7 things @ 6 o’clock (7.29)

7 things @ 6 o’clock (7.29) July 29, 2013

1. “A woman who discovered huge errors in her Equifax credit report and couldn’t get them fixed was awarded a total of $18.6 million in damages. She contacted Equifax eight times about the errors between 2009 and 2011, but they remained on her report.”

That big number will, as usual, likely be whittled way down on appeal — particularly the $18.4 million of it that the jury awarded as punitive damages. But this is still a positive sign of push-back against the unelected, usually unaccountable overlords of the credit reporting agencies, whose vast and growing influence on our lives is relentlessly awful.

2. Steve Wiggins reminisces about an obscure tribal debate among white evangelicals of a certain age: What about the Violent Femmes? My short answer: Frontman Gordon Gano is, like Alice Cooper, an American Baptist PK (pastor’s kid), who has described himself in the past as a “devout Baptist.” But if you’re looking for “Christian themes in rock music” from Gano, check out the delicious self-titled album from Mercy Seat — his gospel-punk side project with Zena Von Heppinstall. Check out “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “Let the Church Roll On.”

3. Steve Benen has a smart piece about the blue-state/red-state patchwork taking shape as the 2014 arrival of Obamacare approaches. In places like New York, California and Maryland, residents will be very pleased to find better coverage and lower premiums. But in places like Indiana and Ohio, where Republican governors have been working hard to make sure residents won’t be pleased with the law, it’s benefits won’t be nearly as obvious or as beneficial. That’s been the goal of GOP attempts to obstruct Obamacare at every turn — to prevent residents from enjoying the benefits it can provide.

Benen asks the key question: “What happens in those red states when residents start looking across borders and they wonder to themselves, ‘Why aren’t my benefits as great as theirs?'” (The answer, I think, is that they’ll start telling lies about New York and California just as they have, for years, about Canada. Expect to hear scary stories and urban legends about death panels, waiting lists and the “undeserving” — i.e., non-white — somehow stealing health coverage that rightly belongs only to real ‘murkans.)

4. Once again, here is a quote I love, attributed to St. Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” (Trigger warning for that link to Sarah Moon’s “When Anger Saved My Life,” which is hopeful, beautiful, angry and courageous, but also frankly  discusses and describes abusive violence and sexual violence.)

5.Operation Cross Country.” The FBI held a news conference this morning, “in which they announced that 105 children have been rescued from a child sex-trafficking scheme that spanned 76 U.S. cities and has landed over 150 people in cuffs.”

6.Willie Reed (Louis) died last week at the age of 76.” I did not recognize his name and I did not know his story, although I knew about the larger story in which he played a courageous role. He was, as Paul Campos describes him, “An American Hero.”

7. No vengeance in Jubilee. At Internet Monk, Mike Bell discusses Jesus’ first public sermon — his “mission statement,” taken from the book of Isaiah:

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.

To fully catch what’s going on there, Bell notes, you have to look at the passage Jesus is quoting, from Isaiah 61. He stops reading mid-sentence. Isaiah says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Jesus got to that bit about vengeance, “And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.” Hmmm.

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  • MarkTemporis

    Is that you, Jonathan Crane?

  • stardreamer42

    Say WHAT?!! Did you even notice that you’ve just vicariously mansplained to Sarah that the poor little thing didn’t really recognize what she was feeling at all, it wasn’t anger, it was this other thing that you of course can read in her mind.

    You do not get to redefine words to suit yourself, and you especially do not get to tell women (or anyone else either) that they don’t REALLY feel what they say they’re feeling. Whether you meant it so or not, this is sexist bullshit and I’m calling you on it. This is not a case of everyone except you being wrong.

    And yes, I am quite angry with you right now. I tend to get that way when I see people denying the agency of others.

  • stardreamer42

    Ah, okay. Thanks for explaining, because that really had me freaking out!

  • stardreamer42

    Ah yes, whataboutery — aka the old “But Clinton did it too!” defense updated. That doesn’t fly. You can’t pretend that the problems here do not stem directly from the Republicans’ stated goal of making sure Obama fails, even if they have to take down the rest of America to do it.

    Well, obviously you can pretend that, because you just did. But nobody outside your own little thought balloon is going to believe you.

  • EdinburghEye

    Expect to hear scary stories and urban legends about death panels,
    waiting lists and the “undeserving” — i.e., non-white — somehow stealing
    health coverage that rightly belongs only to real ‘murkans.)

