Car Crashes, Some Extremely Bad Driving and Road Rage

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Craig's List

Craig's List is a great venue to sell stuff you no longer need or use. You know, all that stuff you really, really needed and wanted and then threw in a drawer, closet, garage or wherever until there was no room for more. Yup, that's the stuff I mean.

Craig's List has lots of warnings on scams, from money orders, long distance buyers, and other ways people try to get your money or goods illegally. Maybe they should include some common sense lessons for buyers who use the listings for what appears to be entertainment, or maybe just because they're total idiots. Could be either one, but just to be safe, let's consider that they're simply idiots.

Why do people e-mail you on items you're selling on Craig's List, and then when you give them your local cell phone number, never bother to contact you again? Is it because they then believe they have done their part, and made contact, and you are supposed to somehow miraculously pull them out of the ethereal Internet, and place them together with the treasured goods?

It's not once or twice, but a dozen times or more that people have indicated more than a slight interest in items I have for sale or for free, yet never bother to make that second contact for more information. Or, they give you their cell phone number, and when you call it tells you their mailbox is full, or rings incessantly and they never answer. Either way, I erase their e-mail and any chance they had at that bargain is long gone. If they have voice mail I leave them a message indicating they can call between certain hours, and also provide an intersection near here so they can decide if the distance is suitable for their travel. Most of the time I never hear back.

Then we have those who do call, get directions and promise they will be here at a certain time. Then, never show up to get the item. Hmm, you have now wasted all afternoon waiting to sell a ten dollar item that you would have been better off, time wise, by throwing in the recycle bin, perhaps. Or you have the person who shows up and, knowing the price is ten dollars, offers you five, and when you refuse, drives off, having spent five dollars in fuel each way to look at the item anyway. Hmm, more rocket science at work I suppose.

Then we have the freebie taker. The frenzy of callers for the freebies, no matter what they are. It could be a disease and if you list it for free, you'll get someone who wants it, because they have a place for it, need it, have one just like it and want a matching pair or some other reason beyond recall. No matter, if it's free, usually someone will take it off your hands. However, there are those who will ask..."Do you deliver?" WTF? I gave away a living room set that was in great condition (No, I really do mean great condition, unlike the second hand furniture guy's representation of great condition) Clearly stated in the ad that it must be picked up! Three people called and said they would take it IF I delivered it to them! Again...WTF?? A $500 living room set and it's free, and they want me to haul it to their house too? And probably carry it in and up the freaking stairs! A fourth caller on this one said he was coming to get it at a certain time, and when that time came and passed, the phone rang....and do you know what he said? Yup...CAN YOU DELIVER? WTF?? He now didn't think it would fit in his van. Finally had a nice couple call and stop by a few minutes later, very grateful to have it for their home. And they didn't say a word about delivery, either!

So, I don't list or sell much on Craig's List. Mostly because many people don't read the ads very well, and I don't have the time nor patience to sit home and wait for people who don't show up or who don't have the courtesy to call and say they're not coming. Must be why eBay is so popular. Sure it costs some money to place the ads and sell your stuff, but everything is in writing and up front and if you sell something that says local pickup only, the buyer understands that you aren't going to deliver it for free!

Incidentally, eBay owns part of Craig's List, so wonder how long it will remain free?

North County Times - Unbiased as Long as It's Their Viewpoint

Ever read the San Diego North County Times newspaper letters to the editor? Ever see anything there that's really thought provoking or really stirs the pot against anything the paper seems to be for? No, I didn't think so.

For example, one of the "pet" projects fostered by the NCT for years has been the expansion of Tri-City Medical Center. There is no question an expansion of TCMC is long overdue, perhaps if only to shore up the earthquake solidity of the building, and serve the burgeoning illegal population that overruns the ER daily, but that's not the question. TCMC wants to build the Taj Mahal with taxpayers money, and the taxpayers keep saying no. Yet every time the question arises, NCT jumps on the TCMC bandwagon and appears to quash any letters of severe criticism to the project, while publishing letters praising the services provided by TCMC.

This isn't about the services provided by Tri-City which, for the most part, are very good. In fact, if it were not for the glut of non-paying illegal patients using the ER as their private doctors' office, and clogging the system, the ER care in the evenings would be downright excellent! It isn't about the dedicated doctors, nurses, ER registration staff or environmental services personnel who work to keep the place running. It's about the top heavy administration getting huge salaries, voting themselves even more while crying about the needs of the hospital, and trying to outdo the Joneses in building a showplace, which is supported by the NCT, to the exclusion of comments to the contrary.

I've sent letters to the North County Times outlining problems at TCMC and they go unpublished. Clean, clear, concise letters with facts on how the hospital wastes money, on how patients walk out without paying their bills, as the staff at night is sometimes so overrun they can't get them in the system before a doctor releases them. And, in some cases, patients have been released only to be injured or killed, and the hospital places blame elsewhere for these issues, when they should be placed right square on the shoulders of the hospital administration.

You've seen all the TV advertising and, on yes, the paid advertising in the North County Times of course. Guess why? Rather than face the people of North County in a Proposition on the ballot, like is usually done, Tri-City is sneaking a $589 million dollar bond measure mail ballot into your mailbox surreptitiously in the hope you'll:
  • a. vote for it because you're tired of hearing about it
  • b. toss the vote away and only those in favor will vote for it
  • c. vote for it based on all the hype you'll hear over the media
  • d. Give Art Gonzalez another big raise and he'll go away along with the bond measure
  • e. Dump the bond measure, TCMC sells to a private not-for profit health care consortium and grows as the hospitals in Orange County have with no tax dollars involved.
I've posted this here as North County Times has no interest in publishing anything that might impact what must be a very harmonious relationship with TCMC. How nice for a newspaper to be so "balanced" on the news.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Second Amendment Is Alive!

June 26, 2008 is a day that should live forever in the hearts and minds of gun owners in America, a day that reinforces the Constitution of this great country. For a change, the Supreme Court of the United States sat down and passed a ruling that makes sense and doesn't pander to those who wish to change what our forefathers wished when they wrote the Constitution.

The Right to Bear Arms...that was what was upheld. That gun ownership is a right that shall not be infringed upon by cities and others in a maniacal and endless waging of gun control by the lunatic fringe who would take guns away from law abiding citizens, and in the same breath decry the death penalty for murderers and rapists. Yet you have to wonder what all those anti-gun zealots would do if it were their mother, sister, wife or daughter who were raped or killed, or if their homes were invaded and their families harmed? Dial 911 and ask for an unarmed police officer?

No matter, since you have the right to own and bear arms, and always have. Now the Supreme Court agrees with what has always been! If you are not a convicted felon or a mental case and have been adjudicated as such, you should have the right, within reason, to own a firearm to defend your home, to use at sporting events, to collect and to enjoy as a hobby or whatever. As long as you use it responsibly, your right should not be infringed upon.

