Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Boys Want

With all the distractions and disruptions brought about by the ubiquitous digital devices of the day, it's no wonder that parents worry about their children enjoying the same sort of carefree childhood experiences that they did. But firsthand experience with three young boys has taught me that these fears are mostly overblown. For while it's easy to see how much things have changed, when you stop and think about it for a moment, you realize how much things are really still the same. Consider the following list of items which capture the fancy of boys (at least my boys) today much in the same manner as they did when I was a lad and as they have for at least the last sixty years:















Throw in timeless toys like Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, blocks, and puzzles and you realize that while much has changed in our world, what animates and excites the imagination of young boys are essentially the same things that always have and, God willing, always will.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Separated at Birth?

THE ELDER RIBBITS: The resemblance is uncanny, with the main difference being that Kermit projects a far more masculine appearance than our Commander in Chief.

We'd All Love To See The Plan

Rally Funnels Anger Toward Washington (WSJ-sub req):

Attendees on Saturday packed nearly a mile of the Mall at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, in an event that carried the tone of a religious revival. Many at the event said in interviews that they were drawn by a sense of deep disenchantment over the country's direction, alarm over government spending and a sense that the country's political system was broken.

The program, which was organized by Mr. Beck, the conservative Fox News commentator, featured three hours of religious and patriotic speeches but offered few details on how to fix the country's problems.

No matter what your view of Glenn Beck is, you have to admit that the man has been able to tap into the zeitgeist of America's political and cultural landscape. The list of media personalities who could draw a couple of hundred thousand people together for a rally is a very short one: Rush Limbaugh, Oprah Winfrey, Brian "Saint Paul" Ward. Beck's ability to bring such a throng together and the popularity of his shows and books demonstrates conclusively that he is on to something with his message that the country is on the wrong track and that we must return to our core principles and values.

But as much as I sympathize with the sentiments of discontent that Beck and his fans share, I regard this rally and the whole "movement" which Beck appears to be trying to lead with the same skeptical ambivalence that I have toward the Tea Parties. Yes, we're all mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore. We want the country to return to its roots with the Constitution as our guidepost for the proper role of government and as the safeguard of our individual liberties. We share a vision of where we want America to go. But what seems to be missing in the Tea Parties and the Beck rally on Saturday is any clear call to how we get there.

History-changing movements are based on common beliefs being translated into concrete action. The Tea Parties and Beck appear to have formed a very broad and loose consensus on what's wrong and what needs to change. However, there's been precious little agreement of how best to achieve this change. There are political, cultural, and, with Beck, religious components to this burgeoning movement. Clear paths forward have not developed in any of these areas.

Politically, the Tea Parties are definitely having an impact. But what that impact will be remains unclear. Should the Tea Parties seek to turn the Republican Party more toward their views? What does that mean from a policy and position standpoint? Should they become a third party? Being against President Obama's policies and the expansion of government is fine, but at some point you need to decide and define what you are for. I don't see much of that with Beck or the Tea Parties.

When it comes to cultural, it's easier to see what Beck's end game is. By "educating" Americans on the country's history, he hopes to change the mindset that people have on what America is and what it means to be an American. Considering the damage that has been done here in the last fifty years, it's an admirable--if extremely uphill--effort. His work and that of the Tea Parties in bringing the Founders and their works (the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Federalist Papers) back into the conversation and explaining their relevance today is where I find the most common cause.

The most noteworthy aspect of Saturday's "Restoring Honor" rally was the heavy religious content. Beck billed the event as "non-partisan" and from the reports I've read, it seems to have been a pretty accurate description. Far from calling the crowd to political action, Beck and other speakers were urging a return and recommitment to God and faith. While this is certainly a message the country needs to hear, I question why Beck is delivering it. This gets back to the question of what he's trying to accomplish. Does he want to change the political situation? Does he want to change the cultural perception and understanding of American history? Or does have want to lead some sort of modern Great Awakening to revive religious fervor in America? Does he even know?

THE ELDER ADDS: One further thought on why I'm lukewarm to the Tea Parties and the Beck rally on Saturday. There seems to be a strong emotional element to these events that involves group affirmation of invidual views. There's nothing inherently wrong with this per se, except that it's usually something that you see far more on the left than the right. There are good reasons why conservatives have shied away from these activities in the past and criticizied the left's zeal for them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network - LIVE at the Fair

The Northern Alliance Radio Network goes LIVE, and in your FACE, Saturday morning at 11 AM. It's the openining of our State Fair broadcasts and John Hinderaker and I will be LIVE from The Patriot Plaza, just off the main Snelling Ave. entrance, near the corner of Dan Patch and Cosgrove. If you're coming out to the State Fair today, be sure to stop on by and say 'que pasa'. We love to meet the listeners and there will be free goodie bags, cool patriot merchandise for sale, and the normal radio excellence going on all day long.

Scheduled guests appearing LIVE today include the proprietor of my favorite ride on the Fairgrounds, the Ye Old Mill (aka, the Tunnel of Love - yowza!), Princess Kay of the Milky Way LVII, Hugh Hewitt, and Generalissimo Duane Patterson. Also, by phone, one of our favorite guests, author Claire Berlinski. The show then culminates with the gala Scotch Egg Eating Contest at about 12:30.

It all starts at 11AM (central). 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).

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is heard locally on AM1280 the Patriot, streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Call in and join the action at 651-289-4488. And if you're on the Fairgrounds, come on down. Don't you dare miss it.

THE ELDER ADDS: While I won't be able to make it out for today's sure to be Peabody nominated State Fair NARN broadcast, I will be tuning in as it promises to be one heck of an entertaining show. Listening to Claire Berlinski wisely intone on the state of the world today and Generalissimo Duane sloppily engorge a Scotch Egg presents a fascinating radio dichotomy. And that's just the beginning!

One topic that I hope is broached with Miss Berlinski is here contentious call to Ban the Burqa (National Review-sub req):

Banning the burqa is without doubt a terrible assault on the ideal of religious liberty. It is the sign of a desperate society. No one wishes for things to have come so far that it is necessary.

But they have, and it is.

Sometimes there simply are no good choices. Just ask Duane.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Media Alert

I will be appearing on the Hugh Hewitt Radio Program at approximately 6:20PM (central). HOT topics I'm prepared to talk about include all the Minnesota political races this season, MN State Fair gastronomic recommendations, and the legacy of Bartolo Colon's tenure with the Anaheim Angels. Don't you dare miss it! www.am1280thepatriot.com

Keeper Cell

This has to be the most depressing aspect of the news of the Thwarted Canadian Bombing Attempt (WSJ-sub req):

People who know the three men who were arrested say Messrs. Ahmed and Sher are educated professionals, a profile common to many radical members of groups like al Qaeda in Western countries, says Martin Rudner, a professor emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa, who specializes in intelligence and national security.

Mr. Sher is a pathologist at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital in southern Ontario, who moved with his wife and three daughters to London, Ontario, a month ago. Mr. Ahmed is a radiography technologist at the Ottawa Hospital.

Mr. Sher is an avid hockey player who played in Montreal's Muslim Ball Hockey League, and has an award named after him for the most aggressive scorer, says Faisal Shahabuddin, 38, a friend who was captain of Mr. Sher's team. Mr. Shahabbuddin says he can't believe the charges are true.

Dude played hockey and still wanted to wage Jihad? Doesn't give you much hope that some sort of "clash of civilizations" isn't all but inevitable at some point.

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXVIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the colorful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you choose the right drink to seamlessly transition the seasons of life.

Is it really fall already? The back to school sales started on July 5th and classrooms open soon. The Minnesota State Fair--another annual harbinger of autumn--kicked off yesterday. And last week, the appearance of the first beers of fall (mostly Oktoberfests) also delivered an unmistakable signal of the pending seasonal change. It's a been a nice run summer, but it's almost time to hang it up. While we always mourn its passing, we're ready for fall. And the beers it brings.

We kick off the new season of beer with New Belgium's Hoptober Golden Ale:

Five hops and four malts make Hoptober Golden Ale a veritable cornucopia of the earth. Pale and wheat malt are mashed with rye and oats to create a medium-bodied ale with a creamy mouthfeel.

That's one mouth-watering description. Does the beer deliver as advertised?

