Sunday, April 30, 2006

Save It For The Morning After

Proving that it's more than a place for good beer, trivia, and conversation, Keegan's Irish Pub takes home the City Pages award for BEST BREAKFAST WITH A HANGOVER:

Face it, unless you had a night so bad that dry toast is an adventure in gastronomy, the best tonic for excessive partying is a quiet, hearty breakfast in a soothing setting. Like Roseville's Pippin's with its tiny, warm caramel rolls. Or the Local with its two-for-one Irish coffees, British sports on the tube, and creamy hash browns. But most times, Northeast's Keegan's Pub fills the bill the best.

Sure, the decor is calculatedly quaint (the bar was shipped over in pieces from Ireland and assembled Stateside), but those padded barstools and squishy reproduction couches are terribly kind to hungover bones. The tie-wearing bartenders mix a strong Irish coffee, and intuitively know when to shoot the breeze or leave you the hell alone. They also assemble a Bloody Mary that could be a light meal for Atkins dieters: The drink is topped with a hardboiled egg, a strip of bacon, and enough vegetable garnishes for a salad. If you're still peckish afterward, the menu features an Irish breakfast with bangers and black pudding ($9.95), as well as a nicely made Eggs Benedict ($9.95), in addition to all kinds of lunch-y things. The real piece de resistance, though, is that staple of Army mess halls, creamed chipped beef on toast, a.k.a. S.O.S. Keegan's version sets tender, salty bits of rehydrated beef in an unctuous pale gravy of heavy cream laced with garlic. Dolloped over crisp white toast, paired with a side of fried potatoes, and accompanied by the hair of the dog of your choice, it's an alcohol sponge par excellence.

As is confirmed by our alcohol sponge per excellence, Atomizer who readily seconds City Page's recommendation.

More Sweet Than Bitter, Bitter Than Sweet

Last Tuesday the Wall Street Journal had a front page article on how, after years of trying to make Budweiser less bitter, Anheuser-Busch is putting a little more hop in their flagship brand (subscription required):

For decades, Anheuser's aim was to develop a beer that would sell across America, one inoffensive enough to appeal to the nation's varied palate.

Mission accomplished.

Now, that goal is out of step with a shift in consumers' tastes. From coffee to fashion to media, niche products are rising, especially ones that consumers can customize, and the great mass brands of the postwar period are under attack.

Imported brews and smaller so-called "craft" beers with stronger flavors are more readily available and are selling fast, as are wines and spirits.

Moreover, for all its devotion to consistency, Anheuser concedes Budweiser has changed over the years. It quietly tinkered with its formula to make the beer less bitter and pungent, say several former brewmasters, a byproduct of the company's desire to create a beer for the Everyman.

And they were not alone:

From 1950 to 2004, the amount of malt used to brew a barrel of beer in the U.S. declined by nearly 27%, and the amount of hops in a barrel of beer declined by more than half, according to Brewers Almanac. Part of that decrease is due to improvements in how brewers extract flavor from hops. Nonetheless, beer's taste became steadily lighter. (Flowers of the common hop plant, Humulus lupulus, are used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, helping create its characteristic bitter taste and aroma.)

The beer industry measures bitterness using a scale called International Bitterness Units. The higher number of IBU's, the greater the bitterness. Over the past twenty years the IBU's of most American-style lagers has dramatically declined, from roughly 15-20 IBU's to fewer than 10 today, according to the Siebel Institute, a Chicago laboratory and brewing school that tests beer.

"The North American palate has become lighter and lighter," agrees Graham Stewart, director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Stewart used to brew beer under license for Anheuser when he worked as technical director for Labatt Brewing Co., now part of InBev SA.

Following this approach, Anheuser-Busch grew to control half the market for beer in the U.S. and its brands have dominated the beer industry for decades. It owns 50% of Corona brewer Grupo Modelo and 27% of Tsingtao, one of China's top brewers. As it put regional breweries like Rheingold and Schlitz out of business, Anheuser's flavors came to dominate beer drinkers' palates. Bud Light is now the best-selling beer in the world.

One key to Budweiser's popularity is that it produces no "palate fatigue" after several drinks. The bitterness in stronger beers tends to build up, causing a drinker to tire of the taste. Bud's appeal is what people in the industry call "drinkability." (In the U.K., it is called "sessionability," for how many beers one person will drink in a session.) Budweiser tests drinkability in "pub tests" in which the brewer rents a pub or a bar and invites people to drink free. Afterward, Anheuser drives the drinkers home.

That sounds like the kind of testing I think we can all support. No drunk left behind.

The talk of drinkability brings to mind Schaefer's old slogan, "The one to have when you're having more than one."

Bud's ever-increasing lightness worked for years. But lately, consumers have started cooling on mass brands in favor of smaller, often unknown rivals. The proliferation of new media gave consumers more information about niche products. Their tastes grew more sophisticated and aspirational, spurred by an increase in overseas travel.

At the same time, stores began using technology to improve their inventory systems. That made it easier to spot which products were selling well, letting retailers offer with precision an array of products more in tune with customers' new tastes.

As a result, rivals and some industry analysts blame Anheuser's recent lackluster financial performance on the very foundation of Budweiser dominance: its light, bubbly formula, which has been mocked for years by beer snobs and beer drinkers outside the U.S.

"I think you're seeing an increased consumer acceptance that bitter is a positive characteristic in beer," says Keith Lemke, vice president of the Siebel Institute.

Amen. Bitter is part of the taste palate and when you say a beer isn't bitter, you're saying it doesn't have taste.

Bud has now realized that the lightness of being can be unbearable and has acted accordingly:

Anheuser didn't talk publicly about it, but the brewer also recently made changes in its brewing process to correct for over-lightening. In August 2003, Mr. Busch met with hops growers in Oregon and Washington and told them that Anheuser was planning to increase the proportion of hops used in its beers, according to several people who were there.

Mr. Busch confirms the account, saying in a written statement: "I told the growers of our desire to use more hops in our brewing for the purpose of delivering more amplitude and hop flavor in Budweiser."

With Bud's hopping-up, their largest rival saw an opportunity to attack:

In early 2005, instead of the regular shift downward in bitterness it had come to expect, Miller says it found that Bud Light's bitterness had increased slightly. It had seen a similar shift in regular Bud two years earlier -- something that could be explained by the acknowledged increase in hop content.

Miller gathered a small group of top executives to work on a response. The project was named "Project Delta," referring to the letter in the Greek alphabet that denotes change in mathematics.

One Friday night in November, Miller started showing TV ads contending that the taste of Bud Light, the world's biggest beer brand, had "changed."

But at the end of the day, debating whether Bud or Miller has more taste is a bit like debating whether Pink or Neil Young is a more astute political commentator.

Many smaller brewers in the industry scoff at the idea there's any difference between the two beers. "I sit back and chuckle at them going after each other," says David Blossman, president of microbrewery Abita Brewing Co. in Abita Springs, La., which makes brands such as Purple Haze and Turbodog. "It's like comparing Bunny Bread to Wonder Bread."

Chicken Hawk Nation

Captain Ed and crew are trying to do for "chicken hawk" what the gay rights movement did for "queer." All the best to Ed and his 101st Fighting Keyboardists.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Democrats Gone Wilde?

Radio personality Wilde to run for Congress:

MINNEAPOLIS - Twin Cities radio personality Wendy Wilde plans to run for the Minnesota congressional seat held by Rep. Jim Ramstad.

Wilde, a DFLer, planned to announce her candidacy in the 3rd Congressional District on Saturday.

Wilde - whose real name is Wendy Pareene - has worked for WCCO Radio and recently for Air America Minnesota. The DFL Party's endorsing convention is May 6.

Ramstad, a Republican, is serving his eighth term in congress.

Please, oh please.

Representatives from Ramstad's office were unable to comment as they were doubled up on the floor in spasms of laughter.

Friday, April 28, 2006

They Want Their MPR

Evidence of what happens when tax dollars go to fund such things as movie reviewers, from Minnesota Public Radio's review of United Flight 93:

I never thought that I could see the images of the Twin Towers burning and have them have any impact anymore. Greengrass' movie is an indictment of how the government reacted to the hijackings that day and how a small group of people just like you and me made a decision to take control of a plane. It's painful, emotional, overwhelming and a great movie.

And here I thought the movie might be an indictment of those Islamic terrorists who hijacked the planes in the first place. Nope, according to MPR it's about the poor government reaction. Let me guess, it's all the fault of My Pet Goat.

As the MPR reviewer proves, you see what you want too see. And you hear what you want to hear. Which is why it makes sense that the Democrats are trying to make an increase in tax payer funding of public radio in Minnesota a constitutional requirement.

Needless to say, this idea, of tax payers funding politically partisan radio is an abomination. And unless AM1280 the Patriot gets cut in on the deal, I urge our elected representatives to vote No.

Hell Hit By Brutal Cold Snap

As I glanced at the front page of today's Wall Street Journal, I noticed a blurb on the bottom of the page advising that an opinion piece by a "Pamela Anderson" could be found on page A14. I smiled and shook my head thinking, "Surely, it couldn't be THAT Pamela Anderson. The woman known for starring in such cinematic classics as "Barbed Wire" and the Tommy Lee sex tape could not POSSIBLY have a piece in the august and well-respected opinion section of my precious Wall Street Journal. It's probably an economist at Stanford who happens to share the same name."

