Saturday, July 31, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM. Pending any last minute invites to the Chelsea Clinton wedding, I believe John Hinderkaner and I will both be in studio and ready to "rock the talk".(tm pending)

HOT topics this week include the Arizona immigration law, the MN gubernatorial primary, and of course the Chelsea Clinton wedding. We'll cover it all, more or less.

Special guest at noon, the great John Nolte of Big Hollywood. John is the editor of that flagship website of the Breitbart empire, so we'll talk a little bit about their increasingly prominent role in the news cycle. But mostly we'll focus on his main area of expertise -- the movies. My opinon is that it's been mostly a lousy year at the cinema. We'll see if the best movie reviewer on the Internet (or anywhere else) has uncovered any gems we've overlooked and preview what's coming yet this summer.

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, King Banaian 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, July 30, 2010

Collateral Damage in the War on Big Business

The Star Tribune reports on what it calls “A bizarre extortion tale of the South Pacific”. It is a bizarre story indeed, featuring a naval officer who, with his wife and sister-in-law, admits to extorting money out of his parents and sister.

What makes the story odd is what the perpetrators were able to get their victims to believe:

In January 2005, Richard and Joan Rosetter, a farm couple from Granite Falls, visited San Diego, where their son, David, was stationed with his wife, Fia. While there, they met Fia's sister Tau, who was living with David and Fia Rosetter.

During that time the parents were told that employees of Wal-Mart were conducting surveillance on the family. Why? Because Wal-Mart didn't want to pay a worker's compensation claim to Tau, a former Wal-Mart employee who had broken her foot falling off a ladder.

I suppose this is credible – if Wal-Mart suspected fraud, they could conceivably place an ex-employee under surveillance in hopes of videotaping her jogging or something.

The story would become more sensational nine months later, according to the FBI.

In September 2005, Luann Rosetter received a telephone call from her brother. David told her that Wal-Mart employees wanted to kill him for helping Tau take Wal-Mart to court over her worker's compensation claim. Tau would be on disability for the rest of her life, he said, and Wal-Mart would rather kill her than pay the claim.

Two months later, in November 2005, David and Fia visited Luann's home in Rapid City, S.D. According to the FBI, they convinced Luann that hit men from "Los Burritos" or the "Dreaded Burrito Gang" had been hired to kill the entire family.

Who would possibly believe that a 180 billion dollar company would conclude that it made better business sense to hire the “Dreaded Burrito Gang” to kill multiple people rather than pay a disability claim? Gullible television and movie viewers, that’s who. The story probably rang a bell in the victim’s minds due to the countless movie plots, John Grisham novels, and Law & Order episodes where big businesses do bizarrely evil things to save trivial amounts of money.

According to the Strib story, federal authorities called it, “one of the oddest, made-for-TV-type cases they have ever seen”. Except of course, in the TV version, the evil corporation actually WOULD HAVE hired the Dreaded Burrito Gang to kill everyone.

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the fiery folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you have a devil of a good time exploring the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Without further adieu, let's get to this week's beer. From the bowels of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Surly Brewing has once again unleashed Hell:

Finally, a Surly beer my German mother will drink. She says this one tastes like a bier from back home. Not unlike a Zwickel Bier from Germany, Hell is our filtered and fermented with lager yeast, American hops takes a back seat to the Pils malt sweetness and fresh bread aroma. The color is well...hell (Deutsch for light). It's fiendishly drinkable, and you don't have to sell your soul to get another.

If you're wondering what the hell a zwickel beer, you're not alone. Kellerbier:

Kellerbier, also Zwickelbier, or Zoigl, is a type of German beer which is not clarified or pasteurised. Kellerbier can be either top or bottom fermented. The term Kellerbier literally translates as "cellar beer", referring to its cool lagering temperatures, and its recipe likely dates to the Middle Ages. In comparison with most of today's filtered lagers, Kellerbier contains more of its original brewing yeast, as well as vitamins, held in suspension. As a result, it is distinctly cloudy, and is described by German producers as naturtrüb (naturally cloudy). Kellerbier and Zwickelbier are often served directly from the barrel (for example, in a beer garden) or bottled.

Originally the term Zwickelbier, which is often used to describe a weaker and less full-flavored Kellerbier, was used to refer to the small amount of beer taken by a brewmaster from the barrel with the aid of a special siphon called the Zwickelhahn. Nowadays in Germany Zwickelbier is commercially available in large amounts, usually as a bottom-fermented, but often also as a top-fermented (Kellerweizen).

Got that? Good.

As usual per Surly, Hell comes in a can. Bright aluminum with a devilish font and green flames spreading from the center.

Beer Style: Kellerbier

Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

COLOR (0-2): Light gold and very clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Mostly bready and fruity with a whiff of hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white with good volume. Leaves a nice consistent lacing in the glass. 2

TASTE (0-5): Nice mix of sweet malt, bread, with lighter hop and citrus flavors. Light-bodied, smooth, with a crisp finish. Highly drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasantly clean. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Not your son's Surly, Hell is definitely the most approachable offering from a brewery known for pushing the limits. Those who are scared off by the heavy hops and intense flavors associated with other Surly brews need not fear Hell. Surly fans can also find comfort in Hell, which, while not as exciting as some of their beers, is a well-crafted lager that goes down easily on hot summer days. Leave it to the Surly guys to give their lightest, most refreshing, thirst-quenching offering a name associated with fire, brimstone, and eternal agony. The only thing that may stop discerning beer drinkers from going to Hell is its limited availability and that fact that its priced in the same range as other Surly brews. Personally, I say forget about the cost and say, what the Hell. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Immigrant House

The following quote from U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton in today's Wall Street Journal:
"By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a 'distinct, unusual and extraordinary' burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose."
... reminds me of this scene in Animal House where Boon and Otter comment on Neidermeyer's treatment of Delta house pledge Flounder (important bit at about the 1:03 mark):

An Echo on Choice

Another nugget worth its weight in gold from the Journolist treasure trove:

Ryan Avent, then blogging for the Economist and now an editor there, agreed that criticizing Palin's experience might not work. "I really don't think the experience argument needs to be made by the Dems. It's completely obvious to any reasonable person. Instead, hammer away at the fact that she has terrible positions on things like choice, and on the fact that she has no ideas on the issues important to people," he wrote.

The biggest driver of liberal media bias is not a grand conspiracy to alter the news--although the Journolist disclosures show there was more coordination and conspiring going on than most would have imagined. The chief reason that the news is more often than not tinged with a leftist perspective is that the vast majority of people in the newsrooms, studios, and offices of the traditional media roughly share the same ideological mindset. And, since the people they work and live with generally have the same views they do, they assume that this mindset is shared by the majority of Americans. Well, at least the majority of reasonable Americans.

When Avent says that Palin "has terrible positions on things like choice," everyone on the Journolist knows exactly what he's talking about and agrees with him. What reasonable person wouldn't? The use of language is also telling. Now when I read Avent's words about "choice" I know exactly what he's talking about. But this isn't how most people talk about abortion. And if you told the average American that Palin has "terrible positions on choice" they might well ask what the hell you're talking about. A choice about what?

