Wednesday, August 24, 2016

By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, August 24, 2016

If you look up the term “Partisan Politics”, you will find definitions such as this:

In politics, a partisan is a committed member of a political party. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians (and supporters of those politicians – my words) who strongly support (regardless of those politicians’ activities and/or words – my words) their party's policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents.

If all things were equal, I can understand how a Republican will support another Republican and a Democrat will support another Democrat; likes attract likes, it is the Law of Attraction.

The key phrase is “if all things were equal.”  But all things are NOT equal.  People are people and people do very stupid things at times.  To name just a few, Gary Hart (presidential candidate), John Edwards (presidential candidate), Spiro Agnew (Vice President), Bill Clinton (Arkansas Governor, then President), Edwin Edwards (Louisiana Governor, jailed), Ray Nagin (New Orleans Mayor, jailed), Richard Nixon (President, resigned in disgrace), and the lists could go on and on and represent both sides of the political spectrum.

Most of their failures did not specifically include a failure of policies as much as a failure of character to the point where some if not all conducted illegal activities.  The question to me is whether these people were corrupt BEFORE they took office or did the lure of higher political office and the power that goes with it corrupt them.  The other question is did they believe they were above the law and that the law, even if broken, would not take any action against them?

What really bothers me to the point of becoming depressed, is the way “partisan politics” enters the equation where people continue to support very flawed candidates for political office – VERY FLAWED!

The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits.” Dan Buettner

“You're going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it's always their actions you should judge them by. It's actions, not words, that matter.”  Nicolas Sparks

I have always been taught NOT to judge people, that people will be people and people do really stupid and dumb things.  I have not always made good decisions when it comes to NOT judging people; some people just make it very difficult to NOT to judge them.  The point my parents always made was that continuing to associate with the stupid and dumb people of the world is telling the rest of the world that (1) you condone the behavior of these people and (2) since you consider them friends and/or support them (as in the case of politicians), their stupid and dumb behavior is now YOUR stupid and dumb behaviors; you now own it!

We are now faced with a half dozen candidates for President of the United Stated to be voted on in November 2016.  There is not one of them who supports at least one policy that I do not agree with.  Therefore the question at least for me is which of the half dozen candidates has fewer policies that I disagree with and that “should” be the candidate that I vote for. 

It is not that simple.  There is one other aspect of selecting a candidate for President or any office National, State or Local.  That is CHARACTER; real or imagined.  For example, when John Edwards was running for office, he portrayed one character for public consumption and a totally different character in private.  There is no way that he should have even run for office let alone for the President of the United States.  How could he not think that either the press or his opposing candidates would discover his secret behaviors and then publicize them for everyone to see.  In this case, it was NOT the main stream press as it should have been that uncovered his behavior issues but the secondary press (tabloids).  Then the secondary press was called every name in the book by the main stream press for doing so until their coverage was proven to be correct.  This explains how a great many politicians actually get away with their undesirable behavior when the press, protected by the First Amendment, fails to do their job regarding EVERY candidate, not just the ones they politically oppose.

We as a nation seem to categorize politicians as people who find it difficult to tell the truth and that belief has somehow turned into a flawed character trait that in 2016 people now find as being acceptable behavior for the politicians they support.  One only need look at President Obama who was capable of looking the country in the proverbial “eye” and lie to everyone and by lie I mean he knew and understood exactly what the truth was and then said something contrary to that truth and kept a straight face while doing it.  Case in point, Obamacare where he said you can keep your doctor and said it at least 21 times.  SHOCKINGLY, NEITHER THE NEWS MEDIA OR HIS SUPPORTERS HELD HIM ACCOUNTABLE FOR LYING TO AMERICANS.  NEITHER ONE!  More recently the Obama Administration and President Obama himself made statements that the 400 Million Dollars paid to Iran was NOT a ransom when it clearly was.  Another of the many lies he has told Americans and the World and has never been held accountable to the truth.

That brings me to Hillary Clinton.  To her very partisan supporters there is nothing she can say or do that will turn their support to someone else in the running for President.  She has been caught on camera lying to Americans on numerous occasions yet MILLIONS continue to support her for President.  She even lied to the faces of the next of kin of the 4 Americans killed in Benghazi.  Will these same supporters continue to support her if she were to win the Presidency and then continue to lie to them as President Obama has done?  How does someone justify that kind of support for a known liar and then expect them to miraculously do a 180 and suddenly become honest once they assume the Office of the Presidency?

It would be one thing if it were just the lies Clinton routinely tells but now it is her relationship with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.  If it walks like a Duck and it quacks like a Duck, it must be a Duck.  The Clinton Foundation/Global Initiative looks like a corrupt organization, acts like a corrupt organization and has all the earmarks of a corrupt organization but to the Hillary Clinton supporters it apparently has no bearing on her ability or inability to serve as the next President.  It defies Common Sense!

This is worth repeating:  “You're going to come across people in your life who will say all the right words at all the right times. But in the end, it's always their actions you should judge them by. It's actions, not words, that matter.”  Nicolas Sparks

The supporters of Hillary Clinton seem to need to be reminded that their continued support transfers her inability to tell the truth (lies) and her association with what appears to be a very corrupt Foundation (The Clinton Foundation/Global Initiative) make each and every supporter guilty of the same character flaws – they too must lie and given the chance would engage in very corrupt activities.  How else can they NOT be categorized as such?  If YOU run with a “gang banger” or if you run with the “wild bunch” it is inferred that you too are a gang banger or a wild bunch member; it just goes without saying.  YOU may say to others that you have principles but your actions speak much louder than the words you use.  Argue this premise if you will or desire but the truth will always bear out your true character/principles.

