Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Playing poker with a lousy hand

"We missed a golden, and I mean golden, opportunity prior to session. For a change, we could have used the media for us rather than against us."

In all my years as a professional negotiator, I was always amused by what some people thought I did. Many thought that a professional negotiator was no more than a poker player. Who ever was the best bluffer, the best liar, would often best the others at the table. If fact, one year when I took my oldest daughter to work on a "Take your daughter to work day", she got bored very quickly. Finally she could take it no longer. Being very bored, she looked at me and said, "Could you please negotiate something?" She was looking for fireworks.

Here is the plain truth. Is there some slight of hand and craftiness in negotiation? Some, but not much. In fact, very little. It is painstaking detail work. Know more about the case of the person on the other side of the table than he or she knows about yours. And trust me, for a good negotiator, it does not take long before if become evident (sometimes painfully) the strength of the other person's hand. In other words, it is not a game of liar's poker. A weak case is soon discovered and you will get taken to the cleaners.

I have been thinking quite a bit the past couple of days on how I would handle the Speaker's job. Ouch. I really hate to get into the coulda, woulda, shoulda - but I will anyhow. We missed a golden, and I mean golden, opportunity prior to session. For a change, we could have used the media for us rather than against us. The absolute best, handed to us on a platter, issue is the Social Security fix. And that is followed closely by the veteran's retirement fix.

The Social Security fix is not Republican, nor partisan. It is a demographic issue. It affects just about everyone. If it is you, your parents, or your grandparents. It is so patently unfair, that 43 out of the 50 states have remedied it either completely or partially.

MNGOP should have bought tons of media time and blanketed the airwaves with the FACTS on how this unfair tax disadvantages people in this state. How it is forcing seniors to move elsewhere, leaving loved ones behind. I mean, I don't know spit about putting an ad together. However, if I did, I would have made not only a doozy, but also a tear jerker.

But we didn't. And now the special session might be looming. So, what is our leverage? Beats me. Going along with the Governor? Giving him his choo-choo? If they did, then maybe, just maybe, can we keep the House? Take the Senate? I will be amazed if we take the Senate. And if we don't get our poop in a group over the next two years, Tina the PP Queen, will our next Governor. 

In summary, we might be going into the final hand of this very important poker game holding no wild cards, no face cards, and no pairs. In fact, our hand is so weak that not only Houdini could pull a rabbit out of this hat. So good luck Mr. Speaker. If you can fix this mess, I will be way beyond impressed. And greatly relieved. 

What will June hold for us?

"One of my ex-patriot friends keeps telling me not to bother - the state is lost. More and more, I am starting to think he might be right."

In less than 24 hours, my second most favorite month will be upon us. Second? Why not first? It is a close call in my book, but May usually takes the trophy for first place. And May was a stellar month for weather (again). Not so much for Minnesota politics, but more on that soon. May was a time of planting, grilling, being a conventioneer, making new friends and visiting with some old ones. 

Okay - so there is a fly in the ointment. The legislative session. Ten weeks of work and not a heck of a lot to show for it. In fact, some of both sides of the fence are thinking it might have been a classic fail. And the Governor sure is not happy about it. Many of his pet rocks were left unattended to. So now he has a tough choice. Call a special session (as only he can do it), or try and let the Republicans "twist in the wind" before the election. 

I am starting to think these blitzkrieg legislative sessions are antithetical to our single subject rule. We end up every session at 5 minutes to midnight with a bill so convoluted, so full of garbage, few are happy with it. PLUS (and this is a big one), omnibus bills violate our state constitution. Promises from the last session on what to take care of first in the following session are as flimsy as tissue paper. Name calling, arguing, posturing - you get the picture.

In the closing frantic moments, thirty some million of tax relief for smokers got into the tax bill. Not the retired veterans exclusion however - I guess that is somewhere in the spending bill. Many on the DFL are madder than hornets that this highly targeted DFL tax bill ended up with a plus up for those "selfish smokers". And somehow, the Republicans are being blamed for it. In fact, many on the Left want the Governor to veto the tax bill because of it. Me? I want him to veto the bill because the Social Security fix is not included.

There is no doubt in my former military mind that we will get a special session in early June. And ready for this whopper? I also predict the Republicans will get round heels and authorize the $135M for SWLRT. Why? The Governor will not allow the bonding bill to go forward unless that is included. AND, there are way, way too many projects state wide which are in the "ready to go" condition. Anoka Country all by itself, has a bunch of critical projects. 

Now I am not a politician. Never held any office. But I do understand the basic constructs of negotiation. At the very start of the process, the Governor should have told the Speaker the SWLRT was his "must have". The Speaker could have then have responded by saying that the Social Security fix was his "must have". Now because we seem to have lost all leverage, we are likely to get the SWLRT with NO Social Security fix. The special session will just be the last chapter in a very sad legislative book this year.

So Governor, call the session. Get it over with. Republicans, come home, lick your wounds, and get ready to face a very angry electorate. One of my ex-patriot friends keeps telling me not to bother fighting - the state is lost. More and more, I am starting to think he might be right.   

Monday, May 30, 2016

A day of peace in a world of war

"I also believe the fallen really only ask one thing of us. Just to remember."

This morning dawned fresh and bright. A strange quiet hung over the neighborhood. Slowly, our house started to wake up. Today is Memorial Day. A day of quiet remembrance. It is a day to reflect, to pause, to remember. Tomorrow will be here before we know it - and then it is back to reality once again. How dangerous this world has become. How we will need to continue to send young men and women into harm's way.

