A great deal of what we read in newspapers, magazines, and books, and what we see in the movies and on TV is written and produced in New York City or Los Angeles. Much of the "political wisdom" comes from the PR machines of the White House, the Congress, and from the Washington media corps.
In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington, DC, or Hollywood.
As I creep gingerly up on my 7th decade of life experience - which was gained in many cities in the U.S. and in about 30 foreign countries, I decided to put down some ongoing thoughts in a series I call "The View From the Outback." That experience has included the U.S. Marines, law school, the ATF, the CIA, Fortune 500 executive, writer, public speaker, educator, editor, and publisher - for openers. For over 20 years, I have written articles off and on for various magazines and newspapers. I've had an enormous number of letters published in major national publications. The Outback is the rural area in Northeast Texas where I have lived for the past 10 years. Each Monday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
I now know what business I want to be in when I grow up. I want to be the exclusive distributor of chewing/bubble gum and sunflower seeds to Major League Baseball. At least they have quit dipping snuff and chewing 'bacco. There is something incongruous about watching grown men, especially the manager of a team (Bobby!), blowing bubbles during a World-Series game. How seriously can we take the game? The sunflower seeds are good for you. I've eaten them for 55 years. I'm not sure what kind of germ-laden environment a dugout is, what with all the expectorating and spitting of sunflower seeds. These guys must have great immune systems.
The political campaign of 2000 has been trivialized like no other in recent memory. Where do they find those cerebrally-challenged folks in the focus groups that show up after each of the debates? A smile or a smirk or a scowl seems to play a big part in swinging their votes. Yet, some are still undecided. Best they not vote at all, because after all this time they seem to have no clue as to where the candidates stand on the issues. And there are the "polls" taken by how many cups 7-Eleven sells with the likeness of Bush or Gore, or how many masks of Gore or Bush are sold., or how much underwear is sold with the likenesses of Bush or Gore on them. Subliminally, when they the pull the lever, there will be voters who remember who sold the most cups at 7- Eleven. That may be the most memorable event of the campaign for them. God help this disengaged nation.
The Orangutan shares 97% of its DNA with humans. This helps explain people who throw soft- drink and beer cans and bottles out of their vehicles onto the highway. Do these people sit at home and toss beer cans in the corner of the living room? Maybe. The outdoors is our community living room.
The Multi-Million-Dollar Robots
In baseball we have $Million robots. The coaches flash them signs to hit a pitch or take it. They are told when to steal, when to bunt, when to hit-and-run. The coach waves to them to tell them to play deeper or more to the right or left. The first base coach tells them how far to lead off the base. The third base coach tells them if it is safe to round third for home on a hit. At the end of a game, the player goes home. His kids say, "What did you do today, dad?" "Oh, I hit a ball. I caught a ball. I ran around some." "Well, dad, what did you think of the game?" "Think? I'm not paid to think!"
In football we have $Million robots. The coach tells the Quarterback which play to call. Sometimes, the coach has to call time out and have the Quarterback come over to the sideline to discuss the upcoming play in more depth. He may tell the Quarterback to take only a 3-step drop instead of 5, or who on the defense to be especially alert for. So, the Quarterback is relegated to handing the ball off to whomever the coaches tell him and passing to whomever the coaches tell him. Granted, he may have three choices of receivers, or so, in case one is covered. What a sense or power and exhilaration that must provide. I can remember when Quarterbacks called their own game. That was a job you could be proud of.
The football defensive player is not much more autonomous. A coach tells the defense which type of defense to use for each play. On the sidelines, the coach shows them pictures of the other team's recent offensive sets, in case the defense did not fully comprehend it on the field. All the fun and spontaneity is gone from football. Younger fans do not realize it, because all they have ever seen is a team with 10 coaches orchestrating every move on the field.
And then there are the $Million movie-star and TV-series robots. Someone writes the words they speak. A director tells them how to deliver the lines. The cameraman tells them how to move and where to stand or face at any given time. Sometimes, they have to do a scene 20 times to get it "right." (I was involved with the TV show "Dallas" for three years.) These actors sometimes deliver great and stirring performances and are hailed as "brilliant." Then they go on with Leno or Letterman and often cannot put two coherent sentences back-to-back. They talk inanely about the renovation to their kitchens, or about what they feed their dogs and cats. With no writers, directors, or cinematographers to guide them - they are pretty naked.
