Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Shadows of Angels

The Elder's discussion of his church experience in China reminded me of a rather spooky encounter I had several weeks ago with a former church.

I was attending a meeting at a place that used to house large numbers of nuns. As Vatican II and societal changes reduced greatly the number of nuns over the years, the organization I work for has been renting out unused space at their facility for meetings and training. There are still quite a few old nuns who live there, but it's not even close to what it was in it's prime in the 1950's.

We were meeting in a large hall and I noticed a room off to the side. Seeking a bit of respite from meeting over-load, I stepped into the room. It was shaped like a church, but much smaller. There was a sign indicating this was a "meditation room". As I looked around further I realized it used to be a small chapel.

Where the altar used to be was now a new agey sculpture. Where the stations of the cross used to be were filled in with marble. Where the cross used to be there was just a dusty outline.

It was spooky. There was still a presence, but the whole place felt and looked like a face with no eyes, mouth or nose.

I'm sure someone felt terribly proud of themselves with the idea to turn this place of worship into an amorphous, modern "meditation center" (It might however be a good place for Al Gore to release his second shakra) but it was just kind of sad and actually pissed me off somewhat as well. I'm not exactly sure what I was mad at...just the general idea of such a great intellectual and moral tradition being cast aside by so many people who grew up with it I guess. I thought about the nuns who left the church in the wake of the disturbances of the 60's and how many may have later regretted that decision after getting a good taste of the secular life.

A Matter of Taste

Interesting article in yesterday's WSJ on how dames may be better beer tasters:

"We have found that females often are more sensitive about the levels of flavor in beer," says Barry Axcell, SABMiller's chief brewer. Women trained as tasters outshine their male counterparts, he says.

Makes sense to me. Most women have a keener sense of smell than men and seem better at picking up on subtle flavors in food and drink too. Of course in our eternally-PC world, some refuse to recognize what's right in front of their noses:

Other brewers are reluctant to say whether women make better tasters. Carlsberg A/S, the Danish brewer, says a test of its tasting panelists this year showed its women outperforming the men. This "surprised us," says David Burgess, group quality director. Nonetheless, he says, "our view is there is no difference between men and women."

And that corporate "view" will not change no matter how much evidence is compiled to refute it. That belief that there are no differences between the sexes is dogma which cannot be questioned or challenged.

The ridiculous lengths that reporters will go to find an opposing view in order to manufacture conflict in a story are on full display here:

Some male beer drinkers doubt that women are better, too. "It doesn't seem credible," said Carlos Lopez, 22, while sipping a glass of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy one recent afternoon at Stocks and Blondes, a Chicago bar.

And hey, no one can question the credibility of a barely legal Chicago a-hole spouting off in a bar.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finding Religion

Nathan e-mails with more on the differences in Mass experienced by the wandering Catholic:

Loved the Manila piece.

I attended Mass while on business in Scottsdale, Arizona, last month. New church, lots of families and plenty of young people, nice to see. Priest was evidently Mexican or at least English wasn’t his first language but he gave an excellent homily.

Two discordant things: the music was too new for me, more like something you’d hear at an Evangelical Lutheran church or on KTIS; and there was no crucifix. Seriously, I looked. I checked the flags--one American and one Papal. Yep, that’s right. There was a votive candle and a statue of Mary and one of Joseph. There was a statue of The Risen Christ hanging on the wall behind the alter framed by stained glass windows (stunning effect). There were crosses carried up in the procession by the servers before Mass and a beautiful silver cross on the altar. But no cross with the corpse hanging on it, no crucifix, anywhere in the church. Weird.

As for after-Mass prayers, the old-timers have a charming custom at Maternity of Mary on Dale Street in St. Paul. After Mass, they all kneel to say one silent Hail Mary… for the repose of the soul of the NEXT person to die from that parish, whoever it might be. Plan ahead--I like that.

Nathan's checklist of the symbols to look for in a Catholic church brought to mind my attempt to locate the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception last week in Nanjing, China. Unlike the Philippines, Catholic churches are not all that easy to come by in China despite the reports of surging interest in Christianity in the Middle Kingdom. Armed with the name of the church and its address, I huddled with the hotel concierge on Sunday morning to come up with a plan of attack. After he provided me with a sheet with the church name and address in Chinese and a very broad map of the area around the hotel, I set off to hail a taxi and begin my quest.

Getting a cab was easy and after I handed the driver the sheet and received an assenting nod of recognition, I figured that the search was going to be easier than expected. After a fifteen minute ride, the driver pulled over and disgorged me in front of a church.

Almost immediately I knew it wasn't the church that I was after, but between the driver's English and my Chinese, I knew we shared nowhere near the words needed to attempt to remedy the situation. The key to happy travels is the ability to recognize that plans--like maps--almost never unfold perfectly and accept and adapt to circumstances as they arise.

So I stepped inside the church to explore it further. While it was immediately apparent that it was indeed a Christian church of some sort, it was also obviously not a Catholic church. No crucifix, no kneelers, no Mary, no saints, no stations of the cross, etc. I had found a church in Nanjing, just not the right one.

I was fortunate enough to have the number of a work colleague handy in my cell and equally fortunate to have him answer my call (especially since he was celebrating his one-year wedding anniversary that day). I told him of my troubles and the first question he asked was where I was. Nanjing...standing in front of a church...somewhere. My original plan had been to hail another cab and have him help the driver find the church I was looking for. But after his query, I decided maybe I should seek to pinpoint my location a bit more precisely. So I hiked up to the end of the block and told him the cross streets of the intersection.

Wait a second, I thought. I asked my friend if Lu meant "road" in Chinese. Yes, it did. Which meant that the sign I was reading that said ShiGu Lu was the same as Shigu Road. Which meant that I was at least in the ballpark of finding the church located at 112 Shigu Road. He advised that I look for young people in the area to ask them how to find the church. Since there aren't many churches in Nanjing, he was sure they would all know where it was. But I elected to continue on without assistance, especially when I found other addresses that verified that I was on the right side of the road and headed in the right direction.

Five minutes later I found the church. The right church this time.

It was set back off the street within a small courtyard that featured a fountain, plants, trees, and a sign with a familiar figure.

The side wall had windows with a look common to churches throughout the world.

Upon closer inspection, you could more local architectural touches at the top of the wall and the roof:

The interior design was a familiar one:

And it was easy to see the distinct signs of a Catholic church:

Check all the boxes.

It was interesting to note that the tranquil grounds of Cathedral were located in the midst of a busy urban district. Directly across the street was a building that featured not one, but two night clubs:

Flappers drink for free on Wednesdays.

Sounds like a good place to catch a cat fight.

Further down the road there was a gate at what must have been a side entrance to the Cathedral.

After visiting the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I spent the rest of that afternoon walking about downtown Nanjing. On my the back to my hotel I did come across another church, but didn't have time to learn more about it.

The Cathedral did offer a Mass in English on Sunday evenings, but I was not able to attend. After spending the better part of the day strolling the sweltering streets of Nanjing, by the time I returned to my hotel I was thoroughly spent and feel into a deep sleep as soon as I laid down. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

Monday, June 28, 2010

And we, though many, throughout the earth

One of the little pleasures of travel is getting the opportunity to attend Mass in various locations. We're all one Church and one bread and one body in Christ, but there are always little differences based on local culture and tradition. Over the years I've been able to witness these differences firsthand in places geographically and culturally worlds away from my home parish in Minnesota. Places like Mexico, Manila, and perhaps most exotically, Miami.

A couple of weeks ago, I was once again able to experience Mass far from home when I visited the Greenbelt Chapel in Manila. Greenbelt is a shopping, entertainment, recreation area in Makati, which is the principal business district of Manila. There are stores, restaurants, and bars that surround a tropical park. The open air Chapel is situated in the heart of the Greenbelt park. It's hard to make a local comparison with the Greenbelt Chapel, but imagine if you will a church in the center of the Mall of America and you have some idea of its unique location.

