Monthly Archives: July 2009

Newsflash: Candidates Raise Money

In another waste of newsprint, The Washington Post reports this morning that Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell have raised money for the gubernatorial campaigns.  Wow!

Among the insights we get:

The Deeds campaign said a surge in donations was to be expected after a divisive primary as party loyalists came together behind their nominee.

…With just one other governor’s race this year, in New Jersey, Virginia’s election will attract attention and money from both national parties. It will be viewed as a measure of President Obama’s popularity

…"It’s an important race," said Mame Reiley, who was Democrat Brian Moran’s campaign chairwoman in the primary. "It’s an indicator of things to come on the federal level."

…"This race is about Virginia," Deeds spokesman Jared Leopold said. "It’s about how we get to work and how our kids are doing in school."

No news here.  But hey, it was easy to report, easy to fill up the space in the Metro section.

If neither candidate has reported anything unusual about how much money he raised, and we’re still nearly four months out from the election, and money didn’t seem to matter in the Democratic primary, couldn’t this report been made in a small box charting how much was raise and is on hand?

So far, we have had at least three Post reporters – Helderman, Kumar and Gardner — on Virginia’s governor’s race.  So far, none had brought us any insight or elucidated key issues in the race.

Measuring Productivity

I’m sure there are many ways of measuring productivity.  The economists have one definition.  It is nebulous if you try to fashion a yardstick to measure it.  My wife has another.  She uses what I call the humping factor, as in “The trash men who jump off the back of the truck, run to the trash can, dump your refuse in the truck, send the can hurling back to the curb and then run to the next can, those guys are productive.”  It may be said that those guys are humping it. 

Then again, there is the Tax Foundation’s definition of productive.  It apparently means anyone who’s rich. Asked to comment by Lori Montgomery, a Washington Post reporter, on the taxes Democrats are considering to pay for health care reform, a senior fellow, Robert Carroll, of the Tax Foundation, said it’s not the poor schleps who toss your trash can around.

"One has to decide whether the health-care reform package they’re talking about is worth imposing such high tax rates on the most productive members of society," Carroll said.

What makes them productive, he doesn’t say, and apparently Montgomery never asked.  She just let him make the assertion that rich people are the most productive.  Which means the economy lost a great leader when Michael Jackson died.

It also means stenography is alive and well at The Post.

But let me find lemonade in this lemon of a story.  Montgomery didn’t identify the Tax Foundation as “liberal” or “conservative,” as is often the case when quoting sources that represent an organization.  Thanks for that. 

So I get to guess whether this comment is colored by a ideological prejudice.  That’s fine.  I just wish I had some way of evaluating whether his statement is correct.  Ms. Montgomery could have helped me here instead of just recording his comment.

No News! Read It Here First!

If Washington Post executives want to revive their flagging fortunes, they don’t need salons.  They need stories.  So it’s disheartening to see them waster valuable newsprint on a non-story.

Sure Washington is the ultimate politcal insider town.  Many folks here love to read about the politics of campaigns, how they’re waged and stategies employed.  But are there enough such readers to sustain a general interest newspaper, even in Washington, DC?

Apparently, editors at The Post seem to think so.  How else to explain the fornt page, above the fold story about the inaction in the Virginia’s governor’s race.

To a degree rarely seen in state politics, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and Republican Robert F. McDonnell have spent the early summer hunkered down, amassing resources and plotting strategy for what is expected to be a fierce clash of styles and ideas. They are girding for a campaign that is viewed as a bellwether of President Obama’s sway with voters and a first test of the issues that Republicans hope will revive their party.

And yet, Deeds has held only a handful of events since his June primary victory, and McDonnell is going on vacation. Television and radio airwaves have fallen silent.

There is absolutely no news here except that the campagins are not gneerating news.  So why then write about it, in the middle of the summer when jouirnalists will tell you many people are not paying attention to the race yet?  I’m not even sure the politcal cognescenti care.  As of this morning, the story has generated a paltry 19 comments on the Post’s web site.  And if they don’t care about this story, why should the average voter/newspaper reader care?

