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 inexorably 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 Saturday I will attempt to post a new set of musings from the Outback.
From time to time, I rethink my nominee for "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World." Since I have not traveled overseas in many years, don't see many movies, and so as not to slight the middle-age and older beautiful women - my current nominee is for "Most Beautiful Young Woman on TV." She is Laurie Dhue of Fox News Channel. She can often be seen doing the newsbreak at the top of the hour just before Special Report with Brit Hume on Fox News at 5 p.m. CDT. Miss Universe, from Puerto Rico, is beautiful. But my bet is that if she and Laurie Dhue walked into a room together, more heads would turn toward Laurie. It's only one person's opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Joe Eszterhas, the highest-paid Hollywood screenwriter ("Basic Instinct," etc.) has defected. If you have never seen Joe being interviewed, he is a large, roughhewn, and outspoken man, sort of a cross between Jesse Ventura and Rambo. Well, he and his family have moved to Cleveland. He is working on a tell-all book about Hollywood. It should be one of the great books of our time, since it may expose Hollywood for what it is. Joe knows that he will never work in Hollywood again. He no doubt has enough money to survive comfortably, and his book should sell millions. Joe reminds me of the guy who ratted on Mafia chief John Gotti. This is serious business and if there were a civilian Witness Protection Program, Joe should be in it. Let's hope that Ohio has a concealed weapon law. It would not surprise me a bit that Joe is already on a "hit list." And I mean for real. Hollywood's secrets may be even more incendiary than those of the Mafia.
The debate continues about the FDA allowing the advertising of prescription medicines on TV. The FDA has made several companies tone down their ads and claims. The several doctors I have spoken to on the subject think that the ads for Rx on TV are "stupid." If you have an opinion, drop an e-mail to Nancy Ostrove at the FDA (email@example.com). Recently, I visited an Orthopedic doctor to have a look at several nagging injuries from a truck accident. As is my practice, I prepared a memo about the history of the accident and my treatment to date. In it, I noted that although I was prescribed a well-known TV drug by the ER physician, I declined to take it at home once I saw the trade-off between benefit versus potential side effects. When the current exam was over, the doctor said that he thought my problems could be addressed with physical therapy. He added, "I don't think any drugs will be required." I wonder what he might have done had I not given him that note letting him know that I was a "tough sell" on prescription drugs without overwhelming evidence that they would do more good than harm?
The "Eggs Are Bad For You" Alarmists Strike Again
The "Eggs Are Bad For You" people are at it again. They must be driving chickens nuts, not to mention the already confused consumer. A report in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cites studies that show an increase in LDL cholesterol from eating eggs, even though eating eggs tends to raise the "good" HDL cholesterol level. My Cardiologist, a nationally-known M.D. and researcher, points out that the human body needs some cholesterol to function and that the bulk of research he has seen (and my own research) indicates that it is saturated fat that raises LDL cholesterol. He actually insists that I eat a few eggs a week!
The best way to find out if eggs raise your cholesterol significantly is to shun eggs and keep your intake of saturated fat level low and constant. Get your cholesterol tested. Eat eggs several times a week for several weeks and get your blood tested again. People tend to differ in the way they handle the ingestion of cholesterol in their diet. I realize that few people take the trouble to actually track saturated-fat intake, but as I have said repeatedly, the results will shock you if you do it. It is probable that saturated fat and sugar will cause you more problems than eggs (which are a very good food source).
If you eat two eggs and two strips of bacon, you consume about 5.5 grams of saturated fat and about 310 calories (2 eggs=150 cals, 2 bacon=160 cals). A small candy bar may contain 5-8 grams of saturated fat and about 300 calories. Which would be a better choice, the bacon and eggs or the candy bar? A honking big burger with cheese may contain about 12-15 grams of saturated fat - and possibly 30-50 grams of total fat. So, enjoy your bacon and eggs. Cook bacon in the microwave on a tray with ridges to drain the fat. About 4-5 minutes will produce crispy bacon, not that greasy limp stuff you often get when you eat out. I am enjoying home-cooked eggs and bacon for the first time in 20 years. Do your own research. At google.com, type in "eggs cholesterol" and draw your own conclusions. Your doctor may not agree with your findings, but most doctors do not spend a lot of time researching nutrition. An informed discussion with your doctor sure beats sitting there for four minutes nodding your head.
