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My Ramblings Articles

How the Rich and Powerful Control America

July 26, 2011 | My Ramblings | 3 Comments

I recently watched the documentary “Hot Coffee” on HBO Demand about Tort Reform in the U.S.  One case that was highlighted in the documentary was about Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico who burned herself by spilling hot coffee on her lap purchased from a McDonald’s drive-through restaurant (1992).  As a result, she sued McDonalds and was awarded over $2.86 million (later reduced to $640,000).  The media reported the news as our legal system running amuck.  Many people demanded Tort Reform to get rid off these frivolous lawsuits. I recall hearing about the lawsuit and thought it was crazy that someone would be awarded that kind of money for spilling coffee in their lap.

However, when I learned the details I understand why the jury awarded the money to the plaintiff.  This woman suffered 3rd degree burns on both her inner thighs requiring painful skin graphs.  Initially, she only wanted McDonalds to pay her medical bills and loss of income ($20,000) but McDonalds refused and only offered $800.  Additionally, it was discovered that about 700 McDonald’s customers reported being burned by hot coffee and the company did nothing to resolve the problem.  McDonald restaurants kept the coffee at 180 degree Fahrenheit which caused serious burns.

The documentary is about how Tort Reform was pushed by big business to limit payout in lawsuits and how big business used the media to manipulate society in believing that Tort Reform would benefit everyone.  When it reality it only benefited big businesses.  As an example, Tort Reform was sold in Texas as reducing healthcare cost by reducing awards in malpractice suits.  However, since Tort Reform was enacted in Texas in 2003 healthcare costs has skyrocketed.  

The documentary had me thinking about 2 things; the first is how people are easily misled by the media and the second is how the rich and powerful really run the United States although we are suppose to be a democracy.  

Fact: People are quick to judge which makes it easy for the media to mislead and manipulate them.

The recent not guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony case is an example of how people are quick to judge without having all the information.  People blasted the jury for finding Casey Anthony not guilty in the death of her child.  However, many of these people don’t know all the details.  They were not sitting, listening and reviewing all the information the jury was presented with.  They heard snippets of news from the media and jumped to conclusions.  When in reality, if they were on the jury they may have reached the same decision.

Another example was when Shirley Sherrod, a USDA official, was quickly fired for a speech she gave at a NAACP event.  A blogger took her speech, edited it and made Shirley Sherrod sound as if she was a racist.   The media jumped on the story, people were outraged, even the President couldn’t believe it and as a result she was immediately fired.  However, as soon the entire speech was viewed, everyone discover they were duped.  Shirley Sherrod was not a racist and she was immediately offered her job back.

As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve learned to not jump to conclusion without knowing the full story.  Whenever I see political commercials giving snippets of information about a political candidate I’ve learned to not believe any of it.  Most of the information is “half-truths” or downright lies.  However, I’ve often wondered what percentage of the American public realizes that these commercials are not factual.  I’ve often believed that these commercials should be banned from being aired.  Politicians should not get elected by spewing false information about their opponents.  Isn’t that just plain common sense!

Research has proven that these commercials are effective at manipulating elections.  The candidate who can afford to show the most negative ads about this competitor wins 90% of the time.  This is extremely unfortunate.

As a result, the rich and powerful use the media to influence elections.  The biggest threat to the rich and powerful is the fact that the common man has 1 vote just like them.  The common man can band together to elect people to represent them and their interests.  However, the reality is that the rich and powerful use the media to influence the common man to vote for things that only benefits the rich and powerful.  

And it’s Getting Worse

Last year the  Supreme Court decision to roll back campaign contributions by companies is simply wrong.  This just hands control of elections to big business and the rich.  The people who can afford to use the media to manipulate society wins. I’m certain the founding fathers of the United States didn’t intend for only the rich and powerful to control the country.

Two American Express Cards I Use and Recommend

June 19, 2011 | Credit Cards | My Ramblings | No Comments

I’m one of those people who love to use credit cards.  Not for the convenience or the credit, but for the cash back.  In the over 20 years of using credit cards, I’ve only intentionally paid a finance fee once and I was very upset at myself for doing so.  I thought it was a complete waste of money and swore to myself it would never happen again.

