Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Coleman vs. Franken

The State of Minnesota has a long history of clean elections and high voter turnout so this year's US Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken is a black eye for the North Star State.

The problem is that lawyers - not voters - will determine the final winner of this senate seat. However, "solutions" for improving the process have been advocated such as "Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV) where voters would note their first and second choices on a ballot so that these results would be allocated accordingly thus avoiding an actual run off election. Minnesota needs to amend its voting law to mirror that of the State of Georgia which had a run off election following the November 4th election.

I would hope that either Coleman or Franken would concede the race via a press conference where they would call for this type of election reform.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unemployment Forecasts for 2009

Today's local newspapers in Minnesota reported the following unemployment forecasts for 2009:

Upper Peninsula of Michigan -- 11.4%
Minnesota -- 7%
Wisconsin - 5.6%
Montana - 4.3%
North Dakota - 4.1%
South Dakota - 3.4%

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

The 11.4% rate in the UP of Michigan doesn't surprise me for two reasons: 1.) Michigan's state government has taxed and regulated the state economy into a near-depression, and 2.) There is just not much "employment infrastructure" in the UP to start with especially when tourism spending is probably down due to the poor national economy.

But coming in at second place is my beloved Land of 10,000 Taxes - Minnesota at 7%. I really hope I am wrong but I fear our 2009 legislature will propose yet again the nation's highest personal income tax rate to "create jobs in Minnesota.........."

Instead of looking to St. Paul for answers Minnesotans should look west to our neighbor - South Dakota - who is at 3.4% unemployment which in economic terms is considered "full employment" since you always have some shifting in the labor market.

Perhaps one key difference between Minnesota and South Dakota is the fact that South Dakota has ZERO personal income tax which helps keep entrepreneurs in the start creating more jobs.

If there are other factors that readers want to note for me to study please let me know. We have tried the "tax and create jobs" model for too many years in Minnesota so let's use 2009 to implement the "South Dakota Model" by phasing out our personal income taxes.

Todd (please see my other commentaries at -- www.regularfolksunited.com )

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

German culture

Finally after numerous years of living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota I visited the German American Institute in St. Paul today.

My intent was simply to tour the building but when I walked in I was asked "are you here for the German language lunch?" so I was encouraged to stay. Hey $8.00 for German food and story telling is a good bargain so as the descendant of cheap German farmers I jumped at this opportunity.

The guests at my table spent the lunch talking about the former (thank God - along with Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II!) Soviet Union and East Germany. Is there anything better than laughing at the KGB and the Stasi :-) I spent most of my time talking with two elderly ladies who were retired German teachers. The one lady had obtained her US citizenship in 1949 after having fled East Germany via a job with the US Army at the time.

My lunch mates and I shared not only an appreciation for German culture today but our shared love and appreciation for the freedoms we have in the USA. Freedoms worth protecting for our children.

Study history not social studies,


PS -- see my other writing at: www.regularfolksunited.com

Monday, December 01, 2008

Billions of Barrels of Oil

There is nothing like the long Thanksgiving Day weekend which allows us to relax with some light reading (when we aren't watching football games of course) such as this item I noticed in the November 29/30 Wall Street Journal:

"Proved Reserves, 2007, Top 10 Countries in Billions of Barrels"

Here is their top 10 list --

Saudi Arabia - 262.3
Canada - 179.2
Iran - 136.3
Iraq - 115
Kuwait - 101.5
United Arab Emirates - 97.8
Venezuela - 80
Russia - 60
Libya - 41.5
Nigeria - 36.2

Now this list can be viewed several ways. My purist free trade friends would say, "big deal where our oil comes from, we send them money and they send us oil, it works for everyone..........." However, I would note a few concerns with this list including the following countries where: we are involved in a war, there are local acts of terrorism against the oil industry, or we have very strained diplomatic relations with these nations -- Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, and Nigeria. This represents 5 of the top 10 owners of the world's oil reserves on this list. Libya might even have to be considered for this list given its past acts of terrorism but in today's new world Libya has renewed diplomatic relations with the Western nations but limited proved reserves.

While never a supporter of invading Iraq I did see the benefit of defending Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990/1991 given the true threat he posed to the free flow of oil. Had Hussein fully integrated Kuwait as a province of Iraq the combined nation would have been second only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves.

But why should we have expected Hussein would have stopped at Kuwait? Why not invade the United Arab Emirates at some point and then his old enemy - Iran - which would have made the "Iraqi Empire" the world's largest owner of oil reserves. At that point he could have invaded Saudi Arabia for a clean run of the table!!

Fortunately the USA-Canada border is the "world's longest friendly border" so a steady supply of oil seems assured but such a reliance on imported oil should force our nation to explore other options.

To see more of my writing please visit this macro-blog: www.regularfolksunited.com


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Peaceful Divorce

Today's newspaper reports show that 76% of voters in Greenland -- currently a territory of Denmark - cast "yes" votes in a national referendum yesterday calling for greater home rule. Twenty four percent of voters said "no" in the official results.

The plan spelled out in the referendum calls for Greenland to take control over:

-local police force
-court system
-coast guard
-language (Greenlandic will become the official language)

On a personal level I have always been intrigued by Greenland ever since a Danish friend of mine invited me to go scuba diving around the glaciers/ice bergs in Greenland. We never made the trip which I regret. However, on a political level this referendum vote coincides with my personal philosophy -- ballots are good and bullets are bad (unless of course an armed revolution is the only option for eliminating an oppressive government -- take heed North Korea, Burma, and Venezuela).

Since Greenland and its mother country, Denmark, apparently are headed for an eventual divorce that would leave Greenland as a sovereign nation it reminded me of other disputed/subservient areas of our world. Kurdistan, Northern Ireland, the Basque Region, etc. are examples that readily come to mind.

Again -- let's give ballots a try versus bullets. Had we pursued this course of action in 1860 in the USA by simply hosting state-by-state referendums in the Confederate States of America regarding the question of secession perhaps most of, if not all of the 600,000 deaths could have been prevented. While I abhor the institution of slavery that existed in the American South some scholars would argue that the US Civil War was a battle over the definition of states' rights but I have always argued it was merely friction between two very different economic systems -- the manufacturing economy of the North and the agricultural economy of the South.

Since the institution of slavery was a failed economic model -- as many plantation owners knew at the time I have read -- it was merely a matter of time before the South would have imploded as the Confederate States of America.

Freedom isn't free,


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

100% better than Applebee's!!

Just on the border of Apple Valley and Burnsville, Minnesota is located an excellent family dining experience called - Giuseppe Restaurant -- located at 14600 Wood Park Shoppes. I must say the strip mall exterior is very deceiving.

This Italian restaurant is managed by the brother of the more well known - Stephano's Restaurant -- also in Burnsville. Little did I know but this family is Lebanese but they know how to cook Italian food. I had the seafood jambalaya which my wife could not even look at since apparently the site of squid and octopus waiting for me to consume them is a turn off for her :-)

The food is excellent, the wait staff is personable and attentive, and the owner makes you feel like family so overall a very pleasant dining experience. I will give it a 3.5 on my 5 point rating scale.

I am not posting at this blog very often since my writing time is being consumed by this new website --


I hope readers join me in the discussion.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

new website needs writers

If any of my blog readers share my world view which I roughly summarize as:

  • "fly over country" is a great place to live
  • governments cause more problems than they "fix"
  • many big government advocates actually want to keep the poor and ignorant in our country, poor and ignorant
  • God, family, and duty are central pillars to guide our actions

then I believe I have the website for if you are a current or aspiring writer. Think of this new website as your personal newspaper where you can guarantee your thoughts will get published.

The website I am talking about is called -- REGULAR FOLKS UNITED -- and can be found at:


I am a regular writer there so let me encourage you to get involved.

Let the revolution begin,



Yes of course we are fast approaching the Major League Baseball playoffs followed by the World Series which for me is the ideal metaphor for the US president elections but that is a commentary for another time -- then again I have to guess George Will has already written it so that saves me some time!!

No, for this posting the "homerun" I am talking about is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican Party national convention here in St. Paul, Minnesota tonight. Electrifying, inspiring, and on target like the hunter she is -- that speech represents exactly what this country needs. A mother in the White House he is not a "nanny" like Hillary Clinton.

No Hillary it does not "take a village to raise a child" - rather it takes a solid team of parents who love and guide their children within a family unit not via some government program.

For all of those voters out there who were "hoping for change" in Washington here are your major party choices:

US Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin


US Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden

75% of these top 4 candidates are currently serving in the US Senate which is not a hot bed of executive experience. Elect Governor Palin, a proven reformer of political machines, if you truly want to shake up the DC Beltway.

Let the revolution begin,


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day

Hello from the host state of this year's Republican Party national convention which begins this Monday, September 1st - Labor Day.

I have to sit back and simply laugh. The Republican convention begins on Labor Day! Just imagine the amount of overtime pay required to get the labor union workers at the hotels and the various convention venues to work in order to get everything finished on time.

