Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been...

...a member of the Minnesota Organization of Blogs? While most sane folk would not consider whether an individual chose to have their blog associated with something as frankly insignificant as the MOB to be a matter of any import whatsoever, a story in this week's City Pages on
Dan Lacey from faithmouse shows that you should never underestimate the ability of unbalanced, obsessive stalkers to make something of nothing:

Avidor swung back: "Please describe your 'fall from grace.' Answer these questions, Lacey: Are you still opposed to a woman's right to choose? Are you still a theocrat? Are you still a right-wing Republican? Are you still opposed to same-sex marriage? Do you still admire George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Alan Keyes? Do you still support the M.O.B.'s right-wing crap? Do you still hate the ACLU that protects your right to create and sell your explicit sexual artwork (porn)? Do you think you should make money exploiting the political movements you stridently opposed? That's the tune, so.... Dance, you right-wing theocratic monkey...DANCE!!!"

Smears, slander, innuendo, defamation of character, guilt by association...why some might almost call that "McCarthyite," but of course only right-wing theocratic monkeys would stoop to using such tactics, right?

You don't suppose that Avidor's rantings are more about a fellow cartoonist being recognized and rewarded for achievement while he continues to plod along in his dismal little fantasy world of delusion and desperation? Nah, it's all about the principal.

I'm pretty sure that I met Dan Lacey at one of the early MOB get togethers. He seemed like a nice enough guy. If his political views have changed over the years, I wouldn't besmirch his name or attempt to have him barred, blacklisted, and banned. The story notes that Lacey also moved from being an Evangelical Christian to a Catholic and I hope he finds a welcoming home in the church.

His artistic endeavors seem to be doing pretty well now that he's entered his "pancake period" and, judging from these comments, he doesn't seem overly concerned with what the likes of Avidor think about him:

"I'm not a monkey for any one side, like you continue to be," Lacey responded. "You imagine my cartoon matched right-wing ideology completely, but it never did. I guess you missed my cartoon of Faithmouse beating George Bush over the head with a Bible, or of Andrea Merkel going at George with a strap-on, or of Taint being John Hagee's whore. In my humble opinion, this misunderstanding on your part is a result of your being a militant, one-note dumbshit."

Rarely has an artist captured a subject's character so perfectly.

[Postscript: Based on claims in this story that Dan Lacey has flipped his political views, the Nihilist In Golf Pants has filed an injunction demanding that City Page's retract their 2007 Best Conservative Blog Award from faithmouse and instead award it to a blog which better fits the description. That blog just happens to be Nihilist In Golf Pants. The Nihilist will be stopping by this weekend to pick up the award Dan. He also might want to talk to you about a Charlie Weis pancake painting.]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

With a Name Like That It Has to Be Good

The Web site Publica has published the complete list of financial institutions taking Federal bail out money. A staggering $426 billion committed taxpayer dollars so far. Only time will tell how wise these expenditure are. But reviewing the names of the banks and financial institutions on the list, the following seem like extremely bad investments on their face:

1) Popular, Inc. $935 million

Trying WAY too hard with that name. If they were really so beloved, would they need nearly a BILLION tax dollars in relief? Plus there's this, from their Wikipedia entry:

During the 1970s, the company's commercials were very popular on Puerto Rican television: they presented a balding, middle aged man in a white tee shirt, announcing the company in a comic way.
2) Umpqua $214.4 million

Too guttural. Sounds like pig Latin for something obscene.

3) Old Second Bancorp $73 million

We're chronic losers, and we're proud of it!

4) Flushing Financial Corp. $70 million

Whoosh! Your investments straight down the terlet.

5) Beach Business Bank $6 million

I'm surprised a bank specializing in financing sunglasses, inflatable rafts, and tiny buckets and shovels only needs $6 million to survive.

6) Crazy Woman Creek Bancorp $3.1 million

Hey, Nancy Pelosi started a bank. Even with that name, it sounds like a more attractive investment than bailing out GM.

Cap End Trade

The Center for Consumer Freedom conducted a nationwide survey to measure American's attitudes towards government imposed price caps. The Survey Results are not encouraging:

Today, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) released the results of a nationwide survey showing equal levels of public support for price limits on cell phones, automobiles, and short-term loans. The findings demonstrate that Americans still lack a basic understanding of the dangers of market realities and the margins businesses work on.

Earlier this month a lobbying group called the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) released a survey purporting to show that most Americans support capping interest rates on short-term loans. But a recent survey conducted by CCF shows that many Americans support a price cap on nearly everything: 39% support the government limiting the price of a cup of coffee as well as new televisions!

CCF's survey also showed that 57% of Americans support Congressional action to cap the cost of cell phones, 56% support capping interest on short-term loans, and 55% supported capping the price of automobiles!

These results make it clear that Americans don't understand the negative consequences of price caps. Given the clear economic consensus that artificial price ceilings lead to product shortages, black markets and other unfavorable outcomes, the Center for Responsible Lending's insistence on price caps is itself irresponsible. Their use of flawed public surveys to justify their positions is disingenuous.

At times, the sheer level of ignorance exhibited by our fellow citizens leads one to question whether there is really is hope of ever turning things around. This is one of those times.

Separated At Birth?

Hockey coach whose team just belted the Broadway Blueshirts out of the playoffs Bruce Boudreaux and...

...actress/singer known for belting out the Broadway hits Ethel Merman?

[Assist to Atomizer for the Merman connection]

UPDATE: My wife sees another Boudreaux SAB possibility with the guy who played Dan "The High Talker" on Seinfeld, Brian Reddy (couldn't find a picture from the Seinfeld episode, but this is still pretty good).

Coming Home To Roost

The news yesterday that Arlen Specter had officially flown the GOP coop is the latest example of the dangerous game that Republicans play when they try to appease mushy moderates for perceived political gain. In the long run, such calculated coddled more often than not comes back to blow up in the party's face as it has with Specter.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and there's not necessarily a lot to be gained by saying "We told you so," but with the case of Specter the defector I think it is helpful to recall that Republicans had a chance to avoid this fate had they acted differently back in 2004. Here's something that I posted in November 2004 chiding those who told us we had to support Specter at the time:

I for one have had enough of the "stability" in the Senate offered by the likes of Specter, Chafee, and Snowe. When Specter was challenged in the Republican primary by conservative Pat Toomey, many commentators on the right (including yours truly) backed Toomey. Unfortunately, President Bush, Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania's other senator), and Hugh supported Specter and helped him fend off Toomey.

Hugh Hewitt is an intelligent, generous man of unquestionable integrity who has done much to help the conservative cause (to say nothing of the blogosphere) through his talk radio show, his blog, and his books. But he was wrong about Specter in the Pennsylvania primary and he's wrong about him now.

Again, this isn't about me being right and Hugh being wrong (although that does bring me some measure of pleasure). It's about Republicans getting away from the short-sighted thinking about immediate political gain (or loss) and thinking about the long-term principles, integrity, and strength of the party. That might mean losing some battles today. However, it will make us a stronger party tomorrow, less vulnerable to the shifting allegiances of wobblers like Specter.

In this particular case, even the practical political realities of the time suggest that Republicans would have been better off choosing Toomey over Specter in 2004. While there's no guarantee that he would have won the general election in 2004, I gotta think his chances would have been better than in 2010.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Minimum Required

Sometimes when I read a news story, I find myself scratching my head and wondering if I'm missing something. Particularly when it comes to the "need" for government to regulate certain aspects of business. Case in point is this story in today's WSJ on a new law in Maryland that Targets Minimum Pricing (sub req):

The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, takes aim at agreements that many manufacturers have been forcing on retailers, requiring them to charge minimum prices on certain products. The practice has surged since a controversial 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that no longer makes such agreements automatically illegal under federal antitrust law.

Under the new state law, retailers doing business in Maryland -- as well as state officials -- can sue manufacturers that impose minimum-pricing agreements. The law also covers transactions in which consumers in Maryland buy goods on the Internet, even when the retailer is based out of state. That could potentially affect manufacturers throughout the country.

So far, so good. These minimum-pricing agreements must be quite an affront to liberty.

Maybe if we looked at an example, we could better understand their dastardly nature:

One company with a minimum-pricing policy is Kolcraft Enterprises Inc., a Chicago-based supplier of bassinets and strollers sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. According to a copy of a pricing agreement obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Kolcraft requires retailers to charge a minimum price of $159.99 for its Contours Classique 3-in-1 Bassinet. Wal-Mart's price is $169.88. The price dictated by Kolcraft for its Options Tandem Stroller is $219.99; Wal-Mart charges $219.98.

