Sunday, July 31, 2005
An Open Letter to Lawrence K. Fish
When I was ~ 5 years old, I opened my very first account with Citizens Bank.
It was an old program – I don’t even know if the schools do it anymore – where teachers inculcated the value of savings through the established discipline of weekly depositing into local bank accounts. There were 2 banks to choose from at the time: The now defunct Old Stone Bank, which had green envelopes, the color of money, and Citizens, which had pink ones – why on earth they were pink in color I will never understand.
Nonetheless, mine was a pink envelope, and although the bullies poked fun, I tenaciously stuck with Citizens, and have ever since. That’s close to 50 years of loyalty.
Over the years I’ve taken advantage of car loans, lines of credit, credit cards, savings accounts, money market accounts, POA accounts, ATM cards, on-line banking, direct deposit, and many, many other services from Citizens. I’ve opened accounts for all my kids at Citizens, and today they all still have at least one account at Citizens Bank.
A couple of years ago I decided that, rather than attempt to buy into the ever sky-rocketing housing market, I would make a more conservative choice by merely making home improvements to my home of over 20+ years in an established but still desirable neighborhood. So I refinanced my home mortgage with Citizens Bank – my first home mortgage with Citizens. We closed it at the Rolfe Square branch. When I closed on the new mortgage, we included a modest Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). The intension was to have sufficient cash flow for the home improvements once work commenced.
The plan: I would refinance, gather a lump sum, and place the money in a Citizens Money Market account for eventual use in making home improvements. I would establish a HELOC for the additional cash that I would eventually need, but increase the value of the line of credit when the time came closer to the actual work, depending on the market, to get more bang for the buck. And if the market continued to rally, as it did, I could return to the branch to increase my equity line of credit to something more substantial.
Nearly two years went by, and I began the major work, and started burning down the cash I had placed in the Citizens Money Market account. Since I closed, housing values in RI grew ~ 27%. On my street, I would estimate values grew even more than that. It is a desirable neighborhood, even though it is in the older part of the city. I proceeded to add 900 square feet to my home. I was ready to increase the value of my HELOC.
I went to the Rolfe Square branch. I spoke to the person with whom I have done my local banking since 1981. She remembered the plan, and began to assist me in increasing the HELOC.
We began the process. Some weeks went by as we awaited an appraisal. The appraiser wanted to see more work done. I explained that in order to get more work done, I would become dangerously close to running out of cash while waiting for Citizens to decide if I had sufficient equity to merit the line of credit I would need and was asking for. A kind of catch 22 situation.
The branch finally called me, and reluctantly informed me that I had been turned down for the line of credit - completely. No backup plan. No counter. No other ideas. Nada. Kaput.
So I appealed. I said: look at my history with the bank. My credit rating. My income. My loyalty to the bank and to the community. I’ve been with the same company for over 25 years. I’ve lived in the same home for nearly 25 years. I’ve been with the same bank for nearly 50 years. How could this be? My local banker was very understanding. I understood that her hands were essentially tied. Some other authorities in the bank had made the decision.
Coincidentally during this time I received an unsolicited letter from my car insurance company, USAA, offering us a home equity line of credit in the exact amount I was looking for! Out of the blue.
Also, just for the fun of it, I went on LendingTree.com to see what I could get there.
Within a few minutes, and solidified in no more than 24 hours, did I receive offers from about 6 banks for the full amount I was looking for.
But, I thought, Citizens certainly would be willing match or even come close to these offers once they knew I was so swiftly offered them. After all, I’ve been with this bank for nearly 50 years. So I tried again to appeal the decision. The result was the same. So I appealed to the higher authority of the Citizens Bank “Priority Services” group – who are no doubt being relegated to deal with this very letter right now – and after several days, a kind gentleman had no better news. Again, he wasn’t the decision maker – he was just the unlucky soul who had to give me the bad news. I would have preferred to speak to the decision maker to ask him of the logic of the situation.
