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Please Pass the Podium

Please Pass the Podium

by Johnny American

Copyright 2015 by Johnny American

Shakespir Edition

Please feel free to copy or distribute as you wish,

Especially to your elected officials.

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Table of Contents

Chapter1: Politicians

Chapter2: Technology

Chapter3: Schools and Education

Chapter4: Minimum Wage

Chapter5: Illegal Immigrants

Chapter6: Obnoxious Behavior

Chapter7: Income Taxes

Chapter8: ADHD

Chapter9: Lazy-ass Americans

Chapter10: Business and Brand Loyalty

Chapter11: Offensive Material

Chapter12: Gun Control

Chapter13: Police

Chapter14: Energy

Chapter15: Restaurant Menus

Chapter16: Defense

Chapter17: Banks and Credit Cards

Chapter18: Charitables and NonProfits

Chapter19: Drivers

Chapter20: Christmas

[]Chapter1: Politicians

I might as well begin with one of my biggest pet peeves, and that involves Politicians…especially career politicians. There’s an old saying that goes like this: If you’re not a crook when you go into politics, you’ll be one when you get out. I firmly believe that. There’s just too many temptations, too many offers, too many friends and cronies, too many special interest groups that expect “paybacks” for their political contributions. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. I don’t think Lobbyists and Political Action Committees have any business trying to influence our country’s leadership. Our leaders were elected and sent to Washington to represent Us, the individual voters, rather than big corporations or specific groups. And although it’s true that you can’t satisfy all of the people all of the time, you can at least try to satisfy someone besides yourself and your buddies.

In the days following the founding of our country, an elected official left his farm or business and travelled to the state capitol or our nation’s capitol to represent the people that lived in his territory; to make their needs and desires known to the rest of the politicians who were gathered to discuss such things. And afterwards, he went back home to his farm or business and worked that, until the call came back out to return and discuss other things of importance to the people. But the key phrase here is “represent the people”. Somewhere along the line it became popular to let someone else run your farm or business while you stayed in the capitol to cater to special interests, and forget about those who had cast their vote for you… so that you could represent them.

Today, at least in my experience, it’s hard to find a politician who will ask you what you need, or ask you what you want. More likely, they’re going to Tell you what you need or want, and they’re going to do it in such a convincing way that you will walk away thinking that’s what you wanted all along. An experienced politician can do this with a straight face, and probably have no remorse for doing that. But when he explains to you that “this is what’s best for you,” he actually means “this is best for me and my pals.”

And realistically, you can go talk to a politician, especially when he or she is running for office. They might even visit your hometown. But here’s the thing…you can attend a “rally” with hundreds or thousands of people present, and hope to make your voice heard… or you can attend a fundraising dinner— at $1,500 a plate— and almost guarantee that your voice will be heard. Now, how many of you can afford a $1,500 dinner? Or $3,000 if you include your spouse? Right. Corporate big-shots get their time with the politician, while Johnny American sits at home sharing a $15 pizza with his spouse and kiddies. So the mass of individual voters that the politician needs to get elected…their voice is not heard. You, Mr. Lifetime Politician, are too busy or too greedy or too wrapped up in your own special-interests circles to hear him and his ideas.

But Johnny American is the working man, the backbone of America, the one you promised to represent, the one whose vote you needed, yet you can’t seem to find the time to talk to him and ask him what’s important. He can’t call you because your line’s always busy or you’re out of the office or your secretary responds for you with a form letter.

My most recent experience with this had to do with a problem facing hundreds or thousands of people from my state. I identified the problem and in my opinion, a senator or someone with authority should have been able to fix the problem with a single inquiring telephone call to the right people. I envisioned that with that phone call, people would snap to attention, punch the correct button on a computer keyboard, and it would all be fixed within minutes. So I contacted the senator’s office through his email, the recommended procedure. His response to me, when he finally did get back to me about three months later, was that this problem was caused by the other political party, and he’d see to it, if re-elected, that this policy would be overturned…and that a new policy (favored by his political party) would replace the existing one.

Are you serious?” I thought. “You never once lifted a finger to try and help your people, you just blamed it on the other party and went about your re-election campaign that was based on “representing the people.” I pointed this out to him with another message, but never received a response. Go figure. So I waited some more, and still nothing. Finally fed up, a call to the news media had the problem fixed within a couple of days.

The point here is that after a few years in office, even the most patriotic, well-intentioned politicians are likely to join the machine. This particular man has done a lot of wonderful things for our state in days gone by, but nothing lately, IMO. Too busy, I guess. And why are politicians always trying to be Politically Correct? In other words, say things that won’t offend anyone. In the end, you don’t take a stand on anything, and it’s just more of the same wasted time in office while our country and states suffer because You Don’t Want to Offend Anyone, thereby hopefully getting more votes from all groups of people for your next run for office. Why don’t you grow a pair and say it like it really is. Then maybe you’ll gain some respect, and might actually have a bigger support group than if you tried to be PC and satisfy everybody (or nobody). Politicians. Huh!

Even small-town politicians, who are more accessible than Senators and Representatives, often think of themselves as being better that the common folks that they’re supposed to represent. Our small town had a referendum on the ballot to allow (or not allow) liquor by the drink. It was bashed by local leaders as not being good for the people… evil… alcohol was bad for everybody. I asked one of them truthfully, “Didn’t I see you last weekend in the next town over, enjoying drinks and having a big time?”

“That’s not the point,” he replied, pointing his finger into my face. I never did find out what “the point” was, but now we can have a drink with our meals in our local restaurants, if we so desire. Politicians!

But to keep them in check (a reality check, really), I believe that elected representatives of the people should earn, at a maximum, the average wage and benefits of the people they represent. If the average wage in my area is $30,000 a year, then that’s what my senator or representative should make. If the average in your area is $90,000 a year, then that’s what your politician should make. Not the $174,000 they currently make. That puts them out of touch with the people who voted them into office. Same for insurance, vacation and retirement benefits. So about medical insurance: If the average family in your hometown pays $1200 a month for insurance, then that much should be taken out of your senator’s paycheck every month for insurance. This way, he’ll know how the people in his area live. Vacation? 10 days a year if that’s the average in your area. And they shouldn’t get a lifelong pension for putting in eight years as a politician, that’s just about the dumbest thing that we Americans have ever allowed to happen. This will never be changed, because who makes the changes? Oh yeah, they do. In recent years, some of the congressmen from my state have been busted for bribery, prostitution, and other things. They have even been caught abusing the $40,000 a year that we give them to use for postage, and the hotel rooms that we pay for them to stay in when our state house is in session. I ask, when is it enough? That’s MY money you’re spending.

And speaking of waste, can any of you tell me why the White House needs THREE Calligraphers? You know, the people who do the fancy writing for invitations to a Gala or whatever affair the White House is hosting? I’m not picking on Calligraphers specifically, except as an example of the waste we have in our nation’s capital. I want those calligraphers to have jobs, but I want them to find jobs in the private sector. I don’t want to pay $300,000 worth of salaries plus benefits every year, plus whatever retirement system they have going, for penning some fancy invitations to a function in Washington. I could see their purpose at one time. In dealing with heads of state, fancy accoutrements probably account for something. But in this day and age, there’s plenty of COTS (Commercial, Off The Shelf) software that will do very nice Calligraphy…for a few hundred bucks. Any font, any size, on any kind of paper. Matter of fact, my five-year-old computer came with Calligraphy fonts pre-installed with MS Word. So, there’s a five year old computer, with a printer, plus paper and inkjet cartridges…a total five-year investment of about $600, and I can print all the fancy invitations I want. Or, we could pay (for the same five years) one and a half million dollars for salaries, plus benefits, plus paper and ink and fancy pens. Personally, I’d choose the printer. Folks, we’re wasting money. And, it’s not the government’s money, That’s My Money!

Ok, so it’s yours, too. So what do you think about all the cooks and kitchen staff at the white house? Maybe a little much? So I propose that we buy each new First Lady a nice new set of pots and pans and let her do the cooking. Call in the executive chefs only once a week.

I know that Pomp and Circumstance has it’s place, especially when we have distinguished visitors at our capitol. In fact, when we have company at our own house, we dismiss the paper plates and eat on real plates. But, we also hold spending to a minimum, especially when we’re broke. After all, it’s my money!

