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Obamacare?

10 Nov

Everybody seems to be up in arms about it, either defending it or trying to destroy it.

Ideally, it would have provided something called universal health care. A basic level of health care for everyone, regardless of income. It doesn’t do that. But, that’s what conservatives were afraid it was going to deliver, since that smacks of “socialism” and they drag up old Cold War phobias to make us fear the concept.

So, what we really got was federally mandated health insurance.

Sort of.

From what I can find out, it isn’t universal. If you are low income, you are likely to still not have any health care coverage, so you are still regarded as one of the “leeches” on the system and the reason that health care costs keep rising.

From where I’m sitting, in Mississippi, it looks like business as usual, but great for insurance companies.

Okay, I went through the enrollment process.  The website everyone makes fun of worked just fine for me, and this was a couple of weeks ago when it was all new.  We were offered very limited choices to start off.  One company, that’s it, folks.  Reminds me of the electric company, we’ve got another monopoly going on.  Maybe we’d have had more options if we lived on the coast or in Jackson, but even so, we’re only 30 minutes from Hattiesburg now, and that’s one of the larger cities in Mississippi.  So it’s one company with two plans, and they don’t include the highest coverage, the platinum level.  (Not that it mattered, we couldn’t afford either one we were offered anyhow.)

The two lowest plans did not offer very good coverage, and it included a large deductible.  To add to the injury, the crappy plans cost roughly $850-950 per month for a couple.

The state of Mississippi, like a number of other states that have vocalized their dislike of the “Obamacare” Affordable Health Care Act, has refused to consider expanding their Medicaid program.  Likely it’s due to the impoverished state of the Mississippi economy to begin with.  After all, where would the money come from?

They are being generous.  They will not fine those below the income threshold, which I assume is the poverty line.  Whatever that line is, we’re below it.  So, it is status quo.  No fine, no health care, and nothing has changed at all for us.

But let’s do some math.  Let’s assume that a couple who is working 40 hours a week at minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  That would mean that they got an annual gross income of $30,160.  They are paying an average of 26% of their income to taxes, Social Security, etc.  That’s $7841.60 leaving them with $22,318.40.   Let’s say that they select the lowest cost plan at $850 per month.  Their annual costs will be $10,200.  That leaves them with $12,118.40.

That sounds reasonable, right?  Surely they can live on that, right?

Well, let’s experiment.  The average rent is about $600 per month, totaling $7200.  Their annual income is now down to just $4918.40.

But, they have to get to work, and most of Mississippi doesn’t have mass transportation of any kind.  They don’t live close to work, but they are careful with managing their lone vehicle so they are both able to get to and from work.  Even so, they average 25 miles round trip each day, their vehicle is older so the annual cost of license and tags, combined with the inspection, totals to just $45 per year.  They carry the minimum insurance, but it still costs $90 per month.  Being an older  vehicle, it also does not get good gas mileage, coming in at only 20 mpg, at an average cost of $3.15 per gallon.  It also requires two annual oil changes, which cost $35 each, for another $70 per year.  On average, they have to buy tires every fourth year, which cost $400, adding another $100 to their annual expenses.  They pray it does not break down, as they are already spending a lot on their transportation, a grand total of $2732.19.  That leaves them with $2186.21.

But, remember, they are still left with bills to pay for utilities, clothing expenses, and their grocery bill.  The real problem is that after getting their affordable insurance, paying their rent, and getting to and from work, they are left to figure out how to survive on $182.18 per month.

That won’t even cover their utilities, let alone let them cover their deductible, pay a co-pay, or buy a prescription.  They won’t be able to eat either.

But, a couple earning minimum wage, in the eyes of many, is not below poverty level.

I’m not seeing anything affordable in this.  I’m not seeing anything resembling universal health care either.  I damn sure don’t see anything resembling socialism in it. The only ones who are actually going to have health insurance are the same ones that have it now, barring the ones who can afford it but are too cheap to pay their portion of the premium for their families through the plan offered by their employer.

I can remember those people well.  Back in the “good old days” when I had an employer that offered health insurance and treated their employees as though they were a company asset (like good companies do), we had a giant hike in our health insurance premiums.  They had a meeting with all of us, explained what was happening and why, as well as what their options were in terms of offering us health insurance plans.  They listened to us, then came back with an option.  The costs of extending insurance coverage to our families was going to have to be deducted from our paychecks, and we could elect to have coverage if we so desired.  I desired–I had a kid with a chronic health problem (she was a type 1 diabetic who was often in the hospital).  My co-workers, knowing that I paid about half of my paycheck to health insurance, asked me how I could afford it.  For me it was simple.  I could not afford to NOT have it.  There is a vast difference in the kind of health care one receives with health insurance versus without it, and I had witnessed it first hand.

I also had pretty good insurance.  I didn’t have a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.  Sure, I had a co-pay at the doctor’s office, as well as for prescriptions, but it was reasonable and affordable.  I didn’t have big bills for the hospital stays, and I had both dental and vision coverage as well.

Even if I could afford the insurance plans offered via the so-called Obamacare plan, neither of them included dental or vision insurance.  The co-pays were reasonable, but the deductible was a serious issue.  So was the percentage of coverage on procedures and hospitalization.  With only 60% coverage on these things, how is someone with $182.18 per month to pay utilities and groceries out of, going to pay even a $1000 procedure (far less than a single emergency room visit) which is going to cost $400 out-of-pocket.

The Affordable Health Care Act may have had some great intentions, but some how, along the way, it got left with loopholes and giant black holes that once again put insurance corporations into the drivers’ seat leaving the rest of us clinging to the bumper and terrified.  The worst part is, it hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  We have sticker shock, as well as discovering that we’re ordered to choose from models X, Y and maybe model Z for health insurance, but we’re standing here realizing that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.  What kind of problems are waiting to appear?

We, as a population, has little faith in the government in general and even less in the federal government.  It’s notorious for favoring those with mega-money and tromping on the little guy without regard for the welfare of the masses.  It’s all about special interest groups, with an ample seasoning of mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape.

It seems that there is only one escape from the tyranny of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Get elected to Congress.

Yep, they were smart.  They made sure none of them would ever have to deal with this monstrosity that is neither affordable nor healthy.

People Watching

7 Sep

I am a people watcher.  I notice a lot of things about people, and some of them are very subtle cues about their psyche given away by their body language.  When I worked in fields such as corrections and law enforcement, it was very useful.  When I was younger and lacked knowledge about the frequency of people having less than honorable intentions, it was what saved my silly butt when my brain failed to use what is called “common sense”.  People watching is a lifelong habit.

As time as moved forward, the internet was not only born, but grew up and out, swallowing our world.  It has given us access to the thoughts and comments from people from all over the world.  In many cases, it has removed the economic barriers that had previously isolated certain sectors of society from each other.

So what does that mean?

