Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Pagan Holiday

My Daughter’s favorite Pagan Holiday is Halloween (better known to the Pagans as Samhain). My favorite is May Day, which was called Beltane by the Pagans.

Back about 20 centuries or so ago Samhain was the equivalent to modern day New Years Eve. On the old Celtic calendar, November 1st was the beginning of the New Year.

That is until Augustus Caesar (Gaius Octavius Thurinus) decided to add two more months to the calendar to honor himself and uncle. Traditional calendars consisted 10 months (except for those people, such as the Abyssinians, who use a more efficient lunar calendar consisting of 13 months).

November 1st was the official beginning of winter for the Pagans. So as good Pagans, they celebrated the coming of the winter on New Years Eve (and probably a few days before and after) by slaughtering livestock and imbibing mass quantities of mead and potcheen. The children would go door to door and offer a winter prayer. In return they would receive a piece of food or maybe a small piece of treacle.

Then along come a 7th Century Roman Pope who decides that all of his newly converted Celtic Christians should not be celebrating a Pagan holiday. So he declares that November 1st to be All Saints Day and that the day before be named Hallow Eve. The people still got to celebrate their Pagan holiday (as they had done for generations)

Enough of the history lesson, I have digressed from what I originally intended to write.

My daughter has been working on her front yard Halloween display for several weeks. Actually she started in September, but it wasn’t an everyday, time consuming, thing that it has now become. Three years ago it was just a bunch of store bought props. Then she began to make Styrofoam head stones.

Last year, with the aid of her Uncle John (I’ve always said that he was good for something – but could never really put my finger on exactly what), she converted a sizable portion of the front lawn into a graveyard. The small children that came to Trick or Treat were afraid. The teens and adults loved it.

She had people driving for miles to see the display. Word of mouth is the best advertisement.

So this year she really, again with the help of Uncle John, is outdoing herself. They have made 4 or 5 new props, more headstones and put a fence around the cemetery. She has purchased a ton of candy in anticipation of a large crowd of visitors.

She will be in her glory tonight when she hears the accolades from the Halloween night visitors. Uncle John will also be in his glory, but mainly from the mead and potcheen that he will be consuming. Me, I’ll be eating a lot of candy during the next week.

The photos (click on them to enlarge) below were taken this afternoon. When it is dark the display looks much better with the eerie lighting and fog machines.

The Beach Bum


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Political Infomercials - What Next?

The Tampa Bay Rays lost the MLB World Series last night. It was a continuation of the Tuesday night suspended game. I would have liked to have seen them win and bring the games back down to Tropicana Field.

But that’s not what this Blog is about.

Before the game last night there was a Barack Obama infomercial on Fox and several other networks. As a general rule I do not watch television news, talk shows or Presidential Debates. I’m one of those old fogies who prefer to read the news or the transcripts of talk shows and debates.

Last night I made an exception to the general rule. The people that put this together for Obama did a superb job. I was impressed with the production quality, the message (although it was somewhat depressing) and Barrack’s oratorical abilities.

Senator Obama didn’t directly address the issues, but he made it clear in which direction he would be heading if elected President. He was telling us about the problems but offered no direct solutions.

The infomercial was geared towards the middle class common man. The underlying message was that he was a man of the people and that he would work for the people. I’ve heard this message before. The one time that I believed the message was when a young Democratic Senator from Massachusetts told us that it was a time for change, a time to give America back to the people.

He tried and look what happened to him. Every time that I think about John F. Kennedy, I cry, which I am doing as I finish this Blog.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dit Dah - Alpha

Yesterday, one of iGoogle’s Tips of the Day, brought to you by WikiHow, was How to Learn Morse Code.

I know Morse Code but I read the article anyway because I was very curious to see what was written on the subject. WikiHow is editable by users just as is Wikipedia . This means that if a person believes that he is knowledgeable about any given subject, can post or they can edit a post. I've read some great stuff on Wiki, but they again I’ve read some erroneous BS there also.

In 1966 I took a 12 week course in Morse at the United States Army Security Agency Training Center and School at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The best I did was 24 groups (a group is 5 letters or numbers) per minute. After this class I went on to another class that didn’t use Morse Code.

By the time I arrived at my overseas duty station I was lucky to copy 20 groups per minute. But for what I did, Morse was not really a requirement; I was a Communications Analyst working Search and Development. It did pop up occasionally but it was usually at a speed (equivalent to 15 groups per minute or less) that I could copy with a stick (pencil). If it was too fast for me to copy, I would call in a Pro (AKA a Ditty Bopper). These guys were amazing at taking Morse at breakneck speeds.

