Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Prison Industries

Perhaps it is the magic itself when you visit Disney World that inspires ideas like this one but while touring the butterfly garden at Epcot Center today in Orlando, Florida my mind wandered to thinking about our prisoner population. Prisoners were on my mind I guess because today's USA Today - which I read on the bus to Epcot - had a "Snapshot" graph that noted nearly 18% of the USA's prison population earn their GED (high school equivalent certification) while serving time.

The idea -- why doesn't the USA's prison industries system (which historically has made furniture, clothing, etc.) add butterfly farms to their operations? Yes butterfly farms. I toured a butterfly farm for the first time in 1997 as a student in Costa Rica. As it turns out the life expectancy of most butterflies is about 30 days so various institutions like science museums, zoos, etc. need a constant supply of butterflies which creates the demand. Here are several reasons I thought adding butterfly farms to the prison industries program would be a good idea:

  • Such a profession would help pacify prisoners -- if you don't believe it just take a tour of such a farm and talk to the workers
  • Butterfly farms require very little in terms of tools like building furniture does thus reducing the chance that prisoners will steal equipment or build their own weapons
  • Having more butterflies is good for the world's environment since they play an important role in the pollination of plants
  • Ideally it would help some prisoners develop a better sense of the value and balance of life in the world

Call me crazy if you want but with prison populations and expenses constantly increasing in the USA it is time to debate some creative ideas such as this one.

Sheriff Todd

Monday, May 28, 2007

Land of the Midnight Football

What a great, inter-connected world it is when I can be on vacation in Florida this week reading about a high school football team in Barrow, Alaska. Barrow High School's football team story was featured on ESPN which was watched by Cathy Parker - wife of a high school football coach in Jacksonville, Florida.

The story goes that in an effort to keep the boys of Barrow away from drugs, alcohol, and crime the local school district created a football team. This decision was opposed by many who thought the money would be better spent on teacher salaries. Now that the team has been created they need a decent field to play on so that is where Cathy Parker enters the story. She has launched, Project Alaska Turf, (, which is focused on raising the funds needed to build the field. Online donations are accepted on their website or you can send a check to:

Project Alaska
P.O. Box 600157
Jacksonville, Florida 32260-0157
+1 904.819.8341

I plan to donate myself to help the cause (although I told this project they should add team merchandise for sale to help raise additional funds) -- not only because I love football but because this is a great example of how rural communities like Barrow can benefit from private initiative versus government programs.

Good luck Whalers,


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

Students of American history are no doubt aware of the appalling conditions that General George Washington's soldiers fought under -- including the fact that many of them did not even have boots during the winter all because the Continental Congress did not allocate the necessary funds goes the story our teachers told us. Now over 200 years later the current federal government is essentially doing the same thing due to a standoff between the White House and the US House of Representatives regarding salary increases for military personnel.

David Broder notes in his May 27th column ("Hardly the time to be stingy over a half-percent raise for soldiers") that the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) wants to give our military 3% raises while the US House wants to give them a 3.5% raise. Some critics note this is just a bidding war by the Republican and Democratic Parties to win the affinity of the military vote.

Now Mr. Broder is a brilliant writer but let me offer a twist on this pay raise debate. Instead of offering nickels and dimes as salary increases ( just a $200 annual bump for a corporal Representative Carol Shea-Porter reports) let's give our men and women in uniform a substantial pay raise simply by making their salaries exempt from federal incomes taxes (I believe in states' rights so they should retain the right to tax military salaries but what governor wants that on their record??). What -- you think this idea is crazy and discriminatory? Let me ask who better deserves a tax exempt salary -- the men and women who defend Americans' liberties or unaccountable bureaucrats like the employees of the World Bank who receive tax free salaries as documented in this report from the respected Cato Institute --

"The World Bank pays high, tax-free salaries. World Bank president Barber Conable earns $154,000 a year; the 15 vice presidents earn, on average, $123,000; and the 58 directors earn, on average, $105,000. The World Bank's top 74 officials thus enjoy salaries averaging $120,000. Just below the top levels are hundreds of "technical advisers," who earn between $80,000 and $105,000. Again, all salaries are tax-free."

So as you fire up the grill or take a ride in your motor boat this Memorial Day Weekend take just 5 minutes to thank those who have given their lives serving in the US military and a word of thanks to those serving in uniform today. Let's keep our soldiers, sailors, and airmen off food stamps via some substantial tax reform by exempting them from the federal income tax.

We owe them this over due thank you.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

One More Museum

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" – Mark Twain
English High School in Boston, Massachusetts and St. Agnes High School in St. Paul, Minnesota are two very different schools. English was founded in 1821 as the first public high school in the USA. St. Agnes is a Catholic high school founded in 1938.
But the differences go well beyond the years they were founded. Today English is one of the worst performing schools in Massachusetts according to a recent Associated Press (AP) article. However instead of closing the school as the private sector would close a poorly performing factory the State of Massachusetts is moving to salvage English. School Superintendent Michael Contompasis is quoted saying, "I would have closed English if it wasn't English," meaning that due to this school's significance as the first public school it remains open despite its terrible performance. So taxpayers will be forced (even longer) to go on supporting this failing institution. St. Agnes on the other hand, is a private school that simply had financial challenges but after the school held a fundraising event and two major donors contributed money they raised a total of $3.3 million in PRIVATE NOT GOVERNMENT donations!!
No where in the AP article did I see anyone mentioned who WILLINGLY wrote a check to keep English High School operating -- instead it will survive via forced donations which are better known as tax dollars. When the public is allowed to "vote" with their own money they (in this case anyway) they support something like St. Agnes which they have a strong affinity for versus a failing public school. Instead of "saving" English we should convert it into a museum that would symbolize a past chapter in American history.
Taxpayers, students, and teachers are not well served by keeping English High School operating as a school today.

