Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018: The pruning of the money tree

"2018 will be a very interesting year. How we get stuff done, while still keeping the lid on. I know many of us will be watching closely. I know I will. Will we prune the money tree? Or will we need to plant a few more?"  

It has often been said he biggest difference between conservatives and progressives are the mythical money trees. Oh - did I say mythical? Well, they are in the eyes of the conservatives. But to the progressives, they are as real as real can get. Please notice I did not say Republicans and Democrats. The reason for that is simple. There are some squishy Republicans today who also believe in the money trees. And that is a big, big problem.

Because of the mirage of the money trees, each year, every year, we spend more than we have. More than we take in. Pffft - like who cares, right? I have actually talked to people on both sides of our political spectrum who blow this whole debt thing off. That it is just a charade, as it is money we owe ourselves. That we could, with the flick of a pen, get rid of $20+T in national debt and start over. Sorry - I am not in that camp.

The Holy Bible tells us that the fields are vast and the workers are few. If I could modify that verse it would be (for our country), the needs are many and the sources of funding are few. Why do I say that? According to the President, one of the first things he would like to attack after Congress comes back from yet another protracted break, is infrastructure. He would like to work with the Democrats in crafting a fix for our aging infrastructure. How much will that cost? About $1T. The Democrats are already asking where the money will come from. On the other hand, earlier this year the American Society of Civil Engineers was asked what the amount should be to update our infrastructure. Ready? $4.6 trillion.

If the amount is $1T or $4.6T, here is the bottom line - the money is not there. Plus - anyone who is paying attention knows our military is in tough shape after the scalping it took under Obama. How much do the experts at the Pentagon say it will cost to get our military back to where it should be to meet today's threats? Somewhere between $4T and $4.5T over the next 9 years. 

Of course we still need to fund all our entitlement programs at the same time. For example, in 2017, about 62,000,000 people received nearly $1T in Social Security benefits. And the number of people receiving Social Security goes up every year. Then throw in Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare, and you end up with a huge festering wound in our budget.

So how do we prune our money tree? How do we keep the debt from going up like a Roman Candle? How can we pay for everything which needs to be done? What about our electrical grid? Is that not super critical to harden? 

2018 will be a very interesting year. How we get stuff done, while still keeping the lid on. I know many of us will be watching closely. I know I will. Will we prune the money tree? Or will we need to plant a few more?  

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Here is your global warming!!

"Anyhow, the haters will continue to hate. This is just another issue the Loons on the Left will try and tie around the President's neck."

As I pen this article this morning, the temperature in my back yard is -16 and the wind chill is -35. For some bizarre reason, my wife's niece is getting married today, so we have to drive 50 miles in frigid temps to get to the wedding. In fact, this current polar vortex is so big, so vast, it covers just about the entire nation - including parts of Florida.

I am not hearing much about global warming this week. Wait - not true. The true believers in this nonsense are saying this arctic polar vortex is also part of global warming (or climate change). If I was British, I would say Balderdash! 

Our climate is constantly changing on this orb we live on. Including during this Quaternary. How so? For example, scientists believe during the past 2 1/2 million years we have had 50 ice ages. 50! And the most recent was a scant 21,000 years ago. During that ice age, just about the entire continent of North America was covered by some kind of ice.  In fact, the ice was so thick over Hudson's Bay, it measured over two miles think. The polar ice cap stretched as far south as New York. I bet nobody was crabbing back then when the ice caps started to shrink!

Living where we do, this past year was very good for weather. Just enough rain for bumper crops once again. The farmers don't much like it, because there is so much grain on the market, the prices are depressed. Other than that however, things are fine. Had a few days in the 90's, but not bad. This winter so far has been brutal. Cold, cold and more cold. That also has some advantages - kills more bugs hiding in the bark of the trees.

In any event, our climate on Planet Earth has always been in a constant state of flux. Is mankind putting more carbon in the air now than 100 years ago? I suppose we are. However, the times they are a changing. Less coal all the time. More natural gas. As time goes on, more renewable which makes financial sense. New technologies like the fuel cells are right around the corner. 

By the way, if people really want to get riled up about our climate, they need to look no further than North Korea. Now that "Rocket Man" has as many as 80 nukes, should he use all of them against anyone on this planet, it will (according to scientists) change our climate for up to a century. People will not be bitching about global warming - instead many will freeze to death.

Anyhow, the haters will continue to hate. This is just another issue the Loons on the Left will try and tie around the President's neck. As for me however, I am sitting by the electric heater with a blanket around my shoulders, trying to stay warm.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Universe or Multiverse?

"Will we ever know the answer to the question of universe or multiverse? Maybe not. But it is fun to listen to the theories."

What the heck is a multiverse anyhow? Seems like I have been hearing more and more these days about this thing called a multiverse. From whom have I been hearing this from? Nut balls or kooks? Nope. Mostly scientists and astronomers. People who know what they are talking about. But - do they have proof that this thing called a multiverse exists? Not a shred of evidence. But that does not stop them from making theories.

This is mind blowing for sure. We are learning more and more every year about the size and complexity of just our universe. Isn't that enough for crying out loud? We already know there are more stars in the universe than grains of sands in all the deserts on Earth. I can't even wrap my brain around that one. So with all of that, why in the world would we need something more?

I was watching one science show where the topic of the multiverse was the topic du jour. Not only if we have a multiverse, but how many universes might exist within it. Now hold on to your seat belts as this gets really wild. Some scientists not only believe we have a multiverse, but the other universes lie parallel to ours. In other words, we all have a "twin" of sorts (or many, many of them) which exists just a frequency away in another dimension. Some refer to that as the "string theory". 

