This post was inspired by Monroe Anderson (I still can’t believe that he reads my blog. I am not worth the crossing of his t’s. He is the man.)

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The first shop I went to when we landed here in the US two years ago was a convenience store just down the road from us. It’s called Honey Farms. Just your run-of-the-mill convenience store like a 7-Eleven. Nothing much. Bread, milk, cigarettes, Coke and chocolates. Everything I need to get through the day if pushed. That’s where I met them. The people working at Honey Farms.

The first guy I met was this old guy that must been at least 65 in the shade. But still in excellent shape. He cycles to work and back. We just called him ‘the old guy’. My lovely wife knew who I was talking about whenever I told her I had a chat with the old guy at Honey Farms. He was the first American I had a just a normal general chat with. Good guy. Exceptionally good guy.

It started off like any normal chat for us foreigners over here in smaller towns. The accent. He loved my wife’s accent. Called it “the Queen’s English”. Well, she does have a pretty good English accent even though she is South African. He made her talk just so he could listen to her accent. And then he will just be like a little kid and be all giddy. And tell all the other customers to listen to her speak. Yes, I think he had a bit of a crush on her.

I didn’t get the same treatment. But then, my accent is a bit more harsh. Less exotic, more farmer. But what can you do? We did have many good chats – me and the old guy from Honey Farms. Anything really – and he was as funny as hell.

Whenever I bought my cigarettes he would offer me “free” matches. And he used to say that they are so committed to customer service that they are happy to replace the matches if I am unhappy with them at any time. Yes, they were free to start off with.

Or the time I walked in and asked if they had dish washing liquid or tablets for the dishwasher. He made a huge scene claiming that they have the best dishwasher liquid in the whole of downtown Natick – if not in greater downtown Natick. (You can’t buy or find it anywhere else in downtown Natick.) He went to tell me how good this dishwasher liquid is. His wife swears by it. And he has never had a customer come back to say it didn’t do the job. With a smile I asked him if he has ever used it. He shook his head and said no. Never used the stuff. He still washes his dishes by hand. And then laughed a bit more. Both of us.

Yeah, he was a funny guy. Always something funny to say or a smart comment to make me leave with a smile.

But it always bugged me. Why is he still working when he should be taking it easy? When he should be retired. So I asked him. I asked him why is he still working. And he stared at me for a little while. And then just uttered a simple little concept…

“healthcare…”

“Why healthcare”, I asked. Simple, he needs to be covered if something happens to him or his wife. Especially in their old age. And he needs the extra money to pay for it. As security for when they really need it. The government will help but it might not be enough. In his old age he has to worry about that. He never had to worry about it when he was covered when he was young and healthy and looked after.

He also told me that he got his daughter a job at Honey Farms. But that he had to make her stop working there and found her another job. He was worried about her safety. When she worked the late shift. When some of the rougher and drunker guys came around. Nothing ever happened. But it wasn’t good for her to be exposed. It was good enough for the old man, but not good enough for his daughter.

He left my Honey Farms a few months back. He got a better offer to actually run a Honey Farms in the town next to ours. We still walk into each other now and again. And we still have our chats then. He still makes me laugh. And he still cycles to work.

Actually, he is doing more than that. One of the many discussions we had was about American addiction to cars. Hell, people will drive 200 yards to Honey Farms to buy their stuff. But more than that, single drivers keep on driving to work and back or to downtown Natick on a beautiful day when they could be walking. It bugged him. And he decided to do something about it. A campaign. A campaign to get Natick people to cycle more.

This old man decided to do it on his own. He got a plan together that we spoke about a few times. And he took it to the local authorities to get their backing. And convinced them to support him. Not with money. But with communications – posters, notices, free bicycles etc. And off he went. His “cycle more” campaign. Good for traffic and good for your health. This old man that should be retired did it because it bugged him. Never made a cent out of it. It was all about getting people out of their cars and start cycling when they go to downtown Natick. Yep, he was an activist in his own way.

I really liked him. Still do.

He is America for me. Him and the other people I have met at Honey Farms. The other slightly less old guy who knows everything anybody ever wants to know about the history of coins – American coins. Or the gay middle aged woman who suffers from depression. Or the woman whose kids always come to visit her when she works the late shift on a weekend. Or the young black kid from the wrong side of Natick that is taking extra jobs to stay out of trouble and build himself a future. All of them. They have been America to me. Proud. Strong. Easy to talk to. Friendly as hell.

