Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 202

I am continuing to discuss Bank of America. Have to say that now I have been hit by a frivolous fee from BoA on a credit card that I am paying off the balance on. Only bank I know that STILL charges you even when you pay off the full balance. I have stopped using my BoA credit cards and am using my Discover Card and USAA card. As far as I can tell they are better than Bank of America or Citibank, another lousy bank according to Co-op America's Responsible shopper site. I also received an email from a reader who also had a bad customer service experience with Bank of America. This is not surprising because Bank of America is the bank that receives the most complaints from customers, according to the Office of Comptroller of the Currency. To remind you, here is the list of complaints:

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Progressive Democrat Newsletter Issue 201

Feb. 12th was the 200th anniversary of Darwin's and Lincoln's births. Yes, two of the greatest men of the 19th century were born on the exact same day. This week I discuss the ideas of both great men.

I also want to draw people's attention to a recent Daily Kos article on climate change. It is clear that the Denial Lobby continues to use the same junk science and lies, but the science is getting better and better at refuting their denial.

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Give to good causes, but not via telemarketers

What would charitable organizations and other non-profits do without the holiday season? Many groups bring in more donations during December than during any other month of the year. Without holiday giving, meeting basic expenses would be a challenge. If you get a mailing from a group you support, I encourage you to give what you can afford.

Responding to telephone solicitations isn't such a good idea, as Lee Rood reported in the Sunday Des Moines Register:

The vast majority of donations raised by phone or mail by professional fundraisers in Iowa winds up in the hands of professional fundraising companies, a Des Moines Register investigation found.

The Register's examination of more than 80 professional fundraisers serving more than 500 charities - often for little-known nonprofits but sometimes for well-known charities - also shows:

- The median percentage of proceeds that wind up with a charity is about 24 percent, according to reports to Iowa's attorney general by fundraisers that made disclosures in 2007. Just five charities received more than 75 percent of the proceeds from fundraising campaigns.
- About a half-dozen fundraising companies continue to do business in Iowa even though they have been subject to cease-and-desist orders, hefty fines and multiple court actions for breaking solicitation rules or financial disclosure laws, or for deceiving would-be donors. (See related article on this page.)

- Many of the charities that benefit from the fundraising are poorly rated by watchdog groups or give a tiny fraction to the individuals or groups that solicitors claim donations will benefit.

[...] documents filed with the state show Aria Communications, a St. Cloud, Minn., company that boasts it has an overall return of 77 percent to charities, actually charged two nonprofits more money last year than it managed to raise.

Aria raised $27,678 for the Sierra Club, but charged the California-based nonprofit $30,159 in fees and expenses, according to information the company filed at the Iowa attorney general's office.

The whole article and related sidebar are worth reading. If you want to support a group such as the Sierra Club, find the organization's address on the web or in the phone book and mail a check. That way your full donation will go to a good cause, instead of paying mostly for telemarketer fees.

Here's a link to the Charity Navigator website in case you want to look up a group before you donate.

Speaking of telemarketers, a funny story appeared in the Register a few days ago:

Gov. Chet Culver told Iowa school administrators a story on Monday about an experience he had with the New York Times early in his political career.

Culver, who ran for Iowa secretary of state in 1998, said shortly after he announced his candidacy, he received a telephone call from Bob Smith with the New York Times.

Culver said he was surprised a reporter from the newspaper was calling him when he hadn't yet done an interview with The Des Moines Register or other media outlets in the state.

Culver said he asked Smith if he could call him back, and the man said yes. The governor said he was relieved because it would give him more time to prepare for an interview. He asked Smith what he wanted to talk to him about.

"This is regarding your Sunday subscription to the New York Times," Smith told him.

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Seriously, Bowling

It seems we've arrived at that point in our Primary when everyone is given permission to make the silliest of suggestions.  Ideas that are ludicrous on their face are now given respectful consideration.  I have tried to resist the temptation to indulge in this.  But in the wake of Hillary's brilliant April Fool's prank, I find that I have a silly idea of my own.

Believe it or not, I've given this a lot of thought, and I think our two candidates really do need to have a "bowl-off".

Here's why.

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Credit Card Fees Force Red Cross to Impose Minimum Donation Amounts

The great thing about giving to charity is that you give what you can, even if it's a small amount. I didn't always think of it this way. I used to think that my donations wouldn't matter unless I could give large amounts of money. And in fact, I didn't give anything until Hurricane Katrina. Before that I was in school, and what little money I had was earmarked for Ramen. Could I have given a dollar or two for various causes? Yes, but I figured it wouldn't be worth it. And so I waited until I was done with school, and ensconced in a job with a livable wage, until I started giving back. And even now, I'm only making enough that it's 25 here or 50 there.

So that's why I'm upset to see that now Red Cross is now requiring a minimum donation amount before it will accept your donations over the web.

But I am not upset with Red Cross. And you might recognize that sign as one similar to the ones you see next to the cash register at coffee and sandwich shops and independent convenience stores. They're all facing the same problem...

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