The agreement states that the policy is intended, among other things, "to protect all Kolcraft and Kolcraft-licensed brands from diminution." Kolcraft also sells products under the Sealy and Jeep brands. Eileen Lysaught, Kolcraft's general counsel and vice-president of operations, declined to comment, as did Wal-Mart.

Okay, let me get this straight. Kolcraft and Wal-Mart voluntarily enter into an agreement in which Wal-Mart agrees to buy products from Kolcraft and then resell to consumers at no less than a price that Kolcraft stipulates. Then a consumer voluntarily purchases a Kolcraft product at that price. My God, there ought to be a law.

Seriously though, what is wrong with such agreements? If Wal-Mart doesn't like it, they can tell Kolcraft to go pound sand and refuse to sell their product. That's actually one of the more amusing angles to this story. Maryland's law and others proposed through the country purport to be about protecting consumers and the retailers are playing along by pretending that they are needed to help them ward off the predatory manufacturers:

The Maryland bill won the support of the Maryland Retailers Association, whose members include Wal-Mart, Target Corp. and Sears Holdings Corp. Wal-Mart did not take a position on the Maryland bill. But Rhoda M. Washington, Wal-Mart's regional senior manager for state and local government relations, says, "Wal-Mart customers expect competitive, reasonable prices, and the Maryland legislature is seeking to ensure that we can deliver on that promise." Target and Sears declined to comment.

It's all about the customers, isn't it Wal-Mart? If the government doesn't step in and help protect Wal-Mart, and by extension their customers, they would helpless to prevent their suppliers from imposing these draconian minimum pricing agreements.

That's good for a larf. Wal-Mart is well-known notorious for "managing" their relationships with suppliers. Said relationships between Wal-Mart and their suppliers are probably best compared to that between the sadomasochistic redneck homosexuals and "The Gimp" in the movie "Pulp Fiction." Essentially Wal-Mart's suppliers are brutalized, enslaved, chained and locked in a box in a basement dungeon. Upon Wal-Mart's request they can also be made to squeal like a pig. Their supplier recognition events are a real hoot. (Yes, using two redneck gay rape movie references when talking about Wal-Mart was lazy, cheap and tawdry, but it was too hard to resist.)

Now, we're expected to believe that all that stands between greedy suppliers having their way with Wal-Mart and their customers is the powerful hand of government stepping in to outlaw such practices? Again, this is one of the cases where I just don't get it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Real Meaning of Honor

First Thing posts the Letter from Mary Ann Glendon declining Notre Dame's Laetre Medal:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision--in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops--to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops' guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame's example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

Glendon's decision was obviously a very difficult one, but also clearly the right one. Once she realized that Notre Dame was using her appearance to defend their decision to honor President Obama at the same event, she decided that she couldn't be a party to it. Now that this fig leaf that the school was using for justification has been removed, their already tottering position becomes completely indefensible.

At this point, I don't hold out much hope for Notre Dame doing the right thing. It is uplifting however to see that Mary Ann Glendon has.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Join us beginning at 11AM today for another episode of the Northern Alliance Radio Network.

John Hinderaker and I will be back LIVE in studio after a two week hiatus. Although popular demand has been strong for hearing the April 4th show for a record fourth consecutive week, we have decided to provide some fresh product.

Jam packed show. In addition to our usual carnival of witty, urbane dialog and opining, we have two special guests scheduled.

First, one of the truly great public servants in Minnesota politics, Rep. John Kline joins us at 11 AM. He's just back from a tour of the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and we'll get his observations on our prospects for success under the new President's guidance. Also, as time allows, his thoughts on the forthcoming cap and trade legislation, potential torture truth commissions, and Obama's first 100 days.

Then in the noon hour, we're joined by Stefan Sharkansky of Sound Politics. You may recall his stellar coverage of the irregularities surrounding the Washington state gubernatorial race vote count in 2004. He just won a 225k settlement regarding election officials 2 year delay in providing voter information revealing the counting of illegal votes in excess of the final election margin of victory. He'll be on to talk about that and perhaps to give us some insight into the irregularities that may have occurred in Coleman-Franken.

Plus Loon of the Week, This Week in Gate Keeping, and much, much more.

It all starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Capt. Ed Morrissey, then at 3PM it's King Banaian and the Final Word. Also, don't forget David Strom preceding us all at 9 AM. Don't you dare miss any of it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beer Of The Week (Vol V)

[Volume Five in the recently expanded beer tasting series. Once again, today's post is made possible by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. That establishment has generously agreed to provide beer for weekly reviews and every brew featured here is available at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. These reviews will be an expansion of the beer rating that I've been doing for years and will be more in-depth look at particular beers using the same rating criteria. And in addition to the just the beer itself, I'll be examining the whole aesthetic package; the bottle, the label, the name.]

August Schell's Brewery is a treasure on the local brewing scene. Tucked in to a wooded hillside outside New Ulm, the picturesque brewery has been in business since 1860 and the Schell's name is familiar with beer drinkers throughout the Upper Midwest. If you ever get a chance to visit Schell's--especially during their annual Bock Fest--you definitely should take it.

Over the years, I've been to the brewery a number of times and have quaffed a number of their offerings. In fact, I've rated twelve different Schell's beers. Few are outstanding, but most are solid, brewed consistently with quality and pride.

It just so happens that I already rated today's featured beer some years ago. And the score that I came up with then is the same one that I arrived at today. Perhaps tastes aren't as variable over time as I once imagined.

Before we get to today's review, I should confess that I'm not much of a fan of the Maibock style. Of all the offerings that Summit puts out, their Maibock is by far my least favorite. It's a little strange since usually I like Bock beers. Perhaps it's the combination of the Bock and the blonde that doesn't sit well on my palate.

On to Schell's Maifest. The beer comes in a non-descript brown bottle. The label follows the traditional Schell's style with the green providing the connection to the spring season when Maibocks appear.

Beer Style: Maibock, a blonde double bock

Alcohol by Volume: 7.2%

COLOR (0-2): Golden brown hues. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sharp and biting. 1

HEAD (0-2): Full and foamy. 2

TASTE (0-5): Good malty flavor with slight hints of hoppiness. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): A touch too harsh. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A decent offering that's better than most other Maibocks I've tried. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 12

Logically Or Morally Unassailable.

David Harsanyi weighs in on this tortuous debate in the Denver Post:

If your contention is that the outcome of torture is immaterial--whether it's one life saved or a thousand lives--you've taken a principled stand. I've yet to hear a policymaker who opposes "torture" be honest and take accountability for the potential consequences of abandoning harsh interrogation techniques.

I put the word torture in quotation marks only to acknowledge that I--and many of you, I'm sure--do not know exactly how to define it. Most laws offer a thoroughly ambiguous definition, which can cover nearly any unpleasant interrogation.

Any parent can tell you that sleep deprivation is mental torture. Does it rise to the level of a crime? Waterboarding? OK, how about pushing someone against a wall? Scaring a grizzled terrorist with a caterpillar? Such techniques inflict "stress and duress," for sure, but do they "shock the conscience" (one definition offered for torture)?

When President Obama decided to release the "torture memos," the door was open for a mere debate. When he opened the door for prosecution of lawyers who opined on what constitutes torture--despite encouraging everyone not to spend "time and energy laying blame for the past"--we face something far more important.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vast Wasteland

For the third consecutive year, the Nihilist In Golf Pants has NOT won a City Pages Best Local Blog award. They didn't even win the Reader's Choice award, although a blog devoted to getting inebriated did.

When I first noticed the fact that the Nihilist had not won a City Pages Best Local Blog award since their first and only prize in 2006, I was afflicting the comfortable. Now, after three years of covering the Nihilist's futility accompanied by their sharp creative decline, I'm starting to feel like I am afflicting the afflicted. Fortunately, like the Nihilist himself, I have no conscience, so I have no problem with that.

The Nihilist's dwindling apologists are running low on excuses. Clearly it was not their stale stable of regular contributors that was holding them down. Even with the recent addition of two new "talents" their trophy case remains bare. Nor can the drought be blamed on the Nihilist's intellectually bankrupt status: a blog that writes in the voice of an arrogant, condescending dog won a City Pages Best Local Blog award last year.

Ah well, there is always next year -- if they can stay in business that long. Here are the blogs that are smaller than the Nihilist, yet have somehow managed to win a City Pages Best Local Blog award since 2006:

Culture Bully (1)

Mediation (1)

Faith Mouse (1)

The Cucking Stool (1)

The list grows and grows. One gets the sense the Nihilist's City Pages Best Local Blog award window is closing fast.

