Saturday, February 28, 2009

Up In Smoke

The other day my daughter asked me what I was going to do when cigarettes go up on April first. I believe that she was hoping that I’d say that I was going to quit smoking.

The Federal Government has added an additional sixty-two cents per pack in taxes. Actually it will come to sixty-six cents after adding the Florida State Retail Sales Tax. This is one thing that I never really understood; how can a State Government tax a Federal tax? Some Counties and Municipal Governments also so do this; so you end up paying a tax on a tax on a tax.

The Government claims that they have raised the cigarette tax, partly to discourage young people from smoking. This is a good idea. I’ve been a smoker for more than forty years and I tell young people to stay away from cigarettes. Some of them call me a hypocrite because I continue to smoke. My retort is “Don’t end up like me.”

I’ve tried, several times, to quit and had actually gone nearly nine months smoke free. I’ve used the nicotine chewing gum (which burned my gums and tongue) and the patch and I still craved cigarettes. The doctors said that I have a psychological addition rather than a nicotine addiction. I think that I have both. But I have noticed that I crave cigarettes more when I do certain things.

Why did I start in the first place? When I was young, it was in the vogue to smoke. Several of the best radio and television programs (in the 50’s and 60’s) were sponsored by cigarette companies. Most of my favorite movie and television stars smoked; John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, etc. Even the stars that didn’t smoke pretended to smoke in the movies. This made smoking a lot more attractive than just simple peer pressure telling me that it was cool to smoke.

Then, when I joined the Army, in the mid 1960’s, I was encouraged to smoke by the cadre (“Take 10 and light them up if you have them”). We also received a free four pack of cigarettes in every box of C or K rations. In the PX (Post Exchange) cigarettes cost 20 cents per pack or $1.80 per carton. They were even less expensive overseas where you could buy them (Tax and Duty Free) for $1.05 per carton in the PX and for under a dollar in the commissary.

As far as I know, the US Military is part of the Federal Government (DOD). Therefore the Federal Government promoted the smoking of cigarettes, even though studies existed that linked cigarette smoking to cancer and lung disease (there were even warning on the packs when I was stationed overseas). The Government encouraged me to smoke and now they are taxing me (more and more) for my mistake of listening to them.

In 1970, the following message began to appear on cigarette packs; Warning, The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.
I was still buying cigarettes in the PX at Fort Meade for $2.75 per carton at this time.

In my opinion, any Federal Tax on cigarettes should not be paid by military veterans who continue to smoke.

Also, I recall President Obama’s campaign rhetoric saying that there would be no new taxes on the middle class. The majority of smokers are either in the middle class or close to the poverty level (Social Security or pension). Senior (62 and older) smokers should also get a tax exemption on any Federal Cigarette Tax (past, present and future).

If we are taxing cigarettes (at the Federal level) because they are hazardous to our health, why don’t we also tax Fast Food equally? Trans fat and Cholesterol are known producers of heart disease.

Now I’m not picking on McDonald’s, but here’s a link to wikipedia’s nutritional breakdown of the Big Mac. Add to this a large order of fries (how can anyone eat a Big Mac without French Fries) and the fat content will almost double.

If President Obama is going to tax the middle and lower income classes he should do it equally!

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baseball, Hamburgers and Politics

Last weekend I spoke to a friend and fellow Cubs fan. I hadn’t spoken to him since last October. As always, the first 20 minutes of our conversation centered on the Cubs and Baseball in general. Once the 2009 season begins we will be on the phone nearly once a week.

Then we moved on to health concerns, particularly mine. This lasted for about 3 minutes; he has no major health concerns (except for high cholesterol – he takes Lipitor) and mine are Status Quo.

Finally we moved on to meatier topics. Our new President, the Bailouts, the Economy and Hamburgers.

This part of the conversation began with Hamburgers. I asked him if he remembered the name of a certain restaurant in Melrose Park that served the best burgers that I have ever eaten. When I lived Berwyn in the early 1980’s I would take my girlfriend there at least once every ten days.

I began to describe the Restaurant and within seconds he said “Come Back Inn.” How could I have forgotten? I then asked him if he been there lately and he told me that it was closed several years ago. I said “What? – Why?”

He then asked me if I remember why he moved from Cicero (Cook County) to Downers Grove (DuPage County) in 1990. He had lived on the southwest side of Cicero for 38 years (from birth until 2 months before his 39th Birthday). The house that he bought in Cicero was just two blocks away from his parents’ house. So I said “To be closer to work (the Company that he work for had moved to Schaumburg the year before)?” He laughed and said “Guess again.”

