Can It John Fleming

Rep. John Fleming says that after feeding his family he can “barely get by on $400,000”

Here is my reply to Mr. Fleming:

Dear Representative Fleming,

Though I am not inclined to try and keep up with the wealthy and powerful in this country, if I were, I certainly hope that with $400,000 per year I could easily get along after feeding my family of six. I can truly identify with your plight, sir, because after paying rent and the rest of the bills I have trouble buying food in the first place.

Now here’s the deal: of the four children that you have at least two are in their mid to late 20’s (or am I mistaken?) The eldest being 27 I would hope that they are taking care of themselves at this point. Now that would put two of them on the lower end between 17 and perhaps 22? (I don’t know because I’m not a stalker), but that would mean one kid at home and one at college? I know college is expensive but I also know that as a physician you probably have been saving since the birth of all of your children to send them to school and probably not relying on college loans to get them through.  So teenagers are expensive, but millions of families that make less than $50,000 per year are doing just fine, albeit probably on credit.  So I still don’t get where all the money has gone.

So, I am to understand that $400,000 will not provide entertainment, insurance, car payments, travel expenses, etc.?  Wake up and look at the people that run your businesses, ask them how they are getting along on minimum wage, ask them how it is they can afford the rent, and to feed and clothe their children, ask what they have to do to make ends meet, because I’ll bet that it doesn’t involve whining about trying to make nearly half a million dollars stretch to cover expenses.

Thanks for your time,
A citizen concerned for your personal budget.

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Quit Messing With My Stories. . .

Just a few days ago I posted regarding cutting the cable cord in favor of an internet only approach, then a friend recommended that I read a letter written by someone I regard as one of the funniest comedians around:  Eugene Mirman.

Here it is:

Eugene Mirman on Time Warner Cable

Now, I find that my favorite cable TV show, Syfy’s Eureka has been canceled, just because one giant cable company (Comcast) has decided that it sits too heavily on their profit line.  I don’t want to believe that we are heading in the direction predicted by the movie Idiocracy, but really that is the end we are destined for.  I am not saying that the fate of the world hinges on whether or not they continue to produce Eureka, but their ratings are going to depend upon wrestling and reality television to keep them afloat.

I like intelligent well thought out television (Is there such a thing?).  Happily there have been a few gems that I come to depend upon to provide that.  Mythbusters is up at the top of that list, along with a few sitcoms 30 Rock, and Big Bang Theory follow close behind.  I am a geek from my head past my toenails and deep to the roots of that which ties me to this earth, I deserve some programs that cater to that.  Eureka hits the spot.  But I’m not going to pay a cable company to bring it to me, and they’re playing hardball when it comes to access.  Just a couple of weeks ago it was available on Hulu, now you have to wait until the end of the season to see any of it.  Comcast. . .I am flipping you the bird, but you don’t care, you have millions who will pay you regardless of whether you continue to produce this one show, just because they think that they can’t live life without cable TV.  (Bronx Salutes to you all!)

You don’t care about the viewer though and this decision proves it, just remember that the bottom line isn’t the only line.  Viewers and cable subscribers can draw lines too, and eventually we will put you at the back of one.  So far a small percentage of people have abandoned cable, and with the help of the Comcast treachery perhaps many more will do the same.  It’s time we stand up to the all mighty dollar and say to these a**holes that control what we get to see that entertainment is not always about how much money you make or spend it’s about the satisfaction of those who put that money in your pocket, and when you displease us, we will cut off your allowance.  Unfortunately there are few people out there who know what good TV really is.  They like to be spoon fed poisonous crap that reduces the intelligence of the average person by a good 70 or 80 points and lets face it, many don’t have those points to spare.

I know that somewhere out there fans are putting together an effort to keep Eureka going, maybe Syfy will see fit to sell the show to another network, if they know that it is worth continuing, like giving a baby up for adoption, it’s life will be better with a different family.  I hope that there is resistance, I hope that viewers fight for what they like, but most of all without Eureka, I hope that Comcast smothers in a pit of its own offal.