But lo and behold, proving that indeed ANYTHING is possible, it is that Pamela Anderson who has penned a piece about chimpanzees called No Way to Treat a Relative :

King Kong is my hero. He's big, muscular, sensitive, a terrific actor--and he's not real. The use of computer-generated imagery has really taken off in Hollywood. So why has Madison Avenue suddenly gone bananas for real apes? Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, with at least 95% of the same DNA. We're closer to them than they are to gorillas, so when I see chimpanzees being used as on-screen comedians, dressed up in silly costumes to sell credit cards, I think, Is this any way to treat a relative?

This issue has been on my mind a lot lately. It started when my kids went on a field trip to what was billed as an exotic animal refuge in Malibu. I excitedly tagged along only to find that it was like a shabby petting zoo that rents lions, tigers and a fascinating pair of chimpanzees to productions like "The Gong Show" to perform pathetic tricks under lights in front of loud crowds--conditions that are very stressful. I chose to have that kind of life; these animals didn't.

She does have a point. No animal should be forced to live the kind of life that Pamela Anderson has.

I've vowed never to be involved with a production that uses live apes because I don't want to be a part of this cruelty, and I bet you don't either. Let's drop the curtain on ape "actors" by sticking to animatronic animals or willing human performers for our ads. It's not like there's a shortage of struggling starlets willing to embarrass themselves if it means getting on TV.

No more working with live apes? I guess that puts the kibosh on the rumored "Baywatch" reunion show with David Hasselhoff.

Tin Soldiers and Pyscmeistr's Coming

There's a nice Neil Young parody here.

Seems the ratty old fool has released a venomously hateful song about Bush that includes many of the stale cliches of the vapid left.

Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

Poor Neil. Time has passed him by. His brain blown by years of years of foolish living, he is incapable of coherent thought. Another product of the Destructive Generation crying his pathetic swan song.

Moonbat lies, look in your eyes
glazed over red and you look half dead..
Livin in a 60s fog brought on by LSD
Relevance--passed you by
Clinging to the same ol' lie
You can run but you cannot hide
You ain't foolin' me!

Read the whole thing as they say on Powerline!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tough Sell

Tonight, an earnest looking lad appeared on my doorstop with clipboard in hand. He was from the Sierra Club and wanted me to sign a petition to,

"Stop the Bush administration from destroying pristine wilderness by drilling for oil instead of taking common sense steps like making cars and SUVs more efficient."

My first inclination was laugh dismissively and ask the youngster if he really thought that tougher CAFE standards was the way to solve our energy problems and then release the hounds. Unfortunately, we have no hounds and "releasing" our two cats just wouldn't have the same effect. Besides we were in the midst of bathing the boy, which is a much more fun than chiding a well-meaning, but clueless youth.

Instead I politely shook my head and told him I was not interested. I glanced down at his petition sheet and noticed that he had all of two signatures. For a moment, I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Bob Marley A Marketing Creation?

This morning's WSJ has a compelling piece (subscription) about how Bob Marley was pretty much created by an English record executive for the sole purpose of selling records.

But, but, Bob Marley? The ganja smoking, college dorm poster boy for independence and musical integrity?


Chris Blackwell, the British-born founder of Island Records, sensed Mr. Marley's star potential. In 1972, he repackaged the group that had been known as Bob Marley and the Wailers, giving a rougher rock 'n' roll edge to their gentle reggae grooves and presenting them as a black band even while adding white backup players. The transformation helped spark Mr. Marley's ascension from local hero to global icon.

When Mr. Blackwell first met Bob Marley, he gave him a pile of dough and had him cut some tracks.

Mr. Blackwell recalls he heard only five or six tracks that day. It was enough. The group had conjured the sound he had dreamed about. The msic was intelligent and mysterious. It evoked images of sex and revolution. Tears came to his eyes as he listened. "When I heard those mixes, it was such a high point for me," Mr. Blackwell said later. "That money I had given them, it all went in there."

Mr. Blackwell loved what he heard in Kingston. He loved it so much that he wanted to change it.

That indeed is love. The love of good ol' fashioned moolah ray. Blackwell knew that a pure raggae album would not sell with the Rock Generation. He knew he had to rockify Marley's raggae if he was going to move any units and that's all any record executive cares about (God love 'em).

Some of the songs were fixed by studio manipulation:

"So what I did is mess with the tape, make a copy of a track and then edit it and double the length or triple the length," he recalls. "I think with 'Stir It Up,' I tripled the length. I wanted to make it more like rock was and less like pop."

The rest required rock session players to be brought in to de-raggaefy the music even further:

To flesh out the material, Mr. Blackwell brought in several American rock session players. He recruited keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, who had played with the rock band Free and would go on to work with the Who. He also brought on board Wayne Perkins, a 20-year-old guitarist with the American band Smith Perkins and Smith, which also had a contract with Island.

Now keep in mind these musicians didn't know a thing about raggae--which is exactly what Blackwell was looking for--he wanted them to give it a rock treatment so it would sell, sell! (Something I applaud, but many Marley fans will find objectionable.)

So what was Bob doing while his artistic vision was being watered down for stoners at Dartmouth?

He had been concerned about Mr. Blackwell's meddling, but now he was won over. He gave Mr. Perkins his highest accolade -- he offered him a puff on his personal spliff.

Now that the music was done, the proper image had to be created. Like the music, Blackwell knew exactly how to position the band's image for the international rock audience.

After the mixing of the album, Mr. Blackwell had a final task. He remixed the Wailers' image, starting with the moniker of the group, dropping the name "Bob Marley" and calling them simply the Wailers. "I wanted to change it to the Wailers because I wanted to present them as a black group," he said.

This guy was a freaking genius.

Because he wanted to promote the image of a black group, the two white Americans who had contributed to the album were left off the credits (decades later, their names were included on CD reissues). Complains Mr. Perkins: "They still don't want to admit to me being part of that situation. I've never been invited to one Bob Marley festival."

So there it is. Bob Marley's sound and image were created by an English record executive. Who knew?

The Mutt Finds A New Home

McClatchy Sells 4 Papers to MediaNews:

Six weeks after announcing a deal to buy the nation's second-largest newspaper company, McClatchy Co. has agreed to sell four Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers to MediaNews Group Inc. for $1 billion.

The four papers - three in California and one in Minnesota - are among 12 that McClatchy has said it intends to sell because they don't meet its acquisition criteria, which include being located in rapidly growing markets.

The deal announced Wednesday increases the profile and reach of MediaNews, a privately held company based in Denver and run by William Dean Singleton. With financial backing from Hearst Corp., another newspaper publisher, MediaNews will wind up owning the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Monterey County Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

What does this mean for the local newspaper scene?

Singleton planned to be in St. Paul on Thursday to meet with Pioneer Press employees. He told the Pioneer Press that he intends to compete vigorously with the Star Tribune and plans to retain Par Ridder as Pioneer Press publisher.

Promises, promises. As much as I'd like to believe it, I remain quite skeptical. Here's hoping that Mr. Singleton proves me wrong. If he's looking for some ideas on how to make the Pioneer Press a player again, we are available for consultation.


File this under "Better Late Than Never" if you desire. On April 15th, we interviewed shock jock Hugh "Jelly Beans" Hewitt on the Northern Alliance Radio Network Show. The complete interview*, sans commercials is available here.

(*Editor's note: We did cut the part of the interview when Hugh backed his car into a light pole to save him any additional embarrassment.)

Jumpin' East Of Java

My coffee connection has come through again. I was pleased to discover a couple pounds of the good stuff sitting on my doorstep when I got home from work last night. It looks like he's got his own personal espresso machine too, which makes him the envy of hardcore coffee aficionados everywhere. Connections like that are good to have.

If anyone out there is interested, there's still an opening to be my Scotch connection. Only those with access to single malt need apply.

Oxy Moron

From a Star Tribune article on the plethora of quality linebackers available in next week's NFL draft:

"From a position standpoint, you can look at the linebacker position and say without a doubt this is probably as strong a linebacker group as we've had in a while," said Floyd Reese, Tennessee Titans vice president/general manager.

You have to admire the certainty with which he expresses his equivocation. I hate it when people are ambiguous about their level of ambiguity.

Crystal Clear

Perhaps the only City Pages award more controversial than Nihilist in Golf Pants winning Best Right Wing Blogger, is their choice for "Best Cheap Thrill." No, they didn't choose reading the Nihilist, which certainly qualifies. And they didn't chose my favorite option, intercepting the WiFi bleeding out from the Maplewood Plaza movie theater and blogging from their parking lot - which I did last week, before seeing Mrs. Henderson Presents - and it was free and undeniably thrilling.

No, instead, the journalists from the City Pages chose that old family favorite - taking crystal meth. That's methamphetamine to your local emergency room doctor and a crime to your local peace officer. But to the City Pages, well, that's just an affordable good time.

A defense for their position has been released by that paper's editor, Steve Perry. He says that it was merely "satire" and only talk radio show listeners are "seriously dense" enough not to realize that they wrote an article critical of crystal meth a mere three years ago.

Well Shecky Perry, that defense sounds more like satire than your ode to crystal meth. But, if it was intended to be humor, like it or not, its success is ultimately defined by the audience, not the comedian. Blaming the audience for not appreciating your subtle, cryptic genius - that's what I call seriously dense.

Being a consumer of City Pages bark and snark for over a decade, I can attest this crystal meth tribute is more opaque in it's delivery than is customary when they're trying to be funny. Like this rim shotter from Steve Perry just before the election in 2004. You know wild, hyperbolic language like this has to be a joke (right?):

On November 2 we won't be voting for anything like the measure of change we deserve the chance to vote for. We will be casting our ballots in a referendum on whether we wish to pause and reconsider our march toward a homegrown American fascism.

