Wednesday, January 28, 2009

That's a Big Baby

The Hobo Philosopher

That’s a big baby

By Richard E. Noble

My wife and I didn’t have any children. People often look at us with the beginning of a tear in their eye and say, “Oh how sad.” But there is nothing wrong with either of us - really. We chose not to have children. When people ask me why I made such a choice, I have two answers.

Answer #1 - When I was young, I didn’t feel that I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of having children. When I felt that I was mature enough to handle the responsibility, I was too old to have any children.

Answer # 2 - I never really liked being a child myself. So why should I stick that burden onto somebody else.

But owning an ice cream parlor was an eye opening experience for any childless couple.

My first observation was the same as many famous visitors in the past have noted about Americans - kids rule.

I sincerely believe that some mothers used to cart their children over to my ice cream parlor because they could not stand to watch any more destruction of their own home. They would open the doors to their vehicles and the kids would come running. They would bang and roughhouse their way through the front door. Then it was a mad dash for the free juke box so that they could press every button on it.

Kids came into the store with sneaker roller-skates. I never saw anything like it. They would roller-skate all over the store smashing into everything and everyone. All I could think was that they would tumble over a few of my older customers, and I’d have a lawsuit on top of everything else.

The biggest question I have for young mothers is. How large does a child have to get before he/she is considered too large to be carried on a mother’s hip. There were some five-foot-three mothers in my store carrying around some five-foot-nine kids. I’m not kidding. These kids were big. And some little ladies had one monster on each hip. It was amazing.

Then came the question and answer period. The mother is standing there in front of the ice cream case. She has this 22 year old on her hip. It has one whole hand in its mouth.

“Now what flavor would you like, Bevis?”

Bevis would look over the vast assortment of ice cream obviously wondering what it was. When I would look in the kid’s direction, he/she would tuck his head into mommy’s shoulder. Mommy would smile as the line of people who knew exactly what they wanted formed behind her.

On some occasions, I was convinced that the kid on mommy’s hip didn’t even know how to talk yet. Why was she asking him all these questions when all he could say was da-da and goo-goo?

Ninety percent of the time the kid didn’t order a flavor of ice cream, he screamed a color: I want blue; I want red; I want green.

Some mothers would stand at the case with me or my wife and chit-chat while there kids would systematically go about destroying anything in reach. The mothers in these particular cases usually had eyes that were glazed over. They looked like they hadn’t slept for days. Their hair was often unwashed and their clothes looked randomly selected.

Most mothers seem to have the ability to disconnect themselves from their kids. If you watched the kids and then watched the mothers, you wouldn’t even know that the kids belonged to them. I think this was a strategy. Nevertheless I hesitated to point out a misbehaving child to its mother. I was afraid that the woman would simply explode. “YES, YES, YES! IT’S MY CHILD! What do you want me to do about it! It’s too late for a abortion now. I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought it would love me. I was lonely. I needed to be fullfilled. I didn’t know it would be like this. Do you think that I would have had children if I knew this was going to happen? What do I look like - a complete idiot?”

Did you ever watch the TV show, the Nanny. My god!
My wife and I watch that show and constantly compliment ourselves on our decision. We have truly been “blessed.”

The Eastpointer is R.E. Noble latest publication. It is a selection of columns from the Franklin Chronicle. It is for sale on Amazon or locally at Downtown Books. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived in Franklin County for thirty years.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

This guy is a classic! You have to see this guy to believe him. And if you would like to see him, even though he has been dead for quite some time, all that you have to do is go to University College in London; open up this cabinet and there he sits. He had his body mummified and placed in a hermetically sealed cabinet so that at any time after his death his friends and supporters could come and visit and have an intellectual chit chat in his presence. His head is actually a wax replica. His real mummified head, at first, sat at his feet. This was considered to be a little much and Jeremy's actual head is now sitting in a cabinet above his waxed duplicate.
He is pretty much acclaimed to be the father or prophet of 'Utilitarianism'. The basic notion of this school of thought is that Human Beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. On the surface most people would automatically accept this as true, and still do today, but in my viewing of the history of Mankind it seems obviously false. If this principle is even remotely accurate you will then have to explain to me the ever prevalent phenomenon of War. If you can accomplish this rationalization, then explain to me the basic punitive and punishing philosophies of nearly all major religions, which seem to deal almost exclusively with the basic evil nature of the human beast and the justification of his punishment and suffering, or purification in this life and the next. And if you can conquer this obstacle to the pleasure/pain principle then explain to me the female penchant for child birth.
Jeremy was a prolific writer, but he was never concerned in publishing anything that he wrote, obviously delighting in the task for his own edification. He carried this self-edification to even more personalization by writing in a language of his on making. Some enterprising scholar, a guy named Dumont, managed to translate Bentham into French which led his critics to challenge that if only someone could now translate Jeremy into English.
He developed a Hedonic or Felicific Calculus, which was a refined or detailed system for logically deducing the pleasure/pain quotient of any situation. For example which is more pleasurable; drinking beer, playing poker and telling dirty jokes with Billy Graham, the Pope and Fulton Sheehan or; having a sex orgy with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bella Absug, and Gloria Childes? By applying the Felicific Calculus we come to the obvious and universal decision that it will be more pleasurable to play poker, drink beer and tell dirty jokes with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bella Absug and Gloria Childs than to engage in a sexual orgy with Billy Graham, the Pope, and Fulton Sheehan.
From Hedonic Calculus he went to the Panopticon. The Panopticon was a theoretical private enterprise prison designed to be operated by one man, supervising a large number of inmates. He couldn't find any government funding for this idea. He would obviously be one of today's entrepreneurs.
It is estimated that he wrote twenty million words in his days, and it does seem to me that the quantity of words one is able to accomplish in his lifetime is directly proportional to his later historical fame. I have therefore set my personal goal to write more words than any man yet to have existed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Hobo Philosopher

