Tag Archive | filthy lucre

a year’s worth of bad things, political warnings, and lingering Trump links

2015, and still relevant: The USPS isn’t in financial trouble because people aren’t using it enough. It’s in “financial trouble” because Congress ordered it to stockpile enough cash to pre-fund all employee pension and health insurance costs for the next 75 years. Even if we all sent enough mail to cover that unnecessary liability, Congress could easily pass another law saddling it with another unnecessary liability. We fix this by yelling at our representatives to shape up, not by buying more stamps.

May 2020: “Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey [aka Jane Roe] says she was a mercenary, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the antiabortion movement, at least partially corroborates the allegations, saying that she was paid out of concern ;that she would go back to the other side,; he says in the film. ‘There were times I wondered: Is she playing us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we were playing her.'”

May 2020: “Finland ran a two-year universal basic income study in 2017 and 2018, during which the government gave 2000 unemployed people aged between 25 and 58 monthly payments with no strings attached. The payments of €560 per month weren’t means tested and were unconditional, so they weren’t reduced if an individual got a job or later had a pay rise. The study was nationwide and selected recipients weren’t able to opt out, because the test was written into legislation. ”

September 11: “Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on [plastic recycling] ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean. Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.

September 30: “Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.” A game designer’s analysis of QAnon.

October 23: “A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said. US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. ” (It’s them. It’s always them.)

December 9: “Last week, CMD obtained the 2019 tax records of two right-wing funders who donated to the FDRLST Media Foundation that year: GOP megadonor and shipping supply billionaire Richard Uihlein and DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund manager that has been dubbed “the dark money ATM” of the conservative movement.” Looks like we can add Uline Shipping next to StickerMule on the list of “this company’s owner will pass your money on to horrible causes.”

December 17: “Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn’t, the study found. But the analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.”

January 20: “Early in President Trump’s term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of Trump’s cruelties, collusions, and crimes, and it felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten.”

January 29: “Donald Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset over 40 years and proved so willing to parrot anti-western propaganda that there were celebrations in Moscow, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian.”

February 18: “The Austin American-Statesman found a single, forgotten copy of that report on a Public Utilities Commission shelf in 2011. The paper went looking for it in 2011 because of the cold snap that hit Texas in February of that year. The state legislature held angry hearings, and later that spring Hegar introduced his bill to require the Public Service Commission to prepare a weatherization and preparedness report each year, an obligation that was later neglected.” Texas utility companies vs. history, or Yes, We Need That Infrastructure Bill.

March 11: “It isn’t easy to figure out exactly how much electrical energy these ‘idling cars’ are consuming, but even the lowest estimates are eye-wateringly bad. Cambridge University seems to have done the most legwork in figuring this out, and at the moment, the annualised power consumption of bitcoin mining is 128 terawatt hours. In 2019-20, every single thing plugged into Australia’s largest main grid consumed 192.

Non-COVID-19 linkspam (reproductive health, corruption, climate change, the scam of InfoWars)

So I’m reading this Scrooge McDuck comic, which was only written 30ish years ago, and some of the values dissonance is wild. “Wherever I go, there are blackguards who want to steal their fortune rather than work for it!” laments Scrooge, whose last three money-earning ventures involved cattle rustling on stolen land in Texas, homesteading on stolen land in Montana, and digging a gold mine on colonized land in South Africa.

…anyway, have a bunch of political links from the last couple months. Specific players and policies may have come and gone, but the overall themes are forever.

“Warren’s vision is deeply rooted in her policies solving the ills of society, whereas Sanders is calling for a social movement to upend the American political order as we know it. Then again, it’s hard to ignore that they back many of the same policies.

“During the Trump presidency, corruption has flourished in previously unthinkable ways, and at such a remarkable rate, that it’s almost impossible to keep it all straight—here’s what we know so far.

“Trump decided to skip a debate hosted by the network just before the Iowa caucuses in January 2016, and hold his own, competing event instead — a televised fundraiser for veterans. Shockingly enough, it turned out the event wasn’t quite on the level.” (He’s been ordered to pay back $2 million. Baby steps.)

“Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality.”

“America is one of the only developed countries in the world that pays people to donate blood, much of it sold abroad (70% of the world’s plasma is of US origin), and as commercial blood donations have soared, blood now accounts for 2% of the country’s exports — more than corn or soya.”

“The picture that emerges is of a system of staggering complexity, riddled with obstacles and cracks, that prioritizes babies over mothers, thwarts women at every turn, frustrates doctors and midwives, and incentivizes substandard care. It’s ‘the extreme example of a fragmented system that cares about women much more in the context of delivering a healthy baby than the mother’s health in and of itself.’