I’ve written before about The Post’s obsession with politcal strategy as opposed to issues.  To be fair, The Post (that, my frequent criticism notwithstanding, is still one great newspaper) can give us many stories of substance.  This morning’s A1 story about prisons is one good example.   In fact, it would have been helpful for the reporter of this story to team up with Anita Kumar covering the Virginia gubernatorial or attorney general races to look at the issue from the Commonwealth’s perspective, especially as it seems to not be following the progressive direction of many state prison systems.

Instead of wasting newspaper real estate on something few people care about and offers no news of substance, why not pick an issue, examine it from a voter’s perspective, and write about it.  If The Post doesn’t write about things people care about, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re losing readers.

Dems Mum

From Political Wire’s update on the Ensign affair

Senate leaders generally refused comment on Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) admission that he paid nearly $100,000 to the family of his mistress but the Las Vegas Sun says GOP support for the embattled senator was dwindling.

If the shoe were on a Democrat’s foot, do you think the Repugnican leaders would refuse comment?

No, I didn’t think so.

No Shame

Don’t you just love it?  The Dems say nothing, allowing Sen. John Ensign to likely escape responsibility for his hypocrisy, while the Repugnicans try to make the poor cuckold the bad guy.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday issued a blistering attack on Doug Hampton, the husband of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) mistress, saying that he had provided false information about paying off Hampton after Ensign revealed he was having an affair with his wife.

“John Ensign hasn’t put me in a tough position at all,” said Coburn, a housemate of Ensign’s at a Capitol Hill home owned by a Christian fellowship. “The person that’s deceiving now is Doug. And you all need to go do the investigation now on that side of it and quit asking us and ask what’s the motivation here.”

Another example of the Repugnicans having the killer instinct and the Dems lacking it.

Sleaze Ball

This is incredible.  As has been reported, Sen. Tom Colburn knew of Sen Ensign’s affair.  He was there during a confrontation between Ensign and the husband of the woman he was seeing.

Now Colburn says he won’t testify, whether called by a court or the Congressional ethics committee.  The reason he gives is another example of the righteous right’s political bullshit. 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday said he would not testify in court or before the Ethics Committee about any advice he gave Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) on how to handle his affair with a former staffer, citing constitutional protections for communications during religious counseling, as well as the patient confidentiality privilege.

“I was counseling him as a physician and as an ordained deacon. … That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody. Not to the Ethics Committee, not to a court of law, not to anybody,” Coburn said.

These guys who hide behind some flimsy religious facade is one reason many of us think of the religious right as a bunch of sleaze ball political opportunists who use religion to advance a dangerous, treasonous agenda.  They are America’s equivalent of the Taliban.

How to Get Good Customer Service

When I feel wronged by a company, I am a pain in the ass .  And I have a method for making myself so.

That method was proven again this morning when I received a call from the executive offices of Verizon with a promise that the caller would be my advocate for fixing a problem with our internet connection.

Trying to get satisfaction from a customer service rep is usually a waste of time.  They are trained to minimize losses.  They can give you myriad reasons why they won’t do a thing for you and with a smile in their voices.  That’s what they’re paid to do.  So, while I usually make an attempt to go through customer service channels, if I don’t get satisfaction, I ignore them and go right to the top.

No matter how large a company, one can usually uncover the email address of the CEO and other senior executives.  They don’t make it easy, but I can usually figure it out.  I go to the media relations or investor relations page of their web site.  Usually there you can find an email address for the PR or IR person because they want either the press or investors to contact them.  That’s their job.  Once you see the convention the company uses for its email addresses, you can usually then guess the CEO’s personal email.  I send her my complaint and copy some of her top lieutenants. 

It’s worked wonders.  Aer Lingus lost my daughter’s luggage when she went abroad to study.  It took three days for them to find it and when they did, it was broken open.  They not only paid for the luggage and the missing clothing (based on her word), but they also paid for her new clothing she had to buy while she awaited her clothes. 

