Thursday, December 8, 2005

Why Do We Have any Right?

With the approaching likely execution of Tookie Williams next week, we're hearing lots of commentary on his worthiness for clemency. Gov Schwarzenegger is the only person who needs to make that judgment. I suggest it's not whether Williams is worthy or not, it's whether we, or anyone can makes the judgment. Are we worthy of the role of taking anyone's life so blatantly.

We can avoid the long litany of his crimes and the work Williams has done to steer our young away from the gangs. We can avoid the debate over whether his future anti-gang efforts will compensate for lives he may be responsible for. Rather, we can ask ourselves how, other than our ever-changing laws, we have any right to pass judgment on his, or anyone's life.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Support our Troops, Here's How:

I've sent a letter with the following points to my Congressman, Mike Ferguson, and Senator, Frank Lautenberg, and Cousin, Nora Slawik, MN House. I'm suggesting, to the extent possible, they advocate the following "modest proposals":

  • The surviving family of a soldier killed in the line of duty shall pay no income taxes for their life. These include parents, current spouse, current and unborn children.
  • Any wounded veteran shall have all medical expenses paid for the remainder of their life.
  • Any veteran of a combat zone shall have all psychiatric expenses covered for the remainder of their life.
I didn't offer this in their letters, but it is very much in the spirit of the late Senator Paul Wellstone. I'll follow up with his sons' organization.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Umpire Analogy

Today, in his confirmation hearing, John Roberts offered his role on the Supreme Court (capitalization used advisedly) would be that of a baseball umpire. He specifically alluded to the principal role of the umpire; calling balls and strikes. He, the umpire, is neither the pitcher nor the batter.

Very clever, John. On closer inspection, you chose badly.

Let's look at what the umpire does. Many of us are not aware of the history of umpiring. Until just a few years ago, there were National League and American League umpires. There are two sets of ground rules, the most apparent of which is the "designated hitter": the American League uses it; the National doesn't. Guess which league's games I'd rather watch.

In the last few years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has been slow to reorganize itself. For way too long, the "commissioner" of MLB has been an owner, Bud Selig of the Milwaukee Brewers. This is akin to the prosecutor serving as the judge, not to tread on the baseball - legal metaphors _tooo_ heavily. My agida for Bud Selig is best left to a sports blog, not here. But what remains is my difficulty with the "umpire" analogy. One of the good things "commissioner" Selig did a very few years ago was to break a long-standing tradition of the umpires union and merge the umpires of the two leagues. A strike and rancorous settlement settled the issue.

Do you know what the biggest issue, at least as perceived by this fan was: There were _two_ different versions of the strike zone. It was long apparent to any careful watcher of the game that each league had it's own idea of a ball or strike. Let me tell you what I think the rules say: a pitched ball, any part of which passes over any part of the home plate, above and including the batters knees and below the armpits is a strike; failing this, the pitch is a ball.

This shouldn't be difficult to interpret. But, over the years it seems, the American league took what should be a vertical box (higher that it was wide) and converted it to a horizontal box (wider than high). As an insight to what has happened, watch an American League game, yet today. And look at those pitches just over the batters belt: you can pick them out easily. The catcher doesn't move his glove in the least. It's still often called a high pitch. Sending umpires to one school is clearing up the cross-league incongruity. But, hey folks, let me tell you a secret: Rookies and 2nd year players are asking the veterans, has this ump come up in our league?

So, let's turn this analogy back on John Roberts: which league did you come up in? The one that views individuals as the arbiter or the one that views institutions as such?

If you have some time on your hands, follow this link to umpire Bill McGowan.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Dear Readers,

( I posted this on the email list last week; since someone observes that 88% of the obese live in red states, I thought I'd support the allegation. )

Today, (8/24/05) tne Newark Star Ledger published an article, listing "Fat American" by state. The table rank orders a state and the percent of the population considered "obese", by the Trust for America's Health. A Body-Mass-Index of 30 (or greater) is considered obese. In full disclosure, your editor flirted with this number last year; now there's no question; i've got obese well in hand, "as they say".

