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.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Main Source Of Global Warming

I was on my way to work Sunday morning, and turned on the radio. I happened to come across a talk show, and listened for a bit until I got to work. I do not know whose talk show it was, but the host and his guest were discussing global warming. They were saying how the proponents of global warming would not even begin to debate those who opposed the idea of this theory. They mentioned a certain former Vice-President and former Presidential candidate and global warming fanatic, one Mr. Al Gore… becoming the invisible man when it comes down to debating global warming.

They also brought up the fact that 650 of the world's leading climatologists oppose the theory of global warming. They believe that the climate changes around the globe are more indicative of a coming ice age in the years ahead.

Then the talk show brought up the idea of some politicians and environmentalists wanting to tax farmers who raise cattle. It seems the theory is that a substantial amount of methane gas comes from flatulent cows, and is considered by them as a major factor in global warming. They want to make the farmers and ranchers pay $175.00 a head on cattle they own as a penalty for possessing cattle who will not take Bean-o.

OK, I made the Bean-o part up...but they are serious about a $175.00 fee (“fee” is a nice little word government uses when they don't want to say “tax”) per head on those who make a living raising cattle, and that means both beef and dairy cattle. Well, one does have to keep the windows rolled up, and turn the A/C off when driving through dairy farm country in the summer time, but, geez Louise. Isn't this thing starting to get just a tiny bit extreme?

What I want to know is, why stop with just the cattle? Let's include...oh, I don't about politicians and their cronies who come up with these brainstorms? I mean let's face the facts here. Politicians make a whole lot more than you, me, and the average worker in this country. Therefore, it only stands to reason, that if they make more money than we do, they must be eating richer food than we do. Haven't we all heard about White House chefs in the past that specialized in French cuisine? Have you forgotten the story of a Presidential candidate's wife ordering lobster and Dom Perignon from room service after one of the Presidential debates? Do you really think senators or members of congress visit Wendy's or Denny's on their lunch breaks? Of course not! Hooters maybe, but the other places are just out of the question!

Now, you and I both know what happens when one tends to indulge in rich foods. At the risk of being indelicate, here...let's just say gets gassy, of course. And just what type of gas is it? Well, it sure ain't propane, brother!

The problem is, with all their speeches, promises, conniptions, and rhetoric, the politicians gas is undoubtedly coming from both ends, and more likely than not, probably both ends at the same time. So, to help relieve the world of the dastardly consequences of politico bombastic verbosity and flatulence, here is what I think we should demand.

To solve this callous indifference to global health from politicos across the country, around the world, and up in your courthouse or city hall, we should require that they all be fitted for catalytic converters. For both ends. At the very least, there should be requirements for ventilation systems that remove these dangerously high levels of toxins, and then use a micro-filtering element to neutralize the offending vapors before they can escape into the environment.

Think I am kidding about the political air...bull hockey or whatever you want to call it? The next time you are at a gathering where a politician is present and undoubtedly talking about what great strides he or she has made for you, your community, and your world, take a big whiff. Phew! That ain't Chanel No. 5 sister!

Just one more little note here. I find it somewhat amusing that the word flatulent is derived from the Latin word “flatus” meaning “blowing blast”. Very appropriate when it comes to politicians.

Copyright © 2009 Steve Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Buy Here, Pay Here Autos...A Good Idea Gone Bad?

Within the last couple of years, North Carolina's attorney general has eliminated the “pay day” loan operations that were operating within the state, and blocked some “pay day” loan and “pay day advance” companies from doing business online within North Carolina. Now, we can't help but wonder, how long it will be before (if it ever does happen) North Carolina's attorney general, Roy Cooper, takes a long hard look at a segment of the used automobile industry that seems to go unnoticed. That is the wide spread plethora of “buy here, pay here” dealers across the state. These are not just your small business type used car dealers with a corner lot on a well-travelled thoroughfare, either. Now, some of the new car dealers have expanded into this business as well.

