Monday, August 28, 2017

Happy B-Day To Me

More just as a placeholder than anything else; the old blog has been pretty moribund for a while and no reason anybody would stop in...

But today is b-day 63 for me, notable because another hurricane is flooding the hell out of the upper gulf...last time that happened it was birthday 51 and I was moving my son up to Cherokee County in north Georgia. Even that far from ground zero in New Orleans that trip was some very surreal shit; very end-of-the-worldly vibe, scarce gas, and of course I was leaving my good 21 year old boy up there with his fiancé's pretty cliché to say, but it sure is a deja vu thing, pardon my French :)

Anyway, I felt old then, but now? Hell I'm just numb to it. The world is no better off after the devastation wrought by Bush's war fuckups and a decade of the zero...there is some hope now but it's going to be an exhausting and unhappy process. If it weren't for not wanting to leave such a mess for my babies and grandbabies, I'd be about ready to shuffle on off this morbid, mortal coil.

Anyway yeah, happy birthday to me...I'm a lot better off than many, with a loving family and a comfortable life; I just hope they can say that too when they are where I am now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

We never learn...

This letter from one of the most brilliant economic advisers ever to the then drug czar Bennet could be retitled "An Open Letter to Jeff Sessions and President Trump" with no other changes other than to note that the problem has only worsened in the decade since I re-posted it as a comment in a thread regarding rampant no-knock warrants and the tragedy that often this case it was related to the killing of an inoocent elderly black lady in Atlanta. And of course as the piece notes the situation had already radically worsened in the nearly two decades before that...leftists and elites are not the only ones to repeat the mistakes of the past over and over expecting a different result...the old saying is that is the definition of insanity. Not sure about that, but this is indeed insane.

An Open Letter to Bill Bennett
by Milton Friedman, April 1990

In Oliver Cromwell's eloquent words, "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken" about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

I append excerpts from a column that I wrote in 1972 on "Prohibition and Drugs." The major problem then was heroin from Marseilles; today, it is cocaine from Latin America. Today, also, the problem is far more serious than it was 17 years ago: more addicts, more innocent victims; more drug pushers, more law enforcement officials; more money spent to enforce prohibition, more money spent to circumvent prohibition.

Had drugs been decriminalized 17 years ago, "crack" would never have been invented (it was invented because the high cost of illegal drugs made it profitable to provide a cheaper version) and there would today be far fewer addicts. The lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent victims would have been saved, and not only in the U.S. The ghettos of our major cities would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man's lands. Fewer people would be in jails, and fewer jails would have been built.

Columbia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of narco-terror. Hell would not, in the words with which Billy Sunday welcomed Prohibition, "be forever for rent," but it would be a lot emptier.

Decriminalizing drugs is even more urgent now than in 1972, but we must recognize that the harm done in the interim cannot be wiped out, certainly not immediately. Postponing decriminalization will only make matters worse, and make the problem appear even more intractable.

Alcohol and tobacco cause many more deaths in users than do drugs. Decriminalization would not prevent us from treating drugs as we now treat alcohol and tobacco: prohibiting sales of drugs to minors, outlawing the advertising of drugs and similar measures. Such measures could be enforced, while outright prohibition cannot be. Moreover, if even a small fraction of the money we now spend on trying to enforce drug prohibition were devoted to treatment and rehabilitation, in an atmosphere of compassion not punishment, the reduction in drug usage and in the harm done to the users could be dramatic.

This plea comes from the bottom of my heart. Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence. A country in which shooting down unidentified planes "on suspicion" can be seriously considered as a drug-war tactic is not the kind of United States that either you or I want to hand on to future generations.

Reprinted by The Pawnbroker on April 6, 2008 at 11:53 PM

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jeweler to The King

What a good, kind, and unassuming man Lowell Hays is. I caught this recent story in a trade journal

and on this 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis, I had to tell my own tale of a decent and inspiring man who was not just his jeweler, but his dear friend. I do hope Mr. Hays reads the article and my comment there so he will know the impact he had on my son...

In 2005 I sold my Sebring, FL jewelry and pawn store and let the refrigerator sized TL-30 safe go with it. My son had wanted it for his planned move to near our vacation place in North Georgia to open his own store at age 21. So in early 2006 I found an awesome ISM TRTL vault, 7ft by 4ft by 3ft, for sale on eBay along with some miscellaneous bench tools. The safe did not attract many bids I am sure because people knew the difficulty and expense of transporting it.

Then I noticed the small wording saying the seller might deliver a short distance. It was in Memphis, we were an hour north of Atlanta. On a chance, I made contact and asked about delivery and they said yes...they would make the more than 400 mile delivery, included in the very reasonable price! I don't remember at what point I found out who the seller was, whether through research at the time of sale or when it was delivered; there was no mention on eBay that this was the store safe of the Jeweler to the King, I think due to Lowell's low-key approach and reluctance to try to capitalize on his friend's memory, although later he realized those stories needed to be told and starting publishing them online...and they are amazing. But who it was was Lowell Hays and his son who had decided to discontinue the historical jewelry business and concentrate on I think land development. Father and son both made the trip in a dually pickup truck and a goose-neck flatbed trailer...I think as a chance to be together on a road-trip adventure. I had rented a forklift capable of 8000 pounds and it struggled to lift that safe off, but the younger Hays adroitly stood it up, lifted it, and set it beside our building. Afterward they graciously chatted, took some pictures, and I asked for an Elvis story, but nothing bad. Lowell said he didn't have any bad stories about Elvis, that he was the kindest most decent man he ever knew. And then they loaded up and headed back the 400 miles to Memphis.

We had to remove the front door and plate glass to get that monster safe inside, and it took my son and I most of a day to inch it on pipes to the back corner of  the store. The door was like a bank vault, heavy and slow to open, but when you locked it up and walked out the door at night you had no worries. A few years later son and his fiancée called it quits and he sold the business and moved back to Florida. It would have been a major expensive undertaking to take the safe back out, transport it to Fla, and since we didn't have a new store yet to put it in, we'd have had to store it and then pay again to move it into place when we did start a new we left it.

We did a new jewelry store for him in our little central Fl town (and the gold boom had kicked in so I stayed on to help with that) from '08 to '12 and by then son had honed his skills, become proficient with his  LaserStar, and was ready for the upscale custom, repair, and estate jewelry business in Palm Beach Gardens where for five years now his skill, personality, and a lifetime of experience since he was a toddler have made him and his business The Jewelry Doctor one of the most highly rated and reviewed shops in an area full of high-end chains. He's even had some celebrity clients including Susan Lucci whose mom's estate he purchased, Miss Florida Brie Gabrielle, and a ranking military attache to Ronald Reagan whose WH presentation jacket buttons he repaired with his laser.

It would be wonderful to have Mr. Hays vault in his store, on display as where some of the most iconic custom jewelry ever made had been secured, along with the original molds for some of them, and just as importantly the place where one of the most talented, famous, and gentle artists of the trade had kept his creations, but that was not to be.

Still, I am convinced that the contact and transaction with those gentlemen was an inspiration to my son, and that the traits and trust that Lowell Hays embodied in his career and in his dealings with us, have helped guide my son in how he runs his business and serves his clients, famous and not-so-famous alike. Thank you and God Bless you, Mr. Hays.

And God Bless you too, Elvis were an imperfect man like all of us, but God knows a good soul and no doubt yours is residing with Him now, along with your beloved Mama, and with all the fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches you want, weight be damned!