Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Greatest Generation - once again

"The more I learn about this generation, to more in awe I am. Without their sacrifice, our lives today would look much different - and not in a good way."

I don't know why, I but I have thinking quite of bit as of late about the generation before mine. What is commonly known today as the Greatest Generation. Many of us had parents which came out of that generation. I did. My wife did. And that generation had many traits which today are not really that common. I am saying that to offend nobody. But the Greatest Generation was indeed very special. Hardened by the Great Depression, when the call came to defend the world from the Axis war machine, most came running to heed that call.

One of John Kennedy's most famous quotes was to "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I could not think of a better quote to define that generation. They were warriors when the need was to be warriors - and when the time came to beat their swords into plowshares, they excelled at that also. After the war was over, this generation not only rebuilt our country from a war footing to an industrial powerhouse, we helped rebuild our former enemies land also. 

Many of the Greatest Generation ended up working for the newly created NASA. They were the brains behind getting a man into space. But then they also heeded the President's call to have men land on, and return from the Moon. Some went to work for car companies and made Detroit a mecca for American manufacturing and know how. Others went into medicine and grew our bio-tech and medicine industries into the envy of the world. All these things while owning a house, having a car in the driveway, and raising a family. 

Growing up in a house with the Greatest Generation was a gift to me. Not only by the examples they set, but also the stories they told. Their goal for us, the next generation, the Baby Boomers, was to carry on what they handed to us. And I would like to say we excelled in that. But we have not. Not even close. Like the Prodigal Son who squandered the treasure his Father gave him, as have we. We have taken this great country and put it on a course of financial destruction. Of that, I am ashamed. 

The generations which will follow ours, the so called Gen-X and Millennials, have every right to think of my generation as selfish. Rather than the "thinking about thee" generation that our folks came out of, my generation has shown we are all about "thinking about me". And from that, our kids have patterned well. 

My Mom and Dad are no longer here, so I can no longer tell them a simple "thank you". However, in the rare times I meet someone who came from the Greatest Generation, I take the time to greet them, and then to thank them. Often times, it catches them off guard. Thanks for what, they are thinking? In their humbleness, what they did for the next generation was not spectacular, it was just something they did. Things that needed to be done. And they did them so well indeed!   

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Treaty of the Americas

Terror's next target?

"This is the venue many American's like for a relaxing vacation. I know my wife and I sure do."

On the news this morning, was a very unsettling story. It concerned our continuing problem with terror. And not just in this country, but worldwide. For starters, this terror expert said to date (in 2016), there have been 40 terror attacks in the world. 40 terror attacks which have left over 500 people dead.

But the story gets worse. He believes a cruise ship could be the next target. Why? Big and slow, and loaded with tourists. Many of the 40 attacks so far this month have targeted tourists. And tourists are the poster children of "soft targets". Hitting "soft targets" is an easy score for just about any terrorist.

If a cruise ship is hit, it will not be the first time. There has already been a terror attack on a cruise ship. In 1985, the Achille Lauro set sail from Alexandria to Port Said, Egypt. Four Islamic Terrorists took control of the ship shortly after departure. On board was a 69 year old disabled World War II vet named Leon Klinghoffer. Mr. Klinghoffer made an easy target for the terrorists. He was old, he was disabled, and he was a Jewish-American. When the terrorists did not get what they demanded, they shot Leon Klinghoffer in the head and ordered two of the ship's crew to throw him and his wheelchair overboard. 

Even though that happened over 30 years ago, I have never forgotten it. I remember the entire incident just like it was yesterday. It takes a special kind of animal to shoot an older, disabled gentlemen and then throw his body in the ocean. And that is the common thread of most terrorists. They don't care. The more heinous the crime, the better. The higher the body count, the better. And if they have to kill women, children or the disabled, they don't care.

One of my biggest fears with an attack on a cruise ship, or in a port where a cruise ship docks, is this - it will cripple this very important industry. Even if the attack fails and nobody is hurt, the cancellations will come in by the thousands. I know this, the cruise lines know this, and don't think for a minute the terrorists don't know it.

My hope is our government is way on top of cruise ship safety. Just like with our airliner safety. We need to keep in mind how terrorists operate. They will hit any target where the opportunity for maximum killing is the best. If it is a restaurant, a church, sporting event, shopping mall, or cruise ship, they will hit where they can. And this will continue until the good people of our world shout "Enough!" When that happens, the War on Terror will be won. It will be won because people will not tolerate it anymore. And we will end by any means necessary.    

Our worst nightmare

"Even though I believe it would never happen, if she did become President, things could easily go from bad to worse."

I have been thinking quite a bit about this as of late. About the upcoming election. On who would be good for the country, who would be not so good, and who would be out and out terrible. The conclusion I have come to a long time ago, which had only become stronger in the past few weeks, is Hillary Clinton would be a nightmare President. Worse than Donald Trump. Worse than Bernie Sanders. Yes, even worse than Barack Obama.

