It’s July 4th, 2019 and it’s feeling a little fascist out there.

I’ve not blogged anything in awhile in part because my creative juices have dried up and in part because every day there’s so many new outrages to come out of the Trump administration that it’s hard to keep up without being overwhelmed. Children in concentration camps, his unqualified kids sticking their noises in at the G20 summit, and now his big Russian styled military parade for the 4th of July.

This is why the title doesn’t wish you a Happy 4th. There’s nothing to be happy about this year. It’s all starting to feel way too much like the dictatorships Trump loves to buddy up to. More worrying to me, however, is how Trump has shown the willingness of Republicans to tolerate a wanna-be Stalin so long as he’s a Republican giving them want they want. Trump has already done so many things that they would’ve tried to impeach Obama for if he had done them that it really does put to bed any credibility they might have had. There was one Republican who stood up and called for impeachment, but he’s announced that he’s leaving the party so they don’t even have him to point to anymore.

So, have a safe July 4th. That’s the best I can do this year.

Someone is trying to steal my credit.

Received a letter from Credit One Bank today telling me the $435.68 payment on my credit card wouldn’t be accepted until I provided them with a letter from the bank the check was issued from on official letterhead stating that it was an authorized payment and with all this additional information to prove it was legit and in the meantime my account with Credit One was suspended.

Just one problem: I’d never heard of Credit One Bank until I got the letter today and I have never applied for a credit card from them. So, I spent the next hour on the phone with an “Account Specialist” who filed a report asking for the account to be investigated for fraud.

Turns out the account was opened on April 14th, which puts it around the same time as another attempt at opening a card with Capital One happened. That was only foiled because they used my old address in Canton instead of my current address and Capital One called to inquire about the discrepancy. I suppose I should take some comfort in that whoever this asshole opening accounts in my name is they’re at least trying to make payments on them with fraudulent checks? I’m also somewhat amused/annoyed that the amount of verification required for reactivating my “temporarily” suspended account is so much more than what is required to open the account in the first place.

Sneaky hacker graphic of Identity Theft by CafeCredit

I already knew I was part of the huge data breach of Equifax back in 2017 and I was wondering how long it would be before someone finally tried to make use of my data. I spent quite a bit more time today getting my free credit report which verifies the Credit One account having been opened and filing a dispute of it with both TransUnion and Experian. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any other credit cards have been successfully opened under my name. I’ve already put a freeze on my credit with Equifax, but still need to do so with the other two.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at your credit report then now might be a good time to do so. You can check all three reporting agencies at once through Annual Credit Report.com which is run by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You are entitled by law to one free credit report from each of the companies every 12 months. If you need to file a dispute you can do so online through their respective websites. You can also insure information about you is up to date. TransUnion, for example, didn’t have my current address. This is especially important if, like me, you are a victim of the Equifax breach.

Science literacy is important for more than not looking like an idiot.

A recent United Nations report warned that up to 1 million species are facing extinction thanks to the impact humans are having on the planet.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he says.

The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans’ use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.

“Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities,” Scott McArt,an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.

“There’s actually a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today,” McArt says.

1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says – NPR.org


There’s a very real danger at this point that if this high number of extinctions does to come to pass that we’ll end up going down with them. So the folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live went out on the street to ask people if we should save ourselves. Specifically, they used the scientific term for humans, Homo sapiens. These are some of the replies people gave:

To be fair, these segments only ever show you the clueless replies and the sample size here is very small, but humans being classified as Homo sapiens is a basic scientific fact that we were all taught (or should have been taught) in grade school. It’s similar to how a lot of folks don’t know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O) is literally water, but that one is a little easier to understand folks not knowing if they didn’t take basic chemistry — not completely understandable as I never took basic chemistry and I know it, but a little more understandable.

I’ve ranted previously about the sad state of science literacy in America and things really haven’t improved much. Periodically the folks at the Pew Research Center conduct a survey to find out what Americans know about science. Their latest was done on January 7th to the 21st, 2019 and consisted of 11 fairly basic questions:

Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 11 questions. The mean number of correct answers is 6.7, while the median is 7. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) get between nine and 11 correct answers, classified as having high science knowledge on the 11-item scale or index. Roughly one-third (32%) are classified as having medium science knowledge (five to eight correct answers) and about three-in-ten (29%) are in the low science knowledge group (zero to four correct answers).

