Monday, August 26, 2013

Stop Warning The Bad Guys

Yesterday afternoon, I left my house on the way to the grocery store. As I traveled down the highway, a car going in the opposite direction flashed their headlights at me. I knew what the “warning” meant, and sure enough, about 100 yards on down the road, there was a Buncombe County Deputy Sheriff's car parked on the side of the road.

So I would like to say to the driver who flashed his or her lights as a “warning” totally irresponsible of you.

There has been a rash of thefts and burglaries in the Barnardsville community for quite awhile now. The Sheriff's Department has information about who these individuals are that have been breaking into utility buildings, barns, storage sheds and more, and are looking for them. They even stole my landladies golf cart 2 months ago or so.

With your actions you could potentially tip off the criminals that law enforcement is around. Don't think it's a big deal? Well, it would be a very big deal if you tipped them off, and the next time they break in somewhere someone gets hurt badly... or worse... gets killed.

The same holds true when the state patrol is doing license checks. Flashing your lights as a “warning” could make a drunk driver turn around or take a side road, and get some innocent person or family injured or killed.

Our actions have potential consequences, and you are doing a terrible disservice to your family, friends, neighbors, and community with your “warning”. If your “warning” leads to something bad happening...and I hope that it doesn't...then I hope you won't suffer the guilt that would result from your own idea of a good deed going badly.

So please stop with the “warnings”. It could cost someone...maybe even someone you know...very dearly.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

N.C. Governor Proposes Closing State Trooper Dispatch Office In Asheville

The area of the map shaded in light yellow, shows the area from Asheville to Hickory, which is a distance of just over 77 miles.

Attention all who live or travel in Western North Carolina. North Carolina Governor Pat McRory has proposed closing dispatch offices of the North Carolina State Troopers (Highway Patrol), including the dispatch office on Tunnel Road in Asheville. The dispatching of state troopers for Western North Carolina would then come from Hickory, North Carolina. This can result in dangerous and potentially life threatening situations for travellers due to the inevitable delays in dispatching state troopers throughout the western part of the state.

Please contact your representatives in the state house and senate, by either email or telephone, and tell them you oppose the closing of the Asheville dispatch office of the North Carolina State Troopers. You may find your representatives contact information by clicking this link, and after finding his or her name in the list, click on their name for the contact info.

You can do the same for your state senator by clicking this link.

You can also contact the Office of the Governor by clicking this link and clicking "Email Pat"or by calling (919) 733-5811. You can also Fax the Office of the Governor at (919) 733-2120/

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Cataracts and No Insurance

Just a question for anyone who might know.

Are there any programs offering assistance for cataract surgery for people who have no insurance? Particularly in North Carolina (I live in western N.C.).I have cataracts in both eyes, and the left one is the worst of the two.

My eyesight is getting so bad, that I am afraid that in another 6 months to a year, I won't be able to drive any longer. And, if I can't drive, I can't work.

Leave any suggestions or ideas in the comments area.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Global Warming That Strangely Appeared as Snow

That was the view from my front porch on Friday afternoon. Thats not fog, it's snow falling

It has been somewhat rough here for the past few days. There was about 15 inches of global warming…err…snowfall here beginning on Friday, December 18, and ending on Saturday, December 19.

The global warming…oops…snowfall….was so wet and heavy, that trees and power lines went down all over the western North Carolina area. Including my area. My lights went out at about 3:30 PM Friday after noon, and then power was restored about 6:00PM, only to go out again at 8:30PM. Power was not restored until sometime after 6:00PM Sunday evening.

My heart goes out to everyone who was without lights, water, or heat, for I was in your group. Fortunately, when the lights came back on at 6:00 PM Friday, I filled the bathtub, and other available vessels and utensils with water, “just in case“. “Just in case” happened, so I had water to drink, and used the bathtub water to flush the toilet.

Having no heat source at all, I wore my insulated camouflage hunting coveralls in the house, and slept in my sleeping bag that is rated for weather as cold as 15 degrees. As for food, I was given a fruit basket for Christmas last Thursday, and I had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Meager fare at best, but better than nothing. Especially when your two wheel drive truck will not travel in snow of this depth.

I was stuck at home from Friday through Tuesday, and was finally able to get out to work today, Wednesday December 23. I was actually glad to go to work today.

The way I look at it is, it could have been worse, and what doesn’t kill ya, only makes ya stronger.

Hats off to the people from Progress Energy who were here from all over North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky to restore the power. I wouldn’t have their jobs for anything. Gotta be tough to work in all kinds of weather around the clock to make sure people have lights and heat. We never appreciate the power and the people who keep it going until something like this happens. Great job people!

I have posted a pic or two of the global warming…mmmm….I mean snowfall just so you can see how it looked from here.

This was how my truck looked Saturday morning. That's my landlord's RV that once was a bus in the background.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting Robbed At The Gas Pump

I am not going to write about the cost of gas at the pump. Granted, it is going up, at an average of $2.65 a gallon in my area as I write this. No, I am not going to complain about gas going up, or the big oil companies profits. This has to do with how we purchase our gasoline.

