Thursday, December 31, 2009

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXXVI)

This special New Year's Eve edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the hail fellows well met at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits, who can help you take a cup of kindness yet as you say good riddance to 2009 and welcome in what has to be a better year in 2010 (doesn't it?).

There are two great forces in the universe that provide the equilibrium necessary to sustain life. One is usually associated with the day. The other the night. One is usually hot. The other cold. One serves to stimulate. The other to sedate.

I speak of course of coffee and beer. They are the ying and yang of beverages that--in the proper balance--bring harmony and happiness to life. Coffee is the energy that begins your day by fueling the mental and physical processes you need to face the challenges ahead. Beer is the calming reward at the end of the day that helps you wind down and relax your senses. They have a symbiotic relationship and are often proportionally intertwined. The more beer you have the night before, the more coffee that you will need the next day. Like love and marriage, it's hard to imagine that you could live with one and not the other.

But what happens when you disturb this natural balance? What if, instead of having the two forces acting in opposition to each other, you combine them together as one? Obviously such a joining would raise some metaphysical concerns, but I'm happy to report that it does not result in the end of the universe as we know it. Instead, what you get is Coffee Bender from local brewing sensation Surly.

Surly is not the first brewer to combine coffee and beer. Years ago when I was in Seattle, I came across Red Hook's Double Black Stout. It was a joint effort between the Seattle brewer and Starbucks and was quite good. Now, there are a number of brewers who produce high quality coffee beers, although that may not be true in the future if the nanny ninnies at the FDA have their way. Enjoy your coffee beer while you still can.

Standard pint sized Surly can. Surly logo set against a foaming mug that's blasting off with brown, tan, and black background colors. You gotta love the look of the Surly graphic design.

Beer Style: American Brown Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%

COLOR (0-2): Dark brown close to black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Strong coffee aroma with hints of chocolate giving it a mocha like scent. 2

HEAD (0-2): Light tan. Full with good retention and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Dominant coffee flavors again accentuated by chocolate. Thin mouth-feel, lighter body, and overall smoothness make it surprisingly drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth and a bit dry. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Surly claims that Coffee Bender refreshes like an iced-coffee and that claim definitely holds up. While it delivers delicious coffee flavors it also makes for a good whistle whetter. If you like coffee and beer, you'll enjoy this tasty combination of two of the best things in life. Best of all it can be savored year round and at almost any time of day. Whether you want to ring in the New Year at midnight or kick start the next morning with a little pick me up, Coffee Bender will fill your needs. You're going to have spend a little more, but it's worth the additional investment. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How Do You Measure Its Worth?

When my monthly edition of First Thing arrives in the mail, the first section I usually page to is "The Public Square." Previously home to the musings of the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, the witty tidbits that fill "The Public Square" are now ably compiled by Joseph Bottum and they almost always make for an enlightening and entertaining read. But when the current January 2010 issue showed up, two article titles boldly splashed across the cover caught my attention and caused me to immediately read them.

The first was a book review by Ari L. Goldman actually titled Tuesdays With Morbid that the magazine cover labeled "Mitch Albom Is An Idiot":

I would be very surprised if Mitch Albom still sleeps with a teddy bear or saves his money in a piggy bank or believes that the stork delivers babies or does math on his fingers. But of this I am sure: If he exhibited any of these childish behaviors, he wouldn't write a book about it. He has, however, written "Have a Little Faith," a book about religion that is founded on childish ideas, naïveté, religious stereotyping, and downright ­ignorance.

Quite remarkably, he is even proud of all this. The book begins with an "author's note" in which Albom says, "while this is a book about faith, the author can make no claim to being a religion expert."

Religion expert? I would be happy with a modicum of religious literacy, but there is none to be found here. Can you imagine a book about physics or government or medicine or science or history beginning with a similar disclaimer? ("Read my book about X even though I don't know the first thing about X.") Can someone tell me why ignorance is a virtue when it comes to writing about ­religion?

While it might appear harsh to call a former sportswriter trying to write about religion an "idiot," it was part of a pattern for pieces that rated mention on the FT cover and also included Cicero Is A Superstar and Pete Seeger Is A Communist. While I was aware of Seeger's role as a useful idiot for the CPUSA and knew that other folk singers like Woody Guthrie were fellow travelers, I was a bit surprised to see one of the names named in Lauren Weiner's piece:

That part about an "ideological minority" being "celebrated" by somebody had gone over our heads, too: We did not know that the folk boom was a reverberation of an earlier boomlet, a foray into American music roots, many of whose movers and shakers were as Red as a bowl of cherries. Who on our suburban street knew that Woody Guthrie, the hero of Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan, had been a columnist for the "Daily Worker?" Or that the man from whom we heard rollicking sea chanteys, a Briton named Ewan MacColl, was at one point kept from entering the United States as an undesirable alien? Then there was the cuddly-looking guy with the slightly pedantic six-record set and companion volume, "Burl Ives Presents America’s Musical Heritage." If my parents or any of the neighbors were aware that Ives had been summoned, in 1952, to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and had identified Pete Seeger as a communist, they kept the details to themselves.

Burl Ives?

By the 1940s, folk singers had become a ceremonial part of Communist Party meetings. And at nearly all of them, one would find Pete Seeger playing, under the revolutionary pseudonym "Pete Bowers," with the likes of Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Burl Ives, Josh White, Saul Aarons, Bernie Asbel, Will Geer, and a new arrival on the East Coast musical scene, Woody Guthrie.

Yes, that Burl Ives, a man likely best known to most Americans as the narrator of the beloved television classic "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer" and singer of the more popular songs from the show such as "Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold." Some of the material from his CPUSA days doesn't sound quite as catchy.

To achieve the effect they wanted--music that was "national in form and revolutionary in content" in Charles Seeger's conception--they dipped into the past for their material. "Jesse James," "Wayfaring Stranger," "Sweet Betsy from Pike," "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy," and "On Top of Old Smokey" were brought to urban settings, in some cases for the first time. Topical songs--many written for the Henry Wallace presidential campaign of 1948--were political editorials often set to old hymns and folk tunes: "Capitalistic Boss," "Join the Union Tonight," "Oh, What Congress Done to Me," "Defense Factory Blues," and "Marcantonio for Mayor" (for the Stalinist Vito Marcantonio).

You don't hear too many people walking around humming "Join the Union Tonight" these days, although given its recent actions I could see "Oh, What Congress Done to Me" making a comeback.

Knowing about Ives' past commie connections causes me to reconsider everything I've always thought about "Rudolph, the RED-nosed Reindeer." While some might mock such concerns, you have to wonder about what influence Ives' ideology may have had. Was "Silver and Gold" really a subtle critique of capitalistic excess? Was the intolerant Comet (the reindeer games coach) a representation of a McCarthyite archetype?

Our own Atomizer has already noted the similarities between the Island of Misfit Toys and Cuba while other have also wondered about the discreet messages that RTRNR may be trying to send about class and sexual orientation. How much deeper does this go? Sigh. Sometimes it's better not to know. Maybe I should just see if a can find a copy of "Capitalistic Boss" to download and get my mind right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Those Were The Days

Sure, they laughed at a certain visionary back in the 1970's when he was promoting innovative solutions to the new and, in retrospect, quaint aviation security threat of "sky jacking".

In light of the new straightjacket-like restrictions being forced upon airline passengers, maybe its time to reconsider his recommendations instead.

