Friday, March 30, 2007

Just a wahfer thin mint of extra taxes? 

Some time shortly after we're on the air tomorrow, the Minnesota Senate should be about done with dinner. The DFL senators have decided that it would like to create the highest personal income tax bracket in the nation.

The proposal to raise just shy of $1 billion in taxes over the next two years would be achieved by adding a fourth tier to Minnesota's current three-tier system. The new rate would be 9.7 percent. At least half of the proceeds would be used to offset higher education spending.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said his Democratic colleagues rallied around the plan during a closed-door caucus Friday morning. They chose the approach over another one that would have raised income taxes across the board.

So the people who want to take your money because they won decided that the 'your' was just the families with a quarter-million of taxable income. So that won't bother you, right? Well, when the family incorporates to duck that extra 2% tax, or moves their income out of state, what will happen to the people they hire and the goods they produce? And they are relying on a statistic that we described yesterday is a statistical artifact of how the tax incidence report is done.

The DFL House caucus at least taxed less than half the people hit with this Senate tax, and they taxed at 9%, not 9.75%. So when Tiny says "The reality is, people want some investment," she means they want someone else to invest in things for them. In fact, I've always wanted someone else to invest in my beer.

And after they pass the bill Saturday that everyone admits Governor Pawlenty will veto, the esteemed senators are taking all of next week off. (Do they get per diem during that period? I think not -- so think of the money they'll save!) All the work left to do, and they somehow can get a full week vacation. In 2005, they only took Thursday, Friday and Monday off for Easter week.

But the Mr. Creosote Senate will probably need a full week after digesting all these tax increases.

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Pray around 

Finally had a chance to stop and read, and first thing I find is that the First Mate appears to be completing her transplant surgery in fine form. Prayers for healing over there. I saw her at the station a few weekends ago and barely recognized her at first; Ed won't know this, but she provided me some real understanding and help dealing with my friend's death to diabetes. Ed, you married well.

Prayers as well out to Liz, for discernment for God's plan for her and Josh. I am glad she had a chance to share this with Powerline's audience (thanks, guys, for giving her some time.) I'm working up an idea for those two when Josh returns. Hint: It involves baseball.

Prayers for Sgt. Neil Duncan for healing and to move people to help support his struggle for a healthy future.

And prayers for me to be more patient with some of the students needing things when I'm supposed to have the day off. (Though, a tip: Interrupting me between the bathroom and the coffee pot is never a good idea. Thankee.)

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While there are many things the legislature can do -- because in Rep Debra Hilstrom's words, "no one is safe until the Legislature goes home" -- at least one person is making sure we can celebrate something unsafe.
State Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, has introduced a bill designating the Tilt-A-Whirl the official amusement ride in Minnesota.

Fritz said she's taking up the cause of 52 kindergarten students from her district who say it deserves special attention because it was invented in their town.

"I represent children too," Fritz said, adding, "Minnesotans like to have fun, and it's a fun thing to do."
Here's the bill.

Great. A State Amusement Ride that makes me barf. A perfect description of this Legislature.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dennis Prager 

Tonight we had the opportunity to hear Dennis Prager speak at the University of Minnesota in the Cities. What a fabulous mind he has. The large sold-out audience enthusiastically embraced him. We took to him like the arrival of a cousin from California whom we had known primarily through the receipt of periodic voice recordings. And suddenly there was a gathering at a family reunion. The warmth and affection permeated this large hall at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Tonight Dennis' topic focused on what students do not learn in college: wisdom, character, happiness and identity. Each of these topics will be addressed in subsequent posts.

What is at stake is the future of our nation which includes our children. No longer is there any correlation between what we pay for education today vs what our children learn. As a result our youth are short changed, our nation is short changed, our planet is short change. I hope you will stay with me on these posts which will continue through the weekend.

Tenure is a contract that can be broken, part 2 

Someone pointed out to me at lunch that the Chronicle of Higher Ed had posted a series of blog posts started by Steven Levitt about tenure. In it Levitt says he'd take $15,000 in additional base salary to forgo his tenure. As I argued in another context, one can always buy out tenure but most schools choose not to: It's cheaper to let the deadwood go on being dead than buy them out. And you'd have to make it a blanket offer, and negotiate individually with each faculty member. (Look, if the university came up and gave me a private offer to buy out my tenure without buying out the others, I can pretty well guess what comes next.)

That's in fact what Greg Mankiw is saying as well. You can easily buy out the Steve Levitts of the world because they have an active market for their services. Deadwood faculty know their (lack of) market alternatives and therefore would never sell tenure cheaply. Some schools (for-profits would seem to fit) may instead use the high-pay/low-job-stability model; the question is how one deals with university governance if you had a transition period in which senior faculty with tenure are hiring other senior faculty that are not to have it. Mankiw:
Now, senior hiring is done by existing senior faculty. If those faculty could start firing one another, the political dynamics of hiring would become complicated and probably untenable. (Here is a related paper.) A university without tenure would likely have to move toward a more hierarchical system with a "boss" in charge of hiring and other major decisions. That is, one cannot abolish tenure and expect university governance to remain the same. Deans would likely have more power over hiring. In my experience, anything that gives deans more authority is a step in the wrong direction, for deans have less information about what is going on in the field or in the classroom than the faculty do.
I suspect Mankiw's department has a chair that is not very powerful; these positions could be much more powerful if decisions to hire each year were made for the entire staff rather than just the untenured junior staff. (Chairs here have no such authority, and I'm not sure I would like to have it even if it were on offer. For those of you who work in departments who have chair recommendations for merit pay raises you can only imagine how much more nasty things would get.)

But the point remains: Tenure continues to exist because there are large institutional hurdles to its removal -- I consider that argument Stiglerian in nature -- and that its existence increases the cost of its removal to the point where nobody wants to move first to get rid of it.

Thus when Hank Brown of Colorado argues that that state's university system is reforming tenure after a lengthy process, it is most likely only going to nibble around the edges. A little more lengthy process for post-tenure review, a little tighter procedure for investigating faculty misconduct. But in the end all it means is a faster track to getting a Ward Churchill deal of having your tenure bought out (in his case, at $96,000/year until they actually get around to a final settlement.)


Fighting over a statistical artifact 

In a commentary in the Bemidji Pioneer, Minnesota Taxpayers Association executive director Lynn Reed makes a very interesting point about the DFL's discussions of tax incidence and tax fairness.
One of the main reasons the tax incidence of lower-income Minnesotans is greater than others is our dependence on business taxes. The Department of Revenue�s study shows that taxes initially imposed on businesses are shifted forward to households, primarily through higher prices and lower wages, which fall more heavily on lower income households. Business taxes shifted to the $17,000 to $23,000 income households take 2.6 percent of their income, while those shifted to the $105,000 and up income households take only 1.2 percent.

In fact, if state and local business taxes were cut in half, the �unfairness� would disappear. The $17,000 to $23,000 income group would pay 9.2 percent of their income in taxes, while the over $105,000 income group would pay 10.2 percent.
I looked at the study, and sure enough there it is, in Tables 2-2 and 2-3 (pages 27 and 29.) I've highlighed the business tax rates in the table to the right (taken from the study: click to expand.) Now oddly enough, I have not heard that proposal from the DFL in its attempts to create more tax fairness (which, as Reed points out "tends to reside in the mind of the one claiming unfair treatment.") Instead they are choosing between two huge tax increases on personal income. Reed argues that if you cut the business tax and replaced it with a slight, across-the-board personal tax increase you would in return get more progressivity.
A slight across-the-board increase in the individual income tax could make up for the loss of business tax revenue, with no overall tax increases, and an even more progressive tax system. While individuals would pay a little more in income taxes, they would pay lower prices for goods and receive higher wages from their employers.

Policy makers and economists know that if you want to discourage behavior, just tax it. This is the rationale behind increasing taxes on cigarettes and liquor. In Minnesota, taxing businesses doesn�t just discourage new jobs in this state, it discourages a progressive tax system. That result doesn�t sound fair for anyone.
Now a fiscally conservative DFL House caucus might be the place to find such a proposal. But alas, none are to be found.

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The tax tyranny of the majority 

The DFL majority in the Minnesota Legislature has been upset with House Republican Leader Marty Seifert, whose criticism of the DFL's tax plans have left at least one DFL leader sputtering. One Democrat announces "there's a lot of taxes in this bill" -- an announcement that Gary Gross notices in this morning's paper -- and the best the liberal news media can come up with is to tell Seifert to take a deep breath. A letter sent around to DFL activists by the party's leadership is trying to whip up LTE support:
Representative Seifert has taken the typical political grandstanding to be expected from a minority party to a new low. He hides behind feeble attempts at folksy "Seifert-isms" to get away with extremely disingenuous criticism. He is more interested in scoring political points, and in obstructing the legislative process, than in taking care of the people's business.
Taking care of the people's business in this case means taking away your money. (Bless you, Rep. Thao -- that's the gift that keeps on giving.) They will say it goes to education, of course, but that should come as no surprise when one looks at $1.5 million in campaign contributions.

Rep. Seifert called this a "badge of honor" and notes the new bonding bill -- normally a smallish thing in budget years -- has a quarter-billion in new projects and uses $120 million from the surplus in the current year that would normally go as a tax rebate. In a press release this morning, the Republicans have fired back that they will not support any tax increases:
"Fiscal responsibility is more than a campaign slogan. It is a principle by which we govern," said House Republican Leader Marty Seifert. "We have a $34 billion budget. There is room in this budget to fund education and healthcare, and there is room to provide tax relief. Minnesota taxpayers should not be asked to shoulder the burden of multi-billion dollar tax increases."

Citing Governor Pawlenty's clear direction that he will veto any tax increase, Senate and House Republicans said any bill that uses revenue from a proposed tax increase is a waste of time.

"We have spent weeks funding legislative priorities with money that doesn't exist. We stand firm with Governor Pawlenty that government growth should not exceed the growth of family income," Senjem said. "The Democrats need a back-up plan because Governor Pawlenty's vetoes will be upheld in both bodies of the Minnesota Legislature."
According to every source I've heard, this is true. Assuming no change in the two positions, the odds of a special session are rising by the moment, and I'll put the odds of a July shutdown at only 4-to-1 against at this point. (That is, if you would put up $5 against my $1, I'd take a bet that there will be a shutdown of the state government.)

You can bet this will be material for The Final Word this Saturday.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Man bites dog, dog gets treatment 

This is brilliant:
Two patients limp into two different medical clinics with the same complaint:

Both have trouble walking and appear to require a hip replacement.

The first patient is examined within the hour, is x-rayed the same day and has a time booked for surgery the following week.

The second sees his family doctor after waiting a week for an appointment, then waits eight weeks to see a specialist, then gets an x-ray, which isn't reviewed for another week, and finally has his surgery scheduled for six weeks from then.

Why the different treatment for the two patients?

The first is a golden retriever.

The second is a senior citizen.
Says the man whose daughter is getting braces for a second time today. Because we pay 50% our of pocket (5% discount if paid in advance -- and the total is more than two house payments for the Scholar fam) Littlest is getting in within three weeks of diagnosis, and the dentist is very good. And paid out of pre-tax dollars in an health savings account (though it will have zero dollars the rest of the year.)

As John notes, if Littlest were in Canada, she'd probably just have to deal with the underbite. Or wait six months for the system to let her go to a doctor and re-set her jaw. Yes, that's as painful as it sounds.

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What do presidents do? 

A letterwriter in the St. Cloud Times isn't thrilled with the compensation schemes of modern universities.
The big print shows the salary of the new president of St. Cloud State University. The next two articles talk about the St. Cloud State hockey coach and the new University of Minnesota basketball coach.

Earl Potter will make up to $253,000 to run an entire university and be responsible for all aspects of our young people's education.

I don't know how much Bob Motzko makes as the hockey coach, but I would bet he's at least in that same range. And Tubby Smith will make up to $1.8 million coaching basketball at the U of M.

What exactly is the purpose of a college or university? I didn't think it was to prepare athletes for professional sports careers or to build extravagant arenas and stadiums for them to play in. I thought it was to teach and to prepare students to step up to the challenges waiting for them in the real world.
Commenter "Corwin" on this blog last week also asked what are the prime functions of university presidents? Let's muse on that a moment.

Academic institutions distinguish between a chief academic officer (either a provost or a VP for Academic Affairs, most of the time) and a president. While presidents sometimes are involved in the academic affairs of a campus, it is most often a negative insofar as issues only come to the president when there is a conflict. Academic programs are usually a collectively delivered product -- I avoid the word team because departments usually aren't teams -- and a collegiate coach is more of a leader of students and athletes than a university president. This is even more true on a comprehensive state university campus than a small private liberal arts institution.

So what does the president do, then? In short, they are advocates for their institutions. Before SCSU was subsumed into the MnSCU system its president had a more direct impact on how much money the legislature provided. Now it is not much. So fundraising has to turn to alumni donations and grantwriting, something which SCSU hasn't done terribly well in the past. If you wanted to provide President Potter with incentives, the best probably would be for some kind of bounty on alumni contributions. That sort of thing is usually frowned upon when done openly, but can arise through appointment to boards of directors, for example.

I think the other thing presidents can do is to present a good face to the public, particularly when your institution depends on state support like ours. Past presidents of this institution have served on numerous non-profit boards (a function that should extend down the chain to the faculty, in my opinion) that builds applications of the university's knowledge to local issues and a base of support for university initiatives. Local residents living near campus of course face a negative externality from noisy students, but that can be offset by a good relationship between the university and the professional community, if you work at it.

If our new president can do those two things, that would be good. And the number of people who can do that is probably greater than the number who can bring the Gophers to basketball excellence. This is why college coaches make more than college presidents.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Life is good 

Baseball begins, and even on the Commissioner's blog I can learn that Curt Schilling has a blog. Dean Barnett has thrown out the first CHB. Now the question is, does he read SoSH?

(Not lived in New England for nearly thirty years, but I still love the Boston sports media fights, which even have a blog of their own too.)

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Still think this economy is on fire? 

While the DFL contemplates how much to try to raise taxes, perhaps it should think about the state of the state economy. New state personal income figures came out, and the upper Midwest has problems due to farm income declining.
While total personal income grew 6.3 percent in the U.S. from 2005 to 2006, it increased by 5.3 percent in the region including South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in Washington.

The income figures include both pay and other factors such as dividends, interest, rent and transfers. Those other factors are on par with the national economy, so the real difference is what's happening in the labor market, said David Lenze, a bureau economist.

"The one thing that stands out is the farm sector, and that sector was subtracting from growth last year," he said. "It knocked off about a half percentage point from earnings growth in the Plains region."

The farm sector also subtracted from growth in 2005, but at a lower pace -- 0.39 percentage points, he added.
Sounds like a great time to pass a fertilizer tax, eh Mr. Junhke? Farm losses reduced personal income here by 0.64%. Big contributors to growth were health care and wholesale trade (yup, middlemen.)

But let's be clear -- the governor's office last year ran on a record that said the economy was booming. As noted last fall, these data are a patchwork of wages, dividends and interest, farm income, etc. There can be little mistaking that the general trend in the Plains states is down, and that the worst two states in the bunch are Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota actually fell in the rankings of state per capita income from tenth to twelfth. Might you want to ask how government can help this? By taking some of that income and "investing in the economy"? What were they doing with it before? Lighting cigars?

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Personal to Kouba 

The man is up on his skis and approaching the shark. I mean, what's next? Aerospace engineers who are also cheerleaders?


(Though I have to say, having Littlest run screaming from the room when Milo and Nadia suck face was awesome. Thanks, 24 writers!)

You get a C+ for comprehension 

Predictably, the local paper has weighed in on the budget battle in St. Paul. In editorials Sunday and yesterday the paper tried to split the baby with a call for higher taxes but not so much as the DFL would like.
Speaking in broad terms, we believe the state needs to adopt an overall budget solution this session that includes some form of tax increases. The state simply has too many needs, costs are rising too rapidly and too many services have been cut or delegated (forced onto cities and counties) in recent years to move forward based on a "no new taxes" philosophy.

