Tuesday, February 23, 2010

They Lie to You ALL the Time

The new consumer protection law governing credit card shady practices went into effect on Monday. And given that they had nine months to prepare for it they of course found other ways to cheat their customers.

Now, thanks to a long-awaited law you'll know that if you pay the minimum on a $3,000 balance with a 14 percent interest rate, it could take you 10 years to pay off. And they have to give you warning that they are going to raise your interest rates but it probably will still be in that incredibly small print at the bottom.

And during the past nine months, credit card companies jacked up interest rates, created new fees and cut credit lines. They also closed down millions of accounts. So a law hailed as the most sweeping piece of consumer legislation in decades has helped make it more difficult for millions of Americans to get credit, and made that credit more expensive.

Cannot just blame the credit card companies for lying and cheating. Let's talk television. During the economic depression many people have dropped their subscription TV services. I beat the rush. I watch the programs I like either on DVD's a season late but without commercials or on my computer via my boardband internet service. I was looking forward to the Olympics seen this way. No staying up for hours, just watching the performances I was interested in, etc. But ABC that has the exclusive has decided to post only very inferior videos of events like the figure skating. They are so blurry they make your eyes hurt. Sponsor of their video page for the Olympics - DirecTV. Guess I will wait for the DVD.

I am used to the telephone company lying to me. They have done it for decades. And there is nothing new about banks doing the same. But it frankly seems that everyone - especially all the "service" companies - lie all the time. Qwest is moving in with DSL into my neighborhood and telling everyone it will be cheaper than our satellite servers. But do read the small print. The price is only for two years and only with bundling with other services like DirecTV. So now all the companies are getting together and forming bands to lie to you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Justice is blind, deaf and dumb

Went through another session with my lawyer to prepare me for trial on the 19th of March. First time we did this is was a lot more about fact finding for her case preparation. This time was more about posing questions that would actually be asked while I was in the witness box by either my attorney or the opposing attorney on cross. We prepped for two hours and then she informed my that my direct would likely be 2 1/2 and then it would be the other attorney's turn.

They want to prove that my intention was from the beginning to never pay my contractor. I want to prove that his intention was to cheat me because he thought he could. My attorney is confident I have the documentation to prove my point.

What amazes me about this whole process win or lose is the sorry state of our legal system (I deliberately did not use the word Justice because since OJ Simpson I don't think there is Justice in the system). Win or lose it will have taken more than two years of my life for what I regard as a frivolous claim. And if I had not gotten legal aid because of my financial situation it would have cost me $30,000 thus far. I was actually told by an attorney when all my efforts to arbitrate had been refused that I should just pay him because it would be cheaper than fighting him.

Too often people just do that. They bow to the "blackmail" and pay the piper because it will cost less than fighting for the truth and JUSTICE. Some years back a friend of mine was sued because a dog staying at her house (not hers) bit a kid that hurt it. The person bringing the suit was also a friend. Her line was, "But I am suing your insurance company. It won't cost you a thing." It did. The insurance company canceled after paying up out of court and she was forced to take the mortgage company "over the top" insurance premiums.

Lawyers and contractors think all they have to do is threaten and it will be settled out of court for some pricey but factious amount (the mother of the girl that got bit once claimed it ruined her ugly daughter's acting career - 20 stitches cost $30,000 plus plastic surgery). And who of us can afford to defend ourselves these days. My contractor wants enough more to have built my studio three times. And he never finished it once but I have already paid him twice his original estimate.

My friend with the dog abusing child has a home she bought with the pain and suffering money and still an ugly child who is now adult. The friend she sued has gotten cheaper insurance finally but the lawsuit of 20 years ago comes up every time she applies for any insurance. I may lose my house if I lose but my contractor is still a snake in the grass and no longer working as a contractor.

And the justice system is still really sick and up for sale to the highest bidder.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who do you trust?

So what? Two blogs in two days, you ask. After like ten days with no blogs! Just goes to prove you cannot trust bloggers. And we don't have deadlines like newspapers. So live with it.

It just so happens that I found two closely related issues that inspired me in two days. I certainly do not trust Sarah Palin as readers of the blog before this clearly understand. And Gallup announced the results of its December poll on trusted occupations. That one is almost as much fun as the winners of the Darwin Award.

Seems the least trusted occupation in the United States is (drum roll please) Members of Congress. They narrowly beat out HMO Managers, car salesmen, Senators, lawyers and advertisers. Lawyers and advertisers have been on the bottom of the list for a long time. And Used Car salesmen in particular are not popular. Put you have to take this with a grain of salt because opinion pollsters were toward to bottom too.

Another poll rated the least trusted banks. Which brings up the question as to why bankers were not in that scum skimming list. One independent poll, the same one that rated pollsters so low, put stockbrokers in the bottom five. But I digress. The least favorite and trusted banks are: Bank of America, Chase, Capital One, TD/Commerce, Fifth Third, Citibank and HSBC. No surprises there other than who would name a bank Fifth Third? I certainly think the current economy, bank bailout, mortgage freezes, foreclosures and the constant increasing of "fees" on credit cards had a lot to do with this list. The economy coupled with executive bonuses probably even more so.

