In short, one might conclude that all knowledge, wisdom, and wit are confined to those who inhabit New York City, Washington DC, or Hollywood.
If you study the biographies of print and TV journalists, the majority have never had a "real" job. Scan the biographies of members of Congress and you will find that the majority have never held a "real" job. That is, if you do not count "attorney" as a real job. Many went almost directly from law school into politics. They are, for the most part, career politicians. A quick survey of the C-SPAN 1999 Congressional Directory shows about 40 Senators out of the 100 held real jobs. About seven of the real-job Senators list their previous occupation as "journalist" or "broadcaster." One lists "actor." So, one group is making our laws. The other group is telling us what they think we should know and how we should interpret what we are told. Yet, neither group has spent much time walking in our shoes.
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.
If you are a betting person, put some money on there being a vacancy in the Congress in the California delegation. The seat of Gary Condit would be my guess. The man looks like he has something to hide - other than an alleged affair with 39-year flight attendant Anne Marie Smith. This is not a very scientific analysis, but after decades of dealing with those who practice deception, he just does not look right. Shifty-eyed - you know what I mean.
U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher is at odds with the White House over a report he issued on sex education. Not to worry. Next year, if not sooner, it is probable that a good friend of mine of 30 years will become the U.S. Surgeon General. His record in public health service is without peer, he is a firm believer in preventive health, and for those taking sides - he is a devout Christian. I have the good fortune to know several outstanding doctors. A ham-radio friend of mine, in whose home I stayed for several weeks during my visit to Costa Rica, is the Minister of Health in Costa Rica.
You no longer hear me complaining about late night TV jokes and content. I quit watching Leno, Letterman, Jon Stewart, Dennis Miller, Conan O'Brien, Craig Kilborn, and Bill Maher - not that I ever watched four of them. It has been liberating. I chat more with my friends in Europe and the Pacific on ham radio. I read more. And I get to bed earlier. All in all it has been a win-win choice. Not to mention the decrease in blood pressure and the savings in toner and paper in my printer from all the angry letters I used to write to network executives.
For years I have gone into the local post office and asked, "What's on sale?" It always got a laugh. This week, there is a sign that says "Clearance Sale, Buy 1 get 1 Free." It relates to packing boxes, I think. And there are free mints in a dish - in wrappers that say, "United States Postal Service. We deliver for you." The Postal Service will lose about $2 billion or so this year. They are beginning to act like a dot-com, with the philosophy of "When you are losing money real fast, sell stuff cheap and give stuff away." Can free Champagne in the post office be far away?
In Germany, you need a license to play golf. You have to take a test, driving, pitching and putting. For real! The idea is to keep duffers off the courses. Where then do you learn the game? If this idea catches on in the U.S., we might have licenses for grocery shopping - to cut down on the number of people whose carts block the middle of the aisle while they read the label on 22 cans of soup. Or, licenses to have a checking account - which would prohibit the writing of a check for $3.25 in a supermarket checkout lane. Or, a talking license, which would limit the number of decibels of voice output in an enclosed public place. Or, an additional test for doctors on how to read their watch - to prevent patients from spending an hour in the waiting room for a 7-minute visit. Have fun making up your own license requirements. Send me some and I will publish them in a later Outback. "There oughta be a license for...." It would make a good weekly feature.
It was reported that the mother-in-law of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer calls about once a week for technical computer help. She may be the only person who actually gets meaningful help from Microsoft. One of the hidden agendas of mothers who want their children to marry a doctor, lawyer, or Microsoft exec, is free advice, even on weekends.
"The Weakest Link" on NBC is holding its audience fairly well. One would hope that the contestants can't hear the music we hear being played so loudly during the questioning. And dear Mrs. Robinson speaks too rapidly in an English accent that is difficult to understand, even for me who constantly talks with hams in England with a variety of accents. Several contestants have asked to have the questions repeated, and you can see them straining to understand the questions. The show bills itself as having a top prize of $1 million dollars. Of the shows I have watched, the top prize was just above $90,000! It should be obvious to the show's producers that the contestant panels are simply too dumb to get enough questions correct in a row to build up some big payoffs. The formula for "banking" money needs to be changed. Maybe four or five correct answers in a row, instead of eight would give the often cerebrally-challenged contestants a chance at some big money. We had "The $64,000 Question" decades ago. That is chump change today. With inflation, today the prize ought to come close to about 200 grand on the average.
