I DO Blame Peter Lanza!

This week, Peter Lanza, father of Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza, came out and said he wished his son had never been born. He seems to think that this should garner him some type of sympathy and/or excuse him from any culpability, by distancing himself from his son. It does not.

It is a sick, cowardly comment from a terrible father and horribly stupid person. Had Peter Lanza stayed in his son’s life and tried everything possible to help his son, yet ultimately failed, I would have sympathy for him, regardless of what he might say in the aftermath of such a tragic end. That’s not what Lanza did.

Lanza abandoned his son, and when his ex-wife emailed him regarding Adam’s increasing depression, he did nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I think both of his parents were idiots. If my child spent hours lying on the bathroom floor crying, I would not be emailing her father asking “oh what do I do? What do I do? I don’t know what to do?”

YOU FUCKING CALL 911, MORON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And if your ex calls you and says your child has been lying on the bathroom floor for hours and she/he doesn’t know what to do….

YOU FUCKING CALL 911, MORON!!!!!!!!!!!!

No excuses about not having insurance or your child not wanting to go to the hospital…if your child had been hit by a car, would you refuse to call an ambulance because of the cost? No! So why when your child is telling you they don’t don’t have a reason to live and they spend days lying on the floor in such obvious pain wouldn’t you CALL A GODDAMN AMBULANCE!!!???!??!!!!

No, Peter Lanza, you do not get to distance yourself from what your child did. He screamed for your help for years and you turned your back on him. I am sorry your son was born…to such stupid, incompetent people. You may not have known that Adam was capable of such horrible violence, but you DID know that he was in unspeakable pain. The emails between you and his mother make it clear that you both knew how miserable he was, yet for some reason you did nothing beyond wringing your hands and whining “I don’t know what to do!”

This is not 20/20 hindsight. A normal, loving parent rushes their child to the doctor when they see them lying on a floor, crying uncontrollably. Do the world a favor. Get a vasectomy.

Here’s what happened with DirecTV – Smart Circle at Sam’s Club

When I enter a Sam’s Club, or any membership based shopping club, I expect a certain level of protection from fraud from 3rd party vendors in the store, especially from vendors that are doing promotions with the club directly.

On Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, I was approached by Sales rep at Sam’s Club located at 1725 34th Street N., St. Petersburg, FL 33713. JP (the rep) told me that DirecTV was doing a promotion with Brighthouse and Verizon. Customers could keep current internet and switch to DirecTV and save significantly. I told him what my current internet-tv bundle was and he said that my internet alone with Brighthouse would remain at $40 ($39.99 to be exact)/mo and that DirecTv would cost 56.99/mo for the first year and $91.99/mo for the second year. I again asked if he was sure about my internet remaining with Brighthouse and being $40/ month unbundled for the 30 Mbps high speed internet I currently had. Please note, he specifically asked me which internet speed/bundle I currently had and told me what the new internet-only price would be with Brighthouse, while saying that DirecTv and Brighthouse were working together on this deal.

As told to me by JP, the new configuration would save me approximately $40/mo the first year and be about $7/mo less than my current costs in the second year. When he told me that part of the discount was for paying via auto pay, I again asked about the internet remaining with Brighthouse and if I would now have to make separate payments to both Brighthouse and DirecTV, since DirecTV was automatically withdrawing the TV portion of the bill. I was once again assured that even though I was splitting the internet and TV, DirecTV was working with Brighthouse to bring this deal to Sam’s Club members. They were also doing a similar deal with Verizon customers, and at this point John directed my attention to a computer screen nearby with a page advertising a DirecTv/Verizon deal, branded with both logos visible on the screen. I assume (now) this was to support his claim that DirecTv was indeed working in conjunction with both these companies.

Because of these repeated assurances that my unbundled internet would cost $40/mo with Brighthouse and JP’s assurance that he knew this because DirecTv was working with Brighthouse on this deal for Sam’s Club members, I signed up for the service. Mind you, I’m a skeptic, so when I began this conversation with the rep, I really didn’t believe he would be able to save me money over my current Brighthouse plan. So once he had shown me that the plan would indeed be cheaper, I felt it would be silly to reject it at that point. He had indeed shown that he could save me money as he claimed he would.

On Tuesday, once the DirecTv was installed, I called Brighthouse to discontinue the cable TV service and was told that the unbundled 30 Mbps Internet service was $75/mo. Which means that I am saving less than $10/mo the 1st year (maybe not even that after taxes) and will be paying $27 more per month the 2nd year. They also informed me that they were definitely not involved in any promotions with DirecTv or Sam’s Club.

