The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘OWS’ Category

WHAT, ME BOTHER?

My instructor in debating emphasized I don’t know how many times, that engaging in “ad hominem” arguments was a major no-no.  In other words, it was appropriate – even desirable – to make counter arguments to those your opponent set forth – but it was not acceptable to say something like, “Well, I’m not surprised to hear you say that.  That’s just the kind of thing I would expect from someone as ugly as you.”

Those instructions really stuck with me.  Therefore, it is difficult for me to “attack” someone without feeling at least a small quiver of guilt that I might be engaging in that sort of argumentation.  Fortunately, I have been able to resolve this dilemma by substituting an “ad hominid” argument in place of the tabooed “ad hominem” one.

As you know, the family “Hominidae” includes both man and our fossil ancestors.  I am not sure if the classification covers Neanderthals – but for my purposes I’m going to include them as well.  (This is a modern day and I feel fully entitled to mold the facts to my liking just in case I ever want to apply for a position on the staff of “The New York Times”).

So, speaking of Neanderthals, as you probably know, Eliot Spitzer is running for the position of Comptroller of my birthplace, New York City.  It’s been five years since he resigned his position as governor over some minor, habitual inappropriateness with a stable of high end hookers.  Amazingly, his wife Silda has stuck with him during what must have been an extremely difficult time for her.

During Spitzer’s tenure as Attorney General, he mercilessly attacked both the New York Stock Exchange and the financial industry for their outrageous behavior.  (This, of course, included something that was really not his business – executive compensation).  Now considering his personal habit of dropping twenty grand for a night of pleasure with his sex partners, one has to wonder how he defines “excessive”.

But there is one thing that Mr. Spitzer has not done excessively.  That is take the time and exercise his responsibility to vote.  Yes, he was “so busy” last year around election time – flying to California to do a TV show – that he neither got around to procuring an absentee ballot nor did he show up personally on Election Day.

We all make mistakes and certainly an important public figure must have many demands on his time.  I presume that explains his similar failure to get out to vote on two previous occasions – in 2007 and 2003.  In his defense, he did cast a ballot in each election in which he was running for orifice office.

With what might be called a “checkered career,” it is hard to imagine what line of work Mr. Spitzer might next pursue should his bid to return to public office fail this November.  Perhaps he might want to team up with sexting star, Anthony Wiener, whose run for Mayor seems to have taken an abrupt turn for the worse with the revelation that long after he was “cured of his bad behavior,” new photos and messages have started to surface.

I can see the two of them working together as a comedy team, perhaps calling themselves, “Latke and Hamentash”.  I’m sure that the duo would play well to OWS – or any other group that includes Neanderthals in its membership.

alfredeneuman

DON’T USE THE ‘P’ WORD

There has been so much news media coverage of the anti-Zimmerman Trayvon Martin rallies that it occurred to me that there has been one group of idiots protesters who have been singular in their silence.  That group, of course, is OWS.   You may remember them from a few years back.

Surely, I thought they cannot possibly have despoiled all of New York City’s parks.  There are just too many of them (parks that is).  So what’s been happening with this group of kooks budding intelligentsia?

Well, the MSM may consider them yesterday’s news but after doing a search I came upon their web page.  And it appears that they are alive and well and still finding causes worthy of their attention.

Now with all the Martin stuff going on, perhaps you, like me, managed to miss the fact that OWS held a rally – according to their web site on Friday, July 19th in 35 cities (it turned out actually to be eight) around the world.

The purpose of these rallies was to protest the deaths of two women, one who was murdered in Turkey and the other in Sweden.  The murders occurred earlier this month and are unrelated other than that both of these women were prostitutes “sex workers.”

The following comes from the OWS website:

“Following the murders of Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation (sic), violence and murders.  In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in more than 35 cities from four continents who agreed to organise (sic) demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places.  JOIN US on Friday the 19th at 3 pm local time and stand in solidarity with sex workers and their loved ones around the world!  Justice for Dora!  Justice for Jasmine!  Justice for all sex workers who are victims of violence!”

The protests in Dora’s memory (apparently Dora was a man) were scheduled to take place in Paris, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Berlin, Brighton, Canberra and Vancouver.  It isn’t surprising that American news media failed to cover the protests as most Americans have no idea where in Africa any of these places are

As to Petite Jasmine, she apparently was a woman, in fact a mother – but if the searches I did were correct, her name was Jasmine Petite rather than the way OWS had it listed.  It seems the Swedes frown on prostitution “sex work” and took her children from her, awarding custody to her ex-husband who had a reputation for heaping physical abuse on his former wife.  I wouldn’t care to be a judge deciding child custody under those circumstances.