    Quite a few years ago now, I was sitting around with a half dozen white Americans in a waiting room in Canada (why we were all there is not germane – I’m white too by the way, but I have a very noticeable English accent) and the talk, which was general, moved to healthcare.

    Someone asked me, as they do, what was my view of the NHS versus US healthcare?

    And I said obviously that while the NHS had its flaws and faults and was currently suffering from two to three decades of chronic underfunding (it’s suffering a lot worse now) it was still in the top fifteen, could be in the top ten, of healthcare systems in the world, and the key thing seemed to be that it was economic and effective to give everyone in the UK the healthcare they needed free of charge and claim the costs back in taxes. Whereas in the US, I said, not to be offensive, but you spend an awful lot of money and you really don’t seem to get very much for it.

    And there were nods round the room, but then one man said “Yes, but we could never introduce anything like the NHS in here (he meant the US, I think he’d forgotten briefly he was in Canada). We’re too multicultural, you’ve got a much less diverse country.” (London is the most multicultural city in the world.) Silence fell. Nobody else said anything and the subject changed to something else.

    But I’ve thought ever since that what he meant was something like “too many black people.”

  • Donalbain

    Chequebook? Haven’t used one of those in YEARS. Are they still in common usage in the USA?

  • Fusina

    I am lucky that I can disregard it (at present–this may change in future) but I assume that I have a good score, based entirely on the insane volume of credit card offers I get. I shred them for use in the cat litter pan. Seems a good use for the scoring companies too.

  • Fusina

    I have family in Canada and friends in London, and we have discussed NHS vs USH (can I start calling it US Denial of Healthcare, or US DOH!–seems appropriate as the system as it is now seems to be run by Homer Simpson, with a side of Montgomery Burns) and I am still hoping that we get an NHS of our own. Because, when the insurance company denies care to someone that a Doctor deemed necessary, it seems that is practicing medicine without a license, yes? I am still waiting for someone to sue an insurance company for that reason.

  • Carstonio

    You’re right that it sounds like I’m denying what Moon felt. I could be splitting too many semantic hairs. To me, it feels unfair to Moon to lump her reaction in the same category as, say, an abuser acting from entitlement or hate, since her cause is just.

    You and others seem to be describing anger as morally neutral, where any moral quality comes entirely from the context. I’m suggesting that the motives help shape the reaction. I would hope that someone reacting out of self-defense or justice would not make the issue about the other person, the way someone reacting out of a desire to preserve their power. I suppose I want two different words to distinguish the two reactions.

    Ironically, when I’m around an angry person, I have difficulty distinguishing whether the person’s cause is just, because I experience feelings of panic to one degree or another. I long for a way of calming the person, and obviously that does a disservice to people with just causes. But if someone told me that I simply need to find a way to calm myself, would the person then be denying my emotional experience? Is there a way I can let the person know that they have a right to be angry but that they’re scaring me?

  • If there was ever a case where punitive damages should make sense to even the most fervent detractor, it should be this. Heck, a few million, pish posh!

  • Charby

    That last bit probably won’t happen. insurance companies don’t practice medicine, they pay for medicine. When they deny care, they’re not really saying, “you can’t have this,” they’re saying, “we won’t pay for you to have this”. It’s not the same as being a doctor, and yes, it’s not something that would go away as a result of a lawsuit, unless you gave the insurance company all the money in the country and required it to fund every conceivable treatment option.

    The good part — the reason why the US desperately needs it — about a single-payer system though is that they have no profit motive, which means that they’ll usually only deny coverage for care for things that are impractical, rather than merely unprofitable.

  • I’m not clear on what that woman actually sued Equifax for. Defamation of character would seem reasonable.


  • Fusina

    Only, refusing to pay, in many cases, is saying “you can’t have this”. Most people can’t afford medical bills without help from insurance. And yes, I do realize they have their asses firmly covered–probably to keep from needing medical care for the bruises.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I have to imagine the hardest thing about something like Operation Cross Country would be allowing those children to continue being harmed while you gather all the evidence and get everything in order. That must be heart-breaking.

  • Amaryllis

    “Willie Reed (Louis) died last week at the age of 76.”

    The last bleak news of the ballad.
    The rest of the rugged music.
    The last quatrain.

  • Lori

    Ironically, when I’m around an angry person, I have difficulty
    distinguishing whether the person’s cause is just, because I experience
    feelings of panic to one degree or another.