There are plenty of robots in the government and business world, sometimes called "Yes men" (or ladies). When I was in law school, I wanted to become an FBI agent. A neighbor, who had been an FBI agent for 20 years had a heart-to-heart with me. Among other things, he said that even after 20 years when he was preparing to interview someone on a criminal investigation, his boss would call him in and tell him what questions to ask. Part of that had to do with the old J. Edgar Hoover unspoken motto of "First, bring no discredit to the Bureau." My friend advised me to become a Treasury Agent, which I did. One would hope that much has changed. See my later comments about FBI agent Buck Revell.
Years later, I had a boss in CIA invite my wife and I to help him celebrate his wedding anniversary. When I asked why he had asked such a relatively junior employee to join them, he replied, "I am so tired of the people who will not stand up for what they believe. You tell me when you think I am wrong. That is refreshing."
After I left the government, I worked for some powerful folks in the corporate world. I continued my posture of standing my ground, no matter what the consequences. Once I questioned the very -dishonest actions of the son-in-law of the Chairman. The Chairman chewed me out, with a lot of swear words, and "Don't f k with my family!" After he had a chance to investigate the complaints I brought to him, he fired the son-in-law and apologized to me. I always approached my work with the attitude that I would do the best job I could - and that the job needed me more than I needed it.
The point of this is not to blow my own horn, but that people crave responsibility and the freedom to make decisions in their work. Those who can't handle it will quickly fall back in the pack. And any really good boss will admire you for taking a stand - without regard for the consequences. I proved it over and over. No yelling. Just well-thought out arguments. Try it, instead of constantly saying, "Right, boss, sounds good to me." You'll be the boss a lot quicker. That is usually how he or she got to be boss. That is - unless it is a family company and there are kids in line to take over. Then, the best thing to do is find another job.
One guy I really admire is Oliver "Buck" Revell, a former FBI agent who rose to very high levels in the Bureau. In his book, "A G-Man's Journal," there are many memorable stories of him "bucking" the system. For example, a couple of FBI directors got in trouble for misuse of their power and office. In one scene, Buck and the then director, yet another political appointee, were talking about the past problems various directors had experienced. Buck looked squarely at the FBI director and said, "I hope I never have to investigate you." Buck shares my credo, "This job needs me more than I need it." Read his book, now in paperback. It is more that a good G-Man book. It is a textbook on how to survive - and prosper - as an individualist in probably the most mico-managed and structured agency in government.
Rid Yourself of Telemarketers
Years ago, most communities and offices forbid door-to-door soliciting, figuring that you had a right in your home or office to be free from unwanted intrusions. It is illegal to send unsolicited Fax messages to a business. Unsolicited e-mail is the subject of many legislative initiatives to curtail it. You can filter e-mail. At the post office, you can toss the junk mail in the trash can. Yet, telemarketers continue to bombard us with unwanted telephone calls - with impunity. We should not tolerate this.
If you don't feel up to reading this entire piece at this time, at least read the next paragraph, which is at the heart of the problem. Caller ID was supposed to alert us to who was calling. The problem is that nearly all telemarketers disable their outgoing Called ID information.
A simple one paragraph Federal law would put an end to the vast majority of cold-call telemarketing. Forbid telemarketers from blocking their outgoing Caller-ID information! Write your representatives in Washington and demand this. Stop taking this abuse! A similar state law would offer some relief. Also write committee members in the House and Senate who deal with telecommunications, for example, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. A good source of information is the "C-Span U.S. Congressional Directory." (www.c-span.org)
Caller ID was hailed as the savior of the consumer from unwanted telephone calls. As noted above, the problem is that the outgoing Caller ID information can be easily blocked. Virtually no telemarketers allow their name and phone number to be transmitted. So, what can we do to prevent these vultures from constantly interrupting your life? Quite a bit, but it may cost you a little dough. It will be worth it.
In the two years since I put the "plan" into effect, I have not had one conversation with a telemarketer. That is unless you count the one time I sensed it was the same person calling at the same time day after day. I yanked up the phone handset, and as soon as the pitch started, I yelled "Why don't you get a real 'f-----g' job?!" The calls stop coming.
If you don't already have two lines, install at least one extra line. Put recording machines on both lines. Secure an unpublished telephone number on one line and get Caller ID. Unpublished numbers are not in the book nor are they available from Information operators. Provide the unpublished number and the listed number to your family and friends (face it, you don't have that many). Even so, computerized autodialers often dial every number in an exchange and you may get a rare cold-call, with no Caller-ID, on your unpublished number. Don't answer it. Make all your outgoing calls, except to those on the "A" (unpublished) list, on your listed number. Or, if you do use the unpublished number for outgoing calls, dial *67 first, which disables your outgoing Called ID information. But, do NOT use your unpublished number to make calls to 800, 888, etc. calls. You cannot block your outgoing Caller ID when you call an 800 number! One mistake and the cat is out of the bag.
