Monday, January 31, 2011


The WSJ absolutely lights up Newt Gingrich for his support of ethanol subsidies in an editorial called Professor Cornpone:

Some pandering is inevitable in presidential politics, but, befitting a college professor, Mr. Gingrich insists on portraying his low vote-buying as high "intellectual" policy. This doesn't bode well for his judgment as a president. Even Al Gore now admits that the only reason he supported ethanol in 2000 was to goose his presidential prospects, and the only difference now between Al and Newt is that Al admits he was wrong.

That's a deep cut. One likely to leave a mark on Gingrich's already slim prospects for getting the Republican nod in 2012.

Be Not Afraid

David Mills on the best balm for The Anxious Parent:

Suddenly you fear that your child will only get into the obscure college and his life will be ruined, or at least that he will always have to struggle and will never be able to do what he could. You may know that this feeling is foolish, but knowing that you are being foolish does not make you any the less anxious. Suddenly you’re as neurotic and fearful and driving as the yuppie parents you used to look down upon.

And suddenly, if you’re blessed, you’ll hear our Lord say through the pope, “Be not afraid.” It will be no longer a platitude, but the Dominical instruction that directs your life to its proper ends. Your child can be a saint with a degree from the obscure college as well as the elite one, a truth fear quickly drives straight from your mind. The parent is happier who does not fear for the means because Christ has secured the end.

Even with that assurance, it's difficult at times as a parent to not let your fears for your children get the best of you. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like without it.

The Color of Money

There's an instructive piece today by Micheal Isikoff of NBC that highlights how the media frames a story to fit a pre-conceived narrative. It begins with the title: Conservative High-rollers Gather to Plot Strategy. "High-rollers" in this case being fundraisers for conservative causes. Why don't you just call them "plutocrats" to ensure we get the picture?

Then there's the choice of words:

The Koch-sponsored conference at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa is the latest sign that the conservative spending blitz that helped propel GOP victories in last year’s election is likely to be continued at an even greater level next year when control of the presidency, as well as Congress, is at stake.

Blitz, as in blitzkrieg or German for lightning war. What happened to the new tone?

Much of the funds pledged this weekend by donors, however, may never be disclosed publicly because they will be directed to politically oriented non-profit organizations, like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, that — thanks to last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case — are now much freer to run political attack ads without publicly reporting their contributors.

You could also say that the Supreme Court ruling means that groups like Americans for Prosperity are now much freer to exercise their freedom of speech, but that doesn't sound as malevolent as "political attack ads."

One of the principal Koch-backed groups, for example, Americans for Prosperity, ran millions of dollars in attack ads against Democrats in the last election and now is promoting an aggressive political agenda in Congress that includes repealing the health care overhaul law and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill as well as restricting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions.

Again with the attack ads. You also have to love how efforts to reverse Democrats efforts to control health care or resist the Obama Administrations attempts to dictate energy policy by bureaucratic fiat are described as "aggressive."

There are also several paragraphs in the piece about the desire of the Koch family for privacy under the heading "Utmost of secrecy":

Whether primarily about policy or politics, the gathering — in keeping with the Kochs’ past practice — was conducted behind closed doors amid the tightest of security: The Kochs, who declined requests by NBC for an interview, rented the entire five-star hotel where the meeting was held and refused entry to any outsiders, including members of the news media.

How DARE they?

Security guards stood at the hotel's entrance and checked off names, allowing only invited guests to proceed. Sheriff deputies and police stood outside the hotel while others with binoculars stood on its roof on guard for intruders.

The secrecy was telegraphed in material distributed to invited donors last fall describing the Kochs’ last conference, held last summer in Aspen, Colo. A letter from Charles Koch, the CEO of Koch Industries, and an accompanying brochure, was later obtained by Think Progress, a liberal website connected with the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress. The letter from Charles Koch asked donors to attend this weekend’s conference to help “combat what is now the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetime.” An accompanying brochure emphasized that the company’s events are conducted under the strictest of rules. “Please be mindful of the security and confidentiality of your meeting notes and materials, and do not post updates of information about the meeting on blogs, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or in traditional media articles,” the brochure stated.

When it comes to matters such as abortion or national security, liberals show no lack of imagination in inventing new rights to privacy. When conservatives want to conduct PRIVATE meetings and keep the outcome of those meetings to themselves, it's presented as de facto evidence of nefarious intent.

The real reason that such meetings, fundraising, and political action by conservatives raise skeptical eyebrows in the media and outrage from liberal activist groups is these pesky people are daring to challenge the liberal agenda.

For this weekend’s conference, as many as 1,000 protestors chanting anti-Koch slogans assembled outside the resort and about 25 were arrested. Earlier, a green blimp — commissioned by Greenpeace, the environmental group, with a sign saying “Koch Brothers- Dirty Money” — flew overhead. The group was protesting the Kochs’ role in funding groups that seek to debunk global warming.

Eek! Conservatives exercising their freedom of speech! Somebody make them stop! Liberals don't have a problem with money in politics as long as that money is being directed to the "right" people to support the "right" causes.

Timothy P. Carney has more on the delicious irony of The Kochs vs. Soros: Free markets vs. state coercion:

Palm Springs, California -At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against "corporate greed" and polluters. They chanted for the arrest of billionaires Charles and David Koch, and their ire was also directed at the other free market-oriented businessmen invited here by the Koch brothers to discuss free markets and electoral strategies.

Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest's organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros.

Common Cause has received $2 million from Soros's Open Society Institute in the past eight years, according to grant data provided by Capital Research Center. Two panelists at Common Cause's rival conference nearby -- President Obama's former green jobs czar, Van Jones, and blogger Lee Fang -- work at the Center for American Progress, which was started and funded by Soros but, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit "think tank," legally conceals the names of its donors.

In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people's influence on politics.

When Politico reporter Ken Vogel pointed out that Soros hosts similar "secret" confabs, CAP's Fang responded on Twitter: "don't you think there's a very serious difference between donors who help the poor vs. donors who fund people to kill government, taxes on rich?"

In less than 140 characters, Fang had epitomized the myopic liberal view of money in politics: Conservative money is bad, and linked to greed, while liberal money is self-evidently philanthropic.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shake Down

It's bad enough that we have to put up with the Packers being in the Super Bowl next week. And now this:

Are you sitting down? Do you have your inhaler on hand? Please try not to panic, but Hot Dish is going to have to break some bad news: Shakey's pizza has scrapped its plans to return to Minnesota.

You've lived without its paper mustaches, player pianos, and Styrofoam boater hats for nearly a decade, so you can hold out just a little longer, right?

Noooooooooooo! That's like a Brett-Favre-NFC-Championship-game-interception to the solar plexus for us right now. No sunshine. No Super Bowl. And now, no Shakey's. We like it here?

Straight For The Mush

Some members of the media were eager--almost too eager--to describe last week's SOTU speech by President Obama as "Reaganesque." It seems to be part of a meme they're trying to build around comparing Obama's "comeback" to Reagan's recovery and waltz to reelection. If anyone should know whether a speech actually reflected the qualities of Ronald Reagan it's Peggy Noonan. And since Noonan's been known to swoon for Obama's rhetoric in the past, if the SOTU truly was an uplifting vision of America's future you would expect here to fall in line to praise it. Instead, her piece in yesterday's WSJ is called An Unserious Speech Misses the Mark:

He too often in making a case puts the focus on himself. George H.W. Bush, always afraid of sounding egotistical, took the I's out of his speeches. We called his edits "I-ectomies." Mr. Obama always seems to put the I in. He does "I implants."