    If at all possible, you need to get help for this. In the mean time you need to keep reminding yourself that your perceptions of anger aren’t always an accurate picture of how other people feel and experience it. You need to stop projecting your fears onto other people.

  • Hah. Yeah, I’ve been lucky the same way. I just have this distinct idea that as soon as it is relevant, it will start screwing me over. (I used to kind of skim Fred’s post on this, and then somewhere along the way, the penny dropped in a huge way. Fuck adulthood, man.)

  • phantomreader42

    Libel probably fits, given that they made statements about her in writing that were false, that they KNEW to be false, and that caused her demonstrable harm.

  • To me, it feels unfair to Moon to lump her reaction in the same
    category as, say, an abuser acting from entitlement or hate, since her
    cause is just.

    But you’re not – we’re not. Actions that defend oneself are not the same as actions that control and manipulate. To continue that response – anger is morally neutral, and I disagree immensely that motives help shape the reaction. To deny that anger can ever be used for good is to allow yourself to start feeling shame for anger, which is a hard thing. I understand that it’s a little messy, and a little confusing, but again – that’s humanity. Pretty much any emotion can cause harm if we allow it to.

    Is there a way I can let the person know that they have a right to be angry but that they’re scaring me?

    Yes. Yes, a thousand times yes. Quite simply: “I understand that you’re angry, and you have a right to be angry, but you’re scaring me.” I have the same reaction, for what it’s worth. I might get angry back, but my knee-jerk reaction to someone angry and/or shouting is basically pure terror. I still acknowledge that people have the right to be angry (usually – there are most definitely exceptions. “I want to smoke in the house and you won’t let me,” for example, is not a good reason to flip out.), but I also think that people in a situation where the other person is a frightening level of angry have every fucking right in the world to get out of that situation ASAP, for the sake of their own health, mental or physical.

  • Hmmm. Possibly. In the USA, it’s possible to write checks for a lot more things than you would in the UK or Canada.

    Canadian practice in a lot of retail establishments is to simply not accept them. Where they ARE accepted, it’s very difficult to scam the system: you need two pieces of ID plus the in-store-issued check cashing card.

    This has led Canadians to using less fraud-prone forms of payment.

    By contrast, US practice is to accept checks in a lot of places and so there is a thriving cottage industry of both people who write bad checks (knowingly) and all sorts of mechanisms to defend against them (“Check-Rite” being one example; it scans the printed data at the bottom of the check to validate it before the retail cashier will accept it). And of course, court trials for people who get caught passing bad checks.

  • Jamoche

    Helen Mirren has some good advice for you:


    (sorry for the dailyfail link)

    ‘If I’d had children and had a girl, the first words I would have taught her would have been “f*** off” because we weren’t brought up ever to say that to anyone, were we?
    ‘And it’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, “No, f*** off, leave me alone, thank you very much.”

  • Carstonio

    (nods) You’re making a distinction between what someone feels and how that feeling manifests itself. I’ve been focusing only on the latter, and that may be a large part of the problem. I seem to mistake the manifestations of an emotion with an emotion itself. Perhaps that’s because other people’s emotions aren’t tangible to me the way my own are, and I seem to lack the judgment or intuition to know with certainty what others are feeling.

  • Carstonio

    In such situations, I find myself trying to reason with the person who’s being unreasonable, as if I could convince hir to leave me alone through simple argument. Or else I don’t fully grasp that my boundaries are being violated. Then I reach a point where I’ve had enough and I go nuclear.

    These days “nuclear” means cutting off any relationship with the person. In middle school that meant throwing a punch at someone laughing at me or someone giving me a wedgie. Both times the person seemed shocked. And neither person was regularly giving me a hard time – I was reacting to treatment from several different classmates. The schoolyard equivalent of a hostile work environment.

    I’ve long felt that it shouldn’t be necessary to say “f*** off.” I foolishly long for the standards of conduct in a workplace to be observed everywhere. To my way of thinking, if one isn’t sure whether another likes being treated a certain way, then it’s more prudent to not treat the other that way. Assume non-consent unless consent is given. The burden of proof shouldn’t be on someone to have personal boundaries, but should be instead on anyone else who thinks the person should relax those boundaries.

    Also, “f*** off” (I’m parroting the Daily Mail’s formatting here) doesn’t seem sufficient. Maybe the ability to instantly destroy the offender’s dreams…

  • Lori

    I assume that I have a good score, based entirely on the insane volume of credit card offers I get

    This seems like it would be try, but it isn’t necessarily.

