Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Bit of Parochialism

People I know straight down I-35 in Texas are fond of saying "How 'bout them Cowboys!"

Well, here at the northern end of the highway, I can't help but say: "Way to go, Twins!" The hottest team in baseball with at two of the starters absolutely on fire and the rest of the rotation doing great, the bullpen doing what it needs to, the closer Nathan as solid as always, the batting leader of all of baseball in Mauer, and superb fielding, management, and offense is a joy to watch.

Only the World Series year of 1991 had a better June. Mauer is flirting with .400. Wow!

I know this isn't super-important nor a question of ethics but:

It is a great thing to live in Twins Country right now!

Monday, June 26, 2006

An Ethical Sign

Yesterday's New York Times (June 25, 2006) carried a long article about the $140 million that the then-head of NYSE wanted to pull out of his pension fund. It caused an uproar a while back and continues to be the subject of litigation.

While one could look at a man making many millions of dollars each year who charges bags of pretzels to his employer (as is the case here) and shake one's head, I read the article with increasing hope that the ethical part of the human race isn't gone but buried.

According to the author, while greed did win out, the man involved checked several times to see whether he could take the money. He talked to a lawyer who was also his friend. My belief, and my hope, is that these calls were the cries of his ethical, and indeed moral, nature calling out to a friend to tell him to stop. Would that he had!

Nonetheless, the suggestion that such an ethical concern raised itself amid all that money is, I think, a sign that an ethical ember still glows.

Just think what might happen were it fanned into flame!

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Problem with Eliminating Poverty

I see that John Edwards has proposed eliminating poverty within the next three decades. He'll raise the minimum wage and give other incentives to the poor. A laudable goal.

There is, however, a catch. Included in his plan is that the poor must work. Another laudable goal but this one has a problem attached. As this country continues to bleed the employed and to eliminate, outsourcing, or off-shore more and more jobs, the possibility of getting a job diminishes daily as the number of jobs shrinks.

It would be interesting if an appeal to patriotism included a call to employers and shareholders to keep good-paying jobs here in the long-term interest of the country instead of the short-term interest of quarterly stock gains.

It would be more ethical, too.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sky Remains Intact

Can we all please come in off the ledge?

Bill Gates, who hasn't written code in a very long time, has said that he'll reduce his role in running Microsoft in a couple of years. He's not closing the doors on a one-man show. He's not leaving the company. He's not even resigning as chairman. He's just said he'll spend more time on charitable work than before.

Like any large company, no one person is doing all the heavy lifting. If he retired to his island fortress this afternoon, both Microsoft and the world would continue intact. But, like all large American companies of the past few decades, the business press has created a cult of personality at Microsoft such that you'd think the apocolypse had arrived again. The same arrival occurred when Jack Welsh left GE, Greenspan the Fed, and, I presume, Digrasso NYSE.

Geez, people, get a grip!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just Wondering

In today's mail was a form from the federal government. Nothing bad so don't worry. A friend is applying for a job and used me as a reference. The form is asking for my input.

At the top of the form it says "DUE TO AUTOMATION PROCESSING, DUPLICATE INQUIRIES MAY BE RECEIVED (n.b.: All caps on the form, too)." The way I read this, automation causes duplication so, done by hand, I'd only get one. I'd also note that there are no instructions about what to do if a duplicate arrives. Answer it? Toss it? Shred it?

Near the bottom of the page is an area titled "THIS PERSON CLAIMED THE FOLLOWING." In that section is "YEARS KNOWN: 00." If I've known this person for zero time, isn't this a stranger? Can I know someone for zero time?

Is this the best we can do?

Just Wondering.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Fascination

People fascinate me. We look at the same thing and have radically different visions. Research shows that eyewitness testimony to a crime is unbelievably unreliable because of this phenomenon.

A couple of cases to this point:

A building at my alma mater, a building that pre-dates the institution, was gutted by fire last night. According to the report I read the fire was called in by homeowners some distance from the campus who smelled smoke. I have to ask what those on campus thought that smell was.

The quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers must have seen all those reports of athletes suffering career-ending injuries while riding motorcycles. Some of them saw a cautionary tale. He just spent several hours in surgery. What did he see when those reports aired?

Of course we could go into much more important issues and ask similar questions. I won't except to wonder, in those instances, whether some of us, sometimes, aren't seeing only what we want to see and dismissing all else.

I'll wonder at the wisdom of that for a long time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Real Message is Harder

I see that the California Republican Party claims that the chairman of the party is... God!
The President says that God is on our side; the terrorists make the same claim.
There's a war on Christmas, Christians, Islam, marriage, and every interest group you can imagine.

I'm Catholic so I have some understanding of the Christian message and, by extension, the Old Testament foundations of Judaism. I claim only the most cursory idea of Islam and nearly nothing of the other faiths of the world. I can, however, say with confidence that none of these faiths nor their gods is tailored to a political party of any stripe.

The central concept, as I understand it, of the major religions is to love and care for others, especially the outcast and disadvantaged. That message is hard since we're all selfish and egotistical. Our presentation of our beliefs slides easily to I'm right, you're wrong and I'll convert you (or legislate my beliefs). Sometimes the words of faith are used to mask selfish acts. One web site recently said that it was God's will to make permanent the President's tax cuts. Really?

I cannot find a political party, in any guise in any country, that completely and fully embraces the loving and caring message that so many holy books proclaim. I belong to the party that I think comes closest but I'm open to others making different choices for the same reason.

Let's let God stay out of party politics to the extent that we elect accountable humans to the chairs lest the hubris of claiming a divine chair leads to an unpleasant accounting in the future.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Are Computers and Government Compatible?

Just a short post with a couple of questions.

First the Department of Veterans Affairs loses a laptop and external drive with millions of records.

Now the I.R.S. has lost a laptop with hundreds of records on it because an employee checked it on a flight to a job fair.

Does any sane person check a computer?

Did the government ever lose a filing cabinet? Maybe computers and government are incompatible.

OR maybe when too much information is collected for no good reason it loses importance to those collecting it.

Just asking.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'll Volunteer

I've heard and read a lot in the past day or so about the Center for Public Integrity study on Congressional travel.

I'm not going to point out the incredible number of first class trips to first class places nor the average of nearly a month per member of travel each year for five and a half years. My place is not to judge.

Rather I'll focus on the "defense of these trips by the sponsoring organizations. They say that it is an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss issues in, according to the Washington Post, "a relaxed setting." The Post further quotes a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads as saying that, in Washington, the members are "too busy" to talk. Apparently the organizations need to talk and, under normal circumstances, there's no one to talk with.

O.K., I get it and I'll do my part. The lawmakers are too busy to talk and they've got a country to run. I'll squeeze time out of my schedule to go to Paris, Hawaii, and Italy so the organizations can talk. Think of me as a sort of organizational therapist. They'll talk, I'll listen, they'll pay. Since corporations are persons it might even qualify under the executive health plan.

This dirt job that someone has to do is one that I'll volunteer for as my patriotic duty.