Credit Reporting Agencies Need to Die

September 12, 2017

By Karen

The hack at Equifax could make 143 MILLION Americans’ lives — almost half the population — a living hell from identity theft. I’m one of them.

Why did Equifax wait to admit it? The hacking began on July 29, but didn’t go public until September 7.

Three of the company’s top executives, including its CFO and president of U.S. Information Solutions, unloaded about $2 million in stock days after the hack was discovered, claiming it a coincidence. Really? “Information Solutions” had no clue?

Over the summer, two of my credit cards were compromised and replaced. Was Equifax the reason?

And who the HELL anointed Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian the guardians of all my business? I never did.

Conservatives like to yell that government forcing people to buy health insurance is an excessive intrusion into our personal lives. Why haven’t we heard a peep from them about how these agencies hoard personal data on a scale the KGB could love?

I think the answer is the unspoken understanding that these agencies exist to perpetuate discrimination.

They collect data on you — true or false, without your knowledge or consent — and blab it to anyone who asks. Even when it’s wrong, they can keep you from getting mortgage, a car loan, or even a job. Creditors can charge you higher interest just because.

Some years ago, there was this big push for everybody to check their credit reports annually. I reviewed one of mine once and found an entry with some stranger’s name and Social Security number on it.

I let it go because it didn’t seem to matter, and I didn’t know how to refute fiction out of nowhere. Besides, the agencies are reputed to be assholes who’d rather die than admit/fix mistakes, and you must battle them separately.

Basically, they’re a consumer nightmare on every level.

In the wake of Equifax, we’re being advised to put a freeze on our credit reports so no one can open new accounts.

In Virginia, that costs $10 per agency. So Equifax screws up royally and I’M supposed to pay $30 to mitigate their criminal negligence?

It makes the whole hacking story smell like fake news, collusion among the Big 3, a grab for a massive influx of freeze fees.

If everyone Equifax screwed did a freeze, Equifax alone would rake in $1.43 BILLION.

And it doesn’t stop there. I believe you must pay again to unfreeze your report if someone needs to see it. And then pay AGAIN to reinstate the freeze.

Why doesn’t Trump and Congress demand that all three agencies place FREE freezes on all accounts? Just lock down Americans’ personal and credit data en masse TODAY and then deal with Equifax fallout as it comes to light.

And once that’s done, legislate all three companies out of existence and erase their evil, error-riddled databases. Let companies that want to know about your finances get accurate information from your creditors with your permission, rather than rely on unscrupulous, unnecessary third-party data pimps.

The world would be a better place.

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Time to Rename GOP Health Bill #TrumpDontCare

June 28, 2017

By Karen

Because he doesn’t, never has. Donald Trump has no clue what’s in the Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” Ditto the House’s “American Health Care Act.” He never read either bill because this is how he reads, according to Reuters

“Conversations with some officials who have briefed Trump and others who are aware of how he absorbs information portray a president with a short attention span.

He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.

National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump’s name in ‘as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,’ according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials.”

But that didn’t stop Trump from hosting a celebration in the Rose Garden after the House bill passed, although it faced certain doom in the Senate.

In naming their bill “Better Care,” I assume Republican senators meant they’re taking better care of millionaires like Trump because they’re reducing his taxes while sticking it to the rest of us by letting health care costs spiral beyond reach for the poor or disabled, children, and older people.

God forbid they should ever focus on the real problem — pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, and insurers charging whatever they want to maximize their profit on sickness and death. To address the root cause of this health care disaster would stop those sweet, sweet lobbyist bribes from flowing into lawmakers’ coffers.

The one thing Trump does know about the existing Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare,” as the GOP likes to disparage it), is that insurers are pulling out of state health insurance exchanges. That’s a fact. But they’re not going bankrupt. They’re just not raking in as much profit as they’d like.

In Trump’s feeble brain, this alone represents “complete disaster” and “melting down,” while he ignores that the law contains provisions people will not give up without a fight, such as no lifetime caps on coverage and not being denied coverage or charged more for pre-existing conditions.