My second guess was lower taxes. Wrong again! “OK I give up.”

He answered “The demographics (in Cicero) were rapidly changing, the crime rate was swiftly rising and the Democrats were outnumbering the Republicans (Cicero and neighboring Berwyn had always been a stronghold for the Cook County Republican Party). The same thing happened in Melrose Park, but at least the criminals there spoke a version of the English language; when they asked you for your wallet, you understood what they were saying and didn’t get knifed or shot.” Now it was my turn to laugh.

Next, I said “I guess that you’re not happy with the outcome of the last election.” He then said “What do you mean, I voted for Obama.” For a few seconds I was thunderstruck. All that I could say was wow. After the shock wore off, I asked him why?

He gave me the same reasons that other Chicago suburban area lifelong Republicans had given me.

For that one moment, they put aside the bigotry that they were taught (as I was) as children. They voted with their minds rather than their hearts. I hope that President Obama proves their decisions to be right.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Somebody's Watching Your Every Move

In his Friday and Saturday Blogs, The Curmudgeon at the Second Effort Blog wrote about the proposed VMT (vehicle miles traveled) Tax. This would replace the gasoline tax. Fortunately President Obama quashed this proposal made by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (I wonder why his parents didn’t name him Robin – I would have).

The Curmudgeon brings up some interesting ramifications involved with adopting a VMT Tax:
“The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.”

Now this is a real scary thought.

I have a good friend that lives in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Some our mutual friends will say that he is extremely paranoid.

He says that the Government is gradually usurping our right to privacy.

Some years ago he bought a Cell Phone. The only time that he used it was when he went on his annual August fishing trip in the back woods of northern Minnesota (to keep in contact with his elderly parents). He’d buy minutes at the Walgreens. Then he saw a NCIS episode where they could track a person by his cell phone; even if it was not in use.

He now gives the phone to friends and asks them to keep it in their cars for several days. Then he takes it back and passes it to another. His friends humor him. He still uses it in Minnesota.

He will no longer buy a GM made car (for 30 years he only bought Buicks) because of the ONSTAR system. Even if you don’t subscribe to the service, he says that it’s there and can track your movements. He doesn't own a GPS for the same reason ("what kind of dummy cannot read a road map".)

Many years ago he said that the government was trying to turn us into a cashless society. Credit and Debit Cards could then be used to track our spending habits. Like my Dad did, he only uses cash for his purchases and has never had a credit card. He hopes that he dies before this happens.

Our mutual friends also say that he must have a cloaking or jamming device in his house; their Cell Phones only work 15 feet or more away from the building.

Perhaps we should all be getting a bit paranoid, as my friend is, about our rights to privacy.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Kiss of Death

In September 1999, Tropical Storm Harvey was in the Gulf of Mexico and his projected path was heading directly towards the Tampa Bay area. Harvey had sustained winds of 55 MPH and there was conjecture that before landfall (after passing through warmer water) that he would become a Hurricane.

They posted a voluntary evacuation for the barrier islands, such as Treasure Island. By the next morning they would know more and there was a possibility that it would be upgraded to a mandatory evacuation.

At this time, I was lusting after a beautiful young cocktail waitress that I worked with several nights per week. She was also a model and an actress. But the only paying work that she was getting was in local television commercials and catalog modeling. She had started working at my place of employment, in July, because she had just broken up with her boyfriend who was paying her rent. He was 3 years younger and she was 21 years younger than me. It was obvious that she went for older gentlemen.

I digress, back to Tropical Storm Harvey.

It was a Tuesday night and Harvey was still about 90 miles offshore. The winds were coming from the southwest at 15MPH. It had been a gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky, and it was topped off by a beautiful sunset.

Shortly before sunset I received a telephone from the lovely young cocktail waitress asking me if I would join her at one of my favorite watering holes. One of her favorite one-man-bands was performing there that evening; he did a lot of late sixties, early seventies music and southern rock.

I jumped at the opportunity to be with her. I showered, change clothes and walked the quarter mile to the bar. She was there when I arrived. She lived a half mile from the bar (a quarter mile from my apartment) and had taken a taxi (the intelligent drinkers always took a cab) to the watering hole. The Treasure Island Police Department’s motto was “Come on vacation, leave on probation.”

