Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Scare plus a good video

In case you  missed it.  Jon Stewart and the President.  What a combination.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Here's your Halloween fright!  It's scarier than any ghoul, goblin, or witch.  It's even scarier than Sarah Palin.  Here is another good NYT op-ed piece from Paul Krugman.  Read it and weep.

Divided We Fail

Barring a huge upset, Republicans will take control of at least one house of Congress next week. How worried should we be by that prospect?
Not very, say some pundits. After all, the last time Republicans controlled Congress while a Democrat lived in the White House was the period from the beginning of 1995 to the end of 2000. And people remember that era as a good time, a time of rapid job creation and responsible budgets. Can we hope for a similar experience now?
No, we can’t. This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.
Start with the politics.
In the late-1990s, Republicans and Democrats were able to work together on some issues. President Obama seems to believe that the same thing can happen again today. In a recent interview with National Journal, he sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.
After all, that era of partial cooperation in the 1990s came only after Republicans had tried all-out confrontation, actually shutting down the federal government in an effort to force President Bill Clinton to give in to their demands for big cuts in Medicare.
Now, the government shutdown ended up hurting Republicans politically, and some observers seem to assume that memories of that experience will deter the G.O.P. from being too confrontational this time around. But the lesson current Republicans seem to have drawn from 1995 isn’t that they were too confrontational, it’s that they weren’t confrontational enough.
Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: “We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.” So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.
True, Mr. McConnell did say that he might be willing to work with Mr. Obama in certain circumstances — namely, if he’s willing to do a “Clintonian back flip,” taking positions that would find more support among Republicans than in his own party. Of course, this would actually hurt Mr. Obama’s chances of re-election — but that’s the point.
We might add that should any Republicans in Congress find themselves considering the possibility of acting in a statesmanlike, bipartisan manner, they’ll surely reconsider after looking over their shoulder at the Tea Party-types, who will jump on them if they show any signs of being reasonable. The role of the Tea Party is one reason smart observers expect another government shutdown, probably as early as next spring.
Beyond the politics, the crucial difference between the 1990s and now is the state of the economy.
When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the U.S. economy had strong fundamentals. Household debt was much lower than it is today. Business investment was surging, in large part thanks to the new opportunities created by information technology — opportunities that were much broader than the follies of the dot-com bubble.
In this favorable environment, economic management was mainly a matter of putting the brakes on the boom, so as to keep the economy from overheating and head off potential inflation. And this was a job the Federal Reserve could do on its own by raising interest rates, without any help from Congress.
Today’s situation is completely different. The economy, weighed down by the debt that households ran up during the Bush-era bubble, is in dire straits; deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger. And it’s not at all clear that the Fed has the tools to head off this danger. Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.
But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.
So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


During this insane election cycle I have been thinking about how easily people can be manipulated.  Hitler learned that fact over 70 years ago and it is still very effective.

It isn't just politics.  Religious leaders have been doing it since religion first became part of human equation.  Logic, common sense, or facts never enter into the thinking of the general populace.  It saddens me that in my 85 years on earth I see no improvement.  In many ways, we have regressed.  History should teach us why some things work and some things don't.  But history's lessons, too, are ignored. 

The common belief is that the House will be lost by the Democrats in the mid-term elections.  I am constantly bewildered by how the general public and be so easily mislead by lies and disinformation.  Is it a right-brain, left-brain thing?  

Some people just don't want to think for themselves.   If the Pope says the world is flat, they accept his statement without question.  If a fundamentalist preacher claims that anything that is fun is a sin, people believe him.  If a Jehovah's Witness claims that the Bible says that a blood transfusion is a sin they will refuse one, even though it might cause their death.  I simply don't understand why they accept the words of a book written by ignorant men thousands of years ago over modern scientific facts.  Do they want to be duped?  When words are taken out of context, or out of the time frame in which they were written, or without taking into account the lack of knowledge of the time period,  I cannot fathom  why individuals are so blindly accepting.

Being easily led to accept a fact when still children, the pattern is set.  That makes it so simple  for people like Rush Limbaugh,  Glenn Beck,  Bill O'Reilly,  Sarah Palin, and others to convince them that black is white, Obama is a Muslim, and so many outright lies and distortions that spew from their deceitful mouths.  Their followers never question.  Is it because they were taught to never question their elders or their religious leaders?  Or are they genetically disposed to believe in a right leaning way?  Are some people predisposed to think with their emotions instead of their brains?  I wish someone could clarify this for me.  Not only do they accept some patently idiotic statements, but many of the things they accept as dogma are clearly against their own best interest.