Friday, May 25, 2007


On May 25, 1977 I wasn't even eleven years old but I knew that I wanted to be a Jedi Knight when I graduated from college ;-) This date of course (today) marks the 30th anniversary of the first Star Wars film by George Lucas. The impact of the Star Wars films (the original ones that people like me grew up with -- episodes 4,5, and 6 in the 9 part series) was amazing. Even thirty years later I must admit I get a chill when I here the theme music play!!

Of course the "good guys" of Star Wars were the Jedi Knights -- those who felt the "Force" and knew how to use it. While living in London, United Kingdom in 2003 I read an article reading a population census that was conducted in the United Kingdom. For the question that asked residents, "what is your religion?", something like 4% of the population cited, "Jedi Knight", so truly this film had a global impact.

Sadly, my fond childhood memories were shattered today while I was purchasing my supply of "Forever Stamps" at my local US Post Office. Right there in the lobby staring at me was a cardboard cut out featuring the main Star Wars characters with the caption, "May the Stamps be With You!!!"

How sad that my childhood heroes (and my first crush - Princess Leia!!) are now involved in a co-marketing agreement with the US Post Office which like the Empire that the Jedi fought is an evil monopoly that should be replaced with freedom and personal liberty.
May the Force bring us Competition,

The Great American Pastime

Having heard perhaps the ultimate baseball fan (and conservative columnist/author) speak at a dinner event last week in St. Paul, Minnesota - George Will - this baseball story that I heard on Fox News today really struck me.

Not only is the sacred American pastime -- baseball -- under attack but the very concept of personal responsibility itself due to people like Jean Gonzales in Staten Island, New York. Being the OVER protective mother (or gold digger) that she is Ms. Gonzalez has filed a lawsuit against a little league baseball coach because her son, Martin (then age 12), was injured THREE YEARS AGO after he slid into second base during a baseball game. Ms. Gonzalez' lawsuit claims the coach had not properly taught Martin to slide.

Of course such a lawsuit should be thrown out of the court system the same day that it was filed if you ask me but this is the United States of Attorneys afterall so such rational thinking is not going to happen. Here are some thoughts and questions for Ms. Gonzalez to address and my readers to ponder:

  • Why the three year delay Ms. Gonzalez? Did you miss a few mortgage payments so you need cash?
  • What exactly happened to Martin due to the sliding which is merely described by media accounts as -- "serious bodily injury that required multiple surgeries and caused "permanent scarring and disability" ?
  • Is Martin playing any sports today?
  • If Ms. Gonzalez has such an extensive understanding of proper baseball coaching techniques why didn't she simply coach Martin on how to slide at their family home or in the local park?
  • How has Martin been treated by his fellow classmates/team mates after they heard about this lawsuit?
  • Didn't any other players on Martin's team help develop his sliding skills? Personally I learned how to slide (although never as good as he did) from my home town friend, Daron Salmon, who definitely had better technique than any coach I had in my 8 or 9 years of playing baseball.
  • If anyone out there thinks there IS a role for government with Ms. Gonzalez' complaint perhaps one option that should be considered is calling on the New York State Office of Children and Family Services ( to remove Martin from Ms. Gonzalez' custody. Why such an extreme measure? -- simply because Ms. Gonzalez has failed to teach her own child, Martin, to take personal responsibility for his life choices (like deciding to play baseball).
  • If Martin needed additional coaching why didn't the concerned mother, Ms. Gonzalez, spend a little extra money by sending Martin to a baseball sports camp to develop his skills? Assuming this lawsuit is successful I can see the New York Legislature allocating "baseball skills camp" grants to help the needy.

This is a sad day for baseball, personal liberty, and the American legal system. Whatever happened to the old sports phrase -- "walk it off" -- regarding injuries? If Martin's injuries are more serious than some raspberries and maybe a broken foot then he has my sympathy and my willingness to help pay for medical bills but please Martin - convince your mother to drop this lawsuit since the injury to your dignity will be far worse than a few scraps and burns.

Good luck in your future life as an adult Martin Gonzalez since you will surely need it since you are a victim of mother hen parenting.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Family Doctors

Perhaps the TV program from my youth - Marcus Welby, M.D. - instilled in me an admiration for the profession of "family doctor" since Dr. Welby was probably the nicest gentleman on TV at the time. Whatever the cause a recent decision by one of my alma mater's , the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota not the Virgin Islands!!), to partner with Allina Hospitals and Clinics.

Allina and St. Thomas are considering converting the soon to be closed Ford Assembly Plant in St. Paul, Minnesota into a medical school to be focused on training "primary care physicians" (family doctors). Now this is a very interesting economic development idea whereby industrial society assets are converted into service economy resources.

When I first read about this "factory to medical school" proposal I immediately thought:

  • This makes a lot of sense because our population is aging dramatically and we are placing a higher value of good health/long life with each generation (okay, beyond our battle with obesity of course).
  • Why did the federal government provide government-backed loans to Chrysler Corporation in the 1980's (one of the few Ronald Reagan policies I disagreed with)?
  • Today General Motors spends more on health care costs than it spends on steel to produce its automobiles which supports the old joke that, "GM is an insurance company that makes cars as a hobby..........."

If my big government friends don't believe it yet PLEASE think this over -- our quality of life is improved with each generation by the "destructive creativity" that drives our free (partially free to be exact) market economic system. Thus tangible assets like a factory that builds automobiles is converted (potentially) into a medical school because society needs more doctors not automobiles that no one wants to buy anymore (like the Ford Ranger -- which is the only model built at the St. Paul plant).

