Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not Extinct Nor Even Endangered

This Schoolhouse Rock song is currently in heavy rotation on our kids' play list. Depressing to consider how much worse off we are now than in 1996 when it was made.

Past Performance Is No Indication Of Future Success

So this year's 9-16 Minnesota Twins team has been a dismal disappointment? Well, let me tell you about some other dismal disappointments.

In 2003 the Twins played a miserable stretch of ballgames from July 1 through July 30 where their record was 9-16. They went on to win the AL Central with a record of 90-72...only to lose to the Yankees in the ALDS 3 games to 1.

In 2006 the Twins played another miserable stretch of ballgames from Opening Day through May 1 where their record was, yeah, you got it, 9-16. They went on to win the AL Central with an impressive record of 96-66...only to lose to the Athletics in the ALDS 3 games to 0.

So, you're asking yourself, does that mean that this year's 9-16 Minnesota Twins team has a chance to overcome their early ineptitude and win the AL Central Championship only to lose in the ALDS? I'm gonna shout a very emphatic "Hell no!" to that question. No team with Alexi Casilla as the everyday shortstop will win, or even deserves to win, one stinking game let alone an entire division.

Add Casilla's complete incompetence at every single skill that is required to play the game of baseball to the mystery injury that will sideline MVP Joe Mauer for another month, the endless cases of the flu that have ravaged the Twins clubhouse, Delmon Young's inability to decide if he wants to play or not and a training staff that can't seem to keep this ballclub healthy and I predict a season win total that is south of 70.

70 wins might be enough to finish ahead of the White Sox but it sure as hell won't bring us another crushing defeat in the ALDS this year. The fork hasn't met the Twins yet, but it is certainly out of the drawer.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. XCVII)

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

Brooklyn is known for many things: Coney Island, pizza, bridges, gangland slayings, baseball teams that flee, and journalists who harbor obsessive attachments to the borough they grew up in. One thing not usually associated with it is craft beer. Especially here in the Twin Cities, where only recently have we been graced by the presence of beers from Brooklyn Brewery on our store shelves. Brooklyn Brewing joins the growing list of nationally renowned craft brewers that have recently entered the Minneapolis-St. Paul market along with the likes of Stone, O’Dell’s, and Deschutes among others. The brewery has a history that lives up to its location:

Brooklyn Brewery was started in 1987 by former Associated Press correspondent Steve Hindy and former Chemical Bank lending officer Tom Potter. Hindy learned to brew beer during a six year stay in various Middle Eastern nations such as Saudi Arabia and Syria, where possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages were forbidden. Upon his return to his home in Brooklyn in 1984, he and Potter, his downstairs neighbor from Park Slope, quit their jobs and founded the brewery. The pair hired graphic designer Milton Glaser, best known as the creator of the logo for the I Love New York campaign, to create the company logo and identity.

Originally all their beer was brewed by contract by Matt Brewing Company, and the pair started their own distribution company and personally transported and marketed their beer to bars and retailers around New York City. In 1996, they acquired a former matzo factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and converted it into a functional brewery.

Although the brewery looked to expand its brewing capacity in the City, originally most of the production, including all Brooklyn Lager and all bottled products, were brewed by contract in the upstate New York city of Utica, due to the limited ability to meet demand at the Williamsburg brewery, its lack of a bottling line, and the cost benefits of contract brewing. The company later sought to expand its facilities in Brooklyn, but had difficulty finding a suitable site within the borough. However, an economic recession allowed them to remain in Williamsburg and undertake a $6.5 million expansion of the brewery in 2009.

At their Williamsburg location, they offer guided tours on Saturdays starting at noon and beer tastings on Friday nights from 6pm to 11pm.

Since 1994, Garrett Oliver has been the Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster. In 2003 he published the book "The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food". Garrett has also been a judge at the Great American Beer Festival for eleven years.

In 2005 John Wiley & Sons published the story of Steve Hindy's and Tom Potter's successful start up in the book Beer School: Bottling Success At The Brooklyn Brewery.

Brooklyn’s East India Pale Ale is our featured beer of the week.
12oz brown bottle. Red and green label has a classic look and features a large cursive B as the brewery’s logo. Goes for $8.99 a six pack.
Style: English India Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 6.9%

COLOR (0-2): Dark orange-gold and slightly cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Bready and floral. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Mostly semi-sweet malt with some bitterness and very subtle fruit flavors. Nicely carbonated with a smooth finish. Pretty drinkable considering the alcohol content. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasant, but not overpowering. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This was a hard beer to get a handle on at first. The a key thing to note is that this is an English IPA so if you’re expecting the heavy hops and burst of citrus and pine flavors that you usually experience with an American IPA you’re going to be disappointed. This is a beer where the bitterness is there but more nuanced and the malt flavors are more prominent. It has some similarities to an English bitter and while I wasn’t all that excited about it initially, it grew on me over time. Personally, I don’t think it’s that great of a beer to pair with food--I would opt for an American IPA instead--but Brooklyn’s East IPA is definitely an enjoyable beer for quaffing. While it might be a tad heavy for session consumption, you certainly won’t go wrong knocking back a few in a row. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Rest For The Wicked Wristers

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs ended with a bang last night with two Game Sevens. The Bruins topped Montreal in overtime and forty-one-year-old netminder Dwayne Roloson shut out the Penguins to send the Lightning on to the second round. Four of the eight first round series went the distance and fourteen games were decided in sudden death overtime. Amidst all the drama, the Boston-Montreal series may have been the most intriguing. The series between the two traditional rivals featured three overtime games (all won by Boston), the road teams winning the first four games of the series, and the Bruins failing to score a single power play goal. It's amazing that they could still prevail in seven games despite their impotent power play.

It's also interesting to note that in spite of all the drama, only two lower seeded teams won series and they were both five seeds. The underdog Sabres, Blackhawks, and Canadians were all able to push their series to seven games (and into overtime for the Hawks and Habs), but they couldn't finish off the upsets. Which I'm sure was as painful for their fans as it was for me in the case of Montreal and Buffalo whom I picked in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Challenge.

But there isn't much time to savor the excitement of round one or cry over missed opportunities. For round two starts TONIGHT with Nashville opening things up against hated Vancouver. So if you're part of the ten team Fraters league in the playoff challenge, you need to get your second round picks in TODAY. It would be a real shame if any of the six individuals currently above me in the standings failed to do so and I was able to bypass them because of their inattentiveness. Yeah, a real shame.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Song Remains the Same

Are young people more narcissistic today and is this narcissism expressed through popular music? JB heps us to a piece in the New York Times called A New Generation’s Vanity, Heard Through Hit Lyrics:

Now, after a computer analysis of three decades of hit songs, Dr. DeWall and other psychologists report finding what they were looking for: a statistically significant trend toward narcissism and hostility in popular music. As they hypothesized, the words “I” and “me” appear more frequently along with anger-related words, while there’s been a corresponding decline in “we” and “us” and the expression of positive emotions.

“Late adolescents and college students love themselves more today than ever before,” Dr. DeWall, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, says. His study covered song lyrics from 1980 to 2007 and controlled for genre to prevent the results from being skewed by the growing popularity of, say, rap and hip-hop.

Defining the personality of a generation with song lyrics may seem a bit of a reach, but Dr. DeWall points to research done by his co-authors that showed people of the same age scoring higher in measures of narcissism on some personality tests. The extent and meaning of this trend have been hotly debated by psychologists, some of whom question the tests’ usefulness and say that young people today aren’t any more self-centered than those of earlier generations. The new study of song lyrics certainly won’t end the debate, but it does offer another way to gauge self-absorption: the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The researchers find that hit songs in the 1980s were more likely to emphasize happy togetherness, like the racial harmony sought by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder in “Ebony and Ivory” and the group exuberance promoted by Kool & the Gang: “Let’s all celebrate and have a good time.” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie sang of “two hearts that beat as one,” and John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” emphasized the preciousness of “our life together.”

Initially, I was inclined to accept the thesis. These kids today with their self-centered song lyrics can’t compare with the altruistic community that came of age in the Eighties.

However, upon further review I find reasons for skepticism. Just off the top of my head I immediately came up with four songs from the Eighties that refute the notion that we were all sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya together:

Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds

Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol

The exerable What About Me by Moving Pictures

And who can forget the 1989 classic Me So Horny by Two Live Crew?

Now you can say that these four counterexamples don’t disprove the overall trend, but it’s as legitimate an argument as the three supporting examples cited in the article. And besides weren’t the Eighties—the Age of Reagan—supposedly the “Decade of Greed?”