AT&T earlier this year tried to charge me for an entire month of service when I cancelled with them on the first day of the billing cycle.  Although I had a “package” deal for both local and long distance, they tried to tell me what I cancelled was actually two different services and that the long distance they charge for an entire month.  I told them to go to hell.  Shortly thereafter, I began getting harassing calls from their collection department.  So I looked up the CEO of AT&T, figured out his email address and fired one off.  Later that day, I got a call from someone in the executive office telling me to disregard the charges.  It works like a charm every time.

But never as good as a recent experience.  When I tell friends of this, they are slack-jawed.  It was unbelievable customer service.

About a year and a half ago, I bought new eyeglasses.  In early April, I noticed a small crack in one of the lenses.  It looked like a miniature version of the kind of cracks you get on a car windshield.  Then a few days later, I tried to clean the lens after working in the yard and two smears wouldn’t come out.  The optician wouldn’t help me, saying the warranty was for only a year.

So I went to the top of Essilor, makers of Varilux lens.  The CEO responded to my email within a few hours and asked that a guy in its Dallas office call me.  He did and was solicitous, saying he was sure he could satisfy me, but first he needed to call the optician. 

He didn’t call me back the next day as he promised.  After about a week, I Googled the guy and sent him and the CEO another email.  The Dallas guy called me back later in the day, but with a surprising development.  He said the optician told him that I didn’t have Varilux lens; they were Zeiss lens.

Before I could attempt to extricate myself from this embarrassing development (for I then recalled that unlike in the past when I bought Varilux lens, this time they were indeed Zeiss lens), the Varilux rep made an astonishing offer.  Because he wanted to make me a future Varilux customer, he offered to replace the lens free of charge.  A rep of one company offering to replace another’s defective lens at no charge!

I pressed my luck when I told him I wasn’t satisfied with the service I received from the optician, so he found me another one who processed the order.

It was the most astonishing display of customer service I’ve ever encountered.  Sure enough, a few weeks later I received a new pair of lens.

It’s apparently working again this morning.  I use a wired Internet connection, but the FiOS service from Verizon comes with a wireless router.  I use a network switch to keep my wired connection, but my wife uses the wireless service.  It’s been intermittent since we got it.  She loses her connection several times a day.

At first, a customer service rep said the router had to be “in line of sight” to work.  That, of course, is ludicrous.  A second rep told her that Verizon offers “an internet connection” but doesn’t guarantee wireless service and that the router had to be away from monitors and electrical outlets and not on a carpeted floor.  Which is exactly the location the installer chose to put the router.  The Verizon rep said that a new installer could not be sent to relocate the router because, again, we had no guarantee of wireless service.

So I went to the Verizon web site, figured out the convention, found the CEO’s name and guessed at his email address.  This morning I received a call from Verizon’s executive office offering their assistance in fixing the problem. 

It remains to be seen whether the problem gets fixed.  But I got their attention.

Myth of Small Business Job Creation

The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein argues that the meme that comes mostly from Repugnicans is patently false.

Suffice it to say that, in terms of new job creation, the data show that most of it happens in a small number of very fast-growing companies that are no longer what most of us would consider small. There are lots of reasons for the success of these fast-growing firms, among them the ingenuity and hard work of their founders, the availability of capital and a culture that celebrates risk-taking.

But the dirty little secret is that a lot of small-business job growth has also been driven by the decision of big businesses to outsource many tasks that they used to do in-house. In an economic sense, jobs haven’t been so much "destroyed" and "created" as they have been shifted from one company to another.

Pearlstein says the healthcare debate is colored by this myth. If we have universal coverage that requires all businesses offer healthcare and all employees must buy it, the impact on small business will be nil.  If all must offer it, none would get competitive advantage and thus be put out of business.

Pearlstein goes on to explain that many jobs created by small business is because big business has found that it is cheaper to outsource work to small businesses that are not saddled with healthcare costs.

What Pearlstein leaves out is that small businesses cited by GOPers are defined as companies with less than 500 employees.  I doubt most Americans think a business of 499 employees is a small mom-and-pop small business operation.