And I say this for many reasons, but one reason stands out beyond all the rest. By now, more and more people are realizing this improper and illegal storing of highly classified e-mails on Hillary's personal server should land her in hot water with the law. Let me back up - should have landed her in hot water with the law quite a while ago. And yet here she is, walking around a free women, vying for the number one job in the land.

Even though I have predicted for over a year now that she will not be around in November, let's suppose just for a minute that she was. And she won the general election. And she was sworn in as our next President next January. For a large chunk of the population, President Clinton would have no standing as President. None what so ever. She would have the number one law enforcement person working for her on her cabinet, and yet Hillary herself would be a felon who escaped prosecution. Escaped prosecution by the corrupt government she came out of.

As Commander-in-Chief, she would not engender any love from the troops. She would be thought of as the person who left her ambassador and three others to die all alone. And, due to the same corrupt government, she did not have to answer for that one either. She would be considered a liar and a cheat - just like her husband. And - an opportunist of the highest order.

We can only hope that Hillary is indicted sooner rather than later. I know, I know. The smart money thinks Hillary's exit would bring Smokin' Joe into the race. He may be an idiot, but at least he is not (we don't think that is), a crook. As for me, I will work with my Congressman and also (with teeth gritted) both my statist Senators. I will implore them as my representatives to contact the AG to indict Hillary. And soon.

President Clinton. That really does send chills up my spine. Having her molesting husband once again roam the halls of the White House does not give me solace either. Voting counts people. Our votes count. We need to make sure this nightmare never happens.  

Friday, January 29, 2016

Another view of Wall Street

"It seems there is always and upside and a downside to the market. The upside of higher profits sometimes come at a downside to those on the bottom." 

The corner of Broad and Wall. Where the action is. Not so much for the little guy, but for the not so little guy - you betcha. And why is that? Why does there seem to be such a disconnect these days between Wall Street and Main Street? As Bob Dylan said, "the answer my friend is blowing in the wind". Or, the answer might be found in basic Business 101.

The stock market is up today. The Dow is up over 300 points. I heard on a business show while in the car this afternoon it is primarily due to strong earnings. And that is a good thing. That means many companies today are still being managed well. With an eye on the bottom line. Beat the street as they say. Keep the margins up and the sales growing. 

So if sales are somewhat flat in a down economy, what can a CFO do to squeeze more profit out of the existing sales? Cut costs for a starter. Think of ways to boost efficiency. Do more with less. And sometimes that "less" comes down to doing with less people. And to do that, the ones who remain with the company are expected to pick up the slack from the ones who have been let go. Most of the time that means to work smarter and/or longer. 

The last company I worked for was a wakeup call to me. Like how much things have changed. I was used to somewhat of an "on ramp" after the first day of employment. Starting at the shallow end of the pool until one understood the policies, procedures and skills required to do the job. With this company, it was a 1/2 day of indoctrination and then when I got to my new desk, the in basket needed immediate attention. It was assumed I started from day one with all the skills and know-how needed to do the job as assigned. As a friend of mine told me who also works for a large corporation, "The days of hiring driftwood are over."

Now that I am retired, I have to rely on what I hear from folks still in the workplace as well as what I read on the internet. If a good job is lost due to restructuring, a RIF, or whatever, the job the next job that person finds will probably not be the same in pay and/or benefits. That does not happen all the time, but these days it does happen much too frequently.

For example, average take home pay has stayed somewhat static for a long time. In fact, according to Pew Research, real take home pay (when adjusted for inflation), has barely moved for five decades!

Or to put in another way, according to Moyers and Company, the median household income in 2012 was around $51,000. That was pretty much the same as it was in 1989! The big gains on Wall Street seemed to have passed right over the average family. Someone is getting rich, but it sure ain't them!

So if you have lots of dough in the right stock accounts, pop the corks! Today was a good day on the Street! However for the working stiff, it is just Friday. Friday with a well needed weekend coming up. Time to pop the six pack.

The wounding of Wounded Warriors

"This charity is capable of doing so much good. However, like many large charities, the opportunity for mismanagement is also there."

First a bit of disclosure. My wife and I contribute to the Wounded Warrior Project. We have for years. Not a huge amount, but we are sustaining members of the Project. I believe they do very good work for veterans in need. I also believe however, there is some house cleaning which needs to be done. And soon.

The Wounded Warriors Project is legit. It is a 501(c)(3) registered charity. It has a federal ID number. And it has great media. Its ad campaigns can often rip the heart out of your chest they are done so well. And they are expensive. So much so, that the cost of media and administration for Wounded Warrior Project is 40%. That is outrageously high for any charity.

