Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Throughout my life I have had heard plenty of people make a comment over dinner or during a conference reception stating something like -- "..........I think we should pay more in taxes...schools need money.........who will take care of the environment........" -- such a worldview never fails to shock me since I am certain governments take more from us than they should.
But now such big government types that make me want to start drinking again at the receptions I attend have an option!!!
State governments can create a "Tax Me More Fund" which allow taxpayers to make additional, voluntary contributions by simply writing a check to GIVE their state government even more of their personal wealth.
So far Americans for Tax Reform knows of the following six (6) states which have some funds:
For more information on this issue please visit:
That should help you get the next limousine liberal you get stuck talking with at your next cocktail reception to shut up about the "need to raise taxes."
Have fun by pissing them off,
Monday, October 30, 2006
October 31st is the "Halloween" holiday in the USA although I have seen evidence via my business travel of this American tradition spreading into Europe at least. The primary element of Halloween of course is children dressed in costumes walking the neighborhood in pursuit of candy treats.
At my age my trick or treating days are long gone but I have a very clear memory from my elementary school days of the "Trick or Treat for UNICEF" campaign which originally started in 1950:
The idea here is to have children collect money for UNICEF programs via little orange collection boxes. Given my young age and naivete at the time I walked the streets collecting coins for this arm of the United Nations along with my fellow public school prisoners (no school choice back then!!) much like a county prison chain gang walking the ditches to collect garbage.
Okay, readers might think I am over-reacting a bit but don't we always hear from the United Nations/global poverty community that we need to eliminate child labor across the world? So it is wrong for an 11 year old child to build Nike basketball shoes in Vietnam FOR AN HOURLY WAGE but an 11 old in the State of Iowa, USA walking his neighborhood in the dark FOR ZERO MONETARY COMPENSATION to collect coins for a bunch of United Nations bureaucrats is social justice I guess since the world's poor are helped by the great works of UNICEF?
Yes, it has been 30 years or so since I was a street walker for UNICEF but their brain washing program failed with me since I am on a personal campaign to work against them. If child labor is bad for humanity then surely exploiting UNICEF zombies to collect coins for bureaucrats is even worse. Let me ask my readers to call on the US Congress to zero fund the United Nations and all its affiliates today. There are better alternatives to the United Nations so let us add them to the funeral pyre with the League of Nations.
If any of my readers are pro-UN here is an essential question you should ask yourself as you consider joining my intellectual camp:
Who the hell wrote this excerpt found on the UNICEF website?:
"UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary funds. Governments contribute two thirds of our resources; private groups and some 6 million individuals contribute the rest through our National Committees." http://www.unicef.org/about/structure/index_3368.html
KEY POINT -- Since 66% of UNICEFs budget comes from governments which REQUIRE us tax slaves to pay taxes to them then UNICEF is NOT "supported entirely by voluntary funds." Does anyone at UNICEF own a dictionary so they can look up the word 'voluntary'?
Let us have an honest, transparent debate regarding UNICEF's job performance and its funding with a series of US congressional hearings perhaps supported by the work of my friends at Citizens Against Government Waste, http://www.cagw.org/
Sunday, October 29, 2006
My Sunday Pioneer Press newspaper made an interesting "choice" regarding what story (an obituary actually) to lead with as a banner headline on today's front page which read:
"Dr. Jane E. Hodgson 1915 - 2006, Champion for a Woman's Right to Choose"
This story sought to commemorate the life of Dr. Hodgson, an OB-GYN doctor and "abortion-rights crusader, convicted of performing an illegal abortion in St. Paul (Minnesota) in 1970. The article noted that the US Supreme Court's "Roe vs. Wade" decision in 1973 overturned Dr. Hodgson's 1970 conviction.
Now this posting is NOT designed to generate flame mail from the pro-choice and pro-life camps in the USA but I do want to use this story to call on the Pioneer Press to complete one or two follow up stories (hopefully they won't wait until there is another obituary to publish). Given the surplus of foster children in our country and the overwhelming redtape involved in the adoption process -- which I have experienced second hand via two fraternity brothers and their wives' efforts to adopt children -- let's have newspapers also focus on foster children and the need for adoption reforms.
Regardless of what a woman chooses to do with her body and fetus I simply can not foresee a future free of orphans so let's help these children by reforming today's laws and support infrastructure via:
1.) A greater use of technology to speed background checks of candidate parents
2.) Less financial burden/overall costs to candidate parents so they have more funds available to raise the children
3.) Greater use of income tax credits and deductions to incentivize people to adopt and/or become foster parents
4.) Expand tax deduction levels to non-profit entities such as St. Jude's Ranch for Children and Boys Town which focus every penny they have on creating a better life for orphans.
5.) Call on America's legal community to expand their pro bono efforts working to speed adoptions and streamling the redtape involved. This is an ideal project for the Federalist Society, www.fed-soc.org, to take on given their membership's philosophical bias (my perception here) for building and supporting the traditional "nuclear family"
6.) Calling on the unborn/abortion organization leaders in this country such as -- NOW, NARAL, Operation Rescue, National Right to Life Committee, etc. -- to work cooperatively, crazy perhaps but the call for such action has to start somewhere so why not by me?, to reform our institutions to better serve children.
Good luck kids,
A busy weekend with the fiancee this weekend so essentially I did not watch any football games but we had fun enjoying the following:
- Film -- we saw "The Departed" starring Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, among others. Set in Boston this film addresses the theme of "cops, bad guys, and which one is which?). Overall a good story to watch especially if you are of Irish descent :) Based on the film's ending I would love to see the producer/writer create a sequel based on Madalyn's (the police psychiatrist) unborn son perhaps set, "20 years into the future of Boston.........."
