Wednesday, December 08, 2010

On Obama's latest capitulation

Far be it from me to state that President Obama's done nothing while in office. He's (probably) created some jobs with the economic stimulus package, he's passed some albeit tepid healthcare policy, he's overseeing some improvement in the economy, and--who knows?--he might just get "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" off the books.

Still, it seems like it's always one step forward and two steps back, especially given the complete stonewalling of republicans whenever anything just might possibly get done in this country and the media's worship of said stonewalling. Assholes like McChinless and the Bronze Boner don't actually have to DO anything, help anyone, show even an ounce of caring for us little people. They just have to say NO and the Faux Nooz morons drool over their "principles" and admire them for things like cutting off jobless benefits and giving us poor slobs a tax break.

It's easy for Pelosi and her chums to claim Obama's a turncoat; they still have their jobs with no sign of losing them, especially Pelosi. Obama's essentially caught between a rock and an asshole, the Scylla and Charybdis of choosing us little people over himself and his reputation. He's catching hell for choosing to help us little people, of course. But what the hell else was there to be done? You can bet that if he'd "stood firm" or "stuck to his principles" or whatever other cliche the media's using today, come April 15 we all would've been crying about how he didn't help us out. Even sooner, when unemployment benefits ran out and people were basically hitting the streets, progressives would've been tearing their hairshirts and claiming Obama done 'em so wrong.

Obama manages to save the tax cuts and jobless benefits for the rest of us, and the media basically portrays him as bending over with Boner's boner in his ass.

(Sorry for that image; maybe I've been reading too much of The Rude Pundit.)

It's a serious case of "you can't win for losing." Obama defends his move, stating that he had to give in or millions of Americans would pay thousands more in taxes next year and/or would be cut-off from their unemployment checks (more on that in a second). The media paints it like this:
Forced to choose between standing with the Democratic leadership and his own liberal base, or compromising with the ascendant Republicans in Congress, the U.S. President opted to turn his back on his own party.

Can't a brother get a break?


Hey, so long as the rich get to keep their billions, who's going to say they're wrong? Millions of stupid Americans voted MORE of these republican assholes into office last month, so the McChinlesses and Boners of the world pretty much know they're golden, untouchable. They do NOTHING to help our country, yet the media slobbers all over them, calls Obama a pussy, and the rich get richer. Landslide win for the republicans. Fuck the rest of us.

P.S.: I wrote this Dec 7, but I wanted to give Elizabeth Edwards her day at the top of my blog.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Rest in peace, Elizabeth Edwards

Another woman succumbs to breast cancer.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What the hell is this about?

I have from time to time found myself asking, "What the hell?" when I listen to the news as so many of the repugs' moves make no sense whatsoever. Here's a recent list:

1. What the hell is the repugs' blocking of re-signing the START treaty about? Why would they not want to sign a treaty that was first proposed and signed by their own GHW Bush, especially when it limits the number of nukes other countries like Russia can build to aim at us? (Not that they're even bothering with trying to blow us up anymore--why bother?)

2. What the hell is the Israelis' refusal to stop building on other people's land about? Let's say for the sake of saying that Iranians sneaked across Jordan and starting building "settlements" in Israel. The Israelis would nuke Iran so fucking fast we wouldn't even have time to say "What the hell?" Yet the Israelis feel they can build their "settlements" wherever the fuck they want to, no matter whether the land's ownership is truly decided or not. And for this, the whole "peace in the Middle East" thing fails yet again. If only some Palestinians could secretly rent some of these apartment and homes right out from under the Israelis. But I suppose that's probably impossible.

3. What the hell is this new "Inside the State Department" show about? Have you seen it yet? Exclusive interviews with and following around of Hillary Clinton waxing philosophical about her role as Sec of State, blah blah blah. Why would she be doing this show now? Is this some kind of PR exposure for a possible run for VP or even President? Not that I wouldn't vote for her, but -- this seems weird.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

It's tempting to sign up for these "updates," isn't it?

So the repugs got what they wished for--the House--though they didn't get the Senate. Their super-way-out freaks (Angle, O'Donnell, Buck) did not win, thankfully. But Rand Paul and a lot of others did. Pennsylvania, a state that had gone blue in the last three presidential elections, now has shiny new repug governor, lt. governor, and senator.

And now we can see what the repugs do with their new-found (newly bought?) power. The Bronze Boner will take Nancy Pelosi's chair, and may the full-court press of "HELL, NO!" continue!

I'm curious to see whether they'll actually get anything done, whether it's their ridiculously vague Compact with America or Treaty with America or whatever they called it or something more radical. It's pretty easy to just say NO all the time, instead of coming up with ideas of their own, but then that's never slowed them down before.