Read how the ACA actually compares to the two Republican bills.

Trump makes his ignorance apparent by never mentioning specifics. During the campaign, he promised “something terrific” that would cover everyone and cost a lot less — without one detail about how he’d do it.

Once in office, he whined that health care is “a lot more complicated” than anybody ever knew. Wrong. Anybody who followed the ACA struggle into existence knew it but TRUMP. Because he didn’t care. It didn’t affect him.

Amazingly, Republicans can’t muster the Senate votes to ram their bill through because a few of them apparently have consciences, so they’re delaying the vote until after the July 4 recess.

Yesterday, Trump ordered, as if they’re his personal serfs, all the Republican senators onto buses to the White House. Spouting nonsense and still showing no idea what he was asking for, Trump just urged them to pass the bill. Watch it here…

http://www.reuters.com/assets/iframe/yovideo?videoId=371976494

The bottom line is #TrumpDontCare about anybody’s health care. He’s exploiting the ignorance of his base on a hot-button issue to cut his own taxes. Then he’ll claim it as a YUGE legislative achievement. It will take some time before the rubes realize Trump betrayed them and they’re worse off than ever.

Democrats, (I’m looking at you, Nancy Pelosi), PLEASE listen to Elizabeth Warren and start pushing for Medicare for All, a single-payer system. It’s the only option left. Channeling premiums now shoveled at health insurers into one government-run system will eliminate most administrative waste. Those savings will pay for actual medical care. A single, strong government entity will have the power to crush the price-gouging of drug companies and medical providers. For-profit health insurance companies will be remembered only as a bad dream we shook off.

It’s a supreme irony that a single-payer system will actually make Trump’s promises of terrific health care for everyone at less cost come true. But I’ll take it anyway.

BONUS: I came across this look at Trump by Carlos Lozada wrote in 2015 after binge-reading eight of Trump’s books. The last line of the piece is particularly revealing about Trump in the White House.


How Oprah Goosed Weight Watchers Stock

December 22, 2016

By Karen

Here’s another perfect example of the media not doing its (math) homework. All Oprah Winfrey had to say was, “Hey, look, I lost some more weight!” and it became big news, no questions asked.

Oprah joined Weight Watchers® in August 2015, investing $43 million in the company in exchange for a seat on its board. By the end of January 2016, she filmed an ad claiming she had lost 26 lbs. eating bread every day.

I calculated she was losing 1-2 lbs. a week, which is reasonable, but hardly worthy of a media blitz, especially when you factored in how much Oprah needed to lose.

To provide some context, I followed the WW Points Plus® plan myself in 2012 and lost 50 pounds in 9 months.

So today we get this big announcement that Oprah has lost “more than” 40 pounds. Not “an additional” 40 pounds. Forty pounds total.

And if she actually lost “more than” 40, don’t you think she’d proudly give the exact number, like she did when it was 26?

So let’s do the math. She was down 26 in late January, and now 40 in late December. That’s 14 lbs. lost in 11 months.

Therefore, in 2016, her average loss has been 1.27 lbs. a MONTH. That’s 20.32 ounces. Averaging four weeks in a month, she’s been losing about 5 ounces a week.

And on that paltry progress, Oprah’s stake in the company grew to $77 million because the media didn’t do the math and put the story in proper perspective.

I’m really happy that Oprah feels she’s finally got the situation under control. I’ve been there. It’s a never-ending struggle.

What I have a problem with is Oprah growing even richer touting weight-loss results that would have most dieters in despair.

I once had a friend who’d say he could lose that much weight taking a good dump. Come to think of it, anybody could.


