Monday, April 22, 2019

Week of 04/22/2019


Influencers Are Not Your Friends
If there is one word that I have come to despise in recent years, it is “influencer”.
Tell me if you’ve heard this before... you come across the Instagram page of a beautiful woman.  Maybe she’s a model.  Maybe she’s an actress.  Maybe she’s just beautiful.  So you follow her page.  And then she posts a series of pictures where she’s in a sundress or a bikini, and she’s holding some herbal tea in a weird way so the brand name is visible.  And she talks about how this herbal tea is so wonderful and how she can’t go through a day without it.  Or she’s lounging by the pool of some expensive resort that she’s not afraid to name and brag about and tells people to visit their site and get a discount.  And the outfit she’s wearing?  Yeah, she’s not afraid to name them as well and how you can get a discount by mentioning her name.
And it seems like that’s all her life is.  Just a series of stays at resorts, wearing designer bikinis and lingerie, drinking specific drinks, using teeth whiteners, and constantly seeing plastic surgeons, dentists, and skin care specialists.  They go to the trendy clubs.  They show up at pay-per-view events.  Oh and let’s not forget the vegan food!  Because you know they just can’t eat a hamburger like everyone else.
Congratulations.  You’ve been marketed to by an “influencer”.
Playboy Playmate Irina Voronina once did a comedy skit with one of her friends where her friend starts talking about the miserable experience she was having, where the resort they were staying in was horrendous and the food was terrible and the outfits were itchy.  Irina then runs over and says “What are you doing?”  Her friend says “I’m just telling everyone just how horrible everything is.”  Irina then says “What?  No!  We’re influencers.  They’re paying us to say nice things about them!  That means we now have to pay for all these things!”
That is what an influencer is, folks.  It’s nothing more than a glorified word for salespeople.
Actress Lori Laughlin’s two daughters who were caught up in the “Varsity Blues” scandal are supposedly “influencers”.  They make their names telling other young people how to live beautiful lives.  That’s supposedly what they do.  They pitch product.  They’re not alone either.  Big names do it on Instagram and YouTube and Facebook.  Because it’s supposedly “better” to claim to be an “influencer” than to say that you’re a “model” or a “spokesperson”.  Or, worse yet, a “salesperson”.
And I have to seriously question these “friends” who seem to be spending their lives pitching product on us.  And if they’re not pitching product, then they’re referring us to other “friends” who are engaged in doing the same thing, or even worse.
Is this all that you truly do with your life?  What was the last movie that you saw?  You know, one that you actually paid a theater ticket to see.  Did you get the popcorn with the fake butter and salt?  What do you binge-watch when you’re not going to resorts and nightclubs?  Are you a “Game of Thrones” fan?  What kind of car do you drive when you’re not being chauffeured to the next event?  What do you buy in the grocery store?  Do you go to Whole Foods or Aldi?  Do you ever have a bad day?  A bummed-out day?  A day of doing absolutely nothing?  I guess we’ll never know, because all you seem to show us is the beautiful stuff filled with paid product.
And if I am your “friend”, do you know when my birthday is?  Do you know my cat’s name?  When was the last time that you said “hello” to me out of the blue or asked how my day was?  And I mean *you*, not some pretender with your pictures trying to scam me with nude photos.  You have no qualms hyping other people’s stuff, but why not mine?  I have a column that I’ve been writing for 23 years that could use some more attention from friends.  I have several websites in various stages of activity.  True friends share stuff like that without being paid.
Let’s get brutally honest here... “influencers” are really not our friends.  They are marketers.  They are sales people.  They get paid to pitch product.  They sell the illusion of health, beauty, popularity, and good times using the products that they’re paid to display and hype.  But that is all that it is.  It’s an illusion.  It’s a sales pitch.  It’s the modern-day version of the athlete holding up a can of Coke and saying “AHH” with a smile for the camera.
I happen to be friends with certain models and actresses.  I know that they are my friends because they know my cat’s name and we exchange birthday cards and emails.  They’re not afraid to tell me when they’re having a bad day and they try to bear with me when I tell them mine.  I treasure those kinds of connections.  That’s how I know that they’re not fake.  They don’t “influence” me.  They encourage me.
