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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McCain's Compassion Tour

Gail Collins is right to criticize John McCain for his opposition to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (McCain's compassion tour, New York Times, April 26, 2008: A27).

In addition to the issue of fairness, there are two other compelling reasons for supporting the act. The first is economic, the second is legal.

On the economic front it is sad that as a former business executive, the President fails to recognize that fair and equitable pay is the way in which the commitment of employees to the organization is maintained. It is that commitment which ensures that people present innovative ideas to management in order to improve a firm's products and processes. It is these innovations in products and processes that drive our economy in the 21st century. The Republican and US Chamber of Commerce opposition to this Act is short-sighted and counterproductive to economic growth.

On the legal front, it is unfortunate that the Republicans and the Chamber do not recognize that failure to pass this act will result in what they fear most: a flurry of frivolous lawsuits. Absent this new legislation, it is very likely that a flood of litigation will occur. If a woman suspects discrimination, she had better file suit within 180 days of receiving her first paycheck. Many people will probably do just that.

In general, pay discrimination can only flourish in an organizational culture which fosters secrecy about compensation. Pay secrecy is an undesirable state of affairs in an organization, reducing employee motivation, yet it persists. It is therefore only right that an individual be allowed to sue for discrimination when he/she uncovers the fact that it has occurred.

The author has been a student of motivation in organizations for the past 40 years.

Sent to the New York Times

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Wealth Trajectory

Gregory Mankiw writes "Government policy makers do not have the tools to exert such a strong influence over pretax earnings, even if they wanted to" (The Wealth Trajectory, Rewards for the Few, New York Times, SundayBusiness, April 20, 2008: 9).

He is wrong.

The capture of the National Labor Relations Board by right wing ideologues has nearly destroyed the labor movement in this country. As a result, ordinary workers have been unable to claim any share of the increased productivity of the past decade.

It is political choice that has resulted in the increasing gap between rich and poor in this country

Sent to the New York Times

The Vatican View of Cardinal Law

On Friday's Morning Edition, one of your guests commented that the Vatican saw Cardinal Law as a "victim."

This is clear evidence that the Vatican still does not get it.

Cardinal Law was the man who called down the wrath of God on the Boston Globe for exposing the pederasty of Father Porter.

If the Cardinal believes in God, then his action was outrageous in his attempt to punish the messenger.

He really has no continuing place at the Vatican table.

Defrock him?
Sent to Morning Edition

The Vatican View of Cardinal Law

On Friday's Morning Edition, one of your guests commented that the Vatican saw Cardinal Law as a "victim."

This is clear evidence that the Vatican still does not get it.

Cardinal Law was the man who called down the wrath of God on the Boston Globe for exposing the pederasty of Father Porter.

If the Cardinal believes in God, then his action was outrageous in his attempt to punish the messenger.

He really has no continuing place at the Vatican table.

Defrock him?
Sent to Morning Edition

Bush OK'd Torture

So Bush OK'd torture (Bush OK'd torture meetings, Washington Post, April 14, 2008). He should be impeached.

Torture is vile.

Authorizing torture is even viler.

Vilest of all is failing to pardon the poor foot-soldiers who were found guilty of abuse at Abu Ghraib, abuse that was condoned or even encouraged, at the highest levels of the administration.

sent to Washington Post

The future of President Bush

I do hope that after January 2009, Mr Bush's career trajectory follows that of his protegé, Mr Gonzales, rather than that of his predecessor, Mr. Clinton.

Sent to New York Times

Borrowing for Infrastructure

Alas it is not the era of FDR but Mr. McNiff (Letters, Boston Globe, April 11, 2008: A12) is guilty of straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel (Matthew, 23:24).

At least our children will benefit from the restored bridges bought by the Massachusetts borrowing. It is not at all clear to me what benefits our children will receive from the trillion dollar borrowings from China by the Federal Government to finance the Iraq war. There was once the hope that we might bring stability to the Middle East, but those hopes have been shattered by the ineptitude of the Administration's prosecution of the war.

Our generation must start paying for the war though an income tax surcharge and a domestic borrowing program.
Sent to Boston Globe

No Answers, No Goals, No Exit

Your headline, "No answers, no goals, no exit." summed up the tragedy of the past six years. Without tough measurable goals it will be impossible to make progress in Iraq.

Both common sense and thirty years of tough minded social science research tells us that people do better when they are striving to attain clear goals and they do even better when they try to attain difficult, but reachable clear goals.

Without goals, we will continue to wander in the deserts of Iraq with no idea about what we are supposed to be doing and without knowing whether or not we have attained success.

Unless we can articulate clearly what a desired end state is, we should withdraw from Iraq now and not continue this escalating commitment to what appears to be a losing course of action.