The biggest factor in determining how well someone does is the level of education that have managed to acquire:

Americans with a postgraduate degree get about four more questions correct, on average, than those with a high school degree or less education (9.1 of 11 questions vs. 5 of 11). Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) Americans with a postgraduate degree are classified as high in science knowledge, answering at least nine of 11 items correctly. By contrast, about two-in-ten (19%) of those with a high school degree or less perform as well on the scale.

And on each of the 11 questions, those with a postgraduate degree are at least 27 percentage points more likely to choose the correct answer than those with a high school degree or less.

There are also large differences between different ethnic groups which you would think could be tied to the fact that minorities often don’t have the same educational opportunities are whites, but it appears that may not be the case:

Whites are more likely than Hispanics or blacks to score higher on the index. Whites get an average of 7.6 correct out of 11 questions, while Hispanics average 5.1 correct answers and blacks 3.7 correct answers.4 Roughly half of whites (48%) are classified as having high science knowledge on the scale, answering at least nine questions correctly, compared with 23% of Hispanics and 9% of blacks.

Differences by race and ethnicity on science knowledge could be tied to several factors such as educational attainment and access to science information. However, differences between the racial/ethnic groups on science knowledge hold even after controlling for education levels in a regression model.

In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology and understanding the complexity of things such as the climate it’s more important than ever that folks have at least a basic understanding of science and the methodology of the scientific method. This survey suggests we have a long way to go. It’s no wonder we’re letting the planet burn.

You can take the quiz used for this survey yourself by clicking here. My own education level isn’t fantastic; I’ve had some college but I’ve never finished a degree. Yet I managed to get all 11 questions correct which is better than 83% of the public.

There were two questions I had to stop and think about before answering (and, no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers), but the vast majority of these questions were answerable off the top of my head. That should be true for most people.

On the bright side, at the least I don’t have to worry that I’ll end up on one of Kimmel’s idiots-who-don’t-know-basic-science videos.

Brain supplements are a waste of money.

If you’re getting on in years you may have noticed that a lot of web advertising these days consists of pitches for supplements that are supposed to improve “brain health” and prevent things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The industry that makes these products pulls down $3.2 billion every year showing that there’s lots of folks worried about falling victim to these conditions as they age. There’s just one problem with these products: None of them have been demonstrated to do a damned thing other than drain your wallet.

“This $3.2-billion industry … benefits from high-penetration consumer advertising through print media, radio, television and the internet,” the neurologists wrote. “No known dietary supplement prevents cognitive decline or dementia, yet supplements advertised as such are widely available and appear to gain legitimacy when sold by major U.S. retailers.”

Are brain supplements a big waste of money? – MarketWatch.com
Image by Melanie Simon from Pixabay

It’s bad enough that these bullshit products are sold alongside legitimate medicines at your local pharmacy, but apparently there are also licenced medical personnel that are pushing pseudo-medical treatments:

“Some of these practitioners may stand to gain financially by promoting interventions that are not covered by insurance, such as intravenous nutrition, personalized detoxification, chelation therapy, antibiotics or stem cell therapy. These interventions lack a known mechanism for treating dementia and are costly, unregulated and potentially harmful,” the article states.

There are a lot of companies out there that are eager to cash in on your fears. According to the MarketWatch article, the FDA ‘issued a statement saying it posted 17 warning and advisory letters to domestic and foreign companies that illegally sell 58 products — many of them dietary supplements — that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions. […] “These products may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”’

Unfortunately, the MarketWatch article takes a nosedive in the latter half by talking with a naturopath who proscribes Homeopathic treatments which is another big woo-woo bullshit industry. To her credit she agrees that using dietary supplements that aren’t backed by solid research is a problem, but that’s about the only credit she deserves. Homeopathy is an even bigger batch of nonsense than the dietary supplement industry. At least the supplements contain actual ingredients.

Don’t fall for the bullshit. The causes of Dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex and promising research is ongoing, but so far nothing has been shown to be an effective preventative of these conditions. Not only are brain health supplements just a waste of money, but they’re also potentially harmful and could end up interacting with other prescription drugs you may be taking in negative ways.

Hell, this is true for dietary supplements in general. Most do nothing other than cost money. Some are dangerous when taken with other prescription medication. Vitamin supplements are arguably useful, but only when your doctor says you actually need them. If you’re already getting all the vitamins you need from your diet then you will literally piss away anything extra you get from a supplement.

You can take your fandom too far.

