“Fake News” is a propaganda term. Don’t buy into it!

Be careful in todays world when you use (and buy into) terms like “fake news” or “echo chamber” and “conspiracy theory”. While there is some truth to the meaning and usage these terms as they are defined, there is also a lot of harm. Because, remember that all of these terms serve to stifle people asking questions and coming up with alternative viewpoints and subverting the status quo.

It’s easy for me to be skeptical when I hear “beware of fake news”, because I immediately hear something different : “Only listen to the respected, mainstream news sources”. If we are being kept in line by the media, this is one very effective way to keep us hooked into the message the elite ruling class is trying to sell us. Personally I have always been skeptical of everything I’ve read and I’ve taken time to either second source things I take as fact or defer to others who I trust to do that diligence on my behalf. Just because someone is a blogger or just because an article doesn’t come from the New York Times doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Same with “echo chamber”. In many ways this feels to me like an attack on us sharing things that we feel are important or that we feel needs to be read by others. If we are fearful of sharing things because it will make us seem like lemmings then things don’t spread and it’s very possible that our public becomes less informed.

I strongly believe that while there is no overt conspiracy to control us as a people, there are subtle biases by our media that naturally conspire to sell us ‘the story’. I have often complained about how I feel the media has let us down and I still very much believe that. Because of that, I feel obligated to fight that erosion of the truth by posting (and reposting and sharing) things that I feel are relevant. If you choose to label me as a conspiracist or as an echo-chamberist or a fake news/propiganda passer onner, that’s your decision. But I’m a very smart and aware human being. I am not a sheep. So follow me knowing that or be led by the elites. Cause we know how well that’s been working out.

Google Fi. A cell service where you can’t send a text

Ok Google.

I’m pissed off. I have been a fan of yours for a really long time now. I’ve been an early adopter of all your products (even the ones that are gone now). Whenever someone talks about their love for Apple I make fun of them and tell them how the Goog has been doing better tech for way longer. I’m always on your side.

So of course when I saw that Google Fi was available I signed up as fast as I could and I dropped $600 on a new handset as you required. Every time someone asks me about the phone or what service I have, I’ve gone into a 5 minute ad for the service. Because for the most part it’s been pretty awesome. But this morning that’s all changed. I hate Fi and if I could get my money back I would. But I’ve been told that’s not possible. So I’m going to just complain publicly and hopefully dissuade people from switching over to you. Hell, I’m even considering moving to an iPhone!

So what happened?

It wasn’t until about the middle of the day last Sunday that I finally realized that there was something seriously wrong with SMS messaging for me. Up until that point, everything was working perfectly for me. But all of a sudden nobody was receiving SMS messages from me. I could see theirs, and from my perspective I was sending them to them. But they weren’t getting them. That is, unless they were on T-mobile.

I tried from hangouts on my computer. Same thing. I later figured out that MMS worked fine however so the problem was that SMS messages were not being delivered once they made it to Fi. Mind you, it looks on my phone that the text is sent. There is no error message or anything.

So I chatted up your support crew on Sunday.

After a bunch of back and forth I was told that there was an outage on your side of things and that it would be fixed between 24-72 hours. I was initially upset because if you knew there was an outage, I should have been notified. This is pretty common practice for service oriented companies. But I wasn’t. And I still haven’t been notified about what was/is going on.

So I waited 72 hours which was last night and guess what? Still no ability for me to text. I’m sure you can imagine how much of an inconvenience this is. I mean, our whole society is based on text messages these days and to not be able to send one from your phone (or your computer) is just debilitating.

I contacted support again and spent a very long time with them. Here is a summary of what occurred (though I’d love for you to find a transcript of the chat so you can see for yourself).