At its most benign, the crystal meth promotion appears to be an attempt to have it both ways. A defense of taking the drug for those cool enough to handle it (it's not so bad, no worse than alcohol which you hypocrites take all the time), while giving enough plausible deniability to wriggle out, if it so happens that someone reads it other than the stoner subculture the City Pages caters to.

Given their offended, perplexed reaction to the criticism, it seems the City Pages didn't think that anyone besides the stoner subculture would take them seriously. In the future, maybe we should take their advice in that regard.

Obligatory Chicken Hawk questions that demand answers: Did the anonymous author of this "satire" ever use crystal meth? And did they find it thrilling and no worse than alcohol? I think that's important context to help us understand where the City Pages editorial perspective is coming from.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Some Of My Best Friends Are Conservatives

The City Pages has named Nihilist in Golf Pants the Best Right Wing Blog to Bring Home To Your Lefty Mother (also known as the David Brooks Award):

A political blog not completely composed of spittle-spewing invective and pearl-clutching indignation? No smug harrumphing over opposition missteps or the echoing national committee talking points? 'Tis a rare breed indeed. The Nihilist in Golf Pants contributors take their cues more from P.J. O'Rourke and David Letterman than like-minded bloggers Michelle Malkin or Little Green Footballs. Instead of venomous diatribes, one is more likely to find hilarious Top 11 Lists on Ruth Bader Ginsburg's impromptu naps, Michael Brown's résumé padding, and groups the president won't allow to run U.S. ports, all of which say more about their topics than any rambling screed. NIGP's tongue-in-cheek approach to dissecting the day's political news wins over readers of any political stripe.

I understand that the City Pages also appreciates the fact that the Nihilist in Golf Pants plays well with others.

Stop by and congratulate the Nihilist and crew on their major award. While you're there, you can also vote for the new Most Eligible Bachelor in the MOB now that Saint Paul has been signed to a lifetime contract. Saint Paul is far too diplomatic to publicly favor any of the candidates vying for his crown, but I understand that privately he's a huge Pink Monkey Bird fan. Vote Pink Monkey Bird early. Vote Pink Monkey Bird often.

Cocktails For The Space Age

On April 15th, we interviewed Frank Kelly Rich, editor of Modern Drunkard Magazine and author of the book by the same name. You can now listen that interview in its entirety, commercial-free here.

You might also want to check out the Modern Drunkard site as it has recently been updated with a slew of new features, including Soused Cinema--A survey of 10 of the best drinking films ever made:

The following chronologically-arranged list celebrates the best of 100 proof cinema, from Charlie Chaplin to Bad Santa. You'll notice the conspicuous absence of some of the most famous alcohol-themed flicks, such as The Lost Weekend, The Days of Wine and Roses, and Leaving Las Vegas. For the purposes of this list, I have avoided films that portray alcoholism in a persistently negative light. Drinking is fun, and so are the films that follow. I think you'll find that watching these films is nearly as fun as drinking itself. Of course, you'll probably enjoy them even more with a full tank.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


EJ is not impressed with my recent drink of choice:

A Rob Roy?? A Rob Roy?? My grandmother drank Rob Roys when she couldn't get Mogen David. I allow a Rusty Nail now and then, but bitters and sweet vermouth in your scotch? Do you get a little cherry with that? Next you'll be twisting fruit rinds in, y'know, like the lime in a Corona bottle. How New Age. Very multicultural. Diverse. Criminey.

Sadly, the beer of choice up here seems to be Bud Light. It seems the girls like it, so the guys buy it. I have to keep a case of it in the mudroom for the little darlings. I've pretty much given up on American beer otherwise. Canadians' are okay. Can't shake the image of our family's first encounter with American beer after we returned from living in Germany and Japan. All kinds of wonderful beer in Germany. Kirins and Sapporos in Japan. Ichi-ban!

Mom and Dad broke out a six-pak of Coors at one of our first backyard bar-b-ques. We each popped a can into a glass (we're sophisticated) and we all had a taste. We poured the rest in the dog dish. It was martinis and scotch from then on. We used Budweiser to boil the shrimp and steam the pot roast, but good gawd, we never drank it. And the only thing we put in our scotch is ice. Come to think of it, that's all we ever put in our martinis, except for olives.

That's the problem with this damned multiculturalism. Everything's diluted or polluted now. Even the Fraters guys. Crap. I'm going back to bed.

Two parts Scotch and one Sweet Vermouth and I'm not considered manly? Tough crowd.

Meanwhile, Scott concurs that basketball-speak is not appropriate for the ice:

I can't agree about the "Hated" Red Wings, they have been my team since Norm Greed took the North Stars south.

But I fully agree with the "in the paint" reference. I caught it too and if I wanted to hear about basketball, I would watch basketball. Instead, I want to see defenseman deliver crushing blows to rookies who aren't paying attention, like Campbell did to Umberto in the Buffalo / Philly game. You won't see that in basketball.

Can I add Pet Peeve #368? Those shift timers that NBC has decided they need to add everyone time someone like Modano or Sakic is on the ice. I hate those things, I keep thinking there is a power play going on.

Update-- Jim e-mails with more on German beer:

Actually German beer - and Bitburger too - sucks too. Well, actually, more precisely, most Germans don't have any better idea than most Americans what good beer tastes like.

I think your stories about Summit Pale Ale would've been the same had they occurred in Germany.

He even supplies a supporting link:

The Trouble with German Beer

I've become increasingly skeptical of the image German beer projects of itself. I'm not greatly impressed with the majority of it and consider it to be terribly overrated. There are excellent beers, but the general standard isn't particularly high. Parallels can be drawn with the sad situation in Czechoslovakia since the disappearance of the Iron Curtain. Variety, character and flavour are disappearing without anyone seeming to care, or even to notice.

There are several very worrying features of the contemporary German beer scene:

* the lack of knowledge about beer amongst drinkers
* the blind belief in the Reinheitsgebot as an assurance of quality beer
* the absence of innovation in beer styles and flavours
* the narrow range of styles brewed
* the emphasis on cheap, low-quality beer
* the insularity of German beer culture
* the scarcity and poor quality of published information on beer in German

While I must object to Jim's statement that German beer "sucks," it definitely is overrated, often by people more impressed with its origin than its quality. There are some excellent German beers, especially among the wheat brews. Sitting outside on a sunny summer day sipping a Paulaner Hefe Weizen truly is a transcendent experience. Along with Beethoven and Bach, it is one of the country's greatest contributions to civilization.

But, as Thomas Perara points out, German beers are limited in their variety and flavor. After spending nearly a month vacationing in Germany a few years back, I was dying for the taste explosion of a well-hopped ale. The bottom line is that, despite the banal beers of the big brewers, no country can touch the good ol' US of A when it comes to the depth and breadth of its quality brews.

Profiles In Pandering

You know things are going bad for Congressional Republicans when editorials in the Wall Street Journal liken their behavior to that of the Democrats. Today's offering, titled Denny Pelosi (which is free to the unwashed masses), is a disheartening look at the knee-jerk GOP response to rising gas prices:

Few things are less becoming in a political party than desperation, as Republicans are now demonstrating as they panic over rising oil and gas prices. If blaming private industry for Congress's own energy mistakes is the best the GOP can do, no wonder its voters may sit out the November election.

Oil prices hit $75 a barrel last week, while gas has reached a national average of about $2.85 a gallon. The Republican response has been to put on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fright wigs
[How about a Pelosi mask?] and shout about corporate greed and market manipulation. House Speaker Denny Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist fired off a letter to President Bush yesterday demanding the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigate "price fixing" and "gouging." Senator Arlen Specter wants to go further and impose stricter "antitrust" laws for oil companies, as well as a "windfall profits" tax. Mr. Hastert also delighted the class warriors in the press corps by lambasting recently retired Exxon CEO Lee Raymond's pay "unconscionable."

There's been unconscionable behavior all right, most of it on Capitol Hill. A decent portion of the latest run-up in gas prices -- and the entire cause of recent spot shortages -- is the direct result of the energy bill Congress passed last summer. That self-serving legislation handed Congress's friends in the ethanol lobby a mandate that forces drivers to use 7.5 billion gallons annually of that oxygenate by 2012.

At the same time, Congress refused to provide liability protection to the makers of MTBE, a rival oxygenate getting hit with lawsuits. So MTBE makers are leaving the market in a rush, while overstretched ethanol producers (despite their promises) are in no way equipped to compensate for the loss of MTBE in the fuel supply. Ethanol is also difficult to ship and store outside of the Midwest, which is causing supply headaches and spot gas shortages along the East Coast and Texas.

The editorial closes with a warning that Republicans have been hearing (and ignoring at their own peril) for years; trying to appear more liberal on issues will not only not help you win elections, it will almost certainly guarantee your defeat:

The last time the U.S. had a gasoline panic, in the wake of Katrina, some quick Bush Administration action and private ingenuity eased the problem in record time. Gasoline prices that had climbed above $3 a gallon quickly settled back closer to $2. Markets will make the same adjustments today if they are allowed to send price signals without Congress getting in the way. Republicans can blame business all they want for high prices, but sounding like liberal Democrats won't save them in November.

For the record, I wouldn't vote for Bill Frist for dog catcher in chief in 2008, to say nothing of considering him as the Republican candidate for President.

