consultants are sandburs

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dale Carnegie; AOL showing why it is a king-sized failure, anguish, and the mysteries of blogging. Backup redux.

Besides being a commentary on the human condition and how NOT to do business, in a way this post is for others. For those whose off-site-from-the-home-computer web-based content is of value. Crabgrass archives are all on the web, out of that league, being just meanderings, complaints, infrequent praise. Still, I'd not like to lose content.

Home machines, we all know we should backup files, we seldom do.

As to web content - Dale Carnegie, seventy years or so ago, wrote his book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." You can buy a copy for very little, from Amazon.com, although anyone who would loses respect, in my view. It looks to be schlock. Yet people take time over Dale Carnegie, see here and here, and some, as indicated at the dalecarnegie.com website, hope to make some cash flow their way by pitching "partnering," Dale's way, this screenshot:



Some content is better if lost, but that is a digression.

For an eclectic personal reason, I had cause to visit this website, homepage here, and noted at the foot of each page that background, border and button Celtic art was from a linked page - and that gets to the heart of the post. To understand, open either of those last pages and whether you like Celtic art or not, open the link "http://hometown.aol.com/Cyrion7/celtic/index.htm". WOW!

You get routered over to a different link, http://www.peopleconnectionblog.com/2008/11/06/hometown-has-been-shutdown.

A terse post, then a series of pissed-off and anguished comments. Have a look. I see a lesson there, for all of us who blog.

And the photos of trusting people -- AOL subscribers (if any are left trusting AOL after the blogs got torched), are about to further be AOL'ed into the ozone layer of Internet history also, photo-wise, on New Year's Eve, so Happy New Year, if you miss that message and lack home machine backup.

Arguably there was some effort by Kelly Wilson and The AOL Journals Team to give advance notice of blitzing stuff into non-existence [server disabling] but clearly from the earlier link comments, many missed the word and learned of the disabling the hard way - after the fact, without any cut-over to Blogger. Sad. True, however.

I'd hate to be Kelly Wilson in all this, the lightning rod person when others higher in the AOL food chain called the shots, but that's why Kelly gets a paycheck, to be the point of attack.

Sad, again. But true again, however.

One comment in the first Kelly Wilson post I linked to said, try to salvage what you can from the WayBack Machine Internet archive, see here and here. Putting in the link "http://hometown.aol.com/Cyrion7/celtic/index.htm" into the WayBack Machine entry window gets: this, active archive, 1998 to 2003.

Years of work. Blottoed by AOL, the user-friendly service provider, sort of.

Editing the URL for that archive, from:

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://hometown.aol.com/Cyrion7/celtic/index.htm

by changing the end "index.htm" to "*" gives a file listing, showing none of the site's images were archived, only opening HTML pages, apparently.

http://web.archive.org/web/*sr_11nr_10/http://hometown.aol.com/Cyrion7/celtic/*

(That edit to get the listing of files from the returned page is not well known, but there, if you remember when next using the WayBack Machine service.)

Opening one of the archive item listings shows Karen Nicholas was the Celtic art page creator-owner. Also you can see that she had two links to her other AOL pages, each getting the same "sorry Charlie" page link-over, to Kelly Wilson's "Hometown Has Been Shut Down" message. Curiously, at least two of Karen Nicholas' older links are still active, one a Yahoo Geocities item, see here and here. They're not the best Celtic pages, more on that later.

This Google = "Karen Nicholas" celtic -- shows a number of sites crediting their background art, buttons, etc., to the now dead AOL - Karen Nicholas site. That's a lot of love down the tubes, courtesy of AOL and how NOT to do business.

For example, the starting Kristen McDermott page, and "Celtic Studies at UCLA" respectively use images to tile their background in a somewhat standard website design fashion,




these being the base images (from the Karen Nicholas collection) tiled two dimensionally in one instance, and vertically in the other (viewing page source for these site pages will show BACKGROUND commands, for those who care to have a look,image names in the page source files being lt_catknot.gif and brdr7001.gif respectively).

So, a few interesting "still alive" sites for those who like Celtic art, there is this Google. There is this, from Google Images. Some active artists are creating new things in the Celtic tradition, in jewelry, tattoos, and graphics. Find tattoos on your own.

I focus on freeceltic.com and Celtic Art -by- Jen Delyth, (see also here), the source of the few items put at the left side start of earlier paragraphs. Explore and enjoy, also here (w. ref. to Karen Nicholas), here (with obsolete references, updates being here for Rob Scharein and here for his knotplot.com programing site), and three other sites referencing Karen Nicholas's "AOL'ed site," here, here and here.


There is this collection of Celtic knot images online, of interest to anyone who has studied and enjoyed geometry, in particular, these items:

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic/celtic-picture-01.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic/celtic-picture-03.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20knots/celtic-knot-picture-26.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20knots/celtic-knot-charm-1.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20knots/celtic-knot-brooch-1.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20knots/celtic-knot-charm-4.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20knots/celtic-knot-picture-39.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic/celtic-picture-79.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic/celtic-picture-46.jpg.html


http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20symbols/celtic-doves.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20symbols/celtic-knot-bail.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-45.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-27.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-46.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-18.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-29.jpg.html

http://www.freeceltic.com/get-celtic-celtic%20crosses/celtic-cross-picture-25.jpg.html

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is as phony as Coleman's teeth - as his saying he'd give up negative campaigning but could not control all the GOP. Get real.

as always, click to enlarge and read

Bringing back the little guy.

This was a gift years ago to Kyle Baker, who had a blog |SPAN| generally about frustrations of modern life, particularly Republicans. Since he is not using the little guy anymore, should I swap him for the sidebar photo?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another interesting perspective on the post-election self-examination by some in the GOP.

Here. The website, "The American Prospect," is an online source I first encountered in the last three or four days, and one I intend to explore from its homepage, here, after I move one time-limit work item onward for others to review and revise.

A better than average link about economic current events.

Here. The language is jargon-free, but there is insight, in my view. Even the quickly written comment is interesting in its suggestions.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The recount looks set to come down to challenged ballots and whether all absentee ballots get counted, and how.

The last pre-recount margin was Coleman, +215.

Each side has so far challenged just short of a thousand ballots. And then, will the Senate seat or deny seating to Coleman if the recount comes out favorable to him? Will there be an ethics investigation and no seating until after a trial, on the Nasser Kazeminy money?

This might last, court review canvassing board and all, longer than the Georgia runoff, with voting set there, Dec. 2. If it is a quick count and a decisive margin, Minnesota could be determinative of a filibuster proof Senate (presuming Lieberman holds his present course and the Dems do also).

That's a major factor.

Here is the Secretary of State's screen shot, look at the challenged ballot numbers, and compare that to the 215 vote spread - the spread is swamped. As always, click to enlarge and read the numbers, as of 8 pm, Saturday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What to think of the GOP? How should they move? Keep church and state separate?


The image is from CNN, online Nov. 20. Click to enlarge and read. It appears the poll did not get into "conservative" in the Goldwater sense, vs. "social conservative" as a tortured euphemism for theocratic. I think the down trend in GOP esteem is part of the Palin phenomenon, but it's a subjective individual's opinion. I would have liked more polling detail on whether the common popular view was that Palin-theomovement was a plus or minus for the GOP, particularly among independent voters rather than the crowd liking its own flavor Koolaid.

Malibu recognizes that developers are crabgrass, to be discouraged and forestalled.


