Links 9/4/11

I have come to the conclusion that Comcast exemplifies what I call “American service”. That takes place when the provider realizes its customers have few options and it chooses to engage in service theater, as opposed to the real thing. Typical characteristics include: making sure customer-facing staff know as little as possible and are authorized to do at most one or two typically useless things; having supervisors who are exactly the same except their accents and vocabularies are more refined; and all the while maintaining at a corporate level that the provider really does care about customers

The worst is that given how far service standards in America have fallen, I suspect that executives at companies like Comcast genuinely believe that they are offering a decent level of customer service, as opposed to understanding that it is simply a con.

That is a long-winded way of saying that I have learned from the locals that the broadband service, which used to be OK, has been terrible all summer (I am at Starbucks yet again). I don’t know how I am going to keep up a normal level of posts next week, since I will be here through Saturday (and there is no cell phone signal at the house, so please don’t suggest that as an alternative).

Beyond PTSD: Soldiers Have Injured Souls TruthOut (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Capitulation on Ozone Much Worse When You Learn the Context Dave Dayen, FireDogLake (hat tip reader Carol B)

Vermont Flood Hi-Res Gallery – August 2011 Lars Gange and Mansfield Heliflight

Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit New York Times (hat tip reader May S)

The road to Europe: the return of the State Open Democracy (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Shirley Williams plunges NHS reforms into fresh turmoil Guardian (hat tip Lambert Strether). McKinsey plays a very ugly role here. It pushes for outside contracting, when any such negotiations are almost guaranteed to lead to further fees for McKinsey in brokering the deals.

Rupert Murdoch: A Portrait of Satan Adam Curtis, BBC (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Differences Between PC & Mac Users Barry Ritholtz. I use a Mac because I used a NeXT for over 10 years and Mac is as close as you can come (as in not very…)

Israelis turn out for largest economic protest Associated Press (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Adventures in cynical finger-pointing Bleeding Heartland (hat tip Lambert Strether)

Banks ‘still expect taxpayers to pay for their failure’ given the regulators’ information monopoly Trust Your Instincts (hat tip reader Richard F)

Nurses’ Imaginative Tactics, Breathe Life into Progressives: Make Wall Street Pay for the Crisis It Created Alternet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

A Preview of Thursday’s Jobs Speech: He’s Got Nothin’ Stephanie Kelton, New Economic Perspectives

Goldman’s Hatzius sees Operation Twist QE3 due to weak jobs number Ed Harrison

Antidote du jour:

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  1. sbarrkum

    Speaking of Comcast Con Ed payments have been outsourced to NCO Financial Systems from about mid 2009. Visa has not allowed NCO Financial Systems to accept payments as NCO financial status is a mess. That is why Con Ed customers cannot pay by Visa.

    If you make a phone call, the customer service is located in the Philippines. The website to make Con Ed payments thru NCO is horrible. A clear example of third world outsourced sub standard website that indicates designers who have no clue as to what is online payment or used an online payment system.

    1. eclair

      Yeah, customer service reps located in Asia and India. And I have talked to some delightful and knowledgeable reps there over the years.

      But it’s Labor Day Weekend in the USA and we’re down some 12 millions jobs and counting.

      My fantasy, since I’m not into Fantasy Football, is for all of us, when we call customer service, to demand politely but firmly that we talk to a customer rep who is located in the US (and not some indentured B-1 visa slave, either.)

      Demand a genuine USA service rep this weekend, and help put your neighbor, brother-in-law – or yourself – back to work.

      Never believed I would become this chauvinistic.

      1. alex

        “Never believed I would become this chauvinistic.”

        I don’t think it’s chauvinism, which by definition is excessive or undue. Shouldn’t we expect the primary responsibility of the US government (which is responsible for enabling outsourcing) to be to its citizens?

        “Globalism” is a slogan like “capitalism”; powerful parties are terribly enthusiastic about it so long as it’s warped in such a way that it always lines their pockets. Both “globalism” and “capitalism” have been so warped that in practice they’re nothing more than slogans. Whether or not true free trade (ala Ricardo) would be desirable, the status quo is so far from true free trade that the use of the term “free trade” is outright Orwellian. Exhibit A: our massive long term trade imbalance. In a world of true free trade the exchange rates would adjust to eliminate that.

      2. Icarus Cossack

        I agree. However, indentured servitude has become the new normal here in America. I was recently consulting in San Diego renting in a large apartment complex where young East Europeans were living ( 6 to a one bedroom apartment) while earning money running the ped cabs. They all observed our work schedules and long hours as our own indentured servitude. Those Europeans felt they had more freedom than we did. I could not disagree.

  2. Middle Seaman

    Once you buy it all you get is the finger. Even worse, when you buy premium service/product it’s the same. To your face they will imply “too bad for you, you are stuck with it.” I have an expensive car with a long list of minor flaws. “Can you fix the problem?” “Yes, we fixed in the newest mode.” Talk about adding insult to injury.

    Our elected government is exactly the same. Obama and the whole congress give the finger to those who believed in them. What can they do, vote for the other guys? Ha Ha Ha

    1. KnotRP

      I had comcast VOIP along with comcast HSI.
      After many calls over 9 months, trying to get them to
      allow all VOIP messages to be auto-forwarded to an
      email address, I gave up. I switched to another brand VOIP.

      Now I get multiple letters a week begging me to try
      Comcast VOIP.

      HAHAHAHAHahahahah. The finger works in reverse.

  3. attempter

    Is there any sector that’s not like that? It’s inherent to the logic of capitalism. It would be “irrational” (given the insane premise) to behave otherwise, once you achieve racket status. Same for government itself. (Indeed, I figure that one of the things we have going for us is how the record seems to be that they’re equally incompetent from a reality-based POV where it comes to their maintenance of kleptocracy itself.)

    So anyone who’s not fighting for full net neutrality (which looks by now to be lost; it’s slated to first die passively, and receive the formal death blow somewhere down the line) wants the culture of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T etc. to become the culture of the Internet as such. (Meanwhile erstwhile net neutrality supporters like Google, having achieved racket status themselves, are tacking to support the telecom position.)

    Nice Internet we had there for a little while…

  4. skippy

    First three comments are on the status of the internet vs the rest of links…me lament!

    Skippy..attempter the tubes are a construct of the elites…”Nice Internet we had there for a little while”… whacha gonna do…Faux newbs all over again…sigh.

    1. attempter

      The tubes were funded and built by the people. They’re public property. Their privatization was embezzlement on the part of the government and theft on the part of corporations.

      1. skippy

        Privatization[?], people[?], government[?], WOW… ultimate victim status, everyone’s against you. All you do is point fingers, never have I seen you show one ounce of culpability. Strangely…this is the mind set of a zealot, that which you decry.

        Skippy…what are you hiding…eh.

        1. attempter

          So in what way are the telecoms your book, so that you suddenly reverse yourself?

          What I said here isn’t controversial, and it’s the exact same thing as I’ve said in every other context, where you seem to agree.

          Yes, I do point the finger at criminals. Your point?

          I can’t imagine what you mean by “culpability”. I have no power to use even in a questionable way let alone a culpable one. Nor am I a willing participant in any of gloablization’s crimes.