What I find most interesting about this discussion about whether today’s “Gen Y” (or whatever the hell they’re calling them now) and their music is more narcissistic than Gen X is that it ignores the one generation that truly was and continues to be all about themselves. You can study music lyrics all you want, but you will never convince me that there has ever been a more narcissistic generation of Americans than the Baby Boomers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Substitute Your Lies For Fact

One interesting thing about Democratic operatives has been their success in unfairly defining opponents. Consider the characterization of leader of significantly below average intelligence that was applied to Ronald Reagan, George W Bush, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle, to name a few. There's also the characterization of an evil mastermind working behind the scenes to screw the regular guy that was applied to Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and Richard Nixon. Both of these charges have been generally thrown out at the highest levels, against sitting and aspiring Presidents, Vice Presidents, and their most senior advisers.

However, an even more insiduous charge has been thrown out against the rank and file of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, that of intolerant racists. Democrats don't generally throw this charge at a specific level. Instead they float it against Republicans, Southerners, Tea Partiers or other large groups.

Yesterday, a minor buzz hit Twitter when Rep. Jack Kimble R - CA commented on the fact that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour would not run for President. Kimble lobbied for Barbour's support in his own presidential bid tweeting:

I will be talking to Barbour about endorsing me by showing him I can make this country resemble the South of the 50s he remembers fondly
4:37 AM Apr 26th via web

An internet tempest immediately ensued, and even the Washington Post reported concern with Kimble's statements. However, there was a problem. Kimble is really a comedian who makes fun of Republicans. His over the top comments are a parody of conservatives.

When I read about this, I remembered hearing "Representative" Kimble on an Adam Carolla podcast. He was mildly funny, and obviously not a real congressman. I went back to Carolla's archives to try to find the episode featuring Kimble. I was startled at what I found.

It turns out I remembered incorrectly. Carolla had not had Kimble on as a guest, at least not on the show I had heard. The episode I remembered featured Rep. Richard Martin R - OH. Martin isn't a real congressman either. Like Kimble, he's a comedian portraying a racist Republican Congressman for laughs. While Kimble tweets, Martin runs, a blog that features his parody.

I guess playing a racist Republican congressman is becoming a bit of a cottage industry.

Sisyphus Adds:
Parodies of this sort are not just limited to Democrats parodying Republicans. I can think of at least two examples of local conservatives parodying liberal Democrats on twitter. Our friend, @TJSWIFT, has created a straw-man twitter character: @wbgleason.
This character is ostensibly a University of Minnesota professor who nastily spouts liberal cliches, often to hilarious effect.

I don’t know the identity of the parodist behind @RepRyanWinkler, but it is a funny, if occasionally over-the-top, parody of a stereotypical Minnesota Democrat state representative.

The Boobs Watching The Tube

Common liberal logic goes something like this:

People who watch more television are stupid.

Republicans are stupid.

Therefore, Republicans must watch more television than enlightened Democrats.

Not so fast says a new study from the Midwest Foundation for Media Research:

Nationally, base Democrats use more television than base Republicans with certain programs or stations skewing more Democratic (MSNBC) or Republican (Fox News). At the national level, newspaper and radio usage behaviors are similar for both base Republicans and base Democrats. There are, however, significant market-to-market differences in patterns of television, newspaper, radio, and Internet usage patterns – and of the sorts of programs within each mode that people pay attention to. These differences have implications for our understanding of political media planning and media effects.

Although, like Americans nationwide, Democrats in the Midwest are heavier overall users of television than are high-turnout Republicans or swing voters, there are differences in which programs party groups watch. Furthermore, at the market level, there are differences in patterns of use by type of media.

This particular study focused on eight metro areas in the Midwest. One of them was Minneapolis-St. Paul:

The top quintile of radio listeners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market tends to be moderately Republican, and participate in politics at levels only slightly greater than average. Internet users lean slightly toward Republicans, yet are heavily active. While newspaper readers in Minneapolis-St. Paul tend not to favor either party, they are engaged in very high numbers (only slightly less than Internet users). Television viewers not only lean heavily toward Democrats, but they are engaged in politics in higher numbers than any other market tested other than Des Moines (although still not at levels that can be considered much higher than average).

It gets even more interesting when they break it down by media type. They're a rich vein of information to be mined here:

Cable Television

Minneapolis-St. Paul television viewers lean heavily toward Democrats. Of the 43 networks tested, only six (13.9%) had a majority-Republican audience (Fox News, FSN, ESPNews, Disney Channel, Speed, ABC Family, and Nickelodeon).

Other than Speed, all are channels in regular rotation in our home.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, MSNBC is s the most favored network for Democrats, and ranks highest for political engagement and influence.

Yikes. That explains a lot.

MSNBC is more than twice as favored by Democrats as Republicans favor Fox News. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, CNN, CNBC, CNN Headline News, and the Fine Living network are all favored by liberals, and each one has viewership that is engaged at a higher rate than Fox News viewers.

I don’t even know what the Fine Living network is, but the fact that prole-protecting liberals dig it seems to open a broad avenue for irony.

The most Democrat-favored networks in Minneapolis-St. Paul include TruTV, Bravo, ESPN Classic, TLC, Comedy Central, SoapNet, MTV, Lifetime, Animal Planet, National Geographic, USA, A&E, AMC, the Weather Channel, VH1, Discovery Health, and the History Channel.

Other than Fox News, is there anything on cable that local liberals don’t like?


Internet viewing in Minneapolis-St. Paul is more ideologically balanced than other markets tested. is heavily favored by Republicans, while (the St. Paul Pioneer Press) and are less favored by the GOP.

You don’t say...,, AOL, and are all favored by Republicans. is also slightly favored by Republicans, but its readers are well below average political participants.

Falling in-between ideologies are websites such as, Google, eBay, and Yahoo!. Favoring Democrats are,,,,,, and is favored most by Minneapolis-St. Paul Democrats, but its readers’ political influence is the lowest measured of any website in any market.

One of these days that vaunted youth vote is going to make a difference. One of these days...

Sports Viewing

While Minneapolis-St. Paul is the most Democrat-friendly market tested…

Again, you don’t say.

…the largest sports in Minneapolis trend towards Republicans. Most favored by GOP fans are the Minnesota Wild, NASCAR, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, and University of Minnesota hockey, football, and basketball. Despite residing in a neighboring state, the Green Bay Packers also register with a large fan base, skewing slightly Republican.

Sigh. (hangs head in shame before resuming)

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Democrats favor the Minnesota Timberwolves, fishing, women’s tennis, men’s tennis, and the LPGA tour (whose viewers are extremely likely to be politically active.)

Local LPGA viewers are likely to be liberal political activists? Wonder what the additional correlation would be with softball players and gym teachers?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best of the Best

With three of the eight first round NHL playoff series now complete, I find myself mired in seventh place in the ten team Fraters league in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Challenge. I actually picked two of the three series correctly, but you also get points for picking the length of the series and I’ve missed on that so far.

While I was confident that the Red Wings would defeat the Phoenix Winnipeg Coyotes, I did not foresee them doing so quite so easily. I picked the Wings in six and they won in four. Of all the series so far, this was definitely the least interesting.

I also was confident that the Caps would topple the Rangers, but thought they would have to go the distance to do so. Even though Washington won the series in five, it featured plenty of drama including two overtimes games. Game Four was obviously the turning point as the Caps overcame a 3-0 deficit after two by scoring three times in the third and then beating the Rangers in OT thanks in no small part to former Wild player Marian “The Groin” Gaborik. It was just one of the stunning comebacks that we’ve witnessed in the NHL playoffs thus far.

I completely blew the Preds-Ducks series. I thought Anaheim would open the playoffs the way they ended the regular season, but instead it was Nashville that continued their sizzling play. I watched very little of this series and although there were some compelling moments, it really didn’t do much for me overall.

Of the five series that are still underway, I’m only feeling good about my picks in one right now. Despite the Kings victory in Game Five to stay alive, I think the Sharks will eventually prevail and my pick of the series going seven has a good chance of coming true.

From there it gets pretty ugly. Without Malkin and Crosby, I figured the Pens were ripe to be knocked off by the Lightning. And they still might. It’s been a strange series so far. After the Pens won Game Four in OT in Tampa to go up three games to one, I thought it was over. But the Lightnings exploded for an 8-2 win in Pittsburgh to claw back to 3-2 with Game Six coming up at home. If they can force a Game Seven, anything can happen, but I’m certainly not counting any chickens here.