It is a strange call that many heed. This call for freedom. How important it is. And how fragile it is. It has been said many times the world is always one generation away from tyranny. We have seen it many times where a country loses control of its government. And then there is trouble. First the citizens become subjugated to the corrupt government, and then the corruption starts to subjugate neighboring nations. Freedom and liberty are then lost. The world then has yet another tinder box, just waiting to explode into a conflagration. 

America has never been shy to answer the call for help. It has been said that America is not just a country - it is an idea. An idea which has been shared with the world. America is what freedom and liberty are supposed to look like. And this idea, America, has in the past, is now, and will in the future, willing to share it's sons and daughters. Share them to go to lands far away and fight for freedom. To help people who look different than us, talk different than us. To help them experience the greatest gift of all - freedom.

It has also been said that freedom is not free. Not even close. But there is something about this thing called freedom. How it can be so important, so vital that many young people follow the call to defend it. They have left home, joined the armed forces, and gone into places which were often hot, squalid and very dangerous. And they do so willingly. Sadly, some have died doing so. Died in a foreign country, away from family and home.

It is for these brave souls we dip our flags today. We honor them today. We remember them today. Their sacrifice was not in vain.

For those who want to go to the cabin, on a picnic, or take a walk on a beautiful spring day, please go ahead. I would imagine each and every person who died defending freedom would want us to do that. For we are living the American dream. Our dream. The dream worth fighting for. And yes, sometimes worth dying for. 

I also believe the fallen really only ask one thing of us. Just to remember. For a just short while on this three day weekend. Remember them and what they did. What they died for. Our freedom. For freedom is truly not free. And many have paid that cost with the ultimate price.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Unwelcomed

"On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember the fallen. Not just during the Viet Nam conflict, but all wars we have been in."

Ralph was sitting on the MAC flight, somewhat numb. The day he has been waiting for, the day which was marked in red on his "short time" calendar, had finally arrived. It was a day he never, ever thought he would see. It had been twelve months since he had first arrived in Viet Nam as a scared kid from Minnesota. He was now returning home as something much different than he was when he left.

Ralph graduated from high school in 1967. The war was on the news each and every night. Walter Cronkite would paint a picture of gloom and doom in this little country a half a globe away. Ralph, like so many of his classmates, grew up in a house where both parents lived through World War II. Some of their fathers even fought in it. So to volunteer for the draft and fight this Communist menace, seemed like the right thing to do. Shortly after graduation, Ralph, along with his good friend Steve, volunteered for the draft.

Somewhere after the refueling stop in Hawaii, Ralph started to drift off to sleep. He was not used to sleeping in total safety. It was somewhat strange for him. His mind drifted off to that place he just left. The person he once was, also was left there. He was changed.

He remembered the terror he often felt at night while being on patrol. He remembered one of the young men (Jamie) in his platoon stepping on a crude land mine which was well hidden by the enemy. He remembered he and his Platoon Sargent trying desperately trying to save Jamie's life. He held Jamie in his arms as he saw the blood, and the life, slowly leave his body. Ralph had never seen death before. And before he came home, he would see it again.

Yes, not only did Ralph see death in his own platoon, he also would became the instrument of death to the enemy. One night when on patrol, a squad of North Vietnamese regulars stumbled on their position. All of a sudden, this quiet evening erupted into a cacophony of noise, gunfire, screams and confusion. Before he knew it, he had one of the enemy right outside his position with bayonet flashing. Suddenly, in the middle of the firefight, Ralph was in hand to hand combat with one of the enemy. 

Ralph was too scared to think about dying. About what this enemy soldier could do to him. Ralph's training from IT school kicked in. His training as a high school wrestler kicked in. Although wounded in the arm by the bayonet, Ralph managed to disarm the enemy. Then it was Ralph who had the weapon. As Ralph thrust the bayonet into the rib cage of this enemy soldier, he looked into his eyes. And as this enemy lay dying next to him with his own bayonet lodged in his chest, a part of Ralph died also. He just killed a man with his own hands. Even though this was war, the sight of this enemy dying right next to him was a sight which would haunt him for years to come.

As the MAC flight touched down at Travis Air Force Base in California, Ralph waited to board a bus which would take him to San Francisco Airport. From there he would board a plane taking him back home to his parents, his life, in Minnesota. Once Ralph arrived at the San Francisco airport, he walked through the concourse to gate check in. 

He was getting ready to pass by some young folks, about the same age as Ralph. Man, it was so nice to see people who were not in combat uniforms. Even though Ralph was still in uniform, none of the civilians were. All of a sudden, he was starting to feel like he really might be home.

As he passed the group of two gals and one guy, Ralph smiled and nodded to them. One of the girls lifted her middle finger and then said the most awful things. She accused Ralph of being everything from a baby killer to war criminal. Her voice was full of contempt, anger and invective. No "welcome home". No "thanks for your service". Just condemnation.

The above story is not real. Or is it. It is truly about the way our returning servicemen were treated during the Viet Nam era. It was shameful the way they were treated. I was called a "pig" as I walked through San Francisco Airport in my dress blues in 1971. Many returning vets at that time have similar stories.