The next time you use your debit card or credit card to pay for your gasoline purchase at the pump, be sure to get a receipt at the pump. My suggesting you get a receipt is made primarily to those who often do not bother to get their receipt at the pump. Especially for those of you who use a debit card. Look at the amount that you paid for with your debit/credit card. The only amount you see there is for the cost of the fuel you just pumped. No other fees or charges are listed there, right? True, nothing else is listed there, but in many (most?) cases, there will be another charge that is not shown on your receipt.

Now, go home and get online to access your bank account, or your debit/credit card account. Use your cell phone to access your account. In most cases, you will find that not only were you charged for gas you pumped, but you will also discover an additional charge of $50 to $100 from the same location where you pumped your fuel. Do not panic. You are not a victim of identity theft. You have now been rudely introduced to gasoline stations debit/credit card merchandisers (companies that process debit/credit transactions) placing an additional charge on your account to “hold” the funds for the gas you just pumped.

Yes, you only pumped twenty dollars worth of gas using your debit card, and the account information shows that transaction. In most cases, it will also show an additional charge in an amount of anywhere from 50 to 100 dollars. My banks explanation: that is standard practice for most gasoline purchases today. They said that when you use your card at the pump, the debit/credit card merchandisers place a “holding charge” on the account that will be refunded to your account in 3-5 business days. They suggested to avoid the fee, that the purchaser pays inside for the fuel purchase. This “hold” is applied only to fuel purchases made at the pump. In theory, anyway.

I discovered from some of my co-workers that when they have paid for fuel in advance inside the store or station, the “holding charge” is still applied when that store or stations fuel console, cash register, and debit/credit card readers are combined into a single unit that is called a “POS” (point of sale) terminal. The POS terminal identifies fuel purchases made by the consumer and the “holding charge” is still applied.

This practice among the debit/credit card merchandisers recently cost me an overdraft charge from my bank. Talking with others, I have discovered that I am not alone.

Here is what happened to me.

I was going to work, and being in a hurry, I stopped at a local convenience store to get a quick ten bucks worth of gas. I swiped my debit card at the pump, and pumped exactly ten dollars worth of fuel. My accounts balance before pumping the gas was $75.32. So, later at work, when I go to lunch, I pull out my debit card to pay for my lunch bill that was a whopping $5.18. The card was declined. Now wait a minute... I know for a fact that I still have over $65.00 in my account. The card was swiped again, and again was declined. Fortunately, a friend loaned me the money for my lunch. I get on my cell phone and check my account, and discover my balance is negative $54.68 (overdrawn by $9.68, and a $45.00 overdraft fee)!

When I got home, I went online to see what had happened. There was the charge for ten dollars worth of gas from Joe's Super Duper Quik Mart (not the real name), and right below it was another charge from Joe's Super Duper Quik Mart for $75.00! There were no other transactions showing at all. So, I call my bank, sure that someone has ripped me off for 75 bucks. That is when I found out about our good friend the “holding charge”. That is when I was told I needed to go inside to pay for my gas to avoid the “holding charge”. That is when I also found out that there was nothing that could be done about the overdraft charge, even if it was not my fault. I should however, be happy to know that the $75.00 “holding charge” would be refunded to my account in “3 to 5 business days”. That meant my next deposit would result in a balance that was $54.68 less than it should have been, and that ten bucks worth of gas actually cost me $64.68! That meant the refunded “holding charge” of $75.00 amounted to only $10.32 coming back to my account.

I am not the only one this has happened to. One co-worker of mine has his pay direct deposited (as I do), and has the deposit split between his checking and savings accounts. If he sees that his checking account needs additional funds, he transfers money from his savings to his checking. In his case, it was two days before pay day when he pumped gas at a local station, and the “holding charge” of $100.00 caused him to be overdrawn by $10.00. The bank charged him a $45.00 overdraft fee, and then suggested he get overdraft protection for his checking account. Never mind that this was the first (and only) time he had ever been overdrawn.

I know some folks like myself who don't have a whole lot, and live from paycheck to paycheck. Some of these folks have their pay direct deposited to an account at a financial institution, and then use a debit card instead of carrying cash. They certainly cannot afford it if they pump gas, and they are without $50 to $100 for up to five days. If they are hit with an overdraft charge (not everyone can get or afford overdraft protection), then they can have financial problems, problems that they cannot afford for even a short time.

I do have some questions about this practice of “holding charges”:

1. Why is this legal?

2. Why are there no signs or notices informing consumers about these charges and their amounts?

3. How can anyone charge me an additional fee like a “holding charge” without my prior approval or consent?

4. Should there not be a warning to consumers that by using a debit/credit card and then pumping fuel he/she is agreeing to these “holding charges”?

