Friday, December 31, 2010

Putting the Free in Free Press

Two options for reading the latest Patrick Reusse column on the Vikings, entitled: Close the Book on Favre for Good.

I'm still compiling my list of pros and cons for each option. I hope to make a decision and read the article before the end of Sunday's game.

The Nihilist offers a 3rd way: I read the column while getting my oil changed this morning. I wouldn't advise going to any extraordinary measure to read it.

News You Can Use

Heidi Collins is the new anchor on KMSP-TV (Channel 9). Although she's a familiar face to news junkies, formerly employed by CNN, anchoring during very prominent time slots. She was recently interviewed by MSP Magazine and her opinions of her former employer were raised:

MSP: When you were at CNN, what did you think of FOX?

HC: I thought they were phenomenal and that they had incredible leadership. It’s really difficult to argue that they’re not a successful organization.

MSP: But as journalists?

HC: They don’t try to tell you that they are journalists. Their whole prime-time lineup is opinion television. The viewer knows that. And I think a lot of times at CNN we would say that we were on the straight and narrow when presenting all these sides, and that wasn’t the case all the time.

MSP: When wasn’t that the case?

HC: Well, lots of times, politically, there would be certain questions that weren’t asked. I mean, nothing that went on at my show, because that’s what I fought for every day: making sure that we had as many sides to all of the issues handled.

MSP: What about on Anderson’s show?

HC: I didn’t anchor that show.

MSP: You guest anchored.

HC: Whenever I was anchoring, I made certain to the best of my ability that it was an unbiased news television show.

MSP: So you weren’t confident that it was unbiased when you weren’t in Anderson’s chair?

HC: I don’t know. It depends on who the viewer is. I think it’s something that needed a lot of improvement.

A first hand account, by a former prized employee, that CNN isn't the paragon of objectivity that they tout themselves as. Now that's breaking news.

The observation comes as no surprise to anyone who has applied critical thinking skills while watching an average CNN broadcast. But it is so contrary to the official narrative, especially among the mainstream cultural and media gatekeepers. It's amusing to note that this revelation about CNN only came out only as a result of the local media reporter's attempt to reflexively slag on the assumed lack of objectivity by the Fox News Channel.

I suspect the sharp knives used by the local media journalism community to automatically flay Fox News will be similarly used on Heidi Collins at every opportunity. I've largely stopped watching all local TV news, because it's proven to be a poor source of information. But if I did watch, and maybe I'll have to give it another try, Channel 9 and Heidi Collins would be the choice. Lest we resign ourselves to another few decades of the journalism of the likes of Don Shelby, conservatives need to support these alternative choices when they present themselves.

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXXIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the happy at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you ring in the New Year with champagne, wine, whiskey, and beer (or some combination thereof).

Our focus this week stays with Samuel Adams and another one of their winter seasonals White Ale:

Spicy yet smooth. Samuel Adams White Ale is brewed with 10 exotic spices: orange and lemon peel, dried plum, Grains of Paradise, coriander, anise, hibiscus, rose hips, tamarind, and vanilla. As an unfiltered wheat ale, Samuel Adams White Ale has a crisp and refreshing taste profile with the added unique character and complexity of our special blend of spices.

Brown bottle. Label is essentially the Sam Adams standard with touch of green and wintery blue for the holiday season.

STYLE: Witbier

Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%

COLOR (0-2): Golden with nice cloudiness. 2

AROMA (0-2): Wheaty with a little citrus. 1

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

TASTE (0-5): Mostly wheat and malt flavors without much hops. There's a bit of lemon and the spices are very light. Good carbonation, crisp mouthfeel, and medium bodied. Moderately drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry with a pleasantly sweet finish. 2

OVERALL (0-6): You don't usually find too many wheat beers among the winter seasonals so Sam Adams' White Ale is a refreshing change of pace. It's looks good in the glass, has decent flavor, and goes down easy. If you pick up a twelve-pack of Sam Adams Winter Classics, you get two of each winter selection plus a couple Boston Lagers. That's about the perfect number of White Ales to enjoy on New Year's Eve or another winter night. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blame It On The Rain

Looking out the window this morning, I see that today's rain is slowly turning our back yard rink into a pool (or pond--pond's better for you). The good news is that by Saturday--when the high temp is projected to be eleven--the water that's pooling today will return to its solid state. In fact, if we don't get any snow mixed in before the coming freeze, we could end up with a decent sheet of ice. The same can't be said for the prospects for this year's NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh (WSJ-sub req):

Unseasonably high temperatures and rain threaten to delay the Winter Classic, the National Hockey League's outdoor game on New Year's Day. This year it's between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. NHL officials say they could hold the game Saturday night, rather than at 1 p.m., or Sunday, a delay that could leave some of the 30,000 out-of-state fans attending the game scrambling for accommodations.

"We're hoping. We're going to make every effort" to play the game Saturday, said Brian Jennings, the NHL's executive vice president of marketing and communications. Safety comes first, though, he said.

Uneven ice on the temporary hockey rink erected at Heinz Field can be dangerous for the players. Mr. Jennings doesn't think a delay would hurt marketing efforts. So far, the league has sold 38,000 team jerseys commemorating the game, more than in past years.

"Warm weather is OK, but no rain, please," said John Strausbaugh, 48 years old, of Mount Wolf, Pa., about 100 miles north of Washington. Mr. Strausbaugh got two tickets from his wife as a Christmas gift and plans to take his 14-year-old son, Colton.

Mr. Strausbaugh, who works for a steel distributor, said that his wife paid about $860 for the tickets from, and that he has been trying to find a hotel outside the city in case they have to stay overnight. "The ones close to the stadium are so expensive," he said.

If the game is held on Sunday, it would be played at noon, and would compete for fans' attention with National Football League games. Another option would be to play the Classic indoors later in the season.

The Classic can't be played indoors. The only thing that makes it "classic" is the setting. If the Caps and Pens play later in the season indoors, it's just another game.

While I realize that it's anecdotal, I'm stunned that people are willing to shell out close to nine hundred clams for a pair of tickets to an outdoor hockey game. I love hockey as much as the next guy and it would be an unforgettable experience to attend a Classic. But you're likely not going to get a good view of the action and at the end of the day, it's still just a regular season game. This particular example of conspicuous consumption raises question about people's priorities and also is more evidence that while the economy is far from healthy, we ain't exactly back in the Dust Bowl days again.

The Nihilist Grumbles: I will be thrilled to see the failure of the so called "Winter Classic" for several reasons. First of all, New Years Day is about college football. I don't blame the NHL for trying to steal a slice of the pie since the BCS has significantly harmed the spectacle that once was New Year's Day, but I don't have time to watch a near-meaningless regular season hockey game when Alabama is playing Michigan State and Florida faces Penn State in what may be Joe Paterno's final game.

Second, outdoor hockey is fun when you are a kid. Yet, when playing hockey outdoors, we dreamed of the day when we would be big enough to play indoor hockey on a quality sheet of ice. The rink is certain to be of lesser quality than one used for all of the other games each team plays for the rest of the season, or even the pre-season. Would we have a nostalgia game where curved sticks are not allowed? Of course not. Technology shouldn't be discarded for the purpose of novelty.

Finally, it seems like the cities being chosen to host these games are too far south. These games should be played in Montreal or Edmonton, certainly no city in the United States can guarantee proper weather for a proper game at 1 pm on New Year's Day.