- Dinner -- the film was followed by dinner at "Cue Restaurant" which is housed in the new Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Overall I loved the atmosphere and the wait staff was very good but unfortunately the kitchen sent my fiancee a half cooked chicken breast which is never the way to make a good impression. My "pork prime rib" was very tasty so that is a plus for the kitchen however my appetizer of meat selections by the chef -- elk sausage, wild boar pate, and salmon in my case -- reminded me of the dinner that Steve Martin had the film, "L.A. Story", which consisted of VERY small pieces of food served on a VERY large white plate. The elk sausage was very good however. The dessert selection was unique but not really appealing to our tastes. On my 1 to 5 scale I will have to give Cue a "3" since I have experienced much better venues plus their glass of wine was priced at nearly the same price as some of the entrees which is clearly out of balance.
Enough of discussing my pork entree -- time for my review of football games and news from this weekend:
- Iowa State University -- my Cyclones lost to Kansas State by score of 31 to 10. With a season record of 3 and 6 the Cyclones' hopes of playing in a bowl game are fading quickly. However, the athletic department announced plans to upgrade the toilet facilities so that is a big positive for 2007!!!! www.cyclones.com
- Butler University -- my adopted Bulldogs lost a tough one to University of Missouri-Rolla by a score of 35 to 20. However, the Bulldogs have moved up from dead last in the Sagarin Power Ratings (USA Today) which is very encouraging.
- St. Scholastica University -- they announced plans this weekend to field a football team for the 2008 college football season. St. Scholastica will compete in Division III football and plan to spend $3.9 million on the football program. I applaud this decision since college athletics are an essential element in the overall college experience for all students plus another football team provides more player opportunities. Hey I still have my 4 years of college eligibility left even though I am 40 years old!!! :-)
Enjoy some Monday Night Football -- Skol Vikings!!!
Friday, October 27, 2006
If any of my readers out there believe the USA has a free market economy PLEASE do not believe this fantasy!!
My daily newspaper presents clear evidence that "government assistance" is distorting the housing market -- at least in Minnesota but of course the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (another department that would be closed were I sworn in as President) works nationwide so no doubt the following market distortion is occurring in other states.
First, today's front page banner headline story of the Pioneer Press's business page states:
"Home buyers still hold back: cooling market hasn't hit bottom yet, experts warn"
Wow, so real estate analysts and economists expect further price cuts for homes on the market today but yet in its infinite wisdom (as noted on Page 3C of this SAME business page) was this headline:
"Affordable Housing get $37 Million"
This story focused on the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency's announcement that it is awarding "more than $37 million this fall to help with construction and development of affordable housing projects throughout the state."
Amazing!! Current projections state that it will take at least 8 months for all the houses for sale in the Minneapolis/St. Paul real estate market to sale -- this is a "surplus" of homes in case government bureaucrats did not study Economics 101 in college.
If the government at all levels wants to make housing more affordable for all of us here are my suggestions:
1.) Reduce property taxes. For instance my local city council should sell its liquor store and golf course since the private sector supplies these services. The proceeds from the sale should be sent back to us as property tax refunds.
2.) Allow softwood imports from Canada under our current NAFTA free trade obligations.
3.) Allow more logging in our national forests to reduce lumber costs for homes while also reducing forest fires.
4.) Increase tax deduction levels for contributions to non-government entities such as Habitat for Humanity, www. habitat.org, which build affordable housing.
5.) Use some of this $37 million that the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency has to buy up some of the homes currently on the market for giving to homeless people -- this is a lot better idea than BUILDING MORE HOMES WHEN WE HAVE A SURPLUS!!
Finally, why is the government using OUR tax money to build more homes when this same government (via people like Al Gore and anti-Wal Mart city council members around the country) want to prevent urban sprawl?
Markets not programs,
Once the USA's election results are completed on November 7th -- I am optimistic we can count all the ballots that day!! -- the speculation regarding who will and who will not run for President of the United States will intensify dramatically.
Given her popularity across the country, her charming personality, her international ambassador experience, and her background in education I hope the Republican presidential candidates consider Laura Bush as their Vice Presidential running mate or at least for a Cabinet secretary position. Positioning Mrs. Bush for such national offices would provide a strategic wedge between Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Soccer and Security Moms across America. Additionally, Mrs. Bush has a "hottie factor" that Mrs. Clinton can not match which would appeal to the Maxim/FHM readers (young males) across America:
Soccer Moms and young males -- not that is a voting bloc that provides a winning coalition for 2008.
See you at the library,
Thursday, October 26, 2006
An amazing coincidence perhaps or was it planned by an astute editor I wonder -- the October 24, 2006 front page of the Wall Street Journal contained two articles, published in columns one and three entitled:
"To Stop Dust Bowl, Mongolia Builds 'Great Wall' of Trees"
"In San Francisco, Red-light Denizens Fight to Stay Seedy"
These two stories shared one common thread -- the planting of trees!!
The first story was focused on one local manager's, Batchuluun Doorov, role in a $150 million project dedicated to planting trees in a line across the Gobi Desert to help reduce dust storms. The second story focused on an architect/community activist in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, Carolyn Abst, who wanted to clean up San Fran's worst neighborhood. Ms. Abst launched a project to plant trees in the neighborhood only to be the target of a clear "hate crime" by the area's prostitutes, transvestites , and a gay activist groups known as "Gay Shame" who wanted Ms. Abst to leave the area as she discovered it -- run down, dangerous, and opposed to gentrification.
After reading these two articles a few questions/thoughts came to mind:
1.) Given his concern about global warming is Al Gore raising funds to help pay for this tree planting project in the Gobi Desert?