The weather that day was typical for Manila, hot and humid. And since the Chapel is open to the elements, it was the same inside. Yet hardly anyone was wearing shorts. Part of this is cultural--Americans seem far fonder of short pants than most of the world. Part of it may also have been that people attending this early morning weekday Mass were dressed for work. But I think at least some of this was because of the reverence and respect that those attending felt toward Mass.

When I arrived, there were already a number of people of hand praying a novena before Mass began. They had a screen projecting the words so it was easy to follow along and join in.

The pews were circular and somewhat like bleachers. Yet they were comfortable as were the well-padded kneelers.

The homily was direct and straight forward as the priest used the Gospel reading to send an unmistakably clear message about the need for us to set priorities in our lives. One thing that you don't often see in church is a cat sauntering down the main aisle in mid-homily, but judging by the lack of reaction from the others in attendance it was not unusual sight at the Chapel.

The communion distribution was well-orchestrated and efficient. One disappointment for me was the music. It was far too contemporary for my taste, but at least most Filipinos can carry a tune so it sounded good.

There were also the little differences:

- The Our Father was a slightly different version.

- There was no shaking of hands to offer peace to each other. More like a nodding of peace, which may be an option that we should adopt here.

- Instead of standing after the Amen, we stood after the Memorial Acclamation.

- After the concluding blessing, we knelt for a round of the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

Again, small differences. Especially when compared to the faith that we shared together.

Separated at Birth?

Jim e-mails with a memorial Separated at Birth.

Powerline posted a photo of Robert Byrd (RIP), and I couldn't help but think "I've seen this face somewhere else."

United States Senator Robert Byrd and...

...Jedi Master Yoda?

When All About You Are Losing Theirs

While I was half tempted to ignore the Nihilist in Golf Pant's rather tepid "rebuttal" of my weekly beer reviews, in the interests of closure I felt the obligation to offer an ever-so-brief response. From my vantage point, the Nihilist's argument (such that it was) consisted of three main points.

First, he took a page out of the Obama handbook by setting up and then knocking down a straw man (or barley man in this case) by insinuating that I held the position that my beer ratings were somehow objective:

...the idea that rating a beer isn't a highly subjective process is not debatable.

Of course not. And no one ever claimed otherwise. Like movie, theater, musical, restaurant and book reviews, beer reviews are nothing more than the opinion (hopefully informed) of the reviewer.

Another such straw man appears later in his post:

Just don't tell me that your mathematics suggests that one is the perfect beer.

Again, he's refuting a claim that no one has ever made. And using numbers to rate various aspects of a beer's character and then adding them together for a total score hardly qualifies as "mathematics" for most people.

Next, he took the curious position that beer is so complex that we humans lack the ability to rate it on a numeric scale:

However, my main motivation is a disagreement with the idea of assigning numeric value to something as subjective as the flavor of beer.

Consider for a moment all that we do rate in such a manner. Movies, wine, restaurants, gymnastics, etc. The list of areas where we assign a subjective score using numbers is a long one. Does the Nihilist truly believe that it's okay to use numbers to evaluate something as complex and subjective as the beauty of a woman, but not a glass of beer? Quite simply absurd.

Finally, we learn more about Nihilist's true preferences:

...head is overrated.

While I think that most men would disagree with the Nihilist, he's certainly entitled to his opinion on the matter.

When it comes to beer, the head is part of the overall package. While it's not as important as the taste, it isn't inconsequential either. By the way, the scoring system that I utilize (and did not invent) does reflect that by assigning weighted values to the various characteristics of a beer.

I recently spent two weeks in Asia on business and on my return flight through Tokyo's Narita airport, I enjoyed one of Japan's greatest contributions to the world: the automatic beer pouring machine. When it comes to detail and perfecting aesthetics, the Japanese are world class. And their beer dispensing machine recognizes the importance of the beer's head by first tilting the glass to dispense a set amount of beer and then bringing the glass upright to add the perfect amount of foam to create a head that completes the beautiful picture. To the Japanese and real beer lovers everywhere, head does matter.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM. John Hinderaker and I, breaking down the week that was. Or just breaking down, depending on our emotional states.

Special guest at noon, the terrific Andy McCarthy. Best known for his work at National Review, he's also a former federal prosecutor of terrorism cases in NYC and author of the provocative new book, The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. Included is a chapter devoted to the Flying Imams controversy at MSP International Airport and a chapter called "The Enclave of Minnesota," so there will be lots of local flavor to cover.

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

Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. And, don't forget at 9 AM, The King Banaian Show over at the Patriot's sister station, KYRC (Business 1570).

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bringing Home the Bacon

In the first 8 months of FY 2010, the federal government has spent $935 billion more than its revenues. To be clear, that's just the deficit, not the budget. In taxes and other charges, the government has taken in $1.35 trillion this year. Then they spent every nickel of it. Then they added another $935 billion to the tab on credit, which will need to be paid back with interest. And there's still four months left in the fiscal year.

The unabated binging for this year brings the total national debt to a tidy $13 trillion and counting. (And lets not even talk about the long term government entitlement commitments of an estimated $130 trillion).

There are many signs that this unprecedented and, according to some government spending experts, unsustainable levels of debt now being incurred is of great concern to the voters. The burgeoning tea party movement, polls showing that debt and government spending are among the top concerns, polls showing ideological and party identification turning away from the status quo, and most tellingly, long-term incumbents identified with irresponsible fiscal management getting bounced left and right in early elections.

A rather sobering set of events for any elected government official. Especially for those who have made a career out of proudly redistributing tax payers' money to favored special interests.

So how do our local politicians, who are at least in part responsible for running up this debt, respond to the approaching onslaught of financial and electoral turmoil? Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

From the Star Tribune, an announcement of a very special event to be held Saturday morning:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will join three Minnesotans in Congress on Saturday in St. Paul for a tour of the Union Depot, a transportation project that has been awarded $35 million in stimulus funds.

Pelosi is visiting a major St. Paul project that civic leaders hope will be a boon to the struggling downtown area. The San Francisco Democrat is appearing at the potential transit hub with DFL Reps. Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Jim Oberstar, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Yes, voters we are sticking you and your children (grandchildren, great grand children, etc) with unsustainable debt that threatens to significantly lower the quality of life in this country for generations. But look what we brung ya! A potential transit hub!

It's interesting to note that this federal money was earmarked as a part of the "stimulus" bill. That is, a way to stimulate the economy out of the economic recession occurring in 2009 and 2010. From MPR, the timeline on this vital project:

A news release sent by McCollum's office says the Union Depot will service Amtrak, local and interstate buses (2012), and the Central Corridor (2014). This project will also accommodate future intercity, commuter, and high speed rail services to Chicago.

A minimum of two to four more years before any benefit is realized. (And if I'm not mistaken, nobody has even broken ground on this project yet.) We didn't get much stimulus bang for those 35 million bucks, did we? We'll, maybe Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Jim Oberstar will get lucky and the economy will still need stimulus in 2012 and they can proudly point to this again.

I suspect McCollum, Ellison, and Oberstar are only agreeing to be seen in public with Nancy Pelosi because they take for granted that they have safe seats. (Where's Tim Waltz? And why not invite Tarryl Clark to link arms and march with Pelosi and let people in CD6 know exactly what they could have representing them in DC). These three assume people in their districts will gratefully lap up this publicity stunt for more government. $13 trillion in public debt? Thank you sir, can I have $35 million more!?

It would be nice to think that even the voters in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the Iron Range have some self-respect and will wake up long enough to turn at least one of these people out. Time will tell.

Beer of the Week Rebuttal

For those of you who haven't noticed, Chad has recently commanded more posts from his fellow Fraters contributors. I'm a big fan of the philosophy, "be careful what you wish for, you might just get it." In that vein, I've decided to devote a post to critiquing Chad's sponsored "Beer of the Week" franchise.

I do this partly out of jealousy at the potable largess that Chad gets out of his deal from the good folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits. As mentioned, part of my motivation is animosity at being asked to crank out multiple posts in a single month. However, my main motivation is a disagreement with the idea of assigning numeric value to something as subjective as the flavor of beer. Obviously, some beers use higher quality ingredients than others. Some beers have a fuller flavor profile. However, the idea that rating a beer isn't a highly subjective process is not debatable.