Because, this simply doesn’t make any sense to me, whatsoever. How could it be that my own, home town bank, a bank who knows me, a bank to which I’ve remained loyal for almost 50 years, a bank who has a plethora of accounts of mine and my family, who knows my personal history, who is intimate with my credit history? How could they not have even match what I was receiving in a matter of minutes and/or unsolicited in the mail from relatively strange banks with whom I’ve had no more than indirect association over the years?
Perhaps, Mr. Fish, you could explain this to me? This is why I’m writing to you.
Over the years, as I would read about the successes of Citizens Bank, I would feel a little pride in my bosom, for being a tiny, incremental component of the whole. I would say to myself: I made a good choice sticking with this successful bank for the past 50 years. They’re a good neighbor. They deserve to be successful. Alas, those feelings have rapidly waned.
Rather, the feelings I have is of being jilted. And not just jilted, but more the feeling of incredulity from the abrupt and unexpected rejection of an old friend. And my reaction to that is as it would be for anyone who is suddenly rejected, inexplicably, by an old and intimate friend. Surprise, sadness but with a resoluteness to move on.
And so, it is with great reluctance that I will be, over time, gradually withdrawing all my accounts from Citizens. I know this doesn’t mean much in the way of a financial penalty to the humongous Citizens Group, but nonetheless, it is this man’s protest for being so poorly treated.
I will likewise suggest the same to my kids, and to my friends and acquaintances, and to the people of my workplace. I even plan to share excerpts of this experience on my personal web log (blog). I really want the world to know about this. It will have negligible impact on Citizens, but I feel it is the just thing to do.
PS: I did finally go with one of the other offers.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
London Terrorist Caught!
BIRMINGHAM, England - Police pursuing suspects in the failed July 21 terror bombings in London raided four homes across Britain on Wednesday and detained four people, including one subdued with a stun gun. Media reports said he was a Somali sought as one of the fugitive bombers.
The man was arrested when officers stormed a home in Birmingham before dawn. Members of the bomb squad, some dressed in armored suits, were seen entering the home after police evacuated 100 nearby residences in a quiet, ethnically mixed neighborhood of Britain’s second-largest city
Monday, July 25, 2005
Don't Know Much About History
People Really Do Believe We Have to Fight Terrorism
The bombings and attempted bombings in London have brought home to the American public that we face implacable enemies unwilling to be appeased by even the most emollient diplomacy. Yet, mainstream media coverage of Iraq has been mostly negative. But mainstream media no longer have a monopoly; Americans have other sources in talk radio, Fox News and the blogosphere. Bush's presidency is still regarded as illegitimate by perhaps 20 percent of the electorate. But among the rest, the attempt to delegitimize him seems to be collapsing.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Terrorism: Hatred as a Way of Life
Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.
SCOTUS Nominee Roberts' Wife is a Feminist (of Sorts)
The FFL, according to their website, is dedicated "to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion -- primarily lack of practical resources and support -- through holistic, woman-centered solutions."
Jane Roberts is herself an accomplished lawyer, and she continues to perform pro bono legal work for FFL. She is also a member of the board of governors of the John Carroll Society, a Catholic lay organization that sponsors the annual Washington archdiocesan Red Mass before the opening of the Supreme Court term.
John Roberts is, himself, a Catholic and a parishioner at Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, Maryland. Married in their forties John and Jane Roberts were unable to conceive children of their own, but have adopted a boy and a girl. "I think right now undoubtedly what John likes is spending time with Jack and Josie [his young children]," said Richard Lazarus, a Georgetown law professor and long-time friend of Roberts. [HT: LS News]
Attempting Diplomacy with Barbarians
Sunday, July 17, 2005
A Female Nominee to the SCOTUS
...Last Thursday, senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, along with Barbara Boxer of California and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, sent a letter to Justice O'Connor urging her to reconsider her retirement, and suggesting that she accept a nomination for the allegedly about-to-be-open position of chief justice. But the senators are behind the times. They are captive to a reactionary feminism that may have been plausible when Justice O'Connor was appointed in 1981 from a very short list of possible female candidates for the Court. Today, if the president wanted to replace not just Justice O'Connor with a capable, proven constitutionalist who is a woman, but also Chief Justice Rehnquist (when he steps down) and for that matter Justice Stevens or Justice Ginsburg (when either steps down), he could do so.
