Friday, March 31, 2017

Electric Warfare

"This coupled with the new laser technology, particle beam, and EMP weaponry truly is Star Wars evolving right before our eyes."    

No, that is not a misprint. Some might think I wanted to say "electronic warfare", but I did not. "Electric warfare" is something the Pentagon has been working on for some time now. I had this thought yesterday as we had a young man out to give us a bid on some work we are having done. He mentioned he was a project manager. I told him I had worked with many project managers in my day. Then I told him the story of one of the biggest challenges I faced while working with some of my team's best project managers.

The time was in the 1990's, and the place was ARDEC (US Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center). The project was for the company I worked for to build a indoor gun range for the Army which would house this new technology called electro-thermal. Electro-thermal used a combination of some chemicals added to a huge jolt of electricity to propel a sabot projectile at speeds up to 4 "clicks". That would be much faster than a conventional artillery shell.

In any event, the funding for this project started to fall apart, and it never happened. However, it did take me further down the rabbit hole of this Star Wars type of technology. We even traveled to see a vendor on the west coast who was dabbling with a similar yet different technology. It was called the rail gun. And it had (in the 1990's) the potential to fire a sabot even faster than the gun my company was developing. This one was all electric with no chemicals.

Flash forward to today. The existing technology which evolved is the electro-magnetic rail gun. It is being tested right now to go into a 155 mm Howitzer as well as a shipboard application, using a 5" gun. The problems about the capacitors to store the juice powerful enough to fire these guns on a smaller platform seems to have been solved to a degree. This new rail gun can fire a sabot up to 100 miles at speeds of 5,000 mph!

What can we do with a weapon such as this? First off, it is excellent for stand off warfare, having over the horizon targeting abilities. At 5,000 mph, by the time it is detected by the enemy as "incoming", it will be too late. Also, it might have the ability to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles. But the big prize will come further down the road of development. As speeds increase, it might have the capability to launch low orbit satellites and maybe even knock down incoming ICBMs.

Before we get too excited, some problems remain with this exciting technology. Like it is so powerful, it takes a toll on the launcher after every shot. Also, the power needed has improved, but still needs refinement. The power needed for each shot is mind bending - like the power needed for each shot is greater than power required to power 19,000 homes. And that type of power needs to put on a ship or a Howitzer. 

In any event, the military sees enough potential in this new technology to continue to sink money into it. If was can refine it, it will change warfare forever. This coupled with the new laser technology, particle beam and EMP weaponry, truly is Star Wars evolving right before our eyes.    

Thursday, March 30, 2017

No way to run a railroad

"Is that any way to run a railroad (or a country)? Not unless you want to have a catastrophic train wreck somewhere down the tracks." 

Here it is again. It is like a bad penny, it always seems to show up. It is one of the curses when we spend more money than we have. Is it a Democrat issue? I sure wish I could say that it is. But sadly, it lies at the feet of the Republicans just as surely as it lies at the feet of the Democrats. It is the debt ceiling. And we (our government) is already late in raising it.

This summer, we are headed for the perfect storm - or should I say a perfect train wreck. Our country, which is mortgaged to the hilt, would like to go shopping - starting today. What is on our wish list? First off, "the wall". That be the one the Mexicans were going to pay for. Now I guess we will pay for it, and try to recapture some money from Mexico at a later date. Good luck with that one. 

We also are in desperate need of upgrades to our military. Not just to finish the build out of the F-35 and other expensive platforms, we have stuff in the field which no longer works. Why? It is due to a severe cut in maintenance dollars during the Obama Administration. Donald Trump would like an additional $53B to start the modernization of our military, but truthfully, until we can rid of wasteful practices in the Pentagon, that might not be enough.

President Trump has also held out the bright shiny toy for the Democrats to see. And they love it - probably the only thing they will ever agree with this President on. That would be the $1T in infrastructure spending. What is there not to love? We need it, don't we? Yes we do. But the icky question which keeps popping up is "Where is the money coming from?"

Finally, tax cuts. Get rid of some of these stubborn taxes which drag down the economy. Right now the Administration is betting that the Laffer Curve is more substance than theory. If not, we will have more spending with less money coming into the Treasury. What does that equal? More debt.

Oh yes, more debt. The debt ceiling. What the debt ceiling does is allow us to pay for stuff we racked up on our charge cards. The higher the debt ceiling, the more we can spend. I know, I know - we can't do that in our personal lives. We have to be responsible and prudent. But our government? Leave tomorrow's worries for tomorrow's citizens.

I like that! Live for today, spend like there is no tomorrow! Somewhere down the line, our kids and grand kids can clean up this mess. Is that any way to run a railroad (or a country)? Not unless you want to have a catastrophic train wreck somewhere down the tracks.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Please explain this to me...

"In my book, losing 90% of the country constitutes a massive clear and present danger. Period." 

Today in The Hill is an article penned by one of our former CIA chiefs along with another author. It has to do with North Korea. It appears that North Korea is preparing for a missile strike on Japan, South Korea, or maybe even us. And a missile strike on us would probably be an EMP strike. I have written about this dozens of times before, so please stick with me for just a bit. I need someone a whole lot smarter than I to explain something very important to me.

We have known about EMP since we first started testing the atomic bomb. We found out about it quite by accident. However, once the genie was out of the bottle, every bad actor who ended up with a nuke had EMP capability. The Soviets had this in their order of battle for decades. Is that a secret? Not hardly. In the movie The Day After, right before the first Soviet nuke dropped from the sky, an EMP bomb went off and disabled everything. That movie was made in the 1980's.

