Madoff masks and vampire costumes are simply innocuous compared to the frightening stuff that's out there, every day of the year.
Today I'm scared by:
• The fact that 80% of the jobs lost in the Great Recession were held by men. We haven't even begun to contemplate the psychological and sociological impact of this on marriages, families, education, and health care.
• People in New York City who have volunteered for Michael Bloomberg's third term bid - the Mayor is spending $85 million of his own money, the most on any campaign in history - while there are so many worthy local organizations in desperate need of help.
• Of the 15 books on the New York Times bestseller list, only one, Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall," is a work of serious fiction. Many weeks, the list is just tree squandering.
• Poll data that shows 44% of people believe that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."
• Getting Facebook friend invitations from people who campaigned for Eugene McCarthy
• The possibility that the drug wars in Mexico, and the inability of the central government to control the situation, will create our own hemispheric Pakistan.
• Emotional extremism - people feel obligated to issue paeans to Twitter, or decry it as Satan in 140 characters. We have no time or patience today for balanced consideration.
• Young doctors who leave their residencies after more than eight years of medical education and hundreds of thousands of debt, yet earn a fraction of what Wall Street pays mediocre, snotty kids graduating from fancy schools.
• The reality that I can type complete sentences on my Blackberry accurately, without looking.
• A grant structure that encourages incremental scientific research, and makes it tough for radical new ideas to get funding.
• A brand new study by Pew which found that 100% of the credit cards that the leading bank issues offer online "...continue to include practices that will be outlawed once legislation passed in May takes effect next year."
• Rapidly decaying "monotowns" in Russia, remote cities built by the Communists that represent 25 percent of the urban population and are shedding jobs so fast that they could destabilize the country.
• Clumsy regulations that can't make critical distinctions, as in today's New York Times story on small, hand-made toy manufacturers being hounded by legislation designed to address toxic imports
• The fact that only 10% of Americans can speak a second language - and that includes those who are bi-lingual to start with.
• The 32.2% of adult Americans who are obese, and the complicity of generations of food manufacturers, supermarkets, school lunch programs and fast food restaurants in this epidemic.
• A commercial I saw this morning for a company called Forex, exhorting consumers to go online and start trading currency. That's just the kind of risk-taking, dopaminic encouragement we need.
Feel free to add your own fearsome prospects.
Follow Adam Hanft on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hanft