Last night Bill O'Reilly talked about the dust up over the Wounded Warrior Project. He is a big time supporter. He said he went on Charity Navigator and they looked fine. When he said that, you got a rare dose of spin coming out of the No Spin Zone. How do their metrics look in general? Good. In fact, overall they received a score of almost 85%. Accountability and transparency, 96%. However, financials were only slightly over 78%. And that is a problem.

We also donate to the Fisher House Foundation. This is a horse of a different color. What the Fisher House does is offer free or low cost housing to families who need to be by their recovering veteran at a veteran's medical facility. They have 67 facilities and serve over 25,000 families. It is a big load. And with all of that, Charity Navigator has given them a rating of 97%. And 91 cents of every dollar raised goes directly into providing services. Compare that with 60 cents out of every dollar for Wounded Warriors.

Am I going quit giving to the Wounded Warrior Project? Nope. Am I going to write them a letter advising them to get their "poop in a group"? You bet. This is too good of a charity, it services too many vets who really need their help, to drop them. But I want that 40% for administration and media to be cut down to 20% by the end of the year. In the future, I would like to see it coming down to 10 to 15%.

Charity Navigator is a great tool to use. So is e-mail or snail mail in communicating with your charities. If you think you are being duped, drop them like a bad habit. If you think they have just taken a wrong turn, contact them and tell them of your concern. Tell them if they don't course correct shortly, you soon will part company. That is my plan, and I will do it. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We don't have Zip!

"One down and a few more to go. It is only the central planners who think these things are wise or wanted."

Well, it was a ray of sunshine today. A glimmer of hope. Maybe we have not yet gone over the edge in this state. One of the choo-choo trains which make no sense what-so-ever, looks like it just got derailed. Off the tracks. Dead. Too bad, so sad.

Hats off to the folks in Olmsted County. They made their voices heard loud and clear. And why should they care? Well, the tracks would come right trough some of their land. Plus, it was yet another PUBLIC FUNDED choo-choo train we did not need. Anyone who has made the trip from the Twin Cities down to Rochester knows how easy and pleasant of a drive it is. A train was not necessary and not wanted. So it died.

Now it is time to kill the NLX, which is even more of a boondoggle. This totally unneeded train will go from the Twin Cities up to Duluth. And why? Where is the demand? Ah, good question. Here is the blunt answer. If there were not a casino in Hinkley (one of the stops on the route), this train would never have made it past the dreamer stage. Many people that go to Duluth, go there to go other places as well. Duluth is quite often not a destination, but a stop over point to get gas and food, and then travel further on down the road. 

And let's not forget the Twin Cities LRT lines. The SWLRT has had more problems than Carter's has pills. And it still is limping along. The main purpose of building these LRT lines was to alleviate traffic congestion. Has not helped. And the Blue Line Extension, otherwise known as the Bottineau Line will not help either. A billion here, a billion there. Who cares? It is better than building or improving more roads that we all use.

The only train which has a modicum of logic to me is the high speed rail from the Twin Cities to Chicago. And the only reason I say that is I am a veteran of many plane rides to O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Never, and I mean never, a pleasant experience. But this line also has its problems. Upgrading the tracks to handle high speed transit will not be cheap. Other infrastructure improvements. It will be interesting to see if this line can muster the right kind of support to go forward. 

As for now, it is time to celebrate. Zip is dead. Time to gear up for the next battle.    

Is time on our side?

"Unlike the Rolling Stones song 'Time is on my side', these days time really is not. Not even close."

When I was in my thirties, I was always in a rush. Like many that age, I had a lot of irons in the fire. My career, my Navy Reserve job, a young family, a newly built house, and a huge yard. I never had enough time. One of my expressions I would use back then was "time is not my friend". And usually, it was not.

When I got into my forties, I started to make a turn in my life. I tried to get some balance. Some perspective. I needed it, as I could really be a jerk in my thirties. That new perspective continued on into my fifties and then to retirement.

I bring this up for a reason - I am starting to think of time once again the same way I thought of it in my thirties. In other words, time is not my friend. And actually from the standpoint of our country, time is not the friend of any of us. Time is really not on our side right now.

Even thought our President is trying to take a victory lap for all he has done (or done too us) in the past seven years, many things are left undone or are just plain getting worse. For example, many people much smarter than I have written books or articles about the tenuous nature of our electrical grid. Most of us know it is held together with spit and gum. And yet, nothing happens. No improvement, not even plans for improvement. We are living on borrowed time. If our grid goes down, people die. And that could be many thousands or millions of them.

The economy continues to get worse, the War on Terror is going nowhere, and the government grows out of control. More people are poor, many government schools are a mess, and the need to food stamps continues to grow. ObamaCare and MNSure are abject failures. And what is being done? Not much. And I am growing more and more impatient. To fix the problems which need to be fixed, we need leadership who will not just "tinker around the edges". We need true leadership who will dive in with sleeves rolled up. And each day, every day, we wait. And the clock continues to tick. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

It has been said we get the government we deserve. True. We also get the leaders we deserve. Seven years ago we elected a guy with a paper thin resume who did not have a clue on how to do the job. And he messed it up. To punish him for his failure, we re-elected him. Go figure. 