Sent to Boston Globe

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Infelicities in Tobacco Op-Ed

I strongly support the position of Representative Kaprielian and the Rev. Hamilton on increasing the tobacco tax but some of the language they used in their opinion piece puzzled me (Benefits of a Higher Cigarette Tax, Boston Globe, April 10, 2008).

They say; "Its wrath results in great personal, physical, societal, and fiscal cost." It is not at all clear what the initial "Its" refers to. The nearest noun of any substance is plural:"tobacco-related illnesses ." The nearest singular noun "Cigarette smoking " is two sentences away. And why "wrath?" Is that the correct noun in this context? Maybe, invoking the grim reaper they meant, swath; or perhaps they thought cigarette smoking should bring down the wrath of God on the hapless smoker.

Surely staffers on Beacon Hill or Editors at the Globe should have smoothed this awkward, barely comprehensible sentence.
Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Hillary Walz

I must protest the Obama-centered vitriol that flows from Ms. Dowd's pen in a continuing attack on Hillary Clinton (The Hillary Waltz, New York Times, April 2, 2008).

Senator Clinton is much more than just a sparring partner for Obama helping to toughen him up for the big bout. The senator is a credible candidate for the Democratic nomination. She will make a bloody good President.

Although I am a Barack Obama supporter, if Senator Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, I will be proud to support her and work for her. I certainly will not defect to Ralph Nader. If disgruntled Democrats do that, we will be handing the nomination to the very conservative John McCain.

Sent to New York Times

Guantanamo Detainees

Representative Bill Delahunt is absolutely right; we should admit the innocents of Guantanamo into the United States (At Hub hearing, lawyers press case of Guantanamo detainees, Boston Globe, March 27, 2008: A13). At the very least, they should live in the same conditions as civilians on the base rather than being confined to isolated cells.

We should have been doing this for a long time. Does anyone remember the case of the five Chinese Uighurs. They were captured in Afghanistan in 2001. They had all been cleared of terrorist connections by a military tribunal but were kept, as innocent people, at Guantanamo because they could not be returned to their native China which they were fleeing. Instead they were sent to Albania where they live in misery in a refugee camp.

Why could the United States not have generously have resettled these people here in the United States? Instead they kept them at Guantanamo until February 2006 when the courts were about to hear their appeal to be released; they were then shipped to Albania where they are living in a Refugee Center in that impoverished country. One would think that after disrupting their lives, the United States would be eager to make amends by resettling these people in safety in the United States.

Why not? What has happened to American values?

Sent to Boston Globe

Analyst takes no prisoners on budget cuts

Governor Schwartzenegger is wrong, very wrong to propose a 10% budget cut (Analyst takes no prisoners on budget cuts, LA Times, February 21, 2008). The proposed across the board cut has done its work: it has got everyone's attention. To actually implement it would be a grave mistake. Although it does, on the face of it, seem fair; it is not.

First, it is cowardly. No tough decisions have to be made.

Second, an across the board cut penalizes those units whose managers are running a tight ship. Unlike other units, they have little slack, so cuts will harm their core programs: cutting muscle instead of fat.

Third, as Elizabeth Hill has pointed out, it does not focus the legislature's attention on priorities. Successful downsizing demands prioritization.

Of course, if the Federal Government were to make good the likely decline in property tax revenue due to the foreclosure crisis, the Governor's job would be a lot easier.

Sent to Los Angeles Times

Mortgage Foreclosure

The Federal government has just bailed out one large bank, proposals are being reviewed to bailout individual home owners who are over-extended, but their is no discussion about bailing out junior jurisdictions which rely heavily on property taxes for the bulk of the revenues.

The state of New Hampshire relies heavily on the property tax. If 7% of home owners are to suffer foreclosure, New Hampshire's revenue will fall by a similar amount.

The congressional delegation should be lobbying hard to have a federal bailout for the towns, cities, and states who are innocent victims of the mortgage mess.

Sent to Manchester Union-Leader


Over the last month, the Federal Reserve has come to the aid of failing banks (Fed Leaders ponder an expanded mission, Washington Post, March 28, 2008: A1), proposals have been made to help homeowners refinance their mortgages, but one group, who did not make stupid over extending decisions, have been left in the cold.

The towns, cities, school boards and some states that rely heavily on income from property taxes are likely to suffer. They too should get federal aid.

If, as is predicted, 7% of home owners are likely to see foreclosures on their homes, these innocent bystanders are likely to see a drop of 7% in their revenue from property taxes. The Federal government should immediately announce a program to make good their losses by providing an infusion of 7% of property tax revenue to these jurisdictions.

This will prevent a massive reduction in local and state government programs at a time when the social safety net will be most needed.

Sent to Washington Post