THE ELDER THROWS AN ELBOW: I actually like the idea of the Winter Classic and enjoying watching it far more than college football games that are completely meaningless except for the alumni of the schools playing. Believe it or not, the regular season game between the Caps and Pens actually has MORE meaning than any New Year's Day bowl game. It could be a factor in playoff position at the end of the season. Sorry, I should remember that "playoffs" is a dirty word for the BCS. When college football joins the real world when it comes to determining a national champion, then maybe New Year's Day games can matter again. Until then, I say game on for the Winter Classic, although you are correct to note that they should try to pick better venues weather wise. By the way, your technology argument would dictate that all baseball and football games be played indoors as that would always ensure the best field conditions. Outdoor baseball is so 19th century and nothing more than a "novelty" in our brave new world of enclosed stadiums.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Little Things

The city that we call home publishes a bimonthly city newsletter that's sent out to all residents. It' s a well-designed glossy that usually runs sixteen pages. Most of the information presented is on the mundane matters of civic life: taxes, zoning, budgets, recreation activities, city services, events, etc. There's also usually some hectoring about how you can be more "green" or some other pet cause deemed good by the city's powers that be. The November/December edition included such a section on how buying locally was more "eco-friendly." This nugget caught my eye:

Minnesota2020, a local non-partisan think tank, has promoted a “buy local” campaign for the last three holiday seasons. It also lists Minnesota-owned and operated businesses at

While it's true that Minnesota2020 does technically claim to be non-partisan, if you read the organization's own description of itself it's obviously not a neutral, objective group:

Minnesota 2020 is a progressive, new media, non-partisan think tank focused on what really matters. Our daily reporting and research informs, frames and drives public policy debate on the issues that matter for Minnesota's future success: education, health care, transportation and economic development.

Minnesota has become distracted by divisive side issues, drawing public attention and support from schools, jobs, roads and health care. Conservative public policy retreats from properly investing in and maintaining these vital community pillars by focusing instead on topics that turn people against each other. We refuse to accept this decline. Minnesota is great when we have good transportation, strong job creation, universal health care and quality schools.

Minnesota 2020 delivers accurate policy proposals and smart progressive messaging by linking academic and traditional foundation research. We seek to achieve tangible and demonstrable solutions. Through our communications strategy, we've compelled legislative and executive branch policy change.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Minnesota2020 was founded by one Matt Entenza? Yes, that Matt Entenza, who just last year spent millions in a futile attempt to secure the DFL's gubernatorial endorsement. Minnesota2020 is non-partisan for fund raising purposes, but in reality it's policies are pretty much in lockstep with the DFL.

Now, I admit that is a minor irritant. But it still does bother me that a city publication--funded by my tax dollars--would promote an effort (including providing a link to their web site) by an organization with a clear political agenda. The least they could have done is included the label that Minnesota 2020 itself uses--"progressive"--to inform residents of the political leanings of the group. I also doubt if I will ever see a mention of a local conservative non-partisan think tank, say Center of the American Experiment, appear in my city newsletter.

...They Will Skate

Quick update on the backyard rink. We've been skating on it a couple of times now and it's working out quite well. All the snow we've had has been something of a blessing in that I've been able to use it to build up pretty decent walls all the way around. They wouldn't be enough to keep a puck or ball in play during a game or anything, but they suit our modest purposes (except for when Dad starts slapping tennis balls around).

Now that the ice has been worn down a bit and had snow sitting on for a few days last week, the almost perfectly smooth surface is no more. You can still skate on it just fine, but right now it would be absolutely ideal for boot hockey. I may have to look into picking up a couple of nets for just that purpose. While the dimensions are small and the snow would have to be piled higher, you could have some great two-on-two games.

With higher temps and rain forecast for tomorrow, I'm going to hold off on laying down a fresh sheet until Saturday when another blast of cold air is set to move in. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to prepare the surface for a freeze. A shovel can only remove so much snow, while using a tool suited for ice breaking and scrapping is awfully inefficient. Creating and maintaining a back-yard rink is definitely a learning experience, one that so far has been far more pleasurable than painful.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Men Without Chests or Women With Them?

Matthew e-mails regarding the NFL's decision to reschedule the Eagles-Vikings game in light of the prediction of snow in Philadelphia in December:

I did not see any post on your blog in regards to the subject. I was at work yesterday when some free time allowed me to read some current headlines and listened to in office talk of the upcoming game. I have come to the conclusion that the only manly sport left is Women's Roller Derby.

Roller derby, eh? Might not be a bad career for ol' number Four to pursue after hanging up his football spikes (please for the love of God go away man) after this season.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ladies Man - Christmas Edition

My thoughts on a threadbare Holiday classic, which I've heard about 500,000 times this year, thanks to the hit friendly, limited playlists of the two Christmas Music SuperStations going 'round the clock with the stuff since Thanksgiving.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping,
And I've bought some corn for popping,
The lights are turned way down low,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I'll hate going out in the storm!
But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying,
And, my dear, we're still good-bying,
But as long as you love me so,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Ah, nothing invokes the Christmas spirit like the plight of a guy attempting to get laid. By trying to convince his date that it's unsafe to travel. 'Hey honey, you better let me stay at your place tonight, it's getting pretty bad out there. You don't want my blood on your hands.'

I also like how he tries to close the deal. After setting the mood, by turning the lights down low, getting a fire going, some kissing and holding tight, even trotting out the L word for her, it doesn't seem to be quite working. So he mentions, if he's able to stick around, he'll be making some popcorn later. Adding a little Orville Reddenbacher to the mix, the key to any fair maiden's heart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A John Cleese Night Before Christmas

I don't recommend sharing with small children, unless you think it's funny to see them cry.

What Sweeter Music

Beer of the week (Vol. LXXXIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the festive folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you celebrate the season in style.

The name Fezziwig has a rich assocation with Christmas:

Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig are characters featured in the Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol. Mr. Fezziwig is the owner of a warehouse business for whom Ebenezer Scrooge worked as an apprentice with Dick Wilkins; and in Stave 2 of A Christmas Carol, has a Christmas ball. Mr. Fezziwig is a happy man with a large Welsh wig. Old Fezziwig liked to dance to "Sir Roger de Coverley", a lively tune popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Scrooge revisits Fezziwig with the Ghost of Christmas Past, during the Fezziwigs' lively Christmas party. Fezziwig is one of the few people to whom Scrooge is thankful, for he says, “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil...The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” Scrooge is reminded how much he once appreciated Fezziwig. Since Fezziwig is the elder Scrooge's opposite in many ways — in kindness, generosity, affection for his employees, relationship with family, and apparent happiness — Scrooge is thus confronted with the fact that his own choices have diverged greatly from those of someone he admires.

As does our beer of the week, Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale:

Spicy and bold, a big Christmas cookie of a beer.

Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig Ale is bursting with spices of the season. With a remarkably full body and flavor it helps those long winter nights pass more quickly. The rich taste hits the palate with a depth of malt character ranging from sweet toffee and caramel notes to dark, roasty chocolate notes. Then the spices come in full force. Cinnamon, ginger and orange peel dance on the tongue bringing with them the celebratory spirit of the season.

Brown bottle. Lable has a blue background, beer name is in red ribbon fronting a Christmas scene that we can be sure is straight out of Dickens.


Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%

COLOR (0-2): Deep reddish-brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sweet malt with spices and nuts. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan with good volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Malt with flavors of nutmeg, cinamon, ginger, chocolate, and a hint of citrus. Medium-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Not overly heavy for a winter offering and fairly drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry finish, with a decent follow through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): I'm not usually much enamored with spicy winter beers, but Old Fezziwig Ale does a nice job of capturing some of the favorite flavors of the season in moderation. Call it a "big Christmas cookie of beer" grossly oversells the sweetness. Instead, it's tastiness and drinkability definitely make it a beer well-suited for the holidays. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Is It True?

Christmas by John Betjeman:

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
'The Church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mister, They Could Use A Man Like General Villa Again

To Root Out Dirty Police, Mexico Sends In a General (WSJ-sub req):

His grandfather was the cross-eyed cousin of Mexico's legendary revolutionary Francisco "Pancho" Villa. Like his famous ancestor, Carlos Villa is a hard-charging general who is charismatic, foulmouthed and not afraid to use his gun.

And some say he is just what Mexico needs as it wrestles with the corruption and violence spawned by the country's powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Retired Gen. Villa is the 61-year-old police chief in Torreon, an industrial city in Mexico's violent northern badlands—a central drug-running route currently being fought over by two of Mexico's biggest cartels.

Since taking over as the city's top police officer in January, Mr. Villa has battled not only the city's drug lords, but also his own police force, which was on the payroll of a powerful cartel.