Back For More?

After the Vikings exciting, but exasperating loss in Chicago in last night, the NFC playoff picture is still muddied with only one week left in the regular season. We know who the six playoff teams will be. We just don't know how they'll be seeded and who will play who in the first round. With New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Dallas in, the only seed locked down is New Orleans at number one.

There are a ton of different scenarios that could play out depending on how the regular season ends. There's one that would be particularly intriguing if it played out. I haven't been able to confirm this for certain, but from what I can tell if the following happens next week...

Minnesota beats New York Giants

Dallas beats Philadelphia

Arizona beats Green Bay

...the NFC playoffs seedings would be:

1. New Orleans
2. Minnesota
3. Arizona
4. Dallas
5. Philadelphia
6. Green Bay

Which would mean the opening round would feature Green Bay traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals and the Eagles flying to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Which would be an exact repeat of the last game of the regular season for each of these teams. Gotta wonder how often that's happened in NFL history. With all the possible scenarios out there, it's probably unlikely that we'll come to see this one pass, but it certainly would add an interesting wrinkle to what already promises to be a series of great playoff match-ups.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Can't Tell the Article Subjects Without a Scorecard

If the late and lamented Fraters Libertas Blog of Distinction Awards still existed (circa 2003 and 2004), this would have made the cut.

Worst Investigative Reporting by a Professional News Source

The age old wisdom of show business is that it doesn't matter what the critics say as long as they spell your name right. The Power Line guys can't even get that in this hard whack barked out by the City Pages:

Power Line barked openly and caustically a few years ago about Dayton as "an otherwise colorless, inept, demagogic artifact of alcoholic if not psychiatric rehabilitation." This morning, Scott Hinderaker uses the Dayton news to take a hard whack at the Star Tribune for allegedly burying Dayton's personal problems for years.

I'm guessing John Mirengoff and Paul Johnson will fire off a strongly worded letter to the City Pages editors immediately. And I don't even want to think about what the Hind Trunk and the Big Rocket might say.

The Twelve Year Itch?

With a 8-9-1 mark heading into this weekend's Dodge Holiday Hockey Clunker (sorry, but when none of the four participating teams are ranked in the top twenty, you simply cannot refer to the event as "Classic"), the Gopher hockey team is once again falling short of expectations. This is the third year in a row that the Gophers have struggled and it's sparked conversation within hockey circles about how the team recruits and why they've been coming up short of late. One thing that hasn't been much discussed--at least not that I've heard--is whether a change at the top may be in order. I'm not necessarily proposing that it's time for Don Lucia to move on after nearly eleven years as Gopher coach, but when you look at the numbers you have to wonder whether his best days are behind him.

For instance, when you consider winning percentage over the years you can see that Lucia is definitely tailing off. You can argue that there's more to college hockey success than winning percentage (regular season finishes, playoff record, Frozen Four appearances, etc.), but it's a handy tool for statistical purposes. This chart shows Lucia's winning percentage by year coached compared with Doug Woog, the coach he replaced at Minnesota. (click to enlarge)
In his first ten seasons, Woog's lowest winning percentage was .625 and he had a higher winning percentage than Lucia for six of the first ten seasons when you compare them head to head. Woog's drop off was dramatic as his teams finished below .500 in each of his last two seasons. So far Lucia hasn't fallen that far, but the trend seems to be going in that direction

Okay, now for the qualifiers. The biggest argument in Lucia's favor is that, unlike Woog, he has won two national championships (2001-02, 2002-03) during his tenure. Those rings carry a lot of weight with Gopher fans, especially after the long drought years from 1980-2001. So while Lucia's Gophers haven't done much lately, the two titles in pocket make it likely that fans will be more patient with him than Woog. And it's still possible that Lucia could turn this year around. While the Gophers are unlikely to be serious contenders for a national championship, they do have talent and if they could just get more consistent play from their better players they could end up having a decent year.

Or maybe the numbers do indicate that we're seeing the beginning of the end for Lucia. In his first six seasons as coach of the Gophers, Woog had a cumulative winning percentage of .703. In his last six he was .556. Lucia was .623 in his first six seasons and through almost four-and-a-half years on the back end, he's .551. If I were in Lucia's place, I'd find those numbers to be a little too close for comfort.

2009 Loon of the Year - FINAL

As Chad notes below, the ultimate contest for 2009 Loon of the Year is now set. A prestigious match-up it is, featuring the Speaker of the House of the United States vs. the former Vice President of the United States.

As you know, it pains me to criticize government officials. (Except of course for Arnold Chacon, the American Charge d'affaires for Andorra - that bastard!) But it must be said that Gore and Pelosi are each highly deserving of the Loon of the Year title. Their specific comments, and pattern of commentary over the years, are indisputably Loony. They make us cringe, they make us wince. And they reveal a stark reflection of the kind of people we have put in positions of enormous power in this country. It is embarrassing and dispiriting. Yet we have no one to blame but ourselves. Because YOU America voted for them (directly or indirectly).

Perhaps a small measure of amends can be realized by voting for one of them again as 2009 Loon of the Year. They are both extremely deserving candidates and it's too bad they can't both win. But that's not the way democracy works (at least outside of Andorra) and it's time to choose.

To help understand the merits of their respective Loon cases below are the transcripts of their qualifying comments.

First, Nancy Pelosi from back in January. She was interviewed by ABC News's George Stephanopoulos on the details of the $787 billion dollar "stimulus package". As you may recall, its intent was to stimulate the economy and decrease unemployment. It proved to have innumerable pork-laden amendments and special interest group provisions whose connection to the economy and jobs were specious at best. One of the more curious additions was hundreds of millions of dollars for contraception services. How does that stimulate the economy? Let's go to the tape:

George Stephanopoulos: ... hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

Nancy Pelosi: Well, the, the family planning services reduce cost. It reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crisis now and part of it, what we do for children's health or education and some of those elements that are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those initiatives you mentioned, the contraception will reduce costs to the state. And to the Federal government too.

Stephanopoulos: So no apologies for that?

Pelosi: No apologies, no. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

In short, children, and human beings in general, are a burden on society. Therefore, when they conflict with other goals of the state, they must be sacrificed. In this case, the state is spending too much to educate and provide health care for them, so we need fewer of them. This will be accomplished by the state intervening to provide incentives and a means to stop having children. An interesting perspective from a self-described "ardent, practicing Catholic".

You know, a belief system like this *almost* makes you think it's a bad idea to put the state in charge of educating and providing health care for your children. Or in charge of anyone for that matter.

Interesting to note that Pelosi says that "we" have to deal with the consequences. Yet she's already had her five kids and I don't believe is on track for any more. I recall the wise words of indigenous American hero, Tonto: What do you mean by 'we" kimosabe.

Also of note, back in January Nancy was so concerned about costs that she was advocating bringing fewer people into the public system. And then a few months later with so-called health care reform, she was advocating bringing in tens of millions more people to, among other reasons, hold down costs.

How to explain that apparent contradiction? Well, looniness would be one way.

Now onto candidate two, Al Gore. It has been a big year for Global Warming. Except for the chilly readings on the thermometer, that is. Other than that non-relevant data, the heat to reorganize our economy and give government control of our use of carbon was at an all time high. The House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade bill that Obama is dying to sign (if the Senate will ever let him). And the world community (including the Obama Administration) came to an oral agreement that tens of billions of US taxpayer dollars need to be transferred annually to third world governments for the harm we've done to them with our wicked carbon ways.

