Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Defining Responsibility Down

Gary Larson looks at Children of Lesser Gods...under Obamacare:

Under Obamacare, state laws are trumped if less than age 26. Federal law triumphs, Big Brother-like, over perennially squelched states' rights. "Millions of adult children," says CNN, with tacit approval, "will be eligible to be enrolled in their parents' group health plan."

Isn't the term "adult children" an oxymoron?

No mention is made, or even estimated, of costs. Good Things apparently are free, it appears. At this point even self-insured (non-group) plans are tagged with this provision of the long-arm grip of Big Government. Who knew?

The new law exudes strong incentives for a young adult, still "the kid," to remain tied to mommy and daddy's loving care. Certainly there is a psychic cost of all this for the young adult, being treated, even called, a "child." More work for psychologists?

Disincentives are at work here, folks. All the result of the sleazy sausage-making in closed-door meetings, backroom deals, no promised hearings on C-SPAN, no five days for the public to examine this Frankenstein Monster. Promises? What promises? You must have heard him wrong.

Got all that? Yes, if nothing else, Obamacare is obtuse. And the rules of coverage, well, they're yet to be written. God help us all.

If the state is increasingly becoming the nanny for us all, it would follow that its citizens must increasingly become childlike. Funny that this doesn't make me feel any younger.

The Stars At Night Are Big & Bright

After last week's passage of ObamaCare put another nail in the coffin of individual liberty (Note to leftist readers: please take this as the metaphor it is intended to be and not an incitement to violence), a friend and I were exchanging e-mails on the possibility of pulling up stakes and moving down to Texas, which seems increasingly likely to become one of the last bastions of freedom. I don't think either of us is seriously considering the prospect just yet, but it's clear that many others have as the Texas economy and population continue to grow, outperforming most of the rest of the country.

Further evidence of this boom is provided by a piece by Joel Kotkin. Kotkin has seen America's urban future and--unlike other urbanists who cling to the stale dream of revitalizing the gritty urban cores of the Midwest and east coast--he believes that future will look a lot like Texas:

Yet despite planners' prejudices, places like Houston and Dallas are more than collections of pesky suburban infestations. They are expanding their footprints to the periphery and densifying at the same time.

Of course, like virtually all other regions, Houston and Dallas suffer excess capacity in both office buildings and urban lofts. But the real estate slowdown has not depressed Texans' passion for inner city development. Indeed, over the past decade the central core of Houston--inside the boundaries of the 610 freeway loop--has experienced arguably the widest and most sustained densification in the country.

An analysis of building permit trends by Houston blogger Tory Gattis, for example, found that before the real estate crash, the Texas city was producing more high-density projects on a per-capita basis than the urbanist mecca of Portland. Significantly, as Gattis points out, the impetus for this growth has largely resulted not from planning but from infrastructure investment, job growth and entrepreneurial venturing.

This process is also evident in the Dallas area, which has experienced a surge in condo construction near its urban core and some very intriguing "town center" developments, such as the Legacy project in suburban Plano. In Big D, developers generally view densification not as an alternative to suburbia but another critical option needed in a growing region.

It's widely understood there that many people move to places like Dallas, whether in closer areas or exurbs, largely to purchase affordable single-family homes. But as the population grows, there remains a strong and growing niche for an intensifying urban core as well.

Dallas and other Texas cities substitute the narrow notion of "or"--that is cities can grow only if the suburbs are sufficiently strangled--with a more inclusive notion of "and." A bigger, wealthier, more important region will have room for all sorts of grand projects that will provide more density and urban amenities.

Sounds like a little something for everyone. This Texas thing is looking better and better all the time.

Another reason (an admittedly trivial one) that Texas seems more appealing right now is what the state stands for. While the official state motto is "friendship," I think when most people think of a slogan befitting the Lone Star state, "Don't mess with Texas" would come to mind. That's something that you can wrap your arms around and get behind. Other worthy state mottos:

Alabama-"We dare defend our rights"

Delaware-"Liberty and Independence"

Iowa-"Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"

Massachusetts-"By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty"

Mississippi-"By valor and arms"

New Hampshire-"Live free or die" (probably my favorite)

Obviously, the citizens of some of these states don't take their official mottos as much to heart as most Texans seem to take their unofficial one.

As a Minnesotan, I thought our state motto "L'Etoile du Nord" (the star of the North) was pretty lame. Sounds pretty wimpy and very Canadian. But then I realized it could be worse:

Maryland-"Manly deeds, womanly words"

Michigan-"If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you"

Oklahoma-"Labor conquers all things"

North Carolina-"To be, rather than to seem" (a little too philosophical)

It's also interesting to see how many state motto writers seem to have missed out on the whole separation of church and state clause in the Constitution (I know, I know).

Arizona-"God enriches"

Colorado-"Nothing without the Deity"

Florida-"In God we trust"

Ohio-"With God all things are possible"

South Dakota-"Under God the people rule"

But maybe if what we're looking for is a state whose motto embraces free market capitalism to the fullest and isn't beholden to an inflated fiat currency, we should head West.

Montana-"Gold and Silver"

Wrong Side of History

David Harsanyi explains that It's me, not you, Mitt in the Denver Post:

It is possible to see--if one dares to dream--some authentic fiscal conservative emerging to take a shot at the presidency in 2012. While Romney has the required drive, intellect and temperament, he is wrong on the fundamental ideological question of this time: health care.

In fact, Romney's illogical and unconvincing defense of his own health care plan is not only a deal breaker, it allows folks like White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to tell reporters that Obamacare is similar to a plan enacted (and still defended) by a leading Republican contender in 2012. And Gibbs is right.

Let's concede momentarily that the GOP will win back enough seats in 2010 to make it thornier for Democrats to push through any other comprehensive assaults on the economy. Let's concede also then that health care reform becomes the defining legislative accomplishment of Barack Obama's first term.

By 2012, many of the hidden costs of this reform will have surfaced, while the bulk of the alleged benefits still will not have kicked in. Barring some earth-shattering geopolitical event, candidate Romney will be impelled to spend a noteworthy chunk of his time pointing out differences and/or defending comparisons between the two plans--effectively eliminating the issue that holds potentially the greatest impact for Republicans.

As Harsanyi notes, and as I mentioned last week, so far Romney's attempts to explain why RomneyCare was not a precursor to and a watered down version of Obamacare have failed miserably. Simply calling it a "conservative alternative" does not make it so. Unless and until Romney is ready to swallow hard and issue a heartfelt mea culpa about the error of the RomneyCare ways, he has no chance to be the GOP standard bearer in 2012.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dog Head

Last week, while on a very short business trip to Colorado, I finally had a chance to enjoy a brew from the much-touted Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware. Why Dogfish Head is seemingly quite widely available in Colorado, but not at all in Minnesota is still something of a mystery. In any event, I picked up a four-pack of 90 Minute IPA at a liquor store near my inn. It's been described as the "best IPA in America" by some and I was anxious to judge for myself.

The verdict? It's a very good beer. Tons of delicious hoppy flavor which went down smoothly despite the noticeable heat (9.0% ABV). But not the best IPA in America. Out of a possible of 19 points, I'd give it a 17 which is still rarefied air. Bell's Hopslam is a superior beer and if I had to choose between a Surly Furious and a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Furious would get my nod (homerism perhaps). Again, that's very good company to be compared with and I'd certainly love to have the chance to purchase Dogfish Head locally at my friendly neighborhood liquor store. Until then, I'll have to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

Just to make sure I was being perfectly fair in my evaluation, I enjoyed another Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA on tap at DIA while waiting for my flight home. I even started a bit of a trend as some of the other airport bar patrons--their curiosity piqued by hearing the unusual name of the beer--also decided to give Dogfish Head a go. I'm sure they were as happy with their choice as I was with mine.

Hang Your Freedom Higher

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change:

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

This is just the latest example of one of our utopian betters who--in the name of saving ourselves from ourselves--is more than ready to sacrifice your freedom for you. Like Thomas Friedman pining to be "China for a day," it's actually refreshing when you see them so openly admitting how they really feel about their fellow citizens and this whole pesky democracy thing. If we stupid peasants would just shut up, get out of the way, and do what our self-appointed smart set tells us to do the world would be so mych better off.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sound Off Like Ya Got a Pair

Breaking news out of the Department of Obama Approval Rating Reclamation. Next week the President will be immersing himself in America's national past time. No, not deeply bowing to foreign princes and potentates. That's what he likes to do while he's on the clock. We're talking about something fun, one with deeper roots in American history:

President Obama will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day at Nationals Park, continuing a tradition that began 100 years ago and making him the second sitting president to throw the pitch since baseball returned to Washington in 2005.