“Lips and tongues lie. But actions never do. No matter what words are spoken, actions betray the truth of everyone's  heart.”   Sherrilyn Kenyon, Born of Fury


Or better still:
"What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?"
Hillary Clinton

Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown

Sunday, August 21, 2016

How Not To Make A Sale

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, August 21, 2016

We decided that we wanted to make some improvements to our 3 bathrooms in our home.  Specifically two of them are in what could best be described as master bedrooms, one up and one down.  Plus a third bathroom in the downstairs hall that serves two bedrooms and visitors to the house.  I placed a call to one of the many advertisements we had seen regarding converting one-piece fiberglass bathtubs into beautiful showers with no tubs.  Just made sense.  We were also considering converting the third bath tub into a hydro-tub type bath tub. 

The problems first began with the very first call.  I asked the person on the other end of the line if she could give me a “ballpark” price range.  She said she couldn’t.  I told her that we live in an older home and it made no sense to spend a lot of money in a home where the cost of improvements would never be realized in a future sales price whenever that might happen.  She refused to give me a price; I reluctantly set the appointment.  Almost from the moment I hung up the phone I knew it was a mistake and my initial reaction was to cancel the appointment but I didn’t.

When the salesman arrived one of the first things I told him was that I had been in real estate sales for over 33 years and taught training classes for most of those years.  As he began his sales pitch, my initial comments to him had obviously fallen upon deaf ears.  He went into his routine using a small, and I mean small, stand up tablet for the optics he wanted to created.

This is where my critique begins from the viewpoint of a sales trainer AND homeowner:

Dress for Success:  He wore a green golf type polo shirt.  That in itself is not all that bad but if my initial thought was that it seemed inappropriate others might as well.  I actually do believe in wearing casual clothing in sales but something like a polo shirt should include an embroidered company logo on it if you are going that casual.  Had that been the case, this particular critique would not be included in this Nugget.  Point made.

We offered him a cup of coffee, soft drink or water (it was 95 degrees outside) and he chose water.  I had always taught my sales people not to eat or drink when they were making a presentation.  Once you develop rapport with the customer and you are pretty much finished, that is when you might want to consider accepting a drink (non alcoholic) but only after.  One of the worst things that could happen is to spill the drink.  It would be a total disaster if you spill it on yourself or the customer or the customer’s furniture.  That is not what happened in this case, instead he chose to chew on the ice in the glass while he was making his presentation.  You listened to the sound of teeth crunching ice rather than on what he was trying to say.  Not good.  Another disaster just waiting to happen occurs when you the agent put a glass or cup down directly onto a wooden piece of furniture only to leave the dreaded white ring on the furniture.  Not quite the optic or lasting impression you want to leave; that you have no respect for the customer’s property.

The Tablet 1:  Tablets are good but when you are sitting across the table from the presenter, tablets are impossible to read unless the font used is extremely large.  In this case the font was a standard font that everyone uses for their OWN use.  As a customer, it was impossible to read from several feet away.  Not good, in fact, totally useless.  He did include two short videos and we were able to see and hear them but as for reading the fonts and words on the screen – no way.

The Tablet 2:  Initially when notebooks hit the markets, most real estate agents took an immediate liking for them to use in their presentations.  They would use programs like PowerPoint which is what I think this person used.  I quickly realized that when you use a PowerPoint presentation, you are pretty much required to stick to the script and sequence.  When a customer asks a question, the answer may or may not be included within the PowerPoint presentation.  Either way the agent is caught off guard because it is very difficult to stop where you are in the presentation to move forward or backward to find the exact point within the scripted presentation to answer the customer’s question at that moment in time.  Again, this happened at least twice and it was not pleasant.

The Tablet 3:  As a sales person you want eye-to-eye contact with the customer(s).  When you use a tablet or notebook the customer is looking at the tablet or notebook instead of making eye contact with the agent.  That is never a good thing.  You can read a great deal into a person’s knowledge of what you are saying when you can look into their eyes.  As a customer you can assess an agent’s truthfulness by looking into his or her eyes.  Again, this happened and it was not good.

The product he was attempting to sell us was very good, at least as described in his presentation.  Without seeing the actual product, it was only on his tablet.  We as customers could not touch it or feel it so he was selling us a perceived promise of what he was selling and he assumed we were automatically going to like it.  With that said, the following is in regard to the actual sale he was attempting to close on.

Price 1:  He had obviously been taught NOT to give the customer the price range of the product he was trying to sell because he would refuse to answer the question when asked and I asked him several times.  I knew my wife and I had discussed a price we were willing to pay to replace items in our home that were now working fine; they just looked old and they were old and difficult to clean but they worked fine.  Therefore we had no mandate to replace them.  My question to anyone in sales is this.  Why would you want to waste 60 minutes or more of your time to try to make a sale when the price would preclude that from occurring no matter how good you or your product is?  This goes back to my initial comment to him that I taught sales (real estate sales) for over 33 years. 