For now, he just has to worry about the O'Connor vacancy. For that seat, President Bush would improve the Court by appointing any from a long list of well-qualified women. Among them are federal appellate judges like Edith Jones, Edith Brown Clement, and Priscilla Owen on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Janice Rogers Brown on the D.C. Circuit, Karen Williams on the 4th Circuit, and Alice Batchelder on the 6th Circuit; distinguished law professors like Mary Anne Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard, and Lillian R. BeVier, John S. Shannon Professor of Law at Virginia; and state court judges like the impressive Maura D. Corrigan, who served on the Michigan Court of Appeals from 1992 to 1998, and has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since then, including a stint as chief justice. And the list goes on....
Saturday, July 16, 2005
The House Wins Again (and the suckers always eventually lose)
It was promoted as tax relief! Think about that for a minute: these self-interested con-artists over-spend and over-tax and then tell us that we can solve the problem by selling out to the predatory gambling interests. Stupid people are going to lose millions at the State's urging. And the legislators will keep on taxing and spending, and then they will promote even more gambling to cover their excesses. Eventually this ponzi scheme will run out of gas and then it will be back to hefty tax increases to cover the deficits.
Go to this website to see some of the reasons why gambling is a scam.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Fill in the Blank
Cartoon courtesy of SCOTUSBlog.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Just How Smart is Osama bin Laden?
Just how smart is Osama bin Laden? For almost two decades bin Laden was allowed to run amok, conducting his own private guerilla war against America and the West. His political aims, if you took them at face value, were to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia, to preserve the religious integrity of the Hijaz, and to punish America for supporting Israel with the eventual hope that Israel could be disappeared and its Jews scrubbed from the Holy Land.
During this time, bin Laden and his cohorts scored a number of tactical victories--the USS Cole, the African embassy bombings--all culminating with the attacks of September 11. But those attacks have proved to be an enormous strategic failure for bin Laden. America decided to finally take him at his word and wage a reciprocal war. A coalition of Western allies invaded and democratized first Afghanistan and then Iraq.
So now when bin Laden's minions mete out death and destruction their demand for this or that country is that they get out of Afghanistan or Iraq. In other words, even if bin Laden's latest attacks somehow achieved their political aims, all he would have accomplished would be returning to the status quo of 15 years ago. Osama bin Laden has been successful as a tactician, but by his own lights, his leadership can only be judged a drastic strategic failure. If he really believes in his stated goals, he is further away from achieving them today than he has been at any time since the first Gulf War.
This isn't quite Washington or Jefferson territory we're talking about here. If bin Laden has any American analog, it might be Chief Sitting Bull.
And if bin Laden isn't a genius, the way Scheuer et al suggest, there is also no reason to believe that if their stated political aims were accommodated they would lay down their bombs and stop slaughtering innocents.
In the coming days you are likely to hear that England was targeted because of its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Anyone who buys this line should be ridden out of town on a rail. Terrorists kill people. It's who they are; it's what they do. They don't need provocations and their "reasoning" is, contra Scheuer, post facto. The people of Bali weren't fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no Iraq and Afghanistan on September 11, or at Khobar Towers.