We left the bar at one in the morning, she had decided, rather than take a taxi back, she would walk home; she needed the fresh air. Being the gentleman that I am, I said that I would walk there with her and then walk back to my apartment.

About half way back to my apartment the winds suddenly picked up force and were gusting up to 35MPH. Then the rain came, not heavy rains, but substantial. The rain was coming at us at a 45 degree angle to the ground; right into our faces. The rain and the sand stung our faces and our arms and legs.

It took us about 6 minutes (normally 2 minute walk) to walk the remaining 1/8 mile to my apartment. We were soaked. When we arrived I told her that I would call a taxi for her. She asked if I had any clothes that she could wear and if she could take a shower to wash the sand off of her body. I said sure and gave her a tee shirt and a pair of sweatpants.

While she was in the shower I began to write an email to my friends describing the events of that night. I went into detail about the storm and what I had experienced on the walk home. I’m a slow typist and after a half hour had passed I noticed that she hadn’t come back into the living room. I went to check and found her asleep in my bed. Being the consummate gentleman, I didn’t join her in my bed: I slept on the sofa The main reason for my action was to avoid the risk of losing her trust in the early stages of our relationship. All relationships are based on a matter of trust.

The next morning TS Harvey turned to the south and she took a taxi home.

End of story.

And now, at long last, I’m getting to the point of this Blog, which the Blog title refers to.

The next day I received several emails commenting about what I had written about my experience with Harvey the night before. There were Kudos, Kudos and even more Kudos. One email reader proclaimed me to be the next Hemingway (one of my all-time favorite authors).

For me, this was the “Kiss of Death”.

How could I ever live up to this standard again? I had reached my pinnacle and there was nowhere to go but down. Although I enjoyed the praise, I knew that it was a hindrance and not helpful thing.

Well it’s happened again, this time via a comment made to my last Blog.

My good friend Richard Feder comments:
“This is one of your best tales. It has drama, humor, and last, but not least, pathos.”

Once again I get the “Kiss of Death”.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grunts and Groans - Aches and Pains

When my Dad was in his late sixties he began to make strange noises. Each noise was associated with a certain movement that he made or a task that he preformed. The first one that I noticed him making was a groaning sound as he got up out of his chair.

I asked him if there was something wrong and he looked at me as if I were crazy. I didn’t probe any deeper.

Over the course of the next 5 or 6 years there were more and more noises. There was the tying of the shoe noise, the walking up and down the stairs noise, the bending down to pick up something that had fallen on the floor noise and (my favorite) the opening of the door noise. He even had a noise for opening the refrigerator. Not to mention the noises that he made in the Bathroom.

The noises became even louder with each passing year. Afraid to ask him, I asked my Mom if he was in constant pain. She told me no. And that if he had pain he would go to the Doctor. She said that these noises, that he was making, were his way of relieving his aches. She also said that he didn’t realize that he was grunting and groaning.

After a while I could tell you exactly what he was doing, even if I was blindfolded, from the sounds that he was making.

Back then I was in my mid forties. The only time I vocalized my movements was when I experienced pleasure or relief. My noises basically consisted of Oous, Aahs and Oows. When I drank my first beer of the day, I would make the aah sound. Five or six beers later when I had to go and relieve myself, I would make the oow sound. The best sound was the oou sound, which I reserve for when I had an orgasm. There were a lot of aahs and oows, but never enough oous.

By the time I reach 60 years old, I had added several other noises to my vocabulary. And with each successive year I’ve been adding more and more. Most times, unless it has been brought to my attention by my daughter, I do not realize that I am grunting and groaning. It just comes natural.

I’m turning into my Dad. But it could be worse; when I stop grunting and groaning, I’ll be in an urn.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Doing the Right Thing

I have an old Army buddy that we (in our group of miscreants) call Cazzo. The name Cazzo is a shortened version of the Italian phrase testa di Cazzo. He has also been called Cazzopiccolino, a more endearing appellation.

When we served together in Africa his nickname was Mister Clean. Not only because he shaved his balding head, but also because he took at least 3 showers a day (even during the drought year of 1968) and had a locker full of bars of Ivory Soap.

I call him the King of Email Forwarding. I get at least 25 Forwarded (FW:) emails from him per week. I read some of them, especially if the Subject line intrigues me. To top things off, he never Snopes the info that he is passing on. The ones that I automatically delete are the double Forwarded emails (two morons, instead of only one, passing on disinformation).