 

[]Chapter2: Technology

 

I was born in 1950, and during my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of new technology. I’ve seen radios go from using heavy, bulky power supplies and old-fashioned vacuum tubes, to transistors, and then to integrated circuits. That’s right, I was here when transistor radios first became a popular consumer item. And technology just keeps getting better and faster and smaller. When I was attending college, every student in our engineering classes had a slide-rule. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a wooden stick in three parts, and each part had numbers on it. The middle section would slide between the outer two sections, and depending on the math functions you were interested in, you used the numbers on the outer sections compared to the numbers on the sliding center section to calculate the answer to your problem. To a trained person, this slide rule could produce accurate (for the time) results. Nowdays, folks just pick up a calculator and punch in the numbers, and the result is displayed for you to read. Very accurate and inexpensive. And the calculator is a result of the space race.

Ironic that slide rules were used to to originally calculate thrusts of rocket engines and spacecraft orbits. We had big computers, but they were rare and more of a gigantic novelty that something that every engineer could have in his office. But when calculators first became available to the common folk, they were priced so high that the company I worked for allowed the employees to buy one, and they took the money out of your paycheck every week for four weeks to pay for it. I think they were about $75. Today you can get the same calculating power for $4 or less at just about any store. But back then, it was a big deal. And back then, a calculator was used verify your calculations or to provide accuracy to a calculation that was carried out to a lot of decimal places…it was not meant to be used instead of your brain. I think that these palm-sized machines are great, but before we become too dependent on them, we need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and other math functions with a paper and a pencil, before we use calculators. We’re dumbing our youth.

An example of my concerns has to do with a purchase my wife and I made at a small boutique market. While we were paying for our merchandise, the clerk behind the counter was telling us about how she was a senior in college and was going to graduate with an 3.0+ average, when the power went out, and her plugged-into-the-wall calculator died. This college senior with a 3.0 could not make change for a ten-dollar bill. I kid you not. My wife told her how much change we were expecting back, and that’s what she handed to us out of her drawer, but isn’t it sad that she was preparing to graduate college, yet she couldn’t perform a simple math task? Yup, she grew up depending on a calculator to do her math for her.

Another time, we were in Wal-Mart and they had a computer glitch while the woman in front of us was checking out. Time passed, people were getting restless, until the CSR came by and explained that we would have to wait until the computer finished rebooting before we could check out. Really? You don’t have a back-up plan? I looked around and every check-out line in the store was getting longer and longer as angry patrons lined up wanting to check out. That got me to thinking, okay, you don’t have prices on your merchandise, you don’t have an old-fashioned cash register and if you did, who would know how to use it? Obviously, you don’t have any alternate plan to sell your merchandise when the computer crashes or the power goes down. So what’s going to happen when a glitch hits a server somewhere out in Nebraska or Georgia, or India, and it takes the whole internet system down?

Help me think this through…You won’t be able to buy groceries because the grocery stores all use automated checkouts, and when the internet or the power went down, the computer rebooted. You could go to the bank and get some cash out of your account, but oh, wait! The banks are all automated, and they won’t let you have any money unless they can take it out of your electronic account immediately, and that part’s down as well. So, maybe we’ll travel to the next town over and buy groceries. Except, we need gasoline, and the gas station only uses computer-controlled pumps and that computer’s down…even if the pumps worked, you don’t have any cash and the card-swiper wouldn’t work because it’s linked to some clearinghouse in a foreign country via the internet. Well, you can’t buy groceries or gasoline, so you might as well go the the doctor’s appointment you have in thirty minutes, but you can’t get there on time because the traffic lights through town are computerized and traffic’s a beast and the lights are all screwed up. So you finally make it, but your doctor can’t retrieve your MRI file from the radiologist across town, because the file can’t be sent over the broken network…I’m just saying that technology’s nice, but sometimes we rely on everything working correctly all of the time. We don’t allow for a single-point failure, yet it can, and does happen. Think about the entire northeastern United States going dark several years ago, total blackout in the middle of winter, because somewhere in some obscure corner of our country, a computer glitch took out the entire New England power distribution system!

One Christmas, every chair and sofa and folding chair and footstool in our living room was filled with the younger generation, and they all had their heads buried in their cell-phones, texting. I asked them “Why don’t you all put those phones up and talk to each other?” The reply? “We are talking to each other!” I shook my head in wonderment as I left the room.

We certainly need technology. It’s good for our Defense. It makes life easier. I love my microwave oven and my flat-screen TV (which unfortunately were manufactured overseas.) I’m proud of our technological advancements. We just need to use state-of-the art with caution and restraint. And listen, now matter how great your electronic entertainment collection is, make sure your kid gets some time outside to play with something simple…a ball and a bat or a bucket or a stick or whatever is handy in your yard or neighborhood.

 

[]Chapter3: Schools and Education

 

I firmly believe that our government, bad parenting and our school system are the main reason for the Dumbing of America’s children.

Now don’t get me wrong. For the most part, we have a bright and intelligent bunch of kids in our schools today. And the rest of them, well, let’s just say that most of the rest have potential. They’re just not using it.

Nimber 1, our government is concerned about every child in America feeling good about themselves, and believing that all children are equal in their capacity to grasp an education, leaving “No Child Left Behind”. Well, guess what? They aren’t all equal. I wish they were. But too often, we slow down the educational processes and the intellectual challenges to our students so that everybody can be on the same page and nobody gets left behind, which to me means “No child gets ahead.” When I was in school, if you either couldn’t (or wouldn’t) learn, you were put into a special program that allowed you to progress at a rate that was suitable for you…and the rest of the kids from your class went on to get an education. We shouldn’t have to slow down the learning process for everybody because “Billy” doesn’t get it. Our children need to feel challenged, not bored, in the classroom. I have a grandson who asked to be transferred to a different school, because there were too many distracting and “slow” kids in his classroom. Not to be picking on the slow kids, but my grandson was bored from just sitting while the teacher spent the majority of her time helping the same couple of kids day after day, the ones who should have repeated the previous grade and learned the material before moving on. He recognized that he wasn’t learning anything. He’s now in a private school and is challenged every day. And I believe that if your child is in a private school, you ought to get the money that our government sends to the public school for your child, to apply toward private school tuition. The public school system doesn’t want that to happen, because they know they’re going to lose not only their brightest kids, but lots of money when everybody begins bailing out. So what does that tell you?

Number 2, parents should help their kids learn. It shouldn’t be entirely up to the school system to correct your child’s laggard performance. They try, but you’ve got to put forth some effort yourself. And if the parent can’t add and subtract, or the parent can’t help, there’s probably some family or friends who can lend a hand. And if your kid continually gets in trouble at school, or lags behind, or causes a commotion at school, don’t go pointing fingers at the teachers or the school system just yet, because, despite what your kid tells you, it is sometimes his fault. Maybe he has a “respect for authority” problem, or a learning disability, or a medical condition, or is distracted by stuff that’s going on at home. Maybe he just needs his butt busted. When I was in school, my dad told me that if I got a whippin’ at school, I could expect to get one when I got home. And he meant it. Nowdays, nobody gets a whippin’ at school. Now it all makes sense.

Number 3, the school system (and the teachers) should share some of the blame, because it is, in fact, their job to educate your students. Every school system has the teacher who, for some reason, decides that they just don’t want to put forth the effort to teach anymore. Maybe it’s unruly students, maybe it’s some new rules and regultions, maybe it’s something else. If you’ve decided that you don’t want to be a teacher anymore, then please find a different career and let someone else take your place.

One weekend several years ago, we had two of our seldom-seen grandkids stay with us. We soon felt that they might be behind in their education, even though the sixth-grader showed us all As and Bs on her last report card. We pulled a standardized third-grade test from the internet, and found that our lovely sixth-grade granddaughter couldn’t even pass a third-grade test. How sad is that, that her school system gave her A’s and B’s for her lackluster performance? She’s a smart girl, just not in things academic. I’m thinking that her school needs some kind of remedial education for teachers and administrators.

Here’s some parting thoughts on teachers: Our small town had a referendum on the ballot to increase property taxes and to use that money to increase teachers’ pay. I was approached by a long-time friend who was a teacher, to “please vote for the tax increase so our teachers can get more pay and our kids can get a better education.”

My response was this: “I certainly hope you’re doing everything you can now to give our kids the best education they can get. I don’t see where giving you more money should affect that.” We didn’t speak for years after that conversation. I’m sure that he didn’t mean it how it came out, but then, how did he mean it?

I also have a teacher in the family who made a comment to me back in the spring. This teacher was bemoaning the fact that the school year would have to go a week later into the summer break, because of some extra “snow days”.

“But we already work a hundred and fifty days a year” she stated.

What?” I was stunned.

“We already work a hundred and fifty days a year!”

