Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Like a good MUGGER, State Farm is there...

I've created a separate blog for State Farm. Here are a few excerpts:

Bad faith efforts to declare "total loss" are a nightmare. And forget about state insurance commissions coming to your rescue. Leading consumer advocate Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies has yet to hear of a single case where a state insurance commission directed an insurance company to do the right thing.

State Farm's agent called me an idiot and admitted to grabbing my sign. The police initially told me I would have to get a permit to picket, but finally agreed that it was my constitutional right to stand on public property and hold up a sign. Passing motorists started giving "thumbs up" signals along with friendly beeps and waves.

...my car is readily repairable with no lingering safety issues. Mechanical repairs (close to half of the entire bill) have been completed, and my car handles as well as it ever did. Legitimate repair costs do not equal or exceed 75% of the "actual cash value" eventually set by State Farm, even with the extra expense of the new OEM parts. There's no justifiable reason for State Farm to refuse to complete the repairs.

Nobody can be faulted for speculating as to why State Farm exhibits such a keen interest in taking possession of my car. Companies bullying owners into turning over their vehicles by threatening to ruin the title is hardly unheard of. After taking possession of a vehicle they've "totalled," companies have been known to "forget" that the law requires them to record "salvage" on the title. Then they sell the "clean titled" vehicle for more money than they could have gotten if "salvage" had been disclosed. Not long ago, State Farm was fined for not stamping "salvage" onto the titles of thousands of vehicles they had "totalled." The "good neighbor" sold the vehicles with clean titles, raking in enormous, illegal profits.

My car is a bright red 2000 MR2 Spyder, sporting a nice, clean title. It's been meticulously maintained, has always been housed in a garage, and it's been parked in the shade when I'm out and about. It's loaded with desirable options including a beautiful, black leather interior (smells like new 'cause I'm a non-smoker), and has been driven only about 63,000 miles. At 30,000 miles, the engine was completely rebuilt and a new exhaust system was installed (both items via a Toyota manufacturing defect, which took $8,500 outta my pocket). This makes my car exceptionally desirable, because there's reason to believe that the defect in my engine was permanently corrected (Toyota continues to stonewall). Not many MR2 Spyders were produced, and they were no longer manufactured in the U.S. after 2005. The cars have become collectibles, values have increased, and it's very difficult to find an MR2 Spyder for sale that's in top notch condition like mine.

Is anyone surprised that State Farm wants my car?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hooray for KFYR-TV for firing "AJ"

The Twitter children are throwing a #tantrum. Talk shows are catering to the bad guy. But I couldn't be more pleased with KFYR-TV for firing a foul-mouthed employee named A.J. Clemente. He was given an opportunity to become co-anchor for the news, and he showed his appreciation by displaying obscene, inexcusable behavior the moment he got on the air.

"F...ing s...," he exclaimed in reaction to some people's names that he found difficult to pronounce. He ignored not only the likelihood of being on the air, but also the presence of his female co-anchor. Of course, we've "evolved" into an enlightened culture where politeness to women no longer counts. But at least we may justifiably speculate regarding Clemente's attitude toward people of Asian descent. His co-worker made a gallant effort to proceed with the program, whereupon the cordially introduced Mr. Clemente bumbled and fumbled, erasing any doubts as to whether he had even the remotest qualifications for the job.

Clemente was fired. Amen.

But alas. Its unheard of for folks to be disciplined for uttering four-letter filth, and the  story made headlines. Talk shows rushed to feature Clemente as a guest, and the Twitter children came to his aid by hurling obscenity-laced tweets at KFYR-TV. Spoiled, ill-bred brats getting back at anyone who dares to challenge their mind-numbing contempt for fundamental decency.

"See?" they gloated (I'll delete the obscenities). "Our poor little mistreated 'AJ' is now a movie star. He's appearing on national TV. He's pointing out that the broadcast started a few seconds early, his co-anchor didn't have her earpiece on, and... We'll teach you, KFYR-TV. Hire him back immediately."