KDKA online is where I first saw this terse AP feed reported:

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) Water regulators have taken a step toward banning septic tanks in the heart of Malibu, Calif., after a battle over bacterial pollution at popular beaches.

Residents and city leaders have long opposed switching from septic tanks to sewer pipes because the infrastructure could be used to bring massive development to the rustic community.

Members of the Los Angeles regional water board on Thursday directed staff to draft a plan that would yank the city's ability to manage commercial septic systems in its center.

The plan would also ban septic tanks in the area and propose a wastewater treatment plant. The water board is expected to consider those plans within a year.


I doubt there's much more to the story, but there are several additional hits for this Google. Bless the smart people in Malibu, not wanting the character and charm of their existing neighborhoods to be disturbed. West coast wisdom exists also in parts of Ramsey, the Malibu of the Midwest (in a sense, but only in a sense). And, no surprise, the Malibu minions are feeling the heavy boot of regional planners - another variety of crabgrass that seems a nationwide menace.

In Ramsey we have no polluted beaches - indeed, no beaches at all.

Moreover, we have that nice sandy soil that perks superbly, not to mention that multiple septic system drainfield restoration steps are possible wherever a problem might occur. Such repair and restoration can be done at reasonable cost, certainly for far less than the imposed assessment charges accompanying a hookup to municipal services, while in many Ramsey locales hookup is an unavailable option.

Add to that the fact that the major higher groundwater pollution is single-point sourced, the landfill, and its problematic flows swamp any individual home's septic system contribution to "groundwater quality impact" so that we should, in all decency, simply be left alone within our existing Ramsey neighborhoods that have homes on large sandy soil lots.

Within a half mile of where I live, in such a home-on-large-lot, John Peterson built his Alpine Woods [I believe that's his development's hokey name, they all sound alike, equally hokey] which is entirely out of character with existing homes in the neighborhood.

But it was permitted, as the vehicle that allowed his crossing Sunfish Blvd. with the big sewer pipe so that he could extend it to the Bauer Gun Club and his cornfield project at Highway 5 and Trott Brook, where it could impact that watershed and all of the intervening wetlands, which have suffered diminished water level after ditching and trenching and construction dewatering, things done to allow him to have his way with trunk sewer routing.

Graywater: The wetland impact question is interesting because several people at Ramsey's 2008 comp plan sessions have noted the wisdom of keeping graywater [aka greywater] in the community's wetlands instead of further impacting them via storm and sanitary sewer diversion piping the graywater into the river without any resuscitation benefit to our unique neighborhood wetlands.

Septic systems help sustain Ramsey's diminishing and impacted wetland ecology, Met Council routing and management does not. If we must have the latter, which we do as an existing reality, it should be restrained and supervised in ways that will lessen its negative aspects. Keeping a large part of the graywater for our wetlands will do exactly that. Sensible graywater management is simply a wise way to plan for a less impacted Ramsey future.

_____UPDATE______
Most of the online hits about Malibu septic system reliance only repeat the brief AP feed quoted above. However, here is one link readers might find more interesting, showing City of Malibu wastewater management thinking.



(photo of Malibu Point, from here, see here for the same locale, differing perspective -- with temperature outside below freezing, such photos are nice)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Metropolitan Council imposes arbitrary requirement on Nowthen, with plans to run sewer through Ramsey.

Met Council deals with Nowthen as it's dealt with Lake Elmo, Ramsey everyone else.

Although not online, today's print version of Anoka County Union reports on Nowthen's fate, as excerpted, next:

The directive comes from the Metropolitan Council as it works with the community to develop and approve the city's 2030 comprehensive plan.

Details of what will be required were outlined in a joint workshop between Met Council representatives and Nowthen residents Nov. 13 at Nowthen alliance church.

"We're interested in how you're going to use the land in Nowthen," said Natalie Steffen, Met Council representative for Nowthen.

Prior to this Nowthen was not on the list to receive wastewater service from the Met Council.

In updating the service area it was discovered that wastewater service could be available to a portion of Nowthen through the extension of existing pipes in Ramsey.

The exact amount being required with the city's 2030 comprehensive plan is 1,000 buildable acres.

Future plans call for the Met Council to bring the waste water pipe through Ramsey to Nowthen's southern border.

City officials will determine how to assess properties benefiting from the service for connection to the sewer system. Homeowners remaining on their own septic systems will not pay for the costs related to the municipal sewer service.

"We're not interested in servicing all of Nowthen," Steffen said.

Within those 1.000 buildable acres, the Met Council will require an overall density of three units per acre.

"The city gets to decide how that gets put together," said Phyllis Hanson, Met Council land use/urban services expansion manager.

In the future sewered area Hanson said the Met Council would like to see no more than one house per 10 acres and it would prefer to see ordinances establishing one house per 20 acres in that area.


If the article is honest and Met Council brings the pipe through Ramsey, bless them, because I don't see any cause for Ramsey taxpayers to finance the big sumo, which has its own taxing powers to pay for its heavy-handed ways and means. Bless them if THEY do bring that pipe as the article says, to the humble townsfolk of Nowthen.

With current Ramsey official thought being as it is, courtesy of staff and consultants and the Hunt family, it appears that the sewer will be run north from John Peterson's cash cow development of dense housing bordering Trott Brook. That would be north basically along Nowthen Blvd [County Highway 5] to the boundary, in order to service the Hunt will to build. If Met Council does not front the cost, the developers should, just as John Peterson set the precedent in routing things to the Bauer Gun Club and the Peterson corn field dense growth development.

Met Council has its way. The big sumo had its session, if you recall, giving a hearty toss to Lake Elmo. Ham Lake says, so far, it wants no part of sewer systems, but my bet, poor people of Ham Lake, it's merely a matter of time.

Sherburne County and Wright County have much to fear.

They need to remain steadfast in keeping the mean sumo at bay, and beyond their borders, so that they don't end up tossed around as Anoka County municipalities are presently feeling the Met Council's hand.

_______UPDATE_______
How exactly decision making happens is not transparent. The sun shines elsewhere then on how Met Council, developers, and local land barons cut deals. However, don't bet against routing north along County Highway 5. At the Ramsey-Nowthen border, curiously, long time County Commissioner Dennis Berg has his Nowthen home and his Highway 5 bordering acreage. If Berg's holdings fall short of a thousand acres, don't bet that any of what's his will be excluded from the thousand to be set aside in planning for urban sewered-density. There's more profit to disposing of land where greater density is possible. With a Weaver heading Met Council staff such a Highway 5 routing bet looks sound. Old boys do network. So, bet on that Highway 5 route as a done deal, as one you can take to the bank. But if you do that you'll have to stand in line, since many of the old boys may be in line in front of you. It is as it is, an ongoing equivalent of daytime soap opera in my locale - if not yours.

As a further update, one thing looks positive for Nowthen taxpayers if things said are believable, and indirectly for Ramsey residents if the big sumo will only be consistent. The Union article does report:

The exact location of the pipe placement will depend on what land Nowthen leaders set aside for future sewer service.

Nowthen will pay for the construction of the trunk sewer pipe through the city to connect to the individual homes

City officials will determine how to assess properties benefiting from the service for connecting to the sewer system.

Homeowners remaining on their own septic systems will not pay for the costs related to the municipal sewer service.


[italics added] Inherent in that, a single family home, regardless of its acreage, gains no benefit if forced to shift from septic and well to municipal services and, indeed, suffers construction costs including possible plumbing needs inside a home to shift from a backyard septic system to a frontal connection to town services run along a road.

