Thursday, September 11, 2014

Truth, justice, and the American way

Figures of Soviet soldiers at the base of a Soviet Army monument transformed into superheroes in Sofia, Bulgaria.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.” —Benjamin Franklin (attributed)

On this thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States — on United Airlines Flight 93, the World Trade Center in New York City, and The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. — we remember those who were murdered by those who hated America. We should also understand that there are still those with a deadly hatred for this country and all for which it stands (see the documentary America: Imagine a World Without Her, and its companion book by Dinesh D'Souza).

But we should also remind ourselves that there are so many of us in the United States and around the world who still believe in and want to preserve all that is good about the U.S.A.

This startling and oddly reassuring image showed up recently in a newsfeed from, of all places, the Moscow Times. I tweeted it almost right away.
President Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” With all due respect, Mr. President, if every country is exceptional, no country is exceptional. Perhaps that was your point.

That Bulgarian graffiti artists would transform a Soviet military monument into a monument to American superheroes (and Santa Claus and is that Ronald McDonald??) is remarkable on multiple levels. People from other countries often understand American exceptionalism better than U.S. citizens who take their country's freedoms and opportunities for granted.

Photograph by Dorothea Lange, Oakland, California, 3/13/42, for the War Relocation Authority. University of California collection.
Japanese Americans of my parents' generation who happened to live on the West Coast in 1942 suffered terrible racism and were unjustly incarcerated in camps for years. It was illegal for those born in Japan and other Asian nations to become naturalized U.S. citizens until 1952. Yet many of them enlisted in the U.S. military, fought with valor, and remained in the U.S. to help raise the Baby Boom generation.

Why? Around the turn of the twentieth century, their parents immigrated to this country, with no hope for a better future in Japan, many homeless, rising to the middle class in a generation. They believed in American ideals, some dying on the battlefield defending those ideals, even when America sometimes did not live up to them. In short, they were Americans.

Family friends of ours fled Castro's Cuba during the 1960s. They often wonder what would happen if the United States fundamentally changes from its founding principles of freedom. “Where would we go?” they ask.

Fly the flag, petition the government with your grievances, thank a military veteran, say the Pledge of Allegiance, write a letter to the editor, teach your children why they should know the Constitution. Their future, and our country's future, depends on it. It's our country — if we can keep it.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Grand old party in the park

Mike McFadden

The Republicans of Minnesota SD44 put on their annual picnic in the park Thursday evening, complete with barbecue, catching up with old friends, and candidates, candidates, candidates — more great candidates than I can remember at a single SD44 picnic. The candidates who will face a primary election next Tuesday asked for the full support of the party faithful in attendance, who endorsed them at the state convention earlier this year in Rochester.

Republican-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate Mike McFadden was relaxed and smiling after meeting voters at Farmfest this week in Morgan, Minn. McFadden talked about his farm family roots and listening to farmers talk about government over-regulation and high taxes. Unfortunately, I didn't notice McFadden's colorful campaign-graphic decorated pickup truck until it was leaving the parking lot, so I wasn't able to take a photo of it for the blog.

No doubt in spite of trying, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Governor, SD44's own Jeff Johnson, failed to be in two places at once. So his top campaign surrogate, Johnson's wife Sondi, conveyed Jeff's greetings and heartfelt thanks for SD44's loyal support of his campaign. (There was no sign of the family bulldog and Jeff's political alter ego, Chester.)

Randy Gilbert, the Republican-endorsed candidate for state auditor and the only candidate who is actually an auditor, was very happy to report receiving positive press and support from regular folks on the Iron Range (including Gilbert, Minn.!), a traditional DFL stronghold.

Randy Gilbert

HD44A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) and candidate for House District 44B Ryan Rutzick  stressed the need to win back control of the state House (the Senate is not up for reelection this cycle), and how close Republicans are to do just that (a few thousand more votes than in 2012 to flip a handful of seats from DFL to R).

Currently in her fourth term in the House, Anderson among friends is as approachable and humble as any mom in Plymouth, but in off-the-cuff remarks about, well, pick the issue, it's soon clear that she is a principled legislator and formidable adversary on the floor of the House or the campaign trail. Rutzick is an energetic (Anderson called him "Type-A") businessman with early fundraising success (including money in the bank and no debt). Unlike Rutzick, the three unendorsed DFL candidates for HD44B are fighting to survive next week's primary election.

