Thursday, November 25, 2004

Social Security Needs Reform

The Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress is working on a plan to make Social Security solvent for another 60 years. This is something the Democratic Party had the opportunity to do on more than one occasion yet opted out of what undoubtedly will be a difficult process. In the meantime the Democratic Party will evidently continue to obstruct the development of a new system we can all benefit from as evidenced by this recent post on the DNC's blog - Kicking Ass. Below is an excerpt from a recent discussion topic posted by Jesse Berney @ 07:07 PM last night (2004 Nov 24) titled:

The trillion dollar swindle
I'm no expert on the Enron scandals, one of the most complex collections of financial manipulations in the nation's history. But I do know that one big part of the plan was to create companies and move money between them, counting that money as profit. It's kind of like moving a dollar from your left pocket to your right and saying you just made yourself one dollar richer.

Why bring this up now? Because the Republicans are planning on using Enron-style accounting when they privatize Social Security in the coming year.

A brief bit of background. The current taxes you pay into Social Security pay the benefits that Seniors receive. Republicans plan to privatize Social Security by allowing current payees to divert payments into private accounts (which will risk their future guaranteed benefits). more
He certainly did get the first part right where he stated, "I'm no expert. ...," but that's about the extent of his knowledge on the subject. We previously posted a discussion thread on this subject titled, Ponzi Scheme Requires Social Security Reform, on (16 Oct 2004) -- a must read before commenting.

What's clearly evident is The Democratic Party is fighting for an identity. It's clear the ideals the Party stood for are no longer what they will support today. The Republicans will certainly get bashed as the new ideas to reform the system rise to the surface. The American people are more intelligent than the DNC thinks. They know who is truly working for the American people. Reference Link

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Loud, Obnoxious, Yet Strangely Silent

It's interesting to note cult celebrity Michael Moore, director of the Bush bashing film Fahrenheit 9/11, is missing from the scene. Moore, who was the first place winner of this year's dubious 'Frigid 50' award, published by online movie magazine, has been strangely quiet of late. It's satisfying to observe how the results of a national election can serve a large portion of humble pie. CNN runs the story this way: - And the year's least-intriguing celebrity is ... - Nov 24, 2004: "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -- Director Michael Moore, whose anti-President Bush film 'Fahrenheit 9/11' touched off a firestorm of controversy, topped an annual list on Monday of Hollywood's least-intriguing celebrities.

The outspoken documentarian, who seemed to be everywhere during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, urging the defeat of Bush, ranks No. 1 on this year's 'Frigid 50' published by online movie magazine

The Web site, known for an anti-establishment take on the entertainment industry, said its list names the stars it found to be the 'least-inspiring, least-intriguing people in Hollywood.'" more
Whatever happens I wouldn't count Moore down and out. I'm sure we'll see more of him. This guy is a real piece of work! Reference Link

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Democatic Party Champions White-Collar Issues

What's happening to the political party of the blue-collar worker? Traditionally the Democratic Party has championed blue-collar worker and union issues.

In an attempt however, to follow through on one of his many 'if elected president' campaign promises [would somebody please tell him he lost the election], Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) fronted a measure to add an amendment to the $388 billion spending bill in the final stages of consideration by Congress.

In an article today by Amy Joyce, a staff writer for the Washington Post titled: Attempt to Block Rule On Overtime Thwarted: Provision Deleted From Spending Bill: -- Tuesday, November 23, 2004; Page E03, she wrote:

An attempt to block the Bush administration's proposed changes in overtime rules was killed before the 2005 spending bill received final congressional approval over the weekend.

Democrats attached an amendment to the Senate's version of the bill that would have overturned the overtime regulations, which went into effect in August. The amendment, which would have prevented any worker previously covered by overtime from losing that protection, was deleted in a conference committee.

The White House had threatened to veto the entire $388 billion spending bill if the overtime amendment was included.
Democrats say they will continue to fight to overturn the regulations next year.

'This battle isn't over,' Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said in a statement. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Kennedy 'intend to push hard' to eliminate the overtime regulations. ... more
While it was Sen. Harkin (D-IA) who sponsored the amendment it had the backing of both Senators Kennedy and Kerry, and other Democrats. The contention surrounding the new overtime regulations had the Democrats fuming since its passage in August with claims the new law may short 6 million white-collar workers at some point in the future.

Congress apparently took up the overtime issue to stifle overtime class action lawsuits that nearly doubled in recent years. The Department of Labor claims more workers, not less, will gain overtime under the new regs.

