Thursday, May 21, 2009

Potato chips

I just read today that a British Court of Appeal ruled that Pringles' potato chips are indeed "potato chips" thus making the chips subject to the UK's 15% Value Added Tax (VAT).

In the UK most food is exempt from VAT but chips are not so clearly the government had a lot on the line here in terms of potential lost revenues!!

What an amazing world we live in when the court system has the added burden of determing what is and is not a taxable food item. A better world would be one in which all food, clothing, and shelter (yes - that means no more property taxes folks) are codified as tax exempt thus ensuring that Maslow's basic needs for human survival are not priced out of reach for our poorest citizens.

Reminder to readers -- I primarily blog here now:


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Modernizing" Minnesota Government

Ed Lotterman is a regular columnist for our Pioneer Press newspaper here in Minnesota. His recent column, "Government needs to catch up to the times", argued that given "today's modern world" we don't need the decentralized government the founders of the state created due to technological change, etc. His column can be seen in full at --


Mr. Lotterman fails to note that technology does two things -- it empowers people and it allows for things to be decentralized. He just need to look at his newspaper office to realize this since most newspapers in the USA are dying while websites and social media services are booming as direct competitors.

Instead of centralizing even more power with the Minnesota state government we should close entire departments so that the money, staff, and responsibilities can be transferred to our county governments. I would much prefer 87 "mini-legislatures" (the number of counties in Minnesota) instead of all powerful legislature that treats county leaders as vassals on the estate.

Phase two of course would be for all taxpayers to get involved in their county government which is actually much easier to do for someone in International Falls, Minnesota versus driving 6 to 7 hours to St. Paul to lobby ("beg") their state legislators on issues of concern to them.

The resulting much reduced (in power and purse!) state legislature would perhaps meet for 60 days simply to play their constitutional oversight role and to adjust the state's sales tax rate because in my reform model all other taxes -- property tax, personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, estate taxes, etc. would be phased out -- leaving only the sales tax as a revenue source to be divided on a per capita basis to county governments. The parallel reform would be that all school districts, watershed districts, soil/water conservation districts, etc. would be revised to follow county boundaries. This would create the type of transparency we need because it would end the constant finger pointing we see from public officials today.


Minnesota Department of Economic Development

Tell me again why we even bother spending tax dollars on economic development in Minnesota?

Given this pending legislation the entrepreneurs who create new jobs will be inspired to move to South Dakota and Florida which do not punish achievers:

Editorial: The new 'sin tax'The New Ulm Journal had this view: Legislators love to raise "sin taxes," those extra charges on things you shouldn't be doing in the first place, like drinking or smoking. The Minnesota House DFL apparently thinks it is also a sin to have a high income. House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenzcewski has proposed a tax increase plan that not only raises the cigarette tax by 54 cents and the alcohol tax by 3 to 5 cents per drink, it creates a 9 percent tax bracket for people who earn more than $169,700 a year ($300,000 for married couples).

Reminder - I primarily blog here now:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Theatre deemed a Vital Local Service

So the City of Burnsville, Minnesota's controversial (and publicly financed) Performing Arts Center (PAC) is running a current annualized deficit of about $276,000 yet in a recent newspaper article ( - by Dean Spiros) it was reported that Burnsville is "trying to trim 12 to 15 jobs through buyouts and attrition as it prepares for a projected $1.5 million loss in revenue........." which means cuts in the police, fire, and administration staffs.

What shocked me was that this article did not even mention the PAC's operating deficit. So residents can get to the theatre -- assuming there is something playing since the main stage is only projected to have acts booked for 50 nights this year -- but hopefully their homes won't start on fire during the show given the cuts at the fire department!

Again - governments should do VERY few things and it should do those things VERY well. The current Burnsville budget situation is a perfect example of public officials spending someone else's (our) money.


Talk Radio Changes

Ok, I don't understand all the changes at my favorite talk radio station in Minnesota -- KSTP AM 1500, .

Earlier this week Dave Thompson was released (fired?) from his noon show and today I read that Bob Davis was gone/fired from his 9 am talk show. This inspired me to switch the office radio to Cities 97 which is the headquarters for anyone who matured musically in the 80's and 90's. Cities 97 produces an annual CD of exclusive recordings to raise money for charity -- it is a must purchase which sells out at Target stores in less than an hour.

