Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We Know Who We Are Voting For

In less than two weeks we will be exercising our constitutional responsibility as citizens of this great land to cast votes for federal, a few state and many local offices. 

We've been in Montana for two years and change now so the state and local political landscapes are much clearer to us than when we last voted in a general election, a mere three months after our arrival. 

We look at where candidates claim to stand on the issues only as a first cut. It is important to dig. We are pretty thorough in vetting candidates in order to understand their backgrounds, political and life experiences, and governing philosophies. We don't expect people to be saints in their personal lives, but integrity in the public arena is non-negotiable. 

Candidates reveal themselves in the choices they make in life and their achievements (or lack thereof), much more so than in any 30 second radio or TV spot. Many times the most revealing information you can get on a politician (or most anyone else for that matter) is what they do when they don't think anyone is looking. I look for candidates who have the background, the motivation and the will to do the right thing.

Montana is an odd state politically. To oversimplify a bit, voters are both anti-corporate and anti-government, or conversely pro-union and pro-liberty. When anti-corporate sentiments are brewing the Democrats do well. When anti-government animus is rising the Republicans do well. 

Second Amendment rights and insistence on the freedom to bear arms without state interference are huge. You walk into any sporting goods store, a ranch supply outlet, or even the Costgo, gun safes are front and center. This is not about abstractions. It's a matter of everyday life. 

Let me offer an example. For whatever reason, the deer population around town is up this year and there has been a lot of road kill. It has been coming up in conversation lately on a regular basis. 

I was talking to "Brian" about the dead deer scourge, when he mentioned that he was driving down Churchill Road the other day, and saw a severely injured deer writhing along the roadside. He stopped and got out of his truck, and observed the deer was mortally injured. He returned to his vehicle and retrieved his hand gun to put the young buck out of its misery. A few days later I was talking with "Jay." He had seen a badly injured deer on River Road a few days previous. He mentioned that he retrieved his pistol from his Subaru and effected the same result. I mentioned these incidents to "Dale" who told me that he had done the same thing many times, out in the country of course. He wouldn't shoot anything in town.

All these guys hard working, salt of the earth, decent, honorable and self reliant as they are, if they lived in DC, and were stopped and searched as a result of a traffic violation, would be arrested for felony gun possession and would be looking at doing hard time.

We live outside of town. In the two plus years we have lived here I have seen maybe a half dozen times a county sheriff's department patrol vehicle out our way. In stark contrast, there were plenty of days back in Arlington, Virginia in non-emergency situations, that I saw that many police cars in one place at one time (usually near the Dunkin Donut or hanging in the Goodwill parking lot, middle of the night). We may be lightly policed out here, but I can vouch that most (perhaps all) of my neighbors are armed with rifles and semi-automatic hand guns. They say don't mess with Texas, but you are bananas if you mess with citizens in Montana. Firearms are really important.

My view of the political world, forged by 33 years in Washington, DC, and decades of economic and financial analysis, is the federal government is too big, too wasteful, too debt ridden, too deficit driven, too imposing, too burdensome, too incompetent and too ready to pull the trigger, literally and figuratively. That doesn't mean I believe in no government. It does mean we marched right past what was reasonable, fiscally sustainable, and efficient and effective, many years ago. No sincere effort to productively reduce or limit any aspect of the federal government, or identify major paybacks from increased accountability, would come up empty. Washington, DC is totally out of control. 

I don't vote for anyone or anything, and I never have, because someone promised they would give me something. My voting these days is colored substantially by the reality that we are $18 trillion in debt, at perhaps the worst possible time, when we are about to see federal expenditures inexorably climb as the baby boom demographic tsunami makes the country's most populous generation takers instead of makers. I would be happy to see my federal pension limited or shaved as part of genuine fiscal reform because that would be good for the country and great for my children.

You mix all the above together and my views are very much libertarian -- I say libertarian leaning because I don't vote based on party labels. Running under the Libertarian Party banner doesn't qualify someone as the best choice in a given election, anymore than does qualifying for the ballot as a Democrat or Republican.

So here are my 2014 choices for federal office. I pray that they are right.

United States Senate.

One of the positive things about Montana is many of the Republican candidates have a libertarian streak. So it is with the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, Steve Daines. Daines is a first term U.S. Congressman who has taken votes to limit the size of the federal government even when those votes have been unpopular with constituents. His campaign motto is "More Jobs, Less Government." He means it. And he is not a lawyer. 

Daines is a local boy in his youth elected president of the student council at Bozeman High School,who earned a chemical engineering degree at Montana State, went to work internationally for Proctor and Gamble, and then returned to work in Bozeman with his father in the construction business. Through that work, Daines became acquainted with Greg Gianforte, founder of Right Now Technolgies, a highly successful tech startup that Daines joined, producing together hundreds of high paid jobs in the Bozeman area. I have been unable to find anyone who knows Daines personally or professionally who has a bad thing to say about the man or his character.

