consultants are sandburs

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The intelligent Ham Lake council majority gave a Moss moon to sewer-water; while ABC newspapers indecently favored the one-vote minority view.

First the good news, sensible council members exist somewhere in the County, indeed, in Ham Lake, and they voted sensibly - except for one.

Eric Hagen of ABC newspapers reported online, July 10:

After listening to a few comments and answering questions from residents, the Ham Lake City Council June 25 approved a draft of the 2030 comprehensive plan.

Drafts of the plan will be sent to neighboring cities, affected school districts and the watershed districts that cover Ham Lake. The council will review the questions and feedback before sending a final draft to the Metropolitan Council.

The council approved the draft comprehensive plan on a 3-1 vote. Councilmember Jolynn Erikson was absent from the meeting because of a prior commitment but sided with Councilmembers Julie Braastad, Gary Kirkeide and Diane Theodorski on the sewer and water vote.

The biggest decision that affected this comprehensive plan was not partnering with the Metropolitan Council or the city of East Bethel to bring sewer and water infrastructure to Ham Lake. The Metropolitan Council cannot have a say in this vote. Rather it reviews each city’s comprehensive plan and states whether it is developing infrastructure in a way to meet the council’s stated goals.

For example, the Metropolitan Council presently classifies Ham Lake as a rural residential community and requires an average density throughout the community of at least 2.5 acres per dwelling unit. Ham Lake will meet that goal in its 2030 comprehensive plan.

Mayor Paul Meunier voted against the 2030 comprehensive plan because he felt it did not set councils up well if council members eventually felt the time was right to bring in sewer and water. An earlier draft version of the plan stated that future councils could consider sewer and water infrastructure development. Meunier wanted this language kept in, but the other four council members did not.

“In my opinion, it’s unrealistic to say we’re going to get to some point and we’re going to stop growing,” Meunier said. “There’s going to be councils down the road that are going to go, ‘What are we going to do for economic development? What are we going to do for growth?’”

Kirkeide said given the economy there may not be much growth in 10 years. He noted that this is really a 10-year plan because the Metropolitan Council requires cities to update its comprehensive plans every 10 years. The 2040 comprehensive plans will be due at the end of 2018 and this plan of course could change the course of what happens before 2030.

Resident Dennis Guimont pointed to the Ham Lake city survey conducted by Decision Resources to state there was support to explore sewer and water. When 400 residents were asked what is the most serious issue facing Ham Lake today, 27 percent said it is the lack of sewer and water. This was the top response followed by 22 percent of the respondents stating there is too much growth.


[emphasis added] Such surveys are suspect without knowing how respondent individuals were chosen, or how questioning was worded. If a sub-neighborhood is having septic tank or well problems, and was disproportionately represented in the survey, the thing is discredited and of no value. The ABC report continued:

Resident Mike Van Kirk referred to a Feb. 12 meeting where around 200 residents showed up and showed a disinterest in bringing in sewer and water.

“I think the people have been forthright and I don’t think that by just keeping the issue alive week after week after week after week after week is going to change their minds,” Van Kirk said.


All that is fine and fair, and there's more to the article than quoted. The link is given above, please read the entire thing. It was fair reporting.

So why this, for the paper:


Well, without giving any other councilmembers, the majority after all, an opportunity to write a counter oped piece, the mayor - the lone wolf championing profligate growth threats who was soundly outvoted by the rest - had a lengthy editorial subsequently published, here, where in it he insinuated his views as if noncontroversial and as if the position he's advocated is favoring lower rather than increased taxation of existing residents:

Public works needs additional storage to protect its equipment from the elements and prolong our investment in these machines. The main building either needs to be expanded or a new one needs to be built. Like the main fire station, it has already been expanded yet we find it now needs many upgrades for it to function effectively in the future. Again, we need to determine the feasibility of adding on versus building a new one. As with the fire station, the council is considering putting out a request for proposals (RFP) to help ascertain the best approach to take on this building.

All of this comes with the state Legislature passing a new law this year which caps cities’ levy increases to 3.9 percent. So much for local control! And the irony is that this has been done by an administration that has repeatedly pushed for more local control by deferring state funding problems to city and county governments.

I know this seems overwhelming, but rest assured no one is suggesting that all of this should be resolved immediately. No one wants to raise taxes, but let’s no longer kid ourselves. Ham Lake has some very pressing needs that must be addressed. These problems are not new and have been on the horizon for some time. How long do we put them off? If a levee is leaking wouldn’t you suggest repairing it before it breaches?

In my opinion, we have two choices – continue to increase property taxes on residential property for many years or allow infrastructure and growth to meet our financial demands. I prefer the latter. In the recent city survey, 58 percent of residents oppose raising taxes to maintain current levels of service and 74 percent oppose increasing taxes to improve services. Since residents don’t want to raise taxes, we need to find an economic engine that will serve the city for the next 15-25 years.

The infrastructure I’m speaking of is commercial development. Commercial property pays nearly twice as much in taxes compared with residential property. Development of a downtown center is not just something that would be nice; it’s something that needs to be done for our long-term health. In the same survey cited above, 50 percent of residents supported the idea as well as 84 percent of the planning task force. Unfortunately, the council rejected the idea and removed all language in the comprehensive plan that outlines this possibility.

Ham Lake has to move forward. Protecting our rural character means becoming proactive and managing growth. The long-term viability of the city depends on our willingness to adapt to these changing times. In my opinion, our unwillingness to allow for infrastructure has placed us behind the eight ball. We now have a very serious financial predicament.


[emphasis added]. As if "moving forward" means agreeing with his opinions, indeed.

The man has a hidden presumption that sewer-water will bring commercial growth but it instead, look at Ramsey, has brought in cheap crowded housing where servicing household needs exceeds the increased tax income. And as if all the rest of the north metro is not also seeking commercial growth, businesses where tax increment financing bribes have to be given and one locale can be played off against another by crafty business owners. Sewer-water brings more costly growth than it generates in added tax income. Ramsey, being profligate in its growth with the present council at fault, is now talking of building a multimillion dollar water plant taking river water, where deep well water sufficed previously. Santa Clause will not pay for that plant. Taxpapers will. The Ham Lake mayor's propaganda for his position neglected to say, regarding local control, that local control worked in his city when the entire balance of the council in an act of local control over profligate growth handed him his head on the notion that Ham Lake should prostitute itself to growth and developers or that taxes would have to rise precipitously.

The claim that housing rooftops lessens tax burden is an urban myth. Ramsey did prostitute itself that way, and look at the relative growth of citizen property tax rate hits that Ramsey people ended up taking year after year over the past eight years, in tax increases, in comparison to Ham Lake which has showed cautious restraint, and report the truth.

Let us hope that out of a sense of fair play and decency, the majority of the Ham Lake city council can submit a counter editorial item, explaining that taxes are being held more in check in their municipality by constricting growth; and that ABC newspapers will be fair, and publish it.

This is what private enterprise is all about. Taking a risk while expecting a reward, but not seeking public subsidy or participation.


Bless private enterprise, when it does not try to leech off of the body politic.

Fountains of Ramsey. A privatly funded venture. We should all wish it well.

See the Tammy Sakry reporting with ABC newspapers, here, see the promoters' website, here.

It is not to have a penny of subsidy [beyond infrastructure already in place, sidewalks and lights at a million dollar price tag] and while the infrastructure spending was questionable, it is already done.

So long as there is no bogus attempt to leech public money, then bless the entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Time for a Reality Check - Is the Ramsey Star Express still as awful a performer as before, dollar-wise, with the lower fare?

Feb. 26, 2008 is when council voted 4 to 2 to drop the Star Express bus fare from $4.50 one way to $2.75 with Dehen and Look opposed, Jeffrey absent. At the time, reality (quoting from council meeting minutes) was:

Case #7: Consider Reduction of Ramsey Star Express Fare to $2.75 Per Ride

Assistant City Administrator Nelson stated that the City's current fare for direct service to downtown Minneapolis is $4.50 per ride. She noted that the current ridership numbers were included in the Council packet. [...] She noted that staff had made assumptions that, with the reduced fare [to $2.75], the ridership would increase. She stated that staff supports reducing the fare.

Mayor Gamec stated that he also supports reducing the fare.

Councilmember Strommen stated that she also supports reducing the fare [... and] stated that all public transportation is subsidized.

