Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, February 27, 2012

Suspicious Dishes at the Buffett Table

As long as we're talking of people who get under my skin (re: Mitt Romney) or perhaps I should say, get my goat, since this guy has rounded up a lot goats in his life. Or at least rounded up a few bucks. He has a herd of about 37 Billion give or take a billion.

Warren Buffett sings a good song,  but there is something wrong with his lyrics. Lets long at this man who spent his life bellied up to the Buffet Table of wealth.

He says he has no real need for money, he lives a modest frugal life, and he doesn't believe in inherited wealth so his kids be left enough to sit about on wealthily bottoms doing nothing, but will have to earn their own keep. It isn't right people just got lucky in the sperm lottery. He is going to give away 99% of his wealth when he dies because he looks at what he earned as a collection of Social Credit Claims. He also famously complained about paying less taxes than his employees and how unfair that was.

All very righteous statements it seems.

After all he had such a rough beginning, being the son of a Brokerage Firm owner and four-time Congressman.

Buffett is an example that if you're only goal in life is to rich, you can become rich. Now, he did get paid a salary of only $12,000 a year for the job he took at age 24. A modest sum, right, except it would be a starting salary of about $100,000 in today's money. He got almost as much in that first year as I paid for my first house in 1961. Put that $12,000 in perspective. In 1959 my starting salary was $2,808 a year and that was considered above average for a beginning wage. When I was a teenager we dreamed of making a fabulous $100 a week and really successful guys, guys who were at the top, guys who had it made, earned $10,000 a year.

He doesn't feel any guilt about doing nothing in life but chasing after more money. He says he has little use for material things and so doesn't spend a lot. (Then why didn't you have an ambition to go out and become a plumber, garbage collector or something useful like that, but not as well paid?) After all, he still lives in that modest little house he bought for $31,500. Of course, that modest house is valued at $700,000 today and I guess his $4 million home in California doesn't count. But then again, when you have $37 Billion dollars more or less $4 million is a modest sum.

But his viewpoint on consumption is this: "The way I see it is that my money represents an enormous number of claim checks on society. Its like I have these little pieces of paper that I can turn into consumption. If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture every day for the rest of my life. And the GDP would go up. But the utility of the product would be zilch, and I would be keeping those 10,000 people from doing AIDS research, or teaching, or nursing. I don't do that though. I don't use very many of those claim checks. There's nothing material I want very much. And I'm going to give virtually all of those claim checks to charity when my wife and I die."


Well, why didn't he take that money and hire those 10,000 people to do AIDS research? Or use it to train those 10,000 as teachers and nurses and pay their salaries for the rest of his life so they can nurse the indigent or teach the downtrodden? Wouldn't that still help the GDP? Wouldn't that be a good use of those claim checks?


He does make charitable donations. For instance, he auctioned his 2001 Lincoln Town Car off on eBay to raise money for Girls, Inc. Don't know what it went for. I've given three of my cars to charity, by the way, and I don't rank on any Forbes List; I can't even afford to subscribe to Forbes magazine. Big deal, Warren.


Lets see there was also:


            He auctioned a luncheon with himself and got $650,100 for charity.
            He auctioned a Power Lunch with Himself and got $2,110,100 for the Glide Foundation.
            And Salida Capital Corp. gave $1,680,000 to dine with him. (I bet they wanted to get some valuable advice for their "gift".)


Don't you love how the really rich people are always getting praise for the charitable contributions that cost them very little of their time and nothing out of their own pocket.


And why don't the people who can afford to pay $650,100 for lunch, just give the money to a charity without having to get something in return, even if only a Buffett? 


But never fear, he is going to give 99% of his fortune to charity when he died. Why not now? Just do it. Give the 99% away now while you can bask in all the testimonial dinners and see the plaques they'll hand you. You'll still have enough left over to live your modest life style.


