Archive for the ‘Fear’ Category

Service of Conspiracy Theories to Search for Answers or to Bamboozle

Monday, November 16th, 2020

Photo: newslit.org

Conspiracy theorists claim that the Covid-19 vaccine includes a chip. People fearing this will refuse vaccination that will impact the effectiveness of the life-saving precaution on the nation’s health.

Photo: healthline.com

This one was new to me–I first heard about it Saturday morning on NPR–so I looked it up. In USA Today Elizabeth Weise wrote in June “One of the wildest [conspiracy theories] is a false story about a purported evil plan by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to use mass coronavirus vaccinations to implant microchips in billions of people to track their movements.” Gates “denied he’s involved in any sort of microchipping conspiracy.”

Weise interviewed “Matthew Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who studies the processes that influence people to accept or reject scientific messages.” She reported: “Here, people have a single issue that they have rallied behind; they don’t trust vaccinations. Conspiracy theories are then selectively embraced to justify that feeling,” he said. “That’s why people are prepared to believe ideas that seem strange and ridiculous to the rest of us. They want to believe it, so they set a very low bar for evidence.”

Vaccines aren’t the only targets. According to Angelo Fichera and Saranac Hale Spencer at factcheck.org the president re-tweeted an accusation that Joe Biden was involved in a murder. “Trump also declined to condemn QAnon — the widespread conspiracy theory movement that baselessly suggests Trump is dismantling an elite child sex trafficking ring involving high-profile Democrats,” they wrote.

Photo: arstechnica.com

Beaten to death and disproved are other theories reiterated in Fichera and Spencer’s article such as: the birther theory that President Obama was born outside the U.S.; that he collaborated with ISIS; that Ted Cruz’s dad conspired to kill President Kennedy; the president’s tweet: “I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building [World Trade Center] was coming down,” and on and on.

In The New York Times at the end of September Benedict Carey wrote: “Still, psychologists do not have a good handle on the types of people who are prone to buy into Big Lie theories, especially the horror-film versions.”

Carey reported “More than 1 in 3 Americans believe that the Chinese government engineered the coronavirus as a weapon, and another third are convinced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has exaggerated the threat of Covid-19 to undermine President Trump.”

Carey explained: “At its extremes, these theories include cannibals and satanic pedophiles, (courtesy of the so-called QAnon theory, circulating online); lizard-people, disguised as corporate leaders and celebrities (rooted in alien abduction stories and science fiction); and, in this year of the plague, evil scientists and governments, all conspiring to use Covid-19 for their own dark purposes.”

The most recent false theory millions believe is that the U.S. election was rigged in spite of President Elect Biden’s 306 electoral college number that matched what the incumbent generated in 2016. The day after the last inauguration millions of men and women protested the winner in the Women’s March. They mourned the outcome but didn’t question the election process.

Conspiracy theories have always existed but there seem to be more of late. Have you fallen for any? Do you think they are popular because people want easy answers or because bamboozlers use them to get their way, to stir the pot/exhibit power?

2017 Woman’s March. Photo: en.wikipedia.com

Service of Fear II

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

Photo: training journal.com

This morning an NPR listener characterized the choices of the 2020 electorate as driven by fear. I agree.

Many voters were terrified by the shoot-from-the-hip performance of the incumbent. What would be done to control the deadly Covid-19 if Dr. Fauci was fired, another symbol of disrespect for medical science as bad as the relaxed mask and social distancing stances? How much more damage could one person cause to the environment and our standing in the world? Would this person be concerned about the welfare of all citizens or only his devotees?

The blueprint for the next four years was drawn by the last four.

Photo: ted.com

On the other hand people voted for the incumbent for fear that they would be crushed by taxes; police would abandon them for lack of funds and their homes and family would be in danger; the country would limp from foreign invaders –some claimed they were communists–breaking down our borders, stealing our jobs and socialism would smother capitalism.

In fact only those making $400,000+ would be impacted by Joe Biden’s proposed tax increase; nobody wants to live in a place without a trained, well-funded police force; many of the jobs taken by immigrants are rejected by American citizens and millions of Americans benefit from government-run programs like unemployment and social security, the latter an example of an 85 year old socialist program. According to cbpp.org, “Over 64 million people, or more than 1 in every 6 U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits in June 2020. While older Americans make up about 4 in 5 beneficiaries, another one-fifth of beneficiaries received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or were young survivors of deceased workers.” [In fact, the incumbent has spoken of cancelling the payroll tax which funds social security, therefore strangling it.]