Speaking of the Nihilist, someone has created a new blog called Dump The Nihilist.

While we appreciate comments from all vantage points, this site is totally a forum for Anti-Nihilist viewpoints. If you have a problem with the blogs content, we suggest that you post here the comment that was deleted at the Nihilist in Golf Pants. However, we are also looking for comments in defense of the Nihilist, as we would very much like to point at you and laugh.
With this kind of grass roots pressure, I'd be surprised if the Nihililst makes it to Memorial Day. Developing.

Tortured Logic

The recent re-emergence of the debate over coercion, harsh interrogation, or torture (whatever term you prefer) of terrorist detainees is a reminder of just how morally ambiguous this matter is. Despite attempts by both sides to present it as a clear-cut, black and white choice, it's far more complicated than that. Sometimes it's quite easy to draw a distinct line between good and evil. This is not one of those times.

It's one of those issues where I can easily understand why one can quite logically come down either for, against, or somewhere in the middle. Usually I regard those who place themselves in the mushy middle as vacillating, lazy, and even cowardly. However, in this instance I find the middle ground to be a reasonable and defensible position to take.

One thing that I don't think has been emphasized enough in the recent rehashing of the torture argument is that most of the policy decisions and actions that are currently being debated took place in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. It's easy to sit back now, more than seven-and-a-half years later, and say that there really wasn't of a threat and that the Bush administration overreacted and overreached the bounds of their authority. But if you can remember the atmosphere at the time, you know that these decisions were made when further attacks not only seemed imminent, but inevitable.

So when we're arguing about whether the Bush Administration interrogation techniques (reviewed and approved by Congress) were right, legal, moral, and effective, we should keep the memory of 9/11 fresh in our minds. We should weigh the waterboarding on one hand with the horrific images (and sounds) of people choosing to plunge to their death rather than be burned alive in the WTC buildings. When I consider it that way, I come down on the side of saying that whatever moral qualms I may have about it, waterboarding the high value detainees was justified at the time.

Did the information they provided help disrupt Al Qaeda networks and lead to the capture or death of other Al Qaeda operatives? Almost undoubtedly. Did it prevent another terrorist attack in the United States? Possibly. This is difficult to prove, but it is reasonable to say that it might have. And again going to back to 2002, knowing that enhanced interrogation techniques might prevent an attack would be enough for me to support their use.

Another thing about the current debate that I find perplexing is the absolute conviction in which some who oppose torture claim that it "never works" and that all you get is bad information. While there are a lot of different views and disagreement about how effective torture really is, to say that it never works is to ignore history.

You say torture never works? Tell that to the American airmen captured in North Vietnam. Granted they were subject to levels and intensity of torture that the US would never consider--and in fact probably faced worst than most Al Qaeda detainees have just in their training--but at some point during their interrogation sessions many did "break" and divulged some information they didn't want to. At first, they felt shame and dishonor at having violated the code of military conduct. Then, they realized that almost everyone has their limits and there is only so much pain that a person can endure before they break. So they resolved to not "stay broken," to hold out as long as they could, provide as little real information as possible, not be used for propaganda and make the North Vietnamese "rebreak" them each time.

Return With Honor--Transcript:

DENTON: I put out the word Roll back, bounce back. That was the first time that was initiated. It was very important to last us the rest of the time. You could be tortured to give something, but then you don't just lie back and continue to give them things as they just gradually exploit you. You stop and don't give them anything, you make them torture you again and again and give them as little as you can the next time. In other words, they never advance their indoctrination of you to the object they wanted was you become a slave without torture to do anything they want to help their cause.

Now you can argue about how effective the North Vietnamese approach really was. But if the interrogation objective is to get a captive to provide information that they otherwise would not, it's difficult to say that their torture didn't "work." This doesn't mean that torture always works or that it's the best way to get information or that it's right to use even the most moderate forms of it. However, the argument that it "never works" is not a serious one.

Mark Bowden's 2003 piece in The Atlantic called The Dark Art of Interrogation still remains one of the best references on the subject. Since the original publication of that article, I've heard Bowden interviewed about interrogation, coercion, and torture a number of times. As best I can tell, his position is that the United States should officially ban torture and sign on to international agreements against its use. But if individual interrogators believe they face a situation where severe coercion or torture (again, however you want to label it) is absolutely necessary to get information that will save lives, they should be willing to break the law to obtain it. Then, if they were charged for their actions they would have to defend themselves by explaining their motives and hope they would judged accordingly. Morally ambiguous enough for you?

In this particular debate, such a compromised solution might be the best that we can hope to come up with.

[ More from Debra Saunders and the WSJ editorial board. ]

Devoured Not Deflowered

Last night, while reading The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd I came across a passage I wanted to share. Since content from that particular book is not yet available online, here are More's relevant words from another book on his life. For background purposes, Anne Boleyn was about to become Queen and some of the same Bishops who, along with More, had opposed Henry VIII's attempts to throw Catherine of Aragon to the curb in violation of the Church's teachings had now decided that they better play ball with King Henry by attending the coronation of the new Queen.

It fortuned not long before the coming of Queen Anne through the streets of London from the Tower to Westminster to her coronation, that he received a letter from the Bishops of Durham, Bath and Winchester, requesting him both to keep them company from the Tower to the coronation, and also to take twenty pounds, that by the bearer thereof they had sent him, to buy a gown withal ; which he thankfully receiving, and at home still tarrying, at their next meeting said merrily unto them:

" My lords, in the letters which you lately sent me you required two things of me : the one, sith I was so well content to grant you, the other therefore I thought I might be the bolder to deny you. And like as the one, because I took you for no beggars, and myself I knew to be no rich man, I thought I might the rather fulfill, so the other did put me in remembrance of an emperor who ordained a law that whosoever had committed a certain heinous offence (which I now remember not), except it were a virgin, should suffer the pains of death such a reverence had he to virginity.

Now so it happened that the first committer of that offence was indeed a virgin, whereof the emperor hearing was in no small perplexity, as he that by some example would fain have had that law put in execution. Whereupon when his council had sat long, solemnly debating this cause, suddenly rose there up one of his council, a good plain man, amongst them, and said, 'Why make you so much ado, my lords, about so small a matter? Let her first be deflowered, and then after may she be devoured.'

And so though your lordships have in the matter of the matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you keep your virginity still. For some there be that by procuring your lordships first at the coronation to be present, and next to preach for the setting forth of it, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof are desirous to deflower you, and- when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now, my Lords, quoth he, it lieth not in my power but that they may devour me, but God being my good Lord, I will so provide that they shall never deflower me."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Too Much Green And Not Enough Red White & Blue

During the last few weeks, the major cable children's programming channels (Nickelodeon, Disney, MSNBC) have been hyping the build up to Earth Day like never before. Nickelodeon continues to try to influence young minds of mush by urging them to fight CO2 monsters through their "Big Green Help" program. Disney is also fully on board the environmental bandwagon with programs like "Handy Mandy Goes Green" (not to be confused with the very special "Handy Mandy Gets A Green Card" episode).

The networks would say that it's all part of their efforts at "educational" programming. But it's interesting to note that what passes for educational programming on children's television today almost exclusively involves the environment or diversity. The only time I can recall seeing any attempts to educate children on history is during Black History Month. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there's a whole lot of history that's being left out if that's all you include.

There's also little or nothing that celebrates the United States or is patriotic in any way. The only time you usually can even catch a glimpse of the American flag is if one happens to be in the background of one of Nickelodeon's hagiographic "reports" on President Obama. As my wife noted just the other day, the focus is always on the world rather than America. After all, we're just one country among many, right?

It's easy for parents to get frustrated by this onslaught of liberal thought and lack of American exceptionalism on children's television. But fortunately there is an answer. An answer that you might enjoy watching just as much as your kids do.

Yes, Schoolhouse Rock. The Easter Bunny dropped off the DVD at our house this year and it's been getting pretty heavy play ever since.

Those of you in my demographic cohort know what Schoolhouse Rock is. For those who aren't, here's the History of Schoolhouse Rock:

Every Saturday morning between 1973 and 1985, a classroom of imagination defying enormity was assembled on ABC, run by a small cadre of renegade Madison Avenue ad men. Class sessions were short but intense-squeezed between episodes of Scooby Doo and LaffOlympics and Underoos met the dress code. No one assigned homework, no one slapped your knuckles with a yardstick, no one beat you up for your milk money. The institution of learning was called Schoolhouse Rock, and if you can recite the Preamble of the Constitution by rote and know the function of a conjunction, you probably attended faithfully.

