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Posts Tagged ‘ADMINISTRATION’

“YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 16, 2014 at 12:00 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do?

  • Go on the Net and look up the company’s/agency’s website.  Look for links to their Board of Directors.  Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Start looking at the bottom of the website page.  Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you.  That means the ones at the top of the  company–or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call, letter and/or email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big–that’s not going to happen.  Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible.  Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.  Answer any questions asked–such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State–specifically–what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  • Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  • Be reasonable.  If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product.  If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles–unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to drop everything else and do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another–if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.
  • For example: If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.
  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws, the odds are that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • But don’t threaten to sue.  Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s profits and/or reputation for integrity/efficiency.  Make it clear that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Don’t try to win sympathy for yourself.  An agency/company doesn’t care about you.  It cares only about its profits and/or reputation.  So if you got a raw deal, but don’t have the means to threaten either, its top executives won’t lift a finger to help you.
  • If you can make it clear that the profits and/or reputation of the agency/business have been compromised by the actions of its employee(s), your letter/email will instantly catch the attention of Mr. Big.  Or one of Mr. Big’s assistants–who will likely take quick action to head off a lawsuit and/or bad publicity by trying to satisfy your request.
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you.  Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief–no more than a page and a half.  Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.
  • If your main problem is simply getting through the phone system of the business, point out that most customers won’t put up with such rudeness and inefficiency. They will take their business elsewhere.

“YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it? 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign–and pay–people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to.  Assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds.

This is especially true when the problem involves technology.

(Technical support employees of computer/software companies are notorious for advising customers to “just put the Restore Disk back into your computer and restore it back to default.”

This wipes out your problem–and everything you’ve saved on your computer.  It also gets you off the phone quickly with Tech Support.)

To a bean-counting executive, time is money.  And that’s money that won’t be going into the pockets of some already overpaid CEO.

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

That’s why many bureaucracies arrange that when you call for help, you’re fobbed off with a recorded message telling you to visit the company’s or agency’s website.

This assumes, of course, that

  1. You have a computer;
  2. If you do, you also have Internet access; and
  3. All the answers to life’s problems–including yours–can be found on that website.

If you

  • Don’t have a computer;
  • You have a computer but don’t have Internet access;
  • You do have Internet access but the service is down;
  • Can’t find the solution to your problem on the agency/company website

you’re flat out of luck.

And the agency/company couldn’t care less.

But it need not be this way.

Companies and agencies can treat their customers with respect for their time and need for help.

That’s why companies that genuinely seek to address the questions and concerns of their customers reap strong customer loyalty–and the profits that go with it.

One of these is LG, which produces mobile phones, TVs, audio/video appliances and computer products.

LG actually offers an 800 Customer Care number that’s good 24-hours a day.

Its call center is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to answer customer questions and guide them through the steps of setting up the appliances they’ve bought.

Another company that dares to have human beings stand behind its products–and explain how to use them–is The Sharper Image.

Recently, Dave, a friend of mine, bought an electronic alarm clock that allows you to wake up to a variety of exotic sounds–such as a thunderstorm, the seashore, chirping birds or foghorns.

A brochure on how to set the alarm and sounds came with the clock, but Dave couldn’t make sense of it.  Luckily, there was an 800 number given in the brochure for those who needed to be walked through the necessary steps.

Dave called The Sharper Image and quickly found himself connected with a friendly and knowledgeable customer care rep.  She clearly and patiently explained what he needed to do to choose which sounds he wanted to awaken to.

And then she just as patiently repeated that list of steps while he quickly typed them up for future use if he forgot what to do.

Such an approach to customer service is not new–just extremely rare these days.

In his 1970 bestselling primer on business management, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend offered the following advice to company CEOs: “Call yourself up.”

“When you’re off on a business trip or a vacation,” writes Townsend, “pretend you’re a customer.  Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help.  You’ll run into real horror shows.