I look forward to many more suits being filed against cities and jurisdictions now that the nation's highest court has spoken. The only down side to this historic moment is it was only 5 for. and 4 against, to win this ruling. So, I ask the remaining 4, WTF were you thinking????

Finally, Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain hailed the court's decision, saying it recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right that is "sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly." Way to go John.

Incidentally, gun control advocate B. Hussein Obama (Notice he never uses that middle name as he doesn't like the implications it brings!) doesn't like this decision at all, but to kiss up to gun owners he's saying he supported the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. We should call him Flopsy because he flip flops so much he's like a dead squirrel in the road getting hit by vehicles going both ways...depends on the breeze and he's under another bus again!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Government Bail-Out for Homeowners?

It looks like our democrat controlled government is going to do it again. Throw your hard earned tax dollars up against the tide of failure, to bail out those who didn't have enough common sense to police their own economics when purchasing a home. The latest is they will be guaranteeing loans in excess of $700,000 since $600,000 wasn't enough in some areas, such as California where Nancy Pelosi lives. WTF?? With any luck, the President will veto this one before it further bankrupts us monetarily and morally.

House prices are falling like rocks off a cliff and people still want to have loans for the big, fancy homes? The average price for a home in San Diego County, California is now in the low to mid $400,000 range, and California homes statewide are in the low to mid $300,000 range so what's wrong with buying an average home? There are lots on the market with all the short sales, owner sales and foreclosures? But no, the give-it-away government wants to back risky loans to twice that amount so people can live in big, fancy homes where you know there is a great potential they will default, and the taxpayer will end up paying the bill! Just say NO, and tell them to simplify their lifestyle and get something they can afford. Read my earlier blog on Foreclosures for more on the opulence and the crash!

How about taking away all but one low value credit card, not allowing more credit until they actually can handle it, assigning a credit monitor, requiring they drive an economy car and live a very modest lifestyle in return for any assistance at all? That seems more than fair if they want assistance. Plus, if they default as a result of their monetary incompetence, require the loss be paid back in some way or form. Or perhaps, better yet, publicly flog the idiot politician who dreams up this tripe!

We are fast becoming what our forefathers would have hated, a nation of whiners and failures, who expect every road to be made smooth by someone elses wagon tracks. No more pushing ourselves along and making things do, getting tough when the going gets tough and tougher when the going is damned near impossible. No, we're always waiting for a bail out and a hand out from someone, so that we can recover from our own stupidity, and lack of sense when it comes to our own survival, and that of our families. Had our forefathers been like this, we'd still be on boats somewhere wondering who was going to help us cross the ocean or the plains or whatever to get to where we are today.

Finally, how about people who live on boats or in RV's? Will they qualify for the program? And what about the guy who lives in a VW Kombi Camper. It's his home and he has a loan he can't pay or they'll repossess the remanufactured engine and the tires. Is he covered? After all, they did it for the homeowners and what's fair is fair. Next people will want the government to bail them out when they become too indebted to pay for their sports cars too. Then where from there? I can't pay for the banquet I threw for my friends and they're threatening to cancel my Diamond Platinum Credit Card...Please intervene!!

Social Security Going Broke?

Well, the Social Security system is telling it like it is, that it's going broke. It's been telling us this for years, but the politicians have been see-sawing between hopefully optimistic, and sticking their heads in the doo-doo created by their political manure in Washington, and basically ignoring the problem, while borrowing billions from the SSA to put into other programs.

Now the well is running dry, and the politicians are running around like Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling. Good grief, does this surprise anyone? We've been told this was coming, yet the bureaucrats in Washington sat on their partisan hands, and did nothing to solve the problem, but yap about it, and blame the other party for the problems, as they always do.

Obama has this idiotic idea to change the basis for paying Social Security taxes and start collecting it when people make over $250,000 a year, but still stop collecting when your salary exceeds $102,000. That's ridiculous. I say place the Social Security tax on full income no matter what it is, with no gaps at all. If you make $175K, apply the tax. Then adjust the benefits accordingly. What's the logic of having a tax gap between $102K to $250K? That doesn't help the "true" middle class, or lower-class family with multiple income earners. Sounds more like pandering to some "phantom" class to me, than any sense of fairness.

If you want to balance the system, stop all the giveaways. Stop the Section 1011 free medical for illegals that is part of the Medicare Fund. Don't you think that drains your tax dollar and your future ability to get medical care through Medicare?

Check out the pdf below and look at the address...Direct to good ol' Social Security to pay for those illegals we can't stop at the border. It cost California $10.4 billion dollars in unreimbursed costs last year alone, so imagine the federal bill.
http://www.scha.org/documents/cms-10130A_aliens_determination_of_pmt_form_1.pdf

And, overhaul Medicare because that's going for broke before Social Security! Quit giving benefits to those who never put a damned thing into the system! For example, it's a welfare system for many; in addition to the Section 1011 already mentioned, many people presenting Medicare cards with the letter "M" following the number are usually alien residents who are collecting benefits under another family member, and frequently the recipient of an organ transplant or other costly medical procedure.

Since Medicare will ostensibly go broke before Social Security, this is even a bigger issue in my mind, as we attempt to salvage our old age safety net.

Getting older in America is not a such good thing anymore. Those who worked to bring us where we are today, who fought to guarantee freedom and hope are losing ground, and their legions are slowly fading from sight. The new warriors are sadly unappreciated after a flash-in-the-pan welcome home. Many young Americans are being abandoned by their parents in form of guidance, if not love, and have no semblance of familial unit to guide them, turning to gangs instead.

And our elected officials seem to be either ineffective, unwilling to correct the wrongs of the system, so entrenched in party politics that they don't know right from wrong, prone to corruption, or like so many we've seen over the past few years, in court or prison for their misdeeds.

America, it may not be too late to wake up and make a change, but soon it will be, because if you don't, history is destined to repeat itself all over again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why Government Doesn't Regulate Highway Speed Effectively

You've all seen it happen. You're driving the freeway and cars are passing you at twenty, thirty and forty miles over the speed limit. Cutting in and out with what seems total impunity to traffic enforcement. Driving that borders on criminal, if not felonious, yet it continues every day as drivers push the envelope to get where they want to go, with total disregard of those around them, and the consequences of an accident at those velocities.

Yet, when a horrific accident occurs, and a number of lives are lost, law enforcement stands in front of the media cameras and professes their stringent attempts to curtail speeding and reckless driving on the highways. To those who see it every day, that's just a bunch of political bull sh*t to try and salve the wounds of families who lose loved ones out on our roads day after day.