Watching the DVD definitely brings back fond memories of getting hepped up on sugary cereal and watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. Our mom usually wouldn't buy us sugary cereal, but that didn't stop us from piling it on. You put enough sugar on and anything can taste good, even shredded wheat.

Some of my favorite School House Rock grammar shorts are Interjections!, Unpack Your Adjectives, and Conjunction Junction. They hold up today just as well as they did back in the day.

But the ones that I really loved then and still enjoy today are from the America Rock series:

By 1976, a patriotic fervor had gripped the nation. Kids were hoarding bicentennial quarters and riding around on red, white and blue Huffys. Schoolhouse Rock responded with segments about American history, which they produced under the banner America Rock, and which ABC, for reasons mysterious, called History Rock. The lessons became more ambitious, now addressing such topics as Colonial military prowess ("The Shot Heard 'Round the World"), the concept of Manifest Destiny ("Elbow Room"), and women's rights ("Sufferin' Till Suffage").

These includes classics such as The Preamble, Great American Melting Pot, and I'm Just A Bill. There is simply nothing even close to these on television today. You think it might be helpful if more Americans understood at least some basics about our legislative process, our history of welcoming AND assimilating immigrants, and the Constitution?

Not that there aren't a few errors that I've noticed here and there. For example this line in Mother Necessity about inventors:

When Henry Ford cranked up his first automo,

Maybe that's where President Obama got the idea that Ford invented the car.

What really stands out though is just how out and out patriotic these shorts are, how absent they are of PC scolding, and how unafraid they are to give voice to values once considered quite uncontroversial in America. The ending from another one of my favs, The Shot Heard 'Round The World:

God Bless America, Let Freedom Ring!

Six words I can guarantee you won't hear on Nickelodeon any time soon.

Another exuberant celebration of America and its history is found in Fireworks:

And on the Fourth of July they signed it
And fifty-six names underlined it,
And now to honor those first thirteen states,
We turn the sky into a birthday cake.
They got it done (Oh yes they did!)
The Declaration, uh-huh-huh,
The Declaration of Independence (Oh yeah!)
In 1776 (Right on!)
The Continental Congress said that we were free (We're free!)
Said we had the right of life and liberty,
...And the pursuit of happiness!

That's what I want my kids learning. Not how to fight CO2 Monsters.

One Rock that I don't remember seeing as a youth really sticks out. Read the lyrics to Elbow Room and try to imagine what would happen if such a lesson were shown on television today:

One thing you will discover
When you get next to one another
Is everybody needs some elbow room, elbow room.

It's nice when you're kinda cozy, but
Not when you're tangled nose
to nosey, oh,
Everybody needs some elbow, needs
a little elbow room.

That's how it was in the early days
of the U.S.A.,
The people kept coming to settle though
The east was the only place there
was to go.

The President was Thomas Jefferson
He made a deal with Napoleon.
How'd you like to sell a mile or two, (or three, or a hundred or a thousand?)
And so, in 1803 the Louisiana Territory was sold to us
Without a fuss
And gave us lots of elbow room,

Oh, elbow room, elbow room,
Got to, got to get us some elbow room.
It's the West or bust,
In God we trust.
There's a new land out there...
Lewis and Clark volunteered to go,
Good-bye, good luck, wear your overcoat!
They prepared for good times and for bad (and for bad),
They hired Sacajawea to be their guide.
She led them all across the countryside.
Reached the coast
And found the most
Elbow room we've ever had.

The way was opened up for folks with bravery.
There were plenty of fights
To win land rights,
But the West was meant to be;
It was our Manifest Destiny!

Can you say that?

The trappers, traders, and the peddlers,
The politicians and the settlers,
They got there by any way they could (any way they could).
The Gold Rush trampled down the wilderness,
The railroads spread across from East to West,
And soon the rest was opened up for--opened up for good.

We trampled down the wilderness, built railroads across the country, and opened up the land. And it was GOOD!

And now we jet from East to West.
Good-bye New York, hello L.A.,
But it took those early folks to open up the way.

Now we've got a lot of room to be
Growing from sea to shining sea.
Guess that we have got our elbow room (elbow room)
But if there should ever come a time
When we're crowded up together, I'm
Sure we'll find some elbow room...up on the moon!

Oh, elbow room, elbow room.
Got to, got to get us some elbow room.
It's the moon or bust,
In God we trust.
There's a new land up there!

Remember when building, growing, and expanding were all considered part of the American Dream? When we considered it our right to have space? When we would go wherever we had to--even the moon--in order to find that space? And we would make that journey with trust in God? Now, we're afraid of "suburban sprawl," strive for "sustainable development," and worry that too much travel might increase our carbon footprint and anger Gaia.

Instead of having your kids subject to yet another day of environmental indoctrination on Nickelodeon and Disney or the creeping multiculturalism of PBS, pop in the "School House Rock" DVD and return to a time when American children were taught not to apologize for our country, but to celebrate it.

How The MOB Rolls

Newest additions to the Minnesota Organization of Blogs include:

Jack of All Trades

Forrest Chad Wilkinson

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Must See Video

CSPAN shows some of the speeches from the recent Wooster College forum on"Great Decisions in Times of Economic Crisis."   Of particular note is Wall Street Journal columnist James Stewart and his speech on the origins of the current recession.  A very user friendly and fascinating discussion of the timeline, major events, and major players in this morass.  He starts at about the nine minute mark, here.  

The Roll Is Off The Dole

There is nothing wrong with your Internets. Do not attempt to adjust the MOB blogroll. We are controlling the content. If we wish to make it louder, we will increase the font size. If we wish to make it softer, we will decrease it. We will control the length. We will control the depth. We can roll the blogs, make them flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the near future, sit quietly and we will control all that read. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your Internets. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Minnesota Organization of Blogs.

As Saint Paul mentioned yesterday, there have been some on-going technical difficulties with Blogrolling which have only recently been resolved. Therefore, after a period of being locked out, we are once again able to update the official Minnesota Organization of Blogs blogroll. A few updates have been made, but I also know we've missed a few new additions that have appeared on the scene.

If you have a blog or know of a blog that should be listed, please drop me a note at and I'll see that it is taken care (after proper vetting of course). I've also taken the liberty of beginning to go through the list and make any necessary updates. If you haven't updated your blog in the last three months, you can expect it to disappear from the roll. Even in the chaos of the MOB, there are certain standards that must be adhered to.

UPDATE-- Welcome to these newly made MOBsters:

Conservative Cravings

You gotta like someone able to come with Rachel and Chandler as a Separated At Birth.

And if you want the MOB blogroll on your blog, copy and paste this code:

Pound Your Fist & Cross It Off Your List

With the Minneapolis Star Tribune on life support in bankruptcy fighting for its very survival, it almost doesn't seem fair to indulge in our annual mockery of their on-going failure to capture the most sought after prize in their industry. Almost.

So without further ado, let's turn things over to our faithful correspondent Jim for this year's update:

For the nineteenth consecutive year, the Star Tribune has NOT won a Pulitzer Prize. They didn't even have a single finalist, although the online-only Politico did.

When I first started reporting, on the fact that the Star Tribune had not won a Pulitzer Prize since their first and only prize in 1990, I was afflicting the comfortable. Now, after five years of covering the Strib's Pulitzer futility accompanied by their sharp financial decline, I'm starting to feel like I am afflicting the afflicted. Fortunately, I am not a real journalist, so I have no problem with that.

The Strib's dwindling apologists are running low on excuses. Clearly it was not former editor Anders Gyllenhaal who was holding them down; his new paper, The Miami Herald, won a Pulitzer this year. Nor can the draught be blamed on the Strib's bankruptcy status: the Detroit Free Press has recently decreased home delivery to three days a week, yet they also won a Pulitzer this year.

Ah well, there is always next year--if they can stay in business that long.

In addition to the Detroit Free Press, three other newspapers have moved past the Star Tribune by winning a Pulitzer this year. They are: the Glen Falls (NY) Post-Star, The Las Vegas Sun, and The East Valley Tribune (Mesa, AZ)

(Previous years: (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008).

Here are the newspapers that are smaller than the Star Tribune that have somehow managed to win a Pulitzer Prize since 1990:

Miami Herald (9)

Portland Oregonian (5)

Sacramento Bee (4)

New Orleans Times-Picayune (4)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3)

Baltimore Sun (3)

Birmingham (Ala.) News (2)

Christian Science Monitor (2)

Hartford Courant (2)

Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader (2)

San Diego Union-Tribune (2)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (2)

Seattle Times (2)

Newark Star-Ledger (2)

Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal

Albuquerque Journal

Asbury Park Press (Neptune N.J.)