And then that light bulb went off over my head. Hell, that’s part of what’s wrong with our school system today! We don’t spend enough time in the classroom. I looked it up and found that it’s actually a hundred and eighty days a year. So I got to thinking…most likely, everybody I know would like to only work a hundred and eighty days out of the year. I mean, come on, look at the teacher’s schedule, at least in my area: Let’s see, even though they make as much or more than the average employee in the area (who puts in a whole year’s worth of work), they only work 180 days a year, they get three months off in the summer, two weeks at Christmas, a week for fall break and a week for spring break, a week’s worth of “snow days”, a week for Thanksgiving, a day off when the county fair shows up, plus who knows what else…And you want me to sympathize with you?Really?

I say, before you tell me how bad you’ve got it, go somewhere else and get another job! Walk a mile in my shoes. Oh, I didn’t mention the excellent health insurance, or the excellent pension, or the union you’ve got, where the school has a hard time getting rid of you if you mess up. Horray, I’m glad you’ve got all that, but don’t expect me to feel sorry for you because you have to go to school for another week because of “snow days”. Everybody else had to get out, scrape their windows and shovel snow, drive or slide to work, then repeat the process at the end of their shift in order to get back home, so that their tax dollars could pay your salary. A lot of them had to be out in the cold and the snow for eight hours after they got to work, with the wind whipping around their ears at about twenty miles per hour, and you’re complaining about “snow days” where you didn’t even have to leave the house? Get over it. I’m just saying, for the most part, our schools are filled with wonderful, caring teachers, whose hands are tied by rules and regulations, and they have to put up with a load of crap from both students and parents, but you’ll have to admit that they do have one of the best unions in our country.

And frankly, if you want to show me what you’re really made of, instead of asking for more money next time, try petitioning for a longer school year. You know, so our kids can get a better education.

A teacher’s counter to this might be that “we spend a lot of time away from school grading papers and preparing the next day’s lessons,” and I have to agree that you do; however, that’s not time spent with our children, and just look at our worldwide competition in education. We spend more money per child, and less time teaching them, than any other developed country in the world. And, according to the media, we’re lagging behind. Now I’m not asking you to defend your position on this, and I know you want to, I just want you to think about what I’ve said. Mull it over, and see if you can think of a way to help improve the educational process for our children.

 

[]Chapter4: Increased Minimum Wage

 

Been there, done that. It doesn’t work, and I’ll tell you why. A short while after you get your raise, every place where you spend money will be raising their prices to compensate for having to raise the pay of their employees. The goods that they sell: somewhere along the supply chain, somebody got a big raise, and that’s passed along to you as well in the form of increased wholesale prices to your store; So now there’s a double-whammy— increased wages and increased cost of goods, both of which the store will pass along to the consumer. As a matter of fact, every cost increase along the supply chain is passed along to you, the buyer. Good thing you got that raise, huh?

I know this for a fact, because it’s happened to me before, that within a month or two of getting a big raise, you’ll have about the same buying power that you had before everybody got a raise. Maybe a little less. Here’s why it’s maybe even less: Because you’re making more money, now they’re taking more out of your paycheck for taxes and social security. The only clear winner in raising the minimum wage will be the government, because they’re now getting a bigger tax bite from every check you take home. Even your Granny, who’s living on a fixed income will suffer, because she didn’t get a raise, but prices have gone up.

The minimum wage was not meant to be a wage for life. It was meant to provide you with a living wage while you took steps to improve yourself, learn more, get a better education or otherwise make yourself more valuable to your employer, or perhaps to a new employer. Night school? Tech school? On-the-job Training? There’s some way out there for you to improve your worth to an employer and rise above your fellow minimum-wage workers. Go find it and improve your status in the workplace before somebody else does.

So, increasing the minimum wage will only give you more money for a few weeks. Then it’s back to the same-old same-old. I know, with that said, you still want the minumum wage increased. All I can say is, “be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

 

[]Chapter5: Illegal Immigrants, Mexicans, and The Wall

 

Can you imagine a plane landing in Washington D.C., New York, Boston, or any other east-coast airport, and none of the passengers have any identification or paperwork…but Immigration Services just waves them on through, saying Welcome to America, come partake in our bounty? It just doesn’t happen, right?

And you wouldn’t want that to happen. Our country has an established imigration policy, and those who show up at our airports and don’t follow the rules are turned around and sent back. Or arrested. So why should our Southwestern border be any different? There’s a right way to enter our country, and a wrong way. I can assure you that if you just “crashed the border” in another country, you’d be deported or tossed in jail. Or shot. It’s their country and they have laws affecting immigration, and if you want to stay, you have to follow their laws of suffer the consequences. I think that’s only right. I also think it’s right, here in America.

Listen, we’re not trying to keep people out. We just want them to come here the right way. Legally. Or at least that’s what I believe. And, we want them to help pay their share in supporting America. Contribute to the system like you do and I do. No cash under the table. No skipping the income tax. None of that.

If you or I gave up our citizenship, which would put us on par with the illegals, do you think we’d be allowed to stay? You know, if we didn’t pay any taxes on our income? If we didn’t have an ID or driver’s license? No Social Security number? I’m just asking if we would be allowed to stay.

My small town in Tennessee has quite a few Mexican / Latino residents. I don’t know if they’re here legally or illegally, or are descendents of legals or illegals. But these people are hard workers and skilled workers, mostly in the agricultural, construction, or lawncare industries. At least the ones that I can see and the ones I know about. And I don’t know if they’re working for themselves or for somebody else, or exactly what they do when wintertime gets here, because they’re not visible for the most part when the weather turns cold. I’m thinking that these people are doing hard work, hot work, and work that a lot of other people just don’t want to do. We just need to make sure they are here legally.

I do feel that if and when America starts deporting illegals, that the price of construction work and agricultural produce will go up, because my understanding is that they work cheaper than their American counterparts. And they do work nobody else wants to do. I’d like for a lot of them to stay…if they’re here legally. And that’s the main argument, anyway. Sure, we’re a nation of immigrants and we shouldn’t try to keep one sect out, if only they’d do it legally. My forefathers had to do it legally, and your forefathers had to do it legally, so why not everybody else? If they did it legally, then they’re American citizens. But if they’re here illegally, then they gotta go.

If you multiply the number of illegal immigrants, estimated at 11 million, and multiply by 50%, a rough average of the number of them on our “programs” (depending on source) you arrive at 5.5 million illegal immigrants who are receiving “program” benefits that they’ve never even contributed to. That’s hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars a year they’re sucking out of a system that was designed to help American citizens who, hopefully have contributed to the system at some point in their lives. Bleeding heart sympathizers aside, these freeloading illegal immigrants gotta go! If you want to keep them here, put them up in your house and take care of them, but don’t expect me to do it for you. That’s my money you’re giving away!

To keep them from crashing our borders, lots of ideas have been suggested, but I have one I’d like to share. Several years ago, our local Air Force Base was in the running as a possible location to build a “training camp” for soldiers and airmen who were bound for Iraq and other places in the Middle East. My thoughts then were, heck, don’t build it in Middle Tennessee, let’s just build it alongside our border with Mexico. Put it someplace that’s hot and sandy, to acclimate the soldiers to the conditions they’ll experience when they get to Iraq. Put up signs “Military Installation” “Firing Range”, etc. Let the tanks run up and down the border, let the soldiers take target practice, let the jets drop bombs and test-fire missles alongside the border… I mean who is going to try to cross that? I don’t intend for people to get hurt, I just think that would be a great deterrent to folks who want to cross the border. I suggested this to a politician in our area. When he finally got back to me, his response was “We’d rather have it built in Tennessee. This would mean a lot of jobs for Tennesseans.” And I guess he was right, but sometimes you have to think What’s best for our country? I don’t know if they ever built this training center or not, but if they did, they sure didn’t build it at our base in Tennessee. So we didn’t get the jobs, and we’ve still got an illegal immigrant problem in the United States of America. Donald Trump wants to build a wall. I want to build a new military training center. I guess either one would be okay…it’s just that we need to do something besides talk about it.

 

[]Chapter6: Obnoxious Rude Behavior

 

Lots of this has to do with bad parenting, because usually, it’s children who don’t know how to behave in public. But sometimes, it’s adults.

I’m more forgiving of children, because sometimes, they just don’t know right from wrong. Their parents should teach them. But often, parents fail. Do you really think I want to watch your children run through the grocery store, scatter merchandise all over the floors, watch them ram your cart into some frail old lady, and scream bloody murder when they don’t get that particular item that they want? Am I supposed to smile and say, “Oh, isn’t she cute?” while looking over your shoulder at the carnage left behind? Okay, I’ll admit, your kid is cute, but her behavior is atrocious! One doesn’t cancel out the other.