Price 2:  I had seen this practice in the past and it made me very angry the first time someone tried it on me so when he did it, he automatically lost the sale.  He went through the construction and installation process and he was obviously trying to set in our minds just how expensive the entire process was to be.  He then went through the various stages of construction and installation with the idea that if we decided to “attempt” to do it ourselves even if we hired contractors to the perform the various stages the cost would be outrageous and then he came up with a horrendous price.  The ONLY reason for this was to then show us that his product was both better and less expensive than trying to do it ourselves.  He calculated the price for converting just one bathroom.  If we did it, the cost would be approximately $15,000 to as much as $20,000.  Think about that for a moment.  We had 3 bathrooms we told him we wanted to upgrade.  So according to him, we were looking at between $45,000 to as much as $60,000 to upgrade.  So when he quoted us his FIRST offer it was almost $10,000, much less than it would supposedly cost us to do it ourselves – according to him.

Price 3:  He paused very briefly once he quoted us $10,000 per bathroom.  I don’t know if the pause was for effect or to see what we would say or do.  I believe it was the later.  I am 71 years old and could not help but wonder if the “pause” was to see if since I would be considered a “senior citizen”, would I/we immediately buy into his comparisons and accept the obviously lower price as being a good and more than fair price – according to him.  I think it was 5 little words that caused the “pause” to stop.  “I do not think so!”  I said to him.  Of course he put on his “shocked face” to let us know we were being unreasonable.

Price – the negotiation 4.  I knew what was coming next – the “discounts.”  He first took a couple hundred dollars off because we were “senior citizens” as if that was going to do the job for him.  When I balked, he then said he had a “certificate” for a price IF we accepted it during the presentation.  Who hasn’t heard that BS before?  When we balked at that, he came up with another discount and started removing items that we had said we wanted in the installation like grab bars, seat, etc.  That also failed to make the sale.  Then came his final pitch.  Remember his initial price was $10,000 per bathroom.  He said and I quote, “If I can get my manger to agree, would you do the installation for $5,000 per bathroom or even better, $10,000 for two of them?”  WHAT?  He obviously thought we could not add $5,000 and $5,000 together to get the $10,000 he was offering as if it was a real deal.  He had already lost the sale within about 10 minutes of the start of his presentation when neither one of us could read anything on his tiny tablet screen.  But in reality, since he was prepared to drop the price by 50%, how much more would I be leaving on the table if I accepted his $5,000 offer?  Tell me the price of your product or service and I’ll make the decision to buy or not.  It really is that simple.  Why waste everyone’s time?  This entire process might have gone completely differently had he said the upgrade would cost $5,000 per bathroom and this is why it costs that much and why it would be in your best interest to have the upgrade done.  Even better, it would have been received differently had he said the upgrade would cost $4,994 as if an actual thought had gone into establishing a price.  When I hear numbers that end in zeroes, I know with certainty that no thought or calculation was involved, very few things actually end in zeroes.  Besides, ever since I was a kid, when I saw a price of .98 cents, it was less than a dollar and that was a good thing.  It is no different now.  Had he said $4,994, even though it is like $5,000, in my mind and the minds of most customers the price is in the $4,000’s not the $5,000’s; a much better thought to have.  Think about that for a moment, he may have lost a sale over $6.00.  More importantly he took no measurements of the bathroom, and he took only a few seconds to supposedly calculate the cost of upgrading just the one bathroom he wanted to see; a few seconds.  I can’t even calculate a tip at a restaurant in a few seconds. Then to come up with rounded off numbers like $10,000 or $5,000, no calculation ends in zeroes – none! If it ever did, I would change it to the $4,994.67 or even $5,009.49 (including tax) to at least give the impression that a true calculation was even made.

Wrist Watch:  I would teach my real estate agents to never wear a wrist watch into a meeting with a customer.  Why?  This salesman provided the answer.  Part way through his presentation he made it obvious that he was looking at his watch.  He may of had an appointment following ours; the reason he looked, made no difference.  The moment he looked at his watch he was signaling to me/us that he either (1) had another appointment to attend or (2) asking himself how much longer is this going to take?  Either way it is a signal that you ABSOLUTELY do not want to send to a potential customer.  Clearly his body language said that something else was more important to him than the two people he now sat facing.

Cell Phone:  My advice to all people in sales would be to leave their cell phones in their office or in their car when meeting a customer.  Much like his wrist watch, this person interrupted his presentation to check something that came in on his phone.  It could have been something important, or a weather alert, a breaking news story, alerting him he just received and email, or whatever.  The point is that he took his phone out of his pocket and looked at it.  The signal that one action sent was so obvious to me – something far more important than the two of us held his attention.  He was to be with us for about 60 minutes.  How many phone calls or emails have you received that could not wait for 60 minutes to look at and/or respond to?  How many?  What on Earth did people do before the cell phone?  Unless you are doctor or first responder on call, the most important people in the world are the people sitting in front of you let alone the people you are trying to buy something you are selling.