As most of America celebrates Labor Day with one last trip to the cabin, one last BBQ with friends, or perhaps just a day lounging on their couches the people involved with this convention will be working at full speed long into the night to make certain everything goes as planned. Personally I have worked on two of the past conventions so I can empathize with the staff this week -- my best wishes to all of them.

While I plan to focus on some family time I do have to catch up on some work especially some writing I have to do for a new website being launched this week to coincide with the Republican convention. This new website will be focused on what the "average Joe and Jane" think about politics and the world we live in today. It will celebrate the right to keep and bear arms, the love of the outdoors, and limited government. So whether you were harmed by a government program or simply are interested in living "off the grid" (I would like to but I also don't want to get divorced!!) I hope my readers will spend some time using this new website. I plan to promote it via this blog so please watch this space for the website address.

I'm Regular and I Vote,


Friday, August 29, 2008

Sad Day in Sports

Yesterday was truly a sad day in sports. No, no athlete died yesterday but the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) chose to do things that not only altered their sports dramatically (in a negative way) and from my perspective - harmed their consumers in the process.

First -- the NFL continued its pre-season games last night with VERY few starting players opting to play their second and third string players since the games were only "pre-season" as a way to avoid getting their starters injured. Wait a minute - you don't have your starters play yet you charge your fans full price for these pre-season games? Instead of short changing their fans in this way why doesn't the NFL simply change the "pre-season" label to the "back up squad" games. A little truth in advertising would be appreciated.

Second - America's national past time , MLB, instituted their first use of video replay so that teams could challenge the calls of umpires. The last thing I want to see is an expansion of the "video challenge" system which has already harmed our ability to enjoy NFL games as coaches and officials spend several minutes reviewing videotape. Now the MLB's video replay/challenge system is merely for judging home run calls and foul balls but I fear a slippery slope that will one day lead to all of baseball being determined via video reply.

May we never see that day,


Thursday, August 28, 2008


First let me be clear -- Thomas R.Voyt of Andover, Minnesota, 55 years old -- is a pedophile who deserves the punishment he received from the Ramsey County Court if not more for his actions. Our local newspaper reported that Mr. Voyt was sentenced to 90 days in a workhouse and three years probation for soliciting sex with a 13 year old girl he met via the "Live Links" telephone chat line.

But I am able to see a silver lining - albeit a very thin one -- in this story since Mr. Voyt told Judget Michael T. DeCourcy before his sentencing:

"First, I'd like to apologize to the victim and to the general public. I made the wrong choice...I'm 100 percent ready to take full responsibility."

Wow, did you see what I saw here? No claims of being a "victim" of a terrible childhood or another crutch to lean on - he simply took "full responsibility" for his actions. Now that is encouraging and will hopefully lead him to devote the rest of his life educating the public where he can about the danger our children face from such predators.

While I respect this family's privacy and this girl's minor status I have to wonder -- does the newspaper community plan to do a follow up story about the 13 year old girl and her parents? Is someone in that family taking full responsibility for allowing this girl to place herself is this very dangerous situation? Did she think it was a 15 year old boy on the telephone chat line or was she simply adventurous and confident that she was mature enough to "handle" any situation including saying "no, I don't do that" when they actually met?

Fortunately no body bags were needed,


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Raising Children

Now that my wife and I are raising children - "future taxpayers" as the IRS likes to say - I definitely spend time reading the family/child rearing articles in the newspapers. So this posting is inspired by yesterday's USA Today Snapshot bar graph and today's Wall Street Journal's Work and Family column by Sue Shellenbarger.

First the USA Today Snapshot which reported the results of a survey question asking adults to rate "20 health issues facing children in their communities." The results included:

Obesity - 35%
Drug abuse - 33% (perhaps Lipitor was included!!??)
Smoking/tobacco use - 32%
Bullying - 28%
Internet safety - 27%

Then in Ms. Shellenberger's WSJ column I noticed that children today are "spending a mere 24 minutes a day doing cleaning, laundry, and other housework...............a 25% drop since 1981."

Cause and effect?

There has to be something hear since farming families a century ago, even 50 years ago (just review photographs in your local museum), did not have obese children simply because their children had chores to do just like the adults.

While I hate to lose even more readers let me encourge parents to get their children off the computer (Internet safety - 27%) a few hours a day to help around the house or if you have the land/trees needed get the kids to saw some wood to heat the house. Just think of the benefits - kids working outdoors instead of laying on your couch eating junk food. Now that is a health program that does not require more taxpayer dollars.

Your children will be better prepared,


Monday, August 25, 2008

Wind and Pigskins

Last week my time was consumed with traveling to Fargo, North Dakota for an event on wind energy featuring T. Boone Pickens who has launched a campaign at:


I had not visited Fargo for a few years so it was interesting to see the Fargo Dome during this trip. The dome is the home field for the North Dakota State University Bison football team. Overall I was impressed with this stadium and the team's meeting rooms.

Touring the dome was a good reminder that this Thursday night serves as the kickoff for the 2009 college football season. This season has changes in store for our family since we did not renew our season tickets at Iowa State University opting instead for tickets to the University of Minnesota Gophers which is the wife's alma mater plus the drive to the stadium is substantially shorter. The Gophers of course play in the Metrodome for their last season this years since the new outdoor TCF Bank Stadium will open in 2009.

Last year's 1 and 11 losing season for the Gophers did not inspire me to purchase season tickets I can assure you but regardless it should be fun watching the games since the Gophers play in the football heaven known as Big Ten Conference football.

The season begins,


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Top 5

I have to admit it I love the "Labels" feature on Blogger which allows blog writers to give each of their postings a label/category. For no other reason then pure curiosity (something lacking in many classrooms today) I decided to do a tally count of my "Top 5 Labels" for my current 623 postings on this blog.

The tally count went as follows:

Government - 29 postings
Taxes - - 25 postings
Football - 25 postings
Education/School Choice - 18 postings
Presidential Candidates - 11 postings

TOTAL = 109 postings

So a full 23% of these 109 postings had nothing to do with government programs!! I can't believe people think I am a one-dimensional writer :-)

Huddle up,


Science Teachers

Today the State of Minnesota released the test results of a "new, interactive, online science exam, the first of its kind in the nation.........." according to our Pioneer Press newspaper. This exam was given to 5th graders, 8th graders, and high school students.

Overall only 40% of students tested -- 185,000 students total -- in Minnesota met the state science standards for proficiency. No doubt when the 2009 legislature convenes there will be a collective call for "fully funding our schools.............investing in our children............so we can compete with India and China....................."

The tax and spending never stops my friends. Yes President Eisenhower warned us about the "military-industrial complex" but he overlooked the "education-spending complex" which now consumes nearly 50% of our state government budget. So how much should we "invest" in education -- 70, 80, or perhaps 90% of the budget?

How about instead of throwing more money at the problem we demand comprehensive reforms such as:

  • Differential salaries -- if we need more and better science teachers then let's pay such teachers premium salaries which are higher than their peers. It is time we used market forces versus collective bargaining.
  • Income tax reform -- to encourage new recruits to the teacher profession let's declare teacher salaries to be exempt from all federal, state, and city income taxes. Thus a teacher getting paid $60,000 per year (9 months of work with 3 months of summer off in most cases) paying a combined rate of 20% would see a $12,000 salary increase to $72,000. This salary annualized (9 months converted to 12 months) would then total $96,000 which is getting near the pay scale for Members of Congress :-)

So there you have it -- some innovative education reform ideas that do not cost us taxpayers one penny beyond what we are taxed today.

Reform on MacDuff and damned be the bureaucrat that says, "hold enough!",


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bear Hug

Sadly the Russian occupation of the Republic of Georgia continues through this weekend. My prayers are with the families of my friends Paata and Gia as they face this life threatening situation. It is an amazing coincidence that Paata and Gia were scheduled to host this year's "European Resource Bank" conference in October in Georgia. This conference is focused on free markets, individual liberty, and limited governments -- concepts that Russia clearly abhors given it mafia-like foreign policy when it comes to energy supplies.

Yes perhaps as some observers have noted Georgia provoked this action by Russia via its attacks on the two breakaway provinces but if Russians were so badly affected by Georgia's actions why didn't they bring this concern to the attention of the United Nation's Security Council? If they did I missed it.

But perhaps more important I have to note that I think the leaders of NATO and the European Union were asleep at the wheel in terms of their failure to incorporate the Republic of Georgia into the Western/free world in a way that would have prevented Russian intervention as we have seen this month.

While I am not a fan of the European Union and believe NATO has outlived its original mandate these two institutions could still have served a vital purpose by lending their protection to Georgia but that opportunity seems to be lost give the current Russian bear hug of this sovereign nation.

Clearly Stalin is smiling in his grave,


No Loitering

During a neighborhood dinner one of our city leaders informed me that our city government had to continue owning the local liquor stores because then we "can better control underage drinking........." To which I replied -- "since we are a suburb surrounded by other suburbs don't you think kids would simply drive to nearby towns to buy booze if you really think city ownership deters them?"

