Sunday, June 5, 2011

Palin is the media's favorite gotcha question taker.

Every couple of months headlines all over the internet, and often times even on tv indicate that Palin, who came within a respectable distance of becoming this country's VP, is... stupid. You're probably familiar with her latest gaff concerning Paul Revere, and her incorrect interpretation of the famous story. I'm not defending her, I just think calling her stupid is an unfair characterization. She's an easy target, and she's often in the cross hairs. The liberals LOVE to hate her, which actually amuses me. What does not amuse me however is that every time she gets gotten from the gotcha question, the incident is taken out of context and turned into a Tina Feyesque jab. Everyone looks at Republicans as if to say, you would have been ok with her in charge!

There is a vicious circle of misinformation about Palin. Despite the fact that Palin did not say "I can see Russia from my house" in 2008, most people, especially those who hate her, believe that she did say it. In fact the real quote was altered and put in an SNL skit. Obama voters in this video didn't know much about anything, but they did think Palin actually made that comment. It's a fairly lengthy video produced to discredit Obama voters, however, they begin asking about the Russia quote halfway through the interviews.

Tina Fey on SNL took one of Palin's comments and turned it into a punch line. The dumb quote became the truth, and "common knowledge"…… to people who get their news from the Daily Show. The real quote: "They're our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." That's true! I believe her point was to let the rest of the country know that Russia is geographically closer than they probably think. That's a perspective worth thinking about in my opinion.

Her latest gaff concerning Paul Revere was the result of a gotcha question during her bus tour of historical American landmarks. When someone asked her who Paul Revere was her answer went something like this: He warned the British that the Americans were coming, and there were bells and a horse and some shots fired in the air. That is not at all word for word, and I probably made her sound more dumb. Critics point out, and rightfully so, that Revere actually warned the Americans not the British and there were no bells. And while the answer is less than scholarly, some have pointed out that it is NOT inaccurate at all. In some not so fabled or poetic historical writings it is found that Paul Revere did in fact warn the British that the Americans were ready to fight. I realize that it's a stretch to consider this is what she had in mind when she gave her answer. After all, when you think of Paul Revere, you think of the poem, or the story that details his famous ride through the streets. So what's my point? Palin is often picked to prove the point of perilous POTUS potential. See how I did that? It just started that way and I went with it. It served no purpose however. The gotcha question and subsequent headlines are designed to let conservatives know that they almost let her happen.

The problem is, if you take anyone, even Obama, and play gotcha with them, you will get a similar result. Imagine if throughout the next several months you were approached by
someone asking a random question about a historical event, or foreign affair.
If you're smart, you'd probably get most of them right, but you wouldn't
get all of them right. Even the so-called easy ones! Quickly, and as if you
had a microphone shoved in your face right now, tell me without hesitation who President Carter's VP was.

Most of you probably had the answer within seconds, after all you're all friends of mine, and you're smart! But I guarantee that some of you didn't. Don't worry, you don't have to admit it. Imagine though, if I judged you for that lack of knowledge for the rest of your life. Wasn't it Obama who remarked that he visited 57 states? I know he doesn't think there are 57 states. He was probably tired or just wasn't thinking clearly at the time. Or maybe it was wishful thinking. The more states, the more people he could require to purchase health care.

Palin is a lightening rod. People love to hate her, so I think they want her to be stupid. I believe Palin is intelligent. I could rattle off a list of her accomplishments but it could easily be picked apart by detractors, or even worse, compared to Obama's accomplishments before he was President. In which case, I actually think Palin wins hands down. All that is beside the point, and it's not the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to illustrate that often times the parody, especially a really funny one, becomes reality. And it's just as unfair when it happens to liberal democrats, although it does not appear to be paraded in the public nearly as much. But The Tina Feys and Jon Stewarts are all too happy to perpetuate these misconceptions. They are like the cool kids in high school who make fun of the jocks, or the mathletes, or the good looking students. Their well placed barbs solidify their coolness and their target's so called un-coolness. They're good at it, there's a reason they're in the position they're in.

