There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Posts from — March 2009

Latest Global Warming Scapegoat

Or should I say, scapesheep? Scientists say that the 40 million farting sheep in New Zealand contribute 43% of the nation’s greenhouse gases. Clearly, these out-of-control polluting creatures with no regard for the welfare of our planet must be stopped at any cost!

March 22, 2009   1 Comment

Economists Against Stimulus

There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy. —President-Elect Barack Obama, January 9, 2009

With all due respect Mr. President, that is not true. Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan’s “lost decade” in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.

I’m a little late blogging about this, but the preceding excerpt is from a full-page ad taken out in the New York Times by the Cato Institute in January. It lists some 200 economists including 3 Nobel Laureates (take that Krugman) who are against Barack Obama’s stimulus plans. You can view the ad here:

March 17, 2009   1 Comment

Why I Hate Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart uses his perch at Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” to routinely slam people he doesn’t like or disagrees with. However, when those people try to defend themselves against Stewart’s one-sided accusations, Stewart denigrates them for attacking “just a comedian”. Enter CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who was recently ridiculed by Stewart on the Daily Show, including right to Cramer’s face. I’m not a huge Jim Cramer fan, but if I was him I would have cracked Stewart right in the jaw:

March 15, 2009   2 Comments

Comcast Epic Fail

A day-by-day account of my recent harrowing ordeal with Comcast.

Wednesday March 4

I return home from work and I have no Internet, and most of my cable TV channels aren’t working, including most of my HD channels and some of my standard channels. For some reason, ESPN HD works and at least I can watch NBA. I give Comcast a call and the earliest they can schedule a service visit is on Friday, but I opt for the Saturday afternoon slot from 12-4 pm so I don’t have to miss any time from work.

Thursday March 5 – Friday March 6

No Internet, and now ESPN is out. WTF. It doesn’t help that I need Internet access to get some work done from home. Having no Internet even for a day sucks I can’t wait to get it fixed. I twitter my frustration with Comcast in the meantime.

Saturday March 7

After a long and brutal winter, the temperature reaches 70 degrees in the Boston area – it’s a beautiful day! But I’m inside waiting for the Comcast technician to come between 12-4 pm. He’s a no-show! I call at 3:55 to complain that I’ve been stuck inside my apartment on the nicest day in three months waiting for the tech. They promise to send someone by 7 to fix the problem.

At 6:30 the technician finally arrives. He runs a few checks, and says that my signal level is way low, so he needs to run a dedicated line from the box outside. He needs a ladder to get on the roof but it’s almost dark outside so that’s dangerous. He tells me he’ll escalate the situation to his supervisor. After a little complaining, he says he can probably come out tomorrow with a ladder and another guy to help, but that he’ll give me a call. My expectations are low. He’s gone within 10 minutes.

Sunday March 8

Another 70 degree day – no Internet, about three channels I would pay extra to not have, and no call from Comcast or any technician. $130/month for this treatment?

Monday March 9

I call Comcast around 9 pm to give someone an earful. I talk to the first person, who can do nothing but offer banal apologies every 15 seconds, which is like pouring gasoline on the fiery explosion that is my head. I then ask to talk to a “supervisor”, and tell him the whole story. He seems genuinely concerned, and offers to personally look into the matter. He says he’ll call the local supervisors to make sure they know the situation, and send someone between 4-7 pm the next day, which is the latest appointment available and the most accommodating he can be to my 8-5 pm work schedule. I tell him that my empIoyer is currently laying off people left and right, but what the heck I can duck out of work around 3:30 to get home by 4 – why not live dangerously? I tell him the tech better get to my place on the early side if the guy needs to get on the roof. He also promises to personally call me at 6 pm to make sure that the technician arrived and fixed the problem, or to assure me that the tech is on his way.

Tuesday March 10

Duped again. I reluctantly tell my boss and slip out of work uncomfortably to make it home by 4. I wait patiently, until the clock strikes 6 and there’s no call from the supervisor I spoke to the previous night. At 6:35, my patience is wearing really thin when my door bell rings. A technician I haven’t seen before arrives. He runs a few checks, and says that my signal level is way low, so he needs to run a dedicated line from the box outside. He needs a ladder to get on the roof but it’s almost dark outside so that’s dangerous. He tells me he’ll escalate the situation to his supervisor. At this point it takes every fiber of my being to restrain myself from throwing the cable box through the closed window. I didn’t want to take it out on the tech, because I think that those guys actually do a fine job, but it’s the bureaucracy of Comcast that hurts the technicians, and sends them into situations woefully unprepared. I ask him what he knows and he says he had no previous knowledge of my issue, and that he only got a work order that same afternoon to come out and take a look. Take a look? His supervisor should have had him ready to scale the motherf***ing Lohtse Face by candlelight. But again, I don’t blame the uninformed tech for not wanting to get up there in the dark and potentially break his neck so I can check my email among other things. Again, he’s out the door in less than 10.

I call ASAP to give another supervisor an earful. Instead of trite apologies, this time it’s trite recognition that apologies won’t suffice. I end up with the direct phone number of the supervisor to whom I’m talking, and of the local supervisor. I debate whether to call the local supervisor and whether it’s a good idea to go ballistic on somebody who likely lives nearby, has my address and whose nerves are probably even more frazzled than mine at this point.


How does this story end? I don’t know yet. My service probably gets fixed – eventually. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is the complete incompetence of Comcast and their customer (lack of) service department. They don’t care if you leave to go to a competitor – there’s little competition in this market anyway. But more importantly, there is no sense of urgency and no one actually capable of taking any responsibility for fixing a problem. I spent a total of 10+ hours either waiting for a technician or on the phone, and Comcast had about 6 people spend an average of 10 minutes working on the issue. Do you see a problem here? Comcast is a massively inefficient bureaucracy, and until it faces a legitimate competitive threat or two, it will continue to produce epic failures when it comes to customer service issues.

March 11, 2009   8 Comments


“We need earmark reform. And when I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.”

So said Barack Obama during a presidential debate last year. However, the new $410 billion “omnibus” spending bill that Obama will sign into law soon contains over 8,500 earmarks worth almost $8 billion. So says Obama now,

“Done right, earmarks have given legislators the opportunity to direct federal money to worthy projects that benefit people in their district, and that’s why I have opposed their outright elimination.”

Supposedly he’s going to push for “earmark reform” in the next budget. But most Republicans spurned this bill, as did a few democrats – notably Evan Bayh of Indiana. He even wrote a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece to complain. Writes Bayh,

This week, the United States Senate will vote on a spending package to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 is a sprawling, $410 billion compilation of nine spending measures that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.

Well said, but so far this president is out of control on government spending. And it’s likely going to get worse.

March 11, 2009   No Comments