Talk is cheap and politicians say what their constituents want to hear. I nevertheless appreciate one that recognizes the chasm between us and wants to cool the rhetoric and lower the emotional temperature. I fear the one who enjoys the heat of conflict and creates more.

Did fear impact your vote?

Photo: heysigmund.com

Service of Old Wives Wisdom

Monday, June 8th, 2020

Photo: amindfulmon.com

Most cultures pass on old wives’ wisdom for generations.

I asked Google about the lore surrounding the curative powers of chicken soup: “Chicken soup appears to help fight colds, according to several studies. It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up. In addition, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease symptoms.”

So what I read on usatoday.com didn’t surprise given the source of the legend: “CDC: Americans desperate to kill coronavirus are dangerously mixing cleaners, bleaching food.”

Photo: clorox.com

Adrianna Rodriguez wrote: “Don’t wash your food with bleach. Don’t eat or drink cleaning products. These lifesaving warnings may seem like common sense, but a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests Americans are throwing common sense out the window as they attempt to keep the coronavirus out of their homes.

“In a survey published Friday, 39% of 502 respondents reported engaging in ‘non-recommend, [sic] high-risk practices,’ including using bleach on food, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to their skin and inhaling or ingesting such products.”

Rodriguez continued: “One caller even asked how she was supposed to drink a cleaning product after President Donald Trump made a comment about drinking disinfectant, which triggered several states to issue a warning against dangerous disinfectant use.”

The president made the suggestion on April 23.

Photo: zoro.com

Rodriguez added: “The National Poison Data System noted the following increases in call volumes between March 2019 and March 2020, and between April 2019 and April 2020:

  • A nearly 60% increase in calls about bleach products in March and a 77% increase in April.
  • A 94% increase in calls about disinfectants in March and a 122% increase in April.”

According to Rodriquez, Michele Caliva, administrative director of the Upstate New York Poison Center shared simple tips: “Follow directions; don’t mix chemicals; don’t use cleaners or disinfectants on the body; don’t ingest them; be vigilant in keeping such products and hand sanitizers away from children; and don’t spray bags or packages containing food.”

How has a daily apple panned out for you? Raw steak on a black eye? Did cleaning windows with newspaper ever  work? [Not for me.] Does anyone still wait an hour before swimming after eating? Do you know anyone tempted to ingest disinfectant based on the suggestion of the leader of the free world?

Photo: facebook.com

 

Service of Waking Up in the Middle of the Night: Different Today?

Monday, April 27th, 2020

Photo: bustle.com

I followed for years a ritual to help me go back to sleep should I wake up in the middle of the night but it doesn’t work these days. That’s because I’d listen to the radio allowing me to keep the lights off and my eyes shut. But now news stations unsettle me with death, illness and financial stats; call-in shows disturb me for similar reasons plus rehashed political punditry is not calming. Music doesn’t distract me: my mind wanders to what is troubling me. It becomes the background to my nightmare thoughts.

Photo: inc.com

When I turn on an engaging Netflix series I watch for hours, which defeats the purpose. Plus my eyes are open. They wince at the bright smartphone light if I check texts, emails, twitter and Facebook updates. I can’t respond to texts for fear of waking someone with the telltale ping. Reading a book or attacking my pile of New Yorker magazines are possibilities but they too involve lights and open eyes.

Has your foolproof solution to falling back to sleep deserted you?  What techniques do you use to quiet your mind and keep yourself from thinking negative thoughts in the middle of the night?

Photo: theguardian.com

Service of Irritations that Irk Now and Maybe Not Before

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Photo: houseplansandmore.com

Photo: nakedapartments.com

The pandemic has created a new set of frustrations that didn’t occur or rile as much or at all before.

Living as I do in Manhattan I listen carefully to advice to protect myself from the virus and gripe when many suggestions depend on a person’s living in a house or fully equipped apartment without alternates. “Leave an Amazon package in your garage or in the trunk of your car for a few days,” is one or “when you return home immediately wash your fabric face mask in your washing machine.” I can count on one hand the number of NYC apartments I’ve visited or lived in that have their own washer-dryer. It’s not always a question of money or space: Some co-ops don’t allow them.

Photo: homedepot.com

The reason I love Bounty paper towel is how strong it is. Drives me nuts that after the many times I wash my hands I must toss the paper towel that dries them instead of subsequently wiping a counter or not wasting one at all as before. I formerly wiped my hands with a linen kitchen towel.  Insult to injury: finding replacement towels is still a challenge in NYC.