Note: Many people are predicting the repugs will start working toward impeachment as soon as they can--anything they can do to tarnish and weaken the president even further. It's not like they need to use facts, after all -- amplified lies have been their stock in trade since Faux Nooz's first broadcast day.

It looks like they'll be crawling up the administration's ass to ensure nothing happens during the next two years, so don't expect anything productive to come out the government anytime soon.

Friday, October 22, 2010



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Republicans successfully block the universe

It seems a day doesn't go by that I don't hear about some democratic bill being blocked by the "minority party" republicans. It's incredible what a party with absolutely no ideas, no morals, and no scruples can do to the supposed majority in Congress.

The latest blockade prevented a bill to end tax breaks for U.S. companies who send jobs overseas. Bitch McConnell claimed that the bill was merely a last-ditch effort by dems only "pretending" to care about American workers, calling the bill "an insult to the millions of Americans who want us to focus on jobs."

So let me get this straight: we're losing jobs overseas, we've been losing them overseas for a while now. Companies get all kinds of tax breaks and deferrals when they send our jobs overseas. So a bill that would try to make companies either keep jobs here or have to pay more taxes is... a bad thing?

Uh-huh. Okay. Um, so he's saying that a bill that would punish companies for taking jobs overseas is an insult to American workers. And hey, those dems who proposed this punishment are just "pretending," so let's NOT make those companies pay extra taxes for taking jobs overseas! That'll show those dems for pretending to care!

Instead we'll let the repugs "focus on jobs" by--wait for it!--making the Bush-era tax cuts, even those for the richest Americans, permanent! Because those tax cuts certainly have created lots and lots of American jobs, and that's why the economy is humming along swimmingly, dear! Status quo all the way, baby!

Besides, no one could ever accuse repuglicans of pretending to care about American workers.

The best part, I think, is his justification of his party's policy of obstructionism:
"The Senate is operating how it should," he said, explaining that President Obama's "far-left agenda" forced the Republican conference to try to block what McConnell described as terrible policy.

"There are differences of opinion in a big country," McConnell added, speaking to reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

This guy's a fucking comic genius. No wonder he's the speaker for the minority party. He had me positively roaring with laughter right from his opening line, "The Senate is operating," because, really, since when has the Senate done a goddamned thing, much less operate "how it should?" Whew! I'm slapping my knee right now, practically crying from laughing so hard.

But the real crowd-pleaser comes when he calls President Obama's a "far-left agenda." Boy, who knew that pretty much rubber-stamping the Bush era policies of government secrecy, keeping DADT, staying in Iraq and Afghanistan, and letting Wall Street go pretty much completely unpunished (if not rewarded) for bringing down the entire world's economy was "far-left?" Oh Bitch, you're cracking me up! I'm practically blowing milk out my nostrils! Tell me another one!

That Bitch McConnell. He really knows how to bring the house, not to mention the Senate, down.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An informal poll

Do you think President Obama will win a second term?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Apparently, we no longer have a two-party system

Has anyone else noticed how, in the span of less than two years, this collection of ultra-right-wing morons calling themselves the "Tea Party" has actually become a party, at least in the MSM? These idiots are getting more and more attention as a legitimate third party, completely separate from the republicans (because, according to a report on NPR today, republicans aren't conservative enough).

Did Nader get this much attention in 2000 (at least before the election)? Hardly. Does any other party not calling itself Democratic or Republican get this much attention? Again, hardly.

The Green Party, the Progressives, the Libertarian Party--those are always treated as just fringe movements, never legit third party options; they're just random people stealing votes away from Dems or Repugs. But just today, I heard yet another report on NPR's "All Things Considered" about how all these "Tea Party candidates" are winning elections. Just look at NPR's Election 2010 page; there are three stories about Tea Party bullshit in Delaware, and only one about Democrats. (Republicans don't even rate the front page, not that I mind.)

So after all years and all this talk about how we'll never get true reform until we get more than a two-party system, etc. etc. etc. -- THIS is the party the media chooses to pay attention to and hence give some semblance of legitimacy to?

I have to ask, WHY? Why THIS 'party' that isn't even a party so much as a collection of Glenn Beck/Sarah Palin-worshipping idiots with overtly racist and classist talking points?

I'm sure it couldn't be the gazillions of dollars thrown into these races by people who made their gazillions by voting republican but who are now turning their backs on the republican party because King Georgie apparently didn't do enough to push us toward a dictatorship.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A question

Why are Americans so stupid?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hey, Gibbs!