2.) How can the "pre-Carolyn Abst arrival" residents of the Tenderloin District in San Fran be so narrow-minded about her beautification/tree planting project when these same people call for tolerance and acceptance of their lifestyles by society?
Perhaps the most telling quote in this San Francisco article is from Chris Daly, a Democrat who represents the Tenderloin District on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who stated:
"Yes, people are addicted to drugs, and yes there is homelessness. Why shouldn't these people have a place of their own?"
Chris Daly is noted as a proponent of affordable housing and funding for nonprofit social services the article states -- and this is EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. People like Daly love the power/warm feeling that comes from using our tax dollars to "help" people like the down and out residents of the Tenderloin District when what they really need is the community activism by people like Ms. Abst which helps generate economic growth not government welfare. Thank you for your leadership Ms. Abst.
Two interesting projects involving the very simple act of planting trees but clearly two very different world views regarding these projects' overall value to humanity.
Cut one, plant two,
Monday, October 23, 2006
While reading the Financial Times (FT) newspaper at the airport today I was reminded of a meeting I had at Waterloo Station in London, UK in 2003 with the founder of the Liberty Institute in India - Barun Mitra.
Among a wide range of issues Barun and I discussed Intellectual Property (IP) protection issues. I distinctly remember Barun's comment that day -- ".........we (India, the world's emerging economies) are only going to steal so much (IP), because at some point in the future we will produce our own IP that we will want to legally protect.............." Well the day Barun predicted would come has arrived based on the headline I read in today's FT, "Chinese take to the courts to defend patent rights in US". Chinese companies are "defending their patent rights increasingly aggressively in US courts, legal experts say" -- quoting the FT here.
Sorry to break the news to Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, and all the trade union leaders in the USA that have made their careers by attacking free trade agreements and the USA's trade deficit with China. Granted it is a minor step but Chinese companies are SPENDING MONEY IN THE USA by hiring law firms to protect their IP. Law firms hire secretaries and paralegals plus they spend money on copying costs so eventually this all generates economic activity in the USA. Sadly the attorneys are getting the money at first but eventually the money multiplier effect (probably not taught in our public schools) will kick in to benefit an even greater portion of the economy.
The trade balance evolves,
While listening to CNN last Friday (October 20) I heard a promotional ad for Lou Dobbs' TV program which was going to be focused on (surprise!!) -- IMMIGRATION. But -- what REALLY caught my attention was that the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) was the lead sponsor of his show.
So no surprise there since Lou Dobbs has transformed into Pat Buchanan in recent years via a constant attack on immigration issues. I have always wondered why Mr. Dobbs became so angry about today's immigration issue -- is he just chasing TV ratings or is there another motivation? Along those lines, why should Mr. Dobbs care about immigration given his focus on outer space anyway as noted in this excerpt below?:
Since (Lou) Dobbs founded the company in June of 1999, SPACE.com has risen to become the definitive site on the World Wide Web dedicated to space and all space-related subjects.
Why not just colonize the Moon or Mars so you can escape these immigrants you fear so much Mr. Dobbs? I really find it ironic that the State of New Mexico -- because this state borders Mexico of course so it is a key crossing point for the Mexican immigrants to cross into the USA to further trouble Mr. Dobbs -- has partnered with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Enterprises to construct a "space port" to expand the commericalization of space. Perhaps Mr. Dobbs could use the space port once it is completed (with government funds) to escape all these immigrants that seem to frighten him.
The AARP's sponsorship of the Lou Dobbs anti-immigration show is very interesting to me since the largest source of illegal immigrants to the USA today -- MEXICO -- is also one of the top destinations for USA retirees/AARP members. What if the Mexican government or the "Lou Dobbs of Mexico" launched a campaign to "keep the gringo retirees out of Mexico" ?
So CNN has covered the full range of these issues for us -- they have Lou Dobbs attacking Mexican immigrants today and in 2005 CNN carried this news story regarding American retirees moving to Mexico:
The rush to a Mexican retirement is on
More and more Americans are moving to Mexico for the sun, the fun, and for less money.
It is common knowledge that illegal Mexican immigrants are paying into the USA Social Security system via payroll taxes -- paying in money they will never see paid back to them as Social Security benefits. This creates a form of "reverse welfare" whereby American retirees living in Mexico are being subsidized/funded by Mexican workers working in the USA. This transfer of wealth is amazing and needs to be explored by journalists such as Lou Dobbs assuming he can see past his own nativism.
Focus on freedom not borders,
Sunday, October 22, 2006
American football is what makes Fall weekends extra special and this weekend was a fun one for football fans like myself even though my teams were 2 and 1 this time around.
Here is an overview of what happened to the teams that I follow:
- Iowa State University -- my fiancee and I traveled to Ames, Iowa for our Homecoming game versus Texas Tech University. My Cyclones went down in defeat by a score of 42 to 26. I did not check the game program but Tech's middle linebacker, #51 , delivered some textbook tackles that stopped our running backs in the backfield several times -- an impressive performance. Additionally, I LOVED Tech's use of the classic "shuttle pass" for a little trickeration. Sadly, I see no possibility of the Cyclones being invited to a bowl game this year.
- Butler University -- my adopted Bulldogs defeated Valparaiso University on Saturday by a score of 32 to10 to improve their record to 3 and 5 so far this season.
- Minnesota Vikings -- Skol Vikings honor your name!! With a final score of 31 to 13 the Vikes defeated the Seattle Seahawks today (Sunday) to improve their record to 4 wins and 2 losses. My congratulations to Coach Childress for shaking his "boring is great" image by using some trickeration today via a "half back pass" for a touchdown pass to the tightend - love that stuff!! I can honestly say I was impressed with their performance today - consistency is the next challenge to meet.
