Monday, January 29, 2007

We're not giving up and we're not going away

President Bush could be taking a cue (probably unbeknownst to him) from Shar in Minneapolis, that tenacious opponent of public subsidies for millionaire baseball players and billionaire baseball team owners.

Shar and her anti-stadium tax group are known for their slogan, "We're not giving up and we're not going away." This is exactly the message that those darn terrorist insurgents in Iraq (and by extension, extremists worldwide) need to hear.

As I was trying to catch up on reading my back issues of The Weekly Standard over the weekend, I was pleased to learn that troop surges work. Not only do they work, they have worked in Iraq — twice:
Between November 2004 and February 2005, according to the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, the number of coalition soldiers in Iraq rose by 18,000. In that time, the number of Iraqi civilians killed fell by two-thirds, and the number of American troops wounded fell by three-fourths. The soldiers were soon pulled out; by the summer of 2005, American and Iraqi casualties rose again. Later that year, the same thing happened again. Between September and November of 2005, another 23,000 soldiers were deployed in Iraq; once again, both Iraqi and American casualties fell. In the early months of 2006, the number of soldiers fell again, and casualties spiraled up. ("Doubling Down in Iraq," by William J. Stuntz, The Weekly Standard, November 20, 2006)
There is even evidence that the latest surge is already producing results, even before it has begun.

President Abraham LincolnHistory, all the way back to Sun-Tzu, indicates that when the enemy preceives that he can't win, he surrenders. The tactics have changed, but the strategy endures. Abraham Lincoln understood this (as the Stuntz story continues):
In a speech delivered a month after his reelection, Lincoln carefully surveyed the North's resources and manpower and concluded that the nation's wealth was "unexhausted and, as we believe, inexhaustible." Southern soldiers began to desert in droves. Through the long, bloody summer and fall of 1864, the South had hung on only because of the belief that the North might tire of the conflict. But Lincoln did not tire. Instead, he doubled the bet — and won the war.
This is not rocket science. Remember Malone's (played by Sean Connery) advice to Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) in The Untouchables?
Malone: If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.

Ness: How do you do it then?

Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone!
This time, let's clear and hold Baghdad, so the Iraqi political process can work. Give Petraeus a chance. If the enemy understands that we are not giving up and we are not going away until he is pacified, freedom for the Iraqis, and security for the United States, will win. If the Democrats succeed in their nostalgic remake of the forfeit of the Vietnam war, then it truly will be an apocalypse now.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Missing from Pawlenty education plan: true reform

Let's not allow nostalgia to limit our children's future. We owe our children their own future, not our past. —Gov. Tim Pawlenty, State of the State Address, January 16, 2007

Governor Tim Pawlenty gave Minnesota plenty of the past in his education agenda, highlighted by a 7.7% increase ($986 million) to K-12 education over the last biennial budget, or $13.745 billion (40%) of the governor's total $34.4 billion state budget, which he grows by a 9.3 percent over the current biennium.

"In any discussion regarding education, the debate about the level of funding consumes most of the oxygen in the room." Education reform advocates are suffocating.

Bonus money to schools that achieve or maintain a three-star rating or better from the state in reading and math; for schools to show "rigor, relevance, and results;" for schools to provide Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses (although we have reservations about IB); and for schools to focus more on math and science are positive, but even they simply maintain the status quo of a "top-down, expert-driven, one-size-fits-all system," as Craig Westover said in his analysis of the governor's education agenda.

Pawlenty's proposed mandate for schools to spend at least 70% of its budget in the classroom, carried in the last session by former Representative and newly-appointed Assistant Commissioner of Education Karen Klinzing is another example of bureaucratic, "Father Knows Best" thinking.

Rather than throwing more money at the schools or meddling in curriculum and finance decisions at Minnesota's 339 "independent" school districts, the governor should take a fresh look at his own early childhood education initiative. According to the governor's office, "the Governor's early childhood scholarship program will provide each at-risk student up to $4000 to attend a certified kindergarten readiness program of the family's choice."

Hello, vouchers!

By allowing the money to follow the child, rather than the school, the state of Minnesota would put the kids first, as opposed to putting schools first. As ABC's John Stossel reported on his 20/20 program, "Stupid in America:"
American schools don't teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don't have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it's a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can't attract students, it goes out of business.

Belgian school principal Kaat Vandensavel told us she works hard to impress parents.

She told us, "If we don't offer them what they want for their child, they won't come to our school." She constantly improves the teaching, saying, "You can't afford 10 teachers out of 160 that don't do their work, because the clients will know, and won't come to you again."