  • Aye, I think that’s the root of it. In another community where I hang out, I recently wrote up a long post in response to a lot of recent issues. At its heart, though, the message is pretty simple: Feeling pain does is not an excuse for causing pain (self defense, that’s different – I mean lashing out at people because they happen to be in your way), and feeling anger is okay… but letting that anger manifest as wanton destruction and verbal/physical attacks is not.

    It’s tough to gauge other people’s emotions, and it gets even tougher when people are under the impression that they should hide or be ashamed of those emotions. God, the number of times I’ve seen massive fights happen because one person never came out and said “I’m angry because you said [this], and that felt like an attack,” or “What you said hurt me, and I’m still hurt and angry.” But I think the answer is more of that communication of emotions, not striving to eliminate them.

  • phantomreader42

    When your job is to tell the truth, telling the half of the truth that makes your side look good is a lie.
    “A lie that is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies”

  • Is there a way I can let the person know that they have a right to be angry but that they’re scaring me?

    As Captain Awkward says, Use Your Words.

    “I understand that you’re angry, and that your anger may be justified, but unfortunately I’ve got an irrational panic-reaction about anger. This isn’t blaming you; the problem is mine. But it does mean I have to step away from you while you’re angry so that I don’t freak out and make you even more upset.”

  • Alix

    FWIW, I’d call that rage.

  • Alix

    At least where I am, “balancing a checkbook” has become an idiom for balancing the family budget.

    And yeah, some places around here (and I’m right in the D.C. metropolitan area, mind) still don’t accept credit/debit cards. I’ve only written, I think, three checks in my life? But I still have a checkbook, ’cause sometimes it’s still necessary. If incredibly annoying.

  • Alix

    My jackass of a landlord is currently trying to force my mother and me out of our home. Mom, who is seizing the opportunity to buy her dream retirement home, spent a very stressful week wrangling with the various credit agencies over weird entries and errors in her credit report (such as them listing debts from her ex-husband – after the divorce, mind – on her credit), and, very luckily, squeaked into qualifying for a home loan.

    I am a person who has no credit cards, has run up only student loan debt and very little of that (which isn’t due yet), and took out a very small loan years ago, paid it off on time, and it no longer even shows on my credit report – and my score is dead-on average. It is utterly ridiculous that people who manage to avoid or keep up with their debt get dinged for not playing the debt/credit game … and I’m currently worrying about all this ’cause I’m trying to convince my credit union to give me a small loan to purchase some necessary appliances for the new place. I have the income to pay it off in good time, I’m not asking for more than I can reasonably afford to pay back … and I might not get the loan ’cause I don’t dance on the edge of debt every month with a credit card, and I don’t take out loans I don’t need, because it’s stupid and irresponsible to do so.

    And yet, every financial expert tells me that I ought to get a credit card and put everything on it and just make sure I can pay it off on time, and that I ought to keep taking out the exact kind of loan I’m trying to take out (paying it back perfectly, of course, and not too fast), to “build my credit.” But I might not qualify for the loans or the credit cards because … I haven’t already been using them. What, do we have to start on our first credit card at age 5, now?

    …Ahem. Sorry for the rant, this is just really really annoying the crap out of me right now. And there is no. good. justification. for any of this bullshit.

  • ohiolibrarian

    Why does this make me think of Monty Python? This bit:

    Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.

  • alfgifu

    Often people lash out violently from fear, but that’s from a desire for security and not a personal animosity.

    I’m in my late twenties, and I’m female. Though that puts me in a disadvantaged position in some ways, the oodles of privilege that I’ve picked up from my skin colour, height, conventional good looks, good health, fortunate upbringing, and high level of education tend to counter it much of the time. I am scared sometimes, mostly of failure and disapproval. The thing that frightens me most is the idea of the depression I experienced as a teenager coming back again. These fears are not present at the top of my mind most of the time, and they don’t drive most of my thoughts and actions (always allowing for perspective – I suppose I might not know it if they did).

    So, that’s the context. I’m seldom operating out of fear. Now, here’s the thing: there is a strong impulse in me to hurt other people. I can take pleasure in somebody else’s pain, and I think it’s connected to enjoying a sense of power – of being able to control another person at a whim.

    I consciously push myself to empathise with the people around me to hold this impulse at bay. Not hurting people (either for personal advantage or just for pleasure) is an effort. Not a great effort because it’s a form of self-control I’ve been practising for many years. I don’t go around using words or fists to hurt the people I know *because I recognise the impulse is bad and I work hard to overcome it*.