Here is how it works. John Brown needs a vehicle, but, John either has no credit history or his credit is so bad he can't get a loan to use a pay toilet. So, John looks through the local ads in the newspaper, or the local classifieds tabloids, and visits individuals, and or various dealers, and just can't get anything, even though he has a down payment of about 500 bucks. So, in desperation, especially since John needs transportation to be able to go to work, to pay his bills, to pay his rent, and to eat, John visits one of the dealers with a “buy here, pay here” program. They have a full-page color ad in the local classifieds tabloid, with photos of three or four (sometimes many more) vehicles that say financing is available for people with “no credit, slow credit, or bad one will be refused”. The cars shown don't look too bad, and the ads speak of down payments as low as 200 bucks, and weekly or bi-weekly payments of forty to sixty dollars.

So, John goes down to the dealership advertised. When he gets there, he finds that all of the cars advertised have either been sold, or moved to “our other location” a county or two away. So, John goes ahead and fills out the paper work, and the dealer tells him to come back the next day or maybe even later that evening. Upon leaving, John sees some other vehicles that don't look quite as good as those advertised and maybe aren't quite as new. John needs a car badly, and he's willing to take anything that will get him around.

When John returns, the dealer greets John, and gives him the good news, that he will be able to get a car. They show John a 1995 Chevy S-10 pickup. It's a “5 speed, four cylinder gas saver”, with AM-FM cassette, ABS brakes, power steering, and 120,000 miles. They suggest John take a spin around the block, but, first, they ask if he has his down payment. Just let them have it, and they will take it to the cashier and get John a receipt. So, John gives them his cash, and takes the truck for a spin. It runs OK. When John gets back, he goes into the office, and he signs the papers, that tell him he is paying 500 bucks down, for a truck priced at 8,200 bucks. His interest rate is 25% APR. Since John is paid weekly, he will make a weekly payment at the dealership of 78 bucks for three years. The dealer keeps one of the truck keys, so that he has the extra key to “come and get the truck” if John defaults.

A few months down the road, John has some problems from the vehicle. If the dealership repairs them, they either add the repair charges to the “financing” or allow him to “pay extra” on his weekly payments to pay for the repairs. After a year or so, John thinks he may be ready to trade up. He finds that this truck, which now has 145,000 miles on it, is worth about 700 bucks trade-in value. Even worse, after he has been paying for 15 months, he still owes over 7,000 bucks on it, and this has done nothing to improve his credit rating!

Now, if John defaults, and the dealer has to repossess the truck, he doesn't care. Because he sold John a vehicle worth 1500-3000 bucks at best, and he has already made a profit on it. He will just sell the truck again to someone else, and the scenario starts all over. Meanwhile, John has thrown away over 5,000 bucks, and is once again trying to find a vehicle. If John keeps the vehicle, and manages to pay it off, he will have over 12,000 bucks spent on a vehicle worth less than 1,000 bucks, and he still has no help for his credit record, because his good payment record does not go on his credit reports.

The above scenario is not just a rare occurrence. It's the norm for most “buy here, pay here” operations. Vehicles are sold to desperate buyers, at overly inflated prices, and at interest rates that can be as high as state usury laws will allow. If the buyer defaults after making payments for six months or more, the dealer will just resell the vehicle. He's already made a profit on it, and will now make a little more. Some dealers install hidden GPS units in the vehicles so they can be located if the buyer defaults. In some states, dealers install a device that will only allow the vehicle to start when the driver inputs a code he has been given by the dealer after he makes each payment.

I know one woman who missed a weekly payment, and the dealer asked her out. She declined the invitation, and two days later, he repossessed the car. And this was right here, in Buncombe County.

To this writer, this all seems to be another case of people being taken advantage of. No one should be charged a price that is three or four time the worth of a vehicle with high mileage on it. It seems that there should be some type of regulations in place to prevent abuses from occurring. When there is no other alternative available, and people become desperate, should they be taken advantage of? Everyone hits a bump in the road now and then, and sometimes people get into situations that they normally wouldn't if desperation didn't over rule common sense. Should that bump turn into a cliff? How is this not as bad as “pay day loans” or “pay day advance” services?

Any ideas out there?

Martin Van Buren And The Panic Of 1837

NOTE: Since we are going through an “economic downturn” (depression/recession) as the pundits like to call it, I thought it might be interesting to look at another period of “economic instability” from a time other than the Great Depression, and the President who was in office at the time. I thought President Van Buren's comments regarding governments role in economic crises somewhat appropriate for today, especially considering the Congressional penchant for “bailouts”.

Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States serving from 1837-1841. He was the first American citizen to be elected President who had not been a British subject. He had served as the Vice-President during Andrew Jackson's second term as President from 1833-1837. He was nicknamed “the Magician” because of his behind the scenes political maneuvers. However, unlike Jackson, he was never able to win popular support for himself or his policies.

In his inaugural address Van Buren had assured the nation that he would attempt to continue to follow the policies and examples set forth by Jackson, and as evidence of his intent to play the role of caretaker, he reappointed all the member's of Jackson's cabinet. In his address Van Buren had described the United States as being “an aggregate of human prosperity not elsewhere to be found”. Then, the United States first major economic depression, the Panic of 1837, hit the country, when the banks suspended the payment of gold or silver for paper money. Van Buren got the blame for it, even though it occurred only two months after he took office, and effectively killed any chances of his ever achieving popularity.

When this depression hit, Van Buren called a special session of Congress in September 1837, asking for the establishment of an independent treasury system (so the government could retain control of collected tax money instead of depositing it in private banks), and proposed the government begin issuing paper money in the form of treasury notes. Van Buren warned that it was not within the constitutional rights of Congress to give “specific aid to the citizen to relieve embarrassments arising from losses by revulsions in commerce and credit.

Further he said: “All communities are apt to look to government for too much. Even in our own country, where its powers and duties are so strictly limited, we are prone to do so, especially at periods of sudden embarrassment and distress. But this ought not to be. The framers of our excellent Constitution and the people who approved it with calm and sagacious deliberation acted at the time on a sounder principle. They wisely judged that the less government interferes with private pursuits the better for the general prosperity. It is not its legitimate object to make men rich or to repair by direct grants of money or legislation in favor of particular pursuits losses not incurred in public service. This would be substantially to use the property of some for the benefit of others.

Congress was slow in approving Van Buren's suggestions, with the independent treasury system not coming into effect until July 1840. Prosperity temporarily returned in the winter of 1839-1840, but bad times recurred at the end of the Van Buren administration, continuing until 1845.

Van Buren was unanimously chosen by the Democratic Convention to run for a second term in the election of 1840. Delegates were unable to decide on a vice-presidential candidate leaving the choice up to the electors, thus leaving Van Buren without a popular running mate to bring him support, and all the forces that opposed him united behind the Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison.

Whigs called the President “Martin Van Ruin” because of the nationwide depression. They portrayed him as an aristocrat who drank his wine from a silver cooler and ate his meals from gold plates, and criticized him for using public money to install a hot water tank in the White House to warm his bath water. They featured Harrison as a man of the people who could live in a log cabin and be content with hard cider. The facts were that Harrison was born in a mansion as a Virginia aristocrat, while Van Buren was the self-made son of a tavern keeper. The voters believed the Whig version, and Van Buren was defeated.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is Your Vote In Danger?

It seems that there is a proposal afoot that is a threat to the way we vote here in North Carolina. Further, this proposal that has already been passed as law in at least four states (as of July 2008, this interstate compact has been joined by Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey; their 50 electoral votes total amount to almost 19% of the 270 needed for the compact to take effect), could nullify our voice as a state in presidential elections held in the future. The troubling thing about this proposal is that it has been instigated by forces and organizations outside of the state, and not within North Carolina itself.

If this is passed as law, here is what the scenario would be like:

1. North Carolinians go to the polls to vote
2. The Democratic candidate for president wins in the state by a margin of 54% to 46%, so he gets the 13 Electoral College votes from North Carolina. Right? Nope. Not under this proposal.
3. On the overall national level however, the Republican candidate has a 51% to 49% lead in the popular vote. So, under this proposal, the candidate who has the majority of the popular vote from voters in states other than North Carolina gets all the Electoral votes from North Carolina...and the electoral votes from any other state that passes this proposal into law.

So, in essence the protections now in place that would prevent the large, heavily populated states (the figures in parentheses after the named states is their 2003 populations) from always determining the next president would be null and void. That's right. If the majority of New York (9,190,115), Florida (17,019,068), California (35,484,453), Illinois (12,653,544), Texas (22,118,509), Ohio (11,435,798), Pennsylvania (12,365,455), and Michigan (10,079,985) voters cast their ballots for the candidate of one party, that candidate would receive all the electoral votes from each and every state he or she LOST in, if that state passed this proposal into law.

