Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walk This Way

Just four short days until the American Heart Association walk. Please give what you can. No donation is too small. I'm running out of songs with "walk" in the title too, so please help me out.

And a personal note to Bob R., thanks for the generous donation. Much appreciated.

Talk is Cheap

The recent spate of deadly tornadoes that have struck the United States has those who see doom and gloom in every weather event once again hyping how unusual such activity is and how it is further evidence of the calamities that lie ahead if we don't do something to prevent man-made global warming. Now. In today's WSJ, Donald Boudreax challenges these alarmists to put their money where their mouths are in a piece called More Weather Deaths? Wanna Bet?:

There's one problem with this global-warming chicken little-ism. It has little to do with reality. National Weather Service data on weather-related fatalities since 1940 show that the risks of Americans being killed by violent weather have fallen significantly over the past 70 years.

The annual number of deaths caused by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, of course, varies. For example, the number of persons killed by these weather events in 1972 was 703 while the number killed in 1988 was 72. But amid this variance is a clear trend: The number of weather-related fatalities, especially since 1980, has dropped dramatically.

For the 30-year span of 1980-2009, the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes was 194—fully one-third fewer deaths each year than during the 1940-1979 period. The average annual number of deaths for the years 1980-2009 falls even further, to 160 from 194, if we exclude the deaths attributed to Hurricane Katrina, most of which were caused by a levee that breached on the day after the storm struck land.
This decline in the absolute number of deaths caused by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes is even more impressive considering that the population of the United States more than doubled over these years—to 308 million in 2010 from 132 million in 1940.

More people and less weather-related deaths? That doesn’t fit the global warming doom and gloom template at all. Boudreax—who’s a professor of economics at George Washington University—is so confident that this trend in US weather-related deaths will continue to decease that he’s willing to lay $10,000 on the line with anyone willing to bet that the opposite will occur. Seems like that would be easy money for those who are so certain that we’re warming the planet and are on the tipping point of catastrophe.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Quick and the Dead

On Memorial Day, Mark Helprin calls on the American people to make commitments that go Beyond Stone and Steel:

We should offer instead a memorial, never ending, of probity and preparation, shared sacrifice, continuing resolve, and the clarity the nation once had in regard to how, where, when, and when not to go to war. This is the least we can do both for America and for the troops we dispatch into worlds of sorrow and death. Once, it came naturally, but no longer, and it must be restored.

First, and despite the times, is the demonstrable fact that throttling defense in the name of economy is economical neither in the long nor the short run. Not if you count the cost of avoidable wars undeterred. Not if you count the cost of major world realignments that lead to overt challenges and adventures. Not if you count the cost—in money, division, demoralization, decline, death, and grief—of lost wars. Is there any doubt that a relatively minor expenditure of money and courage could have kept Germany in its place and prevented the incalculable cost of World War II?

A public that otherwise professes deep loyalty to its troops is in the name of economy stripping down their equipment and resources, making it more likely that they will fight future battles against forces both gratuitously undeterred and against which they may not prevail. This is short sighted, tragic, hardly a memorial, and in fact an irony, in that other than in redeploying a portion of our wealth from luxury to security, military spending has always been a spur to the economy, as history demonstrates and every member of Congress with military facilities or manufactures in his district knows.

Nonetheless, the greatest economy—of lives, money, strategy—is found in neither the diminution nor the accretion of forces but in the wisdom and precision of their deployment and the adoption of feasible goals. It is neither possible nor desirable to build nations while simultaneously trying to conquer them with inadequate force. (Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, the oft-mentioned counter examples of Germany and Japan had been decisively defeated and were heirs to different traditions of governance.)

And what opponents of the United States could not be delighted that the current administration, in the name of unrealizable ideals, has made a project of destabilizing the whole world by abandoning friendly countries and allies because it is too delicate and self-concerned to tolerate that they are at times unsavory? President Obama would undoubtedly praise this in FDR, but apparently to him the co-operative states and allies he has undermined are neither as warm nor as fuzzy as Stalin.

When in defense of our essential interests we do go to war, not only must we carefully determine war aims—and thus dictate to the enemy the time, place, and nature of battle rather than chasing him into the briar patch of his choosing—but we must accomplish them massively, overwhelmingly, decisively, and, if necessary, ruthlessly. For anything other than minor operations this requires the consent of Congress, a declaration of war, and the clear statement and unflinching prosecution of our objectives. Rapid shocks cost less in lives, ours and theirs, than wars that drag inconclusively for a decade. We must make our enemies understand at the deepest level of apprehension that if we are attacked we will be quick and they will be dead.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Now That's Good Radio

Good nugget from an interview with David Mamet by Bari Weiss that appeared in Saturday's WSJ called David Mamet's Coming Out Party:

Hear him take on the left's sacred cows. Diversity is a "commodity." College is nothing more than "Socialist Camp." Liberalism is like roulette addiction. Toyota's Prius, he tells me, is an "anti-chick magnet" and "ugly as a dogcatcher's butt." Hollywood liberals—his former crowd—once embraced Communism "because they hadn't invented Pilates yet." Oh, and good radio isn't NPR ("National Palestinian Radio") but Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt.

Well, the last guy is a little shaky at times, but Mamet's on solid footing with the first two Salem hosts he cites.

