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Texas Grand Jury Exonerates Planned Parenthood… Indicts Activists!

Yesterday, a Texas Grand Jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood on charges of selling fetal tissue, instead electing to indict the ring leaders from The Center For Medical Progress who made the video seemingly showing the woman’s reproductive health organization attempting to profit from the sale of fetal tissue, which the Grand Jury decided was fabricated by David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.

The Grand Jury’s refusal to indict Planned Parenthood is a common sense decision, which I freely admit I did not expect to come out of Texas, the state is not exactly known for it’s liberal attitude. Presidential hopeful Gov. Mike Huckabee has condemned the Grand Jury’s decision, completely ignoring the facts of the case in a tweet (see below), something I expected from a religious fanatic like Huckabee and his ilk.

The fanatical religious pro-life brigade have a lot to answer for, most recently their bullshit propaganda on the national presidential stage led to the deaths of three people in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. All the politicians who were leading the charge, attempting to defund the organization suddenly went silent on the subject in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

CMP’s David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt have been indicted on charges of tampering with government documents, which according to news reports carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. They used fake drivers licenses in their video that purports that Planned Parenthood employees agreed to purchase fetal tissue, something that in itself is not illegal as long as guidelines are followed. We all know that these charges will end up going away when the spotlight fades because they are white conservative Christians.

Pro-lifers are the most hypocritical people out there, they claim to be pro-life, but after the child in born, they turn their backs on the mother that has been shamed into giving birth to that child. These pro-lifers should be forced to foot the bill for the care of that child. They want that child to be born, they should be financially responsible for said child until their 18th birthday, pro-birther’s would be a better description.

Just to be clear here, I am pro-choice, not necessarily pro-abortion, I don’t think abortion should be used as a method of contraception, but there are always valid reasons for having an abortion, including a rape victim, a person who is unlikely to have a healthy baby due to medical complications or due to hereditary conditions. But the religious right pro-life brigade can’t see past their holier than thou view of the world.

Update [Jan, 27 2016, 11:39]: I have just had a thought based upon the comments I have read on social media about this story. The vast majority of the people opposing Planned Parenthood are the same people that don’t want sex education in schools and refuse to educate their own children in sexual matters. Prevention is better than cure, always, if teens had better education, then just maybe the amount of abortions would drop? Fact check, abortion makes up only 3% of Planned Parenthood services.


Corsair Strafe RGB Mechanical Keyboard / Sabre RGB Optical Mouse

After many years of skimping on keyboards and mice, I decided I was going to treat myself to a mechanical keyboard and gaming mouse. This was prompted by the failure of the middle mouse wheel click functionality on my Cooler Master Storm Octane gaming mouse after just four months of use.

I’ll start with the Strafe RGB which is a mechanical keyboard featuring Cherry MX Silent switches, which ironically are noisier than the membrane based Cooler Master Storm Octane keyboard it replaced. I am no expert on mechanical keyboards or Cherry MX switches as this is my first mechanical keyboard, so I can not give comparisons to other switches or mechanical keyboards. As the name suggests, the Strafe RGB has fully programmable individual key backlighting which offers a choice of 16.7m colors per key.

The key actuation point seems to be around 60-65% of the total key travel with no noticeable “bump”, the action is very linear with a satisfying click when typing. It’s certainly Worlds apart from the membrane based keyboards I have used previously and now, after a week, I have gotten used to typing on a mechanical keyboard, my typing accuracy seems to be higher than when I used a membrane keyboard.

The RGB lighting really is a gimmick, I just picked a color and left it alone, I don’t need key press effects or rainbow waves, it looks cool and will impress your friends, but in day to day use, it’s plain annoying in my view. The backlight is very bright with a white key backplate which emphasizes the color of the backlight further. The key caps are easy to read even when backlighting is turned off, which isn’t the case with all backlit keyboards. The backlight can be set to four brightness levels, 0% (off). 33%, 66% and 100%.

Build quality is excellent, the keyboard has some weight to it which gives it a premium feel despite the plastic casing and the USB cable is mega thick and has two USB plugs on the end. I’m assuming that the second USB plug is to power the internal USB port, which I assume is there to plug your mouse into.

