Monday, June 20, 2016

Iowa leading the way on transportation spending

While Minnesota transportation spending remains mired in the swamp of light rail funding, our neighbors to the south are taking advice from the free market on how and where to prioritize transportation spending.
Most states approach transportation within their borders mode by mode–highways, railroads and ports. When Paul Trombino, director of Iowa’s Department of Transportation, looks at a map of his state with its widespread highway system, rail network and river ports, he instead sees a vast supply chain.
The Minnesota legislature tends to approach transportation spending based on two principles; prioritizing commuters over the movement of goods, and deciding which road projects to prioritize based on the political power of the elected politicians in the area.

By looking at roads and bridges with an eye towards commerce, Iowa is recognizing that the primary role of state funding for roads is to create and maintain the infrastructure for businesses to move goods to consumers.  The bonus here is that roads and bridges designed to move goods can also accommodate commuters, while roads designed for commuters can't always handle freight.  Light rail, on the other hand, can't move any goods to the consumers because it is designed specifically to only handle people.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pres Trump would be worse than Pres Hillary

So if Donald trump is the Republican nominee, the choice for conservatives will be vote for trump, vote for Hillary, vote for a third party/write in, or leave it blank.  Given the choice of trump or Hillary, here is why I would leave the ballot blank. 

President Donald Trump would be worse for conservatives than President Hillary Clinton.  Why? Because Trump would be just as likely to nominate liberal USSC justices, would continue Pres Obama's abuse of executive power, and he would suppress turnout for down-ballot races.  But most importantly, when Trump nominates a liberal judge or abuses executive power, the Republican party would be powerless to oppose him.

The one position you can absolutely trust with Trump is that you can't trust him on any position.  So those people who are holding on to the idea that Trump would be better than Hillary because of Supreme Court nominees alone are grasping at straws.  There is simply no evidence that Trump would nominate conservative justices.  Trump, as he likes to brag, is a businessman and he will do whatever makes the most sense to him at the time he nominates a justice.  Abortion, eminent domain, and torture are all issues that Trump has actively supported the liberal position on, and there is no reason to think he wouldn't nominate a justice who also supports the liberal position.

One thing you can absolutely expect from Trump is a continuation of the abuse of power that we have seen over the last eight years from Pres Obama.  Both men are cults of personality, who excite their supporters by telling them the dramatic actions they will take as president.  Trump has promised a 45% tariff on all goods from China, an action which would ignite a trade war we are unprepared to fight.  Eliminating Obamacare by executive order would be a great first step, but without action in Congress to replace it with something else, would be chaos.  And possibly worst of all, Trump's plan to roll back libel law protection could render every media outlet and even the conservative blogosphere subject to endless lawsuits for reporting the news.

Trump as the GOP presidential candidate would also be disastrous for the down-ballot races.  Trump, with his cult of personality, can make outrageous statements and get away with them.  But our liberal media would hold candidates for the US Senate, House and every local race accountable to Trump's positions.  The tenuous hold the GOP has on the US Senate right now could be thrown completely up for grabs with Trump, which means the RNC will have to spend more than it should to hold the Senate, if it can.  Worse yet, Senate and House candidates will have to decide whether or not to campaign with Trump, eerily similar to Democrats refusing to campaign with Obama in 2012.

Lastly, and this is the key, President Trump would leave the GOP unable to organize an opposition to any liberal action he takes.  If (when) Pres trump nominates a liberal judge, or triples Planned Parenthood funding by executive order, there will be no Republican opposition to oppose him.  President Trump will be the de facto leader of the GOP, and every elected Republican will be under tremendous pressure to follow his lead (see also Pres Obama and the TPP).  Pres Trump decides Loretta Lynch is a great choice to replace Anton Scalia? Uses executive action to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants he decides are 'the good type'?  What GOP Senator is going to lead the opposition to their own president?  Democrats, on the other hand, would face no similar handicap.  Trump nominates a conservative judge?  Democrats rally their base in opposition and force a fight.  Trump cancels funding for Planned Parenthood because he is feeling conservative this week?  Democrats rally and fund-raise their base to the detriment of every GOP member of Congress.  It is a lose-lose proposition for the GOP.

A Trump White House carries all of the potential negative repercussions to the conservative agenda that Pres Hillary Clinton does, and none of the unifying potential.  'Better the devil you know' as goes the popular saying.  But when the choice is the devil you know, or the devil you don't but is the leader of your party, the risk vs reward calculation changes dramatically.  American is resilient and can probably survive either Pres Hillary or Pres Trump.  But the Republican party will only survive one, and the death of the GOP puts the nation itself at grave risk.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Why Rand paul should be the next to drop out of the presidential race

Despite the good news that Rand Paul has qualified for the next GOP debate main stage, the fact remains that Paul should drop from the presidential race, both by logic and by the needs of the party.