Friday, May 27, 2011

No Beer

When used together there may be no sadder words in the English language than "No Beer." Alas, they are the operative ones to capture the absence of our regular Beer of the Week feature. I came down with a rather nasty head cold this week and it has diminished both my thirst for and ability to appreciate the tastes of beer. I hope that such conditions do not prevail much longer especially as we head into a holiday weekend. Meanwhile, I’m becoming reacquainted with my old friend brandy and even dipped into a mixology book last night to explore new ways to enjoy. I expect that my senses will return to their senses at some point soon and Beer of the Week will return to its regular schedule next Friday.

Those fortunate enough to be able to enjoy beer as usual should take advantage of the opportunity to do so early and often this weekend. While you’re at it you’ll also want to take at least a moment to raise a glass in memory of all those who have fallen in order to provide us with the freedom to celebrate in such a fashion. And on Memorial Day itself, I encourage you to partake in the events in your community that honor their sacrifice.

A couple that are close to home for me:

Golden Valley Memorial Day "Flag Row"
Starts: Thursday May 26th by 6PM
Ends: Memorial Day May 30th at 5PM
Location: 1 1/2 mile stretch on Golden Valley Road between Hwy 100 and Winnetka Ave N

Drive or walk eastbound down Golden Valley Road for 1 1/2 miles and reflect on the meaning of the holiday as you view a combination of over 600 American and Pow/Mia flags on display along the curb line. "It's Not Just Another Day Off"....the day has meaning....honor the fallen and over 88,000 Pow/Mia's still unaccounted for.

St. Louis Park Memorial Day Service:

Join the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion in honoring those who have served our country. The service begins at 11 a.m., and the flag will be raised at noon.

Monday, May 30, 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Amphitheater in Wolfe Park,3700 Monterey Drive
Free - no registration required

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Elevation, Baby

From the US AIr Force Academy graduation in Colorado Springs:

A part of a terrific series of photos of the event from the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Claw Back

Among the more egregious examples of recent government efforts to stake permanent claims to the wallets of taxpayers was passage of the Legacy Act here in Minnesota in 2008. Ostensibly billed as a measure to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, in reality it was nothing more than a way to ensure that certain interest groups—the arts and outdoors primarily—would be subsidized in perpetuity and allowed to suckle at the teet of the taxpayer no matter what future budget crises or change in priorities might come. The taxpayers of Minnesota are now Constitutionally mandated to shell out for puppet theater and pheasant hunting land with no debate about whether such spending should really be within the purvey of the state or whether we can really afford such niceties given present fiscal realities. We might not be happy to pay more for better millionaire comic book authors to speak at local libraries, but damn it, pay we will.

Just over a year ago, our own Saint Paul pleaded for action to halt these handouts:

In other words, Republicans, find a way to do it. This is irresponsible spending and it will be unpopular with the public when it is accurately explained to them. If this amendment could be added to the state Constitution via public referendum, than it can be eliminated that way. Or, if you must keep your precious "clean water" funding, revise it to strip out the "arts and cultural heritage" provisions.

Today, he will be pleased (well, as pleased as a man of his disposition can ever really be) to learn that his call has been heeded and there is now an organized effort to Repeal the Sales Tax Amendment:

MINNEAPOLIS, May 26, 2011 – The Minnesota Voters Alliance (MVA) and its coalition partners, the North Star Tea Party Patriots and the Northern Liberty Alliance (Duluth), today announced a state-wide effort to repeal the so-called Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution passed by voters in 2008.

"This Amendment should be repealed because it violates principles of government, is a political slush fund, and unfairly targets our poorest citizens who need their money more than they need the elite uses to which the $250 million per year raised by the tax are put," said Andy Cilek, president of MVA.

The coalition seeks repeal of the Amendment—which it calls the Sales Tax Amendment—principally because tax rates do not belong in the Constitution. The group believes that hard-wiring the .375% sales tax into the Constitution, creates a parallel legislature that prevents the money raised from being used for more important problem areas like healthcare, education, infrastructure, and law enforcement.

The ultimate goal is to place a question asking for repeal on the 2012 general election ballot. Toward that end, the group is working with legislators like Mark Buesgens and Tom Hackbarth who last week introduced HF 1723 in the Minnesota House calling for a repeal ballot question.

The group's website,Repeal the Sales Tax Amendment, has been constructed to explain the need for repeal, to keep interested parties up to date, and to enlist support.

The site was just launched and on it you can find more information about the efforts to repeal the Legacy Amendment, donate money to the cause, and sign an on-line petition to show your support. Getting this on the ballot is the first step to restoring some sense of fiscal sanity to this state.

Coup de Net

A story in Monday's WSJ called France Puts Internet on G-8's agenda contained a gem of a quote which captures an attitude toward government intervention that is widespread in Europe:

"The Internet has become something essential in our lives, yet there is no governance of it," says Stephane Richard, chief executive of telecom operator France Télécom SA, who will be attending the conference. "There is an absolute necessity to find some form of global economic governance of the Internet," Mr. Richard said.

You think maybe the fact that the Internet has so rapidly become such an essential part of modern life could maybe, just maybe be BECAUSE of the lack of governance? Thankfully, the French efforts to push for greater governance of the Internet at the G-8 meetings this week appear to have been largely fruitless. At least for now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Let Them Play!

[Editor's note: The title for this post is taken from The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977), one of JB Doubtless' all time favorites.]