In March, nearly the entire force walked off the job to demand the general's ouster. The mayor faced a choice: Fire nearly every officer and leave the city at the mercy of drug gangs, or dump the general and keep corrupt police on the street. He fired the officers.

"It was the best decision I ever made," says Mayor Eduardo Olmos. "It's not that our cops weren't fighting the bad guys—they were the bad guys."

Crime nearly tripled in Torreon during a summer that saw some of Mexico's bloodiest drug-related crimes, including the massacre by gunmen of 17 civilians at a party in August. But the mayor and his soldier-turned-police chief are building a new force and seeing some success against crime.

"He's the best police chief we've had," says Father Jose Rodriguez, a 73-year-old Torreon priest. "The Bible says you shall know them by their works, and I know the general from his works."

If Mexico hopes to win its war against the cartels and have its people sleep well again, it's going to need a lot more rough men like General Villa willing to do violence on their behalf. Unfortunately, such warrior leaders seem to be short supplies these days and not just in Mexico.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Answer Is Not Blowin' In The Wind

When it comes to opining on energy policy, Robert Bryce is one of the most rational, realistic voices out there. He knows what's economically feasible, what's not, and why. In today's WSJ, he writes that dreams of wind power as the answer to America's energy needs have instead become the latest "green" power Boonedoggle:

Alas, market forces ruined the Pickens Plan. Mr. Pickens should have shorted wind. Instead, he went long and now he's stuck holding a slew of turbines he can't use because low natural gas prices have made wind energy uneconomic in the U.S., despite federal subsidies that amount to $6.44 for every 1 million British thermal units (BTUs) produced by wind turbines. As the former corporate raider explained a few days ago, growth in the wind energy industry "just isn't gonna happen" if natural gas prices remain depressed.

In 2008, shortly after he launched his plan, Mr. Pickens said that for wind energy to be competitive, natural gas prices must be at least $9 per million BTUs. In March of this year, he was still hawking wind energy, but he'd lowered his price threshold, saying "The place where it works best is with natural gas at $7."

That may be true. But on the spot market natural gas now sells for about $4 per million BTUs. In other words, the free-market price for natural gas is about two-thirds of the subsidy given to wind. Yet wind energy still isn't competitive in the open market.

Despite wind's lousy economics, the lame duck Congress recently passed a one-year extension of the investment tax credit for renewable energy projects. That might save a few "green" jobs.

But at the same time that Congress was voting to continue the wind subsidies, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reported that property tax breaks for wind projects in the Lone Star State cost nearly $1.6 million per job. That green job ripoff is happening in Texas, America's biggest natural gas producer.

The lesson here is that alternative energy sources will become feasible when the markets' supply and demand makes them so. Until then, efforts by the government to artificially support them through subsidies are about as effective as pissing in the wind.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NARN Podcast Review (12/18)

I see the refurbished home page for AM1280 the Patriot does not include a direct link to the Northern Alliance Radio Network's podcasts anymore. Maybe the webmasters over there figured our recent three week break implied something more permanent. Or perhaps it's a temporary condition, while graphical user interface testing experts analyze new data for optimal design.

In the mean time, please note the link to the main NARN podcast page is on the right hand side of Fraters Libertas, labeled: NARN Podcast Archives. Both the First Team and Headliners editions are available there.

Here are some helpful links to this week's First Team shows, in case you missed out on Saturday.

Hour 1 - Apologia for missing the last 3 weeks and for probably missing the next 2 weeks. And interview with Rep. Elect King Banaian. Hear what is was like to sweat out his 10 vote margin and what his experience has been like so far as an incoming freshman legislator. Also, his thoughts on voting for a Mark Dayton demanded tax increase and public subsidy for a new Vikings Stadium.

Hour 2 - interview with Kevin Williamson, author of the Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism

Williamson proved to be a provocative analyst of our nation's economic woes. Below is an excerpt of the interview. A listener called in to observe that it seems like socialism, in the American context, always wins in the end. We've been on a gradual slide for decades and even if Republicans or conservatives win some elections, the trend doesn't reverse itself. It seems that creeping socialism can't be beat. Williamson responded with:

Not only can we beat them, we are going to beat them. And it's inevitable that we're going to beat them. And here's why. We don't have the money. The money is gone. When they passed ObamaCare, they said it's going to cost a trillion dollars and all this stuff is going to happen. I didn't worry about it for a second. No it's not. Because we're not going to spend the money. Because we don't have it.

The bad news is, we're about to go through a fiscal and financial crisis that's going to make 2008 look like a cakewalk. We've got $130 trillion in national debt, state and local debt, municipal debt and unfunded liabilities.

Now $130 trillion is two times the GDP of planet Earth. It's two times the global money supply. It's twice all the money in the world. Which means we are not going to pay those bills. So even the level of socialism we have right now, the level of big government we have right now is going away, because there's just not the money to pay for it.

The question is, are we going to build good, cooperative, free market institutions to replace this stuff and have a peaceable, orderly transition that leaves us more free and more prosperous and happier or are we going to try and keep doing things the same old, dumb way and impoverish ourselves and cause chaos and catastrophe.

The good news is, the welfare state is a thing of the past, it's dead, it just doesn't know it yet, it's a zombie and the bond markets are going to be the one to catch up with us. Here's where reform comes from, it doesn't come from politics, it doesn't come from winning elections. I wish it did, I wish I could say vote for this guy, go vote for Rick Perry my favorite politician in America, and he'll take care of things. It's not going to happen that way. What's going to happen is the markets are going to stop loaning government money. And when that happens, it's game over, we win.

The Show Man

There was an article in Friday's Wall Street Journal on the abode of Adam Carolla, Interior Decorator:

The eight-car garage, housing part of his collection of historic race-cars, Lamborghinis and Datsuns, has its own sitting room and beer refrigerator. Parked in his office, where four flat-screen TVs are arranged stadium-style, is Mr. Carolla's prized orange 1970 Lamborghini Miura. It sits atop a hydraulic lift so it can be moved down to the garage below.

Then there's what Mr. Carolla, 46, refers to as his "ace in the hole"—his large man cave in the basement. There's a jukebox, mounted deer head and a pool table. Playing cards depicting nude women and coasters are adhered to the ceiling, and there's a red upholstered bar facing a series of portholes that look directly into the water of his swimming pool.

I detest the term "man cave." Whatever happened to just calling it what it is, your rec room or basement bar? Despite the poor labeling, it does sound like Carolla has a killer basement. This picture is too small to really do it justice, but it certain looks like the kind of place a man would feel very much at home in.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Inaccurate Billing

It is doubtful that anything has done more to ensure individual liberty or restrain government power in the United States than the Bill of Rights. These ten simple yet powerful amendments to the original Constitution are based on the premise that American citizens enjoy these rights as part of the natural order not at the whim of the government. The government does not grant these rights in the first place, nor can it revoke them. They are inalienable and are the citizen's best guarantee of freedom from abusive government power. In that regard, the Bill of Rights has been one of the critical elements in shaping law, government, and culture throughout American history.

Which is why it's always discouraging to see their original meaning and intent bastardized and usually turned completely on head. The latest example comes from last week's announcement that the Federal government was pushing a Web Privacy Bill Of Rights (WSJ-sub req):

In a reversal of the federal government's hands-off approach to Internet privacy regulation over the past decade, the Obama administration said Americans should have a "privacy bill of rights" to help regulate the commercial collection of consumer data online.

The administration also proposed the creation of a Privacy Policy Office that would coordinate online privacy issues in the U.S. and abroad.

Great. Just what we need. Another government bureaucracy to help protect our rights. Not from the government mind you. No, this "bill of rights" is designed to protect us from those evil commercial enterprises who seek to learn more about us in order to sell goods and services to us (gasp!). Thus it joins the depressingly long list of other government interventions mislabeled as "bills of rights" including:

Patients' bill of rights (now actually probably necessary with ObamaCare)

Fliers' bill of rights

Investors' bill of rights

Those are just a few off the top of my head. None of them have anything to do limiting government power or protecting individual liberty. Rather they are premised on the notion that you the citizen are too stupid and ignorant to manage on your own and that the government must intervene--ostensibly on your behalf--to protect you. The end result is usually more bureaucracy and less choice for consumers. The "rights" they are allegedly defending are determined and defined by the government and can change or be suspended or eliminated at any time. These "bills of rights" have nothing to do with the original and to continue to falsely conflate them is a both a disservice and a form of deceit.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It's Not Just The Spending, And Don't Call Me Stupid

A conservative mantra regarding the Federal budget deficit has been "It's the spending, stupid." Since Congress recently passed an extension of the current income tax rates and adjusted estate tax rates along with a one-year payroll tax reduction and increased unemployment spending, I think it would be a good time to look at this line of thinking.