Anyhow, in today's article from The Hill, it was pointed out that this country could lose 90% of its population the first year after an EMP attack. No flash burns, no radioactive poisoning - just slow starvation, dehydration, sickness or exposure. And that brings me to the point of this article.

In my book, losing 90% of the country constitutes a massive clear and present danger. Period. Therefore:

  • Why in the 1980's when we knew EMP was a possibility did we not start to ruggedize our electrical grid? Most of the misery which would result from an EMP strike is because of no electricity.
  • In the 1990's, even though the Soviet Union was vanquished, why did we not use our prosperity that decade to update our grid?
  • Or in the 2000's, after we found out that 20 brazen Islamic Terrorists could use four jet planes and bring this nation to its knees?
  • Or in 2009, when the Stimulus Bill was crafted for almost a trillion dollars, why could we not have taken $300B and made our grid rugged and smart? Instead we wasted all that money on garbage. Why? 

So here we sit, hoping against hope that the Norks are not crazy enough to try such an attack. If they do, it will be a sucker punch just like we received on 9/11. It will be of little solace knowing our retaliatory strike will wipe them off the map. We would still have a broken country with tens of millions of innocent friends and loved ones dying a slow death.

The great (energy) debate

"Right now, we have a government which is more concerned with jobs than fear. After eight years of peddling fear, maybe we can try eight years of job creation (through abundant energy) to see which fits us better."

It sure seems as if this has been going on for just short of forever. The disciples of Al Gore ("the Earth, has a fever") believe we are "toasting" the planet due to our excessive carbon release. Others believe that is just so much hogwash, designed to give the government and the UN more power. Still others don't know what to believe. 

Yesterday, President Trump undid some of what his predecessor did on clean energy. He rescued the coal industry. Why is that important? Whether we like it or not, coal still plays a vital role in our nation's energy picture. True, it probably won't too much longer. But as of today, we still get over over 30% of our electricity from coal. In fact, we get over 60% of our electricity from carbon based fossil fuels. In short - coal is not our enemy. It is currently saving us from "brown outs" or even "black outs" on the grid.

If the "greenies" in this country really want to find someone to beat up on about coal, leave the fine folks in West Virginia alone. They have enough problems down there. Go pick on the ChiComs. That country consumes almost half the world's coal. They are the grand daddy of coal production and consumption. Think they are going to cut back? Think they give a wit about Al Gore and his cottage industry of fear mongering? Nope and nope again.

A story I love to tell about our air quality happened right here in Minnesota. Years ago, some knuckleheads in St. Paul thought it to be a good idea for everyone to have an emissions test done on their vehicles each year. It was a waste of time and money. In any event, the program was scrapped just a few short years after it was started. Why? The inspectors were finding that each year, more and more cars were passing the test on first try. The reason is simple - cars were just becoming better. Better mileage and less pollutants.

According to the United States Energy information Administration, the end is in sight for our supplies of natural gas. Okay - that was a joke. At today's consumption, we have 96 years of supply left. With coal, we are really in tough shape - only 256 years supply remains. And British Petroleum has recently estimated the world only has 53 years of oil remaining - that is assuming there are no more discoveries like what we found in North Dakota.

The bottom line is simply this - Donald Trump is doing the right thing. We are currently an energy rich nation. With abundant energy comes abundant economic possibilities. And even with all that energy, guess what is happening behind the scenes? You guessed it - companies the world over are trying to find the golden fleece. That would be the yet to be discovered energy source which is clean, abundant and dang near free.

So Al Gore can continue to enrich himself peddling nonsense. This old Earth is a tough old bird and the climate has gone from very hot to very cold over the past epochs. We humans only have viable weather data which goes back a hundred years or so. And putting the climate issues aside, we are blessed to live in an energy rich nation. Japan for example, has to import 84 of its gas and oil just to keep the lights on. We never have and probably never will have that problem.

The great (energy) debate will continue. Right now, we have a government which is more concerned with jobs than fear. After eight years of peddling fear, maybe we can try eight years of job creation (through abundant energy) to see which fits us better. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Knocking on Heaven's Door

"We are here for such a short time, but in that short time we all have a purpose. Each day, every day we need to be mindful that what we do counts." 

It has been one of those weeks. The reminder. Sometimes it is a gentle nudge, and other times it is like getting slapped in the face with a brick. What am I talking about? The grim reaper. The uninvited guest which comes into our lives. Death. Even though we all know death is coming at some time, when it does come, it is a show stopper.

This past week we found out one of the men who was a "driver" in getting the Alpha Program established in northwest churches has passed on. He was only slightly older than me. A giant of a man with a heart just as large, he was known by everyone for his booming voice and  "bear hugs". His hugs which did not hurt, but were just tight enough to know that he really cared for you as as person. Gone at the age of 70. But with a legacy which will live on for many years to come.

Today, my wife went out to lunch with a dear friend and neighbor who recently lost her husband. Like many spouses, he was the love of her life. For the last seven years they spent together, he was in a coma and needed care. She became his primary care giver. And yet when he passed, there was the void - the emptiness. The years have not been kind nor easy for her ever since he left.

Last Sunday in church we were reminded of something. The teaching was very profound and important. Our time in this life, on this Earth, is but a blinking of an eye. Our real home is not here. For those who love the Lord, when the time comes to be called home, the great reunion awaits. The loss, the pain, the emptiness, will all pass away. This is the promise we have all been given. It is foundational.

One of our former senators, when dying from cancer, looked up and said, "My last breath on Earth will be followed by my first breath in Heaven." To that I say, Amen! He knew and lived the promise.

We are here for such a short time, but in that short time we all have a purpose. Each day, every day we need to be mindful that what we do counts. 