Update-- More on from Max Schulz at National Review Online:

Few things reveal the intellectual bankruptcy of Republicans in Washington 12 years after the Gingrich Revolution as much as the actions taken by congressional leaders and the White House in response to the recent hike in gasoline prices.

As prices have soared to more than $3 per gallon, the Republican establishment has fueled hysteria by rallying around the idea that the higher costs are the result of dark forces at work in the economy.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sent a letter to President Bush Monday demanding that his administration get to the bottom of this outrage. Yes, they hurriedly offered, supply and demand are factors in the run-up in prices, especially growing demand in India and China. But the real problems, according to the top two Republicans on Capitol Hill, are things far more sinister: "price-fixing, collusion, gouging and other anti-competitive practices."

Mind you, these aren't the ramblings of backbenchers hungry for attention. Hastert's and Frist's letter represents the official thinking of the majority party in both houses of Congress. Its most shocking feature is a call for "Federal law enforcement agencies and regulators" to get involved, all in the interest of protecting consumers and, ahem, free markets.

Monday, April 24, 2006

As Barren Physically As They Are Intellectually

Last Saturday's interview with Vox Day on the Northern Alliance Radio Network is now available for your listening pleasure:

April 22nd--Vox Day

You can also read Vox's take on his NARN appearance:

I have to say that I quite enjoyed my hour with the NARN crew last weekend. I don't know if anyone caught it or not, but any time you're given the opportunity to encourage a public school teacher to tell one of her fourth-graders (or whatever they were) that his two daddies are going to Hell AND completely botch an reenactment of the Monty Python abattoir sketch, well, that's just a good time, that is.

I did sense a certain air of conspiracy about the boys, though. Powerline was away and the Fraters were in the mood to play. Saint Paul would say something in this completely innocent manner, as if he'd never read anything about me but my bio, to the tune of: "I understand that you might have some unusual perspectives on women in the workforce", which left me no choice but to bring up the secret codes in Picasso's paintings which reveal how Betty Friedan's canonical work is actually a guide to reenacting the Kamasutra with statues of Baphomet that are given away free by the National Organization of Women with every 666th abortion.

Or something like that, I can't remember exactly. I was drinking Amaretto Sours and watching my Arsenal Centurions DVD on the breaks.

Which, coincidentally enough, is exactly the same thing that Saint Paul does to help make it through the show each and every Saturday.

Screwing The Seven Sisters

Isn't it about time for government to take a stand against the greed of Big Oil? In a move that most Democrats, based on their recent rhetoric about oil prices, should applaud, Hugo Chavez is doing just that (WSJ subscription required):

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is planning a new assault on Big Oil, potentially taking a major step toward nationalization of Venezuela's oil industry that could hurt oil-company profits, reduce production and put further pressure on global oil prices.

Venezuela's Congress, made up entirely of Mr. Chávez's allies, is considering sharply raising taxes and royalties on foreign companies' operations in the Orinoco River basin, the country's richest oil deposit. Major oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips of the U.S. and Total SA of France have invested billions of dollars there to turn the basin's characteristically tar-like oil into some 600,000 barrels a day of lighter, synthetic crude.

Mr. Chávez, a left-wing populist who favors greater state control of the economy, also wants to seize majority control of the four Orinoco projects and force private companies who run them to accept a minority stake, according to a top executive at state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA, known as PdVSA.

The moves would up the ante in Mr. Chávez's long-running battle with foreign oil companies, which he accuses of making outsize profits amid high oil prices
[sound familiar?] at the expense of a poor nation. The stakes are high because Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, holds the world's biggest oil reserves outside the Middle East and is the third-biggest supplier of crude to the U.S.

The Orinoco plan mirrors the terms of a recent takeover by PdVSA of some 32 smaller conventional oil-production projects previously run by private companies. That effort culminated in the seizure of two fields run by Total and Italy's ENI SpA.

Yesterday, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Venezuela has no plans to compensate Total and ENI for the lost fields.

If the latest initiative succeeds, it would eliminate the country's remaining privately managed oil fields.

Yeah! Nail those greedy oil company bastards Hugo. Stick it to the man.

What? I am the man?

I Shall Overcome (My Desire To Gloat)

I've had fun over the past few years accusing Bruce Springsteen of being a socialist scumbag. It hasn't been a terribly tough case to make--just look at the man's songs and it's about all the proof you need, but there were always those conservatives who tried to defend Bruce as some kind of populist, and not what he is.

But why listen to a loudmouth like me? Bruce is going to release an entire album of covers tomorrow. Covers written and made popular by communist Pete Seeger (who joined the Communist Party in 1942).

Last summer Howard Husack wrote a classic piece about Seeger called America's Most Successful Communist.

Of all the cover albums that one could record, you have to wonder (if you were still in denial about him) why Bruce would pick such a radical. Let's look at Seeger's background via Husack.

We start in the 1930's with the Popular Front:

The Popular Front sought to enlist Western artists and intellectuals, some of them not party members but "fellow travelers," to use art, literature, and music to insinuate the Marxist worldview into the broader culture.

This continued into the 1950's:

The American Communist Party's bluntest expression of the idea of culture as a revolutionary tool came in writer V. J. Jerome's talk "Let Us Grasp the Weapon of Culture," presented to its 15th national convention in New York in 1951. "Cultural activity is an essential phase of the party's general ideological work," Jerome observed.

And what better way to grasp the weapon of culture than through music?

It took a while for the Popular Front's strategy to get results in popular music and Pete Seeger was the catalyst.

It happened in early March 1962, when the clean-cut, stripe-shirted Kingston Trio released their recording of Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" Seeger's lament about the senselessness of war and the blindness of political leaders to its folly soared to Number Four on Billboard's easy-listening chart, and it remained on the list for seven weeks.

Seeger succeeded again with Turn, Turn, Turn a few years later:

His musical version of chapter three of Ecclesiastes-"Turn, Turn, Turn"-amended slightly the words of Scripture, transforming the meaning of the biblical poetry. The song became an anti-Vietnam War anthem and a Number One hit for songwriter Seeger, thanks to the Byrds' folk-rock version, which topped the Billboard pop chart in December 1965.

At this point, Dylan and other lefties took the torch from Seeger but his mark had been made.

For his part, Pete Seeger, who lives near the Hudson in Wappingers Falls, New York, continues to perform, now singing "Turn, Turn, Turn" as a protest against the Iraq war, a radical to the end. "I'm still a communist, in the sense that I don't believe the world will survive with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer," he told Mother Jones last autumn. (The lefty magazine crowns Seeger "the grand old lion of the Left.")

So we here at Fraters would like to raise a big Johnny Cash middle finger to socialist scumbag Bruce Springsteen for releasing an album of commie covers.

An album of BOB Seeger covers would have been more welcome and I can't stand Bob Seeger.

Can you imagine the pompous ass Springsteen covering Her Strut with the classic line "But they doooo respect her, but(t)?"

THAT I might actually pay money to hear.

Meet The Press

The votes are in and you've selected Lt. General Russel Honore, best known for his "Don't get stuck on stupid" remark to reporters in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to be the next White House press secretary. Honore captured 31% of the votes casts, with Tony Snow coming in second with 23%. I was a bit disappointed that my gal Mothra finished with a mere 9%. I guess the public's not yet ready to have a female in such a prominent position.

Your Beer Tastes Like Swill To Us

Two tasty tales appeared in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. The first concerned Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Selling beer to Germans should be as easy as a penalty kick, but AB discovered that trying to slip Budweiser past Germany's beer defenders raised many a yellow card:

Anheuser-Busch Cos. has exclusive rights to sell and market its beer at soccer's World Cup, which will be held in cities around Germany for a month beginning June 9.

Being the official beer sponsor of the world's most-watched sporting event should give the company an ideal chance to promote its brand and to associate itself with the one thing Germans love almost as much as beer, soccer.

But the King of Beers has a king-size problem: Germans hate the beer and Anheuser-Busch can't even use the Budweiser name in Germany. In a country where brews are hand-crafted and richly flavored, many drinkers dismiss Bud as light, mass-produced and weak.

"We don't want Bud at our World Cup," says Johannes Schnitter, a 25-year-old student at the Freie Universität in Berlin, who has set up an anti-Bud Web site, "I'm not anti-American. This is just the worst beer you could imagine."

Not much wiggle room there.

Anheuser-Busch executives in St. Louis, Mo., realized they had a problem in late 2004. German newspapers were reporting that beer fans were furious about the prospect of drinking the American brew at the tournament.

You gotta admire a people who get "furious" about being forced to drink inferior beer. I've been there myself, but usually just bite my tongue and swallowed my outrage (and whatever tasteless brew I was being served).

In recent years this hasn't been as much of a problem, with more and more venues offering a choice of beers, including selections from the higher end. In a few cases, I've even been able to enjoy a little schadenfreude listening to the whining from Bud and Miller drinkers when the only beer available is of the microbrew variety. This was the scenario that played out at the beer garden at this year's Pond Hockey Tournament on Lake Calhoun, where the only beer to be had was Summit Pale Ale.

The ultimate example of this was when the Nihilist In Golf Pants got married (sorry to crush your dreams ladies) some years ago. The only beer that was made available to guests gratis at the reception was a couple of kegs of Summit India Pale Ale. Not only did he go with a microbrew, he went with one of the more hoppier, flavor-filled ones available. Needless to say, a sizable contigent of beer swillers in attendance were none too pleased with his selection. Which was probably the #1 motivating factor behind his choice in the first place. The man lives for schadenfreude.