That means forced hookups, if encountered, are without benefit but instead have a burden for single family owners not wishing to subdivide. Hence, they should be unassessed or their properties subject to delayed assessment to be imposed only at such time as an owner decision is made to seek subdivision and the assessing city government is petitioned to permit such a move.

A corollary would be that having the stuff put into the road in front of a home on well and septic with an owner not wishing to connect should be allowed its status quo, and with that there is no actual "benefit" from the placement of pipes unless and until such a homeowner affirmatively petitions to do a switchover; at which time an assessment would be proper while improper before then because that is the moment actual benefit attaches.

Things mentioned in the last two paragraphs, if done in Ramsey and in Nowthen, would be fair. Fairness does not always come from the big sumo or the little local bosses wanting to be in the ring with the big sumo. Let us hope big sumo and the wannabes have a heart, or at least show good manners in dealing with powerless single family homeowners. It might happen. Even before any pigs fly.

______ONE FURTHER THOUGHT_______
Old news disappears, and Strib charges for access to its archives, however Highbeam in presenting its pay-to-play service sometimes does give sufficient blurbs to suggest an understanding, e.g., here and here, about the politics of the pressures big sumo put on Lake Elmo [mention at the outset of the one item of United Properties and Carl Pohlad suggesting we are a nation of men first and not a nation of laws as legend has it]. To the extent parallel pressures exist affecting Ramsey and its comp planning, such things, as offensive to norms many would prefer government to reflect, should be minimized.

Not shifting enterprise costs and risks of land baron profit seeking onto community taxpayers and not forcing unnecessary and arbitrary services hookups will be two sensible and very easy steps in that direction.

Use of the Peterson paradigm of development interests fronting the costs of extending trunk services, with recoupment, easily meets the first objective of keeping up front risk and cost where it belongs, and not socializing it.

Being realistic in that single family homes where the owner has no wish to subdivide gain no benefit from routing down the street such a home might border, and that delaying assessment until there is a petition to hook up or subdivide, an affirmative homeowner act as a triggering event for assessment, easily meets the second goal.

More RNC insights - planning at state and federal levels to keep the homeland [fatherland] secure, from us, from those who'd protest.



Local warlord stuff. The earlier post, with links, is here (nobody yet caring to guess at the ending mystery man question). Below are two interesting images taken from a slide presentation online (see here, here, here and here) that is the taxpayer-purchased handiwork of either the individual or underlings - Terri Smith (terri.smith@state.mn.us) the Branch Director for Response, Recovery and Mitigation at the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management agency (HSEM).

I bet some readers, Taxpayer League members or such, never even knew we had a funded HSEM, but we do, at this webpage.

Bucks down a rathole aside, there are these two images below from Terri's great crackerjack true-blue secure-ourselves presentation slides, where if I were a window washer for a living I'd take offense at the suggestion I was more a security threat than the suit-and-tie banker inside the hall. Have a look at the links, at your tax dollars in action, buying bureaucratic powerpoint power-mad stuff.



A where are they now look: FORMER GOP MINNESOTA SIXTH DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL REP. MARK KENNEDY.

After the unsuccessful 2006 run against Klobuchar, there is the information he is employed by Accenture and on the board of ECOM - the Economic Club of Minnesota.

ECOM first, they have an international [global world order] slant, and a board dominated by recycled out-of-office politicians. Whose cash is behind the thing, and what directors get paid, are not publicly disclosed matters for this "tank" [I hesitate to use the term "think tank" for an organization I know little about].

ECOM's executive director Kristin Robbins has a local right wing history of "Minnesotans for School Choice" school voucher "reform" advocacy as a Mitchell Pearlstein co-author, acolyte and fellow traveler. (See also, here, here and here.)

Is that background and the present ECOM thing more astroturf than grassroots? YOU decide.

Accenture has a Wikipedia page that downplays its ties to the Enron crash and burn scandal where Arthur-Andersen was the complicit accounting firm in the hoax and it had been selling itself as auditor and advisor as to how to skirt around accounting niceties.

Accenture was the advisory hand of that one hand washing the other for client Enron, or the successor and/or spin-off of that part of the unholy alliance.

Accenture contributes mainly to GOP politicians, while spending millions annually on lobbying.

As to Accenture, like ECOM, being a haven for recycled politicians, NY Times has reported:

Companies Use Ex-Lawmakers In Fight on Offshore Tax Break
By ALISON MITCHELL - Published: August 10, 2002

It can feel like old home week on Capitol Hill, what with the armada of former lawmakers who are suddenly lobbying against efforts in Congress to crack down on companies that shift their addresses offshore to lower their tax bills.

Dennis DeConcini, a onetime Democratic senator from Arizona, has been dropping in on former colleagues on behalf of the consulting giant Accenture, which incorporated in Bermuda last year.

Bill Archer, a Texas Republican who retired a year and a half ago as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, just registered as a lobbyist on the issue for Noble Drilling Services and Weatherford International, two companies in his home state.

Bob Packwood, a former Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is in the fray, too, though he, by contrast, is cheering Congress on.

''My client is one on the white-hat side of this,'' said Mr. Packwood, working on behalf of MBIA, a municipal-bond insurer that is based in Armonk, N.Y., and wants Congress to close the loophole, which has helped at least one of the company's competitors.

These are not the only former senators and representatives trying to influence Congress on this suddenly red-hot political issue, whose legislative outcome threatens to hit an array of companies hard and has caused lobbying to reach fever pitch. The issue is buoying the electoral hopes of Democrats, who are framing it as one of patriotism.

Congress is considering not only a raft of measures, from both parties, to shut down these corporate tax havens outright, but also a ban or restrictions on federal contracts to companies that have moved their corporate addresses out of the country to reduce their taxes. Federal contracts to companies incorporated in offshore locations like Bermuda topped $1 billion last year, and that was before the heightened emphasis on domestic security created a vast new opportunity to do business with the government.

''It certainly has created a bonanza,'' said Representative Richard E. Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who has been one of the most aggressive lawmakers trying to block the Bermuda route to tax reduction.

It is not just ex-legislators who are in demand. Former aides of the Congressional tax-writing committees are being hired, too, as are former Treasury Department officials. But it is the onetime lawmakers who are often best at opening doors.

''Their value,'' said Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, ''is that I don't think anybody in the Senate ever says no to anybody who served. It's just kind of the unwritten rules, out of courtesy.''

Mr. Wellstone, who succeeded in attaching to a defense bill an amendment that would bar military contracts to such companies, recently met with Mr. DeConcini and Accenture officials. He told the company, he said, that his contract ban would not affect it, because Accenture incorporated in Bermuda before his measure's cutoff date, last Dec. 31. But he also said that the company would ultimately lose the broader battle on the issue, that ''we're going after your loophole.''

Accenture, which was called Andersen Consulting before it was spun off from the accounting firm Arthur Andersen last year, argues that it was a global company situated in 47 countries, and had never been an American one, when it incorporated in Bermuda.

Many lawmakers are not convinced. ''I'm not sympathetic to the point,'' Mr. Wellstone said.

Of the businesses lobbying Congress on the issue, Accenture is by all accounts the most aggressive about using every avenue. It has hired a squadron of lobbyists to press its case.

Mr. DeConcini said that both he and another former senator, Steven D. Symms, Republican of Idaho, were helping Accenture make its case that it should not be lumped with companies that were clearly American businesses before they reincorporated in Bermuda.

