General(ly Hospital) speaking

My wife’s guilty pleasure is the soap opera, General Hospital. I sometimes walk through the room while she’s watching it on the DVR and offer my considered opinion on writing, acting skills, fashion, and relationships (weren’t they married already? What? THREE times?). But recently I found something actually interesting, if not exactly news-breaking.

As you know, I have been unable to find a job in traditional journalism. Looking through various job sites and through numerous networkings, I did come across lots of freelance work (i.e., no benefits) which did not suit my needs. So I found this passage between two characters whose names I don’t know — let’s call them A, a twenty-something pert blonde; and B, a thirty-something media business tycoon with Trump son hair from what I can gather by the brief interlude — discussing the possibility of working in the industry worth noting.

B: Typically, people returning to the workforce are returning to careers they’ve already established. You’re wanting to establish something brand new.

A: I have worked in publishing, though not as a writer, which is why I’m willing to start entry-level and work my way up.

B: Well, if you want to write for one of our pop culture blogs, be advised: You’re competing with twenty-somethings with a million followers who have had their own YouTube channel since they were seven. They’re coming to us now with a pre-sold brand.

A: I’m not interested in covering pop culture. I want to be a journalist working in the  investigative reporting division at your news outlet.

B: I admire you for aiming high, but I wouldn’t be doing you any favors by setting up false expectations, so let me be honest. School cafeteria food isn’t exactly hard journalism.

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A (after a thoughtful pause): Until someone discovers that the vendors are sending moldy pizzas and rotten egg sandwiches. Until an entire school of children come down with salmonella or the norovirus because of poor sanitary practices. Or until funding gets cut for thousands of children who depend on it because it is their only square meal of the day. Then maybe it will considered hard-hitting journalism. Thank you for your time.

B: Lela, wait (so that’s her name). Look, let me do this: The paper buys freelance stories all the time. You bring me a story so compelling that I can’t resist publishing it, and I’ll consider finding a position for you on staff. Does that sound like a deal?

So let’s break this down:

  • Competing against young people with social media presences, fine. I agree with that. Makes it hard for someone like me, who seems to about twice the age of the actress in above scene to, get a job.
  • Lela’s wanting to start at the top reminds me of the scene in It’s A Wonderful Life in which George Bailey believes he can do anything: “Oh, there are plenty of jobs around for somebody that likes to travel. Look at this. There . . . Venezuela oil fields –– wanted, man with construction experience. Here’s the Yukon, right here –– wanted, man with engineering experience.” All of which he has exactly none, since he’s been running the Bailey Building and Loan since his father died.

Image result for it's a wonderful life, uncle billy

  • Sure, that journalism hiring scenario is plausible. I can’t count the number of staff positions I’ve received because I wrote one compelling story. And I’d be very curious to know how much they’d pay Lela for that freelance story, because I was seeing offers as low as $5 for a 500-word article.
  • How long until these two gorgeous kids are sleeping together?
  • Those GH people; they really wrote the crap out of that scene, didn’t they?
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Another day older and deeper in debt

Again, no singing involved.

Came across this story in The New York Times a few weeks ago about Wal-Mart “University.” Made me sad for some reason.

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Look, I realize that I and a lot of my friends, associates, colleagues, etc., live in large metropolitan areas so maybe our experiences are a bit skewed. And even though I grew up in relative deprivation as a member of the lower-middle class, I still had expectations of being able to go to college and have that “better life” parents want for their kids. It’s something you don’t usually dwell on as a younger person; I think that kind of self-awareness comes only in middle age, perhaps when you have children of your own (although some people — especially those who grow up in the “one percent” probably never get it). So when I read how some people don’t have the same opportunities, or that adverse circumstances or poor choices have made that college degree and all that it “promises,” I get a little philosophical.

Then I get angry.

I get angry that some companies like this take advantage of their employees, knowing that in many cases they call all the shots; that these people have few options. It almost seems like we’re back in the time of working in the mines or mills as the only source of income for generations of families.

