Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cluster at Gitmo


"The people who were sent here are not Boy Scouts. They are America haters through and through..."

Yesterday the big local news story was a shoot out between a bad guy and the police. Under any circumstances, this is big news. But what made this one particularly newsworthy, was the man involved in the shootout is a convicted murderer. The question begs to be asked, why was he not in jail? Answer - he was let out early with conditions. Conditions like being on parole. Because he is a bad apple, he ignored his conditions. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and the rest is history. It was very fortunate with all the rounds being fired that nobody was killed. The bad guy, although wounded, is back in cuffs.

As William March wrote in his 1954 novel, some people are just "bad seeds". The man in the shootout is a "bad seed". He should have never seen the light of day again. Now I will change gears to our dwindling prison population in Gitmo. To have earned a ticket to Club Gitmo (as Rush calls it), you had to be the worst of the worst. You had to hate America so much, you vowed destruction to it and all who live here. These people in Gitmo are not  innocent bystanders to violence, they are the architects of it.

Our Commander in Chief has a soft spot in his hard for these Gitmo prisoners. Why, I have no idea. So, he has vowed to close down Gitmo and release these fine folks so they can go back to the family farm and help out. WRONG! Our intelligence folks figure that 20 to 30 of these "bad seeds" who have recently released have made their way to the battlefield in Syria. You know, the choir boys of ISIL. The group that loves to kill innocent men, women and children in the more barbaric ways. The group who has all but killed the Christian church in that area of the world.

Even knowing that some of the former residents of Gitmo make it back to the battlefield, POTUS released five more yesterday. The five released, two from Tunisia and three from Somalia all have ties to Al Qaeda. They were not released back to their homeland, but to Kazakhstan for resettlement. Not prisoners, but to resettle. Any guesses on how long they will be in that country?

Here is the bottom line. After 9/11, the face of warfare changed. We went into a mode of asymmetrical warfare. It was the rise of the stateless warrior. No uniforms, no rules, no country, and as far as I am concerned, no Geneva Convention mandates. We needed to treat these people not as a law enforcement problem - we needed to treat them as enemy combatants. For what they did to our country, we could have, or should have, shot them on sight.

But we still don't get it. And the one who gets it the least is our President. Just because we decided we don't want to play, means nothing to the other side. Taking our defense off the field is not going to stop the other side from scoring at will. As much as I hate to say this, it might have to be another attack before our Left really "gets it". These people want us dead, our way of life destroyed. Nothing on that has changed since the day before 9/11.

When the new Congress takes over next month, I will be writing letters to representatives to ensure the Gitmo released detainees are tracked. We need to know where these killers are. We need to know as one of them has said, "I will see you in New York." We just need to know. We all have the need to know. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Minneapolis - a town without pity...


"No it isn't very pretty what a town without pity can do..."

Town without Pity
Gene Pitney

My family knows a bit about the homeless issue. Not a lot, but just a bit. This past year my wife and I have volunteered at a local homeless teen drop in center. My youngest daughter works in homeless outreach downtown. My oldest daughter works in social services just north of here. Two of my cousins work with the homeless locally. Another cousin manages a food shelf just south of Duluth.

Our favorite cock-eyed optimist Mayor of Minneapolis never really wants to talk about the "soft underbelly" of her town. The people who live there that are in need of much, tend to get in the way of the "Brag Minneapolis" campaign. The Mayor has done an excellent job in attracting young Millennials and Yuppies into town. The upward mobility crowd. The kind who love to take trains and live vertically. But the homeless and near homeless are presenting a persistent and growing problem for her.

And why are so many homeless today? The reasons are varied and stretch across our great plain. Poor choices, mental illness, dysfunctional families, and yes - even bad luck. It has been said many times that some families are one illness, one unexpected financial event away from being homeless. In economics, that is called living on the margin. And that is the real story today.

I guess when I hear the Mayor talk about Minneapolis, I would prefer to hear her say "Challenge Minneapolis" rather than "Brag Minneapolis". There are many, many families in this town who are hurting. Some families have incomes of $10,000 or less. That is substantially below the national average of $50,000 for a family of four. These families get some good press and some help from the country. Notice I said "some". Many are still spending nights outside, sleeping in a car, or searching for a bed in a shelter.

Back to the real story. Those who are just hanging on. Those who are stretched so far, they live in fear of every incoming bill. Those who know the next step in their downward spiral is the streets. Those who have all but given up on the American dream. These are families who make too much for assistance, and not enough to feel immune from the streets. And as the middle class continues to shrink, the number of these families on the margin continues to grow. 

One of my "Leftie" friends who thinks Minneapolis and the Mayor are great has a frequent motto - "When we do better, we all do better." Neat slogan, but patently untrue. We are not all doing better. Some are doing quite worse than better. Some have fallen off the economic radar. To keep ignoring families in Minneapolis who need help, some in need of a little help, some in need of a lot of help, displays Minneapolis for what it has become to a growing number - a town without pity. Try bragging about that, Mayor Betsy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Oh that dastardly product oil!


"Some on the Left have referred to motor oil as 'murder oil'...Why? Beats the heck out of me!"

What is it about oil that many in this country hate? This black gold which helped build this great country. Besides America, it made (with the help of American industrialist J. Paul Getty) the Saudis an oil mecca. It made them rich. Oil is used in just about everything we use or consume. It gets us from point "A" to point "B". Even the ultimate "greenie" Al Gore uses oil. Truthfully - it is the life blood of our country.

I am going to be interested to see where 2015 takes us. With many things, in particular our oil supply. What are we going to do with this new found source of wealth and commerce that is coming out of the Bakken Fields in North Dakota? Are we going to be smart in how we use it? How we ship it? How we export it? Or are we going to continue to worship at the altar of "manmade" global warming. The alter where evil is personified by anything or anyone who produces hydrocarbons.

With gas coming close to $2.00/gallon, many on the Left are simply flummoxed. This was never in their script. Rumors are starting to swirl that our President, Barack Hussein Obama, is so captivated by his "greenie' base, that he is ready to do something very stupid. Like the scorpion who stung the turtle carrying them both to safety, Barack is ready to sting the American public once again. (Rumor has it) he is going to kill the Keystone Pipeline. Instead, we will continue to have millions upon millions of gallons of highly volatile shale oil sent through the heartland on Warren Buffet owned rail cars.

