Blog # 44 NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY

The influence of television on the viewer is immeasurable. Many viewers of every description rely upon television programming as an important, if not their sole, source of information.  In the arena of marketing, there would seem to be an especial need for a limitation on the unbridled claims of advertising companies, on behalf of client vendors.

Added to the repetitive plethora of pizza, automobile and beauty products advertisements, there are certain notable areas that call for scrutiny and perhaps, regulation. Among  these areas are, weight loss, personal injury attorney and retirement home mortgage advertisements.

Regarding the subjects of  pizza, automobile and beauty products, all viewers, even people of low information, are sufficiently aware that claims of ultimate superiority are merely sales puffing.  Moreover, it seems that most pizza consumers are motivated by the convenience of location,  rather than the promotional hype of professional athletes.In auto sales, it would appear that it is past experience with brands, rather than the hypnotic influence of dynamic commercials,  featuring beautiful models,that is ultimately determinative of choice.As  to beauty products, most intelligent women effectively realize that aging ultimately trumps high priced  creams and perfumed oils

However, the are three notable areas of television advertisement, that deserve scrutiny and possibly, regulation, (a) weight loss ads, (b) personal injury lawyers and (c)home retirement ads

(a) Weight loss advertisements

The selectively wise and disciplined consumption of food is universally conceded to have a  salutary effect on health and physical appearance. Unfortunately, most of us who overeat find it extremely difficult, seemingly impossible, to amend our eating behavior.It almost appears that we are  hard-wired to persist in this lack of self discipline. Television advertisers are keenly aware of our frustration and strategically pander to it

Strikingly beautiful pictures of tempting but fattening foods and desserts are presented, along with  permission to consume them while, easily and quickly,  losing desired weight, solely  contingent upon subscription to a weight plan or club.”Real people” are presented, usually women, who purportedly , easily and quickly, transformed from blob to babe by subscribing to the advertised  plan.

In what is conceded to be the “real world,” weight is not lost by eating fattening foods while paying for subscriptions to advertised diet clubs; weight is lost by eating sensibly.

Perhaps this false pandering to the vulnerable should be looked into.

(b) Retirement home mortgages.

In the usual case, advertisers use mature professional actors, who usually portray wise and savvy film characters in film, to convince seniors to enter into retirement home mortgage transactions, if they wish to continue to reside in their homes, by financing the equity in their homes (equity is the difference between the market value of their real estate minus the outstanding principal on the mortgage) with the mortgage lender.

It is unquestionably desirable to be able to continue to reside in the home, most especially for the elderly (the assumption is conveyed of vulnerability in this area which may not exist, in the individual case); it would, in fact be appropriate, if absolutely necessary.to employ the home’s equity.There may not be any concern, for example, if the home mortgage was previously paid off (“satisfied”) or if the owners are able to meet the mortgage payments.The advertiser, by way of its dignified and eloquent spokesman seems to indicate the need in all cases; this is wrong and misleading.

Even where the home retirement mortgage (reverse mortgage, payments by bank based on equity) is useful, it may not be suitable for everyone, contrary to advertised presentation.

If ever, the admonition, “the devil is in the details” had application, it certainly has significant resonance here.For example, how much of the full amount of the equity will be received by the owner, what are the costs and commissions in obtaining the retirement mortgage, what carrying expenses viz., real estate taxes, State and local, insurance, water and the like, still remain the owner’s obligation?

Particularly disturbing and downright irksome, is the sage and beneficent presenter’s  incentive to the effect that the money received is “not taxable.” If anything demonstrated the intent to misrepresent, this is no less than classic. The money is, and has been your money by its accumulation in your home’s equity. It does not represent income since the money was not earned it was always  yours! Additionally, if still necessary, who pays income taxes on money they borrow?

This fraudulent presentation to the elderly should by scrutinized by the authorities.

(c) Advertisements by personal injury attorneys.

Personal injury attorneys handle accident cases (to be contrasted with attorneys who represent clients in their personal or business lives) have somewhat less fiduciary responsibilities than those contrasted, but nevertheless, should not be selected based on the quality of their advertisements. Even in this limited area, attorneys should be selected from references made by past clients and a bit of research. Attorney’s services are personal and should not be advertised like umbrellas or mayonnaise

More unprofessional than the advertising itself is the misleading promise of no fee without recovery. This should not be an inducement to hire any personal lawyer because it is provided in the New York law (and elsewhere) that no fee is in fact payable, except upon certain legislated percentages of recovery of money by the client. i.e., n o fee is legal if no recovery of money by the client. Stating this as a  benefit for the hiring of a particular attorney should put the prospective client on notice.