Reality 1:  Remember I had told him I was in real estate sales for over 33 years and taught sales courses.  I told him I really did not like the games he was playing and compared it to buying a car when it would appear the buyer would not buy and the sales person says let me see if my manager could do any better.  I know for a fact that car salesmen/women do NOT check with their manager for a different price but only go through the motions of doing so to impress you the customer.  They ONLY check with their managers when it becomes obvious you are about to walk out the door.  This is exactly what he was proposing now.  But think about it.  It was quite possible we would have accepted his first offer of $10,000 especially since he obviously considered us “senior citizens” and therefore it was his perception that we were not “too bright” if you know what I mean.  I explained to him that there is a point of no return when making repairs or upgrades to older homes. That point is the price it may eventually sell for.  Would it be possible for the homeowner to realize a return on investment of this magnitude when it sold?  It would take years and years to recoup an investment of $30,000 or more and I was not prepared to make that investment for pure superficial appearance purposes because all bathrooms were in working order.  Had he told us $5,000 per bath when I first made the call I would not have made the appointment; it just wasn’t worth it to us and we both knew it.  Therefore he wasted not only our time but his time as well.

Reality 2:  I asked him how much he would be prepared to pay for a Dodge Charger if he walked into a Dodge showroom.  I didn’t give him a chance to answer.  I told him he already had a fair idea of what a new Dodge Charger would cost or he would not have walked into the showroom in the first place.  I then repeated my concern that no price range was given on my initial call otherwise I would never have made the appointment (walked into the showroom).  I told him don’t be upset with us because we didn’t buy his product, something he obviously was.  I was trying to get him to understand that people (1) like to know beforehand if the sales price is in their ballpark price range and (2) does the price justify purchasing the product or service.   If the product is actually a “service”, the customer also wants to know what he or she is getting for their money or better said, “what are you going to do for the price you are asking me to pay?” 

Commission Sales:  Usually in commission sales, the sales person cannot rely only on the customers desire for a product or service in spite of the commission charged.  When I sold real estate I made a list of the very specific tasks I would perform for the customer should they decide to hire me.  I also made a list of the various types of advertising available and how much it costs to run advertisements in each media because I would be the one paying those costs, not the customer.  Almost any real estate agent could come up with a short list of 5 to maybe 10 tasks they would perform.  I had a list of more than a hundred tasks.  If a homeowner asked me to “cut my commission”, I would ask them which of those tasks does he/she/they not want me to do?  They never asked me.  I listed every task and I mean EVERY task I did for ALL my customers without exception.  When you make a promise to do certain tasks if a customer hires you and you promise to perform each and every task, the customer has a better understanding of what you actually do as a real estate agent and even more important, how much you the agent intends to spend to get their property sold.  You are asking the homeowner to pay a considerable price for your services and if you can’t clearly define what you will do for that price and/or how that price is divided up between the applicable parties, you would lose out to another agent who does provide the customer with that kind of detailed information every time.

Conclusion:  Never go into a sales presentation knowing you intend to lie or mislead the customer.  NEVER!  Be upfront and honest beginning with your first contact.  Always assume that the customer knows nothing about you or the product/service you are selling.  Never assume that the customer knows everything about you as well or what you are selling or a service you want them to hire you to perform.  Ask questions FIRST.  Determine their level of understanding.  Determine what they want to accomplish by buying your product or hiring your service.  Make the decision as to whether or not you can provide what they expect or demand of you.  If you cannot provide the level of service tell them as much and then proceed from that point by either terminating the contact and possibly referring them to someone that could or if the customer is agreeable, negotiate what you can provide as compared to what they had previously expected or demanded; that usually works, at least it has worked for me.  One of the best scripts for this purpose starts at the very beginning.  “Mr. & Mrs. Customer, one of several things is going to happen today.  You may decide to work with me and that would be outstanding.  You may also decided NOT to work with me and frankly that would be horrible.  Or, it is quite possible that I may decide not to work with you.  Is that a fair understanding of what could happen today?”  I found this to be a powerful conversation to have very early in your first appointment to meet a customer.  Customers almost always ask, “Why would you decide not to work with us?”  “Fair question.  Please understand, I have a list of things I promise to do for you if you decide to hire me.  You may feel the list is incomplete or you may want me to do things that I am unable to do.  If that should happen, I would very much prefer to part as friends now than to have you later become angry or upset with me because I cannot provide you with what you expect.  Would that be a fair understanding?”  I would always ask one more question of the customer, “I need to know one very important thing, do you want me to tell you the truth (about your home or your purchase) or do you want me to tell you what you want to hear?”  If later in the process I discover that they would prefer to hear what they want to hear or they expect me to do something that I cannot do, I would say to the customer, “Do you remember our initial conversation when I said there may come a time when either you decide or I decide not to work with each other?  I think we may have reached that point.”  You need to be prepared to terminate the process but you also need to set the proper understanding before you start the process.  When you start with the truth, the process seems to turn out the way everyone wants it to.

Question:  Did any of these things happen with the bathroom sales person?  Answer NO!  He and his company had lost a sale before he ever began his presentation; they just didn’t know it.      

Monday, August 15, 2016


By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown & Laura Schisler, August 15, 2016

It was the first day of school.  Approximately 500 students all met at the school’s auditorium where the new Principal was waiting for them to be seated and quiet down.  He put both arms in the air to signify that he would like quiet as he was about to address the student body and faculty on the first day of school.

All was going well as he presented his first official new semester welcoming message when suddenly a student stood up and walked out of the room.  Undeterred the principal continued.  Then just as quickly a second student stood up and walked out the rear of the auditorium and he was followed by a third and then a fourth.  In all about 10 students stood up and walked out on the Principal’s welcoming message.  He feared he had bought into something far more serious than his initial joy of becoming the new principal should have been for him.  The 10 students all left about 30 seconds apart from one another as if their departure had been orchestrated by some fringe group to demonstrate their dislike for the school, the school year, the student body, the faculty or worse the new Principal.