Standard brown New Belgium bottle and artistic label design. Red and brown colors with heaps of hops framing a mountain scene of characters cavorting around a bonfire.

STYLE: Blond Ale


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

AROMA (0-2): Hoppy sweet with a little bit of spice. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white. Lots of volume and good retention. 2

TASTE (0-5): Mild hops with citrus flavors and mellow sweetness. Quite a bit of carbonation, medium-bodied, and drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth and subtly sweet. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A nice change of pace for an autumn offering. Hoptober Golden Ale's balance of bitter and sweet make for a well-rounded beer. It's not going to blow you away with flavor, but it's very solid. A vastly superior product to New Belgium's inexplicably popular Fat Tire. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Separated at Birth

Ed "I'm going to torch this [bleep]ing place" Schultz of MSNBC and Milton "if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire" Waddams of Office Space

The Business of Business

In Monday's WSJ, Aneel Karani made The Case Against Corporate Social Responsibility:

Executives are hired to maximize profits; that is their responsibility to their company's shareholders. Even if executives wanted to forgo some profit to benefit society, they could expect to lose their jobs if they tried--and be replaced by managers who would restore profit as the top priority. The movement for corporate social responsibility is in direct opposition, in such cases, to the movement for better corporate governance, which demands that managers fulfill their fiduciary duty to act in the shareholders' interest or be relieved of their responsibilities. That's one reason so many companies talk a great deal about social responsibility but do nothing—a tactic known as greenwashing.

Managers who sacrifice profit for the common good also are in effect imposing a tax on their shareholders and arbitrarily deciding how that money should be spent. In that sense they are usurping the role of elected government officials, if only on a small scale.

Privately owned companies are a different story. If an owner-operated business chooses to accept diminished profit in order to enhance social welfare, that decision isn't being imposed on shareholders. And, of course, it is admirable and desirable for the leaders of successful public companies to use some of their personal fortune for charitable purposes, as many have throughout history and many do now. But those leaders shouldn't presume to pursue their philanthropic goals with shareholder money. Indeed, many shareholders themselves use significant amounts of the money they make from their investments to help fund charities or otherwise improve social welfare.

This is not to say, of course, that companies should be left free to pursue the greatest possible profits without regard for the social consequences. But, appeals to corporate social responsibility are not an effective way to strike a balance between profits and the public good.

Managers of corporations who engage in "social responsibility" (and often brag about their efforts) do so in order to look good. Whether they're actually doing good or whether it's really even rightly their place to have their companies do so is almost entirely irrelevant.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Down In A Hole

The on-going story of the thirty-three miners trapped in Chile is fascinating, especially as details now emerge on how they were able to come together and survive for two weeks before being found (WSJ-sub req). They're still trapped more than a mile beneath the earth, but at least they now have a lifeline to the surface. If you have just spent the last two weeks stuck underground in a tight space with thirty-three co-workers, what would be at the top of your wish list?

The miners also conveyed urgent requests for toothpaste, fruit and beer, according to Congressman Giovanni Calderón.

Sounds like they have their priorities in proper order. The story is far from over as it is being estimated that it will take three to four months before an escape shaft can be safely drilled to reach the miners. Their ability to hang on until then will be a test of human endurance both physically and psychologically. Here's hoping they get all the support (and beer) they need to survive this incredible ordeal.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet the Neighbors

As if you needed another reason to visit the AM1280 the Patriot booth at the Minnesota State Fair, we have this report on the new next door neighbors on Dan Patch Ave and Cosgrove. The building that abuts the Patriot Plaza is under new management:

The old St. Bernard's Dining Hall on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Cosgrove Street has been transformed into O'Gara's at the Fair.

The new building's décor features pieces of the original bar from O'Gara's in St. Paul, century-old chandeliers that once hung at the University of Minnesota and a huge antique wooden arch from northern Minnesota.

The revamped dining hall building also has two new kitchens. Workers will cook up items from an expanded menu which includes breakfast items.

"We're doing eggs to order and sausage and bacon and homemade pancakes," O'Gara said. "One thing that St. Bernard's did was great home cooked meals. We're really trying to focus on the food and doing a great breakfast."
Also on the menu this year, the popular O'Gara's Reuben sandwich, four types of burgers and sweet potato tater tots.

Which all sounds well and good. But when you hear the name O'Gara's, there's only one star of the show:

Fairgoers hoping to wet their whistle won't be disappointed either. O'Gara's at the Fair will have 10 different beers on tap, including Guinness and Smithwick's.

Yaggada yaggada! Not sure if Guinness or Smithwick's will be the optimal compliment for the glorious heat and grease of a MN State Fair. But I'll be happy to painstakingly test for a superior option among each of the other eight brews. This is also good news for the Scotch Egg eating contestants as well, who will now have easy access to the perfect digestive aid as they attempt to devour their deep fried sausage and eggs on a stick.

No sign of the complete Fair beer list at O'Gara's Web site. But they do have some other details of their State Fair activities:

We'll have Tom Dahill and Ginny Johnson playing Irish music … weekends 1:00 - 3:00 PM and 5:00 - 7:00 PM.

Well all right, time to get my jig on! Conveniently timed for when the NARN First Team wraps up it's broadcast day at 1PM.

Note for fans of Mitch and Ed on NARN 2, that lively, jumpy fiddle and tin whistle music you'll be hearing in the background is not due to signal shortcomings and a 24/7 Gaelic reel station bleeding through. No, it's that way by design.

Face Off

This past week's coverage of the Minnesota gubernatorial election in the local media made it apparent that this fellow will be a constant companion for us all the way to November:

No, I'm not talking about Tom Emmer. At least not all of Tom Emmer. I'm talking just about his face, and only in a particular mood. The Tom Emmer Angry Face. AKA, the TEA Face. (Lefties and perverts Googling for the TEA bagger face should move along, you've come to the wrong place.)

The Star Tribune especially has a fondness for variations of it on their Web site. They don't always use the image in the articles they write about him. But it's the style of picture they typically use on the front page of StarTribune.com, promoting Gubernatorial race articles that lie within.

Decades of observations of the Star Tribune lead me to believe this isn't accidental. Of course, it's a way for their laughing boy photo editors to slant the coverage on the cheap. To subtly remind readers that there may be something wrong with the Republican candidate. He just isn't Minnesota nice, like say, Amy Klobuchar or Mark Dayton. He just might be angry, raging, fiery, chest-thumping, nasty, and thick-necked with a pudgy face (adjectives all appearing in this Star Tribune piece about Tom Emmer during the state GOP convention).

There's not a lot that can be done about it. It's what the local lefty media does and they do it well. But in the interest of Equal Time and the Fairness Doctrine, I think we have to treat other candidates the same way. Which is why I'm happy to announce our new stock photograph for all future Betty McCollum blog posts:

This is especially fortuitous timing too, given the title of tomorrow's big Fraters Libertas story.

Is Betty McCollum a Muslim?

Which will be followed up later this week with:

Why is Betty McCollum Cavorting Around with King Banaian at a Posh Mountain Retreat?

Stay tuned to Fraters Libertas for all the breaking news on these important stories.

Tom Emmer's "Get off my lawn!" face will be immortalized in at least one seed art piece at the State Fair.

THE ELDER ADDS: For the record, this is our official stock Mark Dayton photo to be used in all posts that mention him:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Jim Geraghty at National Review profiles some Congressional races that in any normal election year have no business being competitive. But thanks to the amazing efforts of the President and his Congressional supermajorities, miracles are being imagined:

... with so many promising Republican challengers this year, a bunch of potential upsets are flying well under the radar. And with the political environment going from bad to worse for Democrats, it is increasingly likely the night of November 2 will include some winners that almost no one saw coming. If you’re searching for some of these long shots who are looking shorter these days, here is a dirty baker’s dozen of GOP challengers to keep an eye on. They’re underfunded, unrecognized, rarely mentioned, and given no chance . . . and they may just win anyway.

And coming in at number 11, drum roll please ....

11. Theresa Collett vs. Betty McCollum, Minnesota’s 4th District.

Reasons the challenger should have no chance: This is a D+13 district; McCollum won it in 2008 by 37 percentage points.

