Monday, March 31, 2014

Yellen at the Ticker

 
 

 
"Who cares? Is only some paper and some ink..."


Here we go again. Our "phony money" supply keeps to keep increasing despite who in charge of the Fed. Ms. Yellen, the latest appointed  "Fed Tool" assigned to devalue our money supply through excessive printing, gave an inkle today which gave the market a temporary high. A "thrill going up their leg" if you will. The era of the Bernanke free money is going to continue on for a while. Big whoop...

Anyone can go out and spend like a drunken sailor (sorry shipmates), and then at sometime have to "pay for the party". Most constitutional conservatives understand this. The day traders and the commodity brokers who reside on the corner of Wall and Broad, could give a rip. Let the good times roll. The party? We (or the following generations), will pay for that later.

I am convinced when the historians (years down the road) write the epitaph of our society, they will ask, "what in the world happened here?" I believe most will all say the same thing. The party went on too long. The people could not handle the truth, so we masked it in the world of false expectations as well as unreal gains. As the poor continued to get poorer, the rich got richer only by the slight of hand of the Fed.

Some of us minions sit here, feeling like passengers on a jet getting ready to crash. We know what is coming; we know what has caused it. Yet, the intoxicated and prostituted main street press bought this tripe and proxy hook, line and sinker. The gains the market are making are as false as warm weather in March. Sooner or later, the real stuff appears, and the truth of the season reappears.

I yearn for the day the market once again reflects reality. I yearn for the day that money invested in the market really means something. I yearn for the day when our dollar once again rules in the world of monetary currencies. As for now, our pilot is Janet Yellen, and she is taken our monetary journey on a one way trip to the southern Indian Ocean.

People have asked me in the past why I pulled my money out of the market in 2006. I wish I was clairvoyant, but I am not. I have been burned in the past by lesser fires, and don't wished to be burned again. I like things which are real, things that make sense. The market today is a phony as a sunny day with 60 degrees in March.



The Epicenter

 
 

 
"As much as I would like to look away, I just can't..."




It seems like every weekend there is something going on in our county or state which tends to eclipse most everything else. For us, it was the second annual spring fundraiser (and the one year anniversary) for the organization that my wife and I are a part of. Why was this so important on such a beautiful weekend? Besides being able to raise some much needed funding needed to support the organization's daily operations, it was also to tell an important story to new friends as well as some old.

The story told is of HOPE, which also happens to be the name of the organization. HOPE is really an acronym with stands for Housing, Outreach, Protection and Education. It is an organization that deals with the growing and pervasive problem of homelessness with our local youth.

Why do I say it is growing? Last year, our local school district reported on just over 700 kids who were homeless. This year, the number is up to 740. This statistic is so far beyond the problem of kids coming to school hungry because they could not get breakfast at home. For these 740 kids, there is no home. How in the world can we expect kids to learn, to succeed, when they not only have to worry about every meal, but also a bed at night.

What attracted us to this organization last fall was two fold. First off, it was the desperate needs of these kids. I have said this before, the fact that one kid goes to bed without a home is one kid too many. Most of the 300 people that volunteer for this organization feel the same. This is an intolerable situation. Second, this is an organization with bold vision. They don't pussy foot around. They have set a goal to eradicate youth homelessness in this county in ten years or less. This is not just a lofty goal, they have set some solid plans in motion and have the support in how to do make them happen.

So yes, on this first nice day in what seems to be forever, this VFW hall in Coon Rapids was the epicenter of not only the county, but maybe even the state. As the longest journey starts with the first step, yesterday afternoon a giant stride was taken . Even though this organization has been in place for only a year, hundreds of kids have been served.

In a world of many seemingly hopeless situations, this is an organization which offers HOPE. And my wife and I are very proud to be a part of it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

No More, No Less...

 
 


"I would like to tell you how pious I am on this one, but I fall down daily..."




I can't take it anymore. There are things about politics I love, and there are things I can't stand. One of the things that drives me crazy is the trashing of the 9th Commandment. I understand this commandment well - I easily break it often and then am filled with guilt and remorse. I am however, trying to do better.

We have an important election coming up in Minnesota, as well as the nation. For the first time in my life, I am a delegate to the district convention as well as the state. Because of that, I am getting quite a bit of information about candidates and now they feel about  their opponents. I have said this before, I love a good policy discussion or debate. What drives me crazy is antidotal or hearsay information which does nothing to further the debate, only debase the other side.

Most of us do it. Rumors, innuendos, gossip, back biting, you name it. I have been guilty of all of them. However, I believe this most important false witness commandment earned its place on the Tablet of Ten for a very good reason. For example, consider what the Bible says in James 3, verses 5 and 6:

"Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."
 
The Bible also tells us in Ephesians 4:29 to edify each other, so say good things about each other. It is okay to have a disagreement with one another, as long as it is done with love and respect. Disagree without being disagreeable. Be a guardian of the truth as well as being kind.
 
So can we go through this upcoming political season without besmirching each other? Is it possible to parse policy differences while still treating each other as if we all have value? Can we say things to each other out of love, even though it might be of a different point of view?
 