Today, it is not the same. Veterans are treated with the respect they deserve. Most vets do not feel like heroes - serving is just something they do or they did. All they want is when their tour(s) are over, is to come home and be normal. To be treated like everyone else.

On this Memorial Day, we remember the fallen. Not just during the Viet Nam conflict, but all wars we have been in. At one time our returning servicemen were treated as "the unwelcome". Thank God those days are over. To all service men and women, especially my brothers who fought in Viet Nam, welcome home. You may not feel like heroes, but in my book, each and every one of you are a hero to me.       

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Global "Whatever"

"If we had an honest press instead of an agenda driven one, positive stories about how things are always getting better would be printed." 

Another panic piece in the paper this morning. This time about our mainstay agri-crop. That's right - corn. It seems the global warming types firmly believe that our yield per acre of corn is going to be cut significantly by higher temperatures. And not in a long time off - just under 35 years.

I don't think a week goes by without hearing yet another dire prediction. So here is my prediction. Most of this is a bunch of crap. Our air quality is outstanding compared to 100 years ago. Seeing pictures of London and some of our eastern cities from yesteryear show many smoke stacks billowing black soot from burning coal. And there were no scrubbers back then on this chimneys.

I have told this story before. When I was in Tokyo in 1970, the air was so dirty, at the end of the day when I brushed my teeth, there was black on the toothbrush. When I blew my nose, well you know the rest. Since then, Japan has really cleaned up it's act. In fact, most first world countries have. Who has not cleaned up their act? Countries like India, China and Brazil.

The United States continues to lead the way in innovation for manufacturing processes that produce less effluents, or byproducts that contribute to poor air quality. That is just a fact. Being "clean" today is good business. It comes as no surprise to me that India is going through a killer heat wave right now. As far as India has come in the world of IT, they are still almost stone age in some of their manufacturing acumen. I really feel for the people as they suffer through this misery. But they need to demand change - and quickly.

The same goes for China. Rather than focusing on developing a Blue Water Navy for expansionist purposes, they need to focus on how to make their cities more livable. Way, way too many pollution days where people can end up getting very sick just for breathing. Pollution so thick you can barely see one block.

In any event, I see nothing but blue sky opportunities for the bright thinkers in this country. Develop the technologies to clean the air, and then sell that technology to countries like India and China. Everybody wins.

I know what the greenies want. Total solar and wind for energy. All electric cars. People biking and walking in the cities. Everyone living vertical in big cities. Sustainable hogwash I say! Blah, blah, blah. It ain't going to happen. That is not us

Every year however, technology advances will continue to win the day for us. Look at LED light bulbs for example. A tad pricey right now (but the price curve is coming down), they use so little electricity that they are almost "free" to have on. Plus they can last for a couple of decades before they need replacing.

If we had an honest press instead of an agenda driven one, positive stories about how things are constantly getting better would be printed. For example. despite the dire warnings of panic merchant ALGORE, we have not had a hurricane hit our mainland since 2005. The last two years have been EXCELLENT for our corn belt. We have had two bumper crops in a row. 

This morning, everyone is reading something and covered by blankets. It is in the 50's outside. Yesterday, we had another two inches of rain. Things are so green and plush right now in the back yard, it looks like a jungle. That is my news for the day - and it is all good. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

World War II Revisited

"Washington war planners knew it would be the bloodiest battle ever fought. Millions would die."

As Memorial Day approaches, we once again think about all the people who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedom and liberty. This year I started thinking about it even earlier than Memorial Day as our current Commander in Chief is visiting Hiroshima. Many today still think that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about the cruelest thing that mankind could do to itself. My answer to that is maybe not.

I often think about what could have happened in World War II. We were not the only ones tying to develop the bomb. So were the Nazis. Plus, they had the number one rocket scientist in the world - Wernher von Braun. If the Nazis had been successful in developing the bomb before us, it would not have taken much to strap one to a V-2 rocket and then take out London. If that had happened, the allies might have been forced to surrender or face atomic devastation.

In addition, as we proved with the German city of Dresden, we became very good at reducing cities to rubble using only conventional bombing. In 1945 towards the end of the war, United States and British heavy bombers dropped almost 4,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Dresden. Over 25,000 civilians were killed, most probably burned to death. Also in 1945, we did the same thing to Tokyo. The casualty count was even higher in Japan - maybe as high as 130,000 civilians.

Plans had already been drawn up for an Allied invasion of the Japanese homeland. Washington war planners knew it would be the bloodiest battle ever fought. Millions would die. Tokyo would be left in ruins. The war planners also knew that dropping two highly destructive bombs taking on two smaller cities in Japan might break the will of the Japanese government causing them to surrender. Our war planners called this one right.

Today, there really is no animosity between Japan and the United States about using atomic bombs. I think in their hearts they know it brought the war to an end and stopped the misery on all sides. Japan is a staunch ally of ours right now. We trust them, we trade with them. In fact we have sold them state of the art AEGIS ships for their self defense forces. All the former Axis Powers are now close allies of ours. 

War is a terrible business. There really are no real winners other than the last one standing. Considering we did not start World War II, we sure helped end it. The total of dead and wounded from our side was slightly over 1,000,000. Worldwide, World War II took out 3% of the population (at that time) - about 60,000,000 people.

