Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It is what is at stake, State (Department)!


"He is much better on a bike or a wave board than he is a negotiator..."

First a story from my past. I led a negotiation team to hammer out a deal for some "after market" business. We traveled to the now defunct Goodyear Aerospace which was located in Akron, Ohio. When we got there, we were directed to a huge and now vacant dirigible (blimp) hanger. At the very end of the hanger were two conference rooms. Our negotiation was to take place with the Goodyear Aerospace Team in one of those rooms.

The relationship between the two companies was testy at best. However, it was in our interest to get this deal. The negotiation stretched into the early evening. Finally, we hit a hard sticking point and my counterpart from Goodyear said he needed some time to "caucus" with his team. They left and never came back. Left us sitting in that huge, dark hanger all by ourselves. When we got back to the hotel, I called my boss at home and told him what happened. He told us to be on the first flight out in the morning. To paraphrase his words, "You can't deal with people you can't trust. No good deal could ever come from this."

I tell this story for one reason. No good deal can ever come out of a negotiation with Iran. Our President is just the opposite of the man I worked for during those negotiations. Our President should have pulled the team when the Iranians held war games and mocked up a ship to look like the Nimitz. Our President should have pulled the team with the Ayatollah shouted "Death to America". Our President should have pulled the team when the Iranians started to renege on previously agreed to points. But he did not.

A retired four star admiral was on the news this morning. When asked his opinion about the negotiations with Iran, he only said this: "Right now the United States is ready to buy a car without an engine and tires and hope it runs okay." Is that what these negotiations have come down to? Hoping for a "Hail Mary" pass? The admiral went on to say, "The Saudis, the Turks, and maybe others are poised and ready to get their own nuclear program if we allow this deal to ripen." In other words, the Iranians are ready to open a nuclear Pandora's Box, and we are about to give them the key.

So why in the world are we sitting at the table with nothing but a losing hand? It reminds me of the famous line, "We need to pass the bill so we know what is in it." This is nothing more than a pig in a poke. With a different Administration, a different negotiation team, there might be a much different strategy. For example, the opening position could be as follows: "Our friends in Iran. For the past 40 years you have proven you cannot be trusted. You will need some time to build trust again with the United States. Therefore, you will not be allowed to have a nuclear anything. No centrifuges, no uranium, no anything. If for the next 40 years you can prove you can be trusted, if you can stay away from starting proxy wars, then we will talk. Should you decide to go ahead with a nuclear program without our consent, we will come after you with everything we have."

That is how you set the table with people who are untrustworthy. You do not cow tow. You do not cave. You negotiate from a position of strength. As the admiral said, it appears we are ready to receive delivery of a car with no engine and no wheels. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Sherco Mess


"So if we close this plant in 2020, what are we supposed to do for electricity? Put a windmill on our roof?

Most of us who vacation in Park Rapids, Alexandria, Brainerd or Detroit Lakes have driven by either the Sherco power plant in Becker or the nuclear plant in Monticello. They are so close to each other, (less than 10 miles), they are like twins. Between the two of them, this state gets almost half its electricity. They should be looked upon as a real blessing right? Wrong. Not in the eyes of the greenies and the statists.

Before I go any further, how is your electric bill doing? Mine is obscene. It is large and getting larger all the time. Experts now tell us due to the Administration's "War on Coal", we could see a 40% jump in the next five years. That means if you are paying $250/month now, your bill could be $400/month in the next few years. And it goes up from there.

I have addressed this point before. Our energy policy is no policy at all. Clueless people in state government as well as the EPA dictators in the federal government are on a path to shutter our coal fired power plants. Sherco is a coal fired power plant. And it is a huge target for the greenies. This monster plant, which by itself supplies our state with 2,400 megawatts of power, is a hungry beast indeed. It takes between 20,000 and 30,000 tons of coal a day to keep the fires burning.

Because we have such sort sighted leadership in Washington as well as St. Paul, they don't seem to realize that everything we do to improve these plants, or to close them, ends up costing the users money. And lots of it. If the state forces the Sherco plant close, besides losing a boatload of jobs in Sherburne and Wright Counties, finding enough electricity will be a problem. To replace of 2,400 megawatts from Sherco, and the 670 megawatts from the nuke plant in Monticello, would be a daunting task. And why did I throw the nuke plant into the mix? Because it is possible the license for the Monticello nuclear plant (which expires in 2030), will not be renewed.

So what is the plan for the future? If we lose Sherco sometime in the 2020's, and then the Monticello nuke plant in 2030, what are we going to do? Wind farms? Please - spare me. Besides killing untold amount of birds and insect eating bats, the cost of wind is quite a bit higher than coal. My personal belief is wind will never be a viable energy source. It will always operate on the margin. Solar yes, but the go to market technology is not quite ready yet.

To figure out absolute cost comparisons between different energy solutions almost takes a PhD in the math sciences. Suffice it to say that currently coal is our most abundant and cheapest method we have to produce electricity.

Cheer up folks! We learned to get along without electricity before the 20th century, so I am sure we can do it again. Of course there will be no way to power our electric cars, but so what? Who wants to drive anyway? We can just sit in our dark homes and put another log on the fire.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

One random act of kindness...


"Can we change the world? Maybe. Maybe if it is an inch or less at a time..."

I think maybe the nicest thing that was ever said about me happened at a former company. Somebody said I was "always nice to people." Oh, how I wish that were true. But it is not. I am not always nice. As much as I would like to be, my true human nature often wins out. I can be a jerk. And I hate it when that happens.

The second nicest thing ever said about me (at the same company) was that I "really do like people." To that I will plead guilty. I love people. I love getting to know them, getting to know their stories. People think I love to tell my stories, and I do. But what I love more is hearing other people's stories. I never tire of them. To me, life stories are the fabrics which stich us all together.