In last Saturday’s WSJ, Lenore Skenazy—one of the forces behind the Free Range Kids movement—announced the arrival of Leave-Your-Kids-at-the-Park-Alone Day!:

Today, with any luck, you may see something strange at your local park: children. They may even be there by themselves, frolicking. I hope so. That's exactly the point of "Take Our Children to the Park . . . And Leave Them There Day."

The concept, which I cooked up last year, is for parents to take their kids to their local park at about 10 in the morning and then, if they're at least seven or eight years old, leave them there for a little while, unsupervised. With all the kids outside together at the same time—and no adults telling them when to eat their organic grapes, cut into sixteenths—they'll finally do that thing we did when we were growing up.

They will play. It may be hard, because they're out of practice. But it's a start—an attempt to bring back something wonderful that's been lost in our age of helicopter parenting.

Most importantly, the kids will have to figure out how to play on their own. Parents won’t be around to come up with the ideas or lay down the rules. One of the most important things that you learn when playing with other kids is the need for compromise and consensus. If you want to play baseball with four kids, you need to agree on how you’re going to manage “ghost runners.” In football, how many Mississippis you’re going to count before rushing the quarterback. This holds true for almost any game or activity that you’re going to pursue sans adults. Sure, you’re going to have arguments and disputes, but that’s part of the fun. Fun that kids will never have and lessons they will never learn if they don’t get a chance to play on their own.

Meanwhile, in the May 16th Star Tribune Julie Pfitzinger offered advice on how to play it safe with kids:

Once kids arrive at the playground, they should be reminded to remove their bike helmets before climbing up on equipment since the chin straps could be a choking hazard if they get caught on a bar. For the same reason, kids should refrain from wearing hooded sweatshirts with drawstrings when they play and opt for sneakers instead of flip-flops or other rubber shoes.

Check the playground area itself to make sure there are no sharp nails or screws protruding from equipment and that there is an appropriate amount of mulch, pea gravel or grass beneath the play surfaces.

When spending time with young children at the park, active supervision by parents and the elimination of distractions is important.

"If you are busy talking or texting, you are taking attention away from the child," said Petersen. "It also makes for a better experience for the child when the parent is engaged in play."

A better experience for the child or the parent?

Marrying Smarter Not Harder

David Harsanyi argues that contra Cameron Diaz (noted relationship expert her) marriage is not dying as much as evolving:

Why are couples staying together? Like Diaz, we can hypothesize. Perhaps the rise of connective technology has created marriages based more on compatibility than immediacy or luck. Perhaps we have readjusted to our life expectancy and marry later and thus more smartly. Whatever the reasons, marriage can bring a healthier life.

This is not a moral observation of a traditionalist, but indisputable. There is innate need pulling us to marriage. It’s been around from prehistory, and it has taken many forms — polygamy, polyandry and my historical favorite, polyfidelity — but it’s never been close to passing on. Today we’ve settled on monogamy, and it has brought great stability and structure to society. It’s probably busy readjusting rather than dying.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dad Strength

In a post at Deadspin, Drew Magary conducts a profane yet hilarious In-Depth Examination Of Dad Strength:

Not for a while. You have to spend a good amount of time carrying the child, and assembling shit for the child, and installing car seats, and loading the trunk with shit, and setting up Pack-N-Plays, and carrying bag after bag after fucking bag at the airport before you've built up the requisite muscle groups for Dad strength. And even then, I'm still not sure when it officially kicks in. I'd like to think I've finally gotten my Daddy Strength belt, but that's not going to be made official until one of my children is trapped under a pickup truck and I have to lift that truck to save them from choking to death on exhaust. I plan on running my oldest over sometime next year to get a proper reading.

One of the nice things about being a Dad is when you get to flex your Dad strength in front of your kid and you can see that they're in AWE of your abilities. One time, my kid was about to throw a wet washcloth out of the tub, and I instinctively blocked the throw (DENIED!) then grabbed her and lifted her out of the tub. And she knew right at that second that I WAS NOT TO BE FUCKING TRIFLED WITH. And then the kid tries to retaliate and starts slapping your leg and shit and you just laugh in their face. MWAHAHAHAHA! YOU THINK THAT HURTS ME? I AM BULLETPROOF.

Dad strength is best shown off in a local pool, where you can pick your kid up and throw them all over the place at will, so that other kids can see your ability to make little children fly. I wish there were a race of giants out there that could do similar things for me. I'd love to be picked up and thrown 50 yards in a pool. That would be incredible fun.

I've had the exact same thought when tossing my urchins around the pool. It would be awesome to have someone chuck you across the water like that, although it would probably be a bit more painful to experience it as an adult than a child.

Stories For Boys

Good article in today's WSJ by Mark Yost on how the history of one of the more compelling stories of the Cold War has been captured at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tenn:

The first U-2 flight over the Soviet Union took place on July 4, 1956. By May 1960 the Air Force had 10 U-2 aircraft that planners and budgeters "hid" in the service's weather command. Powers, who left the Air Force in 1956 with the rank of captain and joined the CIA, was flying out of Peshawar, Pakistan, and was America's most experienced U-2 pilot.

The flight was scheduled because President Dwight D. Eisenhower was to meet with the Soviets, British and French in Paris to discuss arms control. The U.S. suspected the Soviets of lying about missile numbers and capabilities. Powers's nine-hour flight was to take him over the Soviet missile facilities at Plesetsk and Sverdlovsk; he was supposed to land in Bodo, Norway.

Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles detonated near the U-2's tail section. Because of the force of the blast, Powers was trapped under the instrument panel and knew that if he used his ejector seat he would sever his legs. The aircraft fell nine miles before Powers was able to extricate himself, pop the canopy, and jump out at 15,000 feet. He landed safely on a Soviet collective farm.

The U.S. initially claimed it had lost a weather observation plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace. The Russians played the scenario masterfully, first claiming to know nothing about it. After the U.S. denied that the incident had anything to do with espionage, the Soviets produced Powers and wreckage from the plane. Powers was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served 21 months before he was traded for Col. Rudolf Abel, a Russian spy who had been arrested in New York in 1957.

All of this is told well here through artifacts, newsreels, press clippings and memorabilia on loan from the National Electronics Museum and the Powers family. One of the most interesting items is a Western Union telegram from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to Powers's father, which reads in part, "If you wish to come to the Soviet Union to see your son, I am ready to help you." Touching from the man who a few years earlier had told a group of Western diplomats, "We will bury you."

Mr. Yost goes on to note that U-2s are still being employed by the United States in reconnaissance missions from determining the scope of the the tsunami damage in Japan to more traditional military roles such as the supporting the war kinetic operations in Libya. And the Obama administration has plans to continue to use these legendary "eyes in the sky" through 2015.

The Objects of Their Munificence

Once upon a time there was a professor of constitutional law (a real one, not like one Barry O'Bama) at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law who also happened to be a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This judge-professor was unquestionably possessed of a brilliant legal mind and was the most engaging professor this humble lawyer has ever had. (On more than one occasion, the class erupted into spontaneous applause at the conclusion of a lecture.) Surprisingly, for a Ninth Circuit judge and law school professor, this individual was quite conservative. Maybe not a movement conservative, but by no means a moderate.

It's been over twenty-five years (holy cow, really?) but I've always remembered two instances that revealed a more conservative mind. The first, while relatively trivial, involved his rather pointed criticism of Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe's treatise on constitutional law as overly opinionated and not really worthy of study to understand constitutional principles. He was right. (To understand this, just listen to Erwin Chemerinsky hack his way through the Constitution on Hugh Hewitt's "Smart Guys" segment.)

But it's the other instance that comes to mind in the wake of the decision by the U. S. Supreme Court affirming the lower court order mandating the release of nearly 40,000 convicted felons from state prison in California.

I don't recall the full context of the comment, but the judge/professor was talking about the location of the Ninth Circuit in the heart of San Francisco and how the courthouse was surrounded by bums, prostitutes, druggies, criminals, lowlifes and lawyers (I may have added that last one). In his mind this was appropriate because it served to provide his liberal colleagues on the Ninth with a constant reminder of the "objects of their munificence." In other words, like most liberal academics and judges, they are safely removed from the consequences of their actions and rarely see the real world

Fast-forward a couple decades and that gifted intellectual now sits on the Supreme Court (as a Republican appointee no less) where, whether due to O'Sullivan's First Law or the (Linda) Greenhouse Effect, there is no doubt Justice Kennedy has "grown" in office, providing the swing vote yesterday unleashing nearly 40,000 felons on the unsuspecting people of California.

Fortunately for Justice Kennedy, safely ensconced in the Supreme Court, he never will get to see the objects of his munificence.

Condemned To Repeat It

Work is now underway on the $957 million Central Corridor Light Rail project. The train will connect downtown St. Paul to Downtown Minneapolis. The initial stage of construction involves the relocation of utilities – and as it turns out, removing the existing train tracks under the asphalt of University Avenue:

These tracks are the remnants of the old Twin City Rapid Transit Company’s trolley system. The trolley system began with horse drawn cars in the late 1860s that eventually gave way to electric trains by the turn of the century. The electric trolleys, in turn, were gradually supplanted by cars and busses, with the last trolley line closing in 1954. Buses were simply cheaper, more flexible, and more convenient for servicing the transportation needs of a growing metro area.

The new light rail tracks will go exactly over the location of the old tracks down the center of University Avenue.

What has happened in the last half-century to make trains more economically viable? Absolutely nothing. Busses and cars are still cheaper, more efficient ways to move people; they are just not as romantic to our many urban idealists.

Most of the central corridor route is currently served by the number 16 bus line. One might expect that a $957 million train would at least be able to replace it. But no, according to the Met Council:

“The corridor will continue to have Route 16 buses on University Avenue, running at 20-minute intervals, for riders traveling to and from locations not immediately served by rail stations, as well as express buses on Interstate 94 between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.”

The decline and fall of the trolley system is a piece of history we seem destined to repeat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Killer, Rest in Peace

Harmon Killebrew was the first and greatest hero of Minnesota baseball. Every Minnesota kid knows that, even those too young to ever have seen him play. My baseball consciousness emerged just after after Harmon's retirement. And though the first Twins heroes of my memory were the likes of Butch Wynegar, Roy Smalley, Mike Cubbage, Bombo Rivera, and Hosken Powell, the first souvenir I ever bought at a baseball game was this:

It was at the old Met, mid-1970s, either the year after he left the Twins for his year in KC (1975) or the year he retired (1976). It must have been on clearance or something. And even then, as now, the purpose and play value of the mini-bat completely eludes me. But I bought it anyway, because it said HARMON KILLEBREW. And the nicks and dings in the bat 35 years later tell me I found a use for it to do something.

