Blogarama Vocal Minority: February 2005

Vocal Minority

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Homeland Security - Start with Banking Industry

For those of you that aren’t yet convinced that we need to pass a law reigning the banking cowboys in I offer the following:

San Francisco Chronicle February 25, 2005
Bank of America Corp. has lost computer data tapes containing personal information on 1.2 million federal employees, including some members of the U.S. Senate.

Wells Fargo Computer Records Stolen November 19, 2003
Wells Fargo sent out a letter saying burglars stole computer records from the office of a California consultant working for Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo computers stolen November 3, 2004,
Identity thieves may have obtained sensitive information about thousands of Wells Fargo mortgage and student loan customers, after four computers containing customer account numbers and Social Security numbers were stolen last month. The incident occurred in mid-October, when the computers were stolen from the Atlanta office of Regulus Integrated Solutions, a vendor that prints the loan statements for the bank.

Wells Fargo Does It Again 16 April 2004
"Andrei? You've lost another submarine?"
— The Hunt for Red October
In an unpleasant echo of last November's 200,000-customer database compromise, Wells Fargo has once again suffered the theft of a laptop computer containing confidential information for thousands of Wells Fargo customers. What's more, the bank apparently took nearly a month to tell those customers about the theft. The theft occurred on 26 February outside of St. Louis, Missouri, after two Wells Fargo employees stopped their rental car at a gas station convenience store, leaving the yellow Ford Mustang unlocked and the key in the ignition. When they returned from their snackfest, the vehicle was gone. It was recovered five days later stripped of its contents — including the Wells Fargo laptop that had been in the trunk.

For As Many As 43,000 BankRI Customers December 17, 2003
Bank Rhode Island has announced the theft of a laptop computer that held personal information for as many as 43,000 BankRI customers, more than half the bank's customer base. The theft of the laptop containing the missing information — including customer names, home addresses, and Social Security numbers — was first reported by Fiserv, Inc., the principal data service provider for BankRI.

GMAC Insurance tells 200,000 customers they could become victims of identity theft. March 29, 2004
A division of GMAC Financial Services has been quietly informing about 200,000 of its customers that their personal data may have been compromised because of the theft of two laptop computers from an employee's car at a regional office near Atlanta.

Meanwhile, congress is happy to pass the Check21 act which lets the bank take your money in a nanosecond and works with the banks to revise the bankruptcy laws totally in the banks favor. Banks and insurance companies have been running this country long enough. Write your congressman…

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Friday, February 25, 2005

OSU's Mike Riley reinstates Rodulph

Once in a while I break down and listen to Herr Lars Larson on the radio. Usually when OPB has nothing on. Yesterday he was slamming Coach Mike Riley of Oregon State Univ. about reinstating defensive end Joe Rudulph; accused of hitting a white soldier in a bar because he was dancing with his black wife. He reinstated Rudolph, even though he will be going to court on April 25th. Now Larson is usually a jerk and is famous for butting in on callers and demanding answers to his questions first, but he handled Riley with kid gloves. Riley stated that the players weren’t at fault and also the guy they hit wasn’t at fault and then issued some really evasive statements about everything being distorted, privacy, two sides to a story, etc. All this confusion about what happened even though there were a half dozen witnesses to the event!
I can’t believe they’re paying this guy a high 6 figure salary. They should send him back to San Diego. The guy basically talked for 15 minutes and said nothing except how they are trying to rehabilitate Rudolph and make this a learning experience. What I really want to know is did Rudolph apologize to the soldier and his wife. I’ll bet not. What’s more important is getting him back on the team.
Yesterday a couple of strippers in a Tualatin bar got in a fight and now one of them is being charged with a Measure 11 crime and is facing 7 years in prison. Oregon prisons have a number of inmates there for throwing a single punch. Can’t help but wonder why Rudolph isn’t facing a Measure 11 count.

Free Hit Counters

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

SSI Cap - Floor for the rich

Everywhere you turn today people are discussing the future of Social Security and Bush’s plan to turn it into kind of a Social 401K. I’m not going to get into that debate except to point out the motive behind the plan. Allowing people to set aside 2% in private investment accounts will move Trillions of $ into the same wall street investment firms that are listed under the heading “New Indictments” in the business section of your local newspaper.
Actually I’m here to talk about correcting an accounting error that’s been going on for far too long. I’m talking about the cap on SSI earnings. Now I’ve heard all that crap about entitlement programs and I want to say this. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a damn duck. It’s a regressive tax and congress insists on keeping it that way. The current cap is $90,000 and they’re talking about raising it to as much as $200,000. This means that a select group of less than 5% of taxpayers will not pay SSI on their entire paycheck. I know, Bush said they pay the most already, so they need a break. When we eliminate the “ability to pay” concept from our tax rates I’ll listen to that argument. Meanwhile, correct the error and eliminate the cap taxing everyone equally.
Here’s how it lays out.
According to the IRS, in 2002 if you made $92,664, you were in the top 10% of taxpayers. They paid $523 billion in taxes at an average rate of 20.51% and paid SSI on the first $90,000. So if you’re a CEO of a failing company or an NBA star making, say $5 mil a year you pay $6,885 in SSI, a paltry 0.1377% of wages. Everyone below the $90,000 level paid 7.65% on their wages (before deductions).