Facts are that the states do not hire sufficient traffic officers to patrol the highways effectively, preferring to use Selective Traffic Enforcement (STEP) patrols which operate like wolf packs, when a certain area of the highways have a problem. They use a team to saturate a problem area, which may be the result of a series of crashes, to slow down traffic and issue a larger number of citations than usual, for a few days, and then go away. That creates the illusion of effectiveness to a segment of the motoring public, who sees a flurry of activity and police units for a short period. And you call that pro-active policing? I call this the "too little-too late" doctrine.

Same for the all-out DWI enforcement around the holidays and the media blitz on how many persons were caught, versus previous years statistics. That has absolutely no correlation with the actual number of persons who were actually on the roads at any given time under the influence of alcohol or drugs; simply a snapshot of how many went through checkpoints or were drunk enough to attract an officer's attention or be called in and somehow stopped.

Street Racing Enforcement units are disbanded as soon as there is a drop in the number of street racing related crashes and deaths, and the numbers go right back up. The racers know who's watching them and who's not. So why not maintain the units? It's like the USDA not inspecting cows for mad cow disease, because you didn't find any this month, so why bother ever looking again! Same stupid lack of logic. Just wait until the disease rears its' ugly head and then we'll start checking the animals again. It's too late then, just as it's too late when even one street racing death could have been prevented, had the police unit not been disbanded.

In my humble opinion, highway patrols operate similar to the "shark theory" on our freeways. They lurk about, looking for the motorist in the pack who looks like the easiest prey to grab, or the one with the most egregious driving attitude, that they can apprehend. If there are one- hundred vehicles traveling at twenty five miles over the speed limit, the "shark" will only get one out of that pack of one-hundred, leaving ninety-nine to continue to blatantly ignore the law. The one who was caught is just the luck of the draw in most cases, and could have been picked because of multiple infractions such as tinted windows, tail light or license plate out. or other such issue in addition to speed. Or, simply because he or she was the one picked out of the pack and for no other reason than speed. Of course, the driver who is all alone driving way over the limit or weaving in and out of traffic presents a pretty nice opportunity to become "shark bait" with no other attractant necessary!

If California, for example, wanted to help reduce deaths on the roads, and in turn reduce their budget shortfalls, now would be the ideal time to enact a tougher speed law that would protect drivers and help save energy at the same time. First, start enforcing the existing speed laws more rigidly. Secondly, institute a tiered "Waste of Natural Resources" surcharge on top of the speeding fines for those drivers who can't seem to stay within sane speed limits. Drive 20 miles over the limit, pay the fine plus a $250 surcharge; drive 30 miles over and pay the fine plus a $500 surcharge; drive 40 miles over the limit and pay the fine plus a $1000 surcharge. Subsequent infractions would have the surcharges increased commensurate with the violation, along with loss of license and perhaps the vehicle.

In defense of the traffic officers we have, there are not enough. We need to hire more, and to allow them overtime to spend the time needed in high impact areas, where they can do the most good in traffic enforcement.

Of course, as long as the people continue to put up with drunk and drugged driving, and the carnage on our highways, and allow the lackadaisical speed enforcement you see out on the highways today, nothing will be done. When you have drivers that have three and four driving while intoxicated convictions on their record, and are then involved in a fatal crash, a loud siren should be blasting in not only the publics' but the government's ears that something is more than wrong. These people are criminals who needed to be off the streets long before now. Why does it take someones' death to sound the alarm?

I've spent enough time at crashes to see the result; more than enough to last me many lifetimes. I've had to notify families that their loved ones wouldn't be coming home again, and if you don't think that's the worst job in the world, I don't know what you think it could be. All the air bags, seat belts and safety systems won't overcome velocity dynamics, when they far outweigh the normal design function that is designed into a car. And, no manufacturer tests for 100 mile per hour head-on collisions or side collisions at odd angles on the freeway. Metal is metal and flesh isn't. And when you mix the two in a crash, flesh doesn't do very well at all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Great Tradeoff for Veterans

Well, the VA says it can't afford to pay 3.3 billion dollars over the next 10 years if veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange are so adjudged, so it has continued to fight that issue, and for now it seems to be able to hold its own on the case. But, the fight isn't over yet.

Wait, though. I have a simple idea that would solve the funding issue once and for all. Take the money the government is spending on illegal aliens in this country, those who receive free everything, including healthcare, educational benefits, and more, and cut it off. They're illegal, meaning they are not entitled to anything! What part about illegal doesn't the government seem to understand?

In 2004, California alone spent over 10.5 Billion dollars supporting illegal aliens. That's 3 times the money the VA says it would spend in 10 years! Don't you see something wrong where a country would rather fund the illegal aliens than take proper care of their own veterans?

Illegal aliens who commit crimes, up to and including serious felonies are deported and come back time and again. One who brutally executed a police officer during a traffic stop had been deported at least three times. In 2004, California spent 1.7 billion dollars a year incarcerating illegals for various crimes, yet so many would have you believe the "poor illegals" just come here to work. Tell that fairy tale to the victims of their crimes. Deport them once and see that they never can come back. Seal the border as you need, to prevent infiltration by illegals and terrorists, for you know not which is which until you properly identify them.

Our state's nearness to bankruptcy can be closely related to the willingness to give away the store at each and every turn, and completely ignoring the will of the people for the past fourteen years, following the passage of Proposition 187, and continuing to dole out billions in free aid to illegal aliens. We have only the politicians to blame for the situation we're in, and regardless of how much any of them point fingers at the others, all one need do is look at the voting record of the Democrat controlled legislature who presses for money to be spent on these programs, and the witless judiciary who rule in the favor of giveaway programs.

And California is just the tip of the iceberg when you add in all the other states. There were an estimated 12 million illegal persons living in the US in 2007, according to government research. The cost associated with this illegal immigration was approximately 32 billion dollars, although some sources place the figures as high as 50 billion dollars or more. In California alone, the tax burden on every native-born family is said to be $1200 to make up for the illegals living on the system.

So, once again, why can we not take this money, being doled out to people who have no right to be here, who have broken Federal law to enter the country illegally, and are living off our tax dollars, and cut them off? And give that money to the veterans who fought for their country? Other than a bunch of bleeding heart politicians who pander to specific groups for their votes, and a judicial system that usually fails to do what's right for the public good and falls prey to short sightedness, and panders to splinter groups and special interests, there is no reason!

Remember when you vote to make it count and get rid of these people who constantly disrespect your service to your country. Most have never given anything to this country but rhetoric and, as you well know, that's worth nothing.

Agent Orange Continues to Destroy Veterans

The story below is from the May 31 issue of Stars and Stripes. It illustrates just how far off track the government is in handling the cases of our veterans who have been exposed to toxic chemicals in service to our country. What is appalling is the rulings that apply to persons who actually stepped foot on foreign soil (the "boots on ground" theory) are completely different to those who served on ships, even those who may have been awash with Agent Orange during certain operations.