The only thing that I could understand at high speeds was the standard communications system check; the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs back 0123456789.

I haven’t used Morse Code for more than 40 years. I occasional hear it the background of a movie or television program. On occasion I will rewind and play it back to see if I can understand what is being sent. Rarely, if ever do I get it on the first rewind.

Maybe I should take a refresher course. There is a Morse Code Translator where you can type or copy text and chose a playback speed. First you translate into Morse symbols and then you can play it as you read. I found this site about three years ago, for a friend, but never tried it. I tried it this morning and was barely able to copy at 12 WPM. I try again after I’ve had a few cocktails.

.-/ -- .. -. -.. / .. ... / .- / - . .-. .-. .. -... .-.. . / - .... .. -. --. / - --- / .-- .- ... - .

The Beach Bum

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Sticking to the Script

From Dana Bash of CNN:
“Some aides to Sen. John McCain say they weren't happy that running mate Sarah Palin went off script Sunday and turned attention back to the controversy over her wardrobe.”

The key words in the above statement are “went off script”.

Bravo, Sarah, Bravo! Saying what you are not supposed to say and doing what you are supposed to do, make you a real person. I like real people that don’t hide behind a façade.

But, Sarah, you must realize, by now, that honest politicians do not get elected; that is why your comments are well scripted by the political spin doctors. The higher up that you are on the political food chain the more you must lie to the public (well, maybe not in Alaska).

The American people expect their politicians to lie to them. The truth often hurts them. It’s better to be in a euphoric state of mind, with hope for the future, than in an abysmal state of mind with no optimism at all. That is human nature. Even pessimists, like me, always have a little hope in the back of their minds.

In most instances we do not believe the politician’s lies. But we want to believe. Because the lies make us feel better and give hope for our future. In this way politics is very much like religion. If I believe that God (this invisible man – living in the sky) is up there looking out for my well being, why shouldn’t I believe that the person that I voted for will also take an interest in my needs. After all isn’t that the reason that I cast my vote for him or her; it was to benefit me, my friends, associates and family. I’m not an altruist!

Unfortunately is just doesn’t work that way. Candidates are elected on what their staff scripts them to tell the voters. There is an excellent Robert Redford movie from the 1970’s called “The Candidate” concerning this subject. Also the “Making of the President” series by Theodore H. White is very informing about our political process of electing the President.

(And now for a Paid Announcement:
Both the aforementioned movie and books are available on, a link has been provided on the right sidebar, just scroll up to the top of the Blog).

The bottom line is that I like Sarah Palin for her candor and her humorous anecdotes. But she is not a true politician. That can be scary when you think that if she is elected as Vice-President, she is just a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Election 2008 - Bring Out Your Dead

With the Presidential Election just 10 days away, a composite of 10 major Polls shows that Senator Obama is leading Senator McCain by 7.5%

In 1984 Chicago Newspaper columnist Mike Royko suggested that people should lie to the media about who they voted for in television sponsored exit polls. There was sound reasoning behind Royko’s promoting this activity. The television media was calling a candidate a winner before the polls closed. This prevented people who would normally vote, to not vote. Either their preferred candidate was declared a winner or was out of contention; so why bother to vote?

Long before Mike Royko, lying to pollsters was advocated by King Richard I (Richard J Daley – Mayor of Chicago for Life) in the 1960’s. Of course, he didn’t put it in writing or say it to the media. Daley instead passed the word down to the Democratic Aldermen and Precinct Captains. But King Richard I took it one step further; you were advised to also lie in any pre-election polls. This was part of the Daley Machine’s Political strategy.

The Chicago voter turnout has always been far above the National average. It has been purported, but not proven, that even terminally ill registered voters and recently deceased voters (as long as they were registered Democrats) have voted in past elections.

King Richard I also strongly suggested who you should vote for in the elections. As a general rule it was a straight Democratic Party ticket. You would get a hand delivered sample ballot from your precinct Captain or one of his minions. They would then place an X next to the preferred candidate’s name.

In 1968, the first presidential election in which I was allow to vote (the law was 21 years old or older at that time), there was no X next to any of the presidential candidate’s name. However there was an X next to Republican Senator Everett Dirksen’s (from down State Illinois) name as well as Republican Gubernatorial candidate Richard Ogilvie’s (the Cook County Sheriff) name.

Although he publicly endorsed Hubert H. Humphrey as well as all the Democratic Party candidates, King Richard I let his people know who he preferred in the 1968 election. Nixon won Illinois because Daley did not particularly like Humphrey. Dirksen would have probably won without Daley’s support, just by a smaller margin. And Ogilvie became the Governor of Illinois due to Daley’s surreptitious support.