          If in your clumsy sputtering you meant to say responsibility, well that’s exactly what I call upon people to take for themselves, their economies and polities. That includes no longer tolerating organized crime and, where applicable, no longer living off the fruits of it.

          Evidently you disagree only where it comes to Big Telecommunications. I wonder why.

          1. skippy

            “So in what way are the telecoms your book, so that you suddenly reverse yourself?” ——— Projection with the old *reversal* trick just for good measure. I have no dog in this hunt. So your insinuation of which you are full of, is mote. BTW which is your rhetorical strategy IMO.

            “What I said here isn’t controversial, and it’s the exact same thing as I’ve said in every other context, where you seem to agree. ——— Ah the old it’s not controversial (more self assumed projection)…every thing is *one* context ploy…most of the time we seemingly agree…buddy…stuff.

            “Yes, I do point the finger at criminals. Your point?” ——- I’m a criminal, I have murdered for the state, I spent my time walking the paths to riches, I accepted the programming begrudgingly against my young minds better judgment, I acknowledge this, where are your scars?

            “If in your clumsy sputtering you meant to say responsibility” ———- *your clumsy sputtering* nice one old chum, your inference. Bully tactics at the first challenge of your ideology, opines, thoughts, faux news needs people like you.

            Skippy…government is the people, the people are the government, people just became bewitched by the glitter promised, fathers and mother lied, as they were lied too, some day look up the real meaning of elite, it is all about responsibility to others, not ones self…eh.

          2. attempter

            Bully tactics at the first challenge…

            You’ve never seen me challenged here before? Probably hundrds of times by now? Now I know this is a joke, or you’re high on something, or this is a different Skippy…

            …or else my making the same attack on telecom rackets I make on every other kind of racket rubs you the wrong way for some mysterious reason. All I asked was why.

            BTW, history is not your friend here. All anyone needs to do is read a handful of comments up to see that you initiated the personal attacks, when all I did was attack your (evidently beloved) Comcast. Or is it AT&T? Or Verizon? Or one I didn’t name?

          3. skippy

            The government, the government, its all the governments fault ad nauseam. One huge blanket rule by which to indict, assign blame for all ails and alleviate personal responsibility, this was my point. Whether you like it or not the government, sick as it is with cronyism, is all the stands between you and a hole lot of stored potential…from going boom.

            The tubes are just an example, people with in the government built it, funded it. Comcast[?] who cares, just another impersonal megalomaniac corporate prison run by something[paths, same as Murdock’s empire. So no quibbles there amigo, yet you keep inserting it…um. Bullying by inserting wild speculative positions into my thoughts and then having a go at them….shez.

            My lament is over peoples (see entire comments section) first knee jerk, MY TUBES, over every other consideration in the links section. Mine, mine, mine infini. America has to be the most self absorb nation in history, F. Beards bail out would be a sight to see ie. imagine a society bred to consume given carte blanche…epic.

            Skippy…again I ask you, as I have in the ether of comments past, how much blood have you seen.

          4. attempter

            Mine, mine, mine infini. America has to be the most self absorb nation in history

            The Orwellianisms around here are getting truly bizarre. Now the call for democracy to restitute what was stolen from it is assimilated to the selfishness of the robbery itself? It makes more sense to equate the “predatory borrower” with the loanshark, or the individual uninsured “free rider” with billion dollar rackets 100% dependent on corporate welfare and state coercion.

            You seem to be having a nihilistic meltdown.

            Skippy…again I ask you, as I have in the ether of comments past, how much blood have you seen.

            Evidently far more than you. I see it every day, and think only of how to stanch the flow and destroy those who inflict the wounds.

            I have no idea what you’re talking about above. If you want to be free, free yourself. Who’s afflicting you with guilt but yourself?

            Free yourself. Or don’t, I don’t care. But don’t take your issues out on the opponents of the telecom rackets. By your logic, shouldn’t you stop bashing the banks? After all, what did they really do to us? It’s all “mine, mine, mine infini”, right? Go tell Dimon you agree about all those selfish whiners.

          5. Skippy

            More gibberish accusations full of sound and fury pixelated breath issuing from some ideological tombs gob. Under all that anti corporate / government fervor is a religious like dogma, panting, waiting to escape. What that is or about I have no clue, yet would have none of it.

            Give me law or everything else is rubbish, big or small. BTW put me down with Pilkington in your book and good luck with your efforts.

            Skippy…you see death all around you, right, guess what, that’s life. Should I take you on a little round the world tour, you”ll probably feel like a rat is trying to claw its way out your head. See, seen death, give me a break, see ya at the barricades or would that be in the bunker? IDK.

  5. attempter

    This Iowa CCI sounds pretty good.

    The behavior of Iowa CCI is unproductive, embarrassing, and has no place in a serious debate.

    That’s OK. Who was having a serious debate before they got there? I’m sure they’re unproductive and embarrassing from the Dem Party POV, since they actually are productive toward human goals.

    This right here is infinitely more than the entire Democratic Party has accomplished:

    The goal of “local control” or agricultural zoning never got through the Iowa House or Senate, but Iowa CCI members have stopped a number of factory farm (CAFO) projects. Most recently, the Department of Natural Resources denied a construction permit for a CAFO project in Adair County. Iowa CCI members had helped persuade the Adair County supervisors to oppose the CAFO and lobbied DNR officials.

    It sounds to me like the debate in Iowa gets serious only when these people put their minds and actions to it.

    The Democrats, of course, fully support CAFOs. (The litmus test for whether someone actually wants food safety or is lying about it is whether he demands the complete abolition of CAFOs.)

    1. desmoinesdem

      On a related note, this was in Rekha Basu’s column for the Friday Des Moines Register:

      “Back in 2005, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Vanhoozer was named in three separate complaints alleging he racially profiled and mistreated Hispanic drivers he pulled over in the Grimes area. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement demonstrated that 53 percent of Vanhoozer’s 42 tickets issued in a three-month period were to Hispanics, though they were only 4 percent of Iowa’s population.

      “But the sheriff’s department defended Vanhoozer and concluded, based on an internal investigation, that he did nothing wrong. It refused to meet with CCI until the U.S. Justice Department came in to mediate.

      “In response to the uproar, the sheriff’s department eventually ordered Vanhoozer to attend Spanish classes (though ethnic sensitivity may have been more appropriate), and transferred him to the Bondurant area. It also made some outreach to the Hispanic community.

      “In light of that history, it’s more than a little disturbing to see the same deputy’s name crop up in fresh allegations of profiling Latinos – and the sheriff rush to defend him before all the facts are in.”

      That’s the kind of issue local Democratic Party functionaries wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

      1. desmoinesdem

        It’s depressing, because on the whole Miller has a pretty good record as Iowa AG, including on consumer protection issues. I expected more from him on the mortgage fraud investigation. Unfortunately, he seems to have been chosen for the role so that nothing serious would happen to the banks. Unlike many Democratic AGs, Miller has kind of a passive personality and won’t ever run for higher office again (he ran for Iowa gov in 1990 but lost the D primary).

