Thursday, April 26, 2018


Years ago, before the period of media newsroom devouring, my friend George Hesselberg would occasionally devote his column in the Wisconsin State Journal to a HDDTTWA topic.

The letters stand for “How Dumb Do They Think We Are?” and, in his inimitable style, George would relate an example of a person or company or institution that was trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

I recently jettisoned one of my two day-jobs, a job which required me to use a land-line to get higher quality audio recordings (news interviews) than you typically get with a cell phone. When I made the call to the company (initials AT&T) to cancel my land-line, I came prepared for the same kind of HDDTTWA runaround I got from them about 15 years ago, when everyone in our house had a cell phone so there was no need of a land-line.

I called to cancel the landline. They told me it would be cancelled the next day and that I’d get a “final” bill. Of course, it didn’t happen. A month later, after I’d paid the “final” bill, I got another bill, and discovered the land-line was still active.

When I called them to say WTF, the lady exclaimed “oh – your cancellation didn’t go through!” I told her that if it “failed to go through” this time, I’d refer the matter to the fraud division of the state consumer protection department – knowing full well that companies as large as the one in question have no fear whatsoever of such agencies.

Fast-forward to March of 2018. This time, when I called to cancel the land-line, I recorded the conversation. I even warned the nice young lady that I was recording the call. She assured me the land-line would be cancelled immediately, that it would be disconnected within 24 hours, and even asked me what kind of message I wanted people who called it to hear.

A few days ago, when the land-line was still connected, and another monthly bill arrived, I called the company again. This time the guy on the line assured me that they had no record of any call cancelling the service, and that every time someone from the company discussed anything with me about my service, a “digital fingerprint” would be on my file, and there was no such fingerprint.

I asked him if he wanted to hear my conversation with his colleague a month ago, when I was assured the line was cancelled.

Long pause.

I said “perhaps you should connect me with someone in a management or supervisory capacity”.  Suffice to say that about 20 seconds after I began playing the recorded conversation to him, he caved. Said the matter would be taken care of immediately, gave me a “cancellation confirmation number”, and, long story short, it’s disconnected and I’ve paid the “final, final” bill.

They think we’re pretty dumb.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

There’s Retired, And Then There’s RETIRED

Paul Ryan isn’t retiring. He’s not running for re-election. Big difference. My guess is he’s not even retiring from politics. I’ll bet he will soon become another highly-overpaid lobbyist. And maybe he’ll accept an invitation to a corporate board or two, to add a few million dollars to his annual earnings.

I’m retired. Not capital-R retired, but I’m down to one personal services contract that keeps me off the streets and keeps my mind active. I’m going to be 69 in a few weeks, and I’m counting the days until my child-bride retires. Capital-R retires.

At age 48, Paul Ryan probably could actually capital-R retire, but I don’t think that’s likely.

For my friends from out of state who follow politics, you may or may not be aware that it’s quite likely that Ryan would not be re-elected in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District. For one thing, Ryan has served well the interests of the Koch Brothers in Washington, but as for the folks in Janesville and the eastern part of the 1st WI District – not so much. That fellow with the hard hat and prominent moustache is looking more and more likely to win that election, no matter who he faces.

I’m not a historian and I don’t know how the historians will write Paul Ryan’s chapter. I’ll remember Ryan as a failed candidate for Vice President, and a failed Ayn Rand acolyte who leaves office with a trillion-dollar nation debt as his heritage. How ironic, for someone who billed himself as a policy-wonk fiscal conservative.
I will say this: Ryan is gettin’ our while the gettin’ is still sorta good.

There’s a storm a’comin’.