If you think the "professional left" is such a pain in your ass, try winning an election without them.

(I'd love to say "without us," but being a leftie hasn't paid off since I voted twice, once at home and once at college, for Ann Richards in the same election.)
Saint Ann, a proud progressive

Friday, August 06, 2010

I got a little bone to pick

the senator in question

It's been a few days since I heard this idiotic statement during an NPR story on Missouri's vote against the Obama healthcare bill, but it's been bugging the hell out of me. Here's the statement, made by Missouri state senator Jane Cunningham, who is of course a republican:
It is unprecedented in the United States of America for a government to say just because you live in this land and you breathe in this land, you will buy a product, any product, with your own money against your will. That has never before happened in America.
Now I don't want to talk about stupid Missouri thinking they can make a state law that will trump federal law (BTW, hello, Arizona, the "stupid" tag applies to you too). That's not the bone I want to pick.

No, what I have a problem with is the stupidity of republican talking points, this one being just the latest in the ever-escalating moronic talking points of the republican/tea party.

Let's take a look at this statement which Sen. Cunningham blasts at the oh-so-unfair idea of getting everyone health insurance so that we're not going broke paying for people to go to the ER all the fucking time because they have no insurance. (oops, sorry, I picked at another bone there. Sorry.)

So "never before" has it "happened in America" that we, who "live in this land and... breathe in this land," have been forced by "a government" to "buy a product, any product, with [our] own money against our will" -- is that your contention, senator? Is that your problem with the health care law? It's "unprecedented?"

Because I have to call bullshit on that, madam. Why, you ask? Let me offer you a short list of "products" we as living breathing Americans have been forced by this government to pay for with our own money and against our will:
1. Iraq War
2. Afghan War
3. War on drugs
4. the first Gulf War
Shall I go on? Because believe me, I could think of PLENTY of "products" this government has used our money to pay for even though many of us were pretty fucking against them. We paid our money in taxes so that King Georgie McChimp could pretty much just give it to his rich friends, his dad, Halliburton, and BlackWater. And yet I don't remember you speaking up for those of us who didn't want that "product" and didn't want our money spent on that product.

But now, when our president tries to actually do something for people BESIDES those rich friends and family -- whether it's gonna work or not, the effort and intention were there, Senator -- NOW you want to argue that "It is unprecedented in the United States of America for a government to say just because you live in this land and you breathe in this land, you will buy a product, any product, with your own money against your will. That has never before happened in America"?

NOW you're saying this? Like the government has NEVER BEFORE shoved some bullshit policy or imperialist war or tax cut for the super-rich down our throats and demanded we pay for it?

Bullshit, Senator Cunningham. Bullshit. Oh, and your haircut is freaky.

But I digress.

Now go back to your local library, Senator, and read the Constitution. Read some constitutional law. Because, as University of Missouri School of Law professor Richard Reuben said in that same NPR story, "This should be a no-brainer for the courts. Under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, a state statute that is in direct conflict with a federal statute is simply invalid."

Friday, July 09, 2010

What the hell?

I've been having such a great time watching the Harry Potter Weekend on ABCFamily Channel, but there's been one commercial playing over and over that has me completely stumped: the "Falsies" mascara commercial with--for some fucking reason neither AB nor I can figure out--the theme from "Magnum, P.I." playing in the background.

What the fuck does Magnum have to do with "falsie" eyelashes?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I see it now. I get it.

I just watched Rachel Maddow deliver her edited version of President Obama's big Oval Office speech last night. I see it now. I get it. I see why every lesbian (and lots of men) is in love with Maddow.

Amazing. And hey, I'm okay with a blotchy president who gets a little teary-eyed when she gets mad. At least she'd show some emotion when an entire region gets ruined forever by an oil company.

P.S.--yes, I did a little editing on that screen capture of Maddow. See if you can find it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Still here

I'm still alive, though I haven't posted for a while. I've been getting into my new job at MegaCorporationInc, and I'm in Harrisburg all week at a sales training class. But I'm still here.

Like many of you, I've tired of the crap they call "news" on TV and radio, so I haven't been much in the loop on what's happening in the big world. I've kept my focus local of late, on settling back in Pennsylvania after my long time away, on integrating my stuff into the apartment I'm sharing with AB, on learning to live with someone again after a while on my own. It's been great living with AB, who's just plain dreamy in every way! I miss my parents and my family, but I'm so glad to be back in PA.

I'll leave you with this pre-adolescent school picture of me in fourth grade; I kinda missed that little recent trend on Facebook where everyone was using school pics as their profile pics. Oh well. Better late than never:

Just call me "Superfly."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The mirror has two faces

Don't worry: I don't mean that Streisand movie. Whew!