Progress with some pain,



" The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time"
Ayn Rand
While reading a movie review of "Amazing Grace" in The Week magazine I also read their related story regarding the history of slavery beyond the United Kingdom. To put an evil institution like legalized slavery into perspective we need to be aware of the time line related to the abolition of slavery:
1807 - the slave trade was abolished in the United Kingdom
1833 - slavery (not slave trading) was abolished in the British colonies but replaced with Indian "indentured labor" (just another form of slavery if you ask me)
1848 - France abolished slavery
1865 - the USA abolished slavery
1886 - Cuba (a Spanish colony at the time) abolished slavery
1888 - Brazil abolished slavery
1962 - Saudi Arabia abolished slavery
So it has only been 45 years since Saudi Arabia abolished slavery -- the parallels to the the Old South in the USA are interesting. Like the Old South Saudi Arabia is a "one crop economy" - oil instead of tobacco which is not a sustainable model.
For all my readers who feel the USA is a "slave" to countries like Saudi Arabia due to our oil consumption levels I say -- USE MORE OIL -- because the faster we use it up the faster alternative energy sources will be developed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Super Bowl 2030

Clearly American football has evolved into a twelve month game given the constant media coverage beyond the August (pre-season) to February (Super Bowl) time frame. As evidence I will cite today's sports page which reported that the National Football League (NFL) owners recently voted to host the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas at the new $1 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.

This is no surprise since this new stadium will be a showcase plus Cowboys' owner, Jerry Jones, is a major influence within the NFL. The stadium itself will seat 80,000 people but will be expandable to 100,000. I find the planned capacity interesting because at least two college teams -- University of Michigan and Ohio State University -- already have stadiums with capacity OVER 100,000 people. Attending a game at Michigan is on my "life list" so I can experience one of the highlights in American football.

As a service to my readers (both of you!!) here is the upcoming Super Bowl ( schedule:

2008 -- Phoenix (Glendale actually), Arizona
2009 -- Tampa Bay, Florida
2010 -- Miami, Florida
2011 -- Arlington, Texas

Miami holds the NFL record for hosting the most Super Bowls at ten games. Granted the February time frame for the Super Bowl limits the list of potential venues for the NFL to consider due to the winter weather but I am surprised that the NFL has not chosen a California location recently and/or used its leverage to have a domed/retractable roof stadium built in the New York City area.

My personal prediction -- Super Bowl 2030 will be hosted in Havana, Cuba!! By then the Castro brothers will be six feet under leaving Cuba to become a commonwealth or even a state of the USA. Given the economic and political power of the Cuban-American community in Miami such a scenario is not impossible.

Enjoy the game,


Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Since my Boy Scouts days one of my dream careers has been that of newspaper publisher/editor so when I read today's newspaper I had to wonder if the editor fully intended to place these two articles next to each other? Here are the headlines for you to ponder:

"Broken Wrist Costs County $450,000"


"Police Decide to Delay 20 hires to save money"

In the first article US District Judge John Tunheim ( approved the attorney fees, costs, and damage awards totaling US$450,000 in a case against a Ramsey County (Minnesota) Sheriff's Deputy. Apparently during an arrest at a bingo hall the deputy broke Deborah King's wrist while arresting her daughter on a theft charge.

Ms. King was awarded US$129,500 while her trial attorneys/ambulance chasers were awarded US$317,000 for their "work".

In the second article the City of Minneapolis (located in Hennepin County which borders Ramsey County) announced that they would delay a plan to hire and train 20 more police officers until 2008 since this year's budget will be US$5.6 million OVER budget.

Since law enforcement budgets consist of a mix of local, state, and federal tax dollars it is not a stretch of logic to state that the excessive trial lawyer fees (billed at $500 per hour) approved by Judge Tunheim have come full circle to hurt the Twin Cities law enforcement infrastructure since the $317,000 awarded in Ramsey County are clearly needed to hire the 20 officers needed in "Murderapolis" (Minneapolis).

An interesting footnote to all of this drama is the fact that Judge Tunheim was appointed by US President Bill "let's put 100,000 cops on the street" Clinton in 1995 --

How Clinton's plan to field 100,000 new police turned into a pork barrel as usual.By Steve Chapman Posted Monday, Nov. 12, 2001, at 3:38 PM ET

Even if Judge Tunheim only approved the fees at this excessive level for only ONE case per year in his 12 years on the bench his total amount awarded to trial lawyers would be -- $3.8 million!!! Clearly the trial lawyers are better paid than the cops in Minnesota.

If we truly had a free market in the USA trial lawyers would not achieve such salary levels.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Sense of Place

This past weekend I attended the annual meeting of the Iowa State University Alumni Association ( . This meeting was held to install the incoming officers and board members of the association. As I Life Member of the association I have demonstrated not only my support of their mission but perhaps also the nostalgia I have for my college years. Having spent some time back on campus this weekend I can easily see why numerous college towns around the USA are booming retirement communities.

It is the sense of "place" that drives all successful alumni associations. While I listened to the meeting's proceedings I reflected on the "alumni" concept itself especially having recently worked in Europe for three years where the "college alumni loyalty" concept is essentially unknown -- at least in the United Kingdom and Belgium where I worked. The world of alumni fundraising for universities is essentially non-existent in Europe primarily because "education is free" is my theory. I saw this first hand when the British Parliament tried to implement "university top up fees" that would have required students to pay a much larger portion of the cost of their university education.

To me the parallel to this situation is your first automobile -- if you pay for the car yourself you treat it much better than if a relative gives you a car as a gift. So it goes with a college education -- if you have to take out loans, pursue scholarships, and work a part-time job (such as my factory experience) to pay for your education then you clearly value your time on campus more than the classmate who simply has his parents write checks for everything.