Some time ago, a person I did volunteer work with had an attitude which truly inspired me. He set out to make a difference each and every day in someone's life. But he was also a realist. He knew he was but one grain of sand in the desert. What could he do that mattered? Each day, one random act of kindness. Because even small things matter. Each and every day he would do a random act of kindness for someone known or unknown. Many days he would do this more than once.

Just like in the "starfish" story, the smallest act of kindness can make a big (or not so big) impact in a person's life. A kind word said, an unkind word left unsaid, a helping hand, an opened door, they all make a difference. Sometimes that simple act can be an overture to getting to know someone. Or getting to know someone better. Developing a deeper relationship.

Our pastor often talks about how we are all relational beings. We long for relationships with others. Many long for a deeper relationship with God. As we enter into Holy Week, this is good time to reflect back on the significance of these seven days leading up to Easter. It is a good time to think about relationships, kindness, love. And hope. That is what this week is all about. Without Easter, none of these would be possible as there would be no hope.

Random acts of kindness. A small, yet important way to show love and kindness to each other. In one week, we will celebrate the greatest act of love the world has ever known. Each day, every day, an act of kindness is a wonderful way to honor that great gift. That great gift we received from God on Easter Sunday two thousand years ago. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Our Stadium Saga Continues....


"Some say this taxpayer behemoth is a Taj Mahal. I disagree - the Taj Mahal would have been cheaper..."

In the paper today, were two very interesting articles. The first being the differences between the three proposed budgets - the Governor's, the House, and the Senate. The House of course is the Republican budget. When I look at all three next to each other, there is barely a hair's difference between them. The Governor's is $42.9B, the Senate's is $42.7B and the Republican lead House is $42.6B. To that I say "Big Whoop!"

Now I am not going to get started this morning about how the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of FDR on a slight diet - that is for another day. Besides, I just ranted about that earlier this week. I will however, address how this state continues to pee money away. And that, does nothing but add to the cost (and size) of state government.

The Governor wants an additional $30M for a "fixer up project" at the capital. Seems as if we sustained some water damage. That on top of everything else we are doing to that place (like the unsustainable new Senate Building). So this multi-year project to fix up the joint is going to cost $300M. Before long, it will cost as much as our new Taj Mahal football stadium. I will use that as a segway to begin my next rant.

This billion dollar baby, which is projected to be used by the Vikings about eight to twelve times a year, is going to look very, very sharp. That is, unless you are a migrating bird. Today it was disclosed the gal with many names and a squeaky voice is acting like a "duffer" in a canoe with her stadium job. In other words, at $127,000 (of taxpayer money) she is just along for the ride. Her boss, Fritz Mondale's son, is doing quite a bit of her work as well as his. Don't worry about Teddy however - we are paying him handsomely - over $162,000 (of taxpayer money).

So why in the world do we even have this Michele Kelm-Helgen on the team? Silly question! It is crony capitalism at its finest. Seems that our Governor picked her to be on his "inner circle" when he first took office. Why her? She is part of the DFL machine in this state. Part of the machine which makes this state so expensive. Giving her this plum job on the stadium commission was just payback for being such a good foot soldier in the past.

So what is Kelm-Helgen's background to make her so uniquely qualified to earn this kind of money on this horribly complex project? Well, she did serve on her local school board. Then she served as the Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs. She was also the Chief of Staff to Senate Majority Leader Pogemiller. So her qualifications were basically na-da. Nothing. The stadium job was payback time.

Putting this state on a diet starts with the budget. The Speaker of the House needs to be bold. When you play poker, seeing the other guys bid and then calling is not bold. Our budget should not even be in the $40B range - more like the $30B range. Like I just pointed out, we need to bleed all the crap out of this state. No more cronyism. No more duplicity. No more graft.

Come on people - grow a pair. Do your job! The people paying the tab are not a bid happy right now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Will the Arab Spring turn into a Nuclear Winter?


"If this was not real, many would think it was a remake of the Manchurian Candidate..."

I would like to meet someone who is very smart. Smarter than me, smarter than my friends, smarter than Steven Hawking. I really do need to talk to someone that smart to explain WTH has happened in the Middle East! How in the world could we be complicent to mucking this up so bad? Sometime this weekend, we could truly be dancing with the devil. Not a waltz -  dancing cheek to cheek.

This morning when my eyes opened up, I switched on the TV. A few times a week I watch the unwatchable MSNBC just to see them defend the undefendable. Today was different. A panel of pundits was talking about the nearness of a deal with Iran. How it will make a very bad situation in the Middle East so much worse. This is MSNBC is saying that. Imagine what normal stations are saying. I know what I have been reading. And the word "treasonous" keeps popping up.

As most of us know by now, the situation in Yemen has gone from bad to catastrophic. We now have a full blown proxy war going on between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We are backing the Saudis (sort of), while negotiating with Iran to let them have - basically everything they have asked for. The situation in Yemen is so bad, oil experts are warning the price of oil could go up like a Roman candle. If it does, bye-bye $2.25 gasoline. Right before the travel time of a long awaited summer.

I have never seen a negotiation like this before. I have never seen capitulation like this. Actually it is not a negotiation - it is a surrender. One might ask why. Why in the world would we throw Israel under the bus? Expose their secrets which they have entrusted to us? Why would we allow the Iranians to keep the centrifuges turning in an underground, hardened facility? Why would our Administration keep the details hidden from Congress? Why do we give preference to the Muslim Brotherhood? My answer, my guess, is two words. Valarie Jarrett.

Born in Iran and raised in the Muslim faith, she is the puppet master in the White House. Take one part of her, mix in with three parts ideologues like Susan Rice, John Kerry and Barack Obama, and you have a witch's brew boiling in a cauldron. And what is going to come out of this cauldron? Nuclear madness. This Iranian deal will set off an arms race the likes of which the world has not seen for decades. Many nations in the Middle East will not tolerate Iran being the sole nuclear power. If they can't stop them, they will join them. The result will be a mad scramble towards Armageddon.