Of course, businesses and the wealthy may not want to admit it, but the governor's own Revenue Department last week unveiled a biennial study that shows who should absorb most new taxes.

Wealthy Minnesotans are paying a slightly smaller share of their incomes in state and local taxes, and the tax burden is moving away from businesses and toward individuals.
I know many of the Times' writers, and while I haven't asked them I am pretty sure they are looking at the Tax Incidence Report that I discussed here last week. Assuming that's right, it's drawing the wrong inference from the tables provided.

First, as I noted then,
the top 1% of income earners (incomes over $354,758) in Minnesota pay 24.3% of the state income taxes in the state; the top 5% ($146,809), 43.1%; the top 10% ($105,451), 55.4%. Other taxes are not nearly so progressive, but state sales taxes are shifted onto consumers to a significant degree (a little more than half) and businesses pay about half of property taxes as well.
So how much more would you like them to pay? The problem with using the share amount of total taxes (which gives you the slight decline they report.) It is not based on a median figure but on an average figure which, because the people at the very top are making of the 1% are making huge amounts, overstates the denominator for the share for the median rich guy (I hope that makes sense.) This only happens on the two extremes, which is why I never trust those figures.

Second, and this is the part I think they miss, raising the tax rate on some base pre-shifting tells you nothing about how the tax burden will be distributed post-shifting. If raising the rate on corporate property to its current level lead to 40% of the tax being shifted forward to consumers, would you not expect that more would be shifted if you raise that rate higher? If the rich are able to avoid enough tax by changing where and when they collect reported income to cause the current slight regressivity, do we really believe the answer is to raise the rate on the same taxes? Why wouldn't they just shift away income more than before?

Remember that the reason the DFL and the Times editorial board wants this money is to pay for "needs" and "services" that "have been cut or delegated". It thinks by moving the tax burden from local to state it can collect more money -- the progressivity of the tax burden is just a way to sell the unpalatable to the middle class. Yet there is no study that tells you how much money will leak out of Minnesota when you raise rates higher as more accountants tell more of their clients to build a new home in South Dakota.

Iraq - Gee, Who wudda thunk? 

Difficult as it is, the AP digital news release through the Sydney Morning Herald confirms a major capture of key Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Yes, Al-Qaeda has been and is in Iraq.

It is extremely unfortunate the western media has been so anti-coalition and US efforts in Iraq. Who knows, this war may have subsided a couple of years ago if the world had united against the real oppressor.

Other articles indicate Sunnis are tired of the bombings. If they can have enough time, they can make it. We need to remember, it took us 10 years to put a Constitution in place in Japan after WWII, almost as long in Germany. And, we still have troops in both countries. The fact that Europe has lost its belief in anything besides a 35 hour work week and has no defensive force of value is a topic for another day.

Challenging dispositions 

The Chronicle of Higher Ed runs this week a column by Greg Lukianoff of FIRE discussing the use of dispositions theory in the Columbia Teachers College. (Subscribers link; FIRE is providing a copy free for non-subscribers.) See my previous discussions here and here, for example. Columbia has responded to public demands by FIRE and the New York Civil Rights Coalition that it stop requiring students to demonstrate a "commitment to social justice" by saying it doesn't enforce the rule that is written in its web (or, more likely, that it lets students have freedom interpreting that to mean whatever they envision it to mean.) Lukianoff responds:

Vague, subjective, and politicized evaluation standards are dangerous. They invite administrators and faculty members to substitute their own opinions and political beliefs in place of evaluating students' skill as teachers. Many of us can think of teachers and professors whose politics we may not have agreed with but who were nonetheless exceptional educators. Having the "correct" political beliefs no more makes someone a good teacher than having "incorrect" beliefs necessarily makes someone a bad teacher.

Teachers College's standards are disturbingly vague and subjective. Its "Conceptual Framework" states that education is a "political act," that teachers � and hence teachers in training or students � are expected to be "participants in a larger struggle for social justice." At times, however, the standards are remarkably specific: "To change the system and make schools and societies more equitable, educators must recognize ways in which taken-for-granted notions regarding the legitimacy of the social order are flawed." The policy goes on to say that students are expected to recognize that "social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility."

Those may be perfectly fine pedagogical theories appropriate for academic study, but when they are tied to mandatory evaluation criteria, they amount to a political litmus test. Does Teachers College really believe that a student who thinks "social responsibility" and "merit" are positive societal values would not make a good teacher?

It is hard to imagine how one creates an instrument by which one is evaluated.

(h/t: Loyal reader jw)

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What Students are NOT Taught 

Being a member of a college faculty involves other responsibilities besides teaching. One of these is selecting a textbook for a given class. I have taught Management Information Systems (MIS) for most of the past nine years. During that time I have read more than 20 textbooks and served as a listed reviewer/editor on one of them.

My latest meeting centered around discussions for a new text for fall, 2007. Our MIS course is designed to teach the role of information technology (IT) in business. Since an organization can spend up to 50% of its resources on IT, it is very important that non-IT business majors understand this.

Naively, today's students think the entire world runs on personal computers (PCs). True, PCs run many small business and many large businesses have 1000's of PCs. However, PCs don't run the large businesses; large servers, also called mainframes run these institutions. If you have a major credit card, put gasoline in your car, stay at a brand hotel, pay taxes, get cash from an ATM, carry insurance, or perform disease research, you are using applications on mainframe or super computers.

Unfortunately, too many IT textbook authors and publishers devote less than a few paragraphs to anything larger than a personal computer. Instead, they focus on the cute, clever, and cool aspects of PCs while ignoring the massive engines, intricate applications and complexity that are the foundation of an enterprise's technical architecture. Why? Perhaps this omission is because the authors work in university departments using PCs and are unaware of the power behind their desk machines. (Tunnel vision?)

As a result, students are not taught what they need. Employers hire people without the necessary knowledge to do their job. Finally, students who would be interested in pursuing careers on the "big" ideas are denied the awareness this need even exists. Exciting careers are there for the taking yet students and too many universities are missing the mark. We all pay.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

American Manners and Logic 

Tonight my husband and I went to a sports bar to watch NCAA women's basketball. At a major intersection, 35W exit ramp and Cty Rd 42, the traffic lights were out and no police officer had arrived to direct traffic.

Chaos? No. One direction at a time, American drivers simply took turns going through the intersection. No honking, no "jumping out of turn", no rude manners - just a logical, patient approach to a sticky situation.

We Americans do these things, we just do them. So many places on the planet can't or won't. The last time my husband visited cities across China, he saw no queueing up or taking turns in any major city.

We take this behavior for granted - perhaps we should remember to be grateful we behave this well.

What would you pay for a forever stamp? 

The US Post Office has just issued a new stamp to effect a rate increase of two cents on first class postage effective April 12. The new stamps will sell for 41 cents, but rather than marking them with a 41 they are marked 'forever'. The stamp is indexed in value -- no matter what the price of postage is in the future, you may use that stamp for first class postage.

Now I doubt the USPS is doing this out of generosity. It costs money to print one- and two-cent stamps, and perhaps the cost of printing and delivering them is greater than the benefit of selling these. I'm pretty sure you can make a sticky stamp for less than a cent, but distribution might be expensive. (See my post on the penny for a comparable thought.)

But what does this do to the price of 39 cent stamps now in existence? If an indexed stamp and an unindexed stamp co-circulate, the unindexed stamp should sell at a discount since it doesn't carry that additional value. Alternatively, the indexed stamp should cost slightly more than 41 cents, as one acquires an insurance policy against postal price inflation. Gresham's Law should apply here -- the forever stamps will be relatively rare.

Hoarding of stamps, however, is an interest-free loan given by the public to the USPS. Seems like they always win, doesn't it?

Much greater discussion found at The Simple Dollar. Hat tip to my colleague Ming, who figures he sends only 100 pieces of mail with a stamp per year and so it's not worth it to him. We send probably four times that, so I'm thinking about it.


Ceteris paribus 

A study by two faculty at Princeton, reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education today (subscriber's link) says legacy students -- the children of alumni who are admitted to their parent's school but lack the grades to have been admitted otherwise -- drop out more often and have lower GPAs than students who attend such schools under those conditions due to athletic scholarships or affirmative action considerations.
"We do not expect these findings to settle the debate on affirmative action," Mr. Massey and Ms. Mooney wrote. "We do hope, however, that they enable readers to place the issue of minority affirmative action in a broader context, viewing it as just one of several programs to target a subgroup of students affirmatively."
Well that is true, but the comparison is incomplete. Athletes have academic tutors hired by the athletic program to keep players eligible. There are numerous womens' centers, minority student centers, GLBT services, etc., to assist students admitted that way as well. But could you imagine someone setting up the "Children of Alumni Academic Learning Center"?? Of course not.

If you are going to draw that parallel, you must hold everything else constant. I do not see evidence that this has happened here.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Feminists and Multiculturalism 


A Moroccan mother of two, who is a German citizen, filed for divorce because her Moroccan husband beat her and threatened to kill her. One would think the legal decision is a no-brainer. Right? Wrong! The female German judge denied the request for divorce because the woman is a Muslim and the Koran says it is OK for a man to beat his wife!

Where are the feminists? Siding with the multiculturalists? Who knows. This is an absurd ruling.

Neither the USA nor any of the European nations are really multicultural - we are multi-ethnic. There's a difference. And, any nation that decides to abandon its own set of laws for someone else's set of laws positions itself for a major meltdown. No society can continue to exist when a subset of its citizenry is exempt from obeying the nation's legal system.

Perhaps the female judge should try to apply her logic, that is German law, in any number of Muslim nations. Just how far would she get?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Let's eat 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial: Pawlenty took office in 2003 determined to starve the state beast.

Minnesota general fund spending increase, 2006-07 biennium: 11.9%. (5.6% in 2004-05 when the budget deficit was over $4 billion.)

Fastest growing expenditures:
That's some kind of starving there, boy. I hate to think what would happen to my waistline if I went on that diet.

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"There's a lot of taxes in this bill" 

And he seems proud of it.
The proposed 10-cent-a-gallon gasoline-tax increase moving through the Minnesota Legislature could end up being higher than that, maybe more than twice as high.

Tucked away in a big transportation funding bill being fast-tracked to a Senate floor vote today are future increases in Minnesota's gas tax that could push it from 20 cents a gallon to more than 40 cents over 10 years, higher than any state's current bite at the pump.

"I'm not trying to fool anybody," said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, sponsor of the measure that would increase funding for roads and transit by $1.5 billion a year once it was fully implemented in the next decade. "There's a lot of taxes in this bill."

The dime-a-gallon bill has escalators tied both to inflation and to debt service for roads (which I would think is a shot at Governor Pawlenty's philosophy to use debt to pay for transportation.) At a press conference yesterday Republican House Leader Marty Seifert passed around a spreadsheet showing the effect of all these tax increases on families in the metro and outstate. Many of the taxes listed -- running more than $500 per family per year -- would be in the Murphy legislation. He's right; there IS a lot of taxes in this bill. And they'd only go up over time with the escalators.

UPDATE: Pscymeistr notes some bad economics in Sen. Murphy's assumption that Exxon would pay the excise tax. As I noted Wednesday, the assumption of the tax incidence study that the Department of Finance creates is that 54.6% of the gas tax is borne by consumers, and only 44% of it is borne by businesses (shared down the supply chain, so the part Exxon feels is a fraction of that 44%.) Thus the share borne by consumers of a 10 cent increase on gas is 5.46 cents, and gas stations receive 4.4 cents less. (The rest is paid by non-resident households and firms.)

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Good advice is scarce 

William Easterly's piece on Africa's receipt of lousy economic advice for half a century (WSJ subscriber's link) leads Mark Thoma (who reprints most of the piece so you can read there) to muse:
A couple of comments, or questions rather about his examples in support of the free market approach to development. He says "In the ensuing 50 years, there have been plenty more examples of poor countries which grew rapidly without much aid -- China and India ... being the most famous recent examples." Are these examples of free markets at work once government stepped aside, or are they cases where the state has provided substantial direction as the big push to get the ball rolling? Should we wonder why he doesn't mention countries where the strict free-market approach has failed and paved the way for populist alternatives?
No doubt such countries exist -- Russia post-Yeltsin (Gaidar?) comes immediately to mind -- but could you point to one that adopted the populist alternative and grew?

A slide show of Easterly's view is here. I recall a slide show Easterly used to have showing what was written about Ghana (glowing) versus S. Korea (unlikely to ever grow) in the late 1950s. It's not a stretch to say we have been fantastically wrong about what makes economies grow in the past; what we do not know yet is what we mean when we say 'free market policies'. Which ones work? Which should come first? I don't have an answer, but I am at present working on a book to show that the measurements we currently use to get that answer are woefully inaccurate. You'll probably see more of that here in the next six months.


Exactly right 

Clark Patterson explains the conflict between access and accountability in college education:

On the one hand, academia is supposed to do everything in its power to increase access to higher education to a larger cross section of American society, particularly along race and class lines. This means enrolling more first generation college attendees, many of whom might not be ready for college. Yet Washington is willing to increase need-based financial aid in order to browbeat more students from �underrepresented groups� into matriculating.

On the other hand, colleges are under increasing pressure to improve their accountability in the form of quicker and higher graduation rates and greater student performance. A new batch of standardized testing has been proposed for graduating seniors. This Spellings Commission recommendation should be adopted as one objective means of partially determining what is gained from a four-year, $80,000 investment in a bachelor�s degree.

Unfortunately, one unintended consequence of the Spellings Commission�s adoption of both increased access and higher accountability will be grade inflation. If colleges and universities are told that they must increase access for students from historically-underrepresented groups � groups that don�t perform as well academically as whites and Asian-American students � yet the federal aid that colleges receive from Washington is directly tied to student academic success, will anyone be surprised if colleges respond to these conflicting goals by diluting their academic standards in order to graduate more students and maintain or increase their federal financial support?

No, we won't. In some places, it's already happened. So what's likely to happen? Don't be surprised by a push for national testing of college seniors, some day.


Some incentive 

Apparently MnSCU doesn't believe in performance pay. The contract of our new president Earl Potter has been published by the St. Cloud Times. His base salary of $220,000 is the headline of the newspaper today. Of interest is clause 8(E):
E. Performance Incentive
The president shall receive an annual payment based on performance at the completion of each year of this Agreement, if the President meets or exceeds the performance expectations determined by the Chancellor. The Chancellor shall make a determination by August 31st of each year for the prior fiscal year. If the Chancellor does not make a determination prior to August 31st, the performance incentive shall be deemed to be awarded and the payment shall be made. A performance payment under this paragraph shall be made within two (2) months after the determination by the Chancellor, or by October 31st, whichever is earlier. The amount of the payment shall be two thousand dollars ($2,000).
Wow, a guy making 220k, plus housing, car and telephone, can get a bonus of 2k if he "meets or exceeds the performance expectations." That should really incentivize him to perform! And it requires a negative finding by the Chancellor to deny the money, rather than a positive finding to pay. Now THAT'S motivation.

At less money than outgoing president Roy Saigo and about a fourth of Gopher football coach Tim Brewster, one wonders if we were looking for a leader or a bargain. (Tubby Smith at $1.7 million/year is a different matter.)


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Photos from DC 

As many of you know, I attended the rally in Washington, DC last weekend to support our Vets. There have been a number of sites on the web with photos. I've selected about a dozen that I thought showed the flavor of the event. (Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

In contrast to my politics, I'm on the left in this photo. My friend, Chris, from Soldier's Angels, is in the midddle.

Sample Protestors. I didn't know we were at war with Iran.

Our guys!

Center: Kevin Michael, Gulf War Vet and a great speaker!

World War II Vet.

Michelle Malkin publicised this project.

The signs say it all!