Needless to say, I would not have signed up for this had the person representing DirecTv not blatantly and repeatedly lied to me. By assuring me that DirecTv was working with Brighthouse, he falsely presented himself as being able to speak to Brighthouse costs as if he were representing them as well. This is clearly fraudulent.

I now realize that this was a Smart Circle employee, not a DirecTv or Sam’s representative. Yet all of the material I received said DirecTv or DirecTv for Sam’s Club Members. The only way I discovered he was not with DirecTv is when I called the number on the DirecTv for Sam’s Club members pamphlet that I received when I signed up in order to complain on Tue, Nov 26th and the phone was answered by Smart Circle.

I am currently trying to get some resolution to this matter. I would like to give DirecTv/Smart Circle a chance to make things right and at least deliver on the same amount of savings that I was promised in order to entice me to sign up for the package in the first place. There is nothing that I can expect BrightHouse to do about their billing. They were not involved in the matter at all and I cannot expect them to change their pricing because a DirecTv/Smart Circle Representative committed fraud.

UPDATE:

I am canceling the DirecTV within the 24 hour grace period. Brighthouse is reinstating my service with them at no extra cost and no hassles whatsoever. They were the most understanding reps I spoke with all day. I would advise people approached by any DirecTV Sales reps to tell them to go fuck themselves. to walk away without response.

FURTHER UPDATE:

Just spoke with someone from the Office of the President of DirecTV (I sent an email to a VP). I will still be canceling the service, but they are now at least doing their best to be sure that I’m not charged anything and that the contract is canceled without penalty and my installation fee is reimbursed. They also assured me that they will be sending the information to their dealer services department in order to be sure it doesn’t happen again. They were surprised to hear that Smart Circle had been accused of the same behavior in another local Sam’s Club, so perhaps they will re-think allowing that dealer to continue to represent them. We’ll see. I remain skeptical.

FINAL UPDATE:

Well, Smart Circle contacted me the week after Thanksgiving with all sorts of apologies for their representative misleading me. They sent me a $200 check as an apology. I also still received the $200 Sam’s Gift card that was part of the original deal with DirecTv. So in the long run I came out $400 ahead….at least until I have to remove the damn dish from my roof and patch the screw holes.

Pressure

So, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to pick up followers on this blog, so I guess I should start posting here more regularly. I will do my best to keep you all entertained, amused or mildly annoyed.

The Importance of Sources

It seems that creationists have trouble understanding the importance of source material. They are constantly linking to “scientific” articles that supposedly disprove evolution, yet one quick glance is all it takes to discover these articles are written by other creationists with either no scientific credentials or degrees from a university that consists of a trailer in the desert with nothing more than a phone, computer and printer.

Let’s make this simple. If you want to learn about a topic, you need to go to the appropriate source for information. For example, if you want to learn what the theory of evolution is and what the most current knowledge about evolution entails, you need to go to SCIENTISTS. STOP looking for creationists who claim to be scientists. Find an ACCREDITED college and take a class from a real scientist. If you can’t afford to take a college course, go to coursera.org and take one online for FREE. You can even audit a course in your spare time if you don’t think you can keep up with a regular course – it’s ok, a lot of people work and don’t have the time to take a course online. By auditing you can download the course materials and study at your own pace.

Let me be clear. If you are truly interested in learning you must start without looking for only those ideas that support your preconceived beliefs.

If I want to learn about the bible, I read the bible. If I want to learn why it says something or what something means, I am not going to ask a religious leader with their own agenda. I will talk to experts in HISTORY and LINGUISTICS. If you look for information that only confirms what you already believe, you are not going to learn anything. Sectarian leaders are only going to confirm what their own sect believes. A historian can shed light on the actual activities in the area and time that a text was written. They can confirm or debunk events that are claimed by a text. A linguist can confirm translations from the texts original language and speak to nuances. Most translations of the bible were done with specific agendas.

When creationists post links to “pseudo-scientific” articles about DNA “code” published by a religious organization rather than an accredited scientific laboratory, it only shows us their ignorance.

How to Avoid Twitter Suspension from False Flagging

Many progressive twitter users have fallen victim to a fundamentalist technique for silencing those people who disagree with them. They take advantage of the twitter algorithm that checks reported users for spamming activity. Twitter does not have the resources to physically check each account that is accused of spamming. What they do is run an algorithm that checks for things that are common to spambots. The most common ones being following/follower ratio and the number of tweets that are responses.

A lot of real live, legitimate twitter users follow far more people than follow them back. It’s particularly common for new users or people interested in a wide variety of topics that don’t really care whether they are followed back. You could avoid this by following people more slowly and only adding when more people have followed you, but why should you have to limit yourself?

