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 creak gingerly toward nearly 70 years 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 Friday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
I took a little step back from writing this weekly column. For one, I got tired of being out in front and right on so many issues, only to have the mainstream media finally chime in on some of them. Very early on I wrote the piece "New York What Were You Thinking?" about Hillary's election. Now, a New York paper has suggested that Hillary is unfit for public office. Welcome to the party - a little late. Way back, I told all of you that once the facts began to come out about the Clinton Administration and the Clintons, that the truth would be more repugnant than even the detractors could imagine. Now, we see a Congressional hearing where both Republicans and Democrats condemn, among other things, the Marc Rich pardon. And on and on. And with all the effort and obvious insight of many of my pieces, I felt frustrated and impotent that so few people had an opportunity to read the column. So, I may or may not continue. I could spend this time finishing one of my two novels in progress and make a bunch of money.
Vice President Dick Cheney is known for his experience, maturity, and judgement. But, I have to question his judgement when it comes to some of his activities - since he has serious cardiovascular problems. In cold weather, your arteries constrict. This is one reason so many people suffer heart attacks shoveling snow. At high altitudes, your heart receives less oxygen with each breath. So, the combination of exercising in the cold at high altitude, such as skiing or hunting, is one of the worst things a heart patient can do to his cardiovascular system. He should also not do any strenuous exercise outdoors in extreme summer heat, such as we experience in Texas. Dick Cheney may or may not be able to handle the stress of his job without health complications. Each person's reaction to stress is different. Controlled exercise in a temperate enviornment, such as on the treadmill indoors, is good for the heart, and there is evidence that exercise will actually grow corollary arteries to the heart. But, if he has any sense he will stop taking part in strenuous activities either in the cold or at high altitude. I don't want to have to tell his widow, "I told you so."
An insidious computer word bloat has crept into our vocabulary. Everyone says that they are going to "print out" a report. You are going to "print" the report. The "out" is superfluous. Once you have the report, you may well say you have a "printout," but that is a noun not a verb. Some go so far as to say they want a "hard-copy printout." Are there any "soft-copy" printouts? Maybe, if you load toilet paper in your printer. We should resist the incursion of useless and redundant words and phrases from the land of computers. All together now, "Please print that report for me." "I will print a copy of the report for you."
Bill Clinton is hoping to obtain an office in Harlem. Not long thereafter, he will show up at the Apollo Theater playing the sax on Saturday night. Get down with that axe, Bill! And Hillary should be on guard. There are a lot of beautiful black women in Harlem. That may be a new temptation for Bill.
The FBI And The Hanssen Case
I worked as an ATF agent and CIA and on cases with most major Federal law-enforcement agencies. The FBI was never one of my favorites. Granted, the CIA had its Ames case. Neither can be excused. It is incomprehensible that Hanssen was never polygraphed. This is a sign of the permissive, don't- violate-anybody's-rights society we live in. When I was in the CIA, we had to take a lie detector test upon entry and periodically. Yes, the results are sometimes not accurate, but just the fact that it is hanging over your head gives you pause for thought, whether it be spying for the Russians, cheating on your wife, or cheating on your income taxes.
Here is my view. When you work for the FBI, CIA, NSA or whoever, in a capacity where you are privy to national-security secrets, you have no right to privacy! Period. You give that up for the high honor to be entrusted with your nations bedrock secrets, as I once was. Your life should be an open book to the agency, your checking accounts, your travels, what kind of car you drive, what kind of watch you wear, how much you paid for your home, and so on. Instead, the government runs scared that somebody will bitch - or sue - or complain to the media - and lets people give away our national treasures, up to and including atomic secrets. Let's hope President Bush will show some stern leadership and some "tough love' in getting the intelligence community to start monitoring their people. If you don't want your life to be an open book to the bosses, then work for the telephone company or Denny's - instead of the FBI. You have a choice.