Logically, Paul has no groundswell of support that would give cause to keep running for president.  Despite the ebb and flow of the Iowa caucus polls, Paul hasn't cracked 5% since last August, before the Trump-mania set in.  His current average is 3.7%, which rates only 7th or 8th depending on the poll.  In New Hampshire, Paul is similarly mired at 3.7%, having likewise not cracked 5% since August.  Nationally, Paul is tracking at about 2%, which is below the margin of error for most polling, and he is edging downward, not up.

Despite Rand Paul's very enthusiastic supporters, there is no momentum, no grass roots mobilization of conservatives or even libertarians en masse.  Sen Paul very cleverly used Twitter to make a counterpoint at the last debate that he didn't qualify for, but this week he would have to swing away and hit nothing but home-runs to get any traction with the GOP base.

At the same time, Sen Paul has a liability no other candidate in the race does; he has another election this year.  Sen Rand Paul of Kentucky is up for re-election, in a contest he spent the last several years rigging to make sure he could qualify for, even while running for president.  Despite criticism from local Republicans, Paul engineered a legal change in Kentucky from a primary state to caucus state, all so he could appear on the ballot for two positions (US Senate and President) at the same time.  But this exercise in ego, which may have seemed well intentioned in 2014, may prove to be an Achilles heel in 2016.  If Paul loses the caucus vote he personally engineered, his Democrat foes will have plenty of fodder to attack him with.

The GOP controls the US Senate by only 4 seats.  Though the GOP is slightly favored to retain control, Sen Paul faces re-election in what should be a safe seat.  It is his to lose, which is why he alone among the current GOP presidential candidates should give up the mirage and get back to the business of keeping his Senate seat.  Not only would he help the GOP retain control of the Senate, a worthy goal no matter who wins the White House, but Sen Paul's libertarian voice is not replaceable in the Senate, if not the whole GOP Congress.

There are plenty of candidates left in the GOP field that should be quick to drop out.  Bush, Huckabee, Santorum, Kasich, Christie and Carson are all polling on the margin of error.  But all of them could hope to parlay a strong 3rd or 4th place showing into a vice presidential slot.  Paul has no political math to offer for a VP slot, and would be a detriment to the party as a VP candidate because he would leave Kentucky as an open (and Dem winnable) seat.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The party of Trump is not my GOP

With only a few months to go before the Republican Party starts casting actual votes for the presidential nomination, the field is still wide open.  There are eight (mostly) serious candidates left in the hunt- Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Fiorina, Rand, Rubio and Trump.  Of these, I can fully support and get behind all but one of them- Donald Trump.  As an elected official with the GOP (co-chair of Steele County in southern Minnesota) if Trump is the nominee I will be honor bound to resign my position if Trump is the GOP nominee.  My reasons for this are simple: first, Donald Trump is not presidential, second, he would be bad for down ticket races, and third, he is not in fact a conservative.

Much has been made about Donald Trump's frontal assault on political correctness.  While I and millions of other Americans appreciate Trump's willingness to not shy away from saying what liberals tell us is verboten, the fact is that Trump is politically incorrect not because he is pushing back against liberals but because he just doesn't have a filter on his speech.  Trump simply says whatever is to his benefit to say, no matter the consequences. While this is politically satisfying, it is a terrible trait for a man who would be leading the US diplomatic effort around the world, and who would be need to pursuade Congress to legislate his plans.  Trump does not persuade anyone- he uses fear and power to force his position.

Even a successful Trump presidential run would be problematic for the down ticket races.  Minnesota doesn't have any statewide races in 2016, but nonetheless Trump's inflammatory rhetoric would be the yardstick by which every GOP candidates for Congress and state legislature would be judged.  Trump as GOP candidate makes him the de facto leader of the party, which would open every Republican candidate to answer for Trump's every comment during the campaign.  "Speaker Daudt, do you agree with your presidential candidate's plan to halt all immigration from Muslim countries?"  These are the type of questions that the party doesn't want to hear.

But the biggest criteria in which Trump fails is that he is not actually a conservative.  As I have proudly told local supporters, I am a conservative first and Republican second.  That means my conservative principles come before my GOP affiliation.  Trump is in no way a conservative, having donated to liberals (such as Hillary Clinton) and having espoused liberal ideas (eminent domain and amnesty when it suited him).  Trump is an opportunist, willing to support whatever position that advances his short term interests.  Even were he to be elected, he would be the bane of the GOP when he shifted positions on conservative ideology.

Donald Trump is a chameleon, who has no allegiance to any belief other than profit, and he would be true to that belief as a president.  His lip service to conservative principles is just that-lip service.  Trump as president would sell out any conservative position as it suited his mood, and the GOP would be pressured to follow suit.

If Donald Trump is the GOP nominee for president, I would have to step down from my elected position in the local party, because I couldn't recommend him to others.  I can't say whether or not I would vote for him, though I suspect I would not.  I would still work on behalf of local GOP candidates, but as an individual rather than as a party official.  I've had several instances in the last few years where I have had to hold my nose to vote for a Republican candidate (i.e. CD1) but I can't hold my nose and vote for the leader of my party,  I would hope that a Trump candidacy would be short lived, but were he to win I would have to look to another party to represent me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cutting government spending for...Saudi Arabia?

