Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Daddy on the Edge of the Equality of Men

Wyoming Sucks. And not in a good way.

Wyoming is number one in suicides (New York is dead last, pardon the pun), they use WAY more gasoline than any other state despite being the least populated state in the U.S., and their Electric Power Industry Emissions - C02 are seriously off the charts, coming in at 982.82 short tons per ten people, nearly twice the average of North Dakota, number two on the list. They're also number one in large truck and rail fatalities. But that's not all...

Wyoming is the new King of Irony. Calling itself "The Equality State", Wyoming is in the process of voting to actively discriminate against same sex couples in their state, deeming their existing marriages null and void and outlawing any and all future attempts.

They're not alone, of course - and they're not the first. For years, we have watched the "will they or won't they" show in various states (Will they vote for same sex unions? They passed same sex unions! Oops - they repealed same sex unions!) They cry out that it's a states decision to make, then they adopt DOMA. Or they recognize same sex marriages, but won't perform them. Or they recognize civil unions, but only those made before 1991. On a Tuesday. In the rain.

The rules and regulations on who can marry whom in this country border on the ludicrous. If we do indeed "hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness", then why must we muck around with one persons pursuit of happiness in some perverse pursuit of our own? Why does "Defending my Marriage" have to entail denying my gay friends' theirs? Can someone explain that to me? Wyoming? Wanna take that noose off your neck and come explain this to me? 'Cause I'm not gettin' it.

Y'all gotta sit down and get on the same page with this stuff because, while I understand that each state has the right to make your own laws, you have, thus far, done a truly piss poor job. There need to be some guidelines, and I would like representatives from every state to answer these questions;

I've heard the argument that, since procreation is an essential component of marriage (?), people of the same sex shouldn't be allowed to marry since they cannot have children. Funny - there's a ton of people out there - married, heterosexual couples - that suffer from infertility. Should their marriages be annulled? Further, should they have to be permanently branded about the face with a mark that shows them to be infertile and therefore, unworthy of marriage?

I personally know a couple that got married knowing full well that neither one of them wanted to procreate - if a requirement of marriage is procreation, should they be forced to divorce? Or forced to conceive?

There are people born with ambiguous genitalia; their are people born with both varieties of genitalia (can they marry...themselves??); there are people born with genetic syndromes and conditions that make distinctions of male or female inconclusive; in other words, they're both..or neither. Who can they marry? They're still persons, they still have an inalienable right to be happy - who then are they allowed to be happy with?

Marriage is between a man and a woman, you say - so how do you judge a persons gender? Do you examine their genitals? Does a boy with un-descended testicles have to give up his identity as a boy and become a cleric, or Justin Beiber? Ah - maybe you judge by chromosomes - XX for girls, XY for boys, right? That's it, then - easy peasy. Oops - what about people with Klinefelter's Syndrome (XXY)? What about people with Turner's Disease (XO chromosomal pattern) - is there an island we should be shipping them off to, since they don't fit into your neat little boy/girl boxes? Can a transsexual who was once a man and is now a woman marry a woman? Or a man? Or a female to male transsexual? Or an intersexed person? Can a post menopausal lesbian marry an overly hirsute woman? Who is Chaz Bono legally permitted to wed? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller??

Try, for just a minute - step out of your ever perfect, ever closer to God life for just a minute and try to put yourself in these people's shoes. You wake up in a state where your same sex marriage was performed and is recognized by law. You look over at your same sex partner of the last 20 years (Larry King had been married five times in that same twenty year period - some sanctity of marriage there) and turn on the tv, only to hear them reporting that the state you just woke up in has overturned the ruling that made your marriage legal. The state has, in effect, divorced you without your consent. And there's not a fucking thing you can do about it.

Really let that sink in. Look at your wife or your husband and imagine that the state just told you you're no longer married - everything that you thought you had, you don't have. Oh, and you can never get married either. You're not allowed. Because you... are not normal. You...are not worthy. You... are an abomination.

How's that feel? Welcome to the world of Inequality.

No one should ever be made to feel that way, much less by law. These are people. They are your friends, your neighbors, your fellow citizens, your fellow Americans. Legislating who they are allowed to love is truly the abomination here. And those that do so should be disgusted...with themselves.

Jesus said, "What you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me", and that's true for us today as well. When you treat a gay couple like second class citizens, you treat me like a second class citizen. If any transsexual person is mistreated, then all of us are mistreated. The time has come for the "us" and "them" to stop; to cease and desist. "The Gay" will not bring down this country as backward televangelists and John McCain would have you believe; but infighting, hatred, and a profound lack of understanding most assuredly will.

And I don't intend to let that happen on my watch. I hope you don't either.

I'm asking you to stand with me - to stand with them. I'm asking you to speak out loud and constantly about injustice against the gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersexed and trans community. You may think it doesn't touch you, but it does. Someone you know, someone you care about, someone close to you is in pain right now - being made to suffer because of how they were born. And you can help to stop that.