On the other side, the Democrats have been royal screw ups. Known for 36 years as Max Baucus' seat, Democrats have held this senate seat for a hundred years. Realizing that his role in drafting and managing the passage of Obamacare would likely be fatal in the 2014 election, Baucus announced his intention to retire and spend more time in his beloved Montana. It turns out that Montana is the neighborhood of Beijing, where an Obama offered ambassadorship beckoned. 

Democratic Governor and lawyer, Steve Bullock, chose John Walsh, his buddy and lieutenant governor, to complete Baucus' term when Max left for China. General Walsh, US Army, Ret., was touted for his honor in serving state and country, having commanded the Montana national guard and having served a rotation deployed in Iraq. Bullock was looking to give Walsh the edge of incumbency going into November's election. Wash's candidacy imploded in July when it was unearthed that he had plagiarized a paper required to earn his masters degree at the US Army War College. Walsh first responded claiming he made some paperwork errors and had done nothing wrong (virtually the entire paper was copied without attribution from other sources), then claimed post traumatic stress disorder and anti-anxiety drugs. Then he blamed his fraud on a soldier's suicide. Finally, he quit the campaign realizing his credibility and honor shticks were shot (his masters degree has been subsequently revoked and his rank as general will eventually follow). 

The Democrats chose to replace Walsh with one Amanda Curtis, a school teacher and first time Montana house legislator from Butte, who is really good at dissing, sassing and mocking her opponents (with a great big smile, of course), but not much of anything else. Vote for one of us she says. Check this out.
Curtis has said some unflattering things about gun rights, and Christians, and her desire to punch other lawmakers in the face—all of them in YouTube diaries she broadcast as commentaries on the Montana legislative session. Nothing terribly far-out there. The far-out part is her association with the Wobblies.
The Wobblies are the Industrial Workers of the World, a hard-left union of historical vintage that let the 20th century pass it by. “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common,” the group proclaims. “Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.”
Nothing says “modern, forward-thinking progressive” like warmed-over Lenin.
Curtis’ husband is more active in the IWW than she, but her admiration for communist economics doesn’t stop there. Not long ago she replaced her Facebook profile picture with a photo of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the former chairwoman of the Communist Party USA.
Well I ain't one of you, thank God, and Amanda, I hope the campaign lets you keep your spiffy new wardrobe when you return to the mining city for the next semester. 

RealClear Politics has spotted the Montana senate seat as the most likely to change parties in November.

As an aside, the Libertarian party candidate for senate is one Roger Roots a one-time skinhead and Nazi sympathizer, whose libertarian roots appear to be solely grounded in the legal arena. He has no economic cred. It appears he is a part year Montana resident. I never seriously considered voting for the man.

I will be happy to vote for Steve Daines.

US House Race

Here we are a mile high amid the mountains in Montana. And the mainstream party choices are a Capitol Hill staffer and a Navy Seal. I do not lie.

John Lewis, the Democrat, worked for Max Baucus. He has shot a single TV commercial in which he smugly states, "I will balance the budget the right way." When asked in the first debate what programs he would trim or eliminate to balance the budget, Lewis could not identify a single one. Enough for the lying scalawag. 

Ryan Zinke is a Navy Seal. Did I tell you. Ryan Zinke is a Navy Seal? Did I forget to mention, Ryan Zinke is a Navy Seal? Zinke won with the minority of the votes over three serious challengers in the Republican primary, two of whom were libertarian leaning candidates I would have been happy to vote for in November. Too bad they split up the vote. Zinke has zero cred on economic and fiscal issues, and not much of a philosophical core, other than he knows how to lead us into combat and war.

We turn to Mike Fellows, Libertarian Party candidate for Congress.
Welcome to the Mike Fellows for Congress Web site. Libertarians agree that you should live your own life without infringing on the rights of others. Government is simply force with a little mob rule thrown in.
Mike Fellows is running because we have no Fiscal Conservative that represents Montana. Congress continues to spend like drunken sailors. The national debt keeps rising with no end in site. Our dollar is weak and we see higher prices as a result. 
Please get out and vote. There are choices in folks who want a smaller government and lower taxes rather then the Tax and Spend or the Borrow and Spend candidates. Thanks for visiting and we look forward to your vote and help.
In the 2012 election, Mike Fellows ran for Clerk of the Montana Supreme Court, and received 43 percent of the vote, the strongest partisan election performance for statewide office of any Libertarian  candidate ever.

Mike Fellows is our choice for Montana's at large seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Montana Hospital One of Four Nationwide With Infectious Disease Isolation Units

We live in southwest Montana, just beyond the city limits of Bozeman. Across the wheat fields, within sight of our house, is the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital complex, shown in the Google Maps satellite view below.

Our neighborhood is in the front left foreground. Across the mid left and center of the screen are wheat fields. The red teardrop symbol in back right of the satellite view identifies Bozeman Deaconess, including the hospital plus 22 of its 23 associated clinics. I can swivel my head and see the hospital out our back living room window as I type this post. Helicopters frequently fly overhead ferrying in seriously injured patients to the emergency room, or taxiing critically ill heart disease patients, or other patients who can be better served, to specialized facilities east of us in Billings.

Not surprisingly, ours is a neighborhood heavily populated with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals. Our children go to schools with their children. There is abundant interaction and person-to-person contact. 