Patti Meier, GOP Senate District 44 chair, urged the well-fed activists at the picnic to sign any one or all of the several sign-up sheets for various campaign activities and fundraisers, including parades, the peripatetic tasks of literature dropping and door knocking, and phone calling. (I described the last of these in my previous post.)

Gala co-chairs Sheri Auclair and Jennifer Rowe were pleased to announce that the SD44 event of the season on October 10 at the Medina Country Club will be hosted by talk radio hosts Jack Tomczack and Benjamin Kruze.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A new way of smilin' and dialin'

Ronald Reagan starred in a 1960s black-and-white film that showed off what was then state-of-the-art get-out-the-vote (GOTV) technology: typewritten lists of voters and telephone numbers, and rows of dedicated volunteers dialing (as in rotary dialing) each call to ask for their vote in the next election. Unfortunately, every phone bank shift I have ever worked has relied on pretty much the same system: what Mr. Spock might characterize as “stone knives and bearskins.”

This week, I worked a shift at a GOP phone bank to remind folks to vote in next Tuesday's primary election for our endorsed candidates. I am happy to say that Reagan wouldn't have recognized it.

The volunteers still do the smiling, but the computers do the dialing. The software can even leave a voice mail message while the volunteer moves to the next call. These two simple innovations should significantly increase the number of voters reached per hour and make the volunteer's job much easier and less error-prone.

This year, it's easier and more convenient than ever to plow through a couple hours of phone bank calls, and more productive to boot. Contact the Minnesota GOP or your local BPOU (Senate District or county) to sign up. (Paper lists, pencils, and push-button telephones are still available if you would prefer them!)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Don't blame Medtronic, thank the DFL

Photo by Kalikkio,
Photo by Kalikkio,

In a one-sided story, “Medtronic deal could sting for long-time shareholders,” the Strib again plays the big, bad corporation against the innocent “little guy” — but the real villain (hero?) is left unnamed.
“The thing that bothers me the most is that this is a Minneapolis-based company that depended on the Minnesota investment community for its initial financing, that attracted investment from Minnesota investors first,” Cohen said. “The ones that were there in the beginning are the ones that are going to get screwed.”...

Howard Richards, a certified financial planner at Securus Wealth Management in Plymouth, offers a worst-case scenario: a taxpayer subject to the top federal capital gains rate of 20 percent, an Obama­care tax of 3.8 percent and Minnesota’s top marginal rate of 9.85 percent.
Medtronic shareholders, who will be required to sell all of their shares (some at large gains over the purchase price) when the Covidien deal closes, should be thanking Congressional Democrats, Governor Dayton, and state DFL lawmakers for Obamacare, bailouts, MNCare, light rail trains that unite Minneapolis and Saint Paul, a new Senate Legislative Office Building, statues, fountains, civic centers, stadiums, the arts, regulatory burdens, and the overall quality of life that taxes make possible.

If we didn't tax capital gains at these confiscatory rates, it would only encourage large and small investors alike to invest more in the private enterprises of their choice. That would leave less wealth for redistribution by federal, state, and regional agencies, for the greater good. Ditto for ever-higher taxes on corporate profits.

Besides that, how fair is it to those less fortunate when you risk your own money in a small startup like Medtronic, and the stock increases in value over time as the company provides innovative goods or services that people want? You shareholders didn't actually do anything to deserve your windfall. How could anything that you would buy with that “free money” possibly be better than increasing the size and scope of government?

Quit whining about your first-world problems, Medtronic shareholders: you're rich. You'll still have well over half of your obscene profit even after taxes. For the greater good, share the wealth. Medtronic should be proud to pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world. You should be asking to be taxed more, not less. You should be voting Democrat.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

McFadden for Senate at Edina Parade

Photo: Mike McFadden for U.S. Senate campaign
One of my favorite campaign activities is walking in a parade to support a candidate, so it was a great pleasure to join the large group of energetic campaign volunteers of Mike McFadden for U.S. Senate at the Edina Parade last Friday, July 4.

It was perfect weather for a parade, which attracted thousands of spectators along 50th Street. Outfitted in our McFadden for Senate shirts, all we had to do was wave McFadden campaign signs and hand out campaign stickers to mostly eager tots ten years or more before they will cast their first votes for public office. It was a fun walk and great exercise to boot. We also got lots of smiles and verbal encouragement from the voting-age adults in the crowd.

