Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: April 2006

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Photographs Destroying Politicians' Careers

Speaker Ben this past month traveled to Washington, D.C. to see state legislators from all around the country. Ben is glad that this democracy idea seems to be taking shape. Ben was disappointed that most of these politicians did not want to have their photograph taken him. Ben could not figure this out. He had ideas that they could be photographed together driving a tank or windsurfing, but no one wanted to do it.

Finally, one brave soul agreed to display the courage to be photographed with Speaker Ben. State Rep. Jan Pauls had her picture taken with Ben. Ben learned Jan Pauls is a Democrat. Ben now realizes what we all already know: Democrats are the best. Jan is an attorney and the ranking Minority Member of the House Judiciary Committee in Kansas. Ben is also glad to learn that the western territories have organized into states.

Speaker Ben ran into Allyce Beasley at a collectors show. Ben would collect things, except most collectibles were created after Ben’s time and Ben doesn’t know what they are. Allyce Beasley had the role of Agnes DiPesto on the TV series “Moonlighting” as well as Coach’s daughter on “Cheers”. Allyce spent part of her childhood in Emmaus, Pa. when her father was Marketing Director for Rodale Publishers. She recalled the joys of playing Robin Hood with her friends in the nearby forest, and how her friends made her be the Royal Food Tester so her character would die early in the game. Speaker Ben felt said for Allyce and is glad to learn that she has been doing well as the voice for several cartoon characters such as Miss Grotke on “Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade.”

Speaker Ben met Barry Jenner. Barry had the roles of Admiral Bill Ross on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (the concept of which escapes Ben, who still thinks anything faster than a horse is too dangerous), Lt. Lieu Murtaugh on “Family Matters”, Jerry Kenderson on “Dallas”, and Jeff Cunningham on “Knots Landing”. Barry grew up in North Philadelphia and Northeast Philadelphia. He then went to West Chester College before graduating into space travel. Ben admires the quality of education at West Chester.

Speaker Ben attempted to challenge Nikolai Volkoff to a wrestling match, but quickly realized they were not in the same weight class. Nikolai defected from the Yugoslavia weightlifting team in Canada. He then came to America and became a famous professional wrestler. He is now a Code Enforcement Officer in Baltimore and is a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates. He still wrestles every last Friday of the month for fundraisers at the York Firehouse. Ben thus is assured the firehouse is up to code.

Speaker Ben learned what a “supermodel” is when he met Chanel Ryan. Chanel was born in and lived in Allentown. She later lived in Whitehall and Danielsville. When not modeling, Chanel has been in movies such as “BASEketball.” We notice Speaker Ben was too embarrassed to face Chanel in his photograph. Speaker Ben must have feared this photograph will ruin his political career.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Book Review: Power, Knowledge, and Politics

This book examines the different methods that state legislatures around the country conduct non-partisan research. The author interviewed legislators and staff around the country and examined these offices. It was found legislators use and place high value on this research. (Democrats were found to value nonpartisan research even more than Republicans. Always suspected Republicans values actual facts less.) Yet, this research was also found to have limited influence on final policy decisions.

It was discovered these offices are far from being monolithic and vary widely amongst the states. The political and interest group influences that exist on legislators are found to be significant factors in how the legislatures organize their non-partisan research. Yet, states that create larger nonpartisan research offices are more apt to use their research. The book found that the ability of the nonpartisan research office to effectively communicate its research findings made that research more likely to be influential. Less important was the quality of the research. Research has to be noticed in order to have an impact, regardless of how good it is.

The book condemns the lack of empirical data in analyzing how policies are developed. The book further notes that few researchers have attempted to connect policy research into policy development, arguing that many legislators only seek policy research to justify the policy positions they have already taken. Sometimes legislators use nonpartisan research as a tool for delaying taking a position on an issue by using the research process as an excuse for not reaching a decision.

There is a scholarly debate about the use and effectiveness of non-partisan policy analysis. It was noted that many non-partisan research offices, as they try to remain devoid of political concerns, tend towards more traditional analysis that often fails to develop the more innovative policy solutions that partisan research efforts create. Some argue that social science analysis will always include bias and some argue researchers should stop pretending there are no views or values in their analysis. Some argue that there are so many variables, alternatives, and unknown factors involved in policy analysis that any analysis is hopelessly doomed to never fully inform policy makers as to how their decisions will make impacts.

The type of research found to impress legislators is that showing that something has worked in other states. While it was found legislators pay attention mostly to other legislators, administration officials, and interest group communications, nonpartisan legislative research often reaches legislators indirectly when cited through these sources.

The book found these nonpartisan research agencies vary from three professional staff members and no clerical staff to 362 staff members and 120 clerical staff. Their mean budgets are $4.2 million and their median budgets are $2.2 million. Massachusetts does not have a nonpartisan research office, although there are strong partisan research staffs and a business financed private research organization that is often used by Massachusetts legislators. It is noted that Montana and Kentucky, who have citizen legislatures, as well as California, with a full time legislature, all have significant nonpartisan research offices.

This study found that larger sized and more influential nonpartisan legislative research offices were more likely to occur in states with more think tanks and in state with larger legislative staff sizes in other offices. Interviews of nonpartisan research staff note that state legislatures have become increasingly partisan over recent years. Most of their research is available to the public, although California considers its requests from legislators confidential and thus its research is not provided to the public.

The End of Womens Basketball, Death Row, and Barry Bond's Teeth

A fan was arrested after throwing a tube of toothpaste at Barry Bonds. Barry Bonds immediately denied that he has ever brushed his teeth.