For those who voted for Barak Obama (twice) please remember this - elections have consequences. This one will have dire consequences. This clown car running our government is all due to low information voters electing a community organizer who wanted to "transform America".

Well kids, you got your wish. Our country has been transformed. It has been transformed into a semi-Socialized mess, the Russian Bear is once again on the loose, and the Middle East is on fire. For those who voted for this - good luck. In fact, good luck to all of us. We will need plenty of luck and most likely Devine intervention to come back from this precipice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Folly of Spending


"Go ahead. Put more lipstick on. It won't help this budget look better. It is still a pig..."

I am sorry I have to bring this up again. However, I am going to brag. The county I live in, Anoka County, is a very well run and well managed county. Our taxes are low, and my property taxes keep inching downward every year. Our Anoka County Board does a wonderful job in squeezing every molecule of value out of every tax dollar. To me, they exemplify how government should be run.

Now that I have the "warm fuzzy" out of the way, I will get into the "cold prickly". What the Sam Hill is wrong with the Republicans this year? In November we had an historic election to break the status quo. Not only nationally, but also locally. We now have the Republicans in charge of the Minnesota House. We have a Speaker of the House from my own BPOU. "Big Mo" is on our side. And what are we doing with it? Raising the level of intrusive state government by another 2%.

I think the reason so many Minnesota Conservatives are fed up is we have seen this movie before. Like the last time we had a Republican Speaker of the House. And we got the same line as today. "Well, our increase is much lower than the Governor's proposed increase." To that I say "Big flipping deal!" Our increase should not be an increase at all! It should be a decrease! We cannot, I repeat cannot, cut the size of this pig until we put it on a diet. If the 2% increase becomes reality, that will become the new baseline. That is how this massive state budget got so big in the first place!

In the land of sophism and deceit, truth tellers are in short supply. Yesterday on the radio a person was addressing the real deficit in Minnesota. Deficit? Impossible! We cannot run a deficit! Yes we can. We have the same "hidden" deficit the entire country has. Underfunded mandates. Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. And state and municipal pensions. And this number is freaking huge. Scary huge. Many states have this issue. Illinois is just starting to realize how big of a problem it is for them. How big? Maybe Detroit big. Maybe bankruptcy big.

The old saying is still true. We cannot spend our way out of trouble. We need hardcore principles followed by hardcore discipline. We need zero based budgeting. We need to put each and every program under the microscope to wring out the waste, fraud and abuse. We need to get rid of redundant programs, archaic programs, useless programs. We need to cap or reduce salaries all over the state, starting at the University. Their salaries are simply outrageous. In short, this state needs to go on a diet which would make Wisconsin jealous.

The CD6 Convention is this weekend. It could be a raucous affair. The natives are restless. No, not restless - pissed. If this is how victory looks, we might as well stay losers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Bluebird


No - this type of Bluebird is not avian in nature. It can however, be even more fun than bird watching..."

Throughout the years, once in a great while my wife and I would receive an unexpected windfall. None of them were huge mind you, but $50 to $100 coming in unexpectedly was always fun. At one of my former companies, I learned a term for an unexpected or un-forecasted source of revenue - a Bluebird.

Bluebirds were always fun. They could be used for whatever we chose to use them for. Sometimes we would use them to help pay down a stubborn bill. Sometimes we used them to put towards a vacation. To buy something. To go out to dinner. My point is simply this - a Bluebird was for us to enjoy and to purpose for whatever or wherever we decided.

What in the world is the purpose of this story? Simply put, the state now has a Bluebird. Because of the complexity of our taxing system, as well as the lack of transparency in our spending, we never really know until the budget cycle is over how we did. And this year we did very well. Sort of. It means we way overtaxed the wagon pullers. So now there is change coming back from the bill. And what are we to do with this Bluebird?

Well first off, I should explain in the eyes of the Progressives and Statists, there is no such thing as a Bluebird. All money belongs to them. The $2B surplus is there ONLY because of their acumen in running the state. Therefore, that money may now be used for something else. Something bigger. Pre-K, or some folly like that.

That all sounds hunky dory except for one thing - I would like my change back. In the paper today, a recent Minnesota poll showed some people (mostly the wagon riders who live in the metro area) would like the state to spend it. If per any chance those people contributed to the surplus by paying taxes, it is then within their right to tell the state to keep THEIR share of the surplus. Me? Not so much. I want my change back.

And by the way, I not only want my change back, I want a reduction in the size of state government next year. What is all this crap the Republicans are trying to sell RAISING the size of government by almost 2%. WRONG DIRECTION! We expect the Progressives and Statists to do this, but not our side!

I am just going to sit back in my fixed income armchair and wait for my Bluebird to be returned to me by the state. Don't worry however - I am not going to hold my breath. Then I would turn blue!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Not warming up to FEMA


"Hello. We are here from the government. We are here to help. NOT!"

Just when you think you might have heard it all from this Administration, another whopper develops. Only this time it is FEMA. Not the IRS, not the VA, not the Justice Department, not the ATF, not ICE, but FEMA. And this one truly is a head shaker. If the Governor of your state does not worship at the altar of ALGORE, in other words, if your Governor does not sign on to the myth of manmade global warming, your state will lose some FEMA funding.

FEMA's State Mitigation Plan Review Guide (FP 302-094-2) which was just released, will become effective in March of 2016. In that plan (no, this is not an early April's Fool's joke), should a state desire to obtain disaster preparedness funding from FEMA, it will have to jump through hoops and in some cases, sell its soul. In other words, the state must report on how they will be impacted by manmade global warming due to "More intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding and raising sea levels."

FEMA, just to show they are magnanimous, will NOT withhold funding after a disaster strikes. However, if the Governor of a state does not put the required language in the state's disaster plan, bye-bye prep funding from the Fed.

