I had a del.icio.us widget up yesterday.

I took it down.

Here’s my thing:

If three years ago you received a letter from a government official saying “we’d like to know which websites you frequent” – or better, “we already know which websites you frequent and we’d like to talk to you about them” – if you had received that letter three years ago, wouldn’t you think twice about your own security and privacy? Would you start taking ACLU op-eds more seriously? Would you change your web habits? Read the rest of this entry »

Renovations

May 19, 2008

I apologize for the shifting layout; bear with me while I tidy up around here.

For now, check out these dudes:

No Blood For Water?

May 19, 2008

Make Wealth History has an eye-opening post on the conflicts that arise over access to fresh water as populations increase and sources deplete for a variety of reasons from global warming to simple human waste.

Some highlights (with my own, independently discovered sources in parentheses):

-In the past 50 years, there have been 37 armed military conflicts over freshwater access (PDFPacific Institute)

-For more than 200 days of the year, China’s Yellow River dries up before reaching the sea (Earth Policy Institute)

-Farming uses 80% of America’s water supply and the government subsidizes agriculture’s water use to the tune of $3 billion per year (I got smaller numbers from the USGS here and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD] on page 2 of a PDF here)

-“If you flushed a toilet today, you used more water in that one flush that 1 in 5 of the world’s people use in a whole day.” (Not sure where this is from or how to verify it – help?)

Read the full story at Make Wealth History here.

BUFFALO POLICE DEPARTMENT – SUPPLEMENTARY OFFENSE REPORT

Offense: Missing Person Case No. 27-B-0006

Offense Location: 633 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202

Victim: Jacob Drum

Special Agent Jeff Tamini – Federal Bureau of Investigations – Interviewing Agent

Investigator Joseph Bautaglia – B.P.D. Criminalistics Section – Reviewing Officer

EVIDENCE:

1. Digitally recorded interview of Jacob Drum

2. VHS Surveillance Tape of Bank of America (North NE/Delaware Ave NE)

SYNOPSIS:

Mr. Jacob Drum stated to Buffalo Police Officers that he had been kidnapped from Allston, MA and then sexually assaulted shortly after opening a checking account with Bank of America and subsequently overdrafting that account. After being questioned by members of the Buffalo Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Jacob augmented his earlier statement and stated that he had, in fact, been forcibly and anally assaulted after making several attempts to reconcile his differences with the bank and their application of – in Jacob’s view – excessive overdraft fees and a “biggest check first” policy designed to generate more and greater overdraft fees.

INVESTIGATION:

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2008 1330 INVESTIGATION

At the listed date and time, Sergeant J. Sandman contacted me via telephone. Sergeant Sandman stated he needed my assistance in conducting an interview. The person to be interviewed was a male subject who had been missing from Allston, MA after opening a checking account at the Bank of America branch located there at Commonwealth Avenue. Sergeant Sandman stated the subject had been located here in Buffalo for several months after the high cost of living and rampant pest animals had driven him from Allston permanently – except in the event of a championship won by the New York Yankees or a professional team from Western New York, in which event he would return briefly to gloat.

The subject had advised responding officers that he had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by employees of Bank of America. Sergeant Sandman told me I would need to report to the intersection of North NE and Delaware Ave NE. I also needed to contact additional detectives and perhaps stop at a precinct station to pick up towels and additional first aid supplies, as there was an abundance of fluid at the scene – much more than necessary for evidence collection. I advised Sergeant Sandman I would be en route.

While en route to the intersection, I learned the male subject had been transported to Erie County Medical Center for the necessary blood transfusions, but that he was awake and speaking. When I arrived at the trauma ward, I learned that he was being interviewed by members of the FBI. At that time, Sergeant Sandman asked if I would like to sit in on the interview. I stated I would, provided the subject stopped spitting so much.

I dislike a spitter. After SARS, no man may call himself a spitter and my friend.

The following is a summary of the information obtained from Jacob during our (Sergeant Sandman and myself) involvement with the interview:

Jacob stated, he had been cleaning kitchen grease out from underneath his fingernails at the listed intersection after attempting to convince Bank of America employees (both at the local branch and via telephone hotline) that his story of personal slovenliness and fiscal irresponsibility was poignant enough to justify a remand of the overdraft fees assessed to his checking account between the dates of April 17 and May 12. He had several times made purchases using the debit card that came with his account when his recorded account balance – both available and adjusted for pending transactions – had been positive to an amount Jacob couldn’t remember because he “never keeps track of these things.” Due to the bank’s policies, transactions were recorded at seemingly arbitrary times, often far beyond the date they were made, making it an almost impossibly task – in Jacob’s view – to know, at any given time, just how much money he had to spend on frozen victuals and pornography.

Relations with bank employees soured and Jacob became irate. He threatened to switch banks. They told him they didn’t care. Jacob ordered them to close his account. Bank employees informed him that he would first need to pay them a sum totaling over one hundred (100) US dollars ($) to close his account. He stated he told them he would not pay the sum, that he could not pay the sum, that the entire sum of his personal wealth was the negative number bank employees had confronted him with. Bank employees informed Jacob they would assess additional fees for the period that his account was in the negative. At this time, Jacob lost control of his temper and most of his bodily functions (Evidence A, B, C, et al.). However, he stated that he paid the sum and left the bank branch office.

