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   PoliticsPolitics for Pros- moderated

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To: d[-_-]b who wrote (529002)1/26/2013 4:31:08 AM
From: LindyBill
   of 763189
The fight for the CEO in major corporations comes down to who can deal best with the Government and the Unions. Not who can best run the company. That is one of the reasons they fail to do well.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 5:01:07 AM
1 Recommendation   of 763189
Disputing a Charge on Your Credit Card

Robert Neubecker

By RON LIEBER Published: January 25, 2013

If you have ever disputed a charge with your debit or credit card company, you know what a potent weapon this type of complaint can be.

The card issuer generally takes your word against the merchant or service provider at the outset, restores the money to your bank account temporarily or issues a credit and then goes about its investigation. It essentially demands that the merchant or service provider who supposedly did you wrong prove that it did no wrong at all.

But if you have never wielded this power tool of consumerism, there are a few things you should know first. The cat and mouse game that goes on behind the scenes can be tilted much more — or much less — in your favor, depending on which charges you dispute and how you go about disputing them.

Chances are you will need to use the dispute process sooner or later. We live in a world where you often cannot use cash to buy cocktails on an airplane and any individual can attach a card reader to a smartphone and accept card payments from anyone else. Mistakes will inevitably be made.

Meanwhile, all sorts of online businesses depend on recurring subscription revenue. Mistakes will inevitably be made again. Oops, we somehow forgot to honor your request to cancel your subscription. Oops, we forgot again. Oh, but now it will take until the next billing cycle. Sorry!

You have had the legal right to correct these mistakes ever since 1975, when the Fair Credit Billing Act went into effect. The law dictates that there be a process by which you can question unauthorized charges, billing errors and transactions involving goods or services you never received or merchants did not deliver in the way they were supposed to.

This creates problems for merchants. Plenty of people pretend that they never received products that were supposed to arrive by mail and then dispute the charge, hoping their card company won’t be able to figure out that they are liars and thieves.

Even legitimate beefs or misunderstandings create many problems. In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2012, Visa processed $2.07 trillion in transactions in the United States. While cardholders disputed just 0.037 percent of that amount, that adds up to $765.9 million in transactions under review. According to MasterCard, 0.05 percent of its transactions worldwide are subjects of dispute, so its card issuers will probably deal with over 15 million questionable charges this year. Several million of these disputes involve outright fraud, though none of the card networks would break out the exact percentages. Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner, estimates that 20 percent of disputes involve fraud.

The rest require a lot of manual labor. Every time someone initiates a dispute, the bank that issued the card must look into it. Someone has to contact the merchant and wait for a reply that may include a receipt or other documentation.

Merchants must carve out time to respond to each dispute. They also pay one-time fees for the privilege and may end up paying higher overall fees to accept cards if disputes are too frequent. Or they just get cut off from accepting cards altogether.

The true cost per dispute to the banks of all of this back and forth ranges from $10 to $40, according to a 2010 estimate by the consultants at First Annapolis. Given that cost, according to Scott Reaser, a principal there, many banks will simply absorb the disputed charge on a consumer’s bill and never contact the merchant if it is below a certain threshold.

That number will differ for every bank, though it probably averages around $25. Some large retailers, it turns out, have similar strategies, according to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report. So even if the bank contacts a merchant about the dispute, the merchant may allow the customer to win the dispute without bothering to investigate the complaint. The report did not say what the threshold was, and the G.A.O. is not permitted to identify the retailers it spoke to.

It is tempting to conclude that you can get away with disputing any old thing under $25 and not have to worry about tangling with the merchant again. But given that frequent disputes can lead to higher costs down the road, some merchants vow to fight every one.

Or they have consultants who make them fight as a condition of offering their assistance. That’s how Monica Eaton-Cardone, the co-founder of, works with her merchant clients to help them keep their dispute rates down and get out (or stay out) of trouble with the companies that control their ability to accept cards.

Why does she operate that way? The answer begins with her own painful experience in the direct response business, selling things to people who sometimes didn’t like what they received in the mail or didn’t realize they had signed up for a recurring service with regular bills.

Faced with the threat of losing her ability to accept cards if the number of disputes didn’t decline, she realized there was a very basic problem with the process: she concluded that over 70 percent of the people disputing charges with their bank never called her, the merchant, to complain first.

