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Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Audacity

Home entertainment-wise, I am seriously behind the times. In this age of streaming via the internet, I still have DirecTV.

I signed up with DirecTV when I moved to Jefferson in 2006. The cost was always too high, but I get the programming I want, and I’m used to it. However, I’m thinking it’s time for a change.

Things started going south a few years ago, when DirecTV was acquired by AT&T.

At the time, I had no opinion about AT&T one way or the other. I can’t recall ever doing business with them.

And, for a year or so after the takeover, nothing changed. My DirecTV service was the same, as was the website, as was the billing system.

Then the tentacles of AT&T began reaching out. My opinion of AT&T quickly formed, and it wasn’t positive.

First, the DirecTV billing system was scrapped, and AT&T took over.

I realize there were business reasons for doing it. The trouble is, the DirecTV billing process was simple and easy, and the AT&T system is complicated and crappy.

To access my monthly statement, I now go to the clunky AT&T website and drill down to DirecTV. My statement is six steps away instead of two. Annoying.

Further, AT&T now has my records, so they pester me constantly with letters and emails, trying to lure me away from Verizon. Annoying.

Last month, however, AT&T crossed the line in a frankly shocking way. I’m still amazed at the audacity.

It started with a phone call that I answered reluctantly. (I was expecting a call from a prospective new lawn guy, and I didn’t know his number, so I picked up.)

The call was from a fellow with an Indian accent who identified himself as from AT&T. He wanted me to add HBO and Showtime to my DirecTV service. He was pushing a special deal where you get $13 off the $30 monthly cost for the first three months.

If I wanted HBO or Showtime, I would have ordered it years ago. I told him no thanks, and I hung up.

The next day, I got an email from AT&T that read, “Thanks for choosing AT&T. Please scroll down to review your DirecTV order details.”

Order details?

What followed was a breakdown of my new DirecTV monthly charges, which included $30 for HBO and Showtime, minus $13 off for three months.

What the — ??

The email also included this friendly paragraph:

You have accepted a 24 MONTH PROGRAMMING AGREEMENT. If you decide to cancel your service early or do not maintain 24 consecutive months of base level programming (priced at $29.99/mo. or above) or qualifying international services bundle, you will be charged an Early Termination Fee (ETF) of $10.00 per month for each month remaining on your 24-month contract (up to $240.00).

It closed with the usual 20 paragraphs of policy and legal stuff.

Boy, was I steamed. AT&T signed me up for service I specifically declined. Did that bonehead on the phone think I wouldn’t notice I was receiving new services? And being charged for it?

Brimming with righteous indignation, I called AT&T Customer Service. After a wait that wasn’t too bad, another guy with an Indian accent came on the line. He was relatively friendly and pleasant, which helped.

I read him parts of the email about the added service. I complained that I had declined the additions, not accepted them. I said I resented the brazenness and chicanery, and I wanted my previous service package restored.

The guy said the phone call indeed is shown in my files, and it indicates that I accepted the new service. BUT, he added quickly when he could tell I was about to explode, it was an easy matter to reverse it and make things right.

He also said someone would look into the “mix-up” because, you know, AT&T is committed to the finest in customer service and all that.

Later that day, I got a follow-up email from AT&T. It was identical to the first, except the HBO and Showtime service had been removed, the new charges were deleted, and the friendly paragraph cited above was gone.

I was, of course, still miffed about being played. Maybe not by AT&T itself, but certainly by that villain who called me.

Then a third email arrived from AT&T, and I was steamed anew. It asked me to rate my recent experience with AT&T Customer Service.

Because the second guy had been a decent sort, I deleted the email instead of unloading on them. But, oh, the audacity.

Word is, AT&T now wants to sell DirecTV because the satellite business has become a dinosaur, and DirecTV is hemorrhaging customers. AT&T has tried to get into streaming with “AT&T TV Now, but without much success.

One possible buyer of DirecTV: Dish Network.

I guess nobody else these days would want to invest in a satellite company.

Cord-cutting

 

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Holding Up

Friends, I have made peace with the fact that I am now an old dude. The evidence is clear, even though it’s weird to think of myself as being, like, an old geezer.

In many respects, I don’t feel that old. In my head, I’m the same Rocky Smith I’ve been since about age 10. The inner me has changed very little.