This November, we will once again have the chance to elect people who can make a difference. Who can move the ball down the field? Who can truly get this nation back on track? We don't have time for another mistake. The clock is ticking. We are running out of time. And I am afraid that time is no longer on our side.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fifty Shades of "Meh"

"You have got to be kidding me. This is the most important thing to talk about? If Donald is afraid of Megyn or vise versa? Good flipping grief!"

I think I am going to throw up in my mouth. I truly am very sick of this crap. In this election cycle, and I don't care if it is Democrats or Republicans, we are talking about everything except what is important. The candidates have become very good at telling us what is wrong with every other candidate. What I am not hearing, is a clarion voice telling us what they are for. How they will fix the problems we have. I mean, really fix them.  

I know. I know. Both Bernie and Hillary have promised trillions to do this or that. Free stuff - whoopee! The only problem is this - the Executive Branch has no money to do anything. If Congress does not agree and think these expenditures are important, they will never happen. Never, ever, ever. So all these promises are just hot air.

What I would like to hear in some detail is how the debt is going to be managed. If the Fed is going to be audited. And if not, why not. If we are going to change our dollar into a gold or silver backed currency. How we are going to start to balance our trade with China. How we are going to fix our electrical grid to make it both smart and robust. How we are going to really and forever, defeat Islamic Terrorism worldwide. How we are going to change our tax system from the confiscatory weapon it is today, to either a flat or fair system.

How about the Chinese Navy? The Russian incursions? The Iranian nuclear program? The North Koreans trying to get a hydrogen bomb finished? Oh my - there is quite a bit going on in the world these days. And we need someone who is the anti-Obama. In other words, not a spectator or a bystander. Yes, we need a world leader. A real leader. 

But all we are hearing about is how Jeb is too low energy, how Marco misses too many Senate votes, how Ted has too many enemies, and Donald is just too much Donald. Blah, blah, blah. 

Then you wonder why Gen X and Millennials tune out. Why they don't care. Why broken things never get fixed, only worse. Why their battle cry is often "meh". Is there not one candidate out there who can lead us? Who has a real plan? Who can bring the country together rather than push us further apart? Anyone? Or do we need someone else who is not currently a candidate? I don't know. All I know is I am looking forward to Thursday's debate as much as I look forward to getting my teeth cleaned.

Well onward and upward. I was asked the other day who I really liked for President. I said there are a few who have promise, but none have the leadership I am looking for. We need someone who will save the day. Really save the day. Someone who for many of us, will turn the "meh" into WOW! That is what I am talking about.

Caucus Countdown

"Caucus night like the roots of our grassroots. It is the bottom floor of representative democracy."

The caucus is coming! The caucus is coming! No, I am not talking about the Iowa caucus, although this is coming also. I am talking about OUR caucus night. Super Tuesday! March 1st. And tickets are available. Just kidding - there are no tickets other than your address. And admission is free. The big benefit of coming is it allows everyone to have a VOICE is the process! However, if you decide to skip the caucus, you really lose any credibility to complain if you don't like how things turn out after election night.

Besides being important, it is also kind of fun. There is energy in the crowd. And an added plus is this - even though I have lived here for over 31 years, two years ago I had the chance to meet some folks I had not met before. It really is a meet and greet as well as being part of our election process! 

If you have never been to a caucus, I strongly encourage you to come this year. If you don't know which precinct you are in, there are many ways to find out. You can call your city hall, or go on the Secretary of State web site. Or many of the political websites have shortcuts which can tell you not only your precinct, but house district, senate district, congressional district and so on.

During the caucus event, there will be straw votes cast for candidates. And this year, the vote on March 1st will be binding. In addition, there will be voting who will be delegates or alternates to the local BPOU (senate district) endorsing convention. This is a short cycle this year, so the endorsing convention will take place shortly after the caucus - usually on a Saturday. At the BPOU endorsing convention, delegates and alternates will be voted on to represent the BPOU at the congressional district and state endorsing convention. Like I said, this year the time table is compressed so much has to happen between the March 1st caucus night and the May State Convention.

What to do? In the month leading up to the caucus, become as informed as possible. First off, if you don't know already, learn who your current representatives are. They work for your, so knowing who they are is very important. And it is not just your congressman or senators at the federal level. Know your representative and senators at the state level. Also, know which school district you are in and who your representative is. Which district in the county you are in and who your county commissioner is.

This is it folks. This is a presidential year. The stakes could not be higher. This is a party in which all are invited. Join the fun. Join the process. The countdown has now begun in earnest.     

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Zika and RSV

"Great. Another disease we can catch from a mosquito bite. As if we can't catch enough things right now from a simple bite."