Sooner or later our luck is going to run out. One of these 100 car oil trains is going to derail. When it does, there will be a huge explosion and fire. If it happens around populated areas, people will probably die. Oil traffic will be disrupted for weeks, maybe months. It has been proven that shipping any oil through upgraded pipelines is 3.5 times safer than using the rail system. That simple fact seems to be lost on our President.

If we were smart, we would realize certain facts about our energy future:
  • We are approaching the last days of using oil based products as our primary source of transportation. Most futurists believe in fifty years or less, we will be using something cheaper, cleaner, and more abundant.
  • In the meantime, oil remains the king of the hill. We have decades worth of supply remaining. Maybe over a century. In a world thirsty for affordable oil, we could be one of the major players. Maybe the major player. For oil, natural gas, you name it. It is low fruit on the tree should we decide to pick it.
  • All our older pipelines should be upgraded to the latest technology. We should build start building Keystone tomorrow. We need to be smart and not act like ideologues.
As for me, I am excited about our prospects. We have the oil and the world needs oil. It is as simple as that. Let's be nimble, let's be smart. We can produce have new and exciting jobs creating by extracting, shipment and delivery of this precious resource.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Must have, like to have, wish to have...

"In the world of make believe, there is money everywhere! I guess Washington exists in the land of make believe..."

It is that time of year. Year end budgeting. Tying up financial loose ends from 2014. Budgeting items for what we want to do in 2015. We do it every year. Sometimes painful, sometimes fun, always necessary. Without a budget to guide us, it is like driving in a strange place with no map and no GPS.

I believe our family budgets like most families do. Usually the pots of money are divided into three. The "must haves", which are items like mortgage, food, insurance and utilities. The "like to have", which might be new windows, new carpeting, or other home improvements. Then of course are the "wish to have". Going out to eat, going on vacations, and so on. In lean times, we focused on only the "must have" items. In times of plenty, we could budget for all three.

I would like to compare and contrast this with the way our government budgets. Sorry - poor choice of words. Budgeting would imply there was some type of discipline involved. Our government is very, very good at spending. And I guess that is the end of the story. We can spend money, copious amounts of money, and that is about it.

In the paper this morning, there was an article about a very proud Senator Amy. It seems she "snuck" some money into the $1.1T spending bill which would promote tourism for the Midwest, including the Twin Cities. It is just not fair that the two coasts get more tourism. I would love to take Senator Amy to the woodshed for doing this, for this foolish waste of taxpayer money. But most everyone, on both sides of the aisle, do this. They sneak items (pork), into spending bills. It really does little harm - that is unless you consider an $18T debt harmful.

Next week we will slide into the new year. We might have a new sheriff in town. Based on the last election, the Republicans will control both the House and Senate. Will it make a difference in our spending? In our accountability? In our ever growing debt? It better. I have talked to more and more patriots who are ready to "pull the plug" on the Grand Old Party if they continue to act like statists rather than responsible representatives. And that fact, we can all take to the bank.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Year End Party!


"Oh sure - Mr. Raincloud has shown up once again to ruin the party!"

Who would have thunk it? The Dow continues on in record territory and the corks are a popping! Our President, who has tried so hard to burden our economy with anti-growth measures, has failed. In spite of our government, the economy is in great shape! Or is it?

To quote the old Star Wars movies, "There is a disturbance in the Force." As much as we would like to ignore the worsening shimmy in our front end, we keep driving our economic vehicle anyway. The financial red flags that worried many last year, today get nothing more than a "meh...".

Once in a while there are a few who come along who do not drink the economic Kool-Aid. This week there was an article in Money News which sounds the economic alarm. The article states we are in danger of  "massive wealth destruction". What? I did not see THAT on the network news! And further more, what kind of Chicken Little people would try to ruin our year end party? Well, it is people like Marc Faber, Peter Schiff, Donald Trump, and other smart folk. To put it in Bob Dylan terms, because of our Fed policies coupled with our massive debt, soon a "hard rain is going to fall". 

But who cares? Debt? Not even Paul Ryan is worried about that anymore! Mr. Ryan it seems, has sampled the Potomac Kool-Aid and found it to his liking. At $18T, our debt is two steps beyond unsustainable. In two years it will be at $20T. There is no plan to fix it. Just sit back and watch it grow. The Fed will keep the market in record territory by further delaying the inevitable interest adjustment. And the Fed printing press? It is so overworked, it is glowing white hot.

Like anything else which needs fixing, the longer you put the fix off, the more painful it becomes. If you put off fixing something too long, it becomes unfixable. And that is what the article in Money News was warning about. 

Mark Hulbert from Market Watch has republished a chart which shows the parallels between the market leading up to the 1929 crash and where we are now. The trend lines are so close it is scary. A couple years ago, my wife and I went to a luncheon to hear a wise financial advisor. This man is world renown and speaks all over the country. We came looking to get some good investment tips. Instead we received a very ominous message - if you have money, spend it now. Soon it will not be worth as much. It will be worth less, quite a bit less. And he lays the blame for this coming catastrophe at the feet of Washington.

So party on folks! Who cares? Live for today! Nature has a way of weeding out the stupid, and soon our stupid financial mismanagement will weed out much of our wealth. Years from now, the history books will not be kind to us. The warning signs, the red flags, the bright blinking warning lights were all there, and we just ignored them. No, history will show us to be a Ship of Fools, on a foolish voyage, crashing into the rocks.    

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Oath


"How long is the oath? Some think forever. I am one of them."

I have taken the oath three times. The first time when I went in the Navy in 1969, the next when I went back in the Naval Reserve in 1976, and the final time when I was commissioned in 1978. Every man and woman in the Armed Forces is very familiar with the oath. Most take it seriously. Today there are many who believe the oath we took has no expiration. I happen to be one of them. Once you take it, you are bound by it forever. Whether that was the intent or not is irrelevant to those who believe it is binding till you die.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for all who take the Armed Services oath. I have met some of the finest, and the bravest people in the world in the Armed Forces. That being said, there are a very few who have proven not up to the task, not to be up to the high standards. Or as the expression goes, there are a "few bad apples".