Be a friend.  Don’t be a marketer or an “influencer”.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Week of 04/15/2019


Random Thoughts: Keeping It Simple
And, lo, we come to another point in this commentator’s lengthy run where there are way too many things to talk about and not something to dedicate enough time to make it a standalone article.  You would think that after 23 years of doing this I’d be a little better at it.  But, hey, it happens.
So let’s start with some Nazi talk...
Get Your Nazis Right: First of all, yes, it is allowed to make comparisons between the white nationalists and the Christian nationalists with the Nazi party in Germany.  As long as there is a legitimate comparison – which even the creator of Godwin’s Law says does apply with the Trump Party (formerly known as the GOP) – then it is fair game.
But I would add this piece of advice... if you are going to compare specific figures in the White House or members of the Trump Party to those in the Nazi Regime, get your Nazis right!
Joseph Goebbels was a notorious Nazi propagandist.  He started out as a critic of Adolf Hitler, but after meeting with him for the first time, he instantly became Hitler’s jock strap.  And he was skilled in media manipulation.  He knew how to sell the regime as something it was not.
Having said that, it is not correct to paint presumed white nationalist Stephen Miller as a modern-day Goebbels, even thought he bears some resemblance to the German sycophant.  Goebbels was a propagandist, not an advisor.  You can compare Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity to Goebbels.  That would be a legitimate comparison.  Miller is an advisor.  If you’re going to compare him with a specific Nazi figure, then it would have to be someone like Heinrich Himmler.
I know they’re all evil, but, please, get the comparisons right.  It makes you look stupid if you can’t tell the difference between them.
Exiles in Sanctuary Cities: So let’s see if I got this straight... Narcissist President Donald Trump thinks that he can make the liberals suffer by sending all the people he’s currently having detained in cages for trying to enter the country into the places that declare themselves “Sanctuary Cities”.
So you’re “punishing” these places by giving them what they are asking for?  I suppose that would only work if the people trying to come into the country are the truly vile people that Narcissist Trump and his sycophants have painted them as.  If, however, they really are, for the most part, mothers and children seeking asylum, then the joke is on Narcissist Trump.
But I also think this is yet another one of Narcissist Trump’s diversions.  Something to get our focus off the Robert Mueller Report and the ongoing fraud that was foisted by Trump’s new prized poodle in the Department of Justice.
The 2020 Mess: So we have all of these people running for President in the 2020 Fraud.  All of these different people with one thing in common... they are not orange narcissistic clown acts.
And to be honest, I really don’t care about them at this point.  I really don’t think anyone outside of the so-called “political experts” in the media even want to know who any of them are or why we should be excited about them yet. 
We’ve been here way too many times before.  You get a whole bunch of wannabes who think they have a chance; they start making the rounds and a whole lot of them drop out even before the first primary or caucus is held.  People don’t give a care about them until after the primaries and caucuses start up and then we’re already sick of them and we’re just praying for the giant asteroid comes to wipe us all out soon.
Oh, wait, that part about the asteroid is just me.
Then there is the one person who hasn’t declared their intention as of this column...
Touchy Biden: I actually feel sorry for former Vice President Joe Biden.  He is an old fashioned hands-on touchy guy who is now being accused of “bad touch” at a time when just the mere accusation is enough to crucify a man. 
And I have to call blatant hypocrisy on this, because we have a man in the Oval Office who not only was “hands-on”, but he even bragged about grabbing women by their genitals and it didn’t even slow down his campaign.  He called it “locker room talk” and nobody had a problem with it.  His propagandists in talk radio even excused it by claiming it’s “Alpha male privilege” and nobody had a problem with it!
But touchy-feely Joe is now a pariah and people are saying that he should give up running for President because of it.
What a bunch of BS!
MAGA-Out: So Herr Himmler... I mean White House Advisor Stephen Miller... is supposedly behind the “purge” of the Department of Homeland Security, starting with the woman behind the kids in cages, Homeland Secretary Kristen... sorry, Kirsten... oops, sorry, Kristjen Nielsen.
Okay, for starters, pick a first name and stick to it.  You are not Prince or Sean Combs, and nobody tolerated their insane name changes either.
As to the purge, this is standard Narcissist Trump.  This is someone who thinks that he can do whatever he wants, and if it means firing people just to shake things up, so be it.  Forget about “rules” or “traditions” or “procedure”.  This is Narcissist Trump.  He doesn’t give a care about any of those things.