I just love it when folks like those at KFYR-TV refuse to be intimidated.

Hastily conducted polls showed that approximately 85% of those questioned took Clemente's side: The "kid" (now there's a thigh-slapper) was just a rookie. He was nervous (poor thing). He meant well (!). We all make mistakes (quick, pass the Kleenex). And after all, gutter-speak is the norm these days. Well, they sure got that last one right.

I'm so proud of KFYR-TV. Posted my sentiments on their Facebook page, "Liked" the station, and sent a very approving e-mail to their general manager. Best news I've had in a long time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

FCC encourages use of four-letter filth

I'm sick and tired of this country's mindless fascination with gutter-speak. And if there's any one word I find especially repulsive, its the F-word.

Nobody should have been surprised when baseball's David "Big Papi" Ortiz blurted out the obscenity in a public address last Saturday at Fenway Park:

"This is our f------ city. And no one is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong."

Stay strong indeed.

Never mind that there were women and children in the audience. And consider it indicative of our sorry state of affairs that most of the audience roared its approval.

Later, Big Papi mumbled a half-hearted apology "if anybody was offended" - oh, surely not - by his lewd blabber. "I feel like this town needs to be pumped. It seems like that was it,” he graciously explained.

So far, the story is business as usual. Its the punch line to this putrid little joke that raised a few eyebrows. A tweet, adding insult to injury, was chirped from none other than Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

"David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today's Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston - Julius — The FCC (@FCC) April 20, 2013"

I won't belabor such a lamebrained response from a person in Genachowski's position.

Prior to this incident, Genachowski had plans - thank goodness - to accept employment elsewhere. At least Obama's appointee and longtime personal friend will be leaving the FCC. That's the best we can hope for, because there'll be no public outcry demanding that Genachowski leave immediately. The Demagogues, the Repukes, and our "evolved" Commander-in-Chief will quietly pander to the whims of a decadent society that's rapidly spinning out of control. And Chairman Genachowski will be signing on as a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, a Washington "think" tank, where he'll be offering further advice on "communication policy issues."

Big Papi and others may not have noticed, but the home team is striking out.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

WIS-TV shows devotion to free speech

I'm extremely pleased with WIS-TV regarding the publication of a comment I recently submitted in response to one of their news articles. A computer-generated filtering program delayed the publication of my comment, giving me the mistaken impression that the comment had been censored. This prompted a blog post which I have now removed.

WIS-TV spared no effort in investigating the matter, sent me a detailed explanation of what happened, and published my comment in its original form. Such action is consistent with their publication of comments I've previously submitted regarding various other news articles.

South Carolina is indeed fortunate to have a conscientious news organization such as WIS-TV.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The joy of refusing to vote

"If Americans had any sense, no one would vote in the November election." From an article by former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts.

Just gotta say: Refusing to participate in America's electoral system has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. What a joy it is to be rid of Democrats, Republicans, and those would-be contenders running as Independents or - worse yet - clamoring for the "write-in" victory. Uncle Sam and the corporate thugs who call the shots in this country don't care who you vote for. Repukes and Demagogues are their puppets. Other candidates don't stand a chance. The objective is to sucker people into conforming. Get 'em to wear a red, white, and blue "I Voted" button on Election Day.

If you ever have time, read Anthony Downs' "An Economic Theory of Democracy." Politicians don't worry about goodness or badness. They try to maximize their votes. Period. Its the only political behavior that's rational 'cause they gotta get votes to be in office. But maximizing votes takes money. And money is monopolized by about one percent of the population. Champagne sippin' bigwigs. Folks entrenched in perverse corporations that profit from stuff like American imperialism and taxpayer-financed bailouts for big banks. Crystal glasses tipped in a toast to "rich man's war - poor man's fight." Ever notice how the Repukes and the Demagogues always get together when it comes to that sort of thing? Shhh...

