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April 24, 2004
What he said
I had a rant in mind when I read Kristof this morning, but Atrios pretty much nails it.
April 23, 2004
Debit cards are pure evil
More, from a reader:
Regarding your most recent blog entry -- I worked as a temp for over half a year at a Major Banking Institution's ATM/debit card claims back office. You're far from alone. A staff of less than two dozen people, many of whom were temps hired as data entry drones, handled many hundreds of complaints every day from across a four-state region. Due to being swamped by volume, unwritten office policy was to simply charge off (i.e., rubber-stamp) any claim of less than $50. In principle, all larger claims were supposed to be thoroughly investigated, but the majority of them were simply punted or given a cursory check ("did the ATM record that day show any errors? Nope.") and approved or denied on the basis of a few numbers on a screen. At times it was like the worst stories you've heard about the quota pressures on phone tech support reps, except with other people's money.
Christ on a crutch
Okay, so some time back my bank (cough cough CITIBANK cough cough) sends me a new ATM card, which is also a debit card--something I never asked for or wanted. Fast forward to late March/early April--some scumbag gets ahold of my debit card number and charges up nearly $2000, money which is taken out of my account. The bank notices something odd--i.e., the fact that someone who has never used his debit card is suddenly running up thousands of dollars of purchases--and calls me up.
And guess what? I have to go through an investigation, supply all sorts of information, wait several months to have the money returned to me. Think about that: the friggin' bank sent me a financial instrument which essentially allows anyone who gets ahold of the number to dip their greedy little hands into my account and help themselves. I neither asked for this financial instrument nor wanted it. And yet--when it is, inevitably, abused by some scumbag--I have to wait for "the process" to be completed.
Now, the nice person I talked to on the phone yesterday told me that it was no problem, I was a valued customer, a "provisional credit" was being issued immediately. However, when I called today to double check on some information, I was informed that this was not true at all; I had to sign papers, send information, wait for an investigation that can take up to three months--then maybe I'll get the money back.
Money which I never would have lost if Citibank had not sent me a debit card I never requested.
Thanks so very friggin' much, Citibank.
...actually it's even better: for some reason, the bank didn't have my current phone number when this fraudulent activity started happening, and they couldn't get ahold of me. Somebody at Citibank was apparently on the ball, however, and saw what was going on, and delinked my ATM card from my account. And they deserve kudos for being on top of things that much--but when I went into the bank to find out why my ATM card had been delinked, nobody knew--there was no note attached to my file or anything like that. So they made some calls to customer service, tapped at the keyboard, scratched their heads, shrugged--and reactivated the card. And it remained active for another two and half weeks, until somebody else in the fraud department called me yesterday. If the scumbags who stole the number had been on the ball, they would have had another two and a half weeks to help themselves to my bank account--courtesy of our friends at Citibank.
But no matter how many mistakes they've made--no matter that I never wanted the damned debit card in the first place--I'm the one who has to jump through hoops to get my money back. Banking's a great business.
Washington Post needs a nudge
Go read this, and then send them a note.
And speaking of Earth Day
A reader forwards the link to this discussion of environmentally friendly ICBMs.
Yesterday was Earth Day, which reminded me of something I haven't thought about in a long time: my first public recognition as an artist, that I can remember, came on Earth Day--probably the first one in 1970, though it may have been the second in 1971. The children in whatever grade I was in at Roosevelt Elementary School that year were put to work designing "buttons", on circles cut from posterboard, maybe four or five inches in diameter, to mark the day. These were subsequently voted on by my classmates; my colorful design was the clear winner. Then it was time to reproduce the button so that all the children could cut it out and tape it to their shirts and blouses on Earth Day, which marked another first for me: my first experience with the limitations of reproduction technology. I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times over the years I've been hosed by bad print jobs, and it all began there, back on Earth Day in '70 or '71. To be honest, I do remember wondering how the teachers planned to reproduce the button, but figured they must have something in mind--they were, after all, the teachers. As it turned out, they asked me to trace the design onto that carbon paper they used, and then they churned out terrible mimeographed approximations of my design, which the other kids were then supposed to cut out and color in themselves. An utter fiasco, as you may well imagine. And I've been fighting with printers and publishers to get my work reproduced accurately ever since.