I knew a Black Baptist Minister whose Church was in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago. He was also a Democratic Precinct Captain in his ward. He fervently disliked King Richard I, and told me that he was the most bigoted man that he had ever met. I queried as to why he worked for him. His answer was that “he was good for the City and that regardless of his prejudice he took care of the people in Woodlawn.”

Now there is King Richard II (Richard M. Daley – the current Mare of Chicago). He’s a couple years older than I am. He was raised by a bigoted father and grew up in the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Bridgeport. As I had been, he was taught that Black people were to be tolerated, but not respected or trusted.

Has King Richard II learned to put aside his childhood training, values and beliefs? I doubt it! The apple does not fall far from the tree.

If the new Daley Machine works like the old Daley Machine; you will see many white Democrat voters in Chicago voting for John McCain. But they’ll be telling the Pollsters that they are supporting Obama.

In the polls, Illinois is listed as an Obama state, but it also was listed as a Humphrey state in 1968.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Tale of Two Plumbers

Joe the Plumber is still in the news, I can’t believe it. Sarah Palin brought up his name in a CCN interview yesterday, saying that Joe basically called Barack Obama a socialist. I won’t go on about Palin’s comments because most were inane.

Joe The Plumber gained repute when he attended an Obama rally, in Ohio, a few weeks ago. He asked Senator Obama about the “Share the Wealth” plan that he is proposing, which would put a greater tax burden on those who were earning more that $250,000 per year. He said that he was planning to purchase the Plumbing Company for which he worked.

The McCain people jumped on this immediately. In the third Presidential Debate, John McCain brings his name up to show the plight of middle class people who are trying to achieve the American Dream. Joe then becomes an instant celebrity.

But with celebrity comes press coverage. The press discovers that neither he nor his boss has a Plumbing License. OOPS! A lot of good plumbers do not have licenses, but in most cases the person that they work for (a Master Plumber) does. Or at least someone in the company has a license and it is usually the owner.

That’s it for Joe the Plumber story.

I’ve known several plumbers in my lifetime. None of them even came even close to making $250,000 per annum. If they worked for a large company, the owner probably did.

Let’s talk about Mike the Plumber. Mike is a journeyman plumber here in Florida.

In 2005, his net paycheck was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 per week, not too shabby. But out of this net came the expenses of gasoline and parts. If he did 4 or 5 small jobs per day he could easily burn up a tank (22 gallons) of gas each day. He took all of the work that he could get, usually working a 6 day 60 hour week. He also did side jobs for friends at a minimal profit.

Mike and his wife wanted the American Dream. He wanted his Master Plumbers license, so that he could stop working for others that were paying him only 35% of the labor and service charge that he billed the customers. But he had little time to study for the exam.

He also wanted home ownership; he and his wife were tired of throwing their money away paying rent. Unfortunately what they wanted (in a home) was out of their price range in the county where he worked. So they purchased a house 60 miles away from the area where he did most of his work.

At the same time gas prices went from $1.97 to $2.47 per gallon. And then 3 months later it jumped to $2.79 per gallon. When he did the small jobs (mostly drain cleaning and leak stopping), his net after gas expense was now about $25 per job. Mike the Plumber was now making less than $1200 net per week. His wife took a part-time job so that they could just barely make ends meet. They also used credit cards to buy items for which they were accustomed to paying cash.

In 2007 when gas prices began to soar, Mike the Plumber found that he was doing the small jobs for no income, or even worse it would cost him money to do the job. At the same time the larger jobs began to dry up (people were not spending money on remodeling their bathrooms or replacing items that didn’t really need replacing). He was now making about $1500 less per month than what was required to sustain the payment of his bills.

Naturally he became despondent.

Mike the Plumber is now studying for his Master Plumber’s exam and hopes to have his license soon. He is also going to church, reading the Bible and praying, something that he hadn’t done since he was a child.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New Mister October?

The Tampa Bay Rays are on their way to the MLB World Series. Including the playoffs, I’ve watched more than 130 of their games this year and I’m a Cubs fan. But the Rays are the local team and appear on television for most, if not all, of the games they play. In past years I probably only watched 80 to 100 games per year, I now have Rays fever.

The Tampa Bay area also has Rays fever. It’s about time. In the past all would hear about, when people talked about local pro sports teams, were the Buccaneers and the Lightning. The Bucs are having a very good year and still they have been overshadowed by the Rays.

But that is not really what this Blog is about. It’s about an individual player on the team.