Last night, Paul Ryan (who wins every Eddie Munster look-a-like contest ever, hands down) gave the Republican rebuttal to the President's State of the Union Address, and spoke smugly about Abraham Lincoln's reference to "the central ideas of the Republic". Mr. Ryan alluded that those central ideas were limited government and free markets. Wrong, Mr. Ryan. Pithy, but wrong. Lincoln's "Central Idea" was the equality of men. Equality, Mr. Ryan. Not tax breaks. Not less regulation. Not repealing "Obamacare". Equality - of ALL men.

"Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, on any subject, always has a central idea, from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That central idea in our political public opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, the equality of men. And although it was always submitted patiently to whatever of inequality there seemed to be as matter of actual necessity, its constant working has been a steady progress towards the practical equality of all men."

~ Abraham Lincoln

Fight the fight. Be the change you want to see in the world.



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daddy on the Edge of Bank of America Instant Replay Redux - Part Two

Here's Part Two of yesterdays blast from the past article regarding Bank of America. This was originally posted four days after Part One. Enjoy.

Hair shirts Work.

After calling to pester Bank of America two more times after my lovely conversation with Angela Angela (personal friend of Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam), I finally made it to someone who actually tried to help me (Insert audible gasp here).

Early on in our conversation, I was not expecting much. She was, after all, telling me what all the other "B of A" people I had spoken to were telling me - that my credit report and other various unnamed factors dictate what interest rates I'm allowed to have, and the one I had (17.99%) was the best I could get at this time. However, if I continued to make on time payments for the next 6 months, I might be able to get a better rate.

That's where I finally stopped being nice and got a little testy (balancing on that fine line where you go from asking someone to do something to telling someone to do something and hoping they don't call your bluff). I explained that I had been making on time payments for the last 12 years that I've had this card, so I had already done what they were asking me to do 24 times over! That alone deserved a better rate in my opinion.

Well, she appreciated that, but said she would have to talk to her supervisor and have him call me back. Yes, I flashed back to the mysterious Mr. Misterski too (who has not called me back as of yet - insert look of utter shock here). I said that was fine. I didn't even ask her for her name - I was tired and feeling a bit dejected over the whole process. What did it matter anyway? She'd probably lie about her name like Angela Angela (who lives in New York, New York? Just down the street from Sirhan Sirhan?), and I truly didn't believe that anyone was going to call me back with anything good to say.

Ah, me of little faith. She called me back herself after only about fifteen minutes to tell me that they were going to reduce my rate to 13.99%. That may not sound like much to some of you, but a large portion of my credit card debt is with B of A right now, so four percentage points lower is just fine with me.

So, after calling this company three times, talking to a total of six people and spending a little under an hour of my time, I saved several thousands of dollars in interest payments. I'd say that was time well spent.

In the midst of these B of A dealings, I also called Citibank, who was charging me 18.99% interest. Surprisingly, I only had to talk to two people there before they bumped my rate down to 10.99%. Oh, and something to keep in mind - most of the rates on credit cards, variable APR mortgages and car loans are tied to the prime rate, which has come down at least 1/2 a point in recent weeks, so in some cases, your rate comes down even if you don't ask for it.

One of the guiding philosophies in my life over the last few years has been "Don't ask, don't get". The credit card companies have absolutely no incentive to simply give us a lower rate - we have to ask, and ask, and ask again.

Keep asking.

Become the human hair shirt.

It can mean money in the bank. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daddy on the Edge of Yesteryear

I was comparing financial woes with a friend a couple
of weeks back a
nd was reminded of a blog post I wrote for a "money blog" about three years ago. After reading it over again, I realized that it was still relevant today and still makes me giggle (which is relevant every day), so here's a reprint of an article originally titled "Bank of America - Instant Replay" from November of 2007. I'll post Part two tomorrow.

Bank of America - Instant Replay

Last night, I was watching a financial program where they were talking about calling your credit cards and asking for a reduced interest rate. I've tried this many times in the past, and have usually gotten nowhere. But they had four women try, and three out of four of them actually did get their interest rate lowered, so it got my hopes up. Maybe the bank rules had changed a bit. Maybe they were easing up in light of the "hard times" that banks are having right now (brief moment of silence and reflection as I shed a single tear for the plight of the banks...right).

Anyway, I decided to call them. The following was my first call, to Bank of America, which I wrote down immediately after hanging up while it was fresh in my memory. Productive? We'll see. Humorous? I thought so - you be the judge.

My name is Angela - how may I give you excellent service today?

I'd like to get a lower interest rate and I'd like to know what I need to do to make that happen.

Well Sir, I'm looking at your account and this is the best rate we have for your account at this time.

You don't have a lower rate available for my account?

No Sir, this is the best rate for your account at this time.

I assume that other people have lower rates; what do I need to do to get a rate like theirs?