Here's my thesis: Chad likes certain types of beer. I like other types. We both enjoy beers with high quality ingredients that are produced by craftsman brewers as opposed to low cost and highly mechanized mass production methods. However our palates differ, and I might think that a beer that he rates highly is mediocre and vice verse. That would mean that neither of us is right and neither is wrong. But he has previously called me out, so I feel it's only fair to return the favor.

As a rare blogger who didn't post commentary on umpire Jim Joyce's botching of a perfect game, I'm probably violating some sort of internet rule. Instead, I'll start by deconstructing Chad's bizarre assessment on January 22, 2010 that Bell's Hopslam is the perfect beer . Chad must have a thing for double IPA style beer, because on May 28, 2009 he also overrated Sierra Nevada's Torpedo with 16 out of 19 points. I like IPA just fine and both of these beers are good. However, when I’m plunking down $12 or more for a six pack, I’d expect better. Both beers are overly heavy with respective alcohol contents of 10.0% and 7.2%.

Further, I believe that these beers are far from the best beers produced at their breweries. I’d prefer a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale or Oberon to either of these beers. I guess that just means I like Pale Ales and American style wheat beers to double IPAs. You may agree or disagree. Just don't tell me that your mathematics suggests that one is the perfect beer.

Finally, I have to take issue with Chad’s last two ratings, which I believe he might have gotten backwards. On June 4, he rated Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale at an undistinguished level of 12. Then he turned around on June 11 and rated Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat a solid level of endorsement at 14. As I stated above, I think he mixed the beers up. He took off one point on Sammy’s Summer for lack of sufficient head. I’ll be the first to say that unless your beer requires a special pour like Guinness, head is overrated. He also dinged the Sam Adams’ product for overall taste, suggesting:

A decent summer beer, but not one of my favorites. It has some nice individual components that for some reason don't come together all that well overall. The aftertaste is not very pleasant and for me was the beer's biggest flaw. There are plenty of other better wheat beers out there that I'd rather sip on during the lazy, hazy days of summer.

I have no idea what he’s talking about here. In the interest of full disclosure: after winning a Keegan’s Pub trivia winner drawing, Sam Adams’ flew me out to Boston, paying for my hotel and airfare. However, I’m not a blind Sam Adams’ fan. I really don’t like their flagship Boston Lager. Nevertheless, Sam Adams’ makes a terrific summer beer. I’ll admit that it is a little sharp and may be an acquired taste, but that’s what makes rating beer an impossibly subjective task.

I’m equally confused by his endorsement of the Leine Sunset Wheat after disparaging Leine’s Red Lager. Chad is correct to call their Honey Weiss “not that much better than your typical macro.” The thing is, the Sunset Wheat isn’t that much better, though it is better. Like the Leine's Red that Chad scorns, it’s a solid offering I’ve enjoyed many times. Of course, I'd enjoy a Sam Adams’ Summer Ale a bit more.

To close, Chad's effort to characterize beer quality on a numeric system reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where Professor Frink is called on to teach kindergarten. He goes into a ridiculous amount of scientific detail to show the kids how a toy works, at the expense of enjoying the fun of play:

Professor Frink takes over the kindergarten class, drawing equations and
free-body diagrams on the blackboard to explain the workings of one of
those things that kids push which makes the balls pop.

Frink: N'hey hey! Ahem, n'hey, so the compression and expansion of the
longitudinal waves cause the erratic oscillation -- you can see
it there -- of the neighboring particles.
[a girl raises her hand]
[sighs] Yes, what is it? What? What is it?
Girl: Can I play with it?
Frink: No, you can't play with it; you won't enjoy it on as many levels
as I do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All Gilligans, No Professor

American television viewers, unlike their British counterparts, prefer characters with redeeming qualities. Consider, for example, the two versions of “The Office”. In the original BBC show, the boss, David Brent, is played by Ricky Gervais as a selfish oblivious buffoon with few sympathetic qualities. In the NBC series, the boss is Michael Scott, played with considerably more likeability by Steve Carell. The British are willing to laugh at the pathetic David Brent, while Americans prefer laughing with nice-guy Michael Scott, despite the fact that the BBC series is actually funnier.

I have no idea whether the Animal Planet reality series “Whale Wars” is popular in Great Britain, but it seems like a perfect fit for the British sense of humor. One difference is that even the British version of “The Office” had some likeable characters (just not David Brent) – “Whale Wars” has none. Imagine “Gilligan’s Island” with all Gilligans (self-righteous a-hole Gilligans) and no Professors or Skippers – and certainly no Gingers or Mary Anns.

Whale Wars” is a reality series now in its third season of following the crew of the anti-whaling organization, Sea Shepherd and their ship, the Steve Irwin, as they attempt to disrupt Japanese whaling operations in the waters off of Antarctica. They see themselves as non-violent bad-ass pirates (their flag includes a skull). If you tune in, it is highly likely that you will soon be rooting for the whalers. If it were possible for whales to watch the show, it is highly likely that they would end up rooting for the whalers.

“Whale Wars” produces comedy based on the formula:
(unbounded self-righteousness + self-delusion) * extreme incompetence = comedy gold!

The Sea Shepherd ships never really come close to stopping the Japanese whalers or even slowing them down much. It is obvious that Sea Shepherd has not stopped the killing of a single whale, but that does not stop them from celebrating and congratulating themselves for throwing stink bombs onto the whaling ships.

Sea Shepherd claims that the Japanese whalers are acting illegally, but the show’s narration points out that the Japanese are exploiting a loophole in the anti-whaling treaty – whales killed for research purposes may be sold commercially. The Japanese declare their ships research vessels and examine the whale’s stomach contents before filleting.

The Sea Shepherd organization aims to stop them through laughably ineffective means.

One of the Sea Shepherd tactics is to use prop foulers (a heavy rope that could entangle a ship’s propeller) to disable the whaling ships. This is not likely, as the Captain of the Steve Irwin, Paul Watson, admitted in this exchange in last week’s episode:

“How effective are these prop-foulers?”
Captain Paul Watson:
“It’s more the threat of it than the actual effectiveness.”

Another ineffective tactic is to buzz the whalers in an inflatable speed boat. This led to the following piece of amusing narration in last week’s show:

“While the Shonan Maru 2 circles them, the deck crew prepares to launch the Delta [a small inflatable speed boat]. The Delta will be driven by Chad Halstead, an art student from New York. This will be his first time driving a small boat over the freezing Antarctic waters.”

I may be mistaken, but I believe Blackbeard prepared for his career as an anti-shipping activist in the Caribbean by studying art in New York.

The highlight of season two was when the Japanese whalers harpooned several whales as the crew of the Steve Irwin looked on impotently. I stood up and cheered the advancement in whale research! For that brief moment the crew almost seemed to realize that they are ineffectual and pathetic – but only for that brief moment.

The ante is upped in the third season, now airing. The Sea Shepherd fleet has added two more ships. In addition to the Steve Irwin, they now have the Bob Barker, and the Ady Gil. Former “Price is Right” host Bob Barker threw away $5 million to purchase a decrepit former whaling vessel for the Sea Shepherd fleet. The Ady Gil is a long distance speed boat that looks like something James Bond might drive.

The Japanese whalers have also added a security ship that has so far been effective in keeping the Sea Shepherd fleet away from their whaling activities. No word on how many extra whales the Japanese will have to “research” to pay for the addition of the security ship.

A quick google search reveals that yuks will keep coming. In upcoming episodes, the Ady Gil will collide with the Japanese whaler’s security ship and be destroyed (if you can’t wait, video and news story here). After the collision, the Captain of the Ady Gil, Pete Bethune decided to Jet Ski over to the Japanese ship and arrest its Captain. Instead, Bethune was detained, transported to Tokyo and charged with trespassing, damage to property, assault, forcible obstruction of official business and possession of an illegal knife. He faces up to 15 years if convicted.

Even the writers of “Dumb and Dumber” couldn’t have come up with that one.

If you like a touch of cruelty to your comedy, check out “Whale Wars”, Fridays at 8 PM central on Animal Planet.