In the 1970’s New York Yankee catcher Thurman Munson called Reggie Jackson “Mister October”. The nickname stuck because he lived up to the title. In 5 World Series his team won 4 times. In 98 World Series at bats Reggie had a Batting Average of .357 and a .755 Slugging Percentage. He hit 10 home runs and had 24 RBI’s. His lifetime regular season Batting Average was .262 and a Slugging Percentage of .490.

During the regular season this year Rays Outfielder/2nd baseman B.J. Upton hit .273 with a .401 SLG%, 9 Home Runs and 67 RBIs. This is the first time that Upton has played in the post season. His numbers for 11 Playoff games, 46 at bats, .304 BA, 7 HR’s , 15 RBI’s and a Slugging Percentage of .826.

If he keeps up pace this during the Series, I’ll be calling him the New Mister October.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Eavesdropping Can Be Enjoyable Work – At Times

This morning I had two dubious hits on my Blog titled “40 Years Ago”.

They both came from District of Columbia, Washington, United States. The first was from (U.S. Department Of State) and the second was from (The World Bank Group). Both had no referring link, which usually means that someone has bookmarked your Blog.

The one from the State Department really intrigued me. I tried to think if anyone that I knew worked for the State Department and was slacking off at 0330 hours while working the graveyard shift. When I lived in Maryland, I knew a lot of Defense Department employees, but I could not think of anyone that worked at State.

This was driving me crazy (not a far drive). I was attempting to write a Blog about the Tampa Bay Rays going to the World Series; what a great game last night. I couldn’t really concentrate on what I was writing because U.S. Department of State was echoing through the canyons of my mind.

I therefore did a Google search on It is a blanket IP for State Department employees, in particular, but not exclusive to, the Homeland Security Office. My Blog must have set off an alert in their SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) system, prompting some lower echelon employee to read it for possible seditious acts on my part.

Back 40 years ago, when I worked a SIGINT mission, we didn’t have high tech computers to tell us when something was of a suspicious nature. We use R-390 Radios and headsets, and searched for suspicious activity. Two of my Army buddies are now on VA disability for hearing loss.

The modern day SIGINT systems work like Google Bots. They look for key words and if several appear they alert a rear echelon employee to check it out. The difference between today and my day is that these employees are readers not listeners. If they are in the military, they will more than likely be getting VA benefits for blindness rather than deafness.

I’m probably one of the few people around that really don’t mind being spied upon. I have absolutely nothing to hide (unless you count masturbating in the shower); not from family, friends nor the Federal Government.

And to those of you who must read (not by choice) my Blog, I put enough twitch words in this one to light up the Panic Button. Sorry, but I’ll take readers any way that I can get them.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

40 Years Ago

On this date, October 18th, in 1968 (40 years ago) at 11:10 am, Ethiopian Standard Time (GMT +3), I was walking on the tarmac of Asmara International Airport. I was about to board a flight to Athens, Greece, then on to Rome, Italy and from there to JFK Airport in NYC. Including layovers and time zone changes, it was a travel time of 77 hours.

As I reached the top of the boarding stairs, I gave a final salute (this was a tradition) to the guys that were seeing me off on my long voyage home. They returned the salute and I boarded. No tears on either side, just smiles and laughter.

Although you were losing a buddy, a friend, and a brother, you were happy for them. They were going home, as you would be doing yourself in the near future. I went through this ritual many times during the 6 months before I left Kagnew Station, Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia.

I have kept in contact with several of my olds friend from Kagnew. Many of us couldn’t wait until our tour of duty at Kagnew was over; so that we could return home to the States to see our families and friends. Today we will admit that we should have stayed there until the termination of military service commitment. It was a great tour of duty and some of the best times of our lives; only we didn’t realize it at the time.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Slacking on the Job

In a recent comment to one of my Blogs, a Mr. Richard Feder, from Ft. Lee, New Jersey wrote:
“On the one hand, you complain about the sheriff not upholding his oath . . . then on the other hand you seemingly approve of city workers not putting in a full day. Why the disparity? After all, both of them deal with refuse of one type or another, do they not?”

Mr. Feder, I just revisited my Blog in question and I read nothing about me condoning slackers. The point I was attempting to make was that there are probably more slacking office employees than slacking sanitation workers. They just don’t get caught as easily.

A friend, who was in a managerial position with the Federal Government, once told me that if he received 5 hours of actual work per day from a lower level employee, he was happy. I heard a similar story from an officer in the Maryland DNR.

The bad part about it is that they both had to hire more employees to pick up the slack. I never understood this reasoning. Why not just terminate a few of the slackers with the hope that the remaining employees would put in close to a full days work? Both answered; that it was nearly impossible to fire a government employee for slacking.