Only twice in the past 5 years have a passed on one of his forwarded emails (and I had copied and pasted them with a new subject line).

However, on occasion, he does send out something good.

Last week Cazzo sent one about reactions to various scenarios 50 years ago, compared with today’s consequence. Most of these scenarios applied to teens and High School students. The one that struck home with me was:

Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car
and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1957 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal,
goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse.
Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang.
The State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers
being abused herself and their dad goes to prison.
Billy's mom has affair with psychologist.

My story, relating to the above, takes place in either 1961 or 1962. I attempted to pinpoint the year, but others that I spoke to, weren’t exactly sure of the year either.

Back then we used to play a game (and I don’t remember the name) of softball in the streets. We used a 16 inch softball called a Clincher; this was a real soft ball, you didn’t need a glove. The older it was the softer it got.

We usually played with four man teams; pitcher, catcher, middle fielder and outfielder. You had to hit the ball, in the air, passed the pitcher. If the ball touched the ground before it reached the pitcher it was an out. Any ball caught by a fielder was an out. Parked cars were foul territory any foul ball was also an out. Usually if you hit a car it would do no damage (it was a very soft ball and cars were built like tanks back then).

You had about a 12 foot wide window and the best way to get a hit was hitting the ball between the pitcher and middle fielder (a single) or between the middle fielder and outfielder (a double), Home Runs were next to impossible. We were allowed four swings at the ball and no balls or strikes were called; so you could wait for your pitch.

The day in question was in mid June (we were out of school for the summer). We were playing 3 man teams and the last batter was catching. My team had men on second and third (you didn’t actually take a base; it was assumed that you were there) and I was up to bat. I noticed that the outfielder had taken several steps in towards midfield after the first pitch. He did it again after the second pitch, wanting to prevent a two run scoring double.

Here was a great opportunity for a rare Home Run. I’d be the talk of the neighborhood. I let two more pitches go past. Then I saw one coming into my sweet zone. I swung with all the force that I could muster. Unfortunately I swung a bit too early and put it into the windshield of a parked car. It was an out. It also shattered the windshield.

It wasn’t just any windshield; the car belonged to the meanest man neighborhood, who hated children, especially teens. He would yell at us for sitting on his stairs or his car. Even worse yet, if we walked on his lawn or if we had gone into his yard to retrieve an item that had errantly fallen into it; he would blow his top. Therefore we grabbed our bats and ran like hell.

When I got home, I told my Mom and Dad the story. All my Dad said was “Are you going to do the right thing?” To me the right thing was to lay low for a while. Ten minutes later I was knocking at Mister W’s door. I told him what I had done and there was a fiery look on his face. He didn’t yell at me, he just walked down the steps to examine the damage to his car.

He sternly told me to come back on Monday evening and he would tell me how much I owed him for the damages. It was $50.

At the time I was working part-time for the A&P and netting about $22 per week. I told him that I would be able to pay him within three weeks. He made a counter offer. He said that if I would mow his lawn (hand mower), pull weeds and trim the bushes for eight weeks; that he would call it an even trade off. We shook hands and I called it a deal.

Many years later, his son (who is a very good friend and five years older than me) told me that his Dad once said that I was the best kid in the neighborhood. This coming from Mister W was truly an accolade.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Good Interview - A Great Baseball Player

Last Monday night I watched an interview on ESPN. The interviewer was Peter Gammons. I don’t particularly like Peter Gammons, but I do respect him for his knowledge of the game of Baseball. He is extremely perceptive; however he comes off as being very dry when making his comments.

Monday night’s interview was with Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. I have always been an A-Rod fan and in my opinion he is currently the best player in Baseball. Many other Baseball fans share this opinion. He is a team player, rather than being someone like Barry Bonds; who tended to look at his teammates as a supporting cast for his show.

The last time that I went to Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg), several years ago, was not to see the Rays play, but to see Alex Rodriguez play. I can’t stand the Trop; it’s a crappy Ballpark. Many others came to the Ballpark that night and the three game series with the Yankees set a record in attendance for a three game series.

The subject of the Monday night Gammons’ interview with Alex Rodriguez, was centered on his taking of performance enhancing drugs during the three years that he played for the Texas Rangers. He tested positive in 2003.