Here we go. Add about 8% to your income tax rate and compare it to the so-called high rate paid by the wealthy and see what you think. While your thinking consider this. Half of the people in the U.S. paid in 96.5% of the income taxes. The top 5%, starting at $126,525 paid 53.8% of the income taxes, at an average rate of 22.95%, and got a break on SSI. It’s time that tax rates reflected the truth. The government already adds SSI into it’s numbers to cover the monstrous deficits so let’s just add the tax rates together and have a true tax rate. It’s not that they’re taxed too high, it’s that they make too damn much..

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Monday, February 21, 2005

Salem - Build the Nascar track!!

It’s time for the Oregon legislature to do something right, something that will restore the faith of the people. It’s time for a Nascar track.
The deal fell through in Wash. And now Oregon has another chance to make a proposal for a track in Oregon. All that has to be done is get the governor interested. Ho, Hum.
International Speedway Corp. official Lee Combs states that “I’d be on a plane in 10 seconds if there was some real interest in the Oregon state government talking about a public-private partnership”. The governors spokeswoman, Anna Richter Taylor, responds with responds with a typical government line “ It’s too preliminary… no specific proposal… so many issues to be addressed… economic growth tool… blah, blah, blah. Is it asking too much to give the guy a 10 minute audience and tell him Yes, we’re interested, shoot us a proposal. We have the highest unemployment in the country and Kulongoski gets coy with the guy.
A Nascar track has 1 or 2 races a year that generate from $87 mil to $200 mil a year and puts the area in a high profile position. (Read as bringing more business). We could start a fund to send all the NIMBY’s to the coast for the weekend for a paid vacation to save us from their whining.
For once, let’s stop telling New Business about all the rules and problems they are going to face if they try to come to Oregon. Let’s help them through the hurdles and in turn employ a few more Oregonians that, by the way, pay the salaries for the Salem NIMBY’s.
And finally. Oregon voters created the lottery and stated the profits were to be used for job creation. Salem, who was against the lottery, now embraces it as the ultimate slush fund and has diverted the money elsewhere. Use the profits as the people intended and fund the racetrack. Create a bunch of well paying jobs, state revenues will rise, you will solve your financial crisis, and people here will be able to make a living. If you continue to allow the whining minority to run this state you’re going to stay on the economic roller coaster.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Update on Choicepoint

Exercising a little due diligence I acme up with a few more facts on Choicepoint:
 They received a $12 mil contract form New York City identify remains from the 911 disaster by performing DNA tests.
 Prior to the 2000 Presidential Election they received a $4 mil no-bid contract from Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris to identify felons illegally registered to vote. Choicepoint identified 94,000 voters but it turns out that less than 3,000 had a verifiable criminal record. Bush won by 537 votes.
 Choicepoint has been collecting information on citizens from 10 Latin American countries without their consent or knowledge and recently purged all documents on Mexican citizens after the Mexican Government complained that it’s federal voter rolls were the source.
 Choicepoint has notified only the 35,000 victims living in Calif. thus far because only Calif. has a state law requiring them to. The Attorney’s General of an additional 38 states have sent an open letter to Choicepoint demanding that they notify residents of their states also. Sheriff lieutenant Robert Costa, in charge of the Los Angeles task force on the matter says that as many as 500,000 identities could be compromised. By the way, this happened last fall. A lone 41 year old Nigerian man plead guilty, refused to aid the investigation and was sentenced Feb. 17, 2005 to a whopping 16 months in prison for 700 confirmed stolen identities.
 To lighten their burden due to the Freedom of Information Act, the F.B.I subcontracted the process of supplying F.O.I. requests to, guess who? Yup, Choicepoint.

Just a footnote:
Last year, according to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported fraud losses of more than $547 million. Internet-related fraud accounted for 53% of all reported fraud complaints. According to the Better Business Bureau, 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity-theft fraud in 2004.

Get busy and hammer your congressman.

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It's 1984 and Farenheit 451 time