While I was unable to find any specifics as to the exact execution of either murder, suffice it to say that I would expect that most murders could be categorized as “brutal.”  To trivialize any person’s wrongful death because of her “profession” is to demean the memory not only of that individual but to demean ourselves and our own humanity in the process.  In that respect, as I knew neither Dora nor Jasmine, I have no emotional response as I would at the loss of someone who was a part of my life but join with John Donne in his sentiments as he expressed them in “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”

Hopefully, both Dora’s and Jasmine’s murderers will be found, tried, convicted and pay an appropriate penalty.

I was struck by one passage which appeared later in the OWS release about the solidarity demonstrations.  And although I have read and re-read it at least a dozen times, I still am having some difficulty translating it into comprehensible English:

“As the sex trade becomes an ever more important part of how neoliberal economies handle the poorest and most marginalized, violence against sex workers – particularly against transgender and immigrant women – has become a tragic epidemic.”

Frankly, while I don’t know the statistics, I think it would be hard to categorize the number of prostitutes “sex workers” being murdered world-wide as an epidemic.  These were the first two incidents with which I was familiar – and I only happened to learn of them while I was looking for something else.

As I make an attempt at translating the OWS paragraph, I gather that what they are saying is that most governments (probably based on the majority of their citizens’ implied beliefs) simply don’t care much for people engaged in the business of prostitution “sex work” and therefore offer little protection from violence for people in the industry.

That may well be true.  But the reason for that may not be solely the willful disregard of these people’s importance and their lives but a function of fiscal reality.

You see, when you have government needing unexpectedly to divert its resources to doing things like cleaning up the parks in New York because groups such as OWS have totally trashed them; when you have to dispatch the NYPD to those same parks to try to retain some semblance of civilized behavior, those are funds that might otherwise have been used to protect not only NY’s prostitutes “sex workers,” but the general population of the city.

So if OWS wants truly to honor the memories of Dora and Jasmine and protect others in their line of work, perhaps they might consider changing their tactics from disruption and debris to engaging with people in a serious and mature manner in a more conversational way.  They certainly have the right, as do we all, to make their opinions known, given their protection under the 1st Amendment.

In closing, I would like to share with my readers another announcement which OWS offers on its website.  Apparently, Tuesday, November 5, 2013 will be a “day of solidarity” on which OWS is organizing a “worldwide demonstration against corrupt government”.  I can’t say that I completely disagree with their premise.  So if any of you is interested you still have some time to sign up for this event.

As for me, I’m particularly curious to see how, if this worldwide demonstration comes off, it is going to play in Islamabad,Tripoli and Beijing..

A BIT MORE ON TYCOONISM

 After several weeks of receiving, ripping off and re-directing messages from my teletype terminal I realized that I was not in a position which challenged the full extent of my abilities. I felt that I could be more useful to my employer, E. F. Hutton & Co. in a higher level spot. Nevertheless, I was grateful for the job and continued to perform my duties, giving it my best. 

The teletype room was very large – as I remember there were about 40 stations – with operators busily inputting and dispatching information. One of those was manned by a very nice fellow whose name was Vinnie. He only worked a few days a week. 

Vinnie was a firefighter with the NYFD and, as his schedule, a few days on with the department and a few days off permitted, he would work at Hutton to supplement his income. He and I became good friends and he took me under his wing. 

I spent many a noon hour sitting next to Vinnie, the lunch I had brought from home in my lap, as I watched his fingers fly across the face of his teletypewriter’s keyboard – rapidly punching out messages. I knew that I could do this. Sometimes, Vinnie would stay an extra 15 minutes after work and allow me to practice as he watched. He thought I could do it too.

 I was an excellent typist – at my peak I could accurately crank out 120 wpm – I think partly because I was studying piano – but mostly because I used to sit in front of my mom’s Smith-Corona typewriter and practice and practice and practice. Mom told me that knowing how to type was an excellent skill to have. 

As my first summer with the firm came to a close, I went up to Harold and thanked him for the opportunity to work at E. F. Hutton and I hoped that he would consider me for employment the following year. He said that he would be pleased to welcome me back. 

But then he said, “Vinnie told me that you’ve been practicing using the teletypewriter. If you wouldn’t mind I’d like you to take a short test. Maybe we could have you doing that instead.” My heart leapt – a possible promotion in the wings for next year! 