Tonight before I close my eyes, I will again have introspection. Did I do good today? Did I do the right thing(s)? Can I do better tomorrow? Our days here are a gift - a gift more precious than gold. Each and every day is an opportunity to make a difference. To follow and fulfill a purpose. 

If I am blessed to have it, tomorrow will be another day. I will pick myself up, dust myself off from the mistakes I made yesterday, and know that God loves me as His child. He loves me, no matter how broken I am. That is the promise I live with - on Earth, and until I also come knocking on Heaven's door.

From Deep Throat to Deep State?

"Where do we go from here? Heaven only knows. I do know this however - right now this country is just inches away from being ungovernable."

Okay. I will admit it. I am a sucker for a good conspiracy theory - however, it does have to be good! I don't care which administration is in power, there is always someone looking in the closet or under the bed for a boogie man. Some say it started with Watergate. Historians will tell you it goes back much further than that. Heck, it might even goes back to the beginning, when George Washington himself came under scrutiny for joining a secret society known as the Freemasons.

I am old enough to remember the Watergate scandal quite clearly. Richard Nixon was in the first term of his presidency. Like Donald Trump, there was a whole gaggle of folks who did not care for him. But unlike Donald Trump, Nixon had folks working in the West Wing that knew how to play the Washington game. Despite his shaky popularity, all the polls showed Nixon was going to cruise to an easy re-election victory over McGovern. And then the unexplainable happened. A break-in at the DNC headquarters, located at the Watergate complex.

What came out of Watergate? First off, it made Woodward and Bernstein famous. So much so, they are still hanging around as panel guests on different talk shows. It introduced us to Deep Throat (not a porn guy). It was he who "ratted out" some folks, and really broke the case wide open. It showed us that in life, it can be the cover up more so than the crime. Nixon was pretty clean on the break-in itself, but very dirty on the cover up. It cost him his job, and put the country through great torment.

I won't go through all the scandals since then. Suffice it to say that there have been quite a few. And that leads us up to today. The Washington "swamp" has developed a new dimension - the Deep State. Actually, the way Washington works, I am surprised that we have not heard about this issue before. When a new Administration comes in, there are still thousands of people left in jobs who were hired by the former Administration. Some are very loyal to the previous administration. Some are even ideologues.

With President Trump, "leaks" coming out of the White House and the intelligence services have been profound - and dangerous. It did not take long for this new President to suspect there are some rats in the woodpile.

So where are we today? It is almost like a comedy of errors. We have the Democrats who want every nook and cranny investigated. Why? They think we have a Dr. Strangelove type of corruption in the West Wing. Will they find something? Maybe.

On the other hand, we have the Republicans who are convinced there are dozens of Obama holdovers who are trying to sabotage the Trump Administration. Plus, President Trump also believes Obama loyalists illegally conducted surveillance on Trump Tower before the inauguration. Bottom line - Washington is a hot mess. 

Where do we go from here? Heaven only knows. I do know this however - right now our country is just inches away from being ungovernable. What would help us get back on track? Both parties need to truly govern by the Constitution.

Our founding papers were never intended to be partisan. Indeed, they were intended to be bipartisan for a very important reason - proper and fair governance. If we don't get back to that, we might not have a country to govern anymore.   

Monday, March 27, 2017

To hell with the 10th!

"In other words, many of today's snowflakes have taken up shelter under the gentle and caring arms of Uncle Sugar. And while they have been doing that, they became addicted to the nectar of the federal money tree."

Too harsh of a title? Sorry. Anyhow, it got your attention. Not my words however. These are the words of many today who really either don't understand state's rights nor want them. In other words, many of today's snowflakes have taken up shelter under the gentle and caring arms of Uncle Sugar. And while they have been doing that, they became addicted to the nectar of the federal money tree.

What many of my Constitutional minded friends know is this one simple article from the Bill of Rights. And it had been discussed long before the Bill of Rights was drafted. It was first penned under the Article of Confederation. In fact, Madison wrote about this issue in Federalist Paper 45. "Powers granted to the federal government were (should be) few and well defined." Translation = the federal government gets very little authority from the states. Or it should have been.

Over the years, especially during the terms of Wilson, FDR, and LBJ - the role of the federal government has changed. It has changed into something the Founders would never had imagined. The federal government has become the giver of all good things to everyone. The states have relegated themselves to become lackeys. Has beens. Irrelevant institutions.

The 10th Amendment to our Bill of Rights reminds us all of the power of the states. By the way, did I say POWER? We in the states, have "powers reserved". We in the states (should) have given the federal government very little power at the beginning. Over time however, we have ceded that quite a bit. So much so, the very thought of reigning back some of that power is looked upon by some (on the Left) as treasonous.

So whose fault is that? That so many sit under the federal money tree? Listen up kids - this is your "get out of jail free" card. It is not your fault. It is the fault of folks like me. The 60's generation. We have let the federal government become "Uncle Sugar" instead of the what it was designed to be - a protector of the states.

Stay tuned - more on this coming. This is going to be a HUGE issue as Trump tries to right size our government(s). History will be written as this is resolved.


Non-conflatable visions...

"I have said this before. Taxation on Social Security should not be an upside down issue. It should not be a partisan issue."

Well hallelujah! Never thought I would see the day! We finally have a bill coming out of the House with some relief for senior citizens in Minnesota. Was it what I was hoping for? No. But it is a start. It takes us off the "bad boy" list of only 6 remaining states who fully tax Social Security. And that is huge!

