Monday, September 19, 2011

Random Thoughts With No Conclusion

As a general rule of thumb I believe that massive cutting of government spending now will put is in, or nearly in, a death spiral of layoffs, reduced tax revenues, cost cutting, layoffs, reduced tax revenues ... and so on.

So, I further believe that the cutting that is obviously absolutely necessary needs to be planned for a time when tax revenues are rising and jobs are increasing.

The Economist has a report in last week’s issue that names the biggest employers in the world. The US Defense Department is number one with 3.2 million employees, followed by (I’m not kidding) the Chinese Army with 2.3 million. Wal-Mart has 2.1 million.

I think that the Defense budget is between 400 and 500 billion (dollars).

I heard a guy from the Washington Post this morning who has written a book called – I think – Top Secret America. The book reveals a number of disquieting things about a shadow government/defense department that has risen up since 2001. Among the more disquieting, the author says that if this shadow were to be accounted for the defense budget would be 1.4 trillion (dollars).

But who knows.

I live on Social Security and IBM retirement. I fund special things with IRA distributions. Those distributions cost me 25 – 30% in taxes depending upon their size. I’m not a millionaire. But I am paying a rate that we all know would amount to class warfare if any of our poor millionaire brethren were asked to pay at a rate anywhere near similar to that.

But then they haven’t had any government provided bonuses in the last couple of years, either, so I guess times are really tough for them. So I guess it makes sense for me to pay and for them not to. Holding back their government provided bonuses is surely all the class warfare that they can be expected to tolerate.

But back to cutting.

So where do we cut? For example,does anybody really know anything about the – apparently – off the books 600 billion (dollars) that our annual defense costs in addition to the on the books 400 –500 billion (dollars)? Or does anybody really know anything about that on the books half trillion (dollars)? If they don’t know about it how can they cut it? If they do know about it and they can cut it do they know how many jobs in how many industries that cutting will eliminate?

Does anybody really care?

I think it’s just too much fun for them all to dance around their various campfires shouting cut, cut cut, prior to heading off to their government provided dining rooms and athletic facilities to expect them to know or care about anything that fringes the edges of reality.

I heard an interview on To The Point this morning between two differently view pointed people about Social Security. Net net, one of the guys said that with rational and minor adjustments the program is solvent for now and beyond. The other guy said it was just a Ponzi scheme with a safe full of IOUs. The first guy pointed out that the so called IOUs were really US Treasury Bonds. The second guy said that you could call them what you want to but they are worthless. If I had been the first guy I would have asked the second guy if he thought that we ought to keep that fact – the worthlessness of US Treasury Bonds - a secret from the Chinese.

But he didn’t think of it. And Warren Olney hadn’t asked me to be part of the interview.

The second guy also thinks that today’s young people should be allowed to put their Social Security money in an IRA managed by financial professionals. I have most of the pittance that I possess beyond Social Security and IBM in one of those.

Its track record had made Social Security look pretty good.

I guess the kids need to learn that not all Ponzis are created equal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So Rare

Jimmy Dorsey has been on my mind recently.

I don’t know why. He has just kept creeping into my reveries.

I was telling a friend recently that it wasn’t Ed Sullivan who gave Elvis his first exposure to national television.

It was the Dorsey Brothers. They had Elvis on their Saturday night variety hour substantially before most people had ever heard of him. After the Dorseys everybody had heard of him.

I always watched the Dorseys on Saturday night with my parents. I watched because I loved the brothers, their story and their music. I guess that love had started when I first saw the movie The Fabulous Dorseys. For me that movie was a magic exit to somewhere that I would have liked to have been rather than the place and time in which I actually existed. Seeing the vestiges of that magic on the Saturday night show was a weekly escape for me.

And I savored that time each week.

I was just settling into my Dorsey trance one Saturday evening when Jimmy made an announcement. He said something like “now the young man that all the girls have been waiting for…”

I had missed the Sinatra phenomenon so I had no referent for the reaction that elicited from all the young women in the audience. There was an overwhelming and massive wave of screaming.

Before I had fully absorbed that fact, Jimmy went on. “Here tonight, ( I couldn’t tell what he said next but I thought it was ‘Elmer Pickle’, or some such sounding name) is…”

The screaming ascended several levels and some guy came running out and started jumping around and contorting his body and face and making sounds such as I had never heard.

My parents went crazy.

They thought he was great.

I thought they WERE crazy.

It took me months to catch up with them.

But I did.

And so did the world.

Before the show was over Tommy announced that Elvis would be back the following week as guest Master of Ceremonies.

And a star had been spawned.

I said at the outset of this post that Jimmy has been on my mind.

The recurring touchstone for those thoughts on Jimmy has been So Rare, his last hit single.

I bought it from iTunes last night and have not been able to stop playing it.

I looked at where iTunes placed him in my music library.

He resides between Jimmy Buffett and Johann Sebastian Bach.

How fitting.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Adventures with Ambien and other Stories: A Review

Screw-loose can be bad. Or screw-loose can be good. Then again, screw-loose can be a conscious literary decision made by a writer.

In the case of Adventures with Ambien by Lin Laurie screw-loose is two of those things.

Lin has written a book of experiences, observations and feelings with which most of us would be familiar (perhaps more women than men).

And a book that only fit that description would probably not have been very interesting or very entertaining.

But Lin has chosen to add something to the mix. She has chosen to wrap the whole tale in an envelope of beautifully screw-loose abandon that keeps one turning pages, occasionally shouting in derision, sometimes shouting in despair and sometimes, following a shout with a heartfelt laugh.

So, in the case of Adventures, screw-loose is both a good thing and also a conscious and effective literary decision made by the author.

Adventures with Ambien and Other Stories is an easily likeable and easily readable 181 pages.

You can buy it on Amazon, either in book or electronic form, and at also in either format.