Once bad behavior is demonstrated, the military acts quickly to adjudicate. I have seen it in action. I have been a witness to non-judicial punishment handed out in Captain's Mast. As an Executive Officer, I presided over a Mast. I hated it. But it was necessary. To keep the service pure, proper discipline must be maintained. If not, the fine tradition of our Armed Forces will evaporate, and it will devolve into nothing more than a group of mercenaries.

I bring this story up for a reason. On Christmas Eve morning, someone posted a short article about police officers. How their lives matter also. I agreed with it, so I shared it. I did so as I not only believe in our "Thin Blue Line" of protection, I was also still numb from what happened to those two innocent cops in New York City. After sharing it, I was unexpectedly "blistered" on Facebook - twice. I was told I should not be defending the police. They are out of control. 

I have been pro-cop my whole life. I have known many police, worked with the state and local police while up in Maine on assignment, know our sheriff and am friends with the sheriff in the next county. Are there some police who step over the line? I am sure there are. Just like the "few bad apples" in the Armed Forces, police departments police themselves to ensure integrity within the force. If the police cannot police their own, the civilian review authorities will come in and help them do it.

Just so there is no mistaking in what I am saying, I will repeat my main premise. Our Armed Forces are run very well and I am proud of them. Are they perfect? No. Each service is made up of humans, some who are flawed. Are there problems from time to time? Yes. The same can be said for the police. They also are not perfect. However, they help those in need. At times they are called to go into dark places and confront those breaking the law. Often times they have no idea who or what awaits them. Their lives are always on the line. Each call could be their last.

This week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, as I reflect back on the past year, I am again thankful for ALL the men and women who protect us. This includes the Armed Forces who keep us safe from evil doers abroad, and the "Thin Blue Line" who protects (and serves) us at home.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

And what if?

"It was only one life that happened so very long ago. And yet, it changed everything for everyone, for evermore."

Every Christmas I ask the same question. What if? What if Christmas had never happened? If there had been no manger scene? If there had been no birth? What would our world look like?

If there had been no birth, there would have been no death on Good Friday. This was the reason that God became flesh and then dwelled among us. To be born as a human, to live as a human, and then to die as a human. To die a horrible death, a totally undeserved death. A death to give us all hope, to give us all life. Without the birth we celebrate every year at this time, the world would indeed be a very dark place.

His birth changed everything, for everyone, for evermore. Whether we know it or not, or accept it or not, the birth of this baby in a lonely manger, surrounded by animals, changed the world forever. His birth even changed our calendar.

No other person in the history of mankind has had this kind of impact. No other human yet to be born will have this kind of impact. The world was introduced to a new type of love - Agape Love - that love which today still mystifies many. How could this man, this Son of God, love us so totally, so unconditionally? A fierce and unyielding love which is capable of forgiving all of us, even after we have committed the most vile of sins.

So this Christmas, like many before, I am thankful. I am thankful that God came to Earth in the form of a man, and then loved us out of our death. He became the light of the world, gave us hope, and showed us His almighty love. For this time of year, we remember the word Emanuel - God is with us! And even though this one life happened 2,000 years ago, God continues to be with us, and for us. And this is what Christmas is truly, all about.    

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Speed, speed and more speed...


"Our cable company advertises 300MB of speed. Another up to 1GB. It makes me dizzy thinking about it..."

Yesterday we had a major upgrade performed on our cable system. All I have to say about today's technology is this - "We have come a long way, baby!" When the cable tech was here (and he was here for most of the day), I told him what TV was like when I was a boy. We had three channels and one crumby black and white TV. The big news when I was almost in Junior High School was a fourth channel broadcast was added! Party on! For most of my growing up years, my folks had one black and white TV (with rabbit ears) and four channels.

Flash forward to today. Our house (like most) has more than one TV. Many if not all, are flat screen and HD capable. We have cable. These days if you don't have cable or a dish, good luck. The broadcast signals are meant to be transmitted via cable or satellite for maximum reception and maximum channels. The speed (even at the lower end like we have) is blazing fast. And as for channel selection, it is a classic example of Alvin Toffler's premise of "over selection".

All the providers are gearing up for the "big dance". And what is that? Wireless. Everything wireless. A house will get signal coming in from either a cable or dish, it will run through the modem and then wireless router. Live TV and internet will be available on TV, PC, tablet, smart phone or whatever. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, it is changing everything. We are going from tethered to untethered and free as a bird.

So when will all this happen? Very soon. Another internet and TV provider has just asked Minneapolis for permission to compete with the existing cable company. If permission is granted, it will start early next year. The lines from this new cable company will all be fiber optic and the signal provided will be wireless. They advertise it will allow you to watch live TV on any device. Seems that the "big dance" might be right around the corner.

When the cable tech was here, I asked him if he understood the mechanics of networking. He looked at me and said it was black magic to him. How a signal came come into a house through a skinny cable, go into a modem and then become wireless through a router, goes into a TV, and then produces a high definition movie complete with surround sound. He and I were in total agreement - this is all black magic. This technology is so far over my head it is boggling.

The upgrade is now done, and all there is left to do is the "syncing" of some devices. Everything is working fine, so the Bird is able to do his daily rants on his blog. As more and more (and bigger) fiber optic "pipe" gets put into the IT infrastructure, the sky will become the limit for home entertainment. The only fly in this ointment is this - there are many times when I have gone through over a hundred channels and not found nothing worth watching. Jaded, I may have become...

Monday, December 22, 2014

A fractured nation...


"It seems our founding concept of E Pluribus Unum might soon go the way of the dinosaurs. Rather than a melting pot, we have become a fractured pot"

I never thought it could get this bad.  It started in Washington. With Democrats and Republicans hating each other. Then it was one part of the country pitted against another part. Then gay vs. straight. Black vs. white. One religion vs. another religion. Rich vs. poor. People killing police. American people just hating other American people.

