Monday, December 31, 2007

Books Read During 2007

Since I started blogging I have written an end of the calendar year posting which summarizes all the books I have read throughout the year. Not only has this proved to be a great way to reflect on what I have learned/forgot over the last 12 months but it has also proven to be a popular posting with my readers -- assuming I still have some readers after yet another year of excessive use of emoticons :-)

It is with great pleasure that I present my "Books Read During 2007" list for your enjoyment and intellectual guidance - assuming you want to see the world as I do ;-) For more focused blogging on books please visit my other blog at -- :

  1. "Not Quite the Diplomat" by Chris Patten. An interesting memoir from this British/European Union career diplomat who is now the elected Chancellor of Oxford University. While the book contains some valuable insights on European thinking it does not fail to also be "pompous" in his advice for the USA.
  2. "Gandhi - A Memoir" by William L. Shirer of the Chicago Tribune. Mr. Shirer was a journalist in India so he had interviewed Gandhi extensively. Personally this book provided me with great insights on Gandhi especially when I learned he was more of a "self-sufficiency is good" person than the socialist I always viewed him as historically. I have a greater appreciation for his work.
  3. "Applebee's America" by Sosnik, Dowd, and Fournier. A counter argument to Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone" to show that Americans really do want a "sense of community." Given their recent challenges I suggest the Roman Catholic Church should read the chapter on "Religion/Megachurches".
  4. "The Last Cowboy" by Jane Kramer. Published in 1977 this book is based on Henry Blanton, a hired hand on a ranch in the Panhandle of Texas who is so sexist that he fails to realize that his wife could supply the capital he needs to get a small ranch started simply by getting a job to supplement their income.
  5. "Freakonomics" by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner. A very interesting thesis on how the "economics of society" (my phrase) are shaped by key decisions/historic events. The authors argue that the USA's "Head Start" program is a failure because it simply puts poor kids and bad teachers together thus perpetuating poverty.
  6. "The Road More Traveled" by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley of the Reason Foundation ( If you are a commuter who is often trapped in traffic you should read this book. The free market has MANY solutions to traffic congestion.
  7. "Monet" by Barnes and Noble Publishing. A beautiful collection if his paintings coupled with historical/personal background regarding the inspiration for his work. A short read but educational.
  8. "Juicing the Orange" by Pat Fallon and Fred Seen of Fallon Worldwide. This book is focused on the advertising industry and creativity. While this book provided great insights regarding how ad campaigns are created it is by far the worst book I read this year in terms of editing since there were typos and other errors on a vast majority of the pages. Really a bad reflection on Fallon's quality I believe.
  9. "The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister" by John O'Sullivan. This book explains how the Cold War was won by the "holy trinity" (my phrase) of President Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II (JP II) , and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This book really made me think about the pope selection process since I Polish Cardinal (JP II) was named Pope just as the Soviet Union tried to tighten its grip on Poland. A great read!
  10. "Continental Drifter" by Dave Cameron. This Canadian author produces this memoir after traveling by bus/motor coach from the Yukon Territory in Canada to Key West, Florida in the USA. Cameron meets an interesting cast of characters along the way and the reader benefits by being able to enjoy his adventures while sitting at home.
  11. "Reading the Right Books - A Guide for the Intelligent Conservative" by Lee Edwards. If you are an avid reader you can't beat reading a "book about books" like this one although I think Mr. Edwards would have improved the book by including suggestions from "ideological opponents" such as Karl Marx. Reading both sides of an argument makes you a stronger debater of course.
  12. "Dossier on Hillary Clinton" by Amanda Carpenter. One half of this book is appendices and supporting documents so not a lot to read. Yes this is a classic "red meat" for conservatives but this book did not appeal to me although the section on the Clintons' fundraising provided some new insights for me.
  13. "The Wit and Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin" by James C. Humes. I never tire of reading about the "First American" so I hope my readers will take the time to read about B. Franklin who created the "junto" meeting which has been so important to my political work.
  14. "Power, Faith, and Fantasy - America in the Middle East - 1776 to the Present" by Michael B. Oren. This tome is over 600 pages long so I joked with friends that I want to count it as two books! This is an essential document to read if anyone wants a better understanding of our current foreign policy challenges.
