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Sunday, October 10, 2021

Trust Me...I'm a Doctor

With the ascent of social media, it seems as if everyone has suddenly become an expert on just about everything, regardless of education or experience.  That's just the way it is in social media: everyone can say what they wish with complete impunity, the only accountability being the possibility of being cancelled or "fact-checked" by yet another entity that's likely even less educated and experienced.

Now that viruses and vaccines have captured the imaginations, fears of America's leisure time, I find the most interesting responses among all sides of the debates to run along the lines of, "What are your qualifications?" or "Can you provide a source for that?" or the ever-famous, "Really? Who made you a doctor?"

It's that last one I enjoy the most, because from where I sit, merely being a doctor doesn't hold nearly the currency it once did. Hear me out on this.  More than likely, I've been around at least as long, if not longer than you, and you might find this interesting.

To really understand what modern doctors are, you have to begin with what doctors once were.  Back in the nineteenth century, western medicine was still mostly guesswork and hardly recognizable as what we know today. In fact, it was only by the late nineteenth century that John D. Rockefeller's University of Chicago help displace homeopathy as America's go-to medical discipline. Prior to that, grandma's remedy or Aunt Hattie's root tonic stood just as good a chance of curing what ailed you as anything else. Since then, however, scientific medicine has ruled the roost. 

But there was a transition period of almost 100 years, where both approaches were considered with a healthy dose of critical thinking, during which a doctor observed, questioned, and then drew conclusions as to how to treat a patient's condition.  The ability of a physician to draw on a broad, diverse library of data, coupled with an extensive knowledge of appropriate treatment resulted in the reverence of doctors as highly knowledgable, well-respected members of society's highest order.

In other words, these were the smartest guys on the block, because they knew what  to think and how  to think.  Not so much anymore.

First, there's simply a lot more to know:  Most doctors are no longer general practitioners. By far, most physicians are specialists, with little real depth outside their fields of expertise. That seems fair, given that there's much more to know about any particular field of medicine than there was previously.  I mean, when you deep dive on liver function, there's not much time left over for pulmonary or cerebral research.

Secondly, the advent of digital media has displaced critical thinking. With every kind of diagnostic test reduced to a numerical score, doctors have become overwhelmingly reliant on numbers instead of observation and reasoning.  This is why the most common refrain in medicine has become, "Let's run some more tests."

Lest you think this is of no real consequence, allow me to illustrate this true story:

Not too long ago, an elderly relative was admitted to the hospital, suffering from wild swings in her blood pressure. The woman had purchased a home blood pressure monitor and throughout the day, noticed it soaring and plummeting so badly that her doctor called her in for "observation and testing."  Two days in, tests showed nothing.  The doctor somberly called me into the hallway and whispered, "I think you should prepare yourself; it could be cancer."

I wasted no time and responded, "Are you out of your mind? Have you considered the fact that she's gone crazy with that home blood pressure kit you advised her to get and all it does is increase her anxiety?" The doctor looked at me and replied, "Hmmm.  Maybe a baby dose of Lexapro would help.'  Yup.  It was that quick.  And it was the right diagnosis, because she's 90 years old today and humming like a well-tuned Chevy.  

Makes you think twice about labeling something a vaccine that actually has no working resemblance to anything like a vaccine.  But you'd have to think critically to want to know that.

The over-reliance on digital numbers, along with a complete lack of critical thinking has reduced the status and ability of doctors to claim their once-respected thrones.  Like airline pilots, who have been reduced to flying bus drivers, today's doctors are pretty much auto mechanics for people.  So the next time someone calls you out for "not being a doctor," don't be insulted.

Consider it a badge of honor.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

What You Won't Hear About 9/11

I'll probably catch hell for this, but this reading of the 9/11 victims is a massive head fake that accomplishes nothing, and is actually an insult to the country.  Sure, it looks like we're doing something, but we're really not. It makes people at home feel like they're participating, but they're really not. Nobody reads the names of sailors who died on December 7, 1941.  Nobody reads the names of the passengers who died when the Lusitania was torpedoed.

Like so much of what we see and do, these services are nothing more than a salve, designed to defray any real efforts or political actions. They serve only to provide a sense of accomplishment to a sedated population accustomed to subservience.

"Did you watch the memorial service? It was so sad."  That's it.  That's all.

There was a time when this country didn't slink off and lick its wounds. We didn't get mad; we got even. Now all we get is maudlin programming with regularly scheduled commercial interruptions.

This is the shame that is America.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Digital Drop Piece

You don't have to be a Law & Order fan to know what a drop piece is.  It's a fixture in just about every police detective story ever told.  But in case you've been a literary Rip Van Winkle, I'll remind you that a drop piece is a small, unregistered hand gun that police detectives usually carry attached to their ankles.   Its serial numbers have been filed off to make it untraceable, and it remains hidden under the pants leg until it needs to be used.