One of my younger friends, who called me his surrogate father, spent one summer (while working on his Masters Degree) working for the GSA (General Services Administration) as a temporary employee. He once told me that his immediate supervisor cautioned him to not work so hard and fast (efficiently). That it would make the other regular employees look bad.

Now let’s go back to the refuse collectors.

Most are on a time clock and not on a salary (as are the office workers). If they can get their daily assigned task done in six hours rather than eight; should they be financially penalized for their efficiency? If you took them off of the clock and put them on salary they would not be looked upon as slackers.

This reminds me of my penultimate visit to New York City in 1975. The Garbage Men were on strike and the city streets were littered with rotting trash. The entire city smelled like the lower East River, near the Brooklyn Bridge, on a hot August Day. If there was a southeast wind you could probably smell the stench in Fort Lee.

As for the Sheriff, I wasn’t complaining, I was just stating the facts.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

High School Crush

In my sophomore year of high school I was mandated to take an Art Class. It was a half credit class, just like gym.

The teacher of the class was a hot babe named Connie (probably about 24 or 25 years old, at the time). There were not many hot babes teaching high school in the early 1960’s. I immediately developed a crush (my first and only) on my teacher. I hung on to every word that she uttered.

After four weeks we were assigned to draw a portrait (in pencil on a sketch pad) of someone we knew or admired. I chose Carl Sandburg. I went to the Chicago Historical Society and copied a portrait of Sandburg that was hanging on one of their walls.

Connie was impressed with my artistic ability and suggested that I take classes at the Chicago Art Institute. I was so madly in love with her that I begged my Dad to foot the bill for the courses. He reluctantly agreed.

Now let me preface this by saying that I had absolutely no interest in Art at this time, my interest was in Connie, my teacher. I took the classes at the Art Institute just to please her.

I tired of just sketching and moved on to oils. I don’t know about now, but back then the Chicago Art Institute would allow you to paint in the galleries as long as your canvas was of smaller size than the original masterpiece. My first attempt was a Cezanne, which I gave to Connie, as a gift. She said it was good but I should take my own direction and stop copying other works.

Connie didn’t realize that I had no artistic talent of my own. I was a mimicker. I could see what others saw and copy their feelings and emotions, but I couldn’t actually feel the same emotions for myself when I painted. I was not a true artist.

I have painted 4 masterpieces. The Cezanne copy which I had given to Connie. My copy of a self portrait of Vincent Van Gogh that was given to my senior year English teacher Eugene,and hung on his living room wall until his passing (his wife later put it in the attic, she never did like it hanging in their living room), my lame attempt of doing a portrait of a good friend (he said it was surrealistic) and the following (Below) which I did from a Playboy Magazine Photograph in 1965. I gave it to a friend when I joined the Army in 1966. It currently hangs,above his bar, much to chagrin of his wife, in his rec-room.

I found a photograph of this painting today and copied it. I believe that it is one of my best original works. I had only two original works, so what am I saying?

If you don’t enjoy viewing the human female body naked (the scan (JPG) doesn’t really do justice to my painting ), scroll down no further. Hey, this is art not porn!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

To Evict or not To Evict

An anonymous commenter posted a comment to my last Blog about Cook County Sheriff Dart and the eviction process. I will assume that, he or she lives in Cook County, Illinois and understands the eviction process by either being a tenant, landlord or an attorney.

The comment was: “There is also a law that requires the renter to be given 120 days notice before being evicted.”

I don’t know beans about Cook County or Illinois laws, but I have seen the eviction process in action here in Florida (Pinellas County) twice. Both evictions were for non-payment of rent.

The first case involved a friend (the landlord) and the second involved a neighbor (the tenant). In both cases the process took nearly 90 days.

First the landlord must file papers with the intention to evict (best done by a Lawyer). The tenants are then offered the option to pay what they owe to the landlord or appear in court to explain why they shouldn’t be evicted. Most tenants do not appear. The court then orders an eviction notice for 30 days of evacuation of premises. The Sheriff then posts an eviction notice on their door.

But if the Cook County law is 120 days, a non-rent paying tenant could virtually stay for 6 to 7 months rent free before being evicted.

Sheriff Dart’s point was that he was not going to evict renters that were not delinquent in their rent. These were people whose landlords hadn’t paid their mortgages and subsequently went into foreclosure. They were unaware tenants, who had no idea and no warning that their landlord was in default on his mortgage. Innocent victims!

When the Banks take over the property (due to mortgage default), does the standard eviction process still apply. I don’t know. But like Sheriff Dart, I feel sorry for these people. Personally, I couldn’t evict them, but I’m not the Sheriff.