''Accenture is really a different cat here,'' said Mr. DeConcini, who retired from the Senate eight years ago, after being rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee in 1991 for his efforts on behalf of a corrupt savings and loan executive.

The firm of former Representative Robert L. Livingston, Republican of Louisiana, has also been hired by Accenture. Mr. Livingston, on the verge of becoming House speaker, resigned from Congress in 1998 after confessing to adulterous affairs. Before then he was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which has unexpectedly begun tacking on to spending bills a ban on federal contracts for companies with tax-reducing offshore addresses.

Accenture is also using the firm of Baker & Hostetler, where Kathleen M. Kerrigan is listed as an Accenture lobbyist. Before she undertook lobbying work, Ms. Kerrigan worked for years for Congressman Neal, who has made elimination of the offshore tax break his signature issue.

Ms. Taylor, of Accenture, said Ms. Kerrigan had been ''brought on for her strategic guidance and her tax expertise.'' Asked whether she was also valued for her past ties to Mr. Neal, Ms. Taylor said, ''I'm not going to go down that path with you.''


While extensively excerpted, the article includes more detail, and remains online.

So, add this Bermuda-based extended worldwide business presence among those not sad to have seen the Wellstone plane crash in Eveleth.

At least it did not disappear entirely, in the Bermuda Triangle.

And there was wisdom in some of those old black-and-white gangster films, "We'll lay low until the heat cools off" cliche. Despite the concern for offshore tax haven abuse and the proposal to withhold government contracts from abusive firms, Bermuda based Accenture apparently believing the heat's cooled off, touts its recent Air Force contract.

WASHINGTON; Oct. 29, 2008 – The U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., has awarded Accenture (NYSE: ACN) a three-year, $22.18 million contract to expand existing services and prototype advanced modeling and simulation technology for the war fighter.

Accenture is the prime contractor for the Air Force Modeling and Simulation Training Toolkit, a suite of simulation systems, game applications and related tools that help train Air Force teams to execute air missions. Under the new research contract, Accenture will expand services and capabilities so that the Air Force can leverage live, virtual and constructive modeling and simulation tools across a variety of domains and environments.


It sounds like twenty-two million of Uncle Sugar's pork for the equivalent of some of the video games advertised retail during NFL game time TV broadcasting. And this paragraph does little to dispel that appearance:

“The need to integrate and leverage information-rich decision support and simulation systems across federal civilian and defense agencies continues to grow,” said Eric Stange, managing director of Accenture’s U.S. Defense practice. “Capitalizing on the experience and leading-edge practices of the commercial marketplace can help government agencies improve the integration and interoperability of joint proprietary systems.”


I expect it was true merit that got the contract, not the few, the loud, the recycled office-holder lobbyist cadre, trading on influence and access. Our government would not be influenced that way at all, would it?

“We can't afford not to do it,” he said. “If we do nothing, we'll be paying twice as much on healthcare in 10 years as we do today."

That quote to CNN from Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is in the reporting within the screen shot, below (as always, click to enlarge and read):


How might an extension of Unemployment Benefits impact an economic recovery in the near term future? The unemployed gain. Employers will pay more.

The reported quick passage and signing of a bill extending benefits, while record unemployment levels are being reported, was, for example per an AP feed, carried here.

Given how Minnesota and other states must conform their UI plans to meet nationwide Dept. of Labor mandates, all other states, like Minnesota, base an employer's future payments into the UI pool upon an "experience rating." So, benefits are extended, the money comes from the pool, the pool needs replenishment, and the experience rating is impacted due to additional benefit payments causing the rating to rise.

That means businesses, while seeking a recovery, will be paying higher UI tax payments, nationwide as well as in Minnesota, and the small firms with one or two employees providing goods and services to other small firms, and experiencing cash flow problems as vendors press for prompter payments and customers use "float" with their vendors in place of institutional short-term credit - given the credit crunch - and all of that seems a recipe for greater disaster in a downturn, and suggests a prolongation of hard times rather than a more prompt recovery.

Am I wrong? Is this a counterproductive measure, without other small business relief? What is the Chamber of Commerce saying on national and local levels?

One thing is probably a certainty - DEED will not fire bureaucrats or streamline its adjudication and UI payments mechanisms. It does not even require face-to-face or paper reporting, instead a toy dial-and-file reporting thing is in place, allowing simpler employee responses and longer DEED staff coffee breaks. They do not even ask whether laid-off employees are staying in contact with their former employers to assure that ex-employees are periodically checking in and requesting work, if available.

Go figure.

It is pure and simple inexcusably negligent bureaucratic performance.

Or am I wrong?

Henry IV and Gregory VII had a sense of drama and proportion the Big Three CEO's failed to understand.

Much as John McCain showed deference to the Council for National Policy in waiting for and allowing them to hand him Sarah Palin as their vetted choice to be his running mate; a comparable capitulation occurred centuries ago, during the Investiture Controversy:

The Investiture Controversy was the most significant conflict between secular and religious powers in medieval Europe. It began as a dispute in the 11th century between the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope concerning who would control appointments of church officials (investiture). It would eventually lead to nearly fifty years of civil war in Germany and the disintegration of the German empire, a condition from which it would not recover until the reunification of Germany in the 19th century.

Prior to the Investiture Controversy, the appointment of church officials, while theoretically a task of the Church, was in practice performed by secular authorities. The ceremony of investiture consisted of the newly appointed bishop or abbot coming before the secular leader, who would then hand over a staff and ring as objects of power granted to them.

Since a substantial amount of wealth and land was often associated with the position of bishop or abbot, it was materially beneficial for a secular ruler to appoint someone loyal to him.

A crisis arose when a group within the church, members of the Gregorian Reform, decided to liberate the church from the power secular leaders held over them through elimination of the investiture ceremony, this was the beginning of the Investiture Controversy. The Gregorian reformers knew this would not be possible so long as the Emperor maintained the ability to appoint the Pope, so the first step was to liberate the papacy from control by the Emperor. An opportunity came in the 1050s when Henry IV became Emperor at a young age.

Once the papacy gained control of the election of the Pope, it was now ready to attack the practice of investiture on a broad front.

In 1075 Pope Gregory VII declared in the Dictatus Papae the elimination of the practice of investiture. By this time, Henry IV of Germany was no longer a child, and he reacted to this declaration by sending Gregory VII a letter in which he, in effect, removed Gregory as pope and called for the election of a new pope.

Enforcing these declarations was a different matter, but fate was on the side of Gregory VII. The German aristocracy was happy to hear of the their king's deposition. They would use the cover of religion as an excuse for rebellion and the seizure of royal powers.

Henry IV had no choice but to back down, needing time to marshall his forces to fight the rebellion in his kingdom. In 1077 he traveled to Canossa in northern Italy to meet the Pope and apologize in person. As penance for his sins, he dramatically wore a hairshirt and stood in the snow barefoot in the middle of winter in what has become known as the Walk to Canossa.

Gregory lifted the excommunication, but the German aristocrats, whose rebellion became known as the Great Saxon Revolt, were not so willing to give up their opportunity. They elected a rival king named Rudolf.

In 1081 Henry IV was able to capture and kill Rudolf, and in the same year he invaded Rome with the intent of forcibly removing Gregory VII and installing a more friendly pope.

The Investiture Controversy would continue on for several decades as each succeeding Pope tried to fight the investiture by stirring up revolt in Germany. Henry IV was succeeded upon death in 1106 by his son Henry V, who was also unwilling to give up investiture.

