Filtered news 7/18

My Wisconsin tax dollars at
play
“Anyone who has ever wanted to buy gold bullion, walk on or watch a will find plenty to love” in the
Republicans pushed through the Wisconsin state Assembly last week. Similarly,
the Democratic plan that passed the state Senate included “$10 for pictures
frames and furniture in the Pensaukee town hall.”

 

"I am still not sure that I believe it: The
Iraqi parliament is going on vacation during August. 

The White House offers the lame excuse that, after
all, Baghdad is hot in August – sometimes 

130 degrees. How much hotter do you suppose it is if you are a
wearing a helmet, full body armor, 

carrying ammunition and walking foot patrols through Baghdad? The
last I heard, that is how 

American troops
are spending their August in Iraq. For me, this does it."  

    -- CBS wanker Bob
Schieffer, loyal Bush tool, "has had enough"  

 

US soldier in Iraq challenges
Bush
Last night, ABC’s Nightline aired a segment capturing a
rare view from the ground of the fighting that mires U.S. troops in Baghdad.
Through the lens of an embedded reporter, ABC followed several U.S. soldiers for
two weeks in May, watching them encounter roadside explosions that kill their
fellow soldiers and embark on often futile hunts to root out “insurgents.” 
Approaching his fifteenth month in Iraq, one soldier made a personal challenge
to President Bush: “I challenge the President or whoever has us here for 15
months to ride alongside me. I’ll do another 15 months if he comes out here and
rides along with me every day for 15 months. I’ll do 15 more months. They don’t
even have to pay me extra.”

 

Who supports our troops?
Via :

Pfc. , 25, had been joking with buddies just before their armored Humvee
rolled over the bomb. His wife, Rachel, later learned that the blast
blew Kincaid, a father of two from outside Atlanta, through the Humvee’s metal
roof.

Army investigators who reviewed the Sept. 23 attack in Iraq wrote in
their report that only providence could have saved Kincaid from dying that day:
“There was no way short of not going on that route at that time [that] this
tragedy could have been diverted.”

A USA Today investigation of the Pentagon’s efforts to protect troops in
Iraq suggests otherwise.

But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on
the battlefield and from the Pentagon’s own staff — to provide the life-saving
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat
missions, USA Today found.

Selling God and trivializing religion: 
It's a cash cow!!
    AP report--Wal-Mart said Tuesday it will
test sales in some stores of biblical action figures whose makers say they are
aimed at Christian parents who prefer their children play with Samson, David or
Noah rather than with a comic book character or Bratz doll.  Wal-Mart Stores
Inc. spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said the toys made by One2believe, a Valencia,
California, company, will be offered in 425 of Wal-Mart's 3,376 discount
stores... One2believe Chief Executive David Socha said his products were part of
a "battle for the toy box" with dolls and figures that he said
carry negative messages.  "If you're very religious, it's a battle for your
children's minds and what they're playing with and pretending. There are remakes
out there of Satan and evil things," Socha said.

“The Daily Show” is back
from their summer break and Jon Stewart looks in fine form. He goes over a few
events that took place while the show was on break including the Scooter Libby
case, Condoleezza Rice’s double-triple negative and of course, President Bush,
Tony Snow and a live report from Iraq where it’s …  
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Stephen Colbert is back as
well.
He interviews Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) who is a supporter
of the occupation of Iraq and advocates keeping our troops there, but
redeploying them to the borders and other areas outside Baghdad to fight Al
Qaeda. Senator Nelson skillfully uses GOP talking points, including the opinion
that Congress should wait till September to hear what General Petraeus has to
say about the surge. Stephen has a bit of fun with him.   
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Neocon media: If you're against war, you
must be a dirty hippy
   
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(623) I suppose it’s not so ironic that an anchor (Christ Matthews) who can
simultaneously hold an almost embarrassing
AND be vocally can betray his DFH prejudice about those he considers “fringe far
left”. Never mind that the polls show that those “fringe” are actually 60+% of
the American population, and include him.  David Shuster interviews
IraqSummer/MoveOn participants protesting outside the Capitol as the Senate
prepares for their all-nighter. Note their clear-spoken, calm and intelligent
defense of both the importance of this protest in particular and exercising your
civic right to protest in general. And Tweety’s response?