What do the Zika Virus and the RSV disease have in common? Not much. Except a bit over a month ago, I had not heard of either. And now, I am very familiar with RSV and hearing more about the Zika Virus almost every day. And both are very scary.

First RSV. It is a respiratory disease which has been around for a while. However, very few people have heard of it. I know I never have. My grandson contacted it at his daycare earlier this month. Out of 18 infants and babies at the daycare, 8 caught it. One case turned into pneumonia. And many young ones who catch it end up in the hospital.

It is not just for infants. My grandson infected my son-in-law. Yes, adults can get it also. It acts like a bad chest cold which takes what seems like forever to get rid of. For young ones however, it is very serious. Due to the small nature of their breathing tubes and lungs, it can quickly turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. My grandson is over it now, but for a while it was touch and go if we were going to have to take him to the hospital.

The Zika Virus is a different story. Again, it has been around since 1940. Started in Africa. And the primary transmission agent is our friendly little "state bird" - the mosquito. And for pregnant women, it can be very serious for the fetus. It can cause microcephaly, which is a disease which can cause a baby to be born with a smaller than average brain. For adults, about 1 in 5 who are bit will get sick, but usually not sick enough to die. It really is a disease which targets pregnant women.

Like every other disease which starts someplace else, it is finding its way here. It is coming up from the south. Or with folks who have been to affected countries. A bit of disclosure - my wife and I just returned from an infected country. It is so bad now in one Central American country, the government is asking people to forgo having children for two years.

I am just hoping the CDC can find a vaccine for Zika sooner rather than later. Then I am hoping nothing else pops up this year. Or next year. Or the year after. We have quite enough to worry about right now, thank you.


The Rise and Fall of the USDE

"I have never talked to anyone who can explain the value add of this organization. Not one person."

This issue is once again starting to raise its ugly head. It is one of the organizations many conservatives love to hate. It was on Ronald Reagan's hit list. He wanted it gone. It was a waste of space - a bigger waste of taxpayer money. It is what the insiders refer to as USDE. The rest of us call it the Federal Department of Education.

From 1953 to 1979, federal education matters were dealt within the Department of Health Education and Welfare. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter thought education was so important to be handled at the federal level, he created a new cabinet position just for education. And it is still here today. With over 5,000 employees and an annual budget of over $70,000,000,000, one might ask what they do all day. I know I have asked that question many times. 

At our last BPOU meeting, a local superintendent and his board chair were there to ask our congressman a question about special education funding. And since my wife was involved with special education for over 35 years, I know a bit about this subject. It seems the costs for special education is eating away at the district budget. Why? For one reason, federal statutory requirements are not followed by enough federal money to pay for them. It is ye old unfunded (or underfunded) mandate issue once again.

Under the IDEA law of 1975, the Federal Government was supposed to contribute up to 40% of the needed funding. The states and the local districts were to pick up the rest. Unfortunately, many school districts have forgotten the "up to" part of the 40%. In fact, federal funding has not even come close to the 40%. The states and districts were left with expensive mandates and scarce funding to handle them.

Now I am not here to bash special education. My purpose is to show what happens when you have three layers of control over the education of our youth. First there are the mandates (many of them statutory) which come from the USDE. Then, many states also have a state Department of Education. Finally, there is the local school district. Trying to keep the statutory, regulatory, and procedures clear and untangled can drive just about anyone to the liquor cabinet. And because of it, special education alone has become a paperwork nightmare.

It is long past time the USDE needs to go. Enough. Finish. There is no need for this level of bureaucratic control. The states can handle it, thank you. I remember getting into an interesting conversation not too long ago with a friend. The topic was which department was more worthless, education or energy? We finally agreed it was a tie and they both needed to go.

As the old saying goes, "the longest journey starts with the smallest step". To put our federal genie back in the bottle, we should start with the USDE. It is small, but a good start. Then we can focus on the Department of Energy. After that, we will be getting someplace.   

Monday, January 25, 2016

Is the X-Files really out there?

"This may not be the best sci fi show ever made, but in my book it is in the top 10 or so..."

As I have said before, I am hooked on sci fi. Head over heels hooked. And one of my favorite shows is the X-Files. I was bummed when it went off the air. Although I did enjoy Fringe in the interim. And now we have the X-Files coming back after all these years. And it is bigger and better. And this six part mini-series might be tying to wrap up some loose ends.

That being said, I am really going to try and not be a spoiler. I saw the episode last night, and I will see the one tonight. One of the themes is having clandestine space craft which operate on zero point energy. Try bringing that one up in high school physics! I have heard that term in many sci fi shows or movies I have seen. Usually it is used with other quantum physics terms like worm hole, inter-dimensional, or whatever. It is way above my pay grade to say the least.