What this proposal is saying in essence is this: You dumb hicks in the outlying provinces called states don't have enough smarts or common sense to understand what is good for the country, but the rest of us in the United States do. So, we will ensure that is we who will always determine what course this nation will take, because we are the United States, and we are the will of the country. You are just onlookers.

For those of you living in other states, don't feel too smug and comfortable. This proposal will be... if it already hasn't been... brought before your state legislatures as well. Remember, this has been passed as law in four states already. It essentially nullifies the the votes of the people in those states. This proposal is a threat to your vote no matter what party you belong to, or don't belong to. Where this proposal passes into law, the votes of the voters in those states will essentially be meaningless if the majorities in those states vote for a candidate who does not win the popular vote overall. What this would mean, is a candidate who wins the popular vote in the heavily populated states mentioned above
would receive not only the Electoral College votes from those states they win, but, also from the states where they lost.

I fail to see how this could be anything other than unconstitutional, but, then, with the way the courts today rule, who knows. I do suggest that you look into this proposal being sneaked in to your state's legislative agenda, because this is not being reported by the media at all. For a media that prides itself in its so-called defense of freedom, they are being deafeningly silent on this matter. Perhaps it is because they agree with the pundits who see the U.S.A. as being the blue states, and the red states as being everyone else.

For more information on these shenanigans, please go to:


As many of you may or may not know, I had a heart attack in May of 2006. One of the things that I have had to deal with is the high cost of my medications. A friend of mine who lives in Texas told me about a website called Your Rx Card. She told me that she had used it and saved a good deal of money on her prescription costs.

So, here is how it works. Go to their website at : ,
and there you will see a box where you type in your first name, your last name, and your email address (don't worry, no junk email or emails from this site come to you at all), and then click on Get Card Now. When your card appears, print it out, and then take it to your pharmacy and ask them to add the card to your file.

Questions about the card can be answered by going here:

If you have several household members who need medications, you will need to make a card for each of them as well. You can use the same email address for each family member, just type in their first and last names , click Get Card Now, and print it out.

Also, be sure to put in your zip code in the Pharmacy Locator box and the site will give you the names of pharmacies in your area that accept this card. If you live in a small town like I do, you might want to select a distance of at least 20 miles. You will be surprised (as I was) to find this card is accepted at many national chains as well as locally owned pharmacies.

You will want to click on the Medication Pricing Box as well. There you can type in the name of a medication you or a family member is taking, and they will show you the prices being charged at your area pharmacies.

Hope this helps some of you out there!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lip Service...

The Same Ole B.S. From Both Parties

With oil quickly approaching $150.00 a barrel ($200 a barrel by summers end) we are hearing the same old diatribe from the electorate. "Bush is getting rich on oil.... Bush is taking care of his oil pals....We went to war in Iraq for their oil"....and my personal favorite "the democrats/republicans take care of the poor man, and if democrats/republicans were in power the oil price would be down". I hate to be the one to tell ya but...BOTH parties controlled the house and the senate (ain't done nothing yet) in the recent past and present and all anyone of both parties has done is TALK about the oil prices, and argue about what should be done. So, I am posting here an open letter to all members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives (have they been working for you lately?), the legislatures of the 50 states (same question, working for you?), and all the local governments across the country( again, same question).

Dear Elected Sirs and Madams of the Federal, State and Local Governments,

We the electorate can't help but notice that you have created a deafening din on the subject of energy, particularly oil, that has resulted in an amazing plethora of quotations, clich├ęs, and hot air in general, that only results in further inaction on your part. We are tired of the blame game. We are tired of hearing that it's because of "big oil" (none of you own oil stock, right?), that it's because of the President, that it's because of the congress, that it's due to OPEC, that it's due to price fixing, that it's due to price gouging, that it's due to environmental concerns, etc., etc.

Let us tell you, that we highly suspect after due consideration, that the problem fully lies in.... ALL OF THE ABOVE!