  1. There was no acknowledgement of an outage this time.
  2. The rep was convinced it was an issue with my phone. Even though I was clear that the issue would happen on hangouts on my computer even with the phone off
  3. The rep made me remove all the non primary google accounts I had linked on my phone
  4. The rep made me remove hangouts from my phone
  5. The rep made me sign out of hangouts on my computer .. all of this so that we can get a message to come up on Messenger (the approved google SMS app on my phone)
  6. Once I had followed all of the reps steps I still could not get a text to work and so he then decided I needed a new SIM.

So here I sit, with a google phone on a google service that cannot deliver a simple SMS text message. And now I wait for a SIM card that I know won’t fix the issue. And then what?

I have always had faith that you knew what you were doing but after the experience I had yesterday I’m not so sure. This is clearly an issue on your end of things but your rep wouldn’t acknowledge it. I asked for a refund of the phone and was flat out told that that wasn’t going to happen. I was told that Fi was ‘basically a beta service’ and that the risk was all on me for signing up. Really? Ok, well if that’s the case then don’t bill me for this month since I can’t use your service. Treat me, one of your best advertisers just a little bit better. Make me feel like trusting your company was the right move. Don’t say to me : Well you made the mistake of going all in with us. Sorry.

 

Ugh. I’m super pissed still.

 

When the SIM comes in a few (textless) days from now I’m sure I’ll be writing again. Until then, know that I will never recommend Fi to anyone again.

 

Why am I paying for Apple Store security?

Can someone please explain to me why there is a Philadelphia Police officer stationed in the Apple Store here in Philadelphia? Or the one at Target? Or the one at Whole Foods? Or the one at TD Bank? Or the one at Bank of America?

Why is it that my tax dollars are paying for security guards at these private institutions? Perhaps you will tell me that they are off duty and making a few extra dollars. But why then are they fully uniformed with badges and radios and guns?

Isn’t there something somewhere that says that this is not allowed to happen? Why don’t more people complain about it?

Anyone?

The financial criminals benefit from you choosing to not understand what is happening.

I love Matt Taibbi. For those of you who never heard of him, he’s a political writer for Rolling Stone and he’s been focusing mostly on the financial sector for the past few years (wall street, mortgage crisis, crooked bankers, etc). I like him cause he really seems to be the kind of person that doesn’t care what people think when he writes. He is pissed and it shows in his incredibly researched and detailed articles.

Yes, for the most part the public is of the belief that financial news is boring but he writes about it anyway. Somebody needs to and he does it quite well.

No article he has ever written does it better than the one in the current issue of RS (1160). The article is called “The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia” and I urge you to give it 30 minutes of your time. It is an amazing read about something that is esoteric and yet totally accessible. It’s about bond interest rates.

Before you complain, let me explain. This article talks about a specific case where the feds went after and won a case against 3 traders who were caught participating in a fraud to fix interest rates on big municipal bond deals. The technicalities are not important here. What is important is how these guys were ripping off cities around the country and then using their profits to go on trips to Las Vegas and such. These kinds of guys are those douchie rich guys in the bar that you hate and you wonder : What makes them so special that they deserve to be so rich? Well guess what? It’s not due to skill or brains, it’s due to a willingness to rip people off.

As I read this I was just so mad at these fuckers. And these are just the 3 that the government went after. There are hundreds more and there are many more even bigger executives that are part of this fraud as well. It’s sickening. There is even a connection to Bill Richardson who I thought was a good guy when he was running for president:

Even more startling was the way that a notorious incident involving former New Mexico governor and presidential candidate Bill Richardson resurfaced during the trial. Barack Obama, you may recall, had nominated Richardson to be commerce secretary – only to have the move blow up in his face when tales of Richardson accepting bribes began to make the rounds. Federal prosecutors never brought a case against Richardson: In 2009, an inside source told the AP that the investigation had been “killed in Washington.” Obama himself, after Richardson bowed out, praised the former governor as an “outstanding public servant.”

Now, in the Carollo trial, defense counsel got Doug Goldberg, the CDR broker, to admit that his boss, Stewart Wolmark, had handed him an envelope containing a check for $25,000. The check was payable to none other than Moving America Forward – Bill Richardson’s political action committee. Goldberg then went to a Richardson fundraiser and handed the politician the envelope. Richardson, pleased, told Goldberg, “Tell the big guy I’m going to hire you guys.”