Mayor Gamec stated that he feels a huge number of residents commute and this is a service [... to a handful of folks].

Councilmember Dehen stated that he is not sure he wants to pay for someone else to be able to get downtown and feels this whole issue needs Council debate.

Councilmember Look stated that he also doesn't support this because the operating costs are $37,000 monthly and the fare boxes only bring in $7,000. He stated that this service only has about 60 regular riders and he does not feel the drop in fare will increase ridership. He stated that basically with this service, 60 residents are subsidized $500 each month from the other residents of the City. He stated that he feels this is just trying to artificially prove the need for a rail stop in the City and he would like to be able to legitimately prove the need for a rail stop.

Councilmember Olson stated that transportation is very high on the list of priorities for constituents and reiterated Councilmember Strommen's comment that public transportation is subsidized [...]

Councilmember Elvig stated that he feels the fare reduction would definitely increase ridership. He stated that 80% of the funding for this comes from the FTA and he supports bringing money back into the City that residents have already paid. [A non sequitur if there ever was one - people pay taxes at any governmental extraction level hoping it will not be wasted at the level collected or distributed for waste among other governmental levels, the point being don't waste regardless of whether it's from pocket A or pocket B.]

Colin McGlone 9495 - 164 Lane, stated that all citizens use the roadways, so subsidizing that makes sense to him. He stated that subsidizing bus service for 60 people does not make sense [...]

Councilmember Olson stated that the fare reduction adds up to about $17.50 a week and for that amount of savings, she would get in her car and drive to Anoka and get on the bus there. [...]

Etc., etc.


That historical data shows it was wasteful. But staff "made assumptions." Heide Nelson said that. Wow! Assumptions!

I assume a tornado will hit the Norman castle [aka Municipal Center] because God hates ostentatious and outrageous waste and punishes it; so, we all can make assumptions. I'll sell you mine for a dollar three-eighty.

THE POINT: What's the nitty-gritty? The truth?

Now with pump price shock at or passing four bucks a gallon, and time has passed since March 1, so it is appropriate to review the productivity of the change - is it better or worse, is more being lost monthly down the bottomless rathole known as City of Ramsey spending foolishness than before the change, or has there been a shift?

I do not know. I will send an email with this question - a link to the post - to City Administrator Ulrich, CFO Lund, Brian Olson who answered my last Star Express inquiry, and council reps at large, Strommen and Look.

Hopefully one of them, ideally one of the three staff people w/o need to have a council person find the data, will respond in a day or two with the answer.

Better or worse, by how much, i.e., in Councilmember Look's terms, $37,000 per month to operate, (so is it still there, more, or less, given fuel cost escalation), and producing then a grand monthly $7000 income (is it the same thing, better or worse, and by how much)?

Those numbers Look advanced are appalling - fares returning only 19%, not even a fifth of what the thing costs; not twenty cents on the dollar.

It is stupid - or was.

The QUESTION, is it any better now, with the fare reduced?

The theory was, cut the fair, more will ride, etc.

Dehen said if it is to get riders, make it free.

That is a good baseline.

Who would use the thing if it did not cost a thing? Go figure. All cost, no return, what would the true worth, in ridership then be?

Try it, denizens of the Norman castle. If you cannot get ridership for free, bag the entire thing. It's clearly too wasteful if that's the story.

I will publish whatever numbers are given in response.

While Ramsey officials may not like having to give up the numbers they have always been good enough to not stonewall, so I expect a simple answer to a simple question, in comparison to Look's $7000 back for every $37.000 spent back in Feb. 2008, where are we now? $7000 returned on $37,000 [81% down the tubes] WAS fact then; and there is fact now, and we citizens are not mushrooms; we deserve to know.

_______UPDATE________
This is another "father-knows-best" cramdown, unless the numbers prove themselves.

Then if the present numbers back from City of Ramsey is that ridership is up, my questions are, does the Elk River bus charge $2.75, or $4.50? Is ridership down there by an equal number as Ramsey gained, or is usage of the thing, in total, actually growing? Is the only thing shown that people will change from the Elk River bus to the Ramsey bus, for a price differential per ride between $2.75 and $4.50, and if so, what does it prove?

That is a key trifecta of questions.

If it is $4.50 there, in Elk River, then it is simply that it's no trouble driving between Elk River and Ramsey so that people do it for the differential.

Councilmember Olson even clearly said, the minutes reflect it for the discussion, that for $17.50 per month, SHE'D make that drive or the comparable one between Anoka and Ramsey, vs. between Elk River, and Ramsey, which is equivalent.

After all, Ramsey is the place where the RV dealership and the traffic lights are on Highway 10, between Anoka and Elk River - that's always been the truthful definition. (And to most living in Ramsey that reality is not a major life crisis or problem - not to those lacking a big council center seat ego. They live with it, joke over it, it's a point of minor amusement, but it's not a problem.)

Bottom line, if a councilmember would as soon drive from Ramsey to one of the near stops for a price of $17.50 per month, she's priced it so that it is crystal clear that Ramsey does not need to cause millions to be spent, and Dave Elvig, it is irrelevant whether it is FTA tax money or local tax money - IT IS TAX MONEY - so don't waste it.

So - a hypothetical - if Olson is right, Ramsey's "need" for a NorthStar stop is "justified" only by a $17.50 per month payment to each of her hypothetical commuters.

Why spend a truckload of public cash in a train stop cramdown if the TRUTH is that for the few who ride it, having that extra stop is at best worth - has a benefit in balance against the cost - of $17.50 per rider per month. That's minuscule.

So, is a Ramsey stop just one more extravagant and unneeded part of the entire Dan "The Trainman" Erhart's dream scenario?

Yes, it can later at an appropriate time be added to a fledged out transit system for the twenty-first century if/when justified; but no, it makes no real sense making it a present part of the next transit-plan piece when all the entire NorthStar thing does is drop you downtown where you can quickly get to Mall of America or the airport, or walk, or stand in crappy weather waiting for a slow and infrequently run bus, to somewhere.

Few have the need to only get downtown every day, and back in evening rush hour. If you have to stay overtime, even at a downtown desk job, you miss the few trains during peak hours, and have to take a cab, or a slow, infrequently run evening bus.

Very few work downtown desk jobs where a car is not needed during the day. Customer sales and site-based service providers get no help. That includes building and repair contractors, or the person who fixes or upgrades the phones or workstation network - in Champlin, in Fridley, in Nowthen, where needed; much less the worker whose job is a normal workday length desk job, but in Plymouth.

Considerations in the last paragraphs go to the economics of the entire NorthStar train dream; whereas leaving Ramsey fine as is and without a train stop goes to not making it more costly by millions - eight figures at least in additional cost - simply for Ramsey to have a stop added in addition to nearby stops in Anoka and Elk River.

Starting and stopping a train every ten or twelve miles makes little sense. But that's the distance reality, Ramsey to Elk River or Ramsey to Anoka. And driving Ramsey to Elk River, is a drive against rush-hour flow and you get a better seat that way by frontrunning the Anoka stop. And you'd have to drive anyway, to get from home to a Ramsey stop, you already are in the car, and another ten minutes against the grain of the heavy traffic not in it, is no real burden. Simply make certain there is enough parking in Elk River for the demand, and the job's finished, reasonably, not at extreme extra cost.

The marginal benefit of a few less minutes drive for people living in Ramsey does not justify the capital cost investment, especially now if there's no grid of other rapid transit spokes from downtown to other locales.

Those are the logical next pieces to go with Hiawatha. Invest the spending there, not dropped into another sizable increment to the already gigantic cost of NorthStar.

BOTTOM LINE: $17.50 per head per month IN BENEFIT is hardly justification for more colossal sized waste in Ramsey. Having a NorthStar stop in Ramsey fails, in the cost-benefit analysis, despite the hand-wringing of "oh, please, just one more stop."

It doesn't compute.

Save the FTA, the federal government, the world from that waste, please, if Councilmember Olson's price differential of $17.50 is a legitimate pricing of the benefit, per rider, that would arise from the humongo cost.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bob Anderson, the IP candidate in Minnesota's Sixth District.

Christopher Truscott indicates this week he will be publishing an interview with Bob Anderson. For those of us unhappy with the major party front runners, Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann and DFL challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg, Anderson is someone to look at. If palatable as an alternative, that would be good news.

