Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Boring Stuff to Put Yourself to Sleep Reading

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.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Boring Stuff to Put Yourself to Sleep Reading

The following is background information on some of the topics and speakers at this year’s NCSL Annual Meeting.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Demetrios Papademetrious, President of the Migration Policy Institute, emphasizes that it is important for policy makers to realize that there are positives and negatives regarding immigration. He supports policies that increase scrutiny of immigrants for homeland security protection yet opposes policies that take away their civil liberties. He urges the United States to find ways that integrate immigrants into its social fabric while making immigraants contributors to the nation’s economy in a manner that increase our economic competitiveness.

He calls for increased enforcement programs that will keep illegal immigrants from entering the country. He also notes more needs to be done to halt illegal remittances to family members in other countries, noting this outflow of funds is larger than our foreign aid to many of these countries. He also notes that policies that restrict social services to more recent immigrants not only is harming may such immigrants but it is also having harmful affects on their children. He argues these policies do little to dissuade immigrants from seeking the still potentially better economic benefits of moving to America and thus they are ineffective as well as hurtful.

Stopping all immigration at the Mexican border still will not resolve the problem of illegal immigration, according to Dr. Papademetrious. He notes that approximately 40% to 50% of all illegal immigrants are people who overstay their legal visas.

He is critical of policies that promise 1.8 million legal immigrants they can unite their families and bring them into America and then restrict such immigration to 150,000 per year. He does recommend that immigration policies be adopted that encourage people who are of productive employment age (28 to 55) to enter the country. He further recommends allowing foreigners already noted for skills as scientists, engineers, or similar useful skills be allowed easier entrance to America.

Papademetrious came to America from Greece knowing only a little English. He worked his way through Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre as an undergraduate and then through the University of Maryland where he received his doctorate.


Dell, Inc., which has the largest global market share of personal computers, was founded by Michael Dell in 1984 on a $1,000 investment. Michael Dell began the company by selling computers directly and customers and inquiring what it was customers wanted from their computers. He began a manufacturing operation in Texas that would produce computers adopted to meet individual customer specifications. Dell was the first company that offered to be able to reach customers on their sites within the next day. The company attributes this customer service innovation as the key to its success. Dell has been criticized for becoming a victim of its own success, as there have been complaints about long increases in the time it takes Dell customer service representatives to handle the amount of phone calls regarding incoming phone calls, a problem Dell has acknowledge with a $100 million commitment to improve this.

Fortune magazine, in 2005, rated Dell as its “more admired company.” The Human Rights Campaign, which monitors for discrimination against people on sexual preference, gave Dell its highest rating in its hiring attitudes. There has been a class action suit filed against Dell for allegedly offering no interest loans to buyers and then charging interest.

Dell’s second manufacturing plant was built, and continues operating, in Lebanon, Tn. A tour will be presented. Guests will not be permitted to take notes and will be required to sign confidentiality statements regarding what they say during the tour.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


George Kaiser, President of Kaiser-Francis Oil, is a strong supporter of early childhood education. Kaiser believes early childhood education improves lifelong educational achievement and economic productivity. He sees investments in early childhood education as create long term savings through ultimately reducing poverty. He is critical that Head Start offers early education to only 104 children in his hometown of Tulsa where there are 13,000 would need early childhood services. His company contributed $2 million, and he raised another $7 million, towards providing early childhood education for about 200 additional children in Tulsa.


Matthew Kisber, as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, coordinates economic development programs with state government, local government, and Chamber officials as well as with other economic development personnel. He formed the Fast Track program that seeks to rapidly provide information and assistance to companies seeking to invest in Tennessee. Commissioner Kisber created the office of Director of Technology Development to specifically reach out to expanding technology companies. Tennessee has been noted by the business community for its cooperative coordination between state government offices such that each office is aware of what the other offers and is doing, which is something business executives find unique in their dealings with state government offices.

James Sasser, former U. S. Senator and Ambassador to China, observes that China is investing a trillion dollars into its infrastructure. He notes China has made some slow reforms towards lessening its central government control of its economy, allowing more independence in the operations of the People’s Bank of China, and improving education which he believes are improving its economic strength. He observes that China still is oppressive towards human rights and maintains censorship over its newspapers and information inflow.