    2. attempter

      I only just got around to reading this newsletter today, and just by coincidence it includes this:

      ICCI Celebrates Legislative Wins on CAFOs

      Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement defeated all six of the
      pro-CAFO bills introduced in their recent legislative session. Vern
      Tigges, Family Farmer and President, congratulated their board:
      “We knew that there would be tough opposition when the session
      began, but we didn’t give up the fight. Iowa CCI members from
      every corner of the state were fired up and ready to fight back.
      You stood up and spoke out against the corporate agenda supported
      by Governor Branstad and his big-moneyed donors like
      Bruce Rastetter and the Iowa Farm Bureau. And throughout the
      session, thousands of everyday Iowans like you mobilized your
      friends and neighbors to take action. As a result of your hard work,
      we blocked six bad factory farm deregulation bills from passing.
      You and your fellow CCI members also lobbied hard against tax
      cuts for big-moneyed, out-of-state corporations. In doing so, you
      went up against the big-moneyed corporate lobbying group the
      Iowa Association of Business and Industry – and you won again.
      Branstad and his corporate donors still got some of what they
      wanted, including cuts to education, environmental protections,
      healthcare, and transportation. And we still have a lot of work to
      do to win policies that put people first like local control, combined
      corporate reporting, interest rate caps on predatory payday loans,
      wage theft protections for workers, and Voter-Owned Iowa Clean
      Elections. But given the sea change of political power at the statehouse
      this year, derailing so much of Branstad’s corporate agenda
      is a clear-cut victory for everyday people. Today, you should stand
      tall because all of your hard work is paying off.
      Together, you and I need to use this momentum to keep pushing
      for a more just and democratic Iowa that puts communities before
      corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.”
      ICCI staffer David Goodner added that Adair County CCI members
      also stopped a 4,900–head factory farm from being built after
      massive community opposition led by CCI forced the County
      Board of Supervisors to vote 3-2, denying the operator a construction
      permit. This was a big victory!


  6. Bill G

    You have my sympathy. Comcast sucks. The good news is they will be replaced eventually – no business so universally detested ever lasts for long (outside of government services),

    1. F. Beard

      I hate Comcast too. Luckily I don’t and never will have it again. Cox I have enjoyed the most but Charter is acceptable too for the Internet. As for cable TV, never again!

      1. ambrit

        Dear Mr Beard;
        We too have joyfully avoided the ‘cable TV’ trap. I vaguely remember when Cable first came along. The promoters first promised no commercials! Oh frabjous day! Soon after the providers became successful, here came the ads. “We aren’t making enough profit,” was the mantra. Then came the HD TV swindle. I knew something crooked was up when I read the results of the two market test run. While Analog TV has a respectable geographical coverage, even with attenuation at the edges of the broadcast field, HD TV truly sucks in its’ geographical coverage. More than one person has opined to me that the HD ‘boom’ was a ‘clever plan’ to force more people onto Cable. The over the air TV here in Hattiesburg is limited to roughly five channels, but since one of them is PBS, we’re satisfied. What a lot more free time one finds once the thrall of “54 Channels and Nothing On” is broken. Even messing around on the Internet doesn’t destroy as many brain cells as Cable TV does. Nuff said.

    2. DF

      Could be worse, could be Qwest.

      First time I tried to get their DSL, it didn’t work (I was also supposed to get a $100 gift card that never came even after repeat phone calls). Ultimately, it turned out that the line was physically disconnected at the network box.

      To get to that point, I had to first deal with their overseas script-readers. No luck. I put a multimeter to the phone jack, and got no voltage. Tried again with the script-readers with this information, no luck. Tried to call their (US-based) tech support for phone service. Since this was naked DSL, they wouldn’t help me, and sent me back to the script-readers.

      Finally, I got the script-readers to send a technician out there (of course, with the threat that if they couldn’t find anything wrong on their side, I would have to pay ~$100 for the visit). The tech quickly fixed it.

      The next time, in a different apartment, the service would drop out at night. Tried a few rounds with the script-readers, but to no avail. Moved out in a few months, and got Comcast, had no problems after that.

      Another annoying thing was the cramming I experienced with Qwest. I had to get two charges taken off my bill for services I never signed up for. They stopped after I said the magic word “cramming”.

      1. BondsOfSteel

        Yea. I was thinking how good Comcast was… compaired with Qwest.

        Sure, I get random outages and slow downs with Comcast. They get fixed or come back quickly. When I was on DSL, I would get 3 day outages once a month where I would have to call and get someone to fix something at the ‘Central Office’.

      2. Birch

        Canada has two internet suppliers. In the 90s we had dozens, but the Canadian Radio and Telecomunications Commission decided it wouldn’t regulate internet service and the markets being ‘free’ vwooom – two providers. Many areas only have one or the other, so the choice is internet or no internet. The idea that you can change providers is a faint memory for me.

        Yves, you do such an awesome job. If you miss a few days of posts because your vacation internet sucks, I for one won’t mind at all. I’ll still come by to see what’s up and let the adds pop up and do their thing.

  7. Thomas Williams

    Re: comcast


    Welcome to the universe of typical comcast customers. They’re just a classic example of abuse of monoply power.

    I’ve made numerous calls to the state agencies which are supposed to oversee them only to find regulatory capture in full bloom. One state regulator even admitted that comcast doesn’t give a hoot about it’s customers – just the income stream.

  8. Diogenes

    What Yves calls “American service” I would probably call “Potemkin Service”. I have had an extraordinary dose of this from Dell Computer in the last week. It does indeed seem that a great many customer service reps are trained to ask you how you are (why should they give a f—?) and to apologize profusely for your discomfort and long waits, but not to actually do anything to fix your problems or answer your questions. Dell has a unique twist which involves shaky VOIP lines from South Asia which get dropped on average once every 30 minutes (and believe me the hold time needed to get through to someone who can possibly resolve your problem is much longer than that).

    That said, I have one qualified comment in support of Comcast. A few years back (about the time I dropped cable television service in favor of an old fashioned aerial and Netflix) I switched from Comcast’s residential service to Comcast’s business service (which I needed to run a subnet of static WAN IP’s). While my experience with Comcast’s residential service was frustrating at best, I have had a completely different experience with their small business service. When they once cut my Internet connection off at the street (the residential tech assumed I was no longer a customer since I had canceled my cable TV), I got in touch with a real person less than a 100 miles away in the small business off who stayed on top of the problem until they had a man out on the pole within 24 hours to rectify the problem. And I got a month’s credit for my troubles.

    1. Black Smith

      Did Tech Support in 1989. Customer service is hard! Talent and experience really helps, but they refuse to pay for it.

      Also, Managers should be handling calls just like everyone else. No substitute for it.

      1. neo-realist

        Even with Talent and Experience, Customer Service is still hard, hard to the point that even those with talent and experience get burned out in short order from dealing with lots of nasty and stupid people (excepting sane ones with legitimate issues) and managers who don’t back them up when they do their job correctly and who don’t want to get involved unless a client gets angry even though the rep is properly doing his/her job, e.g., isn’t hearing the answers they want to hear; their involvement in many cases would take the form of giving the stupid or nasty client some undeserved monetary rebate followed by taking the rep to task for the client’s dissatisfaction in spite of doing his/her job correctly.

        I know, I’ve got issues.