So on Saturday (yesterday) I had to laugh when I stopped at our local city liquor store (flash back to my 1986 Soviet Union trip -- the government owned the vodka shops!) to buy some refreshments for our pool party. Why? Because sitting right next to the liquor store exit was a park bench with a sign posted above it that read, "No Loitering". But it was the three 12 to 14 year old girls sitting on this bench eating lunch that made me laugh.

If the city leaders really want to keep children away from the booze perhaps the park bench should be moved to -- I don't know -- a CITY PARK!

It's 5 o'clock somewhere,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ACT scores and Education Reform

Well the college entry ACT test scores state rankings were released yesterday so here are the top three states for highest average scores:


Nationally the report noted that the average ACT score dropped from 2007 to 21.1 (36 is the highest possible score) for the class of 2008. Clearly that is not a good trend but more importantly I believe is that even though Minnesota's average was the highest in the country the report noted that a full 67% of students going on to college require remedial education!! So if Minnesota is number one I would hate to raise my children in whatever state ranked dead last. This is not a good sign for the USA as we try to compete in the global economy.

Solutions? No need to spend more taxpayer dollars, instead we should pursue:

1.) Phase out the US Department of Education and send all the savings to the 50 states via education vouchers to families with school age children for spending on tuition, tutors, etc.

2.) Turn parents into consumers by having their current schools invoice families for education expenses so we all know the actual costs so then we can do some comparison shopping.

3.) Enact right to work legislation in all 50 states so teachers are not required to join their teachers' unions.

4.) Enact merit/performance pay for teachers

5.) Change/modernize teaching licensing requirements to help recruit working professionals from the math and science fields.

6.) Make teacher salaries exempt from all state and federal personal income taxes to help recruit new teachers to the career.

Read more and spend less,


Monday, August 11, 2008

Eat Local Food

This weekend our family toured the annual Dakota County Fair which I always enjoy as a way to connect the kids with the land/agriculture a little given our suburban lives. Despite being the third largest metro area county in Minnesota nearly 70% of our county's land is still zoned for agricultural use.

As we walked through the animal barns, 4-H exhibits, the midway food stands, etc. one information booth I decided to visit was the "Lakeville Coalition for the Environment". This group was promoting everything "green" for a better world including their "Eat Local" campaign. Personally both of my parents' families come from generations of family farmers so I have an interest in the small, family farm life but I always pause when I see the "Eat Local" food campaigns. Why? Well, we don't grow many (zero to be exact) bananas in Minnesota and I also like strawberries but those are hard to find in February in Minnesota when arctic like winds hit our homes. Yes there are greenhouse opportunities to produce such products locally but if a fully loaded cost study was completed it may very well show that importing strawberries from California to Minnesota is still better for the environment versus the power supply needed for operating green houses throughout the 4 months of winter here in Minnesota.

Now of course global warming could change all of these economics to the point that we may someday grow bananas in Minnesota so would that be a good or bad thing for the environment?

Bon appetit,


Obesity Taxes

Two related news stories in the last week from France and Mexico dealt with obesity so I trimming the fat to combine them into one positing today :-)

  • France - despite the best selling book, "French Women Don't Get Fat" , apparently they do in France since their Budget Ministry is considering increasing taxes on fatty, sugary foods from the current 5.5% up to 19.6%. So will this tax policy reduce obesity or will people simply consume more foods that are taxed at the lesser rate or is this just a money grab by the government so they can "harmonize" (which in Western Europe always means up/higher!) all food tax rates in the future?

  • Mexico -- after dropping his weight from 1,235 pounds down to about 700 pounds Manuel Uribe of Monterrey, Mexico was able to leave his home for the first time in 5 years to visit a nearby lake with his girlfriend, Claudia Solis. Mr. Uribe is only 43 years old so I have to wonder - how is it possible that he could live/support himself for the last 5 years in terms of earning money since he could not leave his home? Did Ms. Solis supply all the resources, did a government program support him, is he independently wealthy, or did he rely on charity? This sounds cold-hearted but I have to say whoever "helped" him to remain trapped in his home by his obesity did not help him at all. Instead these enablers simply became prison guards.

I am off to the gym!


Cuba - Part 2

My earlier posting on Cuba advocated lifting the USA's trade embargo against Cuba as a counterweight to Russia's Prime Minister Putin's recent call for Russia to "re-establish our presence in Cuba..........." Hello - US Congress! Did you notice this weekend that Russia was bombing the Republic of Georgia while tanks and troops invaded the country?

Lifting the embargo against Cuba not only makes economic sense but it also makes sense in geo-political terms . We need to keep the Russians out of Cuba by bring Cuba into our economic sphere. I would much rather see thousands of Cuban-Americans "invade" Cuba with US dollars instead of sending US troops to attack Russian military installations in Cuba.

Speaking of Cuba here is one of my occasional restaurant reviews. Last week I was driving by a new restaurant in our town called "La Luz" (the light/light house in Spanish) which is a Cuban-themed deli. La Luz replaced my old favorite "Brown Bag Deli" which I was told by fellow citizens closed because their service was too slow. I hope La Luz doesn't have the same fate because while the food was good clearly my sandwich was on the slow boat from Cuba. After I waited for nearly 10 minutes the staff called my name. Thinking my sandwich was ready I walked to the counter only to be told -- "we are starting your sandwich now..........." Ah!!! Not good for a first visit. In my 5 star possible ranking system I am going to give them a "2" primarily to the service.

Libre Cuba!


Tuesday, August 05, 2008


"We should restore our position in Cuba and other countries"
Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia
August 4, 2008 quote by Interfax News Agency

Of course the last "position" Russia (then the Soviet Union) including the installation of nuclear missles aimed at the USA so Mr. Putin's neo-imperialiam rhetoric should concern us. Yes concern us not "paralyze" us by fear.

We should take Mr. Putin at his word that the Russian Bear wants to re-assemble the former Soviet empire. So let's simply crush their dreams once again via the sheer economic power of the USA. How can we accomplish such a goal?


Yes, let's welcome Cuba into the market-based world economy fully BEFORE Russia renews its presence in Cuba. The USA and Cuba are only 90 miles apart from each other while Russia and Cuba are thousands of miles apart. We should resurrect our old "Monroe Doctrine" via a new twist on its objective to keep foreign powers out of Latin America - namely "free trade" with Cuba.

The Cuban trade embargo has not harmed the Brothers Castro nor given any hint that they will be toppled from power. With "death" being the only term limit that Fidel and Raul are likely to face why should we want for their natural deaths when lifting the trade embargo on Cuba would drive them from power in a much faster way.

Cuban Americans should give this geo-political proposal serious consideration since their treasured trade embargo will eventually benefit Russia as they seek to jeopardize American national security.

Lift the embargo,


Monday, August 04, 2008

Roe vs. Wade

Clearly it is election season here in the USA judging from all of the bumper stickers on automobiles I saw today. For example a car next to me had these three attached:

  • Coexist -- with the "o" being a peace symbol
  • Obama '08
  • I vote for kids

Let me zero in on this last one by posing the obvious question -- "what office are the 'kids' running for and how can they serve if elected since they would be underage???" :-)

Seriously folks - this is classic big government/nanny state sloganeering, " I vote for kids" , indeed. I know what their message is -- we need to "invest" (aka take more of your money) in smaller class room sizes, before and after school day care, etc. etc.

Well my wife and I have two children so I can assure you every time I vote I vote for candidates that focus on cutting taxes and cutting programs so we can expand freedom. I do indeed "vote for kids" when I vote for candidates who support the expansion of school choice.

Which brings us to the key theme for this posting -- "choice" -- which is typically short hand for "free to choose whether or not to have an abortion which of course became the law of the land in the USA in the Roe vs. Wade US Supreme Court decision. What I always highlight for my big government friends is that Roe vs. Wade ruled that there was a "right to privacy" in the US Constitution.

So why is it that this "right" has ONLY been applied to abortion rights versus privacy issues such as our personal incomes? If a "right to privacy" truly exists within the US Constitution then the US Supreme Court should declare personal income taxes to be unconstitutional.

Now that my friends would truly be an "economic stimulus package" that would actually help our economy.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NOLA -- further thoughts

As noted earlier I attended the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (www.ncsl.org -- if readers want to know more but I can tell you that these people simply want to consume more of your wealth to pay for more government programs) in New Orleans last week.

After returning home to Minnesota I reflected on the local media reports I read about the "Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts/status three years later...................." No where did I see how much money was spent -- tax dollars, private sector donations, and of course the man-hours of donated volunteer labor -- so far on the "recovery efforts" but it has to be at billions and billions of dollars by now.

So given how "green" our society has become with our focus on eating organic foods, recycling, and driving Toyota Prius cars everywhere I have to pose this question? Why didn't our nation simply pay - publicly and privately -- to turn most of New Orleans into "green space" instead of rebuilding everything?

