Sunday, October 27, 2013
As of last Thursday, I am officially pushing 60. I am barely into my second year of retirement. Or at least of my divorce from Uncle Sam.
Neither of these things seem entirely possible.
I still feel pretty much like I did when I was in my forties. Sure, I have a bad back and shoulder. And sure, I have coronary artery disease despite a fairly healthy diet and lifestyle and I have a bum shoulder.
But I feel pretty good. I still have a lot of energy. I have gained 2 inches in my waistline in 20 years. I still look pretty much as I did 20 years ago too. A little grayer and balder certainly. But folks I haven't seen in years still recognize me. I can't make that claim about every person I run into after a prolonged absence.
It's pretty silly to get too worked up over one's birthday at this age and station in life. Of course, I enjoyed the cards and the phone calls. I was grateful to receive a few presents and to have a nice low-key birthday dinner with somebody who is dear to me. And I got a text around midnight from a young woman who I have in my life. Doesn't she know I am in bed by 10:30?
And I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of birthday greetings I received on Facebook. Over 200! Far in excess of what I remotely deserved. Such a kindness. I am so grateful.
I mainly enjoyed watching my friends enjoying my most recent trip around the sun. Yes, there were the entirely predictable jokes about my becoming elderly. As my friend Steve said, "Congratulations! You don't look a day over 70!"
And if I take everybody up that has offered me a free lunch or dinner, not only will I not have to buy groceries until January, I will have to purchase a new wardrobe!
Really, it's all good.
And I really like my odds of being the first male on my father's side in too generations to get into the 5th decade of life. As my doctor said during my physical, "unlike your father, you're in phenomenal shape, you don't smoke and you take statin drugs. The odds of you dropping dead from a coronary are practically zero." I guess he doesn't get to tell that to everybody my age with CAD and what the white coats refer to as a "strongly positive family history" of early death due to bad tickers.
So really, I don't think about it all that much. Really, I don't. Twice a week, a muscular black gentleman in dreadlocks locks me into a harness. And twice a week, I pull his big ass up and down the track at Scott Field.
Lately we have been doing the cardio portion of the workout out on the football field. I go out for passes. Just like I did when I was a kid, except now I am much creakier, slower and I can't see as well. Apart from that it is circa 1970 all over again. I catch the ball, jog back and we go again. Usually about 10 times. It is great fun to make what passes for a cut at the cone and to watch the ball come out of the sky as I head for the sidelines, the sun and the wind in my face.
Sometimes I even catch the damn thing.
"You know how many guys your age can do this?" Dennis always asks. "Not many."
And in any event, it beats sitting in a law office all to hell.
I've been doing this blog since 2005. Every year around my birthday I've mentioned getting closer to beating, not fulfilling, my genetic destiny. And every year I say I like my odds.
I'm saying it again.
And I'm saying that a more grateful man never existed.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Unless the House of Representatives comes to its senses, the Government of the United States, the Greatest Nation on Earth, the Leader of what is left of what passes for the Free World, the Planet's police force-you get my drift-will have been out of business for 2 whole weeks.
The world must be looking on in amazement.
It's not much more complicated than this. A handful of Republican Members of the House are rolling their Speaker who doesn't have the balls to call to the floor a Continuing Resolution to fund the Government that doesn't have a lot of other crap attached to it. Earlier on it was defunding the Affordable Care Act. Never mind that it was legally passed into law. Never mind that the Republicans ran against it in the Presidential election and lost. Never mind that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it is Constitutional. And never mind that millions of people are signing up for insurance. Or they are when the websites aren't crashing.
They don't like it and so they were willing to hold the Government hostage. Why? Because it's "socialized medicine." Because it will "kill jobs." And because-get this-it requires employer provided health care plans to offer coverage for birth control.
If you will look at your calendar you will see that we are well into the year 2013. Not 1913. You would think that this issue would have been resolved by now.
Anyway, they seem to have come to the conclusion that defunding Obamacare is not going to happen. Not with a Democratic majority in the Senate and a twice elected Democratic President in the White House.
So, they have moved on-as they say after failed relationships-to the next ransom note: the debt ceiling.
To overly simplify things, Congress passes laws on how to tax and how to spend. Traditionally speaking, and we're talking up until fairly recently, if there is less revenue to pay for the stuff Congress has told the Administration to pay for in the Budget, it has raised the debt ceiling to allow the Treasury to borrow the money to fully fund these things. And it has done so 74 times since 1962.
This would be the definition of a "rubber stamp."
And why would it be otherwise? Remember. This is to fund the obligations THAT THE CONGRESS HAS AUTHORIZED.
