It is possible to be patriotic and NOT blow up stuff once a year. If you could mow your lawn, cook some hot dogs, and try not to burn down the entire neighborhood, that’d be great.
Freedom isn’t free, but it certainly can be dumb. Remember this the next time you are waving a flag, shouting at someone you don’t know, or buying tires that are made overseas then marked down in price for one weekend only.
The Boston Tea Party was a reaction to the British government raising the tax on tea a whopping 3%. Think about that, the next time you fill up your car, buy groceries, or mail in your 1040 form.
Trying to visualize how prices have increased can be difficult, but it can be done in a very effective manner. (I tried to download this graphic, but could not; so you’re just going to have to copy/paste this link):
Now, fuel prices are so out of control, they don’t even put them on the pump. Maybe they know if we saw the final cost, we’d stop buying it? Or maybe they’re embarrassed to show it?
We should all be embarrassed, because WE have allowed this to go on for far too long.
We The People have been blinded by our own short-term profits and have pushed long-term happiness and well being to the side.
Why do WE allow big businesses to run (and ruin) our lives?
And what might be driving those fuel prices up so high? Did the cost of manufacturing go up? Did the amount of fuel available go down? Or did the gas companies simply raise their prices to try and make up for the reduced sales through the pandemic? The largest producers made $100 BILLION dollars in THE FIRST QUARTER alone.
Here’s a novel idea, instead of charging $7/gallon for fuel and making $100 Billion in profits per quarter, how about you charge $3.50/gallon and only make $50 Billion per quarter? That’s still a FUCK-TON of profits, it helps the average American to survive one more paycheck, and it helps get the economy moving in a positive direction…. you know, one that still makes them long term profits by staying in business. Seems like a win-win-win situation, right?
Unless, of course, GREED is the real motivator and the only real reason why businesses are in business.
Ah, but what do I know? I’m just a keyboard warrior trying to make ends meet for just one more week…
I’m curious if the philosophers of the past had to earn a living just to survive? Afterall, how much money can one make by just philosophizing? Maybe if you’ve got a real busy street corner and the locals are loose with their spare change. Naaaaaah!
Capitalism drives our society by keeping everyone busy, busy, busy; trying to justify their own existence. Meanwhile, technology has advanced to the point of making better quality products, outputting more products in less time, while reducing unproductive down time. How we survived before this time, no one can explain. (sarcastic eye-roll) But an unfortunate by-product of these improvements is that we don’t need to employ nearly as many people as we used to. And if people aren’t working, they aren’t earning money, thus they can’t afford to buy those same products.
Changing this conundrum means we need to change the entire way we look at “life”; we need to redefine exactly why we are on this planet and how we are supposed to spend our time here.
In the past, a king or queen could grant you a parcel of land as payment for slaying the local dragon. Or at least that’s the way the fables tell the tale. If they want to start paying me in acreage like they did with knights and lords, we can come to an agreement about how you’ll give me 10,000 acres for my mechanical repair services over the next 5 years.
“JOB” is actually an acronym for “just over broke“. It’s very telling to see how many people, who are working full-time, still can’t make ends meet.
Every modern business is a way for the business owner to write off expenses that an ordinary employee can’t do. Just think how much farther your food budget could stretch if you could write off every meal as a “business lunch”. Wouldn’t it be nice to deduct your car loan payment as well as miles travelled, maintenance costs and ever-increasing fuel expenses; simply by putting your name & address on a magnetic sign attached to your car door? Sounds ridiculous, but that’s the exact kind of power having a business gives you. And the bigger your business, the more power it can utilize.
A friend of mine lives in a small town in Montana, and like many places, the prices of houses there have skyrocketed recently. You’d think that the cold winter temps would keep all but the heartiest of people out of that area (myself included!), but not the case if you can afford unlimited heat. When the show “Yellowstone” ramped up, the production company bought 300 houses in the local area so that the crew would not have to stay in hotels each night. Sounds great if you’re a realtor, but not-so-great if you’re an average family hoping to find an average house that you can afford with your average income.