What happened in the New York City this weekend, besides being horrific and sad, was a jaw dropper. A new low was reached. Assassinating innocent cops for doing absolutely nothing wrong. Robbing two families of loved ones right before the Christmas holiday. And to what end? The hate speech coming out of elected officials and race baiters seemed to have done its job. Nicely played Mr. Mayor.

In 2008, this country was hoodwinked into electing a man who promised us a "post racial America". Like lemmings, many of us fell for it. The promise of being healed as a nation, was just too good. We had been sliding down the slippery slope to becoming a fractured nation for way too long. We finally had a "healer" in the White House. Someone who understands us. Maybe even a modern day Martin Luther King. We were so wrong.

His true colors started to show just a few months after he was sworn in. It was July 16, 2009. The now famous incident which led up to the "Beer Summit" took place. There was a run in between a black professor named Henry Louis Gates and the local police. The situation became misinterpreted, unfortunate words were spoken, and then things got out of hand. Soon Professor Gates was under arrest. Once the true facts were known, he was released and all charges dropped. When our new President got wind of this, without knowing any of the facts, he said the police acted "stupidly". Rather than keep out of it until the facts were known, or siding with law enforcement, he took the wrong side. The "Beer Summit" was supposed to be the great healing experience for all. It was not.

Flash forward to today. With the unfortunate deaths of two black men in two different cities, the police are being blamed. By many leaders in Washington. By our Justice Department. By some race baiting "Reverends". Facts have nothing to do with reality, except for one. If these two men had obeyed police commands, they would still be alive today. Instead they are not alive and we now have police looking over their shoulders to see if someone is hunting them down.

Recently one of the news channels ran a poll which showed the nation has never been so divided. Ironic, is it not? The great "uniter" we elected six years ago now has us looking like a fractured nation. Rather than a melting pot, a fractured pot.  Maybe our next leader will be better. Maybe next time we will get a "uniter". Or not.   


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The dead of winter...


"And why do I still live here? Please, please, don't ask me now. Ask me in six months or so..."

Winter Solstice is upon us. What does that mean? We are now living in the dead of winter. I would like to start out by saying something positive about where we are right now in the meteorological calendar.............There - I am done. That is right. I have nothing good to say about this time of year as far as weather is concerned.

As I have aged, I now look at winter as a necessary evil we must endure to get us to spring and summer. I know, I know. On our annual trip around the sun, we must have the ying along with the yang. We must allow our brothers and sister in the southern hemisphere their turn with sun and warmth. I have been in Australia in December. It is like July in Minnesota.

This morning I was watching the news and then the weather. The weather geek was trying to put some lipstick on the 10 day forecast. He said, "More darkness, more clouds, some snow, colder, maybe a big storm the day after Christmas, and then really, really cold." There was no bright spot, no glimmer of hope. Just the "big three" coming up right after Christmas and New Year's Eve. The "big three" as defined as January, February and March. Three months of darkness, cold and hassle.

Yesterday I added to my wood supply and ran by snow removal equipment for a while. This is the calm before the storm. The other day we received a Christmas card from friends who now winter just north of Miami Beach. They sent a picture of them standing on the beach in summer togs this time of year. I almost "unfriended" them! Living part of the year where one can actually get outside and do stuff is sounding more and more alluring all the time. A friend I worked with years ago who transferred here from San Francisco was so frustrated after her second winter she said, "The only thing you can grow in Minnesota is older, colder and fatter."

So enough complaining about the weather. Every once in a while I just need to vent. We will go to church this morning, come home and watch football. We are ready for Christmas, and as usual, it will be a wonderful time of year. As for the weather, the final word the weather geek said this morning was, "This is Minnesota, we all know the drill." Yes Mr. Weatherperson, we do know the drill. However, it just does not make it any easier this time of year. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ready? Or NOT!

"Hello? Can you hear me? Is help coming, or am I all alone?

This coming year will mark the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. A storm which not only brought the City of New Orleans to it's knees, but also changed some of the landscape within the city. It was a storm which redefined how much (or how little), the United States Government, the State of Louisiana Government or the City of New Orleans Government can actually do in the event of a major disaster. What have we learned since then? Precious little, I am afraid.

In late October of 2012, which is just over two years ago, a Hurricane (or super storm) named Sandy came roaring up the East Coast. It hit the shores of New Jersey with a vengeance. The damage to New Jersey and somewhat to New York City was extensive and expensive. One would have thought after the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, we were wired tight to cope with a disaster of this magnitude. We were not. Unrepaired damage to infrastructure still remains from this powerful storm.

There was just an article in the paper today where the government admits they are at least 5 to 10 years away from being totally prepared to cope with disasters like Katrina or Sandy. I am skeptical of those findings. We might never be totally ready to deal with city sized catastrophes. And then I wonder what is meant by any measure of "ready"? During Katrina, bodies started to stack up for a multitude of reasons. And we knew in advance this storm was coming. We had time to prepare. One woman who was rescued days after the storm, almost died of thirst. In her own house, in the middle of a major United States city. Almost died of thirst!

I read an article not too long ago about the tenuous water situation in Los Angles. Not only is water in short supply, but it is now felt that a serious earthquake could rupture the main water pipes. Then what? If the transportation system comes to a standstill, and the water supply is disrupted due to the failure of water pipes, people in a major United States city almost dying of thirst can happen all over again . How long does it take with not having water going from inconvenience to life threatening? Less than a week for most.

Here is my take on where we are right now, going into 2015. There have been some improvements made in FEMA, and some lessons learned. However for the most part, they are ill-equipped to handle a city or region sized disaster. Think of what could happen of all which has not yet happened. A dirty bomb. A small suitcase sized nuke. A Category 8 or higher earthquake (The great San Francisco quake was 7.8, and destroyed the city). A failure of the electrical grid (either natural or otherwise) in a major region of the country. This list could go on and on.

