Idiots Whining about Overdraft Charges

I am not exactly what you would call a stellar money manager. Like many banks, mine offers overdraft protection and I end up being hit with overdraft charges more often that I’d like. My bank charges me $25 per overdraft. That’s essentially very high interest on an extremely short term loan, since the bank requires me to bring my balance positive within 30 days. Sometimes, though, it is worth it and I overdraft and pay the fee.

The October 5 edition of USA Today features a couple, Felipe and Racheli Vidal, whining about how the mean old bank is taking advantage of them by allowing them to overdraft,

The [overdraft] penalties came out to nearly three-quarters of the amount they overdrew. Sometimes, the fees were more expensive than the actual transaction: An $8.40 meal of Wendy’s chicken nuggets and rinks in April ended up costing the Vidals three times that amount in penalties.

“I’m admittedly poor at managing my bank account, not knowing where my money is,” says Felipe, 36, who lives in Miami Lakes, Fla., with his wife and two daughters. “People don’t pay attention, and frankly, institutions are taking advantage of that weakness.”

That’s right, it is the bank’s fault every time the Vidals try to debit their account or write a check for more money than they actually have in their account. Felipe would have been much better off if the bank had declined his debit transaction at Wendy’s or bounched his check, neither of which would have inconvenienced or caused even bigger problems.

And it is not like this Wendy’s issue was a one-time event for the Vidals, where the bank perhaps had signed them up for overdraft protection without informing them that they would be charged $26 for each overdraft. According to the USA Today, the Vidals went through 35 overdrafts from July 2004 to July 2005 — almost three a month. These folks apparently don’t have a clue at any given moment how much is in their account.

Sorry, but your horrible money management skills are not the bank’s fault. Instead of whining to USA Today, these folks need to get their bank balance under control or ask the bank to just remove the damn overdraft protection.

But, of course, the American way these days is always blame somebody else, and the Vidals have that routine down pat.

Shame on USA Today

USA Today has a huge front page story today about an increase in vehicular accidents among soldiers, especially among those who have come back from Iraq. The headline blares, “Survivors of war take fatal risks,” above a dramatic photo of a completely trashed Pontiac Trans Am which Iraq war veteran Vicent Withers was driving when he crashed into another car in North Carolina, killing himself and the other driver.

The angle is clear — soldiers back from Iraq are taking ridiculous risks either to get the same rush of adrenalin they experienced in Iraq or because they feel invincible after making it out of a war zone alive.

But the reader has to wade through to the 13th paragraph before the story notes that the rate of fatalities among Army personnel is still lower than the rate of fatalaties among civilians of a similar age group.

Presumably “Survivors of war take fatal risks on roads” is sells more papers than “Army personnel in Iraq drive just as poorly as civilians.” Certainly the military should look into why the rate is increasing, but it doesn’t deserve the alarmist coverage that USA Today gives it.

Its also a bit odd that the USA Today article mentions the Marines accident rate in passing, never giving statistics or comparisons for pre- and post-Iraq war. Reading between the lines, it appears that the reason for this is that the vehicular accident rate for Marines hasn’t been affected by the Iraq war, which undercuts the USA Today thesis about soldiers unable to cope with coming home.

In other words, exactly the sort of statistical hatchet job that USA Today excels at so well.


Survivors of war take fatal risks on roads. Gregg Zoroya, USA Today, May 3, 2005.

Ian O’Connor — Hold Coaches to Same Standards as Athletes

USA Today sports columnist Ian O’Connor hit the ball out of the park in a column this week about the rank hypocrisy that surrounds the National Collegiate Athletics Associations policies that screw players at every opportunity for doing what other students — and even coaches — routinely are able to do without penalty.

The specific complaint that O’Connor had was the set of circumstances that kept USC wide receiver Mike Wiliams from playing in Tuesday’s Orange Bowl.

After Maurice Clarrett won a preliminary legal victory allowing him to enter the NFL despite that league’s rule that players had to be at least three years out of high school, Williams also declared his intention to go pro. When Clarrett lost his legal efforts to enter the NFL, O’Connor writes,

. . . Williams moved to de-professionalize himself by losing his agent, returning gifts and endorsement income and enrolling in summer school.

The NCAA could have cared less — it stripped him of all of his collegiate eligibility. So Williams was left unable to play football either professionally or at the collegiate level this year.

But, as O’Connor notes, there are no such restrictions on coaches and the other shameless hypocrites who exploit collegiate athletes,

If [freshment players Adrian] Peterson and [Dwayne] Jarrett want to turn pro this spring rather than risk injury on the room, board and books plan, they should be free to turn pro. Just as free as NFL GMs to use their first-round picks on other prospects. Instead the freshmen remain tethered to the goals of college administrators who want to protect their lucrative product, and NFL owners who are more interested in preserving a free farm system than they are in saving some 19-year-old from a Ray Lewis blitz.