Goldberg admitted on the stand that he understood “the big guy” to mean Wolmark. After that came this amazing testimony:

Q: Soon after that, New Mexico hired CDR as its swap and GIC adviser on a $400 million deal, right?
A: Yes.
Q: You learned later that that check in that envelope was a check for $25,000, right?
A: Yes. I learned it later.
Q: You also learned later that CDR gave another $75,000 to Gov. Richardson, right?
A: Yes.
Q: CDR ended up making about a million dollars on this deal for those two checks?
A: Yes.
Q: In fact, New Mexico not only hired CDR, they hired another firm to do the actual work that they needed done?
A: For the fixed-income stuff, yes.

What we get from this is that CDR paid Bill Richardson $100,000 in contributions and got $1.5 million in public money in return. And not just $1.5 million, but $1.5 million for work they didn’t even do – the state still had to hire another firm to do the actual job. Nice non-work, if you can get it.

In case you are still skeptical about the complex subject, I will explain it to you here : Cities borrow money to build bridges and hospitals and rec centers. When they make the loan they usually get the whole amount at once (say $25M) and they pay construction guys and other vendors out of that account as they go on with the project. What this means is that for the duration of the project, the majority of that $25M is sitting in some bank so to make some money with it, the cities can lend it out to borrowers and charge a fair interest rate for it. This is where these guys ripped off the cities. There is supposed to be a public bid from borrowers on that rate (say a fair rate is 5.00%) but these guys fixed the auction to maybe only give 4.95%. That .05% on $25M is real money. Multiply that by 100s of deals a year and you have a motive to keep ripping off the cities.

This is a great read and it is representative of what is really going on in this country. The sad part is that this isn’t capitalism. The heart of capitalism is the free market. Without that, we have nothing and colluding on a price at auction is exactly what we don’t want but yet it is everywhere.

Some more thoughts on NDAA

Remember the wonderful bill that our wonderful president signed into law a few months back called the “National Defense Authorization Act”? This was the defense spending bill that included that nice part about how the president can decide unilaterally that you are a ‘terrorist’ or doing something that ‘promotes terrorism’ and then have you either killed on the spot or hauled off to prison with no legal recourse (you know.. like due process). It’s a wonderful law and one that is most likely unconstitutional but who’s going to be able to challenge it?

Anyway, I read a great editorial in a game development magazine that had some musings about the bill that I found interesting. I tried to find a digital copy with no luck so I scanned it and have it here. I urge you read it. It’s a quick read. But one of the things he talks about is how the govt. can now go after game companies for content and worse.

Also, laws like this stifle dissent and conversation. What if, as a thought exercise, or to prove a point I decided to post some ideas for terrorist plots. Would I be supporting terrorism? Would a death squad come visit me in the night? Far fetched? All it takes is the will of a president. The law is in place. The trigger just needs to be pulled. We let it happen

Apple, China and You

A few months ago I saw a one man monologue in New York by a guy named Mike Daisy. It was called “The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs“. The show was amazing. Over a number of fast moving hours Daisy intercut the story of Apple and the story of where and how Apple (and other electronic) products are manufactured. Robots you say? No. Too expensive. Everything is made by hand. It’s an incredible story and it changed my perspective.

The show closed and I was really bummed since I wanted to tell people to see it. Interestingly enough it seems that he’s bringing it back. I highly recommend it.

Luckily for you Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life” saw the show as well and was equally moved. He had Daisy perform an abridged version of the show focusing mostly on the China aspect and then did an analysis of its claims (all validated). I urge you to give the show a listen. It really is a great story.

The show is number 454 and can be found here.

do something!