But when he dies he'll give the 99% away elsewhere so his children will "have enough to do what they want, but not enough to do nothing".  I would love to leave my children in that position, to tell the truth, but I don't have enough to leave that they could do what they want. My kids will inherit one-third of an artificial Christmas Tree and one-third of an electric wok and they'll have to fight over the tree stand and the power cord. 


He will leave behind to his heirs a meager 1% of his fortune, which is $370 Million. His three kids will have to get along on a mere $123,333,333 each. Now maybe, just maybe considering his children are all middle-aged and doing okay in their own right, that just might be enough they could kink back a bit in their later years.


Finally we have the big tax concern of the man who spent his life on his one great purpose, making money. Poor thing doesn't pay enough taxes. His statement was made in 2006, and his claim is he only paid 19% of his $48.1 million income in tax and his employees paid 33% on theirs. His employees evidently are paid well to be in that 33% bracket, so some generosity there. So his complain was he only paid $9.139 Billion in tax. Well, if you felt so bad why didn't you just give a gift to the government that would equaled with your tax that 33% rate? You can legally do that, you know?


Besides, why this discrepancy anyway? You didn't pay the 33% because you took measures to avoid paying income tax in the first place. He paid himself a salary of $100,000 a year. A nice sum, but far less than other CEO in his league. A lot of these CEOs take these modest salaries, some only take One Dollar a year. My, aren't they a generous lot? They care about the welfare of the company so much they take almost no salary. But they do take a lot of Stock Options and that kind of compensation, because then they only have to pay the capital gains tax of 15% on their income -- while their employees have to pay the full measure of their tax bracket because they are getting a salary considered earned income!


You want to pay the higher taxes, give yourself a great big salary! And don't take the allowed deductions! Then maybe you'll be happy.


And stop running about patting yourself on the back and telling everybody else to give away their money.