There was a buzz amongst the remaining students who were all trying to figure out what just happened.  The Principal was about 5 minutes into his welcome when this all occurred; it did not look good.  Then just as suddenly each one of the ten students began to emerge on stage and form a line behind the Principal as he continued to speak, there were 9 students by actual count.  What happened to the 10th student?  As the Principal turned to face the 9, the 10th student appeared stage right but this student was wearing an orange jumpsuit one exactly like you might see on a prisoner at the local jail.  What on earth was happening?

The principal, with 10 students standing tall behind him turned and faced the student body who by this time were all pretty much in shock over what just happened.  “Class,” he said.  “What you have just witnessed is precisely what is happening in high schools all across America TODAY!  Just as these students left the auditorium every 26 seconds, you, or you, or you, or someone you know in this class will drop out of high school, 1 every 26 seconds!  Don’t let that student be you!  Do you hear what I am saying?  DON’T LET THAT STUDENT BE YOU!  It is so important that if you become aware that a fellow student or friend is considering dropping out of high school, please notify the school’s counselor as soon as possible.”

“You see ten students standing behind me, 9 of whom all look like your typical high school student.  But there is one who is dressed in a prison orange jumpsuit because according to recent studies, 1 out of every 10 high school students that drop out of high school will eventually be in jail or prison.  1 OUT OF 10!  DON’T LET THAT 1 BE YOU!  Did you hear what I just said?  DON’T LET THAT 1 BE YOU OR SOMEONE CLOSE TO YOU!  1 every 26 seconds equals 1.2 MILLION students dropping out of high school EVERY YEAR!  Using quick math in my head if 1 out of every 10 end up in jail or prison, that means that 120,000 high school dropouts will be calling jail HOME in the very near future.  DON’T LET THAT BE YOU!  In this class of 500 students, 10 percent equals 50 of your classmates who could be in jail.  DON’T LET ONE OF THEM BE YOU!”

“There are 4 words that I NEVER want to say to anyone, especially a parent or friend of a student who drops out and they are I TOLD YOU SO!  If you read the study, a high school dropout will earn $200,000 LESS than a high school graduate over his lifetime. And almost a million dollars less than a college graduate!

“I sincerely want nothing but the best for each and every one of you.  More importantly we now have 500 students in this class and when it comes time to graduate I personally want to hand out 500 graduation diplomas to each and every one of you; WITH NO EXCEPTIONS.  Is that understood?  If so, let’s get started…”

I only wish that every Principal would start every school year with a start like this one.  Students need a wakeup call.  When I see the youth of America rioting in the streets, disrespecting civil authority, burning buildings and cars all in the name of what?  Most of the time they do these things BEFORE an investigation reveals that the person being arrested was resisting arrest and had a weapon or not; as if it would make any difference to the people rioting in the streets of our cities.  It makes no sense.  Have you ever noticed that when a criminal is arrested the news NEVER comments on whether a gun used in the crime was legally owned or illegally owned?  They NEVER comment on whether the criminal graduated from high school.  They NEVER comment on whether the criminal had a job.    Do you think a lesson could be taught by letting the youth of America know what type of person it is who is committing the crimes on the news every night?  Instead they just report that a person of interest was arrested for doing the crime.  God forbid that a criminal be shot and killed during the arrests.  Whoever said it was in someone’s best interest to point a weapon at a police officer?  Personally I would not address a police officer any differently than I would my parents or my teachers with “Yes sir, or No sir!”  This is not what’s happening in America today and it all starts with and will eventually stop with students staying in school and making an attempt to learn something of importance that will eventually lead to acquiring a job other than flipping hamburgers for a minimum wage.

Prayer was removed from schools in 1962.  Most Americans have taken sides regarding prayer in school and I seriously doubt it will ever return.  Here is the problem.  Taking a few moments to reflect that there might be a moral high ground by believing in something or someone bigger than life itself might be the difference maker in teaching our children the difference between right and wrong.  So many children are now living in single parent homes.  Simple math tells me that these children have HALF of the discipline and moral upbringing that they might otherwise have.  If students are not being taught AT HOME, beginning at their earliest of ages, the difference between right and wrong, where is this moral education being taught?  No longer in the school systems because of the law banning such training back in 1962.  If you want proof of this, take a look at this graphic and then you decide the consequences of removing prayer from schools:

The reason there was a sharp rise in ACT Achievement Test Scores in 1990 was that the tests were modified to reflect what students were no longer being required to learn making the tests much easier.  Or how about this graphic regarding the currently high divorce rate since 1962?

One more regarding the increase in violent crime.  These activities do not just happen by accident.  There is an underlying cause and effect.  If students do not stay in high school, their success in life if they enjoy success will be more by accident than by design.  It will be far more difficult and the results more disastrous if students fail to realize the importance of education in their development.

This is what in the military is referred to as “collateral damage.”  There are results, both good and bad, for every law passed by our Government.