In the Strafe box are special grey textured keys caps for Q, W, E, R, A, S, D and F keys which can be swapped out for the standard keys. I personally do not like different key caps for gaming keys, I think it’s somewhat pretentious. Also included in the box is a key puller to make the job of replacing keys easier.

Moving onto the Sabre RGB optical mouse, like the Strafe keyboard, it has RGB lighting, offering the same 16.7m colors in three “zones”, these zones are Corsair Gaming logo on top of mouse, scroll wheel and headlight on the front of the mouse and each zone can be individually assigned a color/effect.

The mouse is covered in a grippy rubber coating which gives a nice premium feel in the hand. The Sabre has eight buttons, right/left click, middle click/scroll, forward and back buttons on side, two more buttons next to the left mouse button, which are bound to DPI settings by default and an eighth button just below the scroll wheel. All buttons can be reprogrammed to your own preference using Corsair’s CUE software.

In use, the mouse feels very solid, it works well for people with average size hands for craw, palm, or fingertip grip. All buttons are within easy reach without readjusting hand position and the sensor has DPI settings to keep everyone happy. My personal preference is 1500 DPI, although you can choose between 400, 800, 1500, 3000 and 6000 DPI settings by default, each with their own color indication onboard.

Both backlight and key reassignment is done from Corsair’s CUE software, which you can download from the Corsair website. Personally, I found the CUE software fairly intuitive, although not everyone will feel the same way, but that’s not a problem as Corsair has a lot of videos on Youtube on how to use CUE.

There is one negative, the backlighting on the mouse does not turn back on after a reboot, I have to go into CUE, disable and re-enable lighting. However, if I power down and turn back on, it works fine. This might be an issue related to my specific hardware, so I can’t knock points off for this minor annoyance.

After one week of usage in every day activities including gaming, work and general PC stuff, I am very happy with my purchase, everything works as expected, feels very solid and unlikely to break any time soon. I’m a heavy PC user, so hard wearing peripherals are a must for me, hopefully I won’t have to update this review with negatives like I did with the Cooler Master Storm Octane keyboard/mouse.


Legal Challenge To “In God We Trust” On US Currency

Although a lot of people like to call me an Atheist, I would class myself as Agnostic as if someone could give me irrefutable proof that God existed, I would be a believer, Atheist people deny the existence of God regarded of what evidence is put in front of them. Anyway, I digress… I read in my Facebook feed today that there is another challenge to “In God We Trust” being printed on US paper currency.

In my view, any reference to religion should not be part of any government system, product or service as not everyone shares the same belief, it either has to acknowledge all religions or no religion at all. We live in a multicultural society where one religion or belief should not be given preference over another and by printing “In God We Trust” on federal currency that effectively endorses Christianity over other religions.

For example, if paper currency were to say “In Allah We Trust”, there would be outrage from the Christian right, some Republicans would spontaneously combust. So why is it acceptable to have “In God We Trust” on paper money? The same goes for the pledge of allegiance, having to reference “Under God” is an insult to some people who believe in another deity or have no belief in a higher power at all.

All that said, at this point, the pure cost of removing “In God We Trust” from physical currency would be astronomical. And the fact that paper money is becoming less and less circulated with most people using a debit or credit card for every day use. It wouldn’t be a smart decision. So although I agree with the sentiment of the law suit, from a practical standpoint its totally defies logic. I have a bank note in my hand maybe 2 or 3 times a year, usually as gifts for birthdays and holidays. The idea of carrying cash is alien to me today, I’ve had a debit card for more than 15 years now, no need for me to carry bank notes.

I would be interested to know the actual stats on bank note usage for everyday use, the vast majority of payments I witness in-store are people using a debit card or credit card, swipe and enter pin or sign is much easier than counting cash and having the inevitable pocket full of loose change.


