The Kudzu Kronicle

Because not all Southerners are the same

Buying a new vehicle really pushes my buttons

For a 47-year-old guy, I’ve owned relatively few vehicles in my lifetime. That’s because I drive them until well after they are paid for. In fact, if it weren’t for a kid destroying my car — and almost terminating me — at a red light on Veterans Parkway in 2000, I might still be driving a 1995 Saturn coupe.

The truck I drive today is paid for, and I’ll drive it until it blows up, hits another deer or I win the lottery and pay cash to upgrade myself to some other base model pickup — although perhaps one whose payload capacity allows it not to sink down when hauling life’s necessities like a small cooler or Nerf football.

My wife, on the other hand, had recently grown tired of her nearly-paid-for SUV, which meant that we closed out 2017 by going car shopping.

We both hate going car shopping. We hate the small talk with salesmen about kids and jobs. We hate negotiations. We hate their saying how lucky we are that their manager is giving such a great deal on our trade-in. We hate all of it so much that we go into dealerships in good cop/bad cop mode. The bad cop’s job is to grumble about everything, especially the cost. I try to be fair, though:

“Go ahead and tally up all the fees — the destination fee, the flux capacitor fee, the new car smell fee — and go ahead and talk to your manager, the dealership owner, the president of the United States. Then, come back with your final, complete, total, I’m-done-talking price. I’ll either buy it or I’ll leave. Believe me or not.”

Of course, they don’t believe me, and when I start to walk out, they start grabbing my leg and begging me to consider the amazing cupholders on this model.

Then there’s the test-driving, which was easier when vehicles were simpler. My first car was a simple 1978 Toyota Celica. It came with a manual transmission and an AM radio with only one option — the permanent Marlboro smell from the previous owner.

But today’s vehicles are basically rolling computers. I don’t know whether that’s to make life easier or to scare you into buying extended warranties because so many expensive things can now tear up.

Believe it or not, I’m still driving a truck I can’t talk to. I can’t tell it to change radio stations or call anyone. I have to actually turn little knobs to adjust the heat and air — oh, the horror. And I must turn a key to crank it, the same way Native Americans cranked their pickups hundreds of years ago.

Now, you just push a button to crank the vehicle, sometimes from outside the vehicle. You can lock your car from a thousand miles away with your phone. Most folks talk more to their cars in a day than I speak to other people in a year.

It didn’t bode well when our first test drive of the shopping day last week began with us trapped in a car that wouldn’t let us change gears, move or even roll down the window. Apparently, you not only had to push a button to start it, but you had to push it again to say, “Really, I’d like to go now.”

There’s nothing quite so un-empowering at a car lot as screaming at a 65-year-old salesman to come save you from being kidnapped by a newfangled, high-tech car.

By the end of the day, we regained our confidence, though, and the good cop/bad cop routine paid off yet again. My wife got a great car at a terrific price, and the salesman was unable to pull anything over on me.

In fact, he even through in the flux capacitor for free. Sucker!

Even Facebook knows the value of a good snooze

There have been some truly remarkable inventions over the past couple of centuries — the automobile, the airplane, the microwave, the television, the computer and the Weeble Wobble, just to name a handful.

But I think we can all agree that the greatest invention of the past 100 years — perhaps even the last millennium or two — clearly is the snooze button.

Sure, an awful lot of us drive cars, too many of us watch TV and only a handful of disturbed people do not love Weeble Wobbles, but all of us use the snooze button. Those extra nine minutes of sleep — and another nine minutes, and another nine minutes, and “Oh, God! How did it get to be 7:30? I’m late!” — make you truly appreciate how wonderful sleep is.

I know some folks like to brag about how they don’t need much sleep. When I hear of doctors or nurses pulling long shifts without sleep, I’m not impressed but worried.

“Um, would you mind getting someone who’s not shaking from 10 cups of coffee to put that needle in my arm?”