Well, that’s certainly a wholesome-looking crowd for an anti-war
bunch…

Digby tipped us to this :

Apparently he was expecting to see some long haired college kids burning bras
and taking over the ROTC building, which isn’t a huge surprise. It’s just the
Washington establishment’s irrational fear of hippies rearing its anachronistic
head again…

 

What your neocon media won't
report
(at all, much less for days on end) Glenn Greenwald
whether Mitt's three-hundred dollar charge to his campaign to his makeup artist
will be "given anywhere near the coverage and attention" that the media lavished
on Edwards' haircut. Greg Sargent with simple answers to simple questions:

First, Edwards is trying to draw attention to poverty in America, which
automatically makes him guilty of hypocrisy until proven innocent; Romney isn't
doing any such thing. Second, a key Republican talking point about Edwards is
that he's a phony and a wuss, while there's no such Dem talking point about
Romney. And finally, All-Hallowed and All-Seeing  Grand Vizier of the Media
Universe Matt Drudge  hasn't issued any command for coverage of Romney's makeup
fees. Thus, Edwards' haircut is news, and Romney's makeup fees aren't. Really,
now. This is not complicated.

Polls, democracy and war
I've noticed that we're again hearing a lot of talk to the effect that the
American people just don't have the gumption to brave out the genius of
President Bush's Iraq policy. Or, relatedly, that if we'd had constant polls
back in WWII that they too would have shown public support flagging at every
little reverse between December 1941 and August of 1945.  Despite what a lot of
people in Washington and the rest of the media seem to think, there was actually
fairly extensive polling of public opinion during the Second World War.  And
here's an example of some of it.

Click or
on the image itself to see a full-size copy of the data in question.

The key point is that many polls were taken during the war. And
approval of the president's conduct of the war, understanding and belief in the
goals of the war and other similar measurements all remained constant at very
high levels or in some cases actually went up. One key data point you can see on
the chart is the number of Americans will to make peace with Hitler -- that is,
an negotiated end to the war rather than the unconditional surrender which was a
key allied war demand. The number was under 10% for most of 1942 and 1943. Then
it briefly surged up to just over 20% in early 1944 (roughly the time of the
invasion of Italy) before falling back down to about 15% for duration of the war
in Europe.

Given the flimsiness of the rationale and the incompetence of the execution
of the war in Iraq, a more perplexing question is why support for the war held
on as long as it did. But the reason for the drop is not the time the war has
dragged on -- though it's now as long or longer than almost any other war in US
history -- or how many have been killed. The death toll in the Second World War
dwarfs the numbers of those killed in Iraq.

The reason the war is unpopular is because people don't think we are
accomplishing anything that promotes our security or national interests --
indeed, quite the contrary. Not because we're not doing it right or not doing it
well but because the whole concept is flawed. People can see that we're digging
a hole into the Earth and a lot of them want to stop and climb out even though
it will be messy.

A symbol of what's
wrong
  David
Kilcullen, a senior adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in new paper:

At present, the U.S. defense budget accounts for approximately half of total
global defense spending, while the U.S. armed forces employ about 1.68 million
uniformed members. By comparison, the State Department employs about 6,000
foreign service officers, while the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) has about 2,000. In other words, the Department of Defense is about 210
times larger than USAID and State combined–there are substantially more
people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the entire foreign
service.

NIE report: what it didn't
say
Spencer Ackerman on
of the National Intelligence Estimate on al-Qaeda to broach the Iraq War's
contribution to al-Qaeda's strength.  The White House seized on the new National
Intelligence Estimate on al Qaeda has bolstering all of Bush’s arguments. As the
president’s team sees it, the NIE is evidence that we need to stay in Iraq.
Slate’s Fred Kaplan just how wrong the
White House is.