Along these lines Frank Rich wrote an Op-ed piece published in the NYT.   Following are some excerpts:

What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?

PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.

The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.

No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer.

Clearly, financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior.
Asked in “Inside Job” why there’s been no systematic investigation of the 2008 crash, Roubini answers: “Because then you’d find the culprits.” With the aid of the “Manhattan Madam” (and current stunt New York gubernatorial candidate) Kristin Davis, the film also asks why federal prosecutors who were “perfectly happy to use Eliot Spitzer’s personal vices to force him to resign in 2008” have not used rampant sex-and-drug trade on Wall Street as a tool for flipping witnesses to pursue the culprits behind the financial crimes that devastated the nation. 

The Obama administration seems not to have a prosecutorial gene. It’s shy about calling a fraud a fraud when it occurs in high finance.  

 In our new banking scandal, as in those before it, attorneys general in the states, where many pension funds were decimated by Wall Street Ponzi schemes, are pursuing the crimes Washington has not. The largest bill of reparations paid out by Bank of America for Countrywide’s deceptive mortgage practices — $8.4 billion — was to settle a suit by 11 state attorneys general on the warpath. 

Since Obama has neither aggressively pursued the crash’s con men nor compellingly explained how they gamed the system, he sometimes looks as if he’s fronting for the industry even if he’s not.

Voters are not only failing to give the White House credit for its economic successes but finding it guilty of transgressions it didn’t commit. The opposition is more than happy to pump up that confusion. When Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC’s “This Week” last month, he typically railed against the “extreme” government of “the last year and a half,” citing its takeover of banks as his first example. That this was utter fiction — the takeover took place two years ago, before Obama was president, with McConnell voting for it — went unchallenged by his questioner, Christiane Amanpour, and probably by many viewers inured to this big lie.
The real tragedy here, though, is not whatever happens in midterm elections. It’s the long-term prognosis for America. The obscene income inequality bequeathed by the three-decade rise of the financial industry has societal consequences graver than even the fundamental economic unfairness. When we reward financial engineers infinitely more than actual engineers, we “lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase” for Wall Street riches, as the economist Robert H. Frank wrote in The Times last weekend. Worse, Frank added, the continued squeeze on the middle class leads to a wholesale decline in the quality of American life — from more bankruptcy filings and divorces to a collapse in public services, whether road repair or education, that taxpayers will no longer support. 

Even as the G.O.P. benefits from unlimited corporate campaign money, it’s pulling off the remarkable feat of persuading a large swath of anxious voters that it will lead a populist charge against the rulers of our economic pyramid — the banks, energy companies, insurance giants and other special interests underwriting its own candidates. Should those forces prevail, an America that still hasn’t remotely recovered from the worst hard times in 70 years will end up handing over even more me mpower to those who greased the skids. 

We can blauch of this turn of events on the deep pockets of oil billionaires like the Koch brothers and on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which freed corporations to try to buy any election they choose. But the Obama White House is hardly innocent. Its failure to hold the bust’s malefactors accountable has helped turn what should have been a clear-cut choice on Nov. 2 into a blurry contest between the party of big corporations and the party of business as usual. 

If you want to read the entire editorial click on the link.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Need a Laugh?

I think the end of my saga is near.  When I left you the supervisor turned me over to a representative who promised action no later than 4 business days.  Well, this is the fifth day and the charge is still on my credit card balance.  

This whole experience has been a learning curve for me.  I an a slow learner, but I get there.

I went above the supervisor today and got a manager.  He told me that the problem had never been handled correctly from the beginning and should have been turned over to the fraud department as soon as it became obvious that the name on the statement was for another person.   It is now in the hands of the fraud department, I am to get a new credit card with a new number in 2 days,  the charge is no longer on my account and any other charges that may have been levied on my account will be removed.   Unless you see another whine letter from me (I do not furnish cheese) you can assume the saga is over.   
The moral of this story; don't waste time with the small fry.   Go straight to the top from the get go.

I have out of town company coming tomorrow so will not even open my laptop after I close it now.   I am sure you need a rest from my rants, anyhow.
See you next week.  Keep smiling.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Rest Of the Story

 If you have been keeping up with my saga on stress I will now bring you up to date.  You may recall that I had been charged for a bill that belonged to another customer of Dish Network.   Unraveling this error turned out to be more time consuming and frustrating than I imaged it would.  After I faxed my response letter back I heard nothing more so I called them again.  This time I got an investigator who assured me that my case would stay open and get priority attention.  I don't know if he was incompetent, lazy, or just didn't give a fig, but nothing had been done.

