September 30, 2003

Land Deals

I bought a piece of property over the internet today. I have never seen this property and I don't know for sure exactly where it is yet. In all likelihood I will never visit this property. I am reasonably sure that as a financial investment I will lose every dime. Today I bought a one acre lot on the moon.

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-journal Dennis Hope the celestial executive officer and self-described "head cheese" of the Lunar Embassy is claiming to be exploiting a loophole in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. This U.N. treaty is an agreement among all UN member nations that no nation would have sovereignty or control over any of the celestial bodies. Hope believes that since there is nothing in the treaty pertaining to individuals his claim of ownership of the moon as well as all the planets except Earth and their moons is valid. And as the legal owner, he is subdividing.

My official deed should arrive in the mail in a few days. Then I have to decide if I want to put it up on my wall or put it up on Ebay. If you can't wait for me to decide to sell, you get your own piece of the moon here.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:10 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


September 28, 2003

Who's money is it? part 2 

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is often touted as the most conservative of the 10 little indians campaigning for the Democrat's presidential nomination. In a recent debate he signed on to the idea of repealing the Bush tax cuts (i.e. raising the taxes) for the top of the income bracket. Why? Because "they don't need it."

Apparently Uncle Joe believes that need should be the standard of income and he is willing to fudge the tax code to achieve his goal: tax the more successful (From each according to his ability) and hand it out to the less successful (to each according to their need)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:52 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


CRAPP II

This is not the first time I've put up a post about the TSA's proposed CAPPS II system. At first I didn't really put a lot of thought into why the idea bothers me so much. I fly about once a year and would profile about as far from a terrorist as you could get. But this proposal makes really the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

There is of course the Constitutional issue. A computer program run by the airlines, designed by a government contractor, performs and instant background check when I buy my one airline ticket a year. On the basis of what the programs returns I could be flagged as red and barred from flying. It doesn't matter that this designation would be ridiculously wrong, even if it were right I can't see how this would qualify as the due process required before I can deprived of life, liberty, or property.

That is the more rational half of my reaction. The more visceral half I almost hesitate to mention. But the CAPPS II color code system smacks of something much more sinister. At the risk of linking myself to idiotic protesters carrying signs saying Bush=Hitler, the CAPPS colors evokes an image of the Star of David Jews were made to wear by the Nazi's. I understand that as currently proposed the CAPPS system applies only to air travel and that there is no proposal that travelers wear a badge of their designated risk color. This is after all the less rational half of my reaction. It is a reaction that springs from a distgrust (Interesting typo. Somewhere between distrust and disgust - either word works for me) of power and government. It is a reaction that comes not from looking at what the proposal is today, but what it could become in the future if we are too complacent, and not protective enough of our liberty.

And then there is that nagging irrational fear that if I keep writing about this I'm going to have a hard time getting past security the next time I fly.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:49 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Leave my blog now! 

As a relatively new blogger I have found the whole process addicting. Putting out into the world the thoughts that usually just dance around in my head or get shouted at idiots on radio talk shows is a powerful drug. But there is an even more powerful addiction for a blogger newcomer like me. The site meter. For those of you not afflicted, the site meter is a little program you can attach to your site that counts how many visits your site gets. The Site Meter report for Hold the Mayo is by a large margin the site I visit most. So much so that I have made it the home-page my browser opens to. The pathetic depth of my addiction is best illustrated by how pleased I am when the count hits double digits by the end of the day. I'm hitting that mark more often now and with a decent number of consistently returning readers. Thank you all for feeding my habit. Although it would be nice if you all used the comments a little more!

All of that said, and now that your visit has been counted - you must leave. Not that I don't want you to read every word on this page, but there is another blog I want you to see. The blog is Eject! Eject! Eject!. Finding Bill Whittle's essays, which I did with the help of my good friend at Rocket Man Blog, was like sitting down to a really great steak when you are really hungry for steak.