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Cutting The Cord

Okay, so a couple of years ago I asked myself a question and came up with an answer that lead me to where I am today.  Here  it is:

Why do I pay so much of my precious income to pay for cable TV?

Here is the way that the thought developed:  I was listening to the radio one morning while I was baking, my local public radio station was doing their pledge drive and I decided to pledge.  I had a little bit of money to spare, I listen to public radio frequently and I wanted them to remain on the air so they could continue to bring content to the area, commercial free.  If I were a business owner, I would underwrite, what a great way to spread the word!  I enjoy commercial free anything and I am willing to pay a little extra to have that convenience, so why is the cable bill with all the extras (phone, speedy internet) leveling off at $145.00 per month, and still I have to watch those damn commercials?

So as the thought occurred to me that I was paying to watch advertisements and that, at best, I watched only about 10 percent of what I was paying for I decided to cut the cable cord.  This wasn’t easy of course, and not because I would miss TV, but because there is another person in my home who is a regular TV addict.  I had to convince him that we would be better off without the TV and Phone part of the deal.  It was a lot like saying that nothing that he does on a regular basis is worth the money. . . this includes the regular football season and college football and though he’s not a rabid fan, the first season game for the Gators was practically a Holiday, but regional coverage gets him raging here in the Mid-Atlantic where we have enough college football to choke a line-backer!

Once I made the money argument it was easier.  Our wallets were lighter due to job loss and a number of other things. The easiest cut to make was cable TV, once that decision was made life became less expensive.  If I hanker for TV, I turn to Hulu.  For movies and older TV we have Netflix streaming courtesy of the PS3.  In the bargain, I have the peace of mind that advertisers aren’t getting my attention they way they would like, and I have plenty of entertainment from the internet and the dogs.

The other thing that came out of this is that I learned that TV isn’t that important, it’s a habit like any other habit.  Once you break the pull it has on your life it’s easy to forget that you thought you had to have it in the first place.  The house is much quieter without the TV on all of the time, and there is energy savings as well.

If you are thinking of giving this a try, I say do it.  There is an entire generation out there that is experiencing life without TV, I think the world would be a better place without it, and not only that but you can have that warm feeling that washes over you when you realize that one less outside force has control over your life, and that you have successfully taken that part of your life back!

I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say, by all means comment away!

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Pt. 2 It’s About Increasing Industry in The U.S.A.

So we’ve determined that either Americans are over-educated or drastically under-educated.  We’ve lost our focus on what is important, and that would be stable jobs in a market economy where a majority of the work done by American companies actually occurs in the United States.  That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t import goods, but it does mean that we would export a lot more than we import.

What needs to happen to make this possible, starts with eliminating free trade to some extent.  It also means that there needs to be better quality control on production lines in the U.S.  It means bringing up the standards of employee welfare a lot, more people need to be insured than uninsured/under insured.  It means we need to bring the cost of employment down for all employers set up in the States.  If China can produce millions of items for export to the States and keep the cost low by controlling the value of their currency, we need to call foul and quit buying from them, bring that industry back to the United States.  Quit farming out labor and production to other countries and we’ve got a start.

That means that the American Worker is going to have to suck it up and quit whining about everything from vacation pay, to health insurance, to FMLA leave, and overtime hours.  At first it would be rough, as you can’t start out with everything you want, it’s a rule we learn on the playground when we are five, sometimes you have to play kick-ball using the oldest half inflated ball that was in the bin, next time you will get there faster and get the better one, over time you learn your lesson.  You don’t get to be the CEO right away, instead you have to work your way up from the basement mail room.  This allows you to learn the fundamentals of the business before you command it.  In the military you always start out as a grunt, you EARN your promotions through hard work and determination.  You may miss a few family dinners because you are working but in the end the work pays off and your seat at the table becomes insured.

