Trust but Verify

Michael P. Hlady of Greenville, RI sounds like a seriously bad character and serial scam artist. He stands accused of ripping off an order of nuns, perhaps driving a Catholic school into financial ruin.

“Be wise as serpents and as simple as doves.” Jesus said. The past two years are a long sad tale of people finding out they’ve been scammed, and that includes smart financiers. Remember Bernie Madoff?

Free Credit Report?

Come to think of it, why should banks be allowed to maintain a secret ranking system of customers that they share with everyone but the customer? Isn’t that kind of monopolistic?

Someone thought so, because your credit report belongs to you and you don’t have to pay anyone to get it. But that doesn’t stop enterprising souls from trying to sell you what you already paid for. Have you seen those adorable commercials for

The Federal Trade Commission is not amused. It has long believed that the company that owns is deliberately diverting people from a government-mandated site where consumers can get free credit reports by law, and using the reports as a lure for a $14.95 monthly service that alerts subscribers to important changes in their credit status.

A while back an enterprising member of Congress proposed a bill to make Americans pay a private corporation for what we already built and maintained with our tax dollars. Basically the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was giving out weather reports to everyone without additional charges. How socialistic. Some silly idea about public safety, no doubt. Here’s Wikipedia…

“While generally respected as one of the premier weather organizations in the United States, the National Weather Service has been perceived by some[citation needed], particularly libertarians and commercial weather services such as AccuWeather, as competing unfairly with the private sector. In 2005, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005, a bill intended to limit the NWS’s ability to provide data that could be given by commercial outlets, but at cost to generate private profit. The bill was widely criticized by users of the NWS’s services. The bill died in committee during the 2005 session.”

How hurtful. Especially to the campaign fund.

In the wake of the bill’s introduction, Santorum, who had already gained notoriety for his activism against gay rights and the recent Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas that struck down sodomy laws in the United States, was accused of political impropriety and influence peddling due to the fact that Joel Myers, the head of Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather and one of Santorum’s constituents, was also a Santorum campaign contributor. Though no action was taken by the Senate on the accusations, Santorum has become the most significant target of the Democratic National Committee’s campaign effort for the 2006 U.S. Senate Election.
In September 2005, while the bill was still in committee, Santorum criticized the National Weather Service’s forecasting of Hurricane Katrina, claiming that more lives could have been saved if the NWS’s operation focused on severe weather. However, both public and professional opinion held that the NWS’s forecasting had in fact been substantially better than most other sources, and Santorum’s comment was largely ignored.

Well, anyway, if you’re not afraid that socialist demons will jump out of your screen you may visit these sites, which have, as you will notice, .gov in the address–

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration There is a cool weather map of the East Coast with color coded storms in real time.

Federal Trade Commission. Find out what you can get that you have already paid for with your tax dollars, and then if you want more services shop around for a private vendor who isn’t spending millions on TV commercials claiming to give it away for ‘free’.

Pain Ain’t Gain

Good article here about 5 dangerous and fraudulent health fads you should avoid. It’s written by a doctor who argues that coffee will do you more good if you drink it than if you spray it up your colon.

I couldn’t agree more. I was in a health food store once and a clerk was showing me scary pictures and explaining that a person’s intestines become clogged with waste, kind of like the drain in my bathroom sink, and must be periodically flushed. I disagreed.

I had recently observed a colonoscopy of an elderly person and watched their intestines on TV. This person had great-looking intestines, even though they’d had many decades to build up sludge.

I totally discount the whole myth about the normal digestive system not being able to take care of its business. And if you ever come to my house for coffee, you need not worry about where it’s been.

Parasitical Worms Afflict American Health Care

Good article by Richard Salit in today’s Providence Journal about scammers marketing fake health insurance…

“Medical discount cards are spreading like kudzu because so many people are being laid off and going without health insurance or simply can’t afford premiums anymore. They are looking for affordable ways to cut their medical costs and discount cards are springing up in response to an urgent market need,” says James Quiggle, spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a group that includes consumer advocates and insurance companies. “Unfortunately, much of that response is fraudulent and abusive.

It’s easy enough for even amateurs to put up a website, print cards, run a TV commercial and take hundreds of dollars monthly out of a bank account via direct withdrawal. Just like the big guys. But they don’t spend much on phone support…

After being put on hold, the line went dead. When the reporter called back, a man answered the phone, “Bob’s Abortion Clinic.” The screen on the reporter’s phone showed it was the same number. The reporter asked to speak to a supervisor. A man who called himself “Stuey” eventually got on the phone. He insisted it was an abortion clinic in St. Louis and then the line went dead again. [the rest of this sordid tale here]

The big guys are more accountable. They answer their phone, and most of the time they give coverage for the money. But don’t get yourself too sick, or you might find out that they operate on the same basic principle as “Stuey”–charge the most money for the least service. It’s not that they’re evil, it’s the profit principle–a shark has to keep moving.

A single payer system would clean out the parasites. A government sponsored affordable insurance plan would give people a safe alternative to the shady, complicated, ‘buyer beware’ system we have now. This system sucks money from the people who can least afford it, and really dishes out the pain when they get sick.

Update– via Daily Kos this link to a NYT editorial about a process called ‘recission’ that allows big insurers to cancel benefits when a subscriber gets sick and needs to make claims.

God Needs a Loan

No, of course not. God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. She isn’t waiting for the next paycheck to come in.

But some souls who really can’t afford it are making a preacher rich by sending him money, believing that God will pay it back with interest.

As Easter approached, the ad ran repeatedly on the Inspiration Network: David Cerullo, clutching a Bible, told viewers they, too, could receive prosperity, physical healing and other blessings God gave the ancient Israelites.

All they had to do, the televangelist said, was send $200 or more.

“Go to your phone,” he said. “Sow your Passover offering and watch God do what he said he would … Call now.”

So who would fall for this? Maybe someone extremely vulnerable…

Rebecca Mills, 54, of north Mississippi, gave about $400 two years ago. Money was tight. But it was a time when she was recovering from breast cancer and trying to get closer to God.

The more she read the Bible, the more she wondered why she’d written those checks: “I could just … tell that what they were saying wasn’t right.”

Unitarians don’t particularly believe in Hell, but if there is a Hell, there must be a special place for con men who prey on poor people when they are sick and alone.

And in a lovely example of taxpayer support for ‘faith-based’ organizations (otherwise know as ‘churches’), even atheists get to contribute to the ‘reverend’ and help expand his reach…

Much of the money sent by people like Mills is now funding the City of Light, a 93-acre campus in northern Lancaster County, S.C., where the network’s plans include a sophisticated training and broadcast center.

Taxpayers are also helping to pay for it. Eager to bring jobs to a county with 19 percent unemployment, South Carolina offered the network incentives worth up to $26 million to land the campus – a deal that has been questioned by economic development experts.

Maybe they didn’t want the voters to think they were Godless, like in that book.

But if you need to have faith in something, I have a deal for you. Comment on Kmareka. If you do, the god Mercury will strap on his winged sandals and wave his caduceus over your blog, causing thousands of hits to appear on your site meter every day. Just believe. Faith is a good thing. Don’t make me call down the wrath of Saturn on your hard drive. Comment today.