The essays are not short, much more of king cut of prime rib than a tasty little filet. They are meaty, they are satisfying, and they will fill you up mentally. They are food for the mind and the soul. So, thanks for the hit on my site meter, but get over to Eject! Eject! Eject! now. Bon appetite.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:24 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 26, 2003

Call if You Dare 

I have to admit that even though I was one of the millions who was persistent enough to successfully register for the FTC Do Not Call List on the first day of registration, I am surprisingly apathetic about the current fate of the list in the courts. I attribute this mostly to low expectations about the program's effectiveness. If it had resulted in one less call a night I would have been pleasantly surprised. I think I would kind of miss telemarketers. They serve as a great target for venting the frustrations that build up during the day. Sometimes even just the simple act of hanging up on someone in mid sentence can wipe away the lingering agony of a dull afternoon meeting. They also provide an easy outlet for my eight-year-old daughter who loves almost nothing more than talking to anybody on the phone - although she usually has to let her three-year-old brother get some talk time too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:35 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


September 25, 2003

Who's money is it? 

Instant democratic front-runner Wessley Clark unveiled his economic plan recently which includes the standard Dem idea of repealing the Bush tax cuts for anyone making over $200k. Why is it that liberals believe the more money you earn the less right you have to keep it? People who earn $200k have just as much right to keep their income as people who earn $20k. This is the kind of equality we should have. But the liberal approach is to tax the more successfull (From each according to his ability) and hand it out to the less successful (to each according to thier need).

I covered some ideas about reforming the federal tax system here.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:49 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 24, 2003

Evolution of language 

I coined a new word today. During the lunch portion of a meeting a discussion began about snacking preferences. There were some in the group who had a strong preference for salty snacks and others with an overriding sweet tooth. I and a few others have a strong love of both the sweet and the salty. Someone instantly offered a double entendre about "going both ways." I agreed and added that I am completely and unashamedly bisnackual.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:37 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 23, 2003

Style is Substance 

I just started Virginia Postrels new book, The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousnes. Since I make living as a designer her premise that the look and feel of things has become an equal, and in some cases greater, value with the function of things is not a revelation. Everywhere you look, everything in the consumer marketplace is designed.

You can buy a basic BIC ballpoint pen for less than a quarter. It's a simple plastic barrel with an ink tube and a metal point. When it comes to writing instruments it is the essence of form follows function. As of two years ago, you can buy a slightly more expensive version of the same pen with a rubber grip on the end. Or if you prefer you can invest more than $100 in a ballpoint pen from the likes of Cross, Mont Blanc or Sheaffer. The $100 pen and the $.25 pen perform the same function - putting a line of ink on paper. Neither will do much for your penmanship and absolutely nothing for the quality of your writing, the difference - style and design.

What really made clear the essence of the value of style was the flat tire I had yesterday. The flat tire resulted in a trip to the local tire center where while I waited I browsed through a collection of 73 different chrome wheels (I counted them too). The prices, on sale, ranged from a low of $400 for a set of 4 to a high of $1,300 (marked down form $1600). I am guessing that my neighborhood tire store only had on display a small sampling of the available choices for chrome wheels. But even though I understand the value of design, I personally don't see the value of spending $1,300 for the chunk of metal that holds the tire on my car. There are those that do - the guy at the counter told me they've sold 3 sets this month.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:47 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 22, 2003

70k down the drain

The mail was very depressing today. Today I received a statement from the Social Security Administration. I skipped over the fantasy section - the part about how much I might get back if I retire when I'm 70 - and went straight to reality. The section where they estimated how much I and my employers have paid in over my working career to date. My first problem with this is why is this an estimate? I have been sending these people money since 1979 haven't they kept track of it? Shouldn't they just be able to put my Social Security number into the computer and get an exact amount? Is it any wonder that in my calculations my estimated benefits from Social Security are $0.00?

