Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our Secular, Machiavellian, Truculent Party of Intolerance

"But - for the sake of a civilized society, please, please, clean up your act. Your threats, your potty talk, your coarse humor is doing nobody any good - especially yourselves." 

What is the world is wrong with the good people on the Left these days? It is as if they have come completely unhinged. The language (yes, the Perez "F-Bomb") is becoming as common and annoying as Minnesota mosquitoes in June. But of all the nasty and evil things said about the President, of all the nasty and evil things said about Republicans, what was said yesterday took the cake. 

Phil Montag, a technology chair for the Nebraska Democrats was caught on tape saying the following (I need to edit it a bit, so I don't get thrown in Blogger jail): "I hate this motherf****r. I am glad he got shot." Wow! There is that Perez "F-Bomb" again! Montag goes on, "I wish he was f*****g dead." Of course he was talking about Steve Scalise. Once the chair of the Nebraska Democrats found out about this, he fired Montag. But the damage had already been done.

All that seemed to happen just hours after Johnny Depp, the "has been" Jack Sparrow actor, said something about assassinating the President. Depp later apologized and said it was a joke in bad taste. Ha ha - that was so funny I forgot to laugh. That ranked right up there with Kathy whats her name holding up a severed head which was supposed to look like the President. Or Snoop Dog shooting the President with a fake gun. Or the Broadway Show, Shakespeare in the Park, where the President is killed.

Here is a big difference between conservatives and the progressive Democrats, which have become a secular, Machiavellian, truculent party of intolerance. For eight years, when Obama rode roughshod on our Constitution,  many on the right disagreed with his policies. Yet, (true story) I never heard one person wish him or his family harm. Not one. In fact many on the Right prayed for Obama. Why? We did not want him harmed nor killed. Even though we disagreed with him, he was our President.

I am sorry if this offends some on the Left. But people, you need to clean up your party - and soon. Tom Perez is a disgrace. He really is. He should be let go. To use language like he uses out in the open that children can hear (remember - you guys are supposed to be the party which protects kids) is coarse and crude.

Next, you need to divorce your self from the Hollywood left. They have not only slid towards Gomorrah, they have already passed it and are their way to the next stop. To say Hollywood is vile these days, is a gross understatement.

I am not trying to give you folks on the Left advice which will help you win. Trust me, I like the trajectory the Right has been on since 2010 (thank you Barack Obama!). But - for the sake of a civilized society, please, please, clean up your act. Your threats, your potty talk, your coarse humor is doing nobody any good - especially yourselves. America deserves better. 


Friday, June 23, 2017

The future of the future

"Why mention this on a Friday afternoon, right on the doorstep of a well deserved weekend? A reminder. At any time, at any place, our future might not have a future. So to quote a famous line from a pretty good movie - Carpe Diem (seize the day)!" 

When I first started working, there was a man in the office next to my department who was getting ready to retire. He was rapidly approaching 65 and was not a happy camper. Congress had just authorized by a certain date, people could work until 70 if they wanted to - and he wanted to. Unfortunately, his birthday came at the wrong time and his 65th birthday would be his last day at the company. 

There was a retirement get together with the usual cake and coffee. He figured now that he had to retire, he would get this nasty cough looked at by the doctor. A heavy smoker, the cough was getting his way of enjoying a good smoke. Once reconciled that he was not going to be working any more, he had plans for the future. Big plans. Unfortunately, the nagging cough was more than just a little something. By the time he was 65 1/2, he was dead of advanced lung cancer. His future had no future.

We do all of us, think about the future - our future. We plan for it. We sometimes put things off in our lives until a later date - a date in the future. But what if the future never comes? I just delivered a meal to my next door neighbor who is trying to fight his way back from a second round of chemo. He has stage 4 lung cancer, and right now the cancer is winning the day. 

My neighbor is just a couple years older than I, and he has many plans for his future. Hunting with his long time deer hunting team, fishing, playing with grand kids, even cutting his vast lawn with his John Deere. Talking to his wife just a bit ago as I was delivering the meal, she told me his future might not have a future. His body might not be able to stand any more chemo. 

In the faith, we are taught to live for today. Tomorrow might never come. Amen to that! I had a conversation a few years ago with a good friend of mine about death. I told my friend it is my belief that many who die suddenly do not have a clue when they get out of bed it be their last day on Earth. In fact, dying is the last thing on most people's minds. It is not in the script. And yet a car accident, a plane crash, a bad fall, a madman, a terrorist, a heart attack, a stroke, whatever - can change everything in an instant. 

