Friday, April 30, 2004


But Can He Also Chew Gum at the Same Time?
The President and Vice President spent several hours yesterday "testifying" before the 9-11 commision. Despite some criticism from democrats that the two were allowed to testify together, a number of interesting things were learned.

For example, George Bush can actually talk while Cheney drinks a glass of water.

---------------Drew Sheneman, Newark Star Ledger

Thursday, April 29, 2004


It's time for a rant.... And yes, this is a true story.

I have been with SprintPCS (and Sprint Spectrum before that) for about 8 years now. In general, I've been happy with them. I even use my cellphone to connect my laptap to the internet. Yes, it's slow, but at five bucks a month, it beats the pants off AOL. And like any long term relationship, Sprint and I have had our ups and downs. Yet in the end, we've always kissed and made up. The makeup sex was always worth the wait, even if it was a bit tricky with that retractable antenna.

Until now.

But my dealings with their alleged Customer Care Department over the past two days goes beyond anything I've ever experienced with them before, and may even rival the record levels of boneheadedness achieved by the Bush Administration.

Back in March I switched to their new 7 PM Nights & Weekends plan. And when I did so, I specifically made sure that my new plan would include the wireless web access. I was assured that it did. And since I no longer had to worry about my evening minutes, I could spend as much time on the computer as I wanted.... Or at least until the phone battery died.

So when I went in to pay my April bill a couple of days ago at their little in-store kiosk, I was more than a little surprised to see that I owed $308 instead of the expected $55.

My first mistake: As soon as I got back out to the car, I called their Customer Annoyance Dept. All this first lady was able to tell me was that yes, they had me down for the Nights & Weekends at 7 deal. The extra charges were for exceeding my daytime minutes. "But that's impossible," I said. Her response was a helpful "You owe us $308."

My next step in my desperate bid to clear my name was to hit the golf course. No, wait, that's how O.J. spends his time trying to clear his name..... In my case, I hightailed it down to the library and went online to check the particulars of my bill. Sure enough, towards the end of my billing cycle, I started getting charged for my wireless web calls between 7PM and 9PM. But the voice calls in the same time frame were free. This was certainly odd.

My second mistake: So later that afternoon I called Sprint's Customer Aggravation Dept. back and this time got a different lady. I told her the situation. She looked at my account and said no, I had not been charged for any calls after 7 PM. I assured her that I had been, and had even seen the evidence on my account when I pulled up my last invoice.

"No, you haven't. You were only charged for exceeding your daytime minutes before 7 PM."

"But I just reviewed my account on a computer, and almost all the overcharges were between 7PM and 9PM."

"No, they weren't. You have Unlimited Nights and Weekends."

"I know that," I said through clenched teeth. I could sense the steam beginning to emerge from my ears. "But I was nonetheless charged. Look it up."

Well, give me the line number of one of the items in question.

"I don't have the line number," I said. "I don't actually have the bill with me. But I did see this on my account on the computer. All you have to do is scroll through the calls."


"No? What do you mean 'no?'"

"No, I won't do that. I need the line number."

Needless to say, this soon devolved into a shouting match, ending with her assurances that I most certainly owe her employer $308.

So that evening when I got home, I immediately went hunting for my bill. It took a while, but unlike Bush and those elusive weapons of mass destruction, I eventually found what I was looking for.

So yesterday morning, I foolishly embarked on my third mistake by calling Sprint's Hey Phil, Let's See How Many Customers We Can Piss Off Today Dept. This time I got a guy, perhaps even Phil himself. I innocently thought this was a good thing, because a guy--unlike those women--would certainly know what he's talking about.

Oh, how very, very, very, VERY wrong I was....

I proceed to tell this guy what's been going on, and that I have my bill with me.

He looks up my account and promptly tells me that I don't I have the wireless web access.

"Yes I do," I say. "I've had it since 2000, and I'm paying $5 a month extra for it." Meanwhile, alarms are going off warning me of dangerously high steam pressure in my head.

So he puts me on hold while he "researches" it. The guy then comes back on the line and tells me that the wireless web access was only added to my account on March 16. Furthermore, that $5 only entitles me to 50 text messages a month. It does NOT entitle me to download data, and THAT's what those extra charges on my bill are for.

"No, no, NO!!!" I scream into the phone.

"Yes, yes, YES" he shouts right back at me, laughing. Yes, that's right. Mr. Customer Service is laughing at an irate customer.

It's at this point that I realize I'm not only dealing with a moron, I'm dealing with a SMARTASS moron. And of all the different kinds of morons that have plagued humanity over the ages, the SMARTASS morons are the worst. The problem is not just that they're too stupid to realize they're morons; that's a fairly typical trait of morons in general. No, the SMARTASS morons go beyond that by thinking that they are actually being smart and clever and witty and know infinitely much more about their jobs than the stupid customer on the phone.