Let’s be gracious and give them the benefit of the doubt and say companies like Wal-Mart may actually have their corporate hearts in the right place when they offer such programs, but really, who are these things for, worker or employer? As Michael Corkery’s article drives home, the skills the student/employee learn are meant to make them better at their present jobs, not necessarily improve their lives down the road (although he does point out that those who complete the course get a raise of $1 an hour).

I’ve reached the point where I have to wonder about the way in which companies cut back their work force because they want to save money on salaries or benefits, but I’ve always been cynical when it comes to corporate motivation. Newspapers like the Times, magazines like Sports Illustrated, and media companies like FOX News and ESPN have laid off hundreds of workers at a time, resulting in skimpier publications and shows, with a consequent cost of diminished information and entertainment. It’s a vicious cycle brought on by the “new” paradigm of technologies, offering different ways for people to get their news. Yes, they’re in business to make money, but can’t that come with some kind of balance to treat the people who make that money for them with a modicum of care and respect? Can they make it so their employee doesn’t have to agonize over missing a day’s pay because of illness when there time allotted for being sick or taking care of a family situation?

Several months ago I applied for a job at Wegmans and wrote about that experience. I didn’t mention the store by name at the time, but screw that. Mind you, Wegmans is listed as one of the best companies in America to work for while Wal-Mart has its share of detractors. And they certain go a long way to impress you when you arrive at their corporate office for the interview, with artfully crafted displays and well-produced videos about the history and credo of the family-owned corporation. Didn’t get that job and in retrospect I’m glad. I think I’m in a better situation now (although I’m still not ready to discuss that in depth here).  But fortunately I had a choice. Others don’t. So when these companies pat themselves on the back, saying that they go beyond normal expectations, I’m not among the first to offer words of praise and thanks.

 

A new metric for bloggers: VPM

As in “views-per-minute.” That’s when you divide the number of views by the time it takes to write a post. For example, if it takes me an hour to prepare an entry and 60 people read it, that’s 1 VPM. Not great, but I’m not the Huffington Post or New York Times.

On the other hand, if it takes an hour and you only get one view, that’s .016 VPM and that sucks. Of course, we’re talking math here…

Y U No - Y U No good at math?

I bring this up because I have a decision to make.

Given my new work situation, I’m weighing the idea of shutting down the award-winning Kaplan’s Korner on Jews and Sports. I created it in 2009 as the sports and features editor of the NJ Jewish News. When it was a part of my 9-to-5, I could justify spending several hours a day on it and it garnered about 1,200 views per week, a very healthy percentage of the paper’s total web views. But since I left NJJN — not of my own accord — last year, it’s become difficult to maintain.

I tried to get some Jewish media interested in carrying it on their sites but to no avail. I tried to get Jewish Life Television interested in doing a weekly TV show on the topic but that has been met by deafening silence. I have been fortunate to collaborate with Scott Barancik’s  Jewish Baseball News site, getting a slightly wider audience during the season, but that’s about it.

I’m disappointed but can’t say surprised; just about every newspaper is hurting these days and outlets are trying to keep costs down; even though I would be willing to offer it for free, for the chance of a wider audience and the opportunities that might engender.

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I thought, working at a niche publication and with such a specialty act, I would be spared the fate of many of my contemporaries and was shocked to be proven wrong. I have tried to keep it going with the help of Rabbi Jason Miller, a very sporty guy based in Michigan, but trying to keep it going with a regular job has proven to be quite a real chore, considering that I host this very occasional site as well as my Baseball Bookshelf, which has also suffered severely, content-wise. The difference is that that one is much easier to do and more widely read. Not to mention I might want to do another book at some point soon. There are only so many hours in the day…

If anyone out there knows someone in the Jewish community who is willing to carry up the Korner, please let me know at KaplansKorner@gmail.com. Thanks for letting me bend your ear (or, perhaps moire appropriately, eye, although that sounds more painful.)

