of classified data, in violation of I.T’s golden rule.    That’s the same NSA that tracks five billion cell phones daily.  With all the snooping they do, you’d think they’d know enough to snoop on their own snoops, especially when everyone knows more accidents happen at home.   
Beginning in 2010, organizations petitioning the IRS for non-for-profit (501C) status and had the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names were deliberately targeted – their paperwork stonewalled for years. Why?  To prevent them from functioning until after the 2012 presidential election. Were the victims compensated for IRS’ criminal behavior?  Yes – in fascsinista fashion.  Petitioners’ names and personal data were “accidentally” released into cyberspace, putting them at the mercy of private and public sectors identity thieves.    
Then there’s the ObamaCare scamdel.  Rather than “Buy American” and create jobs for unemployed Americans, ACA contracted CGI, a Canadian firm with a known poor track record in the development of healthcare websites to do the job.  It’s now $678 million later, and what have we got?   Guess ACA never heard of Amazon.com, which handles 800,000 users a day. 
More jobs for Americans were lost when the Defense Information Services Agency also contracted CGI to the tune of $871 million.  And add to that the $143 million deal between CGI and Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.  Who gets the kickback?     
How would you like to be scammed and bullied all at the same time? In May of this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a suit against the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), a non-for-profit made up of 22,000 music teachers whose shared goal is the promotion of music study. So why is the FTC going after them?       
 
Because in MTNA’s code of ethics, written 137 years ago at its founding, it says that members cannot “actively recruit students from other teachers,” a common agreement in many professions.  The FTC discovered this odious phrase and screamed “Anti-competitive! Price-fixing!”  
The MTNA agreed to edit the offensive language from its code, but that wasn’t enough for the bored and bullying bureaucrats at the FTC.  They wanted more, much more.  The FTA mandated that MTNA must:
1.     send the FTC all their records going back twenty years.
2.     read aloud a statement at every national meeting stating that the anti-free trade clause had been expunged.
3.     ensure that its 500 mafia affiliates sign a compliance statement.
4.     create an anti-trust compliance program which would include annual training.
5.     appoint an anti-trust compliance officer to send regular reports to the FTC for the next twenty years.
The FTC treats the country’s music teachers like they’re part of a drug cartel.  Is there no one to stop them?     
Yes, sort of.  Back in the seventies a cadre of watchdogs – called Inspector Generals (IG) -- was created to oversee Federal agencies and offices to prevent mismanagement, government waste, and criminal behavior. There are currently six vacant (not permanent) I.G. positions, vacant from between two and five years): State, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Those six agencies account for 58% of the Federal budget. . 
For many reasons, Acting I.Gs are frequently ineffective, ultimately functioning like sleeping dogs  -- with little bark and no bite – rather than watchdogs.  You have to wonder if the Benghazi massacre would have happened if a permanent State Department I.G. had been in place.   
But in my opinion, if you want to oversee the public sector, the best watchdogs come from an independent private sector.  A good example of such an organization is Judicial Watch  (www.JudicialWatch.org). As of December, 2013, Judicial Watch has processed and is pursuing more than 1,200 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and a record number of lawsuits (95) against various branches of the federal government.
The Bottom Whine: Scams abound in both the private and public sectors ...   


... but if I’m going to be scammed, I prefer it come from the private sector.  First of all, they use their own funds – rather than mine -- to bankroll their scams.  They also don’t bully the scamee; if they did, the scam would collapse.  Also, in the private sector you are “invited” to be scammed, and, finally, there’s a (small) possibility that private scammers will be caught and punished, while with Government, there’s never anyone who’s responsible.   Oh, yeah, sometimes they find a scapegoat or two, but the worst that ever happens to them is they get ten lashes with a wet noodle, moved to a new position, and keep their pensions.
Give me a private sector thief any time!
Whiningly yours, Carol