Okay - that is the good news. Now here are the facts. First off, prior to 1984, Social Security was not taxed. Then (and I hate to say it), under Ronald Reagan's term in 1984, he signed a bill which allowed the taxation of 50% of social security benefits paid. That was a huge mistake. But you know government - a little bit is never enough. In 1993, Bill Clinton signed into law the bill which would allow the 50% rate to go up to 85%. That was even a bigger mistake. And that is where we stand from a federal perspective.

From the state viewpoint, Minnesota is long overdue to address the issue of taxing social security benefits. Even though it is finally being addressed (to a limited degree) this year and resides in a House tax bill, different representatives have told me the same thing. "Well, we will see what happens. Eliminating Social Security taxes would be very expensive for the state." Excuse me? What do you mean "expensive"? If it is so expensive, how in the world can the vast majority of states have either totally or partially eliminate it?

I will tell you how. Minnesota is addicted to spending. It is as clear as day when you see the budget priorities that the Governor has laid out. Tax relief? No way, Jose! The Governor needs money for light rail. And the total loser called the North Star. That train is losing a ton of money with each trip. But that is okay. The Governor now wants more money to extend this POS up to St. Cloud. That is only the tip of the iceberg. The Governor wants more spending on everything, up to and including the kitchen sink.

Here is the bottom line. The citizens of this state who pay most of the bills want significant tax relief. Tax relief on the corporate tax, the high end of the income tax, inheritance taxes, sales tax, and the Social Security tax. The subjects in this state, led my their populist and progressive Governor, just want to spend other people's money on more garbage. The citizens and the subjects have non-conflatable visions. Totally and undeniably.

I have said this before. Taxation on Social Security should not be an upside down issue. It should not be a partisan issue. Even the subjects should understand this one. After all, if we are blessed to live long enough, we will all of us, be affected by having a main source of income unfairly taxed by an intrusive government.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Look in the mirror sir...

"Time for all to look in the mirror. Do some soul searching. We have lots more left to do. Time to play our 'A' game."

One of my favorite lines from the rock opera Tommy (from about a hundred years ago), was "look in the mirror boy". I thought about that yesterday when all the postmortems were coming in about "what the hell just happened?" Was it that bad? Oh yeah - it was. In the Navy when you were a part of a monumental screw up, you popped tall, looked the chief or officer in charge squarely in the eyes and said, "No excuse sir!" Not our guys though. Not a bit.

Donald Trump is a business guy. He is not used to failures of epic proportions which were caused by members of his own team. If this were one of his companies, many folks would be cleaning out their desks today. This failure ran deep and wide. An old adage in the business world is "Success has many fathers whereas failure is always an orphan." This failure however, had hundreds of fathers.

Why do I say that? For seven years now, the cry from the GOP was "Repeal". Not by one person - by hundreds. Then the question was raised, "Then what?" So the cry was modified to be "Repeal and replace!" In fact many times legislation was sent to President Obama's desk to repeal ObamaCare. And it was vetoed. The dirty little secret was this - there was no "replace". It was smoke and mirrors.

It has been thought by many on my side of the aisle that the way ObamaCare was cobbled together was the pinnacle of incompetence. Wrong. Yesterday, the GOP made Barack Obama look good. The GOP made the failing ObamaCare look good. The GOP made the way the Democrats govern look good. Do I need to go on? All of a sudden yesterday, the GOP stole the mantle of "the gang who can't shoot straight".

One postscript to this article. A ray of hope. President Trump has bee in many negotiations. He really does understand the art of the deal. Congress may not, but the President does. Yesterday afternoon he made an somewhat cloaked offer to the Democrats that once ObamaCare really turns south, he would be open to working with them to fix it. Here was the hidden message however - you have already seen my best offer on the table. And not one of you supported it. The next offer you see out of me when I work with you will not be nearly as good. How do I know this? I know how the negotiation game works. Been there, done that.

Time for all to look in the mirror. Do some soul searching. We have lots more left to do. Time to play our "A" game. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

A hard rain's a-gonna fall

"What does this mean? For those who love to serve, this is your sweet spot. The churches need to really become the churches again. God centered, bible believing, people serving organizations."

Thank you Bob Dylan. I am going to borrow the title from one of your best songs for this article. However this has nothing to do with music from 1962. This has everything to do with what is coming down the road for the least of us. The down trodden. The ones who really can't afford anymore misery in their lives. And I think it is coming this year.

A few days ago, I penned an article about Filling Buckets. It had to do with the federal government and the state government getting ready to "right size" the buckets of money they will be using from now on. In other words, how much money in the federal bucket should be shifted down to the state bucket. And then the state would determine how much does not belong in the its bucket. Sooner or later, the money to take care of the needy in our communities will rest mostly within the community itself - not the government.

For people like me, I shout "Hooray" at the top of my lungs! Why? This is the way it is supposed to be. The way it used to be. Not that I want anyone to suffer - I don't. However, if it is true we are all our brother's keeper (and I believe it is true), our communities are ground zero. It is us who should be taking care of us - not the government. They can't even screw in a light bulb the right way. 

What does this mean? For those who love to serve, this is your sweet spot. The churches need to once again become the churches of old. God centered, bible believing, people serving organizations. No more lukewarm, new age, PC nonsense. We all need to practice Matthew 25:40 both in our churches and then we go out into our communities.

As conservatives, we have begged the government to get out of our knickers. Now that they are, we need to show the world we are indeed our brother's keeper. And - we can do it much, much better than any government can!

Get ready folks. The cuts are coming. They are coming in both federal and state budgets. This is not the time to wail and gnash our teeth. These are the days to celebrate. The government might finally be on a diet. What do we do? Get our serve on. Help each other. It is the right thing to do. 

