Republican Sean Duffy whines that $174K a year is hard for his family to survive on.

Republican Sean Duffy

Waaaah! Life is too hard on only $174K a year!

The following video clip has to be seen to be believed, and if the GOP manages to get its way you won’t have very long to see it:

Awwww, poor baby. I wish I had that kind of a problem.

The folks over at TPM posted the above clip after the Polk County GOP yanked the video from their own website when it became apparent it wasn’t going over well with the general public. It wasn’t soon before the GOP got that one yanked as well by filing a DMCA request with the video host TPM was using. Now they’ve got it back up, but who knows for how long so let’s include a transcript of what Mr. Duffy had to say after being told by a constituent that Duffy’s salary was easily three times his own:

I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high on the hog, I’ve got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high on the hog.

A used minivan? OH THE HORROR!

If I was making that kind of money I’d have every debt that Anne and I have paid off within 6 months and I’m quite sure I could live quite comfortably on that amount even if I had 6 kids. Alas, they don’t pay that kind of money to a mere Desktop Support Technician. Hell, I’d be happy to get back to the 54K a year I was earning a few years back. Ironically, Sean Duffy is a former cast member of MTV’s Real World show. Which just illustrates how there isn’t anything real about it.

Updated: The flash player from TPM wasn’t working too well, so I’ve replaced it with a copy of the video from You Tube uploaded by YouTellEmSteveDave.

Skeptic busts psychic’s “evil money” scam.

This is a dual purpose story. First, it’s about dumbasses who believe psychics are real and end up allowing themselves to be scammed out of their money. Secondly, it’s about how a little skepticism can make all the difference.

It takes place in ***Dave’s neck of the woods and it involves a Denver-area psychic named Nancy D. Marks:

Lafayette police say the investigation began after receiving complaints about possible fraudulent activity. The accusations involved the loss of large amounts of money that police say were given to Marks for “psychic readings” and other psychic services.

Marks was arrested on three charges including two counts of Theft Over $20,000 and one count of Criminal Impersonation. She was being held in the Boulder County Jail on $250,000 bond.

It seems Ms. Marks, which is a surprisingly apt name in some ways, was telling folks that their money was possessed by evil spirits which was the cause of their suffering. I bet you’ll be able to guess what her solution to that problem was. That’s right, they needed to give her their money so that she could make the money suffer instead of the idiots clients.

Amazingly enough, more than one person actually bought into this bullshit. One gave her $50,000 and another upwards of $240,000.

It all came to an end, however, when someone with just a bit of skepticism decided to visit the psychic on a lark. You’ll have to watch the news report to get the full details:

Kudos to Linda, who’s last name wasn’t given for some odd reason, for her skepticism and dedication to getting this fraud busted. I especially liked how she rolled her eyes when recounting how Marks told her she had a number of evil spirits around her that required a butt load of money to banish.

For the record I am not a psychic, but if you are stunningly credulous and are troubled by evil money spirits then I would be more than happy to accept your money and make it suffer so you don’t have to. I have come up with a number of ways I will punish the evil money spirits by forcing them to do good by buying food with it and paying my rent. Being that I am already evil the evil money spirits will have no power over me so my safety is insured. I will also further my evil by forcing evil spirits to do good things which is the ultimate in suffering for them which insures my evilness will be maintained.

See? It all makes sense. So long as you have the brains of a grapefruit.

New scam to steal money from lots of people in very small amounts.

There may be a new credit card scam making the rounds that involves very small charges to lots of people:

Several Internet complaint boards are filled with comments from credit card customers from coast to coast who have noticed a mysterious charge for about 25 cents on their statements.

The charge shows up on statements as coming from “Adele Services” in Melville, N.Y. There is no business by that name listed in Melville, or registered to any business anywhere in New York, for that matter.

Two theories of what is going on have advanced on message boards and among consumer advocates: Someone is trying to find out whether an illegally obtained credit card number will work before making a bigger charge, or they’re trying to rip off tiny amounts from tons of people.

The latter theory has more credibility at the moment. The Better Business Bureau in Louisville reports that, at least so far, those who have been hit with the small charge have yet to get slammed with a bigger charge. The bureau speculates that the number of possible victims could be in the millions.

It’s not clear how the numbers got in the hands of the people making the charge, but consumer advocates say it is most likely through either a data theft or someone using a computer to generate numbers.

Former Massachusetts assistant attorney general Edgar Dworsky, who runs ConsumerWorld.org, said the scam reminded him of an old adage: “It’s easier to steal $1 from a million people than $1 million from one person,” he said.