To the data. I then pulled up the Federal Election Commission data for Bush-Gore 2000 (it was easier to find than Bush-Kerry), and calculated Bush's percent of the two candidates vote for each state. Both these data are tabulated on the "states" spreadsheet. The sheet titled "obesity,Bush Vote" is a chart showing the tabulations. The Bush percent is the Y axis, the Obesity is the X axis.

You get a general sense from the data that the more obese you are, the more likely you are to be a Bush voter regardless of the state you live in. Overall, in the US, the number is 30% cooreleation. I guess this says, if you are obese, you are 30% more likely to be a Bush voter.

On closer inspection, there are five states which are almost "off the charts". They show high Bush vote percent, and generally lower obesity. Interestingly, if these states are separated from the rest, their coorelation cooeficient is 94%, nearly a straight line! And these are not co-incident, or scattered around the country. On the "states" sheet, they are identified by a key of 1, from highest obese incidence to lowest: Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Colorado. This would testify to a culture which is both more fit and more likey Bush voters. The coorelation for the other states with both data is 64%. If you don't live in the high country, you are nearly two-thirds more likely to be a Bush voter if you are obese.

Please comment, and help me give this some exposure.

-- Marty McGowan
The News' Dark Time

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Last Free Trade Agreement: GIFTA

A few days ago, your NDT editor offered what he thought ws the last name in the plethora of X FTA's: UFTA, prononced "oof -dah". This notice was shared with the aforementioned editor's Minnesota relatives, who along with their quite Scandanavian neighbors, share an appreciation for "oof-dah".

This evening, Mrs "ed", while sharing the horror of the narrow passage of the CAFTA with yours truly offered the best-and-final-name for any of these "Free" trade agreements. Simply, it's:

the Global International Free Trade Agreement, or "GIFTA"

This may be pronounced a variety of ways: Mrs ed suggests "gift - duh", indicating a certain mindlessness on the part of us givers. Ed himself offers Gift A. This suggests a long list of gifts from us to you.

Whatever the interpretation, the name "GIFTA", belongs to Mrs ed, her insight, and the world is now the wiser for what our "leaders" are doing for (to!) us?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Supreme Court Nominee:

a. woman,
b. minority ( e.g. hispanic )
c. conservative

Sorry folks, she (Linda Chavez) has better things to do.

Friday, July 1, 2005

Financial Goals

One of the "sponsors" of the PBS News Hour advertises, "there are as many financial objectives as there are people". I beg to differ. I would assert there is only one financial goal: "maximize my net worth at any time, within the limits of my conscience".

In this way, my more modest financial goals are identical to those of, say, Bernie Ebbers.

The difference is not the financial goal, it's the limit of one's conscience.

I offer these insights as the Mrs and I approach the moment of "fixed income". I think we will be comfortable: our social-security-as-a percent-of-retirement-income figure is in the range of 25%. I'd be happier if that figure were lower; I know too many people for whom it's much closer to 100%.

In a side note, Brother Dan, along with other liberal commentators on the latest assault by the Bushites, is that there should be _no_ means testing for social security. The options are either a wellfare program, or, as originally conceived, a social security safety net.

Let's leave it at that. Social security = safety net. The less of that net we rely on, the better.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Let's call it G-BAY.

You've heard of eBay; heck you may be using it. What I'm proposing here should lock down every remaining letter from A to Z. What is G-Bay?

Why Guantanimo Bay, soon to be widely recognized by its alternate name: Gulag Bay. Ergo G-BAY!

Your editor's father toured G-Bay in the summer of '52, as one of six editors touring the Atlantic, courtesy of the US Navy and the taxpayer. Since Malcolm Forbes was along for star-power, the Navy of those days needn't worry about media scrutiny. And since my dad's biggest organ (news-speak) was the "National Rabbit Raiser" (no kidding), his clout didn't rise to that of Sir Malcolm's.

Flash to the present moment. The current news media is head-in-sand over the allegations of Gulag. St Ronbo defeated the Gulag; they can't be talking about us, can they? Well Virginia, there is a Gulag, and in the words of Pogo, "We've met the Gulag, and the Gulag is US".