 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mitt Gives me Fits


I have always avoided writing anything political in my Blogs. For one, I don’t like politics. For two, I think it is a good way to lose friends. For three, no one seems able to discuss issues rationally. All people do is stick some brand on your hide and then they tell you what YOU supposedly think on every issue, whether you do or not. For four, I usually let anything these windbags of any and all parties say roll off my back blow away in the breeze.
But for some reason this Romney guy gets under my skin.
When asked recently if he thought he had the best chance to beat Obama, he said, “I don't think if I have the best chance, I think I have the only chance."
Maybe its just hubris, but we already have an egomaniac in the White House we don’t need another. He says things in a stupid way that can be used against him, maybe that’s why? A man running for President should know better how to phrase his remarks. “I just love firing people…”, “I don’t care about the poor…”, “I don’t think people want their President [paying more taxes than he owes…”
Opponents and Press took these out of context of what he meant, except the last statement where he was preparing everybody to hear just how little he pays in taxes compared to what he makes, yet he seems too dumb to understand that is the way his remarks will get played.
Now he tells us he is the only person in the whole wide world great enough to beat Obama. This guy doesn’t even know how to fake humility.
But he should learn or he shouldn’t give speeches in stadiums that make it look like nobody showed up to hear him. Maybe his ego told him 65,000 people would actually show up and fill the seats.
Personally, I don’t know why anyone wants to be President, but I really don’t know why this guy does. I can’t see where he has any strong convictions about anything. I get the sense of a salesman selling whatever is hot at the moment, but ready to switch his pitch as soon as it wanes. But his faulty marketing sense tells me he doesn’t understand the market he’s pitching too.
I think he wants to be President as a resume enhancement.
Now he is campaigning on rising both the age for receiving Medicare and Social Security. Well, isn’t that cute. If I had a quintillion dollars stashed away in the Cayman Island and a Swiss bank Account where I could avoid income tax maybe I wouldn’t care what age I got Social Security either.
To tell the truth, I think we might have all been better off never having the Social Security System. We would have been better off knowing it was up to us to set aside for our old age and as a society to look after each other within communities rather than ending up at the mercy of Washington politicians. But we DO have Social Security and just about every person living in the U.S. today has grown up under this system. It is what it is and I think we’re stuck with it. They promised us this would be there for us and forced by law to contribute to it all our working life. I am in my seventies collecting it, but also still paying into it when I work, and then paying some income tax on the portion I receive.
I remind those such as Mitt, rhymes with Nitwit, that I paid into this. I made premiums as I would into any annuity promising an investment to provide for my old age. I am sick and tired of politicians talking as if we are getting some kind of welfare. We are simply collecting what we paid for.  It was the politicians who cheated and took from the fund; it wasn’t my fellow seniors or I who not paying our premiums. We met our obligation; now the government must meet its own.
Mitt can run out there and talk about how everybody lives longer and therefore the age of payout should be later. Mitt finds that easy to say when he doesn’t have any worry about whether his car breaks down or the roof leaks or he gets sick, because he has a quintillion dollars. If I hadn’t been able to get Social Security when I did, I would have been in a world of hurt, maybe I really would be on welfare…and homeless. Mitt doesn’t have to worry about being homeless.
If you rich politicians, which is most of them and most of whom never did an honest days work in their lives, want to raise the age people can receive Social Security and Medicare, you better darn well do something on the other side of the equation.
You better tell those businesses out there not to terminate us old people. My friends and I talked about the fact that we don’t know anyone – NOT A PERSON – who managed to stay with a company and retire at 65. They could save a little in salary and benefits so bounced me out at age 60 after 21 years.
We can’t all get elected to the Senate and leach off the public until we die, now can we?
Many I know, including me, started working early in life. I began working in Grade School. I’ve worked continually ever since. I continued working after at 60. My jobs have been physical part time labor paying just above minimum wage. They keep laying me off because of the economy. You know, the ones on the bottom go first when the CEOs sees his or her stock options tail off. And you know at 70 it gets a little harder to get hired and a little harder to keep the body in working shape.
So, give me somebody with some positive ideas that help everyone, not the typical Corporate-think of let’s cut costs by cutting the employee health care and wages. Give me somebody who says what he means both today and tomorrow, and knows how to say it correctly so it isn’t misunderstood. And give me somebody who isn’t so rich they know knowing about the real world where most of us survive.
It is so sad if Romney is the best we can come up with.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Asta

Somehow cats always know when the end has come. They will wander off and find a private place to lie down and wait for death to visit.

So it was with Asta yesterday. I had come back from the store with bread and pills. My right ankle has been ablaze with arthritis all this week, as if a welder was shooting his flame up my leg. I got some Aleve. It didn't help. I got the bread for lunch because we were out.

I sat down on the sofa and noticed Asta was lying on the edge of the carpet. I thought this odd. She doesn't usually lay on the floor. She likes the back of the furniture or the window sill.

I leaned in over her and she didn't jump up and dash away. Asta has always been the scariest of fraidy cats. She jumped if you moved too quickly and ran at the least provocation. Besides when I sat down she would usually be quick to come up behind my head and then walk down onto my upper chest.

I though, did she have a stroke? But then she got up and walked across the room and out into the dining area. But she moved slowly and she is a quick cat. Still, cats have their moods.

Later in the day I realized I hadn't seen her since. The same come evening and I asked Laurel and Lois if they had seen her. We began looking and after searching the house could not find her. I was concerned. Did she get outside somehow?

My wife thought not and I couldn't see how. Lois said she will probably turn up, she had hidden well before and then popped up.

She had gotten out before, too. A half dozen years ago our basement window broke somehow. Before I was able to put something over it, some of our cats escaped. Brad, of course, because he was always finding ways to get out. He would always stay outside a few days and come back. A couple others we were able to grab right away. Sephoroth and Asta also fled out the hole and into the night.

