Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This is a selection from my book "The Eastpointer." I won a first place award for humor for this newspaper column from the Florida Press Association in 2007. For more info or how to purchace a copy click on cover-link at right on this page. Thanks!

The Eastpointer

Oh How She Will Miss Me

By Richard E. Noble

The other morning on the TV they had a special program dealing with the tragedy and heartbreak and personal loss of losing a dearly loved spouse after many years of faithful marriage. It seems that many a spouse actually devolves into a state of depression. They often lose their personal commitment to life. Some become so tragically morose, that they make themselves sick and often die not too long after their long time companion has passed.

This made me think about my personal situation. My wife and I have been together now for over thirty years. We are exactly like the type of people being discussed in that study. We have been through the bad and the even worse; we have done with little and totally without; we have never been richer but we have often been poorer and we’re still here - together, till death do us part.

The more I thought about that study the worse I felt. I could not stop thinking how terrible it is obviously going to be for my poor wife when I am no longer here. Oh my, how she is going to miss me when I'm gone. It makes me sick at heart to even think about it. I don't really know how she will be able to cope.
I can imagine her waking up at three o'clock in the morning because the automatic yard light went on - and it will actually be the yard light and not me looking for a book to read in the bedroom because I can't sleep.

Then the morning sun will finally be on the horizon. She will stumble out to the kitchen and when she passes the bathroom, that familiar odor that has always caused her to burst - "God Richard, was there something dead inside of you? Holy cow, light a match, spray something; think of the other people that come behind you." – will be but a sad reverie of days past.

Then she will step into the living room to turn on the TV and she will not have tripped over a pair of my snickers and dirty socks that would be in front of my big easy chair. She will sigh and mumble to herself, "I guess he is really gone."
She will go to the sink to get coffee water and there will be no cereal bowl with dried-on milk from my late night snack sitting there staring up at her. A small tear will drop from the corner of her eye.

When she goes to do the laundry there will be no wet, smelly towel sitting in the bottom of the bucket. Never again when she's cleaning up the yard or mowing the lawn will she be able to look over at the porch and see me there drinking a beer and reading my book. Who will she find to hold the other end of that 2x4 she needs to cut? I'm sure her heart will sink - if not break.

When she is talking with one of her sisters or a friend on the phone she will no longer be able to say, "Well, of course Richard doesn't agree with this but ..." When a battery clock or smoke detector stops or anything breaks or there is a new ding on the car door, there will be no Richard to accuse, it will have to be all her fault. This alone could make life very difficult for my poor beloved. She may not want to go on. (Excuse me while I blow my nose - this is really beginning to get to me.) How horrible this is all going to be for her.

When she wants to buy something at a department store she will just buy it and there will be no one there frowning and making her feel guilty for doing so. The checkbook will always be balanced and there will be no un-entered or misdated checks.

There will be no one to tell her that her mother didn't really know what the heck she was talking about, or that her father had a legitimate right to get drunk every now and then - as does her husband.

When I'm gone, life is truly going to be a sad experience for my poor darling. This is very sad. I have always told my wife that I was put here for her by God, so that she could stop thinking about herself. The burden of her happiness has been my burden and my goal in life.

Now what will she find that could ever replace me? Is there anything that could really replace me? I think that all of you out there know the answer to that question as well as I do.

She will be a ship without a sail or a rudder. She will be a soul lost in the darkness. Just thinking about how she will miss me when I'm gone is almost enough to make me weep. Her life will be like a Greek tragedy. When I am gone she will be so alone. She will be in such misery. She will have only her own thoughts to frustrate her. It will be so sad.

And there I’ll be – up in heaven – counting my blessings and reaping my reward. Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll put in a good word for you with “the Man” upstairs.

Here's a little personal information on my book "A Summer with Charlie." For more info or to make a purchase please click on cover link at right of this page. Thanks!

A Summer with Charlie

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

“A Summer with Charlie” is my biggest seller to date. It is a simple, straight forward book and it can be read in one sitting. It is a great book for the summer while soaking up rays on the beach. It is written in the local vernacular and it is filled will local memorabilia. I wrote it for all my old buddies in an attempt to bring back some of the good old days, places and happenstances and to commemorate our mutual pal Charlie who was not as lucky as the rest of us. He is quite a memory. My intention was to make him “quite a memory” for you also.

It is a sad story and it is a funny story. It is about a childhood buddy. It’s about the “old gang” and “hanging out.” It’s about good times and bad times and they’re all happening at the same time. It is another of those stories that I felt obligated to write. It had been on my mind for decades. When I finally sat down to write it, it didn’t take me a week.

It is getting some attention back in my hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. I have been up there a couple of times talking about it. I’ve been on the local radio station several times and had a reading at the local library. It is in all the local libraries and has been added to the history center or section. Merrimack Valley Magazine did a spread on the story for their July/August issue 2010.