Reading this story shows the only concern is money...not veterans' health, but money. Concern not for suffering and the welfare of our veterans, but how to avoid admitting that there could be hundreds of thousands of veterans with Agent Orange related disease. Our country has no problem sending billions offshore to some foreign nations to help them, but not for these veterans who placed their life and health at risk for their own nation? Shame on you!! America, get your priorities straight!!

Agent Orange Victory Reversed for Sailors
By Tom Philpot, Special to Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Saturday, May 31, 2008

A federal appeals court has delivered a stinging defeat to ‘Blue Water’ sailors and Coast Guard veterans of the Vietnam War who have been fighting for disability compensation from illnesses they contend resulted from shipboard exposure to deadly herbicides including Agent Orange.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 2-1 on May 8 that the Department of Veterans Affairs acted lawfully and reasonably in 2002 when it cut off Agent Orange-related disability payments and began to deny new claims from veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but never actually "set foot" in country.

The decision reversed a 2006 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in the case of Haas v. Nicholson. That three-judge panel unanimously rejected as "unduly restrictive" VA’s interpretation, by revised regulation, of qualifying "service" in Vietnam under the Agent Orange Act.
The U.S. military sprayed herbicides over Vietnam from 1962 through 1971 to strip away foliage under which enemy forces could hide, to destroy crops and to clear vegetation from around facilities and fire bases.

Over the last two decades, Congress and VA expanded the list of illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure and for which veterans can receive disability compensation. The list of ailments includes prostate cancer, type-2 diabetes, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, certain soft-tissue sarcomas, chloracne and skin conditions, Hodgkin’s disease, various respiratory cancers, leukemia and multiple myeloma.

VA officials worried that if the 2006 Haas decision survived a government appeal, the pool of veterans eligible for disability pay if they contract illnesses tied to Agent Orange would jump by 830,000 and VA benefit costs would rise by $3.3 billion over 10 years.

But from 1991 until early 2002, the VA was paying Agent Orange-related claims filed by sailors who only served off waters of Vietnam, said Barton F. Stichman, an attorney with the National Veterans Legal Services Program. NVLSP lawyers have represented the claimant in this case, Jonathan L. Haas, a retired Navy Reserve commander.

Stichman said sea service veterans for a decade won claims based on ailments linked to Agent Orange with relative ease. A manual used by VA claim adjudicators advised them to make awards based on presumptive service-connection of certain diseases if sea service veterans had received the Vietnam Service Medal. The VSM had been awarded to all military members who served from July 3, 1965 through March 28, 1973, in Vietnam, its contiguous waters or even in its airspace.

Haas served on an ammunition supply ship, USS Mount Katmai from August 1967 to April 1969. The ship operated off Vietnam but didn’t dock there and he never went ashore. By 2001, Haas had developed type-2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and loss of eyesight which he claimed were caused by herbicide exposure off Vietnam.

His regional VA office denied the claim, saying service connection couldn’t be established because Haas had not gone ashore. The Board of Veterans Appeals agreed. It turned out VA had reinterpreted the Agent Orange Act of 1991 regarding the phrase "service in the Republic of Vietnam," requiring at least a brief visit on land to be considered exposed to Agent Orange and eligible for disability pay for herbicide-related ailments.

The veterans’ claims court reviewed Haas’ appeal with a three-judge panel so the decision would affect all claims filed by Blue Water veterans. It found the VA was being too restrictive, in part because ships along the coast might have been exposed to at least as much toxin from windborne coastal area spraying as service members deemed exposed from brief visits ashore.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal District, in a 51-page opinion, has reversed the decision for Haas and fellow sailors, finding VA’s stricter interpretation of service in Vietnam permissible.

The court acknowledged that in a 1990 regulation VA had defined service in Vietnam to include veterans offshore. It also noted that, even today, a VA regulation informed by a Center for Disease Control study allows presumption of service-connected Agent Orange exposure for sailors who served only offshore in Vietnam but suffer from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The two-judge majority said Congress left ambiguous the meaning of having "served in the Republic of Vietnam" under the Agent Orange Act, and Haas pointed to no single clarifying statement in the legislative record. But Congress did give to the VA authority to interpret such ambiguities and those interpretations are "entitled to substantial deference," the court said.

But the third appeals court judge, Jeremy Fogel, dissented. He said judicial deference to administrative agencies is important but the appeals court should note that the intent of Congress has been to make it easier, not more difficult, for veterans to assert claims for exposure to Agent Orange.

"I agree with the Veterans Court," Fogel wrote, "that in the absence of any scientific evidence in the records that support a ‘foot on land’ requirement, the VA’s position is unreasonable."

Stichman said Haas will seek a fresh review of the case from a full or en banc panel of seven appeals court judges. Such reviews are granted only sparingly. If that fails, an appeal to the Supreme Court will be weighed.

Veterans can learn more about the lawsuit on line at www.nvlsp.org or at bluewaternavy.org

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How Safe IS Your Food, Your Kids Toys, Your Medications and???

You've all heard the multitude of recalls of items that contain things that are bad for you, your children and your pets. From pet food made with a poison contaminated wheat gluten, to lead in decorations on your childrens toys and garments, to tainted batched of medications that are injected in humans, to toothpaste containing the same ingredient as your car and truck anti-freeze! Where is all this crap coming from????

CHINA! That's where. And nobody is stopping it from crossing over the borders!

Your government agencies that are pledged to control the import of harmful substances and to keep you, your family and pets healthy are failing miserably. Bad enough they don't do the job at home, they fail even worse at keeping foreign goods safe to come into the country.

Think the FDA does a good job on controlling the safety of medications you take? Think again, my friends. Do a bit of research and see how many of the same FDA officials end up as lobbyists for the same companies they regulated, following the end of their tenure with the government. It's apparently not prohibited nor regulated so why not? But is it ethical. He**, no! But they do it anyway. More pork barrel politics with the pig hiring the butcher after the auction is over.

Labeling of medications is inconsistent among different countries, and if you question why an Australian package insert clearly warns of serious potential for breathing problems with a drug, but the US insert does not, the answer you might get from the FDA is that there "was more concern over sexual side effects than respiratory effects" on that drug, so we required the manufacturer put that on the label. WTF? More concern that you might not be able to have sex than you couldn't breathe??? No, more concern that if the FDA told the truth about the drug and made the manufacturer state the facts, the medication wouldn't sell as much, or be approved as quickly, and someone might not get a cushy job in the future perhaps?