The Bruins-Canadians and Flyers-Sabres series have seesawed back and forth so much that it’s enough to drive a man to drink (even more). I have the lower seeds in both series and have alternated between patting myself on the back for my hockey genius and questioning my sanity.

When the Habs went up 2-0 by winning both games in the Boston, I thought it was over. Montreal lost Game Three at home, but lead Game Four 3-1 in the second period and 4-3 in the third. They blew both leads and eventually lost in OT 5-4. Then, in Game Five in Boston they scored late to send it to overtime before falling 2-1. What will happen tomorrow night in Game Six? Who knows, but I gotta think Montreal’s best chance to win this series has eluded them.

Meanwhile, the Sabres are absolutely killing me. Picking seventh seeded Buffalo to upset the second seeded Flyers was my way to separate from the pack. After the Sabres won Game One, it looked like a brilliant pick. It lost some of its luster after they dropped games Two and Three, but their Game Four victory restored some of the shine. When they opened up a 3-0 lead early in Game Five, it was again back to being brilliant. When the Flyers mounted a furious comeback to tie the game, it was looking less so. When the Sabres ended up winning Game Five in OT, I was back on the brilliant bandwagon again. When they opened up leads of 2-0 and 3-1 at home in Game Six, I was thinking about the crowing that would commence once the game ended. When the Flyers rallied to tie the game and then win it in overtime, I found myself thinking less about cawing and more about the crow that I might soon be eating if the Flyers prevail in Game Seven. Whatever the outcome, Tuesday’s series finale should be a barn burner.

There’s no doubt that the best series so far is Vancouver-Chicago. The defending Stanley Cup champs who barely made the playoffs versus the team with the best regular season record meeting for the third straight year in a playoff series was a perfect dramatic set up and it has not disappointed. After the Canucks jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, it appeared to be all but over. However, if we learned anything in this year’s playoffs it’s that it ain’t over ‘til it’s over, be it a game or a series. The Blackhawks have been scrappy and resilient and the Canucks have been, well the Canucks. A great team with tons of talent, but perhaps missing something when it comes to between the ears and between the pipes. Going into the playoffs, the one area that everyone knew could be Vancouver’s Achilles heel was goaltending. And despite having had a tremendous regular season, the Canucks Roberto Luongo is once again fitting nicely into that heel role.

After only giving up five goals in his team’s first three victories in the series, Luongo surrendered twelve in losses in Games Four and Five. He was benched in favor of Corey Schneider in Game Six, but when Schneider was hurt after trying to stop a penalty shot in the third period, Luongo was pressed into duty. The Hawks didn’t challenge him in regulation, but when he started seeing more rubber in overtime you could see that he was fighting the puck. On the game winning goal, he was flopping and flailing after a routine shot from the point and was in no position to stop Ben Smith’s rebound. I can’t imagine anyone in Vancouver has any confidence that he’s the guy they want in net for Game Seven and if there’s any way Schneider can play, I imagine he will. If not, the high hopes and elevated expectations that accompanied Vancouver’s amazing regular season may well come crashing to earth on Tuesday night.

And despite the fact that I picked the Canucks to win the series in six, I would love to see that happen. Either way—as is the case with the Flyers-Sabres—it’s always great to see a Game Seven. And all these overtimes. We’ve already had twelve overtime games so far in these playoffs and we’re still not through the first round. The Stanley Cup playoffs always feature the best hockey of the year and so far this year’s playoffs have been the best we’ve seen in years. Even though I haven’t necessarily seen it coming, I certainly have enjoyed watching it unfold.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Games We Play

They have a strong dollar and a conservative leader who plays hockey.

We have a weak dollar and a liberal leader who plays basketball.

Advantage Canada?

Brought to you by Pawlenty for President 2012.

Beer of the Week (Vol. XCVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the uplifting folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the knowledge to raise your spirits to new levels.

Before we get to this week’s featured selection, we should note that last week’s Beer of the Week, Surly Abrasive Ale was named Best Local Beer by the City Pages as part of their annual Best of the Twin Cities awards. A most deserving honor indeed.

Our beer this week is another offering from San Diego’s Stone Brewing, whose products only recently have been available on the local market. Stone Levitation Ale:

It's been said that "Gravity Sucks." Simple enough. Well, we at Stone have identified gravitational forces in the beer world. And we have come to the conclusion that they, well, see above. So we avoid these less-than-desirable gravitational forces. We avoid dumbed-down flavor profiles and the vigorous pursuit of the lowest common denominator. We avoid big dollar marketing mentalities. We avoid additives, cheap adjuncts, stabilizers and chemical preservatives. So in the defiance of gravity we bring you Stone Levitation Ale. This deep amber ale has rich malt flavors, a big hoppy character, citrus overtones (courtesy of the hops and our special brewers yeast) and modest alcohol.

12oz brown bottle. Standard Stone gargoyle imprinted label design with ribbons noting the beer’s 2007 Gold Medal award at the Great American Beer Festival.

Style: Amber Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%

COLOR (0-2): Dark ruby red, slightly clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Hoppy with citrus and pine scents. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off white color. Good volume and decent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again mostly on the hoppy side with noticeable citrus and bitter tones, more than you would expect from an amber ale. The sweet caramel malt flavors are there too, but mellowed. Medium-bodied, thin mouthfeel, with a clean finish. Overall, it’s pretty smooth and moderately drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The flavors linger, but I found it a little light. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Another stellar offering from Stone. The two most notable aspects of Levitation Ale are that it’s much hoppier than most amber ales and that it packs a lot of taste in with a low alcohol content. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another beer with 4.4% ABV that has such robust flavors. It’s probably a little too hoppy to be a true session beer, but you could definitely put a few back in short order. At $9.99 a six-pack it’s on the higher end of the price scale which is not surprising given Stone’s stature in the craft beer world. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Cared?

We’re now just over one month into the Libyan war campaign crusade skirmish and the most striking thing to note at the moment is just how completely apathetic the American public has become to it. When the bombs first began to fall, politicians and pundits on the right questioned the rationale for US involvement in the efforts to stop Qaddafi, asked what the national interest was, and wondered what we really knew about the “rebels” whose side we were suddenly supporting. On the far left, many of the usual anti-war suspects questioned the president’s authority to engage in such military action, denounced the “needless” violence, and called for negotiations to resolve the matter peaceable.

But in the last few weeks, as the rebels and government forces chase each other back and forth in around a couple of key coastal cities and the now NATO lead bombing continues, it seems as if most of the country has completely checked out on events in Libya. Should the bombing continue? Should the US send in advisors to help the rebels on the ground as the UK and now Italy and France are committed to doing? What would it take to decisively tip the tide in the rebels favor? What will happen if and when the rebels do prevail? Will Libya end up divided as a result of some sort of peaceful settlement? Does anyone care anymore?

No, I don’t think most Americans do. Even the unfortunate deaths of two photojournalists in the city of Misrata this week only briefly brought the Libyan conflict back to the media forefront and that has more to do with the personal tragedy of their loss rather than concern with the broader story. Whether the eventual outcome is that the rebels are victorious, are crushed by Qaddafi in spite of the bombing, or something in between is rarely discussed and I would guess that most people don’t necessarily care one way or another at this point.

Some of this apathy is no doubt the result of President Obama’s lack of resolve and less than stirring rhetoric about what we’re doing in Libya and why. But we were already seeing some of this public disinterest in regard to the war in Afghanistan. After nearly ten years of fighting, there is bound to be a certain level of fatigue and frustration among the American people when it comes to Afghanistan. With no clear end in sight and no clear idea of what a victory would even look like, it’s natural that people would tend to tune out and prefer not to think about it. But it’s also disturbing how easy it seems to be to avoid and ignore that war when Americans troops are still fighting and dying almost every day.

Thankfully, we haven’t suffered any military causalities in Libya yet and God willing we won’t. But I wonder if short period of time that transpired before events in Libya were for the most part pushed off the front page indicates that the public’s attention span for following America’s military involvements overseas is shrinking while our country’s leaders willingness to engage in such conflicts is growing. If so, it’s not a pattern that bodes well for the future.