Frederick W. Smith took his $4 million inheritance and started FedEx in 1971 as an overnight delivery service that only served 25 cities as of 1973. Today it is a $16 billion worldwide service employing 170,000.

U.S. Rep. John Tanner is concerned that Federal budget deficit is too high, that wasteful spending needs to be ended, and that Congress can act to reduce such waste. It upsets him that many government agencies do not use proper accounting standards. He proposes automatic Congressional hearings whenever the Inspector General finds over $1 million in government spending waste, fraud, or mismanagement. He urges that Congress seek performance reviews on government agencies.

Rep. Tanner also expresses concern that over $2 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities are held by foreign banks. Japan is the foreign country with the most of such holdings. China has the second largest holding of Treasury securities with over $300 billion. He is fearful that china could cause large inflation within America should China decide to sell its share of our securities.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was permissible for a state to conduct more than one redistricting per ten years. While states are required to redistrict after every census, there is no restriction that state may redistrict more frequently. The potential political results from this have been noted, for it would allow a state legislature that changes control from one political party to another (as occurred in Texas) to conduct a new redistricting. While the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the re-redistricting plan developed under Republican control of the process violated the Voting Rights Act, it upheld the right of re-redistricting to occur.

Mark Braden, an attorney for the Republicans, notes this ruling will allow any state to re-redistrict and predicts that re-redistricting will become a political tool of the future.

Sam Hirsch, an attorney for the Democrats, is concerned that redistricting is tending to make districts less competitive. He argues that election outcomes, at least regarding which political party will win districts, are becoming more influenced by during redistricting rather than during balloting. He has re-redistricting as allow partisan exploitation of the political process. This is placing democracy more in the hands of the politicians rather than the voters.

Michael McDonald, Assistant Profess or Public and International Affairs at George Mason University, argues that redistricting is reducing the competitive nature of legislative elections. It is designed to protect incumbents and is creating districts where incumbents have a high chance of winning reelection.


Bruce Cain, Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley has noted that computerized election information allow redistricting to be conducted that can more accurately produce expected outcomes. This allows those who control redistricting to create districts that will produce political results in elections with high degrees of likelihood. Pennsylvania is one state where it is observed that Republicans, while receiving approximately half the total votes cast for legislatures, have won control of both legislative Houses by safe margins. While sections of states can are not likely to see their political results changes much according to how their districts are drawn, because they lean so strongly towards one political party, he notes that the marginal districts can be drawn to practically assure political control to a particular political party. While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that redistricting can not shut out another political party, it left proving this vague and it has been tough to get the courts to accept that redistricting has reached this level. He believes courts view most redistricting fights as political struggles into which the courts do not wish to get involved. Further, what he sees often occurring in many states is redistricting, not to allow one political party to dominate a state, but redistricting that creates many safe seats for both parties while virtually assuring control, but not dominance, to one political party. He views this as happening in states such as Pennsylvania and Texas.


Doug Chapin, Executive Director of, observes there are requirements that voters have an ID in order to vote. There are fears this will reduce voters turnout as legitimate voters without IDs will be refused to be let to vote. Supporters of this idea state it should reduce the possibility that a voter will fraudulently vote. Some observers note that, to the degree any voter fraud exists, that it will more likely occur with absentee ballots, which, because they are mailed in, do not require any ID.

Doug Chapin notes in 2000 only eleven states allowed provisional balloting. This is now required across the country. Two thirds of voters are voting by using a new technology different from what they use din 2000. About half the states require a verifiable paper audit train or similar paper ballot to guarantee the accuracy of the voter count, which, of course, means that half the states do not have this requirement. One state, Arizona, allow voter registration to occur online. Arizona also is the only state that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship.


U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner (EAC) Paul DeGregorio states the EAC has provided over $3 billion to states to improve their elections processes. The EAC has adopted a list of Best Practices in administering elections and advised official officials on improving elections procedures. He believes the Help American Vote Act is achieving its goals of improving elections by requiring states to modernize its voting procedures. He notes the next challenge is getting people to adapt to these new systems, and he warns that confusion and glitches are to be expected.

U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Ray Martinez is concerned there is decreasing voter confidence in the elections. He notes voters are worried that electronic voting machines do not accurately count vote totals. According to two national polls, about one quarter of voters do not believe the 2000 election results were properly counted, and about one fifth of voters do not believe the 2004 election results were properly counted. He urges state legislatures to conduct periodic audits of their election laws. He urges that laws should require state election officials to remain publicly neutral on any elections and referendums. He further advised that election equipment vendors should remain publicly neutral on election results.