To paraphrase our distinguished vice president, that's a big f***ing pitch. Most politicians never risk getting in front of an audience that hasn't been handpicked for undying fealty to their ideology. To say nothing of an audience with direct access to alcohol. And foam fingers. Most importantly, this is mere weeks after Obama orchestrated the passage of highly controversial legislation, in the face of disapproval from a majority of Americans. For a population that feels its politicians are actively refusing to listen to them, these may be the ingredients for the mother of all booing opportunities. A "boopportunity", if you will.

We of course condemn any violence, or the shouting of epithets and obscenities (real or imagined). But booing poorly performing elected officials is a legitimate exercise in free speech, as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and bailing out Chevrolet. If a politician is going to attempt to trade on his position in order to grab the spotlight at non-political public events, then those in attendance get to provide immediate feedback on his performance. That may mean cheers, that may mean boos. That's the chance you take when you step into the arena.

Of all possible public audiences, the Washington DC crowd is as sympathetic as Obama could ever hope to find. With the number of government employees and clients residing the area, it's possible he will get cheered. But then again, who knows? There have to be some people in DC who aren't net tax consumers or who like their health insurance. If nothing else, this particular crowd owes a few boos in order to at least appear to be bipartisan. See President Bush in 2005:

On the local front, I've not seen any reports about politicians making appearances at the Twins opener in Target Field. I can only image the reception an Al Franken, Betty McCollum, or Jim Oberstar might get. It might be worth them trying to horn in on the limelight, just to hear the reaction. I doubt they will be there though. Not a good fit and they know better than to openly subject themselves to public opinion like that. For them, the people may have to save their boos for the next time they encounter them on a ballot.

Like, Whatever

The mainstream media and most liberals tend to depict right wing talk radio hosts as one monolithic block of hating-spewing, democracy-endangering, violence-encouraging blowhards. Actual listeners of conservative talk radio recognize that there are many variations within the realm when it comes to content, talent, and tone.

The results of a recent Right Wing News poll on how right-of-center bloggers regard prominent figures on the right, there is also a variety of opinion about those on the right feel about said talk radio hosts.

For instance, two of the more popular hosts--on both radio and television--were disliked by more than a quarter of the respondents:

How do you feel about Glenn Beck?
Strongly like: 16% (13 votes)
Like: 58% (47 votes)
Dislike: 16% (13 votes)
Strongly dislike: 9% (8 votes)

How do you feel about Sean Hannity?
Strongly like: 19% (16 votes)
Like: 50% (41 votes)
Dislike: 24% (20 votes)
Strongly dislike: 4% (4 votes)

And Beck's and Hannity's approval was pretty lukewarm with less than 20% saying they strongly liked either.

Compare that to a guy who I really haven't had a chance to listen to much at all:

How do you feel about Mark Levin?
Strongly like: 40% (32 votes)
Like: 46% (37 votes)
Dislike: 13% (11 votes)
Strongly dislike: 0% (0 votes)

Levin is liked by 86% with 40% strongly liking him. I would venture to guess this has more to do with his most recent book than his radio show.

Not surprisingly, Rush stands out:

How do you feel about Rush Limbaugh?
Strongly like: 55% (45 votes)
Like: 35% (29 votes)
Dislike: 7% (6 votes)
Strongly dislike: 1% (1 vote)

Meanwhile, another host that Rush is often lumped in with takes his lumps:

How do you feel about Bill O'Reilly?
Strongly like: 9% (8 votes)
Like: 29% (24 votes)
Dislike: 50% (41 votes)
Strongly dislike: 9% (8 votes)

The fact that less than 40% of right-center-bloggers like Bill O'Reilly would probably surprise those on the left and those in the media (and the broad overlap between). For those of us on the right who pay attention, it's not unexpected.

Nihilist adds: I couldn't agree more with the Elder's point here. I've been mulling a post about how I just don't understand the appeal of Glenn Beck. It's not that I don't like him, I just don't find him interesting or entertaing. As for Sean Hannity, I quote a fairly conservative poster from NDNation's political message board whose three word critique of Hannity exactly summarizes my feelings. He calls him, "repetetive and grating."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM. John Hinderaker and I will both be in studio to run down the week that was. The primary focus of course will be the ram-rodding of the health care bill down the throat of America. We'll review what happened and why and we'll discuss the prospects for successful continued resistance.

We'll be changing up topics at noon with our special guest Ralph Peters. He's the foreign affairs and military columnist for the New York Post. He's also the author of the fascinating new book Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization. Using his background in history and military intelligence, Peters aims to fill in the gaps of American hisrorical illiteracy regarding this conflict and push for a more coherent, and productive, strategy in our current struggles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other fronts of the Lon g War.

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

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

Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. XLVIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help put the wind in your sails.

When it comes to the world of micro beers, the Full Sail Brewing Company in Hood River, Oregon is an oldy but a goody. Like some of the other craft brewers who have been on the scene for a while, there's a tendency to take Full Sail for granted at times. You tend to overlook their solid lineup of well-made beers that are among the most widely distributed.

So this week we stop and smell the roses with Full Sail's Amber Ale.

Simple brown bottle. When it comes to label, you can appreciate how much thought Full Sail puts into their graphic design. The neck label features a gorgeous outdoor scene with sailboats and canoes in the foreground at Castle Rock in the Columbia River. The main label has a great retro look with the Full Sail logo, beer name, and other information in classic font and stylish shapes with a light wood-grain background. Simply lovely.

Beer Style: Amber/Red Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.5%

COLOR (0-2): Rich dark amber. 2

AROMA (0-2): Mostly nutty with some malt, but weak. 1

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color, good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Toasted malt flavors with carmel and nuts. Pretty light on the hops. Medium-bodied and drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth finish but a bit empty. 1

OVERALL (0-6): An above average amber ale. Not terrible exciting, but very solid. A good, tasty, accessible micro choice if you're looking for a six-pack to bring to a party that will refresh without slowing you down too much. If you have friends who like Leinie Red, this is a much better alternative that shouldn't frighten them off. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who's Counting?

The year was 1990. The place was Grand Forks, North Dakota where I was attending college at the University of North Dakota. My gig as youth hockey coach had just ended with the close of the hockey season. Unlike many places, in Grand Forks they actually paid the youth hockey coaches instead of relying on parents and other adult volunteers. You couldn't make much getting paid $3.35 an hour to run practices, but we did get additional flat fees for coaching teams at certain levels (I think it was $500 for the travelling Bantam C team I coached one year) and you couldn't really complain too much about getting paid anything for doing something you enjoyed. And even though the money was meager, it was something and in college you scrapped for every extra dime you could lay your paws on. So I was looking for a way to replace my coaching revenue stream.

The market for part-time jobs in Grand Forks was brutal. With all the college students in town, the supply of available labor was plentiful, while the demand for workers was scarce. In high school and during the summers home from college, finding a job in the Twin Cities had never been a problem. I think I probably landed most jobs that I applied for and at a minimum, applying would at least lead to a call back and interview. Such was not the case in Grand Forks. Again, there just weren't that many jobs to begin with and those jobs that were available were much sought after. I can't exactly recall how many jobs I tried and failed to get. A couple of notable failures still stand out though.

Despite the fact that I had construction experience and had worked a full summer in hardware sales at now defunct Knox Lumber in Hopkins, I could not find a way to land a job at the Menards in Grand Forks. I applied for several positions at different times, but only merited a first interview once. These were the kind of jobs that anyone with a pulse and no outstanding arrest warrants would be hired for in the Twin Cities. But in Grand Forks, I was deemed unworthy of becoming a Menards associate and being allowed to don the coveted blue apron.