The gun is not there for self-defense or predatory purpose. In fact, while it is loaded with live ammunition, the gun is rarely, if ever, fired.  That's because the sole purpose of a drop piece is to plant evidence on a perpetrator at the scene of a crime.  In case a bust becomes questionable or lacks evidence, a detective can claim that "this small, illegal handgun was found at the scene," which would ostensibly escalate the event into one of life-threatening circumstance, justifying the cop's next-level behaviors.

The fraudulent use of drop pieces are, in every way, completely illegal, providing false evidence which at trial, is tantamount to perjured testimony.

And yet, drop pieces have been used plenty of times, unquestioned against the word of law enforcement and context of circumstances.  After all, it's far easier for juries and judges to believe the bad guy had a gun than it is for them to accuse the police of framing an innocent citizen. If you happen to be arrested by mistake, this forms the perfect storm for a mistaken conviction.

Enter Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple.

In case you haven't heard, Apple now intends to scan every single image on every single iPhone for "images of child pornography" or those which they suspect could be such.  If that doesn't scare you, it should, for a few reasons:

First, it completes big tech's intrusion into, and the total destruction of, any illusions of privacy you may have had about your digital data. While we all know that big tech has been sharing our sales and contact information for decades, this completes the loop to include visual data.

Second, it assigns Apple and others the dubious task of determining what is objectionable and who should be reported to authorities. Since there is no discernible standard against which these images are judged, the exact same image could be viewed as innocent for one person but criminally suspect for another. The entire program is arbitrary at least, capricious at best.

Third, these scans can and will be used as digital drop pieces, where "undesirables" (as arbitrarily defined by big tech) can and will suddenly be found in possession of said images, prompting reports to authorities and subsequent prosecution, opening a whole new world of political harassment and persecution to those that big tech simply doesn't like.

Think it can't happen to you?  Think again: Do you know anyone whose credit card hasn't been compromised?  How many have been the victim of a persistent wrong number or something as harmless as a misdirected e-mail or spam?  The FBI already has huge arsenals of digital weaponry, listening, watching everyone from muslim terrorists to anti-vaccine activists to take one wrong step.

Now think about big tech generating its own political enemies list matched up to its image scanning weapon and the picture for you -- even unscanned -- gets pretty ugly.

Be careful out there.

Friday, May 28, 2021

A Simple Twist of Fate

As I continue to clean out the garage to make way for the art studio, I stumbled on this, the sole survivor of some advertising that but for a quirk of fate, could have changed my entire life. You can tell it's pre-digital; even the fonts are hand-drawn.
In the early 1980s, a Korean car company decided to launch its operations here in America. Nobody in America had ever heard of Hyundai, and the agency I was working for was invited to pitch the account, which was by all standards HUGE. I was a Creative Director in the west coast (Los Angeles) office, and a twenty-something wunderkind, a bicoastal creative wizard who stalked the media department for gorgeous female media buyers when I wasn't killing it with advertising awards. I was, in short, impossible. So it was no small thing when the general manager assigned me to be in charge of pitching the entire national account. That not only meant heading up the Los Angeles office's effort, but flying weekly to New York to kick ass on their team, as well.

Heady stuff? You bet. Flying first class (when first class was worth flying) and staying at four star hotels, waltzing into conference rooms in my cowboys boots/no necktie to face the lineups of account executives and creatives all outfitted in Brooks Brothers.

Remember, this was the go-go 1980s, when everything, including hair, art and cars were big and getting bigger. But Hyundai was not an 80's car. Truth be told, it was more like Volkswagen in the 1950s: smaller, more efficient, less money.

My campaign featured Judd Hirsch, the down-to-earth actor starring in "Taxi", who would walk around the car on a seamless white background, cleverly extolling the virtues of Hyundai's practicality. It was, as it were, "a sensible car for sensible people," and thus the tagline, "Built on common sense."

The campaign was quickly chosen as the lead to pitch. It took six months and about $300,000 (these are 1980 dollars), but June 23 -- the day of the pitch -- was getting near. I was all set. Winning this account would mean a ginormous raise, serious national exposure for me, and more job offers than I could handle. I slept at night dreaming of general managers lining up to hand me the keys to their agencies, pleading for me to become a partner. Then something happened on June 21:

Apparently, secret meetings had been going on for some time between our agency and another major agency. Nobody knew anything about it until June 21, when management not only announced the agencies' merger was finalized, but as a result, we were pulling out of the Hyundai pitch. The other agency already had Buick as a client, and Hyundai would have been a conflict.

In sixty seconds, my entire future went up in carbon monoxide.

Every single dream, goal and wish that was supposed to drop in my lap completely missed and went down the toilet. The twenty something wunderkind would not be taking the world by storm after all.

As a result, my life changed radically. I soon left to start my own agency, never trusting anyone in business ever again. I also kissed off that young man's dreams of New York City. I decided that going my own way meant not going everyone else's. I stayed in Los Angeles for the rest of my life, eventually living the life I never could have enjoyed so thoroughly anywhere else.