A Manhattan friend’s recent late night Tweet: “The streets are eerily quiet these days. So when a car with a CAR ALARM is parked nearby and blares for hours on end, it’s more infuriating than usual. Dude, how old is your car, and could you park it in NJ please?”

Another friend placed an online supermarket order for her suburban mom so her mom had only to swoop by in her car for pick up and run. Friend was disappointed to hear that there was only one box of tissues–they’d run out of the less expensive brand she’d chosen–and that the market didn’t automatically provide a substitute even if costlier. The whole idea was to cut down the number of trips for supplies. There should be an opt in box to check that clears the store to make substitutes.

Photo: twitter.com

In “Service of My Space: Am I Invisible?” I’ve written about the disrespect many pedestrians show others on NYC streets. Some shove in front of the elderly or disabled and cut them off not always because they are studying their phones–but because they can or don’t care. The streets in midtown are empty now yet there are those who walk in the middle of a sidewalk forcing anyone coming towards them to walk in the street or hide in a building entrance to keep six feet away. Have they not heard about the advice to social distance?

Because I must don a mask and gloves to leave my apartment–my building asks tenants to protect others and themselves in public spaces–I try to plan trips to the garbage room to coincide with a visit to the lobby for mail or a grocery store for supplies. Did I ever imagine I’d have to strategize tossing garbage?

What little irritations have you noticed that never came up before the pandemic and/or didn’t irk you? Am I even more thin-skinned than usual? Are you?

Photo: fluentin3months.com

Service of Hope

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Forgiveness, grief, perseverance, guilt, disabilities, World War II, 9/11 and racism are all powerful, life-changing emotions, conditions and events that don’t always evoke hope.  Yet the books, TV programs and films that The Christophers selected for their 2018 Christopher Awards, celebrated last Thursday in NYC, characterize and exemplify optimism and courage. The 69 year old awards laud writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose films, TV/cable programs and books “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Here are just a few examples from this year’s winning books:

Dr. Edith Eger, who at 90 lives in La Jolla, Calif., was a holocaust survivor pulled barely alive from a pile of bodies when the camp that held her captive was liberated. An eminent psychologist, she maintains a busy clinical practice and lectures around the world helping survivors of abuse, soldiers suffering from PTSD and others she wrote about in her memoir “The Choice.” She experienced and observed that many live within a mind that has become a prison. She described how she achieved freedom by confronting her suffering and how she helped others do the same. Far from a Pollyanna take on her life, “The Choice” is a compelling, thoughtful–and helpful–read.

Rev. Jonathan Morris presents Meadow Rue Merrill her Christopher Award.

Meadow Rue Merrill, in “Redeeming Ruth,” wrote about her severely disabled adopted child, abandoned at birth in Uganda, whose short life she and her husband Dana and their three kids made the best possible. “She was more than just our daughter; she was an ambassador, who opened our hearts to the needs of children with disabilities in the developing world,” said the award-winning journalist. “We miss Ruth every day, but we wouldn’t trade one day we had with her for the world.” Ruth’s spirit lives on well beyond the hearts of her loving family. Proceeds from “Redeeming Ruth” support orphans and children with disabilities in Uganda and Meadow and Dana Merrill are dedicated to assisting these otherwise helpless people and to drawing attention to their plight.

From left Jameel McGee, Father Morris and Andrew Collins

“Convicted” is about a crooked white police officer, Andrew Collins and the innocent African American man, Jameel McGee, he sent to jail. Collins arrested and charged McGee, who was launching a business at the time, with possession of crack cocaine. Sentenced to 10 years in federal prison McGee served three until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. Collins resigned due to an investigation for misconduct and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for drug possession with the intent to distribute, serving 18 months. Years following their release, the men worked together at Café Mosaic, a coffee shop and community development program in Benton Harbor. Spoiler alert**: McGee forgave Collins, they are friends today and they travelled to and attended the Awards together. **I’m being silly as the subtitle, “A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship” gives away what happened. And you thought your sister in law was unforgivable.

Children 8 and older will read about an American child who makes the decision to stay with her French grandmother, whom she doesn’t like, on a farm in Alsace just as World War II breaks out. They’ll see what happens when Nazi’s move into their home. Thanks to Patricia Reilly Giff in “Genevieve’s War,” they’ll learn about deprivation, hunger, fear and anxiety when Genevieve shares a secret with someone who may be collaborating with Germans. She was warned not to whisper a word. In addition to seeing how a clash of cultures can affect family members, they’ll observe the child’s change of heart when love and respect take the place of the disdain Genevieve once felt toward her grandmother.