"That's normal in Western Europe," Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. "If schools don't perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S."
Pawlenty should expand school choice in the form of vouchers or tuition tax credits. This could replace our panoply of expensive, socialistic big government mandates and incentives from Saint Paul with a mechanism that Americans should learn to harness as well as the Belgians: free market forces. Then give our independent school districts true independence from state mandates, empower building principals and hold them accountable for results, and watch innovation and academic performance take off like iTunes.

Two other more esoteric measures are also required for true reform: rewriting the incomprehensible K-12 funding formula, and replacing the opaque Uniform Financial Accounting and Reporting Standards (UFARS) accounting system used by Minnesota schools. Perhaps the latter measure could prevent another Statutory Operating Debt situation like the one being suffered in the Hopkins Schools.

Finally, as the chief protector of his state's sovereignty, Governor Pawlenty should wield the Tenth Amendment to leave the federal No Child Left Behind Act behind.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Invasion of the body snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the 1978 remake) was on TV this past Saturday night. In the story, aliens invade Earth and replace humans one-by-one with an identical twin who looks like the human, but who carries out the aliens' mission to take over the world with zombie-like determination.

After reading this article in yesterday's Star Tribune, I was struck at how life imitates art. Even The Rammer's orange t-shirted horde of supporters (I'm one of them, or have been) know that he's no right-wing conservative, but I'm beginning to wonder if there's a "What Would Wendy Wilde Do?" bumper sticker on his car.
Ramstad breaks ranks for Democrats' agenda

By Brady Averill, Star Tribune
Last update: January 20, 2007 – 5:59 PM

WASHINGTON - So far, Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnesota seems to be fitting in fine with the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill.

When Minnesota's House members voted on the Democrats' six-item "first 100 hours" agenda during the last two weeks, they voted along party lines on almost every issue. With one exception: Ramstad voted with the Democrats every time.

Ramstad is a prime example of the difficulty Republicans are having in holding their party together during the transition of power in Washington. So far, he has sided with Democrats to support increasing the minimum wage, enacting the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, expanding stem cell research, allowing the government to negotiate prices with drug companies, cutting student loan interest rates and ending subsidies for oil companies.
Did the Democrats lose the MN-3 election but win the war?

Throwing in with the Democrats will be good for, well, Ramstad. In this story alone, it gets him ink like "centrist," "moderate," and "I couldn't imagine any of these votes getting him in trouble with his district." One big happy Federation!

Elected Republicans tilting left are the rule rather than the exception, nationally and in Minnesota. Except for principled conservatives like Rep. John Kline (MN-2) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN-6), it seems as if most Republicans have decided that resistance is futile.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Gail Dorfman: county core services suffer for Twins stadium

Gail Dorfman (photo: Hennepin County)
I received this e-mail from Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman in response to an e-mail I sent to her, thanking her for her vote against Hennepin County's public subsidy to a private business with millionaire employees and billionaire owners, a vote that would not even have been necessary had Minnesota Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) voted against authorizing Hennepin County to levy this $1.1 billion local option sales tax increase in the first place (the exemption passed the Minnesota Senate by one vote).
Thank you for contacting my office last year regarding funding for a new ballpark for the Twins. While I was unable to respond to you immediately due to the volume of emails and letters I was receiving, I very much appreciated hearing from you.

I have consistently opposed public funding of a ballpark. Over the past few years, Hennepin County has faced state and federal budget cuts that challenge our ability to provide many of the core services that fall to county government and are at the heart of our mission to care for our most vulnerable residents. In light of this, it is particularly difficult to justify subsidizing the construction of a ballpark with taxpayer dollars.

There are more important priorities for Hennepin County.

As you know, a majority of my colleagues on the County Board voted in 2006 to move forward with the ballpark, and they were supported by a majority in the State Legislature. So as we begin this new year, we have begun the process to acquire the land and negotiate the development agreement for a new Twins stadium in Minneapolis. On January 1st, the sales tax to fund the stadium took effect.

I have been appointed by my colleagues to serve on the Ballpark Implementation Committee, which has some oversight over design of the stadium and surrounding area and will make recommendations to the County Board and Minneapolis City Council. I accepted this appointment even though I remain opposed to the funding mechanism. As a member of this committee, I will at least have some say in making sure that public dollars are spent in a manner that benefits the community to the greatest extent possible.

Again, I appreciated hearing from you during the difficult debates over stadium funding. Please feel free to contact me on this or other issues over the coming months. Best wishes for the New Year.

Gail Dorfman
Hennepin County Commissioner

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bill Cullen: bigger government shrinks our freedoms

In 2006, Republican Bill Cullen ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Maria Ruud (DFL-Minnetonka) in Minnesota House District 42A. I asked Bill to share his post-election thoughts with North Star Liberty.