ABORTION! ABORTION! ABORTION! The semantic games that abortion supporters play betrays that fact that they know how unsettling the word is. If abortion is such a swell "choice," why not come out and say that you're pro-abortion. Heck, I'm willing to drop the "pro-life" label (at least when it comes to abortion) if the "pro-choice" crowd would be willing to be honest about what they really support. One side is anti-abortion and one side pro-abortion. Let's stop playing word games.

Avent and his fellow Jounolisters might also want to reconsider whether Palin really has "no ideas on the issues important to people" given that polls continue to show that Americans Are More "Pro-Life". Just not the Americans in the newsrooms, studios, and offices of the media.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Endings

Detroit Free Press sports columnist Mitch Albom recently won the AP Sports Editor (APSE) award for lifetime achievement. KC Star sports columnist Jason Whitlock used this occasion to comment on the depressing state of the newspaper industry.

The bone of his contention is that Albom is a proven exaggerator and outright fabricator in his columns. He never let the facts stand in the way of creating a good story for publication:

Albom is and always has been the king of feel-good fairy tales about dead sources, make-believe dead people in heaven … and any other source willing to keep quiet while Albom poured syrup and exaggeration on some cute anecdote.

Albom is not unique in this regard, nor is the phenomenon limited to sportswriters. It seems every metro area bred these ethically challenged storytellers in the guise of sports and news columnists in the 80s and 90s. Or maybe they've always been with us, and I just started paying attention in this time frame. But the Twin Cities should have been so lucky to have one that merely twisted and made up the facts to provide "cute anecdotes". Instead, our variations were vicious partisan hacks who used the rarefied real estate of the local monopoly newspapers to advance social agendas, attempt to manipulate elections, demonize those that disagreed with them politically, and generally poison the public life of the community. In part, because of this, an entire generation of potential readers have been turned off to the idea of ever subscribing to the the mainstream newspapers in town.

Whitlock addresses this issue, and the decline of newspapers generally, focusing on another relevant dimension, the poor quality of columnists that a monopoly environment created:

We keep selling the copout excuse that the economy is the reason we're failing. Or that young people are too stupid to realize how good we are. It's all bull****.

We refused to change. .... We remained beholden to an APSE contest that in no way takes into account context, impact, relevancy, traction or innovation.

That approach is fine and dandy when there's no competition and local newspapers printed money. You can ignore your readers and put out content targeted at contest judges when there’s no place else for readers to go.

Unfortunately, it's 2010 and not 1986. You don't need the newspaper to find out what's playing at the movies, or what the weather is going to be like, or what's on TV, etc. The things that made newspapers essential can be found other places.

We now have to survive on creativity, original ideas and innovation. Television, YouTube, laptops, blogs, Twitter and cell phones have made narrative sports writing less valuable. It's made fictional, feel-good, narrative bull**** far more risky.

Heh, it's true. A lament from back in the days when our monopoly newspapers were still riding high was not only that they have us an unremitting stream of one political perspective, but that is was also a crappy unremitting stream, quality-wise. But as long as people needed to find out what was at the movies or sell their used cars, the captive audience would be there, there would be no incentive for improvement, and these people would be given a podium from which to lazily pontificate and hector us for the rest of our lives. It all seemed to dark and dismal.

But then the Internet happened. And everyone lived happily ever after. Thanks again Al Gore.

Free to Fail

In the August 2nd edition of National Review Ramesh Ponnuru reminds Republicans that supporting free markets does not mean blindly supporting big business (sub req):

"The problem we have had as a party is we have often confused being pro-market with being pro-business," says Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). When businesses ask for earmarks, too many of his colleagues think that saying yes is the right thing to do. Ryan believes that Republicans should run against "crony capitalism," in which government selects some firms for favors.

Most Republicans already favor a policy of "no more bailouts." It is a popular position. Arthur Brooks, the author of The Battle, a new book about the cultural dimension of our economic debates, explains, "Most bailouts are seen as indefensible morally because they attenuate accountability." But to make the Republicans' slogan credible requires two additional steps. First, they have to push for policies that prevent financial firms from reaching the point at which bailouts are necessary to prevent economy-wide instability. Tighter limits on leverage should probably be on that list. Second, they ought to have plans to reprivatize the economy: to unwind the government's ownership stake in the automakers, for example.

Corporate welfare is also an inviting target. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the Market Access Program: These federal programs are taxpayer subsidies to corporations. If an investment makes economic sense, a company should make it on its own. If it doesn't, no one should. Tax breaks for corporations should be reformed, too, with some extended to all companies and some abolished.

With corporations facing almost daily assaults from Democrats and the Obama Administration (when they're not busy accepting campaign contributions from the same companies they vilify), it's almost an instinctive reaction for Republican pols to step in and seek to defend corporate interests. And sometimes these interests do deserve defending. But the GOP needs to be careful not to fall into the trap of standing up for big business solely because of the Democrats' public demagoguery against it. Many of the same businesses that are now feeling the scorpion's sting were all too happy to sign on for the trip across the river once the Democrats were in power.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Security is a Wet Blanket

Joe Carter captures some of the same feelings of ambivalence that I have for the Tea Party movement and calls for a new age of political and governmental inactivity in a post at First Thoughts:

What should I make of the Tea Party movement? For the past year I've pondered that question without ever arriving at a definitive answer. As a conservative I'm leery of populism--even right-wing populism--and fads--especially right-wing fads. I remember how Ross Perot and the Reform Party used to sing some of the same tunes--and I remember where that led (three words: Governor Jesse Ventura). If the Tea Party is some political equivalent of a Perot tribute band, then I think I'll skip this season's concert.

My natural revulsion to political rallies, protest speeches, and vague agendas, also makes me want to keep my distance. Nevertheless, I am sympathetic to opposition to governmental growth and fiscal irresponsibility. And if the Tea Partiers are able to use political rallies, protest speeches, and a vague agenda as spears to gore Leviathan, then more power to them.

But I think the movement is unlikely to succeed, not because of an underlying vice but because of an inherent virtue: an excess of enthusiasm. Rather than a Tea Party, I think we need it's opposite, a Wet Blanket Party--a political movement designed to sap any and all enthusiasm for political and governmental activity.

Count me in. Or don't, whichever requires less activity. If the Wet Blanket Party appellation doesn't catch on, a possible alternative is the "Do Nothings." Sometimes doing nothing can be a real cool hand.

More Dots

Amidst all the brouhaha over the Wikileaks release of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan, one of the more interesting angles is the existence of reports that Bolster Suspicion of Iranian Ties to Extremists (WSJ-sub req):

In recent years the Taliban toned down their sectarian rhetoric and reached out to Iran, pledging friendly relations with all of Afghanistan's neighbors should they return to power. Iran has long called for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan.

One of the more remarkable reports describes a November 2005 trip that departed from Iran in which Mr. Hekmatyar, the militant leader, and Osama bin Laden's financial adviser traveled to North Korea to close a deal with the North Korean government to obtain remote-controlled rockets to use against coalition aircraft in Afghanistan.