The folks at AB were smart enough to realize that trying to cram their beer down German throats was not a good PR move and found a solution.

So Anheuser officials undertook an unprecedented act of beer diplomacy. Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch vice president of global media and sports marketing and the executive who signed the World Cup sponsorship deal, flew to Bitburger's offices in the small town of Bitburg to discuss a deal.

He proposed letting Bitburger sell its beer along with Bud at the stadiums and at some promotional events. In return, the American company would gain the right to use the name Bud, instead of just Anheuser-Busch, on billboards along the fields -- and visible to viewers watching on TV at home.

Bitburger said yes. "For us, this is a way to make the brand Bitburger more popular," says Dietmar Henle, a spokesman for Bitburger Brauerei Th. Simon GmbH, the brewer.

"We could be bullies," Mr. Ponturo says. "But that's probably not smart."

Under the agreement, the name Anheuser-Busch -- not Budweiser -- will appear on key chains and hats given away at events. The company has printed a bar guide to direct people to bars that sell its beer. At the stadiums, drinkers who buy the beer will receive commemorative plastic cups with the World Cup logo next to the words: Anheuser-Busch. Bitburger will be sold in unbranded plastic cups.

I believe it is peace in our time.

The Germans drink more beer than people in the U.S. and nearly anywhere else in Europe, but there are so many beers that none holds a large share of the market, according to the German Brewers' Association, a trade group.

Imports tend to struggle because of Germany's beer purity law, known as the Reinheitsgebot, which dates back to 1516 and decreed that beer could contain only four ingredients: barley, yeast, hops and water.

Although the rule was struck down in 1987 by the European Union, which judged that it breached European law by restricting trade, it is still regarded as an article of faith by German brewers and their customers. Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser contains rice, as well as the traditional ingredients.

Rice in beer is just wrong as the German beer drinkers well know. The good news is, that despite their distaste for Bud, at least some of them know that good American beers do exist.

"Some of the American beer is quite good, including the microbreweries," says Franz Maget, the chairman of the Social Democrats political party in Bavaria, an area known for its beer. "I don't enjoy the large brands like Budweiser and Miller Light. They're too thin."

Exactly. One aspect of the story that you have to love is that the dedication of the German soccer fans is being rewarded. The dedication to drinking at all costs.

One recent Saturday, in the trendy Berlin neighborhood of Mitte, soccer fans crowded into the FC Magnet bar to watch Bayern München vs. Bremen on the big screen and to drink beer -- German beer.

Sipping an Erdinger wheat beer, Philipp Schrenk, a 36-year-old events manager, says he has tickets to see Spain play Ukraine in the World Cup. "The one drink connected to football is beer," he says. Thinking he had had no choice, he said he'd probably drink Bud during the game. "But it just feels wrong," he says.

When he found out that Bitburger would also be sold, Mr. Schrenk was relieved. "That's great," he says. "Now I will surely stick to the country and have a Bitburger."

And, even though it's far from one of my favorite German beers, come World Cup time, I'll raise a Bitburger in honor of German soccer fans myself.

The second story is Eric Felten's vision of the perfect bar, Blair's Blue Room:

The Blue Room's bartenders actually know their drinks. Not only can they recall the difference between a Rob Roy (two parts scotch to one part sweet vermouth) and a Thistle cocktail (equal parts scotch and sweet vermouth), but they can deliver them, reliably distinct from each other, time and again. Their trick for making precision drinks is the simplest and most obvious one -- measuring.

Next time you're out at a bar, take note of whether the bartenders measure properly or just pour away. Most eyeball the liquor as it goes straight into the shaker. The latter looks more professional -- like a chef who knows his ingredients so well that he can grab and toss a smidge of this and a pinch of that. It looks more generous too: Measuring each ingredient can be misperceived as being stingy with the cheer. But meting out the spirits in exact amounts makes for better drinks.

As New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian once told me, "Mixing drinks is more like baking than cooking -- having the exact proportions is the difference between success and failure." "Trader" Vic Bergeron was adamant: "My best advice is to make every drink as though it were to be the best you've ever made," he wrote in his 1947 Bartenders Guide, "and you can't do this if you don't measure."

I don't know where Blair's Blue Room keeps all its glasses, but they come in an inexhaustible variety of sizes and shapes, each suited to a particular drink. Ask for a fizz or a sour, and it is served in a proper Delmonico glass, a little bigger than a highball glass and slightly wider at the top than the bottom. Bigger still is the bar's Collins glass, and it also has the tall narrow cousin used for Zombies. There are silver cups for juleps and I've even seen them dig out a copper mug for a Moscow Mule.

The one glass the Blue Room doesn't have is what is now universally known as a Martini glass -- the stemmed glass with the conical bowl. Martinis at Blair's Blue Room come in the bar's standard cocktail glasses, curved like old champagne saucers, though with a slight flare at the lip. I like not only their glasses, but also that when you ask for a Martini, none of the waiters or bartenders would think to ask "vodka or gin?" Not that they are opposed to making Vodkatinis. It's just that they realize a Martini is a drink of gin and vermouth.

Amen. A Martini is made with gin. End of story. And Felten's point about the proper glass for the proper drink is well taken. He also includes two recipes:

1½ oz Scotch whisky
1½ oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

Rob Roy
2 oz Scotch whisky
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel

I'm enjoying a Rob Ray as I scribble this post. Unfortunately, Blair's Blue Room exists only in the fantasy world of Eric Felten's mind. Until we can all find our own real world Blue Rooms, the next best thing may be our own basement bars. Just remember to measure.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pet Peeve #367

After a weekend chock full of watching Stanley Cup playoff hockey (most recently the Edmonton Oilers beating the hated Red Wings 4-2 this afternoon), I have a request for all hockey announcers out there. Please don't use basketball terms when calling a hockey game.

It isn't "the paint", it's the crease. And just because two guys are passing the puck back and forth on the power play, it doesn't mean they're "playing the two man game." There is no such thing in hockey.

The sport has a rich lexicon all its own. Please take full advantage of it rather than borrowing tired catch phrases from the hard court.

Tears of a Clown

The oft execrable City Pages interviews the rarely funny Al Franken:

The sold-out screening of "Al Franken: God Spoke" at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has drawn a thousand moviegoers to Durham's Fletcher Hall on a warm Friday night. That's presumably because the Air America host, Saturday Night Live veteran, and author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them has pledged to appear in person for a Q&A. But what follows the movie feels a lot more like a rock concert--or maybe a campaign rally.

Quick question for rock-ribbed conservatives out there, if you were FORCED to watch either Al Franken: God Spoke or Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, what would you do? Sorry, taking your own life is not an option.

Even before Franken ambles down the long aisle toward the stage, the audience has already responded with thunderous applause to the comic's well-timed one-liner near the end of the film: "I'm thinking of running in 2008 against Norm Coleman."

Make no mistake about it folks, he IS running in 2008.

CP: Because your view of politics is grounded in satire, is there an even greater risk of your platform being too reactive in that stereotypically liberal way? Can reacting to right-wing nonsense have the effect of reinforcing right-wing power, of allowing them to keep the serve?

Franken: People are going to be so sick of [Republicans] by '08--they already are, really--that a campaign is going to have to include a critique of the last eight years. It'd be crazy not to include that. But it'll also have to include a vision going forward--the vision that we have.

CP: What is that vision?

[Cue adding machine sound effect]

Franken: It's the vision of a more just society in all respects--certainly in economic respects. There was a report out in the New York Times recently from David Cay Johnston--who we have on the [Air America] show a lot--about how much the wealthiest Americans have benefited from the latest tax cut. Tax justice is going to be part of this [vision]. And simple things like the living wage. Fair-trade deals. Health care for everyone. Investment in our schools--which we in Minnesota used to lead, and now we're not anymore. Using science again [laughs]. Addressing the real problem, which is global warming--that's just a common-sense issue and a moral issue. Renewable energy, bio-fuels. Pension reform, making sure that people have safe retirements. Addressing the stupid bankruptcy stuff. Establishing a foreign policy where we respect the views of other countries--where we make ourselves more secure by doing that.

Fighting terrorism and protecting America? Nah, that's not the real problem after all.

CP: In general, do you think that Democrats in Minnesota used to be a lot more vital?

Franken: I'm impressed with our mayors in the Twin Cities. And I see some younger, up-and-coming leaders who I like. I like Amy Klobuchar--even though I'm not ready to endorse her in the primaries yet. We had Ford Bell on [the show] and he was very impressive. I don't want to dis the Minnesota DFL.

CP: You're kind of a softie--you get teary-eyed with some regularity. Is appearing human an asset or a liability for someone who's trying to gain public favor in politics?

Franken: I think it's an asset--although I don't think it's good if you blubber all the time [laughs].

Yeah, it worked wonders for ol' Ed Muskie, didn't it? I can't wait for aught eight.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Existential Dread Of Running A French Newspaper - Paper Founded by Sartre Finds Itself Trapped Between Being and Nothingness:

The 63-year-old boss of France's main left-wing newspaper has been battling instead to salvage his own job -- in collaboration with Edouard de Rothschild, banker, horse-racing enthusiast and scion of one of Europe's grandest capitalist dynasties.

On this peculiar and sometimes-prickly partnership hangs the fate of Libération, a newspaper set up in 1973 by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and a cluster of young radicals, among them Mr. July, dedicated to the utopian dreams of the 1960s. A founding manifesto promised to "depend on the people, not on advertisers or banks."