ADDENDUM ON A DIFFERENT SUBJECT:

Banks, t.v. sellers of products and others advertise with the inane phrase. “Free Gifts.”Is this to be contrasted with a class of “gifts” requiring money? A gift MEANS free or it is not a gift, I wish they would find another inducement.

Blog #43 “ NEAR” and “FAR”

The words “near” and “far” would suggest, at least, facially, that they are useful, perhaps to the traveler; in fact, they are completely useless and devoid of meaning or usefulness to anyone.

A possible suggestion to go somewhere, is often met with the response, “Is it far?” This inane question can call for no sensible answer and, if it has any standing as a communication, signifies only that the respondent is, to some degree, reluctant to vacate his comfortable perch. Should this be succeeded by the statement, “It is not that far” such reply is equally meaningless, except to the extent that the speaker prefers to insist on going. No information at all has been exchanged except, perhaps, contrary intentions on the subject; how far? Far from what? There are no indications of distance and no point of reference, whatsoever such as, Peru is far from Poughkeepsie, Brazil is far from Brooklyn.

During the heyday of Imperial Britain, the meaning and use of these two words were never in doubt. Greenwich, England was the reference point for the world’s timekeeping (” Greenwich Mean Time”).The further away you were from Greenwich, the later in the day; it is later in the day in Japan than London.

Moreover, in the halcyon days of the British Empire, Parliament divided the planet into geographic zones; the” Far East” was further from England than the” Middle East” or the” Near East”. Jolly old England was always the unanimous poster- boy for ethnocentrisms.

But even such egocentric geography on the part of enlightened England never furnished any useful information regarding distance, either proximity or the opposite; “near” and “far” simply denoted relative distance from Trafalgar Square.

The two words, at least, are ubiquitous in their use as non-distance expressions, such as,” near miss,” “distant relative”,” far- fetched”,” far from acceptable”,” far flung.”

There are some acceptable (distance) uses of the words, viz.,”Paris is further from New York than Poughkeepsie,” “Staten Island is nearer to Manhattan than Albany,”” Piccadilly Square is closer to Parliament than Zurich.”

In any case, p. thinks the two words are too “far out.”

p.

Blog #42 Rebutting February

The howling wind is relentless, cruelly whipping its icy gusts and invasive currents across frozen field. It is frigid February, the time to test survival and stoicism. Long and small plant life bravely trusts to established subterranean support to resist the gale’s violent uprooting intentions. Aggressive, buffeting wind gusts bully and intimidate shrubs and tree branches into dancing the wind’s bug aloo. Tree limbs gasp with snapping sounds and answer gravity’s statutory mandate to plunge to the frozen ground.

All growing things are in the same dire need of rest and solicitous care, as a losing prizefighter after a grueling fifteen round match.

Yet the violent February weather continues its relentless assault during days, short and dark, offering only impotent sunlight; and even deadlier conditions at night.

Human beings, unfortunately,  at times, also experience personal Februaries; death of a loved one, failure in love or business, illness, disappointment, and other negative happenings lead us to experience dark, cold and inhospitable days and seasons.

They call her “Mother Earth” with good reason. This loving generator and perpetuator of life (even during the forbidding month of February, (should you steal a peek) you will see an ever-present, subtle smile and a knowing wink of the eye; in the awareness that soon the warming sun will reliably appear, softening the soil, together with a nourishing rain, producing flowers, green leaves and a myriad of colored shoots of new life, energetically impatient to flourish everywhere.

The human spirit and character is not, in fact, seasonal, but it is tenacious and perennial. Resilient personality, accumulated experience and wisdom, enhanced by the catalyst of good friends make the reliable prescription for the cure of human” Februaries” and the speeding along of Spring.

p.

 

Blog # 41 THE VIEWER AND THE PUNDIT

Political commentators (knighted with the title of “pundit”) are a predictable feature of news programs. Their supremely confident responses to questions bear the tone and style appropriate to the declaration of self- evident facts, and are uttered without a single reservation as to the possibility of error; all such pronouncements being all dutifully made while smiling at the viewing audience through the camera lens.