My belief is each and every family in this country needs to assume in the event of a disaster two things: 1) help will come, but 2) help may take a painfully long time. Depending on the disaster, help could take days, weeks, or maybe even months. Think ahead. Do you have enough water for every person in the household to live on for at least a week? If not, you should do so. A better margin would be to have enough food and water for a month. It is not that expensive, yet in a shortage, both food and water will be more valuable than gold. 

The time to plan is now. Going into the New Year, make this a must item. Just like car insurance, house insurance, health insurance and life insurance are there to protect us, we also need some kind of food (and water) insurance. And that kind of insurance you can provide yourself. In an emergency, it will be the best insurance. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Classic Fail: Minneapolis Schools


"It has either one of the highest or the highest achievement gaps in the country - and nobody can seem to fix it..."

And the beat goes on. Another superintendent was tried out, had great expectations, and then abruptly leaves. In the end, even the school board was expressing reservations about her performance. She had all the right tickets to success in this position. She was black, a female, and vivacious. And yet in the eyes of many, she failed as the "needle" did not move.

What happened? What went wrong? News flash. Not even Mother Theresa can fix the unfixable Minneapolis School District. That is, until the real problem is addressed. (Hint: it is not about money, or is it about Pre-K.)

This coming session, the Governor (as well as the DFL), will be screaming for more money. Not just more money for education in general, but more dollars for Pre-K education. Here is the brutal truth. The Minneapolis system is flawed, it is broken. The problem with the district lies even deeper than Common Core.

Education has always done the best when it is looked upon a three legged stool. Parents, students and teachers, all working together so learning can take place. Without engaged parents, the stool only has two legs, sometimes only one.

At the heart of the beast lies poverty. Plain and simple. Until poverty is addressed as a HUGE issue in the achievement gap, the needle will have trouble moving. The bedfellows of poverty are crime, drugs and teenage pregnancy. All of which are significant impediments to learning. If learning can't take place, it is not totally the teacher's fault, not totally the Principal's fault, and not totally the Superintendent's fault. It is not even the fault of a "racist" discipline system in the district.

So the district will go into a search for another Superintendent, write a big contract, and have high expectations. And if the poverty issue is not resolved, in two or three years we will be on the merry-go-round all over again.

I grieve for the many of the kids in the Minneapolis School District. Some of the schools in wealthier neighborhoods are doing fine. Test scores look good and many of the students learn. In the poorer neighborhoods, it is just the opposite. Test scores are sub-optimal and many kids do not learn. They fail and drop out. They become throw away kids. And the difference between the poverty schools and the non-poverty schools is a huge chasm now referred to as the Achievement Gap.

Here is the kicker. Kids of poverty, kids of color, can learn as well as white, non-poverty kids. It has been proven over and over again. And they can learn for a fraction of the $20+K (per pupil) that Minneapolis annually spends on students. The best thing we can do for kids trapped in these schools (that few know how to fix), is offer the parent(s) vouchers so the child can attend a school that works. School choice is one way to beat the poverty trap set in failing schools. If we can't fix the poverty that plagues parts of Minneapolis, if we can't fix the ruinous formula the school district is using, let us at least give these kids a way out through school choice. Not tomorrow, but now. School choice now!  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The coming cyber wars...


"If it is war they want, it is war they will get. They only problem is everyone will lose..."

Some think the North Koreans have fired the first shot in a cyber war. That what happened to Sony was the first battle on a new front. Sorry, it was not. Cyber "probing" has been going on for quite a while now. Probing is testing systems, looking for vulnerabilities, and maybe even planting a dormant virus which given the right command, could be very destructive.

What we are seeing now is the new battle arena. It is everywhere and will affect just about everything. Very few things or services will be immune. The effects of a cyber attack can range from nuisance, to financial chaos, to life threatening. The sophistication of today's code is absolutely mind boggling. It is measures, counter measures, counter-counter measures and on and on. In many cases, it is computers against computers. This new battle zone is looking more like the future portrayed in War Games or the Terminator series. It is where the computers take over, and life gets very, very tough.

Are we vulnerable? Absolutely. Are we trying to install the correct counter measures? Constantly. Can we launch a vicious attack or counter attack? You bet. The problem with an all out cyber war is simply this - everyone will lose. Think for a minute if some country was able to infuse a destructive code in some or all of our antiquated electrical grid. Suppose it was January, and took a month to restore service to everyone. The death toll would be staggering. All because of implanted code somewhere in the data stream.

Imagine waking up in the morning and finding out you have zero dollars in your bank account. Not just you, but everyone who is customer at that bank. The code not only infected the main data stream, but also got through the firewall and infected the mirror sites as well as the cloud. Everything is gone. Think of the mess it would create in the financial market. The stock market would tank. It would be a financial chaos of the highest order.

Am I concerned over this? Yes. This should be a concern for everybody. I don't know what safeguards Sony has on their data, but a Third World country like North Korea just came in and stripped them naked. Everything was exposed. E-mails, contracts, unreleased movies, everything. It was mind numbing to see the extent of the intrusion.

I hope this country is prepared for the future of data and potential data breaches. As bad as we all think this could become, I am afraid an all out war will be much worse. It will be a war nobody will win and all would lose. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A new threat...


"Did we just flinch at a head fake, or is this the real deal?"

Yesterday, we entered a new dimension which we have not seen before. No, not a new dimension of time and space like Rod Serling would talk about in a prologue to a Twilight Zone episode. Rather it is a new dimension of terror. And this one has teeth. It has already worked. What is that? The threat to unleash holy hell on any movie theater which shows the movie The Interview, by Sony Productions.

Whether this treat is real or a hoax, it has opened up a whole new front on the Terror War. This threat has caused some theaters to already cancel the showing of this film. If one theater succumbs to this threat by pulling the movie, it is already victory for terror. The irony of this issue is this - the advance screenings show this film to be yet another Hollywood "bomb". It is not that good, and chances are would not do well at the box office.

So what is the new threat with terror. Actually, it is more than one threat. Catching up the other day with recent episodes of On the Record (from Blaze TV), I saw an episode on the vast amounts of bio weapons the Russians have made in the past. Tons on them. Bio weapons that could make their way into the black market for nefarious use by terrorists. Weapons that would be a source of cash to a cashed strapped Russian due to the bottoming out of the oil market.