It was at or around 1130 when Jacob began sulking and cleaning his fingernails at the stated intersection. After a period of an hour or so, Jacob stated that he was grabbed by a multi-racial posse of Bank of America telephone operatives and thrown into the back of a van. His hands were tied with rope and a hood was placed over his head. Individuals in the van (unseen by Jacob) apparently stated multiple times that there had been a mistake, and that additional fees had been placed on his account, to be paid immediately and in person. Jacob was then taken from the van to a room that he believed to be a basement somewhere in the Bank of America headquarters in downtown Buffalo. The hood was removed from Jacob’s head but his hands remained tied. Jacob was placed on his stomach on a metal examination table and his pants were removed. His legs were tied with additional rope in “a classic spreadeagle” with “just a beauty of a knot setup, a real hell of a tie.” The telephone operatives then left the room.

After some time, two individuals entered the room – an elderly, overweight “Caucasian” male and an older, “Fantastically White, the Embodiment of ‘Patrician'” male. Jacob stated that the men sodomized and tortured him repeatedly for an unspecified period of hours using a variety of methods. (Subsequent medical examination would reveal that most of Jacob’s lower organs had been reduced to one long, straight cavity.) I asked Jacob if he had been bound by rope through the entire assault; he stated that he had. I asked Jacob if the men spoke during the assault; he said they stated repeatedly that he “owed them every last thing they wanted to take from me.” I asked Jacob if he’d heard anything during the assault. He stated that he had heard no outside noise but that the older male had hummed the theme from Love Story as he wielded the hot glue gun.

Investigators continued to question Jacob further about the events of the incident. At various times during questioning, Jacob became upset and sometimes flustered. Eventually, I informed Jacob that his statement did not seem credible and we (investigators) believed he had in fact fucked himself in the ass by refusing to maintain a scheduled budget and an insistence against keeping a proper check record.

The spitting began again, and I exited the room.

SUMMARY

Based on Jacob’s inability to identify his assailants, his inability to account for the discrepancies in his own accounting, and the fact that he’s generally not worth caring about vis-a-vis people with money, this case will be considered closed and unfounded, and Jacob’s bank balance will remain at zero until his monthly account fee places him back in the red where he belongs.

The U.S. government will be sending out economic stimulus checks on a timed schedule based on the last two digits of the taxpayer’s Social Security number. According to the IRS website, my bracket of paper checks will be mailed “no later than” June 27.

Which means, of course, more months of barely scraping by, bouncing checks and saving money until I receive my check some time in July. By then, what with all that scraping and saving going on, I won’t need the money like I need it now.

Things have been tight, to say the least. I moved back to Buffalo from Boston with no job on April 1, and I finally got a steady job a week and a half ago. I haven’t gotten my first check. I’ve been buying food at gas stations with outdated credit card software because I know the transaction will go through and I’ll be able to walk out with something, even though I know it will be sinking my checking account further into the red and creating more overdraft charges for when I actually get some money in the bank. Things like cable Internet service or staying current on my cell phone bill that were previously just expenses now seem more like long term goals, something to start a change jar for like a trip to Six Flags or a new bike.

Now this. This idiotic Band-Aid solution to the nation’s financial problems. As a matter of policy, I don’t even want the check. The idea is to give everyone $600 and hope for the best. Hope they spend it in ways that stimulate a flagging economy. Hope they don’t save it or use it to pay off some debt like they should. It’s not a government assistance program, it’s not really government at all. We are being handed a modest sum and told to fend for ourselves. It’s individualistic and it misses the root of the problem: the people who need this money the most aren’t getting by on $600 checks. Between rent and the groceries and transportation costs and utilities– the money’s gone before we get it in the bank.

And so I disagree with the program. But, of course, I need the money. And there was constant noise about how May, May would be the month when we’d start to see this small, irresponsible brand of relief. Now I have to wait two more months.

It’s a good thing I listed my father’s address on my tax return. I’d done it because I was moving at the time and didn’t have an apartment yet in Buffalo. As it stands, my check will be even more delayed because my father will have to forward it from Albany. Let’s hope that after these next two months I’m not evicted, with the bank holding everything I own, forced to move back to my father’s to receive my check on time.

The federal government has informed me (and others) that it will be sending out a check for $600 to aid me in my financial endeavors some time in May.

Owing to the fact that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to (and neither do six hundred of them), I’ve decided to chronicle the story of my $600 tax incentive from the time I get the check until it’s completely gone. In order to track the money properly, I’ve decided to cash it right away and keep track of the cash so as to not mix it up with money I receive from work. (If you have better ideas, let me know, but starting a separate account for it costs too much money.) I’ll post my experiences here with a “600 and falling” tag.

Posts will probably feature such exciting narratives as:

Paying my cell phone bill.

Deciding between Banquet or Hungry Man frozen dinners.

Philosophically wrestling with the urge to blow it all on booze and women.

Half-mad diatribes on the state of the working poor.

Occasionally blowing small sums of the money on booze and women.

The ins and outs of discount meats and pet care supplies.

And so on.

The check should come within the next few weeks, so watch for updates. For now, take a few minutes and read the story that inspired me to whatever modest action comes out of this project.