Pardon the Interruption but there’s a now almost Daily (Show) of politics into sports

A brilliant performance last night by Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. Not surprisingly, he took on the whole Trump-NFL business in great detail and biting wit. Here’s a sample:

The opening monologue was even better:

One of the comments that really stuck out for me: “Just so we’re on the same page, when Nazis were protesting in Charlottesville, Trump said, ‘some of these were very fine people, very fine people. And aren’t we all Nazis really? Aren’t we all, huh, in some way?’ But then when black football players protest peacefully by taking a knee during the anthem, he calls them sons of bitches who should be fired?” Noah also pointed out that if Trump was really upset about disrespecting the flag, why wasn’t he outraged by the Confederate flag waved at rallies?

Image result for which eight NFL owners linked arms with the players?

 

In addition, the Sept. 25 episode of Pardon the Interruption began with a four-minute segment about . It’s not unusual for co-hosts Tony Kornheiser (Jewish) and Michael Wilbon (African-American) to differ on issues. Wilbon said he was amazed that players should feel the need to protest in 2017. Kornheiser — citing his own heritage — noted that Wilbon’s ancestor probably came to America as slaves while “his people” came willingly, most likely because other countries did not want them. Kornheiser said he thought the flag and anthem should be respected but fully agreed that the tenets of the United States say that we have the right to free speech and it’s our right to protest.

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I heard about this Facebook post by Dan Rather on PTI and thought it was worth pasting in its entirety.

It’s football Sunday, and I have a pit in my stomach, and a sickening sense of deja vu. Who knows what the day will bring?

I do know the source of my disquiet. It is the stench of bigotry as a demagogue stirs the potent cauldron of racial division. I want to say, this is so unnecessary. We have so many other things we should be worrying about. But of course now this is real, and it must be called out. This is an age when no one can be neutral. To remain silent in the face of race-baiting is to be complicit. And I have seen the cost of complicity. It is ugly.

On Friday night, and then in a chain of tweets (what else) President Trump targeted African American athletes for provocation and ridicule. He has called into question their Americanness, as he called into question the Americanness of his predecessor President Obama. Perhaps what is saddest about this moral cowardice is that Mr. Trump may derive some political gain from these attacks amongst his supporters, but he fails in the test of leadership. Big time. For a President to be doing this – pouring gasoline on the embers of racial resentment – is really unspeakable. Instead of trying to reduce the potentially explosive emotions about race, he is trying to exacerbate them for his own gain.

I have seen this game plan before. My mind is transported across the decades. I hear the adjective “uppity”, and much worse. I see the mouths of authority curl with disdain and mutter “what do you think you’re doin’, boy?” – the last word spit out in disgust.

I feel time click into rewind, to when African Americans weren’t thought of as being “smart” enough to play quarterback, to when there was a “gentlemen’s agreement” amongst college basketball coaches to the total number of African American players on the court. Backwards still to all-white teams, and all-white leagues. I remember Jackie Robinson, and a time before someone of his skin color dared to think he could earn a living as an athlete in the United States.

I know this history. And so does Donald Trump. He understands how salient the trope of the “angry black man” is. It was said of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other now-revered leaders of the civil rights struggle. It is so ingrained in our history that it can become resonant even in those who say they aren’t bigoted. So Mr. Trump plucks at it. He knows that he can use the American flag as a symbol of division and not unity. So he sows that thought.

I grant that there are many who are offended by players taking a knee during the National Anthem. That is their right, as it is the right of those who protest to have their speech protected. This is how we discuss our differences peacefully in a democracy. But calling out these players as S.O.B.s (but using the actual profane words) who should be fired, that’s a pointed attack on our Constitutional rights. And it is summoning the dark shadows of centuries of racial stereotyping. Let’s just say I have seen plenty of white S.O.B.s in sports who have been given awards rather than pink slips.

President Trump is not trying to win over the majority of the American people. He wants to animate his base and bask in its approval. Will his supporters in Congress continue to stand by in tell-tale silence? Will his donors, including some of the owners of professional sports teams?