Reasons the challenger has a chance: Upon winning the primary, Collett, a University of St. Thomas law professor, challenged McCollum to four debates. She’s still waiting for a reply. On the stump, Collett makes her points in a crisp, clear, direct style. Outgoing governor Tim Pawlenty is giving Collett some help. Collett is severely underfunded, but McCollum has only $160,634 in cash on hand as of July 21, which is fairly low for an incumbent.

For an article promoting the possibilities of a Collett victory, those are awfully thin pegs on which to hang her chances. McCollum has ducked debating opponents, and her record in general, for her entire career. Indeed, not articulating her beliefs in public is a key component of her success. Tim Pawlenty's approval rating in Minnesota is currently sub-50%, and much lower in CD4 I'm sure, so his ability to transfer momentum is limited. And while McCollum may not have a huge campaign treasure chest, relatively speaking, that's more of a reflection of the DFL assessment of how much she needs, rather than her potential for fund raising. Indeed, if polling showed this race to be uncomfortably close, I suspect she'll get as much money as she requests.

And yet. Collett is such a good candidate. And McCollum is so representative of the institutional Congressional dynamics that have brought the United States to the brink of fiscal crisis. If either qualifications for the job or a referendum on the incumbent's record are the deciding issue, Collett wins.

Notice how those issues aren't even referred to in the National Review horse race analysis. In truth, those issues haven't been decisive in Minnesota's 4th district for decades. It's a one party town, automatic victories for Democrat. And along with that kind of monopoly, all the excesses and extreme ideological positions you can imagine.

Why would this year be any different? Something about the constant drum beat of information like this, coming out today from the Congressional Budget Office:

Accumulating deficits are pushing federal debt to significantly higher levels. CBO projects that total debt will reach $8.8 trillion by the end of 2010. At 60 percent of GDP, that would be the highest level since 1952. Under current laws and policies, CBO’s projections show that level climbing to 67 percent by 2020. As a result, interest payments on the debt are poised to skyrocket; the government’s spending on net interest will triple between 2010 and 2020, increasing from $207 billion to $723 billion.
It's now or never for the CD4 to wake up and do something constructive for the country.

The Most Public Yet of My Many Humiliations

Over the years, we've had the privilege to participate in a lot of great radio moments at the Minnesota State Fair. And giving our generous nature, we've tried to share these moments with our friends and mentors in the industry. For instance, in 2004 we hosted nationally syndicated shock jock Hugh Hewitt at the Fair and presented him with a series of honorary titles and distinctions.

In 2006, we provided Hugh's producer Generalissimo Duane with the enviable opportunity to milk a cow live on the radio.

Friends and family report that Duane's never really been the same man since that memorable experience.

Hugh's history at the Minnesota State Fair goes way back. The first encounter recorded with him here occurred in 2003, when he verbally took poor Atomizer to the woodshed over the national airwaves. Suffice it say, Atomizer's never been the same man after that experience either.

But there's been a lengthy break in Hugh's appearances at the Fair. Not since 2006--the year Duane learned everything he had always wanted to know about udders but was afraid to ask--Hugh and his entourage have been strangely absent from the Fair. Many explanations have been offered as to why--global warming, Duane's appearance on the government's no-fly list, Governor Pawlenty's honorary title austerity measures--but now everyone seems to agree that the blame almost entirely rests with Jay "The Gravedigger" Larson.

The good news is the long drought is finally over. Hugh and crew will be broadcasting live from the Minnesota State Fair on WWTC AM 1280 The Patriot on Friday, August 27th and Monday, August 30th. This schedule also allows Hugh and Duane to show up this Saturday and join the NARN First Team broadcast from 11am-1pm. When you have such notable guests coming to town, you have to do something special. But what?

Our first thoughts naturally turned to animals. We just had about had Duane signed on to participate in a live, on air artificial insemination of a goat. But it got kind of weird when he kept asking if it really had to be artificial. So we elected to instead have Hugh and Duane participate in what has become one of the grand traditions of the State Farm.

Yes Ralphie, there is a Santa Claus. These two Chablis-sipping, brie-eating California boys will be part of one of the Midwest's most famous infamous annual food events: The Northern Alliance Radio Network Scotch Egg Eating Contest.

Those who aren't familiar with the contest's background and set up may want to consult this video of the 2009 event which appeared on Power Line. John Hinderaker also provides valuable information on the Scotch egg itself and even a helpful hint for contestants:

One preliminary note: what exactly is a Scotch egg? It starts with a hard-boiled egg, which is then surrounded by a thick layer of spicy sausage. The entire concoction is then breaded, deep-fried and--of course--placed on a stick. How do you eat a Scotch egg quickly? The key word is: condiments.

In 2008, such condiments were not available and the result was one of the most grueling Scotch egg contests ever.

The drama of the 2005 showdown inspired the creation of the Ballad of the Scotch Egg, a song that still brings a tear to the eye of the toughest Scotch egg swallower.

Our fascination with the Scotch Egg began back in 2003 when pictures of JB Doubtless scarfing one down became an overnight internet sensation.

Its rich history and glorious tradition make the NARN Scotch Egg Eating Contest a State Fair event like no other. We can only begin to imagine how the next chapter will be written. We do know that Hugh Hewitt and Duane Paterson will now have a chance to add their names to the honor roll of those who have stepped up to the challenge in the past.

This Saturday at the State Fair Patriot broadcast booth. High noon twelve-thirtyish. You'll want to be there to watch Hugh and Duane make history.

UPDATE-- We've just received confirmation that Duane is tan, rested, and ready to consume. Unfortunately, Mr. Hewitt is bowing out of the competition allegedly because of an egg allergy. Sounds more like he's allergic to defeat and since he's an Indians, Browns, and Cavs fan I guess you can't really blame him. But you can rest assured that he will be on hand to witness the spectacle and cheer his semi-competent producer on to victory

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pucks and Polls

John Fund has an interesting interview in today's WSJ with Scott Rasmussen, whom Fund describes as America's Insurgent Pollster. Before his work in the world of political polling, Rasmussen also made notable contributions in another sphere:

But Mr. Rasmussen has an interesting entrepreneurial story. He grew up in Massachusetts and New Jersey, the son of a sports broadcaster. Absorbed with hockey in high school, he joined his father in working for the New England Whalers. They would often bemoan that they couldn't get the team's games on broadcast stations. In 1978, trapped in a traffic jam on the way to the Jersey shore, they came up with the idea of an all-sports network on cable TV.

Using $9,000 charged to a credit card, they created the Entertainment Sports Programming Network, or ESPN. They soon scored a major investor in Getty Oil and launched in 1979. Within a few years, they had millions of viewers. Mr. Rasmussen was 22 years old.

The family sold its ESPN interest in 1984, and Mr. Rasmussen became interested in polling after taking a class at the University of Connecticut. He conducted his first poll in the late 1980s, but his business didn't take off until he embraced automated polling in the mid-1990s. With the exception of Gallup, he probably asks more Americans more questions today than any other organization.

Being the man behind one of the most famous polls in America today AND creating ESPN with your dad? Not a bad run.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network goes LIVE this morning at 11 AM. John Hinderaker and I in the studio breaking down all HOT topics of the week. At leat for fifteen minutes. Then commence the guest heavy segments of the program.

At 11:15, in the studio with us, historian Jon Lauck, author of the book Prairie Republic: The Poliical Culture of Dakota Territory, 1879-1889. Yes, it's the fascinating account of those turbulent 10 years in the late 19th century west of the Red River that shook the world! Well, maybe they didn't shake the world, but the book provides insight into the mindset that formed the political institutions and culture of the upper Midwest that lives on to this day. And maybe we can all finally understand what demons drive those modern day Dakota territory expatriates (i.e., John Hinderaker, Mitch Berg, James Lileks, Scott Johnson, etc.) who continue to confuse and amaze us.

Then at noon, GOP gubernatorial candiate Tom Emmer checks in with an update on his campaign and his reaction to he latest issues cropping up in his race against Mark Daton and Tom Horner.

It all starts at 11AM (central). 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).

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is heard locally on AM1280 the Patriot. And streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Call in and join the action at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the sugary folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can you help you satisfy your drinking sweet tooth.

The fourth beer in Summit Brewing's "Unchained" series is Summit Belgian Style Golden Ale:

What's in a name?