This year’s Christopher Life Achievement Award winner, Ken Burns, who has also won previous Christopher Awards said that it will be through storytelling, not political debates, that people will change their minds.  “In an awards environment that is all ego, it is refreshing to have the Christopher Awards around to remind us all of the real purpose of our work. Without much fanfare or hoopla, and with the simple grace that echoes their objectives perfectly, The Christophers reaffirm the best impulses we have – that is to transform humanity for the better with our hard work, compassion and art.”

Have you read books or seen films/TV programs or experienced dire situations in which the ancient Chinese proverb “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” led the way? In addition to The Christophers, for which that proverb guides all its programs, there are other sources that celebrate people who turn negatives into positives such as “The Moth Radio Hour” on NPR and “The Kindness Challenge” on Facebook. They share instances that build people up and shed light on possibilities and solutions. Can you name others?

Authors at Christopher Awards from left Amy Guglielmo, “Pocket Full of Colors;” Kate Hennessy, “Dorothy Day;” Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee, “Convicted;” Meadow Rue Merrill, “Redeeming Ruth” and Jacqueline Tourville, “Pocket Full of Colors.”

Service of Civility II: BookTV Panel & Some Surprise Assessments

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Photo: benice.org

 

A day after I heard about Laura Ingraham’s bullying one of the Parkland student survivor/spokespeople, hitting him below the belt on a very touchy subject –taunting him about four college rejections—I saw a fitting panel on BookTV covering the topic of why civility is important. With Geoffrey Cowan as moderator—USC Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership—panelists were Jon Meacham, author, presidential historian and executive editor at Random House; Tim Miller, Definers Public Affairs partner and Amie Parnes, reporter and co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Miller started. He’d been Jeb Bush’s 2016 communications director. While calling out the current president’s attacks on his then boss’s wife, he asked where do we draw the lines while pointing out that DT wasn’t the first in politics to step over some. He didn’t offer examples of but Meacham did when it was his turn to speak. He reminded us that one reason George Washington didn’t serve a third term was because he didn’t care for the incivility in politics and the attacks on him.

Meacham observed that civility is when “things are going my way;” that currently we are in a state of “strife and nature” and that in December, according to reporting in The New York Times, the current president told his transition staff to think of each day he is president as a TV show in which “I vanquish my enemies.” Meacham added that discord and disagreement are the oxygen of democracy. “We’re in the political equivalent of climate change: Some days hot, some cold.”

Jon Meacham Photo: Wikipedia.com

The president sets the political tone and those who reached out with hope have been the most successful, said Meacham. As examples he called out Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and more recently, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan whom he called the architect of optimism. The Reagan anecdote he shared was the President’s description of a kid who finds a pile of manure in the living room and says, “There must be a pony in there somewhere.” The opposite were presidents who ran on a fist clenched in fear. This one thrives on a rhetoric of fear.

Parnes spoke of being an object of personal attack about her Hillary Clinton book and earlier when she was a journalist, with people threatening her and even attacking what she looks like. She observed that social media has made it worse. In this regard, Meacham said he’d told his kids, ages 15, 13 and nine, “don’t write on a computer what you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.” He added that keyboards have been much quieter in his house as a result. Miller blames social media less than tribalism. The common culture of the 50s and 60s was for white people, he said. Cowan chimed in that politics is determined by zip code these days.

Meacham observed that the press is far less ideologically driven than people think. “Give us a fight and that’s ideal.” The president takes advantage of this.

Photo: indianexpress.com

Back to Ingraham, who reminded me of a now well-regarded New York Times columnist who wrote a nasty piece in that paper’s Magazine section about Chelsea Clinton, all of 11, whom he called unattractive and awkward among other things. Bullying is dreadful dished out by anyone but worse when it’s adult vs. child. The Parkland student wasn’t passive—he reached out to Ingram’s advertisers and more than a dozen of them have dropped her show at this writing.

Meacham’s “civility is when things are going my way” may answer why so many feel we are in a period of incivility on steroids, sensed in politics since the 18th century.  Where do you stand?

Photo: aplacecalledhope.com

Service of Fear

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The Shining

It’s Halloween today. I decided that nobody is interested to know about everything that scares me nor would they want to address what scares them—we’ve got too many important things to be nervous about relating to the impending elections.

So I decided to lean on the “treats” side of the celebration and write about scary movies.

Halloween IIBut scary movies frighten me so I’m not the one to write knowledgably about them. I loved “Wait Until Dark”– [anything with Audrey Hepburn] –but tend to avoid such flicks. Guess I’m normally nervous and don’t need additional stimulus.