Let's go forth from this time and place, and proclaim the vision the world holds: G-Bay, Gulag Bay, or Guantanimo Bay, what ever you call it is the stain on our national ideals.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Advise and Consent

With typical double-speak, the Republicans, this time Bill Frist, are showing how to redefine the language to suit their ends. Everyone on the right side of the aisle jeered, and many on the left groaned, when Clinton needed to be told the definition of "is". Since it's a simpler word that "consent", one could forgive them for taking issue. One could go philosophical on them and challenge the definition of "being", etc... but it seems pointless in the present redefinition milieu.

When I hear "consent", I think consensus. For nearly 30 years now (make that since the late '70s), I've been involved in one group or another where the word "consensus" was the decision model. Early in that game, I recall learning to arrive at consensus, you had to avoid straw polls, show-of-hands, and certainly ballots. So, for years, the senate has had a few flavors of super-majority votes, as they are want to call them. Either 60 or 66 senators have been, or still are required for these super-majorities. The fuss arises over confirmation of flaming conservative judicial appointments, some of whom have been rejected in Bush's last court-packing attempt. Frist, giving his portrayal of the simple, moral man, "just want[s] an up or down vote". This of course is the simple majority. Simple majorities for simple folks. He thinks a simple majority is consensus. Time to visit the definition of "is", it seems. The "consent" of the senate should approach "consensus", so I'd say, one thing consent is not -- there's that messy "is" again -- is not one vote over half. That is not consensus. Nor consent.

Since we're picking on the whole package, let's dispel the Advise part too. If the senate is to speak with one voice, which it doesn't, its "advice" would be "send us confirmable judges". Failing that, and getting practical, they say things like "If you send us this name, we'll hold up the others. Is that what you want?" It doesn't take a super-majority to do this, rather the complement of the super-majority. We probably need a word for the super-minority! Their advice is delivered in necessarily negative terms. No reasonable person expects the recommendations of the minority to show up on the list of nominees.

So why is the media giving the Republican leadership a pass on their Orwellian twisting of Consent into meaning a simple majority. I'm sure the major media have writers who can make this simple argument much simpler:

Consent ~ Consensus

consensus >> majority

By the way, I think consensus is achieved when those who will always object, the remaining few see a sufficient number of their ideological brethren accede, probably not without some quid for their quo. But consensus is never "one more than half".

Friday, February 25, 2005

What Changed on 9/11?

Dr Khatemi, brother of the outgoing Iranian president offers this insight about 9/11: What changed on 9/11? Up until that date, the major supporter of repressive regimes was the United States.

This on tonight's News Hour.

One more time: the MAJOR Supporter of REPRSSIVE Regimes in the Middle East up until 9/11 was the United States.

Lest you think this Khatemi is some religious fundamentalist -- like Jerry Fallwell, James Dobson, ... -- think again. This Khatemi is a member of the liberal opposition.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Here's a nomination for Misleader-1st-Class: Doug Forrester who is papering the airwaves with his ads for the Republican nominee for NJ Governor. You can find him at

One note I've picked up from his TV ads, not readily available on his web site, but he notes he build a "family business on cutting drug costs". You'd think this would qualify him for one of the problems of the day -- controlling drug costs. Think again. A business, presumably for profit, that survived by cutting drug costs. Does that mean Doug will be committed to cutting drug costs from the public, not-for-profit sector. I think not. (Imagine Descartes vanishing in a puff of smoke:-) What this does tell us is that while a profit may be made by fighting drug costs, from a New Jersey citizen, no less, someone, somewhere in government is not doing their job.

If Doug were running on a record of cutting future drug costs, I'd still be listening (for other prevarications), but, as it is, this one is disingenuous enough for me to toss him on the too-fat, too-white pile that defines the modern Republican.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Iran's Nukeular Capability

Contrary to selected acting president bush's assertions, Iran will never have a nukeular weapons capability. To be blunt no one will ever have a nukeular weapons capability. There is no such thing as a nukeular anything.

So long as our illiterate s.a.p. bush insists on trying to describe nuclear power as a nukeular capability, I'll take every opportunity to point out the difficulty I have in following an illiterate. I have this thesis: listen to those who are proponents of the simplistic "west-good, east-evil" view of international politics, and pay particular attention to their attempt at pronouncing nuclear. The word sylabificates: nu - clee -ahr. Those who are most likely in favor of a western control of all aspects of nuclear energy, particularly its use in weapons, have the nauseating habbit of calling it nukeular, sylabificated: nuke - you - lahr. Illiteracy at best.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Carly, Where Are You?