These "I implants" have made it almost impossible for me to listen to President Obama speak any more. It's always all about him, all the time. Even during Friday's short statement on Egypt he couldn't help but include a reference to his speech at Cairo in 2009. Every president has to have an enormous ego to ever end up in the White House. But they don't have to display it as obviously or consistently as President Obama does every time he opens his mouth.

Humor, that leavening, subtle uniter, was insufficiently present. Humor is denigrated by serious people, but serious people often miss the obvious. The president made one humorous reference, to smoked salmon. It emerged as the biggest word in the NPR word cloud of responses. That's because it was the most memorable thing in the speech. The president made a semi-humorous reference to TSA pat-downs, but his government is in charge of and insists on the invasive new procedures, to which the president has never been and will never be subjected. So it's not funny coming from him. The audience sort of chuckled, but only because many are brutes who don't understand that it is an unacceptable violation to have your genital areas patted against your will by strangers.

I actually hate writing this. I wanted to write "A Serious Man Seizes the Center." But he was not serious and he didn't seize the center, he went straight for the mush. Maybe at the end of the day he thinks that's what centrism is.

You knew things were going badly for President Obama when he started losing people like Peggy Noonan who desperately want to like him. And until he starts winning them back, talk of any Obama "comeback" is premature.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What The Puck?

FBI helping solve mystery of missing Stanley Cup-winning puck:

Chicago FBI forensic experts are helping to solve the mystery of what happened to the puck scored by the Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

The puck has been missing since Patrick Kane slipped it into the back of the net during overtime of Game 6, ending the title ambitions of the Philadelphia Flyers and their home fans on June 9.

While Kane and his teammates celebrated at the opposite end of the ice at the Wachovia Center, someone picked up the winning puck and it has not been seen since.

After officials and fans had no luck in tracing its whereabouts, a $50,000 reward was offered by a restaurateur and the Chicago FBI stepped in to help.

One attempt to claim the reward has already failed after the FBI used specialized equipment to show that the puck in question was not the winning one.

Officers believe they will be able to compare each nick on any puck that is turned in to digitally enhanced images they have of the winning goal.

"We feel we have enough in terms of visual evidence to include or exclude any future pucks," Chicago FBI spokesman Ross Rice said.

He added: "All we're doing is helping. The people who are doing this are doing it on their own time. They feel they are a part of history."

Yeah, history (rolls eyes dismissively).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXXVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the helpful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who always ask what they can do for you when it comes to wine, whiskey, and beer.

We close our run of reviews of beer from Tallgrass Brewing Company in Kansas with their Ale:

Tallgrass Ale is the flagship beer of Tallgrass Brewing Company, and we think it will be your new favorite beer! Truly a craft beer, the recipe was first brewed by Jeff as a 10-gallon batch of homebrew. Of all his homebrew recipes, Jeff chose Tallgrass Ale as the flagship beer because of the beer’s surprising light body, extraordinarily smooth and balanced profile, great taste, and clean finish. The first time Jeff brewed Tallgrass Ale he thought it looked a little too dark, but after he kegged that first batch, the finished beer was really, really tasty! That first little 10-gallon batch of Tallgrass was gone way too fast!

The beer was different from anything he or his friends could find on tap or on the shelf. It was a beer that was a deep chestnut color, yet had a great flavor and was so light tasting that it kept you wanting more. The distinctive look and taste of Tallgrass Ale comes from our unique blend of German, English, and American-style malts and a generous helping of both American and traditional English hops. These ingredients, our English brewer’s yeast, and the Flint Hills’ excellent brewing water gives Tallgrass Ale a distinctive, toffee-highlighted taste and smooth profile that is always drinkable.

Can is brown at the base with mixed maroon rays at the top. Stalks of grain sprout from the logo.

Style: Brown Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%

COLOR (0-2): Brown and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty with sweet caramel. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan, light volume, decent retention. 1

TASTE (0-5): Roasted malt flavor with some nutiness, and whiffs of caramel and chocolate. Very little hops and no noticeable bitterness. Smooth with a thin mouthfeel and medium body. Quite drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Hollow without much there. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A decent brown ale, but it doesn't live up to what I've come to expect from Tallgrass. Nothing especially unique or different here and there isn't much that separates a Tallgrass Ale from a Newcastle Brown Ale. If you're a fan of that beer, you'll likely enjoy this as well. Personally, I'll stick to some of the other Tallgrass offerings which offer much more in the way of interesting flavor combinations. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Better Than Radio

Here are some videos watched on recently that merit attention. Actually, I should say listened to, rather than watched. These serve as proxy podcasts for me, when the talk radio grind isn't getting it done.

The Civil War of 1812. A fascinating account of this mostly forgotten chapter of early American history, presented by UC-Davis professor and pulitzer Prize winning historian Alan Taylor. Things I did not know:
  • The war of 1812 can be viewed as an extension of the loyalist vs. republican conflict in North America that lingered past the conclusion of the American Revolution.
  • Contemporary Canadians view this as a great victory, turning back the invading American armies.
  • 70% of the combined combatants on both sides were of Irish extraction.
  • Fearing desertion in their ranks, the Brits decreed that any American combatants captured, if found to be former British subjects (i.e., the Irish) would be given the choice of joining the British army for life or be executed. If they were found to be former members of the British military, execution was the only option.
  • The British briefly considered using this war to attempt to end the American experiment permanently, through fomenting loyalist sympathies in New England, slave revolt in the South, and American Indian uprisings in the West.
  • Ultimately, the larger war against Napoleon forced the British to agree to a brokered peace with neither side gaining any advantage over pre-war conditions.

Beetle: The Life of General Walter Bedell Smith. Biography of one of the most important, yet least well known, military figures of WWII.

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. Details on the British archeologist turned spy and insurgent military leader, T.E. Lawrence. What a life this guy led, both tragic and triumphant. The presenter, Michael Korda, compares to him to Princess Diana, for his uncanny ability to generate publicity and inspire admiration from the general public.

It Can Happen Here

Kathryn Jean Lopez notes a development in the controversy over federal government funding of abortion. Liberal abortion rights groups are squawking about Republican attempts to reverse ObamaCare's permitting this to occur:

They’re talking about H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” introduced last week, the morning after the repeal vote. And they’re admitting the truth: Stupak’s once-proposed funding restrictions and conscience protections are not law. And, yes, H.R. 3 would do what the Left has long pretended is already a reality: Create a universal Hyde amendment, keeping taxpayer money away from abortion funding once and for all.

That would be a dream come true. Keeping taxpayer money away from abortion funding once and for all. (And a late thanks to "pro lifer" Jim Oberstar for allowing this to happen in the first place.)

Although, even in the unlikely event that this bill somehow got around an Obama veto in the next couple of years, the nightmare wouldn't end for some. As noted on Sunday, taxpayers in the state of Minnesota would continue to pay millions to fund thousands of abortions per year. According to our state Supreme Court, abortion is a "right" in Minnesota and the government has no choice but to take your tax dollars to pay for it, if the mother can't afford it on her own.

How did this come about in Minnesota? The facts are available in the Supreme Court decision in Doe vs. Gomez. A Fraters Libertas reader and law student provides this excellent Cliff's Notes summary of how it went down:

I found your post about abortion in Minnesota very interesting, so I attempted to de-lawyerize it for you a little bit. The excerpt in blue below (with citations and other formatting omitted) is the key passage in the opinion in which the Minnesota Supreme Court decided themselves better than the U.S. Supreme Court (saying they are adopting the "better law")--because, as you know, the SCOTUS is so backwards on abortion.

