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Gender: Male
Hometown: Minnesota
Member since: Sat Jan 1, 2005, 03:45 AM
Number of posts: 5,410

Journal Archives

All the contraceptive methods - usage and effectiveness (ideally, and in actual practice)

For example, in perfect usage -- rigorously following the instructions always -- the pill only has a 0.3% failure rate per year (i.e. the woman becomes pregnant -- that's about 1 in 333). But as actually used, overall on average, the failure rate is 9% (i.e. about 1 in 11 chance of getting pregnant in a year).

From the December 2017 issue of Population Connection magazine, which is focused on male contraception.

Fun fact: the ACA does not require insurance companies to cover vasectomies!!!! But 3 states do require insurance companies to cover that at no cost to the insured: Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont.

Population Connection, a non-partisan organization, allegedly pushing the Democratic agenda...

Here's a letter to the editor of Population Connection (PopConnect, formerly ZPG - Zero Population Growth) complaining that PopConnect is pushing the Democratic platform. The response is fantastic, especially the last 2 paragraphs:

Over these past few years of reading your magazine, I’ve come to realize that “Population Connection” has moved a long way from its earlier “Zero Population Growth” agenda. Rather than supporting ways of reducing population growth and ultimately reducing population, the organization seems to have become a spokesperson for the Democratic platform. Not that I disapprove of the Democratic platform, but I don’t support either party’s platform and will not support either party financially.


Further, attempts to tie pet Democratic political positions to population growth is counterproductive and confounding.

The response by John Seager, president of Population Connection:

Thanks for your comments. We try hard to stick close to our mission (I might add that Population Connection scrupulously avoids partisan electoral activity, while Population Connection Action Fund engages in that area as a sister organization).

Unfortunately, the Republican party (with sadly rare exceptions) has abandoned its once-strong support for programs that advance our mission of population stabilization. Presidents Nixon and Ford supported key programs, as did the young Congressman George H.W. Bush. Even 20 years ago, there were about 40 House Republicans who supported family planning. Today, there is only one, even on a good day (Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA/15), and he’s retiring.) We appreciate the two Senate Republicans (Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins) who are great supporters. But the other 50 Republican senators are solidly aligned in opposition.

The fact is that, when Obama took office, funding for international family planning was boosted by 40 percent. Now Trump wants to eliminate all such funding.

We just follow the facts where they lead. Nothing would please us more than to see both major parties competing to do more for our cause. As it is, the members of one party (Democratic) are mostly supportive, while members of the other (Republican) are almost universally opposed.

As Walter Cronkite used to say, “That’s the way it is.”

– John Seager


Ed Gillespie Lost an Election. Then He Was Pulverized by Trump and His Allies

Source: Daily Beast

Shortly after the loss, President Donald Trump and his top allies began spinning the result as the result of Gillespie being insufficiently obedient to and appreciative of the Trump agenda.

Laura Ingraham, the Trump-adoring cable news host, accused Gillespie of playing “footsie with conservative populism” without fully embracing it. Breitbart, called him a “Republican swamp thing.” A staffer for Corey Stewart, the conservative candidate who barely lost to Gillespie in the GOP primary, told Fox News that, "Gillespie didn't speak to populist issues early enough in the campaign.”

In the coup-de-grace, Trump himself said Gillespie “worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for” just hours after he recorded an election-day robocall for the candidate and tweeted his support for his campaign.


Gillespie never appeared alongside Trump. He ducked him often when asked direct questions. But he embraced his political playbook, at least key passages. He called for keeping up Confederate monuments, accused Northam of supporting sanctuary cities, warned of MS-13 gangs rummaging through northern Virginia and even sent out fliers criticizing football players for kneeling during the national anthem. Steve Bannon had insisted that Gillespie was "rallying around the Trump agenda."

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/ed-gillespie-lost-an-election-then-he-was-pulverized-by-trump-and-his-allies

Actually, maybe this is the title -- but the first line was in much smaller font, so I didn't use the first line just to be safe LBN-rules-wise:

Ed Gillespie Lost an Election. Then He Was Pulverized by Trump and His Allies

The subheading was adorable too:
A GOP civil war is coming. Tuesday night may have ensured it just came quicker.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos's war on student borrowers

As Protections for Borrowers Fall, What to Do If You Face Trouble Repaying a Student Loan, Consumer Reports, 4/14/17

“The (Obama era) guidelines that were taken away laid out really basic, commonsense guidance for how servicers should act so that borrowers can navigate repayment,” says Suzanne Martindale, a staff attorney and education debt expert at Consumer Reports. “Removing these is incredibly shortsighted and will likely cause greater problems down the road for students and families.”

The guidelines called for major changes in student loan servicer practices, including new standards for responding to borrower problems in a timely way, providing economic incentives to give high-quality customer service, and imposing penalties for poor performance.