Arguably, the most important figure in bringing these developments to reality has been Al Gore. His tireless, and highly profitable, advocacy of the dubious man-made global warming disaster hypothesis has increased public awareness and stimulated demand for these potentially ruinous policies more than anything else. He's the public face of expertise on the science of global warming. Which makes comments like this, from an interview on the Tonight Show in November, all the more disturbing:

Conan O'Brien: Can you tell me is this a viable solution, geothermal?

Al Gore: It definitely is and it's a relatively new one. People think about geothermal energy, when they think about it at all, in terms of the hot water bubbling up in some places. But two kilometers or so down, in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, because the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees. And the crust of the earth is hot. And if you go down far enough, you can get so much heat, it can be used to generate steam and make electricity. And they say that here in the United States, we have a 35,000 year supply of energy, just from geothermal. And they've now figured out how to do the drilling with the new drill bits that don't melt in that heat.

In reality, the interior of the Earth is cooler than Al Gore's estimation by a factor of a few hundred times. As summarized by John Derbyshire:

The geothermal gradient is usually quoted as 25-50 degrees Celsius per mile of depth in normal terrain (not, e.g., in the crater of Kilauea). Two kilometers down, therefore, (that's a mile and a quarter if you're not as science-y as Al) you'll have an average gain of 30-60 degrees -- exploitable for things like home heating, though not hot enough to make a nice pot of tea. The temperature at the earth's core, 4,000 miles down, is usually quoted as 5,000 degrees Celsius, though these guys claim it's much less, while some contrarian geophysicists have posted claims up to 9,000 degrees. The temperature at the surface of the Sun is around 6,000 degrees Celsius, while at the center, where nuclear fusion is going on big time, things get up over 10 million degrees.

Several hundred degrees, several thousand degrees, several million degrees -what's the difference? For a career politician used to spending money like Gore, the difference is a rounding error.

Perhaps this was just a slip of the tongue by Gore. He meant thousands, said millions. In that case, it probably doesn't merit recognition as Loon of the Year. However, it is consistent with a pattern by Gore of constantly mischaracterizing science and the facts of an argument to fit his personal or political goals. Examples include recent statements about the polar ice caps disappearing in five years and the age and significance of the Climate Gate memos all the way to his book An Inconvenient Truth and its numerous fallacies and errors.

In a sense, Gore's Tonight Show gaffe this year is representative of a lifetime achievement in looniness and therefore should receive serious consideration.

Please record your vote below. Clicking on the names brings up the actual audio of the statements. Polls open through Friday night. Winner to be announced this Saturday during the Northern Alliance Radio Network's First Team Broadcast. Good luck to them both!

1) Nancy Pelosi
(1) Al Gore
Free polls from

Down to This

The polls have closed, the votes have been counted, and we now have our two NARN First Team Loon of the Year finalists.

In the first semi-final, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi crammed down a victory over Senate Pejorative Leader Al Franken by a 62% to 38% margin.

In the second semi, Al Gore shut down Jimmy Carter like a global warming induced snow storm shuts down Dallas in December as the poet who don't even know it throttled the former POTUS 82% to 18%.

This sets up a clash of the titans final as it's Pelosi versus Gore for all the marbles, a coveted prize for these two contenders who seem to have lost all their small, spherical glass toys over the course of the last year. Voting begins later today and the winner will be announced LIVE on the NARN First Team show this Saturday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Carol of the Magi

For Christmas Eve, a beautiful new carol by English composer John Rutter, performed by Minnesota's own Vocalessence.

"It's sort of the idea of one of the magi reflecting years later and saying, 'Goodness me, I still remember something special about that child,'" he said. "That got me started on what it is about the Christmas story that speaks to the innocence and vulnerability of every child."

More John Rutter carols and other music available on the Vocalessence YouTube channel.

Even Skeptics Get The News

David Harsanyi finds many reasons to celebrate the Christmas season--even for an unbeliever:

It's this kind of close-mindedness many atheists find most annoying. For a long time, in fact, I believed H.L. Mencken's line that, "God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable."

But then poll after poll illustrates that religious people-- in the throes of ignorance, granted--are far happier, far more charitable and far from helpless.

On an ideological front, it dawned on me long ago that though didactic Christians may attempt to limit personal freedoms, they are rank amateurs compared to environmentalist moralizers or "social justice" moralizers or economic equality moralizers of the left.

God or no God, one of these groups generally believes in free will and the others generally believe taking is an ethical pursuit.

Other curiosities invaded my thinking, as well. It is common, for instance, for free-thinking acquaintances of mine, ones who sneer at the very thought of Christianity, to buy into every half-baked mystic-sanctioned cure available.

These same folks who have no compunction comparing evangelicals to the Taliban demand I demonstrate more deference to the misogynistic, homophobic and anti-intellectual theocrats elsewhere in the world. For peace.

So while, today's nonbelievers tend to focus on the ugliest aspects of organized faith-- and there is no dearth of opportunity--they ignore that this nation's tradition of liberty, economic freedom and unmatched tolerance (sure, we could always use more) was driven and tethered to Christian ideas.

Maybe, it's not worth believing. But it's worth a holiday, at least.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Dangerous Piece of Stupidity

Warren Kozak has an excellent piece in today's WSJ explaining The Real Rules of War. After noting the curious case of the Navy SEALs Being Court-Martialed for Punching a Captured Terrorist, he reminds us that all wars--even the "good" ones--are uncivilized:

This incident and its twisted irony takes me back to an oddly serene setting many years ago. When I was in college, I joined my parents on a trip to retrace my father's wartime experience in Europe. We drove from France, through Holland and Belgium and on to Germany--the same route he had taken with the U.S. Army in 1944-45. At a field outside the Belgian town of Malmedy, we got out of our rented car where my father described something I had never heard before.

During the Battle of the Bulge, in the bleak December of 1944, the Germans had quickly overrun the American lines. They took thousands of prisoners as they pushed through in a last chance gamble to turn the war around. One unit, part of the First SS Panzer Division, had captured over a hundred GIs. They were moving fast, and they didn't care to be burdened by prisoners. So the SS troops put the American soldiers in that field and mowed them down with machine guns.

Around 90 Americans were killed in that barrage. The Germans then walked through the tangle of bodies, shooting those who were still alive in the back of the head. The few that survived were brought to where my father was located in the nearby town of Liege where word of the massacre quickly spread.

My father was never a talker. And in spite of the fact that we were on a trip to look at his past, he didn't open up much, or couldn't. When I asked him what the reaction was among the U.S. troops, he answered without emotion: "We didn't take prisoners for two weeks." I immediately understood what he meant, and had the sense not to press the issue any further. I just looked out at the field, now green and peaceful on a beautiful summer day, and realized he was looking at the same field and seeing something quite different.

In the weeks following the Malmedy massacre, U.S. troops clearly broke the rules of the Geneva Conventions. Justified or not, they were technically guilty of war crimes.

My guess is that the American correspondents imbedded with those troops knew all about this and chose not to report it. So did their officers. They understood the gravity of the war, as well as the absolute importance of its outcome. And they understood that disclosing this information might ultimately help the enemy. In other words, they used common sense. Was the U.S. a lesser country because these GIs weren't arrested? Was the Constitution jeopardized? Somehow it survived.