Grateful Dead legend Bob Weir put on a frantic effort to get folks to vote. Wonderful soundtrack. Misguided cause. I love it when people point out the role money plays in politics while simultaneously claiming they've found a candidate who'll beat the system. Win without corporate backing. Change the world. Save the planet. Happens every election. One of the best parts of the show. Twitter offered real-time feedback to Bob's effort, and I tweeted a link to my post titled "Why I don't vote."

Let's face it. America's military-industrial complex is in control. Power that ain't gonna be handed over at a ballot box. Look no further than recent legislation (NDAA) giving ol' Uncle Sam the right to incarcerate U.S. citizens for as long as he so desires without even filing charges. Wanna send a message to the warmongering thugs that run this country? Simple. Refuse to vote. Let 'em know you've caught on their two-headed one party sham.

I'm reminded of the notion that in times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. Whatever. Come Election Day, at least I'll save the gas money it would cost to get to the polls and back.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Paper blocks criticism of SC Highway Patrol

I had it out with the State newspaper when they refused to report the bloodcurdling details surrounding the death of Marine recruit Jason Tharp. Got so mad I cancelled my subscription, trashed their newspaper box, and stopped submitting comments.

Enter a spate of egregious criminal misconduct and other eyebrow raising incidents by the South Carolina Highway Patrol. 2010 started off with a trooper busted for being part of a big grow-your-own marijuana business, using his cruiser to transport the stuff. The year ended with a trooper caught distributing cocaine - talk about patrolling the "high" way - and a DUI charge for an off duty trooper who had been drinking at a bar, drove through an intersection, and crashed into a wall. June of 2011, another trooper had been drinking at a bar, was being driven home, and from the moving vehicle suddenly started shooting into a residence. The following month, Homeland Security caught a trooper with thousands of photos of child porn, along with a number of photos he took of underage girls at Myrtle Beach.

2012 saw sentences handed down for the cocaine (three years), the marijuana (5 years), and the child porn (three years). Also this year, a former trooper pleaded guilty to February's armed robbery of a bank, and a trooper wrecked his cruiser - upside down, on fire, in a ditch - while endangering everyone on the road by chasing a motorcycle at speeds over 100 mph. In another incident, its "unclear" if a trooper was wearing his seatbelt when he lost control of his cruiser and slammed into a tree. Further details - such as road conditions (likely wet) and how fast the trooper was going - were kept quiet. Questions remain regarding the Patrol's response - or lack thereof - to an apparent DUI involving a Sumter sheriff's deputy, and the investigation drags on regarding the death of a black, unarmed motorist shot twice in the chest during a traffic stop.

The Patrol has troublesome history galore - beyond the scope of this post - from the racially charged Orangeburg Massacre in 1968 to such heartwarming events as an off duty trooper robbing a gas station and the beating of a karate expert after he passively allowed a trooper to handcuff him. Videos show troopers slinging out the "n" word, using a cruiser to bump an unarmed black guy, and dragging an unarmed black female from her car, shoving her to the ground. A cadre of troopers got caught at a bar featuring topless entertainment, and a motorist called 911 to report what turned out to be an off duty trooper dressed like a woman, complete with bra and wig. The trooper refused a breathalyzer, failed a field sobriety test, and was charged with DUI. Prior to the 911 call, another trooper apparently identified the suspect and neglected to take action.

When news broke about the sentence for child porn, I made an exception to my policy of avoiding the State and posted the following comment:

"Police State USA's glorified revenue agents of the SCHP. Now we can add possession of child pornography along with cocaine distribution, DUI, marijuana distribution, no ticket for Lt. Gov. Bauer goin' 101 mph, no breathalyzer, charges or arrest for an apparently drunk as a skunk Sumter sheriff's deputy - narcotics division - and the list goes on ad nauseum. Its way past time for this taxpayer-funded gang to clean up its act."