This is the best rate we have for your account at this time.

Yes, for my account - I heard you the first three times you said that. But when you say, "for my account" it leads me to believe that other cardholders may have lower interest rates, so my question to you is, what do I have to do to get their rate?

Just keep paying your bill on time, Sir.

All I have to do is pay my bill on time and I'll get a lower rate?

I can't guarantee that, Sir.

You said this was the best rate for my account; on what criteria do you base that decision?

We don't have access to that information, Sir.

Please transfer me to the department that does have that information.

We're unable to share that information with you, Sir.

Your company won't tell me how they came to the decision regarding my interest rate?

No, Sir.

So there's nothing that anyone can do?

No, Sir.

What if I just paid off this card and cancelled the account; would that be cool with you?

That would be fine, Sir.


Yes, Sir.

Let me talk to your supervisor, please.

If I can get your name and number, I'll have my supervisor call you back within 24 hours.

Okay, but first I'll need your name - who am I speaking with?


Angela, what is your last name?


Your name is Angela Angela?


What call center are you located in, Angela?

Hunt Valley.

Hunt Valley where?

Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Thank you for not saying Hunt Valley, Hunt Valley Angela, because that just would've been silly. What is your supervisors name? his's.....Misss.....his name....Misterski. Mr. Misterski.

And he'll call me back within 24 hours?

Yes, Sir.

(I gave her my name and number here)

Thank you.

Do you think "Mr. Misterski" is gonna call me back? Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either. That's okay - I plan on calling them back on Tuesday. And two days after that. And two days after that, and on and on and on until they get so sick of hearing from me that they do reduce my rate. It's a little maneuver I like to call, "The Human Hairshirt" (hairshirt, from Wiki - a garment made of coarse cloth or animal hair. In more modern religious circles, the word has come to simply mean an object that can be worn to induce some degree of discomfort or pain.) While I'm not trying to cause anyone pain, I've found that some minor discomfort can go a long way toward getting what you want. And, for all the discomfort they've caused all of us over the years, I consider this simply returning the favor. Reciprocity. I love it.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Daddy on the Edge of No Comment

By now, pretty much everyone knows what happened in Arizona last week. It was a tragedy, and Daddy is with all of those that have sent their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families, especially to the parents of Christina Taylor Greene, the nine year old girl who died in the shooting. Daddy's kids are nine years old as well, and there are no words for the despair and anguish that would tear at my soul if anything were to happen to them. There are no words.

I'm not here today to point fingers, or to peer into the mind of a man who takes up arms in a parking lot full of people. Over the weekend, I debated the wisdom of those that have placed cross-hair sights on their political opponents names, or those that repeatedly cautioned that, if they didn't get their way, that the electorate might well exercise those "Second Amendment remedies". I will admit, my knee jerk reaction was to pin some of the responsibility on them and others that seem to prefer the "tough talk" (or those clowns, like Glenn Beck, who did an entire skit on his show were he poisons Nancy Pelosi) . While we still don't have all the answers, it would now appear that the gunman in this instance was not necessarily affiliated with either political party, and not necessarily swayed by what anyone on either side had to say. He was led by his own mental illness, and the deluded belief that his actions were somehow acceptable.

So pinning any blame on the hate speakers was perhaps, in this instance, incorrect. And if you have any doubt of that, listen to the hate speakers themselves. Rush, The Palin, Beck - they're all heartily offended by the idea that any of the venom that they spew on a daily basis could be construed as in any way condoning violence on another human being. Free Speech, they cry. Just words, they cry. Not our fault, they cry.

What they are saying is that, in the grand scheme of things, what they say doesn't matter at all.

In this, we are in complete agreement.

They say that the Arizona gunman had a personal responsibility for his actions, and made the conscious choice to do what he did, their hate speech notwithstanding. I would have to agree. We all have personal responsibility. We all have the ability to make choices that will either enrich or bring harm to our existence and the existence of others around us. It is logical to make those choices that bring us pleasure and avoid pain.

We would not eat rat poison, or serve it to our family. This would be harmful.

We would not set ourselves on fire, nor anyone that we cared about. This would not make us happy.

We would not, nor would we encourage others to, use power tools as personal grooming devices. This would simply be unwise.

By this same logic, it is important that we, as a people, should completely ignore anything and everything to come out of the mouths of Rush, The Palin, Beck, Hannity and anyone else who so obviously preaches hate and violence in order to push their own agenda or, worse yet, just to get a boost in ratings. In the cost/benefit analysis of life, the commentary of these people is far too harmful to be of any use to a civilized society.

It is time to stop rewarding bad behavior. The surest way to ensure that the malicious words of the right wing do not cause a thing like Arizona to happen is to not hear them, not repeat them - indeed, to act as if they do not exist. The right wing has spoken loud and clear in this matter, and it fills me with joy that the last words I heard them say before forever blocking them out of my reality were these;

What we say does not matter.