Orange shirts say "Marshal", the Vet volunteers who helped the National Park Police.

Minnesota's Tubby; USC gets another OJ 

Well, anything bad I said about Joel Maturi is going to look silly for a year now. They got Tubby. He was known in Kentucky as ten-loss-Tubby; that'd be a blessing here.

Heard also as I was driving home this story about how O.J. Mayo, a high school star from West Virginia and probably the top senior recruited this year, decided to go to USC without ever being recruited by USC. Head coach Tim Floyd got a visit from an intermediary:
�O. J. wanted me to come here today,� the man told Floyd. �He wanted me to figure out who you are.�

Floyd was desperate enough to play along. His starting point guard, Ryan Francis, had been murdered two months earlier. The backup, Gabe Pruitt, was in academic trouble. The third-stringer, a walk-on, was leaving college.

�Why aren�t you at Arizona or Connecticut?� Floyd recalled asking.

The man explained that Mayo wanted to market himself before going to the N.B.A., and that Los Angeles would give him the best possible platform.

�Then why aren�t you at U.C.L.A.?� Floyd asked.

The man shook his head. U.C.L.A. had already won 11 national championships. It had already produced many N.B.A. stars. Mayo wanted to be a pioneer for a new era.
Can Tubby provide that to the Gophers? I don't know, but he's the biggest hiring that program has had in a very, very long time.

Muslim student loans 

In an entry on the Chronicle of Higher Ed's Daily News Blog, a new report is noted that talks about barriers to Islamic students studying in western schools.
The report offers nearly five dozen recommendations for improvements. Among them are retaining Muslim faculty members and offering halal meals, which meet Islam�s dietary restrictions. One of the biggest problems facing Muslim students is the loan-based student-aid system.

�Interest-bearing loans are forbidden in Islam, which means that provincial- and federal-government loans are simply off-limits for many practicing Muslims,� said Mohamed Sheibani, president of the Muslim Students� Association National of the U.S. and Canada...
The Islamic banking restrictions are familiar, and these countries have developed many instruments that allow for purchase-and-resale transactions that meet Islamic strictures. There's little reason Islamic banking could not create these student loans. But there's also no reason why a western country that engages in assisting the student loan market -- not a great idea in my view, but a widely accepted practice -- should be compelled to create a secondary market for Muslim student loans.

In principle if a university wanted to attract these students it would be possible to create a contract to charge them a higher tuition than non-Islamic students, then have them replay the loan on installment after graduation without interest. The university would receive the same amount of money either way. But could you imagine how the news would handle the idea that Islamic students paid a higher tuition?


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why I love the Red Sox 

How can you not love this?
In a certified "Manny being Manny" moment, Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez is selling a gas grill on eBay. Ramirez will tack an extra $70 on to the winning bid for shipping cost.

Bidding closes on March 28 at 2:57 p.m.

Enclosed in the ad is a picture of Ramirez proudly standing next to the large Jenn-Air grill.

Ramirez enclosed the following message with his ad:

"Hi, I'm Manny Ramirez. I bought this AMAZING grill for about $4,000 and I used it once. ... but I never have the time to use it because I am always on the road. I would love to sell it and you will get an autographed ball signed by me. Enjoy it, Manny Ramirez."

Dude makes $17MM and needs to hawk a grill on eBay. Don't ever trade Manny.


New incidence study 

I noted last week that Minnesota was about to release its new incidence study -- the study of how taxes affect people by income class, between businesses and households, and between Minnesotans and non-residents. It's out now, and shows stories that support both some Republican and DFL talking points.

The DFL's point that property taxes are increasing, and that these taxes are regressive (placing a higher burden on lower income families) is borne out by the study. Assuming no change in taxes, property tax rates in the local effective tax rate in 2004 of 5.1% on the second decile of income (families earning $13,500 a year), rising to 5.5% in 2009. Now, because this study like most uses money income as their definition of household income -- excluding savings or retirees spending down their retirement assets -- this may overstate the true burden. (See the box on page 17 of the report.) Still, it's predictable that the DFL will use the talking point of how high property taxes are burdening lower-income families and that relief is needed. (I need someone to explain to me, by the way, why that relief does not show up in a more generous renters credit. That seems to be the right way to target that money, but I've heard nary a peep about using it for property tax relief for renters.)

On the Republican side, the effective tax rate on Minnesotans rose under the Republicans from 11.3% in 2002 to 11.6% in 2004. Assuming no change in tax policy, that rate rises in 2009 to an expected 11.7%. This is down from the 13% of the bad old days in 1994, but below the 11.2% that existed during the Ventura year of 2000.

More interesting will be the burden of the tax on the rich: the top 1% of income earners (incomes over $354,758( in Minnesota pay 24.3% of the state income taxes in the state; the top 5% ($146,809), 43.1%; the top 10% ($105,451), 55.4%. Other taxes are not nearly so progressive, but state sales taxes are shifted onto consumers to a significant degree (a little more than half) and businesses pay about half of property taxes as well.

One fact you won't see in the published reports, I will guess, is the extent to which excise and sales taxes are regressive (even with the exclusion of clothing and food). The sales tax is unavoidable for the poor who cannot use the internet to grab goods from out of state. If one wanted to deal with tax equity, that would be an area to address. And another would be business taxes, including such taxes as the business property tax, corporation franchise tax, taxes on capital purchases and excises and fees paid on goods used by businesses for production.
Although the legal impact of each of these taxes falls on the business entity, each is partially shifted to consumers (in higher prices) or in some cases to labor (in lower wages). Only a portion of business taxes are borne by capital owners as a lower rate of return on their investment. Part of the burden of each of these taxes is also shifted to nonresidents. This study estimates the degree to which such shifting occurs and then allocates the estimated burden to Minnesota households based on each household�s sources of income and patterns of spending.

Overall, the burden of Minnesota business taxes on Minnesota households was regressive. ...the effective tax rate fell as income increased. The effective tax rate was 5.6 percent in the second decile; it fell steadily as income rose, reaching 1.9 percent in the tenth decile. (p. 32)
So as the DFL proposes taxes on everything from fuel to deeds, the Republicans can argue that these taxes are in fact running in the opposite direction of the soak-the-rich schemes other DFLers have proposed.

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All the world's a campus 

We've reported in the past that this university makes it a habit of enforcing on-campus rules for off-campus behaviors, particularly where move-in day is concerned. But this is extending to the internet. Greg Lukianoff and Will Creeley notice how much enforcement is being done by schools of one's behavior on MySpace and Facebook. I take the public/private distinction to this direction: If you go to a private school and sign off on the school verifying your moral education, this is permissible. I could imagine a religious institution doing this. But a public institution? I should hope not.

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That'd make me a boomer 

Though born in 1957, I pass Mitch's test for post-boomerism. Though at least I have outgrown that Springsteen thing. I would like to propose the Clapton Test, however. If like me your first brush with Clapton was Layla, you're still a boomer. I Shot the Sheriff? Post-boomer.

Though Talking Heads '77 changed everything, and led to many albums being sold.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I know nothing about hockey 

Comments about the quality of the St. Cloud Times interactive bracket (and the quality of St. Cloud hockey fans) are small salve for the guy who had to tolerate Rick Barnes and D.J. Augustin blowing up his NCAA brackets. (By the way, I actually saw Danny Ainge sitting with Kevin Durant's family, for which Ainge now owes the NBA $30,000. If we sign Durant, Danny should be compensated.)

I obviously know nothing about hockey (the parenthetic note above should be proof of which sport I follow) but I will say that the team goes as far as the goalie takes them. Having had Bobby Goepfert and Nate Raduns both as students, I can say firmly that if they're as good hockey players as they are students and young men, we're in good shape. Nate, by the way, is up for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award -- Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School -- so how 'bout everyone go vote for him? Notice: no Gophers on that list.

I also know we beat Clarkson twice, here, early in the season, and Maine is experiencing the same late-season swoon we are. So if we can get Bobby rested up and the offense actually getting shots on goal again, it's possible to see SCSU in the Frozen Four.

But again, I know nothing about hockey. Just waiting for Durant and baseball...

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"Foo-foo" coffee for American Soldiers 

One of the humorous events that happened in DC this past weekend was a conversation with a recently returned from Iraq American soldier.

He and his dad, a retired vet, were on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial offering to hold signs for those wishing to go inside the memorial. We gave them ours.

As we left, we talked with them, telling them we both had been shipping packages to soldiers for years. I asked the current soldier (he was not participating in the demonstrations) what they needed. His response caused me to chuckle.

Soldier, "We would like some "foo-foo" coffee."
Me, "What? We thought you got coffee."
Soldier, "We do but it is plain stuff - we would like some other, like Hazelnut, or..."
Me, "Foo-foo, huh?"
Soldier, "Foo-foo."
Me, "Okay, ground or beans?" At this point, who knows what those guys are capable of doing creatively.
Soldier, "Ground preferred. We had a grinder (I did not ask what it was) but others, well they might not be able to grind beans."

Conclusion, foo-foo coffee in the next shipment.

Still Juhnkeballing 

When pitchers lose the foot on their fastballs that make the difference between striking out batters and being battered themselves, the aging pitcher goes through an adjustment in which they learn to pitch with their fastball (rather than whizzing it past, you have to have pinpoint control) or they learn to throw off-speed pitches, sometimes called junkballs. In an update to an article that I discussed last night, Rep. Al Juhnke shows he can't throw his stuff past the voters any more and resorts to throwing junk.
Juhnke told the Independent the DFL spells out exactly what it's chief funding priorities are, and how they'd be funded � and they are not the things Seifert points to in his op-ed piece.
Health care, all-day, every-day kindergarten and property tax reform are among the DFL priorities. Juhnke said they'd be paid for through closing corporate tax loopholes (requiring companies that do business in Minnesota to pay taxes in Minnesota), forcing compliance on tax cheaters, and creating a fourth tier of income tax on those who make, after all deductions, $400,000 or more. That aspect would be revenue neutral, Juhnke said, and not really an increase in taxes.
Juhnke said Seifert ignored the concrete steps the DFL proposes, and chose just to attack.
"We are funding the basic items Minnesotans are asking for, and we've put out exactly how we're going to pay for them," Juhnke said. "It does Marty no good to be be misleading. That does nothing to foster debate down here. What he's doing is creating exactly the thing (the GOP) has been great at � the politics of division.
"You can lead in a good, positive way, or lead in a negative way. Apparently, he's chosen the latter at the present time."
First, it's not the job of the minority leader to highlight the good parts of the majority's tax-and-spend bill. That's your job, Rep. Juhnke.

Second, it's interesting that you rely on the old dodge of Russell Long and call the tax increases revenue-neutral. They might be to the median voter ... but you've divided out the people who make more than $400,000 in a year. What is that if not the politics of division? Taxing businesses means that you can do that without ever costing a job, without ever seeing tax incidence shifted forward to purchasers, and without ever leading that business owner to spend less on goods and services in her or his town. (Entrepreneurs operate households as well as firms, Rep. Juhnke.)

Third, and perhaps most galling, is the idea that somehow you can invent this money by closing loopholes and forcing compliance. These are not free goods. They mean further persecution of Minnesota businesses. They mean hiring more people to go over your tax return. They mean businesses spend more money on tax compliance and avoidance and less on research and development and jobs.

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What to do about ranting professors? 

One thing the internet and places like FIRE and NoIndoctrination have done is to let students know that they don't have to put up with faculty who are spouting off their political views in a class and disguising themselves as practicing academic freedom. The recent case at North Idaho College gives an example of this. A freshman comp course, taught by an adjunct instructor (though the instructor says she has taught for 25 years), in which the instructor wants to "spur debate and get students to think critically." As RightWingProf notes, critical thinking as practiced here "has nothing to do with thinking, unless you consider groupthink and parroting the left-wing PC party line to be thinking, and it certainly isn't critical." The student -- a former aide for Rep. Helen Chenoweth, so not your usual student here -- marched out and demanded her money back. The school paid her off.

That's certainly one way to go. But the faculty member complains that she had no idea the student was offended. And while you and I, as people of the right, might think "why should I have to explain to you that lipping off about how Republicans can't read in a classroom is inappropriate?", there are others who would say there has to be some due process given to the faculty member. So if you are a student or parent of a student facing this, here's what I say to do.
  1. Talk to the instructor. I hear complaints about faculty. Until the student and the faculty member have a talk, there's very little I can do. The student will come in and vent, and I will give a sympathetic ear, but I cannot do anything as a department chair on that basis. Frankly, nobody can. Students fear retribution, but until it actually happens there's not much we can do. When retribution does happen, we have ways of dealing with that. Not always effective, but better than you might think.
  2. Document everything. Take good notes, noting the time, what was said, what was the topic being discussed before the rant, what was on the syllabus for discussion that day, etc. Take a tape or digital recorder to class. If your student handbook says you must ask permission first, do so. If it doesn't, put it on your desk and turn it on. Say you're using it to assist note-taking. That may get the faculty member to desist. I've seen it work a couple of times. (There does not appear to be any restrictions on taping here.)
  3. Talk to classmates. Ask them if they hear the same things and if they have similar reactions. That can help verify the complaint. Meeting collectively with the faculty member, in or out of class, may solve things.
  4. When all that fails, go to the mattresses. That means the blogs, the press, the president of the university, everywhere. It is not illegal for the faculty member to indoctrinate, but it's unprofessional behavior. Call them on it, and if it's at a public school whip out the taxpayer card. If it's a private school, mail the link or the newspaper clipping to the trustees.


Not guilty not the same as free speech 

While I'm relieved that the College Republicans at San Francisco State will not face punishment, their exercise of free speech should not have been put on trial.
�We are relieved that SFSU has come to its senses and recognized that it cannot punish students for constitutionally protected expression,� FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. �But the fact remains that the university should never have investigated or tried them in the first place. This was a protected act of political protest and it is impossible to believe the university did not know that from the start.�

Yesterday afternoon, President Corrigan wrote to FIRE with the welcome news that �the Student Organization Hearing Panel (SOHP) unanimously concluded that the College Republicans organization had not violated the Student Code of Conduct and that there were no grounds to support the student complaint lodged against them.�
The trial, however, is a farce. David Frum reviews the history of San Francisco State's bouts of anti-Semitism and concludes:
There is obviously something profoundly wrong on American campuses... Apologists for terrorism receive maximum protection for the most vicious bigotry, for menace and intimidation, and even outright violence. Yet that zeal for free speech vanishes altogether when opponents of terrorism engage in much, much milder forms of protest. This goes beyond double standards. It is a moral collapse.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Like you couldn't have guessed this! 

A substantial TV ad campaign turned Education Minnesota into the top-spending lobbying organization in 2006, according to a tally produced by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

The state teachers union reported spending $1.5 million last year. Annual reports were due to the board last week.
Source. I'm shocked to learn that teachers would lobby politicians! What is the world coming to? Who's in second and third?
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the 2005 lobbying leader, estimated its spending at $1.38 million. The Minnesota Vikings spent $1.16 million � roughly the same as the three previous years combined � in pursuit of state subsidies toward a new stadium.
My God, the Vikes are as bad at spending lobbying dollars as they are at picking coaches or free agents!

Teachers gave $156,250 to the DFL Senate Caucus alone.

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Maybe Al Juhnke listens to NARN! 

I received a copy of an email today from Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), sent from his House email account -- must be scrimping on travel with his measly House per diem; he should run for Senate and get their upgrade -- that is unhappy with Rep. Marty Seifert's latest editorial.
From: "Al Juhnke"
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 17:29:20 -0500
Subject: Seifert Column

I thought you all would get a kick out of the column put out by Rep. Marty Seifert on Friday. This is one of the most laughable, putrid, inane, bizarre, out-to-lunch, out-of-touch, inaccurate, misleading, untruthful, pieces of prose I have seen in a long, long time. Can you believe a supposed caucus leader would actually write such dribble much less send it out to papers or actually stop into media outlets and try and convince educated journalists that this is true?

