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Saturday, April 23, 2005
Mitch and Me

Atrios has a little post up about Mitch Albom's reprimand for faking a column. Dr. Black seems to think that it likely has something to do with Albom's arrogance developed since he hit the big leagues.

I will be happy to let everybody know that Albom was an arrogant prick 16 years ago when I had a handful of brushes with him.

In 1988 and 1989 I was waiting tables during summer breaks at a very popular restaurant in Detroit. Albom was a fairly regular customer, who was treated as a VIP because he was the lead sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press. (This was long before he made his mark nationally.)

He was demeaning and rude to the staff and he was a lousy tipper.

It's an odd phenonmena that food service professionals remember the jerks they served long after the memories of pleasurable customers have slipped away.

Strongly edited to clarify late night, beer induced ranting and rambling.
Hewlett Packard update

It looks like HP has backed down from their stance that *we* had to pay for a repair that was covered under warranty before they would fix and return my laptop.

However, for the sake of the record, let me make a few points.

1- The local Best Buy is full of idiots. The managers and techies could not figure out why I was even bitching. Evidently they are not trained to believe customers when they dispute things. With the exception of one tech supervisor who *actually called* HP (gasp) to see specifically what they were claiming, no one, not one god-damned soul, lifted finger aside from saying, "Well, gee. Why don't you call this number?"

2- Best Buy corporate hq interceded and said that if HP would not fix the computer for free, that Best Buy would reimburse us. (OK, not a terrible solution.) In the process of telling us this, the guy at HQ mentioned that the Best Buys in our particular state "have a reputation for not being terribly creative when it comes to customer service." Gee, that's comforting to know.

3- HP-Repair finally conceded that they should not charge me for the screen that fritzed out. Instead they want money to fix the scratches on the external plastic case of the laptop. NOBODY ASKED THEM TO FIX THE F****** SCRATCHES! This, I believe, qualifies as ass-covering after we called "bullshit".

4- It is very unlikely that I will ever buy an HP product again.

5- Best Buy is unlikely to get any more of my business either, simply because I do not want to ever have to deal with this particular store.

6- Until my computer actually arrives in working condition, I will pester each of these companies every single day.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Friday Flat Blogging

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Thursday, April 21, 2005
Is Hewlett Packard an Insurance Company?

I am now in my third week without my 5 month old laptop. I took it back to Best Buy to have it repaired after the screen stopped working. (I left it open and running on a desk and it went in hibernation. When I pressed the power button to bring it back, all I got was black screen that occasionally flickered and buzzing sound from near the hinges.)

Best Buy took the computer and promised it back in about a week and half. The supposed delivery date was four days ago. After calling to find out where my machine was, they informed me that it had been shipped to HP for the repair. OK, an extra couple of days wait, they said.

Tonight I logged on to Best Buy's Geeksquad web site to check the status. The message told me to call the store because suddenly there was an "estimate" that needed to be approved. When I called, I got a mousy part time kid who could only tell me that HP was implying that computer was damaged and did not want to cover it under warranty. He referred the situation to his supervisor who will not be in until tomorrow.

So, my question is this: Is there a MBA Vice President at HP who gets a bonus based upon the revenue "generated" by denying warranty work?

Having briefly worked in the insurance industry, I will be the first to tell you that insurers consider a denied claim to be profit. Only strict regulation keeps them from screwing the public anymore than they can get away with. I wonder if someone in the HP executive suite knows what I'm talking about.

HP, Best Buy and Geeksquad have until Monday before I call the state Attorney General.
Have I mentioned that David Brooks can be an idiot?

Pontificating on the need to overturn Roe v. Wade so that the nation can heal, (yeah... that'll help [/sarcasm]) Brooks makes a few assinine statements:
Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views.
Yep... there they go.. those pesky Democrats pissing on the working class. Ugh. Of course what he meant to say is that liberals have not had a conversation with the religious right. Speaking from a wee bit of personal experience, I can attest that it is the fundies who don't want to listen. For Pete's sake, one of the biggest problems that liberals have is that they never shut up.

Then there is this gem:
Up until now, minorities have generally not used the filibuster to defeat nominees that have majority support. They have allowed nominees to have an up or down vote. But this tradition has been washed away.
Bullshit! "up or down vote"?!? Brooks certainly likes his selective amnesia. While the GOP did, in fact, engage in judicial filibusters on at least two occasions, their frequently used tool for blocking judges was the blue slip. If *either* Senator from the state of a nominee, regardless of party, objected to the nomination, it was dead in the water. Since taking over the Senate, the GOP has changed that rule. Now it requires *both* Senators from a state to block a nominee. It might not seem like a major change but it is.

Democrats have blocked 10 extreme nominees to the Federal bench in the past 4 years.

How many of Bill Clinton's nominees did the Republicans torpedo with the blue slip rules? 64.

"up or down vote".... my ass!
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Strange developments in Iraq.