Since we were all obligated to spend the money anyway why didn't we relocate families and businesses to "non-Hurricane" areas thereby letting nature reclaim large sections of land. So tell me former Senator John Edwards - from North Carolina who seems to be living in New Orleans given his multiple press events there -- "if you are so concerned that global warming is going to destroy our planet WHY in God's name our we rebuilding this city instead of creating more green space that would process more of the CO2 that apparently threatens our very existence?"

The answer my friends -- with a "crisis" to address politicians like John Edwards and Al Gore would be on food stamps.

Green space not levees,


Thursday, July 24, 2008


Since my professional work requires me to attend numerous conferences this week I find myself staying in New Orleans, Louisiana yet again. I believe I have been in this city at least four times now so before and after Hurricane Katrina to be exact.

While I did not tour the infamous 9th Ward which three years after the hurricane damage is still a disaster area based on the TV and newspaper coverage I have seen this week. Now I am not a heartless bastard but my personality is wired to take action so I was a bit shocked when I read today's local newspaper. One article stated that the 9th Ward Homeowners Association recently held a fundraising event where some of the proceeds would be used to "mow the weeds a this empty lot........." which included a photo of the homeowners association president. What? Is the poverty so bad in this part of town that three years after the hurricane no one has a working lawn mower with gasoline or if nothing else a corn knife or machete so these weeds could be cut? I can tell you if we lived there our father would have my brother and I outside cleaning up as soon as the hurricane water receded. We would not have sat on our porch holding signs that said, "FEMA come help us!" Help us? Hell, if agencies like FEMA did not consume our tax dollars we would all have more money available to better recover from disasters.

One final observation on the "hurricane recovery" media coverage this week . Former presidential/vice presidential candidate and former US Senator from NORTH CAROLINA (yes, that is important so don't forget) John Poverty Edwards held yet another press conference to announce his "green house building project" as part of an overall poverty elimination project. Reminder -- when he announced his run for president in 2007 Senator Edwards held the event in the 9th Ward of New Orleans so let's encourage him to take the next logical step. Become a full time resident of Louisiana so you can run for political office OR better yet -- start a business and employ some people instead of having what appears to be weekly press conferences.

Just don't move to Minnesota -- we can handle our challenges Mr. Edwards,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Advancement via Competition

Finally something for the conservative base to get excited about in terms of the McCain for President!! During Senator John McCain's speech to the NAACP - National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - in Cincinnati Senator McCain stated that as president he would --

"expand education opportunities, partly through vouchers for low income children to attend private schools..............

The article I read in our local newspaper (www.twincities.com) went on to state that Senator Obama has "dismissed support for private school vouchers for low income Americans."

While I am very encouraged by Senator McCain's comments I have to say he did not go far enough. His speech should have called our failing public schools in poor neighborhoods EXACTLY what they are -- "modern day plantations" not centers of education excellence.

So at this point in the presidential campaign the black candidate - Obama - is keeping poor blacks on the plantations/schools via his opposition to a voucher system that would finally make schools compete for students.

McCain's speech is essentially a modern day Emancipation Proclamation but sadly I did not see any media coverage speaking in those terms.

Get a dream Mr. Obama,


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Created by Consumers

Today's Financial Times included a chart detailing the "World's Largest Companies" (by market capitalization) in the world today. This top ten listed included:

1. ExxonMobil - US$431 billion
2. PetroChina - $384
3. Gazprom - $298
4. General Electric - $279
5. China Mobile - $268
6. Microsoft - $241
7. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China - $240
8. Petrobras - $235
9. Royal Dutch Shell -- $232
10. Wal Mart Stores - $228

Now if we break these ten companies down by category we end up with --

-5 companies are energy/oil producers
-3 of these companies are Chinese entities
-4 of these companies are American/USA companies

Given the high price of oil/gasoline today coupled with the growing energy demands of China it is no surprise that 5 of these corporations are energy companies. However their size and market value should not be surprising since consumers spent their own money via market decisions to create these giants -- although PetroChina, GazProm, and Petrobras are essentially products of national governments.

While reading this list in the Financial Times was educational all readers would have benefited if the article would have included a chart showing the "World's Largest Companies" from 50 or even 100 years ago to offer some historical perspective to show how the world economy has changed over time.

Economic history is essential summertime reading,


Monday, July 21, 2008

Algae - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Any blog posting on "algae" is probably out of the ordinary anyway so no one will be surprised that I am reversing the order of this posting's title as I comment:


Algae itself is a very simple life form and is not particularly attractive -- essentially it reminds me of my last prom date. (ok - I admit it , I did not take a date to prom but you get the idea)


As the science community tells us "algae blooms" represent the "Bad" of global warming --


"Harmful Algae Takes Advantage Of Global Warming: More Algae Blooms Expected
ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008) — You know that green scum creeping across the surface of your local public water reservoir? Or maybe it's choking out a favorite fishing spot or livestock watering hole. It's probably cyanobacteria -- blue-green algae -- and, according to a paper in the April 4 issue of the journal Science, it relishes the weather extremes that accompany global warming."


Yet in the July 17, 2008 edition of the New York Times newspaper we find this article title, "Planes that are Quieter, Cleaner and More Efficient are in Demand". As the article noted Boeing Corporation is experimenting with a "tank of bright green algae, the potential feeding ground for a jet fuel substitute."


So let me get this straight -- people should reduce their air travel to help cut emissions which cause global warming which causes algae blooms but yet algae is also viewed as a "feeding ground for a fuel substitute (NYT)".................

Looked at another way - so we should drive our SUVs and fly to faraway places for vacation (like Stockholm to accept our Nobel Prize Mr. Al Gore?) so that we use up these evil fossil fuels which produce global warming which of course produces algae blooms which of course might supply an alternative fuel source to replace fossil fuels.................. I am dizzy!

Then again we were all told not to eat bacon in the 1980's due to "high levels of nitrates" but no one is focused on this "bacon crisis" today so clearly the scientific research has changed. For more on bacon please visit -- http://www.baconunwrapped.com/

Green yet confused,


Monday, July 14, 2008

Spas and Election Campaigns

Years ago when I worked on political campaigns full time I would have loved to been able to take some time off to visit a day spa just to relax a little but two major reasons I did not -- we worked nearly 7 days a week and I was poor!! Not food stamp level poor but poor enough to avoid such luxuries.

So today's Wall Street Journal article caught my eye - "Spas go all out to give kids the treatment" -- here we go again, marketing to children!! When will it stop!!?? Now I think we can all agree that a sea salt scrub is probably less harmful than a bubble gum cigar but I am certain a "child welfare" activist will seek a lawsuit against the spa industry for preying on America's youth.

The major reason for this marketing to children? Building consumer loyalty early to gain revenues since spa industry revenues have dropped in recent years as noted in this article:

2005 -- $9.7 billion

2006 -- $9.4 billion

Now that seems like a lot of money spent on pampering ourselves but I don't hear the activist community crying out about this vast sum of money that could be better "invested" in public schools or health insurance ponzi schemes like we hear people say about political campaign spending.

So how much will be spent on the presidential election in 2008? Perhaps just over $1 billion for all candidates based on this website's research --


So the next time you or your friends complain about "all these TV and radio ads by politicians.............." just laugh a little while you walk to your massage appointment. I know I will be doing so myself.

Breathe deeply,


Monday, July 07, 2008

Absolutely No Change

During this year's presidential election Senator Obama/Democratic National Committee talking heads have consistently used the messaging that "electing Senator John McCain is the same as giving President George W. Bush a third term.............." to help reinforce Obama's "Change we can believe in" campaign theme.

Before I get to the heart of this posting I have to ask -- "why didn't Sen. Hillary Clinton simply campaign on the theme that we need to 'give President Bill Clinton a third term by electing me' since we are constantly told the "Clinton Years" were America's golden years? Personally I have to say that such a theme would have given me yet ANOTHER reason to vote against her to avoid more personal pain.

Speaking of pain I actually want to scream whenever I hear the "Change" phrase mentioned by Sen. Obama or party officials. Change what? Hell I want "change" myself such as a flat personal income tax of 15% paid on incomes over $500,000 but I doubt Sen. Obama agrees with my version of change. He has failed to give any specifics regarding how he would define change but I got a hint last week via a New York Times article that was republished in my local Minnesota newspaper. The headline read --

"Obama embraces faith-based programs"
Amazing "change" Senator Obama -- this is exactly the concept that President Bush gave us and I hated it then so I hate the idea even more today now that you are promoting the concept. If this is the "change" you are promoting then by all means the country should elect Sen. McCain since we are told that would create a "third Bush term" as noted earlier. The idea here is that the federal government takes our money from us then determines where best this money should be spent to deliver "social services" via the faith community.
So theoretically my taxes could be sent to Washington DC where the White House would then theoretically decide that my local church -- Grace Lutheran in Apple Valley, Minnesota -- should be the recipient of a "faith-based grant/program" of tax dollars so my church can expand its food shelf program to which my family already donates food and toilteries.
How is that for inefficiency for you? Why does anyone support such a system when inspired, motivated, and/or caring local citizens like me should simply be allowed to keep our tax dollars in our pockets so WE can decide where our donations go to benefit civil society - such decisions should not be made by Presidents Bush, Obama, or McCain.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto the Lord what is the Lord's as the Bible verse goes which makes me ask -- "if Jesus only wants 10% of our wealth (tithe) why should the federal government expect 28 or 31%?"
Praying for revolution not "change",

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Teaching Obesity

Well between a family vacation to my home state of Iowa last week and an unplanned business trip to Washington DC on Sunday and Monday this week I have not focused on posting on this blog but wonders of all wonders -- the nation's capital inspired me to write!!