A-Rod said that he took them because of the pressure to perform up to the expectations of the fans and the Texas Rangers management (he had just signed a 10 year contract for $252 million – the highest paid Baseball player ever). He also said that he stopped taking performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 and that he has not tested positive since Major League Baseball began penalties for testing positive in 2004.

I looked up his career Stats on From 1998 though 2000 A-Rod hit 125 Home Runs while playing for Seattle. In his three years with the Rangers he hit 156 Home Runs. However he played 47 more games in those three years than he had in the past 3 years with Seattle. Not to mention the fact that playing 81 games per year in Texas (historically) helps the player’s Slugging Percentage and Home Run production.

A-Rod never specifically said what he was taking and where he got it. He did however say “Back then, you could walk into GNC and get four or five different products that would probably trigger a positive test.” He also intimated that many other players were doing the same as he did, when he said “The culture was pretty prevalent.

I hope that this doesn’t blemish Rodriguez’s accomplishments. He had the guts to tell us about his drug use and he also apologized to his fans and to all baseball fans, for falling into a trap.

Instead of diminishing my admiration for A-Rod, the interview increase my appreciation of him as a player and a person.

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Taking Pride in What You Have Done

I am proud of three things that I have done (concerning this Blog) during the past two weeks.

First and foremost, unlike some other Bloggers that I read on a semi-regular basis, I have not commented on President Obama’s lack of support (for the Economic Recovery Bill) in the Senate. I believe that he is trying to do his best. Nor have I commented on some of his pre-Inaugural statements about hiring the right people for the right jobs on his Cabinet and Executive Staff. Let’s give him 100 days before we start shooting (figuratively not literally) at him. Therefore I take pride in my restraint.

Secondly, on February 1st, I finally deleted my two Blogs concerning Haulover Beach. I had threatened to do so long before, but I didn’t follow through because I did not want to see the numbers on my Stat Counter drop. I was getting at least 20 visitors per week from people that Goggled a variety of Haulover Beach terms and another 5 or 6 from I finally decided that quality readers were more important to me than the quantity of readers. I take pride in my decision.

Last, but surely not least, I have become someone’s favorite Blogger. Some of my friends and relatives have told me, in the past, that I was their favorite Blogger. I, of course, asked them “How many different Blogs do you read per week”? The most common answer was “just yours”. Wow, what an accolade.

But the person who called me her favorite Blogger isn’t just the average Blog reader. She is a renowned editorial Cartoonist and a Daily Comic Strip author. Signe Wilkinson. She posted a note on her Page on January 28th; stating that I was now her favorite Blogger. Signe Wilkinson. I really take pride in this accomplishment.

The Beach Bum

Monday, February 09, 2009

Jamaican Holiday


Saturday afternoon I related, in a telephone conversation with my World Traveling friend Dave, a story about my experiences on my first trip to Jamaica. This story tied in with a Blog that I wrote about two weeks ago.

I finished writing this Blog Saturday afternoon, but did not post it because it tied in with another Blog that I was planning to write. But the other Blog should follow (for continuity purposes) this Blog and not precede it. If you understand what I am trying to say here, you are as off kilter as I am.

The Blog:

The first time that I visited Jamaica was in January 1987. At that time, I was working 70 plus hours per week and my partner told me that I should get away from the business for a while and take a vacation. He told me that I was burning out and that it was time for me to recharge my batteries. It was a slow time for our business, so I agreed.

My eldest daughter was working for a travel agency, so I called her to set me up with a 5 day vacation, leaving on Sunday and returning on Thursday. I was thinking Fort Lauderdale or even the Bahamas (I had been to the Bahamas before). But she said “No Dad, go to Jamaica”.

So I called the seventh “Love of my Life”; she was at home watching Soaps. I said “I have good news.” She replied quickly “Call back in 20 minutes when Days (The Days of Our Lives) is over.” and hung up. I was a little bit put off, but I knew better than to push the point. We had lived together for nearly 4 years at this time, and I knew her ins and outs and ups and downs. I called back 25 minutes later.

I told her that we were going to Jamaica on Sunday. Her response was “Great, we’ll have to go shopping for new clothes tomorrow.”

When we left BWI Airport it was 18 degrees and when we arrived in Montego Bay it was 80 degrees. We had changed clothes in the airplane lavatory and stashed our winter clothes in my carry-on.

