Saturday, March 19, 2005

Road To The Sweet Sixteen - Congressional Version

"Chicago" Regional First Round Results

1. Byrd beats 16. Bachus
15. Feinstein beats 2. Pelosi
3. Cornyn beats 14. Spratt
4. Pryce beats 13. Nelson
5. Sessions beats 12. Nussle
11. Warner beats 6. Doggett
10. Barret beats 7. Akaka
8. Harris beats 9. Kerry

"Syracuse" Regional First Round Results

1. Hastert beats 16. Reid
2. Schumer beats 15. Davis
3. Blunt beats 14. Grassley
4. Voinovich beats 13. Harman
12. Kyl beats 5. Menendez
11. Davis beats 6. Stevens
10. Leahy beats 7. Lungren
9. Ryun beats 8. Bayh

"Austin" Regional First Round Results

1.Bennett beats 16. Cramer
2. DeLay beats 15. McConnell
3. Johnson beats 14. Ney
13. Bunning beats 4. Shadegg
12. Thomas beats 5. Levin
6. Brady beats 11. Feingold
10. King beats 7. Dodd
9. Domenici beats 8. Sanchez

"Alburquerque" Regional First Round Results

16. Frist beats 1. Paul
2. Kennedy beats 15. Rogers
14. Nelson beats 3. Hoyer
4. Hagel beats 13. Shays
5. Hyde beats 12. Durbin
11. Ryan beats 6. Roberts
10. Hatch beats 7. Gallegly
9. McCotter beats 8. Biden

Here are your Second Round Matches:

"Chicago" Regional Round Two

1. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) vs. 8. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL)
10. Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC) vs. 15. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
3. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) vs. 11. Sen. John Warner (R-VA)
4. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) vs. 5. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)

"Syracuse" Regional Round Two

1. House Spkr Dennis Hastert (R-IL) vs. 9. Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS)
2. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) vs. 10. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
3. House Maj. Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) vs. 11. Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA)
4. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) vs. 12. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) 06

"Austin" Regional Round Two

1. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) vs. 9. Pete Domenici (R-NM)
2. H Maj Ldr Tom DeLay (R-TX) vs. 10. Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
3. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) vs. 6. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)
12. Rep. William Thomas (R-CA) vs. 13. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY)

"Alburquerque" Regional Round Two

9. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) vs. 16.Sen Maj Ldr William Frist (R-TN)
2. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) vs. 10. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
11. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) vs. 14. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
4. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) vs. 5. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL)

Off and running!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Murder, Cowardice Hiding in a Black Sheet

Decorum be hanged - Judge Greer is abetting a murder, and is a traitor to the United States.

How can I say this? Essentially, every decision in the Terri Schiavo case (or “Disposing of the Inconvenient”, in Florida) has spewed forth from this guy, who has also rejected literally dozens of sworn affadavits from board-certified neurologists challenging the judge’s finding as “fact”, the spurious ‘PVS’ decision. This guy, hiding behind his dirty sheet, has decided that a woman should be killed, who never expressed a desire for suicide or to be killed by another person, and has decided further that he and the husband alone should have a say in the life of an innocent and helpless woman. Judge Greer has even decided to defy a Congressional Subpeona.

There’s lots of opinions on this issue, so why should anyone believe that Judge Greer has usurped Terri’s rights? Well, let’s see.

< ahem >

From the U.S. Constitution:

5th Amendment: “No person shall be ...deprived of life ... without due process of law”

We’ve heard what Michael wanted. Who stood up for Terri?

6th Amendment: “the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

If accused criminals have these rights, who would deny them to someone unanimously acknoweldged to be innocent?

8th Amendment: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Murderers convicted of a capital crime are protected from a painful or long death. Terri’s startvation is expected to take ten to fourteen days, increasing in intensity as she dies. What sort of monster imposes a sentence on an innocent woman, that no court would condone for even a murderer?

