Doctors and Bankers: A Cautionary Tale


Yesterday was the mortgage loan application, for fun. The lending officer came to my apartment to do it. Lovely. I mean, kind of weird, but lovely. They’re a small mom & pop company of independent agents who process loans and, of course, sell them to a bank (most likely Wells Fargo or GMAC), and they also do homeowners insurance. They’re very nice people, they motivated me to clean, and I detect no hints of intent to screw me. Plus they didn’t even want a glass of water.

Anyway. The loan officer, who is darling, pulled out all the paperwork from what she’d run on my financial history since 1977, and that’s when it hit.

Remember when I had that endoscopy back in February? And remember how my insurance through the contract with my union is an asshole and didn’t pay nearly what they should? And so I appealed their coverage? And the doctors in question (anesthesiologist and pathologist) knew of the appeals? And I had made good-faith payments to both of them in the amount of 20% of the total bills, which is what I believed I actually owed, to hold the accounts? I had even updated them both at the beginning of the second week of September.

Yeah. Pathologist still sent me to collections. On September 12th.

And didn’t tell me.

Two weeks later, I hadn’t even heard from the collections agency.

It showed up on two of the three credit reporting companies, TransUnion and Equifax. I had checked all three to make sure there were no errors or “red lights.” Nothing had shown up, but I think I checked about two days before the pathologist sent me to fiscal purgatory. Take a wild guess what that did to my credit score.

Dropped me 97 points.

I have excellent credit. Seriously. I was hovering near 800 in my scores before this hit. Now I’ve dropped below 700 on TransUnion and Equifax (the report didn’t show up on Experian).

If you could have felt what happened to my stomach when this woman showed me this report, you would have thought you’d just summitted the highest point of any roller coaster known to man and then fallen from it in an uncontrollable corkscrew.

Emphasis on screw.

The very kind and empathetic woman assured me that this would not affect my ability to get the loan. Apparently, lenders understand that doctors, insurance companies and unions in contracts with insurance companies are assholes, so they have a provision that says that outstanding medical collections within reason are permissible. If I were getting an FHA loan, any medical bill outstanding in the amount of $1000 or more would be a problem. But I’m not getting an FHA loan (and this particular collection was only for $358. Combined with the anesthesiologist, it’s more than $1,000, but the anesthesiologist isn’t an asshole).

As I told the lending officer: it’s not that I can’t pay the bill. It’s that I shouldn’t have to. It’s that the insurance company did as they are wont to do and tried to refuse payment, and the pathologist’s office decided to be disingenuous and vindictive even after they’d been paid about 40% of the bill.

She completely understood. But the fact remained: this was going to be an issue. It had already nicked me for a quarter of a percent on the loan’s interest rate. If I didn’t get it cleared up right away, it could haunt me.

So as soon as, and I mean as soon as I had signed and initialed umpteen pieces of paper (including the one that said what I will pay if I wind up playing out the loan for its full 30 years – I laughed out loud) and the loan officer had left, I got on the horn to the collections agency. The debt is now, begrudgingly, paid, and they faxed a letter to the loan officer saying that the report had been made to TransUnion and Equifax in error, the debt was paid in full and they would be removing the report from my credit history permanently.


But here’s the hook: it will still take up to 30 days to reflect on my credit report. And the removal of that blemish does not mean my scores will go back up to 795. If I’m lucky, they will go to 720 (though the one on Experian will remain at 790 or higher). So I’m left to “build up my credit” from a huge blow, through no fault of my own. Sure, I still have really good credit. But it was only one bill, from one doctor, due to one fight with an insurance company through the union, that hit me so hard.

As I was told, the reason it hit me that hard is that I don’t have “qualified debt.” In my stellar credit history, there is nothing more cumbersome than a car loan, which is much easier to get than a mortgage. If I had a previous mortgage loan, the hit wouldn’t have been nearly as hard.

After I got off the phone with the collections agency I didn’t know existed, I fired off a furiously-typed missive to two of my three sisters (the ones who are homeowners – the youngest didn’t get it – she’s 22 and a worrier and didn’t need to know), knocked back a martini, blessed the Russians for their contribution to society and told myself there was nothing else I could do. I just have to wait until I hear from the bank about the loan.

This morning I woke to discover that my back has absorbed all the stress of the last week and is no longer cooperating with the rest of my body.

