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.
Congressman Gary Condit always seems to be carrying his suit jacket. Could it be that he is sweating profusely and can't stand the heat?
On my Web page is an article about "Flying in Laos During the Vietnam War." In it, I point out that I was issued Lao Private Pilot's License #11, and that I was the first and only American to receive a private license from the Kingdom of Laos. That is, the only one until after I left the country. I got an e-mail from a former Continental Air pilot in Laos (Continental and Air American were the CIA chartered airlines in Laos ). He said that he has Lao Private Pilot License #15. I immediately edited my Web page to reflect the new information and thanked him for the update. Still, that's a pretty neat and exclusive club. So far, it appears to contain only five members.
In my never-ending quest for tasty and low-fat fast food, I have lately revisited Arby's and the Arby's Web site. The Light Roast Chicken Deluxe sandwich is only 260 calories and 1/2 gram of saturated fat. That's very low for fast food. A Regular Roast Beef sandwich is 350 calories and a tolerable 6 grams of saturated fat. A small order of the "to-kill-for" Curly Fries is 310 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat. The new Market Fresh Sandwiches are on delicious whole wheat bread and are piled high. They taste great. A Market Fresh Roast Turkey & Swiss packs 760 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. The sandwich is huge. My suggestion: if two people are eating together, order one Market Fresh sandwich and a large order of Curly Fries and split the food between you. With the Turkey & Swiss and the fries, you will each eat about 690 calories and about 6.5 grams of saturated fat (and who knows how much Trans fat in the fries). If you go light on dinner and had your oatmeal, flaxseed, and banana for breakfast, you can enjoy a delicious lunch without much guilt. Check out the entire menu at www.arbys.com, and you will find a few other surprises.
It has been nearly impossible to be unaware of the Code Red worm that attacks servers on the Internet and in networks. About 350,000 computers were infected when Code Red was first unleashed in mid-July. As of Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001, about 267,600 computers were infected by the latest iteration of the worm. There is little hope for the security and privacy of the Internet if the reaction to Code Red is an indicator. The antidote is a free patch downloadable from Microsoft. Yet, nearly as many computers became infected this time as last time! What kind of people are in charge of these 267,000 infected computers? They were too lazy to download the free Microsoft patch? Oh, you have to install the patch, too. This is not rocket science.
In an earlier report, I noted that there were new stricter cholesterol guidelines. In an article in the Harvard Health Letter for August, 2001, the writers suggest that the new guidelines will cause the number of people making dietary and lifestyle changes to increase from 52 million to 65 million, and the number taking cholesterol-lowering medication to increase from 13 million to 36 million! There is something wrong with those numbers. More people should try dietary and lifestyle changes before they opt for taking a prescription drug. (See the Outback for July 7, 2001, "The New Cholesterol Guidelines - Everybody Gets A Pill.")
Telemarketers, Caller-ID, et al.
Much of what I am going to discuss relates to Texas law, but the principles can be applied universally. Some other states have similar laws. I suggest that there ought to be a Federal law prohibiting telemarketers from blocking their outgoing Caller-ID information. The regulation of "Interstate Commerce" is one of the clear mandates of the Congress spelled out in the Constitution. So, let's do it and stop this piecemeal state approach.
In Texas, a telemarketer (telephone solicitor) is required to identify himself or herself by name, identify the business on whose behalf the call is being made, identify the purpose of the call, and give the telephone number at which the person, company, or organization making the call can be reached. Telemarketers are prohibited from using "outgoing only" phone lines to make sales calls.
Sales calls may not be made before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on weekdays or on Saturday, or before noon or after 9 p.m. on Sunday.
A telemarketer is prohibited from blocking their outgoing Caller-ID information so that it does not display on the end user's phone. Of course, the end user must subscribe to Caller ID to be aware of a possible violation of this rule.
Violations of the above rules can result in fines of up to $1,000 for each day or portion of a day in which non-compliance occurs.
In 2001, HB 472 passed the Texas Legislature. This bill goes into effect in on January 1, 2002, and includes a clarification of the regulations already noted. Plus, there will be a state "Do not call" list established. Several states already have such lists. The bill also clarifies the prohibitions about unwanted Faxes already in the Texas Business and Commerce Code and adds three specific provisions. You can find the text of HB 472 at:
Search for HB472. If your state does not have a law which requires telemarketers to provide full information about themselves and the nature of the call, and prohibits them from blocking their Caller ID information, you might download HB 472 and pass it along to your favorite state legislator.