“Don’t blow up and ask for name, rank and serial number–you’re trying to correct, not punish.  Just suggest to the manager (through channels, dummy) that he make a few test calls himself.”

So how do you cope with agencies/companies that don’t care enough to help their customers?

I’ll address that in my next column.

YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on November 6, 2013 at 12:56 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do?

  1. Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website.  Look for links to their Board of Directors.  Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  2. Start looking at the bottom of the website page.  Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  3. Look for the names of officials who can help you.  That means the ones at the top–or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  4. If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big–that’s not going to happen.  Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  5. Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible.  Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  6. Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  7. If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.  Answer any questions asked–such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  8. State–specifically–what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  9. Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  10. Be reasonable.  If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product.  If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles–unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  11. If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to drop everything else and do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  12. It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another–if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.  If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.
  13. That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws, the odds are that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  14. If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so.  But don’t threaten to sue.  Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency and that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  15. Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying–and, in most cases, will take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request.  The foremost priority of every bureaucracy is to ensure its own survival.
  16. Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you.  Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  17. If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego.  Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  18. As in the case with his secretary, be brief–no more than a page and a half.  Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  19. Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on November 5, 2013 at 1:15 am

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it? 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign–and pay–people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to.  They want to siphon off as much of the company’s profits for themselves as possible.

And assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds.  To a bean-counting executive, time is money.

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

That’s why many bureaucracies arrange that when you call for help, you’re fobbed off with a recorded message telling you to visit the company’s or agency’s website.

This assumes, of course, that

  1. You have a computer; and
  2. If you do, you also have Internet access.

If you

  • Don’t have a computer; or
  • You have a computer but don’t have Internet access; or
  • You do have Internet access but the service is down,

you’re flat out of luck.

And the agency/company couldn’t care less.

But it need not be this way.

Companies and agencies can treat their customers with respect for their time and need for help.

That’s why companies that genuinely seek to address the questions and concerns of their customers reap strong customer loyalty–and the profits that go with it.

One of these is LG, which produces mobile phones, TVs, audio/video appliances and computer products.

LG actually offers an 800 Customer Care number that’s good 24-hours a day.

Its call center is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to answer customer questions and guide them through the steps of setting up the appliances they’ve bought.

Another company that dares to have human beings stand behind its products–and explain how to use them–is The Sharper Image.

Recently, Dave, a friend of mine, bought an electronic alarm clock that allows you to wake up to a variety of exotic souds–such as a thunderstorm, the seashore, chirping birds or foghorns.

A brochure on how to set the alarm and sounds came with the clock, but Dave couldn’t make sense of it.  Luckily, there was an 800 number given in the brochure for those who needed to be walked through the necessary steps.

Dave called The Sharper Image and quickly found himself connected with a friendly and knowledgeable customer care rep.  She clearly and patiently explained what he needed to do to choose which sounds he wanted to awaken to.

And then she just as patiently repeated that list of steps while he quickly typed them up for future use if he forgot what to do.

Such an approach to customer service is not new–just extremely rare these days.

In his 1970 bestselling primer on business management, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend offered the following advice to company CEOs: “Call yourself up.”

“When you’re off on a business trip or a vacation,” writes Townsend, “pretend you’re a customer.  Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help.  You’ll run into real horror shows.

“Don’t blow up and ask for name, rank and serial number–you’re trying to correct, not punish.  Just suggest to the manager (through channels, dummy) that he make a few test calls himself.”

So how do you cope with agencies/companies that don’t care enough to help their customers?

I’ll address that in my next column.

FICTION THREATENS TO BECOME REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2011 at 11:11 am

Steven Pressfield knows history.  He knows it well enough to have written four great historical novels about ancient Greece.

  • In Gates of Fire, he re-imagined the immortal last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. 
  • In Tides of War, he re-fought the Greeks’ 25-year version of the Cold War between Athens and Sparta.
  • In The Virtues of War, he resurrected Alexander the Great as a luminous but murderous military genius.
  • And in The Afghan Campaign, he depicted the first great conflict between the West and Afghanistan, as Alexander sought to brutally “pacify” the country so he could press on to conquer India.