So goodbye and good luck Dave and Bob. Dave plans to run for chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota now but he is late in joining the race I believe. No idea where Bob Davis is but I have to guess he will pack his bags to head back to his hometown of Chicago. Bob's show is fun and he is very well read so it is worth watching his next move.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

National Bargain Association

Reminder -- I primarily blog at this site now:

Today's Wall Street Journal sports page (page B16 if you love the paper copy like I do) noted that the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association recently sold game tickets for 10 cents if you bought one ticket for $12.00 thus making the tickets $6.05 each.

Not only is this a great bargain but it is clear evidence the market forces work for consumers. Residents of Los Angeles have two NBA teams to choose from -- Lakers and Clippers -- yet only one team is putting a great product on the hardwood thus the ticket prices for the lowly Clippers with their .234 winning percentage are very low.

Now if only a school choice revolution in Los Angeles would harness similar market forces that would allow parents and students to flee their failing government schools.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Drunk Driving in Minnesota

I don't know Daryl Dean Fleck and I have no idea if he has a drinking problem but based on the article I read ( - March 25, 2009) I have to applaud his decision to avoid drunk driving.

Mr. Fleck , age 55, was arrested on June 11, 2007 in East Grand Forks, Minnesota but was just recently convicted of two counts of driving while intoxicated. Mr. Fleck's blood alcohol tested at 0.18 and three open beer cans were under a blanket on the passenger seat of his car which was parked in his assigned parking spot at his apartment building.

Ok, so far so boring you say -- but wait. Mr. Fleck was actually SLEEPING in his car with the keys set on the center console. Apparently Mr. Fleck knew he was drunk so he avoided driving by simply in his car during what was probably a beautiful summer evening. The problem however is that Minnesota state law states that if such a person has "physical control" of a vehicle - which Mr. Fleck did since the keys were in his possession and he was sitting in the car - then that person can be charged with drunk driving.

Again, based on what I read in the news coverage Mr. Fleck did the correct thing by sleeping in his car in an attempt to protect himself and others from drunk driving. Perhaps Mr. Fleck should have placed his car keys under the car and slept in the back seat to help his line of defense!!

I fear that such enforcement of our DWI law will actually encourage drunk driving.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More Football This Year!!

The United Football League - - is set to kick off its inaugural season in October 2009 which is great news not only for football fans but also for the US economy since they have many jobs to fill to run the league.

I have been very interested in their contest asking fans to generate mascot names for their teams which you can find at their website noted above.

I would only ask readers to promote my team mascot suggestion -- the "San Francisco Firestorm"

Now that would be great fodder for some cool t-shirts!!


French Women

My local newspaper recently carried a book review for "French Women Don't Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love" by Jamie Cat Callan. The review stated that "Callan is clearly trying to cash in on 'French Women Don't Get Fat'" by Mireille Guiliano.

So that got me wondering about books regarding French Women. A search on produces 154 results but perhaps the inevitable next book was missing which I call:

"French Women Don't Age or Die"

Such a title would help bring this genre to a close I believe!!

Au revoir,


See more of me at -

Time for a Blood Test

Today is "Alert Day" for the American Diabetes Association:

So please get off line for 5 minutes today to call your doctor for scheduling a routine blood test. Then once you get your appointment schedule please send an email to your friends and relatives to join you in taking action for their health.

Please do not wait for Congress to create a universal health care system that will require blood tests and the rationing of services based on your station in life.


Reminder - I primarily blog here now:

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sharing Books

I had lunch at Potbelly Sandwich Works last week ( where I noticed a book shelf with a sign on it -- "Take a book, leave a book".

I thought this was a nice feature for the restaurant so patrons could feed their head along with their stomachs!!

Read on, Todd

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pension Funds

Reminder - I primarily blog here now: -- so if you have a few extra dollars please consider an online contribution to keep the site going. Thanks!

Now for something completely different! In a recent edition of the Financial Times newsletter an article about a Canadian pension fund including this ranking of the "Top 10 North American pension funds, 2007":

1. California Public Employees
2. Federal Retirement Thrift
3. California State Teachers
4. New York State Common
5. Ontario Teachers
6. Florida State Board
7. General Motors
8. New York City Retirement
9. Canada Pension
10. AT&T

So does anything in this list catch your attention?