So far, Aubrey Immelman in the GOP primary looks sound, more so than Bachmann which is faint praise, but he must win the primary or he will not be a ballot box option in the general election.

Anderson, whatever his characteristics, will be on the final ballot.

Again, Truscott posts in advance of his doing the interview, so we should keep checking his blog for that item. I will publish notice of it when I see it posted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

RAMSEY Council candidates are yet to be listed on the City's website.

I went from the Ramsey homepage, "Frequently Accessed Information," and followed its link [in the blue box area] to the "Election Information" link.

No candidate listing showed up that way.

My guess is it will be Monday or Tuesday and they will be listed.

Am I wrong? Is there a City listing online that I missed?

Did I miss something? It is City news.

I have an unofficial list of names, only, and I am uncertain of spelling.

Rather than posting that I will link to the city's listing, once I determine that link. When the City does post things they give mailing address and other contact info if a candidate wants that released. I prefer email addresses to phone tag if I have a question - and then months later closer to the general election I can see if a position has evolved from an earlier email answer.

The foreclosure followup to the real estate bubble. Is there a political solution? What should/can federal, state and local government do?

First data, outside of Anoka County, south of the Twin Cities.

Fairbault Daily News, online:




By Jim Hammerand
Posted: Saturday, July 19, 2008 11:45 pm

More residents are finding Sheriff’s Deputies at their doors with foreclosure papers as the housing turmoil in Rice County is on pace to shatter projections just halfway through the year.

The Rice County Sheriff’s Department, tasked with delivering notices and holding foreclosure sales, said this week that 203 mortgages in the county had been foreclosed on as of July 17, a pace that will soon overtake the tally for all of 2007 of 235.


Reporter Hammerand in the full article indicates the problem banks face. Homeowner plight is well understood. However, a bank buying at its own mortgage foreclosure sale has several problems, certainly for the short-term in a depressed housing market. This is particularly so if a mortgage is abandoned because the present market value is lower than the mortgage amount, a negative equity situation, which can arise if the market drops badly and a maximal mortgage amount was financed. The situation can be worsened if bad appraisal data was relied upon, say 110% above then market value because of error, and the bank financed 80% of that. Then if the bank buys at its foreclosure sale and present quick-turnaround yield is less than the balance owed, the bank can lose - with greater loss arising from either a highly depressed market or a bank chasing as quick a cash-out as feasible. If many foreclosures are involved the pressure from regulators and sound banking principles is to not hold too big an illiquid asset set, i.e., to go for the quick sales.

And my understanding is whether a foreclosure is done judicially or nonjudicially, there is a redemption period involving junior lien holder rights, even if the foreclosure is done in a way that forecloses occupancy rights if the terms of the mortgage included an occupancy right waiver/forefeiture provision.

Some banker reading this more familiar with the procedures can correct me if I am wrong. But basically, there is a time frame going against immediate cashing out a foreclosed situation. I realize the nonjudicial foreclosure process is almost universally used, because time in litigation can means years instead of months.

So, small local banks suffer, home buyers suffer, and Bear Stearns suffered.

So far, only Bear Stearns got a bailout from Uncle Sam, from the Federal Reserve actually, which is not exactly Uncle Sam. It is a banker's bank, with federal oversight but private ownership. Yet it manages and prints everybody's money and is answerable to Congress. The Fed propped things up so that the investment bank bone picker that took the operation over was less at risk.

Fairbault is used as an example. It shows, it is a statewide phenomenon.

The focal question is what can be done to lessen the suffering? Or, more accurately, can government really do anything short of an extremely costly bailout for the banks and homeowners at risk? And then, should everyone's tax money be used to benefit a subpopulation that made bad risk taking decisions? Is that fair to everyone else?

The House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Barney Frank and with Minnesota's Michele Bachmann and Kieth Ellison as members, is wrestling with those questions at present. That is a federal level, nationwide viewpoint. The problem is national is scope. Minnesota alone, and its local jurisdictions are even less fit to do anything than the federal government. And there remain two key questions - the policy question of how far should the federal government go, and the implementation question of what effective means do they have to do anything short of either spending an awful lot to mop up, or spending little but putting rules in place aimed at making things better for mortgage lending practices in the future.

Answer for yourselves, should everyone pay to rescue bad risk taking by a subpopulation? That policy issue seems to be the heart of things. The people who did not bite off more than they could chew, or who were able to buy before the bubble got bad and have paid-off their homes - they were fortunate in timing, and prudent and frugal. They could have lived more comfortably short-term, but took their risks carefully and stayed within their means. Should their tax dollars go to rescue others who perhaps enjoyed themselves more instead of being as prudent?

Do you or your children want to pay higher taxes to subsidize now some family that bought too big a home, added a wing, and also bought a boat, several vehicles traded in frequently, and recreational motorized things and now is in a crunch? If not that, what about some mom and pop that remortgaged a home to help the kids out or to cover a medical cost, and now cannot meet payments? There is a range of causes for foreclosures.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A nation of whiners. The immigration problem. They won't even learn English. Many are moving to stay.

Here.

In its cease and desist letter, the committee cited four trademarks: the elephant, “GOP,” “Grand Old Party,” and “Republican National Committee.”

Stupidity rampant, see here, here and here (screenshot from the first Politico item).




Decide for yourself. What is the bound to permissible commercial speech? What is the Elephant Cash Cow worth?

This does look to be about symbols as means to enhance cash flow. It looks to not be about ideology, but marketing opportunity. Bless them all. For the good will their dispute inspires in the voting public.

And what is "fair use" of a Google Image, on a non-commercial, individual, unaffiliated blog? I have used Google Images, I contend it was fair use, as with excerpts and images from copyrighted news outlets, or candidate campaign sites.

I have corresponded by email with reporters on occasion, about published news items, and my commentary and their thoughts or reactions.

Never once have I been requested - yet - to remove an item based upon proprietary argument. Based upon an infringement contention, on a claim of going beyond fair use.

That is non-commercial use, non-commercial speech. Strictly read, the Constitution's text does not draw any distinctions between commercial and non-commercial speech. However, as with any short tightly worded item of fundamental grounding, interpretation in case-by-case fashion is needed.

In this case, was there overreaching?

Whine, snivel and whimper over what you did to poor Mr. Gramm.

Phil Gramm, innovative inventor of the Enron Loophole, has now joined the parade of former McCain staff/aides, leaving ranks for having embarrassed the good Admiral more than the good Admiral has embarrassed himself - some by lobbying for repressive juntas, others for not merely opening their mouths but by uttering words while doing so. Gramm had a foot in each camp, lobbying while in Congress for the vile Enron junta, and - well, whining about whiners.

To memoralize the sad event of yet another McCain departure, I excerpt from an abject confession of one of the counterproductive whiners who led to and fed the Gramm departure, and he is of all things, a Pennsylvania newspaperman - of the species of whiners who probably whined over that wonderfully gifted and inspired Senator Santorum, whining him into a departure - by whining from a press soapbox to voters who took up the whine, and whined all the way to the polling place to be able to whine against Santorum at, of all places, ballot-boxes.

What a bunch. What a place for whining. The ingrates were just unappreciative of all that leadership has given. But at least now one will stand and confess his guilt; Reg Henry, columnist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who has his confession broadcast coast to coast, with me in between, only excerpting.

On behalf of the whiner community, I would like to say a few characteristically depressing words about the economy.

As former Sen. Phil Gramm said recently, whiners like myself are having a mental recession when it comes to the economy. I have to admit this is true. My mentality long ago receded so much it took my hair with it.

Just this week I did a bit of whining when I looked at my retirement investments and realized that I will have to work for perhaps another 30 years past my projected retirement date.

Of course, that assumes there will be a newspaper industry to work in.

I have suggested to management that we use our circulation system to deliver breakfast pizzas with news printed on the box.

Unfortunately, it's not just the word factories that are hurting. It seems that every industry has its problems, with the possible exception of the repossession industry. But to say this is to contribute to the gloom and doom that apparently is the only brake on the Bush administration's economic plans from taking flight on the wings of eagles.

Today I want to apologize for any excessive, recessive mental doubting on my part that may have caused the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the wholesale export of jobs overseas, through-the-roof gas prices, the devalued dollar and the failed IndyMac Bancorp, which had the bad manners to have its assets seized just after Mr. Gramm blamed all the economic bad news on Whiner Nation.

