Friday, August 26, 2016

How do you eat an entire elephant?

Five days a week, Joe and Joan Blow scoot across the leather seat of their $62,000 luxury SUV ready to go to work. They pride themselves on their 5600 square foot home and their four vehicles. On the armrest next to them is their morning healthy breakfast, a pair of nutritious and carbs-enhanced protein bars which cost 4 dollars each.  Their appearance is very important to them, as is efficiency at work and this is why they will consume this healthy snack on the way to work instead of eating it when they should be working. They wouldn’t want their coworkers to think they are slackers.

The drive takes 11 minutes and exactly 6 minutes after they leave home, they toss the wrappers out the window of their lavish SUV, as they are quite serious about keeping the interior as clean as possible. After all, it did cost a lot of money.

10 minutes pass and along comes Mike and Martha Somebody out for their morning walk. They take their morning stroll very seriously, as they believe the key to longevity is not only a proper diet, but regular exercise. In hand are used grocery bags and each day they pick up plastic bottles thrown down by other jogger/walkers and 5 times a week, a pair of protein/granola bar wrappers. When they drop the bags into the park garbage can, they get a rewarding amount of satisfaction out of not only picking up trash, but reusing the garbage bag.

The trash picker-uppers cannot comprehend how other people driving by the park or out exercising, justify throwing plastic bottles along the road and trail, but continue to pick them up and dispose of other people’s trash. The thought comes to them that more people like themselves are not the solution. All this could be prevented by people stopping this socially unacceptable, aberrant, and criminal behavior.

Mike Doe has been smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for about 30 years and plans to quit. It’s just that driving a truck 5 days a week for a living leaves him with a lot of time on his hands and frankly, he likes smoking. The only time he smokes is when he is driving and this realization hits him, as he unrolls the window of his truck and flips the smoldering butt out. What he doesn’t realize is that over the course of his driving career, he has tossed out close to a half million cigarette butts, or that at the minimum, one of those butts will take a year and a half to decompose. He is also responsible for the burning of 112 acres on the edge of the Sam Houston National forest 6 years ago.
He has no clue that four houses were also destroyed by him flicking a burning butt out the window of his truck down close to Falfurrias in the late 90’s when everything was so dry. He may be shocked to find out he’s not the only one doing this and that each year 1.69 billion POUNDS of cigarette butts end up as toxic waste.

A long time ago, I came up with a saying I am fond of repeating to… me.  “You can’t save the world, Bert.” No, I cannot change anyone. I cannot force my beliefs about littering on a single soul. I can however pick up trash everywhere I go including parking lots when I’m walking from my Jeep to the door. I can attempt to influence other like-minded people to do likewise through conversation, social media, and this column, but the real answer is education and understanding by those people who continue to drop trash everywhere they go.

My saying helps me cope with people who seem oblivious to the obvious. Take for instance the walker who eats a protein bar or drinks an energy drink while exercising in Jenkins Park and then without so much as a care in the world, drops the empty bottle or wrapper along the wooded trail. Incomprehensible! They go there to enjoy the wooded trail and then they trash it?  I can sum my reaction with one word: huh? This is witnessed every single day by those of us who pick it up.

Like the elephant meal, it can be consumed one bite at a time, but only if the elephant doesn’t continue to revive itself along the way. Each parent, each peer, each casual acquaintance can do their part by either teaching their children, stopping this behavior, or by example and that my friend is the answer.


Friday, August 19, 2016

The Most Monstrous of Misleads

I was 14 when I began my work career and registered for my social security card. The year was 1965 and my family lived in Woodstock, Georgia. My younger brother was 13, and did likewise. This was before child labor laws changed, or heck, maybe not, as like I said, we loved in rural Georgia.

We were grocery sackers and worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for 3 five dollar bills. My Mom took one 5 from each of us every payday as room and board and this taught us there was no free ride in life.  It was a valuable lesson that I’ve written about before and only a reference point.

My next job was at the local Tastee Freeze and each day after school and weekends, my same brother and I toiled in the kitchen, mopped floors, chopped onions, and took out the trash just to name a few of our duties. My mom exacted the same recompense as before and we had no choice but to pay it. Back in those days, there was no such notion as resisting your parents and I can truthfully say, I did not resent the mandatory room and board. Dad turned over his paycheck in its entirety and we were allowed to keep two thirds.

The summer between the 10th and 11th grade, I lied about my age and said I was 16 and had a driver’s license and hired on with my friend with a subsidiary of the Georgia Power Company, as ground men. We were making about a buck an hour if I remember rightly and that was a lot of cash. I had no idea what a ground man was, but quickly learned anywhere the backhoe couldn’t dig, we could with shovels. It was back-breaking hard work tunneling through that Georgia red clay in the same kind of weather we experience here.