More Stress:

After waiting for days I called customer care (?) again and got a representative that treated me like the village idiot.  I went through my long tale of woe and told her that I had been assured that the case would be reopened and put on priority by the last person I talked to.  Nothing had been done.  She told me I had to send another letter to reopen the case explaining why I did not think this was my obligation.   Tearing my hair out clump by clump I explained very patiently that they already had a letter with all that information that had been faxed to them days ago.    You could almost hear her sigh as she told me that this was the way it worked.  I had to send another letter and to expect it to take 10 to 14 days to get there.  I argued that this was completely unnecessary as it was just duplicating what they already had.  She insisted and, giving up in defeat because I was too tired to argue further I said, "All right I'll send another stupid lettter."   I asked her if I could fax it and she gave me a new fax number.  

Busy Work:

I wrote the whole scenario over once more and sent it to my friend over the Internet so he could fax it on his machine.  I wasn't thinking very clearly and after I sent it I realized that it had not been signed because it was all done in the computer.  I Emailed my friend and told him I would print a copy,  sign it, scan the signed copy and send it to him the next day.

Additional Stress:

The next morning I booted up my computer, got to the desk top, clicked on an icon and everything disappeared.  I had a major computer crash.  I booted up in 4 different options and was only able to get as far as "please wait".   This was in 'system restore' because nothing else got my desktop back.  I would be waiting until hell freezes over because that's as far as I can get.  My guru tells me my hard drive has crashed.  Do I opt for a new computer or a new hard drive?  Decisions, decisions.

Customer Care person #4.

I finally did what I should have done in the beginning.  I called and told the new girl that I wanted her to pull up my account and then connect me to a supervisor.  She wanted to know why.  By this time I had my story memorized and didn't even need to have Cliff notes written in my palm.  (I would apologize to Sarah Palin, but she doesn't deserve it.)  After I explained that I had talked to three investigators about this and gotten three different stories I wanted someone who knew what they were doing (Am I a mama grizzly?).

The Senior supervisor came on and I repeated my litany and told her that if the first investigator had bothered to look at the papers he would have noticed that the name, address, and zip code on the papers provided by Dish to prove their assertion that the charge was valid were all for a different customer.  I should not have had to go through the stress I endured if he had done his job.  

Is it fraud?

I had, at long last, reached someone who listened to me and she said it sounded like fraud to her.  She asked me to please hold (again ) while she contacted someone in the fraud department.   Eventually I was put in touch with another investigator who assured me that he could, and would, handle my case in 2 business days.  At the end of the conversation he assured me I would not have to pay late charges if the amount was not paid by my due date.   Then he worried me again by saying it would be handled in FOUR business days.  What happened to TWO?  This was Thursday.  The charge is still on my Visa statement.  Guilty until proven innocent, I guess. 

Wise Decision:

After this is resolved, if it ever is, I am going to get a new credit card number and never allow automatic charges to my account again.  During this unpleasant experience I thought, "What if I had met the grim reaper before I insisted that someone in authority look at the error?   My kids would not have known it was not my obligation and would have paid it without question.  Dish would have gotten away with their scam error.

I am probably boring you with my long saga, but if, in telling it, I can prevent someone else from making the mistakes I made it will be worth it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stress Multiplied

Have you missed me?  I have not been around very much lately.  Life has a way of interfering with the best of intentions.  I have kept up with my e-mail and replies to the comments on my post and read some of your good posts, but I have not had time to reply to all of them.  I make no promises for the near future, but will try to do better soon.  

I'll bet that most of you have had a billing problem or some other problem with a big corporation recently.  That seems to be very common occurrence these days.  Is it because we are turning out a generation of office workers that can't spell, add, or use sound judgment?  I don't ever remember having trouble with billing when I was young.    Or am I guilty of selective memory?  

One of the things that has taken my time and concentration was a business situation that has my blood pressure soaring through the roof.  It involves Dish Network and Capital One Visa card.   That scream you heard a few days ago was me.