John Stossel And ABC's "Tampering With Nature"
On Friday, June 29, 2001, ABC aired a program entitled "Tampering With Nature." I never thought I would see such a program on network TV. Mr. Stossel set about to show how environmentalists brainwash kids in school, lie about their motives, and so on. On the subject of global warming, he interviewed a couple of the esteemed scientists whom I quoted in my June 16, 2001 Outback article "The Kyoto Protocol And Global Warming - A Monumental Scam?" The four scientists he spoke with agreed that there was no global warming, unless you count a couple of degrees in Siberia - where they can use all the warming they can get. Do you remember that I mentioned my friends in Omsk, Siberia in one of my columns about global warming?
One of the most startling interviews was with former Greenpeace director Patrick Moore, who has seen the error his ways. Showing complete disdain for the motives of current environmentalists, he said, "They're using environmental rhetoric to cloak agendas like class warfare and anti-corporatism that, in fact, have almost nothing to do with ecology."
John Stossel also covered biotechnology in grains such as corn and attempts to grow replacement parts for humans. Both probably good ideas on balance. And finally, the issue of human cloning. I thought that he gave the pro-cloners more time and they seemed quite persuasive. It still seems repugnant to clone a human. But, that is what horse lovers said about producing the Model T.
If you missed this show, let's hope ABC will repeat it, or has a tape for sale. Every American should see this show. It is the only primetime antidote I have seen for the incessant hype, hysteria, and lies about the environment foisted upon us by the major print and TV media. On the ABC Web site, there is a discussion board, with the usual anonymous fanatics of questionable mental bona-fides one sees on such venues. Several spoke of the one-sided nature of Mr. Stossel's reporting. That was the point, idiots. As Rush Limbaugh says when someone complains about his views on the radio needing "equal time" for rebuttal, he says, "I am equal time." He means that he is one of the few voices to counteract the liberal pap fed us by the mainstream media. Thus, John Stossel is "equal time." The other 97% of the time we hear the counter arguments about global warming, polluted air and water, and so on. In truth, Rush and Johh are only "a tiny bit of equal time."
Mr. Stossel interviewed several small children for the special. The parents agreed to let the kids speak their minds. The outcome was that the kids simply recited in unison the brainwashed answers about how we are killing the planet - as taught by their teachers. Just a few days before air time, and a couple of months after the taping, the parents of the kids said they did not want the interviews used. You guessed it. Some environmental folks "got to them." In Philly, the mob used to call that "getting one of the jurors in our pocket." Here in Texas, we call it extortion, or coercion at the least. Maybe they gave them free T shirts.
Many people want Mr. Stossel fired from ABC. I guess so. As the Marine Colonel said in "A Few Good Men," "You can't handle the truth!" I can only say, "God bless you, John. I cannot tell you how my heart and spirits were lifted by your special." Of course, I have a tape. And as Charlton Heston says about his gun, the only way you will get my John Stossel tape is to pry it from my "cold dead hand."
President Bush's Excellent Adventure
President Bush generally got good reviews of his European trip - once he got back - from both sides of the political aisle, even from many in the media who keep trying to cast him as a dolt. Some were especially surprised that he seemed to get along so well with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. Why do people overlook the obvious? President Bush has degrees from Yale and Harvard. Have you ever met a stupid person with degrees from both Yale and Harvard - regardless of their grades? I don't think Harvard or Yale are into giving "social promotions." (For those unfamiliar with the term, "social promotion" is the penchant of American public schools to promote ignorant or lazy kids to the next grade so as not to damage their self esteem.)
His father is not only an ex-president, but a former CIA director. Condoleezza Rice, his National Security Adviser was a top Russian analyst in the administration of Bush's father. The CIA has psychologists who do "remote assessments" of the psychological makeup of foreign leaders. It is hard to image anyone who would be better briefed and prepared to meet Putin than President Bush.
Now, some in the media are asking if Bush is "gullible" to believe the apparent cooperative attitude of Putin. Even Sen. Jesse Helms thinks Bush should not have been so complimentary to Putin. Putin's KGB (evil?) past is overblown by the media. People with KGB and CIA backgrounds know what really went on behind the scenes of the political posturing of the Cold War. They are better prepared to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Mr. Putin has said that the world should not repeat history, but make new history. For now, we should take him at his word, instead of complaining about how cruel he has been in Chechnya, and so on. As a nation, we have for too long tried to tie our relations with foreign governments on how well we think they conduct a "moral" agenda. The World is tired of the U.S. being its nanny. In the CIA and KGB, you learn that you sometimes have to deal with some pretty nasty people to get things done.
All of this stuff about Bush being too effusive about his meeting with Putin is garbage. Do you remember how well Reagan and Gorbachev hit it off at their first meeting? That relationship turned out pretty well. Not to mention Nancy and Raisa (who died in 1999). Putin and Russia need to be taken seriously and given their due (however limited) as a world power. Putin and Russia need all the boosts to their self esteem they can get. A little flattery can go a long way. Lay it on George.