I mean the way regular people like you and me, and the people all around us at work and the grocery store and places, talk about political figures we don't like.

Remember how, during the GWBush presidency, we all talked about him like he was a dictator, a Hitler who was taking away our rights? And the Patriot Act was the end of our country as we knew it? I won't bother with links; we all remember our posts. We believed we were right, and that we knew what repugs and Faux Nooz and Rush Limpdick and Glenn Prick didn't know: that Bush was basically the antichrist, and we were in big trouble.

Over the last week and a half, I've been temping at a local car dealership, answering the phones and filing and stuff. During this time, I've heard almost the exact same things, word for word, that we used to say about Bush -- only this time, these guys are saying it about Obama. They really think they're right. People who seemed sensible only moments before suddenly start saying things like "Obama is exactly like Hitler!" and "this healthcare bill is the end of our democracy!" "Obama's the antichrist!"

These people list things like "parallels" between Hitler's Third Reich and Obama's presidency (stuff about their talent as public speakers, the takeover of businesses by the government, etc.); you've heard it all on Faux Nooz. The thing is, they all believe they're right too, just like we do. They all think they know the truth, and that the other side is completely wrong and full of idiots, and that NOW we're all screwed because this crazy guy in office is taking our country straight to the gulag or the concentration camp or whatever.

A lot has changed since Bush took office in 2000. But are we in nazi Germany? It doesn't feel like it; no one's coming for my neighbor yet, or for me. All our bloggy jokes about getting picked up and put in Gitmo for trashing Bush/Cheney? Never happened, at least not to any of us.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Do any of us really know what's happening in D.C.? Do we have any control over what happens in D.C., or Afghanistan or Iraq or anyplace outside our own homes and jobs? Is our government even our government anymore? I mean, one minute Chimpy McStagger is signing blank checks to Halliburton for providing our soldiers with contaminated drinking water; the next minute, the Carebear is allowing offshore drilling pretty much everywhere.

Sometimes you just have to say WHAT THE FUCK?, you know?

I've thought before that our government/power elite exist in their own world, completely insulated from the everyday, the mundane concerns you and I live with. Our media is part of their world; they prop up Bush and his wars, give pub to morons like Sarah Palin and the teabaggers, let insane sociopaths like Glenn Prick or Rush Limpdick air their verbal poison.

We--you and me and all our neighbors--are simply the entertainment in this world. That powerful elite populace, all 1% of them, just point and laugh. And can you blame them? Look at the way we're portrayed on TV, on shows like Cops, American Idol, World's Dumbest, 19 Kids and Counting, Faux Nooz's entire schedule. Notice a trend there?

I'm reminded of an Ani DiFranco lyric from her song "Tamburitza Lingua":
TV is, after all, the modern-day Roman Coliseum
Human devastation as mass entertainment
And now millions sit jeering
Collectively cheering
The bloodthirsty hierarchy of the patriarchal arrangement
The power elite are sitting in those seats, making "thumbs down" gestures when it comes to doing anything that might help us get out of there alive. They'd rather we get eaten by the lions, or better yet, that we kill each other.

You watch one channel and you hear how crucial it is that we vote out all the democrats in the next election, or basically the country will collapse. You watch another channel and you hear the same thing, only with voting out republicans.

Who's right? Who's wrong? Does it even matter? Is our innate stupidity and need to put down that which is different from us so powerful that, no matter what side we're on, we're still singing the same songs but just substituting different nouns in the "I hate __________" spots? Are we any different from them?

Or are we just right?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Today's predictions

Feeling a little future-y tonight, so why not make some predictions?

1. All these currently insured people bitching about the health care bill, claiming it's going to hurt them in all kinds of crazy ways, will find out that not much is going to change for them (unless they lose their jobs).

2. All us uninsured people are going to be able to afford to go to the doctor when we're really sick.

3. Pope Prada isn't going to get in any kind of trouble, nor is he in danger of losing his job, no matter what revelations surface about his part in child-molesting-priest cover-ups.

4. What the hell--Cowboys to the NFC division title game, where they'll lose.

5. The Lady Bears of Baylor will win the NCAA national title. They've got heart.

Anything to add?

Monday, March 22, 2010

So bring on the healthcare!

Hoyer, Pelosi, and the Boner

Imagine a country where artists, freelancers, the unemployed -- in short, any citizen -- can have health coverage. They don't have to go the emergency room to get healthcare; they will be able to pay a certain amount (helped by the government, in the case of non-super-rich people) and be guaranteed healthcare. And yeah, it's kind-of a drag that this healthcare can't just be free, but then again, when the country has a deficit that's fast approaching thirteen TRILLION dollars, then hey -- I'm willing to help out and chip in for my healthcare, you know?