Hell if I’m going to the doctor.

Now on my bookshelf: Do Not Ask What Good We Do – Robert Draper

The Lost Art of Campaigning

As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

Something profound has happened in American history. Oh, we’ve seen the signs since the country was founded – campaigns have always been ugly… brutal, even… lies spread every which way about every candidate in every form of communication. That part isn’t new.

What’s new is the lies now spread about the American people.

It’s insidious. Even as much as I follow politics, I didn’t see it clearly until now.

Somewhere along the way, presidents and presidential candidates have forgotten that, in the White House, they must be the president of everyone, not just of the people who voted for them. They have become willing to throw entire groups of people away, to offend their sensibilities, their beliefs and their convictions, for the sake of currying favor with those other Americans who hold opposing views.

Elections have become less about pitting one candidate against the other and more about pitting one group of Americans against another in the name of a candidate. We’ve heard it called “the politics of fear,” and that’s accurate, but it’s usually a phrase flung forward by a candidate using it to scare their supporters away from their opponent. We’ve heard it called “class warfare” – a term that amuses me, since the last uncounted years demonstrate that class warfare has always been waged – but usually on the poor instead of the rich.

We are now in a time when greatly offensive words uttered in private fundraisers and recorded are called “inelegant” instead of what they really are: the truth of a candidate’s feelings accidentally spoken aloud. It is as true of then-candidate Obama’s “guns and religion” as it is of Mitt Romney’s “victims.” That these things were said doesn’t surprise me. Both comments offended me. In campaigning, I’m willing to call it a wash. But in the intent to govern the American people, what it truly is is a name-calling. A categorization of some Americans into “those people.”

And so when it happens, a candidate or a president has two choices: stand by it and essentially claim it as your true feeling, or back off from it and apologize for offense. Mr. Romney has done the former; the president, the latter. I don’t know which one is more sincere or more admirable, but I do know which one acknowledges offense and error (albeit after the fact).

It is no coincidence that these uncovered utterances happen at private fundraisers. It is, after all, money that is king in a republic meant not to have one. It is in front of $30,000-a-plate diners that candidates are willing to make those less elegant feelings known, so they can gather funds from the people who agree. Until they’re in office, they speak only to friendly audiences.

But of course, all candidates, all people, have their biases. We’ve heard it in decades-old tapes of Presidents Nixon and Johnson in the Oval Office. It is the information age, the age of global media and the internet, that have laid those biases bare in campaigns in recent years. Maybe nothing has really changed at all, and it’s just that we know about it all now. But the Observer Effect tells us that the act of observing a phenomenon or event changes the phenomenon or event. So the fact that the American people can now hear and see these biases will change the way campaigns are run, the way we vote, and the way we are governed.

It was the Great Communicator, the Republicans’ sainted and oft-invoked Ronald Reagan, who first understood that we were coming into a global media atmosphere. His speeches stirred the masses because they found them inspiring. Are we inspired now by the messages we hear? And if so, what are we inspired to do? Are we inspired to support a candidate because he reinforces our distrust of a group we consider opposed to us?

If so, that’s the wrong way to be inspired. On either side. And it is our responsibility to be aware of that.

Somewhere in the fairly recent past, politicians came to believe that the key to getting elected is to make us distrustful of one another. It’s what spurred the sea change of the 2010 congressional elections. It is what’s driving this presidential campaign. It is an engine of its own, churning so mightily in Congress that it is propelling those who used to be moderates either out to the margins or out of their offices voluntarily, if not by elective force. Politicians believe that this is what we want.

And we’re proving it, every time we vote a moderate out of office. It may be the single greatest unintended consequence of American government: the sacrifice of our government’s ability to work together.

I didn’t divulge the name of the person I quoted at the beginning of this post for a reason. He was a contentious figure, one regarded as vitriolically partisan. And he was not a politician. I didn’t divulge his name because I wanted to see how many people who might philosophically disagree with him would in fact agree with at least this statement, without knowing the speaker’s leanings. Sometimes I think we could use more of that kind of decision-making – the kind that eliminates party or platform, that takes “those people” out of the message and speaks simply to common sense, even though common sense can differ.

It was common sense, and a common goal of independence and the betterment of man, that created this country.

Perhaps that is what we need to sustain it.



Yeah… That’s Gonna Cost Extra

Um… people?

I think I’m buying a house. An actual, particular, non-hypothetical house.