This beer could have been called just about a million different things. The famous beer and whiskey writer, Michael Jackson, refers to the style as "Strong Golden Ale". Others reverse the order and say, "Golden Strong Ale". It's even entered at the Great American Beer Festival under the category "Belgian-Style Strong Pale Ale".

Why all the different names? Well, it seems that Belgian brewers aren't all too interested in adhering to any strict style guidelines and would rather name these beers after the Devil or other seedy characters. We kept it simple and called it Unchained Series Batch 04: Belgian Style Golden Ale... not that I didn't come up with a bunch of other stuff first!

Water, malt, hops, yeast and... Belgian Candi sugar.

Those first four ingredients may sound familiar. Belgian Candi sugar, however, may be something you've never heard of. It's what gives Strong Golden Ales their strength. Basically, by adding a bunch of 100% fermentable sugar, the yeast is able to create a lot more alcohol, without adding body to the beer.

More alcohol, less body? Sounds like Atomizer's fitness regimen.

Standard brown Summit bottle. Label follows the pattern of the Unchained Series with an industrial look and brewer's signature.

Alcohol by Volume: 8.6%

COLOR (0-2): Gold, mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty, fruity, and bready with hints of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): White and full. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Complex. Mostly sweet bready malt at the beginning before the heat (8.6% ABV) comes on and the flavor becomes more bitter and citrusy with a sharp finish. Noticeable change in the palate as it settles in. Medium to heavy bodied. Somewhat drinkable, but probably better suited for sipping. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth yet strong as the alcohol definitely lingers. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This may not be a home run for everyone, but Summit is definitely swinging for the fences here and you have to give them credit for a most interesting beer. I was impressed with way the flavors evolve as you consume the beer. With the high alcohol content, it's right on the edge of being too hot, but Belgian Style Golden Ale manages to walk that fine line. Summit continues its Unchained Series run with another quality offering. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shelter in the Tempest

There's a front page article in today's WSJ called Mexico Under Siege:

MONTERREY, Mexico--A surge of drug violence in Mexico's business capital and richest city has prompted an outcry from business leaders who on Wednesday took out full-page ads asking President Felipe Calderón to send in more soldiers to stem the violence.

The growing violence in Monterrey, long one of Mexico's most modern and safe cities, is a sign that the country's war against drug gangs is spreading ever further from poorer battlegrounds along the border and into the country's wealthiest enclaves.

It's a story that we've seen all too often over the last few years as the violence and anarchy spawned by Mexico's drug cartels seems to be spreading unchecked, threatening to send the country into an unstoppable downward spiral toward complete failure. News that the drug-fueled violence has now erupted in previously safe havens such as Monterrey is indeed disturbing. But as Duncan Currie reported in the July 5th edition of National Review, it's important to remember that with all the pain there has been progress too (sub req):

Recognizing this progress can help us keep Mexico's current drug mayhem in perspective. The relentless, ghastly violence in certain border cities--particularly Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, and Reynosa--has fostered the perception among Americans that the entire country is a lawless, blood-soaked hellhole. In fact, the carnage has been concentrated in a relatively small number of geographically important areas. "Parts of the country are probably more peaceful than they've ever been," says Andrew Selee, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "And other parts are being torn asunder by violence between competing cartels."

The regions that have been hit hardest are thoroughly integrated into the global economy, but also function as points of entry or exit for illegal drugs. Northern Mexico benefited handsomely from NAFTA, yet its chief manufacturing and commercial hubs along the U.S. border have become cauldrons of violence. Campbell reckons that six of the 32 Mexican states--Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas--are now "close to being narco-states."

On the other hand, he says, "the majority of the country is basically okay." Indeed, large swaths of Mexico have been insulated from the drug havoc, and the capital city, though plagued by very real security problems, has a much lower homicide rate than the District of Columbia. As Mexico-based journalist Alexandra Olson has noted, the Mexican national murder rate was higher in 1997 (17 murders per 100,000 people) than it was in 2009 (14 per 100,000). Granted, because of the massive spike in drug-related killings, Mexico's homicide rate has jumped since 2007 (when it was 10 per 100,000), but it remains well below that of Brazil, which is frequently touted as an emerging superpower.

The threat isn't that Mexico itself will become a failed state as nation, but that some of the states within the country will.

Villalobos is obviously not an impartial analyst. Yet when we review the available data, it becomes clear that innocent Mexican civilians face less risk than commonly believed. In a wide-ranging January 2010 study, political scientist David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, affirms that "the vast majority of drug-related violence occurs between and among organized-crime groups. If you do not happen to be or have ties to a drug trafficker, the odds of being killed by one are extremely slim." Last year, he writes, the overall odds were roughly 1 in 16,300, though they were much greater in the states of Chihuahua (1 in 1,600), Durango (1 in 2,400), and Sinaloa (1 in 3,400).

Shirk uses statistics compiled by the Mexican newspaper Reforma, which he deems "a fairly reliable source" with a sound methodology for distinguishing drug-war murders from other homicides. According to the Reforma data, the number of drug-related killings in Mexico soared from 2,280 in 2007 to 5,153 in 2008 to 6,587 in 2009. More than two-thirds of the 2009 killings occurred in just five states (Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Durango, and Michoacán), with nearly one-third taking place in Chihuahua alone.

In the past, I've made several business trips to the state of Chihuahua, spending most of my time in Chihuahua City. While the situation there isn't nearly as dire as in Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, or Reynosa, there has been an increase in drug related violence in the city over last few years. As with the majority of the carnage that has gripped Mexico of late, most of that violence has been between members of the various cartels. But at times, bystanders get caught in the middle as well.

During these business trips to Chihuahua, some of my co-workers and I have also taken time to support a local orphanage there called Casa de Hogar Misericordia Orphanage. We've raised funds at work and on this web site and used that money to support the orphanage in various ways. You read about some of these efforts here.

It's been a few years since I've been to Chihuahua (business reasons) and I've wondered how the orphanage was coping in these difficult times. Last month, one of our work colleagues in Chihuahua received an e-mail from the couple who run Casa de Hogar Misercordia. Here's the rough translation:


Last night, a family that live in front of our home were executed, the bullets were so noisy and so near that looks like was at the back yard, we run everywhere, going stair up and down trying to hide when car pass in front, then they leave as nothing happened. We don't know what's going to happen every day, people is killed at out street, there are several business that the killers are asking for money to allow them continue doing business and those that don't want to pay they are threatened and if not get the money about 80K, 100K or even more pesos, they are killed.

God is our lovely and our refuge at the anguish day, the day that I fear I trust in you.

Lovely brothers, God keep us here and we will continue forward and we can't abandon our children neither our families on now dangerous days, but if one day God decides take us with him, be known that we love you and we are pretty thankful with all of you, for all the goodness you have done with all the kids and with us, please support us with your prays and your love and your donatives for this labor.

God bless you and I will keep informing you about what's going to happen.

Fidel and Mariana.

It just so happens that I'll be making a trip to our facility in Chihuahua at the end of August with a few others. We've made plans to stop by the orphanage and have already been raising funds at our workplace. I'd like to continue the tradition of on-line fundraising for the orphanage here at Fraters Libertas, but there's a problem. Pay Pal.

While we've been able to utilize the services of Pay Pal in the past to collect money for the orphanage, we are now longer able to do so. Pay Pal has frozen our account and won't allow us to use to accept donations unless we provide evidence that we are a non-profit organization registered with the government. Well, we're not. We're just individuals who are trying to provide a little support to kids who are in desperate need and would like to use the platform of this web site and the generosity of its readers to do that.

Now, I understand that Pay Pal is concerned about possible fraud and wants to protect its users. I have no problem with that. But I would have thought that there would have been some way to reach an accommodation to allow a non officially registered--licensed--government approved charity effort like this to accept donations on-line. As I discovered through a series of e-mails with Pay Pal officials, the answer apparently is not.