"The shipment of said weapons is expected shortly after the new year," the report said.

Several reports describe Iran as a hub of planning activity for attacks on the Afghan government. A May 2006 report describes an al Qaeda–Hekmatyar plot to equip suicide bombers and car bombs to attack Afghan government and international targets—using cars and equipment obtained in Iran and Pakistan.

By April 2007, the reports show what appears to be even closer collaboration. A report that month describes an effort two months earlier in which al Qaeda, "helped by Iran," bought 72 air-to-air missiles from Algeria and hid them in Zahedan, Iran, in order to later smuggle them into Afghanistan.

Iran, the Taliban, al Qaeda, and North Korea working together to thwart U.S. interests in Afghanistan? Seems like a pretty reasonable assumption to me. Many on the Left will scream "Impossible!" and continue to deny even the possibility of such connections existing.

You have to wonder if there isn't some head-spinning going on in liberal circles--such as the New York Times editorial board--over what has emerged from the Wikileaks release. On the one hand, they applaud when classified information that may damage an on-going war effort is leaked against the express wishes and interests of the U.S. government. On the other, further allegations of Iran working with al Qaeda and the Taliban contradicts their narrative that the U.S. has nothing to fear from the Iranian regime and that we could all get along just swell if we just sat down and had tea with our friends in Iran.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Uncharted Waters

Those who seek to defend the budgets of President Obama and the Congressional Democrats often argue that the huge outlays that we're seeing now are necessary to save the economy from the damage inflicted during the Bush years. And besides how can conservatives complain about deficits when their sainted Ronald Reagan ran up staggering deficits of his own as the economy recovered from recession in his first term? They'd like us to believe that what President Obama is dealing with now--in terms of spending, unemployment, and even presidential popularity--isn't all that different from what President Reagan did in 1982. And that worked out pretty well in the end, didn't it?

The reality is that what we're seeing now early in the Age of Obama is worlds away from the Age of Reagan. An editorial in today's WSJ explains the fiscal disparities:

Mr. Obama inherited a recession, so let's give him a pass on the budget numbers for 2009. Clearly the deficit would have been large no matter who was President, even if the David Obey-Nancy Pelosi $862 billion stimulus made it larger than it otherwise would have been. What's striking about the latest budget estimates, however, is that the White House is predicting the numbers won't improve much through 2011, the third year of the President's term.

As a share of the economy, the White House now says the deficit in fiscal 2010, which ends on September 30, will be even larger than in 2009: 10%. That's after a full year of economic growth, given that the recovery began last summer. More remarkable still, the deficit will barely fall in fiscal 2011, declining only to 9.2% of GDP in the second year of a recovery that ought to be gaining steam.

To put this in historical context, consider the nearby table that compares deficits as a share of GDP under Presidents Reagan and Obama. The 1981-82 recession was comparable in severity to the one Mr. Obama inherited and reached similar heights of unemployment. The deficits that resulted from that recession were the source of huge political consternation, with Democrats, the press corps and even some senior Reagan aides insisting that only a huge tax increase could save the country from ruin.

Yet as the table shows, the Reagan deficits never reached more than 6% of GDP, and that happened only in 1983, the first year of economic recovery. As the 1980s expansion continued, the deficits fell, especially as the pace of spending slowed in the latter part of Reagan's second term. Few remember now, but when Ross Perot won 19% of the Presidential vote in 1992 running more or less on the single issue of the deficit, the budget hole was only 4.7% of GDP

The Obama deficits are double that, and more than one-third higher than even the Gipper's worst year. What explains this? Part of it is that Democrats are simply spending much more, sending outlays as a share of GDP above 25% for the first time since World War II. The White House now says outlays will be higher in 2011, at 25.1% of GDP, than at the height of the stimulus in 2009 and 2010.

This is an ironic tribute to the degree to which Democrats on Capitol Hill have been increasing spending willy-nilly below the media radar. The 111th Congress is the most spendthrift in a century outside of World Wars I and II.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE and in full effect this morning at 11 AM. After a rare and well-deserved absence the last 3 weeks, I'm ready to rejoin the broadcast with John Hinderaker and continue our crusde to create something worth listening to on Saturday mornings.

HOT topics will include the Shirley Sherrod imbroglio, the extension of unemployment beneifts (and whether or not that applies to unpaid radio show hosts who take a lot of time off), and the developmnets in the run up to the 2010 elections.

Special guest at noon, Jamie Weinstein, Deputy Editor of the Daily Caller. They've owned the "Jounolist" story so far, with their continuing series on what the liberal journalists were saying when they thought they were behind closed doors. We'll discuss what's been revealed so far, what it means, and what is yet to come from the Daily Caller.

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, July 23, 2010

This Great Game

In the August/September edition of First Things David B. Hart waxes philosophically on America's greatest contribution to humanity:

My hope, when all is said and done, is that we will be remembered chiefly as the people who invented--who devised and thereby also, for the first time, discovered--the perfect game, the very Platonic ideal of organized sport, the "moving image of eternity" in athleticis. I think that would be a grand posterity.

I know there are those who will accuse me of exaggeration when I say this, but, until baseball appeared, humans were a sad and benighted lot, lost in the labyrinth of matter, dimly and achingly aware of something incandescently beautiful and unattainable, something infinitely desirable shining up above in the empyrean of the ideas; but, throughout most of the history of the race, no culture was able to produce more than a shadowy sketch of whatever glorious mystery prompted those nameless longings.

The coarsest and most common of these sketches--which has gone through numerous variations down the centuries without conspicuous improvement--is what I think of as "the oblong game," a contest played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other's territory to deposit some small object in the other's goal or end zone. All the sports built on this paradigm require considerable athletic prowess, admittedly, and each has its special tactics, of a limited and martial kind; but all of them are no more than crude, faltering lurches toward the archetype; entertaining, perhaps, but appealing more to the beast within us than to the angel.

Mr. Hart is a thinker of the highest caliber and his credentials as a true lover of the game are indisputable. After all, he's an Orioles fan:

These--and I shall close on this thought--are the great moral lessons that only a game with baseball's long season and long history and dramatic intensity can impress on the soul: humility, long-suffering, dauntless love, and inexhaustible faith in the face of invincible misfortune. I could no more abandon my Orioles than I could repudiate my family, or my native heath, or my own childhood--even though I know it is a devotion that can now bring only grief. I know, I know: Orioles fans have not yet suffered what Boston fans suffered for more than twice the term of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness, or what Cubs fans have suffered for more than a century; but we have every reason to expect that we will. And yet we go on. The time of tribulation is upon us, and we now must make our way through its darkness, guided only by the waning lights of memory and the flickering flame of hope, not knowing when the night will end but sustained by the sacred assurance that whosoever perseveres to the end shall be saved.

As a Twins fans I appreciate M. Hart's plight, but hope that the dark night of the souls of Orioles fans continues at least through this weekend.