Biloxi Sun Herald

Block Newspapers, Toledo, Ohio

Boston Phoenix

Cincinnati Enquirer

Cleveland Plain Dealer

Concord (N.H.) Monitor

Daily Tribune (Ames, Iowa)

Dayton (Ohio) Daily News

Des Moines Register

Detroit Free Press

East Valley Tribune (Mesa, AZ)

Glen Falls (NY) Post-Star

Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune

Indianapolis Star

Investor's Business Daily

Kansas City Star

Las Vegas Sun

Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune

Los Angeles Weekly

Louisville Courier-Journal

Memphis Commercial Appeal

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer

Orange County Register

Philadelphia Daily News

Philadelphia Inquirer

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Santa Rose (Calif.) Press Democrat

Providence Journal-Bulletin

Riverdale (N.Y.) Press

Rutland (Vt.) Herald

San Francisco Chronicle

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Toledo Blade

Village Voice

Virgin Island Daily News (St. Thomas)

White Plains (N.Y.) Journal News

Willamette Week (Portland)

The list grows and grows. One gets the sense the Strib's Pulitzer window is closing fast.

Speaking of the Strib, Vox Day has created a new blog called Kill the Strib:

While we appreciate comments from all vantage points, this site is totally a forum for political viewpoints. If you have a problem with the newspaper's content, we suggest that you post here the comment that was deleted at However, we are also looking for comments in defense of the Star Tribune, as we would very much like to point at you and laugh.

He asked us for our thoughts on whether the Strib should in fact die. Upon reflection, I realized that the Strib has been dead to me for some time. In last few years, I've come to view its fate with almost complete disinterest. I look upon its current thrashing in the water with a sense of detached amusement. When the Star Tribune finally does go down for the third and final time, I won't celebrate or mourn its passing, but merely make note of it. Oh, so it's finally over then, huh?

Sock Up

Ever wonder about the origin of the stirrup socks that baseball players wear? The background is revealed in a WSJ story on how Stirrups Hang On in Minor Leagues:

On July 4, 1905, the Boston Globe dropped a hint of its origins, reporting that Napoleon Lajoie, of the Cleveland Napoleons, was down with "blood poisoning" after being spiked by a shortstop named O'Leary. The Globe said, "some of the dye in his stocking got into the wound and affected it." The next December, the Washington Post reported that Cleveland players "will hereafter wear pure white stockings to avoid the possibility of blood poisoning."

Before long, players were wearing two socks on each foot, one to show team colors, and a "sanitary" sock to guard against poison dye. Two socks in one shoe made for a tight fit, so somebody cut out the toes and heels of the team socks, and the stirrup was invented.

Sock dye didn't, in fact, cause blood poisoning or any other infection. Germs did. "It had nothing to do with the dye," says Tom Shieber, curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "The point is they thought it had to do with the dye."

The stirrup is definitely a classy look, one that I wish more big leaguers would try today. The whole pants over the shoe thing makes is more fitting for the softball field. Don't even get me started on the uni-color practice jersey top that some MLB teams still insist on wearing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Two for the Roll

Two new Web sites on the scene worth checking out:

1) Pioneer Press columnist, and MOB member in absentia, Craig Westover is attempting to reform the state Republican party with the Grassroots for an Open Republican Party iniative. They list seven spot-on and sadly forgotten principles of governance and aspire to:
"Returning to Republican principles" means holding fast to those principles even when it hurts. It means turning to those principles everyday to guide every action taken as a member or officer of the Republican Party. It means incorporating those principles into how we organize the Minnesota GOP, manage the Minnesota GOP, and communicate the message of the Minnesota GOP. It means we turn to those principles to guide our candidate selection process, to provide the code by which we conduct elections, and to hold Republican officeholders accountable to the people who endorse them.
They're targeting state party delegates and alternates for recruitment and further action (and already have Dave Thompson, Tony Sutton, and 75 others aboard). And Westover is one of the most principled and sharpest Republicans around. But even with him leading the charge and this early support, with no real institutional leverage over the status quo, this grassroots effort seems like a long shot. We wish this band of Quixotics well.

2) A new MOB blog to be added as soon as we figure out a way to navigate through Blogrolling's new security procedures (so secure, the members can't even access it). It fills a gap in MOB coverage, with its primary focus being pro-life issues. It's called A Voice for the Unborn and it is very well done. Feel free to add it to your own MOB rolls until our technical difficulties can be resolved.

Hail Columbia

If President Obama is looking for an opportunity to tack to the center on the economic front, challenge liberal special interest groups, and show nervous free marketeers that he's more Clinton than Carter, free trade would seem to present an obvious opening. This report on New Movement on Colombia Trade Pact (WSJ sub req) is an encouraging sign:

President Barack Obama discussed a pending free-trade agreement with his Colombian counterpart Saturday and dispatched his trade representative to discuss U.S. concerns over Colombia's treatment of labor leaders.

At the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Mr. Obama asked to be seated next to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and the pair discussed the deal, U.S. officials said. During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama had voiced opposition to the pact, citing violence toward labor organizers in Colombia. The deal, which would allow free trade between the two nations, is awaiting ratification in the U.S. Senate and has already been approved by Colombia's congress.

Since taking office, Mr. Obama has struck a more-positive tone on free trade than he often did during the campaign. He and aides have spoken out against protectionism, and in Mexico last week he declined to raise the question of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite a pledge to do so last year.

I'll believe it when I see it, but if Mr. Obama does follow through and get a free-trade deal with Columbia done, he should be cheered. It's also nice to know that he spent at least some time at the Summit of the Americas talking with our allies and not our enemies.

The Great Outdoors

Last Friday, we had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at a new facility under construction in downtown Minneapolis. I'd love to be able to tell you all about it, but we're operating under a strict gag order to reveal nothing of what we saw. Therefore, we're collectively taking a Sergeant Schultz approach to the matter. All I will say at this time is that when 2010 comes around the grass will be real and it will be spectacular.

After the construction tour, we adjourned to the Little Wagon to revitalize ourselves. The Little Wagon is the "other" establishment in bar baron Terry Keegan's Minneapolis empire and it's a great pre and post game location for those taking in a Twins game as we were that night. We happened to be there for The Wagon's 5pm trivia and discovered that although it's been a while since we partook in trivia at either Keegan establishment, little had changed. Marty was as unfunny, off-color, and insulting as ever and the questions were as ambiguously worded and incorrectly judged as ever. Just for the record, "Hannah Montana" was the #1 movie for April 10th through 16th and Steven Seagal just turned fifty-eight, not 53, 55, 57, or 59 (the options given by Marty). Not that we're bitter or anything. Finishing third was enough to get us each a free drink ticket which is the real goal of these trivial pursuits.

Despite the atrocious conditions in which it was played (plastic seats, Teflon ceiling, fake foul poles, artificial turf, etc.) the game itself was entertaining. For the first seven-and-half innings, the Twins looked likely to continue their recent swoon. Poor pitching, hapless hitting, and sloppy fielding left the home squad on the wrong side of a 9-4 score as they prepared to bat in the bottom of the eighth against the Angels. At which point, Saint Paul and JB Doubtless--who were sitting twelve rows below the rest of the group in the prestigious King Banaian seats--began demanding that we cut and run. "The game is lost," they said, "We've already invested too much of our treasure and time in a futile cause. This was the wrong game, at the wrong time, in the wrong place..."

Fortunately Atomizer--who had the painful consequences of a premature withdrawal seared into his conscience years earlier--remained Churchillian in his resolve and was adamant that we never give in. Well, actually it was more like "let's at least see the Twin bat this inning," but nevertheless he refused to cave in to the pressure. Which proved fortuitous as the Twins scored seven times in the eighth, capped off by Jason Kubel's cycle completing two-out grand slam home run. After Joe Nathan closed out the Halos with seven pitches in the ninth, the Twins had an improbable 11-9 victory on their way to a three-game weekend sweep.

It ended up being a great night at the ballpark, which would have been even better had it been under a starry sky. Just wait until next year.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Three nuggets from the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The first from Caitlin Flanagan in a piece on Columbine called The High Cost of Coddling:

In my teaching days, no single document shaped my thinking as much as Flannery O'Connor's 1963 essay called "Total Effect and the Eighth Grade." It concerned neither guns nor violence, neither cliques nor experimental approaches to the treatment of adolescent depression. It was about . . . books. In defending the teaching of the great works of the Western canon rather than those of the modern day (which kids far preferred), she said something wise, the sort of thing an adult might say. She said that the whims and preferences of children should always, always be sublimated to the sense and judgment of their elders.