It’s interesting that the last post I wrote was about how I thought the NYPD was doing a great job with OWS and now today I’m writing because that same police force just kicked the protestors out of their home base last night. But my point is the same: I think they went about it in a very civil and fair way. This wasn’t Oakland with tear gas and rubber bullets. This was slow and methodical and restrained. And lets be clear, the police weren’t acting on their own here. This was all due to orders from the mayor. If you’re going to be mad at anyone it should be him.

But this post really isn’t about the New York situation. It’s more about my feelings about this entire situation including the Occupy Philly group (who I see every day and who is heading towards their own confrontation with authority). It’s about my anger at the local media who do their best not to cover the movement or when they do, they cover it with a bias. It’s about my utter despair with the fact that almost nobody I know even cares about what is going on, as if we aren’t at a historic moment right now. As if the Declaration of Independence was being drafted and other than the people at Independence Hall, nobody gave a shit.

I don’t know if the Occupiers are doing the right thing. I’ve complained a lot about their strategy and tactics over the past few months. I’ve debated with myself a lot about what I could do to participate and what we all should do and I haven’t come up with a good answer. But what I have figured out is that at the least, the Occupy Movement could be a catalyst, a starting point for change in America. We all agree that things are messed up. Everyone I talk to has some complaint about something wrong in America (and the world) but everyone always just accepts that things are fucked up and we can’t fix them. And that’s what’s bothering me the most lately. We do have a way to fix things but yet for the most part we don’t even try.

It starts with paying attention. If you woke up today and didn’t find some real news to ingest then you’ve failed yourself and your country. I was watching someone on the bus today reading the Daily News and do you know what story they were reading on page 3? It was a full page story on how Chelsea Clinton got a job at NBC. That, my friends, is not news. It’s not important. It’s filler, its soma, its bullshit to keep you distracted from what’s really going on. Every day you should be seeking out real news from around the world. Watch documentaries, follow blogs, find the most non-biased mainstream media you can. Pay attention to what is really going on and shun bullshit.

The next step (if you want to actually do something to change the world) is to share your news and maybe comment on it. Post an interesting story on facebook or twitter, share what you are learning. Talk about real things from time to time with your friends or co-workers. Teach and educate each other. We have all these tools now to communicate and yet we don’t. This makes me insane some mornings. Sure it’s cool and fun and even fulfilling to post about what’s going on in your life, but use your social stream to educate a little bit too.

Then you move to support. Support movements and groups that are doing things you agree with. You don’t need to use money, in fact, oftentimes it’s better you go out and volunteer your time instead. Or better yet, do both! Change only happens when people demand it. These occupiers are doing it and we’re essentially laughing at them. Can’t you see how wrong that is?

I really urge you all to take a minute to participate in making our world a better place. And most of you aren’t doing that. By simply living your life, and riding the roller coaster, you’re just being a sheep. You don’t need to be a great leader or anything, just be aware of what’s going on and try to be part of the solution.

Um. Also on my shitlist : the PPA

So, I find a nice parking spot and I get a few quarters out of my quarter holder in my car and I go to put them into the meter. I don’t mind paying a meter for parking..

But, hmn. The meter has a cardboard box around it. I wonder if it’s broken? Well lets test it out. {Put quarter into meter, nothing happens. Put in second quarter just to be sure, nothing happens} Hmn. Broken. Ok then.

But, oh hey, there’s a PPA dude down the street. Let me go over and check with him.

“Hi. Hey, I parked over there {I point at my car} and the meter is broken. There’s this box around the meter. I put in a couple of quarters just to be sure. Am I ok to park there?”

“You can park for 3 hours on this block. You’re fine”

“Um, but the meter is broken.”

“Yea, you’re fine.. Don’t worry about it”

One would think it would be cool now right? No. I come back 30 minutes later and of course there is a ticket on my car for an expired meter. Yup.

Now I’ve just come back recently from a visit to the parking court where I was treated like a 5 year old and raped a number of ways even though I had clear evidence of my innocence, so I’m very hesitant to fight this $26 ticket. But it’s the fucking principle here right?