Yes, they might not know as much of the world as what the world knows of them, but these people are good decent people that I would be happy to call my own. I can see in their eyes why America is great. Because they are great people.

So why am I telling you this? Why is this even important? I’ll tell you why…

…McCain and taxes…

What?

Yep, McCain and taxes. McCain is attacking Obama for wanting to raise the taxes of the wealthiest of Americans. One key line of argument from McCain is that the top 1% of Americans will pay almost 35% of American taxes under the Obama plan. That just doesn’t sound right. That is just unfair. It isn’t just. Why should 1% pay so much of the taxes? Well… Because that same 1% also own almost 35% of America’s net worth. That’s why. Mr McCain.

If you own 35% then it makes perfect sense that 35% of the taxes will come from you. Easy economics. Not socialism. Just easy economics.

And before I forget. Just 10% of the population owns 71% of America’s wealth… I expect that 10% to pay 71% of the taxes…

I won’t even mention that “in a survey of 120 major cities, New York was found to be the ninth most unequal in the world and Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Miami had similar inequality levels to those of Nairobi, Kenya and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Many were above an internationally recognised acceptable “alert” line used to warn governments”. I won’t go into that. Just saying that the distribution of wealth in America is beyond unfair. It ranks with the most unjust systems in the world…

Tell me why should the wealthiest not pay according to the share of wealth they have? Are they better than the old guy from Honey Farms? Do they mean more to America than the Honey Farms people? I don’t think that either group means more to America than the other. Or at least, I don’t believe that either group should mean more to America. CEO’s can be replaced as easily as the guy in Honey Farms. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. I work with CEO’s of some of the biggest American companies out there today. The biggest of the biggest. The best of the best. Make no mistake… I can count on my one hand how many of them are truly irreplaceable. And they generally earn a sh*tload of money. Way more than their counterparts from the rest of the world.

I get it that they earn more. I have no problem there. Maybe I have a problem with the extremes of what they earn, but I do get that they should earn a nice package to keep them in the job. But they are not more American than the old guy from Honey Farms. That much I know.

He has worked his backside off for this country. Never moaned. Never bitched. Never complained. When they ask him to serve he serves. When they ask him to sacrifice he sacrifices. He, and everyone else at Honey Farms, are the backbone of this country as much as what the CEO is. Without him there is no America. America is not a country of CEO’s. America is a country of Americans. And everyone should pay their share of being able to call themselves American. The old guy paid his dues. Through sweat and taxes. Even today in his old age. He kept that CEO in his job. Buying his stuff and protecting his rights. The CEO can afford to pay more taxes so that the old guy doesn’t have to work in his old age. Or that the woman suffering from depression can get good help even though she can’t afford it. She works her butt off. Each and every day. She doesn’t sit back and do nothing. She contributes. She pays taxes. According to what she can. Her share. Even though her share of the American wealth is nothing compared to the CEO. We can’t expect him to let it “trickle down”. It won’t. It never has. It’s a fallacy that Reagan tried to sell and we now know it doesn’t work. Mr CEO doesn’t buy from Honey Farms.

One more thing… Patriotism.

Conservative Republicans keep on saying that the American companies will take their business elsewhere if they don’t get the “breaks”. Can we then please question the patriotism of these companies? Who are they? Let’s all stop buying from them if they hate America so much. They made their money off the back of American sweat and American consumers. And now they want to leave? They made their American Dream come true through the hard work and money of other Americans. They made their American Dream off the back and sweat and hard earned cash of those Americans who defines the true American Dream – freedom, justice and liberty without the money attached. Let’s leave them alone if they don’t show the same commitment to America as the old guy from Honey Farms.

I like my old guy from Honey Farms. I like everyone who works at Honey Farms. They taught me about America. Not the CEO and his buddies that I have known for many years. They are also Americans. But they are not America. It was Honey Farms that made me realize what America is all about. The spirit. The belief. The patriotism. The people.

I earn more than the guy at Honey Farms. Way more. I don’t earn $250,000 p.a. (Not yet!) But I am willing to pay a little more to make sure that the old guy from Honey Farms can just ride his bicycle and not worry about the cost of his healthcare. He is America and I am willing to do what it takes to make that work. I am willing to pay my share according to the share I own and earn. That should be the American way.

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The news isn’t getting any better is it? Time to have a closer look. I must apologize first though. I do get a bit worked up today. So please excuse the anger. But some of this stuff just isn’t funny anymore. Don’t worry though, some of it is still pretty funny. Hey remember, no news is good news. So some news is slightly crap news. I’ll start with the crap news first.