So. Now the House wants to tie the increase in the debt ceiling to deficit reduction and decreased Federal spending. And so you are hearing sappy comparisons to how the government should "live within its means" just like you or I do. This comparison is inapt.
I am able to use balance sheet accounting to run my life. I know that I will take if x amount of money and so I only spend x amount of money. More or less.
But household budgeting is different from government budgeting. Families grow. Members die. I don't print money. I'm not raising a military force. I'm not paying retirement benefits. My obligations are merely to provide for myself.
And my personal obligations are not mandated by law and are not guaranteed by the "full faith and credit of the United States." But here's where the "household budgeting" meme has some applicability to this particular crisis.
If I default on my debts, or pay them late, my creditors are likely to charge my a higher rate of interest the next time I borrow money. Same with the Government. If the sovereign debt of the United States of America goes into default on October 17, then our creditors will act just like GMAC and charge Uncle more interest.
Some fools have suggested that Treasury piecemeal some of its obligations until the crisis is resolved. Maybe pay interest on bonds first. Social Security next. That sort of thing.
This is madness. A default is a default because the government's obligations are backed by the "full faith and credit" of the United States. Period.
Just remember. If this isn't fixed by October 17, then the government won't be able to borrow the money to pay for the bills that CONGRESS ORDERED IT TO PAY.
Thus endeth the Civics lesson.
Monday, October 07, 2013
Sunday, October 06, 2013
The two year anniversary of my taking early retirement from my job with Uncle was October 1. That was also the day the government shut down. I do not think there is a cause and effect.
This is one of the reasons I left government service. While I could not have predicted a shut down 2 years out of the chute, working for the Feds had become more stressful since 2008. Every September saw a fight over funding the government through Continuing Resolutions to continue funding the government. Forget passing actual budgets in a timely fashion. A Presidential election was coming up in 2010 that had every chance to be the nastiest in history given the rise of the Tea Party in the previous Presidential election.
The Agency that I worked for had no money for travel or training. One of the lawyers I worked with had a hearing in Louisiana. She needed to pay for gas and to book a room. She was told by the Regional Office to ask the Judge down there to hold the hearing in Little Rock.
Right. Now THERE'S a helpful suggestion.
No. I was sick of it all by 2011. And so I got out while the gettin' was good.
I had been through at least 3, maybe 4 shutdowns in my 28 year career. The first one was under Reagan. The longest was under Clinton. I think that lasted about 5 days. We were days away from one in either the last years of the Bush administration or the early years of the Obama administration. Hell, I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up.
Closing down a Federal agency is not easy. Individuals were told who were considered "essential" and who were not. Full disclosure: I was never deemed "essential." I was cool with it.
Cases, the legal work that the taxpayers were paying us to do, and which was the reason for our jobs, had to get long range planning about a month out. Which meant that if you had a case load of 200-250 cases, as I did, you picked the 4-5 biggies that had discovery deadlines or God-forbid actual hearings, and made sure that you had them covered by whoever at Justice was deemed "essential."
By the way, I ran into an Assistant United States Attorney buddy of mine today in the grocery store. She is furloughed. She had a deposition scheduled for last Friday. One of the guys from the Criminal Division covered it for her. Which is, of course, crazy.
The closer you get to the day of the furlough is when you get the "talking points" from Washington to give folks if you are asked why you were spotted on the driving range during working hours. You were given a script to use for your voice mail greeting and the "out of office (and boy were you fixing to be out of the office)" reply on email.
The support staff secured the office. Instructions were gone over. No you can't volunteer to work. That's actually against the law. And the rule back then was that you couldn't accept any other outside employment. My thought was "the hell with that." If the shutdown we were preparing for lasted more than 5 days I was going to instantly become "of counsel" somewhere until sanity was restored.
Then there was the issue of the actual, well, paychecks. I was privileged to be making a lot of money for around here in the practice of law. I could handle the hit at least for awhile. But there's a difference between a GS-14 attorney and GS-7 documents examiner. The idea of not having a paycheck was terrifying to a lot of good people who did nothing to deserve it.
I realize that nobody cares about Federal employees. So let's talk about the taxpayers. People expect government services. They expect the parks to be open. They expect to be able to get their farm acreage certified. They expect to get their passports. They expect to have their applications for Social Security processed.
But they can't because the United States Government, the same government that built the Hoover Dam, brought electricity to the Tennessee River Valley (You ever dealt with anybody from the Tennessee Valley Authority? What a bunch of assholes.), invaded Normandy and put a man on the moon is out of business.
Not sufficiently absurd for you? How about this? The United States Government is out of business but Chrysler is up and running.
This is beyond ridiculous.
Like I said, I got out while the gettin' was good.