After Cullen wrote this article, on Monday, January 8, his mother died. Our prayers and sincere condolences are with Bill and his family.
Since the election, I have done two things: I sold off 30% of my company and tended to my mother. My mother has been battling cancer for over three years. We have seen many victories and many setbacks, but we are losing the battle. In the past two weeks, my mother has become bedridden and now requires constant care. We have decided that we want her to die at home, so the family is taking turns caring for her. I was slow responding to you because it was “my shift” with Mom. While I cherish my time with her (her mind is still sound), I have shed many tears watching this beautiful woman slowly fade away. The time I have left with Mom is closer to days than months.

My business partner and I decided to go different paths. In an effort to buy him out I had to sell some assets. I decided to sell all of my assets in St. Paul. I still love the city of St. Paul, but I believe their policies are bad for the rental community. They are in the process of increasing regulation and fees in an effort to improve rental property. But their policies have skirted the common sense of aligning responsibility and accountability. The city is going for the easiest target, not the responsible person. It is a recipe for disaster. I will focus on cities with more sensible policies.

With regard to the upcoming session: I am a fiscal conservative. Minnesota is one of the highest-taxed states in the nation and every state agency I know claims they are broke. Clearly this is not because our government doesn’t tax our citizens enough, yet the calls for more taxes, more regulation and more central control are rampant these days. Even my friend, Governor Pawlenty, has joined the chorus.

Our elected officials have missed the voters 2006 “mandate.” I believe the voters spoke against Iraq, the federal deficit, and ethical scandals. So how does that translate into a government takeover of health care, interfering with free market wages, and decreasing property taxes by either restricting local governments’ rights or raising income taxes to offset the decrease? The legislature’s goals point towards an increase in state government and a decrease in individual freedoms — is that the voters’ mandate? I worry what freedoms my children and grandchildren will have when they inherit such an expensive and burdensome government.

Best regards,

Bill Cullen

A hot idea for BPOUs

Following the successful model of activist Rob Hewitt and SD 63 (Eden Prairie and south Minnetonka), the folks up in the sprawling SD 45 (Crystal, Golden Valley, New Hope, Plymouth, and Robbinsdale) are hosting Chili & Chat, Tuesday, March 6, 6:30-8:30 pm, at Robbinsdale Middle School. It's a membership drive and networking night disguised as a chili dinner and party with David Strom and Pat Anderson.

Gatherings like this could be just what the BPOUs need to begin spicing up their membership rolls and treasury balances with an eye toward 2008.

Speaking of SD 63, their 15th Annual SD63 Chili Dinner is set for Tuesday, February 6th, 6:30pm, at Southwest Community Church, 1501 West 54th Street in Minneapolis (54th St. and Humboldt). Among the festivities will be a straw ballot for President.

We'll see you there, or better yet, cook up one of these events for your own BPOU.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jason Lewis rouses the rabble again

"As government expands, liberty contracts." —Ronald Reagan

When Gov. Tim Pawlenty inherited a $4+ billion state budget deficit at the beginning of his term, many said that we must raise taxes. Now that the state is faced with a $2 billion state budget surplus, the DFL-controlled Legislature is saying, we must raise taxes!

Not so fast, says talk radio host and conservative icon Jason Lewis, 100.3 KTLK-FM in the Twin Cities. His statewide Tax Cut Coalition is over 3000 members strong and growing after only a few days, and a tax cut rally on the steps of the State Capitol is planned for Saturday, April 14 at 11:00 am. Lewis hinted that remote broadcasts in outstate Minnesota are possible to drum up support for the effort, which he also led during his previous tenure on Twin Cities talk radio in the 1990s during the Jesse Ventura administration.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Sue Jeffers: goodbye Stub and Herb's, hello politics

I asked Sue Jeffers, who lost to Tim Pawlenty in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary election, to update North Star Liberty readers on her life after politics, but it sounds like a report of Sue's exit from politics would be greatly exaggerated.

This is great news for conservatives, who have been rather crabby lately, what with the 2006 elections and seeing Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) being sworn to her first full term in the Minnesota Senate by Hennepin County Judge and former Republican HD 43B Rep. Ron Abrams. (We're not bitter, just a little crabby.) As a leader, Jeffers may be feisty, but she is always upbeat, positive, and optimistic — qualities in short supply on the right these days.
Running for Governor was a fantastic experience and even though I lost, I hold my head high and I know I made a difference. I was proud to speak out for issues I care strongly about, reducing the size, scope and high cost of government and to stand for life, liberty and property rights.

As I often said on the campaign trail, running for office is tough but not as tough as running a small business in the state of Minnesota. My children have asked that the next time I have a midlife crisis could I please do so a little less publicly! They are also happy not to have to eat any more fast food or hot dish! My home life is sort of returning to normal, and I use the word loosely because my life has never been normal as compared to others.