Xbox, PSN, PC Game Micro Transactions Should Be Illegal

I was watching the WAN Show on Youtube and they featured an article about a father who received a CA$7,625.88 credit card bill from Xbox Live game FIFA (2016, I presume). I have long believed that DLC and micro transactions to enable characters/features is a mechanism to rip people off. Gran Turismo 6 has micro transactions that enables you to pay REAL cash for virtual cash to buy virtual cars in game, seriously, what the f**k is the point of buying the game if you going to pay $$$ to cheat? I have never bought DLC or add-ons, if they choose not to give me the full game, my money remains in my wallet.

Anyway, back to the story, first question I ask is; why on Earth do you give your teenage son/daughter a credit card, supposedly for “emergency use only” with an almost CA$8,000 limit or above? That in itself is asking for trouble, your children will push the limits of what they can get away with, even at 17 years old.

The father has contacted Xbox (Microsoft), his credit card company and understandably they have told him to suck it up. The credit card company said he could not dispute the charges unless his son is charged with fraud. And Xbox say that the purchases are legitimate; even though his son is technically a minor, stating that there are options to block online transactions built into the Xbox platform.

I can not confirm Xbox’s claim about parental controls restricting online transactions as I have never owned or want to own a Xbox, I have a PC; why do I need a Xbox? But I do know that all transactions on the PS3 and I’m assuming PS4 can be password protected for every single purchase made. Obviously you have to make sure your sneaky little children don’t learn the password, but you get the point.

The father is now vowing to never have any consoles in his home ever again, which I can understand, the $400 console has cost him $8,000, but he has to take some of the blame for the reasons I have outlined above. You can not reasonably expect a 17 year old to be responsible with a high limit credit card when they have no liability for it’s usage. I will never give my kids a credit card, even a low limit card, I would rather go down the route of pre-paid cards, which have a finite limit. I will always have control over computers, consoles and tablets, limiting what my kids can and can not do on those devices.

Getting back to the title, it’s not always made obvious in some games that transactions are REAL MONEY TRANSACTIONS and in some cases, it is made to look like part of the game, which is grossly misleading. Maybe making these transactions illegal is extreme, but there needs to be tighter regulation of these systems, with secondary “are you sure you want to charge $$$ to your credit card?” warnings and require a password to purchase by default, instead of having to go into settings to enable the password option.


Tamir Rice: Cops Not Indicted On Charges of Killing 12 Year Old

Today, the two Cleveland, OH cops that shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice were not indicted on charges of killing the 12 year old. Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback will not face charges despite video showing Loehmann getting out of his police car and immediately firing two shots at Tamir.

Loehmann claims that he shouted a warning from his car before exiting the vehicle and shooting the 12 year old. These claims were not backed up by witnesses and there is no evidence to back up the officers claim as security camera footage didn’t have any audio and the officer’s car didn’t have a dashcam.

Prosecutor Tim McGinty said “Simply put: Given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and communications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.” That sounds like a statement of liability, someone has to be responsible for the death of this 12 year old boy.

The initial 911 caller said that the gun was probably fake, yet that information was not transmitted to officers Loehmann and Garmback; information that could have changed the outcome of the situation. I’m not going to condemn the officers, Loehmann could have shouted a warning from inside his car that was inaudible to witnesses; we have to give the officers the benefit of the doubt without proof otherwise.

With the spate of killings by police officers over the past two years, of predominantly young African American men, ignoring whether or not, it was an illegal act, we have to look at the way police are trained and how system checks and balances are implemented. Clearly there were failures in the handling of the Tamir Rice situation, prosecutor McGinty admitted as much, but will lessons be learnt from this tragedy?

One thing I keep hearing is that Tamir looked older than 12 due to his height and weight, regardless of his perceived age, the decision to shoot immediately without fully assessing the situation is the biggest failure here. It may be standard procedure for police officers, but that doesn’t make it right, procedure has to change to avoid more senseless deaths, we’ve seen far too many deaths by cop in the past two years.