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXXV)

Whether it's trying to find a last minute gift for the guy who has everything (you can NEVER have too much whiskey) or stocking up in anticipation of the Great Christmas Blizzard of Aught-Eight, Glen Lake Wine & Spirits is the place to go for all your drinking needs. They once again make this special Christmas edition of Beer of the Week possible.

There's not many things that temper my desire to enjoy a good beer. A nasty winter head cold however usually diminishes the pleasure of drinking beer enough to dissuade me from partaking. The beer doesn't taste the same and the very things that make beer what it is--hops and barley especially--usually exacerbate the stuffed nature of your head. It's one of the many reasons that God invented whiskey, which is actually a most welcome tonic when confronted with a cold.

But I'm a professional. Well, maybe more like a glorified amateur. But the Beer of the Week must go on. For neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of cold stays me from the swift completion of my appointed rating. And this week that rating is of Flying Dog Brewery's K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale.

Brown bottle. Usual Gonzo style Flying Dog label with a crazy-looking K-9 shredding on a snow board with a blue and white wintery background.

Beer Style: Winter warmer

Alcohol by Volume: 6.4%

COLOR (0-2): Very clear brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty and sweet. A little light. 1

HEAD (0-2): Pretty thick off an aggressive pour. Off-white color. Decent retention and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Mostly sweet malt with light roast flavor as well. Light bodied and a bit thin. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Sharp finish with some hoppiness. You can definitely taste the alcohol even though it's not exceptionally strong. 2

OVERALL (0-6): While doing some background research on this beer, I noticed a number of reviews that were not very favorable. It seems that some take exception to Flying Dog calling this a "winter warmer" when it fact it's better categorized as another style such as brown or pale ale. Frankly, I don't care that much about such esoterica. While it may not fit into the traditional categories, I found K-9 Cruiser to be a decent winter beer. The thing that really stands out is the alcohol taste. Again at 6.4% ABV, it's not unusually strong for a winter beer, but for whatever reason it comes through and in a good way. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Driving A Crooked Horse

Sometime over the course of the next few days, it appears that the Democrats will realize a monumental victory in their long-awaited scheme to have the government control the American health care system. There are a whole host of reasons to look forward with dread to what likely lies ahead for us as a result of this corrupt bargain. One concern that seems appropriate to discuss at this time of year is that if the government completely manages (and pays for) heath care, they will have an even larger stake in controlling personal conduct that impacts people's health.

If you thought we already had an overreaching, busy-bodied Nanny State, you ain't seen nothing yet. What you choose to eat, drink, inhale, ingest, or otherwise consume is no longer a matter between your brain and your body. Nope. Now that the government will be doling out the care and footing the bill, these decisions will no longer be left up to individuals. It will now be completely within the purvey of the government to decide what's good for you and what's not.

So enjoy this Christmas season while you still can. Eat, drink, and be merry in the manner of your choosing. Make the most of the Christmas cookies, candy canes, and cakes at your disposal. Fill up on that figgy pudding and fruitcake. Pig out on pie and plum pudding. Savor the fowl of your fancy whether it be turkey, duck, or goose. Revel in the roast beast. Hit the hot chocolate and hot buttered rum early and often. Enjoy many an eggnog. Tip back the Tom and Jerries. Consume your favorite Christmas cocktail with abandon.

Because it the not-too-distant future, in may well not be within your means to enjoy these essential elements for celebrating Christmas. They won't be banned outright of course. No, instead they'll be dealt with the same way the government has dealt with cigarettes: tax them heavily while running propaganda campaigns that stigmatize them and exaggerate their health risks (second-hand smoke in the case of cigarettes). Those that still want to enjoy these fine holiday fetes will find themselves paying a pretty penny for their pleasure and risk being ostracized from civil society the way that smokers have been.

The rich and privileged of course will continue to indulge as they do today. They'll be able to afford the added costs and if their appetites do lead to medical problems they'll still have access to the finest care, if no longer in America than perhaps in a luxury hospital in the Caribbean. Celebrities will do PSA urging the proles to eat healthy and exercise to help keep OUR health care costs down while living a separate and very unequal life outside of the public system. Yes, the future of the People's health care will be glorious indeed.

While we're on the subject of Christmas traditions which will no longer be sustainable in our return to the cave new world, you should also be sure to enjoy your Christmas tree while you can:

In other tree news, Alternative Consumer magazine says we should stop buying Christmas trees and just draw holiday trees on old shopping bags. Here's the green prescription from Alternative Consumer for family fun during the holidays and how the tree should look for the kids on Christmas morning:

"No tree. No driving to the tree lot, watching them saw the tree down, wrapping it in plastic and then driving back home. No driving to Target, buying a plastic tree and driving home. We make a tree mural out of shopping bags and leave a few Sharpies around to decorate with. It's personal, meaningful and 100 percent recycled."

And it's more than just Christmas trees too:

"The Rules" in Alternative Consumer for "A Freegan Christmas" include the following: (1) "No cards. Not even e-cards." (2) "No wrapping paper. There's something exciting about opening a wrapped gift, and you can achieve that by putting it in a paper bag--we all know you have a billion under your sink." (3) "No thank-you cards." (4) "No holiday hams. French toast can replace tired turkey and ham dinners." (5) "No stress."

Actually my kids would probably welcome number four.

For now, these are merely suggestions for how you can save the planet by slashing and burning your Christmas traditions. For now.

Finally, it's likely that you'll soon have to forget all about dreaming or roasting chestnuts by an open fire at Christmas. At least in California, which seems to be the primary breeding ground for ideas on how to best restrict individual freedoms for the common good.

Merry Christmas everyone. Be sure to take the time savor the season. Especially this time around.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Have Yourself a Mark Steyn Christmas

A writer with the extraordinary talent of Mark Steyn has no business being a superb broadcaster as well. We amateur hobby hacks in each medium NEED to think that each is uniquely difficult and nearly impossible to perfect. Sure, a chosen few could do one or the other. But both? Never heard of it.

Of course, Steyn's writing has been known for years as the best in political and cultural commentary. While his fill-in broadcasts for Rush and Hugh Hewitt have been good, sometimes very good, they haven't quite been up to elite standards. Turns out maybe political grind radio just isn't his forte.

Superb is the word to describe his self-produced and non-political holiday effort, The Mark Steyn Christmas Show. Two hours of highly entertaining and utterly charming radio (except done exclusively for podcast). The man himself on the guest list:

I stuck mainly to old friends and neighbors for this first tentative fur-trimmed boot toe back on the Santa sleigh. Rob Long, writer of everything from "Cheers" to Al Gore's e-mails, joins me to talk Christmas comedy. From across the Connecticut River in Vermont, Elisabeth von Trapp fills us in on what happened to her famous family after The Sound Of Music. There are a brace of British lyricists - Don Black, writer of "Born Free", "Ben", "To Sir With Love", and "Diamonds Are Forever"; and Tim Rice, writer of Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Lion King and, of course, "One Night In Bangkok". There are a couple of Québecois cuties - Dorothée Berryman, star of the Oscar-winning film Barbarian Invasions, and Monique Fauteux, from the province's legendary progressive rock band Harmonium. Hugh Martin, composer of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", performs his classic song his way; and Martha Stewart, America's homemaker, mocks my pie dishes. And I couldn't celebrate Christmas without my Sweet Gingerbread Gal Jessica Martin, but, if you've ever wondered what she sounds like de-Steyned, she gets a shot at a couple of solos.