Beer of the Week (Vol LXIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the fruity folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you turn all of life's lemons into lemonade.

What the heck is "shandy" anyway? At first blush, it sounds like a description of what I find in my youngest son's diaper following a day of sand eating.


Shandy, or shandygaff, is beer flavoured with ginger beer or ginger ale. Carbonated lemonade or citrus-flavored soda may also be used. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, normally half-and-half. Shandy that is sold canned or bottled is typically much weaker (about one part beer to ten parts soda).

In Germany, this type of drink is called a Radler ( German for "cyclist"). In France, it is called a panaché ("mixed").

In some jurisdictions, the dilution of shandy (and thus its low alcohol content) makes it exempt from the laws that govern alcoholic beverages.

Sounds like a clever way to avoid the revenuers. However, our featured beer this week is not that diluted. It's a shandy made with lemonade that checks in at 4.2% ABV. From Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin we have Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.

Standard brown bottle. Label follows Leinenkugel's pattern with yellow colors, lemons galore, and a fresh summer look.

Beer Style: Fruit beer

Alcohol by Volume: 4.2%

COLOR (0-2): Very cloudy, yellowish tan. 2

AROMA (0-2): Lemony freshness. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white. Good volume off the pour but fades fast. Lacing would disappoint Saint Paul. 1

TASTE (0-5): Strong lemon flavors from start to finish combined with lighter wheat. Light bodied with a lot of carbonation. Very refreshing and drinkable. 2

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Somewhat hollow. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Another seasonal beer that will definitely not appeal to everyone (I imagine the Nihilist in Golf Pants disapproves). But on those all too infrequent sweltering days of summer, it has its place, especially when consumed outside. It quenches your thirst and makes for a good lawn mowing beer. The carbonation and citrus content mean that you're probably only going to want to quaff a couple at any one sitting, but that one or two will hit the spot. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 11

ADDENDUM: The entire list of Fraters Beer Ratings has been updated at long last. It now includes four-hundred-and-sixty-one beers from around the world and the states.

Nihilist Rebutts (sans graphic): Actually, I find Chad's comment about this beer having it's place on a sweltering summer day to be spot on. On a recent golf trip, I successfully fought off the heat with a few Summer Shandys. It was far more flavorable than the dull alternatives at the clubhouse bar after the exhausting labor of pushing a tee into the ground.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Wrong Kind of Therapist

The stories of Al Gore's fondness for the "healing touch" of massage just keep getting better and better:

The first incident allegedly took place at a Beverly Hills luxury hotel when Gore, 62, was in Hollywood to attend the Oscars in 2007.

The second reportedly occurred a year later at a hotel in Tokyo.

A Beverly Hills hotel source told The ENQUIRER:

"The therapist claimed that when they were alone, Gore shrugged off a towel and stood naked in front of her.

"He pointed at his erect penis and ordered her, 'Take care of THIS.'"

You've got to give Gore credit. If you're going to have a sex scandal, you might as well have a good one full of juicy tidbits and embarrassing details.

Say what you will of Bill Clinton and his philandering ways, but at least he has that devilish charm going for him. I'm sure he has used it to his advantage over the years with women to help procure certain services that he was in need of. "I feel your pain, now can you feel my..."

From what we've learned so far, there's none of that with Gore. Instead we see that same lack of warmth, humanity, and sense of self that cost him the 2000 election. Whereas Bill Clinton seems to operate as the confident lothario who knows what he wants and how to get it, Gore is trying to pretend to be a playa without having any of the requisite skills. The reported manner in which he tried to get his needs met and the lines he used betray a man in a position of power who's still so insecure about his status with women that has to put on an obviously false front of bravado. One wonders if the painfully awkward nature of Gore's advances ever lead any of these women to simply burst out laughing

You would think that his celebrity political and environmental status would enable him to have plenty of nubile liberal babes willing to call out "Al!," yet instead he chose to seek satisfaction from women he was already in a lopsided power arrangement with due to his position as a paying client. There's a lode of psychological gold waiting to be mined there.

Scenes From the Class Struggle

Last year, I read and was quite impressed with Angelo Codevilla's book Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft.

Earlier this week, Vox Day hepped me to an excellent piece by Mr. Codevilla called America's Ruling Class--And the Perils of Revolution. It's lengthy, but well worth perusing. Codevilla's analysis of the divide between America's ruling class and the ruled (or what he calls "the country class") and what it means in terms of economics, politics, the family, and religion is astute and disturbingly accurate.

A few highlights:

Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith's characterization of America as "private wealth amidst public squalor" (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest's complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).

At stake are the most important questions: What is the right way for human beings to live? By what standard is anything true or good? Who gets to decide what? Implicit in Wilson's words and explicit in our ruling class's actions is the dismissal, as the ways of outdated "fathers," of the answers that most Americans would give to these questions. This dismissal of the American people's intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance is the very heart of what our ruling class is about. Its principal article of faith, its claim to the right to decide for others, is precisely that it knows things and operates by standards beyond others' comprehension.

While the unenlightened ones believe that man is created in the image and likeness of God and that we are subject to His and to His nature's laws, the enlightened ones know that we are products of evolution, driven by chance, the environment, and the will to primacy. While the un-enlightened are stuck with the antiquated notion that ordinary human minds can reach objective judgments about good and evil, better and worse through reason, the enlightened ones know that all such judgments are subjective and that ordinary people can no more be trusted with reason than they can with guns. Because ordinary people will pervert reason with ideology, religion, or interest, science is "science" only in the "right" hands. Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them.


The country class actually believes that America's ways are superior to the rest of the world's, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. Thus while it delights in croissants and thinks Toyota's factory methods are worth imitating, it dislikes the idea of adhering to "world standards." This class also takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this class in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party. You do not doubt that you are amidst the country class rather than with the ruling class when the American flag passes by or "God Bless America" is sung after seven innings of baseball, and most people show reverence. The same people wince at the National Football League's plaintive renditions of the "Star Spangled Banner."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Risk

The old adage goes "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." And in general, that advice is well taken. However, when one is asked to render an opinion about a specific person, place, or thing, it's necessary to suspend that particular guidance. Because if I had to say something nice about Michael Bronte's book Presidential Risk, I would be at a loss for words.

I don't like giving up on books. No matter how dense or dull the material may be, once I crack the cover, I'm determined to finish the book or die trying. In reality, I've probably bailed on more books over the years than I realize, but it's become something of a point of pride that I slog my way through them and if I don't, I almost regard it as a personal failing. Which is silly, since the true fault should lie with the author for not providing more compelling content.

Having said that, I admit to not being able to finish "Presidential Risk." Lord knows I tried. No matter how times I put it down vowing "no mas," I picked it up again, hoping that the next chapter would provide enough of a ray of hope to carry on. But I have now reached my breaking point and I can't standz no more.

It shouldn't have ended like this. Based on the synopsis, this is a book I could have enjoyed:

When dead presidents in a supernatural world play the board game of world conquest, their moves are carried out in the human world.

Leaders are born and dictators rise to power as presidents past, such as Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and others, plot their moves. One of them makes a move, and invasion takes place on Earth.