CBS - A Network That Is Easy To Tune Out
CBS News ran a poll and found that 67 percent of those questioned approved of President Bush's tax plan. That apparently didn't fit in with CBS's view of what the news "should be." During the news broadcast, they did not mention the poll, but chose instead to feature two women from Omaha who thought the tax cuts were too much.
I was reminded of the assault-weapon ban debate, which was centered around semi-automatic weapons (since fully-automatic weapons already came under Federal law). CBS showed a guy firing one of the hated AK-47 assault-weapons, but the guy was firing a fully-automatic version to make it look even more ominous. Over the course of the Brady Bill and Assault Weapon Ban bills, CBS consistently distorted the facts and told outright lies. I have not watched CBS news since the San Francisco earthquake, when Dan Rather talked about the stench of death in the air and the "quivering brain" (blown from someone's skull) that had been lying on the pavement. Good grief. Let's just tell the news, Dan, not wallow in all the blood like a pig in shit. (I read subsequently that the "quivering brain" comment was made by a rescue worker who Rather egged on to tell more when the man mentioned that they had seen body parts.)CBS will air a new "gay" show on February 28, 2001, "Some of My Best Friends." It is about a gay guy and a straight guy living together. How novel, the humorous gay/straight roommate concept. We have that "Spin City," "Will and Grace," and who knows where else. The "We want everyone to feel comfortable with people being Gay" conspiracy rumbles on. If you have had enough, don't watch the show and drop a note to Les Moonves telling him why.
I hope David Letterman is proud of all of his Dick Cheney "heart attack" jokes. I quit watching long ago, but read summaries from time to time on a Web site. Mr. Moonves is completely gutless not to tell David to use some common sense and civility. But Letterman is one of the few cash cows for CBS. Now, however, Letterman has gored the Ox at the top, Mr. Moonves himself - with the jokes and skits about Moonves meeting with Castro in Havana. Finally, Mr. Moonves has been quoted as saying that he thinks David is taking the Havana meeting a little too far. How about the heart attack jokes - and others of equally poor taste, Les? Again, drop Mr. Moonves a note and give him your thoughts. I plan to do so.
Mr. Leslie Moonves, President
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
TIME's Confusing "Bills"
I mentioned in my column for Feb. 9, 2001, that the Florida Attorney General is investigating complaints about TIME magazine sending out magazine solicitations that look like bills. How lucky can I be? I got one this week. Immediately, I thought, "I never ordered TIME. I wouldn't read it if they paid me $100 a month."
The form looks like a bill. The lower part says "STATEMENT OF BENEFITS Please retain this portion for your files." Like most, the word STATEMENT jumped out at me, as I'm sure TIME intended. I have sent a copy of my TIME "bill" to the Attorney General of Texas, with a complaint. A copy is also being sent to the Consumer Response Center at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If you get one of these things, I hope you will pass it along to the authorities. In case you have lost the thread, TIME-Life is a division of TIME-WARNER. TIME-WARNER and AOL have merged to become AOL - Time Warner. Now, TIME has even more clout than before. In my experience with being a Fortune 500 exec, more clout often means less corporate conscience and more power over legislators via contributions.
Here are some of the areas in which AOL - Time Warner is invloved:
AOL and Compuserve. Time-Warner Cable. TIME, People, Sports Illustrated, Warner Books, and Time-Life, Inc. (the folks who sell you the books, tapes, and CDs on TV). Music outlets, such as Atlantic, Elektra, London-Sire, Rhio, etc. WTBS Superstation, TNT, Cartoon Network, CNN News Group, Home Box Office (HBO), and the WB TV network. Movie interests, such as Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema.
Well, it's too late to prevent the merger. Big merger people always tell you that the merger will be good for consumers. In media mergers, it also means that the information presented to you has the potential for more bias - that there is less diversity of opinion and ideas available. Look at the heading of this column where I speak about the concentration of where our information and entertainment comes from. And as noted, there is also a greater potential for "buying legislative influence" and for running roughshod over the consumer with less chance for government intervention. One can assume that a Bush administration will be less inclined to prosecute anti- trust cases than a Democratic administration.