Election vendors are planning updates on their software for the 2010 elections. Vendors have software that enables states to create statewide voter registration lists. This software needs to be able to handle adding new voters and properly recording such things as voters who change their addresses. Many election officials want systems that can be run against the Social Security death list, lists of felons ineligible to vote, and systems which can identify and eliminate duplicate voter registrations. This lists then need to be organized in a fashion that will enable states to conduct redistricting following the 2010 census.


The Census Bureau is planning on using technological advancements to improve the 2010 census. For instance, it awarded $500 million to the Lockheed Martin Corporation to develop an Internet census response. Census gatherers will carry hand held computers. The Census Bureau is also meeting with various groups and receiving advice on how to conduct a more complete and total count.


The Country Music Hall of Fame Museum receives public funds from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. The public may view exhibits and learn about the history of country music. The Museum also operates tours of RCA Studio B, which is leased to the Museum for $1 a year. This is the studio that was used by many noted recording artists including Elvis Presley and Eddy Arnold.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Improved health is encouraged through getting people to walk more often. Eddie George, who followed a wellness program, benefited from good health as no never missed a single game while playing for the Tennessee Titans football team.


Doris Kearns Goodwin’s most recent book, “A Team of Rivals”, is about Abraham Lincoln and how Lincoln used Cabinet members representing rival factions to unite for his common goals, with Lincoln deftly in control. Lincoln was a very astute politician who parlayed his honest empathy and concern for others into a compromise position for various factions to turn to him for leadership. This got Lincoln nominated and then elected President. The ability to take command, be truly sincere about positions, and unite rivals behind a common cause are important lessons for leaders to note.


Paul Ryan, Associate Counsel for The Campaign Legal Center, notes that West Virginia is the only state that regulates nonprofit political 527 organizations. 527s became politically important when Congress placed limitations on contributions for “soft money” that political parties could spend on issue advertising. These separate 527s have no Federal limits on the amounts of contributions they may receive. West Virginal law limits contributions to 527s to $1,000 before a primary and another $1,000 before a general election. In addition, West Virginia requires any 527 that spends $5,000 or more, or that mentions a political candidate by name, to register with the West Virginia Secretary of State. Some 527s argue that states can not regulate an organization that is rendered tax exempt under Federal law, yet Paul Ryan maintains that a state may regulate a 527 as pertaining to state elections.

Legislation has been introduced by Senators Trent Lott, Chuck Schumer, John McCain, and Russ Feingold and U.S. Representatives Christopher Shays and Marty Meehan to require 527s seeking to influence a Federal election to abide by the same rules as those that apply to public action committees. This would include limiting individual contributions to $25,000per year.


An ultra-low sulfur clean diesel fuel will be put on the market on October 15, 2006. Diesel is the most efficient fuel for internal combustion engines, with 20% to 40% higher miles per gallon over similar gasoline engines. Environmental, cost, and energy dependent concerns are driving some to seek alternative fuels. The diesel fuel industry is seeking to develop diesel fuel with fewer pollutants to fight off competition from gasoline and alternative fuels.

Beginning this year, consumers purchasing hybrid clean diesel cars, trucks, and SUVs are eligible for tax credits of $3,400 or less. The amount of credit varies according to the purchased vehicle’s efficiency and emissions level ratings as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Next year, a new generation diesel engine will be on the market.

The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act authorizes $1 billion over five years in voluntary federal and state grants and loans for retrofitting existing diesel engines. Trucks, buses, and construction vehicles can achieve emission reductions of 90% or less from these retrofits. President Bush proposed $49.5 million for this program from Fiscal Year 2007. Congress is fighting over whether an additional $35.1 million should be provided for state and local air quality grants.


Former Ohio Senate President Richard Finan was described by the Cincinnati Enqurer as “King Richard”, a deal maker whose strong leadership “made him one of the most influential men in Ohio government.” He used to have a major input into how the state’s $45 billion was spent. His influence was brought to an end by term limits.

Tom Lee rose to become Florida’s current Senate President as a political outsider who has spoken out against special interest campaign contributions. He seeks to become Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, an elected position.