In The Mist

Gary Larson on the aftermath of the recent Wisconsin public employee union battles and how the media is mostly Ignoring the 800-Pound Gorilla in the debate:

It will be fascinating to witness the fallout of the public unions' epic battle in Wisconsin, now moving in other states, as union leaders strive feverishly to protect their privileged turf. No doubt their chief strategy will be to focus again (bet the farm on it?) that "workers' rights" are being swiped. It will cover up for the 800-pound gorilla in the room -- namely, coercive powers to pull dues, bagman-like, out of the paychecks of unwilling union members. And voluntary membership for all. Where does the mountain of dues money now go? Easy. To pay union bosses' hefty salaries and, oh yes, to purchase even more high-powered lobbyists, and more TV spots to vilify anyone who opposes them and their budget-busting, sacred-cow entitlements.

Vicious circle, yes. But then, institutionalized corruption usually is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Representative Can Beat Up Your Representative

Noted in the American Airlines inflight magazine this month, Seth Meyers is slated to host the upcoming White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. A good choice I think. As the head writer of the catastrophically unfunny Saturday Night Live, he's well positioned to fill the shoes of past hosts like Wanda Sykes, Al Franken, and Yakov Smirnov.

He did say a few amusing things in his interview:

Like all comedians, one of my life’s goals has been to appear on C-SPAN.

Another thing he has in common with Al Franken.

Now that it’s happening, obviously there are some nerves. I’m incredibly honored to be asked. The WHCD strikes me as an incredibly American undertaking. The idea that you can tell jokes about the president in his presence is a really good reminder we’re not in Iran. Another good reminder: time zone.

It remains to be seen if Meyers even tries to make jokes "about" the President. For example, the kind of vicious jokes Stephen Colbert leveled at GW Bush while hosting this dinner in 2006. Today's liberal comedians, and shows like SNL, stay far away from anything resembling biting satire or social criticism when it comes to Obama. Instead, it's safe "jokes" about how smart he is compared to other politicians or how the American people aren't worthy of him or attacks on his critics, the kind of thing that Wanda Sykes did on behalf of Obama when hosting in 2009. Given his track record, I'll be shocked if anything resembling "jokes about Obama" are uttered by Meyers.

Here's my favorite part. When asked about the difference between hosting the ESPN sports awards and this gig, he had this to say:

Here’s the difference: At the ESPYs, everyone could beat me up. At the WHCD, I’m most afraid of Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann.

Heh. Maybe it's not surprising that a guy afraid to tell jokes about Obama would also be afraid of our diminutive, mother of 28, Congressional Representative. No doubt Meyers will be saving his real jokes for the likes of Bachmann. Although I'd also be shocked if she shows her face in that den of Washington insiders and their media and entertainment industry fan boys.

Give Meyer's credit for his instincts though, if it's one thing you can say about Ms. Bachmann, she's not afraid to fight. Maybe Sarah Palin was thinking about her too when she said in Wisconsin this weekend:

"What we need from you, GOP, is to fight." Pointing to the national champion University of Wisconsin women's hockey team, Palin said the GOP could learn from its resolve and “needs to learn how to fight like a girl".

Another rousing example of Bachmann's spirit was evident in Robert Costa's piece at NRO today, a report on the recent meeting of the GOP House caucus, where she challenged the accommodationist elements of the leadership:

I told them that I have not altered my stance on Obamacare, and our need to cut spending and fight the deficit, whether we are in the majority or in the minority,” she says. “That was my point: that we cannot change what our focus was when the people gave us the gavel.”

“Why would we deviate from that when that is what the American people want to do?” Bachmann asks. “This is not about being negative toward leadership; it’s about continuing to take stances based on what people want us to fight for.”

Amen. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, when he was being pressured to relieve US Grant of duty during the Civil War, despite all of her faults, we can't spare this woman, she fights. Keep your guard up Seth Meyers.

Bad Businessman

At NRO, Robert VerBruggen explains that there are two kinds of businessmen and Donald Trump is not the kind we want as president:

And that’s not to mention another favored technique of Trump and many others in the business world: Rather than compete in a free market, they get in bed with the state. Trump became “partners” with the City of New York to build a hotel in the 1970s — a deal that involved a 40-year property-tax abatement that saved him “tens of millions of dollars.” (Libertarians: If you think that selectively letting people out of their taxes is somehow different than a government subsidy, please spare me.) More recently, he’s had the government take other people’s real estate and give it to him. How exactly would this experience help Trump as president? It’s much harder for a politician to balance a budget than it is for a business to use its lobbying power to get favors from politicians, and the last time around, Trump’s big idea on the budget front was simply to confiscate wealth from rich people.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Elder Shrugged

Many otherwise sensible conservatives spent time this past weekend at the local cinema watching the for-some-reason-long-awaited film version (well, at least part one) of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. I was not among them. Yes, I did read Atlas Shrugged along with The Fountainhead and We The Living. And yes, I know that some of the activities of the state and corporate interests to stifle entrepreneurship, achievement, and freedom that Rand described in Atlas Shrugged bear a resemblance to what we’re seeing today. But I’m always amazed at how many of my conservative friends—in particular those of a Christian persuasion—are unwilling or unable to recognize how much is wrong with Rand and her ideas while focusing on the smaller things that she got right.

In the May edition of First Things, David Bentley Hart aptly captures the Trouble With Ayn Rand (sub req):

I suppose I should have seen it coming. It’s the fashion of the moment. Ayn Rand and her idiotic “Objectivism” are enjoying a—well, I won’t call it a renaissance, so let’s say a recrudescence. Suddenly she is everywhere. In the stock television footage of Tea Party rallies, there she always is on at least one upraised poster, her grim gray features looming over the crowd like the granitic countenance of some cruel heathen deity glutted on human blood. So it goes. At least it answers one question for me. Civilization is always a fragile accommodation at best, precariously poised between barbarism on one side and decadence on the other, and as a civilization dissolves it begins to oscillate between them, ever more spasmodically, until the final collapse comes. Call it morbid curiosity on my part, but I often wonder where the debris of our civilization will ultimately be heaped; and, if this film portends what I fear, now I may know the answer. Rand was definitely on the side of barbarism.

All right, all right—perhaps I’m being just a little spiteful. I may even be overreacting. The world survived the filming of The Fountainhead (if only by the skin of its teeth), and it may yet survive this. And Ayn Rand always provokes a rather extravagant reaction from me, and probably for purely ideological reasons. For instance, I like the Sermon on the Mount. She regarded its prescriptions as among the vilest ever uttered. I suspect that charity really is the only way to avoid wasting one’s life in a desert of sterile egoism. She regarded Christian morality as a poison that had polluted the will of Western man with its ethos of parasitism and orgiastic self-oblation. And, simply said, I cannot find much common ground with someone who believed that the principal source of human woe over the last twenty centuries has been a tragic shortage of selfishness.

Still, I like to think my detestation of Rand’s novels follows from more than a mere disagreement over differing visions of the universe. What’s a universe here or there, after all? I prefer to think it’s a matter of good taste. For what really puts both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in a class of their own is how sublimely awful they are. I know one shouldn’t expect much from a writer who thought Mickey Spillane a greater artist than Shakespeare. Even so, the cardboard characters, the ludicrous dialogue, the bloated perorations, the predictable plotting, the lunatic repetitiousness and banality, the shockingly syrupy romance—it all goes to create a uniquely nauseating effect: at once mephitic and cloying, at once sulfur and cotton candy.

No matter what you think of Rand’s philosophy, you have to admit that the writing in The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged is lousy (We the Living is actually quite readable). You have to struggle to get through both books and neither one can in any way be described as entertaining. They have a point of course, a point that gets continuously hammered into your head with all the subtlety of a pile driver. Yes, we get it! Can we just move along now, please?

But even if you can get past Rand’s wretched writing, you can’t get past the fact that her philosophy is at its core completely incompatible with Christianity. It’s one thing to point out that there are merits in Rand’s criticism of collectivism and her defense of capitalism and individual liberty. But the manner of awe that many of my conservative brethren seem to hold her and her work is disturbing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Resource Realities

A couple of timely reminders on the realities of the natural resources challenges we face appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal.

On Friday, Daniel Weintrab reviewed The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman. In the review there was this nugget on water conservation:

"The water problems of Barcelona cannot be solved by conservation in New Orleans or Bangalore," Mr. Fishman writes. "Unlike your mortgage payments or your electricity use or your driving habits, how you shower or water your lawn has no impact on the water availability of people an ocean away, and may well not have any impact on people a single time zone away."