I’m glad she’s fired – be honest, she was – but the problem is that she was supposedly “let go” because she just wasn’t “tough enough” on immigration.  So now Narcissist Trump will bring in someone he thinks will be.  I just worry what “tough enough” will be.  Are we talking East Berlin border wall “tough”?  Korean DMZ “tough”?  “Handmaid’s Tales” kind of “tough”?
Lock Them Up:  For years, Narcissist Trump has refused to make public his tax returns.  This is something every presidential wannabe since the days of Nixon has done save for two people... Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders.  Trump continually says he is “under audit”.  But the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service says that doesn’t stop anyone from releasing their tax returns.
Of course this is yet another case of blatant hypocrisy from the man that demanded to see his predecessor’s birth certificate and then demanded to see his school transcripts.  And the only reason why nobody has made it an issue until now is that the Trump Party has been in charge of Congress for the past two years.
But now we have a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives that is making a formal request for those tax returns, and neither the IRS nor the Department of Treasury is able to refuse.  There is a federal law that compels the Department of Treasury to comply.  Federal Tax Code 6103.  Look it up.
So I will make it painfully simple.  If “Acting” White House Chief of Staff Nick Mulvaney or IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig or even Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin refuse that request, they need to go to jail.  Do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200. Call the sergeant-at-arms and frog march them in front of the media.  Jail.  Period.
Rule of law, Trumpets.  It is high time that you gagged on it.
Speaking of taxes...
Bernie Blues:  So Senator Bernie Sanders will supposedly release ten years of his tax returns on Tax Day, which will make Narcissist Trump the last person to refuse to do the same.  But his reason for secrecy is really asinine.
Supposedly Bernie has been worried about what people will think of the self-professed “socialist” when they find out he is also a millionaire because he wrote a book that people liked well enough to pay for.
Oh, so you think that Bernie should be doing the whole sackcloth-and-ashes thing because he calls himself a “socialist”?  Or maybe you’d feel better if Bernie just gave all that money to charity. 
No, I don’t find it odd that Bernie made money writing a book.  I’m jealous that he does, but that’s not the same.  I’m more bothered with the other people that are supposedly concerned about the poor and struggling that turn around and make six figures easy just by giving one speech.
Lock Them Up Too: I have no sympathy for any of the “Operation Varsity Blues” elitists who paid to have their precious little tax deductions get into elite colleges.
You know I recall that my college advisors told me that it really didn’t matter which college I got my degree in, just that I did.  I guess that person was full of crap, huh?
What bothers me is that the media is focused on two women as if they were the only ones involved in the rigging.  What about all the others involved in it?  Who are they?  What do they do to make enough money to afford rigging the system?  Why are we not hearing anything about them?
Finally....
And Lock Him Up: Julian Assange has finally overstayed his welcome with the Ecuadorian Embassy in England.  The Wikileaks founder is now under arrest and will soon be extradited to the United States.
I know some folks think that Assange is some shrewd online publisher with an axe to grind, but I still think he’s pretty much been used as a helpful tool for Narcissist Trump.
Julian Assange got into doing Wikileaks because he wanted to shake things up.  Only a complete idiot would think they would be able to get into that kind of service and somehow not piss off people and corporate entities and even whole governments.  Powerful entities keep their dirty laundry secret for a reason.  And they don’t laugh and waive their hands when outed and say “Okay, you got us.”
Do you think Mark Felt, the infamous source known as “Deep Throat”, kept quiet about who he was in connection to the Watergate scandal just as a game?  Do you think the Washington Post were playing fast-and-loose when they published the Pentagon Papers just so they could get a headline?  There are consequences to outing secrets.  Just because you post them on the Internet instead of a national publication doesn’t make you immune to those consequences.
So, yeah, I have no sympathy for Assange.  I support the idea, but, let’s get brutally honest here... he knew what he was getting into.  At some point he was going to post something that he couldn’t walk away from.  He was going to piss off the wrong person or the wrong group or the wrong country.  It just happened to be the United States.
And, yeah, it helped Narcissist Trump a lot.  But I don’t see him pardoning Assange, even if it were possible.  Trump pardons are political tools, and he seems to only give them to those that will help his image and his base.  That seemingly does not include Julian Assange, given all the other secrets he has exposed over the years.