Sometimes, things work out.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

You Can Look Me Up

If you're a Boomer, you may have forgotten. If you're younger than that, you never knew. But there once was a time when just about anyone, anywhere, could be found by flipping through the pages of "the telephone book."

Every city, town and village had their own telephone books. They were thick, heavy and contained every citizen's name, address and, of course, telephone number. THey were free, and if you owned a land line, they'd be delivered to your doorstep every Spring, updated with the latest listings. The larger the population, the thicker the book. If you grew up during that era, telephone books were de facto booster seats: million of children balanced precariously atop stacks of them at restaurant tables, long before Chinese car seats were invented.
Telephone books aren't really around anymore. Not because people own fewer land lines, but more because this country has long since transitioned from a nation of neighbors to a mass market of automatons. The friendship and openness we once enjoyed as a culture has been programmed out of us, replaced by suspicion, all in the name of "privacy."

Try selling a concept of a phone book today and see how far you get. People would think you're nuts. Who in their right mind would hang out their personal name, address and phone number for anyone to see? Well, not too long ago, the American culture was far friendlier. The phone book was how people found you -- mainly by those who you wanted to find you. Everyone knew that if you wanted to get in touch, all you had to say was, "You can look me up. I'm in the book."

Of course, all that is gone now. You're reading this and thinking about stalkers, murderers and Communist activists doxxing and harassing you. The world, it would seem, is out to get you, so it's far better to hide out under the specter of anonymity.

Not true. As a veritable antique, I can tell you that it was a far better time when we assumed each others' trust. It was a richer life when we opened our lives and hearts, welcoming old friends who looked us up and new connections we wanted to meet.

Can you imagine a world in which there was no orchestrated fear? Lucky me. I lived it. Not so lucky you. Now put on both of your masks and stay six feet away.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thankful Still

I don't feel so bad about losing a year of my life to this madness. I'm not exactly an antique, but my rogue years of adventures are in my rear view mirror. These days, I cocoon in my lair, when I can enjoy the world as I want it, without having to deal with mediocrity of pandemic proportions.
When they tell us "smoking will take years off your life," it's not like they let you live your whole life and then take years 24, 28 and 31 away. You live til 95 instead of 97. Those last two years have far less marginal value.
That's not what's happening now, though.
Today, if you're a young adult, they actually ARE stealing your life. They're stealing what could arguably be called the BEST years of your life -- the teens, 20s and early 30s. You can't meet anyone. Date anyone. Enjoy anyone. Go anywhere.
And those years aren't coming back.
I've got lots to be thankful for. Hope you and yours do, too.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Gloom and Boom

I'm not a young man. I'm not exactly an antique yet, but I'm old enough to have seen just about everything, particularly the legions of self-appointed experts predicting the demise of the planet, its climate, and its inhabitants. Decades ago, we were supposed to have overpopulated the Earth, run out of fossil fuels and died of AIDS. Today, gas is cheap, people are thriving and not one prediction of death by disease has come true.

If you're really into gloom and doom, you're probably inundated by social media rants about how the post pandemic economy is never coming back. "We're doomed!" cry the usual suspects, offering up nothing more than a continuation of their unbroken string of irrational and incorrect rants about people, plagues, and pointless predictions.

On the other hand, if you know your history and human nature, you'll also find that all of these experts have always been wrong about everything, and are just as wrong everything today, including what's in store for the economy. Here's why:

You read it here first: Despite the cruel, pointless destructions of state and local governments, most if not all of the businesses that were closed will quickly spring back to life even stronger than they were going into this disaster. The reasons are simple:

First, just like every hurricane season in the American southeast or earthquake in the west, the horrors of natural disasters always spur an economic recovery boom. Reclamation, reconstruction and all the ancillary services and products accompanying them flood the economy with jobs and activity. The disaster, in effect, creates a boom economy and eventually restores economic stability.

Second, human nature is far more resilient and determined than you might imagine. Think about it: If, for example, restaurant owners were forced out of business by random, baseless state and local edicts -- and I'm talking about these victims going flat broke -- what do you suppose they're going to do when all those pointless restrictions are lifted? I'm talking about a thirty, forty or fifty year old restauranteurs who have been doing this work their entire lives, who have no idea how else to make a living. Do you really think they're suddenly going to change course and start writing code or selling jet skis? No way. They're going right back to what they know best, only this time, you can bet they're going to be eligible for and supported by easy SBA loans with incredible terms.

Third, the goons who have clearly enjoyed creating this inhumane fiasco are completely tone deaf to the pent up demand that all Americans of every political stripe are experiencing with every passing day of their incarceration. Humans are, after all, social animals, and more than 300 million people now understand and appreciate how dismal life can be when there is no watering hole around which to gather. When the hoax is finally obliterated, stand back and watch them stampede in record numbers.

In my years, I've found that the people who are usually wrong are the people who want you to believe they're always right. You might say that includes me. Fine. Think what you like. Just make sure it's after you've finished a great meal at a fabulous bar with plenty of your close friends -- none of whom is wearing a mask.