Monday, October 29, 2018



Why have we allowed politicians, pollsters and foreign salesmen to transform our telephones from a vital part of our lives to a nuisance?
My childhood was spent in a home without a phone. I spent a couple of decades in journalism searching daily for pay phones before cell phones became common.
So there are few people who appreciate a phone more than I do. I spent too many nights in exotic locations trying to get a line back to the office from the latest crisis not to love the fact that I can walk into a hotel room on the other side of the world and actually dial Toronto and get through in seconds.
But the wondrous convenience of it all has been ruined by the barrage of crank calls, particularly that one that comes early every morning and there's never anyone there.
I realize there are do-not-call lists and various ways to block unwanted calls but the practitioners seem to slither around the latest shield as if they have taken lessons from the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Why should we have to buy options to block calls or have call display, or buy answering machines and let devices protect us? It's like hiring someone to stand at the door to deal with visitors.
I have neighbours and friends who are ditching their land lines because it's cheaper and they can guard their cell phones better from intrusion. But I am sure that any temporary protection is going to vanish like deodorant on a hot day.
As proof that the Robo Call menace is only going to get worse, I suggest you check the various outfits on the Internet promising to unleash a tsunami of canned calls for customers for only 0.7 cents a minute.
Of course I hang up immediately, as I'm sure most people do.
Yet I think I'm also going to organize a group with important initials to pledge they will never vote for any party or politician that use Robo Calls.  In our spare time, we will lobby for Robo Calls to be made illegal. It's bad enough when there's a real politician calling and not just a computer.
I have known John Tory since he was a kid radio reporter who came before meetings to ask my advice on what were the important issues on which he should concentrate.
If I had received one more Robo Call from Tory, I would not have voted for him, even though his major opponent had silly policies that were not improved from having been raised first decades ago.
To be brutally frank, I would make illegal ALL telephone calls for votes from politicians or parties. Just end political telephone solicitations. Let  them spread their message in pamphlets delivered by campaign workers or by Canada Post at a special rate. Ensure these pamphlets have real meat, real policies in them. not just the usual bunkum and puff pastries. Have real confrontations in election debates, like the dozens I moderated in the 1970s and 1980s in Nathan Phillips Square and on the community Rogers channel which has disappeared.
The easiest way for politicians, pollsters and companies to contact people with the least hassle is by email. We can just skim over the nonsense without wasting much time. Except I find the Internet in general to be so unreliable, so filled with routine glitches, that when the cut-rate brokerage outfits run by two giant Canadian banks kept crashing for days, it was not considered that unusual. In fact, TD officials seemed miffed when I complained.
I have a son working for a giant computer company who just spent eight hours trying to get his special computer to work again and grumbled that it happens weekly if not daily.
So I think any system that depends totally on computers is not going to work, just as this dream of driverless cars is going to go through a long nightmare stage. We have to have the post office as a backup (and believe it or not, I think our postal service works just fine.)
We have climbed to a peak of annoyance and we don't want to go higher. Limiting commercial and political use of our private telephone lines just has to happen or there is going to be a stampede back to smoke signals.
I realize there are arrogant outfits that think they have a right to bother me. They claim they are "allowed" to because they have done business with me in the past. I would squash their calls first. As I said on Facebook recently (FB certainly ditched the post in a hurry, not wanting to offend Rogers I guess) what is the point  in Rogers calling me every few days when I already buy most of their services? Then there are the calls from Bell. You would think its officials would not do anything to poke customers when their rates are so high.
If Rogers and Bell really want to sell more, they should improve their services and lower their costs. As it is, they are sinking into oblivion because technology and competition is drowning them in quick sand. I doubt that in a few years they will be getting the same monthly dollars from me. Only laziness has stopped me from cutting already.
Technology has overwhelmed our politicians and agencies like the CRTC. We have become a city  where most people no longer answer their door in the evening (some times never) but we have also become one where electronic intrusion by con artists is routine on our telephones and Internet.
Official spam is allowed to flourish by the politicians who think they will piggyback their way to the next election victory by bugging the hell out of anyone who is too stupid not to immediately hang up.
But what about pollsters, you ask? As someone who has spent many hours pouring over polls, that does concern me because I find polls interesting and useful.
I have trouble separating the real polls from the scam ones over the phone but if the real pollsters were given a special low postal rate, not only would the mailed polls be able to contain more questions, there could be more supporting material too. You don't get that on a call.
It is ludicrous that we have huge rooms in foreign lands filled with unintelligible people trying to sell us duct cleaning on the telephone, and exotic towers filled with hackers infiltrating our emails with dangerous solicitations, and our authorities say there is nothing they can do, that is when they aren't phoning and emailing with their latest scam.
I drove by the house recently where I lived as a boy in the small town of Chesley. It was a sleepy peaceful scene.  And I luxuriated in it for half an hour. Then I headed back to Toronto and my cell phone rang. The electronic madness had returned.

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