I am not saying our President is dumb, but the overhead light in the Oval Office, even when turned off, is the brightest thing in that office.

Malachy McCourt announced he is a candidate for Governor of New York on a campaign “to end nuclear energy and revoke the death penalty.” Until that is achieved, death row prisoners would be sentenced to serve their time inside nuclear power plants.

Governor George Ryan, after commuting the penalties of several of the most dangerous prisoners, has been sentenced to prison. Good move, Governor. Pardon the most dangerous of your fellow inmates before you arrive.

A women’s basketball coach stated she would never allow a gay player to play on her team. In unrelated news, her team has canceled its entire upcoming season.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Dummy's Guide to Becoming a Better Criminal

After several decades of experiences with mandatory minimum sentencing, we must ask whether it is the most effective means to deal with criminal behavior. It does not appear to reduce recidivism. Instead, it seems to be sentencing young people to spend their educational years learning from other prisoners how to become better prisoners. It appears to have high social costs; a large number of fathers are torn from their families for many years and we are seeing families raised without financial or emotional support from the fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as the number of female inmates are rapidly grown). It definitely is having huge costs in terms of dollars; spending on corrections is becoming an increasingly larger share of how tax dollars are spent. In these fiscally difficult times, the requirement that funds be spent on people mandated to be in prison means there are increasingly fewer dollars remaining for education, social services, or (for conservatives) tax reductions.

The question as to whether mandatory minimum sentencing is effective is vitally important. Prior, judges had greater discretion to listen to the facts of a case and to judge people convicted of crimes. Granted, judges made mistakes and sometimes the system was abused. Yet, taking away that discretion may have removed an important element that generally used to work within our judicial system. Often there are circumstances that the hard facts of the law could not have foretold but a judge can see.

Judges often are better able than most anyone else to recognize who should be removed from society and who, for some crimes, may be better suited for an alternative sentence. There are growing numbers of alternatives presented us with electronic monitoring that may restrict a person to a home and a workplace, thus allowing that person to be earning a living and supporting a family. Placing a young person in prison for a long term may instead destroy that person’s chances at a reasonable future.

Most crimes are committed by young people. Fortunately, except for those hardened career criminals, maturity takes over and young criminals, with age, move away from crime. What mandatory minimum sentencing has done, in many cases, is taken away the judicial system’s ability to distinguish between either the behavior of a career criminal or an immature young person made a bad choice. This results in leaving these young people with the potential of developing only one job skill: remaining a criminal as learned from fellow prisoners. This serves no one’s interest.

The social costs of mandatory minimum sentencing is causing even past supporters to reverse their opinions. We have seen a generation of people brought up with a parent put away in prison, and while scholars differ on the exact effects, everyone agrees the end results are not good.

Finally, it is becoming too costly to keep building and operating more prisons. Prison health care, what little of it there is, is becoming both extremely costly plus the difficulty of providing health care in prison is causing significant health care issues within prisons. As prisoners are being sentences for longer terms, taking care of geriatric prisoners is often becoming an impossible task.

It is time to seriously ask these questions and look more towards alternative sentences and allowing greater judicial discretion. We should not fear the “tough on crime” supporters of more mandatory sentencing. Doing this, and proclaiming this is indeed being tough on crime, because it is more effective in combating crime, is what we need more leaders to do.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Robots Giving Birth and Other Signs the End is Near, Especially If You're a Sheep Owned by Angelina Jolie

Another sign the end is near. Christian Scientists are selling off their properties, and investing the money in hospitals.

Robotic birth simulators are being used in medical schools to train future doctors on how to deliver babies. Which means: these simulators should be mass produced in time as this year’s "must have" Christmas present.

A college professor visited over 300 Starbucks to research what customers do there. His preliminary analysis is a lot of them drink coffee.

Angelina Jolie has reportedly moved to Nambia on an estate that is guarded by lions. She feels she children will grow up safer knowing they could be killed anytime they leave the house.

A sheep with five horns has been discovered in China. It was immediately bought by Angelina Jolie to protect her estate. It was promptly eaten by a lion.

It has been reported that large numbers of Iranians have signed up for martyr missions. At least NBC now knows they’ll have enough people to film their fall session.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Deal, or Deal


I am How Men Do Well. Now for an episode of “Deal, or Deal”, where wealthy people are presented with deals that, well, make them even wealthier.

(mild, confused applause)


I have three envelopes with business deals that one of you will receive, or, one of you will receive a deal offered by…our banker. Our first guest is Mr. Rockefeller.

ROCKY (dressed in casual clothes)

No, my name is Rocky.


My contestant coordinator told me you were one of the Rockefellers.


No, I’m just Rocky, an ordinary guy.


Oh, well, moving on. One next guess is Mr. Ratner.

RATNER (dressed in a business suit)

You can just call me Ratty. I also am just a regular guy, like our Mayor.


I hold three envelopes. You can have one of these envelopes, or the deal that the banker on the phone has to offer.

But first, we have to eliminate one of the envelopes.

(Howie tears open an envelope.)

Not that one.

(Howie tears open another envelope.)

Ah, here it is. This is a deal where the public parks will be all cleaned up and patrolled around the clock for safety along with daily supervised activities for children of all ages.

(tears up the envelope)

You don’t want that deal. One envelope is a deal which will allow you use to eminent domain to condemn houses and small businesses to build a mall with chain stores that you never have to pay upkeep on. The other envelope is a deal with will allow you to use eminent domain to condemn houses and small businesses to build a sport arena. Now, you get to choose an envelope, and, Rocky, you have to choose what the banker has to offer.