Why mention this on a Friday afternoon, right on the doorstep of a well deserved weekend? A reminder. At any time, at any place, our future might not have a future. So to quote a famous line from a pretty good movie - Carpe Diem (seize the day)! 

The Humpty Dumpty Program

Humpty Dumpty said on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
And all the Kings horses and all the King's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again... 

Mother Goose
Nursery Rhyme

Really Bird? Has this week come to this? A nursery rhyme by Mother Goose for crying out loud? Actually, it has. I could not think of a better way to describe what is going on with our nation's health care. And not give a spoiler for the rest of the article, I believe our health care system is broken, just like Humpty, and beyond repair. And what will eventually come out of this mess, will look more like a scrambled egg than poor old Humpty.

I am going to try and put this together without too much bashing of our former President and former Democratic Speaker of the House. But it was they who pushed Humpty off the wall. Yes, our perfectly good health care system, which did need a tune up and tweaking, was instead thrown out with the bath water. What replaced it? A ticking time bomb. A system so flawed, it was bound to fail within a decade. And what would happen after that? Who cares? The architects of this mess would all be long gone.

Let us first look at some immutable facts. Our country is aging. Our country is getting more immigrants in from poorer nations. Why is that important? The 600 lb gorilla in the corner continues to be who is going to pay for Medicaid. Under ObamaCare, 90% of Medicaid is issued back to the states via block grants. And this $240B (and growing) program is a belly buster to our national debt. So the House and Senate bills both want to reduce down the block granting from 90% to something less. And many states (including Minnesota) are screaming bloody murder.

Another huge problem with ObamaCare (yes Dr. Gruber you really did pull as fast one on us) is the exodus of insurance companies. Living in a free market economy coupled with a socialized form of healthcare is an oil and water issue. ObamaCare does not fit in well with the business model of many of the insurance companies . Translation: they are tired of getting hosed and pulling out. Aetna is the latest to do so. With that, 1/3 of all counties within the country are left with only one insurer.

Where does all this leave us (as a country) right now? In "no man's land". ObamaCare is in hospice and the House and Senate bills have about as much chance of becoming law as the Twins winning the World Series this year. Wait a minute? Something will need to happen. We can't keep going on this way, with this much uncertainty, can we? Well, can we?

The barbarian which lives inside me would like to do something which would at least be cathartic. I would like to put Jonathan Gruber, Zeke Emmanuel, Nancy Pelosi and yes, even our former President in pillories in the town square. They deserve some kind of public scorn (or worse) for leaving us this mess.

When ObamaCare was passed in 2009, many said it would change (or destroy) the country. Many who said those words were looked upon as panic merchants. Today, they are looked upon as wise soothsayers. Especially you, Twila Brase.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I will see your billion and raise you a few more...

"In January of 2019, we need to swear in a Governor who is NOT a progressive and NOT a RINO (sorry Tim)."

When Jesse Ventura was Governor of the great state of Minnesota, he did many things wrong. However, he also did some things right. And he said some things which were true. Like what? Like calling the Republicans and Democrats the Crips and the Bloods. Why did he do that? Because they both operated the same way. Sometimes the only difference between the two parties were their colors.

This is not a hit piece on Tim Pawlenty, but Tim was part of the problem with our state. State government grew under his watch. And he did not raise taxes to cover this growth - but he raised many fees (code speak for hidden taxes) and shifted bunches of money around. Two terms of Tim, and we had bigger government.

Then Mark Dayton came around. And one of the biggest mysteries in the universe was how Dayton beat a highly qualified man like Tom Emmer. But he did. Dayton won and Minnesota lost. After Dayton was sworn in, his unspoken mantra to his predecessor was, "I will see your billion and raise you a few more."

Under Dayton, spending was off to the races. Wait a minute! Hold on! We have had a GOP controlled House for half of Dayton's tenure! And a GOP controlled Senate for Dayton's last two years! I don't get it! Yes, (Ventura talk) the Crips and the Bloods work well together. One gang just spends money a little faster than the other gang. But between the two of them under Dayton's tenure, the size of government in Minnesota has gone up an astounding and unsustainable 56%!