The old question of “How much is enough?” also raises the question of “At what point does money stop being an impediment?” What could you accomplish if you didn’t HAVE to work just to earn a living?
If your annual income is, oh let’s say…. $50,000; getting into legal trouble or owing a large hospital bill is an actual worry. Exactly HOW am I going to pay this?!? If I take out a loan, that’s….. uh….. THOUSANDS of dollars, every month, for many, many years. It’s a mental strain that takes a toll on your psyche. On the other hand, if you’ve got $50 million in the bank, having to pay a 6-figure sum is no big deal. In fact, it’s a small fraction of your total net worth, one that you can probably earn back without too much actual effort. That is, if you’re good at playing “the game” better than the next person.
It appears the next generation will need to find a “side-hustle” if they are going to survive; because no one wants to tackle the ultimate problem….. why do we allow this insanity to continue?
Since my wife is out of town for a week and a half, I’m fending for myself in the kitchen. Today I figured I’d try something a little bit different; I happen to have an MRE (meals ready to eat) that a friend of mine gave me; and I figured I’d give it a whirl to see what exactly it tastes like to eat a military meal.
After opening the main bag, we find several smaller bags, all individually vacuum sealed. Grape jelly, crackers, lemon poppy cake, a bag full of condiments, a spoon, the main dish (Chicken Tetrazzini), an MRE heater, and strawberry drink mix powder,
The condiments bag included an ancient, small bottle of hot sauce (that had long ago dried out), one tea bag, one coffee creamer, one moist towelette, one package of iodized salt, several paper towels, a pack of matches, a pack of sugar, and 2 mint flavored pieces of gum.
I tried warming up the chicken tetrazzini using the MRE heater, but is did not cooperate, so I micro-waved it for a minute (a luxury most soldiers don’t have). It tasted a lot like cat food, and it was actually quite bitter, so I did not finish it.
The crackers of course were very hard even with grape jelly on them and the powdered strawberry protein shake was actually the best tasting part of the meal.
I’m not sure how most of the condiments were intended to be used within this meal, but I suppose you’d have to ask the military vendor that question.
We’ve already discussed how the “game” of capitalism is flexible and allows the “players” to customize certain parts for their advantage. One of the purposes of capitalism is to keep the money moving. This allows players to pull some money out, thus providing them with a financial advantage over other players. Everyone is kept distracted by forcing them to participate unwillingly in many corners of the game. Within capitalism itself, there are many different “levels”, each with different advantages for the player who wishes to “step up” their game.
The recent pandemic has shown that many traditional jobs that were formally done at a place of business can now be done remotely or at home. This changes the way capitalism has to work in order to continue sucking money out of your wallet.
Corporations (Big Business) – Big business is not about making small sales. They say they need big government contracts just to survive, but considering their profit margin, it’s quite obvious they are doing much better than just getting by. They have a tremendous buying power and they can get other businesses (their vendors) to bow to their wishes. All because the vendors see some dollars dangled in front of them.
Shareholders – These are the “professional investors” who front the money for a company. In return, they want to get paid, and paid very well at that! a 30% ROIC (return on invested cash) is the norm.
The Executive Branch – The president is the top elected official, the people’s choice, right? Absolutely not! He’s put in place by the big corporations that need him to do favors for them.
The Senate – These are the folks that you contact (READ: bribe) when you want a bill passed, to affect your businesses’ bottom line. Money talks and bull-shit walks.
House of Representatives – These elected officials are supposed to represent the people, but in reality they are just the softball team leading up to the major league (the Senate).
IRS – This is the financial enforcement arm of the government, or so it seems. The tax code has so many loopholes, exclusions, and special rules, you need a special degree just to understand all of it. And of course, the higher up on the food chain you go, the more important it becomes to find a way out of paying your fair share of taxes.