Arn Pearson, Director of Campaign Reform for Maine’s Common Cause, supports Maine switching to using run-off elections. As in Pennsylvania, the winning candidate is the one with a plurality of votes. Requiring a run-off election is designed to avoid “spoiler” candidates designed to allow a specific candidate a better chance of achieving a plurality by dividing the votes of that candidate’s opponent. Pearson also believes that a run-off election reduces negative campaigning as a candidate will want a defeated candidate’s supporters to view the candidate more favorably. He believes this will improve the nature of elections and reduce the negative feeling voters have should they view fewer negative ads.

Pete Poynter is Director of Government Affairs for Bell South and is Treasurer of ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board. He believes the private sector should be active in legislative organizations and notes how the private sector has been useful to NCSL and ALEC.


Jennifer Bowser of NCSL notes that term limits are causing hundreds of legislators across the nation to retire this year.

Tim Storey of NCSL observed that the 2004 election resulted in a nationwide political parity between the two political parties in terms of state legislative elections. A nearly equal number of Democrats and Republicans were elected to state legislatures.


Thousands of pets perished from Hurricane Katrina. There was inadequate planning for human rescue and no planning for animal rescue, according to this film. People who fled or were rescued in most evacuation procedures were not allowed to bring their pets. Many people who opted to stay with their pets and were killed or stranded by the hurricane.


This will be the theme of NCSL’s 2007 Annual Meeting in Boston.


The Heartland Institute is a nonprofit public policy research that believes there are free market solutions to most policy dilemmas. They believe it would be a misallocation of resources to attempt to combat global warming on any grand scale. They believe that mandate higher minimum wages will lead to job loss. They believe high speed rail projects are too costly for the environmental benefits they derive. They oppose government-owned broadband providing wireless services to a city’s citizens. They support the merger of AT&T with Bell South.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman argues that moderate Republicans need to demand a greater role in the leadership of the Republican Party. She notes that the public is turning away from Republicans on several social issues. She urges the Republican Party move towards the political middle and urges moderate Republicans to assist in achieving this goal.


The following are among possible resolutions that may be considered at this meeting:

2007 Farm Bill. NSL urges Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2007 in a manner that provides increased farm supports to the broadest number of farms. It is noted that trade agreements call for lower domestic support of agriculture and it is urged that these supports be replaced by direct payments and rural investment programs.

Long Term Care. NCSL supports tax credits for family member caregivers and supports fully funding Medicaid entitlements to states and individuals that allows them to provide home and community based care, nursing facility services, nutrition services, hospice, home health care, adult day care, and supportive services. NCSL also urges for consumer protection measures in long term care insurance, for preferential tax treatment for individuals and employers for purchasing qualified long-term care insurance, for portability laws for long term care, and for repealing the law restricting states from developing asset protection laws.

Low Income Energy Assistance. NCSL urges that all states be provided Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds, that LIHEAP be fully funded, and that the law allow the states strong oversight on how these funds are distributed. It also calls for disallowing considering LIHEAP as income when calculating whether a person’s total income qualifies a person for public assistance eligibility.

Nurturing Responsible Families. NCSL supports programs that create employment opportunities for non-custodial parents so they may make support payments. State programs promoting fatherhood should be considered part of states’ Maintenance of Effort requirements under Federal welfare law. Fatherhood programs should be allowed to operate in conjunction with faith based providers.

Nutrition Assistance. NCSL supports sufficient funding for the Food Stamp program. NCSL opposes Federal mandates that would restrict state flexibility and cap administrative funds for administering Food Stamp programs. When the Federal government restricted using TANF for Food Stamp administration, the result was a cut to administrative funding. NCSL further calls for increasing eligibility for Food Stamps through excluding considering $50 of child support as income when making eligibility determinations. NCSL also urges that basic food stamp benefits be increased to 103% of the Thrifty Food Plan. Outreach efforts are also called for to inform potentially eligible people that they may be able to receive Food Stamps and to make it easier for senior citizens and people with disabilities to apply. NCSL also calls for food service programs in for child and adult day care providers and in the summer for school children.

Takings and Land Use Authority. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law or regulation that would define “takings” or restrict the ability of state government to define takings.

Funding for States Under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. NCSL calls for the Help America Vote Act to be fully funded.

Redistricting and Elections. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law that would require a particular method of conducting redistricting.