        1. Black Smith

          Yeah, it’s tough even then. I’ve had many good experiences where customer anger disappears when they feel like you are paying attention and grasp the problem.

          Those scripted empty platitudes are obviously the antithesis of the above.

          1. ambrit

            It helps even more when the CSR has English as his or her first language. Semantic confusion is the enemy of good service. I now do ‘customer service’ related to my plumbing experience, and can tell the difference between my dealings with people in English, my birth tongue (Duh!,) and Spanish, a tongue I learned in school and on the streets of Miami. Not being blessed with the ability to ‘think’ in the ‘foreign’ tongue at will, well, take my chagrined word for it, some of the messups are funny and or enraging in the extreme!

    1. Ray Duray

      Ad Buster,

      September 17 happens to be a Saturday. Did someone pick this date in order to be as ineffective as possible?

      1. ambrit

        Dear Mr Duray;
        Yes indeed, a ‘clever plan’ to coopt and sideline popular anger. Why not make it September 12, the day the US government shut down the skys, except for those ‘private’ jets that whisked the Bin Laden family members away from America back home to Saudi Arabia? The FBI wanted to talk to these people for some reason, and the ‘higher order’ thwarted the FBIs’ sinister plot.

  9. aet

    Judging by that news from Israel, public mass protest against perceived mal- and mis-feasance by one’s own Government is an activity which transcends national and religious differences.

    An example of peoples finding common ground without the aid or participation of their Governments?

    Maybe it’s only by being sufficiently far off that an observer is able to see it – maybe if you’re up closeup the apparent differences become too great, too distracting, to see the common underlying pattern.

  10. apple fanboi

    Macs and PCs have traded positions from what they were in the 80s and 90s. Hardware-wise they are indistinguishable now. They’re even made in the same slave-labor factories in China. Software-wise, MacOS is a set of nice graphics and apps that sits on top a FreeBSD variant while FreeBSD is still available for free for the PC.

    The main difference is the marketing, which along with gadgets and phones is Apple’s only real business. That anyone can still identify themselves as a Mac or PC person despite the fundamental lack of difference in the hardware and software is testament to their superior marketing.

    Be my guest, pay double for Macs if you want to.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You seem to forget that if you are going to be compatible with the rest of the world (as in send documents back and forth) you will wind up using Word and Excel. That means in turn you need to use a Mac or Windows OS, the Free BSD versions don’t port well/at all.

      So people like me pay a Mac premium not to use a sucky Windows OS. And I’ve been able to use my Mac hardware far longer than Windows is usable. I used my last PC for over 8 years, so its cost over its lifetimes was lower than if I had gotten a PC and traded it in sooner.

      1. Antifa

        No, Yves. That’s a myth. Word and Excel are just two more file types these days, not the “only options” they were in 1994.

        Data moves faster now — if you can’t send data in multiple file types, according to the recipients’ needs, why bother? Data has to smoothly feed straight into a database at the other end to be useful in real time — not sit there in Excel waiting for someone from the Help Desk to come translate it.

        How many times I’ve watched supposedly bright traders manually typing something they received in Excel into their pricing model or other programs. If I only had a nickel . . .

        It must be pointed out, besides, that no one in their right mind will open a Word doc sent via the wires — Word carries more viruses and worms around the world than a seagoing Afghani rat.

        Switch to Libre (Open Office), like much of the civilized world has done, and you can send files in whatever format and file extension you want. Even Word and Excel if you insist on kissing Steve Ballmer’s bald area.

        1. Apple Fanboi

          That’s absolutely correct Antifa.

          As for the longevity of the electronics that’s hit or miss whichever brand/architecture you buy. There was a time when brands mattered and people would buy e.g. supermicro or tyan server boards, and there is still a niche market for high reliablity servers dominated by HP and IBM. But right now the consumer stuff is more or less at the same level of quality.

          And while it’s true that some electronics will last indefinitely, most people will upgrade every few years to take advantage of the speed increases and the corresponding productivity increases. I still own a windows laptop from the 90s that’s never had any issues, but with a PII processor the high latency means that I don’t use it very often.

          Apple customer service is better but you pay through the nose for that. With the same money or the money they save, most people find it easier to simply buy a brand new machine every few years.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You exist in a universe without normal, as in not at all tech savvy, clients (and I don’t consider myself to be savvy, just not as unsophisticated as they are). Clients have no tolerance, they want documents delivered in Word and Excel formats they can read. I’ve had too many occasions when theoratically portable documents did not port. And too many people open their documents 15 minutes before an important meeting to take chances. You can’t fix their problem in time, even if you are available. No one wants to deal with a vendor they perceive to be a technology eccentric. The downside is just too great (loss of a client, and I have seen this happen, this is NOT BS) relative to the cost of sucking it in and going the mainstream route. If you let big corporate clients know you are not on a mainstream OS, it is another reason not to use you (there is considerable prejudice against small vendors and if you want to survive, you are better off not feeding it).

          I hate Excel and use an aged Quantrix, which BTW works ONLY on the Mac, it’s the old Improv and it’s fantastic spreadsheet. It does export reliably to Excel, so clients are spared knowing I use it.

          1. jp

            Yves, Quantrix was a great spreadsheet like Improv before it. Used the object-oriented ability to model by swapping “axes” around and sad that Excel won out.

            Like you we came to Mac from NeXT. I ported DHCP to NeXT/OPEN-Step when A T & T brought cable to our area (and earlier than that a more recent version of SendMail, but that is a different story). The cable connection was much better than dial-up but we had relatively few folks on our cable node. Sorry that DSL is not an option for you.

            Good Luck!

      2. Jim Haygood

        ‘So people like me pay a Mac premium not to use a sucky Windows OS.’

        Actually Windows 7 is not too bad … I’d call it the first decent Microsoft OS, after 30 years of failed attempts.

        You can run Windows on a Mac via Parallels or Bootcamp, which makes Macs very versatile.

      3. Kevin Murphy

        My MAC is 8 years old and still usable. I do think I’ll need a new one in the next year or so. I’ll probably buy the cheap mini.

  11. Alex

    Yves, at one point I was a participant in that particular line of work – here are the variables that are in play when accessing Comcast’s internet service;

    1) The piece of fiber coming from their datacenter to the neighborhood node. Typically there are 300-400 customers on the same neighborhood node. At some point the node can be oversubscribed and you’ll see degradation of service.
    2) The coax coming from the node into your residence
    3) The cable modem
    4) A wireless router, if you have one
    5) Your computer’s operating system

    95% of the time, it’s #4 & #5 that customers call in about. These are extremely difficult to troubleshoot because most (but not all) customers are extremely non-technical and have a difficult time informing the CSR what operating system they’re running. The CSR does have the ability to check signal levels coming into the modem, so if you’re getting a bad signal, they can do a ‘truck roll’ to have a Comcast technician come to your residence to check your equipment and signal level. Also, with Comcast’s Xfinity, you’ll require RG6 coax in your residence to get the full speeds.

    I’ve had so many dealings with Comcast that I have the interaction down to a science. I recently moved places in Ann Arbor and had a technician come out to install a Cablecard in my TiVo (this is the hardest installation Comcast does _by far_; signal levels need to be between
    -10dB and +10dB, so they might need to install an amp)

    The tech was a gentlemen in his early 30’s, was professional, on time, and we had a good time talking about football.