Bozeman Deaconess hospital is where we go for emergencies. It being a hundred or more miles or one or more mountain passes to everything else that you might call a city, there is really no other good option. Three out of our six household members see doctors in that complex. As the others age out of pediatric medicine we all will come to rely on the complex for our ongoing health care needs.

So when I heard a news report that one of the four hospital facilities nationwide specially equipped to treat people diagnosed with infectious diseases was in Montana, my ears perked up.  I checked to see where, and readily admit, I was relieved to learn the designated facility was in Missoula, 210 miles up the road.

Up along the Bitterroot Valley the local NBC TV station reports they are saying trust us.
MISSOULA, Mont. - St. Patrick Hospital officials answered questions Thursday from the Missoula Health Board about the hospital's Care and Isolation Unit, or CIU. 
It's one of four units like it in the country that is specially equipped to treat people diagnosed with infectious diseases, and it's received a lot of attention in light of the Ebola outbreak. 
St. Patrick Hospital's Joyce Dombrouski told the board that no one is currently being treated for Ebola at the hospital's CIU, and there aren't any plans for that to change.
To understand how it could, she says it's important to understand why St. Patrick's CIU was built in the first place. She says came at the request of Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Laboratories.
Doctors and technicians there work on vaccines and cures for infectious diseases, and the lab needed a place to treat anyone at the lab who became accidentally infected.
The lab also puts St. Patrick doctors and nurses through infectious disease treatment training drills twice a year.
Providence St. Patrick's Hospital, Missoula, MT.
All of that makes St. Patrick more than capable of treating a patient diagnosed with Ebola outside the city or state -- someone from Texas, for example -- but it would only come at the request of federal health officials, and St. Patrick would have the final say.
If St. Patrick were to get the call, the Missoula Health Department would have oversight and would perform safety inspections prior to any patient transfer. That's according to Missoula City-County Health Department spokesperson Cindy Hotchkiss.
"It's a rule that's been in place for a really long time," said Hotchkiss. "It basically states that we want to ensure that there's no way that this infectious disease could be spread through the process of transferring a patient."
At the end of the video (available at the link immediately above), the TV station says that the hospital has repeatedly denied its request for an interview. In total nationwide, the four infectious disease units can house 8 to 13 patients

The infectious disease crowd are all playing a relativity game. You are safe because there is something that is not currently happening that would make you less safe. 

The challenge with understanding and reacting to Ebola is that right now no one really knows how infectious it is. The statements made by "experts" and "scientists" concerning the low probability of transmission are based on pre-2014 experience in Africa, when there were a few dozen or a few hundred cases per year.  But this year there are already 10,000 documented cases, with some credibly claiming that numbers are dramatically under reported. The World Health Organization predicts new cases could reach 10,000 a week before the end of the year. 

Why has the rate of infections increased so dramatically? You don't hear the experts raising the question in public venues, much less trying to answer it. This story has a long way to roll and the crisis has a long way to come before it gets resolved one way or another.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Market Savvy

It turns out the President of Venezeula believes in market forces more than the President of the United States.
Nicholas Maduro, el President of the "Fifth Republic" of
Venezuela, guaranteeing free quality health care, free education
through college, a clean environment and protection of the
rights of all minorities and indigenous people. The country
is mired in a long term economic slump. Real incomes are plummeting.
CARACAS, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday blamed Washington for the slump in global oil prices.
Washington is "flooding" the market with cheaper shale oil to bring down prices and ultimately impact Russia and other oil-producing nations, Maduro said at a televised Cabinet meeting.
"The U.S. and its allies want to affect oil prices to harm Russia, which produces around 10 million barrels per day, and that is the vital income of their economy," said Maduro.
 Yet your President, Barack Obama, preaching to his legions of ignorant believers, has famously said "We can't drill our way to lower gas prices." If you are wondering why he can't get hardly anything right, it is because the President of the United States is immune to the realities of commerce and economics. He is no better on matters of national security and disease control. Barack Obama is the most non-empirical president ever, a fellow who is delusional to the point of thinking he makes things true by his mere utterances.

We have two years and three months left of this. God help us all. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

North Dakota Gold

Remember the intro to each 
Beverly Hillbillies episode, when Jed Clampett's rifle shot missed low and produced a gusher? Well, it seems Jed's aim has moved a smidgen or two north now. There is gold in them there hills, black gold that is, North Dakota tea. The western badlands and plains in North Dakota are checker boarded with drilling rigs and pipes. They extract and transport from the Bakken oil fields and the underlying Three Forks formation, now confirmed by the USGS to include 7.4 billion barrels of oil reserve, an estimate that will only increase in years to come. On top of that, the fields contain 6.7 trillion feet of natural gas. 