“When you go to a bank’s Web site and you see a button that says, ‘Dispute This Transaction,’ it doesn’t say that this is going to hurt the merchant and could actually increase the costs of buying a service from this business,” she said. “It just tells you that there’s a quick and easy way to cancel your subscription right here. And you can get a refund! If you don’t want to pay your whole bill, just click on this button.”

She is not blaming consumers. They are just doing what their banks prompt them to do. “But not fighting back is sending the wrong message to consumers and card companies,” she said. “Letting the dispute go tells them that this is a sure way to get a no-questions-asked refund.”

It is unclear how effective this campaign has been, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the dispute process is something of a free-for-all. After all, some service providers resort to outright intimidation to keep their dispute numbers low.

The proprietors at Enchanted Attire, an online clothing retailer, wish to inform you that “you agree not to file a credit card or debit card chargeback with regard to any purchase” and that “in the event that a chargeback is placed or threatened on a purchase, we also reserve the right to report the incident for inclusion in chargeback abuser database(s) of our choosing.” Oh, and by the way, “being listed on such databases may make it more difficult or even impossible for you to use (any of) your credit card(s) on future purchases with us or other merchants.”

Movers have been known to do this, too.This violates Visa’s and MasterCard’s rules, for starters, and none of the experts I spoke with this week knew of anyone keeping a database for this purpose that merchants could contribute to and that other merchants could gain access to. No one from Enchanted Attire returned my messages to shed light on this.

It shouldn’t take threats to keep us in line, though. Jim Van Dyke, chief executive of Javelin Strategy and Research, suggests a simple framework for people who want to wield the dispute weapon and bask in its power but not be totally obnoxious about it.

“The consumer owes the merchant one tangible shot, one wholehearted best effort to make things right,” he said. “But if they breach their commitment, then the consumer should simply escalate it and say goodbye to that merchant.”

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 5:25:46 AM
3 Recommendations   of 763189
Ballot Integrity In the State of Washington
from Power Line by John Hinderaker
(John Hinderaker) A reader emailed earlier today to say that he and his wife recently moved to Washington State. His wife is a Canadian citizen who has a green card. Much to their surprise, she received in the mail a voter registration card issued by the county in which they live, informing her that “You are registered to vote.” Our reader writes:

My wife is a Canadian citizen, has her green card, and just received her voter registration card in the mail. Not sure what’s up with that, she did not do anything to actively register to vote. We have no idea how she became a registered voter, unless they’re simply registering all residents here in Washington State automatically.

The card says, “You are registered to vote.” It adds, “Your ballot will arrive by mail.” Here is the card, with identifying information deleted:

This woman is probably too honest to vote, but the automatic mailing of a ballot to someone who is not a citizen strikes me as rather diabolical. The recipient doesn’t even need to show up in person to represent, at least implicitly, that she is an eligible voter. All she has to do is return the ballot she receives in the mail. How many ineligible voters are honest enough to resist that temptation? Not many, I suspect.

Why do Democrat-run states like Washington go out of their way to undermine the integrity of the ballot? The obvious answer is that they think they will benefit, in the immediate term, if more ineligible people cast ballots. But I wonder whether the rationale goes deeper. The many measures taken by Democrats that eat away at the integrity of our elections have the effect, cumulatively, of discrediting electoral results and thereby undermining our democracy. Which, in turn, makes it easier for government to seize more and more powers from demoralized citizens. Polls suggest that a large majority of Americans support measures to protect ballot integrity, but so far, at least, that consensus has not been very effective in political terms.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 5:32:22 AM
5 Recommendations   of 763189
Communications changed the Soviet Empire. This is the next step. We need to get out of the way of Islam, Isolate them, and let them reform themselves.

The Coming of the Telephone
from Belmont Club by Richard Fernandez
When Marine Corps Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright stepped down as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he was asked what America’s greatest achievement in Afghanistan would be. He said unhesitatingly that it was providing the cell phone.

“As we leave Afghanistan, the thing that will most affect that culture over the long term is leaving behind that network and those cell phones because they are talking across mountains and social barriers that heretofore have never been crossed by that culture,” said Cartwright today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a speech on how information technologies are changing war. “I don’t know where that’s going to take them, but the introduction of that technology is probably far more lasting than anything else that we’re going to do in Afghanistan and far more influential.”

That is not as flippant a reply as it may seem. The cellphone may be the 21st century equivalent of the Roman roads, those ribbons of pavement which once held the Mediterranean civilization together hundreds of years. The roads are still remembered in sayings: mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam — all roads lead to Rome. And now the roads are virtual.

