Telemarketer harassment and West Asset Management

Recently, I began getting calls on my cell phone from a debt collection agency, asking for my 19 year old daughter, usually three or four times a day. Not knowing the caller, I didn’t answer it for a while, and they didn’t leave a message.

When I finally took the calls, I told them this wasn’t her phone number and didn’t know why she would have given them my number, the caller would demand to know how to reach her. When I said I didn’t know, and told them they needed to stop calling me about her problems, I was told they would keep calling me until they got their money.

According to Fair Debt Collection practices, debt collectors cannot discuss debts with third parties, nor call after they are told not to. In this case, they did both. However, they would not tell me what she owed for, or how much, unless I was willing to “help her out with her problem”.

How nice of them.

I did a web search for the number which showed on my called ID (443-550-7975), which led me to West Asset Management. Apparently, their telemarketing staff likes to use harassing and improper debt collection to shake people down, including third parties such as myself.

While it initally seemed as if a call to the agency (888-433-2886) to tell the lady who took my call that what they were doing was illegal, took care of it, the calls resumed, at a lesser pace. So I decided to get rude and insulting with the callers.

That time, the calls stopped. Apparently there are some times of people whose phone manners telemarketers find offensive (imagine that).

Those folks at West Asset Management are real jerks to whom nothing is off-limits in the pursuit of their money.

If you or someone you know is getting harassed endlessly, you have rights. Check out the FTC’s web page of information for Fair Debt Collection practices:

Perhaps the Legislature needs to look at what can be done to regulate debt collection practices at the state level, to protect the people of this state from these kinds of harassing practices.

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For today’s filler content, we want to share with you something truly cool that we recently received from one of our loyal fans – pictures of Jimi Hendrix’ gravesite and memorial:

Which brings us to our question of the day: Have you ever been … have you ever been … to Electric Ladyland?

Operation Chaos in North Carolina?

The Barack Obama campaign stumbles out of Pennslyvania into a series of contests which are, for the most part, expected to be somewhat lackluster in his prospects. Super Tuesday II and Pennslyvania put an end to his streak of big wins, forcing him to signifcantly outspend Hillary Clinton. Thus far, his ability to outspend her has failed to score the knockout blows a spending advantge of 2 or 3 to 1 might normally give a candidate in an open race.

The only state where he stands to win big in the upcoming weeks is North Carolina, where most polling has put him in the lead by about 15% points.

But before he can take that for granted, rumors have begun to surface that GOP activists from Georgia and South Carolina, both heavily-red states, have begun planning to travel to North Carolina to assist (unknowingly) the Clinton campaign with it's get-out-the-vote activities. In fact, we got a call asking if we wanted to help ... sorry guys, that's my graduation week, I'd rather party.

In recent years, GOP Victory operations have turned out votes that were crucial to winning key statewide races in all three states, including the 2002 twin-upsets in Georgia by Saxby Chambliss and Sonny Purdue, South Carolina's 10 to 1 GOP majority of statewide officials, and the 2004 North Carolina Senate race. That's ample proof these people know the ground well.

As independent and blue collar white voters, a significant voter bloc in North Carolina, are starting to sour on Obama, the threat of an organized cross-over effort in a state where sneaky tricks by GOP (and Democratic) operatives are everyday business could pose a real threat. A close race there could cost him his last chance to score a pre-convention knock-out, increasing the potential for a brokered convention that could be damaging to the Democrats in the fall.

Or the Obama campaign could pull staff and resources out of Indiana and West Virginia, where they are expected to run close to Clinton, to protect their lead in North Carolina. This might work, at the expense of giving Clinton a good shot at winning most of the other post-Super Tuesday states, again keeping the game running until the clock runs out at the convention.

So long as their nomination battles continue to waste money and time, we're not surprised there are those out to make the most of the present situation.

Aces High on Ed Force One

Iron Maiden is on their ongoing world tour, flying on Ed Force One, a special 757 dedicated to the use of the band, their crew and their equipment. Piloted by none other than lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who apparently is a licensed pilot.