The other brass ring that I failed to grasp would have been my first foray into the world of entertainment and my first opportunity to put my vocal chords to gainful use. Yes, I was this close to becoming a bingo caller. At least I think I was close. After dutifully applying for a position at the legendary Bingo Palace, I was thrilled to be called back for an interview. I think I even wore a dress shirt and tie, so as to demonstrate my desire and commitment to following my calling for calling. But alas, that too was not to be and I was soon shown the door to the cold gray world outside of the Palace walls. Sigh. What might have been?

So there I was in 1990. No part-time job with few prospects on the horizon and even less hope of seeing one through to fruition. You kids probably don't remember, but back in the day there were these things called "newspapers," which had sections called "want ads" where an enterprising young lad could look to find job listings. And that's how I discovered that the U.S. Census Bureau was hiring workers to help conduct the 1990 counting. Hmmm…I thought, I need a job and I can count. Why not throw my hat in the ring?

So I went down to some government office in Grand Forks, filled out an application, and took a test. A test? Yes, like many government jobs (going all the way back to imperial China), the Census used tests to help determine what sort of position you were qualified for. This was beneficial to me since I usually do pretty well on tests. And I must have done quite well on the Census test, because not only did I get a job, I got a job as some sort of manager. I can't recall the specific title anymore, but I was definitely one of the chiefs rather than one of the Indians. Considering that I had absolutely zero managerial experience up to that point, the test must have carried a lot of weight.

I quickly discovered that being a manager carried a certain amount of weight as well, not necessarily the good kind. After being informed that I had been accepted for Census duty, I had to drive down to Fargo for training. After four or six hours of instruction in the ways of the Census, I was handed my own training material and let loose into the world as a bona fide Census manager. In theory at last.

Back in Grand Forks, I was thrust into my role as my first action as manager was to take everything that I had learned in Fargo and pass it on to my new staff. Said staff consisted of about a dozen individuals, evenly mixed between men and women, all older than me, some as old as my parents, some older than that. Considering that I had absolutely zero classroom training experience up to that point, it was a more than a little challenging. But somehow I persevered and got everyone trained up and ready to count. My managerial duties were made easier by the fact that the people working for me were your typical Red River Valley stock: down to earth, honest folks with integrity and a well-honed work ethic. One of the lessons I quickly learned was that when you had good people working for you, managing best usually meant managing least.

For the next three months, I enjoyed one of the best part-time jobs that I ever had. In addition to getting paid the princely sum of six dollars an hour for my labor (most part-time jobs in GF at the time paid at or close to the minimum wage of $3.35/hour), I discovered other benefits of working for Uncle Sam. For instance I reported my own hours and everything that I did that had anything to do with my work could be counted. Attending meetings, driving to meetings, doing paperwork at night, talking on the phone with my boss or my staff, etc. I felt like a lawyer tracking every fifteen minute segment of my time and building up my billable hours. All completely legitimate of course.

And for the first time ever, I learned of something called "expenses." Census work actually required me to drive quite a bit. Although the distances weren't far--remember we're talking Grand Forks here--the miles did add up as I met with my staffers to collect paperwork, hand out assignments, and check progress. Since I was driving a 1970 Pontiac Catalina that got all of about six miles to the gallon at the time, it wasn't like I was making out like a bandit with the mileage expense, but it was nice to get that little extra US Treasury check every pay period.

But like all good things, my Census work all too quickly came to an end. It ended with a whimper, not a bang as the amount of work declined each week as we mopped up the last of the holdouts. The checks got smaller and smaller until at last the government goose stopped laying golden eggs for me. But it had carried me through what otherwise would have been a financial dry spell in the closing months of that year of college and provided an income bridge to get me to my much more arduous full-time summer job as a park superintendant (more on the Herculean labors I performed in that role at a future date). And the muliplier effect of this government provided stimulus on bars and liquor stores in Grand Forks should not be underestimated.

Looking back on the experience now, it's seems ironic that the first job I ever had that provided a high degree of independence and autonomy was government work. While I never have worked for the government since my stint as a Census manager, it did help me to realize that I enjoyed a more unconstrained work environment and lead me to seek similar opportunities since. It also taught me that working for the government could be a good gig if you can get it. Which may not be a bad thing to keep in mind as that seems to be only employment sector where future growth seems all but guaranteed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back Where We Started

Interesting to note that the common thread in two articles in the February edition of First Things is the return to religious orthodoxy and the decline of the modern alternatives to it in both Christianity and Judaism.

Mary Eberstadt has a lengthy piece on the failure of Christianity Lite:

Even so, it is the still longer run of Christian history whose outlines may now be most interesting and unexpected of all. Looking even further out to the horizon from our present moment--at a vista of centuries, rather than mere decades, ahead of us--we may well begin to wonder something else. That is, whether what we are witnessing now is not only the beginning of the end of the Anglican Communion but indeed the end of something even larger: the phenomenon of Christianity Lite itself.

By this I mean the multifaceted institutional experiment, beginning but not ending with the Anglican Communion, of attempting to preserve Christianity while simultaneously jettisoning certain of its traditional teachings--specifically, those regarding sexual morality. Surveying the record to date of what has happened to the churches dedicated to this long-running modern religious experiment, a large historical question now appears: whether the various exercises in this specific kind of dissent from traditional teaching turn out to contain the seeds of their own destruction. The evidence--preliminary but already abundant--suggests that the answer is yes.

If this is so, then the implications for the future of Christianity itself are likely to be profound. If it is Christianity Lite, rather than Christianity proper, that is fatally flawed and ultimately unable to sustain itself, then a rewriting of much of contemporary thought, religious and secular, appears in order. It means that secularization itself may be fundamentally misunderstood. It means that the most unwanted and unfashionable traditional teaching of Christianity, its sexual moral code, demands of the modern mind a new and respectful look. As a strategic matter, it also means that the current battle within the Catholic Church between traditionalists and dissenters must go to the traditionalists, lest the dissenters or cafeteria Catholics take the same path that the churches of Christianity Lite have followed: down, down, down.

All these are just preliminary examples of what is at stake in contemplating the great experiment of Christianity Lite--which is why the evidence for its failure is so compelling and important.

In a review of a book called "Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal" by Dana Evan Kaplan, David P. Goldman finds similar trends at play and even some shared root causes:

Orthodox Jews are having many children while non-Orthodox Jews are having very few and marrying half of those few to Gentiles. An often cited assessment of these trends by Antony Gordon and Richard Horowitz has made the rounds for years, showing that within four generations the total number of American Jews will double if present trends continue, and 95 percent of them will be Orthodox. Linear forecasts are unreliable, to be sure, but the one thing on which the Orthodox and Reform communities appear to agree is that the former is growing and the latter is melting down.

Kaplan cannot bring himself to report the despair of Reform Jewish sociologists, but despair nonetheless pervades his pladoyer for an "inclusive," "nondenominational," and "moderately affiliated" Judaism. No stunt is too silly for anti-traditional synagogues to get warm bodies into the pews. It would be instructive to disentangle the cause-and-effect relation between the degraded practice and the deteriorating demographics of anti-traditional Judaism. Are Jews leaving Reform, Reconstructionist, and related congregations because the services ape popular culture, or do the services ape popular culture because "progressive clergy" will do anything to get "moderately affiliated" members in the door?

It's becoming increasingly evident, at least within Christianity and Judaism, that people don't choose to leave religions or abandon their practices because the religious beliefs and obligations are too challenging or demand too much of them. Rather, it's when these beliefs and obligations are watered down, modernized, and popularized to better fit the secular culture that decline in religious affiliation, attendance, and practice take place. As these trends continue play out they will alter the religious landscape in the United States and globally. It's also interesting to consider what they may mean for the future of Islam. Is it too a religion where orthodoxy will ultimately prevail and if so what does that mean for its relationships with other religions?

Distant Replay

Great story in today's WSJ on how--more than twenty years after the fact--two hockey teams in New Jersey will try to get back to the Greatest Game Never Played:

MORRISTOWN, N.J.--On a Friday in 1989, before the biggest hockey game of his life, James Olsen walked into his school gym expecting a pep rally.

He'd waited months for this moment. The Delbarton School senior played for one of two powerhouse hockey teams set to compete the next day for the New Jersey high-school championship. Delbarton and St. Joseph Regional High School, known as St. Joe's, boasted athletes who would play in college and eventually go pro. Ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the state, the teams hadn't faced each other all season. Neither group of players had ever won a state crown.