Another change on the list of increasing American productivity would be to make sure that the production of American goods is up to snuff with the goods that we import now.  Getting Americans to care about what they produce, and giving them a sense of pride in their work goes a long way.  Why not hire a health care worker to work for your company, he/she will care for your workers and reduce the cost of health care across the board.  For the cost of one high-ranking manager large companies can have medical care for their people, which requires no insurance costs.  When I was a child, it was still common to have a nurse on staff at a manufacturing plant who would bind up wounds take care of making sure that hearing tests were being done, and check a sick employee before clearing them for further work or sending them home.  Need a tetanus shot, your nurse can handle that.

Companies need to quit worrying about the bottom line all of the time and start worrying about the state of the American worker.  There wouldn’t need to be labor unions if the capitalists actually payed it forward once in a while.  Instead of lining the pockets of the already wealthy they could line the pockets of their employees.  The cost of production would drop if workers had a stake in what they were making.  The best PR is word of Mouth.  I know this from experience, I work for a small company who competes with a large national chain, and in our market, at home we win hands down because our product is superior, and though my benefits may be lacking, I LOVE my job, I LOVE the company I work for, and I LOVE the people who I work with, to me that’s worth a million bucks.

Okay, our government has to play some part in this.  State and Federal budgets would be fattened if tax revenue from manufacturing made it to their coffers.  There don’t need to be incentives and tax cuts, but good general morale.  Bring manufacturing back to life and you have a product that is made here, sold here, and used here.  Americans then have jobs making the item and selling the item and they can afford a home to live in thus also fattening the property tax base.  Continuing to rely upon sales tax is death to government programs that we really need.  Take everything that has happened since 2008 and put it steadily in reverse and you have prosperity that lingers among the population.  Prosperity equals stability, and once we are stable, then we can grow again, it’s fairly simple.

I welcome comments and questions, any chinks in the armor should be pried at and exposed, we are smart and have ingenuity on our side but we have to start ignoring the distractions and actually participate and quit watching from the sidelines hoping someone else will do the hard work.  The more brainstorming we do the better prepared we will be to get on it and fix our own problems.

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Pt. 1: Hey Guys, It’s Not Really About Education Levels. . .

. . .Although I agree that the education Americans receive is not up to par with the rest of the world.

A two-part essay about what to do with the educational system to make America more industrious.

We are losing so many different battles on so many different fronts that it’s hard to keep track of all of the losses.  We need to work on the fundamentals, the “Three R’s”, so to speak.  But that’s not the entire problem, it’s only a piece of the pie.  Fifty years ago, very few people went on to college after a high school education.   In 2009 more than 70 percent of high school graduates went on to college.  That tells me a lot, that the degree of education of Americans is much higher than it has ever been, but the quality is in the dumper?

First off the amount of education doesn’t matter, really.  High schools around the country offer programs that help students get a few courses under their belts before they graduate, but only students who meet or exceed specific standards, I would have never been allowed to participate in any such program because my grades at secondary level were horrible.  Read here that when I entered college I was a solid B+ student in most of my courses, and I didn’t really apply myself.   What we need is better quality education instead of more education.  Prepare them for the real world in high school, then if they don’t like the real world and they qualify for college, let them go.

I am the first to admit that I should have probably skipped college in favor of a trade school.  There should be more training at the high school level for skilled trades.  New York State offers this training at the high school level through BOCES (the Boards Of Cooperative Educational Services).   Where students spend half of their school day attending regular classes and the other half learning a skilled trade such as:  Allied Health, Automotive, Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Electricity (Electrician)Personal Trainer (certified), I could go on but I will refer you to their website instead www.boces.org.  Getting this training in secondary school does many things; it keeps the number of kids seeking a college education lower so there are more people in the workforce sooner increasing state revenues and productivity, it reduces the number of people who are immediately in debt upon graduation, it increases the number of individuals who purposely attend college to further the education they have already begun, creating a happier worker who has conscientiously chosen their field.