Another fine mess!

"I have said this many times sine the 2012 election. That was the last chance to extract ourselves from ObamaCare without it being too much of a tangled mess. But we lost that election (Thanks Mitt!)."

As a former aficionado of Laurel and Hardy, every once in a while when Stan Laurel would get Oliver Hardy is a jam, Oliver would turn to him and say, "Well, this is another fine mess you have gotten me into Stanley!" Right now, I am thinking that is what Donald Trump would like to say to Paul Ryan. After being talked into doing healthcare first before tax reform, regulatory reform, or any other slam dunk issues, this healthcare thing has become a millstone around the President's neck.

This morning on the news, one of the financial pundits was trying to act like the CBO in figuring out the impact of the new healthcare bill containing all the recent changes. It is still a lemon. In fact, according to a recent quinnipiac poll, only 17% of those polled liked this new healthcare plan. That is a lower rating than those who like ObamaCare. Translation = this is not a better mousetrap at all. It is just a trap.

So now what? Cut your losses. Fold your hand. Pull the bill. It is a bad bill, and even if it passes the House, the reconciliation process between the Republican House and the Republican Senate will end up looking like a civil war. Pull the bill, tell the public that it will addressed once again when it is "right". Then, immediately move on to tax reform. Remember - so long as ObamaCare exists, it is not the fault of anyone except the Democrats. Right now the Republicans are still clean on healthcare.

I have said this many times sine the 2012 election. That was the last chance to extract ourselves from ObamaCare without it being too much of a tangled mess. But we lost that election (Thanks Mitt!). In the four years since then, the roots of ObamaCare have grown very, very deep into our economy. And the folks receiving subsidized care through the ACA, absolutely love it. The ones who are paying the freight (much higher premiums) absolutely hate it.

One more thing this new bill has in it which is unfortunate. The numbers show it favors the rich and punishes the poor. In fact, one analysis showed the poorer you are, the higher percentage of premiums you would pay. If this passed into law, the Democrats would use this to pound the Republicans into the ground until the cows came home. Like I said earlier, this is still a very sour lemon.

There is one thing which has not been tried by any state as of yet - nullification. This would enable a state saying "no thanks" to ObamaCare. The state would handle healthcare all by itself. It can't be worse than what he have now with ObamaCare, and sure would be better than this witch's brew called the American Healthcare Act. Just saying...

Bottom line - walk away President Trump - as fast as you can. Start on tax reform Monday morning. Speaker Ryan - pull the bill and send it back to the people who are supposed to be the "wizards of smart". And if they can't come up with something better, the ACA (ObamaCare) is here to stay. Sad to say, but true.    

Thursday, March 23, 2017

From Russia with Loath

"Vladimir Putin had no time for Barack Obama. No bromance there. However, he had a real antipathy for his Secretary of State, HR Clinton."

In all my years of paying attention to politics and world affairs, I have NEVER seen things so confusing. Not just confusing, but there is so much spin being put on every issue, I can see why young people get dizzy and just drop out. What I am going to try to do this morning is make some sense out of the non-sense. Wish me luck.

First up Russia. Where this ruse all started. I have been hearing lots of facts and mostly opinions from different news sources. Here is what I believe to be true. For reasons known and unknown, Vladimir Putin had no time for Barack Obama. No bromance there. However, he had a real antipathy for his Secretary of State, HR Clinton. Seems Vlad thought that Clinton led some meddling in Russian affairs and elections. He never forgot it.

It now appears to be true that Russia, led by Putin, tried to influence our election - to a degree. It was not to get Trump elected - no love lost there. It was to screw over the woman who (in his mind) tried to screw over him. Now here is where it gets interesting. Putin also was starting to believe the polls. That Trump did not have a snowball's chance of winning. So he went ahead and tried to make the path to victory as rocky and messy as he could for HRC. And then against all odds - Trump wins.

It is also probably true that Paul Manafort had some dealings with Russia before the election. Trump was wise to cut the cord with Manafort early on. If Manafort's dealings were legal or not, appropriate of not, I do not know. It was just good that he was gone before the general election.

Other than that, there is no real tie that has shown up between Russia and Trump. However, this does not stop the Trump hating MSNBC to run conspiracy theories on the Trump-Russia nexus 24 X 7.  

With all this static about Russia, mix in the "wiretapping" issue with Trump Tower. Now Chairman Nunes has disclosed that our intelligence agencies were doing surveillance on some Russian communications (legal), and in the process, some U.S. citizen names were heard (normal). However, some of those names were "unmasked" without the aid of a FISA warrant (illegal). This gave some "legs" to the assertion by Trump that he was surveilled before the election. The Democrats however, don't buy it. What a mess.

Add to all this the peeing and moaning by Democrats about Merrick Garland not being considered for the open SCOTUS seat. The ridiculous questioning of Judge Gorsuch by Democratic clowns like Al Franken. The terror attack in London yesterday. Today's vote on the very messy and evolving American Health Care Act. And I could go on and on and on.

What is the bottom line? As far as the Russia-Trump nexus, there is no "there, there". Manafort, there is something there. The loathing of HRC by Putin - a whole lot of "there, there". So how does our government operate? Corrupt and inefficient. People in the intelligence agency who unmasked US citizen names without a FISA warrant should go to jail.

This is the best I can manage with this pile of goo. Yesterday, I was thinking about my Congressman who also a friend. If some days when he gets up, he wonders why he jumped into this pool of quicksand. I know I would. What a hot, hot mess.      

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Low tech and soft targets

 "Time to take this stuff seriously. Before it is too late."