It means that I have the ability to regularly observe the public behavior and comments of those people born into a life of privilege.  You know the sort–their vacations cost more than my house’s total purchase price.  They have never experienced actual hunger, been homeless, or been worried about whether their utilities were going to be shut off before they could scrape together the money to pay the bill.  They have no idea what robbing Peter to pay Paul even means in terms of daily life.  They can have personal trainers, multiple cars, multiple vacations each year, etc.  They also have the ability to go “find” themselves and put their principles ahead of survival.  

When they were graduating (or their children) from high school, their biggest worry was not trying to find a way to pay for college, but rather whether they would be accepted into their first choice college.

But that’s okay.  It is nice that some people can enjoy a life of privilege, and if they inherited it from their grandparents or great-grandparents, well, lucky for them.  It’s hard to not envy that financial state when you are struggling, but I really don’t bear them animosity.  What does torque my psyche is that these people with  a life of privilege feel that they not only have the right, but the obligation, to pass judgement on the rest of the world.

People usually do not choose to be poor or financially struggling.  No one enjoys being hungry, homeless, sick, etc.  Our natures encourage us to try to avoid those states.  They, which in this case, includes me, may have made some poor choices or been the recipient of an unfortunate series of events that lead them to that state.  From there, circumstances can snowball to other issues, with a wide range of observable results.  These things can happen to people who are intelligent, moral, hard-working, and considerate of others.  They may even have a very good education to go with it.

It’s sad but true, money talks in this country.  Without money, if you are sick, you will die, the same as anyone who is poor and sick in a third world country.  Some areas have better indigent health care than others.  In Mississippi, if you do not have children at home, you are unlikely to receive any assistance with any medical needs, from medication to hospitalizations. The state does not consider keeping their population healthy to be financially feasible or a good investment, apparently. It means lower costs for the elderly too–Mississippians tend to die younger than most Americans, reducing the number of years that the elderly receive Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, etc.  Sounds great on paper, if you are one of the privileged category that can afford good housing, good nutrition,  lifelong insurance and private elderly care.  Poor people tend to believe that they are “lucky” to have minimal health care for their children.  The new national health care plan is painted to be the tool of the devil himself, an affront to the very fabric of American society.

Why do these people of privilege believe that they are responsible for passing judgement on every overweight person they see, everyone who is struggling to make a life for themselves, everyone who asks for help, and everyone else that they may observe in the course of a day?  Who gave them that right?

Somewhere along the way, the capitalism that we all treasure became a corporate based economy that has little to do with the concept of “free enterprise” and a whole lot to do with monopoly and control.  It’s not really capitalism anymore, more like corporatism.  Now we are told that corporations even enjoy many of the rights of a person.

Wonderful, right?

Not until a corporation dies on the battlefield or in a hospital bed of a curable disease.

In most cases, those with a life of privilege have acquired it via the corporatism society we live in today, not due to extraordinary efforts or great inventions. The sad thing is that with the rise of corporatism, we’ve lost compassion.  We illustrated it with the reality show industry featuring Donald Trump pointing his finger and stating “You are fired!”

There is no compassion from corporations.  It’s nothing more than the cogs of a wheel that bring the downsizing from the board of directors to the employee being laid off, all pre-planned like a paint by number painting and never seasoned by compassion, to give the dreaded pink slip to someone who is going home to his or her family with the worst news imaginable.

Even the safety net of the extended family is gone, also courtesy of corporatism and its demise rushed by the corporatism that fuels Hollywood’s representation of society in films and television.  We are now like a nation of three year olds grabbing everything they can reach and shouting “MINE!” at the top of their lungs.

Corporatism has convinced us that we need those “toys” and that he who dies with the most toys wins.  Too many people are working too many hours to buy toys so that they look as though they are living the life of privilege, when instead they could be enjoying the luxury of a real life with enough.  It’s made us a nation of people who trample over other people just to grab one more toy too.

Did you think Hunger Games was a depressing book?  It’s not that much different than the corporate career many face.  Most “die” early on, doomed to a life in the mail room, secretarial pool, or being fired.  A few climb to the next level, if they are greedy enough and willing to stomp on enough other people to do so.  At each level, more die and fewer rise to the next level.  Then, finally, there is a handful of “winners” who get the prize.

I think we need a whole lot more compassion, respect, and consideration for others and to stop entertaining those in positions of privilege with our envy and efforts to rise to their positions.  We need to learn what enough really means.  We need to remove the concept of false shortages and monopoly from our economy and create an air of plenty and competence.  We need to reward excellence and despise greed.

I can dream, right?

Sometimes, I wonder how Gene Roddenberry’s world came into being, what kinds of growing pains it experienced before money went away.  What measure did they use to bargain with others then?

Solution is advertising!

23 Aug

I’ve made some posts lately about the struggles of keeping an internet radio program up and running, as well as free for listeners by pleading for donations.  I really hate doing that, and while I greatly appreciate the handful of people that have responded, we felt we needed a better solution, especially since we’ve had some equipment failures lately too.

So what did we come up with?

Advertising.  But, it’s still advertising with a difference, as well as with a look back to old time (pre-television) radio programs.  Remember how the old time hosts would say something about their sponsor’s products during the program?  It’s the same concept.

We’ve just modernized it.  It’s low cost, we’re debuting the concept at just $20 per “mention”, making it affordable for everyone from new independent authors that want to get the word out about a book launch to someone sponsoring a program segment in lieu of a traditional (and somewhat mundane) birthday card.  It’s also a bargain, considering that the Dawn of Shades has over 250,000 logged in listeners each week, with the numbers steadily increasing.

This way, instead of just getting a thank  you for donating, it becomes a totally different beast as an actual purchase of advertising.  For businesses, it then becomes an actual business expense too.

It’s just a short piece that will be read by the host (almost always me!) on the air, and there are only four slots per program available, so once they are gone…they are gone.  There is also only one discount available, and to receive that, you would have to be a member of the group on Facebook.  (It’s a closed group, but all legitimate appearing accounts are granted membership.)  The group is found here, if you are interested.

The same program is available for Greg’s show, the Voice of the People, on Saturdays too.

There are a few rules.  We won’t lie and say we use/endorse something if we really don’t have a clue.  We can’t advertise illegal items. We also cannot advertise porn websites or shady commercial ventures with offshore businesses.  You can only advertise a website if you own the domain too, except for a few exceptions such as Amazon & other familiar retailers selling books, audio recordings, videos, etc.  (Indie authors & artists, as well as more traditional writers/musicians, all use these sellers.)  You can promote a cause, but we also will not accept one that advocates illegal actions, such as overthrow of the government, etc.

We will only accept payment via PayPal.  It’s easy and secure for both parties, as well as a minimally difficult process for everyone.  There are deadlines too–we can’t arrange for an ad during the last hour before we go on the air!  We have to agree on the message, vet the website, etc. before the advertisement is accepted.  A particular slot is never guaranteed before payment is received either.

