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Hello AT&T – Structural Silo Problem on Your Billing Systems

For the second time in two months, I’ve had to spend time with an AT&T customer service representative. It’s still not sorted out. You have structural issues. This time, I did it all in text. Observe, exhibit A (slightly altered for privacy):

Thank you for choosing AT&T. A representative will be with you shortly.
You are now chatting with S.
S: Hello my name is S. Thank you for allowing me to be your specialist today. How may I assist you?
Heidi: Hey – I had a long conversation with a rep last month on the overcharges – it was supposed to have been adjusted to $200-something, but you guys auto-charged me 426.10.
S: I apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced.
S: I apologize for any inconvenience you have experienced regarding billing concern. You have reached the right person. I can help you with that!
S: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.
Heidi: Was my conversation documented? It took a while to straighten out,.
S: I will check your notes.
Heidi: I’m supposed to be charged something like 240 a month. The current bill looks over as well, but I can’t believe after all that there was an autopay of $426 last month.
S: I am checking it.
Heidi: ok
S: Please allow me a moment, while I access your account.
S: Heidi, as I can see that your U-verse bill is correct. That is $64 plus taxes.
Heidi: Previous Balance $493.78Payment – 08/10 $426.10CRAdjustments $67.68CRBalance $0.00New Charges $285.92Amount to be Debited $285.92
Heidi: 426.10 – charged last month
Heidi: 285.92 charged this month
S: Heide, regarding the adjustment, I can help you to reach our wireless department.
S: Your inquiry requires contact with a specialist who handles billing and payment requests for wireless accounts. I apologize that I do not have access to your records to assist you in my office. Allow me a moment to connect you to a representative who will be able to assist you. In that event that you may be disconnected, please contact a representative at 1-800-xxxxxxxx or visit the wireless website at: http://www.att.com/wireless
Heidi: I am on a share plan – why is one phone costing a lot more than the other two?
Please wait while I transfer you to an operator at AT&T Wireless Customer Care.
Welcome! You are now chatting with ‘V’.
Heidi: Wow, ok. So can you read the transcript so far?
V: Heeeeey there Heidi , good evening! I will be happy to take a look at this .
V: I am going to take up the notes
Heidi: I went through this last month, and was quoted a figure of 200 something after adjustment, but my account went autopay for over 400 – and this month, it’s 285, with one phone being charged a lot more than the other two. I do not have international, and although there is no charge here, it’s on there twice for some reason. Lots of problems here and I am quite unhappy.
Heidi: I have had other things now tied up because this money was taken, despite my being told it would not.
V: I apologize for the inconvenience .
V: Let me pull up your account so we can get this taken care of.
Heidi: Last month they said it was because the changes to my account were on some kind of cusp date and it messed everything up. I thought that my time spent last month on this was going to be my last major issue.
V: Can you provide me your 10 digit phone number?
Heidi: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Heidi: I have a share plan – two other lines belong to my husband and son.
V: Thank you
Heidi: For some reason, mine is more expensive
V: Hey Heidi lets try to get one thing handled at a time I can assure you we will get this handled today.
Heidi: ok. I’ll give you a chance to read and examine for yourself then. :-)
V: Thank you
V: I am in now reviewing the bill
Heidi: Look at this month, and last month.
V: Already ahead of you
Heidi: ok
V: Let me break down some things
V: One line can be any line really has to be charged for the plan plus the price of the phone . In your case it was your husband who was charged for the plan and his line and you were only charged for the price of the line.
Heidi: No – I am charged for everything.
V: Okay so your husband is the one who is charged for the line correct?
Heidi: And it’s my phone line that is more expensive, not his.
Heidi: No – I pay the bill. No one else pays the bill. We recently created a new number, along with one for my son, to take advantage of the 99 cent phones and the share plan.
Heidi: I have always been a customer.
Heidi: My husband switched companies to you.
V: Okay Heidi just a moment
Heidi: He shouldn’t be charged anything at all.
Heidi: One bill, three lines
Heidi: I pay
V: I understand completely
Heidi: It’s supposed to be about 230-240 a month total for the three lines and home wireless, provided that we do not go over the data plan, which we have not.
V: I definitely see that. I do see you are on the wrong plan as well
V: I see you can save about 20.00 by just switching to the 6gb plan.
Heidi: I am supposed to be on a share plan, allowing for 10gb
V: Correct
Heidi: The bill last month is wrong. At the end of my conservation, I was quoted a figure of 240 or so, then I was still charged 426.
Heidi: The woman I spoke to said she fixed everything. Clearly she did not. I gave her a good customer service survey too.
Heidi: Perhaps you have documentation of that conversation.
V: Heidi.
V: Please I am already looking at these notes please allow me a second to catch up lol I do understand how this could be a little frustrating . I am a customer too and promises are all you have as a customer
V: I can assure you I will get to the bottom of this for us today.
V: I am reading the notes now
V: I have reviewed your plan and your bill but I need you to bear with me.
Heidi: This is infuriating after having already spent time on this.
V: I need you to give me time out the kindness of your heart to get this handled for you
V: I understand completely!
V: I do see that you were credited from your wireless to your landline
V: I see that credit for 429.29
Heidi: 8/10 had a payment of 426.10
Heidi: That’s what I’m questioning first, since that was not the figure by a long shot.
Heidi: And given these continuing issues, I would like to cancel autopay.
V: No worries I can walk you through this
Heidi: I’ll need to vet the charges before the company takes the cash.
V: I understand