Then I did the math. Luckily for me that was just adding two numbers together - what I've paid and what my numerous employers have paid. The total would be the estimated balance of my account. As I indicated before math is not my strong suit. When I thought about how much that estimated $70k would be worth today if it had been invested in a few good funds over the last 20 years I couldn't even begin to give a numerical estimate. The closest I could get was a reasonably certain estimate of more than $0.00.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:22 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 19, 2003

Product Liability

In a report on SunSpot.net a London based computer security firm, mi2g, states Microsoft Windows based virus attacks caused $32.8 billion in damage in the month of August. $29.7 billion of that was the SoBig worm. More frightening, mi2g estimates virus and worm caused damage of between $88 and $107 billion so far this year.

How has all this damage been done? It has been done by exploiting security holes and vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system. I am not a lawyer nor anything close to an expert in product liability, but it seems to me that if you produce a product with flaws resulting in damages in to the 10s of billions of dollars there should be some liability here.

What is there defense that the damage wouldn't have happened if the hacker hadn't written the worm? True enough, but would the hacker have done his thing if the flaws in the system hadn't been there?

The bottom line is that millions of users were affected because of flaws in the software they purchased from Microsoft - and based on the numbers from mi2g they took a big hit to their bottom lines. Can someone explain to me why Microsoft is not held accountable?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:57 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


To Boldly Go...

If you have even the slightest fascination with technology and/or space travel, I highly recommend this post at Rocket Man Blog. Be forewarned however that you will need to have more than a spare minute and you will be required to use significant portions of your brain.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:12 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Ask a Stupid Question 

Fox News has a poll on its website asking who should pay for damages caused by hurricane Isabel. The choices are, Private Owners, the Government, or Insurance. I am dumbfounded that this question is even being asked. If an individual chooses to build a seaside home in an area that could be potentially hit with a hurricane or other severe weather, whatever damage they suffer is their own damn problem. And if they don't have insurance to cover the damages they better hope their own checkbook can cover it.

The choice to live by the sea is an individual one. It is a choice I completely understand and would make myself if I could afford the higher property and insurance costs. But it is a choice that comes with risks. If you want the fresh air an breezes, if you want the beach at your front door, if you want the beauty of the sea outside your windows, you have to accept the risks that come with it. And when all that natural splendor turns ugly and rips off your roof or wipes out your home you can have my complete sympathy. If you were my neighbor you could have every ounce of effort I could spare to help you dig out. What you have no right to is one dollar of my money - beyond what I choose to freely give.

It is a sad commentary on the state of our society that this is even a question anyone would think to ask. It is a tribute to the readers at FOX News.com that only 4% of respondents have said government should pay.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:44 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 18, 2003

Overdosed

For political junkies everywhere presidential election season is like having Christmas, your birthday and Halloween on the Fourth of July. With Wesley Clark throwing his hat into the ring bringing the number of official Democratic candidates up to 10 and the ceaseless rumor and speculation about the intentions Al Gore and Hillary Clinton you would tend to think there is a real danger of political overdose. Just imagine the mental anguish and the headaches that could be caused by having to sort through 10 if not 12 voices espousing their positions, proposals and beliefs. Fortunately political junkies are safe from this danger. There seems to be only one issue that will determine who gets the Democratic party nomination - who hates George Bush and the Republican party the most.

Whatever policy proposals that have been made have been completely drowned out by the name calling and insults and the outright lies aimed at the president and his party. Ten candidates are running with the same slogan, "Vote for me I'm not a Republican." The Democratic party was once a party of ideas and ideals. Misguided and wrongheaded as they were, they stood for something. The party of the Donkey is fast becoming the party of the jackass. Defined not by what they stand for but only what they stand against.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:22 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 17, 2003

Good Nwes

This is good news for bloggers like me who are horrible typists:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Combine this with even a mediocre spell checker and and all of my posts will be readable. Bearable is something I need to work on!