The AMA Is Losing Its Way
The AMA has proposed that doctors start asking patients if they own a gun. Presumably, they would then counsel them on gun safety, or more likely, try to convince them that a gun in the home presents a great danger to family members. In Texas and Oklahoma - and several other enlightened states- if a doctor asks a patient if they own a gun, they are likely to get an answer like "None of your business. And if you ask me again, you may be picking buckshot out of your ass."
Dr. Richard Corlin, the new president of the AMA, devoted his inaugural address mainly to the issue of gun violence. This is particularly disturbing because the AMA and doctors have such a poor track record about getting anything right about guns, gun violence, and gun control. I have been watching their misguided efforts for many years. They have simply bought into the lies and bad science fed to them by the gun-control lobby. Their own attempts at research, through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been junk science and thoroughly discredited. Now, they want more money for presumably more junk science.
Rather than adding a crusade against guns, doctors might better spend their time trying to cure sick people. The AMA notes that in 1998, 30,708 people died from gunshot. Suicides accounted for 17,424 of those deaths. But, you do not hear the AMA taking the blame for those suicides by pointing out the failure of the public health care system to identify and treat those people who were so obviously distraught as to eventually take their own lives. The man who killed 28 people in the Luby's cafe‚ in Killeen, Texas had a history of involvement with our public mental-health-care system. Yet, they never ran up the red flag, they just kept putting him back into society. And so it has gone in many cases of violent public shootings. There was a history, if anybody had been paying the proper attention.
Here is a small sample of the AMA president's speech:
"The establishment of a National Violent Death and Injury Reporting System would help us establish similar preventive measures against violence. And help us fill in all the blanks about violent death and injury in America. Including such basics as:
How do kids with guns get their weapons?
Do trigger locks work?
What can we do to reduce accidental, self-inflicted gun injuries?
What are the warning signs of workplace or school shootings?
During which hours of the week and in what specific parts of town (down to individual blocks not just neighborhoods) do the shootings occur?
Do we need to work with Police Departments to change patrolling patterns based on these data?"
Doctor Corlin, get real. How do kids with guns get their weapons? is redundant. How do kids get guns? would suffice. And it is the job of the ATF tracing program and interrogation of suspects by the ATF and police to find out how kids get guns. (I wrote about this imperative way back in 1990 in The Dallas Morning NewsNobody listened.) Cops and others will be able to tell if gun locks work. So far, most of them are junk and it is hard to get people to use them. The NRA and others have had great success in reducing the number of accidental shootings to an all-time low. Education is the key. It is up to sociologists, criminologists, and police, in concert with school officials and employers to discover the warning signs of workplace or school shootings. We already know many, if not most of the signs. The trick is for somebody to pass along these sightings to the proper people. The kids in Columbine saw the signs. They just kept their mouths shut.
The statements about hours of the week and the part of town where shootings occur is already contained in police reports. And "Do we need to work with Police Departments to change patrolling patterns based on these data?" is such an asinine question for the AMA boss to ask, it hardly deserves comment. But I will. No you don't need to work with the police on patrolling patterns. Police superintendents and precinct captains do that as a matter of everyday routine. I wonder how many doctors got up and walked out during this speech? Police patrolling patterns at a convention of the American Medical Association? How incongruous. How absurd.
Of course, 30,000 plus is way too many deaths from guns. But, a 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that medical mistakes claim as many as 98,000 lives annually! Add to that the people who are misdiagnosed and/or given prescription drugs they do not need - often with debilitating side effects. A doctor in a prestigious nursing home in New York City found that many of the patients were misdiagnosed and that many of them were taking prescription drugs they did not need. He was actually criticized by some for cutting down on the useless prescriptions. It seems that there is plenty work to be done by the AMA in the medical field - in cutting down on the medical mistakes, rather than delving into gun violence and gun control - areas where they will never have any legitimate expertise.
At the annual AMA meeting, a member proposed taking a stand against national youth groups that ban homosexuals from membership. Let's see. Who could that be? The Boy Scouts? One theory is that banning homosexual boys could lead them to suicide. There seemed to be little opposition to the suggestion, although I do not know if it came to a vote. I suppose being denied membership in the high-school chess club might also be a trigger for suicide by the AMA's logic.
My favorite subject came up - banning prescription drugs ads from TV. My informal survey of doctors and pharmacists indicates that they think, as do I, that the ads are "stupid." One delegate said "This is catastrophic in my office, with patients coming in and demanding drugs they saw on television."Although there was substantial member opposition to the ads, the best the AMA could come up with is a suggestion that they want all Rx ads on TV to carry the following disclaimer: "Your physician may recommend other appropriate treatments." Oh sure, that will help a lot with the increasing number of patients who demand that their physician prescribe a drug they saw on TV. To come up with this kind of nonsense they took time away from their patients back home?