I've never understood how whether I flush my toilet too many times or have the hotel I'm staying at wash my towels every day (which is likely far more about cost savings for the hotel than any altruistic concerns for the environment) has any impact on the global water situation. There are a lot of factors that go into it of course, but the bottom line is that water availability is mostly a local matter. If you've got it, flush it. And if you don't, rather than relying on hectoring people into voluntary conversation, a much better approach would be to introduce pricing mechanisms which put a premium on extra usage and drive the type of behaviors that you're trying to guilt people into.

On Saturday, Kimberly Strassel interviewed Chevron CEO John Watson who isn't shy about pounding the energy lessons he thinks America needs to learn.

Starting with the argument—so popular among greens and Democrats—that we are running out of oil. "Peak oil"—the theory that global oil production will soon hit maximum levels and begin to decline—is a favorite among this crowd, and it is one basis for their call for more biofuels and solar power. Mr. Watson doesn't dismiss the idea but explains why it remains largely irrelevant.

In theory, he says, "we've been running out of oil and gas for a long time," yet technology creates new opportunities. Mr. Watson cites a Chevron field long in decline down the road in Bakersfield—to the point that for every 100 barrels of oil "in place," the company was extracting only 10 or 20. But thanks to a new technology called steam flooding, Chevron is now getting 70 to 80 barrels. "Price creates incentive, and energy will be developed if there's demand for it at the price you can develop it," Mr. Watson says. In that sense, "oil and gas are plentiful."

Don't believe it? Over the past 30 years, even as "peak oil" was a trendy theme, the world's proven reserves of oil and natural gas increased 130%, to 2.5 trillion barrels.


Mr. Watson has little time for the Beltway fiction that America will soon be able to do without, or nearly without, fossil fuels. Yes, "we need all forms of energy." But the world consumes 250 million barrels of energy equivalent today, only a "tiny fraction of which" is wind and solar—and even those "are not affordable at scale," he says.

As for biofuels, "we would need to consume land the size of states" to hit the country's current ethanol targets. Chevron is investigating biofuels, but Mr. Watson says the "economics aren't there" yet. Unlike many CEOs, Mr. Watson insists on products that can prosper without federal subsidies, which he believes are costly and lacking in transparency when "consumer pockets are tight, government pockets are tight."

Bottom line: "We're going to need oil and gas and coal for a long time if America wants to keep the lights on."


"Most of the well-developed world—Australia, Western Europe—they develop their resources base, they inventory it, they develop it, and they view it as a good source of jobs and revenue," he says. The U.S.? "We are a country" that for too long has taken "affordable energy for granted."


Mr. Watson says Americans can accomplish a great deal with "affordable conservation." And "a wealthy economy," he adds, "is better able to deal with the costs of greenhouse gas abatement than a poor economy." Since "large numbers" of countries are "unlikely to take aggressive action on greenhouse gas emissions," the "U.S. is going to have to decide, just as California is going to have to decide, if they want to go it alone. . . . Are they willing to place the burden on our economy and our consumers, at the expense of jobs?"

That pretty much sums up the broader choice America faces on energy policy. It can listen to the Washington siren song on alternative energy, pouring scarce dollars into green subsidies, driving up the cost of energy, and driving out U.S. manufacturing and jobs. Or it can embrace our own fossil fuel resources, which are cheap and plentiful.

"What I see are people who want affordable energy," says Mr. Watson. "They want strong environmental standards—they want a lot of things—but first and foremost they want affordable energy. And if you want affordable energy, you want oil, gas and coal."

That's about as simple and as succinct as you can put it. If America wants a future with affordable energy to sustain a strong economy, we're going to need oil, gas, and coil to continue to be the primary sources for that energy for a long time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sharp Dressed Man

A letter to the editor in today's WSJ called Gentlemen, Please Dress Your Age:

I am of the belief that nine out of 10 social ills can be attributed to men refusing to act like men. One of the areas where this is the case is in the area of dress, where sadly enough a lot of my brothers simply are refusing to grow up ("Style & Fashion: Jacket (Not) Required," Off Duty, April 9). I, for one, am sick of seeing men going out at night wearing clothes that were designed for yard work or athletic competition.

I recall being in Hong Kong in the late 1980s as a Marine lieutenant and being required to wear a jacket and tie as a guest at the British officer's mess at Stanley Fort. I also recall dining at Grenadier's restaurant in Milwaukee in the mid-1990s. My company had an event in a private room and I had removed my suit jacket and draped it on the back of my chair. When I got up to go to the restroom, the maitre d' stopped me and asked me to put my jacket on, since I would be walking through the main dining room.

Those incidents left an indelible impression on me. Today, I wear a hat (not a ball cap or a stocking hat) in winter, I wear a suit to Mass every Sunday and unless I am going to Mickey D's with my kids, you won't see me out to dinner without long trousers and a jacket. You will never, ever, see me in public in sneakers unless I am out running or in the gym. Come on, guys, join me in acting our age.

Bob Stephenson

Woodbury, Minn.

Reading along this morning, I found myself agreeing with the principals the writer was espousing--even though in practice I fall far short of his standards--without realizing until that I end that I actually knew who this well dressed gentleman was. Kudos to Lt. Colonel Stephenson for seeking to raise the sartorial bar. It's an uphill battle to be sure, but one that he is well-suited for.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol XCV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the gritty folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have to strength and fortitude to help you explore the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Last week, a few of us who were closely following the progress of the “Surly Bill” (to allow Minnesota breweries to join the 21st 20th century and sell pints on premises) as it began its journey through the halls of the Minnesota Legislature were having a bit of fun on Twitter using the noted brewer’s various beer names to predict what might happen. To our credit, we managed to avoid the easy reference to “Furious” while working in “Cynic,” “Coffee Bender,” “Mild,” “Wet,” “Smoke,” “Bitter Brewer,” and “Hell.” The fun all started with a well-made pun employing Surly’s Abrasive Ale which just happens to be our featured beer this week:

We brewed this beer originally at the end of 2008 as a farewell to growler sales. As usual, we underestimated the demand for the first Double IPA in Minnesota. We brewed the beer again in the spring and released it as a draft only beer. It was originally called 16 Grit, a size of abrasive grit used at the old Abrasive factory that once stood where the brewery now resides.

Abrasive Ale is a limited release beer and you likely will not find it on store shelves much longer. Saint Paul (the blogger not the city) recently suggested that I include the price of the beer in these weekly reviews. My first inclination was to say, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” but he probably does have a point. Prices are like preferences when it comes to beer. There’s no objective answer to how much is that beer really worth? To adopt an adage about classic cars, it’s worth as much as what some SOB is willing to pay for it. In case of Abrasive Ale, there are apparently enough beer loving SOBs out there willing to shell out some long green. While it’s often sold in four-packs like most Surly, at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits a pint-sized can of Abrasive goes for $4.99.

Mostly black can a touch of red and gold follows the usual sharp Surly design.

Style: American Double IPA

Alcohol by Volume: 9.0%

COLOR (0-2): Beautiful golden orange color that’s nicely cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Strong fragrances of grapefruit and pine with a hint of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Sharp white color. Good volume and excellent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Explodes with bold hop flavor. Pine and citrus lead the way with a touch of sweet malt and a deliciously bitter finish. Medium bodied, not especially hot consider the alcohol content, and actually pretty drinkable. 5

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors linger pleasantly. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Looks gorgeous in the glass. Smells wonderful with well-rounded taste to match. Damn near a perfect beer. In fact, that’s exactly how I’m going to rate it making Abrasive Ale the second beer ever to score a perfect nineteen. Is it worth it? That’s up to you to decide, but for this SOB it certainly is. 6

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 19

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Serenity Now

Bryan Caplan advises parents to Lighten up and Have More Kids:

Once I became a dad, I noticed that parents around me had a different take on the power of nurture. I saw them turning parenthood into a chore—shuttling their kids to activities even the kids didn’t enjoy, forbidding television, desperately trying to make their babies eat another spoonful of vegetables. Parents’ main rationale is that their effort is an investment in their children’s future; they’re sacrificing now to turn their kids into healthy, smart, successful, well-adjusted adults. But according to decades of twin research, their rationale is just, well, wrong. High-strung parenting isn’t dangerous, but it does make being a parent a lot more work and less fun than it has to be.

The obvious lesson to draw is that parents should lighten up. I call it “Serenity Parenting”: Parents need the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, the courage to change the things they can, and (thank you twin research) the wisdom to know the difference. Focus on enjoying your journey with your child, instead of trying to control his destination. Accept that your child’s future depends mostly on him, not your sacrifices. Realize that the point of discipline is to make your kid treat the people around him decently—not to mold him into a better adult. I can’t say that I completely convinced my wife on any of these points, but we made reasonable compromises—and we found that raising twins was a lot of fun.