Imagine a country where a presidential candidate says he's going to get something done -- something that will prove to be the centerpiece of his presidency -- and he gets it done.

Bush's centerpiece? The Patriot Act.

Obama's centerpiece? Healthcare for us all.

And while the Patriot Act, which clearly violated many of the freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution, is still around, the healthcare reform legislation hasn't even been signed into law yet and already, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, both Dakotas, Florida, Virginia, Washington, Utah, Nebraska, and Alabama (so far) will be filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of, as an attorney claimed today on NPR, "taxing" U.S. citizens for just "living" by requiring people to pay a little for healthcare. The Virginia AG claims, "'If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce.... If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?"' Uh, what?

Oh, and don't forget every idiot's favorite constitutionality argument, "state's rights." Those are also being infringed on, dammit, according to the more wacko AGs out there. Right.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Kucinich Zone

You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Kucinich Zone!
Let's imagine the wondrous land, the amazing dimension of sight and sound and mind that we'd have if Dennis Kucinich (D-Awesomeness) were in charge.

1. No more war. Kucinich has been trying to stop the money-pit wars in the Middle East since they began. Does anyone listen? Nope. But think how much more money--and how many fewer dead soldiers, Iraqis, and Afghanis--we'd have on our hands if we'd never gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. Kucinich just proposed stopping additional funding for the Afghanistan war and bringing our troops home by the end of the year. Predictably, it failed. But without Kucinich, would anyone in Washington even be talking about an end to this insanity?

2. Single-payer option national health care. Does anyone in the House believe in fighting for us besides Kucinich?

3. Cheney impeached.

4. A sustainable energy policy.

5. No bailouts for billionaires.

6. Cheney impeached. Oh sweet jeebus, the words are like music.

7. We'd still have a hot First Lady.
8. Cheney impeached. Sigh.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Some words to the wise

Today was my last day at my temp job at the behemoth-megabank-which-shall-remain-nameless. The job ended up being an interesting and educational experience, but I was glad to be done with it. I do want to tell you about a few of the things I've learned. HOWEVER, I am NOT employed by or associated with VISA, nor am I speaking in any official capacity as an agent of any bank and/or business. These are just some tips I learned that I consider valuable to know, and I want to share them with you. (I hope that's enough of a disclaimer to prevent my getting sued or arrested. I hope.)
I worked in checkcard disputes, handling cases dealing with charges to people's debit cards or checkcards--the kind of card the bank gives you (usually labeled with VISA or MasterCard, depending on the bank) that is connected to your checking account. It was nice to help people out when they'd been unfairly charged and gotten into trouble through no fault of their own.

Still, it seemed like we were always seeing disputes against the same old merchants--Internet merchants like those "make money on the internet!" and "Internet Bizkit" places, or all those sites that sell tooth-whitening kits, or the many software download sellers. A lot of these online merchants are scammers; not all, but many. You'll click OK on something, and then they'll hit your card for $1.99, and then before you can cancel that "trial membership," they've hit your card again for $79.99 about six times, and the transactions are set up as recurring billings, so each month, you're getting tagged bunches of times for fees and stuff. And half the time, the customer has never even heard of the company they're being billed by. That got old really fast, man. There's a lot of bad business happening on those Internets.

I saw scams and stuff happen every day, and it was so disheartening. People will sign up for one thing; then they'll get all these pop-up offers for other products and they'll think they're clicking on "cancel," (at least that's what they always tell us), but suddenly they're getting billed by six different places for phantom services and memberships.There's usually no working phone number to call, and so they call their bank in desperation after losing sometimes hundreds of dollars in charges and NSF fees.

The lesson? Be careful what web sites you enter your credit card information on, people! I always found myself saying, "Stay off the internet if you can't keep your debit card number to yourself!" I usually don't buy anything online unless it's through Amazon; I trust them. I never saw one dispute against them in the entire time I worked at the bank. So if I can't get it on Amazon, I won't buy it online. All those TV commercials where you can buy your ShamWow or your magic litter box or whatever online -- just go to Walgreen's or someplace; they usually have an "as seen on TV!" section, and you can buy the item right there and not worry about who's scamming onto your checkcard number.

