Thursday, July 29, 2010

Would you still get married?

So a radio station I listen to regularly has people call in and discuss their problems. I heard one the other day that I just couldn't believe.

A girl called in and said that she and her fiancée were supposed to get married this past June, and that she had been saving for her dream wedding for a long time. However, a month before the wedding she found out that her fiancée spent all the wedding money on a big TV.

She plans to marry him anyway, they've just pushed the date back so that it's later in the year, and she has to start saving money all over again. She quotes the fact that they have two children together, and everyone expects her to get married.

My thought is, WRONG REASONS! This man went and spent your money for your dream wedding on a TV. His priorities are not in order. It's not like he's a crackhead and spent it on crack, cause he couldn't help it, he's got an addiction. He's a grown man, who went out and decided his need for a tv was more important than
1) your hard earned money
2) the work you put into saving that money
3) the dream wedding you had planned out and
4) your reputation

Now don't get me wrong, there may be layers here that I'm not reading into, and I don't necessarily think she needs to dump him, but I think they may want to reconsider the whole wedding. That's not someone I would want to be making sacred vows with. What about you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

There needs to be more outrage!

Last month, an 11 year old in Los Angeles committed suicide by hanging himself with a jump rope in his closet. And the first I'm reading of it is now, in the LA Times.

Apparently social workers had been visiting him for years and noted drugs, violence and neglect in his home, complete with a stepfather with a long history of abuse and domestic violence, who was court barred from living with the boy, but often present when social workers visited.

Although he had been placed in a foster home for about 15 months, social workers thought it acceptable to reunite him with his mother in 2008.

The day that the little boy killed himself, he spent the morning at school in an emotional state and crying. He told his school counselor that life was "unbearable," because schoolmates were bullying him, and his mother repeatedly struck him with a hanger and a shoe while his stepfather held him down. He told the counselor he wanted to kill himself. And yet instead of getting help, the boy was sent home to the mother that hit him and the stepfather who held him down to allow it.

The school did think to send a note to his mother and call social workers and police, but after a cursory search for weapons in the home and getting a statement from the mother who denied hitting the child, the social workers and police left. Apparently they intended to gather more info over the next week, but by the next morning it was too late.

LA blames the neglect on communications breakdown. Apparently, in a 2008 case involving a severely abused 5-year-old boy, a review revealed that eight separate agencies had more than 100 contacts with the boy's family, but those findings were not shared. When the child was finally removed from the home, he was so malnourished that his kidneys were failing, his hands burned so badly that he could barely unclench them.

But all these cases see is an article in the LA Times. Which is a start, but why aren't California politicians up in arms about this? Why isn't someone screaming from the rooftops? Someone should fight for these kids, even though their parents choose not to.

Friday, July 23, 2010

American Greed

Awhile ago, we were all upset by the bonuses that AIG was paying out, despite the fact that it needed government bailouts to stay afloat. The thought being that if you need the government to keep you alive, you should NOT be paying bonuses. I can see both sides of that situation though. The person receiving the bonus, had a contract with AIG, and they may have done NOTHING which inspired the screw up, and so still felt entitled to the bonus which may have gone to pay their mortgage, bills, etc.

However, I confess I cannot understand the most recent example of American Greed, seen in Bell, CA. In Bell, City Manager Robert Rizzo, Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia have all recently agreed to resign their positions. Why would they do so you might ask? Public outrage. The outrage comes concerning their salaries ... Rizzo is paid $787,637 a year; Adams makes $457,000 and Spaccia makes $376,288.

To make a comparison, Adams' salary is 50% MORE than the Police Chief of Los Angeles. And another member of this same council, Lorenzo Velez, makes only $8,076. To put that in perspective, it is 1% of what Rizzo makes. The mayor of Bell made some lame excuse stating that this is because Velez was appointed, not elected.

I want to know, would the constituents of Bell have elected ANYONE if they knew that their tax dollars were going to be spent outrageously. More importantly, I want to know how these people could have felt entitled to these sort of paychecks? What could you possibly be doing as city manager that made you think you deserved $15,150 every week. To make in two weeks more than a lot of Americans take home in an entire year.

Granted, you could say that baseball players and movie stars should subsequently feel guilty about their salaries. But at least in their fields, it's customary to make that much money. I'm not sure that there are city managers out there that make CLOSE to what Rizzo did. Especially in cities that are not a major metropolitan area in and of itself.

I hope the Los Angeles district attorney was serious in pursuing whether or not these contracts were legal. I can't even envision myself making that kind of money. And one day if I do, I can't imagine making it all and not donating large sums of it to charity... which it doesn't appear that these folks were into.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Random Ridiculous Rave

Ok, so I came across something GOOD for once in the news that I wanted to share. In the recent age of banks failing, needing bailouts, restricting credit, etc. ... one bank is increasing the credit it lends out, and becoming bigger and better and offering loans to small businesses in often less than optimal areas.