South Park’s spot-on parody, “Whale Whores” can be viewed here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Last Week in Gatekeeping

Disturbing news out of Los Angeles. A correction from the Los Angeles Times:

In a Sunday Image article about hyaluronic acid, a skin-care ingredient and injectable filler, Dr. Nowell Solish was quoted as saying that if people change their minds after receiving an injection, there is an anecdote. It should have quoted him as saying there is an antidote.

Patient: Doc, ya got to do something about my hyaluronic acid treatment! Something must have gone wrong. It feels like my skin is on fire! I can take it any more! Help me! Oh Gawd!

Dr. Solish: There's nothing I can do about your symptoms, but they remind me of a funny story ....


The above LA Times correction was featured in last week's This Week in Gatekeeping on NARN, First Team. However, the amusing scenario afterward did not make it. Just before I delivered it (or at least a variation of it), my co-host John Hinderaker broke in with a subject change. It's available for your listening pleasure via the podcast. You can hear my heart break at about the 45:20 mark.

To be clear, I do not blame him. He didn't know it was coming. Probably thought I was done and/or floundering. Plus, he had to keep his eye on the clock, as it was his turn to run the show from the prime position, and we were close to the end of the hour. And during my turns in the prime position, I have no doubt that I have stepped on carefully prepared punch lines from John, Chad, JB, the Nihilist, Atomizer and any others I've shared the mic with over the years. It is a hazard of the job.

However, that doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Granted it's not THAT funny. But the contrast between antidote and anecdote, in the context of injectible acid skin treatment, was the *only* prepared material I looked forward to delivering in advance of last week's show. I was snickering just thinking about it on the drive down to the station. And then, after two long hours of broadcasting and cleanly delivering the set-up, a nanosecond before getting it out, the rug gets pulled out from under me. It's haunted me ever since.

But through the magic of Internet blog posting, it's all out there (up there) now. Cosmic balance has been restored. Now, I can sleep.

UPDATE: Listening to the podcast, I'm reminded that the reason for John Hinderaker's interruption was to correct the name of the band whose song he claims he sang in the shower every day for years. It was Blackhawk, not Ricochet. And the name of the song was "Every Once In A While."

It's also clear that he avoided the questions I asked him. What was that song about? Why did it obsess him the shower for all of those years? Maybe we can divine some meaning by studying the lyrics.

We go now to John Hinderaker's bathroom, circa 2003. It's early-morning. The rest of the house is dark. The only light to be seen is an eerie red glow from the overhead heat lamp. All is quiet except for the soft spatter of water against tile. Then, through the thick veil of steam billowing around the room from his characteristic and decadent 2 hour shower session, a familiar voice cries out:

When the moon is bright
On a Saturday night
There's a thousand stars in the sky
On a winding road her memory flows
She'll face the fact She wants to go back

She opens her heart to an old memory
She closes her eyes and she smiles
Just ask her if she ever still
Thinks about me
She'll say "Every once in a while,
Every once in a while"

She tries to forget
But she hasn't yet
Not a single day goes by
That feeling again reminds of when
I held her tight, it felt so right

She opens her heart to an old memory
She closes her eyes and she smiles
Just ask her if she ever still
Thinks about me
She'll say "Every once in a while,
Every once in a while"

And every once in a while
She calls my name out loud
And when she thinks about us
She'll face the fact
She wants to go back

She opens her heart to an old memory
She closes her eyes and she smiles
Just ask her if she ever still
Thinks about me
She'll say "Every once in a while,
Every once in a while"

Yes, it's all making sense now.

Half A Loaf

Company-supplied dinner rations for our evening train journey from Nanjing to Shanghai included the following:

One banana
One bottle water
One can Coke
Ten slices white bread

And nothing more. No jelly. No butter (either peanut or plain). Nothing to compliment the white bread in any way or allow you to have any semblance of a sandwich. I guess that's the price you pay when you travel with a large contingent of vegetarians in your group.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yo, Amy!

Seperated at Birth, senior US Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar:

And, junior pet shop clerk from Philadelphia, Adrian Pennino:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hatin' On The Club

My health insurance provider recently increased the number of health club visits required to receive a monthly discount. As a result, I'm at my local club nearly every other day. Visiting the club means spending time in the locker room, an activity that I resolutely abhor. Why, you may ask? Because men are filthy pigs.

Reason number one...lockers are provided for a reason so please make use of this service instead of spreading your stinky gym clothes and your disgusting shoes and all of your toiletries and everything else you own all over the floor in front of MY locker and on the bench that most civilized humans tend to use for sitting. You are a filthy pig.

Reason number two...just because you use your shower at home as a toilet and a place where you can empty the contents of your nose doesn't mean it is acceptable in a shower that other people have to use. You are a filthy pig.

Reason number three...while you may be very comfortable with your body this does not mean that you must subject everyone in the room to your disgusting nakedness as you brush your teeth and blow dry your hair and stand on the scale and slather on deodorant and do whatever else you like to do with your junk hanging out. Knock it off!!! Get out of the shower put a towel around yourself and spare us all from the freaking peep show. You are a filthy pig.

I could go on but I feel the blood vessels in my head pulsing very irregularly. Perhaps I ought to notify my health insurance provider of the downside that comes with requiring 12 visits a month. The less time spent with filthy pigs the better.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM. Me and John Hinderaker starting a string of two shows in a row together.

Special guest at noon, Peter Robinsion. Perhaps best known for his work at National Review Online as a columnist, blogger, and host of the web interivew series, Uncommon Knowledge. He was also formerly an aide and speechwriter for George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan. Robinson's recent WSJ editorial harkened back to those days in speculating what would Reagan do about our current illegal immigration problem. And his most recent endeavor is podcasting and writing at the web site Ricochet.

Plus Loon of the Week, This Week in Gatekeeping, and more. Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. And, don't forget at 9 AM, The King Banaian Show over at the Patriot's sister station, KYRC (Business 1570).

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

History Is Programmed By The Victors

In general, Filipinos are some of the friendliest people in the world. At times, they can also be among the more conspiratorial minded. The most recent example of that being this:

Santiago said she had watched on the History Channel a documentary on the assassination of Aquino's father, Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., and she could not see the reason Americans had to show this documentary on the death of Aquino's father, emphasizing the mastermind behind the killing had never been identified and so on, "and in effect glorifying his dad."

"In my mind, there is no doubt that his dad is a genuine national hero, but I'm very suspicious as a thinking Filipino citizen on why the Americans should suddenly show this kind of a documentary when the son is entering into public office," Santiago said.

"Hello, this is Nancy Duboc."

"Hello Nancy, this is President Obama."

"P-p-p-president Obama?"

"Yes, Nancy. Don't be nervous, I just have a small favor to ask."

"Okay. Certainly sir."

"As I'm sure you know, Benigno Aquino III was recently elected president of the Philippines. Turns out that the two of us share a lot in common. You might say that we're both excellent examples of the triumph of hope over experience. Neither of us really had much previous history running anything more than our campaigns for higher office. Both of us were elected by people desperate for change, who had unrealistic expectations and faith in our ability to improve anything and everything. It didn't take me long to shatter these false hopes and I expect that once he takes office, Aquino will also prove to be a disappointment to the faithful. But I like the cut of his jib and I'd like to build him up as much as possible before the inevitable fall. Besides any world leader who likes heaters is okay in my book."

"Um, sir...I'm not sure what this has to do with me..."

"Ah yes, the matter at hand. It's really quite simple Nancy. All I want you to do is have the History Channel run that documentary on his father. You know that one that shows him as a hero and national martyr? Putting the glow on the father has to rub off on the son. Understand?"

"Yes sir, I think so."

"Good. I expect that we'll see it on your schedule shortly."

"Of course sir. I'll get right on."

"Good night Nancy."

"Good night sir."

President Obama hangs up the phone, leans back on his Oval Office chair, and thoughtfully brings his fingertips together.


No Beer For You

We're taking a two-week hiatus from our regular Beer of the Week feature beginning this week. In the interests of fairness, we may present an opposing view to some of our past Beer of the Week reviews. Sort of like if the Fairness Doctrine was imposed and stations that normally broadcast Rush Limbaugh had to offer equal time to Ed Schultz. Enjoy this alternative perspective on beer for now. The EIBRF (excellence in beer review feature) will return in a few short weeks.