V: What page are you on ?
Heidi: pdf of this month’s bill for 285.92, showing a payment last month of 426.10
Heidi: and adjustment credit for only 67.68
V: Okay can you hover over Billing and usage at the top of the page?
Heidi: So I’m asking that the credit adjustment they said they already did by applied to my account. By my calculation, you owe me close to 200.
Heidi: And this month’s bill is also too high, just not by as much.
V: You were also credited 221.43 at 11:19 on 08/06
V: This was added to your landline as well.
Heidi: I don’t have a landline
V: You do have uverse correct?
Heidi: My landline was XXX-XXX-XXXX – it was cancelled a couple of months ago. My Uverse cable was also cancelled. I only have home wireless and three phones.
Heidi: cell phones
V: Okay yes combined bill correct?
Heidi: right
V: Quick question: Have you spoke to uverse yet?
Heidi: yes – they transferred me to you
Heidi: $51.00 Total U-verse Internet Charges$51.00 Total U-verse Charges $64.49
V: Okay they have nothing on file about these credits?
Heidi: No idea, they said they didn’t have access to my record.
V: I do see these credits I am not sure why they do not but I am getting my team on it right now
Heidi: may 14 – 390, june 14-124, july 14 494, aug 14 286
V: Okay just a moment
V: While my team takes a look at this would you like to cancel your auto pay?
Heidi: yes
V: Do you see My att in the orange bar up top?
Heidi: yes
V: Hover over that and then hover over Billing and Usage
Heidi: ok
V: Select Manage Autopay
Heidi: That is not an option
Heidi: Billing/Payments/Usage, none of which with that option,.
Heidi: Bill Details, Paperless Billing, Bill History, Bill Reports / Arrange Late Payment, Payment History / Usage since last bill, usage reports
V: Okay go ahead to the overview page
Heidi: Ok – I got it. Cancelled Sept 9 payment, discontinued autopay.
V: Awesome!!!
V: Woot woot!
Heidi: Now we just have to figure out what the correct amount is.
V: Already ahead of please allow them a few more moments . We are investigating now
Heidi: ok
V: Thank you
V: So we have came to the conclusion that you were conversing with uverse you need to be conversing with combined billing. Your combined bill has its on ban that is why no one can see your adjustments .
Heidi: Why wouldn’t my combined bill have been updated with the adjustments to my… um… bill?
Heidi: Otherwise, what is the point of the combined bill?
V: This is something that you need to speak with our specialist about.
V: I can provide you with the number or I can conference you in .
V: Which ever works.
Heidi: Conference me in please – we need everybody on the same page. This seems to be a service gap on your side.
Heidi: My job is business process improvement in high-tech… lol
V: Okay just a moment
Heidi: Am I going to have to go through this whole story again?
V: No you can give them a brief summary of what is going on basically saying I want to see where these credits are
Heidi: It seems like the person who did the credits last month ought to be on the line for accountability to fix it.
V: I wish it was that simple.
Heidi: If it was put onto a bill that never actually credited me and isn’t on my combined bill.
Heidi: In some kind of weird silo situation.
V: Okay just a moment while I get this handled .
Heidi: Then – why am I the one having to straighten out your process?
Heidi: For the second time in two months.
V: I am giving them a call now please hold a moment
Heidi: ok
V: Thank you
Heidi: I can take direction… I’m just going to give you all that valuable customer feedback. lol
Heidi: And recommend escalating this conversation to see where these gaps can be remediated, and to ensure visibility for better decision-making at a higher level.
Heidi: This isn’t the sort of thing that should be happening to loyal customers.
V: You are totally correct
Heidi: I give my permission for the text to be escalated and communicated up any management chain you like. :-)
V: Thank you
V: :)
Heidi: Perhaps that could save hours on both sides.
Heidi: It’s really a cost-savings, efficiency measure as well as a customer satisfaction and loyalty issue. Might even affect NPS score.
Heidi: Some leader may wish to ride that wagon. One would hope so.
V: I understand
Heidi: I feel badly that you have to listen to this sort of thing and figure out how to fix it for the customer when the problem is clearly a structural one. You’re doing fine.
V: Thank you so much ! I am calling and making sure we get this handled but it seems that every department is closed right now >_<
Heidi: of course! lol
Heidi: And you get that most people can't call during regular business hours
V: Of course it kind of but you know what I wont give up!
Heidi: Thank you.
V: No probs
Heidi: We're just people. We just have to try to navigate as best we can given whatever constraints there are.
V: You are so right!
V: I do see that every department you can go to is closed :(
V: The best thing I can do is give you the number so you can give them a call tomorrow.
V: Do you work during business hours?
Heidi: Right. So... let me ask you this. Is there a way to continue the issue to tomorrow, saving the notes you have taken or whatever action is on your list so that I don't feel like this was a complete waste of my time?
V: Definitley
Heidi: Yes - I do. I could probably call on my lunch, but in my experience it takes longer than an hour.
V: definitely
V: I have already been writing these notes as we went
Heidi: And whoever I'm to speak with tomorrow - will they have ACCESS to these notes? lol
V: Correct
Heidi: Well, thank goodness for small favors. Have you written a summary with a recommendation as a big headline at the top?
Heidi: (laughing helplessly)
V: Lol yes I actually did it in caps so they can see it
Heidi: Too funny, but you know how that works
V: Yes I sure do
V: lol
Heidi: Ok then, who is the proper person for me to call tomorrow, and what is the best thing to say to efficiently propel them into action?
V: Just tell them to check out the notes. Here is the number XXX-XXX-XXXX
Heidi: And they will know what I mean by "the notes" right?
V: Yes
Heidi: Ok, then. Thank you V for your efforts on my behalf. You do the company proud.
V: Thank you so much !
V: Heidi, you have been a absolute pleasure to help today! On behalf of myself & your AT&T family we hope you have a amazing day. We are always here for you:)
Heidi: I hope you have a great night - and thank you.