On the other hand, I’m not as mentally sharp as when I was younger. Sometimes, my brain plays tricks on me, like instructing me to go to the kitchen, then making me forget why I went there. Fortunately, I’m retired and pose no real danger to anyone.

I also show plenty of signs of physical wear. Creeping arthritis, a touch of glaucoma, a balding pate. I’ve clearly lost a step, even though I’m — knock on wood — still active and in relatively good health.

But I digress. The fact is, I’m about to turn 77, and that’s old.

Which is why, when an attendant at Kroger paid me a compliment regarding my age recently, it was quite satisfying.

When I make a run to Kroger, I always use the self-checkout because it’s faster. Last week, my shopping included a bottle of Pinot Noir, which requires an ID check.

Checking my ID is ludicrous, of course. For the last half-century, my appearance has confirmed that I am over 18, but Kroger has its stupid rules.

I scanned the bottle, and the machine beeped and announced that help was on the way. I took out my wallet and waited.

A 40-ish female employee appeared. “Can I see your ID, sir?” she asked cheerily.

I held up the wallet so she could see my license.

“January 26th, 1943,” she intoned and turned to enter the date on the screen of the scanner.

“I’d rather you didn’t say that out loud,” I told her. “I’m sensitive about my age.”

She turned and looked at me, pursed her lips, and tapped her chin in thought.

“Let me tell you something,” she said with great seriousness. “I check IDs for a living. I’ve seen the IDs of half the adults in Jefferson. I know when they were born.

“I see people every day who look older than you, and act older than you, and they’re a decade younger than you. Sometimes two.”

I was appropriately speechless.

“Take it from an expert, sir,” she said, “you’re holding up nicely. Count your blessings.”

I managed to thank her in a bumbling, awkward fashion and went on my way.

I’m still aglow.

Pinot Noir

… From the compliment, not the Pinot Noir.

 

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Seven Rules

Well, a new year has come charging in, like it or not, ready for it or not. I say it’s a good time to take a deep breath, get a grip, and reassess — to make sure your mental health and coping skills are in proper working order.

I have a great place to start. It’s the “7 Rules of Life,written bynobody seems to know.

The Seven Rules thing has become a meme that is ubiquitous online. Some versions are called “7 Cardinal Rules for Life.

The wording of the rules varies quite a bit, but all the versions reflect the same basic sentiments: relax, don’t worry so much, be yourself, and remember that time heals.

Ordinarily, I react to stuff like this with an eyeroll, but in this case, the advice is genuinely positive and helpful.

Here’s one version out of the many.

Seven Rules

Relax, don’t worry so much, be yourself, and remember that time heals.

Wisdom you can take to the bank.

 

 

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Stink, Stank, Stunk

I present herewith a variation of a beloved holiday classic, with apologies to Theodor Geisel.

The idea of our deplorable and, I’m pleased to say, impeached President as the Grinch is not new. Comparing Trump to the Grinch is obvious and appropriate.

Many Trump versions of the song have popped up over the years, some with updated lyrics (You’re as racist as a Klansman, etc.). That’s fine, but to me, it’s hard to improve on the gleeful sarcasm of the Dr. Seuss original.

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Trump

Trump-Grinch

You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump.
You really are a heel.
You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
Mr. Trump.

You’re a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You’re a monster, Mr. Trump.
Your heart’s an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You’ve got garlic in your soul,
Mr. Trump.

I wouldn’t touch you
With a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

You’re a vile one, Mr. Trump.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile,
Mr. Trump.

Given the choice between the two of you,
I’d take the seasick crocodile.

You’re a foul one, Mr. Trump.
You’re a nasty-wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks,
Your soul is full of gunk,
Mr. Trump.

The three words that best describe you
Are as follows, and I quote,
“Stink, stank, stunk.”

You’re a rotter, Mr. Trump.
You’re the king of sinful sots.
Your heart’s a dead tomato
Splotched with moldy, purple spots,
Mr. Trump.

Your soul is an appalling dump-heap,
Overflowing with the most disgraceful
assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
Mangled-up in tangled-up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Trump.
With a nauseous super-naus.
You’re a crooked jerky jockey,
And you drive a crooked horse,
Mr. Trump.

You’re a three-decker sauerkraut
And toadstool sandwich
With arsenic sauce.

