…where the deer and the antelope are on the take


Following Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest by federal authorities Tuesday, there’s been some question as to which state is the most corrupt.

And the answer is … North Dakota. Yes, according to a USA TODAY story, The Peace Garden State ranks tops in the nation, with the federal government winning 8.3 public corruption convictions per 100,000 residents from 1998 through 2007.  

Louisiana, Alaska and Montana also fared poorly, while Illinois was just 18th worst, with 3.9 convictions per 100,000 residents. Among states with the cleanest records: South Carolina, Georgia and California, USA TODAY reported.

The analysis did not include corruption cases handled by state law enforcement. USA TODAY compiled the figures through analysis of Department of Justice statistics.


To understand Detroit, consider the Oldsmobile


Gary North at lewrockwell.com has a piece titled Oldsmobile Nation in which he details the downfall of the venerable General Motors line to show that our nation’s future is not tied to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

As part of his piece Mr. North describes Oldsmobile‘s journey from being the best-selling American car in the 1970s to being discontinued in 2004, and asks “Do you miss the Oldsmobile? Have you given it much thought?”

Actually, Mr. North, some of us do and some of us have. The point of his article is that America will survive even if the Big Three don’t, but in fact, nothing is more emblematic of Detroit’s downfall than the collapse of Oldsmobile.

Olds traces its heritage back to 1897, when Ransom E. Olds began producing cars in Lansing, Mich. The Curved-Dash Olds (1901-07) was the world’s first mass-produced car, built on the first automobile production line.

Oldsmobile took off in 1949 when it introduced their Rocket engine, which used an overhead valve V-8 design rather than the flathead straight-8. Boasting such marquee names as the Super 88, 442 and Toronado, Oldsmobile became a favorite of hot rodders and car enthusiasts. Lee Petty, Richard Petty’s father, won the first Daytona 500 in a 1959 Olds Super 88.

Sales were strong into the 1990s, but then GM arrogantly began to strip Olds of its individuality and the company’s signature cars gave way to rebadged models of other GM vehicles. No need to listen to consumers, right, GM?

For Oldsmobile enthusiasts, the writing was on the wall when the company came out with the slogan “this isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile.” That was the whole problem. My father’s Oldsmobile was sleek, fast and stylish. What the company was turning out by the end was, often, none of the above.

Mr. North is partially right when he says Oldsmobile is “gone, forgotten and unlamented.” Yes, the company that GM shuttered in 2004 is gone and unlamented, but that’s because it was a shell of what it once had been.

What happened to Olds is relevant today because it’s indicative of what the future may hold if the Big Three get a bailout. It’s interesting how Toyota, BMW, Honda and other foreign companies that make cars in the U.S. aren’t screaming for government money.

Does anyone really think that a company propped up with federal funds is going to change its modus operandi? If GM can let a premier line like Oldsmobile, one of the most storied makes in auto lore, simply slip into oblivion, what’s to keep them from running every other line into the ground, as well?

If they want to do it on their own dime, fine; but don’t expect me to celebrate if our government decides to throw good money after bad.

Can you make change for a $1,000?


 This story seems a little hard to believe.

A Tennessee woman claims to have found $97,000 in a central Tennessee restaurant last week, then returned the money to its owner. Billie Watts, 75, of Murfreesboro, said she found a bundle of neatly stacked $1,000 bills in the restroom of a Cracker Barrel.

According to an Associated Press report, Watts said she and her husband took the money home, but later called the restaurant back and asked if there was a lost-and-found department. She was told yes, and left her number.

A woman called a short time later and verified she was the owner by identifying pictures left in the bag. Watts returned the bag to the owner, whom she described as an elderly woman, but said she does not have the woman’s last name or phone number, the AP reported.

Neither the police nor Cracker Barrel employees could verify the story.

Judging from news stories, Watts seems like a nice person, but this story, unfortunately, seems highly improbable. The Treasury Department stopped printing $1,000 bills, which feature President Grover Cleveland, in 1945, and circulation of high-denomination bills was halted in 1969 by President Richard Nixon, to try and fight organized crime.

There are actually several $1,000 bills currently available on eBay, but most are priced at $1,500 or more apiece. If this is a true story, let’s hope the elderly woman Watts claims to have returned the money to isn’t simply passing the bills off at the local Gas-and-Go.

Burkina Faso – way off the beaten path


Half a century ago today, the country now known as Burkina Faso was established as a self-governing colony within the French Community.

Fifty years later, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita gross domestic product of $440, according to the U.S. State Department. 

Known as Upper Volta until 1984, Burkina Faso is hampered by drought, poor soil, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, and an economy vulnerable to external shocks.

The United Nations Development Program Report ranks Burkina Faso as the country with the lowest level of literacy in the world, despite efforts to double its literacy rate from 12.8% in 1990 to 25.3% in 2008, according to Wikipedia.

U.S. trade with Burkina is  practically non-existent – $18.1 million in U.S. exports and $1 million in Burkinabe exports to the U.S. in 2006, according to the State Department.

The little-known country gained a measure of notoriety in the 1980s, when West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt described the USSR as “Upper Volta with missiles.” It’s difficult to tell who was more irritated by that comparison – Upper Volta or the Soviet Union.

On the plus side, it’s been more than 20 years since the last attempted coup. That’s more than the African nations of Mauritania, Central African Republic, Gambia, Nigeria, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Chad, Madagascar and Sudan can say.