Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Friday, September 04, 2009
Default or Hyperinflation
This author argues that the United States will default on its debt:
    Almost everyone is aware that federal government spending in the United States is scheduled to skyrocket, primarily because of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Recent "stimulus" packages have accelerated the process. Only the naively optimistic actually believe that politicians will fully resolve this looming fiscal crisis with some judicious combination of tax hikes and program cuts. Many predict that, instead, the government will inflate its way out of this future bind, using Federal Reserve monetary expansion to fill the shortfall between outlays and receipts. But I believe, in contrast, that it is far more likely that the United States will be driven to an outright default on Treasury securities, openly reneging on the interest due on its formal debt and probably repudiating part of the principal.
A national health care program wouldn't be able to kill the sick and elderly quick enough to save us.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Book Report: Selected Works by Cicero (1948)
Look, Ma! I'm actually reading the Classics Club books I bought.

This book collects a number of Cicero's works, including his law defenses or prosecutions, some of his letters, and some of his philosophical essays. I found it to be an interesting sampler plate, as it captures many different modes of Cicero. The attorney, with eloquent courtroom or Forum arguments for or against someone. In some cases, these were slow reads, as he goes on about people I don't know. The politician and consul emerges through the letters, wherein he talks about how different people feel about him and how he's going to persuade them, and so on and so forth. Finally, the philosopher emerges through the essays (and in spots in the letter or the courtroom things).

It's also, frankly, a good piece of historical reading, too, as it open's one's eyes to the fall of the Roman Republic and the length and breadth of the Roman Empire+Roman Republic era. For example, Cicero writes in the first century BC and talks about the monuments that are already hundreds of years old. Marcus Aurelius will write his Meditations several hundred years hence.

Good reading, and I'm looking forward to reading other Cicero works in the future.

Books mentioned in this review:

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
I Don't Know Whether To Be Reassured Or Not
An e-mail from Sarah Conner

On the one hand, Sarah assures me help is on the way. On the other, SkyNet is after me.

Book Report: Long Time No See by Ed McBain (1977)
This is a shorter 87th Precinct novel from the 1970s, before hardback bloat demanded every book be 300 pages. A blind man is murdered, and then his blind wife is murdered and the apartment tossed. Is someone murdering blind people, or were they targeted specifically? That's the question for Carella and the gang.

Funny, the book deals with veterans back from the War (Vietnam) and shenanigans in the military, but in 1977, McBain didn't feel the need to foam about LBJ, Nixon, or Carter. Was George W. Bush just that evil that McBain couldn't refrain in later books? It's fortunate he did, otherwise he would not have sold so well nor built a legacy which makes his later political rhapsody tolerable.

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, August 31, 2009
Book Report: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912, 1963)
I might count this as a historical novel. Well, a pulp novel from history. The cover says Tarzan is perhaps the most famous character this extraordinary writer ever created, but I know Burroughs mostly for John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Tarzan has gotten quite the screen time, though, hasn't he? I remember the television program that KPLR ran on Saturday mornings before its movie triple feature. Remember when independent stations ran those?

At any rate, this book follows the plight of Tarzan's parents, the Lord and Lady Greystoke, marooned on the African coast, the raising of Tarzan, his growth and eventual ascendance among the apes, and the arrival of other maroonees at the same spot. There, Tarzan saves Jane, and the hearty French (!) rescue Jane and her family. Tarzan then, in the final bit of the book, goes to civilization and ultimately Wisconsin (!) to save Jane again, but ultimately lets her wed his cousin who has assumed the title Lord Greystoke.

The end bit runs very quickly (quicker since it's missing 6 pages of the climax). Taking Tarzan out of the jungle ultimately doesn't work, but I bet others in the series will return him to the wild. I bought a number of them at a recent book fair and left some of them unpacked, so I imagine I'll read it in the next month.

Books mentioned in this review:

Sunday, August 30, 2009
Book Report: Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser (1969)
All the cool kids, and by that I mean Kim du Toit (PBUH), love the Flashman novels. So when I lit upon one for a couple bits at a book fair, I bit. You know if you've been reading here any length of time (and don't skip the book reports) that I've been reading historical novels, particularly the Sharpe series, so I have to draw a quick contrast between the two. Unfortunately, this book and probably series might fall short.

In this book, a ne'er-do-well aristocratic prodigal son gets thrown out of school (apparently, the books take off of a bully and boor from another British series of schoolboy books), gets his colors, and ends up getting sent to India and Afghanistan as an officer. He gets reknown and reputation for surviving massacres simply because he runs away, lies, and does disreputable things. I kept hoping for some sort of redemptive moment, but at the ending of the book, he finds his wife has been cheating on him while he was away and accepts it because her family has become his family's meal ticket.

I guess the books were written at different times, which might explain the differences. Fraser's book came at a time when it was radical to puncture the sense of pride Britain had in its empire; Sharpe's books, where Sharpe starts out sort of a Flashman sort but with comraderie, kinship, and some patriotism, actually prop up the traditional notions instead of knock them down. Hence, I enjoy the Sharpe books better for the thematic treatment.

I didn't enjoy this book, ultimately, and I'm not going looking for another in the series. To say I won't read one, though, might be going a bit far. Perhaps I'm optimistic enough to hope for some redemption somewhere.

Books mentioned in this review:

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."