And it's not just internet merchants who'll screw up checkcard transactions. Today, I handled a case where a woman had gone to her hair salon, paid the bill for $44, and left. No big deal. The merchant charged her $44, she signed the slip, and she thought she was done. That's usually how it works, right? Well, not this time. Somehow, the transaction went through twice on that day, then at least once per day for the next two days before she noticed she was hundreds of dollars short when she went to balance her checking account. (Checkcards are connected to your checking account, so it's all the same thing--only with your checkcard, you have certain consumer protections granted to you by VISA--or Mastercard, whatever your bank uses.)

So she called in, filed disputes, and today I pulled up her cases. She'd caught most of the first duplicate postings (that's what we call it when the merchant charges your card more than once for the same purchase), but there were MORE charges she didn't even know about yet. I called her and told her about them, and we set up some more cases, each time issuing her a provisional credit for the amount of the charge so she wouldn't be missing that money because of the merchant's errors (something that not all banks do, but you should look into whether your bank does that when you dispute a charge--it's nice, especially when make a big purchase like an airline ticket or something and you get double-billed or something). She was charged a total of nine times before I was able to block her card for fraud and order her a new checkcard.

The crazy thing? Each transaction had the same transaction date (the date they actually swiped the card) but different posting days (the day the bank actually takes the money from your account). How is that possible, you ask? Who knows. That's e-banking for you. It's a mystery.

The moral of this story is to watch your checking account history like a hawk. Just the other day, I got gas (pay-at-the-pump), used my checkcard as credit like always, and went on my merry way. The next time I went to balance my account, I noticed that the transaction had posted twice! But I had only gassed up once! Lucky for me, the merchant had caught the error and issued a credit to my account via the card number. All this happened without my even realizing it, and I check my account like every other day! Good thing I wasn't down to a few pennies in my account, or I'd have incurred some NSF fees.

Most times, the merchant doesn't catch an error like this, so it's up to you to watch for duplicate postings. Another important thing: if the merchant hadn't caught the error and instead of using my card as "credit," I'd used my PIN number to make the transaction, I would've been out of luck if somehow the computer banking network or whatever (it's voodoo, man) had charged me twice for the same tank of gas. A PIN transaction is just like cash; you have no chargeback rights if the merchant makes an error. If you're lucky, you can show the error to the merchant and he'll fix it. But if not--you have no recourse. ALWAYS use your card as credit.

Here's another important thing: Merchants are NOT ALLOWED, under their merchant agreement with VISA, to charge extra for checkcard/credit card transactions. So those gas stations that charge a certain price if you pay cash and a higher price if you pay with a card? They are violating the terms of their agreement with VISA, and if you threaten to report them (and I mean don't budge on this! and do it BEFORE you let them run your card!) to your VISA and/or your bank, they should back down and charge you the cash price. Same goes for those "minimum amount to use credit/checkcard" signs you see at lots of restaurants and convenience stores; that too is a violation of their agreement with VISA. If they take VISA, they HAVE to treat your checkcard or credit card the same as if you were paying with cash. Otherwise, it's a fine up to $10,000 per occurrence from VISA. Just run that by 'em.

If they still don't budge, LEAVE. Don't pay a penny more, don't agree to a minimum purchase amount, if you're paying with your VISA-labeled card.

Oh -- one important point on the whole watching your checking account history like a hawk: don't mistake holds (often designated as "pending" in your online account history) for actual posted transactions. Many times, especially when you go out to eat at restaurants, the merchant will run your card once for the amount of the meal, and then run it again for the amount of the meal plus tip. Usually, when they're counting out their tills and balancing the day's transactions and stuff, they'll void out the extra hold (either the one with the tip, the one without the tip, or both--and there might even be a third one with your actual tip amount added in). Usually they void those other holds out. But--not always. You'll have to dispute those.

And here's a crazy thing: if you were to check your account online while you were still at the restaurant, you'd see all those holds--all listed as "pending"--and your account would actually show a balance minus all those hold amounts, as though you'd actually paid for your meal however many times! Again, don't ask me why this happens or how -- it's voodoo! But it does. It's kinda like when you deposit a check and it takes a couple of days to clear before you can touch that money. Anyway, if the restaurant does their accounting right, they'll delete all but your actual transacted amount and those holds will be released and that money will once again be available to you. But until then, it's "pending" or on hold. Watch the holds, but don't think they're the same as posts. They'll usually just vanish by the next time you check online.

Once again, the moral: watch your account history.

A few notes on those "consumer protections" I mentioned earlier. Now, the bank I worked for used VISA for all their checkcards, so that's all I know about.