While some other states are raising tax rates to counteract stagnant or slowly growing revenue streams, North Dakota's tax revenues have risen by leaps and bounds, enabling tax rate reductions. Here is a 2013 report that highlights the favorable trends.
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s last revenue report for 2013 from the Office of Management and Budget shows yet another month of double-digit percentage increases even after years of oil boom-driven revenue growth.
Six months into the 2013-2015 biennium, tax collections are running more than 20 percent above the previous biennium. Going back four bienniums to December of 2007, North Dakota’s tax revenues have increased nearly 135 percent. 
In terms of raw dollars, the largest increase has been in sales tax revenue, which increased $142.68 million to $638.44 million for the biennium to date. By comparison, sales tax revenue at this point in December 2007 were $279.33 million. 
As a percentage, the largest increase has been collections from personal and corporate income taxes, which have increased 43.7 and 65.6 percent, respectively. 
That comes despite a 19.3 percent cut for personal income taxes and a 12 percent cut for corporate income taxes passed by the Legislature last year, the third consecutive session in which both tax rates were trimmed.
Compare, for example, the state of Illinois, which raised its income tax rate by 67 percent and imposed a punitive corporate tax rate that is driving business out of the state. Also, contrast with California which has voted in double digit income tax rates on top of an incredibly high 7.5 percent sales tax. It is no wonder that North Dakota is now experiencing the most rapid population growth of any state in the country.

The state of North Dakota is profiting greatly from the rapid growth in the development oil and gas resources. But North Dakotans are not spendthrift short term thinkers or planners. They are putting a hefty portion of the oil wealth away in sovereign funds, a real investment for future generations.

Here is the scorecard,
The state Legacy Fund, a lock box for a portion of the state’s oil-tax wealth that was created in 2010, is now worth about $2.2 billion. The state Department of Trust Lands, which leases out North Dakota’s oil-bearing property, has about $4.6 billion – an increase of about 350 percent from fiscal year 2009, when the boom was just beginning.
The two-fund total of $6.8 billion may not sounds like all that much to those in the more populous environs on the coasts and through America's heartlands. But consider that North Dakota state population is 723,393. low enough to even allow some Montanans to sneer. Annual North Dakota state government expenditures are on the order of $4.5 billion. The Legacy and Trust Lands fund are growing on the order of half a billion dollars annually.  If the combined fund reserve and surplus ratios were applied to the federal government as a whole, we would have approximately $5 trillion in investments (as opposed to the actual $18 trillion in debt), and our annual surpluses be around half a trillion dollars compared to the last six year average of just less than a trillion dollars ($954 billion).

North Dakota voted this in, by a 27 point margin.
N.D. Legacy Committee issues Measure One statement

 N.D. Legacy Committee issues Measure One statement

BISMARCK, ND – In yesterday’s statewide election voters passed Measure 1, which establishes the North Dakota Legacy Fund. 
“This is a bright day for the future financial stability of North Dakota,” said North Dakota Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Sandy Clark. “North Dakota voters made the decision to leave a legacy for future generations. Projections for the 2011-2013 biennium will put $613 million into the savings account and still have almost $700 million for immediate needs.”  
The 2010 Legacy Fund measure requires 30 percent of the total collections of both the oil extraction tax and gross production tax are deposited into the fund. Deposits into and earnings of the Legacy Fund cannot be withdrawn until 2017. After 2017, the earnings from the Legacy Fund are transferred into the general fund, and the Legislature may spend up to 15 percent of the fund’s principle balance every two years with a two-thirds approval by both the House and Senate.  
Dakota Draper, President of the North Dakota Education Association, said, “The NDEA is very pleased that North Dakota voters have supported a plan to make sure that the oil resources we have continue to provide for generations of future North Dakotans long after the oil is depleted. The balance of saving and spending in Measure 1 enables us to take care of present and future needs of all North Dakotans.” 
The 2010 Legacy Fund is a more balanced approach than the similar measure proposed in 2008, which was based on specific dollar amounts rather than on set percentages.
Responsible fiscal management is spelled N_O_R_T_H  D_A_K_O_T_A, not anything that correlates with or emanates from our federal government. 

Have a blessed day and good luck to all.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
October 11, 2014
(click to enlarge)

When we were down in Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago I realized I had left the mega capacity memory card we use in the Nikon camera back home in the front slot of my notebook computer. I found the smaller capacity backup we store in the camera case for such eventualities and used that to shoot some scenes. 

Later, when we downloaded the backup card for editing and archival selection we were pleasantly surprised to see a treasure trove of back in the day Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia photos, featuring our girls in period dress. During the 2013 federal government shutdown, we blogged a recommendation to visit Williamsburg (owned and operated by a private foundation) and Mount Vernon (ditto). Had the shutdown continued another week we would have recommended Monticello as well. Government shutdown or not, when we lived inside the Beltway in Northern Virginia, those were my three favorite places of historical note to visit. The privately run operations are much better than just about everything the government has to offer. When you travel to DC or Virginia, we highly commend these fascinating destinations.

Here are some of the "lost" photos, highlighting our girls in period costume, with matching outfits for their American Girl dolls no less. Enjoy!

Waiting for the carriage along Duke of Gloucester Street.

In the carriage.

American Girl dolls.

Posing with period actors.

Along the village green.

Playing the harpsichord (really).