We realize that you are completely out of touch with the needs, problems, and concerns of the average working person (someone in Washington was recently quoted as saying if the Congress didn't pass legislation to fund public radio, the taxpayers would have to pay for it). Unlike you, we have no tax payers paying for our energy needs. No one else but we the people are paying for the vehicles that take us to and from work. No one else but we the people are paying for our fuel costs. No one else but we the people are paying for the increased food prices and clothing prices that result from increased energy costs. So, what do you do? Nothing. You do nothing because you don't know what it's like for John and Jane Q. Public to go to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. You don't know what it's like for John and Jane to have to decide between eating or buying gas to go to work. You don't know what it's like for John and Jane to decide between paying their light bill or going to the doctor. You don't have a clue, because everything you need, everything you require is paid for by John and Jane Q. Public. They and the millions of other John and Jane Q. Publics out here in the real world foot your bill. So, what do we get from you in return? Lip service, and that's all.

Oh how you grand stand on your committee's and in your reports to your constituents that you take so lightly, take so much for granted. You make us think of Marie Antoinette. When she was told the people were starving due to a lack of bread she said, "let them eat cake". Well, it seems that the only cake around here is the cake of the elected officials on the national, state, and local levels, and that the people don't even see any crumbs from this cake. Do you recall what became of dear old Marie? She lost her head in the revolution. Now, we aren't threatening to cut off anyone's head, so no need to call out homeland security or the F.B.I. You do understand the concept of a metaphor, right?

We do however want you to remember one thing, and one thing only. You work for us. With the upcoming election, many people think and believe that something will be done about oil after the election. Our pocketbooks won't wait that long. You all need to do something and do it now. Don't be concerned about any "special interest groups" because we the people are the largest "special interest group" and we are worn out from your lack of action. The two major parties need to get together and form one party and call yourselves exactly what you are, and that is the "Do-Nothings". When the time for the election comes around, and the status quo has not changed, you will pay for it with your loss at the polls. Yes, we pay your salary, we pay for your benefits, we pay for your health care, we pay for your transportation, and especially keep in mind, that we pay for your retirement, and retirement is the benefit you will be receiving after the next election, if things don't start changing now!

What would truly get your attention to prove to you that we are serious? Possibly a nation wide "sick day". Maybe a day like Friday August 1, 2008, when people across the nation would call in sick to work, and on that day, they do not buy or sell anything. Maybe then, on that day, you would realize that we are tired of inaction, and that yes, we are the backbone of this nation, that we are the economy of this nation, and that we will fire those who won't work for we the people, and hire those who will.

Yours truly,
The People of the United States of America

Friday, December 08, 2006

Do We Really Care What Hollywood Thinks?

You can't pick up a newspaper, magazine, or read an Internet news site, without inevitably there being a story about some couple in Hollywood breaking up, or another couple getting together, or someone who's career is pretty much past prime making headlines for making a political, or quite often, anti-American statement. You see those stories almost on a daily basis, and I have to wonder. Who the heck cares except the people IN Hollywood?

Is there anyone anywhere who really and truly believes that the Hollywood types actually represent our values and beliefs? I mean come on, you actually believe that people who's work involves make believe, who's career is “let's pretend” could ever actually have a grasp on reality?

As far as the marriages that come and go faster than I can change socks, I am never surprised to find out that the actress Femme Fatale and her actor husband Beau Jest have split over “irreconcilable differences”, which usually means one of them is getting a ton of work and the other isn't. I don't care if Brendan Poutface and Anastasia Wannabe roam the world adopting children from every corner of the globe, while they totally ignore the plight of thousands of children in orphanages or caught in the revolving door of foster care right here in their own country. I don't care if the singer Spinster always goes to extremes to prove to the world that yes, she is just as trashy, common, and stupid as the world first believed.

I don't care if the out of control actor/director/producer/writer/garbage collector Hartford Heartthrob is calling for the withdrawal of all American warships from the coast of Lower Slobbovia. Let the Slobbovians patrol their OWN coasts he screams! The fact that ol' Hartford has been less than a choir boy all of his life, and has never visited the Naval crews patrolling the coast of Lower Slobbovia, and therefore has no real clue as to whats going on is irrelevant. We should also note that the media has gotten bored with his antics, and the fact that he hasn't been in a movie that anyone remembers for the last 10-15 years shouldn't be a factor either. One can't help but suspect, that Hartford is doing anything he can to get his name and face in the news, and who knows...maybe a new role will soon follow.