I took the test and Harold was pleased with the results. He told me that next year when I returned he would have me start as a junior teletypist and that, of course, there would be a raise from my present salary. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my folks.

 When I returned to E. F. Hutton the next summer Harold kept his word. He put me in front of a teletypewriter that was dedicated to processing inquiries about OTC stocks. I enjoyed my promotion as the work was far more interesting than what I had previously been doing. I also enjoyed the fact that I received a $20 a week raise to $110. 

Occasionally, Harold would stop by and let me know that several people in the satellite offices had made nice comments about Operator 073 (that was me). How rapidly and accurately I had processed their informational requests. That, of course, made me feel good about the job I was doing and about myself. 

We were about four weeks into the summer when I walked in one day and Harold took me aside. One of the senior teletypists, a lady by the name of Rose was having extreme complications from her pregnancy. The doctors advised her that she needed as much bed rest as possible for the two months remaining in order to improve the baby’s chance of a safe birth.

 Harold said that he wanted me to work at Rose’s station. 

Fear gripped me. I knew that Rose handled the institutional desk. The only orders that she processed were for 5,000 or more shares of stock each (which in those days were large trades). I thought to myself , “If E. F. Hutton has enough confidence to give me responsibility for this important task, I would have to set my fear aside and rise to the challenge.” Me – a mere teenager.

 Harold pulled Vinnie from his station and had him sit with me for the first hour or so as I began typing out orders. It took about that long for the cold numbness in my fingers to stop. But I got into the swing of things and soon felt quite comfortable that I could handle my new assignment. 

Several weeks passed uneventfully – other than that the firm had given me yet another salary hike. I was in the income nose-bleed section at an astounding $125 per week. 

And then one day, I received an order from the Boston office to buy 20,000 shares of IBM. But the price on the order didn’t seem right to me. It was 14 points above where I knew the stock was trading. Placing that order would have moved IBM up a few points – costing Hutton’s client far more than they expected or were willing to pay. 

Rather than put the order through, I requested that the Boston office verify the price. In fact, it had been submitted incorrectly. Boston responded by canceling the order and replacing it with one at a lower price. I thought no more of this, finished my day and went home. 

Apparently, someone in the Boston office was sufficiently grateful that I had caught this error that they contacted our office to let them know about it.

I knew nothing of this until the following Friday when Harold was handing out paychecks. He gave me my check and then he said, “You know, catching that IBM mistake saved the firm a lot of money. And as our way of saying thank you, we’re giving you a cash bonus.” And he handed me a crisp new $50 bill.

 I remember the blood rushing to my face and feeling a sense of embarrassment at this gift.

 I said, “Harold, that’s not necessary. I was only doing my job.”

 He said, “I know that. But this isn’t for doing your job. This is for doing your job so well.” 

As a result of a series of mergers, E. F. Hutton is no longer a part of the Wall Street landscape. What remains is now part of Citigroup. 

If you remember their commercials, the tag line was, “When E. F. Hutton talks – people listen.” But as much as people listened to them – they listened to and cared about their employees. The memories I have of my three years of summer employment with them are some of the happiest ones of my life. 

I realize that today it is all the rage to vilify Wall Street for its “evil doing”. But, by and large, Wall Street is simply a business that is composed of a lot of little people who want nothing more than to do an honest day’s work for a day’s pay. Little people, just like you and me. I hope those who lost their jobs because of the events of the past few years have landed on their feet.

 And that was the end of my brief career as a Wall Street Tycoon.

MY LIFE AS A TYCOON

 It was junior year of high school and summer vacation was fast approaching. After spending many summer vacations in the Catskill Mountains in a little cabin near Woodstock, NY I really wanted a job.  

I was hoping for summer employment on Wall Street – which in those days most people thought was an admirable aspiration. But I knew that to get a summer job on “The Street” you had to have some connections – and I didn’t. 

Then one day, mom came home from her shop with some good news. A new customer had come into the store and had asked that mom deliver her purchase to her husband’s office. Her husband was the branch manager for the stock brokerage firm of E. F. Hutton & Co. a few blocks south of my mom’s store on Madison Avenue. 

Mom delivered his wife’s purchase to him and told him that she and dad were thinking about opening an account (although she explained it would be a very, very, very small account). 

Without showing any disdain for this minor potential piece of business, this man treated her with the utmost respect, handed her his business card and said that if she and dad decided to open the account, he would be pleased to handle it personally. 