While the US has been enjoying low gas prices, the low price of oil has had impacts around the world.  The state of North Dakota has had to cut its budget to make up for the reduction in oil revenue from frakking, but so has Saudi Arabia-
Saudi Arabia on Monday unveiled plans to cut expenditures and sharply raised domestic fuel prices as the world’s top oil exporter attempts to cope with a new era of cheap crude prices.
Saudi Arabia is probably the least bad Middle Eastern country in terms of human rights and support for Islamic terrorism, but being the least bad still doesn't make them 'good'.  So the flood of cheap oil is having the unexpected positive effect of reducing the power of dictators in the region.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Overheard at CCW training

So I went to a course for conceal carry today, held at the Fleet Farm in Owatonna.  The class was standing room only- literally three people stood for the three hour class because there were no more chairs available.  The instructor said he usually sees classes of 15-20, but today there were 31 and several turned away at the door because of the lack of space.

What was impressive was the number of new permit applicants- fully half of the class were those who had never had a conceal carry permit before, and in fact didn't even own a handgun.  They were coming to the class as the first step in the process of becoming legal gun owners.  There were a few gentlemen there to get permits due to their jobs (repo men) but everyone else was motivated by the desire to carry a weapon if they wanted to, even though most said they didn't expect to have a strong reason to carry.

The second amendment focus in American over the last two decades has seen great results.  But nothing has been better to push ordinary Americans from the fence over guns to permit holding activists that the liberal outrage over guns exemplified by the Obama administration.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

A teachers union finally remembers its mission

The purpose of a union is to secure better wages, benefits and working conditions for its members.  So says Websters dictionary.

But if you beleive most every teacher's union in Minnesota and the rest of the country, they exist only to make sure 'the children' get a good education in a loving environment.  Teacher unions are benevolent care takers of our future generation.  A better multi decade PR campaign has never been waged.

But in St Paul, the teacher union has had to actually go back to its mission of fighting for safe working conditions for its members.  The problem?  Assaults on teachers by the very students they are teaching.

The problem with most unions in America is that they were too successful.  The fought for safe working conditions and got them, pushed for the 40 hour work week and got it signed into law, pushed for better pay than non union workers and got it.  Having accomplished so much, unions had to invent new challenges to keep their members interested in paying their dues.

But the St Paul school system is a goo reminder that unions did one serve a vital purpose in America.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The winnowing

The departure of Scott Walker from the presidential race brings us into the next stage of the 2016 presidential contest- the winnowing of the chafe from the wheat.  Winnowing is literally the tossing of grain into the air to seperate the lighter chafe, i.e. filler, from the actual grain that is the goal of the whole exercise.

Walker was my first choice in the field.  As strong a conservative as you can expect, with executive experience from the governor's mansion, and a firm stand against public employee unions that, if executed at a federal level, could break the back of union hegemony in America.

But Walker is now out.  He used his departure to make the point many Republicans have been saying-there are too many GOP (and other) candidates in the field that are distracting the conservative base. While I always tend to support more candidates in a race, the fact is that too many of the candidates overlap too much.  Trump, Fiorina and Carson are competing for the 'vote the bums out' crowd.  Walker, Rubio and Jindal were competing for the center right crowd.  Huckabee, Cruz and Santorum are competing for the social conservative vote.

The question now becomes how supporters of the candidates who drop out will be embraced by the supporters of those still in the race.  In Minnesota, the three top surviving contenders seem to be (in my opinion) Rubio, Rand and Fiorina.  Completely scientific anecdotal polling on my part.  There are now scores of announced Walker supporters in Minnesota without a candidate, and the other campaigns are rightfully competing to secure their support and endorsements.

The question has been raised by my friend Rob Doar about what happens when, as is widely expected, Rand Paul drops out of the race as well.  As Rob points out, far too many libertarian minded conservatives coalesced in 2012 to support libertarian Kurt Bills for the nomination, then disappreared when the meat of the campaign needed to be lifted by strong backs.

The answer is this; Charlie Brown still has to try to kick the football.

When dealing with fellow conservatives, you have to give each one the benefit of the doubt until they prove themselves guilty of your bad judgement.  You can't judge all Paul supporters, or all libertarians, or all of any specific group, by the interactions you had with one member of said group last month or last year.  You have to judge each person by their actions and statements, otherwise you are guilty of treating groups like liberals do-pandering to or writing off whole groups of people based on nothing but perception.

Charlie Brown always believes Lucy when she says she will hold the ball for him.  We fault him for it, but in politics, 'Lucy' is actually a diverse group of people.  Charlie Brown has to look each Lucy in the eye and judge for himself if she seems trustworthy enough to hold the ball for him.