Make Of It What You Will

quizzical confused emojiI’m working on some number of projects at the moment … I say ‘some number’, for I have no idea what that number even is, nor do I have a clue how many will reach fruition.  (Mind bounce in the rabbit hole can be a chancy thing) But for today, I had a bunch of snippets, bits ‘n pieces that I came across this weekend, most of which leave me shrugging my shoulders, saying, “make of that what you will”.  Hence the title of this post.


Equifax?

You all remember last September when Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, reported that hackers had gained access to the data of some 143 million Americans, including social security and driver’s license numbers?  Well, two news stories this week about the Equifax breach are of concern.

About six weeks after the initial announcement by Equifax, they raised the number of people whose data may have been compromised from 143 million to 145.5 million, an additional 2.5 million people.  Then on Thursday, they added yet another 2.4 million to their estimate, bringing the total up to 147.9 million.  That is 147,900,000 people whose social security numbers, as well as other sensitive information may be in the wrong hands.

At the time, Richard Cordray was director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and he immediately authorized an investigation into the Equifax data breach.  But Cordray resigned in November and was replaced by Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as acting director of the CFPB.  As acting, or interim director, Mulvaney did not have to pass muster by a senate confirmation.

Although there has been no official announcement, every appearance indicates that the investigation into the Equifax breach has been halted.  CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data. No subpoenas have been issued. The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus.

Prior to becoming director of the OMB, Mulvaney was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina, and a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, the farthest-right group within the GOP.

Make of that what you will.


Trump praises Xi Jinping, and then …

“He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great.  And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.

Make of that what you will.


Roy Moore needs your help …

You remember ol’ Roy, right?  Last December he lost the election for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by current Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.  Roy, a former judge and a bigot, had been de-throned from the judiciary not once, but twice, for failure to uphold the very law he had sworn to uphold.  But that wasn’t likely what cost him the election, though it should have.  What cost him the election were the numerous (9 to date) credible accusations of pedophilia and other sexual abuses.

Well, ol’ Roy is now b-r-o-k-e, if he is to be believed. He is asking for help to pay his legal bills as he fights Leigh Corfman in court, a woman who claims she was molested by Moore when she was 14.

“Please help me fight this battle for the heart and soul of this Nation. Your financial contribution to my legal defense fund is crucial…My resources have been depleted and I have struggled to make ends meet.”

Moore is asking for $250,000, and has thus far received $32,000 in donations.

Make of that what you will.


Because Trump hasn’t said to do it …

Admiral Mike Rogers is a busy man … you can see it in his eyes, can’t you?  Mike is the director of the National Security Administration (NSA) and also heads up the Pentagon’s Cyber Command.  Nearly every single expert in cyber security has agreed that not only did Russia play a role in our 2016 elections in multiple ways, including cyber-hacking, but that they continue to do so and will no doubt do so in November when the mid-term congressional elections take place.

What are we doing to counter the Russian cyber-hacking?  Nothing.  That’s right … nothing.  Why?  Because Trump hasn’t said to do it.  Addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday, Admiral Rogers said …

“Clearly, what we’ve done hasn’t been enough. I need a policy decision that indicates there is specific direction to do that. The president ultimately would make this decision in accordance with a recommendation from the secretary of defense.”

Rogers also expressed frustration that Trump failed to implement the sanctions against Russia passed by Congress last year, saying the Russians “haven’t paid a price, at least, that has significantly changed their behavior”.

Trump has denied that there was any interference by Russia, and even when he admits it, he is lukewarm.  And he also insists that he has been ‘tougher’ on Russia than President Obama (he hasn’t).

Make of that what you will.


Bye-Bye FedEx …

Dozens of companies have severed their ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the two+ weeks since the tragic shooting that killed 17 in Parkland Florida last month.  All of the major car rental companies, which had previously offered discounts to NRA members, have stopped doing so, and Delta Airlines severed ties, in spite of the threat from Georgia lawmakers to revoke tax breaks that benefitted Delta to the tune of about $40 million.  But one company stands out … FedEx.

FedEx refused to discontinue discounts to NRA corporate members, offering some b.s. excuse that it would be ‘discriminatory’.  The truth is that FedEx gives some special consideration to gun manufacturers shipping weapons around the nation.  The rules are that all guns must be shipped using FedEx’ Priority Overnight service, and that they will not ship handguns via FedEx ground.  But … if you are Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, SIG Sauer, or the NRA itself … well, the rules can be bent to let you use 2-day shipping and save a bundle! And of course, FedEx gets some percentage of that bundle.

Fred Smith, President & CEO of FedEx

The good news, however, is that companies that use FedEx have said that if FedEx won’t distance itself from the NRA, then they will distance themselves from FedEx. So far it is just a handful of companies, but if the momentum grows, FedEx may live to regret their unholy alliances.

Make of that what you will.


And now, friends, I have given you enough to ponder on for the rest of the day.  Hasta mañana.