Update [Dec, 29 2015, 20:42]: I have been reading lots of tweets/posts today saying “if Tamir was white, he would still be alive”, to which I ask the question, what this racially motivated or was it a case of an overzealous cop with an itchy trigger finger? Clearly there is an institutional racism problem in the United States, but it’s hard to say for sure if race was an issue in this case as Tamir was waving a gun, airsoft or not, he was still waving a gun. Of course, that doesn’t mean he should have been gunned down, but he did have a firearm unlike many of the other white cop, black man killings in recent years.


Review: Innovative Technology ITHW-858 Wireless Headphones

My wife bought my son a pair of Innovative Technology’s ITHW-858 wireless headphones from Bed, Bath & Beyond for Christmas, so here’s my impressions. Let’s put it bluntly, as wireless headphones they suck massive donkey balls and as wired headphones they are mediocre at best and that is being kind.

I installed two AAA batteries into the headphones and plugged the transmitter into the wall, connected the supplied audio interconnect, 2 x phono to single 3.5mm jack, switched on the transmitter and headphones, followed the very basic instructions and… NOTHING, just static and local radio stations, which should have been outside of the FM (VHF) 49 – 54mhz range of the receiver in the headphones.

What audio I did get was staticky and in mono only with a very limited frequency response, maybe 100hz – 5khz. And what made it even worse, just turning my head less than 35 degrees in either direction would result in in a complete loss of signal. To be clear I was sitting still, not walking around when it happened.

I never did find the transmitter frequency / music that I was playing from the audio source, despite clicking the scan button over and over for 10 minutes, before giving up when my finger started hurting.

The ITHW-858 got better when plugging directly into the headphones with the supplied 3.5mm to 2 x phono with 3.5mm jack adapter. First of all, I actually could hear the music I was playing, but the sound was still lifeless, albeit in stereo with better frequency response (100hz – 8khz). The sound is probably adequate for an eleven year old, but I know there’s better sounding wired headphones for less money.

Would I recommend these headphones? That would be a resounding NO, steer clear and increase your budget significantly if you want good wireless headphones and look elsewhere if you want wired headphones, the ITHW-858 fall well short of the mark in the sub $30 price range, hugely disappointing!


First Impressions: LG V10 Smartphone

A little bit of backstory to how I came to own a LG V10 smartphone; many months ago my wife’s Galaxy S4 started rejecting her SIM card, so we bought her an Asus Zenfone 2. On Friday, my Galaxy S4 developed the same issue, so I went to my local T-Mobile store to get a new phone as I was overdue for an upgrade. Of the available phones in store, LG stood out to me, it came down to a choice between the G4 or V10.

The reason I went with LG over other flagship phones is because of the lack of expandable storage and replaceable battery in those devices. LG in both their G4 and V10 phones offer a MicroSD card slot and replaceable battery and until December 20, 2015, LG has an offer of a free 64GB microSD card, spare 3000mAh battery and charging cradle through their website, see https://lgv10promo.com/V10-64…

The first thing I noticed about the LG V10 is it’s size and weight, the overall size is 6.2 x 3.1 inches and weighs in at almost 6.8 oz. Most of this weight is due to it’s stainless steel frame with silicone bumpers which helps protect against impacts, e.g. dropping the phone, something I didn’t test, obviously.

The screen is a 5.7 inch IPS QHD “Quantum” multi-touch display, which translates into 1440 x 2560 with a 515 PPI pixel density, a PPI so high that you’ll never be able to see a single pixel with the naked eye. The LG V10 has a higher resolution screen than the 24 inch monitor I am using to write this article. I have had zero issues with the touchscreen; every touch has been registered and feels nice under my finger.

There is an secondary 160 x 1040 display above the main screen that can show notifications, allows for quick access to applications of your choice, allows for answering of calls with the LG Quickcover for V10 closed as well as basic control of music players. It’s cool right now, but also kinda gimmicky in my view.

Performance wise, it’s snappy, zero lag in the several days I have been playing with the LG V10. But you’d expect that with it’s Snapdragon 808 chipset, Adreno 418 graphics and 4GB of RAM. I can’t tell you about game performance as I don’t play games on my phone. I tend to use it more for productivity, boring work related stuff, Google Sheets, Docs and Slides, Gmail and general web browsing in Chrome, all these tasks we performed flawlessly. And given it’s power bump over the GS4, I would say it can handle games.