Truth Be Told – in Atlanta Oct 29th

Gregorio Smith has announced the Atlanta premiere of his controversial documentary film about growing up a Jehovah’s Witness, TRUTH BE TOLD. Due to the recent publicity of several child sex abuse cases against the religion, this film exploring the oppressive hold the Watchtower Society has on its members is particularly timely. TRUTH BE TOLD will be screened exclusively on Tuesday October 29, 2013 at AMC Phipps Plaza 14. Get your tickets now!

TRUTH BE TOLD – a new feature-length documentary – lifts the veil on the seemingly benign Jehovah’s Witnesses religion to expose a profit-driven, isolationist culture characterized by fear, totalitarian corporate leadership, intellectual & spiritual intimidation, suspension of critical thinking, failed prophecies, doctrinal inconsistency and improper handling of physical and sexual abuse allegations within the church.

See former Jehovah’s Witnesses candidly discuss growing up inside the religion. They reveal experiences including the effects of proselytizing door-to-door, shunning non-observant family and friends, suffering the discouragement of pursuing dreams like gaining a higher education, missing other societal holidays and customs. Ultimately the film reveals why Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest retention rate of any religion with only 37% of those raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses continuing their affiliation with the religion.

This exposé – the title of which refers to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ perception that their beliefs are ‘the truth’ – is the first feature-film directed by Gregorio Smith.

Trailers, excerpts, production stills and other content are available on the official TRUTH BE TOLD website: www.hereliesthetruth.com
Direct link to trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4nqYtzDaGE
TRUTH BE TOLD on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hereliesthetruth
On Twitter: @TRUTHBETOLDDOC
About the Filmmaker
Gregorio Smith is an independent filmmaker and writer. His work has been featured in the Staten Island Film Festival, Anthology Film Archive, Dallas Video and Film Festival, Denver Underground Film Festival, Bowery Poetry Club and other forums. His work has also been covered by The New York Times, Boston Globe and other media outlets. He is a graduate of Baruch College and a member of the International Documentary Association.
Mr. Smith was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness. He describes TRUTH BE TOLD as ‘immersive, informational, expository and controversial …an honest glimpse into the culture of growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion.” TRUTH BE TOLD is the director’s sixth film and first feature.

See details and trailer here (http://www.tugg.com/events/5867).

Truth Be Told

Please, J.K. Rowling, More Stories

The current Harry Potter moviefest that I’m enjoying with my son has inspired me to make a request of J.K. Rowling. I love these stores – we’ve read all the books multiple times – because they give me hope. It’s just that simple. They give me hope.

So, I navigated over to her website at http://www.jkrowling.com and – sure, why not? – clicked on the contact link.

The Blair Partnership represents J.K. Rowling internationally and across all media. Please direct any queries to info@theblairpartnership.com and a member of the team will be in touch directly. J.K. Rowling very rarely does interviews or public speaking, and when she does they are usually around a new project or charitable commitment. Please note that she does not undertake fee-paying public speaking engagements. Because of the huge volume of requests coming in, J.K. Rowling also regrets she is unable to…

Yada yada yada. Well, ok, fair enough. I sent the following email, but just in case there isn’t any analysis or reporting of the communications, I’m also posting it here. You never know, maybe they do some version of web analytics, social media harvest, or even a Net Promoter Score (put me in the “I would definitively recommend” bucket).

To Whom it May Concern:

I am aware that the illustrious J.K. Rowling could not possibly respond to the billions of her readers, but I am hoping that you maintain some sort of thematic statistics for her.

If so, may I add to the numbers of those who pray that she considers creating more stories that work at multiple levels for children and adults alike? I pray for very few things.

There are so very few such nourishing narratives that do (or can) burst into our mainstream cultures as they exist today. In the Potter books (and films – one must include the films) human complexity is better grasped in these contexts that show how important existential choices are (whether or not someone has quite enough information, whether or not situations are fair, whether or not you think anything you do will make a difference to yourself or anyone else). The stories allow us to feel (with the very deepest of empathy and intuition) compassion and pity and courage and friendship and trust and even alienation. That they do so with a marvelous reinvention of all the long-standing traditions of literature, fairy tale, and even institutional satire gives incredible depth to the world she crafted and creates the speculative but nuanced expansion of imagination that used to be the basis of all liberal education.