I even go as far as to ask to speak to a supervisor, but the SMARTASS moron flat out refuses my request. "He'll just tell you the same thing," the SMARTASS moron says. And this may quite possibly have been the first time I've ever been refused a request to speak to a supervisor.

We argue a little bit more, but it slowly becomes obvious that the situation is comparable to arguing with a Shiite cleric who shows his gratitude for being freed from brutal oppression by blowing you up.

I hang up on the SMARTASS moron and decide to head back to the Sprint store. I'm not optimistic about my chances at this point, because I know from past experience that Sprint's retail people don't like to get involved in billing issues. They will instead refer you to their We're Here To F*ck With You Until You Get So Pissed Off You Decide To Switch To Verizon Dept.

I get the assistant manager, fall to my knees, and tearfully beg him NOT to refer to the Aggravate Our Customers Until Their Blood Pressure Skyrockets And They Suffer A Stroke Dept. Then I tell him my problem, and briefly describe my earlier trials and tribulations. He pulls up my account and within 30 seconds finds the problem: A coding error. He even flipped the screen around to show me what was going on.

As it turns out, the voice calls and the wireless web calls have to coded separately for the 7PM changeover to unlimited nighttime minutes. And when I had called their I'm A Total Idiot And I'm The One Who Is Going To Represent SprintPCS To Our Customers Dept. last month, the guy correctly coded the voice calls, but then neglected to change the code the wireless web package. In short: Yes, it was Sprint's mistake.

After doublechecking the situation with someone COMPETENT at their HQ, he removed almost $240 worth of overcharges from my account.

So in the end, Sprint admitted its error and all was made right. But was all the other aggravation really necessary? It took the guy in the store--who's not even really trained for this--half a minute to find the problem. Yet three other employees--who supposedly were trained to deal with customer problems--were not only unable but unwilling to deal with my issues. And suppose I had been a Sprint customer some place where they didn't have any retail stores? What then? That poor lost soul's head would have exploded from all the pent up pressure!!

Sprint is the number three cellphone service provider in the United States. But if they continue to abuse their customers like this, it will soon become number four.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

But What About the Plumbers?
Legislators in Louisiana are considering a bill to outlaw low riding-pants. That means no exposure of one's underwear, thongs, other "intimate clothing," or skin.

Violators would be subject to either a $500 fine or six months in jail.

---------------KAL, Baltimore Sun


Hide Your Children
Michael Jackson has fired his legal team of Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman.

No official reason was given, but Omarosa probably had something to do with it.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Where'd That House Come From?
Congratulations to Billy Joel, who has just had his third hit in two years.

Some music critics may complain, however, that lately Joel has been achieving his hits through poor driving rather than skillful songwriting, but that's to be expected. Critics generally tend to be a picky bunch.

In his most recent hit, Joel crashed his VW into a house. Though the accident is still under investigation, police say that preliminary findings indicate that the house was not in a marked crosswalk at the time.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

----------Michael Ramirez, LA Times

Friday, April 23, 2004

Is That Shrapnel in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
There has been a lot of debate about John Kerry's war record lately. Some critics are questioning whether he truly deserved those three Purple Hearts, or if he merely used them as an excuse to get out of the military early.

I don't know what the truth of the matter is. I don't particulary care if he got those medals for paper cuts or for severed limbs. Regardless of the circumstances under which they were awarded, the irrefutable bottom line is that John Kerry shed more blood in Vietnam on any one of those occasions than George Bush did during the entire war.

And speaking of war, Steve at has written a wonderfully worded piece about Pat Tillman.

Which Nigerian Scammer.... Er, Spammer Are You?
Take the quiz to find out!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

----------Mike Ramirez, LA Times


Terrorism of a Different Kind
Did you know this is TV Turnoff Week? What kind of sick, twisted, demented, evil mind came up with this unspeakable monstrosity? Probably some self-righteous college educated intellectual type!

If someone wants to not watch commercial TV because it sucks, that's fine. That's why we have cable, and why I sometimes sit in my recliner watching TVLand until the front of my shirt is soaked with my own drool. But to condemn the very concept of television as a whole is just plain wrong.

Apparently the idea behind this hideous concept is to spend more time with your family, get to know your kids, and other such drivel. Well, maybe some of us intentionally avoid such things. Hell, if you had to live with my relatives, you'd want to retreat into a fantasy world of talking horses and lovable castaways on a deserted island too! Either that, or start drinking heavily.