But that’s how the game is played at the major college level. While coaches can shamelessly break contracts and promises and conferences can shamelessly steal schools from each other, the players are held to a higher stander. Urban Meyer won’t have to sit out a year at Florida; no, he gets to earn his $14 million right away. Any Ute who wants to follow Meyer to Gainseville, or any Cowboy who wants to follow Les Miles to LSU, had better be prepared to spend some quality time — in streeth clothes — on the bench.

Coaches don’t need a release from their national letters of intent. Dennis Franchione lied to everyone before bolting Alabama for Texas A&M two years back, and he’s already up for a raise on his $1.7 million deal. . . .

. . .

. . . in football, the players are told to stay put. You transfer, you sit. You try to turn pro before we want you to, we give you a healthy dose of the BCS, minus the C.


Too bad coaches aren’t held to same standards as players. Ian O’Connor, USA Today, January 4, 2005.

Star Trek Must Die

USA Today offers up an appraisal of the state of Star Trek Enterprise in a review of the show’s Friday night debut tonight,

Oh, for the love of God, sink this ship.

. . .

So tonight the show returns with a ludicrous time-travel story, bereft of both creativity and taste. To its usual mix of bland characters and indecipherable plots Enterprise adds alien Nazis, who promise theri B-movie German allies a “plague targeting non-Aryans.”

“No need for extermination camps,” the alien says in one of the most cringe-worthy scenes of the new season. Get the word to Standards and Practices: If ever a subject should be safely out of the hands of incompetent TV writers, it’s the Holocaust.

Wow — a Star Trek episode with a time travel plot. Rick Berman and company must have really wracked their brains to come up with such a fresh plot twist. Star Trek may be on its last legs, but thank goodness Paramount has its best and brightest on the case.


‘Trek’: Not-so-boldly going down the tubes. USA Today, October 8, 2004.

Burkett Demanded and Received Quid Pro Quo: Documents for Access to Joe Lockhart

When I asked here if Bill Burkett received a quid pro quo from Mary Mapes I assumed we would never really know the answer. Boy was I wrong. According to USA Today,

Burkett told USA TODAY that he had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS if the network would help arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign.

“At Burkett’s request, we gave his (telephone) number to the campaign,” said Betsy West, senior CBS News vice president.

CBS would not discuss the propriety of the network serving as a conduit between its partisan source, Burkett, and the Kerry campaign. “It was not part of any deal” with Burkett to obtain the documents, West said, declining to elaborate.

But Burkett said Monday that his contact with Lockhart was indeed part of an “understanding” with CBS. Burkett said his interest in contacting the campaign was to offer advice in responding to Republican criticisms about Kerry’s Vietnam service. It had nothing to do with the documents, he said.

Hmmm…maybe someone should tell West that Burkett is an “unimpeachable source” opposed only by right wing political operatives. This is turning into a conservative wet dream — CBS acting as a conduit hooking up anti-Bush activists with the Kerry campaign in exchange for fake documents designed to impugn the president and influence the upcoming election. I can’t wait for the TV movie about this, presumably on Fox.

The bigger problem for the Kerry campaign is that they’re slowly but surely getting drawn into the scandal. Lockhart claims that he talked to Burkett for only a few minutes and not about any documents. But National Review notes some strangely convenient timing — CBS’ story runs on September 8, and on September 9 the DNC unveils its “Fortunate Son” campaign attacking Bush’s National Guard service. That campaign, coincidentally, is centered around the very documents that Lockhart says he never discussed with Burkett,

The CBS story based on the memos the evening of Sept. 8. Are we to believe that the Democratic National Committee put together “Operation Fortunate Son,” in which these memos are front and center, entirely in the hours after the CBS report, and yet had their campaign ready so that these memos are referred to in the first words of the AP story Sept. 9?

Are we to believe that the DNC didn’t know ahead of time what was in those memos, and how they could be used to attack the president?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a lawyer. Would this qualify as circumstantial evidence that CBS and the DNC were collaborating on using the memos before the story ran?

As Glenn Reynolds puts it, “Shouldn’t CBS just register as a 527 and have done with it?”


USA Today — What Liberal Media Bias?

Remember back during the Democratic National Convention when USA Today inexplicably decided to hire Ann Coulter to cover the DNC and Michael Moore to cover the RNC? Coulter’s column, of course, never ran because USA Today editors found paragraphs like this too over-the-top,

Democrats are constantly suing and slandering police as violent, fascist racists – with the exception of Boston’s police, who’ll be lauded as national heroes right up until the Democrats pack up and leave town on Friday, whereupon they’ll revert to their natural state of being fascist, racist pigs.

On the other hand, they had no problem publishing Moore’s column today in which he addresses Republicans, saying,

You’re in charge because you never back down. Your people are up before dawn figuring out which minority group shouldn’t be allowed to marry today.

Wow, couldn’t have seen that coming.