You mean I don’t get an envelope?


Rocky chooses the banker’s deal. (Howie picks up a telephone.)

Rocky, the deal is the banker will give you cash for your pay check, and you only have to pay 20 per cent interest on that loan! Congratulations!




And Mr. Ratner, which envelope do you want as your consolation prizes?


I’m taking both of them.

(Ratner grabs the envelopes out of Howie’s hands)

Congratulations Rocky on winning tonight’s episode of Deal or Deal,


I won? I don’t get it.


Oh, you’ll be getting it. You’ll need that cash to move out of your apartment when I start tearing it down.


Stay tuned for next week’s Deal or Deal, where executive of Halliburton fight for who gets to lead reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Electing Your Candidate President: Priceless


We now will show you how to translate what you hear on the news. Dale here will present the news as you hear it. I, Chipper, will provide a rare English translation of the news that is seldom presented.


People in Ohio confidently vote on their Diebold election machines, which have a guarantee that no outside sources can manipulate the results of the votes.


A Diebold employee later admitted this claim was false and showed how the vote could be manipulated by an outside source. Diebold was fined two thousand dollars for this false claim.


Fortunately, Diebold is a company of integrity.


The Chief Executive of Diebold stated at a Bush for President fundraiser that he is quote committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President unquote.


Fortunately, the Ohio elections system as administered by the Secretary of State is completely above politics.


The Secretary of State of Ohio chaired President Bush’s reelection campaign in Ohio.


Bush carried Ohio, as is confirmed by exit polls. After all, we all know exit polls are accurate indicators, as the Bush Administration challenged election results in Ukraine as the results did not match the official vote totals.


Actually, the exit polls showed Kerry won Ohio.


But the press knows the vote totals were correct. Otherwise, foreign election observes would be protesting.


The United States does not allow foreign election observers monitor its elections.


We all know that Bush won the election.


Look, both a Carnegie Mellon Professor and a Florida elections official showed how these machines can be manipulated. And an MIT Professor showed that Florida somehow awarded Bush an additional 100,000 votes in Florida and stated there appears to be some design flaw in these machines. Plus, a Temple University statistician calculated the probability of all these exit polls being wrong, all skewed in the same direction, happens by chance only by a million to one.


Selling and designing voting machines that don’t work properly: cost: two thousand dollars.


Electing your candidate President: priceless.

When Barbara Met Donald: A Love Story in Three Acts


I’m Barbara Walters. Today, my guest is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


I know you’re pleased to have me here.


Mr. Rumsfeld. How is the war in Iraq going?


War? What war? We had a little police action that is all over. Mission accomplished.


Yet Iraq is in civil distress, our presence there is attracting terrorists from all around the region, and people are dying in Iraq at higher rates than ever before.


It’s just a few bad criminals out there. There are people being killed all the time, even in New York City. Why, even the Vice President shot someone and you don’t see me sending troops to his hunting lodge.


Our troops are being met with increased insurgent attacks and terrorist bombings are escalating. Yet you said we would be greeted with flowers when we invaded Iraq.


And we were. Just recently even I was greeted with a huge bouquet of flowers.


Those flowers were sent to you from your wife. Sir, our troops are being overextended. They’re being called for extended service and being called back into service after they thought their service was over. Families are being ripped apart for months and years at a time due to this war.


Hey, it’s not my fault they didn’t read the fine print on these contracts. They knew when they volunteered for service that it was their duty to see they we never have to implement a draft, because when you create a draft, then the public really gets mad in opposing the war. See, and you thought I didn’t learn anything from Viet Nam.


If you learned anything from Viet Nam, haven’t you realized that the presence of a foreign army only enrages the local population and makes them fight more aggressively?


But Iraq isn’t foreign soil. It’s land surrounding our oil interests. Plus, remember, historically, it’s a British colony that they screwed up conquering, so now we have to do the job right.


The Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds have been fighting each other for generations. How is our military presence going to resolve these conflicts?


We will show them how to govern themselves, by establishing a country of their choosing, just so long as it does not permit abortion or stem cell research.


Why are we so involved in Iraq when there is genocide in Sudan? Why aren’t we assisting efforts to protect large numbers of people from further massacres? Isn’t it because there is oil in Iraq?


There’s where you journalists make your mistakes. Our decisions have nothing to do with the fact there is oil in Iraq. The reason we are not sending troops and aide to Darfur is really quite simple: it is because there is no oil in Darfur.


What are you doing about the existence of soldiers of fortune who are fighting in Iraq, supposedly as security guards for American companies, yet who are engaging in battles without coordinating efforts with your department?


It’s the right of every American to protect their belongings. If someone wants to have a private security force doesn’t need to adhere to military procedures and international law, it’s that much less we in the Defense Department have to worry about.


What about the Defense Department’s own lack of adherence to international law in abusing prisoners?


That’s why there is international law and American law. This is America, we live by American law. So long as we obey American law, we don’t need to listen to no international law. Besides, the prisoners aren’t being abused. It’s just a little harmless hazing, and between you and me, I think they enjoy it.


On violating American law, hasn’t recent domestic spying violated our own law?


Not if it doesn’t violate the Geneva Convention.

(pulls out a paper of paper)

I don’t think someone should be questioning things when she is daily ordering girl on girl sex tapes through the Internet.


I assure you I do not do that.


Oh, sorry, this is my own order form.


Your own Generals are criticizing you for lack of unity of command.