So I asked the people in the office in which I share space. What amazed me is that everyone had a favorite and there is only one duplicate! This is their list: 

     “The Haunting” –Lee A

     “When a Stranger Calls” –Mike S 

     “The Birds,” “Psycho” & “Rear Window” & “Trump TV”—David R

      “The Conjuring” & soon, by DJ  Trump: “When Mexico Attacks” –Pat C 

            The Gate“The Gate” –Danny M 

            “The Strangers” —Brandt Z 

            “Halloween II” –Joshua C 

            “The Thing” –Stephen H 

      “The Shining” –James B AND Jeff M           

      “Poltergeist” –Dan M 

       “The House of Wax” –Bambe L

       “Bones” –Kori M 

Do you like to be frightened by movies? What is your favorite scary one? Is there a difference between creepy and scary?

The Strangers

The Strangers

Service of Blowing Smoke

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

blowing-smoke

I haven’t smoked in a dog’s age and yet I empathize with New Yorkers who can no longer smoke in Central Park or at city beaches and even in some cooperative apartments if their boards so vote. I could be next: I eat and serve ice cream that could kill me, my family and friends.

Anyway, if someone is smoking near you outdoors, it’s easy enough to move under another shade tree or to a different patch of sand. If smoke seeps from one apartment to the next, isn’t it the fault of shoddy construction and shouldn’t there be rules/laws about this as well or instead?

smokingIt can be touchy for one New Yorker to tap another on the shoulder when one of them flaunts the law, whether they don’t pick up after their dog or smoke where they shouldn’t. Years ago a skuzzy looking youngster lit up his cigarette in the subway tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. He looked so angry and fierce that I didn’t dare point out to him that there was only a limited amount of air down there and should the subway stop for a while, we could be asphyxiated by the smoke. Laws don’t make confrontation any easier.

Aren’t there more harmful sources of pollution than cigarettes such as cars? Will NYC soon forbid all of them? The country has done a great job of eliminating harmful fumes from manufacturing since we don’t do much of that anymore.

I remember an instructor in freshman year of college describing an example of an unenforceable and therefore, not a very good law: Contraception, illegal in some states. Imaginations went wild: “Excuse me sir and madam, but…..”

musiciansinparkAt the same time, the city is making into quiet zones certain places where musicians are known to play. Now they are silenced. Ironically, one of the zones is Strawberry Fields in Central Park, the tribute to singer, songwriter, musician and Beatle, John Lennon. [There must be some very influential neighbors with infants who don’t sleep soundly nearby. Could music from, say, 11:00 a.m. through 6:00 p.m. be a bother?]

How do you feel about smoking and quiet zone regulations in open spaces– cared for and looked after? Is micro-regulation appropriate in some instances but not in others? What else do you think we should be forbidden to do for the public good?

laws

Service of Forecasts

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

How many days ahead do you start listening to weather forecasts when you’ve planned a beach day, picnic or pool party?

Are you involved with product introductions? Does your company belong to a color forecasting organization so that its bathroom fixtures or towels coordinate with what’s cool in ceramic tile?

Much like people who hope for positive signs or good news from a doctor as they sit by the bedside of a sick friend or relative, I read as many forecasts and prognostications about this economy as I have time for and check out every article that seems to have an answer, looking for inklings of a solid turnaround.

These days, coming to your own conclusions and becoming a forecaster is complicated! Just yesterday, a “Marketplace” headline in The Wall Street Journal screamed, “Maguire Properties Warns of Loan Defaults.” {The article says that Maguire is “one of the largest office building owners in Southern California.”}

 The same paper, on the same page, but with a smaller sized, less prominent headline, announced: “Networks Hold Back Selling Ads In Advance.” The reason? They are betting that the economy will improve and are hoping to be able to charge more than now. Before I got too optimistic, I saw in the “Money & Investing” section another bold headline: “Debt Burden to Weigh on Stocks: Consumers’ Inability to Drive Economic Growth Likely to End Big Gains.” 

My heart skipped a happy beat when, also yesterday, The New York Times declared: “Seattle Paper is Resurgent as a Solo Act,” and reported that the word “profit” is one that now falls from executive lips at the paper in the Emerald City.

And didn’t we–and President Obama–rejoice just a few days ago over the less-than-expected job loss figures? {Is this equivalent to “the patient’s fever is down to 104°?”}

When Paul Krugman agrees with a bailout, do you sleep better? Or when Alan Greenspan furrows his brow, do you follow suit?

What’s your take on forecasters? Has your faith changed? And what about your antenna for predictions–is it picking up strong signals these days?

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