Is America Owned by Slumlords

By Richard E. Noble

I was raised in a slum. I would call it a ghetto but that term, has a more racial overtone. Ghettoes are where races of unaccepted people are sequestered, usually because of some sort of hatred or prejudice. A slum is inhabited by a multitude of poor of any ethnic or racial background. They are all there not necessarily because of any hatred or prejudice on the part of the established population but for lack of any other place to put them. The interesting thing about slums is that they never seem to go away. The slum that I was raised in is still there and it looks even worse than it looked fifty years ago. The population inhabiting that slum is new and the conditions of their lives are even worse than what my life was when I lived there.
Today as I drive around America it looks to me like a country that has been purchased by what we once called a slumlord. A slumlord was a guy who bought property in deteriorating areas for the sole purpose of making as large a profit as possible until the building finally tumbled to the ground.
Our country today looks like it has been bought up by slumlords. Take a look around. Roads and bridges are deteriorating, school houses all over America are falling apart. I read someplace that 50% of America's children are being taught in school building that are not safe or have been condemned. This seems difficult to believe.
But true or false, I’m beginning to wonder who really owns America today. Our industrial base is gone. Manufacturing once represented 80% of our GDP. It now represents 20%. Jobs are leaving our country and domestic wages are dropping. If Americans were truly running this country would they be doing this to themselves? I can’t believe that they would.
Why aren’t slums gone in America? We know that poverty circumstances nurture crime. Why are we nurturing crime and promoting poverty? Why do we expect a worker to learn a new trade every five years? Why don’t we protect our industries, our workers and our jobs?
Why do we tolerate homelessness? No one should be living in the streets, sewers or alleys of America.
Why do we tolerate drug addiction? Why do we tolerate unemployment? Why is it that any child who has the ability is not going to college? How can we cut funds to hospitals for cancer treatment and other diseases? How can we allow hospitals to close when there are people without medical care? What is going on here?
Are Americans running America?
I don’t think so. I think we are an occupied country. Somebody strange is pulling the strings. No country would do such things to itself.
Something has got to change. We can afford war but we can’t afford peace. Why not? How did it become national policy that we promote peace by initiating war? The Bush administration has now STARTED two wars. How did this happen? When is this insanity going to end? When does America come to its senses?
Not only do bridges and roads have to be rebuilt, our slums have to be torn down and rebuilt. Neighborhoods have to be recreated with employment at their centers. Our system needs a new moral code - a moral code that despises poverty, slums, and unemployment.
We once despised businesses that were too big. Now all our businesses are so big that they can’t be allowed to fail. Maybe the failure is that they have been allowed to grow too big?
Our bottom line economics no longer makes sense. We can’t keep putting everybody out of work and sending our jobs overseas and expect our nation to grow. We have to build new jobs in America and keep them in America.
Our children must be protected. Their parents must have jobs and affordable places to live and raise their children. This is not economic theory. This is common sense.
This all must end. The insanity must stop. We must have peace, security and prosperity at home before we go abroad to set the world straight.

The Eastpointer is R.E. Noble’s latest publication. It is a selection of columns from the Franklin Chronicle. It is for sale on Amazon along with Hobo-ing America, A Summer with Charlie, A Little Something, and Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Save the Bay

The Eastpointer

Save the Bay and a way of life

By Richard E. Noble

At a recent get-together with some friends the discussion turned to the bay and the attitudes of the people who live around it. Do the people of Franklin County really want to preserve the bay? Do the majority of residents want to preserve the seafood community? Does the seafood community want to preserve the seafood community? These were some of their questions.

“It seems to me,” offered one individual, “that the attitude of the local seafood community changes with the economic winds. It also seems to me that though everybody in Franklin County would like to see the bay healthy not everybody is all that concerned with the seafood industry.”