We do have unity of command. Whatever I say goes. I don’t care if the CIA or the State Department says otherwise.


So how much longer will our troops have to keep fighting in Iraq?


The war is done. And might I add, we won.


(exhales in exasperation)

Ok, how long will those troops involved in police actions have to remain in Iraq?


Oh, they’re probably there for good. But, I remind you, they are only there to preserve the victory we won in Iraq.


I think I’ve heard enough of this lunacy. Back to the rest of our show.


Where are my flowers, Barbara? I thought you said there’d be flowers involved.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Don't Know What It Means to Be Ignorant

Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch at the Nationals home opener to the Nationals catcher. There were reports that a bullet proof vest would be warn. Yet, this proved not needed after it was ascertained the Cheney was unarmed.

Rev. Sun Myung Moon has gone into the sushi industry. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to sell fish, and he can earn gobs of money.

I don’t know what it means to be ignorant.

I went to an 8:45 meeting on dyslexia. Everyone arrived promptly at 5:48. Being named Leon has its problems, as everyone is always confusing me with Christmas, as they’re always yelling at me “Yo, Happy Noel!”

Monday, April 10, 2006

If a Vote Cast is Not Counted, Does it Make a Sound?

Pennsylvania faces potential financial sanctions from the Federal government as some of our counties have failed to purchase new voting machines as required by recent Federal law. Yet, if the voters in these counties are not satisfied with the operability of these machines, perhaps the Federal government needs to review its own laws and give the people more time to decide which voting machines with which they are comfortable.

The private vendors of these machines all proclaim their machines are state of the art and impossible to manipulate. Yet, one manufacturer has had to pay significant fines in California for selling them machines that were later proven to be unreliable. An employee of this same company has testified that the vote totals of their machines can be manipulated by an outsider, despite their earlier contrary claims. A Carnegie Mellon Professor and an elections official in Florida have shown how voting machines can have their correct vote totals changed by an outsider. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor has shown that the machines in Florida may have tabulated the 2004 results by an error of over 100,000 votes. This would not have changed the results in Florida, yet this degree of error is significant as history has shown state results are sometimes closer than that. This does not necessarily mean that anyone manipulated the machines, but it does give us strong warning that there is some malfunction or poor design in these machines that we purchase with our tax dollars. The sad reality is these machines do not deserve the public trust which they advertise they have.

It should not be that hard for voting machine vendors to build reliable machines. These are not machines that are overstressed being used usually just twice a year. No other industry would accept delivery of machines with such a high degree of inaccuracy. We should demand the voting machine industry to construct reliable and verifiable machines. Anything short of that is an insult to democracy.

Stuff That Hurts Your Head to Read


Jason Torchinsky, a Senior Associate in the Holtzman Vogel law firm and a former Deputy Counsel to Bush-Cheney 2004, described the case before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Vermont's campaign laws. Vermont passed a law in 1997 that limited campaign spending and political contributions to state political office seekers. Candidates for Governors were limited to spending $300,000 and contributors to state legislative candidates had to be no more than $200. These are the strictest state campaign spending and contributions limits. The Vermont Republican State Committee and Vermont Right to Life Committee challenge this law as a unconstitutional limit of First Amendment rights. A previous U.S. Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Valeo allowed state law to limit campaign contributions but not campaign expenditures.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the law cannot limit free speech on elections, including limiting it by allowing a maximum amount that can be spent on voicing that opinion, unless there is an exchange for this limit with public financing of a campaign. Vermont will need to show there is a compelling interest on corruption or upon the appearance of corruption in order to make its case that it can pass a law limiting campaign expenditures, according to Mr. Torchinsky. He notes there has been no prosecution of any current Vermont politician which weakens the argument of a need for this law. This law includes a $400 limit that a party organization can contribute to a statewide candidate, which has caused the Republican National Committee to challenge this law. The law was signed by Governor Howard Dean, who is now Democratic National Chairman, and the Democratic National Committee has come out in favor of this as a law that increases public confidence in politicians and a law that weakens the influence of interest groups. During oral arguments, Justice Kennedy noted that the solution to public dissatisfaction with politics would be to elect others. Justices Breyer, Scalia, Roberts, Breyer, and Ginsburg all asked probing questions regarding the need for this law. Mr. Torchinsky expects the campaign expenditure limits will be struck down and there are questions on how the Supreme Court will rule on other sections and how the decision will read.


Rob Richie, Executive Director of Fair Vote, spoke about the proposal for state legislatures to approve joining an interstate compact where all member states would agree to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of who carried the member state. This would not require Congressional approval, although Congressional approval of a Constitutional amendment to be approved by three fourths of states would be another method to switch to a popular vote to elect the President. The Constitution leaves the process of selecting electors to state governments, and courts have even stated that states need not hold popular elections to elect electors. In the first contested election of 1796, only two states elected electors by statewide vote. Eight states elected their electors directly by state legislators, one state indirectly elected electors by state legislatures, and five elected electors on regional votes. This remained the dominant model of electing electors until the 1830s when states switched to direct election of electors. States could agree to elect the electors pledged to the national popular vote winner by state law, according to Mr. Richie. He proposes that states form a compact that would deliver a majority of electors to the popular vote winner.