14th Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States ...are citizens of the United States ... No state shall make or enforce any law which shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Terri has been allowed no advocate, even for her life.

Evil men are committing murder right now, and calling it good. What is to be done? At the least, I shall not shrink from condemning murder, and a callous cowardice and shameful abrogation of duty.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

In The Hands of the Unaccountable

A single California State Judge chose to strike down a statute prohibiting Homosexual marriage, on no more basis than his assumption that homosexual behavior is legally the same as race;

Texas Children Hospital sued to have life support for a six-month infant ceased and prevailed, marking the first time that a hospital has ceased life support on an infant against the parents’ wishes (the child died 20 minutes after the respirator was turned off);

The United States Supreme Court has ruled (Roper v Simmons) that US Sovereignty may be trumped by foreign opinion, and that a minority of states can overrule a majority of the states if judges happen to prefer the minority;

Florida courts have ruled that a woman (Terri Schiavo) may be killed by starvation, in the total absence of any indication that she has ever expressed a desire to die, or opposition to receiving medical assistance, amidst serious controversy over the nature and severity of her condition among qualified medical experts;

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution’s protection for Free Speech does not apply to political speech beyond limits defined by politicians already in office (McCain-Feingold).

Apply those thoughts to the appointment and confirmation of Federal Judges.

Let Congress and the President know.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Social Security Basics

Cutting through all the noise and posturing, there are two essential reasons why Social Security has to be reformed to something better. Those reasons are, the present plan is both unethical and non-functional.

The present Social Security plan is unethical on two facts; people pay in different amounts to the proportion they receive, and the present plan requires people to pay for other people’s benefits.

The analogy is often made, that people now are paying for their parents’ receipts, but that is not true. First, the amounts coming from people whose parents are receiving benefits do not match the benefits being paid, but also there is no earmarking of funds; statistically, money paid into a fund goes to people you are almost certain to have no connection with, whatsoever.

Second, Social Security cannot operate as it is presently designed and legislated. For any career-length period of time since the beginning of Social Security, Social Security benefits growth has always been significantly slower and smaller than the Dow Jones average growth for the same period, meaning that a simple Index Fund account beats Social Security in every historical example. Conversely, that also means that for any known career-length historical period since the creation of Social Security, payments from Social Security have not been able to match the growth of American business, as represented by the Dow Jones Average.

Further, it is mathematically impossible for any fund to function in an environment where the contributing population is steadily declining, the beneficiary population is steadily increasing, or both factors exist, as is the case now.

Republicans have had trouble selling the need for Social Security reform, because of serious questions about the transition and the nature of the reformed program. Democrats, however, have gained no traction, because they refuse to admit or address the critical (and now obvious) flaws in the current Social Security program.

There are, basically, five options available to the U.S. Government:

1 - Ignore the problem - Insane as it sounds, this is the Democrats’ position. This course can lead only to an eventual crisis, or the outright collapse of the Social Security program.

2 - “Fix” Social Security, but leave it basically as it is - such tricks as rasing the age for benefits and restrciting conditions, increasing the payroll cap for Social Security taxes, and so on, can keep the program alive a while longer, but cannot correct the fundamental flaws in the existing program. It will also anger the voters when it becomes obvious the problem only becomes worse through delays.

3 - Abandon SSA for PSA’s - This is a non-starter, for the obvious reason that it would hit upcoming retirees hard, denying them the chance to build up investments, but also denying them any financial consideration for the taxes they have paid up to this point, on the promise that they would be receiving a stipend. Abandoning SSA completely at this time would be political suicide for anyone.

4 - Phase an all-SSA program to an all-PSA program - While this would avoid the pitfalls of option 3, it would essentially disallow any real choice, which would have serious political fallout.

5 - Phase from all-SSA to a program offering at least 3 choices, with a transition treating the options equally - This is basically the option proposed by President Bush, which is not only the option offering the most choice, but also the most overall stability and responsiveness to the taxpayers.

