Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Piece of the Pie

I received an email today asking me why I haven’t written a Blog in the past 7 days. The underlying question was about my health issues, not about my Blog. This time my health problems are not of a physical nature.

I’ve been enduring a horrible domestic situation for the past week. It has been beyond my scope of imagination. The stress factor has become overwhelming. In addition, the financial news has been driving me to the edge of insanity (a short drive).

I have unsuccessfully attempted to stop reading the daily news.

Back in my school daze they always used a pie to demonstrate how the Federal Government allocated our tax dollars. Some pies are broken into as few as 5 sectors of the Economy, while others delved deeper, basically know as sub-sectors. There are also pies for GNP, GND (AKA GFD) as well as many other individual sectors of our economy. I’m sick to near death at looking at the current pies.

Now the Auto makers want a piece of the bailout money. Only $25 Billion, a mere drop in the bucket, compared to the $800 Billion plus bailouts. Everyone now wants a piece of the pie

Let’s take GM for example. G. R. Wagoner, Jr. GM Chairman & CEO whose compensation was $14,415,914 in 2007 and who knows what he’ll earn in 2008. Then there is R. A. Lutz, Vice Chairman, Global Product Development, who was compensated $6,894,024 in 2007.

Now let’s drop a comma. I could live a life of luxury on $415,914 or better yet $894,024 per year. Deferring their salaries down to reasonable levels would save GM $20 million per year. A condition of a bailout to any company should require the top compensated person in the company to make less than $500,000.

Think about it, if you can’t live on a half million dollars a year you have a major drug problem.

To hell with the corporate bailouts! Let’s try to bailout the people who really need to be bailed out. Those are the people who were conned into massive debt attempting to attain the American Dream; home ownership. And now due to the economy, they are facing foreclosure. If they received the money instead of the financial institutions and the big corporations, they would spend it more wisely. But these monies would only be given to people that lived in their homes and not the real estate speculators and investors (they deserve to lose their ass).

This all reminds me of the mid 1970’s movie Network, starring Peter Finch as a News Anchor who lost it all when he was told that he was he was losing his job due to low ratings. He was losing everything that mattered to him.

This is the way many people feel now.

From IMDB:

“I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – “I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!” Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad! You've got to say, I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore! Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it:

We should feel this way and shout:

It’s doubtful that any of the “Powers that Be” will listen, but at least we got it off our chests.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gay Marriage - An Interesting Proposition

In the late 1970’s a very attractive young lady was one of the many part-time employees that I employed. She was attending Georgetown Law School. She was from Darien, Connecticut. She was svelte and highly intelligent; two of the three qualities that I seek in a woman. I never found out if she possessed the third quality.

Unfortunately we were both involved with the “loves of our life”. I was married with three children and she was living with her “soul mate”. She had met her soul mate while attending Smith College in Massachusetts; they were, on campus, roommates and lovers from their sophomore year until graduation. For those of you that may be unaware, Smith is a Women’s College.

After completing Georgetown Law she and her soul mate moved back to Connecticut. Her plans were to pass the Bar and work for her father’s Law Firm in NYC. I never kept in contact with her after she left my employ. Until yesterday, I hadn’t even thought about her once since she had moved back to Connecticut. I have even forgotten her surname.

Why yesterday?

I was reading an article in the New York Times about the first eight same sex marriages in Connecticut after the State Supreme Court lifted the ban on Gay Marriage. I immediately thought of Candace (Candy) and her soul mate. I wondered if they were still together as a couple and if they were contemplating marriage.

I have stated before that I was all for same sex marriages. Not that I am a Champion of Gay Rights; I don’t fight for any cause that doesn’t directly benefit me or my family’s wellbeing. On the other hand, Gay Marriage does affect the Economy, which indirectly affects all of us.

Twenty-Five years ago one of my Bartenders asked me why Gay males tipped so well. I facetiously said “they probably like your ass.” He became very self conscious (and started to wear baggy pants), so I then told him the real reason; they don’t have to pay for a big wedding or pay alimony and child support.

This brings us to California’s recently passed Proposition 8. California is currently in the Economic Trash Can.As far as I know they still haven't passed a budget. The Governator is saying that he needs to raise taxes, not to balance the budget but to keep the State from sinking deeper into the financial quagmire in which it is currently embroiled. Good luck Arnold!