Within 10 minutes of arriving on the job, we found out we were moving the equipment 10 miles down the road. My buddy got the 6-wheel drive truck and I got the dodge pick-up with “3 on the tree”. I was already very familiar with the column shifter and we rolled down the freeway like pros. Side note: many of today’s Millennial’s not only can’t drive a stick shift, but also can’t change a flat tire or know where to add oil to their car’s motor.

My Dad had taken a job in St. Louis and we moved quite suddenly and I became a clerk at a milk and bread drive thru, called a Pop-In store. Along the way, I bought and paid for my first car (at 15), 4 new tires, rebuilt the two one-barrel carburetors, a 10-speed bike, a stereo, and my first television.

I cannot recall anyone helping me out along the way as a sponsor or a mentor. I worked and scraped for everything I got. It was the way it was. Many of my friends did not work and they only had what their parents provided. I wanted more and I went in the Air Force, rather than risk being drafted and upon exit after 2 tours in Southeast Asia, I got a job through interviews based on my work career and skills I had learned and have worked non-stop until retirement 2 years ago. The worldly goods I own were earned along the way through constant work and paydays.

A number of times I worked side jobs to make ends meet, or to have extra cash and again, I didn’t have a single soul hand me anything without working for it and this is why I think, in my case, white privilege has been a myth, a lie, and some politically correct fallacy that needs to be exposed for what it is – an excuse.

White privilege went out with the OJ Simpson verdict and Affirmative action and many of us qualified folks witnessed this, as we were pushed back behind less qualified applicants and if that isn’t discrimination, I am a monkey’s uncle. Dare I write it? Dang tootin’, I will. When all across this country, minorities fill top government offices including Fire Marshal and Police Chief positions, white privilege is non-existent. The demographics prove it.

As a person who worked up the ladder unassisted by the system, I refuse to take the tuck head due to the color of my skin. Some reading this will shake their head, thinking I have it so wrong, but I only know what I’ve witnessed over the last 60 years or so.  Sure there have been injustices, but there has been reoccurring behavior which perpetuates the negative responses. “Doc, it hurts when I do this!”  “Well, stop doing it!”

No, I don’t buy the politically correct brain-washing agenda many white people are accepting as fact. It also embarrasses me when they teach their kids this falsehood. In the words of the urbanites, I want them to “grow a pair” and quit making excuses for people who refuse to step up their game and get off the government dime. It is never too late to become a contributor to society, but you may have to start near the bottom sacking groceries.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Rudeness Pays Mighty Small Dividends

The quickest way to cut off a conversation with me is to say something angry, arrogant, condescending, or rude.  Do it to me and inwardly I wish I could be beamed up and gone. I don’t like it insinuated that I’m an idiot, or a jerk, or a (insert an expletive here).  I wish I could write that I am blameless, because I’m not, but I do believe I earnestly try to be socially graceful.

Almost every issue of the Baytown Sun will reveal a letter to the editor concerning politics and how stupid someone is. Occasionally my name is specifically mentioned as being “unpatriotic, stupid, idiotic, a dolt, a joke, or uninformed”. I marvel at all of this, as its apparent these fine citizens are zealous, passionate, and worked up enough to pound out a letter to the community to, what? Defend their political views with good solid non-accusatory facts? Not for the most part. What they write appears angry and condescending almost every time and we the readers, if we actually read it, feel like we were just slimed.

In their defense, they see themselves as righteous, witty, humorous, informed, educated, and as a spokesperson for their party’s dogmas. I wish I could report that is how other readers view them, but I can’t speak for anyone but me. Although I tend to agree with those who vote against the Democratic Party’s policies, I find both “sides” do not represent me in their “arguments”.

Quite a bit that is written in these exchanges are so offensive that if they were said face to face, it would be a downright physical confrontation. Calling me Mister and then telling me I’m a buffoon pretty much negates the fact that someone started the insult with a social title.  For instance, do I think Obama and Clinton are idiots?  No, not by a long shot. I think they are intelligent and extremely clever manipulators pushing a socialist brand of government I want to steer clear of.

They believe in giant government with hundreds of programs designed to even the playing field, so that those who were not motivated to get an education and a job can have everything you and I have who did our homework. And the working Middle Class gets to pay for it through increased taxes. This is no mean secret and yet, people who make 50 to a 100,000 dollars a year will vote for the very platform that will take food off their own table.