Same old, same old...

Same old, same old...

1. Mr McCain, act your age – or maybe not

It’s becoming a bit tedious. Every week I tell myself that I will leave McCane alone. His an old man after all. And I am not being nice. My mom won’t be impressed. You know, she always said I should show respect to old people. And I really want to. But then he does it again. Or maybe I should say, “Oops he did it again”. Yes, McCane has scrapped right through the bottom of the barrel and is now digging up old cat crap from the garden soil below. He is reaching a new low. Even for a Republican. Okay, maybe I am wrong. You can’t really reach a new low as a Republican. Or at least not this type of Republican. They boldly go where no one has gone before. Anyway, let’s get back to the Mac. McCane decided to take Obama on by focusing on the issues. Not. No, he decided to tell us nothing of his own policies or why he might be a good President and instead compared Obama to Britney and then said Obama is playing the race card. Sigh. (I wish my wife would allow me to swear in my blog. McCain deserves one.) Come now Mista McCane, what the hell do you stand for apart from anything anti-Obama? The USA actually needs someone to stand for something and not just against everything. Look what happened the last time you picked a President that stood for nothing but anti-everything. You are living in that world right now. Who are you McCane? Who are you when you look in the mirror apart from an angry old man with no life or policies? If Obama is Britney, are you the wino old hag who hangs around Britney trying to catch a bit of her “shine”? Get a life of your own please. And saying Obama is playing the race card… Have you actually been on the “internets” as your buddy calls it? Have you seen and heard the things people are saying of Obama? Have you not heard how that stupid blond woman called Ann Coulter play “funny” with Obama’s names? Have you seen the original racist comments that Rooster99 left on this blog? Obama playing the race card… Bah! Wake up and smell the roses. Grow up and act your age. No wait. Please don’t. We don’t need another President asleep behind the wheel. I guess the next thing you should start bitching about is that Obama is playing the intelligence card and walking the leadership path. That is so unfair hey? Ek is gatvol van MyPyn se wyn.

2. UK decides not to prosecute corruption

Imagine if this happened in South Africa. Or anywhere in Africa… The anti-fraud agency starts to investigate allegation that the largest national arms manufacturer and dealer offered bribes to a potential buyer. A bribe to get the buyer to buy some weapons. Maybe even a few weapons of mass destruction? And the buyer? A Middle Eastern buyer. With a really bad human rights record. And then the agency drops the investigation. Why? Because the buyer blackmailed the investigators by saying that they won’t give any anti-terrorism support or intelligence info in the fight against terrorism. What would you expect the agency and your government to do? Don’t answer – let’s first look at what the UK did. The UK government actually supported the investigators decision not to probe a bit deeper into the bribery case. Even though they already had good evidence. And they are so happy the agency dropped the case. The reason? National security. Bull. Let any African government do this and guess what – everyone will be all over them and throw their toys. They will talk about the corruption by African governments. And say it is just “the way these Africans are”. Well, stuff you. Go put it where the sun don’t shine. You Mr Brown and gang, the bribes are on your hands and for the whole world to see. The blood of those who die because of these weapons? One your hands. National security? Guess what. Did you know that Osama bin Laden comes from that country involved in this corrupt arms deal, terrorism threat and blackmail case? To the UK – you just lost your right to bitch about corruption anywhere else in the world. Especially in Africa. Go clean your own house first.

Oh, in a new development… This same UK arms manufacturer (BAE) was just caught in another case. One that involves their links to a Zimbabwean arms trader. A Zimbabwean arms dealer with strong ties to Robert Mugabe. Sweeping that one under the carpet as well now shall we? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Right? No reason to investigate this one if you didn’t want to look at the Saudi one. “Nothing to see here folks. Please move on.” Spineless bigots. Murdering bastards. What a pair they make. The UK and Zimbabwe caught necking behind the barn. Brown and Mugabe seen doing some heavy petting in the hay. Blood on your hands you stupid gutless Pom.

3. UK crime levels fall

I know I joked about it in my Next Week’s News Today II, but it is actually true. Crime rates are falling in the UK. It has done so by 10% over the last year. I stand by my original assessment that the economic crunch is behind it all. There is just nothing to steal anymore. I just wonder if the nanny state UK government will provide the criminals with some economic “stimulant” package as well. I mean really. It’s bad if the mob can’t even squeeze anything out of the dry UK well anymore. See? Crime doesn’t pay. Not now. At least they will have the dole to fall back on.