Battery performance is adequate for most people, it manages to get about 20 – 24 hours of usage on a full charge with it’s 3000mAh battery. This includes watching 30 minutes of YouTube video, 25 – 30 minutes of phone calls , sending text messages, taking a few photos, checking Email and general browser usage with the V10 set to 50% screen brightness. I am not the most demanding of smartphone user, but I think the LG V10 should be able to get most people through an average day between 7am – 11pm.

Moving onto the camera(s), which was a big bugbear of mine with the Galaxy S4, the Samsung camera was truly terrible, so much so that I rarely used it. The V10 however is a different beast, image quality is much improved, images are much better due to it’s F1.8 lens with optical image stabilization, 16MP sensor and laser focus. The front facing cameras, yes I did mean to write cameras, it has two, one for wide angle group selfies and another for close up selfies, both work very well offering upto 5MP snaps.

The V10 can record video upto 4K at 30fps with 1080p at 30fps and 720p at upto 120fps options. The quality of video is clear if a little grainy when indoors, which is to be expected, after-all this is a phone camera, not a DSLR or professional video camera, that said it’s certainly better than most smartphones.

The LG V10 features B/G/N/AC Wi-Fi, bluetooth v4.1, NFC, Infrared and USB2 connectivity, 0-50% quick charge in 40 minutes using the supplied charger, a loudspeaker that is clear if not the loudest out there, 3.5mm headphone jack at the bottom with Hi-Fi DAC sound and finally a fingerprint scanner on the back which works very well in my testing, unlocking the phone with one touch 9 out of 10 times.

Everything above has been positive, of course like everything, there are downsides, at least for me, you may feel differently. I do not like the headphone jack being on the bottom, I much prefer the headphone output to be on the top so I don’t have my phone upside down in my pocket. I really dislike the stock LG customized launcher, I really wish that phone makers would keep the stock Android experience. I immediately replaced it with the Google Now Launcher and used Icon Changer Free with KitKat HD Apex Theme to replace the stock icons in the dock, it now looks close to the stock Android experience of v4.4.4.

The next issue is more of a preference than a negative, but I do not like the buttons on the back, I prefer them on the side and top. I think the finger print scanner would be easier to use on the front like the iPhone using a thumbprint. Obviously these are not deal breaking issues because I bought the phone knowing this personal drawback. I will just have to get used to using my phone in that manner.

I am however a little annoyed that the T-Mobile variant LG V10 didn’t come with the $25 LG QuadBeat3 earbuds or any earbuds, not even a cheapo pair to get you started. I was really hoping that the V10 being a flagship phone would come with earbuds as my wife destroyed both hers and my S4 earbuds.

That’s really it for the complaints about the LG V10; I really like the phone, it is a good size for my hand, I can near enough reach to the other side of the phone once handed, I really like the grippy back on both the phone and the Quickcover. Best of all, I put zero down and it’s only $25 per month over 24 months through T-Mobile. I really do like the ability to have the best phones without being locked into contracts

Update [Dec, 8 2015, 21:06]: Today I noticed a cool feature of the LG V10. When using the phone to do smartphone type things, Internet browsing, social media etc and someone calls, it uses the second screen for call information, leaving the main display as is to continue with whatever you were doing. This to me is amazing as every other phone I have used take over the whole screen when a call comes in. This feature makes the second screen less gimmicky and actually useful in my view, top marks LG!


#GunControlNow

The #GunControlNow hashtag has been trending in the US of A recently, a hashtag I have been using a lot myself in the fallout of the recent Paris and San Bernardino attacks, something that the NRA and conservatives have been fighting tooth and nail against. Being a British national, I don’t feel that the general public need guns… and certainly not assault rifles, guns have been banned in the UK for years.

Of course, I would like to live in a gun free society, but that is not practical for the USA, there are almost as many registered guns as people in the United States. But I do want guns more tightly regulated to remove current loopholes and make it generally harder to obtain a firearm. At this time; in some states it is harder to obtain a drivers license than purchase a gun, something that I truly fail to understand the logic of.