The 1989 squads never got their shot. Mr. Olsen stepped into the gym and was hit with a reality check: A measles outbreak at Delbarton forced officials to cancel the game. It was never rescheduled.

The New Jersey teams dubbed it "the greatest game never played." For the next 20 years, the decision would weigh on the players, who always wondered if they could have been champions.

On April 3, that weight will be lifted. Virtually every player and coach from the 1989 teams will finally face off at the same Morristown arena where the title contest would have taken place. Players, some of whom haven't talked to one another in more than 20 years, are coming from California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts and Maine to compete and raise money for charity.

"Everybody still talks about that game," said St. Joe's star center, Ken Blum, later drafted by the former Minnesota North Stars. "Everybody."

Of course the game won't be the same as it would have been back in 1989, but it's good to know that after all these years old scores can still get settled.

If You Brew It...

For the first time since December the Fraters Libertas Beer Ratings Page has been updated. It now includes four-hundred-and-twenty-beers from around the world and the states. I did manage to add one state to the geographic reach of the ratings by sampling a variety of brews from Hub City Brewing Company in Stanley, Iowa. It's hard to believe that it took me this long to rate a beer from Iowa, but when you think of Iowa, beer's not usually the first thing that comes to mind (insert joke here).

The three Hub City selections I tried were like most things from the Hawkeye state, decent but ordinary. Here's how they scored:

Pale Ale 11

Brown Ale 12

Oatmeal Stout 13

Among the other new additions to the ratings list are a number of high quality, heavily hopped beers that scored quite high including:

Bell's Hopslam 19

Founder's Centennial IPA 17

Founder's Red Rye PA 17

Lagunitas Maximus Ale 17

Mad River Steelhead Double IPA 16

Widmer Brothers Deadlift Imperial IPA 16

If you get a chance to score any of these impressive beers, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. They're going to require a higher investment on the front end, but the return on flavor more than makes up for the extra cost.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is There An Echo In Here?

Excellent editorial in today's WSJ on what really lead us to ObamaCare:

The reality is that ObamaCare is the price of two GOP electoral defeats caused by the failure of the DeLay Congress and a dismal Bush second term. The 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit compromised the GOP on spending and legislative bullying. Republicans had a chance to do better on health care in 2005 but put their chips on Social Security and failed. Mitt Romney also gave Democrats renewed political confidence when he signed a prototype of ObamaCare into law in Massachusetts, though he now claims that these fraternal policy twins aren't related.

Romney was interviewed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show tonight. As usual with Mitt, Hugh was pretty much tossing softballs, giving Romney every opportunity to come off well. Yet when it came to simple questions about ObamaCare and how it did or did not resemble RomneyCare, Romney was unable to deliver convincing answers. It may well already be too late for him anyway, but if he can't explain in clear and concise terms why the health care reform that he helped enact in Massachusetts is anything but some version of ObamaCare Lite, he's a dead man walking when it comes to 2012.

Profile in Pro-Life

After the events that transpired this weekend in Washington, D.C., it's easy and tempting to bag on the "pro-life" Democrats like Bart Stupak and James Oberstar who, when push came to shove, proved all too willing to surrender their "pro-life" principles for the greater good of their party. At least Stupak could maintain the pretense of having gotten something in return, although if there's one thing that all sides of the abortion issue seem to agree on it's that President Obama's promised executive order to prevent federal abortion funding is essentially meaningless. Longtime Oberstar observers like our own Saint Paul knew that while might he make noises about standing firm, in the end his "pro-life" convictions would only come into play when convenient and that the Democrats could count on him to play ball when needed.

But instead of dwelling in the darkness, let's instead keep on the sunny side and give kudos to a member of the increasingly rare species of truly pro-life Democrat. The man deserving of said praise is Minnesota's own Congressman Collin Peterson from the Seventh District. Peterson has a consistent pro-life voting record and, even though he faced all the same pressures to support the health care bill from his party, Pelosi, the President, and progressive groups, he did not waver. He put his principles before his party and for this he deserves credit.

Interestingly enough, in his statement on his Health Care Vote he does not cite abortion funding as a reason to oppose the bill. Rather, he focuses on the lack of cost control and disparities in coverage:

This legislation doesn't control costs, doesn't reform Medicare, and only covers 37% of the uninsured in the 7th District as opposed to an average of 68% nationwide. Some districts will see coverage expanded to cover as much as 92% of the uninsured and Minnesotans will be paying for that while leaving 63% of our 7th District residents without coverage. This is very similar to the way the Medicare geographic disparities problem was created back in 1982. The geographic payment disparity encourages cost-shifting and rewards low quality/high cost health care providers in other states while forcing Minnesota to do more with less. Instead of fixing that problem--which we need to do--this legislation will lock us into that same disparity situation with regard to the uninsured. Minnesotans will be asked to do more with less while also covering costs in other states that aren't doing the right thing for their own citizens. And on top of that this legislation will not control costs--in fact it seems to me that it will do just the opposite; health insurance premiums will rise. CBO has said that premiums for individuals will increase 10-13%.

But based on his past voting record and opposition to federal funding of abortion, it seems likely that at least part of Peterson's NO vote was due to the pro-life views. That makes him a very rare bird indeed these days, a genuine pro-life Democrat. While there are many issues where Collin Peterson and I disagree, I respect the courage and character he displayed here when his mettle was truly put to the test. He did what was right when it truly mattered. And isn't that what we really want to see from our politicians?

Monday, March 22, 2010

You Ain't Seen Nothin' yet

So it has come to pass. I spend yesterday trying my best to avoid hearing, seeing, or reading anything about the imminent passage of the health care reform bill. And between Mass in the morning, a walk to the park in the afternoon to savor the lovely spring weather, and a hockey game at night, I was for the most part successful. Oh, I knew what was happening all right. There really wasn't any way to completely escape it. But I was able to put it out of sight and mind as much as possible. No reason to ruin a perfectly good Sunday.

My first reaction upon waking this morning with the dawning realization of what had transpired last night was to launch into a "Planet of the Apes" tirade:

By the way, a good spoof on what our health care future will look like would have the Taylor character discovering a MRI machine or perhaps the ruins of the Mayo Clinic jutting out of the sand.

Over the last ten years, the decline of the influence of the mainstream media has been obvious. Part of this decline has been brought about by technology, but part of it is also no doubt due to the MSM's dereliction of duty when it comes to reporting in a factual and objective manner what is really happening. This unwillingness or inability to communicate in a straightforward manner was again in evidence throughout the health care reform debate, particularly so as it reached its climax over the last week.

I can't even count how many times in recent days that I heard news stories about how the House Democrats were trying pass a health care reform bill in the face of "fierce opposition" from Republicans. This was narrative that was presented again and again, yet it was fundamentally not accurate. It wasn't House Republicans that Nancy Pelosi was bribing, threatening, and cajoling to get the bill passed, it was her fellow Democrats.

Most news reports also did not mention that poll after poll has shown that most Americans did not support this bill. A more accurate narrative might have been that Democrats were trying to pass a health care reform bill in the face of fierce opposition from the American people. Funny that wasn't the one they went with.

The media also paid scant attention to what really was going on with the critical debates about government funding for abortions, choosing instead to present it as "one side says this and one side says that and no one knows who's actually right." Or buying in to the notion that because a few nominally Catholic groups or individuals supported the bill, it was okay for Catholics to support it in spite of clear and consistent statements from Church authorities to the contrary.

The media was also complicit it pretty much blindly accepting the Obama Administration's claims about the costs and deficit impacts of the plan because they had the imprimatur of the CBO. Even today's WSJ had a front page story with a box showing how much the plan would reduce the deficit. "Where's the freakin' asterisk?," I wanted to scream when I saw that this morning.

The media's behavior in the health care reform battle is just the example of how far they've fallen. Reporters either cannot because of their own intellectual limitations or choose not because of their own ideological motivations to provide the full story. Some of it can also be explained by their attitude that most Americans are too stoopid to too apathetic to truly understand or care about how the sausage is being ground through the process. In reality, Americans did care and many did take the time to understand exactly what Congress was up to.