1. Any purchase you make with a VISA-labeled card is usually refundable for 14 days after the transaction date.

2. If a merchant tries to tell you a VISA purchase is not refundable or an item is not returnable, etc., look at your receipt. Does it have that fact stated on the receipt? If so, is it right there near your signature, or is it on the back of the receipt in tiny print? Or maybe the merchant has it on a sign somewhere near the cash register? Remember this: that non-refundable stuff has to be right near your signature in order for it to be binding. If it's on the back of the receipt or not on the receipt at all, you have every right to return an item or cancel a reservation or whatever. Your signature is your agreement to abide by whatever terms the merchant decides--but the signature has to be right near those terms in order to show that you agreed to the terms.

3. Plane tickets? Not refundable, not transferable. You're out of luck there.

4. Hotel charges for things like smoking in the room, damages to the room, missing towels, etc.? Unless you sign a receipt for the add-on charges, you can dispute them as unauthorized. When you register for a hotel, you're agreeing to pay for a room. Charges they decide to add on after you've checked out and left (and thus cannot consent to be billed to your checkcard) can be disputed by you as unauthorized. Don't get me wrong: You still the owe the hotel for towels if you steal their towels. But you have the right to decide when and how you're going to pay for those towels. Also note that in order to dispute a charge as unauthorized, the bank will usually have to block your card for fraud and issue you a replacement card. So bear that in mind before you go calling all sorts of things "unauthorized."

5. Rental car places have certain things they CAN add on to your bill--because their contracts state it and you've usually had to initial things on the contract like refueling fees, traffic tickets you get while in possession of the car, or late-return charges. However, they can't charge you for damages to the vehicle, smoking in the vehicle, etc. without your consent. Again, you do owe them the money, but you decide when and how to pay it.

6. When you do see something funny on your account history, call the merchant first. Do whatever you have to -- show them a printout of your duplicate posting or whatever -- to resolve the issue yourself. If the merchant is a dick about it, THEN go to your bank. VISA requires you to make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue yourself before you bug them (via your bank) about it. When you go to the merchant, go armed with your receipt, a printout from your online banking, or whatever -- take the necessary information to show the merchant that he/she has made a mistake.

7. If you're paying a bill by phone or online (remotely), any error your make -- entering an extra zero, paying the wrong merchant (it happens all the time!), etc. -- is NOT disputable. That's your error, and the bank can't help you with it because you participated in the transaction.

8. SAVE YOUR RECEIPTS. For everything! Cash, credit, debit cards, checks, whatever -- save your receipts until you've seen the charge clear on your online banking, AND you've allowed a little more time for any e-banking goblins to make merry with your checkcard number. I save my receipts for the month; once I've seen them clear and the month is over, then I'll get rid of them.

9. As many disputes as we dealt with each day, they comprised only a tiny fraction of the number of checkcard transactions that go through without a hitch each day. Until that weird pay-at-the-pump thing happened, I'd NEVER seen anything wrong on my bank account. Of course, I didn't used to check it quite so carefully as I do now! I would just say stuff like, "Hmmm. I don't remember that charge... but there it is, so I must've made it!" I look back at myself and hang my head in shame.

Take care of your money!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

In which I renounce my Jewishness

First, a little background: For many many years now, I've told anyone who would listen that I'm Jewish. Why? because I like the Jewish faith. Their history, their traditions, their mystique--it's really interesting to me, so one day I asked a Jewish friend of mine (a Sabra Jew, no less!) if I could be Jewish too. She may have been humoring me (maybe), but she said I could be a Jew if two other Jews said yes too! Forget that whole mother/father issue; I could be a Jew!

In my travels over the years since then, I eventually found two other Jewish friends who said sure, I could be a Jew if I really wanted to, so since then I've called the Jews "my people." I'm not exactly a devout or orthodox Jew; I don't eat Kosher or go to temple or anything. But I read a lot about my people and our struggle, and I identify with them. Elie Weisel is a true hero. I went to the Holocaust Museum, I study, I learn. I wrap my presents in "Happy Hannukah" paper. Every year at Hannukah, I used to ask Kat for a dreidel! (She and our daughter Em did not recognize my Jewishness, by the way, so I'm still waiting for that dreidel. And the menorah. Hmph.)

So today, as I'm driving home, I'm listening to NPR and I hear a report about the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmud al-Mabhuh. I'd read recently that Princess Sparklepony favorite Tzipi Livni has been saying things like "The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn't matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism." Okay, I see--so we want terrorists dead. I understand that.

But is Hamas a terrorist organization? Have we established that as undeniable fact? Yes, the guy leads a group that regularly fires missiles into Jerusalem. But the Israelis are always firing missiles into the Palestinian areas, not to mention setting up illegal settlements on land that isn't theirs but the Palestinians.