Good grief.
Here's the press release. It was talked about by Michael and me with Rep. Seifert on the Final Word of the NARN on Saturday (you can listen here -- the good representative comes on at about 23 minutes into the program.) I can't understand why Mr. Juhnke is so upset. Perhaps it's because he hasn't gotten any coverage for his fertilizer bill? A man who knows his way around manure is an excellent judge of 'putrid'.

UPDATE: I see the email made it to the Marshall paper.
Seifert found it ironic, because he had been in Willmar on Friday for an interview with the Willmar paper. He had good things to say about Juhnke, seeing Juhnke as a good rural leader.

And even Monday morning before learning of Juhnke's e-mail, Seifert had sat by Juhnke at a committee hearing. He said he was cordial, but that Juhnke responded awkwardly.

"He must have thought I'd already seen the e-mail," Seifert said.

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Indoctrinate U out now 

The documentary on campus political correctness by Evan Coyne Maloney is now ready. The trailer is pretty good. Getting 500 people to sign up for a local showing would be pretty hard, but not a bad idea for St. Cloud State, looking for a cure to its appearance on Penn and Teller.

Performance pay of presidents 

The new president of Arizona State has performance bonuses for ten different items, one of which is the school's ranking in U.S. News and World Report's annual college survey. He stands to get $10,000 if they go up from their current third-tier ranking. Michael Crow will also get $10,000 each for increased freshman retention, increasing the university's graduation rate, and six other items. If all ten targets are reached the Board of Regents tosses in an extra $50,000. I doubt our new president gets performance bonuses (he'd be the only one on campus who does if so.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

DC Update #2 - Protesters 

Since posting yesterday, I've read and learned more about the protesters.

First - many big names posted by ANSWER never showed. Sure, Cindy Sheehan and Ramsey Clark showed but where were the others? McKinney? Fonda? Pearl? Their names were on various protest websites as speakers. These people, if ever really scheduled, were "no-shows". Hmmmm - are they starting to think MAYBE there is something amiss here? I doubt it but one can dream. However, their absence shows something.

Second -The only soldiers I saw interviewed by the mainstream media (MSM) were those who "supported the demonstrators right to demonstrate" or were questioning the war or were against the war. How about those soldiers who know that we're fighting for freedom? The more nations free, the safer we are.

Third - Most of the "problems" were identified with Vets. Let me tell you, I was there at 8:00 AM, left at 3:00 PM. I stood along that "parade route for over two hours". The handmade signs of the anti-war crowd, along with their verbal and physical language often was foul - you didn't see this on the "news".

Fourth - This is very telling about the naivete and innocence and lack of information of so many protesters. Source: Washington Post, Sunday, March 18, 2007, p. A 12: "One group had come by overnight bus from Iowa..........'We just couldn't take it (the cold) anymore," said Christine Gaunt, 50, a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. Now tell me how long Christine Gaunt will be in the hog business if we lose this war??????

Fifth - Overall, I will not move from my max of 10,000 protesters, many of whom never showed up until noon or later. The Vets had arrived at 7:00 AM and never left until the protesters crossed the bridge to the Pentagon (note, 7-8 hours in very windy, cold weather). By the time the questionable number of protesters got to the Pentagon and heard the speakers, only about 1000 were left. The rest had bailed out, found a subway station and went away.

How reliable is the 10,000+ number if only 1,000 heard Sheehan and Clark speak at the Pentagon? Questionable at best, inflated at worst.

Whom do you want defending you? Lefties who can't handle 30 degrees with wind? or American soldiers who are the best?

No brainer!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Update from Washington, D.C. 

The demonstration is over! The Vietnam Vets had a terrific turnout. Let me take you through the day.

My friend, Chris, and I were a bit worried about the turnout, but as we came down the hill from the Metro station and looked to our left, our concerns diminished rapidly. There were Vets everywhere, from all over the country.

Security for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was tight. Visitors could enter from one end only and exit at the other side. Everyone had to pass an electronic screening. The line was long but orderly.

For the demonstrations, The National Park Service had set locations for each side and patrolled the interim space constantly. There were no altercations that I saw. Some anti-war people tried to get to the Vets but they were asked to leave quickly and quietly - they did. It was apparent that the anti-US crowd did not expect a Veterans turnout of this size.

What will the media show? I don't know but the line up of protesters walking to the Pentagon to protest will look long. What will be missing from the scene are the thousands of vets who lined the protest route and thousands more were on the other side of the grounds. Take all numbers with caution - my best guess, having walked back and forth multiple times is that the numbers were even at worst, Vets outnumbering protesters a bit at best.

I have just watched the "news" on Channel 4 in NBC in Washington DC. Their statement of "tens of thousands of protesters" is flat out wrong! More biased coverage - NBC never showed the number of vets other than the ones at the Wall. Thousands of Vets were everywhere. Perhaps NBC had to inflate the numbers because the crowd was so much smaller than expected. In addition, they had to revert to film from 1967 to show larger crowds. It also appears the "name" speakers didn't arrive because only Cindy Sheehan was shown. 'Tis a national disgrace when the media must enforce its anti-freedom agenda on the public.

In general, the anti- ____ crowd was comprised of naive and some very factually-challenged people. Signs with "data" were simply wrong.

The usual protest representatives were there: sixties hippies; their kids; ANSWER; Che Guevara; the pacifist and anti-fight for anything crowd. They were joined by another assortment of protesters: high school kids bussed in from Philly - they get extra credit in their US History classes if they participate in a protest (note, anti, not pro); a few who dressed like Palestinians and carried signs for the oppression of the Palestinians; "No war with Iran" crowd; impeach everyone crowd; anti-Halliburton; etc. These people are well-financed, signage is good.

On the other hand, the vets were proud, professional, and polite. Speakers summarized some real history - in particular, the real culprits for Vietnam casualties. One speaker, Kevin Michael of DC was particularly powerful! He is a Desert Storm Veteran and proud of it. He speaks well for all veterans.

After the protesters took their march to the Pentagon (who works there on a Saturday is beyond me) the Vets milled around, making sure key contacts will be maintained. An interesting side point: the grounds where the vets congregated were clean, no trash; the grounds where the protesters congregated - well, they apparently don't know how to use trash cans.

All in all, a proud day for Americans who know what freedom means, Americans who don't take freedom for granted, Americans who understand the value of life and what it takes to protect what we have. Half of today's attendees "got it".

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bravo, guv 

You don't celebrate getting out of Weight Watchers by going over to the all-you-can-eat buffet. So our message to the Legislature is: �Push away from the table. Put your fork down.�
Governor Tim Pawlenty. This did not make Rachel Ray happy.

Probability of a special session: 80%; market direction is bullish.

Probability of government shutdown: 20%; market direction is bullish. Michael will be a believer before long.

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And the winner is... 

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick said today he will recommend that the Board of Trustees appoint Earl H. Potter III as president of St. Cloud State University.

Potter, 60, has served as executive vice president and provost at Southern Oregon State University in Ashland since 2003. Previously, he was dean of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University; dean of the School of Management at Lesley University; director for organizational development and employment services at Cornell University; associate dean for academics at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; a fellow for the American Council on Education in the Office of the Chancellor at the University of Colorado; and chief negotiator for management and head of the Department of Economics and Management at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy.

Source. One booster has already told me "I hope his first act is to announce we are moving athletics to Division I." Unlikely. He leaves the NAIA-member Southern Oregon after the school has just made some major cutbacks in staff, some reduction in administration (three deans are to be combined into one new deanship) and closed a German program, where he was a finalist for the president's position but missed out last year. Pretty good move to go from a school of 5000 that had declining enrollments to a school of 15000 that doesn't have that problem yet.


Supply is more elastic in the long run 

Exxon is dropping an extra $20 billion a year to increase its oil production by one million barrels a day. Thomas P.M. Barnett notes that this is basic economics ... "[a]t least when governments aren't involved." The Saudis are saying the new equilibrium price is $50 a barrel, yet they forecast a drop in oil production for their country. Is supply running out, or is it responding to higher prices? Don't expect me to answer that; I just ask the questions here.


24 no more 

No, not the show. Despite Kouba's rants, he and I still both watch faithfully. No, I meant 24 no more at the StarTribune, taking voluntary buyouts. Heard this from a friend in the parking lot yesterday, but also confirmed by Drew Emmer.
Those accepting the buyouts include: Judy Arginteanu, Bill Arthur, Steve Aschburner, Mike Carroll, Bob Franklin, Gretchen Gramenz, Doug Halliday, Jeremy Iggers, Jocelina Joiner, Tom Jones, Jim Landberg, Bob Lutsey, Ron Meador, Richard Parker, Darlene Prois, John Reinan, Pam Schmid, Al Sicherman, David Silk, Derek Simmons, Tom Simon, Dane Smith, Brad Stokman and Margaret Zack.
Dane Smith will be missed. Al Sicherman not so much.

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Run it up the flagpole and see the idiots salute 

If you think all the silly bills we've talked about are just fluff in the hopper that will never see the light of day, guess again. After a rather lengthy debate on the House floor, in which Speaker Kelliher ruled three amendments out of order ...
During the debate, legislators offered several amendments, including criminalizing the destruction of the American flag, making English the state's official language and requiring lawmakers to drive American-made cars. All were ruled out of order or voted down.
...and the DFL buried a very humorous amendment to add patriotic memorabilia to the list on a 41-92 vote and a motion to table, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would ban the sale of imported U.S. flags in the state. It passed on a vote of 83-46.

Dementee thinks they're all nuts, even Rep. Seifert, but Seifert's comment is sarcastic. When the cost of your flags go up 30% because of the lack of competition, there'll be fewer flags bought and displayed. And I like what Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) has to say:
That flag should be made throughout the world because it is our message to the world that there is hope for freedom and justice.
Instead Minnesota's DFL wants to turn it into a sign that we protect US jobs and don't give a rat's hindquarters about the world's poor.

P.S. Marty has a great anecdote.

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In a big news story today, N.Y. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo alleges kickbacks from bankers to universities on student loans and many other instances of antitrust violations:
Cuomo said he notified more than 400 colleges and universities nationwide, including all in New York State, to end such deceptive practices. Cuomo said he is actively investigating at least 100 schools. Cuomo would not divulge which schools were being investigated, but they include some Ivy League institutions.

�There is an unholy alliance between banks and institutions of higher education that may often not be in the students� best interest,� Cuomo said. �The financial arrangements between lenders and these schools are filled with the potential for conflicts of interest. In some cases they may break the law.�
Kickbacks on loans, all-expenses-paid trips for financial aid officers, complimentary computer systems, and lines of credit for schools to use are all alleged. All the lenders interviewed in the AP story deny the charges. Neither has Cuomo named any one institution, or given specific examples of the shady dealings.

Unsurprisingly, Congress wants a "thorough review". Calls for passage of the Student Loan Sunshine Act will increase.


Washington, DC 

As readers of this post know, I'm in Washington, D.C. to support Vietnam vets protecting their memorial on Saturday, March 17.

It has been a number of years since I have been here. I'd forgotten how beautiful and special our nation's capital is. One flies in from the northwest, along the Potomac River to land at Washington National (Reagan) Airport. Looking out the window, one views the monuments and memorials: the National Cathedral, Georgetown, Watergate, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Lincoln, Reflecting Pool, Jeffferson, Korean Veterans, the Whitehouse, Washingon and the Capitol, Smithsonian and others. DC bulding codes prohibit erecting any building taller than the US Capitol.

Saturday's demonstration will include the usual group of media savvy demonstrators. However, there is the second demonstration of Vietnam Veterans and patriots who are in town to continue to stand for freedom in the world. I will be with the latter group.

It is so easy to criticize and be a pacifist when one is free. It is impossible to criticize or be a pacifist when one is under the thumb of a totalitarian leader of any sort. This weekend, for once, those who make a career of degrading our great nation will see those who understand what we have, what is at stake.

Flying into DC, one is reminded of our great leaders, visionaries, people who made the "tough calls", who faced adversity and incredible criticism. For all their struggles and pain, they pursued and freedom won because they believed in the ideals of the US and the basic decency of most humans. Previous generations fought and died to preserve these freedoms too many today take for granted. Our memorials are reminders of their sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice.

Heads up for a hand out 

As our presidential search winds down, not surprisingly, the outgoing president of the university, Roy Saigo is conspicuous in his absence from campus. (Maybe he's down at Xcel today to help protest the UND mascot.) But he appears last night to encourage us to shake the tin cup with state legislators, via a campus e-blast:

It will be important that legislators hear from constituents about why Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are a critical state investment. Your voice can make a difference in the level of support we receive at the Capitol this year. Adequate state funding not only keeps tuition affordable, but also makes important investments in strategic areas. State appropriations are needed to cover inflation, to make critical technology infrastructure improvements to benefit students and to strengthen the state�s competitive edge in four key areas, laid out in the Minnesota budget request:

Recruiting and retaining more students from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education;

Producing more graduates in science, technology, engineering and math;

Increasing the number of nursing graduates to help avert a predicted nursing shortage;

Supporting the growth of the state�s burgeoning bioscience industry by establishing a Biosciences Center of Excellence.

For specifics of the request, go to

I realize I sound like a broken record, but if I was a state legislator wouldn't I want to know if our children were learning? And learning what? STEM and nursing are nice, but state universities educate in other areas like business, and teaching.

And, to be blunt, the amount of inflation in the budget is a ruse to increase faculty and staff salaries, since these are the largest part of the budget. While our salaries are declining in relative terms to the rest of the country, wouldn't you think we should demonstrate something of what we've produced before we ask for a little more? When we are down to 40th percentile in pay in many programs (ours included, when you account for the lack of additional compensation for summer research, etc.), how much should I work to get more money for science education? How much faith should I have that the university system has picked the winners in the education market for our students?

UPDATE: The higher education budget passed by the Senate Higher Ed committee has $104 million for inflation, $10 million for technology, and $14 million for the underrepresented students, all put into the base (so that is money to come each future biennium as well.) The STEM and health care money were not in the bill that cleared the committee, nor was Governor Pawlenty's request for $25 million for a �performance bonus� -- i.e., no merit pay.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

About "my liberal lunch friend" 

The fellow whose obit I linked in the post this AM was that character who I sometimes used on this blog for stories I would tell about SCSU. Kent was not a fan of this blog and tried only twice to listen to NARN, finally saying "it's turning you into a conservative." (Funny, he was always convincing himself that I was libertarian and therefore not a Republican.) So while he'd be embarrassed that I mention him here, I will take a minute now.

Another friend of mine, now retired from the faculty, once noticed how few times the university recognizes a faculty member's accomplishments. You get tenure and promotion usually in your early 30s, and it's not uncommon to be 38 and a full professor. "That leaves 25 years or more for you to sit around without the slightest acknowledgment," he remarked. Other schools have awards, but when you're a unionized faculty we all have to receive the same awards and get them in turn, thus rewarding mediocrity ... and we all know it.

When Kent died, his wife asked for a memorial service for him here at the university. I do not recall us doing this for other faculty, but since he was dedicated to this place -- I leave the office usually after six, and he was one of the few I could find between 4-6 around here even on a Friday -- I thought it an excellent idea. The university, though puzzled by the request, nonetheless came up with a lovely setting for the gathering. I gave a eulogy, this one the hardest I have ever had to do, as nobody this close to me has died in my adult life. (This is why I haven't written much here the last few days.)

The eulogy was good enough -- his senior colleague gave the other, and I think I held up my end of the bargain -- but what amazed me was what came next. You hope a student or two could come up to speak. But they came, alumni and student, one after the other, at least a dozen, to say how Kent had touched them, taught them, and gave them each a bit of himself. Some were tearful. Two students who had just met him this term came to speak about how much they were going to miss by losing him as a professor.

Someone taped it; Kent's parents live far away and are infirm, so they will see the eulogies and remembrances on tape. A friend of mine came up to me and said "they should take that tape and show it to new faculty. This is what you worked for."