Worse yet, Starbucks is closing 600 of its stores, which threatens to end American civilization as we know it.

It's sobering to think what we whiners and moaners have wrought, but that's what Mr. Gramm, a top economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, suggested -- and who is to say he is wrong, except, you know, we whiners. To his credit, Mr. McCain immediately disavowed his adviser's remarks perhaps because "Let Them Eat Cake" is not the best slogan for his campaign.

Still, I feel a personal sense of responsibility. IndyMac was the second-largest financial institution in U.S. history to close and I hate to think it was my fault even in a collective sense.

For his part, President Bush, who has long insisted that the fundamentals of the economy are sound, even as the incidentals rained down on the heads of we the whiners, had his own reassuring words at his recent White House news conference.

Mr. Bush conceded, just a teensy bit, that things could be better, but suggested we are still hopping along the bunny trail to prosperity. He also said that offshore drilling wouldn't produce a barrel of oil anytime soon, "but it will reverse the psychology."

It's all in our heads, even when it's in our wallets.


But don't worry. There's a surge for everything, even if not an answer. Or is, "Surge the debt," what has come to be a GOP answer? Surge the pump price? Surge the bankruptcies, the lawyers need the prosperity; there is a gaining sector even when another loses.

It must be a working strategy, surging. After all, it is being copied, Sen. Obama surging in the polls, his party pushing to surge to victory in November. The surge mentality must be the answer to all the whining, or else it would not be so imitated.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Ron Paul people felt Ron Carey and other GOP folks were unfair. So who is Ron Paul, and what can I learn from him about Iraq or Iran?

"Who is Ron Paul," is like asking, "Who is John Galt," in the Ayn Rand book, and Paul's stance on fiat money is reminiscent of Ayn Rand, and of Alan Greenspan's writing on the gold standard back in the days before being the bankers' banker when he instead was an Ayn Rand groupie (aka an "Objectivist"). See, e.g., here and here re Greenspan views in the 1970's, and here re Greenspan and Ron Paul in a colloquy.


There is more.

If you want a different perspective on Iraq and Iran from a Republican other than the Republicans in the White House who brought you fear and reaction to it, I am not going to quote or excerpt.

Do the serious reading. It is online, cogently written, and generally sensible if you accept the premise Ron Paul may be hammering away at the notion of "fiat money" a bit more than needed to make his points.

It is here, here and here, well stated.

You do not have to agree 100% with him to weigh whether some things he says, independent of other things he says, does or does not ring true and make more sense than some of the simplistic things coming from Bush-Cheney about Iran-Iraq, and from Gingrich about how further deregulation of profligate highly concentrated oil interests will result, some magical way, in "Pay Less" at the gas station pump.

Swallowing that big lie requires a willing suspension of disbelief, when such a suspension is not at all merited. Go ahead. Disbelieve. It is a bunch of hooey.

It is smoke and mirrors, pure smoke and mirrors, and Ron Paul makes more sense than any of that trashcan full of painfully redundant current GOP propagandizing.

No wonder the Ron Carey types feel uncomfortable, and censorial.

For the Ron Paul factions' frustrations with Ron Carey et al, in context, and for counter rhetoric, see, e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and Residual Forces, here, here and here.

The opening item in that string of cites, from Political Animal, is succinct, and uses quotes well. The MinnPost.com item about Ron Paul is particularly good reporting, with a host of reader comments.

For those saying what about a McCain-Paul ticket, well, Pelosi is likely to remain Speaker of the House, with a Dem majority remaining to keep her third in the succession line, and with those two old gaffers, Nancy will stand ready.

Today's unofficial Housing Pain Barometer.

Friday, July 18, Anoka County Union, paper edition, Sections D and E, 46 pages of mortgage foreclosure legal notices.

46 pages!

I pulled a site specific Google search on Crabgrass; the first post on this "unofficial housing pain barometer" is here, May 26, 2008, where I noted some "baseline" foreclosure page-count data:

For a local and anecdotal comparison, an arguable baseline or trend - Anoka County Union past legal notices section -- Oct. 18, 2002, 8-1/2 pages; Feb. 27, 2004, 13 pages; March 26, 2004, 13 pages; Apr. 2, 2004, 11 pages; Nov. 5, 2004, eleven pages; Nov. 12, 2004, 9-1/2 pages; Feb. 11, 2005, 9-1/2pages; March 11, 2005, 10-1/2 pages; June 16, 2006, 17 pages; and earlier this month, May 9, 2008, 36 pages.

Last Friday, it was "only" 42 pages, see here.


This is bigger than pump price shock.

This is people losing their home, their equity, their investment hope for a springboard into a bigger-better home, with this as entry.

Pump price shock, we can work around. Lose the home, get into a negative equity position, it is not a downturn or a shock, it's a depression-recession, big time.

It's a GOP dollar depreciation too. It is a failure in market regulation when the Bush-Cheney team picked who would run the banking and investment watchdog agencies while the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac ventures heated up before the fall, while mortgages were being securitized (along with CDOs, collateralized Debt Obligations being floated in the investment community) into "tranches" with the tail end being termed in that financing trade, appropriately enough, the "toxic waste" of the offering:

The issuer of the CDO, typically an investment bank, earns a commission at time of issue and earns management fees during the life of the CDO. An investment in a CDO is therefore an investment in the cash flows of the assets, and the promises and mathematical models of this intermediary, rather than a direct investment in the underlying collateral. This differentiates a CDO from a mortgage or a mortgage-backed security (MBS).

The loss of an investor's principal is applied in reverse order of seniority (i.e., highest credit risk tranches to lowest). The senior tranche is protected by the subordinated security structure; thus, it is the most highly rated tranche. The equity tranche (also known as the first-loss tranche or "toxic waste") is most vulnerable, and has to offer higher coupons to compensate for the higher risk.


Now it ALL is looking more and more like bail-out time toxic waste. You bet it goes up and you profit, you bet and it goes down, ask the GOP for a bail-out.

Nice world, that way. Nice friendly GOP, after all, it's only taxpayer money, not any office holder's. Finance the bailout as with the war, by issuing more debt or money.

I.e., by inflation, i.e., by debasing the currency.

The three major party candidates in the Sixth District all hold advanced degrees. So what are candidate stances on post-graduate excellence?

It is interesting to consider the "education question" not as usually cast, K-12 and the dire costs of obtaining a BA these days, even at a "State school."

An education is important for upward mobility opportunity, with Al Franken being an example where doors might have been less open had he not had the opportunity to attend Harvard. But that does not go to the question of the need to maintain absolute post-graduate excellence at the U.Minn. Twin Cities campus, now and steadily into the future, when funding for that might not be as plentiful as during "Sputnik" days I can recall.

So, Tinklenberg holds a theology degree from a private school, Northwestern; Bachmann got her law degree from Oral Roberts; and Immelman earned his series of degrees from University of Port Elizabeth, (which sounds as if he is the only graduate of exclusively public university training). Apparently renamed Nelson Mandela Municipal University, there still is an active "www.upe.ac.za" web address.

Presumably while studying in Psychology Immelman either utilized Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant aid or had it available and is familiar with how post-graduate education availability is often dependent on such assistance capability.

The ultimate question for the three - where do you stand on maintaining post-graduate excellence at the Twin Cities campus along with plentiful available post-graduate financial aid where needed [it being more frequent that post-graduate education might involve a marriage with possibly the only family income being from a teaching or research assistanceship, something especially true for Post-Doc research, which reaches an older population segment]?

Is it an, "I worked my way through, others can," mentality, or "My parents paid, other parents can," mentality, or is it a recognition and strong and perhaps unwaivering support for advanced education training, as a social benefit to us all and something all should share in funding?

I would hope each of the three advanced degree holders would publicly take a stance.

Because if you are for it, you have to be for funding it, and that means it is a priority over funding something else because you see the long-term social benefit.

If post-graduate excellence is not funded, it will not be maintained. The best scholars are the ones most vigorously recruited by the other excellent universities, public and private, in our nation. Indeed, Prof. Immelman appears to have been recruited internationally, which is not an uncommon thing, either.

More Fundraising - Third Congressional District - Millions at play.