I did some research on what the heck this zero point energy is. If it does exist (as many think it might), it would really change everything. Without getting into the details, as they are way, way over my head. It is energy from everywhere. Some think that deep space is teeming with it. It might be abundant, cheap and powerful. That is, if it exists at all. But the point being is this - for one hour every week, we can watch a show like the X-Files and believe it does. 

How does this all end? I don't know. I guess I will have to stay tuned. I do know this - the X-Files has caused many of us to think and wonder. Chris Carter (not the Vikings football player) has created a wonderful show for us nerds. Worm holes, time travel, inter-dimensional travel, dark matter, zero point energy - all these things are possible in the world of sci fi television.

Have to go. The next episode will be on soon. And maybe we will find out if the truth is out there.


The Article One Issue

"Whose fault is it that we have not governed in accordance with the Constitution? Basically, all of us."

Last week I had the opportunity to spend time with my Congressman - twice. And it was time well spent. He talked about some of the nuances with the "changing of the guard" in Washington. In particular, the Speaker of the House position. How the former Speaker told the nation before he left, he was going to "clean out the barn". And he did. But the pile of garbage and manure which was swept out was left sitting in front of the barn door. With few viable options to choose from, the incoming Speaker had to champion a horrible bill. An omnibus type of bill to take care of all those "loose ends".

When the vote came, Congressman Emmer did not vote for it. That being said, there were some things within the bill which were good. However, there also were things which were not good. For example, the GFY 2016 Funding Bill is very expensive. So much so, next year's deficit is going to start climbing again. And mostly because of the unsustainability of the spending within the bill, Congressman Emmer could not endorse nor vote for it.

Many in Congress, including Congressman Emmer are looking forward. The barn is now truly cleaned out, and it is time to move on. This year, a very important issue to Congressman Emmer as well as some others within Congress is getting back to governance in accordance with the Constitution. And a wonderful place to start is Article One. Article One of the Constitution defines the duties and responsibilities of the Congress. All duties, including the power of the purse.

Congress has been remiss on this issue for not just years, but decades. And with many different Presidents. Regardless of political party. And over the years, the table was being set for the absolute abuse of power we have right now. And who is to blame? The President? Yes, he should know better. The Congress? Yes, they should know better also. Us, the voters? Absolutely. We have not held elected representatives accountable for not governing in accordance with the Constitution. 

Regardless of what the press has told us, the Tea Party is not dead. The folks who love our Constitution are not asleep. Patriots in great numbers still live in "fly over land" as well as both coasts. It is time to put the beast back on a leash. The tail has been wagging the dog for much too long. Our Bill of Rights, our Constitution, all our founding documents need to be held sacrosanct once again. 

Going forward into 2016, we need to be concerned with both our governance as well as this being an election year. We need to trust who we think can be trusted, and then verify everyone's actions and votes. We can take nothing for granted. Each and every vote, each and every bill, needs to have the Constitution at its core. We need to elect people to ensure that happens. And to do so, we need to be watchdogs, we need to be sheepdogs. 

When Russia decided to practice Perestroika, they did so for a reason. We should also do it (to a degree). A fundamental premise of Perestroika was to get rid the state of central planning. We need to get rid of our central planning in Washington. In other words, we need to put the power back in the people's hands. And we do that by recognizing and edifying the power vested in the House of Representatives - truly, the people's house.

Article One of the Constitution. A great ice breaker when candidates come knocking at your door this summer. If they have no idea what you are talking about, wish them a nice day and shut the door. The time is too short for us to screw around with pretenders.   

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The high price of a lousy education

"It remains a mess after all these years. Not forever however - when I was a youth the Minneapolis school district was respected for its results."

This has not been a "red letter" year for the City of Minneapolis. In particular, it is how they educate the young. They really do seem to stumble all over themselves in doing so. And badly. And it is money not well spent. Actually money (our tax money) wasted. How much does it cost to educate a youth in the City of Minneapolis every year? It is somewhere between $14,000 and $21,000. All depends on who you ask.

Well, the fact we spend more educating youth in Minneapolis than any other city in the state (other than maybe St. Paul), is only part of the problem. The graduation rates in some of the high schools is abysmal. In fact there was an article in the hometown newspaper (October 2015) which stated less than 50% of all students in Minneapolis graduate from high school. Couple that with the fact that Minneapolis has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country, and you have an education system similar to ObamaCare. Remember? Pay more, get less.

It is so bad, even the school board is hosed up. It recently decided to expand from 9 members to 12. All that has done is made governance go from hard to almost impossible. To top matters off, the Superintendent position remains open. The Board had a flawed candidate in who some thought was going to be a shoe in. After some things from his past were discovered, he was tossed aside. When they tried to vote the Interim Superintendent in, a protest broke out at the board meeting. All this dysfunction proved to be too much for the Interim Superintendent. He withdrew from the race. That leaves this messy school board (and district) with nothing. 