He criticizes the electoral college as driving Presidential candidates to concentrate on states with close contests. The rest of the nation tends to be ignored by Presidential candidates. In 1960, there were 23 swing states with 319 electoral votes. In 2004, there were 13 swing states with 159 electoral votes. In 1960, there were 9 uncontested states and 20 uncontested states in 2004. In the peak season, there was no Presidential campaigning by the 2004 candidates in 45 states and D.C. This impacts voter turnout, according to Mr. Richie. In competitive states in 2004, turnout was 63% compared to 53% voter turnout in noncompetitive races. There was a 17 percent gap in turnout among voters under age 30, which is feared could lead to long term low turnout by young people who are failing to be drawn into political interest.

Electing the President by popular vote has been supported by the editors of the New York Times, Chicago Sun Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Legislation for a popular vote interstate compact has been proposed in Illinois, California, Missouri, Colorado, and Louisiana. His group aims to have legislation introduced in all states which would begin raising this issue on a national level. He points out the current electoral college presents potential problems, and that a shift of a total of 21,000 votes in New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa could have resulted in a tie election in 2004.


Sean Greene, Research Director of, told how the U.S. Justice Department has charged that the State of New York has failed to make its voting systems fully accessible to people with disabilities and with failing to establish a statewide voter registration database that is computer accessible. The lawsuit claims that New York is not even close to complying with Federal law requiring both of these. New York could lose $270 million in Federal funds if it is found to be in noncompliance with these laws.

Federal law requires New York to replace its lever voting machines and has provided $50 million to New York for this purpose. New York has indicated it will miss the deadline and will not have new machines available for elections this year. New York is the state furthest behind in all the Help American Vote law deadlines. About half the states have missed deadlines, but many were close to completion of required tasks. New York appears to be the furthest behind and has thus drawn the first Justice Department action to take away Federal elections funds.

Pennsylvania is potentially in line to be sanctioned as some counties have not replaced their voting machines as required by law in time for its May primary. He agreed that the counties may have a basis to fear purchasing electronic machines that have been shown can have their vote totals manipulated by an outside source such the counties may decide to turn around and soon repurchase different machines.

Jeff Wice, Special Counsel to the New York Senate Democratic Leader, told how an academic study rated New York as the most dysfunctional legislature. It traditionally has split control between the braches and has only once passed a budget on time in 24 years. He described the New York legislative process as lethargy in decision making. He blames the inability of legislative leaders and the Governor to reach agreements on how to implement the Help America Vote provisions for New York's slowness.


Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared earlier at an unaffiliated event. She has called for strengthening the United Nations and increasing its role in combating poverty, disease, and fighting for human rights and calls for modernizing its peacekeeping abilities to respond to internal warfare and terrorism. On American military issues, Sen. Clinton has called on increasing the size of the Army to reduce dependence on Reserves and National Guard units. She has also expressed concern that military health personnel have not received proper health care. She observes the military work involves exposure to health hazards, including exposure to oil fires, and has called for regular health screenings and subsequent tracking of soldiers for developing health problems. She notes that National Guard and Reserve soldiers have higher than average rates of lacking health care insurance coverage for themselves and their families than the national average and has proposed that they be allowed to purchase Tricare health insurance. She has also proposed lowering the retirement age for soldiers who serve long military careers.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, spoke in place of Senator Clinton at this event as she had to vote on the Senate floor. He stated that the Federal government is pursuing the most fiscally irresponsible budget in history. He warned that the Bush Administration has added $3 trillion to the Federal debt. Congressional Democrats are proposing a baseline budget that will balance the Federal budget in seven years and that will include a Pay Go provision that will implement fiscal discipline.

Rep. Hoyer also told of the importance of America educating students to become global leaders in a high technology future. He called for greater accountability with No Child Left Behind laws which has proven to be one of the largest unfunded mandates ever imposed on states. He further criticized the Bush Administration to the slowness in repairing damages from Hurricane Katrina, including leaving some people homeless still six months after the hurricane struck.

George Reid, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, spoke. He ran successfully for Parliament as a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party yet serves as Presiding Officer without party affiliation. In Scotland, the Presiding Officer is expected to act impartially to politics in deciding which votes and amendments are to be considered, ruling on points of order, and determining the length and order of Parliamentarian speeches. He has been active on human rights issues in Iraq and with international affairs as Director of Public Affairs for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent and as a BBC journalist.

In Scotland, any resident may seek redress to Parliament and anyone may recommend legislation. Parliamentary sessions are broadcast live and available archived on the Internet. Parliamentary expenses are available for review online.

Mr. Reid told how the U.S. Declaration of Independence has basis in the Scottish Declaration of Independence written in 1320. The concept of power originating in the people began with this Scottish declaration. Several drafters and signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent including John Witherspoon, who was born in Scotland.


The National Labor Caucus of State Legislatures urged NCSL and legislatures across the nation to support the right of employees to form unions through signing authorizations and for states to increase their minimum wages above the Federal minimum wage, and to do so in a fashion that also helps tipped employees earn higher wages.


U.S. Health and Services Secretary Michael Leavitt warned that Medicaid costs are rising faster than other costs and is crowding out public spending in other areas. 16% of our Gross Domestic Product, double the percent spent in most other countries, is spent on health care. He urged that more focus be made on keeping people well and in avoiding chronic diseases, as treating chronic diseases is the fastest increasing component of health care costs. He urged that people be made more aware of how much health care costs and that they become better informed about the quality of health care they receive. He also called for improving the efficiency of health care information technologies.

Secretary Leavitt called for more flexibility in health care, recommending that states create benchmark packages that created more health care alternatives for citizens, such as allowing all of the state's children receive the same health care as its public employees' children. He called for Health Opportunity Accounts to make people more conscious of health care costs. He called for providing more health care services that allow people to stay at home rather than in a facility. He called for more cost sharing and creating waivers for the empowerment innovative. He further told about pandemic readiness and the possibility of 90 million people becoming sick with the Avian flu.

