Tuesday, October 04, 2005


As I write this on Word at 7:28 PM Tuesday October 4, 2005 I have been unable to post to my blog, do anything on the internet or use my house phone since around 9 AM Monday morning. That’s a few minutes after a crew working for Comcast began trenching in the park strip in my cul-de-sac to lay new underground cable. Even though all the underground utilities had previously been “marked out” for them so they could avoid the existing electricity, telephone and TV cables, they promptly sliced through the telephone cable servicing the entire street. Encountering hard ground they, unfortunately, decided to use a pick-axe and did the deed.

They notified their office, who notified Verizon, who arrived on the scene in a short time and began work on the already located cut cable. Between 3 and 3:30PM, splice completed, the Verizon lineman left. But he apparently did not bother to check whether service was actually restored to the homes! The Comcast crew, who had suspended work and hung out pending the repair, quickly learned from the neighbors that the phones were still out. They again notified their office, who again notified Verizon and were told a crew would be dispatched. This crew never came.

I had arrived back home around 4PM and quickly got up to speed. Was I ticked!! I phoned the Verizon repair line to add some urgency to the matter. I managed to get them to have a repair foreman call me, which he did at about 4:20PM. I explained that many families were without phone service and how inconvenient and unsafe this was. I demanded that he send a crew immediately to fix the problem. Through his profuse apologies he steadfastly refused to do so. He claimed that he “had no one to send” and danced around my questions about their capability to field crews in an emergency. He assured me that he and a crew would be on site at 8AM sharp Tuesday morning.

So much for “We never stop working for you”, an empty refrain we see repeated ad infinitum on Verizon’s TV and in print ads.

As my neighbors began arriving home from work I filled them in, one by one, on the events of the day and Verizon’s refusal to dispatch a repair crew to restore service that day. The first one told me that in addition to his phone, the Comcast work detail had knocked out his TV cable as well! The second, a professional who operates a business from his home, was furious to find his phone line still dead. He conducts business on his DSL line via e-mail, as well as by telephone. His work was greatly impeded. The third has a second phone line dedicated to an alarm system which automatically notifies the police or fire department in case of an intrusion or fire. He too was quite frustrated and angry. I advised all three that I had also called the Washington Township Police Department to see if I could get their support in motivating Verizon to return to finish the job. I argued that the lack of phone service to so many homes constituted a public safety emergency—people would not be able to contact police or fire officials quickly should emergent situations arise. Police, after all, are responsible for public safety in the community. The officer I spoke to did not see a role for the police in this situation and could offer no help.

Eight AM Tuesday morning came and went. It was actually 9:04AM when the first Verizon truck rolled up. I was still so pissed that I was keeping close score. More and heavier equipment kept arriving throughout the day. It seemed that Verizon was relying on the Comcast subcontractor to do the actual digging in the effort to locate a second cut in the phone cable (the Comcast crew foreman confided to me on Monday that there was a good possibility that they had cut the line in another place). At one point during the morning there was some very lethargic hand digging going on by two young guys. No supervisor was in sight. Much of the day was devoted to locating the problem and excavating. It wasn’t until late afternoon that a lineman actually started splicing the second severed line together.

Darkness fell with the lineman persevering at his tedious task. Portable lights were now in place. I kept wondering: “They ended up working into the night today so why couldn’t they have done that yesterday and restored service sooner”. I saw it as Verizon’s blatant disregard for their customers, proceeding at their own convenience instead of giving us the service we pay them well for.

At 7:45PM my wife told me that the phone was now working. The activity out in the street continued well past 8, the last time I checked.

This kind of situation always reminds me of how little freedom and power we really have. Fact is, in many ways we are at the mercy of corporate America. Mundane activities such as banking, shopping and going to the doctor take place within a tightly controlled scope determined by the policies of the banks, credit card companies and HMO/health insurers that we are necessarily entangled with. Those companies make the rules to suit themselves. We are a captive audience. Participation in modern life is just about impossible without interfacing with those institutions. And to do so, we must do it on their terms. The corporations that control our lives have the enormous momentum of the “free-market” juggernaut behind them. That includes the sanction of our government for their anti-consumer behavior. “The customer is always right” and “customer service” are quaint, outmoded concepts. Corporations in these service businesses are aggressive and punitive in pursuit of their profits. They are also devious and deceptive. They know most people will give up out of frustration when trying to pursue fair treatment. The few outfits out there fighting on our behalf such as Citizen Action, NRDC and Consumer’s Union are invaluable.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


George Bush's numerous lies and blunders would seem to present the Democrats with opportunity after opportunity to weaken his and the Republican's choke-hold control of our government. The reality is, however, that the Democrats have not forcefully and consistently exploited those opportunities and there are two principle reasons for that. The first is that they have no compelling, agreed upon alternative vision to offer the American people. And the second (which, in part, explains the first) is that the power of the Democratic party is too much in synch with what the Republicans are doing to effectively distinguish themselves to voters. I have asserted before in my posts that we really do not have a two-party system because, in practice, the policy and program similarities between the two are greater than their differences.

For example, despite his rhetoric to the contrary, Bush has promoted "big government" in several areas, to the point of alienating true conservatives. Traditionally, big government has been identified with the Democrats. So, they can't take him on on that account. Moreover, with few exceptions Democrats in Congress voted to support Bush's war on Iraq. Even today, only a few lonely anti-war Democratic voices can be heard. All the Democratic noise criticizing the John Roberts Supreme Court nomination turned out to be empty bluster. Time after time, when the opportunity to offer a different, hopefully better, position on an issue has presented itself the Democrats have abdicated their responsibility as an "opposition" party and simply conceded to the President and the Republican majority.

So who in government now represents the majority of Americans who want an end to the war? In truth, no one. Once again, the people are out ahead of their so-called representatives and are resorting to mass action to drag their Senators and Representatives forward to do their will. The reluctance of those elected officials, of course, is tied to their own self-interest--they place their chips on the colors they believe will get them re-elected, regardless of what is in the public interest.

Since the Katrina tragedy/Bush travesty the buzz has been about the large opening it has given the Democrats to make hay for the 2006 elections. There is lots of talk about impeachment. Ramsey Clark has collected over 600,000 citizen signatures on his www.ImpeachBush.org website. Though there is no chance now for initiating impeachment with this Republican controlled Congress, some can taste it with the possibility that the Democrats may be able to wrench control in 2006. The bad news for Republicans keeps coming: DeLay indicted, Scooter Libby decides to reveal himself as the second White House leak in the Plame case, Delay's replacement, Blunt, looking like he too has skeletons in his closet, and so on.

I suppose even a mindless backlash in 2006 would be an advance. Hopefully, it would serve to contain the remainder of the disastrous Bush agenda. Of course, I would prefer that Republicans (and fellow-traveling Democrats) get dumped because progressive politicians running on platforms favorable to the real needs of our people and our country simply beat them on the strength of their offerings. Alas, this is but a fantasy. Even if the Democrats take control of one or both houses all we can really expect is a continuation of the ping-pong, tweedle-dee tweedle-dum pattern of American politics every 4 to 8 years going back forever. Unlike science, technology and medicine, which continually progress and improve, American politics and government only moves laterally--two steps forward, two steps back. It is built into the system. The system needs an overhaul!