I have several credit cards but the 2 I use the most are the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN and Blue Cash EverydaySM Card from American Express.

The Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

I currently use the American Express Plum Card® that pays 1.5% discount if you pay your balance in 10 days at the end of your billing cycle. Fortunately, I get 2% because I’ve been grandfathered at the old rate. With the Plum Card® you have the option to pay 10% of your balance and take up to 2 months to pay off the remaining balance, interest free which I’ve never used.  Again my goal is to get American Express to pay me.  The card has a $185 annual fee (free the first year) but it’s worth it if you will use the card frequently.  Last year I made $2,462.64 in cash back with the Plum Card® with purchases made for business and personal expenses.

To recap, the Plum Card® from American Express OPEN Features:

  • The Everything, Everywhere Trade Terms Card(SM) from American Express OPEN
  • Pay in full within ten days, get a 1.5% discount
  • OR pay as little as 10% and take up to 2 months to pay off the balance, interest free
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $185
  • A powerful cash flow management tool
  • Terms and restrictions apply.
Blue Cash EverydaySM Card from American Express
Another card I recently signed up for is the Blue Cash EverydaySM Card from American Express Card because it pays 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% cash back at gas stations and department stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.  I use it primarily at supermarkets and gas stations instead of the Plum Card.  This card has no annual fee and no spend minimum.To recap, Blue Cash EverydaySM Card from American Express Features:
 
  • Earn $100 cash back after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of Cardmembership
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months, flexibility to pay over time
  • Get 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% cash back at gas stations and department stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • NO spend minimum, NO enrollment, and NO rotating rewards categories
  • Get a $25 Referral Bonus for each friend or family member who is approved for the Card
  • No annual fee, flexibility to pay over time
  • Terms and restrictions apply.

 

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

Going to College in America is a Scam!

June 15, 2011 | My Ramblings | Student Loans | 4 Comments

The cost of going to college is going through the roof like healthcare.  Going to college in the United States is nothing but big business.  My wife is currently attending college for nursing and it’s all about the money.  The text books are a rip off.  Every year tuition cost goes up and they nickel and dime you for everything.  To take an exam, my wife has to pay for the scantron sheets.

Colleges make it difficult to purchase used text books because they are constantly changing the version.  Additionally, now they are making college text books specific to each school, so you can’t buy elsewhere.   There is no competition so they can charge you whatever they want for the books.

Then there’s the requirement to take classes unrelated to your field of study.  My wife is required to take classes, such as Music Appreciation, which is a complete waste of time and money.  

Every year tuition goes up which doesn’t keep up with salaries.  When you think about it, a class room is just a room with chairs, desks, and maybe some audio/video equipment.  One person can teach a class with hundreds of students, so why does cost keep going up so much each year?  Are the professor’s salaries going up that much?  I doubt it!  I understand that state colleges are getting less money from the government, but private colleges are also constantly increasing the prices, so that couldn’t be the reason.   Where is all the money going?

I’ve graduated from two universities; one for my bachelor and another for my masters.  Both schools call me non-stop for donations, yet they are constantly building new buildings.  Why not stop building all these new buildings to help keep costs down?  They claim they need donations from alumni’s which I believe is a sham!

Student Loans, now exceeding credit card debt, is another sham.  A student loan is the worst type of loan you can have, because there is no way to get rid of it, unless you pay if off or die.  You cannot file bankruptcy to get rid of federal student loan debt.  Many students graduate with ridiculous loans that will take those decades to pay off, like a mortgage.

The American college system is setup to milk you dry.  Education is very important, but it shouldn’t be a rip-off.  The American college system is a big scam.  As costs keep rising, something has to give.  The bubble will bust one day and the system will collapse.

Below is a very interesting video about the “College Conspiracy”.  Enjoy!

My Lasik Procedure with Corneal Abrasion Complication

June 13, 2011 | Healthcare | My Ramblings | 1 Comment

After thinking about getting Lasik eye surgery for over 10 years I finally got it done recently.  The last time (about 10 years ago) when I seriously considered getting it done a friend referred me to a website with horror stories about Lasik surgeries gone bad.  The same friend eventually got the procedure and was very happy with the results.