In March, DeVos rescinded a 60-day grace period to allow students in loan default to get back on track and avoid a fee of 16 percent of their loan balance.

Also last month, the Education Department said it would delay implementing the gainful employment rule, an Obama-era regulation that penalizes college vocational programs if graduates accrue more debt that they can pay with post-grad earnings.

Last month, the CFPB reported a 429 percent increase in student loan complaints about servicers from December through February, compared with the prior year. Consumers say servicers process payments incorrectly, make it harder for them to enroll in more affordable payment plans, and fail to act when borrowers complain.

Much More: https://www.yahoo.com/news/protections-borrowers-fall-face-trouble-184224571.html

Dunno if the 429% increase in problems in December through February, compared to the prior year, has anything to do with the current administration compared to the previous administration..... should I set up a poll?

More from the article:

Federal student loans in default are up 15% from 2015.

Problems with Navient, tsk tsk (spun off from Sallie Mae - the largest servicer of federal student loans)

How to Handle Problems With Your Student Loans

Do insurance companies suddenly cut you off of anti-depressants and other psych medications?

I have a friend who is reluctant to even try an anti-depressant because she might suddenly be told, "sorry, no more refills".

I thought it was extremely important to taper off most psychoactive medications, instead of stopping all of a sudden. And that even as assholic the insurance companies are, they wouldn't do this. Or am I naive to think they have even an ounce (or gram) of humanity?


Edited to add - she's insured through Minnesota's Medicaid program, administered (and whatever else), in her case by Medica.

Here's another article, and yes it benefited the slave states, and that was intentional

The real reason we have an Electoral College: to protect slave states, Vox.com, 11/12/16


As for this 3/5 of a person thing that seems to be confusing so many people. The slave states wanted to count slaves as full 100% people (for purposes of determining the number of reps and number of electors a state was allotted). The north wanted to counted them as 0 people (since they couldn't vote). The compromise was 3/5.

Say we have 2 states... and let's compare direct popular vote to the electoral college

[div class="excerpt" style="background-color:#CEF6FE;"]Nationwide popular vote used to elect presidents

a northern state with a population of 600,000, of which 1/2 are adults of voting age, for a total of 300,000 eligible adults, all eligible to vote.
Say turnout of eligible adults is 70%. Number of votes cast: 300,000 * 70% = 210,000.

a southern state with a population of 1 million, of which 1/2 are adults of voting age, but only 60% of those are non-slave (40% are slaves).
Say turnout of eligible adults is 70%. Number of votes cast: 500,000 * 60% * 70% = 210,000.

So in a system that elected presidents by popular vote, the two states have equal clout.

[div class="excerpt" style="background-color: #ffa !important;"]Electoral College (E.C.), with slaves counting 3/5

But with the electoral college, the math is this (suppose there is 1 House of Representatives representative "rep" per 100,000 "population"):

a northern state with a population of 600,000, will have 6 reps. And 8 electors in the E.C. (because one adds 2 senators to the number of reps to get the number of electors)

a southern state with a population of 1,000,000, of which 400,000 are slaves and only count for 3/5 will have a "population" of 400,000 * 3/5 + 600,000 free = 840,000. It will have 8 reps and 10 electors in the E.C. -- 10/8 or 1.25 the clout of the northern state.

[div style="background-color:#CEFEEE;"]Electoral College (E.C.), with slaves counting as full people -- what the slave states wanted

a northern state with a population of 600,000, will have 6 reps. And 8 electors in the E.C.

a southern state with a population of 1,000,000, of which everyone counts fully and equally. It will have 10 reps and 12 electors in the E.C. -- 12/8 or 1.5 times the clout of the northern state.

California launches criminal probe into Wells Fargo account scandal

Source: Reuters

The California Attorney General's Office has launched a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo <WFC.N> over allegations it opened millions of unauthorized customer accounts and credit cards, according to a seizure warrant seen by Reuters.

Attorney General Kamala Harris authorized a seizure warrant against the bank that seeks customer records and other documents, saying there is probable cause to believe the bank committed felonies.

The probe marks the latest setback for the bank in a growing scandal that led to the abrupt retirement of its chief executive officer, monetary penalties, compensation clawbacks, lost business and damage to its reputation.


The seizure warrants by the state are seeking a variety of documents from Wells Fargo, including a list of all unauthorized California customer accounts created between May 2011 and July 2015. ... and the identity of all Wells Fargo employees that may have opened the accounts.

Read more: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/california-launches-criminal-probe-wells-fargo-account-scandal-212145940--sector.html

I hope something really bad happens to Wells Fuckgo and particularly the high up executives responsible.