Clearly Nutter has told these pricks to do whatever they can to make money since he’s done such a piss poor job running the city. But seriously. I just talked to the guy, there’s a fucking box around the meter!

I am amazed more of these meter maid fucks don’t get beat up. If I wasn’t such a pussy law abiding citizen I would have snapped. Where is the humanity in the world lately?

Don’t fly US Air!

I need to get this down before my anger overflows and I have a meltdown. As you all know, flying anywhere really sucks these days. It’s amazing that the airlines don’t even care to make it better. It’s become way more expensive (you now pay for baggage check, food, drinks, security). You have to deal with ridiculous searches by the TSA, you usually have to connect, bags get lost all the time, etc.

I’m used to all of that. I’ve reluctantly grown to accept that a sucky experience is part of the deal.

But what happened to me on this trip, thanks to USAirways went way beyond the normal.

So, I made a reservation to fly to New Orleans and back. Your standard round trip non-refundable, non-transferrable crap ticket. It cost about $700 (paid a little extra for direct flights). All was well in the world.

Until I realized I was not going to be able to make it on to the outbound flight. I knew this about a week before the flight so I called USair to see what I could do to change it to Friday (2 days later)

The call went something like this:
“We’d be glad to fly you out on a later flight on Friday, but oh, I see this is a non-refundable non-transferable ticket. There will be a fee”,

“Yes, I understand, that’s reasonable, how much will it be?” (and it is reasonable, bad customer service yes, but reasonable).. but here’s where it gets good.

“Ah sir, it will be $150”

“excellen..”

“…Plus a $20 fee, plus applicable taxes, plus any change in the flight cost which in this case is $335…” (note of course that it’s the same flight, just 2 days later)

“um…”

“that brings the total to $575 shall I make the change?”

“um. wait a second. I am looking at a direct flight on another airline for $275. Why would I pay for this flight? Is there anything else you can offer?”

“no sir. I’m sorry.”

“you realize that I’m going to book the other flight and miss your flight and you will now be flying an empty seat down to New Orleans without me right? One that you could have sold to someone else. You get that right?”

“I’m sorry sir there’s nothing I can do.”

“Ok then, thank you” (and I hang up and book the other flight)

So at this point I’m out about $800 for my trip. Sucks, but since its virtually impossible to get a refundable/transferrable ticket anymore that’s the price I had to pay to make the change. Fine.

The beauty happens today, as I sit here in New Orleans ready to go home. I check the website to check in (don’t even get me started on that crap) and low and behold, my reservation is gone, replaced with a phone number I’m to call.

I call.

“Hello sir, how can I help you?”

“Well, there must be a mistake..” (and I explain the last phone call and the attempted change of flight, etc.)

“Well sir, since you did not make that flight we listed you as a ‘no show’ and cancelled your return flight as well. It’s clearly stated in the regulations that for round trip tickets if you don’t show up for one leg, they are all cancelled. You could have alleviated this by calling us on the 22nd when you were due to fly out.”

“um? I did call a few days before the 22nd.”

“well sir, there’s nothing we can do. You bought a non-refundable and non-transferrable ticket”

“but I’m not trying to get a refund or make a transfer”

“sir, there’s nothing we can do. You have been removed from the flight. You should go to our website, click complaints and post your complaint. Someone will be in touch with you between 1 and 3 days.”

“Um. I need to get home today. Can you not help me? Connect me with the department that can help me please”

“sir, you will need to file a complaint on our website”

“supervisor please”

(explain again)

“Certainly sir. I can assist you. What I can do is transfer your ticket to a one way ticket for a $150 change fee, plus some other fees plus the difference in cost which is $165 bringing your total to $405” {by the way, note that the difference in cost is for the SAME FLIGHT!}

(this begins a huge argument (mostly one sided)) where I tried to make the point that I was being refused a flight that I had already paid for. Weather I fly or not, the seat should be mine right? No luck with the supervisor. I then proceeded to complain and argue some more, explaining how horrible this makes me feel about USair, etc.. Blah blah blah. Finally when I asked how much of this is being recorded on my record (since I intend to sue) I was hung up on.