I’ve said before that I do appreciate it when the Trumpsters self-identify because it makes it easier to know who to avoid talking to, but you can overdo it:

He's more 'MURICA! than anyone else he knows!
They’re more ‘MURICA! than anyone else they know!

Dude, we get it. You’re a raging asshole who is apparently willing to risk traffic tickets to tell the world whose dick you’d be more than happy to ride on for a few hours, but you could’ve saved time and money with just a couple of those on your bumper. That’d be all it would take to insure anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together would leave you alone.

Perhaps you should consider taking up a hobby. May I suggest meditation? In a straight-jacket?

14 years after trying to scam my brother, Saint Matthew’s Church gets around to mailing me.

In January of 2015 my brother chatted with me on MSN Messenger (remember that?) about a mailing he got from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew’s Churches. They had sent him the amazingly wonderfully amazing Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug which, they promised, would perform a legitimate miracle by opening its closed eyes if you just stared at it long enough and prayed.

The idea was that “Jesus sees your needs” and all you had to do to be financially blessed by the Son of God was say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances!” and then send a “seed gift” to the folks at Saint Matthew’s Churches along with the prayer rug. Afterall, you have to spend money to make money, right? Apparently the same rules apply with God. Though you’d think you’d get to keep the prayer rug. I guess they didn’t have enough to go around even though it was clearly a cheap printing on low-quality cloth.

They also had a big form to fill out where you could check off what things you were struggling with and then they’d pray for God to help you with those things, but the big thing they kept emphasising in the package was just how much money other people had been “blessed” with. One woman got $46,000 after praying to the rug and sending it back with her seed gift and another person got $10,000. You can read my original blog post about it here.

Fast forward 14 years and I come home from work to find this envelope waiting for me in my mailbox:

When I saw it was from Saint Matthew’s Churches I knew I recognized the name and as soon as I opened the envelope I knew why. It’s the same scam as my brother got almost a decade and a half ago.

Well, not quite the same as there is no amazingly wonderfully amazing miracle Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug this time. No, this time it’s a Prosperity Handkerchief. Production values have definitely gone down over the years as the Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug was printed on something resembling cloth whereas this Prosperity Handkerchief doesn’t perform any miracles and is clearly printed on a standard 8×11 sheet of copier paper. Seriously:

Blow your nose with this handkerchief and you’ll suffer the Lord’s wrath with a paper cut on your nose.

The spiel, however, is very close to the original. Using this amazingly wonderfully amazing Prosperity Handkerchief has resulted in folks having all manner of Spiritual, Physical, but — most important of all — FINANCIAL blessings rained down upon them from the Good Lord above. God sees you need money and He’s willing to be most generous so long as you’re willing to be generous first with Saint Matthew’s Churches.

As you look through the scans of the brochure then sent me below, note the lack of specificity of the rewards compared to 14 years ago. Clearly the number of folks complaining about this scam to the BBB and various charity watchdogs has had an impact. Instead of “this woman got $46,000” it’s now “I used this [Prosperity] Handkerchief and … I received [a huge financial blessing].” I guess so long as you make the testimonials vague enough and put shit in brackets with lots of underlines then it’s A-OK.

I also find it amusing how so much of the artwork and styling looks like something crapped out in the 1950s. They claim to have been established in 1951 so I suppose that’s not surprising, but you’ll note that in that last scan above there’s a very modern roll of hundred dollar bills and a Cadillac SUV that has been crudely photoshopped in. Sure, folks got jobs and raises and just plain old happiness, but LOOK AT THE MONEY AND CARS!

“But,” I hear you say, “what about the miracle?” Well this time they have something even BETTER than a miracle! They have a PERSONALIZED PROPHECY! You may remember seeing something about that on the back of the envelope up above. You’re not supposed to open it until after sunset the day after you get the mailing for reasons that are never specified. Additionally, you shouldn’t open the prophecy until after you have sent the paper handkerchief and your “seed” money back to the church. If you’re not going to send the money then you must DESTROY the prophecy without reading it!

Ha! Yeah, I’m not sending them shit and I am reading this supposedly highly personalized prophecy that God dictated to them to send to me even though He could’ve saved on postage if He’d just show up and tell me Himself. I wonder why “He” doesn’t just do that?

Wow, that was, underwhelming. Lots of generic talk about a “greater purpose” that I “haven’t discovered yet” and “the power was IN YOU ALL ALONG” bullshit. I’ve seen phony psychic readings that were more specific than this claptrap.

