My computer was acting funny the other day, running at an irrationally insincere pace. I updated all the overdue updates, deleted space eating infrequently used programs, ran a defragmentation program and it was still running like a drunk trying to make it to the bathroom. I was able to get online, Binged for help and found 'Speedy PC Pro' online repair service “for $29.99 – SpecialToday Only!” I get a bit panicky when my cyber link to the world is poorly, and the service was Microsoft Approved and had Verisign trust buttons and other warm fluffies, so I went for it.

Shortly thereafter, after getting nowhere with the software I'd just downloaded, (past knowing that my drive had 388 problems it couldn't fix), I was on the phone with Sanjev. He seemed a patient sort and was obviously trying to be helpful. The room behind him sounded like it held 200 other chatty East Indian repair assistants, but it didn't interfere with my ability to understand him. Post approval, he poked into the innards of my black Dell 3000 and shortly said: “Oh sir, I have some very bad news for you”. “Faaak” I inwardly gasped, remembering past computer repair debacles, and hoping this wasn't going to be another. “You have many problems with your registry, I cannot fix this for you. The best analogy I can use is that if your drive was made of wood it would be filled with termites and is about to collapse. You must take this to a Microsoft trained technician as soon as you can.” He than began recommending Staples Office Supply, where they could solve my problem for about $350 “or perhaps a bit more”.

As I mentioned, the thought of being without my computer makes me feel somewhat panicky. I had an urge to supplicate for the sake of getting back to up-and-running status ASAP, but then remembered a past situation that created a similar feeling.

It was near Christmas and our first trip to London. After arriving at Heathrow we gathered our bags and took the tube to Hammersmith Station. There were throngs of people bustling about like extras in a movie who had been told to BUSTLE! It was a long flight from California and I was spun. We collected our bags and started shuffling towards the taxi stand when a thin, squinty man in a striped turtleneck sweater and a worn dark blue sports jacket came up to us and said: “Where to Gov? Got me car right around the corner, take you any where you need to go”. “What about the taxis? Are you a taxi driver?” I replied, sounding every bit as sharp as an old butter knife. My wife Elle squeezed my arm and pulled our three year old son Chris a bit closer. “No need for alarm Miss”, our would be transport man assured: “Just providing a service, where are you headed?” I told him we were going to the Chiswick Inn on High Street. “Right, take you there for a flat twenty quid. Bettern' you'll do with those black cabbies … never know what those buggers 'ell charge ya. Likely to take you the long way round you know.”

I was about to accept the pro-offered arrangement, largely to avoid the cue and get to the hotel as quickly as possible, but Elle took me firmly by the arm, looked the man directly in the eyes and said: “No thank you sir” and towed Chris and I to the taxi stand. We waited in silence for about ten minutes and then got into a black cab. I told the driver our destination and as we took off I asked El “what was that was about?” “Didn't like him, didn't like him at all. He seemed shifty and polite in a wrong way. My gut told me he wasn't to be trusted and we should just go.” “Oh, OK” I replied feeling like I'd just traveled to Mars in the back of a pickup. We pulled up to the hotel a few moments later. “That'll be three pound ten sir” the driver chortled as we exited the cab. Elle smiled at me and said “I'll get it, my treat.”

I decided to take the old black Dell to the local 'PC Dude' repair shop. They had it done in a day for $119.

                                  Happy Holidays!

The Elephant in the Living Room 

 In the early 1990’s an alcoholism recovery hospital ran a series of TV commercials where a normal family was going about their daily business with one unusual facet; there was a huge elephant in the house that everyone was ignoring. Of course the elephant represented the obvious but denied problem of alcoholism. We have a similar situation in America right now albeit on a much larger scale; without the education to discern honest endeavor from bombast, vast numbers of people are easily guided into supporting practices that threaten not only a sensible way of life but the physical well being of our planet. Simply said, too many Americans are easy to dupe. 

 How can we expect a voting population who doesn’t know the first thing about sophistry or techniques of manipulation to see through rhetoric slingers like the Tea Party, Fox News and the like?  

                                            We can’t!

 It’s painfully obvious that many Americans desperately need to be educated as to the ways of those who work to manipulate them, but how do we get it done? Like driving and sexual prowess most people are pretty prideful about their abilities when it comes to who to trust, so it’s doubtful a direct approach is going to do much. I’ve written a fun and informative book on the basics titled Two Legged Snakes: Understanding and Handling Manipulative People to contribute to overcoming this problembut the book sales and radio shows I’ve been able to generate are attacking an oceanic size problem with a paper cup. Like a Chihuahua trying to direct a stampeding herd of wildebeests. 

 A logical long term step towards resolving this problem is to make a class such as ‘Participating in the American Political Process’ a requirement in High School. The types of manipulation that are currently the most problematic are very simple and could easily be taught to anyone who’s capable of driving a car. Speaking of cars, we require drivers to obtain a drivers license and periodically renew it, what about a voting license? A 20 question, multiple choice test could filter out voters who don’t know the first thing about methods of manipulation and are thus vulnerable to being duped by the nefarious. A simple booklet could be used to explain the basics & the test could be taken as many times as needed so any sincere voter could vote. A compulsory $2 ‘voter education’ tax could be added to our yearly filings to pay for it, easier said than done but possible.  

 Any solution to this problem is going to be difficult to implement but if it’s not confronted and we just complain about ‘dumb voters’, the foxes will continue to have too much access to the chicken coop. And that will certainly end up stepping on the toe’s of our right to the pursuit of happiness, and perhaps life and liberty as well.