Secretary Leavitt has called for increasing the interoperable electronic system that allows patients and health care providers to better relay health care information, improving the dissemination of information regarding newly approved pharmaceuticals, reducing medical liability suits to lower health care insurance costs, creating a Drug Safety Board to review negative reactions to drugs after they’ve been approved, creating state insurance pools, providing low income tax credits for health care insurance, encouraging greater use of preventive health care, increase allowing senior citizens and people with disabilities to receive home treatments rather than in health care facilities, encourage greater use of interdisciplinary research that combines knowledge from different fields when researching cures to diseases, prepare for the potential Avian flu, improving the delivery of health care services by the Commissioned Corps, increasing faith based and community based grants, and reauthorizing the Ryan White Care Act.


State Sen. (and Governor for one day) Jeff Wentworth of Texas, explained the Texas re-redistricting process. Texas undertook the unusual action of having a second redistricting within a decade. A court case LULAC v. Perry challenges the right of Texas to do so. In addition, those filing the suit argue that there was excessive gerrymandering used in this redistricting designed to benefit the chances of Republicans running for office in Texas. The redistricting appears to increase the number of seats that would be held by African Americans and Hispanic representatives, and thus defenders of the redistricting claims this increases representation of racial minorities, yet by concentrating Democratic voters in these districts Republicans should gain more seats

Sen. Wentworth argued that Democrats had gerrymandered Texas for decades and continued drawing Congressional districts so a majority of Texas's seats would be Democratic after Texas began having a majority of voters vote Republican. He stated Republicans continued serving as the loyal opposition and it never occurred to them to leave the state to shut down legislative action. He had proposed a redistricting proposal that he thought was fair to both sides that would have shifted Texas from 15 Democratic and 15 Republican members of Congress to one that represented the voting strengths of the parties at approximately 18 Republican seats and 14 Democratic seats. He criticized Democrats for opposing the plan and refusing to yield seats and Republicans who wanted his plan to die as they thought they could ultimately get 22 Republican seats. Democrats Senators then fled to New Mexico in protest and to prevent further action in the Senate.

Sen. Wentworth bristled at the re-redistricting being termed a mid-decade redistricting, noting that it would still be eight years until an election under the new redistricting.

Dale Oldman, an attorney representing the Texas Republicans, claimed the re-redistricted map is the fairest map that has been drawn in Texas in decades. He stated Democratic Congressional candidates received about 39% of vote statewide in Texas. He states this plan is projected to give Republicans about 21 seats when they should be receiving about 24 seats. He noted a previous court case resulting from Pennsylvania declared it was unconstitutional for a state to vote majority for one political party and the results to be a majority for the other party.

Sam Hirsch, an attorney representing the Texas Democrats, warned that allowing mid-decade re-redistricting could develop into a new political tool if it is permitted. He noted there has been three mid-decade re-redistrictings in the past four decades yet they were to make small corrections. Re-redistricting will sever the bond between members of Congress and their constituents if their constituencies are constantly changing, he argued. He observed that the district drawn for Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett connects portion of two unrelated urban areas with vast rural space in between. He believes the Supreme Court will declare the Texas plan unconstitutionally gerrymanders on race.


Randy Ford, Communications Director for U.S. John Tanner (Tn.), told how Rep. Tanner has proposed creating independent redistricting commissions. He argues this independence will craft redistricting with less political concern and with less gerrymandering. He stated there is concern that political pundits believe there are from 25 to 28 competitive Congressional races out of 435 seats. He notes that 95% of Congressional incumbents who seek reelection are reelected. He believes democracy should require greater competition. He also stated Rep. Tanner is concerned that the current system is leaving out representation of the political middle, where he believes most Americans are, with a lack of Congressional representation. As Congressional victors tend to be determined in primaries, mostly liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are elected. This is having a negative effect on Congress where the extremes are unable to reach agreement on tax and other issues and are unwilling to seek compromises with each other.

The Congressional Research Service has concluded that it is constitutional for Congress to require states to have independent redistricting commissions. He notes the bill has 48 cosponsors but the Senate companion bill introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson has no cosponsors. Only two Congressional cosponsors are Republicans.


This committee had no resolutions before it.


Kim Betz, Majority Counsel for the U.S House Judiciary Committee, told how temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act face being reauthorized in 2007. She emphasized that the permanent provisions of the Act are not affected and that laws concerning discrimination on voting will remain in tact. What faces reauthorization and the provisions that trigger a political division to be covered and how these political divisions may remove themselves from such covered status. Nine Congressional hearings have been held. The hearings seek to learn if these temporary provisions are accomplishing what Congress intended.

The hearings are being used to create a strong record for reauthorization of the temporary provisions, according to Ms. Betz. She stated the speakers can not yet discuss what the language will look like, but that they wish to create a reauthorization that can withstand Constitutional challenge. She stated there are people who are planning to challenge the Voting Right Act as a law they believed has outlived its usefulness.

Stephanie Moore, Democratic Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, stated that Democrats such as Rep. Mel Watt and Rep. John Conyers are working with the Republican Judiciary Committee on a reauthorization bill. They are in the bill drafting stage.