Laura Schisler writes, while I believe all of the statistics and circumstances outlined herein are correct,  the solutions must begin with the leadership. ..superintendent /board of education.  The kids can be told not to drop out, but many reasons are behind that statistic that are preventable starting with the Adults.  One interesting fact is suspension rates. Districts with higher rates have poorer results even in suburbia.   Kids who are out of school cannot learn.  Therefore,  if principals can work on solutions to keep students inside the classrooms,  the students can accomplish much more.  It's easy to kick the student out, and many times the administration would like the student out; less trouble and no longer a drag on the performance of that high school.

She continues:  Our district attempted to put into place an alternative program within the district to address the students who could not succeed.  Their parents were relieved and in tears that for the first time their student's needs were being addressed.  Unfortunately,  due to crazy politics in our district, that program was sabotaged and tossed aside before it had a chance to be developed or evaluated.

While this Nugget has pointed out truths, and where and how the kids can be reminded of the importance of staying in school,  the real issue begins with the education leadership, and that is a complex area starting with local control, as it was always intended to be.  The more the federal government gets involved, the worse it gets. 

Regarding college educations, the reality is that we have fewer jobs available for our college educated adults causing a back up, per se. The trades, such as carpentry and many others are putting young workers in amazing earning positions (not to mention future business ownerships).   The interesting part is seeing how many college educated graduates are earning around 40-50k while skilled labor is earning that and far more.  When considering the cost of a college education and the earning power it provides or not, the relationship to skilled workers income and some college educated incomes is truly shocking. 

As a real estate broker for more than 30 years, I can personally attest to the fact that a lot of college educated students, many with degrees, have obtained their real estate license and have earned far more than they ever imagined possible.  More often than not, more than other professionals, at least in the areas where my brokerage was located.  There are definitely alternatives to college degrees in the world. 

This is a link to the report on facts regarding high school dropouts.

This is a link to the report on facts regarding the imprisonment of high school dropouts.

These are very short reports and should be required reading for every parent and student attending middle or senior high school.

My advice to students…stay in school.  Work extra hard to learn what is being taught.   Make acquiring a skill of some importance leading to a goal that will take you to a good paying job.  There is no such thing as a free ride.  You will only gain what you set out to gain.  Anything more than that is gained not by design but rather by accident like winning a lottery.  How many people do you know who has won a lottery?  Exactly!  My philosophy is first, determine what you love.  Then find a way to make a career out of the love of your life.  Love what you do; do what you love!  If you do, you will never work another day in your life because you will be so engaged in doing that what you love to do the most.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Government Fraud & Deceit!

By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, August 11, 2016

A perfect example of how governments ignore common sense and the will and best interests of the people!

The Causeway Commission plans to raise the tolls on the 26-mile long Causeway Bridge between St. Tammany Parish north of Lake Pontchartrain and Jefferson Parish to the south of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana that take travelers to the city of New Orleans to the south and to communities to the north of the lake.  On the surface a very simple case could be made that the cost of living and the cost of maintenance has risen over the last decade and the increase in tolls may be the right thing to do.

That is not the reason given by the Commission.  On the contrary, they want to raise the tolls to fund “safety” improvements along the Causeway.  I put safety in quotes because it is a buzz word that by itself is a word that most people would find hard to argue with.  The same applies to cuts in government spending when they claim that any cuts will adversely affect police, fire and education – all buzz words.  Why not politician’s salaries or government vehicles they drive?  They, the government, uses these buzz words to trigger emotional responses that they, the government, want from you the tax payer.

The real question should be, what does the Causeway Commission do with the massive amounts of money it CURRENTLY collects every year?  Do they spend it on maintenance of the bridge, salaries for bridge employees, and/or improvements to the bridge?  The simple answer is YES, yes they do.

But wait…there is more.  As it turns out, according to recent reports, the Causeway Commission distributes some of the funds collected to seven area Parishes (a local word that defines what would be Counties in other parts of the country).  Why?  What do those Parishes have to do with the maintenance, salaries and improvements to the Causeway Bridge?  The simple answer is NOTHING!   One such example is that money is actually being given to the New Orleans Recreation Department.  What does that department have to do with the Causeway Bridge?  Again, NOTHING!

I am not a financial genius, nor am I a structural engineer but I like to think that on occasion I exhibit some common sense.  Foolish me to think that I would use 100% of the money collected in the form of tolls on the bridge to pay for maintenance, salaries, and improvements on the bridge plus the establishment of a “rainy day” fund for unexpected and unplanned emergencies on the bridge.  Before I would ever approve an increase in bridge tolls I would want a detailed explanation of the current distribution of funds collected and THEN listen to arguments for increasing the funds.  I would NEVER permit an increase IF the funds already being collected were being redistributed to other government agencies that had nothing to do with the bridge.  But…THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE COMMISSION APPROVED.

I write this Nugget because this is not an isolated incident of government waste and deceit.  This is just one Commission in Louisiana and you have to believe that there are other government agencies spread all across America doing similar things with the money of American citizens.  In this case, in my opinion, this is fraud AND deceit!  Just so everyone knows, yes, I live in Louisiana.  St. Tammany Parish to be exact.  But I may travel the Causeway Bridge once a year if that.  I have no skin in this game when it comes to tolls being collected.  The issue is simply symbolic of the failure of our governments and the fraud and deceit that seems to go hand-in-hand with government agencies and government employees both of which are suppose to be working in the best interests of the general public; it is obvious they are not.