“If you have listened to the County Commission over the years,” offered another. “You would think that the preservation of the bay and “the way of life” of the local seafood community was the number one priority. But if you look around you see that oyster houses have pretty much disappeared, seafood workers are at a minimum and the local seafood industry is more of a curiosity than a thriving enterprise. Over the same period the Island has grown in leaps and bounds and as the seafood community has fallen off into the background the “outsiders” have prospered and grown.”

“Right at this moment everything is on the decline,” another said. “But for awhile there, construction and real estate were the main businesses of Franklin County. People would write letters to the editor calling for action on the part of the local people to save their way of life and fight condo-miniumism. ‘What do you people want to do - scrub the rich people’s boats, clean their fancy homes, build their new fancy palaces and hang plaster? What do you want to baby-sit their dogs and cats and detail their Cadillacs?’ Well strangely enough when most of those jobs did become available many seafood workers grabbed them up. They made more money than they ever made catching oysters or fishing, I’ll bet.”

“When the building boom started oystermen carpentered,” interjected another. “It does seem that whenever there is a better job available there is a seafood worker standing in line to get it. Could it be that what the seafood workers of Franklin County want is a decent job and not necessarily to be a martyr for a dying way of life”?

Another fellow then said. “Did you see how fast them dealers sold out over in Eastpoint when Porthaven came to town? The place was packed with Eastpointers and most of them wanted Porthaven and the hell with the bay. When it came to money it was the heck with the way of life. What did they get for that little stretch over there, twelve, fourteen million?”

Another fellow spoke up. “I didn’t go to that meeting but I’ve been here all my life and this bay has been an excuse to keep every sort of business and decent job out of here for years. ‘Save the bay; save the bay, everybody shouts’. They didn’t even want to have a paper mill way back or a fast-food joint over in Apalach. They wanted to keep the workers trapped out on that bay. I was talking to a dealer the other day. I asked him what he thought of these commissioners and their efforts to save the bay. He looked at me and smirked. ‘Nobody here is trying to save this bay, my friend. It’s over. Look around. They are just trying to suck up money from the state and whatever other fools come along.’ I think he hit the nail right on the head.”

“That’s what I say. It ain’t love. It’s economics,” a friend added. “Everybody wants money. If they could get enough money for that bay, why they would pave the whole thing over and turn it into a parking lot. All that bay has done is keep the people here poor. The whole darn community was ready to sell out a few months back when the real estate was bubbling. All that matters is if the price is right.”

I covered the Porthaven Commission meeting and wrote a report of that event for the Chronicle. When Willard Vinson stood up and spoke against the Porthaven Project, he was booed and told by many to sit down. Many Eastpointers claimed that they were tired of being “the red-headed step child” of Franklin County. They wanted their piece of the pie.

The Commission to my surprise at first voted it down. People jumped from their seats and shook their fists at the Commission. “We’ll remember this at election time,” several of them shouted.

Now that the real estate has died, the construction is gone, the rental businesses and cleaning services on the Island are minimal, and the restaurants are fading fast, oyster boats are popping up once again. I don’t know what the “people” of Franklin County really want. If you read the history of Franklin County you see, the economic tide has come in and it has gone out but over the years the seafood business has remained. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens this time.

The Eastpointer is R.E. Noble’s latest publication. It is a selection of columns from the Franklin Chronicle. It is for sale on Amazon. Richard won 1st place in humor in 2007 from the Florida Press Association for his efforts with this column.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Old Man

The Eastpointer

Old Man and Oysters

By Richard E. Noble

An old man came walking into the restaurant. I had to look twice. This old man had grown old right before my eyes. A lot of this type thing has been going around in my world lately. Little girls who I last saw scrambling around on a floor were now mothers themselves and teenagers I once knew somehow became school teachers and policemen.

This old man had a bulldozer and a dump truck when last I saw him. He cleared my lot as a matter of fact.

I gave him a look and a big smile when he came in but he didn’t recognize me - it had been a long time. I kept looking over at the old timer because I was still somewhat shocked. I could look at his face and remember just how he looked thirty years ago.

He was basically the same today - his cheeks a little hollowed, his step more tentative, his gaze slightly glassy - but basically the same guy. He had that same big smile and that constantly bemused look.

When the waitress came over he joked and laughed and put in his order. The special for the day was raw oysters on the half shell.

My wife and I were there for the oysters too. We had already downed four dozen and we were now sitting back and sloshing down the last of our draft beer.

As I glanced over every now and then to check on my old neighbor, I noticed that he had gotten the raw oysters also - and he was having the same trouble that we were having. For some reason the oyster shucker had not cut the oysters away from the bottom shell.

The old man struggled with the raw oysters attempting to scrape them away from the shell with his tiny fork. He began looking around for the waitress as he played around with his oysters. But she was busy. The place was packed and she was running all over the place. Finally, seeing that the oysters were being shucked no more than five steps away from his table - at the little raw bar - he rose from his seat picked up his straw basket lined with deli paper and headed for the raw bar.