Grameen America, the U.S. offshoot of an Asian microlending institution founded by Muhammad Yunus, is now in its third year of operation in the US and is expanding. This year, the small Bangladeshi bank which already has branches in New York; Omaha; &, D.C. is going to open its fourth branch in San Francisco.

According to Newsweek, since it opened in 1983, Grameen has loaned billions to borrowers around the world, most of these being women below the poverty line. It boasts a 98% percent repayment rate as well. Granted, most of the loans are $1,500 or less, with high interest rates, but the rates are better than borrowers could find elsewhere, and there are some unique practices which Grameen credits its success rate with.

The Grameen model supposedly works because of peer pressure. As do a lot of things in this world. Each Grameen borrower is required to attend a weekly meeting with other borrowers, who, as a group, are responsible for communal payback rates (e.g. the group cannot borrow more money if individual members don’t pay back their individual loans). Each individual borrower must also have add to a personal savings account with Grameen to help create a financial cushion to deal with any unforeseen problems or emergencies while building his or her business.

I think in a world where banking has become faceless, and most people, including myself, have switched to online banking to even avoid dealing with a teller, that this is awesome. It hearkens back to when you had a friend at the bank, who would fight for you and your small business. Instead of a broker on Wall Street, who lumps you in with 1,000-2,000 businesses to spread his risk and save his bonus.

If you want to get involved with Grameen, they have volunteer opportunities here. Or you can just follow them on twitter and promote them with your good PR. They also have a link where you can donate... but I'm against donating to a bank on the whole, even one as nice as Grameen America. If you want to donate, check out Kiva ... where you can lend money to starting businesses in impoverished places, and when they pay you back personally, you can choose to take back your money or invest is a new business!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This week in stupid lawsuits: Stupid attempts at class actions.

Now I'm sure you've all heard that there's a company out there threatening to sue McDonald's, because Happy Meal toys trick kids into wanting Happy Meals and Happy Meals are BAAAAAAAD for them. And while I do think better parenting would fix the solution, that's not even the winner for stupid lawsuits in the food category.

The winner, would be Ms. Payton McClure, of NYC, who is trying to get a class action together against General Mills, and more specifically, Fruit Roll Ups. Ms. McClure claims to be a lifelong consumer of Fruit Roll Ups and has recently discovered, SHOCKINGLY! ... that these snacks are not actually health food? WHO KNEW?

According to her complaint, Ms. McClure alleges that General Mills failed to properly disclose that its fruit products contain partially hydrogenated oil. Excuse her? Has she ever actually SEEN a Fruit Roll Up ... strawberries don't naturally come like that m'dear, it takes some processing. And second of all, I'm pretty sure General Mills discloses the ingredients of their product every time they produce a nutrition label, which is on every little last box out there, courtesy of the FDA.

The complaint stated that use of the oil cause marketing over the past 6 years to be "false and misleading." General Mills is alleged to have advertised that its fruit snacks were "nutritious," "healthy to consume," "naturally flavored," "low fat," and "a good source of Vitamin C," and thus deserved premium prices.

Ms. McClure it's called advertising. They are TRYING to sell you their product. They are not going to say "See this gummy like fruit-ish product, it's mostly oil and byproducts" ... Instead they say it's "nutritious and healthy to consume" which it is, it really only needs a comparison snack, such as "potato chips" or "a stick of butter." And actually, I don't even think that's fair to potato chips, since I've seen even those advertised as healthy recently.

My favorite advertising for Fruit Roll Ups is THIS video, which clearly shows all of the supposed outrageous lies General Mills has been telling Ms. McClure.


The other winner for stupid lawsuits this week comes in the form of a law firm, as opposed to an individual. Kershaw, Cutter, and Ratinoff (who previously filed a suit regarding Farmville... that's right, as if the facebook app didn't get enough coverage in life) has decided to try and drum up a class action suit against the iPhone4.

For what you may ask? Have they been exploding? And causing traumatic harm to users and those that happen to be nearby? Have they been proven to be an actual cause of cancer? Are people getting iPhone4 shaped lumps in their heads?

No, not exactly. Kershaw, Cutter, and Ratinoff want to commence a class action against Apple and the iPhone4 based on dropped calls and spotty service. Which to me, if not most people, would seem like a reasonable risk in a cell phone. Not to mention that pretty much every iPhone4 buyer out there purchased his or her phone, sight unseen! Go figure... a new device might have some bugs that need to be worked out. Could this be reasonably common with new consumer technology? NO! It must needs be deviousness on the part of Apple! SUE! SUE! SUE!

Well, that's it for me this week. Be sure to let me know if you hear of other stupid lawsuits going on out there in the big, bad world of lawsuit happy hipsters.

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