In short, the Potter stories give me hope during what I consider to be rather dark times.

My son Ben (now 12) has grown up with the Potter story. It has given us so many opportunities to discuss life’s issues and mysteries in a common language. I can tell you – definitively – that navigating the terrain of the characters and story have made a significant difference to his own evolving character and intellectual/creative/spiritual development. He understands being true to himself, and the meaning of friendship, and the gifts of love, awareness, grace, support. He has internal reference points for things that are difficult to articulate, but can be recognized. And he doesn’t simplify into simple dualities and sound bites. He learns to ask better questions. Thank you for this gift to my son, and to me, and to all the others, everywhere.

I love the woman of her personal history and of her effects in the world, but please – more stories. The world so desperately needs them.

Pre-Election Roundup

Some various items from the last few weeks…

World Poll: Strongly Favors Barack Obama – Only Pakistan’s respondents said they would prefer to see Mitt Romney win November’s election.

THE CHOICE: The New Yorker’s Endorsement of Barack Obama

Politifact Truth-o-Meter

How U.S. Stimulus Bested U.K. Austerity

Sorry, U.S. Recoveries Really Aren’t Different

Team Romney still fighting arithmetic

The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control

Bork? Bolton? 9 Romney Advisers You Need to Know About

‘Moderate Mitt': Neocon Trojan Horse

Under Romney’s Plan, US Auto Makers Would Have Died

Romney & Company Shipped Every Single Delphi UAW Job to China

Mormon Mitt in Bed with Big Tobacco

Inside Bain’s Chinese Sensata Factories, Where Workers Put in 12-Hour Days for $.99-$1.35 an Hour

Employees of Romney Family’s Secret Bank Tied to Fraud, Money Laundering and Drug Cartels

Romney Lied in Court And Then Screwed Over His Friend’s Wife During Nasty Divorce With Staples Founder

Romney Supports Welfare – For Corporations

GOP Platform Calls for Nuking What’s Left of McCain-Feingold Law

Romney Cites Study Based On Repealing Almost All Middle Class Tax Breaks To Bolster His Tax Plan

Gender Inequality Map – Women in Utah have it the worst. There, the average working woman makes 55 cents for every dollar the average working man makes.

Marco Rubio Helps Demonstrate that the GOP Simply Opposes Paying Women Fairly

GOP Rep. Tells Employers To Intimidate Their Workers Into Voting For Romney

Faith Leaders Condemn GOP Senate Candidate’s Statement That Rape Pregnancies Are A ‘Gift From God’

Court Requires Disabled Rape Victim To Prove She Resisted

Pennsylvania Bill Would Reduce Welfare Benefits For Women Who Cannot Prove They Were Raped

GOP Congressman Says Abortion Is Never Necessary To Save A Woman’s Life

“LOVE PATRIARCHALISM”—ITS UNDERSIDE IS HATE by Carol P. Christ

Anti-Choicers Show Their True Colors

Did the Climate Deniers Win?

Palin, Trump continue to lead right-wing hate party against Obama

With ‘Dreams From My Real Father,’ Have Obama Haters Hit Rock Bottom?

Ayn Rand Would Be Proud: Soup Kitchen in Paul Ryan’s Photo Op Loses Funds, Gets Attacked By Conservative Trolls

Maryland pastor tells anti-gay group: LGBT people are ‘worthy of death’

Missouri Pastor Goes Viral on Gawker: Separation of Church and Hate

Paul Broun: Evolution, Big Bang ‘Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell’ – Broun is a high-ranking member of the House Science Committee, of which Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is also a member.

Tea Party Voter Suppression Group Under Investigation

Clear Channel takes down voter fraud billboards – The anonymous sponsor of the ads is still unknown. Clear Channel Outdoor is affiliated with Clear Channel Communications, which is majority-owned by private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

FBI Investigating Hoax Letters to Voters in Florida

Ohio county sends voters wrong election date, directions to polls

Third instance of Republican voter registration dumping found in Virginia

Virginia AG won’t investigate GOP worker who dumped voter registration forms

Department of Justice: Investigate Tagg Romney owning voting machine in Ohio

Georgia Charter Schools, Amendment 1 (2012) – Vote No!

Georgia Multi-Year Rental Agreements, Amendment 2 (2012) – Vote No!

These aren’t REAL reasons to dislike Mitt Romney? Part I

Another day, another whisper campaign. I received this somewhat sarcastic email “Top Ten Reasons to Dislike Mitt Romney” from one of the usual places. To the person who sent this to me: I forgive you for trying to provoke me with things like this. You’ve given me the gift of a blog post topic.

The idea of the piece is to present a rebuttal to people who might not think Mitt Romney is all that likeable (including some who might – gasp – support Barack Obama!). It suggests that the “media” is misleading you about his “likability.” Keep that in mind as you judge the merits of the argument for yourself. Check in with your own intuition too – do you find him likable?

It is both amusing and disheartening to read some of the comments from some people who don’t even grasp the sarcastic undercurrent. “What’s wrong with having no scandals? Why does having sons with no prison record make him unlikable?” Seriously?

Here’s my take on what is, at least, an opinion piece intended to sway you.  I’ve spared you the huge red fugly font of the email.