Just think for a moment. Currently (and this number seems to go up every year), scientists believe there are 170 billion galaxies in our universe. Some of those galaxies are huge, One for sure is estimated to contain 100 trillion stars. Others are much smaller than our Milky Way. In any event, the number of stars in our universe is almost beyond comprehension.

Now imagine for a minute, if we could travel to the outer limits of our universe and then, bang! We bump into the outer limits of the next universe! And that keeps going and going and going. Bottom line - our minds cannot comprehend such a thing. Our solar system is just about enough for us right now, thank you. And if we did ever venture beyond our solar system, the distance between stars is staggering. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is not that big compared to other galaxies. And yet it is still 120,000 light years across.

Will we ever know the answer to the question of universe or multiverse? Maybe not. But it is fun to listen to the theories. Or, most of the time it is just fun to look up into the heavens on a dark and starry night to just plain imagine. 

2018: Our year of living dangerously?

"I hope none of these dangers come to fruition in 2018, or beyond. I don't want 2018 to be a year of living dangerously. I want it to be a year of living abundantly." 

We are on the final countdown. Less than a hundred hours of 2017 remaining. I know - it is time to get refreshed on all verses of Old Lang Syne, so we can belt it out on News Year Eve. It is also the time that many of us reflect on our soon to be past year. Was it a good year or not? Are we better off at the end of this year or not? I would rather take a peek ahead towards 2018 to see what is coming. It could be a very good year, or it could be one fraught with danger and disappointment.

North Korea -  I am afraid the time is up in 2018. According to our military experts, the 8,000 mile ICBM that North Korea has coveted for years, is just about done. The only question which remains is if it is done enough to carry a survivable, and lethal warhead containing either a nuke, anthrax or VX nerve gas. By the way, even though VX had been internationally banned, that does not matter a wit to the Norks. They have plenty and stand ready to use it. 

The question remains, can the United States back North Korea into a corner, making them behave without going to war? I do know this - we are closer to war on the Korean Peninsula now than we were at this time last year. At any time, the North Koreans could unleash hell on earth in Seoul, South Korea. That would drag us in, and maybe the Chinese also. It could turn into WW III in the blink of an eye. This rouge nation, North Korea, has my vote for first place. First place to make 2018 a very dangerous year.

Islamic State -  The good news? In 2017 we finally had a President and a Secretary of Defense who allowed our generals to fight the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The result? ISIS went from holding territory the size of Ohio, to just a few thousand fighters huddled up on the border of Iraq and Syria. The President wants this final few to be mopped up sooner rather than later. 

The bad news. ISIS has reconstituted. This thing with the caliphate did not work out well, so now they want to wage urban warfare in Europe and the United States. Low tech - extremely low tech. Like renting a truck at Home Depot and running people over. Like stabbing as many people as possible at a busy mall. Like targeting our police forces with sniper attacks. And if that is not enough to be concerned about, OBL's son has declared a jihad on the west. Yes, our old arch enemy, Al Qaeda, is still around. They are still trying to perfect an untraceable explosive which can put inside a laptop and strong enough to take down a plane. 

Because of the brazen nature of all elements of the Islamic State, I give this second place for danger in 2018.

Stock Market - Many have enjoyed the gains in 2017. What a year! However, some analysts are concerned - very concerned. Did we go up too fast? Have expectations outstripped reality? Do the DOW or NASDAQ contain bubbles? Is there another bubble in the housing industry? Are we starting to issue toxic mortgages again by using NINJA loans? What would happen if a massive cyber attack hit our financial institutions? Like the North Korean promulgated Wanna Cry Virus, or worse? Many cyber experts think it is only a matter or time before a cyber attack could really be a punch to our financial solar plexus. I give a financial incident third place in the danger category for 2018.

Civil War -  Please, don't laugh at this one. I think anyone who is honest will admit that year after year, our civil discourse becomes worse. As a country, we have become ever more divided. You can blame Trump, Obama, or even Bush (43). Or just blame all of us. When I say civil war, I do not mean like the North against the South. I am not even saying it would be bloody. I mean it would cripple what little discourse we have left as a nation. Washington, as well as many state capitols would slide into total entropy. Nothing would get done. Think I am practicing histrionics? Just look at how the last legislative session in Minnesota ended up. This gets my vote for number four in the danger category going forward.

Insolvency -  If I were doing this for a ten year period instead of only 2018, this one would be higher than fifth place. Many talk about our national debt. Yes, it is bad, and only going to get worse. The tax bill, updating the infrastructure, the fix or replace to ObamaCare, the growing number of Social Security recipients. But there are many states (mostly blue) which have unsustainable debt (hello, California). We have many municipal pensions which are seriously underfunded. How bad is our debt right now? Under the right circumstances, it could bring down our house of cards. It is out there - growing - threatening. Yes, even though in fifth place, it is a danger none the less.

There are more I could list, but I would be violating my own rule about making an article too long. Am I being a Dr. Rain Cloud this morning? I hope not. In fact, I hope none of these dangers come to fruition in 2018, or beyond. I don't want 2018 to be a year of living dangerously. I want it to be a year of living abundantly. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Tax Law; Change # 01

"However, for churches who are struggling with giving, losing the deductability for gifts is going to hurt. It is also going to hurt food shelves, homeless shelters, just about every non-profit you can think of."