One of the best baseball writers in the country right now is Joe Posnanski. He's now at Sports Illustrated and he fills in some of the blanks on Harmon's back story. Excerpt:

The Washington Senators sent out former third baseman Ossie Bluege to see Killebrew play in a few Idaho sandlot games. Killebrew, as legend goes, responded by getting 12 hits in 12 at-bats, including four homers and three triples. The Senators owner Clark Griffith giddily signed Killebrew for $30,000 — the team’s first bonus baby.

And so Killebrew was a part of the team. He made his major league debut six days before his 18th birthday. Here is a fun little baseball trivia question that might win you a bar bet: What position did Killebrew play in his major league debut?

Answer: The great but not particularly swift Harmon Killebrew debuted as a pinch-runner.

He got just 15 plate appearances that first year, and 89 plate appearances in his second. He hit his first big league home run five days before he turned 19. He hit the home run at Griffith Stadium off Billy Hoeft, with his Senators down 13-0. He hit another one two days later off of George Zuverink, but that pretty much summed up his achievements that second year. In 89 plate appearances, Killebrew hit an even .200 and was promptly sent to Charlotte for more seasoning.

The point is that by 1959, Harmon Killebrew was no phenom. He had been up and down so many times that his name was achingly familiar to Senators fans (and this was right in the prime of the Senators’ “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League” glory). Killebrew had hit .224 in 280 plate appearances scattered over his first five seasons. He is the only Hall of Fame player to get fewer than 500 total plate appearances in his first five years. This is not to say that anyone in the game had given up on Killebrew’s future. It’s more that his promise had dulled. Albie Pearson won Rookie of the Year in 1958; people were more excited about him.

But the truth is that Killebrew was just 23 years old, and he had not been given that gift that every great player, without exception, needs: a chance to play. In 1959, the Senators gave him that chance.
Rest in Peace, Harmon.

No God, No Guilt?

One of the underlying—but usually unmentioned—reasons that people embrace atheism is a desire to be unbound from the moral constraints that accompany religious belief. Atheists are like twelve-year-olds who fantasize about how cool life would be if they are on their own without their parents and all their pesky rules to deal with who rarely really stop to consider what the consequences of such “freedom” would really mean.

For them no God means no hang ups about sex, self-indulgence, or openly and enthusiastically pursing a hedonistic lifestyle. Along with this comes an unstated assumption that no God also means no guilt.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the don’t worry, be happy guilt-free forever party. Even as society turned away from religion and became increasingly secular guilt and the “problems” associated with it didn’t go away. In fact, it seems to have become a larger preoccupation for people than ever before.

Wilfred M. McLay has an excellent article in the May edition of First Things called The Moral Economy of Guilt: The curious process by which notions of sin and guilt have become both illusory and omnipresent. In it, he explores why the modern effort to escape guilt has failed and also how modern notions of guilt are connected to forgiveness:

We still value forgiveness, but we are very confused about it, and in our confusion we may have produced a situation in which forgiveness has in fact very nearly lost its moral weight as well as its moral meaning and been translated into an act of random kindness whose chief value lies in the sense of release it brings us. Like the similar acts of confession or apology, and other transactions in the moral economy of sin and guilt, forgiveness is in danger of being debased into a kind of cheap grace, a waiving of standards entirely, standards without which such transactions have no meaning. Forgiveness makes sense only in the presence of a robust sense of justice. Without that, it is in danger of being reduced to something passive and automatic and empty. A sanctimonious way of simply moving on.

We live in an age in which being nonjudgmental in our dealings with others is increasingly viewed as part and parcel of being a civilized person, the only truly generous and humane stance. But without the exercise of moral judgment there can be no meaningful forgiveness, as surely as there cannot be mercy without a prior commitment to justice, or charity without a prior respect for private property.

Forgiveness can’t be understood apart from the assumption that we inhabit a universe in which moral responsibility matters, moral choices have real consequences, and justice and guilt have a salient role.

Forgiveness in its deepest sense is something different from “letting go of anger” so that we can individually experience wholeness and healing. It involves an extraordinary suspension of the normal workings of justice: of the normal penalties for crimes, and the normal costs for moral failings. By definition, it is something that can be done only rarely without undermining the basis on which it rests and without creating an entirely different set of moral expectations. The famous admonition from Tuesdays with Morrie that we should “Forgive everybody everything” is perhaps appealing as a psychological instruction, but it is appalling as a general dictum. It resembles the child’s dream that every day should be Christmas.

His article also explores the rise in the desire to be identified as victims:

But victimhood at its most potent promises not only release from responsibility but an ability to displace that responsibility onto others. As a victim, one can project onto another person, the victimizer or oppressor, any feelings of guilt he might harbor and, in projecting that guilt, lift it off his own shoulders. The designated oppressor plays the role of scapegoat, on whose head the sin comes to rest, and who pays the price for it. By contrast, in appropriating the status of victim, or identifying oneself with victims, one can experience a profound sense of moral release, of recovered innocence. It is no wonder that this should have become so common a gambit in our time, so effectively does it deal with the problem of guilt. At least in the short run.