“I quit film school and moved nearly a thousand miles to Austin, Tex., fully invested in propagating his worldview. By the time I found myself seated next to [Alex] Jones speeding down the highway, I had seen enough of the inner workings of Infowars to know better.

“Veneto regional council, which is located on Venice’s Grand Canal, was flooded for the first time in its history on [November 12] — just after it rejected measures to combat climate change.”

Look, if you can’t make rent without working 10-hour days 7 days a week, your minimum wage is too low

“Housing [chronically homeless adults] led to dramatic cost savings that more than paid for the cost of putting them in decent housing, including $1.8 million in health care savings from 447 fewer ER visits (78% reduction) and 372 fewer hospital days (79% reduction). Tenants also spent 84 fewer days in jail, with a 72% drop in arrests.

“It gets even worse for the GOP when you consider that 9 out of the 12 states seeing faster growth are those that set their minimum wages to rise with inflation.

“A screen that OSHA said would have prevented workers from falling into the sugar hopper was removed 13 days before Salinas’ accident.

“There are other examples. We talked last year, for example, about Minnesota and Wisconsin – two similarly sized states with comparable populations […] The former raised taxes, the latter cut taxes. Which state is better off now? Take a wild guess.

“Gender-specific markups mean that in California, women were paying about $1,350 more than men a year for the same products before the state banned gender pricing. Women’s deodorant, for example, costs 30 cents more per ounce on average than men’s even when the only difference is the scent. Women also get charged more for haircuts, dry cleaning, and other beauty products like razors.”

“She was sent last Sept. 9 to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital, which was out of her insurance network, instead of to Meriter Hospital, three blocks away, which was covered by her insurance. It’s the difference between a $1,500 maximum out-of-pocket expense and the now-$50,000-plus she’s facing in bills.

State-by-state map of working hours needed at minimum wage to afford rent. It’s at least 70 hours a week, or 10 hours a day every single day, in all states but 2 (Arkansas and Montana).

#StudentLoan scam heads-up

Got a too-good-to-be-true letter in the mail the other day. Figured I would put the details online, so you’ll know it’s not just you if something similar shows up in your mailbox.

It’s a folded sheet of paper with those sealed and perforated edges, so it looks official. And it starts off innocently enough:

Dear Erin,
Due to your student loan balances totaling over [price], you are now eligible to receive benefits from a new law that has passed regarding federal student loans including TOTAL FORGIVENESS in some circumstances.

Two problems with this:
1) If a new law like this had really passed in the US, it would be ALL OVER the news, the blogs, my Facebook feed, and my Tumblr dash.
2) My loans are currently several thousand dollars under [price].

Googling some of the language in the letter turned up this Metafilter post about similar “refinance your loan!” tricks. Including this comment:

This is a (phish-y) refinancing offer. I get teh same thing all the time regaring my mortgage. Ususally the loan balance will be slightly higher than your real loan balance because their info is a few months out of date.

Ah, that explains it.

And this:

Presort Standard (marked by the postage) is for bulk, unpersonalized mail only. What this means is that they can’t include any specific details that pertain to you, and it’s almost always junk or spam. Presort First Class mail, while still for bulk mailings, allows personalized information. This type is more likely to be authentic and applicable specifically to you.

And what do you know, this letter is marked Presort Standard. (Even though it has my full name, and some information, however out-of-date, about my specific loans.)

Would be nice if the senders put their name on this thing — but here’s the other big red flag: they don’t. No name, no company logo, no return address, no identification whatsoever. The closest they come is this:

We are a consumer advocacy group. We are not debt collectors. We work on your behalf with the U.S. Department of Education to find applicable flexible financial relief programs to make your Federally Insured Student Loans flexible and easy to manage.

(There’s some fine print with a more honest disclaimer, but the letter is folded in such a way that I literally only just found it: “This is a private fee-based application assistance service, not endorsed or associated with any government agency….”)

The only contact info is the toll-free phone number — 888-852-2076. Which turns up the website of something called “Diabetic Savings Club”. I can’t figure out what they do, or how they would be connected to loan refinancing, much less refinancing of my loans (ftr, I’m not diabetic, nor is anyone in my immediate family). And I’m not invested enough to go calling them to find out (although if anyone reading wants to ring them up and tell me how it goes, feel free).

There’s also a bit of identifying info in the postage — it’s presorted by “Permit no. 1297” — which turns up lots of sites and discussions about financial predation and dodgy scams.

Long story short: my fellow Americans, if you get a letter like this, don’t let it give you false hope. Shred it, with no regrets.