5. Why does a financial institution get away with charging overdraft fees that have occurred when a consumer is unknowingly and/or unwittingly charged a “holding charge” (the banks must know when a purchase is made for fuel)?

6. Why are no consumer advocacy/watchdog groups raising cain about this practice?

True, many financial institutions and businesses such as convenience stores, grocery stores, major retailers, and gas stations have ATM's that can be accessed to get cash, but, not all are always open, and not all are always close by or convenient. Also, I don't think there are too many of us who relish the thought of our family members as well as ourselves going to an ATM late at night to make a cash withdrawal. I surely would prefer to pay an ATM fee, as opposed to being charged a “holding charge” of up to $100.00, but I am not going to go to any ATM if it is late at night.

Furthermore, I know from experience, that when I use my debit card to pay anything, the money is gone out of my account within minutes of the transaction having taken place. My understanding is that the money is withdrawn from the purchasers account and placed into the business’ account immediately. So why the need for a “holding charge”?

Most businesses that sell fuel now require consumers to pre-pay for their fuel or pay at the pump. Gone are the days when we can go to a local store, just pick up the nozzle, and pump. There are just too many drive offs and I understand that businesses cannot afford that, and that it ends up costing the consumer more one way or the other. Most require a cash deposit of $50 or more if the customer is filling up, or that the debit/credit card be left in the store with the attendant or clerk (like I am going to leave my card with a stranger while I fill up). Then again, you could always leave the wife or kids inside to be held hostage while you fill up.

No matter, something about this “holding charge” rip off has to change!

Copyright © 2009 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The U.S. Government Wants To Reform Healthcare?

Maybe They Should Reform Their System First

On June 14, I read a story from Associated Press Writer Mary Clare Jalonick entitled “PROMISES, PROMISES: Indian health care needs unmet”. It related the difficulties, if not outright impossibility of Native Americans receiving even the most basic health care services promised to them by the United States government.

According to data in Census 2000, “4.3 million people, or 1.5 percent of the total U.S. population, reported that they were American Indian and Alaska Native”. The Indian Health Service system, serves almost 2 million American Indians in 35 states.

Granted, not all of this Native American population lives on their national (tribal for you who don't know better) reservations, but, a large portion does, and the healthcare they have been promised by the United States is dismal at best. The wealthier nations that have casinos for example, are able to better provide for the health care needs of their people, but those that do not, and are in more remote areas of the country can not. Many of the “treaty” promises of health care for Native Americans go back as far as 1787, and are far from being fulfilled. In fact, the stoy relates that “ About one-third more is spent per capita on health care for felons in federal prison”, and that on many reservations they say "don't get sick after June," when the federal dollars run out.

Now the Federal government has declared the health care system in the United States “broken”, and congress at the urging of President Obama is working to “take over” (nationalize) health care. Now, the population of the United States is 303,824,640 people. If the Federal government (through the Indian Health Service, with a $3.6 billion this budget year) can not provide adequate health care for 2 million Americans, what makes the rest of you think that the remaining 301 million are going to fare any better?

If the money runs out for The Native Americans in June, what makes you think the government will do a better job for the rest of us? I have sincere doubts that they can. They haven't been able to run Social Security and Medicare correctly, so what makes anyone think they can do better with health care?

Will we end up with a system like that in the United Kingdom, where the average citizen is limited to a the government run health system, while the wealthy citizen can opt for private care?

Its already happening with our unfortunate Native American citizens. Why should we expect any better?

© Copyright 2009 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Big Oil Pay Attention

Now that the Federal government has gotten a taste for running two of “The Big Three” auto makers, and is now telling executives with financial institutions how much they can earn, “Big Oil” in the United States should be watching closely and taking notes. Because you can be sure of one certainty. You are next on the government’s takeover list.

Think I am jumping the gun? Being irresponsible in my supposition? Fanning the flames of discontent? Being socialism phobic?


As evidence to bolster my theory, let me remind you of just one short year ago. “Big Oil” was subjected to congressional “hearings” over the price increases of gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. The oil companies were being scrutinized over their reasoning for the price increases, and many Americans were outraged over the huge quarterly profits reported by “Big Oil”.

I recall Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) stating that if the oil companies could not run their companies better, then perhaps they should be “socialized”. She stumbled over her words immediately after using the term “socialized”, but she said it nonetheless. Faux pas perhaps? Wishful thinking? Maybe.

However, with the goings on with Chrysler, General Motors, and the banking corporations don't be shocked if governmental pressure is applied to “Big Oil” that includes “nationalization”. Especially if the price of gas keeps making its way upward as it has over the last few weeks. If gasoline starts getting to or above three bucks a gallon...well... “Big Oil”... consider yourself warned.

By the way, just one more thing. Since the government now owns or controls a portion of General Motors, Chrysler, AIG, and many of the banks...and in addition, since we are told that the government of this country is “of the people, by the people, and for the people”...when will we start seeing our dividend checks?

Don't think I'm going to hold my breath on that one.

© Copyright 2009 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.