Along the way we consider a range of topics from Ron Paul's artificial Christmas tree and Perry Como's cocaine classic to the dearth of New Hampshire songs and the alleged sexiness of my French. And there's lots of live music from my guests, including performances of "White Christmas", "Silent Night", "My Favorite Things", a bilingual "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" not to mention North America's oldest Christmas carol, and a song that nobody's sung in over a century, plus a couple of great medleys.

There are great moments in nearly all of these segments. Standing out in particular were Martha Stewart critiquing Steyn's baking skills, Christmas carols sung in French by the various chanteuses of his acquaintance, and the 95-year-old composer of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and his first-hand observations of working with Judy Garland (who died 40 years ago). Even the jazzy instrumental bumper music between segments is pitch perfect.

This combination of intelligent conversation, humor, appreciation of cultural history, popular music standards, a touch of high culture, and bad singing by the host reminds me of one person- Garrison Keillor. Except without the anti-Semitism.

I should say it sounds like Keillor at his best. Not once does Steyn delve into the shrill political partisanship or lazy cornpone humor Keillor has increasingly subjected his Prairie Home Companion audience to in recent years. With Keillor hinting at retirement in the next few years, maybe Steyn could be the answer to the question, what if public radio were actually interesting to listen to and truly non-partisan? Now that would be a Christmas miracle.

Until then, we have The Mark Steyn Christmas Show, something I hope at least becomes an annual tradition.

Frowning All The Time

Paul Chesser notes the latest example of the "heads we win, tails you lose" logic of AGW supporters who can cite any weather event as proving their theory:

Climate Progress's Joe Romm says the massive weekend snowstorm in the East was exactly what alarmist climate scientists said would happen:

In any case, I have previously discussed the scientific literature, which makes clear that we have seen an increase in intense precipitation in this country, just as climate science predicted we would.

But as the Washington Examiner's David Freddoso reminds us, a year ago Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., wrote about the global warming-caused lack of precipitation in the DC area:

Recently arrived residents in the northern suburbs, accustomed to today's anemic winters, might find it astonishing to learn that there were once ski runs on Ballantrae Hill in McLean, with a rope tow and local ski club. Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don't own a sled...

Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil and its carbon cronies continue to pour money into think tanks whose purpose is to deceive the American public into believing that global warming is a fantasy.

Chesser closes with a YouTube song clip that fits these folks perfectly.

What's On My Mind: Pure Energy

Some good news on the energy front noticed in the past few weeks.

For those sweating out the peak oil theory and nervously counting off the few days remaining until our finite reserves of fossil fuels are sucked dry, Daniel Yergin provides some hope in this WSJ article. A new resource, promising to extend our reserves by a century or more. And it's more than speculation, it's already happening in what Yergin calls a "game changer". Excerpts:

The biggest energy innovation of the decade is natural gas - more specifically what is called "unconventional" natural gas. Some call it a revolution.

Yet the natural gas revolution has unfolded with no great fanfare, no grand opening ceremony, no ribbon cutting. It just crept up. In 1990, unconventional gas - from shales, coal-bed methane and so-called "tight" formations - was about 10% of total U.S. production. Today it is around 40%, and growing fast, with shale gas by far the biggest part.

The potential of this "shale gale" only really became clear around 2007. In Washington, D.C., the discovery has come later, only in the last few months. Yet it is already changing the national energy dialogue and overall energy outlook in the U.S. - and could change the global natural gas balance.

Proven reserves have risen to 245 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2008 from 177 Tcf in 2000, despite having produced nearly 165 Tcf during those years. The recent increase in estimated U.S. gas reserves by the Potential Gas Committee*, representing both academic and industry experts, is in itself equivalent to more than half of the total proved reserves of Qatar, the new LNG powerhouse. With more drilling experience, U.S. estimates are likely to rise dramatically in the next few years. At current levels of demand, the U.S. has about 90 years of proven and potential supply, a number that is bound to go up as more and more shale gas is found.

To have the resource base suddenly expand by this much is a game changer.

This new innovation will take time to establish its global credentials. The U.S. is really only beginning to grapple with the significance. It may be half a decade before the strength of the unconventional gas revolution outside North America can be properly assessed. But what has begun as the shale gale in the U.S. could end up being an increasingly powerful wind that blows through the world economy.

(*Full disclosure, I am a former member of the Potential Gas Committee. Of course, back then we were known by the organization's original name, the Sauerkraut Promotions Council.)

That is exciting stuff for all of us who enjoy things like electricity, heat, and lighting. Of course, the killjoys in the environmental community have already expressed concerns over certain extraction techniques and their potential effect on drinking water (Boo hoo! And Yergin discounts the validity of the claims) Plus, in this modern age, any exploitation of carbon emitting energy resources will be automatically opposed by the global warming cultist crowd. So there is no guarantee that this vastly beneficial opportunity will be fully seized realized.

Those wishing to engage this crowd and help beat back the damaging public policy they are scheming to enact should review this article by Prof. Richard Lindzen of MIT. It's a summary of the so called scientific "consensus" that exists and the highly dubious basis of the claims made by the UN-IPCC. Particularly interesting are his comments that even if you accept the questionable notion that "climate change" is anthropomorphic and rapidly increasing, there is no reason to react to it as if it were an eminent catastrophe. Lindzen is the best and brightest among the scientists opposing the orthodox belief system of the Gore crowd and his article isn't easy to excerpt into a tidy sound bite. Reading the whole thing is advised.

Even if we aren't able to keep the anti carbon fundamentalists from seizing control of the treasuries and economies of the civilized world, another ray of hope exists. Lindzen's MIT colleague, the brilliant Ray Kurzweil, had a recent article speculating on what technology has in store for us over the next 10 years. And we may already be on the path to making fossil fuels a non-factor.

.... we are now applying nanotechnology -- the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices -- to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy.
As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past 20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.

When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, "but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?" I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this.

Wouldn't that be something? Invent our way out of the problem, and the ugly political debate, entirely. It wouldn't be the first time that happened. And it just goes to prove what a wise man once said, the most critical natural resource of all is the human mind. Something to remember when government officials and journalists start telling us that we have to start producing fewer humans in order to save the planet.

And now for your dancing pleasure, from Minneapolis and 1987, The Information Society:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Later On, We'll Conspire

In yesterday's WSJ, David Aaronovitch wrote on the critical elements that nearly all conspiracy theories share (sub req):

It doesn't always feel like that. Many of us, of course, are not believers but simply find ourselves confronted at a dinner party by the man who just knows the "real story," and has arrived armed with his killer facts and certainty. You on the other hand, have nothing but your instinct for nonsense. So, for everyone who has been, or will be, in that woeful position, I offer this short guide to how conspiracy theories work, the better to rebut them.

Even where conspiracy theories are not momentous, and may sometimes be physically (if not intellectually) harmless--such as with the gorgeous slew of nonsenses that prefaced "The Da Vinci Code," involving Templars, secret priories, hidden treasures and the bloodline of Christ--they share certain features that make them work.