It’s a surprisingly clever way to scam money when you think about it. For most folks 25 cents is trivial and likely to be overlooked. If you can successfully charge 50,000 people 25 cents you’d net a tidy sum of $12,500. If they managed to hit a million people it jumps to $250,000. Not too shabby. So check your credit card statements and see if you’ve got a 25 cent charge from Adele Services and if you do then be sure to challenge it.

There’s a few Christians out there that need to read their Bible more.

What’s (amusingly) wrong with the following picture:

It’s a bunch of Christians praying fervently to God in front of a statue of a bull for his (God’s) help in fixing the financial market. This was apparently the idea of a noted Christian “leader” by the name of Cindy Jacobs who’s been hearing the voice of God a lot lately and passes on his message in this article at the 700 Club:

In January of this year, Cindy Jacobs was in a worship service when the Lord spoke to her, “Cindy, the strongman over America doesn’t live in Washington, DC – the strongman lives in New York City! Call My people to pray for the economy.”

[…] The Lord further said, “October 29 was Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed, and Satan wants to do it again.” We must be proactive in prayer. At the beginning of the year many intercessors began to hear from the Lord that without divine intervention, a major shaking was coming to Wall Street. This would spread until there were food shortages. Some think that 2009 would be worse than 2008. Of course, it goes without saying that this would affect markets around the world.

Who knew God gave a shit about the stock market? All that talking by Jesus of giving away all your money to the poor and chasing off the money changers was just him pulling our leg. God DOES care about money (which explains why the clergy are always asking you for it on his behalf) and he’s willing to help so long as we’re willing to pray to him asking for it:

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.”

Wait a minute… wasn’t there something in the Bible about a golden calf and Moses and God not being too happy about it? Yes, yes there was. Granted those ancient Jews were praying to the statue itself and not to God while laying hands on the statue like they did in New York, but still that’s gotta be an annoying thing to be reminded of. It also seems somewhat against the message of Jesus to be begging God for money. Not that God can’t afford it seeing as he’s got all these suckers followers giving him money all the time. I guess it all depends on how you interpret the whole “ask and God shall provide” idea. I realize I’m no religious authority, but it seems to me that this particular venue was an awkward choice.

I’ve decided I need to become rich.

Not so much for the stuff I could buy with all the money, though that is a benefit, so much as for all the time it would free up to do shit I wanna do instead of shit I have to do. There are so many places I’d like to visit and so many projects I’d like more time to work on that all this time spent earning a living is seriously getting in the way. Not to mention not having any money to go anywhere or do the things I’d like to do. If I had the means I’d quit my job and spend my time doing all the cool stuff I’ve wanted to do such as traveling.

The funny part is I wouldn’t make a very good rich person. Allow me to explain: I’ve been reading The Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal and one of the chapters is all about Consumption, as in “conspicuous consumption.” It talks about how quite a bit of what rich people spend their money on is less about the item itself as it is about being able to afford the item in question. There’s no real practical need, for example, for a $15,000 15K solid gold bathroom sink, but it’s something a lot of rich people buy because they can.

Should I ever be fortunate enough to become rich there is quite simply no amount of money I could possibly have that would result in me saying, “Hey, let’s buy a $15,000 solid gold bathroom sink just for the hell of it.” I could be richer than Bill Gates and it would still never cross my mind to ever consider such a purchase. I probably wouldn’t even buy particularly expensive cars, though I’d love to be able to walk into a dealership and just buy one outright. I could see possibly buying a big house for the tax breaks, but even then there’d be limits. I would spend a good chunk of change traveling because I’d probably find the comforts of first class worth the extra money, but I wouldn’t buy my own jet or anything silly like that.

My charitable contributions would go way up as well. There’s more occasions that I’m happy with where I’d like to donate to a cause and just couldn’t afford to do so. Plenty of family members and friends who have run into rough patches where a spare $100 would help out and we didn’t have the cash. We do what we can when we can, but I’d like to do more and being rich would certainly make that possible.