Do I think that people who will vote for Hillary are idiots?  Nope. I know too many good people who are educated and friendly who will punch her card on voting day. What I do find is they should understand for themselves how much they want the government nosing around in their personal lives. If they want more government, then vote for Hillary. I want less government and that is why I am voting for a political outsider over a hardcore political conservative who has more interest in the party lines, than in the people’s wishes. I think both party extremes do not represent me.

I’ve been clear about my stance on this for a long time and it throws me right in the middle of the Tea Party in some ways. To reiterate, I will pay my taxes and obey the laws and in exchange, I want our government to stay out of my life unless there is a disaster. Sure, it is a good thing that they work hard to keep our country defended against enemy both foreign and stateside. It should be a priority of our government to offer stimuli to keep jobs here and a great number of other programs that “offer” a solution, but when they cram something like healthcare down our throats, it gets stuck every time.

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, right, so why do we feel it is socially acceptable to attack each other in print? Do we do this face to face with strangers because their political opinion differs from ours? I personally don’t carry a spare hockey mask around with me to protect my mouth from a violent reaction to my vitriolic political eruptions. What I do as a defense when I meet a person like this (or read what they wrote) is I avoid them. I have no interest in meeting them again or reading what they write in the letters to the editor section on page 4. Because of their sarcastic and acidic diatribe, I simply ignore them and in the occasional Facebook arena, I unfriend them.

As Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins so eloquently put it, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


This letter is a contribution from my SIL's grandfather.  He spent many years in Air Force intelligence working with the CIA and NSA and we are both columnists.

       Sometimes I imagine that I’ve fallen into some deep crevasse miles from where my screams for help could ever be heard.

       It’s sort of analogous to the hopeless feeling I got when I was forced to recognize just how many gullibles, ignorant dolts, mentally deficient ideologues, and morons there are that are registered to vote, and unfortunately for our beloved country, show up at the polls.

      Eighteen-year olds should never have been given that right unless they were wearing a uniform. That said, it’s my opinion we’re at the crisis crossroads of my lifetime.

     If we don’t find a way to blow a hole through ignorance, apathy, bigotry, stupidity and mental laziness to elect Trump even if it’s a perceived by-far the lesser of evils; the party, if there ever was one, is over and gone and my great-grand-kids and yours will be the ones to suffer for mistakes made.

    There are no guarantees except death, and that’s inevitable.  Americans have made some terrible Presidential choices throughout our history. During my lifetime, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are by far the worst in more than a century! 

     I truly shudder at the thought of another arrogant sociopath, pathological liar, and treasonous criminal succeeding the current arrogant sociopath and liar. Let’s look at some contrasts between the current candidates: the criminal and the annoying egotist.

    Trump wants to build a wall and stop illegal immigration and block refugees from Islamic nations who can’t be properly vetted (See McCarran-Walter act of 1952, which Jimmy Carter used to block immigration of Iranians). Look what’s happened in Europe!

    With virtually no borders, the European nations are being overrun by Muslim peoples who refuse to assimilate into the societies they enter. They follow an extremely dogmatic and misogynistic religion that espouses more hate than love. Gays and non-believers (e.g., Christians, apostates, etc) are to be shunned or killed. Females are nothing but chattel.

    Hillary wants no prevention of illegal immigration and wants to increase the risk of terrorism on our precious soil by all but clearly inviting un-vetted, potential ISIS operatives to come through the currently wide-open and unguarded gates of Syrian refugee immigration. This is just like leaving the doors and windows of your house unlocked in a high crime neighborhood.

  The difference is stark; “Shrillary” wants to gamble our lives, Trump doesn’t, he’s the clear choice here.

    Hillary’s on record as saying outsourcing of jobs to other countries can’t be stopped. What that really means is her husband duped voters and stupid politicians (oops that’s an oxymoron) into helping outsource millions of jobs via NAFTA which helped them get rich.

    Trump says he can stop outsourcing. Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, but we know Hillary won’t! She’s on record! Clear choice, Trump!

    Hillary’s mentor and a person she was enamored of was “Rules for Radicals” author Saul Alinsky. She was an acolyte, interviewed him and wrote her thesis about him and the “Rules”. He was the expert on community organizing and Obama and thug William Ayres were fellow acolytes.
    Trump’s radical ideas are to help us achieve prosperity again, individually and as a nation. Hillary is promising four more years of change without hope. Clear choice, Trump!
   Another contrast, Hillary wants to help Obama transform America into a third world socialist mess (see Greece and France) where the promise is a “chicken in every pot stolen from those who worked for their chicken.”