The details are going to take shape over the year, but the plan must not be allowed to be ignored, or be overcome by the desire politicians have to make a boondoggle wherever money is involved. The three salient points to keep in mind are these:

1. The money you are paying into Social Security right now, you will never see again. It is being spent in the same way, that tax money is always spent.

2. Anything you receive from the government, was paid for by someone else. Equity does not exist in any present government economic plan.

3. Change is the historical norm. People forget too often, that Government programs are meant to solve only limited problems, and no project was meant to be permanent. Interstate tariffs and poll taxes don’t exist anymore, and there was a time when there was no FDIC, no SEC, no Income Tax, and of course there was a time when there was no Social Security. The time to change how tax money is spent is long overdue, especially in the face of the facts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Presidential Tournament


The Congressional Tournament has begun to collect votes, so now its time to roll out the Presidential Tournament.

Since people already made their choices pretty clear based on personal preferences back in January, I’m running the Presidential Tournament a little differently.

Alphabetically, here are the twenty-two Presidents who have a first-round bye:

George W. Bush
Grover Cleveland
Calvin Coolidge
Bill Clinton
Dwight Eisenhower
Ulysses Grant
Warren Harding
Andrew Jackson
Thomas Jefferson
Lyndon Johnson
John Kennedy
Abraham Lincoln
William McKinley
James Madison
James Monroe
Richard Nixon
Franklin Pierce
Ronald Reagan
Franklin Roosevelt
William Taft
George Washington
Woodrow Wilson

These are the sixteen Presidents elected more than once, plus the six Presidents whose average Popular Vote percentage was the highest.

Here are the twenty Presidents who are competing the First Round:

John Adams
John Quincy Adams
Chester Arthur
James Buchanan
George H.W. Bush
Jimmy Carter
Millard Fillmore
Gerald Ford
James Garfield
Benjamin Harrison
William Harrison
Rutherford Hayes
Herbert Hoover
Andrew Johnson
James Polk
Teddy Roosevelt
Zachary Taylor
John Tyler
Harry Truman
Martin Van Buren

For these twenty Presidents, please give a 1 to 10 grade (10 is best) on the following areas of expertise:

Economic Policies
Judicial Doctrine
Military Command
Social Policies
Tax and Tariff Policies

Also, please give a 1-10 grade (10 is highest) on the importance of each of those same areas for the following historical periods:


Thanks. This should be fun.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Congressional Tournament


As promised, here are the lineups for the 2005 U.S. Congressional Tournament.

The rules for this tourney are simple. Vote for the Representative or Senator you think is the better Congressman in each matchup. The winners will advance in this 64-member tourney, just as they do in the NCAA Tournament.

(For those interested in the Presidential Matchup, the matchups will be posted later this week, in an NIT-style matchup of the 42 men who have served as President. 22 will get 1st-round byes, while the other 20 will play head-to-head).

"Chicago" Regional

1. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) vs. 16. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)
2. House Min. Ldr Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vs. 15. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
3. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) vs. 14. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)
4. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) vs. 13. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)
5. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) vs. 12. Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA)
6. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) vs. 11. Sen. John Warner (R-VA)
7. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) vs. 10. Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)
8. Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) vs. 9. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)

"Syracuse" Regional

1. House Spkr Dennis Hastert (R-IL) vs. 16. Sen. Min Ldr Harry Reid (D-NV)
2. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) vs. 15. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL)
3. House Maj. Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) vs. 14. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA)
4. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) vs. 13. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA)
5. House Dem. Cauc Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) vs. 12. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
6. Sen. Pres Pro Tem Ted Stevens (R-AK) vs. 11. Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA)
7. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) vs. 10. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
8. Sen. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) vs. Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS)

"Austin" Regional

1. Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) vs. 16. Rep. Robert Cramer (D-AL)
2. H Maj Ldr Tom DeLay (R-TX) vs. 15. S Maj Wh Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
3. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) vs. 14. Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH)
4. House Pol Com Chair John Shadegg (R-AZ) vs. 13. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY)
5. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) vs. 12. Rep. William Thomas (R-CA)
6. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) vs. 11. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI)
7. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) vs. 10. Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
8. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) vs. 9. Pete Domenici (R-NM)

