Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Fraud, Big and Little

The human world is so thick with fraud that we have to be suspicious of everything we see. There are countless ways in which evil people can get money or, even more valuable, identity and reputation from us.

But there are little kinds of fraud that do not cost us anything but which can be used to deceive third parties.

One example is free magazines. I received a phone call from the publisher of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, asking me if I wanted a free subscription. My own work does not overlap this field in any way, so I said no. The person then said they would send it to me anyway.

And they did. It is a very slick publication, nearly as nice as Science, one of the world’s major scientific journals. Nearly every third page is a full page, very slick advertisements that are as high quality as those in Science. And there is no question that the articles and news items are very well done, also.

It is also apparent that this publisher (Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers) gets a lot of income from the advertisements. I am sure that their very large list of subscribers is part of the attraction for the advertisers. But if the advertisers think that the subscription list reflects possible customers, they are wrong. I believe that this is a deliberate strategy by the publisher to entice corporations to pay for more expensive ads than they otherwise might choose. To this extent, it is fraudulent. I am a partner to this process, and cannot do anything about it. I have no time to pursue this matter, and since I am losing no money, I have no legal interest in a case against them. It is not victimless, but I am not the victim.

If you visit the Mary Ann Liebert home page, you will find a link to Journal Collections. But this publisher does not publish these journals. The link to Biomedical Research, for example, leads to the journal home page; the journal is published by Elsevier. If you click on their publications A-Z, you find such journals as Advances in Wound Care, published by the Wound Healing Society of Beverly, Massachusetts, not by Mary Ann Liebert.

It is apparent that this “publisher’ is parasitic upon many other publishers. Maybe it matters and maybe it doesn’t, but I am a partner to this parasitism and there is nothing I can do about it. I will probably continue to be a “subscriber” even after I retire or even after I die.

Another example of “victimless” fraud is IHG (International Hotel Group). I stayed at a Candlewood Suites hotel last summer. They enrolled me in their email feed, and would not let me unsubscribe; the unsubscribe button apparently does nothing, nor did a personal phone request. Because my stay at this hotel was deeply unsatisfying (a feeling shared by other reviewers on, I told them I would not stay at an IHG hotel again. (Before staying, I called them with a question, and instead of answering the question they insisted that I rent a car from them. I hung up.) The point is that IHG has a very long list of email recipients, and they can tell advertisers that this is the case. But the advertisers may not realize that the list may consist mostly of dissatisfied customers. IHG appears to me to be a parasitic corporation that uses former customers like me to lure others. I dislike this even though I am not losing any money to them.

Parasites can live anywhere. In 1990, nobody imagined that parasites could live in what we then called cyberspace. On a Star Trek episode, a parasite lived inside of transporter beams. And you are part of the resource space that these parasites use, even if you are not a direct victim.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Another Climate Report: The Prophet Effect

On November 26, the UN issued yet another climate report, indicating that we are further than ever from controlling carbon emissions within a limit that will prevent catastrophic climate effects in the near future (e.g. within Baron Trump’s lifetime).

This report will, like all the others before it, be ignored by American leadership, probably Russian leadership also, and maybe the Chinese leadership. It will be championed by poor countries who have the most to lose by climate change. Probably the only group of countries that will take it seriously and implement policy in response to it is the European Union.

We have been here before. A long time ago. The ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah, in the Old Testament of the Bible, endured a series of prophets who decried the kings and most of the people of their sins and predicted destruction for the Israelites. This went on for centuries. You have probably heard of the major prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Other important prophets are mentioned in the historical books of the Bible, such as Elijah and Elisha. But there were also minor prophets whose names are on Old Testament books: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They all said the same things, and the kings and priests ignored them more and more with each new prophecy. Just as they prophesied, the kingdom of Israel fell, and later the kingdom of Judah.

The United States is ignoring its own climate prophets, as well as those of other countries, whether European scientists or African and South American environmentalist martyrs. In pursuit of greed, we are destroying what most Americans consider to be God’s creation. When Jeremiah said (in 16:18), “They have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols,” he might have just as easily been describing modern American garbage, of which Oklahoma has at least a hundred pieces per mile of roadway: the idolatrous junk food and cheap pleasures are quickly used up and the cup or packaging discarded.

We have been warned by our prophets. And soon we will suffer the same fate as the ancient Israelites, and for the same reason.

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Word of Advice from the Animal Kingdom

I recently ran across a copy of a letter that I sent to Bill Clinton back in 1993, right after his inauguration as president. It will speak for itself.

c/o President Bill and Mrs. Hillary Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC

Dear Socks:
            Remember me? I’m Millie, George and Barbara’s dog. We met briefly. I hope you like your new home.
            I’m writing to pass along some advice about foreign policy. My master complimented me highly on my knowledge of foreign policy. Perhaps you would be kind enough to pass this advice on to President Clinton? Actually, what I’m about to say, you already know, because us animals know a lot more about the world than those humans.
            First, tell Mr. Clinton that he should be sure to have a strong and sound environmental policy. (He knows this; just remind him.) We animals are acutely aware of our dependence on the environment. But humans like to think that they are not animals. They waste energy and materials, destroy plants and animals, and pour pollutants into whatever remains. The “environment” is us. The air, water, soil, plants, and animals of the earth belong to all of us. If the U.S. pollutes the air that every country breathes, pollutes the oceans that every country shares, how can we be at peace with other countries? This is Millie’s First Law of Foreign Affairs: Other countries will get mad at us if we despoil the earth that belongs to all of us.
            Second, tell Mr. Clinton that his foreign policy should fairly address the plight of the world’s poor. (Again, he knows this, just remind him.) Some of my fellow dogs have roamed the garbage heaps of the world and seen a side of reality that kings and presidents usually ignore. There are billions of hungry people who will not sit idly and let rich countries like the U.S., or rich rulers of their own countries, trap them in poverty. Millie’s Second Law of Foreign Affairs is: The only way to lasting peace is to hear the cries of the world’s poor and to respond to these cries.
            All of us animals know that these are the two most important principles of foreign policy. And these two principles are tied together in many ways. For instance, it is the desperate poor who cut down the last trees for firewood so they can boil their last polluted water.
            Best of luck to you and to the rest of the family. Tell Chelsea to learn everything she can in school. And don’t let the Lords of Creation forget that they are, like us, animals.
            Sincerely, Millie the dog

            I included my own address as a c/o, and I got a card back from the White House thanking me for my note.