Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Yesterday morni…

Yesterday morning on Fox News there was a small bit about the upcoming PPACA Supreme Court decision. In order to be “fair and balanced” there had to be a couple sentences summarizing the opposition to PPACA, even though the piece was simply about the decision, not the merits of the law. They mentioned Constitutionality, cost, and this: “Others say the plan would ration care and concentrate healthcare decisions into the hands of bureaucrats.” (or something to that effect). Oh holy shit. Like that doesn’t happen now? Like your healthcare isn’t being rationed by some corporocrats in order to make a few extra cents on stock shares?

This is how it’s happening, though. We’re headed for the dark ages. Things are no longer based on facts & empirical observation. Hell, things can’t even just be about facts. What should have been a simple “hey this thing is happening soon” turned into a FAIRANDBALANCED opportunity to inject some commentary, yet again.

 

crane’s corner again

When Ed Crane isn’t making completely uninformed statements about the LGBT community and blaming President Obama for everything under the sun (especially the price of oil), he’s calling prostitutes on craigslist enterprising young women with laptops. Like he did this morning.

first they came for the lobbyists…

Just read a post over on Gawker about a proposal to make all lobbyists wear badges.  Mass Rep John Binienda compared it to Hitler making Jews wear tattoos. Well, not really, sir. But still unnecessary. Lobbyists don’t slink around capitols in diguise. They don’t wear these things Everybody knows who the lobbyists are. Legislators don’t take meetings with unknowns, and then later realize they’ve been lobbied and and yell “Tricked again! If only there was some way to identify these damn creatures!”

From Gawker

damn that’s eerie

Does anyone else get the eerie feeling that many of the things we once considered objects (spatulas, staplers, small tools, barbecues, kitchen appliances) are now just facsimiles of objects? I noticed this a lot during the holiday shopping season. Stores were filled with aisles, displays and shelves of things that weren’t so much actual gifts as the ideas of gifts. While a cutlery set from Walmart may satisfy the requirements of usual and customary holiday proceedings, it doesn’t benefit the receiver in any real way. They can’t say “I now have a cutlery set.” The only thing they can say is, “Someone wanted to get me a cutlery set and gave me something that resembled one.”

I'm not a real blender, I just play one on television!

This idea certainly doesn’t apply only to things that are given as gifts. It applies to more and more of the “objects” I see for sale these days. I feel every time I need something, I am faced with more choices than ever before, but each of them is only a composition of plastic, metal and circuitry that temporarily alleviates my perceived need for said item and NOTHING MORE. Like a prop.

My boyfriend recently purchased a smoker (the kind that smokes meat, not a real live smoking person. Unfortunately, he has no need for a human smoker because he is already his own.) It had all the requisite elements that would lead one to believe the object was genuine: it was sold in a store for money, it came in a box, its various parts assembled into the appropriate and promised shape of a smoker. Upon use, the jig was up. The thing immediately proved itself to be an imposter, nothing more than a conglomeration of parts and fittings. You see, the sides were too thin to retain the necessary heat, the legs failed to maintain a relationship with the body…actually, that’s where my knowledge of smokers and their parts ends. But that should be enough to illustrate my point:  this item was not what it claimed to be. Holding things upright is the non-negotiable responsibility of a leg! Retaining heat is a core function of a wall! We returned the thing immediately and blamed ourselves for buying the cheap one. But on closer inspection, it turned out that even the not-cheap ones suffered the same setbacks. I believe the prices of these items- and a host of others ranging from home furnishings to clothing- are purely psychological.

So does anyone know where I can buy real things? (That is not an attempt at a witty closure, I really do want to know.)

Chase Lawsuit

I have been contacted by a New York law firm about the possibility of being the NAMED PLAINTIFF in the consumer class action suit against Chase for overdraft fees! In the last post, I mentioned visiting bank-overdraft.com and signing up. Well that shit paid off.

We’re in early stages of intake and investigation right now. I’ve sent some bank statements and signed a retainer, and I don’t know if my examples will be good enough. In March of 2009, I was hit with SEVEN overdraft fees in ONE motherfucking day. So that’s a great example. I hope my account history proves I’m a good candidate for lead plaintiff. If I was lead plaintiff, it would by my name v. JP Morgan Chase on all court documents. I’d also attend some hearings and most likely be deposed. This would be the vindication I’ve so desperately wanted. And for all the other people I hope are signing up for this suit.

If you want to become angrier than you’ve been in quite some time…

…read the amended complaint filed against JP Morgan Chase. It’s a whopper…216 pages. I’m only on page 23 and I am livid. Here’s why.