Many are thinking once the new tax law hits the street and folks start to see the consequences of it (both intended and unintended), that the first major change to the law might be forthcoming sooner rather than later. I am one of those people. However the change which I think will be forthcoming is not what some might think. Since I live in high SALT territory, some might think that would be the change. However - I think not.

Wait a minute Bird! All you have done is gripe about the SALT issue on the tax bill! What is wrong with you? Nothing. I still don't like it, as the minions in this state will be on the short end of the stick. But I also believe that the folks who live in low SALT states are not getting the same treatment from the feds that high SALT states have been given. So grudgingly, I accept that provision. 

Also, I have heard many folks much smarter than I, say this change is needed so the people in the high SALT states can fix their out of control tax system. I know we sure do. I think even the bluest statist will squeal like a pig when he or she sees what happens to his or her taxes this year, if he or she continues to itemize.

No, the first change will come from elsewhere. Where elsewhere? The deductability of charitable deductions. If you don't think a whole lot of people are motivated (at least partly) by the deduction of giving, well, you might need a winter vacation. And by the way, statistics prove this out. Did you know that 13% of all charitable giving happens in the last three days of the calendar year? Coincidence? Probably not.

Here is the irony. Back in the day, when after retirement I dabbled in the church business, giving was a big problem year after year. Lutherans are notoriously low givers, no matter which denomination you are talking about. As I was mulling this one day, a thought came to me. Why is it so low, if the monies given are deductible on the income tax? Then it hit me - the deduction was not high enough. It should be a tax credit. If we gave people the choice of giving 10% to the church or 10% to the government, the churches would do very well, thank you. However, there are folks who don't believe in the church. They can continue to give that 10% to the government. Everybody wins.

One day, a few of us staff members at the large church I worked at did a "what if" exercise if during the next year, 10% of the congregation tithed. It was fantastic. The church would be paid off, the amount of missions the church could fund would multiply, and much needed church improvements could be funded. 

However, for churches who are struggling with giving, losing the deductability for gifts is going to hurt. It is also going to hurt food shelves, homeless shelters, just about every non-profit you can think of. There will be a loud cry of anguish coming from the churches and non-profit world.

How loud will the cry be? It will be loud enough to be hear all the way to Washington. And that will begin the first change to this historic tax law.  

Smooth move Jacob!

"On our recent cruise, someone asked me if I thought Minnesota was a lost cause. I told him it all depends. If we could get rid of the Twin Cities, no - there would be a chance for redemption."

He has not even been sworn in yet, and he already stepped in it. Someone asked me earlier in the year why I write about Minneapolis so much. Why should I care since I don't live in that hell hole. The reason is simple. Just about everything Minneapolis does is a teachable moment. For those who are interested to see how socialism works in a capitalist country, need to look no further than the City of Lakes. Or should I say, the City of Loons.

While the city has a failing education system, while it has a growing gang problem, while it has a persistent homelessness population, and while the pockets of poverty keep popping up all over the northside, the wizards of smart who sit on the City Council (and Jacob is one of them this year), just voted themselves a $10,000 raise. No questions asked.

I know, I know. Many out in realville are trying to remember the last time they got a $10,000 raise. For most, the answer is the 12th of never. But that is okay, as each and every member of the Minneapolis City Council is a big government statist. They think differently than normal people do. Just like in the story, The Boy in the Bubble, they are cocooned. Only their bubble is make believe.

Here is yet another example on how stupid the ruling elite is in Minneapolis. They mandated recycling of unused food. Scraps. Okay - sounds good. We do that out in the country, where we have a dedicated mulch pile. The problem with the city, most don't have mulch piles. And they they did not have the right amount of space dedicated to do the recycling. So they collect the waste and (oh-oh), there not enough places to put it. So they have to pay another county to find some place to dump it. And that is only a temporary fix. Seems like Utopia might have some holes in the bottom of the boat.

On our recent cruise, someone asked me if I thought Minnesota was a lost cause. I told him it all depends. If we could get rid of the Twin Cities, no - there would be a chance for redemption. However, the Twin Cites are like a boat anchor on the feet of progress. And the City of Minneapolis is the poster child for the dysfunction in the entire metro area.

What will Jacob Frey do to make Minneapolis great again? Nothing. It is bigger than him. Even if he was a conservative (and he is far, far from that!), he will change nothing. How do I know? As a current City Councilperson, he was one of the statists who voted himself a $10,000 raise. Case closed.    

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


"Caucus night is during the first part of February. If you have been before, please come back. If you have never been, please come. It is vitally important. Learn the issues. Get involved." 

Christmas is over, some of the out of town relatives are already on their way home, the house is strewn with new toys, the fridge is stuffed with leftovers, and some folks need to venture outside to get back to work today. For those on the campaign trail, Christmas was a nice break from the hectic pace of getting their message out. But that was yesterday and today is today. It is time once again to prepare to Make Minnesota Great Again (MMGA). And that all starts in preparing for the Battle of St. Paul in February. 

When we were on the cruise ship, someone I met at the pool asked me about Minnesota. I told that person everything - including how our state government has become a mecca for Mondale style statists and globalists. How it has resulted in one of the highest state taxes in the country. How the business climate and tax structure are driving wealth out of our state into lower taxed states. When I got done, and was trying to catch my breath, the person (who lived in Texas) asked me a very simple question - "Then why don't you just fix it?"

Bingo. Why don't we just fix it? Great question. This coming year will be the BEST chance we have had in eons to change our trajectory. Change it to be in sync with the country's new trajectory. We have the Minnesota Senate. Even if we lose Michelle Fischbach, we will at least have it even Steven. Unless we do something stupid, we should still be able to hold the House. After Dayton, people are clamoring for a change in the Governor's mansion. Fortunately, we have some excellent candidates. We have a proven winner ready to take the AG position, and finally, we have the chance to recapture both US Senate seats with qualified people.

