Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chase VISA sucks.

A little change of pace today, if you don't mind indulging me.

We've had a Chase VISA card for going on some umpteen years - i.e. FOREVER. We always pay the balance each month, never pay late, and use our card a lot, so you can't tell me Chase isn't making money off our business through the fees they're charging the companies that accept our card.

So I would welcome any explanation that makes sense of why, over the past two years, our card has been declined - on a regular basis. We're not even remotely close to our credit limit. I won't bore you with the details, but let me tell you the declined charges have caused a great deal of embarrassment to such boringly solid citizens as ourselves. It's a good thing for us that my husband carries an American Express card through his office.

This declining purchases thing happened last fall, when I foolishly ventured out-of-state to help my daughter move her belongings to grad school. I happened again this past April, when we once again - foolishly, it seems - went to visit her. It happened again last week, when I was buying some bathroom items for our renovation project. It happened again today. Each time I call, they clear the card and apologize - weakly - but then it happens again. When I called today to complain, the woman on the line said, "We're just looking out for you." Yeah, right. Since Chase is on the hook for purchases made on stolen cards, if you buy that, I have a bridge I can sell you cheap.

I'm forced to conclude that Chase no longer wants our business. Perhaps since we don't rack up huge finance charges we're not worth their while.

What I'm curious to hear is, are other people experiencing this kind of harassment? From Chase - or from other banks? Is this some new form of customer disservice we can expect to see more of in the future? Why bother to issue credit cards if you don't want to allow people to use them?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mittens, Mittens, Mittens...

Still Mr. Integrity, I see, ever willing to prostitute himself in pursuit of higher ambitions.

For the media impaired, here's what happened:
    Let’s unpack this a bit. Romney, a leading McCain campaign surrogate, wants to argue that Obama hasn’t worked with Republicans on “controversial” issues of significance. When confronted with evidence of Obama working with Republicans on non-proliferation and energy policy, Romney says those issues don’t count, because they’re “liberal,” and Obama should work with Republicans on “conservative” issues.

    Now, I know — from personal experience — that it’s easy to slip up on television and say something stupid. Your mouth gets ahead of your mind, and you end up in a bad place.

    But that’s what made this especially amusing. CNN’s John Roberts offers Romney a way out: “Wait a minute. Aren’t Republicans pushing for nonproliferation too?”

    I expected Romney to realize his error, and clarify what he meant, maybe with something like, “Of course Republicans care about nonproliferation.” But not this guy.

    Romney actually believes that the right doesn’t care about stopping the spread of weapons stockpiles and promoting fuel efficiency.

    That’s not my argument; that’s his argument...
With cyborgs surrogates like Romney, who needs an opponent?

Friday, June 20, 2008

How not to solve the energy crisis.

1. Elect John McCain.
2. Drill, drill, drill, drill, drill.

Here's how to solve it:

1. Go back four years and elect John Kerry president.
    How insulting and ridiculous it is to be told that the solution to our problems is to drill in and destroy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that would yield a few months of oil when we are already importing 60 percent of our oil and climbing? God only gave us 3% of the world's oil reserves. There is simply no way to drill our way out of our problem. We have to invent our way out...

    .. The bottom line - whenever we face an energy crisis, talk of energy independence becomes the common currency of the American political dialogue. We have Apollo projects and Manhattan Projects for alternative fuels; summits and conferences and energy expos. And then, as the price of oil falls or supplies increase or a war is put behind us, the sense of urgency evaporates.

    Too often our leaders in both parties have done what's easy, turned their backs on hard realities and great possibilities. Renewables, efficiency breakthroughs, clean technologies have been marginalized in the face of self-interested forces.

    In these lost years, we could have created millions of new jobs, opened up vast new markets, improved the health of our citizens, slowed global warming, saved the taxpayers money, earned the respect of the world, and significantly strengthened our long term security. Instead America's energy strategy has been rhetorical, not real...
As Elias is saying this morning,
    John McCain wants to resolve the current carbon crisis and the energy crisis by building forty five new terrorism targets (otherwise known as nuclear reactors) by the year 2030.

    And those sonsabitches have to be licensed, inspected and defended 24-7...just like with the LNG tank farms in Everett, but with incomparably worse consequences if something should happen.
Oh yeah, that.