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:35 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


Stood up by Isabel 

Like everyone who lives on the east coast I have been carefully watching the progress of Hurricane Isabel. Current predictions are that it will brush past my part of the world at a safe distance leaving us perhaps wet and only slightly windblown. Many local newscasters will be disappointed that they wont get that shot of their intrepid reporter standing at the shore as the storm approaches. Many local retailers are throwing Isabel appreciation parties. I stopped at the grocery store after work yesterday to pick up a few things we needed - not hurricane related - and decided that while I was there it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to pick up an extra set of batteries for the radio just in case. There was not a single D size battery in the store. Out of curiosity I headed over to the aisle with the bottled water. Most of the shelves were bare already. I considered stopping at the Home Depot we pass on the way home just to check out their battery and plywood supply but I had two kids and ice cream I had just bought. But reports of plywood scarcity have been common from the Carolinas through Connecticut.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:23 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 15, 2003

Life

Life interferes with blog. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:35 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 13, 2003

Fairly Unbalanced

When I was growing up I lived in an area where there were three local television stations we could pul in on the aerial antenna mounted to our roof. Each was affiliated with one of the three networks. There was an afternoon daily local paper and a morning regional daily. I was aware of about two radio stations (there were probably more but these were the only two that played music my parents hated). There was not allot of media competition. Most people I knew took both newspapers and no one was fiercely loyal to one of the 3 TV stations or networks. Was there a diversity of viewpoint? Did both sides of a controversial issue have a chance to speak. I have no Idea I was only 12.

Now I have 107 channels of cable TV (I could have up to 350 with the cable company's new digital service). I have stations assigned to all 24 preset buttons on the radio in my car ranging from talk radio on a.m. to the fm stations my daughter likes because they play music I hate. In addition to two local papers there are two "national" newspapers, The New York Tines and USA Today. I get an average of 3 magazine solicitations a month. Then there is the internet. With everything ranging from slick corporate websites from the major news outlets, to site from and about every cause on the planet to amateur pundits like myself.

In this environment, congress is trying again to bring back the fairness doctrine. They have tried several times since the FCC abandoned the regulation in 1987. The one time it actually managed to pass it was vetoed by President Reagan. The fairness doctrine was one of the first official governmental diversity programs - although I don't think they called it that back when I was 12. In order to provide for a diversity of opinion the regulation held that if a broadcast station aired one side of any controversial issue they were required to air the other side as well. There was no real standard for what constituted a controversial issue or for what qualified as a fair airing of the opposing view. All a broadcaster could do was try - then wait to see if they broke the rules. Or they could just choose not to deal with controversial issues at all. The fear was that because there were so few sources there would be too few opinions represented.

In the age of modern media there is not opinion on any issue large or small that cannot find an outlet (Unless of course you're appearing on the O'Rielly factor and you happen to disagree with the host) So that clearly cannot be the objective of trying to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine. The objective now is to continue where campaign finance left off in the battle of political incumbents trying to eliminate political debate among the great unelected masses. In the true occasion of bipartisan cooperation politician from both sides of the aisle have united in the common cause of their own re-elections.

Having eliminated those pesky ads about issues that cause them so many problems especially when they are aired so close to an election the entrenched incumbency is seeking to quiet debate that might not show them in their best campaign light. They are all afraid. Liberals are afraid of conservative radio, conservatives are afraid of liberal TV networks. But What has them most afraid is the concept of an informed electorate. They are afraid of an electorate that knows more about what is going on in politics that just what they hear in a 30 second campaign spot. They are afraid that there are media outlets that are beholden to neither party or cause. They are afraid that the camera is on 24/7 and someone is watching everything they do - and telling others what they see.