So let's get back to the bottom line. Who are the real losers here? The kids in that district. They have become "throw away kids". Discards. And nobody really seems to care. The only thing the district can do to "fix" the problem is to continue to "dumb down" standards. Net result - the 50% of the kids who do graduate from high school are not ready for college nor the work place. The high school diploma becomes no more than fire starter or fish wrap. 

By the way. These results in Minneapolis in no way denotes these kids are stupid. They are not. They are just as bright as kids from any other district. Some private or charter schools in the district have shown extraordinary results. From kids that come from all levels of income. From kids from different cultures. From different races. There is nothing wrong with the ability to learn in these kids. There is a lot wrong with how they are taught.

Going forward we will no doubt hear the familiar cry going up the Minneapolis School District. "MORE MONEY!" Yes, they will want the taxpayers to pour good money on top of bad. Rather than fix the meat of the problem, they will continue to try and mask it with more funding. And the kids will continue to fail. And this underclass of under educated people will continue to grow in Minneapolis.

When you hear that elections have consequences, remember this. Not just on a national level, not just on a state level, but down to the local level. And that includes the school board. If you elect unqualified statists rather that fixers, this is result you get. And it is a problem which Minneapolis does not need nor deserve.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Breaching the Karman Line

"Watching the films of both times this very innovative rocket has crossed the Karman Line and returned leaves me with nothing short of wonderment"

If you are a space nerd, yesterday was a huge day. And I repeat, only if you are a space nerd. I have been one of sorts ever since I was a boy. Growing up by the border of Robbinsdale and Minneapolis gave me the opportunity to have a neighbor who taught astronomy at the University of Minnesota. And in his back yard, he built a huge telescope. Yes, with city lights and everything, he built and used this monster telescope. And on occasion, he would invite this young boy (me) to come over and join him to view wonderful things in the heavens. 

If the professor, my old neighbor was still with us, I know he would have thought what happened yesterday to be amazing. Thanks to Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, we are now developing reusable rockets to go into space and back again. Yesterday, Jeff Bezo's rocket, the Blue Origin, made it past the Karman Line and safely back again - for the second time!

First a refresher for some who have never heard of the Karman Line. It is the altitude which is universally accepted as the point where you leave Earth's atmosphere and reach outer space. That point was discovered and named after a Hungarian-American physicist named Theodore von Karman a long time ago. And it is way up there. About 62 miles. 

The Blue Origin made it up to a bit over 333,000 feet yesterday. That is enough to cross the Karman Line. Then it returned safely. For the second time. Some might say "So what?" The "so what" to this accomplishment is developing reusable rockets will really put outer space right next door, rather than "out there" someplace. It will usher in a whole new dimension of space travel. The Karman Line, rather than being an obstacle, will just be another way point in our travels.

So even though Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have competing designs for basically the same concept, there will be no losers. In fact, we all win. Yes, there will be some failures. But every time there is a failure, we will learn something. And as time goes on, the successes will far outnumber the failures.

Even though these successful launches and returns will not get the press they should get, the nerd in me will probably follow them. Besides the technology, what I find exciting are the two men who are driving this technology. They are modern day Captains of Industry. Hard driving, aggressive, and results oriented. They will make this next step in space happen. And fast.

So buckle up fellow space nerds. The future is right around the corner. And it is going to be quite a ride!  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Donald vs. Bernie

"Who would have thunk it? It is almost like living in an alternate universe!"

Earlier this week some pundit on a cable show said something very profound. At least, I thought so. The pundit said "Could you imagine a year ago, discussing the real possibility this presidential election coming down to a race between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders?" After he said that, I thought for a minute. If you took that to Vegas a year ago, they would have given you very long odds.

But here we are. Love him or hate him, it is starting to look more and more likely that Donald Trump is going to take Iowa and New Hampshire. And he might take South Carolina also. Plus, don't look for "The Donald" to self-destruct. If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now. And after the (as Rush has named it) the "Hawk eye, Caulk eye" event, look for a serious "culling" of the herd. 

I have mentioned in the past that I am not on the Trump band wagon. That being said, I stand ready to support him should he be the "last man standing". The one thing I find attractive about Donald Trump is this - he finds losing to be intolerable. Some of the candidates the Republicans have fielded in the past have acted like "they were just taking their turn." If they lost, they lost. Not a lot of fire in the belly. Trump on the other hand, has a ton of fire in his belly. 

On the other ticket, Bernie is looking better and better all the time. That is except for one thing. He will never be elected. He is a Socialist. This country won't tolerate it. Or putting it differently, he will get creamed in the general election. And the DNC knows it. And they are in a panic mode. If Hillary goes down due to scandal, then what? Al Gore? Joe Biden? Elizabeth Warren? Who? If nobody steps forward, it will be Bernie.