As I said earlier, I have failed miserably on this one in the past. For that I am sorry. I know I will never be perfect on this one, but daily I will try to improve. If I can change myself just a bit more by not perpetuating rumors and bearing false witness, then maybe, in the smallest way, it can help change the world. Even Mahatma Gandhi addressed the importance of self change when he said the following:
 
"If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do."
 
 
 
   

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Hitchhikers Guide....

 
 


"Not too many years ago, we were driving the limo - today we are only hitchhikers..."



I saw something recently on Fox News which gave me pause to think. I was about how America is shrinking on the world stage. One of the areas the show addressed was the space program and NASA. It is hard to believe it was only fifty years ago President Kennedy challenged the nation to beat the Russians in the space race by landing on the moon before 1970. Today, if we want to go into space, we need to beg the Russians for a ride.

Apollo, Gemini, the Shuttle - they are all gone now. Relicts of history. Oh, they served their purpose nicely. Each was another step in getting us closer to the heavens. I even understand the need to mothball the shuttle fleet. It was expensive and aging. What I don't understand is why we did it without the follow-on program being up and running.

The Constellation Program was to be the natural follow on to the Shuttle Program. This was going to be exciting stuff, as it would take us to the next level. According to NASA, the "stated goals of the Constellation Program were to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment and develop technologies needed to opening and broadening the space frontier..." Translation - this was the next step needed in putting a human on Mars.

However, our current President, who can spend money faster than a sailor on leave, wanted no part of this crapola such as a strong military or robust space program. Besides downsizing our military to a seventy year low, in 2010 he killed the Constellation Program. One might ask, "What did he replace it with?"  Bus tokens for rides on Russian rockets to get up to the ISS.

I am glad that President Kennedy, who was a man of vision, is not around to see demise of our once proud space program. So much has been happened under our "hopey and changey" environment, I completely lost track of our dead space program. This is yet one more national tragedy of the Obama regime. In the past six years, we have become a debtor nation with a Woodrow Wilson size military and no space program. We do however, have half the country living on food assistance.

I just hope once the Russians or Chinese get to Mars they will send home pictures. As for us, we will continue to use the hitchhikers guide to the universe...   


Friday, March 28, 2014

The Second Amendment and the Dishonest Left

 
 



"I'm sorry - do you not understand the word 'infringe'?"

Oh my, oh my! They are up to their old tricks again. Some on the Left will not be satisfied until every law abiding citizen is disarmed, and the thugs and feral youth are allowed to roam the streets unimpeded. Most honest brokers of information know that law abiding citizens with gun permits very seldom commit gun violence. Most citizens will an ounce of  Constitutional knowledge understand the Second Amendment is the cornerstone which allows the rest of the document to work. It is the "checks and balances" amendment. Without it, even the most democratic of governments could turn tyrannical under the wrong leadership.

One of the biggest anti-gun jackasses in the union is a California Congressman named Leland Yee. He was often a guest on the seldom watched Pierz Morgan show. He and Morgan would take turns spouting their anti-gun garbage. And guess what just happened? The "holier than now" Yee got stung by the FBI for illegally trafficking firearms. What the what? How in the world can that be? Very simple. Rush talks about this quite often. The debate really has nothing to do with guns. It is all about taking your power away. Power guaranteed by the Constitution. Yee was just another dishonest broker of the Left's tired old song. 99.9% of law abiding citizens who legally carry would never think of doing something like this. Yet Yee did.

People who study the most rudimentary element of world history know the play book. First disarm citizens, then control them. Rather than the government serving the people, the reverse happens. Bingo - tyranny, right before your eyes. Unfortunately, tyranny is a natural course of events for some people. Megalomaniacs, dictators, tyrants - they are all the same. They want to control you, your life, your possessions. Our Founders put the Second Amendment in the Constitution to not only protect the Republic then, but also for generations to come. The dumbest, most suicidal thing we could do is water it down. The strongest dam is weakened by the first crack.

Right now in St. Paul, we have hometown patriots defending our gun rights against statists from all over the country. I am not going to name these heroes, as it will embarrass them. However, many who read this article know who I am talking about. If you own a gun or not, protecting the Second Amendment is a hill worth dying on. If that most cherished Amendment ever goes, the Republic will be right behind it.

The next time you bump into one of our gun rights protectors, or a member of the NRA, remember to thank them. The importance of their work cannot be minimized. This fight goes on, and cannot, will not, be lost.

  




Through the IRS Looking Glass

 
 
 


"What is good for the goose does not seem to be good for the gander..."




It has been another interesting week watching the adventures of "IRS Gate" on Capitol Hill. It would be funny if it were not so sad. Watching high level people from this most powerful organization sit in front of Congress and smite them rather than answer them, is way beyond the pale. And yet the man who is in charge of this whole mess, says nothing. He is overseas trying to regain some "street cred" by making nice with the Pope. In fact, President "Bystander" and his minions still refer to the entire IRS issue as a "phony scandal".