I think I might have told this story before. Years ago, I was watching something on television about "the perfect murder". How one could do away with someone and get away with it. You simply have to by a frozen piece of meat (of a good size and weight), beat someone to death with it, and then put the meat in the oven. Once it was cooked, enjoy the meal. You just ate the evidence.

Of course that was probably more tongue in cheek than real. But there was a point. If you really want to kill someone, there are countless ways to do it. The problem is not the weapon used, it is the evil in the heart. Many murders can be very low tech - like choking or drowning someone. 

This morning (our time) in London there was yet another terror attack. And it used a low tech weapon against a soft target. Am I surprised? Not a bit. The terrorists have told us they were going to attack us this way. What ever it takes against targets which are the easiest. I know - some of the naive progressives will find this hard to believe. That someone could actually get in a vehicle and mow down innocent pedestrians. Well Mayor Hodges, they have and they will again. Maybe even in your city of Minneapolis. 

Some will say it is virtually impossible to stop attacks such as this one. That is partially true. However, you can cut down the odds. You can cut down the odds by making sure people who are in this country are suppose to be in this country. You can cut down the odds by making sure that people are not totally defenseless (hello carry permits). You can cut down the odds by doing deep vetting of people coming into this country from places which have shaky or non-existing governments.

It is time to wake up Europe. Oh yes - and America also. Wake up and smell the gunpowder. You might not want to be at war with Islamic Terrorists, but they want to be at war with you. Time to take this stuff seriously. Before it is too late.

The vote for all the marbles

"The GOP has just lost all rights to bitch about how ObamaCare was cobbled together in the dark of night." 

I know - this is said about many different votes on Capitol Hill. But this one might have earned that description. Tomorrow will be probably the vote which will shape the presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is the new and improved (?) health care bill. The one which will replace ObamaCare. It is called the American Health Care Act. However, many are just calling it "ObamaCare Lite".

Even thought the GOP had seven or so years to work on this thing, it seems the talk about "repeal and replace" was a bit of smoke and mirrors. President Trump however, does not operate using smoke and mirrors. He ran on the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. And that is one of his big ticket items. It is number one out of the gate to be followed by tax reform. The stock market went way up after the election in anticipation of these two very important pieces of legislation passing into law. If either one of them don't materialize - look out below!

About a week ago, Speaker Ryan was counting noses and found he had a problem. He needed to call in the heavy artillery. He asked President Trump to come to the Hill and practice his art of the deal. Once the meeting was over, President Trump held a presser. "We just had a big, beautiful negotiation. Many in the meeting were a 'maybe' or a 'no'. At the end of the meeting, everyone was a 'yes'."

When I first heard that, I had to suppress a chuckle. I have been in over a hundred negotiations, and I have yet to be in one I considered to be "beautiful". Brutal maybe, but never beautiful. In any event, the Freedom Caucus did not see the meeting the same way the President did. They still feel this vote is DOA if the bill comes up as currently written. But who cares? It is full steam ahead anyhow for a vote in the House tomorrow. 

As this is being penned this morning, Congress is acting like the pitiful organization it is. This is sausage making at its worst. Not just ordinary sausage - this is the sausage which Upton Sinclair wrote about in this book The Jungle. What do I mean by that? The GOP has just lost all rights to bitch about how ObamaCare was cobbled together in the dark of night. That nobody knew what was in it until after it was signed. It ObamaCare was Frankenstein's Monster, then the American Health Care Act is the Bride of Frankenstein.

This is high stakes poker folks. Getting it through the House will be a squeaker. That is if it makes it at all. Changes are still being made, and backroom deals are flying around faster than the migration of song birds in the spring. Even if (big if) it does make it through the House, the Senate will be even tougher. Oh yes - there would be an exhaustive reconciliation process in between. And what would come out that process? Your guess is as good as mine.

ObamaCare. The gift which keeps on giving - misery. Even as a corpse, it will continue to haunt us. To quote my good friend Sue - Thanks for nothing Barack!   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A star might be (re) born!

"Today was different. I think a real star might have been born (or maybe re-born). If this is what Lindsey Graham is capable of, more please. Much, much more."  

Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a Lindsey Graham fan. He and John McCain have been two GOP peas in the same pod. Both Graham and McCain have strong military backgrounds. McCain was Navy and Graham was Air Force. Both retired at the rank of O-6. Graham is a lawyer, McCain is not. And that is all I will say about these two Senate "mavericks".

All that being said, I am now going to laud a ton of praise on the senior Senator from South Carolina. I took some time to work inside today (still trying to put the house back together after the furniture delivery yesterday). As such, I had the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearings on the television. Shortly after I turned it on, it was Senator Graham's turn to question Judge Gorsuch. But first, the good Senator took a minor detour.

He took the Democrats to the woodshed. He chided them for making such a fuss out of Judge Garland - and yes, each one of them did. They were whining like little kids. However, his fire was not aimed at the judge. Graham said Garland is a fine man and probably would have voted for him. But then he quoted (from the record) Joe Biden and Harry Reid on why it is not appropriate for an outgoing President to nominate someone to fill an SCOTUS opening in the last year of his term. And that is exactly what Obama did. Seems the goose and gander are different birds after all.

Then he blasted the Party of Donkeys for being recalcitrant every time a Republican nominated a judge - for the Supreme Court or otherwise. And Lindsey was not just carpet bombing (a term I will use due to his Air Force background) - he had facts and figures to back up his assertions. ESPECIALLY, during the Bush years, when the Party of Donkeys really acted more like the Party of Asses. 

But he saved the best for last. He talked about when in 2013 (just a few scant years ago), then Senator Reid (known to some as Dingy Harry), changed the Senate rules to allow for a simple majority to rule in approving judicial picks. This was the dreaded "nuclear option".

