Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Need I.N.F.O.?

Check out my newest blog page called I.N.F.O. -- Information. News. Facts. Opinion. -- and its debut article "All 13 Presidential Candidates on Florida's Ballot."

Yes, there are more than two candidates on the ballot -- 13 in Florida! -- ranging from an Alaskan representing the Prohibition Party to a Nicaraguan representing the Socialist Workers Party to the ubiquitous Ralph Nader representing, no, not the Green Party -- that's Cynthia McKinney on the first all-woman-of-color ticket -- but the Ecology Party.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kids Can Vote, Too

Kids Voting USA volunteers will be manning precincts around the country over the next couple of weeks. Kids of all ages can cast their ballots when their parents cast theirs. (No, the underage "voters" ballots don't count in the official results.)

It's not too late to volunteer. I just found out about the organization on Tuesday (Wednesday? the days are a blur) and I'm signed up as a Kids Voting Tampa Bay poll worker for this Saturday -- as in tomorrow -- and next Saturday at a mid-county election office.

Yesterday I met the director of Kids Voting Tampa Bay at the polling place to get the materials and instructions. A steady stream of early voters filed through the doors and lined the hallways.

This on a Thursday two weeks before Election Day!

Should be fun -- look for an affiliate in your area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where It All Began -- Part 2

One summer, I worked as a checker (cashier) in a grocery store in Pinedale, Wyo.

It was 1972 and my husband and I, with our infant son, had moved to this bustling town of 1,000 people (in the summer) the previous fall. Pinedale is county seat for Sublette County, population 3,000 at that time, and Falers' General Store, which I remember as an IGA but which I can't verify at the moment, was the largest grocery store in the county.

IGA stands for Independent Grocers Association. This one was owned by Harold Faler, a local resident and -- yup -- independent grocer.

Most people, then as now, struggled to make their paychecks stretch. Toward the end of the month, the grocery baskets coming through the check-out counter weren't quite as full. Payment sometimes included lots of coins scrounged from various hiding places.

When the money ran out, people signed the slip.

Coming from the megalopolis of Southern California, I was taken aback by such trust.

Bank loans, I'd heard of. But they were hard to come by and you didn't take one out to cover everyday expenses. You got a second job instead.

Charge cards, I'd heard of. We even had a JC Penney card that my husband had obtained after being steadily employed by an aerospace company for a number of months.

Gas cards, I'd heard of. Shell, Texaco, and others were fairly common by this time.
Cards for each individual company.

But signing a grocery store receipt as a promise to pay it back -- WITHOUT interest -- when the next paycheck arrived? All I can say is that more than one Sublette County family had Harold Faler to thank for not having to go to bed hungry back then.

So what was the difference between Faler's extending credit and today's creditors selling credit?

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Poynter Article Published


Took five months and a ton of perseverance, but the article I began last May during my internship at Poynter is front-page posted!

High School Journalism Classes Threatened in Florida

And you can read one of my fellow Fellows, Jennifer Cox's, take on the article at 78 Picas -- her blog as a UF doctoral student. Way to go, Jen!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where it all began

Want to know where this financial mess really started?

Other than Adam and Eve wanting to keep up with the Lucifer Jones's, of course.

Last Sunday's Tampa Tribune ran an article written by Patrick May and originally printed in the San Jose Mercury News.

The article, "50 Years Later, How the Credit Card has changed America," told how ... well, here. Read the first two paragraphs for yourself:

"Fifty years ago this month, Bank of America mass-mailed to nearly every home in Fresno a small piece of plastic called the BankAmericard. The credit card had arrived, a shiny corkscrew for each recipient to unbottle thousands of dollars in spending money that hadn't existed before they ripped open those envelopes.

That first taste went right to Fresno's head. By the second year, cardholders had racked up nearly $60 million in purchases. BankAmericard morphed into the Visa powerhouse. And a half-century later, as America embraced and then exported the concept of buying things with money folks didn't necessarily have, the whole world has gotten tipsy.

Let's see. The U.S. Census estimates Fresno's population in 2007 to be 407,508. In 1960, according to the U.S. Census, Fresno's population was 131,595, having grown from its 1950 population of 91,669 -- a 43.6% change.

If we figure an average of four people per household, that's 32,898 households -- give or take a couple.

In two years -- TWO YEARS -- those 32,898 households had, in May's words "racked up nearly $60 million in purchases." That's about $1,824 per household.

$912 per year.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? But . . .

In 1958, the average household annual income was only $4,650.