Lies and the lying liars
Atrios and Ailes, among others, have been all over the Jack Kelley story and I haven't had much to add--but just on the off chance that some of you may have missed it, it's worth noting. And it is entirely possible that you may have missed it--the level of outrage over this one hasn't remotely approached Jayson Blair levels. Which is a shame--it may not have that sexy "affirmative action" angle the right wingers like to beat into the ground, but it's a far more egregious situation.
USA Today editors ignored repeated warnings about problems with Jack Kelley's reporting, including from government officials, while a newsroom "virus of fear" deterred many staffers from challenging what became the worst scandal in the Gannett paper's history, an investigative panel said yesterday. Kelley, who has now apologized, made up parts of at least 20 stories stretching back to 1991, according to the report by three outside editors asked to investigate the former star correspondent's work. Kelley also billed the company for thousands of dollars in payments to translators and drivers who now say they never received the cash, the panel found.
As Atrios' readers are well aware, Kelley comes out of the World Journalism Institute, whose mandate is apparently to produce more journalists with an explicitly Christian bias:
I mentioned the issue to Mr. Olasky, who agreed the challenge was both real and big. I mentioned it also to Robert Case, one of our board members who lived then in Ellensburg, Wash., where he divided his working hours between the real estate business and teaching philosophy at Central Washington University. Would he be willing, I asked, to come to North Carolina the following summer and organize an instructional program in journalism—just to see whether anyone might be interested?
April 22, 2004
On a happier note
Batman and Robin have apparently moved to the English countryside.
Michelle Kirby, from Whitley, was stranded in Whitley Wood Lane when her Peugeot 206 ran out of petrol on Easter Sunday. But our Batman and Robin appeared out of nowhere to save the day and push her car to the nearest petrol station.
I've been dealing with bureaucratic bullshit half the day--somebody somehow managed to snag not one, but two of my credit card numbers, before going on an oddly local shopping spree, a thousand dollars here, a thousand dollars there, at stores I've never even heard of. Whatever happened here, it's not because someone a thousand miles away snagged the numbers off the internet somehow--it's someone in this neighborhood, who stole my mail, or surreptitiously copied my numbers during a legitimate transaction, or found them in my trash--though the latter is extremely unlikely; I'm pretty cautious about things like this. But who knows? Strange and unsettling, at any rate.
(...they didn't steal the cards themselves, I've still got both of them...)
(...editing, from Mister Never Satisfied...)
Supporting the troops...
...by allowing Reservists and Guardsmen to make up for the financial hardships posed by unexpectedly long tours of duty--by dipping into their retirement savings without tax penalties.
The overwhelming generosity of it simply boggles the mind.
And of course Democrats vote for the measure, or else they're going to be accused of not supporting the troops.
``That is a really pathetic gesture,'' said John Tanner, D-Tenn. ``Active duty guard and reservists and their families are the only people in this country who have been asked to sacrifice anything, anything whatsoever.''
I've mentioned this before, but I'm planning on adding some advertising to this site, if the subject matter is appropriate (and not animated--god, I hate those annoying flashing ads on every blog I read). It costs a bit to run a graphics-intensive site with fairly high traffic volume, and I would like to defray that expense a little more than I have been lately. Wanted to go through blogAds but for various reasons that doesn't seem to be working out. So if anybody's interested in reaching that select targeted demographic known as Tom Tomorrow readers, send me an email directly. (Sorry to make you click through to get the address--it's an unfortunate byproduct of the War on Spam.)
Some really charming efforts lately from the spammers and virus-spreaders--such as this broken-English attempt to trick me into clicking on an attachment, which I've received repeatedly lately:
Gotta watch out for that negative e-mail content, or else you might get an account disabling warning.
This one's my favorite, though:
From: CY Software
I haven't voted yet--I can't decide between "the network materials collecting" or "the webpage having a look around."
Andy Sullivan compares the chaos in Iraq to the fight for gay marriage:
"Don't get disheartened by the possibility of backlash," he said. "Backlash is a good sign. You can see it today in Iraq … where the closer progress comes, the forces whose power will be eroded fight back with a ferocity that one never expected. But their ferocity is the ferocity of fear and weakness and beleaguerment, because they know they're losing."