The that was released today—titled
“The Terrorist Threat to the Homeland”—amounts to a devastating critique of the
Bush administration’s policies on Iraq, Iran, and the terrorist threat
itself.

Its main point is that the threat—after having greatly receded over the past
five years—is back in full force. Al-Qaida has “protected or regenerated key
elements” of its ability to attack the United States. It has a “safe haven” in
Pakistan. Its “top leadership” and “operational lieutenants” are intact. It is
cooperating more with “regional terrorist groups.”

As a result, the report concludes, “the U.S. Homeland will face a persistent
and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years” and is, even now, “in a
heightened threat environment.”

More proof that the war is making us less safe.

Keith Olbermann and
terrorism analyst Roger Cressey
knock down the lies and spin of
Bush’s increasingly delusional assertions of al Qaeda in Iraq.

…it’s completely misleading. The organization that
attacked us on 9/11 is still trying to attack us. That is the group that is
primarily on the Afghan/Pakistan border that you’ve seen all the intelligence
community assessments about in the past few days. The group inside Iraq is very
indigenous. It’s a function of what happened in Iraq after Saddam was
overthrown. In effect, we’ve actually helped create the conditions that allowed
al Qaeda to take root in Iraq. It’s clear that al Qaeda in Iraq has ideological
sympathies with al Qaeda Central that clued there’s been some communication
between the two, but it is false and misleading for the president to make that
direct linkage that he did.  
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Even
makes the distinction that Bush does not (though, to my dismay, burying the lede
deep within the article):

U.S. intelligence analysts, however, have a somewhat
different view of al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq, noting that the local branch
takes its inspiration but not its orders from bin Laden. Its enemies — the
overwhelming majority of whom are Iraqis — reside in Baghdad and Shiite-majority
areas of Iraq, not in Saudi Arabia or the United States. While intelligence
officials have described the Sunni insurgent group calling itself al-Qaeda in
Iraq as an “accelerant” for violence, they have cited domestic sectarian
divisions as the main impediment to peace
.

In a report released yesterday, Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies warned that al-Qaeda is “only one part” of a
spectrum of Sunni extremist groups and is far from the largest or most
active
. Military officials have said in background briefings that
al-Qaeda is responsible for about 15 percent of the
attacks…

Cheney and the Oil Boys
revealed
  Six years after it happened, the Washington
Post
has finally gotten its hands on the top secret list of everyone who
met with Dick Cheney's energy task force

One of the first visitors, on Feb. 14, was James J. Rouse, then vice
president of Exxon Mobil and a major donor to the Bush inauguration; a week
later, longtime Bush supporter Kenneth L. Lay, then head of Enron Corp., came by
for the first of two meetings. On March 5, some of the country's biggest
electric utilities, including Duke Energy and Constellation Energy Group, had an
audience with the task force staff.

British Petroleum representatives dropped by on March 22, one of about 20 oil
and drilling companies to get meetings. The National Mining Association, the
Interstate Natural Gas Association of America and the American Petroleum
Institute were among three dozen trade associations that met with Cheney's
staff, the document shows.

This is no surprise or anything, but it's nice to finally know.   By the way, by the time the task force began its few
meetings with environmental groups, “the initial draft of the task force was
substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress.”

CIA vs Rummy  Via :

Dissident U.S. intelligence officers angry at former Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld helped a European probe uncover details of secret CIA prisons in
Europe, the top investigator said on Tuesday.
Swiss Senator Dick Marty, author of a Council of
Europe report on the jails, said senior CIA officials disapproved of Rumsfeld’s
methods in hunting down terrorist suspects, and had agreed to talk to him on
condition of anonymity.

“There were huge conflicts between
the CIA and Rumsfeld. Many leading figures in the CIA did not accept these
methods at all,” Marty told European Parliament committees, defending his work
against complaints it was based on unnamed sources.

The report issued last month said
the Central Intelligence Agency ran secret jails in Poland and Romania, with the
complicity of those governments, and transported terrorist suspects across
Europe in secret flights.