The Military-Industrial Complex – We used to have just a military fighting force, one that was used to defend our country. But then someone noticed that selling all the goods & services needed during a war was very profitable, so now we create wars just for the sole purpose of selling stuff. Eisenhower tried to warn us about this ……
The Banking System
The Federal Reserve – This is NOT part of the federal government. This is a collaboration of big banks who act as one entity, a monopoly, that “loans” out money with interest built right in. It’s mathematically impossible to pay back all of the principle and interest, but since the players don’t understand this, they keep working harder and harder, trying to “get ahead” of the game.
Large banks – The large (mostly regional) banks that make loans to large companies. And of course, their loans include a second layer of interest.
Local banks – These banks make loans to small businesses and private individuals. And of course, their loans include a third layer of interest.
Savings and Loans – is a financial institution that specializes in accepting savings deposits and making mortgage and other loans. Again, with interest built right in.
Credit Unions – In theory, these are different than a regular bank, but in reality, they operate in the same basic way. They claim to be a “member-owned” financial cooperative, controlled by its members and operated on a not-for-profit basis, but we all know that “non-profit” does not mean that they don’t make money or charge members fees. Much like any other business, the CEO gets paid very well, as do all of the other board members. Payroll helps reduce the overall profitability, thus keeping the credit union at (or below) the “profit line”.
The governor – is the one person that is (in theory) in charge of the state. But if the Feds threaten to withhold federal funding for one of his pet projects, and you will quickly see who is really pulling his strings.
State tax office – Much like the IRS, your state taxes are paid in theory for the services that the state provides.
Employer – This is the bread-and-butter of capitalism. The working man, possible employing a few other people, keeping the gears of society moving. He has relatively little buying power (compared to the big businesses), but he can scrounge up a deal from his vendors, helping his own bottom line as much as possible.
Management – How often have you seen this happen – a manager buys lunch using the company card. Maybe it was a real “business lunch” or maybe they made it one by simply saying a word or two that related to the business at hand. It’s business-as-usual, and that’s just the beginning of the company perks.
Employee – The hardest working cog in the capitalism wheel. And the most abused as well. He has to work the hardest because he has to pay (directly) for every good & service he needs as well as (indirectly) for everyone else’s too! Think it can’t be that way? Sit back and count how many spammers, salesmen, and grifters you encounter in a single day. In person, on the TV, in your email, on your phone; you name it and they will try to find a new way to shaft you.
On-line sales – So you want to open a “virtual store” where you can sell some products using one of the many platforms for this service. For example, Amazon offers different pricing plans including an “individual” plan (for people who sell less than 40 items per month) as well as a “professional” plan (if you sell more than 40 items per month). Sounds simple, right? But they also charge a “referral fee” on each item, depending on what category it belongs in. There’s also “fulfillment fees” if you have Amazon actually package & ship the item. There are also some miscellaneous fees that may be charged. The fee structure can get so complicated, they actually offer a “Fee Calculator” so you can figure out how much the fees would actually be. For example, if I sold a turbocharger for $1,000, I would have to pay $126 in fees.
The Entertainment Industry
Have you ever wondered why musicians get paid “in perpetuity” for their work? It’s because so much of the profits get eaten up by everyone else besides the musician, there is hardly anything left. That’s assuming they did not sell off the rights to their own music.
Actors get paid a salary (up front) and the smart ones will also negotiate for a portion of the gross sales. That way they get paid residuals long after their performance is done. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had access to “passive income streams” like this?
Because in the end, that’s the name of the game…..
In school I was an A & B student. I took physics class (12th grade) and somehow, I passed. Hell, I even helped my 2 desk mates pass the class too and their notes in my yearbook remind me of this.
Is it possible to examine the existing world to figure out how the world was created?
Is there a mathematical equation that can be used to calculate how the world operates?
What is space & time and how are they interconnected?
Is time travel possible?
How small is a particle and is there anything smaller still?
What else is out there in the universe?
These are just some of the questions that a physicist attempts to find answers for.
Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist and tackled some of the biggest questions in life. Some may say that his mind was sharpened by his physical disabilities. He wrote this book to try and answer some of these questions in terms that an average person could understand. There is so much scientific terminology used, even in this version, that some of it just sounds outrageous. (“Quarks”… really??)
But if you like science and want to learn, strap on your thinking cap and give this book a read.
This story should have been written up 2+ decades ago; but much like everything else in life, I’ve been busy doing other things.
Frank S. Haigh jr actually isn’t my “uncle”, he was my father’s cousin, which makes him my 2nd cousin, but most people don’t understand this relationship; so for ease of understanding, I’ve always referred to him as “uncle”.
Frank, and his 2nd wife, Louise, were always in our prayers when we were children. We knew he was a relative, but lived in California (while we lived on the east coast).
Frank & Louise had been married for 30 years, yet never had any children. (I don’t know if this was a conscious decision or there were any medical reasons) This was Frank’s 2nd marriage and Louises 3rd,
Frank had been in the Air Force during the Korean war. He was a pilot and attained the rank of Staff Sargent.
After the war, his first marriage failed and he found his way from Illinois to California, where he got a job in the aerospace industry as an electrical engineer.
In 1986, soon after I had moved to Long Beach, Ca, Louise passed away unexpectantly one night. I had not made the effort to meet them as soon as I had moved there, so now my opportunity to meet her was gone. I sent a sympathy card to Frank and finally met him for the first time in 1987. We instantly hit it off and I tried to keep in touch through the years. At some point, Frank had stated that he wanted me to be the executor of his estate and also that none of his estate would go to his step-nephew, because that guy was gay.
Jump forward a decade. I’ve moved several times and not been in contact with Frank for at least 2 years. I get a call from my parents saying that Frank had passed away, the cops had been involved, and I need to contact the L.A. county officials because I’m the executor of Frank’s estate.
The month of November 1997 is a blur for me. I found out that Frank had died on October 21st and I agreed to meet with a representative from Los Angeles County at Frank’s home on the morning of November 3, 1997. The weekend of November 1 & 2 was spent moving my (soon to be ex-)wife and my son out of our house and into a house that she had rented. The night of the 2nd, my friend Paul & I drove south from Galt, Ca to be at Frank’s house on the morning of the 3rd (which just happened to also be my birthday). I had been told that Frank had an “incident” with the L.A. SWAT team and that the house was full of tear gas crystals; so, I came prepared with long sleeved clothes and an Army surplus gas mask. Much of what I would later learn of the situation would be from piecing information back together after talking with other people.
The doors & windows had been boarded up by one of Frank’s neighbors, Mike, as an effort to keep the looters out. This had the side effect of keeping the tear gas in. The county guy said we would open the house and search for a will, but as soon as we removed the first board and opened the front door, the fumes were so overwhelming that he signed over total access to me.
I get back to work on the 5th and call my mother to update her on the situation. Surprisingly, one of my sisters (who lived 100 miles away) answered the phone. I asked to speak with mom and my sister told me that mom was taking a nap because our father had passed away earlier that day. When I got off the phone, I told my boss what had happened, and he suggested I go home. “Go home to what?” I thought, an empty house without my son, no furniture, and yet another death in the family? No thanks, I’ll take my chances in the solitude of my cubical.
Paul & I would make 4 round trip weekend visits to SoCal over the next 5 weekends. We cleaned out all of the valuables from the house, leaving only trash, and moving 2 cars as well. I would later find out that someone on the cleaning crew had discovered some old checks and ordered a fresh box of them, but had them sent to a different address. This should have been a “red flag” for the bank, but the fun didn’t stop there.