In the supernatural world, it's about strategy, wits, and the will to win. But on Earth, it's an action and adventure story featuring a psychopathic dictator threatening the United States, and the boy who will grow up to stop him from taking over the world. It might seem impossible, but history is being determined before it actually happens.

I like the game Risk. I like politics. I like history. I'm even partial to a bit of science fiction on occasion. But there was nothing for me to like about "Presidential Risk." I suppose I could say it has a unique concept. That however does not make for a good story if the execution is poor. And here it was terrible.

As the synopsis notes, "Presidential Risk" unfolds in two world, one human and one supernatural. The chapters set in the real world actually aren't that bad. If the book only contained that storyline, I have no doubt that I would have finished it. It's the supernatural world of dead presidents (and other leaders) that makes "Presidential Risk" annoying and ultimately unreadable.

Bronte's efforts in this world to be clever are stupid. To be interesting, inane. To be funny, painfully awkward. After a while, I began to wonder if this world was actually a parody intended to be a send-up of bad science fiction writing. But eventually I had to conclude that it was all too real and all too awful.

Life's too short to read lousy books. And I've already wasted too much time on this one.

What They Really Really Want

The Journolist story offers so much meat to chew on that it's still difficult to determine which cuts are the richest. So far, my personal favorite has to be this one:

"Part of me doesn't like this shit either," agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. "But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals."

Ackerman went on:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It's not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright's defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

Obviously. Being on Ackerman's Christmas card list sounds almost as interesting as being on Mark Dayton's.

Conservative pundits and politicians would be well advised to take a snapshot of this little glimpse into the true thoughts of the left-wing media and keep it in a prominent place on their desk. Then, whenever the temptation arises to play the David Brooks card and reach out to their ideological opponents in the media with moderation and good feeling, they will be reminded of exactly what is really at stake. The same people who decried the "climate of fear" created under the Bush Administration and feign outrage every time Michele Bachmann employs a metaphor like "we need to keep our powder dry" would love nothing more than to smash your head through a window to send a message to your colleagues to shut up or else. Rhetorically speaking of course.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Love The Public, Hate The People

On July 14, Lee Bollinger (president of Columbia University) penned a piece for the WSJ that essentially called for a government bailout of journalism:

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today's rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China's CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar's Al Jazeera. The U.S. government's international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters. The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let's demonstrate great journalism's essential role in a free and dynamic society.

Yes, if only America had its own version of Al Jazeera and the BBC, then our media would be just grand. In yesterday's edition of the Journal, several letters from readers appeared flaying Bollinger's dubious proposal as unnecessary and potentially harmful to freedom.

Today, a letter on the matter from public media mogul Bill Kling (the Rupert Murdoch of the public airwaves) was published. Not surprisingly, Kling echoed the call for more dough and power for his already vast empire:

There has never been a more important time for public media to live up to its full potential. While newspapers throughout the country are weakening, and in some cases disappearing, partisan broadcast and Web media outlets are building profitable businesses through the distribution of often distorted and even misleading information. Media-driven public discontent, single-issue politics and even veiled threats make it increasingly impossible for our national leaders to address our country's most pressing problems.

Now is the time to create a more robust, independently governed public media system in the U.S. With increased investments from the federal government, the philanthropic community, and from hundreds of thousands of members and donors throughout the country, America can create a powerful independent public media and ensure the ongoing strength of the Fourth Estate in the digital age.

It's almost amusing to see people decrying the collapse of the supposedly objective outlets that have dominated the media landscape for the last fifty years and telling us that the only solution is for the government to become even more involved in funding new outlets that will return us to that wonderful era of media objectivity. The reality is that what bothers Bollinger and Kling far more than the alleged demise of the media's "objectivity" is the actual demise of the media's exclusivity. They long for the days when only a select few voices (their peers) were able to provide the news and views that would educate and enlighten the masses.

Now that those days are long gone and we've moved into a time of wide open media access, they look to the government to restore the proper order. It's just another example that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, at its core being a progressive means trusting the government more than the people and wanting power distributed thusly.

Wow, Progressive Policies Again

Doctor: Mr. President...your economy has sustained extensive trauma. Apparently most companies are operating in a state of advanced caution, due to a period of extreme government spending and regulation. But with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, I think there's a good chance they may, one day, add jobs again.

President Obama: This was supposed to be the Summer of Recovery! The Summer of Recovery.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Judging Covers (Expo 4)

Time to wrap up my thoughts on Shanghai's Expo 2010 with a far reaching summary conclusion based on a day's worth of first hand observation. Yes, all this stretching is wearing me out. Previous posts on the Expo include: Expo 1, Expo 2, Expo 3

In the interests of time, I've categorized the remaining country pavilions in various grouping.

The first category is "And You Are?" which includes pavilions whose looks tell us nothing about that particular country.

When I saw this pavilion, I immediately thought of...


And this Frank Gehry takeoff clearly represents...


In fairness, a lot of the pavilion exteriors had no obvious connections to their countries. But some deserved a pass because their look was "Just Plain Cool."

Not sure what the design of the Spanish wicker basket pavilion is supposed to be all about, but it works.

Same with the U.K.'s spiny creation:

A picture doesn't even begin to give justice to how wicked it really is.

Other countries whose pavilions that didn't quite reach that level of cool, but still were "Above Average include:





The Netherlands

Proving that you don't have to be large or wealthy to come up with creative design, we next have the "Little Countries That Could."

Latvia's sparkling and colorful effort hit the mark:

As did Romania's green apple:

After seeing dozens of pavilions from around the world, the group that I was touring the Expo with concluded that the ones that we seemed to like the best were pavilions that to at least some extent "Captured the Culture" of the country.

It wasn't a surprise that the pavilion that dominated the Expo and was visible from almost anywhere on the grounds was that of the host country China.

While it had something of a futuristic flair, it was also undoubtedly Chinese.

Others that convened the country's culture were Indonesia:


And one of the more impressive looking and popular pavilions, Thailand.

Last, but not least a few "Parting Shots."

Not sure if Armenia actually had a pavilion or they just bought a billboard on the building.

How's that whole "machete and gear" thing working out for you anyway, Angola?

The surrender of sovereignty continues apace.

Who says the U.S. government didn't spend any money at the Expo?

Ladies drink for free on Wednesday nights at Club Ukraine.

Sweden: We're not gay. Really.

Finally, the sign that visitors are most excited to see after a long day at the Expo.

Friday, July 16, 2010

You Gonna Boycott Me?

Another word on boycotts, for informational purposes only. Here's another way one could handle threats the likes of which Yovani Gallardo and RT Rybak like to throw around. From 1989's "Do The Right Thing":

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the wild and crazy guys at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help provide the beverages you need for a swinging time (you provide the polyester shirts, tight pants, and medallions).

Pilsener beers typically don't attract much interest from beer fans. Which is something of a shame considering their interesting history and origin:

The people of Pilsen have always been passionate about their beer, so much so that unsatisfactory brews were unceremoniously emptied into the city's sewers.