 

For the memory impaired 
Via , let's take a stroll down memory lane to see the amazing
flip-flopping Senate minority leaders when it comes to filibusters.  Two years
ago:

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS): "[Filibustering] is wrong. It’s not supportable under
the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I’m
perfectly prepared to blow the place up."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spokesman: "Senator McConnell always has and
continues to fully support the use of what has become known as the ‘[nuclear]’
option in order to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate."

Today, with McConnell threatening a permanent filibuster
on all Iraq amendments
, forever:

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an
automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the
time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles. ... [A]ll the
controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate
in January have required 60 "yeas" to pass.

"It’s a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we’re in,"
McConnell said. "It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side
that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation."

The Republicans are the party of the Iraq debacle, and are
proving it now. They never run out of excuses to protect their president and to
continue this fiasco. The WINOs (as Greg Sargent has so aptly named them--), Senators Susan Collins, Jack Warner, John Sununu, Norm
Coleman, Dick Lugar, Pete Domenici and George Voinovich, keeping making noises
about change, but sign onto or offer up toothless, goofy, sense of the Senate
requests to Bush to think about maybe changing his mind.

The next 36 hours will provide these WINOs to decide: are they
going to continue to protect their president and continue his fiasco, or are
they going to do their jobs.  For anybody who's actually planning to stay up all
night with the Senate, you can have some fun using the to keep track of the WINOs and whether they're putting their
votes where their mouths are.

US Labor Secretary to US
workers: You stink!
  No, not your attitude. She really thinks
you need to bathe more. I’m completely serious. :

High school gym, where listening to lectures on personal hygiene was part of
the package. It’s one thing for a gym teacher to tell a bunch of sweaty
teenagers to hit the showers. But it’s something quite different when the U.S.
secretary of labor tells -a national weekly read by millions of
Americans-the nation’s workers need a bath if they want to keep their jobs...
Chao told Parade it’s not just the low-cost of foreign labor that is
enticing many U.S. employers to ship jobs overseas-overseas workers dress and
bathe better.

Beyond the cheaper cost of labor, U.S. employers say that many workers abroad
simply have a better attitude toward work. “American employees must be punctual,
dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” says Chao.

Alex Bastani, AFGE Local 12 president,[..] noted that in 2004, Chao’s Labor
Department changed the rules on who qualifies for overtime pay and millions of
workers were robbed of their rights to overtime pay. Just this year, she tried
to
some 250 Department of Labor jobs but was .

I would be remiss to not remind you who is Chao’s (presumably
clean-smelling)

Meanwhile, back in
Iraq...
While the Republicans in Congress continue their
obstruction, still more concerned about protecting the president than protecting
the troops, goes on:

BAGHDAD - Dozens of Shiite villagers in the north were massacred by Sunni
extremists, two officials said Tuesday, while a car bomb exploded across the
street from the Iranian Embassy in the heart of Baghdad and killed four
civilians.

Neocon media at
play
  You don't really need to read the WaPo opinion page most
days. Just read :

Aside from leading me close to accepting that maybe there is someone in elite
punditry who is even stupider than Gregg Easterbrook, Applebaum's column
highlights something inflicted many of our elites at the moment. They're all
Hamlet, unwilling to decide on a course of action, and more than that all they
can do is disparage anyone who tries to do so. All of this serves to reinforce
the primacy of the status quo . . .  instead of allowing for any possibility
that sensible people will be able to make any decisions.

Repugnicans eating their
own
Mitt Romney a smut peddler? So says Fred Thompson's
operatives, the fine folks of Focus on the Family.
has the story.

GOP faithful: None of the
above
  Perhaps this should be titled, "The Top GOP Pick Isn't,"
:

The latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that nearly a quarter of
Republicans are unwilling to back top-tier hopefuls Rudy Giuliani, Fred
Thompson, John McCain or Mitt Romney, and no one candidate has emerged as the
clear front-runner among Christian evangelicals. Such dissatisfaction
underscores the volatility of the 2008 GOP nomination fight.