But is really is as simple as this. To change Minnesota, to really MMGA, we need to change the people running the state. We need people who are NOT "tools of the trade", statists, globalists, or prairie populists. I am talking about rock solid, principled conservatives. People who know how to do more with less. People who know how to right size our government. People who know how to right size our taxes to make our state more competitive.

Caucus night is during the first part of February. If you have been before, please come back. If you have never been, please come. It is vitally important. Learn the issues. Get involved. Work for a candidate you would like to support. The statists, the globalists, the populists are not going to give up their power without a fight. We need to be prepared. Battle ready. When the legislature is brought to session this February, when caucus night happens in February, it truly is "go time".

Some don't think this state is worth fighting for. Some have given up and left. Some decided to stay and make one last stand. That stand comes in 2018. If we cannot turn this state in 2018, I fear Minnesota will be lost. The metro area already is. I am in the fight - the fight for St. Paul. How about you?   

Saturday, December 23, 2017

No time for joyless Christians

"This is really the world's biggest birthday party. It should be celebrated as such every year. And our joy meter should be off the charts high."

Okay - I will say it. Years ago I wrote an article about the effect of crabby Christians. How much they hurt rather than help. Why do I say that? Christians are to be joyful. How joyful? Unbridled joyful. Because of the timeless gift God gave the world two thousand years ago, this joy should be with us 24 by 7. But we are human. Even the most devout follower of Christ does have his or her down times. But for the most part with Christ followers - joy is the name of the game.

Before Christ came to Earth, his birth had been prophesied for many years. People were excited - hopeful, that this great event could happen in their lifetime. They knew it would change everything for evermore. And it did.

It is at this time of year, when family comes home, when we exchange presents, when we go "all out" for the most fantastic Christmas meal possible, that sometimes the real meaning of the season goes unnoticed. Goes uncelebrated. This is really the world's biggest birthday party. It should be celebrated as such every year. And our joy meter should be off the charts high.

One of our former pastors would often tell us something very wise and sage. Sometimes the best way to witness your faith is just how you live your life. Where people can see you filled with the peace which passes all understanding. Where people can also see you filled with a joy which is almost uncontainable

By the same token, when Christians hide their joy, when they don't even try to "walk the walk", it hurts the cause. It hurts the Kingdom. Trust me - I have been there many times, and deeply regret it. During those times, I have gained strength from others who let their joy shine like a lamp lighting a dark path. I am drawn to people like that. Many people are.

So this time of year, may we all say "Merry Christmas!" with all the gusto and joy this season deserves. As for me, I am cranking up the Christmas tunes as I prepare for the birthday party which starts on Sunday night goes all day Monday. Yes, Christmas does come but just once a year - and I will joyfully love each and every minute of it.  

Friday, December 22, 2017

The hate runs deep this Christmas (and it should not!)

"If Donald Trump ever perjures himself like Nixon or Clinton did, I will be asking for justice. However, until there are 'high crimes or misdemeanors' or lying under oath, Donald Trump can an keep on keeping on."

My, oh my. Of all seasons of the year, this season of good cheer, this season of festivities, this season of remembering (and celebrating) the birth of the Prince of Peace, the hatred in our land runs very strong. Why is that? I have no clue.

The Left, once known by themselves to be the party of tolerance, has now shown itself to be anything but in addressing our current President. One would think after eight years of shredding of the Constitution by our former President, the hatred from the Right would be palpable. Nope. The Right did hate what he did to the country, but they did not hate the man. The Left on the other hand, has a visceral, seething hatred of Donald J. Trump. Even a retired pastor friend of mine is not immune from this hatred. 

Because I am a bit long in the tooth, I was alive during many Presidential terms. I was born when Truman was President - not that long after he authorized the atomic bombing of Japan. Then came Eisenhower, Kennedy (yes, I remember the assassination like it was yesterday), Johnson, Nixon (and I remember Watergate and the resignation quite clearly), Carter, Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43), and finally Obama.

I have seen each President since I reached adulthood fall into disfavor with the other side of the political spectrum. But I have NEVER, EVER, seen the crude, crass, un-American profanity laced diatribes, like I have seen launched against our current President.

I will admit that Donald Trump is a flawed man. A good many of the Presidents listed above have been. But just like many of the men listed above, Donald Trump also has his good points. I believe by the time his term(s) is up, he will leave this country better than when he took the oath. But the Left will not give him that much grace - in fact, no grace.. No matter what he does, he still sucks in their book.

The Left will lie, and lie, and lie about what he has done to harm this country. And the POS media will agree, They are in his in their hip pocket, acting like parrots with each of these lies. 

What I will ask those of the Left is to do the following: If you disagree with the polices that President Trump has promulgated, it is your right in this country to voice your displeasure. But keep your comments about the policies and not the person. And try to keep your comments out of the gutter and free of invective. As Covey has said, "If you want to be understood, first strive to understand." Maybe there is some parts of the policy you do not yet fully understand - that is where honest dialogue comes in. Dialogue between Americans, talking respectfully to each other.

If Donald Trump ever perjures himself like Nixon or Clinton did, I will be asking for justice. However, until there are "high crimes or misdemeanors" or lying under oath, Donald Trump can keep on keeping on. Right now, he is my President and I support him. I you do not support him, find a better candidate than Hillary to run in 2020. And good luck with that - I think that the Trumpster is just getting started! 