I'm not funny?
Although, I can't really explain Bill Maher.

Bottom line: I'm not taking a stand against popularity here. I Just want you to consider that It's easy to make fun of someone's answer about Paul Revere. It's another thing to give the answer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ride a bike or pay 4 bucks a gallon?

    In light of the recent jump in gas prices I have seriously considered curtailing my usage. I have a perfectly capable bicycle that I bought from Wal-mart for 150 bucks, I think it's time I let the investment pay off. Why not? I love to ride a bike! If I decide to do it, I will do it out of principle alone. I can afford 4 dollars a gallon, but it's just not right. I think it's literally highway robbery!
   News reports indicate that the fighting in Libya is to blame. As I understand it, the mere speculation that there could be a shortage (because nobody would be pumping out the reserves in that oil rich country) the price goes up to compensate for the loss - the ol' supply and demand -flimsy excuse in my book!
   This is not the first time I've locked the oil companies out of my wallet. Back in 2007 I believe, when gas prices had in fact reached 4 dollars a gallon I began riding the bus to work. By my calculations I was saving more than a hundred dollars, if not more, each month. I won't lie, riding the bus was not enjoyable. It was inconvenient, and the bus didn't even take me all the way to my destination. My commute took twice as long to get to work, and then there's the germ thing. I'm not a snob, but I do have some OCD issues.
    Riding a bicycle will also produce some challenges: The distance. Security. And my appearance when I arrive at work (Where I have to be on tv!).
    As for the distance. I actually love a challenge, especially a physical one. I'll have to adjust for time though. Mapquest estimates that it's about a 10 mile trek. I'm sure with some creativity I can trim that down to 7 or 8. And that brings me to security. The creativity would have me riding through some "bad" neighborhoods. And by bad I mean areas that are known for violent crime. My ride home would be literally in the middle of the night. This is by far my biggest concern. As a journalist I see the violence play out on the very streets I'll be riding on. I'm not a great fighter, and I'm certainly not a violent person. But if I were an attacker, I would let me pedal on by. Because there would be consequences, I don't intend on becoming a statistic.
     Now onto appearance. I have to assume these prices will continue into the summer months. I will no doubt be very hot and sweaty. This can somewhat be fixed when I get to work. But I will have to allow for some more time. Actually a lot of time. My hair can get pretty ridiculous.
    Look, the oil companies know how easy they've made our lives. We don't, until we hop on a bicycle and make it part of our daily routine.
    I'm not anti-oil. In fact I'm very much pro-oil, and more than that I'm pro-industry. But guess what, industry also produced a perfectly good bicycle that sits in my back yard.
    With all that said, I still haven't decided to commit. Because that's exactly what it takes to ween yourself off of fossil fuel - commitment.
   Who knows, I might even do a story on it.
   If I do commit, hopefully the government, and the oil companies will regain their senses, and I will be glad to rejoin the very comfortable driving public.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Minimum payments were outrageous!

    As promised here are a few details of my debt with Discover.
    I requested every monthly statement going back to 2005. They sent them to me all at once.
My mailbox was filled with more than 40 individual reminders of the misery. I looked at more than half of them before I got what I wanted - to be able to share with you how devastated and hopeless I felt for at least two years when I looked at these bills each month.

On January 4th, 2006 my total balance was 3,960 dollars. My minimum payment due was 80 dollars. According to the next statement, I had only sent in 20 dollars. The next  minimum payment due for February was 152 dollars. I was now over my 4100 dollar limit with a new balance of 4,130 dollars. Per Discover's policy, it's time to kick me when I'm down, HARD. I was hit with a 39 dollar late fee, and the 30 dollars over the limit in addition to the monthly payment. The next statement shows a new balance of 4,231 dollars. This went on for months and months. Records show that I reached as high as 4,493 dollars for Discover alone. I still had another card with about half as much debt. I was never able to catch up. I tried, I really did. But I belonged to Discover, and it didn't want me to catch up. I should have sent my payments in on time, I could have avoided hundreds of dollars in late fees. I also should have never went over my limit. If I recall correctly, my rationale was "I'll just send in a little extra next month." But because I wasn't familiar with every single fee they imposed, I didn't realize the "extra" I planned to send in probably went towards those fees. I think (I can't bring myself to look at the statements again) my APR towards the end was something like 26 or 29%. I started with a 9% APR. By the way, Discover did have a nice little cash back rewards program. I think I wracked up a total of .36 cents. I'm not sure if that was applied to my balance.