Like most manifestos, it didn't long survive initial contact with reality.

The paper, now a pillar of France's mainstream media, has drifted from its original Maoist moorings and into the orbit of the market forces it once vowed to avoid. Like newspapers the world over, Libération has been hammered by the Internet. Its biggest single shareholder is Mr. Rothschild, a New York-educated MBA who last year invested ?20 million, or about $25 million, for a 38% stake.

And like newspapers the world over, the French fish wrap is facing tough times and an uncertain future:

Libé, as Mr. July's newspaper is widely known, has been convulsed by internal turmoil that echoes the angry emotions out on the streets of Paris and other French cities. The protesters this month forced the government to junk a new labor law that was meant to encourage companies to hire more young people by making it easier to fire them. Though they often mimicked the slogans and tactics of the 1968 outburst, their goal isn't to change the world but rather to stop it from changing.

"Everything that French society is suffering...we are suffering, too," says Mr. July, who has run the paper since 1974. The print media, and France in general, he says, suffer "existential anguish."

Vive La France! Book your trips to Paris now.

Confronted with mounting losses at Libération, Mr. July in November announced a plan to cut jobs and outsource some of the paper's services. The cost cutting, says Mr. July, was "an ice-cold bath for everyone."

The first strike in the paper's history followed. Mr. Rothschild wrote an open letter, saying that he understood the staff's "stupefaction" but warning that cuts were "unfortunately inevitable." The paper's accelerating losses risked eating up his entire investment in a year, he said. Left-wing reporters circulated a petition that blamed Libération's troubles on an editorial line "that flirts too often with 'good sense.' " They called instead for a radical stance of "causes, utopias, desires and provocations."

Causes, utopias, desires and provocations with little evidence of good sense? I know a local newspaper with an editorial line they might be much more comfortable with.

Friday, April 21, 2006

You Think It Ain't On?

- A twelve pack sampler of Sleeman

- A bottle of The Macallan Single Malt Highland Scotch Whisky

- Eight, count 'em, eight Stanley Cup playoff games on TV this weekend

UPDATE: Detroit and Edmonton 2-2 in OT. You gotta love this game.

Clever Like A Vox

Tomorrow's Northern Alliance Radio Show promises to be a doozy. The first hour will be a very touching one in the after-school special sense of the word. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and maybe even learn a life lesson or two.

In the second hour, we'll once again welcome mysterious paleo-libertarian Christian curmudgeon Vox Day to the show. Vox has eschewed media appearances of late and the only place you're going to hear his always controversial, but never boring viewpoints is on the NARN. We'll be covering topics such as the feminization of culture, education, women's suffrage, and cats with Mr. Day.

Throw in the usual Loon of the Week and This Week In Gatekeeping features and Saturday should be a show to remember.

The Volume II boys, sans King, will be broadcasting live from the Mache Conference in St. Paul. No, it's not the largest gathering of paper mache enthusiasts in the Midwest (although rumor has it that Ed is dying to cover that too). It's the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators and the conference, which starts today, will feature speakers, workshops, and exhibits.

Locally, you can listen to the NARN on AM-1280 The Patriot form 11am-3pm or hear it live on the 'net here. If you miss Saturday's show, there is a Sunday night replay at 9pm and podcasts are also available.

UPDATE--We may also have a spokesperson from Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform on to discuss their planned rally next Saturday in Minneapolis:

We support Legal Immigration
We Oppose Illegal Immigration
We support Border Security
We Oppose Amnesty
We believe in One Flag--the United States of America And the Protection of our Sovereignty

Saturday, April 29th, 2006
U.S. Fed. Courthouse, Minneapolis
Building 202 U. S. Courthouse 300 S. 4th Street Minneapolis, MN 55415
1:00 to 4:00

Guest speakers will be present
This is a peaceful rally only No violence will be condoned.
Help spread the Word!
Bring your voices, signs and U. S. flags
We Must Be Determined We Must Be Heard!!!

Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform, Box 87, Hanska, MN. 56041

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Meet Your New Partner in Transportation

Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak gave his state of the city speech yesterday, restraining himself to mentioning "partners" only five separate times. There was also an additional, unstated partnership sought:

I will continue to work hard with Mayor Coleman to make sure that the Central Corridor becomes the next leg of a light rail system that needs to expand throughout the region. Even with all of this, we lag behind regions like Denver, which is building four light rail lines at once. It's time for bold action. We need to pass a multi-county sales tax to fund the transit we need to get out of our growing gridlock.

And you people in the suburbs thought you were paying enough taxes already.

A brand new "multi-county" sales tax, you say? One can only guess as to the vast geographical expanse Mayor Rybak would like to tap in order to fund the $840 million necessary to create a 11-mile train track between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.

But it will be far beyond Hennepin county, I assure you. Perhaps Rybak realizes the tax payers there are, at least for the moment, at the limits of their tax increase tolerance. Yes, those poor souls are already being drafted to provide $353 million in additional sales taxes to fund a baseball stadium in RT Rbyak's downtown Minneapolis.

A part of that baseball funding scheme is the waiving of a state law mandating that such a tax increase would require public approval via referendum. And I'm sure Rybak's multi-county train track funding plan won't call for a public referendum either.

When it comes to taking over a BILLION dollars in new taxes for things like baseball stadiums and train tracks in Minneapolis, it's best to have a silent partner.

UDPATE: Craig Westover has an excellent column exploring the "public good", or lack there of, represented by these spending priorities.

BTW, now that conservative opinion columnists are down to a population of one at the Pioneer Press, maybe it's time to get Captain Fishsticks protection by putting him on the endangered species list. Although being a $75 hobby columnist may make him the safest animal currently in the cost conscious jungle over there.

Post Yost

It seems like only yesterday that we were heralding the arrival of Mark Yost on the editorial page of the Pioneer Press as the beginning of a new era of media choice in the Twin Cities:

And it seems like only the day before yesterday we were questioning if he was truly a conservative in the first place:

Notice the [Pioneer Press] description for Yost includes the same distancing from a true conservative embrace (he's not conservative, he's libertarian). Hopefully that's just a way for these guys to ease into their jobs without spooking the herd at the Pioneer Press too much. It could also mean that these guys aren't really conservatives at all. Instead they're simply more moderate liberals, compared to the zealots currently infesting the editorial board.

It's always fun to visit with the ghost of paranoia past, isn't it? Thankfully, our concerns proved to be unfounded. Yost proved to be a rock-ribbed, articulate spokesman for the conservative point of view. The exact perspective editorial boards in this town have willfully ignored for decades, despite the fact that about half the state is predisposed to supporting it.

Yes, his hiring was good times for those of us who love newspapers but felt alienated by their relentless attacks on our beliefs. But it wasn't all Peaches and Herb for Yost. He was a marked man from the beginning, having to suffer the slings and arrows from a liberal readership and press room culture that assumed the editorial page was an entitlement for their leftist ideology. This abuse and resentment couldn't have easy to face day after day. Yet he still consitently provided terrific coverage of the economy, gun rights, the war in Iraq and support for the troops, and most controversially, he dared to question the performance of the press itself.

But that's all over now. I don't know that it's even been officially announced by the Pioneer Press, but according to reliable sources, Mark Yost's byline will not appear again at that paper. The exact reasons are murky. But with the ownership change it looks like they're clearing the decks over there. If there is a silver lining to this tale, it's that at least the Yost departure was a 3-for-1 deal. Liberal drudgery artists Art Coulson, Deborah Locke and Glenda Holste were also shown the door, ending their long tenures of afflicting readers with their predictable, tired prose.

We wish Mark Yost the best in his future endeavors and know we need weep no bitter tears. He'll land on his feet, in fact he's already standing. His freelance work for such august publications as the Wall Street Journal and the J Peterman catalog (no lie) will continue. He's got a book coming out soon bout the NFL. He'll continue to host his fine radio program, The Patriot Insider (9 - 11 AM on AM1280 The Patriot). And he's also officially crossed the alternative media transom, with his new blogging efforts:

Iraq Heroes - the heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan that you never hear about


The Home Front - the issues and challenges faced by Minnesota National Guardsmen just back from Iraq.

The Pioneer Press's loss is the MOB's gain. Yes, another is assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Swing And A Miss

When "South Park's" crude, cutting, cartoon commentary is working, the show can be very funny. When it's not working, it can be unwatchably weird. Last night's episode that played off of James Frey and Oprah was an example of the latter. Remember the "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry did a voice that he said was his girlfriend's stomach talking to him when she fell asleep? That her belly button was like a mouth?

South Park did something similar last night with a couple of Oprah's body parts speaking with ridiculous English accents. Without getting in to all the gory details, let's just say that we're not talking stomachs and belly buttons. It wasn't funny, it was just freaky.

Separated At Birth?

Deeply committed, America-hating leftist Marilynn Rosenthal (who thinks the guy that conspired to kill her son shouldn't even be on trial)


Great American Sparky Anderson?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

We'll Take What's In Your Wallet...And Whatever You Have In Your Cupboards

Last November, Independent School District 196 rammed an enormous three headed monster of a levy referendum down taxpayers throats (including myself and someone else you may know). Over $31,000,000 of new taxpayer booty was shamelessly collected in an off-year election to feed an already obese beast under the guise of providing the children of ISD 196 a quality education.

It's now nearly half a year later and I have personally seen the results of such forward thinking. Today, The Boy came home with an assignment from his eleventh grade biology teacher. He will receive extra credit if he brings a roll of paper towels to class tomorrow.

