Archive for November, 2010

No Nukes Are Good Nukes

Excuse my logic, but why in God’s name does the United States and Russia each need to have in their possession some 16,000 nuclear warheads apiece? To be quite blunt, the detonation of just let’s say a mere 5 percent of that amount (800 warheads by each country) if spread globally and strategically would destroy most, or all, of the human race.  So why do we each need 16,000?  Do we want to make sure we destroy all the cockroaches too?  And the rats?  Cockroaches and rats are said to be highly resilient and capable of adapting to severe environments.

Some points to consider:

Fifty years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was reported that most vegetation still couldn’t be grown there. 70,000 people died immediately. By year’s end there were an additional 30,000 deaths from fallout. Within five years the total death toll attributable to this event may have stood at 200,000. The yield of the Hiroshima A-bomb was 15 kilotons. Modern nuclear warheads have a yield of 1/ 2 megaton or more. A megaton is 1,000 times the power of a kiloton.

As a result of the Chernobyl Nuclear plant disaster on April 26, 1986, at Reactor #4 more than 350,000 people from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine had to be evacuated.  The city of Pripyat, which is located in the immediate vicinity, stands today as a ghost town.  It had contained a population of 50,000 people prior to the disaster.  However, even more thought provoking is the fact that a plume of radioactive air drifted over the Western Soviet Union and all of Europe except the Iberian Peninsula.  Imagine radioactivity scattering over an entire continent.  From just one nuclear accident! So extrapolate the possible results that would occur if we experienced the equivalent of 1600 Chernobyls (remember 800 nukes being blown by each – the USA and Russia) and you get the picture.

Just as dramatic but a little more than a century earlier in August, 1883, the volcano known as Krakatoa on the island of Krakatau went into its final massive eruption after earlier smaller warning bursts.  Three quarters of that island was wiped off the face of the earth.  At the same time, the event was so cataclysmic as to create entire new islands.  The force of the volcano’s blast was estimated at 200 megatons.  1,600 nuclear bombs being detonated based on an average size of ½ a megaton would yield blasts equaling 800 megatons.   The 200 megaton Krakatoa blast was so loud that it could be heard 3,000 miles away in the island nation of Mauritius and 2,200 miles away in Perth, Western Australia.  In simpler terms, if it had taken place in Los Angeles, CA you would have heard it in New York City.

Tsunamis 100 feet high were widespread and occurred as far away as South Africa.  One tsunami measuring 151 feet high obliterated a town known as Merak in the northwestern tip of Java Indonesia.  Debris resulting from this eruption was scattered as far away as Madagascar completely across the Indian Ocean. Average global temperatures dropped 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit and remained that way for several years. But the most telling phenomenon of all may be what happened to the sky.  The entire planet’s sky was darkened for years afterwards and spectacular surreal sunsets occurred for many months after.

Although it doesn’t concern itself with the industry of building nuclear bombs specifically, a documentary entitled “Why We Fight” available as a download off the internet provides some eerie insight into this quagmire.  It was produced by Eugene Jarecki of the BBC.  It points out that wars make use of expensive equipment and weapons.  Corporations that manufacture these items stand to make huge profits from their sale.  These corporations throw a great deal of support at the politicians who vote on whether or not to make war and the corporations expect the politicians to show them allegiance and vote accordingly.  It’s all related to what Dwight Eisenhower described as the “military industrial complex.”  Nuclear missiles are expensive to produce and maintain.  The cold war which resulted in the production of much of the USA’s and Russia’s nuclear arsenal was a boon to big business in these two countries. You get the picture.

To borrow from Disneyworld, “It’s a small world.”  Massive detonation of nuclear bombs would show us just how small it really is.

When will people worldwide wake up to the deadly potential of nuclear weapons? It is a Damoclean sword that hangs over each and every one of our heads.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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Casino Logic

Excuse My Logic but on the subject of gambling casinos isn’t there just a plethora of illogical behavior that can be observed?  Before we get to some juicy examples, I’d like to offer several sweeping observations about this activity.

A great many people who go to the casinos combine drinking with gambling to make the experience complete.  This in itself is illogical and I’ll explain why. As you all know the odds are stacked in favor of the house. Therefore, for someone to even have the slightest ray of hope that they’ll beat the house, they need to bet intelligently.  When you’re completely intoxicated you are the casino’s best friend.  The people who run casinos salivate over people who play while drunk.  This is their bread and butter.