By way of preface, McRae was a case where the SCOTUS held that a constitutional "freedom of choice" was different than a constitutional "right to abortion." Under the federal Constitution (or, more accurately perhaps, under the Roe v. Wade line of cases), women generally have a right to choose abortion. But in practical terms, they do not have a right to have an abortion unless they can/will pay for it. Justice Coyne discusses this in her dissent (excerpts of which I have included in red below).

Accordingly, to the extent that McRae stands for the proposition that a legislative funding ban on abortion does not infringe on a woman's right to choose abortion, we depart from McRae. This court has long recognized that we may interpret the Minnesota Constitution to offer greater protection of individual rights than the U.S. Supreme Court has afforded under the federal constitution. In Fuller, we stated:
Indeed, as the highest court of this state, we are 'independently responsible for safeguarding the rights of [our] citizens.' * * * State courts are, and should be, the first line of defense for individual liberties within the federalist system. This, of course, does not mean that we will or should cavalierly construe our constitution more expansively than the United States Supreme Court has construed the federal constitution. Indeed, a decision of the United States Supreme Court interpreting a comparable provision of the federal constitution that, as here, is textually identical to a provision of our constitution, is of inherently persuasive, although not necessarily compelling, force.
In some cases, we have in fact interpreted the Minnesota Constitution to provide more protection than that accorded under the federal constitution or have applied a more stringent constitutional standard of review. We find that this is one of those limited circumstances in which we will interpret our constitution to provide more protection than that afforded under the federal constitution.

We do not do so lightly. It is a significant undertaking for any state court to hold that a state constitution offers broader protection than similar federal provisions, and it is certainly not sufficient "to reject a [U.S.] Supreme Court opinion on the comparable federal clause merely because one prefers the opposite result."

Although there are several possible rationales for interpreting our constitution differently from the federal constitution, we are persuaded today particularly by circumstances attendant to this case, but unique to Minnesota, our precedents, and the inadequacy we find in the federal status quo.

Minnesota possesses a long tradition of affording persons on the periphery of society a greater measure of government protection and support than may be available elsewhere. This tradition is evident in legislative actions on behalf of the poor, the ill, the developmentally disabled and other persons largely without influence in society.

This court too, has acted to establish that tradition during other times when the nation was divided on an important issue. Previously, when this nation was split on the question of slavery, this court relied on the Minnesota Constitution to strike legislation denying citizens of secessionist states access to Minnesota courts. These secessionists were politically unpopular in unionist Minnesota.

Nonetheless, this court held that government must protect the rights of each of its citizens, regardless of the fact that the larger community may hold them in low esteem. We believe that this tradition compels us to deviate from the federal course on the question of denying funding to indigent women seeking therapeutic abortions.

We are also persuaded of the correctness of our decision by our prior decisions to expand the protective reach of the Minnesota Consitution beyond that of the U.S. Constitution and by our decision in Jarvis. In Jarvis, we determined that our obligation to independently safeguard the rights of our citizens required us to decide that case exclusively under the Minnesota Constitution and our state's statutes. In a situation involving such intimate and personal decisions as the present case, we cannot agree with the federal courts. McRae has the practical effect of not protecting a woman's fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and allowing funding decisions to accomplish its nullification of that right. As a result, we believe that our decision today chooses the "better law" to protect this privacy right for Minnesota's indigent women. Minnesota has an interest in assuring those within its borders that their disputes will be resolved in accordance with this state's own concepts of justice.

It is critical to note that the right of privacy under our constitution protects not simply the right to an abortion, but rather it protects the woman's decision to abort; any legislation infringing on the decision-making process, then, violates this fundamental right. In the present case, the infringement is the state's offer of money to women for health care services necessary to carry the pregnancy to term, and the state's ban on health care funding for women who choose therapeutic abortions. Faced with these two options, financially independent women might not feel particularly compelled to choose either childbirth or abortion based on the monetary incentive alone. Indigent women, on the other hand, are precisely the ones who would be most affected by an offer of monetary assistance, and it is these women who are targeted by the statutory funding ban. We simply cannot say that an indigent woman's decision whether to terminate her pregnancy is not significantly impacted by the state's offer of comprehensive medical services if the woman carries the pregnancy to term. We conclude, therefore, that these statutes constitute an infringement on the fundamental right of privacy.

One justice (Stringer) did not participate in the case. Another justice (Coyne) dissented. Here are a few excerpts from her opinion:

The right of privacy which the Supreme Court recognized in Roe v. Wade was a woman's right to address the question whether or not to terminate her pregnancy unfettered by state law criminalizing abortion and to free her decision from the possible burden of complicity in a crime. The decision in Roe goes no further. Moreover, the right of privacy of which the Supreme Court speaks in Roe is not absolute; the abortion decision, like any other constitutionally protected choice, must be balanced against state interests, which the Supreme Court regarded as important enough to justify some regulation. Although the right of personal privacy is broad enough to include the abortion decision, that right is "subject to some limitations" and "at some point the state interests as to protection of health, medical standards, and pre-natal life, become dominant." Misapprehending the Roe analysis and its context, the majority suggests that it is the identical right which is at issue here and compels the decision reached by the majority. It is not, however, the same right. At least, it seems to me, despite the majority's insistence that there is a single right at issue here, that there is a very significant difference between a right to decide to terminate a pregnancy by abortion without fear of criminal complicity and a right to compel the state to pay for the abortion.

I interrupt the abortion talk to include another brief, but timely, quote from Coyne's dissent:

At bottom the majority's quarrel is with a political reality: selective funding. Although the magnitude of the national debt may be thought to suggest otherwise, the government cannot fund everything -- a proposition with which I presume every member of this court as well as every citizen of this state would agree. Government must be selective. * * * But until today constitutional rights have been regarded as limitations on government's power to interfere with private rights, not entitlements to governmental financial aid.

And continuing with abortion:

The closest analogue to the right of privacy with respect to reproduction and the issue concerning government funding of abortions is, I believe, found in the right to the free exercise of religion expressed in both the United States Constitution and the Minnesota Constitution and the issue concerning government funding of religiously affiliated schools. The constitutional issue is the same, it seems to me, in both cases: when does the government's refusal to fund a constitutionally protected choice impermissibly "burden" the exercise of that right? The majority rather cavalierly disposes of the analogy in a footnote . . .

* * *

To put it another way, a state may not deprive a parent or guardian of the right to choose, in the free exercise of religion, to send his or her child or ward to a religious school by compelling the child's attendance at a public school, but the state may, nevertheless, fund the public schools and at the same time deny any funding of religious schools without violating the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution.

* * *

The United States Supreme Court has, of course, decided in both the religious school context and the abortion context that freedom of choice must yield to the government's right to fund one alternative and not the other.

* * *

Even if it is no more "sinful and tyrannical" to tax those who consider abortion to be immoral than it is to tax those who consider war immoral, at the very least, respect for the consciences of those who believe abortion is immoral should count as a legitimate basis for Congress and state legislatures [as opposed to courts] to decide not to devote coerced tax dollars to that use. If, as I believe, the decision whether or not the government should fund abortion is properly a matter for decision by the legislature, the legislature has exercised its authority in what appears to me to be a rational manner. Even though the members of the court may disagree with some or all of the legislature's political decisions with respect to funding abortions, this court should not arrogate unto itself the legislative function.

* * *

Having determined that state-funding of medical services, including delivery of the child, to pregnant women and of some, but not all, abortions "coerces" a pregnant woman's decision whether to give birth or terminate her pregnancy and infringes her constitutional right to decide to terminate her pregnancy, as a matter of constitutional law the court is in no better position than the legislature to deny state-funding because the court does not approve of the reason for the decision to terminate the pregnancy. That the limitations the court imposes are less restrictive than those set by the legislature does not alter the fact that if financial considerations can be said to "coerce" a decision in violation of a constitutional right to decide, any restriction of state-funding is "coercive" and, therefore, violative of the fundamental right of privacy.