Some think this is aimed directly at Governor Rick Scott of Florida after he instructed his staff not use the term "global warming". My take is it does not matter who it is aimed at. There is a higher principle at stake here. We do all of us, fund FEMA with our tax dollars. Their budget is comprised of money we have sent to them. It is the arrogance of power, for ANYONE in the Federal Government to think they can withhold funding due to any reason - especially political correctness.

As far as I am concerned, FEMA just signed their death warrant. Get rid of them. This is another function the states can handle themselves. States can retain funding they were going to send to Washington and then use those funds for their own disaster preparation. One more time for the slow learners in Washington - the government works for the people, not the other way around!

I really, really hope our next President has the courage to trim down this beast. Start by getting rid of the Department of Education, then the Department of Energy. Next get rid of the IRS and then the EPA. Finally FEMA. It has to be done. It is long overdue. After November of 2016, clean house, fumigate, and then cut the fat.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Rat's Butt....


"Excuse me! I think you have mistaken me for someone who gives a rat's butt about this issue!"

I am sorry to start out the work week like this. But I do have to say this. I really don't give a rat's butt on some of the issues being addressed in St. Paul right now. Period. We have HUGE fish to fry, and I would like to see the focus on those issues first. EVERYTHING else can take a back seat. So let's get going.

Here are the no-brainers which should be dispensed of immediately:
  • Blue Laws - Get rid of them. Should be a landslide with bipartisan support. If you want to sell liquor on Sundays, go for it. If you want to sell cars on Sunday, go for it. If you want to stay closed on Sundays and any other days, go for it.
  • Teacher Tenure - What a pile of manure. First off, eliminate the teacher unions. Next, make school choice the law of the land - NOW! That will take care of this silly and superfluous discussion of tenure. It simply won't exist anymore.
  • Transportation Funding - Those in favor of the mileage tax feel the more you use the roads, the more you should pay. Okay, I will bite. Then using the same logic, the people who ride the trains should pay for what the ride really costs. Currently it is estimated the fare to ride on the Northstar covers only 15% of the expense. The other 85% is picked up by the taxpayer. We have plenty of transportation funding already in this state. Stop funding trains and bike trails and we should be fine. If trains cannot fund themselves, they need to go the way of the streetcar.
Then after the House and Senate take care of the above, tackle the surplus. DO NOT DARE to put a penny of our surplus into the University of Minnesota system! In fact, they could do with less. Not after seeing what their salary structure looks like. And then ZERO DOLLARS for Pre-K. Funding all-day Kindergarten was enough, thank you! FIX THE TAX CODE! Our state taxes are way out of line with reality as well as our neighboring states. Then STOP TAXING OUR SENIORS! Eliminate state taxes on Social Security and Military Pensions. If we wanted to really be bold, be like South Dakota - don't tax ANY pensions!

Here is what I am looking for. I am looking for the Speaker of the House, who is from my BPOU, to be bold and courageous on these issues. Be the Progressive's worst nightmare. Lead the charge in taking back our state. Fix the fixable, and don't listen to all the psycho-babble that goes on within the DFL. THESE are the issues worth fighting for. The hill worth dying for. The people of Minnesota need to know the state takes in an extraordinary amount of money every year. The government does not any more - they can do just fine living on quite a bit less.

So to my good friends in St. Paul, it is "go time". No more games. No more shenanigans. No more posturing. Fix the tax system. Return the surplus. Eliminate teacher unions. Eliminate the Blue Laws. Eliminate all subsidies for trains. Then come home. Your work will be done, and you will have earned your stripes as well as your paychecks. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Thin Green Line

"No matter where we are in life, we are one medical bill, one misstep, one bad choice from becoming a resident living in a place like this..."

By now most of us have heard of the Thin Blue Line. It is our police protection which stands between a civilized society and anarchy. Today, I want to discuss another important line - the Thin Green Line. It is the line which keeps the least of us from falling through cracks in our society. And what is the Thin Green Line? Simply put - money.

Yesterday, my wife and I visited Union Gospel Mission (UGM), located in the heart of St. Paul. This is a private institution which has been around since 1903. When I say private, it does not take a penny from any form of government. These days, that can be particularly liberating. No strings, no forms, no intrusive oversight. Nearly 100% of their funding comes from people or organizations who decide to partner with this worthwhile charity. Last year, my wife and I decided to join that partnership.

UGM deals with people like you and me. People who have been dealt an unexpected setback due to a high medical bill, loss of a job, a costly divorce, you name it. Or it can be people who have lost just about everything due to poor life choices. Or it could be both. UGM deals with the hungry, the hurting and the homeless. Oh yes, we can throw in the addicted also.

The tour we took of the men's dormitory was impressive to say the least. They have enough beds to give hundreds shelter. Some just for one night, others for a longer stay. Those that are longer term guests are asked to contribute $6 a night. If folks can pay it, fine. If for some reason they cannot, nobody gets tossed out on the street.  UGM has a huge kitchen which serves hot meals three times a day, 365 days a year. All are welcomed to eat there.

We also toured their free dental clinic. That was a jaw dropper. It was as big, clean and modern as any I have seen. Dozens of dentists and technicians volunteer at the clinic. It is totally free to those who have no ability to pay. It is for sure the largest free dental clinic in Minnesota, might also be the largest in the region, or maybe even the country. Nobody knows for sure. Like I said, it is huge.

Finally, they also run a recovery center for the addicted. In patient or out patient. They practice the twelve step program with a bit of old time religion thrown in. They believe for many of the addicted, a 28 day program is not enough. Their programs last much longer. All free for those who cannot pay. 

There is a caveat however. UGM is a faith based organization. Has been since the beginning. The people who work and volunteer at UGM are very devoted to the Lord and practice the teachings of Mathew 26 (taking care of the least of us). But they don't push it on their guests. If the guests choose to attend daily chapel services - great. If they are not ready for that, or just plain choose not to, well that is also fine. They will still be cared for.