I could see that he had developed a little case of the “shakes.” His straw basket was giggling in his hand like a Spanish maraca. He walked straight ahead concentrating on his goal and trying to catch the oyster shucker’s eye - not noticing that juice and water from in his basket was sloshing out of his straw tray all over the place - most heavily down the front of his nicely pressed tan trousers. As teenagers we probably would have witnessed this event and giggled and snickered but now, being just a few years behind my good neighbor, a sadness comes along with the slight amusement. It is really sad but, like a couple of insensitive kids, one has to laugh.

After he got his oysters cut away from the bottom shell, laughing and chatting all the while, he turned and headed back to his seat. I forced my wife to turn around and watch. It was the same on the way back to his table as it was on the way over - if not worse. The poor old boy was soaked.

When he sat down at his table he gathered up a fresh napkin and proceeded to spread it out onto his lap. Of course when he looked down at his lap he was completely shocked. How had his lap become soaked with water? He stared down at his pants. My wife and I could just hear the gears moving. “My god, what did I do ... pee my pants? I didn’t feel anything. There must be something wrong here.” Suddenly he looked up to the ceiling. That must be it. The darn ceiling leaks.

The ceiling was one of those warehouse type deals. All the rafters and pipes were left visible for the effect. When my old buddy saw the big round pipes running across the rafters, he had a revelation. One of them pipes up there must be leaking. When the waitress came to his table we watched the silent movie.

The old man says something. They both look down at his lap. The poor waitress is horror struck. She grabs up some napkins and starts scrubbing at the poor old man’s crotch. The old man’s face turns red - then the waitress’ face follows. The old man wards her off. He says something and then they both gaze up at the ceiling and stare at the giant cream colored pipes running across the rafters. The man continues to talk as the waitress shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders. My wife and I now had our napkins up over our faces trying to disguise our laughter.

But I must say we weren’t laughing at the poor old cougar; we were laughing with him or at ourselves - because without doubt in a very few years even with the grace of God there we are. And one day Sonny, if you’re lucky enough, even you.

The Eastpointer is Richard Noble’s latest creation. It is now for sale on Amazon and locally at Downtown Books Richard Noble is a freelance writer and has been a resident of Eastpoint for 30 years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stress Test

The Hobo Philosopher

My Nuclear Stress Test

By Richard E. Noble

Actually, I thought marriage was the ultimate stress test. When the Doctor asked me if I ever had a stress test, I told him that I’ve been undergoing a continuous stress test for the last 35 years, I’m married. He said that didn’t count and that I would have to have his stress test. So there you go.
Okay, so I need a stress test. No big deal. I walk, ride my bike, I even have a treadmill in my bedroom. We use it primarily as a clothes rack and occasionally as a bookshelf. The cats like to sleep on it also. I feel pretty good. What’s to worry about with a routine, everyday stress test? But what about this nuclear stuff?
So there I am over in Apalachicola sitting in a room with a bunch of other stressed out people waiting for my stress test.
After the usual extended wait obviously designed to jack up my blood pressure which I assume is all a part of the stress test, I’m escorted into a room by this little girl. To me she appears to be no more than 12 or 14 years of age. She assures me that she is out of high school, has been trained, and is old enough to be doing what she is doing. Sure, I heard that before, I was in the navy.
She asks me if I would like to see some pictures of her twin daughters. I say no, probably if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen the other. She didn’t laugh and I still didn’t believe anything she had to say. But what difference does it make. This is just a little stress test. It is not open heart surgery.
Basically they have this machine similar to the one I hang my clothes on at home. She gives me a little speech and tells me that if I feel any pain in my chest, just let her know and she will stop the test.
Before I got onto the machine, she stuck me with a needle and put some kind of receptacle in my arm.
She starts up the machine and I start walking. Everything is fine. But then every three minutes she jacks up the incline and the speed of the belt. After about 3 or 4 increases, I’m going fast. Actually, I’m going about as fast as I would like to go.
“Okay,” she says. “Are you ready for another increase?”
I say, “You’re kidding me! I’m just about running now.”
She smiles and jacks up the machine another notch. Now I’m running. I can’t remember the last time I ran. I think I was playing basketball for the grammar school league.
“You don’t have to run,” she says. “You can just take bigger strides.”
“Yeah right! I think this is about it.” I tell the little girl. “You can turn off the machine anytime now.”
“The test isn’t over yet, sir. Are you having any chest pain?”
“No, I’m not having any chest pain, but my calf muscles are in agony. My thighs feel like they are about to give way. My back is hurting and I can barely hang onto this thing.”
“Okay are you ready for another increase?”
“You can’t be serious?”
“If you start having any chest pains, let me know.”
“Chest pain! What do you have a thing with chest pain? What about all these other pains? I’m going to be on the floor in about 30 more seconds.”
At this point, Igor from the “laboratory” comes in with a hypodermic needle and starts shooting me up in the receptacle in my arm with what I assume is the nuclear waste that they have been telling me about for the super scan later.
“Okay,” says Little Lulu. “One more time. Just hang in there for fifteen more seconds.”
“Fifteen more seconds?” I’m panting like a sled dog on the last mile of the Iditarod. My lungs feel like they are about to explode, one of my sneakers just feel off and my pants are sliding down. “I ain’t going to make it, sweetie. This is the end of the road. Turn off the machine or you’re going to be scraping me off that wall behind us in a second.”
“Just fifteen more seconds.”
“That’s what you said twenty minutes ago. I’m done here! This is it!”
She smiles. About 20 minutes later she finally turns off the machine. I stumble off the treadmill and find a chair. I’m panting, my lungs hurt and I can’t stop coughing.
“Do you have any chest pain,” she asks.
I can’t believe this. How did a young girl at such a tender age become so sadistic? What did old people ever do to her? Maybe her grandfather used to beat her when she was even smaller than she is now.
“What do you call this place, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib?” I sputter between gasps and coughs. “Why didn’t you have me push my car across the Apalachicola Bridge?”
She smiles.
I didn’t have to wait for the results of the test. I knew I passed. I was still alive. Obviously if you drop dead on the walking machine you flunk.