They printed the entire first chapter of the book, plus a bio of me, with support pictures for the book and a review by a local journalist. They did a great job.
It is a tear-jerker. If it doesn’t make you cry, you weren’t paying attention.
It is basically a true story. I, of course, embellished here and there and used a little “poetic license” but it is, for the most part a true story. I hope you all like it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Social Security

Social Security


By Richard E. Noble

The original Social Security legislation was passed in 1935. It covered employees who were 65 years of age or older. The funds collected for Social Security were to be kept separate from general revenue funds and payments made into the system were to be credited to the individuals who paid them.

In 1939 survivors' benefits were added to the system and then in 1956 disability benefits were also added. In addition in 1956 women were allowed to retire at age 62 with decreased benefits and in 1961 men were allowed the same encouragement. The idea, as I remember at the time, was to encourage elderly men and women to remove themselves from the workplace to provide greater opportunities for younger workers and new workers entering the job market.

In 1965 Medicare was added to the Social Security System as opposed to initiating a new and separate health care system for the elderly or revamping the health care system for everyone. National Health coverage was lacking and in need of serious adjustments even at that time. In fact a National Health Care plan was suggested in 1935 but was considered politically disadvantageous.

In 1969 the Johnson administration began counting Social Security funds in the federal budget. This was done as you can imagine for political purposes.

By adding the Social Security funds into the federal budget instead of keeping those funds separate as per the original legislation in 1935 the deficit spending on the very unpopular Vietnam war could be made to appear less troubling. Wars cost money and Vietnam was costing a bunch. Traditionally taxes or a special tax would be levied to pay for war expenses. But because Vietnam was so unpopular President Johnson didn't dare propose a war tax on anybody. Instead he borrowed the money to support the war and ran high deficits which were, of course, then added directly to the National Debt. In other words, he ran up the balance on the nation's credit card and made the cost of the war appear to be less by adding into the budget the Social Security collections. Borrowing and adding to the National Debt is considered by most established economists as an inflationary practice which results in a form of regressive taxation. Regressive taxation (inflation etc.) means that the burden is placed on the middle classes and lower classes as opposed to the wealthy. Inflation is often described as the "grocery store" tax.

In 1974 Congress and President Nixon get into a battle as to who will control the nation's purse strings. The president impounded funds allocated by Congress for projects distasteful to his party. By refusing to spend the money the executive basically usurps the traditional power of the Congress over budget and spending. Congress then passes the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act which precipitate an office of Budget Management. Congress now has an organized centralized method for budgeting and allocating funds. But this new process continues the misdirected policy of including Social Security funds into the unified budget. This, in effect, reduces the protected Social Security Trust fund to a part of government's general spending.

In 1982 Alan Greenspan is commissioned to study the growing Social Security "deficit" problem. Greenspan recommends an increase in the Social Security payroll taxes. He recommends this in order to build a surplus in the Trust Fund to compensate for the baby-boomer retirement surge that he predicts will begin in 2010.

In the mean time the Reagan administration and the Bush administration continued the borrow-and-spend policy of the Johnson administration to support Star Wars, the general rebuilding of the Military and Bush #1's wars.

Ronald Reagan in just five years as President trippled the National Debt. By the end of the Reagan/Bush years these two conservative presidents quadrupled this nation's National Debt to 4 trillion dollars. It had taken all the previous presidents, from George Washington through Jimmy Carter to get the National Debt to slightly less than 1 trillion.

By 1983 surpluses begin to appear in the Social Security Trust Fund.

By 1989 there is over 50 billion extra dollars in the Fund but Congress and President Bush #1 decide to include this surplus in its general revenue expenses. There is another war going on you will remember.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tries to get the Social Security payroll tax rescinded on the grounds that if Congress is going to spend the baby-boomers Social Security in place of taxing people for Bush's war, the tax should be abolished and Social Security should be returned to a pay-as-you-go program. Mr. Moynihan was trying to protect the Social Security Fund not undermine it.

A November 5, 1990 Congress passed The Budget Enforcement Act. Though it had been stated in the original Social Security Bill that the Trust Fund would be kept separate from the general revenue and spending funds, this new law restated the premise and made an actual law against doing otherwise. But regardless President Clinton and now president Bush decided to disregard this law and continue including the Social Security Trust Fund and its ever growing surpluses due to the Baby Boomer tax increase of 1983.

Every president from Lyndon Johnson forward was guilty of misappropriating the social Security Trust fund money. They did this basically to make their deficit spending look better to the electorate and in Clinton's case to make his surpluses appear to be greater than they really were.

Bush II compounded the deception or theft by telling the public that the government had extra money and that it should be returned to the taxpayers. Bush II, in effect, gave the Baby Boomers' Social Security money to the rich and the wealthy via his so called tax cut. It should really have been called a Social Security give away, rather than a tax cut.