As I sat in a hotel lobby between meetings in Washington DC a group of very large/clearly obese people were gathering near me during a break in the conference they were attending. What conference? The National Education Association (www.nea.org ) which is the largest labor union for America's teachers and perhaps our greatest roadblock to full blown school choice that empowers parents and students to act as consumers of education services instead of recipients (dare I say - "victims" ?) of the education establishment.

This group's obvious obesity status caught my attention because for years I have seen the media coverage of "childhood obesity, lawsuits against McDonald's, and vending machines selling junk food in our schools to raise money for the school because we completely selfish tax slaves aren't spending (sorry - "investing") enough on the education establishment..............."

The other thought that hit me was a research study released to the public a few months ago that concluded -- "if you have obese friends you too will likely become obese......" So who made these teachers obese -- McDonald's , their students, or perhaps did they get obese because they are not competing for their jobs since they work in a protected monopoly known as the public school?

Beyond the obvious obesity my other observation was the language/grammar used by these "teachers" -- my God, had Bill Cosby attended this NEA convention he would have no doubt delivered an entire speech on how these teachers are harming their students' futures via their use of ebonics/hip hop lingo/etc. It clearly was not the King's English that I heard in that hotel lobby.

Investments should produce returns not protected monopolies,


Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Based on today's Wall Street Journal article, "Chrysler taps $2 billion credit line from owners", we have clear evidence that former President Jimmy Carter should have stuck to his initial instincts - a belief in the free market system -- when he was asked by Chrysler in the late 1970's to provide a financial bailout to the failing company. Unfortunately he caved in to the corporate/labor union cabal that rallied their government allies to support a bailout so by the time President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office in January 1981 the bailout deal was his to administer.

I hate to say it - especially since I am not the cold-hearted, greedy, capitalist pig dog that some readers will no doubt brand me as - but our US federal government should have simply let Chrysler go bankrupt in 1979 instead of putting it on life support so that 29 years later (this year) Chrysler's current owners, Cerberus Capital Management and former parent Daimler AG, are still bailing the company out via this latest cash infusion.

Why let them go bankrupt? Beyond the basic free market economics involved -- Chrysler failed to build vehicles that people actually wanted to drive!! -- there is a psychological reason known as "survivor syndrome" which I saw years ago when I worked in corporate life. The "survivors" in my case were the corporate employees who survived the massive lay offs my company announced over several years. The "syndrome" effect is described by psychologists are a feeling of "guilt, coupled with a 'why not me?' reflection........." (my paraphrasing). Personally I got sick of the corporate speculation/gossip about the "next round of lay offs" and did not want to fall into the "survivor syndrome" mind set so I left the company to join a consulting firm in an entirely new line of working and geographic location.

No, not every Chrysler employee would, perhaps could, make such a leap of faith like I did to escape the dark, negative corporate atmosphere I was working in but since Chrysler's future hasn't look very promising in the last 29 years what did the country gain by propping up this paper tiger of a corporation?

Upon reflection I have to believe the 100,000 plus employees at Chrysler in the 1979 time frame would have been better off if the company would have gone into bankruptcy so that new owners/management would have taken control to offer a new focus or simply to sell off all of its assets that would have phased out the company completely. I guarantee you that some of the workers who saw the very dark days in 1979 during the pursuit of the federal government bailout are still working there today. This assumption makes me sad for them since they could have easily completed a college degree and/or job training for a new career not in the automobile industry since they had 29 years to do it. Unfortunately the government "helped" them by perpetuating their dead end jobs.

Enjoy the ride (unless you are in a "K" car of course!),


Monday, June 23, 2008

Iowa Flooding

My apologies for the lack of recent posts on my blog but due to family business last week I had to travel from Minnesota to my home town are in Northwest Iowa -- "where God vacations" -- as we used to say when we were kids.

While Governor Culver of Iowa did indeed declare 65 of Iowa's 99 counties to be disaster zones my home county was untouched by the flooding. As I have told friends over the years, "Iowa is not just flat land filled with corn, while Minnesota got the lakes, Iowa was given all the rivers........" so the recent flooding should come as no surprise to those of us who know this part of the country. My own hometown is located at the confluence of the Maple River and Odebolt Creek so there is plenty of potential for flooding. However, years ago these two bodies of water were engineered with wide flood plains to minimize flooding.

So as I completed my first road trip with our 4 month old son -- he is a great travel companion since he agrees with everything I say, currently that is!! -- the only thing that caught my attention was the extremely green, pastoral setting that is rural northwest Iowa. The fields and trees are really in great shape in this area of the state.

Speaking of trees here is some advice -- if you ever find yourself lost on some road in Iowa simply walk to the nearest stand of trees since it is very likely there is a farm house there because the original pioneers planted trees around the homes to serve as a windbreak and eventually as a source of fire wood once the trees matured. So no Al Gore humans have not cut down every tree because we hate Mother Earth - in fact we improved the treeless prairies of Iowa.

Best wishes to the flood victims as you recover from this recent disaster.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jimmy Carter should fight this Thugocracy

As the old joke (used to go ) goes - "Jimmy Carter is by far our best former President (of the USA), the sad thing is that he had to serve as President first to become a "former" president..........."

Perhaps that was true at one time given his work via the Carter Center and Habitat For Humanity (which he did NOT found by the way in case you are wondering) but recently he has inserted himself into volatile situations such as his recent meeting with Hamas (listed on the USA's terrorist list) regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Now comes an opportunity on the African continent for President Carter to redeem himself. On June 27 the African nation of Zimbabwe will be conducting a runoff election for President between the incumbent, complete bastard President Robert Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. President/Thug Mugabe stated that his political party will not abide by the run off election results (he lost in the first round of elections folks). His very telling quote was - "we are not going to give up our country because of a mere 'X'. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?" Mugabe went on to clarify his words by stating, "we are ready to go to war........." if he is not declared the winner.

So here you go Jimmy -- you have traveled the world as an election observer so let's see some boots on the ground by having you observe these June 27 elections. The British colonization of Zimbabwe was bad enough but Mr. Mugabe' thugocracy is even worse as he starves, imprisons, and even kills his political opponents.

The Middle East has been fighting for over 2,000 years Mr. Carter but Zimbabwe (formerly the colony of Rhodesia) has only been independent since 1980 so in only 28 years Mr. Mugabe has turned Zimbabwe from being an exporter of food to the world to being a recipient of food aid due to his failed policies.

Don't miss your flight Jimmy,


Hiring Freeze

While reading an article in yesterday's newspaper regarding the Vice President running mates choices that Senators John McCain and Barack Obama face a New York University professor suggested that our future President should appoint their Vice President to be responsible for a "massive overhaul of the federal government." This professor went on to note that this job would actually be easier to accomplish than it was in the past because in the "next 10 years 600,000 baby boomers (are) set to retire from federal jobs................."

So my first response upon reading this was -- "yes and with better pensions than us tax slaves who funded their retirements" -- but then I focused on the positive side of things so clearly the coaching my wife has given me had paid dividends!! The positive element here my friends is that the next President can save all of us a lot of money and expand our freedoms by simply using his (sorry Hillary!) executive power to implement a hiring freeze - ON BOTH EMPLOYEES AND CONSULTANTS or we won't gain anyting -- during his 4 or 8 years as President.

A federal government hiring freeze would not only save money but it would force agencies and departments to completely re-think everything they do as their full time employee (FTE) counts start dropping. Perhaps some reporting requirements will be deemed obsolete versus a report simply being "Fred's job for the last 20 years.................." so no need to protect sacred cows that currently exist just so that another federal bureaucrat has a job.

Not only would the 600,000 jobs be gone via retirement/attrition we could then sell the office equipment and less office space overall would be needed which are additional savings for tax payers.

Let the bloodless revolution begin via retirement,


Thursday, June 12, 2008


In Malcolm Gladwell's second book, Blink, the focus is on our natural, immediate response when exposed to something based on our instincts and experience. One of Gladwell's examples was an art expert who simply glances at a painting then immediately replies, "this is a copy not an original......." -- well I had a definite "Blink" moment today after reading an email alert from the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) based in Washington DC.