Reward For A Job Poorly Done?

richard-smithRichard Smith was the CEO of Equifax … until Tuesday when he stepped down from his position.  Or was asked to step down.  The investigation into what happened in the Equifax security breach that was made public earlier this month is ongoing, and there is no word whether Mr. Smith, and the two others who also stepped down were responsible.  143 million U.S. adults’ personal and credit information was hacked during May thru July.  But now here is what sticks in my craw …

Smith will receive a pension of $18.4 million.  $18.4 MILLION!!!  Plus … he stands to gain an additional $5 million IF he is found guilty of some wrongdoing!!!  As it stands, he is leaving by ‘mutual agreement’, and as such is not eligible for the $5,000 severance payout.  But, if the investigation should provide evidence that Smith was in the wrong in some way, then Equifax would change the status of his departure to ‘terminated’, and then he would be eligible for severance. Chew on that one for a minute or two while I go fix myself another cup of coffee …

wine

Coffee

And in addition to the above, the company is still considering certain other awards that could, potentially, end up with Mr. Smith receiving as much as $90 million.  I think we need look no further than this to figure out at least one of the things that is very, very wrong with capitalism, at least as it is practiced here in the U.S..  $18.4 million is obscene, under any circumstances, but when there is a strong likelihood that this man had at least some role in exposing nearly every adult in this nation to broad theft, he should not be getting a penny, let alone tens of millions of dollars.

I was curious about CEO severance packages in recent years, so I went in search of … and I think your jaw will drop when you see these …

  • Jack Welch, General Electric, 2001 – $417 million
  • Lee Raymond, Exxon Mobil, 2005 – $321 million
  • William McGuire, United Healthcare, 2006 – $286 million
  • Edward Whitacre, AT&T, 2007 – $230 million
  • Bob Nardelli, Home Depot, 2007 – $223 million

Compared to these, Richard Smith must feel like quite the pauper.

money-2Admittedly, I do not know any of these men, so I cannot speak of their character.  But speaking broadly, it is my firm belief that there is no one human being on the face of this earth who is worth that many millions of dollars.  My other point would be that … what the Sam Heck does one do with that much money?  I tried to find out if Jack Welch gives anything … anything at all … to a legitimate charity, but I can find no evidence that he does.  Interestingly, his net worth as of this year is $750 million.

Back to Mr. Smith … if he was in any way responsible for putting almost every adult in this country at risk of financial jeopardy, why should he benefit by a single penny, much less millions of dollars?  There is something very wrong with this picture, at least in my mind.  Apparently living above those ‘glass ceilings’, living in the bubble of wealth, robs a person of his conscience.  It makes me appreciate people like Bill Gates who worked hard to actually earn their money, and then use it to do good things for people less fortunate.

This is the problem I have with capitalism today.  So many have wealth beyond what they could ever use, while so many on the other end of the spectrum barely survive.  I have little, but enough to meet my needs, so I am happy.  I do not wish for millions, although I would wish for the wherewithal to help people more.  My conscience does not tap me awake at night … I wonder if Mr. Smith’s will?

A Few Updates …

Today I have some new/additional information on a few of my recent posts that I thought I would share with you.

Some People Never Learn …

Remember my June 29 post about Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical magnate who increased the prices of certain drugs by as much as 5,000%, showed no remorse, and made outrageous statements while wearing a perpetual smirk.  Well, in August he was convicted on three counts of securities fraud, and is currently out on bail while awaiting sentencing.  Or rather, he was out on bail until yesterday, when U.S District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto revoked his bail.

Shkreli.jpgSeems that Shkreli just has to be in the limelight and isn’t too bright about how he gets there.  On his Facebook page, he offered his Facebook followers $5,000 to grab a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair during her book tour.  Now why … ??? His attorneys produced an apology, and pleaded with the judge, but to no avail.  “The fact that he continues to remain unaware of the inappropriateness of his actions or words demonstrates to me that he may be creating ongoing risk to the community,” said Judge Matsumoto. “This is a solicitation of assault. That is not protected by the First Amendment.”

Shkreli was immediately taken into custody and will be sent to a maximum-security prison until his sentencing hearing in January. He could face up to 20 years in prison.


Something Rotten at Equifax …

Last Friday I wrote about the major security breach at Equifax that affected 143 million in the U.S. alone, some 98% of the adult population.  I mentioned that I had concerns because, while Equifax discovered the breach on July 29th, the public was not informed until September 7th, fully 41 days later.  What were they doing?  Damage control? Meanwhile, at least three senior Equifax executives had divested themselves of shares after learning of the breach … shares worth $1.8 million.  My thoughts then were that there was more to this than meets the eye.

Well, apparently I am not alone in my suspicions, but they are shared by the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee.  The leaders of the committee, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Ron Wyden of Oregon have sent a letter to Equifax seeking additional information into the hacking, and also information about the three officers who sold stock.  Those three officers are Chief Financial Officer John W. Gamble Jr., Rodolfo O. Ploder and Joseph M. Loughran III.  The letter asked that Equifax respond by Sept. 28th.

Additionally, a group of thirty-six senators signed a letter asking the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to look into the executive stock sales.  And Equifax’ chief executive, Richard Smith, is expected to testify on Oct. 3 before a House of Representatives panel. Expect more updates.


The Hate is Spreading …

The case of the little 8-year-old boy who was nearly lynched by a group of teens in Claremont, New Hampshire is finally being taken seriously, it seems. On Tuesday, Governor Christopher Sununu instructed the state attorney general to assist Claremont police in the investigation. “It is my expectation that local and state authorities will investigate appropriately and I’ve asked for regular updates on how things are proceeding, Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire.”

Although it is still not being widely reported, the New York Times, Newsweek and International Business (IB) Times have reported on it.  And some members of the community came together on Tuesday in a peaceful gathering to protest against racism.  Meanwhile,  Jasper Hill Farm in rural Vermont reported a swastika and other racist graffiti on a barn.

graffiti.jpgThe hate is spreading, folks, and I don’t foresee an end anytime soon.

sad-turltle