Backing up just a little, after Louise had passed away, Frank found himself alone in the world, with only his 2 neighbors as friends. Only a short 2+ years after we met, I had moved away, keeping in touch only through sparce phone calls. Depression and alcoholism were controlling Frank’s life, pushing him down to a low point and then he’d snap back just in time to catch up the bills, before things were to be turned off. But one such low point was a little deeper & longer than usual. Franks’ home went into foreclosure and was sold on the county court house steps for only $88,000; a mere pittance for a house with 1/2 acre of land in SoCal. All this time, the neighbors had been telling Frank that he had to take care of these legal documents and he replied that he had sent them a check. What he didn’t realize is that his check was sitting in the mountain of un-opened mail that was piled up on his coffee table.
The new owners of the house, a real estate investment company, wanted to take possession; which meant they had to legally evict any & all people who may be living there. Documents were sent in Frank’s name, Louise’s name, the names of the people they had bought the house from in 1974, and anyone who may be squatting on the property. And of course, all these legal documents had the unintended effect of generating all sorts of mail for Frank & Louise. “Louise Haigh – You’ve been pre-approved for a new credit card!” Just what Frank needed, daily reminders that the love of his life was gone.
On October 21, 1997, the new owners were at the house along with the police, in order to physically remove anyone and everyone from the property. When they knocked on the door, Frank parted the front curtains with a 410 shotgun and told them to go away. The police, obviously, did not take this well. The SWAT team was called in, Frank’s house was surrounded, and the neighbors were all held back at the top of the street. Even his neighbor, Mike, who was a LA police officer, was not allowed in the “secure zone”. Local news crews interviewed people from up the street, who told them that “He’s a war vet” and “He’s got and armory in his basement“. Had they actually known Frank, they would know their worst fears were completely unfounded. He was a nice old guy who loved cats and didn’t even have a basement.
After holding their places for most of the day, it appears that someone decided to try and “wrap up” the situation. The SWAT team fired 2 tear gas canisters into Frank’s small, 900 sq ft house, Frank went into his bedroom and fired one shot with an Ithica .38 pistol, killing himself instantly. The SWAT team heard this shot, and everyone opened fire with their tear gas canisters. A news reporter would later say 30 canisters were fired and even though the police picked up the actual canisters, they did not pick up the small piece of foam that separates the canister from the propellant. I physically picked up 27 of these from around the property.
The coroner was called and Frank’s body was removed from the property. Frank’s neighbor, Mike, saw a pickup truck driving by and recognized that the way they were acting was that of potential looters scoping out their next target. That’s when he quickly went to Home Depot, bought some sheets of plywood, and boarded up Frank’s house.
Paul & I worked to clear the house of Frank’s valuables. Every time I walked through the house, I was stirring up dust & tear gas crystals, adding to the complexity of the situation.
Frank’s engineering background & organizational skills were still showing in his final days. He was a smoker and I found separate piles of cigarette packs, the cellophane wrappers, and cigarette butts; all sitting neatly next to his rocking chair. His closet still had his work clothes hanging where they always were, and the bathroom still had Louise’s toiletries by the sink.
I was able to secure the gun safe because Frank’s other neighbor, George, had a copy of the combination. I had to climb under the house and unbolt it from the floor. Inside the gun safe I found a lock box key from a local bank. I would later find a bank statement, showing that Frank was indeed paying for a safety deposit box at that branch. On the day that I went to the bank, I brought Frank’s death certificate, Louise’s death certificate, and a copy of my executorship papers. The scene was quite surreal – I inserted my key, the branch manager inserted his key, we both rotated the locks at the same time, he removed the lock box while his secretary stood by, ready to document everything that was inside. When we opened the box, we found……… nothing. Not even dust! Frank had been paying for this box for years and never used it.
I also found some paperwork and a business card from a lawyer that specialized in wills. I contacted him and he said that Frank had come in to talk about writing a will, but he never returned with the needed information. Yet another dead end.