And that's why if Democrats think this is going to blow over in a few weeks now that the deed is done, they are sadly mistaken. I've never seen the level of anger, disbelief, and frustration with the powers that be and the processes that they used to get this bill passed that I see now. And it's not just the usual political junkies either. I know a lot of people who, except for a few weeks during a presidential election, typically aren't that interested in politics who are now paying attention. And they're pissed.

These people aren't necessarily Republicans or conservatives. While they might have some sympathy to their cause, they haven't showed up at Tea Party protests. Yet. They're what you would call your average Americans, usually more concerned with their church, their families, their jobs, their friends, and yes their fun, than what politicians in Washington, D.C. are doing. But this time is different. This time, they do care. This time, they have paid attention. And this time, they're not going to put up with attempts to return to "business as usual" in Congress and move on to the next agenda item. This time, when they say they're going to "throw the bums out" they mean it. That battle is over, the campaign has just begun.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lesson Learned

If nothing else, today's peformance by the Democrat representatives in Congress offers the opportunity to internalize a concrete truth that is commonly fogged over in the course of a political campaign or debate. Quoting Mark Steyn again:

... isn't one of the lessons of the last weekend, where the fate of the
republic hinges on a jelly-spine squish like Ben Nelson, a terrible indictment
of the political culture of the United States, apart from anything else. But
doesn't it also tell you something -- I think as Jennifer Rubin over at
Commentary magazine said that when it comes to the last ditch, every Democrat is a liberal and they'll sign on to the bill regardless of what's in it.

Jim Oberstar was prime evidence of this yesterday. Remember, he caved on the issue of tax dollar funded abortions last night, even before this "executive order" protection business was even conceived of. But what about Bart Stupak? Over the last week his steadfast commitment to the pro-life cause was being hailed in conservative quarters. There was at least one man on the other side of the aisle who had integrity and commitment to principle. Is he the exception to the Steyn rule? Check out this video from some time ago, just now surfacing:

Amazingly flexible defintions of voting his conscience and staying true to principle. I guess that's how you sleep at night as a pro-life Democrat. I just wish he would have come clean about this to the national media earlier this week, we all could have been spared a lot of needless drama. Here's hoping the pro-life voters understand now and won't get fooled again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Down and Out Goes Oberstar

Looks like the Democrats are desperate for votes tomorrow. They refused to let Rep. James Oberstar off the hook have forced him to abandon his pro-life voting record in favor of a bill that for the first time will allow federal tax dollars to fund abortions. From his Facebook announcement:

This afternoon, Congressman Jim Oberstar announced his support for the comprehensive health care legislation that the House of Representatives will consider on Sunday.

"I have evaluated the issues of health care for 35 years and very intensively for this past year as Congress has worked on the major reform legislation. The fine points of this health care bill have now been defined, and in my judgment, the balance of benefits are in favor of this bill. That will benefit the people of the 8th congressional district and the American people."

And about that Stupak amendment he insisted on when the House passed its bill in December, but has been stripped out of the Senate version he's now supporting?

Regarding the lingering issue of abortion, I am confident that abortion will not be funded in this legislation.

In other words, he's closing his eyes and covering his ears and pretending its not there. The US Catholic Bishops have made it clear the current legislation does in fact change the status quo in favor of now funding abortions. The Democrat pro-choice caucus in the House confirm this, in their vehement protest over any inclusion of Stupak restrictions.

A sad day for Oberstar and Catholics and pro-life advocates in MN-8. Paradoxically, it may still signal good news for the defeat of the bill. If the Democrats need Oberstar's vote, they don't have it locked up without him. Should be a close one tomorrow.

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is back LIVE this morning at 11 AM. John Hinderaker and I will both be in studio to address all the major issues. Health care talk will dominate the proceedings of course.

We'll lead off with a detailed discussion of my aching back (thanks to some early season yard work) and then a couple of segments on John's hateful intolerance for lactose. Home remedies, salves, oils, faith healing, the whole spectrum of care options will be analyzed. Or we'll talk about the latest developments in ObamaCare. Game time decision on that one.

One thing we know for sure is that at 11:30, we'll be joined by Politico reporter James Hohmann. He's on Capitol Hill and has been on health care beat and will have all the latest details on the latest back room deals and bribes and where the vote stands for tomorrow.

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

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

Remember, The Northern Alliance Radio Network starts at 11AM Central, locally on AM1280 the Patriot. Streaming LIVE worldwide at the web site. You can join the conversation at 651-289-4488.

Don't you dare miss it!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. XLVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week, brought to you as always by the fine folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who believe that bitterness belongs in your beer, not in your life (hear that, Atomizer?).

One of the first beer styles that I embraced when I started to appreciate the glory of craft beers many years ago was India Pale Ale. The hoppy, bitter flavors of IPA as well as its rich history--the heavier hops better preserved the beer for the long journey from England to India--help set it apart from macro brews and gave it a special appeal that I still appreciate today. During my regular visits to the late great Sherlock Holmes brew pub in Minnetonka, their version of the IPA was my second favorite selection after Bishop's Bitter.

Over the years, I've quaffed many a quality IPA with some of my favorites brewed by Rush River, Anderson Valley, Tyranena, Mendocino, Full Sail, Highland, Sierra Nevada, Bell's, Surly, Mad River, and Founder's. I've also had plenty of Summit IPA, although I don't enjoy it as much as others because it's too rough around the edges. One of the measures of a truly excellent IPA is its ability to bring out the hoppy, bitterness while maintaining a smooth finish. You want to enjoy the rich flavors, but you want some subtlety as well and that's where Summit IPA misses.

Over the years, I also learned more about India Pale Ale itself. For instance, the origin of the name itself isn't quite as clear cut as had been previously believed:

IPA descends from the earliest pale ales of the 17th century. The term "pale ale" originally denoted an ale which had been brewed from pale malt. The pale ales of the early 18th century were lightly hopped and quite different from later pale ales. By the mid-18th century, pale ale was mostly manufactured with coke-fired malt, which produced less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer. One such variety of beer was October beer, a pale well-hopped brew popular among the landed classes, who brewed it domestically; once brewed it was intended to cellar two years.

The October beer of George Hodgson's Bow Brewery was the world's first India Pale Ale. Bow Brewery beers became popular among East India Company traders in the late 18th century because of the brewery's location and Hodgson's liberal credit line of 18 months. East Indiamen transported a number of Hodgson's beers to India, among them his October beer, which benefited exceptionally from conditions of the voyage and was apparently highly regarded among consumers in India. Bow Brewery came into control of Hodgson's sons in the early 19th century, but their business practices alienated their customers. During the same period, several Burton breweries lost their European export market in Russia because of new tariffs on beer, and were seeking a new export market for their beer. At the behest of the East India Company, Allsop brewery developed a strongly hopped pale ale in the style of Hodgson's for export to India. Other Burton brewers, including Bass and Salt, were anxious to replace their lost Russian export market and quickly followed Allsop's lead. Likely as a result of the advantages of Burton water in brewing, Burton India Pale Ale was preferred by merchants and their customers in India.

Demand for the export style of pale ale, which had become known as "India Pale Ale," developed in England around 1840 and India Pale Ale became a popular product in England. Some brewers dropped the term "India" in the late 19th century, but records indicated that these "pale ales" retained the features of earlier IPA. American, Australian and Canadian brewers manufactured beer with the label IPA before 1900, and records suggest that these beers were similar to English IPA of the era.

Hodgson's October beer style clearly influenced the Burton Brewers's India Pale Ale. His beer was only slightly higher in alcohol than most beer brewed in his day and would not have been considered a strong ale; however, a greater proportion of the wort was well-fermented, leaving behind few residual sugars, and the beer was strongly hopped. The common story that early IPAs were much stronger than other beers of the time, however, is a myth. Moreover, porter shipped to India at the same time survived the voyage, and common claims that Hodgson formulated his beer to survive the trip and that other beers would not survive the trip are probably false. It is clear that by the 1860s, India Pale Ales were widely brewed in England and that they were much more attenuated and highly hopped than porters and many other ales.

So IPA's popularity among the British in India may have had more to do credit terms and simple taste preference rather than because it was the only beer hoppy enough to survive the journey.