In any state, you can ask a telemarketer to put you on their "do not call list." If they continue to call you, they can be liable for a fine under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
So... what to do when you receive a call that shows up on your Caller ID as "Unknown Caller" or "Out of Area"? I prefer not to talk to them and let the recorder pick up the call. The message starts with "If this is a sales call, put us on your do-not-call list." If you are an intrepid sort and can maintain your composure while talking to the human vermin who constantly intrude into your privacy, you should pick up the phone and ask all the questions.
If they did not transmit Caller ID, ask them why and explain that it is against Texas state law to block Caller ID. Ask for their name, the company they represent, phone number, and mailing address (which they probably do not have to give you). And ask what the product or service they are calling in connection with. Many will turn tail and run the minute you start asking questions. But, if they have failed to use Caller ID, or called you before 9 a.m., for example, you need to get as much information as you can so that you can report them to the Public Utility Commission. (www.puc.state.tx.us)
The "Out of Area" calls may be out of state and Texas law cannot be invoked against them. That is why it is important to seek Federal legislation that will prohibit telephone solicitors from blocking their Caller ID.
There are telephones you can program to announce to you who is calling - if the callers transmit their caller ID. My Northern Telecom Meridian 9516 does that. Radio Shack used to sell the same phone under its house brand name. Mine can handle a list of 75 callers. It speaks their name, once programmed, and each can have their own greeting message on the recorder. I also have a portable phone with a Caller ID screen that I carry around the house. Thus, I never answer a call from anybody whose Caller ID I do not recognize as a friend. All others are given an opportunity to speak to the recorder. You can also have fun with the individualized greeting. The lady at my dentist's office will be surprised when she calls to remind me of my appointment and hears "Have I ever missed an appointment, or even been late? I have a Palm Pilot. Why do you keep making these calls to me?"
Set answering rings to about 6 or 7, if you can. A lot of telemarketers will hang up if the phone is not answered by the 4th or 5th ring.
With my convoluted system, I got tripped up somehow. A while back, I got a call on my Unpublished phone number from a guy who was making some kind of solicitation. He called me by my last name. I knew my Unpublished number had been compromised. Since I gave out that number to only about eight family and friends, I wondered where the leak was. If you call an 800 number you cannot block your outgoing Caller-ID even by pressing *67. So, I always use the "listed" phone to make 1-800 calls. But, I think I recall that as I clicked on some new software to "register online," it dialed an 800 number. My computer is on my Unpublished number! That may have been my fatal mistake. Nobody is perfect. So, if you register software online and you don't want your phone number to be used for telemarketing, make sure you register at the company's Web site. Don't let the software dial a registration 800 number.
While talking with your friendly telephone company, tell them to put you on their "no telemarketing" list. Otherwise, you will get calls from the telephone company wanting to sell you more services. I discovered this subtle piece of intelligence after they called me on my Unpublished number once to sell me something. I mentioned it in a letter I had published about telemarketing in The Wall Street Journal. When I sent a copy of the WSJ letter to the president of Southwestern Bell (now SBC), I got a letter in replay that apologized for the intrusion and told me that I would be put on the internal "no telemarketing" list. First I had heard of it. Now you have.
With all the privacy sensitivity going on now, and some recent Federal legislation, you will be getting privacy "Opt Out" letters and forms from many credit card vendors, your bank, and so on. Read them carefully, fill them out, make copies, and send them in. I have always sent notices to all credit cards that my phone number is to be used "Only to report to me credit card fraud" and not to call to sell me something. Much to my amazement, it has worked.
Let me say this one more time. You most likely don't need any of the goods or services being pitched to you on the phone. You are an adult. You know how to find whatever you need without unsolicited help. Plus, consumers lose about $40 billion each year to telemarketing fraud. Why then do you pick up the phone and talk to these people? There is no 11th Commandment that says, "Thou must pick up the phone and talk to everyone who calls."