In the warm spring sun.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

On The Road to Bathgate Act 4h: Aunt Laura Albina Foster

It was common back in the day for the eldest daughter to take on her mother's first name. She then would be known by her middle name within the family, and in many cases beyond, so as to avoid confusion with mom. It was normal back in the day to be named, first or middle, after an aunt or uncle. It was ordinary back in the day that if any of the children attended college, that would mean the eldest. And so it was with my aunt Laura Albina Foster.

Bina, as she was known to all, was born in 1890 to Isaac J. Foster and Laura Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Armstrong Foster. She was the eldest of the 11 Foster children who survived infancy. My father, George W. Foster, born 19 years later, was the youngest. Laura Albina Foster, pharmacist in her adulthood, died on November 3, 1928 of mortification of appendicitis. Following are the surprisingly large number of snippets and the themes we have been able to uncover and piece together of her life on this earth.

The Way College Used to Be

1910s era ad for what has become North Dakota State University, in Fargo, ND.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday Pictures

Saturday Pictures
October 4, 2014
(click photos to enlarge)

Irving is our deer this fall; he is a young buck. We first spied our pal chomping on the broccoli in the garden.

Now he is a fixture under the crab apple tree, chomping down the fallen fruit.

We took our German foreign exchange student down to Yellowstone last Sunday where the buffalo roam.

And feed to fatten up for the winter.

We saw a water fall or two.


And geysers of course.

And a thermal area known as the Paint Pots.

We don't need national parks for outstanding views. This perspective is from Blake's classmate's home up Bearclaw Lane looking down the valley into town (Bozeman).

On the other side, away from town, we can see one of Warren Buffett's trains chugging around the bend and up the mountain.

And the gateway to Bozeman is a rock formation known as the nose, or George Washington in repose.

Have a great day and good luck to all!

Friday, October 3, 2014

First In Time

Well, we live in Bozeman, Montana. So it is only natural we would be interested in and would wonder who was the first among us in our family who had set foot in Bozeman. Up to now we had been assuming that it was Lyndon King Armstrong, brother to my grandmother. Lyndon is a documented miner in the Montana territory, but, to this point, we have have no specifics as to how, when or where he spent his time in Montana. We now have affirmative evidence of other relations in Bozeman in the year 1910.

Bixmarck Tribune, August 26, 1910/
It was said "[a]t Bozeman Mr. and Mrs. Hoskins got off the train and threw snowballs, as there was a heavy snowfall there a few nights ago. It is said that this is the first August snow storm recorded in wetern Montana."

Mrs. R. D. Hoskins was sister to my grandmother, Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Hoskins. Mr. R. D. Hoskins was the first clerk of the North Dakota state supreme court, and founder of the Hoskins Meyer retail establishment in Bismarck, as well as one time editor of the Sentinel newspaper in Bathgate, North Dakota.

The Bozeman Northern Pacific railroad depot visited by the Hoskins in 1910 has fallen into disuse. The depot was originally built in 1892 and extensively renovated in 1923. It was last used (for now discontinued Amtrak passenger service) in 1979. Plans are being develop to preserve the depot in the hope it will be restored and reused as has been done with so many other railroad depots throughout Montana.

Snow in August? Certainly not the last. That's Montana. Good luck to all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Top September Posts

September was solid on Along the Gradyent.  A few oldies led the most-popular list, supplemented by new September material. Without further ado, here are September's top ten.

"The Goal," March 16, 1973.
1. Forty One Years Ago Today recounts the amazing story of a 1973 road trip to the Frozen Four ice hockey championships to watch our Wisconsin Badgers reign supreme in the tournament at the old Boston Garden. Hockey was only the half of it, because on the way back we totaled the car in a blizzard and were stranded along an interstate highway in rural Pennsylvania. A station wagon ride, a taxi cab ride, a Greyhound bus ride, a commuter train ride, and a Northwest Orient flight later, we had wound our way back to Madison, Wisconsin to resume college life.

2. Perennial favorite, On The Road to Bathgate Act 1, Fargo The Movie, placed second on the September list. We had set out to write a post on my dad's family and his hometown of Bathgate, North Dakota. The family focus drifted into the background when we learned that Bathgate was the backdrop for snowy Fargo movie scenes because snow was sparse across the state line in Minnesota and down in Fargo. The Coen brothers improvised by moving the production north.

3. September 11: We Rember (Repost) relates our personal experience that fateful day in Washington, DC, and Arlington, Virginia, at our home two neighborhoods over from the Pentagon. We shall never forget.

4. In Bathgate Meets Morton Grove, we marry our two favorite themes. Picture this. Mom and dad pulled a coaster wagon down Morton Grove's main street, Dempster, carrying a crate occupied by the son of Rilley the Pig. It was prelude to a good old fashioned greased pig wrestling contest. We will be writing more about Bathgate and Morton Grove this fall and winter, We know of source materials that will yield literally years of additional writing and reporting.

My great aunt Florence Armstrong
married R. D. Hokins of Hoskins-Meyer.
5. We got to family history blogging early this year after an early September Bozeman snow storm. In On the Road to Bathgate, Act 7: An Introduction -- Tracking the Lives of the Armstrongs we set the stage for looking into the Armstrong side of the Foster family. It turns out that the distaff side of my paternal grandparents generation was every bit as fascinating and accomplished as my grandfather's side, if not more so. The lawyer, politician, businessman and adventurer genes run right through. Welcome to this preview of the Armstrongs.