I grew up watching a LOT of TV, and I turned out perfectly fine.

Though I do have an annoying habit of dropping anvils on people's heads.....

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Fine Art

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Coalition of the Leaving
Yesterday Spain formally announced it is withdrawing its troops from Iraq, and today Honduras followed suit. And now Thailand has said it will withdraw its troops if they are attacked.

Hmmm.... Soldiers in a warzone? Yeah, I can see how an attack would come as a total shock.

----------Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution


And Spare the Remote Too
A 17 year old in Florida has been charged with hiring an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to kill his mother.

On the surface, this may sound disturbing. But the kid did instruct the would-be hitman not to damage the TV during the attack.

Well, thank God he at least had his priorities straight!

Monday, April 19, 2004

Missed Warnings
I went to see the remake of The Alamo last night, and quite frankly, I was very disappointed. Sorry, but Billy Bob Thornton just doesn't hold a candle to John Wayne.

The first half of the movie was okay with plenty of action. But then the plot bogged down when the FBI, the CIA, and President Andrew Jackson began accusing one another of failing to warn Davy Crockett that Santa Anna was about to attack.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

----------Bob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette


One Hell of a Value
Remember that big tanker truck in Connecticut last month that destroyed the overpass? Well, Sarah Waddle--the motorist who caused it--has been issued a $128 ticket for "failure to drive in the established lane."

That's it? 128 bucks?!?! They should send her a bill for the full $14 million it's going to cost to clean up the mess she made!

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Hungry? You Won't Be in a Moment

By now, pretty much everyone knows that billions of Al Qaeda trained cicadas will soon be descending upon the eastern United States. It is expected that many of the critters will launch suicide attacks upon car windshields and women's hairdos. The White House will be closely monitering the constantly evolving threat matrix through a series of highly classified memos that no one will bother to read.

Ordinary citizens, however, are approaching the situation in other ways. Some find cicadas fascinating, and even use their appearance to mark milestones in their lives.

Others, however, are taking matters into their own hands--or mouths--as they prepare to greet the bugs by.... Eating them. Yes, it's true: Some people consider cicadas to be a culinary delicacy, though it is not immediately clear how their consumption fits into the Atkins Diet.

Oh, and it should be pointed out that this guy is French. That may well explain everything.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Maybe It Was Actually an IRS Agent
A customer at a Lowe's in Oklahoma was bitten by a rattlesnake while looking through the garden center of the store.

I knew there was a reason I've always been more of a Home Depot man.

Hold Still

----------Mike Ramirez, LA Times


Mickey D's Turns 49
The very first McDonald's opened on this day in 1955 in Illinois. I wonder if they had a kid out front holding up signs like "1 served," "2 served," and so forth whenever a customer ordered something?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Apples and Oranges
An increasing number of critics are likening Iraq to Vietnam, and last night President Bush said the comparison is completely false.

I have to agree with the President on this one.

Vietnam had a lot more trees.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Answers? Well, Maybe....
President Bush will be holding a news conference tonight, and many of the questions are expected to deal with the various 9-11 related memos, reports, and briefings that keep popping out of the woodwork like termites.

However, I don't plan to watch it live. If I were to do so, I'd run the risk of making up my own mind based on first hand information. I would much rather read the various reviews and commentaries tomorrow so someone else can tell me what I'm supposed to think. Life is much simpler that way.

Too bad Bush didn't decide to wait till Thursday night to do this. That way he could have pissed off half the country by pre-empting the conclusion of The Apprentice.

Oh, wait. Half the country already is pissed at him.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I happened to catch part of the Masters Tournament yesterday. It had a pretty exciting finish, with Phil Mickelson finally winning his first major tournament in 22 years as a pro. And what happened to Tiger Woods? Last anyone saw him, he was still hunting for his ball in the woods.

Speaking of golf, that's one hell of a sandtrap President Bush has gotten himself stuck in.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter, 2004

Friday, April 09, 2004

A Matter of Perception
Remember Gary Condit? He's the married California congressman who had the affair with Chandra Levy, the government intern who went missing.

During the course of the Levy investigation, Condit did everything possible to make himself appear guilty. He initially denied any romantic involvement with intern, stonewalled the police, was callous towards her parents, and was just an all around evasive jerk with the press. And the more he denied being responsible for her disappearance, the more the rest of us became convinced he had something to hide. His gross mishandling of the matter eventually cost him his reelection bid.

Condit was eventually cleared of involvement in the Levy murder, and police now have a pretty good idea of who was responsible. But how many people care--or even know--that the congressman was innocent? Not a whole lot. In the public's mind he will always be held responsible for the death of that young woman.