Mom was extremely impressed with his cordiality and warmth. (It was the same way she treated her own customers). 

That evening she and dad talked about opening their account with E. F. Hutton and several days later they did. They brought me along with them and while they did the paperwork I sat in one of the firm’s comfortable chairs and watched the electronic version of the ticker tape go by on the wall in front of me.

 Mom, dad and the manager, Mr. Holschuh came over to me. Apparently, mom had mentioned that I was hoping for a summer job and had also mentioned that by the time I was 12 years old I had memorized the ticker symbols of virtually all the stocks that traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

 I think that both surprised and amazed him, so he gave a brief oral test – giving me the names of three companies and asking me for their symbols and then three symbols asking me for the company names. I aced the test – 100%! 

A broad smile came over Mr. Holschuh’s face and he said, “I think that there is always room at E. F. Hutton for someone with this young person’s interest in the market. Let me make a few phone calls.” 

Mom came home the next night and told me that Mr. Holschuh had been true to his word and that I had a job that summer in Hutton’s headquarters at 60 Broad Street in their “teletype department”. I didn’t know what I was going to be paid or what I was going to be doing – but I was going to be doing it on Wall Street!

 Ecstasy – pure ecstasy. 

The Monday I was to start finally came and I embarked on my new and exciting career. Dad always said that you should be early – so although I was supposed to start at 8:30 a.m. – I was there at 7:15. I was there by myself and had to wait 20 minutes until the manager of the teletype room came in. He was a large and friendly man by the name of Harold.

 I introduced myself and he explained my duties. I would be receiving messages from E. F. Hutton’s offices all over the country on the teletype machine in front of which he had placed me. My job was to put these in the correct slot on the color-coded conveyor belts that were next to my station to make sure that they were sent to the correct department.  

He gave me a chart for the color-coding and showed me where on the message I would get the information to know where each message should be directed. It sounded pretty simple and it was. 

I soon settled into my new position. 

Friday that week, Harold passed out the paychecks around noon. He came over to me and said that I was doing a very fine job and he was glad I was part of the “family”.

He handed me my paycheck in its envelope and moved on to distribute the rest. I was so excited that I was being paid that I didn’t even dare open that envelope until I got home. 

But that night at dinner I finally did. It was for $90 (minus deductions) – for only 37-1/2 hours work. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  

I was a Wall Street Tycoon!

ON GRATITUDE

Dad imported designer accessories from the Orient.  He would make an annual six week buying trip there and I always hated when the spring came because he was gone on business.  This was in the early sixties.  But eventually, the trip would end and there was always a wonderful present of some kind for me.

I remember that the day he came home one year, grandma had made a wonderful dinner.  We were all so full that we sat at the table far longer than was customary – trying to digest the meal and her famous apple strudel that was the grand finale.

As we sat there, dad said to me – “You don’t know how grateful each of us should be.”  I remember looking at him – waiting to see what he meant by that remark.

He said, “You know the wonderful wooden Eight Immortal gods that I have down at the showroom?”  I did know them since I would help dad process orders on the weekends – pulling stock from inventory to go to the shipping department – or even assisting in the billing department.

“Those are hand-carved in Taiwan by a man whose name is Mr. Leung.  Before I left on my trip I received a letter from him asking that when I was in Taipei he would be greatly honored if I came to his house for a meal.  He wanted to show me something.”

Dad went to Mr. Leung’s home for dinner one night.  It was in a very poor area in Taipei.  Dad knew that Mrs. Leung had probably spent more on this meal in order to entertain a guest properly than the family would spend on all their food in a typical week.

Mr. Leung lived in a very small house.  Dad estimated that it was perhaps 15’ x 25’.  When I say that Mr. Leung lived there I mean that Mr. Leung and his wife, their two children, Mr. Leung’s father and his wife’s mother lived there.

At the conclusion of the meal, Mr. Leung took dad’s hand and brought him over to what I guess could best be described as the “kitchen area”.  He had a huge smile on his face as he pointed to a water tap.  He looked at my father, made a polite bow and said, “Thanks to your wonderful orders for my carvings – I was able to put a water faucet in our home.  Now my wife and children no longer have to walk a half kilometer to the well in order to get fresh water for us to use.  Thank you my good, honorable customer.  You have changed our lives.”

I truly hope that someone in the Occupy Wall Street movement happens upon this post and shares it with his or her fellow protestors.

I’m sure they have Wi-Fi.

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