It's a shame it can't happen more often; if the progression of praise is associate professor, full professor and posthumous professor, that's not much of an incentive structure. But it was enough for him.


I'll bring the popcorn 

My university does some silly things, but this might take the prize.

In anticipation of approval by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees*, and on behalf of the Board of Trustees and Chancellor James H. McCormick, you are invited to the presentation of the president-elect of St. Cloud State University.

1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, 2007, Atwood Memorial Center Ballroom, St. Cloud State University. A reception will follow the presentation of the president-elect.

*The MnSCU Board approval is expected at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 21, 2007, Wells Fargo Place, St. Paul. A live satellite feed of this meeting will be available for viewing in the Miller Center Auditorium, St. Cloud State University.

You can just FEEL the excitement...


About tenure review 

I usually agree with Anne Neal, but I will remind her on tenure review: When I agreed to the salary structure of SCSU, I traded off the ability to get market wages, rewards and bonuses and all kinds of remuneration in return for the guarantee of a lifetime of student papers to grade, committees to fall asleep in, etc. If you'd like to change the terms of employment and take away something I bargained for, I will require compensation. And I'm quite willing to make that bargain, though I suspect the union that protects the driftwood will object. Good luck.


What keeps me away 

I apologize for not writing. It's been a busy 36 hours, not least of which was preparing and delivering a eulogy for a very dear friend and colleague who passed away a few weeks ago. More when I can, but my students need me to read their senior papers right now...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gotta love "conservative" DFLers 

Many Minnesotans thought they could believe the "conservative" DFLers who promised to be fiscal conservatives. Gee, how long have they be in charge in St. Paul? Two months?

Already DFLers have designed bills totalling $3,000,000,000 in new taxes and fees. Some are detailed below.

TAXES ON DOTING FRIENDS AND RELATIVES Democrats campaigned against fee increases last fall. But now, they are introducing bills with lots of fees. Some of the tax increases described above are called "fee increases" in part or in whole (phone fees, alcohol fees, health impact fees). Then there are these bills: Watch your pocketbook and next election, think twice. Perhaps the terms "fiscal conservative" and DFL together are an oxymoron.

My Side Passion - U of M Women's Basketball 

Tonight we watched the U of M Women's Basketball (WBB) play in the first round of the Women's NIT tournament. We became fans four seasons ago in the heydays of the greatest player to come through the program, Lindsay Whalen.

Under coach Pam Borton, the UM WBB made it to the NCAA dance each of the last five seasons. This year was an unknown - the team lost 11 players last spring. One senior, Kelly Roysland, returned. Two freshmen were starters. We figured this year would be a growth year, see what happens, maybe return next year, etc.

Well, let me tell you - the team has outperformed our expectations, the freshmen are terrific! Though they didn't make the NCAA, they did make the WNIT and tonight, they looked very good. They put it all together, a 97-54 victory over Illinois-Chicago. Five players, including two freshmen scored in double figures. Play was balanced.

Because we don't know a number of the teams in the WNIT, each game is partially unknown. There are four Big 10 teams (Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin) in the tournament. Next game is Monday, March 19 at Western Kentucky. One game at a time but this could become a fun ride and great experience for the young squad.

Go Gophers!

Why Military? 

The US military comprises such a small portion of the US population (less than 1%, active and reserves) that most people have very little contact with these terrific people. Today, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a young, 20 year veteran, retired Lt. Col., USA. It was a very informative experience.

My background includes education and about 20 years in the private sector as a CPA, consultant and sales manager for a worldwide technology company. At the present time, I teach MIS to older students (ages 22 -30) returning to college to complete their four year degrees at Metro State University.

Life has dealt me an interesting hand in that I've been incredibly fortunate to meet literally hundreds if not a couple of thousand people and, frankly assess many of them.

Why was this man so impressive? First, he showed manners. He also exhibited the following characteristics: he listened; asked good, thought-provoking questions; showed he was/is capable of establishing an objective or goal, putting in a plan to achieve that goal and executing the plan.

Today, we have too many people afraid to make decisions or take a stand because of the PC (politically correct) crowd. In other circumstances, because everyone has become a victim no one is held accountable for their actions. Finally, there is the fear of being labeled a _______ by the media which will crush people personally. This media also can be so selective in the information they dispense that we consumers often get a biased picture of certain events or subsets of society.

The result is a shortage of people who want to put themselves "out there". Who can blame people for wanting to avoid the insane media circuses we see played out in the public arena?

Today I was fortunate to meet someone with leadership, communication and listening skills. In addition he can plan. Merge these talents with drive and desire, this is someone who can make a difference. His time in the military has taught him to assess, address, and execute. We need people like this more than ever.

Give me someone with experience on thinking, planning and executing any day. We all win!

Feminism Reviewed 

Powerlineblog posted an article on the "feminist" vote, "The Sleeping Giant". The story line and comments figure Hillary will win the presidency in 2008 for a number of reasons, including the fact that women will vote for her because she's female.

Having lived (and survived) through the original feminist movement, I've got some hindsight comments. These feminists tended griped about the unfairness of everything and had zero tolerance for women who disagreed with them.

However, there was an underlying economic change that has been totally ignored by academia and the press. Baby-boomers were hitting the marketplace; the economy was expanding; the American workforce was shifting from a blue-collar to a white-collar enviroment. The crossover year was in the mid 1970's. Which type of workforce and job expansion were more receptive to women? White-collar.

As the "feminists" emerged screaming and demanding "fairness" and their "rights" to whatever, some subtle yet powerful patterns evolved.
1) An "anti-male" attitude developed (Beginning with, "I am woman hear me roar...")
2) A substantial portion of these women landed in academia and government where they are "taken care of" (guaranteed pensions from the rest of us, can't be fired, safe, etc.)
3) Many more migrated to non-profits where they were paid to spend other people's money (OPM)

As of today, the "true believer" feminists' belief that men and women are equal in everything has now trumped common sense, honesty and frankly, security. For all their inflamatory rhetoric, they show a lack of insight into human nature. They refuse to acknowledge that men and women are different. Yet Pelosi will be photographed with her grandkids, Hillary talks about a "mom in the Whitehouse", etc.

Back to topic. Recent studies from Berkely and Harvard prove the sexes are different. More about these in later posts. However, to deny these inherent differences is dishonest. The attitude that because they are women, they can solve all problems is just ignorant. This arrogance is no different than the arrogance they attributed to men up until 40 years ago.

And as long as feminists (and others) ontinue to co-opt our institutions of learning, spend careers dispensing government and OPM money on what only they think is important, blame others for problems, look for "big brother" to fix everything, nothing will be solved.

Sorry for such a long post but this one hit a nerve!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm probably too old to go 

But if you're a student, you should consider the Young America's Foundation Midwest Conference coming up March 30-31 in Minneapolis. Former AG John Ashcroft, Governor Tim Pawlenty, Jason Lewis and Katherine Kersten, among others, will be speaking. (You'd think NARN would get some love if they're favoring Lewis with an invite...)

Fog this mirror. Here's your ballot. 

The fountainhead of stupid legislation, Phyllis Kahn, strikes again.
Should Minnesota's Constitution be amended to allow people who are permanent residents -- but not U.S. citizens -- to vote in local elections?

That's the question Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, and some fellow DFLers want to submit to Minnesotans in the 2008 election.

Kahn said the amendment would allow local units of government to decide whether they would authorize permanent residents to vote in local elections, including for mayor and school board. It would not include state or federal races.

Under the measure, people who are at least 18 and have resided in the precinct for 30 days could vote in local elections if they are a permanent U.S. resident.

It's HF1899; so far no state senator has managed to sign on with a companion bill, but three bobos have co-sponsored this bill. Gary notes that it's only permissible for now to do this at the local level, but if you can change the state constitution to permit this, you can change it to permit voting for statewide offices. (I doubt you could do it for federal offices without a federal amendment.)

Question for Rep. Kahn: What does the word 'citizen' mean to you? And what do you thing it means to the hundreds of thousands naturalized in the USA?

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The IRS has released its new Statistics of Income Bulletin, and it contains some interesting data on who pays taxes in the country and how much.
Preliminary data for tax year 2005 indicate that taxpayers filed 134.5 million U.S. individual income tax returns, an increase of 1.6 percent from the preliminary estimate of 132.4 million returns filed for tax year 2004. Adjusted gross income (AGI) increased by 8.9 percent from the previous year to $7.4 trillion for 2005 and taxable income increased 9.5 percent to $5.1 trillion. The alternative minimum tax rose 31.6 percent to $15.9 billion, while total income tax increased 11.8 percent to $928.3 billion.
We're making more and paying a WHOLE lot more; this explains part of the decline in the budget deficit. And who is paying it?
For tax year 2004, taxpayers filed 132.2 million returns, of which 89.1 million (or 67.4 percent) were classified as taxable returns. This represents an increase of 0.2 percent in the number of taxable returns from tax year 2003. Adjusted gross income (AGI) on these taxable returns rose 9.0 percent to $6,266 billion, while total income tax showed the first increase in 4 years, rising 11.2 percent. Also for the first time in 4 years, the average tax rate for taxable returns rose, increasing 0.3 percentage points to 13.3 percent for 2004. Taxpayers with an AGI of at least $328,049, the top 1 percent of taxpayers, accounted for 19 percent of total AGI, representing an increase in income share of 2.2 percentage points from the previous year. These taxpayers accounted for 36.9 percent of the total income tax reported, an increase from 34.3 percent in 2003.
The data for Minnesota isn't as progressive as the federal tax return. This data -- soon to be updated, I am told, with data for 2004 tax year -- shows a small decline in effective tax rates for the top decile.
For 2002, Minnesota residents paid a total of $14.4 billion in taxes while earning $127.3 billion in total money income. Minnesota residents thus paid 11.3 percent of their total income in state and local taxes.

...Of the large state taxes, the income tax is borne almost entirely by Minnesota residents, who pay over 96 percent of total collections, but residents of Minnesota pay a lesser share, 82.4 percent, of the general sales tax. At the other end of the scale, Minnesotans pay only 10.9 percent of the property taxes on industrial property.
This is partly because of payments by non-residents, and also because of shifting of taxes between employers and employees, and between buyers and sellers.
Taxpayers in the top decile (incomes of $102,427 and over) bore 36.8 percent of the total tax burden while having 38.8 percent of total income. By tax type, taxpayers in the top decile paid 52.2 percent of the individual income tax, 28.0 percent of the consumer sales tax, 24.5 percent of the gross residential property tax, and 26.6 percent of business taxes.
This is important to understand. The income tax is plenty progressive, but the DFL is proposing returning the top income tax rate to 8.5%. They will argue that this is because the effective tax rate on the top 10% of income is declining. But that's because the sales and property taxes are being shifted as rich individuals are able to move income around to avoid taxation. Those us in the second-to-fourth deciles end up paying more because we have not the same means to shift where we receive our income.

If the DFL is concerned about that tax incidence, taxing high-income earners before may be counterproductive. Income generation of Minnesotans may be moved more to other states, like South Dakota, which have no income tax.

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Heroes and anti-heroes 

Jonathan Last writes about the death of Captain America as a hero of comic book readers. When I was a kid, my Uncle Licky (short for licorice, his childhood addiction) worked as a manager at the Dover (NH) News, which distributed newspapers, magazines, books and comics to drug stores, grocers, and other shops around southeastern New Hampshire. I looked forward to visiting my grandmother, with whom he lived, because that meant a new supply of comics and (especially) Mad magazines. Captain America was one of my favorites, though I preferred both Spiderman and IronMan (I loved the Tales of Suspense series, though my parents thought it was too dark -- compared to what kids read now, it was awfully tame.)

Last details the period of my childhood (the latter 1960s) and the themes of the comic:
He returned in 1964 and found renewed fame, but not as the same rock-jawed, stalwart soldier. In 1969 he was paired with the first African-American superhero, the Falcon. In one small sign of how comics were evolving, the Falcon's alter ego, Sam Wilson, was a Harlem social worker.

As Vietnam raged, Captain America stayed home. In 1971 Marvel's Stan Lee wrote that Cap "simply doesn't lend himself to the John Wayne type character he once was" and that he "could not see any of [Marvel's] characters taking on the role of super-patriotism in the world as it is today." Instead, Cap became a Great Society superhero, battling, as Mr. Wright puts it, "poverty, racism, pollution, and political corruption."

Consider this monologue from a '70s issue in which Cap muses: "I'm like a dinosaur--in the cro-magnon age! An anachronism--who's out-lived his time! This is the day of the anti-hero--the age of the rebel--and the dissenter! It isn't hip--to defend the establishment!--only to tear it down! And, in a world rife with injustice, greed, and endless war--who's to say the rebels are wrong? . . . I've spent a lifetime defending the flag--and the law! Perhaps I should have battled less--and questioned more!"
To the precocious sixth- or seventh-grader who watched Cronkite and Severeid night after night with Mom, while Dad went to bed to get ready for the overnight shift, that was heady stuff. By the time the comic turned to fighting against political corruption as exemplified by Nixon and Watergate I was a high schooler and moved on to science fiction, but Cap the dissenter was a model for many of us at the time. And it was not lost on us that Steve Rogers, unlike Pete Parker or Tony Stark, was no mutant; what had changed him was no more fabulous than Barry Bonds' change in physique. That a bullet felled him strikes me as sad but not surprising. Cap was never long for this world.

The lack of heroes was driven home to me last night watching '24', when the last words are of an EMT in an ambulance says "We're losing him!!" and I said aloud "...and not a moment too soon." We have plenty of characters to dislike but few Captain Americas. And that goes to you too, Jack Bauer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

But Troy Williamson would drop it 

The Lord is great, and He works in ways we cannot comprehend.
When John Cornwell graduated from Duke University last year, he landed a job as software engineer in Atlanta but soon found himself longing for his college lifestyle.

So the engineering graduate built himself a contraption to help remind him of campus life: a refrigerator that can toss a can of beer to his couch with the click of a remote control.

...It took the 22-year-old Cornwell about 150 hours and $400 in parts to modify a mini-fridge common to many college dorm rooms into the beer-tossing machine, which can launch 10 cans of beer from its magazine before needing a reload.

With a click of the remote, fashioned from a car's keyless entry device, a small elevator inside the refrigerator lifts a beer can through a hole and loads it into the fridge's catapult arm. A second click fires the device, tossing the beer up to 20 feet -- "far enough to get to the couch," he said.

Is there a foam explosion when the can is opened? Not if the recipient uses "soft hands" to cradle the can when caught, Cornwell said.
I predict a drop in marriage rates; Foot will need a new use for his kid.

h/t: Newmark's Dukie Door

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They've been talking, just not clearly 

This is my answer to Larry Schumacher's question in yesterday's At the Capitol column. He asks a very good question:

What constitutes an honest, open debate?

Does it mean offering the public a vision for the state that you don't really believe in, secretly hoping they'll reject it and give you permission for something else?

Or does it mean putting forward what you actually think is best and hoping the public agrees with you?

These are questions that occupy the Minnesota Senate as the game clock on this year's legislative session reaches halftime.

They know that a good deal for them will require getting to the two-minute drill, not a halftime strategy change.

Since last year's election, Clark and DFLers have been saying there really isn't a state budget surplus, even though there's an extra $2.3 billion floating around. A billion of that is one-time money left over from the current budget, and the rest is eaten up by inflationary costs, she said.

The Senate puts more than half of the $1.3 billion available for inflationary costs into education, and almost $500 million of that goes into relieving the special education funding gap that is plaguing school districts around the state, including St. Cloud.

That means no money for property tax relief, state education formula increases, all-day kindergarten, a college tuition freeze and many of the other things DFLers campaigned on last year.

"If anybody wanted to do anything new or different, we'd need more money," Clark said Thursday.

Right, we talked about this here and on the air -- can't do many good things. And don't forget transportation! They're starving, s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g!!!. Hell, it turns out I'm starving too. (And here I thought the weight loss was exercise-related.)