I also looked into some alternatives to Pay Pal, but couldn't find a reputable one that didn't have either monthly fees or onerous transaction charges. So at this point, it looks like the only way we'll be able to accept donations is through the old fashioned check sent by mail (or Pony Express). If you wish to contribute, drop them to:

Chad Doughty
7200 Glenwood Ave
Golden Valley, MN 55427

We leave for Chihuahua in ten days. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Strangelove or: How I Learned To Quit Worrying & Love Brett Favre

When he played for the Packers, I despised Brett Favre. And no, it wasn't solely because he often found a way to beat the Purple--often in dramatic fashion and almost always at Lambeau Field. It was the constant chorus of hosannas about how "nobody has more fun than Brett," "nobody loves the game more than Brett," "nobody is tougher than Brett," that not only flowed freely from the puckered lips of Packer fans, but from most of the media as well. They sought to create an image of one of the more selfish, monomaniacal men to ever play the game as an aw shucks, good ol' boy populist hero. And Favre took every opportunity to hone that image and build the Favre folklore that eventually became a cult of personality among the Packer faithful. It was really quite a sickening spectacle.

And so one year ago (almost to the day), when Favre fever first broke in these parts, I was relatively immunized from the hype:

The other group of Viking fans are cool-headed and rational enough to realize that while Favre once WAS a great quarterback, his best days are long behind him. Now, he's nothing more than a washed-up, egomaniacal prima donna whose brain is writing checks that his arm can no longer cash. Yes, he's still a gun-slinger, but one who's now much slower on the draw and less accurate with his shooting. Worst of all, he still carries with him some of the arrogance of youth that most men with his experience have learned is unfounded. The idea that he's going to calmly and carefully help quarterback the Vikings to the Super Bowl with deliberate style is absurd. Even if he wanted to take such a measured approach to the game, he couldn't. It's not in his nature. He's still Brett Favre and even if he manages to contain his urge to improvise for a good part of the season, you know that at some critical point in a key game he's going to try to do too much. When the Favre of old gambled, he usually won more than he lost. But expecting the Favre of late to pay off is a sucker's bet. I estimate that 20% of Vikings fan--the Realists--are not suckers today.

As I did after the heart-breaking loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship game, I will resist the urge to say "I told you so." Because even though Favre did end up reverting to form at the very worst possible time, I have to admit that I was almost entirely wrong about what his impact on the Vikings would be. No, he didn't get the Vikings to the promised land, but he is the reason they came so agonizingly close. He played spectacular, mostly error-free football last season and anyone who thinks the Vikings would have achieved the success they did without him is delusional.

The fact that he has once again decided to don a purple and gold jersey gives Vikings fans hope that this finally could be the year. These hopes will undoubtedly be crushed somewhere along the way as they always are, but hey at least we can hope (definition of hopeless: Detroit Lions fans).

At this point, I'm very skeptical about the Vikings chances. There's no way Favre can be as good as was last year and some of the injuries and issues with other offensive players are concerning. And then there's the coach.

About a month ago, I heard an interview with Darren Sharper on a national sports talk show. Sharper was on the Saints Super Bowl team last year and before that played for both the Vikings and the Packers. The host asked Sharper what it was like to be on the field during the closing minutes of regulation in the NFC Championship game with the Vikings driving for what could should have been a game-winning field goal. Sharper said that he and his defensive mates were plenty worried that their Super Bowl dreams were fast slipping away. Then, he said something to the effect that he looked across the field, remembered similar situations when the crew on the other sidelines had troubles in critical moments, and felt confident. Cue the twelve men in the huddle penalty, the interception, and the rest is history. Clearly, without coming right out and saying it, Sharper was intimating that he knew that Childress would find a way to choke. After all, he had played under Childress and had witnessed his late-game meltdowns firsthand. He knew Childress couldn't finish the game.

I don't like to make absolute statements. When it comes to sports, I can only recall a few cases of doing so. One was that with Denny Green as coach the Vikings would never win a Super Bowl. That proved accurate. The other, that the Gopher hockey team would never win a national championship with Adam Hauser in net turned out to be incorrect (much to my satisfaction). I now think I've seen enough to say that the Vikings will never win the Super Bowl with Brad Childress as coach. Not exactly a stretch, as the Vikings haven't had to worry much about where to display their Lombardi trophies in the past, but one that I think is necessary with Favre's return once again leading Vikings fans to indulge in flights of football fantasy. With Favre, the Vikings may have the right QB, but they still have the wrong coach.

Along with hope, Favre also brings the sports media circus back to town. Last year, I grew tired of the endless speculation, sightings, and snippets of nothing reported as news about Favre. But I was convinced by JB that rather than being annoyed by the sideshow, I should instead appreciate its entertainment value and embrace it. And this year that's exactly what I've done. From the moment the rumors first began last spring to the Tweets hinting at retirement to the glorious implausibility of the story of his teammates going down to Mississippi to bring him back to the team, I've loved every minute of it. Like any good reality television show, you don't really know how much of this is authentic and how much is following a planned script. But it's such good drama that you really don't care.

Through the course of this year's Favre's Follies, I've also come to respect the man pushing everybody's buttons. Yes, he is a selfish, monomaniacal SOB. But he's also amazingly adept at playing this little waiting game and expertly stringing people along. You can almost see him winking at times and I can only imagine the laughs that he shares with family and friends every night as he recounts his latest moves and the reactions they brought. I half expect him to step to the podium at today's press conference with that sly grin on his face and announce, "'Course I'm coming back. I was just having fun f***ing with you all for a while." Hard not to like a guy who can pull that off.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rage Against The Machine

I ran across this youtube video on NDNation today. It's pretty powerful. If only the Republican creampuffs would sack up and produce an this as an ad, or better yet some leaders that could articulate this message, there might be some hope for us.

Targeted Giving

Minnesota's own (at least during the warm months of summer) Gary Larson looks at the real reasons why Target is being boycotted by groups like MoveOn.org and why companies like Target got involved in Minnesota politics in the first place in a piece at The Intellectual Conservative:

That Target favors a candidate who wants lower taxes, particularly the state's excessive corporate income tax, is a slam dunk. My state's corporate tax rate, 9.8% at the top, is third highest in the nation. (That is well above the national average of 6.6%, according to the Tax Foundation.) Truth be told, Minnesota as a high-tax state is likely the prime reason that Best Buy, Polaris, Regis and other Minnesota-based corporations chipped in to the pro-business Minnesota Advantage campaign. (No boycott, though, of other companies giving to Minnesota Advance. Only Target is targeted. Why would make for interesting speculation.)

Under the surface of its "anti-gay" rhetoric, the MoveOn folks might loathe candidate Emmer, a lawyer and state representative, as anti-abortion. He's also against restrictive gun legislation in this hunter-happy state. And get this! Emmer has tossed out ideas to reshape state minimum wage law exemptions to create more jobs for youth. Thus to inflame only self-serving unions. He has also authored legislation, unsuccessful in a Democrat-held Legislature, to exempt the state from restrictive federal gun laws. Tsk. Tsk!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fill It Up With Petroleum Distillate & Re-vulcanize My Tires, Post-haste

While being interviewed by WCCO's Esme Murphy, DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton explained why it's so difficult to determine the details of the impact that his plans to increase taxes would have on Minnesotans (starts at about 6:20--via Shot in the Dark):

MURPHY: Going back to this issue of taxing people making $200,000. What percentage would a couple making $175,000. What percentage would their taxes go up under your plan? What percentage would people making $1,000,000...what percentage would their taxes go up?

DAYTON: Now that I've been endorsed, I can enlist the cooperation...the only 3 entities that have the computer capabilities are the Department of Revenue...and the Senate Tax Committee & the House Tax Committee. And now that I've won the DFL primary, I will enlist their support.

I don't have a supercomputer or a large computer capability to do that simulation. What I've been saying is that people making $175,000 a year will pay a little bit more in income taxes and someone making $1,000,000 a year will pay more and somebody making $10,000,000 to $100,000,000 a year will pay significantly more. And again, my two opponents are saying that someone who's making $10,000,000 or $100,000,000 a year should not pay one penny more in income taxes. And meanwhile, everyone else will pay more in higher property taxes or higher sales taxes under their proposals.

A supercomputer? Now, I'm not a financial wizard and don't pretend to be one, but I have to believe that you don't need a supercomputer or even a "a large computer capability" to assess the impact on people of changing the tax rates in their brackets. Murphy isn't asking for a to the penny breakdown on what Dayton's tax plans would cost, just how much more on average a couple making $175K or $1M a year would pay. Surely, this is something that--given all the necessary inputs--a reasonably competent person could calculate using Microsoft Excel. You could do it on a calculator. With the necessary acumen and a little rounding here and there, an abacus could probably be employed to arrive at an accurate enough figure.