Had a thought about it I guess I would have realized that "debt-for-nature" (DFN) swaps exist in our world but reading the ICCF email today made it very clear to me how the DFN system works. ICCF's email noted that the government of Madagascar made an exchange/swap with the entities that own portions of its national debt by agreeing to set aside portions of the country as nature preserves for national debt forgiveness.

Now of course I see several positives with the DFN systems -- nature is preserved so we can all enjoy it especially since the ICCF email noted that a vast majority of animals in Madagascar are only native to this island nation. Secondly national debt relief for a poor country like Madagascar is truly a relief to them I imagine but at what true cost I ask?

"Modern day colonialism" I would answer. My realization today that the DFN system has a potential dark side was my personal "Blink" moment. One could agree that Madagascar's former colonial master - France - simply leveraged the national debt owed by Madagascar's government to achieve a French government goal of controlling a portion of Madagascar's land mass like it did in the colonial days but this time France is the "green knight" coming to the rescue not an imperial power focused on financial gain.

Yes indeed Madagascar reduces the level of its national debt but the bargain made via DFN forbids Madagascar to exploit its natural resources in the same way other nations did as they developed. Poor countries simply need to learn from the historical experience of today's richest nations -- a country tends to exploit its natural resources at the expense of its environmental quality ONLY until the country gains enough overall/per capita wealth. It is at this point that the rich/developed country's citizens value environmental quality as the expense of natural resource exploitation. Last week's conference in Hong Kong that I attended included a speaker who showed a line graph/chart during his presentation which depicted this same economic evolution.

Ideally Madagascar will benefit from the growing interest in eco-toursim but it that industry fails to develop then they have simply defaulted back to becoming a modern day colony of France via this DFN scheme.

Wealth is Health,


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monks and Comedians

The military generals who currently rule Burma (Myanmar) showed the world that they are ruthless dictators via their crack down earlier this year on peaceful Buddhist monks who were simply protesting the dictatorial rule of their country. At the time of this crack down I said to a friend -- "clearly the ruling junta has zero legitimacy to govern" -- but last week's news via the Wall Street Journal wire service perhaps surpasses the beating of monks!! Apparently the junta's police force arrested Burma's most popular comedian - Zarganar - last week which suggests his comedy routines ridiculing the junta made the generals very uncomfortable.

Political satire (and the resulting oppression) of Zarganar's variety dates back to at least ancient Greece (according to Mel Brooks' "History of the World - Part I " anyway!!) so it is great to see the junta's modern day paranoia on display as they move to suppress another advocate for democratic change.

As evidence of how technology has transformed our world - the same use of communications technologies that helped dissolve the former Soviet Union (fax machines in those days) can help bring political reform to Burma -- let me close with this weblink to the You Tube video service which features one of Zarganar's comedy acts --


While I don't speak his verbal language the body language does provide me with some hints regarding his political messaging.

Stand up against juntas :-)


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Since most Americans are focused on rising gasoline prices and the "home mortgage crisis" I have to guess most people completely overlooked some very encouraging economic news in today's newspapers. Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis, Missouri announced that they will be launching Budweiser beer is none other than Vietnam!

Now this my friends is what I call progress. Instead of "exporting" soldiers to fight in Vietnam we are finally - nearly 30 years later - doing something vital for both countries, namely serving up some beers for everyone to enjoy. I take this trade development news very seriously because two of my uncles served with the US Marines in Vietnam which caused many sleepless nights for my grandmother until both of her sons came home safe and sound.

As my personal friends know I am still a Cold War Warrior even though the Soviet Union (I was there in 1986) is a relic of history so I am not being soft on Communism when I state - I would have much rather seen my uncles delivering shipments of beer to Vietnamese villages instead of scrambling to stay alive by hiding in rice paddies filled with feces-dominated water.

The lesson here is of course a very ancient one -- "trading nations are not warring nations". When was the last time you feared an invasion of the USA by Canada or Japan -- two of our major trading partners?

Beer makes the world go 'round,


Monday, June 09, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Texas

While I often say when it comes to government -- "I do not seek office but instead I seek to eliminate offices........." I must admit I have a soft spot for the concept of state governments having a "Governor's Mansion" although a better name might be the "Taxpayers' Mansion" but I will leave that one alone.

So it is with sadness that I read today's news reports that the State of Texas' 152 year old Governor's Mansion essentially was burned to the ground by an apparent arsonist. The mansion itself was undergoing a $10 million renovation so the artwork and antiques that were housed in the mansion were actually in storage off site so at least this bit of history was not lost in the blaze. However, the history that was lost was the fact that the mansion had housed all of Texas' governors from Sam Houston through current US President George W. Bush. Current Texas Governor Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, were living at another location during the renovation so they were not affected by the fire. Hopefully they are not living in a double-wide trailer home like then Governor of Arkansas Mike "Pick me for Vice President" Huckabee was during their state mansion's renovation.

As I read this story my thoughts centered on a truly remarkable man in Texas history -- Sam Houston. Not only did Texas name the City of Houston after him they also elected him their President during the Republic of Texas years, then as their first Governor when they became a state, and finally as one of their US Senators.

This reminder of Sam Houston's legacy and accomplishments made me look at my fast approaching mid-life period (okay - it is here already!!) to assess when I plan to accomplish something in my life then I realized -- "Sure Todd, Mr. Houston was a very successful politician but your blog reaches more people than Mr. Houston's blog ever did......." -- then reality sets in when I realize blogs did not exist in the 19th Century :-)

Mr. Houston, I remain very impressed with your life story and am inspired to seek public office in future years.

Teach history not social studies,


Friday, June 06, 2008

Hong Kong insights

The Pacific Rim Policy Exchange conference that I am attending this week in Hong Kong ended last night with a dinner that featured Mr. Jimmy Lai Chee Ying, the founder of Next Media which includes the newspaper, Apple Daily.

Impressive is the best way to described Mr. Lai. Not only is he a successful businessman/multi-millionaire -- in both the fashion industry and the media business -- but he is also personable, humble, moral, entertaining, and a free market champion!! Now this is the kind of person China needs as its leader not President Hu.

Here is Next Media's website in case any of my readers can read Chinese - http://home.atnext.com/

I mention this website because during the dinner with Mr. Lai we were able to pose questions to him so I asked -- "what 3 websites do you read most often..........." -- to which he replied, "none, I read newspapers/magazines like Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Newsweek.........." I found this both insightful and amusing given all the hype about "New Media" and the death of newspapers. Here is a very successful business man who has built a media company which includes websites yet he doesn't even read websites.

The saddest bit of reality for me of course is that it is VERY unlikely that Mr. Lai will ever read my blog!!! :-) This ends our humorous commentary for today.

Finally I will close by noting that during my city tour today our tour guide informed us that "most residents of Hong Kong pay a maximum of 15% for personal income tax" which is closer to the world I want to live in. Hong Kong's economy is booming versus the "recession" atmosphere we have in the USA so I say we should reduce our income tax rates to a flat tax of 15% as an economic stimulus package.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama Wins!

Indeed this was a very historic week in the USA with US Senator Barack Hope Obama securing enough delegates for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the USA. Not only was this an historic event because he is the first black/African-American to secure the nomination of a major political party but it is also historic because he is probably the most inexperienced candidate for the highest office in the land in at least the last 100 years. This includes one term "wonder" President Jimmy Carter who at least had executive experience since he was Governor of Georgia at the time but Senator Obama's experience includes time as a state senator in Illinois and only three years as a US Senator (http://obama.senate.gov/about/).

Personally I am not surprised that the "glass ceiling" that historically has produced only old white men (I am qualified!!) as major party candidates for President was broken by a black man (Obama) before it was broken by a woman - in this case US Senator Hillary RFK Clinton. Why? History my dead friends, history. Following the US Civil War we amended the US Constitution to ensure the right to vote for BLACK MEN (not women) in 1870. It took our nation until 1920 to amend the Constitution again to give WOMEN the right to vote. This was a full 50 years AFTER black men. So we should not be surprised that Senator Obama not Senator Clinton stands at the brink of becoming President in 2008.

Now if this historical math holds true - 50 years - then Senator Hillary Clinton would be in a great position to become President in 2058 when she will be only 111 years old!!

Keep hope alive,


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Signs of Hong Kong

This week finds me attending the Pacific Rim Policy Conference - an annual gathering of free market think tanks from around the region plus a few political operatives like myself. During our bus tour today on the way to dinner at Watermark Restaurant two posted signs caught my attention.

One of these signs made me laugh while the second sign frightened me a little. The sign that made me laugh said --

"Let's join hands to ensure food safety" -- Centre for Food Safety

Join hands? Wait a minute, my church suspends having the congregation shake hands to greet each other ("sharing of the peace") during the flu season so it seems very unwise to encourage people to "join hands" for food safety. I prefer we just don't touch at all :-)

On a more serious note the second sign read --

"One world, one dream" -- 2008 Beijing Olympic Games

Perhaps the Red (ok, perhaps just "pink" lately given their economic reforms yet still repressive) Chinese leaders we simply trying to convey the "Olympic Spirit" with this banner campaign slogan but my initial read sent up a red flag. "One world" -- under Chinese leadership? This is not how I want to live nor do I believe I share their "one dream" but then again I might be reading to much into the message.