Want more information or to buy a slot for yourself?  It’s easy–just email me at giascott at exogenynetwork.com!

Common decency?

29 Jun

When did things like kindness, courtesy, being polite, patience, and virtues in general go out of style?

I’m sort of lost here…in case you hadn’t noticed.  I’m also curious.

When did cruelty, viciousness, rudeness, foul language, selfishness, greed, and avarice become desirable traits?

Seriously.  I still see posts where women brag about being bitches.  Yes, I know a bitch is a female dog, but there is a reason why the word bitch is used to describe a woman.  It’s because she is selfish, rude, vicious, cruel, and/or greedy.  While I own three bitches myself, and I love those dogs to death…it is the attitude of a bitch in heat, if you had sexual promiscuity to the list of characteristics of a bitch.

It’s sure not something you’d want your daughter to grow up to exemplify.

Ok, I’ll admit it…I have, on numerous occasions, responded with “Thank you, that’s the nicest thing anybody has said today” when I was called a bitch by a man.  That’s because I was working as a guard in a men’s prison and it likely WAS the nicest thing I’d been called that day.  You will never get anywhere if you think a prison guard has popularity on their mind–they don’t.  They tend to be oriented on policies, procedures, and getting the job done.  Being called a bitch kind of went with the general lack of popularity thing I had going on then anyhow.

But that was just a job, and that was a very long time ago now.  I don’t like being called a bitch.  I don’t call people bitches either, unless provoked greatly.  When I do, it is NEVER a compliment, in case you were wondering.  I’ve never had respect for someone that chose to act in that manner either.  I certainly don’t envy them.  In general, I feel sorry for them, for surely something terrible has happened to make them so miserable.

I still try to be kind, considerate, and polite with others.  Even bad customer service reps don’t get sworn at by me–the worst I say is to ask to speak to a supervisor.  Bad customer service happens to be something that makes me very irate too.  Rude clerks make an impression on me in stores as well.  I tend to not want to shop there again.  Rudeness is bad for business, it does not attract future customers.  It drives away previously loyal customers too.

So why are all of these companies, from your local hospital to the utility company to the corner coffeeshop, still employing rude and unpleasant people?  Why are we beginning to accept rudeness and worse as our lot in life?  Why aren’t people more considerate of their co-workers, neighbors, customers, employees, friends, and even family?  How did society become so “me, it’s all mine, I deserve this” about everything?

Paula Deen is being crucified for decades old comments, and yet we forgive people like Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.  We hear the same words in music from a variety of artists, and that’s okay too.  We’re devoting hours and hours of debate to whether or not gay people should marry.  We send money overseas to promote “freedom” and “democracy” while our own freedoms are being eroded away and our democracy becomes a corporate lapdog.  We scream about human rights, and right here in the USA, they are violated continually, without even minimal access to health care for the millions of working poor families.  That’s okay, we’re sending rice and vaccines to Africa.  Never mind that the seeds we export are GMOs and “Terminator” seed…leaving farmers starving and unable to grow anything.

We can’t change the world.  We can’t even force change in our own country in anything resembling a speedy change.  We can’t make people learn to think independently and quit worrying about whether or not Britney Spears was wearing underwear when she went to the club last week.  We can’t make them demand their freedom is protected or that Congress actually works to better the lives of the majority of citizens in this country.

So what can we do?

Start in your own little corner of the world.  Demand that corporations deliver what they promise, from the product they sold you to the customer service that ensures it works right.   Smile at your neighbor and ask how they are doing.  Quit surfing on the surface of life, worrying about paying that too-high mortgage or that new car payment so you can replace your four year old car.  Quit caring about who’s name is on the butt of  your jeans and spend more time paying attention to how those jeans makeyou feel.

For crying out loud, quit being a whining bitch and bragging about it.

Grow up.  Participate in life, contribute something along the way.  Make a friend and keep them as a friend, even when its not convenient.  Friendship is about more than mere networking.

Learn the virtues and think about them.

Common decency…ask someone like your grandmother to tell you about that.  It isn’t weakness to be kind and considerate.  It’s a virtue.

Try a few of them on for size.  It’s not about anti-feminism or religion or wanting to go back in time.  It’s about how  you treat people.  It’s about how you treat yourself too.  How can anyone be happy if everyone cringes when they see you coming?  Fear doesn’t come with respect, in case you hadn’t noticed.  It’s more apt to deliver disgust, repulsion, and rejection.

 

People

24 Apr

We went to Lowe’s today.  Greg needed some supplies, and that was where they were to be found, so off we went.

We parked near the garden center, as I wanted to explore what they had available there, as well as search their prices.  As we walked in, a young man asked us how we were and whether he could help us.  Greg was his usual smart alec self.

He asked if they sold sanity by the box.

I kept walking, but part of me regrets that now.  I should have either stood there or ran away, so I either had no clue about the rest of the conversation, or got to watch these rocket scientists in action.

I will NEVER again ask any Lowe’s employee for any help with making a decision, because I know that they also came from the same hiring process.  Sit down, but go to the bathroom first, before you read another word, if  you are prone to springing a leak when laughing hard.

The young man proceeds to tell Greg where the boxes of sanity were found.  Greg, assuming he had not heard him correctly, says no, boxes of sanity.  (emphasis on sanity)

The guy says he’s not sure what that is, so Greg, with far more patience than I would have, tells him its the opposite of insane.  He nodded sagely, and calls his companion for advice.  His companion comes up with the answer.

“We are all sold out.  It’s been on back order for two weeks.”

Now, for most people, we’d assume they were joking, right?  Just like Greg was joking.  The first guy tells the other guy that there might be some left on aisle six.  I’m starting to get very worried.  This pair might have a box cutter or something on them.

Greg starts to finally understand that they aren’t going to understand, and he tells them nevermind, it was just a joke.

Junior rocket scientist assures him that they’ll surely have it back in stock next week.

About this point, I decided that moving indoors to the seeds was appropriate.  This pair scared me, because if it turned out that they had a third brain cell between the two of them, all sorts of things might occur.

Get a book, read there how to fix things.  Do not depend on a store clerk to have a clue!

The Facebook Bubble

18 Apr

There are rumors flying that the Facebook bubble is about to burst, that it has exceeded its own growth potential, resulting in a speedy demise.

Maybe it has, and maybe it hasn’t.  I’m not an expert, but…I am smart enough to learn from the past.  That’s what history is for, isn’t it?

We have had a lot of bubbles related to the internet.  The dot com bubble burst some time ago.  MySpace, once the king of social networking, is pretty much history.  I have an account, but I have logged into it about twice in the last three years.  Even then, it was just to connect with someone who hadn’t moved on to Facebook, not because I cared about my own account.  I didn’t like it much, and I found it awkward and with an excessively youthful nature.  Facebook suited me better, with a more run of the mill air about it as Every Man and Every Woman took to it like ducks to water.  Now, I actually know some people who think the internet IS Facebook, never leaving its comforting pages to wander unfettered through the digital universe we have collectively created.