We can only hope that Dayton will get the help he needs (and soon) to allow him to come up with something more specific than "a little bit more." In the meantime, he announced a new proposal today to revitalize Minnesota's vacuum tube industry.


Took the eldest son to a sporting event in the great outdoors on Saturday evening that was quintessentially American. No, it was not an outing to see the Twins at Target Field. It was trip to the Elko Speedway to catch some fuel-burning, tire-squealing racing action.

Now, I should confess that I'm not much of a motor sports fan. I can't imagine less compelling television viewing than watching cars drive in circles for hours. But when you witness it up close and personal, it becomes much more interesting. And you can get very close to the action at Elko. My son picked a spot in the first row of the grandstand. While that meant we had to look through a fence and couldn't get a great view of the whole track, it also meant that we were just a stone's throw from the finish line. You could not only hear and smell the cars going by, you could feel their horsepower.

Elko's drivers are mostly just a bunch of local good ol' boys (and girls) and the track isn't exactly Indy. But the short course and short races (some only 10 laps) were perfect for a non-racing fan and his young son. We could see the cars the whole time they went around and the length of each race kept us from getting distracted (did I mention the two Vikings cheerleaders on hand?). My son especially enjoyed being close by the track official who waved the various flags and handed out the trophies after each race.

From a cost point of view, it would be hard to beat our experience. My wife purchased a coupon through a social media group that included admission for me and my son, a small popcorn (for him), and two beers (for me). For all of ten dollars. While the beer selection left much to be desired, it was hard to complain about the price.

The roar of the engines was quite loud and so after a few races, I decided to pick up ear plugs for my son. One dollar. A checkered flag for him to wave? Two bucks.

Another nice benefit from a family outing perspective, was how easy to it was attend. Yes, the drive to Elko can be a bit of a haul depending where upon you live, but once you get there it's cake. Parking is free. While there was a line to purchase tickets when we got there, they also had a separate table set up to handle coupons so we got right in. You can pretty much walk around where you want on the grounds. The seating is general admission so you sit where you want and move easily if you wish. There are plenty of concession stands and the lines were short. Again, the beer choices weren't great, but the price was right. Without a coupon, single cans go for three bucks a pop and you can get an ice-filled bucket of six for fifteen.

It was also a refreshingly free atmosphere. There's a large bar under the grandstand that you could enter and exit as you please. You could bring your beer with you wherever you went. And they let people smoke outside. Yes, it does sound ridiculous to say that, but more and more outdoor events now completely ban smoking. I don't smoke myself, but I enjoyed catching a whiff of burning tobacco wafting through the summer air every so often on Saturday night. It smelled like freedom. For those with a real aversion to the evil weed, there's a family section where smoking and drinking is not allowed.

My experience attending the races at Elko Speedway on Saturday night is not going to turn me into a motor head. But it is likely going to result in return visits with the kids in the future.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network goes LIVE this morning at 11 AM. The team is reassembled in full after a rare and well-deserved break for me last week. John Hinderaker and I will be in studio.

We'll break down all of the HOT topics this week, including, but not limited to, the MN Gubernatorial race and another multi-billion dollar bailout for government employees. Plus Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping.

Special guest at noon, comedy legend Mike Nelson, formerly of Mystery Science 3000, now at Rifftrax. We'll catch up with this former MN resident, now living the high life in the suburbs of San Diego. And we'll cover the latest Rifftrax offerings, including cinematic classics such as Twillight: New Moon, Avatar, and The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.

Mike and the Rifftrax boys also have an event coming up on August 19, LIVE riffing on Reefer Madness, simulcast to movie theaters around the country. Me and the Fraters Libertas boys saw the live riffing of Plan Nine from Outer Space last year and it was a terrific time.

It all starts at 11AM (central). 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).

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is heard locally on AM1280 the Patriot. And streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Call in and join the action at 651-289-4488. Don't you dare miss it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Future Is Now

From earlier this week, in an ad from Congressional candidate Ben Quayle:

Ben Quayle, running for the GOP nomination in [Arizona's] 3rd Congressional District, speaks directly to the camera in the spot, which began airing in the Phoenix area Wednesday. "Barack Obama is the worst president in history," Quayle says in the ad's opening seconds.

From 2008 in regard to President Bush signing off on the budget, Congresswoman Betty McCollum:

At a time when America is facing tremendous challenges at home and around the world, this is the best budget that the worst President in American history will agree to.

Prediction: In the future, every President will be the worst President in history for 15 minutes.

(For the record, my grandmother's maiden name was Warhol.)

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the well-rounded folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you blaze a trail through the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Over the years a number of individual brews have helped craft brewing break through from the esoteric to the mainstream. Sam Adams Boston Lager is definitely one of these pioneers. To a lesser extent, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was also the starting point for many on their path from macro lagers to the world of hoppy, flavorful beers. Another such gateway beer is Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado.

While I support any efforts to get American beer drinkers to widen their horizons, I've never really understood the special appeal of Fat Tire. While it's now widely available, there was a time not long ago when it was hard to get your hands on a bottle outside of the Rocky Mountain State. Not since the golden days of Coors' limited availability, had there been such a buzz about the lengths that people would go to acquire Fat Tire. I heard stories of road trips planned around securing copious amounts of Fat Tire to bring home. People in Colorado would ship Fat Tire to their friends who eagerly awaited the arrival of the magical elixir.

I suppose it shows the power of branding, design, and exclusivity. There's no doubt that part of the beer's appeal was the name itself. Fat Tire is unique, easy to remember, and likeable. The bottle and label are also attractive and contributed to the beer's popularity:

New Belgium beer labels are designed by Anne Fitch, a watercolorist.

Kim Jordan, the President of New Belgium Brewery, credits the success of New Belgium Brewery in part on Anne's artwork, "Our beers were good, our labels were interesting to people, and we pretty quickly had a fairly robust following."

And there's no disputing that the label is a killer. A gorgeous red bike leaning against a tree in a beautiful pastoral setting framed with vines. How can you not like this beer?

Well, there is the matter of taste...

Beer Style: Amber Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%

COLOR (0-2): Clear and amber gold. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty, bready, and sweet. 1

HEAD (0-2): A little off-white. Nice volume and good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again mostly malty and sweet with a light touch of hops. Medium-bodied with a flat yet heavy finish. Moderate drinkability. 2

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Strong follow through but somewhat off-putting. 1

OVERALL (0-6): I haven't had a Fat Tire for a while, but this tasting once again confirmed my long-held view that it's one of or even perhaps the most overrated beer out there. It's not a great beer and really isn't even that good of beer when compared to all the other craft options available. Yes, it's a heck of lot better than Coor's Light and if Fat Tire is the lure that gets people hooked on craft beer than it serves a useful purpose, but there's simply nothing to get excited about here. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 11

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finish Your Whisky and Beer

At this point, I'm not quite to the halfway mark of Daniel Okrent's Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and I'm already thoroughly immersed in his well-crafted historical cocktail. It's an enjoyable, interesting, and informative read with a superb, but not superfluous, level of detail and analysis. The following is but a small sample of some of the tastier tidbits from Part One of the book called "The Struggle."

Frederick Marryat on the role liquor played in American life in 1839:

"If you meet, you drink; if you part, you drink; if you make acquaintance, you drink; if you close a bargain you drink; they quarrel in their drink, and they make it up with a drink. They drink because it is hot; they drink because it is cold. If successful in elections, they drink and rejoice; if not, they drink and swear; they begin to drink early in the morning, they leave off late at night; they commence it early in life, and they continue it, until they soon drop in the grave."


In the Mesabi and Vermillion ranges of Northern Minnesota, congressional investigators counted 256 saloons in fifteen mining towns, their owners representing eighteen distinct immigrant nationalities.


In the two decades leading up to Prohibition's enactment, five distinct, if occasionally overlapping, components made up this unspoken coalition: racists, progressives, suffragists, populists (whose ranks also included a small socialist auxiliary), and nativists. Adherents of each group may have been opposed to alcohol for its own sake, but each used the Prohibition impulse to advance ideologies and causes that had little to do with it.


Given that you couldn't collect much revenue from a liquor tax in a nation where there was no liquor, this might have seemed an insurmountable problem for the Prohibition movement. Unless, that is, you could weld the drive for Prohibition to the campaign for another reform, the creation of a tax on incomes.