  15. "Why States? The Challenge of Federalism" by Eugene W. Hickok. Lovers of states rights/10th Amendment powers will appreciate this book. It re-inspired me to phase out the US Department of Education.
  16. "Truck" by Michael Perry. This Wisconsin writer restores an International Harvester truck while providing insights on small town/rural life from his "educated hillbilly" (my phrase) perspective.
  17. "Tailgating, Sacks, and Salary Caps" by Mark Yost. I love football and after reading this book I have a much better understanding of the National Football League's business model.
  18. "Hard America, Soft America" by Michael Barone. For me this book focused on "freedom versus welfare" and made me wish I could have several people in my world read it so I plan to buy several copies as gifts.
  19. "Women and Money" by Suze Orman. While I bought this book for my wife I read it for my own knowledge. Despite the title this book knows no gender. If there is a woman in your life be sure to buy them a copy especially for Mother's Day.
  20. "The Saga of the Pony Express" by Joseph J. DiCerto. An interesting book that focused on the romance, history, technological change, and Civil War implications of the famous Pony Express message service. Today's alpha males could still learn from these Pony Express riders -- amazing stories of fearless living.
  21. "An American Slave" by Frederick Douglass. The self-taught slave's autobiography. This was not only an impressive man to read about but is a must read for understanding the dark chapters in the USA's history.
  22. "The Secret Societies Handbook" by Michael Bradley. Honestly I was expecting more from this book which was filled with conspiracy theories but was short on historical/academic research.
  23. "The Bottom Billion" by Paul Collier. Focused on foreign aid programs for the world's poorest countries coupled with recommendations for changes. Sadly, Collier is still an advocate of even more government intervention including military invasion versus greater respect for property rights and free trade.
  24. "Shared Vision" edited by Tom Mason. This collection of essays is focused on the tenure of US Senator Norm Coleman (Minnesota) when he served as Mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota. The "corporation-city partnering" discussed in this book was the most interesting section.
  25. "Infidel" by Ayan Hirsi Ali. The story of this Muslim woman's exodus not only from Somalia to the Netherlands to the USA but also from being a devout Muslim to an atheist. The great thing is that she finds a love for personal freedom along the way but loses her faith in God -- clearly missing what the USA's Founding Fathers believed. We are endowed by our Creator with the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" so I hope Ms. Ali renews her faith.
  26. "My Freshman Year" by Rebekah Nathan. Nathan is the pen name for a professor of anthropology at the University of Northern Arizona who goes undercover as a freshman student. While I do think she could have discovered deeper insights regarding student life I do think her experiment was important for college administrators across the country since they are so isolated from daily student life.
  27. "Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (so far)" by Dave Barry. A good reminder that I need to read more humor in 2008. Funny stuff especially about politicians.
  28. "Selected Poems of Carl Sandburg" by Carl Sandburg. Also a good reminder that I need to read more poetry in 2008. Some great working class/anti-government poetry here from the City with Big Shoulders.
  29. "The Book of the Founding Fathers" by Vincent Wilson, Jr. A pretty basic book with one page biographies and photographs of the USA's Founding Fathers but it still provided insights on these "dead white men" who created the opportunities we enjoy (take some granted) today. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
  30. "Into the Twilight Endlessly Grousing" by Patrick F. McManus. A great collection of outdoor/hunting humor especially his short story, "The Fly Rod", which makes me laugh as I type this posting. Again - read more humor in 2008 Todd!!
  31. "The Strenuous Life" by Theodore Roosevelt. This book was created from a 1905 speech given by President Roosevelt regarding the challenges and opportunities the USA faced at the time. A good read for the modern reader since nearly 103 years later the USA faces the same choices regarding isolationism versus neo-imperialism. I vote for free trade not invasions every time!!
  32. "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicolas Taleb. The author is a former financial trader who made his fortune by understanding "randomness" such as events like the September 11th terrorist attacks in the USA which are called "Black Swans" because no one believes such a bird exists until they see one. I enjoyed Taleb's explanation of the economies of "Extremistan versus Modiocristan" but honestly I am still trying to figure out this book. If nothing else it convinced me we all need to read more books.