Now, not only does the Social Security Tax or revenues have to be increased, all the money that was pilfered from the Fund from Lyndon Johnson forward must be reimbursed.

To add insult to injury not only did the government pilfer the money from the Social Security funds to use to finance its wars and send dividends to the rich and famous, it "borrowed" these funds in a manner never before seen. It took the money from the Social Security Fund and instead of replacing these funds with negotiable, interest bearing treasury bills, it replaced the money with non-negotiable, non interest bearing markers. In other words like the Anderson Accounting scam, they simply juggled the books.

It does no good to say that all the people serving in the Congress from Johnson forward should be prosecuted for embezzling government funds but nevertheless the problem will have to be solved.

As an old retired person I hope that my contemporaries will not allow any future U.S. government to simply cut benefits and undermine the system. The government is at fault for not managing the peoples’ money and for not making the necessary financial adjustments when necessary. The government is responsible and should be held responsible.

I have one idea – no foreign interventions or wars for the next ten years and the saving on defense spending to be deposited into the Social Security Trust Fund. With the exception of World War II and the British invasion of 1812 where we were actually attacked, the remainder of U.S. wars were optional. I suggest that we take the "option" in the future. Skip a war here and there in our future and we will have more than enough to fund Social Security and numerous other seemingly impossible benefits.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This is a short story from my Book "A Baker's Dozen." to order this book or get more information on this book, click on the cover of the book at the right of this page Thanks.

It was the day before Christmas and all through the house there were long faces, and sad children. My mother had told us that there wouldn't be any Christmas this year. We had no money. Dad was off to sea on the other side of the world somewhere and we were home here in Lawrence ... broke … again.

We had gone up to Broadway hunting for a Christmas tree on several different occasions; but they were all too expensive.

In past years, one could buy a Christmas tree for a quarter or fifty cents. You could buy the best tree on the lot for a dollar – but, not this year. The new president, whoever he was, must have come from the Christmas Tree State; wherever that is. This year Christmas trees sold for dollars. My mom would pick out some diseased little bush, bang it on the sidewalk a few times to watch all the needles fall off, and then ask; "How much for this piece of firewood?"

"Two dollars," the man would say, looking at my mother as if she weren't even worth dealing with.

"Two dollars?" my mother would groan in disbelief, not even covering her voice so that the man couldn't hear.

"Excuse me," the man would say, I have a customer over here. The man would say the word "customer" as to distinguish between my mother and an actual human being with money. A customer was obviously a person who could afford to buy a Christmas tree and not stand there arguing over what the tree might cost. I remember being embarrassed. The way these men treated my mother made me feel even smaller than I was. My mother couldn't have cared less about them. She just seemed to say whatever came into her head. She wasn't concerned about her social status as I was. The men treated her like trash, and she treated them like criminals. My mother was ready for a fight and I was ready to go somewhere and hide.

I would never act like my mother, I thought at the time. I would buy the tree or I wouldn't buy the tree. I guess that I thought that my mother really had the money but she was just too cheap to spend it. She was always trying to save money. A nickel in her pocket was the actual size of a real buffalo. To get one out of her pocket took a whole tribe of Indians and a troop of U.S. cavalry. She was like that on everything, not just Christmas trees. This whole situation was just too, too embarrassing.

We went home, once again, without a Christmas tree.

Now, here it was the day before Christmas and my mother was just sitting there in her chair, knitting another one of her stupid crocheted hats. She knit hats and sweaters and scarves and mittens and gloves. She would even put lace knitting onto linen handkerchiefs. All the relatives said how pretty her hankies were, but I knew better. All this knitted stuff was poor people stuff – the accouterments of poverty. They all smiled, but they weren't really smiling; they were smirking. "Ha ha ha! Look at her! She can't even afford to buy real Christmas presents. Every year it is the same old piece of handmade crap."

"I've got an idea," my mother said. "Why don't you kids go out and sell some of my handmade articles. Instead of sitting there sulking – do something. Every year I get all sorts of compliments. All the relatives love the things that I make. I'll bet that they would sell like hot cakes."

The old woman had to be whacked out of her mind. Not only did she think that her "handmade" stuff was attractive and an "article," she thought that one of us kids would go out into the streets of America and try to sell it. She had obviously read too many "Alice in Wonderland" stories when she was a child.

"Hey! That's a great idea!" my sister said.

I couldn't believe my ears.

Everyone bantered the idea around and they came to what they thought was the obvious conclusion. Richard should go out into the streets of Lawrence on Christmas Eve selling these hats because he was so young and so cute. This was the first time that anyone in the family ever said that they thought that I was cute. I couldn't believe it. They couldn't be serious. On the boldest day of my life I couldn't go up to a stranger and ask the time of day, never mind sell them one of my mother's stupid linen handkerchiefs, made like a doily – all trimmed in pink and blue. This was the wackiest idea that I had ever heard. Sure it sounded great to my brother and sister. I was the dope who would be out there looking like Little Orphan Annie selling crocheted homemade hats door to door. Oh my God!