Higher Education Chairwoman Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said college and university funding is far from enough.

�We are starving higher education,� she said.

Bull. The budget situation on our campuses is not as bad as this sounds. Holding back tuition increases is another way of saying we're going to give more money to middle-class parents of college-age children. You can hold the headline tuition increase to 4%, but what matters to the university is net tuition, not gross.

If Senator Pappas is worried about me starving, she's got 96 ways to help me out. Every day.

Back to Larry's column:

That brings us back to the issue of honesty. Last fall, I asked Clark whether tax increases were on the table this year.

She said that could only happen if officials first had an honest, open debate with the public about what we want from state government and what we're willing to pay.

Since then, DFLers have steadfastly avoided discussing tax increases.
I don't know about that. What they have done is avoid playing the card quite so obviously. They are calling for tax increases by saying "we can't do all the stuff we promised without more revenue." Revenue shortages mean the same thing. And when your party's base philosophy is government can do many good things, there will always be revenue shortages.
But if DFLers really think we're willing to pay more for a better Minnesota, isn't it about time someone started asking?
Government doesn't ask. Government takes.

UPDATE: Even the dinosaur notices.
Despite earlier pledges of fiscal restraint, DFLers in the Legislature are proposing increases in the income tax, gasoline tax, sales tax, liquor tax and license tab fees, along with new levies on lead paint, gravel, deeds and cosmetic surgery.

It's unlikely that all of them will get passed. If that happens, the total would approach $3 billion for 2008-09.

If you promised those things to your constituents to win election and then don't pass the taxes to pay for them, you've broken your pledge. How can you say tax increases weren't on the table without debate on the one hand and make all those promises on the other? It isn't like the forecast of revenue changed. Would that be considered dishonest?

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Been there, done that, got the WIN button 

Captain Ed reports that Iran is going through a stagflationary period. We now have gas-rationing in a country that used to export lots of oil, but no longer. Ed writes
In fact, we managed to fight our way out of stagflation by relying on the free market, rather than imposing more government regulation. The Iranians show no sign of thinking in that vein, even if they didn't have limitations from the international sanctions boxing them into a corner with very few options.
In fact, we only learned it after several years. Between the start of the Great Stagflation and the Seven Fat Years, we had three recessions, WIN buttons, wage and price controls, credit controls and a whole lot of vacuous palaver about incomes policies. It took us two elections and much pain and failure to find the cure for stagflation. Given the length of time Iran has spent in this downturn, it may be a good time longer before she rights her ship, and it will take both another Reagan and another Volcker.


Where are your papers, young student? 

An objectivist group at George Mason has had to reschedule a speaker advocating a hard line against Islamic totalitarianism.
John Lewis, who teaches history at Ashland University, was invited to speak in conjunction with an article he wrote in December titled "No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism."

In the article, Lewis calls for war against the Islamic government in Iran and the "immediate, personal destruction" of Muslim clerics and intellectuals who advocate the formation or support of an Islamic state.

The speech had been sponsored in part by the school's Objectivist Club, which promotes the social philosophies of self-interest of author Ayn Rand. The invitation was pulled after the school received complaints from Muslim students and it was discovered that the club's charter had lapsed.

Lewis said Friday that the speech had been tentatively rescheduled for April, with the university's College Republicans club as a new sponsor. But university spokesman Daniel Walsch said the school had received no notice of the club's invitation.
The Objectivist Club at GMU, a student group that promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, says it had someone else to help book the room on campus after it learned of its oversight in letting the club's registration lapse -- not an uncommon occurrence on a university campus, I assure you -- but the faculty member who helped secure the room apparently backed out when it appears the issue got hot. That faculty member's department "did not want to be involved with any sort of controversial event."

So apparently a group at GMU was able to both 1) use the student government system to disbar a group from holding an event on campus due to paperwork and 2) dissuade faculty from bringing a controversial speaker to campus. This at a public institution. Do the taxpayers of Virginia support this type of behavior?

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Hypocrisy of the Leftist Dems, Again! 

One often quoted reason for banning public smoking is to protect the health of the workers. In MN a statewide smoking ban for restaurants etal is being pushed very hard by the DFL legislators in St. Paul.

Now let's go to Washington DC where smoking is banned - that is, unless your bar or restaurant can get an exception. The National Democratic Club applied to DC for an exception to the smoking ban - they got it. The Capitol Hill Club frequented by the Republicans also applied for an exception to the smoking ban - they were denied.

So if you're in Congress and want to smoke, you must go to the Natl Dem Club. By the way, this Natl Dem Club also is frequented by union bosses who claim they need smoking bans to protect their workers but these same union bosses don't seem to mind lighting up here with their Democratic representatives in Congress. The workers there still have to contend with 2nd hand smoke. In reality, the union bosses and Dems don't care about their workers. They also don't believe their own rhetoric.

It bites to be an economist 

This is both sad and funny. The husband of the coach for women's basketball at Michigan State is John McCallie, and he teaches in the school's economics department. It appears to be a visiting appointment though his wife has been the coach for seven seasons there. A story in the Associated Press tells that the fellow had an unfortunate turn in the airport.
According to an airport police report, the incident took place after one of the couple's bags did not arrive in the baggage claim. Airline officials told the couple they needed baggage claim stubs to find the lost luggage.

McCallie then reportedly went to a trash can where he had thrown out the stubs.

"McCallie started dumping out the trash looking for the tag," said Bob Mattingly, the airport's vice president of operations and maintenance. "One of the police officers approached him and said, 'What are you doing' and 'please clean it up.'

"Then the man just flipped out."

Police said McCallie refused to clean up the mess, began yelling obscenities and swinging the trash can at the officer.

When Officer George Munkelwitz attempted to handcuff him, McCallie slapped his hand away. The two began to struggle and ended up on the ground, where the professor bit the officer's finger when he tried to grab his wrist, airport police said.

McCallie reportedly would not let go and was subdued when the officer pressed a pressure point behind his ear.
I can see myself dumping out the contents of the trash bin -- I remember once losing a key to a bag that needed to be re-checked at an airport and asking if the TSA agent would like to shoot the lock off it (she was not amused) -- but the whole swinging of trashcans thing is a little over the top. Wonder if he will travel with the #23 Lady Spartans in the NCAA playoffs next weekend?

Survey says you got enough 

Who says state government doesn't have enough resources? Not the respondents to the Minnesota Citizen Compass report.
In this survey, 54% percent of Minnesotans stated that the state�s tax burden is too high, 42% believe it is just right and 2% believe the state�s tax burden is too low.

Meanwhile, 47% percent of Minnesotans report taxes and fees are growing faster than their income, 36% report their taxes and fees are growing (but not as fast as their income) while 9% reported taxes are going down compared to their income. Of those who reported their tax burden is increasing, 84% identify property taxes as the leading cause of those increases.
But you can't do many good things! The answer from the survey is, you don't need to.
79% of Minnesotans believe the State Legislature should determine how much money is available, and then decide what programs to fund, compared to 18% who believe the State Legislature should figure out how much is needed and then tax us appropriately. The intensity of opinion is most strongly felt by those who believe the state should spend what it has, not what it wants.

Support for this fiscal approach is consistent among demographic groups. For instance, strong majorities of Democrats (79%), liberals (75%), government employees (73%) and residents of core cities (75%) all supported the position of spending based on the resources available. Even those Minnesotans who believe that health care (84%) and education (73%) are among the two most important issues facing the state agree that the State Legislature should budget based on what they have, not what they want.
So when MPR says that "Senate DFLers are presenting a slimmed-down budget with the hopes that the public calls for increased spending to pay for new programs," you know they're speaking out of their, um, ignorance.

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Let me translate 

Gary tries to parse Tiny Tarryl's words:
I think people have been led to believe that we�re awash in new money and that we can do many good things. I think it�s definitely the wake-up call that we can�t do many good things; not with these kinds of dollars,� according to Clark.
Let me offer this suggestion to the DFL: If you want to do �good things�, why not start with cutting our taxes, especially property taxes? Better yet, why not eliminate wasteful spending? Or perhaps adopt a family-friendly budget that tells the lobbyists that they don�t get everything on their wish lists? If you did that, they�d have working families on their side.
I actually think there's a more base statement to be made here to Senator Clark. It comes from Ronald Reagan, who understood that governments are not places that can "do many good things."
[T]he United States is unique because we are an empire of ideals. For two hundred years we have been set apart by our faith in the ideals of democracy, of free men and free markets, and of the extraordinary possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary men and women. We believe that no power of government is as formidable a force for good as the creativity and entrepreneurial drive of the American people.
And with the fall of communism that ideal was known to all, but then as now, there are those who try to pretend they've learned the lesson but haven't. Reagan, talking about the Democratic Convention that year that had been in New York,
Over and over they told us they are not the party they were. They kept telling us with straight faces that they're for family values, they're for a strong America, they're for less intrusive government.

...What they truly don't understand is the principle so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

If we ever hear the Democrats quoting that passage by Lincoln and acting like they mean it, then, my friends, we will know that the opposition has really changed.

Until then, we see all that rhetorical smoke, billowing out from the Democrats, well ladies and gentlemen, I'd follow the example of their nominee. Don't inhale.
And don't buy the bilge that Little Larry and the Larriettes are selling that they could do good with a few more dollars. That logic might work for their per diems, but not with your money.

UPDATE: Speaking of per diems, we realize that with the weekend comes laundry and other things that the per diem has to pay, so we thought we better save the poor babies an extra $20. So off they go to Fabulous Fern's, which will take care of their needs for dinner on a very tight $40 budget (total bill includes 25% markup for tax and service.)

Caesar Salad $6.50
Cajun Meatloaf $10.95
Bowl of soup of the moment $3.50
Black Opal Shiraz (one glass) $6.25
Vanilla bread pudding with whiskey sauce $4.95

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No, not THAT flag! 

At San Francisco State University, a school with a rich history of anti-Semitism, College Republicans are being put on trial for hosting a rally in which protestors stomped on the flags of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Why, you might ask, since burning the American flag is considered a protected form of free speech? Because both flags bear the name of Allah.
SFSU�s foray into unlawful censorship began after an anti-terrorism rally held on October 17, 2006, at which several members of the College Republicans stepped on butcher paper they had painted to resemble the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah. Unbeknownst to the protestors, the flags they had copied contain the word �Allah� written in Arabic script. On October 26, a student filed a formal complaint with the university against the College Republicans, alleging �attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment� and �actions of incivility.� Although the university�s Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development (OSPLD), led by Joey Greenwell, could have settled the matter informally or dismissed the charges outright, the university is instead pressing forward today with a hearing on the charges.
Ah, there's that word again, 'incivility'. But this gets even more bizarre. Once the students were made aware that the name of Allah (copied over so poorly that it was barely legible) was on the paper flags they had made and that it was offensive, the CRs had an offended Muslim student cross out the name. That was insufficient to prevent more protests from the campus radicals and thus the charges the CRs face today.

Bruce Thornton makes a similar point:
Here�s where the double standards and incoherence of much politically correct behavior comes in. On any college campus in this country, every day, inside of class and out, you can encounter speech that is �insensitive,� �uncivil,� or �hostile.� But of course, this speech is directed towards Christians, or �conservatives,� or Israel, or Republicans, or �straight white males.�

Nobody attempts to censor this speech or haul people before tribunals to answer vague charges such as �incivility,� which will be defined according to the subjective standards of the complainants. And if someone does complain, the faculty and administration will immediately go into high dudgeon mode and start preaching the glories of unfettered free speech no matter how offensive. In other words, free speech for me but not for thee.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Balls the size of church bells 

A couple of stories today make me think Republicans simply aren't audacious enough. First, we have a bald statement by Rep. Cy Thao (DFL-St. Paul) to the effect of saying the political process is a zero-sum game, and he who wins gets the prize. From Gary,
Today, at a committee hearing, Cy Thao told Steve (Rep. Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud) �When you guys win, you get to keep your money. When we win, we take your money.� This was Thao�s explanation as to how the DFL plans on paying for all the spending increases they promised their special interest friends.
I understand the process of feeding one's special interests (as does Sen. Amy Klobuchar, by the way), but it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to giggle as you stick the shiv into tax producers for goodies for your favored clan of tax consumers.

But that isn't even the best story today. That would have to be from Michael and Drew, tipping us off that later today former Senator Dean Johnson -- the Right Reverend of Sanding -- may ascend to the Board of Trustees of the University of Minnesota as the House and Senate toss aside the recommendations of Governor Pawlenty. Lutherans don't usually believe in being born again, but Pastor Dean appears to be undergoing his own resurrection.

So what does a senator eat with that measly $60 of per diem money after such a hard day of taking your money and lifting up the politically dead? I suspect they'll want to celebrate such good works, so let's send them to the best, The Lexington, where the filet and walleye combos checks in at a mere $32 and, with soup and salad included, probably will fill us up. And with $28 to spare you should have enough to top up with a good cabernet tonight, and maybe a little chocolate mousse for dessert. Be sure to tip your server ... unless she's a Republican, in which case you can simply take her money.

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Gambling on the undergrads 

A scholarship fund in Oklahoma for public education students has run out of money. The funding source? The state's lottery isn't generating enough revenues. This has been going on for awhile, and to hear Jeff Shaw of Tulsa tell it, this was a bad plan oversold from the start. So what are they doing to replace the money? Of course, they are going to the general fund.
Oklahoma's governor, Brad Henry, a Democrat, wants to give the program a more reliable revenue source. He has proposed dedicating a percentage of the state's income-tax receipts to the scholarship program. On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would provide future years of the scholarship with a reliable source of funds, although it would not solve the current funding gap. That measure still awaits action by the House of Representatives.
Lottery = camel's nose in your wallet.

H/T and quote source: Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscriber's link.)

Local blogs featured 

(That's my attempt at an MSM headline -- blah.)

Area bloggers -- leading off with a St. Cloud blogger I don't know yet, more on him in a minute -- are featured on page one of the St. Cloud Times this morning. It has that sort of "heard of these new-fangled blog thingies?" feel to it, as if many of the Times readers never heard of them before. I suspect my fellow Cloudians are real hepcats and dig the blog thing already. I rely on this Pew study from last year on who blogs and who reads them. I can tell you that, though the usual perception is of a young person blogging his or her personal life to friends and acquaintances, the bloggers who are represented in Kirsti's story don't fit the mold. For one thing, I believe Larry Schumacher is the youngest of the SCBA bloggers (Mr. Lee, drop a note or leave a comment if that would not be true when you join ... and yes, that was an invitation) and I'm pretty sure he's above the median age of bloggers. Most of the bigger bloggers in MOB, too, are north of the big 30 (I'm the senior citizen of SCBA but the Powerline guys are a few years older than me.) And SCBA and MOB are both more full of political bloggers than the blogosphere more generally.

For those finding this blog for the first time thanks to the Times, there was an interview of me as a blogger (and radio host) a few years ago by Doug Williams that I still think was well done, even though it reads a little too stream of consciousness. In short, I wasn't thinking of this as a political blog when it started, but between the friendships built, the radio program created, and the drifting away of the other Scholars, that's where it is. Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Psssst! Hey, Senator! 

If you can sneak out early for dinner, I can get you fed for $20! You might just make that $96 a day thing work! But if Little Larry doesn't let the kids out early, there's no need to panic.
And your $60 dinner is still OK if you'll skip the dessert or the wine. It's a real sacrifice you have to make when you're in public service.

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If it's well done 

Marty reads this article and responds, "I don't believe it." The reason he doesn't believe 'it' -- that a liberal arts education can prepare you for a profession in business or health -- is probably that his conception of a liberal arts education doesn't involve the things on the list of what the article says a liberal arts education does:
In order to analyze information and solve problems you have to get practice in ... analyzing information and solving problems. A traditional liberal art, including the art history major whose story begins the article, may have some ability in that area. I believe you get more of that practice in economics as a liberal art -- more than economics as a business discipline, by the way, but let me just flag that for a future post -- than you do in most liberal arts, but traditional liberal arts programs in psychology or political science can do this, too. I think that's why our majors have a distinct advantage in the workplace.