Most citizens in this country are good, law abiding people. They go to work, they raise a family, they pay their taxes. If for some reason an unexpected letter comes in the mail from the IRS, they might be running to the medicine cabinet for Tums and Di-gel. Why? As most of us know, the IRS has extraordinary power. They can ruin a person's life at the drop of a hat.

Back to the activity on the Hill this week. After you thought you saw ultimate arrogance and total lack of respect coming from Lois Lerner, we now have act two. One Wednesday, John Koskinen (the Commissioner of the IRS) was called to testify in front of Chairman Issa's committee. The request from Issa was for the IRS to turn over e-mails which might shed some light on how conservative non-profit organizations were handed. What Issa got in return was more sass.

"Oh, we can't do that. It will take too long" the Commissioner told the committee. Sometimes, it almost looked like the Commissioner was half-smirking. It seems the IRS can call any one of us in to their office, grill us like a criminal, and then adjudicate some kind of financial or penal remedy. On the other hand, when Lerner or Koskinen are asked questions, they can either take the 5th or smirk.

Well, the adults in Congress are running out of patience with this sideshow. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is not someone to mess with. A former prosecutor, he is ready to lower the boom on these bad actors from the IRS. The tag team of Issa and Gowdy will turn the most sunny day into a bad storm for any recalcitrant who mocks the power of Congress.

Is it possible that Lois Lerner is not guilty of tampering with non-profit exemptions for conservative groups? Yes, it is possible. However, it is also possible I will see a leprechaun today. Possible, but not very likely.

Part of taking back our country is taking back our freedom. Out of control agencies like the IRS, NSA and EPA need to be reeled back in, and fast. Remember these lessons in November folks - as Steppenwolf said in their 1970's song, "There is a monster on the loose". 

 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The India Solution

 
 


"This is all very cool until you are on the receiving end of the pink slip..."




After I retired, I decided I needed one more trip around the block. So before the crash of 2008 happened, I signed on with a company in St. Paul to establish what is known as a co-sourcing solution for their IT services. After working as an outsourcer at IBM, I had some understanding of that world. But co-sourcing was a bit different. However the one thing that outsourcing and co-sourcing have in common is this - some people who work for a company which employ strategies of either outsourcing or co-sourcing, are going to be out of a job.

This week, we found out a major corporation, one headquartered in the Twin Cites, is going start an IT co-sourcing environment. Net result - 900 people from that company are going to be sent home, 300 of those 900 in the Twin Cities. Ouch. And who are going to fill those IT jobs? Mostly people from India. How do I know that? The outsourcing company who was selected to be the co-sourcing partner is Tata. I know Tata well. It is the company I managed while working at my final company in St. Paul.

It turns out to be a dollar and cents thing. First off, the "loaded" hourly rate for work done by Tata in the states is much cheaper than most local talent. Many of the folks from India are here under I 9 Visas, and they do very good work and fit in well. However, the real plus of using Indian labor is this - at the end of the day, much of the work is transferred overnight to Bangalore, or whatever city in India houses the IT team. Work done in India is even cheaper, yet the quality is usually very good. Tata is truly a global partner with an ever growing reputation.

What I tell young folks in IT is simply this - 1) don't get too comfortable with your surroundings and 2) stay as highly trained as possible. IT services are going to be around for quite a while, and clients will always be looking for the best, yet most affordable solution. I have worked with some staff augmentation folks in the past who had an hourly rate of $300/hour. When Tata came around, people making that kind of money were the first to go. Again, nothing personal. IT solutions are a dollar and cents solution so long as the skill levels are similar.

India has worked very hard to develop this IT niche in the market place. Schooling in India is long and hard for those who want to become trained in IT. English is taught from the get-go, so people working the help desk can communicate with their customer's in the states. My belief for some time now is this - certain segments of the IT world are gone forever, never to return to US workers.

I am still waiting for the next big thing in our country which will employ workers by the thousands at a good wage with good benefits. It is easy to find stories about good jobs leaving us, but much harder to find stories about good jobs being created here. I wish I had a solution, but I don't. More on this subject somewhere down the road...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Unilateral Determinations

 
 
 


"Who cares what we agreed to - I will just change the dang thing!"



Please hang in there for a wee bit while I set the table for this article. In my working days, I spend most of my time negotiating contracts with the Federal Government. I also did negotiations with other companies and countries, but the US Government was always my biggest and most frequent customer.

Once a contract was signed, there was only three ways to change it. First, the primary customer in Washington, or my company, could request a change. It would then be negotiated, and a modification to contract would result, signed by both parties. Second, the local government representative could change the contract by an amendment. Again, it was a negotiated action, agreed to and signed by both parties. Third, there could be unilateral determinations made by the government. Situations that would allow these unilateral determinations were spelled out in the frame of the basic contract, or in the ancillary statutory or regulatory provisions thereto.

There! Now that I got all that mumbo jumbo out of the way, you might be wondering what this has to do with the price of tea in China. ObamaCare. Plain and simple ObamaCare. Yesterday, one more unilateral change was announced. This thing has now has more changes in it than a high school term paper. All unilateral determinations. All illegal if you ask me. This was a law passed by the Legislative Branch and then signed by the Executive Branch. Kind of the way our Constitution requires things.