Learned Hand?

They're out there, spewing their condescending nonsense. They will tell you that you can't believe your own eyes, that watching paint dry is exciting. Only you can't understand it because you have an American perspective. You aren't sophisticated like the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Who are they? Obamaniacs? No, they are soccer fans. And they are buzzing with excitement about the World Cup.

As a red blooded American, you probably haven't given any thought to soccer. Most Americans don't. Football is king in the USA. Baseball, basketball and NASCAR are also royalty. Minor sports like hockey, golf and even figure skating receive American attention. Soccer fanatics think this is wrong. They use phrases like "real football," or "futbal." It upsets them that you ignore their game, but you are right.

To those who say that I'm ignorant of the game's strategy, beauty, or some other BS, I would respond that I played soccer through high school (and in a college intramural league) and I also have soccer coaching experience.

I'd add that soccer is a fine game to play. It's the ideal game for a parent who wants their kid to run around and get tired so they don't hassle them later in the day. It's fun if you are the one running aroung. However to a spectator it has the unusual distinction of being the only game I know of where it's more fun to watch third graders play than to watch the best players in the world. I enjoyed playing soccer, but I cannot stand watching it. I don't want to be subjected to it and you shouldn't either. Simply put, Americans are above watching soccer.

Objectively speaking, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Yet it isn't even on the radar in the United States. Why is that? I'd argue that it is because Americans are more evolved than foreigners.

Want proof? Per none other than economics guru King Banaian, it's an economic truth that Americans enjoy a higher standard of living than 99% of the world. I'd argue that this means that America's judgement on the value of things makes more sense than that of dirt-eating foreigners. If most prosperous people in the world think soccer sucks, but they love it in sub-Saharan Africa, who is correct? Ponder that.

I'd add that in addition to the soft science of economics, the hard science of biology argues against soccer. What separates man from the beasts? Our large and complex brains is the most prominent difference. And where our our brains? Inside our skulls. Skulls that are protected by helmets in exciting contact sports like football, baseball, and hockey. Not only does the sport of soccer offer no protection for the human head, it actively advocates banging ones head against a ball. Some say this is harmless, but can it possibly be good for you?

Evolutionary theory suggests that many animals posses intelligence, but only primates were able to develop into a higher species. And what separates primates from the lesser animals? One key aspect feature of higher primates is the thumb, or an opposable digit. Man's hand is an evolutionary wonder. Scientists argue that the development of an opposable thumb allowed man to develop tools and written language, which increased their intelligence. Dolphins are clearly an intelligent animal, but they never developed into an orderly society because they had no opposable digits. How do soccer players value the miraculous human hands? They make it illegal to use them. The rules of soccer fight against what makes man great.

Don't succumb to the pressure of the soccer bullies. It wouldn't be civilized.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Power Line: Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman were not “Bright”

It is rare when we disagree with our good friends at Power Line simply because it is rare for them to be wrong. But when they are wrong, they can be as wrong as Ron Gardenhire trying to fill the number two spot while Orlando Hudson is on the disabled list.

On Tuesday they had just such a post: Frank Tipler: Was Einstein "bright"?

I expected the post to be short, something like:
“Yes indeed, Albert Einstein was bright. He was indisputably very, very, very bright.”

Bizarrely, Power Line’s correspondent, Tulane Physics Professor Frank Tipler, took the contrary view:
“Let me add Albert Einstein to the list of great men who were not "bright," but whose achievements were extraordinary, whose accomplishments changed the course of human history.”

We are agreed that Albert Einstein’s accomplishments were extraordinary and changed the course of human history. But he was not bright? Explain yourself, Professor Tipler.

“Einstein was not offered any academic or research job after he obtained his Ph.D., but instead had to go to work in the Swiss patent office.”

“One of his professors, Hermann Minkowski, who was one of the teachers unimpressed by Einstein the student, is reported to have said, ‘How could such an idiot write such papers?’”

Professor Minkowski had the man who would soon upend the foundations of physics studying under his very nose and he sees him as an “idiot”. I submit that it is Professor Minkowski who is lacking in the “brightness” department.

“Hans Einstein, who never saw Albert Einstein as the ‘great genius’ but rather as ‘dad,’ told my friend that he did not think his father was particularly bright.”

Wait a minute; a son doesn’t think his father is very bright? Why, yes, that would explain why he would never lend Hans the car on Friday nights.

Professor Tipler’s case for Einstein’s lack of brightness is weak indeed. To compound his error, he sets his sights on another accomplished, but supposedly not so bright physicist, Richard Feynman:

“By Feynman's high school days, the Intelligence Test had been introduced to determine just who was really "bright." Feynman, alas, was not one of these. His I.Q. was a mere 125, according to James Gleick in his biography of Feynman, Genius, which, according to his I.Q., Feynman was not.”

Obviously that particular test was inaccurate and James Gleick agrees, or presumably he wouldn’t have titled his biography of Feynman “Genius” (an excellent book, by the way).

“When Feynman applied for admission to Princeton, the graduate admission committee almost rejected him because his score on the Graduate Record Examination was so low. The GRE placed him in the bottom 7 percent on the Fine Arts part of the exam.”

I can see the admissions interview now, “Well Feynman, I see you’ve recently been awarded one of the five Putnam Fellow awards in mathematics and you also have unprecedented prefect scores on our math and physics graduate entrance exams [according to Gleick]. Your M.I.T professors say that you are the finest undergraduate they’ve had in a number of years. I think you will make a fine addition to the Princeton Graduate Physics program … uh oh, wait a minute – it says here you placed in the bottom 7 percent on the Fine Arts exam. I’m afraid we’re going to have to give this some more thought.”

No, I think not.

The context of this preposterous downplaying of the “brightness” of Einstein and Feynman is an examination of the “brightness” of President Obama. Power Line argues that “brightness” is not really enough. The likes of Einstein and Feynman achieved greatness because they, unlike President Obama, could think outside the box and look at things in ways that hadn’t occurred to the supposedly “bright” people.

This is true enough. Einstein and Feynman would not have accomplished what they did without their ability to look beyond the conventional viewpoint. But it is equally true that they would not have accomplished what they did had they not been “bright” enough to do the math.

Only a Man In a Funny Red Sheet

It appears that Filipino president-elect Benigno Aquino III has learned a lesson from the experiences of his fellow smoker-in-chief Barack Obama and is seeking to downplay expectations before he assumes office:

Aquino said he is currently pre-occupied with "making a very good inaugural speech (since) I am trying to understand exactly what tradition calls upon me to do."

He said he is still drafting his speech.

"The target is to be as short as possible, but all encompassing," Aquino said, adding that he will "utilize it as a means of communication to the people."

"You have to be humble to say you are not Superman and Einstein combined. You don’t have all the solutions at your fingertips," he told reporters, informing them at the same time that he intends to have a three-day break and have some soul-searching.

Superman and Einstein combined? Now that would be quite a super hero. He could turn back time by reversing the rotation of the earth and explain the scientific theory behind it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Interesting Times, Interesting Times

"A leader with a fresh mandate must look forward rather than pontificate on the perceived ills of the past as if to cover up an absent or deficient positive agenda for action," he said.

"The supposed 'failures' of the past are pitfalls to avoid but not 'cadavers' for repeated exhumation," he said.

"A president must succeed or fail based on his own merit and performance," he said.

Words of wisdom indeed that appear especially apt at the moment. You may be wondering who uttered them. Jim DeMint? Paul Ryan? Bobby Jindal?

How about a member of the Filipino Congress:

President-elect Benigno Aquino III should not blame outgoing President Arroyo entirely for the problems facing his administration, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said yesterday.

While it seems like there's never a dull moment in American politics these days, when it comes to intrigue, the US political scene can't hold a candle to what's going on in the Philippines right now. The plots and subplots would strain credulity if they were part of a fictional television series. But this isn't TV, it's reality.

Filipino politics should hold particular interest to Americans since the system of government is largely based on that of the United States. There are three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The legislative branch consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Sound familiar?