The comment was removed, and resubmission prompted a "subject to moderation" message but no publication. Curiously, only three comments were displayed. One focused on computer technicalities and how crimes should be categorized. The other two toyed with feigned indignation regarding the attire of underaged girls at the beach.   
Enough of online trolls and politically motivated censorship. Police misconduct is rampant all across America, and there's no excuse for mainstream media protecting these jack booted thugs from the public's justifiable outrage.

Update 8/29/2012 - I sent the State a copy of this post and published links to the post on Twitter and Facebook.

Update 10/18/2012 - Its turning out to be quite a year for South Carolina's state troopers. Last month, a trooper lost control of his vhicle, flipped upside down, and was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions. This month, a trooper was fired after his mistress called police and alleged that the trooper shook her and choked her when she ended a 12-year relationship. The ex-trooper has now been charged with assault and battery.     

Update 12/3/2012 - Talk about disparity in sentencing. The troopers - talk about armed and dangerous - involved in big-time drug trafficking get sentences in the three to five year range, while "other folks" get sent away for 30 along with supervised release for life upon completion of the sentence.

Update 12/4/2012 - Bringin' things up to date for 2012, on Friday, November 30th, a trooper was arrested for disorderly conduct, and the following Sunday, a trooper allegedly hit three pedestrians in the wee hours of the morning and fled the scene. Charged accordingly, he has resigned. Whew. Too much to keep up with, and the year isn't over yet.

Update 3/11/2013 - Starting off a new year, the issue of racial profiling has again surfaced - in a big way - at the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 12, 2012

WAYLAID at Sugar Mountain Ski Area

Update 3/18/2012: SkiNorthCarolina.com and SkiSoutheast.com are defending Sugar. That's Banner Elk resident Mike Doble's right. But to clarify remarks he's posted, I contacted Mr. Doble in his capacity as a website designer for High Country Webcams. I'm not familiar with the ski sites he's associated with nor do I wish to be.

'Bout 36 years ago, North Carolina's Sugar Mountain ski area ripped me off for a lift ticket and lodging. Slope conditions advertised as "excellent" turned out to be solid ice, unskiable unless you happened to be an expert. At that time, I was new to the sport, and I still remember duped customers idly staring out at the slopes, where only two or three skiers were able to ski. Complaints were met with a "Not our fault. We have no way of knowing what level you ski at." Refunds were not given. I never went back.

Fast forward 36 years.

This season, a few days after a snow storm - played up to the nth degree on Sugar's website - I gave 'em a second chance. And that was a BIG mistake. These people are dyed in the wool con artists. This time it was dirt, rocks, etc. unavoidable on open terrain, and a risk of damaging skis even when getting on or off the lifts. An absolute nightmare. Two efforts at skiing down from the top, and I simply wasn't willing to take further risk of tearing up my expensive, one year old, K2 skis.

Second time up, after negotiating - as best I could - the muck at the lifts, I started down Sugar's "Tom Terrific" trail, and was forced to stop after about 15 boring yards to avoid skiing thru muck that extended all the way across the trail and continued downhill for at least several yards. By labeling the trail "expert," perhaps Sugar is referring to the level of misrepresentation. That trail - if not the entire ski area - should have been closed down and so designated on Sugar's website. Wound up takin' my skis off and hiking back to the top in order to get down - and off - the mountain. That meant another "run" down Sugar's "double black diamond" dubbed "Whoopdedoo" which had already proven to be a bitter disappointment. And not only from the surface conditions. Touting such terrain as a "double black diamond" is nothing short of an outright lie. Closer to a green than a double black, it barely qualifies as average intermediate. Tom "Terrific" and "Whoopdedoo" indeed.

Beyond the muck at the lifts, an attendant delayed things by zapping each person's lift ticket with a laser gun. Another attendant ignored my efforts to steer clear of the muck, grabbin' my arm and ushering me forward even after I voiced my concern. Brown Sugar Mountain would be a better name for this lousy operation, and a whole lot more disappointment was yet to come.