And now, with The Profession, Pressfield has abandoned history altogether for the future.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a warning about the history that Americans may well face in the near-future.

Pressfield creates his futuristic world out of events now shaping our lives.  In doing so, he reveals more truths about our military and civilian bureaucracies than many Americans might want to learn.

American military and Intelligence agencies are increasingly relying on private–and highly-paid–contractors to meet their needs. The 2003 invasion of Iraq saw more private “soldiers-for-hire” operating there than soldiers from the regular American military.

It was in Iraq that Blackwater became a household word–as much for its wholesale brutality as its effectiveness.

Pressfield slams us forwad into the ultra-violent world of 2032, where   apocalypse hovers around every corner.  The third Iraq-Iran war is over, and Americans are still reeling from the November, 2011 “dirty bomb” attack on Long Beach, California.

America has attained the power of an empire–but has lost the will to put its own sons at risk to defend it.

Instead, it turns to the privately-funded armies of such multi-national corporations as BP and ExxonMobil. And the largest of these mercenary armies is Force Insertion–whose leader is a cashiered United States Marine general named James Salter.

Salter is a combination of two great Pressfield characters. He has the far-seeing strategic genius of the Athenian general, Alcibiades (Tides of War). And he has the charismatic authority of Alexander the Great, who’s worshipped by the soldiers he commands (The Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign).

He is thus a highly attractive character.  It’s easy to see why so many people–soldiers and civilians–want to see him victorious.

But there is a dark purpose behind his every maneuver. Again like Alcibiades, who deserted Athens for Sparta, he’s driven by rage and pride to avenge himself on those he blames for his disgrace and exile.

And he has an audacious plan to make this a reality:  Seize the oilfields of Saudi Arabia–fifty years’ worth of crude–and offer these as a gift to his fellow Americans.  In exchange, he will return home—as an American Caesar/President.

Standing firmly behind him for most of the novel is its narrator, Gilbert “Gent” Gentilhomme. A former Marine-turned-mercenary himself, Gentilhomme seeks a place of honor and purpose in a world he sees as generally lacking both. He sees Salter as a second father and warrior ideal–a courageous, brilliant, true patriot wronged by those in power who despise such qualities.

It is only when Gent comes to realize the terrible danger Salter poses to the Republic that he moves from devoted follower to would-be assassin. At the climax of the novel, he faces off with his longtime hero, in an exchange containing more blunt truths about America today than many readers may want to accept.

“The United States is an empire,” says Salter. “But the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionnaires, we’re mechanics. In the end the American Dream boils down to what? `I’m getting mine and the hell with you.'”

Salter realizes he is ultimately fighting a losing war to preserve the country he loves.  The ambitious part of him hungers to accept the gift of absolute power his fellow Americans want to gratefully confer on him.

The reflective part of him knows he is, in effect, betraying the very Republic he longs to save–and hopes an assassin’s bullet will spare him this disgrace.

 “The very ascension of someone like me–a mercenary general plucked from the provinces–is history’s sign that the nation has lost its way and is struggling desperately, merely to hang on.”

Most reviews of The Profession have focused on its depiction of futuristic techno-war: Holographic, hand-held phones. Cloaking technology to conceal high-end weaponry from satellite eyes-in-the-sky. Tactical nuclear weapons that are commonly possessed and plausibly used.

Like a Tom Clancy novel, The Profession can be read by those who simply want an exciting page-turner. But, unlike Clancy’s thrillers, this is a book with an urgent warning for its audience: A warning that what we are today threatens to lead us to the edge of an abyss–in which there is no freedom, and from which there is no return.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Osama bin Laden. Two men who lived by the gun–and died by it. Who inspired widespread admiration among their supporters and fear among their enemies.

