Saturday, July 28, 2007

Genius Grants

While in Philadelphia this week I read an interesting article in the local newspaper about Shannen Rossmiller who is known as an expert "terrorist hunter." Then in today's newspaper a reader had a letter to the editor published which read:
"Will someone please nominate terrorist hunter Shannen Rossmiller for a Genius Grant?"
Joseph A. Ferry of Erdenheim, Pennsylvania
Mr. Ferry of course is referring the MacArthur Foundation's (based in Chicago) Fellows Program where they issue unrestricted grants of US$500,000 to individuals who exhibit --
"exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work. "
Mr. Ferry's letter made me wonder -- who/what types of people have won the MacArthur genius grants? After reviewing this list of award winners I noticed that there was not one government employee. This made me wonder -- is that good or bad and does this create an opportunity?
Perhaps the MacArthur Foundation should consider providing one or two of their future genius grants to promising individuals who serve in government roles. Such recognition has the potential to inspire an internal revolution in government since we are not getting an external revolution via the US Congress.
Waiting for my grant,

Farming For Energy

While at a public policy conference this week one of the attendees asked me if I was following the current debate in Congress regarding the Farm Bill --

Personally I would rather end all the government involvement in agriculture such as subsidies, price supports, the milk compact, etc. but that is an amazing lobbying machine to overcome so let me offer a different approach. In 2005 the USA's federal farm subsidies totaled $23 billion. Instead of simply paying this "agri-welfare" year after year why not transfer these billions of dollars into a federal bio-fuels initiative?

Such a public policy change could potentially provide a number of benefits including:

  • food and energy security
  • return farmers to being entrepreneurs again not government employees
  • improve economic opportunities for African farmers because they would not have to compete against America's subsidized crops

Again -- I would rather see the agri-welfare completely phased out and the tax dollars returned to American taxpayers but if that can't be accomplished let's at least produce new sources of energy instead of subsidizing sugar production.

End the plantation system,


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Today's USA Today supplies clear evidence that the "left hand does not know what the right hand" is doing when it comes to government programs in the State of Michigan. In April this year a state representative proposed that the state spend nearly $254 million on the program noted below --

"Rep. Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, has proposed giving each K-12 child in Michigan an Apple iPod or similar MP3 player for "educational purposes," such as allowing students digital access to notes and letters."

Now three months after Rep. Dillon's proposed ("crazy" if you prefer) legislation the Detroit, Michigan school district announced their new policy ("Michigan school district cracks down on cellphones, iPods") regarding technology products. The new policy called for "automatic suspension" of students who use cellphones, IPods, etc. in the district's schools.

Units of government should talk with each other before they act -- in fact they should act less and do less so they leave more of our money in our pockets.


Professor General

Yesterday I read a column from my friend Chuck Muth ( who noted that "if government must have a Surgeon General then let's make Newt Gingrich our 'Professor General'.............." due to his ability to generate new ideas/ways of thinking about our world (my paraphrasing of Chuck). Of course, there is no need to create such a "Professor General" position which would increase government spending but readers can appreciate the concept I believe.

Newt Gingrich of course is the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives from the State of Georgia. When Speaker Gingrich's and his team took control in January 1995 they gave us the "Contract with America" which I still believe was brilliant politics AND good policy ( could have been great with added items such as elimination of personal income taxes plus a few other dreams I have for transforming our nation..........).

Well "Professor General" Gingrich was a guest speaker - over flowing with ideas and observations about our world -- last night at the American Legislative Exchange Council ( conference I am attending in Philadelphia this week. His comparison of UPS's ability to track millions of packages daily versus the federal government's inability to track 10 to 12 million illegal aliens was a home run comment with the audience.

The Gingrich comment that most interested me was that the USA currently has about 513,000 elected political offices according to US Census (more government!!) statistics. By my calculation that means nearly 5% of our country's population (of about 300 million people) is making all the decisions for us tax slaves.

American society would benefit from an influx of new candidates at the local level -- limited government activists would be my hope, working their way up the ladder of power so they can cut government spending along the way.