The sad truth is, our energy policy can't see past the end of its own snub nose. Predictable crisis follows predictable crisis, and yet nothing changes. It does remind one - as if anyone needed reminding on this point - how tight a grip oil interests have on our political system.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's been a while

since I was last impressed with the musings of Tom Friedman, but I did enjoy reading today's column. Particularly this:
    My colleague Michael Slackman, The Times’s bureau chief in Cairo, told me about a recent encounter he had with a worker at Cairo’s famed Blue Mosque: “Gamal Abdul Halem was sitting on a green carpet. When he saw we were Americans, he said: ‘Hillary-Obama tied?’ in thick, broken English. He told me that he lived in the Nile Delta, traveling two hours one way everyday to get to work, and still he found time to keep up with the race. He didn’t have anything to say bad about Hillary but felt that Obama would be much better because he is dark-skinned, like him, and because he has Muslim heritage. ‘For me and my family and friends, we want Obama,’ he said. ‘We all like what he is saying.’ ”

    Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the “idea of America” — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.
I devoutly hope this is true.

Howie Carr lampoons self

Deathless line from today's column (emphasis is mine):
    Fall River, Chicopee, Haverhill, Lynn, Fitchburg - not a single one of those sweaty cities has any windsurfing worth a damn, not to mention a Ducati motorcycle dealer, damn, but Liveshot is going to spend the next three months pressing the flesh in those wretched burgs, searching in vain for a proper nouvelle cuisine brassiere while enduring the foul breath of the plebeians...
Apparently I've fallen behind on the lingo. What's cuisine brassiere? The jokes write themselves, don't they?

On to more substantive matters. Howie's fevered loathing of John Kerry has led him to give air time to Kerry challenger Ed O'Reilly. Does that make O'Reilly the wingnut's choice? Carr:
    I’m sure O’Reilly is nowhere in the polls right now, but this is a perfect opportunity for mischief - this could become a Massachusetts version of Operation Chaos, the meddling of local Republicans in a Democratic primary, the way Rush Limbaugh tried to keep Hillary Clinton alive through April and May.
Great. Just what we need. But don't take my word for it, listen to the podcast for yourself, and count the right wing talking points as they ooze out of O'Reilly's mouth. The segment is rife with Howie's chortles of glee; doesn't it seem like a progressive democrat might hesitate to throw their lot in with the likes of Carr?

By the way, people who are just now wandering into the narrative of this race might do well to check out some of the relevant posts over at Blue Mass Group. The reasons why some of O'Reilly's supporters, including his erstwhile campaign coordinator Peter Vickery have defected to Kerry can be found here and here and here and here.

If Ed O'Reilly wants to welcome support from MA's own Rush Limbaugh, that's his choice, but how does he do that and call himself a progressive democrat? And how do self-identified progressive democrats justify supporting him?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Eisenhower may have been a republican, but

he came from an era when that wasn't necessarily a sign of moral blindness. And he was also a pretty sharp guy.
    President Eisenhower was right in 1954, when he wrote his brother Edgar: "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
Does ring a few bells, doesn't it? More evidence of his status as something of a seer:
    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Things are not going so well for Ed O'Reilly

Well, look at this, will you?
    Bush, Cheney & McCain aren't waiting for us. The presidential election campaign does not start in September, after the Massachusetts Democratic primary. It has already started. And judging by past races, the outcome of the 2008 election may be decided between now and September.

    So where do we want John Kerry to spend that time -- here in Massachusetts, where his victory in a putative primary is all but a foregone conclusion, or in battleground states fighting to keep John McCain out of the White House and fighting to bring our troops home from Iraq? I choose Option 2.

    Reluctant as I am to part company with my friends in Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), I no longer see any legitimate purpose in forcing a contested senatorial primary. Nobody has any doubt that the winner of that primary would be John Kerry (and rightly so). So the question is not "why not just give the other guy a chance?" In fact, the question for progressives is this: How can we justify keeping John Kerry in Massachusetts in stead of letting him campaign nationwide for a Democratic presidential victory?

    So if you're thinking of using your vote at the Lowell convention to send John Kerry a message -- that he needs to earn your support in stead of taking it for granted -- please think again. Your message has already arrived. It's been received, understood, and acted upon. Now let's get back together and win the fight that really matters; the fight for the White House.
An interesting turn of events.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

A "passionate" plea...

for all campaign surrogates to please, please, please stop referring to voters as being "passionate" about their candidate.