The second item can be easily avoided. Twitter considers tweets to another person that begin with the user’s screen name to be a “response.” A tweet that has the user’ name anywhere within the tweet is a “mention.” Since spambots generally direct their spam toward individual users, most spam tweets start with a user name. This is easy to avoid. When responding to other users and holding conversations, always put something before the username of the person you are responding to. For example, when having a conversation:

Me: @coolguy I can’t believe those teabaggers are so stupid.
You: @AssassinGrl I know, what a bunch of losers.
Me: @coolguy You are sooooo right!
You: @AssassinGrl You are sooo smart and beautiful.

This conversation could easily be flagged by twitter’s algorithm as being spam if someone false flags us, especially if one of us follows significantly more people than follows us.

This can be avoided.

Me: You know @coolguy, I can’t believe those teabaggers are so stupid.
You: Yeah @AssassinGrl I know, what a bunch of losers.
Me: . @coolguy You are sooooo right!
You: . @AssassinGrl You are sooo smart and beautiful.

Even putting a punctuation mark like a period (.) or slash (/) before the user name will protect you from being mistakenly caught by twitter’s anti-spam algorithm.

If you are unlucky enough to get suspended, contact twitter help at support.twitter.com and explain that you were falsely flagged. There is a form to fill out. This will start the process to have a real person review your account. In the meantime it might be a good idea to keep a backup account with a similar name so that you can let followers know when you’ve been falsely suspended. Be patient. It sometimes takes a while when they have to have a person follow up.

Let’s come to our senses…

In response to such a tragedy it’s understandable to reach for simplistic answers: ban all guns, arm the teachers, bring prayer back to schools. But there is no easy solution to the problems that lead a person to go on any killing spree, let alone the slaughtering of young children.

Let’s hope that after all the hyperbole and knee jerk reactions, our country finally recognizes the need for SENSIBLE gun laws. No, there is no reason to ban all weapons. It is reasonable to allow stable, law abiding citizens to own most handguns and hunting rifles. It is also reasonable to restrict access of high volume, assault weapons to people with special licenses. For Christ’s sake, you need a special license to drive a commercial truck, why should it be such a big deal to expect that people have a little more training and screening before being allowed to use an assault weapon.

As for those who glibly blame this horrible tragedy on prayer no longer being allowed in school, I have to ask “What god are you worshiping?” Why would anyone worship a god that would allow children to be slaughtered simply because a government respects the rights of it’s citizenry to not be forced into any specific religious activity by those that have authority over them. Prayer is not banned in schools. People can pray any time, anywhere. That is what the first amendment protects. Teachers/administrators (as agents of the government) cannot endorse any religion by leading students in prayer. If you aren’t sure if what you are endorsing violates the first amendment, try this test: replace the word “God” with “Allah” and “Christian” with “Muslim.” If it no longer sounds like a good idea to you, then it is probably a violation of the first amendment.

What we should be concerned about is insurance companies and society in general realizing that mental illness is no different than any other PHYSICAL illness. It is unconscionable that it is treated differently by insurance companies than an illness like diabetes or heart disease. Too often people do not receive the treatment that would help intervene in a violent episode because this type of illness is not covered by their insurance. How many of us have insurance policies that have an entire section devoted to exceptions or special coverage for ‘mental illness,’ as if the brain is not part of the body?

Before reaching for the easy, glib response to this terrible tragedy, let’s think about sensible answers that may be harder to enact, but will have long term, lasting effects while protecting our families AND our rights.

The Power of Social Media

I hate to be “That Person.” You know the one. The guy or gal that loudly takes their problem with a company into the public arena. But I’ve discovered something lately – ever since the rise of social media, taking a company to task on twitter (or facebook) seems to be the most effective way to get something done.¬†

I can spend days or even weeks being bounced to every supervisor with an anglicized name and faintest possible accent in the Bangalore call center with no results and no way to find direct contact information for someone with the power to help me. But call the company out on twitter in front of 4,000 followers and within an hour you have a company executive contacting you.

We’ve all seen how horribly bad the wrong response on social media can go for a company. How many videos, tweets and facebook posts have gone viral when companies treat their customers poorly? ¬†Urban Outfitters, GoDaddy, Progressive…are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to companies being exposed for bad behavior via social media. The phenomena has spawned a new industry in online reputation repair companies.

The best way to avoid having to repair your reputation online or offline will always be treat your customers with respect and stop hiding from them. If you deal with your customers ethically then you have no need to make it impossible to locate relevant contact information. Problems that are dealt with quickly and honestly do not grow into problems that will damage your reputation.