I freely admit there are some sacrifices that parents can’t responsibly avoid. Someone had to feed our infant twins in the middle of the night, and that someone was me. The key point to keep in mind is that twin research focuses on vaguely normal families in the First World. It doesn’t claim that kids would do equally well if they were raised by wolves or abandoned in Haiti. But look on the bright side: If you are a vaguely normal family in the First World, the science of nature and nurture shows that you can lighten up a lot without hurting your kids.

Serenity Parenting changed our lives. We used the Ferber method—let the kid cry for 10 minutes, briefly comfort him, repeat—to get our twins to sleep through the night. We enrolled them in an activity or two, but they spent a lot more time watching cartoons while we relaxed. Our family specialized in activities that were literally “fun for the whole family”: reading books together, playing dodgeball in the basement, going to the pool for a swim. If “Lighten up” was the only practical lesson of twin research, my reading had more than paid for itself.

Yet eventually I noticed that twin research had another, far less obvious lesson for parents: Have more kids. When you ask high-effort parents if they want another child, the thought often frightens them. They’re already tired and stressed from the kids they’ve got; how could they endure the sacrifices required to raise one more? I reversed this argument. Others’ belief in the power of nurture made them reluctant to have more kids. My disbelief in the power of nurture, by the same logic, made me eager to have more kids.

This is a difficult concept for many parents to accept, especially these days when there is more emphasis (and pressure) on the power of parents to shape their children's future. And it's not as if parenting is not a factor at all in how children develop and eventually succeed or fail as adults (just look at the educational achievement gap between children raised in traditional two parent familes and those raised by single parents). But the reality is that a good deal of the critical factors that influence what someone looks like as an adult are determined at birth. You may want your kid to be a rocket scientist, but if he's got the gray matter to be a sanitation engineer all the work in the world you do ain't going to make it so. So instead of needlessly worrying about it, you might as well sit back, relax, and enjoy the parenting ride. And don't be afraid to live out the adage, "the more the merrier."

Ringing True

Cracked open Decision Points by George W. Bush the other night and have been making my way through it. Unlike some books penned by certain presidents, there's not much doubt that Bush wrote the work that bears his name. There's little eloquent language or vivid imagery in his writing. It’s simple, straight-forward, with a touch of smirching smartassery. In other words, it is the voice of George W. Bush.

And it’s a voice that’s generally likeable and very approachable (again unlike certain other presidents). I’m not very far in yet, but one thing that stands out is that Bush’s goals for what he wanted to do as president were all the right things: cut taxes, limit the growth of government, reform Social Security, and emphasize personal responsibility through what he liked to call the “ownership society.” Part of that “ownership” initiative unfortunately involved helping people get into houses they couldn’t afford and we’re still cleaning that mess up. And other than the tax cuts—for which Bush definitely deserves credit—he made little headway on his other goals. He did at least have a plan for reforming Social Security, although you can question the timing and commitment he had to pushing it through. Bush’s biggest failure was to allow government to continue to grow at unsustainable rates where again we’re having to deal with the consequences today.

It’s a good time to reflect back on the unfulfilled promises of the Bush years. As we survey the current crop of Republican contenders to try to determine who should get a shot at the Oval Office in 2012 it’s important to remember that they’re all going to say the right things. The difficulty comes in figuring out who will actually deliver on them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Got Privilege?

The 12th annual White Privilege Conference opens today here in Minneapolis. We were honored to have one our contributors be asked to appear at the conference to debate the “pro” white privilege position. Unfortunately, due to his busy schedule this week, the Nihilist in Golf Pants is not able to make it. What with golf at the club with the old boys, exercising his stock options, and driving his gas guzzling SUV around town yelling “get a job!” at the homeless, the Nihilist can barely fit enough oppression into his agenda the way it is. As disappointed as I’m sure he is at missing out on all the fun, at least he’ll have some new hats to wear courtesy of the conference.

UPDATE--A further look at some of the White Privilege Conference Workshops helps us really understand what the Nihilist will be missing:

Acting White: Exploring Identity and Privilege Through Performance – All Levels - Facilitators: Ariel Luckey and Chelsea Gregory

This institute is designed for those who identify as white to explore identity, family history and skin privilege through music, poetry, movement and theater. Participants will experience excerpts of theatrical work and discuss the role the arts have played in these conversations throughout history. We will then work through story circle, writing and improv to develop individual pieces, and have the option to develop a group theater piece to present to other conference attendees.

Nobody loves good improv more than the Nihilist.

Beyond Empire: A Necessary Step In Ending Racism, White Privilege and White Supremacy – Intermediate-Advance - Facilitator: Heather Hackman

This institute begins by defining empire and examining its tools such as colonialism, militarism and genocide, and then explores the history of U.S. imperialism, for example, as it relates to the interdependent forces of Whiteness (white privilege and white supremacy), Classism, and Christian hegemony. It then introduces and examines more closely the systems in the U.S. (e.g. education, media) that serve to further legitimize white privilege and racism (and class and religious privilege) via U.S. imperialism and colonialism. Having laid this intersectional foundation in the first portion of the day, the latter half of the workshop asks participants to consider the implications of the above dynamics on their understanding of themselves, their bodies, their communities, the land they live and work on, and the nation to which they belong all in the service of ending racism and dismantling white privilege. Though it may seem heavily theoretical, this workshop is highly discursive and experiential in order to ground the theoretical learning in participant lived experiences.

Theoretical? Not in the least. Sounds perfectly applicable to day to day life.

Communicating about Race and White Privilege, Using Critical Humility: Experiential Workshop – Intermediate-Advance - Facilitators: European-American Collaborative Challenging Whiteness (Elizabeth Kasl, Penny Rosenwasser and Linda Sartor)

Are you looking for an inviting place as a white activist to be challenged — and to be supported — in honing your communications skills with other white folks? Especially about white privilege and racism? We'll spend the day using experiential processes to practice what we call critical humility: a way of communicating with confidence while remembering that what we know is always evolving, and there is a lot we don't know. Focused on taking action, critical humility is a reflective process that can be applied both personally and institutionally. In small groups we will use simultaneous role-play, a process that gives everyone the opportunity to engage emotionally, which boosts our learning. In whole group discussions, we’ll try to discover gaps between our values and our actions, our talk and our walk.

Critical humility? I think we can all agree that the Nihilist could use a healthy dose of that.

Still Asking, “What’s In It For Us?”: A Revised Institute for People of Color – All Levels – Facilitators: Pamela Smith Chambers, Robin Parker and Jorge Zeballos

Although persons of color who have attended past WPCs acknowledge that cross-racial collaboration is crucial, they have also found that too little attention is focused on the intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional toll the work takes on people of color at the conference and beyond. In this updated institute, we will investigate the consequences of working with white people who are struggling to come to terms with white privilege. Special emphasis will be placed on having people of color tell their stories about cross-race interactions as a way to better prepare ourselves for WPC 12.

Damnit, we're just not talking enough about how all this white privilege stuff impacts minorities! I mean we have a three-day conference to talk about nothing but that, but it's still not enough.

Global White Privilege: Israel/Palestine and Beyond - Beginner - Facilitators: Paul Kivel, Adrien Wing, Amer Ahmed, Linda Sartor and Elizabeth Schulman

The institute will outline the historical context that laid the groundwork for modern day global White Privilege. The pervasiveness of White Privilege in global politics will be highlighted using examples of recent international conflicts; presenters will guide the audience through the White Privilege landscape in Africa and the Muslim world. Finally, the institute will explore how the global acceptance of White Privilege has bred the conflict in Israel/Palestine.

Proving again that it's impossible for any group of leftists to get together for any length of time to talk about anything without eventually coming around to bash Israel. Best of all? If you're a high school or college student, you can get academic credit for attending the conference.

SISYPHUS ADDS: The Elder is being unkind to the Nihilist. The Nihilist hates ALL poor people, not just the non-white poor. Also, how can any conference of this sort be taken seriously when there are no consciousness raising puppet shows?

THE NIHILIST ADDS I'm taking a break from my problems of privilege to comment: I'm not really fond of the middle class either. Now on to something more important: Do I have the steak or the shrimp? The answer: surf and turf!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One Round At A Time Sweet Jesus

One of the beauties of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Challenge is that you only have to pick one round at a time. After the first round is complete and the teams reseeded, you pick the second round and so on until the Stanley Cup Finals. You get points for picking the correct team (duh), the length of the series, and added points for picking lower seeds who advance.