When I’m trying to dine in a restaurant, I really don’t want to be hit in the back of the head by a spoonful of peas, because your kid doesn’t like peas. Now he’s kicking the back of my seat and screaming at the top of his lungs, and when I turn to look at you, you smirk and tell me “He’s normally not like this.”

“Sure he is,” I think, otherwise he wouldn’t have thought he could get away with it this time. And sometimes, when the kid yells and screams, the mother will make more noise than the kid, trying to get him to be quiet. You should have taught your young’un manners before you brought them to a nice restaurant. I don’t get it. As a big compliment for fathers around the country: usually when there’s a man at their table, the kid doesn’t act like a brat. Draw your own conclusions from that, but really, I think that says a lot. By the way, whenever I go into a children’s restaurant, for example Chucky Cheese, I fully expect to experience the wild noisy shenanigans that are found there, and I’m not offended at all. Really, I’m not biased. I promise.

But for all the noisy kids in public places, there are also noisy, obnoxious adults in public places. Especially when there’s a sporting event going on or there’s alcohol involved. I expect it to be wild and noisy, kinda like a Chucky Cheese for the adults, so I’m not quite so surprised when rude or obnoxious happens and I try to avoid it. But other places…

Listen, I can go into a movie theater, and while I’m getting a seat I notice that there’s nobody else in the theater. So I sit. Ultimately, some six-foot-six dude wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat will walk in with his petite girlfriend, walk halfway down the aisle, stop…and look at me. Now when we make eye contact, I’m not asking him telepathically to come over and sit in front of me, but I guess he takes it that way. Sure enough, in this big empty theater, he decides to sit right down in front of me. And then continually leans over to whisper to his date, thus blocking not only my view, but my wife’s view as well. So, I guess I’m supposed to move, Tex, if I want to see the show, right? So I’ll move. And now, the show has started. Running late, and dragging five or six kids behind her, Soccer Mom enters the theater and hustles down the aisle and suddenly decides that sitting right behind Johnny American is a good idea. Only she sits where she can see the screen and puts Lil Billy right behind me…only so we can all hear him complain “But I can’t see!” Then he’ll kick the back of my chair and whine throughout the entire movie, the whole time Soccer Mom’s going “Shhhh!” and now Sally’s gotta pee, and Jimmy’s spilled his drink, and Judy’s busy texting her friends or chatting on her phone. Really? Hey, I agree that you have the same right to be there as I do, but I’m not understanding your thought process. Neither you nor Tex has any idea what you’re doing…or do you? You’re just thoughtless or rude, and if I say anything about it, now I’m the one who’s both thoughtless and rude! I just don’t get it!

 

 

[]Chapter7: Income Taxes and Financials

 

So after decades of people proposing a simpler tax system, it’s on the forefront again, and I suspect that nothing will ever change. Our complicated tax code is set up to benefit big businesses and poor people. Nothing for the working man. Nothing for Johnny American. Except pay, pay, pay. Here’a an example of a discovery I made while doing my taxes one year: I had ended up with an extra house. I know, you’re thinking, how does one end up with an extra house? But it was just helping someone out. So now I had this empty house and I also had house payments to make on it. I rented the house to a nice couple for just enough to cover the payments. When tax time came, I was stunned at the benefit this rental house gave me. Not only could I deduct expenses, I could also “depreciate” the house, and according to the tax code (and my income at the time), when I ran the numbers I discovered that if I’d had nine more rental houses, I wouldn’t have had to pay a single dime in income taxes. Not a dime! Get back everything I had paid in from my regular job, and not pay anything on income from this rental house! Meanwhile, the house that I was depreciating and somebody else was paying for was actually increasing in value! How cool is that?

Now who do you suppose wrote that into the tax code? Right, a politician with a bunch of rental houses, that’s who! And I suspect that the bulk of the entire tax code is based on some bigshot’s or buddy’s needs. That’s just a feeling that I have, but I’m sure I’m right. Everybody who had some special need for a tax break, for decades on end, has influenced the tax codes until they’re a complicated nightmare. So what do they give the working man in the tax codes?

Well, they give you a deduction for every child that you have, and they give you a mortgage deduction if you itemize. Healthcare costs after they exceed ten percent of your income. What else? I can assure you that a big-money bigshot has more deductions than you have. In fact, the big guys do what’s called Tax Planning, and that’s where you decide what to do with your money before you ever even get it. Johnny American can do the same thing by thumbing through a tax preparation book and calculating several what-if scenarios… what if I pay my medical bills this year or wait until next year, what if I decide on renting a car vs. buying a car for my business? Things like that will usually find you some tax breaks, but unless you can hire the best (read: most expensive) tax accountants, you’re generally stuck with what Uncle Sam puts out in his 1040 Instruction Booklet. Once again, the big guy wins, because he can afford to pay a tax guy $10,000 to find him $50,000 worth of tax breaks.

Oh, and the little guy wins, too. If you earn within a certain bracket and you fit a certain situation, you can actually get back more income tax than you paid in. This is called the Earned Income Tax Credit. The What? The EIC, the Earned Income Credit! I really don’t understand the logical thinking that went into this, but obviously, some political group decided to help lift lower-income mothers out of poverty by giving them more money back than they paid in! That’s a caring notion, but guess what? That’s My Money! You (the government) are giving them money that I paid in, and without my permission! Stop! If you’re gonna give it back, give it back to me…after all, I’m the one you took it from. And I could sure use it!

Now before you think that I don’t care, I really do care about those less fortunate than I am. But enough’s enough. Don’t you think that helping folks out for a year or two is enough? Three years, tops! Let’s talk about a lady named Sally. Sally is real. Sally can’t succeed in life, according to her, because 1) she has kids 2) she’s not educated enough to find a better job. But let me tell you just how smart Sally really is: She works throughout the year until she makes enough money to top out in the Earned Income Credit bracket. Then she quits or finds a way to be without a job until the end of the year, so that she can Max Out her Free Money Earned Income Tax refund! This is true, I know this lady. She plans her entire work year around her quit date so she can get the most Free Money. How sad is that? But Sally’s a tax planner. She’ll give up $8,000 in extra income in order to get back $4,800 that she never even paid in. And her lack of education? It shouldn’t matter. She’s smart enough to work the system, so she’d probably be a valuable employee for some company…that is until she quit, to maximize her free money.

But I do care, and I’ll help any of my friends, relatives, or neighbors who are in need. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. I’ve donated money to causes, I’ve donated food, I’ve delivered food, I’ve supplied free labor, I’ve given cash to individuals, I’ve made loans that never were repaid, I’ve bailed people out of jail, I’ve helped with special causes, I’ve walked relays and raised money, and done lots of things to help folks in and around my town. I probably should do more. Probably, we all should do more to help, but I could do more if you’d quit taking money from me and giving it to Sally.

Back to the tax problem. We ought to be able to get rid of our debt and cure our defecit if only we’d spend less than we take in. That’s a simple rule, and shouldn’t be too tough for a politician to grasp. Pretty much, if we cut frivolous spending by 10% and increase our income by 10%, well that’s a 20% difference that we’ve made in knocking out our financial problems. And I firmly believe that tax revenue would increase if we had a flat tax rate of, say 5% for low-income families, 10% for high income families, and 12 1/2 % for corporations... and then make sure everybody pays it… Adjust up or down as needed after the first year, but at least everybody would be paying their share. And no more getting back more than you paid in!

The tax form with instructions: maybe a few pages for an employee, maybe a dozen pages for a small business, maybe two dozen for a large corporation. Done.

The federal reserve, in my opinion, has held interest rates low for only one reason: Yeah, just think of all the debt our country has. By keeping the rates artifically low, we’re saving a bunch of money each and every day on interest, because we’re so far in debt! But keeping the rates so low, we’ve also put the squash on savings accounts, which is hurting the senior citizens and retired folks who had come to rely on interest on their accumulated savings and retirement accounts to be able to have a little money to get by on during their golden years. Get rid of the debt and you can raise interest rates. Granny has more to spend and pay taxes on. Bring our factories back and you’ve got less unemployment and more individual and corporate tax revenue. There’s lots of things that can be done…if somebody with authority would just Do It!

 

[]Chapter8: ADHD

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Yeah, I don’t remember when I first heard about this, but I think it was in the late 1970s or the early 1980s, and I heard it from some of the best…those who work the system. And it went something like this. “All you got to do is get your kid to act up in school, and the government sends you a check every month for $478 (or a whatever amount it was then).” Really? News like this spreads like wildfire through housing projects, and everyone lines up to get yet another check. I’m sure that there are kids all over this country with a real case of ADHD, but I’d hazard to guess that once word spread, most of those drawing a check are Mommas encouraging their kids to act up so they can get Free Money. And now I hear that schools are encouraging parents to apply for ADHD, because it lets the schools slide a little when it comes to meeting the standards for No Child or Common Core.