 

A lot is being said in the media about Mitt Romney not being “likable” or that he doesn’t “relate well” to people. Frankly, we struggled to understand why. So after much research, we have come up with a Top Ten List to explain this “unlikablility.”

We”? Who is this “we”? Research?

Top Ten Reasons To Dislike Mitt Romney:

1. Handsome with gracious, statesmanlike aura. Looks like every central casting’s #1 choice for Commander-in-Chief.

The alignment of the presidential role with a particular appearance is interesting. Whatever do you mean? Does the Commander-in-Chief have to be real white and male, awkward and snobby? He has the commanding presence of a Gerald Ford and the grace of a John Kerry, or is it the other way around? As long as he doesn’t speak to people, I guess you could argue that he looks the part that some would sterotype as a “central casting” choice for President, if you like that combed-back Vitalis look.

But cast your mind back, and compare/contrast with some that were actually cast as President:

2. Been married to ONE woman his entire life, and has been faithful to her, including through her bouts with breast cancer and MS.

He was married when still a child, his entire life? Only kidding.

Each man should be assessed for his own decisions and actions, and Mitt seems to have been faithful to and supportive of Ann. The repercussions would be severe for him if he weren’t, especially as a Bishop within a very anti-divorce subculture that views marriage itself as well as divorce in a very unusual way.

When talking of a Mormon, you might avoid putting ONE in all caps like that. Better not to call attention to the fact that polygamy used to be a big part of the culture, and in some scions of that group, still is. To be fair, both Romney and Obama have a family branch involving polygamy. Mitt’s own father even had his own “birther” controversy.

While it’s all good that the Romney marriage has appeared to be stable, the Republicans, even most of the so-called “religious right,” seemed to have little problem supporting men like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich while denouncing a sitting President who has been faithful and loving to his wife and family.

So it’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it?

3. No scandals or skeletons in his closet. (How boring is that?)

Really? You’re not counting his sexy fugitive great-grandfather, tracked by federal marshals as he tried to plant polygamy throughout the Southwest? Whatever you want to say about that, it’s not boring. Can’t talk at all about the story of Mitt’s father, a Mexican-born child of American citizens who became Governor of Michigan and was able to run for the Republican nomination for President in 1968 despite his support for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War? He seems interesting.

No? Just Bishop Willard Mitt, named for hotel magnate J. Willard Marriot, huh? Well, if you insist.

Here’s a few, or just look at his record as Governor of Massachusetts and draw your own conclusions. You could look at where he claimed residency, for example.

4. Can’t speak in a fake, southern,”black preacher voice” when necessary.

Wow – that took a turn.

Maybe you’re underestimating Mitt – has he tried? He has the background as a Bishop, so he’s the actual preacher. I for one would love to see footage of some of his sermons.

What exactly is being implied here against Barack Obama? When exactly has that occurred, and why would the writer think it be “necessary”? What is being emphasized, and what reaction is intended from the reader?

5. Highly intelligent. Graduated cum laude from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School …and by the way, his academic records are NOT sealed.

Sure, Mitt is a smart guy. So is Obama. I think we’re (at least temporarily) past an attraction for dim presidential candidates, right? Um, right? Right?

No other presidential candidate but Barack Obama has ever been asked to prove fitness to serve by releasing academic records – or a birth certificate, for that matter. Along with the usual slurs about not being a “real” American – questioning his religion and his patriotism – this is intended to imply that there’s some sort of problem with his credentials.

It’s not true that Mitt Romney has released his academic transcripts, nor is that the norm. He went to Cranbrook School (a private boys’ academy), Stanford University (for only a year), Brigham Young University, and Harvard University Law School/Harvard University Business School. For what it’s worth, I did find one report card obtained by a Boston newspaper reflecting one stage of Mitt’s earlier schooling, but I’m willing to grant some slack. Mitt Romney was really only interested in business, but his father had advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career so he enrolled at the newly-created four-year joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School – that part is true. By the time Romney arrived at Harvard, his father had run a major corporation, been elected three times as Michigan’s governor, been a presidential nominee, and was serving as a US Cabinet secretary.

Speaking as a former academic here, I don’t think Barack Obama had the same kind of social advantage or class advantage that Romney had. I also find it a little hard to believe that he didn’t have to have a pretty stellar academic record to be the president of the Harvard Law Review.

6. Doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and has never done drugs, not even in the counter-culture age when he went to college. Too square for today’s America?

Oh, he’s square all right, but probably not too much so for a lot of Americans. His contradictory statements on topics such as Vietnam suggest that he didn’t really “catch the drift” of his generation’s concerns. Mitt only went to Stanford for a year, then took deferments against the draft to go to France and be a missionary (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57449254/at-stanford-romney-got-his-bearings-in-a-year-of-change): “In July of 1966, the same month he left for France to serve his mission, the Selective Service granted Romney a 4-D categorization as a “minister of religion or divinity student.” This deferment status was controversial at the time, as critics argued that it allowed young Mormon men to avoid the draft disproportionately. The practice of granting 4-D deferments to Mormons for the purpose of serving their missions sparked a federal lawsuit by non-Mormons in Utah, and the LDS Church eventually cut down on the number of missionaries it permitted to receive 4-D status.”