I’ve been called all sorts of names on the Internet because of my stance of gun regulation. The first amendment gives them the right to do that and it really doesn’t affect me in the slightest; but you have to question many of the gun advocates intelligence as they can not come up with a counter-argument, let alone a good one, instead they throw insults at anyone that disagrees with their opinion on gun control.

I believe that we need to ensure thorough background checks and psychological evaluations are done before a firearm is handed over, mandatory registration with significant fees should be levied in all 50 states on a yearly basis and home inspections done to ensure guns are secured. Now this is the one that the NRA nuts will lose their minds over, a total ban of automatic and semi-automatic rifles. I understand why people would want a hand gun to protect themselves and family, but assault weapons, seriously?

Why the need for assault weapons? To defend against a government or military uprising? are you freaking serious, the government and/or military will have better weapons than you can buy. Some will say I need my AR-15 for hunting, seriously? hunting with an automated weapon, that’s not hunting, that’s a massacre. You might as well use a tank to hunt, there’s no sport in hunting with automatic weapons.

Finally, I need my AR-15 to defend myself against terrorism; to a certain extent that is valid argument. But in the current climate of fear generated by the right wing media, it will lead to people pulling guns on and shooting innocent people perceived to be of Muslim descent. I have seen plenty of videos of people yelling at Muslims calling them terrorists with no grounds for the verbal attack. The vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in terrorism and often denounce ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

Infact, I believe the (mostly) Christian right to be almost as bad as the terrorists themselves. Using these terror attacks to strip everyday Americans of their civil liberties and their right to a fair trial under the Patriot Act while they push their GUNS, GUNS, GUNS agenda. The NRA spent an average of $2.340,000 per year since 2006, $3,400,000 in 2013 alone lobbying government to block any sort of gun reform.

After each attack, terrorist or otherwise, we always see a spike in gun sales while President Obama is on television saying how he wants to bring in gun reform. Before everyone forgets until the next mass shooting. These politicians are supposed to be representing the people, but the more money that flows into Washington DC, “we, the people’s” voices get more and more distant to the legislators ears.

How the rest of the world sees America with their Guns and Bibles…


It’s Truly Disgusting How the Republican Presidential Candidates Have Hijacked the Paris Terrorist Attacks To Push Their Own Agendas.

I’m not surprised that the GOP idiots have used the Paris terrorist attacks to further their NRA paymasters gun totting agenda, but I will condemn them for their actions. These idiotic politicians are a waste of a life in my view, can someone please summon the Inquisitor? Using a tragedy to further a political agenda is as bad as the evil terrorists who perpetrated the crime. Simply put, a firearm in the hands of untrained persons is just as dangerous as terrorism itself, how many more dead innocents would there have been?

Many of the GOP presidential candidates used gun control in France as the reason these attacks happened, with Trumnp saying “You can say what you want, but if they had guns, if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry, it would’ve been a much, much different situation.” It’s the typical GOP reaction, more guns, more bombs, more wars, more killing… You have to remember that IS were born out of the US led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan orchestrated by George W Bush and Dick Cheney.

Of course, these terrorist attacks on Paris are somehow the fault of President Obama because he has not gone to full scale war with the Islamic State in Syria. Obviously I will be labeled as a bleeding heart liberal, but I agree with the president. Having a low key presence in Syria is the way to go; instead of the typical American reaction of bomb, bomb, bomb, kill, kill, kill under multiple Republican presidents in history.

Moving past the idiotic politicians literally cashing in on this tragedy, the same PolitiDICKs are now using the Paris attacks to deny Islamic refugees from Syria entry into the US while Christian refugees from Syria could be given asylum. This is definitely not what being a Christian should be, many Christians like to claim they are being persecuted for their beliefs and yet they are the ones persecuting other religions.

