I went to Microsoft Outlook Express, which I guess came with my ThinkPad, I don’t remember signing up for anything – and I found 13,693 messages waiting for me – oops, 13,694 – all spam.

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About 18 months ago I got I got an offer from MBNA to sign up for a credit card that would let me borrow up to $100,000 at ZERO interest for the first nine months. So I made the call, as it urged, and had them wire $95,000 to my bank account, which they did. It was free money for nine months, which I can put to work at 2% or so, paying only the $15 monthly minimum until it was time to pay back the $95,000. (The card itself, when it arrived, I just cut up.) As tickled as I was by this bonanza (MBNA just gave me $2,000), it made me nervous, just as the free running shoes some dot-com gave me made me nervous back during the dot-com bubble.

I hesitated to brag about this at the time, and hesitate now. I know I am exceptionally fortunate to be able to get this kind of credit. But it seemed to me to be telling. I’m not sure of what exactly, but telling.

And I was reminded of this last week when my new MBNA card arrived in the mail, with one of those peel-off strips instructing me to call a toll-free number to activate the card. When I called, the agent asked if I would like to have up to $99,999 wired to the account of my choice at 0% interest until June.

I had been calling just to activate the card – had planned to cut it up but keep the number (and secret number on the back) just in case I ever wanted another card with which to make phone or Internet purchases.

But now they were offering me six months free money, so I took it. I may do something else with it, but for starters, I just sent it to a money market account yielding 0.8% . . . about $400 for the six months (before tax). I then went to the MBNA web site and set up 6 automatic $15 monthly withdrawals from my checking account, so that the bill will automatically be paid on time.

Then I cut up the card.

The part I found extraordinary (well, I find the whole thing extraordinary – and a little giddy, as in, Gee, something bad has got to follow) is that before I hung up with the MBNA agent, she advised me that, for accepting this 0% cash advance – as it was above the required $6,000 threshold – I would be receiving a free companion airline ticket on virtually any U.S. airline.

They were not just giving me free money – they were paying me to take it.

This is nuts, if you ask me, and that giddy feeling creeps back. I assume the Fed will keep the pedal to the metal until the election a year from now . . . and that the massive tax cuts will keep coming to gun the economy. But can it all really be this easy? Or could it be like the student grinding out a term paper, taking whatever they take these days to stay up three nights running. He finishes the paper . . . but then what? Does he wake up happy and productive the next morning?

GAY BISHOPS

Cyrus Ginwala: ‘A friend sent me this: ‘The consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese of the Episcopal Church is an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the church’s founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage.’

 

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