As if we needed another example of the bloodthirsty nature of the terrorists, what happened in Pakistan yesterday shocked even the most stoic. Whether the threats come in from a renegade regime like North Korea, or a stateless source like ISIL, they are all the same. The threats are real and growing. Our way of life is a target. The West is a target. If we cannot get a handle on these threats and take them seriously, soon just going to a movie, a sporting event, or even to church, might be a target of opportunity for any terrorist in any neighborhood.

One thing I have learned in my past is this - what is disclosed in the press for the public to see, and what is disclosed in daily intelligence briefings for the President, are not the same. My supposition is this - if we knew the true nature of the threat(s), the same information the President is briefed on, none of us would be able to sleep much.

Having our borders as open as they are makes as much sense as the Titanic speeding along the North Atlantic in an ice flow. Both are risks that most likely will not end well. Just as the good people of Sydney are shocked and angry today this could happen in their peaceful city, so shall we be. As said in the movie The Matrix - "Welcome to the real world." And this real world is fraught with danger from a growing menace.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Perspective, please....


"Waterboarding or beheading? Which is torture? These days, with this enemy, everything should be on the table..."

Well the events last week and going into this week tells an interesting story. What story? The story on American perspective these days. Last week we had a front page splash on just about every newspaper in the country. It was a story on the rendition and enhanced interrogation techniques used after the 9/11 attacks. However, we are not going to use those terms anymore. The Democrats, as well as the main stream media, much prefer "torture".

To put some perspective into last week's and so far this week's events, I will offer some bullet points:
  • Waterboarding - Unlike the Japanese and other countries who in war would water board prisoners until death by drowning, the handful of people who were water boarded after the 9/11 attacks all lived. They were in a prone position, one their backs with their feet elevated higher than their heads. This ensured no water would go into the lungs.
  • Beheadings- Last week it was disclosed the beheadings of children continue in the Middle East. In particular, Christian children. Four more children were beheaded for refusing to deny Christ. Who did this heinous act? Muslim terrorists. The outcry from the Democrats and the main stream media? Still waiting.
  • Australia - The city of Sydney, which prides itself on being cosmopolitan and peaceful, proved itself a tempting target for a Muslim extremist early Monday morning. Two innocent people, in their prime of life, were killed by this lunatic.
  • Pakistan - Last night (our time), a school was overrun by the Taliban in Pakistan. This was a school that was attended by the children of Pakistani Army Officers. Right now the death count is just under 100, with most of them being children. Other children are being held hostage right now.
  • Drones - I am okay with us using drones. However, the hypocrisy of the drone lovers and water board haters is almost amusing. Many drones are equipped with Hellfire missiles. They are anti-tank missiles. They are very lethal and can cause significant collateral damage. Somehow the fact that we have incinerated innocent people (children included) that happened to be in the vicinity of a bad guy we have targeted, passes the sniff test. Perspective? Two terrorists have died in rendition "black sites" overseas since the 9/11 attacks. Hundreds, maybe thousands, have died in drone attacks.
Someday the world is going to wake up to our new reality. We have an enemy, not by our choosing, who is the baddest of the bad. They practice no rules, they have no scruples, and they show no mercy. Videos have been on the internet showing them killing babies in the most gruesome fashion. They have behead children, and then display the heads on stakes. They bury people alive. They lucky ones get shot in the head. They are bold in their actions, and as we have seen on 9/11, they will stop at nothing to get to us.

We can continue to take these extremists lightly, or we can treat them like a cancer which is spreading. As we have seen in the chocolate house in Australia, or the school in Pakistan, soft targets are becoming more common. And free societies (like ours), have plenty of soft targets to choose from. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Washington does not work anymore...


"As the old expression goes, 'This is no way to run a railroad'..."

It has happened again. Only this time, it happened with the help of the Republican led House. And it had the Speaker's fingerprints all over it. Rather than ObamaCare and the Stimulus Bill, which Republicans for the most part eschewed, this time the RINOs grabbed the GFY 15 Funding Bill and kissed it on the lips. It was enough to make me puke.

The word "Omnibus" should never be used in connection with any kind of bill in Washington. Nothing good ever comes from it. This funding bill, in similar fashion to the Stimulus Bill, is loaded up with more goodies than Santa can deliver. And also, in similar fashion to the Stimulus Bill or ObamaCare, nobody read this gargantuan mess. Maybe Dr. Gruber is right. We are too stupid not to question or put an end to this process.

We could have passed a stop gap bill which would have gone out to February. The President at one time signaled he was okay with that. In February, the new Republican led House and Senate would have been in session. It would have been an opportunity to show the taxpayers how to pass common sense bills the right way. Or not. With RINOs running both the House and Senate next year, we still might have received a pork filled gobblty gook piece of %$#@.

So the debt keeps going up, we keep taxing, printing and borrowing and the spending spree continues. Who cares, right? Not our problem. By the time the ship hits the sand, it will be our kid's problem. They will look back in history and wonder what in the world was wrong with us. Why we constantly spent more that we took in. Why we put stupid, and I mean stupid, things in bills which have no correlation to the bill what so ever. In the real world, people would be fired for this. In the real world, some people might even ended up in jail for this type of financial maleficence.

The GFY 15 Funding Bill is now history. People will soon forget. The talk of the town is torture and actionable intelligence. How bad we were right after 9/11. The Bush haters will keep that discussion going well through the winter. Not the debt. Heavens no! Who cares about the debt when we have torture to discuss. Not the beheading of Christian children by ISIL this weekend. Nope. Don't care. But torture, we need a blue ribbon panel to look at that, again, and again, and again.

So why is Washington broken? Because we elect weak, unprepared, and unprincipled people to fix it. Soon those people show they are not the fixers we hoped for, instead they become part of the problem. On the Potomac, principled people are in short supply . People who want to line their pockets however, are legions.   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Throwing Starfish....


"It is the importance and power of the 'one' - one person helping just one person for one day..."