Other reports are online, this is from Political Animal:

Madia 3rd District candidacy tops $1 million

Ashwin Madia's campaign for retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad's 3rd District seat has generated almost $1.1 million in campaign contributions so far.

Madia, a Democrat, announced today that his campaign raised almost $700,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with about $740,000 cash on hand.

Last week, Republican congressional candidate Erik Paulsen said he raised more than $600,000 in the second quarter, giving him more than $1.1 million in cash.

Independence Party candidate David Dillon was well behind those two. Dillon reported raising slightly more than $16,000 in the quarter, providing him about that much cash on hand.


Madia, relative to his opponent, a non-incumbent, has done better than non-incumbent Elwyn Tinklenberg in the Sixth. Paulsen, also a non-incumbent, lags slightly behind Bachmann's Sixth District total on hand, with Bachmann the incumbent.

It appears the Third District a focal contest locally and nationally. I expect the GOP also aims to fight to hold its two incumbent posts, Bachmann and Col. Kline.

MPR reports on Aubrey Immelman.

Below is the screenshot, so you can click and read the introductory notes. I encourage using this link to read the entire MPR item.

UPDATE --- GOP candidate Aubrey Immelman. Plus some questions.

Immelman: He has a contribute window on the website, for donations online, and there is a post office box address for snail mail sending checks.

He is a GOP candidate, and Anderson appears to have not retreated from his filing as an IP candidate for the Sixth District Congressional position. As noted, Anderson appears to have been the only IP candidate to have filed, and so should not face a primary ballot. It appears only the GOP will have a primary. If anyone has filed as a DFL challenger I have not seen that reported, so if any reader knows of a challenge, please leave a comment.

Immelman has been updating the site's news, see his homepage.

Here, he has posted information about his thinking on immigration. Unfortunately, he like the other candidates indicates it is problematic, without proposing any concrete solutions. Any reader believing either Tinklenberg or Bachmann have taken a concrete policy position, please post a comment and link to where that might be stated.

Saying the plumbing is broken is different from saying "I can fix it, here's how."

Immelman's website indicates two other policy/issue areas he will address in coming days.

He looks to be a serious GOP candidate, and an alternative to Michele Bachmann. His homepage news blurbs indicate a position on the war differing substantially from that of Bachmann.

FEC filing uncertainty and lack of publicly released polling numbers: Immelman, as a recent entrant having filed during the July filing period, may not need to do FEC reporting except starting for the third quarter. I do not know what financial reporting FEC requires that way. Using figures Blue Man first posted, I have also posted about the Tinklenberg and Bachmann numbers.

Anderson, the IP entrant is in a recent-filing position similar to Immelman. (Something also holding for the newly filed Senate candidates.)

I expect whatever filing is required of either of the new Sixth District entrants will be watched by the existing campaigns; Tinklenberg people watching Anderson; and the Bachmann people watching Immelman. All that with Tinlenberg and Bachmann people watching each other's FEC reporting, and doing polling which neither, for now is making public.

If anyone has seen any early polling, Tinklenberg vs Bachmann, please post a link in a comment.

_______UPDATE_________
For new readers, If I catch a typo or see an awkward unclear sentence I might rewrite that in a post. Usually, I try to keep it as originally written, with added thoughts via an "UPDATE" footnote like this one.

An issue flag I put up while discussing Lord Faris and Franken, and the Lord Faris Friday 7 pm appearance on Almanac, where I see NOTHING on the Immelman website, is healthcare, with the following what I said while posting about Lord Faris:

For me the big ISSUES question is: In reasonable detail how do you propose to fix or work to fix healthcare? Single payer government run universal coverage with insurance only to meet extended risk coverage but having no place in core coverage; or less? Do your view healthcare as a right, or a privilege?


I understand a "Ron Paul conservative" might say it should remain a private sector thing, and a Goldwater conservative might look to Reagan's nomination speech where he discussed Goldwater's dedication to providing first rate employee coverage. With globalization a related question is whether our domestic corporate operations are at a disadvantage with healthcare being employer paid, while competing European-sited firms have government healthcare programs where the added cost is not directly carried by firms operating there.

And the multinationals operate everywhere, and shift jobs one place or another based in part on such costs, and other market factors, including lax or stringent environemntal regulation. European firms with US affiliates, for their employees in the US, do the normal thing since there is no government run program. And Ford, in Canada, takes advantage of Canada's excellent universal coverage single payer system.

I hope that at some point Immelman defines himself on healthcare.

He is running against a primary opponent, Michele Bachmann, who in the 2006 cycle DID NOT PROVIDE ANY healthcare coverage for the family's clinic workers at Bachmann & Associates - and still might be doing that.

Tinklenberg is on record from the Anoka Q&A pre-endorsement session. Tinklenberg Group employees are covered, line of business, "transportation services."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two DFL Senate Candidates - Lord Faris now has a campaign website.

Franken has been a candidate for some time. He faced two formidable pre-convention opponents and gained a first ballot DFL party endorsement.

Lord Faris entered during the July filing period for the primary without much, if any, advanced notice.

Franken has had a website for a long time. His staff has kept it current, with frequent homepage updating.

Lord Faris now has a webpage.

It is clearly in construction, with no "ISSUES" toggel yet, on the top menu line.

Here are top screen shots from each candidate's site, as of today, Thurs. July 17, 2008. As always, click on an image to enlarge it to read.








Site links are: Lord Faris ---- Franken.

THE BIG NEWS: Advance notice, Lord Faris will be on Almanac tomorrow.

There is no indication of format, whether it will be a meet the candidates for discussion, or what.

Earlier opponents Franken faced, Jack Nelson Pallmeyer and Mike Ciresi, have already had a public say about who they are, why they felt their candidacy best, and what they felt on the issues.

Franken had the delegate votes. He was popular enough, that way.

He is the endorsed candidate.

Lord Faris has chosen to simply bypass the entire winnowing process. That is a start facing skepticism. If the most promising candidate, why the delay?

For me the big ISSUES question is: In reasonable detail how do you propose to fix or work to fix healthcare? Single payer government run universal coverage with insurance only to meet extended risk coverage but having no place in core coverage; or less? Do your view healthcare as a right, or a privilege?

I await an answer, completely, from either Franken or Lord Faris.

At the endorsement conventin, Franken faced an air of problematic opposition, not from another candidate but from McCollum and her dissatisfactions, which perhaps never were resolved to McCollum's satisfaction.

But others moved on.

Now Lord Faris [it's hard to discuss her without sounding as if someone from the British House of Lords is under discussion]; Lord Faris is saying that her candidacy is premised mainly on a worry that Franken is slipping, losing it, and for unclear reasons might not prevail against Norm Coleman where she, somehow, could.

Present poll results have been mentioned. However, early polling traditionally is unreliable. (Indeed, at times last cycle Wetterling looked like the winner in a Sixth District Congressional race ultimately won clearly, by Bachmann.)

And then, whose poll is it, and how were the questions sequenced and worded?

That is relevant when somebody wants to sell you some set of poll numbers.


Lord Faris has biographical info on the website. This Friday's Almanac appearance will be her key opportunity to answer the question begging attention, "Why me."


The contest has not been cast as about what Franken says on the issues, it is about what is wrong about Norm Coleman and right about me, candidate Lord Faris, that will defeat Coleman while I say Franken cannot defeat Coleman. I have yet to hear a line of cogent reasoning that way.

Surely, once Lord Faris' ISSUES are added to the website we will have a better view.

And if it is ISSUES-lite, as too many websites opt for these days, she will have a hard time charging from several lengths behind the front runner late in the race, to win a DFL primary.

The Friday, 7 pm Almanac show on PBS will be the start of our being able to see who she is and what she has to say.

I will try to catch the show, and I hope she's on an early segment so I don't have to wait through boring stuff -

Run it first, PBS guys. It is important. It's what we care about for now.


Strangely, Lord Faris says Franken is right on the issues but her candidacy is largely a claim that she feels she has a better cause for voters to favor her over Coleman, than to favor Franken over Coleman. She must convincingly explain that.

Obviously, there is no polling that way, and it would be unfair to put an as yet "new face" into a polling test this early, before she has appeared publicly.