How about the fact that 8 out of these 10 pension funds are for government employees. Perhaps we can even say that "9 of these 10" are for government employees given the massive amounts of tax dollars poured into General Motors.

Instead of sticking their hands in the pockets of taxpayers for a bailout perhaps the General Motors pension fund should have simply given General Motors a loan since this fund clearly has resources -- US$133.8 billion -- which is a better option for everyone concerned.

Yours in tax slavery,


Thursday, February 19, 2009

NBA could learn from the CBA

I have to guess most readers/sports fans don't know that the "CBA" is the Continental Basketball Association which is a minor league team unaffiliated with the National Basketball Association (NBA). Instead of cutting a deal with the CBA (perhaps they tried and I missed it) the NBA created their own "D-League" as their Development League for players that are not quite ready for the NBA.

My teen years are filled with fond memories of watching NBA games on Friday nights since I could "stay up late" to catch a game but now I am in my forties and have not watch an NBA game for several years. Personally I love college basketball but the NBA "game" (if you can call it that) has no appeal for me. I have to wonder how large this "lost market" is for the NBA since their "product" on the floor is pretty much worthless.

What I always loved about the CBA -- which ended its season two months early this year due to financial problems - is their point system. The CBA awarded a point for each quarter of a game that a team "won" which forced teams to play the entire game versus how most NBA games work today -- NBA players move the ball around until about the last 5 to 8 minutes of a game then they turn on the intensity to see which team can win. What a bore!!

In the CBA you must play all out each quarter because the overall point system determines who makes it to the playoffs. Here is an example to illustrate what I am talking about:

Team A Team B

1st quarter scores 15 20
2nd 20 25
3rd 25 30
4th 36 20

total points in the game 96 95

But Team B is awared "3 points" for winning 3 of the 4 quarters.

A much better model that the NBA should consider.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One Year Old

This weekend we celebrated our son's first birthday with a party for friends and family at the Pool and Yacht Club (ok - it is mostly pool with no yacht but the dock is always open for you to visit!!).

Amazing, one year old already. I can't speak more highly of parenting -- I simply love it.

Since I am already 43 years old I really stop to think about what our children's world will look like when they are adults. One example is my blackberry which our son loves to play with whenever he can grab it. By the time he is old enough to use such a device my "brand new" blackberry will become a museum piece sitting besides the rotary dial telephone and the fax machine perhaps.

My best wishes to parents and aspiring parents everywhere. If the spirit moves you to adopt a child please do so -- there is no greater thing you can do than to give a child a loving home.

Happy birthday to our little bear cub,

(reminder - I primarly blog here now: )

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Retirement Plans

Ah, no retirement plans for me now that I have seen the results of the class action shareholder lawsuit I was involved in for my former employer today!! Retirement was on my mind -- public employee pensions to be exact -- when I read the "Top 25 List" in the Twin Cities Business Journal recently which listed the 25 largest "Government Agencies" in Minnesota.

Here are the agencies this posting is focused on:

#5 - Teachers Retirement Association
#6 - Public Employees Retirement System
#10 - Minnesota State Retirement System

To manage these agencies there are 250 full time employees who simply process public employee pensions paid for with our tax dollars of course.

Here is a government reform idea that will no doubt be killed in a legislative committee somewhere -- let's combine these three agencies into one thereby reducing operating costs and leveraging new investment opportunities by aggregating the funds involved?

Reform is needed,

(reminder to readers -- I primarily blog here now:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Really Big Snake!!

Our local newspaper carried a Los Angeles Times article last weekend entitled,

"Huge Snake Fossil Found in Colombia"

Now I am not a herpetologist but I do admit unique stories such as this one command my attention. First I should note this newly discovered beast has been named -- Titanoboa Cerrejonesis (TC) - which is pretty catchy don't you think!!??

However, here are some data points in the article that I found most interesting:

  • TC "ruled the Amazon rain forest for 2 million years before slithering into nonexistence"
  • "The climate had to be 6 to 8 degrees warmer than it is today for a snake that large to survive."
  • TC "could eat a large cow or a bison....if there had been any around"

Which leads me to conclude/observe -- 2 million years ago Mother Earth was not "scarred" by the SUV's we drive today so clearly this "global warming" that allowed TC to live was not caused by humans. I might be oversimplifying here but this is a great example that "climate change" has occurred throughout the earth's history regardless of whether or not human were living at the time.