The theory behind the checks, I believe, was to give money so that Momma could afford to get medical or psychological help for her unruly or inattentive child. Whoever thought that throwing money at a problem makes things better? But mostly they just put those unruly kids on drugs and send them on their way. And now look, our schools have no prayer in them, teachers can’t paddle, and the unruly kids distract the normal kids from getting an education. Some of them are acting up because Momma told them to. How can you fix this? It’s gone too far, probably, but if it goes any further, it’ll be impossible to get it back.

It’s bad for the children and it’s bad for America’s bottom line. Probably, all your kid needs is a good spanking.

 

[]Chapter9: Lazy-ass Americans

 

Every hard-working American citizen knows somebody who is just too plain lazy to get up off their ass and go to work. I don’t think that lifestyle is right, but if you look at it from a financial perspective, maybe they’re smarter than the rest of us. Recent surveys show that, if a person were to maximize their benefits, they could draw an equivalent of over $15 an hour just by sitting on their lazy asses and letting the rest of us support them. I believe it was about $60,000 per year in Hawaii. What this is saying to me, and should be saying to all American workers, is: that’s too much! It pays too well to sit at home.

I’m not talking about unemployment, which a lot of folks unfortunately find them selves drawing, because the term “unemployment” at least implies that you have been employed at some time…but I’m talking about Gimmee programs. Once again, I don’t mind helping somebody who’s had a run of bad luck, especially through no fault of their own, but I’m talking about the generational abusers who believe that America owes them something. From free or low-cost housing, to free food, to free rides to the doctor for free medical care, to paid utility bills, to free telephones…and now the president of the United states wants to give them free or low-cost high-speed internet. What gives? Hell, prez, I can hardly afford my own internet, and now I’ve got to pay for theirs, too? Look, I’ve paid my own way my entire adult life…except for six weeks when I drew unemployment and also got two weeks worth of food stamps. I was grateful for the assistance, thank you America and Tennessee, but believe me, while I was drawing, I was also out beating the bushes trying to scrounge up another job. And I succeeded, because that’s just what my generation did. Find some way to get it done. Nowdays, too many folks are just lazy. Understandably, some areas are worse off than others, but just because the news tells you that the unemployment rate is up in your town, doesn’t mean that you can’t go find something to do. Oh, yeah, silly me, I almost forgot. It probably pays more to sit at home than it does to work. You can draw taxpayer’s money and do nothing. But Wait! That’s my money! This giveaway crap has got to stop! Or at least drop to a reasonable level, and for a restricted amount of time. Sooner or later you need to make something of yourself.

Two days ago, we were in line at our local WalMart, waiting to check out. In front of us, a well-dressed lady wearing a NorthFace Jacket, diamond earrings, and carrying a Gucci bag checked out her cart-full of fine groceries, then swiped her SNAP card. That’s food stamps. Then, after paying for her food, she checked out the rest of her merchandise…which was a bag of dog food and the rest was beer. She paid for that with a debit or credit card. It was $88. That’s right, eighty-eight dollars for a bag of dog food and a lot of beer. She could afford all that beer, I guess, because you and I were paying for her groceries. Better groceries that we could afford. So my wife insisted on hurrying up with our checkout so we could see what Ms. SNAP CARD was driving. Well, she was parked right across the lane from us, and she was loading all her stuff into a Big White Shiny SUV. Looked brand new to us. To be honest, we don’t know her story and we shouldn’t judge. Perhaps her Gucci bag was a knockoff, perhaps her diamonds were CZ, and perhaps she bought that NorthFace jacket at a yard sale. Maybe the SUV belonged to someone else, and no, we didn’t follow her home to see how big her house was. But I’m just sayin’, if she could afford all that beer, she should have to pay for her own groceries. Too much giveaway in the USA, and it’s not the government’s money…that’s My Money!.

And since I mentioned Internet a short while back, let’s talk about Cable TV/Internet. We have ours through Charter. With taxes, it’s over $180 dollars a month. That gets us 300 channels plus high-speed internet. Now our 300 channels were about 100 regular channels, plus those same 100 channels in HD, plus those same 100 channels in Latino, which we don’t speak. That’s 300 channels. Do you see anything wrong with this 300 channels picture? I do. But fortunately, they’ve dropped those Latino channels and given us another hundred something-or-others of something else, but it’s mostly duplicates of some of those first 100 channels. And Charter claims high-speed internet, which crawls to a snail’s pace at times. I can download faster over my cell-phone which is 3G, but of course my data is limited over my phone. But anyhow, I think our cable/internet package just costs way too much. If you think about it, if I was smart enough to put up an antenna and drop my cable/internet, I’d save $180 a month, which, over the course of 10 years is enough to pay cash for a brand new car (if I don’t get too fancy with that new car). $21,600 I’m paying over 10 years for cable TV and internet. And I’ve had Charter for over 20 years! That’s a new Denali or Lexus, or maybe a Mercedes Benz. A used Ferrari. I’m really stupid I guess, and that antenna is sounding better all the time. But if it’s a struggle for me to afford my TV/Internet service, why should I be expected to pay for someone else’s package?

Insurance: When I retired in 2012, I found myself paying over $20,000 a year in insurance premiums. In premiums! Plus, I still had to pay money when my wife or I went to the doctor’s office or hospital. When Obamacare came out, and we found premiums for a lot less, about $1400 a month with a high deductible, we joined up. I’m all against socialized medicine, but yes, the program was attractive enough that I hooked our wagon to a star and away we went. $1400 a month for my wife and myself. My neighbor, who works mostly for cash under the table but earns more money than my Social Security check pays, gets his Obamacare for, according to him, $90 a month, with a $500 annual deductible and he also has dental care and vision, which I don’t have. I guess he’s a whole lot smarter than I am. He knows how to beat the system. When I pay my taxes, I hate the thought that I’m subsidizing his perks. And you should, too.

Tennessee has it’s own version of Medicaid, and it’s called TennCare. It’s meant to help those who are going through rough times and need medical care. Or lazy-ass Americans who just won’t work. And it’s cheap. A friend of mine was on TennCare for a while, and he paid $29.50 a month. He had better medical benefits than I did, and I had a premium plan through my employer that cost a whole lot more!. And for a while, his TennCare paid for him to get Viagra, and kids got free braces (if deemed medically necessary). My high-dollar plan didn’t pay for Viagra for me or braces for my kids. So while I was paying $3500 each for the kids to get braces, I was also paying for his kids’ braces and his own supply of Viagra! I don’t begrudge anyone getting help when they need it, especially basic medical help, but this was another giveaway program that just got out of hand. I knew others who bragged they were on Tenncare and I knew they were loaded with $$$, so I guess they were beating the system, too. But, at least there’s some justice to the system. If you’re on Tenncare or Medicaid, when you die, the state comes and gets all your stuff, if you have anything to get. So to all the loaded folks who beat the system, when you die, your kids aren’t getting what you thought they were gonna get. Maybe you shouldn’t have beat the system.

But there’s a whole generation coming up where 20% of those people are going to expect the other 80% to provide them with stuff. One in five will be expecting a handout. Why? Because we haven’t put any deterrents in place, because we’ve made it too easy, and because we’ve just been way too generous giving stuff away. And some of it’s my stuff!

Public Housing: Many people are living in public or government or subsidized housing. I don’t mind helping you for a while, but sooner or later, you’re going to need to get out on your own. Maybe have a little pride, maybe have a sense of accomplishment. A lot of public housing bases the amount that you pay on your income when you sign up to receive this benefit. But when you reach a certain threshold, you should be able to go out into the world and find your own place to live. Or booted out. Recent discoveries show that there are folks who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and they’re still living in subsidized housing, their rent based on the income they had when they first moved in fifteen years ago. A spokesperson claimed that this was okay, because “we try to maintain diversity within our housing projects.” Now you tell me what a family making half-a-million a year has in common with a family making $12,000 a year. They’re living side-by-side in public housing, that I’m helping pay for, and nobody sees a problem? I guess that’s what diversity is all about. But it’s wrong, and it needs to stop. Johnny American says “That’s enough!”

 

[]Chapter10: Business and Brand Loyalty

 

I hated the fact that a local factory that made air-conditioning systems, Carrier, closed up and moved to Mexico. That left a lot of people in my area without jobs. Good jobs. Funny thing (really nothing funny about it), the Mexicans who tried to make air-conditioners in the new factory just didn’t have the technical skills to produce a product that worked, so some of the workers who got laid off here-ended up going to Mexico to show the Mexicans how to do the job.