    Of course, your mileage my vary. I would recommend pinging Comcast on Twitter –!/comcastcares

    For whatever reason, bringing support issues to them over social media seems to get their attention much quicker. Probably because there is a degree of transparency/larger audience.

    Good luck!

    1. Alex

      …and by operating system I mean not only just identifying the operating system but going into the control panel (Windows) or System Preferences (OS X) and messing around with stuff. Like going under the hood of your car, most of the population is completely lost in the woods once you get into that territory. Forget about opening up a command prompt or terminal window :P

      (Which is also why we’re seeing increased adoption of iOS/Android – people want a product that ‘just works!’…Well, dumb the operating system down, decrease access to system level preferences, etc.)

    2. Yves Smith Post author


      In all honesty, your emphasis on #4 and #5 is insulting and is why ISPs are hated.

      I’ve done traceroutes repeatedly, the problem starts at Comcast’s servers in Brunswick, WELL beyond local routing issues. The latency is over 30 ms on most hops internal to Comcast, for one hop over 70 ms (for non-techies, it should be around 10 ms per hop).

      1. Alex

        Whoa there Yves, my intention was not to insult. And I absolutely stand by that percentage I gave, after having worked in that field for three years. Frankly I think you’re comment was a little over the top.

        Show of hands, who here has worked in CS role? Let me fill you in – it sucks. At a major consumer electronics company whose logo happened to fall on Newton’s head many years ago, I can tell you exactly what we were paid – $18/hr. We were given a script to resolve problems because that particular position did not require an engineering degree. If a problem needed to be escalated, we wrote a ticket to engineering. Period. Physically, there was nothing we can do beyond that point. If you’re having issues on a hop between routes in the core network, that’s engineering. You realize that the CSR can do _nothing_ to resolve that, yes?

        Your point on CSR’s blaming the customer is well taken but I think you seriously underestimate the sheer volume of customers we would talk to. And like I said, when 23 out of 25 calls involve trivial matters and require incredible patience to resolve, as most customers are non-technical, it wears down on you. Most CSR’s don’t last 2 years without having to be rotated out.

        And to the individual who commented about that CSR requiring him to remove his modem from the router and go directly into the modem – you have to realize that is standard practice. Look, everyone is human and makes mistakes. Perhaps your router is configured incorrectly, even if you’re experienced. I’ve certainly screwed around with OpenWRT and messed things up sometimes.

        In the end, you get what you pay for.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          You are treading on thin ice in assuming I don’t know how to configure a router, particularly since that isn’t very difficult. I made VOIP work from Australia to the US in 2002 when Telstra was set up to make that extremely difficult. I won’t bore you with the details, but it took a lot of sys admin type skills.

    3. bob

      Where do they breed/brainwash people like you?

      Use twitter to tell comcast that your internet service isn’t working?

      And this proves that your training as a “blame the customer representative” was very well done-

      “95% of the time, it’s #4 & #5 that customers call in about. These are extremely difficult to troubleshoot because most (but not all) customers are extremely non-technical and have a difficult time informing the CSR what operating system they’re running.”

      The economics are that it is much easier to pay someone like you very little to blame the customer, as opposed to building out the network and solving the “over subscription” problems.

      I had problems with another ISP this week, a traceroute showed it dying in the middle of the ISP’s zone. The CSR wanted to know what a trace route was. They were very sure that my router (issued by them) was at fault, and would not take my call seriously until I had unplugged their router, dragged my ass into the basement and plugged my laptop into the NOC directly.

  12. MarkJ

    In my state, it was Freedomworks that brought us our telecommunication service woes. A few years ago voters were subjected to an all out television commercial propaganda war funded by Dick Armey’s Freedomworks to pass a telecommunications overhaul bill that was pending in the Indiana legislature. The deal was presented to voters that passage of the bill would “enable” Ameritech to upgrade internet service in our state.

    The real reason for the telecom bill was to exclude telephone service operations from IURC (Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission) oversight. Before the bill was passed it was not uncommon for Ameritech to be fined more than $20 million dollars per year by the IURC for their lack of attention to ongoing service issues for telecom customers.

    Before the bill was passed, service for your telecommunication service was marginal at best and after the bill was passed consumer telecom service issues were well pretty much left up to the consumer. Businesses are still able to receive pretty decent service but they are required to pay many times the monthly rate that other consumers must pay.

    Did I mention that internet (telecom) service in America is slower, less available and priced higher than most other developed countries in the world?

  13. JimS

    “Please hold, your call is important to us. Please hold, your call is important to us. Please hold…”

    Also, corporations? Stop telling me you’re sorry. Corporations aren’t people, they can’t feel sorrow or shame.

    I’ll believe in the feelings of corporations when they tell their share owners they’re “sorry” the dividend is so small this year, but they just *had* to pay their workers a decent wage and give their customers a fair deal first.

  14. mondo

    I’ve been in general happy with Verizon FiOS service and support. One quirk is that you can pretty much only reach customer service by Twitter.

  15. john

    re: Ozone
    Smog saves lives according to Koch Industries.

    re: Comcast
    The only thing worse than Comcast is whoever happens to be Comcast’s competitor is in your town. Although, I have to say that an independent contractor from my provider came through my apartment and saved me from running back to Comcast. He figured out that my Wii’s power supply wasn’t grounded and was sending electricity back through my cable wire to my modem via a power strip. Everyone else from the company pretty much sucked.

  16. Cap'n Magic

    For those who are on Comcast, the trick is to release and reacquire your cable modem address first thing in the morning. Even though your address isn’t likely to change, it does wonders if your throughput drops.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As indicated above, the issue is most decidedly not local, I’ve done tons of troublshooting and the problem is well upstream at Comcast. Richard Smith published the traceroute from a few days ago and I continue to get the same bad results.

  17. doom

    So where’s the comparison with Linux types? Maybe they got left out because they refused to answer all the silly questions that try to characterize you in terms of your consumption patterns.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Same here. My reaction to most of the pop-culture/consumerism oriented questions — particularly the ones which assume that you spend most of your time stuffing your pie-hole with junk food — was ‘WTF’ or ‘neither.’

  18. David Sneen

    Service erosion has become the accepted norm.

    But, I can’t believe that it would not be in their economic interest for Comcast to avoid that trend. They do have competitors nipping at their heels, and can lose a chunk of change if even a small percentage of their customers got sick of their game.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Hmmmm. On the scale of:

      meh…stupid…absurd…ridiculous…effing ridiculous…one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard…

      I think we need to find a new top to the scale to properly rate that joke!

      Oh, OK, it wasn’t that bad. I’m sure if you had no idea what you were talking about and had absolutely no concept about (or no scruples about misrepresenting) others’ ideas, you probably even found it funny.

      1. JimS

        The right wing is on a big campaign to falsely link Keynesian counter-cyclic investment with the “broken windows fallacy”. But they’re lying about investment involving the breaking of any windows. What you get with Keynes is employment for glaziers and more new windows, with no old windows destroyed.

        Although the rich do like to sell you replacements for things that didn’t need replacement, the right wing has nothing bad to say about that.