For the President to change one of the basic tenants of this highly complex (and convoluted) law, there is a Constitutional way to do it. Since we do not have a monarchy, the President is not empowered to make even one change to the law. He needs to request the change through Congress.

It would be like your mortgage company sending you a letter saying they just changed the term or the percentage of your mortgage. They cant do that. And the President can't just willy-nilly change anything he wants to. Of all people! He (supposedly) taught Constitutional Law for crying out loud!

So here we sit, with this behemoth of a law that few like and even fewer understand. It is so hosed up, it has needed to go through numerous (and illegal) changes. And I don't believe we are done yet. My question however is this - why has nobody called the President on these illegal changes? In my opinion, after the first change was made, the law should have become a nullity.

As for me, I am going to start becoming more of an activist on this mess called ObamaCare. It is a tort to our Jurisprudence. It needs to go away and quickly. This "signature law" for the President will to down in history alright - just not the way he imagined.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Art of Fratricide

 
 


"Tell the other side they don't need to vote. We will kill ourselves before the election and do their work for them..."




For years now, I have been interested in politics. However, it is only recently I have become actively involved. I am wondering if I was just late to the party, or smart in staying away. As a former military officer, I am aware of the landscape of the battlefield. I know how important it is to understand our enemy. What I have never been trained in is fratricide. In other words, how to worry about someone on your own team "fragging" you.

Chris Christy is a polarizing figure to some in the Republican Party. I agree with him on some issues and disagree with him on others. However, he is on OUR TEAM. One of the more profound things he has said as of late is this - we can't govern if we can't win. That is a true statement. The most flawed candidate running from our side for governor, senator, or congress would be light years ahead of having another "Hopey, Changey, Socialist" represent us.

It is good to have a robust debate prior to the general elections. On our side, we have good people with slightly differing opinions. As "iron sharpens iron", our candidates will emerge stronger. However, once the endorsing conventions are done, we need to coalesce around our candidates going forward. No more sniping, no more back talk, no more fratricide. We are on the same team, and the starting lineup has been chosen. Failure to do so will result in another third party candidate that will steal victory and hand it to the opposition. Sound familiar? It should.

I have said this many times before, so I will say it again. Our bench strength is very strong this year. I have met most of the candidates and know some of them better than just a handshake. These are good people, really good. Not perfect, but very still good and decent people. We can win with this team, but only if we can stop fragging each other. The Democrats don't do this - they could nominate Bullwinkle the Moose, and everyone will support him. Net result - they win and we lose. For example, if everyone who voted for McCain came out and voted for Mitt in the next election, we would have President Romney right now (and a whole less trouble).

As for me, I am a delegate going forward - and proud to be so. I have done my homework and still have some more left to do. However whatever the preference ends up being, I will support the endorsed candidates (and I expect the other candidates to do that also). If we can't do that, if we insist on looking for better purity than Kigumon Gold, we will lose. There is difference between have an imperfect past, and a future which might be flawed. As an imperfect man, I will always choose someone with a future based on hope, rather than a past which might otherwise haunt them.

I go forward into this fall with one word only - victory. I have no interest in besmirching anyone on our team. I also have no interest in turning this party into "Democrat Light" - that serves nobody. If our party insists on the path of self-destruct, if our party wants to travel the road to fratricide, then I will lost interest fast. As much as I care about our country, I want nothing of being a part of a circular firing squad. I have better things to do.

In the dark of the night...

 
 



"What many don't realize is this. Youth homelessness has gone from a trickle to a flood in communities which believe they are immune..."




Josh left the drop-in center and got into his 1998 Mazda. Under his breath, in the unrelenting cold, he said a familiar and silent prayer. "Please Lord, just one more time for Betsy." He heard the cranking of the starter start to slow down, and then the first catch of the engine. It was running! Slow and easy, slow and easy. Just enough gas - too much would kill the engine. Josh knew if the engine died, he would not be able to restart it. His battery was on life support before this brutal winter started, and now it was day for day.

He was supposed to meet Rafael at a nearby grocery store. He was not there to shop, but rather to use the public rest room. The store employees were aware of who the homeless kids were that came in to get warm or use the rest rooms. It was tolerated for a short while, but then store security would usher them out. There was usually never any trouble. Once in a while, the local police needed to be called for an assist, but those times were rare.

As Josh was just minutes away from meeting Rafael at the store, he thought about his life. He hated where he was right now. He hated it, and was he was ashamed by it. He was homeless. Other than this beat up old car, he really owned nothing. He did not have a dollar to his name, and he never really knew where his next meal was coming from.

It started with some drug use in Middle School. It was an easy transition, as he was already medicated from Ritalin due to his ADHD. Throw in some more meds for anxiety, and Josh was now ready for the next step - self-medication therapy. Weed, beer, and then some meth. He would come to school stoned, get suspended, go home, get high, and the beat went on. Mom had long ago thrown Dad out of the house and she wanted nothing to do with a strung out kid. At sixteen, she sold the house and moved in with her new boyfriend. Josh and the boyfriend never really hit it off, and before long, he was out of the picture and out of a place to live.