On Monday, I will think of the valor of all of those young men, their lives barely started, going off to a distant shore to fight for this thing called freedom. It is our duty to ensure their great sacrifice, their honor, shall never go forgotten or unrecognized. That to me, is what Memorial Day is all about. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Making Trump Great (maybe again)

"Not only make him winnable, but able to function within the Constitution once he does win. And that is a tall order."

Okay. I have had just about enough. I am not a Ron Paul guy. I am not a Rand Paul guy. I am not a Marco Rubio guy. I was a Ted Cruz guy. The above mentioned are all good men. I chose to be a Ted Cruz guy for many reasons. But Ted could not garner the votes to win the nomination. Nor will he in Cleveland unless he fractures the convention. No, love him or not, this is Donald J. Trump's race to win or lose.

He now has the delegates needed to win. The only chance for an upset is some kind of miracle finish. And that ain't going to happen. Plus the Libertarian Party is not going to be a factor (even though I like Austin "whats his name"). Please don't ask me to defend this post - but it is reality. The race will be between Donald Trump and Hillary (if she is still around, and not in an orange jumpsuit). 

Am I pleased with this outcome? Not really. I would have much preferred Ted Cruz against Hillary or Bernie. I think he would have smoked them both. However, that is not in the cards. Not this time. We are going to have Donald Trump as our nominee. And that is a bitter pill for many.

My wife's cousin, who I greatly respect, thinks I have taken a long walk off a short pier. As both of us are retired Navy, he does not understand how I could support Donald Trump - especially after some of the outrageous this he as said.

My response to him is what I will say now - we need to make Trump better. Not only make him winnable, but able to function within the Constitution once he does win. And that is a tall order.

So we can protest his vote by going either third party or not voting at all. We know how that has worked in the past. When Ross Perot ran as a third party, we got Bill Clinton for eight years. When four million Republicans stayed home in protest of Mitt Romney, we got another four years of Barack Obama. We could do the same protest this year. Vote third party or stay home and have eight more years of oral sex and cigars in the Oval Office.

My advise to my friends on the right is simply this - you know how I felt about Donald Trump. Never been a fan. But he is going to be our guy. There will be no miracle finish for Paul, Rubio or Cruz. This is reality speaking - get behind our guy. If he offended you in the past (trust me, I know), forgive and move forward. 

How do we win? Making Trump better. Making him winnable. If you don't want to help, I understand. However, you will lose your chance to complain if you don't help now. I am still dealing with Horner people that feel bad we have Dayton as our Governor. Go figure. 

Point to point

So why are we wasting air and space taking about this. Heck, we could not even get bus service out here. 

Yesterday, as we were coming home from our myriad of running around chores, we ended up on 101 heading north into Elk River. More and more construction going there on all the time. And when we first started out journey, it was the same on 169 heading south into Brooklyn Park. Large, vast warehousing and small manufacturing. My wife commented to me that it is so nice for these areas, as it brings more employment opportunities. Bingo.

That one comment caused to me to get into some deep thinking once we got home and I was finishing up the grass. I started to wonder what the percentage is of people in the metro area who work in one suburb and live in another. I suspect that number is very high. Maybe sky high. For example, the majority of my career I lived in either Coon Rapids or Andover. I worked at companies in Eagan, Bloomington, or Fridley. My wife worked in East Bethel. My daughter who lives with us right now, works in Elk River. And my son-in-law works in Minnetonka.

Why bring all of this up? Mass transit. In particular, light rail. I suspect that the vast majority of citizens don't stand to gain one inch, not one ounce of benefit from light rail. And it does not stop there. Should I have ever desired to take ANY mass transit ANYWHERE in the 30+ years we have lived in this house, it was not in the cards. I would still have to get into my car and drive to the next city to find a hub.

The bottom line is this. The Governor and the DFL want me to help pay for the SWLRT (as well as others) when they will not do me (and countless others) ANY GOOD WHATSOEVER! So why are we wasting air and space taking about this? Heck, we could not even get bus service out here.

I have a splendid idea. And it is not even original, as I have heard it from a great many people. How about putting more lanes in the current roads we have? You know, the roads that most of use to travel to work? And Met Council, you can take those trains and shove them where the ... never mind.

If our government is supposed to work for us, then let it. I am tired of paying for boon doggles presented to statists by special interest groups. Done with it. Now.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Minnesota Screw

"The majority of veterans are happy to do what they did. Most made peanuts for salary as compared to civilian counterparts." 

There are more than two advantages our neighbor to the east has over us. To quote a very good friend of mine who moved there a couple years ago, "Living is Wisconsin is like getting a raise." That would be funny if it were not so sad for the rest of us who are still here trying to make this state work. As I have said in the past, Wisconsin does NOT tax ANY part of Social Security. That is huge. Nor do they tax ANY part of military retirement pay. That is not quite as huge, as that does not affect everyone like Social Security does (or will).

However - to mollify the Very Angry Bird, I was told by more than one person (who was in St. Paul at the end of session), not to worry. They could not get Social Security this time (dang, we tried!), but we fixed veteran's retirement! I read the part of the bill someone sent me right after the "witching hour". I felt stupid as I could not see the plain language where veteran's retirement pay was exempt from state income tax. So I have been digging.