The candidate himself was appearing in the parade in Delano, scheduled at the same time as the Edina Parade. The two campaign teams were to reunite later that day in Brainerd to walk in that town's Independence Day parade.

In front of us in line was Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, waving from a Hennepin County Water Patrol boat in tow.

It was also fun to greet Jeff Johnson and his family, and various members of team Johnson, on their way to the Johnson for Governor spot in the parade lineup.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Part of the problem

Proposed Senate Legislative Office Buiding (architect's rendering)

Republicans have been having a field day over the proposed $90 million Senate Legislative Office Building (or SLOB, even better than the acronym for the current State Office Building, SOB). The edifice was, apparently legally, slipped into a tax bill at the very end of the 2013 session without a single hearing in the House. The SLOB was not funded in the tax bill just signed by Gov. Dayton, but that funding could still come with a vote by the House Rules Committee. Meanwhile, HF 2800 and SF 2808 have been introduced to repeal the construction authority for the building.

With some DFL legislators and even Gov. Dayton expressing concerns over the price tag and some of the proposed building's amenities, the building and the way it was rushed through the process has been red meat for partisan Republicans. 

All six Republican gubernatorial endorsement candidates publicly expressed their opposition to the building, instead advocating for the Capitol Preservation Commission proposal for temporary facilities during the restoration and then moving the senators back into the Capitol. 

The House GOP Caucus has focused attention on Gov. Dayton, pointing out that the Governor's office would receive a 62% more office space than their current Capitol digs. (Seriously??)

Yet the Legislature is pressed for enough office and hearing room space to conduct business and enable citizen participation, even before renovations soon require some senators to vacate their Capitol offices. According to former state Rep. Jim Knoblach in a StarTribune op ed, sensible solutions could exist in unused or rearranged spaces in the SOB. So why buy new when slightly used will do?

The "extravagant" amenities and architecture of the current SLOB proposal are only part of the problem. Let's hope that the building's critics will be part of the solution.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Home opener

Ryan Rutzick (campaign photo)
Ryan Rutzick
With the rolling back of the tarps to reveal the grassroots of the Minnesota political parties at the precinct caucuses, we named our starting lineups (precinct officers and delegates to the BPOU convention) and debated party platform planks. Last Saturday at Wayzata High School, Senate District 44 Republicans met at their convention to endorse candidates, elect delegates to the Third Congressional District and state conventions, and generally perpetuate the American experiment of self-government.

Delegates endorsed incumbent HD44A Rep. Sarah Anderson for reelection, while small business owner Ryan Rutzick won the endorsement for the open seat in HD44B. Anderson is the well-loved and respected, hard-working four-term representative from Plymouth. Newcomer Rutzick introduced himself and his family with enthusiasm and a commanding public presence. He seems to have the energy, determination, and communication skills to connect with voters and finish the campaign season marathon that will begin in earnest after the legislature adjourns sine die in April or so.

Meanwhile, Kelsey Johnson (@kelsaljohnson) reported via Twitter that our counterparts in the DFL apparently adjourned their convention without endorsing any of the three candidates vying to succeed the retiring Rep. John Benson in HD44B. Johnson also reported that the Dems endorsed Audrey Britton to again challenge Sarah Anderson in HD44A.

I am happy to report that my Plymouth precinct had a full delegation present, but not so happy to report that none of our fellow House District 44B precincts did. Many candidates for Congressional district and state convention delegate from "the B side" revealed their support for Jeff Johnson for governor, while others said they were undecided. (The Johnson campaign was the only campaign to circulate a "slate," which is a list of delegates pledged to endorse him at the state convention.) Most delegate candidates seemed to be still vetting the U.S. Senate candidates, but most who mentioned a name said they were supporting or "leaning toward" fourth-term Minnesota Sen. Julianne Ortman (SD47). Sen. Ortman mingled with delegates Saturday morning as they registered for the convention, grabbed a Caribou coffee and a doughnut, and made their way to their seats.