Purchase a telephone with Caller ID, recorder, voice announcements of incoming calls, and several mailboxes. Put this phone on the unpublished line. You program into the Directory the numbers of your friends and family to whom you have given your unpublished number. You can then enter a voice message that you will hear when a specific number (with incoming Caller-ID data) calls you. For example, you can have the phone say, "Frank calling." You never have to leave your recliner to decide if you want to answer the phone on your unpublished number. For a few family and friends, you can establish separate mailboxes. Incoming calls are routed by their Caller-ID information stored in the Directory. Provide them with customized greetings.
Consider calling a fax machine and recording the electronic "hash" that comes in on the line. Then, on your telephone recorder for the unpublished number play that "hash" as your outgoing message. If someone you know calls, you can check the ID and answer the phone. If they have a "mailbox greeting," they will not get the "hash." People who call with no Caller ID information will get the recording of the electronic "hash." They will think they have reached a "data line" and hang up. If they call back and try to send you a Fax, that of course will not work. Tell your friends and family (those without their own mailbox) about the "hash," and that after it stops they will hear a "beep" and can leave a message.
On your second line, which has a listed number, put the following message on your recorder: "Attention, phone solicitors! Add our name and telephone number to your Do Not Call list. We do not accept phone solicitations." Provide this listed number to those not on the "A" list, such as your car dealer, bank, credit-card companies, and so on. You can get by without Caller ID on this phone if you make a firm habit of never picking up the phone until you know who is calling. In 99 percent of cases, the phone solicitor will hang up without leaving a message. (Go to the FTC site at www.ftc.gov and read about "Do Not Call Lists.)
You can use either line for Internet access, depending on which one you would prefer to be "busy" when someone calls. Of course, you will not use "call waiting" on the line you use for the Internet.
If you have only one phone line, it probably should be "listed." Get Caller-ID, one of the fancy phones that will alert you with an audible message when friends call, and use the "Put us on your Do Not Call list ..." as your outgoing message on the General Mailbox recorder. Never pick up until you know who it is.
If you have a "teen-age" line in the house, give that number to people and businesses that you really never want to talk to. Let the kids deal with the cruel reality of the world they will be stepping into. Plus, if any of those people call when the kids are home, they will always get a busy signal.
Do everything you can to limit the exposure of your listed telephone number, job, hobbies, etc. Never fill out one of those long Warranty forms (which are not needed to ensure your warranty). If you buy a lawn mower, why does the Warranty ask you if you golf or sew or have investments? The info is used for mailing lists and calling lists - most often sold to others! Leave you phone number off your checks, and give it to merchants only on demand. Never provide it online, unless you are absolutely required to do so to make a credit-card purchase.
Write all your credit card companies and tell them you do not want to get any phone solicitations from them, and they are not to sell or give away you name and number to any third party. Ironically, you have to call or write the telephone company, even with an unpublished number, to stop them from calling you to pitch services. If you have a satellite TV system, for pay-per-view keep it connected to your listed phone line, never to the unpublished number. One slip there and the cat may be out of the bag forever. I know from painful experience.
There are national marketing organizations you can call or write to be put your number on their member's Do Not Call lists, but my experience has been that this probably does not result in a reduction in calls.
People lose hundreds of millions of dollars collectively every year to land fraud, stock fraud, contest fraud, and so on. The simple rule is: You will never get swindled if you never talk to one of these scam artists. If you haven't thought of some product or service already by yourself, then you don't need it. Whatever you need you can find in the Yellow Pages - or on the Internet - or by cruising the malls.
Southwestern Bell has a program they call "Privacy Manager," which deals with screening calls for which there is no Caller-ID information. In the first place, this program is an admission that all the hoopla about Caller ID has failed us. It was supposed to protect us from unwanted calls. We wanted to be free from telemarketers, but they almost always block their outgoing Caller ID information. Also, the SW Bell program is very cumbersome and involves at least a couple of levels of screening before you know whether or not to answer the phone. There is a cumbersome 10-number password for friends to get straight through. Too convoluted. Invest those dollars in my fail-safe system. And in some stamps for mail to Congress.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Richard C. Rhodes
You are welcome to quote sections from this page - or the whole page, as long as the source URL is included. Of course, I would be flattered if anyone linked to this page. It is very hard to be the writer, editor, fact checker, copy editor, and publisher of anything. So, I welcome corrections of fact, notes of misspelled words, and so on.
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