I like to equate a federal deficit or surplus to weight gain or loss for an individual. Our federal deficit is a problem similar to obesity. When a person gains weight, they eat more calories than they burn. The excess calories become body fat. When an entity runs a deficit, it spends more money than it takes in. The excess spending becomes deficit. These are simple mathematical formulas that a logical person really cannot argue. Unfortunately, many do. How many ads have you seen that promise weight loss without diet (calorie intake reduction) or exercise (calorie burning increase)? Likewise, how many columns by the likes of Paul Krugman call for increased spending as a solution to economic problems?

The fact is the federal government is on the Chris Farley diet. It won't stop gorging itself (and, like Farley, often poops in inappropriate places). The 2010 budget calls for $3.55 trillion in spending, with only $2.38 trillion in reciepts. The deficit of $1.17 trillion means that 30% of every dollar the government spends must be borrowed.

Conservatives scream, "cut spending," and they are right. However, to balance the budget, something that was done as recently as the late 1990's, we would need to cut 30% of all spending. Over $2 trillion in spending is related to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other Federal Entitlement programs and interest on the national debt. The American people have shown no will to cut back on these and if conservatives think they were mandated with eliminating the New Deal, I would suggest that they will be in for a rude awakening at the ballot box upon trying. The remaining $1.5 trillion in spending includes some worthy outlays including national defense at over $663 billion. The spending detailed above already puts America in a deficit position, even if spending were to be eliminated on the federal departments of Health & Human Services, Energy, Education, HUD, Homeland Security, Justice, Veterans Affairs, Commerce, Treasury, Labor, Interior, Transportation, State, and Agriculture. Clearly, no one would argue that 100% of the spending from these categories are unnecessary.

Sadly, 2010's budget doesn't even include the cost of Obamacare. Things will get worse, as that adds hundreds of billions of dollars to future deficits. Additionally, rising interest rates are certain to drive interest cost on the debt up from the current annual level of $164 billion. So how do we solve our debt problem? The first rule of holes is that when you are in one, stop digging. Obamacare and all new spending programs should be repealed.

Next, we need to give credit where it is due. President Obama's commission on Federal Debt came up with some good recommendations, including cutting initial benefits for Social Security recipients, and raising the eligibility age. Conservatives should continue to pursue their goal of eliminating many of the wasteful federal departments, such as Energy, Agriculture, HHS, HUD and others. In a world where we can't even defund the National Endowment for the Arts, this will be difficult.

Finally, we need tax reform. Democrats are correct that there is a group of Americans that doesn't pay their fair share of taxes. This group is essentially stealing from their fellow Americans. Of course, I'm talking about the 40-50% of Americans that pay no federal income tax. This group includes the poor and many middle class Americans. Sunsetting the Bush tax cuts would appropriately put millions of Americans back on the tax roles. I'd prefer this in the context of an overall tax reform package that eliminates all tax deductions, including the home mortgage interest deduction and child credits. In return for raising taxes on the people who haven't paid their fair share, I'd send the tax rate on millionaires up to the level that they were during the Clinton era.

If you made it this far, you're probably cursing me out. That's because everyone has benefitted from the Federal deficit. It's fun eating whatever you want, and exercize is painful. However, remember the lesson of Chris Farley. If you never take care of yourself, bad things will happen.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

Assuming no natural disasters or ACC basketball contractual commitments arise in the next 2 hours, the Northern Alliance Radio Network is back in full effect this morning, LIVE at 11AM (central). Due to holidays, basketball games, and blizzards, it's been nearly a month since our last show. Anything happen in the interim? John Hinderaker and I will read through some back issues of the local newspaper and find out.

In pennance for our blatant disregard of our audience (anyone still out there? Beuhler?), a very special program is scheduled for this week. Two guests, both experts in the realm of economics.

In the first hour, we'll talk with the distinguished economics professor and now Representative-Elect, King Banaian. The recount is over and their ain't no stopping him now. We'll talk about his experience in sweating out a 10 vote margin and his impressions on joining the legislature and the difficult job ahead in reconcilling the state budget.

Then in the second hour, we're pleased to be joined by Kevin Williamson. He's the deputy managing editor of National Review, the proprietor of their Exchequer blog, and author of the new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism.

Stalin’s gulag, impoverished North Korea, collapsing’s hard to name a dogma that has failed as spectacularly as socialism. And yet leaders around the world continue to subject millions of people to this dysfunctional, violence-prone ideology.

In The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to Socialism, Kevin Williamson reveals the fatal flaw of socialism—that efficient, complex economies simply can’t be centrally planned. But even in America, that hasn’t stopped politicians and bureaucrats from planning, to various extents, the most vital sectors of our economy: public education, energy, and the most arrogant central–planning effort of them all, Obama’s healthcare plan.

In this provocative book, Williamson unfolds the grim history of socialism, showing how the ideology has spawned crushing poverty, devastating famines, and horrific wars. Lumbering from one crisis to the next, leaving a trail of economic devastation and environmental catastrophe, socialism has wreaked more havoc, caused more deaths, and impoverished more people than any other ideology in history—especially when you include the victims of fascism, which Williamson notes is simply a variant of socialism.

In the current atmosphere, where some are trying to make use of the term "socialism" off limits in political discourse, we'll find out from an expert just what liberals and progressive are so afraid about.

Plus Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping. ANd your phone calls, at 651-289-4488.

The NARN First Team starts at 11AM (central). Following us at 1 PM, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey with NARN 2, the Headlighter edition.

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is heard locally on AM1280 the Patriot. And streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. Don't you dare miss it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the bold folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you explore the beautiful world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Beers from Tallgrass Brewing Company in Kansas recently started appearing on liquor store shelves here in the Twin Cities. Like local legend Surly, Tallgrass is a craft brewer who packages their product in cans and like Surly they come in four-packs of sixteen-ounce single servings.

They also seem to share an adventurous side with Surly's brewers and are willing to step out from the norms with beers that don't necessarily follow the conventional approach to the style. A good example is Oasis, our beer of the week:

Oasis is a Double ESB/IPAish beer that came about from playing around with one of Jeff’s favorite homebrew recipes. Here at Tallgrass we love malt and we love hops, and this beer has both of them in record quantities; well, at least records for our baby brewery.

At a hefty 7.2% ABV and 93 IBU, Oasis is a big beer that has to be priced a bit higher than our regular line of beers. We think that once you taste the over-the-top hops and surprisingly sturdy malt backbone you will realize why it’s worth it.

Definitely not a fruit-extract seasonal shandy, this beer is meant to be enjoyed on the back porch, the front porch, or even on the stoop. What's a stoop? Well, it's a good place to drink beer, is what it is.

Sun colored can with bold red font. Rays shoot out from what appears to be some sort of magician/medium/clairvoyant character who would be right at home in a circus sideshow. He hovers over what looks like a mirror ball. An interesting design which is yet another similarity with Surly.

STYLE: American Double IPA/ESB


COLOR (0-2): Reddish brown, lightly clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Hoppy, piney, and citrusy. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color, loads of volume, and beautiful lacing all down the glass. 2

TASTE (0-5): Good combination with sweet malt flavors and strong but not overpowering bitter, fruity hops coming together nicely. Medium-bodied and pretty smooth, creamy, and drinkable for the style. Not much burn even with the higher alcohol content. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pretty mild as the balanced malt and hop combo carries through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Many Double or Imperial IPAs seek to blow you away with their extreme hoppiness (not that there's anything wrong with that). Tallgrass' Oasis takes a more refined approach with a healthy dose of malt and hops that are definitely there, but not dominating. It's an interesting beer and one that I found to be very satisfying. While not quite in the same class as Surly Furious, it yet another example that great beer can come in a can. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

The Hammer Drops

Twin Cities Public Television's Mary Lahammer made an appearance in Stillwater this week, reminiscing on her career. The Stillwater Gazette documents some of her noteworthy comments:

On feeling Minnesota:

"I don't want to work anywhere else," Lahammer told the crowd. "I've had job offers all over the country, but I would never want to leave our voters. I think we are the smartest voters in the country. We are so engaged. The way we turn out and the choices we make - it's just amazing how much everybody pays attention."