This "Maiden" voyage has enabled the band to hit nearly two dozen cities around the world in just over 40 days. Quite a feat.

Let's just hope Dickinson doesn't decide to recreate some of the RAF dogfighting tactics memorialized in their classic song "Aces High".

Drummond and Patterson: Two South Carolina legends

This year, two giants of the Senate are leaving: John Drummond from Greenwood, and Kay Patterson from Columbia.

While we think the rise of the GOP in state politics helped usher in much-needed changes in how state government was run, not everything that has changed has been for the best. Long-time Senators like Drummond and Patterson had the ability to raise their voices when and where others were afraid to rock the boat, or voices of reason were needed to urge caution.

While Democrats, their state and their communities were more important than their parties. On more than one occasion, Drummond supported Republicans. Patterson even spoke at Thurmond's funeral.

South Carolinians like these don't grow on trees, and in losing them, we feel like we're losing something special and important in state government that we may never see again.

Last fall, we talked about Drummond's pending retirement:

While partisanship and sticking to one's principles is important, that kind of perspective should give us something to think about. But even more importantly, Drummond's dedicated service to his Palmetto State should set a standard that, regardless of partisan identity, we should all aspire to.

On many occasions, Drummond crossed party lines to work with Republicans and even supported Senator Strom Thurmond. His party was important to him in his legislative service, but so was the best interests of his native state. It's a refreshing outlook on politics that we could use more of these days.

- John Drummond, a great South Carolinian, 9/24/07

Likewise, Patterson was a hard man to pigeonhole. Outspoken, unpolished, and often blunt, he had an uncoventional approach to politics.

Patterson’s departure will leave an elocutionary void in the sausage-making drill that is S.C. politics, friends and colleagues say.

Over the years, Patterson’s use of black dialect, often laced with well-placed invectives, has helped him to make his point and needle his opponents.

“They would call that ebonics in this day and age,” Patterson said. “But we didn’t have that terminology back in those days.”

Those who know Patterson and agree with his politics — such as his seatmate of 34 years, state Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg — say Patterson’s departure will leave “the little man” voiceless in what they say are the increasingly hostile halls of the General Assembly.

- "Telling it like it is: elected as a firebrand, Patterson retires as a statesman", The State, 4/27/08

During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, he dismissed Anita Hill's allegations, pointing out that in spite of the conduct she alleged, she continued to seek transfers to work with him, suggesting that if the charges were true, it "must have been some pretty good sexual harassment".

The first Senator to take on the Confederate flag flying over the State House became one of the ones who brokered the compromise to bring it down, and then joined those who criticized the NAACP first for not helping his effort, and then complaining the agreement was not enough.

In politics, it is one thing to disagree and another to be disagreeable. While Patterson's style may have come across as disagreeable, that wasn't his goal. When he believed it was important, he sought to disagree in a manner that made sure you knew it, and considered his point of view before attempting to move forward.

Our Senate is intended to reflect upon the tough decisions of governing this state and make sure that the courses of action we take are the best choices possible. People like Drummond and Patterson, in their own ways, helped make that institution work.

In doing so, both Senators have become unlikely legends of that instituation, and they deserve the appreciation of the people of South Carolina, Democrats and Republicans alike. They certainly have ours.

Obama campaign cons teens in Manning?

According to Mike Reino over at SC6, the Barack Obama campaign, possibly through a teacher or staff member at the high school in Manning, SC, attempted to con some teens into working a booth for them:

The funniest part of the day had to be the Obama booth. Apparently, the kids at Manning High School were asked to volunteer at the Festival. What a lot of them didn't know was that they would be working at Barack Obama's booth. Many left, and some parents wouldn't even let their kids work there. It would be interesting to see who's idea this was, and what relation they have to the campaign.

Having blown the whistle on more than one attempt to use our schools and colleges as Democratic political machines, several questions come to mind:
  • Who on campus helped the Obama campaign recruit students?
  • Why did they misrepresent the nature of the activity to students?
  • Were official inducements, such as extra credit opportunities, offered to get them to participate on behalf of the campaign?
Lying to people to achieve short-term political objectives ... and possibly using government resources to trick people into helping political candidates ... to us, sounds a lot like good ol' boy politics.

