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

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Rule Change Confuses Many Americans

The story of the day yesterday was that House Republicans were changing their rules. It was to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) from his leadership post over a possible indictment. Pure and simple. However, at this was a discussion thread that was discussed at length.

The following excerpt is an example of the inept back and forth banter:

[..] the winners always change the rules. If we didn't lose so many elections,we wouldnt have to do all this whining. Maybe next time Michael Moore...
At the end of the day it was reported on CNN last night where two U.S. Congressman, one from each party, discussed this issue. What some people didn't realize according to the Republican congressman, was this is only a change for the Republican Party caucus, and not for the entire House of Representatives - see today's Washington Post story.

While it's no secret each caucus sets its own rules, some people in the nation thought the Republican Party was 'pulling a fast one' on them. Perhaps the media wanted it that way?

As an aside, what happened to the days when journalists would do a little research on their own before the news would hit the wires? Why are the media in such a hurry to get their stories out in front of everyone else? Is this a result of the blogs transmitting information, true, false, or otherwise, at lightening speed?

(Back on topic) For those want to do a little research this is a great historical perspective of how the House of Representative operates. click link For those who elect not to research this further you would have found this on page 4:

Each party caucus adopted its rules, elected its candidate for speaker, approved its committee list, and in the case of the majority party, approved rules for the House.
And this is on page 28 (next to last paragraph):

The Democratic Caucus Rules read like a body of parliamentary law, the Republican Conference Rules read like an operations manual for a civic league. But both give definition to their respective organizations.
Now, don't get confused here. In addition to their own Caucus rules there are House procedural rules, ethicical rules, committee rules, and a host of other rules. What changed yesterday were the House Republican Caucus Rules. Inspite of everything life does go on... Reference Link

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Election Conspiracy Theorists Still Grasping For Win

According to some liberal blogs and discussion sites, most of whom have a major problem with electronic voting in Florida, still believe someone swooped in and changed the votes without the county election boards having a clue. Whether the new touch screens or older scanners are the election board's voting machine of choice the theorists espouse the companies who manufacture the technology side with Bush. Therefore, they theorize, the only possible explanation is a 'rogue' program was written to somehow affect the actual results. Far fetched?

Let's look at the Florida election where this new technology was implemented as a direct result of the 2000 Presidential election. A commenter using the pseudonym x174 on the blog site recently posted a link to a very useful chart analysis with the comment:

"Here's an interesting link to Florida's county-by-county Presidential Election results including voting machines used, et cetera."
x174's comments on the chart analysis were:

"It is clear that vast majority of independents and third parties voted for either Bush or Kerry. But, the second table below indicates that all the independents may have gone to Bush, PLUS there must have been a huge crossover of Democrats from Kerry to Bush - but only in counties that used computerized ballot scanners. The difference between touch screen counties and ballot scan counties is immense when looking at the % of votes cast for Bush based on Republican registration versus the % of votes cast for Kerry based on Democratic registration. Is there any rational explanation? I've contacted the Florida Democratic Party for a response."
Is x174's claim that, "The difference between touch screen counties and ballot scan counties is immense when looking at the % of votes cast for Bush based on Republican registration versus the % of votes cast for Kerry based on Democratic registration," true? At first glance we do see a much larger 'crossover' vote in the counties that utilize the scanner technology. What we also see is an IMMENSE number of 'OTHER REGISTERED' voters in the 'Other REG' column. These people do vote for someone. Is it far fetched to think more 'Other Registered' voters voted for Republican Bush than Democrat Kerry?

In a 'main stream media' Peter Jennings report on ABC's November 9, 2004 edition of the Nightly News he reported:

"[..] that "conspiracy theorists" have got it all wrong; that despite their registration, the voters in Lafayette County have always voted in enormous numbers for Republican presidential candidates. But how long has the county been using ballot scanners? These scanners have been around since 1964. The election results could have been routinely altered for decades, which is exactly what the late Collier brothers alleged in their book, VoteScam: The Stealing of America. The fact is that Americans don't count their own votes, they let companies owned by Republicans and foreigners do it for them. We will never know who really won the election."
While Mr. Jennings' reported comments leave the 2004 election somewhat in doubt for some of his listeners the technology website offers a different take on this issue in an article titled, Florida E-Vote Fraud? Unlikely by Kim Zetter who writes:

"The analysis has led lawyers for the Democratic Party to look into allegations of fraud, and was cited in a letter sent by Democrats in the House of Representatives last week to the Government Accountability Office requesting an election investigation.