If you are a senior citizen who lives alone and is perhaps lonely, do not ever talk to telemarketers. You may end up with a zero balance in your bank account. It happens all the time. Join a social club at the church, have a Tupperware party - or something. Do not let your isolation or loneliness allow you to fall for "the very nice young lady on the phone who tells you how you can take $10,000 out of the bank and double it, or wants to tell you about a new miracle drug that cures cancer or depression, or how you can make fabulous profits with a time-share condo in Florida." Please. It is such a simple rule. Don't talk to strangers. Remember, your mother always told you that about walking home from school. Nothing has changed. Don't talk to strangers. It's hard enough to trust your friends these days.
Trans Fatty Acids - The Hidden Fat
In one of my earlier discussions of daily fat intake, I made a statement that "if you track Saturated Fat, the other fats will take care of themselves." That is largely true for someone who eats a diet like I do. I eat very little "processed" food, and practically no fried foods on a regular basis. Most of the fats I consume, other than the closely-watched Saturated Fat, are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as found in some fish, nuts, olive oil, flaxseed, and so forth.
Trans Fatty Acids (Trans Fat) - like Saturated Fat - also raise cholesterol levels and are believed to lower the HDL level (the good cholesterol). Trans Fat is found in the hydrogenated vegetable oil used in the making of most margarine, baked goods, peanut butter, low-fat ice cream, microwave popcorn, fried foods, to mention a few. At the present time, the amount of Trans Fat in a product is not required to be shown on the label.
The nutritional information may state Total Fat 10 grams, Saturated Fat 2.5 grams. Some will list the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Suppose that there is a Total Fat of 10 grams, Saturated fat is 3 grams, Poly is 2 grams, and Mono is 2 grams. That leaves 3 grams of fat unaccounted for. It is Trans Fat. Most labels list only Total Fat and Saturated Fat. In a product with 14 grams of Total Fat, there may be only 3 grams of Saturated Fat shown on the label. What makes up the other 11 grams of fat? Who knows, under current rules?
If the label ingredients list shows "hydrogenated vegetable oil," or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" there is Trans Fat in the product.
If a product says "trans fee," or "trans fat free," "no trans fatty acids" or "no hydrogenated oil," it most likely contains no Trans Fat.
Here are some examples: I bought a package of six Oreo cookies (for research). The Total Fat content is 12 grams. The Saturated Fat is 2.5 grams. That leaves 9.5 grams of fat unaccounted for. The label lists "partially hydrogenated soybean oil." There is where the unidentified amount of Trans Fat comes from. How much Trans Fat is anybody's guess.
A three-pack of Gold Fingers (a Twinkie lookalike) contains Total Fat of 16 grams. There is 4 gr. of Saturated Fat, 4 gr. of Polyunsaturated Fat, and 6 grams of Monounsaturated Fat. This leaves 2 grams of fat unaccounted for, which is undoubtedly Trans Fat. I feed my dog her heart pill in one of these things. SPCA and PETA take note.
A Hostess Cupcake contains 6 grams of Total Fat and 2.5 grams of Saturated Fat. That leaves 3.5 grams of fat unaccounted for. Some, or all, is Trans Fat. The cupcake contains "one or more of: partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed, or canola oil - or beef fat." Could you be more specific, please? Maybe the FDA will force you to do so. When they get through picking their noses.
Several years ago, the FDA proposed that Trans Fat be shown as part of nutritional information, and it would be included under the total of Saturated Fat - with a note of how many grams were Trans Fat. The FDA has never implemented the rule. I wonder why? Highly esteemed doctors such as Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. Dean Ornish, famed for his low-fat "heart disease reversing" diet program, among many others, are urging the FDA to implement the rule. But, consider who might be against the rule. That might be all makers of baked goods, such as Nabisco (Oreo, et al.), Keebler, Sara Lee, Interstate Bakeries Corp. (Hostess Cup Cakes, Twinkies), and all the fast-food restaurants in the country! That's a lot of political clout.
Once agin, it appears that public health is taking second place to the profits of companies who are clogging your arteries with Saturated Fat and Trans Fat. And how many of us are willing to give up our Oreos? My 6-pack never made it home from the quick-stop. What is there left to eat that is not fattening or life threatening? If forced by regulation to divulge Trans fat, the food industry will find healthier alternatives for their products. The public is demanding less fat in their prepared food. The fast-food industry went from cooking french fries in animal fat to the "better" vegetable oils. Now, they may have to find a healthier alternative to the vegetable oils that contain Trans Fatty Acids. Olive oil is one, but it cost about 400% more than vegetable oil. It can be worked out. It always has been when a new challenge arose.