The UN-Solution (once again)....

"Donald Trump also understands loyalty. He does not understand why this country has given billions upon billions of our dollars to countries who hate us."

Oh boy. The final vote for the tax bill is still fresh in everyone's minds, and what just happened? Our UN Ambassador goes in front of the General Assembly and tells that assembled group of statists and globalists what for. Nikki Haley, who has balls the size of grapefruits (metaphorically speaking, of course) just put the UN on notice. Even though we have recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for decades now, it took Donald Trump to tell the UN to stick it where the sun don't shine.

Wait a minute Bird! Why rile up the rest of the world over this stupid issue? Number one - it is not a stupid issue. It is like someone told us that Washington could not the true capital of our country and we had to move it. Number two - Jerusalem was the capital of Israel in days of old (never Palestine), and after the UN mandated the re-establishment of Israel in 1948, the Israelis chose Jerusalem to be their capital once again. 

Ever since our Congressional vote in 1995, the US has technically recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But most Presidents since then have forgotten how to put on their big boy pants, and left the issue in the closet. In other words, they just let it slide. Unfortunately for for the chicken hearted, Donald Trump does not understand putting off till tomorrow what needs to be done today. He understands "big boy" pants. He just wears them every day.

Donald Trump also understands loyalty. He does not understand why this country has given billions upon billions of our dollars to countries who hate us. By the same token, he is questioning why we look at countries as "friends", who constantly stab us in the back at the UN. Finally he is wondering if we are getting our bang for the buck with all we spend (the lion's share I may add) at that worthless social club, who lives rent free in NYC.

So the new sheriff in town might have some new rules in how we deal with the UN. How we deal with other countries who stand against us at the UN. I might add that when President Trump stands against the UN, he is not doing it by himself. There are a boat load of patriots in this country who feel the same way he does. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! If the UN cannot live up to it's charter, and quit being a globalist social engineering organization, get the hell out of our country! And then we will get the hell out of the UN!

The Turkish ambassador stood up yesterday and tried to scold us for threatening to withhold foreign aid from the malcontents. He said in a loud voice, "Just because you are strong, does not make you right!" I beg to differ sir. First off, we are right. Second, have you never heard that saying, "might is right"? If not, you have now.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winners and Losers

"Even the haters will have to agree with us on one point - statistics and facts don't lie. Our economy is roaring right now, and starting in January, the roar will become even louder."

As the year winds down, it is time once again for my take on who were the winners and who were the losers in 2017. I might as well start at the top. In this most improbable year, we had the first year of the first term of the most improbable President. The man who few gave a snowball's chance of winning, became our 45th President. And in January of this year, he took over the White House from the most pedantic President in history. Yes, Donald J. Trump was the biggest winner of 2017.

Who else won? Anyone who was invested in the stock market. Just like a Saturn Rocket leaving the launch pad, the market started going up right after Trump won the 2016 election, and never looked back. Record after record was broken. Why? Because of one word - hope. After having eight years of meager GDP growth, the MAGA battle cry was starting to resonate from Wall Street down to Main Street. Even though the historic tax bill will not be signed into law until almost New Year's Eve, the hope of this event fueled the market all year long.

One group will receive the hybrid award. That would be Congress. During the summer, trying to fulfill their promise to "repeal and replace" ObamaCare, both chambers looked like a cross between F Troop and the gang who could not shoot straight. Most citizens were ready to fire each and every one of them. However - redemption! How they performed on the tax bill pulled them out of the loser category and into the winner's circle. But victory might be short lived. Why? It is spelled CR, and that for many of us, that is another way to spell failure.

The biggest loser category is really a tie. Mark Dayton and Al Franken. I will address Dayton first. After he and his merry group of DFL henchmen ratcheted our income tax up to be one of the highest in the country, we are about to get our comeuppance. Yes, our very blue state is about to find out how it feels to be on the outside looking in. The new tax bill will fit low SALT states nicely. High SALT states like ours - not so much.

The second reason Dayton won the loser award is how he behaved last legislative session. I would like to say he acted like a spoiled trust fund baby brat, but that is an insult to the other spoiled trust fund baby brats. He is the worst Governor we have ever had - yes, worse than Jesse by a country mile. When he defunded the legislature this past session, he should have been impeached or recalled. Once again, we were the laughing stock of the country.

Al Franken, our Senator who was elected only because of voter fraud, who was the 60th vote on the disastrous ObamaCare, turned out to be as bad of a Senator as he was a comedian. How funny was it to grab a woman by the breasts when she was sleeping? Needing to resign funny. It is times like this, I am almost tempted to believe in Karma. Al is leaving office the same way he came in - on a sour note. He may think he was a "Giant" in the Senate, but he was only a giant disappointment.

Finally, Hollywood was once again a loser. Not only can they not make a good movie anymore, but Harvey Weinstein has shown us why he deserves to be the poster child for a boar. What he did to other people because of his perceived "power" is beyond sinful. Actually, if Hollywood had burned down in the LA fires, and we needed to start all over again, it would have been a blessing.

Going into 2018, haters will continue to hate. Trump will continue to be Trump, and believe it or not, stuff will get done. What is on the road ahead? Infrastructure, entitlement reform, welfare reform, and of course - the budget.

Even the haters will have to agree with us on one point - statistics and facts don't lie. Our economy is roaring right now, and starting in January, the roar will become even louder.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Is this finally it?

"Some retired FAA operators have testified under oath they would occasionally see 'somethings' going at speeds up to 20,000 mph. An impossible speed. Making impossible turns."