Financial Information Security. NCSL opposes creating any Federal law that would preempt state laws regarding financial and credit information.

The Homeless. This resolution calls for Federal funds under TANF, FamilyPreservation, 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.

Video Franchise Reform. This opposes Federal preemption of states' rights-of-way telecommunicaitons 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. .

Minimum Wage. This 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.


Patt Summitt believes that proper team building leads to success. She coaches the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team and has won more games as a coach than any other NCAA Division I coach in history. She has coached six national championship teams. She believes that proper motivation from leadership, team cooperation, and a winning spirit can apply beyond the basketball court to most any office. She is dedicated to her work, as noted by her giving birth to her son just hours after returning from a recruitment drive in Pennsylvania.

Her system for success in one composed of respect, responsibility, loyalty, communication, discipline, passion, working hard and smart, placing team ahead of yourself, winning attitude, being competitive, knowing how and when to change, and handling success as one handles failure.


The Tennessee State Capitol opened in 1859. It was designed by William Strickland of Philadelphia. William Strickland passed away during the construction and his wish to be buried within the walls of the Capitol was granted. President James Polk is buried under the Capitol grounds. A bullet hole where the House Sergeant of Arms fired to prevent a legislator from leaving to prevent a quorum remains.

LeAnn Rhimes is an official voice of the Children’s Miracle Network and has performed on several military bases.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Pollster Peter Hart detects growing voter unease over the policies of the Bush Administration and dissatisfaction over the Republican controlled Congress. He has conducted a poll showing voters favoring Democrats for Congress by 48% to 38%. His poll also notes that 38% state their member of Congress deserves reelection while 48% stated it is time to give another candidate a chance to serve. Yet, he warns that this does not automatically translate into a Democratic takeover of Congress after the 2006 elections.

Pollster Frank Luntz has advised Republicans can keep control of Congress in the 2006 elections by presenting straight talk and concentrating on homeland security issues. He states that voters are fearful and Republicans should offer themselves as having the solutions to their fears, urging that Republicans go after the “security mom” vote. He states there should be a strong Republican agenda presented 30 days before the election and that the Republican base needs to be invigorated to increase its voter turnout.


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 escalated 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.

Robert Bixby, Executive Director of the Concord Coalition, warns about that the costs of health care and pensions are growing much more rapidly than much of the rest of the economy. He predicts that the share of the economy for the costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will double by 2030 and triple by 2050. He warns that Social Security may be insolvent within a few decades.

Brian Riedl, Senior Policy Analyst for the Heritage Foundation, claims 55% of new Federal government spending over the last two years is due to reasons other than Defense or Homeland Security. He calculates that annual Federal expenditures is over $20,000 per household. He is critical that$180 billion in Federal funds is being provided to agribusiness. He calls for reduced Federal spending, but does not believe that increased Federal taxes would be helpful as they would slow economic growth.

Diane Lim Rogers, a Research Director at the Brookings Institution, observes that the inheritance tax only applies to ½ of 1% of deaths, as it applies only to the wealthiest of estates. She projects that extending the repeal of this tax from 2012 through 2021 would cost the Treasury $1 trillion in lost revenues.


Blogger young_activist said...

Tanner is right, the debt is a huge threat to the future of our country that will destroy our economy if it is not immediatly adressed. I have devoted a great deal of time to raising awarness about the debt because it seems that the more you know the scarier it is.

4:55 PM

Blogger Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny said...

The question is how to resolve this problem. There are some solutions, but each comes with a strong political cost. We need to direct Federal spending to expenditures that stimulate the economy, and spending on the military does not do that. Placing more funds in the hands of consumers will encourage spending and, in the long run, increase revenues to cover our growing debt. We need to increase our productivity, and so far productivity has been growing. Hopefully, even as the labor force shrinks as a per cent of our population, productivity will continue to increase at a high rate. If productivity does not increase enough, which we can not guarantee that it will, we need to consider attracting immigration to keep our nation productive, and I state this at a time when it is politically unpopular to discuss attracting immigrants. Finally, now may not be the time to be considering tax cuts, or ending the inheritance tax, when we will need these revenues to keep our social programs and health care system solvent.

Or is this too heavy a discussion for a humor blog? OK: a man walks into a bar with a pig under his arm...

8:46 AM


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