I asked the girl at the ticket counter for a refund. She conferred with the other agent, refused to grant a refund, and then they both giggled loudly, exhibiting rude delight that people were being ripped off. I then complained to management, and things got even worse. Another customer walked into the office, asked how my day was going, and when management (identity kept secret) overheard me describing the slope conditions, I was told to remain silent or be escorted off the premises. At management's behest ("Get him outta here."), Sugar's resident thug (another secret identity) lunged at me from the other side of a counter. The guy is a double fisted, twice my size bully. I'm 66 years old, five feet five inches tall, weighing 128 pounds.  

Apparently, this is Sugar's modus operandi. Sucker folks into buyin' a ticket, get 'em over a barrel, and then browbeat 'em if they dare to complain about anything. There I was in a strange place with my credit cards, some cash, and over $1,500 worth of ski equipment - much of it loosely secured outside - surrounded by Sugar's employees. And I figured the Banner Elk cops were a sure bet to take Sugar's word over mine regardless of what happened. The only rational choice was to leave quietly (management told me to "keep walking") and plan a future response. As I left, I did, however, inform folks who were approaching the ticket booth about the slope conditions.

Sugar Mountain Resort is a cheap shot. Initially, I couldn't find the locker area, and two people I asked didn't know where it was either. Loaded down with ski gear, I looked through a glass door, saw a slew of lockers and someone putting on ski boots, so I entered, assuming the notice of "no ski equipment allowed in lodge" applied to a different area of the building. That was when Sugar's resident thug first appeared, ordering me to leave my expensive skis outside. My tough luck if someone took 'em, right? With help from the person putting their ski boots on, Sugar's resident thug finally understood that I had mistaken that room for the locker area. If the guy ever went to school, he musta thought the first recess was the end of it and never went back.

Once inside the locker area - its outdated, complete with a gritty, bare concrete floor - a Ski Patroller came by, noticed my nice skis with towels wrapped at both ends, and remarked that I was takin' way too good care of my skis for what I was gettin' ready to put 'em through. But alas. At that point I simply had no way of knowin' what he was talkin' about.

'Cept for slick advertising, Sugar is the epitome of poor design. The locker area is accessible only by climbing stairs, and when you exit, its a lengthy uphill trudge - likely to be muddy - from the bottom of those stairs to the ski area. By all means, try it in ski boots. Tacky little dump that it is, Sugar obviously doesn't have sufficient snowmaking equipment, and its doubtful they have the expertise. Factor in their lack of integrity, and it all adds up to one glorious mess. Keywords: exorbitant prices, ripoff. Unlike 36 years ago, at least I didn't pay for any of their food, lodging, or beverages.

Now I know why ol' Sugar doesn't have a Facebook page. They'd have to monitor it constantly to remove postings from outraged customers. As for me, my credit card company - Chase - agreed to dispute the lift ticket charge, and gave me a credit for the full amount. Rakin' people's skis thru muck is a bad idea. And by the time I'm through spreadin' the word about ol' Sugar, they're gonna wish they'd cleaned up their act.

Depend on it.

Update 3/12/2012: I e-mailed Sugar a link to this blog post along with copies of references I posted on Facebook and Twitter. 

Update 3/16/2012: Thank goodness this lousy excuse for a ski resort is now closed for the season. Maybe if it hadn't been for my blog post, ol' Sugar would still be suckerin' folks into buyin' a ticket. At any rate, Sugar Mountain Resort has now underscored its contempt for customers by blocking future e-mails sent to them from my account. Be warned: Sugar is still open for warm weather activities. Avoid Sugar at all costs.

Update 3/19/2012: I've sent links to this blog post to various business oriented websites in Avery County and Banner Elk, most notably Chambers of Commerce whose websites promote Sugar Mountain Resort as one of the centerpieces of the area. As businesses in these areas bask in the spinoff from folks who wind up visiting Sugar Mountain Resort, I'll keep my hard earned dollars out of the vicinity and advise others to do likewise.