I definitely wouldn’t be one of those rich people who becomes obscenely rich and then keeps on working to become even more obscenely rich. Had I written the first Harry Potter book instead of J.K. Rowling it’s likely there’d never have been any sequels because she made a bazillion dollars off the first book alone. Well, maybe one or two sequels just to cement the fact that I’d never need to work again, but that’s probably it.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to find a way to become rich. Not obscenely rich, but rich enough that I can afford to do what I’d like to do instead of working. I was working on a book myself for awhile, but it hasn’t been a smooth process and I’ve not worked on it in awhile. I doubt I’ll get rich through writing something. What I need is a good idea that starts off small and then explodes in such a way that I can sell it to some big company and retire. The modern day examples are web services like Google or Yahoo!, but I doubt I can think of anything that revolutionary. The classic example is the guy who came up with Pet Rocks. Here is where I start to suffer from a lack of imagination and my own skepticism. There’s stuff out there that’s made people wildly rich that I never in a thousand years would have considered as being something anyone would buy.

So it looks like I’ll be stuck doing what I’m doing for awhile longer until I can find some source of inspiration. Still, it never hurts to keep those ideas percolating in the back of my head. Perhaps I’ll stumble across something absurd enough that everyone will want it and I’ll realize my dream. Until then I’ll buy a lotto ticket every so often to see if I can get lucky.

Coming soon: Depositing checks with your scanner.

We already do the majority of my banking electronically. From the direct depositing of my paycheck to online bill paying we’re already pretty wired, but every now and then we still have to stop by a branch location to deposit a paper check I’ve gotten from someone. Now word has it that I might be able to just use my scanner instead:

Soon you will be able to deposit checks by scanning them at home and sending them electronically to your bank. No need to visit a branch or even an ATM.

This is possible because of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, passed in 2003, which allows banks to exchange electronic images of checks. Already about half of all checks are scanned by businesses or the banks they are deposited into and not shipped in bags back to the banks on which they were drawn.

Fiserv, the big transaction services company, has announced new software that will enable banks to let home users deposit checks by scanning them. It already has a similar service for small and medium businesses. USAA, the financial services company that serves the military, has offered deposits through scanners for two years, but the idea has not yet caught on.

The time is right for such a service, said Rodney Springhetti, a Fiserv vice president of business development. The technology has been debugged through several years of working with businesses, and meanwhile consumers increasingly have scanners at home, largely in the form of all-in-one printer units.

I didn’t know that USAA already supported scanning your checks and that gives a bit more weight to considering using them for our credit union, we already get our automobile insurance through USAA and had been talking about switching to their credit union offering. How is it that I can be a USAA member when I’ve never been in the armed forces? Turns out my wife is eligible because of her father having served in the military. Technically my biological father did as well, but seeing as he’s been dead for 35 years I doubt I’d still qualify through him.

The idea of being able to deposit a check using my scanner is very attractive indeed. I’m sure it would be of help to folks like my parents who are getting older and thus more limited in their mobility and who still use credit unions with branches over an hour away from where they currently live. Still I can see where concerns about fraud would be high with this method and the industry sees it as well:

Fraud, of course, is an issue. Where there are scanners, of course, there may be Photoshop. And a scanner can’t detect all the anti-fraud features now built into paper checks, such as special stock and watermarks. Banking groups are developing new anti-fraud technologies that can be detected by scanners, but these have not been widely deployed. Unlike credit cards, which have strict federal anti-fraud rules, each bank sets its own policies for check fraud.

Still, Mr. Springhetti, said there are ways to combat fraud. Fiserv and others do have software meant to analyze images for signs of fakery. And there are other models that look for suspicious patterns of behavior that may indicate fraud.

What do you guys think? Good idea or massive opportunity for free money to the unscrupulous?

The cost of the war in Iraq just keeps climbing.

First, a brief bit of history. Cure spooky flashback sequence sound effects:

What would war with Iraq cost? – CNN.com, January 2nd, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNN)—The White House is downplaying published reports of an estimated $50 billion to $60 billion price tag for a war with Iraq, saying it is “impossible” to estimate the cost at this time.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels told The New York Times in an interview published Tuesday that such a conflict could cost $50 billion to $60 billion—the price tag of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But Trent Duffy, an OMB spokesman, said Daniels did not intend to imply in the Times interview that $50 billion to $60 billion was a hard White House estimate.

“He said it could—could—be $60 billion,” Duffy said. “It is impossible to know what any military campaign would ultimately cost. The only cost estimate we know of in this arena is the Persian Gulf War, and that was a $60 billion event.”

Remember those days? Remember when the estimate was only $50 to $60 billion dollars and the White House, worried that people would think that was too expensive, tried to downplay the estimate and then refused to give an estimate of their own because they felt there were too many variables to make an educated guess? Looking back it was a smart move on the White House’s part to refuse to give an estimate on the cost because it turns out that we’re already 40 times over what Mitch Daniels guessed as the cost and it’s growing bigger every day: 

U.S. war costs in Iraq up: report – Yahoo! News

“Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007,” the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday.