He stopped going to school and soon became part of the invisible underground of youth homelessness. His new family became the other youth who were also homeless. They depended on each other, they helped each other. However, this new community was a double edged sword. Danger also lurked here. Robbery, rape, and even death. Some bad and evil people were only looking for easy targets. Homeless youth often times were just that.

As Josh pulled up to the store, Rafael was standing there waiting for him. He was taking his final drag on a "container cigarette". A "container cigarette" is a cigarette that was been disposed of in an ash tray or container in front of a store before a customer walks in. Often times if someone was lucky, the cigarette was only half smoked.

Standing next to Rafael was a somewhat younger girl. She had on a lightweight coat and wore no gloves. She was shivering from the brisk, cold wind that swirled throughout the parking lot. As the passenger door of Josh's car opened, Rafael said, "Josh, my main man! This here is Julie. She needs a place to hang. Do you mind?" Josh looked at Julie now that he was closer. "Crap - she must be no more than fifteen", he thought. "Hi Julie. There is room in the back seat. Please excuse the mess. Betsy here is my car, my home, and sometimes even my best friend."

Most homeless youth know of places they can go for a while to get out of the cold. They also know when and where free food is offered. However, the nights are a different story. They are cold, they are dark. The options on cold night are often very limited. The lucky ones are able to "couch hop". However, even the welcome mat for "couch hopping" wears thin after a while. Out of total desperation, some even resort to the old trick of "B+E" (breaking and entering).

Some in the community have been trying to get a license which would allow teens with no place to go find safe and warm shelter. Buildings are available, funding is available. Seems like a slam dunk. However, some communities have hardened their hearts to this idea. The old specter of NIBY (Not In my Back Yard) has appeared. As the political battle wages on, the dark, cold nights also continue. In some communities, hundreds of young, vulnerable people look to survive until daylight.

As Josh drove around the area, Rafael needed to scrape the inside of the windshield. The defroster fan had quit months ago, and without constant scraping, the inside of the windshield would totally freeze up. The heater was also minimal, and Julie sat in the back seat and continued to shiver. About 11:00, they ran out of options of where to go to get warm. A default strategy was always to pull into the back parking lot of the drop-in center and spend the night in the car. The kiosk at the bank they just drove by already showed a temperature of -5. It was going to be another brutally cold night.

When they got to the parking lot of the drop-in center, Josh and Rafael got out and relieved themselves before trying to go to sleep. Josh had an old blanket in the trunk and let Julie use it for some degree of warmth. Josh and Rafael had only their heavy jackets. Josh cracked his window just a bit so they could get some fresh air while they slept. It was a tradeoff however, fresh air for more cold. Soon the inside of the windows were totally frozen and the three homeless youths settled in for a cold and fitful night of sleep.

 
* * * * * * * * * *
 
I would like to say this story was totally fiction, something I just made up this morning. But it is not. Even though the names are fictitious, the circumstances in which they live are not. The scales have fallen off my eyes this year. I have become painfully aware of youth and family homelessness. It is a huge and growing problem in the community in which I live. However, my community is not unique - it is pervasive all over the state and beyond.
 
Late last year, my wife and I decided to dive into the deep end of this pool. The fact that even one kid is homeless on cold, dark nights is totally unacceptable to us and many others. The organization of which we are part is committed to first serve homeless youth in our area, and second to eradicate youth homelessness in our community in ten years or less.

Some say youth homelessness is invisible. It is not. It is just hidden. Look at bit harder, and you will see it. It is there, in 2014, in our community, it is there. We can stop it. We will stop it. Our kids deserve better. 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Da Plane!

 
 


"I am afraid that not even Tattoo could find this plane..."



I was at the YMCA this morning when I saw the presser from Malaysia concerning the missing Boeing 777. Truthfully, I almost fell off the treadmill. It was like a murder being solved in the absence of finding a body and not knowing the motive. The spokesperson for the Malaysian government was very coy about his evidence. It was a real "trust me" minute.

What do I think? I think it is possible that the plane is lying at the bottom of the Indian Ocean in two mile deep water. I also think it was possible for the plane to disappear through a worm hole or end up in the belly of a giant UFO. Are any of these outcomes probable? No. It still strikes me as odd that in a world where the NSA knows everything about me, including my trips to the bathroom, we can loose a jet the size of a 777. How fast? Faster than David Copperfield could make it vanish.

So - if it is not lying on the bottom of the ocean, somewhere at land's end, where in the Sam Hill is it? Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney (USAF Retired), a man who I respect and admire, has a different take. He still has some contacts in the "agency" and without naming names, he has been told the plane is in Pakistan. Even after the news was released today, he is sticking by his sources.

My heart goes out to the people who were on that plane and their families. They did not deserve this. If I had a loved one on that plane I would still be less than satisfied. Accepting the fact the plane rests in a location thousands of miles in the wrong direction from the destination would be a bitter pill for me to digest. In fact, that story does not even come close to passing the sniff test.