And there’s so many good jobs that were lost to foreign countries. Some of them are coming back, and I believe that it’s because of our hard-working, dedicated, skilled work force. But a lot of them are foreign companies. For example, a lot of our US automakers produce either parts, assemblies, or complete vehicles outside of our country, and yet within a few hours’ drive I can end up at an automobile plant that belongs to a foreign company. I can drive to a Nissan plant, a Kia plant, a Volkswagen plant, a Mercedes plant…all within a few hundred miles of my home in middle tennessee. What’s up with that? American industry is giving our jobs to foreigners, while foreign industry is giving their jobs to Americans. It doesn’t make real sense on the surface, but it’s not until you examine the financial breaks given to these foreign companies (to provide Americans with jobs) that it all comes together. And we shouldn’t have to incentivise it. Dammit, American auto companies belong in America! They need to be brought back.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was a large cause of American corporations going out of the country, along with our strict Environmental Protection Agency’s mandates, Safety Issues, and our own selfish greed in the form of higher wages and silver-lined pension systems in the US. I mean, what corporation wouldn’t take advantage of a system that lets you lower your overhead, lower your labor, lower your overall operating costs, while cutting to the bone the environmental and safety regulations that were costing you money and lost productivity here in the United States, and dropping or eliminating tariffs when the final product was shipped back to America? I can’t really blame them, but I can blame our government for allowing it to happen. And who thought up all this NAFTA crap, anyhow? All those lost manufacturing jobs, but they told us we’re going to become wealthy with our highly skilled “service-sector” employees. What a farce. It’s BS, and every hard-working red-blooded American saw through the smokescreen before it was ever signed. What’s wrong with our career politicians that they couldn’t see it…that they would let this happen? Too much wine and dine? Head turned the other way? Just what was it?

Incidentally, another trade agreement, GATT, or the General Agreement on Trade and Tarriffs, besides laying out agreements between trading nations also had a big slap-in-the-face for a lot of Americans who were about to retire. Due to new rules about about our pensions—being cleverly hidden within a document where they didn’t even belong— when I finally did retire, my pension payout was about 25% smaller than it would have been several years before. Again, our government, who are supposed to be looking out for us.

But back to business, I really have a hard time accepting the fact that businesses used to care about the employees but then, somewhere along the line—employees just became numbers in a computer. I think that companies went public, and then they had to satisfy the stockholders, which could mean dealing with a bunch of demanding big-money jerks, whose only purpose was to make money…and damned the personal fallout.

On the other side of the business coin is my disappoiontment with General Motors. I’ve always been proud to drive GM products, I’ve got good service from them, and so when I finally had a few extra bucks, I decided to invest in them. Yep, I bought GM stock, stupidly thinking that because I had supported them all these years that they would be faithful to me as well. But in a stunning round of smoke and mirrors, The General let me down.

I discovered that my faith and dedication to them meant nothing. They went bankrupt and left me holding worthless paper, then, as if by magic, they reappeared, stronger than ever. They probably didn’t know that I had lost money by investing in them, so to add insult to my injury, they sent me a card in the mail, thanking me for being a loyal GM buyer, and if I would like to visit a showroom, they would like to show me “The New General Motors”. No note saying “we’re sorry we screwed you over,” no discount for being a broken stockholder, no apologies…just an invitation to buy another new GM car. Well, go to hell General Motors.

I’ll never buy another new GM product as long as I live. I’ll probably buy GM, but I’ll buy used, either from individuals or my local dealer whom you screwed over as well, because I absolutely refuse to support you. You know, if you had gone out of business totally, I would be more accepting of the fact that you used me and then tossed me aside. But to “magically emerge” as the New GM, with no remorse at all about what you’ve done…well, when the government bailed you out, where do you think they got the money? From the taxpayer. That’s my money! So I helped bail you out—after you dumped on me. The news media regarded your actions as a stroke of genius and a brilliant power-play. I just regard you as a boardroom full of blood-sucking low-lifes. In spite of your actions, and in spite of my feelings, I do wish The New General Motors all the best, because lots of dedicated hard-working people depend on you for employment. That’s the only reason. Hopefully, your factories in America will thrive…the ones you moved or built in other countries, like Mexico, I really don’t care.

Similar deal on my Sears Craftsman lawn tractor that my wife and I bought Brand New a few years ago. While we were shopping, I noticed the brilliant metallic red, white, and blue MADE IN AMERICA sticker affixed to the Briggs and Stratton engine underneath the hood. “Wow,” I told my wife, “this one’s made in America! This is the one!” So we bought it and actually had a couple of years’ good service out of it, but over those couple of years I did notice that some things were flimsier than I thought they should have been, and it did require a few minor repairs and adjustments. We changed the oil and filter religiously and did all the required maintenance before it was due. Then the warranty ran out. This spring, the engine began smoking. And it kept on smoking. And it never quit. It got to using about a half-quart of oil in a thirty-minute mow job. So now it was time for action. I pulled the hood off to prepare to work on the engine, and I got a close-up look at that Made in America sticker. What it actually said was this: “MADE IN AMERICA of foreign and domestic parts.” Messed over again by Sears, my go-to place for appliances, tools, and lots of other stuff. Never again. Incidentally, I did find lots of complaints on-line about this particular engine, and I did manage to fix it myself. But it has a design flaw, so I’m sure it’ll need the same repair again in another couple of years. Made in America…

I guess that in the real world, most all companies use an assortment “of foreign and domestic parts”, but it looks like that we could somehow be self-sufficient. In the old days, we needed spices. We imported spices and we exported lots of things, including raw materials like cotton for some other country to use, completed goods, manufactured goods, agricultural goods…we were close to being self-sufficient, but the trade balance was in our favor. Nowdays, it’s hard to find something that’s Made in America, despite what the sticker says. I’m not sure what we ship overseas, but we sure do bring in a lot of stuff.

That reminds me of the old pajama factory we had right smack dab in the middle of our small town. Back in the 1970s I met a member of management of this factory, and he told me the factory was moving to the Dominican Republic, and he was moving with it. Now this move just about devastated our small town because so many people worked at the factory. But costs would be cheaper and profits higher after the move. Fast forward about seven or eight years, and I ran into a lady I knew who had worked at the pajama factory. “What are you doing now?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m still working at the pajama factory,” she replied.

“I thought they closed down and moved to the Dominican Republic. What are you doing at the old factory?”

“They did move to the Dominican Republic, but they kept the old building. Me and another girl are the only two left at the place. We’re sewing “made in usa” labels in the pajamas, and repackaging them.”

I was floored, but what could I do? This girl still had a job, which she was very proud of, and she didn’t see anything wrong with what she was doing. She was glad to have a job.

I just thought I’d share that story because it shows how companies have cheated the system for decades. NAFTA only gave them permission to do it legally.

 

[]Chapter11: Offensive Material

 

Earlier in the year, a big ruckus was raised about the Rebel Flag…how it was so offensive to many people, and in fact several retailers decided to quit carrying anything related to the rebel flag. I don’t know if they were expecting Kudos from the American population, but anyhow, here’s my thoughts. Let’s talk about eBay as an example. I love eBay and I shop eBay. eBay banned rebel flags from their listings because of some complaints, and really, I believe that they should have told the complainers “If you come across something you find offensive and you don’t want to buy it, just keep on scrolling until you find something that you Do want.” But to please the complainers and remain Politically Correct, they removed all rebel flags.

Here’s the deal…after they banned the rebel flag, I went to eBay and looked up some things that, if I wanted to pursue, I might have been able to dig deep within my soul and somewhere found offensive to me. For example, I found the following: North VietNam Flags, Iraq Flags, Muslim merchandise, Swastikas, Black Power, Black Panther, Malcom X…any of these things I could have probably claimed were offensive to me, if I wanted to cause a big stink. But I didn’t think it important enough to dwell on…after all, I wasn’t planning to buy these things, so why even go looking for them? I’m not looking for an excuse to cause problems in other people’s lives. In the words of Rodney King, I ask this: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Other offensive material…I personally find it offensive that we had to remove “The Ten Commandments” from a plaque at our courthouse square. See, I’m offended that it was removed, and others were offended that it was there. Actually, we should have taken a vote on it, and let the majority of citizens in our county decide. And that’s something that I do believe seriously in: The majority rules. Madalyn Murray O’Hair somehow convinced the Supreme Court that her minority voice should override the majority of American people when she got bible reading taken out of schools, and that ain’t right. And now look at our schools. And look at our country. And our Supreme Court.