I enjoy reading. Keep it up, fellas.

A terrific summary. I can't add anything to it, other than observing the decision was a legally and morally confused mess. End result, Minnesotans are forced to pay for abortions and there's nothing the democratic process can do to address this!

Well, we'll just see about that. The Republicans in the legislature are working on a plan to address it, in S.F. 103. People of good conscience should not hesitate to let their representatives know what they expect of them on this issue.

John Hinderaker had a recent post about the banning of incandescent lightbulbs, including this call to action:

If Americans understood what the Democrats were trying to do when they passed this legislation in 2007, the result would be mass outrage.

Which may well be true. But do Minnesotans care more about lightbulbs than the forced taxpayer funding of abortions? The lack of mass outrage since 1995, when this Supreme Court decision went down, makes me wonder about the answer.

The Elder Concurs: I'm no fancy law-talking guy, but couldn't the Court's decision that the right of poor women to have an abortion extends to the state being obligated to pay for it also be applied to other rights that are you know actually specified in the Constitution? Say guns for example. Sure poor people have the right to keep and bear arms, but what if they can't afford to buy a gun? When it comes to deciding whether one should have a gun or not, the ability to pay for that gun would clearly have on influence on the choice that indigent people would make. Are only the rich to be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not A Rational Choice

David Harsanyi on abortion, religion and reason:

It had me wondering: How many Americans avoid an honest look at the abortion issue because of the cultural dimensions of the debate. How many Americans instinctively turn to the pro-choice camp because pro-life proponents aggravate their secular sensibilities?

As Nat Hentoff, the noted civil libertarian journalist, once remarked, when he turned pro-life, his cohorts at the Village Voice wondered when he had "converted to Catholicism — the only explanation they could think of for my apostasy."

It's unfortunate that abortion is a social issue, because it is science and reason that can turn the debate.

When a pregnant woman in my Denver neighborhood was recently struck by a hit-and-run driver, she tragically lost her child. Throughout the area, there was an outpouring of support and sadness. Some wondered if the assailant should be charged with manslaughter. Or would it be murder?

A few commented — in appropriate company — that had it been a few weeks younger, a doctor could have performed a surgical procedure on that fetus and terminated the life and there would be no grieving.

Fact is, if the mother had displayed sufficient mental anguish, she could have taken the drive up to Boulder that day and visited Warren Hern, a late-term abortionist, who could have called that "baby" a "fetus" — a linguistic substitution with profound consequences for at least one human being — and put an end to the entire arrangement.

Does life really begin on the say-so of a single person — even the mother? Does her position or mental state change what a fetus is or is not? That kind of elastic calculation grinds against reason. Even our intuitive reaction to motherhood agrees. As OB/GYN and Texas Congressman Ron Paul once explained, "People ask an expectant mother how her baby is doing. They do not ask how her fetus is doing, or her blob of tissue, or her parasite."

In the past, religious groups and individuals have been the primary drivers behind the pro-life cause. As Harsanyi notes, those of a more secular bent have often been uncomfortable dealing with a central paradox of abortion: somethimes you call it a fetus and kill it and sometimes you call it a baby and afford it the protections you would a child. While they may continue to reject the religious arguments for being pro-life, if these secular folks are truly open to reason and science (as most would claim) they're going to have a harder and harder time continuing to support the logical house of cards that abortion on demand is presently based on.

Sing of Good Things Not Bad

Front page piece in yesterday's WSJ on how difficult it can be to change a national anthem:

In the era when politicians are ever more conscious of the national brand and more sensitive to political correctness, debates over national anthems have simmered from Canada to Nepal. But would-be reformers often find it's an arduous battle making nations change their tunes—no matter how archaic or depressing the songs may be.

Canada's government, seeking to promote equal rights for women, said last March it was considering a gender-neutral substitute for the "O Canada" lyric that goes, "true patriot love in all thy sons command." Hostility from people who like the existing version of the anthem was so great that the idea was dropped in two days. "We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear," said a government spokesman.

Good to hear that common sense prevailed in the Great White North. Other than hockey, I can't think of too many things that are more notable about Canada than the country's top notch anthem. Don't go messing around with what is truly one of the best national songs in the world.

On the other hand, I really can't blame the good people of Peru for thinking they may need a more uplifting beginning to their national anthem whose opening verse is:

For a long time the oppressed Peruvian

Dragged the ominous chain;

Condemned to cruel servitude

He moaned for a long time in silence.

But as soon as the sacred cry of

"Freedom!" was heard on the coasts,

He shook off the indolence of slavery,

He raised his humiliated neck

Can't really picture the crowd roaring along to those spirit crushing lyrics before a pivotal soccer match in Lima like fans in Chicago do to the Star Spangled Banner.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sneak Preview

At some point in the dim, distant past, I purchased a ticket to an event at one of Minneapolis's theaters (State, Orpheum, Pantages). Must have forgotten to check the appropriate boxes opting out of marketing promotions, because I've been getting them for years. But never one quite like this. Live from my email inbox, this charming opportunity:

Red State, U.S.A. Tour Movie and Kevin Smith Q&A
State Theater
Wednesday, March 9 at 7:00 PM
On Sale Friday, January 28 at 12:00 PM
$65.00 to $75.00
Ever since Clerks, Kevin Smith has been known for his sharp, subversive, comedic writing. He shifts from comedy to horror with Red State and aptly demonstrates that good writing transcends genre.

Red State begins by following three horny high school boys who come across an online ad from an older woman looking for a gang bang. Boys being boys, they hit the road to satisfy their libidinal urges. But what begins as a fantasy takes a dark turn as they come face-to-face with a terrifying "holy" force with a fatal agenda.
Mature Audiences. Ages 16+

So Kevin Smith is remaking Porky's? Subversive!

Very responsible of them to limit this viewing to mature audience only. Wouldn't want any kids to be subjected to sharp, transcendent explorations of "gang bangs" until they've reached the universally recognized age of wisdom and reason ..... of 16 years old.

Speaking of mature audiences, they ought to be using that standard on future emails from the taxpayer subsidized Minneapolis theaters. I haven't seen promotional language like this in an email since I moved to Gmail and started filtering out the prOn spam.

Skakin' Up Pizza People

Since we long ago stopped subscribing to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, I rarely get a chance to peruse the paper anymore. When I do, I usually quickly realize that there's little that I'm missing out on other than the angst and gnashing of teeth that accompanied reading most efforts from the editorial staff. Last week however, I happened to pick up the Strib whilst waiting for a medical appointment and found something well worth a read. It was a column from Mr. Lileks on What's shakin' in the suburbs?:

But buried in the notices was a magical name that made me feel 10 again, and desperate for root beer -- Shakey's.

Ping! If a little bell went off in your head at the name, you remember. It was a pizza chain that limped out of the Midwest a few years ago, a tired old concept thrashed by upstarts and local faves. The restaurants were dark, the tables long; they served root beer by the pitcher. Maxims boasting of the virtues of Shakey's hung on the wall, and there was often a stage where men wearing straw hats and red-and-white shirts would play Dixieland. The chain's founder apparently believed that pizza would be a passing fad unless it was inextricably tied to the sound of a banjo. They had a player piano, too, which frightened as many children as it fascinated: a disembodied ghost machine, banging out songs from beyond the grave.

The pizza? Salty! Cracker-crust and about three molecules of sauce, but that was how Shakey liked it. Yes, there was a Shakey: Sherwood Johnson, nicknamed Shakey because he suffered a nerve condition after he got malaria in World War II, thus making it the only national chain named after a physical infirmity. (There was Blinky's Burgers, but that was later determined to be a habit, not the result of defective tear ducts. As for Weak Bladder Pete's Pierogis, well, there's conflicting evidence.) Shakey died in 1998, but the chain continued -- 60 restaurants in America, 400 worldwide.