Take my drink and my money.


Delegates accepted a resolution of solidarity from a new organization called the Catholic Prohibition League of America, which unconvincingly claimed a membership of thirty thousand.


George Ade carved an appropriate epitaph for the anti-Prohibitionists in his 1931 elegy, "The Old Time Saloon": "The Non-Drinkers had been organizing for fifty years and the Drinkers had no organization whatever. They had been too busy drinking."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fly Me To The Moon

Random musings from recent travels:

- Trying to drag your family through the Manila airport would be an absolute nightmare. It's not exactly a picnic for the solo adult. By contrast, Taipei was an absolute dream when I passed through on a Saturday afternoon. No lines anywhere and almost eerily quiet. Great play areas for kids too.

- Viewed from the air, Taiwan looks like a combination of the infrastructural efficiency of Japan and the cultural color of China.

- Most of the Asian airlines that I've flown will not fill their business class section with upgrades as American carriers do. Depending on whether you're already in or hoping for an upgrade, that can viewed as a good or bad thing. It is kind of relaxing to be one of three people in a twenty-seat section. Almost impossible not to get good service.

- One novel business class feature that I found welcome on Eva Airlines was the larger bathroom. Where there usually might have been two normal cramped bathrooms, there was one expansive comfortable commode.

- If you're not a celebrity of some renown, the baseball cap and sports jacket is simply not a good look.

- Humor, especially American style sarcasm, doesn't usually translate well.

- It's an old cliché, but travel really does bring out the best and worst in people. You can judge a lot about a person's character about how they react to the inevitable disruptions that occur on every trip.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fat Cats

James from Folsom, CA notes a confluence of forces that can only spell disaster:

As much of a fan of Dennis Green as I know you are, you'll be pleased to know that not only is he coaching the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the "UFL" but the team is owned by Mr. Nancy Pelosi!

The Sacramento Mountain Lions: the most hated team in professional sports.

The marketing opportunities abound. I'm sure that Denny was not Mr. Pelosi's first choice for coach as, based on his past business dealings, he no doubt would have preferred to have The Big Tuna guiding the Mountain Lions.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Tired of Packing and Unpacking

Last Wednesday, I left town for a family reunion in Wisconsin and got back on Friday. On Saturday, we took the family truckster up to Biwabik, Minnesota and returned from that Iron Range adventure today. Tomorrow, I leave for a two-day business trip to Colorado. No chance to even think about putting the bag away yet.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the stout-hearted folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help provide the liquid courage you need for any adventure.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a wild and untamed land filled with unusual and dangerous creatures. And the outdoors can present challenges too. Visitors who dare venture into the many small-town taverns are advised to maintain a safe distance and not to make eye contact with the locals. Don't feed the Yoopers (paranoia).

Fortunately, one of the best craft breweries in the country has the perfect beer for any souls brave stupid enough to take on the UP. From Kalamazoo, Michigan we have Bell's Brewery's Two Hearted Ale

India Pale Ale style well suited for adventurous trips to the Upper Peninsula. American malts and enormous hop additions give this beer a crisp finish and incredible floral hop aroma.

Brown bottle. Orange border frames a charcoal-gray textured label with a fish (lake trout?) looking for trouble.

Beer Style: IPA

Alcohol by Volume:7.1%

COLOR (0-2): Cloudy medium-golden brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Lovely scents of citrus and hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): White and full. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again a lot of citrus flavor (grapefruit and orange) and heavy hops with some sweet and piney tones. Medium-bodied. Considering the ABV, it's really rather drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp bitter finish and good follow through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Another excellent offering from Bell's. The hops are definitely there, but not overpowering. Smoother and more well-rounded than some of the other IPAs out there, A great beer to pair with food, it's also a nice stand alone taste experience to enjoy in any season. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

The Disturbed

For those looking for even more analylsis on the mind of Matt Entenza, an extensive review of his campaign bio has been completed. The disturbing results are posted at the Nihilist in Golf Pants.

Running on Empty

One of the small pleasures of any campaign season is watching the candidates attempt to pander to what they view as the "common man". You know, me and you, the voters. Those mouth-breathing, uni-browed slobs whose support is unfortunately needed in order to win. I think this quote from Mr. Burns of The Simpsons best exemplifies the typical attitude candidates bring the process:

Ironic, isn't it Smithers. This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That's democracy for you.

It's even more amusing to watch when the candidates actually happen to be out-of-touch, in terms of socio-economic status. In Minnesota, we're lucky enough to have two such cases. Two multimillionaire plutocrats running for governor. And both under the banner of the vestiges of the "Farmer-Labor" party, no less. Ironic, isn't it Smithers.

Both were on display this week when they were forced to jaunt out to the countryside and engage the peasantry at Farm Fest in Redwood Falls, MN. A gubernatorial debate was announced, the slack-jawed troglodytes shuffled in, the aristocrat candidates emerged in their top hats and spats, and hilarity ensued.

Well, not hilarity, but maybe enough to get a few smirks. Doug Grow reported on the affair, which included candidate claims such as this by Mark Dayton:

DFLer Mark Dayton spoke of how earlier generations of Daytons had been farmers.

Considering that Mark Dayton's great grandfather, George Draper Dayton, founded the department store fortune that Mark Dayton is still living off of, in 1902, it's not clear how far back into the mists of history Dayton had to reach to find his farming ancestors. I'm guessing Mesopotamia.

Not to be outdone in the close, personal connection to agriculture, Dayton's fellow nabob candidate stepped to the mic and connected with the farmers in attendance:

Matt Ententza, the third DFLer on the podium, talked of how his great-great-grandfather farmed near Marietta.

Great, great grandfather? That's a mere four generations back. You can practically smell the manure on Entenza's supple Italian calf-skin leather tasseled loafers.

Although he's not leading in the polls right now, Entenza is clearly leading in the embarrassing pandering department. The radio and TV these days are full of Entenza ads, using variations on the theme used in his "Community Ad":

This is Matt Entenza. We all know MN is facing tough challenges, but I've spent my entire life creating opportunities from challenging times.

I was 15 when my Dad left and my mom raised us on her own. We didn't have much money, but we had a community that cared. I had some great teachers, and with hard work and scholarships I was able to go to college and make a better life.. I'm running for Governor to create that kind of opportunity for every family.

The deadbeat dad angle. For some reason his campaign believes that is a key element to his electability. Why? I'm not sure. Because there are so many abandoned families in Minnesota that can relate? Because there are so many deadbeat dads out there who will vote for him out of guilt? This is a critical, sizeable demographic segment that has to be catered to?

It must be, because it shows up in such places as the first paragraph of his official campaign bio:

Worthington provided a home for Matt when his father's alcoholism drove his family to near-bankruptcy and the loss of their home in California.

It shows up in his speech accepting the endorsement by the National Organization of Women:

Growing up without a father I know how powerfully important women are, how strong they can be and the unique challenges they face in the world.

According to the Star Tribune, it shows up nearly every time he opens his mouth while on the stump:

A big part of his energy is devoted to introducing himself to the state. He is quick to tell the story of his wayward father, which has become a signature in his political narrative, always delivered in a spare, unemotional style.

He was raised in Santa Monica, Calif., until he was 15, when his alcoholic father vanished and the family lost their house. With nowhere to turn, the family moved to Worthington to live with his grandmother.

"It was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said.

That's the *best* thing ever in his life? I'll take his word for it, but I presume marrying a woman who turned out to be worth tens of millions is also somewhere in the top 10.

This gratuitous use of perceived suffering, dysfunction, or adversity as a bullet point in a résumé always reminds of the scene in The Bonfire of the Vanities, where a guest at a swank Manhattan cocktail party is introduced as:

SHERMAN: I want you to meet Aubrey Buffing.

JUDY: Who?

SHERMAN: The poet. He's on the short list for the Nobel Prize. He has AIDS. You'll love him.

Perhaps the all-time real world classic in this regard came in 2004. Tom Vilsack, before he was irresponsibly sacking Shirley Sherrod in his current capacity as Secretary of Agriculture, was the Governor of Iowa and a hot property as a potential running mate for John Kerry. The New York Times profiled him as follows (via this July 2004 FL post):

What may be sexiest about Mr. Vilsack as a potential running mate, however, is his life story. Left on a Pittsburgh orphanage's doorstep at birth, he was reared by a father who came from money but lost all of his own, and a mother who escaped into alcohol.