To demonstrate how fraud is rampant in our governments I need to explain how I personally handled hundreds of thousands of dollars while serving in the U. S. Coast Guard.  I would buy recreational and morale equipment for the various Coast Guard units within the Third Coast Guard District.  A unit would place a canoe on their annual budget.  I was required to go to the General Service Administration (GSA) catalog to purchase the canoe if it was included in the catalog otherwise I could purchase it locally; it was included.  The catalog indicated the canoe like the one the unit wanted cost over $800 through GSA.  I could purchase the canoe from Sears for under $400.  That is a $400 total waste of tax payer dollars yet that is exactly what I was required to do by law – BY LAW.  That is until I realized there was a way around the law.  I would fill out a form and submit it to someone in a government job that reviews such forms along with a check list to make sure it was filled out properly.  It didn’t matter what it said, only that it was properly completed.  On the form I would make the statement that the GSA canoe did not meet the requirements of the unit that requested it.  They would approve the exception and then I would purchase the item locally even though the two canoes were identical.  Problem solved at least for this one canoe but I had thousands upon thousands of dollars to spend for the units.  Think about that for just one moment.  I demonstrated that I could save $400 on just one canoe so that meant that I could actually buy TWO canoes and help out TWO units instead of just one for the same amount of money.  My local commanding officer was thrilled that we were able to provide better service to the actual men and women in the field doing their jobs for America.

Then there is the rest of the story.  For demonstration purposes, let’s say that my annual budget was $200,000.  The spoken rule was that I was to spend 100% of that money even if the District’s units only submitted budgets that totaled $175,000 meaning I had $25,000 in excess funds.  Every year the District would submit its morale budget to Washington DC for approval.  Every year we would use the various units budgets they submitted to compile one overall budget for the entire District.  Every year we would indiscriminately add extra money to the request because that is what you did.  So if the requests totaled $175,000, we would ask for $225,000 and typically receive it or maybe a cut to $200,000; no questions asked.  Washington would look at what we spent last year ($200,00) and think that a $25,000 increase is not unrealistic.  What they did not know or if they did they ignored it, was that I would spend 100% of the money I was given, EVERY YEAR!  If I didn’t, my fitness report would reflect that I was doing a poor job.  If I spent ALL of the money the report was much more favorable.  In other words, I was rewarded with good fitness reports IF I spent all of the tax payer dollars instead of frugally working my authorized budget and save money whenever I could.  If I didn’t spend all the money, Washington would never approve an increase even if it was justified for the next year.  Last year’s budget and money spent determined what you would get the following year.  What you actually needed had nothing to do with it.  Nothing!  It was a game that EVERY entity in the U. S. Government played every year.  Multiply that across the entire U. S. Government and you can understand how deep the fraudulent expenditure of tax payer dollars really is in America.  I never worked for a state government but I think it would be safe to assume similar activities are ongoing within each state like the Causeway Commission.

This is why Americans have to pay a lot more attention to what its governments, city, state and federal, are doing.  It is projected that America will soon be over 20 TRILLION DOLLARS in debt and it seems like no one is doing anything to stop the expenditure of money it DOES NOT HAVE.  America should follow the lead of Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International.  “Lead with revenues; not with expenses!”  In other words, you DO NOT SPEND MONEY YOU DO NOT HAVE!  AND DO NOT BORROW MONEY TO SPEND IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE IT!  PERIOD!

It is sad that the country should require a Constitutional Amendment to demand that Congress and the President have a balanced budget every year and forbid the government to borrow money to pay for things it probably doesn’t need.  The amendment should also stipulate that no one in the Federal Government will be paid until they do pass a balanced budget every year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


By Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, August 5, 2016

What do all these people have in common?

Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Michael Jordan, Rory Mcllroy, Nick Watney, Charl Schwartzel, Michelle Wie, Suzann Pettersen, Carmelo Anthony, Derek Jeter, Chris Paul, Ray Allen, DJ Augustin, Mike Bibby, Dre Bly, Michael Finley, Richard Hamilton, April Holmes, Juwan Howard, Joe Johnson, Andruw Jones, Kevin Martin, Quentin Richardson, CC Sabathia, Bobby Simmons, Jason Taylor, Gerald Wallace, Josh Howard, Michael Crabtree, Dwight Freeney, LaMarr Woodley, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, Adam Jones, Evan Longoria, Giancarlo Stanton, and Andrew McCutchen

Honestly, I don’t even know who some of these people are let alone what they may have in common but I checked.  While this is an extensive list, I am certain that some are  no longer on the list and others have been added.

What do they have in common?  They either are or were all sponsored by Nike®.  Why is that important?  To all of them it is important because they receive MILLIONS of dollars from Nike® because of who they are and far more importantly, WHO THEY INFLUENCE to want, not necessarily buy, but who wants the NIKE® products they sell.  Mostly children and very young adults.  For example, if you want the shoes that someone like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie wear, you will have to pay top dollar to buy them when there are obviously other shoes on the market that are equally as good or maybe even better at much lower prices.  Therefore, while Nike® pays these athletes MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to wear and promote their products or for this example, their shoes, who REALLY pays these athletes to wear the NIKE® brand?  THE PEOPLE WHO BUY THEM!

I do not intend to pick on or single out NIKE®, on the contrary, they represent just one company and there are hundreds of companies just like NIKE® for certain. 