It's not often that we find ourselves in agreement with Republicans, but who
can argue with their choice of, "none of the above"? The only thing funnier is
that this is even surprising. McCain's campaign has imploded. Giuliani's the
fading pro-choice contender, which is sort of redundant. People seem to be
catching on to the fact that Fred Thompson is a one-term senator and lobbyist
not Reagan 2.0. And that leaves you with Mitt Romney, the avatar of transcendent
phoney-baloneyism.

Must be pretty
complicated.
Sen. Stevens (R-AK) on his senate disclosure filing.

The war mongers are
desperate
War supporters responded yesterday to Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) on Iraq withdrawal legislation by threatening a
permanent Iraq filibuster
. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
proposed “.”

Because your Mom is so full of
hate
Appearing
on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show yesterday, conservative pundit
claimed that “” are making our current political discourse more “vicious”:

 Hugh Hewitt: “The political dialogue, public and private, becomes more
rancorous. The dissenters, particularly the Negro, poor and the war protesters
turn to direct action, and most uncivil disobedience. What this adds up to is
nothing less than a rejection of conventional forms of political action.” It
goes on. Do you see the same thing playing out again now, Robert Novak? 

Novak: I hate to say it, but I think the hatred toward George W. Bush is just
mad. I listen to, sometimes in the car radio, on talk shows, and the
venom that comes out of the mouths of some of these women, particularly, I’m not
trying to be sexist, but they’re so vicious toward him
. And I don’t
think that really contributes. And also, the bloggers, I don’t read the bloggers
very much, but it is really, it’s really vicious.

Your tax dollars at play
over there. More than two-thirds of wasteful Defense Department contracts for
Iraq .

Big Brother likes secrets
20.5 million: Number of decisions to classify government
secrets last year. But the Information Security Oversight Office said “more than
1 in 10 documents it reviewed lacked a basis for classification, ‘‘ of the decisions to place them off limits to
public disclosure.”

Getting out, in detail 
There's a lot of news today. But don't miss this
in the Post about the mechanics and possible consequences of
withdrawal. The piece surveys a lot of interesting ground. And I'll just try to
touch on some of the highlights, if that's the right word for it.

One point is the divergence between war gaming of a withdrawal from Iraq
being done in the White House press office and in the Pentagon. The idea that
Iraq will be taken over by al Qaida doesn't even come up in the military's
thinking. Their war-gaming focuses on civil war, partition and possible
intervention by neighboring states -- no picnic, but not sufficiently
threatening to the American public to be useful to the White House.

Another daunting point centers on the purely logistical difficulties of
getting out. The situation in a destabilized country can change very quickly
once the word gets out that the occupying power is pulling out. There are some
harrowing examples from the Soviet pull-out from Afghanistan, particularly cases
where they literally had to fight their way out of certain areas. A key issue
here is that when you figure not just how many people but how much equipment the
US has in Iraq you can't just airlift everything out.

To me this is an argument not to remain in denial for so long that we
literally have no choice but to get out quickly. We still have time to manage a
phased withdrawal which is integrated with a political plan. Not clear whether
that will be the case in a year when we will no longer be able to sustain our
current deployment.

Who's al Qaeda and who's
not.
White House Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend was
caught saying Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Mesapotamia (aka al
Qaeda in Iraq), a group that appears to have no operational ties to bin Laden's
group are in fact "the same organization."  
and  (For
background on the distinction, see this episode of .)   Obviously,
at one level it is simply a semantic question. And it can seem like a lot of ink
to spill on a point of words and definitions when so much carnage and
controversy are unfolding before our eyes. So it is worth stepping back to see
just what the big deal is and how it plays into our predicament in Iraq and how
we might get our way out.

Beginning in the months just after 9/11 and ever since the president and his
deputies have tried to float their foreign policy on the shock, fear and desire
for revenge spawned by the 9/11 attacks. The first signs (though these weren't
clear in their details at the time) came in the decision to pull troops away
from the hunt for bin Laden himself in late 2001 in order to ready them for the
assault on Iraq little more than a year later. There we have the kernel of
deception which is like the original sin of the Iraq War and, because of that,
keeps coming resurfacing again and again. The claim that attacking Iraq was
attacking the people who attacked the United States on 9/11, that the two things
were related in anything more than a mental figment.