At the same time, people aren’t going to magically abandon Facebook unless something better comes along.  Google presented us with Google Plus, then disappointed many users as it adopted more and more features that resembled those of Facebook.  We hadn’t flocked to it for a Facebook replacement, we had flocked there to find something DIFFERENT.  Somehow, I think it may have failed to deliver what we were craving, although it does have some of the features people seek.

So what do people want?

That is the million dollar question really.  In general, among the people I have approached , they want some specific things:

Ability to connect with others with similar ideas/interests.

Ability to control how much information is made public.

Ability to integrate and yet separate their private and public personas.  (Yes, they are different!  We all have our pro side, and then we have the side who gets depressed, eats a quart of ice cream, a whole bag of chips, and vegs on the sofa for an entire weekend in their pajamas…featuring My Little Pony on the bodice.  Do we really want our co-worker and clients s to see our angst?)

The ability to share things, especially cute kittens and political  memes.  Oh, and their opinions, of course.  Often.  Without.  Thinking.

The real kicker is that it is hard to keep public and private separate, and yet it is very important.  More and more companies want to take a look at who you are on Facebook before..and after….hiring you.  There have been cases where they wanted the passwords as well, even before hiring you.  (Not sure how legal that really is, and I would object strongly, but desperation in this job market probably inspired many applicants to just give in.)  Law enforcement is looking harder at this information as well, and many people suspect that the government spies on us all continually through social media.  If so, I hope they enjoy the recipes and cute animal pictures  that litter my posts.  Oh, and MouseHunt, the one game that I keep on playing.

So, that big mysterious agency, which is called Big Undercover Liberty Limiting Special Host of Investigating Technicians (BULLSHIT for short) is watching our every tweet and post, whether its on Google Plus, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or Secret Text Updating Data Inside Technology (aka STUPID) status update in search of covert, illegal, or terrorist activities.  That’s a big job, and it’s an important one.  After all, not even the super snooping capabilities of the latest CARNIVORE government spyware program can detect and analyze the language used inside of a cute kitten meme.  They have even found it necessary to put undercover agents into the dating sites in search of terrorists and anarchists who are using these sites to find women to marry and then obtain legal status to continue their illegal activities in the United States.

Sure they are.

The US is notorious, world wide, for their strong stance against illegal entry compared to other countries.

And I have a couple of bridges for sale, one on each coast of the USA, been in the family for a long time…

Go try sneaking into Mexico, China, North Korea, or heck, even sneak into Iraq while  you are at it.  After you have your “vacation” they’ll send you home, free of charge, right?

Wrong.

But that’s okay, we’re okay with that.  Just like we’re okay with the way Facebook is going.  Never mind that we’re already suspicious of their marketing techniques and desires to use our names and images to promote other goods and services.  We’ll happily go along with it, until the rats all find another ship to jump to.  All we have to do is figure out which ship will be the one they choose, so we’re riding along with our own cheese store, right?

At least  we know what it won’t be.  It won’t be Yahoo, MSN, AOL, MySpace, or G+.  Will it simply fracture apart, as people opt to leave the ultra populated space for smaller, more intimate and more user-responsive versions of social media?

Actually, I think that’s what I would place my bet on.  As shifts occur in how we interact, obtain our information and entertainment, how we shop, and where we work, we’re going to see that continual evolution.  Chat programs, while now usually subscription based, are becoming increasingly popular, and often oriented to topic or demographic data oriented.  We want our information and written entertainment also delivered digitally, and that creates another mode of connection.

That makes me wonder.  What if Amazon introduced a social media program, one that allowed people to discuss types of products, literary works by genre, etc.?  Would we see the rise of that type of social media connection, one provided by the seller of goods as a way to encourage people to continue shopping via their website rather than to venture into the “real world” with all of its inconveniences, expenses and dangers?

Or maybe we’ll see the right wing control factor coming into play, and instead of corporations operating the social media, it will become a government sponsored, controlled, and monitored environment.  We’ll all be tagged with our personal data, preventing any more mysterious encounters, as well as encounters of the really dangerous sort that we’ve all heard about.

The ancient Chinese may have regarded “May you live in interesting times” as a curse, but it’s our mantra.  We do live in interesting times, and who knows how they’ll be regarded in the future.  Are we going to be immortalized in unrealistic works of fiction that equate this era to the Wild Wild West that really never was what the movies portray it as?

That could be too.  All I know is that we’re going to see changes, some from evolution, others from reactionary governments.  We’ll see how our data is delivered and censored change, as well as who delivers what will change.  The wild and utterly independent voices of today’s internet radio may be silenced in the coming years, as expenses continue to rise as economies continue to struggle.  We don’t know.

But, it will definitely be interesting to watch and find out, won’t it?

 

Cell phones

23 Feb

Cell phones, those amazing little gadgets we’ve all become so dependent on, to the point that many of us no longer have a traditional land-line based telephone in our homes.

They are also something we’ve begun to get increasingly aggravated with, as carriers lock us into long term contracts with high financial penalties if we attempt to cancel the contracts for any reason.  Those contracts can look very attractive initially, but as time moves forward, and our lives change, they often become increasingly unwieldy monkeys riding on our backs.

Especially in the economy that has plagued us the last five years.

Faced with shifting fortunes, rising costs, and shrinking incomes, many people are desperate to reduce their monthly expenses, to get them to the point that their outgoing bills are less than their income.  That’s something our government isn’t very good at, not only for themselves, but for their constituents.  Corporations, however, seemed to have perfected the art of extracting blood from turnips.

With your cell phone carrier, they often have you over a barrel.  You can’t afford the monthly expense, but you certainly can’t afford the cancellation fee, or the negative notation on your credit history.  There aren’t a lot of options available, especially when you desperately need that cell phone, whether because it’s your sole connection with the outside world, or because you are searching for a job.

There are a few things, especially when faced with a temporary financial crunch, as well as some other things you can do to prevent being caught in the contract bind, while not causing undue financial hardship.

First, resist the urge to “upgrade” your phone at a reduced initial cost and renewing your contract.  This is where the cell phone companies are dangling a carrot out there, intending to keep you on THEIR treadmill.  Resist the temptation, and either continue using your old cell phone or buy another outright.  To keep costs down, you can often buy a used phone via Ebay or other outlets.  Do your research, make sure that the make and model is compatible with your carrier, as well as has some kind of guarantee from the seller that it will arrive in good condition.  You’ll still have to pay an activation fee.

If you don’t actually need a smart phone, skip the trend, stick with a basic function phone, which often can be used on a smaller data package.  These smaller plans without large data packages can save $10 or more per month, which can quickly add up.