Arch pipe like what we produced at Wisconsin Culvert Co.
6. We introduced our story on heavy gauge coated, rolled and riveted, corrugated steel drainage pipe thus:
I admit it. I can't drive, walk or ride by a culvert without swiveling my neck, inspecting and visually evaluating the structure, judging condition, materials and construction and looking at the drainage to see how well, or if, it is performing its intended function.  
It is so "from experience. We built culverts (no, somebody else didn't do it for us Dear President, we did it ourselves)." This is the story of a business and a time of life that are gone. Take a peak at Caring About Culverts and learn how it is that we formed arched pipe.

7. Let them eat cake. The doofus senior senator from Oregon and New York, Ron Wyden, orated that giving every child born in the USA a $500 savings account would "really put a dent in the
Senator Wyden and his wife in a corporate
box in Yankee Stadium.
poverty rate." Look at the numbers and you will learn, that is one of the silliest and stupidest things coming out of the liberal lout's mouth. 

When a baby is born, a household needs to generate an additional $4,020 in income per year to stay above the poverty line. That accumulates to $72,360 by the time a child reaches age 18 and is no longer considered a minor. Five hundred dollars puts a dent in that? It barely mars, in fact it doesn't even scratch the surface of the actual challenge. The only way to put a dent in the poverty rate is for the parents to get jobs, real jobs.
Can't blame the senator for his ignorance though. You really can't expect him to find time to study the issues when he spends most of his free time at Yankee Stadium, Southampton and other sites in New York where his wife and young family reside. I don't know who is more ignorant, Wyden or the lap dog liberals from Oregon who reflexively vote him in to the United States Senate. Read about it in Stuff It Oregon -- Time To Reverse Engineer Generational Debt

L. K. Armstrong in 1915.
8. Lyndon King Armstrong, what a dude! Lyndon King Armstrong was brother to my grandmother, Laura Elizabeth Armstrong Foster. He was elder by ten years. Lyndon was born before the Civil War and died during World War II. Prior to researching and writing these blog posts he was known to me only as L. K. Foster, a name in my grandmother's obituary. Now he is known to me as a man with an incredibly long resume and big accomplishments, who lived a long and large life. We just start looking into his incredible life in On the Road to Bathgate Act 7a: Introducing Lyndon King Armstrong -- Pharmacist, Engineer, Miner, Publisher and Association Leader.

9. Drinking, dancing, dining and gambling. Arson, kidnapping, murder and mayhem. It all happened at the site of the corner drug store in my youth, where thirty years earlier stood the most notorious of the Morton Grove roadhouses -- The Dells. The Dells was an Al Capone syndicate operation that was a battleground for mob control because it butted against the territory of Terrible Roger Touhy to the northwest.  Fifteen years of prominence are laid out and documented in Morton Grove Before the Baby Boom: The Complete Story of The Dells. When The Dells was torched in 1934 it marked the end of an era. 

The Dells "mysteriously" burns to the ground, October 7, 1934.
10. We spent Four Days In Denver, during early September for the BMW Championship, the penultimate tournament in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. We spied the name of back in the day tournament champions who had won majors who we caddied for in out youth. The crowds were large and boisterous, and occasionally one could get a whiff of what Mile High has come to mean in Colorado. We are looking ahead to the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2019. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More Climate Change Impacts

Yes, it is happening -- a road salt shortage.
The rewards for surviving last winter's punishing weather are tight supplies and drastic price increases for road salt across much of the U.S.
Local officials in several Midwestern states are facing prices that are twice what they were last season. In some cases, the price is five times as much. And that's only if they can get road salt.
Replenishing stockpiles is proving to be a challenge nationwide after so much salt was used last winter, when supplies were diminished by frigid weather and record snowfall.
Read more: http://www.woodradio.com/articles/wood-news-125494/are-we-in-for-a-road-12811732#ixzz3EqNh6x8t

The shortage is vexing city officials even in Brainerd, Minnesota, which back in the day when global cooling theories were in vogue, didn't have enough snow to support the shooting of Fargo, the movie.
Brainerd drivers may be on a reduced sodium diet this winter.
There's a shortage of road salt, and it has city leaders looking into ways to extend the life of the supply, as well as searching for other suppliers.
The city was granted half its normal ration of salt - 125 tons, compared to the usual 250 tons - for the impending winter from its supplier because of the shortage.
This may be a scarce sight this winter due
 to a pervasive road salt shortage
Brainerd city leaders have turned to other salt suppliers, in hopes to find at least some of the 125 tons of needed salt.
"There aren't many. There's only two or three major suppliers," Hulsether said.
One of those suppliers has already said no, citing a shortage of salt and the city not being a current customer, he said.
As further evidence that global warming is causing a rash of dangerously extreme weather events, the United States tornado count through September is bouncing along the record low, achieved all of a year ago.