Lastly, we have the final page that has the “what other shit other than money do you need us to pray for you which we totally won’t do” form. I particularly like how personalized the opening is: “Dear … Someone Connected with This Home, Who Needs Prayer and God’s Divine Help and Blessings… In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. ” Yeah, that’s totally not my name.

So, yeah, 14 years later and they’re still at it with a few tweaks to the message to stay just this side of legal. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised as they were at it for longer than that prior to my brother telling me about them.

When I first wrote about them in 2005 I mentioned that Saint Matthew’s Churches made $26 million in 1999, which was the last year they made their tax records public. As of 2007 it’s estimated they were pulling down $6 million a month. That’s a lot of sheep being fleeced. Mostly elderly sheep too. They construct their mailing lists specifically to target older believers many of whom are the least likely to be able to afford sending along money and you can bet your ass that those who do will find a whole lot more prayer scam letters showing up in their mailboxes.

In that original post about these asshats I said that I was torn between feeling angry that the religiously gullible are being taken advantage by an unscrupulous organization and feeling that they’re getting what they deserve for being gullible sheep to begin with. That hasn’t changed much over time and neither has the tactics of Saint Matthew’s Church. So I suppose the only thing to say is: buyer beware.

FOX & Friends host Pete Hegseth admits on air he never washes his hands.

Pete Hegseth has prompted me to start a list of people whose hands I should avoid ever touching, along with anything those hands have touched. A list I didn’t think I would need until he admitted on air that he pretty much never washes his hands because, and I quote, “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.”

Not being one who watches FOX News I had to look up who this yahoo is and, according to his Wikipedia profile, he’s a graduate of both Princeton (BA) and Harvard (MPP) so his views that germs don’t exist because he can’t see them is surprising. I suppose he must not have taken any science classes in his time in school. Unsurprisingly he considers himself a Christian, which implies that his need to see things in order for them to exist has some exceptions.

On the plus side, if he sticks to his resolution to “say things on air that I say off air” then chances are he’ll be unemployed before too much longer. Which is a shame as his lack of hygiene may be our best bet for bringing down FOX News.

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the video clip.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Jesus, Take The Wheel edition.

I’ve been writing up TMFWMYC articles for years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from them it’s that when Jesus speaks to you, nine times out of ten, you’re probably better off ignoring him.

Take the example of James A. Mucciaccio Jr. who did about $50K of damage to his
2000 Ferrari coupe when he heard the call to drive it off a Palm Beach dock into a lake from none other than the Son of God himself:

Police said Mucciaccio told them he was waiting for a friend to pick him up by the dock. When the officer told Mucciaccio he couldn’t park on the dock, Mucciaccio reversed toward the road but then suddenly switched into drive and drove into the inlet “at a high rate of speed,” the report says.

Police said Mucciaccio, who Palm Beach Fire-Rescue said was uninjured, “was able to exit” the car before it sank and was eventually helped onto a boat by a passing fisherman.

After reaching shore, Mucciaccio walked back to the officer, police said, and said Jesus told him to drive off the dock “and into a 6-foot window.” Mucciaccio also told police, “Money is going to be irrelevant in two days; remember to smile,” according to the report.

The passing fisherman who helped Mucciaccio to shore told police that Mucciaccio said he drove into the inlet because the “officer on the dock was Egyptian and he did not believe in Jesus.”

Source: Palm beach daily news

Now it’s possible that Jesus just doesn’t understand how cars are supposed to be utilized — it’s not like they were around in his time — but that seems like some really questionable advice.

Or perhaps he thought Jesus would turn his car into this bit of awesomeness allowing for a quick getaway!
Photo Credit:Kmr1985

Now I can already hear you furiously typing in the comments about how clearly this guy was nuts and Jesus didn’t actually tell him to drive his car into the lake, but the news article notes that the police haven’t stated if Mucciaccio had or would be charged with any crimes even though he did $1K of damage when he sideswiped a metal ladder that was town property on his way into the water. Clearly the police accepted his claim as God’s honest truth and who are they to stand in the way of an order from Jesus even if it doesn’t make any sense?

New vlog: Why I hate Fortnite.

So I spend about 20 minutes in this video trying to articulate why I hate Fortnite that has nothing to do with how the game itself plays (I’ve never played it) but the bad influence on monetization it’s having on the rest of the industry. This is completely unedited, badly argued, probably riddled with factual inaccuracies, and plenty of profanity, but, hey, it’s content!