For example, in a game of blackjack, let’s say the dealer is showing a six on his up card and has his other card down. Let’s say you are showing eighteen with your two cards facing up.  A drunk player will sometimes actually be stupid enough to ask the dealer for a third card and this poor sucker has an 11 out of 13 chance of “busting” (going over 21), all the while it was likely that the dealer himself was going to bust meaning the drunk fool could have won simply by “holding” (not taking that deadly third card).

Repeat!  If you want a night of drinking, go to a bar.  Don’t go to a casino. You are bound to lose.

Now for some of the more illogical anecdotes I have heard about casinos.

I knew one man who owned a photo processing store down in South Jersey who told me he had also worked as a dealer in Atlantic City.  He told me that on many occasions, people who had lost their entire wad at his table actually asked him if they could get a refund!  To borrow from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” I’d like to have some of what they’d been drinking.

Another thing I find highly illogical about casino goers are those people who get “comped” to an expensive room.   Sure the room is valued at $300 for the night but if you drop $5,000 at the tables how can you have the naiveté to say that you “got a great deal.” Duh!

Then you have these high roller types who have no concept of the world around them and the massive human suffering that exists on the planet today.  They will think nothing of blowing thousands or even hundreds of thousands at a casino in a year but balk at the idea of giving some money to a worthwhile charity.  Does the name John Daly ring a bell?”  In all fairness to the pro golfer he may be quite philanthropic as well.  How about Gordon Gecko in reverse?  “Wastefulness is Good!”

There is a longstanding rumor that some casinos actually pumped fresh oxygen into the gaming areas to keep gamblers wide awake and at the tables longer.  I have never been able to verify if this has any basis in fact.  However, I have another suggestion for these casino owners. Why not pump in helium instead?  Then when John Q. Public and his irate wife Jane are barreling up the NJ Turnpike having a heated argument about how much money John lost at least they’ll have a good laugh at the fact that they are both talking like Mickey Mouse.

Copyright 2010; Greg S.

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License to Kill?

Excuse My Logic, but isn’t there something quite hypocritical, contradictory, farcical and almost bipolar about pharmacies such as the ones pictured below? Isn’t a pharmacy a place you turn to when you need help to feel well?  Or maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps alcohol and cigarettes are actually good for your health.

Pharmacies such as these that peddle alcohol and the wider spectrum of pharmacies that hawk cigarettes are just contributing to society’s ills.  Alcoholics Anonymous defines alcoholism not as a character defect but as a “sickness.”  Therefore pharmacies selling alcohol are in some cases making people sicker.  Alcohol seriously affects the liver, pancreas and other organs.  Cigarette smoking too is a kind of sickness.  It is an insidious addiction.  For example, I have heard people who were cross addicted to cocaine and nicotine declare that cocaine was easier to quit than cigarettes.  Doesn’t that sort of tell you what a serious addiction cigarettes are?  Yet almost all the chain pharmacies sell cigarettes.

Getting back to alcohol, it is a known fact that most prescription medications come with a warning label telling the patient not to mix them with alcohol.  So what do some of these pharmacies do?  Not only do they have the gall to sell alcohol but in many cases the alcohol is displayed prominently right near the cash register making the temptation to buy it all the greater.

Perhaps a few analogies are in order.  I equate a pharmacy that sells coffin nails and booze to a person who sells you a house and candidly tells you about the leaky basement but deliberately neglects to tell you about the termite problem.  Or a romantic partner who confesses to having cheated on you but conveniently fails to let you know they have contracted an STD.

Doesn’t it occur to the people who run pharmacies that sell alcohol that some people just might mix booze with pills?  Or don’t they care?  Famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix died from mixing sleeping pills with alcohol.  Comedian/Actor Freddie Prinze shot himself to death after mixing methaqualone with alcohol.  More recently put perhaps not recent enough to be relevant to the pharmacy business types, Brynn Hartman murdered her famous husband comedian Phil Hartman and then shot herself after mixing cocaine, Zoloft (a prescription drug) and alcohol.

I can tell you my own personal experience as a reckless youth who thought it might be interesting to pour the contents of several dexatrim tablets (diet pills) into a glass of scotch and then down it (I beg any and all readers not to do this). It was as the sixties counterculture people called it a “horror show.” My speech became slurred like a stroke victim and my eyes were practically bugging out of my head with some sort of psychotic reaction.

