Saturday, January 15, 2011

Ted Wiilliams Debacle

I am constantly astounded by the ease of which the general public will display their baaaaad tendency to follow the herd. Ted Williams' rise to fame was fueled by the same frenzy. He was panhandling, using his smooth voice to bait a soliciting trap when he was discovered by an Ohio news reporter.
The story unfolded like a fairytale, and everyone wanted to see Williams take his rightful place in society. Like the young boy who drew the sword from the stone to become King Arthur, the public was eager for the derelict to sit on the throne with everyone singing his praises. Perhaps this is fueled by each person's secret desire to be rescued in some way.
Living vicariously through Williams, each of us can imagine what it's like to be plucked off the streets, to have executives clamoring for our talent, to be propelled into the spotlight. Everyone wants to win the lottery, hit the jackpot, get a piece of the proverbial pie. When someone like Williams does it, the average person sees hope. If a bum on a street corner can reach success, certainly the hard-working, honest, family man has an even better chance of grabbing the gold ring - right?
Instead of being enamored with his rise and disappointed by his plummet, the public should recognize Williams for serving another purpose: he is an example. People are looking for an easy solution to these tough economic times. Williams reminds us that nothing comes easily or without strings attached. Instead of giving up or escaping with drugs, people should stay strong. Being fortitudinous as the economy recovers will be more beneficial.
Williams also serves as a reminder that each individual controls his own life. When that control is turned over to other people, to drugs, or to any other element, life falters. Any situation provides choices, but by letting other people, influences, and chemicals make those choices, a person is not controlling his life. When those influences disappear, no one is in control; no one is steering, causing life to spin out of control.
Homelessness has spread beyond the victims of insanity and addiction, and now engulfs those who have lost homes to foreclosure, lost jobs to overseas manufacturers, and lost hope in themselves. While it is important to recognize not every homeless person is archetypal, Williams is a reminder that each should be judged on his own merits.
Blaming Williams for betraying trust, disappointing followers and supporters, and for destroying ideological plans, is much like blaming an actor for portraying a fictitious character in a realistic manner; it is up to an individual to discern fact from fiction, and to separate what might be from what actually is.
People should also remember that panhandling is illegal in most (if not all) areas; give money to the homeless by giving money to shelters and services - not individuals; and don't blame anyone else for a personal lapse in judgment. No one is infallible.

Related article: "Blinded by Ted Williams' surprisingly silky voice"

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Telemarketers beware

In spite of listing with the Do Not Call registry, I still get a few annoying solicitations. I've read the funny lines that can be delivered to telemarketers and often wish I could think on my feet fast enough to deliver them smoothly. One of the funniest was delivered by my own mother. A number of years ago, MCI and AT&T were competing for customers. An MCI representative called and delivered his opening line. Mom said, "I'm sorry, but we don't have a phone." The flustered caller said, "Oh, okay," and hung up.
My latest calls have been from the local newspaper. I used to subscribe, so I suppose I'm in their database, and once in a while they decide to call.
"I'm calling from the News & Record, and we wanted to be sure you received your paper today."
I used to fall for the line, responding that I don't receive it, to which the caller then wanted me to subscribe. They have called often enough that I now have a pat response which I deliver eloquently: "No, I did not receive a paper this morning because I don't subscribe. But you already know that since you are calling to coerce me into subscribing. I'm not interested, thank you." Then, I hang up. Sometimes, I have to add, "And I told this to a representative last week." After two or three calls, I'll remind them they are harassing me, they remove my number, and I won't hear anything for six months or so.
I can't bring myself to be too aggressive because they are trying to earn a living. Yet, I have reconditioned my early childhood lessons when I was taught to be polite and never hang up on anyone. My mother, like many older adults, has become more tolerant with age. This woman who used to keep a police whistle by the phone to discourage obscene callers by blowing out their eardrums, will now complain that a telemarketer kept her on the line, and "I couldn't just hang up on him."
Instead of being a slave to the phone, it's much easier to remember:
  • When the phone rings, I do not have to stop what I am doing and run.
  • Walk, do not run, to the phone because Murphy's Law guarantees the call is not that important, I will trip, or I will stub my toe.
  • If I don't get to the phone in time, the caller can leave a message.
  • I have caller ID, so I have the option to not answer at all.
  • If I do answer, and I do not want to hear what the person has to say, I can say "No thank you," and hang up.
The caller chooses to dial my number which makes him the risk-taker. If a voice enters my home without permission, I can blow out the person's ears without remorse.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Loughner, Clarke make perfect pair

Even though Jared Lee Loughner was caught with gun in hand by witnesses to his shooting rampage in Arizona, he has the same rights and privileges as anyone else arrested for crime in the United States: He is innocent until proven guilty, and he has the right to legal representation.
The attorney is court appointed, thousands of tax dollars will go to his food and shelter, and even more will be spent on increased courtroom security, importing an out-of-state judge, and various other costs involved in a high-profile case.
The entire situation is a double-edged sword - the world knows he is guilty, but the laws can't be changed for this situation. Maintaining a free society with blind justice requires the judicial system to follow specific protocols.
However, in this case, I wonder if there was some backroom justice in the works when the court appointed Asheville native Judy Clarke as Loughner's attorney. Now practicing in San Diego, she has defended some very famous criminals:
  • Theodore Kaczynski - Unabomer who killed three and injured 23 others, sentenced to life in prison without parole.
  • Susan Smith - South Carolina mother that killed her sons, aged 3 and 14 months, by pushing her car into a lake and drowning them. She is sentenced to life in prison with first chance of parole in 2024.
  • Eric Rudolph- Olympic Park Bomber that was a fugitive for five years, spending much of that time in North Carolina mountains is now serving multiple life sentences.
  • Zacarias Moussaoui - 9/11 conspirator now serving life in a maximum security prison.
  • Timothy McVeigh - Oklahoma City Bomber killed 168 and wounded 450, was executed in 2001.
  • O.J. Simpson - Accused of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman hired "Dream Team" of lawyers including F. Lee Bailey, Robert Shapiro, and Johnnie Cochran. Oh, wait ... Clarke wasn't on this team, and O.J. was found not guilty.
Thankfully, Loughner confirmed in court that he does want Clarke as his attorney, so perhaps, with her ineffectual track record, justice will be served.