More football next week so warm up your couch and get the munchies ready.
Friday, October 20, 2006
“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”
Desiderius Erasmus 1469-1536
Granted I am a bit tardy in mentioning the “25th Annual Banned Books Week” which was celebrated from September 23 to 30, 2006 but here is my tribute to this project which is organized by the American Library Association (ALA):
Please review this website today before the censors ban it!!
According to the ALA the “10 Most Challenged Books of 2005” (March 2006 ALA press release) reflect a range of themes. These ten books are listed below:
“It's Perfectly Normal” for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;
“Forever” by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;
“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;
“Whale Talk” by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;
“Detour for Emmy” by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;
“What My Mother Doesn't Know” by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;
Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;
“Crazy Lady!” by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and
“It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.
It is worth noting that 7 out of 10 of these books were “challenged” by opponents/self-appointed censors due to their shared theme of “sexual content” and 2 out of the 10 books were challenged due their “offensive language”.
Now I have never read Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher but would note that it was challenged due to its use of “racism and offensive language." Amazing that this was offensive to someone – have they never heard a speech delivered by the Reverend Jesse Jackson? I don’t appreciate his racism and offensive language which promotes class warfare but I am not calling for him to be silenced.
Please read the First Amendment today,
Thursday, October 19, 2006
While working late at my home office a couple nights this week I was watching our local cable access channel which aired a recent debate between our area’s Minnesota state legislators and their November 7th election challengers. One state representative participating in this debate -- whose name I did not note unfortunately -- made a comment that really caught my attention. This gentleman challenged his opponent who called for extending the Minnesota school year by responding with, “I agree that we should extend the school year but we should not mandate one school year for all the school districts in Minnesota. A school year calendar that works well for a Twin Cities school is not necessarily good for a small town Up North which might be more affected by weather conditions and the very different dynamics of the local economy……….”
Personally I love this idea for numerous reasons:
-It further decentralizes the current public school fortress overall
-It allows local leaders and economic factors to determine how best to use education resources
-This idea harnesses the “power of competition” to generate innovative ideas across the hundreds of school districts in Minnesota
-It empowers teachers to work in new, dynamic work environments
Unfortunately we Minnesotans might have seen much more of this innovation being generated by our state department of education had the Minnesota Senate not refused to confirm Governor Pawlenty’s appointee, Cheri Pierson Yecke, who subsequently left Minnesota to become the Chancellor of K-12 Education for the State of Florida. Chancellor Yecke is leading the charge to allow high school students to “choose a major”; much the way college students do today, beginning in 2007. This is a great way to empower students via personal choice to help them better prepare for college or guide them into vocational options.
Hopefully such thinking among our public officials will continue to spread since decentralization and personal choice are perfect complements of each other that serve to maximize consumer benefits.
Use your voice for choice,
This Saturday I will be attending Iowa State University’s Homecoming football game against Texas Tech University but to be honest (and I hate to admit this) I would rather be watching the University of Minnesota Gophers versus the North Dakota State University Bison.
So why would I rather see the Gophers try to avoid being stampeded by the Bison? Primarily because North Dakota is an NCAA Division I-AA team with a 6 and 0 record while the NCAA Division I-A University of Minnesota sits at 2 and 5 so far this season. For those readers who don’t follow college football that closely “NCAA Division I-A” is the top division in college athletics with “Division I-AA” being one level below. So yes this is a classic TUWAGCOWAUV ( “talented underdog with a good chance of winning an upset victory” ) football game. Now that is an acronym that would make any government bureaucrat proud!! .
As is commonly known Americans LOVE underdogs and I am no exception. I do love Minnesota as my adopted state but the prospect of North Dakota defeating a Big 10 Conference team like Minnesota is exciting regardless of personal loyalties. Yes the Bison have a decent chance of winning on Saturday even though this season’s statistics are against them in terms of Division I-A teams versus Division I-AA match ups. According to the North Dakota State Sports Information office Division I-AA football programs have a 6 and 67 record against Division I-A programs at this stage in the season (October 19, 2006). Here are the six Division I-AA football clubs that have defeated Division I-A teams this season:
Montana State defeated University of Colorado
Portland State defeated New Mexico
Richmond defeated Duke University
New Hampshire defeated Northwestern University
Southern Illinois defeated Indiana University
North Dakota State defeated Ball State University
This is important to me as an Iowa State University Cyclones (Division I-A) fan because I have consistently called for the Cyclones to play some bigger name Division I-A football teams versus the Division I-AA teams they have played to fill out their non-conference game schedule. I ask again -- why should the Division I-A Cyclones risk a LOSS to a Division I-AA team like Southern Illinois should they ever play versus having the OPPORTUNITY to defeat a major Division I-A team such as the University of Southern California? It is far better for the Cyclones to work their way up the food chain that is college football today – even at the risk of having a few losing seasons – by playing major football programs so our fans, athletic department leadership, and players are inspired to improve the program.
Good luck Bisons,
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Since I am responsive to my readers (both of them!!!) let me lighten things up here by starting this posting with a joke/urban legend I heard over dinner tonight:
"While visiting London US President Bill Clinton was riding in a horse drawn carriage with Queen Elizabeth II when out of nowhere there was strong evidence of horse flatulence which prompted the Queen to say, 'oh! excuse me' to which President Clinton replied, 'oh, I thought it was one of the horses............................' "
Now for something completely different :-)
My teenage years in Northwest Iowa are filled with fond memories of my parents taking my brother and I to see the Sioux City Musketeers junior hockey team play in the old civic auditorium. For me it was always about the athletic competition but for many hockey fans an essential part of the game is the fighting that occurs between players. Hockey is unique in this regard since I have rarely witnessed such institutional violence during poker tournaments or on the PGA tour. I am a purist when it comes to sports -- if brawling between players is not in the hockey rule book then I want to see any players who fight ejected and prosecuted by the local authorities in order to preserve the rule of law and the preservation of athletic competition.