Senator Graham said he hated it when it happened. He knew it would forever change the way the Senate operated. What Graham was really doing was putting the Party of the Donkey on notice. We can either confirm Judge Gorsuch using the old fashioned way of a super majority of 60 votes - or we can use the Harry Reid "nuclear option" way, and confirm Gorsuch with a simple majority. Bottom line - elections have consequences, and one way or the other, Neil Gorsuch is going on the bench.

I have heard Senator Graham many times pontificating from the Well of the Senate. I have seldom been impressed, and more often disappointed. Today was different. I think a real star might have been born (or maybe re-born). If this is what Lindsey Graham is capable of, more please. Much, much more.  

Filling Buckets

"What is going to be happening this year and in the next few years to come will be very painful for the government dependent, and very refreshing for the fiscally prudent."

I have been thinking quite a bit about this as of late. Part of my thinking is steeped in my training in finance and contracts. It has to do with the allocation of costs. Like, which "pots", "buckets", or "silos" to put costs in. Just fancy terms for basic accounting. Kind of like apples and oranges. Only these costs are very important jargon these days. They have to do with which costs should be federal, which are state, which are local, and which should be private.

What is going to be happening this year and in the next few years to come will be very painful for the government dependent, and very refreshing for the fiscally prudent. Unlike "pajama boy" who was at the "teat" of government from birth to death, we are (hopefully) going to be slowly returning to how this country should be run.

Should be run! Bird, who are you to tell us how this country should be run? Fine. Don't listen to me. Just look at our national debt which is about ready to crest $20T. And why is it that high? For one reason, we don't have our costs in the right pots. The pot which seems to get filled the highest and the fastest is the federal pot. So when it starts to overflow, we just get a bigger pot. And then a bigger pot after that. Pretty soon, the pot gets so large, we have a $20T (and growing) national debt.

The current Administration, under the leadership of President Trump and Speaker Ryan, are going to try and get that federal bucket to be more "right sized". In other words, get the federal government to pay for only the things which they should pay for. Like the defense of the states. Many, many of the other costs which are in the federal budget are either duplicative, wasteful (no longer needed), should be borne by the states, should be borne by local governments, or should be borne by the private market.

What needs to happen next is for the State of Minnesota to follow suit. First off, the state needs to be aware there will some costs that were borne by the federal government which no longer will be. It will then be up to each state to put those costs in the right buckets they control (state, local, or private). Or, they can reduce those costs, or even consider them unnecessary and eliminate them.

A bit of forewarning. Be prepared to the howling, the gnashing of teeth, the screams, the profanity and so on. It took generations to get this thing so cocked up, and now we are going to try and fix it in a few short years. It is going to be hard, but necessary.

Some might ask, "What if we don't?" The answer to that question lies in the numbers. Soon the bucket for the federal government will be so big, it will weigh down the stock market and the entire economy. It could cause a crash which would make the last one look like child's play.

Plan a sustainable budget, and then live to that budget. Then make sure the costs are in the right buckets. It really is as simple as that.  


Monday, March 20, 2017

Around the bend, gently...

"Sorry for bringing this up on such a beautiful day. But there are things more important than weather and politics. Living and loving each day, until the days are no longer."

Last week we had twelve diseased red oak trees taken down. Sad day in the house. Those who have trees know what I mean. They become (bear with me on this one) part of the family. Anyhow, we found a nice Christian man in the area (very good reviews), his price was good, and we trusted he would do a fine job. And he did.

Shortly after he started, my neighbor behind me came out to chew out my tree guy. That some of the toppings had come down on his lot. When I went out to check to see how my tree guy was doing, he told me what had happened. I could not believe it. My neighbor and I have next to each other for over 20 years and never one inch of a problem. Besides all of which, neither he nor I really care a wit about the border between our lots.

I got into my truck and drove over to his house. I wanted to apologize, and to tell him I would ensure no tree toppings remained on this lot. When he opened the door, he was the one who apologized to me. He said he did not mean to yell at my tree guy - they were doing a fine job. That everything was all right. We chatted for a while and then I got in my truck to come home.

Yesterday afternoon, my son-in-law was over helping be cut up some branches from the fallen trees. When he was ready to leave, I could faintly hear someone calling my name. It was my neighbor's wife trying to make it through the jungle of branches and bushes that separate our lots. 

She apologized again for what happened with her husband. She told me right before the tree cutters started cutting, he had received a call from up north. His father was actively dying in hospice. He felt so bad about the way he talked to our tree cutter, he called his wife (who was out of town on business) to tell her that. 

I was shocked and saddened to hear about her father-in-law. After we talked for a while, I grabbed her by the arms, and told her, "God bless you". She then went back home and ventured north to watch this loved one die and then plan a funeral.

Once she left, I felt empty. There was so much more I could, and should have said. For example, better words of comfort. And then words of prayer. But death is always the unwanted, un-foretasted intruder in our lives. It often times catches the most prepared flat-footed. For folks like me - totally it caught me totally unprepared.

Then this thought hit me - once again. We all die, because we are all fallen. We are all fallen because Satan tempted Eve, and then corrupted Adam. But we live because of the New Adam - Jesus.

Death is such a downer, most never like to think about it - that is until it strikes close to home. But most all of us have seen death, and felt the sting. However, we are now in the season of Lent. Where we are first reminded on Ash Wednesday that we WILL one day day die. And then after the 40 day journey, we are reminded again, that we will live again through Christ.

