The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Archive for May, 2009

Is it just me? An increase in incorrect billing.

Posted by ALmod on May 28, 2009

Over the past few months, I’ve considered myself lucky and at the same time cursed.  I consider myself lucky because if I’d been raised to be less diligent in reading my bills and documentation, we’d have paid out roughly $2000 more.  At the same time, this has been at the expense of wasting countless hours over the phone with various customer service reps while arguing over how I’ve been charged for something I shouldn’t have been.

I’m not the only one.  A quick Google search would suggest that incorrect billing is on the rise just in time for the economy to be in a mess and your paycheck to be feeling the stretch.  Could this be a coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

I’ve heard the stories, and I’m sure you have, too.  There are some companies out there who do it on purpose to see if people will pay the bills to avoid the hassle, but if you call them, they’ll remove the charges.  (By the way, keep an eye on your credit report, too.  If they “forget” to correct their mistake, they could very well report you.)  My current battles have been with Windstream/Dish Network and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

The problems with Windstream started when they offered to bundle my phone service with my internet and dish service (Dish Network).  At the time, it was explained to me that it would cost the price of the bundle plus whatever my current rate was with my dish service.  It was never explained to me that it would renew my contract with anyone, though I assumed my contract with my phone company would be renewed.  Since the price on my dish service remained the same according to the person I spoke with, I never assumed my contract with Dish would be renewed.  Imagine my surprise when we switched to DirecTV and were told by Dish that to cancel would cost us nearly $200 for breaking our contract.  There was nothing in writing other than a call summary ticket that was written by an employee of the company who sad I owed them money (how convenient).  Nowhere did you see anything written with my signature agreeing to the terms.  I was able to talk them out of the cancellation fees on the grounds that they deduct the $5 savings that we’d received for a few months from our prepaid month of service that was to be returned.

But that’s not where it ended.  After the service had been cancelled and the receivers for Dish had been returned, our next phone bill came in with the usual monthly charge for dish service.  We called Windstream and thought we’d resolved the issue.  We didn’t have to pay the dish charge.  When the bill came again, there was the charge same as it was before, and so the process began again.  (If this happens a third month in a row, we get free DSL service for two months.  Perhaps that will give them proper motivation to correct the bill.)

Blue Cross/Blue Shield has been a matter of not receiving coverage we’re paying for.  Our documentation states that regular office visits and preventative care are covered with a $20 copay.  There have been no changes to that coverage in 2-3 years and there will be no further changes until August of this year.  So when I showed up for my yearly gynocologist exam and find that I had an unpaid account balance, I wasn’t happy.  I actually paid that one, since it was only $10.

But then I got the bill for $50 from a lab in Atlanta for my pap smear.  It had been filed with the insurance company, and BC/BS hadn’t paid up.  Maybe it was filed incorrectly, so I decided to wait until I got the statement from BC/BS.  I only had to wait one day.  The statement showed where my doctor’s office had charged them for the test and the exam (all standard and all covered in every single yearly visit I’ve had since my teens), but BC/BS didn’t pay it and stated in the statement that I owed $150 to my doctor and the lab for services that should have been covered in my roughly $130/month premium.  The reason given according to the statement is that I’ve already received maximum benefits for this treatment for the year.  Considering that I only have one exam per year and I’d actually waited longer than a year in between, I don’t see how that’s a possibility.

So tomorrow I get to do the dance over the phone with BC/BS.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

So keep this in mind when you get your bills.  These are just two of the most recent situations where we’ve noticed problems.  Don’t just pay your bills.  READ them.


Posted in Corporate Craziness, Economy, Health and Wellness, Public Outrage, Scandal | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

CNN demonstrates (yet again) why the MSM fails miserably at real reporting

Posted by ALmod on May 22, 2009

As Kyle Whitmire already pointed out, Larry Langford was on CNN Wednesday night defending the City of Birmingham regarding the recently released video of five police officers beating a suspect after a high speed chase.  And as he also stated, Langford decided to push the blame onto the previous administration, but he made a boo-boo in doing that.  Watch this video:

As you can see here, Langford first admits that he’s been in office for about a month, and then in the same exact breath goes on to say that it’s the previous administration.  The reporter who addressed him right after that then repeats that it happened under the previous administration, but as if that wasn’t enough, the other reporter asks some time later if the previous mayor and police chief have owned up to their responsibility on the matter.

And by my count, Mr. Mayor, late November through late January is closer to two months– not one.  While some conduct within the department might have been established under the previous mayor and police chief, there is no doubt that every aspect of this matter, from the act itself to the cover up, happened on your watch.  And as if that wasn’t enough, you made sure to make it clear to everyone that you were the boss before it was even determined whether or not you actually lived in Birmingham.  (Remember when you fired the department heads before you took office?)

No sir.  This one is all yours.  Enjoy.

Posted in Jefferson County, Local Government, Mainstream Media, Public Outrage, Scandal | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on CNN demonstrates (yet again) why the MSM fails miserably at real reporting

Some thoughts on the video

Posted by ALmod on May 20, 2009

By now, if you’ve not been living in a cave, you’ve probably seen the following video:

Speaking as the daughter of a retired cop, I always have to say something when this sort of thing happens, so here goes.