With that I close out the year 2007 with great anticipation for the opportunities that 2008 will offer all of us.

Happy New Year and happy reading,


Friday, December 28, 2007

Great Things in Life - Part Two

In yet another installment celebrating a "life is half full" perspective here is Part Two in my series of postings entitled, "Great Things in Life":

  • Dental floss
  • Indoor plumbing
  • Home offices/telecommuting
  • My mother's bing cherry bars (still eating the annual Christmas supply!!)
  • Sporks
  • Free and fair elections versus political assassinations (Pakistan)
  • Naps
  • Four wheel drive vehicles (see my "Merry Al Gore Christmas")
  • Ceiling fans
  • Snow sledding

And finally -- "paychecks" -- so now back to work so I can write a "Part Three" in the future.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Al Gore Christmas

How sad that watching television at my in-laws on Christmas Day I was reminded of Al "The End is Near" Gore. While watching a local TV station broadcast of a burning fireplace I commented that "now this is an Al Gore Christmas since that fire is not releasing any harmful gases into the atmosphere................."

That was only one aspect of my Al Gore Christmas this year since the return drive from my parents' home in Iowa to our home in Minnesota had an extra 1.5 hours added to it due to a heavy snow fall. Yes the snow (the strong winds were more responsible) was deep but it wasn't a problem for us Mother Earth-hating SUV drivers who come equipped with four wheel drive and a desire to survive. The traffic delays were primarily caused by drivers in under-powered, "environmentally-friendly vehicles" like the famed Toyota Prius.

I have to ask -- can Al Gore be blamed for any traffic deaths caused when these global warming preventing vehicles left their drivers stranded in the ditches?

Regarding global warming I can assure readers it has not changed the nature of Minnesota yet since we still have heavy snow storms so I plan to keep the SUV as long as possible. My vehicle will be especially helpful if I have to drive my family's possessions up into the mountains to survive rising ocean levels if the polar caps melt :-)

Oh the weather outside is frightful,


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crystal Ball

Today I was on a conference call with Dr. Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics ( at the University of Virginia. For me this was quite a flashback since Dr. Sabato's text books were key tools in my political science courses when I was a student at Iowa State University in the 1980's -- yes the good days when I was a Cold War Warrior, although with President Putin of Russia likely to serve as President or Prime Minister of Russia for perhaps the next 15 or 20 years via a "musical chairs" election strategy the Cold War could start again if it hasn't started already.

Dr. Sabato provided a very interesting overview of the 2008 elections for President of the US and the US Congress. Overall I think it is fair to say that 2008 is going to be "a Democratic year" so let me encourage my readers to watch your wallets because if the Democrats win the White House and make further gains in the US House and US Senate then taxes will indeed go up!!

Readers interested in Dr. Sabato's election analysis and predictions can register for his free (unlike the text books I had to purchase!!) newsletter entitled the "Crystal Ball." We only have eleven months until the November 2008 elections so you better start reading up on who's who this cycle :-)

Caucus 'til you drop,


Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Often it is the little discoveries that restore my hope such as my telephone call today to the City of Lilydale City Council in Minnesota.

Since I often travel to our state capitol in St. Paul I travel through the City of Lilydale (population 552) I am always intrigued by this little oasis of small government. Lilydale is a Minneapolis/St. Paul suburb situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. Not only does Lilydale have a yacht club it also has only ONE city employee whom I talked with today.

Lilydale is led by the self-described "fiscal conservative" Mayor Tom Swain who entered office facing a city budget deficit which they erased via creative government service outsourcing/contract negotiations along with the sale of some city property to raise the cash needed -- not via tax increases!!

Sometimes I wonder why I overlooked moving to Lilydale when I returned to Minnesota from Europe especially since I have a better understanding of how they manage their city government. Yes there are some well run big cities in the USA today -- Chicago and New York City come to mind (as do Minneapolis and St. Paul as examples of poorly run cities) but there is something to be said for decentralization of power via small suburban communities. It would be a sad day to see Lilydale annexed into a neighboring larger city so I hope they can keep their success going.