Your city council or school board needs you,


Friday, July 20, 2007

Emmy Awards

Today's local newspaper ( in Minnesota provided a summary of the nominees for the 2007 Emmy Awards. Before I provide their list let me offer some background information on the Emmy Awards:

"The Emmy® Awards are administered by three sister organizations who focus on various sectors of television programming: the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (prime time), the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (daytime, sports, news and documentary), and the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (international).The Emmy Awards recognize excellence within various areas of the television industry. The awards are a symbol of peer recognition from over 12,000 members of the Academy. Each member casts a ballot for the category of competition in their field of expertise."


The chart in the newspaper article that I was most interested in was the one entitled, "Top Nominated Networks." This list included the following --

HBO -- 86 (Emmy) nominations
ABC -- 70 nominations
NBC -- 69 nominations
CBS -- 44 nominations (the new home of Katie Couric)
Fox -- 28 nominations (yea Simpsons!!)
PBS -- 24 nominations

Do you see what I see here? The left wing elites in the USA tell us that the US Congress MUST spend our tax dollars to fund "quality programming that the free market won't produce" by underwriting -- $400 million in tax dollars from the US Congress in 2005 I have read -- programming at PBS (the Public Broadcasting System, . But wait!!!!!! -- HBO (a private entity owned by Time Warner, Inc. received 86 Emmy nominations while the government-funded (plus private donations raised via their fundraising efforts) PBS only received 24 nominations -- a full 62 nominations differential!!!

These award nominations by the Academy (the "TV industry" peers) are a clear endorsement of the high quality TV programming being produced by the free market because freedom and creativity are twins of the same mother.

The Emmy Awards will be televised on September 16, 2007 so set your TiVo if you are interested in watching the artists at HBO crush the bureaucrats at PBS.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Football and Teachers

While traveling in Des Moines, Iowa yesterday I read the USA Today at my hotel gym which included an article on the growing popularity of "7 on 7" football (that is "American" football my European friends not "soccer" -- by the way, thanks a lot for exporting David Beckham to the USA to play soccer in Los Angeles!! I predict he will be in more commercials than soccer matches given his propensity to always having an injury.). Now this 7 on 7 football is apparently popular with high school football players so they can improve their passing games. Essentially you have 6 guys on the line with a quarterback so essentially it is a game of "everyone go deep on three..................." which is nothing more than the sand lot football my generation played as kids.

Having read this article football was in the back of my mind while I attended the Professional Educators of Iowa ( annual meeting in Des Moines. One educator I ended up talking with was Emory Stewart who is a football coach for the William Penn University Statesmen (WPU) in Iowa. ( Only half-joking I told Coach Stewart that I still, "have my four years of eligibility to play college football........" even though I am 41 years old!! WPU is a member of the NAIA (not the NCAA) so Coach Stewart educated me when he told me that the NAIA rules allows them to provide scholarships to every one of their football players versus a set number of scholarships per team as the NCAA requires.

With summer nearly half over already that means the 2007-2008 football season is fast approaching with WPU's first game set for August 25th against Waldorf College if I read their website correctly. This season's competition on the gridiron will make better players of WPU's entire football team but these same competitive pressures will not exist for the teachers in the public schools of the City of Oskaloosa, Iowa where WPU is based due to the lack of full-blown school choice.

Good luck Statesmen,


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Land of 10,000 Tickets

On August 1st the State of Minnesota will legalize the time-honored market system for tickets known as - scalping. Now of course ticket scalping has occurred in Minnesota regardless of our freedom-hating anti-scalping law which first became law in 1914.

As a result of this expansion of personal freedom the legalization of scalping in Minnesota has convinced a company called, Ticket King, ( to cross the border by relocating from Hudson, Wisconsin TO new locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

The essential lesson here for politicians is very simple -- allow people to enjoy their freedoms in a legal framework that protects private property and economic growth (jobs) will be created -- versus creating "job re-training programs" and "economic development grant/loan programs" that oftentimes result in a loss of taxpayer funds.