Within a moment they had me all bundled up and out the kitchen door, carting this little cardboard suitcase filled with stupid hats and doilies. I was beside myself. And it was starting to snow. What would I do?

Well, I couldn't go peddling hats on the very street that I lived. That would be too embarrassing. I would have to walk a block or two and try some street where nobody knew me.

I went up one block and took my first left onto Camden. I stood out in front of this big brown tenement for what seemed like an hour trying to get up my courage. I wanted to cry. I just really wanted to cry. This was so hard. This was the worst thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.

I walked up the steps that led to the front porch. The door had this gold key thing-a-ma-gig on it. I knew what it was because we had one on our hall door. You turned it clockwise and it rang like a bell. I turned the darn thing. A lady came to the parlor window which looked out onto the front porch. She pulled the lace curtain back and stared down at me for a moment. Then she left.

Next I heard her at the porch door. I was scared out of my wits. I didn't want the lady to see my face, just in case I ever meet her again in my life. I opened up my cardboard suitcase and held it out in front of me with the lid up in front of my face. The lady opened the door and turned on the porch light at the same time. When she looked down into my suitcase with all the multi-colored hats and things she let out with a yelp. I was about to run when I heard her scream; "Oh you guys, you've got to come here and look at this. You won't believe it!"

Yeah, I thought to myself. They won't believe it all right. What won't they believe? They won't believe that there is actually a little boy out here on their stoop on Christmas Eve, selling crocheted hats out of a cardboard box. My god! If anybody finds out about this, I'll die. I'll just have a heart attack and drop dead!
Within just a moment or two there was a cluster of chatty, old women and pretty, young girls all over me. I was pink. I was pink all over my body. I could feel it everywhere. There were women all over me. And they smelled like little flowers and powder puffs and stuff like you smell at the women's counter in Woolworth's department store. Oh man, I think I'm going to be sick – was my feeling. What will happen if I start puking all over this lady's front porch?

They couldn't stand it. They had to drag me into the house and sit me down at the kitchen table while each of them tried on every hat in the box. They actually liked the hats. Who would have believed it? Certainly not I! But you know, I wore some of that knitted stuff that my mother made and no one ever laughed at me. Her stuff looked just like the stuff you could buy at Woolworth's for a pile of money if you wanted to. So there you go.

I sat there watching this gaggle, in disbelief. But yet I had to be cool. It was clear that given the right price they were going to buy some of this crap. But I had to be careful.

"How much is this one?" a girl asked. I pictured myself stating a price; watching them all shrivel up in the face, and then throwing me out of the house. How much was a crocheted hat worth? My mother said that anything above fifty cents would make her happy.

I looked around this lady's apartment. They had good stuff in there. They had a shiny, mahogany, wood kitchen table. Anything that looked dark, pretty, shined and was made of wood was mahogany to me. If anything in a department store looked expensive, my mother would say, "That must be mahogany." I never saw a tree that looked like mahogany. Mahogany must grow in Africa or the South American Amazon Jungle or someplace like that, I thought. Anybody that had mahogany for a kitchen table must be rich, I figured. What would a rich person pay for a homemade, crocheted hat? A crocheted hat couldn't be worth very much, or my mother wouldn't be making them. We didn't have anything in my house that was worth anything. So what could I ask?

I looked at the hat. It was a nice one. She even had it on her head. You have to be rich to just pick something up and put it on your head, I thought. If I ever picked anything up in a department store and put it on my head, my mother would give me a crack that would make my ears ring. This girl had the hat on her head, and she was twisting it this way and that. Nobody would do that unless they were going to buy the darn thing; would they?

"Ahh, that one is seventy-five cents."

"Oh my god! Are you sure?"

O poop, I thought. I blew it. She thinks that seventy-five cents is a lot of money. My mother had to be kidding me with that "anything over fifty-cent" business. But now what could I do? I couldn't change the price. Then they would all know that I was making up the prices. I had to show some confidence. If she put that one back and picked up another one, I could lower the price on that one. Then maybe she would be happy.

"That one is seventy-five cents, but there are others that are..."

"Oh my gosh," she interrupted. "I have to have it, mother." She called her old lady "mother." That was a sure give away. These people had to be rich. The "mother" got out her purse and handed me a dollar.

"I don't have any change," I said.

"Oh don't be silly. That hat is worth a good deal more than a dollar. You take the dollar and when you go home, if your mother says that it costs more than a dollar you come back and I'll give you some more money."