But the roads will bear what fortune brings, as General Mattis learned when he was unceremoniously replaced at CENTCOM. For all the fancy phone systems there are today Thomas Ricks wrote “I am told that General Mattis was traveling and in a meeting when an aide passed him a note telling him that the Pentagon had announced his replacement as head of Central Command. It was news to him — he hadn’t received a phone call or a heads-up from anyone at the Pentagon or the White House” .

Mattis momentarily found himself in the pre-cellphone age. He was instructed in almost Victorian terms via the scribbled note. Thankfully it was borne by an aide. It might well have been borne by carrier pigeon.

But Mattis shouldn’t take it personally. News travels slowly in Washington to keep pace with the cogitations of statesmen. Why it took all of several months for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to realize what was at the root of her recent troubles. She gravely told US lawmakers that the Arab Spring shattered security in region.

“Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Mrs Clinton said at the start of the hearing. “The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.”

After conveying this insight to the lawmakers, she expressed her determination to put things to rights. “We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened,” she said. She would yet leave the world safer than she found it.

And to do that she would need to clean house. Now if only she could fire the deadwood in the State Department, she explained to those who wondered why she had still not acted against those who performed poorly during the crisis at Benghazi. Due to a fault in the law (it’s always Congress’ fault) the State Department employees under her charge were apparently harder to get rid of than four star generals at CENTCOM.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed this week that several employees who were “removed” from their positions in the wake of the Libya terror attack are still being paid and have not actually left her department …

“Under federal statute and regulations, unsatisfactory leadership is not grounds for finding a breach of duty,” she said. “And the (review board) did not find that these four individuals breached their duty.”

You’ve got to do a whole lot more than mess up while couple of US consulates burn down to get Hillary going — something really dire — like make a video or something. Perhaps Hillary should’ve taken a page from Mattis incident and wait until these functionaries were traveling then send them a note. It worked in getting rid of Mattis. It might work with them.

But messages don’t write themselves. And just as the Roman roads had no moral content in themselves, able to carry both the legions of Empire and invading barbarians with equal facility, the cell phones of today will convey drivel either way. What signals they bear is dependent not on technology, but on the goodwill or malice of the communicating parties at both ends. A tribesman at one end and Clinton on the other — what music might they make together, or vice versa. “What difference does it make?,” as Hillary once said. Well put, madame secretary. Well put.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 5:40:51 AM
   of 763189
Report: Palin parts ways with Fox News
from Hot Air » Top Picks by Allahpundit

“She remains focused on broadening her message of common-sense conservatism across the country."

Her choice, not theirs, according to a source who spoke to RCP. After a three-year run as a paid contributor to the nation’s highest-rated cable news channel, Sarah Palin and FOX News have cut ties, according to a source close to the former Alaska governor. “It’s my understanding that Gov. Palin was offered a contract [...]

Read this post »

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 5:51:10 AM
2 Recommendations   of 763189
Get a College Degree in Wisconsin Without Setting Foot on Campus
from Full Feed by Katherine Mangu-Ward

What if college diplomas certified that the person had actually learned something? That he had demonstrated mastery of material, rather than just logging the requisite number of hours sitting in a chair in a lecture hall?

That's the idea behind the University of Wisconsin's Flexible Option, which lets students who have received instruction from a variety of sources—including online providers of course material like Udacity, Coursera, or Marginal Revolution University—take tests to prove that they know their stuff. The University will issue these students a diploma that's indistinguishable from the standard sheepskin—probably at a much lower price.

First up? Maybe Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who championed the program in his state:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has championed the idea, in part because he left college in his senior year for a job opportunity and never finished his degree. He said he hoped to use the Flexible Degree option himself.

"I think it is one more way to get your degree. I don't see it as replacing things," Mr. Walker said.

He's right that this is a cool option, but he's wrong that it won't replace more traditional paths for some people. University of Wisconsin may have just taken the first step toward its own obsolescence—or at least radical redefinition.

Look, it's the obligatory nervous prof quote:

Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media-studies professor at the University of Virginia who has written about the future of universities, called the program a "worthy experiment" but warned that school officials "need to make sure degree plans are not watered down."

Translation: I really like my job. Please don't take it away.