Every politically themed television has its available dug-out of active, reserve pundits ready to be summoned and put into play.

There would seem to be no question or issue, national or international that is not responded to instantaneously, with great self- assurance, and without the necessity of time-wasting, prior thought or consideration.

To be truthful and fair, many of the inhabitants of the remote punditry planet are well-informed, educated members in good standing of the nation’s media, who are usually acceptably rational, and often correct in their pronouncements.

However, it is the self-assured, pedantic tone and unvarying assumption of flawless rectitude that is irksome. Conceivably, they may in some way lack the ability, or willingness, to consider that their viewers do read newspapers and have at the least, some modest, capacity for independent thought. If, in fact, the prevailing assumption entertained by these television commentators, is that an adequate understanding of the news by the viewer, is only attainable by means of their translation of events, the assumption is false, arrogant and no less than classical hubris.

Educated and well-informed people should always think independently and not accept as a mantra the comments of the pundit. Importantly, it would be more tolerable and aesthetic if these venerable experts would express themselves in the tone and context of opinion and even, dare we say, with reservations, if applicable.

The following Rosetta- Stone sampling of “pundit-speak” code may be useful:

Code                                                                        English

“double- down”                             presses the point

“dig down”                                       look into the background

“there’s no there, there”             idiotic way to say no basis for

“it is unclear”                                   I don’t know

“that being said…”                        speaker will contradict himself

“so”                                                     prelude to any answer

“so to speak”                                     in a manner of speaking

“group- think”                                 inside the box attitude

There are many others, but it is hoped that familiarity with some pundit jargon will be useful, to some degree, in moderating awe.

It appears that pliny is a pundit agnostic.

p.

 

 

Blog # 40 MEDICINE NEEDS A GPS

Privacy is the personal right to limit the content of our communications to people of our own choosing, it is an invaluable feature of our American liberty.

Intrusion into private communications is illegal (exception, legally authorized wire- taps in the area of terrorism and criminal activities). The fact that this important protection on behalf of the individual citizen applies to government is laudable, especially when contrasted with many foreign countries. The difficult contest between the citizens’s right of privacy and the government’s responsibility to maintain security, often needs Court resolution and is dealt with on a case- by- case basis.

Our vital right of privacy also applies to other areas. For example, New York Civil Rights Law, section 50 et seq. forbids the use of a photo or other likeness of a person, in trade or advertising, unless the individual to be protected, executes a valid, written waiver

On the other hand, government, happily, does not have an analogous right to privacy. Unless the information sought has been legitimately classified as “Confidential,” any citizen may deliver a valid demand for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) to the government or other body or agency.  The purpose has to be proper, and the individual, a legitimate interest in the matter

Communications with lawyers, doctors and priests are also protected, as “privileged,” if the information was given in the context and as part of the professional relationship. This right, again, protects the individual, who alone may personally waive the right by a valid signed writing or by conduct unequivocally amounting to his waiver of privacy.

Important protection is granted by a Statute mandating privacy in hospital, clinic or doctor’s office settings, concerning the personal health data of the patient (HIPAA).

However, for many years, there has been a uniform “wrong way Corrigan” application and perhaps an insufficient understanding of the health privacy law (HIPAA) by the medical profession.

In order to be admitted to a hospital, clinic or seen by a doctor, we are all (illogically) obliged to sign an Agreement that we are aware of the privacy afforded (us) under the privacy Statute, and, usually, and equally useless, a statement that the Agreement was, indeed, signed by us. The Admitting Nurse then advises the new patient sternly, that these documents will be placed in his “Permanent File.” What errant nonsense!

The protection of privacy is the patient’s protection against disclosure by the hospital or doctor. It may be that the medical professional and its expensive legal counsel need a GPS to correct the direction of HIPAA rights. What legal purpose does it serve to have the party whose rights are to be protected, sign such an agreement? If a signed writing were necessary (and it is not), it is the Hospital or doctor who have the obligation to keep patient’s data confidential.

By illustration, If an unconscious patient, alone, and unable to sign such a document, was brought into the emergency room, is not the Hospital nevertheless restricted by HIPAA from disclosure?

A prospective patient surrenders his body and future life to a hospital or medical professional, necessarily, with supreme trust and reliance upon the assumption that he will be treated by competent, rational and trustworthy stewards; the cockeyed application of HIPAA, does nothing to increase his confidence.

p.