Robbing the parents' cupboards. That ought to prepare the kids well for those weekends home from college, but what it has to do with learning biology I haven't the faintest idea. Maybe The Boy can "earn" an A if we take his teacher on a shopping spree at Sam's Club.

It's also good to know that even when buried under a $31,000,000 windfall my school district can't even seem to come up with enough money to provide basic supplies for the students' classrooms. Another $10,000,000 or so and they can finally put toilet paper in the restrooms.

Tomorrow morning I fully expect to see The Boy's bus driver in my garage sucking gas out of my tank with a rubber hose. They'll stop at nothing to provide a quality education for the children, you know.

They Won't Have Scott McClellan To Kick Around Anymore

AP Wire--President Bush and Scott McClellan:

MCCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. I'm here to announce that I will be resigning as White House press secretary.

Mr. President, it has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to have served you for more than seven years now, the last two years and nine months as your press secretary.

The White House is going through a period of transition. Change can be helpful. And this is a good time and good position to help bring about change.

I'm ready to move on. I've been in this position a long time. And my wife and I are excited about beginning the next chapter in our life together.

I imagine that he's especially excited about not having to deal with Helen Thomas on a regular basis anymore.

If the People Won't Come to Minneapolis, Minneapolis Will Come to the People

From the City Journal, a profile of New Jersey and the escalating urban pathologies exacerbated by one party (Democratic) rule:

Aided by the courts and the vast expansion of budgets during the flush 1990s, New Jersey's tax eaters have little by little created a full-fledged example of the kind of regional government that the Left touts these days - a government that forces businesses and residents who have fled the dysfunction of the cities to pay the tab for those urban problems, whether they like it or not.

That last part could be the winning campaign slogan for the Minneapolis DFL. From the Star Tribune, Mayor RT Rybak commenting on how he plans to get tough on the escalating crime rate in his city:

Last summer Rybak said, "Minneapolis is a safe city for those not involved in high-risk lifestyles."

In a recent interview, Rybak said, "My point at that time was attacking some of the core issues behind those issues, especially gangs, drugs and guns. I still believe that. I also have been focused on repeat offenders. We also need partners beyond the city limits."

Suburbs across the region ought to have air raid sirens go off any time a DFL politician mentions the word "partner" (except when referencing their admiration for Brokeback Mountain). Because these "partnerships" manifest themselves like this:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently agreed to put $2 million into [Minneapolis] police salaries for summer, when crime typically rises.

Yes, "partners." Those people who choose not to live in Minneapolis and won't open businesses there because they disagree with the governing culture's approach to things like taxes and crime and regulation. According to Rybak, those are the exact people that need to help Minneapolis pay for things like their problems with taxes and crime and regulation.

This is how dysfunctional political systems (and politicians) endure. Instead of allowing them to fail on their own momentum and forcing the citizens to experience the consequences of supporting them, someone else comes in (or is dragged in) to bail them out. So, instead of the Mayor and City Council being held accountable by the voters for not having enough money to pay for the police they need (and from having to ask themselves why crime is so high in their city in the first place), they can go merrily on spending millions on priorities such as grass covered city hall roofs and baseball stadiums and enforcing smoking bans and the Kyoto Protocol (not to mention having a genuine culture of corruption) with zero electoral consequences.

It is a law of economics, what you subsidize, you get more of. And it looks like the Twin Cities is going to have surplus of RT Rybak and Minneapolis liberalism for a long time to come.

All things considered, we'd be better off taking the advice of the Nihilst in Golf Pants.

Hu Are You?

President Hu's visist to the US, with stops at Boeing and Microsoft, spotlights the expanding business relationship between the two countries. A good resource for information on the legal environment of business in China is the China Law Blog.

(Thanks to Jeff)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Vets For Freedom

Last week, Hugh Hewitt spent a lot of time talking about Vets For Freedom:

In January 2006, a number of veterans decided the time had come to change the direction of American political discourse with respect to the Iraq War. As we began to speak to other fellow veterans, family and friends, the response we received was overwhelming. They also were desperate for veterans to have a voice in the debate over the Iraq War. They also were also desperate for someone to speak for them.

As a result, we formed Vets for Freedom, an organization to give Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, their families and other supporters a long overdue voice in addressing the mission, role and support needed to achieve victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. This effort has been established not only to mobilize support, but also to highlight the sacrifices and achievements made by countless United States military personnel as part of this worthy cause.

The primary mission of Vets for Freedom will be to support our troops and insert our collective insights and experiences into this national debate. What makes this organization unique is that it is a nonpartisan group made up of veterans of all ranks and all walks of life who have firsthand experience of the horrors of war. We will seek to ensure that political discussions over the Iraq War are honest and forthright by telling the story from the firsthand perspectives of veterans.

If you haven't had a chance to visit their web site and sign up to become a member of their network, I would strongly encourage you to do so. There's no cost, no strings involved, and it takes all of about eighteen seconds.

You can also make a donation to their worthy cause if you so desire.

Still Plenty of Room In The Trophy Case

Spring is a special time of year. The trees are budding, the grass is greening, the flowers are blooming, and The Pulitzer Prizes are being passed out. With this year's selections, it appears as if the Pulitzer Board is going the way of the Nobel Foundation and basing awards as much on politics as individual merit. Would anyone be really surprised to see Jimmy Carter walk away with a Pulitzer one of these years?

Not nearly as shocked as we would be if the Star Tribune did. Yet again, the Strib comes up empty-handed when the hardware is being distributed. And yet again, Jim, whose Strib Pulitzer updates have become annual events (2004 taunt, 2005 taunt), is here with salt shaker in hand. Let the pouring begin:

It's once again the time of year when Minneapolis StarTribune reporters and editors wait anxiously by their phones hoping against hope that they will receive that coveted call from the Pulitzer Prize committee. Given that their far-left agenda would seem to be in synch with those awarding the prizes, one would expect that at least the occasionally that phone would ring. Alas, for the sixteenth consecutive year, even the StarTribune's ideological twins have found them wanting.

Here is the list of newspapers with less circulation than the StarTribune which have nevertheless won more than the Star Tribune's one Pulitzer:

Miami Herald (17)
Baltimore Sun (13)
Seattle Times (7)
Louisville Courier Journal (7)
Portland Oregonian (6)
St. Petersburg Times (6)
Christian Science Monitor (6)
Kansas City Star (6)
San Francisco Chronicle (5)
Des Moines Register (5)
New Orleans Times-Picayune (4)
Sacramento Bee (4)
Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader (3)
Atlanta Journal and Constitution (3)
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal (3)
St. Paul Pioneer Press (3)
Village Voice (3)
Newark Star-Ledger (2)
Hartford Courant (2)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (2)
Arizona Republic (2)
Cleveland Plain Dealer (2)
Albuquerque Journal (2)
Dayton (Ohio) Daily News (2)
Indianapolis Star (2)
Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune (2)
Memphis Commercial Appeal (2)
Raleigh News and Observer (2)
Orange County Register (2)
Philadelphia Daily News (2)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (2)
Providence Journal-Bulletin (2)

This year the StarTribune added two more Pulitzer Peers: the Biloxi Sun-Herald and the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Biloxi Sun-Herald won for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina, as did the New Orleans Times-Picayune. This hardly seems fair to the Strib given that hurricanes rarely strike Minnesota. Perhaps next year a prize will be added for newspaper pilfering.

Here is the updated list of the StarTribune's Pulitzer Peers (although all of the papers listed have won their Pulitzer more recently than the StarTribune's lone 1990 prize):

Ames (Iowa) Daily Tribune
Asbury Park Press (Neptune, NJ)
*Biloxi Sun-Herald
Birmingham, (Ala.) News
Boston Phoenix
Cincinnati Enquirer
Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald
Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune
Riverdale (N.Y.) Press
Rutland (Vt.) Herald
*San Diego Union-Tribune
Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat
Toledo Blade
Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas)
White Plains (N.Y.) Journal News
Willamette (Or.) Week

* New StarTribune Pulitzer Peers

To add insult to injury, the StarTribune didn't even have a single finalist this year. Here is a partial list of newspapers that did not win a Pulitzer this year, but had a finalist in at least one category:

Toledo Blade
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (finalists in three categories)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger (finalists in two categories)
Birmingham (Ala.) News

The Fairness Doctrine

Last month, I poked a bit of fun at an advertisement that featured an impersonation of Ronald Reagan running on local radio station AM-1280 The Patriot. This Saturday after the NARN show, the owner of the company that ran the ad, who also happens to be the man who did Reagan's voice, called to express his disagreement with my review.

I explained that no offense was intended and apologized if any was taken. I also opined that when you put yourself out in public, you should expect people to occasionally have a little fun at your expense. It kind of comes with the territory.

Upon further reflection, I decided that it would appropriate to allow John to have an opportunity to respond in the same forum where the review initially appeared. Unlike newspapers, there is no Page Two on blogs where we can bury corrections in 8pt font and we most certainly don't have a "Reader's Representative" to justify our actions, refuse to admit mistakes, and cavalierly dismiss criticism (although at times such an apologist certainly would come in handy).

So here is the response (unedited except for the removal of the name of a third party not germane to the discussion) from John "Augie" Giese:

Serving in Iraq was an honor for me at the age of 42, and I finally accepted being middle age because my body couldn't do all the things it did at the age of 19 when I first entered the Army in 1982. Having said that, I regularly used humor within the company to keep things at ease, and my impersonation of Ronald Reagan seemed to be the most popular with everyone. It was so popular, that the convoy commander requested hearing from "The President" over the radio before we departed our FOB and it was with bipartisan enjoyment. We were all truck drivers and the schedule was grueling most of the time with little sleep with the need to deliver the supplies to many parts of Iraq. I never heard one complaint from any Democrat or Republican during my tour and everyone found it to be very entertaining, and in a way, a charm of Good Luck before every convoy as many put it.