But academics at several universities, who received a flood of e-mail urging them to look into the matter, say the results are due to high numbers of Democrats in rural areas voting across party lines, and to independent voters who chose Bush in higher proportions to Sen. John Kerry."
The academics say the intense scrutiny has been good for democracy. The scrutiny has highlighted the need for instituting mandatory election audits that would help catch anomalies with voting machines and restore voter confidence in results. But Stanford University professor of government Jonathan Wand said the analysis can be harmful if done improperly.

In the article Kim Zetter observes,
"Activists and progressive commentators reject the notion that large numbers of Democrats voted for Bush, because the Democrats put a lot of effort into increasing turnout for their man, Kerry."
One very true fact remains. For anyone to win a Presidential election in this country there must be a high 'candidate appeal' if the majority of voters, whether those voters are registered as Independents, Republicans, Democrats, or have some other party preference, are electing a President of the United States. It's therefore reasonable to believe a Presidential candidate with strong 'candidate appeal' will, in most cases, attract a larger 'crossover' vote.
Reference Link

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Iraq Pull Out -- Not An Option

During the Vietnam era there were many on the left and a few of the more soft spoken on the right who wanted President Lyndon Johnson to end the war. In fact at that time it was Senator George Aiken who advised President Johnson in 1967 to, "DECLARE A VICTORY AND WITHDRAW." The advice was ignored. In fact his phrase has remained part of the country's vocabulary.

Columnist Gary North authored an article titled, U.S. Pull-Out from Iraq in 2005 on September 30, 2004 at - an anti war blog site. Reflecting on the Vietnam war he wrote,

"Eventually we did pull out and no pretense of victory was declared. We suffered a clean-cut defeat. A bunch of men in black pajamas beat us."
On a day when a U.S. marine is under investigation for shooting a wounded Iraqi in the head in Fallujah see we are being torn in two between fighting insurgents and discussion of a possible pull out after the January elections.

In contrast to this British Prime Minister Tony Blair called upon the United States on Monday to "reach out" to its international partners, and warned Europeans to stop heaping "ridicule" on US policy. In a keynote foreign affairs speech in London, Blair -- just back from talks in Washington last week with re-elected US President George W. Bush -- sought to forge warmer ties across the North Atlantic in the wake of the Iraq war.

Blair stressed the need for the United Nations to play a more substantial leadership role in pressing for reforms in autocratic states.

"None of this will work, however, unless America too reaches out," he said. "Multilateralism that works should be its aim. I have no sympathy for unilateralism for its own sake."
At the same time, Blair argued that European critics of the Bush administration must not make the mistake of under-estimating its determination to confront international terrorism.

"Neither Europe nor the US should be arrogant about the other," he said. "It is not a sensible or intelligent response for us in Europe to ridicule America's arguments and parody their political leadership." more on Blair
Yet today some leaning to the left are espousing an American pull out from the war in Iraq.

President Bush has said that a democratic Iraq will serve as a beacon for other Islamic states in the region. He told the U.N.,

"We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations."
Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out. Is Bush resolute? We'll see. It will be interesting to see who President Bush appoints to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Pulling our troops out from Iraq will simply embolden those who have waged their jihad on the United States. These people absolutely unequivocally hate us. They hate our way of life - our capitalistic system - everything we stand for. A pull out will not stop the war and therefore it is not an option. Reference Link

Monday, November 08, 2004

An Open Post To Democrats

Don't be sad about the election or the country. I'm a Republican and we are a compassionate people. You wonder why more people voted for Bush than Kerry. You chalk it up to their ignorance... The inability and unwillingness for people to get the facts and choose the better of the two candidates.

It's precisely that elitist attitude that lost the election for your party. To think that you and your party are the only ones that 'get it' and no one else sees the light... To think that only Republicans go to church on Sunday and/or believe in God. This country is not made of blue an red states. For every red state there are many democrats that sit in the same pews and have similar values. The majority of us believe in God and we are all Americans.

You're obviously young and immature. You don't remember when this country was run by a democratically controlled Congress for many years. You don't remember that it was the Democrats who implemented programs that kept the poor people poor and the rich taxed to oblivion. You don't remember during the Jimmy Carter years the rampant inflation where loan interest rates were in the 16% to 18% range. You don't remember we had to wait in lines 3 blocks long to buy gasoline. Perhaps you were not born yet?

The reason the Democratic party is struggling right now is it's a splintered group trying to be all things to all people. You (the party) need to focus on what you stand for... And then stand for it! Do not waiver.

But you also need to realize that George Bush would not have been reelected unless many many Democrats voted for him. And, it was not a result of their ignorance. It was most likely a result of their past experience. Reference Link