Before I start, I want to say that nothing excuses this behavior, and I am in no way justifying it.  If anyone is going to be outraged by this, it will be cops.  Why?  Well, believe it or not, most cops just want to do their job.  They want to protect and serve, and when these things happen, it undermines their ability to do so.  They meet with more hostility.  They meet with more restrictions.  It makes them less safe.

Also, I’d like to offer a quick apology to my father, should he happen to read this.  He always felt like the term “cop” was a slur or insult and therefore disrespectful.  He used to always correct me by saying “police officer.”  However, with more modern usage, I think it’s save to say that the term is no longer derrogatory, and gosh darn it, it’s just easier to say.

My first reaction upon seeing this was that these cops were acting like scared animals, and they had every reason to be scared.  Here’s a guy who just tried to run over and kill another officer who was laying down a spike strip, so he’s proven that he’s potentially dangerous.  As part of a drug bust, you have no idea what this guy is on.  Here in Alabama, most folks do carry guns and knives– as if that’s the only thing that might be used to harm another person.  Exactly six seconds pass between the time he is ejected from his vehicle and the time the officers get there– hardly time for them to determine if he’s unconscious.  I’d imagine that they’re exploring the mental scenario that he’s lying there waiting for an opportunity, with adrenaline or drugs pumping so that even if he’s injured he’s still a threat.  In this case, they want to subdue him as quickly as possible while he might be “stunned.”

Scared animals.  At the same time, we do hold those who hold positions of authority to higher standards, and for good reason.  They are paid and trained to act like something other than scared animals (though my thoughts on proper pay for any job that requires you to constantly put your life on the line are for another discussion).

My second thought was (sarcastically, of course), “Gee, I guess it’s a good thing Birmingham took the tasers away from them.  Someone could have been seriously hurt.”  Honestly, this was during the whole debate over whether or not they should have tasers, and the whole time, I was arguing that if you don’t give them tasers, cops would actually have to resort to more violent methods that were more dangerous to both parties and more likely to cause more harm.  No, a taser is not completely harmless and should not be used so flippantly.  However, if given a choice between a gun, a billy club, and a taser…  I’d probably go with the taser.

But on to the reactions of others…

Mayor Larry P. Langford likened the beating to the police violence that occurred in the city during the civil rights movement.

No…  It’s nothing like that, though you can color me un-shocked that Langford would have drawn the connection.  It cheapens what the civil rights protesters had to go through to make the comparison, as far as I’m concerned.  First off, the police violence during that period was under a white mayor and a white police chief who acted against people who were committing no crime and simply protesting– peacefully, at that.  Women and children were included.  This was police chasing down a criminal who’d already tried to kill one of them.  They were led by a black police chief and a black mayor, one of the officers participating in the beating was black (according to CNN), and this guy would have likely gotten the same treatment had he been white.  To compare this incident to the Civil Rights Movement would be to insinuate that there was some form of discrimination involved, and there is no evidence of that here.

Roper said he was “shocked” to learn of the video and that it had been around for so long without his knowledge.

…which makes him either a liar or an idiot.  Either situation makes him unfit for the position he holds.  I remember well when this happened.  There were several departments involved in the arrest– including Hoover.  It would have been darn near impossible for him to be unaware.

And finally, from Fox News:

Crew, who did not represent Warren in the criminal case, said he fled in the van because he was confronted by a man who never identified himself as an officer, was not in uniform and drove after him in an unmarked car. She said he had not been accused of any crime when the pursuit began.

I have to call bulls**t, here.  Even if Warren didn’t initially know that he was being confronted by a police officer, then the several other police vehicles that joined the chase from Hoover to Trussville and back should have probably been a clue, at which point he should have pulled over.

I’ve failed to pull over for an unmarked car, myself.  But when the marked car started following, it was easy enough for me to pull over.  There was no high speed chase, and while the cop who did get me to pull over (for speeding) informed me that I should have pulled over for the unmarked car, I was approached no differently than any other speeder.

Again, there’s nothing that excuses the behavior of the officers who participated in this beating, but I figure enough folks are covering that side of the story.

Posted in Jefferson County, Local Government, Public Outrage, Scandal | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

A GOOD Argument Against Government-Controlled Health Care

Posted by ALmod on May 18, 2009

While I’m actually for a government-run health care system like those run in other countries with significantly better systems than our own, I have to say that Dr. Paul has presented the best counter-argument I’ve heard thus far.  I can even understand his logic.  I just happen to disagree.

I feel that what he’s referring to would need more government controls (on health insurers) than we would be removing (on Medicare, etc.) to make it work, and the same politicians who would normally support Dr. Paul’s idea would also favor health insurers and let them run wild– thus screwing up the entire thing.  And so I’d rather support a system that is actually proven to work– where folks spend less money and get better care.

That being said, again, Dr. Paul does have some good points to make, and you don’t hear any bogus, scary talking points about how you won’t be able to choose your doctor and emergency rooms will be crowded.  Why is it so hard for opponents to make such rational arguments such as this?  Honestly, if this was the debate I typically saw from the right, I’d take them much more seriously.