We are not a nation of majority bigots. The strident ranks of the intolerant can be overwhelmed by enough people agreeing that this is not who we are, or who we want to be. Mr. Trump’s cheers can be drowned out by a chorus of justice.

And one final thought, we have seen these distractions before. As Mr. Trump dominates the news cycle over race, as he issues bellicose threats to North Korea, one wonders what bombshells may be brewing in the Russia investigation, which seems to be gaining speed and scope.

Torn between two lovers (of their own opinions)

Frankly I don’t know what to make of this…

Comments by Jemele Hill of ESPN a ‘Fireable Offense,’ White House Says.”

According to the story in today’s New York Times,

Hill, who co-hosts the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter” program, called President Trump a white supremacist on Twitter on Monday, adding: “Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

It didn’t take long for the White House to complain about the attack on Trump’s good name.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the comments were a “fireable offense.”

“I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone can make,” Sanders said Wednesday during a press briefing, “and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

First of all, shut up, SHS. Unless the White House owns ESPN or you’re picking up a few extra bucks moonlighting there, you don’t know what their policy is about fireable offenses.

Image result for curt schillingNow, those of you who have followed my humble posts here and elsewhere know I have no love for Trump and his misanthropic minions. But does one have the obligation to be totally fair or just when it comes to supporting their particular point of view? Devil’s advocate time. Curt Schilling — the former pitcher and ESPN baseball analyst — was fired last year for comments he posted on Facebook regarding a North Carolina law that barred transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth genders, according to the Times‘ story posted April 16. This was just one of his unenightened musings (See? There I go again, being a snowflake.)

Those who profess a love of free speech balance on a razor’s edge when it comes to what is acceptable and what isn’t. I don’t remember if Schilling’s post came from his private account or one under the aegis of his employer. Either way, should someone lose a job for expressing an opinion? Political pundits do it all the time (see any of the cable news channels for examples), but that is in their job description; that might not be in the case for folks like Schilling and Hill, although according to today’s article, “The network has reoriented its programming more toward opinion and debate, encouraging some hosts to veer away from sports. Hill’s “SportsCenter” often mixes sports with social and cultural topics.”

Both ESPN and Hill issued statements that her remarks were totally her own and did not represent those of the network. ” Hill posted on Twitter:

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Naturally, a friendly discussion ensued.

I’m still conflicted and confused: Is there any “free speech” right/consensus/etc. which makes it acceptable for groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis to spew their bile? (I don’t know how the ACLU does their work at times). On the surface, it seems not. But where does it stop when it comes to censuring — and censoring — thoughts with which you might disagree? If ESPN could fire Schilling, why not Hill?

Thoughts?

 

Post no Post

Image result for new york post headless headlineShortly after I lost my job with the NJ Jewish News, I spoke with an editor at the NY Post. His family was a client of my wife’s veterinary house call practice and had told her to have me give him a call. It was just a courtesy thing, I told her, and sure enough there were no job openings. Which was fine, because while I needed a job, preferably in print journalism, I had no desire to work for the Post. Their reputation may or may not have been great as a business model, but as a model for questionable journalistic ethics, well, that was generally accepted. All this was reconfirmed by an article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Julia Dahl, a former writer for the tabloid.

Like Dahl, I had no experience in writing for a newspaper when I took the job at NJJN. All dues respect, I didn’t even consider weekly community enterprises like this newspapers. Like Dahl, I had to learn to overcome my shyness and fears in asking people questions I consider intrusive and an imposition. My first real story involved interviewing survivors of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. Another tough one was about suicide. But these were nothing compared with things the Post and its kind did on a daily basis.

