109. Online Corrupt Reviews

13 Sep

As technology brings us more complicated and better systems, opportunists develop ways to corrupt them, for their financial benefit. In previous blogs, I have discussed many types of corruption. Just today, I received a communication from what appeared to be a valid bank, one that I dealt with in the past. The message was “unauthorized sign-in.” I immediately knew this was phony because I never had an account with this bank (only a credit card, a long time ago). The whole presentation was not believable. They wanted me to log into a special site and give them banking information — obviously phony.

The above kind of scam I have seen for many years, but here is a new one (at least for me). A certain trusted web site that I have used for many years, contacted me with a proposition. I could buy certain items, write a review, and then get reimbursed for the amount paid. In other words, I would get free items in exchange for reviews that vendors needed. It sounded OK at first, but as I investigated, I discovered a whole new scam in which sellers could get good reviews for their products through deals made by intermediaries. Reviews actually have a great effect on profit. I determined that I was not contacted by my trusted online sales source, but by a scam operation. As I investigated more, I found out that there are many of these “review” scams, both negative and positive. The scammer I dealt with did not ask for good reviews, but it was strongly implied. I knew that if I made bad reviews, they would no longer deal with me. So examine reviews for your purchases carefully to make sure they are valid. For example, a large number of max reviews would be suspect.

I also have found that some companies that do major residential work, coerce their customers into providing good reviews, using an implied threat of discontinuing service. I recently bought a new car and the salesman badgered me with requests for a good dealership review. On another occasion, I was badgered by a junk hauling company for a good review, even though they tried to make me pay, unfairly, more than the pre-paid promotional coupon.

I guess that all through history, scammers have found a way to rob people. Variations of “snake oil” (a cure all) have been around for hundreds of years.

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108. Imminent Danger of POTUS

28 Aug

The investigation of Trump and his associates is going slowly (as expected), but the dangerous actions already taken, and worse decisions in the future, are so dire that we must think about quick action. Congress must consider the consequences of his continuing in office. Below, I have listed some of these grim possibilities:

Naive and blatant coercive interactions with certain countries, such as North Korea and Pakistan (and even China and Russia) can move us closer to disastrous situations and even horrible world wars.

Further reductions of government regulations, which could result in serious health factors due to air and water pollution.

Other losses of regulations affect the financial stability of major banks and investment houses. When there are failures, ordinary taxpayers lose money by bailing them out.

Failure to raise the debt ceiling will cause the USA to default on loans. The
consequence of this would be:
1. A lower credit rating will cause an increase in the interest the USA is paying on its loans, and the result is that we, the taxpayers will lose.
2. With less trust in the US dollar, we could lose our Reserve Currency status.
Reserve currency is the money used for international trade, which currently is the US dollar. There are numerous benefits to this status.
3. The US is a world leader in many ways. With a poor credit rating, world respect would diminish.

Trump has alienated many of our traditional allies by egocentric dealings and accidental insults. Allies are helpful for many kinds of international problems and conflicts.

Trump encourages alt-right groups, so that our world-wide reputation for the respect of human dignity is being diminished.

Our traditional system of free public education could be compromised and human resources would be diminished. He sets a bad example for children, by his support of violence and his aberrant actions.

Failure to support climate change remedies can lead to disastrous and costly human migrations, storms, floods, and the formation of new deserts.

Trump has allowed Russians to infiltrate our society and elections. He tends to ignore or even support Russia and has made little progress in fighting cyber-crime.

Trump re-writes history according to his own needs. He tells blatant lies and fails to coordinate with assistants, which causes confusion and distrust at home and abroad.

His attacks on the press undermine a system that is vital for any democracy.  This encourages ruthless leaders abroad to attack, jail, or even murder reporters.  It is telling that so many media organizations are critical of him.  He should be supporting traditional reliable sources like the NY Times, CNN, and the Washington Post.

107. How Voters Find Truth

20 Aug

While politicians are the immediate cause of our country’s problems, the primary, ultimate cause is bad decisions by voters.

One problem may be that our government and social system have evolved faster than the general skill of voters. Highly educated people probably do a good job, but the most poorly educated can make disastrous mistakes. It’s similar to the ordinary person trying to understand current technology.

I suspect that many voters have a difficult time deciding who is telling the truth. In the past, great newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post, for example, were highly trusted. And also certain news people, like Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and several others were considered authorities.

Compare Trump with these traditional sources. Trump never apologizes or corrects errors. The best he can say is that he was joking or being sarcastic. Major newspapers, on the other hand will print corrections if necessary, and the record shows that they do. They never state after a few days, that they were joking or being sarcastic. It is incredible that I have to say, that the words of a US President must be serious and correct. And yet, some voters just don’t care.

Here is a list of ways to determine whether a leader is truthful:
1. Is there a reasonable amount of consistency in similar statements made at different times? (See Trump’s reasons for firing FBI James Comey.)
2. Is there consistency between himself and his staff? (Trump’s attack on NATO was not supported by his staff.)
3. Does he correct errors. Everyone occasionally makes a mistake. (No corrections.)
4. Are his promises realistic (“Mexico will pay for the wall”, really?)
5. If a leader says the press is always “fake,” and he is the only source of truth, isn’t that a little suspicious. After all, the press includes a wide variety of orientations from way left to far right (even alt-right).
6. It is easy to check (with a little bit of searching) how he quotes other people.
7. Does he accurately portray established historical facts? (See what Trump says about the childhood of ex-president Obama.)
8. Does the leader appear to have a good understanding of complex issues.
9. Does the leader tend to avoid directly answering questions by the press.