These include an appeal to precedent, self-heroization, contempt for the benighted masses, a claim to be only asking "disturbing questions," invariably exaggerating the status and expertise of supporters, the use of apparently scholarly ways of laying out arguments (or "death by footnote"), the appropriation of imagined Secret Service jargon, circularity in logic, hydra-headedness in growing new arguments as soon as old ones are chopped off, and, finally, the exciting suggestion of persecution. These characteristics help them to convince intelligent people of deeply unintelligent things.

All of us who have been in the position that Aaronovitch describe appreciate his insights on what really lies behind conspiracy theories. His forthcoming book from which the WSJ piece was adapted-"Voodoo Histories: the Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History"--will no doubt contain even more useful information to help augment our instincts for nonsense.

2009 Loon of the Year: Final Four

The regional action is now complete and the 2009 Loon of the Year Final Four is now set. A powerhouse field remains with three #1 seeds advancing along with a strong-finishing and loud-mouthed #2 seed.

Game 1 pits the West champion, Rep. Nancy Pelosi versus the Midwest champion, and home town favorite, Sen. Al Franken. It's a battle of contrasts. House vs. Senate. Man vs. Woman. Extreme liberal from San Francisco vs. extreme liberal from St. Louis Park. The person most responsible for shoving health care reform down our throats vs. the person most responsible for the movie Stuart Saves His Family. No matter who wins, I get the feeling we're all losers in the long run with these people.

Game 2 features the Beast from the East, Vice President Al Gore. He's fresh from railing against global warming amid the blizzard Copenhagen and now blowing hot air again back in the US. He's got his sights set on the Main From Plains, Jimmy Carter. It's the battle of similarities here. Nobel Peace Prize Winner vs. Nobel Peace Prize Winner. Spoken word Grammy winner vs. spoken word Grammy winner. Failed Presidential candidate vs. failed presidential candidate. It's just too bad they both can't lose this one too.

Voting starts NOW and open through the end of the week.

LOTY: Final Four - Game 1
(1) Nancy Pelosi
(2) Al Franken

Free polls from

LOTY: Final Four - Game 2
(1) Al Gore
(1) Jimmy Carter

Free polls from

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fanatical Four

Voting in second round of Loon of the Year has ended and we have our four finalists for the crown. Here are the final results:

West Region

Nancy Pelosi never blinks as she stares down Sean Penn 90% to 10%.

Midwest Region

In his capacity as Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken outjokes Bill Maher 60% to 40%

East Region

Al Gore poetically waxes David Letterman 91% to 9%

Southeast Region

In the closest battle in the round, Jimmy Carter fends off Janeane Garofalo like an angry swamp rabbit 55% to 45%.

Pelosi, Franken, Gore, and Carter advance to the LOTY Fanatical Four. Voting begins tomorrow.

Franken and Klobuchar: Suckers

The Obama administration has finally bought off that 60th vote for health care "reform." Ben Nelson of Nebraska agreed to go against his professed principles and the views of the majority of his constituents in exchange for, among other things, an agreement that the federal government would pick up Nebraska's portion of Medicaid payments.

A few weeks prior, Democrat Mary Landrieu secured $100 million in federal payouts to Louisiana for her vote (she insists the actual amount is closer to $300 million).

Minnesota's two Senators are also Democrats; how much did they get for their votes? I suspect that the answer is this: NADA, ZIP, NOTHING. Our twin toadies are more interested in securing an invite to President Obama's Super Bowl party or keeping open the option that he will appear on their future MSNBC talk show (premiering circa 2015).

Some may argue that Klobuchar and Franken are too saintly and fiscally conservative to bring home pork to Minnesota. I say baloney to that.

Some may say that Franken and Klobuchar are too committed to socialized medicine to risk it over pork. To those people I present the example of Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the only openly socialist member of the Senate. In exchange for his health care vote he secured the same Medicaid payoff for Vermont as Nelson received for Nebraska PLUS $10 billion for community health centers. This is how socialism works--those who have the power and know how to play the game get the benefits--not through the free market, but through the force of government.

Amy Klobuchar will receive a nice pat on the head and be told how well-behaved she is while watching the Colts win the Super Bowl on the White House big screen. Al Franken will be told by President Obama how much he is missed in the Senate as the inaugural guest on Franken's talk show. Then Franken will roll the clip of the time he pw3nd Lieberman by refusing to allow him an extra minute to finish his point.

Franken and Klobuchar were played for suckers. At least they could have gotten everyone in the state a t-shirt:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

All The News That's Fit To Sell

Interesting story in yesterday's WSJ on how Tiger Woods Protected His Image (sub req):

Mr. Woods had cut an unusual deal with American Media Inc., the owner of both Men's Fitness magazine and the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper. Mr. Woods agreed to the cover shot and photo spread in Men's Fitness, whose circulation of about 700,000 per issue is less than half of Golf Digest's nearly 1.7 million, in return for the National Enquirer squelching a story and photographs purportedly showing Mr. Woods in a liaison with a woman who wasn't his wife, according to people directly involved in the arrangement.

I imagine these "access for control" sort of deals are actually fairly common between celebrities and the media who cover them. You have to wonder how often this also occurs in the world of politics.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE for a pre Christmas broadcast extravaganza.

It all starts at 11AM (central) with John Hinderaker and me running down the week's highlights, including I'm sure the lastest in ill-considered, rushed through, and destructive public policy for health care and global warming. Two A-list guests are also scheduled.

At 11:15, the best movie reviewer in the country, John Nolte of Big Hollywood. We'll be talking about all the lastest releases and what's worth seeing this holiday season.

Then at noon we have Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and proprietor of his own blog, About Last Night. We'll be talking about his terrific new biography, Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

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

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at their web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. Also, don't forget at 9 AM King Banaian over at KYRC (Business 1570).

Also, special mention for The David Strom Show at 9 AM on the Patriot. Unfortunately, it looks like this is David's final broadcast. For fans of his always intelligent and lively show, this is sad news. David is one of the truly good guys involved in local politics and his regular presence on the radio airwaves will be missed. We wish him the best and hope to hear him surface somewhere else soon.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beer of the Week (Vol. XXXIV)

Another special edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the festive folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. They're the ones who make these beer reviews possible and they can help make your Christmas and New Year's events merrier than ever. It's about more than just beer too. Dan the owner is actually more of a wine guy and is a noted connoisseur (and consumer) of the finest fruit of the vine. He'll take the time to assist you in picking the perfect wine to compliment your holiday meals. If you're looking for a gift for the guy who has everything, you can't go wrong with a good whiskey. And Bill at Glen Lake has years of expertise and experience in recommending the right bourbon, Scotch, or rye to satisfy the pickiest whiskey palate.

Glen Lake Wine & Spirits is conveniently located right on Excelsior Boulevard in beautiful downtown Glen Lake. Easy to get in, easy to get out, and easy to get what you want. All Christmas shopping should be so simple.

This week we have a special beer double feature with both attractions coming from hometown favorite Summit Brewing Company. Summit's Winter Ale was probably the first winter beer that I ever tried. It definitely was the first one I ever truly enjoyed. I can recall looking forward with anticipation to the appearance of the distinctive red-labeled bottles on liquor store shelves as fall faded into winter. While the label has changed over the years (regrettably), the beer has remained one of my all-time favorites and I always make sure that I savor it as much as possible during the all-too-short season.