There were a number of similarities between Dahl and myself. From the CJR article:

I DIDN’T GROW UP dreaming of being a reporter. My mom suggested I join the high school paper my senior year because I was “good at writing.” That was true. I got easy As in English…

And while this part never happened to me, it was quite an eye-opener:

But while I credit journalism school with imbuing in me a sense of the seriousness of my chosen career, it did not prepare me for the work I encountered at the Post – or, in some ways, for my work since. It didn’t prepare me for the kinds of compromises I was going to be asked to make in the name of sales (or “clicks”) and deadlines, or for a competitive story. [my emphasis added] It didn’t prepare me for the time my editor bought me a floor seat at a Knicks game and instructed me to hold up a giant sign that said “Fire Isaiah” until security kicked me out. (They didn’t kick me out. Instead, a news photographer “made” me as participating in a stunt, and I bailed, angry and ashamed I’d folded to the pressure to go in the first place. The next day, the editor who had sent me admitted the whole thing was a bad idea.) It didn’t prepare me to chase Paul McCartney’s new girlfriend through a grocery store for a quote.  And it didn’t prepare me for the dozens, maybe hundreds, of times people I talked to told me I was scum for doing my job.

Reporters are often found on the lists of profession most-hated. According to this source,

Idealistic young journalists look back on a golden age of journalism that may not have been so grand after all. Time and again, the same greats’ names are uttered breathlessly, with hushed reverence — Murrow and Cronkite, Woodward and Bernstein. The profession that once inspired so much admiration now regularly resides at the bottom of public approval polls. Unfortunately, for many people the lines between the bottom-feeding, sensationalistic blogger who can string together a couple of sentences and the trained industry professional have become almost indistinguishable.

In fact, a lot of the jobs that came up in my employment searches were for writers to put together a lot of short stories in a little amount of time for almost no money. You’ve seen these pieces, I’m sure: lots of links, often in the form of “slide shows” that make you click and click until you get to the actual heart of the matter.

This is what it’s come to, alas…

If you don’t want to watch the whole 19-minute segment (sadly, well worth it), try this, which appears at the end. But then you;re just feeding into the whole problem of shortened attention spans. Just sayin’.

Press brief blues

Don’t worry, not going to inflict another ukulele ditty on you…yet.

The nice thing about the new job is that it gives me a fair amount of time of during the week so I can watch the White House pres briefings on CNN.

When Sean Spicer was “in charge” (as if anyone can really be said to be “in charge” of anything in the current regime), there were the obvious missteps from the beginning, such as when he out-and-out lied when stating

It went downhill from there. Credibility — not that there was ever that much to begin  with — was a non-starter.

Now we have a new minion in Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who similarly can’t offer a straight answer to the simplest of questions. To be fair, I’m paying a lot more attention now than I ever did when it comes to these things, so I can’t say that previous administrations didn’t do the same things. But it doesn’t seem likely. Her attempts at humor are embarrassing, like that one kid in your high school class who was always trying to be funny but failed miserably. In today’s conference, Sanders was asked if Trump lied when he claimed to have received congratulatory calls from the leaders of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico, calls which both of the supposed callers denied.

From TalkingPointsMemo.com:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders listens to a reporters question during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, July 31, 2017. Sanders was asked about President Donald Trump's decision to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director after 11 days and other topics. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Asked about Trump’s claim that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called him to praise his border policy, a claim Peña Nieto disputed on Monday, Sanders said Trump was in fact referencing “a conversation that they had had at the G20 summit.”

Trump on Monday [Aug. 1] claimed specifically that Peña Nieto “called” to give him “the ultimate compliment” on his border policy. Peña Nieto’s office on Monday said he had “not recently communicated with President Donald Trump by phone.”

Sanders also defended Trump’s claim that the Boy Scouts called him to praise a speech he made at the organization’s national jamboree.

“In terms of the Boy Scouts, multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership following his speech there that day congratulated him, praised him, and offered quite — I’m looking for the word — quite powerful compliments,” she said.

“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” Trump claimed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (Politico published the transcript).

The Boy Scouts told Time on Tuesday that they were not aware of any call from the organization’s leadership to the White House.