Trump with Santa

 

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A crime of moral turpitude is conduct that is corrupt or degenerate. An offense that gravely violates accepted standards.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines it an act of “baseness, vileness, or the depravity in private and social duties which man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals once called it “an act which is per se morally reprehensible and intrinsically wrong.”

People, it’s long past time to do the deed.

Donald Trump, the Orange Vulgarian — grifter, swindler, cheater, liar, modern-day Benedict Arnold — corrupt, incompetent, spectacularly unqualified to serve — a man who commits crimes of moral turpitude as readily as he breathes — should have been impeached long ago.

The House Democrats need to suck it up and proceed. Trump’s offenses are so numerous and so egregious, the House could pick Articles of Impeachment out of a hat.

Trump is guilty of a plethora of crimes, to some of which he has admitted. Every few days, he seems to add a new offense.

Pelosi — House Democrats — let’s get on with this! Impeach him!

If you’re having trouble drafting the Articles, maybe I can help.

I am a humble journalism major, so I have to depend on the Google to help me with the technicalities of the impeachment process. No problem. I looked up the Nixon Articles from 1974, and they are relatively simple and straightforward. Consider this excerpt from the articles.

———

Article 2

Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following:

1. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

———

That was how the House accused Nixon of using the IRS to dig up dirt on his enemies. Which is, you know, illegal. And which easily qualifies in the “high crimes and misdemeanors” department.

Okay, specifically, what has Trump done to warrant impeachment? Plenty.

— Trump accepted help from Russia (Russia!) during the 2016 election, coordinating with them as they sabotaged the Democrats and flooded social media with false and misleading information designed to sway and/or confuse voters. Impeachable.

— Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. Trump then publicly admitted he fired Comey because of the “Russia thing.” Impeachable.

— Trump has failed to produce papers and witnesses required by lawful subpoenas from House committees. Impeachable.

— Trump instructed Border Patrol agents to illegally block migrants from entering the United States. “If judges give you trouble,” he told the agents, just say “we don’t have the room.” He further offered to pardon the head of the Border Patrol if necessary. Impeachable.

— Trump withheld funds Congress appropriated for Ukraine to pressure the Ukrainian President into announcing an investigation of Joe Biden and his son. (When the facts came out and reporters asked Trump about it, he repeated the call for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.) Textbook quid pro quo. Impeachable.

— Trump has refused to divest from his business interests and therefore routinely accepts illegal benefits when government officials, foreign or domestic, spend money at a Trump property. A textbook violation of the Emoluments Clause. Impeachable.

— Trump recently announced that the 2020 G-7 Conference would be held at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. Doing so would generate massive illegal profits for Trump. He was pressured to back down, but he made the attempt. Impeachable.

— In order to deter immigrants from crossing the southern border, Trump separated up to 5,000 children from their families and held them in makeshift camps widely described as inhumane. No provisions were made to reunite the children with their families. That sorry episode is a crime of moral turpitude on steroids. Impeachable.

— Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen is in jail for lying about paying hush money to women who had affairs with Trump. Cohen paid the women, and Trump reimbursed him — after they discussed the matter in (drum roll) the Oval Office. Deplorable. Impeachable.

The foregoing list, which I compiled quickly and easily, is neither comprehensive nor complete. But it probably includes enough ammunition for two dozen solid Articles of Impeachment.

And I didn’t even mention Trump’s unbelievable betrayal of the Kurds to benefit his Turkish and Russian dictator pals. Compared to Trump, ordinary traitors are choir boys.

Pelosi — House Democrats — assemble the lawyers. Let’s get on with this. Impeach him.

Reasons

Checklist

Billionaire Tom Steyer Calls For Trump Impeachment, Begins $10 Million Campaign

 

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Do the Right Thing

The malignant influence of Donald Trump is growing. Metastasizing. We need to excise it.

Most people acknowledge that Donald Trump is a deplorable, disgraceful, awful human being. He is a shallow, petty, vulgar, vindictive man who has no skills of a positive nature.

He is not remotely qualified to be President and merely is winging it. For policy guidance, he watches Fox News, or asks his sycophants, always weighing how the issue would benefit him personally.

In front of a microphone, he is given to weaving wild, stream-of-consciousness tapestries of lies and exaggerations — the diatribes of a man who fancies himself to be suave and clever. The sheer madness of the Trump presidency is accelerating.