However, I would guess that Al Gore has an explanation for the story of TC's warmer world or perhaps even has another "false-umentary" film planned for us to watch?

Change happens,


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Decline of Newspapers

Dear Readers (yes both of you!),

I primarily blog at this website now - -- but still post here at Space Beagle on a wider variety of topics so I hope you enjoy the postings.

I admit it -- I probably should have been born around 1935 which would make me 20 years old in 1955. Yes the good old days when the "evening newspaper" was still an American institution. I love newspapers so I will always subscribe regardless of the Internet world. I just hope some newspapers actually survive so I can keep subscribing!

However, the current trend doesn't look good now that Minnesota's largest newspaper - - has declared bankruptcy. Assuming they continue evolving as a business they will survive in some form I believe. Perhaps the clearest indication I have seen so far regarding the need for newspapers to evolve rapidly was noted in this recent article, "Star Tribune may not pay workers full severance." At the very end of the article was this fact, "the Star Tribune spends about $100,000 annually for rent in the Lowry Building in downtown St. Paul."

What? $100,000 annual rent for an office where newspaper staff can work? I have to say that is simply crazy!! The Star Tribune announced it would not continue leasing this office space opting instead to move their St. Paul staff to their Minneapolis office space while they consider their options but here are two options I never heard mentioned:

1.) Buy a condo in downtown St. Paul -- since there is such a glut of condos on the market the paper could probably purchase one for $100,000 then spend a few thousand more to wire it for staff to work online. A one time expense. We are only 20 minutes from downtown St. Paul and condos in our town are being sold for $139,000 for a two bedroom unit.

2.) But the best option by far for the paper would be to phase out most of office real estate by embracing telecommuting. Yes, send all the staff home with their job assignments and perhaps $3,000 checks for new lap tops and home office supplies.

By declaring itself a virtual company the Star Tribune will not only achieve cost savings but they will also increase their relevancy in our Internet economy.

Keep reading,


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letter to President Obama

Reminder to my loyal readers (yes both of you!!) -- I am now regularly blogging at this website:

But will post commentaries that don't fit this website's focus here at my original "Space Beagle Notes".

Please check out the advice letter I posted for President Obama at the Regular Folks United website.

Thanks for reading, Todd

Lee Iacocca

As 2008 drew to a close I completed reading Lee Iaccoca's most recent book -- "Where have all the leaders gone" which I family friend suggested I should read.

Overall I found that the book was two books in one -- a completed anti-President George W. Bush (GWB) bitch session coupled with Iaccoca's observations on a range of topics especially his philanthropic work now that he is retired. Ok, I got it Iaccoca - you do NOT consider GWB to be a "leader." While I am no fan of GWB on several policy issues I am not a fan of Iaccoca either given his inconsistencies/borderline hypocrisy in his world view as noted in this book.

Here is a prime example --

Iaccoca explains how his "Iaccoca Institute" at Lehigh University (his alma mater) brings students together from around the world for an intensive leadership training/multi-cultural experience at the college. From the description I read I was impressed with this project. However, later in the book Iaccoca throws a hissy fit that "we let the Germans buy Chrysler, the Germans................." By "Germans" of course he is referring Daimler Benz Corporation.

Iaccoca fails to explain why the "Germans" bother him so much -- perhaps World War II when his native Italy was an ally of Nazi Germany? I have no idea. Would Iaccoca have been equally upset if the "Japanese", "Koreans", or even those darn "Indians" (from India not the USA) had purchased his beloved Chrysler?

So much for the "open minded thinking" being taught at the Iaccoca Institute at Lehigh University.

Given Iaccoca's comments I just had to laugh this week when I read that Fiat (an Italian company) has now secured the rights to a 55% ownership stake of Iaccoca's Chrysler LLC. So will he be upset that "we let the Italians purchase Chrysler, the Italians..............." or will he be silent? I would definitely prefer silence since I fear he will publish yet another book.

Again - Iaccoca's philanthropic work at the Iaccoca Institute and on diabetes research is commendable and very necessary so I wish him well with these projects. But please did not offer the public yet another "grumpy old man tells the world what bothers him" book.