This lady thinks I have a "mother" too. Where the heck in the world was I? I had never seen anybody pay extra for anything in my entire life. These people were wacky. I had stepped through the looking glass. I was now in a world apart. I was only one block from Chelmsford Street and I was into Never-Never Land.

Every hat after the first one went up twenty-five cents. This lady went and got her neighbors. She had a telephone, and was calling people to come over and look.
I had an aunt who had a telephone too. I remember Jack Greco’s dad picking up their new telephone, holding it out a foot in front of his face and yelling at it. “Hold it to your ear Dad,” Jackie told his father. Oh my god, the look on Jackie’s dad’s face when he heard the voice through the receiver for the first time.

My aunt upstairs had a telephone but no one else in our building had one. All the relatives in our building would use her phone and pay her a nickel. But most of the time we had no use for a telephone.

By the time that I left that apartment, I had sold nearly everything in the box, and the last hat I sold for two dollars and fifty cents. I just threw all of the money into the cardboard suitcase. Everybody was happy. All of the teenage girls were running around the apartment with one of my old lady's homemade, crocheted hats on their head. They would turn the brim up in the front and look like a flapper, or pull it over to the side. Some of them even had the hats on backward. At least, I thought they were on backwards, but what did I know.

They were all watching me as I left. I had to be cool. I wanted to scream and start running home, but I couldn't. I had to be cool. I never smiled all the time that I was there. I did my best to look as pathetic as possible. I had to be cute, you know. What the heck was cute anyway? I didn't know anybody who was cute.

I walked leisurely to the corner. As I turned the corner onto Center I peeked over my shoulder. They had closed the porch door, but I could still see them through the parlor window. They weren't watching me.

I felt like a thief. I had just robbed that apartment, but none of them were chasing me. They were all parading around in their hats, looking like Jean Harlow or somebody. When I got around that corner, I ran like hell. Every now and then I leaped into the air. I had never been so excited in all my life. What would my mother and brother and sister think? How would I tell them? Would I run in screaming and jumping around? I felt truly heroic. I had a box full of dollar bills.

By the time I got to our kitchen door, I had calmed down somewhat. I decided that I would play dumb. I would just come in all dejected looking and flop down in a chair without saying anything.

When I walked in the door everybody was disappointed. I hadn't been gone all that long, so naturally they thought that I had just quit. I kept a straight face.

"Well, you didn't give it much of a try," my mother said with a frown.

"Did you go to any houses, or did you just walk around the block and come home?" my sister mumbled.

"No. I came home to get some more hats. You got any more? I'm sold out."

"Ha, ha, ha! You're so funny," my mother spit sarcastically. "I wish you would have at least given it a try. Everybody really likes my hats."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I mocked. "Why don't you open the box if you don't believe me?"

"If I don't believe what?"

"If you don't believe that I sold out."

"You sold out?"

"Yeah, I sold out."

"Sure," my sister said, "and why don't you run into the parlor and look at all the presents that Santa left under the Christmas tree."

I just sat there smirking and pointing to the box. My mother began to look at me curiously. Finally she moved towards the box hesitantly. "If you're playing with me, I'm going to give you a smack, I'll tell you."

"Well, get ready to smack him, Mom. There is no way that he could ever have sold all of those hats in such a short period of time. He's just being the little snipe that he always is."

"Oh yeah? Well why don't you open the box then?"

My mother was in front of the box by then. She flipped the little latch and pulled up the lid. Who would have ever believed it? I certainly wouldn't have. It was impossible. But there it was – a suitcase full of money. Jack and the Bean Stalk – but I did it right.

It probably wasn't all that much money, but it was enough to impress everybody in that little apartment. Nobody could believe that I had done it. Everybody's eyes were bugging out of their head. I don't ever remember being prouder than at that moment. I had done the impossible. I don't think that they really thought that I could sell those hats. The place was a sparkle. My mother wanted to give me some of the money, but I wouldn't take it. She wanted me to take some money so that I would go selling hats again in the future. But I knew what I wanted and it wasn't money. I wanted a Christmas tree.

It was Christmas Eve and it was now dark outside. And it was snowing. My mother, my sister and I were all bundled up and heading towards Broadway. We were going to buy a Christmas tree. And when that guy said, “Two dollars,” I'd say, "Good! We'll take it. And here's an extra dollar for you, Merry Christmas." Oh man, wouldn't that be great!

But when we got there, the guy was gone. No Christmas trees anywhere. We walked up and down Broadway. All the Christmas tree stands were gone. Why wouldn't they be gone? Who in their right mind would wait until Christmas Eve to buy a Christmas tree? There we were with a pocket full of money and no tree.