Is it on Fantasy Island with Tattoo jumping up and down on its arrival? Is it on Jules Verne's Mysterious Island? Is it in another dimension? Or is it someplace that nobody has thought of yet. If they do indeed find the jet's black boxes miles under the Indian Ocean, this story will be one for the ages. It will re-write the textbooks. It will change everything about SAR (search and rescue).  As for me, I am still trying to separate science from science fiction. 
 

Chicken Kiev?

 
 

 
"Wait a minute! This has nothing to do with food!"
 
 
One pundit on the national news this morning, said something very profound. The biggest mystery this month may not have been the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Rather the mystery may be what Vladimir Putin is going to do with Ukraine, in particular Kiev.
 
As of this posting, 20,000 Russian troops are massed on the Ukrainian border. In fact, the taking of Crimea was such a cake walk, most of the troops have been pulled out of Crimea and sent to the Ukrainian border. The question was raised - if the Russians decide to go into Kiev and take the Ukraine, what are our options?
 
Here they are, worst to first:
  • Hit Russia with the next one or two tranches of sanctions. These are referred to as the "cutting off your nose despite your face" sanctions. Why? The blow back hurts us also. And they really hurt Europe when the gas from Moscow gets shut off.
  • Pledge almost $20B in military aid to the Ukraine. Ha! And where will that money come from? And what will they do with it? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
  • Authorize all permitting which will allow us to export as much natural gas as we need to. This will take the boot off of the neck of a gas hungry Europe, and allow them to have a long term, dependable supplier. Easy peasy right? Wrong! The Loony Left, who controls many of the Democrats in Congress, have a strangle hold on the permits. Maybe an executive action would help???
  • DRILL BABY DRILL! Upset the apple cart in the world petro market. Build the Keystone, drill all over in the Gulf of Mexico, drill on public lands. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would hurt Putin more than to have his cash cow lose some weight.
There you have it. We have seen the enemy, and it is us. We can win this war without firing a shot. Obama needs to take a play from the Gipper's handbook. He beat the Soviets into submission without firing a shot, without losing a life. Our main weapon right now is not the Pershing II Missile system, it is not SDI. Our weapon system is our vast natural resource of oil and gas powered by a free market.
 
So if I was sitting in the Oval Office, I would call my buddy Vladimir up and have an honest man to man conversation. I would tell him this - we have no strategic interest in Kiev nor Crimea. We are not going to intervene. However, if he does not pull out immediately, we will unleash hell in the world petro market. We will pump so much oil, it will bring back gas prices from 2008. Instead of being a major player in our brave new world economy, Russia will become a spectator. As the West gets richer, Russia will only get poorer. We will make it a zero sum game.
 
If you want to play chicken with Kiev Mr. Putin, we are ready for it. However, we are not playing liar's poker. We have the cards to back up our bluff. 
 
 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Speak softly and...

 
 



"Speak softly and carry a big stick..."
 
September 2, 1901
Vice President Roosevelt at the Minnesota State Fair



Those of us who studied history back in high school (before the days of Common Core) remember the not-as-famous cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Theodore (Teddy), who was a progressive by nature, also had some good points. Whether his diplomacy hinged on his now famous saying (or not), is a matter of historical debate. However, when people today are asked about what they know about our 26h President, his famous saying usually comes to mind.

It would be nice to have a guy like Teddy around today. Or a guy like Rick Nelson (from Ozzie and Harriet days) who often would say he was a "nice guy who could be tough". Today we have nothing that engenders fear or trepidation in the hearts of our advisories. We have no money, we are shrinking our military, and we sure the heck don't know how to handle global bullies. "Speak softly and carry a big stick" has been replaced with "Make me mad and receive a letter."

Truthfully, I am not worried about Russia. Putin has sensed an opportunity to gain back total control of a warm water port. He is smart enough to know that MAD (mutually assured destruction) still exists between our two countries. He is just having way too much fun kicking sand in Obama's face.

I am however, worried about nation states who are not as well schooled as Russia. In particular, I am worried about North Korea and Iran. They remind me of sharks in the water who can smell blood. They don't worry about our President, and they fear him even less. Either one will take opportunities to vanquish their foes without fear of recrimination. They both have the potential to drag this country into a conflict which would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child's play.

I remember hearing a story of President Reagan telling the North Koreans (through back channels), if they dared start a war with South Korea, he would turn their country into a sheet of glass. True or not, the North Koreans did not want any part of the "Gipper". For the most part, they minded their manners during the eight years of his presidency.

I often wonder how Teddy would do today if he was our President. I remember reading stories of Teddy, riding out in front of the Rough Riders. He was fearless and in charge. Some of that might have been the coloring of history, but I believe most is true. Teddy was a leader. He was never known as a chicken.

So tomorrow we start a new week. One of the big internet stories today tells of Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border. Is this just bluster, or the next phase? By this time next week, we might have another redrawn map of the world. Does anyone, and I mean anyone, think we carry a "big stick" any longer? Have we just become a "paper tiger"? Many have said our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us. To that I say this. Teddy - where are you when we need you?

And what is Holy?