Don’t add lines.  Each line comes with an additional contract, usually 24 months long.  If you have a need for additional phones, consider a prepaid option instead.  Then, if it turns out that it’s not needed anymore, you aren’t faced with an unnecessary bill.

If you are locked into a contract situation, and desperately need to cut your bills, there are a few options available.  Check to see if you can change the plan itself without altering your contract.  This option exists with many cell phone companies, and by switching to a basic phone with fewer bells and whistles, you can often cut your plan as much as a hundred dollars a  month.  Don’t cut it so short that you end up going over your limits however, overages are very expensive with many companies.

There is also the option of “suspending” your contract temporarily, usually up to 3 months.  This may have a monthly service charge, but it will allow you time to get your finances under control.

If you are not locked into a contract, you may want to explore other options, even if your finances and job situation looks bright and cheery.  By avoiding the contracts, you are free to explore other options as they become available, without having to wait.  That means everything from the latest iPhone to the different packages available.  It also means that if you are suddenly offered the perfect job in some exotic location, you won’t be biting off a chunk of that “early termination fee.”  Numerous companies offer prepaid plans, some even have iPhones and other smart phones available, complete with unlimited data and minute plans.  Straight Talk, available through Walmart, is one of them.  It is also serviced by the Big Three in cell phone providers: AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, depending on your location.  If you move and your old phone isn’t served in the new area, the problem is solved by simply purchasing another phone, and you are never stuck with a two year contract that leaves all of the cards in the cell phone company’s hands.

Contracts, ranging from one to three years, have become the bane of the consumer’s life.  They are everywhere, increasingly restrictive, designed to reduce competition for our dollars for years at a time, and ultimately reducing the level of service we manage to choke out of the various corporations.  Once you are locked into their services, its virtually impossible to change suppliers, no matter how terrible their service becomes.  It’s not a good trend, especially in a world that has increasing numbers of monopolies to which the consumers are becoming enslaved.

We don’t really have a choice about our electric, natural gas, water, cable, or land based telephone service, yet these companies want to often lock us into contracts to continue receiving their services, and leave the consumer with early termination fees if they decide to move out of their service area.  Cell phone companies do the same thing, using the carrot of reduced cost cell phones to entice customers to their two year enslavement.

To make it even worse, a cell phone is locked to a specific carrier, preventing the consumer from going to another carrier and acquiring service for that phone.  That means even if you aren’t locked into a contract and have a $500 cell phone, you have to buy their service, or buy another cell phone.  Is this really fair?  After all, you bought the cell phone, not leased it.  The cost was not subsidized by the cell phone company.

Something has to be done about all of these corporate monopolies with their abilities to turn us into their indentured serfs for years at a time.  In the meantime, the only way we can avoid that trap ourselves is to carefully read the fine print, avoid contracts with penalties for early termination, and learn to pay as we go.  Prepaid cell phones are one option, and unlike the early days when their fees were outrageously high, they have become increasingly competitive.  Today, Straight Talk, one of the larger prepaid companies, is part of TracFone, and it is marketed through Walmart.  Their unlimited voice and data plans are $45 per month, with no contract and no penalties if you don’t like it, but you do have to purchase the phone, which range in cost from about $19 to nearly $500, depending on features, models, and brands.  Their customers seem to be about equally as satisfied as those who are paying $110 or more for the same service with a contract.

So what does a person really get with the additional $65?

You get a two  year contract, and a reduced price on your phone, plus a $35 activation fee.  That means that at $110 per month, you will pay an extra $1595 for that cell phone in lieu of just purchasing it and going with a cheaper prepaid plan.  Outside of that, there is little difference between companies.  Sure, there is “tech support” with your contract phone, but have you ever used it?  Did it offer you any help?

There’s another reason to consider the no-contract phone.  In the case of a Straight Talk phone, Walmart offers a protection plan that includes water & humidity damage, and costs from $6 on up, depending on the initial cost of your phone.  With most companies, the “insurance” on your phone is about $7 per month, and in the event of water or humidity damage, the replacement can cost you $100 or more, as well as has to be mailed to you anyhow.  With Walmart’s protection plan, there is apparently no deductible on the phone, which means that the difference (in 2 years) can be over $160 per month for better coverage.

Then there are the hidden charges on contract cell phone service, all of those mysterious taxes and service fees that really will surprise you, as they approach increasing the price 20-25% per month.  Without the contract, the fees are included, providing you with a manageable price per month that can be adapted to  your budget.

Sure, there are no “discounts” on the phones initially.  They have to be paid for, along with shipping (if you don’t pick it up in the store) and taxes.  But…in the first two years alone, assuming you don’t damage the phone or get a huge desire to have the latest iPhone or smart phone, you will save $1757, minus the cost of your phone.  Even the phone’s cost may not be as high as you think–it isn’t uncommon for the phone from the carrier to cost $100-300 more than your “discount”, leaving you with a big bill.  The same phone or a similar phone with similar features, may be available from a no-contract program at roughly the same price.

The no contract phones are also an excellent idea for parents with a child acquiring their first cell phone, a teen with a new cell phone, or even a college student’s cell phone needs.  It means no surprise overages resulting in bill shock.  An inexpensive phone for calls and simple texting can be a solution for a child, who is more likely to lose or damage a phone.  (Loss is not part of the coverage from Walmart’s protection plan.)  If a cell phone is lost, there are also no worries that there will be calls to Dubai and Hong Kong suddenly appearing on your bill either.  These cheap cell phones can also be considered a temporary or “throw away” solution to a short term cell phone need–if an additional phone is needed during an emergency or travel.  They also offer international plans, handy if calling out of the country, as well as plans for 3 months, 6 months, or a full  year.  Imagine trying to pay a year in advance on your contract phone!

I’ve talked to customers that have used Straight Talk, and they are generally happy with the service they have received, whether it was their first cell phone or a replacement for the contract cell phone.  I also know people with a number of other carriers, including Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, and C-Spire.  The ones with other carriers are usually not as happy, and often are chafing at the bit for their contract to end, whether for financial reasons or because another company offers a desirable service or phone that is not available with their current carrier.  Sometimes it is due to relocation, and the service available in their new area is not as good as it was in the old area, leaving them paying for substandard reception or perks such as a local store that repairs their phone.

With a no-contract service, you are still free to choose to use a traditional contracted service at any time, if it turns out that you aren’t happy with it.  The sole complaint that I have noticed with no-contract services is number portability–it can be expensive, not available, or a pain.  If this is not an issue, one way to test the waters is to buy an inexpensive phone from one of the companies and try it before terminating your contract.

The phones can be served by one of three carriers, and not all carriers are available in all areas, and even in the areas that they are available, they may not offer the same type of reception.  There are also many issues with both 3G and 4G service, especially in small towns and rural areas.  Read reviews, find out which phones are served by the company that offers the best service for your area, as well as the areas in which you frequently travel.  In my case, I know that Verizon does not service the area in which my daughter lives, and therefore, I would not consider using Verizon as a contract carrier OR via a prepaid program.  Unfortunately, both AT&T and Sprint have spotty coverage throughout the rural areas of my home state, so either one could also leave me without a signal while traveling elsewhere.  That problem is true for most of us in the United States–no carrier provides complete coverage anywhere.