Obesity doesn't help your health either. Remember, if you drink one sugared soda drink a day, or one beer (beyond the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight), you will gain about 15 pounds in a year! (150 cals X 365 /3500 = 15.64 lbs) Is it any wonder that now about 61% of Americans are overweight? After my truck accident, due to lack of exercise and eating because "I felt sorry for myself," I gained about 20 pounds. I am working it off with a well- balanced diet which is low in saturated fat and with a set number of calories per day. Read my lengthy article "Weight Loss - No Magic Bullet," on my main Web page if you want to see my observations and experience of about 40 years or so on weight loss (www.home.earthlink.net/~rickhgtx/wtloss.html).
Are Leno And Letterman Using The Same CD-ROM For Constructing Jokes?
An amazing coincidence occurred on Tuesday, May 8, 2001, during the monologues of Jay Leno and David Letterman. Both men made jokes about the $3 price of gasoline and compared it in very similar ways to what they were used to paying for a bottle (box) of wine. Both men referred to the $3 price of gasoline and made jokes about arsonists. Leno said that arsonists could no longer afford to set fires (a paraphrase) and Letterman said arsonists could no longer afford Premium (gasoline). What are the odds of this happening? It makes me wonder if a member of one writing team is talking to the other team. Maybe they both use the same CD-ROM which contains joke premises and potential punch lines. I dunno.
Of course, I am unaware of any gasoline selling for $3.00 a gallon, it is around $1.60 this week in the Outback, and higher in many places - maybe $2.40 in California. There are dire predictions that gas may reach $3.00 a gallon in the future. By feeding this $3-a-gallon frenzy and fear, the late-night crowd is only causing more anxiety among the public. And just maybe the public will be more inclined to accept $3 gas if they think it is inevitable, instead of imploring their local and national governments to do something about the price of gas right now - at its current price.
In any case, it is pathetic that with the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars Leno and Letterman pay their writers, both camps came up with basically the same two jokes on the same night.
Public Interest Groups With Sometimes Very Little Public Interest
There are all kinds of "fanatics" in this world: sports fans, those on both sides of the abortion issue, both sides on the death penalty, both sides on gun control, animal-rights people, and environmentalists, to name some of the obvious groups. Stepping back, one often wonders how much good some "special interests" groups actually do. The environmentalists fought thinning the forests. Cluttered forests allowed fires to decimate more acres than selected logging and clearing would have done in years. And no homes got built from the charred trees.
The energy crunch in California took a long time to build. Environmentalists opposed new power plants, so none were built. They opposed "ugly" transmission lines. They opposed nuclear power. They opposed drilling offshore or in Alaska. Now, many sit in the dark part of the day and business lose millions per day in revenue when electric power falters. Gasoline prices are the highest one can recall. Nationwide, environmentalists opposed the building of new refineries for oil. Now, our aging refineries are working at maximum output. We are still at the mercy of foreign oil, as we have been for decades. So, congratulations to the environmentalists. Your opposition to "everything" has finally born fruit, but it is not a luscious peach. It is a sour lemon. And don't be moving to Texas, where there is a surplus of electrical power being generated - because of an aggressive building of infrastructure in recent years. Folks here in the Outback might grant one of your wishes and chain you to a tree - permanently.
Environmentalists waged an hysterical war against Freon, insisting that it was affecting the Ozone layer and our very survival. The switch from Freon to other more "friendly" refrigerants cost us billions of dollars. The jury is still out on whether the dire predictions had any real scientific merit. One thing is certain. It cost each of us a bundle to switch.
Many of the attempts to save endangered species at any cost have produced some insane results. The latest being the denial of irrigation water for farmers in Oregon from a lake where the claim is made that the Sucker Fish is endangered by pumping water from the lake. The claim is also made that withholding the water to the farmers is necessary to sustain the water flow in the river for the Coho Salmon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set a high minimum level for Upper Klamath Lake to sustain the Sucker Fish and flows into the Klamath River to keep the Coho Salmon alive. The claim is also made that without sufficient water on the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge as many as 950 Bald Eagles may starve when they come each winter to fatten up. An American Indian tribe is also involved in the dispute. Farmers will be out of business without the irrigation. What a fine mess you got us into, Ollie. The environmentalists, the Congress, and the Interior Department. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
While the debate is long-running and complex, I did come across an interesting report from Oregon State University about Upper Klammath Lake. In part: "Examination of sick and dead fish by fish pathologists indicated that a bacterial infection (Columnaris) was the primary cause of death. However, we suspect that stressful water quality conditions (warm water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen, high ammonia) were a critical component of the die-off chronology." (www.orst.edu/dept/kes/sucker.htm). While my cursory look at the issue is by no means complete or scientific, I see that environmentalists are putting fish on a higher level than the survival of farms and the production of food for humans - and possibly without much real evidence that it is necessary to cut off the irrigation to save the fish. And they throw in the "scare" about the Bald Eagles that may starve. Maybe. Maybe not. But, it is hard to imagine a more emotional appeal than talking about possible jeopardy to our national symbol, which at my last reading was doing very well overall.