Because, of course, those were the days before our pure golden pilsner was born, days when beer was a dark and muddy concoction that varied wildly in quality.

Enter Josef Groll, a genius and a visionary who saw beyond the ordinary to create something that has withstood the test of time and inspired generations of imitators.

He created the world's first clear and golden beer which, on 4 October 1842, the first golden beer was unveiled at St Martin's Market.

Legend has it that the single strand of yeast used to produce our golden lager came to Groll by way of a runaway monk who smuggled it out his monastery. Today, centuries later, we can trace the pedigree of our unique Pilsner H yeast back to that single strand.

"Pilsner" soon became a generic term for any bottom-fermented beer, but the proud people of Pilsen would have none of that, and in 1898 they renamed their beloved beer Pilsner Urquell, meaning simply "The pilsner from the original source."

We continue our focus on European beers this week with the genesis of the pilsener style, Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic.

Lighter green bottle. Classic font on the green & white label which includes a logo and coat of arms.

Beer Style: Pilsener

Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%

COLOR (0-2): Bright gold and crystal clear. 1

AROMA (0-2): Malty and hoppy with hint of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white. Good volume. Decent lacing (that's for Saint Paul, who's all about the lacing). 2

TASTE (0-5): Well balanced with more of a nod to the mildly bitter hops than the bready malt. Floral flavors are noticeable as well. Light bodied. Very crisp and refreshing. Eminently drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Sharp with nice lingering bitterness. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A beer that isn't going to blow you away (what pilsener is?) , but is still quite satisfying. At 4.4% ABV, it's an excellent choice for summer events when you want to have more than one and still savor the flavor. It's also a well-rounded effort with elements that come together nicely. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Say It Ain't So, Gallardo (or No Way, Jose)

I watched the MLB All Star Game earlier this week, and it was gorgeous on TV, bathed in the deep blue skies and warm sunlight of southern California. But dark clouds were forming on the horizon, for a storm scheduled to hit next year. Headlines, from the Associated Press.
Latin players talk about boycotting 2011 All-Stars in Arizona

When I see the term "Latin players" I expect something like quotes from an first baseman named Justinian Maximus: "Vini, Vidi, Viboycottium!"

Alas, it's not that hot blooded crew from old Rome gettin' restless. It's the Major League "Latins" from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and other parts south of the border. The seed of their discontent is as follows:

A year before Phoenix is set to host baseball's big event, the state's new immigration law kept drawing the attention of major leaguers.

Yovani Gallardo is firm. Even if he's fortunate enough to make the All-Star team again next summer, he'll skip it. "If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott," the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher said Monday.

No, not that! Anything but that! An MLB All Star Game without Yovani Gallardo is like Mount Rushmore without Millard Fillmore.

But it gets worse:

Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria, who leads the majors with 25 saves, said he would support a Latino protest and stay away. Detroit closer Jose Valverde can see himself steering clear, too.

"It's a really delicate issue," said Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 24 home runs. "Hopefully, there are some changes in the law before then. We have to back up our Latin communities."

Now we're talking about some legitimate major league stars. And these threats are troubling, on multiple levels.

First, it is an attempt to reverse the legitimate political decisions of a democratic body via the economic blackmail of its citizens. Or, in other words, using thug tactics to enforce your will when persuasion doesn’t work. It is estimated that this year's All-Star game will have an $85 million impact on its host city. A boycott threat for next year is a threat to ruin the game and the windfall Arizonans can expect, if they insist on holding onto their their beliefs.

It is true, economic boycotts may have been successful in the past for such worthwhile endeavors as fighting apartheid policies in South Africa. But state sponsored racial segregation is in no way analogous to what is happening in Arizona. This is a sovereign US state attempting to control an outbreak of violence and out of control, illegitimate spending on public services by enforcing existing immigration law. Laws no more oppressive than what any country with an international border institutes.

Second, using a crown jewel of America's Past Time as a vehicle for partisan political expression. Threatening to foul-up a beloved American tradition, an apolitical event put on by people who had nothing to do with the Arizona immigration law, in order to make a point about a highly contentious issue. It is despicable. It is an outrage. I'd even go as far as questioning the patriotism of Gallardo, Soria, Bautista, et al. But I'm not sure if that's appropriate for a bunch of guys who may or may not even be citizens.

Third, the nature of these players' very comfortable livelihoods is based on the largesse of the American public. Not only the ticket and merchandise buying whims of the general public, but also the foundation of tax subsidies major league sports depend upon. For example, that $350 million Hennepin County tax payers were forced to kick in for the Twins, lest they leave town or shut down due to economic distress. To take that money, then threaten those who provide it if they don't meet your political whims, is the height of arrogance and/or ignorance.

The movement to boycott Arizona started almost immediately in various precincts of the Left. From the Hollywood crowd, to special interest grievance groups, all the way to local flakes like Mayors RT Rybak and Chris Coleman. They do this, in part, because they believe there are no consequences for their actions. And they may be right, given the typical docility of the silent majority of middle class America. But this is a sensitive issue, high on the priority list of many Americans. And whether Gallardo, Soria, Rybak, and Coleman realize it or not, their teams and cities are just as vulnerable to boycott as the targets they have chosen.

Economic warfare between American cities and citizens. Not exactly the unity we were told to expect with the new Presidential administration in January of 2009. And Obama had the chance to nip this BS in the bud back in May when asked at a press conference about the propriety of these boycotts, he cleared his throat and voted "present":

I'm the president of the United States, I don't endorse boycotts or not endorse boycotts," he replied. "That's something that private citizens can make a decision about."

In other words, from the Community Organizer-in-Chief, let the boycotts begin!

Charles Krauthammer had a much more reasonable proposed response, something you wish your national leader could come up with on his own:

When I heard him say: "I'm the president of the United States, I don't endorse boycotts," I thought he'd stop there. And if he had I would have said, why did he say "I'm the president"? He would have said 'I'm the president of all the United States and I don't want to see one state, pitted against another, one community boycotting another and conducting economic war on another.'

And Obama then added 'I also don't endorse [not boycotting].' So he said if you want to [boycott], that's okay.

As president he could honestly have said: I'm against the law, I'll challenge it in court. The court is where we decide disputes among our communities, not in attacks on each other.

Amen brother. But that's not the reality of the country we live in today. From the White House to ballyard, it's open season for attacks on each other.

On the bright side, at least it gives me a legitimate reason to lustily "boo" when the moribund Brewers, Royals, or Blue Jays roll into Target Field. Boycott this!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Capturing The Essence

Know When To Walk Away

Thankfully, Tom Emmer's campaign seems to have realized the futility of continued engagement and is withdrawing from the battle over "Tip Credits" and minimum wage for restaurant servers. In politics as in life, one of the keys to success is picking your battles wisely. To paraphrase John Kerry, this was the wrong battle, at the wrong time, and the wrong place for Emmer.