There are some differences too. The president is elected by popular vote, serves a six-year term, and cannot run for re-election. Unlike the US, where voters select a ticket of president and vice president, in the Philippines, the vice president is also elected by popular vote. That has lead to a most unusual situation where newly elected President Benigno Aquino III (or Noynoy) will enter office with a vice president from another party, Jejomar Binay. While it's not theoretically possible in the United States these days, ponder the possibility of President Obama and Vice President Palin. Now that would be fun, wouldn't it?

But the political fun in the Philippines is just beginning. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (or GMA as she's commonly known) is the current president of the Philippines. But on June 30th, when NoyNoy Aquino takes the oath of office and assumes the presidency, GMA will not fade away from the political spotlight. Instead she will take a seat in the House of Representatives which she won in the May election. Imagine George W. Bush not retiring to his Crawford ranch to write his memoirs after turning over the reins to President Obama, but instead becoming a Congressman from Texas.

Oh and what if instead of being married with a couple of kids, President Obama had a thirty-year-old girlfriend who was also a political figure (and doesn't cut a bad one either)?

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said it's just proper for the media to give Aquino a "honeymoon" period of at least 100 days.

"Noynoy's honeymoon with the media is a given. It's his honeymoon with Shalani that I'm waiting for," Pimentel said in jest, referring to Aquino's girlfriend, Councilor Shalani Soledad of Valenzuela City.

A disparate cast of characters, conflict, and a love interest. The elements are all in place for a storyline that soap opera writers would envy. And even a few laughs:

Sen. Joker Arroyo also appealed to Aquino's critics to give him a break.

"There should be no heckling yet. Give the guy a break," said Arroyo, who served as executive secretary during the term of Aquino's mother, the late president and people power icon Corazon Aquino.

It should come as no surprise that a joker would call for a moratorium on heckling. And yet another similarity to our own politics. They've got a Joker in the Senate and so do we.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free the Fourth!

Teresa Collett, St. Thomas professor and GOP endorsed candidate for Congress in CD4, appeared on NARN last week and the podcast is now available here. She's an impressive candidate and has the people excited about her chances, as evidenced by the many calls we received.

If you'd like to support her campaign, the best way is with her Twenty For Teresa campaign. For a mere twenty bucks (cheap), this is the kind of representation we could be sending to Washington:

"By many estimates, each of us owes roughly $184,000 for the nearly $13 TRILLION national debt and today’s current politicians are adding and additional $6.8 million per minute in 2010.

I am committed to reigning in government spending and expansion, while encouraging innovation and expansion by entrepreneurs and small businesses. We can return common sense and fiscal restraint to Washington D.C. this fall, but it will take everyone’s help!” -- Teresa Collett

Needless to say, that kind of attitude would be a marked change from the End of Rome style spending decadence of the current occupant of that Congressional seat. (Details provided in the voluminous FL Betty McCollum archives).

Of course, this pattern didn't begin with Betty McCollum. For whatever reason, St. Paul and the 4th Congressional District has been sending liberal Democrats to Congress for generations.

The year was 1946, a young lawyer named Edward Devitt was elected as the last Republican to hold that seat. An unremarkable event, as nine of the previous 14 Representatives for the district were also Republicans. However, after serving only one term, he was decisively waxed in the next election by a young whippersnapper Democrat, and St. Thomas professor, Eugene McCarthy.

A future senatorial career and presidential run based on anti-war pacifism was merely a gleam in Gene's eye in 1948. According to Thomas Roeser in his fascinating account of the 1948 Minnesota elections, the 59% - 41% result against Devitt was a result of the following dynamics:

The big weapon that McCarthy had in the general campaign was Devitt's vote for Taft-Hartley, which rang hollow in that heavily Democratic and union labor district. McCarthy also was helped by a heavy avalanche of Democratic votes for [Hubert Humphrey] for the Senate—and at the tag end of the campaign, for Harry
Truman. By 9:30 p.m. on election night, it was clear that McCarthy was elected--by 24,902 votes (he estimated he might win by 5,000).

Roeser's account of how McCarthy won the highly contentious Democratic primary is even more entertaining:

When the radio said that [his opponent] was ahead by 5,000 with only about 3,000 votes left to be counted--almost sure defeat--one of McCarthy's volunteers, Elizabeth Dunn suggested they say the rosary. Since everyone was Catholic and had nothing else to do they agreed including Gene.

When they were on the third decade of the Joyful Mysteries (the birth of Christ), the phone rang and Dunn answered while everyone else was praying. It was Tony Blaha, a McCarthy volunteer at the courthouse who said, "I got good news!"

When Gene took the call, Blaha told him there had been a mix-up and they had counted the 11th ward--(a Barrett stronghold)--twice. McCarthy announced it. They finished the rosary and drove down to DFL headquarters at the Lowry Hotel. Twice they stopped to pick up newspapers: one edition said Barrett won, another McCarthy. By the time they got to the Lowry, he was ahead and a few lawyers volunteered to watch his interest in the canvass--which he won by 550 votes.

Victory through miraculous, catastrophic election judging error. Gene McCarthy was the Al Franken of his day. And on that wing and a prayer, thus began 61 years, and counting, of unbroken Democrat control of CD4.

After 10 years of McCarthy, Joseph Karth moved in for 18 years, followed by 22 years of Bruce Vento. Perhaps the most noteworthy achievement of either was from Karth, as detailed in his obituary in the Washington Post:

Mr. Karth served on the House Science and Aeronautics Committee and was chairman of its subcommittee on space sciences and applications.

... a Minnesota Vikings football fan, he named the Viking spacecraft, the first space vehicle to land on Mars.

I'm sure all Minnesotans are shocked to learn that the Viking spacecraft was actually successful and did not crash and burn just before reaching its goal of landing on the surface.

Which brings us to Betty McCollum, over her ten years most known for such spending hits as: The More Books for Africa Act of 2009.

From McCarthy to McCollum. After six decades, even the quality of the Democrat representation (if that's what you want) has not gotten any better.

It's time for a change. If not now, when? If not her, who? Collett in 2010.

Follicle Follies/Milquetoast Messenger

I've noticed a few similarities with two priests from different parishes here in town.

One, their hair. They have what look to be very expensive haircuts. There is "product" present. A hairdryer looks to have been used liberally. You can imagine one of those $40 hairbrushes they sell at the salons being employed. There was copious use of a mirror, maybe even one of those hand-held kind they give you at the barber before you say "Yeah, looks great!" even if you don't think so.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a priest having hair this good. Outside of my own petty jealousy, it is simply distracting to see this kind of hair spectacle at mass. The priest is not a performer up on stage trying to kick the footlights out again (Hag reference for those who are interested). He's not up there to wow us with his showbiz 'do and mastery of mousse (btw, do people still use that stuff? Such a dated reference!). It makes the man come across as a dandy, a gallant if you will, preening and primping for social approval while our souls languish.

But the hair is only the physical manifestation of their desire to be liked, to be "one of us" to show us that they too are sinners...Attention--we realize you sin too, but quit acting like you have no insight on this topic because otherwise why are we listening to you? Both priests constantly tell us during their homilies that they "don't have all the answers"...How about starting with a FEW? The main goal of the talks seems to be about them and their desire to be seen as just another troubled, foolish sinner with no particular training on the topic that might be relevant. Yup, just one of us. That whole "Shepard" thing? Outdated. Just another lost sheep...oh well, let's have donuts!

One of the utterances I really don't care to hear from a priest is the following: "I don't know." Both of the priests I am discussing use this phrase. I. Don't. Know. Again, why am I listening to you? You don't know? What don't you know? Are you confused? What I think they mean when they say this is "It sounds old-fashioned, divisive and patriarchical to stand up here and tell you How It Is (as Jesus defined it) so I'll just water everything down into a bland stew of milquetoast feel-goodisms and tell you what great people you are who could be maybe just be a little better."

They remind me of those corporate trainers who come to your workplace to teach you about Risk Management. Sure, they'll teach you some stuff, but their most important goal is to make sure you are happy with them because you will be filling out a rating card at the end of the training.