“A Little Something” is R.E. Noble’s first book of poetry and it is now on sale at Amazon and locally at Downtown Books along with Hobo-ing America, A Summer with Charlie and Honor Thy Farther and Thy Mother. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived here in Eastpoint for nearly 30 years.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Poverty Tax

The Poverty Tax


By Richard E. Noble

Today in America we are constantly told that the rich pay all the taxes and the poor pay nothing. In fact, the poor are collecting payments from the wealthy for the privilege of the choice they made to be poor. As I understand it the poor have chosen their poverty. If they didn't want to be poor they could have made better choices and not been poor.
Although I hope that most of you find this argument rather ridiculous, this is not a new or recent argument. This argument has an ancient, classical heritage. It goes back into Roman and Greek times when the elitist thinkers considered poverty and slavery to be the work of the gods. Later on the "One True Church" also announced and supported the notion that God had his chosen "elect" and the rest of us were meant to be used, abused and starved.
In my opinion overcoming this human tradition has been the main struggle of the majority of mankind since its origin. This concept never seems to die. It is constantly being revived. In today’s world it has even gotten worse, if that could be possible. In ancient times poverty and subservience was blamed on God or the gods but in today's world it is blamed on the individual. The poor themselves are responsible for their poverty. They have made all the wrong choices and are lacking in drive and ambition.
The wealthy and even the middle class are very upset with the poor. They are tired of helping the poor out and paying for their lack of effort. The rich and even middle class in this nation no longer want to pay their taxes or any taxes - if that can be made possible. If taxes must be paid they want the poor to pay more. They want the poor to bear their fair burden.
It is my opinion that the poor are in reality the highest taxed of all classes in this country. They pay taxes that the middle-off and the better-off don't even know about.
The poor pay the "dumb" tax.
Poor people are not often blessed with the highest intellects. Yes, there have been many poor people who were very intelligent, but the ranks of the poor are heavy with those who are the least blessed or gifted intellectually. It has always amazed me how the most gifted and brightest among us take such pride in competing and beating the least gifted in our society.
To have regular people competing against the poor for jobs and education is like having Olympic champions competing in the Special Olympics and taking the medals from those simple children.
In our society we are able to make the distinction between the "retarded" and the normal, but we make no gradations for differing degrees of normal. If a person is two points above the retarded level he is considered normal and expected to compete on the same level with those who register as genius. Because you are not blessed genetically you work for less than is necessary to provide for yourself and you live in poverty, squalor, or in some extreme cases under a bridge or in a sewer. In the not so distant past this was called "social injustice."
Because you were born smarter this means that you deserve the greatest rewards from our society and because you were born less smart this means that you deserve prison, poverty, or the gutter or sewer?
As an intelligent person shouldn't it be your moral obligation to try and assist and make those less blessed better off? How can it be considered praiseworthy for the best and brightest to use their natural skills and ability to exploit, dominate and enslave the less fortunate?
One only has to look around him in this world and read a few history books to see that using, exploiting and taking advantage of the poor and not well-born has been the case for century after century.
I would say the "dumb" tax is a pretty burdensome tax to inherit through no fault or choice of your own.
2) The poor pay the bad mom and dad tax.
It is also a sociological fact that a majority of the least accomplished parents are found in the poverty classes. There are bad parents in all classes but in the poorer classes bad parenting is more the rule than the exception. There is more abuse of all kinds in the ranks of the poor. I have no doubt that surveys or studies would find that more than ninety percent of prison populations are the products of abusive parenting.
3) The poor pay the education tax.
The poorest children get the poorest education. There is no doubt about this. They also receive the least encouragement from their parents. The poor are the least inspired and the least encouraged.
The poor very often see no advantage to education. Reading a book does not put bread onto a poor family's table. There usually has never been anyone in a poor family to achieve great things. The examples we see and read about are the exceptions not the rule.
4) The poor pay the prison tax.
No, they don't pay for the prison, they provide the population. Poor people fill the prisons all over the world. The rich and the better-off, even the middle-off make up a very small percentage of those that fill the jail cells around the world and also here in the United States. This is another historical and sociological fact. It is not simply a phenomenon of today - it has always been. The only thing that is different today is that those who are prone to obfuscate this fact use more sophisticated psychological techniques and propaganda rather than direct force and abuse.
If you add to this fact the long accepted sociological premise that poverty precipitates or creates crime and then add that poverty is a consequence of the social structure - unemployment, lack of education and vocational training, absence of living wages, income inequality and opportunity - then it seems that society creates crime. This was Clarence Darrow’s point of view.
5) The poor pay the slum tax.
Middle class and the better-off don't usually live in slums. Slums are for the poor. Slums clearly provide those individuals living there with an unhealthy environment - an unhealthy physical environment, mental environment, and social environment.