After the tour, on the way home we talked about little else. This is gritty ministry. Life saving and life changing ministry. I have never seen an organization which can stretch donated dollars further. We are proud to be partners to this organization. How much deeper can we go in supporting this organization? Stay tuned - we are about to jump in a deeper end of the pool.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

From the Land of Sky Blue Waters


"With all the water and greenery we have in this state, no matter many refer to it as 'God's Country'"

I know I crab about this state. Maybe too much sometime. I crab about the seemingly endless winters. I crab about the confiscatory taxes on the wagon pullers. On the retirees. However, there is another side to Minnesota. Summer. Summer up in the north county of the state. Or as many of locals call it, just plain Up North.

When I have taken out of town visitors to northern Minnesota, they are simply amazed by the amount of water we have. Not just our fine fishing lakes, but also the grand daddy of them all - Lake Superior. All of this fresh water we love, and many times take for granted.

Now the down side. I remember when the last major drought hit the Midwest. Thirsty states who did not have our water resources, started looking north for relief.

Yes, I remember reading articles on how some of the water from our major lakes, or even Lake Superior, could be diverted south. And that was for not just other states - it was also for the southern part of our own state. Areas of our state where aquifers have become dangerously depleted due to increasing agricultural demand.

What does all this mean? Water wars might be in our future. We have developed better and better ways to produce food in the Midwest. We feed not only ourselves, but a good portion of the world as well. However, a very important ingredient in agriculture is water. Without enough water, even our best hybrid technology becomes moot. And we as a nation do a terrible job of water recapture. Every year billions of gallons of fresh water (in the form of rain or snowfall) come down so fast, the ground can't absorb it all. The excess water ends up being run-off. And often times there is so much run-off, destructive flooding results.

All that excess fresh water ends up going in the tributaries, and then into the streams, and finally the major rivers. Once that river water reaches the ocean, it is no longer fresh water. There has to be an efficient way to capture a portion of that excess water and then store it for the drier months. It can't be that hard.

I have written before about the Ogallala Aquifer. This monster underground lake, which feeds many Midwestern states, is becoming less of a monster every year. Without better management of this invaluable resource, the life expectancy of this aquifer is very short (in geographical time). How short? In our lifetime short. This aquifer has been "Plan B" for many decades with farmers in the Midwest. What is their Plan A? Rain. When the rain is not optimal (which it often is not), the Ogallala Aquifer is called upon to save the crop.

I want people in this country to look upon the Land of Sky Blue Waters as a treasure, and not a target. I don't want water wars in this country. I don't want water wars in this state. In California, they are already having them. We need cleaver thinking. New thinking. To ignore this issue will not only put our agri-business in jeopardy, but also the drinking water for millions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Children of the sixties...


"Much can be said about the children of the sixties. Some good, some bad. However here is my take..."

There is a story which needs to be told here - and I might as well be one to give my version of it. Much has been said about today's Baby Boomers. Some refer to them as the Children of the Sixties. Or maybe the Woodstock Generation. Well confession time is due. I grew up and graduated in the sixties. Yes, I am one of them. Many of my friends did also. Is it true we mucked things up? To a degree, yes. It also true those were golden times. Golden times bequeathed to us by our parents. Times I will never forget.

Do I regret being born in that era? Not too much. However if I had in my choice, I would have been born 20 years earlier. To me, those were really the best of times. Those years, as hard as they were, were the years our folks grew up in. Those years are what formed the Greatest Generation.

The generation before ours had the World War II experience - then the experience of saving the world from tyranny. Then after the war was over, the rebuilding of Japan and Europe. The next generation (us) were all set up to live in the greatest country, with the greatest economy, built by our parents - the Greatest Generation.

Yes, I would trade my era for that generation. In a New York minute I would. But growing up in the sixties was also not that bad. I lived through an incredible amount of history. For example, much has been made about the movie Selma. I remember it clearly. JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King. I remember them also. I remember all of them being gunned down long before their time.

I remember the Apollo Program, the Gemini Program, and the Moon landing itself. I remember how close we came to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the old style Yankees and legendary Green Bay Packers. I also remember Detroit when it was vibrant and classy. I remember how the Viet Nam War changed the country. Yes, I remember it all.

In my time as a youth, as well as a  young adult, we had fine and memorable music. Life was simple and good. During my high school experience, Friday nights in the fall were spent watching high caliber football, then going to a sock hop in the high school gym, and finally out for pizza. It was all fun, it was all innocent. No drugs, no liquor, just fun. It was a time I yearn that or our kids and grandkids could experience. Life was uncomplicated. It was going from point "A" to point "B" - as simple as that. College, service time, they were all a part of growing up. Somewhere in the middle of all that was finding your soul mate. Then getting married and having kids.

One of the reasons I relish getting together with my high school chums is simple - they also shared this experience. They shared something which is rapidly fading. Good times? Yes. Lasting times? I am afraid not. All that remains now are fading memories. Fading memories of the Children of the sixties. The generation which followed the Greatest Generation and then blazed the path for Generation Next...

Trying to be happy....

"Okay. I have tried anger management. It just managed to get me angrier!"

Yippee! Today is the International Day of Happiness! It is a good thing too, as yesterday the Bird was taken to task for being way too angry. So, I took a Prozac and now feel much better. And to boot, today being the International Day of Happiness helps tremendously. Well, that is until I turned on the news this morning.

This ISIL threat to all good people everywhere, continues to metastasize. The massacre which recently took place in Tunisia is now owned. ISIL is taking responsibility for it. For those who did not hear the gory details, let me give the PG-13 version. Most of the people killed were targeted. They were targeted by four terrorists dressed up as soldiers. They were targeted because they were tourists, just getting off a tour bus. All totally innocent. But in this war on terror, there are no innocents. You are either "one of them", or you are a target. Now I don't know how much muscle the leader of Tunisia has, but after the attack he threatened to "hunt down all terrorists and exterminate them".