Sorry, doesn't cut it. I just heard the term used about 10 times in a row on one of those interminable MSNBC afternoon campaign-soaked orgies of baseless speculation. It seems to be the term-of-the-season, and it just DOES NOT COMPUTE.

Voters can be enthusiastic - even wildly enthusiastic - about their candidate of choice. But can we just keep passion out of it? Passion for a cause - okay, I suppose. But not for a candidate. Seems like just one more way to make the voters appear out-of-control idiotic.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm guilty of this too.

One of the most insidious dangers of watching the talking head shows is the way they make you complicit in their premise.

I admit I've been seduced back into watching Hardball - against my better judgment - but tonight's show brought me up short. In order to watch Hardball you have to accept Pat Buchanan as crazy bigoted old Uncle Pat, your occasionally lucid but kind of embarrassing relative. He's always at the table, and he always has plenty to say, and it's considered rude to call him out.
When you make Chris Matthews that uncomfortable, you've lunged way over the line. Why is Pat Buchanan always welcome to sit at the MSNBC table? To quote Jed,
    When is MSNBC going to fire this guy?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just when I was ready to cut loose with a primal scream,

Camille Paglia pops up on Salon with a bracingly opinionated new column.

If you're even close to as sick as I am of the Clintons' folie à deux, it's a must read. Paglia does the best slash-and-burn dissection of Hillary's candidacy that I've read anywhere. But I'm going to stay positive tonight.
    As I recently told Mark Simone on his New York WABC radio show, the Rev. Wright controversy actually solidified my support of Obama (though Wright himself, on the basis of his performance at the National Press Club, seems to have become a buffoon). I was steadily impressed by Obama's idealism and deliberativeness; his refusal to spout the rote demagogic formulas that pour so freely from Hillary's lips; and his patient forbearance in debates, where (like an aikido master) he warily sidestepped Hillary's blatant provocations, meant to goad him into errors. He has a judicious, reflective, authentically presidential temperament.

    My one nagging question about Obama, given his Kenyan lineage and broad background in Indonesia and Hawaii as well as his Ivy League education, was how well he knew the history, passions and aspirations of African-American culture. But Obama's 20-year membership in Rev. Wright's Chicago megachurch completely reassured me on this score. First of all, sermons constitute only one small part of any congregation's rich religious and social life. Second, not for a moment do I believe -- as talk radio shows are tirelessly alleging -- that Obama's political views are secretly identical to Wright's. On the contrary, it was through listening to Wright, who was reciting a black liberationist theology that has been standard issue for a half-century, that Obama honed his desire to bridge the gap between racial and ethnic communities in the United States. This is one reason I believe Obama is the right person at the right time for the presidency. Where Hillary divides and sows bitterness, Obama wants to unite and heal. It is a project that all Americans of good will should wish to succeed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

This just in,

from the latest TPM Election Central email:

Delegate counter

Via Marc Ambinder, who got it from CBS News.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The enemy of my friend is...?

The question of whether Obama will agree to help retire Hillary Clinton's campaign debt is an interesting one, as Karen Tumulty writes. It's also fraught.
    And then there's the nature of the Obama fundraising machine. Unlike a traditional operation, this is not one where you go to a relatively small group of jaded fat cats and ask them to open their wallets one more time. Will Obama's legions of small donors really be eager to send in another $20, $50 or $100 to make sure that Clinton's high-priced consultants are paid? Or will they consider it a betrayal of what the Obama campaign has convinced them it stands for?
I have a slightly different angle on the subject, and speak here as someone who has sporadically contributed to Obama throughout the campaign season. Would such a deal between Obama and Clinton affect his own fundraising? I may be willing to kick in money on a regular basis to help Obama get elected, but if I knew some of the money I'm sending his way was to be diverted to, say, Mark Penn, would I keep on giving?

Surely this same thought has crossed other much more politically savvy minds than mine.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Marc Maron returns to AAR

For three days, this week only (Tuesday, today, and tomorrow), you can hear for yourself what we Maron fanatics have been talking about. And if you like what you hear, please drop The Powers That Be a note advising them how great it would be for their bottom line to sign him on permanently in Randi's old slot.