Dayton tried to mask this massive increase in spending by giving us the third highest tax bracket in the country. True, our top bracket is over 3% lower than the Republic of California's top bracket, but guess what? Even with the crushing tax burden that California has, the goofballs running that state are still spending so much money that their debt is an amazing $1.1T.

In January of 2019, we need to swear in a Governor who is NOT a progressive and NOT a RINO (sorry Tim). We need a REAL conservative who will say, "I will fold on your billion and start reducing the pot." NO MORE saying maybe we can reduce the growth of spending. We need a Governor who will reduce spending from the year before. NO MORE hidden fees. I love how Matt Dean has described out government - it has become "flabby". In fact, I will take Matt's term and strengthen it a bit. Our state government is morbidly obese.

I am backing Jeff Johnson for Governor in 2018 for one simple reason - the trajectory we are on (and I will use by good friend Tom's words with his permission), is making Minnesota "Illinois in training". Yes, it can get that bad. The GOP has some incredible people lined up to run for Governor. Any one of them would be a vast improvement over Dayton. I just happen to think Jeff's vision is the preferred path we need to take right now. 

How would Jeff do working with the Crips and the Bloods in St. Paul?  He probably won't be voted the homecoming king by the free spending lawmakers and lobbyists down there. But he will be a hero to the taxpayers. He will be the person who FINALLY breaks Minnesota's addition to uncontrolled and unsustainable growth in government.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Illinois bankruptcy exit

"Take a good look at your own state. How are the government pensions funded? Are they adequate or is your state on the same path as Illinois. Just asking..."

This could be the race of the "Blues". Blues? Blue what? And what race? This is the blue state marathon. Okay, maybe now it has turned into a sprint. And leading the pack right now to go over the cliff just like the Thelma and Louise movie is the great state of Illinois. How bad can it be? The current Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, recently said his state has entered "Banana Republic" status. 

One would think that California with a state debt approaching $1.1T (Yes, that is trillion, not billion), would be the first state to go over the cliff. Ha! Illinois, a state which has existed under crushing Democratic rule and blistering corruption as long as I can remember, is finally starting to reap the negative benefits of such. 

How bad is it? A top financial official recently warned that 100% (that be all) of the revenue projected to come in needs to go to court ordered payments. The state is so broke, it might have to abandon the state lottery as they will not be able to honor cash prizes won. The state also has $130B of unfunded pension obligation. And to put frosting on the cake, it also has $13B of unpaid bills.

The battle royal (politically) will be in Illinois, instead of a state like California. California has all but outlawed Republicans. So the monopoly of Democrats in California are spending money like nobody's business. The result? California's debt is almost looking as bad as our national debt.

Illinois on the other hand, has a Republican Governor who is trying to use a leaky bucket to bail out the Titanic. His biggest problem? A Democratic controlled legislature. The battle continues.

Illinois however, might only be the canary in the coalmine with its unfunded pension problem. Yes, it could be that bad. The United States, as well as individual states, have been making bets which cannot be covered for decades. Right now, according to a Business Insider article from April 2016, our country has as much as a $20T problem in unfunded and underfunded pensions. That is a huge bubble that many economists have been warning about for years.

Thinking about a sunny vacation in the Land of Lincoln this summer? I wouldn't. Stay as far away from that state as possible. And one more thing. Take a good look at your own state. How are the government pensions funded? Are they adequate or is your state on the same path as Illinois. Just asking...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eight Mysterious Young Deaths

"President Trump? Congress? This is front and center on many minds right now. Forget August recess. We have work to do."

During the past week, our country has lost eight of our young men. One might say,"Big deal - Chicago loses that many to gang violence on any ordinary week." True. But these eight young men died under very mysterious circumstances. Seven died in the middle of the night while on a Navy ship cruising through international waters. And the other died at the hands of one of the most murderous regimes on the planet.

Before I address what happened aboard the USS Fitzgerald, I want to talk about Otto Warmbier. This young man, full or promise, was a soccer player, gifted student, and homecoming king in high school. He went on to the University of Virginia and became an honors student.

Almost two years ago, Otto wanted to visit China. Once there, an opportunity arose through a Chinese company to visit North Korea for five days. Why did he want to go to North Korea? I don't know. Maybe it was like to the Steven Covey saying, Otto wanted "Seek to understand". While in North Korea, he wanted to take an innocent souvenir - a political poster. That turned out to be a fatal mistake.