We walked all the way up Broadway to Methuen Square. Then we headed down Lawrence St. along the Searles Castle wall. No more trees for sale anywhere. It was cold. We were blowing into our hands and our noses were running. We had left the house with all our dreams come true. We had gotten the money. We had done the impossible. And now the kingdom was gone for the want of a tree. How could this happen? We could see the trees sparkling in everybody's windows. Most of the houses were lit up with porch lights. But even with a pocket full of money, we would have no Christmas.

Suddenly I saw something in a yard. It looked like Christmas trees lined up along a first floor apartment. But that would be impossible. Why would there be Christmas trees in somebody's yard?

I ran over to the yard and pulled myself up by the rails in order to look over the fence.

"It's Christmas trees, Ma. They're Christmas trees." My sister ran over to the fence and climbed up on a rail beside me. My mother looked and then said; "Well, I'll be." Without hesitating she pulled open the gate and walked right into the yard. There were three Christmas trees leaning there, up against the building. They weren't nice Christmas trees. They were the bottom of the lot. They weren't round or firm or fully packed. They were all ugly, scraggly and filled with empty spaces. But it didn't matter. They were Christmas trees.

My mother marched up the stairs, into the hall, and knocked on the apartment door. She was never one to do that way. The man came to the door and my mother said, "Are those Christmas trees for sale?"

"No," the man said. Our hearts dropped. What could anybody possibly be saving horrible trees like that for? They were all good for nothing. But you know who it was at that door? It was one of those mean guys from the sales lots who wouldn't sell us a tree in the first place. He wasn't going to sell us a tree now because we wouldn't pay the price then, I thought. My old lady was rude to him then, so now he was going to show her who the boss was.

"Those trees are all garbage. They're throw-always."

My mother didn't know what to say. Did the man mean that he would rather throw them away than sell one to cheap people like us?

"Well, if you are just going to throw them away, can we have one then?"

"You can have them all if you want them. I don't care. They ain't worth selling to nobody." Then the man closed the door and went back inside his apartment. He hadn't remembered us. He didn't care one way or another. We eagerly snatched up the trees trying to pick out the best one. But the man was right. Not a one of them was decent enough to make a Christmas tree. They had no limbs on them. My mother stood each tree up, one after another.

"Well, what do you think?" she would ask. She really had a sad look on her face. It was difficult to imagine any of the trees with lights and tinsel on it. How do you decorate a tree with no branches on it? It was easy to see how bad my mother was feeling. It was all her fault, wasn't it? If she would have just bought a tree in the first place, we wouldn't be here now picking through the "garbage."

She had one tree balancing with each of her hands and was spinning them around for our viewing. As she looked at the trees herself, she looked as though she was about to cry. She moved the one tree over to her other hand so that she could pick up the last tree and take a look at it. The last tree wasn't any better. She shook her head negatively. It was a sorry sight. Then she took a last look at the two trees in her other hand. Suddenly her eyes flashed. She pushed the two trees together. The two of them together had enough branches to make one – not very good – tree. She shoved the third one over and bunched them all together. My sister and I beamed. Each tree alone was impossible. But when they were all bunched together they didn't look that bad. We all got the idea. We would take them all home, tie them together and make the three ugly, garbage trees into one real Christmas tree. And we did.

We even had tinsel on the tree because, believe it or not, every year when we took down our Christmas tree at the end of the season, we saved the tinsel. We re-wrapped it, on the cardboard do-hickie, strand by silver strand.

When the relatives came, not a one of them ever noticed that we had three trees tied together by their trunks. We had Christmas presents too. It was just necessary stuff that my mother had bought during the year when it was on sale – like underwear, and socks, but so what.

We each took a turn and went into my mother's bedroom where she had all of this stuff and picked out what we wanted to give to each other. We hid them from one another and wrapped them up in last year's Christmas paper, crossed out the old names on the cards and re-issued them. Merry Christmas - Ho, ho, ho.
And a merry Christmas it was ... really!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The Hobo Philosopher


Bank of International Settlements

by Richard E. Noble

BIS - Bank of International Settlements - Founded in May of 1930, as a part of the Young Plan. Owen D. Young was a J. P. Morgan banker and Political adviser who devised a plan which supposedly would enable the allies to collect reparation payments from defeated Germany after World War I. The BIS would be an international bank that would be immune from the perils of seizure, confiscation and the general perils of War. It seems that the Banking community was having problems conducting business as usual while their chief depositors were conducting international havoc on the battlefields of Europe. They wanted a bank that could function independent of War that could conduct transactions with both sides or all sides before, during and after War. It was founded on the principle that money is thicker than nationalism.
The history of this bank is enough to unsettle the most patriotic heart. Whatever its initial purpose it turned out to be the financial tool for the American and British pre-war financing of Adolf Hitler and German Nazism, and the in-war money laundering apparatus for the Nazis government. Money was shuffled through this bank from primarily British and American sources to rebuild Germany and its industrial might after World War I.