But back to the original point of my previous Blog; Sheriff Dart took an oath to uphold the law in Cook County; he’s not doing his job.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, October 10, 2008

My Kind of Town, Chicago Is!

Wednesday night I read two unrelated articles in the online version of the Chicago Tribune that I would like to comment about.

The first was concerning the Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart and the second was about Chicago Department of Sanitation workers.

Sheriff Tom Dart announced that he would no longer be evicting people from foreclosed homes. He cited the growing number of evictions that involve rent-paying tenants who suddenly learn their building is in foreclosure because the landlord neglected to pay the mortgage. He’s refusing to do any foreclosure-related evictions with the hope is that banks will change their policies. Good Luck!

Mr. Dart I applaud you for trying to ease the pain of the downtrodden masses. You have a good heart, sir.

But on the other hand I must condemn you. You sir, took an oath to uphold the law. This oath didn’t specify which statutes, no matter how repugnant you may find them, that you can bypass for the well being of others. You swore an oath when you took the job as Sheriff. If you can’t keep your promise in good conscious, then perhaps you should resign.

Besides swearing to tell the truth in court, I have taken one oath in my life:
"I, state your name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

I kept my promise.

The other story in the Tribune was about a report from investigators, who spied on garbage collection workers who were loafing for hours each day. The average slacking time was 2 hours per 8 hour shift. This means that 25% of their on the clock time was spent loafing. That 25% is probably below the average time that a City, State or Federal office worker spends slacking off each day.

But to keep the pressure off of themselves, they must put the pressure onto someone else. Who better to blame than the Garbage man. He’s not sitting at a desk (in an air conditioned or heated office) where he could hide his slack time and pretend to be working. He is out working in the elements, dealing with the putrid refuse of others.

For those of you who complain about the Garbage men loafing on the job, I suggest you trade places with him for one day.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

$440,000 is a Drop in the Bucket

Four out the of the ten Bloggers that I read on a regular basis wrote a Blog today about American International Group’s (AIG) top executives going to the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California. The executives racked up a $440,000 bill in one week. This comes shortly after the US Government bailed the Company out, to the tune of $85 Billion.

When I first read the story last night on, I was appalled. But then I got to thinking, which is a dangerous thing for me to do.

What would I do if the government gave me $85,000,000,000? I would celebrate, of course. This is just human nature.

I never did like celebrating alone so I would have to get 60 or so of my friends to celebrate with me. After all I just got a free ride, so why not share the wealth with others. $440,000 is a drop in the bucket in comparison to $85,000,000,000.

But I wouldn’t have gone to a Spa in California. I’d be on the French Riviera ogling the semi-nude female sunbathers. I’d get high priced Call Girls for my male friends and gigolos for my female friends. Plus I am sure that I am a much better tipper than the AIG crew (Company executives tend to be lousy tippers). The cost of my foray would have probably been more than $1,000,000, which is still a drop in the bucket compared to $85 Billion.

At least the AIG people spent the money in the United States which will help the ailing California Economy.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Saving the Many at the Cost of the Few

The Vulcan Philosopher Spock once stated “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

The White House and the Congress have told us that the 700 billion dollar bailout will help the majority of Americans. They say that the bailout was the logical move to help cure the Nations financial woes.

But who are the many (the majority) and who are the few?

The many made imprudent investments, the few didn’t. The many were looking to make a quick and/or higher level of profit for their investment. The few took a different direction and invested in low yield, but safe, funds and money market accounts that were yielding less than 2%. The few were not happy with their return on investment but thought that being cautious was the proper course of action given the current economy.

The few must now pay for the avarice of the many.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said "This bill does nothing for the Addie Polks of the world." "This bill fails to address the fact that millions of homeowners are facing foreclosure, are facing the loss of their home. This bill will take care of Wall Street, and the market may go up for a few days, but democracy is going downhill."

Pennsylvania Congressman Todd Platts stated “this legislation will put American taxpayers on the hook for the reckless actions of Wall Street and irresponsible lenders with little certainty of truly solving the underlying causes of our nation’s economic challenges.”

I applaud and tip my hat to all of the Congressmen who had the intestinal fortitude to vote nay on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.

The Beach Bum

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Who Is Addie Polk?

Addie Polk is a 90 year old woman from Akron, Ohio. She became a symbol of the nation's home mortgage crisis when she was hospitalized after shooting herself at least twice in the upper body rather than being evicted from her home of 38 years; due to foreclosure by Fannie Mae. Fannie Mae has since forgiven the loan.

Addie became the hottest topic on Google Trends after Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich mentioned her name on the House floor in the debate over the $700 Billion Bailout Bill.