There are literally thousands of "crusades" by environmentalists and endangered-species advocates that appear to put the survival of some obscure owl, woods mouse, or fish above the greater good of society. Animal-rights people burn down labs that use animals for medical experiments. They rant and rave about the humane treatment of mice and rats! Medical research is being hindered, and some day they may need the drug or the vaccine whose research they have slowed or nearly halted. I would love to catch one of them with a mouse or rat trap in their home.
Leaders who claim to speak for the interests of blacks in our society, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (both ministers) have managed to keep the politics of racial divide alive in areas where it was working itself out. They continue to preach that blacks are not getting a fair shake, are victims, and need more government help, both in money and in preferential treatment in education and the job market. Educated and successful blacks say, "I did it and so can you. You just have to try a little harder - and stop looking for someone to save you."
And we see Bill O'Reilly on Fox News trying to get to the bottom of the finances of the various organizations run by Jesse Jackson. It is a monumental stonewall. One set of figures finally showed that Rev. Jackson raised about $10 million (as I recall) for one of his projects. He spent only a tiny fraction of the money on the avowed purpose of the fund. I suspect that a full financial accounting of all of his "groups" would be a bombshell that would completely discredit the Rev. Jackson.
But then came the real shock. Right from the heart of "advocacy" in California came a dagger in the heart of the environmental movement. The Sacramento Bee newspaper ran a series of articles about the enormous amounts of money raised by various environmental groups and how many who administer the groups are living way too high on the hog. Among their disclosures:
CEOs of nine of the country's largest environmental groups earned $200,000 to $300,000 a year. Ducks Unlimited paid their CEO $346,882 in a recent year. I wonder what the ratio is of ducks- saved-per-dollar in that outfit? Environmental groups, subsidized by federal tax dollars, are filing a blizzard of lawsuits that "no longer yield significant gain for the environment" and sometimes infuriate federal judges and the Justice Department. A professor of forest ecology and ecosystem science was quoted as saying, " A lot of environmental messages are simply not accurate......We use hype. And we use those pieces of information that sustain our position....." In earlier columns I have suggested the use of "The Big Lie' with regard to global warming, drilling in Alaska, and so on. Now, an insider admits it.
The American Institute of Philanthropy, a non-profit watchdog group, suggests that at least 60% of monies taken in should be spent on programs. Even that seems low for those who think their $15 dollars is being well spent to protect something they hold dear. Five major groups, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club don't meet the 60%-spent-on-programs criterion. In many groups, much of the money is used for fund raising, getting new members, and overhead. I mentioned some of the salary ranges. The Sierra Club spends $59,473 a month for its office lease in San Francisco. That is $59,473 a month! Not a year. Shades of Bill Clinton. Greenpeace pays around $45,000 a month for its lease in Washington.
One group, Environmental Defense, invested $500,000 of donor money in 1997 in a short-selling investment partnership. The fund lost down to a value of $18,000. Did the donors know that was how their money was being used?
There is much, much more to the expose of how "public interest" groups manipulate the facts, spend donor money to surround the administrators with luxurious offices, perks, parties, travel, and constant fund-raising so the cycle can continue. I know how easy prey people are who care passionately about some cause. I was once married to a lady with a graduate degree who was a member of PETA and other similar organizations. We used to get a stack of solicitations several inches high in a week's time. Everything was a "crisis," which is one of the favorite buzzwords. I quit the NRA because I got tired of being besieged with mail telling me about the latest crisis and why I needed to send money. Some of these folks better ask the same question Bill O'Reilly is asking of Jesse Jackson. What the hell are you doing with the (my) money?
And before you start picketing the White House because you think they don't care about the Sucker Fish in Oregon or the Caribou in Alaska, do some research. In many, if not most cases, you will find that the "public advocacy" group presented only part of the story, or simply lied. And the press picks up and repeats every story, no matter how poorly documented. Fox News pointed out the other night that they were one of the few news shows to ever present people or information that counters the prevailing "wisdom" about the dire consequences of global warming. About the only hope you have to learn the truth is to avail yourself of the Internet to search out the conflicting arguments and research papers.