On the news this morning, there was talk of a new and serious threat to America made by ISIL. They want to target American veterans. Now this might just be a crack pot tweet or something, but Fox News thought it was serious enough to lead off the news with. If you are a vet who likes to shop at the Mall of America, you are probably a huge target for the bad guys.

I have a great idea. What if instead of waiting for one of the terrorists to cause more mayhem with innocent Americans, we have our leader say the same thing the Tunisian leader said. Exterminate them. We need to have our leaders put on their big boy pants, grow a pair, and take care of business. Not write them an angry letter - exterminate them both here and afar.

Every year I age, I am more and more amazed at the feckless nature of our United Nations. Built from the ashes of the League of Nations, this worldwide organization was given a charter with teeth in it.  That being said, with this terror group spreading from nation to nation, is it not the job of the United Nation to stop it? To prevent another world war?To send in legions of blue helmets ready to restore the peace?

And the perps which have caused genocide in Iraq and Syria, why are they not being captured and hauled off to The Hague? What the heck do we still have the World Court for? As far as I am concerned, it is time to get rid of both of those worthless money pits.

Okay, I am done. Time for my yoga lesson. I will meditate and take another happy pill. I will strive to be happy on this International Day of Happiness. Or not. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Against the will of the people


"I'm Henry the 8th I am, Henry the 8th I am, I am..."
   ♫                             ♫                                

You have to really hand it to him. He does not discriminate. He has no favorites. Now that the Israeli elections are over, he is going to give a poke in the eye to the Israeli people. He is really angry with them. He is out and out pissed they did not get the message. They voted in Bibi Netanyahu for another term. Now our President is really going to fix them.

And how is our leader going to fix the "backstabbing" Israeli people? By using the UN of course. Instead of using the UN for what it was founded for (like stopping ISIL and Boko Haram), our President is going to use it to meddle in one of our staunchest allies internal affairs.

And this comes AFTER he tried to sway the election in Israel by using a cover agency called Victory 15. The Obama Administration's State Department have their fingerprints all over this one. Our tax dollars ($350k) were funneled under a thinly disguised tax exempt status (where is Lois Lerner when we need her), to a "Anyone but Bibi campaign" in Israel. It didn't work. And now that we know about it, somebody in this corrupt Administration needs to be fired and/or go to jail.

I was so mad yesterday, I was literally spitting tacks. I ever wrote a letter to my Congressman. What is wrong with our President? Has the power of this office really gone to his head that much? This scandal, on top of so many others in the past 6+ years, has left me speechless, dazed and confused. He truly does make all prior presidents look like saints in comparison (even the now famous Jimmy Carter.) He shreds our Constitution as if it was a piece of junk mail.

He continues to govern against the will of the American people. The message went out loud and clear last November during those historic elections. Most states (except of course the very blue state of Minnesota) got the message. Obama did not. Screw the American people. Now it is also screw the Israeli people. The king must have his way. Well sir, we are not a monarchy. We are a democratic republic. Lease wise, that is the way our Constitution established us. You of all people should know that. You did teach Constitution law, right?

Rather than backing the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood, we should be supporting Israel in its ongoing struggles with neighboring nations who want her exterminated. Regardless of what Valarie Jarrett says, we should be supporting Israel over her native Iran. Most of all, this Administration needs to remember it works for the American people - not the other way around. And the support for Israel by the American people is strong.

2016 cannot come soon enough. Once this Administration is over, we need to clean house. Clean house, from top to bottom. Once that is done, spray it all down with disinfectant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Myths of Minnesota


"What in the world has happened to our state which Time Magazine called 'The Good Life' not that many decades ago..."

Santa Clause comes every Christmas Eve to give good kids Christmas presents. The Easter Bunny leaves Easter eggs on Easter Morning. The Tooth Fairy leaves money under your pillow when you lose a tooth. Minnesota is a great place to live and retire. All things we have been told since we were toddlers. And what we have found out (or are finding out), all are myths.

In the wintertime, Minnesota can be bone chilling cold. Unlike this past winter, we can have knee deep snow for months. In the summertime, we put up with mosquitoes the size of eagles. And it can be stinky hot (and humid) for weeks at a time.

Okay - forgetting the weather for a second, let us take a journey and explore some other facets of living in the Land of Sky Blue Waters:
  • Patriotism - a study was recently done which shows Minnesota was the second LEAST patriotic state in the nation. Driving through the Twin Cities proper, one can see why. Even though outstate Minnesota may be as American as apple pie, the deep blue metro area is just the opposite. That study should be an embarrassment to us all, but it won't be. I am sure many in Minneapolis will wear this study like a badge of honor.
  • Taxes - Another study was recently done to show the best and worst states for senior citizens to retire in. Minnesota was listed as one of the 10 WORST states to live in after retirement! Gone are the dreams of living on a crystal clear lake and fishing every day once the working years are over. Besides paying sky high real estate taxes for living on a lake, the state will tax all your pensions, including Social Security. Good luck getting old in Minnesota.
  • Achievement Gap - Many have asked a simple question about education in Minnesota - how good is it? The answer has been and remains today - it depends. Depends on what? First off, your ethnic background. Next your location. Whites continuously do much better in reading and math scores than other races. Especially outside the metro area. Is that because whites are smarter? Nope. Not a bit.  Studies have proven that point over and over and over again. Then what is it? Can more money fix it? Nope. More money cannot fix it as the most money per pupil right goes into the Twin Cities proper. And that is where we have some of our worst results. Don't worry though - the DFL machine in Minnesota will bankrupt the state trying to fix a problem that money will not fix.
  • Roads and Bridges - Don't get me started. We take in a boatload of money for transportation and waste much on it building trains which very few people ride. None of our LRT nor Northstar lines are self supporting. And they have taken very few cars off the roads. All trains are money pits whist our roads and bridges are disasters year after year. But our trains are pretty - and VERY trendy!