It was great to be back on campus which helped re-charge my interest in volunteer opportunities. I hope my readers join their alumni association today if they aren't members -- universities are key to our continued economic success and future students need your support.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dinner Guests

During this past week I attended the annual dinner of the Center of the American Experiment (CAE) in St. Paul, Minnesota ( CAE is a free market/conservative think tank so clearly I was at home at this event but what I should have done was invite a few friends and family members who need some exposure to free market thinking to encourage them to think in terms of how and why government should be reduced.

How might this have been accomplished?

Simply by having my guests attend with an open mind willing to hear what the speaker had to say about the state of the USA today. This speaker was the very accomplished -- George Will -- known for his love of baseball and very articulate columns. Yes Mr. Will is a conservative who stated during his dinner speech -- "the last president I agreed with was Calvin Coolidge.................." (1923-1929) -- but he is no partisan or mouthpiece for any political party or special interest group. Mr. Will is a well educated, deep thinker who has a sound understanding of the value of personal freedom, historical progress, and the need for reforming our government.

As I listened to Mr. Will's speech I had a flashback to my 4th grade teacher who hosted a debate club for my class. Her advice to me at the time as she assessed my debate technique was -- "emotions don't win debates, facts do............." -- how true those words sounded over 30 years later as I heard Mr. Will's emotion-free speech which combined wit, humor, historical perspective, and personal examples to articulate the need for reducing the role of government in our lives.

Since I did not have the foresight to invite a few dinner guests I will no focus on securing a videotape of Mr. Will's speech so I can spread the gospel of freedom.

Silent Cal would have been proud of Mr. Will's speech.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Public Service

As has become tradition I attended the annual public service awards dinner at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs last night. The institute is located at the University of Minnesota and serves as a monument to the "Happy Warrior" if you ask me ( Since the institute seeks to "advance the COMMON good" I want to see them advocate a flat rate personal income tax but there haven't been too many cold days in Hell that I know of - perhaps due to global warming? :-)

Former US Senator/Ambassador John Danforth was the keynote speaker -- not only is he an eloquent speaker but he is very personable as evidenced by the one to one conversation we had when he walked by my table. Not only did I have fun talking with him but I got a free copy of his book so watch for my traditional end of the year review of books I read this year -- always posted in the December 31st time frame.

Perhaps the most telling moment of the evening was when the master of ceremonies asked anyone in the audience (of over 300 people) who is currently serving in the military or has a family member serving today to "please stand to be recognized." At this point there were probably six (6) people standing in the entire room!! That is pretty amazing as my fellow table guest noted upon seeing so few people standing -- "........that is because it is a room filled with elites and our military is dominated by personnel from lower income families........." to which I asked, "so should we bring back the military draft to ensure all segments of American society bear the burden of military service.......?"

Personally I would rather see two policies adopted in tandem with each other instead of a military draft:

1.) The elimination of the federal personal income tax, and
2.) The creation of a "war tax" (a flat percentage of income) to solely fund our defense operations

Such a coordinated public policy change would provide -- greater personal privacy and greater transparency in government spending. Then if Congress needs more and more money the "war tax" would have to be voted to higher levels -- 15% to 19% to 22% perhaps to fund expanding military operations. So at some point voters would simply say -- "ENOUGH WAR" -- by electing new Members of Congress in the next November elections.

We need more free trade not bigger government.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tyranny of the Majority

"Eat the Rich"
P.J. O'Rourke
Not only is Eat the Rich a very funny book by P.J. O'Rourke it is also a British comedy, a song by Motorhead (not on my iPod!!), and apparently the mindset of the vast majority of my fellow Minnesotans based on this recent newspaper headline -- "Poll: Majority Backs Tax Hike for Wealthy".
This poll which was conducted by Minnesota Public (tax dollars involved so are they biased at all??!!) Radio yielded the following results:
  • 72% of likely voters favor taxing the wealthy at a higher rate to lower property taxes, and
  • 69% favor the same approach to pay for education

Now this is exactly why our Founding Fathers created a government filled with checks and balances that create "institutional gridlock" so that a tyrannical majority can not oppress a minority -- whether that minority is a group of rich people or an ethnic group all should be protected under the Constitution from the whims of a majority driven by a mob rule mentality.

Beyond these Political Science 101 arguments I need to highlight several concerns we should have with these polling numbers:

  • If we "eat the rich" by driving them to retire in income tax free states like Florida (such as retired TCF Bank CEO Bill Cooper) who will be around to pay these higher taxes?
  • Why does a majority of "likely voters" want to stick it to rich people? Don't they share my motivation to create wealth for my family versus advocating more taxes? I don't envy the rich people do you?
  • Instead of increasing personal income taxes why doesn't this "majority of likely voters" call for budget cuts and/or competitive bidding/privatization of government services at the local government level?
  • Education spending already consumers 55% of the State of Minnesota budget so how much should we give the education complex -- 80 or 90% of the state budget? Why don't we attach a dollar amount per student for them to use as consumers so they can select how they want to spend their education budget by choosing which school to attend?

Simply increasing taxes without demanding changes and better performance from government agencies is a formula for totalitarian government as evidenced by the old Soviet joke -- "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

You have been warned ;-)


Sunday, May 13, 2007


"You never know a man until you watch him and his mother together."
Joanna Nasset - Junction City, Oregon (Parade Magazine)

NAFTA -- the North American Free Trade Agreement became law in the USA in 1992 thus creating one of the largest "free trade" (nearly "free" that is since tariffs and other restrictions were to be phased out over several years) areas in the world. This agreement open the markets of Canada, Mexico, and the USA to each others' goods and services thus benefiting customers via lower prices and better products.