"And what if the student finds this is not to his taste?" O'Connor asked. "Well that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed."

Next up is Meghan Cox Gurdon who notes that the efforts to scare kids green have now crept into children's literature:

As any parent can tell you, children like routine. They're not put off by predictability in stories. They're accustomed to princesses being pretty, dragons being fearsome, and, it seems, alas, their fictional businessmen being corpulent and amoral. So it's probably pointless to object to the eco-endlessness on the grounds of artistic feebleness.

Yet there is something culturally impoverished about insisting that children join in the adult preoccupation with reducing, reusing and recycling. Can they not have a precious decade or so to soar in imaginative literature before we drag them back down to earth?

Finally, Eric Felten celebrates A Welcome Sign of Vodka's Decline:

But the popularity of vodka among foodies was always perplexing. Vodka's neutrality and uniformity would seem to be at odds with the slow-food crowd's embrace of robust flavors reflecting specific locales. Back in 2005, among the best bartenders, the revolt against vodka had begun, even if it was still too underground to be seen in Food & Wine's cocktail compilation. But now, at long last, as a revolutionary theorist might put it, the contradictions inherent in the vodka paradigm have become apparent. It's as though there were finally the realization that making cocktails with vodka is like making paella with instant rice -- it can be done, of course, but it doesn't exactly burnish one's culinary bona fides.

How far has vodka fallen in the world of serious drinks-making? Out of about 200 recipes found in the original Food & Wine cocktail book, nearly 60 used vodka, making it the dominant spirit of the day. "Cocktails '09," by contrast, has only 10 recipes that call for vodka. And even those are mostly rather apologetic about it, with vodka used in a tertiary role.

A role that is should always be relegated to.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Don't Stop Believin'

Steve Perry writing in the City Pages in 2004 on the perils of electing Bush-Cheney:
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.
Steve Perry writing for the so-called Minnesota Independent in 2008 on the perils of electing McCain-Palin:
Sarah Palin emerges from the most militaristic strand of contemporary evangelicalism; her brand of incipient theocracy excites the Christian base like nothing in living memory.
As I wrote back in September, if Steve Perry keeps making these wild predictions long enough (decades, centuries, millennia), one of these times he's bound to be right!

Breaking news, fans of a Republican dystopian future. Steve Perry has been monitoring the recent Tea Party protests by citizens concerned about government spending, control, and taxation and you'll never guess what he finds. From MinnPost:
Fear of falling on the scale that Americans are now experiencing inevitably spawns a widespread wish for order and security that has always raised the stock of fascism. Is there a Mussolini in the house?
That hip hop style name checking of the Italian fascist leader is a nice touch. If Steve Perry's assessment of the Tea Party movement is correct, I see it catching on at future rallies. Maybe some call and response between the emcee and the audience:

Where's Mussolini? Mussolini over here!
Where's Luigi Freddi? Luigi Freddi over here!
Where's Giuseppe Ungaretti? Giuseppe Ungaretti over here!

Or, just maybe, Steve Perry is wrong again about the fascism of American conservatives. Noted expert in the study of fascism, Jonah Goldberg, had this to say about the F word being applied to the current protests about Obama led government over reach:
How do I say this so people will understand? Fascism isn't a libertarian doctrine! It just isn't, never will be and it can't be cast as one. Anarchism, secessionism, extreme localism or rampant individualism may be bad, evil, wrong, stupid, selfish and all sorts of other things (though not by my lights). But they have nothing to do with a totalitarian vision of the state where individuals and institutions alike must march in step and take orders from the government.
If you think shrinking government and getting it less involved in your life is a hallmark of tyranny it is only because you are either grotesquely ignorant or because you subscribe to a statist ideology that believes the expansion of the state is the expansion of liberty.
That last part sounds about right: a statist ideology that believes the expansion of the state is the expansion of liberty. That could be the motto of most of the Twin Cities' lefty media.

Conceal That You're Carrying?

Tim from Colorado e-mails with an interesting query about what happens when theory meets reality:

I'm leaving Thursday for a Fri-Mon class, and I have to say I'm really looking forward to it. I am attending because I have obtained a CCW (carry concealed weapons) permit. I am an avid hunter and been around long guns most of my life, but am not fluent with handguns. If I decide to begin carrying I want to be confident and competent.

There's an interesting dynamic going on around me about this class and the CCW permit, and maybe it's a subject you might want to pose to other FL readers.

I live in a relatively small town 20 miles southeast of Denver. Parker is a nice town but not Mayberry RFD either. We get our occasional sensational event. I decided over two years ago to take a the basic pistol course required for a concealed weapons permit (CCW). Last October I finally decided to apply for my CCW permit, most likely because I wanted to get it before the governor told me I couldn't have it; not a good reason, but a reason nonetheless. At the time I applied for the permit, I didn't believe I would actually carry very often. My office is posted as a no-gun zone, and there just aren't many places during my day that I ever feel the slightest need to be armed. But I also subscribe to the general theory that it is better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

I didn't go around telling my circle of friends that I have a CCW permit because the subject of guns tends to polarize people, but it has eventually leaked out. Considering that my circle of friends is mostly conservative, I am somewhat surprised at their general reaction to my having a CCW permit, and that I'm going to attend this defensive handgun class. I have received some ribbing about getting a CCW permit and attending this class. The general reaction has been "what do you need that for?" instead of "good for you; that's the responsible thing to do". I'm really a little baffled here.

On the whole, I do not consider our society a dangerous society. Do you find it odd, at what ever degree, that a conservative group of people would take this sort of stance? I expect strong support from conservative people who are probably conservative only because of their stance on the gun rights, but a number of my friends are ex-military, and even they give me a strange look about this issue.

I guess these sorts of differences are to be expected across the broad conservative spectrum, but the reaction to this issue from people I consider to be conservative has me a little puzzled.

What's the official FL position?

That's easy. Fraters Libertas is proud to support the right of all law-abiding Americans to keep, bear, and if necessary conceal arms. Amen, end of story.

Well, maybe not all law-abiding Americans. I mean can you imagine what might happen if Atomizer got his hands on a blower? (shiver) No, that would not be prudent. And then there's JB's anger management issues. Saint Paul has that whole Irish thing working against him...

Beer Of The Week (Vol IV)

Volume Four in the recently expanded beer tasting series. Once again, today's post is made possible by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. That establishment has generously agreed to provide beer for weekly reviews and every brew featured here is available at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. These reviews will be an expansion of the beer rating that I've been doing for years and will be more in-depth look at particular beers using the same rating criteria. And in addition to the just the beer itself, I'll be examining the whole aesthetic package; the bottle, the label, the name.

When you think of France, you think of Paris, wine, fromage, and chain-smoking, anti-American, existentialist philosophers. But not beer. Even though its neighbors to the east are well known for their brewing process, you don't hear much about French beer. In fact, over the many years of rating beer here, I've yet to judge a French brew. El Salvador yes, France no.

That all changed last week when the proprietor of Glen Lake Wine and Spirits suggested I try Kronenbourg 1664. I was a little skeptical, especially when another Glen Lake associate asked "Is that that French beer?" when he saw what I was lugging home.

However, I'm happy to report that the skepticism was unwarranted. Kronenbourg 1664 is a French beer and a pretty darn good one at that. It's style is similar to other European lagers, but I'd say it's better than most.

The bottle is light green with "1664" engraved on it. The tricolor label (red, white, and blue naturally) is simple yet elegant.

COLOR (0-2): Light golden color. 1

AROMA (0-2): Intense maltiness. 2

HEAD (0-2): Full and rich. 2

TASTE (0-5): A nice mix of bite and smooth flavor. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Fades a little too fast. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A well-rounded lager that combines taste and refreshment. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Living In A Lonely World

My wife--herself the product of a small town--now realizes that it's not as much a matter of the size of your municipality as it is a matter of the size of your neighbor's goodwill:

Growing up in a small town, I didn't see much of the charm a small town could bring.

My thoughts on small towns had changed some as I grew older, but accelerated when storms went through my hometown in 1998. My parents home as well as everyone in their neighborhood had several large branches and trees down. My husband and I went out to help my parents along with husband's father and brother. It was truly amazing to see. We saw people coming in from several other towns volunteering to help. Neighbors were helping neighbors, etc. Across the street, a neighbor of theirs had a huge tree down in their front yard, it was cleaned up by the time we left that day. My parents damage was basically cleaned up as well, thanks to the private citizens from their town and neighboring small towns.

