Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 5th anniversary of a phantom bill


Dear Sprint:

Merry Christmas. How are things in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, this holiday season?

I am writing to you in the hope of clearing up a phantom bill that has followed me for five years. That's right -- five years.

I haven't paid it for a simple reason. You see, I have never been a customer of Sprint. Not now. Not ever. Nonetheless, on 10/12/2001, according to your customer service department, someone -- an errant computer perhaps? -- seems to have set up an account in my name. The bill came to $27.15. I understand that 7 cents of that was for a late fee. Seems reasonable.

But in my defense, I don't believe I even got this bill until 2005. Then it went to a collection agency and then it went back to you.

I'm hoping this Christmas that Santa will make it go away. You see, I'm 57 years old. I have stellar crediting rating. I always pay my bills. And I've never been your customer. But I believe I said that already.

Would you consider in the spirit of the holiday tearing up this ghost of Christmas past? That would be great.

Oh. And Happy New Year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's time to stop shopping and start shouting


OK, my fellow citizens. We delivered an election message with ringing clarity. Then we waited for diplomacy, the report of the Iraq Study Group, loaded with seasoned, big players from both parties. It called the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating," urged a broadening of diplomacy and offered cover for the president to gradually pull the troops out.

And the result? George W. Bush won't have any of it. He still appears to want to stay the course. He still wants nothing less than victory. He still lives in a dreamland.

The Congress, Republicans but Democrats, too, wrings its hands. What to do, what to do, what to do? Well, I think we, the American people, instinctively know what to do: Get the hell out.

It is time to make our voices heard. Unless we do, I'm afraid this war is going to go on for a long, long time. Remember Vietnam? Remember that Richard M. Nixon got elected as the peace candidate in 1968, the man with a plan to end the war? Well that war dragged on for six more years and tens of thousands more American boys were killed. For what? We left and Saigon tumbled. But other dominoes did not fall. Asia did not turn into a huge red swath of communism. The rationale for all that killing, all that mayhem, proved to be nothing.

Now we hear that Iraq is different. In Vietnam, the wise men say, the communists who replaced the tattered government in the south were united and able to impose order. In Iraq, they continue, no one is in charge. If U.S. troops leave, the violence will get worse. Neighboring countries will be sucked in. The Middle East will implode.

I see. And we've made things better so far?

The Iraqi people do not want us in Iraq. They've said so with guns and they've said so in polls. The American people do not want us in Iraq. The electorate sent an unmistakenly clear message on that, too. And just what makes our leaders think, after exhibiting the stupidity of invading Iraq in the first place, that they have the intelligence, the wherewithal, the skill to solve the utter mess they've created? Our diplomats there can't even speak Arabic. If we can't speak the Iraqi's language, just how are we going to understand Iraqi culture?

But you know all this. I'm preaching to the choir. So let's get off our sofas. Let's stop sitting stupified in front of our TV sets, stop soaking in the latest breathless saga of Britney Spears. Let's end our silence about what really matters.

It is time to organize a trip to a different kind of Mall -- one known as a center of American passion, protest and democracy, not a center of Barbie dolls, digital gadgets and Play Station insanity. It is time for a million men and women and children to march on Washington's Mall, in the dead of winter, in the cold. Their message should be clear, simple and blunt: Enough.


Yell it loudly and repeatedly and even those deaf old men on Capitol Hill will have to hear.