Here is the language as it exists in the current tax forms:

If you (and/or your spouse if filing a joint return) have separated from service and your federal adjusted gross income (from line 37 of Form 1040, line 21 of Form 1040A, or line 4 of Form 1040EZ) is less than $37,500, you qualify for a credit if you:
  • were honorably discharged and receive a military pension or other retirement pay for your service in the military;
 • have a service-related disability rated by the U .S . Department of Veterans’ Affairs as being 100 percent total and permanent . If your federal adjusted gross income is: 
 • $30,000 or less, enter $750 on line 2 of Schedule M1C . (If you and your spouse both qualify for the credit and you are filing a joint return, enter $1,500 .)
 • between $30,000 and $37,500, use the  worksheet on this page to determine your credit amount .
 • more than $37,500, you do not qualify for  this credit

If you don't want to read the above, I don't blame you. Let me help. If there is an exclusion of military retirement in the new tax bill, it is hidden very well. In the current language (above), a veteran would almost have to live in poverty to collect it. The new language allows the income level to be slightly raised, and the credit increased to $1,000 (big whoop).

Here are the facts. The majority of veterans are happy to do what they did. They would do it again. Most made peanuts for salary as compared to their civilian counterparts. They don't want a credit on their taxes - they just want that small, yet livable retirement check to be exempt from state taxes. You know, like many other states do. And by the way - most vets I have met are not sloths. They would not be satisfied with living on $30,000/year if they could help it.

Bottom line - right now it looks like the Minnesota seniors as well as retired veterans got screwed once again. There is nobody looking out for us in St. Paul. Well, that is going to change - and quickly. The number of Social Security reciprocates keeps growing and the tolerance for inaction keeps shrinking. The Bird is on this. More to come.

Big brother, little brother

"The whole session was a mess. And that includes even before it started."

I am starting to get the picture of the last failed legislative session. The newspaper called it chaos towards the final minutes of the session. On this point, the paper might be right. The more I hear about it, the more it sounded like the passage of ObamaCare. All that was missing was Nancy Pelosi shouting, "We need to pass bill so we can understand it."

The whole session was a mess. And that includes even before it started. First off, it was a huge miss to have it the same time as the MNGOP convention. Our representatives wanted to be a part of the convention, and most of us wanted them up there with us. In the future, make sure they are not in conflict with each other.

Next, prior to the session starting, there should have been cornerstone items agreed to. These cornerstone items would have also been agreed to by the respective caucuses. That way when the session starts, all that remains is the "wordsmithing" of the bill(s) and the formality of voting on them. For example, the Social Security fix should have been one of the cornerstones. No funding for SWLRT, another one. And no gas tax increase, yet another one. Until cornerstones are agreed to, there is no purpose to waste the time and money in having a session.

When Ronald Reagan got his tax cut package through Congress, there was very little if any targeting. We ALL benefited. The rising tide DID raise all the boats. This POS "Don't stop believing" tax bill is terrible. It does NOTHING for many of the folks who are paying the freight. And for seniors who need relief more than any other group in this state, they got Jack Spit from this bill.

Right now, our state legislature is looking an awful lot like Washington. It is for sure a big brother, little brother scenario. The folks who elect representatives, be it nationally or state wide, expect something other than mayhem. They want transparency. They don't want back room deals. They don't want gridlock or deadlock. They sure the heck don't want omnibus bills so convoluted that just about anything can be hidden inside of them.

If (and that is a big if) the Governor calls a special session, let's hope this time the homework is done in advance. As far as I am concerned, item one on a special session will be to fix Social Security. Then maybe a CLEAN and inexpensive bonding bill. If these two can't be done, then why bother having one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My case for Clinton

"Every time I tell this story, I start to weep. Young female hippie from Chicago marries a penniless hick from the south who wants someday to become the Governor of Arkansas." 

I think it is high time for me to spell out the case on why to bring Hillary Clinton back into the White House. I was in the workforce in the 1990's and remember the Clinton Presidency quite well. Based on much of that history, I think I can make a compelling case for Hillary. I will do this in bullet fashion.

  • Sex - This country grew up during the Clinton Presidency. We went from a PG population to somewhere between PG-13 and a hard R. We learned that oral sex is okay - in fact, it is not really sex at all. We learned about opposite terms to a monogamous relationship. For example, such as polygamy, polyandrous, menage a trois, bestiality, and so on. Everything is fair game. The Clinton's made the debauchery of the 1960's look simply puritanical.
  • Truth Telling - That is so yesterday! We learned that lying is okay - everyone does it. In fact, many on the left side of the street were incensed that Bill Clinton was impeached by the House and almost thrown out of the White House by the Senate! And for what? A silly little lie under oath? And to look into the camera and tell the American people, "I did not have sex with that woman." Hey, I believed him. Remember - oral sex is not sex! Let the good times roll!
  • Fun! - OMG! The Clinton days. Now those were the days! The lamp throwing, the yelling, it was just like watching reruns of I Love Lucy! Plus we had the Oval Office trysts, the sneaking out to carouse the town without secret service protection - it was great! And the practical jokes! Wow! Who can forget the Clinton's trying steal everything in the White House that was not nailed down. And before the Bush Administration transitioned in, the young kids who worked for the Clinton's taking the "W" keys off all the typewriters! Now that was class!
  • Rags to Riches - Every time I tell this story, I start to weep. Young female hippie from Chicago marries a penniless hick from the south who wants someday to become the Governor of Arkansas. Somehow they both got law degrees and learned the fine art of using people. Bill becomes Governor, Hillary is working for the Rose Law Firm, and the rest is history. Just like in a fairy book story, after working in the government for a few decades, they went from penniless to now worth hundreds of millions. And that is the way it should be! Dang! Now I am starting to weep again!
Okay - enough! No more satire. If this is what you want for the next four to eight years, if you want the person who is knee deep in Benghazi, the person who broke every rule in the book for safeguarding classified information, then Hillary is for you. If somehow, some way, she becomes our next President, it will be the biggest travesty that I will have seen in my lifetime. 