But Ms. Polk is just the tip of the iceberg. Millions of people are currently going through the same situation.

Many are hard working people who just wanted a slice of the American Dream. Unfortunately they went after their slice at the wrong time. They panicked believing that if they didn’t buy when they did, the dream of homeownership would be out of their price range.

They paid more than what their home’s real value was because Real Estate prices were escalating at a rapid rate. Others, like Addie, took out loans on their existing mortgage free property because the interest rates were very advantageous.

Case in point; my Son-in-Law and Daughter. They bought their house in June 2005. The real value of the house was probably $165,000 and they paid nearly $200,000. Now judging from comparable houses on the market (in this area of Florida) it has a current market value of about $135,000 or less.

Along comes the $300 Billion Housing Rescue Bill. Salvation!

But no, not for them! To avoid going into foreclosure they decided to pay their mortgage rather than some of their other bills. Also my Son-in-Law’s (A Plumber) net income had dropped significantly because of the cost of gasoline and a lack of work available during the current economic crisis.

When they bought the house they both had very good to excellent credit ratings. Now their credit ratings have gone so far down that my daughter tells me that they cannot qualify for the Housing Rescue Bill.

It’s a Catch 22.

Now that Addie’s story is known, I can imagine many more people shooting themselves. The people that should be shot (better yet, jailed) are those that put them into a position from which they cannot escape.

The Beach Bum


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Next Year - I'll Pray to Saint Jude

A long time ago a friend’s father, who was an avid Cubs Fan, told me that the corner of Clark and Addison was where the “Street of Broken Dreams” meets the “Avenue of Despair”. I laughed! That was in 1980 when I could still laugh about my favorite Baseball team losing. There was always next year.

Last night, or should I say, in the wee small hours of the morning, I recalled what a 70 year old Cubs Fan had told me 28 years before. Now I understood the meaning of his words.

The Cubs were swept by the Dodgers in the Divisional Playoff Series. The team with the best regular season record in the National League lost three games in a row to the team with the worst divisional record in the Playoffs.

I didn’t read any of the Chicago Sports Writers take on this series and probably won’t for several days; when the angst wears off.

I really believed that this would be the year that the Chicago Cubs would go to the World Series. And perhaps even win the World Series. Other years I just hoped, but this year I believed.

This morning I received 2 consoling emails. One was from a Cubs Fan who said “didn’t I tell you not to get your hopes up” and the other from a White Sox Fan who wrote “I know how you feel, maybe next year.”

I don’t think that I have that many next years left.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

10-4 Good Buddy

The Curmudgeon has declared today (10-4) as CB Radio Day. He has asked those of us who remember CB Radios to write a Blog about them. As a general rule I usually do not participate in Memes, but in this case I will make an exception.

In the early 1970’s CB Radios were becoming a fad. Until that time they were primarily use by Truck drivers and Taxi drivers to communicate over short distances. Unlike Amateur (Ham) Radio operators, no real license was required. Any fool could broadcast over the 27MHz airwaves. Some marketing genius came up with an idea to sell more radios. Let’s get the general public interested in using the Citizens Band.

Here’s my story.

In 1974 one of my frivolous neighbors, (you know, the type that must be the first kid on the block to own anything new, regardless of cost) bought a CB Radio for his car. He would sit in his car, outside of his house, and listen to the truckers driving on the Highway that fronted our Community. He would sit there for hours.

After watching him do this for several days, I had the gumption to ask him what he was doing. He showed me his new toy, gave me the lowdown on CB Radios and told me that he was trying to learn the CB language so that he could communicate with other CB’ers. Wow! If I hadn’t thought that he was a nut case before this time; this cinched it.

I asked him why he needed this device. Although he gave me several reasons, the bottom line was so that he could know where the Cops were setting up speed traps on the Highway.

First of all, everyone who traveled that road, on a regular basis, knew that there were only two places that the Police (could and did) set up speed traps. Secondly he didn’t use that road on a daily basis and rarely had to pass where the speed traps were set up.

After a week passed, he was no longer sitting in his car listening to the CB. I thought that the novelty of his new toy must have worn off.

A few days later I asked him why he was no longer listening to his CB Radio. Had he mastered the language?

He told me “not yet” but he had bought a home base so he could listen in the house rather than sitting in the car. The look on my face must have been very similar to the AFLAC Duck’s expression when Yogi Berra sez “They give you cash, which is almost as good as money.”

The Beach Bum

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Friday, October 03, 2008

It Makes Me Want To Puke

Today the House passed the 700 Billion Dollar Bailout bill; I am appalled but not surprised. Several pork barrel items were added to the bill; again I am appalled but not surprised. This is normal politics, politics at its worst.