Brad did come back, but Sephoroth (pictured left) disappeared and we didn't know his fate. A few weeks ago a cat began appearing in our yard occasionally that looked like Sephy. Could it be that Sephoroth had been taken in by somebody back six years ago? If so, had he escaped again or been discarded or what? This cat came around about every day for a couple weeks, but would run if it saw anyone. Then one day coming back from a morning walk I saw this cat dead in the middle of Glenrock, hit by a car. It may have been Sephy and if so, then Sephoroth died this year as well.

We didn't see Asta for a month that year she got outside, and then one day she appeared in our utility room. There is a place where cats can get into the house beneath the flooring and exit into this room. I was able to grab her and bring her upstairs. She was very clinging from that time on. I think it was a trying experience for her.

She also had a problem with her mouth after that. It would hurt her sometimes and she would growl and rub at it. Still, most of the time she was fine.

Asta was a tiny cat and different from any of the others. She was a brownish color. Her ears were tufted and she would flatten her ears against her head if you stroked her. Maybe because she was small she didn't like other cats to come too close and would snarl and hiss at any who did. She was a feisty little girl.

She had been in one of the litters this feral cat kept dropping in our storage shed. She was with the group of Amber, John, Thorn and Ridge. (That is Amber, Thorn and Asta as kittens on the right.) Amber, John and Ridge all died last year, so now only Thorn remains.  Thorn and Asta are 11 years old.

After Lois and I had searched last night, Laurel looked again. She found Asta curled up inside a cat condo right by the dining room entrance. I hadn't even realized this particular cat condo had an inner chamber. Laurel, who is a VetTech, knew right away she was dying. She brought her out, wrapped her in an old shirt and held her on her lap the rest of the evening.

When Laurel went to bed she fixed a place for Asta in the bathroom and put a litter box and some food beside her. When I awoke and went into the bathroom this morning she had passed away.

We will miss her. Rest in piece -- Asta, 2001- February 24, 2012.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Living and Reliving

It has been a blue moon since I posted here. Some may have seen my last subject, "Quitting the Writing game" and decided I did indeed quit writing. Maybe some are happy with that idea. Forget about it. I have been writing and posting everyday, sometimes several times a day.

I have been writing my autobiography.

I call it, Impressions of My Life: Autobiography of a Recherché Poet.

Why such an odd title? When I think back over my existence my memory often lets me down or things come back somewhat as if in a dream. The mind begins to wander through a fog of days and months and years after a while. I can't always pin something down to an exact time. Sometimes I am not sure of the Five Ws, the who, what, where, why and when, let alone the how.

What I write is what I recall and this may only be impressions of what happened. I may see the events and the facts differently than others do or did. I only know what these eyes have seen or I've been told.

The Recherché Poet? I originally subtitled it "Autobiography of a Minor Poet," but my friend, the same one who pushed me to write my life, though it made me sound like I was a child poet. I meant it only as a poet who had a limited following and publishing history. He suggested changing it to "Insignificant Poet". Well, my ego vetoed that! I may not be the Poet Laureate of Delaware or anything, but I do not think of my poems as insignificant.

He then suggested, "Unknown Poet," but I am not completely unknown. Therefore, I choose Recherché Poet as covering most of the bases. It means, rare, exotic or obscure. You may take your pick.

So, if I have been doing this opus daily, why aren't readers of this or my other Blogs seeing it? That too was a choice I made. I am doing it on a private Blog. The Blog is not completely closed to readers, but it isn't being Googled about the Internet or advertised.

There are a couple of reasons. When I did decide I would do this, I also decided I would try to be as honest as someone can when spilling the beans about themselves. The first half of my life was not exactly PG rated. As Richard Nixon (a fourth cousin, by the way) famously said, "I am not a crook,," but I have not been a paragon of virtue either. I have broken my share of the Ten Commandments and partaken of the Seven Deadly Sins. My lief is not always pretty reading.

Now, if everyone would be completely honest, all of you could have written that last paragraph about yourselves.

A second reason is no one lives in a vacuum alone. People weave in and out of our lives. Life is a great tapestry of relationship, good and bad. If I am honest about my life, I must be honest about my view of those who shared in its making. Sometimes this is not flattering. Sometimes it is quite critical. I have no wish to offend anyone.

