Sandoval Signpost

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letters, opinions, editorials

Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

re: your call really is important to us!

I long for the good old days when you dialed an 800 number and were greeted by a real human being who politely enquired, “How might I direct your call?” And within a moment or two, you were connected to a real human being who helped you with your problem.

Alas, these live helpful human beings have gone the way of the dodo. Replaced by chatty sounding artificial voices (voice recognition systems actually) who say things like, “OK, I think I can help you!” Just say something like, “I need to return my framus,” or “My whatsit is not working.” This should be an efficient way to route your call. In theory. But most of the time, these ersatz phone persons can’t understand a thing you say and often respond to a simple answer of YES or NO with, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.” And then they go through the whole spiel again. Only when you yell at the top of your lungs, “I WANT TO SPEAK TO AN AGENT!!!” do you hear a chirpy, “OK, just a moment while I re.route your call.”

You’re lucky if you even get that far. Often, prior to the disembodied voice, you hear, “Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.” And after listening to five minutes of endless menu options, you realize that either your topic was not covered, or the menu options were so vague that you are not really sure. And so, you have to listen to the same poorly articulated menu options once again. None of which really address your situation. And you find yourself shouting, “I WANT TO SPEAK TO AN AGENT!!! Please.”

Then for what seems like an eternity, you are put on hold and subjected to a steady stream of advertisements and announcements such as, “Your call really is important to us, please stay on the line, and the next available representative will be right with you.” Or, “All of our agents are busy assisting ‘other customers’ (who are more important than you are), please stay on the line....” Many times, you are directed to the company Web site for quick and easy answers—usually when you are calling Comcast to complain about not being able to connect to the Internet. Companies will do almost anything, it seems, except let you speak with a real live human being.

When finally a real human being picks up the phone and says, “Hello, my name is Dave. How may I help you?” you are so worked up that you have completely forgotten your reason for calling. Or after you unload your anger and frustration onto Dave, who more often than not cannot help you, you are sent back into phone cue hell.

The individual who finally answers the phone after 15 minutes of a raspy, grating rendition of Pachabel’s Canon in D Major may be somewhere at the opposite end of the globe and whose understanding of English is no better than the voice recognition system, who reads you the canned answer that comes closest to addressing your particular issue and who frequently presumes to ask, “May I call you Gary?!” And then wants to know if there is anything else he/she can help you with today.

I am at my wits end. I only hope that the CEO who figured he could save a few bucks by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a worthless phone cue, voice recognition system, and/or who off-shored customer support to Mumbai, gets trapped in one of these infernal systems him or herself. Mind if I call you Brian, Mr. Roberts (the CEO of Comcast)?

—Gary W. Priester, Ranchos de Placitas


Still drunk on oil

—Ray Ring, Writers on the Range

When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck an Alaskan reef in 1989, leaking 11 million gallons of crude into a marine ecosystem, Greenpeace ran ads showing the ship’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood, with the message: “It wasn’t his driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill. It was yours.”

The ads scolded: “The spill was caused by a nation drunk on oil. And a government asleep at the wheel.” All the publicity about that disaster pressured Congress and President George H.W. Bush to pass a 1990 law establishing “the first coordinated, national system for responding to oil spills and compensating their victims,” according to the Anchorage

Daily News. That law and follow-up regulations raised the limits on oil-company liability and spurred a shift to double hulls and other oil tanker safety measures.

The 1989 spill was good for the environmental movement; groups enjoyed record-breaking surges in new members and fund-raising. Yet, how much of our behavior changed? The same message applies today to the even bigger oil leakage from a British Petroleum well in the Gulf of Mexico. The nation is still drunk on oil, consuming roughly 18.5 million barrels per day, a million more than in 1989. The federal government is still asleep at the wheel, overseeing the industry with a mix of rah-rah encouragement and often lax regulation. And Westerners play a prominent role in driving both of those facts. Our love for gas hogs and oil-powered recreation, for instance, inspires us to drive around in more than 25 million trucks, including pickups and SUVs, about two million motorboats, and hordes of off-road vehicles.

Westerners burned some 37 billion gallons of petroleum products for transportation in 2007, the most recent federal statistics available. California, not surprisingly, with the biggest population, was tops among all states. But for high per capita use of petroleum for transportation, Alaska came out ahead, Wyoming was second, Montana was 7th, and New Mexico 12th. On average, each Wyomingite motored 49 miles per day in 2007, highest in per capita miles driven, while New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, and Utah were above average in that ranking.

The region’s entire tourism industry, including ski resorts, national parks, and even guided backpacking trips, relies on petroleum to transport customers. The second-home industry, important in all the Bozemans and Santa Fes, also gobbles petroleum. All the chi-chi amenity towns such as Aspen would collapse without fuel-swilling private and commercial jets. In New West suburbia, seemingly every household has a riding mower, a snowblower, and a weed wacker. California’s Central Valley mega-farms and the region’s other farms and ranches are hooked on petroleum-based ag chemicals, along with fuels for farm equipment.

Meanwhile, Westerners who gained power in George W. Bush’s administration pushed fossil fuel development, while making sure regulations were weak. They included Coloradan Gale Norton, who ran the key department, Interior, which oversees federally managed minerals; Idahoan Dirk Kempthorne, who ran Interior after Norton quit amid piles of evidence that she had been negligent; and Vice President Dick Cheney and his fellow Wyomingites, Rejane “Johnnie” Burton and Randall Luthi, both of whom ran the Minerals Management Service, now notorious for getting cozy with the companies it regulates. Some of them came from industry jobs, and some took industry jobs after they left the administration. Some were conscientious, but collectively, they created a regime that “granted exceptions to rules, allowed risks to accumulate, and made a disaster more likely” in the Gulf, observes the New York Times.

