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 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.