However, if the Communist Party of China creates free and fair elections to replace its politburo-drive police state then I am happy to talk about dreams we can share for our world. With the 2008 Olympics set for August China has very little time to be prepared to welcome the world with open arms and open access to the country but I fear another Tianneman Square-like demonstration will occur.

Overall it is great to be visiting Hong Kong so I look forward to more postings on this subject this week.


Monday, June 02, 2008

Power versus Freedom

Last week I attended the Republican Party of Minnesota's convention in Rochester, Minnesota. While there I also went to a fundraising lunch for US Senator Norm Coleman who is up for re-election this year.

During this Senator Coleman lunch I sat at a table that included a retired state legislator (let me call him "Fred" since I respect his privacy - for now anyway!!) from Rochester - a Republican. Now I am no partisan especially since neither the Republican or Democratic Party is emancipating us from the tax (and regulatory) slavery we live in today but the lunch conversation with this former Republican legislator, Fred, really troubled me but more importantly made me happy he was no longer in "public service." Fred was commenting on the 2008 congressional campaigns when he told us, "I am supporting Congressman Tim Walz (Democrat-Minnesota) for re-election this year and Senator Coleman because I love power. This way the Rochester area will have someone with the governing party in the US House..............."

Yea, yea, I understand this Power Politics 101 stuff having not only studied it but via my nearly 20 years of professional political work. But shouldn't we all pause to ask -- "isn't greater freedom for all of us more important than raw political power?" I didn't pursue this conversation with Fred for numerous reasons - primarily because I had better things to do such as meeting with the Rochester Post-Bulletin newspaper to promote the idea that Minnesota needs to create a government spending transparency like the one we have at a federal level - www.usaspending.gov

No, Fred, your world view is a broken one. We should be more concerned with empowering citizens via comprehensive tax reform not simply kissing the ass of the ruling party.

Please stay retired,


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Amnesty Programs

Judging from the lack of recent media coverage the handgun/firearm amnesty programs must have achieved great success since I haven't seen any mention of these programs for at least one year. Perhaps it was the fact that I was driving alone (thus in deep thought............) in my gas-guzzling SUV today to our state capitol when it hit me -- "perhaps the green/mother earth warriors will start an 'SUV amnesty' program to save us from global warming!!"

Now I hesitate to give the Al Gore storm troopers this well-developed plan to guilt people into giving up their freedom of choice but here it goes anyway.

Step One -- some agreed upon sponsoring organization such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency ("MPCA" -- I drove by their building today thus my inspiration for suggesting them in this role!) would announce an "SUV Amnesty/Exchange Program" .

Step Two -- This would be a "no questions asked" program whereby guilt-ridden SUV owners would turn in their SUV's to the MPCA in exchange for a cool pair of basketball shoes or a skate board (think "kids with handguns" here folks!).

Step Three -- The SUV's would be "recycled" into scrap metal or perhaps sunk off the American ocean coasts to help create artificial reefs.

Step Four -- the internal combustion engines of course would be dis-mantled and melted down (again think "handguns" folks) so we can stop the senseless killing caused by SUV's.

So do you think I am crazy to believe such a scenario could happen one day? Personally I think it is just a matter of time before such a program will exist given today's political climate. However, I am confident that my V-8 Dodge Durango is better for the environment versus the Toyota Prius hybrid but how is this possible readers may ask? The answer is simple based on "green logic" -- if petroleum products are so bad for the environment then we should rid our planet of them as soon as possible correct? So let me call on everyone who loves the environment to purchase an SUV, perhaps even an RV, or the original HUMMER if you can afford such items so we can collectively use up all of the world's oil as fast as we can because such a course of action would move us to alternative energy options faster than any government program that exists today or is being debated as I type this posting.

Use more oil,


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Transparency Revolution

All those hours of reading news stories/think tank reports/etc. and posting comments on this blog paid huge dividends recently!! The Star Tribune newspaper in Minnesota published an editorial focused on my personal campaign to ensure the State of Minnesota complies with a 2007 state law which requires our Department of Administration to create a database/website ("webbase" is my new catch phrase) that shows any interested web surfer where the state spends our tax dollars.

Interested readers can see the entire editorial via this weblink --


Let me call on the readers of this blog to ask themselves-- "hey, does my state, city, county, school district government have a similar 'webbase' so I know where our tax dollars go?" If the answer is "no such tool exists" then find out why and what needs to be done to get one created. Here is the State of Oklahoma's spending website which I first reviewed today --


This "webbase" could be a model for your own state spending tracking tool.

As for my next steps here is where my campaign is going:

1.) August 5 -- I am hosting a meeting where people responsible for Minnesota's state spending database law will be explaining the project. This will happen in St. Paul, Minnesota if anyone wants to attend.

2.) City government -- I am drafting a memo to attach to a copy of the Star Tribune editorial so that I can hand deliver copies to our Mayor and City Council members in Apple Valley, Minnesota. I know of no city in Minnesota that does this spending disclosure today so this is a great opportunity for my city to be a leader in being completely open and honest with citizens.

So what plans do you have to add to the transparency revolution?

Yours in tax slavery,


Monday, May 26, 2008


As a free market economist the last thing that I wanted to see created is another cartel especially one created by nation-states. However, I also believe in age old rule -- "never bring a knife to a gun fight" -- so perhaps it is time to create a cartel (oh, it pains me to type this line!) as a counter weight to perhaps the worst cartel in economic history. This "worst cartel" is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

OPEC was created in 1960 as an inter-governmental organization designed to control the supply of oil to the rest of the world. Membership (12 members currently if I read the list below correctly) in OPEC has included the following nations during its 48 year of operation:

Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela -- the Founding Members (1960)

Qatar (1961)

Indonesia (1962)

Libya (1962)

United Arab Emirates (1967)

Algeria (1969)

Nigeria (1971)

Ecuador (1973) – suspended its membership from December 1992-October 2007

Angola (2007)

Gabon (1975–1994)

As I noted in my earlier "Oil Imports and Free Trade" posting on this blog the USA's number 1 and number 3 export partners of oil are Canada and Mexico which are not members of OPEC so that is a very positive thing for the USA's economic performance.

Since OPEC controls the largest known oil reserves in the world I have to wonder why the US Congress did not insist on having OPEC officials testify alongside or in lieu of the American oil company executives who were compelled to explain why their corporate earnings and profits are at all time highs while Americans are paying nearly $4.00 per gallon of gasoline.

Again - I hate to advocate this but the time has come to pressure and hopefully break the back of OPEC via the creation of our own cartel called the Organization of Petroleum Importing Countries (OPIC). Here is a weblink to a wealth of information regarding world oil production, consumption, exports, and imports. I truly wish the Members of the US Congress would scan such data before they demand people to testify before Congress --


This website notes that the following 15 nations are the world's largest importers of oil:

1 United States
2 Japan
3 China
4 Germany
5 Korea, South
6 France
7 India
8 Italy
9 Spain
10 Taiwan
11 Netherlands
12 Singapore
13 Turkey
14 Thailand
15 Belgium

Based on this list we see that 6 of the 15 nations are members of the European Union (a sometimes partner of the USA and via NATO) while another three -- Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have been staunch American allies for nearly 60 years. These 15 nations represent the vast majority of GWP (Gross World Production) , military strength, population, and the highest standards of living in the world today which should provide enough leverage via OPIC to force changes at OPEC.

I would suggest that once OPIC is formed the organization should target one member country of OPEC to pressure them to quit this cartel using the full economic, military, and diplomatic might of the OPIC member states. One option OPIC might consider doing is to coordinate the member states' oil imports so that the targeted member of OPEC receives the vast amount of OPIC foreign direct investment (FDI) versus going into other OPEC nations and perhaps all trade barriers would be lifted between the targeted OPEC member of the OPIC member states conditioned upon the targeted OPEC member quiting OPEC. Finally, once the first targeted OPEC member quits OPIC would set its sights on the second targeted OPEC member, the third one, etc. until OPEC is forced to dissolve or simply loses its critical mass of world oil reserves controlled by this cartel.

Creating a new cartel to destroy a current cartel seems justified but of course my fear is that once created OPIC will want to perpetuate its lifespan thus the founding members of OPIC would need to include a "sunset clause" to their founding documen t to ensure it will one day dissolve.

Fight fire with fire,


Thursday, May 22, 2008

More math classes and fewer press releases please

Growing up in Northwest Iowa we always had a nice laugh when we heard the "poor" local farmers complain about crop prices, the weather, etc. while they were driving around down town in their brand new vehicles.

I had a flash back to this childhood memory tonight as I read our local newspaper here in Minnesota. Tucked inside the Local Section was a small story about the Stillwater, Minnesota public school district (today's "poor farmer") which announced it was able to hire a new "Communications Coordinator" (today's "new vehicle") which was a job eliminated earlier due to budget constraints. The article went on to note that this position's annual salary was $70,820.