What did Proposition 8 do for the California state economy; it pushed it deeper into the quagmire. Weddings generate a lot of income for the State as well as many small businesses. It also brings in out-of state people who will be spending money in that State instead of their home State. Plus the attorneys will eventually make out like bandits.

The bottom line is that Gay Marriage is good for the US Economy. And that’s why I’m for it.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Possible Solution

I have come up with a possible solution to our current economic woes. I read yesterday that we are now giving more money to bailout AIG. To say the least, I was not happy. I’m against all of the bailouts of banks and major financial Corporations.

The proponents of this action will tell us that this is good thing. People that have invested in the market and 401K plans are losing their retirement income. A friend, who is 65 years old, told me that he must keep working for at least another year because of a major drop in value of his 401K. He’ll work until he drops, because he loves what he is doing, not because his 401K has gone on the wayside. He’s like my Dad, who worked well into his mid seventies.

What I don’t understand, is why people didn’t invest in Oil Companies instead of Insurance, Auto and Mortgage Companies? I saw the writing on the wall back in 2002, and then more so in 2005.

Exxon Mobil posted a record third quarter profit of nearly 10 billion dollars (other worldwide Oil Companies also posted record profits). Immediately the price of gasoline began to drop, and it is now at the level (average cost per gallon) that it was 3 years ago.

The Exxon Mobil Company has a current Market value of about $500 Billion. Instead of bailing out frivolous companies, why doesn’t our government spend our money more wisely and buy a known profit maker such as Exxon Mobil.

Let’s take this one step further. What other American enterprise has been always known to make a profit? Any guesses?

Yeah, it’s Organized Crime. These (wise) guys, unlike our Government, do not like to lose money in a business venture. These are profit oriented people.

Now let’s say that the US Government allied with Organized Crime (we have, albeit surreptitiously, done this before). Of course this would be unpalatable to the moralists, the religious right and all of the do-gooders who think gambling, prostitution and extortion is a sin. Not to mention a few murders. At least, most of the Chicago Catholics that I know would be all for it.

Organized Crime (OC) has been involved in legit businesses for many years. They hire the best and if someone screws up, they literally cut them. They are a very profit oriented group of individuals. If the competition gets in their way; they remove the competition. It may not be moral or ethical, but it works and they always make a profit.

First the Government uses OC to buy Exxon Mobil at 75% of its market value (they’ll make the shareholders an offer that they can’t refuse – the Executives holding large share blocks would be pooping in their drawers or sleeping with horse’s heads). In return the US Government gives OC 50% of the profits. Both sides make money. No one loses, except the “fat cat” oil company CEO’s (who also happen to be major stock holders).

Organized Crime does it’s best to eliminate competition efficiently.

Who is the competition? OPEC! To maximize their profits, Organized Crime has been well known to limit competition. After removing one or two competitors, the other competitors will give a large percentage of their product to Exxon Mobil at a reduced cost. The savings, less a slight profit, would be passed on to the American consumer.

Unlike Corporate America, Organized Crime (none of their CEO’s are on the Forbes top 100) is not heavily into avariciousness; they just want their fair share, therefore they would pass on their profits to the American Public by encouraging and financing entrepreneurs, who in turn, will give them a fair share of their profits. Good for our economy in general.

There are those that will say that I am advocating that gangsters should run our major corporations (not a bad idea considering how poorly they are being currently operated). Organized Crime is not a bunch of street punk gangsters, as they are often portrayed in the movies. Instead they are profit oriented businessmen. They just cheat a little.

I say that these “wise guys” can do a lot more for the American Economy than the current overly high paid administrators of our major corporations. The big guys will lose (perhaps, even their lives) and the little guys, like you and me, will gain in the long run.

Just think about it!

The Beach Bum

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Shedding a Tear or Two

Last night I watched a 10 year old movie that I shouldn’t have watch. I had seen it several times before and I would get very emotionally distraught each time that I viewed it in the past. Last night was no different.

But it’s a great movie that was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 5 including best Director (Steven Spielberg), so I put myself through the agony once again.