Someday when I get old (Ha!) and many others have passed on, I may open it up to general readership. For now all and sundry who to my knowledge have secrets or sins are safe.

Writing one's life may seem an ego trip, but I recommend it. It is very helpful in learning and understanding yourself.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quiting the Writing Game

Okay, don't anybody gets too excited that they will not have to read anything by me again. I said, " The Writing Game" not writing.

It is easier for an alcoholic to give up drinking than a writer to quit writing. Writing isn't like an addiction; it's more an incurable disease. One doesn't give it up anymore than someone gives up cancer.

I'll continue writing until they pull the keyboard from under my cold, dead fingers. I've been writing professionally for 60 years if you count the newspaper Stuart Meisel and I wrote and sold in the school hallway in 1952-53. It's been 55 years if you count it from the song "My Little White Lamb" my first New York published piece. I have been published somewhere or other in every decade since.

I have written almost every day since I was 12 years old. It may turn into gibberish if I go senile, but someone would have to shoot me to stop me. (Now I fully understand some people may say I already write gibberish. To them I say, "@&#*!" Just typing gibberish, translate at your own risk.)

The Writing Game has very little to do with actual writing. The Writing Game is what you play when fame and fortune is what you think you want. It is the desperate rules you follow to be published and see your name in print. It is the conventions you cow tow to in order to impress an editor. In other words it is pandering to please someone else's dictates of what writing is, but it is not writing.

In every art form their exist a coterie of elitist snobs who claim privy to what is and isn't proper. Well, there is another kind of privy and that is where their opinions really belong. If we depended on the considerations of these mutually declared haut monde of culture we probably would not have the great variety of art we enjoy. Like most elitist these person's main purpose is to keep things to themselves, for to share is anti-privileged  They tend to cling to the last best thing or speak mumbo-jumbo to declare something unfathomable as insightful. We must remember these people generally have stood in the doorway of evolving art for centuries and one wonders how many artists they have killed figuratively speaking over the years.

One must remember Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime. Kathryn Stockett was rejected by 60 agents before one agreed to market her novel The Help. We probably would never have heard of such people as Beethoven, Jack Kerouac, William Faulkner, James Joyce or Jackson Pollack if those elitist who think they uphold the pillars of the media had their way during their times.

Now don't misunderstand, I am not trying to place myself on the level of those I just mentioned. As a teenager I was content to dream of being a hack writer of horror stories. Basically I achieved that and had some success as a pulp writer. If anything I have written rises about that level, then fine. I don't care. I've quit the writing game.

I have seen my name in print many times and it is no big deal. I am tired of changing things to suit some editor or to avoid upsetting the politically correct applecart. We have the internet now and the freedom to write what we would write to the best we can write it. If some read my words and enjoy them or think about them that is enough. If people read my words and dislike what I wrote then they are totally free never to read my words again. That won't stop my words.

What finally persuaded me to quit the writing game was some criticism of a story I wrote. It was made by a college professor, someone very much in a position to poison young mind. Her criticism was not of my style or content per se. Her statement was, "You didn't describe if your character was white or black, American or Canadian or whatever nationality or race; therefore, I could not relate to your character."

Is this what we have come to? This kind of bigoted need of superficialities to understand a story? These things did not matter in my story. The main character could have just as easily been of Asian ethnicity. The main character could have been a black man or a Hispanic woman, these random accidents of birth had no bearing on the story. It was about a human being dealing with life. If the color of her skin had a bearing on the plot I would have put it in there.

I thought, "Gimme a break! Are you kidding me?"

No, from now on I write what I write. Read it for what it is worth. If you like it, come back and read some more. If you don't like it, then go away. That is the freedom we all have now.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This is not a Political Post.


My grandmother had an old country expression, “That man don’t have a lick of sense.” Now we all have slips of the tongue or say things without thinking, but if you are running for President and making public statements you need to have a good editor up in your brain.