The entire piece in which Lileks talks about the oft overlooked history of suburban haunts like Shakey's is quite interesting. But the news of the return of Shakey's is undoubtedly the highlight. That little bell most certainly went off in my head and as I expect it did for many others. When we were kids, Shakey's was the go to place for birthdays, post-game gatherings, and just plain old family fun (in our case the one on Highway 7 in Minnetonka). I frankly don't remember too much about the pizza anymore, although I do have a rather concrete memory of my dog-like overeating and inevitable regurgitation of it while attending a neighbor's birthday party. That fact that I wolfed down so much pizza that I puked was embarrassing enough. That my neighbor's mother brought me into the WOMEN'S bathroom to clean up left an indelible stain on my brain.

But most of the memories I have of Shakey's are far fonder than that. As James notes, the d├ęcor was dark, the tables were long (and the chairs heavy), and the root beer flowed freely. I also recall hearing the straw-hatted Dixieland band and the player piano. And the numerous "ye olde notice" signs and the "pledge of allegiance" to Shakey's. One of our favorite things about Shakey's was the viewing area where you could actually watch them make the pizza. A truly fascinating thing for a kid to observe. I also remember that they used to show old Laurel and Hardy movies on the wall in a back area of the restaurant. At least I think I did. When I mentioned this to my dad last weekend he had no recollection. There's also a hazy memory of some sort of sing along where the words to "Puff the Magic Dragon" were projected on the wall.

Further research revealed that the news of Shakey's return was reported back in August in the City Pages:

After nearly a decade-long absence, a pizza chain that once operated 16 locations in the state will return to Minnesota, with five new restaurants slated to open in the metro area.

The franchise was launched by Sherwood "Shakey" Johnson in Sacramento, California, in 1954, and its first Minnesota restaurant arrived in Columbia Heights in 1966. (BTW, apparently Johnson got his nickname as a result of experiencing nerve damage after a bout of malaria he suffered during World War II--who knew?) The family-friendly pizza and beer joint incorporated a vague ragtime music theme, with banjos, player pianos, etc.

Here's what you can expect in its new incarnation.

Shakey's is hoping to reposition itself as a nostalgic fave during its comeback, which is planned for next summer. The decor at the new Minnesota restaurants will riff on Shakey's original look while also incorporating arcade games, big-screen TVs, and pop-culture memorabilia. The menu will offer both Shakey's original thin-crust pizza and fried chicken.

That story elicited 108 comments from readers, many sharing their own memories of Shakey's. I had forgotten about the personal birthday pizza with a marshmallow holding the candle. And the "Bunch of Lunch" buffet. And the "Love Meter" game. A couple of the comments also mention movies nights and the sing alongs so I feel better about my own Shakey recollections.

One of the things that I immediately noticed when I first traveled to Manila about six years ago was that they had Shakey's pizza. In fact, today there are more Shakey's in the Philippines than in the United States. I never had a chance to hit one of the Shakey's in Manila, although the temptation was always there.

Now, I'm excited to hear that Shakey's will be coming back to Minnesota and I hope they bring back as much as they can of what made the chain such a family favorite in the first place. With a decent beer selection. While I have great memories of their root beer, I think I'm gonna want to be quaffing the real stuff this time around. Revisiting Shakey's may indeed make me feel ten again, but it won't be root beer that I'm desperate for.

Fighting Words

During an exchange on the virtues of which spirit would be most appropriate to honor Winston Churchill at National Review Online, Cliff May pokes the hornet's nest:

You and I and others raising a glass to Sir Winston can enjoy better — single malts, each individualistic and expressive of its region of origin.

With all due respect, there’s nothing wrong with gin — grain alcohol flavored with junipers and other botanicals — but it’s not on a par with fine, aged, and mellowed single malts.

Hell hathe no fury like Atomizer hearing his precious gin scorned.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Trails

Good article in last week's City Pages on how three Minnesotans helped blaze the Oregon Trail computer game:

Oregon Trail grew right along with the company, and when it came time to revise the game, nearly every MECC employee played some small role in its development. When John Krenz was hired as a programmer, one of his first tasks was to reprogram Oregon Trail along with a legion of awkward but excited 17-year-olds recruited from the local high schools. In between programming sessions, employees dove in and out of cubicles shooting one another with Nerf guns.

"It was a fun environment," he remembers. "We were young kids and very idealistic."

With a six-color monitor now available, the hunting game gained a single deer that blipped across the screen. Colorful images of historical sites popped up on the screen when players reached landmarks like Chimney Rock or Fort Hall. Historically accurate music—albeit played in a slightly discordant set of beeps—was added.

I imagine that a good part of my generational cohort will recall playing this particular educational game. Many an hour was spent deciding how much money you should spend on provisions, dealing with the inevitable pitfalls that came up on the journey, and hunting with a blast of the space bar. The graphics were minimalist and I can only imagine how many trees were sacrificed to provide the reams of wide, dual-colored paper that would print during the game.

Until I read this piece, I had no idea just how popular it was or how long it continued to be used in schools. Looking back on it now, I do have to question its true educational value. What exactly did I really learn about the history of the Oregon Trail? Very little. However, it did help me realize that there might be something to these new fangled personal computer things after all.

At the Atlantic Wire, Eli Rosenberg asks if its the greatest computer game of its era:

Later it grew into a real game for a computer with a monitor--legitimately fun, as anyone with foggy memories of the First Gulf War can tell you, and maybe even educational. How else would any of us know what "fording" a river is? The importance of having a spare axle in your wagon? How to hunt buffalo? What to do if a relative has cholera? [Correct answer: save your food supplies--he's done-for.] The fact that we've all lost a digital relative to the ravages of the trail might be the one thing that binds us as a generation. The 80's and early 90's saw some pretty great games that make it easy to reminiscence about the days when games were definitely simpler, and maybe life was too. Zelda, Pac-Man, Carmen Sandiego, Sonic the Hedgehog, Civilization II. Was Oregon Trail the greatest game of them all?

That seems like a stretch. While Oregon Trail was fun, it wasn't fun in the same way that other games were. When you played it at school it was better than the alternatives (like you know, learning stuff), but I don't recall having much desire to play it outside of school (at our neighbor's house) as I did with other games like Castle Wolfenstein. Maybe there was some educational value to it after all.

Separated at Birth?

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton ordering that the state business permit process be sped up:

Governor Mark Dayton used a strong tool that only the state's chief executive possesses, signing an executive order to speed up the business permitting process. Dayton said hundreds of companies will benefit from the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency "moving at the speed of commerce" with a goal of a 150 day turn around on permits.

House and Senate Republicans are working on bills that also streamline permitting and regulations. Dayton notified Republican leaders about his move that all parties have seen a source of early agreement in the 2011 legislative session. When asked why this executive-led streamlining hadn't happened before Dayton responded "I believe in government. I believe in better government."

Dayton's new commissioners also gave of picture of the new governor's leadership style. PCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said "Our boss is telling us to get to work on things." DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr added "Governor Dayton doesn't like to sit still" and Landwehr also used the term boss saying "The governor is the boss and when the boss tells us to do something we'll do it."


...Homer Simpson managing his staff in "The Simpsons" Episode [3F23] You Only Move Twice:

Homer: [to staff] Are you guys working?

Man 1: Yes, sir, Mr. Simpson.

Homer: Could you, um... work any harder than this?