After fifty years of fighting, a compromise was finally reached in 1122, known as the Concordat of Worms. It was agreed that investiture would be eliminated, while room would be provided for secular leaders to have unofficial but significant input in the appointment process.


Blurring of separation of church and state within GOP ranks probably reaches to Reagan melding Goldwater conservatism with the theocratic aims of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, for coalition building - and McCain's clear capitulation to it via the Palin debacle might be its death knell, in its present embodiment. Perhaps present GOP "aristocrats" and "prelates" liking or disliking separation of church and state in our post-election days will be going through a similar showdown between a secular wing that yielded inappropriately to the Council for National Policy and suffered for it; and a Dr. Dobson led pro-Council for National Policy wing. Perhaps not, although such facing of the mirror might be called for as more and more seats have been lost for obvious but mixed reasons.

Aside from that, the Walk to Canossa within the Investiture Controversy is what I highlight, for what follows below, that Walk being where the big-time Emperor showed due respect for his vexed and uncertain position and plea, and did "penance for his sins, he dramatically wore a hairshirt and stood in the snow barefoot in the middle of winter" seeking to have an excommunication lifted.

CNN online reported something a bit different:

Some lawmakers lashed out at the CEOs of the Big Three auto companies Wednesday for flying private jets to Washington to request taxpayer bailout money.

"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."

He added, "couldn't you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here? It would have at least sent a message that you do get it."

The executives -- Alan Mulally of Ford, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Richard Wagoner of GM -- were seeking support for a $25 billion loan package.

At Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman, D-California, pressed the private-jet issue, asking the three CEOs to "raise their hand if they flew here commercial."

"Let the record show, no hands went up," Sherman said. "Second, I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up."

The executives did not specifically respond to those remarks. In their testimony, they said they are streamlining business operations in general.

"Making a big to-do about this when issues vital to the jobs of millions of Americans are being discussed in Washington is diverting attention away from a critical debate that will determine the future health of the auto industry and the American economy," GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said in a statement.

Chrysler spokeswoman Lori McTavish said in a statement, "while always being mindful of company costs, all business travel requires the highest standard of safety for all employees."

But those statements did little to mollify the critics.

"If it is simply the company's money at stake, then only the shareholders can be upset or feel as it might be excessive," said Thomas Schatz, president of the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

But in this case, he said, "it's outrageous."

"They're coming to Washington to beg the taxpayers to help them. It's unseemly to be running around on a $20,000 flight versus a $500 round trip," Schatz added.


Does the word "clueless" come to mind for you?

It does for me.

And this big-bucks fly-in, does it resonate "Roger and Me" with you, the same haughtiness and hubris, unrepentant and unchanged?

It does for me.

_____UPDATE_______
As part of the appearance of cluelessness, the Big Three came without due preparation or clear answers. When faced with the question, "When will you run out of money," GM's chief reportedly had no real answer:

General Motors announced Nov. 7 that it could run out of the cash needed for operations by the end of this year or early next year without federal assistance.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli said his company is also at risk of running out of the cash it needs to operate in that time frame.

But Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., said he wasn't sure it was proper to be bailing out the automakers and he didn't like the demand that action be taken in this lame duck session of Congress.

"I am not yet convinced that we must act so rashly," he said. "The American public demands that we get this right."

Kanjorski asked Wagoner for the minimum amount of money necessary to keep GM afloat through March 30 in order to give Congress more time to work on a bailout package. "When will you run out of money?" he asked.

But Wagoner wouldn't give more details beyond the company's previous statement that it could be out of cash later this year or early next year.

"I don't believe we have the luxury of a lot of time," he said, and when pressed for an exact deadline, responded, "I can't tell you that for certain."


Democratic leadership was reported in each house as noting a problematic lack of any precise plan for why a bailout was currently necessary, how $25 billion in rescue pork would be used, how the industry might assure no future return for yet more taxpayer cash, or how the Big Three would change business habits to justify Congressional faith:

"The key is accountability and viability," Reid said. "We want them to get their act together."

"Until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money," added Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a news conference in the Capitol.



________
AP photo accompanied the CNN article. Investiture Controversy drawings, from here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Matt Martin and Eric Black have one thing in common. Suggesting Norm Coleman might put up, or shut up about disputing Nasser Kazeminy money flow.



Pre-election, Nov. 2, Martin wrote,

[...] as a former prosecutor, Coleman knows exactly what an innocent person should do in this sort of situation; it’s what almost any prosecutor would do: demand a full investigation be conducted by the relevant authorities, agree to cooperate fully in the investigation, and call on Kazeminy to come forward and tell the full truth. This accomplishes two goals: proving innocence and expediting resolution [...]


On Nov. 17, while referencing Black's extended MinnPost.com analysis, Martin again asserted that theme, writing:

Why is he opting to simply deny allegations and decry them as “baseless” instead of offering proof of his innocence? Your guess is as good as mine, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for his public image ...


So, the final look, in depth, will be to Black's item, also authored Nov. 17.

Hey Sen. Coleman: Why not document that the allegations against you are untrue?

If Norm Coleman is as innocent as he says of receiving tens of thousands of dollars of improper gifts from his wealthy friend Nasser Kazeminy, there's a lot he could do, with the help of his friends, to put the allegation to rest.

So far, he has declined to do these things, relying instead on ever-more strongly worded denials but not putting out any proof, some of which he almost surely possesses.

Last week I asked Sen. Coleman, the Hays Companies and Kazeminy to advance the cause of disproving the allegations made in two lawsuits by releasing documents that would come pretty close to settling the question. No documents were produced.

Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, replied to my request with: "The Senator has denied these baseless and slimy allegations, and has stated he welcomes an investigation. That's all we have to say on the matter."

The public relations firm that Kazeminy has engaged to handle his response to the matter declined to go any further than Kazeminy's previous statements that "Mr. Kazeminy vehemently denies the false and baseless claims made against him."

I have, to date, received no reply to my missive to the media contact email for Hays Companies.

They all have, of course, every right to ignore such a request until it comes from a court, a law enforcement agency, or perhaps the Senate Ethics Committee. But if, as all three say, they have nothing to hide and have done nothing like what was alleged in the lawsuits, they would appear to have little to lose from establishing that with documents and not just adjectives.

What documents am I talking about? It's pretty simple. Norm and Laurie Coleman could make public records showing what Mrs. Coleman has earned since the beginning of 2007, a copy of the contract under which she is paid by the Hays Companies, the nature of the work she did under that contract and documents indicating which Hays clients she serviced and what she was paid. If Sen. Coleman can establish that his wife did a reasonable amount of work for a reasonable amount of pay, the idea that her job is some kind of a sham will take a serious blow.

It's important that whatever records they might choose to divulge be as tamper-proof and time-stamped as possible. Let's face facts. Sen. Coleman has already said there is nothing to the allegations. If he wants to convince people who weren't willing to take his word for that, it's important that the documents be above reproach and not easily susceptible to the suspicion that they were created after the fact.

The Hays Companies, founded and run by Jim Hays, another wealthy Coleman friend and supporter, could also, at Coleman's request and with Kazeminy's permission, make public the contract under which Hays has been paid at least $75,000 (and perhaps more) by Deep Marine Technology (a Texas company, controlled by Kazeminy, engaged in the underwater exploration for and production of offshore oil and gas) for some kind of undisclosed consulting services.