More and more people I talk to recently have had it up to their eyeballs with this state. Minnesota has never truly been a "red" state (politically) - but now it is like a "red star" state! We keep electing flawed DFL candidates and then re-electing them. Many of whom act more Socialist than anything else. Big state government, goofy politicians, intrusive regulations, high taxes, crappy weather - where is the incentive to stay?

When people from other states ask me if Minnesota is a good place to live, my answer is always the same. It was. But is no longer. The inmates have taken over the asylum. And it is maddening.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Treating people like cattle


"We treat pets better than many of the homeless are treated. It is beyond shameful..."

My wife and I have been involved with the homeless youth problem in Anoka County. My youngest daughter works with homeless outreach in the City of Minneapolis. My other daughter works for Social Services in a country just north of here. And I have relatives who also are involved with helping the hungry and homeless in the metro area and points north.

Today in the paper was huge news. Because of a grant of $100,000, two the homeless shelters in Minneapolis are going to be allowed to stay open a bit longer in the morning. What does that mean? In one of the shelters, your "bed" is a mattress on the floor with sixty other people. If some snore, if some talk on the phone, or whatever - a good night's sleep is seldom in the cards. Then after putting in a fitful night of sleep, the rules are to be packed up and out of the facility no later than 7am. This new grant will allow the shelter to remain open a bit later than 7.

My wife and I have learned things about the homelessness which are eye openers. First, very few people who find themselves homeless planned their life this way. When you talk to some of these folks who have no place to stay, it is shocking what they go through on a daily basis. Next, according to NAMI, it is estimated that 80% of homeless youth have some kind of undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues. Finally, drugs. Some are also hooked on some kind of drug or booze.

We really do need to come up with new thinking on how to help these people. In the editorial page today was an article about a Section 8 lottery which was recently held by the Met Council. Over 30,000 people were vying for 2,000 Section 8 housing units. That means that over 28,000 are still without a stable place to live. People end up "couch hopping", staying in cars, over crowded shelters, put in jail, or living on the street.

There was an article this weekend about "mini houses". Very affordable and very small. Big enough however, to give some modicum of privacy and shelter to those who need it. The kitchen and bathrooms are communal. That is the only drawback. But a person can have their own bed to sleep in and chairs to sit on. Residents can talk on the phone, listen to the radio, read, or watch TV without bothering anyone else. And these housing units are very cheap - about $4,000 each.

People who are without housing, without a permanent place to stay, deserve our compassion and help. Most are not bad people - they have either made bad choices or have received bad breaks. The status quo on how we help the homeless really needs a tune up. Treating people like cattle, no matter where you live, is just plain wrong.   

Monday, March 16, 2015

Frankenstein's Monster


"This organization is worse than Frankenstein's Monster. In the movie there was only one monster. The Met Council has 18 of them!"

To many it is like a juggernaut. To others it is like an octopus with its tentacles in just about everything. What is it? The Metropolitan Council. The unelected, loosely regulated, very powerful group who wants to reshaped the Twin Cities and all who live around it.

The Met Council is taking on a couple of vexing problems which persists not only in the Twin Cities, but also throughout the country. Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. So as part of their Utopian vision for our area, they are mandating that cities such as Carver, build apartment buildings which can accommodate those with lower incomes. The 68 unit complex, which is yet to be built, was discussed at a Carver style town hall meeting. The good people of Carver expressed their extreme displeasure to the Mayor and the City Council. In the end however, the Met Council will probably get their way and the complex will be built.

So what is the big hairy deal anyhow? First off, we do have suburbs (first ring) which decided many years ago to host a multitude of apartment complexes. The decision to do so has changed the reputation and direction of those cities. Period. Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park for example. Most growing cites outside the first ring suburbs DO NOT their city to turn out like one of the two Brooklyn's. The Met Council on the other hand, is telling cities in the seven county area to buck up - change in coming. The nanny state minded Met Council is going to single handedly assure that poverty in the Twin Cities does not become "clustered". So they are going to spread the pain.

Here is the problem that the Met Council fails to realize. In the two Brooklyn's, services have developed around the housing to accommodate the residents. There is plenty of public transportation. Plenty of stores which accept EBT and SNAP. Developing cities such as Carver are not set up the same way. Neither is the city that I live in. If you need public transportation in my city, good luck on that one.

There is one more very large issue at play. Liberty minded people live where they want to live for a variety of reasons. Many people who live in the exurbs do so because they want to be as far from big city problems as possible. They made the trade off to have longer drives in exchange for more peace and quiet and less crime. Some exurbs almost have the aura of "Andy of Mayberry". I know mine does.

When we moved out here 31 years ago, we came from a neighborhood which had started to rent townhouses to some Section 8 tenants. Problems soon followed. More police calls. More noise. More loitering. In the 8 years we lived in our first house, we could see the change. And it was not change for the better. I do not want to see the same type of change in the city I currently live in.

The duel problems of homelessness and affordable housing must be addressed. Most people, regardless of where they live, have compassion and want a solution to these two vexing problems. However, the solution must be one which works for everyone - not just the 18 unelected dictatorial Euphorians who sit on the Met Council.   

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Unaffordability of Tax Cuts


"I am sorry - the tax money is all gone as I have spent it. May I please have some more?"

Got you with the headline, didn't I? Some might think I have taken a long walk off a short pier. No, those words are true - true to the people who utter them. Don't worry - they are not my words. They are the words of the statists, the people who love the government machine. The ones who love to keep feeding the pig.

I have long signed on to the notion the worst thing this country ever did to taxpayers was enact tax withholding in 1943. That really was a masterful piece of serendipity perpetrated by the government. Gone went the transparency on how much we send to the federal and state governments. Every payday you would receive a check for something considerably less than the salary you earned.