Of course this meant I was literally stuck in New Orleans. I had to buy another flight (this time on delta, this time with one stop, this time leaving 5 hours later and arriving at 1AM) for another $300 while USAir has my original $700 and is probably filling my seat as we speak.

Fine. I agree that we always should read the fine print. I agree that they probably were interpreting the policy correctly. I also agree that they are a private company and they can do whatever they want (but guess what? I’m never flying them again and I hope you consider my experience next time you book with them). What I don’t agree with is the fact that this policy is enforceable. If I pay for a seat, I should have that seat. I’ve done nothing to deserve loosing it. At the least I should be given a refund right? Or perhaps the first guy, when I explained I’d be missing the flight could have said “sir, please be aware that if you miss a flight we will cancel your return flight” right??

I’m filing a claim in small claims court. I’m not sure what to ask for. Should I ask for the cost of my flight home? Should I ask for a full refund? Would anyone like to take my case?

You can do it

Is this where we are headed?
I am discouraged today. I’ve actually felt this way for a number of years now. It’s been so long I can’t even remember when it began, but that’s not really important. What is important if for you to know why I feel this way. It’s important to me that you read this and think about what I’ve said and do something, anything, as a result. Comment, pass this along, tell others in person… I don’t care, just do something. Because the lack of anyone doing anything is what has me so discouraged.

If you look back at this blog and other places where I post things (facebook, my news feed, twitter, etc.) you will see that the majority of things I post about are things that are wrong with the world (particularly America) politically and socially. I know ‘wrong’ here is biased towards my own beliefs but I really feel that my perspective is general enough that any reasonable person exposed to the things I post would feel similar to how I do. But in all this time I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt that anyone has responded in a serious way to anything I’ve posted.

And this is what discourages me. Every day I read or learn something new that makes me want to scream out in anger or frustration. Every day I have to take a moment and ask myself, what can I do to make the world a place where things like this don’t happen again? So I post, and I donate to causes and I participate in politics by voting, and I genuinely think about how things affect the greater good. But it doesn’t change anything. And that inertia tends to make me more depressed. So I start to just give up and say ‘fuck it, if people would rather care more about mindless shit, then they deserve to get what they get’. We deserve the America we live in right now. The one where our liberties have been eroded in the name of security. The one where we can’t afford to educate our children because of wars we’re fighting for possibly flimsy reasons. The one where we have floods and tornados and odd weather every day and yet we deny that global warming is real. And on and on.

But I can’t sit back and do that anymore. In the last 2 years myself and many of my close friends have had their first children. So now instead of just saying “I’m dead in 60 years, it can’t get that bad”, we’re all now forced to say “what kind of world will our children inherit? And what about their children?”. Now things matter even more, and yet, I can see no change at all.

So what do I want? What would a perfect world be like from my perspective? What would I want you to do? It’s simple really. I want two things. First I want many people (many of the people I know) to take 10-15 minutes a day to read things that I (and other trusted friends) post and talk about. I want this because I don’t post things that are time-wasters. In my perfect world you all would trust that. Second I want you all to be motivated by the things I post to actually do something on your own. Maybe write about what you read, or talk to friends and family, or vote for candidates that support views that coincide with positions you read about, or maybe even debate with me the merits of what I post. In short I want you to take some time to react to what I post.

I can see why you don’t. We are constantly barraged with stimulus. And most of it has the effect of making us feel ok. Why allow ourselves to willingly feel bad about our world when we can so easily feel good about it? We are wired to suppress bad feelings and our media, our very lifestyle enables us to follow that path so easily. So I know it’s hard. But it’s so important to fight that urge to take the ‘soma’ and take a look at the world without our rose colored glasses. You don’t need to do it all the time, just once and a while. Please, I am literally begging you. We as a society are already failing because of ambivalence. Don’t let us fail completely!