Paul McKim, the plaintiff in one of the suits who is also the founder and, until recently at least, the CEO of DMT, says that DMT received nothing of any value to the corporation for its payments to Hays and that he tried to stop the arrangement after the first $75,000 had been paid. (In fairness to Sen. Coleman, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have not alleged that any improper payments reached either of the Colemans, only that a scheme with that purpose was launched with DMT money.)

If Hays can document that DMT received a reasonable amount of service under the contract, the idea of the sham contract would receive a serious blow.

Hays might also document what particular expertise it has in the insurance needs of an underwater mining concern. The possession of such expertise might help explain why a Texas firm would come to Minneapolis for its advice. For example, if Hays is paid similar amounts for its advice by similar clients, that would support the notion that the DMT-Hays contract was a real deal.

If such documentation exists, and if all of the parties agreed to its release, it's hard to see why the documents should or could not be made public. I asked for such documents in my email to Hays.

Lastly, Kazeminy could, through his control of Deep Marine, produce and make public internal records of that company establishing that, contrary to the allegations of Deep Marine's suspended CEO, the DMT-Hays contract was legitimate and that DMT received for its considerable payments real work that was of value to DMT.

If all of those documents were made public and checked out, there would be little remaining basis to believe that, as alleged in two lawsuits backed up by some documents and at least one sworn statement, the DMT-Hays contract was a sham designed to channel money from Kazeminy to Hays to Laurie Coleman and ultimate to the personal benefit of Sen. Coleman.




__________________
photos are from Google images, cropped, and edited for some from color to b & w

City of Ramsey - Charter amendment by citizen initiative, and the right to have an election (sort of).

The published Minnesota case Haumant v. Griffin, Dir. of Elections, 699 N.W.2d 774 (Minn.App. 2005) is online here, for anyone wishing to read it.

Haumant involved a citizen initiative to amend the City of Minneapolis Charter to add a medical marijuana provision. The Mpls. Council and its Director of Elections refused to hold an election, litigation ensued, and the judicial exception to the statutory requirement of a procedurally proper citizen initiated charter amendment petition having to go to an election, as a matter of law, was extended from allowing officials to refuse elections over clearly unconstitutional matters, to allow refusal where there was preemptive contrary statutory authority - with the matter not allowed to be passed and then subsequently tested judicially but instead "headed off at the pass" via refusal to even hold an election based on opinion of something being somehow unlawfully flawed. Remember, always, that legal opinions are just that, opinions only, and not strong binding authority. Remember again, if conflicting opinion were not to exist there would be no need for courts - which are in the business of resolving differences in opinion over fact and law.

Ramsey has had a checkered history in allowing citizen initiated charter reform to go to an election vs. citizen initiative being forestalled by a council vote to not hold an election; with the citizens then forced either to accept or litigate such a result, against the clearly deeper pocket of the City - arguably a true take-it-or-leave-it Hobson's choice situation.

While it can be argued the medicinal marijuana situation is clearly preempted, that is less so when the charter reform goes to a fear widespread in City of Ramsey's established neighborhoods, of existing homes at some point being forced to hook up to extended sewer-water while on large lots with functioning septic drainfields and tanks, and on private wells. The assessment fees could be prohibitive, and assessing authorities could argue that a single family residential property, in that situation where the owner does not wish a services change or an assessment, is told the property is "benefited" because it might be subject to subdivision into "urban size" lots so that the assessment is lawfully justified that way - despite owner intent to not subdivide or change the property or the character of that neighborhood.

A short answer from City officials in the past was that City Charter provisions in Charter ch. 8 together with ordinance protections of Ramsey Ordinance No.05-08, (effective May 16, 2005) afford "sufficient" protection.

This was the rationale (aka excuse) of partial mootness given for the James Norman administration and the Gamec-Elvig dominated council to refuse an election on a charter amendment petition, one procedurally correct but per solicited opinion of two hired lawyers a flawed proposal; the matter being of record in the full agenda and minutes for the Special City Council meeting held May 18, 2005 (two days after the above referenced Ordinance became effective).

I know.

I was there and a participant in the reform effort thus stifled.

The point of this post is that with James Norman gone months ago, and Tom Gamec to be gone beginning of next year, hopefully there will be a more receptive administration and council in place willing to consider putting the Ordinance protections into the Charter ch. 8, where undoing them would be harder than repealing and changing an Ordinance (which is what Ordinance 05-08 did and which could as easily be redone to restore the problematic but repealed prior status quo).

In moving the Ordinance protections into the Charter, deficient language could be repaired, see, e.g., the second page below, (click the image to enlarge and read).





As you can see, that Ordinance now says, curiously, that if you have a defective septic system or well, there is a time period to conform the property to

[...] cause the non-funciotnal system to be functional by compliance with City Code Section 8.30 which section is entitled "sewage Disposal Systems".


Yeah, that's right.

It does say that if you have a defective well, you have to conform the property to a Sewer provision. Overlooking the obvious is often a problem in moving too quickly to enact some reform idea aimed to face and gut a differing reform proposal. Acting in haste can end up yielding a half-aspected job.

However, since the Minnesota Health Department issues domestic well permits and regulates such wells, the practical reality is a single family residential property on a well must always meet Health Department standards to keep the well operating, so that the ordinance is largely correct in anticipating that septic system status will be the major question.

But that is no answer, as the language can be changed easily and still be suitable as compact and unencumbered Charter wording

[...] cause a non-functional water system to be functional by compliance with Health Department domestic well requirements and to cause a non-functional septic tank and drainfield system to be functional by complaince with State law regulating the safety and adequacy of private sewage Disposal Systems.


Were quoted ordinance language simply and woodenly ported over into our Charter, besides the well omission, the situation would be that the protection remains incomplete and ephemeral because new and prohibitively expensive or temporally inflexible terms could be written into "City Code Section 8.30" in a way that would turn a homeowner's situation into a connect-or-get-red-tagged-immediately-as-uninhabitable Hobson's choice. City Code provisions regarding inspections and certifications of septic systems could coexist with State health regulation, as is now the case, but the proposed change focuses upon a homeowner's never being forced to hook up a single family property if State health law is satisfied.

All further detail of any disagreement between city and homeowner can be worked out case by case, so long as the protection of a State law standard being applicable is in the Charter so that short-term detailed whims of a sitting council would not be a worry. City Code Ch. 8's Sect. 8.30 is 15 pages long, with numerous subsections, each having requirements and consequences added to the overall item - and it would be in force as City Code, where compliance provisions are a part, irrespective of the forced hookup question as a separate issue. Given that, reference in an amemded charter provision would be superfluous. The entire building and housing code is a self enforcing Code provision. Any homeowner not meeting hookup criteria and safe from compelled great assessment expense, but nonconforming with City Code, would as an independent matter have to resolve that nonconformance with city officials. There is no need for any cross reference, especially one that arguably would incorporate a changing 15 pages from Code into Charter. It would be unwise.


###
Hopefully after the start of next year things can be satisfied short of another citizens petition-and-rejection Kabuki theater session that benefits no one and lessens greatly citizen respect for and trust in city government.

I know I would be willing to work with others in such a direction.


_______UPDATE_______
Ramsey could even prove to be the Malibu of the Midwest.

Ramstad mentioned as possible drug czar.

Kevin Diaz of Strib reports, here, citing Politico (The Crypt), here, with that same Ryan Grim story carried by CBS online, here. It appears to be little beyond rumor at this point.

Grim's reporting has an interesting disclaimer - earlier work writing for a separate advocacy group was independent from this report, the group not being his story source.

