Tom Clyde: Truthful caller ID
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been bombarded by telemarketing calls. Thanks to caller ID, I don’t answer the phone unless it’s somebody I know. If it’s a legitimate call, they can leave a message. The sales calls put a fake local phone number up on the caller ID. Sometimes it will be a name I recognize, and it’s a shock to pick up a call expecting a friend, and instead get somebody from India trying to convince me to send money before the IRS shoots me dead in the driveway. So for all practical purposes, the telephone is worthless. Nobody will answer if they don’t recognize the number, and the only way a number becomes recognizable is to have answered the phone.
There aren’t a lot of calls on my home phone that I want. They usually are indignant cabin owners complaining about cows in their yards. This time of year, the cattle that spent the summer grazing on the National Forest land are headed home. They often turn up miles from where they should be, and rounding them all up isn’t an easy process. The only thing I know for sure is that they aren’t mine. The only beef I own is in the freezer, exactly where I put it. It will stray no farther than the grill. Nobody ever bothers to notice the colored ear tags on the stray cow. So when they call about the errant bovine, it narrows the scope “all cow owners.” If they would note the color of the ear tags, it identifies the owner. But apparently that is too much to ask of city folk.
The other day I got home and there were several messages waiting on the answering machine. Rather than listen to one machine hanging up on another, I scrolled through the caller ID. Sales call, sales call, cow, candidate, and another cow. And then this one jumped out: “illegal scam.”
Wow, that’s bold. I haven’t called them back, but when the caller ID actually announces “Illegal Scam” is calling, it’s tempting. You at least have to respect their honesty. Maybe that’s the beginning of a trend. Some of the political candidates could show up on caller ID as “Ineffective Congressman,” or “No Chance of Winning.” The commercial people could identify as “Junk Replacement Windows,” or “Leaky Rain Gutters.”
The “Illegal Scam” people may lose some potential victims when their caller ID announces their bad intentions, but I really wish I had been here to pick up that call and at least see what it was about. Integrity in the telemarketing scam industry — maybe that’s an inflection point where the world will change for the better.
Many people have called the confirmation process of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court an inflection point; where the process hit rock bottom, managed to anger everybody, and prove that the Senate is unable to function. The hope is that it can’t get any worse. It was clear since the election that Trump would nominate conservative judges to the courts. That’s what happens; the winner gets to appoint the judges (except Obama). Judge Brewski may not have been the best choice among the hundreds of like-minded judges out there. But that’s who we got. All the viciousness didn’t change a thing, other than a lot of collateral damage.
The process was awful. The allegations of sexual assault were painful to hear, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was generally credible, if uncorroborated. That’s because FBI investigation into it was designed to make sure they didn’t find corroboration. Her claims would have been more credible if they weren’t nearly 40 years old. There’s a reason there are statutes of limitation on things. But when you look at how she was treated, the question isn’t why she didn’t come forward sooner, it’s why she would subject herself to a second assault by coming forward at all. That’s wrong.
But in the end, this had nothing to do with whether Dr. Ford was assaulted by a drunk Kavanaugh all those years ago. She was just a useful tool in a toxic process. The charges were kept secret by Democrats until their publication would toss the biggest monkey wrench into the process. The Democrats were determined to delay the confirmation until after next month’s election under some unlikely idea that they would take control of the Senate — in January. The Republicans were determined to ram it through before the election, just in case.
In the end, we all lost. The reputation of the FBI is tarnished, the Supreme Court appears even more political than ever, the Senate looks ridiculous and incompetent, and Ford was discarded as roadkill along the way. And after all that, we ended up with exactly the kind of judge Trump said he would appoint.
The caller ID on that one would read “Failing Democracy.”
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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