Again, that is cause to watch Almanac. And because she is the new candidate I will excerpt reporting; link to here for the full item:

"I am concerned that the Franken campaign has squandered a lead and fallen behind in the polls even as Barack Obama has opened up a wide double-digit lead," Lord Faris said. She praised Franken for his two-year commitment to the campaign and his ability to raise large sums of money for other DFL candidates as well as his own campaign but questioned his electability given the downward movement of his campaign. She cited a recent poll that stated had Jesse Ventura entered the race, he and Franken would have been neck-and-neck, as further evidence of the weakness in the Franken campaign.

"Make no mistake: I am in this race to win. My candidacy is 100 percent aimed at replacing Norm Coleman this November with a U.S. senator whose legislative and policy positions are consistent with the views and priorities of most Minnesotans, and not just a rubber stamp for the Bush-Cheney agenda that most Minnesotans oppose," said Lord Faris.

"This Senate seat is not just one vote. It is potentially the 60th vote in the Senate which can break the gridlock and help get us back on the right track. With President Obama and 60 Democratic votes we can end the war in Iraq and invest in jobs, infrastructure, education and health care. These are the urgent needs that the Bush-Cheney-Coleman team chooses to ignore," Lord Faris stated.

Lord Faris emphasized that Franken was right on most issues but said she shared the concern of many other DFL'ers that the campaign had failed to connect with Minnesotans.


That polls say yadda, yadda, is, well, Ventura was well behind Coleman and Humphrey all the polling time, and won the election. That argument does not hold water. If the position is in case something very bad happens before the primary to hurt Franken, there is another DFL option. If things go sour after the primary, as with the late Wellstone death, it is too late, so this is a safety net candidacy lasting into September? Or is there more to it? But, saying the polls bother her now, well fine, they don't bother me and apparently don't bother Franken. Had Ventura running for governor relied on polls he'd have quit before winning. Polls - give me more, please, they are of limited credibility.

And Franken DOES have real personal credibility, as well as being sound on the issues.

If Franken is "flawed" as some say, Christopher Truscott has blogged that, the vagueness of that kind of claim, the subjectivity, is its problem. It is a feeling, unless more against him exists than has so far been leveled by GOP interests. Or if Franken "squandered a lead" what lead was that. Early alterations in polling is a tenuous thing to contend as justification for avoiding the endorsement process, then entering, with vague "worry" over early polling.

His slip in the polls has an easy explanation, the nominating convention was not that far in the past and he was publicly assailed needlessly from within DFL ranks and that assault on his character more than anything may have "squandered" hypothetical leads.

If it is Betty McCollum attacked him, and now I am running, more is needed.

It is quite early, and you pay the fee you can have a primary that is how the rules work so Lord Faris is fully justified that way; yet the question I have for Lord Faris is, "Why you?"

As with Jack Nelson Pallmeyer, explain that - and to my feelings Jack did and he was my choice, but others voted, I did not, and he yielded to the endorsement process.

I identify with Al Franken. Growing up in the Twin Cities without any special privileged childhood, having a chance at education, leaving to see much of the larger world and to graduate from Harvard and prosper in an unconventional career without ever losing sight of his roots, without turning his back on where he'd come from, and then living some time in Hollywood and New York settings but staying normal, married and in love over thirty years and raising children who by all appearances turned out well -- all of that leads me to say I have no problem at all voting for Al Franken - certainly not when looking at Norm Coleman as an alternative.

So why not stick with Al? That's the thing Lord Faris has to convincingly show. Saying, I agree with Al on the issues but I am more electable then go on -- say:

Why?

_______________
It seems almost a perceptible unspoken undercurrent exists, can Al Franken sufficiently connect with women voters? Has he burned some kind of bridge?

There was that gender dimension to the McCollum criticism, and the current Franken web homepage has a focus on women voters.

Oberstar, of the other gender, said let him go to the convention, apologize for extreme satire and disown it, then get him endorsed and move on.

So, is it an unspoken gender appeal issue, or something else that makes some say Franken is flawed? I do not see it. I do not know any women in my small circle of acquaintance who have that problem. Aside from family, I know a former Ramsey council member who liked Franken early on, she said so when I favored Ciresi and Nelson Pallmeyer more (but thought all three candidates outstanding).

Why not Franken? He had the delegates. He received the nomination. He looks fine to me.

He is no outsider. He grew up here. His roots are here. More than Coleman, for certain. He is a good man. What's not to like? Why a late challenge, other than as a safety net, in case ...

Wind Power - It is not the quaint Dutch tourist windmills kept as historic preservation.

When wind power is discussed, at the utility scale where economies of scale are such that unsubsidized fully grid-connected units are feasible, and away from urban areas where noise is a worry, the scale of things should be realized.

Not that the unit Anoka shall be acquiring, if all things work out as reproted, will equal this image, from the Danes who have been leading innovators, online here but without the image in the English language version, there is this:


There is a lot of aerodynamic engineering that goes into a blade design, and manufacturing methods, involving performance and cost effective constraints, are still evolving. The standard design because of mechanical stresses is three blades in a roter rather than two, and the power varies as the swept area, so longer blades on higher platforms allow larger generators to be driven. The trick is to ramp up to optimal output and then to control the blade pitch, its angular positioning relative to the direction of the wind, to get a long flat power output without overloading and damaging the generator or gearbox. Storm resiliency is an engineering necessity. It is highly sophitiscated optimized design and manufacturing at the utility scale, not quaint and rustic in any historically preserved sense. It is state of art technology.

And it is an area that will offer skilled and decent paying jobs in the near term future, onward, depending on the rate of deployment. And that depends on the varying market dynamics in oil. If long term pricing holds as now at the pump, wind will be exploited sooner, if there is a drop-back to forestall energy alternative development as has happened in the past, full realization of the potential of wind power will grow more slowly. But it will grow. There will be jobs in the sector.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bjorn Skogquist, always a citizen, progressive, and always responsible.

I have written, here, about how attentive to the twenty-first century Anoka's gaining a wind turbine is. In stark contrast to talkers Anoka, under Mayor Skogquist, is acting. And acting progressively. A smart man, and a smart town.

I have used this image previously, to good advantage. It was prescient.



Now this Strib online news.

Anoka mayor sets sights on county board; other races set
By PAUL LEVY and LORA PABST, Star Tribune staff writers
Last update: July 15, 2008 - 9:45 PM


Bjorn Skogquist -- the four-term Anoka mayor who was 22 years old when he first filed for candidacy eight years ago -- filed Tuesday for the county commissioner's seat that Dan Erhart has held since 1982.

Eugene Rogers, a longtime Coon Rapids resident, is also running.

Four candidates filed to run for mayor of Anoka, prompting a primary. Erik Skogquist, 24, filed for his brother's seat.

The two other county commissioners' races are also primary-bound. In the fifth district, incumbent Scott LeDoux, of Andover, is being challenged by Becky Fink and Daniel A. Nelson, both of Coon Rapids. In the sixth district, incumbent Rhonda Sivarajah, of Lino Lakes, will face Kevin Ryan, of Stacy, and Patrick Davern, of Lino Lakes.

Skogquist, who said he has pushed historic preservation in the city of Anoka and helped establish housing standards, was just 4 years old when Erhart became a commissioner.


For everything there is a season, a time. A time to cast away stones.

I sincerely hope Mayor Skogquist, in running, will press for detail as to why a 1.2 acre patch of land crammed right next to a loud and extremely busy pair of railroad tracks was acquired by the County, for over a half million dollars per acre, when it was not a location-dependent use, and when that use, a County-owned morgue, did not add a single penny to Ramsey's needful Town Center tax base.

It was a lose-lose situation for Ramsey taxpayers, and county taxpayers. I think Mayor Bjorn Skogquist should have forestalling needless waste as a point of his campaign.

If the fact Jim Deal was seller is at all at play, as a deciding factor in the purchase going down, then the issue of possible cronyism could also be raised by Mayor Skogquist as a question begging an answer.


___________________
For those interested in the dinosaur extinction question, there are over a hundred thirty-one thousand Google returns, including one University of Vermont geology professor's favored extinction theory, with the lead photo a part. When I first used the image Google returned over a million hits; so they are tuning and changing their retrieval algorithms.

A manure spreader recently held a press conference showing why manure spreaders seldom do that.

Here.

Read it and laugh.

Guardian has interesting coverage. Steve Bell nails the cartoon.



Cartoon link here, below reporting here.