Personally I would rather see my local school focus on hiring an additional math teacher or perhaps a Chinese language instructor to better prepare students for our global economy if it was able to find an extra $71,000 (plus that excellent benefits package including health insurance, public pension, etc.). No doubt school administrators would defend this hiring by stating -- "we need to develop communication tools (newsletters, website, etc.) to communicate with our students and parents.................." -- but I have to believe a current Stillwater student could easily manage the school's website better than any communications coordinator they hire and a student newspaper could be started in partnership with the local community newspaper. Such a partnership would provide the school with trained students able to produce any required newsletters but more importantly these students would develop tangible job skills needed after graduation from high school. Any money spent in this area would be a better expenditure than adding one more FTE (full time employee) via the Commuications Coordinator job.

There are better uses for this $71,000 at Stillwater Public Schools if the education establishment truly believes in putting "students first" as the Education Minnesota teachers' union TV ads want us to believe.

Then again perhaps I should apply for this Stillwater job (insert laughter here!),


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

US Senator Ted Kennedy

Political news in the USA this week has been dominated by the disclosure that US Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. According to today's Wall Street Journal (front page coverage in fact!) the life expectancy for the type of tumor Senator Kennedy has is about 14.5 months so by July of 2009 the last of the Kennedy Brothers political dynasty will have passed into the afterlife.

Now I do not share Senator Kennedy's political views nor his driving record but let me be clear I do not wish him ill. This is tragic news for him and his family but it is also a "learning opportunity" for American voters this November. First, a short history lesson -- when US Senator Hillary Clinton, current presidential candidate, was named by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as director/chairman-in-a-pants -suit of a health care reform commission she was First Lady of course. Via this commission she advocated a complete takeover by the federal government of the entire American health care system to ensure we have universal health care/single payer health care. As most astute observers noted at the time such a "reform" would have ultimately created "health care rationing" such as is practiced in Canada which motivates Canadians to drive across the border into New York State, USA to get MRI tests conducted due to the existence of long waiting lists (rationing) in Canada.

So if the utopia that was to be -- "Hillary Health Care" -- existed today the principles of health care rationing would be applied to people like Senator Kennedy because he is 76 years old with a brain tumor. Senator Kennedy would clearly have to be placed VERY LOW on the waiting list for treatment since he is clearly at the end of his projected life expectancy for white men in America so the government's limited health care resources would be better spent on a 25 woman with ovarian cancer. Doesn't that make sense??

Of course not -- instead of some government health care rationing commission deciding which patients live or die based on the health care rationing regulations, actuary tables, etc. we need to empower family members to make these very personal health care decisions.

So if any readers out there believe the American health care system is completely broken then let's "reform" it completely by getting government the hell out of the system!! No more mandates on insurance companies regarding which services/procedures should be covered. Personally I would like to have massages and yoga instruction paid for by my insurance company since I believe in this form of "alternative medicine" but I am not about to lobby my government to require such coverage nor should another group of people lobby the government to force my insurance company to pay for plastic surgery procedures. Such mandates simply add to the overall cost of insurance thus resulting in insurance premium rates which are too high for a segment of society -- essentially government health care regulations have caused people to go through life with out health insurance.

Rationing is not rational,


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Klansmen for Obama

Throughout my nearly 20 years working in politics I have built and have witnessed some creative coalition building but yesterday's news out of West Virginia is perhaps the best one yet.

US Senator Robert "Name Another Building After Me Paid With Your Tax Dollars" Byrd of West Virginia endorsed US Senator Barack Obama for President of the USA yesterday. Now this biographical note does not appear on Senator Byrd's official website (http://byrd.senate.gov/bio.htm) but he was (can you quit this organization?) a member of the Ku Klux Klan which he comes to grips with via his book noted in this Washington Post (if you don't believe me perhaps you will believe the Post) article:


A Senator's Shame
Byrd, in His New Book, Again Confronts Early Ties to KKK
By Eric PianinWashington Post Staff WriterSunday, June 19, 2005; Page A01
In the early 1940s, a politically ambitious butcher from West Virginia named Bob Byrd recruited 150 of his friends and associates to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. After Byrd had collected the $10 joining fee and $3 charge for a robe and hood from every applicant, the "Grand Dragon" for the mid-Atlantic states came down to tiny Crab Orchard, W.Va., to officially organize the chapter.

So congratulations Senator Obama -- you have to be the first black man/African-American (covering my bases here!!) in American history with a 50/50 chance of becoming president to be endorsed by a recovering Klansman. This is even a great accomplishment than when the Reverand Jesse Jackson ran for President.

Personally I think race relations in the USA would be helped by Senator Byrd taking his endorsement one step further by doing a national town hall meeting with Senator Obama to talk about his experiences in the KKK.

Now this is diversity,


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Oil Imports and Free Trade

This weekend's Wall Street Journal ("WSJ" -- oh, if only more Members of Congress read this sacred text!) featured an article reporting on the recent failure by President Bush to convince the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to produce more oil. This request was designed to increase world oil supply to help drive down gasoline costs for American consumers.

The WSJ article included a very informative bar graph which depicted the USA's "Crude Oil Imports, March 2008, millions of barrels a day" (from specific countries). The overall rankings included the following list from highest to lowest provider of crude oil to the USA:

Saudi Arabia

Now without me conducting extensive geo-political/cultural research on these 10 nations here is my quick snapshot overview of our reliance on these oil exporters based on my years of general observation, study, and travel:

Four (4) of these ten countries' (located in the Mideast and Africa) political systems are dominated by Islamic organizations -- many of which are hostile to the USA. Another three (3) of these countries (located in South America) have socialist governments with cool diplomatic relations with the USA but one in particular, Venezuela, consider the USA to be a greedy and corrupt empire destined to be overthrown.

Which leaves us with three (3) of these top ten oil suppliers to discuss -- Angola, Canada, and Mexico. First - Angola, located in Africa of course so this can pose distribution problems for the USA since President Chavez could use his oil money (partially gained from the USA) to build a naval presence capable of destroying Angolan oil tankers -- far fetched you might say but did anyone predict the Twin Towers in New York City would be bombed by passenger aircraft??

So that leaves us with Canada (which is # 1 on this WSJ list) and Mexico (coming in at #3 on the WSJ list) that we should consider not only valuable oil suppliers but also solid allies for the USA. Let's pause here to count our blessings since these two countries are of course our northern and southern neighbors. Additionally the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) helps to ensure that these three economies are reliant and inter-dependent on each other. Tell me -- does anyone out there fear Canadian troops invading the USA? No because the old maxim is true -- "trading nations are not warring nations."

Here are two key things we should focus on in terms of American foreign policy:

1.) Encourage (and assist) Mexico to modernize and privatize its national oil monopoly to increase its production capacity so the American economy receives an increase in supply.

2.) Enhance the Canadian-USA relationship via --- increased exchange student programs especially in the fields of geology and engineering, state trade missions led by all 50 of our governors to Canada, and film festivals featuring movies like "Canadian Bacon" and "Strange Brew" (hey -- just trying to little the mood here after the earlier talk of Islamic radicals and Latin dictators!!).

Free trade has benefits that people like Senator Obama and Senator Clinton want to overlook since they are pandering to the Democratic Party's "base" at the general public's expense not just in pocketbook but also in national security terms.

Free trade is the oil that lubricates the world economy,


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama and Clinton Cutting a Deal

As the Democratic Party presidential nomination winds down to what appears will be a victory for US Senator Barack Obama all the pundits are speculating what will become of his challenger - US Senator Hillary Cattle Futures Clinton.

From what I have seen all the speculation has focused on whether or not Clinton will become Obama's Vice Presidential running mate or that Senator Clinton would drop out gracefully to help unite the party as she looks towards the 2012 presidential election - which of course is based on the scenario that US Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, would defeat Senator Obama in November 2008.

Let me offer another scenario I have heard or read anywhere. Here is a hint -- Hillary is a "lawyer". Any guesses?

If you haven't guessed yet here we go -- Senator Clinton drops out gracefully by cutting a deal with Senator Obama and does all she can to help Senator Obama elected in November 2008 with no plans to run in 2012. The deal? President Obama appoints Senator Clinton to the US Supreme Court which of course is a lifetime appointment versus the potential 8 years (assuming she get re-elected in 2012 or 2016 depending on when she would potentially run - this year or in 2012. Yes - I know that is complicated!) that Senator could serve as President due to the current constitutional limitations.

Today Hillary is 61 years old so assuming President Obama appoints her to the Supreme Court in 2009 (assuming there is a vacancy - although the Clintons could probably arrange that!!) she could serve in that capacity for potentially 25 years based on current life expectancy rates.

Wow! I don't know which scenario gives me worse nightmares -- President Clinton for 8 years or Justice Clinton for 25 years.

Sleep well,