You probably recall the story several weeks ago of the large raid on a insurgent/terrorist base on Lake Tharthar, west of Tikrit. All the major US media ran articles extolling the emerging competence of the new Iraqi security forces. Then, it turned out that it might not have actually happened that way. The insurgent body count was reported at 85, but no bodies were actually found.

I speculated at the time that either there were no bodies to begin with, or that they might have killed the wrong people and "disappeared" the bodies to avoid a problem. As unlikely as this might sound, it has happened. Especially with new, poorly trained forces. We never heard anything more about that little incident as the country became fascinated by watching Terri Schiavo and the pope die.

Recently, we've watched the reports coming out of Madaen regarding the 150 Shiite hostages taken by Sunni insurgents. The oh-so-competent Iraqi security forces surround the town and conduct door to door searches and find---nothing. Now the media reports that the hostage situation was exaggerated, or perhaps even fabricated.

Today, we see that 50 bodies have been dragged out of the Tigris. The Iraqi authorities assure us that they are the murdered bodies of the hostages in Madaen. Of course, the folks in Madaen, including most Shiite residents, just told us yesterday that there were no hostages there; that rumor began with an "anonymous official" in Baghdad.

Staged? Perhaps. It wouldn't be the first time.

How very strange, indeed.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
To deny someone a place at Christ's table is a sin.

Think about it. Jesus broke bread with Judas, for crying out loud. He wanted sinners to come to him. If the Devil himself wanted to take communion, it would be theologically proper to give it to him. But if Ratty had used good theology, then he wouldn't have had a convenient premise to help throw the 2004 election.

Whatever the new pope's intentions were when he wrote his "politicians" letter during the election last year, it was bad theology. And it was sinful, and certainly not from God:

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I don't subscribe to the "end times" brand of Christianity, but looking at this guy's picture (which gives me the willies), knowing what he did in his youth in Nazi Germany, knowing what he did to protect child-rapist priests, knowing what he did to influence last year's presidential election, I can't help but wonder a little bit.

I really have no problem with the Roman Catholic Church making a very conservative man their "Father". Not being Catholic, it really doesn't concern me that I personally disagree with several positions that Ratzinger has staked out, from gays to birth control. If he wants to lead the church deeper into a pre-Vatican II mode, good for him. Let the Catholic world congregation deal with it.


What I do have a severe issue with is the cold hard fact that Ratzinger intentionally injected himself into last year's Presidential campaign by issuing an official opinion that encouraged a few wingnut American Bishops to pronounce John Kerry unworthy of receiving communion because of his public stand to uphold the Constitution and it's determined right to an abortion.

Yes, the Cardinal blessed the very politically motivated public effort to forbid Kerry from practicing his faith because he upheld his sworn oath to the United States Constitution. (This isn't about abortion. Get it?) This whole effort was an attempt by Rome to influence the election. No ifs, ands, or buts.

If you question my "biased" version of events, try looking at what the hardcore politically active Catholics thought of it. Indeed, they knew exactly why Ratzinger's letter was written... to give cover on a political issue.

I, for one, do not like foreign leaders, and that is what Vatican officials including the Pope are, meddling in our elections.

UPDATE: I see the wire services have figured this out too. Where was this story last week?

Oh, and there's the fact that Ratzinger has been whitewashing the American church's sexual abuse scandal. Shielding sexual predators from American justice is something I can object to as well.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Monday news roundup
CNN: Cardinals Gather to Elect New Pope
CBS: Papal Conclave Set to Begin
ABC: Historic Conclave Assembles
MSNBC: Conclave Prayers
FOX: Cardinals Convene Conclave

The story concerning John Bolton withholding intelligence information from Powell and Rice in the runup to war isn't nearly as important as watching a bunch of old men in red robes sit behind a closed door for a few days.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Bolton Explosion?

With Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) being hesitant to endorse John Bolton because of "more and more revelations" about his style coming to light, things might just get messy.

One of Kos' diarists has an explosive allegation that has been forwarded to key Senators who, for moment, have not brought it up. The following excerpts of a letter, purportedly by a US AID official who was badgered by Bolton in the '90s.

Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).

When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks -- with the direct intervention of US AID officials -- to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.

As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.
Melody Townsel
Dallas, TX 75208
*If* Melody's version of events checks out, and she seems willing to stand her ground, Bolton should be hung out to dry and his career ended. No ifs, ands or buts.
On the road again

In light of the growing tendency of the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq to kidnap and kill each other when not attacking US soldiers, a review might be in order. It's too bad that none of Bush's advisors could have seen this coming. As usual, nobody asked me. I could have told them.

Maybe next time.
Shouting into the closet to inform and entertain the 10 people who actually read this thing. In our new format as an online magazine, we take pride in our reporting and opinions. Please leave reader feedback on our online magazine message board so that we can better serve you.

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” -Paul Wolfowitz

Cost of the War in Iraq
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