The case I will make for Hillary in all seriousness, is the case for her to do the perp walk. After holding a very high level security clearance for 21 years (not as high as hers however), and if I had done 1% of the misdeeds with classified material she has, I might still be serving time in Leavenworth.

FBI Director Comey has got to fight off the political pressure and do the right thing. Get her in front of a grand jury. Hillary deserves not the White House, not the Senate, not the House of Representatives. Only the Big House - and soon. And that is my real case for Hillary. 

Republican's Broken Arrow

"I suspect that right now the Republicans who were in session are looking for friends."

The postmortems on the "nothing burger session" continue to roll in. And the shock of all shocks is our local "fish wrap newspaper" (thanks Common Man) is putting a lot of the blame on the Republicans. The lefties at the paper cannot for the life of them figure out the "why" and "how" of Republican thinking. There was "free federal money" hanging low on the tree. Just waiting for us to grab. All those silly and stingy Republicans needed to do was cough up a measly $135 for the beloved SWLRT.

In the military during a time of conflict, should an outpost be overrun by the enemy, the commander has the option to call in what is known as a "broken arrow". This allows friendly forces to drop or launch ordnance near or close to the compound itself. It is a last ditch call, only to be made when the enemy is on all sides and advancing. In other words, where the enemy is everywhere.

I suspect that right now the Republicans who were in session are looking for friends. We know how the Governor feels - he is putting the session's failure squarely on our home team. Of course the Senate Majority Leader and his minions feel the same way. Then there are the legions of blue pill statists who live in the heart of the Twin Cities. To them, any Republican is a four letter word - and the results of this session is yet another example of why they feel that way.

I have already mentioned how our rag newspaper feels about the outcome and who is to blame. But here is the part of calling in the a broken arrow the Republican representatives did not count on. Their base is also very, very ticked at them. No, the base is glad they did not fund that loser of a train. And the base is glad there was not an increase in the gas tax. But the tax bill was a total failure. The classic fail in a regards. Forgiveness for that tax bill will be a long time a coming.

I really can't believe our Republican representatives fell into that DFL trap - targeted tax cuts. Most of us are so sick of that term we could puke in our mouth or just plain go crazy. PLUS, not only did they target some tax cuts to only a very few, THEY IGNORED THE SOCIAL SECURITY TAX FIX! And by the way, fixing Social Security is NOT targeted, as it affects (sooner or later) EVERYONE!

I am starting to think the ones who really need to call in a broken arrow are the taxpayers of Minnesota. We are under attack by the DFL, a Goofy Governor, and now our own representatives. Someone recently asked me what a good strategy was going forward. My response - we all have an instinct when attacked to fight or flee. We have found out that fighting does not work well when you have no allies. It might be time to flee across the border, or to points south.   

Monday, May 23, 2016

Taking a shower with a raincoat on

"Why even venture down this pathway as it always seems to end up in a dead end?"

I have been reading through social media and e-mails all morning. I am searching for the first "Bravo Zulu" (that is well done in Navy speak) for those involved in this session. Bottom line - it was a huge waste of time and money. And it did not have to be that way. Long before it even started, ground rules should have been agreed upon. But no - in every session we seem to get ourselves in the same old pickle. Late nights at the conclusion, and then ending up with an omnibus bill full of gobble gook.

Some (myself included) kind of wonder what was the point? Why even venture down this pathway as it always seems to end up in a dead end? Don't get me wrong - this might have been a knife in the heart for SWLRT.  And I am VERY pleased about that. But at what expense? In Anoka County we also pay road taxes. We have needs. Bridges all over the state have maintenance needs. All those needs were sacrificed because the train lovers in the DFL would not let go of the SW lemon express.

There is an old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Well, I hope to shout about one thing. This process is VERY broken - and needs fixing badly. I will say again - the Minnesota House should hold the cards. That is where things are supposed to start. That is where the purse strings are.

Prior to session start, the Speaker should advise the Senate Majority Leader and the Governor what the agenda is going to be. If the Governor has some items on a wish list, the Speaker may or may not bring any of those up to the body of the House. If any of those items pass the House, they then may go to the Senate. If they pass the Senate, then the Governor may sign them into law.

At the start of this past session, the Speaker was VERY clear with both the Senate Leader as well as the Governor that the House did not have the votes to fund any part of SWLRT. That should have been good enough to take SWLRT off the table. There is NO WAY that the SWLRT issue should have been alive and kicking at 5 min to midnight on Sunday.

We have a very bad system right now in St. Paul. We have important legislation being held up (or held hostage) by a very ill Governor. Social Security is a slam dunk issue for both sides of the aisle. It should be as easy as falling off a log. Same is true to exempting military retirement from state tax. Instead the Governor is using them as bargaining chips. And for that, both he and Tina Smith are going to pay a HUGE political price.

So how did this session feel? About as refreshing as taking a shower with a raincoat on. And also about as effective. Message to our elected officials - get your poop in a group. Every year there are more and more of us that are paying very close attention. And that, you can take that to the bank.