He was convicted of a "hostile act" in a North Korean court and sentence to 18 years of hard labor. After spending over a year and a half of his prison sentence, Otto Warmbier was pardoned to come home. He had been in a coma for over a year, and I believe the North Koreans knew he was close to the end. So rather than have a corpse come back to the United States, they released this young man who was just days from death. How did this healthy young man get into a coma? No answers as yet - just many questions for the Nork regime.

Now the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62). On June 17th at 2:30 in the morning, the USS Fitzgerald was rammed by a Philippine flagged container ship, the ACX Crystal. Seven innocent sailors died, drown in the quarters in which they were sleeping. One might ask how in the world could a state of the art, AEGIS equipped warship, get rammed in the open sea? 

Having worked for companies who supplied equipment to the DDG ship class for years, I know something about these ships. They are almost invulnerable to attack. Why? The phase arrayed radar is so sensitive, it can (as the joke goes) "hear a fly fart at 10,000 feet". So in the middle of the open sea, with a container ship doing very unusual maneuvers, the USS Fitzgerald allowed itself to get rammed. Not only rammed, but for a while, in danger of sinking.

My suggestion to Congress is simple. Rather than spending thousands of hours and countless millions of dollars on this Russia-Trump connection (by the way, as we can now see from Syria that so called Russian connection is looking at bit tenuous), we should be investigating both the Warmbier death and the USS Fitzgerald incident. Both of these incidents stink to high heaven. There is way, way more to each or these stories - which we all need to know.

Eight mysterious young deaths. Eight young men - gone in the early stages of adult life. Eight families left to grieve and question why. And a nation on edge, also wondering what has happened. President Trump? Congress? This is front and center on many minds right now. Forget August recess. We have work to do.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Met Council HATES TCO!

"If a candidate tries to waltz you around the May Pole with a bunch of happy talk, send that person packing. We no longer have the time nor money to put up with fairy tales." 

Aw, Bird! Are you going to talk about that boring business crap called "TCO" again? And put people to sleep? Why Bird, why? For starters, let me again refresh anyone who is not familiar with "TCO", what it means. Total Cost of Ownership. In other words, if you look at the cost of buying a car, a non-TCO approach would be to recognize just the cost of the car. A TCO approach to what the car would cost would also cover license tabs, gasoline, maintenance, insurance and depreciation.

I have been told by a detractor or two (when I harp on the Met Council) I don't know what I am talking about. Because I have never sat on this most evil Council. Well glory be! Today in the paper was an editorial letter penned by someone who sat on the Met Council for 18 years. Did this person defend all the bone headed decisions this Council had made, especially with regards to transportation? Nope - he told the emperor he was not wearing any clothes.

The editorial writer first lit into our most famous money hole - the Northstar. In his words, "the Northstar is an absolute disaster". Gasp! Really? Really. It only pays for a measly 10% of its operating cost and 0% of its capital costs. Then where in the heck does the money come from to operate this choo-choo? A money tree in St. Paul? Nope - the taxpayers back pocket.

LRT is not quite as bad as the Northstar. 30% of the operating costs come from user fees. The other 70% as well as all other costs come from - the back pocket of the taxpayer. But here is the money quote from the article. The ticking time bomb. The article goes on to state that right now equipment which is replaced is capitalized with the feds paying 50 to 90% of the capitalization costs. But there is no guarantee that will last forever. In fact, in this current environment, that could come to a screeching halt at any time. Then the taxpayers are stuck holding that bag also.

The article goes on to demonstrate how the state does not account for costs like a normal business does, and that is why costs are often times under estimated. In the real world, a finance person would be updating his or her resume should estimates such as these be presented to management. But in the world of make believe (that be the Metropolitan Council), this is just business as normal.

How do we get rid of this tribe of village idiots who are wasting billions of tax dollars on follies? One more time - WE NEED A CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR WHO CAN, ALONG WITH A REPUBLICAN LED SENATE, KILL THIS COUNCIL FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL!! It is as simple as that. 

When the candidates come knocking at your door during the upcoming campaign season, be sure to ask the tough questions about transit in Minnesota. Arm yourself with the facts, the truth. If a candidate tries to waltz you around the May Pole with a bunch of happy talk, send that person packing. We no longer have the time nor the money to put up with fairy tales.