Saving Private Ryan was a very well crafted, well written, and well acted movie. Spielberg directed films tend to bring out the deepest emotions of the viewer. Many of his films do not have happy endings.

The first time I got emotional while watching a movie was when I was 10 years old and watching John Wayne as Sgt. Stryker in the Sands of Iwo Jima. This was also the first time I ever saw my Dad get choked up and shed a tear.

My Dad was a WWII vet stationed in the European Theater during D-Day. He saw very little combat (he was rear echelon) but he did see a lot of dead US Soldiers. He went into Normandy 4 days after (June 10, 1944) the initial assault on Omaha Beach.

Dad didn’t really enjoy talking about the War, but he once recollected seeing very many dead bodies of Americans (as well as Germans) still on the beach where he landed (most of the GI’s were buried at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach). By this time the front lines were well inland.

Dad had an album of Black and White photographs that he had taken, showing the destructiveness and carnage of war. He told me to remember them well and that some day it might be my turn to serve my country. Ten years later it was and I did.

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. I’ll be thinking of my Dad, of friends that I served with in the Military and of the countless military personnel that never lived to see another Veteran’s Day. I’ll say a prayer for those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’ll shed a tear or two, as I did late last night while I watched Saving Private Ryan.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, November 07, 2008

One Plus One Still Equals Two

Recently the Curmudgeon at the Second Effort Blog has written several Blogs about the importance of teaching our children mathematics. Specifically he mentions teaching Calculus at a High School level.

I don’t particularly agree with this because any Engineer, Scientist or Mathematician worth his salt usually has at least a Masters Degree, if not a Doctorates in his chosen field of endeavor. That’s 2 to 5 more years of college.

But, I agree that there should be an option for students to take Calculus as an elective in High School. Judging from the recent national average of SAT scores, it would be a very small class in most public schools.

I had fairly high scores on my math SAT’s. I answered the questions that I knew quickly, worked out the problems that I thought I could solve and on the ones that I didn’t have a clue, I answered C (at the time a probability of being 40% correct). I didn’t take Calculus until my third year in College. I was not planning to become an Engineer, Scientist or Mathematician.

Now my opinionated story!

When my now 41 year old daughter was in the First Grade, her school had a “meet the teacher’s” night. Being concerned parents, my wife and I attended. My daughter’s teacher attempted to explain “New Math” to a group of predominantly college educated adults. We didn’t have a clue as to what she was telling us. First, her command of the English language was sub-standard. Secondly she couldn’t convey her message to educated adults. And this woman was teaching my child.

After Parent’s Night I called a former Professor, who was also my mentor and a friend. I related my experience at the school. I told him of my encounter with the first grade teacher and he said that he wasn’t amazed.

His explanation was:

Sometime in the late 60’s the college admission requirements were lowered. It was done to accommodate minorities who had attended high schools that didn’t have the proper curriculum for college admission via the SAT’s. Therefore many non-minority students were admitted that didn’t really belong in college (the males were probably trying to avoid the draft).

The majority of these students could not keep up and had a low GPA, but it was still high enough to receive a degree (class curve standards had also been lowered). He said that a B+ (cum laude)student in the early 1970’s was the equivalent of a C+ student in the mid 1960’s. This explained why I made the Dean’s List (with a 4.0 average) 3 semesters in a row.

Many of the new college graduates could not find a job equivalent to their educational level. Therefore they took two 3 hour courses, in Elementary Education, which qualified them as teachers.

Unlike the old days, they became teachers, not to teach, but to earn a living. They had no love of their job. They were not there to disseminate information but to follow the lesson plan prescribe by the school board. They didn’t care about their students nor their student’s progress.

This is a sad commentary on our educational system that my Professor Friend made it in 1973, thirty-five years ago.

Now back to the original topic: Math.

Either you have a desire to learn the subject on a higher level or you don’t. A student shouldn’t be pushed or forced into any discipline. If you don’t want to be an Engineer, Scientist or Mathematician there is very little need for you to take upper level Math courses. There are still very many professions that do not rely on an upper level math background.

The Curmudgeon is correct; our school systems do not push mathematics to the level that they should be pushing them. But as my Dad would say “The world needs ditch diggers too”.

The Beach Bum

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Do You Remember?