This also leads me to another question in this day in age where the seemingly impossible becomes possible every day.  Are we far off from a time where alcohol and cigarettes, by mere fact that they are sold in these stores, are going to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid?  What a bonanza that would be for the already well-heeled pharmacies.

Pharmacies that sell alcohol and tobacco need to step up and ask themselves whether they are just in it for the almighty buck or to help better peoples’ lives.  To quote a college buddy of mine “Drugs may bring you joy. But they may destroy.” I think this saying holds equally true for the purveyors.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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They Call it a Courtesy Call?

Why do telemarketers have the audacity to call their annoying interruptions of our day “courtesy calls” when in fact these calls are quite rude?  These calls are not courteous at all.  The term is used less now than four or five years ago and not a moment too soon.

During the past eight years, I have had the displeasure of working at two different telemarketing jobs.  As such I have been on both the receiving end and the giving end of such phone calls. Most of you have also received these calls so I need not examine the psychology of the recipient.  You are all too familiar with the myriad of visceral reactions generated within oneself when overflowing with rage at the invasive cold caller.

Instead, I will take you on a tour of what I’ve seen go on at several of these call centers.

Most recently I worked at one dedicated to selling shop-at-home food services.  Insidious. Greedy. Pushy. Just some of the adjectives that can be applied.  About the only lighthearted aspect of the whole deal is some of the names that appeared on my call lists.  James Bond.  Barry Bonds. Ying Yang. Bill Clinton. Just to mention a few. However that’s where the humor ends.

Telemarketers are given a series of scripts that they are told must be strictly adhered to.  There is the main sales pitch script.  Then there’s a recommendation script used to call referrals when an unsuspecting customer is trusting enough to have given the telemarketer phone numbers of some of their friends or family.  Then there are “Rebuttals” scripts which contain some two dozen standard excuses people have for not wanting to buy your product and how the telemarketer should reply.  Make no mistake, telemarketing firms are highly organized and out to separate you from your money.  One of the only rebuttals I ever received at the food service job that  our company didn’t have a scripted answer for was when one person I called exclaimed (incredible as it seems) “no one in my family eats solid foods.” Incredibly there were three adults in that family.

The thrust of the main sales pitch script is not as much about actually making a sale as it is in “qualifying” the person on the other end.  The goal is to see if the person is a good prospect financially and from the standpoint of how much potential business they can give us. We were told to ask if they own their own home, how many people they shop for, average weekly food budget, what time they get home from work and what kind of work they do.  We were also instructed that if the person didn’t own their own home, to ask them if they have a major credit card.  Excuse my logic, but isn’t this all just a tad like invasion of privacy?

Inside the room where calls are made is a supervisor who is quite glib and will take over for the telemarketer if there is a hot appointment nearing the closing stage.  Also in this room is a sales manager who is chock full of marketing clichés such as telling the telemarketers to find out if the person being called “is a buyer or a liar.”

There is a chart on one wall that logs all the telemarketers’ progress for that week.  Each of us would be listed as to how many home appointments we booked.  We didn’t actually sell the product over the phone.  We simply got commitments from the people to allow one of our sales reps to visit them in their home. If the sales rep booked a contract then we would be credited on the chart with a sale.  It is dog eat dog inside that room.  While you would clap in glee for the person next to you if they booked an appointment you nevertheless also knew that they were getting ahead of you for that week. As the old adage goes, “you’re only as good as today.”  You may have made five appointments on the previous day but if you had none to show on the present day you were seen as slacking.  On an average day we were told we should perform at least 400 dial ups.

At my other telemarketing job things weren’t quite as gut wrenching.  For in this case, calls were being made to other businesses in the industry, in this case, machined metal parts.   It is not as bad making a cold call from a business to another business as it is to call someone at their home.  However, the pressure to book appointments for visits to other businesses was just as intense.

Having worked these two jobs, I thoroughly believe the one story told about a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman who bragged at a company sales pep rally that he had sold a vacuum to a paraplegic who wouldn’t even be able to use it.  This horror story was caught on video tape by one of the investigative news programs on television some years ago.

My advice to people on the receiving end of a courtesy call or whatever such calls are referred to in the current jargon is to make quick work of the caller.  Or perhaps use a response similar to one I heard years ago.  I was working for one very hardnosed CEO  and when someone began asking me (his chauffeur) about the CEO’s personal business, the CEO advised me to respond as follows – “Tell them to go read the Wall Street Journal.” I never quite knew what he meant by this but it worked for him so it must have been good.

Copyright 2009; Greg S.

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