At one time, Lyrica, a medication made by Pfizer, had a four page package insert for the Australian version, and only a two page US insert. Seems the Aussies were more on top of side effects than the US was and were concerned about the breathing problem, while the US insert made no mention. Following numerous complaints and God knows what other issues, now Pfizer mentions the breathing issue in their television ads. Wonder how many people suffered adverse issues before someone got on the ball? I do know the response from the FDA on this issue was so wishy-washy it could make you vomit, if you weren't already sick from the medication!

Once again, you need to take the responsibility for your own good health and fight for what's right. Try as best you can to avoid the products from China and buy American when you can. I know that's hard, but do the best you can. We need to send a signal that we won't put up with this any longer. Stop buying brands that import this crap and if enough people stop, even the giants like Mattel will come to their knees, because without our money, they can't survive. Too late to wish you stood firm when your child has lead poisoning, and friend, the effects won't go away when it takes hold on a developing mind! Same with pet food. How will you handle the loss of that beloved cat or dog because of some plastic used as an extender in your beloved animal's chow? Tell your doctor and pharmacist you won't accept any medications from China or overseas. I won't, because my health is too important to take a chance on some idiot trying to make a few more bucks, and slipping some anti-freeze in to fill out a critical med shipment. We don't have a billion people to waste here, not even one on their criminality!

Finally what would you tell your family and children if they were harmed as a result of how these things? That it's okay because the bad Chinese company didn't mean to do it? That you thought the government would protect us? Wrong on both counts. The Chinese companies meant to rip off the consumer and didn't care who they hurt in doing so. and the government can't and doesn't protect us adequately against these type incursions into our food chain or clothing or toys. Time to stand tall and cover your own butts, people or you'll find nobody there to do it for you.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gasoline and Trading in or Dumping That SUV

Now that gasoline is over $4 per gallon and headed towards the $5 mark any weekend now, people are flocking to car dealers, eBay and other auto sales sites, trying to unload cars and trucks that get poor gas mileage. I've read and heard about some with large payments remaining who want to just park them at the dealers or bank, take the hit on the credit and walk away.

Whoa there, partner! Stop and do some math first before you get yourself in deep kimche over this gasoline mess. Even deeper than you might already be. Look at several points and see where you are now and just where you would be better off by either continuing to drive, selling, turning in or even simply parking the higher fuel consuming vehicle.

If you own the vehicle outright, and have no payments to make, and it's a relatively new and good running vehicle, your loss in selling it will likely offset the purchase of many gallons of higher priced fuel. Check the Kelly Blue Book on line at kbb.com or Edmunds.com or the NADA pricing, and see what you would get for the vehicle realistically in fair or good condition, since that's what dealers usually give you, less $500 reconditioning costs on a trade-in; less if you want them to simply take it off your hands. In some cases, they won't be interested in buying it at all unless it's a very desirable model. You might do better with a private party sale, but again, it's a hard sell to find many people willing to give you anywhere near top dollar for a fuel hungry vehicle right now.

If your loss would be $4000, you might consider that at an up cost of $2.00 per gallon over what it was last year, you could buy two thousand gallons of fuel to offset that loss. You can't figure the full $4-5 cost per gallon, since you'd buy fuel anyway, only the excess cost of what fuel is today versus what you lose on the vehicle when you trade it in or sell it outright. Sure seems to make sense to keep the vehicle, minimize usage when possible and hope that over the next several years the prices will stabilize and come down. Even if they don't, in two years you wouldn't be any worse off monetarily on the vehicle than you are now, with the exception of depreciation. And, considering that type and fuel economy seem to be more factored in than age right now, that might not even be an issue.

Selling the vehicle for a more fuel efficient vehicle makes sense only if the loss is overshadowed by the fuel savings, and you can recoup your loss within the first 24 months of operation, regardless of where fuel costs rise to. This postulates you drive a lot, as it makes no sense to trade in a fuel hog for a fuel sipper, if you only drive a few miles a day to work. You'll never recoup your costs if you do.

Can you park the vehicle and not use it except on certain occasions? If so, that could be the way to go. Talk to your insurance agent about whether you can reduce costs of coverage by minimizing mileage and only use that 4x4 SUV or truck to haul that trailer once a month or two for play weekends instead of every day to work. If you can get along without it for the long haul, some states allow you to file a notice of planned non-operation, where you can keep plates and park it in your garage or driveway, and then notify the DMV and pay the appropriate fees when you again want to put it back on the road.

Finally, before you decide to dump your 4 wheel treasure on the finance company, or dealer or bank and just walk away, even though you give it to them, that's still known as a constructive repossession, and it will be on your credit record as such. As bad as that is in itself, in lowering your credit score and other nasty credit hits, there's more to consider. If the bank or finance company has to sell you vehicle, it will have the same market conditions to deal with as you did. They will have reconditioning costs, and selling that gas guzzler won't be easy for them either, so your vehicle will likely end up at an auto auction, and may only bring as little as half of what you owe on it.

You know where I'm going here? YOU then owe the remainder of the money to the bank or finance company and they will take you to collections to get it. YOU now have no vehicle and still owe half what you originally owed, so you're in worse shape than you started out. Plus you have no transportation, still may need another car, and your credit is in the toilet to boot! Talk about shooting yourself in the family jewels!!

Think long and hard before making a decision as to what to do in these times of high fuel prices. The prices are likely only going to go up and we can hope for some stability and relief in the months and year ahead.

By the way...I do have a 2007 SUV, so I empathize and sympathize!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

YouTube Video - Illegal Immigrant Medical Costs

Here's what a single hospital in Martin County, Florida is saying about the unreimbursed health care costs due to illegal immigration from just a few patients! Just a few!!!! Now add all the other hospitals and clinics and EMS and paramedic services, air ambulances and freebies that are being utilized by illegal immigrants and you can get some grasp of the scope of this problem nationally. In Southern California, the issue is magnified many times greater than that of Florida, as the number of illegal immigrants is tremendously higher, and the costs of providing services is greater. This discounts the costs reimbursed by the Federal Government on the Social Security Program through Section 1011. (Didn't know about that one, did you?) Simply Google SECTION 1011 PROVIDER PAYMENT DETERMINATION and you'll be more amazed. The hospital or provider can't ask if the patient is undocumented. Simply check the box, and you and I get the bill. Nice, huh? But the pot is short on cash, thus the problems Martin County and everyone else is having!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLJxmJZXgNI&eurl=http://insureblog.blogspot.com/

Veterans On the Front Lines, Then On the Back Burner!

Somehow, America, yes, you read that right A-M-E-R-I-C-A, seems to forget that when you send men and women off to war, we owe them a debt, not only of gratitude, but much more than that. I didn't say we "ought to give them" or "it would be nice to give them" but it's a DEBT, just as big or bigger than any debt we now or will ever owe anyone. It's a debt owed for the freedom we enjoy every day, for the ability to open your eyes in the morning and be free of tyranny and oppression, to have what you have in this country. No matter how much, or how little you have, it's because of THEM that you have anything at all.