 

[]Chapter12: Gun Control

 

Speaking of offensive material, how about a town that mandates Gun Ownership? How offensive is that? Pretty darned offensive, if you’re anit-gun-ownership, but if you examine the crime rate in Kennesaw Georgia, you’ll see that since they passed the mandatory-ownership law back in 1981, crime rates immediately plummeted and the murder rate is 0. That’s zero murders since every homeowner has been required to possess a gun along with ammunition. Can you make that claim about your city? How’s mandatory gun ownership look now?

Still, that maybe sounds like overkill, but when you think about it, who’s gonna break into a house and steal— and hurt someone— when you know darned good and well that the owner has a gun? I mean, hats off to Kennesaw for thinking that way. More towns should follow.

Without a firearm, if I wake up in the middle of the night and there’s an armed intruder in the house, what am I supposed to do? Grab a box of tissues off the nightstand and throw it at him? Now don’t get me wrong, I also believe in calling the police, and I’d do that first if time and circumstances allowed. But if they don’t, well it’s just me vs. the armed intruder, and dammit buddy, you shouldn’t have broken into my house. Believe me…I never ever want to shoot anyone, but if the situation ever occurs that my family’s in danger… I’d rather have a gun and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

 

[]Chapter13: Police

I never wanted to be a cop. I have friends who are cops, and that’s as close as I want to get to the front lines of our country’s internal battlefields. I guess it just takes a certain kind of person to go out into our crazy, drunk, drug-laden society and attempt to keep the peace for all the Johnny Americans in the neighborhood. And of course, as in any group, every once-in-a-while you’ll find one who should not be doing this type of job. But my experience with the Police and other similar groups indicates that most of them are hard-working, dedicated personnel…dedicated to keeping you safe. What really ticks me off are the little squirts who decide that they’re gonna catch a bad cop doing nefarious things…such as checking their driver’s license at a roadblock.

Most of my exposure to this type of behavior is through youtube or other video channels, in which a wise-ass with “rights” posts a video, with this or a similar title: “Peace-loving citizen delayed by mean cops for ten minutes…for no reason.” Then the young punk sets up a video camera in his car, and when he drives through a driver’s license checkpoint, he refuses to show his license and does everything he can to protest about his rights, quote the constitution, or whatever he has planned to try and confuse or belittle the police officer. This whole scenario takes ten minutes, then the punk cries “unlawfully detained,” or other such crap. Personally, I think he’s just out for attention, and had he cooperated and shown his driver’s license, he probably would have been on his way within 30 or 45 seconds.

Really, that police officer is just trying to do his job, to uphold the law, and you ought to thank him for doing it. Don’t you want him to find out who’s driving illegally? Don’t you want him to pull the drunks off the road? Don’t you want him to catch the criminal whose next target might just be your wife, girlfriend, or mama?

Cops sometimes have to make split-second decisions, and, just like being an armchair quarterback, it’s often easier after the fact for you and I to critique his decision, to tell the press what we would have done in that situation. Cut him some slack, and if you think you can do a better job, be my guest. The police academy always has openings for strong young immortal men like you.

 

 

[]Chapter14: Energy

 

Gas and Oil, oil and gas. We use a bunch of it. Alternative sources of energy are out there, yet we haven’t developed these other sources enough to economically wean ourselves from the gas and oil. Cost is a huge factor, so we’re stuck with using gas and oil until something else takes its place. Wind, BioDiesel, Solar…each of these might provide some relief, but nothing yet can replace the gas and oil we use.

Speaking of Solar, what about that expensive Hemlock Semiconductor plant that was built within the last few years in northwest Tennessee. The one that took about $350 million dollars in public investment (taxpayer dollars) to produce polysilicon products for the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries, and then, when it was time to open, they decided to close the plant? I don’t believe that they ever produced the first solar cell or integrated circuit at that plant. What a way to spend our money, huh? Taxpayer dollars just blowin’ in the wind…and I’m sure that someone, somewhere, made a ton of money on that project.

Another alternative is nuclear energy, but that brings with it safety concerns. Control and containment… and one of the concerns has to do with radioactive waste…what do we do with that? I suggest that when we’re finished with it, we just dump it back into the same hole we dug it out of. I mean, how simple is that?

But we do need alternative energy sources, and we need to invest (cautiously) in alternate energy, right here in the U.S. and eventually wean ourselves from oil and gas. And actually, we have a lot of gas and oil right here in the United States, there’s just too much political BS going on to be able to drill for it.

Common sense should be a factor with energy decisions. Several decades ago, our utility system’s big provider put out a call for all citizens to pare their electricity consumption, “drop your thermostat, cook less, turn your lights off, blah blah…” and when everyone dropped their consumption, the power company cried “foul” because revenue had dropped. Then they raised the rates to make up for lost revenue, and everybody’s electric bill went back up, even though we were using less power. We should have seen that coming. What a headache for the comsumer.

If we’re going to be a progressive country then we need to find energy where we can, and make use of it when it’s readily available at an economical rate, and maybe not be so concerned about the natural habitats of white spotted owl or the Tellico snail darter. They’ll adapt at their new home just across the ridge or in the next creek over.

 

[]Chapter15: Restaurant Menus

 

Here’s one that probably shouldn’t be such a real big deal, but it gripes me still. Restaurants that supply menus displaying pictures of the food should strive to make sure that the food they serve looks like the food in the pictures. Period. Truth in advertising. Either make the food look like the pictures, or make the pictures look like the food. Either way, I don’t care, but when I make my dining choice based on the pictures you’ve supplied me, I have a reasonable expectation to assume that what I get is at least similar in appearance to what I saw in the menu.

Couple of examples are Shoney’s, where the waitress slapped me on the back and walked away chuckling “You know how those menus are.” I never went back. They went out of business in my neck of the woods, maybe in the entire country. I don’t know, and really don’t care. What you sat in front of me should have at least resembled what I ordered.

Steak and Shake. My one trip to steak and shake had me disappointed when I opened my sandwich and the meat was so thin that I could see both sides at one time. I asked the waitress to bring me a menu so I compare the picture to what I got, and she refused. Really? I actually think I could have read the menu through my steakburger. I never went back, although friends have assured me that mine was an isolated case. Too late. But to everybody who’s in the restaurant business, please…make the food look like the pictures (or vice versa.)

 

[]Chapter16: Defense

 

Our nation needs a strong defense. Period. Notice that I didn’t say Offense. Defense. Strong enough that we don’t ever have to use it. Other countries needn’t fear the USA…they just need to respect us and know that we can do irreparable harm to their country if they tread on us. But with the way we’ve been going downhill lately, we’re probably a laughingstock amongst other nations. How can anyone respect us when we’re broke, we have civil unrest every day of the year, and we can’t even get our legislators to drop their petty party politics long enough to pass a bill. We need to work together on capitol hill for the good of our nation, get our finances back where they belong, and try to work “as one”, at least for a few years, to fix it. Then if our elected people want to go back to their childish arguing, whining, bickering and finger-pointing, at least we’ll be starting at a good place. And, as any football coach will tell you, the best offense is a good defense. And we need the world’s strongest defense, which by the definition given, would give us the strongest offense!

One thing that bothers me is that whenever we develop a new weapons system, or produce a new fighter jet, you can see it in operation on the six-o’clock news. How does that help our defense? Or to announce that we’ll be sending more troops to (name a country) to squash (name a regime). This is just plain stupid. Sure, the American people want to know where we’re at and what we’re doing with our military, but so do our enemies. And we’re telling them! Some things should be kept secret.

But anyhow, I have respect and admiration for every man or woman who has served or is currently serving in our military. They deserve everything that we’ve promised them, and then some. Treat our soldiers and veterans with respect.

I’m not as proud of some of our defense contractors. I believe that some have our country’s best interest in their hearts and minds, but others? There’s just too much money to be made whenever America is involved in a war, and I feel that the companies competing for defense contracts should remain distant from our military and congressional leaders other than giving specs and feedback. But here again, if you don’t snuggle with the big boys, you probably won’t get the contract. Just my opinion.

Our military of today is concerned with costs, and I’m glad they are. But still, if we’re going to overspend on anything, let’s make it the military.

We’re constantly facing crisis after crisis all over the world. Some of them, I’m not sure that we even need to be involved in, but our leaders think it’s for our best. I’m not qualified to know. But I do strongly believe that if some other country doesn’t take us down financially, one of them will with terrorism or cyber stuff. It’s not all just bullets and tanks, and ships and planes, and boots on the ground anymore. It’s more than that, and our country’s at stake.

