Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Verizon Incompetence

Verizon has awful customer service.  After more than a month, my long telephonic nightmare may be close to being solved!

Problems with Verizon not come as a surprise to many Verizon customers, but for 25 years I have had no problems with my two residential lines.  That ended October 21, when Verizon experienced a cable failure that has left many residents on New York's Upper East Side without landline phone service.  

This past June a Verizon representative called offering me their FIOS fiber service.  He indicated that because a new neighbor was requesting it they would have to run fibers through our house.  He pointed out I could get internet, television and phone service all in one.   I said, since I was happy with my Time Warner Cable TV service and my current Verizon phone service, I did not more lines running through my house. 

Several weeks later. on Friday, October 21, both of my landlines failed, they are on copper lines that have been in place for decades.  We called in the problem, giving both phone numbers, but did not see a repairman until the following Wednesday.   The repairman sad he had a ticket for only one phone line suggesting I call the other line in separately.  After less than a half-hour the repairman left to find the box in the apartment building at the corner.  We never saw him again.  

A couple days later a second repairman showed up with a ticket for only one number.  He explained he could not work on both lines.  He disappeared next door after revealing there may have been a cable failure somewhere, and many phone lines were out.  We never saw him again.  

For the next couple weeks, repairmen occasionally came by our townhouse to fix one line or the other, but none had answers.  One day a repairman actually got one of our lines to work.  But a day later it failed.  It had been three weeks since our phone system failed, and Verizon service representatives still could not explain what was going on, but they assured me it would be repaired as soon as possible.  "We apologize for any inconvenience," I heard time and again.

I followed along with one of the repairmen to see what the local area set was like.  There's a box filled with copper wires in and apartment building which is connected to a box outside, behind a fence, with more copper wires.  The repairman explained to me that Verizon wants to replace all the copper boxes with FIOS fiber.   It finally occurred to me that Verizon was slow walking repairs on its old system to force customers to FIOS.

On November 22, one month after our phones failed, I called Verizon again in pursuit of an answer.  I spent more than 30 minutes going through their system, speaking to different service people.  I was forwarded to someone described as a "dispatcher."  (He was located in New Jersey.)  The dispatcher made several attempts to get information for me about what was going on with phones in my tony neighborhood.  

Brace yourself--the dispatcher told me my landline phone service will not be restored until mid January.  That's six more weeks!  On the other hand, they could install FIOS fiber in my house almost immediately.   What!

Here's what's wrong with Verizon:

-Verizon does not communicate well with the customer, unless it is a sales opportunity.
-They do not tell their employees what's going on, leaving them to suffer the wrath of unhappy customers.
-The company has incredibly inefficient repair processes that do not allow them any flexibility in solving problems.  Two people can be at the same site working on a related problem--and no one knows.  No central organization.
-Technicians should not be upselling Verizon FIOS when they appear for repairs.
-The automated phone system is not designed to handle some problems.
-Receiving automated phone calls from a computerized voice is a pain, and a waste of time for customers who have to navigate through the system.  
-Verizon should contact all of its customers and inform them they are moving to fiber and will have to replace their old copper systems.  They can explain that the copper wire system is failing and must be replaced.  BE TRANSPARENT!  It's the best policy.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

President Elect Trump

President Elect Donald Trump is using Twitter to reassure all Americans that good things are in store for them.  "This will prove to be a great time in the lives of ALL Americans.  We will unite and we will win, win, win," he wrote Saturday.  But it will take actions not tweets to begin to address the anxiety most Americans feel about Trump as president.

Hillary Clinton received the most votes in last Tuesday's presidential election, a higher percentage than Richard Nixon in 1968, and Bill Clinton in 1992.  But in the country where Democracy was founded, getting the most votes does not mean victory.  Trump was able to carry enough states to win the delegate count.   He was helped by a depressed voter turnout, which always helps Republicans.  Last Tuesday 57 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, compared to 58.6 percent in 2012, and 61.6 percent in 2008.

The depressed turnout may have been due to several key factors.  FBI director James Comey sent a letter to members of Congress in October advising them that he was looking into Emails on former Congressman Anthony Weiner's laptop that may be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.  Republicans seized on the ambiguous statement as if it was an indictment.  Then two days before the election Comey advised members of Congress that investigations found nothing after going through the additional Emails.  