   Trump wants America to recapture her once premier position as a leader of the free world, regain form as business friendly, again become a manufacturing giant, and rejuvenate a neglected military destroyed by eight years of Obama (that Hillary wants to continue) in order to regain a preparedness second to none.

    Hillary has demonstrated her hatred of our military and her thorough disdain for people who wear the uniform at least from the time she was first lady, if not before. No way in hell should this arrogant, self-centered harridan ever become CIC. Again, a clear contrast to the “Donald” who always shows deference and respect to those who defend.

    Trump repeatedly condemns the fascism of PC that is invading every aspect of our daily lives: free speech is attacked on campuses by professorial nit-wits and their ideologically indoctrinated nit-wit students; majority rights are abridged in favor of the minority at every turn, the end-game being political divisiveness as a means of grabbing power.

     How about perverts having the option to choose whatever bathroom they want with Target stores’ blessings? PC is so fascistically ludicrous some idiots are demanding the right to not ever be offended.

    The ultimate reason why Trump must be the choice is SCOTUS. Hillary can totally wreck the country by appointing activist judges who would abrogate the constitution piece by piece starting with the 1st and 2nd Amendments.  WE MUST ELECT TRUMP AND PENCE AT ALL COST!
Aug 8th, 2016


Friday, August 05, 2016

We sink or we swim

 Something Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox told me when I was interviewing him has stuck with me these many years. He was one of the survivors of the WWII US Navy ship, the USS Indianapolis. If you remember, this is the ship that was torpedoed at the end of the war and had carried the components of the first atomic bomb. Of the crew of 1196 men, only 900 sailors went into the water. 5 days later the survivors were pulled to safety. Many succumbed to their injuries; out of desperation a good number drank salt water and went crazy. Zeb was one of the 317 that kept their wits and survived.

“The difference between those who died and me was I didn’t want to die. I didn’t give up hope. I had things I wanted to accomplish.” Zeb told me he had the same nightmare every night and would wake up sweating. He said one time a crazy-eyed sailor tried to choke him, thinking he was a Japanese soldier. Another suddenly spotted something deep in the ocean and dove down out of site, never again to resurface.

Fate would have it that Zeb and crossed paths more than once before I met him as a survivor of this tragedy.  Call it providence or whatever, but I now believe it was divine intervention.

Zeb was long retired by this time, having spent his time as an Operator at Solvay. I worked next door at a competitor of theirs making the same product. He was big in the Lion’s Club and spent a lot of time raising awareness to the naval tragedy. He stayed busy and I was in his home and later his nursing home room many times. He was full of life and it wasn’t obvious that he still endured those horrible memories. He did his best to put it behind him and move on.

Now I am retired and I am carrying nowhere near the bad memories of this hero and I feel I owe it to his memory to make a mark in life. Remember Tom Hank’s character in epic WWII movie, Saving Private Ryan, when he whispered “James, earn this... earn it.”? No one, but Zeb and God was there for him, but he made it and he made it good. I want to be like that. At my swan song, I want people to tell me I am a good man. I can personally say Zeb was.

What in the heck does all of this have to do with you? Everything. You and me both. It’s a challenge of sorts. Do we really need people to rescue us from tragedy to step up our game? I don’t think so. I think it takes a realization that all of can live cleaner, more rational, less selfishly, and kinder. Start by parking father out in the vast parking lots and leave the better spaces to those who aren’t as spry and physically fit as we are. Baby step it.

Tip not only the person bagging your groceries, but hand the checker a buck and tell her she just got a dollar an hour raise. It is not the great big things that make differences in our lives folks; it’s those little unexpected goodies that come our way that we never forget. I have done this many times and the look of surprise on their face is always worth the money.

Many times we wrongly believe we are living a life of hardship, when at out poorest, we live better than most people around the globe. The traffic on Garth Road has some people so angry, they could bite the head off their favorite Hillary/Trump voodoo doll and when you put it in perspective, it is simply no big deal. Why worry about stupid stuff and on second thought, why have a doll like that in the first place?

Zeb told me that one night he awoke and he had drifted about a hundred yards from the larger group. Two 8 foot reef sharks were staring at him trying to decide if he was dead or not. He immediately began to violently swim between them and they followed him all the way back to the group before breaking off. This nightmarish scene was relived every night for over 65 years before he finally passed away a few years ago. And we think we have it rough? Not hardly, my friends.

We sink or we swim folks. You do, I do and it’s entirely our choice which one we make. We can choose to go through life floating and find out where we end up when we get there, or make corrections toward a destination of our choice.

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