 

[]Chapter17: Banks and Credit Cards

 

Almost all of us use banks. And I just don’t get it. They pay us a paltry 1/2 of 1% to use our money, and then return the favor by loaning us money at 9%, 12%, 15% or even 29.9% if we use that convenient piece of plastic—the credit card. You know, that easy-to-use link to your financial imprisonment, the one where if you only make the required minimum payment, it’ll take a full 30 years to pay it off! How stupid are we? And yet we continue on.

I understand that the banks have to have a spread so they can pay for computers, pay for employees, and pay for that big new extravagant building that they use to house your money. Johnny American says “The spread’s too big!” If you didn’t give the board of directors such a high fee for their meetings, if you didn’t pay your president so much for his figurehead presence, if you hadn’t built such a big fancy building, well then you might just be able to give 2% or 3% on a savings account and only charge 9% or 10% for a credit card. Now that’s a better spread.

I read several years ago that Sears made more money each year on credit card interest than they did by selling merchandise. Now ain’t that just wrong? And every time I buy something, they try to convince me to use a Sears Card. I keep saying no.

My first wife used to work as a teller at a small bank. One day, the girl who normally did the payroll was out sick, and my wife had to cut the checks for the recent monthly board of directors’ meeting. She came home crying after work, because she found out that the board members each received MORE MONEY for their one-hour board meeting than she earned for working 40 hours a week for an entire month! There’s something wrong with that. It needs to be fixed.

I try to use a credit union whenever I can. It’s a little more intimate and the board meets for free!

 

[]Chapter18: Charitables and Non-Profits

 

Hello there Goodwill. Hello there Red Cross. Hi there, Unicef. Each year, hundreds of executives for charitables and non-profits draw millions of dollars each in CEO pay. That’s ridiculous! You’re taking money that’s supposed to be going to underprivileged or downtrodden people and lining your pockets with it.

You’re missing the point, execs, and as far as I’m concerned, you’re a bunch of greedy SOBs! When I gave that money to your organization, I intended for it to help someone less fortunate than I. Not for you and your mansion and your big bank account. Used to be that a caring, wealthy individual would head up a charitable organization for a token one-dollar salary, but lately it’s just gotten out of hand. And just what do you bring to the table to earn your salary? Are you that valuable that you deserve that kind of money? Do your services increase donations to an extent greater than your ludicrous salary and bonuses? I mean, come on, give my donation to someone who needs it. I’m certainly not suggesting that people stop supporting Charitable Organazitions, but does anybody have any idea how we can reduce outrageous executive pay for charities? Please come forward.

And what about all these non-profit insurance companies, like Blue Cross Blue Shield for example? There’s more. Look them up. Millions for CEO pay, and yet they feel that they deserve more. Some execs for charities and non-profits draw a bigger severance package when they get fired than the average worker makes in a lifetime. That’s BS. How about helping the people for a change? Okay, point conceded…you’re a non-profit, so by definition, you can’t make a profit. Simple enough. You have to dispose of any excess money so you can remain non-profit. But if you didn’t pay your executives so much, you could lower insurance rates. Oh let’s see, we took in more than we paid out this year, so what do we do with the excess money? Oh, right, big bonuses above the already huge salaries. We wouldn’t want to give it back to the subscribers, now would we? Greed.

 

[]Chapter19: Drivers

 

Basically, two words of advice: Pay Attention!

To expound on that, we’ve all been behind someone whose turn signal has been on since they left Miami, and now they’re in Chicago. It’s still blinking. Can’t you turn the thing off? Just as soon as I decide that you’re not gonna turn and I pull out to pass, you finally decide to turn. Or, even though your left signal’s been on, you finally yank a hard right, shoot across multiple lanes and exit the freeway. Can’t y’all hear that little clicking noise behind the instrument panel? Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Generally, it’s some little old lady, and I try to be understanding…but sometimes it’s a head-bobbing, dashboard-beating, wanna-be rockstar drummer who turns to smile at me and give me the “peace” sign as I finally decide to pass. He’s wrapped up in his own little world, but gosh, pay attention! On the other side of this, though, is the one who NEVER uses their turn signal. Just as aggravating. Pay attention. Your driving is driving me nuts!

And then there’s the super-cautious hyper-miler driver who tries to merge onto the interstate at 45 miles per hour…and I’m behind them. I can’t go fast enough to merge with traffic because you’re in front of me, and those trucks are coming at about 70. Usually, in this case, I’ll pull over to the side of the ramp and wait until all the tires have stopped screeching and everybody has zigzagged around you, and you’re out of sight, merrily on your way down the interstate. Get with the program and try to merge at something close to the posted speed limit before you kill someone.

Just pay attention to what’s going on around you. Quit your texting and dialing and imessaging and all that social media until you can pull off the road and park. Do you really have to share it now? You’re propelling 3 or 4 or 5 thousand pounds down the highway and not even watching where you’re going. Quit!

And don’t you just love those high-powered stereos in your cars. They’re so powerful, you can even entertain folks several blocks away. And you do. Only it’s not entertainment, it’s just aggravation. Turn it down! Lot of towns have passed noise ordinances because of people like you.

 

 

[]Chapter20: Christmas

 

Here we go again, with another Christmas fast approaching, and everybody’s gearing up for another gigantic Black Friday! Yee Haw! Don’t we, as a nation of individuals, realize that we’re spending ourselves into poverty. Sometimes we spend so much money at Christmastime that it’s April or May or sometimes even later to pay off what we bought, just because…well, gee, I really don’t know why we do it! I’ve tried to put the brakes on within our family for years on end, and I’m always met with resistance. Everybody spends more than they can possibly afford. Johnny American says, “That’s too much. Stop!”

I think we’ve commercialized Christmas way too much. Every company spends way too much on advertising dollars, trying to get us to spend money we haven’t even earned yet, and it seems to work. Money flies this way and that way like there’s an endless supply, like there’s no tomorrow. Tone it down a little, folks…if you don’t have it, just tell the kids that Santa’s having a bad year, or else make something for them, or better yet, spend some time with them making cookies in the kitchen or painting a craft project or whittling out a duck decoy for Pops. I know, your kids are gonna get the biggest and the best, no matter what. But my observations are that those who can least afford it are the ones who spend the most. You’re just perpetuating the budget crunch that you were in before Christmas ever rolled around.

And what about celebrating the birth of Jesus? Where did that go? Just because the three wise men brought gifts doesn’t mean that you have to mimic them and clean out the stores. Notice that they each brought ONE gift? You might have missed that part. And I’m not saying that you have to cheap out on everybody, because the wise men brought quality gifts. Just exercise some common sense. It sickens me that normally mild-mannered shoppers get into fist-fights and brawls over bargains on Black Friday. The majority don’t but some do. Geez, is it that good of a deal? I reckon that it’s just a part of Christmas nowdays.

And oh yeah, now we can’t say certain things at Christmastime because it might offend someone. Listen, if I tell you Merry Christmas and it offends you, YOU’RE the one with the problem, not me. Suck it up and smile, and appreciate the fact that I at least tried to say something nice to you. Go buy yourself a present if it’ll make you feel better.

That’s all for now. Johnny American is finished at the podium.

Thank you for letting me speak, and have a Merry Christmas!

 

 


Please Pass the Podium

Please Pass the Podium. I’m turning 65 years old this month, and I’ve been silent for most of my life. Silent in the fact that I’ve watched America grow into the greatest country in the world, then begin a slow decline that’s now nose-down and turning into a spiral of out-of control government spending and out-of-control personal behavior, a democracy where the minority rules and elected officials seem to accomplish nothing of importance. This is my chance to speak my mind and I’m going to do it. You might applaud Johnny American by the time I finish, or you might want to throw rotten tomatoes at me, but if nothing else I intend to say what I feel, and hope that I speak for those hard-working Americans who have carried this country on their backs for decades, only to watch it eroding into poverty by crooked politicians, generational welfare recipients, and just plain old stupidity and ignorance. I point fingers, but truth is, I’m just as guilty as anyone else, because I’ve allowed this to happen. But now I speak on these topics. Johnny American also weighs in on our school systems, obnoxious behavior, inattentive drivers, illegal immigrants, taxes, ADHD, banks, and even restaurant menus. These are my thoughts and opinions and I’m sure that there’ll be some things you like and some you don’t. This is not everything that’s on my mind, but this is a start. It’s my turn to speak. Please Pass the Podium is available now through the end of 2015 for zero dollars and zero cents. Thank you for listening to Johnny American.

  • ISBN: 9781311921208
  • Author: Johnny American
  • Published: 2015-12-04 15:40:07
  • Words: 15324
Please Pass the Podium Please Pass the Podium