Right now, I have all the favorites in the Western Conference moving on while in the East I have three of the four lower seeds advancing. Those picks aren't sitting real well and I'll likely make a few edits before the first game tomorrow night. You can still sign up and make your picks in the Fraters league. It's easy and don't cost nuthin'.

What's Wrong With India?

Throughout American history politicians have sought to gain favor with voters by promising material rewards in exchange for votes. In the days of Tammany Hall, there was a pretty clear quid pro quo in place where voting for the right candidate was directly linked to being rewarded with silver or perhaps a job. Later, these promises become more rhetorical in nature as was the case with Herbert Hoover's 1928 campaign slogan, “A chicken in every pot and a car in very garage.” In recent years, it’s usually been Democrats who have been more forthcoming with promises that putting them into office would improve the material well being of the voter and the ones who were then baffled as to why some voters would choose to vote against their apparent economic self interest.

A story in yesterday’s WSJ explored how blatant vote buying is alive and well in the world’s largest democracy:

Despite being one of India's better-performing states and its auto-industry hub, Tamil Nadu has its share of serious issues to debate this year, including how to halt corruption and fix electricity shortages. But the race between the two leading parties has boiled down mostly to a contest of who can offer a longer list of government-financed freebies.

The incumbent party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK, led by 86-year-old former screenwriter and current Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, has promised blenders or grinders for poor families, laptops for engineering students and an insurance program for fishermen. The party is also promising washing machines and refrigerators for unspecified recipients.

The main opposition party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or AIADMK, led by former film star J. Jayalalithaa, upped the ante with its list of handouts: a blender, a grinder and a fan for all women; four free sheep for poor families; four grams of gold for poor brides (for the necklaces brides wear on their wedding day); 60,000 cows for 6,000 villages and free cable-TV connections for all.

Free cable TV for all? Wonder if the AIADMK would be interested in a third party affiliation here...

The 60,000 cows for 6000 villages has a nice numbers ring to it too. Remindful of Clinton’s “100,000 new cops” proposal.

As is often the case with government intervention in such matters, giving things away for free brings a host of unintended consequences.

There's so much on offer for free that retailers are feeling the pinch. At a local electronics outlet called "Beautiful Store," owner Ariya Palani says TV sales ground to a halt the past three years. He fears the same will happen to mixies and grinders. "If the government is giving them away, why would anyone buy from a store?" he said.

There really is no such thing as a free mixie.

Logic Gap

The National Committee for Pay Equity has labeled today as "Equal Pay Day" which explains why JB and Atomizer have taken a well-deserved day off to show support for their sisters in arms. There is however one slight problem with the concept: as Carrie Lukas notes in today’s WSJ There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap:

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

The Department of Labor's Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women's earnings are going up compared to men's.

The sad thing is that no amount of research or common sense explanations (such as those offered by Lukas) will stop the wage gap myth from being touted by activists as evidence of discrimination against women. It’s too important a part of their belief system to ever be held up to any scrutiny. Whether it actually exists or not is immaterial: they will always believe it does.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Other Beginning's End

The NCAA Frozen Four ended in St. Paul on Saturday night in dramatic fashion as Minnesota-Duluth defeated Michigan 3-2 in overtime to win their first ever national championship. The title game was a fitting end to a Frozen Four that was exceptional both in terms of the venue and the games themselves. The NCAA should really think about putting St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center into a five year rotation to host the event. In terms of entertainment value and quality of play it far exceeded that other collegiate tournament where the quartet of remaining teams seeks to put a round ball through a hoop (and based on this year’s results, usually fails miserably at it).

We ran a special Fraters group this that allowed folks to pick their own Frozen Four bracket. Not one of these great hockey minds picked Duluth to win it all. There was a four way tie for first place between Reggie Dunlap, Pete Gj, exsanguine, and (sigh) the Nihilist in Golf Pants with 16 points each. Out of the 7120 total entries, player/coach Reg ranked #330 overall which gives him the tiebreaker. Congratulations sir.

Meanwhile, yours truly finished a disappointing 18th in our group as that much anticipated Yale-North Dakota championship game never came to fruition. But there is one solace that I can take: despite my pathetic finish I still bested Hugh “Ralphie” Hewitt who finished in a tie for the 21st position. The only entrant that Hugh finished in front of was Learned Foot who knows about as much about hockey as I do Marquette basketball. By picking Miami of Ohio to win the national championship, Hugh all but guaranteed their first round exit. It’s to know that in this topsy-turvy world some things still remain constant like the Hewitt sports curse.

The college hockey season ended in fine fashion. Thankfully, another hockey season is just beginning: the NHL playoffs start Wednesday. Anybody up for a little 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Challenge? The Fraters league is forming today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Excuse Me, Vice-president Coco, No One Cares About Your Grammy

The Grammy Awards recently announced that they would reduce the number of award categories from 109 to 78.

Their reasoning for doing this is basically summed up by some of the critics of the decision:

The leader of Alberta powwow dance band Northern Cree says Wednesday's move by the Grammy Awards to drop the best Native American album category sends a message that the show doesn't care about aboriginal music.

I'd bet that if you surveyed a million people and asked them each to list a hundred things that they care about, giving proper recognition to excellence in aboriginal music wouldn't ever show up. What further amazes is that Northern Cree has six Grammy nominations (and zero wins, there must be a lot of nasty politics in the aboriginal music community).

There are other changes that are certainly more significant than eliminating the aboriginal music category:

. . . male and female vocal categories in fields including pop, R&B and country will be cut, with men and women now competing in one field. Plenty of other categories were cut or streamlined, too. The R&B, classical and American roots music fields have been slashed by four categories each, there will be three fewer pop, rock, country and Latin awards, and the gospel, jazz and rap sections were also amended.

One area that we've chronicled is the fact that a lot of Grammy winners won their awards for one reason that has nothing to do with the quality of their product. Consider this list of recent Grammy winners: Barack Obama, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Al Franken, and Diana Ross. You might ask yourself, why is Diana Ross on a list with a bunch of powerful Democratic politicians. And you would be correct. Diana Ross is the only person on this list who has never won a Grammy.

It's a mixed up music award that shuts out Diana Ross, but honors Barack Obama (twice), Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, and Jimmy Carter. Yet they all have won awards for Best Spoken Word Album since 1997. That means that (for the last decade plus) the Grammys have decided to toss a bouquet to a liberal politician every other year. I'd recommend this as a category to cut.

Missed Opportunity?

Silly me, wasting hundreds of dollars and countless hours travelling to attend the Frozen Four (Congratulations to the UMD Bulldogs! Let's hope this ends the "Gopher rejects!" chant at games next season. Probably not.) when I could have attended the White Privilege Conference. Tragically, I must return to my job suckling off the taxpayer teat.

If the guys from the Hinderaker-Ward Experience had any stones, they'd do a live podcast from the Conference. Probably run into a bunch of guys from the video linked here.

Speaking of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience, I have to add my endorsement. I always enjoyed the "First Team" of the NARN and was saddened by their radio demise. Until I listened to the drivel that replaced them, then I was angered. Seriously? A dude talking about a vitamin supplement made from bovine pre-milk excretions? Lord have mercy. Anyway, "the Experience" has everything the old First Team did, sans the callers, which to me is a big plus.

But doesn't a mere hour seem a little weak? Honestly.

There Will Be Boos

It is a bipartisan sentiment that the political class has shown willful neglect over issues like the national debt, health care, energy policy, illegal immigration, etc. Although perhaps for different reasons, no one is satisfied with the direction of the country on these issues. So, now more than ever, our elected officials need to be given continuous feedback on their performance. And since political events are choreographed for the benefit of the politicians, and never is heard a discouraging word, the only place for this to happen is when they crawl out from their bubbles of adulation and show their faces in public. Anytime a politician shows up at a public event, for the purpose of politicking, the American people need to start giving them the Bronx cheer. If they're not given a performance review in this setting, they may never get the message that they're efforts are substandard.

For example, check out the crowd reaction from this contrived public appearance for the purpose of politicking yesterday:

Rock star adulation, for the man most responsible for planning trillion dollar annual deficits for the next decade! While he's taking his bows for still not dealing with the problem. I'm not sure he got the message that The People aren't thrilled with his policy prescriptions.