 Because these statements were so damn depressing to look at, I'm sure more than a few just went straight into the trash can, poor choice I know, but when things are ugly, the last thing you want is for someone to show you exactly how ugly. It's disturbing to think of how many people are dealing with that anxiety right now, only with twice as much, or three times as much debt than I had.

  In late 2006 I ended my relationship with Discover by consolidating my credit card debt. But I still owed them lots of money. I got a call from the Discover representative who wanted to know why I was ending such a wonderful relationship. I told her that the penalties, fees, and APR's might not have been illegal, but they were certainly abusive. She replied, "Come on, we're not that bad". The truth was, combined with my own irresponsibility and Discover's greediness we were both that bad. It was beyond bad, it felt evil, un-American, and even counter intuitive. With the help of Discover I had made my bed, and it was time for lights out. Thank God, my debt was never so out of control that it went to a collector, or I'm sure I would have another paragraph to follow.

   It's so easy to turn to a credit card when you need a few extra dollars for needs. But unless you're a millionaire ( in which case you're not much use to a credit card company anyway) I suggest you keep it off that card.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An open letter to Discover

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog do not reflect those of KSLA News 12 or Raycom Media.

A letter that I'll be sending to Discover CEO, David Nelms after I get all the details of my account. I'll also share the details on this blog - how much I owed, how much I paid in fees and interest... ect.

Discover had a death grip on me. It held my credit rating hostage. I was powerless… so I thought.
What you did might not have been illegal, but it certainly wasn't fair! You'll be thinking the same of me, when I tell everyone, in detail, how you tried to break me.

Five years ago my credit card debt was out of control, somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 or 7k.Today, it's not, no thanks to the credit card companies. I've heard all the arguments over what the banks should do or shouldn't do as it loans trillions of dollars to consumers. And I'm familiar with the national debate over why Total U.S. consumer debt (which includes credit card debt and non-credit card debt but not mortgage debt) reached $2.45 trillion as of March 2010. (Source: Federal Reserve's G.19 report on consumer credit, May 2010 and taken from the Consolidated Consumer Credit Services website. ) But let me be clear. I am a believer in taking responsibility for your own actions. Nobody got me into debt but me, I dug the hole, which is why I paid back every penny. With that said, once the hole was deep enough, the credit card companies began piling on the dirt. Through my own stubbornness and determination I was able to climb back out. I had YOU on my back the entire time.
When I would miss a payment, which was often, Discover would add abusive, and downright ridiculous late charges, making it nearly impossible to pay the minimum payment. On top of that, I saw my interest rate skyrocket to ridiculous levels. I wanted to pay you back. You wanted me to be indebted to you my entire life.
Because I'm a pro business person I am not an advocate of doing away with the lending industry or over-regulating it. That's like saying food should go away because fast food is unhealthy. I still believe the loan industry is vital to our economy. But I also believe predatory and unfair lending is real, and credit card companies are the worst offenders - the fast food restaurants of the loan industry. You guys are shameless.

My debt with Discover felt overwhelming to me. It was a source of much anxiety. Not a day went by that I didn't think about what I owed. I wanted to give up, but I didn't. It took five years to pay it all back. I did it with the help of Consolidated Consumer Credit Services, a nonprofit organization (Not a commercial, just the truth). I can't imagine the uphill battle that faces Nearly 37 percent of credit card holders who carry more than $10,000 of non-mortgage debt as reported to the credit bureaus. (Source:
Now my only debt consists of my mortgage and a student loan, and that's it. I will NEVER fall into the credit card trap again.

Fred Childers