There is no doubt that none of this would have happened absent the influence of Christianity. Such a story would not have been credible in ancient Greece or Rome, for example, whose pagan virtues did not notably include compassion, humility, and willingness to forgive. There would be no moral status there to be drawn from identification with the victim. Indeed, such reflections cause one to remember the shocking contrast between the proud glories of the classical world and those of this strange emergent Jewish sect, which believed in an incognito God who came into the world as the least among us, emptied of all majesty, and submitted without resistance to a horrifying and humiliating death. As the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas has insisted, the great moral reversal wrought by Christianity was the indispensable source of most of today’s commonplaces about universal human rights and human dignity, equality, sympathy, compassion, generosity, and much else that the secular world proudly claims for itself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

These Boots Are Made For Walkin'

Come on, people. I know you can do it. I'm at $455 right now and I want to reach $1,000. Let's get some donations flowing. I walk in just two short weeks so the time is now. Please help the American Heart Association today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Everyone Is Racist

John Winters of Minneapolis has petitioned the Minneapolis Park Board to rename Lake Calhoun. The lake is currently named after Vice President John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was a prominent leader in the early 19th century from South Carolina. He supported slavery, which Mr. Winters believes disqualifies him from having his name memorialized, at least in Minnesota.

Winters' plan would rewrite local history, which Calhoun impacted greatly. As Secretary of War he established Fort Snelling which aided growth of the area. The lake was named for him at that time, around 1817.

Winters' suggestion for a new name: Lake Humphrey, after another Vice-President who supported bad ideas. I'd ask the question, if naming the lake after a supporter of slavery in the 1830's is a sin, why name it after another white guy. Here's a suggestion: Lake Obama.

Actually, naming it after a man who's father willingly came to America probably isn't PC enough. Maybe Lake Harriet's northern counterpart should be Lake Michelle, after our first lady who descended from slaves.

Upon future reflection, even that would be racist. The lake's true name must be restored: Lake Mde Maka Ska. Slavery may be racist, but the genocidal stealing of a continent has to trump it.

Abuse of the Truth

George Weigel looks at what a recent study reveals about the true nature of the problem of Catholic priests and sexual abuse in a piece at NRO called Priests, Abuse, and the Meltdown of a Culture:

But according to an independent, $1.8 million study conducted by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and released on May 18, every one of these tropes is false.

One: Most clerical abusers were not pedophiles, that is, men with a chronic and strong sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. Most of those abused (51 percent) were aged eleven to fourteen and 27 percent of victims were fifteen to seventeen; 16 percent were eight to ten and 6 percent were younger than seven. Males between eleven and fourteen account for more than 40 percent of all victims. Clerical ephebophilia (a sexual attraction to adolescents, often boys) was clearly a serious problem. But to label this a “pedophilia crisis” is ignorant, sloppy, or malicious.

Two: The “crisis” of clerical sexual abuse in the United States was time-specific. The incidence of abuse spiked in the late 1960s and began to recede dramatically in the mid-1980s. In 2010, seven credible cases of abuse were reported in a church that numbers over 65 million adherents.

Three: Abusers were a tiny minority of Catholic priests. Some 4 percent of Catholic priests in active ministry in the United States were accused of abuse between the 1950s and 2002. There is not a shred of evidence indicating that priests abuse young people at rates higher than do people in the rest of society. On the contrary: Most sexual abuse takes place within families. The John Jay study concludes that, in 2001, whereas five young people in 100,000 may have been abused by a priest, the average rate of abuse throughout the United States was 134 for every 100,000 young people. The sexual abuse of the young is a widespread and horrific societal problem; it is by no means uniquely, or principally, a Catholic problem, or a specifically priestly problem.

Four: The bishops’ response to the burgeoning abuse crisis between the late 1960s and the early 1980s was not singularly woodenheaded or callous. In fact, according to the John Jay study, the bishops were as clueless as the rest of society about the magnitude of the abuse problem and, again like the rest of society, tended to focus on the perpetrators of abuse rather than the victims. This, in turn, led to an overdependence on psychiatry and psychology in dealing with clerical perpetrators, in the false confidence that they could be “cured” and returned to active ministry — a pattern that again mirrored broader societal trends. In many pre-1985 cases, the principal request of victims’ families was that the priest-abuser be given help and counseling. Yes, the bishops should have been more alert than the rest of an increasingly coarsened society to the damage done to victims by sexual abuse; but as the John Jay report states, “like the general public, the leaders of the Church did not recognize the extent or harm of victimization.” And this, in turn, was “one factor that likely led to the continued perpetration of offenses.”

Five: As for today, the John Jay study affirms that the Catholic Church may well be the safest environment for young people in American society. It is certainly a safer environment than the public schools. Moreover, no other American institution has undertaken the extensive self-study that the Church has, in order to root out the problem of the sexual abuse of the young. It will be interesting to see when editorials in the New York Times and the Boston Globe demand in-depth studies of the sexual abuse of the young by members of the teachers’ unions, and zero-tolerance policies for teacher/abusers.

One would hope that the results of this study would help put to rest the gross exaggerations and mischaracterizations of the scale and scope of the clerical abuse story. One should not however hold one’s breathe waiting for that to happen.