War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote.

“It keeps going up, up and away,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said of the money spent in Iraq since U.S. troops invaded in 2003.

“We’re seeing the war costs continue to spiral upward. It is the additional troops plus additional costs per troop plus the over-reliance on private contractors, which also explodes the costs,” said Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who opposed the war.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Congress has written checks for $691 billion to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and such related activities as Iraq reconstruction, the CBO said.

This is Bush’s legacy. This is the mess the next President will inherit. What have we got to show for it? Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. Not a single weapon of mass destruction was ever found in Iraq. The vast majority of people in Iraq are worse off than they were under Saddam.

Good job, Bushie.

Ugh, up way too early. I’m too nice a guy.

I’ve been at work an hour and a half already when I’d normally arrive right about now and, depending on how the day goes, I may be staying late by a couple of hours as well. It’s all due to the sudden influx of laptops the Ypsi site got yesterday. They asked if I could come in an hour early to help validate the builds (and I’m happy to report that 80% of them made it through the process successfully during the night) and could I possibly stay late for some OT if the day saw another flood of machines. Thinking of the fact that I’m going to be off next week due to the shutdown and will only get holiday pay for three of the seven work days I figured having a little overtime to go along with the ridiculous mileage I’m building up driving back and forth between these two sites might not be a bad idea. Plus, I’m just a that kind of a nice guy to help out when called upon.

Though the extra money does help overcome the fact that I’m up earlier than I really care to be. Gotta go and find some coffee now… must.. have.. caffeine…

President Bush needs a lesson in economics.

In the same vein as my last entry comes this little ditty from the folks at Think Progress:

Think Progress – Bush: We Can’t Spend $22 Billion On America Because We Need $200 Billion For Iraq War

The Democratic leadership in Congress is set to pass a host of domestic funding bills that would exceed Bush’s request by $22 billion. The extra funding would help go towards veterans health care, infrastructure improvements, education, and other domestic priorities.

Speaking to business leaders at a White House event this morning, Bush railed against the relatively modest increase in spending, arguing that $22 billion is “a lot of money”:

    Some in Congress will tell you that $22 billion is not a lot of money. As business leaders, you know better. As a matter of fact, $22 billion is larger than the annual revenues of most Fortune 500 companies. The $22 billion is only for the first year. With every passing year the number gets bigger and bigger, and so over the next five years the increase in federal spending would add up to $205 billion.

Bush warned that spending increases, which could add up to over $200 billion over five years, would be “taking money out of the pocket” of Americans who need to “pay their mortgages or pay for their children going to college.” Unfortunately, Bush failed to appreciate the irony in his remarks.

While complaining of modest spending increases on much-needed domestic funding priorities, Bush is far less concerned about the impact of spending $200 billion in the next year alone on a disastrous war in Iraq:

    President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure — totaling nearly $200 billion — to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

It shouldn’t take a “CEO President” to figure out that $200 billion is greater than $22 billion.

It’s amazing to me that the man can ask for billions upon billions for the Iraq war without batting an eyelash yet a few more billion to help his fellow Americans is too much to bear. We’re spending $500,000 per minute in Iraq at the moment and Bush and his cronies are mulling over starting another war with Iran as well as trying to figure out how he can force us to stay in Iraq for half a century at the cost of trillions of dollars:

On June 1, during a trip to U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused about how to “posture ourselves” in Iraq “for the long term.” The Vietnam experience underscored the undesirability of a sudden, abrupt withdrawal. Far better for the U.S. to follow the experiences of post-conflict garrisoning in Korea and Japan, he said: “a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence.” President Bush is reportedly intrigued by the so-called Korea model, wherein the U.S. has guaranteed security on the Korean peninsula with at least four U.S. Army combat brigades for half a century. Indeed, in his speech on Thursday, Bush declared himself ready to build an “enduring relationship” between the U.S. and Iraq.

The study, conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, decided to follow the Korea model to calculate its expense. Since it’s unclear for how long or under what conditions combat operations will ensue, the CBO projects both a combat and a non-combat presence. Both, however, are projected to require 55,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The combat scenario entails one-time costs of $4 to $8 billion, with annual expenses of $25 billion, projected outward. Under the non-combat scenario, a $8 billion one-time cost—mainly for the construction of additional “enduring” bases—would be followed by annual costs of $10 billion or less.

