Intuit CEO in Internal Video: Hiding Free TurboTax Was In “Best Interest of Taxpayers” — ProPublica

From the article:

Sasan Goodarzi, the CEO of Intuit, says the company’s efforts to make its free tax-filing software harder to find on Google were part of the software giant’s commitment to educating taxpayers.

In an 11-minute video sent to Intuit employees, Goodarzi said the company was trying to help consumers by steering them to “educational content” instead of TurboTax’s free filing website.

The company promised the IRS it would offer a free option to tens of millions of taxpayers earning less than $34,000.

Responding to our reporting, which shows that Intuit, H&R Block and other for-profit tax software companies were steering low-income customers to their paid products, Goodarzi said the company’s marketing practices “had been misinterpreted to signal that we were trying to hide the product we offer in the IRS program. That is inaccurate.”

Source: Intuit CEO in Internal Video: Hiding Free TurboTax Was In “Best Interest of Taxpayers” — ProPublica

I hate the tax lobby with a particular passion. The reason the IRS and the US government doesn’t just automatically give you a bill, or a tax return is that the tax lobby has put an enormous effort into keeping themselves relevant. Our government officials are easily bought by lobby dollars.

You can file for free, but these companies hid this option and made poor Americans pay anyways. They re the worse.


Law Hides Dangerous Products and Impedes Recalls – Consumer Reports

From the article:

The law—known as Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act—requires the agency, in most cases, to get permission from manufacturers before releasing their names or any information that could reveal their identities, even when a product is linked to injuries and deaths. And when the CPSC does announce an alert or recall, companies often can restrict the information that’s released and negotiate the language used.

Those measures took shape during the Reagan administration. According to Nancy Nord, who was the CPSC’s acting chairman from 2006 to 2009, they were in response to complaints that a company’s reputation could suffer unfairly if the CPSC didn’t give it a chance to review the agency’s safety concerns before they were made public. She thinks 6(b) is reasonable, satisfying both consumer and industry needs.

But some other members of the CPSC, including current ones, disagree. “We need the anti-consumer safety and anti-transparency requirements of Section 6(b) . . . to be eliminated,” said Elliot Kaye, the CPSC commissioner and former chairman, in early April at a subcommittee hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “People die because of Section 6(b). It is that simple.”

Source: Law Hides Dangerous Products and Impedes Recalls – Consumer Reports

That’s right. There is a law on the books in the US, where a corporation has to give its approval before the public is told they are literally killing babies with their products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This is the entire point of the CPSC, and it was single handily undercut in this by that law.

This is why having lobbyists involved in the legislative process is a bad idea. Literally babies are dying, and there is a gag law preventing the public from knowing, and holding the corporation accountable.

Telcoms lobbyists have convinced 26 states to ban or restrict municipal broadband / Boing Boing

From the article:

More than half of the US states have passed laws that ban or severely restrict local governments from investing in broadband: many of these laws were copypasted from “model legislation” circulated by corporate telcoms lobbyists (this is a disturbing, widespread practice in America’s state houses); and many of the states that have passed these bills have large areas where every ISP is a Net Neutrality violator, and all across America, ISPs are underinvesting in network buildout (especially for rural subscribers) while raising prices and refusing to sell high-speed service to customers who don’t also buy cable TV.

Municipal internet is the answer: despite the documented lies of Trump’s FCC, cities that build their own networks save money and the people who live there are the only Americans who are happy with their broadband.

So municipal internet is a huge threat to ISP monopolists: not only do they stand to lose the $5 billion federal subsidies that they receive every year, they also have to compete with superior, lower-cost, higher quality offerings from municipalities.

Source: Telcoms lobbyists have convinced 26 states to ban or restrict municipal broadband / Boing Boing

We all hate Comcast, and the de facto monopoly that it has on our lives and access to the broader world.

What a lot of folks don’t know is that there are literally laws on the books, pushed by these companies, that literally make it illegal to create a better service for your city or state.

That is some fucked up shit.

IPOs have sent Uber and Lyft fares skyrocketing, while driver pay plummets / Boing Boing

From the article:

The public markets are hungry: as Uber and Lyft look to IPOs to let their investors — who have been subsidizing 40-50% of every ride — redeem their shares through sales to the public capital markets, the companies are desperate for ways to reduce their unprofitability and increase those share prices.

Luckily for them, the rideshare companies operate “two-sided markets,” a darling of neoliberal economic orthodoxy, wherein they are able to control the prices that customers pay and the share of those payments that reach drivers, and that means they get to fuck everybody over.

Both companies have been ratcheting up fares as they have increased their exposure to the public markets, but not only are they not sharing these new revenues with drivers — they’re actually cutting real wages to drivers.

Source: IPOs have sent Uber and Lyft fares skyrocketing, while driver pay plummets / Boing Boing

I have a real problem with corporations that fuck over the people working for them. Let’s be real, Lyft and Uber drivers are employees. Nonstandard ones, but in the current world they are still employees.

This is a labor issue.

Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A. | The New Yorker

From the article:

Marc Owens, who served for ten years as the head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises, recently reviewed these records. “The litany of red flags is just extraordinary,” he said. “The materials reflect one of the broadest arrays of likely transgressions that I’ve ever seen. There is a tremendous range of what appears to be the misuse of assets for the benefit of certain venders and people in control.” Owens added, “Those facts, if confirmed, could lead to the revocation of the N.R.A.’s tax-exempt status”—without which the organization could likely not survive.

Source: Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A. | The New Yorker

Well, this is not shocking that this is an organization that fans the flames of fear that the government will try to take guns, and uses it to raise funds that the leadership then loots for their own.