I must be missing something. Please tell me. When did the Democratic Party become the champion of the white-collar worker? Reference Link

Poll: Many say U.S. deeply divided - Poll: Many say U.S. deeply divided: "Poll: Many say U.S. deeply divided
By Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- Americans came out of the presidential election believing the nation is deeply divided on values and important issues, but they have a slightly more favorable opinion of President Bush and his top advisers and feel slightly less pessimistic about the situation in Iraq. more (Related link: Poll results)

What's it going to take to pull this country together? Reference Link

Monday, November 22, 2004

Fly Me To The Moon

It will only be a matter of years until space travel will be available to the masses. That's the wealthy masses. But, if that's the way you want to spend your money -- go for it!

Glenn Reynolds writes a post in his blog titled: MSNBC - Another small step

After looking as if it had died until next year, new legislation designed to promote space tourism passed the House of Representatives late Friday afternoon. My MSNBC colleague Alan Boyle, who has covered this story better than just about anyone, has the details. Now it goes to the Senate." more
As my teenage daughter said when told of the House paving the way for space travel, "Kewl Dad. Sign me up!" Reference Link

Pension Plans or 401(k) Plans: What's Right For You?

The million dollar question is, Will You Retire Comfortably? Learning more about your retirement plan can pay big dividends. Albert Crenshaw of the Washinton Post writes an article titled: How Promising Are Pension Plans?: ( Sunday, November 21, 2004; Page F01

Traditional pension funds are generally run by professional money managers, following well-known rules for making prudent investments.
Section 401(k) plans are run by their owners -- in other words, the likes of you and me -- following who knows what strategy, constrained only by the investment options offered by their employers. " more
With social security up in ther air and ripe for reform this is a must read. Reference Link

New Hampshire eVote Recount O.K.'s Kim Zetter logs her report titled,
Wired News: So Far, Recount Shows No Problem:

"The New Hampshire vote recount requested by independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is still in progress, but preliminary results show no significant changes in the numbers.
Nader requested a recount of a small number of wards, or voting precincts, after Michigan programmer Ida Briggs produced statistical analysis showing that President George Bush received many more votes in some wards than expected. Most of the wards used optical-scan machines made by Diebold Election Systems, which came under scrutiny this year after computer scientists discovered flaws in the company's touch-screen machines." more
I guess if you can't win by popular vote you try to win by statistical extrapolation. What was Ralph thinking?
Reference Link

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Did The Democrats Cheat In 2000?

Kim Zetter at published an article Friday afternoon titled, Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy. This was a follow up to an article she wrote earlier in the week titled, Florida E-Vote Fraud? Unlikely. You'll find our original post on this subject at: Election Conspiracy Theorists Still Grasping For Win on this blog where you may link to a color coded chart analysis of the Florida voting results for both types of machines.

Well, what can we say? The story goes like this:

"[...]graduate students from Berkeley's Quantitative Methods Research Team launched the research project after following debates in the blogosphere about possible fraud in the election. After examining and discounting many other theories, such as ones involving optical-scan machines in Florida, they decided to look at counties that used touch-screen voting machines."

They discovered that in the 15 counties using touch-screen voting systems, the number of votes granted to Bush exceeded the number of votes Bush should have received -- given all of the other variables -- while the number of votes that Bush received in counties using other types of voting equipment lined up perfectly with what the variables would have predicted for those counties.

The total number of excessive votes ranged between 130,000 and 260,000, depending on what kind of problem caused the excess votes. The counties most affected by the anomaly were heavily Democratic.
But wait there's more. The blog PowerLine reports that Dafydd ab Hugh, who actually knows something about statistics, dissected the Dems' latest theory in an email to Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub's blog California_Insider:
"I have just read through the UC Berkeley paper you linked about e-voting. There is a pretty significant pair of errors in it.

[...]it's equally valid to suppose that there was a Republican suppression factor in the 2000 and 1996 elections -- that is, that the Democrats cheated in counting punchcards in heavily Democratic districts in past elections -- which they were unable to do in 2004 with the electronic voting machines.

In fact, it is easier to cheat with punch cards: for one easy example, if you take a stack of ballots and push a long stylus through the "Gore" hole, this will have the effect of turning Bush votes into uncountable Bush and Gore double votes, while leaving Gore votes undisturbed. This requires no computer sophistication at all (or even a high-school diploma) and can be done by the lowest level of poll worker, long before the cards even leave the individual precinct.