If the Western allies pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, there would still be attacks for some other slight--maybe the affront of having troops in Saudi Arabia. If our Zionist infidel troops left the Saudis, there would still be attacks because there are Jews in the Holy Land. If the Jews were pushed into the sea, there would still be attacks because there are Gucci stores in Riyadh. It never ends. And so we should care not at all why these monsters claim they are making war against us (and by "us," I mean we who uphold the principles of Western liberalism, be we in New York, London, Paris, Toronto, or Melbourne).
Some people have been slow to come around to this realization. But more and more of them will do so in the coming days. That's why yesterday's attacks on London were a barbarity, yes, but for bin Laden and his monsters, they were also another important strategic defeat.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
It's happening again...
There is the problem of the disbelief in universals. There is no universal law stating that human life is precious above all other machinations. There is no universal law stating that there is such a thing as something inherently evil in nature, or something inherently good in nature. There is no right, there is no wrong. There is only the misguided and the well-intentioned. Without a method to correctly place blame on people responsible for the killing/maiming and otherwise hurting of other people, blame is tossed around from group to group until it rests on a scapegoat (or two).
Lately, the scapegoat for terrorist bombings and the like has been the countries that were attacked.
The countries that were attacked.
They are to blame. The public blames them. The world blames the US for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the WTC towers that killed thousands upon thousands of people. It was not the terrorists' fault, for there is no "evil," per se. These terrorists simply have their own belief system, and as we all know, there is no right or wrong belief system -- everything is relative. If the terrorists believed that the US was a country of evildoers and decided it must be attacked, that was their prerogative. It is our fault, somehow, for shaping ourselves in a way that displeased them.
In the wake of the London attacks, just this morning, I have already read at least two articles blaming the foreign policy of the UK and the US (the world's most favorite scapegoat these days) for them. Somehow, these countries whose citizens died at the hands of al Qaeda members are to blame for their own casualties.
In no world, even our own fallen one, is this acceptable. I cannot fathom the twisted logic used by relativists in a time like this, when the world really is split three ways: evildoers, the victims of their prejudice and violence, and the biggest group of all: those who would rather be neutral about the whole thing, regardless of how close to home any of these tragedies hit.
I don't care if you hate George W. Bush with a passion. I don't care if you wish Tony Blair was catapulted into space. Neither of these things matter. In fact, politics or political alliances are completely moot when it comes to the infinitely old battle between good and evil. That is why I am thanking God right now that at least the people who seem to be in charge of both of the great countries that are the United States of America and the United Kingdom have the right idea: We will not tolerate evil or its works. We will not tolerate the murders of our citizens. We will not tolerate the wishy washy nature of this world, however strong the movement may be. We stand for what is good, we stand for freedom and for the lives of the people of our countries, regardless of their political affiliation. Regardless of whether they themselves would rather not be protected from those who would hurt them. The people responsible for the deaths of those 33 (and counting) in the UK today and for the thousands in the US in 2001 will be brought to justice. Because there are still some people who believe in good and evil and in the battle that has to be won for good. al Qaeda is evil. And it is terrorizing the world. (Who knows? Your country could be next.) We won't just stand by idly and watch it happen. Because that is just plain WRONG. In the universal sense of the word.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
What a Banana Republic we live in -- with an elite class that does anything it wants, an overtaxed peasantry, and no hope for changing it.
Matt Drudge is reporting on an intercepted cell phone conversation between Senator Charles Schumer and an unidentified individual, in which Schumer discusses the upcoming Supreme Court nomination. Drudge quotes Schumer as saying:
It's not about an individual judge… It's about how it affects the overall makeup of the court. We are contemplating how we are going to go to war over this. Even William Rehnquist is more moderate than they expected. The only ones that resulted how they predicted were [Antonin] Scalia and [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg. So most of the time they've gotten their picks wrong, and that's what we want to do to them again.
That makes sense, from the Democrats' standpoint. They know that President Bush won't nominate a liberal, so their best hope is that he backs away from nominating a strong, principled conservative, and instead chooses a "moderate," that is to say, someone with no clear-cut judicial philosophy at all, who could end up like a Souter or O'Connor. That's the real purpose of the Democrats' attacks. Drudge continues:
Schumer later went on to mock the “Gang of 14” judicial filibuster deal and said it wasn’t relevant in the Supreme Court debate.