So at the outset it was that Iraq and al Qaeda are connected and either did
attack us together (as Dick Cheney frequently suggested) or could in the future
(as everyone else did). Then the beginnings of the insurgency were not a problem
because we were drawing al Qaeda into Iraq . Then we couldn't leave Iraq because doing so would hand it over
to al Qaeda.

As the cycle progressed there was an mounting tendency for the administration
to argue that we could not abandon its policies precisely because of the scope
of the failure of those policies up to the present point -- a veritable
perpetual motion machine of disaster and incompetence. But setting that aside,
the enduring pattern has been for the White House to ask us to make our
decisions about Iraq not based on what is happening in Iraq but on what happened
in New York and Washington on 9/11.

Don't look at Iraq to make this decision, look at the Twin Towers. That's
been the administration strategy for over five years. So when we see the scam
popping up in a slightly different guise, even if it requires getting deep into
the weeds and raising an alarm over key points of word choice and emphasis, then
we simply must do so. Because this is the original sin, the founding deceit upon
which everything has been built and from which the entire catastrophe followed.

More on the ploy that cannot be named from
your neocon media
  This
from Reuters manages to get through an entire article on the filibuster
the Democrats are going to force senate Republicans to go through with without
ever actually using the word 'filibuster'. It's almost a thing of beauty in its
negative capacity of bamboozlement. Some choice quotes:  "U.S. Senate Democrats,
hoping to raise pressure on President George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans
to pull troops from Iraq, have scheduled an around-the-clock war debate starting
on Tuesday." and "Democrats have all but publicly acknowledged that they will be
unable to pass their end-the-war amendment because opposition Republicans are
insisting on 60 votes for a victory."

McClatchy on why last night's ...

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Republicans would speak on the
floor, not just yield to Democrats, but that it wouldn't be a true filibuster
because the lawmakers in the minority party weren't the ones who wanted
it.

Here's another beaut just out from the AP in which but refuses to use the word 'filibuster' until he
gets around to describing what the Democrats did four years ago in the judicial
appointments fight -- that is to say, when the Democrats did precisely
what the Republicans are going to do tonight.

Like I said, the ploy that dare not speak its name -- except when Democrats
use it.

(Honestly it's gotten so flagrant, especially with AP, that I start to wonder
if it's not intentional rather than a product of sloppiness and being cowed by
GOP flacks)

And then there's .
When is a filibuster not a filibuster? When it's a "procedural roadblock."

Because Filibusters Must Stay in the Closet Update: Even the
Washington Post goes in for the song and dance. In this
in tomorrow's paper, the word 'filibuster' doesn't appear until the final graph
when Moveon.org's "counter-filibusters" are mentioned.

Sigh. I'm not sure anyone can top this nonsense from Diane Sawyer who says
Harry Reid "."   Diane Sawyer has been a professional political
correspondent in DC . Before that, she worked in two Republican
White Houses. She must know what a filibuster is, and she must realize that the
Senate Democratic leadership hopes to defeat a filibuster, not engage
in one. Part of the point of last night’s efforts in the Senate is to bring
greater awareness to Republicans’ tactics and GOP obstructionism, particularly
on Iraq policy. It looks like there are some reporters who stand to learn a few
things.

  Fox has refused to air a because it objects “to the message that condoms can
prevent pregnancy.” But according to the Food and Drug Administration, “latex
condoms greatly ” and are “the from the viruses that cause AIDS, other
HIV-related illnesses, and other STDs.” 

Big Biz strikes again 

Millions of Californians will start paying several dollars a month more for
land-line phone service after AT&T's second price increase for
custom-calling features since the state lifted rate caps last year.....Many
customers used to paying $6.17 for caller ID in December, who had already seen
one price increase to $7.99 a month, will now pay $9. Call waiting, speed
dialing and other features that cost $3.23 in December now run $5 after two
price hikes.