Size does matter,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Ross Perot

Granted Ross Perot sounded like a crazy man when he ran for President of the USA but you have to admit he is a damn good business man. Not only is he rich but he is about to get richer this week since he Perot Foundation is the owner of one copy of the only seventeen (17) copies of the Magna Carta that are known to exist today.

The Perot foundation purchased their copy in 1984 for US$1.5 million and are set to sell it via Sotheby's auctions on December 18th so an expected $20 to $30 million. Not a bad return on your investment Mr. Perot.

The Magna Carta is not only a rare document but it is also a vital document - especially to constitutional nerds like me - because most historians cite it as the first time in recorded history humans placed legal limitations on monarchs/dictators. This document was written in 1215 but it did enter into English law until 1297 during the rule of King Edward I. Clear evidence that royalty should not be trusted since it took a full 82 years for the Magna Carta to have the force of law!!!

The full text of the Magna Carta is worth watching if readers have some free time -- -- which we all should should have today since this document paved the way for the respect of human rights and freedoms.

Thanks King John,



At this time of year the conversations regarding American football are focused on which National Football League teams will make the playoffs (go Vikings!!) and the pairings for the college football post-season bowl games which are used to determine the national champion of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-A which is the highest level in college football. However this past weekend included college football games for the lower divisions (read - smaller schools) -- divisions that use actual playoff systems, not "bowl game match ups", to determine true, legitimate national champions for their respective divisions.

So here is a recap of the championship games played this past weekend in their respective divisions:

NCAA Division II -- Valdosta State defeated Northwest Missouri State
NCAA Division III -- Wisconsin/White Water defeated Mt. Union
NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Associations) -- Carroll College (Montana) defeated University of Sioux Falls (South Dakota)

The weather conditions during these games were poor overall and the stands were not filled but the fans were excited to be in the stadiums while the players hit the gridiron with everything they had in them. I enjoyed watching the games especially to see the great sportsmanship that was on display. For the vast majority of these players this was their last opportunity at football glory since their chances of playing professional football in the USA or Canada are nearly zero so clearly they played for the love of the game.

We need more of this love of competition in our public school labor unions,



In a victory for American consumers (via lower prices) and producers in Peru (via access to the huge USA marketplace) US President George W. Bush just signed a free trade agreement into law between Peru and the USA last week.

Peru's economy is growing at an impressive 7.5% annual rate so clearly they are building the market momentum needed to compete in the world economy. Lastly, there is a geo-political benefit from this new trade agreement since it helps the USA with its South American neighbors since similar trade deals are pending with Columbia and Panama. These two countries are vital allies in the "war on drugs" that the USA has waged - with our tax dollars - unsuccessfully for decades so I hope we sign trade deals with them in 2008 so we can move beyond the current failed, drug control policy to a policy of open markets that generate economic choices that extend beyond the drug trade.

Free trade not drug wars,


Empty Nest

While lifting weights at my gym earlier this morning I overheard a woman talking with a friend of hers -- she was on the machine next to me so I could not avoid it since my iPod decided to freeze on me today, talk about bad timing!! -- regarding her 19 year old son who is named "Jeff".

Apparently Jeff is still living in his parents' home but does not have a job, has no plan to get a job, and has no plans to attend any kind of post-high school school/training program. According to his mother, "Jeff parties all night and sleeps all day so he wakes us up sometimes when he sneaks back into the house.........." She went on to say that she fears that Jeff will end up in the military fighting in Iraq but she and her husband are putting their foot down -- as of March 1st they plan to charge him "US$100 per month for rent..........."

Now that sets the story for my readers so let me offer some observations on this situation:

  • I doubt very much that Jeff turned into an unmotivated welfare recipient (his parents' "welfare" not the general taxpayer - yet -- in the last month so it begs the question, "did the parents set down some expectations for Jeff when he was 10 or 11 years old or is his just another spoiled, suburban, rich kid that I often see dominating our local mall with their credit cards.
  • Assuming Jeff graduated from high school in June 2007 he has had about 6 months to sort his life out by now. Perhaps the "monthly rent" should have started a few months ago to "inspire" Jeff to get off the couch.
  • Iraq -- does this mother think we have a military draft in the USA? I see no way Jeff would have the motivation to even meet with a military recruiter unless of course he meets one while he is out partying some night.
  • Rent -- what does $100 per month rent teach Jeff? That all he has to do is get a 20 hour per week job to allow him to pay the $100 to keep his parents off his back?