Beer of the Week (Vol. C)

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

This being the 100th edition of Beer of the Week it seems fitting to do something special. The only problem is I’m not exactly sure what that something would be. The timing of reaching the century mark is august as it coincides with the close of Minnesota Craft Beer Week May 13th-21st:

We've worked together with a number of great bars, liquor stores, and restaurants around the state to organize a wide variety of craft beer events just for you. So how do you participate in these events? The first step is to get a MN Craft Beer Week Passport. In addition to being your admission to all of the specials and discounts, when you visit these locations and partake in the specials, you receive stamps. Stamps = Prizes. The more stamps you get during the week, the more chances you have at winning such things as an opportunity for you and your friends to enjoy private beer tastings or to brew a batch of your own beer with the brewers from Surly or Brau Brothers.

And though some events require an additional ticket purchase, such as a beer dinner or beer & cheese pairing, many will simply require your passport, and you, to get the discounts and specials.

So purchase your passport now and check out our Calendar of Events to figure out where you're going!

It also happens to come around just when the weather finally seems to be turning the corner here in Minnesota. Well, at least it was this week up until today. I managed to miss most of this week’s pleasant climes and got back in town just in time for the return of clouds and rain. Nevertheless, I believe it is at last safe to turn our attention to the savory beers of summer.

Although this week’s beer is not brewed in Minnesota, the brewery is one of the sponsors of Minnesota Craft Beer Week. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is based in Chico, California. It was one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement starting back in 1981 and now is one of the most widely known craft breweries in the country. Their 2011 Summerfest is our beer of the week:

Our Summerfest is a refreshing, pilsner-style lager. Its incredible smoothness comes from an extra-long lagering period. Lighter in body than our ales but just as complex in character, Summerfest quenches your thirst with big aroma and a tangy hop bite.

Stubby 12oz brown bottle. Standard Sierra Nevada label layout this time with a tan background and a scenic mountain lake framed by sunflowers. $7.99 a six-pack.

Style: Pilsner

Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%

COLOR (0-2): Light gold, mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty with a hint of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Good volume that fades fast but laces the glass quite well. 2

TASTE (0-5): Good grainy malt flavor that’s not overly sweet balanced nicely with floral hops. Finish is sharp and bitter. Very crisp, lighter bodied, and extremely drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Good, but as much follow through as I would like. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Usually pilsners are not among my favorite styles of beer. However, Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest is a well-executed offering and makes for a very solid summer beer. It’s refreshing , goes down easy, yet still manages to pack in enough flavor to satisfy your taste buds. Summerfest is a well-rounded beer and for the most part works from start to finish. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Passing The Smell Test

Daniel Henniger worries about Obama's Digital-Age Advantage:

The danger of a presidential campaign "heating up" in May 2011, 18 months before the election, is that any Republican candidate will be driven into the ground by the always-on-everywhere nature of modern politics. Indeed, one may wonder if David Plouffe, the architect of Barack Obama's ground-breaking 2007-08 Web-centered campaign, saw early on that no Republican could survive for 18 months under pressure from new media. With Mr. Obama's hyperpartisan "budget" speech at George Washington University, Mr. Plouffe forced a quick start on the presidential campaign. Ask Paul Ryan, who suddenly found himself sucked into the world of campaign-style politics, like the programmer in "Tron."

The Obama Web campaign of 2008 was an eon ago. Just as Moore's Law holds that transistorized computing power doubles every two years, there appears to be a Moore's law of politics, doubling the forces in play around presidential elections. Web sites, news aggregators, blogs, TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, email, videos, smartphones, apps, tablets—it's all vastly more and more powerful than it was three years ago.

The proponents of new media are correct that this opens the political process; more people get to input their opinions. But it's a voracious politics. Political users constantly log into Twitter accounts and mouse-click for anything "new" about the candidates. This is binge politicking.

Criticism is good. Arguably, Web criticism and truth-seeking helped end the Trump candidacy. It could do the same to the infinitely variable Gingrich and Romney campaigns.

But in politics, Web opinion is relentlessly negative; it's a process of subtraction. It diminishes the candidates. Familiarity here really does breed contempt.

This is a very real danger for all the prospective GOP candidates for 2012. The pressure on the potential candidates to declare their intentions and make an impact with primary voters so early on leaves them exposed to public scrutiny and criticism for many months before the real campaign even begins. As Henniger notes, there can be value in this in weeding out candidates who don't belong, but there is also a risk that the more that voters learn about candidates and the more they see of them in campaign mode, the less they will like them.

Here's how I see this possibly playing for some of those with their hats in the ring and some who may yet make a toss.

Romney: No impact one way or another. I gotta think that by now the vast majority of Republicans have made their mind up about Romney. More exposure isn't likely to hurt him, but I also don't see it helping much either. Unless I'm badly misreading the tea leaves, I see Romney as a dead man walking and it's only a matter of time before he keels over.

Ryan/Christie: These are probably the two candidates not currently in the race that GOP faithful most strongly pine for. They're also the two whose luster could potentially be lost in a lengthy primary campaign. Of the two, Christie probably has the furthest to fall since his popularity is more based on style than substance.

Daniels/Pawlenty: These are the two guys who actually could benefit from a prolonged period in the limelight. Neither has serious issues from their past that they must overcome--it's ridiculous to compare Pawlenty's support for a cap and trade proposal that never came to pass with Romney leading the way on the health care overhaul in Massachusetts. The biggest problem for both of them is that they're still largely unknown outside of their own states. One thing that I do know about Pawlenty is that despite claims that he lacks charisma and personality, there is a lot to like about him. It might not be the kind of thing that blows you away at first sight, but grows slowly over time.

