Friday, April 24, 2015

Lack of free pre-K causes kids to go to prison

This morning on the Up and At Em show on Twin Cities News Talk, an interesting conversation with Rep Nick Zerwas and Rep Dan Schoen ranged around light rail and the governor's proposed universal pre-K.  The topic of Rep Jim Newberger's dumb comment on the House floor from this week about the usefulness of a light rail line from North Minneapolis to the prison in St Cloud.

In the middle of these competing topics, an incredibly insulting comment came from Rep Schoen, when he linked kids going to daycare rather than pre-K with those kids later ending up in prison.  The full podcast is here, and the section in question starts at 13:20.

Zerwas: There's no such thing as free.

Andrew Lee: Right.

Schoen: Then tell the families that are forking over thousands a year to go to daycare...

Zerwas: Yeah, it's daycare!  You had a kid, it has to go to daycare.  Not, you had a kid, so I need to pay for your kid's daycare. NO, no no, no, no, NO.

Lee: Alright, George in Hastings...

Schoen: But you will be paying when they're in prison.

So a DFL member of the house is saying that if taxpayers don't foot the bill for 'free' pre-kindergarten in Minnesota, kids will end up in prison. 

Stay classy, Rep Dan Schoen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pot calls the kettle a darker shade of black

I am no fan of Rand Paul's foreign policy ideas, though Lord knows they are much better than his father's views.  But to hear Sen John McCain, who has yet to make a logical case for any foreign policy position he has taken over the last decade, call Paul out on foreign policy is simply ludicrous.

 “The record is very clear that [Paul] does not have an understanding of the needs or the threats of United States national security,” McCain said.

John McCain is the reason I got active in the Republican party- to make sure that Milquetoast candidates like him would never again be nominated by the conservative party.  I rarely if ever give to candidates outside of Minnesota, but a primary challenger to McCain would have my support.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Straw men and fabricated facts

Former Republican turned blogger Michael Brodkorb has a post at the StarTribune calling 'Keith Downey's' ad campaign to 'Give It Back' Dead on Arrival.  Brodkorb, whose current notoriety is based solely on his ability to drop Mentos in the MN GOP soda bottle, relies on several straw men and a few facts fabricated out of thin air.

Straw man  #1- Downey 'introduced his personal dogma of Give it Back'

A massive over taxation of MN taxpayers leads to a logical conservative position of giving back the money to the people who were over taxed.  Similar sentiments have been expressed by conservatives every time the MN budget shows large surpluses.  Downey was expressing the thoughts of a large percentage of Minnesotans, and specifically of the various Tea Party groups in the state.

Straw man #2- Legislators and members of the state exec were 'confused' by the ad campaign

This argument is wonderful irony coming from Brodkorb, who is the cause of the problem he pretends to lament.  Brodkorb's reliance on unnamed, anonymous, and unattributed sources inside the party for his gossip column/blog created an environment where the details of the ad campaign had to be kept close to the vest.  Further, the ad was a product of the state party, and did not need to be cleared or coordinated with members of the legislature.  The intended audience for the ad was the taxpayers of Minnesota, not just GOP lawmakers.  The public can make their voices heard to every member of the legislature, DFL and GOP.

Straw man #3- It has become clear that $350 checks...will not be arriving in mailboxes

No one from the state party, the state exec or the donors who believed in this ad campaign ever stated or implied that refund checks were the way to 'Give it Back'.  In fact, the specific downsides of sending refund checks were discussed and it was quickly dismissed as impractical because of the cost involved, as well as the limited and temporary nature of such a refund.  Tax cuts, in the form of changes to the MN tax code that permanently reduce taxes on Minnesota families was always the intended focus of the Give it Back campaign. 

Fabricated fact #1- The ad campaign has created more discord than unity

Besides being completely subjective and based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence (according to Brodkorb), this is ideologically false.  Staking a position to the right of the GOP House caucus is not disunity; it is the military equivalent of sending a small force on a flanking attack.  Much like when a state party runs negative ads during an election season because the candidate wants to stay positive, the Give it Back campaign establishes support for a position farther to the right of the House caucus, allowing the legislators to focus on their job of negotiating the best bills they can in a divided legislature.