4. Scientific proof that Conservatives are sick

A new study from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque!) has just linked religion with diseases. Basically, the study “proves” that there is a link between the number of religions and the “control” of diseases. Apparently, society organizes itself in religious groups to limit the spread infectious diseases and other health risks. That’s a bit of a bummer. It makes the US a pretty sick society. I mean really, the Christian churches over here are worse than Trotskyists – they split into two separate groups every time two Christian conservatives/evangelicals get together in a room. Aah, now I get the whole anti-science thing amongst some of the more fundamentalist Christian groups in the US. You see, some science actually focus on healing people. Get rid of diseases. So the basic fibre of religion will fall apart. The healthier we are the more secular we will become. I hope Hagee and Bush don’t read this. Or maybe they knew about this all along. You know – denying evolution and denying global warming. Very Christian of them.

5. China and US sync laptops

China. What can I say. Loved it over there. Just don’t take your laptop with when you go and visit. They don’t like free information that much. Like to control it a bit. Can’t get access to all the sites on the internet. Including this one. (Wonder if they lifted the “ban” on this one when they relaxed their control a bit this week?) Anyway. They like control. And they have a bit of a habit of taking laptops at airports. You know – to check for “information”. And good luck if you can get it back. They go a bit further though. They check what you do and download your information, contacts and everything they can get their hands on. It helps that they control the networks you have to use. They are checking for anything that can “threaten” China. I call it no freedom and control freaks. So no surprise that American politicians are a bit unhappy about that. America is build on the foundations of freedom. Free expression and information are the cornerstones of this great country. I was even happier to see that it was a Republican being pissed at the Chinese for doing this. Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas was really pissed at the Chinese and their attempts to get every single piece of information they could get their hands on. Good on you Senator Brownback. Freedom of expression and information should always be protected. It’s the American way. But… Hang on a minute… What do we have here? It can’t be. The US doing the same? Yes! You see, first it was invasion of privacy with the “Patriot” Act. Like the Chinese, they will track your info like a true Chinese autocrat. And now it seems they are taking another leaf from the little red Chinese book of control. They are ready to take your laptop at the airport. And do pretty much what ever the hell they want to do with it. And they go a step further. They’ll take your iPod as well. Not to control your music as if it is some 50’s rock ‘n roll clampdown. No, just to check what info you have on there. (I would be so embarrassed by my playlist.) So there you go. Information control. China and the US dancing to the same tune. And I bet it ain’t to the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Closer to the Grateful Dead I guess. George W Bush and Hu Jintao, both President and Commander in Chief of the two most powerful nations in the world, dancing the slow dance of control. It’ll make Mao so proud. He didn’t even have to invade the US for the Red Revolution to take over. First they took over the economy and now exported they own special brand of information control and freedom suppression. Tangle or tango anyone. Any wise words of wisdom now Senator Brownback?

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That’s it folks. More pissed than usual. But can’t help it – they keep on feeding me crap.

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Shortest Italian book ever written? Great Italian War Heroes. No wait, I have another one. Great post-war Italian political leaders. Longest Italian book ever written? Post-war Italian governments. Man, they have had a few.

Yes. Italy was at it again. Another year. Another election. And another new government. Guess how many governments Italy has had since the end of World War II? Hold on before you answer that one. Remember, it has been 63 years since the end of the war. You would think maybe 20 odd right? One every four years and maybe one or two that didn’t last the whole 4 years – or whatever the term in office might be. Try again. 30? Nope, try again. 40 maybe? No sirree. Come on, be bold. 50? Nah, but getting slightly warmer. 60! Almost there. It’s 62 in fact. Yes, 62 governments in 63 years… America has only had 43 Presidents since 1789… Bah! Call that a democracy? Only 43 in 219 years. Amateurs.

Guess who won? Berlusconi won again… How does he do it? I mean this guy make Bush sound like Shakespeare. He once told a German member of the European Parliament, ““Mr Schulz, I know a movie producer in Italy who is making a movie about Nazi concentration camps. I will suggest you to play the role of a Kapo. You are perfect!”. And he also said that he had to “dust off my playboy skills” when he met with the (female) Finnish president, Tarja Halonen. And here is a favourite one… At an awards dinner in January 2007, Berlusconi was quoted as saying, “If I wasn’t already married, I would marry you right away,” and “With you, I’d go anywhere” to Mara Carfagna, a representative of Forza Italia and former showgirl. These flirtatious comments prompted his wife Veronica to demand an apology in a front-page letter to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, one of Berlusconi’s rival publications. In a statement released through his political party, he begged for forgiveness and stated that he would “always protect [Veronica’s] dignity.” And he has been rumoured to be linked to the mafia and a (previously) secret masonic lodge. How does he do it? Well, I guess it helps a bit that he owns about half of the media in Italy.