All that the study actually found was. ..." more
Hindrocket, who authored the PowerLine post titled, 'News Flash: Florida "Stolen!" Again!' wrote:
"Without having analyzed the study, my guess is that it doesn't prove anything at all. But Dafydd's observation that if the study really is meaningful, it probably shows that the Democrats were cheating in 1996 and 2000, is interesting." more
Patrick Ruffini quickly debunks the Berkley study in his post titled, Fisking Berkeley's Bogus E-Voting "Study". For some reason these disheartened souls can't bring themselves to believe more Democrats voted for President Bush this time than in 2000. Check out the chart analysis of the Florida voting results for both types of machines. to decide for yourself, and then, if you feel the urge, opine. Or view the comment thread titled, "Study Raises Questions About Florida Vote Count" on the blog Talk Left: The Politics of Crime - 11/21/2004 where you'll find a lively discussion taking place. Reference Link

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Iraq: They Love Us Not -- They Love Us!

The Iraq war is many things. It is a struggle for our soldiers -- it's a struggle toward a better life for Iraqis. The media has reported to America that the Iraqi people detest the ‘occupation’ of their country and want us out of Iraq. The subliminal message is we should just get out while the gettin' is good! We are told Iraq is too dangerous for our soldiers and support personnel to be there. Yet some believe that 'Iraq is safer for some than Washington, DC', as reported on Shark Blog.

War is HELL! War however, is a process. Regrettably, some people make the ultimate sacrifice for a nation -- a nation that is working to protect its citizenry from harm. Working to move a country fraught with despair, to a country of hope and freedom. On Fox News yesterday there was discussion about the vast oil reserves the Iraqi people hold. With 24 million people these pundits predict the Iraqi people will have one of the highest per capita income rates in the World.

In fact, Dr. Henry Thompson, who holds a PhD in applied economics from Auburn University has studied Iraq at length and has similar findings. The following is an excerpt from what he wrote:

"Over the coming decades, Iraq can become wealthy. Estimated productive assets in the US according to the World Bank are $60,000 per capita and in the world $5,000 per capita. If Iraq invests 1/4 of its oil revenue for the next 20 years, it would match current US productive assets per capita."
They say pictures are worth a thousand words. These pictures are just in from Iraq. They help illustrate some of the accomplishments of the Iraqi people, our soldiers, and our nation have made.

It bothers me that some Americans are so quick to criticize? The terrorists and the insurgents are using the time old 'divide and concur' strategy. That's really the only way 'they' hope to prevail. Put the politics aside. We can win this effort more conclusively, more effectively, if we support the effort as a unified nation.
Reference Link

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Fall and Rise of a Retail Giant

With the recent announcement of the Kmart and Sears merger I reflected on the Sears brand while growing up in my childhood home. Flashback to the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's where Sears was a paradigm of the retail establishment. While other retailers, J.C. Penny's and Montgomery Ward come to mind, emulated the 'Sears model' one has to ask, "What caused this retail giant to fall from it's once coveted status as the number one retailer in the nation?

Many will cite the Sears Catalog operation that started in 1886, but completely phased out in 1993. Sears however, has a history of stagnant growth since the 1970's where it had about 870 stores; approximately the same number as today. Others blame its loss of status on bad retail product choices. While all those reasons and more were likely contributors, I believe it was Sears' inability to shift from its paradigm created in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Think about it! For those who grew up in the era of Sears, why did our parents shop there? Was it that Sears offered the best products or the best pricing? Not really.

Sears' one-time strong hold on the retail world can be pinned to one major development. They offered low and middle class consumers a credit card. Actually, in those days it was called a 'charge plate'. Eventually competitors followed suit, but Sears was 'king' of retail because they 'invented' and developed the credit card market earlier than anyone, and offered more lenient terms.

As we all know the problem with paradigms is once developed they are difficult to break. And so it goes that in the 1970's a new retail phenomenon surfaced. The BankAmerica Card -- a credit program that developed into the VISA and MasterCard networks we know today. BankAmericard was one of the first 'bank' credit card systems established so consumers could use one credit card at many different retail establishments. Without realizing the impact of this developing phenomenon Sears continued to follow its old business model stubbornly refusing to accept the new VISA and MasterCards being issued to millions of consumers.

To make matters worse Sears failed to realize these new 'bank cards' permitted the Sears customer to purchase (on credit) products from the smallest of retail outlets. This quickly chipped away at the Sears customer base. It wasn't until circa 1980 or so that Sears finally reversed its long-standing policy when it decided to accept the VISA and MasterCard program. By then the damage had been done, due to the fact that Sears simply failed to recognize the paradigm shift. By then middle class America was shopping at the numerous and more 'trendy' retail outlets in the new malls being built throughout the nation.

I'm not sure if anyone else has ever looked at the fall of Sears from the number one ranking due to the public's acceptance of the bank credit cards of today. It's an interesting business lesson. Although it's an example I've never heard discussed in any business class.

With Kmart purchasing Sears we can expect major changes in the way the new company does business. It has no choice if it expects to compete against the likes of Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot and the rest!

Reference Link