There are also many variants on the style. In addition to the classic English IPA, you now can also savor American IPAs, Double (or Imperial) IPAs, Black IPAs, and perhaps even Triple IPAs. Clearly not all IPAs are created equal.

In the past, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing had largely worked within the boundaries of their name by producing quality beers in the Belgium tradition. Which admittedly left them with a lot to explore and they've done that quite nicely. But they have never really gone to the hoppy end of the beer spectrum. Until now, with the release of Ranger IPA.

Standard brown New Belgium bottle. Simple yet attractive brown and green label with a big ol' pile of hops under the bold Ranger name.

Beer Style: India Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

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

AROMA (0-2): Hops & tart citrus. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white, full. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Strong hop flavors with grapefruit, a little pine, and a touch of sweet malt. Medium bodied and drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitter, but still smooth. 2

OVERALL (0-6): A well-rounded IPA offering. A decent amount of hoppy bitterness without going overboard. A beer that would work well with burgers or steaks on the barbecue. Goes down fairly easy, yet still packs a flavorful punch. Nice to see that New Belgium can do hoppy too. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back Slides Oberstar

Ominous developments today for opponents of Obama Care. Democrat leadership has confidently announced a final vote on Sunday. And James Oberstar is back to pretending he's on the fence:

Just as President Obama thought single-payer holdout Dennis Kucinich had
bought in to the Democrats' health care package, Minnesota's own Jim Oberstar is
now back in doubt.

Oberstar, after reportedly having words with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appears to have backed off the assurance he gave last weekend, when he said he was "prepared" to vote for health care.

The Iron Range Democrat's latest utterance to Washington reporters, from a closing elevator door, was "I'm a strong, likely yes vote."

A strong likely you say? You have to admire a man with such conviction in his equivocation.

"He's not 100 percent in the yes column," [Oberstar spokesman John Schadl]
said Thursday. According to Schadl, that's not a change from last week. "He's precisely where he's been."

Why is a potential "no" vote from Oberstar a positive development for the bill's passage? It probably means they've got enough votes without him. Paraphrasing Mark Steyn, Oberstar is a last ditch liberal on this issue. An ideological die hard who will tow the line when he must, but ardently pro-life when it doesn't stand in the way of his party's agenda. If they don't need him anymore, he's free to resume the kabuki dance that plays so well with his voters. His spokesman is right, Oberstar is precisely where he's always been.

When You Say Banaian, You've Said It All

Regarding the nascent King Banaian for House effort, I think this could also provide the foundation for a campaign song:

The lyrics would have to be worked on to some degree. For example, I don't believe King Banaian is Beachwood aged. But the beginning "here comes the King, here comes the Big Number One" part, I picture King riding in on a ornate wagon pulled by a team of Clydesdales. That smells like victory to me.

King Makers

The announcement that King Banaian has thrown his hat into the ring and officially entered the race for Minnesota House District 15B has the crack marketing staff here at Fraters Libertas world headquarters scrambling to come up with ways to help his campaign. Brains are being stormed, ideas are being run up flagpoles, stories are being boarded, and, in scenes right out of "Mad Men," copious amounts of cigarettes and Scotch are being consumed by well-coiffed, nattily-attired gentlemen. Well, at least the cigarettes and Scotch part is accurate.

Those of you in the same demographic cohort as King probably remember Eugene McCarthy's primary campaign for president in 1968 and the memorable tagline that his youthful volunteers adopted Getting Clean for Gene:

In addition to its "bring the troops home now" message, the McCarthy campaign also introduced new tactics into campaigning, ranging from its reliance on a core group of ideologically-motivated funders--presaging George Soros--door-to-door canvassers brought in from out of town, and, perhaps most memorably, a tactic which its young volunteers adopted known as "Clean for Gene." Viewed most simply, it involved long haired New Left types getting haircuts, before hitting the streets of Concord and Manchester.

Operating under the premise that there's really nothing new under the sun (and because we're far too drunk, lazy, and stupid to come up with anything original), we've decided to borrow plagiarize steal emulate the repetition of similar sounds from the McCarthy slogan in a manner befitting King, his volunteers, and our time. Here are some of the possibilities currently being considered:

* Searching Bing for King

* Willing to sing for King

* Wearing bling for King

* Taking wing for King (a little abstract)

* Making a zing for King

* Having a fling for King (this one has proved very popular with focus groups so far)

We hope to have this list pared down and a finalist green-lighted before March Madness kicks off later today, because after that no one is going to be doing any real work around here anyway. We're also been throwing some ideas for TV/radio spots at the wall and the only one that's really sticking so far is also a blatant rip-off of tribute to a politician from the past:

(Begin with King's voice)

Because you need me, Stearns County. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a King. That's why I'm doing this: to protect you from yourselves. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a house district to run.

(Fade out with "Every Man A King")

UPDATE: We've received a deluge of e-mails with more suggestions.

Beth from Golden Valley offers:

Banging Sting for King.

That doesn't seem particularly appropriate or germane to this topic, now does it?

T. Swift from St. Paul chimes in with:

Taking a swing for King.

Strictly in the metaphorical sense of course.

Desperate Hausfrau from Waite Park suggests:

Taking off my ring for King.

Hey now...

Finally, Atomizer from Eagan volunteers:

Drinking Coldspring for King.

Not exactly keeping with the spirit of sacrifice intended, but I guess we all have our part to play.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Every Man A King

In the biggest news coming out of MN House District 15B since Garrison Keillor mentioned it in an hilarious story about the electoral habits of Norwegian bachelor farmers, King Banaian has announced his candidacy for state office:

Banaian says he's ready to become an elected official. Flanked by GOP House members on Tuesday, Banaian criticized [Rep. Larry Haws] for supporting tax increases last year, and said lawmakers must stop treating taxpayers as a revenue source for state government.

"Let me go to St. Paul," Banaian said, "and tell them: The ATM is closed. You have taken enough."

King Banaian is one of the sharpest minds I've met in terms of economics and politics, not to mention a great guy overall. I suspect he's got an uphill battle against a long-term DFL incumbent in a district including a large college student and college employee electorate. But in this year of turmoil and reaction to Democrat overreach, maybe, just maybe, the voters will avail themselves of this opportunity for superior representation.

To get a jump on things, for a campaign slogan and song, let me suggest borrowing from the wildly popular Huey P. Long and this classic from 1935:

Yes, I realize the intro and lyrics are pretty much the exact opposite of everything King stands for. But the title is a killer and it's got a good beat the kids can relate to.

All This Much to Lose Than All This Much to Gain

It's interesting to note how often military battles are invoked for comparisons or metaphors for political battles. Commentary on President Obama's recent campaign for health care is replete with references to historical military campaigns or specific battles.

Last summer, Senator Jim Demint was the first, but far from the last, to speculate that failure to enact health care reform could be Obama's Waterloo. At the time, I thought that Stalingrad might be more appropriate as a health care defeat for Obama wouldn't necessarily be the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning. More recently, we've seen speculation that even if health care reform is somehow rammed through, it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the President.

Now, it seems like there's a new favorite making the rounds with more and more pundits comparing Pelosi's health care cramdown to Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. This one does seem to be especially apt at the moment. For like General Lee at Gettysburg, President Obama's final push on health care is a desperate gamble in the hopes of achieving a smashing victory that will change history. Like Lee's choice after two hard fought days at Gettysburg, President Obama could have chosen to disengage, to step away from the fight, lick his wounds, and wait for another opportunity.

Had Lee left the field after two days, Gettysburg would have been a setback for the South and a minor victory for the North. But it would not have been the kind of pivotal point that it turned out to be. After Gettysburg, the South would never again threaten the North with invasion and hopes for a decisive Southern victory to end the war were gone. Historians continue to whether the Union's victory at Gettysburg was militarily "decisive" in terms of the outcome of the Civil War overall, but there's no doubt that it was significant. It boosted Northern morale proved that Union troops (and more importantly) their generals could beat the Confederates under Lee. Without the failure of Pickett's Charge on Day Three, Gettysburg might have gone down in history as another one of the bloody, but largely inconclusive battles of the Civil War.