And sure, the U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist organization but, in my opinion, the Bush-led U.S. was a terrorist government (and we still have Abu Ghraib and Gitmo to deal with, by the bye; they haven't gone away), so what does that label really mean? Sarah Palin has called President Obama a terrorist, so really--what does that label mean? What's the difference between someone who's just trying to defend himself and his people and someone who's actively trying to hurt innocent people and bring down their governments?

I've listened to the back and forth as the hugely outgunned and outmanned Hamas-led Palestinians fight for a bit of their homeland against the military behemoth of Israel. Who's the terrorist in that fight? Quite frankly, I think it depends on your point of view.

So back to the NPR story. The reporter interviewed a few Israelis who are actually proud and telling jokes about the assassination. People who happen to have a vague resemblance to the people who've been accused of being involved with the assassination are living it up, enjoying their look-alike celebrity.

Um... someone's dead. Have the Israeli people really gone so far down the "eye for an eye" path that they cheer when others are killed? They tell jokes about it?

Imagine that some U.S. operatives killed an important Iranian, someone who wasn't in a government position but was nonetheless the visible leader of an Irani movement. Would we Americans laugh and regard those U.S. operatives as heroes? Would we tell jokes about the assassination? Imagine we killed effing Fidel Castro. Would you or I really make up jokes about that?

I think there are a few Americans who might laugh and celebrate such an act. But I think they'd be likely to have a sticker like this on their gas-sucking truck:

and they'd probably look like this:or this:
So, as much as I've enjoyed lighting up my little Jewish candles and wearing my Happy Hannukah socks, I'm not so thrilled with my people right now.

I just don't know if I want to be associated anymore with people who would cheer a political assassination, no matter whether the victim "deserves" it or not.

P.S.--I hope none of my Jewish readers are offended by my desire to be Jewish and calling Jews "my people." And I hope no one's offended by my daring to question the actions of Israel and Israelis. It's just how I feel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seen at work returns!

After a long hiatus during which I couldn't find my USB connector for my phone, I bring you an action-packed Seen at Work!

First up: It probably doesn't come as a surprise to you that bank workers generate a lot of documents containing highly personal information--things like your bank account numbers, your balance, specific transaction details, your debit card numbers, etc. Each day, I probably generate at least seven or eight such pieces of paper that need to be shredded. We have big shred bins with locks on them, and we have big shredders around the building in case you feel a DIY shred moment coming on.

Still, who would've known we'd have the actual shredder that tried to eat Whoopie's character in Jumping Jack Flash?

You can even see a piece of her dress--the one that gets caught in the shredder!--still on the shredder! Every time I pass, I remember my mom's favorite scene, the Diana Ross "You Can't Hurry Love" lip-sync scene! It's obvious they spared no expense at my bank. I'll be watching for other movie memorabilia around the building. Maybe I'll find Obi-wan's light saber (for scanning MICR codes on checks?) or the evil copy machine from Office Space.

Next, we have this:This was seen in my work parking lot, but it counts. Other stickers on the (of course) mega-truck included "Rick Perry 2010," "Freedom isn't free," and one of those Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) rip-offs in which Calvin pees on some other truck logo. Needless to say, I think this sticker pretty much tells you all you need to know about the driver of said mega-truck.

On that note, it seems like a good time to tell you that I'm leaving Texas! I've finally scraped together enough money to move back to Pennsylvania so I can be with my girlfriend. I'm really looking forward to being back up north, which is something I didn't think I'd be saying. But after the California FAIL, it'll be nice to get back to the last place I truly called "home." I'll be driving up the first week in March. Then it'll be mad job-huntin', much drinking of the sorely missed Yuengling Lager, and tons o' canoodlin' with AB. Can't wait!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Congratulations, Saints!

Finally, no more 'Aints. Not a dry eye in the house watching Brees tear up while holding his son.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

R. I. P., Mr. Salinger

The Onion, of course, has the best take on the death of author J.D. Salinger.

Hope there are no more phonies where you are, Mr. Salinger.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Multiple meanings

1.The Four Seasons in Dallas
2. The Four Seasons in Dallas
3. The Four Seasons in Dallas: Hot, tornado, hotter than hell itself, ice storm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fun with the Googles

So I was bored and had a few minutes to kill, so I googled the phrase "photos of delia guzman." (yes, that's my full name)
The googles came up with this lovely grandma (neato!) in a youtoobs video--from someplace in the world called Larmahue. Where is that?
By far, the best photo result, however, comes from that Bing, however; check how hot I look in Peru!
I may just have found another foreign TV beauty for Matty Boy to love, even if she doesn't look too tall. She does kinda have that Buffy look about her, though. Hot.