Uh--okay, so if gay marriage is Iraq, then are homophobe Republicans the insurgents? And doesn't that make Bush al Sadr?
I'm very confused.
Ready for war
Insider baseball types will recall all the scorn heaped upon Kos for his dismissive remarks about mercenaries in Iraq. To be fair, I'm sure a lot of these guys are just working Joes, truck drivers and so on, lured there by the prospect of quick money, just like people I knew growing up were lured to Alaska during the fishing season--you go for a few months and make enough money to live for a year.
But Iraq's not Alaska, and when these guys are carrying guns and acting for all practical purposes as soldiers, things get a little ambiguous.
American news organizations are not doing the truth a favor when they call these hired guns "U.S. military contractors." They are not even being accurate: The men were not contractors to the government, but Hessians or mercenary soldiers in the employ of a corporate warlord, namely Blackwater Security Consulting. Let’s call these people what they are, even though Americans have yet to feel completely comfortable with the idea of killing for money.
Protecting your delicate sensibilities
A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.
Story (and photo) here.
April 21, 2004
Upgrade time again
Looking for a bluetooth-enabled laser printer (blackline only, not color). Any suggestions?
...okay, thanks all. Helpful advice.
April 20, 2004
I am uncertain if Ms. Bumiller's question was submitted to the president before-hand. Perhaps you might write to the president if you are unhappy with this system.
You didn't think the New York Times was going to create a truly independent Public Editor's office, now did you?
(Full context here.)
Update: I got the same response as Atrios and a few others. (Though signed by Okrent, the header is left over from my last exchange with Bovino--which doesn't necessarily mean anything, they may well share a computer and/or email access.)
Press release from AAN
AAN’s original intention was to withhold the release of the full memo, as it includes a section with new and useful leads on corruption in the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program that Jason Vest was working on developing as a separate story. However, given the high degree of reader interest and number of media queries the current story has generated, we have decided to go ahead and release the memo.
I talked to Vest earlier today and he was uncertain about this--as the press release states, he (and AAN) originally planned to hold off on the oil-for-food part of the memo until he could do more work on that angle. I suggested that, with all the interest in this story, the smart thing was probably to make the full memo public sooner rather than later. Looks like AAN agreed. The memo is here.
I'm hoping to attend the political conventions this summer, but I don't have the press credentials nailed down yet. It's always a bit tricky for me, since I don't have any real institutional affiliation. Which is silly: I'm nationally syndicated, I run in well over 100 papers, Salon and the American Prospect--and hell, this blog alone has an audience larger than that of many small papers.
Anyway, the point is, I probably don't have too many readers at the RNC--but if there's anyone reading this who's in a position to get me credentialed for the Democratic Convention, I'd greatly appreciate hearing from you.
(Can't hurt to try...)
...I know about this link. Tried applying that way, got no response.
Fables of the reconstruction
My friend Jason Vest comes up with something of a scoop: a Coalition memo which "reveals that even true believers see the seeds of civil war in the occupation of Iraq."
...according to a closely held Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) memo written in early March, the reality isn't so rosy. Iraq's chances of seeing democracy succeed, according to the memo's author—a U.S. government official detailed to the CPA, who wrote this summation of observations he'd made in the field for a senior CPA director—have been severely imperiled by a year's worth of serious errors on the part of the Pentagon and the CPA, the U.S.-led multinational agency administering Iraq. Far from facilitating democracy and security, the memo's author fears, U.S. efforts have created an environment rife with corruption and sectarianism likely to result in civil war.
April 19, 2004
From 60 minutes last night:
But, it turns out, two days before the president told Powell (of the decision to go to war), Cheney and Rumsfeld had already briefed Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador.
To recap: President Strong-on-Terror passed state secrets to the ambassador of a nation known to support terrorism. Said ambassador of foreign power has agreed to manipulate oil prices in an attempt to influence the November election.
Why is Bush not facing impeachment proceedings? It's a hypothetical question, I'm not actually asking for responses, but it's not meant as hyperbole--in any sane universe, these would be impeachable offenses.
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