The better-off and middle-off ride through a nearby slum - and there is always one nearby - and ask one another; Why do those kind of people live like that? It seems that the better-off people think that the poor actually constructed the slums themselves. They never seem to realize that it is one of their "kind" who own these slums. It was one of their kind who originally built these slums. It was one of their kind who profited and made a fortune renting these dilapidated towers of squalor to those who could afford no better; or were not allowed to go elsewhere by economic constrictions. No group of poor ever got together and contracted Frank Lloyd Wright to design them a slum.
6) The poor pay the poor diet tax.
The poor person does not go into the meat market and say; Ah, what shall I have today? No he strolls about looking at the prices and he purchases the least expensive offering. If he hasn't the price for the least expensive offering, he turns and walks out and he goes without that evening. His family goes without. He may eat chicken necks for weeks, or gizzards and liver; or oat meal; or bread and dripping; or potatoes or nothing at all. He may only eat a piece of fruit on a rare occasion and vegetables on special occasions. If he does eat fruit and vegetables they are from a can and contain a lot of salt and no vitamins. His diet for the most part may be broth and bread or crackers. He may eat horse oats or cattle food, or grains that were designed for chickens and other barnyard animals. In the big cities he may eat out of garbage cans.
7) The poor pay the rotten teeth tax.
You can go back through the ages and you will see poor are identified by rotten teeth. A group of “Dentists without Borders” came to the U.S. recently. When interviewed after their free clinic was complete, they all had the same conclusion. If we judge by the condition of peoples’ teeth, America is a third world country.
In this society we hear a lot about “responsibility.” When is this society going to take responsibility for it inadequacies?
8) The poor pay the alcohol tax
The poor child is much more likely to have one or both of his parents to be alcoholics. If you have been raised in a family where alcohol abuse is prevalent, you know what a struggle this can be for the child. The child subject to this type home is not on a level playing field with all the lucky kids who come from non-alcoholic families. He gets a distorted picture of life, home and family. In the race for success he starts ten yards behind the starting line of children without this burden.
9) The poor pay the inflation tax.
Inflation doesn’t hurt everybody. As inflation rises, the investments of the wealthy rise. Business owners compensate and raise their prices disproportionately. They end up making money. But the poor pay through the nose. They are always the last to get a raise in pay. It seems that the American people would rather put a cap on minimum wage than on the multi-million dollar pay checks of corporate executive. Milton Freedmen has devised a famous economic theorem equating inflation with unemployment. In other words, we control inflation by putting poor people out of work. If the economy needs more adjustment we continue from the bottom up – not cutting pay from the top down. Inflation is a big tax on the poor and the elderly. Those who have excess can cut something or adjust their spending; those who have little end up starving and in the street.
10) The poor pay the depression tax.
When the economy slumps the poor are the first to go. Only 30% of those who apply for unemployment compensation ever collect. Unemployment is under reported. Many who lose their jobs never apply for unemployment checks; many rural don’t even have unemployment offices, many take jobs at reduced pay and others end up working part time – the under employed is a big factor. During the Great Depression they reported 20% unemployment, but when part time workers and under employed workers are added the percentage jumps to 40 to 50% unemployed.
11) The poor pay the drug addiction tax.
All of what applies to the child of with alcoholic family influences applies double to the child born to a drug addicted mother or father. As these kids grow older they fill our prisons. Statistics prove this to be a fact. Why does society chose to ignore it?
12) The poor pay the abuse tax.
Whether it is alcohol, drugs, mental illness, or pure meanness and sadism, children who have been abused are subject to great pressure. I have no doubt that once again if we study our prisons we will find abuse of one type or another to exist in the backgrounds of the vast majority of the inmates. Of those that maintain their integrity and manage to stay out of prison, their ability to compete normally and to succeed is hampered significantly.
13) The poor pay the war tax.
It is common knowledge that throughout history, the poor fight the wars. The rich promote and decide on the wars and the regular people fight them. The super-rich and the better-off have always been able to opt out or lay back. The middle class and down make up the bulk of the society and consequently they make up the bulk of any countries armed services.
The poor on both sides of the war pay the price of the war in injuries and deaths. Non-combatant deaths and injuries always far exceed the death and injuries to the soldiers.
14) The poor pay the no-inheritance tax.
The parents of poor children have nothing to leave behind but their debts and bad attitudes. The millionaires may pay a tax on the wealth they leave behind but this is far less of a disadvantage than those who are left nothing behind.
15) The poor pay the immobile tax.
Most poor people see their neighborhood and that is it. They live and die in less than 100 square miles of where they were born. And the statistics judging their economic mobility is much the same. Most kids born into poverty will grow up to be poor themselves. Jumping from poor to working class or middle class is getting more and more difficult and less and less likely. Despite all the Horatio Alger stories, the facts and statistics are negative.
In conclusion, I feel that it is safe to say that what the wealthy pay in taxes is a pittance when compared to what the poor must pay to a society for their poverty. The rich only pay “money,” a portion of their wealth. The poor pay with their hearts, their souls, their minds, bodies and the lives of their children. It is time for a change, the politicians are saying. That is for sure.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

1981 Traffic Controllers Strike

Striking America

By Richard E. Noble

Dear Mr. Poli:
I have been briefed by members of my staff as to the deplorable state of our nation’s air traffic control system. They have told me that too few people working unreasonable hours with obsolete equipment has placed the nation’s air travelers in unwarranted danger. In an area so clearly related to public safety the Carter administration has failed to act responsibly.
You can rest assured that if I am elected President, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety...
I pledge to you that my administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the President and the air traffic controllers.
Ronald Reagan

The above was a letter to, Robert Poli, the head of the traffic controller’s union (PATCO) on October 20, 1980.
On August 3, 1981 after being elected president with the support of PATCO, the Teamsters and the Air Line Pilots Association, the new president ordered the traffic controllers back to work. He gave the union members 48 hours to make up their minds to return to work or lose their jobs. Reagan said that their walking off their jobs on August 3, 1981 constituted “a peril to national safety.”
Reagan warns the union that their strike is illegal and violates a 1955(56) law that prohibits government workers from striking. A federal judge then finds PATCO President Robert Poli in contempt of court and fines the union $1000 a day for each day its members remain on strike.
The strikers do not conform to the President’s demand and ignore the court’s threats. On august 5, 1981 Reagan fires the majority of the union members and bans them from ever being rehired.
On the surface this strike seems typical - higher wages, better working conditions and benefits, and respect for workers. But this strike is far from typical. After reading a number of analyses it becomes rather obvious that something strange is going on.
In 1968 PATCO was founded with the assistance of the famous lawyer F. Lee Bailey. F. Lee bailey was also a pilot in the military.
In 1969 the union staged a “sickout.” The federal courts intervened but yet the FAA was brought to the bargaining table and concessions were made to the union. But even so the underlining causes of the discontent lingered on. In the intervening years complaint after complaint was registered by the controllers - but nothing changed.
Two surveys (The Rose Report and The Jones Report) and a number of studies were conducted to try to determine the exact nature of the controller’s complaints.
The controllers complained of being overworked, over-stressed, under staffed, poor training of incoming controllers, harassed and harried by supervisors, under equipped, and a loss of personal and family time. In 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978 the traffic controllers engaged in nationwide slowdowns and more sickouts. Surveyors and investigators found most of the claims to be true and made recommendations accordingly. The FAA managers ignored the advice and nothing changed.
The controllers’ claims of undue stress were investigated. It was found that though their jobs were considered no more stressful than many others, the controllers were exhibiting stress related symptoms - excessive drinking, family problems, physical and mental breakdowns. Something was wrong and it seemed to be with the FAA management style and personnel. Many of the management team were ex-military. They were authoritarian, demanding, overbearing, unsympathetic, controlling and manipulative.
Finally, on August 3, 1981, 13,000 air traffic controllers walked off the job. The majority of the strikers were fired and never rehired.
In June of 1981 the controllers were offered a $2,500 increase in addition to $1,400 overall government increase along with a few other minor adaptations. Ninety-five percent of the union members rejected the offer.
Reagan summarily fired over 11,350 skilled workers in one day. He was able to do this because the government had been secretly preparing for this circumstance. The secret FAA plan was immediately implemented. A flow control system was incorporated. It regulated and distributed an even number of daily flights. Supervisors, military personnel and secretly trained staff were brought into the workplace. With 7000 fewer controllers than before the strike the government was able to maintain over 80% of scheduled flights.
The new workers were temporarily happy but by 1983 they were once again organizing a union. Now the “scabs” were organizing. It seems that none of the original problems had disappeared. By 1987 the scabs and union busters had formed the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Their complaints seemed to mirror PATCO’s. Investigators were surprised and shocked.
In 2006 the ground started rumbling once again. NATCO and the FAA were at odds over their contract.
Ronald Reagan, patenting himself after his personal “hero” Calvin Coolidge re-orchestrated the infamous Boston Police Strike and much to the same result. Like Calvin Coolidge before him, Mr. Reagan became a hero in the eyes of the American public. His action was hailed by the press and cheered by the populous. Thirteen thousand skilled trained workers were declared to be lying and without legitimate reason for complaint. Eleven thousand three hundred and fifty were fired on the spot in response to a law that seems clearly unconstitutional. If you can deny any group of workers the right to strike, why not all workers? The right to strike as with the right to protest or the right to revolt is not something that a government grants. It is the natural right of the people. If the government chooses to challenge the people, it can do so. It has the power.
It is really difficult to understand fully what went on here. Clearly a political event took place. The problem was obviously not solved. It continues to the day of this writing. But as can be seen from reading all the entries in this volume, respect for the American worker is not and has never been a national priority.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Oystermen Make Good Money

The Eastpointer

Oystermen make good money

By Richard E. Noble
There are certain people who believe, wholeheartedly, that oystermen and seafood workers make a lot of money. You can even ask some oystermen and they will probably tell you about that day back in '06 when they made $300 or even $400 in one day. Of course, they may forget to mention how many people were on the boat. Many oystermen discount their wives' participation. Fruit Pickers and migrants have similar tales of that day of glory when money poured in faster than sweat but those days were few and far between.
In my career of studying people, I have learned that people who are making good money will always tell you how little they earn and what kind of expenses they suffer. Poor people will always brag on how much they have earned and the good choices or purchases they have made. They both lie.
There is an old shrimper's joke that was once very popular locally. A shrimper is asked what he would do if he won a million dollars in the lottery. The shrimper thinks for a moment and then says, "Oh, I suppose that I would just keep right on shrimping until the money ran out."
Oftentimes, when the bay would shut down many oystermen would run around town looking for odd jobs to do for the retired or better-off folks in the neighborhood. It seems that when they were asked how much they would charge for their services they would often be prone to ask for a large remuneration. In consequence many non-seafood types have often said to me, "I know that seafood workers make a lot of money, but $100 just to mow my lawn? They better keep oystering if they want to make that kind of money."
I would suggest that the oysterman didn't ask for $100 to mow your lawn because he was accustomed to making $100 an hour oystering, shrimping or fishing. When he looked at your home and how you were living as compared to his home and how he lived, he probably felt that you had money to burn and that $100 would be peanuts to a "wealthy" person like you.
One morning, while waiting for the fog to lift, the wife and I went to a local eatery to have breakfast. We were attired in our white boots and our unattractive and well-worn work clothes - not an unfamiliar sight in the Eastpoint community way back when.
A man who had been sitting at a table with the owner of the restaurant and his wife came over to our table after he paid his check. Quite to my surprise he went into a rant. "I see that you are an oysterman and I just wanted to come over here and speak my mind. I think you oyster people ought to be ashamed of yourselves - working everyday and making all that good money and then going down and collecting all them food stamps. I think that is a disgrace and I just wanted to let you know."
I was shocked, of course. I was first shocked that an individual from another area could walk up to two strangers and say such a thing. The second thing that shocked me was that it seemed to me that he had gotten his information from the owner of the restaurant and his wife. Why would local business people, who should know better, tell some strangers that type of slander?
I thought at that time that if an individual felt that he had the right to say whatever stupid thing came to his mind that I should be granted and equal right to respond in kind. I mean if we are going to have a "stupid" contest, I'm sure I qualify.
The restaurant owner quickly rushed over to our table and apologized to me and my wife while ushering his buddy to the exit.
I have been all over the U.S working menial, physical jobs that pay no money. The lack of respect for such workers is prevalent everywhere. Where seasonal workers are necessary, the citizens of that area want these marginal workers to be seen and not heard. And when the seasonal crop has been harvested or picked, they want those workers who came to vanish. They want them to pay their own way to get there and live in the bushes while they are there if they must. Some people actually think that migrant farm workers make good money - and of course farmers will actively support that fable.
The poverty that comes hand in hand with minimal wages and low income is considered a personal failing and not a social problem. To be poor is judged a personal disgrace and has nothing to do with the fact that America is full of jobs that barely pay a person enough to buy food never mind provide himself with adequate housing or hospitalization or other "luxuries." And there are more and more of those jobs on the way.
Many will say that the above is not true but don't bother telling that to me - I have been there, done that and seen it with my own eyes. My answer is, get real folks - it could be your job next!

“The Eastpointer” is R.E. Noble most recent publication. It consists of a series of selected columns from the Franklin Chronicle. It is available now at or from the author. Local bookstores or businesses who would like to sell The Eastpointer or other books written by R. E. Noble should contact the author for discount opportunities. Richard Noble is a freelance writer who has lived here in Eastpoint for nearly 30 years.