Legislative Linchpin

"In my book then, the Social Security fix should have become the linchpin to the session."

I am so mad this morning, I am about ready to throw up in my mouth! I know, I know - politics is about whose ox is gored. But it is also about promises kept. And I am SO sick and tired of hearing "Well, you know. We only do have 1/3 of the power in St. Paul!" The 1/3 we have is supposed to be the BEST 1/3! We have the House where all this stuff is suppose to originate. We hold the purse strings.

Now comes the bad news for all who participated in this 11 week waste of time and money. You have to have to go home and face your constituents. Face the tax payers in your district. The people you have promised things to. And the blame game of pointing fingers at the other side is not going to cut it this time.

Why do I say that? Without naming names, I was told (promised) after the last session was over, the number one thing to be addressed this session was the Social Security fix. Yes friends - that is a true statement.

In my book then, the Social Security fix should have become the linchpin of the session. The Governor should have been informed of that long before the festivities started. Or to put it mildly, THERE WOULD BE NO DEAL REACHED ON ANYTHING UNLESS THAT LINCHPIN ISSUE WAS ADDRESSED FIRST!!

One of the things I have been blessed with in my life is a very good memory. It was served me well throughout the years. I can remember things, people and conversations quite clearly. I have tried to remind people on the tax committee as well as House and Senate leadership about the promise to address this issue first.

Then the tax plan was leaked to the press. It even has some goofy name so that Goofy would sign it. The "don't stop believing" tax bill. And guess what was not even mentioned as a footnote in that goofy bill? Our Social Security fix. The linchpin issue for this session. 

Just as a reminder to those who think I am a single issue guy. Trust me, I am not. This issue however, is vitally important to Minnesota. And it does not just affect a minority of folks, it affects EVERYONE, as one day we will all be drawing Social Security. 43 out of the 50 states have already figured out this is wrong to tax. 7 states, including Minnesota, have not.

At the MNGOP state convention, my friend Jack showed up wearing a jacket with a fake knife sticking in his back. Little did I know how prophetic that symbol would be at the end of session. No roads and bridges fix, and no Social Security fix. I guess the session deserves an "F" in my book.      

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Small ball

"Forget the word smithing on platforms, stop the fratricide, and focus on what the only important thing is - winning. Playing 'small ball' has only allowed us to do one thing well - lose elections."

Two years ago in Rochester for the state MNGOP convention, we spent a whole lot of time working on the platform. Then we had the endorsement process for the state offices which were up for election that year. Not much time spent of figuring out a way to win those elections - but we did have some awesome language in our party platform.

We all know the result. We got skunked on every office we ran for. We put up some very good candidates. Smart, experienced candidates. There is no way we should have lost all of them. But we did.

Six years ago we had a somewhat contentious race for the nomination of Governor as well as the state offices. Again, we put up some very good people as candidates. However, due to the contentious nature of the campaign, one candidate decided to commit fratricide and run third party. So instead of what should have been a "lay up" election, we lost the Governor's chair to the worst candidate in the world. Oh, we also lost all the other state office elections.  

Don't get me wrong. When I worked, parsing language in negotiations was part of my job description. It was quite often a pain to decide what the meaning of "is, is". But having the proper language in an agreement often led to less risk and higher profits.

Parsing the language in the party platform starts at the caucus level. Then the BPOU convention. Then the district convention. Then the state convention. Finally the national convention. By that time, all the hundreds of hours spent on this platform starts to look very pretty. Of course, we lost the last two Presidential elections, but our platform looked wonderful.

What is my point in all of this? Here we were up in Duluth this weekend, working on party platform language as well as electing national delegates, and the real action was down in St. Paul. And no matter how much time we spent in playing "small ball" working on the party platform, our side was slowing caving in to the insatiable appetite of the Governor and the DFL. 

Where are we? We are going to spend money on Pre-K. It has NEVER been proven this does one thing to help kids learn and graduate on time. We are going to spend money on broadband. So not only can I pay for my cable bill now, I can also pay for someone living in Black Duck. The tax relief bill is only half a loaf. We need tax relief for a broad spectrum in Minnesota. This includes businesses, people with estates, retired folks, and retired veterans. 

Bottom line - we need to quit playing "small ball". Forget the word smithing on platforms, stop the fratricide, and focus on what the only important thing is - winning. Playing "small ball" has only allowed us to do one thing well - lose elections. Time to step up to the majors. The other side sure has.  

Doing more with less...

"However in the state of Minnesota, we seem to have village idiots in charge of our village."

Someone once asked me what I thought the main difference was between the public and private sectors. Thought about it for a brief second and then answered it this way - the private sector survives on doing more for less. The public sector does not. In particular (I went on), the government. They have NO CLUE on how to do more with less.

Now before I go any further, let me say this. Our county board in the county in which I live (Anoka) is an exception to the rule. They can squeeze more value out of every nickle than most could imagine. If every sector of government ran like Anoka County, I would not be penning this article.

However in the state of Minnesota, we seem to have village idiots in charge of our village. And they are dyslexic. Instead of doing more with less, they always focus on doing less with more. These are people who could not budget their way out of a paper bag. Every session we hear the same tired old tune. "Wah, wah, wah, blah, blah, blah. It is for the children. This is not who we are." We all know the tune, the very old story. We sure hear it often enough.