So welcome to Minnesota Ticket King!! Sadly it took 16 years (it was founded in 1991) for you to become a corporate citizen. One bit of advice though in an effort to expand freedom -- why don't you add another tab to your website along with the "Sports", "Concerts", etc. tabs entitled, "Scalping Laws" . This tab could have a map of the USA depicting the legal status of "scalping" across the country thereby educating your web visitors/customers to help ignite a grassroots lobbying campaign.

Freedom creates jobs not government programs,


Wednesday, July 11, 2007


"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it."
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada (Conservative)

As regular readers of this blog know I have traveled to Canada for client projects and of course I love the Canadian Football League!! So when I see a newspaper headline like this one -- "Canada to add more troops in Northwest Passage" -- it catches my attention.

The Associated Press article mentioned above is focused on the "benefits of global warming" (my phrasing not the AP's) specifically the new shipping routes that are opening in the Northwest Passage which Canada believes lies in its territory. Canada has mobilized "6 to 8 patrol boats" and intends to build a deep water port in this area to lay further credibility to its sovereignty claims. Why? Two reasons are cited:

1.) Commercial ships traveling via the Northwest Passage could reduce their mileage from Europe to Asia by 2,480 miles versus going through the Panama Canal, and

2.) The Northwest Passage area reportedly has nearly 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves according to the US Geological Survey.

Now I love the Canadians and don't blame them for making this move but international opinion seems to be against them in terms of territorial claims. But let's sort this out a little via this chain of events:

  • global warming is said to come from the burning of fossil fuels (oil and gas of course)
  • global warming is blamed for the melting of the polar (Arctic included) ice caps
  • as the Arctic melts the Northwest Passage opens up thus providing access to even MORE fossil fuels which we could then consume thereby causing even more global warming
  • historically the USA was declared the largest producer of CO2 emissions that cause global warming but now it appears China has outpaced the USA for this distinction

Perhaps the American consumers should expect a "thank you/merci" from the Canadians since our way of life apparently caused the majority of global warming in the world today which has melted the ice in the Northwest Passage thereby creating new oil and gas production opportunities for Canadians!!!

Perhaps film maker, Michael Moore, was right in his 1995 film - "Canadian Bacon" -- that the USA should prepare for war against Canada :-) -- overview of Canadian Bacon


Monday, July 09, 2007

Howard Stern vs. Katie Couric

When Katie Couric announced that she would officially become the evening news anchor (the first woman ever.............) for the CBS Evening News my first thought was why would someone with her star power join a sinking ship? So today's radio news (KSTP AM 1500) confirmed my thinking since it was reported that Ms. Couric recently stated that "had she known what she knows today she would not have taken the job.........." I am paraphrasing a bit here but you get her point.

Perhaps Ms. Couric should have been reading the market trends that are available to all of us commoners which show that the broadcast TV stations (CBS, NBC, ABC) continue to lose viewership to cable channels and the wide range of Internet-based options. So let's do a quick comparison of the contracts that the ever-perky Katie Couric and shock jock Howard Stern signed when they left their respective media jobs for their new gigs:

1.) Katie Couric - left NBC's Today (morning show) to host CBS Evening News
"Buzz on Couric's CBS contract says it's worth $39 million over three years. That would be on par with her 4 1/2-year, estimated $65 million deal with NBC."

2) Howard Stern - left Viacom radio to host his show on subscription-based service Sirius Radio
"signed a five-year, $500 million deal with Sirius Satellite Radio,"

So Couric receives about $13 million per year while Stern receives $100 per year.

The difference -- beyond the "shock value" of course -- I believe is that Stern was smart enough to join a new form of media (subscription-based radio) versus a sinking ship like the "CBS Evening News" -- seriously with soccer games for kids scheduled every night and 1 hour commutes home from work which parents do you know watch the CBS Evening News even it they have TiVo/DVRs ?

Perhaps Ms. Couric should have tried to sign a contract with a new media service like You Tube which would have helped both parties "attract eyeballs" in today's online world.