Lindsay Clark of the Brookings Institution told of the importance of educating the public on how census data is used. It is important to be educating the public beginning now rather than waiting until 2010. Briefings have even been held for members of Congress who are often unaware how the figures used for reapportionment are calculated. The U.S. Census Bureau is determining whether non-citizens should be considered in census figures when used for redistricting purposes and how prisoners should be counted. Local officials, especially in communities with rapid migratory turnover in population and with subdivided housing units and multiunit housing need to be informed on how the census operates to combat problems with undercounts.

Clark Benson of Polidata stated that forecasts are that the 2010 census will mean that New York and Ohio will lose two members of Congress while Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, and Michigan will each lose one member. Florida is rapidly gaining in population and may surpass New York in total population. California's growth has stagnated and for the first time in decades California may remain with the same number of members of Congress.

There is a bill in Congress that would only count citizens when computing reapportionment. Mr. Benson noted that several members of Congress thought this was already how it was done.

Several employees of the Census Bureau told of their preparations for the 2010 census and for trial runs in two parts of the country. The TIGER program may be ending its usefulness although the Census Bureau would still use another product with GIS and census information. It was noted that states needing this information would need to use whatever type of data that vendors provide and that the Census Bureau needs to work with the vendors.


U.S. Daniel Akaka (Hi.) welcomed guests. Sen. Akaka was a leader in getting Congress to approve the establishment of the National Museum of the American India. This museum presents the history through present day activities of Native populations in North and South America. Among presentations are art works, sculptures, weaved baskets, and gold art pieces, beads, clothing, and dolls made by Native Americans along with information on the language, life, and customs of Native Americans. Included is a bombardier used by ice fishers to stay warm while fishing.

Among issues presented at the museum are the legal enforcement of treaties made with Indian Nations and how courts have upheld them even when they have been ignored for many years. This has allowed some tribes to regain access to hunting and fishing areas promised in the treaties yet ignored. In addition, members of tribal nations have been able to cross national boundaries for employment, as a court upheld the right of a tribal member located in Canada to work in the United States and to use tribal identification rather than a Canadian passport. Also, tribe members belonging to a tribe divided by the Mexican and U.S. border are permitted to freely cross within their tribal nation.

The museum is designed to be surrounded by crops, forest land, wetlands, meadows, and rocks. The building itself was designed to have an appearance as if winds and rains shaped how it looks. This museum is an offspring from the Museum of the American Indian which opened in New York City in 1922. Congress passed a law to establish a National Museum of the American Indian within the Smithsonian Institution in 1989. The Washington, D.C. Smithsonian museum opened in 2004.


The Center for Policy Alternatives seeks to strengthen progressive legislation. It was mentioned that Kellog's is a major financial supporter of the Center. Several members urged for NCSL Delegates to approve adoption of proposals that NCSL endorse increasing the minimum wage and for making it easier for employees to form unions. The Center is also studying ways to reduce the costs of pharmaceuticals and is studying juvenile justice issues. Legislators are urged to discuss strategies that their states are taking and to comment on how successful these are. The Center has Leadership Circles for progressive state legislators who participate on peer discussions on issues.


Stephen Eule, Director of the Climate Change Technology Program at the U.S. Energy Department, presented the Federal government's position on climate change. It is the Bush Administration's position that the scientific evidence on the results from gashouse emission is complex and uncertain. They recommend developing flexible responses that meet possible outcomes. President Bush has proposes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 18% (while factoring in economic growth) in ten years. This would be achieved through clean energy tax incentives, transferable credits for emissions reductions, farm and forest land conservation, and other programs.

Mr. Eule stated the Administration seeks to harness the marketplace to encourage energy efficiency and to develop technological innovations on increasing energy efficiencies. This would be done in a manner that maintains our economic growth while encouraging global participation. Voluntary actions have been agreed to by 15 trade associations to improve their energy efficiencies.

$11 billion will be provided to coal facilities over the next ten years. The long term goal is to create zero emission coal energy plants. There is more coal in the United States than there are worldwide oil reserves.

Tax incentives will be provided to accelerate the commercial deployment of advance energy technologies. There is a goal to increase the amount of the renewable content of gasoline from 4.0 billion gallons in 2006 to 7.5 billion gallons in 2010. A new technology is being developed that would use the entire corn stalk in ethanol gas.

The United States is spending $2 billion a year to study climate change, which Mr. Eule states is more than any other country is spending.

The worldwide demand for energy is expected to triple by the end of this century, Mr, Eule forecast. The long term goals are to increase the use of hydrogen fuel by researching developing hydrogen fuel cars. A decision will be made in 2015 if such cars are feasible. If so, they would be offered on the marketplace in 2020.

The use of coal is being studied with field evaluation tests through 2009. This information will be studied through 2013. India has joined the United States in researching developing zero emission coal power plants.

The use of nuclear energy is forecast to increase significantly by 2030, according to Mr, Eule. Nuclear power plants would be used to develop hydrogen for fuel cells during their off-peak hours. There are also programs to build more plants at more reasonable costs and to protect the plants against terrorism as well as find better ways to handle nuclear waste.

A Fusion Energy Project is underway with the United States, China, European Union, Japan, Russia, India, and Korea jointly involved. It is hoped that fusion energy technologies may be developed by 2050.

The Administration opposes policies that will cost American jobs or will drive American businesses to other countries. The Administration favors encouraging international partnerships that will see that developing nations use energy efficiencies in their developing economies.

Mr. Eule stated the private sector has been engaged on the issue of climate control. $52 million is provided to American renewable projects, yet Australia spends twice that. The U.S. needs to assist other nations, as Mr. Eule noted that India has five Energy Ministers and sometimes it is important just to get various branches of governments within the same country to work effectively with each other.