By committing himself to getting the health care reform bill through now, President Obama is following Lee's lead by rolling the dice. If he wins, it could irrevocable alter the political landscape. While the GOP will do all they can to repeal it, they're going to face an uphill struggle. Once Obamacare begins law, Obama will hold the high ground and be in an advantageous position to defend his gains. However, if he loses it's difficult to imagine that Obama will ever be able to mount a significant domestic policy campaign before 2012. He'll be forced to pull back, watch as the Democrats take their lumps in November, and enter into a stalemate with a much less friendly Congress.

Finally, no matter how what the outcome of the current House battle is, the casualties among Pelosi's caucus will likely resemble those suffered by Pickett's troops. After the failed charge, when Lee asked Pickett to reform his division for defense, Pickett is alleged to have replied, "Sir, I have no division." Under similar circumstances, President Obama could well hear something like "Sir, I have no majority" from Speaker Pelosi after this November's election.

UPDATE: Yet another historical parallel is that some of the fiercest fighting at Gettysburg was at Devil's Den while the outcome of the health care reform battle may hinge on who wins the fight for Demon Pass.


Didn't have a chance to make too many new aquaintances at last Saturday's MOB gathering, but I was introduced to one new Minnesota blogger. Jim from Backbench Media was attending his first MOB event and by rights is now a member of said august organization. Stop by his site and check out the view.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Down Goes Oberstar

Way back in December, the first time the allegedly conservative and moderate Democrats in Congress had their chance for a profile in courage, Mark Steyn had this to say about their collapse in the face of Obama Care:

... isn't one of the lessons of the last weekend, where the fate of the republic hinges on a jelly-spine squish like Ben Nelson, a terrible indictment of the political culture of the United States, apart from anything else. But doesn't it also tell you something -- I think as Jennifer Rubin over at Commentary magazine said that when it comes to the last ditch, every Democrat is a liberal and they'll sign on to the bill regardless of what's in it.

Remembering this, I considered it laughable that Jim Oberstar's allegedly bedrock pro-life beliefs were being invoked this past week as a potential barrier to passing Obama Care, based on provisions which will lead to federal tax dollars paying for abortions.

Looks like this 36 year incumbent from a pro-life district gets the last laugh on all of us:

With the finish line in sight on the long national health care debate, Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat who opposes abortion, announced that he will not stand
in the way of a final bill, meaning that all of the pieces have fallen into place for the Minnesota delegation.

Oberstar spokesman John Schadl said Monday that Oberstar would prefer stronger abortion language, but that the difference "wasn't enough to warrant denying health care to 30 million people."

I suppose it's true that Oberstar does have a pro-life voting record in Congress. But this episode tends to expose the true nature of that stance. It's a "preference". Something to advocate for when convenient. Something it's OK to vote for when your party's contrary agenda has a safe enough margin not to need you. But when it comes to the last ditch, he has a bedrock belief even deeper than being pro-life.

Oberstar commonly cites his Catholic beliefs as a reason for his his heretofore pro-life record. It's interesting to note the motivations he cites for this current vote:

Schadl said Oberstar's office has been deluged with appeals from all sides, including letters from liberal Catholic theologians who say that the Senate bill upholds existing restrictions on abortion funding.

In the end, Schadl said, Oberstar will follow his own conscience as a Roman Catholic: "He will not be consulting polls, tea leaves, Tarot cards, or any other form of unholy divination before he makes a decision that is this important."

In summary, persuasive sources of information: letters from unnamed liberal Catholic theologians.

Unpersuasive sources: polls, tea leaves, Tarot cards, and other forms of "unholy divination" (!)

If Oberstar is limiting himself to these competing outlets, I can see where his conscience might have gone astray. But you'd think this regularly self-professing Catholic might consider sources more substantial than Tarot cards to counter the arguments of liberal Catholic theologians. A few suggestions he may have heard of before: The Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, various Papal Encyclicals going back decades, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and The Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Check 'em out Congressman, there's still time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Because The Census Tells Me So

Last week, I vented about the manner in which participation in the 2010 Census was being pitched to the public as a money grab that they didn't want to miss out on.

Today, Michael Linton has similar thoughts in a post at First Thoughts called The Sense of the Census:

I thought that the main purpose of the census was to preserve the Republic by fairly appropriating representation in the House of Representatives, electors, and direct taxes, at least that's how I read that bit of Article One, Section 2 of the Constitution. OK, it was never that simple: there's all that business about Indians not being counted and only three/fifths of a slave (which meant I guess--at least on an account book--you could hack a slave apart and count two legs and an arm had to leave out his head and the other arm, which, come to think of it, is what actually happened to a lot of white boys here in Murfreesboro at the Battle of Stones River, history has an terrible way of settling scores)--but that was the general idea, messy as it was.

But there's not even the wisp of a hint of that notion in the letter. Not much of a civics lesson here about "no taxation without representation" and all that. The census is about loot. And getting my communities' "fair share" of it. And it's loot I need. The United States Federal Government tells me so.

If you move beyond simply the loot itself, you can see that the broader message is that you need the government. And the government can't "help" you if they don't know you're there. The government also needs you in that the more of you there are to help, the bigger and more powerful the government needs to be. You help us and we'll help you. Why bother teaching a civics lesson when you can go with good old fashioned greed instead?

UPDATE-- Charlotte Hays has more at The Corner on National Review Online:

I just spotted the worst U.S. Census ad yet. Several D.C. buses now sport huge ads on their sides that read (approximately--I'm doing this from memory), "If we don't know how many people there are, we won't know how many buses we need." Yes, you will. A business knows about supply and demand. If operated as a business, Metro would know how many buses it needs without the census. But, increasingly, we're an allotment society. The ad betrays the way bureaucrats, drawn to central planning (namely because they get to do the planning), think. Plus, it shows why we're being lobbied so heavily about the Census forms, which most people fill out as a matter of course. Fill out the Census, and get something for yourself, even if it's a bus you don't intend to ride.

SISYPHUS ADDS: There is exactly one reason for Minnesota conservatives to participate in the census and I have not seen it mentioned in any of the census ads or even on the census website.

No, I don't want Minnesota to receive more federal spending (I pay federal taxes too). Nor do I want Minnesota to get more congressional seats or electoral votes - they would go to Democrats. I hope Minnesota loses congressional representation to say, Alabama.

But I will be filling out my census form for one and only one reason: The fine for not doing so is up to $5000. My census ad would be simple: "Fill out your census form accurately or give us your cash."

The Nihilist Chimes In-- Damn! I had just about finished a whimsical post suggesting that Minnesotans and other dark blue staters fill in one under for the question about residents in the household. That way, our idiotic brethren would likely lose a congressional seat to Texas and we'd face the delicious prospect of seeing a turf battle between Tim Walz and Collin Peterson. However, I'm going to have to scrap that idea because I would never advise anyone to break the law.


In the epilogue to Paul Johnson's biography of Winston Churchill, he offers up five lessons from Churchill's life that we can all learn from:

* Always aim high.

* There is no substitute for hard work.

* Never allow mistakes, disaster-personal or national-accidents, illness, unpopularity, and criticism to get you down.

* Don't waste time on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas.

* Leave plenty of room for joy in your life. Share and give joy.

None of us can realistically ever hope to equal the life of a man like Churchill. But, as Johnson shows, there are aspects of it that we would well to strive to emulate in our manner and circumstances.

The Road to Perdition

Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, on Catholics, Health Care, and the Senate's Bad Bill:

The long, unpleasant and too often dishonest national health care debate is now in its last days. Its most painful feature has been those "Catholic" groups that by their eagerness for some kind of deal undercut the witness of the Catholic community and help advance a bad bill into a bad law. Their flawed judgment could now have damaging consequences for all of us.

Do not be misled. The Senate version of health care reform currently being pushed ahead by congressional leaders and the White House--despite public resistance and numerous moral concerns--is bad law; and not simply bad, but dangerous. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops in our country, who speak for the believing Catholic community. In its current content, the Senate version of health care legislation is not "reform." Catholics and other persons of good will concerned about the foundations of human dignity should oppose it.

Ardent, practicing Catholics like Nancy Pelosi for example.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Northern Alliance Radio Network

The Northern Alliance Radio Network is broadcasting LIVE this morning, starting at 11 AM. The focus of course will be the Obama health care package, currently steamrolling across all congressional rules and public opinion to a vote this coming week. We'll have LIVE call-ins from Ed Morrisey at the Kill the Bill rally taking place at the MN State Capitol and much discussion on the bill's specifics and the continued resistance.