A few weeks ago my friends suddenly started complaining that whenever they
called me they were forced to identify themselves before their call was put
through. After a few days we figured out that Caller ID Blocking had been turned
on for us, even though we didn't want it. So we called AT&T to find out what
was going on.

The first two times, they hung up on us after we'd been on hold for 20
minutes. The third time, I got transferred to about nine different people,
including twice to India, before someone finally transferred me to "AT&T
California," where I learned, among other things, that my phone service had been
switched from "Legacy AT&T" to "The New AT&T." Fine. Whatever. But I
don't want all these new services (caller ID blocking turned out to be just one
of many new services I now had), so can I get rid of them?

Long story short, the answer was no. I could get rid of them all and
just pay for the two or three I wanted, but that would actually cost more. More?
Yes indeed. OK then, I'll keep them. But how do I turn off this annoying caller
ID stuff? The customer service rep didn't know, but ten minutes later after
making several internal calls, she decided she could do it. No more caller ID
blocking.

Whew. But then she told me that this was just the beginning. Eventually my
long distance service was bound to get switched to The New AT&T™ as well.
Did I want to just go ahead and make the switch now? Sure. I guess so.

But then she sighed and asked a question she had obviously asked a thousand
times before: did I have a fax machine at home? Yes I did. Well, you're not
allowed to use a fax machine on The New AT&T's long distance service. If
their computers detect a fax tone on your line, they'll automatically drop you
from the flat rate plan and start charging you ten dollars a minute for all
subsequent calls. Or something.

By this time, I was laughing. Even the customer service rep was sort of
laughing along. She then made a desultory pitch for AT&T internet service
and AT&T television service, and we hung up. But I suppose this means that
eventually I'm going to have to switch my long distance to a phone company that
allows me to use my fax machine.

The customer service rep I eventually talked to was actually extremely nice,
but overall this was by a long margin the most annoying customer service
experience I've had in years. And just like you, I've had lots of annoying
customer service calls over the years. To recap: AT&T switched my service
without telling me; added some new features I didn't want; hung up the first two
times I called; was flatly unable to figure out who in their vast empire I
needed to talk to on the third try; eventually told me there was no way to
eliminate a feature unless I wanted to pay more; and then told me that sometime
soon I wouldn't be able to use my fax machine anymore. And by the way, would I
like to sign up for their internet and TV service today?

Welcome to the brave new world of telecom competition. It's working out well,
don't you think?

Meet the new boss  Last
October, after an investigation of the House Intelligence Committee's role in
the Duke Cunningham scandal had been completed, Chairman Peter Hoekstra refused
to release it. No surprise there. Hoekstra was hardly eager to publicize a
fellow Republican's wrongdoing a few weeks before an election. Today Hoekstra is
no longer chairman,

Democrats complained bitterly a year ago when Republicans blocked release of
a declassified version of the final report. But two weeks ago, several Democrats
joined Republicans to block the report's release only to other members of
Congress. Five Democrats objected to keeping the report secret.....Congressional
sources said [Chairman Silvestre Reyes] and other Democrats had initially voted
to let other members of Congress see the document, but reversed course after a
fierce protest by the panel's ranking GOP member, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan.
"They are so nervous about this report being out," said one congressional
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Members oppose putting this
thing out because you read this and the natural question is: 'Did you know this,
and what did you do about it?' I don't think any members wanted that scrutiny."
....One top committee aide, Michael Meermans, told investigators that "on
probably two or three occasions [Cunningham] figuratively put a finger in my
forehead and said, 'You are going to make this into the bill, right?'
"....Current and former intelligence committee officials said staffers facing
such pressure would almost certainly call the issue to the attention of their
elected bosses.

And yet, their elected bosses apparently did nothing.

Return to racial
politics?
  I'm not sure The New York Times really needs
to worry that anything might . Things seem plenty polarized.
Check out -- Kerry got 90 percent of the black vote, and Bush got
85 percent of the white vote; there are so few Latinos and Asians that they
can't even be measured.

Published

July 18, 2007 - 9:32am

Author

randomness