    2. attempter

      Well, it is true that Krugman stopped pretending to oppose the Permanent War once Obama came in. And he does believe in bastard Keynes. So I suppose military Keynes might be an attractive idea to him, even if he feels his cred doesn’t allow him to directly say so.

  19. George Phillies

    Comcast, et al.

    Why don’t we note that they engage in political censorship by refusing to carry Al-Jazeera English in the face of customer requests, because is presenting quality news coverage — rather better than much American competition — of much of the world?

    Every time I turn on my television, I need to phone them to reboot my system.

    1. Ray Duray


      While I feel in general agreement that corporate carriers like Comcast should widen their offerings, I must insist that you pay more attention to what al Jazeera is actually offering.

      When the Shia majority in Bahrain rose up against the tyranny of a tiny Sunni royal family, al Jazeera was silent. When a completely Western imperialist led faux-rebellion became a NATO led “Guernica” in Libya, the Emir of Qatar who happens to own and control the editorial position of al Jazeera declined to criticize the right wing enemies of Muammar Gadaffi’s eccentric form of Arabian socialism.

      My point is that al Jazeera has just as much verisimilitude to being “fair and balanced” as does the Murdoch propaganda machine.

  20. Ven

    Regarding comcast, my personal experience has been that in places where its a monopoly, the service is significantly worst. It’s so bad that I am sure a municipal/county controlled internet service provider or government owned infrastructure (which is available to everyone) will result in much better outcomes.
    This same comcast service in areas where the consumer has a choice (verizon, cox etc) is infinitly better.

    Are we not at a point where Internet/Communications infrastructure need to be treated as a national asset and there are minimal quality of service requirements?

    An anecdotal side note for people getting turned off by “Govt. owned/Govt. provided” –The state were I live in have really good DMV centres. Considering the service they provide for the volume they handle everyday, I would rate it to be many order of times better than ANY corporate owned service I had to deal with in the past few years — Banks/credit cards (BOA,JPM etc), communication (ATT, Comcast), retailers..infact I can’t remember a single instance where corporate provided service resulted in more customer satisfaction(for me) than the DMV.
    Do any of you have similar experiences?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Supporting your thesis, DSL is not an option on the island, it’s too far from the central office switch.

      1. Former Comcastic user

        Don’t know about that. Where I live we have other options (a competing cable company, DSL, satellite) and our experience with Comcast was so frustrating that when Uverse came, we didn’t hesitate a second and switched. We are very technically savvy and have had many an argument with a first line responder Comcast agent. Their standard response is always “It must be your computer” even though not a thing changed on our end.

        Uverse has been fairly reliable – their CSR’s are in general easier to talk with, though there have still been unresolved issues. Comcast, despite all their ads and rhetoric, does NOT make customer support a priority – on any level. If I could only find a broadband provider that does it right, I would sign up for life!

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          Trust me, you have to be within a certain distance of the central office switch for DSL.

          1. ellen Anderson

            You are quite right. I live about 70 miles west of Boston and perhaps 20 miles east of Amherst. I have no cell phone service and no broadband. Verizon does not have a close enough switching station. Comcast works through contracts with towns and their last connection is less than one mile to the east in another town.
            I have a really expensive satellite connection with Hughesnet as do other people in town who are too far from Verizon. When I need service I call the “Indians who live under a waterfall.” (That is what they sound like. Usually they can talk me through problems – well I am a Mac user so I have learned to solve my own computer problems.) I pay extra for one-day business repair service in case the problem can’t be solved, the dish blows off the roof, etc. The tech guy is great. Hughes has really improved customer service over the past couple of years.
            The really huge difference is the limit on band width imposed by Hughes. Someone on this site gave me some really good advice about screening out the video ads that are common on most sites and that really suck up bandwidth.
            My guess is that access is not going to improve for people outside of big cities and that bandwidth will soon be limited for lots of us. Well, at least big brother won’t be able to put a 1984-style control box in MY house.

        2. hello

          to the poster on Hughesnet—

          if you haven’t already, get the Firefox browser and the following Firefox add-ons to help eliminate ad-centric broadband usage: a) adblock, b) noscript, c) flashblock, and d) image block.

  21. Martskers

    “…their accents and vocabularies are more

    Shame on you, Yves, for a not-so-veiled example
    of _____ism (fill in the blank: class, race,
    jingo, xenophobe, etc.). Was this some kind of dog-whistle reference to the language skills of outsourced
    customer service reps?

    OK,OK, now that I purged myself of my PC urge,
    I do, of course, agree with Yves. I’m sick and
    tired of CSR’s whose first language isn’t
    English, not because I think their native
    languages (or they, themselves) are inferior,
    but because I frequently have trouble understanding
    or being understood by, them.

    As for Comcast, I’ve had a snootful of them.
    Ever since they switched to “Xfinity” their
    user interface has sucked, and their DVR
    service has suffered innumerable glitches (the
    most annoying of which is what they euphemistically
    call “DVR Truncation”(cutting off recording
    before the entire programmed event has been
    recorded). I’ve spent endless time on the phone
    with them, and had at least three technicians
    to the house, and the problem persists.

    Sadly, though, the only alternative to Comcast
    is one of the satelite services, and with the
    tree cover around my house, signal strength would
    be an issue. I’m waiting for AT&T’s U-verse to
    become available in my neighborhood. Anyone have
    experience with them?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Don’t give me PC attitude. As a woman, I’ve been on the wrong side of this equation and have little sympathy with people charging bias. I sincerely doubt that any readers were thinking race till you suggested that. So who is the bigot here?

      The fact is that people who are better spoken do have more employment options. You are the one who choses to make what is in most cases an educational or geographic issue (and I mean Southern or obviously not urban US) mean something it doesn’t.

      1. Martskers

        Yves: I was KIDDING, I swear I was. Please don’t
        look upon me with disfavor. You are a goddess
        to me, and if I thought, even for a minute, that
        I had alienated you, in any way, I would be most

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I’m sorry if I came down on you hard.

          I don’t have much tolerance for PC policing, as you can see.

          I believe it is overdone and therefore hurts the groups it is intended to help.

    2. JTFaraday

      I myself still sound a little Jersey City, despite my mother’s leaving before she was even school age. I didn’t even realize it until I want to grad school, where I finally outed myself to myself.

      But, at least I’m not entertaining enough to be on Jersey Shore! :) (I’m also not from Staten Island, LOL).

      Which is not to say I would mind having Snooki’s earning potential:

      “In April 2011, Snooki was paid $32,000 to speak at Rutgers University. Her message included what it’s like being a celebrity, and also what she thinks is important in school, including the advice “Study hard, but party harder”.”

      (Maybe this should have been on the holiday economy thread).

  22. Punch My Ticket


    Do you really Snow Leopard or Lion? Not really. You can have OPENSTEP.

    Especially misleading stat from the Ritholz republished PC vs Mac: “Mac people 21% more likely than PC people to consider themselves computer savvy gearheads.” Only in a world where perception trumps reality 24/7.

      1. doom

        Great, thanks. The hangover I got from Enlightenment put me off interfaces for a while. This one seems less OCD-inducing.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Hmmm…. Mac users are 80% more likely than PC users to be vegetable killers.