An information gathering company called Choicepoint has grudgingly admitted that they gave out personal information on about 140,000 people to phony firms that specialized in identify theft. Choicepoint is a firm that specializes in looking deeply into our past, and present and makes that info available to anyone willing to pay the price. Kind of like U.S. Bank did a few years ago when they sold customers account balances and SS numbers for $4 mil and a commision on sales from the info. buyers. The good ole boys at Choicepoint can provide almost every detail on your life, including credit reports, where youv'e lived, personal references and of course, criminal background check. The question is, how much information does an employer or other company need to know about you and at what point do we say enough. Very soon, this type of company will have the ability to report your favorite sexual position.
Let's take an example. Where I live it's against the law to leave an inoperable car in your driveway for over 72 hours. Your minivan transmission goes and the mechanic wants $4,500 to put in a new one. To stay within the law you shift money around and get it fixed but are late with a couple of payments to others that month. That triggers a clause in your credit card agreements that rockets your interest rates to 25%. Meanwhile, you've accepted a job with a new company and given notice at your old one, all that has to be done is the paperwork for the new job. They go to Choicepoint, run a credit check and Bingo, the offer is withdrawn. Because you have no job, you fall further behind in your payments and because of your history you can't get a job. This is what's commonly known as a Catch 22. Your screwed.
Now let's take this a step further. Suppose this all happened because your file at Choicepoint was infected with a couple of bogus entries, maybe from a criminal with a similar name. Now your really screwed.
Now for the really big question. How did the fake companies get info on 140,000 people from a company that states "ChoicePoint remains committed to its core principles of working to create a safer, more secure society through the responsible use of information while ensuring the protection of personal privacy." Seems to me that there are a few holes in that statement. Their representative stated that the bad guys woke up every morning thinking about how they could commit identity fraud and that made them very hard to beat. Obviously, Choicepoint spent very little time thinking about how to protect your information. They further state that "This incident was not a breach of ChoicePoint’s network or a “hacking” incident and did not involve any of ChoicePoint’s customer information." That's because their customer Privacy Statement says that the info collected from their customers falls into a different catagory "We will not share this information with any affiliated or third-party companies if you ask us not to, or "opt-out" of this use"
What can you do? Two things.
First, request a copy of the information they have accumulated on you at CheckPoint. The reports are free.
Second, and most important is write your representatives in Congress and tell them to get off their lazy butts and pass a fair and viable privacy act.
Otherwise, inspect your bedroom walls for the telltale signs of a camera...

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Thursday, February 17, 2005

You and your fingerprints

Now that the Oregon House and Senate are in session I feel that someone has to comment on their actions, or lack thereof.
The first measure that comes to mind, and this is old news, is the one that proposes putting our fingerprints on our Oregon drivers licenses so we can be more positively identified. Like they can’t tell who we are from the picture. Of course, I could be lying, and although I look like a WASP, I could be a closet terrorist. So, they want to put my fingerprints on my license and then they can send them off to Washington (D.C.) to the FBI databank, where the truth will prevail. Only problem is that the F.B.I are a bunch of schmuks. For those of you that don’t remember, they’re the one’s that identified Brandon Mayfield as part of the group that bombed a train in Spain. Now I don’t want to say that they’re not entitled to a mistake once in a while but, they took him into “protective custody” for a couple of weeks and meanwhile the authorities in Spain said the fingerprints don’t match and we have a suspect that they do match. But the FBI is never wrong, right? So they held him in custody long enough to destroy his Attorney practice and then let him go with an “I’m sorry”. If Gilda Radner were here today and Saturday Night Live was anything like the show it used to be, they would have a field day with that one.
Oh, right, fingerprints on drivers’ licenses. That’s going to work really great when we issue licenses to illegal aliens. The only ones that will be explaining themselves to the authorities will be the average law abiding citizens.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Airport Security - Bend over and grab....

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I recently flew to Florida and was reminded once again how crazy things have gotten with airport security. I'm going to back up a little here. On 9/10 I stayed up all night and took my son and his wife to the Portland airport to catch a late night flight to Hawaii and got home about 5:00 AM. Needless to say, they made it only as far as San Francisco, rented a car, and drove home. I remarked to him that just the week before I had just thought about the fact that no one was highjacking planes anymore and it was about time to get rid of the x-ray stations at the airport. But then came 911.
So, what was a small inconvenience before is now akin to wandering through a maze with no exit. I can put up with it because now, instead of a minimum wage employee sleeping at the x-ray station, security is actually searching baggage and looking for weapons. At first they confiscated anything sharp enough to pop a soap bubble but have now settled down to really pointy things like scissors with a 1" blade for trimming mustaches. And then a really stupid Moroccan comes along with sneakers that look like platform shoes, the kind KISS wore for those of you old enough, and were really bombs with fuses for shoelaces. Now most airports make you take your shoes off and run them through the x-ray machine too. (Expect to see more flip-flops on flights). Then a couple a Chechen women blow up a Russian airliner and it is suspected that they had bombs in their bras. Now many of the airports are searching women’s bras by the pat-down method. I've talked to a few and they complain that it's really degrading. Better yet, search some articles right after 911 for security patting down stewardesses and copping a feel. Now I know that we have to do everything possible to protect ourselves, but how long are we going to play "Simon Say's". I really think that if Bin Laden has a sense of humor he's sitting there right now with his group saying "OK guys, let's put our heads together, what's the most degrading search we can instigate". With my luck, the next terrorist is going to put some plastic explosive up his anus...
Not known for their forward thinking the FAA had 52 warnings from April until Sept. 10, 2001 and 5 of them specifically addressed highjacking, but unfortunately the warnings did not give flight numbers. The FBI ignored warnings from one of their own that a suprisingly large number of men of Arab descent were taking flight training lessons, but were not interested in learning how to land the plane. During the seventy's highjacking planes became a really popular pastime. In 1978 Israel reinforced the cockpit doors and placed an air marshall on every flight. They haven't had a highjacking since.

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