Both men targeted the United States as their chief adversary. Guevera sought to destroy its power to fight Communism. Bin Laden sought to destroy its power to intervene in the Middle East.

Guevera’s most optimistic hope was that Americans would eventually see the error of their capitalistic ways and convert to Communism. His last words were: “Tell Fidel that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America.”

But he was prepared to fight to the death–as indeed he did–to force revolutionary change upon the United States.

Bin Laden’s most optimistic hope that Christian and Jewish Americans would eventually convert to Islam. But if that didn’t happen, he, too, was prepared to attack Americans anywhere and in any way he could–as his private diary and documents have revealed.

Having described, in a previous column, how Ernesto “Che” Guevera met his end, it is time to compare this with how bin Laden earned his 72 willing virgins.

On April 29, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized a U.S. military raid, dubbed “Operation Neptune Spear.”   On May 1, two teams of 12 U.S. Navy SEALs, working with the CIA, stormed bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The SEALS traveled in two helicopters specially outfitted to emit little noise. But an accident resulted when the tail rotor of one helicipter grazed the compound’s wall. The damaged aircraft was “hard-landed” and then destroyed on-site to protect technology secrets.

Back-up forces were immediately available, and another helicopter was brought in to retrieve the commandos and relevant contents. All combined, a total of 79 commandos and a dog (believed to have explosive-detection training) were involved in the raid.

Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s courier, opened fire on the SEALs from the guesthouse with an AK-47 assault rifle where he and his wife were killed in the returned fire. A male relative of the courier was shot and killed by the SEALs before he could reach a weapon lying nearby

Bin Laden’s 22-year-old son rushed towards the SEALs on the staircase of the main house, and was also shot and killed. Bin Laden, standing at the top of a staircase, retreated into his room–where he was followed by SEALS and shot in his head and chest.

There were two weapons near him, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a Russian-made 9 millimeter semi-automatic Makarov pistol. But, according to his wife, Amal, he was shot before he could reach his AK-47.

A SEAL on the scene announced coded news of bin Laden’s death: “Geronimo E-KIA” (enemy – killed in action).

The entire raid, including intelligence sweeps of the compound, was completed in less than 40 minutes. The SEALS moved fast because they feared–rightly–that the Pakistani army would intervene to protect bin Laden.

Within 24 hours of his death, bin Laden’s body was transported to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson for final rites and burial at sea. President Obama and other U.S. officials feared that his gravesite could become become a memorial site for members of Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrArabist organizations.

In the late evening of May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed in the operation. He added that U.S. forces “took care to avoid civilian casualties.”

The attack was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani government–a wise move, considering that bin Laden had been living undisturbed at a large compound for at least five years, just a short distance from the Pakistani version of West Point.

Just as Fidel Castro and other Communist leaders eulogized the dead Che, so, too, leaders of Islamic expansionist groups rallied to praise the dead bin Laden.

Among these was his son, Omar, who denounced his father’s killing as a “criminal” act, and his burial at sea as demeaning to the Islamic faith.

In a letter published on the website of Islamist ideologue Abu Walid al-Masri, the younger bin Laden said the former Al Qaeda leader’s children reserved the right to take legal action in the United States and internationally to “determine the true fate of our vanished father.”

The letter further noted:  “We hold the American President Obama legally responsible to clarify the fate of our father, Osama bin Laden, for it is unacceptable, humanely and religiously, to dispose of a person with such importance and status among his people, by throwing his body into the sea in that way, which demeans and humiliates his family and his supporters and which challenges religious provisions and feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims.”

Bin Laden’s death attracted protests from hundreds of people in the city of Quetta, in southwestern Pakistan, who burned American flags and paid homage to the late terrArabist leader.

On May 13, a pair of Taliban suicide bombers attacked paramilitary police recruits eagerly heading home for a break after months of training, killing 80 people.  It was the first act of retaliation for the killing of bin Laden.