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From Bloomberg yesterday, we find Alan Greenspan saying the world should end some time soon because, well, worlds end some time:
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said there's a "one-third probability'' of a U.S. recession this year and the current expansion won't have the staying power of its decade-long predecessor.

"We are in the sixth year of a recovery; imbalances can emerge as a result,'' Greenspan, 81, said in an interview yesterday at his office in downtown Washington. "Ten-year recoveries have been part of a much broader global phenomenon. The historically normal business cycle is much shorter'' and is likely to be this time, he added.
But he wouldn't want his opinion to be a problem for current Fed chair Ben Bernanke.
Greenspan said he has been careful to avoid making life difficult for his successor. ...

"I was aware of the problem that if I stayed public, I could make it difficult for Ben," he said. "For the most part it has worked. I was beginning to feel quite comfortable that I was fully back to the anonymity I was seeking."

"I was surprised at this recent episode," he added.
...Greenspan said he doesn't believe that so-called point forecasts, where economists hone their outlook down to decimal points, can be accurately made in the near-term. "We really can't forecast'' the economy over the next two years, he said.

You know, I could agree with that, except that the Fed he ran gave such forecasts for all of his time as chair and I don't recall him mentioning this during that time. And I don't believe he dislikes the limelight; telling audiences that there can be no recordings drives up the value of his quotes in the press, and gives him the ability to backtrack. As Jeremy Warner says, he seems hellbent to create as much mayhem in the markets as possible.

There's much ado later in the article about his iconoclastic style of forecasting -- he looks at individual industries rather than aggregated data, because the latter averages out important movements. But does he do better than the rest of us? Forecasting sensitive industrial commodity prices has been around almost as long as the field of macroeconomics. It's hardly a new story.

(h/t: Steve Verdon.


Twenty cents on the dollar 

The Chronicle of Higher Education's news blog reports that a new study by two economists at the University of Oregon shows that a majority of the money given by the federal government in Pell grants to students as financial aid goes back to universities as higher tuition (evidence of what's known as the Bennett hypothesis). But this is not true for in-state tuition rates at public universities. From the working paper by Larry Singell and Joe Stone:
Based on a panel of 1554 colleges and universities from 1988 to 1996, we find little evidence of the Bennett hypothesis for in-state tuition for public universities. For private universities, though, increases in Pell grants appear to be matched nearly one for one by increases in tuition. Results for out-of-state tuition for public universities are similar to those for private universities, suggesting that they behave more like private universities in setting out-of-state tuition. Notably, we also find that both higher state appropriations and endowment incomes permit public universities to charge higher out-of-state tuition, presumably because the larger pool of resources makes the university stronger and more attractive to students. Overall, then, there is evidence both for and against the Bennett hypothesis. Specifically, the evidence for in-state tuition charged by public universities tends to reject any substantial or significant effect; alternatively, the evidence for out-of-state public and private tuition tends to support the Bennett hypothesis.

Collectively, the results suggest that the pricing behavior of higher education institutions is sensitive to both political and market interests, as well as, perhaps, to individual institutional objectives with regard to access for needy students. The fact that out-of-state tuition appears to respond to the level of the average Pell grant, while in-state tuition does not, suggests that public universities are either explicitly or implicitly constrained to maintain low-cost access for instate students, but not necessarily out-of-state students.
The effect could be more than 80% of Pell grants being recaptured through higher tuition, so that students get less than twenty cents on the dollar of the money allocated by Congress. They also find little evidence that the Pell grants are changing the relative net tuition price for needy versus non-needy students. The results are relatively new and differ from the received literature (for example Long or Rizzo and Ehrenberg) but appear to use a more complete dataset than the other studies.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I did not know that 

Matt makes a great point on the discussion of ending Wisconsin students' reciprocity with the State of Minnesota.
Given the disparity, some Minnesota lawmakers have called for Wisconsin students to join their Gopher peers in paying Minnesota in-state tuition. Never mind that under the reciprocity agreement, the state of Wisconsin reimburses the state of Minnesota for the difference � except this money goes into the general fund, not to Minnesota's colleges and universities!
Ah, all is now clear. It's a money grab by the U., where Matt shows how tuition has increased more than at Wisconsin. And what value we get for our money!

It is obvious he did not use U.S. News and World Report's 2006 edition of America's Best Colleges. That publication has several different rankings that include both the U of M in Minneapolis and UW-Madison. Its ranking of the top 50 public national universities places UW Madison eighth and the U of M Minneapolis in a four-way tie for 30th place.

In its broader ranking of the best national universities (248 public and private schools), UW Madison is in a three-way tie for 34th and the U of M Minneapolis is in a four-way tie for 74th.


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We suffer from a "revenue shortage" 

That euphemism was reported to me to have been spoken by Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller as he left a meeting midweek last week in which much of the mighty and powerful in Minnesota had gathered to contemplate the Minnesota budget right after the Finance Department had announced its revenue forecast as being off by 0.02%. According to those who were in attendance, that statement was backed up by DFL talking points that would lead to two proposals. The first shoe dropped yesterday, as Rep. Mindy Greiling proposed raising the top rate on the state income tax to 8.5% from the current 7.85%.

Greiling, who is chairwoman of the House K-12 finance division, estimated that the added revenue would amount to $252 million next year. Greiling said the measure would affect about 170,000 out of 2.5 million total state income tax returns. A number of those returns are filed by married couples filing jointly.

She said the idea is not only to get an extra pot of money for education, but also to quit forcing school districts to go to voters for higher property taxes to make up for funding shortfalls.

"Schools should be our top priority, and our parents are willing to pay for them," said Greiling said. "We never meant for tax levy referendums to pay for education, but that's what's been happening, and we've reached a saturation point."

I'm a little confused. Shouldn't those who benefit from a government service pay for them? Why is it the state's business to finance my local school district's decision to build a new school or get new musical instruments for the band? Or, for that matter, pay for my larger police force?

A bill changing the state's Local Government Aid formula brought St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis to the Capitol to testify in its favor Monday. The bill would give St. Cloud an extra $2.3 million next year.

"They asked if I'd be OK having it dedicated to public safety, and I told them we'd be doing that anyway," said Kleis, who testified at the Senate Property Tax division on behalf of a bill from Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul.

"St. Cloud doubles in size every day (because of visitors and workers), and that puts a strain on our public safety services that state aid is meant to offset," the mayor and former state senator said.

I thought we were already hitting those out-of-town visitors to the city with the .5% sales tax on the stuff they buy at Crossroads and elsewhere. That money stays in St. Cloud; if it's not enough to pay for the additional services, either raise the local sales tax or raise the property tax charged to the owners of Crossroads to pay for the services.

Larry Schumacher -- whose blog, by the way, is now a year old and is getting to look more and more like a real blog, good job Times! -- notes that Grieling is quoting Education Minne$ota research in her justification for the income tax increase. But it's hard to explain why paying more for education in Minnesota, a dubious goal when there's no connection between inputs and outputs, should fall on the backs of 6.8% of taxpayers when the broad majority of Minnesotans benefit from higher spending.

More likely it's an attempt to roll back the tax cuts passed by Republican legislatures and supported by Governor Pawlenty, using 'the children!!!!!!!!!!' as the shield from claims about tax fairness and class warfare.

Since our GOP friends in the MN House have been having a good time with silly bills, I suggest the introduction of one that will go nowhere -- even though such bills have passed in five states. Americans for Tax Reform have established the Tax Me More Project. This would create a special fund into which all those who say they are "happy to pay for a better Minnesota" can pay more than lip service and cure their own revenue shortage.

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Today's menu for the starving state senator 

Comes from La Grolla, quite close to the Capitol and the theme today is citrus.

Crab cakes, $9
Stone crab cakes stuffed with buffalo mozzarella, red and yellow bell peppers, jalapeno and cayenne citrus sauce. Served with mesculin salad.
Roquefort and pear salad, $7.95
Mixed baby greens with crumbled Roquefort, pears, grapes, and spiced pecans, citrus vinaigrette.
Pollo alla erbe, $16.50
Grill marinated chicken breast with fresh herbs, garlic citrus sauce.
I don't know the wine list there, but it's likely you could find a nice riesling to accompany this meal; if the wine is $6 per glass have two and you're still good for a $60 tab.

The Winona Daily News has noticed the prices of a senator's meal:
We are disappointed that as (Senator Steve) Murphy sits on the transportation committee, speaking about the paucity of funds, he has taken thousands away from those projects and given it to himself.

We are disappointed that (Sen. Sheila) Ropes decided to put her needs in front of those of her constituents. On the campaign trail, she often told of learning the ropes when she was a school board member � she worked in the lunchroom, watched children on the playground and knew the state of health care from her time as a nurse. Hopefully, she hasn�t too quickly forgotten that those people who left a lasting impression on her are the same ones who could never afford $96 per day on food, yet are the same ones footing the bill.

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Bird flu market 

Established at the University of Iowa, whose prediction markets for political events have existed for quite some time, but has a funny twist in my view.
At the beginning of the influenza season, we recruit a diverse group of health care workers with information about influenza activity. Each of the traders is given an educational grant of $100 with which to trade. This grant grows or shrinks over the course of the influenza season depending upon the accuracy of the individual trader's predictions. Potential traders include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, clinical microbiologists and epidemiologists. Each of these traders has access to unique information regarding current and future influenza activity. For example, if a clinical microbiologist suddenly sees an increase in the number of respiratory cultures positive for influenza, influenza will likely increase in her community during the next few weeks. Such a trader could log-on to our website and purchase shares for "widespread influenza activity" over the next few weeks. She would also likely try to sell her shares of "little-or-no influenza activity". On the other hand, if a nurse had seen several patients with influenza in the emergency room for the last few weeks and then saw no more patients, he would be tempted to sell all his "widespread influenza activity" shares and try to buy as many "little-or-no activity" shares as he could.
One of the lessons I took out of James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds is that these types of markets work best when you have disparate traders with separate information. Recruiting a bunch of health care officials and researchers only means you are trading with a group of like-minded and like-informed participants. I don't think that works as well. Here are some musings from the last time this was attempted during the avian flu scare in 2005.


Germany's new Notgeld 

Back in the 1920s, Germany and Austria were devoid of money in circulation, as much of it was used to help pay reparations under the Versailles Treaty. There was in particular a lack of coins for smaller payments. Thus developed Notgeld, an emergency money, in the two countries as local areas offered alternative currencies either to replace the missing notes or as a means to deal with inflation (as happened towards the end of the notgeld period in 1923.) I have a couple dozen pieces of it as part of my collection of paper monies. As you can see from the pictures on the page I've linked, it's pretty stuff, and I have one that was printed on cotton cloth.

But those were difficult times for Germany and Austria, and the existence of an emergency requiring the unusual step of local currencies unquestioned. So when I read, via Captain Ed, that local currencies have returned to Germany, I have to admit I was puzzled. The explanations offered in the Spiegel article aren't very helpful:
Regional currencies prevent money from being drained from the area where the currency is in use and transfered to booming regions like China or India, says Margrit Kennedy, the author of several books on alternative currencies. "Regional money is like a homeopathic cure for the chaos and suffering international financial markets cause in the world," Kennedy says.

Gerhard R�sl, a political economist at Regensburg Technical College, is not convinced. "Social romanticism on the part of people who don't think in a structured way" is how he characterizes this way of thinking. R�sl has carried out a study on regional currencies for Germany's central bank. The basic thrust of his study is that regional money may be an entertaining gimmick for tourists, but it's largely nonsense from an economic point of view.

Regional currencies are only helpful in the context of a generalized deflation, when shrinking liquidity needs to be compensated for, R�sl says. That was the case in the Austrian town of W�rgl in 1932, for example, when the township successfully issued a local currency or scrip. Admittedly it's also the case today in the region where the Urstromtaler is circulating, where people are gradually running out of euros.

In Chiemgau, on the other hand, the initial impulse for the new currency came from wealthy parents who exchanged �200 ($263) a month for Chiemgauers in order to get their childrens' school project started. The alternative tender remains a luxury currency. What with the "topping up" charge, the reconversion fee and the costs of inflation, Chiemgauer holders are effectively paying a surcharge of 15 percent on every Chiemgauer -- which translates into risk-free gross income for Gelleri's bank.
In a non-globalized world as existed after WWI it made sense that a local scrip could circulate for several turns in a country -- and the turnover of currency was lower then as it served often as a store of value, at least before 1922 and the onset of hyperinflation. Local banks issued currency in the U.S. before the Civil War and notes circulated a fair bit -- it was an act of Congress during the Civil War that taxed the private notes out of existence.

It seems far less likely that such currencies could exist now, though. As Ed notes, barter guilds do exist in the US. My favorite such story is the famous DC babysitting scrip story told by my former teacher Dick Sweeney and his wife, a little older story but I think quite relevant. In short, the co-op was a barter guild wherein each member promised 14 hours of babysitting, and scrip was used in lieu of paper entries in a ledger. As the Sweeneys tell the story, the scrip worked very poorly for the co-op because it was hard to balance the quantity of scrip with the amount of hours of babysitting desired (and since the price of babysitting was fixed at one-half hour per piece of scrip, the shortages and surpluses couldn't work themselves out in the usual way.) Likewise, to replace the euros in these areas that are in shortage -- likely because the areas where the local monies are issued are growing faster than Germany as a whole -- someone has to constantly adjust the amount of scrip to the quantity of local goods bartered, or allow people to post two prices (one for euros, the other for local currency.) Rather than do that, particularly in this electronic world where euros clear instantaneously but some guy has to drive around town collecting and cashing scrip, the scrip is driven out of existence. Gresham's Law comes into play here, though in the form that Rolnick and Weber imagined -- the euros should trade at a premium and in so doing remove the incentives for people to issue parallel local currencies.

So I doubt this story will last long.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of civility 

An open letter to my good friend Ed,

Dear Ed,

Dig what you said about CPAC and inviting crazy Auntie Ann, but were you really surprised? No, you had to be like the conference organizers were, right? They are only fooling themselves to say they were shocked. They weighed the cost of having her scandalize the conference again against the benefit of having her entertain the faithful for thirty minutes and took a shot. They lost, and the damage to the organizations is their rightful reward for losing that gamble. Anytime you invite her is a gamble. Fox has a dump button; live speeches don't.

But really, that's why people go to these things. They want to see the talking heads with bodies attached, without benefit of the nets presented by TV, radio, print and blogs. You went to meet all those cool people there, right? And like Auntie Ann isn't one of them? And when you come in contact with real people unprocessed, uncensored, sometimes the result isn't pretty. (I note you didn't say you wouldn't go again to CPAC if you and Annie were both invited.)

Same is true of commenters -- sometimes they aren't pretty. But your call for civility is a bit bothersome, if you'll forgive me saying so, Ed. See, back on this blog a long time ago we had a long chat about civility on a campus discussion email list. The campus tried to enforce it, and has ended up killing that list. My former co-blogger Jack Hibbard said this at the time,
Certainly the desire to censor somebody is a perennially human. Nat Hentoff is about the best author on all of this, and his Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee is worth reading, but its tough to go from desire to application. To want to censor is easy; doing it can be hard.

So we hit questions like who is going to determine what constitutes appropriate speech? And how will they make clear precisely what acceptable speech is? Will there be a word list? Will we not say "inane' any more? If 'inane' is forbidden, I can think of a lot of other words with equal or greater force that will have to be forbidden too; this could be a very long list. I'm glad I don't have to make it up. Or will context be important? Can we say some things or people are inane and others not? Or does who one is matter? A double standard has been pretty clear in the past, so would there be people who we can offend and others we can't? Or, if it's a horrific (can I say that?) thing to offend someone else, will acceptable language depend on the proclivity of others to be offended? And how will this be implemented? Will messages have to go through a screening committee before they are posted? (Boy, would I hate that job, though I doubt there's much danger I would be asked to do it.) Will somebody stop messages from going out and doing all their crushing (can I say that?) damage, or will writers merely be punished afterwards? And, of course, what will the punishment be? What's it worth to have offended somebody else, especially the most fragile among us who are most easily offended?