Yet another childhood memory I was reminded of this week is the traditional post-game hand shake conducted by all the players that we would do after all of the games I ever played in -- football, basketball, baseball -- track and field was a different culture in terms of sportsmanship since it was displayed throughout the track meets as we congratulated each other following each event due to the fraternal nature of the sport.
So what is the state of sportsmanship today? I feel like a nostalgic old man talking about "in my day we walked to school barefoot in snow drifts, up hill both ways........................." but I do believe it is true -- sportsmanship has declined dramatically since I hung up my cleats. Two college football games played this past weekend convinced me this statement is true today. First there was the major flight that occurred during the University of Miami and Florida International University football game on Saturday night. Now given their historic reputation as “thugs” (a former player stated this on ESPN yesterday) I am not surprised by Miami’s lack of sportsmanship but it was another football game on Saturday which really concerned me. This other game was between Dartmouth and Holy Cross (both NCAA Division I-AA schools) which Holy Cross won by 24 to 21 in overtime. At the conclusion of the game the teams lined up for the customary handshakes. But instead of the usual “good game” comments a fight broke out between players due to a celebration by the Holy Cross players.
No, American society is not collapsing all around us but there are some areas of concern we need to address. This lack of sportsmanship might be a product of today’s “intense soccer parents” who stalk the sidelines of the pitch yelling at the child players who are just out for some old fashioned athletic fun.
Let me close this posting by updating you on my two favorite college football teams’ performances this past weekend:
Iowa State University Cyclones -- my alma mater lost to Oklahoma by a score of 34 to 9 so the Clones sit at a current season record of 3 wins and 4 losses. With 5 games remaining in the season the Clones need to go 3 and 2 just to finish with a 6 and 6 record which MIGHT qualify them for a post-season bowl game but at this point I can’t see how this is possible given what I have seen on the field. Homecoming is this weekend which will be very fun as my family enjoys the annual gathering at my fraternity.Bradley University Bulldogs – lost to Drake University (of Iowa) by a score of 29 to 0 so the Dogs fall to an overall season record so far of 2 wins and 5 losses.
Competitors not Convicts please,
Following a four year battle in Chicago that had labor unions and small business owners aligned against politicians and activists working to create jobs on the city's West Side the first Wal-Mart store opened in Chicago on September 27, 2006.
Wal-Mart's store opening came just two weeks after Mayor Richard Daley vetoed the city's "living wage" ordinance which sought to mandate hourly wages of $10 plus another $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010.
Regardless of what anybody's views are when it comes to the concept of living wages the key fact that I want my readers to know is --
"..................15,000 people applied for the 400 jobs at the store; an estimated 98% of workers live in the neighborhood.............." (Source: USA Today, September 28, 2006)
I don't care if these 400 hired workers were paid $5, $8, or even the mandated $10 per hour because the sad reality is that this four (4) year battle before the Chicago City Council HURT the unemployed people in the city by delaying the opening of businesses that are creating jobs in the first place!! When 38 people apply for every 1 job being created it should be clear to government officials that they should simply get out of the way by allowing businesses to build and expand so market forces can drive wages up as businesses compete for a decreasing labor pool.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Regular readers of my blog know that I love to do restaurant reviews utilizing a five-point scale with a "1" being, "I would not eat here again even if you paid for it............" to a "5" being, "I wish I had an apartment/condo above this restaurant so I could eat here more often........"
With that as background I wanted to share an initial list of the "Great Venues" for eating, drinking, or just socializing that really stand out for me after several years of travel along with some reasons why these establishments qualify as "Great Venues":
- "Ernesto's on Cozumel Island (Mexico) -- the Ernesto's near South Hotel Zone not the downtown one. A thatched roof, no walls to allow the Caribbean breeze to join you at the table, and great fajitas so what else do you need??!!! Really this is THE venue for post-scuba diving story telling and they serve an excellent "divers' breakfast" to get your day started.
- "Pink Flamingo" in Key Largo (Florida) -- located across the parking lot from Captain Slate's Dive Shop. They serve great conch chowder and one day I witnessed a fisherman bring a fish in which the chef cleaned and cooked for him. Now that is customer service!!
- "Elements" in Phoenix (Arizona) -- still the only "5" rating I have issued. I hope to return to this restaurant in December if scheduling allows.
- "Mickey's Diner" in downtown St. Paul (Minnesota) -- buckwheat pancakes and surly waitresses make for a great combination. A bit of a greasy spoon so don't overdress!!
- "Taco House" in Okoboji (Iowa) -- be sure to try their brown sauce on a soft shell taco. I love the place but not the long lines but that is the price for enjoying their successful menu.
- "Miro's Bistro" in San Jose (Costa Rica) -- near "La Luz Restaurant" assuming both places are still open. Costa Rica does not use USA-style street addresses opting instead for directions/land markers mentioned in meters away from each other. Great pasta dishes and the "bomba" after dinner drink is powerful. Miro's is known as a "Croatian-Italian" restaurant but I just call it "damn good."
- "Arthur's Cafe" in Brussels (Belgium) -- I love the woodwork and their range of food. This is a relaxing oasis in hectic Brussels.