Posted in Elections, Health and Wellness | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on A GOOD Argument Against Government-Controlled Health Care

Blame my guild…

Posted by ALmod on May 17, 2009

They’re the reason I’m so behind on my posting, but at least we got Yogg-Saron down.  (Video games make me happy, and they lower the ol’ blood pressure after I’ve listened to Glenn Beck for a few minutes too many.)

Descent into Madness 1

Descent into Madness 2

Posted in Tibits | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

You’ve crossed a line, sir…

Posted by ALmod on May 17, 2009

Congrats are in order to the Free the Hops movement for getting its bill passed through the state legislature.  However, I am forced to pick a bone with one particular quote from The Birmingham News article from Friday on the subject.

“It’s not about getting loaded. It’s about a very sensuous drink. I would put a well-crafted gourmet beer against any wine in the world,” said Stuart Carter of Birmingham, president of Free the Hops.

Mr. Carter, you can have your beer, but how dare you even for one second insinuate that hops is anywhere on the same level as grapes.  I’d say that the gauntlet has been thrown…

Posted in Alabama Government, Legislation | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Welcome back, Dan!

Posted by ALmod on May 17, 2009

Dan Roberts has relaunched his Daily Dixie blog.  If you have a moment, go check him out.  I’ve also added him back to my list of Alabama blogs.

UPDATE: Dan will be posting over at Flashpoint, instead.

Posted in Bama Bloggers, Blogroll | Tagged: , | Comments Off on Welcome back, Dan!

Michael Steele: Private health insurance is burdensome on small businesses.

Posted by ALmod on May 16, 2009

Okay, so maybe that’s not what he actually said.  But consider for a moment what he’s suggesting.

Private health insurance is burdensome on small businesses, and I agree with him on that fact.  And if a small business (or even a large corporation) has issues with getting the deals that it can get on “bulk buying” private health insurance, then how exactly is it not to be expected that an individual who does not receive such a benefit from his employer would have the same issues?

But on the subject at hand… Isn’t it just abso-posi-lut-a-tively adorable that Mr. Steele seems to think that gay people only wed people of the same gender to gain legal benefits?  (And Santa Claus is real, too!)

You know what else is going to burden small businesses, Mr. Steele?  Straight couples.  Let’s say we forbit company employees from getting married and having children.  Those do put a rather large strain on the company as well.  And seeing as how that’s the majority of workers, I’d say that would ease a HUGE burden on those small businesses.

And for that matter, paying salaries also hurts businesses.  What say we cut that out, as well?

Just remember, folks.  When GM and Chrystler tank, it’s all because of “the gays.”

Posted in Alabama Government, Corporate Craziness, Health and Wellness, Laugh It Off, Republicans | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off on Michael Steele: Private health insurance is burdensome on small businesses.

A Glimmer of Hope for the GOP

Posted by ALmod on May 15, 2009

Meet Dr. Rand Paul:

I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up.  I know I should probably stay my normal, cynical self.  I’m only setting myself up for a world of hurt, but I can’t help it.  This is exactly what I’ve been waiting to see in my Republican Party.  Dare I hope that we could be looking at a GOP presidential candidate in 2012 or 2016?

Posted in Elections, Republicans | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on A Glimmer of Hope for the GOP

A Moderate Proposal

Posted by ALmod on May 12, 2009

Given the opposition to any form of govenrment-sponsored healthcare, I’d like to propose my own solution to the problem.

We should allow women to get pregnant and sell their children, born or otherwise, as a form of income.

Completely free capitalism is good.  We know this to be true.  In a market where healthcare is a privillege and not a right, we believe that the right to live or die should be determined by the free market and corporations. What this means is that we are more than willing to place a dollar value on a human life.  And why not take advantage of this as the money-making opportunity that it is by actually buying and selling human lives?

Those who have no young children to offer need not worry.  There are perfectly good opportunities involving older inventory, such as family members who are desperate to insure the well-being of their loved ones and the next-door neighbor’s son, who has a nasty habit of playing his car radio too loudly at all hours.  Those who can afford a new heart will pay top dollar to those who are in need of money and are willing to sell.  In fact, those who cannot afford better healthcare are surely going to die anyway, so we can “kill two birds with one stone” by saving on the cost of their healthcare and discontinuing their drain on the system and in fact making money for others.

This new human life market will undoubtedly save our economy as well.  As poor women who can’t afford birth control are able to sell off their unborn children, they will bring in more personal disposable income– turning them into valuable consumers.  As they spend, corporations will make money and hire new workers.

The government would save billions of dollars on entitlement programs.  There would be no need to argue over government funding of abortions, as the practice would obviously pay for itself.  We could then focus on paying down debt or “liberating” some random country– whatever comes first.  (I hear that New Zealand is still trying to break off from British rule.  I say it’s time the Kiwis had “democracy.”)

We as upstanding, moral Americans believe that nobody should have the ability to play God and decide if a sick person has the right to live or die– unless it is a corporation.  Dollar amounts are assigned to individuals every day.  Why not use this as the opportunity that it is?

Posted in Economy, Federal Government, Health and Wellness | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »