Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lawrence – My Hometown


By Richard E. Noble

This is one story from my book "Just Hangin' Out, Ma." Click on the link at the right of this page for more information or to purchase a copy. This book is also listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Lawrence had a wealth of churches – some really beautiful churches too. I remember how shocked I was when I learned that the Immaculate Conception Church had been torn down. Some very famous people had been married in that church – my buddy Jack Greco for example. I was his best man. That alone should have been reason enough for preservation. I didn’t think that it was allowed to destroy a church – especially a Catholic church – and a Catholic church in Lawrence. Where is that pope when you really need him!

Lawrence had its eateries, diners, bakeries and mills. But the one thing that may have outnumbered all of these landmarks was barrooms. Barrooms, taverns, and nightclubs were everywhere.

I worked at S. H. Brennan Meat Packing on Broadway. It was a door or two down from Essex St.

Speaking of Essex and Broadway, what happened to the post office? Man if that building had been down here in the South it would be a shrine. They save any building that was built before 1860 down here. I told the mayor here in Bumkinville that my whole hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts was built before 1860. He wanted to know why, if I liked that town so much, I ever left. The mayor is, of course, a local redneck who has a bumper sticker that reads: We don’t give a damn how you did it up North.

I remember parking my truck at the dealership across from Brennan’s. Some days I would work from 5 or 6 in the morning until 8 or 9 at night. It would be too late to go home and change clothes and catch one of my buddies for a night out on the town. So I would just walk home.

One night instead of just passing by all the bars on my way up Broadway, I decided to try an experiment. I would have one beer in every bar I passed on the way home. A beer was a dime in those days.

First I went around the corner to Al’s Tavern and then into Tubby Clark's for a quickie and fortify myself for the challenge. I don’t think I got four doors up Broadway before I hit another joint. It was an Irish place – O’Toole’s or some such thing.

There were more barrooms on Broadway than I had estimated. I can’t give you all the names but there were a few builder and trade clubs and a plethora of other significant “craft” type joints. There was a place called the Flamingo. There was also a place with a piano bar. There was an entertainer there who was a one man phenomenon. I forget his name. He played all the instruments and pre-recorded himself. He had a stage full of type recorders and such. This was prior to the electronic boom and karaoke. It was something to just watch this guy co-ordinate all his tape recorders. He sang but didn’t dance. He was good. Definitely worth a dime.
I think I ended up at Cain and Bernard’s ‘round midnight.

By the time I left Cain and Bernard’s and took a right onto Arlington St, I was singing at the top of my lungs such old favorites as: Jingle Bells, Did Your Mother Come from Ireland, I’m Looking over a Four Leaf Clover and A Little Bit of Heaven. You remember A Little Bit of Heaven – So they sprinkled it with stardust just to make the shamrocks grow.

On another occasion, I decided that Broadway was too dangerous for my one beer scientific experiment. I tried instead going up Essex St. to Lawrence St. and then through to Chelmsford.

That route was not much better. I bumped into Jimmy Sheehy on that occasion. I told him about my experiment and he liked the idea and joined me. As I remember we ended up sleeping in a parked car. He had the front seat and I took the back. When the owner of the car woke us in the morning we accused him of kidnapping us. We immediately checked our wallets and demanded that he return our money. He didn’t call the police. So I guess our tactic worked.

The Tally-ho, the Bamboo Room, the Merry Mac Club, the Polish National, the Irish Social, the English Social, the Capri, the Chez–When, there were a million places to drink, party and play games. At places like Cain and Bernard’s or the builders and trades it was genealogy. Somebody would ask your name and off they went. “Are you any relation to the Noble girl who married Billy Callahan? Did your father marry a Dougherty? In some of these bars the regulars knew more about you and your family than you did.

Shuffleboard and darts were big in those days. The bars sponsored “intramural” bar tournaments. Naturally we played for beers – another good excuse for getting sloshed.

The Tally-ho was the starting line for many of us each evening. After about four hours of warming up at the Tally-ho and who knows how many beers, it was off to the Merry Mac Club for the talent show, or to the Chez or the English Social for the strip show. The night would start at 6 and it wouldn’t end until 1 or 2 in the morning.

In the morning I would be up at 5 a.m. and hiking down to Brennan’s to unload a few sides of beef. My god! I don’t know how I did it. If bar hopping was an Olympic game, I think I could have won at least a silver medal. I would go for the gold but there were just too many extremely talented, professional drinkers in Lawrence for me to even fantasize about such a victory.

About 20 years ago I went back to Lawrence for a “Corner Reunion.” After an outing at the park a bunch of the old gang ended up at Jack Sheehy’s Pizza Pub on Lawrence St. There were ten or fifteen of us sitting along one wall reminiscing. A round of drinks consisted of 10 orange juice, 2 cranberry cocktails, and four Virgin Mary’s. Most of the old gang were active members of AA – that’s not the automobile club, that’s the AAA.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published 9 books.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

George Soros

The Crisis of Global Capitalism

By George Soros

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This is my first exploration into the mind and thinking of George Soros. This book was not difficult to read. Mr. Soros is not a deceptive writer.

It seems that Mr. Soros is one of the richest men in the world. He made his money in the international financial marketplace. Today he is out of the speculation business and characterizes himself as a philanthropist.

His educational background is in economics and philosophy. Being familiar reading philosophers, I feel safe in saying that he writes, thinks and explains himself like a philosopher.

This would make him difficult for some to understand. I understand his philosophy and his philosophical references. I understand his overall economic theories. I understand the problems that he outlines in this book. I do not understand his global financial solutions or his proposed international rules and regulations.

Many critics consider Mr. Soros a liberal or an apologist for the "socialist, communist" left. I think not. Mr. Soros is first a Capitalist. He is willing to admit the short comings of the capitalist theory and his notions are similar to the notions of "innocent fraud" outlined by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Neither Soros nor Galbraith believes in the divinity of the guiding hand when it comes to the marketplace. Soros states categorically his disbeliefs – and it does sound strange coming from such a successful capitalist.

He does not believe in the "equilibrium" notion which proposes a self-adjusting world. An unregulated financial world may very well destroy itself, he admits. But yet he believes in An Open Society. It is really difficult to see much difference in Mr. Soros' Open Society and the fundamentalist capitalist society. I would say the only difference that I can see is that Soros' idea is more reasonable and contains a dream of hope and morality. But Soros, like the fundamentalists, has no method or suggestions for how hope could replace the fundamentalist cynicism or how morality could be injected into the world marketplace – at least not in this book.

As I see it, George Soros is a capitalist to the core. Like John Maynard Keynes before him, I understand him to be a pragmatic capitalist personally engaged in the task of expanding and attempting to move capitalism along positively to a globally successful economic system. He accepts that capitalism has gone global. He doesn't resist globalism but realizes that without restraints and rules and regulations it has a possibility of collapsing upon itself.

This book was published in 1998. For those who ask, Who could have seen this mess that we are now experiencing in the year 2008, one may safely answer - George Soros.

But he has not been alone. William Greider and others have been writing about such problems and possibilities for years. Greider's last book the Soul of Capitalism could be considered as a college workbook for Mr. Soros philosophical analysis and theoretical propositions.

Soros's solutions are in my opinion the philosophical convolutions of a capitalist investment broker. Sort of a Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – but in international financial investment. It was a real struggle for Marcus Aurelius to maintain his philosophical inclinations and at the same time, authoritatively and often ruthlessly, rule the Roman Empire. It is equally difficult for George Soros to balance his philosophical and moral character with his necessary ruthless an amoral behavior in the gruesome world of international finance. But like Marcus, George gives it an honorable attempt.

Mr. Soros states that he may be an idealist but that he is not naïve but in my understanding of the historical circumstance surrounding capitalism, I think Mr. Soros is being rather naïve.

Capitalism and the capitalist have gone global partially in response to the capitalist aversion to rules, regulations and the restrictions placed on them by national governments. The Capitalist has been at war with labor, wage increases and benefits, environmental constraints, anti-monopolist and trust-busting attempts and national government taxation policies. The whole new Globalism economic concept has resulted because of the capitalist’s desire to escape to the wild west of globalism where they would be free from the interference of national governments, workers and democratic voter morality. For Mr. Soros to suggest a global governmental type agency to counter the perils of the unregulated marketplace seems extremely naïve to me. That is exactly what the capitalist has been fleeing. And to get a world organization to accomplish what smaller nation states have been incapable of doing seems totally naïve.

The solution in my opinion is a retreat from the globalism concept and a reigning in of the ‘amoral’ capitalist inclinations. Many speculative amoral capitalist should be going to prison not to the Riviera. In fact, Mr. Soros may be one of them. If he doesn’t belong inside a prison, he could certainly be doing some community service. Actually, that is probably exactly what he is attempting with his philanthropic endeavors – as was the case with Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, and many other of our past unscrupulous economic giants.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Hobo Philosopher


by Richard E Noble

I’ve lived in the South now for about the last twenty-five years or so. I’ve lived up in ‘Yankee’ territory for an equal number of years. In any case, I don’t ever remember hearing so much talk about Socialism as I have in the last few years. I don’t know if this is a new topic in both the North and the South but, regardless, I find the whole dialogue rather interesting.

I live in Florida - the southern part of Florida, which, as all of us Floridians know, is the northern panhandle. Southern Florida is where all them damn Yankees live. All us rebels are hiding up here in Tallahassee, and Apalachicola. Every time I pick up a newspaper in this neighborhood, somebody is screaming about Socialism. To tell you the truth, I really don’t think that most folks down here know what Socialism actually is. But from what I see in the papers and the letters to the editor, it seems to be something between pagan devil worship and Adolf Hitler. In any case, it is a very bad thing. And I hear about how bad it is from both rich and poor. It is the enemy of freedom. It’s the antithesis of individualism. It’s mediocrity in the work place. It’s ... why it’s ah, prostitution and selling drugs to children; and it is everywhere and it’s right here - right here in this little town where I live in the Florida panhandle.

Boy, this is scary! But when I analyze this little Panhandle community I now call home, I find all this talk somewhat confusing.

I live in what most would call a poor community - traditionally, very poor. Many folks around here are on what they call - disability. From what I can gather, most of them think that getting disability is like getting an inheritance from some long lost relative, or winning the lottery. At best, they think it to be an early age retirement program of some kind. Now I don’t mean to scare all of you folks downtown but that check that you are getting comes from the state. Now don’t run out and tell this to all of your independent Capitalist friends and neighbors, but you are participating in an act of SOCIALISM! (Is that a felony or a misdemeanor?)
Other poor Capitalists in this community, buy their groceries with food stamps, or they used to. That’s a big RED Socialist no no, my good friends.

Like a lot of children in this community, my mother raised me from age thirteen to age eighteen on a widower’s pension. Sorry kids - single mommies and daddies - you’ve just been Socialized! (That’s kind of like getting ‘slimmed’ I think.) Then again, if you are on ADC (Aid to Dependent Children) you didn’t even have to become a widow, or even get married, and you got all of us good capitalists sending money to support you and your little bastards. [Bastard = a child born out of wedlock.] This may sound strange to all of you young women today, but back in the ‘old’ days a woman used to be ashamed to have a baby without first getting married - and married to a MAN. How chauvinistic! Can you imagine? I certainly hope that our society doesn’t regress to such male-dominated, anti-liberated, freedom inhibiting, antiquated standards such as the above ever again.

Interestingly enough, the biggest single employer in this area is the ... government. Nearly anybody who is anybody around "these parts” is a retired General or Admiral from the Military service. Sorry guys and gals but MILITARY (American flags and all) means employed by the state - means salaries coming out of taxpayers dollars. From the good capitalist point of view, your service and wounds all aside, any of us good capitalists would have done whatever it is that you think you did, if we were ‘called’. Even our current president ( Bush) supports that notion. Besides, why do you people all think that you should get a check for the rest of your life for just doing what you were supposed to do in the first place? Yours was not exactly a sacrifice. It was your DUTY, not to mention a steady job and the paycheck you got for all those hours of sitting around on your ass and doing nothing in peace time. (Capitalist point of view - not the author’s). What about all of those extra coffee breaks and the free board and room supplied by us ‘capitalist’ taxpayers, for all of those years when nobody was shooting? Talk about sucking the system dry! (Ps: that was a conservative talking, not me.) Besides, you certainly couldn’t get more Socialistic than the all-for-one one-for-all military. If it ain’t Socialist, it is outright Communist. You don’t even get your “inalienable” rights when you’re in the Military. They decided that your Constitution and the Military are not compatible. You can’t have a democratic Military, for God’s sake.

The last prominent group here in my little town, are “good old boys” who left the farm, went to the big city, and have since retired from some union job. Well I don’t know if you would call ‘unions’ socialist ... you might like the word communist better. In case you have never noticed, the words worker and capitalist are not exactly synonyms. The whole socialist/communist movement in America was the brainchild of unionism. Workers are supposed to negotiate separately. Ganging up on the boss is not fair. What chance do the poor bosses have? It was the labor unions who were the first to be prosecuted under the anti-monopolistic Sherman Anti-Trust Act - it was not the big business Robber Barons, you know.

Workers joining together for better working conditions and better wages was against the law in this country right up until the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Before that, it was considered a conspiracy in restraint of trade and against the property rights of the bosses. It was unconstitutional.

And I hate to tell you this but “retirement” is no capitalist idea. You can bet your child labor laws that no red-blooded, American capitalist ever thought up the ridiculous idea of starting up a RETIREMENT FUND for lazy employees who think that they are too old to work - not without being pressured in one way or another by some Socialist/Communist union anyway.

What are you people crazy!!? Get your butts off them lawn chairs and get a damn job. As a famous ex-capitalist once said, let me make myself perfectly clear:

If you work for the State - pssstt don’t tell anybody, but you are engaged in a Socialist enterprise. And if you don’t like this arrangement, you can write to your congressman - but don’t mail it, because you certainly wouldn’t want to encourage that Socialistic postal system. Post office ... of the state, by the state and for the state.

If you are retired from some union, you’re not even good enough to be a Socialist, you’re a damn Communist and you know it! Everybody has known for decades that labor unions are Marxist, and that’s even worse than Socialist.

If you are retired from the Military you are just adding insult to injury. You had better just crawl up under your bed, my friend, because there is absolutely nothing democratic about the Marine Corps. As a soldier, not only are you a damn government employee Socialist, but you are also an active member of a right wing, radical, totalitarian organization - that kills people! No doubt about it, when you join the United States Military, you have just moved to another country. A country in which every dictator in the world would feel very much at home.

If you tell the Admiral that you wouldn’t follow his sorry butt to the latrine for fear that he would pee between the urinals, an you find yourself in the hole, or someplace worse, don’t waste your breath screaming about your Constitutional rights, because “they done gone, boy! We don’t have no Constitution he-ahh boy. And we don’t have no IN-DI-VID-U-ALS neither. You get me BOY!”

If you are one of those who are complaining about living on a fixed income, and you want your COLA’s increased, you had best not fight for the abolition of Socialism here at home, because when they cancel your Socialist Social Security check, you will probably find yourself bagging groceries at your local ‘Hop and Stop’ in your new (bought with your own hard earned damn money) capitalistic, secondhand wheelchair.

Have you been to the hospital recently? Better check your Medicare. Whoops Medicare? Was that a capitalist program started by Henry Ford? You can bet your mass production, assembly line, sixteen hour day that it wasn’t, it isn’t, and it never will be.

You are out of work, and your unemployment checks are running out? Go talk to your Republican (I’m a capitalist) Senator, or Mr. Conservative (buy some bigger boot straps) news commentator, or newspaper editorialist, or rich radio talk show host. Unemployment checks? Why the newspapers are full of jobs. Turn in that Socialist government check and get a damn job. You probably belong to some damn union too. Socialist PIG!!

Speaking of pigs, do you work for the police department? the fire department? the Marine patrol? That’s all state employment. A no-no in a free capitalist society. By the way, do you work for the health department? the driver’s licensing burrow? the DNR?, the IRS? Urban renewal? the environmental protection agency, the J.P.T.A. (that’s Government funded, boys and girls) you’ve just been slimmed.

Did the boss give you a bucket of acid, instead of water and now you are collecting workmen’s compensation? Hang your head, my friend. Turn in that check, and get a job.
You’re receiving a Veteran’s check? A capitalist idea? I think not, Comrade! Turn it in! Get a job!

Your retirement is secure. You’re vested, you say. Another Henry Ford idea? Not hardly - Socialism, good buddy.

Is your book over due at the public library? Do you work at the public library? For God’s sake, become a capitalist and buy your own darn books, will you! Why should good capitalists like us pay out our hard earned dollars for books so that parasites like you can read for free? There is no free lunch, or book of the month, for that matter.

So you have a nephew who is a Forest Ranger? Your cousin works at a National Park - a STATE park? You enjoy having the family reunion at the COUNTY Park. Why don’t you and your Socialist-commie family celebrate in your own damn back yard, like all us good capitalists do. My God!!!

Are you a little behind on your college loan? Did you get your education through the GI bill? Are you in business due to a minority grant? Do you work at the Public Defenders office? Are you a Public Defender? Capitalist idea? In your dreams baby. Late for the PTA meeting at your neighborhood “public” school? Boy who thought up that tax gouger? Not an independent capitalist, that’s for sure.

Your Mom was a school teacher? Did she start her own school, and charge the neighborhood kids, like a good capitalist? Or did she teach at one of those pinko public institutions? I suppose that she belonged to one of those commie teacher’s union and is now retired and receiving her teacher’s pension check ... RIGHT ALONG WITH HER SOCIALIST SECURITY CHECK. Damn, what’s a good capitalist supposed to do?
A COUNTY hospital? Who the Hell is paying for that? State asylums? You have a COUNTY job? You work for the Federal prison system? the STATE prison system? the County jail?

Had your hospital bills paid by an Insurance Company? Work for an Insurance Company? Own an Insurance Company? The very idea of “insurance” is SOCIALIST or Communist inspired. Unions and worker fraternal organizations thought up that one. Today’s independent insurance company thought up how to take the not-for-profit union idea and turn it into billions for themselves. In the Capitalist world everybody takes care of themselves. They don’t “chip in” and share the load like a bunch of old time Communist Christians. Oh Yes, Yes Yes Yes - Christianity, original design’? Pure Communism.

You like the idea, “all for one, and one for all.” That is Socialism, MAN!
Love your neighbor as yourself? Don’t meditate on that too, too long you commie, socialist, pig!

Insurance is Socialist. The Capitalist part comes in when the owner of the insurance company claims bankruptcy, absconds with the employee’s retirement fund, or simply refuses to pay because your claim is too high, or too many of you “poor victims” have all claimed at the same time. That’s called “Laissez Faire”, pursuing one’s personal self-interest, or as any good Capitalist might say; Screw the woman and children, it’s every man for himself.

Had a disaster recently? One of them nice folks from the SBA or FEMA drop by? Give you a little money, did they? You’re employed by the SBA? Come on?! Have a little capitalistic pride. Turn the damn money in, and get a real job, man!
Just retired from running your own business all your life? Going to take your Socialist Security check and move into the government subsidized rent controlled apartment complex?

You know, before ya’ll start screaming “Socialist”, you had best scope out that signature on your own paycheck. It may be that you used to hate them, but now you is them. But please don’t blame me. I went to a for-pay private school to learn all of this, unlike most of you public school commies. And we weren’t chartered, either. You like Charter schools? Slimmed again.

Do we have to count the fact that my mother paid for my private education with her public Socialist Widow’s Pension?...Naa.

Hey, I think I have a new word. If not a pure-capitalist. I'm a rationalized-capitalist. (I certainly wouldn’t want to be an impure-capitalist.) A rationalized Capitalist - that’s kind of like a liberated-housewife, or a Baptist freethinker or a Southern Democrat.

PS: If you are employed by the Federal Reserve you should be intelligent enough to know that you are a Socialist. In fact, if you work in a bank – any bank – you are a Socialist. You are working for a Socialist organization. It is a perverse Socialist organization, I must admit, since only its failures are Socialized – the Savings and Loan fiasco followed by the Commercial banking failure. As long as banks are profitable they keep their profits. It is only when they go under that Socialism takes over. The Banking industry was bailed out by the American Taxpayer in the largest bank Collapse in World history. And they received this kindness with no payback required – no workfare for the wealthy bankers. It’s below their dignity, I suppose.

If you work for an insurance company – large insurance company – you have pretty much the same deal. When the profits are high the Insurance Company keeps them but when they become marginal the State or the Federal Government takes over – that’s us, the taxpayers.

Interesting to note; statistically the great majority of us do not get seriously ill until we reach 65. It is at this age that everybody is turned over to the Government Medicare System. Which means, that when the odds are good and the profits high the “Capitalist” Insurance Companies keep the profits, but when the pay-outs start, us Socialists take over? What a deal! Once again – no paybacks are required. We Socialist pick up the bill for the Insurance companies for free.

Railroads and Airplanes are also federally subsidized, along with farmers, tobacco growers and any large corporation that is deemed as “too big to fail”. We may inherit the entire pension plans of all of America’s past Corporate Giants – Ford, General Motors – whoever decides that they aren’t going to pay in the future.
It is interesting to note that Socialism has always been used to bail out Capitalist failures – the biggest contrived disaster in 1929 - But these Socialist activities are only ridiculed when they go to the poor or the workers, or the population at large. As long as these Socialists practices go to the wealthy, the Corporate Giants – even to the World Bank and the IMF, we hear not a peep from Congress or anybody else for that matter. By the way, when any bank in the WORLD has a problem – you’re going to bail it out, whether you want to or not.

Isn’t it time that us Socialists smartened up? If we are going to bail everybody out, back everybody up, take over their obligations and promises, subsidize, and finance the whole world – even our enemies - why don’t we, the general public, get a piece of the action WHERE’S THE MONEY! Where’s our money.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Old Is Where It’s At

But It Takes Getting Used To

by Richard E. Noble

All of the music that I listen to is written, sung and played by dead people - Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Erroll Garner, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Doris Day, etc., and now even Ray Charles. All of these people are now dead.

All the books that I read are written by dead people, and most of them died a long, long, time ago. Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Tolstoy, Plato, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, Aristotle, Mark Twain, O’Henry, Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith, Upton Sinclair, Henry S. Comminger, Thomas Jefferson; they’re all dead. Just about every book on my bookshelf or on my up-and-coming reading list, is written by a person who is now dead. William Manchester was one of the few who I have been reading who was still alive, but now, he is dead also.

My very life and experiences, are now the subject matter of history books.
I now make decisions between bending and squatting and whether or not I should buy green bananas.

Everywhere I go today the world seems to be filled with people, who, like myself, are very old or almost dead.

The grocery store, even, is being staffed by people who are almost dead. I think that all the young people today are either so whacked-out on drugs that they can’t pass a pee test, or they are off in some foreign country fighting for somebody’s freedom and are now unable to deliver my newspaper or ring up my groceries at the IGA or Piggly-Wiggly.

The guy checking out my groceries at the store the other day, along with the bagboy, were both older than me. Now that’s scary.

I put my groceries on the automatic sliding shelf and the old man starts running them across the magic price reading thing-a-ma-gig. Everything is going fine until this chicken won’t beep. He swishes it across the magic window three of four more times at varying rates of speed – but not a beep out of the chicken. He shakes the chicken two or three times, as if there must be something wrong with whatever is inside of the chicken that makes the beeper beep – but, no response from the chicken. He then presses the chicken into the magic window and puts his body weight on top of it to try and get it closer to the magic window reading whosey that is inside somewhere. (personally I think there is a illegal alien in there with a key pad.) Nothing. The gray haired, partially bald clerk holds the chicken up in front of him and shakes his head negatively. “What is wrong with this chicken?” he mumbles. “I guess that I will have to ring it up by the code numbers.”

He stretches his arms out in front of him as far as they will extend; he tilts his head up, squints a little and makes an attempt to read the code numbers on the price tag of the chicken through one of the sections on his trifocals. “My god” he says. “Ted Williams, who could see the threads on a curve ball coming at him at one hundred and ten miles an hour, couldn’t read this damn thing.”

He lowers the chicken down towards his waist, turns his head slightly to one side and tries to read the numbers from out the corner of his glasses. No luck. He holds the chicken in one hand and then tries to adjust his glasses on his face, up and down, with his other hand. No go. He takes his glasses off, momentarily and tries to scan the chicken bare-eyed – no help. He raises and lowers the chicken - still at arms length - while he nods his head up and down in an opposite sequence from the movement of the chicken. It could be a focusing problem. Doesn’t work.

He takes his glasses off his head and runs them back and forth between his eyes and the chicken – nothing. Finally he lays the chicken down on the counter and attempts to read the code numbers by placing his glasses down on top of the price tag on the chicken, as if his trifocals are a magnifying glass. This doesn’t work.

“Let me see that chicken; maybe I can read it,” I offer. “I think that it is three dollars and twenty-five cents,” I say.

“I know that,” he says. “It is not the price I need. I need all of them little numbers there on the bottom of the price tag, next to all those squiggly lines.”

“Oh, here you mean ... okay, let’s see – four, six, nine, seven, seven, three, one, two, eight, eight, eight, four, one, two, three eight, nine, one, two, one. That’s it. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ring up the price?”

“Oh god! Don’t even talk about that. That’s a book in itself. So, is that it?”

“No. I don’t think that you got my tomato there.”

“Okay, that will be $149.52.”

“Did you get my tomato?”

The man doesn’t look at me and repeats the total bill once again. I notice that he has a buzzer in his ear. My wife has a buzzer for each ear. When you see a person with a buzzer in their ear, that means that they only read lips. The buzzer in a person’s ear doesn’t really do anything; it is, more or less, a symbol or a sign of deafness. It is only there to let other people know that this person can’t hear a damn thing. It is like a pair of sunglasses on a blind person. But because I have experience living with a person with buzzers in her ears, I know how to handle this situation. I tap the clerk on the shoulder - when he turns and looks at me, I say very slowly and in a loud voice; “Did ... you ... get ... my ... tomato?”

“You got a potato?”

“No, did ... you ... get ... my ... tomato?”

“You don’t have to yell at me, I ain’t deaf for god’s sake.”

“I’m sorry.” I reach down and pick up the tomato that is lying on the conveyor belt. I hold it up and roll it around in front of the man’s face.

“That is not a potato,” he criticizes.

“I know. It’s a tomato. Did you ring it up?”

“Is it yours?”

“Not yet, but I would like it to be one day.”

“You want me to ring that up?”

“Would you please?”

“No problem.”

The man puts the tomato on a special scale. The computer identifies the tomato as a tomato and suggests a starting price or bid. The optimum possible price appears on the price screen after a series of bids from e-bay have been calculated into the final quote.

“How much is that tomato?”

“Twelve dollars and nineteen cents.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, that’s what the machine says. I think that they had a blizzard in Paraguay this month or something. All the tomatoes got killed.”

“All except that one.”

“I guess. You want it or not?”

“Yeah, I’ve been planning on having a tomato all this year. I already bought some bacon, white bread, mayonnaise and lettuce. It wouldn’t really be a BLT without the tomato.”

“Okay ... got the tomato; now where are those potatoes that you said you had?”

“I don’t have any potatoes. I can only afford so many vegetables in one year. This year it’s that tomato.”

“I get ya.”

“Would you like me to take this out to your car?” asks the bagboy who looks like Mark Twain’s grandfather. I watch the old man bagboy as he struggles to lift the bag off the counter and place it into my shopping cart. As he lowers the bag into the cart the upper half of his body follows the bag into the cart and his feet come off the ground behind him.

“Nuewww. I think I can handle that myself, but thank-you anyway, sonny,” I say.
As we exit the store, I say to my wife: “Did you see the price of that tomato?”
“We forgot to get a potato?”

“No, I said – did ... you ... see ... the ... price ... of ... that … tomato?”

She rushes her thumb up to her ear and begins spinning things around on her buzzer. “Holy Cow! What are you trying to do, blow my brains out! Just speak to me in a normal voice. Don’t yell!”

“Honey, I simply said, Did you see the price of that tomato? That’s all I said.”

“Okay! My goodness, you are such a baby. If you want potatoes, let’s just go back inside and get some.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Barber Shops

Lawrence – My Hometown

Barber Shops

By Richard E. Noble

A lot of Italians owned barbershops in Lawrence. And it seemed that all the owners were named Guido. If the owner wasn’t named Guido somebody working there was. Guido must mean something in Italian. Not something bad like ming-ya but something generic like “man who cuts hair” or bookie or some such thing.

I still don’t know what ming-ya means, but, ming-ya, what does it matter. I called an old friend from Lawrence the other day and he said, “Ming-ya, Nobes, I haven’t heard from you for forever. Ming-ya, this is great! What have you been up to?”

Nevertheless barbershops were muli-cultural in the Lawrence I grew up in.

I got my first hair cut up on Center St. The barber was a friend of my Uncle Ray’s. He was either Irish or English. I can’t remember his last name but I can see him in my memory’s eye quite clearly. I think his shop may have been called John’s – John’s Barbershop. It had the red, white and blue barber pole outside and everything. I remember being frightened to death and crying through the whole ordeal.

John had a special kid’s seat that he placed onto the barber’s chair. I cried and everybody else in the shop laughed, including my uncle. I didn’t get it.

I don’t know why barbers scare little boys but I witnessed the same scene over and over as my life continued. Young men were always bringing in their little boys for the frightening experience. The kids always cried. I don’t ever remember seeing a happy little boy sitting in a barber’s chair his first time out.

Before this guy, my mother would put a soup bowl on the top of my head and cut around it. I was never overly concerned with appearances but the barber on Center St. made me look a lot better than my mother and her soup bowl.

I went to John until I went into business for myself as an Eagle Tribune delivery boy. The first stop on my route was Joe Blazavitch’s Barbershop on Park St. It was across the street from King Tut’s drugstore.

Joe had two twin daughters, as I remember. They were very pretty and had extra long, shiny, brown hair. They were both in my class at St. Rita’s but that fact did not intimidate me. I made the big decision to switch barbers and start going to Joe.

Changing barbers is a big decision. I think it has something to do with the nature of human bonding. I don’t know the details but I can tell you it was difficult to walk past John’s Barbershop after I switched to Joe.

I decided to go to Joe Blazavitch’s Barbershop not because he had two pretty daughters who were in the same class as me but because, I was now a businessman as was Joe. I felt that us local businessmen had to stick together. Joe bought my newspapers, so Joe was the man to cut my hair. It was a business decision. It was nothing against you John – if you are still out there. You were good John and did a great job, but business is business. I hope you understand.

I went to Joe Blazavitch’s barbershop from age eleven and a half until I was twenty-seven ... and a half. Joe was my main haircut man from then on.

Joe was a very nice man and he liked me. He kept asking me to join his barbershop quartet. I resisted on the flimsy grounds that I wasn’t a barber. Joe said that being a barber was not a real requirement for being a member of a barbershop quartet. I didn’t see how that could be possible. “But I can’t sing,” I told him. He made me sing the scale while I was sitting in his barber chair.

“Doe, rae, me, fa, so, la, tee, doe.” My voice cracked on the second doe. “See, I told you I can’t sing.”

“Whataya talkin’ about! That was great. You’re a tenor. You’ll be perfect.”

I never joined. I wish I did. I’ll bet it would have been fun.

As time went on Joe’s barbershop went downhill. I don’t know what happened to Joe’s business. It might have been the Beatles and the long hair craze. Eventually, he only cut hair by “appointment” and he moved his shop off Park St. He went from a 3 or 4 seater to a 2 seater.

Me and Jack Greco were two of his regular appointments. We meet Joe at his new shop to get our hair cut for Jack’s wedding. Joe wouldn’t take any money and he gave us both a hot shave for free. That was my first and my last hot save.

Joe would never take a tip either. I think a hair cut at the end of Joe’s career was $2.00. When I first started at age 11, I think it was a quarter – but that seems impossible.

I couldn’t figure why Joe would interrupt his evening to run down to his barbershop and cut my hair for a lousy two bucks. It seemed crazy. But he liked doing it, I could tell. I guess since he had been cutting my hair since I was eleven years old, he figured that it was his responsibility.

I think he got a good job working at Raytheon or Western Electric or Avco or something. It wasn’t that he needed my two bucks. It could have been that barbering was his love and Avco was his job. No one has ever heard of an “Avco Quartet” after all.

When Joe finally hung up the old clippers, I had a hell of a time finding a new barber. I started going to this Italian guy … Guido, of course. But a haircut at Guido’s took too long. The phone kept ringing and Guido would rush off to the back room. People kept running in and giving him quarters after which he had to write their number down on a piece of scratch paper. He had the racing program in his back pocket. Guys would come into the shop, Guido would hand them the program and they would sit and make their picks. Then he was constantly pulling out that big roll and making change for his non-haircut customers. Guido had a very good business but it wasn’t cutting hair.

The next barber I found was good – but he was very, very old. His shop was up on Lawrence St. His hands shook like crazy. He would have to rush the clippers to my head to get his hand to stop shaking. When he got to the shaving cream and the razor part it got real scary.

At first I thought the old buck was just nervous, but he wasn’t. He just had the shakes. I felt sorry for him. But when the conflict in a relationship comes to frightened or sorry, frightened always wins.

I read about a brain surgeon recently who developed a case of the shakes. His insurance company denied his claim that having the shakes was bad for his type business. As far as I know the insurance company won their case. I think if I were that surgeon, I would be appealing that decision.

I bounced from one problematic barber to another for a number of years. Then at long last I met Carol. I kept moaning and groaning about my 10 and 12 dollar haircuts and finally she volunteered. I asked if she used a bowl. She said no bowl. Carol has been my barber for about 35 years now. I owe her a lot of money. I feel bad about that fact. But, when it comes to a choice between money and feeling bad, I usually opt for feeling bad.

Richard E. Noble was raised in Lawrence, Mass and is now a freelance writer. He has published nine books. They are all on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Haymarket Riot of 1886

Labor Day

Haymarket Riot of 1886

By Richard E. Noble

Labor Day for most Americans is the celebration of the End of Summer – that last week-end for fun and games. I would imagine that many other folks in the U.S. are of the impression that Labor Day has something to do with motherhood. It is only in the United States - in the land of “Business is our Business” – that this particular celebration is ignored and its political and historical significance forgotten and some might even say maligned. Contrary to popular opinion the United States fought no foreign war for the “Right to Free Speech”. This particular right was earned here in the streets of Chicago and in the mines of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. It was won by the blood of Labor heroes – symbolized by that horrid Red Flag (blood) - and later by social activists (men, woman, and children) who were beat, clubbed and fire hosed in almost every instance in the state’s attempt to stop them from “speaking freely”. Labor Day – celebrated in the rest of the world on May 1st – is actually a day that has been put aside to remember a labor riot that took place in 1886 right here in the good old United States of America. Who would have believed it?

Chicago – Haymarket Square – 1886

What happened in Haymarket Square in Chicago in 1886 and the eighteen month controversy that followed, should be as commonly known to the general American public as the witch trials in Salem and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s.

August Spies, Albert Parsons, Sam Fielden, Adolf Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe were all arrested and charged with murder. The prosecution charged them with being involved in a conspiracy to incite a riot which culminated in the death of seven policemen and several citizens. On November 11, 1887Spies, Engel, Fischer and Parsons were hung. Governor Oglesby had commuted the sentences of Schwab and Fielden to life imprisonment via their personal request and public apology. Those who were executed said that they were innocent of all charges and would not accept less than liberty and exoneration. Louis Lingg committed suicide. Oscar Neebe was given fifteen years. The men were all found guilty, based not on any direct evidence but on previous writings and public statements and comments. In effect, seven men were sentenced to death for speaking and writing their opinions and ideas in and unpleasant and admittedly aggressive and belligerent manner.

They were avowed and admitted anarchists. An anarchist believed in the organized overthrow of what they considered to be a “classist” society and world. Like our Revolutionary forefathers before them, they did not eliminate violence as one of the possible tools which could be used in this theoretical revolution.

It has been accepted and confirmed in all the history books that I have read thus far, that the trial of these men was a farce. It was totally corrupted and illegal. The jury was hand picked, summoned by a special bailiff instead of by random selection. Witnesses for the prosecution were bribed, bought or willingly lied under oath. Witnesses for the defense were intimidated, threatened, offered bribes, even kidnapped and hidden away until the completion of the trial. Police officers falsified their testimony. Only three of the defendants could even be proved to have been at the assembly. Furthermore, the riot was not a riot until 180 trained, riot squad, armed policemen disobeyed direct orders from the mayor and proceeded to inflame and incite the crowd.

Chicago had been a “hot” town for labor riots and social discontent for over a decade. Before the Haymarket Square Riot at the McCormick Harvester Company, there had been a lockout. McCormick had called in the police, brought in Pinks (Pinkertons), hired scabs, strike breakers and agitators.

Discharged workers and locked out union members gathered outside of the plant a few days later for a protest rally. Mr. McCormick decided to call the local police under Captain John Bonfield, a substantiated and demonstrated violent union opponent, to come out and supervise the affair. At the same time McCormick decided to close down his plant for the afternoon, and announce a new, shorter, eight hour day to his recently hired scab employees. The men outside were fired and replaced by these scabs because they had petitioned Mr. McCormick for just such an eight hour day a few days before. When the scabs, the pinks, and McCormick’s hired thugs exited the gates to the plant, violence erupted. A half dozen, unarmed strikers were killed and several others were injured and maimed in the melee.

[It is interesting to note that Mr. McCormick was not arrested at this point for being a part of a conspiracy to incite a riot which ended in the death of several human beings - which was the traditional practice for union leaders involved in similar social disasters and would be the fate of the union leaders in just a few days at Haymarket Square.]

In response to this provocation and slaughter, the union wrote up and dispensed pamphlets calling for another rally - this time at Haymarket Square. Its members were advised to come prepared for violence.

Mayor Carter H. Harrison attended the meeting to monitor any problems. Later that evening as rain began to fall, and anticipating no trouble, he left. At the trial, he subsequently testified that everything was peaceful. Even the radical speakers he felt to be non-threatening - their speeches “tame.” The speakers were concerned with union recruitment, and potential future benefits. No one was being encouraged to riot or engage in violence. He stopped by the police station and told Captain Bonfield to dismiss the riot squad, no action was necessary. Bonfield disregarded the mayor’s orders and sent 180 riot squad policemen over to the area with orders to dismiss the crowd of trouble makers.

The relatively small crowd was already dissipating due to the weather and the late hour. The riot squad proceeded to the speaker’s podium and began their unwarranted, unnecessary and un-called for dismissing tactics when a bomb was exploded within their ranks. A Sergeant M. J. Degan was killed instantly, and six other officers were seriously injured and died later in the hospital. The Union was, of course, blamed for this act of individual violence - even though it was well known that management had a long record of sabotage, violence, and even tossing bombs, burning their own factories, railroad cars, and “insured” business assets. Management violence, since substantiated historically, was a common tool used to discredit and turn public opinion against union activism. But, in this instance, though unproved, and unsubstantiated, the Union was advanced as the culprit. None of the indicted defendants could be traced to the bombing. The actual bomber was never discovered. The trial garnered publicity from all over the country and around the world. America was divided. Teddy Roosevelt expressed in a personal letter that he wished that he and some of his boys with their rifles could get to these radical troublemakers. Samuel Gompers, not a supporter of union violence, condemned the strike but asked for the release of the accused. All over the world advocates for both sides were speaking out on the controversy.

No one doubted that a meeting had taken place. But the right to engage in lawful assembly was guaranteed by the Constitution, as the right of a free people. No one doubted that a bomb had been thrown. No one doubted that seven policemen were now dead because of it. But a good many doubted that the men currently under indictment were responsible. Nearly everyone who knew the facts agreed that there was no evidence to convict these particular men of any crime. Any nut cake could have thrown the bomb, non union or pro-union; management, strike breaker, hired thug or Pinkerton. But the business community and an outraged general public wanted somebody hung. They wanted somebody hung as an example that this type of behavior could not be condoned in the United States of America. This was America, the land of opportunity, the nation of immigrants. This was the land of the free and the home of the brave. This was the country that people escaped to, not escaped from. The German, Polish, ungrateful, new-comer, immigrant bomb-throwing radicals needed to be taught a lesson. Not here ... not in this country could such behavior be tolerated.

The convicted men were inspirational and courageous at their trial and the subsequent hanging. Spies gave a speech at the trial that would have made Patrick Henry, Tom Paine and John Adams sit up and take notice. In it, he invoked the spirits of Socrates, Jesus Christ, Giordano Bruno, Huss and Galileo. He quoted Venetian Doge Faberi … “My defense is your accusation; the cause of my alleged crime your history.” He condemned the State’s contemplated murder of eight men whose only crime had been to speak the truth. He named names; he accused his accusers. He exposed their lies, their bribes and their misrepresentations.

Albert Parsons had initially escaped, but nevertheless turned himself in, knowing that he would be murdered, or executed. He did so because he would not let his courageous and falsely accused friends stand alone. Oscar Neebe, who was only sentenced to fifteen years, requested the court to hang him also. He would rather be a dead martyr than an innocent man condemned to prison.

Fischer said; “I was tried in this room for murder and convicted of anarchy ... this verdict is a death-blow against free speech, free press and free thought ... A new petition for clemency was brought to Governor John Peter Altgeld in 1893.

On June 26, 1893 Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab were given an absolute pardon.

The Governor explained his reasons in writing.

He stated that the jury had been selected inappropriately. Instead of the names being drawn from a hat, across class structures, a special bailiff had been appointed, Henry L. Ryce. Mister Ryce had stated his prejudices against the defendants openly. Ryce boasted that these men would be hung. Otis S. Favor, a potential juror and friend to Mister Ryce, filed a voluntary, unsolicited affidavit stating the truth and fact of Mister Ryce’s unabashed and vocal prejudices against the defendants. Ryce had told potential jurors that it was his intention to provide a continuous supply of prejudiced jurors to use up the defense’s challenges and guarantee a panel of jurors prone to convict. The defense appealed to the court when they realized that all the potential jurors were hand picked for their prejudice and non labor status in the community. The judge denied the appeal. The jurors own answers to pretrial questioning provided witness to the fact that they were incompetent due to their personal prejudice.

Next, Governor Altgeld pointed out that the defendants had not been proven guilty of the crime charged in the indictment. They had been charged with the murder of patrolman Mathias Degan. Many of the defendants were not even present at the scene of the murder. No evidence was brought against the defendants proving any involvement in the crime. The defendants were convicted on their previous published anarchist’s literature. In some of this literature revolution and or violence was approved or advocated. Governor Altgeld further stated that if violence was the cause of Patrolman Degan’s death it was the uncalled for violence of Captain Bonfield who had his men attack a group of peaceful citizens who had assembled in a vacant lot to discuss their options. Captain Bonfield attacked this group on May 1 (traditional date of Labor Day celebrations). The union men not only dispersed as requested; they began running for their lives. Bonfield’s men shot a number of these men in the back as they ran. Four were killed and several were injured. If men could be convicted of murder for writing about violence, certainly men who created violence – Captain Bonfield and associates - and openly precipitated hatred and revenge in the hearts of the innocent, could be convicted with much greater justification.

Captain Ebersold, Chicago chief of police at the time of the Haymarket Riot, further condemned the actions of others in the police establishment of inciting the riot and seeking to cause more and additional trouble even after the bomb had been thrown on the fourth of May. A Captain Schaak, Ebersold claimed, wanted to plant more bombs and stimulate more violence - his motivation being notoriety, personal ambition and fame.

Neebe, shouldn’t even have been put in jail in the first place, according to Atgeld. Even the prosecution admitted, at the trial and in front of the jury, that they had insufficient evidence to convict Neebe. And on top of all of this, said Altgeld, the judge himself, was prejudiced. He allowed inadmissible evidence and testimony for the prosecution while denying necessary and pertinent information from the defense. Even the judge’s remarks were picked up on by the prosecution and used to sway the jury.*

The story of these men is a story of heroic proportions. In a time of flagrant social, injustice, they stood up with their lives. These men were true American heroes fighting for the rights and the dignity of their fellow men within the American structure. These are the men that have earned their fellow working men much of what every working man thinks, today, to be his birthright. The hanging of these men stands as a dishonor to our system. Of course, it was not the first such dishonor, and it would not be the last.*

* “The Annals of America, Vol. 11, page 117, August Spies: Address at the Haymarket Trial.
*The Annals of America Vol. 11, pp. 43 8-444. John Peter Altgeld: Reasons for Pardoning the Haymarket Rioters.
*Works used in this essay include; “Roughneck”, Peter Carlson; “The History of American Labor”, Joseph G. Rayback; “The Annals of America Vol.11, 1884-1894; “Recent American History”, Lester Shippee; “The Rise Of Industrial America”, Page Smith; “Attorney for the Damned” – Clarence Darrow in the Courtroom – edited by Arthur Weinberg; “American Economic History” 6th edition, Harold Underwood Faulkner.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wash Your Hands

Wash Your Hands


By Richard E. Noble

I had been in the restaurant business or been working in some type of food service for most of my life. I have been involved in food from the field to the dinning room table; I picked it, I packed it, I processed it, I delivered it, I prepared it, I cooked it, I served it, I sold it - you name it, I did it. But here I was at the Florida Food Service Health and Sanitation Training Program. The State of Florida and several other like-minded States had come to the conclusion that a restaurant was not a healthy place to eat - primarily because of people like me and many others who worked in these unhealthy establishments. Not necessarily because we were dirty, unwholesome, slovenly, derelict, illegal, diseased, unhealthy or had been living under a bridge or sleeping in someone’s hedges, but because we were lacking in food handling knowledge. I for one considered this to be a definite step in the proper direction.

There was a very nice man conducting the lecture. He looked normal. He spoke ... normal. He seemed like the kind of a person that you might have living right next door. He was dressed nicely. He was wearing a tie and a suit jacket. He spoke well and had lots of funny little stories about the restaurant business and preparing and eating food. But it soon became obvious that he considered a restaurant equivalent to a toxic dumpsite. By the time that this man had finished his lecture I realized that operating “a healthy” restaurant was an impossibility.

Raw Chicken, for example, should really not be touched. If you must touch it, it should be boiled first. If for some insane reason, you touched a piece of raw chicken before you boiled it, unfortunately, you must now be boiled. If you do not boil yourself within a reasonable time after touching a piece of raw chicken, you will probably die. Even worse than that, you may be the cause of some innocent person’s death - possibly even a small child or a dog or a cat.

Hamburger? Hamburger is a very scary material. How and why people ever started using hamburger as a food product is a study for historians and anthropologists. Hamburger needs its own building. If you make a hamburger patty and then touch a piece of raw chicken, you could spontaneous combust. The man showed a slide program of people who instantly exploded while standing in front of a twenty thousand dollar stainless steel sink.

Any utensils that are used in processing any raw meat product must be destroyed after using or sent to Nevada to be buried miles under the ground. And the people living in Nevada must never be told that these utensils are buried in their state otherwise it could cause a panic.

Any and all raw meat products are extremely dangerous but cooked meat products aren’t much better. Chicken salad, tuna salad, shrimp salad etc. should be eaten simultaneously with their preparation - or sooner. If you must let a shrimp salad or chicken salad sit in a refrigerator before serving - it should be blast frozen first.

Mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and other condiments are perfectly safe as long as they are kept in hermetically sealed unopened containers or air tight packaging. If for any reason you must open any of these type containers or packages they should be immediately discarded - or buried in Nevada. Once again, please don’t tell any of the people in Nevada about any of this stuff.

Heating things in a restaurant is extremely problematic. Anything heated by an open fame or by convection or convention should reach an internal temperature of 642 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and then should be thrown away before serving.

If you must “hold” something that has been heated for any length of time you should wear heavy Teflon gloves or have an assistant do it – preferably an illegal immigrant.

You should have no unhealthy people working in your restaurant - that includes hunchbacks, midgets, and the cross-eyed.

If you serve only white people in your restaurant, you should only have white people working in your kitchen - the same goes for Blacks, Asians or whatever.

If you serve all types and kinds of people in your restaurant without concern for race, religion, heritage, sex, ethnic background, nationality or political affiliation - you are just looking for trouble.

If you would like to know more about the do’s and don’ts of the restaurant business, you can get a free 9,253 page booklet from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services. If you live in Florida ask for Jerry. If you live anywhere else in the United States ask for Bob - if Bob isn’t there ask for Evon.

After the instruction course ended, I had to go to the men’s room - the instructor had the same problem and was at the bathroom door just ahead of me.

He took a clean handkerchief out of his breast pocket and wrapped it around the bathroom doorknob. Upon entering the facility he went over to the sink turned on the hot water and washed his hands. He closed the lever that operated the water at the sink with his elbow. After stepping up to a urinal and doing his business he returned to the sink once again and repeated the original procedure. He pressed the button on the hand dryer with his elbow, then once again opened the door with his handkerchief and exited the bathroom.

After listening to this man for over three hours and watching his men’s room procedure, I had one thought that wouldn’t go away; how did this man have sex?
Wow, being privy to a visual of that would be a real study in modern day sanitation and human ingenuity. I can only imagine – but I will try not to.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Generic Journalism

Monopolization and a Free Press

By Richard E. Noble

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed to those who own one.” A. J. Liebling (American Journalist)

Adam Smith, the modern day father of Economics, wrote a book in 1776 entitled The Wealth of Nations. In that famous book he spoke out against monopolization. In his time monopolies were chartered by the King. The British East India Tea Company was one such enterprise. It became so big that at one point it had its own army and was literally a nation unto itself.

Mr. Smith advocated free enterprise and entrepreneurship. He suggested that the economic world was guided by an invisible hand which promoted order and prosperity. He felt that the King and his government had no place in this economic world and that business would better meet the needs of the populous if it were left alone, Laissez-faire.

The King’s continuous interference in business and trade was one of the main causes contributing to the American Revolution. “Give me liberty or give me death,” may have been the cry of the man in the street, but - let me sell my goods without interference from King George and his monopolistic government was the whispered breath of every colonial mercantilist and businessman - not to mention pirates like John Paul Jones, and smugglers like John Hancock.

There were many other famous anti-monopolists but the most famous and most controversial was a man named Karl Marx. In 1840 he published what he called, The Communist Manifesto. People have been fighting and dying over this little piece of literature ever since. He later published a book that is at least as famous as The Wealth of Nations. It was entitled, Das Capital. It was a barn burner in which Karl predicted the fall of Capitalism via the monopolization of industry.

Not too long after Karl, there was another anti-monopolist by the name of Henry George. Henry is not so famous today but he was quite a celebrity in his day. He ran against Teddy Roosevelt and Abram S. Hewitt in 1886 for the Governorship of New York, and he wrote a best seller. His Progress and Poverty, which was first self-published, became the intellectual rage of the day. In this book he championed what he considered to be the perfect economic system and the cure for poverty - forever. His notion was called the Single Tax Theory.

Just how this theory worked was exemplified in a game which was thought up by a housewife and teacher who became a Henry George disciple. The game that she invented was called Monopoly.

Originally this game had two sets of instructions. One exemplified the perils of monopolization, the other set of rules exemplified the Single Tax cure for the plague of monopolization. The rules exemplifying the cure have since been discarded and the game is played today by the rules which exemplify the failure of monopolization and the suggested reason for universal poverty.

The world did not heed the advice of the “wise men” and the game inventors, and by the Wilson administration an investigation by the Pujo Committee established that the vast majority of the capital and wealth of this nation, and very possibly the world, was in the hands or control of, less than a dozen men - J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Andrew Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Gould, Astor to name but a few. And in 1929 there came about what many around the world concluded to be the failure of Capitalism and the international monopolistic system.

Since the days of the Great Depression there have been many who have been warning about the returning roll of monopolization and the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few - economists like Thorstein Veblen and his Theory of the Leisure Class; more recently, John Kenneth Galbreith, and his The Affluent Society, and The New Industrial State and many, many others. But in the face of all criticism the monopolists continue to grow and prosper. They have broken the boundaries of individual nations and have gone international. We call them oligopolies, multi-nationals and conglomerates. They are not hiding; they are listed on everyone’s list of winning investment strategies. Today even companies thought to symbolize America, itself, have few ties to the American nation or its people. Companies like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, GM, General Electric, McDonalds, Dupont, Dow Chemical, and even Ford Motor Company are all international business giants - many of them getting the majority of their income from their foreign investments.

There are those that think that this is all harmless. They argue that corporations have no dogmas, no ideologies, no prejudices, no theologies, no flags, no politics.
They have only one line and that line is the Bottom Line.

This all may be true; the future does not have to re-create the past. But when large organizations buy out even small town operations, one does begin to wonder what will happen to the Jimmy Stewart - red, white, and blue - small-town journalistic entrepreneur? What possible Bottom Line profits can be added to the coffers of conglomerates who purchase these small-town loosing operations in “Nowhere” America?

If it is not money then what is left besides dogma and ideology - dare I say propaganda, heaven forbid? So whose afraid of Rupert Murdock or Time/Warner or Knight Ridder or Florida Freedom? Not John Milton or Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine or Jimmy Stewart - but those guys are all dead and Ted Turner is off somewhere raising buffalo.

What’s so bad about generic journalism - generic seems to be working all right in the grocery store and the pharmacy?

With our wars we like to cry; “Remember the Alamo” or “Remember the Maine.” Maybe in our economics we need some crying too. How about: Remember the British and Dutch East India Tea Companies; or - Remember the A&P; or - Remember the Robber Barons; or Remember Teddy Roosevelt and his Trust Busters; or Remember Woodrow Wilson and the campaign of 1912, or how about - Monopolization without National Representation is Tyranny; not to mention Poverty.

Like the British East India Tea Company, the international business community is a nation unto itself. It will do what it is going to do and no one is going to stop it. Will it be a Wealth of Nations, or a cynical Das Capital?

But if free enterprise is behind all of this, that has got to be good ... right? We will have International economics - free from government intervention, free from Communism and Socialism, free from labor unions and pork-barrel national self-interest - a free world economic system where the pure theology of supply and demand and market interests will rule; where the only line will be the Bottom Line. This is going to be the greatest thing since the cotton gin, steam heat, or sliced bread.
Isn’t it?

I don’t know, individual nations can and have been held responsible by their people; corporations just seem to disappear into the small print and legal mumbo-jumbo. Who in the world is going to temper the might of the conglomerate?

They weren’t afraid or concerned about the monopolization of the news media in Italy when Mussolini did it; nor were they worried in Germany when Hitler did it. The Russians weren’t overly upset when Stalin went about the process, or Mao in China. But this is different; this is Free Enterprise who’s doing it today. There is no terrible government, national or global, to interfere. There can be no trust busters like Teddy Roosevelt or Harry Truman in a world economy. Who looks out for the people in a global economy? No fear of demagoguery or ochlocracy here. This could even be bigger than Big Brother of George Orwell fame.

Can a monopolized world be a free world? Can a monopolized press be a free press? This is truly going to take an invisible hand - the hand of God maybe.

“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that (opinion) right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the later. But I should mean that everyman should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” Thomas Jefferson.