Global warming or climate change, whatever you call it, the movement foists fabricated threats -- it is a fraud America funded and supported by the highest levels of government. Good luck to all.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

No Capital Gains Tax

Pretty much all my life I have been a scrimper, saver and investor. 

But now I am retired and have three school age children. You don't get there by accident. We've blogged on how during our working years we spent most of our "spare time" earning additional income. We've blogged from time to time about our investments and investing strategy. During our productive working lives, instead of buying fancy cars, frequenting snazzy joints, or taking luxuriant vacations, there were years when we saved 30 to 40 percent of our income. Those savings went straightaway into retirement and non-retirement brokerage accounts to be traded and invested, as the case may be. 

Now that we are retired things have changed. Our savings no longer come from income. We live day to day and month to month on our pension, supplemented by dividends paid out by stocks in our brokerage accounts. Our savings grow now only to the extent our investments grow. 

Occasionally we have major expenses that require dipping into those investments. We are not yet pulling money out of retirement accounts (we hope to avoid doing so until Uncle Sam requires such starting at age 70 and one-half). This means when selling stock and withdrawing the proceeds, we consider tax implications, if for no other reason than to make quarterly estimated tax payments timely to the IRS and state tax authorities.

During my working days we liquidated a large block of stock once to put on a major home addition, about doubling the size of our house. We also traded stocks and derivatives frequently during the days and months leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown, shorted stocks during the meltdown, and put money back in the stock market in the meltdown aftermath, beginning with its recovery in March 2009. These purchases and sales resulted in myriad taxable transactions, and substantial income tax liabilities, which we duly reported to the IRS and promptly paid.

While I won't let tax considerations prevent me from selling stocks to cash out before a market falls, or to fund the purchase of a rising star in a bull market, it is a bit different when I sell for financial need. When selling to fund household purchases I've historically tried to avoid selling big blocks of stocks with large capital gains, lest we incur a substantial tax liability from the sale of those highly appreciated securities. 

Last month I had to sell some stock, so I scoured our brokerage account records and tried to select for sale stocks that yielded the right amount of tax liability -- not too little but not too much.  

Then I thought, why the heck am I even thinking about this? Unless we win the lottery, when we do our 2014 taxes, once we take out the minimum standard deduction from our income and subtract our personal deductions, we will be down within the 15 percent ordinary income tax bracket, which means that all, or essentially all of our long term capital gains will be taxed at the resounding rate of 0 percent. That's right -- no tax, nada, nothing! Zero! 

The 0 percent capital gains tax rate compares to, and graduates up to a rate of 23.8 percent (including the Medicare surcharge) for taxpayers earning $407,750 per year per year or more (filing as an individual) to $457,600 per year or more (married, filing jointly).

Here is a description of how the no-tax system works,
You may owe 0% on your investment profits 
Despite the tax hikes included in the misnamed American Taxpayer Relief Act, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends earned in your taxable brokerage firm accounts are still taxed at 0% when they fall within the 10% and 15% federal rate brackets.
Many more people than you might think occupy these bottom two brackets. Remember: your bracket is determined by the amount of your taxable income, which equals adjusted gross income reduced by allowable personal and dependency exemptions and by the standard deduction amount (if you don’t itemize) or your total itemized deductions (if you do itemize).
IRS Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses
  • Say you are a married joint filer with two dependent kids. You claim the standard deduction for 2014. You could have up to $102,000 of adjusted gross income (including long-term capital gains and dividends from securities) and still be within the 15% rate bracket. Your taxable income would be $73,800, which is the top of the 15% bracket for joint filers in 2014.
  • Say you use head of household filing status. You have two dependent kids and your claim the standard deduction for 2014. You could have up to $70,350 of adjusted gross income (including long-term capital gains and dividends) and still be within the 15% rate bracket. Your taxable income would be $49,400, which is the top of the 15% bracket for heads of households in 2014.
  • Say you have no kids and claim the standard deduction for 2014. You could have up to $47,050 of adjusted gross income (including long-term capital gains and dividends and still be within the 15% rate bracket. Your taxable income would be $36,900, which is the top of the 15% bracket for singles in 2014.
  • If you itemize deductions, your 2014 adjusted gross income (including long-term capital gains and dividends) could be even higher, and your taxable income would still be within the 15% rate bracket.
To be perfectly clear, if your total taxable income, including long-term capital gains and qualified dividends, is less than the top of the 15% rate bracket, you will owe the Feds nothing for all your capital gains and dividends. If part of your gains and dividends fall within the 15% bracket and part of them fall outside, you will only owe 15% of the part that falls outside — unless your income is so high that the 20% maximum rate kicks in.
Here are the story elements in tabular form.

The next time someone tells you the tax code burdens and discriminates against people on the bottom end, think about it. We are getting a free ride baby! 

Friday, September 26, 2014

DHS Gravy Train Splatters On Bozeman

It's pawned off as a "Rescue" vehicle, which is not what the Bozeman Police do.
When the federal government reaches around elected representatives of the local government, handing out favors and arming the local police for assaults, America, we have a problem. That's what has come down in here in Bozeman, Montana, population 38,695.
When Mayor Jeff Krauss logged onto Facebook on Friday night, he was surprised to learn the city owned a new armored rescue vehicle.“It was a vehicle we never discussed. No one told me we needed this,” Krauss said. “It raised a lot of questions for me.” The vehicle, a Lenco BearCat G3, was fully paid for by a grant through the Homeland Security Grant Program.