Ramstad's history supports a view that if the job were his, DEA and other federal attention would be less incarceration-punishment oriented for possession offenses, and more focused on keeping citizens productively in the economy, aka rehabilitation, treatment, etc.

First time possession offense incarceration and mandatory sentencing for specific offenses has to be resulting in a lot of plea bargaining, defendants pleading to attempted possession and such fictions where a lesser plea (without jail time) is arranged to keep the court calendar volume lower, etc. Diversion into counseling and treatment programs is possible.

Yet there cannot be too much of that, or else the profitability of those for-profit privately run prison firms will not do as well as their advocates and investors might wish. (Click on the below image to read BBC opening paragraphs, or read the entire story at the link just given).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paul Thissen and Tom Bakk appear to be the only two active DFL governor candidates. Behind the scenes, who knows besides the insiders.

Aaron Brown's recent MnBlue post was a Google Alert return item on an alert I had set for "Paul Thissen," here.

That got links over to Aaron's blog, here about interviewing Paul Thissen, and then to here, and here about helathcare as a State concern (from Hibbing Daily Tribune), and here, about a Tom Bakk interview session with Brown {and with a link to a prior Paul Demko MinnIndy interview with Bakk, here).

The same Google Alert gave the Thissen campaign site, linking to Brown, here.

Bakk, in the Demko interview, is a realist about starting to raise money early, and Thissen has an aggressive and purposeful posted schedule, here, with the word "fundraiser" neither inconspicuous nor absent. Presently, on the interactive map Anoka County is not in the future, nor the past, ditto so far for Sherburne County.

Thissen is beginning to post early campaign stop images, this being one, Oct. 20, Elks Club, Worthington:



Brown links to "failing grades" info, here, and to healthcareformn.org

Brown shares my concern for healthcare issues, addressed at the State level, while we await the Obama presidency, the Democratic majority in both houses, and what might be achieved nationally that would fit or preempt any reform we institute in Minnesota. Brown, as an Iron Range resident, has written for regional papers, links to them on his site, and is one of the more active blogs on the Range, wanting as we all do, broader broadband in the backyard. If you pass on comments to that post, I offer a helpful link, referring to the monticellofiber.com experience as background.

This is not NORML.

It's not NORML at all. It's the U.S. Government. Taking out a patent, for medicinal benefit of -- come on, guess ---




See here. Also, here and here.

STEM CELLS: MPR reports - a possiblly rapid reversal of Bush impediment to medical science and progress.

Read the full report, here, or click the screen shot to enlarge and read opening paragraphs.

Kieth Ellison seeks leadership role in Democrats' Progressive Caucus.

The Hill, yesterday, reported:

Liberals are hailing a three-way fight to lead the Congressional Progressive Caucus as a sign of the growing influence of the Democratic left on Capitol Hill.

“It’s a sign of the caucus’s growing strength and vitality that this is going on,” said Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal group that will host a forum Tuesday with two of the three contenders.

Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) are both challenging incumbent Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Woolsey is co-chairwoman with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who is stepping aside and is expected to become chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Woolsey had planned to step down, then reversed course and announced she would run again.

Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress, is the newest contender, returning from his freshman term. Grijalva, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has been active on the environment and support for immigrants.

The contest comes as most leadership fights have fizzled or been settled by the intervention of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

In the past, the leader of the liberal group was chosen by consensus, or someone would agree to serve.

But this year nine of the 13 candidates the caucus supported won election, and its membership is expected to grow to 80 members. In addition, Democrats will control both ends of the Capitol with sizable majorities, and the White House will be occupied by a Democrat with a liberal voting record.

The housing slump brings us -- affordable housing, or at least the trend's started on the West Coast.

Less than a month ago, LA Times reported:

KB Home building smaller houses to lift sagging sales
The company is trying to attract buyers with 1,230-square-foot homes selling for $200,000 in the Inland Empire and other high-foreclosure areas.
By Peter Y. Hong, L.A. Times Staff - Sep. 27, 2008



As California's biggest builder of new homes posted its seventh straight quarterly loss Friday, Westwood-based KB Home said it was trying to boost sales by building small, lower-priced houses instead of the larger ones that had sustained the company during the housing boom.

KB Home lost $144.7 million from July through September, or $1.87 a share, compared with a net loss of $35.6 million, or 46 cents a share, for the third quarter of 2007.

The company's shares were up 40 cents Friday, to $21.56. The stock has fallen 28% from its 52-week high.

The loss exceeded analysts' estimates and came as sales of the company's homes fell 56% in the quarter compared with a year earlier.

KB Chief Executive Jeffrey Mezger said that foreclosed houses being sold at fire-sale prices were continuing to pull home prices down, and that parts of the country that have yet to see the dramatic price declines experienced by California and other Western states were likely to fall next.

The company has been selling smaller houses at lower prices in areas such as Beaumont in Riverside County.

Mezger said the company had to shift to smaller, cheaper houses to compete with foreclosed houses flooding markets such as the Inland Empire.

"The challenge is how do you get your pricing down on new product so you can make money at these lower levels," Mezger said.

The company last year shifted from building 3,400-square-foot homes selling for $450,000 to 2,400-square-foot homes selling for $300,000.

"That worked for a time, but the market continued to move away from us," Mezger said.

Now, KB Home is building three-bedroom, 1,230-square-foot homes selling for $200,000 in the Inland Empire, Mezger said.


It appears it takes a housing disaster to get builders off the dime, to think on a lesser scale, but if you do not water all the crabgrass, some will die off but the hardiest survives.

Low end is reasonable, and these numbers, 3,400 sq.ft., at $450,000 downscale to 1,230 sq.ft. at $200,000 is an awakening. Interestingly, the downtrended home moved from $132/sq.ft. to $163/sq.ft. in the process, meaning land, site prep, and public charges for licenses, fees and permits, stayed fixed. Variable costs, such as siding and roofing and glazing, per interior sq.ft., may also factor into the equation - big homes are cheaper to bulld per sq.ft., but if nobody can afford that these days of tighter credit, it is irrelevant.

McMansions - who knows, but that move from near half-million down is interesting.

Does anyone from the Twin Cities building-real estate world know if any parallel change is happening here? If so, please leave a comment.

________UPDATE THOUGHT_________
If average selling cost and size get downscaled, in say Ramsey where I live, so that builders can move properties - how does that impact the myth of the rooftops? That is, the myth that more rooftops mean more tax base, hence fat city for staff growth and municipal spending - never mind studies saying low-end housing costs more in services spending than it brings in in tax revenue - with uncertainty of where any break even point might be for housing, but with industrial and commercial property in the tax base being the opposite - paying more than it costs. In any event, the disparity between housing in the tax base as burden, and business property as benefit, becomes greater as the assessed value added to tax base per new family, on average, goes down.

Adding a lot more housing in the exurb towns such as Ramsey is unwise for the public taxpayers, but a bonanza for the landowner cashing out the sandy unproductive farm acreage.

What would be worse, however, with that disparity would be to allow those cashing out the farm to socialize entrepreneurial development costs to taxpayers, making the net deal even worse for taxpayers but the land-builder profits greater. Allowing that kind of socialism for a handful is more raw for our citizens to take and more costly in total, to the general public.

Municipal alertness to these realities, and pursuit of fair policies internalizing development costs to the profit seekers seems the only sensible way for an exurban town government to go.

Gary Gross, Let Freedom Ring Blog, live-blogging the canvassing board hearing today.

He is GOP, but he is taking his time to do this, and it is helpful to those not there.