Not only do these three countries share this open marketplace they also celebrate the national holiday of "Mothers' Day" - May 10 in Mexico and May 13 in the USA and Canada. Since today is Mothers' Day in the USA I want to give thanks that I have my mother in my life. Her wise counsel, love, and friendship have been a blessing throughout my life.

As an aspiring historian I can't help but focus on the deliberations of the Founding Fathers of the USA as they crafted the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. To me the phrase "all men are created equal" literally means all "humans" but from 1789 when the Constitution was ratified until 1920 women had to petition and fight for their equal rights in terms of the ability to cast votes. I love the stories from the Western USA where women were elected to serve in public official PRIOR to 1920 -- amazing isn't it that the country did not want women to SELECT public officials but in some states voters chose women to SERVE!!

I hope my readers (yes both of you!!) were able to spend some time with their sister, mother, wife, step mother, foster mother, mother in law , or other significant woman in their life today. We owe so much to those that brought us into this world that officially recognizing them on only one day of the year - Mothers' Day - seems unjust. The few hours I was able to visit with my mother this weekend were precious indeed.

Merci, gracias, and thank you to mothers around the world.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Gasoline Prices and Minimum Wages

In the past I have blogged about the energy policy I think the USA should focus on namely -- USE AS MUCH GASOLINE AS YOUR POSSIBLY CAN. Driving the price per gallon of gasoline to levels like $10 or $15 would provide the market incentives for entrepreneurs to invent and bring to market a range of non-petroleum alternatives -- pricing is everything when it comes to energy.

Do I sound crazy or do I simply understand the first law of economics -- supply and demand -- well enough to save the planet? Ah, our eternal masters - supply and demand - if people demand more of something prices go up accordingly and vice versa. A basic concept that the US Congress does not seem to understand consistently.

As evidence let me highlight the May 8th press conference hosted by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. The photograph I saw in the newspaper story about this press conference showed Speaker/Grandmother Pelosi standing next to a billboard. This billboard depicted gasoline prices in 2001 -- at US$1.47 per gallon which was symbolized with a BLUE gas pump -- and in 2007/today -- at US$3.05 per gallon which was symbolized with a RED gas pump.

Blue and Red? Was this a subliminal message by Speaker Pelosi that "blue state voter world" is good and "red state voter world" is bad since us red state conservatives need to drive Mother Earth-killing SUVs so we have enough room for several shot guns on our gun rack?? If I am wrong then Speaker Pelosi has my apology (and sadly my tax burden) in her hands once she prints this blog posting off for a hard copy ;-)

The other odd thing about Speaker Pelosi's messaging is that she is trying to have the "price of gasoline" issue both ways:

  1. She is blaming "Big Oil" greed and the White House for high gasoline prices which she wants to lower apparently.
  2. She also wants to save Mother Earth from global warming caused by my SUV (and her private jet flights from DC to her San Francisco district -- thus her "carbon footprint" is bigger than mine) so shouldn't Speaker Pelosi be calling for much higher gasoline prices? Perhaps we could mandate that the federal minimum wage should be equal to the price for a gallon of gasoline? That way every time Congress raises the minimum wage the per gallon price of gasoline would match it. Using this model would give us a per gallon gasoline price of $7.25 to match the wage level the House under Speaker Pelosi's leadership approved.

What a great deal for everyone in the USA -- poor people get paid more and Mother Earth is saved from the evils of gasoline. So what do you think Grandma Pelosi?


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bakesales for TSA -- Part II

During my travel home today I got to experience the customer service provided by our Transportation Security Administration (TSA or "Thousands Standing Around" as my buddy Chuck Muth calls them, What an amazing difference -- I left the excellent customer service of my Marriott hotel to the Soviet culture of the TSA.

So what do I have to complain about this time?

Again the security check point I was being processed (have your ever visited a cattle yard?) had three magnetometers in place but only ONE of them was operational so the three lines of passengers had to alternate going through the machine. This of course upset me since we have poured billions of US tax dollars into the Department of Homeland Security only to be treated like cattle. After I finally got through the check point I noticed FOUR TSA "supervisors" huddled around the manager's desk chatting away on non-business issues. As I walked past these civil "servants" I noticed the door to the TSA break room/staff center had at least EIGHT staff sitting around chatting it up - giddy they were indeed!! At this point I could not take it -- TWELVE staff yucking it up while we taxpayers/airline passengers had to wait for an excessive amount of time to be processed.

This situation prompted me to ask (at the risk of being detained by the authorities perhaps since we must all be "loyal" now) the next TSA staff person that I saw -- whose job was to sit on a chair making sure people did not go back to the security check point I guess based on her location but then again who the hell knows with TSA -- "why is only one magnetometer working while there are eight TSA staff sitting in that room?" To which she replied -- in a very friendly tone actually so let me give her due credit -- "well it is probably a shift change so staffing levels are low right now...................."

Shift change? Airport security is not the same as an automobile factory!!! What is TSA management thinking anyway, have they never taken a course on "engineering operations" where they would learn the concept known as THROUGHPUT ? Instead of having "platoons" of TSA staff doing "shift changes" TSA should simply stagger when people come on and off work -- 2 people now, then 2 people in the next hour, etc. anything that doesn't not leave them short handed at security checkpoints like they were today.

Alas TSA is a government monopoly so there is no possibility of consumer/market forces that would force customer service improvements like Marriott faces every day -- perhaps some TSA funds could be spent by contracting with Marriott to design TSA's staffing schedules.