Sorry for bringing this up on such a beautiful day. But there are things more important than weather and politics. For example, living and loving each day, until our days are no longer. And then when the time comes, to go around the bend gently, and rest in the place promised to be our final home. 

In the future, I hope I can find better words for friends, and neighbors, who are experiencing the unexpected intruder. Then again, sometimes just being there for them is all that matters.  

Working with the Commies...

"In short, I have very little concern how this new Administration is going to do in dealing with the Commies. I think it is going to be fine." 

Surprise! This is not about working with the progressives in Minnesota! No, this is about how we now deal with communist states worldwide. And to keep this article sane, I will not address the most rogue communist state - North Korea. Instead I will talk about Cuba, Vietnam, China and Russia.

First up Cuba. Last month CNN (yes, I do watch this channel on a rare occasion) had some fairly good reporting on how our "normalization" is coming with Cuba. I have addressed the Cuba issue before - I was for normalization with this near by island. In fact, I gave rare kudos to our 44th President for helping to make nornalization happen. I was proud that my Congressman was also there in the beginning to trail blaze a new frontier with Cuba. But now we have a new POTUS and a new Administration.

In CNN's reporting, they talked about Cuba's concern with how our normalization will continue with Donald Trump in charge. They are worried that some of the things he said about Cuba on the campaign trail he really meant. Like closing down our newly opened embassy if Cuba does not do better with human rights and religious freedoms. 

What I would prefer to see would be our 45th President, just like our 44th President did, visit Cuba. While down there, President Trump could make the Cuban government a "deal they could not refuse". I would send Rex Tillerson down to Cuba with the President. If played right, this could end up being a bonanza of good things through new and expanded trade for both Cuba and the United States. Plus have more freedoms for the Cuban people.

By the way, I have also addressed our relationship with Vietnam in the past. Pretty darn good considering we and North View Nam were at each other's throats 50 year ago. Now we trade and visit with that unified country to our heart's content. And something interesting my wife and I just recently found out. A large portion of the frozen shrimp we buy at the grocery stores comes from shrimp farms in Vietnam. Those Commies have done pretty good for themselves since the war has ended.

Finally Russia and China. Two super powers. I will call China a super power even though they only possess 260 nuclear warheads. A mere pittance compared to the United States and Russia. But China is expanding its reach militarily. As is Russia. They have both taken advantage of the power vacuum left with the United States became introverted the past eight years. 

I still believe that President Trump will be able to deal with both the Bear and the Dragon better than anyone else today. Some call it the "madman theory". That Trump is so unpredictable (a polar opposite from Obama), it will give our adversaries pause. Some say that Nixon had this "madman" thing also. I believe Trump's success in dealing with both of these countries will come from first a robust military (like in Reagan's days) and (working hand in hand with Tillerson) making them "deals they can't refuse".

In short, I have very little concern how this new Administration is going to do in dealing with the Commies. I think it is going to be fine. The biggest challenge however, will be to convince China to get its pet bulldog (that be the Norks) back on a leash. If Trump and Tillerson can do that, they will have inked their place in the history books.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ready? - On the Mark - SPEND!

"Dayton's days are numbered and his clone, Tina Smith has recently decided she will not run for his job. The field is wide open for the right person to turn this state around. Sorry Kurt - it is not you."

A few months ago, a much younger friend who was just getting interested in politics, asked me the main difference between a true Republican and true Democrat. First, I had to set my young friend straight. There really are no "true" Republicans or Democrats anymore. I did not have the heart, nor the patience, to go into all the fractures which each party has developed. To make it simple, I just said the two parties were conservatives and progressives.

Then I thought to myself, that was the easy piece. How can I explain all the fractures our nation has developed as the two major parties have slid down into two separate valleys? Should I talk about the originalist vs. organic? The party of death as compared to the party which cherishes life? The party of law vs. the party of anarchy? Or the party of government controlled money compared to the party of citizen controlled money. I chose the last one.

It is too bad that discussion did not happen right now. I could use Mark "clueless" Dayton as the poster child for how a pure unadulterated progressive acts. Whereas conservative citizens look at the gargantuan surplus we have accumulated right now and know our state government has overtaxed us (and owes us our money back), progressive leaders and progressive subjects looks at the surplus as theirs. And try to figure out different ways to waste it.

In short, Minnesota will have a $1.65B surplus over the next two years. Let that sink in for just a minute. That is 1.65 with a whole lot of zeroes behind it. And this is due to two things: 1) The Republican lead House has done an "okay" job in watching the budget. However, they could have done better if they governed like true conservatives. 2) Governor Dayton, who wanted more money for early childhood education, more money from gas taxes, more money from bonding - was stopped in this tracks last year due to a budget deadlock.

So if I was talking to my young friend right now, I would tell him to read the paper, watch the news, read blogs, watch podcasts, or whatever - to see how Dayton is acting with this large sum of undeserved cash. Then I would point out how much state government has grown in the past 10 years. For example, the number of people working for the state government has grown over 5% since 2007. That is insane.  We should be looking for ways to do more with less like the private sector does. However, in a progressive state like Minnesota, we do less with more.

How we elected Mark Dayton two times in a row will always remain a mystery to me. Two of the finest men I know in politics ran against him - and lost. Men who could have really turned this state around and made it competitive with states like Wisconsin. States which are now eating our lunch and stealing our wealth.

Dayton's days are numbered and his clone, Tina Smith has recently decided she will not run for his job. The field is wide open for the right person to turn this state around. Sorry Kurt - it is not you. Please keep being Speaker and keep holding the lid on.

I know the right person. Soon we all will. And when that person is our Governor, people from Wisconsin will want to move to Minnesota rather than visa versa.