But hey – good for him for not getting into addictive behaviors centered on drug use. He had a lot of support for that decision from the very strict LDS (Mormon) restrictions on such matters. I would think that setting a good example to his newly-converted fiancé back in the day might have also been a motivation – but that’s just speculation.

7. Represents an America of “yesterday”, where people believed in God, went to Church, didn’t screw around, worked hard, and became a SUCCESS!

Wow – the golden age fallacy – it always strikes a nerve, doesn’t it?

Maybe the word “yesterday” is in scare quotes for an actual reason? This so-called “yesterday” – when is it? Which people? When?

Are we talking about that “yesterday” when people from a privileged background didn’t have an advantage? The time when everyone agreed on religion? The age when life was fair? Or an archetypal fantasy from childhood, when life seemed less complicated because, well, you were a child? Do some research and tell me when this golden age existed.

From the other side, are there no Americans who believe in God or go to church (assuming for a moment that this a measure of goodness)? Depending on whether you’re talking about infidelity or laziness, are there no hard workers left, no faithful spouses anywhere?

And – is there an implied claim that there are no Americans who take profit without work, or who suffer from lack of opportunity? On what basis does each community and each individual measure success?

When I think about a world of Rockwell paintings, it creeps me out.

I don’t see the obvious connection between Mitt Romney and a work ethic, especially in any way that Barack Obama’s biography does not meet or exceed. To my mind, Barack’s story is much closer to the American Dream narrative – it’s even pretty close to that rare Horatio Alger story.  This email aims to work with the resentment that many working people have toward the unemployed, and it also carries some resonance to previous demonizing and scapegoating propaganda campaigns.

Read some history, especially actual stories of people’s lives in America and elsewhere, for an antidote to this kind of thinking.

8. Has a family of five great sons….and none of them have police records or are in drug rehab. But of course, they were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and that “choice” deserves America ‘s scorn.

Hold me down. Seriously. This one is just ridiculously obnoxious.

Let’s start with this cause-effect correlation between working moms and the criminality and drug use of their offspring. How dare you! So is this email aimed just at men? Where was that study showing the connection again? See how insidious this kind of thing can be? What do *you* think is the subtext here? What is being implied?

There’s nothing wrong with moms either choosing to work or choosing to stay at home, but there are actual economic concerns here. Many American moms don’t have much of a “choice” – either for reasons of community, religion or economics – but to stay at home. Many American moms don’t have access to millions of dollars that free them from worry about how their children will be fed, clothed, educated and housed. Most moms, even moms who have good jobs and/or are married to someone with a good income, are not free from the anxiety that they might lose their health benefits or financial security (as a result of companies that reap profits even when jobs are closed down, for instance). Most moms don’t have to worry about their Olympic horse’s dressage event either, so maybe it all evens out.

But it’s really a very good thing for a president to hear, to listen, and to care about a range of American experience, so as to make decisions that will most benefit all the people, not just the few.

Mitt and Ann Romney do have five grown sons (as well as a number of grandchildren):  Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig. It looks probable that they don’t have police records or drug abuse issues. Tagg Romney is a Managing Partner at Solamere Capital who co-founded the company and has previously worked as Chief Marketing Officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, VP of onfield marketing at Reebok, and Director of Strategic Planning at Elan Pharmaceuticals. Tagg founded and subsequently sold Season Perks. Tagg worked for each of his father’s three political campaigns, and worked as a consultant at Monitor Group and McKinsey and Co. Tagg has a BA in Economics from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Matt Romney works as VP of Strategy and Investments at Excel Realty Holdings. He was previously a Project Manager for Microsoft Corporation and held marketing and project management positions for Polaroid Corporation and Lavastorm, Inc. Matt received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. Josh Romney is a Real Estate Developer and owner of Romney Ventures and previous Acquisition Analyst for Intercontinental Real Estate. He is also an advisor to Utah Governor Gary Herbert, and helped his dad with the 2008 Presidential Campaign. He also got his BA from Brigham Young University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Ben Romney is a Medical Student who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. Craig is an Advertising Music Producer who also got his Bachelors Degree from Brigham Young University. None has served in the military, but they probably all did their stints as Mormon missionaries and Romney claims they served their country by helping him.

Barack and Michelle Obama have two young daughters: Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998, and Natasha (known as Sasha), was born on June 10, 2001. Sasha is the youngest child to reside in the White House since John F. Kennedy, Jr. arrived as an infant in 1961. Girls are good too, right?  Or not?

9. Oh yes…..he’s a MORMON. We need to be very afraid of that very strange religion that teaches its members to be clean-living, patriotic, fiscally conservative, charitable, self-reliant, and honest.

Ask around in Utah, and perhaps among some former Mormons, about that. But – live and let live.

I believe in the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, and the closer we stick to this very American value, the better off both the state and church are.  The Church of Latter-Day Saints does have significant weirdness, but so do many other religious groups. I would think that the discomfort level would be higher among very conservative christian groups, many of whom do not consider Mormons to be real Christians, so this might be a bit of damage control.

More Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49%).

Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation ― rather than religion ― drives voter preferences. It’s a matter of priorities, right?