Payday Loans Are Shutting Down Some Americans' Bank Accounts

Online payday lenders are creating new hazards for borrowers, leading to large overdraft fees and even loss of access to checking accounts, federal regulators claimed Wednesday.

Online payday lenders often have direct access to borrowers' checking accounts for deposits and payments. When borrowers don't have sufficient funds in their accounts to pay the lenders, repeated withdrawal attempts made by lenders result in multiple non-sufficient funds charges averaging $185, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said.

(snip) "We found that over the study period, 36% of accounts with a failed debit attempt from an online lender ended up being closed by the bank or credit union," Cordray said. "Getting booted from the banking system can have far-reaching repercussions for consumers, leading to a downward spiral that costs them even more money and their precious time. It can be hard to get a new account at another bank. It can mean having to use expensive check-cashing and bill-paying services to cash their paychecks or their benefits checks or to pay their bills, services they used to take for granted."

Repeated debit attempts by online lenders usually fail — 70% of second attempts don't result in any collection, and further attempts fail even more — but there is some logic to why they try. In some cases, borrowers may not have the entire amount owned available in a checking account but might have part of it. A lender may first try to collect $300 and fail, but then might split that request up into three $100 debits and succeed in getting some of the money it's owed. The cost to lenders for additional requests is negligible, but each failed debit costs consumers $34, on average. The lender may apply additional fees as well.

More: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/payday-loans-shutting-down-americans-110000192.html

Anyway the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFBP) is about to issue rules to restrict the practice. Let's hope so. For now, just a heads-up on dealing with shady lenders (yeah, I know, which ones aren't?)

Mortgage modification attempt - what is the right amount of income

[font color = red]7/11/16 - Edited to add: See "UPDATE - On May 31" halfway down[/font]

Mortgage modification attempt - what is the right amount of income
so that one is not "too rich" or hopelessly poor to be helped?

I don't know if the DU Lounge is the place for this. I tried a longer version in the Consumer Advice group about a month ago, and got only 1 reply. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1112278

A close friend of mine is in the process of trying again to get a mortgage modification (mortgagostomy). Through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). She isn't qualified for HARP because neither Fannie nor Freddie own or back the loan or whatever.

She failed with a mortgage modification attempt in 2010 -- basically too poor to be helped. As they said in their letter:

... "We are unable to offer you a Home Affordable Modification because we are unable to create an affordable payment equal to 31% of your reported monthly gross income without changing the terms of your Loan beyond the requirements of the program"

From what I read online,

They look at your "debt to income ratio" (DTI), i.e. DTI =

monthly debt payment (aka PITI)
monthly gross income

PITI = Principal + Interest + Property Taxes + Insurance

Monthly gross income is before-tax income

If your DTI is below 31%, then you are doing fine and you don't need help.

If your DTI is above X%, you are hopeless, i.e. her situation in 2010, where they won't change their terms drastically enough to bring the PITI down to where the DTI is 31%.

If your DTI is between 31% and X%, then they will change their terms (lower interest and maybe principal) to bring the PITI down to where the DTI is 31%.

I haven't been able to find out what "X%" is, and maybe (probably) it is situation - dependent. They talk about NPV - net present value calculations, but when I tried the long long NPV Calculator (more than once), it just Errored out.

It seems they don't consider a modification that would bring the DTI down to something larger than 31%, like say 35%. It seems like its 31% or bust. I don't know why that is.

Where she's at now, is that she has some housemates paying rent that amount to almost half her total income. And that makes her "too rich" (a DTI a bit below 31%).

But come February 1, the terms of her mortgage are that it stops being interest-only and she will have to pay principal on a 20-year amortization schedule. That will raise her payments by $600, resulting in a DTI of about 50% -- which might put her in the "hopelessly too poor" range.

Her mortgage is not that far under water -- per recent real estate agent comparables analysis.

I wish the mortgage company would be satisfied with just keeping it interest only for say another 5 years, by which time her house value will be above water and can be sold, and the mortgage company paid every dime of the balance.

(FWIW, Chase is the mortgage servicer, and is handling the mortgage modification process. Wells Fargo is the owner of the mortgage)

It will be a challenge enough handling interest only -- as it is an ARM whose interest rate is the 6 month LIBOR + 2.25%. And for every percentage point that the LIBOR goes up, her payment will rise by about $160/mo (if the loan remained interest-only)

She also has about a $20,000 balance on a Home Equity Line of Credit. Currently it only costs her about $70/month to service (interest only), but early next year is "year 10" on that too when they will require principal payments (I have no idea what they will require per month on that). I didn't include this loan in the PITI or DTI calculations above (should I have?).

Thanks for reading such a long and wonky post, and for any insights

[font color = blue]UPDATE - On May 31 she received a rejection letter from Chase[/font]. It turned out they didn't count as income the rent she received from her boarders (total $1000/mo) nor the $300/mo she has been receiving in child support from her daughter's father.