This last minute reminder of Clinton's Email problems could have helped depress turnout on election day, especially considering the fact that early voting was up over 2012.  Clinton has mishandled her use of a private Email server, which Comey called reckless, and she played into perceptions that she cannot be trusted.  It is worth noting that Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani told Fox News viewers something big was going to happen that would affect the election two days before Comey's first letter to Congress.  Giuliani, a former United States Attorney from New York, later said that he never talked to anyone in the FBI about the matter.  He now is the leading candidate to be U.S. Attorney General under Trump.

Prices for Obamacare increased substantially in some key states, including Arizona, just weeks before the election.  The sticker shock eclipsed the good deeds the ACA is doing for millions of previously uninsured Americans.  Obamacare has been the target of Republicans, and Trump has promised to repeal and replace it.

Hillary Clinton is not a strong campaigner; she is no Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.  While she put together a strong campaign team and a powerful ground game, Trump leveraged free media and kept driving the campaign conversation through extensive use of Twitter.  Trump is a good entertainer and a well-known personality, while Clinton is a long time member of the political establishment.

A number of states have added stricter voter identification standards, and have reduced polling places and the hours that they would be open.  These changes discouraged the elderly, students and African Americans from voting.  Republicans had made much of voter fraud in enacting these measures, even though there were only 31 cases of in-person voting fraud out of 1 billion votes since 2000 in all elections, national and local.  

National polls before the election showed Clinton ahead in many key state races, even after the latest Comey kerfuffle.  Perhaps the Clinton campaign was too overconfident.   But many of those who were polled may have misled pollsters about their intention to support Trump.  On the other hand, most of the media failed to grasp the magnitude of Trump's support in sections of the country, especially rural.  These supporters were not fair weather fans; rather they were devoted Trump loyalists.

President-elect Trump has been focusing on policy briefings, phone conversations with world leaders, and on deciding whom he will appoint to his cabinet.  In order to win the presidency he overcame many controversial statements and actions that would have sunk any other candidate.   He insulted his opponents in the harshest terms.  He spoke and allegedly acted in a sexually offensive manner to several women, and he was even caught on videotape speaking in an inappropriate way.  He called Mexican rapists and drug dealers, he threatened to ban Muslims from entering the country,  he said women who have abortions should be punished, and he demeaned war heroes and veterans.  Throughout the campaign he displayed ignorance on many key issues, national and foreign, and he lied early and often about himself, at times denying that he had said something earlier in the same interview.   In short, he often looked like a schoolyard bully, and conducted himself foolishly.  

The news media has been bashed by Clinton supporters for not challenging Trump earlier enough in his campaign.  Trump received the equivalent of $2 billion in free airtime on cable and network news channels leading up to his election.  The media should continue to pursue Trump's income tax returns that he alleges are under audit by the IRS.  Further, new organizations should investigate how America's First Lady to be, Melania Trump, entered the United States.  She was supposed to have a press conference last summer to show proof she did not enter the U.S. illegally.  Further, the media ought to investigate the truth behind Trumps shoddy business practices and his many conflicts of interest with foreigners and governments he has borrowed money from to maintain his empire.  His generous use of the EB-5 program, where foreigners who invest in U.S. capital investments like real estate are granted U.S. visas, would be a good place to examine. 

The Electoral College will cast its vote for President-elect Trump in December, and he will be sworn into office in January.  He will then be president, but many Americans are having trouble accepting that fact.  

Trump's rocky path to success calls to mind a quote written in 1926 by H.L. Mencken.  "As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people," he wrote.  "On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The State of American Politics

Election Day will be the culmination of a long painful presidential campaign that has pitted two unpopular candidates against each other in one the most offensive races in this nation's history.   The beacon of democracy has been soiled by scurrilous rhetoric that has blemished the character and stature of the United States.   No matter the outcome, the healing process is sure to be long and difficult.

Republican Donald Trump fought like a pit bull to win his party's nomination.  He insulted all of his primary opponents, using demeaning language and derogatory terms to describe his foes.  He succeeded to play on the anger of many citizens who feel left behind, who believe the government is not functioning properly, who are frustrated with illegal immigrants, who fear a terrorist attack, who are worried their guns will be taken away, and who are fed up with foreign wars.  

Trump is a severely flawed candidate.  He has been recorded on video making offensive remarks about women, even saying he would be sexually abusive to them.  Now a dozen women have come forward to claim Trump made unwanted sexual advances to them, claims he has denied.  This follows his long history of using demeaning and slanderous insults against women.

