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 -

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 (

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 -

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,