The first thing that you notice when you enter Customs at Sangster Airport is a large wall size sign that list about 10 to 12 slang terms for Marijuana (number one is Ganja). At the bottom of the sign it was clearly stated that possession of the above substances was illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

After we cleared Customs we moved on to the lower level Baggage Claim. From there we went to our tour operators Kiosk about 25 feet away. While waiting in line, we were approached by a man who asked if we wanted to buy some Ganja. We figured that it was a set-up, and said no, and that we didn’t use drugs. That night we were approached on the beach by another Jamaican trying to sell us Ganja. We said no thanks.

The next morning we were walking to the Resort's Restaurant that served Breakfast and we notice several employees of the Resort smoking Ganja. After breakfast I questioned the Desk Clerk about this. He laughed and said that as long as we did in private it would be “No Problem, Mon.” He also cautioned us about trying to take it out of the Country.

The following day we took a trip to Dunns River Falls. On the way there I noticed a large field of Hemp plants, visible from the road. When we arrived at the Falls our Tour Guide (the guy who walks you up the Falls) was a big Jamaican man in his forties. While waiting for the tour group to assemble he lit up one of the largest joints that I had ever seen. He asked me if I wanted a drag, I said no but the 7th Love of My Life (pictured above) took him up on his offer.

After we returned to the Resort we were again approached with the offer of Ganja for sale; this time we accepted. Two days later we left the remainder of our stash with a $50J (about $8 US) as a tip for the maid.

The Beach Bum

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The Drug Store

When I was stationed at Kagnew Station (Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa) in the 1960’s recreational drugs were legal in that Country. But it was illegal for us, in the United States Military, to buy them. In fact, the downtown Asmara Farmacia was off limits to all US Citizens except for the Peace Corp personnel. This was not imposed by the Ethiopian Government, but by the US Government.

In the Farmacia, one could purchase prescription medicines and narcotic drugs over the counter. Tetracycline (the drug that the Post Hospital would give you if you caught Gonorrhea from the biweekly blanket exchange) was fairly inexpensive. A lid (one ounce) of very high quality (at least that was what I was told) Hashish cost 5 Ethiopian dollars ($2 US dollars). Opiates were just slightly more expensive. Since we were not allowed to go into the Farmacia, we couldn’t legally take advantage of these great prices. Only the locals, tourists and the Peace Corp could. Hmm!

When I returned to the United States in October 1968, I was told, by a friend, that a lid of Hash was going for $35 to $40. To put this in proper perspective, a Big Mac, Fries and Coke cost less than a dollar.

According to the inflation calculator, what cost $1 in 1968 would cost $5.90 in 2007. However, I was told by a neighbor (about a year ago), that the cost was about $100 to $125 an ounce. He doesn’t use the stuff, but a friend of a friend does.

I questioned why, in this time of inflation, is the price so relative low? He said “Hydroponics and Grow Lights.” He also said that the quality of the product (THC levels) is much better than in the past and that the plants have higher yields. Growing cannabis in a garage or basement has become a cottage industry. It cost very little to produce and it’s easy to grow.

The hard part is not getting caught selling it.

NORML has been trying to legalize Marijuana for years. But let’s say that we make it illegal to sell it, but not to grow or use it. The Government would set up a Farmacia style chain throughout the country (this would employ a lot of people); they would also buy it from the people who were now allowed to grow it (more employment) legally and sell it in their Drug Stores.

The Government would sell it to the consumers at a lower cost than the Drug Dealers charge and still make a profit.

But this is a moot point because we are too moralistic and using drugs is very immoral.

The Beach Bum

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Warning Signs

There is a warning label on every beer that I drink. Although I do not read and heed them, I know that they are there. It is a generally agreed to fact that the consumption of alcoholic beverages in more than moderate quantities is not good for your physical well being.

The warning on the label of the beer that I am now consuming reads:

1)According to the Surgeon General women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. 2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and can cause health problems.

There is no warning label on my Vodka bottle. Why? Is drinking beer more dangerous than drinking Vodka? My beer is less than 10 proof – my Vodka is 80 proof.

The cigarette that I am now smoking also has a warning label on each pack. The warnings vary from carton to carton. The current warning reads:

Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema And May Complicate Pregnancy.

It is a known fact that both tobacco and alcohol contribute to heart disease. Yet I continue to put myself at risk even though I am aware of these facts and the statistics.

However what I don’t do is eat a Super-Sized Big Mac and Fries with a large Coke (not Pepsi). This food combination is known to clog the arteries and cause Heart Disease if consumed on a regular basis.