The primary reaction among conservatives who have observed the past decade or so of election choices in Minnesota is dismay. Not that liberals keep winning, but that clowns, who often happen to be liberals, keep winning. The litany keeps expanding: Mark Dayton, Al Franken, Jesse Ventura, Paul Wellstone. Throw in other choices, like billions of dollars in tax increases for the arts during a recession. Not to mention biennial landslide victories for people like Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison.

Mary Lahammer's swooning over the intelligence and well considered reason behind these choices doesn't do a lot to dispel the notion that government-funded journalists are a bunch of Lefty's. But maybe she was misquoted or taken out of context on this one. We won't convict her of being a pinko, com-symp just yet.

On her trip to Cuba with a delegation led by Gov. Jesse Ventura:

Jesse Ventura and (Cuban dictator) Fidel Castro, side by side for a week, was surreal from beginning to end," she said. "I think you would be surprised by how small Castro is, he's a small man with a ton of charisma and power."

Guilty as charged!

Finally, on Mark Dayton's social circle:

Mark Dayton said his best friend growing up was his imaginary friend, Jerry Jones.

It is not clear whether this means that a) Mark Dayton grew up with the man who was to become the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and doesn't realize he is in fact a real person or b) he came up with the least creative name for an imaginary friend in the history of self delusion.

Either way, this is a case of real life imitating art. One week ago, the satire artists at The Nihilist in Golf Pants posted the Top 11 Things Mark Dayton Will Do As Governor of Minnesota. And I was happy to have contributed the following item:

7. Insist that his official portrait include his imaginary friend Paco

In retrospect, we gave him credit for being more creative, and far more diverse, than he actually is.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Power to the People! (as long as they agree with us)

Yesterday, RealClearPolitics linked to an excellent piece by Peter Berkowitz called Obama and the Rhetoric of Progressivism. It's a bit lengthy and at times scholarly, but the connections that Berkowitz explores between President Obama's current travails and the history of the progressives uneasy relationship with truly giving power to the people makes it almost mandatory reading. This 'graph is a good summary:

In the annals of American progressivism, Obama's predicament is hardly unique. Indeed, the mismatch between leaders who put forward partisan ambitions in the name of the people and majority sentiment reflects an enduring paradox with deep roots in the progressive tradition. Like Obama's new progressivism, the old or original progressivism championed a vision of democracy that sometimes conflicted with ordinary people's opinions and preferences. The old progressives often realized it and said as much, clearly and with a clear conscience. One of the distinguishing marks of the new progressivism at whose head Obama stands is the determination to conceal the gap between what majorities want and what progressive leaders want to enact in their name while insisting proudly on the purity of their democratic credentials.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Broad Minded Turnips

Somewhat apropos of my post earlier this week on On Being and Nothingness, David Mills opines at First Things on those constantly searching for something without knowing what they are really looking for at all and probably not really wanting to find it anyway:

If you don't find something, you are not searching, and you are not thinking. As G. K. Chesterton said in the last chapter of his early book Heretics, "If there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty."

Derek, Chesterton would have said, is not the ideal man the Unitarian-Universalist flyer assumes he is, because Derek isn’t getting anywhere. Man, Chesterton writes, is "an animal that makes dogmas"--—a creature who, intellectually, gets somewhere.
As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human.

When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
In the searching/questioning/looking/determining-your-own-truth religion, the searcher never quite catches up with the Truth, though she runs surprisingly slowly for the man she knows truly wants her for his own. The Man Who Questions is not chasing Truth but running here and there as he feels inclined, and he is careful never to get anywhere in particular.

You Labeled Me

David Harsanyi says "Feel free to label me":

So unless human nature drastically changes, No Labels is unneeded and inconsequential. Yet, it's doing no one any favors by feeding the myth that we're a country teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

Haven't we been saddled with politics ever since Cain filibustered Abel? Pharisees and Sadducees? Patriots and Tories? Bolsheviks and the dead? In a historical context, aren't these mildly contentious, non-violent debates we're having about as stable as politics can get in a democracy? We've had two landslides, for two sides, in two cycles, lest anyone believe Americans are ideologically rigid.

Do we not already have a significantly moderated political system? Two parties representing a general left/right divide? If one party isn't restrained from within, typically the other party will create balance by taking power. What sort of political system would we have if the out-of-touch insiders of No Labels persuaded us to cede debate without making our ideological case? Is "moving forward" for the sake of moving forward a virtue?

Finally, No Labels also claims that, "The consequences of inaction have never been greater, because the issues we face have never been more serious, more complicated, or more dangerous."

Really. Never?

Admittedly, I'm no Will Durant, but I find dust bowls or tens of thousands of corpses on the beaches of Europe to be as complex and dangerous as controlling debt. Actually, a lot more complex.

Not to mention, most of that debt was the result of the wonders of bipartisanship.

When has bipartisanship or "coming together to get thing done" or "moving forward" ever resulted in less government and more individual liberty? The alleged "consensus" and moderation that groups like No Labels purports to seek always seems to come down on the same side of the philosophical divide over the proper role of government in our lives. No one needs a label to recognize that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rink Dreams

Ever since I was a kid I wanted my own place to skate. Growing up, we were fortunate enough to live close to a couple of lakes as well as skating rink maintained by the local municipality. Every so often the weather would cooperate just right and we'd get to skate on the lakes before they received any significant snowfall. While this wasn't exactly optimal for hockey--no boards meant a lot of chasing the puck--it was great fun to skate freely in an area only limited by the size of the lake (which in the case of one of the local lakes was immense). On those rare occasions when we could, we would spend hour after hour zipping across the frozen lake reasonably confident that the ice would bear our weight despite the occasional cracking and groaning.

The city run rink was a better bet. Most years, they started flooding in December and would keep the warming house open until mid-February. We would slide our skates over our sticks, hoist it up on our shoulders like a bindle stick, and trudge a quarter-mile down the railroad tracks to the city hall where the rink was located. Sometimes we would leave early in the morning and bring a lunch knowing that we would be there for the most of the day. When we weren't playing hockey, we might be battling to be King of the Hill on the mountains of snow around the rink, messing around with the cast of other kids who haunted the warming house, or going over to the pop machine outside the police station under the city hall to buy a Tahitian Treat or a Sun Drop for a quarter. There's no shortage of fond memories from those days.

But as much fun as the local rink could be, there were also downsides. The warming house wasn't open 24/7 and if the weather was bad--below zero temp or greater than minus twenty wind chill as I recall--they would shut it down. Sometimes, even if the ice was good there would be a group that wanted to play boot hockey. Sacrilege! Once the ice is shot or covered by snow boots is fine. But if it's decently skateable, you gotta play real hockey and skate. And the quality of that outdoor ice did indeed vary.

One lesson that I learned as a yooth and have relearned many a time as a mature (heh, heh) adult is that a big part of quality is caring. This is easily observable when it comes to the conditions of the ice at outdoor (and indoor for that matter) rinks. The bottom line is that some of the people laying down the ice care and some do not. Sure, there are times when the weather makes it impossible for even the most dedicated of ice makers to get it right and times when a surly city employee, bitter because he has to get up early to flood the rink and isn't getting triple time, actually ends up with a beautifully smooth sheet. But most of the time, the quality of the ice you end up skating on outside depends on how much time the local personnel put into making it and how much they care about the result. There are dramatic differences in the quality of outdoor ice across the Twin Cities even though the weather conditions are usually quite similar. These days I live in Golden Valley and am glad that their parks and rec crew takes pride in having good ice. Edina is another example. In other cities, you're lucky if you can find decent ice even when the weather is perfect for its creation.