Others–especially Americans–reacted differently.  Almost as Obama was addressing the nation, cheering crowds gathered outside the White House and in New York City’s Times Square.  Celebration also broke out at the site of the former World Trade Center, the victim of the September 11 attacks.

For the next two weeks, Americans continued to rejoice.  Much of their feelings were best expressed in grisly humor on websites and late night comedy shows such as “Tonight” and “Late Night With  David Letterman.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” for Americans, and U.S diplomatic facilities everywhere were placed on high alert.

It remains to be seen whether, decades from now, bin Laden will retain the iconic status of Ernesto “Che” Guevera.

A TALE OF TWO KILLINGS – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

They both had beards. They both saw military action. They both passionately hated the United States. They both died in a hail of bullets.

And immediately after their deaths, both of them seemed to disappear from the face of the earth.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Osama bin Laden. The former Cuban revolutionary died on October 9, 1967, at the hands of a CIA-directed operation run by the Bolivian army.

The latter mastermind of Al Qaeda met his end on May 1, 2011, during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALS on his compound in Pakistan.

One man–Guevera–has since attained secular sainthood in the eyes of millions of Communists and their sympathizers.

The other–bin Laden–has attained instant “martyr” status in the eyes of untold numbers of Islamic terrArabists and their sympathizers throughout the world.

Both men plotted constantly against the United States and eagerly sought its destruction.

In November, 1962, during an interview with the London Daily Worker, Guevera raged against the Soviet Union’s recent withdraal of nuclear missiles from Cuba. Those “thirteen days” of the Cuban Missile Crisis that October had brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust.

“If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of the United States, including New York,” said Guevera. “We must never establish peaceful coexistence. We must walk the path of victory even if it costs millions of atomic victims.”

Similarly, until the end of his life, bin Laden demanded more 9/11-style attacks against the American heartland. This brought him into conflict with other Al Qaeda members who wanted to launch assaults on more vulnerable targets outside the United States.

Guevera met his fate as follows:

On November 3, 1966, he secretly arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, intent on re-staging the Cuban revolution among the Bolivian peasantry. But the peasants showed no interest in his aims and in fact reported his movements to the army.

The army, in turn, was being advised by Green Berets under the direction of the CIA. On October 7, 1967, an informant apprised the Bolivian Special Forces of the location of Guevara’s guerrilla encampment in the Yuro ravine.

On October 8, they encircled the area with 1,800 soldiers, and Guevara was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a detachment. His rifle broken by a lucky shot, a twice-wounded Guevara shouted: “Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and worth more to you alive than dead.”

Quickly informed of Guevera’s capture, officials of the Bolivian government debated his fate: Should he be immediately executed or placed on trial?

On the morning of October 9, Bolivian President René Barrientos ordered that Guevara be killed. Placing Guevera on trial would create an international media circus and/or render Bolivia vulnerable to efforts to free him.

Since the Bolivian government planned to state that Guevera had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army, special instructions were issued. These came from Félix Rodríguez, a CIA agent acting as advisor to the Bolivians.

The executioner would be Mario Terán, a Bolivian army sergeant who had lost three of his friends in an earlier firefight with Guevara’s band of guerrillas.

Rodríguez ordered Terán to aim carefully to make it appear that Guevara had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army.

To his surprise, Rodriguez found himself personally impressed with Guevera’s courage. When Rodriguez informed him of his imminent execution, Guevera blanched, then quickly got control of himself: “It is better like this. I should never have been captured alive.”

Rodriguez asked if he had any messages for his family, and Che replied: “Tell Fidel that he will soon see a triumphant revolution in America. And tell my wife to remarry and try to be happy.”

When Sergeant Terán entered the hut, Che Guevara told his executioner, “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!”

Terán hesitated, then opened fire with his semiautomatic rifle, hitting Guevara in the arms and legs. Guevara writhed on the ground, apparently biting one of his wrists to avoid crying out. Terán then fired several times again, wounding him fatally in the chest.