“But the President specifically said that he received a phone call from the President of Mexico and the leader of the Boy Scouts,” a reporter said to Sanders.

“They were direct conversations, not phone calls,” she replied.

“So he lied. He didn’t receive that’s a phone call,” the reporter pressed.

“That’s a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. He had them in person,” Sanders said. “I wouldn’t say it was a lie.”

Yes, Sarah, we know you wouldn’t. But this is representative of the type of non-information we’ve come to expect from these little get-togethers.

And if Trump can’t tell the difference between talking to someone on the phone and in person, well, that’s worrisome. Of course, he could always clarify his comments (not offering an apology, heaven forfend), but you know he won’t.

Thanks for nothing, NY Times

Well, hi there. Been awhile. Hope you’re doing well. A good deal to catch up on but first, my latest rant.

I was recently in Manhattan for the 47th Annual Convention of the Society for American Baseball Research. It was nice seeing old friends and meeting new ones made via social media for the first time face-to-face. (You can read about it on my other blog, Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf.) One of the high points for me was interviewing Claire Smith, formerly of The New York Times, who will receive the Baseball Writer’s of America Association’s Spink Award this summer at the Baseball Hall of Fame. That honor is bestowed for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, so kudos, Claire. What a gracious lady. I’ll be posting that after the holiday.

Another highlight was a session about Jim Bouton, author of the seminal Ball Four, the book that changed the way we perceived our athlete heroes. Sadly, Bouton has been in poor health over the past few years. He and his wife, Dr. Paula Kurman, were going to announce the he was suffering from cerebral amyloid angiopathy at the session because they considered SABR a part of their family.

Unfortunately that sentiment was made moot when the Times published this article by Tyler Kepner — which appeared in the print edition on Sunday — on their website on Saturday, a few hours before the program. Ultimately, it was a very bittersweet moment with Bouton receiving the praise he so richly deserves for his contribution not only to sports literature, but to literary culture in general.

I’m guessing the Times did not know about the Boutons’ plans, that this wasn’t an effort to “scoop” the competition. But it does annoy nonetheless. This was news that should have come from “family.”

It’s a very poor analogy, but it’s like letting slip to the guest of honor that he’s getting a surprise party. That almost happened to me when my wife said something on the way to a Mets game at the beginning of last month. She had arranged for a bunch of friends to join us and no one said anything to make me suspicious until she and I were on the train to Citi Field and she mentioned that she had told one friend the wrong subway stop. This was someone who would have absolutely no business coming to a baseball game, so I thought it odd for a moment before focusing my intellectual energies on something else.

Hey, I wear glasses!

Image result for bulliesIs this something else I need to worry about: getting body slammed by some politician who is seeking to have the honor of serving the public? Maybe I’m not part of that public. Maybe, being a champion of the alt-right, he sees me as the enemy, either because I’m a member of the media or perhaps because I’m a member of a non-favored religion. Although, to be professionally fair about this, here’s what the JTA wrote: “There was no indication that Greg Gianforte knew or cared that Jacobs was Jewish when he allegedly threw The Guardian political reporter to the ground on Wednesday evening and broke his glasses, leading to misdemeanor assault charges. But that has not stopped online commenters from making the connection on platforms frequented by the alt-right, a loose right-wing movement that includes white nationalists and anti-Semites.”

From a story in The New York Times.

After Greg Gianforte, the Republican House candidate in Montana, was charged with assaulting a reporter for The Guardian on the eve of Thursday’s special election, public reaction ranged from rank disgust on the left to mild chastening, and amused mockery, from many on the right.

Mr. Gianforte’s behavior, at his campaign headquarters Wednesday night, was either “outrageous,” as Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House minority leader, put it, or “totally out of character” — the tempered assessment from Representative Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We all make mistakes,” he added.

The Guardian reporter, Ben Jacobs, was deemed “a pajama boy journalist” by the right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said the reporter acted “insolent and disrespectful and whiny and moan-y.” The conservative host Laura Ingraham wrote on Twitter: “Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today?”