The ever-present Rep. Erik Paulsen (CD3) greeted delegates as usual — it seems he never misses an SD44 convention, and like his predecessor Jim Ramstad, is always accompanied by his orange-shirted campaign staff. Paulsen will stand for his endorsement vote at the Third Congressional District Convention on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at Maple Grove Senior High School.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The "Education Governor"

K-12 education consumes 41% of our state's 2014-2015 budget, the largest category by 11 percent next to health & human services. Education policy is a crucial component of how our next governor will lead, and is directly linked to the performance of our economy and quality of life in our state.

Say what you will about former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but I will always harbor some loyalty to him for his part in replacing the process-centered Profile of Learning state education standards, which were put into place largely by administrative rule under the Jesse Ventura administration with little or no input from the Legislature. Pawlenty's administration replaced The Profile with knowledge-based academic standards, and enabled school districts to use the Q Comp pay-for-performance system for teachers instead of the "steps and lanes" system favored by the teachers unions, which rewards seniority and continuing education.

Jeff Johnson, candidate for the Republican endorsement for governor, published a challenging blog post Monday, "We Are All In This Together," in observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. He challenged us all, Democrats and Republicans, and everyone else, to not be satisfied with just having a diverse cast "at the table." He challenged Minnesotans to pursue education policies that have shown actual results in closing the achievement gap, instead of policies that simply follow party or ideological orthodoxy.

As Ronald Reagan famously observed, when government expands, liberty contracts. So it is with the so-called Common Core standards, like No Child Left Behind, yet another attempt to impose curriculum and standards onto local school districts. The State of Minnesota and its school districts have plenty of experts in curriculum and instruction to ensure world-class academics in our public schools. We do not need Common Core. I will be calling on all of the candidates for governor to earn my vote in the primary election by saying "no" to Common Core.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas, My Friend

Lone Survivor © 2013 Universal Pictures

North Star Liberty dedicates this poem to all active duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who stand upon a wall and say, "Nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch." God bless you all this Christmas season, and always.

by Marine Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt (1986)

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney, with presents to give
and to see just who in this home did live.

As I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand.
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen.
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more,
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in his one-bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene,
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine.
Was this the hero, of whom I’d just read?
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean-shaven, his weathered face tan.
I soon understood, this was more than a man.
For I realized the families that I saw that night,
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the Nation, the children would play,
And grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
on a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye.
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more.
My life is my God, my country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep,
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep.

I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.
So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head.
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold,
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.
And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside.

I didn't want to leave him so quiet in the night,
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.
But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure,
said "Carry on, Santa, it's Christmas Day, all secure."
One look at my watch and I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi and goodnight.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Wayzata school board endorsements

"Who are you voting for in the school board election?"

Residents of the Wayzata school district, many of whom (us included) intentionally moved into the district so their kids could enroll in Wayzata Public Schools, will again have some good choices in this year's school board election. It's a large field: nine candidates vying for three open seats. How to narrow the field?

I asked all nine candidates to respond to three questions about the upcoming bonding referendum which would fund a new elementary school and a major expansion of the high school, accountability for curriculum, and the state of Minnesota eliminating basic skills testing for students and teachers. Returning the questionnaire were (in alphabetical order): Derek Diesen, Sarah Johansen, David Lloyd, Chris McCullough, Bill Pritchard, and Ted Victor. You can view their responses in my posts from last week. I hope their answers will inform your vote. Candidates Andrea Cuene, Dan Haugen, and Phil Napier did not respond.

The value of published endorsements depends on who is doing the endorsing: are they people you trust and respect, or are they just political supporters? I found some consensus among three outgoing and former school board members whom I trust: Susan Gaither, John Moroz, and Greg Rye. I was pleasantly surprised to also find an endorsement from our kids' former principal at Birchview Elementary School, Dr. Tom Koch. Dr. Koch was well-liked and respected during his tenure (and he had a tough act to follow in current Wayzata High School principal Mike Trewick).

The individuals in this group endorsed one, two, or three candidates in letters to the editor published in the Plymouth Sun Sailor newspaper. Their consensus was to support Chris McCullough, Ted Victor, and Sarah Johansen. All three of these candidates have already served this district for many years, including the Citizens' Financial Advisory Council (CFAC) for Victor and McCullough, the Citizens' Facilities Task Force for McCullough and Johansen, and the Legislative Action Committee (LAC) for Johansen. Their knowledge, experience, and commitment to the district would enable each of them to hit the ground running to help the Wayzata schools meet the financial, facilities, and academic challenges it will face in the years ahead.