But when those things are being done by the Barack Obama campaign, the same tactics become ... (drum roll, please) ... "Change We Can Believe In".

We're certainly proud of the students who smelled a rat, and decided to go enjoy their weekend instead.

Makin' money and havin' fun with my radar gun

Over on FITS, they're talking about the continuing saga of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, which inspired us to reach into the memory closet and pull out a You Tube clip of a remake of the Bottle Rockets' song "Radar Gun":

Patrick Moore and the "middle ground" of environmentalism

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Patrick Moore describes how he fell in love with environmental advocacy, and then fell out with Greenpeace, an organization he helped to found:

In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

Such points of view are more common as environmentalism is maturing, and developing a sort-of "middle ground" of those favor the use of reason and science, as well as pragmatic approaches, like Moore, and those for whom environmentalism is not the end, but rather the means by which they can pursue a radical political agenda that challenges the democratic, market-based social and political systems that are the foundations upon which contemporary First World nations are built.

This presents more proof that Green is the new Red in politics, and people like Moore aren't looking for more politics, but rather workable solutions.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Ace of Spades - a Motorhead classic

We've said it before, and we'll say it again - Motorhead is more than just a great heavy metal band ... they are the most indestructable form of life on the planet. When the nuclear holocaust comes, and even cockroaches die, Lemmy Kilminster, their lead singer will live on.

Yep, we're still wierded out from working on this thesis ... could you tell?

Our all-favorite Motorhead song is the classic "Ace of Spades". Shown below, they performed the song for the BBC comedy series "The Young Ones" (as motley a bunch as Motorhead itself):

If you'd like to see the "regular" version, performed in concert ...

The end of the line (I passed)

Even though the title of this Judas Priest album is "Point of Entry, whenever I see this album cover, it seems more like "the end of the line" to me.

It's official - my thesis was reviewed, defended, and accepted. Having successfully defended my thesis, as well as paid $6.50 in library late fines, I'll get to graduate in two weeks.

My eight-and-a-half-year academic journey reached the end of the line, so perhaps it was fitting that I would think of this album today. Perhaps the end of the line, as the album cover says, is just the "Point of Entry" for whatever is to come next.

.... I want to thank my thesis committee members:

  • Dr. Amanda Ruth, my graduate program advisor,
  • Dr. Vince Benigni, who also supervised my senior project in '04, and
  • Dr. Elena Strauman, who (as expected) came up with some of the most insightful comments and recommendations.
Even though he was unable to participate in the thesis committee due to his usual overload of academic duties, thanks also go out to Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus, who has been a true friend and mentor through years of undergraduate and graduate work. He's been a real source of inspiration, a deliverer of torment and pain, and one of the people most responsible for how I've come as far as I have.

Thanks to them, as well as everyone else for the encouragement, patience, and prayers along the way.

The last stop before graduation - defending my thesis

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday), I'll be defending my thesis. This takes place in front of a committee of three, including my advisor. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, here's how it works:

The oral defense ordinarily will not exceed 60 minutes in length. Refreshments of any sort should not be provided by the student to the Thesis Committee.

The Thesis Advisor shall serve as chair of the thesis defense meeting. At the thesis defense, the student should prepare and deliver an opening statement summarizing the most significant findings of the research project. The opening statement should not exceed 10 minutes in length. All members of the Thesis Committee shall have the opportunity to ask questions on any topic relevant to the execution of the thesis project or the student’s program of study.

After approximately 60 minutes, the student will be asked to leave the examination room at the conclusion of the oral defense to allow for faculty discussion of the oral defense. Immediately following this discussion, all Thesis Committee members must cast a “yes” or “no” vote regarding the approval of the thesis. Students do not pass a thesis defense if more than one “no” vote is received.

The student will be notified of the results of the oral defense within 24 hours of the completion of that defense.

Sounds like a lot fun, doesn't it?