On its board of directors were such people as Walter Funk (convicted war criminal), Emil Puhl (convicted war criminal) and both Hitler appointees, Paul Hechler (German Nazi party member), Kurt von Schroder officer and financier of the Gestapo and head of J.H.Stein Bank of Cologne, Herman Schmitz (head of I.G.Farben), Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht, Hitler’s banking and financial wizard, tried at Nuremberg but released.

The BIS was associated in the U.S. with the First National Bank of New York, a J. P. Morgan organization with directors Harold S. Vanderbilt and Wendell Willkie. Its second president a Leon Fraser, was a hustler and a performer in drag stage comedies, and had no experience whatsoever in banking.

In 1938 The Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Normand, a well known Nazi sympathizer, shipped 48 million in Gold sent to the bank of England by the invaded Czech government, back to the BIS who immediately sent it to Berlin and to Adolf Hitler.

During the War the BIS president was a Harvard graduate by the name of Thomas McKittrick. He was a personal friend of Emil Puhl and “Despite the fact that the evidence of the Puhl-Mckittrick conspiracy was overwhelming, McKittrick was given an important post by the Rockefeffers and Winthrop Aldrich; Vice president of the Chase National Bank . ..“ (Trading with the Enemy-Charles Higham).

The BIS under McKlttrick and others is accused of trading with the enemy during a time of war. This is treason as defined by our own constitution but no one in the BIS has ever been brought to justice or even brought up on charges. The BIS is still in operation today. Henry Morganthau, F.D.R.’s secretary of the treasury, had this bank and numerous other American businesses under investigation after the War, but McCarthyism and its subsequent hype got these super wealthy American Nazi traders off the hook. It’s time for someone to go through these files of Morganthau that are at the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial Library at Hyde Park, and bring these people to public disgrace.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bloggin' Be My Life

The World is Flat

By Thomas L. Friedman

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

I don’t know if this book is serious or it is some kind of tongue in cheek, cynical joke. Basically Mr. Friedman is informing the American reader that every job in America is subject to downsizing or off-shoring via the wonders of internet technology. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, accountants and down the line to the “voice” that takes orders at your local MacDonald’s may all be piped in from India, China or Asia. Although Tom tell us all about this in a tempered, fearful voice, his bottom line is this is all good, inevitable and the positive road of the future.

Globalism is nothing new it started as early as Christopher Columbus, as Thomas points out. But we can go back even further to Marco Polo if we choose to.

I agree with Mr. Friedman that this is the biggest turn of events the world has seen and I agree that the arguments pro and con are pretty much the same old same old.

But the big difference I see in this new state of Globalization is what I would term a violent twist in moral thinking. Friedman and others justify this no-holds-barred type of competition on an international type universal morality. In other words, poor hard working people around the world will be able to improve their status. Jobs will fly from America and other well-off Western countries via cable and new computer technology and the people in the once better-off countries will have to step up or get trampled. If they step up, get retrained and re-educate themselves they will be able to get the more prestigious, higher paying jobs while the “grunt” work is palmed off on the Indians and Asians overseas.

To me this book is an example of oblivious, classist thinking of the first degree. Mr. Friedman does admit that there are some people in America and elsewhere who will undoubtedly suffer … but, what can “we” do. It is so unfortunate that everyone (read working class) can’t be invited to the party.

The problem with this “new” globalism is that there is only one aspect of it that is new. It is the idea that businesses can trade with one another to the disadvantage of their home country and that this is all well and good and justifiable “in the long run.” As the famous economist John M. Keynes once said, “Unfortunately, in the long run we are all dead.”

Lee Iacocca said recently that when he was an ambitious, aspiring corporate executive, the competition was rugged and relentless but never did he or any of his executive friends think that the selling out of their home country was on the table. This is not the case in the “new” global economy.

In “Locked in the Cabinet” Robert Reich tells of a debate he had with economist and fellow Clinton Cabinet member Robert Rubin. The GDP was rising but all the increases were going to a small percentage of Americans at the top. Reich asked Rubin if policies were enacted that solely benefited the upper 2% of the society resulting in a growth in GDP would he considered this to be good, justifiable growth? Rubin answered in the affirmative while Reich disagreed. Today even Rubin has recanted his stand on this position. He was just on the TV screaming about the fiscal insanity of extending tax cuts for the top 2%. Inequality is growing to depression like proportions.

Today we see growth taking place at the top while the rest of us not only remain stagnant but deteriorate. This may be morally righteous from a third world perspective but it is morally disastrous for those of us stuck here in the so called “first world.”

This type of thinking has to be “repatriotized.”

None of us anti-globalist are Levellers or protectionist. Everyone believes in trade and on a global basis but we can’t keep trading away the livelihoods and the futures of the American middle class and the working class. We can’t trade away all our manufacturing and our industrial base. If MacDonald’s can’t afford to hire a neighborhood girl or boy to take orders through the drive-in window and must offshore this menial task to India or China because it saves them money, then we Americans can no longer afford to buy our burgers at MacDonald’s or Burger Kind or whoever. And the same goes for all of our industries.