Yes, sexy. In fact, to this day, every time someone reads that paragraph a tingle goes up Chris Matthews' leg.

Mr. Vilsack knows this story has mass appeal and has grown comfortable talking about it with total strangers. "Some people back in those days would take a belt to their child," he says, "but when my mother did it, it wouldn't be the strap part, it'd be the buckle part, so she'd do it till I started bleeding. She'd just whack me. She was sick. She was frustrated, she was angry.

Vote Democrat in 2004!

Actually, that story may not have been sexy enough. John Kerry went with another hard luck millionaire story instead, that son of a millworker himself, John Edwards. And the rest is history.

It just goes to show you how high the bar has been set for personal misery appeals to the electorate. At this late stage, Matt Entenza is going to have to up his game considerably if he is going to secure the vast sick, frustrated, and angry masses of the Minnesota electorate.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Our (blank) Who Art In Heaven...

I tried out a new church on Sunday with my MIL. My wife had hauled our two boys to Saturday mass the day before, so I was child-free. Having to spank the little dudes every 15-20 minutes can be very distracting from my soul savin', so this was a welcome respite. I decided to check out a beautiful place that is run by a group of nuns who also live at the facility. I had not been to this particular church before.

It really was beautiful with a classic apse and gorgeous stained glass. It was built in the conventional style that seemed to work fine for thousands of years until the 60's when things started getting cute (see St. Therese as one example).

With the church's classic architecture, I thought perhaps the service itself might not be marred by the garish modernisms that infect so many masses, so I settled in.

Within I would say five minutes I knew something wasn't right. There was something going on with the language, something that sounded off and dissonant. Within a few more minutes I determined what it was.

SOMEONE had gone through all of the spoken and sung parts of the mass and removed two prominent words: HE and FATHER and replaced them with LORD or GOD. So instead of "Let us thank him" it became "Let us thank God". Instead of "...Jesus Christ, only son of the father..." it became "...Jesus Christ, only son of God..." and so on.

I instantly began fuming at the audacity and seething resentment that must have fueled such behavior. It occurred to me that this is the kind of nonsense that women in the Church can be capable of without strong male leadership (let's just say the priest did not portray the firmest of wrists).

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that hateful feminism had infected so deeply a place of worship, but I still was. I plotted what I would say to any of the nuns I encountered on the way out of mass ("That way death, sister" came to mind) but settled on just walking out into the bright sunlight and thick air knowing I would never set foot in there again.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Not Able To Cast The First Stone Here

Second man who stole, shot, burned Ronald McDonald statue sentenced:

PIERRE, S.D.--A second Fort Pierre man who pleaded guilty to charges in the theft and destruction of a Ronald McDonald statue in Pierre has been sentenced to serve 45 days in jail.

The sentence for 19-year-old Tyler Fischbach was lighter than the six-month term handed down last month for 22-year-old Austin Uecker. Judge Lori Wilbur told Fischbach that he was equally culpable but did not have any prior felony convictions.

The statue was taken March 13 from a McDonald's restaurant parking lot and later found north of Fort Pierre. Authorities say the life-size statue had been shot and burned. Fischbach and Uecker have been ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.

It's the shooting and burning that are really beyond the pale here.

Running Behind

Running a political campaign is not easy. The majority of campaigns today--even those that prove ultimately successful for the candidate--are not well run. Those that are--such as Obama's 2008 primary and presidential undertakings--stand out from the crowd and are noted for their well-crafted strategy and efficient execution.

On a much smaller scale, Tom Emmer's campaign to secure the Minnesota GOP's endorsement for governor has also been remarked upon favorably. Like Obama, Emmer began the campaign in a crowded field and was not the favorite. But his campaign's superior strategy, organization, and communications help him to break away from the pack, narrow the field to a two-way race, and eventually prevail over Marty Seifert at the state convention.

Since the convention however Team Emmer's efforts have been disappointing. It's still early in the race for governor and once the DFL settles on a candidate there will be more clarity for voters on their choice. But so far the Emmer campaign has not impressed with its stumbling and bumbling on sideshow issues and inability to articulate a clear, consistent message. Quick, what is Emmer's key message right now? I don't know either. You may not approve of Mark Dayton's promise to "make the rich pay their fair share," but I bet most Minnesotans who pay attention to politics would recognize it.

Again, it's early and there's still plenty of time for Emmer's campaign to straighten up and fly right. But it got me to thinking about previous Republican campaigns for statewide office in Minnesota. When was the last time you could really describe one as "well run"?

2008: The less said about Norm Coleman's campaign against Al Franken the better. Don't blame Mark Ritchie for Franken's win. Norm Coleman's miserable campaign turned what should have been a laugher into a too close to call election night result.

2006: Bucking a Democratic tide in the state, Tim Pawlenty held on to win re-election as Minnesota's governor. But despite the result, his campaign was lackluster and unfocused. If Mike Hatch had been able to conceal his real self just a little bit longer, he might have beaten T-Paw and would be our governor today. Yikes.

While most people probably didn't expect Mark Kennedy to defeat Amy Klobuchar to claim the "Dayton Seat" in the Senate (figuratively vacant since the 2000 election), we did expect him to run a better campaign. The "aw shucks, I'm just a moderate Minnesota family guy in plaid shirt" approach was pathetic and voters responded to it by giving Klobuchar an all-too-easy victory.

2004: No major statewide races.

2002: This is the last election year that we had what could be described as well run GOP campaigns. Both Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty benefited from the fact that 2002 was a Republican year. And Coleman especially benefited from the circumstances of the Wellstone funeral. But they also both ran well-managed, effective campaigns that put the candidates into positions where they could capitalize on the circumstances and win elections. Which makes their later campaign struggles all the more difficult to understand. Did they forget the formula for success and the lessons they learned? Or where they too confident that having run campaigns and won elections in the past, they could just put it in cruise the next time around?

Let's hope the Emmer campaign hasn't fallen victim to similar hubristic temptations after the impressive effort to gain the GOP endorsement. The only campaign that matters is the one you're running right now.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tanned, Rested, and Finally Ready?

The idea of Newt Gringrich as president has been intriguing since he came to prominence in the early 1990s as the intellectual leader of the Republicans in Congress. His combination of high intelligence, understanding and appreciation of history, ability to effectively connect conservative principles to every day voter concerns, and his willingness to fight for his beliefs was unmatched in the party back then.

As well all know, his path to power didn't end well. After leading the Republican Revolution back in '94 and winning governing majorities, relentless demonization by the mainstream media and his own tendency toward carelessness in his personal life and pridefulness in office, cast him in the role of a villain for many Americans. His national "favorability" rating to this day has not exceeded 35%, which his a huge impediment to overcome for a Presidential candidate.

But Gingrich is still ambitious enough to want to be President. He's made rumblings about running many times over the past decade. I remember getting excited about a potential Gingrich run in 2008, only to have the rug yanked out by him relatively early for what seemed to be superficial reasons (he didn't want to give up running his non-profit political advocacy organization). In retrospect, it appears it was more his acumen in correctly reading the building momentum against any Republican candidate in 2008 that led to his decision to pull out.

2012 will certainly be a different political environment. It looks like the electorate will be more receptive to the Gingrich/conservative message than at any time since 1994. However, there is a concern that it will still be bad timing for Gingrich personally. Beyond his favorability issues with the general public, there's the perception that his time has passed. If he won, he'd be 69-years-old at inauguration, making him the second oldest President in history (just a few months younger than Ronald Reagan at the beginning of his second term). The contrast between this candidate, and the hip, young, allegedly forward-looking Obama would be striking for the millions of voters who do not choose a President based on substantive assessments.

And yet! Hearing a Gingrich speech today reminds you of all of the reasons you thought he could be a great President in the first place. Check out the video below, a domestic security and foreign policy speech he made at AEI last week. Vintage Gingrich. And one that shows a contrast with the current President that could (should) be enough to win an election that is decided on substance. A serious, visionary thinker (and great stump speaker), whose values are squarely in the American tradition, and who you can trust to do the right thing. A change America may finally be ready to vote for.