In politics, being on the right side of a particular argument isn't nearly as important as the how the general public perceives the issue. In this case, the perception (I detest the use of term "optics" in political discussions) was a terrible one for Emmer. He may very well be right on the merits of his argument, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that this appears to be an issue pitting the Joannas of the world against the corporate big wigs from Krabby O Mondays with Emmer taking the side of "Big Business." That's not going to be a popular position anywhere, particularly in Minnesota.

And it doesn't matter how much Emmer, his campaign, or his supporters complain that the perception is inaccurate or unfair. It's out there now and no amount of continued effort is going to materially change that. Better to pull back, lick your wounds, and prepare to fight another day.

The good news is that seems to exactly what the Emmer campaign is doing. And in the big campaign picture, this is really nothing but a small skirmish that shouldn't have any significant strategic impact overall. However, that could depend on whether the Emmer campaigns learns the right lessons from this fight.

The first would be to not get dragged into battles over micro issues where the potential benefits are moderate at best and the costs of failure are high. The second is that if you do get dragged in and start to get bogged down, it's better to cut your losses and pull out early rather than to continue deeper into the morass and give your opponents an easy opportunity to make mountains out of molehills at your expense. I think there was a certain amount of stubbornness involved with Team Emmer on this issue.

On the big issues that matter, that stubbornness and unwillingness to cede ground in the fight is an admirable asset. But on the small stuff, it can prove to be a costly liability.

The Tip Credits issue was a setback for the Emmer campaign. Every campaign is going to have setbacks here and there along the way. The successful campaigns survive and learn from them. The unsuccessful campaigns continue to make the same mistakes and fall into the same traps until they experience a series of setbacks that ultimately help to doom their cause. Let's hope the Emmer people are good students.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Battle of Who Could Care Less (Expo 3)

In the last installment on Shanghai Expo 2010, I complained about the boring similarity of the some of the country pavilions. Their designs--intended to look sleek and futuristic--instead brought back memories of the past. Bland memories at that. But at least those countries put forth an effort.

Today's post will focus on those countries that appeared to have put little thought or energy into their pavilions. Lest you dismiss my criticism as that of a jingoistic, uber-patriotic, neocon cowboy let me start by banging on the good ol' US of A.

From what I understand, every country picked up the tab for the design, building, and staffing of their pavilions. Except one. In a show of truly commendable (and all too rare) fiscal responsibility, the United States government refused to pay for a pavilion at the Expo. I'm still a bit shocked by that news, especially since the government seems more than willing to toss money around at anything and everything these days. So instead of US taxpayers having to foot the bill, a group of American business interests raised the money required. Great story, right?

Well, it would be were it not for the fact that it appears that these same business interests were also instrumental in the design of the United States pavilion, which looks an awful lot like one of the thousands of big box retail stores scattered across our fruited plains:

The USA: for all you paper and office accessory needs. Even the font has a corporate feel to it:

(Note the famous chicken vendor logo in the upper right corner)

I have to admit that as an American my heart didn't exactly swell with pride when I caught sight of the pavilion that was supposed to represent my country. Were I a snide leftist, I might snark that this corporate look does represent the true Amerika of greedy consumerism. Instead, I'll stand by her and guide her to try to do better next time around.

Next up is Slovakia:

Bozek: So, what's our plan?

Jaromil: We put up cement wall and draw a few circles.

Bozek: That's it?

Jaromil: Ano, if anyone asks we say it "minimalist."

Sticking to Central Europe we next visit Hungary:

Just tack some two x fours up on the outside of the buildings. No, it doesn't matter if they're straight or not. Supposedly, this is all intentional as the dangling wood blowing in the breeze is said to replicate the sound of a traditional Hungarian musical instrument. Whatever.

It's hard to appreciate just how little effort Iceland put into the Expo by this picture alone:

This graphic (which will also appear on the next Bjork album cover) appears on material that is nothing more what you find on billboards, wrapped around a square building. When you got close enough, you could see it billowing in the wind.

But hey now, Iceland is broke. How could they be expected to be able to afford anything more?

Well, being broke didn't stop Greece from coming up with this decent design:

I did notice German visitors were eyeing the Greek pavilion with distaste. Ve paid how much for dat? There was also a guy out front dressed like Zeus ringing a bell with a Salvation Army type pail.

Tomorrow: it gets better. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More on the Favorable Twins Schedule

Last Saturday, I commented on the Twins favorable upcoming schedule. I have now updated the stats through the all-star break and have looked at a couple of others. The result is that the second half schedule looks even more favorable to the Twins than I first thought.

The Twins are 3.5 games behind the White Sox and 3 games behind the Tigers. Not only have they faced tougher opponents (.511 winning percentage versus .489 for the White Sox and .482 for the Tigers) but the Twins have also played two fewer home games than away. The White Sox have played five more home games than road games and the Tigers have played 4 more home games than road games.

In addition, the Twins’ remaining road opponents have a weak .479 winning percentage. At Target Field, where the Twins have generally played well, their opponents have a .489 win percentage.

So, the schedule is a good reason to look forward to the second half of the season. On the other hand, Atomizer would counter with another statistic: Ron Gardenhire is likely to manage all 74 remaining Twins games.

The Elder Chimes In: The WSJ had another sports simulation yesterday which supposedly showed the odds of the various American League teams winning their division and making the playoffs:

Team Win Division Make Playoffs

New York Yankees 76.8% 96%
Tampa Bay Rays 20.3% 74.5%
Boston Red Sox 2.9% 19.6%
Toronto Blue Jays 0.0% 0.6%
Baltimore Orioles 0% 0%

Detroit Tigers 38% 41.2%
Chicago White Sox 36.3% 39%
Minnesota Twins 25.6% 28.6%
Kansas City Royals 0.1% 0.2%
Cleveland Indians 0% 0%

Texas Rangers 95.5% 95.8%
Los Angeles Angels 4.1% 4.1%
Oakland Athletics 0.4% 0.4%
Seattle Mariners 0% 0%

I don't really like the Twins chances as shown here, but things could be worse. We could live in Cleveland.

Indians Fans: So you're saying we have chance?

Rest of the World: No, you have no chance.

SISYPHUS ADDS: The Wall Street Journal must be impressed with the Tigers and White Sox's combined 12-0 record against Pittsburgh and Washington -- two of the National League's worst teams whom the Twins do not get to play.

Close Encounters of the Dull Kind (Expo 2)

The theme of Shanghai's Expo 2010 is "Better City--Better Life" and the pavilions, cases, and exhibits on display purported to give us a glimpse of what cities of "the future" will look like. Let's hope the future is not quite so boring.

One of the themes that predominates at the Expo is what I would call "curved spaceship design." The giant Cultural Center definitely has the look:

Singapore threw some trees on top and pieces jutting, but it still falls into the round, metallic, and dull camp:

Finland gets a little credit for turning their dome upside down and going for a Noah's Ark sort of look:

China Aviation also has the bland, rounded appearance with something like a peanut shell covering:

Japan added some color to their dome, which looks like it could part of Madonna's Lady Gaga's wardrobe:

Taken alone, none of these designs are particularly bad. But when you see them one after another at an exposition that supposedly is forward-looking, you start to wonder if humanity's creative well is running dry. To me, these buildings more call to mind 1977 rather than 2027. Is this really a glimpse of the future or a rehash of the past?