Presidents Clinton, Obama and Trump have all claimed to operate on four to six hours of sleep while in office. This allows the leader of the free world more time to chase interns, pick NCAA brackets or tweet — whichever is the most pressing issue of the moment for that particular administration. Continue reading

2018 — The year in PREVIEW

For many years now, I’ve published my annual Year in Preview in the print edition of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. However, the Ledger-Enquirer’s pages are filled with reports from legitimate journalists about what’s going on in Columbus and around the world — or as President Trump calls it, “Fake News! Sad!”

I cannot afford to have my annual Year in Preview — which is not a bunch of predictions and prognostications about the year 2018 but an actual collection of soon-to-be-proven-true facts — associated with “Fake News!” This is too important.

I’ve already run these by both Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sean Spicer and they verified that all of what is to follow is a genuine, 100 percent, verified assemblage of words.

Spoiler alert: If you want everything that’s going to happen in 2018 to be a surprise, stop reading now! However, if you want a sneak peek, here’s everything that will happen in … Continue reading

Let’s try trickle-up economics

I’m going to take President Trump and Republicans at their word that what they really want to do is boost the middle and lower classes with their tax reform plan. Not only that, but I’m going to help them get everything they want. All they have to do is tackle tax reform in two phases.

Because corporations are making record profits and already paying an effective tax rate on average of 21 percent (though some pay less or zero), they likely can wait a moment for tax relief and more breaks. Meanwhile, the wealthy in America are doing better than ever, so they might can wait a moment, as well. Besides, we don’t have to look back very far in our history to find that trickle-down economics does not work. So, let’s try trickle-up economics.

Start tax reform with small businesses instead of corporations and with the bottom 90 percent or so of Americans instead of the top 1 percent. President Reagan famously noted that a rising tide lifts all boats as he pitched trickle-down economics in the ’80s. Unfortunately, it lifted all boats in a small pond. Trickle-up economics relies on an oceanic rising tide to lift a whole lot more boats, from the poor boy’s canoe (or kayak in my case) to the greedy man’s yacht. Continue reading

No questions allowed

My latest column in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (also shared by the Macon Telegraph here) begins with a question as the headline: “Is it time we replaced America’s national anthem?” This, of course, predictably produced knee-jerk angry reactions when shared on the Ledger-Enquirer’s Facebook page,  including one suggesting I should no longer be breathing. (Thank you, James E. B. Miller of Columbus, Georgia, for that one. I can see why you are a valuable employee in the security industry — you gotta know when to take folks down, such as for asking a question.)

Also predictable is that most of the angry folks — if not all — clearly didn’t (or can’t) read the commentary. No one is quite so vociferous in America these days as the ill-informed or ignorant-by-choice. I love it when the angry clueless masses scream at me. However, I actually respect those who disagree after thoughtful consideration and perhaps even the consumption of the written word — beyond the headlines, where so few dare to tread nowadays.

The California NAACP prompted the column idea by calling for replacing the national anthem. I thought that seemed a bit of an overreach and planned to sarcastically offer a multitude of silly suggested replacements. However, after reading more about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” I realized their proposal at least warranted a second look. It’s amazing how reading can help alleviate knee-jerk reactions.

But no. In today’s America of required nationalism and forced patriotism — gee, I wonder where in history we can look for something similar — you can’t question. Submit. Accept. Bow. Pledge your allegiance. Or get out.

I will suggest to those who will not allow even the question “Is it time we replaced America’s national anthem?” that when you’re singing along with your fellow patriots to “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the next football game, don’t sing these six words toward the end: “o’er the land of the free.”

Because, obviously, freedom is not a concept with which you agree.

READ the column here

You never forget your first real concert

Last night I took my 17-year-old son to his first real concert — Poppy at a small club called Vinyl in Atlanta. If you haven’t heard of Poppy, she’s an unusual YouTube sensation, more of a visual and sound experiment than a true music star. But she does have an album out and is now touring smallish clubs with most shows selling out.

It’s not my kind of music. The crowd is not my crowd. But it is fairly innocent, and the fans loved it. My son was among those at the front of the stage, while I stood well in the back. If you were there, you may recall having seen an old guy in a Georgia football t-shirt. That was me. Trust me, no one else looked like me — which, granted, may be a good thing for them. The important thing was my son had a blast. That’s all I cared about.