We owe them a standard of care, and if needed, a standard of living, commensurate with their sacrifice to this country. They didn't ask for their wounds, external, internal or mental that resulted in their disabilities, whether those disabilities can be seen or not. Many veterans return home from overseas without any signs of traumatic injury, and are seemingly fine for weeks, months, even years, and then the unthinkable occurs. What they were exposed to, be it toxic materials or the traumatic stresses of combat, or even exposures beyond what a human should endure, pours out and they start to fall apart. This can occur slowly or all at once and they have no support system in place. Many vets turn to alcohol or drugs to try and cope. Sadly, some commit suicide. The suicide rate among veterans is high, although this has been underplayed for years by government agencies. Frankly, they don't want you to know how poorly they handle the veterans problems when they return home.

The Veterans Administration is underfunded every year, and organizations that are pro-actively helping the vets, such as the Disabled American Veterans and American Legion, to name two, constantly fight to to push the congress and senate to appropriate needed funds. But it's an uphill battle to secure funding, when the politicians would rather pork barrel money for precious personal projects in their districts, than help those who have sacrificed so much for their country. The politicians constantly attach pork barrel spending to Department of Defense annual appropriations, and lump the Veterans Administration spending in with this, so that when they start to line item some spending out, and it goes to the White House, monies get cut out and the VA loses. Thus, the veterans lose while the pork remains in the budgets for pet projects that don't help the vets one iota!

What is happening is longer waits for veterans to receive benefits from the VA; sometimes years for those benefits to be received. In some cases, the veteran dies before benefits are granted. This is now getting worse as all the new veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are returning. Time to get a medical appointment is longer and the 30 day rule is being bent if not broken. Your visits to your primary care physician have changed from every three months to once every six months to once a year. Where you used to see a specialist every three months for a serious condition, the doctors' workloads have become so high that you're now lucky to see a specialist every six months. And, many of the doctors appear to be newbie residents who are not all that familiar with combat type injuries, although some are very good. You just don't know who'll you'll get as there is a big turnover as well. Don't even think about being referred to a cardiologist unless you're in the ER for a heart condition as they don't have enough in the system to refer you to. That's even if you have a heart condition, and that's from personal experience!

If a vet needs medications for a service related condition, the VA will provide the medication, but if the dosage is half what the VA formulary provides, he will have to split the pills in half, even if it results in an uneven dosage. Wonder how many times that results in medical problems in itself? But again, that saves the government money that can be better spent on political pork!

Americans need to DEMAND their government to appropriately fund the VA annually with a guaranteed budget, and DEMAND our veterans have an ombudsman to oversee their benefits are provided in a timely and fair manner. Every year, these valiant warriors who gave so much to defend your freedom, have to wonder and worry whether there will be funding to provide for them and their healthcare for another year.

Sometime, think of what would have happened in our history, where you and your family would be right now, if nobody had answered the call. If not one person had stepped forward to defend. From the revolution forward, if not one person had written that blank check to the United States Of America, placing their life on the payable to line, for the freedom of this country, and freeing others from oppression and tryanny.

Where would you be right now? .........

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Obama as Commander in Chief?

I'm not about to get into the political arena and tell anyone who to vote for. That, as always, is an individual choice and something that should be considered very carefully, free from the rhetoric you hear from the political arena, and the TV ads that seem to assail you from every angle, and will until the votes are counted.

Forgetting about anything else; the facts are that Mr. Obama is not Muslim, he was sworn in on the Bible and not the Quran, and he does say the Pledge of Allegiance. He's a one term Senator and does not have the requisite experience to become the leader of this great country.

Let's talk about military experience. Obama....zero. Not one minute of experience to be Commander in Chief of our military. That speaks volumes of why he's already stated he'd powwow with every hostile nation. I'd be very concerned he'd likely give away the store while he's at it. Even his Democratic political rival, Senator Clinton, took him to task for even suggesting such an absurd thing. Meeting with the leader of Iran? And Cuba? Then what. Normalize relations while Iran builds nuclear weapons and sit back as they ready the fire button? Then run around in circles and ask his advisers what to do since they're now a "friendly" nation? Mr. Obama postulates such absurd ideas and then backpedals after the ideas backfire. Easy enough during election campaigns when rhetoric is cheap, but how to backpedal when you're the leader and you've committed yourself, is a "whole 'nother ballpark" as they say.

Since he has no military experience, and hasn't bothered to even go to Iraq to meet with top military personnel there, he has no idea what's going on except what his own advisers tell him. Come on, Mr. Obama, get off your duff and go see first hand what's going on in the real world. If you aspire to lead our troops, you at least owe them the courtesy of going into their territory and spending some time. Or, are you afraid to do that?

Mr. Obama has no idea what military missions are all about, nor does he have a clue what combat is like. Put him in Iraq in the middle of a serious situation and you'd have a real mess to clean up, if you know what I mean. You just can't trade exuberance for experience, and John McCain has experience. Not that John McCain is perfect in any sense of the word, but if I had to face an enemy, I'd rather have McCain behind me and Obama in front of me rather than the other way around. At least I'd know where my backup was and could depend on it being knowledgeable and solid!

I don't know where this election will end up, but I do know that combat veterans will think about their experiences, and those of their sons and daughters, and who they want to be at the helm of the country. One candidate promises to pull all the troops out post haste, while the other says we'll stay and win and then come home. I don't know if either is 100% correct, but running away won't solve the problems in Iraq any more than it did in Vietnam. Neither Obama nor McCain created this situation, but one will have to be the one to help solve it. And, for my money, I'd choose the one who's been there and done that to be the best choice to make the right decisions.

Housing Foreclosures

This might be a delicate subject with some, but here goes anyway....

What the heck were you thinking?? Now I'm not saying that some people in foreclosure didn't fall on hard times through illness, job loss, or maybe being flim-flammed into thinking that mortgage payment would somehow be affordable when interest rates doubled or tripled. To those people, I am truly sorry that you ended up in these hard times. I sincerely wish you the best, and hope you can somehow find a way out of the housing debacle.

For those who were possibly scammed by lenders or real estate agents into signing documents, who could never have afforded the homes in the first place, and then having income amounts changed, as some newscasts suggest could be the case, my suggestion is "go get 'em" and use every legal avenue available to you along the way. I truly hope justice can be done if any of this has occurred.

But for those that simply bought way over their heads and now want the federal government, meaning me and my fellow taxpayers, to bail you out...not only no, but he** no!