      That decides it for me.

    2. neo-realist

      I’m a Mac user who certainly isn’t a computer tech savvy gearhead. Primarily a consumer of content-downloading music, streaming film, downloading books, and reading blogs such as this one:). I like the layman easy to use convenience of the Mac and I’m relatively free (knock on wood) of virus issues.

  23. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Question of the Day.

    Does having more holidays increase or decrease our GDP?

    Having more holidays means fewer working days on the one hand, but more shopping days on the other.

    Two opposing factors.

    If more holidays means a higher GDP, then we should have more of them. But if it means a lower GDP, then we should cancel some of them.

    1. Typing Monkey

      Question of the Day.

      Does having more holidays increase or decrease our GDP?

      Having more holidays means fewer working days on the one hand, but more shopping days on the other.

      Two opposing factors.

      GDP = Gov’t spending + net investment + consumption + (X-M)

      Your argument is that more holidays = more shopping, but that just moves money from savings to consumption. If people are buying things made out of the country (likely) it also pushes up imports, so the effect goes from neutral to negative

      If people work more on “useful” things, then exports increase (presumably) or net investment eventually increases, thereby increasing GDP. If the additional working days are used to simply convince internal people to buy more useless stuff (e.g.: pet rocks), there’s no point. If the working days are spent creating more leveraged instruments that will blow up, that would be a net negative.

      As a side note, since most people are spending every penny they make (and then some), more shopping days would simply shift the pattern of spending, not the actual amount of spending (ie, people will spend the same amount of money over 365 days instead of over 260 days or whatever). And anyway, lots of people shop online, which is normally a 24/7 venture. I personally can’t remember the last time I bought a book in an actual bookstore, fo example.

      1. Typing Monkey

        GDP = Gov’t spending + net investment + consumption + (X-M)

        oops–(X-M) = (exports – imports)

    2. Ray Duray

      Dear Chuck Cut,

      You inquire about the GDP. Let me assure you, there’s more to it than holiday shopping versus grinding out MOABs (Mother of all Bombs, a popular U.S. foreign exchange offering).

      Consider this. Every time someone in America is diagnosed with advanced cancer, the GDP is guaranteed to go up by at least $250,000. This is a very significant contribution that any individual American can make to the welfare of economists who are desperate for good ratings via a significantly growing economy.

      Or, consider Hurricane Irene. While the insurance industry may suffer a $3 Billion haircut on this Divine Wind, the general public may suffer losses up to about $10 Billion. But those sunk (no pun intended) costs need to be balanced against the billions that will be spent on replacement carpeting, replacement basements, replacement bridges, SUVs, scenic rest stops and all the rest.

      My point is, of course, that in this age of disaster capitalism, the greater our losses the greater our gains!

      Lovingly signed, your friend, Yossarian

      PS: Make Love Not War is all wrong. War is love. It’s the goose that lays the Golden GDP! Thank God Gadaffi lives. He’s another one of our profit centers. We love you, Muammar! Don’t die, we need the profits.

    3. JimS

      GDP isn’t everything. A holiday is a worker’s time all free for him or herself. GDP is mostly made by workers, for the benefit of a small minority of property owners. So holidays decrease the GDP, but we should have more of them, because they’re redistributive.

  24. Pearl

    I have a question/suspicion about Comcast, and was wondering if anyone had any first-hand knowledge of the process.

    It is my understanding that utility companies’ revenue streams are securitized. Is that, indeed, true?

    If it is–I am wondering if it is easier to securitize (or more profitable to securitize) payments that are made via “auto draft,” as opposed to “online bill pay.” (“Auto draft” is when the utility company is in control of how much and when the payment is drafted, “online bill pay” is when the customer is in control of how much and when the payment is drafted.)

    The reason I ask is because Comcast has used some very heavy-handed tactics to “encourage” us into their “auto draft” payment plan.

    I have always refused auto draft–for the obvious reasons–but I am blown away by how hard Comcast pushes their auto draft plan. (Like waiving a $200 re-connect fee IF we agreed to sign up for their auto draft plan.) They seem to want it TOO much.

    After all, if we paid our bill late–Comcast makes money on late fees. So, this is why I wonder if there is even MORE money to be made via auto draft. And securitization is the only answer I can come up with.

    (Cliff Note version: are auto-drafted revenue streams worth more as securities than online bill payment revenue streams?)

    Anyone know?

  25. solo

    Yves’ correct observation on what she calls “American service”–“when the provider realizes its customers have few options and it chooses to engage in service theater, as opposed to the real thing”–would be better described as “oligopolistic service”; the key consideration being, “customers have few options” (precisely oligopoly). To this should be added the acculturation involved: The younger generation, reared on such “service,” will not have any experience (hence memory) of the better service that Yves remembers from a generation or so ago.
    This situation is analogous to that in political discourse: The TV generations–the generations whose public discourse was overwhelmed by Public Relations–increasingly have no exposure to adult conversations on topics of civic interest. (Plus at home they are told not to discuss “politics and religion,” lest bigotry take umbrage.) It has come to the point that today’s twenty-somethings literally do not know what they are missing by way of rational discourse; which is manifested when they are compelled to speak, where stereotypical thinking and mass-marketed cliches predominate. –This you could indeed call “American service,” since the USA was the first in history to turn such confusion (Public Relations) into a major industry “servicing” not only the illusions of Consumerism but of Democracy itself. Milestones in this chronicle include the media’s canonization of Ronald “the Actor” Reagan–as inept a liar as any adult citizen could encounter–as the “Teflon president” (how’s that for “product placement”?) by virtue of his status as “the great communicator.” The latest nadir is Barack Obama’s reputation as a “great orator”; who reads his focus-group tested sales pitch from a teleprompter and who is otherwise obviously ill-spoken and uninformed. (The man’s pronunciation is atrocious, his diction is that of a semi-literate, and the rhythm of his speech is indicative of a disorganized and calculating mind.)

  26. Roger Bigod

    Over the years Apple customer service has been superb. I haven’t had to call them in a couple of years, but on a couple of occasions they went far out of the way to take the problem seriously. I’ve gotten reps in India, but they were trained up to Apple standards.

    Specifically, I’ve never had the “Gotcha” experience, where the rep trudges through a few tests and checks, then throws up their hands and announces that it isn’t the fault of any Apple product. Have a good day. Click. I suspect there’s a set of rules tracing back to control freak Jobs.

    Fascism is deplorable, except when my trains need to run on time.

    1. Apple Fanboi

      It’s not facism; you are paying more for decent service. In this case, you are compensating them very well indeed!

  27. Roger Bigod

    The NYT magazine has a piece by Chait scolding liberals for ingratitude toward our hard-working CIC. I an certainly not going to soil Yves’ pristine pages with a link. But I did notice that someone had posted:

    “He made a backroom deal to kill the public option, then for months pretended in public that he supported it. How is this different from an athlete who agrees in private to throw a game, then appears at a pep rally to encourage the cheers of the crowd?

    Character is fate.”