So I always thought that one of the best things in the world would be to have my own rink. I would determine when I wanted to skate. I would decide what purpose it would be used for. I would care enough to ensure that the ice was always good. Today, my own ice rink, tomorrow the world…

Excuse the megalomaniac sidebar. The point is that to have your own rink is to control your own destiny, to be independent, and self-reliant. What’s more American than that?

Of course, when I was a child my rink dreams knew no bounds. I would have my own private, full-size indoor rink (with boards, glass, scoreboard, lockers, etc.) as part of my sprawling housing compound. Next to the indoor pool, bowling alley, basketball court, library, movie theater, and garage with a helicopter landing pad on the roof where I would park my full-size Chevy Blazer when I wasn't driving it across the country with my two dogs.

Childhood dreams rarely turn out as reality in adult life, which is very probably a good thing. I don't have an indoor pool, bowling alley or basketball court (although my collection of books is decent and the flat screen in the basement is sorta theater like). Trying to land a 'copter on my garage would be disastrous and it houses a Kia minivan when I'm not driving it around Minnesota with my three kids (who bring immeasurably more pleasure than any number of canines could). But now I do have a rink.

Granted, it's not a fully-enclosed, refrigerated, all-season, regulation size rink, but it is a rink that can be skated on. And damnit, it's my rink. Ummm...I mean it's our family's rink. That’s right, this is all about the family after all. Kids skating outside, hot chocolate by the fire, and all that.

Realizing the rink dream turned out to be a challenge this year. After making the decision to do it early in the fall, I conducted research on the best methods and sought advice from others who had previously pursued the dream. I didn't have a set date in mind when I would construct the frame and have it ready for cold weather, but thought that Thanksgiving Weekend would work out well.

And then it went snowed almost two weeks before Thanksgiving. We got about eight sloppy inches of the white stuff which was fun for the kids, but not for my rink plans. I didn't get a chance to clear the snow from the planned rink location in the back yard before it froze up and became hard. I spent Thanksgiving Weekend chipping out a path to lay out the frame, cutting the boards to size, and getting them screwed together. The only thing left was to put down the tarp and flood. And then I went out of town on a business trip.

And then it snowed again. After returning from my trip, I vowed to get the new snow cleared, lay the tarp, and get it flooded that coming weekend. Which was last weekend. The weekend when we got anywhere from seventeen to twenty-one inches on snow.

So on Friday afternoon, while our neighbors were gearing up for the coming storm, I was in the backyard snow-blowing the ground where the rink would go. On Saturday, I was snow-blowing the newly fallen snow on the driveway. On Sunday, I again took the snow blower to the backyard to clear a path to the rink and then again to clear out the snow inside the frame. About two-thirds of the way through that chore, the snow blower had enough and broke down. So I finished up with a scoop shovel. Then, in wind and sub-zero temps, I unrolled and laid out the tarp and stayed up until 11:30pm on Sunday night flooding the rink with a garden house (had to take advantage of the bitter cold snap). Yes, my wife does think I'm crazy.

But we have a rink. I haven't had a chance to test the ice, but it looks like it turned out okay, especially considering this was my first effort. There are a couple of low and high points where the boards for the frame are laid out and I may have to alter the location a bit next year for slightly more level ground. And since the kids are still young and learning to skate, I elected to keep it fairly small and not put up any sideboards. I'll have to consider adding them next year. And lights, nets, painted lines, benches, a scoreboard...

In some ways, my rink dreams have been realized. In others, they're just beginning.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The "Dispensable" Man?

A professional wrestler, a washed-up comic and failed radio talk show host, and a trust fund baby? Why not a second rate carpetbagger lawyer from California?

It's time to put an end to Wimpy-Sota!

It's time to Man-up Minnesota. If not me, who? If not now, when?

If nominated I WILL run. If elected, I WILL serve. (Just not well.)

I approve this message.

The Indispensable Man?

From John Hinderaker, a tantalizing peek into the smoke filled back rooms of the GOP power structure, even now feverishly working on the elections to come:

I'm involved in recruiting a candidate for the 2012 Senate seat, and the working assumption is that none of the individuals named in the PPP poll will be vying for the seat. Of course, that could change.

You know, my cell phone has been off the past few days. And I would be an obvious choice. You don't suppose ....

While flattered, I must demur at this point. For a host of reasons, not limited to my stint as a cabana boy at John Grundhofer's pool in the mid 90's, I am announcing I will not be a candidate for Senate in '12. Call off the dogs Hinderaker, if nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve.

On Being & Nothingness

As part of a makeover of their weekend edition this fall, the Wall Street Journal started running a new column called "Word Craft." Each week they have a different contributor weigh in with words of wisdom on the art of writing and speaking. Since I'm a big believer that you're never too old to learn, I usually try to make an effort to read what these craftsman have to say about how to communicate better.

About a month ago, the subject of the "Word Craft" column immediately captured my attention:

"Rules for Discussing the Meaning of it All" by Krista Tippett

Now at the time, I had no idea who Krista Tippet was or why she would have any particular expertise to offer guidance on so weighty a matter. But the notion that there could be a framework for talking about the meaning of life was intriguing enough to cause me to dive right in:

On my radio show, which covers issues of faith and moral imagination,

Before we go any further, see if you can guess who a radio show about faith and "moral imagination" (whatever the heck that means) would most likely be produced by. The answer will be revealed as we proceed.

I encourage my guests to follow a couple of ground rules: No abstractions about God, and speak in the first person, not on behalf of your group or tradition (or God). This makes statements of belief much more hospitable, easier to hear. A listener might disagree with your opinion on ultimate questions but can't disagree with your experience of them. There is a profound difference between hearing someone say "this is the truth" and hearing her say "this is my truth."

There's also a profound problem with a forum which requires participants to mollify their religious beliefs thusly. Christians don't profess that Jesus Christ is "my way, my truth, and my light." While such a watering down of faith might come off as more friendly and less likely to cause discomfort with others, it renders any serious discussion about religion impossible. Religion--real, serious religion at least--isn't about what I think the truth is based on my ridiculously short experiences on earth or my staggeringly limited knowledge and wisdom. It's a collective set of beliefs, values, and traditions that have been developed--at least in most cases--over hundreds and thousands of years and have been shared by millions if not billions of people throughout the world.

Since we started doing the show in 2003, this approach has worked well with a great variety of guests, from theologians and physicists to poets and police officers. Many of them do not consider themselves religious, but all of them have something to say about the animating questions behind religion, which flow beyond the boundaries of faith: Where did we come from, and where are we going? What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?

I've got a great idea. Let's have a radio show about religion where no one is allowed to offer an opinion unless prefaced by "I'm not saying this is right or wrong, it's just what I think…" and invite a bunch of people to come on who don't consider themselves religious. Riveting radio.

In my experience on the air, I have found that the best question for bringing a lofty or difficult conversation back to a usable place for the listener is: "What do you mean when you say that?" The more thoughtful answers almost always contain a story. And the most vivid personal stories have the most universal reach, elevating our sense of others and of the humanity we share.

In case you haven't guessed by now, Tippet hosts a show on National Public Radio called "On Being." NPR (and local public radio stations as well) must teach it's hosts the "What do you mean when you say that?" follow up approach to questions because it's a familiar query that you hear on show after show. It serves as a way to make the host appear thoughtful and as a method to deconstruct statements and introduce relativity.

"What do YOU MEAN when YOU say that?"

Guest: I believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day come again.

Host: What do you mean when you say that?

Guest: Um…well, you see Jesus was crucified, he died, and then he was…

Host: What do you mean when you say that?

Tippet closes with a summary that showcases the modern conceit that everything is so different now that the old questions we used to ask about religion and the old ways we used to discuss it are now hopelessly obsolete:

The complexities of our age—ecological and political, economic and social—have redrawn a range of basic existential and religious questions. The trick for us all is to create conversational spaces in which new answers can unfold. Using words wisely is essential to this effort, especially at a time when so many ideas related to human purpose have been reduced to blunt instruments in our public discourse. Shared convictions may elude us, but by learning to speak and listen in new ways, we can begin to live together and to look to the future differently.