“A Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown style appointment may not have been extraordinary to the appellate court but may be extraordinary to the Supreme Court.”
I'll say it again: President Bush is a man of principle who understands the stakes involved in this nomination. He has long said that the Justices he admires most are Scalia and Thomas. I don't believe the Democrats can scare him away from nominating a conservative, either a conventional choice like Luttig, McConnell or Roberts, or a wild card like Janice Rogers Brown.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
SCOTUS Bloggers Predict Owens to Replace O'Connor
BTW, on Meet the Press this week there was this catharsis over how Republicans and Democrats are all ready to put aside their past contentiousness and really all want to get along during this confirmation process. And poo on you if you are from the "far right" or the "far left" and want to mess up this process.
Oh yeah. Sure.
And tonight's evening news corroborated that with reports abounding on how the liberal war machine is in full gear getting ready to "bork" whoever is nominated. In fact they are planning to outbork Bork. BTW, The Weekly Stardard has a plethora of articles this week on Bork and borking.
Tom Goldstein, from SCOTUSBlog, is predicting the recently appointed Priscilla Owens as the replacement for O'Connor. Here is some of his reasoning:
And since Owens was just confirmed, it would really be something for those who confirmed her to one Federal judgeship to oppose her for the next judgeship. What hypocrisy that would be. Would the liberals chance it? Indeed. And in light of the interesting prediction by Bill Kristol that O'Connor would retire before the Chief Justice, this prediction is also something to consider.
First, I believe the nominee will be a woman. I think that, for reasons of demographic politics, the White House will view it as preferable, but not absolutely necessary, that Justice O'Connor be succeeded by a woman. But with the very strong prospect that the Chief Justice will retire during President Bush's tenure and provide a second nomination opportunity, the White House is all but certain to conclude that at least one of the two nominees must be a woman.Faced with the choice of nominating a woman now or later, I think that the President will choose now.... the politics of replacing O'Connor with another woman are better.
Monday, July 04, 2005
What to do on the Fourth of July: Vacate or Act
Yes, there are actions we can take. Here is an excerpt from Hawthorne's list of ideas:
- When there is an appropriate role for government, let's push to have it be at the local level where citizens can better control and change its behaviors.
- We need a TABOR (taxpayers' bill of rights) implemented in each state and at the federal level, such as what was implemented in Colorado (read here, here, and here), in order to place limits on government actions - while recognizing that those limits will be under constant attack like they have been in Colorado.
- We need to increase government accountability by using the Internet to make the actions of government as transparently obvious to citizens as possible and educate them on more reasons why government cannot effectively solve most problems.
- That means, among other things, fighting the FEC proposed limits on blogging.
- We need competitive elections so there is a real threat that moderates incumbent politicians' behavior. That means stopping the gerrymandering which is nothing but an incumbent protection racket.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
A View of Saddam
Lisa DePaulo has written a mesmerizing interview with the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who supervised Saddam Hussein. Specialist Sean O'Shea summed it up best when he wrote in his diary, "Part of me wanted to punch him in the face. Another part wanted to know what was going on in his head." And while the former didn't happen, O'Shea and his fellow soldiers learned more than they ever imagined from this bloodthirsty, megalomaniacal dictator. For a taste, see this link. A brief excerpt:
...Being in Saddam's presence--even as the men reminded themselves constantly of what he did to his people--it became hard to avoid a conversation with him. (Hermann Göring was supposedly the same way in prison.) According to the soldiers, Saddam still believes he is president of Iraq and is waiting to return to his palace...
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Psst...Wanna Free Book?
Think you know who will replace Sandra Day O'Connor? Then nab yourself a free copy of Scalia Dissents.
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]