Stout brown Summit bottle with engraved logo. Label is the standard Summit format with light-brown color, faint St. Paul backdrop, logo, and beer name set diagonally in red rectangle.

Beer Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by Volume: 6.2%

COLOR (0-2): Dark amber-brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sweet malt with a little hoppiness at the finish. 2

HEAD (0-2): Light tan and creamy. Not huge off the pour, but lasts nicely. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again mostly roasted malty flavor with a touch of hoppy bitterness. Hints of coffee and caramel. Medium-bodied. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth and creamy. 2

OVERALL (0-6): I've been a fan of Summit Winter for so long that it's hard for me to be objective about this beer. It's not a heavy hop hitter or a big bold beer, but its flavor is rich and full while remaining quite drinkable. It pairs well with many of the comfort foods of winter (especially chili) which makes it an excellent seasonal selection. After all these years it still holds a warm place in my heart. And taste buds. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Our second beer today is the second in Summit's Unchained Series:

Welcome to our new line of limited release beers called the Unchained Series. The series is an opportunity for our brewers to show off their skills and creativity. Each beer in the series will be presented by an individual brewer-the style is their choice and they are running the show!

The first beer in the Unchained Series was Kolsch, which was excellent. It's been followed by the 90/- Scottish Style Ale:

We're excited to introduce the second beer in our new Unchained Series: 90/- Scottish Style Ale brewed with heather. Named after the old practice of taxing beers based on their strength, 90 Shilling is a traditional Wee Heavy style from brewer Eric Blomquist.

Usual brown Summit bottle. Label follows the Unchained format with black and white industrial craft look. Green Summit logo with brewer's signature set in black on bottom.

Beer Style: Scotch Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 7.0%

COLOR (0-2): Dark brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Rich malty aroma. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color, but not much volume. 1

TASTE (0-5): Excellent taste combo with roasted malt with smoke and even a little peat flavor fitting the name. Not much on the hop side. Medium bodied. Frankly, I'm not sure if I could pick up the heather or not. Whether its noticeable or not it definitely works in this beer. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The finish is a little dry, but well rounded. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This beer sneaks up on you. At first glance and taste it doesn't appear all that exceptional. But the more you drink the more it grows on you. Its flavors are complex and rich. The timing of the release is perfect as its just the kind of hearty beer you want to enjoy in winter. Summit scores impressively again by breaking the chains. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why The Price Is Right

Kevin Willaimson has an excellent piece in the most recent edition of National Review on the problems caused by lack of pricing information in markets including health care. It's called Priceless Is Worthless (sub req)and includes one of the best explanations of the realities of preexisting conditions I've yet read:

But rather than bring price transparency to health care, we're going full-tilt boogie in the opposite direction, specifically by insisting that insurance companies be barred from putting real prices on preexisting conditions. Set aside, if you can, all those images of poor little children with terrible diseases being chucked out into the Dickensian streets by mean old insurance executives in top hats and monocles, and think, for a second, about what insurance means, and what a preexisting condition is. Insurance is, basically, a bet: The insurer calculates the probability that a certain unhappy condition will befall a consumer. Actuarially speaking, the number of people who will suffer heart disease or car accidents is fairly predictable within a very large pool, so the insurer can figure out roughly what it will have to pay out in a typical year for every 100,000 policies, and the premium will incorporate that number. But predictable applies to things that happen in the future. Maybe 3 percent of those 100,000 people will need to see a cardiologist in a given year, but 100 percent of the people with diabetes will suffer from diabetes. That's a fact: It's what preexisting means.

Unless Governor Schwarzenegger manages to invent Terminator insurance, whereby Allstate agents travel back in time to insure you against problems you haven't developed yet, you cannot insure against something that already has happened, and to pretend otherwise dumps a whole metaphysical can of worms all over the insurance space-time continuum, landing us in an alternative universe where Insurance = Not Insurance. You'd never take a bet that you knew you were going to lose, right? Insurance companies won't do that, either, unless they get paid to do so--specifically, unless they are allowed to charge at least as much for covering Preexisting Condition X as it's going to cost them to treat Preexisting Condition X. Ignoring the reality of prices--waving the magic wand and saying: "There shall be no price put on preexisting conditions"--does not solve the problem. Health care costs money. The price is right, and you cannot politically engineer your way out of that reality, no matter how many sickly toddlers you parade around on CNN.

Vision Quest

A brief update on Beer Quest 2010, my effort to identify and rate beers from the twenty-three states that are not currently represented in the Fraters Libertas beer ratings by the end of 2010. I've received a number of e-mails with suggestions for beers from various states. Here's an update on the list with those suggestions included:

Alabama--Hurricane Brewing
Delaware--Dogfish Head

I received several e-mails specifically recommending Dogfish Head. It's a name I recognize and have seen it on store shelves, although regrettably not here in Minnesota. It is available in Wisconsin though so a run for the border (Hudson) may soon be in order.

One e-mailer hepped me to a great article on Dogfish Head's founder Sam Calagione that appeared last year in the New Yorker (yes, the New Yorker!):

Like most craft brewers, Calagione came to beer from something else. He grew up in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the middle child of an oral surgeon and the heir to a long line of winemakers. His father and his uncle used to drive to Worcester to meet the trains that brought grapes from California. When they got home, and the juice had been stomped out in the basement, Sam would help bottle it. The process seems to have stripped him of any reverence toward the product. His forefathers worked hard making wine, he recently wrote, "so that I might have the opportunity to produce a superior beverage."

Calagione was a bright student and a scrappy athlete (to keep his weight up for the football team, his father made him eat a cheesesteak every night at ten-thirty). But by the spring of his senior year, at Northfield Mount Hermon prep, he had so many demerits that he was expelled. His offenses were of the usual Animal House variety: flipping a truck on campus; breaking into the skating rink and playing naked hockey; "surfing" on the roof of a Winnebago, going sixty miles per hour down I-91. As a junior, Calagione sometimes waited outside a local liquor store and got customers to buy him a case of beer. Back at school, he hid the bottles in his hockey bag and sold them to other students at a profit. "I remember when I got busted," he told me. "The dean said, 'You think you can make a living doing this?' I didn't have the foresight to say, 'Yeah, maybe someday.'"

I've played a lot of hockey in my day. Ice hockey, roller hockey, pond hockey, street hockey, floor hockey, boot hockey, drunk hockey (not recommended), and hungover hockey. But I've never known firsthand--nor have any inclination to ever know--what it's like to experience naked hockey. The phrases "bad naked" and "shrinkage" come immediately to mind.

But there's no doubting the value of hockey bags in hiding booze. In college, we used to employ hockey bags to smuggle kegs into our "dry" dorms.

Iowa--Millstream Brewing in Amana
Kentucky--Blue Grass
Mississippi--Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company

Craig e-mailed to provide this particular suggestion:

You need to check out Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, MS. In-state you would just say The Kill. Everybody knows about Kiln, MS as it is the hometown of Bret Favre although he lives here in Hattiesburg now. Well, when he's not kicking butt on the field for you guys!

I'm sure that the hordes of Twin Cities media who descended on Kiln late last summer are all too familiar with the charms of Lazy Magnolia beer.

New Jersey--High Point
New Mexico
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina--Palmetto
South Dakota
Virginia--Starr Hill
West Virginia
Wyoming--Snake River

There are still several gaps in the list and if you have suggestions for how best to fill them, please drop me a line. Your support is most appreciated.