A wise author named Loren Eiseley tells a story about an old man walking on a beach. On this beach were thousands upon thousands of starfish, stranded as the tide had gone out. Down the beach a short distance, the old man saw a young boy picking up star fish after star fish, and then throwing them back into the ocean. Perplexed on why the young boy was doing this, the old man walked up to him and said, "What are you doing? This beach stretches for miles and miles and there are thousands of star fish on it. You can't possibly make a difference by doing this." The young boy looked up at him as he held a starfish in his hand and said, "It will make a difference to this one."

This beautiful story once again teaches us the power and importance of the "one". The Bible also talks about the importance of the "one" in the parable of the lost sheep. The power of "one". One person helping, one person being helped. Some people help the needy in massive ways. That is a very good thing. Many people helping many people.

And yet, many acts of kindness, many gifts of the heart, go unnoticed as they are under the radar. They are very small. They are one person making a difference for one person for one day. And yet these acts are just as important.

My wife and I have been thinking quite a bit about the upcoming year. We are in our annual December "planning" mode. We think about many things - scheduled home repairs, possible getaways, and yes - our giving and helping others. Every year we try to "step up our game" in helping others. We learn about different opportunities, more areas of need. Besides writing out checks this year for things that touch our heart, we are going to attempt more (as we have nicknamed it) "gritty ministry".

What is "gritty ministry". Quite simply, it is the ministry that Jesus practiced. His mission field was not with the Pharisees discussing the Old Testament issues. Jesus went into the crowds, often times exposed to ones with the greatest needs. Sometimes exposed to the worst sinners. This was his mission field. These are the people that also mattered.

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook a short video which tells the story about "The Sandwich Man". A retired Minneapolis schoolteacher who taught in the inner city, he saw great needs which exist there. His mission field is to help the ones who need it most in Minneapolis. Not just to write out a check, this man leads a group of committed young people in making sandwiches every day, finding donated clothing, and then late at night goes out in the city after the shelters are closed. He finds the hungry, the ones who need clothing, offers them a sandwich and a clothing item.

Very few, us included, can be a tireless servant like "The Sandwich Man". But my wife and I are committed next year to make a different kind of impact. One person for one day, each and every day. It can be a very subtle difference, a modest difference, or a maybe at times a huge difference. It is not much. In the scheme of things, it is actually very, very little. It is however, our way in throwing starfish back into the ocean.... 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A harbinger of things to come...


"I guess it is true that all good things will come to and end..."

Yesterday the market tanked once again. The major culprit this time? Oil. Who would have thunk it? Oil worldwide, is starting to bottom out. Even though the demand keeps increasing from emerging former third world countries, supply is now running ahead of the demand. And that has sent the price of a barrel of oil tumbling from over $100 to less than $60. Ouch!

Some "greenies" might get their undies in a bundle over this story. Think of the hydrocarbons of having all that extra oil floating around! However here are the straight facts. Even though we are in our hay day of oil right now, the days of oil being a primary energy source are numbered. Soon the demand will again outpace supply, and the price for a barrel of oil will increase.

The Bakken Fields are starting to "cold stack" rigs. They are slowing down production. The oil that remains in the ground is like money in the bank for us. Whereas the Saudis are coming to the end of their oil rainbow real fast, our current and projected supplies of oil will last quite a bit longer.

Before some think of oil as a villain that we can do without, we need to keep in mind what oil is used for. Besides a 42 gallon barrel of oil creating almost 20 gallons of gasoline, the rest of the barrel is also used in the manufacture of goods. How many goods? About 6,000. Goods as varied as tires, vitamins, makeup, fertilizers, linoleum, soap, shoes, tape and the list goes on and on from there.

So the world running out of oil is in the future, but not the near future. The smart money is to maximize our potential during these good times by developing the next big in energy. More cars that run (efficiently and with adequate power) on natural gas. Fuel cell technology which will allow cars to run on water. Electric cars that are truly efficient and can good for hundreds of miles between charges. Better synthetic fuels that truly are as good as petroleum.

As for 2015, the party is on! Even though Bakken is slowing down, 2015 should still be a good year for drivers. Not so much for people who have overloaded energy stocks in their portfolios. Also not so much for the Russians and the Iranians. As for me, I am already planning our road trips for next summer!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Polygraph them all!


"Being polygraphed is a truly unpleasant experience. However, we still need to do it..."

First a bit of disclosure. I have been polygraphed. I have mentioned that before in  occasional articles. I was polygraphed at NSA, as it was a new requirement for anyone doing any kind of duty inside the "copper palace". All I remember about being polygraphed is this - it was a profoundly unpleasant experience. I hope to never go through it again.

That being said, I think it might be time to contact the FBI and get the machines out. We need to polygraph some people. Last night on O'Reilly, Bill brought up a very good point. On one hand, we have the intelligence professionals at the CIA saying 1) they did not torture, and 2) the information they obtained was actionable. This includes the three past directors of the agency, the current director and the past Vice President of the United States.

On the other hand, we have the Senate Democrats saying 1) we did torture and 2) we did not get actionable intelligence. The Senate Republicans who wrote the minority report, supposedly did not agree with that assessment. That is, all but Senator McCain.

Back to O'Reilly. Bill's contention is simple. We the people, are hearing the highest levels of our intelligence apparatus telling two completely different stories. Bill's words - "The folks are confused. Who are they to believe?" Bill has a good point. Who are we to believe? We can't look at the data behind the report to come up with our own conclusions, as it is classified. So it becomes the classic, "He said, she said" event.

That is why I believe we should polygraph them all. Anyone who refuses to be polygraphed will have their testimony discredited. As I have said before, I don't give a rat's behind if we tortured these creeps or not. We did not violate the Geneva Convention as the folks in Gitmo are stateless terrorists. On 9/11, they cruelly killed 3,000 of our innocent citizens for no reason what so ever. Many burned to death. Some jumped to their deaths. We have entered into a new type of warfare. Warfare which has become asymmetrical. This was not our choice.

What I say about this entire torture conversation is "put up or shut up". I really am tired of hearing about it. We have bigger fish to fry. For example, keeping ISIL from any more beheadings. As our former Vice President has said, "These are people we don't kiss on both cheeks and then ask them pretty please for information." No Mr. Vice President, you are right. These are people who deserve to get the same as they give.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Enough natural gas to burn...