 
 
 


"Holy - one of the most powerful, yet hard to understand words in scripture..."



Living as a broken person in a broken world, I have often thought of what Holy really is. It is as tough as trying to figure out God's Agape Love. I still don't fully understand it. Someone once described to me it as more pure than pure, more perfect than perfect.

I do know this much however - in God's world, Holy is the landscape. Anything or anyone that falls short of Holy cannot enter God's kingdom. Since none of us are as Holy as God, where in the world does that leave us?

First off, this world was never intended to be broken. But it was. Part of the collateral damage resulting from the war which waged in Heaven. Satan could not get to God, so he got to his children. He tempted Eve, and then she and Adam fell. Once they fell, so fell the world. A broken world, antithetical to God's order.

To enter the Kingdom of God, one must be Holy. What does that mean? Pure? Perfect? Holy is a term that lies way beyond those two human terms. Because we live in a broken world, and pick up the stain of sin on a daily basis, what chance do we have to live in the Holiness of God's Kingdom?

A very good pastor friend of mine once explained it to me this way. We can't enter God's Kingdom if we are not Holy. It just can't happen. The smallest sin will keep us from being Holy. However, once we accept Christ and agree to follow His ways, God only sees us though the prism of His Son. Our sins are washed free, and we are welcomed into God's Holy Kingdom.

These are just some random thoughts I have had on Holiness. As a human, I can only try to understand. God's love, His mercy, His forgiveness, His holiness are hard for our human brains to comprehend. So I just accept them as the divine gifts they are.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Hubris

 
 


Hubris -  Indicates a loss of contact with reality, and a overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person who exhibits it is in a position of power.



Not to sound like Chicken Little, but the world is on fire. It is on fire and every day the flames grow larger and hotter. And as the world burns, for the first time in decades, we don't have a fireman. This month as we all watched, the map of the world was being redrawn. Crimea is now a part of a resurgent USSR, Ukrainian warships have been seized by Russian troops, and we have a Boeing 777 which has gone missing.

If one was not listening to or watching the news, it would appear that everything is just fine here in "la-la" land. The NCAA tourney is going on (often referred to as "March Madness"), and our Bracket Picker in Chief is fully engaged in the drama taking place on the hardwood. In fact, things are so placid right now, our Bracket Picker decided to kick some of the rust off of Air Force One and send it to China for a wee bit of vacation. Oh, before I forget - not just the plane, but the Bracket Picker's wife, kids, mother-in-law, and who knows how many other tag alongs went with.

I do have to hand it to the crowd we now have in Washington. In most of the past Administrations, when the optics were this bad, they would have been mortified. Nope - not this crew. They really don't care. They are more Teflon coated than the Clintons. FLOTUS wanted to take a journey to China - no problem. She thought of taking mom and the kids with her - easy peasy. She wanted to stay at the finest hotel in China - hey Janet Yellen, print us some more cash!

Between imposing sanctions on Putin's next door neighbor, barber, and high school sweetheart, POTUS is focused like a laser beam of raising the minimum wage. Forget for a second we have a host of other domestic problems that are killing our economy right now. Then also forget that a raise in the minimum wage will not only cost jobs, but a wage of $10/hour will still keep a family in poverty. But POTUS does not seem to grasp this, because HE HAS NEVER HELD A REAL JOB!

The Russians are having great fun with our March Hubris. They now refer to our President as a "prankster". They are not mad of him, they are not scared of him, they only mock him. The ONE easy, and I mean easy thing he could have done when the Ukrainian crisis first started was this - by executive action, immediately authorize the Keystone Pipeline. That would have sent shudders throughout global oil markets. It would have told the world we mean business, and we have the resources to supply our friends in the Euro Zone. The price of Russia's "black gold" would have dropped like a rock.

So, did POTUS take that easy step. Nope - he was working on his brackets instead. As March Hubris continues, so do the flames which are sweeping across parts of the world. 



Friday, March 21, 2014

Our Seed Corn

 
 


"The dumbest thing a society can do is eat their seen corn..."
 
 
The early settlers to this country had to grow their own food to survive. Every year, some of the produce grown was saved to be planted for the next year's crop. It was usually the best of the best. The seed which had the best chance of germinating and developing into next year's food. The worst thing an early settler could do was to eat the seed from this year's harvest.
 
Most of the time, the seed which was used year to year was corn. Hence, the term "seed corn". So what really is "seed corn"? Simply put, it is our future. To treasure your seed corn, greatly enhances the seed producing a bountiful harvest the next year. To not take care of, or to eat your seed corn, portends a very bleak future.
 
Many today refer to our youth as our seed corn. Nothing could be more true. Unfortunately, some in our society have not treated our youth as the valuable "seed corn" they are. Much damage is done because of that. Fortunately however, there are a growing number of people in the community who do value our youth for the treasures they are.
 
My wife and I went to a prayer breakfast this morning to support Youth First Community of Promise. This was the third time I went, and like the first two times, the church was packed. Lots and lots of adults who care deeply about kids growing up in our community. Lots and lots of adults who want each and every kid to be given hope and opportunity necessary to succeed in life.
 