In addition to prepaid plans from companies like TracFone, the cell phone companies often offer a prepaid plan.  Unfortunately, they often don’t let you use the same phone that you may have used with their contract service, requiring you to purchase a different phone (at full price, with limited choices.)  Even with that, for many people, their services may be a better option.

Avoid the contracts when possible, and keep your independence and freedom of choice–it’s the best choice for your financial future as well.  Never set yourself up to end up with a big bill by adding friends or relatives to  your contract service unless you truly are independently wealthy.  Instead, opt for the no-contract version, even if you purchase the phone and plan, you will protect yourself from unexpectedly large bills in the future.

Write your representatives and senators, asking them to offer the consumer relief from these unwieldy contracts that favor the corporations, as well as to legally unlock cell phones and make them able to work with any carrier, and removing the monopolies that plague us all.  It’s high time that corporations began being accountable for their services, rather than able to rape the consumer with high rates, poor service, and long contracts with large penalties.

Impending news…

19 Feb

Good news is always a good thing, isn’t it?

For the last year or so, I’ve used Kindle for Android and Kindle for PC.  I like e-books.  They are good for the environment, as well as presenting a lot of opportunity for new authors and changing the dynamics of authors and publishing houses and the reader.  For the first time, between on demand publishing and e-books, we can read books that may not have ever been published or widely distributed before, on topics that we never were able to find before.

I’ll admit, it does present some problems.  I’ve seen some pretty awful e-books.  We all have.  At the same time, we’ve all encountered printed material that was an utter waste (at least in our minds) of the paper they were printed on.  I’ve seen a lot of books that I hated, and I’ve read a lot that I truly enjoyed.  I also have an incredible number of books in our house, and I look at other people’s houses and if there is no bookshelf, I am horrified.

How do people exist without books in their lives?

At the same time, it’s getting more and more expensive, both in terms of our money and the environment, to print books and buy them.  We then spend even more money and “environmental credits” to get the wood for our bookshelves, which also fill up our walls.  Even using the local library for much of my reading material, I still have a lot of books.  The other day, I was discussing with my mother, who has a Kindle Touch, about our Kindle libraries.  I was a bit surprised to discover that I now had over 1600 books in my Kindle library.

Do you realize how much room 1600 books would take in terms of shelving?

Granted, some of these books are pretty short, maybe 30 pages, and would often qualify as short stories or even articles in the printed world.  Even so, most of them are things that I regard as interesting and worth keeping in my e-library.  Few of them are books that I regard as utter wastes of electronic space, although there are a few.  I’ve also rediscovered the wonder of the classics, and exploring some of the ones I’d read only as a result of coercion from my English teacher as a teenager.  They are much more interesting as an adult, I’ll confess.  Even better, if I start reading one and it’s boring me…with the click of the mouse, I’ve exchanged it for another.

But I am rambling now.  I almost forgot about what my big news really was.

I have decided to publish my first official foray into the fiction world as an author myself on Kindle.  It’s not because I couldn’t get it published in a traditional publishing house–I never submitted it to any of them.  It’s been finished, edited, and waiting for over a year.  The sequel is well underway already, too.  I just didn’t submit it, even though I know how to do just such a thing, and even know several publishing houses that would consider it.

I’m publishing it via Kindle because it’s a format that I believe in.  The cover is being designed now, and it’s being proof read by yet another person as a final step.  Some paperwork has to be filed, but I’m anticipating it being officially released very soon.  The e-book publishing leaves the author with the rights to the book, as well as the lion’s share of the royalties, which is as it should be, don’t you think?  Instead of the price being paid going to the printer and the publishing house before the writer gets their share, the vendor gets a much smaller share and the writer gets a fair share.

It does leave the author with some work.  There is no promotion besides what the author is willing and able to do.  Maybe I have an advantage over many people, as there is the audience that is familiar with me already via my radio program, website, and blogs.  Maybe they’ll also tell other people to take a look at the book too.  I hope so.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me and my fledgling book.  Go get Kindle for your Android and your PC too, if you don’t already have it.  If you have a Kindle, you are one step ahead.  I’ll also announce when my “baby” is officially on the market.  In the meantime, remember…the title will be The Survivors: The Time of Chaos.  It’s a paranormal thriller.  After all, how could I write anything that didn’t have a paranormal element to it, unless it was a technical manual.

So far though, no one has asked me to write one of those.  I haven’t written one since I wrote a how-to manual for police dispatchers using the NCIC system, way back when I was a police dispatcher in another lifetime.

Bet you didn’t know I’d done that either, did you?

Black Friday Sales

22 Nov

Black Friday.

It’s starting on Thanksgiving Day today.  I have some pretty mixed feelings about it.  There’s a lot going on with the whole thing.

First of all, whether you want to call it a recession or depression or merely a downturn in the economy, most families are struggling.  Encouraging mass consumerism is just ridiculous.  Many people are worried about paying for the basics, forget mass holiday spending.

Walmart is the hot spot for a lot of people and Black Friday shopping.  They get a little bit crazed over it too.  We’ve seen years where people at Walmart, innocent workers who are not even making enough to live on, end up killed or injured.  Customers have also been injured in the fray for a cheap toaster or waffle iron or some electronic gizmo that will undoubtedly die before the next Black Friday arrives.

The whole name is taking on a more ominous meaning than the original one.  Originally, this was the day that retailers moved into the black with holiday shopping beginning.  Now, it implies grief and mourning and strife and disaster.

For the average family, there are a lot of dilemmas.  First, they have to stretch their budget.  Maybe their toaster died or they don’t have one and really want one even if they can’t afford it.  Buying it at an ultra cheap price means the difference between buying it or not.  Maybe they have four kids, and buying gifts on this mad day means the difference between having equivalent gifts for each child instead of being able to only afford gifts for 2.5 children.  They are motivated by their economic issues to fight the crowds and craziness to try and score that limited buy item.  I understand their motivation.

What I don’t understand is a company that has switched from selling American products to selling mostly cheap imported goods still being welcomed into more and more communities, where it kills the mom & pop and local businesses, then starts reducing the number of items that they carry.  Sure, they’ve ventured into mail order, and from personal experience, they haven’t learned anything about customer service either.  Sometimes, I wonder if it isn’t outsourced to some foreign country where proficiency in English is minimal.