Is this finally it? The long awaited disclosure by the United States? Other countries have done it. Russia has done it. The UK and the US for some reason have been reticent in doing so. But now it might be starting just like many thought it would. First a "drip, drip, drip", and then the flood waters would start to rage. The truth about the "somethings" might finally be told. 

I have told this story before, but not for a while. In the early 1980's, shortly after receiving my commission as a Naval Officer, I was on active duty at our command headquarters in Washington DC. As a young Ensign, I was given a task to complete during my two week active duty time frame. The task was not too difficult or complex, so I had it done in a week. The Commander I worked for asked me if I would mind going through some old safes and getting rid of older, declassified files. Not a problem, so I dove right into that assignment.

About three days into the assignment, I finished a safe which was for the most part empty when I was done. I was going to lock it up, when something caught my eye. It was a corner of a sheet of paper which had been stuck under a drawer. I lifted the drawer out and retrieved the paper so I could determine if it too, was declassified. It was just the opposite. It was stamped with red letters of warning and code words, most of which I had never seen before. I put it in an envelope and took it up to the Commander's office.

I told him what had happened and took the paper out of the envelope. When he looked at it, a stunned look came over his face. "You and I need to go top side so you can be briefed and then debriefed. Your clearance is not nearly high enough to have viewed this. I am going to call NSA and they will send someone over to conduct the brief and debrief."

I was confused as my Navy clearance was Top Secret SCI - that was pretty high up the food chain. I had not read the message as I knew it was something outside my field of expertise. I did notice however, the word "Magic" had been misspelled, and found that odd. It was spelled with a "J" instead of a "G".

As the years passed, I believed more and more the message I saw dealt with a Majestic matter. Majestic was quite often referred to as Majic. The safes the command used were older ones which came over from the NSA. The paper I found must have been part of a project that NSA was working on. Could that have been part of what is now being disclosed? I wonder. 

In any event, back to today. It is odd that an event which happened in 2004 is now being released by the Navy. Testimony by the pilot, along with video and still pictures. The whole ball of wax, showing a "something" going at impossible speeds, doing impossible turns, and making our Navy's finest jets look like they were standing still. So why now? Thirteen years later? 

Some retired FAA operators have testified under oath they would occasionally see "somethings" going at speeds up to 20,000 mph. An impossible speed. Making impossible turns. Many have believed our government knows a whole bunch about these "somethings", and this slow motion disclosure is meant to "soften the blow" with the public. Some might find it disturbing that we are not alone in the universe. 

In any event, it will be interesting so see if other interesting facts about "somethings" will be forthcoming in the next few days or weeks. If Frank Drake was right, there are thousands more civilizations in this galaxy alone. We might not be alone - just saying... 

Taxed enough already!!!

"So it really is up to the people of Minnesota. Either we fix our system, or lose the right to bitch when more money flees the state."

Okay. The long awaited and overdue tax reform bill is just about a wrap. Last night it passed the Senate. Today, about noon, it will be re-voted on in the House. Since it already passed the House, this is nothing more than a formality. I would not be a bit surprised to see the Donald J. Trump signature on this bill before the end of business today. Then we go on to our next hill left to climb. 

As I was channel surfing this morning, one of the channels had a financial expert on going over the pros and cons of the soon to be signed tax bill. Mostly positive from this man - with one glaring exception. High SALT states. He said many in the high SALT states will either get no tax relief or pay higher taxes. And then he came up with the golden statement which I have heard from many lawmakers as well as tax experts. "It is now up to the higher taxed states to tighten their fiscal belts so they can become lower SALT states. Then they too, can enjoy the benefits of this new law." BINGO!!!

I take no pride that the state of my birth is ranked right up there with socialist empires such as California, New York, and New Jersey. For a state which touts itself as the "brain state" we sure do some stupid things. For example, smart and successful companies I have worked for or with know the value of doing more for less. In Minnesota, the kool aid drinking DFL has many of the minions convinced we should do less for more. Bottom line - we end up a high SALT state, with more and more money fleeing to lower SALT states every year. 

One of my very smart friends who has a weekend talk show in the Twin Cites always asks this question - "Is this a hill worth dying for". Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls - fixing our out of control, destructive high tax system in this state most certainly is. And I am not talking about slowing the rate of growth - I am talking about real reform. The kind that makes us competitive with states like South Dakota and Texas, and leaves Wisconsin in the dust. 

In less than two months our legislature gets back together. By that time, the impact of the newly signed tax bill will be known. For most states in the union, it will be awesome. A real gift for lower taxed states. For states like Minnesota however, it may not be. In fact, it could even be the opposite of a gift.

So it really is up to the people of Minnesota. Either we fix our system, or lose the right to bitch when more money flees the state. And with the advent of this new tax bill, the money leaving the state might go from a strong trickle to a major flood. Wake up Minnesota - it is now go time.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Air travel needs a HUGE "do over"!

"I will take driving my truck any day of the week and twice on Sunday over flying. Nothing like paying big bucks for a lousy time and a horrible ride."  

I have not ranted about air travel for a while, so today might be a good time to do so. After yesterday, one might wonder what our best form of transportation is. Seems that Amtrak is still not ready for prime time (and so long as it stays a government program, probably never will be). Air travel? Talk to the folks who spent an unplanned night in the Atlanta airport, sleeping on the floor. Even cruise ships are not immune. How about that Royal Caribbean ship which had the stomach virus sicken hundreds last week. 