Sometime near the end of last year I changed my TV service from Dish Network to a bundle with Cox cable.  I tried to make the transition with the least cost to me.  It didn't work out that way.  I tried canceling Dish on the day that Cox was to be installed only to find out that I only had a 3 day window to cancel Dish before paying for another month.  I had gone beyond that window.  When Dish installed my system  a local man brought the box and remotes to my house, but when I canceled they told me I had to ship the equipment back to the company headquarters at my expense.  There was to be no RMA number or shipping box provided.   It cost me $26 + to return the equipment. 
Fast forward to September of this year.   A mysterious charge from Dish for $40 appeared on my credit card statement.   I called Dish customer service and was told to protest the charge to my credit card company.  The Rep didn't even know what the charge  was for.  I immediately wrote the letter protesting this charge.  It was reversed on my statement and on the same statement a charge of $425 was debited to my account by Dish.  I wrote another letter of protest and that charge was reversed.  Fine; all is well.

Last week I received a telephone call from my Chase Visa  customer care person.  Dish had sent a bunch of papers proving I owed the $425.  I told him this was not true and he said he would send the papers to me.  On Wednesday I received a Fed Ex letter with the papers inside.   There was also a cover letter from Visa saying that if they didn't hear from me by the 10th of this month (giving me 4 days to return proof )
the case would be considered closed.

By the time I read the letter I was shaking and in such turmoil I couldn't think straight.  (Isn't that a peachy keen excuse?).  My BP must have been nearing the top level.  I do not handle stress well and, as noted on other blogs, I avoid it whenever possible.

I spent hours searching for documentation to prove my innocence.  I was unable to find the UPS receipt and decided that I had thrown it away after they reversed the charge the first time.  I decided to scan my copies of my credit card statements proving when I stopped using Dish and started using Cox.   Then I couldn't get my scanner to work.  In desperation I  wrote a letter of explanation as to why this charge could not logically be mine after 9 or 10 months.  I gathered up my papers and only then did I notice that in my frantic state I neglected to see the name on the papers that Dish had sent.  The name and address from the accounting dept. was not mine, nor was it my address.  Dish had charged me for another woman's bill.  

I then called my Visa rep telling him of the mix up and was told to Fax the papers to them immediately to avoid closing the case on the 10th.  In the event that you have not faxed something recently the charge is $2 per page.  I had 6 pages to fax.  Thank goodness for good friends.   My savior arrived that afternoon and took my papers home and faxed them for me.  

Two days passed without hearing from my credit card company.  I just called them as tomorrow is the deadline for closing the case.  They had not even looked at the papers yet and the case has now been reopened.  I spent 30 minutes with the representative; most of it listening to Musak.    What a fun way to spend the morning.  

I will get more papers in the mail I am told.  Stay tuned.

I had never thought about what happens to your credit card number after you close an account.  Apparently, the card number is kept on file forever.  Do we have to cancel our credit cards every time we close an account that we have been using to avoid this kind of hassle?  I asked my credit card representative about this and he said they couldn't come between the merchant and the customer.  

Many things about the 'good old days' weren't really good, but I wish we could restore trust when a handshake was as good as your word.  Do we have to start building an extra room on our houses to store every scrap of paper we use that my be needed in a dispute?  Gotta stop; I feel my blood pressure rising again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Big Trouble

If you don't think we are in trouble, read this. 

I am so frightened for my country.  At no time since the Great Depression has good leadership been more important than right now.   And who are the leaders that the tea party are fronting?  Blithering idiots without a clue as to how to govern.  They are the puppets of big business.  Pretty women whose elevators don't go all the way to the top and who are so ideologically twisted that they would take us over the cliff if they get the chance.  Add men candidates who think the unconstitutional Arizona law is great and that privatizing everything is the way to go and these numbskulls  candidates are the ones that big business want you to vote for. 

Our country is in big trouble on all fronts.   We were once the undisputed leader in the world and now China is about to clean our clock.  The things that will save us all run counter to the interests of big business.  Now that the Supreme Court has, in it's infinite stupidity, opened the floodgates to the money that big business can pour into our elections (and that will influence the outcome in their favor), we are fighting an uphill battle against the oil and coal companies, the insurance industry, and Wall Street.  

The people could have stopped Hitler if they had acted soon enough and Rome might have survived if the populace had not become complacent.  We must not let our country go the way of other civilizations.  

(I am aware that there were other factors involved in the 'take over' of Germany and the decline and fall of the Roman empire, but the people were complicit in both instances and could have made a difference.) 

I hope you're mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore.  Educate everyone you know and drag them to the polls, if necessary.  Only the people can stop this take over of our country by a few extremely wealthy individuals.