Nothing better than a dynamic market,


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Al Gore and the Petrol Police

When I read today's story of Al Gore III's, AGIII, (former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Jr. is SO green he even recycled his name!!) arrest in California my first thoughts were --

  • I don't care about another (semi-)celebrity getting arrested, and
  • How long before we see the follow up story that AGIII has checked himself into rehab?

For those readers who are interested AGIII was arrested for:

  • Speeding at 100 miles per hour
  • Possession of marijuana
  • Possession of prescription drugs (Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, and Adderell)

Wow, based on that mix of drugs AGIII is either in a lot of pain or just loves to get REALLY relaxed in order to drive on California's crowded freeways. But wait -- there is a ray of hope in this tragic story since AGIII was driving a Toyota Prius which is a hybrid automobile that gets an estimated 55 miles to the gallon of gasoline --

Of all these potential criminal charges AGIII now faces by far the "worst" one has to be his speeding violation since the Prius is engineered to operate at its highest efficiency level at road speeds ranging from 30 to 40 miles per hour ( but he was driving 100 miles per hour. Such a rate of speed clearly consumes a lot of gasoline which of course means AGIII's carbon footprint is much larger than it should be given that he owns a Prius. For a fuller discussion on hybrid automobiles and law enforcement please review my posting entitled, "Petrol Police," where the police of Alexandria, Virginia were used to "ticket" drivers in hybrid autos by pulling them over to distribute thank you coupons/gas cards!! What a complete mis-use of law enforcement resources.

Good luck AGIII,


25th of December

In recognition of the USA's Independence Day holiday I had the entire staff here at Space Beagle take the day off to spend time with their families and, hopefully, reflect on what the Founding Fathers did on the 4th of July in 1776. Their bold declaration that our rights come from the Creator and not the King gave the rest of us a chance to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As my wife and I greeted friends and family throughout the day nearly everyone would say, "Happy 4th of July" but I would counter or open with my own greeting of "Happy Independence Day.........." which seemed to make most people pause to reflect on the holiday for a moment. I struggled a bit to stress my thought that simply reducing perhaps one of the most significant moments in human history to a mere position on the calendar -- as the "4th day in the month of July" -- completely undermined the purpose of the holiday. But my wife saved the day by articulating for me (that is why most men get married anyway isn't it??) that we say "Merry Christmas" to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (my paraphrasing here) instead of saying, "Merry 25th of December!!" which is exactly the point I was trying to stress throughout the day.

May the Spirit of '76 be with you,


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Breakthrough Ideas

Now that the 2007 Minnesota Cup's May 25th deadline has passed for submissions of "breakthrough ideas" this posting reflects on this program which is now in its third year. To provide some context let me provide readers with background on this program --
"In a changing world, our future success depends on our ability to innovate, which is why I launched the first Minnesota Cup in 2005. True to form, Minnesotans did not disappoint. We have received more than 1200 entries from 48 counties across the state in our first two years of the program. Minnesota is living up to the promise of author Thomas Friedman, who said America can win the global economic battle as "the world's dream machine." Minnesotans are great innovators because we're free to dream. We are blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit that is fueled by a long heritage of innovation. More than half our economic growth comes from industries that barely existed a decade ago, and the search for great ideas - or the discovery of the next big thing - is central to our success."

The basic function of this program is to have entrepreneurs turn their ideas into solid business plans to compete for monetary prizes of -- $25,000, $5,000, and $2,500. Having reviewed their website let me offer the following observations:

  • Entries were submitted by individuals living in 48 of Minnesota's 87 counties. Thus 39 of our counties had ZERO breakthrough ideas to offer. Hopefully the sponsors of the contest are tracking the geographic distribution of submissions so they can target marketing resources next year that would get the entire state involved.
  • Then again, why limit applications/ideas from only Minnesota residents? If we truly live in a "global economic battle" today perhaps the Minnesota Cup should welcome breakthrough ideas from around the USA and other countries especially Japan given our state's historic ties due to air transportation links and former Vice President Walter Mondale's service as US Ambassador to Japan. The prize money could simply be awarded contingent on the winner pursuing their idea in Minnesota.
  • This is an interesting program that our Governor Tim Pawlenty has launched -- much better than the central planning of the past in terms of economic development by state government. Perhaps the best ("worst" that is) example is the chop stick factory built in Northern Minnesota using state funds (nearly US$4.5 million!!!) during the Governor Rudy Perpich administration. For details on this economic fiasco check this website --