British and US companies win Iraq oil contracts
Matthew Weaver - guardian.co.uk - Monday June 30, 2008


The Iraqi government is to award a series of key oil contracts to British and US companies later today, fuelling criticism that the Iraq war was largely about oil.

The successful companies are expected to include Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total.

Non-Western companies, notably those in Russia, are expected to lose out.

The technical support contracts will give the companies access to Iraq's vast untapped oil fields. Oil production in Iraq is at its highest level since the invasion in 2003. The Iraqi government wants to increase production by 20%, as the country has an estimated 115bn barrels of crude reserves.

The US state department was involved in drawing up the contracts, the New York Times reported today.

It provided template contracts and suggestions on drafting but were not involved in the decisions, US officials said.

Democratic senators last week lobbied that the awarding of the contracts should be delayed until after the Iraqi parliament passes laws on the distribution of oil revenues.

Frederick Barton, senior adviser at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told the paper: "We pretend it [oil] is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is."

Last year Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve said: "Everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."


It sure looks like the Coalition of the Willing is willing to divide spoils. I have not seen any French or German petroleum interests having a plate at the table. Given relative scale of involvement, the Poles probably got one oil well, as willing to accept it after being willing earlier.

You'd have to think that Schlumberger is established and capable of helping this former Ottoman colonial region that transited to British control as part of the post World War I breakup of the Ottoman Empire, gaining at that point the ethnically mixed national boundaries holding at present, with the British, as in India, siding with a minority population given control and in need of British troop bolstering to hold control.

Perhaps Schlumberger's skills simply were at some point surpassed by Halliburton, with that as the sole determinant of relative roles in things. Perhaps not. It would not be so crass a thing as exclusion for not having bought a ticket, would it?

The prominent role, since abandoned, of the British in the Coalition of the Willing has its historical context, see, e.g., Wikipedia, here and here.

"In 1927, huge oil fields were discovered near Kirkuk and brought economic improvement," is one of the more major sentences in those sources, and they also give some history on the independence of Kuwait from the remainder of the Arab state, due mainly to British will. Without the oil, we do not see US worry over political developments in, say Chad, which has equal amounts of sand to offer as Iraq.

Chistopher Truscott has an interesting post, entitled, "A Complicating Factor for Elwyn Tinklenberg."

It was posted today, July 16, here. I put a comment on the Christopher Truscott blog, so there's no need to expand on things here.

Follow the link, have a look, and add as a comment there any info you can, if you know of the legal nuances or of IP party rules and/or DFL rules about dual party filing [separate from endorsement] or the primary election consequences of the IP party having endorsed Elwyn Tinklenberg, while apparently having only one filing candidate before the filing deadline had passed. Finally, Anderson may be pressured and cave in to pressure to drop his candidacy in the three day "second thoughts" withdrawal period following expiration of the filing deadline. If that happens it would be news. Presumably Christopher Truscott would be on top of that issue. I defer.

The Tinklenberg Blog is not spam, nor in any way an improper use. Political or other opinion is what blogging is.

I believe Gary Gross, Let Freedom Ring, is interested in the Sixth District and wanted to see if he had posted on the reported fundraising numbers for the second quarter.

I looked there, and saw this:

I just got this email from Tanner Curl of the Tinklenberg campaign:

Hi Gary,

I saw your post today and wanted to clarify that soon after July 4th I received an e-mail from blogspot, saying we were flagged as possible spam by their little blog bots. They didn’t give a reason. It seemed like an automated e-mail. Our blog was locked until we were cleared of all spam charges today!

And hence, a new post: http://tinklenberg08.blogspot.com/2008/07/were-back.html

Also, we will be continuing the Housing and Mortgages Week at a later date.

I hope that clears things up for you.

-Tanner


I’m sorry to hear that Blogger gave the Tinklenberg campaign these troubles. I know what dealing with Blogger is like. That’s why I left it in March, 2006. I appreciate Tanner’s corerspondence with me and I sincerely hope that their troubles with Blogger are behind them.


Disrespect for over-aggresive thought policing of blogs crosses party lines and belief systems about individual candidates. It is a necessary thing, some blogs can offend and policing is needed to isolate and quarantine patently offensive things without any redeeming social value. While I may appear to believe Elwyn Tinklenberg, himself, fits that criterion, the blog Tanner Curl maintains IS fair use.

I join in what Gary Gross said. Including his criticism of Blogger. Blogger is the devil I know and use, and find frustrating in ways, for instance, try to post a pdf document online via blogger, to link to it.

I kludge around that by cutting things into jpg files, and posting the images - something easy enough to do in Blogger. At some point, many people leave Blogger, with Wordpress often gaining what Blogger loses, and those are technical issues apart from NOT wanting to see over-aggesssive content policing.

To the extent the Tinklenberg blog solicits contributions, that also, in my view is fair use. Courts have wrestled in First Amendment situations with whether and how far to distinguish "commercial speech" from other expression.

If Blogger finds someone operating a business via a blog and wants a fee for that, the situation differs from a basically expressive blog that also solicits political funds. Indeed, Blogger blurs its own lines that way, offering bloggers the option of carrying its pre-screened advertisement content, for cash.

And, Blogger is an arm of Google, for those not already knowing that ownership link.

Blue man has the numbers. Bachmann substantially outraises Tinklenberg for the quarter, among individual and special interest donors.

For the 2008 second quarter, Michele Bachmann raised over $382,000 compared to Elwyn Tinklenberg's $272,000, besting him by $110,000 (Bachmann getting 140% more than Tinklenberg's total).

Among individuals it was Bachmann gaining $189,000 against Tinklenberg's $163,000 (besting Tinklenberg's total by 116%).

Among special interest donations, Bachmann totaled $193,000 while Tinklenberg, (depite all his unions that in the first quarter substantially out spent individuals giving to Tinklenberg by a large margin), managed $109,000 from special interests (i.e., Bachmann's special interest haul was 177% greater than Tinklenberg's special interest number).

Numerically, she cleaned his clock across the board and has $1.3 million cash on hand at present to his low six-figure war chest. She is standing tall, for a tiny person. They are not even close as to funds on hand, which trnaslates into ad buying power.

As to a split between individuals/interests; Tinklenberg showed individuals gave 60% of his second quarter donations, leading Bachmann's 49.5% from individuals. That she got almost half her money this quarter that way is surprising, and Tinklenberg's higher percentage this quarter is a drastic departure from his first quarter split, where the Union PACs carried him for that period, and what little individual money he got then was almost exclusively out-of-district. Briefly looking at his FEC reporting, he appears better placed among Minnesota donors than out of state this quarter, compared to the first quarter, but it would be hard to not improve that way, given the substantial out of state (and out of district) funding he attained first quarter.

And to understand politics:




from the musical: Cabaret

Money makes the world go around,
the world go around, the world go around,
Money makes the world go around,
it makes the world go round.

A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound,
a buck or a pound, a buck or a pound,
Is all that makes the world go around,
that clinking clanking sound,
Can make the world go round.


I did not do breaks or percentages, in state vs out, in district vs. out, for either candidate. That would require a detailed look at FEC report pages, whereas I relied upon a trusted and unimpeachably reliable blog source.

_________________
NOTE: numbers were taken from Blue Man's post, here, without FEC site verification (and rounded off to the nearest thousand dollars).

photo from here, lyrics, here

More mentoring.



Lest anyone forget, loyalty is real --- and lasting. As is teaching in political ways and means.




______________
Photo credit: cropped from originals, here and here (posted originally here and here).

The "Draft Ciresi!" blog folds up. Dean Barkley, Elwyn Tinklenberg's soul-mate, runs for Senate.


From the Draft Ciresi! site:

Those of us who had wished for Ciresi to reenter now find ourselves in a great deal of difficulty in what has turned to a depressing Senate race. We are faced with Al Franken, the man who returned after thirty years to continue his career of partisan attacks. There is Norm Coleman, who has spent his life doing what is best for himself over the interest of Minnesotans. And, of course, there is Dean Barkley, who has settled with running for Senate because he has nothing better to do and because he thinks the job is easy; [...]

Many have suspected us of being a Republican creation; that is surely not true. Now that Mike Ciresi is no longer viable, our site will discontinue. We do not mean to affect the discussion further, [...]

Priscilla Lord Faris should not be a major obstacle for Al Franken to overcome. No major candidate has emerged to challenge Al Franken in the primary.