High-Deductible Insurance Linked To Delays In Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment : Shots – Health News : NPR

From the article:

Her employer offered only a high-deductible health plan; that meant she’d have to pay up to $6,000 out of pocket each year. Advocates for patients say this sort of underinsurance is snatching lives.

Source: High-Deductible Insurance Linked To Delays In Cancer Diagnosis And Treatment : Shots – Health News : NPR

I feel like I am constantly breaking down cost benefit analysis for my friends on these high-deductible plans that will literally get you killed if you have health issues.

First, some terminology.

  • Premium: The monthly amount you pay to have insurance.
  • Deductible: The total dollar amount you have to pay before your insurance wills tart covering you.
  • Out of Pocket: This is the dollar amount you pay yourself, like a co-payment, when you go to the doctor, even though you have insurance.
  • FSA/HSA: Flexible Spending Account/Health Savings Account. The are accounts that are taken from your paycheck that can only be used for healthcare. Some can be used in total on day 1, some cannot. It basically skims your paychecks for the money, and are often used in conjunction with higher deductible plans.

People look at these high deductible insurance plans, and it’s attractive. The monthly premium payment is often a lot less.

However, high deductible plans are often filled with higher out of pocket amounts. For instance, you might not be covered 100% of a hospital visit. You might only be covered 50%. Specialist doctors might only be covered 80% for the visit and the testing. This is something you really have to look at. One accident, one set of testing, and you could blow all the money you are saving on the monthly premium’s and more. These high deductible plans always go hand in hand with crappy coverage if you actually need it.

The problem is that most FSA/HSA funds is that they are not big enough to cover these high deductibles, and the out of pocket costs that are usually associated with these plans.

Let’s break it down quick and dirty. This is not a real plan, but kind of what I’ve seen over the years, give or take. This is just to show you how it works.

Low Deductible Plan High Deductible Plan  Cost Per Visit
Monthly Premium 100 50
Deductible 500 5000
Copay 20 20%                   125
Specialist 30 20%                   200
Testing No Copay 20%                   800
Hospital stay 150 a day/maxes at 500 50%              10,000

Okay, now let’s say for the year you see the doctor 3 times, have one specialist visit, and testing procedure like an MRI/CAT etc. Then you have an in-hospital stay for a week.

I super low-balled the costs for each visit. Specialist visits can go up and up. Testing procedures can be in the thousands. Hospital stays for a week are probably never going to be that low in the US.

You pay
Low Deductible Plan High Deductible Plan
Premiums                               1,200                            600
Copay                                    60                              75
Specialist                                    30                              40
Testing                                     –                            160
Hospital                                  500                         5,000
Total                               1,790                         5,875
Add Deductible                                  500                         5,000
Total paid for year                               2,290                       10,875

This super simplistic example shows that you would end up paying $10,875 for the year of costs, versus $2,290 if you had a low deductible plan.

The problem is that people often think it will help them if if it’s catastrophic health care, which these plans don’t really help with because the coverage is usually shit on top of the high deductible.

Even worse, you can get knocked out of access to financial help because you actually have an insurance plan.

I hate these plans. They are a scam that do nothing for anyone.

Mark Zuckerberg leveraged Facebook user data to fight rivals and help friends, leaked documents show

From the article:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data, according to about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents largely spanning 2011 to 2015 and obtained by NBC News.

The documents, which include emails, webchats, presentations, spreadsheets and meeting summaries, show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook’s trove of user data — including information about friends, relationships and photos — as leverage over companies it partnered with.

In some cases, Facebook would reward favored companies by giving them access to the data of its users. In other cases, it would deny user-data access to rival companies or apps.

Source: Mark Zuckerberg leveraged Facebook user data to fight rivals and help friends, leaked documents show

I can’t use the platform. I can’t personally be a part of it. Every article that comes out just horrifies me.

Microsoft named as stopping “Right to Repair” in Washington

From the article:

A state representative sheds some light on how tech companies blocked the popular measure.

Source: Microsoft named as stopping “Right to Repair” in Washington

Right to Repair is a simple movement. You should have the right to repair anything you buy. You should not be beholden to take it back to where you bought it where they have a monopoly through law.

Wish us luck!

Today is my wife’s surgery day. I’ll be in the hotel, and the hospital waiting room while she spends the entire day in the operating room.

Four Steps Facebook Should Take to Counter Police Sock Puppets | Electronic Frontier Foundation

From the article:

Despite Facebook’s repeated warnings that law enforcement is required to use “authentic identities” on the social media platform, cops continue to create fake and impersonatoraccounts to secretly spy on users. By pretending to be someone else, cops are able to sneak past the privacy walls users put up and bypass legal requirements that might require a warrant to obtain that same information.

The most recent examples—and one of the most egregious—was revealed by The Guardianthis week. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security executed a complex network of dummy Facebook profiles and pages to trick immigrants into registering with a fake college, The University of Farmington. The operation netted more than 170 arrests. Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection issued a privacy impact assessment that encourages investigators to conceal their social media accounts.

Source: Four Steps Facebook Should Take to Counter Police Sock Puppets | Electronic Frontier Foundation

I already despise Facebook for their corrupt business practices, but this is a whole new level.

Wish us luck!

The pregnancy-tracking app Ovia lets women record their most sensitive data for themselves — and their boss – The Washington Post

From the article:

Pregnancy-tracking apps such as Ovia have climbed in popularity as fun, friendly companions for the daunting uncertainties of childbirth. But they have also become powerful monitoring tools for employers and health insurers.

Source: The pregnancy-tracking app Ovia lets women record their most sensitive data for themselves — and their boss – The Washington Post

Are you fucking kidding me?! I don’t even have words scathing enough for how unbelievably fucked up this is.