Looking at some local neighborhoods with big dollar homes, I've seen the Mercedes, BMW's and even Lamborghini's in the driveways. People living larger than life on income that couldn't possibly support that lifestyle for a reasonable future. Then the interest rates went up and all of a sudden here's panic. The $6000 a month house payment, $3000 a month payment on the Merz and Lambo, the $1000 a month property tax plus all the credit card payments, not even considering food, fuel, utilities, etc would require an income in excess of $200,000 just to sustain. POOF! The for sale signs went up.

The lucky ones shed the fancy cars and within a few months, a drive through the same neighborhoods saw the same houses with the driveways stocked with Hondas, Toyotas, Chevys and Fords. Others were lucky enough to be able to sell at the very beginning of the foreclosure troubles. For others, though, the for sale signs become weathered and replaced by foreclosure signs, bank sale or short sale signs. Perfectly manicured lawns gave way to less than perfect, although in areas like this, there is no urban decay. People moved out and the homes just sit, waiting for the auction man to do his thing or some cash-laden buyer to make an offer in this now buyers' market.

But why should the government help homeowners keep their homes when they themselves went way over their heads in purchasing them? The answer is they should not! Home ownership is a responsibility, not a right. These people whine and complain like it's the government's fault that they're losing their home. It's not. It's their own fault! They knew the potentials for mortgage rate increases, and in many cases, how much the payments could increase! If they bought a reasonable cost home to begin with that they could afford then, and into the future, and didn't gamble on interest rates remaining low, they would still be living in their home. They took a chance and lost! Simple enough.

If they went to Las Vegas and bet the money on a roulette wheel while staying in the casino's hotel, and lost all their money, the hotel would kick them out. They wouldn't expect the government to bail them out of their loss. So why bail them out of another gamble they made and lost?

Just another example of people not taking responsibility for mistakes they make. If you make a decision, you have to stand by it. If it's a good decision, then you profit from it. If it's a bad decision, you lose from it. But either way, it's your decision. Unless you're mentally unstable and incapable of legally making that decision, you made it and the results are your responsibility. If you were incapable of making that decision, then you wouldn't have signed the papers, and all this wouldn't matter anyway.

Parental Abdication of Responsibilities

What's that you ask? Parental abdication of responsibility is when parents do not take and exercise the responsibility to raise their children in a manner conducive to the norms of society. Those parents seem to allow their children to be guided, or rather misguided, by whatever they see and hear and wherever they are at a given moment, with no consequence to their actions.

In an era of the two-earner family, we could blame much of this on the "latchkey" effect, where children are often left unsupervised at the end of the school day, and thus susceptible to getting into mischief or trouble due to that lack of parental supervision. However, it is interesting to note that the lack of parental responsibility is as often observed in single-earner families as in dual-earner families, so it's difficult to blame the extra effort of families who either must work to maintain a decent standard of living, or those who simply wish to "keep up with the Joneses" as being the crux of the problem with children who have a lack of parental guidance.

In the 50's and 60's, a child who was taken home by the police for a minor violation had more to fear from his parents than from the authorities. All but the most hardened juvenile would rather go to what was then known as the Juvenile Detention Center than face his father and/or mother after being brought home, as the punishment would be swift and sure. But in later years, things changed. Many children were no longer taught respect for the law in their homes, and when an officer brought a child home, they received a fusillade of abuse, rather than thanks for not taking the child to JDC. Parents started blaming the "system" for everything that their children did wrong, rather than look at what wrong their child might have done. It became the "everyone else is wrong" syndrome that pervades society today. If you doubt it exists, watch a few episodes of COPS or another similar program on television and see the response when people are caught red-handed.

Parents need to step up to the plate and teach their children right from wrong. You can't expect them to learn that from their friends who don't have parental support. Did you know that the main reason kids join gangs is because they don't have a familial unit, and the gang becomes their family? If you don't provide a family environment for them, someone else will, and it won't be loving, but it will be all they know, and they'll take to it like a duck to water.

When your children see a superstar or sports figure who has done something wrong, and been adjudicated guilty, discuss it with them. Explain that it's not a positive thing to have a negative role model. Having a rap star for a role model is cool, but not when he advocates killing police officers. Having a baseball player as a role model is cool, but not when he pumps illegal drugs in his veins. Having a football player as someone you want to aspire to be like is fine, but not when he practices cruelty to animals, and is convicted and goes to prison.

Most of all, be a parent. Being a friend is fine but first and foremost, be a parent. Your children, hopefully, will have lots of friends over their lifetime, but only one set of parents to guide and nurture them. Nobody else can take your place and if you fail at this, all the friends in the world won't help.

Why is there a Double Standard for Hollywood?

Every time we hear of a Hollywood personality being arrested, it seems there is a double standard being used. Under aged drinking, drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs and/or narcotics, possession of illegal drugs, all seem to be handled with a cavalier attitude, and a slap on the wrist.

The most recent arrest of Tatum O'Neal illustrates the point. When she was arrested she allegedly asked the police to "let her go." Thankfully they didn't, but once again, it will be interesting to see how her sentencing goes, and if she gets favoritism in her treatment.

Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, spent very few days in jail as I recall. Funny enough, the circus that surrounded Paris' incarceration probably made Sheriff Baca decide never to incarcerate a young star again for any reason. It probably cost a million dollars to get Paris in and out for one night! Then we have Britney Spears, who creates a three ring circus all by herself and should be paying millions just for all the costs for law enforcement to deal with her antics.

Then there is Amy Winehouse and I don't even want to go there. They give accolades to this person who seems to have nothing but trouble with authorities internationally over drugs, but she's still loose and free to move about. Non-celebs would be so deep in prison they would have to pipe sunlight in by now!

What's wrong with this picture? The justice system is sending a very wrong signal to our children, and to society in general. The signal seems to be that it's okay to be a celebrity and do bad things and get away with it, with little to no consequence, simply because you're a celebrity, have money and/or have a good lawyer. The signal should be that when you're held in esteem by society, by way of your station in life or your status, perhaps you should be held to a higher standard, or at a minimum, to the top end of the standard that the rest of society is held to. If you don't want to be held to a standard of decency, then you shouldn't be in the public spotlight at all. And, don't tell me the paparazzi is what places a celebrity there, because I don't buy it for a moment. Celebrities make their own news, by doing and acting in manner of their own choosing.

Celebrities should be good role models. Or not have celebrity status. Better still, parents need to be better mentors to their children, and teach them that emulation of these poor role models is wrong. Stop paying to attend movies and creations featuring actors and actresses who are not good role models, and as the box office dollars dwindle, see how changes occur. Because, Hollywood, as any business, runs on the dollar, And as cute or sexy or darling as any "star" is today, the only thing that matters to the studio and the media is how much money they make from them. When the money goes away, so does the stardom. And, you have the power to decide who is and who isn't a star. How about that?

Worshipping the Wrong Heroes?