Jeff has already consumed more time on this blog than he is worth so I will simply close out this posting by stating that he (and his parents) are the reason general taxpayers are robbed of nearly 50% of our salaries to pay for the alphabet soup of government programs -- NCLB, TANF, Head Start, etc. created to counter such unproductive citizens. Sadly this mother did not include me in the conversation since I would have coached her to drive Jeff to St. Paul, Minnesota's Dorothy Day Center to have Jeff work as a volunteer at this soup kitchen/shelter for homeless people.

Nothing wrong with getting Jeff to help local citizens whose lives are much worse than his pampered life especially if such an experience helps inspire him to get a job.

Experience is a great teacher,


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Women Love Sports

Finally I took some time yesterday to read my Men's Health magazines which have piled up due to work travel. As I read through the November edition ( -- yes I am catching up on the reading pile -- I noticed the results of an online poll the magazine created regarding women and sports. The poll was entitled, "Which of the three major sports do women find sexiest to watch?"and the results were as follows:

  • Football -- 50%
  • Baseball -- 35%
  • Basketball -- 15%

Source: a poll of 254 women - perhaps the only women who read Men's Health!!

Very interesting results especially from a sports marketing standpoint so here are some questions/observations that come to mind:

  • Hockey - clearly women don't find the fighting to be sexy. Personally I hate the fighting because it clearly distracts from the game itself. How many times does a football game stop all action as everyone watches two players fight? Crazy damn game.
  • National Basketball Association -- if NBA Commissioner David Stern wants to tap into the female market like the National Football League has (via their pink team hats for example -- Mark Yost's book on the NFL is a great read on this subject) then he should playing cleanse the NBA of its current crop of convicts and part-time rappers.

The best news -- couch/TV time in America is safe and sound since men like me have a 50% chance that our wives will want to watch a football with us :-)



Stillwater has troubled waters

Early this year I posted a commentary about the City of Stillwater, Minnesota raising the property tax on Loome Books in Stillwater by 50% thus forcing the store's owner to close one of his two stores since his budget did not plan for such a substantial - unjustified if you ask me - property tax increase. At the time I called this action the "worst form of government book burning" because tax policy forced a book store to close thus reducing the availability of books/knowledge.

So today's newspaper brings incredible news from Stillwater, Minnesota. I am amazed how government works (doesn't work in this case) as evidenced by the news that the Stillwater Library plans to "cut hours to save money" ( .

So the city government-operated library which is funded by property taxes taken from businesses like Loome Books is now cutting its business hours to save money even though Loome Books was given a 50% property tax increase. So the vital question here is -- "where the hell did all the tax money go that the city raised?"

Mayor Ken Harycki of Stillwater is quoting saying, "We spent many millions of dollars building a first rate facility, and it seems a shame to close it." A shame indeed but who did the budget planning for this facility? Even worse from a local business impact perspective is news from the library's director, Lynne Bertalmio, is says they will pursue new rental revenues to meet their budget gap by renting out the library for "weddings, graduation parties, birthday parties.." in direct competition with local venues that offer such services I am certain.

Bottom line -- the residents of Stillwater have a local book store (not one of those hated "big box stores" but a main street business taxed out of business to raise more funding for the city government only to see their library's business hours reduced.

A double loss,


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Growing Minority

Some of my readers can probably identify with my childhood experiences which included the following:

  • Pen ink on your hand
  • Leaning across your school desk for writing exercises
  • Using a pair of scissors that not only hurt our hand but also left you with poorly cut paper

Remember? Do the cheer with me now -- "We're Here, We're Left Handed, Get Used to it!!"

Yes, we of the left-handed world have suffered for generations as the only minority not protected by state and federal laws. Although we could probably bring a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to remedy our "victim hood" but why should we add even more to the class action lawsuit business just to pay the boat payments for trial lawyers :-)

But now comes good news for us southpaws via The Daily Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom --

"The percentage of people who are left-handed has risen in the past 100 years, from 3% to 11% while 24% of people use their left hands to wave."