When my husband and I left to go back home, we noted that in the suburbs of Minneapolis (Minnetonka, specifically) their were still trees blocking the streets. We both marveled at the fact that my hometown was well on its way of being cleaned up a day after the storm while the suburbs still seemed to be untouched.

In January 2009 I received a call from my Dad that their basement was full of sewage water. They found out the same day that two other homes had sewage water in their basement. When my parents contacted their city, they were informed that the city did flush the sewage system recently. It was found out a couple months later that while the pipes could handle about 375 gallons per minute, they were flushing 500 gallons per minute. Based on this information, it was clearly the fault of the city that the sewage water was in their basement.

It is now April 15th, and their basement is still unusable. The clean up of the basement was done within 24 hours of the incident only because several calls had been made to the city and to their insurance agent, who happens to be the city's insurance agent as well (which, I think, does not help their case). However, many of their belongings are in storage, the basement bathroom is unusable, carpet is all ripped up, etc. The reason for the delay: who is going to pay?

My parents did receive a check from their homeowners policy, however that does not cover the clean up and repair the damage to the house itself. It was our belief that even after figuring depreciation, they would not have any out of pocket for the clean up, replacing flooring, painting needed, and some wood work that needed to be done. Now, they are told that they will have to pay $500-$1,00 out of their pocket. My parents have caved, they are tired of the fight, and so they will pay. I am unsure when they will get their house back in order.

They have lived in the same town for over 50 years, they had 5 children, my Dad was a volunteer fire fighter, member of the American Legion, and had owned a business in that small town for several years. My Mom served on the city council and still volunteers for the city. They are both now in their mid-seventies But apparently--based on the way their small town officials are treating them--none of that matters now. Their town is Norwood Young America, MN.

I know the two situations are not the same, but they made me rethink the idea of the charm of small towns. It's the people that make the small town, not the actual city itself. There is loyalty for your neighbor, not loyalty for the town. I think I will stick with the Minneapolis suburb that I now call home.

No Longer Sleeping

Looks like we've been made boys. I knew that flower delivery truck with all the antennas looked suspicious. Time to implement the standard evasion tactics and regroup at safe house Bravo. Make sure we bring all the combustibles this time and be prepared for tomorrow's recon op. Remember, the cell can split, but cannot die.

I Wonder Who's Watching Me Now

Generally, I'm not wont to get overly paranoid about supposed government schemes to invade our privacy and control our lives. But I have to admit that this paragraph in Holman Jenkins' column in yesterday's WSJ raised the hair on the back of neck a bit:

Britain has gone furthest in using cameras for comprehensive auto surveillance, and now says it's capable of monitoring every car trip in the U.K. and keeping a record for five years. Most traffic cameras are "on" all the time, and capable of being networked with plate- and even face-recognition software. In Britain, the data yielded will be incorporated in a database of all kinds of personal information and camera observations to enable "data mining" to let the government know who's doing what, when and where.

Cameras monitoring EVERY car trip in the U.K. and having it recorded for five years? As my wife noted when I mentioned it to her yesterday, that's a lot of nose picking captured for posterity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tead Off?

Everyone knows that today is Tax Day. And unless you've been living under a rock (or getting your news solely from traditional media sources) you have probably heard about the many "Tea Parties" taking place today across the fruited plain. While I understand the motives behind those participating and hope they get an impressive turnout, I find myself ambivalent about the whole Tea Party movement (if it can yet be described that way).

Perhaps it's the natural conservative inclination to view protests in general with a skeptical eye, especially regarding their efficacy. In regard to the Tea Parties in particular, I'm still struggling to grasp what they're really about and what they really hope to achieve. I understand that people are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore. However, it's not clear to me exactly what they're mad about and what they're not gonna take anymore. Is it bailouts? Spending? Tax increases? Expansion of government control? All of the above? None of the above? Some of the above?

The answer may be that this just the beginning and that as various groups and individuals continue to coalesce together, a more coherent and defined message about issues and aims will emerge. But right now I wonder how all this is going to play to the majority of Americans standing on the sidelines. Will they dismiss the Tea Party protesters as nothing more than a bunch of freaks in tricorne hats or will they consider that maybe there's a message there that they need to consider? Given the way the media is sure to cover the events, I expect far more of the former reaction.

Another problem with the Tea Parties is the name itself. Yes, I understand that they're trying to recapture the revolutionary spirit of the famous 1773 Boston Tea Party. But you gotta admit "Tea Party" is not a name that naturally conveys action or inspires interest. Dude, what are you doing tonight? Going down to the capitol to attend a Tea Party. Okay, well have fun with that.

And the original Tea Party was a direct act against British attempts to tax tea that the colonists felt violated their rights. Today, no one is proposing to increase taxes on tea (at least as far as I know) and even if they did, the reaction would likely be far more muted. While many Americans still drink tea at least occasionally (including yours truly), the beverage does not play nearly as prominent role in American life as it did during the colonial era.

But there are present attempts to tax other drinks. Drinks that Americans will likely get far more excited about showing up at a rally in their name. From an editorial in today's WSJ called This Tax Is for You:

Today is the dreaded April 15, but at least in Oregon it's even going to cost you more to drown in your tax sorrows. In their sober unwisdom, the state's pols plan to raise taxes by 1,900% on . . . beer. The tax would catapult to $52.21 from $2.60 a barrel. The money is intended to reduce Oregon's $3 billion budget deficit and, ostensibly, to pay for drug treatment.

If it passes, Oregon will overnight become the most taxing state for suds, one-third higher than the next highest beer tax state, Alaska. The state may do this even though Oregon is the second largest microbrewery producer in the U.S. The beer industry and its 96 breweries contribute 5,000 jobs and $2.25 billion to state GDP. Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brewing Co. says the tax would 'devastate our company and small breweries throughout the state.' Adds Joe Henchman, director of state projects at the Tax Foundation, 'This microbrewery industry has gravitated to Oregon in part due to low beer taxes.'

Get your grubby taxing paws off my Widmer Original Drifter Pale Ale! See, now that's how you get people mad as hell.

For Oregon to enact punitive taxes on its homegrown beer industry makes as much sense as Idaho slapping an excise tax on potatoes or for New York to tax stock trading. Even without the tax increase, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in a glass of beer, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild.

But Democrats who run the legislature are desperate for the revenues to help pay for Oregon's 27.9% increase in the general fund budget last year. If they have their way, every time a worker steps up to the bar and orders a cold one, his tab will rise by an extra $1.25 to $1.50 a pint. Half of these taxes will be paid by Oregonians with an income below $45,000 a year. Voters might want to remember this the next time Democrats in Salem profess to be the party of Joe Six Pack.

How many Joe Six Packs are really going to show up for anything as fey sounding as a "Tea Party" anyway? But if you called it a "Beer Party" you'd have to keep people away with sticks. Sure, there might be a little confusion about what they really were getting into, but that confusion is just an opportunity for education. And, unlike the original Tea Party, there isn't a chance in hell that Americans are going to destroy something as precious as beer as a form of protest. But instead of throwing our beer into the harbor, what if we drank it instead? (chug, chug, chug) Just try taxing this now, Governor!

So go on and enjoy yourself at a local Tea Party today. But think about how much better it would be if we called it a Beer Party.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dreams of the Green Fairy

Last summer, we had a birthday/house warming party at our abode. Our realtor kindly presented us with a bottle of Lucid Absinthe Supérieure as a gift. I placed the bottle on the top shelf behind the basement bar for future consumption and it remained there undisturbed until last week.

That's when our eldest son happened to notice the bottle, in particular the rather creepy green eyes. My wife explained to him that it was just a bottle and there was nothing to fear (at least until he gets much older and is actually able to drink absinthe). But when a child of that age gets fixated on something it's hard to get them to let go. Rather than risk further toddler terror or have to answer further questions, she took the bottle down and placed it underneath the bar, eyes facing away.

While celebrating Easter on Sunday I was behind the bar mixing up a few cocktails for guests. In the course of that activity I must have moved the bottle and turned it around. Because today when my wife had the kids in the basement, eldest son once again managed to make eye contact with the bottle's creepy peepers and was once again a bit freaked by their look.

So now the bottle of Lucid--which from I understand is a pretty high quality absinthe--has been relegated to the laundry room. Sharing shelf space with Tide, Woolite, and Bounce seems like an undeserved fate for a spirit of that reputation, but the warm blanket of childhood security should be preserved when possible. Besides I would hate for him to grow up with an unfounded fear of liquor bottles.