On the professional front I have decided to sell my bar. After 28 years in the hospitality business, a business that I love, it is time for a change of pace. After the election, several job offers came my way but none seemed to fit. During my campaign I met many like-minded conservatives and groups that I continue to stay in touch with. Many are interested in running for office in the future and I am strongly encouraging them.

One excellent group of people I did become involved with is the Twin City Republican Association. We are working hard to take back our party. We believe some party officials and elected officials continue to move further to the left as they stray from the conservative values our party stands for. This played a key role in the losses for the Republican party in the last election. We will be hosting a membership drive on Jan. 23 with Jason Lewis as our guest speaker. Go to for additional information.

The year 2008 will be here before we know it, and we must have candidates on the ballot, representing our ideas, values and principles who will give us a reason to vote for a candidate. We can no longer tolerate voting for the candidate who is the "lesser of two evils," has an "R" behind their name or because the party leadership told us to. Standing on principle, we will win elections.

The Democrats will help us win because they cannot stop spending our tax dollars and asking for more. In the first week of the session, with a $2 billion surplus, the Dem's have proposed six new tax increases. You can be sure more are on the way. I am hopeful that our elected Republicans will remain the conservatives they promised us they would be when we elected them. I am hopeful Governor Pawlenty will use his veto pen. I am confident that we can take back our party.

I don't know where my path will take me, and am often asked if I will run for office again. At this point in time, I simply don't know. I will keep you posted because where ever I end up, you can be sure I won't go quietly — I never do!

Sue Jeffers

Election Night Policy and a Pint: The Video

Previously, on North Star Liberty, I answered an open blogger call to liveblog at MPR's Policy and a Pint event on election night. Here are my video impressions of the evening.

Friday, January 05, 2007

David Gaither: back to the future

Life after politics so far for David Gaither, former state Senator and chief of staff to Governor Tim Pawlenty, has included a vacation in Arizona; weighing job offers; plans for more family time, golf, and fishing; an assessment of Republican accomplishments over the past four years; and mulling over what it would take to regain a conservative majority in the Legislature and Congress.

In short, Gaither may be out, but he's not down.

Gaither was elected to the Minnesota Senate in the Republican sweep of 2002. He won the party endorsement over the "moderate" incumbent Republican Martha Roberston as a strong conservative. His signature conservative achievement as a Senator was the 2003 passage (and defense against a subsequent legal challenge in 2005) of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act, which simultaneously strengthened Second Amendment rights and put more specific restrictions on the so-called "concealed carry" of firearms in Minnesota.

Gaither looked at his efforts in support of the bill as no less than keeping his oath as a Senator to defend the United States and Minnesota constitutions. Whenever he needed some perspective, he visited Fort Snelling National Cemetery and thought about the Minnesotans in uniform defending the Constitution and our country. What he did was easy in comparison their sacrifices, Gaither told me over the telephone this week.

In 2005, Gaither was appointed Governor Pawlenty's chief of staff, leaving an open seat in SD 43. DFLer Terri Bonoff won the seat by just under 9 percentage points in a special election, and kept it by just under 4 points in the general election of 2006, both times defeating former Plymouth mayor Judy Johnson.

Republicans will never regain the majority, Gaither said, as a "fractured" party. Like it or not, the "no new taxes" pledge from the Taxpayers League of Minnesota simply differentiated conservatives and liberals, giving voters a clear choice. Gaither cited Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" as another example of a clearly stated set of principles that voters could understand and support.

I agree, the Republican party needs to rebuild its brand. Unapologetic conservatives like U.S. Representative-elect Michele Bachmann (MN-6) and Minnesota Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) won in '06.

Demographics will favor the shrinking of government in the near future, Gaither pointed out. Some 45% of government workers are approaching retirement age, a trend that Gaither sees as a prime opportunity to make government smaller, cost less, and work better. He wondered, why not set a "landing a man on the moon"-like goal of making government services available 24/7, with 25% fewer employees, and 100% customer satisfaction?

Beyond a message or clearly stated set of core values, Republicans will need candidates with vision and the means to get the message out to the public, Gaither said.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Welcome back, Kotter

After a brief hiatus after election day, Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins returns to the Polinaut blog in a big way. The unfairly talented and creative folks at MPR have created another wonderful, underpromoted (practically secret unless you read Polinaut) little goody for us bloggers and other political wonks, hacks, and hangers-on.

As an encore to their fabulous election results widget, which appeared on this blog on Election Day, MPR presents the Minnesota Fantasy Legislature game. Like a fantasy sports league, the MFL will provide players and spectators with the ability to track individual legislators by their "stats," or various achievements in the process of introducing and passing legislation. If it were a radio show, Dan Barreiro and Mary Lahammer would be co-hosts.

It promises to be more fun, and provide more insight than The Apprentice game on Yahoo!. Well, maybe not more fun, but the game appears to be very well set up. Check it out during session, and look for more leagues next year.