Unfortunately this quote was not clear if the research used was only for the United Kingdom or for the world's population but either way it is a very interesting trend. One day we will have a majority of the world's population which will clearly cause major societal changes such including a huge increase in poor penmanship!!

Left on baby,


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Steve Fossett - tribute

Recently the family of explorer Steve Fossett requested that the search and recovery mission for him in Nevada be called off so that he could be declared legally dead. What a sad day for not only his family but for anyone that appreciated Mr. Fossett's love of adventure. There is one other group of people - the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) -- who mourn his loss. Mr. Fossett was the incoming president of the NESA so as a member I was personally inspired to see him playing this role because I was confident that he would take the NESA to an entirely higher level of success.

For better than anything I could write in tribute to Mr. Fossett is this memorial that the NESA has compiled on its website which can be viewed at:

To state the obvious here -- Mr. Fossett's death is a huge loss for his family and our nation. He is exactly the kind of person the current presidential candidates should have considered as a running mate or Cabinet member. At the NESA level we have big shoes to fill in terms of finding a new president but am confident the organization will reinforce its commitment to America's youth as a tribute to Mr. Fossett's memory.

On Eagle's wings,


Monday, December 10, 2007


"The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination"

Last week I attended a conference of state legislators from around the USA ( One evening I had dinner with a group of legislators (the state will remain anonymous) so eventually the conversation turned to tax policy. In a rare moment of personal candor :-) I stated that I am , "tired of legislators just tinkering around the edges, I want to see a legislative debate over some fresh, revolutionary ideas such as scraping our state income tax system to be replaced by a sales tax system.

The legislator sitting across from me at dinner responded to my comment with perhaps the most predictable response possible -- ".......but a sales tax is a very regressive tax so it will hurt the poor people............." My immediate response to counter this worn out record was that the state legislature should use a guide such as "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" whereby the basic human needs of - food, clothing, and shelter -- would be completely tax free. Yes property taxes and taxes on utilities (included in the definition of "shelter") would go away in my plan!! Consumption would be taxed (via a sales tax) so the rich would definitely pay their "fair share" (as the old saying goes -- not my phrase but I had to throw it in) because if they purchase a Hummer they would pay accordingly. At the same time lower income people would actually see tax relief since their basic needs would not be taxable events and they would never pay income tax so overall that is a pretty darn good deal.

However, let me address the question of "fairness" from another perspective. Is it "fair" for a state government to raise income taxes on the rich to the point that the rich choose to move to a state that does not have an income tax? Once a state chooses to "soak the rich" they tend to drive the "job creators" to leave the state. Is it any surprise that a Minnesota icon like 3M announced earlier this year that they are exploring options to relocate some jobs to low tax, overseas location as noted in this quote:

A report in the Pioneer Press quoted Pat Campbell, the company's chief financial officer, as mentioning the United States, Western Europe and Japan in connection with possible areas the company would move its operations from. "All of our key operations are in high-tax areas," he said.

Eventually the only taxpayers left in a high tax wil be the poor people with very few employment options. So I ask the legislative decision makers -- "So once we are all living in poverty in Minnesota will life be 'fair enough' to meet your goals?"