In all, Guevara was shot nine times: five times in the legs, once in the right shoulder and arm, once in the chest, and once in the throat.

But killing Guevera was not enough for the Bolivian government. He had to seem to disappear from the face of the earth.

On October 10, 1967, Guevara’s body was flown to nearby Vallegrande, where photographs were taken of him lying on a concrete slab in the laundry room of the Nuestra Señora de Malta. Several witnesses were called to confirm that it was Guevara.

As hundreds of local residents filed past the body, many of them considered Guevara’s corpse to represent a “Christ-like” visage. Some of them even surreptitiously clipped locks of his hair as divine relics.

After a military doctor amputated his hands, Bolivian army officers transferred Guevara’s body to an undisclosed location and refused to reveal whether his remains had been buried or cremated.

The hands were preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification. (His fingerprints were on file with the Argentine police.) They were later sent to Cuba.

On October 15, Fidel Castro acknowledged that Guevara was dead and proclaimed three days of public mourning throughout Cuba. Addressing a crowd of one million mourners in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución on October 18, Castro eulogized Che’s character as a revolutionary:

“If we wish to express what we want the men of future generations to be, we must say: Let them be like Che! If we wish to say how we want our children to be educated, we must say without hesitation: We want them to be educated in Che’s spirit!

“If we want the model of a man, who does not belong to our times but to the future, I say from the depths of my heart that such a model, without a single stain on his conduct, without a single stain on his action, is Che!”

TREASON AND ITS BUREAUCRATIC PROMOTERS – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm

For more than a half-century, the bureaucrats of the Republican Party have accused their Democratic opponents of treason to gain and retain political power in America. And it has proven a potent, vote-getting weapon.

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, assailed the “smear-and-fear” tactics of Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The forum was Murrow’s highly-rated documentary series, “See It Now.” The truth of Murrow’s remarks has outlasted the briefness of that 30-minute program.

They could have been applied to the “lie and deny” methods of the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

And to the Red-baiting attacks made by Republicans against President Bill Clinton.

And to the ongoing character assaults made by right-wingers against President Barack Obama.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” warned Murrow in that broadcast. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men–not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular….

“We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities….

“We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home….

“Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”

Fast forward 57 years, to April 27, 2011. Murrow has been dead since 1965. Yet an echo of his words hung in the air as President Barack Obama addressed a hastily-called press conference.

The reason: To release the long-form of his Hawaiian birth certificate–and to hopefully lay to rest the Republican slander that he was not an American citizen, thus making him ineligible to hold office as President.

“I know that there is going to be a segment of people for which no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest,” Obama said. “But I am speaking for the vast majority of the American people as well as for the press.

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.”

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other … if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

Chief among the “carnival barkers” Obama was referring to was Donald Trump, the endlessly self-promoting business tycoon.

Declaring himself a possible candidate for President in 2012, Trump had latched onto the “birther” issue as a guaranteed way to capture the attention–and votes–of the radical right.

For everyone but the most extremist right-wingers, Obama’s dramatic performance laid to rest the “birther” issue.

But the President had another–and far more important–surprise to unveil: His answer to those rightists who accused him of being a secret Muslim, intent on “selling out” America’s security to his Islamic “masters.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

For the moment, most of the slander-peddlers in the Republican Party bureaucracy fell silent. This was especially after Obama announced the death of Bin Laden.

Still, the legacy of hate and fear-mongering goes on. There is a good reason for this: Republicans have found, repeatedly, that attacking the patriotism of their opponents is an effective vote-getter.

• It hurtled Dwight Eisenhower into the White House and Republicans into Congress in 1952 and 1956 and
• elected Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 .
• It gave control of the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and
• gave it to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
• And even though Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, it gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994.
• It gave them the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
• It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, thus undermining the financial and healthcare reforms planned by Obama.

And, coming this July, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party will expand its “Treason!” accusation even further. No longer will only Democratic candidates for office and their supporters be targets for such slander.