Over the years everyone I met who had Lasik eye surgery would rave about how much they were happy with the outcome and that it was one of the best decisions they made in their life.  So as the years passed I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. I was growing really tired of wearing glasses and didn’t want to wear contact lenses because when I first tried them I didn’t like the way they felt in my eyes.  Also, I have really bad allergies, especially around allergy season, and I knew contacts would be a problem then.

I initially made an appointment for a consultation and was informed that since I am over 40 years old there is a chance I may need reading glasses soon after the surgery.  It was explained that people over 40 would start to need reading glasses and it is just a natural decay in your eyes that Lasik cannot fix or prevent.  This was indeed a concern because I didn’t want to get Lasik and then have to wear reading glasses soon after.  The problem is no one knows at what age you need reading glasses.   Some people are fortunate enough to not need reading glasses until their 50s.   Regardless after careful consideration I decided to have the procedure done anyway.

I ended up going with LasikPlus because the doctor came highly recommended by 2 friends who had the procedure done by the same doctor who would do my surgery.  I also like the fact that the doctor has performed over 65,000 procedures and used the latest LASIK equipment.  I also didn’t find much negative reviews of the doctor on the Internet.  Actually, I found mostly positive reviews about his performance.

As with any medical procedure or even taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, there are risks involved.  After my consultation I was given some paperwork that described potential risks of the surgery which was scary.  One of the risks listed could result in death.  How scary is that?

In doing some research, I discovered about 2% of individuals having the surgery have some type of complication so I was praying that I’d fall into the 98% who have no complications.  I was told I was a good candidate for the surgery and that everything should go well.

The Surgery

The surgery was fast and painless.  The only discomfort was pressure on my eyes for a few seconds to make the flap.  The laser to reshape each cornea took about 5 seconds each.  Your eyes are numbed with eye drops so there is no pain at all.  After the surgery my eyes felt a little sore and sensitive to light.  While being driven home my vision was much improved but with a haze. I kept my eyes closed and just wanted to go home and take a nap, however, I couldn’t sleep because my eyes were burning.  It was a slight burn but enough to make me uncomfortable.  After a few hours, my right eye was extremely tearful.  As soon as I open my eye water poured out.  My left eye wasn’t as tearful.

My follow-up exam the next day revealed that I had a cornea abrasion on my right eye.  “Just great”, I thought to my self. I wasn’t happy hearing that I had a complication.

My Complication

During the LASIK procedure I developed a small corneal abrasion in my right eye. As stated, during the first night, both eyes burned a bit, but my right eye was extremely tearful.  The next morning it felt uncomfortable to open both eyes, but especially my right eye.  I had a follow-up appointment that morning with an assistant doctor who told me of the corneal abrasion.  I was then sent to another location where the Lasik surgeon was working that day.  I was really irritated that I had this problem.  I kept thinking to myself, “just my luck”.

From some research about corneal abrasion, even with excellent surgical technique and a moistened eye, a small breakdown in the epithelial surface may develop as the flap is made with the microkeratome.  Corneal abrasion occurs in a small percentage of LASIK procedures because in some eyes the surface cells may not adhere well.  There is no way possible to detect who may be prone to corneal abrasion. Fortunately, the epithelium grows back so quickly that eyes with an epithelial defect usually heal within a few days, even without a contact lens.

My surgeon verified that there was indeed an abrasion and that he’d place a contact lens on my eye to help it heal and make it more comfortable.  As soon as he placed the contact lens in my right eye, it felt 100% better.  I could immediately open my eye and there was no discomfort.  My eye stopped tearing.  He also numbed the eye, so that helped.  As the numbness wore off my eye still felt comfortable.  The contact lens was removed 3 days later and my eye still felt comfortable because the abrasion had healed.

Unfortunately, due the corneal abrasion my right eye was slightly blurred for a few days.  I was told to place the prednisone anti-inflammatory drops in my eyes more frequently because my eye was inflamed at the location of the corneal abrasion.  My left eye was perfect, but with my right eye was slightly blurry which was a little annoying especially when watching TV.