But really. 62 governments in 63 years? Can you even say that they had a government at all? Imagine you are the new Prime Minister. You just won the election. Start getting all your sh*t together and get ready for the move into your grand new palace, Palazzo Chigi. Picked out the new Italian designed furniture and drapes. Bought the Fiat and Ferrari to fit into the garage. Got the new pizza pans and pizza pots. Had the last party in your home town in Sicily – to show respect to the Don. Said goodbye to mamma because you are at last leaving the house. And just as you arrive to move into your new government residence and take up office they tell you that a new government has just been elected and you are outta there. Damn. You blink and you are out.

I think I know why they keep on changing governments in Italy. You see, Italians are very community orientated. The family is very important. And the uncles and aunts and sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews – all of them. They are close. Share meals together. Go to the market together. Fight and lose together. Make a noise together. Throw their arms up in disgust and annoyance together. They do everything together. So they love all equally and truly believe in the principle of a government by the people, for the people and of the people. But the push it just a tad too far. They also want everyone they know to have a chance to be in government. Today Papa Prodi, tomorrow Uncle Giuseppe. And don’t forget little Rosalina wants a chance too.

And don’t forget, Italy is run by men. Women hardly ever try to enter politics in Italy. The last well known Italian female politician was porn-star Cicciolina. And there is a very good reason for this. Women have brains. They know that trying to be an effective politician in Italy is like trying to win a major modern war. It just doesn’t happen in Italy. And someone must run the actual Italy. Seeing that the men are always busy with the move in and out of parliament – women might just as well do the real work to keep the country up and running.

You know why the men move in and out of Palazzo Chigi apart from losing the vote before they even won it? Because Italian men can never stay away from their mothers. They live with their mothers until they get married at age 40. And then hope that their wife will treat them like their mother did. They don’t, because they have their own sons to look after and spoil so the men go into politics to get away from their wives who don’t adore them day in and day out – rather just a clip behind the ear. Then they “fix” the results so they can lose quickly and move back in with their mothers. Sigh… Italian men and their mothers…

These Italian politicians won’t be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery. They just don’t organize anything. Blame their mothers who organized their lives including their drawers and selection of hair-gel. These men manage to run nothing and do nothing in politics – and then ride of those credentials for years. Thank god they don’t run the economy. But it leaves me with another problem. How can they call the mafia organized crime? How do they organize crime? I mean really, these guys can’t organize jack. How the hell do they organize crime?

But here is the thing. I actually think that the Italians are way ahead of us. They know what happens when a government gets too comfortable. Or when government actually tries to run a country. It is all downhill from there. They believe in a “light touch” government the conservatives in America and UK can only talk about (but never actually do or want). And how do you ensure that you never get a government who actually govern? Just don’t give them a chance to settle in. Change them as often as you do your underwear. Or as quickly as what you surrender. “Hey, Prodi is talking about politics and people in one sentence – I think it is time to elect a new government before they get some weird idea of actually doing something as a government”. And, in any case, we are into the fourth month of 2008 and need to change the sheets. Might just as well change the government as well. It’s called Spring Cleaning in my house. We did it last weekend – and so did Italy.

And we can learn a few things from them. Let’s look at Zimbabwe compared to Italy. Zimbabwe has had three governments since World War II – the Queen of England, Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe. Three in 63 years. And see where that got them! Stability in government = instability of country. Italy? 62 governments in 63 years. Instability of government = stability of country. I say let’s hire a few Italian political consultants to advise a few leaders in Africa on how to run their countries. Bye-bye Bob…

This might be tongue in cheek, but I love Italy for being Italy. They give me an easy target to shoot at. But they win in the end. I would rather be them than against them (except in war). What’s the alternative? Switzerland? Let’s see… mm… With all the turmoil, lost battles, animated talking, general chaos and joke politics Italy has given us what? Well, they have given us Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Picasso, Vivaldi, Verdi, Versace, Armani, Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras, Bocelli, Ferrari’s and pizza and pasta, to name but a few. And Switzerland? Land of continuous peace and stability? Where nothing ever happens and it carries on for months? Well, all that peace and stability gave us Swiss cheese and the bloody cuckoo clock.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll stick with the Italians. I think they are on to something. It could be the next election for all I know.

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