Fabricated fact #2- Downey was authorized to spend 'up to $999,999.99' on the ad campaign

This is either an outright lie by Brodkorb, or a 'fact' fabricated by his supposed source.  I wont go into the details of the conversation by the state executive committee, but no such motion was made, nor seconded, nor voted upon.  The authorization for the ad campaign was for a specific amount of money, not an 'up to' amount, and the dollars spent were to be limited to the amount of money raised specifically for the campaign.

Fabricated fact #3- the ad campaign was 'not designed by an astute political tactician'

David Schultz, political professor and vocal commentator on all things political in Minnesota and usually favoring the left, said the ad campaign was 'brilliant politics'.  He commented that tax cuts have been a staple message of Republicans for decades, and that DFL opposition to the campaign helps cement their personae of being 'the tax and send liberals we know they are'.  Moreover, 60% of Minnesotans favor giving it back, a number echoed in small town newspaper polling around the state.

Michael Brodkorb is a blogger who relies almost exclusively on anonymous comments from sources who may be pursuing their own political agenda.  Read him for entertainment purposes, but take him with a very large grain of salt.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Veterans on the Hill Day

Today is invasion of the respect thefunny hats* at the state capital- the annual lobbying day for the collective veterans service groups.  Represented together by the Commander's Task Force, this group is made up of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMETS, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Military order of the Purple Heart, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Unlike the dozens of lobbying groups lined up to demand a chunk of the budget surplus announced last week, the Veterans groups have no big funding requests this year.  Instead, the agenda is about technical fixes to previous legislation, such as relaxing the rules on where dollars raised by Support our Troops funds can be spent, and improving the Veterans Preference process for hiring by Minnesota companies.

Not on the official agenda but showing support from the legislature this year is the idea of making military retirement pay non taxable.  Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that treats military pay just like ordinary income, giving us a competitive disadvantage when veterans are planning out their retirements.

So watch out for the funny hats at the capital today, and take the chance to thank a veteran for their service.

*'Funny hats day' was the phrase coined by Rachel Stassen-Berger a few years back, and changed at her request to 'Respect the funny hats day'.  If you get a chance, ask one of the funny hat brigade where all of the pins came from on their hat.  You'll get a two minute history lesson.

Monday, February 23, 2015

MOA terror threat

Rep Tony Cornish has good intentions in noting that the Mall of America is a gun free zone (aka criminals wet dream) but realistically, there is little chance that the Mall would ever buck the pressure from the anti gun crowd to change their policy.

The next best solution, would be to have Bill's Gun Shop or Cabela's to open a store at the Mall of America, complete with indoor gun range.  It would draw in 2nd amendment supporters who understand much better than the average civilian how to defend themselves, and deflate the public image of the Mall as a very soft target.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When the first paragraph says it all

I've never seen one paragraph that better epitomizes the failure of the high tax liberal ideology.  Taxes can either raise revenue or punish behavior, but they can't do both at the same time.  From the Startribune today-
Less than two years after Minnesota raised its cigarette tax to one of the highest in the country, cigarette smuggling has become a growing business in the state. Now officials want more money to combat the problem.
The huge sin tax that the DFL created to help balance the state budget is now causing an increase in crime.  Instead of realizing that high taxes encourage people to find ways to avoid those taxes, the state of Minnesota wants to spend more money to enforce the high taxes that people find odious.

Is it out of the realm of reasoning for the DFL to understand that lowering taxes removes the incentive to to cheat on paying taxes?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Longshoremen unions threaten to derail US economy

In one of the biggest stories you haven't heard anything about, unions that control the port activities all up and down the west coast have been engaged in a months long work slowdown.  Despite average salaries over $145,000 and some of the most generous healthcare benefits in America (better than Congress) the International Longshore and Warehouse Union wants more.  Ironically, much of what they want is immunity from Obamacare impacts on their health benefits.

After months of coordinated work slowdowns, the Pacific Maritime Association  shut down operations this weekend, and the potential for a full shutdown is now very real.  Estimates of the impact of a shutdown are over $1 billion in lost income per day, not to mention higher costs passed on to every retailer that relies on good imported from Asia.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Why I wont see American Sniper in the theater

American Sniper is now the top grossing war film of all time.  It follows Navy SEAL Chris Kyle through his time in and out of Iraq, recounting his experiences as the most successful sniper in US military history.  As a veteran of the Iraq War, you couldn't pay me to go see this movie in the theater. Not for the reasons you might suspect, and certainly not for the reasons most liberal/progressives would give.  I wont see this movie in theater because Kyle's words hit far too close to home.