If he were not President, none of that would matter. We would be free to tune him out as just an obnoxious gasbag. Instead, his lack of character and qualifications affects us all.

Trump is a national embarrassment. To most of the rest of the world, he is a laughable clown, best avoided, but usually easy to manipulate.

Worse, his loyalties are not with this country. Owing to his long-time financial ties to Putin and the oligarchs, he is indebted to the Russians, literally and figuratively.

He also toadies-up shamelessly to the Saudis, who murdered and dismembered a journalist, because, as Trump admits without qualm, they are good customers.

Benedict Arnold had more class.

As for the Trump supporters, who are out there in disturbing numbers, they fall roughly into five groups:

— Cynical conservative politicians, from national to local level, who are beneath contempt with virtually no exceptions.

— People mentally flawed owing to nature, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People mentally flawed owing to Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine, and whose reasoning abilities thus are out of whack.

— People with some degree of a persecution complex, who feel discriminated against and disrespected, and who applaud the fact that Trump can so easily infuriate the liberals.

— People who are nominally rational, but have some kind of grievance that they believe justifies supporting Trump as a protest. Maybe they are irritated by the bureaucracy, or coastal elites, or Hispanic day laborers waiting for jobs at Home Depot. (Hint: no grievance justifies supporting Trump.)

In general, except for the politicians, these are not bad people. They are damaged people.

But they have done genuine harm to the country. Integrity and honor are not in their makeup.

Nor are they patriots, as they like to claim. History will remember the conservatives of our time as misguided enablers. They deserve both scorn and pity.

But forget about the Republicans. They are easy to understand and unlikely to change. The question is, how do the rest of us address the problem of having a dangerous nut job, an erratic loose cannon, as President?

The question from Day One has been whether to impeach or wait for 2020 and hope to vote Trump out of office.

Some Democrats say we should have impeached him long ago, and they want to start the proceedings without further delay.

Others believe impeachment is futile because the Republican Senate would never convict. They believe pursuing impeachment would only inflame the Trump voters, and the Democrats risk losing their majority in the House.

You also hear that the Democrats diddled around too long, waiting for Robert Mueller to strengthen the case against Trump, and we have run out of time for an impeachment procedure. Our only option, then, is to rally the faithful and eject him from office in 2020.

For two years, I have vacillated on this subject, just as I have favored first one Democratic presidential candidate, then another, then another.

Well, I haven’t settled on a candidate yet, but I reached a conclusion on how I think we should deal with Trump. I believe the House Democrats should move forward immediately with formal impeachment.

Maybe the process will go nowhere. Even if Articles of Impeachment pass the House, they easily could die in the Senate.

Maybe it will, indeed, outrage the conservatives, and the Democrats will lose control of the House.

Maybe so.

But no one ever deserved to be ejected from office more than this President at this moment.

And further, more is at stake than simply getting rid of Trump. We owe it to future generations to stand up for fundamental principles established by the Constitution.

Too much has happened during Trump’s presidency that is unprecedented and dangerous. I could give you a laundry list of reasons why he deserves to be booted from office, but to spare us both, I’ll only mention two easy ones.

First, blocking the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, when we know the Russians helped Trump win, is naked obstruction of justice. Prima facie grounds for impeachment.

And second, refusing to respond to lawful congressional subpoenas treats Congress as subordinate to the Executive Branch. That can’t be allowed to stand.

The Constitution created three co-equal branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial. As a safeguard, it designed them so that each branch has the ability to limit the powers of the other two.

The Constitution also provides impeachment as a mechanism to stop a President who exceeds his powers and places himself above the law.

Maybe impeaching Trump is politically risky. Maybe it will fail. Maybe it will help his chances of being reelected.

But consequences and politics be damned, we have an obligation to protect American democracy from this malignancy.

History will remember Trump as a self-serving, amoral crook. It will remember his administration as a den of vipers feeding at the public trough. It will remember his supporters as frightened, gullible stooges.

History will revile us, too, if we don’t hold Trump accountable.

The solution to the problem isn’t complicated. Just do the right thing.

Impeach

 

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On the website of the magazine Psychology Today, I found a pretty good definition of psychoanalysis. It’s a bit intricate, but you can handle it.