Your Body Clock
Do you sleep until 8 a.m., while your wife is up cooking breakfast at 5:30 a.m., and calling in for you to get your lazy butt out of bed? You may have an excuse. Your internal clocks may be set in different time zones. You should have discovered this before you got married, as it will cause friction. "The Body Clock Guide to Better Health," by Michael Smolensky, is an utterly fascinating book. The author goes into depth about the differences between "Larks," who bound out bed at 5:30 a.m., and "Owls," who stay up late and want to sleep until 8 a.m. or so.
Suppose that you spend only weekends with a person who arises at 5:30 a.m., but you normally arise around 8. During the first part of the week, you will be "out of sorts" and out of rhythm. You will experience the same symptoms as those who have "jet lag" from traveling through several different time zones.
One way to find out whether you are a Lark or an Owl is to take your temperature several times a day. The commonly accepted "normal" temperature of 98.6 degrees is not normal at several times during the day and night. Your temperature is lowest in the morning and starts to climb in mid-afternoon. But within that range, individuals will vary as to when they reach their lowest and highest temperatures. Healthy people normally awaken with a temperature of about 97 degrees. A Lark's temperature will be highest around 3:30 p.m., while an Owl's will be highest at around 8 p.m. A Lark's lowest temperature will be around 3:30 a.m, while an Owl's will be lowest at around 6 a.m. I already was positive that I was an Owl, and my temperature readings were right on target for on Owl - peaking at 8 p.m!
A Lark's peak heart rate will be around 11 a.m., while the Owl's peak is around 6 p.m. A Lark's favorite meal is breakfast, while an Owl's is dinner. There are many other comparisons in the book, and there is even a long test to see if you are a Lark or an Owl. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to change from being a Lark to an Owl, or vice versa, as the internal clock is pretty much set for life. You can make some minor shifts over time, but your body will probably fight it.
A considerable portion of the book is spent discussing the best time to do certain things - or to avoid certain activities. One example. If you take a cholesterol-lowering drug (probably a statin), it should be taken in the evening. Why? The body manufactures cholesterol as you sleep, so to get the maximum effectiveness from your medication, you should take it at night. Heart attacks most often occur between 6 a.m. and Noon. Part of the reason may be that when we awaken, our blood pressure jumps up. And when we get out of bed and start moving around, our BP climbs even more. Drinking coffee raises BP slightly, at least in the short term. So, you jump out of bed, drink some coffee, rush around to get ready for work, fight the traffic, and so on. Is it any wonder that it is within this time frame that you may suffer a heart attack?
Do you take Aspirin each day, possibly as a preventative for heart attack? The best time to take Aspirin to avoid stomach irritation is at night. I used to take mine in the morning, but have now switched to evening. The author suggests that there is a "best time" to eat, sleep, have sex, exercise, and so on. There is a large section in the book devoted to a variety of common ailments, from colds and flu to diabetes, with suggestions for treatment and the timing of many of the treatments and medications.
Michael Smolensky, Ph.D., directs the Chronobiology Center at Hermann Hospital in Houston, part of the Univ. of Texas-Houston Health Science Center. Lynne Lamberg, the co-author, reports on biological rhythms and sleep for The Journal of the American Medical Association and for major newspapers and magazines. This is a serious and well- researched book. I promise you that you will find it interesting and useful in your everyday life.
A while back, I noted that I had quit watching all the late-night talk shows. One dividend is that I am reading more books. Try it. You will wonder how you could have sat for an hour and watched some air-head interview another air-head about his or her dog or drug problem.
The Funeral Service for Katharine Graham
Never did I think that I would enjoy a funeral service. The service for the Washington Post's Katharine Graham was carried on C-SPAN and lasted nearly two hours. It was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable lady. It took place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and had all the trappings of what one might expect to see at Queen Elizabeth's funeral service. Mrs. Graham died at age 84 from head injuries suffered during a fall.
The attendees were an amazing cross-section of politicians, journalists, friends, family, and business people. Seated in the front row were V.P. Dick Cheney, his wife and daughter. Bill and Hillary Clinton, New York Gov. George Pataki and wife, and an unaccompanied Rudy Guiliani, Mayor of New York. In the second row, one could spot Alan Greenspan of the Federal Reserve Board, with his wife Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, and next to her Sen. Edward Kennedy. Bill Gates was there. Before the service began, Bill Clinton was chatting animatedly with Dick Cheney's very attractive young daughter. Who arranged the seating?