The whole point of religion is that there isn't a need for "new answers" at all. You can change the questions and you can make new rules about how we're allowed to discuss it, but in the end the answer is always the same.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Your Horse

A remarkable evening like this in Minnesota calls for a little Robert Frost. Stoke that fire a little, grab your glass of single malt, a fine cigar, ease back in that leather Chesterfield chair and enjoy:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep

Powerful stuff. Some literary critics say this poem is about depression and suicide. I don't see it personally. Although getting accused of being gay by your horse is certainly no picnic.

Snow Job

Wimps? Hippies? I can see how our reaction to a 15" snow storm might appear to be overly cautious from the perspective of a lilly inside the hot house of sunny Folsom, CA. (Whether or not that view is from the maximum security prison, we're still checking on). But as any Minnesotan knows, who's ever had to extricate themselves and their vehicle from a roadside ditch during a blizzard and/or below zero temperatures, there's very little in life worth risking in order to hit the roads in weather like this. Happy to kick back and watch the woods fill up with snow for a day, rather than have a white knuckle tour on the road for some mundane task of every day life.

As to the wimp factor, let me just point you to an example of who were are, from last night just before the storm hit. This is how a true Minnesotan handles the threat of a snow storm.


The reports that the author of that Tweet has been in the fetal position mumbling about sun-drenched beaches and pina coladas since 11PM last night are completely unconfirmed.


First you elect Al Franken and Mark Dayton and now you're canceling radio shows because of snow? And todays Minnesota-UMD hockey game was postponed until tomorrow because of snow! Snow Days for radio shows and hockey? Oh, come on! Man up Minnesotans. You keep behaving like this and you might as well move to California. Damn Hippies.

Northern Alliance Radio Network Classic

Due to forces beyond our control, The Northern Alliance Radio Network is NOT back in full effect this morning, LIVE at 11AM (central). Due to overwhelming popular demand, last week's show will be played again. We hear the voice of the customer and we obey. So get ready to take a stroll down memory lane with another round of North Carolina vs. Kentucky from December 4.

Actually .... you will be hearing a basketball free edition of the Best of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. The blizzard of the century has sidelined your hosts and technical crew. At least for NARN, First Team. Mitch, due to his hardy North Dakota lineage, is en route via dog sled right now down I-35E and you *may* be hearing some LIVE NARN 2 today.

Representative-elect King "Landslide" Banaian has been rescheduled for an interview next week. Also next week, we'll be talking to Kevin Williamson of National Review, about his new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. So if any of our audience is willing to stick with us after this now 3 week hiatus (!), we'll be back with a vengeance next week.

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 (at least when live operators are standing by. Don't you dare miss it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

With A Cherry On Top

Don Cherry rips "left-wing pinkos" at council inaugural:

Cherry was Mayor Rob Ford’s pick for a “special guest” for the pomp-filled ceremony. Cherry turned up in a pink-and-white silk jacket and patterned tie that was eye-popping even for the famously flamboyant TV star.

The co-host of Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner put the chain of office around Ford’s neck — something normally done by the city clerk--and then sat stoically, clapping as each of the 44 councillors got their ceremonial oaths of offices and posed for photos with Ford.

While Cherry is famously outspoken few, it seemed, were ready for the three-minute blast he delivered after being asked to make some remarks.


“I’m wearing pinko for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything, I thought I’d get it in,” Cherry said to a sharp intake of breath, then laughs and some claps.

“I’m being ripped to shreds by the left-wing pinko newspapers out there — it’s unbelievable. One guy called me a jerk in a pink suit so I thought I’d wear that for him too today,” Cherry said.

He said he was made fun of for going to church and called “maudlin” for honouring Canadian troops.

“This is what you’ll be facing, Rob, with these left-wing pinkos — they scrape the bottom of the barrel.”


“Rob’s in the mayor (’s office) one day — an apology comes and a $5,000 cheque and that’s why I say he’s going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever seen,” Cherry said.

“As far as I’m concerned you can put that in your pipe you left-wing kooks.”

At least he didn't call them "chickens***" Swedes.

All He Wants for Christmas Is a Crisis

Since taking power, the Obama administration has operated under its former Chief of Staff's dictum to "never let a crisis go to waste". The wisdom of this approach, exploiting the nation's economic troubles for political gain, is dubious. If the most recent elections can be interpreted as a referendum on it, then the negative verdict is clear.

But no one ever accused the Congressional Democrats of being keen students of political history or current events. They are going one better than Obama. Why bother waiting for a crisis to exploit, when you can gin one up on your own?

From MPR, Rep. Keith Ellison on his preference to junk the Obama budget deal:

I think that we need to create a real crisis here so that the Republicans will have to answer for denying Americans unemployment benefits on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

The budget deal includes provisions to keep unemployment benefits at 99 weeks, as well as preventing tax increases that would cost the average American household an estimated $3,000 annually. But Keith Ellison would like to scrap all of that, and cause a crisis, because he doesn't want those making $250K+ to keep their current tax rates.

Intentionally causing hardship for unemployed and middle class Americans, explicitly for the purposes of political spectacle and perceived partisan advantage.

I understand this may just be rhetoric, a little bomb throwing to excite the Progressive base. But if, say, Michelle Bachmann had called for the creation of a national crisis to further her ideological goals, there would special sections of the Star Tribune being printed to handle the coverage. Lefty web sites would be melting down with calls for her impeachment and/or arrest. Grief counselors would be dispatched to local union offices and college campuses to help those pulling out their hair and gnashing their teeth.

A little double standard to keep in mind for the next time your favorite Republican (whoever that may be) is condemned as crazy, extremist, unfit for office, etc.

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXXI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the sturdy folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help deliver all the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to make the holidays merry.

With December increasingly behaving more like January in these parts this year and with more snow and cold temps on the way, it’s a good time to stock up on the vital necessities of life, beer foremost among them. Not only do you need to make sure your SBR (Strategic Beer Reserve) is fully replenished, you need to ensure you have the right beer on hand. For example, Porter:

Porter is a dark-colored style of beer. The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined. The name was first used in the 18th century from its popularity with the street and river porters of London. It is generally brewed with dark malts. The name "stout" for a dark beer is believed to have come about because a strong porter may be called "Extra Porter" or "Double Porter" or "Stout Porter". The term "Stout Porter" would later be shortened to just "Stout". For example, Guinness Extra Stout was originally called "Extra Superior Porter" and was only given the name Extra Stout in 1840.

There are a number of excellent porters out there. One that I have not yet had the privilege of tasting until this week is Samuel Adams Holiday Porter:

A traditional, British style. Robust and full bodied.

Introduced as a member of the Winter Classics Variety Pack in 2004, Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, with its rich malt complexity, has become a favorite among our winter seasonal brews. In total, four types of malted barley are used in the brewing process including a variety of German malt called Carafa. This specialty malt, along with a bit of flaked oats, gives our Holiday Porter its smooth, roasted malt character. Add generous portions of imported hops to the mix and one has a brew that is both robust and drinkable.

Brown bottle. Festive label with a blue background and a holiday scene straight out Dickens' London. A strapping young gent is delivering a barrel of porter to an eager customer who bears a passing resemblance to Scrooge himself.

Style: Porter

Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%

COLOR (0-2): Dark lustrous brown, almost black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Roasted malt with chocolate, but a little light. 1

HEAD (0-2): Tan in color, good volume and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Roasted malt again with coffee and caramel flavors. Bitter hops with the chocolate once more at the finish. Full-bodied yet smooth with a creamy mouthful. Decently drinkable but a beer better suited to sip and savor. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Sharp and slightly bitter. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Porters are one of my favorite beer styles to enjoy during winter and this offering from Sam Adams nicely fits that bill. While it may not quite as much rich flavor as some other porters, it’s still a hearty and tasty treat for this time of year. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Searchin' for the ghost of Tom Joad

In today's WSJ, Daniel Henniger opines that while the tax deal, and President Obama's reluctant agreement and petulant reaction to it, may not be much of a tonic for the economy, it could be downright poisonous to Obama's 2012 reelection prospects:

But if an angry, let-me-be-clear Barack Obama just looked into the cameras and said he's coming to get you in two years, what rational economic choice would you make? Spend the profit or gains 2011 might produce on new workers, or bury any new income in the backyard until the 2012 presidential clouds clear?