There are some very legitimate reasons to tread lightly with a bottle of absinthe. The menacing glow of green eyes is not one of them.

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Tim from Colorado e-mails with a "where are they now?" update for an actor from Riptide:

You were speaking about Riptide, and then I received this video via a newsletter from a gunschool I'm going to.

Nice to see that Joe has moved on from his Hollywood view of firearms for me, but not for thee.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Facing Old Enemies With New Allies

One of things that makes Thomas P.M. Barnett such an interesting strategic thinker is his ability to look past the alliances of yesterday and today and imagine future relationships based on actual shared strategic interests that are stripped of previous political and cultural biases. While I don't always agree with Barnett about whether some of his proposed alliances are actually beneficial to US interests or even possible to achieve, when you look at the world the way he does it does open up intriguing ideas.

For example, when faced with the problem of pirates threatening the sea lanes and imperiling global trade, the United States would normally consider options such as:

1. Work with traditional allies like NATO to provide security

2. Try to work with the United Nations to assemble some sort of international coalition

3. Go it alone as the world's sole superpower

But if you start thinking about who really could be the most impacted by the threat of piracy and who can actually do something about, maybe it would be better if the United States looked to China and India instead. The two emerging Asian economic powers require a lot of imported materials and exported goods to keep their economies humming. They should have as much interest as we do in seeing that the threat from Somali pirates is eliminated.

Given their location and the fact that they have the world's fifth largest navy, it seems like the Indians could definitely make a meaningful contribution. And they already have been involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia. The Chinese Navy has also been escorting Chinese ships in the Gulf of Aden and could bring additional resources to bear. More importantly, they might be willing to pony up some dough to help an expanded multinational force provide security to patrol the shipping lanes.

To throw Europe a bone and recognize their place in history, we could also add the Royal Navy to the mix. Then we would have a scenario where American forces were working alongside forces from their oldest ally Great Britain, their most recent emerging ally India, and their current rival but possible future ally China. It's definitely an interesting exercise in unlimited strategic thinking.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Been There

A brief excerpt that appeared in the opinion pages of today's Wall Street Journal:

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society, in "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream":

In his determination to get Congress and America moving again, Johnson demanded support for the Great Society and confidence in the capacity of government to improve all the conditions of society as matters of faith. . . . The intensity of his own belief strengthened his formidable persuasive powers. . . . In so expansive an era, filled with such benevolent intentions, the boundaries between fact and fiction, between the present and the future, no longer held. . . .

And so it went in message after message. The subjects might change, but the essentials remained the same: in the opening, an expression of dire need; in the middle, a vague proposal; in the end, a buoyant description of the anticipated results -- all contained in an analysis presented in a manner that often failed to distinguish between expectations and established realities. . . .

[T]he need for haste often resulted in a failure to define the precise nature and requirements of social objectives. Legislative solutions were often devised and rushed into law before the problems were understood . . . Pass the bill now, worry about its effects and implementation later -- this was the White House strategy.

Sound familiar?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cheese Tonight

My wife just e-mailed to report our eldest son's (he turns four in July) most recent reworking of songs.

To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb":

Mary has a minivan, minivan, minivan
Mary has a minivan
Jesus lets us go

And to the tune of MLK by U2:

Cheese, cheese tonight and...(I couldn't understand the rest)

Truth In Beer

Paul e-mail to note that next Thursday there will be a live nationwide simulcast screening of the documentary Beer Wars:

Director Anat Baron takes you on a no holds barred exploration of the U.S. beer industry that ultimately reveals the truth behind the label of your favorite beer. Told from an insider's perspective, the film goes behind the scenes of the daily battles and all out wars that dominate one of America's favorite industries.

More on the screening for Beer Wars:

Fathom and Ducks In A Row Entertainment present Beer Wars LIVE with Ben Stein, a one night event taking you inside the boardrooms and back rooms of the American beer industry. The event will feature the exclusive never-before-seen documentary Beer Wars, followed by a riveting live discussion led by Ben Stein with America's leading independent brewers and experts.

Playing in movie theaters nationwide on Thursday, April 16th at 8pm ET / 7pm CT / 6pm MT / 8pm PT (tape delay), beer industry insiders will take you behind-the-scenes of their quest for the American Dream. Don't miss out on this entertaining journey that will reveal the truth behind the label of your favorite beer!

Beer and Ben Stein? How can you not like that?

Here's a handy list of where you can catch the screening at a theater near you.

Beer Of The Week (Vol III)

Volume Three in the recently expanded beer tasting series. Once again, today's post is made possible by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. That establishment has generously agreed to provide beer for weekly reviews and every brew featured here is available at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. These reviews will be an expansion of the beer rating that I've been doing for years and will be more in-depth look at particular beers using the same rating criteria. And in addition to the just the beer itself, I'll be examining the whole aesthetic package; the bottle, the label, the name.

Before we begin, let me state for the record that I am not a big fan of Belgian beers. I've had some very good brews from Belgium when I've been in the Netherlands, but, with a few notable exception, most of my experiences with American breweries and Belgian style beers have not been overly pleasurable There's just something about the overriding taste that isn't my cup of tea.

So you can take my review of New Belgium Brewing's Trippel Belgian Style Ale with an appropriate grain of malt. Despite the name, my previous tastings of beers from New Belgium have been positive. While I've yet to personal rate their ubiquitous (and generally overrated) Fat Tire, I have enjoyed their Mothership Wit and Springboard Ale (which I believe is no longer available) offerings.

Their Trippel comes in a brown bottle with a decorative, attractive label that's become familiar with all New Belgium brands.

COLOR (0-2): Light and clear. 1

AROMA (0-2): Nice fruity punch. 2

HEAD (0-2): Good foam. 2

TASTE (0-5): Has a biting, almost sour flavor that I just don't appreciate. 2

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Decent. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Looks good, but like other Belgians this does not tickle my taste buds at all. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 11

Next up is Kingfisher Premium Lager. Kingfisher is the number one selling Indian beer in the world. In the United States, it's brewed and bottled in Saratoga Springs, New York by Olde Saratoga Brewing Company.

I haven't had much of a chance to enjoy Indian beers in the past. The only one that comes to mind is Taj Mahal Premium Lager, which I've had at restaurants a couple of times. Kingfisher thus becomes the first Indian beer to be added to the ratings list.

The bottle is green with a bright, colorful label featuring the namesake bird. It's got a classy, put together look.

COLOR (0-2): Light and a bit cloudy. 1

AROMA (0-2): Lacks depth. 1

HEAD (0-2): Not enough volume. 1

TASTE (0-5): Decent flavor, very similar to other Asian lagers. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Gone in a wisp. 0

OVERALL (0-6): For a simple lager, this is pretty good. I can see why it would be appealing to knock a few back on a sweltering day in Mumbai or Minneapolis for that matter. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 9

If you gave up beer for Lent this year (something everyone should do once), I wouldn't recommend either of this week's beers for your Easter Day celebration. After forty days and forty nights without, you want to break your fast with a top notch brew not a middle of the road offering.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Small Comfort

Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Like when you read this story, headlined "Secret to marital bliss? Don't Have Kids":

Parents all know that children make it harder to do some of the most enjoyable adult things. Bluntly put, kids can get between you.

Now scientists have attached some numbers to the situation.

An eight-year study of 218 couples found 90 percent experienced a decrease in marital satisfaction once the first child was born.

"Couples who do not have children also show diminished marital quality over time," says Scott Stanley, research professor of psychology at University of Denver. "However, having a baby accelerates the deterioration, especially seen during periods of adjustment right after the birth of a child."

This really isn't news as past studies have also shown a diminished marital satisfaction levels among couples who have kids. However, it seems like a quite a leap to go from that to concluding that being childless is the key to marital bliss as the headline implies.

The story did provide some solace to those of us who have elected to help keep this civilization thing going:

Children don't ruin everything, Stanley points out.

Whew. It's good to know that there are actually some--very few I imagine--positive things about having children.

At First Things, Ryan Sayre Patrico agrees that having a baby "accelerates the deterioration" of "marital quality over time":

Sure. If by "marital quality" one means selfishness, self-centeredness, or egoism.

Just the other day, our priest remarked that he believed that those who chose not have children were often incapable of ever fully maturing as adults. It might come as a surprise to some people--like the MSNBC headline writer--to learn that bliss and personal satisfaction are not the most important things in life.