People who pay property taxes which are not escrowed have the right idea. Twice a year you break out your checkbook and write out a big check to the county. Just for the privilege of living on your property. For most people I know, that twice a year check writing is anything but pleasant. Just imagine if at the end of every month we had to write checks to both the federal and state governments for taxes due. Pitchforks and torches would be seen everywhere.

In the paper today was an article about all the selfish people who want the surplus returned to the taxpayers. People like military vets who earn a pension. People like senior citizens who have paid in taxes all their working lives. If we allowed seniors and vets not to be taxed on their pensions and Social Security (gasp!), we could not afford it! After all, taxes travel down a one-way street. Once the statists in Washington or St. Paul get ahold of your money, well, good luck in getting any back. Remember - there is an "unaffordability" associated with tax cuts.

When I walk around the yard, or inside the house, I could come up with tens of thousands of dollars for improvements. Some major, some minor. However if I did that, we would be stone cold broke. No money for travel, no nest egg, no nothing.

Right now the Governor and the DFL are starting to imagine how to spend all $2B of the surplus. Using my analogy, they are walking around the yard and looking inside of the house for things to spend money on. Remember, the money has traveled down a one-way street. Even though it is OUR MONEY, we have resorted to almost begging to get some or all of it back!

Just in case you think this article is slanted - it is. I am a retired vet getting a pension and am also receiving Social Security. Like many other seniors, I am getting nailed by the state this year for taxes. I am paying in at year's end much more than I ever did while working. If we don't fix this, my kids, my grandkids, will have the same problem. That is, should they decide to live and retire in this tax heavy state.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dire straights for the Golden State...


"Could this be the end of the Golden in the Golden State?"

When I was in the work a day world, I would occasionally travel to the West Coast. I always enjoyed it as it was a nice break from constantly going to Washington DC. That being said, on the plane ride home from LAX or SFO, I would always wonder how people could live out there. Sure the weather is nicer than here. But it is expensive, very liberal, many earthquake faults, and now - it is running out of water.

Recently one NASA scientist predicted that California's ground water will start going dry in a year or so. That would be a huge problem. No - that would be a total game changer for this state. California gets it's water from three sources - groundwater, surface water (like rivers and streams) and to a small extent, desalination. With a persistent drought causing lower than average river flows, and ground water not being regenerated fast enough, that leaves only desalination. And currently there is precious little desalination.

Besides needing to quench the thirst of its 30 million or so inhabitants, California also has very important agri-business. For example, if California had to choose between supplying water to population centers over agriculture, the nation would lose a majority source of some needed food products. For example, besides California producing 90% of all our broccoli, it also produces 99% of walnuts, 95% of celery, 89% of cauliflower, 71% of spinach and 69% of carrots. All of a sudden, most grocery stores nation wide would find either shortages or sky high prices on a variety of items.

Is there a solution? Yes, but it will be expensive for those who live there. California has over 800 miles of coastline, the third highest in the country. On the other side of that coastline lies the Pacific Ocean with an almost unlimited supply of water. The good people of California need to come to the conclusion they should have come to years and years ago. In order to have sustainable population growth AND a thriving agri-business, they need water. Lots and lots of water. Living in what really is a desert, lots and lots of water is not in the equation.

There are plans to continue building desalination plants similar to the one in San Diego which is scheduled to go online in 2016. This will help, but the percentage of water which will come from the next few plants is still very small. Make no mistake - desalination does have its critics and problems. But the end product is still water. Expensive, but fresh and or potable water.

The technology to do this has been around for decades. I am afraid that California might be way too late to this party. And that, will take the golden out of the Golden State.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our rapidly approaching energy catastrophe...


"Sometimes I really wonder if the people in charge of our government know how to think at all..."

Our powers that be are set to really put our country in a huge energy pickle. Over really nothing. That is, unless you believe in Al Gore. By the end of this year, the highly dictatorial EPA has mandated that 85 of our coal fired plants be shut down. The earliest ones being shut down this June (in the middle of summer air conditioning season). And what are we going to use to replace them? Good question.

Shutting down that many coal plants (and that is only the start in the Administrations war on coal) will deal a devastating blow to certain parts of the country. And everyone's rates will continue to go up. By the end of last year, we were still getting 300 GW of in service coal power. By 2020, the EPA wants 60 of those GW taken off line, starting with the retirements scheduled for this year.

Some might say "so what", but let me show what the so what is all about. According to the US Energy Information Administration, at the end of 2013 our nation's electricity was obtained by using the following methods:
  •   Coal 39%
  •   Natural Gas 27%
  •   Nuclear 19%
  •   Hydropower 7%
  •   Other Renewable 6%
  •   Biomass 1.48%
  •   Geothermal 0.41%
  •   Solar 0.23%
  •   Wind 4.13%
  •   Petroleum 1%
  •   Other Gases < 1%
What does all this mean? If we have to reduce our coal production by 1/5 of 39% by the end of 2020, something needs to take up the slack. And that is using today's consumption. Every year our energy consumption goes up. To really compare the total cost of using coal against the cost of solar and wind is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded. Way too many factors involved. However most studies do show this. Right now coal is still our cheapest way to generate electricity, and wind and solar remain high.

So as our energy mix continues to evolve (or as some say, devolve), two things are for sure. The first is that we are all in for higher energy prices. Not just by a little, some areas of the country are going to be in for quite a sticker shock. Heck, we might get back to the days of "brown outs". Next, these avian lethal wind machines are going to continue to take a huge toll on our environment. The next time a "greenie" tells you that wind power is sustainable, tell that person he or she is full of crap.

So buckle up folks. This crisis is being brought to you live and in color by the same crew who also wants to shackle you with a carbon tax on everything you do. Good luck to all of us.