Man 2: Sure thing, boss. [they do]

The Most Precious Possession

At the First Thoughts Blog, David Mills notes that today is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis is the patron of writers and journalists and Mills collects some of his advice to those in the profession that are especially relevant:

He who unjustly takes away his neighbour’s good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name. Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives—a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third.

But the slanderer commits three several murders with his idle tongue: he destroys his own soul and that of him who hearkens, as well as causing civil death to the object of his slander; for, as S. Bernard says, the Devil has possession both of the slanderer and of those who listen to him, of the tongue of the one, the ear of the other. And David says of slanderers, “They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders’ poison is under their lips.” . . .

My daughter, I entreat you never speak evil of any, either directly or indirectly; beware of ever unjustly imputing sins or faults to your neighbour, of needlessly disclosing his real faults, of exaggerating such as are overt, of attributing wrong motives to good actions, of denying the good that you know to exist in another, of maliciously concealing it, or depreciating it in conversation. In all and each of these ways you grievously offend God, although the worst is false accusation, or denying the truth to your neighbour’s damage, since therein you combine his harm with falsehood.

Words of wisdom that are most appropriate for writers and journalists, but also applicable for the rest of us as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gears of Government Grind Away in Silence

Things you never knew your government was up to. Saw this as an aside in a Star Tribune item about legislation pending in Minnesota:

Republican leaders of the Minnesota Senate introduced legislation Friday that would prohibit state funding of abortions. The state has funded abortions for poor women since 1995, when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled it was obligated to do so.

Spending tax dollars on abortion is a legal obligation in Minnesota?!

Why is this the first I've heard of this? Granted, in 1995 I wasn't paying much attention to state politics of supreme court cases. But you'd think in an environment, 16 years later, where the legality and morality of individual choice for the procedure is still a matter of great contention, the government forcing all tax payers to fund it would be in the top 10 list of conservative or Republican complaints. This is a far more radical decision than Roe vs. Wade. Far more radical than ObamaCare, which merely allows the government to fund abortions, as opposed to compelling it. Yet I don't recall a state political leader mentioning this issue. Or a religious one for that matter. And what happened in 1995, we just rolled over on this, like obedient cocker spaniels?

Here's the summary of the Supreme Court opinion, in the case Doe vs. Gomez. Lots of lawyerly gobbledygook here, I can't even tell what the overall vote was. Was it an overwhelming mandate? A one vote margin that sent us down this alley?

Doing some Google research, it looks like not everyone forgot about this. Those saints working at Minnesotans Citizens Concerned for Life never took their spotlight off of this decision. They've got this handy summary of the new reality the MN Supreme Court ushered us into in '95. Highlights:

While the majority of Minnesotans are morally opposed to abortion, 29.8% of abortions performed in the state are now paid for with their state tax dollars. Since the Court forced the state to begin paying for abortion, taxpayers have paid more than $15 million for elective abortions. Minnesota is one of only nine states with court decisions requiring taxpayers to pay for abortions.

The result? More than 50,000 unborn babies have been aborted. Prior to this action by the Court, Minnesota taxpayers annually paid about $7,000 for an average of 23 abortions that threatened the life of the mother or in pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. This chart illustrates the expense Minnesota taxpayers have incurred while funding abortions and the extreme nature of the funding mandate.

Regardless of your conscience on the matter, if you paid taxes in Minnesota, you contributed to this outcome. Kind of shines a new light on that check you're going to be writing to the Minnesota Department of Revenue by April 15.

In any regard, big kudos to the new Republican majority in the state legislature for bringing this issue up again. There's no reason to lay back and accept this. There are political remedies that can be taken. These include changing the state law and forcing another court case to revisit the propriety of the first ruling and putting this up for a public vote on a new Constitutional amendment. If we can do it for billion dollar taxes for the arts, we can do it for this as well.

Of course, attempts to reverse this situation will be controversial, particularly among abortion activists and Democrats. The Star Tribune is already joining in by attempting to strangle this movement in its infancy. Here's how they characterize the introduction of the bill in the state Senate:

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, one of the bill's sponsors, said in an interview last month that the fixing the state's budget problems would supersede all other issues.

Oh, the hypocrisy! The extremism!

No, Star Tribune. Our well paid public servants in St. Paul can multi-task by dealing with the budget and correcting grave injustices that exist in our legal code at the same time. In fact, they have an obligation to do so.

SISYPHUS notes: Eliminating the more than $1.5 million Minnesota taxpayers pay every year for publicly funded abortions would reduce the state's budget by -- let me get out my calculator -- more than $1.5 million. Cut a million and a half here and a million and a half there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dependence Matters

Mark Steyn's latest article in the New Criterion, Dependence Day, is a classic example of his work. He chooses to address one of the most dire and depressing topics imaginable (the imminent decline of our civilization as we know it), but he does it so well and with such a devastatingly light touch, you really enjoy reading it. He should extend this skill to other similar contexts. Like writing bed-side consultation scripts for doctors diagnosing Ebola patients. Or writing year in review summaries for the Minnesota Vikings to their season ticket holders.

In his comments on the progression of England's decline, a couple of excerpts stand out:

Thus, Hayek’s greatest insight in The Road to Serfdom, which he wrote with an immigrant’s eye on the Britain of 1944:

There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of
power and authority.
Within little more than half a century, almost every item on the list had been abandoned, from “independence and self-reliance” (some 40 percent of Britons receive state handouts) to “a healthy suspicion of power and authority”-- the reflex response now to almost any passing inconvenience is to demand the government “do something.” American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government without a similar descent, in enough of the citizenry, into chronic dependency.


When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the modern British welfare state in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want,” to be accomplished by “cooperation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from the vicissitudes of fate, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity. Churchill called his book The History of the English-Speaking Peoples—not the English-Speaking Nations. The extraordinary role played by those nations in the creation and maintenance of the modern world derived from their human capital.

What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.

The damage caused by the state's erosion of citizen self-reliance and the use of chirpy promotional slogans to sell it like "cooperation between the State the individual" was on my mind as I read about the latest initiative by the Mark Dayton administration. They're trumpeting the fast-tracking of an extension of Medicare benefits to citizens previously not eligible. Billions of dollars of new entitlement spending added to the Federal debt, primarily for a population composed of single, able-bodied adults. And here's the public relations spin by the politicians, dutifully conveyed throughout the Minnesota mainstream and liberal new media outlets:

"This is what happens when you put government on the side of the people, said Governor Mark Dayton.

Representative Erin Murphy: "It’s a new day -- Governor Dayton is working swiftly and honestly for Minnesotans. It’s a clear signal that government can work effectively for the people.

Representative Tom Huntley: “Finally Minnesota is moving again. The Governor has taken control of the bureaucracy and is getting things done for the people of Minnesota.”

In other words, we're from the government, and we're here to help. The most terrifying words in the English language, at least according to one observer.

The new bureaucrat in charge of this government largess added this triumphalist quote:

“Elections do matter.” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

The relative consequences of which all freedom loving Americans need to internalize, quickly, if we're to stop the slide Steyn so eruditely describes.

Beer of the Week (Vol. LXXXVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the stout-hearted men and women at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help provide the all the bracing you need to see your way through a long, hard winter.

And when it comes to beers suited for the short days and long nights of winter, it's hard to top a well made stout. There are many varieties within the stout family including porters and coffee and oatmeal stouts. One that I was not too familiar with was milk stout:

Milk stout (also called sweet stout or cream stout) is a stout containing lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Because lactose is unfermentable by beer yeast, it adds sweetness, body, and calories to the finished beer. Milk stout was claimed to be nutritious, and was given to nursing mothers, along with other stouts, such as Guinness. The classic surviving example of milk stout is Mackeson's, for which the original brewers claimed that "each pint contains the energising carbohydrates of 10 ounces of pure dairy milk". In the period just after the Second World War when rationing was in place, the British government required brewers to remove the word "milk" from labels and adverts, and any imagery associated with milk.