By Friday, I'll know if it's all over - just in time for the weekend. If I make it, I'll see y'all at the graduation party in a couple of weeks.

Stay tuned ...

William Shatner performs "Taxi"

We're not really sure what to say about this performance by Shatner, except "Back atcha, Mike!".

The Shat dude performs "Taxi" on the Dinah show, telling us the tale of flying high in his taxicab and getting stoned ...

... thesis is almost done folks, so the cheese will stop flying real soon.

Representative Erickson's bill shines light on the problem of punks in S.C. schools

In her first three months in the House, Representative Shannon Erickson is making things happen:

A measure that will give high school students who have been bullied more freedom to transfer and play sports moved closer to becoming law Wednesday.

The House Education Committee passed a proposal by Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, that allows students in such situations to become eligible immediately for athletics at their new schools. The measure moves to the full House for debate.

Erickson submitted the bill in February in response to a case involving Lauren Gentry, a star softball player at Battery Creek High who transferred to Beaufort High to escape harassment from an ex-boyfriend.

The S.C. High School League’s executive committee has twice denied her eligibility to play softball, citing a rule that students who change from one public school to another without a change in address cannot play sports for one year.

The committee ruled in March that Gentry’s case didn’t meet its hardship exemption, and Gentry missed her senior season of softball after being Battery Creek’s most valuable player in 2007.

“Our process, in this instance, failed Lauren Gentry,” Erickson said Wednesday.

If this bill passes, one can expect two-thirds of the students in inner city schools to apply for transfers.

Seriously, while we agree with this bill's premise and endorse its passage wholeheartedly, we're smart enough to see the real problem is one which this law can't address - the inability of our school administrators and boards to purge our schools of the troublemakers.

Common sense tells us that if the violence is such a problem that the courts get involved, the punks responsible should be out of school - permanently. Hopefully, making this a reality will be the next step.

Passing Erickson's bill is the right thing to do, but so is taking action to purge our schools of bullies, gangs, and thugs. We can only hope legislators will also see the greater problem and act to address it as quickly as they have moved Erickon's bill forward.

800 postings, and still nothing's on

This posting marks 800 postings in the Blogland - hooray for us ... right?

Frankly, we're amazed that we've made it this far ... even though lately, it's been a lot of strange stuff and bizzaro crap as we've struggled with finishing the thesis process.

We tried to ponder the importance of this milestone, and ... well ... uhhhh ... we didn't find anything profound to talk about. So instead, we'll talk about some of the other 800s that you will find out there.

There's Olde English 800 - a fine alcoholic beverage for discriminating individuals with sophisticated and refined tastes. You can bet whereever you see them drinking Olde English, you can see and smell the success.

Well, maybe not that, but we're willing to bet you'll see and smell things that you'll never forget. Something at least as profound and memorable as the Blogland itself.

Then there's another 800 ... last year, Liverpool, that city in England well-known for being the birthplace of the Beatles, celebrated its 800th anniversary.

Being "from around here" ... born at Roper Hospital and spending much of our youthful years on James Island ... we think we're from a place that is old and historic. But then you take a place like Liverpool that goes back over half a millenia before Charleston - well, THAT is something truly amazing.

Thanks for tuning in folks, and keep coming back. Be it high class or low class, may the luck of the 800 be with you this weekend.

... now back to the books ...

It's all at Wal-Mart

The Blogland's Quote of the Week comes from York Police Chief Bill Mobley:

"There's a lot of fender benders and things. You name it, it occurs. You've got bad checks, forgeries, thefts, husbands and wives getting into it. All at Wal-Mart."

Read more from yesterday's story by Matt Garfield on crime, law enforcement and Wal-Mart in the Rock Hill Herald.

Be sure to have a great weekend!

The Holy Low Rider

Yesterday at FITS, they ran a photo of the papal-mobile. A low-rider with some sharp-looking rims - where'd they find a ride like that?

It reminded us of that classic song from the 70s, "Low Rider" ... check out the YouTube of the opening of the Cheech and Chong classic "Up in smoke":