SHUCK-A-KHAN

Sarah Johnson: “Maybe this is yet more proof I’m not a guy! My shucking method is as follows (works on ALL shellfish): Locate MetroCard, go to Grand Central Station and walk down the ramp to the Oyster Bar. Sit at marble counter and order. Eat when shucked shellfish arrives. Added benefit? I get to watch someone else do hard work perfectly. I love to observe a job well-done!”

Eddie B.: “As a lifelong clammer I have tried many different ways to shuck bivalves. Here’s my favorite: Take an old-style can opener, the kind with a point on it that punches triangular openings in cans. Insert it into the hinge at the backside of the clam. Push firmly while rotating it slightly along its long axis (like you’re drilling back and forth). The tip will work its way into the hinge and eventually the edges will force the shells (valves) apart. Insert the clam knife, or even a butter knife, and scrape the two adductor muscles holding the shells together. Enjoy. Your smashing method certainly works, but you lose the liquor and don’t end up with presentable shells. Also, 5 minutes on the grill will pop ’em right open. Brush with a dab of whatever you like (butter, garlic, salt) and roast for another couple of minutes.”

MORE MUNGER

Skip Sherrod: “You write, ‘He [Munger] is one Republican who favors keeping Social Security just as it is.’ How anyone could favor keeping Social Security ‘just as it is’ is beyond me. The idea was actuarially unsound from the get go and in its present form will be financially unsustainable for future generations. Those I.O.U.s in the Social Security Trust Fund may be counted as assets, but we can’t pay benefits with them. Lord knows there have been enough impending Social Security crisis warnings issued to choke a goat.”

☞ Well, when a super-no-nonsense self-made Republican billionaire takes this view, I’d suggest you not dismiss it out of hand.

The Clinton budget “surpluses” George W. Bush told us were “our money” that we should demand back as tax cuts (mainly for the best off among us) were in large measure not surpluses at all, but cash to be set aside for the Trust Fund. Not as in securities as Merrill Lynch, but as a strong national balance sheet, with low National Debt, that would allow the debt to rise as needed, somewhat, to meet these obligations. Hence President Clinton’s parting theme, as he handed the surplus to his successor: “Save Social Security First.” Meaning: before you spend the surplus on other things, like wars of choice, or squander it on tax cuts for folks who are getting by just fine already. Instead, the Republicans did squander it. Hugely imprudent, huge problem, and I hate that enough Democrats went along to allow it – but tax cuts, once proposed by the chief executive, are very hard to vote against.

All that said, my guess is that Charlie Munger’s off-the-cuff “just as is” wouldn’t preclude a little tinkering around the edges other type I’ve written about in the past. That’s all it would take to get the benefits in line with the demographics. (1) I’d keep 62 as the age for early retirement. But, where currently the full-benefits retirement age rises one month per year to 67 in 2027, I would let it keep rising to 69 in 2051. (Hey: “Seventy is the new fifty-five.”) (2) Where the 6.2% tax rate you and your employer each pay drops to zero on wages above a certain cap, I’d have it drop to 1% instead. Annoying, but not a killer. (And worth paying so that grandma – much as we love her – doesn’t have to move in.) (3) I’d keep raising benefits with inflation. But for higher-income recipients, I’d calculate those benefits based on price inflation, not wage inflation, in years when prices rose slower than wages. Bang: you’re done. A bit of pain around the edges, with plenty of time to prepare for it, and the Social Security problem is solved.

CLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE – IMAGINE PEACE

Perhaps the best session was this one you can watch with President Clinton moderating a panel with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli President, and the Crown Prince of Bahrain.

BILL CLINTON ON JOBS

And, as suggested earlier this week, take a few minutes to watch what President Clinton had to say after the Daily Show ran out of time last Thursday – this is the part that only the studio audience (and now you, via the web site) got to see – two 8-minute clips.

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