No matter how much economic bump Mr. Obama gets in 2011 from extending the Bush-era tax rates, the 2012 election will be fought over a deep national anxiety that he rightly identifies but misinterprets.

The 1936 Democrats argue that America can't be strong again until what they identify as "2% of taxpayers" are dragged from their homes and punished. It's a stirring tale that is irrelevant to the immediate needs of a United States that has to compete in a global economy of intense and volatile competition.

In such a high-stakes world, Barack Obama's obsession with having it out over the tax tables is a vulnerability. His opponent in 2012 should run straight at it.

This deal has a LOT that's wrong with it and there are a number of principled and legitimate reasons for conservatives to oppose it. However, unlike some on the Left who secretly hope or even publicly cheer for a economic downturn when a Republican is in the Oval Office, I want the economy to grow no matter who will benefit politically from it. The pulse of the current recovery is faint and the last thing we need right now is an IMMEDIATE tax increase to slow it even further. Yes, a two year extension is not enough and won't bring a jolt of new life into the economy as a permanent extension would. But it's a hell of a lot better than the alternative which would be tax increases going into effect a mere three weeks from now.

Besides, as Henninger notes, if President Obama wants to reopen the debate on taxes just before the 2012 elections, he's going to fighting on a field where Republicans hold the high ground. If one of the major issues of the 2012 presidential campaign is taxes, Republicans will be ecstatic. Giving some ground in the battle today would be a small price to pay if it helps lead to the real victory then.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Let's Make a Deal?

Gotta say that the most persuasive argument I heard for the deal on the Bush tax rates was Hugh's show today. The more he ranted, the less he persuaded me. I love him, but I think he is as wrong about this one as he was abooot Harriet Miers' nomination for the Supreme Court. (And whatever ytou do, don't mention "A Morman in the White House?")

As I understand it it, the decision had to be made soon in order to allow the government and business to put the new (or continued) tax rates into place before the First of the Year. More importantly, not extending the unemployment insurance around Christmas is simply bad politics. Do we really want to read those stories for the next few weeks? Is that how the new Republican Majority Congress wants the stage to be set for them? Weeks of stories on how Republicans callously sacrificed the unemployed in a bitter battle to save tax cuts for the super rich. Sure it would've been a lie, but it most certainly would've been effective.

So what's next? We get to have another debate about tax rates during a presidential election in two years? We get to watch Obama pledge - again - that he will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire? Seriously, I'd think we'd look forward to that.

But that's just me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Enemy's Disaster...

While I still haven't had time to fully reflect upon the wisdom of the tax deal that GOP leaders have struck with President Obama, I have to think that based on the reaction from the folks at in an e-mail I received today, it can't be all that bad (despite Hugh Hewitt's wailing to the contrary):

Last night, President Obama announced that he's giving in to the GOP and extending the Bush tax breaks for the rich.

The "deal" he's proposing is an "absolute disaster," as Senator Bernie Sanders said.

But it's not a done deal. Leading Democrat Chris Van Hollen said yesterday that "House Democrats have not signed off on any deal," and last night Senator Sanders vowed to "do whatever I can to see that 60 votes are not acquired to pass this piece of legislation."

Senator Sanders and other progressives in the Senate are our best hope to stop this terrible deal. But Bernie can't do it alone.

The clock's ticking. Can you sign a petition today to leading progressives in the Senate—Sens. Feingold, Franken, Brown (OH), Boxer, Merkley, Whitehouse, Durbin, Harkin, and Schumer—urging them to stand up and use the filibuster to block this awful "deal"?

The Nihilist schemes: The only way this is a good deal is if the Democrats in congress hold it up. That would completely destroy any of the little mojo that President Obama has left. It would also prove that the Democrats would sabotage the economy to achieve their goal of punishing their enemies. That's a bad message to send, and it's why I believe the deal will pass.

It's not often that I agree with the pinkos at MoveOn (or Hugh, with his orange stained Cheeto fingers), but I see this as an awful deal for several different reasons. First of all, a two-year deal practically ensures another showdown near enough that people won't be able to do long term tax planning. I'd have preferred a deal of five years or more. Second, extending unemployment insurance at 99 weeks rewards inactivity. If 26 weeks is the normal term, I'd have capped this at one year. That's plenty of time to either find a job at your old rate of pay or adjust your rate to the new Obamaconomy. Third, the payroll tax holiday is a bad idea because it doesn't accomplish anything. It basically saves up to $800 to most working Americans, and a matching amount to their employers. Due to the short-term nature of this stimulus, it won't spur hiring or the economy. Meanwhile we've accelerated the deficit, and there will be a day of reckoning on that.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Home For Old Atomizers

Bob Shaw wrote an interesting article today in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about a government partnership with Catholic Charities to provide a place for homeless drunks to live. The unique aspect of St. Anthony Residence is that it allows its residents to drink on site. The program doesn't even attempt to stop them.

There, 60 men can — and often do — drink until they die. There are no counselors, no scolding, no 12-step programs, no group hugs.

Basically, these residents are poor souls that have nothing but alcohol. When that is all you have, it must be really annoying to have do-gooders pressuring you to give it up. Marion Hagerman's story is typical:

Hagerman has been drinking for 39 years. He drinks despite decades of lectures, prayers and punishment. He drinks despite two years of homelessness, six DWI convictions, six treatments for alcoholism and 13 months in jail.

What's ahead for Hagerman? The 54-year-old can see only one thing in his future — more drinking.

Of course, there are a whole bunch of Minnesotans that think this program is the worst thing in the world:

Some experts attack places like St. Anthony. "To me, a wet house is nothing more than a house of despair and death," said William C. Moyers, vice president of foundation relations for Hazelden treatment centers.

It sounds to me like Big Treatment feels threatened by an alternative that's proving to be a cost efficient use of government resources.

It's not uncommon for a homeless alcoholic to cost the public more than $1 million during decades of drinking — for multiple jail stays, emergency room visits, rounds of alcoholism treatment and other costs. But the costs and the suffering are greatly reduced once they arrive at St. Anthony.

The cost is estimated at $18,000 per person per year. The residence gives them a clean and warm place to sleep and a place to drink. Most residents resent the traditional treatment regimen:

They arrive as refugees of countless anti-drinking treatments. "Treatment is a bunch of B.S.," snapped Ricky Isaac, a three-year resident, as he drank a beer on the center's drinking patio. "Those AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) people make me sick. I hate hearing about other people's problems. I have my own problems. If you want to quit, you quit on your own."

They rebel against the chirpy optimism of abstinence-based programs: Try harder. Pray. Ask for help. Don't give up. We feel your pain. In contrast, St. Anthony feels like Death Row. The message is refreshingly grim: Everyone is going to keep drinking, it's probably going to kill them, and no one's going to talk them out of it.

"It's just so honest here," Hockenberger said. "I ask someone, 'Have you had a drink today?' and they say: 'Definitely! I wish I had some more!'

I have a real problem with forced treatment. If someone wants to change their life, they can be helped. However, most of these people are poor bums that don't want to change. Using government resources to harass them into changing their lives is inefficient, and potentially cruel. I don't think that this is the answer for younger, potentially employable men. However, that doesn't appear to be the target audience.

This is a powerful piece. Residences like St. Anthony may change the way we think about programs for severe alcoholics. Some experts on homelessness agree:

The St. Anthony model accepts the obvious — that a certain number of alcoholics are indeed hopeless, said Katie Tuione, program manager at Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, a homeless shelter. "This is about meeting people where they are and loving them. It's not rocket science," she said. "They still grieve, love and hurt. They still need food and shelter. They are you and I."

Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota, agreed. The reason to support St. Anthony is not the money saved but the kindness extended to the residents. "It is the humanity of it, just like humanity drives the hospice system," he said.