This now brings us to the Question of the Day:

Why isn’t there a Government or Surgeon General’s warning on the Big Mac and French fry containers that you get from McDonald’s or any other Fast Food Restaurant?

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Trickling Up II - Addendum Part II

My world traveling friend Dave left a comment (I read it after posting my Addendum Blog) on my Trickling Up – Part II Blog. He puts forward some interesting questions about my proposed Economic Recovery Plan.

First he asks if “it would include well-off folks who can afford their mortgage payment with no problem?

It depends on what is considered to be well-off.

Three years ago I considered myself to be well-off. I paid all of my bills (including rent) before the due date. I had no debt. I dined out at least once per week. I went to my favorite watering hole at least two nights per week. I could easily afford my bad habits (drinking and smoking). I was able to take a two week (unpaid) vacation every summer. My Medical costs were fully paid (Prescriptions, if any, cost me $7). I could lavishly entertain out of town guest when they came to visit me. Yet I was still able to put money into savings each month.

But there are millions of people that were far better-off than me. There are people who are able to pay their mortgages and bills with ease and yet put a good amount of money into savings. These same people were able to take two or three extended overseas vacations per year.

But since we are giving away the taxpayers money; let’s add Subsection A to Amendment #1 (People that own homes (outright) valued at $750,000 or less would get a one time cash payment of $10,000).

Subsection A, would give the above benefit to Homeowners (homes valued at $750,000 or less) that the people who own there homes outright get. With the stipulation that the money would be paid to them after they had spent the money on Durable Goods purchased in the USA (receipts required).

Dave then goes on to ask “And shouldn't it be considered an interest-free loan from the government (from the taxpayers, actually) that has to be repaid when the place is sold, at least to the extent there's a gain from that low market value?

I though that this was implied in the original Blog. We are giving the money to the people rather than the Corporations and Banks. The Banks and Corporations would be getting it as a loan; therefore the people that we are bailing out of foreclosure would have to repay the loan when their property sold.

Dave then states “But more importantly, it ain't a stimulus if it goes in the bank, and as you pointed out, this money definitely goes in the bank.

My point as well as Jon Stewart’s; was rather than give the money directly to the Banks and lending institutions, give it to the people, who will in turn give it to them. This way the Banks and lending institutions get their bailout money indirectly from the Government. The homeowners now have lower affordable mortgages. And with the extra money they are saving, on their mortgage, they spend it and therefore stimulate the Economy.

Thanks for your comments Brother Dave.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Trickling Up II - Addendum

Both yesterday and today I received many comments on my recent Blogs about the Economic Recovery. Unfortunately they were delivered by email or on the telephone.

One point that was made was that I hadn’t included any benefits for the Old Pharts who own their homes outright. It’s a good point because there are many retirees, on a limited retirement income, that still must pay property tax and land or condo fees.

So the first Amendment (this is sounding like a bill in Congress) to my proposal is:
People that own homes (outright) valued at $750,000 or less would get a one time cash payment of $10,000.

Another point made was that I excluded people whose homes did not decrease much in value, but have lost their jobs (or have been laid off) and their unemployment compensation barely covers their mortgage and utilities. Somehow I forgot about these people.

Therefore we must add Amendment #2. Individuals on unemployment compensation would get up to $1200 per month to pay their housing costs until they were reemployed. But this would only apply to people that made less than $150,000 per year before becoming unemployed.

The third point that was made was the most interesting of them all. “What are you going to do for the people that have already lost their homes to foreclosure?” I will assume that they are currently renting and would qualify for the rental segment of my proposition in my last Blog.

But just for fun, let’s add a third Amendment. People in this category would get what they lost in mortgage payments. But, this money is only to be applied to the purchase of another home of lesser or equal value. The FHA would grant the loan regardless of credit history. This will give them a second chance to either do well or screw up again.
Finally, one friend, who worked in the Banking Industry for years, postulated the following plan in his email to me:
"Good ideas - another package idea - people to people-no government hand outs.

There has to be at least 1 million parents capable of giving the tax free gift of $12,500 to their children. Assume they have 2 kids- $25,000 total.

Multiply 1 million x $25k - $25,000,000,000 into the economy instantly.

How about parents buying their kids something valued at $1500? I am sure there are 10 million parents that can afford to spend $4500 or even $3000.

10 million x 3k = $30,000,000,000

Multiply the numbers- they are staggering."