Bullies will always find a way to blame the victims. Perhaps it’s because Jacobs might look the part of the milquetoast journalist, who, unable to be a “real man” and make a contribution to whatever, has to content himself by observing from the sidelines and making snarky comments in an attempt to compensate for his perceived shortcomings. (I wonder if it would have made a difference had this incident taken place in New York of California rather than Montana.)

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At least I can take comfort in knowing that I spent the extra bucks to get the unbreakable variety of eye-wear.

Save

Public Enemy #1

If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because of this call I received TWICE today:

“Hi. This is the tax crime investigation unit of IRS. The reason you are receiving this prerecorded message is to notify you that IRS has issued an arrest warrant against you. Right now you and your physical property both are being monitored and it’s very important that I do hear back from you as soon as possible before we proceed further in any legal manner. My direct callback number is 918-215-9125. Again the number is 918-215-9125. Thank you.”

First of all…”Hi”? Really?

Image result for irs phone call scamsSecond of all, I so want to call that number and see what the deal is. But as I know this is bullshit, and I don’t know about their technological capabilities, I don’t want them having my number come up on caller ID. Perhaps from a payphone…

No exaggeration, the phone must have rung at least eight times today. Thank goodness for caller ID; I never answer 800 numbers and pretty much have the same attitude towards any number I don’t recognize.

I have long lamented the state of society these days in which every other advertisement on the all-news station to which I listen seems to be some way of separating the listener from his or her money. You know the type (paraphrasing here but the sentiment is wholly accurate):

  • “If you have been injured, we can get you money…”
  • “If you have been offered a settlement, we can get you more money…”
  • “We can cure your pain from fill-in-the-blank…”
  • My old favorite: “If you or someone you know has died…”
  • My new favorite: “If you’re suffering from cancer and are running out of money, we can give you up to 50 percent of your life insurance death benefits…”

One person I find particularly annoying is Patricia McCann, a “radio personality” in the New York area. According to the page on her via cbslocal.com

Patricia McCann is the personality commercial spokesperson for 1010 WINS. She has endorsed product on the station since 1992. Her delivery is uniquely personal and credible – she only advertises product she has tried and believes in – a McCann family tradition.

“The personality commercial spokesperson?” Is that what she puts on her resume? Does the “the” mean she’s the only one? The New York Times did a profile on McCann back in 2004, delving into her impressive radio pedigree and noting

For her commercials, which are occasionally broadcast in other parts of the country, she says she samples and researches every product. She has lost eight pounds on the Zone Diet, guzzled Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and stopped at an Aamco shop in New Jersey to learn that a car transmission has 700 parts. “How’s a girl to know?” she asked.

Pretty neat these days to have the same job for 25 years. Needless to say, she’s done numerous other ads since 2004, from replacement windows to painting services.

I don’t want to get into demographics here, but I’m guessing the audience for the news station I listen to is not comprised of millennials. Perhaps McCann is a soothing voice from the older listeners’ pasts.

I’m also pretty sure the reason phone calls like this come during the day is that the companies behind these schemes are counting on the recipients to be house-bound, retired, or older and, perhaps not as hep to scams.

Image result for irs phone call scams

And I’m not even going to go into all the phishing that goes on via emails. I don’t know how many times I’ve told my family to never ever click on a link or download an attachment that looks suspicious, even if it’s from someone they supposedly know well. When I was working at the newspaper and saw something that looked a bit out of place, I would always send a note back to the originator asking if they had indeed sent the email and what was in the link/attachment. At least half the time, these were bogus missives.

I was going to write about this topic anyway after the Times ran this item — “From Wells Fargo to Fyre Festival, the Scam Economy Is Entering Its Baroque Phase” — in the May 21 Sunday Magazine. But today’s phone calls gave me added motivation.

On the other hand, if I am about to be arrested by the IRS, please look for an entry about where to send the cake with the file inside.