Two or three times a year I will get an email (usually forwarded) from some of my Old Fart friends, which asks if you remember certain things from the 1940’s through the early 1960’s. Most of them have 25 to 40 questions about things that were popular during that time frame.

The latest was titled “Older than Dirt”. I knew all of the answers, so therefore I am older than dirt. Surprisingly there were two “do you remember?” questions that I hadn’t seen before (Metal Ice Cube Trays with a Lever and Mimeograph Paper – actually it wasn’t normal paper but a waxed stencil paper that you attached to the Mimeograph cylinder).

The first “do you remember?” question (which appears on almost every list that I have seen) was Blackjack Chewing Gum. Blackjack gum is still being produced, albeit, in limited quantities. I, as well as Chuck Yeager, preferred a chewing gum made by the same company named Beamans. But the question should have been “do you remember?” Fan Tan or Beech-Nut Chewing Gum.

Another common “do you remember?” is Candy Cigarettes. These are also still being made. They are predominately found in assortment bags of cheap Halloween Candy. The better question is “do you remember?” two penny candies called Red Hot Dollars and Wax Lips. How about Bonomos Turkish Taffy (I liked the Banana flavored variety).

Finally the most posed question “do you remember?” the Studebaker. Everyone over 45 years old should remember Studebakers, but how many of them will remember the Kaiser or the Henry J. My dad had a 1951 maroon Kaiser; I thought that it was the coolest car in the neighborhood, at least until I saw a 1957 Chevy.

Now I will put forward five questions that should appear on every Baby Boomer “do you remember?” questionnaire.

1) Do you remember? What chain smoking television (and radio) Journalist’s sign off line was “Good night, and good luck”?

2) Do you remember? Who the original host of the 1950's prime time quiz program “Who Do You Trust” was?

3) Do you remember? What Spike Jones was best known for?

4) Do you remember? What you specifically received for 5 cents from the Topps Company in the 1950's?

5) Do you remember? What singer and television personality always said "Bless your pea-pickin' heart"?

If you can answer all five (without looking them up), then, like me, you are an older than dirt Baby Boomer.

The Beach Bum


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Critical Issues

Yesterday I called a boyhood friend (we went to the same Chicago Grammar School and High School together). He is now living in North Carolina and I called to get his take on the Presidential Election. Barack Obama was leading by a thin margin in a State that I thought would definitely be a Red State.

It didn’t really matter because Senator (now President Elect) Obama already had enough electoral votes to be the new US President. I was just curious and he was the only person that I know in North Carolina that would be home at one in the afternoon. He is retired.

He is also a lifelong Democrat that did not vote for Obama. I asked him if it was a race issue, as we were both reared to dislike people of different races and of certain nationalities. We were carefully taught by our families, at an early age, to dislike the same people that they disliked. He said “not really”.

His major concerns were gun control, abortion (he is a good Catholic, who hasn’t been inside of a church for years) and gay marriage. We discussed, at length, these three issues. I disagreed with him on two out of three.

The one issue that I agreed with was gun control. I’m anti gun control. Of the thousands of friends and family members I have known to have firearms; not a one has ever committed a crime or intentionally killed a person with a gun. I’m an adherent of the philosophy that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Criminals will get weapons even if guns were made illegal.

I am in a quandary about the abortion issue. I believe in “the right to life” but I am also “pro choice”. This dilemma makes it hard for me to argue in either direction on this subject. But I am against the “Religious Right” attempting to dictate their morals onto the general population. There is a reason that our “founding fathers” believed in and advocated the separation of Church and State.

Finally we come to “gay marriage”. I know a gay couple that has been together for more than 35 years. One is in his early 80’s and a WWII veteran; the other is about to turn 60. They own several properties together (as joint tenants –survivorship rights) but they have separate bank accounts. They are beyond the point that where money is a concern, so they do not see the point of being married (did I mention that both are Catholic and attend mass on a regular basis).

But there are younger gay couples that would benefit by “Gay Marriage”. I have always accepted Gay people (especially women); although it was against my beliefs (I believe that homosexuality is nurtured not natured).

As a good friend once said “Let them get married so that they can suffer like us heterosexuals”.

The Beach Bum

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