I have nothing personally against the array of subs they've been putting in the slot, but with the exception of Sam Seder, they don't do radio very well, and are more or less lightweights (some much, much lighter than others). Seder's okay, but I personally prefer Maron.
    Engaging his audience as a storyteller, Marc is known for his incisive cultural and political commentary, mystical ruminations, and neurotic insights into human nature.
Sums it up nicely. He's in a league all his own, and I like the way listening to him stretches my brain.

A sample, Maron interviewing Robert Reich:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

McCain as nutty old coot

Probably one of the best anti-McCain campaign memes to appear so far this year comes courtesy of the Stephanie Miller Show. Steph and her mooks refer to the republican nominee as "Grampy McCain" and play - over and over again - quotes such as this one from the Simpsons:
    "We can't bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell them stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I took the fairy to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter you'd say. Now where were we, oh ya. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because if the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones."
Or this relevant item:
    Grampa: "Ehh, why didn't you get something useful, like storm windows, or a nice pipe organ? I'm thirsty. Ew, what smells like mustard? There're sure a lot of ugly people in your neighborhood. Oh! Look at that one. Ow, my glaucoma just got worse. The president is a Demmycrat. Hello? I can't unbuckle my seat belt. Hello?
Funny, yes. Also insidiously damaging. If the show isn't carried in your area (used to be in Boston, but alas, no more...) you can find a station streaming it here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank you, Ed Schultz!

In response to the accusation leveled ad nauseam at Barack Obama that he is "unable to close the deal" with working class voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Ed Schultz just gave the response that I've been dying to hear, in conversation with the hideously perky Terry McAuliffe:
    "It's because the Clintons have a twelve-year head start in name recognition and local politics."
Bless you, Ed, for your sheer common sense.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ed O'Reilly mocks small business

Here's a quote from Ed O'Reilly, putative Democratic challenger to John Kerry, from his interview with Jon Keller, on the subject of John Kerry's chairmanship of the Senate Small Business Committee:
    “It’s not an important committee – it’s small business.”
Okay. Does Ed O'Reilly really want himself on record insulting the state's (and since this is a federal post he's seeking, the country's) entrepreneurs and small business owners?

I hardly know where to start, but let's try this. While Ed O'Reilly was trying to make political points by mocking the SBC and John Kerry, it turns out that Carolyn Kirk, Mayor of Gloucester, which is, by the way, Ed O'Reilly's own city, was appearing before the SBC at the invitation of Kerry to discuss the ways in which the credit crunch is impacting the small businesses of Gloucester.
    Kirk said she had received a phone call while on route to Washington for her date with the Senate committee that informed her that Kerry and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, both D-Mass., had just won a great concession from the federal bureaucrats in charge of the New England groundfish fishery.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had dropped its effort to convince the state of Massachusetts to limit direct payment to fishermen. The bureaucrats had wanted to use the money to buy fishermen out of their vessels and fishing permits as a means of reducing pressure on the rebounding stocks.

    Kerry, Kennedy, Gov. Deval Patrick, the fishermen themselves and city officials had the idea of infusing capital into the surviving small businessmen still dedicated to fishing, to help them weather the shortage of fish and improve their assets.

    Kirk had greeted Kerry with a "thank you" for managing the high pressure negotiatons on fishing.

    That the nation's entire class of small cap-entrepreneurs shared many of the frustrations bedeviling the fishing boat owners wasn't lost on Kerry either.

    In an e-mail message to the Times yesterday, Kerry said, "We've seen our state's struggling fishermen go without promised help for months while relief was tangled in red tape." He contrasted that impasse with the lightening-fast salvation of Wall Street. "We've seen Bear Sterns get bailed out while everyday people face foreclosure."
By the way, Ed, in case you hadn't found this yet, the Senate bills Kerry has sponsored and co-sponsored can be found here. Kerry is also on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in charge of the crucial subcommittee in charge of Near East South and Central Asian Affairs. More information on his committee assignments can be found here.

It's true that the impact of a senator's accomplishments is probably not best measured by seniority. But being willfully reductive about John Kerry's work in the Senate doesn't make you look good - it makes you look ignorant.