  28. Hugh

    The ozone story is a great example of how the Obama Administration really works. They got the health and environmental groups suing the EPA to suspend their lawsuits with the promise that they would fix the problem. Then they turned around and told the polluters not to worry they could continue polluting not at the new 2008 Bush levels but the even older 1997 ones. They gave the health and enviro groups a deadline 18 months out, August 2010. These groups should have smelled a rat even then. Rules making is a lengthy process but all the work had been done on the rule the Bush Administration should have come up with in 2008, not the one they actually forced through. Others can weigh in but if the EPA had been interested in expediting this, it could have issued a final rule in a year. As it was the Obama Administration missed even its lackadaisical deadline by 5 months. Then it said it needed to review all the data all over again. When that was done, it proposed exactly the same rule that everyone knew should have been the rule back in 2008. And then 30 months after this whole charade began, they pulled the whole process, using the completely false argument that another review would need to be done in 2013 anyway. This simply ignores the fact that if Obama had finalized a rule this year, the next review would not occur until 2016.

    The whole rationale for tougher ozone standards was the realization that ozone kills people. Team Obama would rather kill ordinary Americans that inconvenience the profits of polluters. It will probably be 2016 before another rule can be put in place (that is unless you believe it will get spiked again). Meanwhile polluters are free to pollute at the older 1997 levels, levels which even the Bush Administration thought were too high.

    Stringing along its supporters, lying to them, betraying them, and doing the bidding of the corporations, that is the essence of Obama, the Obama Administration, and the Democratic party.

    1. Birch

      This isn’t about killing ordinary Americans, it’s about killing urban Americans, ordinary or otherwise.

      I guess the top elites spend most of their time on great estates in the country, but I think it’s telling that when they fly their helicoptors in to town the thought ‘my god that brown cloud is ghastly’ is outweighed by concern for corporate freedom.

      Maybe they truely do think it’s the smell of prosperity.

      1. Michael Murphy

        Wrong. Ozone is created in urban areas in the daytime, but when the sun goes down it is destroyed by tailpipe emissions in the absence of sunlight. But ozone that drifts to rural areas during the day sticks during the night, because there is not enough traffic to clear it.

        Example: Ozone from San Francisco and Sacramento drifts east to Grass Valley in Nevada County, and is trapped by the Sierra Foothills. Grass Valley runs very high ozone levels from about 4PM to 4AM, and has a high incidence of childhood asthma and respiratory illness. Damn near killed me in the three years I lived there, before I figured it out and moved.

        1. Birch

          So, you’re suggesting that the smog blows into the ritsy burbs? I figure this is the case, but it makes absolutely no sence. How can you live and die in smog that you choose to create because you make money off of it?

          I can’t live within a couple hundred miles of a big urban centre because of my asthma and chemical sensitivities. To me, health and the ability to breathe and not itch is worth more than any money ever could be. I guess that’s why I’m not super wealthy.

  29. Kathy

    Look at your phone bill, your cable bill, or any “utility” bill and when you look at all the taxes, you’ll realize our communities have no incentive to return to the rate of return regulation which worked for decades in this country. Huge taxes are earned on rates which increase well ahead of service upgrades. When cable first built out a lot of deals were cut. That is past. As I get flyers, coupons and envelopes every week urging me to switch service and enjoy a great rate for 3 or 6 months and think of all the money spent on marketing, I wonder what better use could there be? Faster service, more reliable service? Silly to hope for a change.

  30. Westcoastliberal

    Yves I sympathize with you on the topic of customer service. I recently switched from TWC to Verizon FIOS and in the midst of switching over completely lost my ‘ol copper wire” phone service for a period of THREE DAYS!
    I wound up going through 15 customer service reps and 2 supervisors. I found out their “chat” personnel are offshore somewhere and respond to your questions using pre-canned paragraphs that bear no resemblance to the questions asked.
    Now, I’m having a problem getting their remotes to work with the DVR. The DVR picks up interference with CFL lights. Go figure.
    You’re absolutely right when you say customer service in the US is a con.

    1. bob


      Verizon tried this with me. The easiest way to “deter” them is to tell them that you have an infirmed person living in the house.

      They are literally pulling the copper from the house and relaying fiber. This puts the onus on you and your power company to supply the electricity needed to make a phone call.

      With copper lines, they are responsible for the electricity, and the backup power if it goes out.

      Way back in the day, the government required that phone companies build networks that were capable of handling all of the customers that they had.

      Change over to VoIP (fios telephone) and they don’t have any regulations at all to deal with.

      1. gmanedit

        I still have a copper landline (Verizon), though I hear anecdotes that Verizon has become increasingly reluctant to repair copper wiring when people have problems. My understanding is that telephone service predates the electrical grid, hence the phone-company backup batteries that keep landlines working when the electric goes out.

  31. Capo Regime


    You are on to something very profound. “Service theatre”. Jogged my feeble brain but it appears that many things in the U.S. are “theatre” or as a poster smartly put it”Potemkin” service. We have justice theatre, political theatre, potemkin economic policy, education theatre. Its all rather odd but when you think about it, more and more portions of daily life are all about appearances. Heck as a government contractor much of my work is utter fantasy and only in compliance with a contract that invariably no longer reflects reality. My colleagues further up the food chain at BC or McKenzie engage (more artfully I would argue, Ivy leaguers rather than U of MD, Corporate Strategy rather than Govt Agency Processes and staff planning) in the same pretend. No doubt there is some bright author or philosopher on to the idea of a “pretend” society. Bet the internet aids and abbets as do electronic gadgets…….By the way you notice the increasing prolifieration of passwords for everything, bet it presages more web vulnerability…

    1. Typing Monkey

      Its all rather odd but when you think about it, more and more portions of daily life are all about appearances. Heck as a government contractor much of my work is utter fantasy and only in compliance with a contract that invariably no longer reflects reality.

      Interesting. The company I work at engages in that type of BS to some extent at the political/higher management levels, but is for the most part very forgiving about screwing up just about anything other than customer service/supply reliability.

      If I do something stupid and cost my company a few million dollars in the process, they’ll be annoyed and grumble, but that’s about it. If I save the company money at the expense of reliability/service issues, I’d be in pretty deep $h!t.

      Maybe this explains my relatively high job satisfaction…

  32. Kim Kaufman

    On Obama’s jobs speech… watch for “infrastructure bank.” I think this bogus plan is going to be run through the banks and create another bubble opportunity. I’ve heard it explained by someone far more knowledgeable than I and, unfortunately, can’t re-explain it here. However, I don’t think this “infrastructure bank” is going to provide jobs. Hiring people would provide jobs.

  33. fallon

    Comcast internet down at our place here in Stumptown/Portlandia & customer service exactly as Yves described but much woorse. If Qwest (now becoming Century Link) was actually better (& as a former customer I can say NOT) we’d switch. Comcast is a monopoly & can do whatever it wants especially when you call & ask WTF! Well at least I have 3G service on my smarty pants phone which doesn’t suck that much…NOT!

  34. evodevo

    Sounds a lot like DSL in the country. Our landline and DSL go out every time it rains – or in some cases, before the rain even gets here. We fight with AT&T about it for 30 years. With the automated “service” all we get at the end of the endless menu is “no problem in your line, must be in your house, that will be $90 for a house service call”. Last time I looked it was not raining in my house.

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