I know that the voters that really need to read this, probably will not, but this may be helpful for anyone who is trying to promote citizen education.

106. Health Care for All

30 Jul

It is already a basic USA value to help everyone with at least some types of health problems. If a homeless person is lying in the street with severe injuries, he will at least get minimal care. Covertly, Republicans might not agree with this, but on the record they would have to support it or be castigated.

Given this premise, that in practice, everyone will get health care if needed, then it does make sense to require everyone pay for it. The simplest and most agreeable implementation is Medicare for all. Remember that our POTUS promised health care for all at good rates, in his campaign.

I suggest that we greatly increase taxes for rich folks by having higher rates and by closing tax loopholes. If you are extremely rich, then your taxes will be extremely high. If you have no income, then no tax. If you have a small regular income then you could have a very small increase. As income increases, then the percent allotted to health care expense also gradually increases. Lower and middle class people will pay a little more and wealthy people a lot more. Why should wealthy people pay a lot more: because they use a lot of resources and because much of their wealth has been gained by unfair influence on Congressional financial (tax, subsidies, IRA’s, etc.) legislation.

Note that I am not against people who become rich through hard work and intelligence. It is extreme wealth and wealth unfairly gained that bothers me; particularly when there is substantial poverty in our nation. Many very wealthy people have stated that they would not object to increased taxes.

Countries with universal health care include: Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom (see Wikipedia).

 

105. Balancing Rich vs. Poor

8 Jul

Our country (USA) now has a certain established income (mostly from tax), and established expenditures. An increase or decrease in any source of income or expense will, as a general rule, either raise or lower the nation debt. To keep the budget constant and free of debt increase, you must keep all parts of it about the same, or set up see-saw rules: up in one area, down in another, and visa-versa. (These rules hold in general, but there can be minor complications.)

So if someone proposes more military spending then there will be less for other areas, for example, infrastructure spending. If we take away huge amounts of income by lowering taxes for the rich, then there could be less for Medicaid, education, environmental protection, or something else.

Trump and Republicans have always proposed decreasing our national income by lowering wealthy taxes. This by itself would increase the national debt. Further, Trump wants to greatly increase military spending. So now we have a lot of spending, with the consequence that other programs will suffer. Rich folks will buy more luxury items, and will be more effective in influencing Congress. And poor people will suffer as their special programs (such as Medicaid) will be diminished. There is a clear ethical problem: less luxury for millionaires (even billionaires) versus the deaths of people who lack health care.

For Trump, having a powerful military is very important because it is helpful in coercion, forcing other countries to go along with his plans. After all, his political and negotiating skills don’t seem to be very good, so he needs a very powerful military to get his way. Also, his political mistakes can be minimized by showing off his military might — similar to the displays of armaments by North Korea.

Another bonus for very rich people would be eliminating the inheritance tax. The cut-off for this tax is the inheritance of five-million dollars so it only applies to rich folk. The vast majority of U.S. citizens support the continuation of this tax.  I have noticed that when Trump mentions inheritance tax, it is very quickly and with a lowered voice.

If the Republicans can achieve the above goals, which make wealthy people even richer, then these are some of the areas that could be adversely affected:
education, health care, State Department functions, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, Medicare, infrastructure improvement, scientific research, medical research, various tech programs, environmental protections, etc. Let’s ask Trump to do with the Military, what he has proposed in other situations — lets hold the extra spending and make it more efficient instead.

 

104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.

103. Republicans Hate ObamaCare: Why?

28 Apr

“Insurance companies must use more of the premiums they receive for patient care rather than administrative costs…” (see reference below)

As I watched a number of news programs, it became apparent that commentators were not fully aware of the ACA (ObamaCare) provisions, or for whatever reason, ignored some of the most important points.

I am already familiar with most of the significant features, but I decided to search for a good summary. Here is one that is very useful and authoritative by Norma Goodwin, MD:
12 Simply Stated Features of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare
The above (beginning) quotation is from this very useful summary (search Internet for this title). This feature alone, can explain why the GOP wants to abolish the ACA rather than just improve it. Rich insurance company owners don’t want to be limited in their lust for profits.

There are a few additional points that I would like to emphasize. There is much discussion about “pre-existing conditions.” But often overlooked are many other features that are critical (life-and-death) for good heath care. These include:

1. Eliminates annual and lifetime insurance policy limits.  Many people have died because their insurance money ran out.
2. Parent insurance coverage for offspring up to the age 26.
3. Medicaid is supported, but some states have refused to accept the free financial support.
4. Medicare is protected and now many preventive screenings are included.
5. Costs for vital medications are reduced.
6. Other provisions of the ACA are designed to lower the general cost of health care, and improve the quality of care.

The ACA is not perfect, but includes many great ideas. Keeping it will insure that the people will be well taken care of. New plans by the GOP will eliminate many more citizens from insurance coverage, decrease the quality of care, and will insure that rich insurance company owners will become even richer. Hopefully, some day we will have a “single payer” system, a Medicare for all.