A prior CBO study, released in August, estimated (large pdf) that U.S. costs in Iraq from 2009 to 2017 will total approximately $1 trillion on the assumption of a troop presence of 75,000. On top of that, under the reduced-force combat scenario envisioned in this CBO estimate, the U.S. will spend another $1 trillion by 2057—the lifespan of the U.S.‘s Korean presence to date.

All estimates are in 2008 dollars. Both estimates are arguably conservative. In the combat scenario, for instance, Army units serve 12-month tours, whereas they now serve 15-month tours. In the non-combat scenario, the CBO ratcheted down the Defense Department’s cost-of-war estimates to reflect “lower costs for such items as equipment maintenance, fuel and consumable materials.”

If Bush has his way we’ll be paying the cost of his Presidency for decades to come. The sad part is there’s very few Democrats who are willing to say they’ll end his mess as soon as they get into office.

Somehow it’s hard to feel bad for this guy.

CNN.com has an article up on Jack Whittaker who won a $315 million Powerball lottery some five years ago and is now wondering if it was worth it:

The jackpot that was the stuff of dreams turned into a nightmare: His wife left him and his drug-addicted granddaughter—his protege and heir—died. He endured constant requests for money.

Almost five years later, Whittaker is left with things money can’t cure: His daughter’s cancer, a long list of indiscretions documented in newspapers and court records, and an inability to trust others.

“I don’t have any friends,” he said in lengthy interview with The Associated Press. “Every friend that I’ve had, practically, has wanted to borrow money or something and of course, once they borrow money from you, you can’t be friends anymore.”

It sounds like he’s had a rough time, but the more you read the more you have to wonder how many of his problems are so much the result of winning the lottery or just bad decisions on his part. To begin with I’m not sure why you can’t still be friends after loaning one of them some money. I still technically owe my friend Bob for the Amiga 3000 I bought off of him over a decade ago, but I digress.

This isn’t a rag to riches story by any stretch of the imagination, though, as Whittaker was already a successful businessman with a pipeline business worth $17 million at the time he won. His family wasn’t exactly hurting for cash and he admits they lived what some folks would consider a lavish lifestyle. What changed with the lottery wasn’t so much the extra money, he opted to take a lump sum of $170 million which after taxes ended up more along the lines of $93 million, but the celebrity that came along with the prize. That’s when he says his problems really started:

Whittaker’s struggles with drinking, gambling and philandering became public, and tales of his transgressions were retold with relish.

His home and car were repeatedly burglarized. At a strip club, thieves broke into his Lincoln Navigator and stole a briefcase stuffed with $245,000 in $100 bills and three $100,000 cashiers checks. The briefcase was later found, with the money.

Whittaker was charged twice with driving while under the influence and sued repeatedly, once by three female casino employees who accused him of assault.

In all, Whittaker says, he’s been involved in 460 legal actions since winning. He recently settled a lawsuit that alleged his bank failed to catch $50,000 in counterfeit checks cashed from his accounts.

Whittaker believes he has been unfairly demonized by the media, which he says exaggerated his problems and helped drive his wife away.

As I said, sounds more like a lot of bad decisions more than anything else. Who leaves a briefcase with $245,000 in their car when they’re at a strip club? Fuck, who leaves $245,000 in their car anywhere? Granted, having his home broken into probably wasn’t his fault, but driving under the influence? Given his philandering it’s not hard to imagine him possibly assaulting casino workers. Initially I’m inclined to assume the identity theft wasn’t his fault until I remember he was dumb enough to leave over a quarter million in cash and checks in his car at a strip club and then I’m not so sure it wasn’t his own bad decision making that led to the ID theft.

The man has tried to do some good as well. He has a foundation he’s set up that doles out money to needy people and he is probably badgered quite a bit as a result of his notoriety celebrity. His company is said to provide with 200 people or so with well paying jobs. Like most folks he has his good side and his bad side.

But it still seems like he’s whining a bit too much in this article. That may be the fault of the reporter, but it’s hard to feel bad for a guy who has enough money that it’s the last thing he has to worry about when he has to confront the problems life presents him with. He can afford the lawyers and the medical treatment for the problems that come along. It’s also possible that it only seems that way to me because I don’t have the same kind of problems or the money that brings them about and perhaps it’s naive of me to think I have the maturity to handle the problems that would come from winning a lot of money, but I can’t help but think I could.

I won’t ask Mr. Whittaker for any of his money as it’s clear he’s tired of being asked, but I wouldn’t mind if one of the tickets I purchase in the near future gave me a chance to put my confidence to the test. At least I’d have the money to deal with whatever problems come along.

Sent along by Bog Brother.