« February 2005 | Main | April 2005 »

March 19, 2005

by the short wires

Whose fracking idea was it to deregulate cable TV? I want to seriously beat them.

My cable bill is ridiculous. I'm in a "Digital MVP" package (I certainly feel special with a name like that!) for $79.95 per month. Since I don't watch very many movies on the many movie channels in my package (hehe... I said, "my package"), I decided to eliminate some of them to save some $$$. I want to get rid of The Movie Channel ($3.00), Showtime ($6.00), and Cinemax ($4.00), but keep HBO ($9.00, mostly for Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Sopranos, and the occassional Real Time with Bill Maher).

Well... I called the cable company, and it turns out I can drop down to a lower package without any movie channels for $55.95 and still keep all of the other stuff, but I can't just add HBO, since HBO and Cinemax are now bundled together for $13.00, so there goes $4.00 of the $13.00 I was hoping to save per month.

Nice. Less consumer choice = more money for the cable company.

Then I realized that I was relying on the young lady on the other end of the phone to tell me what my best choices were, and that I didn't even have anything written down in front of me so I could make an honest evaluation of their services and pricing on my own. Wait, you say, what about their web site?

No dice. Why would a company that is intent on ripping off its customers let them have easy access to their prices? Less readily available information for consumers = more ambiguity about services and pricing, which = more money for the cable company.

So instead of making changes to my service, I simply asked if I could have a printed brochure of their services and pricing. The young lady said she'll send one out, and that I'll have it in 5-7 days. I thanked the young lady and hung up.

And if all of that weren't bad enough, I started to take a good look at my bill, and I found that on top of the sales tax ($5.05), it turns out I'm forced to pay an additional $4.20 fee called "Gross Earnings", as well as an "FCC User Fee" of $0.06.

Gross Earnings? What the fuck is that all about? At first, I thought it was just another shameless way for the the cable company to rip me off more-- nothing like making up a fee to increase their executive's gross earnings, is there-- but then I figured even they wouldn't have the balls to do that, so I called back and asked for an explanation of the gross earnings fee.

The state of Connecticut imposes a tax on the gross earnings of cable companies in the state (it's either an infrastructure tax or a franchise tax... I'm not entirely sure), and apparently, since the cable companies don't want to be burdened with paying too much tax, pass on the fee to the customer. Let me repeat that... cable customers not only pay the cable company an outrageous amount of money for their service, but we are also forced to pay part of their taxes for them.

Nice. I'd love it if someone else paid part of my income taxes for me.

I'm just so sick of it all right now-- I feel emotionally drained for having written this entry. I'm going to veg out in front of the TV... yes, the cable company wins... DAMN IT!


p.s. This post officially begins my new "Rant" category.

Posted by Savage Steve at 7:18 PM | Comments (2)

March 8, 2005

that's a big but

An interesting non-answer from yesterday's White House press briefing:

Q Why has the President approved of and expanded the practice of rendition, of the transfer of individuals from CIA custody to third countries for the purposes of interrogation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, we're talking about the war on terrorism. And this is a different kind of war. What took place on September 11th changed the world that we live in; it changed the equation, when it came to addressing the threats of the 21st century that we face. We have an obligation to the American people to gather intelligence that will help prevent attacks from happening in the first place.

There are people that want to do harm to America. We're talking about enemy combatants who are terrorists that have been involved in plotting and planning to attack the American people. And if they have information that can help us prevent attacks from happening in the first place, we have an obligation to learn more about what they know. That will help us prevent attacks from happening in the first place.

But the President has made it very clear that when it comes to the question of torture, that we do not torture, we do not condone torture, he would never authorize the use of torture. We have laws and treaty obligations that we abide by and adhere to. This is -- the United States is a nation of laws. We also have an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they would be tortured.

And so Judge Gonzales, during his testimony, provided information, talking about how we get assurances from countries to make sure that they abide by our values when it comes to the question of torture. But this is a different kind of war, and it requires us to gather intelligence in order to protect the American people.

Notice that last sentence. That's an interesting "but" there.

From the dictionary, "but" means "on the contrary" or "contrary to expectation". So does this mean we will gather intelligence in a manner contrary to the expectation that it will not involve torture?

The reporter goes on to try and clarify Mr. McClellan's answer, but it just gets muddier and full of spin:

Q But I'm wondering about the rationale for rendition. Why does the President approve of it? Why has he expanded it? And what is it that countries like Uzbekistan, in general, offer the U.S.?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, in terms of the whole issue of renditions, that's relating to classified intelligence matters, which I'm not going to --

Q You can't even tell me in general why this practice occurs?

MR. McCLELLAN: Which I'm not going to get into. No, I just told you in general that we have an obligation to the American people to gather intelligence that will help prevent attacks from happening in the first place. The war on terrorism is a different kind of war. And we have sworn enemies of the United States who continue to seek to do us harm. And we are talking about enemy combatants, known terrorists, who have been involved in plotting and planning to attack the American people in the past, and who might have information that can help us prevent attacks from happening in the future.

Now, as we go about gathering intelligence, we have values and laws that we believe are important, that we believe need to be adhered to. And that is our commitment. The President has made it very clear to our government that we must abide by our laws and treaty obligations. And he's made it very clear that we do not torture.

Ah, what a sidestep. Wave the flag, shout "9/11", and drop our morals. We should really be concerned about this. Are we not better than this?


Posted by Savage Steve at 10:33 PM