Bullet In the Blue Sky

Tim Cavanaugh has a revealing and ultimately depressing piece at Reason about California's high-speed rail fiasco that includes this staggering factoid:

And that's just the bullet train's most recent pan. Earlier in the year, the state's legislative analyst's office noted that the Authority's plan contains no timeline and no specifics and that it "appears to violate the law" by using bond funds to subsidize its operations. (The Authority now claims to have corrected this problem, and it recently hired a $375,000-a-year CEO to help get the project on track.) Since 1996--twice as long as the Transcontinental Railroad took from approval to completion in the 1860s--the bullet train project has cost taxpayers more than $250 million, yet not one millimeter of track has been laid.

You blow two-hundred-fitty million, what do you get? Fourteen years older and deeper in debt.

The Fargo Connection

A very special event is coming up soon at Keegan's Irish Pub:

The pub is holding our first ever "NODAK NIGHT" on Friday, July 23. We are encouraging everyone with a North Dakota conection, of any kind, to come in and mingle with other North Dakotans. We are offering the first drink free for anyone with a connection.

A free drink? Let's see, when I was a youth we had a connection who used to hook us up with fireworks from North Dakota (the good stuff). Does that count? Actually I'm sure the five years I served lived (minus summers off for good behavior) in Grand Forks would qualify me for said bargain.

Getting a free pop from Terry Keegan is a rare opportunity and one that I normally would plan on savoring. However, the date for NODAK Night is also the day when my eldest son turns five, so I will not be able to take advantage of it. I imagine some other local scribblers will, as you can hardly swing a dead prairie dog around the Twin Cities blogosphere without hitting someone with a North Dakota connection such as James Lileks, Mitch Berg, or Bill Tuomala.

If the lure of a free drink isn't enough to hook you, I also understand that Keegan's will be serving Everclear punch and lefse. Attendees are encouraged to wear jeans (no matter how frickin' hot it is that day), but leave their belt buckles at home as they tend to interfere with the satellite dish and cell phone reception at the Pub.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Perpetrator-less Crimes

The theater of the absurd continues its long run at the United Nations. The latest act is reviewed in a WSJ editorial today called Blame the Torpedo:

When is a condemnation really a form of diplomatic rehabilitation? When it's delivered by the U.N. Security Council, which on Friday denounced the March sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan without denouncing anyone in particular for having sunk it.

It's as if the attack was a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a murder without a body. Never mind that everyone in the world knows that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors in one of the worst acts of aggression since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago. A May report by a panel of global experts convened by South Korea to investigate the sinking left no doubt that the North perpetrated the act, despite Pyongyang's denials.

Seoul went to the Security Council to seek the global rebuke of the North, but China objected to a resolution that specifically blamed its clients in Pyongyang. Thus the Security Council retreated to writing a resolution that condemned the act of aggression but named no aggressor. Apparently the rogue underwater missile targeted and then launched itself against the South Korean vessel. I, Torpedo.

In related developments, the U.N. Security Council once again denounced the terrorist attacks of 9/11 without mentioning Al Qaeda and the Holocaust without mentioning the Nazis.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Ray of Hope for Twins Fans

These are dreary days indeed for the Minnesota Twins faithful. After leading the AL Central most of the season, the Twins have now fallen a few games behind both the Tigers and White Sox. Twins pitchers can’t keep the ball in the park and the hitters can’t hit it out.

But there is a ray of hope.

I had a suspicion that the Twins have had a difficult schedule to date, so I spent the afternoon compiling the data while watching today’s game (the distraction was welcome). It turns out that I was correct; the Twins have had a much more difficult schedule so far than they have remaining. Overall, the Twins opponents have a .499 winning percentage (through Friday’s games). The teams in the games they’ve played already played have a combined .510 winning percentage while the remaining schedule has a .487 winning percentage.

The Tigers have nearly the opposite schedule. Overall, their opponents have a .492 winning percentage, broken down to .483 for games they’ve already played and .502 for remaining games.

The White Sox have the easiest schedule, .490 overall, .495 for games they’ve played and .486 for those remaining.

Of course, if they don’t start playing better, it won't matter if they're playing the Saint Paul Saints.

The Elder Adds: Do the Twins get to play all of their seventy-four games after the All Star break at Target Field against the Indians and Royals? That would give us real reason for hope.

Atomizer Sez: Do the Twins get to play all of their seventy-four games after the All Star break without the burden of idiot manager Ron Gardenhire? That would give us REAL reason for hope.

What If Football Was Like Futbol?

What If the NFL Used the World Cup Format?:

All this recent talk about fútbol has us thinking of another sport—you know, the one where players actually hit each other, whining is frowned upon and instant-replay exists.

It's called football.

But since we don't want to completely ignore the World Cup title game, we found a way to discuss both sports at once. We looked at the NFL's 32 teams and broke them into eight groups based on strength and location, randomizing the group assignments to make sure none of them had too many teams from the same area—just like in the World Cup. WhatIfSports then simulated every possible game 51 times and made teams advance as they would in the Cup format. In this newly invented league, the AFC semifinalist Jets get knocked out in the group stage and the Vikings win the Super Bowl. Alas, Brett Favre still doesn't know whether he's retiring.

Sigh. Talk about fantasy football.

Obviously the Wall Street Journal simulation does not take into account the certainty of the refs screwing over the Vikings.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Take Heed Mr. Tojo

Old fashioned patriotism with just a touch of outright jingoism. Gotta love cartoons from the 40's...produced by Walter Lantz, no less.

Rising From The Ashes

They say you can't go home again. It's true. Years later, it's impossible to recapture the magic of yore. It's best to live in the moment, enjoy what's new and not pine for what's gone. Of course, that's easier said than done. When you lose something, you long for it, you yearn to recapture it. But you can't, can you?

When I was in high school, Zantigo was a daily pilgrimage. First on bikes and later by car, my friends and I made daily treks for a hot cheese chilito (or a mild cheese chilito for the friends whose swallowing of Copenhagen tobacco had given them chronic indigestion). In 1986, Zantigo was merged with Taco Bell and shortly thereafter, the restaurants were converted to Taco Bells.

Taco Bell trashed most of the Zantigo menu. However, the cheese chilito was so popular that they renamed and slightly reformulated the mild cheese chilito into the chili cheese burrito. It's still on menus today and while the best that Taco Bell has to offer, it pales in comparison to the Zantigo original hot version.

As I was screwing around today on the internet for a possible (though unlikely) post on illegal immigration, I came across the name the controversial revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. This reminded me of Zantigo restaurants because the chain's original name was Zapata, before the controversy around their namesake forced a change.

On a lark, I googled Zantigo. Much to my surprise, I found that several managers of the old Zantigo chain had resumed operations in the Twin Cities. Since most of my life is spent along the 494 western corridor or downtown, I had no idea.

I guess I will find out if you can go home again.