Now the victims will include the tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11.

They will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list. Any of the responders who are notcompared to the database of suspected terrorists will be barred from getting treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

It’s a “gift” that comes to them courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and the Republican Party.

In 2010, Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law to address those ailments.

But to win passage of the legislation, Democrats were forced to accept an amendment that deliberately casts a slur on the men and women who had answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony.

Thus, self-righteous right-wing legislators, who never lifted a beam from a trapped 9/11 survivor or inhaled toxic fumes that spewed from the crater that was once the World Trade Center, will be standing in judgment over those who did.

TREASON AND ITS BUREAUCRATIC PROMOTERS – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am

The tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11 have an unexpected–and undeserved–surprise coming.

They will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list.

Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists will be barred from getting treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

It’s a “gift” that comes to them courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and the bureaucracy of the Republican Party.

In 2010, Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law to address those ailments.

But to win passage of the legislation, Democrats were forced to accept an amendment that deliberately casts a slur on the men and women who had answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony.

Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has informed medical providers and administrators that they should begin letting patients know before the new program kicks in this July.

Specifically, patients seeking help under 9/11 treatment and monitoring programs will be told that their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data will be provided to the FBI to ensure they are not terrorists.

Howard’s instructions to medical providers include a sample letter to responders designed to minimize alarm.

“Although neither we nor [the Centers for Disease Control]/NIOSH anticipate the name of any individual in the current Programs will be on the list, CDC/NIOSH is expressly required by law to implement this particular requirement of the Act.

“Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to working with you and ensuring that you continue to receive uninterrupted services under the new WTC Health Program,” it concludes.

This is not the first time Republicans have slandered the patriotism their fellow Americans to gain and retain political power.

Since the end of World War 11, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts.

Republicans–who had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952–found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans highly effective in winning elections.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence. On February 9, 1950, he claimed, for example: “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

After four years of such frenzied attacks on Congress, the State Department and respected journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, McCarthy finally overstepped himself. He accused the United States Army of being an active hotbed for Communists.

The result were the Army-McCarthy hearings, where McCarthy’s credibility was forever destroyed. He was finally censured by his fellow Senators and disappeared into anonymity, alcoholism and death in 1957.

The fact that McCarthy never uncovered one actual case of treason was conveniently overlooked during his lifetime. And today, right-wing columnists like Ann Coulter try to rehabilitate his memory–just as right-wingers in Russia still try to rehabilitate the memory of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Nevertheless, the success of McCarthy’s treason-charged rhetoric proved too heady for other Republicans to resist. Among those who have hurled similar charges–and greatly profited from them–are:

• President Richard Nixon
• His vice president, Spiro Agnew
• Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
• Former Congressman Dick Armey
• President George W. Bush
• Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin
• Congresswoman Michelle Bachman
• Rush Limbaugh
• Glen Beck
• Sean Hannity
• Bill O’Reilly.

The election of Barack Obama pushed the “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy. With no political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party deliberately promoted the slander that Obama was not an American citizen.

The natural conclusion from this could only be that he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

Republican bureaucrats also claimed–sometimes openly, sometimes in secret–that Obama was really a Muslim.

During the 1992 Presidential election, Republicans charged that Bill Clinton was a secret agent of the Communists because, as a student, he had once visited Moscow. During the 2008 Presidential race, Republicans charged that Obama intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

To the dismay of his enemies, Obama–in the course of a single week–dramatically proved the falsity of both charges.

On April 27, he released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other …if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers,”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

RUNNING A RESTAURANT–PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business on September 30, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Restaurants do more than serve food. In fact, serving food is simply the final product of a complex management process. And students of bureaucracy can learn a great many lessons from a successful executive chef.

Such a chef is Spencer O’Meara, who has run San Francisco’s Paragon Restaurant snce July, 2000.

Those who work in restaurant kitchens need a thick skin to cope with those moments when they will inevitably make mistakes–and will be brutally called to account for them.