This could be the first step toward disentangling the many functions colleges and universities now perform. Some people will still want the four-year combination sleepaway-camp-and-drunken-TED-conference experience that is the current standard for undergrads. But other people—especially folks who are mid-career and busy being, say, the governor of a state or working at the nuclear power plant—would rather just learn the materials and then get a respected institution's stamp of approval.

Expect to see more of this in the very near future.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 6:27:24 AM
1 Recommendation   of 763189
The Secret To Having It All

January 25, 2013: As the Philippines takes its dispute with China about who owns rocks and reefs of the Filipino coast, China insists that its claims are indisputable but that it is still willing to negotiate. Much the same thing has been said to Japan and other nations in the region who find their offshore territory now claimed by China. All this is classic Chinese strategy. China has a long history of seeking to win such disputes without going to war. This approach has been much admired (and often used) throughout thousands of years of Chinese history. One thing Chinese leaders rely on a lot is lessons from Chinese history. In this case China is claiming most of the South China Sea, as well as choice bits off the coasts of Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. The prize is fish, oil, gas, and any other wealth to be had in those waters. China has tremendous advantages in these disputes. China has nuclear weapons (none of its opponents do), massive economic muscle, and the largest armed forces in the region. Thus equipped China can use the “two steps forward, one step back” tactic. This means making a few concessions while steadily taking control of the disputed territory. China is building manned outposts on many of these uninhabited reefs and rocks and keeping the troops there supplied at great expense. Any use of force to remove these token forces (or to prevent the bases from being built) can be declared a military attack on China, which justifies a military response. China would use massive force (which it is now able to deploy in the South China Sea and other adjacent waters) and then call a halt for negotiations. China believes it has a winning strategy here and so far they are winning.

To complicate matters further, Taiwan is using similar tactics against Japan in the dispute (which includes China) over who owns the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. But the main aggressor is seen as China, and this has triggered an arms race from India to Korea. China also has several major land claims on India and the Indians are rapidly building up their forces on their border with China, as well as naval strength in the Indian Ocean, where the Chinese Navy is increasingly seen.

The mighty Chinese economic growth engine is slowing down. Economic growth last year (7.8 percent) was the lowest in over a decade and appears to be part of a trend. China is suffering a labor shortage, which is going to get worse (because of the “one child” policy imposed over three decades ago) and growing inflation (as firms bid for the shrinking number of workers). The newly affluent Chinese are proving to be much more outspoken and demanding than previous generations. The national leadership is alarmed. The prospect of the Communist Party losing control of the country is seen by more and more Chinese as a real possibility. Unrest over corruption, inept government, and growing pollution (the side effect of all that economic growth) is not going away. Government efforts to terrorize dissidents into silence are not working as well as it used to. Amping up anti-corruption efforts has helped, at the expense of hurting the morale, and reliability, of lower ranking government and Communist Party officials. Worse, the government is under growing pressure to prosecute the most corrupt senior officials and their families. That is a little too close to home for the people at the top but may have to happen. Despite growing (and often effective) efforts to control the new media (cell phones and Internet), bad news (for the government) keeps getting into wide circulation. This is believed to be one of the reasons for pushing territorial disputes with neighbors, as nationalism often distracts critics at home. Not always and not forever, but usually.

Last year 73,000 officials were punished for corruption or incompetence. But there are millions of corrupt officials out there. Nailing a few percent a year is not seen as a long-term solution. Meanwhile, most Chinese are unhappy with the vigorous government efforts to eliminate pornography. What is particularly annoying about this is how it leads to major cuts in foreign movies, in which material that would not even get a movie rated “adults only” in the West is cut as being too offensive for Chinese audiences. The worst aspect of this is that many Chinese see pirated versions of these films, without the cuts, and realize how annoying and ineffectual the censors are. All this irritates many Communist Party members and leaders, adding yet another issue that is splitting the unity the party has long enjoyed.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 6:40:19 AM
   of 763189
Watch Out, Economists Increasingly Agree on 2013 Outlook

Real Time Economics HOME PAGE »

By Justin LahartOriginally published on Heard on the Street.

Economists are famous for not agreeing about much of anything. But when it comes to their forecasts for U.S. economic growth in 2013, they’ve achieved a remarkable consensus.

And that may be a cause for caution, because such forecasts help drive investment decisions and behavior. If the consensus is setting the stage for a big miss, some investors and companies may be left wrong-footed.

