Tuesday, March 18, 2008

April 15th is just around the corner!

"Only little people pay taxes!"
attributed to Leona Helmsley

Is this what Adam Smith had in mind as the founder of capitalism?

The following are passages from Susie Bright's blog:

... Jimmy [Cayne] is the disgraced former Bear Stearns CEO whose company went kablooey this week, but which was saved by a bailout the Feds engineered with... our tax dollars.

Funny, I was just working on my taxes. Also this week, twenty thousand California teachers got their pink slips, taking our state to the the absolute bottom in public education spending.

But Jimmy and the other Bear Stearns blowhards need my money more.

Jimmy just closed a deal on a twin set of adjacent apartments at the famous Plaza Hotel (home of Eloise!) for $28.24 million.

Altogether, Jimmy and wife will have 6,000 square feet at the Plaza, plus room service, maid service, a concierge, and stunning views of Central Park. I'm so glad everything is working out for them!...

And after all, it's these people's fault that their fortunes went up in smoke, just as it is to Jimmy Cayne's credit that he's found a golden parachute. Right. ...

Read the whole thing here.

(And remember, since Ms. Bright's usual journalistic beat is sex vis a vis politics, this link may not be work-safe).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to remove a bumper sticker

"America is just a Latin dictatorship!" - Abbie Hoffman

A friend of mine has weighed in on the recent character-assassination (under very shady circumstances) of Eliot Spitzer. (That he was complicit in said assassination is beside the point):

Songs for the headlines:

O'Jay's "the Love of Money" and

ABBA's "Money Money Money"

Listen with a sense of irony to the latter, because, as of yesterday,
it ain't even a really rich man's world.

Oh yeah- how to remove a political bumper sticker from your car- in my
case with regret, because it is the only one I have ever applied [“Spitzer 06”]. Body
temperature tears of shock and disappointment won't do it, but there are
no dangerous solvents required:

Boil a teakettle of water and pour half a kettleful of water back and
forth, slowly across the top edge of the bumper sticker, over the height
and width of it. Plastic bumper stickers peel off in 1/4 of a NY
minute. Make yourself a pot of chamomile tea and consider our life and
times for a few cupfuls.

The time it will take to get over the destruction of of this excellent
NY governor is a lot longer than it takes to drink 2 cups of tea. If
Mr. Spitzer had had the chance to stay in office a term or two, would
have transformed how America does business.

I wonder if it is the enmity of the banking industry or the mob or the
vested business interests which are the puppeteers of the Federal
Government (or all 3) that dug up this dirt. Surely it was not just the

I wonder why those who knew handed over the goods just now. I
would watch other news items given much less prominent play for the
answer, with special attention to legislation and policies just being
passed. Just like 9-11, what was *not* in the news was much more important
than what was. Watch especially for laws rammed through in late night/
early morning sessions, you newsies.

I am guessing it may have something to do with [NY State Attorney General] Andrew Cuomo's recent
sifting of the Pearson cat box, the Halliburton of textbooks, on line
education "systems" and "deep" IT/ pre-emptive BI and PR, contractors to the
US Departments of Education and Defense, among many other important

It could be Cuomo's fingering of Ingenix, its parent company,
UnitedHealth Group and three additional subsidiaries, the nation’s largest
providers of health care billing systems which enabled billions of health
insurance consumers to be defrauded by automated manipulation of
reimbursement rates, rigging the data for the largest insurers in the country:
Aetna, CIGNA, and Empire BlueCross BlueShield. If you didn't know it,
the health insurance racketeers are not only more powerful than the
Federal Government, they are more powerful than God and screw everyone,
rich or poor with the help of the distancing new technology provided by
voice-recognition-enabled circular Internet customer service routing,
call-center customer service ranking.

Maybe you have your theories????

One thing for sure, this is not about how Elliot Spitzer has a good
time. It is surely about how most of the rest of us don't.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why should Republicans have all the fun?

Dear Governor Spitzer:

How could you?

I'm not talking about your dalliances with a call-girl. As certain Republicans and other professional moralists have demonstrated time and again, that kind of thing is par for the course these days. No, I'm talking about how you ignored your better judgment and took the advice of the gubernatorial assistant in your pants.

Back when you were The Sheriff of Wall Street, you should have known that you had some very powerful enemies who would want nothing more than to get revenge on you. When you became governor, with a mandate to dismantle and reconstruct New York's notoriously dysfunctional state government, you should have expected that those who have benefited from the status quo for decades would stop at nothing to frustrate and discredit you. You should have behaved accordingly, refusing to give your enemies any easy opportunity to strike. Instead, you literally bared your flanks.

At least you didn't insult our intelligence by telling us that you did not have sex with that woman. I personally hope that you do survive this incredible blunder. There have certainly been people in Albany and Washington who have done things many orders of magnitude worse than what you've been accused of. And unlike some, I do not wish to see you cop out and resign from office. After over three decades of watching my home state sink further and further into decline, no thanks at all to certain governors who went before you, you were, and in my humble opinion are still, a breath of very fresh air.

Don't screw up like this again, OK?

ADDENDUM - Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks that someone in Washington's not merely prosecuting wrongdoing here, but is actively trying to smear Governor Spitzer.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vonage Out, In with POTS

Enough is enough.

After having had my fill of their mediocre-to-non-functional telephone service, I closed my Vonage account this morning. And I'll tell you that it was no easy task. First of all, I could find no contact information on their official web site. So I filed a complaint with the New Jersey Better Business Bureau. After about 3 weeks, Vonage e-mailed me a copy of the message they sent to the BBB in response to my complaint, in which their representative said “As stated in the Terms of Service, for the purpose of security, customers are required to contact us if they wish to discontinue the Service. “. Yeah, right.

I called the number mentioned in their letter (1-866-243-4357), and was connected to a Mr. Lopez in a back-office in the Philippines. (Why any American firm has to farm out so-called customer service to some poor schlubs halfway around the world, who are probably getting paid far less than what typical American phone slaves used to earn, is beyond me, but hey, that's progress, right?) Even though I made it clear that I wanted to terminate my Vonage account immediately if not sooner, Mr. Lopez kept on trying – again , again and again - to sell me more Vonage gimmicks and service plans, even offering to charge me only half my monthly fee for I guess 6 months or so if I stayed with them. For several minutes Mr. Lopez and I had a pointless back-and-forth exchange in which I would reiterate my request to terminate my account and Mr. Lopez would immediately ignore my request with an "OK, but..." and then toss out another Vonage come-on. When I told him I didn't want to hear any more scripted sales pitches, he replied that he was making them not from scripts but “from the heart”. Oh, please!

After about 5 more minutes of that, I told him in no uncertain terms that I was no longer interested Vonage in any way, shape manner or form, and asked him one last time to terminate my account. Then I hung up.

A few minutes later my Vonage line stopped functioning, which indicated to me that Mr. Lopez had finally honored my initial request. The fact that I was now disconnected was confirmed when I made a follow-up call to Vonage at the same toll-free number. This time, I got a “Rafael” who said he was located in Vonage's corporate headquarters in Holmdel, NJ. I asked Rafael what I should do with the interface box Vonage supplied me with now that I was no longer a customer. He told me that it was not necessary for me to ship it back, and that I would not be charged for it.

I have never had an experience like this with Verizon, Time-Warner or AT&T. Never before have I been treated in such a hucksterish, unprofessional manner. It'll be interesting to see if I continue to get charged by Vonage for the service that I am now not receiving. Oh yes, I'm told that the New Jersey Attorney General's office has one person in it whose job it is to handle complaints about Vonage.

So much for voice over IP (VOIP). It's back to standard phone service I go.