“It’s the whole chef mentality,” explains O’Meara. “One minute you’re joking and talking a lot of crap, slapping each other on the ass, and then the next minute it’s like, ‘Here comes the buzz saw, what just happened here?’ All of a sudden something happens and it’s like ‘Bang!’ you want from the top of the mountain to under the mountain.”

Nor does the gender of the chef make any difference: “My girlfriend’s a chef. I might be a little more abrupt than her, but if you push her buttons good enough she’ll turn on you. I believe that, either male or female, we’re all in the same boat: Get the product out, make the customers happy, and let’s get through the day. You’re only as good as your last plate.

“Everybody I know—we’re all pretty similar,” says O’Meara. “You’re demanding, because you have to be. You hold huge accountability on everybody. You’re stern because you can’t let anybody get sideways on you. You’re forceful, too—if you don’t want to do what I want you to do I’m going to force you into it or I’m going to get you out of here.”

For Spencer O’Meara–and every other executive chef–there is one factor that overrides all others: Keeping costs in line.

And for this he holds himself alone accountable: “If costs aren’t in line, then the only person who needs to go is me, ‘cause that’s my responsibility.

“My line cooks do not design dishes. They don’t put a steak dish on the menu that is making no money. I put the steak dish on the menu. And if it’s not making any money, then I’m the dumb-ass who put it there. So I need to go.

“If you burn it, then I have to throw it away. So if you’re repeatedly torching stuff up…. But if you’re doing the dishes the way I showed you to do ‘em, and you’re keeping your station clean the way I want you to, there’s no reason for you to go, you’re a quality employee.”

O’Meara believes the makeup of the restaurant business has changed radically–and not necessarily for the better: “I think that now what fuels the restaurant business more than ever is people thinking they’re going to go to culinary school, come out and be huge and be a celebrity.

“The Food Network has instigated so many cooking schools in the world it’s ridiculous. And I love the Food Network and watch it all the time. But it is such a high profile job now, whereas before, back in the 70s, 80s, 90s you were just the guy in the back yelling at everybody. Now you’re the star.”

Nevertheless, there are celebrity chefs that O’Meara respects. One is Mario Batall: “He seems extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what he’s doing. I’ve eaten at several of his restaurants and thought they were all delicious.” Another is Bobby Flay: “I’ve never eaten at a Bobby Flay restaurant, but I like him as a personality and respect him as a chef, thinking he can cook.”

Usually, celebrity chefs who own restaurants hire an executive chef who is responsible for everything. “And the celebrity chef puts his name on it and then works with that chef. But on a day-to-day basis, the celebrity chef is not responsible for it.”

With so many stresses to face, who should become a chef? According to Spencer O’Meara:

“Just because you like to cook at home doesn’t mean you’re a chef. Just because you go to culinary school doesn’t mean you’re a chef. Just because you like to cook at home doesn’t mean you should go to culinary school.

“If you like to cook at home, go work in a restaurant for six months. If you like it, go to culinary school.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I love to cook for my family. I’m going to culinary school.’ Culinary school is $60,000.” There’s a high washout rate in culinary schools. And if you graduate you may decide, “‘Holy shit, I never wanted to do this.’ And you’re on the hook.

“You’d better know what you’re getting into,” warns O’Meara.
“And you’d better go out and experience it before you drop the money. And it’s hard to get into it because nobody wants to hire you because you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

“You have to go to a chef and say, ‘I think I want to go to culinary school, but I’m not really sure. Is there a way I could work with you for a little while, even if it’s for free?’

“Everybody always says, ‘Mom’s pot roast is always dry.’ You can’t say that in this business. And nobody ever looked at Mom and said, ‘Hey, my dinner’s supposed to be on the table at six o’clock—where in the hell is it?’ She’d be like, ‘Go clean the bathroom—it’ll be ready in awhile.’ So it’s different pressures.”

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