"If we have so much of this stuff, why in the Sam Hill does my heating bill keep going up?"

Wow! What a problem to have! Seems we have so much natural gas in this country that we just burn it off. In fact, this procedure (called flaring), has been around for many, many decades. At one time, natural gas was considered to be an externality of production, a waste product to be burned off. Today however, natural gas is a commodity. A valuable commodity we are finding more and more uses for.

The "greenies" are having a fit as flaring throws more hydrocarbons in the atmosphere. That plays into the whole global warming canard. The people working in the North Dakota Bakken Fields would welcome a bit more of "global warming" this time of year. Now the latest wrinkle is the oil drillers have agreed to further process the Bakken oil to make safer for transport on oil trains. It was been somewhat volatile as the Bakken oil has a high gas content. This can be reduced by further processing the oil prior to shipment. This processing extracts more of the gas. And where is this excess gas going to go. More flaring of course!

I have a simple mind so I don't understand some things. Why can't we put up additional natural gas processing facilities to capture this gas rather than flaring it? To me this is a win-win. More product to drive down prices, and less flaring. If we need more pipelines to deliver this gas to market, we should to build them. The Bakken Fields are going to produce oil for a long time, and to not capture this gas would be a fool's errand.

I have ranted about this before. A comprehensive energy plan would cover the big as well as the small items. Natural gas should be a BIG part of our energy future. It is cleaner and cheaper than other types of petro. Time to get going. We are on the grow. We have a lot of energy, not enough to waste by flaring.


The "Red Headed Step Child" Bill


"I would say this bill is a real stinker, but that would be an insult to other stinkers..."

They are doing it again. It seems they cannot stop themselves. Only this time they have come up with something so bad, so outrageous, so egregious,  that the ideologues on the Left as well as the financial conservatives on the Right both hate it. What is it? The $1.1T Omnibus funding bill for GFY 15.

This bill has a little bit of everything for just about everyone to hate. The best part? Hold your hats on, because this has never been tried before in Washington. It was put together in the middle of the night, presented in the last minute, so very few (if any) had time to read it. Plus (here is the frosting on the cake), because it was an omnibus bill, all kinds of garbage which has NOTHING to do with funding the government were thrown in as riders. This bill stands in the "Hall of Shame" right next to ObamaCare and Stimulus.

Because our part time lawmakers decided to wait until the very last second to address GFY 15 funding, there was literally no time to debate the innards of this bill. Was does that mean? Which ever side puts up too much of a fuss, enough to pull the bill back to be debated, will be accused of shutting down our precious government. And somehow, through the magic of Washington, the Republicans always seem to get blamed for shut downs.

One of the things that really has the Ultra Left (like Elizabeth Warren) tied up in knots is a relaxation of some Dodd-Frank rules. You know - that whole derivative issue that some of the Left blame for the 2008 financial melt down. Now I am not in favor of Dodd-Frank. I think the entire bill was an overreach. I am fine with some rollback on the regulations it promulgated. However, this derivative issue does not belong in this funding bill. It should be a stand alone. Period.

The thing that financial conservatives (like me) are upset about is the size of the funding. Everything but the kitchen sink was included in this bill. Oh, did I mention money for amnesty is also in this bill? In fact, all of the pet rocks belonging to BHO are in this bill. The Speaker put on his boots with round heels (one again), and caved. Who lost? Once again, the American people.

Hopefully if the country is not bankrupt by October of 2015, the GFY 16 funding bill will look quite a bit different. We really need to demand more from the people who represent us. If they are not up to the task, they need to do the right thing and resign. We will find some people with the acumen and honor to do this job right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

On the wrong side of the street - again


"Torture? Torture is sitting on an airplane, being flown by a terrorist, knowing you are about to die..."

Yesterday was yet another day where the Loony Left showed us they live on the wrong side of the street. The release of this piece of garbage called the "Torture Report" was so stupid, so galling, it left me speechless and flummoxed. To go back to a program which as been over for 8 years and besmirch the character of patriots involved with it, leaves me dazed and confused.

The interrogation done at Gitmo as well as certain black sites was not done of a large scale - it was done very selectively. As I mentioned in an earlier post, right after the attack, America was in an information void. As brazen as the attacks were on 9/11, we did not know if there was a phase 2, phase 3 or whatever coming next. For all we knew, Al Qaeda had suitcase nukes, bio agents, or nerve gas already on our shore and were ready to use it. We simply did not know.

The interrogation techniques were used not because our interrogators were sadistic. They were not. They knew they needed to get the information from these bad actors sooner rather than later. We honestly believed that time was not our friend. And now we want to expose our patriots who were involved in the interrogations. We want to castigate them, and maybe even prosecute them. Only the Loony Left could be so stupid, so clueless.

During World War II, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt (a DEMOCRAT), issued an order which interned over 100,000 American citizen of Japanese heritage. Why did he do that? We simply did not know who was on our side. Nary a peep was uttered about what he did. It was a violation of many American's civil rights on a gigantic scale. Imagine if President Bush, after finding out the planes on 9/11 were flown by Muslims, ordered all Muslims in this nation to be locked up. He would have been tarred and feathered by the Loony Left.

What if in three years if we have President Gowdy and a Republican Congress. The new Administration decides to address the issue of drones under the Obama Administration. I dare say more innocent life has been lost by collateral damage in drone strikes than was ever lost in water boarding. It is then decided to pay the Loony Left back for the torture report, a scathing report is produced on drones. Once the report is out, the new Justice Department threatens to prosecute the Obama Administration for war crimes. Would this ever happen? Of course not. That is not how we roll. Even though drone strikes are more egregious than water boarding, it is a necessary tool to use in the never ending War on Terror.

Yesterday was a sad and painful day for America. We showed our gratitude to patriots who dedicated their lives to keep us safe by dragging them through the mud. Most people in this country are grateful to the patriots who worked tirelessly to get the bad guys and keep us safe after the 9/11 attacks. And I am one of them.