The reason given by the Chase representative is that there is no rental agreement and no proof that income was received since it was all on a cash basis (Actually some is paid by check). Despite both renters having written letters saying they were paying $500/month each in rent. So Chase is calling 3 people liars.

The reason given for rejecting the child support is that there is no court order requiring it, and no proof given of it being received. Despite the child support payer having written a letter saying he has been paying it every month for years. So basically Chase is calling 2 people liars. (Actually those payments are all paid by check, so there should be a paper trail available)

That's about half her income thrown out! Her remaining income leaves her too poor to qualify for help, according to HAMP guidelines (presumably because she is hopelessly poor and couldn't possibly afford even a reduced payment that still fit the HAMP guidelines. Despite making all her payments on-time in nearly 2 decades of home ownership).

Various HAMP program options were considered, and the reasons given were these --

{a} "We're not able to create an affordable payment equal to the required percentage of your reported monthly gross income without changing the terms of your mortgage beyond the modification program's requirements

{b} There is more equity in the property, which is the difference between what the home is worth and the amount owed, than the program allows

{c} We're not able to reduce your principal and interest payment by at least 10%.

{d} We're not able to calculate a proposed post-modification debt-to-income ratio that is within the range of 10% to 42%. Your debt-to-income ratio is your monthly housing expense, divided by your gross monthly income. Your monthly housing expense includes your mortgage principal and interest payment, plus any property taxes, hazard insurance, and homeowner's dues.

As for equity in her property - it is theoretically, per a from-the-street external appraisal, worth more than the mortgage (about $11,000 positive equity). But selling costs and fix-up costs to take care of issues that one doesn't see from the street would certainly put it back under water.

The only option she was given is to do a short sale, which would kill her almost perfect credit rating.

Another update is that her monthly payment goes up from $879 to $939 on August 1, primarily because of a rise in the 6-month LIBOR interest rate. That's a $60/month increase.

And as noted before, on February 1 her payment goes up by another $600/mo due to the interest-only period ending.

I also questioned Chase why they have not notified her of the huge $600/mo increase yet? The Chase representative checked and found they give no special notification for that, just the same 2-3 month advance notice as for any other upcoming payment amount change. (Actually she has been getting 1 1/2 month advance notifications of payment changes as measured by the due date. 2 months if one includes the 16 day grace period after the due date.)

I let them know how I felt about such inconsiderate heartlessness in giving her such a short notice of such a massive payment increase.

Krugman: Obama rolled back the Bush and Reagan tax cuts on the top 1%

According to the new tables ( https://www.irs.gov/uac/SOI-Tax-Stats-Individual-Statistical-Tables-by-Tax-Rate-and-Income-Percentile ), the average income tax rate for 99 percent of Americans barely changed from 2012 to 2013, but the tax rate for the top 1 percent rose by more than four percentage points. The tax rise was even bigger for very high incomes: 6.5 percentage points for the top 0.01 percent.

These numbers aren’t enough to give us a full picture of taxes at the top, which requires taking account of other taxes, especially taxes on corporate profits that indirectly affect the income of stockholders. But the available numbers are consistent with Congressional Budget Office projections of the effects of the 2013 tax increases (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/presidents-and-the-economy/ ) — projections which said that the effective federal tax rate on the 1 percent would rise roughly back to its pre-Reagan level. No, really: for top incomes, Mr. Obama has effectively rolled back not just the Bush tax cuts but Ronald Reagan’s as well.

Those higher rates on the 1 percent correspond to about $70 billion a year in revenue. This happens to be in the same ballpark as both food stamps and budget office estimates of this year’s net outlays on Obamacare. So we’re not talking about something trivial.

More: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/opinion/elections-have-consequences.html?_r=1

A DU thread on this: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027496324

He also mentions a 17 million drop in the number of uninsured Americans between 2012 and the first half of 2015.

Anyway, I think a mention of this belongs in the Obama group. So many people are completely and totally unaware that he raised the top bracket marginal tax rate from 35% to 39.6% (back to the old Clinton rate). Add in the 0.9% Medicare surcharge on the top 2 tax brackets (a feature of the ACA legislation), and the top marginal tax rate actually rose to 40.5% (on earned income).

As for capital gains -- when the ACA's 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) on the top 2 brackets is included, the actual long term capital gains tax rate for the top tax bracket (which is about where the top 1 percentile begins), is 23.8%, even higher than under Clinton, and 23.8/15.0 = 1.59 times higher than under Bush.

Details: http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=6503186

You will sometimes encounter trolls posting on DU that Obama kept 82% of the Bush tax cuts -- implying he's almost as bad as Bush. What said trolls leave out is one big important detail - that he kept the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 98%, while raising taxes on the top 2%.
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