Like, I mean, I haven’t said the words out loud to the realtor yet, but um…


I’ve been looking, you may recall, since the end of June. I fell in love with one, but we had to break up because of an unforeseen circumstance. But I had my eye on a couple others. Highly real estate-savvy parents came on Thursday. Houses were seen. I’d already seen two of the four and really only wanted the second look at one of them so I could compare it to the other. It has people living in it; the one I liked better did not. I needed to see furniture to appreciate the use of space. Eff the owners who think their house is worth what they want, on top of the taxes that are too high. I’m only borrowing your house for the measurements, bitches. Cute dog, though.

Anyway. Two previously-viewed houses and two first-time showings, one of which was brand-spankin’-new construction, but it was above my budget. Hottie McHousehunter knew it, and he knows I’ve threatened to fire him if he shows me houses above my budget, but he wanted me to see some new construction. Sadly, this new construction is a planned community on the “other” side of a dodgy neighborhood that won’t change until every last person dies, and I think it’s going to be sad and lonely over there (although the Target that’s going in will be fabulous). Plus, of course, everything you might possibly like in a house is an upgrade. Cha-ching. No way Hottay.

I did like another house we saw – lots of old character and charm, but in great condition, with original hardwood floors (as in 1910 original) and exposed ceiling beams in the living room. It was bigger, too. But so were the financials. And it had a moisture problem in the unfinished basement like John Goodman has a weight problem, and it’s a foreclosure. I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

Of course, my mother liked that block better because it appeared better-kept. She’s generally worried that I’ll be murdered in my bed, but fortunately we established later that she’d probably be worried even if I lived in the Vatican. My father, on the other hand, seems to figure he’ll just kill any m—–f—er who looks at me twice.

(Dear future husband: I’m so, so sorry. Let me explain...)

Speaking of (almost entirely fictional) future husbands… Hottie McHousehunter was good enough to ride with my parents and me in my mom’s CR-V for this hunt. I drove, Dad rode shotgun, Mom was behind him, which put HMcH behind me and next to my mother. There was lots of chatting during our appointed rounds, and of course, Dad and Hottie made friends while we toured. (It started out talking about housing, but I’m pretty sure it moved on to things like football and beer and other completely non-related things by the time we were in the last house. It was almost like the realtor stopped realtying and just developed a relationship with my dad instead. My dad makes friends everywhere he goes. He’s a big guy – not John Goodman big, but tall and solid – and he’s friendly by nature. And also to keep people from being terrified of him.)

When it came time to part ways with Hottie, the inevitable question came. No, not about houses. Not about mortgage rates. Not about the chances of appreciation in value. No, as soon as Hottie exited the vehicle, my mother excitedly asked this from the backseat:

“Okay, how old is he?”

Sigh. “Hey, Ma, you wanna maybe close the door first?”


Dad chuckled and shook his head, and I rolled my eyes. Mom looked expectantly at me in the rearview mirror.

“I don’t know, 30? 31?”

“Oh, that’s okay,” Mom said happily.

Mom, apparently, is looking for a different kind of property for her eldest daughter. An upgrade. The realtor is definitely not included in the price of the sale.

So now he’s been dispatched to answer one question for me about the house I think I’m buying, and when he gets the answer, if it’s not objectionable, I think I’m gonna pull the trigger and put in an offer.

I imagine I’ll throw up shortly thereafter.

Hopefully not in front of Hottie McHousehunter.


Four Americans are dead, including an ambassador. I am frightened and terribly saddened by what has happened, which looks, in Libya, increasingly like a planned attack to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.

And I have lost all respect for Mitt Romney.

My regular readers will know that I have spent a lot of time watching, reading, analyzing and writing about the presidential campaign, starting with the very first Republican primary debate. And along the way, I have been careful to be informative, and sometimes funny, and often snarky, but I usually have not revealed for whom I would vote in the end. That’s partly because I am fair-minded, partly because I don’t think my readers want to read a bunch of partisan acrimony, and partly because I truly didn’t know for whom I would vote.

I made up my mind a few months ago, and without saying what my decision was, I can tell you now that I will not be voting for Mr. Romney, because he demonstrated to me in his response to the incidents at the Cairo Embassy and the US Consulate in Benghazi that he does not understand what it means to be commander-in-chief, nor does he remember what it means to be anything other than a campaigner.