Jesse Ventura's decision not to run is good news for Franken, so long as Ventura's decision does not push Ciresi into the election. In the Survey USA/KSTP poll released yesterday, Al Franken was 13 points behind Sen. Coleman.


That is excerpted from two posts there. If truly motivated by a belief that Norm Coleman is bad for Minnesota, (a view I have already expressed more than once in viewing him as an opportunistic apprentice underling who did as told and did so to the disadvantage of the state and nation), then they can land somewhere and spend time doing what they can to lessen Norman Coleman's opportunity and chances.

Or they can go off somewhere and be soreheads, which is the implication of "we do not mean to affect the discussion further."

I cannot criticize their right to suggest Franken was not the best choice for the DFL because I have said the same of Elwyn Tinklenberg.

They have anonymously published claiming to be DFL insiders believing Ciresi would have been a better DFL choice, while I remain independent and unaffiliated because the DFL makes "pragmatic" choices such as backing Tinklenberg over a progressive and capable alternative, Bob Olson, when Tinklenberg's true place always was with the IP.

The cynical Sixth District DFL regulars in that fashion insult me and my district by offering a crypto-Republican against a certifiable loony-Republican, so that I get no choice but one between Republican-spirited individuals, with the DFL suggesting I should be happy over a Blue Dog with all those many, many, many fleas.

They do that because the courage is lacking in the district's DFL to run a progressive. Bless them. It's their party. Not mine.

Compromising principles is not my thing.

And do not doubt for a second that Elwyn Tinklenberg is a compromiser and appeaser.

Tinklenberg's website says this of his true IP colors:

Tinklenberg was endorsed [at the IP convention] by a show of hands that indicated he had gained significantly more votes from the delegates present than the sixty percent needed to endorse.

Former Independence Party stalwarts Dean Barkley, Peter Hutchinson and Jack Uldrich all spoke in favor of the IP endorsement after the party's chair, Craig Swaggert, suggeted to the convention that they consider endorsing the Blaine DFLer.

Tinklenberg, who didn't actively seek the endorsement, had made it known that he would accept it if offered. After the convention voted, Tinklenberg told [t]he delegates that he was in full support of the party's values and would proudly campaign on them.

Tinklenberg noted that in the 2006 race the winner, Michele Bachmann, won by a mere 547 votes over the combined DFL and IP votes.

John Binkowski, the IP candidate in the 2006 race, was a delegate to the convention and also spoke in favor of the Tinklenberg endorsement.


The Tinklenberg Blog expands:

Two years ago, Independence Party candidate John Binkowski drew almost 8 percent of the district's vote, helping Bachmann win the seat with 50 percent of the vote. Democrat Patty Wetterling got just 42 percent.

Tinklenberg is positioning himself as more moderate than the conservative Bachmann and trying to win over middle-of-the-road voters.

"What this says about our campaign is that we are trying to do what we talk about, and that is to build through addition rather than division," said Tinklenberg, who worked as transportation commissioner under former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who won office as a third-party candidate.


Not an ounce of conviction expressed. "Positioning himself." No truer words were ever spoken. The dance, no spirit, a technician and bureaucrat with an appeasment mentality, "positioning himself as more moderate" i.e., trying to be just to the middle relative to "the conservative Bahcmann and trying to win over middle-of-the-road voters." Expediency over conscience is what his website and blog brazenly admit. Courage and conviction have no place over flexible "positioning."

The man must be so elastic that anything fits with nothing real or constraining. That's the flavor his own candidacy rhetoric gives us. It is not just me saying so. It is Elwyn Tinklenberg and cohorts saying precisely that. He is posturing. A poseur "positioning himself as more moderate."

There really is not too much conscience expressed in, "What this says about our campaign is that we are trying to do what we talk about, and that is to build through addition rather than division." That is gobbledygook, other than saying it is posturing and posing. My guess is he is "optimistic" that "positioning" around that way will work. He may be correct. P.T. Barnum may have been correct.

Try as hard as I might, I cannot envision Paul Wellstone nor Hubert Humphrey saying he could happily run on what the Independence Party stands for in terms of respect for the excluded and the downtrodden, and belief in helping the little guy.

This is Dean Barkley's soul-brother that the DFL Sixth District bosses have handed down, not a Wellstone, not a Humphrey.

A Dean Barkley clone.*

I have no problem with Tinklenberg courting and gladly accepting the IP nomination.

It is where the gentleman belongs, and you can check that out via the IP website.

That link identifies the IP "party's values" in which Elwyn Tinklenberg was/is "in full support" and, instead of traditional Wellstone-Humphrey values, are the values on which Elwyn Tinklenberg "would proudly campaign."

Please go and read what values Tinklenberg truly holds. The IP does not say it is pro-choice, in favor of tax reform to lessen the burden on the middle class and tax the wealthy their fair share, nor does it favor universal healthcare as an inherent citizenship right. It is anything but progressive.

The IP and its candidates are GOP-lite. Nothing but that.

Tinklenberg belongs there solely because he is a shade insufficiently right-wing to satisfy some of the extreme Sixth District Republicans. Otherwise he could run as GOP, except they have an incumbent. And Tinklenberg IS pragmatic.

It is not expedient to try to challenge an incumbent. So he is allowed to parade himself as a DFL individual, but he sure does not look like one. Bless him.

___________
* Read about Dean Barkley, here, here, here, here, here (where apparently he deferred to Tinklenberg but might have complicated things against a real and progressive DFL Sixth District candidate much as Binkowski did against Wetterling), here, and here.

Read, specifically, about Dean Barkley's choice to run (IP only) for the Senate, here, here, here, here, here, and here.


They even look alike -- like identical forced-smile politician caricatures.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

RAMSEY - Filings for Council vacancies closed today. The lame ducks should leave Community Center as an issue for the next Council.

Only one of the four incumbents filed to run for reelection.

There will be new faces for the one at large seat, mayor, and ward 2. David Jeffrey will seek reelection in ward 4, the only incumbent running this cycle.

That leaves him, possibly, and David Elvig (not up for reelection until next cycle) as remnants of the council who moved at great cost the city hall from the Highway 5 location to the over-lavish present Norman castle on Sunwood - a deed done to voters by the Council without a referendum.

That was done before Dehen and Look, the other two members whose seats are not up this cycle, took office.

So, Jeffrey and Elvig. Carryovers.

Elvig chaired the Town Center Task Force, and sat on council from Jan 2003 to present. Hence, he voted on all the major mischief Ramsey has suffered - a massive shift in the percentage of shared wall housing and its great densities, running sewer and water to the Jerry Bauer gun club [with adjustments between Bauer and Peterson so that Elvig could feel comfortable ceasing to recuse himself and cast the tie-braker vote for that counterproductive sewer-water expansion], and also approval of the Nedegaard LLC's purchase of Kurak land for Town Center, approval of the Development Agreement for Town Center, approval of a most generous award to the Kuraks on the Highway 116 condemnation instead of taking it to litigation, and, indeed, on council when the entire thing could have been stopped, stymied, scaled back or otherwise adjusted instead of advancing full speed into a major ongoing failure.

I cannot recall a single instance when, during his tenure, Jeffrey voted differently from Elvig on any matter of importance. Any reader who can think of something that way is invited to post a comment.

Perhaps the thing should be called the Elvig Town Center, since he will also carry over into the major mop-up phase of its lifetime. Or name the sewer extension after him, since he was its main proponent, on council. Then name the sop to the developers the Haas-Steffen Town Center, giving Natalie her due, and give Elvig recognition of the "services" extension to the gun club as his prime legacy.

In light of the general quality of decision making by outgoing council members, they should have the good grace and good judgment now, at least, to leave the entire community center situation for the new people to resolve.

I expect a new mood of sensible fiscal responsibility will sweep in and govern starting at the beginning of next year.

There may be changes in consultancies and other arrangements. In general, excesses of the past likely will be reined in.

Hence, the new people should be viewed by those leaving office as entitled to a clean slate, and not have a community center lame duck thing presented them for possible undoing upon taking office.

I would hope they are granted that courtesy. The voters also deserve such a show of decency to the new people they will be voting in to straighten things out, whoever they may turn out to be after the general election.

Finally, this information: Unless things change substantially during the three day period where candidates can withdraw, each seat will be contested and mayor and the at large seat will need a primary to narrow those races to two candidates.