Bill Clinton’s 100 Percent Correct on Obamacare

October 6, 2016

By Karen

Bill Clinton’s catching hell for calling a certain aspect of the Affordable Care Act — NOT the whole program, mind you — “the craziest thing in the world.” And this is what he said (quotes taken from CNN)…

“But there is a group of people — mostly small business owners and employees — who make just a little too much money to qualify for Medicaid expansion or for the tax incentives who can’t get affordable health insurance premiums in a lot of places. And the reason is they’re not in big pools,” Clinton said. “So they have no bargaining power.”

“So you’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden 25 million more people have health care and then the people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It’s the craziest thing in the world,” Clinton said.

I’m EXACTLY who he’s talking about. I’m a sole proprietor with individual health insurance, and I earn a little too much to qualify for any subsidy from the ACA.

In the past two years, my premium has gone up 52%. I’m still three years short of qualifying for Medicare, so I just dug into savings and paid off my mortgage because I fully expect my health insurance premium to become so crushing, I won’t be able to continue paying both.

Trump, of course, is cherry-picking Clinton’s statements as agreement with Republicans. That’s because Trump doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. All Trump’s said is he’d replace Obamacare with “something terrific.”

But Bill Clinton is spot-on about the ACA’s biggest weakness. I thank him for bringing it into the conversation.

Hillary favors adding a “public option,” but as long as greedy private insurers continue to gorge themselves at this trough, raising premiums AND collecting government subsidies, Americans will continue being screwed while having unaffordable access to healthcare.

The ONLY solution is a single-payer system — Medicare for all — with EVERYONE (including employers if they keep offering coverage to employees) paying into one central, not-for-profit pot. Done right, it would eliminate copays and deductibles. These are the additional costs that become deal-breakers when piled onto already-high premiums.

We’d ALL come out ahead in the long run.


Atkins Meal Makes Fasting a Better Option

March 28, 2016

By Karen

Since being on Weight Watchers®, I default to Lean Cuisine® or Smart Ones® frozen meals when I don’t feel like cooking. Anybody who eats these things knows they never quite look like the picture on the box. But my recent Atkins frozen meal took false advertising to a whole new level.

I tried Atkins because 1) I have a friend on a high-protein diet who says she’s flirting with size 6 and eats pork chops for lunch, and 2) the Atkins meals were on sale.

The Chicken Margherita pulled me in with this photo. By Weight Watchers standards, all that melted cheese qualifies as soft-core food porn…

AtkinsBox

But here’s what came out of the microwave…

IMG_0601

As porn goes, it was the culinary equivalent of two hairy, sweaty people with dirty feet doing it doggy-style on stained sheets with rats running around the bed.

I’m embarrassed to admit I ate it anyway because I hate to waste food — even greasy red and green globs laced with chewy chunks — and that it cost me 11 WW Points Plus (out of my 26-point daily allotment).

Dr. Atkins’ stomach should be turning in his grave.

The cats got the last laugh when my dinner looked, smelled, and tasted (according to them) a lot worse than any canned food I’ve ever served them — including the many flavors of Fancy Feast® they hate.

And an hour later, I needed a sandwich.


Apple’s Win Would be Terrorists’ Gain

February 23, 2016

By Karen

Apple’s refusal to help the FBI access San Bernadino mass-murderer Syed Farook’s iPhone is a joke. The world leader in creating innovative devices and software devised this super-tricky password feature that wipes an iPhone clean after 10 failed attempts to get in, and they want us to believe they don’t have the code to bypass it.

Well, I think they do — they just don’t want their customers to know it.

It’s like KFC claiming Colonel Sanders deleted ingredients from his secret formula for delicious fried chicken when he retired from the company, and they’re OK with that.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter to customers to justify Apple’s disingenuous stance. The implication is that Apple employs no one trustworthy enough not to steal the code and use it with evil intent, or sell it to the highest-bidding hacker. It’s just human nature.

It also implies that Apple itself can’t be trusted. Cook writes: “And while the government may argue that its (the code’s) use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

Apple’s been given permission to write their code in a closet, slip the results to the FBI through a crack under the door, and then immediately destroy the code.