- "Mad Dog Cafe" in Virgin Gorda (British Virgin Islands) -- large, open windows that allow the Caribbean breeze to dine at the table with you. They have a limited sandwich menu but their location is top knotch and it is a completely relaxed atmosphere.
- "Casey's Coffee in Washington DC" -- a low key venue that is the polar opposite of StarBucks. Casey's has a nice range of unique sandwiches and a very friendly staff.
I plan to add to this list in a future posting as my recollections of past travels resurfaces.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
The people have spoken!! Today's newspaper reports that the "Air America Radio" network has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Air America was founded by the big government is good, left wing crowd to counter the dominance the right wing has established over the talk radio world. A Minnesota angle to this story is that "comedian and native Minnesotan" (quoting the Associated Press here) Al Franken is owed $360,750 by Air America for his radio show work.
The one bright side here is that hopefully the left wingers behind Air America got an education on how free market economics works -- they wrote a business plan, provided a product, and realized consumers did not want to "buy" what they were offering thus Air America is now bankrupt. Ah, the beauty of the market!!
Perhaps it is the cynic in me but I fear a Congressional bailout of Air America should the Democrats take control of the US Congress after the November 7th elections!! :-)
Update your resumes,
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Well if the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on 9-11 wanted to ensure there is more body odor in the world they have won!!!
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week I had to complete an overnight business trip to Connecticut thus I brought only one piece of luggage -- a combination lap top/overnight bag -- packed with my bare essentials. As I approached the security check point in Minneapolis I fully complied with the "no liquids" commands coming from the T.S.A. (Thousands Standing Around as my buddy Chuck Muth, www.chuckmuth.com, calls them!!) person by placing my mini-tube of toothpaste and spray deodorant in the plastic bag so I could "declare" these goods.
Granted since my deodorant was a 4 ounce can I was pushing my luck since TSA regulations (current ones that is) that only 3 ounces or less are allowed. But the personal hygiene gods were watching over me as security allowed me to take these items with me to Connecticut in my carry on luggage. However, as I approached the security checkpoint at JFK Airport in New York City to return to Minneapolis the TSA person at the entrance forced me to dispose of my 4 ounce can of deodorant -- clearly that "one extra ounce" was going to jeopardize the USA -- but the mini-tube of tooth paste was approved!!! As a freedom lover I protested this TSA directive by leaving my toothpaste on the conveyor belt since I assume TSA people are at least qualified to pick up garbage!!! Yes, a small victory for freedom :-)
It is an amazing world where an entirely new federal department -- Department of Homeland Security -- is created only to have citizens reduced to herded sheep reading their product labels and taking off their shoes all in the name of security. Speaking of security -- I was reminded of a flight I took to Washington DC about two weeks ago where I had a VERY obese woman in front of me at the security check point who was TOO LARGE to walk through the new "air jet" body scanners used at some security gates so she was told to walk ("waddle") around this new, expensive machine. Fortunately I was able to get past her before TSA conducted the full body search!!!
Enjoy your travels,
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a technical problem with Blogger this morning I thought my original posting "Olympics Protest" was lost so I created this second version which includes alternative news sources.
Olympics Protest -- 1968
In 1968 I was only 3 years old so I do not remember the civil rights/racial discrimination statement made by two African-American/black athletes at the Mexico City Olympics but the image of their protest is etched in my memory.
I was reminded of this event last week when I read the news of Peter Norman’s death at age 64. Mr. Norman had won the silver medal in the 200 meter dash at the 1968 Olympics so he stood on the medals with these two black athletes. Here is how BBC News described this event:
“Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists in the 200m, stood with their heads bowed and a black-gloved hand raised as the American National Anthem played during the victory ceremony. The pair both wore black socks and no shoes and Smith wore a black scarf around his neck. They were demonstrating against continuing racial discrimination of black people in the United States. “ (Source: BBC News)
The back story here is that Peter Norman (a white man from Australia) wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights campaign pin to show his solidarity with Smith and Carlos. While I applaud the statement made by Smith, Carlos, and Norman -- and am ashamed of my home country’s history of slavery and Jim Crow laws -- there is an underlying story here that I have not seen any journalists mention. This underlying story is the racial discrimination and near extermination by the British Empire of the aborigines in Mr. Norman’s home country of Australia:
“Australian Aborigines were almost exterminated by the English colonizers. Today, they represent only 1% of the Australian population, roughly estimated at around 200,000 people. When Captain Cook arrived in 1770, there were about 300,000 of them. The Aborigines inhabited Australia for at least 25,000 years. By 1965, the population of "Pure Aboriginals" was little more than 40,000 people. They were literally massacred by the colonizers and expelled from their land, especially from productive land.”
Again I applaud and thank Mr. Norman for his silent support of civil rights in the USA but hopefully he did something to highlight his country’s own tragic history of civil rights during his lifetime.
Free your mind,
In 1968 I was only 3 years old so I do not remember the civil rights/racial discrimination statement made by two African-American/black athletes at the Mexico City Olympics but the image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the winners' podiums is etched in my memory. To highlight the USA's racial problems Smith and Carlos stood on the podium (at the gold and bronze medal levels) with bowed heads and black leather gloves on one hand each raised in a Black Power salute.
But who was the white guy standing on the silver medal level?
Peter Norman of Australia won the silver medal for the 200 meters sprint. Mr. Norman died last week at age 64 prompting newspapers to comment on the 1968 Olympics protest. The back story on Mr. Norman - that I had no awareness of until I read this article about his death - is that he "wore a human rights badge on his shirt in support of the two Americans and their statement against racial discrimination in the USA" (source: USA Today).