The actual training is secondary to being likeable.

But as the kids say, whatever. It's just our souls and our lives. Go ahead and schedule your next 3 week haircut and focus on your own personal feelings of happy approval of the congregation.

That's why we're here afterall.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Congressman Really Wants To Know

I'm sure most have you have already seen the video of Democrat Congressman Bob Etheridge assaulting a college student who dared to approach His Highness with a camera and a question.

The video exposes what seems to be an all too common and growing sentiment in Washington DC that our elected representatives are simply not to be questioned. We are expected to shut the hell up, do what they tell us to do and ignore the fact that most of these people are thin skinned dimwits.

The Congressman has been forced to come out with a statement that, frankly, only serves to emphasize this point:
“I have seen the video posted on several blogs. I deeply and profoundly regret my reaction and I apologize to all involved. Throughout my many years of service to the people of North Carolina, I have always tried to treat people from all viewpoints with respect. No matter how intrusive and partisan our politics can become, this does not justify a poor response. I have and I will always work to promote a civil public discourse.”
Couched is his apology is the implication that he was also somehow a victim. The question Etheridge was asked was simply "Do you fully support the Obama agenda?" To imply that this question is intrusive and/or partisan is absolutely laughable.

Now I know some of the lefties out there are going to argue that the intrusive part was putting a camera in the man's face but that notion is equally laughable. If Etheridge gave everybody who ever stuck a camera in his face the maniacal deathgrip headlock response that this young college student got every camera crew in DC and North Carolina would be hospitalized.

No, Congressman Bob Etheridge, Democrat from North Carolina, is a bitter and angry coward whose primary concern is most likely his re-election. Let's hope this video makes it into his opponent's campaign ad after, of course, it appears as evidence in an upcoming assault case against him.

Faith 101

One of the greatest challenges facing the Catholic Church (and all Christian churches in America for that matter) is keeping young believers active and engaged in the faith during their college years and beyond. It's an all too familiar and distressing to hear stories of those raised in faith who drift away during the critical years following high school. Some eventually do return to the church--often as a result of marriage and children--but many do not and find themselves separated from God and permanently of the secular world.

It's encouraging to learn that their are groups out there working to keep young people on the right path. Groups like Saint Paul's Outreach:

Saint Paul's Outreach was founded in 1985 by a group of Catholic young adults who felt a calling to help college students live out their Catholic faith. Over the past 25 years, thousands of students--enrolled at the University of St. Thomas, the University of Minnesota, the Ohio State University, Benedictine College, and Seton Hall University, along with many other universities--have come alive in their faith through the ministry of Saint Paul's Outreach. More than 125 alumni serve the Catholic Church as priests, religious, seminarians or novices, while others serve as teachers, business people, and lay leaders in the Church. Hundreds of others have gone on to experience fruitful marriages committed to raising their children with deep faith and strong character.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM.

After a rare and well deserved absence of 4 out of the past 5 weeks, John Hinderaker and I return to the studio to reacquaint ourselves with each other, figure out which end of the microphone to talk into, and run down the week that was.

HOT topics will include the most recent primary elections and what they portend for November, and an audio clip heavy tribute to Barrack Obama's handling of The Oil Spill.

Special guest at noon, Teresa Collett, GOP endorsed candidate for Congress in CD4. She's a Texan by birth, a St Thomas University Law Professor by trade and a vibrant, exciting candidate to face Betty McCollum in November. Is she the one to break the 64 year hammer lock the DFL has had on the Congressional seat? We'll dream the impossible dream and talk it up with Teresa Collett at noon.

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

Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey. And, don't forget at 9 AM, The King Banaian Show over at the Patriot's sister station, KYRC (Business 1570).

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LIX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the warm folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you keep on the sunny side of life.

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin--along with a few others like the August Schell's in New Ulm, Minnesota--occupies a middle ground between craft brewers and the macro brewing giants. They're too big to truly be considered craft brewers, but they also make an effort to produce a variety of more specialized beers that few of the big boys can match. In the case of Leinenkugel, they are actually owned by mega-global-conglomerate SAB Miller. However, they've managed to maintain a sense of independence and small town brewery feel that you can experience for yourself with a tour of the Leinenkugel facility (which I've taken three or four times over the years).

Most of the Leinenkugel's offerings (the original as well as the more recent craft efforts) are pretty pedestrian. Their 1888 Bock, Fireside Nut Brown, and Summer Shandy are good beers, but there are more misses than hits in the lineup. Their most popular beers, such as Red Lager and Honey Weiss, are not that much better than your typical macros which has no doubt helped given Leinie's a bad rep among the more discerning beer drinking. Which is unfortunate, because there is some wheat to be found among the chafe. Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat to be precise.

Sky blue framed label has Leinenkugel's logo and a bundle of wheat in front of a scene featuring a gorgeous sunset over a Northwoods lake. Hard to say summer better than that.

Beer Style: Witbier

Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

COLOR (0-2): Amber gold and cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Strong citrus (mostly orange) and berry. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white with good volume and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Wheat and fruit flavors are both strong and nicely balanced with a little coriander too. Light-bodied, refreshing, and very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp with a smooth fruity finish. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Like many summer beers, Leinie's Sunset Wheat is not for everyone. If you don't like even the hint of fruit flavors in your beer, you won't like this offering. But the fruit is not as overpowering here as it is in some beers. Leinie's has come up with a good combination of citrus and wheat. Even though it's offered year round, Sunset Wheat really is a summer beer. Leinenkugel's bills it as "like your very own sunset in a bottle" and it comes close to living up to the hype. Leave the Honey Weiss to the pretenders and make Sunset Wheat your Leinie's summer beer of choice. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

No Promises, No Demands

The 2010 World Cup is underway with host South Africa and Mexico squaring off on the pitch in the opening match (a nil-nil nailbiter at this point). I think it's high time for my fellow Americans to wake up and appreciate the beauty of the event. Not the alleged beauty of the sport itself mind you. No, the beauty of the United States of America being in a no lose position when it comes to the World Cup.

If we lose a match or even all of them, who really cares? 99.99% of Americans aren't going to lose any sleep if the US squad goes belly up and has an early exit. But if we happen to win--especially if we happen to beat a country that lives and dies on the outcome of that particular match--it's all gravy.

This happened back in 2002, when the USA stunned Mexico. Most Americans had no idea that their team had won and even most of those who did know were relatively indifferent. "We beat Mexico in soccer? Cool. What time is the Twins game tonight?" Meanwhile, the defeat was a crushing blow to pretty much all of Mexico. A black pall that was visible from the US southwest border states hung over the country for days. A game that meant nothing to most Americans, meant everything to Mexicans. You gotta love that.

The same scenario could be in play tomorrow when the USA meets England. An English victory is expected and if it happens, most Americans won't bat an eye. But if the US somehow beats England, it will be a catastrophic blow to English pride (what's left of it anyway) and opportunity for Americans to rub salt into the open English wound for years. Talk about a win-win. So tune in tomorrow and cheer for the US team. What have we got to lose?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South by Southwest

I missed most of Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals last night. I was at the Denver Airport and managed to catch some of the second period while seated in a bar and the last six minutes of the third while standing outside it with a group of other folks waiting to board our flight. We missed the overtime of course, but from the highlights I've caught today there wasn't much to see. I'm glad that the Blackhawks won the Cup, but it's always a bit of a letdown when a deciding game ends on such a soft goal. And I would have loved to see the two teams meet again in Game Seven. Still, it was a entertaining Finals and lived up to the expectations I had going in.

The flight from Denver to Minneapolis was my first flight on Southwest. There were no Delta flights available at the time I needed and I wanted to see if Southwest lived up to their customer service hype. It's hard to judge on only flight, but my experience last night hardly wowed me. It didn't help that the flight was delayed fifty minutes so we could wait for twenty-one passengers from a connecting flight. Such situations strain your ability to empathize with your fellow man. Yes, if I was in the shoes of those passengers, I would want the airline to hold the flight for me too. But as a guy at the gate more than ready to get home, it was difficult not to harbor the selfish impulse to say "Screw 'em, let's go!"