When I returned home for good this past December, I wanted to increase my advertising and called the Patriot. I left **** ****, the salesman, a message as Ronald Reagan and he loved it. He suggested using it in the ad and I agreed that it would be a tribute and also entertaining on the radio. Personally, I believe that if Ronald Reagan himself had been alive to hear it, he would laugh and find it amusing. He routinely laughed at many things, and loved Rich Little's impersonation of him as well. I only received one negative phone call over its airing and Fraters Libertas found it to be ...."the worst impersonation of Ronald Reagan (peace be upon him) ever...." I found that review to be questionable, not because of the quality of the impersonation, but rather because it had to do with my company and how it was perceived within the eyes of the public.

Chad The Elder, graciously allowed me to post this explanation (upon his suggestion) after I talked with him about his review of the ad on April 15th. As he told me, his review was meant to be "light-hearted" and I felt much better knowing that it wasn't an attack upon my business as a whole. Having a wife, and six kids all under the age of 14, I need all the good press and business I can get so I can pay the bills just like everyone else. I thank Chad for this opportunity to explain myself and I also accept his apology.

I'm very grateful to be home safely and may all of us remember in prayer the 2616 brave warriors and their families (as of 4/17/06) that didn't make it home, especially, Gavin Colburn a member of my platoon who died on April 22nd, 2005 while driving his truck in Iraq.

I thank John for his service to the country and encourage you to patronize his company for all your sewer and drain cleaning needs.

Augie's Sewer & Drain Cleaning 763-546-5000

Monday, April 17, 2006

Behind the Green Door

Yesterday the New York Times provided a revealing peak at the state of the Star Tribune's corporate culture.

The story so far ... in a cost cutting move, management decided to cease giving the employees free copies of the newspaper, instead suggesting they read the electronic edition instead. Apparently, they felt the online edition was every bit as good as the dead tree version.

The employees rebelled over losing what they considered to be an entitlement of employment by engaging in the mass pilfering of copies for sale at the Star Tribune offices. According to an internal memo, leaked to Jim Romenesko's site, from the Senior VP of Circulation:

During the first week that the additional on-site racks were in service, 43 percent of the Star Tribunes removed from those racks were not paid for. For the second week the rate was 41 percent.

This is called "pilferage" in our business; but put more plainly, it is theft, pure and simple.

Taking more than one newspaper from a rack when you have only inserted enough money for one paper is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Employees who steal newspapers will put their jobs at risk. There is zero tolerance when it comes to stealing from our company, even if it is a 25-cent newspaper. And I encourage our hundreds of honest employees who observe co-workers stealing newspapers to challenge them on the spot to refrain from doing so.

Anti-authoritarian rabble rousers who feel they are entitled to certain elite privileges and will do whatever they have to in order to get their own way? Who knew the Star Tribune had employees like that? Unfortunately, the pool of suspects meeting that description may be too deep to allow for profiling techniques alone to make an effective positive identification of the perpetrators.

So who is stealing the newspapers at the Star Tribune? Twin Cities news consumers want to know. But I don't like our chances of finding out any time soon. Monopolies are funny that way about reporting on themselves. Yes, it's times like these that I harken back to the good old days when one company didn't own all local newspaper coverage in this town. Oh well, we can always write requests to the Reader's Representative (cue laugh track).

One other revelation from the NYT story bears mentioning:

"The whole free newspaper-Romenesko leak issue is our version of the gay marriage debate," said Jon Tevlin, a staff writer. "We're deeply in debt, circulation is falling and profits are down 14 percent this quarter. So let's obsess about something that isn't really very significant."

Deep debt, circulation dropping, and profits declining at the Star Tribune? That is news to me, but it's not the revelation I speak of. It's that a reporter at the Star Tribune thinks that potentially changing the definition of marriage contrary to thousands of years legal precedent, without even allowing the people to vote on it, "isn't really very significant." For future context puropses, duly noted.

Compete Not Retreat

There is outstanding commentary in today's Wall Street Journal by Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens that refutes the notion that US manufacturers are unable to compete globally without protectionist policies to aid them. Embrace Globalism:

This is a critical moment for U.S. manufacturing. Of course it is fraught with risk and controversy -- but also rich with possibility. Unfortunately, the latter usually goes unnoticed by our policymakers. Many of them believe that U.S. companies can no longer compete on their own. They want to isolate America by erecting trade and investment barriers. They seem not to have a clue that we live in a global economy.

This parochialism hurts American companies, and hence it hurts America; it also hurts the rest of the world, denying the benefits our industry can bestow. The new protectionism, then, is a "lose-lose-lose" proposition. It is unsustainable: U.S. companies cannot collectively operate as a single-engine plane trying to pull the rest of the world along with us. We need multiple engines for growth, and the rest of the world provides them.

Here, Caterpillar's experience may be instructive, and perhaps lead to some larger lessons for U.S. business leaders in the global economy. We're in the midst of one of the most successful periods in our 81-year history, coming off our second year of record sales and profits. Our workforce has grown more than 20%, and our stock price has more than tripled in five years. To be sure, we've run up against the same labor costs and global competition as the auto makers and other troubled manufacturers. But we're doing fine. Why?

There's no single answer. We've addressed rising health-care costs proactively; we invested substantially to improve productivity and get flexible with our sourcing; we eliminated our centralized, functional structure and established independent businesses with specific profit-and-loss responsibilities. Throughout, we kept our focus on designing high-quality, innovative products. But most importantly, we're thriving today not because we survived globalism but because we embraced it.

Which is exactly the attitude that US manufacturers need to take on if they want to propser in the future.

Owens also explains that more jobs overseas doesn't necessarily mean less jobs here and, in fact, at times it's exactly the opposite:

Caterpillar is one of America's major manufacturers; last year alone we exported more than $9 billion in products. But we've also become a major British manufacturer, a major Brazilian manufacturer and a major Chinese manufacturer -- just to name three of the 40 countries where we have a presence. By expanding globally, we have maintained our ability to grow. We refused to concede markets to competitors and thus kept them from gaining undue strength to block our entry. When it made sense to invest for local access, we did so.

In fact, wherever Caterpillar invests, we find that our U.S. exports to these countries increase as well. Take China. Over the last few years, we have more than doubled our Chinese workforce and significantly expanded our sales there. At the same time, we have increased our U.S. exports to China by 40% -- helping to create some 5,000 new production jobs here in the U.S.

As I once explained to my high school social studies teacher, economics is not a zero sum game. When Caterpillar increased the size of its jobs slice in China, it didn't have to shrink the slice in the US. The whole pie simply got bigger.

None of this is to say that operating a global business -- particularly with a U.S. manufacturing base -- is easy. There are, however, four important strategies that American manufacturers must take to compete with the world's best.

First, manufacturers must focus on designing and producing the highest-quality products incorporating the most up-to-date technology. We have to stay aggressive with our product development programs -- and ensure the goods we manufacture are desired the world over.

Second, we must continue to embrace lean manufacturing principles, increase the use of robotics and automation, and focus on just-in-time delivery. These tools will enable us to keep costs low and productivity high.

Third, manufacturers must invest in people -- providing the education and workforce training they need to help us succeed. Our international competitors will work to produce better products and adopt world-class processes -- but they cannot replicate our market size and proximity. The ideas and competitive spirit that our people bring to the workplace must be nurtured.

Fourth, manufacturing companies must believe they can compete on the world stage. We must look at globalization and international competition as an opportunity to make ourselves stronger and more efficient -- and not, as some are proposing, as a reason to turn inward.

The last point is critical. Is globalization an opportunity or a threat for the United States? In reality it's both. But playing defense is not a strategy for long-term success. US manufacturers must get in the global game and play to win.

Personally, I can think of no faster path to a worldwide recession than for the multiple engines of the global economy to turn against one another. In recent years, commodity prices have risen, and over the last two years global economic growth is as strong as most people can ever remember. Millions have been lifted out of poverty. These gains have come with the rapid rise of China and India and the recovery in Southeast Asia.

But the gains of the Asian economy have not prevented the rapid economic growth and job creation in the U.S. Inflation and interest rates are low -- business confidence is high -- and unemployment is very low. Put another way, our economy is hitting on all cylinders. And all this could easily be endangered if our policymakers implement wrongheaded protectionism -- or if American companies refuse to engage constructively with the world. The stakes have never been higher -- and the benefits of globalization have never been clearer. Trade liberalization, in the end, is a "win-win-win" proposition. It's good for U.S. manufacturers, it's good for the U.S., and it's good for the world.

I'm sure that Norm Coleman would add, "It's good for Saint Paul."

The equation, needless to say, also runs in reverse. What's good for the world is good for the U.S. and for U.S. manufacturers. Look at it this way: The U.S. has only 5% of the world's population. That means 95% of potential customers are located abroad. Trade liberalization brings more and more of these people into the global economy. As their quality of life improves, they become potential consumers of the products we provide.

American manufacturing can win on the world stage. If we embrace globalization with the spirit of optimism and fierce competitiveness that has made American manufacturing great, we will ensure we stay on top of the world economy for years to come.

All the world is a stage. And we need to be players.