The Minnesota Cup awards dinner will be held in September 2007 so I have already submitted my request for tickets since I want to see what types of ideas are considered to be "breakthrough" in today's economy.

Ideas can be dangerous for our wallets so vote wisely,


Monday, July 02, 2007

Football News

A reader added a comment to my "Sea Devils" posting informing me that the National Football League (NFL) announced that it was closing their "NFL Europa" European football division. I had actually read this news the day after my Sea Devils posting. The article I read noted that NFL Europa was started in 1991 and to date had lost $400 million. I still remember the "World Bowl" party I had with friends in Des Moines, Iowa in 1991 -- I was excited to see the expansion into Europe while I suspect my friends enjoyed having another reason to get drunk.

So the NFL has retired from Europe where the vast majority of its teams were based in Germany - home to thousands of US military troops who have had a presence in that country for nearly 60 years - thus providing a natural fan base for NFL Europa. However, this international expansion experiment failed only to be replaced with the NFL setting its sights on the People's Republic of China ("Red China" for my fellow Cold War warriors out there).

Yes -- mei shi gan lan qiu -- which is "football" in Chinese the news reports tell us. The NFL's China presence is very small compared to their splash into Europe in 1991. So far NFL-China consists of a 5,000 player flag football league for school-age players, a weekly telecast of one NFL game on the state-run CCTV, and having the Super Bowl watched by 10 million viewers (out of China's 1.3 billion population).

The NFL is perhaps the best managed money machines of all the professional sports leagues in the USA so how they develop the Chinese market will be well worth watching. From China let me make an abrupt segue to a much more local football news story. This past weekend the "Minnesota High School All Star Football Game" was played. What I find most interesting about this game is that it matches the "Metro all stars" against the "Outstate all stars" not a North-South or an East-West split but instead the "kids from the city playing against the kids from the small towns and farms.............."

Now that makes for an interesting match up which currently has the Metro all stars winning 14 and the Outstate all stars winning 15 games since this series began.

Good luck to these recent high school graduates as they seek careers on and off the gridiron.


Bell Canada

Via the Associated Press and the New York Times this week I learned that Bell Canada (telephone company) agreed to sell itself to become a privately-held company. A partnership - led by the Ontario TEACHERS Pension Plan - is acquiring Bell Canada for $48.5 billion (the article did not specify Canadian or US Dollars -- sloppy editing I say) . If completed this transaction would apparently be the largest ever in Canadian history.

What I found of most interest in this news story was the fact that a group of "under-paid and over-worked......" (not my words but it is the constant theme we hear in the corridors of government) teachers are purchasing this company via their pension funds. Not a bad way to retire if you can do it!! Similar to their American colleagues, Canadian teacher salaries are paid via a system based on --
"Teacher salary schedules in Canada are generally based on a combination of years of post-secondary education and years of experience......"

Assuming the Bell Canada purchase is completed by the Teachers Pension Fund I have to ask if the teachers/retirees -- as the new owners -- plan to pay Bell Canada's management based on "years of experience" or perhaps via a system of incentive bonuses, pay for performance, management by objective, etc. ?

An injection of free market capitalism into the education establishment would be a welcome departure from the status quo we have in education today. Our current system allows the teachers' unions to determine salary rates simply based on a teacher's ability to OUTLIVE THEIR COLLEAGUES not TEACH EFFECTIVELY. If readers want to explore teacher salary reform a bit more please see one of my original postings on this very subject from September 2005 entitled, "Bob Plunkett" --

Pay for performance not longevity,