What I am getting at here is that we’re spending too much time on things that won’t advance a student’s education but will prepare them for college, when in reality not everyone should go to college.  A percentage should learn through experience, a restaurant manager will learn better skills through training and application in the field, than by sitting in the classroom learning a formula to figure  food cost.

You might argue that students who don’t have access to programs like these can get them at a community college, but why when what they need to know they can learn at the high school level and skip the whole, “I have to work to pay rent/find money to go to school/find time to study while working full-time” conundrum.  A student shouldn’t have to go into a college program to be an electrician, or a carpenter, or a baker, those things are best learned through experts in the trade, and the earlier the better.

So, it turns out that education is really important, I will admit this but do you really need to go to college to manage a retail store?  Do you need to have a Master’s Degree to run a small business?  How about to be an RN?  You never needed to be in the past, why so now?  College/University education should be left for those who really need the advanced education:  Doctors, Nurses (above a certain level), Teachers (K-12), College Professors, Lawyers, Sociologists, Engineers, etc.

Even then the college education shouldn’t be entered into lightly.  Students should wait a year or two before entering into a college environment, in Britain they call it the “gap year”, they will value their education more that way, and know just what they want to do (if they didn’t already), rather than drifting aimlessly into college hoping to figure it out along the way.  Ending up with a useless liberal arts education and a crap job on the other side does nothing for the advancement of our country or society.

Next: It’s about Increasing Manufacturing In the U.S.A.

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Communing With Nature on Earth Day

This Morning, I woke to find the sun was not shining, the wind was blowing cool air around in my yard, and that the birds were hiding away in their nests.  Though it is Earth Day, the Earth seemed to be saying, “Stay inside and clean the house, you don’t want to be out here.”  My only reply to this great mother had to be, “No way Mama, what better day to tame you than a day that you are sleepy!”

I approach my moments with nature from the perspective of a person who gets a sunburn if she is just thinking about going outside for a few minutes.  There is nothing like the vengeful sun to remind you that you are wrapped in a fragile outer layer of flesh.  The days that the sun is hidden behind clouds are the best days for me to go outside and play.  Yes, I know that cloudy days are just as bad as sunny days, but it feels less like a burn and more like a gentle breeze tousling your hair.

Today, in honor of earth day, I gave my section a haircut.

That is to say:  today I chose to mow the lawn.

There is nothing like spending an hour or two in the yard on the back of a riding mower that is less like a great steed and more like a little Welsh Pony.  She does not gallop like a stallion, but meanders like a slow ride through the country-side in a hay cart.  What better way to get back to nature than re-learning the contours of your yard, remembering where all the holes are, where all the tree roots jut up through the grass just high enough to make your mowing experience a little bit more interactive.  It is not passive, no, absolutely not.  You must be aware, bright and present, it is a war.  Well it’s a war in my back yard at least, there are battles on every front, and the weaponry is astounding, nature has an array of defenses, from missiles to land mines, and she will use them when you are least expecting.

As I tame the grass and especially the bamboo (or cane for those who are botanists) that dominate the two acres that I call a homestead, I am reminded of the aforementioned weapons regularly.  First line of defense in the wilderness on the limitless fields of lawn are the Sweet Gum Balls that litter every square foot of the yard.  They are nasty little bombs that lay in wait for unsuspecting feet, and mower blades.  They resemble the land mine from the game “Mine Sweeper” only they are brown and spiky instead of gray and spiky and when hit by a mower blade they shoot out of the hatch on the side of the mower at top speed.  Anyone standing near would be well advised to get the hell out of the way, lest they lose an eye or be impaled.

Nature’s troops are cunning too, I fight yearly against the onslaught of bamboo, which propagates at alien like speed growing a foot per day in some cases.  It pokes its reddish brown head above the soil exactly the girth that it will be as an adult, and will grow ten feet in a week if you don’t knock it down in it’s youth.  Then there are the ranks of ivy and vine that will choke out beautiful trees, and flowers if given the opportunity.  I live in the south where there is Kudzu vine everywhere, then poison ivy underneath that just waiting for the unsuspected gardener to grab hold and pull.