Jonathan Black, Legislative Assistant to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Minority staff, stated many Senators do not wish to do anything that might hurt the American economy. Thus, they are not anxious to see American action on climate control issues and they prefer to offer American assistance to other countries on reducing their emissions. The Kyoto Protocol called for the United States to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and then never exceed around 5,500 millions of metric tons annually. The U.S. produces over 7,000 million tons of such emissions and this continues to annually increase. Senators McCain and Lieberman proposed reductions, but more than allowed by the Kyoto Protocol, and this was defeated in the 108th Congress by 43-55 and by 38-60 in the 109th Congress. In the later vote, some Senators previously favorable to emissions reductions had left the Senate and some previous supporters objected to new language that would increase nuclear energy.

The Senate has passed a Sense of the Senate Resolution that the Senate needs to more forward on this issue at some point by 53-44. The Senate is considering issuing permits for emissions and linking these to the international situation. A company unable to reduce its emissions would be able to buy additional permits either from another company that reduces its emissions beyond set goals or from the government.


Rep. Tim Solobay faithfully led the Pennsylvania delegation as the only legislator from Pennsylvania present.

The Consent Calendar was adopted. This consisted of one resolution on THE HOMELESS. This resolution calls for Federal funds under TANF, Family Preservation, and Family Support Services to prevent people from becoming homeless. It also calls for more adequate funding of McKinney Act programs and allowing more state flexibility in tailoring programs to local needs to better assist more homeless people. The resolution further faults the Federal government for failing to make known its homeless programs and application procedures for applying for its programs.

There were three items on the Debate Calendar. A policy on VIDEO FRANCHISE REFORM opposes Federal preemption of states' rights-of-way telecommunications laws. Several states have passed laws to encourage greater competition and more consumer choices in telecommunications. The resolution encourages more states to pass similar laws and it is recommended that franchises be statewide rather than having multiple franchises. State fees should reflect actual costs of the use of public rights of ways. The resolution passed by a unanimous voice vote.

A policy on EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT failed to achieve the necessary three fourths approval to be adopted. It has become difficult under laws enacted in 1935 for employees today to form unions. This resolution calls for supporting the creation of a union upon a majority of employees signing to authorize a union. The resolution passed the Labor and Workforce Development Committee by 9 to 1 and received favorable votes from 17 states and negative votes from 8 states, which prevented it from being adopted.

A resolution on the MINIMUM WAGE passed. It calls for increasing the minimum wage, which has not been raised since 1997. It also opposes a tip credit for employers with tipped employees in states that have minimum wages higher than the Federal minimum wage. This passed by 21 to 5.

There were five policies on the Action Calendar that were all approved. A policy on the BROADBAND UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND calls for merging call data stream components of facilities based broadband telecommunications carriers for easing the settlement process, allowing carriers with open network architecture to collect Universal Service Funds, make such funds based upon actual investments by carriers rather than costs to competitors or a formula, and spread Broadband Universal Service Fund contributions amongst broadband network users. This passed by a unanimous voice vote.


A resolution that NCSL SUPPORTS AND URGES ENACTMENT OF S. 2152, THE SALES TAX SIMPLIFICATION AND FAIRNESS ACT passed by a divided voice vote. An attempt to amend this resolution to allow a state to exempt its businesses from collecting sales taxes from out of state purchases was defeated by a divided voice vote.

A resolution calling for STATE SOVEREIGNTY TO USE TAX POLICY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH passed by a unanimous voice vote.

A resolution calling for RETAINING STATE FLEXIBILITY IN TANF REGULATIONS AND TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS passed by a unanimous voice vote.


U.S. Comptroller General David Walker is concerned about the large size of the Federal budget deficit. He blamed increased government spending and tax cuts. He notes that long term liabilities and net commitments, including Social Security and Medicare, rose from $20 trillion in Fiscal Year 2000 to $43 trillion in Fiscal Year 2004, which averages $156,000 per person or $375000 per full time employee.

Comptroller General Walker notes that 19% of the population is over age 65 and is drawing benefits from government social programs. Unfortunately, people are entering their senior years with fewer savings than before which is making senior citizens more dependent upon these programs. He calls for fiscal spending discipline yet notes that Federal spending has been increasing in recent years. He projects that, from 2005 to 2030, Gross Domestic Product will increase by 72% while social security spending will increase by 147%, Medicaid spending will increase by 166%, and Medicare spending will increase by 331%. He forecasts that Federal revenues will be unable to make expected payments by 2040.

He notes that discretionary spending is becoming a smaller portion of the Federal budget, as it represented 66% of the 1965 Federal budget and 39% of the 2005 Federal budget. A growing part of the budget is obligated spending. Liabilities have escaled in a few years, from $20.4 trillion to 2000 to $46.4 trillion in 2005. Much of these liabilities are for Medicare, Medicaid, and social security, with obligations for pharmaceutical contributing to recent significant liability increases. We have become the world's largest debtor nation. Should foreign banks ever decide to stop loaning at our current level of borrowing or should their interest rates ever escalate, our national economy could be in trouble. The growth rate of our debt could make our debt greater than our level of economic activity.

Comptroller General Walker calls for curtailing health care expenses by reducing government spending on health care, limiting litigation of health care delivery, improve preventive and wellness care, allowing government bulk purchasing to reduce the costs of purchasing health care services and pharmaceuticals, and creating health care insurance risk pools. He calls for fiscal discipline on spending and taxes and observes that Americans have the third lowest tax burden among developed countries.

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