Remember moms, whatever you're drinking, your baby is drinking a few hours later. So go ahead, have another pint of milk stout. You'll sleep better tonight and so will they.

This week we feature another offering from Tallgrass Brewing Company in Kansas; Buffalo Sweat Stout.

We love this beer here at the brewery, and think you will have one of those “I’ve never-tasted-a-beer-like-that” kind of moments when you try it!

What we really like about this beer is the smoothness that brewing with cream sugar brings to the palate. This smoothness balances out the copious quantities of roasted barley used in the brewing process to create a rich, complex, and delicious beer. If you have not been a stout drinker in the past, give this beer a try. It might just change your mind about how dark beers should taste. It tastes so rich, but is surprisingly easy to drink!

Can has a brown background with a snorting buffalo head with brown and black sun rays above.

STYLE: Stout

Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%

COLOR (0-2): Deep black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Toasty malt with a bit of chocolate. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan. Light volume, decent lacing. 1

TASTE (0-5): More roasted malt flavors with hints of chocolate, coffee, and caramel. Flavors are rich, but well balanced. Smoother with less of a bitter finish than most stouts and with more carbonation. Medium-bodied, smooth mouthfeel, and very drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth and a little smokey. 2

OVERALL (0-6): The guys have Tallgrass have yet again come up with a unique take on a fairly common style. Buffalo Sweat is a smooth, sweet but not too sweet, easy-drinking stout that I would favorably compare with Guinness (although Guinness is a dry stout and Buffalo Sweat is more of a milk stout). Despite the somewhat off-putting name (what's next, Goat Piss Pilsner?), this is a nice addition to the world of stouts. When many craft brewers decide to produce a stout they pursue the imperial style, which is heavier with a higher alcohol content. While I enjoy a good imperial stout as much as the next guy, having more variety within a particular beer style is always welcome. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No Time Is A Good Time For Sarah

Over at Power Line, there's been a bit of back and forth between John Hinderaker and some readers over whether Sarah Palin should be considered a legitimate candidate for president in 2012. The exchange was occasioned by a post from John yesterday saying that--for a whole host of reasons--she has no chance of winning. He followed up with more today:

Fourth, there is a reason why Palin is generally regarded as lightly qualified to be President. She is lightly qualified to be President. Yes, as of 2008 she had more executive experience than Barack Obama, but since when is that the standard? Palin has been elected to one significant public office, Governor of Alaska, and she resigned midway through her first term. At the time, I wrote that this marked the end of her Presidential aspirations. With hindsight, I was right. Most Americans simply don't consider her qualified to be President. Sure, they were wrong about Obama--but that doesn't mean they will make the same mistake with regard to Palin.

I would be delighted if next month, new polls come out indicating that independents have suddenly changed their minds about Sarah Palin, and she is now a viable Presidential candidate. But that isn't going to happen. She has been exposed to the American public, if not overexposed. Pretty much everyone in the U.S. has an opinion about her, one way or another. So I have to think that the political verdict is in, and Palin is not a plausible Presidential candidate. Is that due, in part, to vicious and reprehensible attacks by liberals? Undoubtedly. But in politics as in war, people take hits. Palin is not the first Republican to be smeared, successfully, by the left. Why are we not talking about Dan Quayle as a Presidential candidate in 2012? I stuck up for Quayle, too, but he was not, and is not, a viable Presidential candidate. Nor is Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is a valuable member of the conservative movement, but she should not be--and will not be--the GOP's Presidential nominee in 2012.

This is an excellent summary and pretty much mirrors my thoughts and feelings on Palin. Yes, there is most definitely a role for Sarah Palin to play in advancing conservative causes. But as John astutely argues, it's not going to be at the top of the ticket in 2012 or ever for that matter.

How To Frame Your Dragon

An editorial in today's WSJ provides a much needed dose of perspective to the excessive hype and hyperbole regarding China's rise and America's decline. Red Scare Reprise:

If China's rise presents any immediate danger, it's the risk that it might cause Americans to ignore the sources of our strength. For all of China's genuine successes, there's an even greater dose of exaggeration—the product of a political system long adept at hiding its weaknesses to strangers.

China remains an underdeveloped country, its economy barely one-third the size of America's. Its leaders live in fear of peasant revolts, ethnic separatists, underground religious movements, political dissidents and the free flow of information. Its economy remains profoundly hobbled by corruption, inefficient state-owned enterprises and an immature banking system.

There is no genuine rule of law and its regulatory environment has become increasingly unpredictable for foreign investors and local entrepreneurs. It suffers from an aging population and environmental damage Americans wouldn't tolerate. Its greatest comparative advantage—cheap labor—is under strain from rising domestic wages and competition from places like Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Above all, China suffers from an absence of self-correcting mechanisms, beginning at the top with its authoritarian political system. And while it can trumpet achievements like a stealth fighter or bullet trains—some based on pilfered designs—it has a harder time adjusting to failure, much less admitting to it.

None of this strikes us as a particularly worthy model for the U.S. to emulate, and it's worth noting how few of China's neighbors seem eager to embrace its leadership. But it does seem to excite admiration among Western pundits with a soft spot for economic dirigisme and technocratic politics. That, too, is an old debate, one the technocrats always lose.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blow Back

This episode of the Unarmed and Dangerous begins with a quote from New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow:

Immediately after the news broke, the air became thick with conjecture, speculation and innuendo. There was a giddy, almost punch-drunk excitement on the left. The prophecy had been fulfilled: “words have consequences.” And now, the right’s rhetorical chickens had finally come home to roost.

The dots were too close and the temptation to connect them too strong. The target was a Democratic congresswoman. There was the map of her district in the cross hairs. There were her own prescient worries about overheated rhetoric. Within hours of the shooting, there was a full-fledged witch hunt to link the shooter to the right.

When liberals from the New York Times turn on a tactic from the Left, you know it's got some serious problems. Yet the press is still regularly churning out prose implicating so-called overheated rhetoric for the shootings in Tucson.

Here are some more examples of people who have been utilizing the absolutely fabricated tale of Michele Bachmann calling for violence when she said people should acquire information to get "armed and dangerous" about global warming legislation. Or, as Mr. Blow would call them, the giddy, punch-drunk, overly excited left looking to start a politically inspired witch hunt.

First, an unsigned editorial from the Bangor Daily News. The voice of the institution, no less!

When a rising star in the Republican Party, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, tells her adherents to be “armed and dangerous,” violence is not a surprise.

“For someone who’s deranged, to hear people say that if the ballot box doesn’t work, it’s time for bullets … it’s frightening,” said Sandy Maisel, a political scientist at Colby College.

No pussy-footing around about indirect causes or climates of hate. They get right to the point in Bangor, don't they? If only their point was rooted in reality! Then their directness might be considered admirable.

Next, from the Albany Times-Union, Rex Smith:

Mind you, there ought to be some soul-searching among people who condone the sort of stuff you hear from, say, Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who urged constituents to be "armed and dangerous" in the fight against energy legislation, which she said might require a revolution "if we're not going to lose our country."

Oh, come now. For a member of Congress to talk of armed revolution because of a policy difference over an energy bill is nothing short of shameful.

Far more shameful is a journalist recycling damaging fabrications in his column without even a hint of fact checking or due diligence. Plus he knits together, Frankenstein-style, several disparate quotes or her interview to create one whopper of a narrative. Oh, come now!