2 Weeks Later

Now after about 2 weeks my right eye is still slightly blurry.  My left eye is 20/20 and right eye is 20/50, however with both eyes my vision is 20/20.  Seems my brain has adapted for the difference.  With both eyes open outside, my vision is crystal clear and I can’t see a difference but when I close each eye to compare I can see a difference. However, when I’m indoors, especially at night I can sense a difference with both eyes open. It seems indoor artificial light affects me more.

At my last check up, my surgeon stated the inflammation/swelling is gone and now the abrasion just needs to come together and that light would affect the eye making things blurry until it healed. There is an 85% chance it will heal by itself. However, if it doesn’t completely heal, he’ll do an enhancement to make the eye 20/20.  I’m hoping my eye will completely heal by itself, however, if I need an enhancement I’ll have to do it.  An enhancement if needed will not be done for another 3 months.

Conclusion

So far, I’m “almost” happy with the results.  I say “almost”, because of the complication with my corneal abrasion.  But even with 20/50 in one eye, my vision is almost perfect.  Over the last 2 weeks, on numerous occasions I’ve attempted to take my glasses off and have to remind myself, that I’m not wearing glasses!  The procedure was painless and fast.  Recovery was also fast.  If and when my right eye is 20/20, then I’ll be completely happy with the results.

Update on 9/11/2011:  About 3 months after my Lasik surgery my eye-sight is excellent at 20/20.  My right eye with the corneal abrasion has healed nicely.  My left eye which became a little blurry 2 weeks after the procedure has cleared up nicely as well.  The glare / halos / starburst at night / low light have decreased dramatically to almost to being unnoticeable.  I suspect over the next several months, it should be completely gone.  So now I’m very happy with my decision to have Lasik.  At times I’m amazed at how excellent my eye-sight is and how men created a device that uses a laser to reshape people’s cornea to fix their vision.  Absolutely amazing!  Just hope my eye-sight stays like this for years to come.

My Lending Club Account Performance Update 5

May 13, 2011 | Investing | My Ramblings | 3 Comments

Here is another update of my Lending Club Account Performance.  The last update was on September 1, 2010, over 9 months ago.

Since I opened my account in August 2009, I’ve earned a total of $5,497.60 in interest; however, this includes about $1,000 with signup bonuses.

Since my last update, Lending Club enticed me to add additional $20,000 to my account for a $400 bonus for in immediate 2% return. So my initial investment is now $50,000.

Now of the negative news; I currently have 5 notes late 16-20 days and 12 notes late 31-120 days at a potential loss of $363 and $706, respectively.  To date I’ve lost $1,088 due to loan charge off (borrowers not paying off loan) but an additional $1,000 loss maybe coming in the near future due to late payments. Currently, the majority of losses are due to B and C investors with only one A investor.

To combat future late payments and defaults, I’ve continued to reinvested monies with A investors at $25 to $50 per note.  This should lower future risk; however, my rate of return will continue to drop.

One area of improvement on my end is picking better notes to invest in.  This will lower default and increase rate of return.  After filtering notes, I invest in every note without reading each note requirement and even asking questions of the borrower to determine risk. 

I currently have $3,000 in funding notes at $50 each in all A borrowers.  I have an available $7,758.89 in cash that I will invest over the next several weeks.  The cash available is from loan payoffs that I haven’t re-invested.

See screenshot below of my account.

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Networking is Vital to Success in Business

September 20, 2010 | My Ramblings | No Comments

The old adage, “It’s all about who you know!” is so true.  Years ago, at my first engineering summer internship, I got my first assignment and wanted to do an excellent job.  I don’t recall what the assignment was, but I remember immediately getting some books to help find the solution.  My supervisor saw what I was doing and pulled me aside and told me, “You don’t need to find the information in a book.  You just need to contact Mr. A for this, Mr. B for this and Mr. C for the other. These guys are the experts.  They can immediately point you in the right direction.”

I immediately learned that there is always an expert out there to help you.  Sure books are good, but there is nothing like someone to immediately give you the correct specific piece of information, answer your questions or point you in the right direction if they can’t give you all the answers.  

This holds true today in business.  If you are looking to start or grow your business, you need to network!  Sure there are many books, seminars and free/paid information on the Internet to help you, but there is nothing like getting advice from an experienced individual who can help you cut through the clutter and point you in the right direction immediately.