Among Americans who know Romney’s religion, 6 in 10 say they are comfortable with it. Republicans (68%) are more likely than Independents (62%) and Democrats (51%) to express comfort with Romney’s religious affiliation. But nearly one in four white evangelicals say they are uncomfortable with Romney’s Mormonism, higher than any other religious group except atheists/agnostics (30%). The percentage of Americans who know that Obama is a Christian has increased from 38 to 49 percent since 2010, but there has been little change in the percentage who mistakenly believe that he is Muslim (19% in 2010; 17% in 2012). Perceptions of Obama’s faith fall into partisan camps: Nearly a third of Republicans believe that Obama is Muslim, compared to 16% independents and 8% of Democrats. Just 7% of Democrats and liberal-leaning Americans have concerns about Obama’s faith (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/poll-romney-may-see-an-evangelical-enthusiasm-gap/2012/07/26/gJQAitt5BX_story.html)

For myself, I would have liked to see Romney make some statement, like John F. Kennedy did, about the difference between personal beliefs and governing all Americans.

10. And one more point…..pundits say because of his wealth, he can’t relate to ordinary Americans. I guess that’s because he made that money HIMSELF…..as opposed to marrying it or inheriting it from Dad. Apparently, he didn’t understand that actually working at a job and earning your own money made you unrelatable to Americans.

You guess? It’s not apparent, and… well…. Sigh…  The bulk of his wealth came from capital gains, not salary or actual income, and much of it is sheltered outside the country. Is that “working at a job” in any sense that you as the reader can relate to, outside of your lottery-winning fantasy? There are some aspects that emerge in his comments that show that he is pretty out of touch, yes.  All that (and there’s a lot of all that) aside, it’s not the money that actually makes him unlikeable – it’s something far more important.

But that’s more than enough for today. To be continued…

Update: Or not. There will be no Part II. That’s enough for smart people to continue with their own thoughts…

Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

I am overjoyed to see some traction on this issue at last.

The jury found that the elders who managed the Fremont congregation in the 1990s and who were under the supervision of Watchtower knew that Kendrick, a member, had recently been convicted of the sexual abuse of another child, but they kept his past record secret from the congregation, said Simons. Kendrick went on to molest the plaintiff, who was a Jehovah’s Witness member in Fremont, over a two-year period beginning when she was 9 years old, the lawsuit contended. Kendrick was eventually convicted in 2004 of the sexual abuse of another girl, and is now a registered sex offender in California, Simons said. He has not been criminally charged with abusing the plaintiff, but Simons said the case is under investigation by law enforcement.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity, is responsible for the entire punitive damages amount and 40 percent of the compensatory damages, said Rick Simons, attorney for the plaintiff. Sixty percent of the compensatory damages was assessed against Jonathan Kendrick, the man accused of abusing her.

Yes, the Watchtower Society (along with their other “arms,” aka the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”) have a policy of secrecy, as has been proven through the elder’s manual, “judicial” correspondence, the database of abusers that a Bethelite discovered, and numerous court cases that show that they neither notify the congregation nor even attempt to protect children when they are aware of sexual predators and violent abusers in their midst.

The key issue in the case, according to the victim’s attorney Rick Simons of Hayward, was the written policy of Watchtower New York, Inc., which instructed all Elders in Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations in the United States to keep reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses secret to avoid lawsuits. The case is believed to be the first in the nation to directly address the policy of secrecy, adopted in 1989, and still in force today.

Yes, they have a policy of requiring two witnesses to any act of abuse (any attempt by a victim of any kind of abuse to get help from the elders, even with support from someone else, is considered “slanderous.”) They have to twist a rather obscure bible verse out of context to support this doctrine. And – of course – they encourage spying and reporting for all kinds of other things, some of them rather trivial.

Yes, they have a history of discouraging members from seeking help from any “worldly authorities” such as police or therapists. Such “worldly authorities” are believed to be ruled by Satan and therefore cannot be trusted. This effectively cuts off all possibility of help for those who wish to remain “in good standing.”

Yes, they have a policy of lying in court, which they call “theocratic strategy.” They comply with the law only just as far as they have to, but prefer to be the only authority in their member’s lives. They hide their totalitarianism with “servant” language, but some people might have a better historical idea of what a “circuit overseer” or “district overseer” might really be.

They need to change these policies, and others (such as the demonizing and shunning – even by their families – of those who eventually choose a different path in the freedom of conscience that they freely claim when trying to convert others).

In 2007, 17 victims shared a $13 million dollar settlement from church officials. It involved victims in three states California , Texas and Oregon and six Jehovah Witnesses perpetrators.

To those who have been making unfounded accusations about Candace Conti’s motives, please note that she requested 144,000 cents in punitive damages, and the jury instead granted 21 million (plus one!) dollars. I hope that his case – and the financial costs to Watchtower Society, including those of the many others who were silenced with settlements including gag orders – will force whatever section of the legal organization currently responsible for “new light” (changes in doctrine) to be less paranoid, misogynistic, and uncaring when they exercise their “guidance” as “God’s only channel.”


144000 cents requested, 21 million +1 awarded in punitive damages

Punitive Damages: 144,000 (!) cents Requested – 21 million plus 1 (!) dollars Awarded. Thanks to Steven Unthank at JWNews.net for the graphic.

“Until now, a jury has virtually never held the JW national headquarters responsible for repeated heinous child sex crimes and cover ups by church members or officials,” said William H. Bowen of Nashville, TN, who founded and heads a support group for those molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This is a ground-breaking case and a watershed award against an especially callous group of church bureaucrats.”

