Sunday, January 24, 2021

Advantures in Household Maintenance

Sometimes, things just go right. Don't expect it, but when it happens, celebrate it! This is my celebratory note.

When something goes wrong with a washing machine, it seldom makes sense to fix it, other than a clogged drainage or something simple like that. An excellent new machine costs around $1,000, and repairs are several hundred at least, and then you don't have a new machine. Ours was 7 or 8 years old, so we needed to replacement when the old Samsung didn't drain and gave strange messages that the machine wasn't aligned. Wha?

We called Friedman's, one of several major suppliers of appliances around here. Competition keeps prices in line and service level high. I called on Tuesday, I think. They had one of the Consumers' Report highest rated machines, an Electrolux (Swedish company!), expected to arrive on Friday. They could give Saturday delivery and installation, if all went well. I asked if they could give me a deal, they said they'd make installation and carting away old machine free. Great! Done! But still contingent on arrival, and with COVID....

Friday evening got the message – will you be available 11-2 tomorrow, Saturday, for delivery? You bet!

Then, amazingly, around 12:15 the next day, got message, truck will be arriving with delivery in about 15 minutes. Truck arrives, two young guys, engaging and respectful, masks on when they exit the truck, come on up to the second floor and inspect the site. Uh, ohh, says the lead guy, Alphonso – your valve is so corroded, I don't want to mess with that – in fact, as I try to unscrew it, it seems I can't – so you need to fix that before we can install. 



Tell you what, says Alphonso, can we bring the new machine in and put it somewhere (adjacent room was available), so that when new team comes to install it's easier? If you get service on Monday, they should be able to come out in a day or two and install. Sure, I said, looks like I need a plumber. They lug the new machine up the stairs and drive off.

I call a plumber, young guy on his own, who has done some work for us before, Andy Gasca. It's Saturday, but he picks up immediately. OK, he says, I'm just finishing up a job now, I'll see you at your house in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes!! Saturday! Who are we, the White House?

So he came, saw the deal, got to work, had the appropriate replacement valve right in his truck, needed to use an acetylene torch to cut some of the metal, who knows what, and in less than an hour, we had a new valve ready to go. His charge? Standard $175 fee for all visits with one hour minimum, plus parts.

I call the delivery guys, Alphonso and Johnny, on the phone they had used to message me. They don't pick up. “Send them a message,” advises Andy. I do. I don't hear anything, I call out to my Friedman's salesman who isn't in, I call their central office, they take the message and refer me to the warehouse to see if something is available today, but there's only a recording there. I leave a message. Oh, well, it'll only be a few days, and we don't generate so much laundry.

Then, late afternoon, I'm on the way back from McDonald's with my wife's favorite meal, and who's on the phone but Alphonso! Hey, he says, we're at the end of our day and we can come by and do the installation. What?? How long? We'll be there in 10 minutes. They come, they lug the old Samsung out, connect the hot and cold water lines into the brand new valves, balance it, and guess what? We're functional!


One takeaway – competition works. Friedman's and Andy both have to compete. And personal pride in workmanship and service works, too. Andy and Alphonso take deserved pride in their work. And they sure made this ordinary consumer very, very happy.

I'm running that first load right now. Hoping not to find a flood.

Then I'll pay attention to the coming impeachment....

Budd Shenkin

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Revising The Pardon - the Hill article

David Levine and I have worked on our proposal to revise the power of the pardon for a long time now.  We wrote a 6,000 word article for the Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, and an oped for the East Bay Time.  Now we have been lucky enough to have our latest effort published in The Hill, the online publication for politics and policy that is widely read in Washington.  We are very pleased, and we hope that our proposal now will appear on the menu of those who see the need to reform the pardon -- that's all you can ask, that it get serious consideration. 

Our proposal has two sections.  The first is that all pardons receive the cosignature of the Speaker of the House.  The second is that altering the power of the pardon be subject to ordinary legislative operations, and that amending the constitution no longer be required.  Personally, I think it would be good to forbid pardons in the lame duck period.  If our amendment were accepted, then a majority vote of House and Senate and the signature of the President could effect that change -- note, the President could veto that bill, but it could also be overridden.

An additional note: the pardon has other problems.  Margaret Love, who used to be director of the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice, notes that the bureaucratic process of applying to her former office for the pardon, the process of review and recommendation, used to work tolerably well, but declined severely under Bill Clinton and never really recovered.  She thinks that paying attention to strengthening that process would be salubrious.  In addition, she says that there should be a way within the judicial system to right wrongs of sentencing and dispense routine mercy, and that we should not have to leap to the pardon mechanism.  I think she makes some good points.

Here is the link to our article in The Hill.  An attractive aspect of this article, I think, is that we supply the specific language for our proposal.  Take a look! 

Budd Shenkin