Like Gary Condit, George Bush appears to be doing everything possible to make it appear he has something to hide regarding 9/11. Until recently, no reasonable Americans held him in way responsible for somehow being negligent and allowing those attacks to occur on his watch. After all, the hijackers were meticulous in their planning and equally methodical in their follow through.

So how has the Bush Administration handled the 9/11 commission's investigation? By taking a page from the Gary Condit playbook.

First, the White House fought extending the Commission's life past its original
But under pressure from not only democrats but fellow republicans, Bush came out and said it was important to let them do their job. Their mandate was thus extended.

After Richard Clarke's bombshells, the White House initially wouldn't allow Condi Rice to testify. Oh, absolutely she would be able to refute Clarke, but letting her testify under oath would set a bad precedent. Again, it was only after a massive firestorm of controversy that the Bush people dropped their opposition.

Rice has said repeatedly that she and Bush were well aware of the threat posed by terrorists, and the matter was a top priority. Then about a week ago we discover that she was scheduled to deliver a speech 9/11/2001 about national security. The address supposedly makes minimal mention of bin Laden and Al Qaeda, instead concentrating on the growing threat of ballistic missiles for rogue states such as Iraq and North Korea. Again, rather than allowing the matter to die a quick death, the White House is prolonging the controversy by blocking the release of the full text of Rice's speech.

But the absolute kicker was yesterday's revelation of an August 8 CIA memo warning that bin Laden wanted to strike within the United States itself. Again, the White House's position is that this memo is mostly "background" material and of no real value to the investigation. And because it is so utterly without value, the White House was keeping the document classified.

The White House now says the memo will be declassified, but again, it took a massive amount of public pressure to force their hand.

Sometimes actual guilt or innocence is irrelevant. What matters is the perception of guilt or innocence.

----------Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Monday, April 05, 2004

----------Mike Ramirez, LA Times


Attention! Attention!
A new study from the International Institute of People Who Do Loads of Studies suggests that youngsters who spend a lot of time watching TV are far more likely to develop short attention spans.

This isn't surprising. Smart people with high IQ's are always putting down anything that appeals to the common folk, and this latest assertion of theirs has absolutely no basis in

Bugs Bunny is on!!! That Bugs is

Ooooo!!!! Look at the pretty butterfly!!! Isn't it amazing how Mother Nature can

What's this keyboard doing in front of me?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Does Anybody Really Care?
Well, today is the first day of Daylight Savings Time. The "Changing of the Clocks" is a time honored semi-annual ritual designed to confuse the hell out of everyone. It also provides people with an added incentive to leave their VCR's blinking "12:00." Either that, or find the damn instruction manual to figure out to program the camn thing, except you no longer have the manual because you tore it up out of frustration when you couldn't decipher the instructions for programming the clock six months ago.

The best way to remember what direction to move your clocks is "Spring ahead, fall back." Because when you jump--or spring--you go forward. Likewise, if your carotid artery suddenly becomes clogged because of one too many Big Macs, you're more likely to fall back.

Then again, it could be "Spring back, fall ahead," because if you suddenly see a venomous cobra in the middle of your living room, your first instinct will be to spring back. Likewise, if you're walking, and you trip over an abandoned RPG launcher (assuming you're in Baghdad) you'll fall forward.

But most importantly, Daylight Savings Time provides farmers with an extra hour of daylight they mysteriously would not have had under standard time. This provides them with more time to work on tilling their fields and harvesting their crops, until the bank forecloses on the note and resells the land at firesale prices to a developer who'll then put up several hundred townhouses with backyards the size of a frikkin' postage stamp. After all, catering to the wishes of farmers is important in an agrarian based society such as ours.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bug Off

Late last year one of the local meteorologists (from the latin for "people who get paid ridiculous amounts of money for doing their job correctly less than 25% of the time") was commenting about DC's near record rainfall for 2003. He then pointed out some of the other wild weather we had had over the previous two years: Tornados, blizzards, icestorms, floods, extreme drought in 2002, and a hurricane. Then he jokingly remarked that the only thing we had NOT yet had were a plague of locusts and volcanic eruptions.

Now we learn that the locusts will, in fact, be here in another month or so. The 17 year cicadas last emerged from the ground in 1987 for their brief fling with flight, which means their alarm clocks will soon be going off. In fact, that's what that constant din that they're famous for is: Their alarm clocks. And they're so eager to get up and out, that they forget to switch the buzzers off. That's certainly understanble. Chances are you'd be the same way, too, if you haven't been laid in 17 years.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm stocking up on sandbags to ward off the lava flows.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Thursday, April 01, 2004

----------Bill Schorr, United Media