My first real concert as a teenager was in Columbus’ old Municipal Auditorium in 1987. I also was at the front of the stage to witness the tribute to debauchery provided by Murphy’s Law, Fishbone and especially the headliners — the Beastie Boys. It got out of control enough that the cops shut it down, which only enhanced the Beastie Boys’ reputation, much the way slapping those “explicit content” labels helped sell more dirty records. (Probably not the goal Tipper Gore was pursuing with that effort.)

I also had a blast at my first concert, but I didn’t have much fun explaining it all to my parents the next day when the stories and images from the show made the rounds of Columbus media. I remember Columbus DJ Bear O’Brian banning them from airplay on his station after everything he witnessed. As an adult, Bear was repulsed. As a kid, I was thrilled.

But now that I’m an adult, I’m glad my son didn’t start his concert-going with a show like that. Poppy’s weird, and the music is for people who like computer-generated sounds. But she didn’t throw beer on people, didn’t have half-naked girls on stage and the cops didn’t have to shut her performance down.

I think they may have been too weirded out.

Don’t know Poppy? Well, here’s a clip from a show a few days ago. Brace yourself:

Gun lovers make a good point

Another mass shooting. Another good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun. Another call for everyone being armed everywhere. The left and right reacting predictably. As they say, if you can’t make meaningful changes after Sandy Hook, you never will be able to.

Every time this happens, the gun lovers point out — accurately  — that laws won’t prevent a bad person from getting their hands on a gun or from doing evil things with a gun. They say gun laws won’t help. Even paying attention to that key term — “well-regulated” — in the Second Amendment won’t help.

They have a point. No amount of laws can prevent gun violence entirely. In fact, they are so right that we should take it a step further. For instance:

  • We should eliminate laws against speeding. I see people speed every single day that I drive. Few get caught. The laws aren’t stopping them. And any new laws to curb speeding are really just a slippery slope toward the government ultimately confiscating our vehicles.
  • No more laws concerning sexual misconduct. From our president’s happy little hands to Harvey Weinstein’s casting couch, it’s obvious they aren’t working.
  • Theft should be legal. Well, except my gun, of course. You can have it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
  • Speaking of cold, dead hands, murder should be legal. There are nearly 16,000 homicides per year in the United States — 70 percent by firearms. Murder is against the law and keeps happening.
  • The same folks who resist laws to restrict firearms usually are for laws restricting abortions. Won’t they keep happening anyway like they did before it was legalized in 1973? Well, maybe not so much. Abortions last year hit their lowest level since 1973.
  • I definitely agree with their “laws don’t work” stance when it comes to drugs. The drug war has not worked and has, in fact, exacerbated the problem. It makes the drug trade more dangerous but also more profitable. It has treated an illness as a crime and ruined families. And it has increased the rates of theft, murders and firearms violations.

So, they’ve got a point. Laws don’t prevent crime from happening or stop bad people from doing bad things. Let’s just turn America in a constant episode of “The Purge” — but let me buy an AR-15 and a gazillion rounds of ammo first, please.

The media’s Trump coverage a case of apples and oranges

President Jimmy Carter made waves this week when he told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, “I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about.”

This, naturally, made right-wingers jump up and yell, “See! Totally unfair! Fake news! Banana, banana, BANANA!

To this, I say, “APPLE!” Um, I mean of course the media treats Trump differently. Trump is different. Trump ran on being different. He also ran on being tough, which makes me wonder why he’s so whiny and snowflakey.

Granted, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News all have devolved from news outlets into punditry platforms. They don’t cover important issues like the tax plan and health care the way they dwell on middle school playground issues like, “Ooo, did you hear what he said about you? He called you a dodo head! What you got to say about that?!”

But real journalists — most of them coming from or still at print-based organizations — are covering the issues and that makes them seem harder on Trump. When they seem hardest on Trump is when they use his exact, harsh words — mostly in the form of Tweets.

But while we’re comparing the treatment of Trump to the treatment of other presidents. let’s be sure to remember that: Continue reading

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