Blog #39     ALONE TOGETHER

While both birth and death are, by their nature, solitary occurrences, between these two astounding events we live through a wide variety of experience. These take place either in isolation or with others; in the greater number of instances we are, happily, afforded the luxury of choice.

There are many instances which by their very nature are solitary; these include brushing teeth, sleeping, itching, bathing (most of the time) and having the flu.

Other experiences require the participation of others, including, dancing, love- making, haircuts, chess, checkers and tugs-of-war.

In the third category of experience, the choice to jointly participate with another, uniformly results in a more satisfying and better experience. In the special area of love-making, it is observed that a shared (dual) experience is to be preferred; we call this” love.” There are those who seek sex solely for personal release and gratification and view the partner as an object; this we term “lust.”

A meal or a cocktail may be enjoyed alone, but in most instances is more enjoyable, sometimes, memorable, in the company of friends.  Personal conversations (trust me) are more satisfying than electronic messaging (see: blog#4). Why socialize alone?

We, among a great many other evolved inhabitants of the planet, birds, horses, buffaloes and wolves, are essentially social beings, developing and shaping our lives in a communal and societal fashion. One’s identity, thought patterns and expectations are learned and edited early by our community. (See blog #3).

With reference to the crucially important subject of education, particularly early education, public schools are preferable to home schooling, if objective   education is the goal. The attendance at public school is especially important in early years for a great many reasons, including the benefit of a trained, college educated teacher,  as well as experience in socialization. In the case of home schooling, the quality of education will be limited by the extent of the instructor’s own  education and affected by his/her personal perceptions; add to this the absence of necessary developmental  experience derived from interacting with other students.

In higher education, the experience of students personally interacting with the instructor, is beneficial to both; this personal,” two-way” exchange is an essential part of real education (as is the interaction between students).  This is significantly to be preferred to the somewhat new method of learning at home by computer; the latter development is a” one-way” delivery of information without the real personal presence of an instructor and student interface. While sometimes students can respond the benefits fall far short of the spontaneous face-to-face interaction so necessary in the acquisition of a good education. Computer college may be more useful in training students who are job oriented, but not for an education capable of producing wisdom in addition to factual information. Unlike texting in which the communicant socializes alone, students need real classrooms.

p.

Blog # 38 DIM ENLIGHTENMENT

Religious proselytizing has been practiced, it seems, as long as the existence of its first cousins, ethnocentrism and egocentricism.

As noted in blog#3, it is only by the accident of birth that we all acquire our particular culture and belief system; despite this, differences in belief or religious affiliation (inculcated by unfortunate childhood lessons in “we” “ and they”) have  led to mythmaking, evangelism and even war.

There are those who volunteer or are recruited to be self-appointed messengers of “god’s word.” Usually of limited formal education, these do-gooders function with “horse-blinders” in lieu of rational perspective. Sad to say, these mono-focused, “dedicated” folks are themselves, victims of their own deluded message.

In response to any question, these loyal propagators of the” truth,” with the efficiency of  programmed robots, will  recite, accurately and faithfully, chapter and verse of the King James Bible, their sole and exclusive source of information  and guidance.  What will it take for such believers to at long last, realize that the bible was written by men who in their time believed that the Sun rotated (orbited) around the Earth? (See: blog#36 “Lichens on Stone.”).

The mission of these peddlers of “the faith” is to bring such enlightenment to non-believers so that they, themselves, incidentally, will also be saved. {Saved from what?} Their vista is a reductive, insular and erroneous take on human life and character, its aspirations and spirit.

Our nation was founded by great statesmen and thinkers who, conscious of the long previous history of religious tyranny and oppression in Europe, purposefully omitted any reference to the Deity in our founding documents. Their writings clearly explain that this was done to avoid religious zealotry from tainting our democracy.

The world does need saving.  Poverty, disease, homelessness, conflict, illiteracy and countless other causes which are relevant and immediate; world problems which require rational enlightenment and real world solutions to humanity’s suffering.

Yet, surely and predictably, these self- anointed missionaries will be seen well-dressed, hair brushed,  pamphlets in hand, standing mutely in subway stations and elsewhere and  ringing doorbells, smugly engaged in their naïve and  irrational “mission.”

p.