In a survey of economists the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia conducted in the fourth quarter, individual forecasts for the change in gross domestic product from the end of 2012 to the end of 2013 were unusually clumped around the average forecast of a 2.3% gain. The forecast at the top of the 25th percentile—that is, a pessimistic outlook in which three-quarters of forecasts were higher—was for a 2.1% increase in GDP. The forecast at the 75th percentile, or the optimistic camp in which just a quarter of forecasts were higher, called for a 2.5% gain.

The gap between the average pessimist and the average optimist was bigger at the end of 2011, ranging from 2.2% GDP growth in 2012 to 3%. It was also bigger at the end of 2010, with a range of 2.5% growth in 2011 to 3.2%.

In fact, in the 45-year history of the Philadelphia Fed survey, the dispersion in economists’ annual GDP forecasts was slimmer only two times, ahead of both 1994 and 1996.

Read the full article on Heard on the Street.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 7:12:57 AM
   of 763189
IJ prevails in major Massachusetts civil forfeiture case
from The Enterprise Blog by Mark J. Perry

Great news from the Institute for Justice regarding its major legal victory yesterday in a very important civil forfeiture case that would never have been litigated except for America’s shameful War on Drugs, featured previously here on CD:

Arlington, Va.—In a major triumph for property rights, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a civil forfeiture action against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, handing a complete victory to owners Russell and Patricia Caswell. In one of the most contentious civil forfeiture fights in the nation, Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts concluded, based on a week-long bench trial in November 2012, that the motel was not subject to forfeiture under federal law and that its owners were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.

“This is a complete victory for the Caswell family and for the protection of private property rights,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “The Caswells will keep their motel, and private property rights are preserved.”

The government had sought to take the Motel Caswell from the Caswell family under the theory that the motel allegedly facilitated drug crimes. But the court found that Mr. Caswell “did not know the guests involved in the drug crimes, did not know of their anticipated criminal behavior at the time they registered as guests, and did not know of the drug crimes while they were occurring.”

Here’s a report from the Boston newspaper.

HT: Bill Greenway

Kudos to the Institute for Justice for protecting the property rights of the Caswell family, and standing up to the despicable government overreach and abuse of power in a civil forfeiture action against innocent property owners.

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From: LindyBill1/26/2013 7:26:59 AM
   of 763189
Rush Limbaugh: It's Comical to Listen to the Abject Ignorance of People Like Piers Morgan

By Noel Sheppard | January 25, 2013 | 16:57

"It's just comical to listen to the abject, proudly, raise-your-hand-high-in-the-air ignorance of people like Piers Morgan."

So stated conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh Friday (video follows courtesy Daily Rushbo with transcript and absolutely no need for additional commentary):

RUSH LIMBAUGH: One more from Frank Rich. Piers Morgan said, "You know, I watched Lincoln the other..." By the way, this Lincoln movie, this Lincoln movie is the prism through which every liberal sees the world right now. So basically, every liberal is seeing the world through the eyes of Steven Spielberg not Lincoln.

Anyway what's his name, Morgan, says, "I watched 'Lincoln' the other day, the movie, incredibly hard for Lincoln to abolish slavery in America. He really went out on a limb and he did it. He really made a lot of deals. He had to do a lot of things that he disagreed with. He had to really make a lot of compromise." (I got sick in the face listening to all this.)

Anyway, question to Frank Rich: "The people in the red states, Democrats are more worried about being kicked out of office by the NRA and other lobbyists going after them than they are about doing the right thing for the safety of America."


FRANK RICH: Keep in mind about Lincoln, it's a very interesting analogy, because Lincoln took a while to get there, to look at the end of slavery as a crucial issue. And he couldn't have gotten there without support, starting with, of course, from slaves and African-Americans who were already taking matters into their own hands to the extent they could. In the case of the gun debate, there's no real support except among people like us.


RUSH: There's no real support for gun control, Piers, except among people like you and me. The rest of the country, Piers, is against this, and they're a bunch of idiots, Piers. You know it and I know it. Now, we need a Lincoln right now, who'll tell all these blockheads what's what.

But in this question that he asked (impression), "What I'm concerned about with this debate is already you're hearing a number of Democrats in red states are more worried about being kicked out of office by the NRA than safety for the American people." I mean, it's just comical to listen to the abject, proudly, raise-your-hand-high-in-the-air ignorance of people like Piers Morgan.

Read more:

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