Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Schnorrer

He would generally arrive in my office on the hottest day of July. He would plop down on the sofa in my office.

He wore a wool serge suite and a tie that perpetually seemed to have a residual of his breakfast on it. He was very overweight and in his sixties or seventies. A soon as he sat down a large handkerchief would appear to mop his neck and brow.

He had just got off the bus from Great Falls or Spokane or Boise and he had called on so and so and so and so who knew me and sent regards.

He was the Schnorrer.

Now, my association with the word went back to my childhood days when I would eagerly wait for my mother to finish stirring the chocolate cake icing with saucer eyes and she would offer the spoon for me to lick. Saying " O.K. little schnorrer, enjoy."

Actually, before President Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed the National March of Dimes and made fund raising big business with national telethons and all the trappings schnorring was an honorable profession.

The schnorrer went from community to community seeking out donors and bringing a connection to the isolated Jewish merchants and professional people in the on the Main Streets of small towns.

I think he was one of the last. One year we received a letter from the New York office of a religious secondary school in Israel informing us that Rabbi ______ who had called on us had passed away and we should honor his memory by sending a donation in the enclosed envelope.

I remember him calling on my father and he or his predecessor probably called on my grandfather so as soon as I finished my phone call or the paperwork in front of me I would reach into my desk for a checkbook.

One year instead of reaching for the check book I turned to him and said, "I am sorry. We have had a really lousy year I'd like to skip the donation this year."

He fixed his gaze on me and responded, "So you had a lousy year. How did it feel?"

Well it was depressing and I had to tell the family to cut back on extra expenses.

"So why would you do that to me?"

He left with a generous check

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, 2008

The newspaper headlines scream of bailouts for ailing banks. The federal government to the rescue!

While I am not a Libertarian, I have some doubts as to the efficacy of government aid.

For instance-

About twenty year ago our beautiful Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon were invaded by a species of moths that built nests for their young in the worm phase out of a silky substance that looked like cobwebs. When thousands of these critters chose a tree, they effectively shrink wrapped it.

In addition the offspring ate voraciously on the the tender buds which were the tree's reproductive mechanism.

Local newspaper headlines proclaimed that thousands of acres would be denuded of trees.

Swift action was needed.

At the time I was a member of a local Toastmaster's group. Membership at the time included employees of the forest service bent on self improvement. Part of their training was practising presentations they would be giving at their conferences so there was a front seat on an ongoing situation.

The government in its wisdom decided to take decisive action against the pest. It would spray from the air the entire forest.

The first voice of doubt came from one our members, a forestry expert, who weighed in with the opinion that the moths were in fact native to this forest and a combination of weather, food etc. had caused an explosion of population that would subside from natural causes such as viral infections that had historically limited the insect's spread.

His resignation in hand the upper level bureaucrats order thousands of gallons of toxic spray.

The environmentalists and the fishing community then screamed in protest and commenced legal actions to prevent the application of massive amounts of poison being applied to the watershed that fed the streams that filled the rivers.

Hundreds of 55 gallon drums of spray concentrate lay rusting in an open storage yard in Walla Walla.

The court battles and hearings went on over two years.

The natural enemies of the moths prevailed. The population shrank back to its normal levels.

Meanwhile, in court a judge ordered that the spraying be allowed.

What to do? The threat was gone but the Forest Service had invested thousands of dollars, the drums lay on the ground as a reminder of a hasty action.

The judge had said, "Spray", so contracts were let to spray the entire forest for the now nonexistent moths.

I hope we have better luck in this emergency.

Monday, September 01, 2008

People the world over are more impressed with the power of our example than with the example of our power.

Barak Obama - 2008

Any time our army enters a shooting war it represents a failure of our nation at every level of our civilian authorities to negotiate or our army to train and deploy in such a way to reach a peaceful solution

My ROTC instructor - 1950