However, air travel is the 800 pound ape in the corner of the room. It has a ton more passenger miles than Amtrak any day of the week. Now, I used to travel by air quite a bit for my job. Back then, I belonged to the NWA World Club, had gold status for a few years, and often times flew first class because of that status. The planes were roomier and much more comfortable. Often times they were not full to the brim, so matter where you sat, you could stretch out. Oh yes - there was often time food served which you did not have to pay for.

What is flying like today? Like getting a root canal without Novocain or gas to dull the pain. Long, long lines to check in, intrusive TSA screening to get through security, and then waiting at a crowded gate to get on a plane which is almost SRO.

Flying down and back to Ft. Lauderdale this month, was not fun by any stretch. Both flights were on fairly new Boeing 737-900 jets. Or should I say "flying sardine cans". Both flights were oversold, so passengers were asked to give up their seats to fly later. The plane was totally full (both ways), and the only way this full plane could have been comfortable is if every one on board was a Munchkin. But we are not, so it was not.

I told my wife when we got home, I loved the cruise except for the very start and the very end of it. That would be the air travel. We would love to take the south seas cruise some time, but to do so would mean a one way air trip to Australia. No thanks. I flew that once in business class while working, and that was brutal. I can only imagine what sitting like a pretzel in coach class for 12 plus hours would be like.

No, for air travel for once again to be fun and enjoyable, the industry needs a HUGE make over (or a "do over"). Right now it sucks. I will take driving my truck any day of the week and twice on Sunday over flying. Nothing like paying big bucks for a lousy time and a horrible ride.  

A real Christmas - once again...

"If you come down in December, get ready to hear that greeting many times. In addition, get ready to hear that timeless story about the man whose birth changed, and saved, our world."

Don't come down to the Caribbean if you are an atheist, statist or snowflake.The people down here are the real McCoy. And for some reason, they seem to get it right. Their standard of living? Depends how you measure. Wealth? Poor compared to ours. Joy in their hearts? Off the charts. 

While on our cruise, we toured of Antigua, part of the Leeward Islands. We took a tour, and received a very good feel on how this island works. Just like when we toured Eleuthera, the people are not shy about their Christian faith, nor the time of year this is. Yes, with Christmas right around the corner, everyone is in the Christmas spirit. No "Happy Holidays", "Happy "Kwanzaa" (which is odd, since many of the locals have African roots), and no "Happy Solstice". No, the people here are hard core Christians, and proud of it.

The schools? If there are any snowflakes reading this, hold on. Every school day starts with 20 minutes of prayer. Only in the church schools, right? Nope - all schools.  Not only do the kids pray, but they also wear uniforms. AND - the school masters have the permission, and the right, to practice corporal punishment, if needed. 

I love this one. Schools start at age two. Yes, two years old. Why? Quote - "Kids are like sponges. They learn just fine at two". At 16 1/2, the kids are done with high school and ready for college or some kind of advanced learning. Money is available from different scholarship sources. If the kids go to college in another country, once they graduate, they come back home to work.

Part of this island nation (Barbuda), was hit hard by two of the hurricanes. Antigua had some damage, but for the most part, dodged the bullet. The locals give credit to lots and lots of prayer. Barbuda has a population of 1,600. Not one person died. They all fled to Antigua, and were but up in homes by the population. No questions asked.

So, Merry Christmas from the Caribbean. If you are uncomfortable in saying that greeting, and still want to visit down here, I would suggest any time after January 1st. If you come down in December, get ready to hear that greeting many times. In addition, get ready to hear that timeless story about the man whose birth changed, and saved, our world.

Monday, December 18, 2017

"We all know each other, we all like each other..."

"Whereas both countries were founded by very biblical minded and faith based founders, the good people of Eleuthera have kept the course -  and we are often times off course." 

Early in our Caribbean trip, we toured a rather small island which is part of the Bahama Chain. The island is called Eleuthera, which means “freedom” in their foreign language. The island has an odd shape – it is 110 miles long and only an average of 2 miles wide. On one side is the raging Atlantic Ocean. On the other side, is the calm and turquoise Caribbean Sea. With a population of only 11,000 people on that small isle, it was fascinating to say the least.

The island is so thin, it only has one dirt road going the length of it. That road is called “The Queens Highway” in honor of the Queen of England (It is after all, part of the Commonwealth). The speed limit? What speed limit. It is whatever you want. Our driver was very adept at going practically the speed of light down this dirt highway barely wider than our driveway at home.

Our two female tour guides were very good, and very informative. Although their island was small, they were extremely proud of it. Since just about everyone knew everyone on the island, folks were constantly honking and giving each other the “Bahama Wave” (kind of like a parade wave given with both hands.)

When we got to their government house, one of our tour guides explained that the Bahamas are a democracy, and very proud of it. In fact, they pointed out their democratic constitution was about 100 years older than ours. But here is where the interesting part really kicked in. Their system of government may have been democratic, but their social fabric is almost 100% halfway between socialism and communism.

In what way, you may ask? They share everything with each other. Actually, putting any politics aside, how they treat each other is very biblical. Nobody goes without. Everyone shares. Why? Besides being the right thing to do on this small isolated island, everybody knows everybody, and everybody likes everybody.

Not that I am sucked in by nirvana or Euphoria, I asked one tour guides what happens if there is a spat between two residents of the island. “You work it out”, she told me. "There is no other option. We all need each other and need to live with each other."

When we got back to the ship, I could not put that tour out of my mind. Why can’t our country be like that? In our country, sometimes it seems like just the opposite. We don’t know each other, and we certainly (at times) don’t like each other. Are we too big? Or just too divided?