But Apple thinks it will somehow become a “master key” out in the public domain that anyone may use to hack into any iPhone at any time.

Who could possibly be responsible for that happening except Apple?

It’s the old slippery slope tactic. You know, “If we let gays marry, people will be marrying their dogs next.”

Cook also claims: “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”

Does he really think none of this happens now? My iPad Mini tries to track my location every day.

There’s a supreme irony in Apple fighting to maintain the purity of the very devices its customers use to splash the illustrated minutiae of their lives all over the Internet.

And the government already has access to whatever crumbs are left. Let’s not kid ourselves. The TSA can even fondle your boobs and stick its hands down your pants.

If Tim Cook is allowed to obstruct justice and spit in the faces of the San Bernadino victims’ families, he’ll certainly gain a lock on the terrorist smartphone market. ISIS can rely on Apple’s protection, no matter how many slaughters are coordinated on iPhones.

But if one more dead terrorist turns up with another inviolable iPhone after another domestic massacre, I don’t think it would be remiss for the feds to charge Mr. Cook with aiding terrorists and being an accessory to murder before and after the fact.

 


How the South Can Help End the Madness

June 19, 2015

By Karen

I’ve read conflicting reports, so I’m unsure if Dylann Storm Roof legally bought a Glock with birthday money, or used a 45-caliber pistol his father gave him for his 21st birthday (because every unemployed 9th-grade dropout needs fire power, right?).

Either way, Roof shot and killed 9 total strangers at a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, simply because they were black and Roof thinks he’s better than them.

What immediately followed were more futile pleas for strict gun control, a no-brainer in every other country. Unfortunately, we let the puniest-brained among us control that issue, and they love our reputation as the world’s most senselessly violent society.

Meanwhile, there’s one facet of this whole racist-serial-killer problem that might be easily rectified if anyone had the balls to mention it.

Today on CBS This Morning, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley said this country needs to have a conversation about race.

Well, DUH. Hasn’t she noticed we’ve been having that conversation since an almost-daily event has become white police officers killing defenseless black people (even in Charleston)?

What we really need is an intervention. Someone needs to tell the South to shut up about the Civil War. Instead of perpetually keeping it front and center, let’s finally bury it so future generations of clueless punks will have to do some research to fuel their baseless bigotry.

Roof grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, which proudly flies the Confederate flag. Roof has that flag on his “Confederate States of America” license plate.

I’m a New Englander who has lived in Virginia for 43 years, well over half my life. But I will never, EVER identify as a Southerner because I refuse any association whatsoever with the Civil War.

Yet Virginia marinates in it because Richmond was once the capital of the Confederacy. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the union, and it got the war rolling with the first battle at Fort Sumter.

If South Carolina is anything like Virginia, it has preserved battlefields so lame-brained re-enactors can refight the old fights, secretly hoping they’ll have a different outcome and “the South shall rise again!”

You can’t swing a cat in Richmond without hitting a statue of some defeated Southern general. The Richmond Times-Dispatch manages to dredge up late-breaking Civil War “news” most days. And it recently ended an interminable reprinting of ancient daily war-time dispatches to commemorate the war’s 150th anniversary, or some such bullshit.

I do my best to ignore every bit of it.

The South persists in nurturing this delusion that there was something noble about the Civil War. It’s as abhorrent to anybody else as if Germans waxed nostalgic about how wonderful it was to be Nazis.

In both cases, an entire race was ritually abused and died in unimaginable circumstances at the hands of another race that believed itself superior. In both cases, the oppressors were white.

Glorifying the Civil War accomplishes nothing but to sow seeds of racism and blind hatred so they take root in empty minds like Dylann Roof’s.

The Civil War had no justification. Period. Nobody was ever born to become somebody else’s labor-saving appliance.

Until the South lets go of its bizarre need to paint the Civil War as “the good old days” and sincerely acknowledges the equality of blacks and all human souls, it will continue to spawn racist killers.


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