There is no scarcity of media. There is no lacking in diversity of opinion. The is no reason to pass the fairness doctrine into law. The only people for whom the current media culture is "unfair" in incumbent politicians who feel they have a right to be in office and want to rig the game to stay there.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:02 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 11, 2003

Food Fight

A World Net Daily report on the WTO meeting in Cancun highlights another attempt by our socialist European "allies" to cripple the U.S. economy. I guess they figure that if they can bring the U.S. down their failure will not look so spectacular on comparison. They tried to put the breaks on the American economic machine by cutting of it's power supply. Under the guise of a make believe sky is falling environmental crisis they tried to get us to agree to cut our use of power to levels that would strangle economic output. Thankfully President Bush saw the threat to the nation contained in the Kyoto treaty and said no.

They haven't actually given up on the second attempt yet - using the United Nations to interfere in the war on terrorism, leaving America vulnerable to future attacks. They didn't want us to go after their genocidal terror supporting friend in Iraq. They wanted to let their buddy Sadam play cat and mouse with Blix and his band of merry men. They bought him enough time to hide the things he wasn't supposed to have and bought with the money he got from the oil he wasn't supposed to be selling to them. But that was the best they could do. Thankfully President Bush saw the threat to the nation and said no.

The most recent attempt is by far the cheesiest. Brie, Camembert and Parmesan to be exact.

Calling U.S. firms "pirates," the EU seeks exclusive rights for its 15-member nations to names of consumer goods associated with European regions.

Endless examples include Bordeaux, Chablis, Chianti, feta, parmesan, romano and Roquefort.

The cost to the U.S. in terms of new packaging, branding and marketing would be staggering.

U.S. negotiators predict if the WTO agrees to the restriction, U.S. companies will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in new labeling and marketing.

Let us hope that if the time comes when the WTO expects the U.S. to participate in what would be self-destructively stupid policy that President Bush again sees the threat to the nation and says no.

When this gambit fails - I wonder what they will try next.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 02:40 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


A Fitting Memorial

On the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks many will pause for moments of quiet reflection, many will weep. For some however their remembrances will be disturbed by the increasingly loud debate over what should done at Ground Zero. The volume is coming from those who feel that the most fitting memorial to their lost loved ones is to leave the footprint of the original World Trade Center untouched. I don't want to belittle or question anyone's grief. To lose a loved one is a terrible thing in any circumstance. In the circumstances of 9/11 it is doubly so. But when I ask myself the question what would be a more fitting memorial to those lost on 9/11, I don't believe the answer is a hole in the ground where the towers once stood. A more fitting memorial in my view would be to build a new and spectacular World Trade Center where the original stood. Let us not remember the dead by enshrining the destruction wreaked by our enemies. Let us honor them by building new towers in a tribute to the American Spirit and in defiance of those who would see the light of its liberty extinguished.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:23 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


September 10, 2003

Raising the Bar

My good friend over at Rocket Man Blog is offering this counterpoint to my earlier post regarding Representative Bill Janklow. There is much in his post that I cannot disagree with. For instance he rightly asserts the Janklow has not been convicted of any crime. He also correctly asserts that beyond the most basic details of a member of congress driving a car and causing an accident resulting in the death of another the comparisons of Janklow to Kennedy break down quickly. If it came across that I was implying a moral equivalence, that can be attributed to the quick, shoot-from-the-hip nature of that post - that was not the intended meaning.

Bill Janklow made a stupid mistake behind the wheel of his car - as have we all. I have run a stop sign myself in the past, and can only count it as luck that no one was injured or killed. But in Congressman Janklow's case when he went through a stop sign at an estimated 70 mph someone was killed. These facts are not in dispute. If Bill Janklow had any other occupation than elected representative I too would agree with the position of letting him keep his job until convicted. But I believe that in this case making conviction the standard (and upon conviction if Janklow resigns it will only to pre-empt his expulsion) is setting the bar too low.

The point I was attempting to make in my original post is that on the merrits of his own situation Janklow should step down. That he should send Kennedy a copy of his resignation was just a way to take a parting shot on his way out the door.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:36 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


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