The Lenco BearCat®

Lenco trucks can be used in a variety of missions. The BearCat, our best selling truck, may be used as a S.W.A.T. or Military Counter Attack and Rescue Vehicle and is often used in hostile Urban Environments or as a Patrol/Reaction Vehicle on a Military Base. The BearCat, with its standard NIJ IV armor and 4WD system, can carry up to 10 people through varying terrain. The BearCat has been embraced by several DoD and DoE Security Forces and, because of its affordability, low maintenance expenses, ease of use and superior armor level, is increasingly the replacement vehicle of choice for up-armored Humvees. It may also be equipped with our optional Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system.
We got the version with the turret baby, the better to shoot all comers with.
Commissioner Chris Mehl was on a police ride-along one night when he caught a glimpse of the vehicle parked at the Law and Justice Center. 
Mehl admits he thought it was odd when he saw it, but he has talked with police and is convinced it’s something the city needs. 
“I hope that we never use this, but it was free,” Mehl said.Krauss isn’t convinced. 
He said adding the “urban assault vehicle” to the police department’s fleet seems like an escalation of police activity. 
“I’m not convinced that we need this. It had never been identified as a need in my 11 years here,” Krauss said.
It's Free! You have to be kidding me -- our spendthrift debt addicted country is paying for this, meaning the assault toy is being financed squarely by my children.  Mehl claims to be an economist. In reality he is a liberal Democrat -- in his perverted world something is free when my children pay for it.

The gifting of the assault vehicle generated a torrent of on-line criticism -- including the following.
  • We need to make a clear statement here in Bozeman, do not turn our police department into an army. So this thing was hidden from the city government, that alone is reason to get rid of it, and take action against those paid city servants who did this.

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        It seems that these vehicles are only being given to Police Departments who have no constitutional legitimacy and not to Sheriffs departments that have to be concerned about elections.
        Likewise they are not "FREE", we pay federal taxes and those tax dollars bought these things. Aren't there a lot of more practical uses for tax dollars and even if not they should not be spent on these things for every PD in the country unless the taxpayers approve. I for one want my money back.
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        Look at your Bozeman taxes and you can see more of the "free" money that Chris Mehl gets to spend. No wonder the federal deficit can't be controlled. Too many big shot wanna-bes like Mehl spending free federal money. I liked him better when he was just wish-washy on all decisions.

          This is part of the national craziness for insane weaponry which is clearly overkill (no pun intended). There is really something wrong with the City Commission if they allow this to stand. Eisenhower was right about the military-industrial complex...and now it has made its way to Bozeman. 
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            I was just going to mention the military-industrial complex. As major military operations wind down there is not a need for continual replenishment of equipment, so the govt. has to find a way to keep their military industrial sponsors busy, so why not give away free military equipment to small town America. Then the govt. can control more of our lives through the militarization of our police forces because now they hold the purse strings for all this "free" equipment. Total government equals total slavery of the masses.
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        Of course we need it... whom else is going to drive around and strike fear in the hearts of the absolutely dangerous terrorist that live in little old Bozeman, MT. Federal Government is absolutely ridiculous and any local government, especially Bozeman, should be absolutely ashamed to accept something like this.... just a local voter and concerned citizen speaking here. Oh and Vet.

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            If this is a regional asset "rescue" vehicle, how will this help find the missing hunter in the Crazy Mountains? Please don't lie to our faces about the use of this vehicle. You might as well call it the "unicorn/bigfoot population observation vehicle".

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                I bet that $250,000 could have gotten some really cool search and rescue toys, instead of an Army truck.

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                    Commissioner Chris Mehl says, "it didn't cost us anything". With all due respect It does costs us whether it be federal tax dollars of local tax dollars it does cost us.

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                    If this vehicle is necessary to the function of our law enforcement, why was its acquisition so clandestine? Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it? It only adds fuel to the distrust that many already have of law enforcement.
                    This should have been an open transaction.
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                      There are so many things that are fundamentally wrong with this new "free" acquisition of the Bear Cat; first and foremost, we all know that in life, nothing is actually free and the repercussions of this type of vehicle on our social fabric might
                      be too complicated to name them all; our civil servants somehow thought to put
                      the wool over our eyes on this one and that is just scary. I was in favor of
                      the new law and justice center until I read this article. If we put half as
                      much effort in building a just and cohesive community, we wouldn't need this
                      armored vehicle in the first place.
                      Let's sell it and build a new community center with a pool, etc. - a place where community ties are built in a positive manner, where conversations can go somewhere for the betterment of all of us.
                      I can’t support a police force that thinks it needs an armored vehicle to protect and serve.
                    Here is the manufacturer's promo video -- see how the armored assault unit is used to deploy troops, provide cover for lines of snipers, break into homes and infiltrate gas. Defensive, huh?