Additionally, people feel more comfortable helping you when they meet you in person.  Communicating my email or phone isn’t enough.  Face to face discussions have a much better chance of building a successful relationship.

When I look back in my years of trying to make money online, the opportunities where I made “decent” money was with help and information provided from people I knew.  Some I actually met in person, some I met online.

About 3 years ago I got an email for an Affiliate Manager telling me I should consider an opportunity. I saw the opportunity before in my affiliate account but never paid any attention to it. I sent her an email that I would take a look at it but had no expectations.  I then started to promote the offer and to my surprise I immediately starting making $30+/day profit.  I was able to scale that opportunity to about $300+ per day profit for several months.  If she never sent me the email encouraging me I would have never considered that opportunity.

A couple years ago I decided to attend an Affiliate conference primarily to network with people in the industry.  I ended up meeting a software company representative who told me he would give me $5,000 and build me a micro-website to start promoting their product.  At first I was very skeptical, but sure enough in a couple of months $5,000 was deposited in my account and the micro-website delivered to me.  I still promote the micro-website today and to-date has made several thousand dollars from that opportunity.

Years ago when I first thought of using the Internet to make money I met a gentleman at an Internet Meeting who told me about open source ecommerce platforms.  At the time I had no clue what open source software was.  Open Source Software is simply free software for anyone can use.  I grew curios and as a result I ended up opening several ecommerce stores that have generated tens of thousands of dollars in revenue over the years.

I’ve read numerous forum posts and blog posts by individuals of how to make money online and have implemented some of their strategies that have made me money.  I’ve befriended people who have given me tips and tricks that I implemented and have made me money.

Very few people become successful on their own.  Many successful people were helped along the way.  Bill Gates I’m certain had help for many people to build Microsoft in the company it is today.

I’ve come to realize that networking is extremely important in business.  Forming business friendships/relationships is extremely vital to your success.  Collaboration is also extremely important because no one person knows everything.  I haven’t done much collaboration; however, I’m hoping in the future to collaborate on larger scale projects.

One strategic mistake I’ve made over the years isn’t networking enough.  For the first few years I did everything by myself.  If I had it to do over again, I’d be more aggressive in networking with people.  Working isn’t the way to go!

My Lending Club Account Performance Update 4

September 1, 2010 | Investing | My Ramblings | 2 Comments

Once again, it’s time for another update of my Lending Club Account Performance.  The last update was on May 13, 2010, about 3.5 months ago.

Since starting to issue loans in August 2009, I’ve earned a total of $2,557.36 in interest; however, with signup bonuses I’ve earned $3,183.02.

Unfortunately, I have 1 note currently late 16-30 days and 7 notes late 31 to 120 days.  One has currently defaulted (meaning in collections) and 2 have been charged off.  To combat future late payments and defaults, I’ve reinvested monies with A investors.  This should lower future risk, however, my rate of return will be lower.

So since the last update I’ve lost $93 (charged off) and with the current defaults and late payments there is a strong potential to lose another $410.

Taking the potential loss into account I’ve earned $3,183.02 – $410 = $2,773.02.  So my one year rate of return is $2,773.02 / $30,000.00 = $9.2%.  Without signup bonuses my rate of return is $2,557.36 – $410 = $2,147.36 / $30,000.00 = 7.1%.

Of course my rate of return maybe higher is the late payments are paid and/or if the default loan money is recovered.

Regardless, I am happy with my returns.  Beats the banks any day and this is pretty much what the banks do anyway.  Banks give loans knowing that some people will default and will be late paying.  However, the goal is to cover the losses with the profits.

Several months ago I started a forum at Social-Lending-Forums.com to discuss social lending primarily for Lending Club and Prosper, the 2 largest social lending networks.  The forum offers a  Free Comparison Report comparing Lending Club and Prosper.  Please don’t hesitate to visit and sign-up if you are interested in social lending.

Finally, Lending Club is giving investors $25 when they sign-up at no risk.  You can use the $25 to try out their service with no future obligation.  There is nothing for you to deposit and you can lend the $25 immediately.  Try it out, you have nothing to lose!

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