My first question is: how does this bill help the Average Joe? You know - the person who is out there busting his bottom to try to make ends meet in this bad economy. My second question is; will the individuals that caused this problem get their just desserts?

Who pays for this bailout and who benefits?

My family and friends will seemingly not benefit. They will end up on the paying end of the stick. If I took an unscientific poll of the 100 or so people that are in my email address book, I would imagine the majority, if not all, of them will not be benefiting from the bailout. I guess it just matters on whom you have in your address book.

How will this bill help the countless people that are currently going into mortgage foreclosure? The bill helps the banks that hold their mortgages; not them. They got screwed, as usual, not helped. Do you, for one moment, think that any of these people need FDIC coverage over $100,000?

The underlying note was that we must help the Banking Industry to keep our Nation financially stable. To avoid another Great Depression! To avoid a Stock Market crash!

I have no pension and I never wisely invested in a 401K plan. The Stock Market is just legalized gambling. Those who invest should have understood the risks involved. Why should I (or any of us) save their asse(t)s?

Will any of the individuals that benefited, at the cost of a possible financial collapse of the Banks and Stock Market, pay? Extremely doubtful! The system doesn’t work that way! They’ll get off smelling like a Rose, and we (the common man, the middle class, the working person and the Average Joe) will pay for their foibles. That’s how the system works.

Yet, we are voters and we are the people that are responsible for putting individuals in office that do not care about our well being. Think about it and then weep!

Personally, I will not vote for any member of Congress that voted aye for the bailout bill.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

No Joy in Wrigleyville

There is no joy in Wrigleyville tonight. The Chicago Cubs have just lost their second home game, in the divisional playoffs, to the LA Dodgers. It was a slaughter! Cub’s fans, like me, are crying in their beer tonight. Two Cub errors in the second inning (4 total in the game) put the Cubs in a hole that they couldn’t crawl out of. For the second night in a row the Cubs bats remained silent. They showed a little life in the ninth inning. It was too little, too late. As Maynard G Krebbs, from Dobie Gillis would say “for shame, for shame.”

It’s on to LA, where doubtfully, they will win two and return to Chicago for the series finally. I can dream, can’t I?

The Beach Bum

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Let the Games Begin

Yesterday I watched all three MLB Playoff games on WTBS. I was disappointed with the outcomes, but not the least bit surprised. All three of the teams that I wanted to win, lost. This is one of the reasons that I do not bet on sporting events.

Being a lifelong Cubs fan the most disappointing game was the Cubs/Dodgers. The Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster had the best regular season home pitching record (14-3) in the National League. He averaged 3.3 walks per 9 innings pitched this season and .3 home runs (6) per game started (20) at Wrigley Field. So what happens? Dempster gives up 7 walks in 4 and 2/3 innings and dishes up a Grand Slam. Seeing this happen, the Cubs bats go silent for the remainder of the game.

I didn’t think that the Brewers would beat Cole Hammels, but I can hope, can’t I. I dislike the Phillies, or should I say that I dislike their fans. This dates back to the 1980’s when I went to see the Cubs play the Phillies at Veterans Stadium (I was living in Maryland at the time). I, of course, was cheering for the Cubs and was surrounded by Phillies fans. The language aimed towards me and my friends (one female) would make a sailor blush. But this didn’t stop me from rooting for my team. What followed then was a threat; that if I didn’t shut my trap, it would be shut for me. We left our good seats and moved to seats where there were no other people. I never went back to the Vet. Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, Bullshit.

The last game of the night was the Angels/Red Sox. This was the best game that I watched yesterday. Both starting pitchers pitched excellent games. Lester pitched a fantastic game. I was favoring the Angels because I like their manager Mike Scioscia. I liked him as a player (Dodgers) and I like him as a manager. Of course I should be rooting for Boston. Because if the Rays beat the White Sox in the Divisional series, I think that they would stand a better of going to the World Series by playing Boston.

This puts me in a quandary. Who should I cheer for this afternoon when the Rays play the White Sox? When I moved to Florida the Rays became my second team (I've watched more than 100 of their games this year), when I lived in Maryland it was the Orioles. But I’m originally from Chicago and I always cheer for Chicago teams. It’s going to be a tough call that I’ll make a game time.

As far as a prediction as to who will win the divisional series and who will go on to the League Championship, I rather not say, for fear that I jinx the teams that I am pulling for. Like most true Cubs fans I am very superstitious about making a prediction.

Yesterday, one of my favorite Bloggers , The Curmudgeon, wrote two Baseball Blogs and made his predictions for divisional series. I hope that he isn’t right!

The Beach Bum

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