I know many Democrats are thrilled with him, no matter what he does. ("I don't care, Obama is awesome".) But this was at the Lincoln Memorial, a place of patriotism and American exceptionalism, meaning conservatives were probably abundantly represented. What were they doing? Cheering along or just meekly standing by? Maybe they're taking their cues from how the GOP leadership behaves in budget negotiations.

And not just the President or Democrats are candidate for this kind of feedback. Name any of your powerful, careerist Washington leaders and they should get their fair share of the national piece of mind. I don't want to hear any obscenities or vulgarities or even garden variety crazy directed toward our public servants. And of course, absolutely no violence whatsoever. Just a little vocal dissent that is squarely in the American tradition of democracy and free speech would be nice. Nobody had a problem with that as recently as three years ago. It's time to hear it again.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

HWX, volume 4

The latest Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) is now available for your listening pleasure. We taped it last night, the first Friday night effort. The fact that beer happened the first subject we addressed, pure coincidence! The folks at Ricochet asked for photo evidence of what we were imbibing, ultimately for the purpose of their broadcast museum or a time capsule I'm sure. For now, the pictures grace the promo post at Ricochet.

Later in the show we talked about our impressions of the Kennedy's on ReelzChannel. Impressions as in our thoughts, no one actually did an impersonation. Which is too bad, with all the time John Hinderaker has spent parking his car in Harvard yard, he can probably rock the Boston accent.

We also discussed the Prosser election in Wisconsin, then some federal debt and goverment shutdown chat. The highlight of the show comes when we're joined by my Congressional represtenative, Michele Bachmann. We taped the interview earlier this week, and got her thoughts on the Ryan budget plan, her Presidential aspirations, and then I took the opportunity to get some constituent service matters resolved (i.e., Stillwater Bridge). Then we wrap up with Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping.

Many ways to hear it, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can also subscribe via iTunes or Feedburner. Or get the stream for your mobile device on Sticher. Or just use the player embedded below. If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript. Enjoy!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Can't Keep A Good Game Down

Despite the best effort of the souless ninnies who run the NCAA, a good time was still to be had at the Frozen Four yesterday in St. Paul. We’re inveighed here in the past on the ridiculous NCAA rules that prohibit the serving of alcohol at their tournament events. But, as veteran Frozen Four attendee James from Folsom noted yesterday, the NCAA’s effort to take all the air out events go far behind their ban on beer. It’s almost as if they intentionally seek to create as sterile and uninteresting environment as possible. They drape and cover everything in the arena to ensure that there’s no chance your eyes come across anything not directly related to the event. They don’t allow the Wild to have their Hockey Lodge open to ensure there is no competition to their officially licensed NCAA souvenir tables. Instead of using the scoreboard to entertain fans during stops, they mostly show boring NCAA promotional videos. Or lists of Minnesota celebrities, the only two I noted being Loni Anderson and Garrison Keillor. Other than the team’s bands, little music is heard. Many pro sports overdue the amped up music of course, but would it be that bad to play a couple of tunes?

And they don’t allow you to reenter once you leave the arena. So once you’re in for the first game, you’re there for the next seven hours. You want to grab a bit to eat? Concession stands. You want a beer between games? You can hit one of the many local watering holes around the X, but then you’re watching game two on the television because you aren’t getting back in. This policy means that when the first game started between UMD and Notre Dame, there were fast swaths of empty seats in the Michigan and to a lesser extent North Dakota sections. You can’t really blame the fans with a stake in game two for not wanting to stuck inside the arena for any longer than they had to.

But in spite of the fussy busybodies at the NCAA, it was still an enjoyable experience to catch the two games yesterday. The fun started before the puck even dropped between the Bulldogs and Irish. Minnesota Governor and former Yale goalie (it’s all starting to make sense now) Mark Dayton was given the honor of pronouncing what has been become the traditional Xcel Energy “Let’s play hockey!” opening line. The cameras cut to Dayton up in the rafters as he was handed a mike. You could tell that he was saying something, but no one in the crowd could hear it because the mike was apparently not turned on. After an awkward pause, the cameras caught Dayton with the befuddled, deer in the headlights look that we’ve all become so familiar with. Yup, that’s our governor all right.

Those who did file in late missed a fast start. The Irish scored less than in a minute in on a shaky goal for the Duluth net minder. But the Dogs answered back rather quickly to knot the game at one. At which point the shots on goals were also one for each time. Eventually, both goalies did make a few saves, but the scoring continued apace throughout the period. Notre Dame again took the lead off a fortuitous bounce off the end boards. UMD again responded to tie it and then went ahead before the horn sounded. Even though the Irish had an advantage in shots, it was pretty clear that Duluth was the better team and carried most of the play.

That pattern continued in the second, as the Dogs were faster and sharper than the Irish. They tried to get too cute by making one pass to many or else could have built up even a bigger cushion. As it was, they scored once in the second to take what looked like a safe 4-2 lead into the third. And for the first half of the period it appeared that it would be. The Dogs were playing a much more conservative game, but it didn’t seem the Irish had the energy to mount a comeback. When UMD went on the power play, it seemed like an opportunity for them to put the nail in the coffin. And then a funny thing happened. Notre Dame scored a shorthanded goal (another soft one) and suddenly all bets were off. The Irish players and their fans were full of life and UMD looked dog tired (sorry). What had looked like an easy walk to Saturday’s championship game became a nail biter for Bulldog fans. Despite a couple of close calls, they did manage to hold Notre Dame off and came away with a 4-3 win.

Sometimes shots on goal tells an accurate tale of the game. In this case, the final numbers were misleading. Even though Notre Dame had a significant edge in shots, UMD had the upper hand in play for most of the game.

The second contest between North Dakota and Michigan was a different game compared to the opener and you could feel that even before it started. The large contingent of Sioux fans at the game brought a new level of energy into the building and there was a palpable buzz of tension in the air. The Sioux fans were primed and ready to erupt when there high flying offense finally broke through against the diminutive Wolverine keeper. Thanks to his stellar play between the pipes that eruption never took place. I definitely underestimated Michigan heading into the tourney. They’re faster than I thought. They play better defense than I thought. And their goalie has played a lot better than I thought he would.

This time around, the shots of goal were a more accurate barometer of the play on the ice. The first period was pretty even with a slight edge to the Sioux. They had some opportunities, but didn’t seem to be as focused as I would have expected. Michigan netted the only goal of the period off a rebound. With North Dakota’s firepower, I’m sure few of us thought it would be enough to hold up. The Sioux picked up their pace in the second and really started to take control of the game. But every time it looked like they were about to light the lamp, Michigan’s Hunwick would close the door. His stop on Genoway happened right in front of us and I think it was the save of the game. North Dakota didn’t help their cause by missing the net several times when they good opportunities and generally running a pathetic power play.

After dominating the third period yet failing to score, the Sioux went a man up with about seven or eight minutes to play. The NoDak fans sensed that this was it. They would get one here and maybe another in regulation or worst case go to overtime. But with everything on the line and a golden chance to tie the game the Sioux special teams sputtered. I’m not sure how much this should be credited to Michigan, but for whatever reason North Dakota couldn’t get the power play going. They actually played better once the Wolverines were back at full strength. After pulling their goalie, the Sioux again brought the pressure and made Hunwick work for his shutout. But when Michigan found the empty net with thirty seconds left, it was all over. Another tough tournament loss for the Sioux.

The last NCAA title for North Dakota was in 2000. Since then, they’ve had plenty of talented teams that had excellent regular seasons only to fall short in the NCAA tournament. Have they become the Gophers of the Eighties and Nineties? Until they prove they can again win the big games, that’s a millstone they’ll be carrying.

The championship matchup is an intriguing one. Michigan has nine NCAA hockey titles (although only two in the last forty-six years). Minnesota Duluth has appeared in one championship game losing to Bowling Green in 1984 in fourteen overtimes. I won’t be attending Saturday’s game, but I will be pulling hard for the Bulldogs to win as I imagine most WCHA fans will. One thing that was interesting to note yesterday was the while Gopher, Sioux, and Badger fans all appeared to support UMD in the first game, a number of Gopher fans were openly cheering for Michigan in the second. And no Michigan fans were cheering for Notre Dame in the opener. I guess that CCHA blood isn’t so thick after all.

The coming Big 10 hockey conference will likely cause dilemmas in future settings. Will I really have to stand up for Michigan and their God awful maze and blue helmets out of fidelity to the conference? Somehow I just don’t see it happening. Go Dogs.