We must have some reasonable rules. For example, possibly a rule stating that any corporation that sells its products to the United States must have a minimum of 20% of its production based here in the U.S. as I think they are already doing in China. We need smart trade, not free trade. The world is still round from where I sit. And I’m not about to move into a thatched or mud hut because it makes the top 2% of America wealthier. This type thinking must stop.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

This is a column from my book "the Eastpointer." You can find out more about this book by clicking on the picture of the book at the right of this page. I won a first place award for humor from the Florida Press Association for this column in 2007.

The Eastpointer

There is no Inflation.

By Richard E. Noble

I don't want to upset all you retired folks out there but I have found out that the Government has been lying to us about inflation.

I know ... I know, you are all shocked. You can't believe I could actually come right out and say the U. S. Government is lying. I am sure some of you think I should be charged with treason and sent to a foreign country to be tortured. I know to actually believe our government would lie is really hard to swallow. There must be some other explanation? Maybe it only appears that they are lying? Maybe I have misinterpreted the facts? Well, I'll let you be the judge.

Inflation is interpreted by the government as CPI. The CPI is the Consumer Price Index. This index was once calculated by comparing the prices of a certain group of goods and services from time to time and then estimating the increase or decrease in their costs. This task was performed by the BLS, the Bureau of labor Statistics. As the cost of everything in this so called basket of goods and services kept rising, the government decided that something had to be done. Something had to be done because this method was costing the government too much money in cost of living adjustments to retirees, retired veteran’s pensions, Medicare payments, government employees, bond holders and whatever. So they appointed somebody named Boskin and instructed him to form a commission and study this problem.

If you are retired, receiving a pension, have your life's savings invested in government bonds, working under a government contract, or anything that is adjusted for inflation by somebody and you now find that you can only afford to buy half a tank of LP gas, or you can no longer afford to drive your car more than one block in any direction, or you are wondering if cat food can be consumed by humans, you can thank Michael Boskin and his Commission. He and his commission rearranged the methods for estimating the Consumer Price Index.

Mr. Boskin had some "overlooked" economic concepts that he brought into the CPI evaluation like; substitution, hedonics - quality estimations, geometric weighing, seasonal adjustments, along with the elimination of certain incalculable volatile variables like energy, food and local, state and federal taxes. So, for example, when the CPI was calculated without consideration for food, energy and taxes it was often found that there had been no inflation at all. Wow! Isn't that great?

So you ask; why is it that I don't have enough money to live on any more? Well, obviously you are still heating and cooling your home, eating food and paying your taxes. If you will just stop doing those things you will find that you have just as much money as you always had.

But just in case that wasn't enough to bail out the government, Mr. Boskin thought up a few other safety measures to guarantee that inflation didn't go up.

One of his measures he called "substitution." In other words if the price of beefsteak in our typical basket of goods went up from the last time that Mr. Boskin went shopping, he substituted hamburger; and if hamburger was too high he substituted chicken; and if all the meat was too high; he substituted vegetables; and if vegetables were too high one can imagine that Mr. Boskin would have us consumers check out the ingredients on a bag of Friskies. Then, of course, we don’t have to buy the name brand Friskies, we could buy Gritskies and we don’t have to buy Ritz Crackers we can buy Fritz or Blitz Crackers.

Next on Mr. Boskin's list of improvements was "hedonics" or quality compensations. Let's say that Mr. Boskin bought a TV for $329 on his previous expedition and then on his following survey the same model TV cost the exact same price. But the new TV had a better picture, was estimated to last 2 years longer, and due to improvements in technology it had a much better sound. Mr. Boskin figured that even though RCA chose not to charge us for these improvements the government had no obligation to be so generous. Mr. Boskin estimated, for example, that these improvements were worth in terms of quality enhancement, $135. He therefore calculated that a new TV didn't really cost the consumer $329 but only $194. As you can plainly see our CPI actually went down instead of remaining exactly the same.
But hedonics only seems to travel in one direction. If you personally don’t benefit from these new technological wonders because you have grown old and your vision and hearing have diminished or even if you didn’t need and don’t want the new and improved model, you still get billed by Boskin nonetheless.

I could explain to you Mr. Boskin's "geometric weighing" as opposed to the old antiquated arithmetic method and his seasonal adjustments but I don't really think it is necessary. I think that most of you out there will agree with me when I say that Mr. Boskin and the U.S. government who hired him are not simply spinning the truth but are really telling lies.

PS: I have read that in Israel inflation is calculated each year and everybody's accounts are ajusted automatically. Nobody loses a nickel due to inflation.