_________
PiPress reports, here. Strib, here. Coleman presently leads by 215. Things go back to zero, and there will have to be ballot-by-ballot review of about 2.9 million. It will be tedious, but it has to be done.

The way we operate, the Senator can only be the one chosen by more voters. That's why there has to be a recount. It's uncertain, until ballots are reviewed and recounted.

Then the five-member panel will have the ultimate say. Then, who knows what the lawyers might do. They have certain skill sets ...

Nashville, 1975, the candidate for President we never saw, only hearing him on the loudspeaker, Hal Philip Walkeer, wanting to ban lawyers from Congress:

Who do you think is running Congress? Farmers? Engineers? Teachers? Businessmen? No, my friends. Congress is run by lawyers. A lawyer is trained for two things and two things only. To clarify - that's one. And to confuse - that's the other. He does whichever is to his client's advantage. Did you ever ask a lawyer the time of day? He told you how to make a watch, didn't he? Ever ask a lawyer how to get to Mr. Jones' house in the country? You got lost, didn't you? Congress is composed of five hundred and thirty-five individuals. Two hundred and eighty-eight are lawyers. And you wonder what's wrong in Congress. No wonder we often know how to make a watch, but we don't know the time of day.

Tired old GOP divisive hacks, redux. Jeff Davis, Mary Kiffmeyer and crew - vengeful toward peoples' choice, Mark Ritchie.

Is half a pie less attractive if you find out the missing half had a rat baked in?

That's a hypothetical question many might see as unconnected to the remainder of this post.

Strib online today, telling its story, (which is arguably half a story if you feel that the entire story reads more discernibly when given background identities of the players' and historical roles):

Group alleging voter irregularities seeks a probe
Minnesota Majority says the secretary of state didn't verify registrations. Mark Ritchie's office says that's not true.

By KEVIN DUCHSCHERE, Star Tribune Update: Nov. 17, 2008 - 9:43 PM


A Minnesota watchdog group that advocates for what it calls traditional values called Monday for an investigation into alleged voting irregularities that it says can be remedied by eliminating same-day voter registration and requiring citizens to show photo IDs before voting.

At a news conference, Minnesota Majority president Jeff Davis said the group is filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice contending that Secretary of State Mark Ritchie had failed to verify voter registrations as required by federal law.

The group is also seeking records from the Secretary of State's Office and county officials under the state's Data Practices Act [...] Ritchie spokesman John Aiken said the Secretary of State's Office will forward the information sought by Minnesota Majority. As for charges that the office failed to properly verify voters, Aiken said that officials "just don't think that's true."

Everyone legally eligible to vote should be allowed to do so, [Davis] said, but eligibility for everyone should be checked at least 30 days before they vote and verified on Election Day.

Volunteers with Minnesota Majority have found what the group deems voting irregularities after going through registration lists supplied by the state, Davis said. Those irregularities include duplicate records, vacant voting addresses, incomplete registration forms and voters who may have voted more than once.

Last month, Ritchie charged the group with intimidating voters by making phone calls seeking information. Davis called that baseless.


As if this Minnesota Majority is an entity in a vacuum, untied to anyone, or anything overtly and politically committed, beyond being represented by the mentioned "Jeff Davis" for whom Strib apparently sees no need for backgrounding.


There is this from Minnesota Monitor:

Kiffmeyer was an extremely controversial figure as secretary of state, drawing criticism from Democrats, independents and, occasionally, Republicans.

Kiffmeyer came under fire for her statements regarding the separation of church and state. At a National Day of Prayer event in 2004, Kiffmeyer said that the "five words" that are "probably most destructive" in America today are "separation of church and state."

Many of her decisions as secretary of state were overturned by the courts. In 2002, when Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash, she prevented the distribution of replacement absentee ballots to those who requested them, a decision overruled by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In 2004, she attempted to remove the Independence Party from the ballot, a move that was overruled by the Minnesota Supreme Court. She tried to prevent the use of IDs issued by tribal governments for voter registration, a move that was overruled by the courts.

During the 2004 elections, Kiffmeyer made national headlines when she decided to post terrorist warning signs at polling places throughout Minnesota urging voters to be wary of people appearing at precincts with "shaved head[s] or short hair" who "smell of unusual herbal/flower water or perfume," wear baggy clothing or appear to be whispering to themselves.

The Kiffmeyer clan made waves on the political scene even before Mary Kiffmeyer's tenure as secretary of state. Her husband, Ralph Kiffmeyer, served one term in the Minnesota House, and he made it a controversial one with a bill to outlaw "sex toys and live sex performances."

Kiffmeyer and her husband are evangelical Christians, and are part owners in a "Christ-centered" bank. In fact, Kiffmeyer was the director of the bank's parent holding company. Two paintings at Riverview Community Bank in Otsego hang on the wall of the office where the bank president prays with bank customers. One painting shows "two businessmen in an office; one is shaking hands with Christ, as though closing a deal," and the other "is a scene of what appears to be Eden. Tucked into the background of that painting is a small representation of Riverview," according to the Pioneer Press in 2004.

Since Kiffmeyer was voted out of office in 2006, she has joined up with an organization called Minnesota Majority as its executive director. Minnesota Majority is made up of Jeff Davis, founder of Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage, a group dedicated to preventing legal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Minnesotans, and Drew Emmer, uncle of Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano.

Minnesota Majority is an advocacy group that engages in a hodgepodge of wedge issue and culture war rhetoric. Its Web site decries taxes, abortion, GLBT rights, embryonic stem cell research and illegal immigration. It advocates for military intervention in Iraq, abstinence-only sex ed, a free market health care fix and intelligent design taught in the classrooms. There's barely a religious right or ultra-conservative topic left untouched.

The group came under criticism for racially charged text on its blog earlier this year. "It is not surprising that Sweden has a lower infant mortality rate, or that Japan has a longer life expectancy than the United States does," read an article on the site. "They are nearly racially pure; we are not." Kiffmeyer defended the text saying that its mention of racial purity must be understood in context, that it "is simply descriptive."

"That's a genetic term," Kiffmeyer told the Pioneer Press' Rachel Stassen-Berger. "It does matter when you are doing medical studies."


Bless those Swedes, especially when closing a bank deal in Otsego with some Japanese, on a handshake, presumably with some accompanying paperwork not apparent in the bank wall hanging. Bless pure reasoning without slant or suggestion, pure crystal-clear reasoning. It stuns and stupefies. One immediate question, what about Norwegians or Koreans? What's their track record, on quality of life factors or on genetic diversity? Icelanders? Finns? Kiffmeyers?

See Minnesota Independent, here and here; see also Davis' uniter-not-igniter role, here and here; see MPR here; see also the "Majority's" website here, and for an indication you can be disruptive on a small budget, here.

There also are these two screen shots, respectively from here and here:







Can you say fundamentalist; as in "mistaken, tired, sorry, Swedes-are-racially-pure, Japanese too, trouble-making fundamentalist?"

I can.

Can you say Strib at least should have mentioned that Jeff Davis website cutover linking the new "majority" with the old marriage defenders, per the second screen shot? Or that Strib should have noted the fact of Jeff Davis being not only political regarding current voter registration, but being politically theocratic and tied in that to a past theocratic Secretary of State while contesting things concerning the current more secular Secretary of State, all of that is part of how we can assess credibility vs. partisanship, and it should not be written out of a statewide daily's reporting of news events and backgrounds?

I can say all that. You can agree or disagree.