There were personal insights from friends and family, humorous anecdotes, and glowing tributes. The speakers frankly traced her beginnings as a housewife and mother, her husband's suicide, and her timid immersion into the stewardship of the Washington Post and the other media outlets she inherited. They noted that eventually she earned her spurs and the respect and admiration of all who worked for her or came in contact with her.
Arthur Schelsinger, author and historian, evoked one of the several episodes of laughter. Speaking of the Watergate coverage by the Post and of the mysterious "Deep Throat," he said, "who may very well be among us this morning." Henry Kissinger, whom I could almost completely understand, told of his long and close relationship with "Kay" and how she once called him to tell him he needed a break and took him to a movie.
Ben Bradlee, the former editor at the Post, and a generally brash and irreverent guy, spoke in character of his pal Kay. He regaled the audience with a story of how she always wanted to get into the "exclusive club" of Bradlee, Post attorney Edward Bennet Williams, and columnist Art Buchwald, but they always put her off.
Finally, Bradlee said, on her 65th birthday, they invited her to lunch and told her she was "in the club." She was excited, nearly giddy. But, there was, they told her, a mandatory 65 and out rule, so they would reluctantly have to accept her resignation. Bradlee concluded with "She was a spectacular Dame and I loved her very much." Some in the audience applauded him. As he went by the coffin, he reached out with his left hand to touch the corner. I think he may have been the only one of the speakers to do that. (Ben Bradlee is married to Sally Quinn, the gorgeous and voluptuous Washington journalist and author, who was of course in attendance.)
Yo-Yo Ma played a solo on his $2.5 million cello. He needed no introduction and sounded like a million bucks.
The Graham children spoke. I had the same feeling I have had over the years in watching many of the children of very wealthy people - like orchids grown in a hot house and suddenly exposed to the noonday sun on the patio. Donald seemed reasonably self-assured, but the others had the unmistakable ambiance of children of wealth who really had no concept of the world as others less fortunate see it They seemed almost terrified to have to speak to the audience, which was, after all, an assembly of some of the most successful and powerful people in America. I felt uncomfortable for all of them.
It was incredible to watch the audience file out. A former president and secretary of state caught up in the slow-moving crowd, just like all the other attendees. Who was one of the last people to leave? One guess. William Jefferson Clinton. He was working the crowd as only he can do. It was something to watch. And I think I spotted former D.C. Mayor, Marion Barry - he of the "crack cocaine" conviction fame. Who invited him?
I recorded the service, the nearly two hours of it, on tape. It will always be a reminder of how a funeral service should be conducted - with reverence, insight, humor and frankness - and a little laughter and applause where appropriate.
Two personal notes: My only contact with Katharine Graham was a letter she wrote me in response to one I had written about my friend Bill Broyles (edited my first published article in "Texas Monthly"), who was then editor of NEWSWEEK. It was an informal letter and like one you might get from an old friend. I treasure that letter.
When we were on a tour of duty in Washington, D.C. my piano and organ instructor was studying organ and got to practice on the grand pipe organ at the National Cathedral. One day he suggested that I practice a simple Bach fugue and come with a tape recorder one night to the cathedral and record my "performance" for posterity. What a wonderful memento it would be. Suddenly, the CIA sent me to Beirut and beyond on a special mission. On the night I was to make my "debut" on the organ at the National Cathedral, I was sitting in a caf‚ in Athens on my way back from the Middle East. We never got a chance to reschedule. So, I especially enjoyed listening to the organ being played during the funeral service. What might have been.
Suggested Reading From Past Columns
Global warming and environmental debate:
"John Stossel And ABC's 'Tampering With Nature,'" June 29, 2001
"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:
"Prozac Gets New Life!" July 28, 2001
"The New Cholesterol Guidelines - Everybody Gets A Pill," July 7, 2001
"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
Crime, guns, gun-control:
"The AMA Is Losing Its Way," June 29 2001
"President Bush's Excellent Adventure," June 29, 2001
"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
"Rid Yourself of Telemarketers," October 23, 2000
Books of Interest
"Body of Secrets" by James Bamford, July 28, 2001
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COPYRIGHT 2001 Richard C. Rhodes
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