And somehow, many of our stalwart Republicans get sucked into the trap. Instead of reducing the size of government, right sizing it, doing more with less, they increase it. And they justify it by saying the increase was not as big of an increase as the other side wanted. This is the all too familiar result. It becomes a lose, lose outcome for the Republicans. The size of government goes up, and then the Democrats criss cross the state, painting the Republicans as the villains who cut valuable programs. 

It truly is time to change the paradigm. To change the game. All I heard in the day and a half I was in Duluth is how we are the party of solutions - and our solutions work. Well kids, it is time to put our money where our mouths are. We can have a better state, with more efficient services, for a lot less money. We can have reduced taxes, attract more businesses here, plus keep our seniors from fleeing the state. All we need to do is be brave. And smart - very smart.

It is time for a change. The Growth and Opportunity Party needs to strut its stuff. Not the go along, come along gang with the Democrats. We need to show how our government can be a model for the rest of the states to follow. Do more, with less. Four short words that will change everything. The party that I have signed up with will do brave things like that. Let's get going before this session is over.    

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dateline: Duluth

"I suppose this is a bit of a rant. And I am sorry in advance for that."

I am back from the North Country. The convention was still going on when I left. I stayed until the Rubio ballet was taken. Four out of the five I voted for made it, so I felt somewhat actualized. I would have really liked to say for the Cruz and Trump delegates. But this is the purpose of this post. I suppose this is a bit of a rant. And I am sorry in advance for that.

Thing One - When these are planned in advance, do they have to be planned when the session is still going? Especially when the real drama happens? Dave Thompson said it well from the podium. He was looking over at the press area and said, "Many I recognize are down in St. Paul covering the action." And action in St. Paul there was. I so missed many of my friends who were elected officials.

Two years ago in Rochester we had our elected officials with us. This year no. It would have been great to have them with us as we had some questions. Some very, very good (and hard questions). Not having them there caused a whole lot of bitching about stuff that may or may not have been true.

Thing Two - Rules. Please, gag me with a spoon. We spent so much time on crap we should not have. We talked about one subject that all of sudden we discovered should have been moot. If the National GOP decrees something and a state defers, the state's candidates stand the chance of being unbinded. At least, that is what I thought I heard.

After working on flow down clauses for many years with the Federal Government, I know this much - some things are just plain sacrosanct. Flow downs from statutory or regulatory. There was much hot air wasted. Many of these need to be changed at national.

Thing Three - Judicial Endorsements. As Yogi would say - this is deva vu all over again! Please, spare me! This issue was AGAIN all for ONE particular judge. I don't know her, never met her, but it seems she might have some baggage. Here is my take. If we are to endorse someone, give us a choice. If there is only one, can WE PLEASE vet that person before a convention? I did not know this person from Eve, and all I received was anecdotal

This was my second time at a state convention. And I will say the same about both. Cut the crip crap and do more advanced planning. Make sure all changes are IAW Robert's Rules so there are no inane questions from the group. Make sure what is off limits is noted as such. It is great to get together, listen to the "Rah-Rah" speeches, and then vote. Until that happens, we will continue to have there will be a whole lot of dead air and then deciding how many Angels can dance on the head of a pin.

POSTSCRIPT: The picture in this post is one I took in 1973 when I was trying to woo my wife!  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Are we schizoid or what?

"So what is our policy on engagement with the countries which are still run by the Commies?"

As I live and breathe, I could sure us a translator to explain to me just what we are doing in our foreign affairs. Let me explain. Yesterday, the media was all a buzz over something Donald Trump said earlier in the week. Trump said once he becomes President, he might engage the North Koreans in face to face talks. And that includes Donald Trump himself talking with the current leader (Kim Jong-un) of the Norks. Gasp!

Trump might as well as said he was going to meet with Satan. However, Trump has a very good point. For 70 years, we have refused to meet face to face with these guys. How has that worked out? Poorly. The Norks have a developed a nuke, a delivery system, and now they are threatening everyone in the region. In fact, they are even threatening us. So meeting with these guys could not possibly make things any worse. It could either do nothing, OR - possibly make things somewhat better.

Okay. Back to our current Administration. I have said before, I support Obama's initiative to normalize relations with Cuba. However, there are many in our country who do not. Many think we should not trade with this Communist bastion run by those blood thirsty Castro brothers.

Yet, in the paper this morning was a story about the Obama Administration considering selling arms to Viet Nam. Viet Nam? Our arch enemy from 45 years ago? The country who is STILL run by blood thirsty Commies? We had a hot war with these guys and basically no war with Cuba.

Let see if I can get this straight. China is still a Communist country. China still has human rights violations. Yet, they are our banker. One of our biggest trading partners. Viet Nam is now a tourist destination for us. The same Commie country that not that long ago, we spilled so much blood over. Now they are our friends (sort of). So what is our policy on engagement with the countries which are still run by the Commies? 

Hint - we have none. In this world economy, goods are traded from just about everywhere to anywhere. That is, except for North Korea and Cuba. And just like with Cuba, the PEOPLE who live under that repressive regime in North Korea deserve so much better. When we try and punish the leaders of a Commie dictatorship, we only end up in punishing the people. Just like I support the normalization with Cuba, I also support having face to face talks with the Norks. 

Maybe under a Trump Administration things will make more sense. I sure hope so. Right now we look schizoid. Not only to the citizens of this country, but also to the world.