The Obama and Romney campaigns had agreed: for the 24 hours of September 11, 2012, there would be no negative attacks on each other.

At 10:09pm that day, the Romney campaign released a statement. It was in response to a statement issued by the Embassy in Cairo hours before. That embassy’s statement dealt with what the Embassy sensed was mounting unrest over a film from an American producer that depicts the prophet Muhammed (in itself offensive to Muslims) as, among other things, a philanderer. Here is the full statement from the Embassy, which was first picked up via internet around noon on Tuesday, EDT (6pm Cairo time, and 12 hours after it was initially released):

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Six hours after the statement’s initial release, protestors had gathered around the embassy. Four and a half hours after that, the embassy confirmed that its wall had been breached and its American flag removed. Thirty minutes after that came the reports of clashes at the US Consulate in Benghazi and the possible death of one US official.

It was five hours after that that Mr. Romney’s campaign released his statement. It was embargoed until midnight, meaning no one was allowed to publish it until then – so the campaign could adhere to its agreement not to attack the president on September 11th.

But the campaign lifted the embargo at 10:25pm.

Here is the campaign’s full statement, posted on its website:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.

It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

(There is a timeline of events at the end of this post; I urge you to read it. I think it will clarify much of what’s happened. I think you’ll find some of it very interesting, and I suspect we will hear much more about the first and last elements of the timeline in coming days.)

We could parse whether the Embassy’s statement was sympathetic to the attackers or not. The factual problem was this: one minute after Mr. Romney’s campaign released its statement, the White House told Politico that it had not approved the embassy’s statement, and that the statement did not reflect the position of the US Government. The Obama Administration had not made that statement – it was made by a public affairs officer at the embassy on his own.

But that wasn’t all that was wrong.

My visceral reaction when I first learned of what had happened and what Mr. Romney had said 15 hours before my post remains with me now: You do not come out with an attack on the president in the midst of an immediate crisis in which American lives are in danger or lost. I do not care that it’s the height of a political campaign. I do not care who is in the White House, Republican or Democrat. You voice heartfelt empathy for those who are in danger, those who have died, and their families. You stand in unity with all Americans, and you reiterate that justice will be served.

And then you shut the hell up, because you are not the President of the United States, and you do not know nearly as much as he knows.

But it didn’t stop there. The next morning (Wednesday), and in fact all day long, Mr. Romney, faced with questions of whether he had spoken too soon or been too critical, doubled down on his statement, insisting that he was right, that the president was wrong, and doing so even after the early-morning confirmation that four Americans were dead, including Ambassador John Christopher Stevens.

Mr. Romney, like anyone else, has the right to disagree with a decision from the president. But given that he wants the job, he should act presidential. And his behavior is not presidential, nor is it well-informed. It is stubborn, it is brash, it is disrespectful and it is tone deaf.

I am so, so saddened that this is where we are.

Mr. Romney’s statements were designed as a play for votes.

This is not a time to play.

A timeline of the events leading up to, including, and following the incidents in Cairo and Benghazi (Source: Fox News)

Monday, 9/10. 11:46pm – Video by Ayman Al Zawahiri of Al Qaeda surfaces, mourning death of a top Al Qaeda member killed in a June drone strike. Zawahiri calls fighters to avenge his death. Video cuts to file footage of Zawahiri’s brother, Mohammed Al Zawahiri. Analysts note the choice of footage

Tuesday, 9/11 (early) – Embassy in Cairo prepares for expected protests over anti-Islam video made in US. Associated Press quotes US official: “Embassy security had sent most staff home early after learning of the upcoming protest.”

6am (noon Cairo) – Cairo embassy officials release statement about video condemning “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

noon – Statement seen online, linked on Twitter

12:15pm – wires alert that Cairo protestors are scaling walls of embassy, tearing down US flag and replacing with Islamic flag resembling Al Qaeda flag. Witnesses report hearing chants of “We are all Usama.”

4:29pm – Embassy official’s tweet confirms breach of wall

5:00pm – Wires report clashes at consulate in Benghazi, Libya; reports that one US official may be dead

6:30pm – Cairo Embassy tweets “This morning’s condemnation (issued before the protest began) still stands, as does our condemnation of the breach.”

10:09pm – Romney campaign releases statement embargoed until midnight: “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi… It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

10:10pm – Obama administration tells Politico that the Cairo embassy statement “was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States Government.”