Since I haven't seen the movie, I wont pretend to talk about it.  But having read the book, I understand the gist of what will appear on screen.  While I could never compare myself to Kyle in terms of battlefield accomplishments, I recognized far too well the mental anguish he struggled with, as well as the struggles between serving and being a husband and father.

The hardest part of war was not the fear of me being killed-that was a reality we all had to adjust to.  By far the hardest part of war was the fear of what was happening to our families while we were deployed.  In the book, Chris's wife Taya chimes in at significant points to recount what she was feeling and thinking about her husband.  Though her pride in her husband is pervasive, her fear for his safety and resentment of his sense of duty is impossible to ignore.  Her anger towards her husband and recriminations for his absence are, I have no doubt, very close to the feelings my wife had while I was gone.

Similar to Kyle, I volunteered to deploy to Iraq.  In fact, I refrained from telling my wife for months that I had volunteered, instead making it sound like my deployment was inevitable.  Much like Kyle, I wanted to serve and felt a sense of duty-my country was at war and it was my job to fight.

The worst moments I remember from Iraq were not the one of being in danger.  The Army trained me well to react according to tactical principles, and when I was engaged with the enemy, I was honestly far too busy reacting as I had been trained to be overly scared.  That's not bravery, but more a lack of reasoned thought of my situation.  In the military we trained over and over to react to situations regardless of emotion, essentially a military mathematical formula.  IED explosion=pre-planned react to IED scenario.  Enemy ambush from close range=turn and assault.  Battle drills remove fear and emotion from the equation.

By far the hardest moments of being deployed came from the emotional toll to our family's lives.  In 2004, while deployed as a peacekeeper to Kosovo, my then 3 year old son had spent so many weekends with my brother and his wife that he started calling my brother 'Daddy'.  As a husband I was grateful to my brother for taking my son on weekends and letting my wife have a break; as a father I felt like an complete failure.

In 2006, I had the surreal experience of telling my wife in an email that my truck had been hit by a large IED, but that we had all miraculously walked away with a few bruises.  Battalion policy was that any soldier treated by a medic after a combat incident would have their family notified by phone from the local National Guard unit.  I wanted the word to come straight from me, but on the night in question, the morale phones were down, so email was my only option to let my wife hear it from me instead of from some lieutenant who would have only known the bare minimum facts as reported.  It was three more days before I could talk to her in person and assure her that I was fine.  She later commented that several stiff drinks were needed to calm her down after reading my email.

Also similar to Kyle's experience, we faced the wrath of military lawyers second guessing our actions.  'Memorandums of Concern', polite Army jargon for 'we're watching you' began to circulate for any incident in which we fired our weapons without overwhelming proof that the target was hostile.  Never mind the fact that the military lawyers writing them had rarely set foot in a combat zone, let alone been part of any combat mission outside the wire.  From privates to sergeants to officers, we all worried that doing the right thing in protecting our fellow soldiers could actually wind up landing us in jail, and away from our families even longer.

The reason, plain and honest, that I wont see American Sniper in the theaters is that I have no desire to experience that intense range of emotions in front of complete strangers.  I will certainly see the movie when it comes out on DVD, and hopefully with my wife, because we can now look back on those emotions and know that we are among the lucky minority who survived the war with our marriage stronger for having been put to the test.  But like anyone who has been through a traumatic experience, it will still be hard to relive, even for a moment, the emotions that we felt at the time.

To those who see American Sniper as a glorification of war, you are sadly mistaken.  War is a occasionally necessary but terrible thing; there is no glory in war, unless it is to prevent a war from happening.  To those who see evil in Kyle's recount of his time at war, you are mistaken as well.  Evil was the intent of our enemy in Iraq, whether it was killing innocent Iraqis or hiding amongst civilians to kill Americans.  Standing up against evil is not in itself evil, and if you doubt that just ask the US servicemembers who killed German soldiers to liberate the Nazi Holocaust camps. 

Chris Kyle's story is a reminder that as far freedom has advanced across the world in the last two centuries, there are still plenty of areas where naked brute force rules the day.  While America should always strive for peaceful solutions, the reality is that military force is still needed in our 'civilized' world, and likely will be for several generations to come.