To be clear I am ashamed of my country's slavery past and our struggle with civil rights and while I congratulate Mr. Norman posthumously I can't help but highlight Mr. Norman's own country's dark and troubled history regarding the tragic treatment of aborigines in Australia whom were nearly exterminated by English colonizers:
Perhaps I missed it but it would have been great to have seen a similar protest on the medals podium at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to highlight the plight of the aborigines. The USA does not hold a monopoly over the world in terms of treating minorities poorly so let the record be clear that all nations need to examine their own histories.
Free your mind,
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Yesterday I watched Meredith Vieira -- co-anchor of the "Today Show"(NBC) -- interview billionaire Don Trump regarding his new book designed to help people build real wealth. Mr. Trump expressed his concern that America is producing two classes of people -- the rich and the poor while the middle class is disappearing.
After hearing one specific comment by Ms. Vieira I forgot about the rest of the interview since she clearly displayed her biased world view when she said (paraphrasing here):
"......now Mr. Trump, if people use your advice in this book to build wealth for themselves then that means less wealth for you........................"
Ms. Vieira clearly displayed she has a Malthusian view of the world -- meaning she is in the school of thought that the economy is a static pie that we all must fight over to get our "slice of the pie" . That is a negative, small-minded, doomsday scenario she has but perhaps an even greater concern was that I did not hear Mr. Trump challenge Ms. Vieira's thinking.
While Ms. Vieira describes her political views as being "in the middle" (http://newsbusters.org/node/5364) she clearly needs to expand her reading list to include some positive, growth is good for everyone economists such as Julian Simon. Ms. Vieira needs to quit thinking we live in a world like the one created in the film, "Logan's Run", where the population is controlled via "renewal" (public execution in reality) at age 30 due to society having limited resources.
As the Sandman learned in Logan's Run the "surface world" is not a wasteland but a land of opportunity -- so too does Ms. Vieira need to escape from her class warfare thinking. Here is a suggested reading list for her to consider since I know she is a regular reader of my blog :-)
"Bound to Lead" by Joseph Nye (also great for anyone thinking the USA is declining)
Economic growth is good and helps all classes of people and since taxes and regulation stymie growth then it is clear that government is a contributing factor to the poverty of nations.
Who wants to be a millionaire?
Monday, October 09, 2006
Upon my return from a conference in Milwaukee Saturday morning the rest of the weekend was dominated by watching football games in Iowa and Minnesota:
- Iowa State University -- I drove to Ames, Iowa to watch my Cyclones play the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. The old joke goes, "what does the 'N' on Nebraska's helmets stand for? Punch line -- 'Nowledge' !!!!!" But on Saturday the 'N' stood for "No offense" from the Cyclones since they lost by 28 to 14. It was an uneventful game which clearly showed the Cyclones are not ready for prime time this year given their clear lack of urgency on the field. The team needs to develop some "killer instinct" like an old coach used to teach us. The Cyclones' record is now at 3 and 3 so the chances of playing in a post-season bowl game are fading.
- Minnesota Vikings -- After a late night return from Ames, Iowa I then went to the Vikings vs. Detroit Lions game with my fiancee which was held at the Metrodome in Minneapolis . The Vikings won the game via a late game offensive flourish with the final score being 26 to 17 over the basement-dwelling Lions. I don't see any way the Vikings can make it to the Super Bowl this season given this lackluster performance against a poor team. Skol Vikings honor your name!!!
Although I did not see them play in person here is my report on my underdog favorite team (according to the Sagarin power ratings) -- the Butler University Bulldogs -- which lost to the University of San Diego by a score of 56 to 3 leaving them with a season record so far of 2 wins and 4 losses. http://butlersports.cstv.com/
Saturday, October 07, 2006
While reading the sports page today I noticed a short article that noted the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs exercised their option to continue their training camps at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls for the 17th consecutive season during the summer of 2007. The General Manager of the Chiefs, Carl Peterson, loves the River Falls location for several reasons:
-the summer weather is better in Wisconsin than in Missouri
-the River Falls stadium has undergone $2.4 million in recent renovations
-the River Falls location is a short drive to Mankato, Minnesota where the Minnesota Vikings host their training camp thus allowing the Chiefs and Vikings to scrimmage each other
Now as a former Chiefs season ticket holder, current Vikings fan, and a loyal alum of Iowa State University (ISU) let me call on ISU's, www.cyclones.com, athletic department to pursue the Chiefs training camp for summer 2008 for the following reasons:
- Ames, Iowa (home of ISU) is an ideal college town like River Falls
- Ames is located nearer to Kansas City than River Falls thus allowing Chiefs' fans better access to training camp
- Ames, Iowa is a short drive from Mankato, Minnesota so the Chiefs and Vikings could continue their scrimmage games
- ISU has launched a capital campaign to improve Jack Trice Stadium so this project should be highlighted for the Chiefs.
- The State of Iowa does not have any major league sports teams having lost its only near-major team -- the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League -- several years ago.
The Chiefs' contact details are provided below so my fellow alums and the ISU athletic department can launch the campaign to recruit the Chiefs to the "Corn League" since watching football is better than walking beans :)
Kansas City Chiefs
One Arrowhead Drive
Kansas City, MO 64129
Go (to Ames) Chiefs!!
Friday, October 06, 2006
The Congressman Mark Foley scandal in the US House of Representatives has dominated media outlets most of this week for various reasons including -- Foley's alcoholism, House Pages being pursued sexually, and arguments between Republican leaders regarding who knew what when.