But here in S.E. North Carolina I have a worse enemy than Kudzu, I have Wild Muscadine Grapes.  They are an ancient breed of grapes, and it is obvious how they have survived over the years, they are invasive and nasty, they don’t even taste good.  They have even taken to climbing the bamboo, one invasive species conquering another!

Alas, I took my time and enjoyed my moment in nature for the day.  I will live to fight another battle next week when the limitless fields call me again to say they propose a game of chess, it’s my move but I can never get her king in check.

At least, not until Fall!

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True Equality

Equal is a loaded word.  It means that if all is “equal” we will regard all things in the same way.

I do not believe in a god, so I do not believe that I am to be judged in the hereafter for my actions in this life, yet I try to live well, treat others as I would like to be treated, try not to trespass upon the rights of others to live freely and by their own free will.  I would never take away the right of those who wish to worship the god of their choosing, or not worship if that is the case, and I don’t believe that religious people are unintelligent, they just have a faith that is as yet has not manifested in my own life.  But please, do not inflict the “laws” of your god/gods upon me or upon those who reject those laws as unjust.  Please don’t use the writings of your religion to form legislation that does not treat everyone the same.  Please for the sake of our integrity as Americans, stop proclaiming equality yet withholding certain privileges from those who desire them.  Give gay men and women the ability to marry each other if they so choose.

We have striven for equality for all men and women, written amendments to the Constitution seeking to establish equality in the law for all Americans.  But as much as it is written down that all men are created equal, it is not true.  We are not each other, we are as different as the clouds in the sky, though formed from the same materials, we are not the same.  We are of different religions, opinions, shapes, sizes, down to the DNA in our bodies we are different, yet we cannot have laws which suit each of our differences, it would be chaos.  So I am saying this:  Let your maker be the judge.  If you believe that it is wrong, profess as such, but allow judgment to occur on the other side, wherever that be.  We have made laws now for centuries that contradict the Bible, why are we sticking on this point?  Because some super religious people find the relationship between two men or two women to be unnatural?  Should I remind those people that within that same book can be found laws that say the following:

Handicapped people could not approach God. 

The Lord said to Moses “Speak to Aaron and tell him:  None of your descendants, of whatever generation who has any defect shall come forward to offer up the food of his God.  Therefore he who has any of the following defects may not come forward:  he who is blind, or lame, or who has any disfigurement of hand, or who is humpbacked or weakly or walleyed, or who is afflicted with eczema, ringworm or hernia.  No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any such defect may draw near to offer up the oblations of the Lord; on account of his defect he may not draw near to offer up the food of his God.  He may, however, partake of the food of his God:  of what is most sacred as well as of what is sacred.  Only, he may not approach the veil nor go up to the altar on account of his defect; he shall not profane these things that are sacred to me for it is I, the Lord who make them sacred. (Lev 21:16-23)

Anyone working on the Sabbath is to be killed. (And you should freeze to death too).

On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be sacred to you as the sabbath of complete rest to the lord.  Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death.  You shall not even light a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day. (Ex 35:2)

Stubborn children were to be stoned, and the stoning was to be instigated by their parents. 

If a man has a stubborn and unruly son who will not listen to his father or mother, and will not obey them even though they chastise him, his father and mother shall have him apprehended and brought out to the elders at the gate of his home city, where they shall say to those city elders, ‘This son of ours is a stubborn and unruly fellow who will not listen to us; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’  Then all  his fellow citizens shall stone him to death.  Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel, on hearing of it, shall fear.  (Deut 21:18-21)

Shall I go on?

We should probably redefine right as we have with many of the other outdated and obscure laws taken from the Bible.  We made exceptions for the above after all, why not for gay marriage as well?  Who’s with me?

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