Next, excerpts from a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal by Corey Farley:

... I believe Angle, Bachmann and Palin bear some responsibility here. So do the late Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, George H.W. Bush (for the Willie Horton commercials), Glenn Beck, new Florida Congressman Allen West, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and every other pundit and politician who's lied, exaggerated or fabricated facts or created imaginary monsters -- death panels! Where's the birth certificate?! -- to inject fear and hatred into politics. They didn't commit the crime, but they helped, deliberately, to create the environment in which the crime was conceivable. (...)

An elected official urges Americans to be "armed and dangerous," as Bachmann did, and one of them picks up a gun and shoots 20 people? No connection there. A blubbering TV host invokes fears of racism, Nazis and socialism, shows himself carrying a gun, then blames his critics for linking him to violence? Fifty-seven percent of us nod, smile uneasily and say, "Yeah, that must be it"?

Until now, I haven't been afraid of the loons. Extremists, by definition, are extreme: Eventually they do things that turn society away from them. But if this isn't that thing, what will it take?

In addition to Bachmann, he's basically indicting the entire Republican party for the last few decades as responsible for the shootings. Included in the ranks of the complicit is Lee Atwater, who died nearly 20 years ago. This may be the most brazen attempt at using this tragedy for political opportunism yet seen.

Until now! Believe it or not, the woman Michele Bachmann soundly defeated in the 2010 election is on the besmirchment bandwagon. A report from Roll Call on the latest antics from Tarryl Clark:

In an e-mail titled “Stopping the Hate,” Clark called for unifying rhetoric following the weekend shootings in Arizona.

“Instead of calling on us to be ‘armed and dangerous’ or to ‘reload’, and instead of name-calling and conspiracy theories, elected leaders ought to be bringing people together to solve the major challenges we face,” Clark wrote. “They ought to bring out the best in all of us by inspiring us to see the world as it can be, not as it is today.”

Clark’s e-mail doesn’t name Bachmann, but the reference to the Republican was clear.

Talking about “nefarious” activities in Washington in March 2009, Bachmann told a radio show, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of this energy tax because we need to fight back. ... We the people are going to have to fight back hard if we are not going to lose our country.”

Due to the wisdom of the voters in Minnesota's 6th district, Tarryl Clark is now out of a job, at least one in government. So why is she sending out mass emails to supporters and the press?

Clark finished her time in the state Senate earlier this month and has been talking to local leaders about job creation and bringing people together, she said. Another election could be in her future.

“I absolutely believe I’m not done with public life,” she told Roll Call.

It's faith-based public service! Don't stop believin' Tarryl. But I will say it's bad form to start the 2012 campaign based on the foundation of a lie. She'll need something more substantial than that if she's to overcome the majority of voters who have already found her wanting.

Local Press Guns Down Civility

Not sure if there aren't enough editors at the Pioneer Press of if they just have a good sense of humor. Back-to-back stories featured on the front of their wage page now.

House tries to temper health care rhetoric


Minnesota Republicans fire first shot in budget showdown

Boom! Another possibility, maybe Sarah Palin got a job writing headlines for the Pioneer Press in the last couple of days. Only someone with eliminationist motives could have possibly written such a thing.

Speaking of which, check out this statement from MinnPost about Minnesota's 8th district, now represented by Republican Chip Cravaak:

The health-care repeal vote will be seen as a win for both Cravaack and the DFL in the formative stages of the campaign for what is already the Democrats’ top targeted House seat in Minnesota and possibly the entire upper Midwest.

Boom! Using the identical imagery of targeting a Congressional district as Sarah Palin did. An act even more egregious now that is has been identified directly as a source of hate and violence. Appalling, outrageous rhetoric!

Now excuse me while I drop onto my fainting couch with the back of my hand to my forehead.

These Colors Don't Mix

It's not easy being a Vikings fan these days. The team is coming off an unbelievably disastrous season when everything that could go wrong--and even things that no one could imagine going wrong--did. The squad's gray-bearded quarterback has officially filled out his AARP membership application and is finalizing plans to buy a condo in Del Boca Vista (assuming they haven't all gone like hot cakes). The squad's young quarterback was drafted as a wide receiver and has all of two games of starting NFL experience under his belt. The Vikings current home stadium still hasn't been repaired and the chances of them getting a new one are likely equal with those of them moving the team to warmer climes.

To make matters even worse, two of their NFC North Division rivals are facing off on Sunday in the NFC Championship game (was it really a year ago that we were preparing for that?) for the right to go to the Super Bowl. The upcoming contest between the Bears and Packers has presented Vikings fans with a particular dilemma: which team should we be pulling for? In the interests of clarifying the situation and helping to reduce the cognitive dissonance that Vikings fans are currently experiencing, I will explore both sides of the matter.

Why You Should Cheer For The Packers

This argument is a relatively simple one. The higher the stage, the greater the fall. Watching the Packers lose to Arizona in the wild card round last year brought undeniable satisfaction to Vikings fans. But it was nothing compared to the boundless joy we experienced in Super Bowl XXXII when the heavily favored Packers were upset by the Broncos. Since our franchise is apparently fated to never actually win a Super Bowl ourselves, the best we can hope for is the opportunity to watch the Packers lose one.

The obvious danger in this situation is that if the Packers do beat the Bears on Sunday, it gives them the opportunity to win the Super Bowl. That is a nightmare scenario that no true Vikings fan even wants to consider. Which brings us to our second option.

Why You Should Cheer For The Bears

Vikings fans do not like the Bears or their fans. In almost any other situation, we would like nothing more than to see them fail utterly and completely on Sunday and have their Super Bowl dreams crushed with extreme prejudice. However, as with sin, there are gradients of the wrongness of cheering for another football team. And when it comes to the Packers, it is intrinsically wrong for a Vikings fans to ever wish them well. That is an absolute that is not mutable or even open for debate. It is always wrong to cheer for the Packers. Period. End of story.

Therefore, the choice for Vikings fans this weekend--as difficult and unsatisfactory as it may be--is to root for the Monsters of the Midway. It's more than a little depressing to realize that our hopes of a Packer-free Super Bowl now rest on the arm of one Jay Cutler, but it is what it is. Go Bears.

Vikings fans should also be wary to not fall for the false promise of camaraderie now being offered by some Packer fans. They're all quite giddy (drunk with excitement in addition to alcohol) about their team at the moment and are opening up the door for us to jump on their bandwagon. You must resist this temptation with all your might knowing that if the Packers do win the Super Bowl, the gloating and smugness that will ensue will be intolerable. Don't think they won't rub another Super Bowl win into your face at every opportunity. They will. And don't think they would act any differently if they were in your shoes right now. They loved watching Favre throw that pick last year in New Orleans. They howled with delight during the Vikings forty-one donut drubbing at the hands of the Giants, they laughed in our faces when Denny took a knee against the Falcons, and from painful personal experience, I know they chortled mightily when Drew Pearson pushed Nate Wright to the ground before catching the original "Hail Mary." Don't be fooled into thinking that when it comes to outcomes, Vikings-Packers is anything but a zero-sum game. When one wins, the other loses. Go Bears.

UPDATE-- Dave e-mails with more inflammatory rhetoric on why it's right to target the Packers:

I wholeheartedly agree on cheering for the Bears, and reject the argument to cheer the Packers for a personal reason-I am taking the family on a long weekend to the Wisconsin Dells next weekend, so a Packers win will put me in the heart of cheesehead-land the weekend before the Super Bowl. The thought of what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend by the pool instead filled with Packer jerseys all around, Packer pep fests on the TV, and Packer flags on every vehicle is enough to make me wonder if I can get my deposit back, and besides, Wisconsin isn't (yet) a conceal carry state.