One difference between the two counties (if I may add this), is faith. Whereas both countries were founded by very biblical minded and faith based founders, the good people of Eleuthera have kept the course -  and we are often times off course. A very interesting point to ponder.

Well a day at sea and then on to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. I will be anxious to learn about their culture also. Until then, I am just going to soak in the sun, the sea breezes, and take the time to read, write and reflect.bout that culture also. Until then, I am just going to soak i

Finding our course

"They just love life. The people love the life they have, albeit meager compared to ours. They treated us as guests, and were anxious to share their culture and history with us."

The Bird is back in town! Had to get away for a bit over a week and do some searching. What - soul searching? Yes, maybe some. But mostly to search out and explore places which we have not seen before. I know - many have already been where we visited. But we had not as yet. Was it worth it? Yes, in a great many ways.

We went into the eastern Caribbean. We started out in the Bahamas (don't worry - I have a nice article I wrote on that day), then on to the Virgin Islands, and finally a stop af the Leeward Islands. One of the more interesting parts of this trip was it almost was not a trip. The route the cruise ship took, skirted the areas which were devastated (and I mean devastated) by one, some, or all of the hurricanes this season. In fact, the main island we were suppose to visit (St. Martin), is still in worse shape than Puerto Rico is.

While in the Virgin Islands, we docked at St. Thomas. There was still some damage from the close call they had with one of the storms. However St. Johns was not so lucky. There was an excursion over to St. Johns that some folks took. The reports which came back were bad. St. Johns was no where near ready for tourism. But here is the conundrum. Most of these islands in the Caribbean rely strongly on the tourist dollar. It is their # 1 industry. In fact we took a sunset excursion on a catamaran while in St. Thomas. At the end of the tour, the guide thanked us for not cancelling our cruises after the storm damage was publicized. They need every tourist dollar possible to help recover.

But the main thing on this cruise, just like it was on our last cruise to Panama, was the people. No matter if it was South America, Central America, or on this trip, the Caribbean, the people were some of the most real I have ever met. Why? They just love life. The people love the life they have, albeit meager compared to ours. They treated us as guests, and were anxious to share their culture and history with us. One caveat however, if you have never been south of Florida - these people are hard core Christians. And - they are not afraid nor ashamed to tell you about their faith.

More to come, as well as many thoughts I had about our country, our state, and our future. I just wanted to give an overview of where we were the past week and some general thoughts I had. I have one article I wrote while on ship which I am going to transition to this blog this week. It really peels back the onion on life in the Bahamas. 

In any event, Christmas is coming and I still need to unpack (my suitcase that is). In addition, I will "unpack" my pent up articles as the week goes along. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Finding the (new) line

"I guess the days of the 'Man Men' type of behavior is long over. Those who still practice it (like Weinstein) have paid a huge price."

Yesterday, another two legislatures threw in the towel. Representative Franks and our own Al Franken. These are happy hunting days for the "me too" crowd. Not saying that is bad, but one thing does haunt me. The pendulum has swung back so far from the days of unchecked sexual harassment and indiscretions, we have now entered the land of no proof, no due process. All it takes is an allegation or two, and a man's career is "poof" - over.

Starting to hear more and more that so and so "crossed the line". And once the line is crossed, he had to go. What line? Is it changing? Or is it a line which has always been there?

The young lady on the radio show I listen to in the morning had a very good point. What would happen if we gave all men a lie detector test to see who at any time in his life, decided to "cop a feel". Or tell an off color joke to a co-worker. Are men who have done that, even in their teenage years disqualified? Bill Clinton has oral sex with an intern, gets his semen (with his DNA I might add) on her blue dress, and is looked upon as a icon of the Democratic Party. Other men have done a small fraction of that have been shown the door.

Since we are now operating in the days of no due process (only allegations), is it time to scrap this co-ed experiment we have living? Boys schools and girls schools? Have either an all male or all female House or Senate? All male or all female offices in the business world? Is this sex thing such a strong attractor, it can make smart people do dumb things? Even the church is not immune (trust me - I have seen it up close and personal). Questions, questions, and more questions.

Where do we go from here? Is the closet cleaned out enough yet, or are there more allegations yet to come. More bodies to fall. This carnal and carnival atmosphere is not making us look very good right now. Along with the multitude of other issues which keep this country bi-polar, giving the impression we all have a sex addition does not further our cause. 

One thing which Franken said yesterday which might be a defense in the future for an accused man was a short and simple sentence - "That did not happen the way I remember it". When the accuser has been in the shadows for decades without speaking out, and then all of a sudden comes forth with "something", I think the "two versions" excuse might possibly have some merit. However, in Franken's case, many of his accusers were talking about things which happened ten years ago or less. Time was not his friend.

I guess the days of the "Man Men" type of behavior is long over. Those who still practice it (like Weinstein or Ailes) have paid a huge price. My recommendation to women is simply this. I know it is hard to do, but when a man gets out of line with you, no matter where you work, name him and claim it. If possible, proof is always good. If your boss asks you to do something tawdry behind closed doors in his office, maybe you need to resort to doing what Gretchen Carlson did - wear a wire. That act of bravery got her boss fired, gave her a $20M settlement, and really started the "me too" movement.

Here is a tip men. Just like in that old commercial from years ago where the tag line was "Be like Mikey!", you also should try to be like "Mikey". Mike Pence that is. I have a feeling we will never hear Mike Pence's name brought up with him doing something improper in the past. He errs on the side of caution. These days, that is a wise thing to do.