At the end of 2009, it became widely known that banks regularly engage in shady accounting as a way of triggering excessive overdraft fees. Consumer outrage and pending legislation has forced some of the larger banks to change their ways. But another consequence is several class-action lawsuits. These suits allege what I was sort of aware of all along, namely that they do not give consumers any information about opting out of so-called overdraft “protection” (what a bullshit term, as overdraft protection implies just that- protection from an overdraft, not facilitating it), they purposefully rearrange transactions to generate more fees, and they do not accurately report current balance information to customers.

The poorest 10% of bank customers incur 90% of the fees. In the 10 or so years I’ve been a customer of Washington Mutual (now Chase). I’ve spent a fair amount of that time being employed part-time or unemployed altogether. In other words, I was poor. Poor people run chronically low balances in their bank accounts (duh). Reordering transactions or delaying a deposit will wreak havoc on those with double-digit balances. It matters.

Around 2005 or so the fees started accumulating in batches, and I would regularly end up over $100 in the hole for three to five small transactions. I would log onto my account and despair over the trail into insolvency. Most of the transactions would be under $10, each with a $20-something fee attached. Did that cup of coffee taste like it was sugared with gold flakes? Because it cost as much. I did notice that transactions were routinely posted in an order that only vaguely resembled the order in which I incurred them. This got me many times. “If only the phone bill had gone through AFTER the pack of cigarettes, soda, coffee, and pack of gum!” In a chronological world, I might have still overdrawn, but only once, not five times.

Sometimes I would plead with WaMu to reverse the fees, and many times I got the “Well that’s why we encourage you to balance your checkbook” speech. (First I ask, who even has a checkbook? Debit card use is widely touted as THE way to pay for things, with Visa check card advertisements going so far as to mock people who use cash.) Second, what good is it to balance your checkbook when the transactions are not even applied in the order you would’ve recorded them? Maybe I did balance my checkbook into ONE overdraft (oops!). Makes no difference when you log on the next day and find that the transactional order has taken on a life of it’s own and triggered an avalanche of fees.

I had asked several times, “Well why can’t the bank just decline the transactions I don’t have money for?” Nobody ever gave me a good answer, ranging from vague “We don’t do that” to “Just balance your checkbook.” I was never informed of opting-out. I didn’t know it was possible to do so, and while I don’t remember asking directly, it is clear to me that I was a customer not happy with the optional “service” of overdraft protection, and I should have been told about my right to discontinue it.

Now what about using the ATM or checking accounts online to monitor your balance? Not as accurate as one would hope. Check out Item D in the Factual Allegations section of the complaint, it’s a catchy little ditty entitled “Chase’s Cloaking of Accurate Balance Information.” All that time spent checking my balance and believing it to be accurate! Silly me. The problem is, when you are a person who regularly operates in the scary realm of Less Than $10 Till Payday, accurate balance information is kind of life or death, vitally important. I wouldn’t have bought a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes with my last $9 if I had known it was actually my last ten cents.

I don’t know how much in overdraft fees I’ve paid in the last 5 years. I do know that in 2009, the year of unemployment, it was over $1,000. The worst was last July, when I went to deposit the checks my roommates had written me for rent. I deposited them in person and asked for a cashier’s check to give to the landlord. The lady behind the counter told me my funds were on hold. Why? Because of my “account history.” I just about lost it. I asked, “You meant the account history where I have incurred and subsequently paid hundreds of dollars in fees? I should have a plaque on the wall, actually.” I know it wasn’t her fault, it just was a new Chase policy to make the lives of chronic fee payers even more miserable, but still. And what ended up happening? I couldn’t tell the landlord to wait 3 business days or whatever while my funds cleared. I had to write a check for rent that day. So I wrote a personal check, knowing the money was sitting in my account. And he cashed it before Chase let the funds go. I got an insufficient funds fee.

If you or anyone you know has dealt with this, check out bank-overdraft.com. I signed up to be a part of the national class action against Chase. They haven’t contacted me yet (I got an automated email telling me it could take awhile) but it definitely made me feel better. When I think of the last five years and how much financial difficulty I’ve dealt with, which was regularly made much worse by WaMu/Chase, I get so mad. This is one of the reasons I decided to become a paralegal. Besides the desire to get out of the realm of double-digit account balances, my passion for consumer advocacy has grown out of situations like these.

Update/foot in mouth: Prop 3

These new hospitals will not only be available to kids whose parents have excellent health benefits. I was not aware of this (probably because I don’t have kids). Children’s hospitals provide uncompensated care to eligible poor kids. The text states,

“…the burden of providing uncompensated care and the increasing costs of health care seriously impair our children’s hospitals’ ability to modernize and expand their facilties.”

So on that note, it’s a worthy cause and it comes down to money. According to the LAO, the initial $980 million borrowed will amount to $2 billion with interest.