Somehow, we've placed sports and Hollywood figures at the pinnacle of achievement and idolatry in this world, and found them to be worthy of every second of media coverage available. No matter how convoluted their lives are, kids long to emulate them as they grab the spotlight on Monday night, making the long run for the winning touchdown, hitting the game winning home run, or walking the red carpet at the Oscars.

Yet, the real heroes of this world are not playing sports. They don't make millions in salary and don't endorse designer clothes. They have to fight to get a decent raise in salary, fight for medical coverage following injuries sustained in the line of duty, work twenty or more years for a retirement persion, are often disabled and can't work within the first few years of their career.

These are the real hereoes of our society. Our armed forces, law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and first responders. They work for low pay in many cases and lay their lives on the line every day. The media doesn't arrive in time, nor take time to show them rushing into burning buildings to rescue a child or an elderly or handicapped person, nor are they there to see the split second decisions made by a police officer under fire. Yet they will second guess that officer over and over again, about whether he made the right decision to fire his weapon, even though they were never there.

Our military stands between us and oppression, tyranny and a world that would take away our freedom. Those of us who served to keep America free know firsthand what lies on the other side of that thin line of defense. Unfortunately, most don't have a clue, nor do they take the time to acknowledge the selfless acts of the men and women, who defend them and their way of living each and every day.

Sports are an important part of society and it's certainly not wrong to look up to a quality, clean living sports figure. But remember who the real heroes are. Running down the field against a group of men on Sunday afternoon in Chicago doesn't make you near the hero as running across a road with your men under fire in Baghdad to save a life of a fellow Marine or soldier, or maybe just to get to the other side to save all your lives.

Tax Evasion and Who Ends Up Paying the Bill

You've all seen the ads on TV. "If you owe the IRS over $10,000 in back taxes, call us and we can help you settle for pennies on the dollar." Then the ads go on to show the smiling faces of people who have "settled" tax liens with the IRS, some of whom allegedly owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and only paid a tenth of that. WTF???

I am aware that the IRS will settle for less that what is owed, when there is little potential for getting the full amount. But how does it ever come to that when the people shown are individuals or small businesses? Outright tax evasion? Where was the government when this was happening? And, how could such huge amounts be let slide when they seemingly catch the little family guy for a minor mathematical error on their 1040?

Bottom line on this is that the honest taxpayers end up eating the taxes for those people who do not pay. Plain and simple. It may only be pennies or a single dollar, but we all contribute to the government coffers for those who don't pay. Tax evasion is a crime and somehow people are allowed to get away with it and pass the bill on to others and once again, the honest taxpayer ends up shafted!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Why You Can't Afford Medical Care

It's eight o'clock on a warm and sultry Southern California Friday evening, and you suddenly have chest pains. Not knowing whether it's indigestion, or maybe a heart attack, you have your spouse drive you the half-mile to the local emergency room. You expect prompt care, for after all, this is America, with the finest medical care in the world, right?

As you step through the ER doors, you gaze over a sea of faces, and the buzz of a strange language assails your ears. Combined with the cries of numerous babies, and children seemingly running loose all over, you're disoriented. Occasionally you hear a word or two of English, but you can discern most of what you are hearing is Spanish in several dialects, from what you remember from high school studies.

You make your way to the desk and a woman asks you what you're there for, takes your insurance information, and tells you you will have to wait your turn to see the triage nurse. You tell her the pain in your chest is getting worse, and she patiently explains she will try to have you seen as soon as possible, but the ER is overloaded tonight, and every night, and they're doing the best they can to move patients along with whatever priority triage can establish. You can't find a seat, and find yourself feeling faint and slowly crumple to the floor near the desk. Fortunately, this prompts a quick response and you're wheeled into the ER area where you're assessed and moved to the front of the "line" where it is determined that indeed, you have had a coronary event.

Is this an unusual case? No, not at all. Why? Because our emergency rooms and hospitals are flooded with illegal immigrants and others seeking free medical care at all hours of the night and day, especially at hours when the free community clinics are closed. Hospitals are bound by law not to turn them away regardless of how minimal their issues are, and it clogs the system so badly, that persons having true medical emergencies are often relegated to hallways or secondary care areas due to lack of space and personnel. In some cases, gravely ill people die because people with minor issues jam the ER's and triage is overwhelmed. When seconds count and you have dozens if not a hundred people to deal with, it's hard to blame triage and not the system that allows this to continue.

How mindless and simple are the issues that bring people to the ER when the care is free? A child puts his shoes on the wrong feet and then complains his feet hurt, so his family brings him to the ER to be examined. That's a fact! Minor colds, scrapes and abrasions that can be solved with band-aids at home come to the ER and jam it for hours. A 10 year old with a runny nose goes to the ER. We're not talking asthma, allergies or trauma here. Plain old home care things or things that could be taken care of by a family doctor. But no, since it's free, go to the ER and let the taxpayer pay for it. Or, in many cases, let the hospital absorb the costs and when they start to fail and close the doors, everyone can lament the loss of another healthcare facility and loss of jobs.

No one begrudges emergency healthcare for the truly ill who need emergency care, no matter who they are. But care for free seems to give a whole new meaning to "emergency" to people who don't have to pay for those services and in doing so, endanger the lives and well-being of others who direly need them.

You can't afford a vacation, but the Arabs can?

While you're sweltering in the city this year, unable to take a vacation due to the soaring gasoline prices, high cost of food, the housing crisis, and the amazing increases in airline and travel costs, many of those in the middle east will be enjoying luxury vacations in the most wonderful resorts in Dubai, Riyadh and Oman.

Why? Because they're using your hard earned money from, you guessed it, OIL! The money you spent to put fuel in your vehicles and agricultural equipment has been funneled to the Arab and middle eastern countries to pay for their luxury vacations and fineries, while you sit at home unable to afford not luxuries, but even a decent vacation as a small reward for 50 weeks of toil.

Ask yourself how this is fair? Why do we, as a great nation, sell goods on the open market at a cheap price, and then pay an inflated price for what we need? We need oil so they charge us an arm and a leg? They need agricultural products that we produce, so let's up the ante here! Charge them the same price for an equivalent quantity of grain as they do oil and see how that shoe fits! If other countries want to gouge us for their products, gouge them back. Let them get hungery for awhile and let them lick the oil from the sand and see if that fills their bellies! They seem to think it's okay if our elderly suffer from the winter cold as thay can't afford the cost of heating oil in the winter.

Write your Senators and Congressman and ask them to turn the tables on the oil producers and those who are ripping us off. Not only the oil companies here at home, but those who pull it from the ground as well. Without some action, many will find themselves out of work, sitting in the dark and cold without a roof over their head, as our economy falters even more in the months ahead. But you'll still be able to pick up a paper or magazine and read all about the rich in Dubai and Riyadh having a wonderful vacation!