Finally -- if my postings on this blog end one day you can probably assume that I have been made a resident of Camp Gitmo (just a joke NSA so don't put me on your watch list) ;-)


Hail Mary!

Some great football (American style not soccer!) news this week!

Quarterback Doug Flutie who played his college ball at Boston College was inducted into two halls of fame this week:

  • Canada's Sports Hall of Fame - for his years in the Canadian Football League (CFL)
  • College Football Hall of Fame -- in his FIRST year of eligibility

These honors, combined with the fact that he won the Heisman Trophy (for best college football player in the country) in 1984 are a great testament to his athletic ability and personal drive. It is even more impressive when you note that Mr. Flutie was only 5 feet 10 inches tall as a professional quarterback. With most defensive linemen at the 6' 5" height level combined with their arm reach results in an 8 foot "wall" that affected Mr. Flutie's ability to see his receivers down field.

I have great memories of Mr. Flutie's career -- which included not only college and the CFL but also years in the U.S. Football League and the National Football League -- so let me congratulate him on these well-deserved honors.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The West is Best!!

A new book was recently published entitled, Cities Ranked and Rated, which provides a ranking of the best cities in the USA to live in. The Top 10 cities included:

1. Gainsville, Florida
2. Belligham, Washington
3. Portland, Oregon-Vancouver, Washington-Beaverton, Oregon
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
5. Ann Arbor, Michigan
6. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
7. Asheville, North Carolina
8. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado (interesting that "Greeley" was not mentioned here since these cities have all grown into one metro area)
9. San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California
10. Boise City-Nampa, Idaho

As readers can see here 8 out of these 10 cities are located West of the Mississippi River while the other 2 -- Florida and North Carolina are in the South so based on these results the Eastern Seaboard/New England is a good place to sell your home and "go West young man............"

On a personal note I noticed that my home area -- the "Twin Cities" of Minneapolis/St. Paul dropped SUBSTANTIALLY in these rankings going from #24 in 2004 to #262 in this new edition of the rating guide. This is a fall of 238 places which was primarily driven by the "three C's" according to the ratings guide -- Cost, Commute, and Crime.

Such a dramatic change should shock our political, business, media, and civil society leadership from their slumber to ask -- "what the hell went wrong here??" So the Twin Cities is not only an expensive place to live but you get to sit in traffic jams while you fear becoming a victim of crime -- now that is a formula that will help drive economic development!!! :-)

So how does our state legislature rise to such challenges? Our House of Representatives approved a new personal income tax rate of 9% while our state Senate approved a new 9.7% rate to "improve our quality of life apparently but fortunately Governor Pawlenty stated consistently such measures will get vetoed.

Minnesota's leaders should take the time to review these ratings and explore why the "West is Best". I have several public policy solutions to offer our state leaders before I opt to sell everything for a move to South Dakota since they do not have a personal income tax -- the tax savings I would gain would allow me to buy a vacation cabin on a nice pond somewhere so I can forgot about the problems Minnesota's tax and spend legislators have created.

Hitch up the wagon,


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Minimum Wages and Career Changes

Via this posting I will introduce readers to -- Dennis Luehr of Campbell Hill, Illinois -- who should be an inspiration to at least two labor unions I know of but first a restaurant review. Tonight I dined at Domenico's Restaurant in Jefferson City, Missouri. While my meal of a house salad followed by blackened yellow fin tuna coupled with steamed broccoli was tasty the customer service was very poor. My waitress, "Sarah", was clearly new to the business based on her performance. Sarah left me stranded for 40 minutes between when I finished my salad and when she brought my tuna, plus she never asked me how the meal was, and I did not give her a chance to ask if I wanted dessert (and they had spumoni which I am addicted to!!!!!) because I asked one of her colleagues if I could pay my bill since I was tired of waiting for Sarah to return. On my 5 point scale I will have to give them a "2" for poor customer service but an excellent tuna steak.

So how would the US Congress respond? They would vote to increase Sarah's hourly wage by MANDATING an increase in the minimum wage rate -- not based on economics and excellent customer service but instead because of the media opportunities Congress will have available to show how they care about "helping" people. So what would be a better alternative than raising the minimum wage to improve performance? Instead of increasing Sarah's hourly pay from say $4.00 per hour to $7.00 per hour which equates to $480.00 per month why not let the restaurant owner decide how to spend this $480 on employee training? If I owned Domenico's I would give Sarah $200.00 per month for 3 months as a "training fund" to be used solely for eating at restaurants in the local area. I would further require Sarah to write a restaurant review (and turn in her receipts of course!!) for each venue she visits so we could discuss them in a one to one meeting. To improve customer service Sarah has to be an active restaurant consumer.

The good thing is that Sarah is young (maybe 20 years old but I hate to guess women's ages or their weights) so she has time to make mistakes, receive bad tips from unhappy customers, get fired, and improve along the way. But what if Sarah was 48 years old and lost her job when the company she worked at closed, what would she do? I would hope she would be inspired by Dennis Luehr's career transformation which I read about in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mr. Luehr became unemployed when the coal mining company he worked for, Horizon Natural Resources, closed its operations. Instead of crying out like the aircraft mechanics at Northwest Airlines or the automobile workers in Detroit did when layoffs were announced that, " I have done this job for 35, 40, 45 years.............(fill in the blank) what am I to do now?" Mr. Luehr transformed himself from coal miner to accountant by getting a college degree at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale via a job re-training program. Now Mr. Luehr is on track to complete his master's degree in May 2008 along with his Certified Public Accountant designation.

To say I am impressed is an understatement.

Over the years I have seen numerous stories about coal miners in Pennsylvania and West Virginia who have been trapped or even died in mine accidents but I do not remember any news reports focused on accountants dying at their desks!!