Special guest at 12 noon will be Karl Rove, LIVE on tape. John Hinderaker interviewed him on his new book Courage and Consequence and it will be fascinating to hear this master political strategist and electoral scholar opine on his days in the Bush White House and on the current political landscape.

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beer of the Week (Vol. XLVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you courtesy of the chivalrous crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who treat every customer like nobility.

When you break down its ingredients, beer is not an overly complicated libation. The four primary elements are water, yeast, malted barley, and hops. Some beers do substitute corn, wheat, or rice for barley. While the cereal grain used and the way it is prepared can influence the taste of the beer and while fruit or herbs may also be added, the main determinate of the flavor--in terms of taste and aroma--of most beer is the hops. Hops also help to preserve the beer. Both the quantity of hops (the more hops, the more bitterness) and the type of hops used make a difference. While most people are probably familiar with just a few kinds of hops (Cascade, Fuggles) there are a large variety of hops that brewers can choose from.

In a particularly distinct category are the noble hops:

The term noble hops traditionally refers to five varieties of hop which are low in bitterness and high in aroma. They are the central European cultivars, Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, Polish Lublin and Saaz. They are each named for a specific region or city in which they were first grown or primarily grown. They contain high amounts of the hop oil humulene and low amounts of alpha acids cohumulone and adhumulone, as well as lower amounts of the harsher-tasting beta acids lupulone, colupulone, and adlupulone.

Their low relative bitterness but strong aroma are often distinguishing characteristics of European-style lager beer, such as Pilsener, Dunkel, and Oktoberfest/Märzen. In beer, they are considered aroma hops (as opposed to bittering hops); see Pilsner Urquell as a classic example of the Bohemian Pilsener style, which showcases Noble hops.

As with grapes, land where the hops were grown affects the hops' characteristics. Much as Dortmunder beer may only within the EU be labeled "Dortmunder" if it has been brewed in Dortmund, Noble hops may only officially be considered "Noble" if they were grown in the areas for which the hops varieties were named.

Which brings us to our Beer of the Week, Samuel Adams Noble Pils:

Samuel Adams Noble Pils is brewed with all 5 Noble hops for a distinct hop character and fresh taste. Deep golden in color with a citrusy hop aroma, Samuel Adams Noble Pils is a traditional Bohemian Pilsner. The honeyed malt character from traditional Bohemian malt is balanced by delicate yet pronounced citrus, floral, and piney notes from the Noble hops. The winner of our 2009 Beer Lover's Choice election, this beer was chosen by over 67,000 drinkers for its crisp complexity and refreshing taste.

Standard Sam Adam's brown bottle. Label is also the usual Sam Adam's style with lots of hoppy green garlands to welcome Spring.

Beer Style: Pilsener

Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%

COLOR (0-2): Golden and very clear with noticeable carbonation. 1

AROMA (0-2): Light but a pleasant combo of hops and malt with hints of citrus. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white. Fades quickly but has good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again, a nice balance of malt and hops. Fresh and crisp with moderate bitterness. Lighter bodied with a thin mouthfeel. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Clean finish with lingering bitterness. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Another surprisingly good spring seasonal and one of the better pilseners out there. This is definitely a beer that will get you thinking about and longing for the warm weather of spring. Is actually well-suited to be quaffed well into the summer too. Refreshes without sacrificing flavor. Great choice to go with outdoor grilling. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Emperor Has No Garment

Question for all those Catholics out there who voted for Barack Obama because--despite his clear and consistent views and record on abortion, stem cells, and other life issues--he would do more to help promote "social justice." You know people like Douglas Kmiec and other ProLife ProObama folks who claimed that being pro-life was more than just opposing abortion and anyway as president Obama would take actions that would "drastically" reduce the number of abortions.

More than a year into the Obama presidency, what exactly has President Obama done that in any way could justify your vote? What has he done in the name of "social justice" that President Bush didn't do? The stimulus package and extending unemployment benefits seem like pretty weak tea given the expectations. What about health care? Last time, I checked the USCCB still opposed any bill that included funding for abortion and the President seems intent on ramming just that through.

What about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that left-leaning Catholics have opposed? Still going on. Guantanamo Bay? Still open. The anti-terror provisions of the Patriot Act and other executive powers claimed by the Bush Administration to fight terrorism? Still being used by the Obama Administration.

So while it's perfectly clear to see the moral ground that has been lost under President Obama when it comes to abortion and stem cells, it difficult for me to see what pro-Obama Catholics can claim has been gained since his election. Douglas Kmiec got a sweet gig as U.S. Ambassador to Malta, but what about the rest of you?

Let's Play Massa And Servants

I have long argued that the people of Minnesota are the most easily duped voters in the nation. Any minor celebrity can get elected to the highest office. Saturday Night Live's minor contributor Al Franken is currently Senator. NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page sits on the state's Supreme Court. Pro wrestler Jesse Ventura was Governor.

If there is one state that rivals Minnesota in bad selection it is New York. The people of New York have a habit of letting carpetbaggers with Presidential aspirations walz into their state and use their Senate seat as a launching pad for their national campaign. Hillary Clinton and Robert Kennedy are examples.

Now New Yorkers can now be embarrassed that they elected Eric Massa to Congress. Suddenly Democratic leadership has determined his behavior isn't fit for someone in congress. No one cared about his behavior until he dared cross his party leadership on health care reform, but once he did, we found out about his sexual advances to young male staffers:

In hindsight, Democratic insiders wondered about activities that before had just seemed odd. They said Massa hired a surprisingly large percentage of young gay men, and paid them so little that staffers were forced to live in the house with him

He admitted in a pair of bizarre cable interviews that he "tickled" staffers, but he denied charges of repeated groping.

But new bombshells erupted yesterday, the biggest reported by The Atlantic online, which quoted past shipmates of Massa charging he used his status as a commander to subject underlings to abusive sexual advances.

Former Massa shipmate Peter Clarke recalled how a friend who roomed with Massa during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Stuart Borsch, was made extremely uncomfortable by Massa in a hotel on leave.

"Stuart's at the edge of the bed ... and [Massa] starts massaging him," Clarke said. "Massa said, 'You'll have to get one of my special massages.' He called them 'Massa Massages.' "

They made a guy leave Congress just for that? Watch out Barney Frank!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What About The Children?

Budget woes fuel plea for residents to send in census forms:

On Tuesday, the Census Bureau will launch a campaign stressing the importance of counting infants and young children on the forms. As part of Children Count Too, Nickelodeon will broadcast a promotional spot featuring the children's character Dora the Explorer. Census officials say children are undercounted because people in hard-to-count groups, including immigrants and minorities, tend to have more children in their families and because many people do not list babies on the questionnaire.

Just when you thought the Census ads couldn't get any more infantile or irritating. I can't imagine that I'm the only one out there driven to fist-shaking, teeth-gritting, under-my-breath-cursing outrage every time I see or hear one of these ads that seems to portray the Census as your opportunity obligation to belly up to the public trough. They talk about the money that your community--read you--will be missing out on if you're not counted, as if there was a government leprechaun sitting at the end of the rainbow ready to share his pot o' gold. Well guess where that gold comes from? There is no "free" money out there and you're no more entitled to your "share" than any other American whose taxes enable the government's largesse.

Not that I'm against the counting mind you. The Census does serve a valuable purpose and in fact I even worked as a manager for the 1990 Census back when I was attending college (hopefully more on that experience that shortly). But do the ads have to so blatantly appeal to our avarice? One of the reasons that we're in the financial mess we're in is the "what's in it for me?" attitude that Americans have developed toward government programs. Whether it's more funding for local schools, extended unemployment benefits, or tax breaks to buy a new home, this "gimme, gimme, gimme...more, more, more" view is pervasive. Even conservatives will often take the tack that "Well, after all these years of paying in, I deserve to get something back." This entitlement mentality results in almost everyone with their hand out and few willing to reach into their own wallet.

Instead of playing to our greed, the Census ads could focus on our patriotism and sense of civic duty. After all, as the Census Bureau's own website notes, the Census is in the Constitution. Maybe they know their target audience well enough to know what really works.