UPDATE: A few more recommendations added (in red) from Mark, a man who we hope--at least judging by his disturbing crush on Janeane Garafolo--knows more about fine beer than broads.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Publicly Funded Commie Puppets

Earlier this week, John Hinderaker reported on the pro-communism Minneapolis puppet troupe, In the Heart of the Beast, receiving $25,000 in federal stimulus cash.

But $25,000 is just a small fraction of what In the Heart of the Beast has received from the Minnesota State Arts Board in grants since 2002:


$ 37,480 (2009 Institutional Support)

$ 4,763 (2009 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$36,927 (2008 Institutional Support)

$4763 (2008 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$44,409 (2007 Institutional Support)

$3650 (2007 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$44,409 (2006 Institutional Support)

$3650 (2006 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$27,750 (2005 Institutional Support)

$4260 (2005 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$29,430 (2004 Institutional Support)

$4260 (2004 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$50,693 (2003 Institutional Support)

$5665 (2003 Arts in Education Organizational Support)


$52,705 (2002 Institutional Support)

$5900 (2002 Arts in Education Organizational Support)

A total of $360,714 in state funding since 2002 (the Minnesota State Arts Board website only lists grants going back to 2002).

That is a lot of long sticks and red fabric.

The left loves their puppets. The left loves dipping their snout into the public trough. Come to think of it, that would make a great puppet show. Hmmmm, we may have to start the Fraters Libertas Puppet and Mask Theatre.

No Room At The Inn

Mark Krikorian reports on the latest angle in the battle to get illegal immigrants counted in the upcoming census at National Review Online:

One of the Census Bureau's "partners" has produced a poster urging Hispanics (illegal aliens, really) to be counted next year, just as the Holy Family went to Bethlehem to be counted.

There's one rather obvious flaw with the premise of this comparison as Krikorian notes:

Of course, whoever dreamed up this poster missed a basic point. To be counted, every person not living in his ancestral town had to RETURN there, as Joseph left Nazareth and headed south for Bethlehem. By the same token, one could suggest that illegal aliens should head south and return every one of them to his own city. Mexico, the home of most illegal aliens, is conducting its own census next year, after all.

The timing couldn't be better for illegal immigrants to go home and get counted.

Mysterious Ways

Is President Barack Obama actually at heart a secret THEOCON?!?! Joe Carter connects the dots (while cleverly pretending not to) at A First Things Blog:

If you haven't heard the latest rumor/conspiracy theory--and you probably haven't since I'm just now putting this out there in order to debunk it before anyone else connects the dots--it goes something like this: A First Things article which revived interest in theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and connected his views with the Global War on Terror influenced David Brooks, who in turn influenced Barack Obama, who used the idea (mixed with progressive elements) as the basis for the Obama Doctrine.

We're through the looking glass here people.

Kings Of Beer

The WSJ reports that the Sacramento Kings expect an attendance surge this week:


Estimated number of tickets the NBA's Sacramento Kings expect to sell for Wednesday's game, 5,240 more than their league-worst average.

The team will be selling beer for $1.

One buck beer almost makes it worthwhile to go to a Kings game. Almost.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cup For Sale

Don't you hate it when teams with the most money use their wealth to "buy" championships, making it difficult for the poorer teams to even compete much less win titles? I'm not talking about baseball either. I've long maintained that spending is usually equated with success in the NHL. Yesterday's WSJ had the data showing that the NHL Is Where Dollars Buy the Most Wins (sub req):

Many sports fans assume baseball is the game that's most driven by owners' pocketbooks. For proof, they could point to the 2009 playoffs, where the final four teams were all near the top of the league in payroll. But the sport where spending money most closely equates to winning games is played on ice, not grass and dirt.

From 2000 to 2008, NHL teams' winning percentage has a 0.49 correlation to their payroll (where 1 represents a direct correlation and 0 represents no correlation at all). This number doesn't suggest an airtight relationship, but it's a stronger correlation than the three other major sports leagues. Major League Baseball has a 0.43 correlation, and the NFL is at a nearly meaningless 0.15, according to a new study by Dave Berri, a professor of economics at Southern Utah University.

The numbers make sense when you scan the standings. In hockey, the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have consistently made the playoffs in recent years, and they're the teams willing to use the league's salary cap to its full extent. The data are a bit skewed by the spending binges some teams thrived on before the cap was implemented during the 2004-05 lockout, but even since then, the correlation has held true.

This correlation does not bode well for Minnesota Wild fans. While the team has loosened the purse strings a bit of late, they still rank in the middle of NHL payrolls. In hockey, more often than not, you get what you pay for.

Pulling Strings

Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker ponders bellying up to the public trough:

There are any number of arts organizations that could have gotten "stimulus" money, and I assume that quite a few did. This seems like a horrible idea across the board. But if "spending equals stimulus," and an employed artist is as valuable as an employed construction worker, then why shouldn't stimulus money find its way to National Review, a formidably literary publication, where Kathryn Lopez and her colleagues have been raising money from readers for quite a while now? Hey, if "spending equals stimulus," then how about a few bucks for radio talk show hosts? Brian Ward and I have been broadcasting for free on AM 1280 the Patriot for years now; how about $25,000 to "save" our jobs? I'm pretty sure we have more listeners than the Heart of the Beast has customers.

The First Team may indeed have more listeners, but alas they have no puppets. It's all about puppets these days John. Work a couple into your radio production and then maybe we can talk about getting you guys on the dole. If not a puppet, maybe a ventriloquist's dummy would do.

UPDATE-- It might look something like this:

Okay, maybe that's not such a good idea after all...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Light My Way

Cut to the asylum interior. An unshaven, wild-eyed man sits in the corner bound in a straitjacket, nodding his head, and muttering, "C7, C9, C7, C9..." over and over again.

"What's he in for?"

"Christmas lights."

The great Christmas light quest of aught-nine is officially over. After many failed attempts to find the last few strings I needed, I settled on some that I discovered at Bachman's on Saturday. They're not ceramic which was what I really wanted, but they are multi-colored. They're also LED and have a five year warranty, so they should save energy and last longer (as in they actually might work again next year). I had to pay more for such features, but I'm hoping the investment pays off in the long run. Yes, I've finally acquired those C7s that I've been looking so hard for.

As I was stringing up the new lights in the fast diminishing light of late Saturday afternoon, I noticed that they looked a little different than the one string of ceramics I already had on the roofline. It wasn't just the finish and color of the bulbs either. It was the size. They were definitely smaller.

So all this time that I was searching very specifically--and would accept no substitute--for strings of multicolored, ceramic C7 bulbs, what I actually was trying to match was a string of multicolored, ceramic C9 bulbs. Funny, isn't it? Yeah, I'm still laughing today.

UPDATE-- Tim e-mails to twist the knife:

I hope in your quest for the C7 Christmas lights you didn't pass up C9 lights that you really needed.

Oh, you mean like when I was at a Target on Saturday and saw a string of C9 ceramics, but decided not to get it because you know I HAD to have C7s?

If they ever make a sequel to or updated version of A Christmas Story it should include a side story that kind of runs throughout the movie in the far background, kind of like the squirrel chasing the nut in Ice Age, with you, of course, as the "quiet, never bothers nobody, until Christmas that is," OCD-Christmas-light-obsessed town crazy guy.