Career changes are often necessary in our dynamic economy but as Mr. Luehr's example shows such changes can produce very positive results.

Personal motivation beats minimum wage "gifts" every time.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Bake Sales for TSA

Soon after the September 11, 2001 ("9/11") terrorist attacks in the USA the labor unions and their friends in the US Congress successfully completed a power grab. How? Simply by convincing the public that to keep the country say we had to make all airport security workers federal employees. Federal employees? The same type of employees who are safe-guarding our bankrupt Social Security system? This union power grab resulted in the creation of the Transportation Security Administration -- "TSA" -- or "Thousands Standing Around" as my buddy Chuck Muth ( calls them!!

Since I travel nearly every week I see more of the TSA than I ever want to see such as this morning's experience. I went to "Checkpoint 1" at the Minneapolis/St. Paul (Minnesota) Airport exactly 1.5 hours before my domestic flight only to find a HUGE line of people at the security gate. But I wasn't alone since US Congressman John Kline and US Senator Norm Coleman were waiting in line with the rest of us cattle.

Given my bias for systems to actually work -- especially when my tax money is supporting them -- I asked the TSA staffer at the start of our line why TSA was not directing passengers to other checkpoints since only 1 of the 3 magnetometers was being used. This staffer replied to me, "...........well that is a good point, I don't know since this is only my................eighth week at this checkpoint..............." Later in our wait I heard Congressman Kline and Senator Coleman laughing with each other with a comment along the lines, "looks like TSA is going to ask us for more money............." which is exactly what I said to Senator Coleman when we were standing by each other. I even suggested TSA could leave a hat at the checkpoint so that passengers could make free will offerings so TSA had more funding.

Finally, nearly 45 minutes later I gate through all of the security measures so I asked the TSA supervisor on duty , "say, why is only 1 of the 3 magnetometers operational?" To which she replied, "we are short on staff since a few people didn't show up............hopefully Congress will give us more funding................"

Stating the obvious here -- but we have given billions of tax dollars to keep us "safe" so I can't believe the TSA is short on funding. Perhaps some of these TSA workers simply don't have the sense of patriotism needed for such jobs since some of them may have taken a "sick day" so I want to offer some options:

  • TSA management could host bake sales in all of our airports to raise additional funding :)
  • Congress could fire all TSA employees replacing them with US military personnel who have retired from active duty.

Thousands Standing Around was indeed the reality today.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Our Home and Native Land

This past weekend was consumed by a business trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada for the annual Civitas conference. Civitas is the gathering for the conservative/libertarian community in Canada -- yes they do exist there as evidenced by nearly 350 attendees.

The conference itself focused on a range of public policy issues including -- global warming, native/indigenous peoples, terrorism, among others -- covered by a wide variety of speakers from university faculties, political pressure groups, and several authors. I have attended this conference for several years now and have always left impressed with the caliber of the debates.

As for Canada and Halifax specifically I noticed several items in the local news and local venues that were clearly "bloggable" so here is my summary:
  • Pier 21 -- described to the conference attendees at the "Ellis Island of Canada" ( this was a typical huge warehouse used for processing immigrants to Canada. The renovation of Pier 21 is not completed yet but their banquet hall and historical displays reflect a quality operation. As I learned during our tour -- "from 1928 to 1971, one million people entered Canada via Pier 21...........during the Second World War half a million Canadians passed through the pier."
  • Thumb Wresting Federation (TWF)-- Alex Strachan of CanWest News Service published his "Three To See" TV programs for this past weekend which included the TWF Championship Belt with "new characters including Mahi Mahi Mindy, Mr. Extremo, and Face-Off Phil..........." Clearly it is quiet up North if this is one of the three best TV programs on this weekend!! So set your Tivo to record it on Fridays on YTV at 4 pm :-)
  • Best of Halifax 2007 Guide -- Perhaps I should have watched the TWF instead but I reviewed this guidebook where I noticed that the "Best Massage Therapist" in Halifax was none other than "Michael Butt" at Fairview Chiropractic and Massage Centre. So ready the next time you visit Halifax but sure to schedule some time for a "Butt Massage."
  • War on Drugs -- Front page newspaper headline in Canada, "Mother forced girl, (age) 12, to have sex with men: police". Apparently a 12 year old "developmentally delayed" girl (we would say "mentally handicapped/retarded" in the USA I would guess) was forced by her mother to have sex with at least six men in exchange for money and drugs over several months in a crack house in Rexdale (Toronto). The story went on to name the six men involved and their ages (19 to 55) but never mentioned the mother's name which no doubt was done to protect the identify of the girl. But who the hell is this "mother" who would do such a thing to her own daughter? If this woman needed drugs so badly then it is clearly an example of why the "war on drugs" has failed and has actually created victims like this 12 year old girl. It might sound cold and heartless but I would rather have all drugs legalized (an historic libertarian position) so that "mothers" like this one could have an affordable, ready supply so she would drive herself to an early grave rather than turn her own daughter into a sex slave. Isn't this better for society and this little girl overall? I am certain the foster parent system would provide a better opportunity for this 12 year old. I wish her well.
  • Golf Pro -- I read that Steve Dowling, former golf pro at a GOVERNMENT-OWNED golf course in Prince Edward Island (PEI) has filed a job discrimination claim with the PEI's Human Rights Commission seeking a settlement of C$100,000. Mr. Dowling claims that he was fired from his job because he ran for parliament as a Liberal but when the Conservatives won control of parliament they replaced all the golf pros with "golf course supervisors." Let me offer a very simple solution here -- sell all GOVERNMENT-OWNED golf courses in PEI and return the sales proceeds to taxpayers like Mr. Dowling in the form of tax refunds. Governments should only do what the private can't or won't do like providing for national defense of a nation and certainly not running golf courses -- golf courses I said!!!
  • Saint Mary's University -- This Canadian university was formed in 1802 ( and is currently running a print ad featuring an apparent student with a t-shirt on that reads, "I want to make gazillions. Then give it all away." Ah, the youthful idealism of students!! When will a majority of university students call for the abolition of personal income tax as a clear violation of our "right to privacy"? If the US Supreme Court found such a "right to privacy" in its Roe v. Wade" decision regarding the "right" of a woman to have an abortion as an extension of her privacy then let us all claim this same right to privacy when it comes to how much money we earn and how we earn it. Is that too much to ask??