Then, there are the employees.  Too many times, I’ve walked into a store with a manager ranting at the employees about something, haranguing them, and being less-than-managerial in their demeanor.  I’ve known employees of this multi-billion dollar corporation too.  They didn’t make enough to live on, instead depending on help from family, as well as government subsidies such as low income housing and food stamps.  They didn’t have insurance, and their schedules kept them working few enough hours that they just never quite were able to get insurance.  This wasn’t one store, or one town either.  This was many stores in many towns in many states.  This company doesn’t bring prosperity to a town, it sucks the very blood out of a town and smiles while it does it, happy to have been given tax credits and numerous government incentives in many cases to build in that town and destroy its economy.  The government continues subsidizing it by aiding the workers, bringing them from starvation to almost making enough to actually stay alive on.  In these cases, free school lunches, medical assistance, rent assistance, food stamps…it’s all part of the package, folks!

Maybe they should use that as part of their recruitment spiel.

So this very successful company continues sucking the blood of America.  The workers, not represented by a union, attempt to plan a strike to hit at the most critical time for this blood sucker…Black Friday.  It’s also the time when they are most vulnerable, with higher bills, holiday pressures, job fears, and job risks are all coming into play.

Will enough of them walk out and actually strike on Black Friday to make a difference?  Will this vampirish big brother of retail be forced to address their issues?

I have to admit, I don’t think they will be successful.  Too many of the workers depend too much on a paycheck that is too small for what they do.  Their spouses and children need them to go to that job and work every minute they can between now and the end of the year.

For them, Black Friday isn’t about iPods and iPads, laptops and toasters, televisions and shiny trinkets.  It’s about survival and swallowing the bitter pill of the reality of their lives.

Think about where you are spending your money and what you are therefore supporting.  Do you honestly appreciate cheap foreign goods, poor customer service, long lines, chaos, and poorly treated employees suffering through what is not much different than sweat shop treatment?  (We won’t talk about goods made under even worse conditions in foreign countries, which is how they can ship you that cheap item to begin with.)

You are voting with your dollars.  Think about where you are casting that vote.

Fair Trade, reasonable working conditions, human rights, consumer rights…all of these things are actually determined by where and how you choose to spend your dollars.

So when you go to that Black Market sale, look not only at the harried workers forced to give up their Thanksgiving holiday for your shopping experience, but at the labels that tell you where an item was made.  It tells you if it’s a fair trade item.  Think about those working conditions in foreign countries.

If you aren’t one of those harried workers who was left with no choice but to show up to work on Thanksgiving Day….I’m sorry.  I won’t be standing in line to make your day any worse.  I’ll be at home taking a nap.

What will you be doing?

Stupidity of Daylight Savings time and election mania?

4 Nov

I’ve ranted about it before, and I will rant about it again today…and twice a year for as long as the idiocy continues.  Daylight savings time is an idiotic concept, dreamed up and perpetuated by ridiculous propaganda that far too many people buy into.  If it saves so much energy…why don’t we just STAY on that time?  What do people really think they are saving?

But speaking about ridiculous propaganda, have  you paid much attention to the stuff circulating on the social media sites as people wave the figurative flag of their favored candidate?

It’s made me realize, with a two party system, we really are given a choice.

Between a rock and a hard place.

That’s about all the difference I really see between the parties.  The parties and their candidates are so far out of touch with what life is like for Average Joe and Average Jane that we may as well elect Brad Pitt for president.

Heck, he might even do a better job.  If not, well, at least he’d make interesting photo ops, right?

Neither party represents what we’ll call the “working man” of American society.  They don’t have a clue what our lives are like.

Like Mitt Romney’s wife, featured in an article about how she went shopping at Sam’s Club.  She was immensely proud of her ability to feed a large gathering of family for only $4.50 per person for the meal.  I don’t think she’d be too happy with my food budget, capped at $5 per person per day.  Some months, if there are extra bills to pay, well…the food budget gives up a portion of it’s funding to cover the deficit.  She’d even be more horrified to discover that if I’m serving guests, it comes out of the monthly budget, not an extra slush fund.  So does holiday cooking, as a matter of fact.  While the Romneys might not be concerned at the reports of higher prices for serving up the traditional turkey dinner later this month, for the rest of us, that IS a concern.  We can’t spend what we’re not earning, and there are still not enough jobs to get everyone back to work that has been looking for work since this recession started.  It’s unfortunate that with each passing year, we’ve seen more jobs going overseas too.

For those of us struggling to make ends meet, to pay our bills, and to just get by, while family members are unemployed or underemployed…having to deal with an English-is-a-second-language customer service rep in some foreign country is really a slap in the face.  It’s another reminder of how many jobs we’ve lost to countries with lower standards of living and more relaxed workplace laws.

In the stores, it’s hard to buy American made goods.  It’s harder yet to buy from companies that have American based customer service.  I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation that if I buy an item or service with American money while I am in the United States, that customer service will be provided in the United States as well.

Then, there is health care.  I’ll admit, I am not thrilled with the Obamacare package, but…I wasn’t thrilled with nothing either.  Do I think that it’s the best that our government could come up with?  No…and it shouldn’t be so long that nobody can possibly read it and understand what it says either.  That’s the problem with these bills–they are excessively complicated and too often contain unrelated stuff.  Each bill should be one thing, written in a manner that any average person can understand it, but they aren’t.  Washington has become a place of bureaucrats worried about perpetuating their own existence, whether elected or appointed or hired.

The part that I think stinks is the idea that people are to be forced to buy health insurance.  Seriously, I don’t know anyone who can afford health insurance and opts to just not buy it for some reason.  I’ve priced it, long before Obama was ever heard of, and there was no way I could afford it, even just major medical was about 30% of my monthly take home pay, and there wasn’t any way I could give up that much of my monthly income and survive.  Utilities, rent, and automobile insurance already took care of about 80% of my net pay!  That left very little for luxuries such as food, gasoline, clothing, medical expenses, and assorted sundries.  Taking a second job wasn’t an option, really–my job required extensive overtime already, and while I was paid for it…that extra overtime is what was used for those “luxuries” I bought.

So I read the things that the candidates say, I read the things that their opponents say about them.  I read the things their supporters say about them.  I read the “fact checker” articles.

I’ve concluded that I was right.  We do have a choice between a rock and a hard place.  It then comes down to specific issues that are…or are not…supported by the two parties.

What concerns me?