But not trusting your banker is nothing new. The old melodrama villains (like Snidely Whiplash above) were often bankers come to foreclose on the house of the poor struggling heroine Nell. And my parent's generation were raised with putting your cash under the mattress. My brother and I hid ours in different volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia when young. Where to keep your savings is no longer an issue as there are no savings anymore to keep.

A pollster called me recently to ask if I had 401K or mutual funds. Not any more. Did I foresee a time when I would have either again. No. Did any of my friends have 401K or mutual funds. This one took some thought because I do have some rich friends but they seem to have moved on to other investments like real estate and art. Did I know if they would be putting their funds back in investment firms in the future. Absolutely not. Especially after this new list.

So where in your house is the best place to hide money? Assuming, of course, you have some to hide at sometime in the future?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It has been too long, Baby

I will admit it. I have missed Sarah Palin. Say what you will about this future candidate for the highest office of this nation, but you have to admit she is entertaining. So were the Marx Bros. But fortunately none of them every tried to run for higher office.

Sarah, that Alaskan moose and wolf hunter of the previous campaign, who has denounced President Obama for using a teleprompter, was caught using crib notes on her palm. Quite obviously she failed to learn to cheat properly in school. Probably home schooled. There are serious loopholes in home schooling. You never write the answers on your palm, Sarah!

Palms sweat and you wind up with ink all over. But if you are going to use black ink the black dress was inspired. But like the key under the potted palm on the front door stoop the palms of the hands are all to obvious a place to hide the answers for a test. And unless you plan to keep your hands in your pockets it is quite definitely the wrong place to put your notes for a speech. Every junior debater knows that. And never use black ink. I was fond of the inside of my wrist under a long-sleeved shirt in red ink. Some teachers thought I was into self-mutilation.

And what was it Sarah feared she would not remember? Energy, Budget cuts (with "budget" crossed out), Tax, Lift American Spirits. Such a waste of palm space. And cheating. If you are going to cheat, cheat big. Things like the dates of all the Russian Revolutions, or all of Tolstoy's novels (or just the main characters of War and Peace), or all the countries of Africa and their capitals, or the spelling of words with more than four syllables. But if you cannot remember four big issues like energy, budget cuts, taxes and spirits of the American people go back to Wasilla, Alaska and shot moose.

Please note for future reference, Sarah, that moose are those huge things with the long hooked noses, and not the fleet, furry, dog-like creatures you shoot from a plane.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yes, there is a law - several

Back to the issue of water and the west. Water, because of increasing demands on aquifers and surface water, will become a serious problem in most of the world. Even rainfall amounts are decreasing because of the clear cutting of rain forests in the tropical belt.

But I know best about my own backyard which is currently flooded because the man living downstream two lots decided to dam the little Coyote so he could have a pond. It was this summer a fairly crudely built dam and our major issue was a water thief that was diverting water two lots up stream and not putting it back until it skipped over five lots. The state engineer got him to stop his diversion just about the time winter settled in and the creek froze. Which meant the water logged earthen dam built down stream also froze. Which made it a lot more effective.

Now we have more water than we want. The Little Coyote topped its three to four foot banks and is spreading out across the lowlands to widths of 30 and 40 feet and about a third of my property. Upstream of me it is lapping at the sides of County Road B3 (Osha Road). And now we are a bit beyond the mandate of the state engineer's office.

New Mexico governs its water quite closely. The early Spanish settlers set up an acequia or water ditch system that carefully meted out surface water on the basis of acreage of land used for grazing and agriculture. The Mayordomo, or ditch boss, made assessments at the spring run off every year as to just how much water it appeared would be available for use. People that stole water, wasted water, spoiled water or impounded water were criminals on the level of horse and cattle thieves. Mike Nichols wrote humorously about it in his book Milagro Bean Field War. But it is a deadly serious topic here in the mountain west. People have been killed over less.

The problems arise in getting transplants for other states to take it seriously. "It is just water," is likely to be said by a Texan that relocated to the Sangre de Cristos and sees what appears to be abundance here as opposed to the panhandle. In the immortal words of John Wayne, "Those are fighting words." Here their are water rights, both surface and subsurface, and there are wrongs. Nobody owns a stream. You just borrow it as it rushes past you. And technically the same amount of water that entered your land has to exit it.

But at the moment we are into a jurisdictional issue. The stream is governed by the state engineer as part of the Mora Watershed. Fish and game also have a say because my tiny little trickle in mid summer is a nursery for baby Brown Trout. And then the EPA gets a say because the Little Coyote passes through a wetland which is protected by law. My property on the far side of the stream is marsh and attracts the most wonderful collection of birds and a species of the endangered salamander. Then there is Colfax County and the road department. The water is backing up through the culverts under a county road and forming another lake which daily keeps rising.

And it is a warm February. We keep having these little wet snows high in moisture and then warm days that melt it off and it all heads downstream - well, as far as that dam made for that pond which is impounding water and definitely impeding flow. Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of The Incident of the Little Coyote soon to be a major motion picture.

Meanwhile I am e-mailing this blog to all relevant authorities.