The Beach Bum

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Trickling Up - Part II

I enjoyed the Super Bowl yesterday – it was a very good game, for a change. However the Commercials were not as good as they are normally. The Halftime Show was good but not as good I had expected. And I’ve been a Bruce Springsteen fan since 1973.

Now let’s go back to Jon Stewart’s Trickle Up proposition. I’m sure that at least one person on President Obama’s staff watches the Daily Show. I’m also sure that the President himself has viewed the Gwen Ifill interview. This should give him something to think about when they re-hash (or should I say un-pork) the Economic Stimulus Bill.

Don’t bailout the large Corporations or the Banking Industry; give the money to the people. Give the money to the people is something that I have been saying for the past 7 or 8 months.

I have a simple plan and here’s how it works. And this plan will stimulate the Economy.

The first issue that I will address is Mortgages.

Many people bought overpriced homes between 2003 and 2005. They panicked because prices were escalating monthly. There was a construction boom here in Florida at that time. It kept a lot of Illegal Aliens of Spanish descent working. But it also increased the price of the used homes on the market. Real Estate Agents use a tool called comparables to judge the market value of a resale home.

At the same time the banks and mortgage brokers were loaning people money that were marginal credit risks at best.

For example – there is a house on the market (2 miles from where I am living), that was built in 1997, it has 3 bedrooms and 2 and ½ Baths, with a screen enclosed swimming pool, mahogany flooring, nearly 2000 sq. ft. of living space, sitting on a half acre plus of property. Assessed Value of $207,000 (Public Record) and an asking price of $132,905 (this is not a short sale).

The people that bought it in 2003 and paid $170,000 for the property went into foreclosure last year and the bank took it back and has listed it with a Realtor. It’s been on the market for 238 days. No nibbles no bites.

My proposal to use the Economic Recovery money wisely is:

1) The Fed would pay the mortgages down to the current fair market price of the property (For example; if you have a $200,000 mortgage and the fair market value of your home is $140,000 they would give $60,000 to the lender, reducing the mortgage to $140,000) This money would go directly to the lending institutions that are holding the mortgage. In turn these institutions (or others) would refinance the new loan at current rates. Thus lowering the mortgage payment.

This would only apply to people that have owned and lived in their homes for at least a year as of December 31st 2008. The homes must be valued at less than $750,000 to qualify (most of the homes over that amount have probably increased in value, despite the current economic downfall).

Now this is an Economic Stimulus

The Government would have to create about 5000 new jobs (knowing the way the government (HUD) works probably closer to 10,000 jobs) to work this program.

Now this is an Economic Stimulus

What about people who rent? Shouldn’t they get a break? Yes they should.

For people paying less that $2500 per month (if you pay more than that for rent, you are either well off, insane or live in New York City) in rent, the Government should pay 6 months of their rent in advance. This is a maximum total of $15,000 per household. This program would also create new Government jobs.

And what are these people (home owners and renters) going to do with this money saved. They will spend it, invest it or bank it.

Now this is an Economic Stimulus

Parts III and IV will follow shortly.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Trickling Up

I had originally intended to write this Blog last Wednesday, when the topic was fresh. I didn’t because I was suffering from one of my gastrointestinal aliments. I was in pain! I don’t use pain killers or analgesics of any kind. Therefore the thinking and reasoning part of my brain doesn’t function as well as it should. In other words - I cut back on my alcohol intake.

Last Tuesday night’s guest on the Daily Show (on Comedy Central) was Gwen Ifill touting her new book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama”. Near the end of the interview, Jon Stewart (the Daily Show host and inquisitor) turned the subject to economic policies.

Speaking about the billions (or a trillion)of dollars for the bailout, Stewart said “Give us (meaning individuals rather than the banking industry) the money, but only for consumer debt and mortgages.”

Stewart called it his “Trickle up” theory of Economics. The people get the bailout money and give it to the financial institutions.

I had written several Blogs last summer and fall advocating that the Government give the bailout money to the people rather than to the Corporations that had raped us and put us in the economic crisis that we are currently facing.

Last week I was looking at the Economic Stimulus Bill that passed the House. I don’t see many of sections (of the bill) that will help stimulate our Economy. If you have a few spare hours to waste you can view H.R. 1 here.

Jon Stewart didn’t go into depth on his “Trickle up” proposal.

I have my own proposal for trickling up the Economy. I’ll Blog about that later.

The Beach Bum

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