There is something really wrong with this picture when you fully analyze it.  Let’s say for example that a pair of shoes worn by one of these athletes retails for $100.00.  How much do you think the shoe actually costs to produce?
Here is a web site that indicates that it costs just $5.00 to $30.00 to actually produce a pair of Air Jordans.  That means that for every pair of Air Jordans that is sold for $100.00 (more often much more), NIKE® on paper makes $70.00 in raw profit.  Every business is in business to earn a profit, that is not the point or in dispute.  The point is that if you knew that a pair of shoes costs only $5.00 to $30.00 to produce, why on Earth would you spend $100.00 or more just because an athlete promotes the product?  It makes no sense.  Question:  Do you think one of these athletes would wear the NIKE® brand if they were not being paid to do so?  I seriously doubt it.  They would go to another brand/company who agreed to pay them to wear THEIR shoes, shirts, hats, clubs, glove, bat, etc.  Does that mean the equipment they wear is worn because it enhances their ability to play a sport?  Of course not.  If it did, do you not think EVERY athlete would be wearing the same pair of basketball or golf shoes? 

It gets even worse, at least in my opinion.  The next time you are in a store that sells tennis shoes, no matter what their intended purpose (basketball, running, exercise, etc), check the label to determine where they were made.  To some this might not be important.  To others it is critical.  Most tennis shoes are made in one of several Asian markets.  That in of itself is not the critical point I want to make.  The CRITICAL point is that they are being made under conditions that most America workers would consider deplorable either because of the rate of pay,  and/or the actual working conditions.  That is why it is becoming more difficult to “Buy American” because so many of the products we want are no longer made in America.  Why do you suppose that is?  The NIKE® example is just one of the reasons.  It is far cheaper to make the products overseas in countries that take advantage of the low wages and working conditions in exchange for making obscene profits on the sale of each pair of shoes.  I do not know of what business you may be engaged in, but I am certain you would like to make $70.00 on a pair of shoes you sell that only costs $5.00 to $30.00 to make.  Who are the real winners in this situation?  The athletes of course; far more than even NIKE® for they have do nothing to actually earn that money other than just wear or use the product.

Here is a web site that lists shoes made in America.  To my surprise there are more than I would have imagined.  I seriously doubt, however, that you will see any of them being worn by athletes who are paid to wear the more famous footware.  This does not only apply just to shoes, it applies to all types of clothing and athletic equipment.

Now comes the real rub for me.  Have you seen the advertisements featuring Hall of Famer Bret Farve promoting a “new” razor to keep you clean shaven and looking more handsome and more professional in your appearance?  Have you seen Bret Farve today as he prepares to accept his Hall of Fame Award?  Just in case you may have missed it…

Who’s kidding whom?  I could not help but wonder how much he is being paid to promote a product that he obviously does not use.  I could also not help but wonder how many people have been suckered in by his obviously misleading commercials?  It’s all about the money, not the product or even his personal likes.  I’d be smiling too!

Another great example occurred a lot of years ago at the PGA’s New Orleans Open where I and a bunch of Coast Guard folks worked as Marshalls.  At the time professional golfer Lee Trevino advertised products under the name of Shakespeare.  At the Open he hit a shot near where I was standing along the ropes keeping the spectators on one side and the players on the other.  One spectator looked down and saw Trevino’s golf ball which at that time was a Titleist, a ball used more on the PGA Tour than any other.  The spectator said, (I heard him), “That’s not a Shakespear!?  Trevino looked up at him and said and I quote, “Do I look like a fool to you?”  Meaning he was being paid to say one thing in the commercials but played what he obviously considered a better ball for which he was not being paid to play.

One more item, not to just pick on NIKE® but have you noticed the number of professionals and collegiate uniforms that display the NIKE® “swoosh?”  That does not come without a cost.  The organizations like the NFL want you to pay upwards of $80.00 for an “official NFL®” team polo shirt or $25.00 for a bobble-head doll.  There is no way that shirt costs $80.00 to produce.  The difference between the cost of production and the end price of $80.00 is for both NIKE® and the NFL® to take advantage of the consumer desire for the product, a desire created by the NFL and NIKE®, good for them.

It is a vicious cycle.  First they create the demand for the product no matter its cost.  But first they agree to pay its sponsoring athletes horrendous amounts of money to promote their product thus creating the demand.  Then the consumer buys the product at highly overpriced prices (when compared to actual production costs).  That makes money for the company who then does the same thing with other athletes thus adding an even higher price for their products because they have to pay additional sponsoring athletes/teams.  But it does not stop at a pair of shoes or shirt.  Have you wondered why ticket prices are so high to watch in person your favorite team or athlete?  We complain about paying a labor charge of $80.00 to get our cars repaired but think nothing of paying $80.00 for a ticket to a professional football game. 

Final thought.  If you want to become independently wealthy, become a professional athlete or a movie/TV actor OR you can learn to be more frugal about what you spend your money on.  For example, you can spend the $80.00 for a team logo shirt OR you can go to a local department type store or a Big Box store and buy a polo shirt in your team’s colors for less than $20.00; you just made $60.00 on the transaction.  How many hours would you have to work at your job to make $60.00?  How about $80.00?  I cannot think of a bigger waste of money than buying an 8-year old child expensive tennis shoes because a professional athlete wears them (makes money off them) when the shoes will probably not fit the child in 6 to 10 months as his or her feet grow larger.  

Am I missing something?