10:25pm – Romney campaign lifts embargo on Romney statement

Wednesday, 9/12, after midnight – original Cairo embassy statement, subsequent tweets removed from embassy website and Twitter account

12:09am – Obama campaign spokesman emails reporters: “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

5:30am – Confirmation that US Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens and three other staff members are dead in Benghazi attack

9:00am – Sec. Hillary Clinton speaks at State Dept., says attack was “by small and savage group,” not the Libyan government and not Muslims as a people

10:16am – Romney addresses attacks and his own criticism, reiterating and defending previous statement

10:42am – President Obama address from Rose Garden, condemns in “strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack.”

12:30pm – Intelligence officials confirm Ayman Al Zawahiri’s brother Mohammed was at protest in Cairo


Me To Internet: Why Can’t You Be More Organized? Gah.

The internet is starting to annoy me.

Here’s the thing: I’ve learned on my new phone how to sort apps into helpful little folders, which I can keep on my phone’s screen to provide easy access to the stuff I want to see instead of going searching through my apps to find it. I have a news folder, which has tons of news outlet apps in it. I have a media folder, which has stuff like Amazon Kindle (it came free with the phone – I haven’t used it) and the music player and Pandora. And I have a shopping folder, with stuff like and Groupon and LivingSocial.

I want the internet to have folders.

I’m not talking about bookmarks and favorite sites and shortcuts on your start screen. I’m talking about what happens when you search the web for something quite precise and get back an awful lot of really quite imprecise things.

The great thing about the internet in the United States is that it’s basically the vomiting of a capitalist democracy. Everything one could possibly want or need, right there for the asking, at negotiable prices or from whichever provider you choose. Nothing is screened, nothing is filtered or blocked, unless you set a filter to keep your kids from looking at porn, or your workplace sets a filter to keep you from looking at porn. Everything is provided, no judgment, just thrown at you with all the force of the cyber-universe. You even get to pick who tells you what about what’s happening in the world. (I actually find this terribly, terribly dangerous, but it’s the freedom we have in America.)

But it totally sucks when all that heap of stuff gets thrown at you and you have to go searching for a needle in an internet haystack of pages and pages and pages of search results because some smartypants put in a bunch of BS SEO coding to make their site pop up when it is in fact not at all what you want. What I need is a set of folders, so I can search for something and the internet can automatically sort the results into them so I don’t waste my time clicking on something that turns out to be a retail site when I’m looking for a literary reference. A Sorting Hat for my internet searches. Wouldn’t it be nice to have these things?:

The News Folder
Obvious explanation. Not to be confused with…

The Folder For News With Which You Agree
Calibrate it to include Fox News, MSNBC, Drudge, etc.

The Folder For Things That Will Only Annoy You
Featuring stuff like World Net Daily, Gloria Allred’s press conferences, political ads, all other types of ads, as well as a subfolder for News With Which You Disagree, to contain that which is opposite to the Folder For News With Which You Agree.

The People You Like To Mock Folder
Featuring Snooki, Rep. Todd Akin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc.

The People You Love To Hate Folder
Ann Coulter’s Twitter feed, Rep. Todd Akin’s website, Kelly Osbourne, Joan Rivers, as well as any racist or elitist proclivities you may personally have.

The Folder For Stuff That Cracks You Up
Texts From Dog, Someecards, Sh*t My Dad Says, Rep. Todd Akin again.

The Folder For How To Do Stuff
Subcategories for home improvement, automotive, rocket science and working your blessed phone.

The Folder For Stuff That Keeps You Alive
Important information on your doctors, medication refill schedules, etc.

The Folder For That Thing You Saw the Other Day That You Can’t Find Now Even Though You’re Using the Exact Same Words In the Search Bar, Dammit
Yes, please.

The Folder For Stuff You Actually Want To Waste Time On When You’re Bored
Because nothing is more irritating than searching for something to do online, only to have to sort through thousands of search results, by the end of which time you’ve wasted your boredom just looking for something to soothe it, and now you’re both behind schedule and annoyed.

and perhaps most importantly…

The Folder Containing the Exact Thing You Need, Despite Not Really Knowing How To Word Your Search
So you don’t feel like an idiot. Predictive search, my ass.

Is there something that does these things already and I just don’t know about it?

I’d do a search for it, but…