Revolutions were never led by moderates,


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Presidential Campaigns

"Big decisions are taken at small meetings, small decisions at taken at big meetings"
Chinese proverb
How appropriate this proverb is for China since a small governing elite send their decisions, made in small meetings to the People's Congress which is a large meeting but only meets every five years.
I was reminded of this proverb while watching some of the American presidential candidates interviewed on the Sunday "talking head" TV shows today. Gone are the smoke-filled rooms populated by political party bosses who determined who the presidential candidate was going to be during the party's convention. That old system is clearly obsolete today when you look at the Iowa Caucus process and the mega-star power of Oprah Winfrey. As a native Iowan I am a huge advocate of the Iowa Caucus process because it forces/demands that candidates focus on retail politics whereby they must meet voters on a very decentralized level since the caucuses are held in people's living rooms, VFW halls, etc. These small events coupled with the mass rallies that Oprah Winfrey is hosting in football stadiums for Senator Barack Obama has placed a few more nails in the smoke-filled room culture's coffin -- those days are clearly gone and today's party nominating conventions are merely four days of earned media not decisions.
Speaking of decisions the next stage of decision making will take place in the March 2008 time frame when the Democratic and Republican parties will likely know who their nominees are so these people will then start selecting their vice-presidential running mates. Since this process is coming quickly I had a few observations on possible and impossible presidential tickets so here we go:
McCain-Lieberman: When Senator Joe Lieberman was up for re-election to the US Senate in 2006 his Democratic Party endorsed a challenger in the primary election so Lieberman ran as an independent and he won. At the time I wrote on this blog that he should not re-join the Democratic Caucus in the Senate but he did. If Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain (Republican) want to really be the mavericks they claim to be they would run as a team assuming Senator McCain wins the Republican nomination. I don't believe that will happen but of course these two men could run as an independent (note: there is no official "Independent Party" in the USA) team thus creating a "third party" candidacy that could clearly affect the 2008 November elections.
Obama-Winfrey: Yes, a historic ticket -- with two African-Americans -- of US Senator Barack Obama (Democrat) and TV mega-star Oprah Winfrey but alas it is impossible since both of these people are residents of Illinois which the Constitution does not allow but with her money Oprah could buy a home in any state she wants of course!! This shouldn't be a problem since Senator Hillary Clinton chose to become a New York State resident to launch her political career once her and Bill stripped the White House of most of its furniture as they left in 2001.
Ah, the combinations are endless so perhaps worthy of a future posting here. Readers comments are most welcome in case I overlooked any interesting possible tickets.
Enjoy the race,

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Here is a great example of how government actually causes "crime" simply by create a mandate in this case - bottle deposits on soft drink containers, water, tea drinks, etc.

This news comes via the December 2007 issue of State Legislatures magazine which reports that the State of Michigan "loses US$10 million per year" - correction State Legislatures editors, TAXPAYERS ARE LOSING $10 MILLION PER YEAR OUT OF THEIR POCKETS -- due to smuggling.

Yes smugglers (others might call them "entrepreneurs" or "arbitragers") from Michigan's neighboring states of Ohio and Indiana - states which do not have a bottle deposit law which is currently 10 cents per container for products purchased in Michigan.

Imagine the distorted economics the State of Michigan has created here -- despite historically high gasoline prices people ("smugglers" as the article says) are still able to transport empty bottles from Ohio and Indiana to Michigan to collect 10 cents per bottle AND make money while doing it!!!

So should Ohio and Indiana state governments simply create a 10 cent bottle deposit law to help Michigan taxpayers? No, why not let the good citizens of Michigan continue paying out tax dollars to clean up the environment while also create income for the smugglers. Given the economic basket care which Michigan is today I would not be surprised that some of these smugglers are Michigan residents who are simply trying to make a living.

Yes instead of worrying about how to tinker with the bottle deposit law the State of Michigan (one of the few states with a FULL TIME state legislature which meets throughout the year) should do things like the following list to boost their economy:

  • Turn Michigan into a right to work state to save their auto industry from the labor unions that are driving them into bankruptcy
  • Elimination of their state income and corporate income tax
  • Elect a mayor that will actually work with property owners to clean up Detroit's burned out ( resulting from the 1968/69 race riots) downtown buildings
  • Create an aggressive foreign exchange program for high school and college students (via tax credits) with Canada to drive greater free trade opportunities via NAFTA simply by getting people to develop personal connections to overcome anti-free trade rhetoric from labor unions

Walk the ditches,


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Red Sea

While sitting in a taxicab in Washington DC (WDC) today I had a conversation with the driver who emigrated from Ethiopia to the USA before a section of his country split off to become the independent nation of Eritrea.

When I heard that the driver was Ethiopian I mentioned that when I worked in WDC in the 1980's I worked with a woman from Ethiopia who highly recommended that I dine at a local restaurant called "Red Sea" so I asked the driver if he knew the restaurant. As it turns out Red Sea has been closed for years due to a boycott led by the Ethiopian community in WDC. Their boycott was a protest against the separation of Eritrea from Ethiopia because as a result Ethiopia lost its access to the Red Sea (the sea not the restaurant!).