The service from the Southwest gate agent and flight attendants was ordinary. They were a little more casual in dress and attitude than most airlines, but other than that not much different. And I'm not sure about whether I like Southwest's' free for all seating scheme either. It did make boarding a bit more orderly--especially the lining up--but whether it’s a superior method to assigning seats is hard to say. It certainly wasn't on our flight when the twenty-one connecting passengers finally arrived and had to go up and down the aisles hunting for free seats (the coveted middle seat is yours). I definitely would fly Southwest again if necessary, but last night's experience did nothing to sway me to choose them over other airlines.

If people are mad at BP for ruining the environment, they might want to ask Avis why they hate the earth so much. The last two times I've been out to Colorado on business, the rental car firm has given me honking SUVs to drive. By myself. The previous time, it was a Ford Explorer. On this trip, I was handed the keys to a Chevy Suburban which could comfortably seat fourteen. Needless to say, I had plenty of room for the only thing I brought with me; my backpack. I didn't request this type of vehicle and I didn't pay more than I would have for the intermediate car that I asked for. They must have a surplus of SUV which they're trying to make use of. I don't mind driving 'em, but for all that I use it for, a medium-sized car would better fit my vehicular needs.

Alive and Kicking

The latest and greatest idea from the guys with narrow ties in the Fraters Libertas Marketing Department is braclets that say "WAWOK." The concept is a takeoff on the WWJD fad that swept the country some years ago. This time around we've updated the source of guidance and gotten a little more specific in the recommended action.

The next time you find yourself in a tricky situation and are unsure what to do next, simply consult the bracelet and ask yourself "Whose Ass Would Obama Kick?" under similar circumstances. The only drawback that might keep this idea from becoming the next pet rock is that as of yet there isn't much precedent in the area of ass kicking from President Obama. But we expect that to change any day now and when it does you can expect a gusher of demand for our WAWOK bracelets.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Calling It Like You See It

Been meaning to take a swing at last week's blown call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Armando Galarraga (roll your rrrs) a perfect game, but haven't had a chance to step up to the plate until now. I've been amazed by much discussion the incident has generated and how hot a topic it continues to be.

For starters, when it comes to instant replay in baseball, I'm generally sympathetic to the views espoused by Atomizer on the matter. It's not that I'm a misty-eyed traditionalist worried that replay will somehow taint the glory (overrated as it may be) of the game. Baseball has already gone through a lot of changes over the years, some good and some bad. But the core appeal of the game remains largely intact to this day and if artificial turf, the DH, inter-league play, steroids, and the Toronto Blue Jays winning a couple of World Series didn't destroy America's past-time, than instant replay surely won't either.

My concerns are on a more practical level. Firstly, baseball already has instant replay for to determine whether home runs are fair or foul. This is something that's fairly objective to determine with the benefit of instant replay. It's also similar to what the NBA and the NHL use instant replay for. The NBA only uses replay to determine if there was enough time left on the clock for the shot to count or to determine whether a shooter was beyond the three-point line. Essentially, the NHL only uses replay to determine if the puck went in the net (crossing the line or hitting the back bar and coming out). Both sports leave all the subjective calls (penalties, off-sides, fouls, etc.) up to the discretion of the referees.

The sport that employs replay extensively is football. The NFL's use of replay has expanded over the years and it now covers a variety of calls made on the field. Some are of the more objective variety: did the receive get both feet in, did the runner step out of bounce, did the field goal go through the uprights. Most people watching at home can see what happened in slow motion and arrive at the same conclusion as the replay official. But the NFL also has puts a lot of subjective calls up for review: did the runner get a first down, was the quarterback's arm going forward when he dropped the ball, did the receive catch the ball or trap it. Anyone who's watched a fair amount of the NFL knows that the way these calls will be interpreted by the replay officials is notoriously difficult to predict. Just when you think you understand the rule or its most current interpretation, a situation comes up that proves you wrong. This often happens to the announcers and analysts too, the "experts who are supposed to know how these things should be decided. So now, instead of fans being ticked because we got screwed by the ref on the field, we're ticked because we got screwed by the guy in the booth. Replay is not a panacea.

The biggest problem with instant replay in baseball is that I don't think there are bright lines that you can draw around its use. Sure, everyone can now say it should have been used to overturn the blown call by Joyce because it would have been the last out of the game and the next batter got out. But what if that call happened in the third inning of a perfect game instead of the ninth? The same day that Galarraga (he's grrreattt!) got screwed by Joyce, the Twins were screwed by a bad call at second base on a force play. It was in the tenth inning with guys on first and second. The guy from second ended up scoring the winning run after the runner going from first to second was ruled safe. There were two outs in that situation too so overturning the call would have ended the inning and continued the game. But what if there were only one out? Does the runner from second not score then and have to go back to third? With runners in play on other bases, it isn't simply a matter of using replay to determine whether the ball beat the runner to first (or second, third, or home on force outs), you also have to decide how that reversal impacts the other runners. Talk about subjective.

And if you're going to use replay for plays at first and force outs, are you also going to use it for tag plays? If the ball reaches the base before the runner and the fielder handles it cleanly, the umpire will usually call the runner out. When you watch replays, it's not uncommon to see cases where it looks like runner got his foot or arm in before the tag. It looks like. But you can also watch these replays again and again from different angles and still not determine if the runner was safe or out. Do we really want this kind of subjective situation left to replay where the judgment of the off field official may be no better than the umpire who made the original call on the field? What about trapped balls in the outfield? Sometimes it's clear when watching the replay of a catch in the outfield that the ump either blew the call or nailed it. Sometimes.

My point is that I don't see how you're going to expand instant replay in baseball without either getting into a quagmire of making almost everything subject to it or limiting it to very specific situations that leave people demanding that it be expanded further. Neither outcome seems like a good one either for fans or baseball itself.

The one bright spot in this whole matter was the Commissioner Bud Selig did the right thing (never thought I'd say that) and refused to over the call post facto. I was shocked by how many people whose opinions I usually respect were dead wrong about wanting to see the call overturned. This has already been argued ad nasuem, but a couple of points bear repeating. First off, Galarraga's perfect game was an individual achievement that he was denied because of the blown call. And as much as baseball--more than other sports--is about individual stats and stories, the fact remains that it's a team game. The Tigers won the game. If you're ever going to overrule a call after the game--and open a big ol' can of worms in the process--it can't be because one guy lost out on a chance for personal success.

But the best thing about the correct decision not to overturn the call is that it may provide what JB likes to call a "teachable moment" (groan) for the kiddies out there. For in American society today the expectation that every mistake can be fixed, every injustice (real or imagined) can be rectified, every wrong made right is predominate.

Don't like the grade you received middle school, high school, or even college? Have your parents appeal to your teacher or professor. Don't like the suspension you got for breaking team rules? Have your parents sue the athletic association, school district, and anyone else tangentially involved.

The old adage is true: life is not fair. Sometimes through no fault of your own, you will end up on the short side of the stick because somebody else made a mistake. And neither you nor anyone else will be able to change it. That's life. Recognize it, accept it, and move on.

And while you're at it, get some perspective. Being punished for a crime you didn't commit is an injustice. As John Hinderaker pointed in a post at Power Line, losing a perfect game is not:

But what about the "injustice" (strange word to apply in this context to a sporting event, but one I heard several times this morning) to Galarraga? To be sure, he won't be on the list of official perfect games. However, his near-perfect game will be remembered long after most perfect games have been forgotton. For example, I've already forgotten who pitched the second perfect game of this season not long ago.

Finally, Galarranga experienced no more "injustice" by virtue of umpiring error than other pitchers experience when a fielding error spoils a perfect game. Of course, instant replay can correct umpire (but not player) error. I just don't think it's worth the damage such a change in the rules would inflict on the game.

There's more than enough real injustice in the world. Can we stop harping on faux injustices, creating victims who don't really exist, and righteously calling for redress in situations that neither merit nor require it? Remember that what Armando Galarrago was denied was a perfect game. A baseball game. And however noble and worthy the traditions of baseball may be, that's what it is and always will be. It's not life or death. It's just a game.