Freud pioneered the idea that unconscious forces influence overt behavior and personality. He believed that childhood events and unconscious conflict, often pertaining to sexual urges and aggression, shape a person’s experience in adulthood.

Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis created the framework for psychoanalytic therapy, a deep, individualized form of talk therapy. Psychoanalytic therapy encompasses an open conversation that aims to uncover ideas and memories long buried in the unconscious mind.

Psychoanalysts employ specific techniques, such as spontaneous word association, dream analysis, and transference analysis. Identifying patterns in the client’s speech and reactions can help the individual better understand their thoughts, behaviors, and relationships as a prelude to changing what is dysfunctional.

As the final sentence explains, the goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to help the patient understand the subconscious causes of dysfunctional behaviors in hopes of changing them.

A few decades ago, I spent a year in psychoanalysis. I met regularly with a psychiatrist, and we explored what makes me tick.

It was a unique and, in many ways, strange experience. All that effort and professional firepower focused solely on me, my thoughts, my beliefs. Having my innermost self under a microscope was surreal and a little spooky.

How I ended up seeing a shrink is an interesting story.

Deanna and I got divorced in 1989. I’ve mentioned the split occasionally on this blog, including here and here, but never in much detail.

I don’t intend to elaborate now, except to say that, when she handed me the divorce papers, a part of me was surprised, but another was not. There had been signs.

She and I began to have disagreements, but all along, I thought they were transient and fixable. I never believed they were significant enough to end the marriage.

Deanna saw it otherwise. It’s a fact that the only person you can understand with even remote accuracy is yourself. And even that is an iffy proposition.

Several years before the divorce, she expressed an interest in seeing a therapist. I took it as a positive thing. If issues are bugging you, it’s good to try to understand and deal with them. She ended up going to a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.

Immediately, the doctor proposed seeing both of us, in separate sessions, to facilitate Deanna’s analysis. She said sessions with both marital partners is always advisable.

To be clear, I’m a believer. Freud had some nutty ideas, but his central belief that (1) experiences in childhood affect behaviors in adulthood, and (2) it pays to understand them — that makes sense to me. I certainly don’t object to the concept of therapy.

Nevertheless, I was hesitant. I felt no need to undergo analysis. I was confident no sinister, malignant demons lurked inside me. All my demons are minor and benign.

Further, there was the cost. For one patient, $70 or $80 per session was brutal. For two, it would be crippling.

On the other hand, two facts were clear. First, the doctor might be right that understanding me would help her understand Deanna. And second, if I declined, I would be seen as an obstacle and a villain.

I agreed to undergo analysis.

The sessions were casual and calm. No couch was involved. The doctor and I got along well, and, session by session, she went about the task of sizing me up.

At the same time, I got to know the doctor and her methods. Often, I could see where she was taking the conversation.

For example, she showed interest in how my dad was affected by his World War II experiences. (He was a bomber pilot, was shot down, became a POW.)

After the war, Dad suffered significant anxiety and flashback problems. He struggled with PTSD for many years until, late in life, he finally fought it to a truce.

The doctor wanted to understand how Dad’s condition affected the rest of the family, and me in particular, which I freely admit it did. It was the topic we spent the most time talking about.

In those days, Deanna was a stay-at-home mom. My modest salary sustained us. Under those circumstances, the cost of therapy was a significant financial burden.

To her credit, the doctor arranged a generous payment schedule that I could manage.

And ultimately, also to her credit, she announced that she had seen enough. She said continuing my therapy sessions was not worth the time and expense. We were done.

In effect, she concluded I was acceptably normal and stable and did not require her services. It was a veritable thumbs-up for my mental health, a seal of approval from a professional. I was shrink-certified.

I wasn’t surprised. And it was supremely satisfying.

Mic drop

I don’t recall how long Deanna continued therapy. I never learned anything about her sessions, whether they were fruitful, or how they ended. I never asked.

But I well remember sending checks to the doctor every month, slowly paying down the tab.

Then one day, long after Deanna’s therapy ended, a letter arrived from the doctor.

She informed me that a fire had swept through her office building, and many financial records had been destroyed, mine among them.

She and her accountant decided to declare my debt absolved. Roughly $1,000 was being forgiven and, I assume, written off on her taxes.

I mean no disrespect to Freud or his disciples, but that gesture did more for my mental health than all of the therapy sessions combined.

Lucy

Freud-S

 

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