Youth First Community of Promise is an organization which is committed to providing five essential things to our youth:
  • Caring Adults
  • Safe Places
  • A Healthy Start
  • Effective Education
  • Opportunities to Give Back
We feel strongly that every life has value. We also feel it is important for our kids to KNOW they have immeasurable value. Not just some of them, but all of them. They are important to us. They are our future. Truly, they are our seed corn.  
  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Metro Transit


"You're either on the bus, or off the bus..."
 
Ken Kesey
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test



I live in a quiet burb, not that far north of the metro area. I moved out here 30 years ago, and have watched the area grow up around me. When we first moved out here, I worked in Bloomington - it was a 40 mile drive one way. There was no public transportation option available to me - anywhere. Thirty years later, the town has grown and matured. It has most everything I need. However, it still does not have any public transportation available to me - anywhere.

The central planners would like to have us all living vertical in Minneapolis and taking light rail and buses everywhere. News flash - that ain't gonna happen. That is not the way our DNA is wired. We like our cars. Anyhow, most people don't work downtown anymore. They drive from suburb (home), to another suburb (office). For the most part, no public transit is available.

Now, the choo-choo train crowd is groaning because the Southwest Light Rail has developed more problems than Carter's Pills. It will cost over $1B to take people into a town that fewer and fewer people work in. My guess is it will never happen. And if it did happen, the taxpayers would subsidize every ride like we do on the Northstar.

So that leaves us global warming deniers only one choice - drive our cars or trucks to work or errands. In case anyone has not yet noticed, our roads are a mess. The winter of our discontent has left our roads looking like exploded mine fields. Now the Democrats want to raise our gas tax another 5%. Why? To pay for better roads (we hope). If we did not have so much of our transportation funding being siphoned off for boondoggles like bike trails and trains, our road funding might be just fine.

So who in the world could be responsible for this mess? Who is responsible for my town still not having bus service? Who is responsible for pushing trains down our throats? Who is this group, this unelected group that has more power than the Roman Empire? You guessed it - the evil and power hungry Met Council. The group most of us right wingers love to hate. Why? They are opposed to freedom. They are autocratic. They are unelected. They are just short of tyrannical.

So today I will continue my fundraising, attempting to navigate through the thousands and thousands of pot holes and sink holes. If I did not have a car, I would be dead in the water. No fundraising, no grocery shopping, no anything. Some day, we will be able to elect governors and representatives that have the stones to do away with the Met Council and accept the fact we like our cars and we like to drive on well maintained, non-congested roads. It really is just that simple.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our Two Blue Minnesota Giants

 
 


"Sorry Babe - you are NOT one of our two blue giants!"
 
Most political geeks will tell you that Minnesota is a schizoid state. We can produce a Michele Bachmann as well as a Paul Wellstone. We can produce a Rod Grams as well as a Fritz Mondale. This state is not purple - it is pockets of bright red and bright blue that will not mix well together.
 
I live in the 6th District. Well known for being the "reddest" district in Minnesota (and I love it). It is not an overly large district - from a land mass perspective, it is small as compared to the 7th and 8th Districts. Those two districts I refer to as the "Blue Giants". They are huge as far as land mass goes. And they are blue. Why? Good question.
 
Let's look at the 7th District first. Rural, flat, and bordering the Dakota states. From a topography and agri-business standpoint, the 7th looks quite a bit like a Dakota. Yet, the 7th has voted blue for congressional representation for over 20 years. Whereas the Dakotas, especially North Dakota, are much more red than blue. There is no reason, no reason what so ever why this large and important district is lured year after year by the Democrats. 2014 should be the year of the change for the 7th. It should be, but will it?
 
The district which puzzles me even more is the 8th. These are good hard working people who like to fish, hunt and log. In addition, they recently found out they are sitting on one of the biggest mineral deposits in the world. When Chip Cravaack won the district in 2010, I thought the sea change had finally begun. Nope. The good folks of the 8th dumped Capt. Cravaack in 2012 and replaced him with an aging, later day hippie. This year however, another good candidate has emerged to attempt to retire Mr. Nolan back to his world of sunshine and lolly pops.
 
One more word about the 7th which makes the puzzle even more confusing. As the 6th is the most Republican district in the state, the 7th is the second most Republican. And yet, it has voted for Collin Peterson for over 20 years.
 
A final word about two other districts. This is only my opinion, so I will share it. The 4th (Betty) and the 5th (Keith) are write offs. If you live in either of these two districts, all we can do is pray for you. They are not only blue, they are the darkest Navy Blue you could ever imagine. Finding a true conservative running for office in either if these two districts would be as rare as finding a shark in Lake Calhoun. They are lost - living in the Matrix, waiting for Santa Clause.
 
So there is my take for 2014. The Republicans SHOULD control the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 8th. And the 1st? A topic for another day. For 2014, the political map in Minnesota should show the demise of our two "Blue Giants". We should have five districts securely in the red, two dark blue districts lost forever, and one more blue district left to win over in 2016. If there is a reason why we can't do this, I would like to hear it.