  1. Women’s rights, including reproductive rights.  I’m pro-choice, and before anyone gets their underwear in a wad over that…let me clarify that statement.  I am pro-choice, not pro-abortion.  There is a very clear difference.  While I don’t think that abortion is the right choice for me, in any circumstances that I have actually faced, I also don’t think that it is the government’s job to make that decision for me…or any other woman.   I don’t think my boss should be able to decide if my insurance is going to cover birth control either.  There are many reasons and many circumstances for a woman’s choice, and few women are going to choose to use abortion as birth control if they have any conscience or concept of right and wrong.  If they don’t have those things, well, do we really want her reproducing anyhow?  Morality cannot be legislated, and there should not be an attempt to do so.  Laws are to protect society as a whole, and allow individuals to not have their personal rights infringed upon by others.  While that includes freedom of religion, it does not give anyone the right to impose their religious standards and expectations on others.  Period.
  2. Right to bear arms.  Okay, these mass murders we’ve had at schools and theaters have been horrific and shouldn’t have happened.  Yes, I know many other civilized countries have banned weapons of all kinds.  That doesn’t mean I support weapons being banned in this country.  Regulated and restricted perhaps, but not banned.  Assault rifles aren’t needed for hunting or self-protection.  Automatic rifles and handguns aren’t either.  Armor penetrating ammunition and weapons are also not particularly appealing to think of my neighbor having and using for target practice.  I think we need to address the underlying causes of these incredible acts of violence more than act on restricting gun ownership excessively.  Do we ban bathtubs for the accidents they cause?  Have pools been banned due to the high numbers of children that have drowned in them?  Do we still allow downhill skiing after people die in skiing accidents?  How about cars and car accidents and their fatalities?
  3. Same sex marriage.  I’m not gay, and I never was.  I’m not even bi-sexual.  I am in a traditional marriage, even if our wedding was far from traditional.  My parents weren’t gay, neither is my daughter.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t support the concept of equality among all Americans.  While I don’t deny that states can allow or forbid same sex marriage according to their citizens’ wishes, I don’t think that the federal government should be able to override those states’ rights to choose either.  Currently, federal law does not allow federal employees in a legal same sex marriage to enjoy the same benefits for their spouses that someone in a so-called traditional marriage enjoys.  I think this is wrong.  I have little hope of Mississippi, my current home state, is going to legalize same sex marriages anytime soon.  It’s got far too high of a percentage of ultra conservative citizens for that to happen.  But, if it was allowed…I don’t think the federal government should deny benefits to those people’s spouses because they don’t agree with it.
  4. Education.  It wasn’t working, so they tried “No Child Left Behind.”  That’s working about as well as new math did.  It’s absolutely not working, instead of educating kids and preparing them for the real world, whether that includes college or a job, kids are spending the year prepping for their standardized test.  Something else needs to be done, and this ineffective method of measuring both school and teacher performance needs replaced with something a bit more effective.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you went to a fast food restaurant, local store, or other location with staff that needs nothing beyond high school to get a job…and they actually could SPEAK American Standard English?  How many high school students can actually write down a coherent telephone message that anyone could read and understand, let alone write an essay for a college class?
  5. Jobs/Industry.  Face it.  We lack an industrial base and we’re importing too many goods.  We need jobs, we have willing workers.  We need to figure out how to get people back to work, back to creating the things that made America into what it was.  We need factories running, producing goods that are high quality and reliable.  We’ve all had enough of cheap, shoddy, imported garbage.
  6. National Transit System.  We rebuilt Europe’s trains after World War II, or so I’m told, but we can’t get trains to cover the USA in anything resembling efficient and cost effective.  It costs more to ride a train than it does to take a plane or even drive, and Amtrak is subsidized by the federal government.  Few cities have train stations where passengers and small freight can be economically transported to the next city, county, state, or anywhere.  In addition, the transit times when trains are used are utterly ridiculous.  We need efficient mass transportation beyond the urban bus and subway systems.  We need it both within states and to other cities and states, providing efficient and low cost transportation coast to coast.  Putting such a rail system into place would employ thousands of people, from creating the infrastructure to service jobs when it is up and running.  It would appeal to foreign tourists as well, especially since most industrialized countries have train systems already.
  7. Legalization of hemp & medical marijuana.  Hemp is a good crop, and it’s good for a lot of applications.  It can be used for making rope, paper, and clothing, as well as a host of other things.  It’s a good fiber, and more durable than cotton.  Medical marijuana is a good product too, when properly used.  Even recreational marijuana is less of a problem with the users than those people using alcohol.  Taxed and regulated, it would remove marijuana from the hands of drug cartels, reducing their income and clout not only in the United States, but in the countries where their supplies of marijuana are grown and prepared for smuggling into the United States.  The tax revenue would enhance the American budget, maybe even bringing the annual deficit down a notch, especially if recreational use was legalized.
  8. Energy.  We’re going to have to bite the bullet and come up with alternative energy plans.  We’ve seen the disasters nuclear reactors can deliver.  We’re seeing the disaster of the oil industry, each and every day.  We need inexpensive and efficient energy to recreate a strong economy.  We don’t have it, therefore, we need to figure out how to get it.  If we got a man to the moon, not once, but several times, and did it with computers that had less power than the old Nintendo 64…surely we can figure this problem out.  Quit subsidizing the oil industry and let them struggle on their own, they’ve been milking America too long.  Devote attention to alternative energy that is less costly, both to the consumer and the environment, and put America at the forefront again.
  9. Taxes.  Corporations.  Okay, taxes are something nobody wants to pay.  We’re all a bit tired of corporate entities making huge profits while paying little in terms of taxes, and then adding to the insult by outsourcing portions of their business to foreign countries.  We’re sick of them lobbying Congress for favoritism.  We’re tired of paying the bill, you might say.  It’s time to start taking a good hard look at how corporations are affecting the way we elect politicians, and how they affect the bills that go through Congress to become laws.  It’s a form of corruption, folks.  Plain and simple.  These corporations are doing nothing more than paying politicians for favors, no matter how it is sugar coated.
  10. Foreign aid.  I really do not understand why we are borrowing money only to give it away to other countries.  That makes no sense to me.  If I am unable to pay my bills without borrowing money, it would be foolish to give my money to other people after I borrowed it.  Why is the federal government continuing to do something that any of us would look askance at a private individual doing?  I think it’s time that foreign aid is cut back, if not eliminated, and there should be more accountability as to why we’re giving it to anyone.

There are a lot more issues too, more than I could possibly put in here, but those are the top ten ones.  Neither party is very concerned about all of them.  None of the candidates are either.  So who do I vote for?

I’ll cast a vote in less than forty eight hours now.

I have no idea who I’m going to vote for right now.  Just when I think one candidate or another has trumped finally, they show signs of obviously reneging.  I was never a fan of Obama, so I have to admit that he has done better than I thought he would.  At the same time, the Romney/Ryan ticket isn’t exactly thrilling either.  I’m not a Romney fan, and the idea of something happening that would catapult Ryan into the Oval Office makes me gag.  Biden’s not a rocket scientist either though, and I actually had someone crack a joke about Biden being Obama’s “insurance policy” so that no one would assassinate him–they were afraid that Biden would then become president.

Once again, it seems that I’m faced with a choice of who I am going to vote against rather than who I am going to go vote for.  Which candidate has the most potential to cause harm?  Are we better off with the devil we know…or a new devil?

Oh will I be glad when Tuesday is over.  I’ll have my mind back, as well as cease to see the endless parade of pro-this candidate or anti-that candidate on my Facebook wall!

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