What is it about America that makes you proud and why would you think that’s racist?

The following bit of idiocy has shown up on my Facebook wall twice now and it has annoyed me to the point of insomnia. So here I am, awake at 1AM when I should be asleep, writing a blog post about it because I’m not dressed enough to vlog it. 

Also, not sure I could vlog about it without losing my temper.

Wait, what?

The second person to have shared this is a family member, I won’t say whom, that I normally would assume would see the flaw in that statement. Being the sort of person I am, I couldn’t let it pass by without commenting on it. My reply in both cases was: “America isn’t a race so it’s not a racist statement to make. Unless what you really mean is that you’re proud to be a “White American” which is what a LOT of people mean when they say this. In which case, yes, it’s racist as fuck.”

A few hours later I saw I had a notification of a reply to my comment. It was from a friend of my relative who tried to keep her comment simple. It read: “Les Jenkins see shut up”

My, but what a compelling counter-argument that is. This reply to me is what has me so annoyed that I’m up at a ridiculous hour in the morning typing away at my keyboard when I should be asleep. Hell, if the original message had simply read “I’m proud to be an American, share this if you agree” then I’d probably would’ve let it pass without saying anything. The addition of the “they are scared to be called a racist” bit is just baffling when you take the statement at face value. The only people who could possibly be worried someone would see that statement as racist is someone who actually meant “proud to be a white American”, which is exactly the unspoken intention many on the Far Right mean when they say it.

For whatever reason when I woke up around 12:30AM to use the bathroom, my thoughts while sitting in the dark came back to this post and the barely coherent reply to my comment I got. The more I thought about it the more questions I had. Questions like:

What, exactly, makes you proud to be an American?

Is it that you were lucky enough by random chance to be born here? Is it that we have the largest military? Is it our economy? Our criminal justice system? Our legislative system? What, exactly, is it that you think is worthy of pride for the simple status as a citizen of this country?

Is it the self-aggrandizing, narcissistic, callow former reality-show host of a President that makes you proud to be an American? Because, honestly, I find that to be a bit of an embarassment. We’ve put an inept, self-absorbed ass in the White House whose biggest motivation is cultivating unwarranted praise and some of us are gleeful about the damage he’s doing. That’s nothing to be proud of.

Is it our policy of family separation of migrants looking for asylum that you’re proud of? We pulled upwards of 12,000 kids 18 and under — 2,400 of which are 12-years-old and younger — from their parents and put them in cages. We then did a piss-poor job of reuniting them with their parents even after a court order to do so. We still haven’t completed the task in spite of being well past the 30 day deadline. Some of them may never be reunited having been sent into the foster/adoption system where the government lost track of them. 

Are you proud of how our current Administration has managed to alienate long-standing allies? How about the trade wars that are causing everyone from Harley Davidson and GM to America’s soybean farmers having to make hard decisions about what to build where or, in the case of the farmers, allowing their crops to rot in the fields because the countries that used to buy them have slapped them with high tariffs in retaliation?  The trade wars have impacted our farmers so much that Trump has promised to bail them out with taxpayer money when they could’ve just made money by selling their products as they had been. How is that something to be proud of?

Maybe you’re proud of how out of the 35 major countries that comprise the OECD, we rank 32nd in the mortality rate of children under-5 years old? Only Chile, Turkey, and Mexico are below us.  In the CIA’s list of 223 nations our under-5 mortality rate puts us at the 56th spot. Fucking Cuba is in the 43rd spot. 

Maybe you’re proud because of the rampant wealth inequality in this country which was only made worse with the massive Trump tax cuts that were passed in the last year? The tax cuts that were supposed to “pay for themselves” and result in “higher employee wages” and which haven’t done either thing, but has exploded the deficit to record levels which the Republicans are now trying to use as an excuse to cut Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security. I suppose if you’re part of the 1% that might be reason to be proud to be an American. That’s assuming you pay much in taxes in the first place.

Perhaps you’re proud of how we’re ignoring the growing climate crisis and the resulting shitty world it’s going to leave for your children and grandchildren once you’ve kicked the bucket? Hell, we’re not just ignoring it, we’re actively rolling back policies that would help to mitigate it while trying to hide or destroy any science that suggests it’s an actual problem. But at least you won’t have to drive one of those sissy Prius cars, am I right?  

Personally, I love my country, but I’m not very proud of it most of the time as of late. The above are just a few of the reasons why. None of the above is anything to be proud of.