    I can easily picture someone with the same impulse (which is not universal but I reckon must be fairly common), who didn’t make the effort to develop the counter-balancing empathy, causing someone else pain without thinking twice about it. No motivating fear required.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I admit, I was concerned about this too, but apparently phase-in adjustments/postponements are fairly routine and not at all illegal:

    Though “wise,” is the current postponement “illegal”? On the contrary, Treasury’s Mazur wrote to Chair Upton, such temporary postponements of tax reporting and payment requirements are routine, citing numerous examples of such postponements by Republican and Democratic administrations when statutory deadlines proved unworkable.

    In fact, applicable judicial precedent places such timing adjustments well within the Executive Branch’s lawful discretion. To be sure, the federal Administrative Procedure Act authorizes federal courts to compel agencies to initiate statutorily required actions that have been “unreasonably delayed.” But courts have found delays to be unreasonable only in rare cases where, unlike this one, inaction had lasted for several years, and the recalcitrant agency could offer neither a persuasive excuse nor a credible end to its dithering. In deciding whether a given agency delay is reasonable, current law tells courts to consider whether expedited action could adversely affect “higher or competing” agency priorities, and whether other interests could be “prejudiced by the delay.” Even in cases where an agency outright refuses to enforce a policy in specified types of cases — not the case here — the Supreme Court has declined to intervene. As held by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist in a leading case on this subject, Heckler v. Chaney, courts must respect an agency’s presumptively superior grasp of “the many variables involved in the proper ordering of its priorities.”

    Also, it is highly disingenuous to classify a decision:

    to continue working through 2014 with “employers, insurers, and other reporting entities” to revise and engage in “real-world testing” of the reporting requirements, simplify forms, coordinate requisite public and private sector information technology arrangements, and engineer a “smoother transition to full implementation in 2015.”

    as “ignoring” that part of the law.

  • Personal cheques will be entirely phased out in Britain by next year, IIRC

  • Carstonio

    “Lashing out violently from fear” was meant to describe situations where one perceives another person as a threat. It wasn’t meant to exclude other reasons people become violent.

    While I empathize with your situation, I admit that your specific impulse to hurt others makes no sense to me. I don’t claim to be free from the desire to hurt others, or from any ability to take pleasure in someone else’s pain. I mean that the impulse you describe doesn’t seem to view others as conscious actors. As if the impulse were no different from a natural force and the other person were merely an object in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m describing my own impression and I apologize for the tone.

    When one person deliberately hurts another, it seems to me that the violent act equates to a punishment, even when that isn’t the offender’s intention or even the victim’s perception. (That doesn’t mean that the punishment is deserved or just.) It seems that way to me because there’s a conscious mind behind the decision. I wouldn’t know how to understand such decisions that aren’t about the victim in some way. That would almost be like a judge having bailiffs pull people off the streets and handing down sentences just for fun.

  • Charby

    Well, yeah, that’s why we need a single-payer system — because the way we have things set up right now essentially means that the provider and the customer are at cross purposes; the provider doesn’t want to spend too much money because that lowers their profits, but the customer needs that money to, you know, live. Removing the profit motive shifts more of the focus on providing health care. While there will still almost certainly be things that aren’t covered, the decision will be more of a medical and practical one rather than a, “if we cover this for everyone, we won’t make our quarterly profit taget,” decision.

    I was just objecting to the portrayal of health insurance providers as ‘practicing medicine’ when they decide what they do and don’t cover; Aetna isn’t a doctor, just like Geico isn’t an auto mechanic.

  • Fusina

    Well, yes. And I agree completely that insurance providers should be non-profit–single payer would be the current ideal–while not perfect, it is a hella lot better than what we have now.

    I also object to the stock market–yes, it does allow smaller business to make it, but at the same time, it gives them incentive to get the maximum profit from whatever it is they make, while making it as cheaply as possible. It is a dilemma, and I did not study econ in college. I do, however manufacture something, and sell it on occasion. I also worked at a small company where they paid their workers the minimum they could get away with, while the owners were buying second houses and expensive vehicles while crying too poor to give out Christmas bonuses–this was announced at the fancy Christmas party at a very, very nice restaurant. I’d have gladly forgone the party for the (based on the prices I saw) couple hundred they spent for just my and my SO’s food and drink.