OK, Carly (Carleton, since her dad was expecting a son!?) is out at HP. Shame, Shame. Someone, somewhere had better connect the names of Rich McGinn and Carly Fiorina. In my short life at AT&T Bell Labs, both these icons of the New Economy were close at hand for many peers. Sadly, it took the higest levels of corporate America to realize the hollow shells these mere suits have been.

In the News Hour piece tonight (2/10/05), they exposed Carly as a marketeer, not an inventor. Hewlett Packard just prides itself as an inventor. Your editor has seen the demise of American intellect at the hands of American marketing from firsthand.

Carly and Rich grew up (corporatley) in an environment that valued the quarterly bottom line. Rich got his a few years ago by promising inflated growth in the face of saturated network technology.l Carly got hers yesterday by promising insight to the face of computing. The News' Dark Time tracked the HPCQ index. History records the value of the stock is less than 50% when she took over. Innovation is a commitment, not a commodity.

Compare the arc of Greek philosophers to their cultural history; contrast that with the history of American invention. We've passed the hump on the curve. The saddle point. It's an opinion. Is it an insight?

Sunday, January 16, 2005

How to Retire Rich.

Yesterday's post anticipated by one day, the New York Times editorial page weighing in on the subject of Social Security reform.

Their conclusion:
Preserving Social Security while increasing savings outside Social Security is a better way to achieve a prosperous retirement.

News to me is the Administration has two proposals on the table to increase investment incentives. The first is a no-cost, no-legislation-required proposal: the IRS can implement a two-account deposit for your tax return, one of which presumably is your savings account. The other was passed in 2001 is an incentive which "offers a matching tax credit for retirement savings by low- and middle-income taxpayers." They peg the total cost at a "relatively modest" $7B. It's yet to be implemented. The cost is of course, less than 10% the amount the Bush administration was willing to shovel to it's biggest contributors.

Read the Editorial.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

It's time to call the Bush proposal to "privatize" Social Security what it is: The Emperor's New Clothes.

The myth of fine garments has been bought by most of the major media, since there is little evaluation of the personal and collective merits or flaws of the plans.

Imagine a future world in such a plan. You are splitting your contribution, say 50-50 between the public and private sectors. Your feelings about the value and necessity of your public contribution are likely the same as they are under the current arrangement. Let's inspect your attitude towards the private sector contribution.

You look at a private-sector Social (??) Security contribution as another form of IRA. But is it the same? Hardly. I may add $3500 to my IRA at my choice. I'm likely to, since at tax time, I can see the value to my bottom line, and importantly, it's my choice. But, now imagine I'm compelled, at federal regulation to "invest" a like amount of money. Do I have a choice. Not likely. Do I have a choice about the public sector contribution? No. Is it possible the private sector choice is optional? If so, I think I'd rather invest the money in an IRA. What is the value added of the federal government in compelled investing? Nothing. Other than to increase contempt for the federal government. That's the real purpose behind this scheme.

This administration has no sense of the "full faith and credit of the federal government". Their object is to diminish, if not eliminate the concept from the public forum.

If the government is really concerned about the less than lustrous savings record of the American Investor, and wanted to do something about it, our leaders would be talking about incentives to increase the average American's average investment.

When the public sees the current proposals are little more than government shoveling money to Sleazy Alley (the one off Wall Street), the awareness will stir the till-now somnambulent voters to action.

Some of the few discussions of the proposals are coming from the opinion pages: Here's a Paul Krugman editorial, The British Evasion in the Times about the failures of the British 20-year experiment with private retirement accounts. He answers one of my questions: some of the value-added will be restrictions on where the investments may be placed. And he adds a reason to why the public confidence in the government management will be further reduced.

Krugman references an illuminating article on the British experience by Norma Cohen in the American Prospect. Apologists for privatization will be left only with the theological argument after reading this article.

Not to overlook the American PAC, here's MoveOn.Org's take on privatization, where they ask, "What's the Rush, the Need, the Prospects for guaranteed benefits, and a few other pertinent points.

Where's the news, especially the fashion reporters who should be inspecting the Bush administration's social security garment?