Now I will parrot a thought which has been mentioned by many who are much smarter than I. What we are seeing this year is a rejection of status quo. By both parties. Neither party wants a dynasty. Not another Clinton and not another Bush. No more career politicians (even though Bernie has been in the House or Senate for two decades). And I will repeat something from before - Trump is the anti-Obama.

So the impossible might happen. The race might settle into Donald vs. Bernie. And then in January 2017 we would have President Trump. How would that be for the country. I don't know - but I think it would be quite a ride.

Above Top Secret

"What Hillary Clinton did in how she cavalierly handled Top Secret and above material is not short of criminal. She really does need to serve time for this one."

Back in the day when I was in the Navy, I had a high level clearance. There were a few specialties within the service which required one. Once I agreed to go through the anal exam of getting this clearance, it took almost a year for the government to vet me. Once I received it, I had this clearance for the rest of the time I was in the Navy, right up until retirement.

Anyone who has ever had a clearance will tell you this - there are puts and takes to having one. First off, it is an incredible honor that the nation trusts you enough to handle some of its most sensitive information. I never lost focus on that honor. However, there are many restrictions on what you could do and where you could go (like certain countries). Also, should you mishandle classified material either on purpose or by accident, the government was willing and ready to throw the book at you. The fines and prison time for failure to comply with classified material safeguarding were (and still are), enormous.

It has recently been discovered Hillary Clinton stored sensitive information on her personal server. Information going all the way up to "above top secret". First a point of clarity - "above top secret" is just jargon. There is no such term. Top Secret is the highest classification we have. There are degrees of Top Secret which will "compartmentalize" information. And those degrees of compartmentalization require an even more specialized clearance.

A legal expert on a cable show said something very interesting earlier in the week. United States law is very clear on the safeguarding of classified information. The higher the classification, the more severe the penalty for mishandling it. Hillary broke the law. In spades. So much so, she will probably need to do some kind of a "perp walk". And she WILL NEVER be allowed to have any type of government clearance again.

The legal expert went on to say this is a pivotal moment for the FBI and Justice Department. If they turn the other cheek, turn a blind eye and ignore it, they will never be taken serious again. They will never been taken serious as the keeper and defender of our laws. They will only be thought of as corrupt organizations. Just like the IRS currently is.

Hillary is dirty on many things. Her past is catching up with her, and fast. For the sake of this country, she needs to suspend her campaign and make herself available to the FBI for questioning. She does not have a good excuse for what she did - other than thinking she was above the rules the "little people" need to follow.

This grievous error will follow her the rest of her life. In the unlikely event she ever did become President, she would have no legal standing. Plus she could never have a Presidential Clearance. She is forever tainted. Flawed. She is done in government.

This story has long legs on it. It is not going away. The longer she hangs around, the more is going to be discovered. Time to go Hillary. Your fifteen minutes of fame ended a very long time ago.   

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our Cuba Dilemma

"It is geographically part of North America. Culturally, it is part of Latin America. It is a land which has much to offer in trade and tourism." 

The other day there was an article in the newspaper about our Congressman. That he was somewhat at odds with his Party in how he felt about normalizing relations with Cuba. I read the article with a bit of bemusement. As a former Cold Warrior, I fully understand the history of Cuba since the Communist Revolution. But we are long past the time just to move on. Throw what has happened in the bone yard of history.

Earlier this week, I was at an event with our Congressman. I told him face to face that I stand with him on the issue of normalizing relations with Cuba. I told him here we are, dancing with an evil regime like Iran, in bed with Communist China on just about every aspect of trade, and yet some of us are still worried about Cuba? This country has been suffering under the rule of the Castro Brothers for decades. They are ripe for democracy. They are ripe for trade. For a change. And they are ripe for our friendship.

Last November on our way down to Aruba, we had to alter our course due to a developing storm. We had to skirt the coast of Cuba. I was amazed on how big that country is. It seemed like it took forever to get from one end to the other. And considering this huge island is only 90 miles away from the United States, we should be acting like BFFs. 

Many who have had a chance to travel to the Caribbean, South America or Central America have learned something about the people who live there. They are colorful, they are nice, they are happy, and for the most part, they like us. I would expect the same to be true of the people in Cuba. We have patched up old wounds with Viet Nam and are now visiting and trading with them. And we had a hot war with them - not a cold war like we had with Cuba. And just like Cuba, Viet Nam is a communist state.

I have joked that someday I would like to legally sit in my back yard and smoke a Cuban cigar. Okay, not a joke - I would like to do that. But more than that, I would like to see this relationship fixed. I think through our embargo, we have punished these poor people enough. The leaders (who we should have been punishing) are doing fine. The people are not. As I have said, I think these folks are ripe for democracy. Just like Nicaragua was before they threw out the Sandinista government.

So bravo to Congressman Emmer for being clear headed and bold on this decision. Normalizing relations is the right thing to do. It is right for Cuba, and it is right for us. Let's do this sooner rather than later.