The Watchtower legal troops haven’t given up yet:

“We’ve got a long ways to go yet before this one is resolved,” he said of the planned appeal. Simons said Jehovah’s Witnesses has sufficient resources, including valuable real estate, to cover the judgment but an appeal could drag out for years.

Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in their humble claim that they alone possess “the TRUTH” or not (and personally speaking, I don’t believe theirs is a very spiritually mature view of the divinity), they have a responsibility under the law to be less destructive.

“Nothing can bring back my childhood,” Conti told the Oakland Tribune. “But through this (verdict) and through, hopefully, a change in their policy, we can make something good come out of it.”

More! Added 6/17/2012:

Americans Who Betray the Most Basic American Values

Listen up, you so-called Patriots. Any power interest that dehumanizes other Americans, other people, IS THE BAD GUY. What does it take for you to understand that?

I’m getting very tired of receiving hate propaganda in my email. The latest bit followed the predictable pattern – taking one small fact and spinning it to appeal to the dark side of the reader. In 2009, President Obama appointed two highly-qualified people to important posts. Today, in 2012, I get an email called “Wolves Will Be Herding the Sheep.”

The email in question even had its own links to Snopes and to the official announcement, but most people are too lazy to look. They just look at the commentary:

Well, boys and girls, today the fox is guarding the hen house. The wolves will be herding the sheep!
Obama appointed two devout Muslims to homeland security posts. Obama and Janet Napolitano appointed Arif Alikhan, a devout Muslim, as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano swore-in Kareem Shora, a devout Muslim, who was born in Damascus, Syria, as ADC National Executive Director as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).
NOTE: Has anyone ever heard a new government official being identified as a ‘devout Catholic,” a “devout Jew” or a “devout Protestant”…? Just wondering.
Devout Muslims being appointed to critical Homeland Security positions? Doesn’t this make you feel safer already?? That should make our home land much safer, huh!?
Wasn’t it “devout Muslim men” who flew planes into U.S. buildings 10 years ago? Wasn’t it a “devout Muslim man” who killed 13 at Fort Hood ?
Please forward this important information to any who cares about the future of our Country.

To me, this is so obvious as to not need explaining, but obviously there are some very, very misled or very, very stupid people in this country, because this stuff – that seems so transparent- actually seems to work. These are Americans, highly qualified Americans, who were appointed to these posts, and for good reasons – not that it was even enough to prevent the use of hate flicks for training.

This message is hateful and more importantly, inaccurate. By the way, if we really expect to deal with ANY extremists, including the Hatriot movement or the dominionist “Christian” theocrats or groups like the KKK, we’ve got to learn that appealing to the darkness – through generalizing, scapegoating, fear mongering, or any other dehumanizing effort is wrong. It’s more than wrong. It’s the E word.

America is not at war with Islam. Or with Christianity. But you know, in every religion and in every country and in every large group there seems to be a subset of people who hate, who dehumanize others, who flip logic to manipulate people, and who have little to no capacity for kindness, caring or dialogue. They only care about power, authority, and control. These groups have created centuries of misery, and they make a mockery of the ideals of their religion, country, or the group’s reason for being. You will know them by their fruits. But false prophets always seem to be able to mislead large crowds, no matter what country or century they happen to be operating in.

Do people not understand the idea of America? Do they not understand that this mistake is fatal to the spirit of this country? We absolutely cannot dehumanize other people. Have we learned nothing from our own mistakes, not to mention the history of the word? The Hatriot movement and the dominionist theocrats are the mirror image of the other extremists around the world.

It’s extremely lazy and extremely dangerous to generalize from singular people or events to an entire religion, or country, or race, or class.

Anyone who insinuates that a group is subhuman – then tries to claim that it’s American to think so – is not a friend of America.

Don’t be fooled. I pray you’re better than that. I pray more of our countrymen and countrywomen come to their senses soon.

I’ve given up on trying to explain anything to the contemporary brownshirts. So many have gone past the point of reason or teaching or dialogue. It’s reached a tipping point – they’re gone. A saint would keep trying, but I’m no saint. All I can do anymore is to grieve the reality. May the universe have mercy on their souls.

Be careful out there.

Stuff that Caught My Eye – Ouch!

A snapshot of recent bits:

Video

So Called “War on Christmas” Persecution

To this strawman viral post:

“We can’t say Merry Christmas, now we have to say Happy Holidays? We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone? If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE!!! I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions. If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM A PROUD USA CITIZEN… MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! Do you have what it takes to repost this?”

Response:

You can say Merry Christmas as much as you want. We just want you to be tolerant of those who prefer to say Happy Holidays or celebrate the season in a way different from the way you do. You can call it a Christmas tree too. You just need to be tolerant of those who prefer to have a secular Holiday tree, or perhaps a Menorah. If you don’t like living in the SECULAR America that the forefathers intended, LEAVE. I will help you pack. Perhaps you can move to a theocracy like Iran or a country with less government involvement like Somalia. I AM A PROUD AMERICAN CITIZEN. Happy holidays to all of you, no matter how you choose to celebrate the season! Do you have what it takes to repost? Happy Holidays Everyone!!!!

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