Every religious group has their extremists, yes, even Christianity, that does not make the entire faith responsible for the actions of the 1% who choose to murder their fellow human beings. In my view, terrorism has no religion, whether it’s IS attacking Paris or the lone gunman who killed 3 at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Labeling an entire faith as terrorists is absolutely absurd, should I label the entire Christian faith as hate mongering, homophobic, Koran burning DICKS like Westboro Baptist Church?

On a final note, I challenge President Obama to actually follow through and tighten gun control laws instead of giving lip service each time a mass shooting happens in the United States. Talk is cheap, put your money where your mouth is Mr. President, there has been over 300 mass shootings in 2015 alone.

Update [Dec, 3 2015, 8:42]: Literally four days after I wrote this article; there has been yet another mass shooting, this time ins San Bernardino, CA. fourteen people killed and seventeen more wounded perpetrated by husband and wife Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The GOP presidential candidates are giving lip service in their tweets while still pushing their pro-gun agendas, Obama calls for gun reform, which will never happen, stop talking and do something about it, none of these politiDICKs have any credibility in my eyes. What will it take to make gun reform actually happen in the United States of America?


Consolidating My Credit Cards… Maybe?!?!

Earlier this week I received a letter from Prosper saying I had been pre-approved for a loan of upto $35,000 with a 5.99% interest rate hook. I get loads of credit card and loan offers each week, but this one from Prosper actually peaked my interest, so I decided to check them out… and… more on that later.

Before I signed on the virtual dotted line with Prosper, I decided to see what my bank would offer me. I was looking for a $10,000 loan which would cover all my credit card balances and pay the $3,000 tax bill I recently received. My bank, Meritrust offered me a refinance of my car loan, which would yield the $3,000 needed to pay off the tax bill and a signature loan worth $4,500 to cover my Discover and AMEX balances, BUT I would have to close both of those credit cards as a condition of the signature loan.

This would not work for me as I want to clear the balances on all my credit cards and effectively do a reset for the start of 2016 after a disastrous year financially for my family, unemployment, unexpected costs and extortionate medical drug costs due to crappy medical insurance. A single $300-400 payment is easier to manage than paying 3-4 accounts, it’s not a matter of being able to pay, it’s about manageability.

Closing the Discover and American Express credit card accounts is not viable for us and the Meritrust loan offer would mean that our Meritrust VISA credit card would still have a near maxed out balance. If I were to get rid of a credit card it would be the Meritrust VISA, it has the lowest limit and no cash back benefits.

Additionally, I don’t want refinance my car loan, I did this once before, transferring from Capital One to Meritrust. The end result was that I ended up back where I started after already paying over $4,000 on the car, basically adding $4k to the cost of the car albeit at a lower interest rate and monthly payment.

Back to Prosper, I decided to go ahead and apply, the 5.99% interest rate didn’t exist for me with a 700+ credit score, it offered me 10.06% for a three year loan of $10,500. Why $10,500 you ask when I wanted $10,000? well, Prosper charge a fee for setting all this up, which on $10,500 is $525 or $500 on a $10,000 loan. Now I just have to wait to see what happens, basically it’s a crowdfunding loan system, where people who actually have spare cash loan you money in return for a small ROI, e.g. interest payments.

It’s not a disaster if the loan request does not get funded on Prosper, I’ll just have to work harder to pay off the credits cards and close the Meritrust VISA. Stop spending on the credit cards and pay them off slowly over time at maybe $100/mo each, leaving more money in our checking account to live on.

Update [Nov, 7 2015, 14:24]: I have decided to withdraw my request for a loan. Prosper are now asking for information and documentation that I do not feel comfortable giving to them due to the nature of how loans are funded, I don’t know who my information will be shared with. I also don’t have or need a checkbook and despite it being a joint bank account, statements and checks only show my wife’s name.

I am now looking at using my Discover card which has a $8,400 credit limit ($6,000+ available) to pay off the Meritrust VISA card and then cancel that card. Partially because Meritrust have left a bad taste in my mouth trying to force me to close my outside credit card accounts. But mainly because the card doesn’t give me any sort of tangible rewards plus I get charged “periodical” fees and balance transfers are costly.