Overall I really enjoyed my brief visit to Halifax, a lovely port city completed with a myriad of pubs and restaurants. I had the pleasure of dining at the "Economy Shoe Company" where I started my meal with the mango and guava salad followed by the crusted halibut covered with lobster meat. A very nice meal with excellent customer service. I would rate them a sold "3" on my 5 point scale.

Take off to the Great White North,


Friday, May 04, 2007

Football News

Given my love of football (the North American version not "soccer") two news items caught my eye today as I read four newspapers on my flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada today:

  • State of Virginia - while doing a walkabout in Richmond, Virginia to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Jamestown colony Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom was given an American football by a young boy. I say "hooray" to this young lad!! Now we just need to have the Queen attend the 2008 Super Bowl to help promote the game throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Canadian Football League (CFL) -- I noticed an ad for the CFL's championship game, the Grey Cup, in today's newspaper. This year's Grey Cup is set for November 21 in Toronto so football fans can contact Tourism Toronto at +1 800 499 2514 for hotel packages. You have to love their game -- 3 downs and 15 yards for a first down thus forcing teams to really develop a passing game.

That's it for sports. Now that I have arrived at this free market academic conference in Halifax I will be posting my observations and news reviews so stay tuned for social commentary. Halifax itself seems to be thriving as a port city with a healthy downtown and very friendly customer service personnel.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Inalienable Rights

Since "social studies" not "history" is taught in most public schools in the USA most students never learn that in Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence the original phrase he wrote regarding our inalienable rights was -- "life, liberty, and property." As the story goes Benjamin Franklin counseled Jefferson to change it to what we know today as - -"life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" -- clearly understandable since Mr. Franklin thoroughly enjoyed daily life.

So let's focus on the word that was replaced -- PROPERTY -- which today can be real like land or intangible like a computer software program but in my opinion the ultimate property right if your personal freedom and the avoidance of slavery. As I have stated here before the USA's Founding Fathers made VERY few mistakes as they crafted our Constitution but one major mistake they made was to allow slavery to continue to exist in the USA once it was free of the British Empire.

I was reminded of this historic debate over slavery recently after reading Nicolas Kristof's syndicated New York Times column, "'Human trafficking' is a euphemism; the real issue is slavery." Kristof's column focused on an organization known as Apne Aap which was founded by a former Indian (from India not a "Native American") journalist named Ruchira Gupta. Apne Aap ( is focused on liberating women/young girls who have been forced into prostitution in Indian brothels.

Personally I am glad the world has activists like Mr. Gupta since evil like sexual slavery MUST be eliminated in our lifetimes. Granted I have NO love for the United Nations but perhaps they could serve ONE purpose in the world -- working to guarantee that our most valuable property (our personal freedom) is protected from slavery. The U.N. should start such a campaign by expelling any member-states who allow sexual slavery to exist within their boundaries. This would help make this violation of human rights more transparent and would assist law enforcement agencies focus their efforts to stop human trafficking.

No doubt I offer an over simplistic solution but at least I am adding to this global debate with the hope readers will add to the momentum.

Live free or die,


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Don't Ask Don't Tell

While reading the "Weekend" section of my local newspaper this past weekend -- about a new club called "Pi" -- I was reminded of a news story I read earlier this year. The news story was focused on the fate of military veterans' clubs such as American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Due to several factors including -- the smaller number of veterans being produced in the USA since we don't have any major war to fight, younger veterans having families so sitting around the Legion hall drinking and smoking doesn't interest them, and finally public smoking bans have hurt business -- several of these clubs around the country are going out of business.

Which brings us to the new club in south Minneapolis, Minnesota -- "Pi" -- which was built in a former American Legion hall. No "Pi" is not a club for math geeks rather it is a club which caters to lesbians.

Now this re-development of a former American Legion hall into a lesbian bar really caught my attention!! Since our current military policy towards gays/homosexuals serving in the ranks is simply, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" , meaning that military recruiters are not allowed to ask about potential recruits' sexual orientation nor can military personnel go public if they are gay.

The following policy suggestion is dangerous ground for me since I am neither a gay activist nor a military man but here it goes -- perhaps I can offer an outsider's perspective on the question of "gays in the military" by suggesting the following. While I hate all forms of discrimination why don't we simply borrow a practice used in the military in the past? Prior to de-segregation the US military had black soldiers (led by white officers of course given our racism!!!) serving in separate units from white soldiers. So why don't we create a series of "gay units" of homosexuals/lesbians who would serve together? This would create the opportunity for gays to actively and publicly serve in uniform but would address the concerns expressed by military leaders about maintaining "morale" among the corps.

If any of my readers think this is a crazy idea PLEASE read the book, "Spycatcher" by Peter Wright before you attack me. You need to understand how national security has been jeopardized in the past due to "homosexual blackmail" simply because intelligence officers were afraid of being "outed" as practicing homosexuals.

History should be able to help guide our policies.