I have to admit that I shed a few tears of joy in November 1994 when the Republicans finally won control of the US House after nearly 50 years -- 50 years!!! -- of Democratic Party control. I distinctly remember Congressman Jim Nussle (Republican of Iowa) being quoted months later as he worked on the transition to Republican control as saying, "........we are discovering offices we never knew existed..........." Of course, if you are in power for 50 years like the Democrats were why bother letting the minority party use "your House".
Another moment in US House history that I remember well is the combined House Bank/House Post Office financial scandal during the 1991 to 1994 timeframe. These now defunct functions of the US House essentially provided supplemental income for House Members via a slush fund whereby postage stamps allocated to House Members' offices could be "exchanged" for cold, hard cash which Members could simply pocket and walk away -- perhaps to buy Senator Ted Kennedy a drink!!
So it was the House Bank/House Post Office -- http://politicalresources.com/members_misbehaving.htm - that put the final nails in the Democratic coffin which led to their loss of power in the 1994 elections after nearly 50 years of essentially total power over the chamber's business. So now we are 12 years into Republican control of the US House and I see essentially no way the Republicans will retain control of the House for another 2 years since the "wink and look the other way culture" of the Bank/Post Office years have apparently returned in the form of "go ahead and flirt with the underage pages Mark since a gay drunk is entertaining". There is nothing like homophobia to keep such actions buried in the House Closet.
Speaker Hastert might survive this Foley scandal but I fear the Democrats will get all of their office space returned in January 2007.
30 days until Election Day,
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
During lunch today I had the pleasure of attending the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs' Distinguished Carlson Lecture at the University of Minnesota via a ticket supplied by my racquetball buddy Tom A. -- may his recovery from knee surgery go well!!
Today's guest lecturer was General Colin Powell the former US Secretary of State whose speech theme was -- "Leadership: Taking Charge". Overall it is clear General Powell is a very accomplished public speaker. I saw him speak earlier this year at a conference in Austin, Texas and he shined again today before a completely filled auditorium.
Ah, "leadership", is always a key topic debated in society. I have graduated from four (4) different leadership development programs with the most recent one being "Leadership Minnesota" which is hosted by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce - www.mnchamber.com
Several of our local city councils/mayors are proud of their "leadership" whereby they forced restaurant and bar owners to forbid people from smoking in their privately owned businesses. This city council activity precedes a new issue brought to my attention in the October 2, 2006 Pioneer Press newspaper article (www.twincities.com) "Taxi Light will mean 'no alcohol' ". This article focused on the hundreds of devout Muslim taxi drivers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport area who refuse to transport passengers in their taxi if these potential passengers are traveling with bottles of alcohol since their religious practice forbids such exposure to/promotion of alcohol use.
No I am NOT a Muslim-basher at all despite my Christian heritage but I a lover of free enterprise and private property rights so I have to wonder where our society is going when a restaurant/bar owner can't allow people to smoke tobacco in their private establishments due to government puritans BUT cab drivers who do or do NOT own their taxi cabs can dictate who can ride in their vehicles based on their possession of alcohol.
Both Muslim cab drivers/operators and bar/restaurants owners should retain equal rights to run their businesses by serving whatever patrons they want to serve without the presence of big government regulators pursuing their own agendas.
Freedom is good for all entrepreneurs,
Monday, October 02, 2006
Recent economic research (September 29, 2006) completed by American City Business Journals (www.amcity.com) reveals the following rankings for labor markets in the USA:
TOP LABOR MARKETS -- in terms of job growth
1. Cape Coral-Fort Meyers, Florida
2. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nevada
3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona
32. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota -- my home area
BOTTOM LABOR MARKETS -- in terms of job growth
98. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
99. Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Michigan
100. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, Louisiana
My obvious first observation of these rankings is that my home state of Minnesota is stagnant in terms of economic growth -- note to state Senator Larry Pogemiller: your idea for creating a new income tax bracket to ensure Minnesota has the highest individual income tax rate in the USA will NOT help us generate jobs. Look to Florida my dear public servant -- the Minnesota Twins' spring training is held in Fort Meyers which not only is sunny but they have ZERO state income taxes so prepare for more Minnesota snow birds to simply become Floridians. Note the "Other Taxes" section here -- http://www.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/new.html
Now at the other end of the scale -- the worst performers -- we can excuse New Orleans of course since the area was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. But what can be said of Detroit, Michigan's #99 ranking out of 100 areas in this survey? Unfortunately Detroit was hit by its own natural disaster which as a political scientist would call a "Big Government-Big Labor complex" (BG-BL). President Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower warned us of the growth of the military-industrial complex but that complex would be a blessing for the Detroit area since laid off auto workers could then build military weapons versus continuing as a victim of the BG-BL complex which has driven this community into the ground by failing to prepare workers for a competitive, global economy.
Assuming any Detroit K-12 students can read I would encourage them to start reading the work of my free market think tank friends at:
Next time I go for Spring Training I will have to check out the condos in Fort Meyers.
Growth not Government,
Today's shooting in a one room school house in an Amish community in Pennsylvania really made me think about options to protect children:
Question -- how many "school shootings" have readers ever heard of occurring in families where home schooling is practiced? I searched Google several different ways but could not find such a story. There seems to be an overwhelming tendency that school shootings happen in public schools based on my completely unscientific review of news clips but perhaps I can call on my friends in the school reform movement to explore this theory?
A further observation ("generalization" is perhaps a better term) I would offer is that the home schooling community tends to live in "Red State America" -- the conservative portions of the USA if you aren't aware of this term -- and of course Red State America tends to be the most vocal supporters of the "right to keep and bear arms"/Second Amendment. This is an interesting paradox isn't it -- households that most likely own guns and home school their children at the same time yet we don't see reports of these students shooting their classmates or teachers (family members that is).