Perhaps the Ethiopia-Eritrea divorce is too recent for the wounds to heal but I expressed my hope to the cabbie that one day these two nations become major trading partners -- they are NOT today -- with each other versus the current practice of massing military troops along their mutual border.

Not only did WDC lose a nice restaurant the the consumers/taxpayers of these two African nations lost when the trade barriers went up between these two nations. Their political leaders clearly have their own interests, not those of the average citizen, in mind with their current policies.

Trading nations are not warring nations,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow in the Swamp

While working in Washington DC this week I started my day by watching the local TV news which included numerous reports of school closings/delays due to the light dusting of snow in the area. It always seems that a 1 inch snowfall closes down Washington DC so I say -- give us a blizzard of 2 feet so they are never open for business!!

Enough of my wishful thinking on using nature to shut down government. As I walked downtown today during the snow fall I was stopped by people in parkas who were surveying pedestrians about the "harm caused by global warming............" to which I just had to laugh since the falling snow covered me so I personally so zero impact from global warming.

Yes -- timing is everything you Mother Earth First activists!! If you want to make an impact on the global warming debate they do your sidewalk surveys in August since Washington DC is little more than a swamp covered with concrete thus creating perfect HIGH humidity conditions that make pedestrians really believe global warming is going to kill us. I really hated living in Washington DC during the summer but a nice hike in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest just west of Washington DC offers cool refreshment.

Hike more and march less :-)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

For the Students?

Today I attended our monthly "leave us alone"/center-right coalition meeting for Minnesota. This is the core group I am building to lead nothing shore of a political revolution to move us away from our high tax structure status.

Our guest speaker at the meeting was the Executive Director of a charter school -- which is still a public, no tuition school in Minnesota but the school has some freedoms such as being an "at will employer" meaning they can actually fire bad teachers!! Wow, I definitely learned something today. But what really stood out for me during this presentation was that this school has a current waiting list of over 300 students. This fact, coupled with my own local charter school's waiting list of about 320 applicants for their 24 annual kindergarten slots tells me that market demand for these alternative schools is not being met.

Sadly, many of our current state legislators - who swear they do what they do because they are doing it "for the students/kids" - have no idea what market forces are or simply refuse to acknowledge such consumer demand. The perfect example is the legislation introduced by a state representative that would have capped the number of charter schools in Minnesota. There is absolutely NO way such legislation would help the students and parents who clearly want charter schools based on the hard evidence of waiting lists/applicants for open slots.

So forget it students and parents -- you will go to the school we tell you to attend because we are spending your money for you because this is a perfect way to help the teacher unions grow in power while keeping you (our future workers!!) down on the economic ladder.

Markets not Marxists,


Monday, December 03, 2007


Our Minnesota state government announced last week that we have a budget deficit of about $374 million which led the majority party who controls both chambers of the legislature -- the "DFL", Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party -- to immediately call for a special legislative session to address this latest "crisis". Their plan included a key provision to employ currently unemployed people to paint, repair, and build state government buildings!!

Amazing - exactly what we don't need -- more government employees building even more government buildings.

Today "government" is the largest employer/industry in the State of Minnesota. Nearly 400,000 Minnesotans are employed by government entities which include -- local government, local schools, state colleges, other state workers (clerical etc.), non-postal federal workers, and the US Postal Service. This totals a full 1/6 (or 17% ) of Minnesota's current work force.

After "government" our second largest industry segment in Minnesota is "Health Care and Social Assistance" with another 368,000 workers. Given the high level of government regulation in the health care field we could easily consider these people to be government employees.

SOURCE: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Security, July 2007,

As the recent state job report noted our "growth" for the last quarter was a completely anemic 0.1 percent so we need MUCH bolder ideas coming from our legislative leaders versus the DFL's 1930's style President Roosevelt make work program painting and repairing government buildings. Minnesota should sell non-essential assets like the State Office Building then move all legislators and staff back into the state capitol where they belong. The proceeds from such sales should be used to phase out our personal income tax system.

Minnesotans deserve their personal wages not paint brushes,