So, when you take a minute to make a copy of your "bogus" TIME bill and send it to the authorities, you are taking one small step toward helping to control an industry giant - who if history is any guide - will tend to do pretty much what they damn well please. Unless you complain loud and often. FYI: The boss at AOL - Time Warner is:
Gerald M. Levin, CEO
AOL - Time Warner 75 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10019
Steve Case from AOL is also a big wheel in this new merged company, but I can't remember his title and don't know if he has moved his office from Virginia to NYC. To see Steve Case rise to such prominence is baffling to many. For years, we here in the Outback got AOL disks in the mail. The problem was, there was never a toll-free phone number for AOL. Yet, there were about half-a-dozen local ISPs with local-access numbers. You wonder what kind of computer they had that could not tell they were sending tens of thousands of AOL disks to people in areas where there was almost no chance they would sign up. Oh, well, sour grapes. He is super rich and we are not.
Jesse Ventura Demeans The Office Of Governor
Here is a letter I sent to the editors of the St.Paul Pioneer-Press. It probably never ran.
"I grew up in St. Paul and graduated from the U of M, but now live in Texas. I'm sure glad I don't have to explain to anyone why my governor demeans his office by doing commentary on a largely-moronic football stage on TV. Even worse, his grammar sounds like he failed high- school English.
His Lt. Governor is an educator. At the risk of being body slammed, she might try to clean up his grammar.
I am an ex-Marine, a former Federal agent, a law grad, and played six sports. The Governor thinks all that "macho" stuff is cute. Most of us wish that he would grow up and act like an adult - with a responsible day job. Surely you won't elect him again. Oh well, we said that about Clinton."
The Charlton Heston Speech At Harvard - It Was Not About Guns
Charlton Heston, speaking on 'Winning the Cultural War,' Tuesday, February 16, 7:30 pm, Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall. Sponsored by the Harvard Law School Forum, a student organization at Harvard Law School. For almost 50 years, the Forum has been bringing to HLS noteworthy individuals from all fields to engage in exciting and wide-ranging exchanges of ideas. Forum programs are open to the public and generally consist of a speech or panel discussion followed by a question-and-answer session.
I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living.
"My Daddy," he said, "pretends to be people."
There have been quite a few of them.
Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo.
If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best.
It's just that there always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here. I'm never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I'm the guy.
As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: If my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty ... your own freedom of tho ught ... your own compass for what is right.
Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, "We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." Those words are true again. . . I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart.
I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you . . . the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is.
Let me back up a little. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve ... I serve as a moving target for the media who've called me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a " brain-injured, senile, crazy old man." I know, I'm pretty old ... but I sure Lord ain't senile.
As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are not the only issue.
No, it's much, much bigger than that.
I've come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.
For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 - long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they called me a racist.
I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.
I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.
Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country.
But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.
From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're essentially saying, "Chuck, how dare you speak your mind like that? You are using language not authorized for public consumption!"
But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we'd still be King George's boys - subjects bound to the British crown.
In his book, "The End of Sanity," Martin Gross writes that "blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules,
new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.
Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the country, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it."
Let me read a few examples.
At Antioch college in Ohio, young men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final copulation ... all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.
In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had concealed their AIDs - the state commissioner announced that health providers who are HIV-positive need not .need not. . . .tell their patients th at they are infected.
At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the school team "The Tribe" because it was supposedly insulting to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia chiefs truly like the name.
In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while undergoing sex change surgery.
In New York City, kids who don't speak a word of Spanish have been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's in Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.
At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that college officially set up segregated dormitory space for black students.
Yeah, I know . . . that's out of bounds now. Dr. King said "Negroes."
Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said "black." But it's a no-no now.
For me, hyphenated identities are awkward . . . particularly "Native-American. " I'm a Native American, for God's sake. I also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou Sioux.
On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth generation native American . . . with the capital letter on "American."