In the end, I myself don't pay any attention to anything said by anyone from Hollywood, no matter which side of the political fence they are on. I look at the issues for myself. I examine an issue from as many points and views as I can, and then, I make my own decisions. I don't have to wait to see what some spoiled, ungrateful, insignificant little dweeb from Hollywood thinks about anything! I mean, don't you really think that people who spend their lives “play acting” seem to show that they have a complete and total confusion as to what is real and what isn't? Then again, what else could you expect from people who are so egotistical, that they are under the illusion, that they represent America, and all that it is. Guess what Hollywood? American isn't impressed, and you are just blowing smoke. To put it nicely.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Heart Attack, Stopped Smoking, and Health Insurance

Well, let me tell you what happened.

On May 4, 2006, I woke up with chest pain, and pain that extended to both arms and up to my jaw. If you haven't guessed it, then I'll just tell you, I had a heart attack. I got myself to the hospital, and because I paid attention to my symptoms and reacted instead of waiting it out, the damage was minimal.

A word of advice though. Do NOT attempt to drive yourself to the doctor, hospital, or anywhere else if you are having the symptoms of a heart attack. Call 911 instead! Stupidly, I decided to drive myself to the ER, then decided to stop at the local fire department instead, and they took me to the ER. The possible accidents that could have occurred scare me now.

I was in the hospital for 4 days, one of those days in the heart tower at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville. I now have a stent, and am on three medications, as well as a daily aspirin regimen. I am walking every day, and I quit smoking. Let me add that I quit smoking without medications, nicotine replacements, or going nuts.

The hospital has a smoke cessation program, which I am sure is found to be very helpful by many who have quit smoking, or who are trying to quit. However, the lady who came to explain the cessation program only succeeded in making me angry (the day after a heart attack, and they send ME someone with no apparent common sense) with the last statement of her little talk. She was talking about the struggles and challenges of stopping smoking, and how in some cases people have different emotions and experiences in their efforts to quit. What made me angry though, was when she said this: "Now, there will be times as you are trying to quit, when you are going to become very angry and frustrated. When you get angry, go to your room, and beat up your pillow. Beat your pillow, and not a woman, child, or animal."

Did you have to read that last statement again? When the part about not beating a woman, child or animal had left her mouth and assaulted my ear drums, I politely thanked the woman, and told her she could go. She then asked me if she had done or said something to offend me. I told her I couldn't believe she had to ask, and that yes, she had indeed offended me. I went on to explain, that although I don't know what type of experiences she has had in the past, I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, an abuser of women, children, or animals. I also said that not every male of our species is, contrary to her apparent belief. She stumbled through an apology, said that the statement was part of her humor (huh?), and asked if she could give me a hug before she left. I declined the hug, forgave her, and sent her on her way. I still think what she said was inappropriate, and I don't appreciate that being a male automatically stereotypes you into being an abuser in the eyes of some people.

Now, let me tell you this. Do not...I repeat... do NOT have a heart attack if you do not have health insurance! (Not that you'd want to have a heart attack at all.) Where I work, they do not offer health insurance to any of the employees there, and we all know how expensive and cost prohibitive individual health insurance is, especially when your salary is under $20,000 a year as mine is. By the time I buy groceries for myself (single man that I am), pay my electric, phone, and cable bills (basic service), taxes, insurance, rent, buy gasoline, and my heating/cooling costs, I have nothing left to pay for my own health insurance and I now also have to add $365 a month in medications. I am actually going to go in the hole, and unlike the government, deficit spending for an individual is a no-no.

I was in the cardiac care unit of the hospital for one day, and then in a regular room for 3 days, and my hospital bill, doctors bills, and all is well over $40,000 dollars. That's my entire annual income for 2 years. I shudder to think what it would be if bypass surgery had been required!

Yes, and now good people, I find out that I am just not poor enough to get any help. I make too much money. I don't qualify for any programs except from one pharmaceutical company (AstraZeneca) did put me on their program for one of the meds I am now required to take for life. The two remaining meds are going to cost $365 a month as I stated above, and I have no choice but to not buy the more expensive one of the two, the Plavix being more necessary than the Mevacor. The maker of Plavix said my income is too high for their program, and apparently Mevacor's manufacturer has no program.