I went to the LA County Coroner’s Office, to claim Frank’s body. The office is an old, ornate building and walking inside resembled a scene from the TV show Dragnet. I had never seen a dead body before, so I tried to mentally prepare myself for the worse case scenario that was about to happen. I told the desk clerk that I was there to claim a body, he took my name & info along with Frank’s info. I had brought along the 2 pictures of Frank from 1987 and I told the clerk that he was probably dirty, disheveled, and had a long, unkept beard. I think he could tell that I was extremely uncomfortable with being there and he confirmed that my description was so good that I would not have to physically identify the body in person. I gave him the info for the funeral home and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
I had the post office forward Frank’s mail to my address and about 3 months later I received a bank statement which included 3 checks that had cleared his account. WHAT-THE-FUCK?!?! The checks were written after Frank’s death and totaled almost $21,000, which was almost every penny that Frank had at that time. Immediately I called the 1-800-number for the bank and filed a fraud claim. They verified that (1) I had not written those checks and (2) I was not a signer on the account. They also advised that I contact the local branch and get the account closed. I had filed that paperwork a month before, so I was pretty livid when I made the call later that day. A woman answered the phone and I explained what had happened including my fraud claim and the papers that I had previously filed with them. She said she’d look into it and get back to me. About an hour later, a man who said he was the branch manager, called me back. He said they found my paperwork, had figured out what had happened, said they would credit those amounts back into the account, and then he asked where I wanted the final check sent. I asked him if he had found my paperwork in someone’s in-basket, and he said “Yeah, something like that”.
There is something very unnerving about seeing your own name, hand written in a note, especially after piecing together what the situation was and what the writer’s mindset had to be at that moment. I contacted a probate attorney, and he was able to get the note legally accepted as “will annexed”. This note had specifically named Frank’s life assurance account, which had a balance of $86,000, and that he wanted it to go to me. This account was held by a company in Iowa and when I (acting as executor of the estate) contacted them to get the funds released, they informed me that there was a named beneficiary – Frank’s gay step-nephew. The probate attorney tried to get the funds released, but the company said that since they were in Iowa, they did not have to follow California’s rules and laws. Over the years, I would routinely contact the company and check on the status of the account. Each time they would claim that they had sent paperwork to the beneficiary’s listed address (in Baltimore, Maryland) and he had not replied to their mailings. Every year I would google his name and after 17 years of trying, I got a hit – a death certificate for that name issued in Baltimore. I paid $30 to obtain a copy of the death certificate and then contacted the life assurance company again. They were surprised that I was able to find this info when they could not. In the end, they contacted the person who was named as next-of-kin on the death certificate, and they issued a check to him for the entire account ($160,000 at that time). Congratulations Frank, none of your money went to your gay, step-nephew; it went to his life partner. And this was the final puzzle piece needed to close out Frank’s estate.
Frank had told me that he wanted to be buried at sea, so I rented a boat for $400, invited a few co-workers along, and we went out past the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped the boat in “international waters” (3 miles out), had a moment of silence, then we opened up the canisters that contained Frank’s ashes, Louise’s ashes and 3 small canisters from a pet crematorium, which I assume was the ashes of some of the cats that they had over the years. Scattering the ashes to the sea, once more his family was together and at peace.
It’s been said that once something is on the Internet, it never goes away. This is not true, as evidenced by the only newspaper article I could ever find that talked about Uncle Frank’s death, which is long gone from the internet’s hard drives. I wrote this story down, so that Frank would not be completely forgotten.
Many of the younger generation don’t remember a time without the internet, and that’s very sad. I had recently started working at a computer company in the early 1990s when the internet became “commercially viable” (at least for us), and there were some very interesting things going on back in the early days.
When you’re bored at work, and you’ve got access to an internet search engine, you can waste lots of time searching for whatever info might suit your fancy. And luckily the internet is chock full of pages that provide exactly what you are looking for. But it wasn’t always that way.
It was fun, trying to out-search your co-workers who were also trying to out-search you. And back then, it was fairly easy, mostly because there weren’t billions and billions of web pages available. But now, even the term itself returns more web pages than anyone could possibly weed through. And when I publish this blog post, I’ll actually be adding to that sea of pages simply because search engines will read this post and file it away in their memory banks, waiting to serve it up for the next person who happens to wonder “WTF does that word mean??”…..