Trump began his campaign insulting Mexicans immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, and promised to build a wall along the southern border that Mexico would pay for.  He announced a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and called for monitors to watch over mosques.  He insulted Senator John McCain, saying the former POW was not a war hero.  He insulted a disabled reporter, and has consistently attacked reporters covering his campaign as dishonest, which created an unsafe environment for journalists assigned to his events.   

Recent news reports have revealed that Trump cut corners and used shady tax provisions for decades to keep his companies afloat. Trump used bankruptcy laws to leave several contractors and their employees high and dry, as well a would-be homeowners.  Trump brags that he gives money to charities, but recent news reports have revealed he often promises and then later reneges on his promise.  Trump University is being investigated, and the biggest lesson its students learned is not to trust Trump.   Trump claims he cannot release his tax returns because he says he is being audited.  There is no proof he is being audited, but that is not a reason to withhold his returns from the American public.  He knows if he did so he would be exposed, but he has gotten away with his lack of transparency. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has endorsed Trump, and Trump has said kind words about Putin.  Since Trump has questioned the role of NATO, a vital national security organization for the U.S., of course Putin supports Trump because he wants a weakened NATO too.  Putin is doing all he can to fan the rise of Right-Wing movements throughout Europe in an effort to undermine that region's stability.   So it should be no surprise that Right-Wing factions in this country, and even the Ku Klux Klan, are supporting Trump.  

Trump has no military or foreign policy experience, yet we are at a time when the world is in tremendous transition, and American forces are engaged in several conflicts.  For decades efforts have been made to limit existing nuclear stockpiles and stop the spread of these massively destructive weapons to other countries, as well as to terrorists.  But Trump has said he would not be opposed to using these weapons, and suggested that Japan and Saudi Arabia should be allowed to have them.  His lack of understanding on this issue is scary--and may have profound consequences should he be elected.  The president doesn't need Congressional approval to launch a nuclear war.     

On the campaign trail Trump has been the consummate showman and entertainer.  He makes outrageous comments to fire up his supporters.  He has dubbed his opponent "crooked" Hillary Clinton, yet he has lied hundreds of times according to every fact-checker.   This man actually had the chutzpah to announce in a debate he would launch an investigation into Clinton if he were elected president, and even said she should be in jail.  

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has a serious trust issue with the American electorate dating back to he time as Arkansas First Lady.  There have been many investigations into both Hillary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.   She has never been charged on convicted with a crime.  Yet her use of a private Email server while U.S. Secretary of State has been the scandal that simply won't go away.  While she apologized, the fact that she had thousands of personal Emails destroyed that may have been relevant to an investigation into her handling of classified material has further undermined her credibility.  

Clinton has enemies within the FBI.  Last July, FBI chief James Comey cleared her of wrong doing but declared her handling of Emails as reckless.  Republican members of Congress were sharply critical of Comey's decision.  Ten days ago former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is also a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, appeared on Fox News and predicted something big was about to come out that would hurt Clinton.  Two days later Comey sent a letter to members of Congress informing them that the FBI would expand its investigation into Emails found on the laptop of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton's right-hand aide, Huma Abedin.  Did disgruntled FBI agents tip off Giuliani?  He says no.  Even worse, Fox News anchor Brett Baier, quoting FBI sources, reported that an indictment was likely against the Clinton Foundation.  Later he had to retract his story and apologize, but the damage was done.  

The Comey letter roiled the presidential race, and now Trump is within striking distance of being elected.   The stock market suffered losses Friday, and many world leaders are on edge.  Despite her problems, Clinton is considered one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and hard working candidates to ever run for president.   Her time as First Lady of the United States, as a U.S. Senator from New York, and as U.S. Secretary of State, have given her a deep background and extensive connections to draw upon if she is elected president.

On late Sunday,  James Comey sent a new letter to members of Congress saying, "based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton," apparently ruling out a renewed investigation for now, according to The New York Times.  His latest letter comes at a time when Clinton appears to be holding on to a slim lead over Trump in the final hours before Election Day.  Not surprisingly, Clinton has the support of most women, as well as Latinos, African Americans, Asians and younger Americans.   If they turnout in big numbers she make history and become the first woman to serve as president.    

No matter the final outcome, most Americans will be glad the presidential election is finally over.  However, the country will remain deeply divided, and political parties, the presidential campaigns, the FBI, and the media, have all played a role the current state of politics.   

America deserves far better.