I just wonder, how many people would be saved from becoming homeless, from becoming destitute, if there were programs in both the governmental and private sectors to assist people before they become poverty stricken. Would it not be cheaper to help out before a situation becomes desperate? Any ideas? Anyone?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Illegal Immigration

The Keyword is 'ILLEGAL'

Some of the news media personalities (sorry, you can call them journalists, but, they are more like pretty faces than serious reporters), Hollyweird elitists, and the Illegal Immigrants themselves, are all worked up in a dither over the Illegal Immigration issue, and yet, they seem to want to ignore or downplay the "illegal" aspect of the whole mess. Some want to throw out the term "illegal" altogether, and just refer to these people as immigrants or migrants.

Sorry. It ain't playing here. Nor do I suspect this is playing well in other areas of the country either. Now, illegal is illegal, no matter how you try to change it, or dress it up. And please, get over the race idea. Last time I checked, there are illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico living here, including some very European illegals. If someone has slipped into the country illegally, or has overstayed their Visa, it's long past time THEY WENT HOME!

The fact remains, that they broke the law, and they are now expecting special treatment because they broke the law. I think they should get special treatment, too. A one way bus ticket or plane ride back to their country of origin after spending some jail time for breaking the law, of course.

Yes, this country was settled by immigrants. The freedom this country enjoys was paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of those immigrants and their descendants. There were large influxes of Italian, German, French, Irish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and other nationalities who legally came to this country looking for the promise of a better life, and who continue to legally come to this country today. The difference between the "illegals" and the "legals" is, the illegals think that they should pass Go, collect the $200, and get a stay out of jail card free!

The people who came here legally, are just as hard working and industrious as the illegals (it is always pointed out what hard workers the illegals are, as though the legals are not), and the legal immigrant has to work hard, and jump through hoops to get to stay here. They have played by the rules. They have followed what is expected of law abiding citizens. Yet, because the illegal alien has broken the law, he/she should get a free pass? Does this make sense to anybody?

One morning, you get up. A window has been broken out, and upon nervously creeping into your living room, you discover a man, sitting on your couch, watching your TV, drinking your beer. You ask him what he is doing in your home, and you just get a somewhat bewildered, and confused smile. You call the police. When the police come, they tell you the man is a homeless man, and that they don't really have the resources and/or time to devote to removing him, so he'll just have to stay with you. If he eats your food, drinks your beer, sleeps in your spare bedroom, it'll just hafta be OK until he can get back on his feet. When he gets a job, maybe then he can help out. Don't be so heartless....the guy is HOMELESS, and here you have a home. So what if he begins to move his family and friends in, too...have a little compassion you heartless S.O.B.!

Sigh...the only difference is, this homeless guy is not gonna run around in your front yard, proudly and loudly proclaiming to the world that he broke the law by breaking into your home, and then wave around the mailbox from his former address while saying there is no way you can afford to have him taken out of your house. Nope... no way he can do that. Right? Right!

Only illegal aliens can do that. Sheesh...what a mess.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Some Quick Thoughts

I decided to start this blog, just to give myself a place to vent. Sort of share my ideas, and express my frustrations with the government, politicians, and the things that I suppose everyone has an opinion or opinions on, and find that essentially, we are without the power or recourse to change anything.

I see and hear everyday people who will try to tell me that it depends on which political party you belong to, as if there was actually any differences between the two major parties here. I hear Democrats tell me the Democratic politicians are for the poor man, the little guy, and that the Republicans are for the rich man, the power broker, and the Republicans, say no, it's the other way around. Seems to me, last time I checked, all of those politicians aren't standing in any breadlines, or waiting to get a welfare check, unless you count the lobbyists, and I guess that is a form of political welfare. For politicians anyway.

I mean, especially when it comes to the politicians in Washington, D.C., I am not aware of any of them even remotely being "middle class", let alone poor. Since they don't have to struggle to raise their kids or to put their kids through school....they don't have to worry about the price of gasoline going through the roof....they don't have to scrimp and save to try to buy a home or pay the in the heck can they relate to you or to me, when we have to face those things, worry over those things, live those things each and every day? Am I the only one who thinks they can't? That when it comes to America and Americans, they haven't had a clue in years, decades even?

Anyway, it's past time I was in bed, and I don't want to start out with too big a rant. Not just yet anyway.