Mitt Romney looks good. He cleans up real nice, don’t he? Has that little touch of gray at the temples, his tie on straight. He “looks Presidential” as they say. But he don’t talk good. (Yes, it is ungrammatical, but I’m not running for anything.) Romney is leading in the GOP circus right now, but his handlers better get him into Poli-Speak College for the course 101 - How Not to Give Your Opponents Negative Sound Bites.

This wouldn’t make no never mind (another old country saying) if we had an honest and decent Press in this country. We don’t. We have a bunch of vultures more interested in the gotcha moment than reporting fact or explaining anything fairly and at depth. If a candidate can’t grasp the need for caution when speaking to the Press, he is a fool.

Last week in the debates Romney made two comments about his tax statements that showed he is out of touch with the everyday working person in this country.

First he stated his 2010 tax return would “show he paid all the taxes he was obligated to pay.” Well, so do I. Of course, to do otherwise would be illegal and the IRS would be coming after me. I mean, what the heck is that? It sounds like every politician or business executive ever charged with cooking the books or fraudulent activity. “I have done nothing illegal. It was all within the law as it is written.”

In other words it sounds as if he is exploiting a bunch of loopholes to avoid paying tax. It may be legal, but it doesn’t look good and the average guy can’t do it. You know, like having a secret Swiss bank account or money stashed in the Cayman Islands.

Not realizing how such a statement would play in the press, he went up and compounded it with this quote, “I don't think the voters want a president who pays more than he owes." That quote just triggers people to be suspicious and look for something hidden.

Well, I suppose we don’t want anyone paying more than they owe, but why in the world would you make such a remark? It just reinforced the idea you pulled some shenanigans to avoid paying tax.  It also indicates a person knowing his returns are going to show something he wants to prepare people for because he knows it will look like he got off cheap.  It also says he is out of touch with the common man. It ranks up there with Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake," when people were asking for bread. As an old Credence Clearwater song goes, "I ain't no privileged son." Mitt is a privileged son.

Now a week later he opens his mouth and stupidity spews out. You would think he would have learned how the press, TV comedians and his opposition work from his previously and famously misquoted, “I love firing people.” You may be saying a perfectly reasonable and logical thing, but if you don’t frame it correctly, no one will hear the real message.

His “I love firing people” was only part of the statement, because he was referring to getting rid of service people who failed to provide the service promised. We all have done this at times. I switched phone companies some years back for service issues. It was the correct thing to do. But it was stupid to frame this very sensible and commonsense practice using the words “love” and “firing”.  And the predictable happened. Only that part of his comment was used in a totally different way than he used it to make him look like Ebenezer Scrooge rubbing his hands in glee because he loved firing poor Bob Cratchet. Unfair, untrue, but today’s reality.

Yet he made the same structural gaff again. He explained how he was concentrating on the vast majority of Americans, strengthening the middle class, an absolute necessity if we are to bring this country back to economic strength. He also said he would help fix any “holes in the safety net” for the poor. 


Unfortunately he again framed his statement stupidly. He began it by saying, “I don’t care about the poor…” That is all the reporter heard, not what he really said. Now that bad phrasing is going to show up on the lips of Colbert and Leno and Letterman and Fallon. Now those out of context words will become a nice sound bite for his opponents’ negative ads. I can hear the spots now: “Here is what Mitt Romney says, “I love firing people…I don’t care about the poor…”

Now this is not a political post. I am neither endorsing or non-endorsing any candidate of either party. I am angry that the press in this country does not bother to explain and illuminate rather than glory in “gotchas” and even will distort things in order to create one. But it is what it is and the fact Romney can’t seem to get a grasp on that fact bothers me. He manages to get his ties properly tied, but he needs to find a way to tie down his tongue.

Of course this constant distortion by the Press and others of what people actually say is what keeps good people from running for office. And look what we get stuck with.