This list of questions could go on, and very well may. But to be honest my advice is to forget this whole business as soon as possible. Let people talk, and if they say something nasty (can I say that?) to you, either say something nasty back, or get a nasty friend to help you say something nasty back, or -- and this is usually my most preferred course of action -- go home and have a slug or two of good whiskey (can I mention whiskey) and blow the whole thing off (can I say that?).
And that, Ed, is my advice to you: Forget the whole business. It's of course your blog, and you're quite clear about moderating your comments -- a real difference between a blog and a discussion list on a state university campus. There's no question whether one can censor -- you can -- and who is to decide the rules -- that's your right alone. I've banned a couple of people, one of whom I let back after deciding I had overreacted. (The other remains off the blog not because he was offensive but because his signal-to-noise ratio fell to zero.) But we academics have had a long history with civility codes on campuses, and I will simply say they are the den for the most censorious in our midst. No matter how many times you say you won't censor content, you cannot help but do so. And in the end your comment boxes will end up the barren wasteland of so many Usenet newsgroups that took on a moderator and lost a community.

Given the excellent commenters you've had over the years, that would be a great loss.

Best to you and the First Mate,

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Carpe dinner diem 

I had someone email me over the weekend suggesting that the per diems received by state legislators was taxable (which I guess is supposed to mean they have less to spend, and thus we shouldn't be picking on them.) They said they heard it on 'CCO from Pat Kessler -- I haven't seen or read that clip, but I thought it was worth checking out.

It's both true and false. A per diem paid to anyone that isn't necessary because the recipient could acquire those services at home is compensation that can be taxed. So I heard of a case where someone working for a non-profit drove 90 miles in each direction but had her or his per diem payment declared income by the IRS. But I found an advisory that for state legislators the distance is 50 miles. So if someone takes a per diem (for meals and incidentals, remember; housing is a separate payment, and only if you live more than 50 miles away thus never taxable) and lives in the 50 mile radius they in fact DO pay tax on that, less whatever receipts they can generate for legitimate expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. And they get this on weekends, and during special sessions -- even though the DFL was offered motions to be more circumspect on these requests, and sent them to Tony Sertich's gulag (also known as the Rules Committee.)

Anyway, wanted to be sure we cleared that up. Here's today's dinner. After going fish on Friday, time for some real meat, so let's send our solons off to Mancini's for some red meat. The kebab looks really yummy, but I'm thinking the 12 ounce fillet, which for $23 comes with the salad and a baked potato. For another $4.95, let's have the cheesecake for dessert. Fillet demands a strong red, so may I suggest a Barolo? (Where the hell is Bogus Doug when you need wine recs? Oh yeah, American Idol. Feh.) At these prices, I think you could have two glasses and still make it for the $60.

And if you are being taxed on that money and don't have the tip, tell 'em you're doing them a huge favor by getting rid of smoking in restaurants. They'll make it up on all the new business they'll get, right?

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Fo academic freedom 

The University of Minnesota is currently running The Pope and The Witch, a play that some consider anti-Catholic. When Catholics complained, President Robert Bruininks replied that there would be a panel to discuss the play ... but the panel had no Catholics. It opened to a half-full theater Friday, a day late (due to the weather) and with 70 seminarians singing hymns and praying outside in protest. But the PioneerPress's theater critic takes the prize for outrageousness today.
The play is an irreverent sprawl, sometimes nonsensical, frequently tangential and generally less ha-ha funny than things-look-weird-in-a-funhouse-mirror funny. Those who find it offensive will not be convinced otherwise, but watching "The Pope and the Witch" suggests a play less interested in sacrilege and more interested in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
What's that word again? 'Beclowned'?


Silly stuff keeps coming 

Just because we've had a winner in the poll doesn't mean the silly bills introduced in the Legislature have stopped. Not at all! Here are a few more introduced just last two weeks.
Meanwhile, the folks in Alexandria are not too keen on our glass-on-your-pontoon-boat bill:

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen thinks these types of rules are more about common sense and don�t have to be controlled in statute form by government.

�Rules are posted and most often, people follow them,� he said. �This has never really been an issue.�

Plus, he noted, it would be tough to enforce that type of law � especially on a lake � because boaters could simply hide the glass containers if they saw an officer approaching.

Hide it!?! Wow, I'd've never thought of that! Amazing what you learn on the Group W bench.

Fritz Bukowski from Lakes Area Recreation, who manages the two public beaches in the Alexandria area, feels the same way.

�This is a common sense rule,� said Bukowski. �And we haven�t had a problem at the beaches. People respect the rules we have posted.�

Bukowski called the bill �unique� and said it would be a nightmare to try to enforce.

At both public beaches in the area � Latoka and Geneva � there are rules posted on signs for beach goers that do not allow glass containers, alcohol or dogs, Bukowski noted.

He added that there haven�t been any problems in the past and that he doubts there will be problems in the future because most beach goers are respectful people.

That's thought seems to lost on Mr. Welti.

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This is why we need sex ed in kindergarten 

Good-quality snow makes some people want to make a snowman. Others play snow sports. But for one 33-year-old Lake Delton man, the fine powder seemed like a reasonable excuse to run naked through it.

The man was cited for disorderly conduct today after a neighbor at the Woodland Park Apartment complex reported him cavorting nude.

The neighbor was with her two children and a friend's child, all of whom saw the bare display.

...The neighbor told police she wanted the man jailed, but the officer said he could only charge the man with disorderly conduct because there was no intent to hurt the children.
Source. Hat tip: My producer who NEEDS HIS OWN BLOG!!!
Children are sexual beings from the time they are born, Chris!!!

When 5 year old Janie asks her Kindergarten teacher �Why does Johhny have a dangly thingie and I don�t?� That is when children begin their Sexuality Education. Parents unable to give an answer in ways a child can understand or educate them, then someone else has to step in.
Kathy, commenter at MDE, discussing HF 615. Emphasis added. I still think HF 615 is the sillier bill, but it lost to the Restroom Access Act.

As to that act, I will leave most of it to Michael, but I must share a song in honor of its victory and praise for the wonderful people that help the afflicted.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Support our Vets - March 17 - Washington, DC 

Anarchist anti-war protestors spray-painted the steps of the US Capitol in January. Another anti-war protest being organized by a coaltion of radical leftist and anarchist groups is "gathering near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial" on March 17th.

Although the organizers deny any intention to "defile" the Memorial, I will be joining A Gathering of Eagles, which plans to be present to protect the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

One key reason our republic succeeds is because of its heroes, our military. Freedom requires constant vigilance and sacrifice, again and again and again.

If you are interested in participating, you can get the necessary information by going to the Move America Forward website. A group of Minnesotans is organizing bus transportation. You can call Lisa at 651-983-1431 for more information. She also has a hotel list.

Thanks to The Move America Forward group for organizing this event. We must ensure that Vietnam and other veterans are remembered as the real heroes they are.

NARN today 

While my co-host is being tortured by a beach, and others are rubbing elbows with the bigwigs at CPAC, I'll perform my sworn duty to entertain and inform on NARN: The Final Word from 3-5pm. Listen in on AM 1280 the Patriot, call if you like at 651-289-4488, and feel free to use my comment email (comments at scsuscholars-dot-com) to drop a line. The Patriot's program director Nick Novak will join me as my guest co-host. We'll visit with state Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) about the death of bipartisanship in the Minnesota Legislature, and with MeMe Roth, who we wrote about this week trying to get the Girl Scouts not to sell cookies for fundraising.


Friday, March 02, 2007

The Real American Idol - Medal of Honor 

The real Americon idol (WSJ - March 1, 2007) is The Medal of Honor recipient, an award given to military personnel for outstanding service, indeed a rare award. Since its inception in 1863, only 3444 have been bestowed. On February 28, 2007, the latest recipient, Bruce Crandall, was given this award for herioc efforts during the Vietnam War.

Have you heard or read about this? Did you know Lt. Col. Bruce Crandall was honored? If so, where did you discover it? Mainstream media (MSM)? No way. You see, the "vanguard of free press", the MSM, chose to bury this story.

We must remember, a free nation cannot remain free and at peace when its media ignores true valor, bravery, heroism, honor, patriotism, and other honorable traits.

A nation that fails to honor its true heroes, its warriors, risks having no heroes to defend it.

Gasoline Prices - the Hypocritical Media Again 

It's very interesting, but not unpredictable. Gasoline prices have risen about 25% in the last month or so (from $1.99 to $2.49 in our area). Where's the screaming media? Nowhere to be found. Why could this be? Oh, the DFL is in control at the MN State Capitol and the Democrats are in control in Washington, DC. Can you imagine the outcry if the Republicans had control of either of these bodies of government?

Related point: The Bush economic program has resulted in a booming stock market (the earlier recession was a holdover from the last of the Clinton days), highest percentage of home ownership ever, a steady increase in the number of jobs nationwide, and nothing has been mentioned in the mainstream media.

Let the market have one bad day, and it's the fault of the "Bush Economy".

Unbiased media? No way.

This will not stand 

Two posts declare all-out war
No moonbeam to me.


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Tips for a starving senator 

Some commenters have asked whether I have unfairly assessed the MN state senators' per diem without accounting for housing costs. I have not; the senators receive a housing allowance that is not in the per diem. I haven't verified the number yet, but I believe it's $1200 per month, and I don't believe it ends with the legislative session. I'm checking on this to be sure.

While I attend to that, here's today's dining tip, Fhima's. The theme is fish. Our bedraggled senator can begin with the Moroccan Caesar salad and splurge for the cumin-dusted anchovies on top if she wishes ($7), enjoy a petite bouillabaisse ($8), and then have the sole almondine ($22). (I really wrestled with the seafood paella instead, for a few dollars less, but sole is soul.) Still enough left for a glass of chardonnay on the side and get in under $60 with tax and tip, or have dessert.

You might even still have a little money left in your pocket for a coffee afterwards, or do the dry cleaning (which in fact does come out of your per diem, or at least it does when I travel for government business; my MN per diem to high-price cities like DC is $42.)

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Dying for your school 

This is just brilliant.

Oklahoma State University announced on Thursday that it has secured $280-million for its athletics program by establishing $10-million life-insurance policies on 28 of its athletics boosters.

The university borrowed $20-million to set up the policies, and will be the sole beneficiary of the plans after the donors die.

The deal is believed to be one of the largest charity-owned life-insurance programs established by a university. Oklahoma State plans to use the money to create an endowment for athletics scholarships and to help pay for its sports facilities and operations. In the next five years, the university expects to spend more than $300-million on six new athletics buildings and an upgrade to its football stadium. All of those plans were in the works before Thursday's announcement.

...Oklahoma State officials appeared incredulous at the deal's potential payoff and what it might do for the university's sports program, which has one of the smallest budgets in the Big 12 Conference.

I am looking forward to the University of Minnesota's "Gas 'em for Goldy" program. (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education, subscriber's link.)

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Mrs. Scholar writes again 

Her column on minimum wages is up. I also asked her question to local business owners looking for employers who pay minimum wages, and I also came up empty.

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MOA handouts 

I had completely missed Captain Ed's shout-out for help on the Mall of America subsidy being pitched by its owners to the state Legislature. The owners are asking the state to build a $180 million parking structure plus another $20 million in infrastructure investments. I became aware of it when Stephen Spruiell at National Review called for comments last night, which he published this morning. I said:
King Banaian, chairman of the St. Cloud State University economics department, is skeptical. �Let�s think about this: Mall of America is huge. So, we�re going to make it huger, and somehow more people are going to come to Mall of America?� Banaian tells NRO. �The marginal gain in [sales tax] revenues is likely to be pretty small.�

Banaian says the mall�s request is easy to understand when you look at the context: �There�s a small surplus in the budget right now,� he says. �Everyone wants to ask about their favorite project.�
(I can hear the screams from the Legislature now -- THERE'S NO SURPLUS!!!! WE HAVE TO FACTOR INFLATION!!!! STOP ASKING FOR MONEY!!!! -- but the fact remains that the inflation dodge is just a way to protect existing tax consumers from encroachments by outsiders to the trough.)

I don't believe there's a bill in the Legislature for this yet, though the AP reports that Senate Tax Committee chair Tom Bakk plans to introduce it. "Bakk said the project would mean 10 million to 15 million man hours of construction work..." I suggested to Spruiell that if Sen Bakk wants to help out the construction industry, the workers might prefer $200 million in cash handouts plus the 10-15 million hours to do something else rather than $260-$390 million in wages (before taxes) and none of those hours. The additional jobs generated in the retail sector pay on average $320/wk. for 30 hours of work -- if there are health benefits in there, I'd be pleasantly surprised. (Source for wage/workweek data.)

It's interesting -- and I think pretty good reporting -- that the MOA handout was contrasted to the handout being sought by Thomson West. Those are better paying jobs, the claim is made, and that is indeed true. But if the jobs are worth that much, why should taxpayers subsidize the building in which the employees earn it?

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Quick add on gas rates 

Stephen Karlson has a much more rigorous treatment of the question of gas rates that I addressed to Leo. If you want to wade into it, you'll do well to follow his link to this. After that, be sure to read Dale's comment about the conversion of our coal burners to natural gas for electricity production. That would not necessarily be a problem for the pricing strategy Xcel wants to use, as I understand it, but it does challenge the notion that we will use less natural gas going forward.


Covering fire 

The Pioneer Press provides a fig leaf for the fifty-nine state senators who voted to raise their per diems to $96. They will take less, kinda.
Republican Sens. Ray Vandeveer, of Forest Lake; Dick Day, of Owatonna; David Hann, of Eden Prairie; Bill Ingebrigtsen, of Alexandria; Amy Koch, of Buffalo; Geoff Michel, of Edina; and Pat Pariseau, of Farmington, voted against the measure.

Since then, all but Hann requested a $66 daily payment, known as a per diem.

Several Democratic-Farmer-Labor senators also have requested less than the allowed $96 a day.

John Marty, of Roseville, will get $60 a day; Tony Lourey, of Kerrick, requested $66 per day; Dick Cohen, of St. Paul, requested $85 a day; Don Betzold, of Fridley, said he wanted no payments on weekends or holidays; and Sharon Erickson Ropes, of Winona, said she didn't want to be paid for Sundays.

Unless they specify otherwise, senators received the $96 payments seven days a week while the Legislature is in session. They do not have to submit receipts.
I wonder if Hann is taking anything at all. And I wonder if the DFLers who voted in favor but are taking less have to turn in receipts like those who voted against the per diem increase.

As a new feature of this blog, we'd like to suggest dining possibilities to the poor senators trying to scrap by on $96 a day. (I'm hopeful SCBA brother Larry will help with this, as he has to be in St. Paul for work these days. Stop by and greet Larry on his first blogiversary today.) We know it's tough, and as a seasoned traveler of distant lands I think I can help them learn to live on per diem (mine in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia last year was $56, $44 when I was in the countryside.) So I looked at the Trattoria da Vinci's dinner menu, and figured I had already spent $10 on breakfast and $20 on lunch so I was down to a mere $66. (I mean, I'm always dumping a Jackson on lunch at Panera; man, we all do it!)

Start with the Crochette di Granchio, mozzarella-stuffed crab cakes as an antipasto and the caprese salad. Then you'll have to rough it with the saltimbocca alla Romana. If you'll skip the dessert (you can use this bit of frugality as an example to your constituents) and hold yourself to one glass of wine, you should be able to do all that for under $60.

I'm sure a senator telling constituents s/he only had three courses will impress them enough to assure re-election. Which is the prize, right Tiny?

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