Here is my tip for charitable giving. Go to a wholesale club and buy cases of canned vegetables, and bags of rice and beans. Give them to a church (or the religious institution of your faith) and ask that they be distributed to hungry people. This is about as close as you will get to ensuring that your gift actually does some good. Short of parking on a street corner with the SUV loaded with cases and bags of food and looking for skinny people who look hungry. It is hard to get too excited about a 200 pound woman or a 300 pound man who says they are "going hungry." You see them every week on TV news shows. A little going-hungry might save their lives in the long run.
You can learn more about the multi-billion dollar "public advocacy industry" and charitable organizations at several Web sites:
IRS re Tax Exempt Organizations
The Delcine In The American Work Ethic
We see headlines that employees of the IRS spend about 50% of their computer online time in personal pursuits. This is also common in corporate America and some other government agencies. Many companies have resorted to using blocking software to limit employee access to porn sites, shopping sites, online brokers, and a host of other non-business-related sites. One of the greatest drains on efficiency is the use of the telephone for personal calls - often adding up to several hours a day per person! Personal e-mail at work is gaining ground as a drain on employee's productivity.
A few weeks back, I went into a General Nutrition Center (GNC) to get my monthly supply of vitamins and supplements. The manager was at lunch, and a young female employee was the only clerk. When I came in, she was talking on the portable phone to a friend. A customer asked her for help. She continued to talk on the phone as she attempted to aid the customer. There were three customers in the store while I was there. When I asked for help in finding a supplement, the clerk continued to talk on the phone to her friend and wandered over and said something like "they moved a lot of stuff." We eventually found the item, but I could see that she was irritated that I was distracting her from her phone conversation. The young lady continued on the same phone conversation while she checked out a customer at the register!
When I was ready to check out, the clerk, still chatting animatedly with a friend, stood in front of the register, apparently ready to ring up my rather substantial order. In my best Marine Drill Instructor voice and demeanor, I said that if she would tell me when she would be off the phone, I would come back later and check out when I had her full attention. Flustered, she said "I'll call you back," hung up and processed my order.
This is just one of thousands of such instances I have seen over the years. My boss, and business mentor in Dallas, once timed several employee phone calls that ran 20-30 minutes at a time, and often several times a day. He held a meeting in which he explained that if people would quit wasting time on personal business and personal phone calls, the company would make more money and he would be able to give each person a raise. "You are taking money out of your own pocket," he said.
In the December 20, 1999 issue of U.S. News & World Report, there was a huge article about how Americans were "workaholics" and of the long hours they were putting in. On February 21, 2000, U.S. News published my letter-to-the-editor, which I quote here:
In your feature "WORLD-CLASS Workaholics," you profile only a small sample of the American workforce. Granted, many managers, professionals, Internet millionaire wannabees, and factory workers may be working longer and harder than in the past. But my experience as a consumer, business owner, corporate executive, and consultant over the past 27 years gives me a different perspective. A large percentage of people who work in offices and small businesses are far less efficient than years ago, regardless of the hours worked. They spend up to several hours a day on personal phone calls, surf the Web, shop by phone and by the Internet, write and receive personal E-mail, use the copier for personal projects, gossip and tell jokes, rehash last night's TV shows, call in on talk-radio shows, and may even run an outside business on office time. Many lack sufficient sleep to perform well, have a hangover, or are actually taking drugs on the job. Too many people view a "job" as a base of operations from which they can draw a salary and get health insurance while they pursue all manner of personal interests. It is going to get worse as long as people think that a job is a right-not a privilege-and that spending nearly half of the day on personal business is part of that right.
Richard C. Rhodes
Honey Grove, Texas
I sent a copy of the above letter-to-the-editor to the CEO at GNC (March 21, 2001) - along with a little narrative about the clerk who stayed on the phone with three customers in the store. I had been wanting to ask him for a long time why, even though I was a Gold-Card member, which involved filling out an application and paying yearly dues, I still had to show my driver's license each time I paid for my purchases at GNC with a check. I pointed out that SAMS Club has me in the computer and does not ask for ID each time I cash a check, nor does Radio Shack, and so on. I suggested that as part of the application for the Gold Card, the customer supply his or her driver's license number.
So far, I have not heard from the CEO at GNC. If you would like to let him know your feelings about anything, from the Gold-Card ID issue, to pricing, to inattentive employees, etc., drop him a line. Maybe you will have better luck than I have had.
Mr. Greg Horn, CEO
General Nutritional Companies, Inc.
300 Sixth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
COPYRIGHT 2001 Richard C. Rhodes
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