A representative from the FDA said his agency does not have the authority to ban the ads, as they were allowed by law. So, let's get the law changed. And stop already with the tired argument that it is a First Amendment issue. The FDA and the FTC now have the power to regulate the content of the ads. It is a small step to ban them. YOU just have to get fed up. I reached that point about a year ago.
The AMA lost about 3000 members last year and more than $4 million in membership dues. I wonder why? Could it be that they are spending too much time in social activism and not enough in promoting safe and effective medical care? Ask some of the gun-owning doctors who will be handing in their AMA credentials.
You may read Dr. Corlin's speech at:
In advance, you should know that one of his office staff was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. You would expect him to be off on a "rant" about guns. That is natural. It is a shame that with all the concrete medical problems facing this country, he devoted the theme of his speech to gun violence.
I hope you will follow the efforts of the AMA and doctors in general to insinuate themselves into what is basically a "gun control" debate, for all its lofty trappings. If you would rather have them work on better health care for you and your kids, let them and your representatives in Congress know. If you don't speak up, you will see Federal funding for the Center for Disease Control for more "research" which is driven by a desire to prove that less guns will make for safer streets, homes, and workplaces. Let others who have no agenda do the research. Let doctors cure disease.
Egypt Air Flight 990 - Finally A Dose Of Reality
In 1999, Egypt Air flight 990 crashed killing 217 people.
In my first Outback column (August 14, 2000), in speaking about the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990, I said in part:
A spokesman for Egypt Air said that, "The evidence overwhelmingly contradicts an intent to destroy the aircraft." Cultural and religious differences aside, and arguments about the nuances of what was said aside. What if you were the captain and you came back into the cockpit to find the autopilot disengaged, the engines throttled back to "cutoff," and the plane in a dive? The only response you get to your questions is "I rely on God." No "Houston we have a problem" or the like. And then you crash. Egypt Air wants to focus the investigation on the design of the Boeing 767 elevator control! Say what? This seems to me about like investigating a Japanese Kamikaze suicide bomber attack by questioning the design of the Japanese Zero.
Maybe the owners of Egypt Air saw the failure of the elevator jackscrew in the Alaska Airlines crash and got some inspiration. Better for people to sue Boeing than Egypt Air, they reasoned. Just a thought.NEWSWEEK magazine has reported that intelligence intercepts between Cairo and the Egyptian crash investigators reveal that the Egyptians agreed that suicide (on the part of the co-pilot) was the likely cause of the crash. Here in the Outback, we had that figured out a long time back.
Suggested Reading From Past Columns
Global warming and environmental debate:
"The Kyoto Protocol & Global Warming - A Monumental Scam?" June 16, 2001
"Environmentalism For Dummies," April 7, 2001
"Environmentalism For Dummies - Part II," April 21, 2001
"Public Interest Groups With Sometimes Very Little Public Interest," May 12, 2001
Prescription drugs being advertised on TV - abuses in the pharmaceutical industry - supplements:
"Bitter Pills To Swallow," June 2, 2001
"The Drug Companies Continue Their Assault On Your Pocketbook," May 19, 2001
"Herbal Remedies, Supplements, And Alternative Therapies," September 18, 2000
"Prescription for Disaster," September 11, 2000
A case history of horrendous abuse by Federal law enforcement:
"FBI Sniper At Ruby Ridge My Be Tried For Manslaughter," June 9, 2001.
Late Night TV Cruel Humor, et al.
"David Letterman Grovels For The Colombians," May 19, 2001
"Are Leno And Letterman Using The Same CD-ROM For Constructing Jokes?" May 12, 2001
"Late Night Comedians Struggle To Lampoon Bush," May 5, 2001
"Late-Night TV Sick Humor," August 28, 2000
"Late-Night TV Political Comedy," August 14, 2000
"The Bush Budget - Fighting Over 4% Growth Versus 8% Growth Is Nonsense," April 21, 2001
"Campaign Finance Reform - A Senatorial Catharsis - And National Snow Job," March 31, 2001
"Florida Secretary Of State Literally Begged Networks Not To Call Election Early," March 24, 2001
"The Ever-Expanding First Amendment," January 26, 2001
"Bush Administration Needs To Review The Mission Of Federal Law Enforcement," January 26, 2001
"New York, What Were You Thinking?" November 13, 2000
"Lessons Learned In Election 2000?" November 13, 2000
"How The Federal Government Corrupts The Constitution To Intrude Into Your Life," October 30, 2000
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