"Alburquerque" Regional

1. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) vs. 16. Senate Maj Leader William Frist (R-TN)
2. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) vs. 15. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
3. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) vs. 14. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
4. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) vs. 13. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT)
5. Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) vs. 12. Sen. Dem. Whip Richard Durbin (D- IL)
6. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) vs. 11. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
7. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) vs. 10. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
8. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) vs. 9. Rep. Thaddeus MCotter (R-MI)

You may begin your votes at any time.

UPDATE: Mr. Right reminded me of some state corrections.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Quarrels Among Knaves

I just finished watching ‘60 Minutes’ interview Ken Lay, and I found myself with mixed feelings about the matter. It was like one of those movies which has no hero, no one to admire. I was presented with the unethical behavior of Enron executives, and the sometimes hypocritical positions of the U.S. Government, through the production of a news group not only proven a liar many times over, and also known to pursue stories purely out of spite, but also still in denial of its guilt and overdue reform. Kind of like hearing the Crips talk about reforming our school districts.

Start with the easy target. ‘60 Minutes’ can’t help but project an attitude of condescension for anyone outside the East Coast Liberal cocoon. It doesn’t seem to have dawned on the fellows in the ‘Tiffany Network’s Ivory Tower #2, that their list of unacceptables is now defined by more than three-quarters of the electorate. Mike Wallace has made a pact - one of cluelessness, and less with the Devil, than with Elmer Fudd. They simply do not carry the credibility they think they have.

Along the way, I caught the futile yet predictable attempts to imply a link between Enron and George W. Bush, but I also noticed that ‘60 Minutes’ completely failed to understand the true nature of the Enron scandal - yes, Enron had its crooks, but the real stink came from the fact that Fastow made a deal with the Andersen auditors to cover up Fraud. That was different, enough to be part of the push for what became the 2002 Sarbannes-Oxley Act. I noticed ‘60 Minutes’ hasn’t said much about SOX, probably because it involves accountability and checking facts, things rather foreign to the CBS network.

Things brings me to the focus of the story, and this article - Ken Lay. I have a sneaking suspicion that Ken Lay wasn’t especially dishonest, certainly he wasn’t aware of the goings on by his CFO. But Lay was not, at all, what a Chief Executive Officer should be. Of course, it never struck me, that CBS understood the role and duties of a proper CEO.

In most companies, ‘CEO’ is a glorified title for the guy who actually makes the company happen, who busts his butt and takes more risk than anyone else in the firm. Unfortunately, when you get to a certain corporate level, that all changes. Basically, the major corporation is run by a Board of Directors, which is a committee which usually takes its cues from the Stockholders. And it’s not surprising for a Board to make the stock price and dividends the top priority. With that in mind, how many CEOs do you know enough about, to be sure they’re beng honest?

Fortunately, the tide is turning a bit. I mentioned SOX, which is Government’s somewhat clumsy attempt to set things right. It also happens that Lay is an object lesson; get a CEO who doesn’t look too closely, or worse, gets the idea that a few tricks by the traders is actually good for business, can drive the whole shebang into the ground. Worthless stock gets the attention of shareholders, too. Ken Lay was hired to manage executive operations. Schools give out degrees for economic and business theory, but they don’t hand out guarantees of success. Resumes are nothing but the past, and too many of them brag to excess, also hiding blunders and limitations. Ken Lay accepted the dollars, but not the full responsibility for directing Enron. That, in essence, was tonight’s story.

I have another thought about tonight’s ‘60 Minutes’ show. They also interviewed George Lucas about the next ‘Star Wars’ movie. The interview was a real puff piece, and it occurs to me, it would be just about in character for CBS to have given Jar Jar Binks the fact-checking job for the Ken Lay story.