Presidents tend to appoint Westerners to run Interior because it oversees the region’s large amounts of federal land, along with nationwide minerals. The one-and-a-half-year-old Obama administration has former Colorado Senator Ken Salazar atop Interior and more Westerners in federal positions that bear on oil. They tightened some regulations, but continued to leave some gaping loopholes for offshore and inland drillers. Even though Obama’s initial director of Minerals Management, S. Elizabeth Birnbaum, has quit under fire, much more could be done to make drilling safer. Hydraulic “fracking”—pumping chemicals underground to release natural gas—is still mostly unregulated, for instance, thanks to a Safe Drinking Water Act exemption engineered by Cheney.

President Obama has vowed to use public outrage over the blackened Gulf to boost renewable energy and nuclear power and to get Congress to limit carbon emissions. Just as previous oil disasters spurred reforms and questions about oil addiction, the ongoing Gulf disaster could be another galvanizing moment. Despite all the misery, there’s a big potential upside if we finally make the tough decisions to shake our fossil-fuel addictions.

Carol Ann Rushton
Carol Ann Rushton, 71, formerly of Placitas, New Mexico, southeastern Michigan and Muskogee, Oklahoma, died May 25 in Boulder, Colorado, her home of only 6 months. Her death was due to complications from amyloidosis, a rare blood cancer.

Carol was born December 7, 1938, in Oak Park, Illinois, the older of two children. Her parents were Dr. James S. Rushton and Mary Anne Hunnicutt Rushton.  Most of her youth was spent in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Following high school, she completed two post-secondary years at Warren Woods College in Fulton, Missouri. Her Bachelor’s Degree was earned at Oklahoma State University, where she belonged to Kappa Kappa Kappa. She was very active in sports, including swimming, tennis, and later in her life, bicycling and hiking.

After college Carol moved to the Eastern US, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Student Personnel in Higher Education at Syracuse University. She then worked in higher education positions in colleges and universities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. She later moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, then began working for Michigan Bell and later AA&T phone company. Her work took her from Ann Arbor to Farmington Hills, then Royal Oak, Michigan. Carol retired from a human resources position at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Upon retirement, Carol chose Placitas, New Mexico, for the site of her new home. While the rammed earth home was being built, she spent a year in Muskogee with her elderly mother. She then moved her mother to her new home in Placitas, caring for her until her death in 2001. Carol and friend, Erana, planted and cared for a beautiful desert garden at the new home. In addition to gardening, Carol’s primary retirement activities were hiking, keeping up on current world events, traveling, and volunteering at the local recycling center.

Throughout her life, Carol was known for her extroverted involvement in all her relationships and activities, always going for and enjoying a good story and a good laugh.

Carol is survived by a brother, Jim Rushton, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and his son, Drew Rushton, wife Stephanie, and their two one-year-old twin boys, of Eugene, Oregon; her dear friend Erana terEllen and her “adopted” terEllen family; Marije and Tom terEllen Flaherty and daughter Arianne of Boulder, Colorado; and Michiel and Vishalini Lawrence terEllen, currently residing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia .

Memorial contributions can be made to Doctors without Borders USA (PO Box 5030, Hagerstown, MD 21741 or 1-888-392-0392) or The Nature Conservancy  (4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203 or 1-800-628-6860).

Activist fought for the disabled

 —Associated Press

Polly Arango

Polly Arango Photo c. Parents Reaching Out

Longtime activist Polly Arango, who traveled the country and the world fighting for the rights of disabled children and their families, died Saturday in a freak accident in Colorado.

Arango, 68, was vacationing in Colorado with her husband and two of her grandsons when she fell and hit her head on a car door, her daughter, Francesca Wilson, said Sunday.

Wilson said Arango, who lived in Algodones, was a co-founder of Family Voices, an Albuquerque-based national nonprofit dedicated to family-centered care for children and youth with special health care needs or disabilities, and of Parents Reaching Out, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit that helped educate and advocate for New Mexico parents of disabled children.

"She thought that the most vulnerable needed a voice," Wilson said of her mother. "She thought families who have children with disabilities are just pushed aside, and a lot of times they don't speak up for themselves."

Her interest in working with disabled children began when she and her husband adopted a son who has a genetic muscular disorder and uses a wheelchair, Wilson said.

"She said the way she and my brother were treated by the medical and educational community drove her to take action," Wilson said of her mother.

Arango was at one time on the boards of New Mexico Voices for Children, the New Mexico Development Disabilities Planning Council, the New Mexico Medicaid Advisory Committee, the National Childhood Disability Commission, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, and other groups.

John Foley, executive director of The Arc of New Mexico from 1988 to 2001, said he worked with Arango extensively.

"She was a mover and a shaker here," Foley said. "She raised her eyes toward a vision that was not present in New Mexico at the time. Care for disabled children had always been in institutional settings, and she felt, as I and a lot of other people did, that things could be better."

Wilson said her mother always credited her dedication to her Irish-Catholic upbringing.

"She was taught you always help everyone. She taught her children the same thing," Wilson said, explaining that her mother's philosophy was that "everyone deserves better."

Wilson said Arango loved traveling and gardening, and that her grandchildren were "the light of her life."    






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