Finally, just last month . . . David Howard, head of the Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word "niggardly" while talking to colleagues about budgetary matters. Of course, "niggardly" means stingy or scanty. But within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and resign.
As columnist Tony Snow wrote: "David Howard got fired because some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn't know the meaning of niggardly,' (b) didn't know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apo logize for their ignorance. "
What does all this mean? It means that telling us what to think has evolved into telling us what
to say, so telling us what to do can't be far behind.
Before you claim to be a champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you continue to tolerate it?
Why do you, who're supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?
Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what they really believe?
That scares me to death. It should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason.
You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that ... and abide it ... you are - by your grandfathers' standards - cowards.
Here's another example. Right now at more than one major university, Second Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why? Because their research findings would undermi ne big-city mayor's pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers.
I don't care what you think about guns. But if you are not shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Democracy is dialogue!
Who will defend the core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, "Don't shoot me."
If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist.
If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you sexist.
If you think critically about a denomination, it does not make you anti-religion.
If you accept but don't celebrate homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.
Don't let America's universities continue to serve as incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism.
But what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation? The answer's been here all along.
I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.
You simply ... disobey.
Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely.
But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom.
I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King . . . who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every other great man who led those in the right against those with the might.
Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in Viet Nam.
In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous laws that weaken personal freedom.
But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that you put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies.
You must be willing to be humiliated ... to endure the modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and the water cannons at Selma.
You must be willing to experience discomfort. I'm not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have left their mark on me.
Let me tell you a story. A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called "Cop Killer" celebrating ambushing and murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were outraged. Rightfully so - at least one had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the rapper was black.
I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at the time, so I decided to attend. What I did there was against the advice of my family and colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the full lyrics of "Cop Killer" - every vicious, vulgar, instructional word.
"I GOT MY 12 GAUGE SAWED OFF I GOT MY HEADLIGHTS TURNED OFF I'M ABOUT TO BUST SOME SHOTS OFF I'M ABOUT TO DUST SOME COPS OFF..." It got worse, a lot worse. I won't read the rest of it to you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen, blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.
Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two 12-year old nieces of Al and Tipper Gore.
"SHE PUSHED HER BUTT AGAINST MY ...."
Well, I won't do to you here what I did to them. Let's just say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said "We can't print that." ''I know," I replied, "but Time/Warner's sell ing it.
Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract. I'll never be offered another film by Warners, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be willing to act, not just talk. When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's office.
When your university is pressured to lower standards until 80% of the students graduate with honors . . . choke the halls of the board of regents.
When an 8-year-old boy pecks a girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for sexual harassment . . . march on that school and block its doorways. When someone you elected is seduced by political power and betrays you . . . petition them, oust them, banish them. When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts as deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last month . . . boycott their magazine and the products it advertises.
So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a f ew great men, by God's grace, built this country.
If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree.
Use The Media List
The media link of the bottom of the column is now fleshed out pretty well. I encourage you to write and e-mail the top people when you have a complaint or compliment. Be especially alert that a great deal of the news coverage is from Reuters and AP. So, if you see a story on the XXX news site, or in XXX newspaper that is attributed to AP or Reuters, write them directly. The XXX site or newspaper is merely a subscriber to the services and usually prints the feeds verbatim. It saves having to do any original reporting in many cases.
Once again, a letter will almost never rise from the middle to the top management's attention. But, if you write the person in charge, at least his secretary will read it. She will often buck it down the line for attention. The mere fact that it was "logged in" at the office of the boss helps to get the attention of the managers who might otherwise tend to ignore your comments.
Write the network heads, write the sponsors, and write your congressman. Write the head of the FCC, the FTC, the Justice Department (The Attorney General), the head of the FBI - any government agency with which you have a bone to pick. You pay their salaries and fund their budgets, which is something lost on most people in Washington. You can find the officers for many corporations at the www.sec.gov site and others. Often a search at Google, or some other hot search engine, will take you to a page with the name and address of the CEO of the company you are interested in communicating with.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Richard C. Rhodes
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