As George Costanza explained in the Seinfeld episode The Chicken Roaster:

George: What's the difference? You know they way I work, I'm like a commercial jingle. First it's a little irritating, then you hear it a few times, you hum it in the shower, by the third date it's "By Mennen!".


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Roar Has Been Restored

Good news from the east metro beer front, courtesy of Lift Bridge Brewery:

Lift Bridge Brewing Co is the first brewery in Stillwater since Prohibition ended. For Minnesota Craft Beer Week we will be selling growlers for the first time. Stop by any evening this week (Tue-Fri) from 5-8 PM to pick up a Suds Barge.

Come get a growler for $5 and a fill of your favorite Lift Bridge Brew:

Farm Girl Saison®: $11/fill
Crosscut Pale Ale®: $11/fill
Chestnut Hill Brown Ale®: $11/fill
Hop Prop IPA®: $15/fill

All prices include tax. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way. We are located at 1900 Tower Drive, Stillwater, MN. See you at the brewery!

I stopped by and picked up my growler of Chestnut Hill (rated a robust 16 of 19 by Chad the Elder) this evening and the place was hopping. A steady stream of customers enjoying free tastings right on the brewery floor. And those "tastings," served up by one of the owners of Lift Bridge, consisted of a FULL pint. And you'd like to "taste" each of the four varieties? Not a problem! Plus free popcorn. With tastings like this, who needs a home bar? Heck, who needs a home?

Well, I guess they shut the place down at some point, so don't tear up that mortgage yet. Plus you need a place to store that growler.

Looking into the derivation of the name "growler" turns up this article from the New York Times:

In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, both The New York Times and The Brooklyn Eagle regularly published contentious stories about the containers, which then took the form of small galvanized pails. The articles cataloged the complaints of saloon keepers, who thought growlers cut into their profit, and those of temperance groups, who hoped to curb home drinking.

“Rushing the growler,” connoting children hustling pails of beer for adults from bar to table, was a common expression. The curious name is thought to be inspired by the rumbling noise escaping carbon dioxide made as the beer sloshed about in the pail.

The days of the pail are over, they're now packaged in a 64oz bottle that looks more like a bottle of moonshine from a Ma and Pa Kettle short. I don't expect it to make any noise when I crack it, but I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

HWX, volume 8

The latest edition of HWX is now available. It's our first three time zone effort, with John Hinderaker live (on tape to you) from Kennebunkport, ME; me at the home base in Minny; and our producer Scott running the show from sunny CA. All brought together through the miracle of Skype. This is NOT why Al Gore invented the Internet, but a nice unintended consequence.

The highlight is our interview with the great John Nolte of Big Hollywood. He's a part of the Andrew Breitbart empire and at the tip of the spear of conservative media activism. They're doing great and important things in confronting the liberal dominance of the entertainment world. As John said, they're on the offensive, which has not been the default position of conservatism, and starting to see results. We talk about his analysis of the media attacks on Sarah Palin and how this resembles the pattern used by the local media on Michele Bachmann. Also we discuss his approach to online activism, which he summarizes as:

1. See The Matrix.

2. Become activists, especially online.

3. Spread the word. Politely and publicly hold these outlets accountable via Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media.

4. Don’t allow the media to tell you how to vote.

5. Fight the power, fight the corruption.

Of course, John Nolte came to prominence as one of the best movie reviewers on the Internet and we discuss his thoughts on the up coming summer movie season.

Later, Loon of the Week (the dulcet tones of ACORN's Betha Lewis with her sensitive rendition of the torch song "Walmart Sucks") and a double shot of sci-fi geek themed This Week in Gatekeeping.

Many ways to hear the podcast, 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.

Long Green

There was a recent story in the Strib about a local couple and their effort to build a green home:

It started when Melissa and her husband, Jim Schifman, bought a 1950s rambler "as is" on a corner lot across from Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. They had planned to remodel the modest house using green methods and materials, but when they discovered that it would be costly to solve moisture issues in the basement, they decided to start from scratch.

True to their green desires, they hired Deconstruction Services, a nonprofit affiliated with the Green Institute, to remove and recycle the wood flooring, cabinets, appliances, even the toilets. "We struggled with tearing down a home, so we were glad it was recycled," said Melissa.

Then they set their sights on building a sustainable, energy-efficient, healthy home that would lower their energy consumption (and costs) and offer views of the lake.

"We have so many choices when building and remodeling," said Melissa. "Why not be thoughtful and choose products that are better for your health and environment?

But the Schifmans weren't just going to just dabble in green features. They wanted to go for the features that make the most difference: a geothermal heating and cooling system, photovoltaic solar panels and wood harvested from sustainably managed forests. They also wanted the ultimate stamp of environmental approval: LEED certification.

Up to this point, they hadn’t brought up a key element to the story. One that would really let us know how far their “green” commitment really went.

Salmela eventually designed a clean-lined, L-shaped home with a wall of windows facing the lake. The home is in two structures, which total 4,800 square feet: and are connected by a breezeway. The family living spaces are on the main floor and the three bedrooms are upstairs. Melissa requested a home office above the garage so she could be away from distractions. The finished basement has a playroom for the girls and guest bedroom that doubles as an exercise room.

"We were able to design a beautiful house that wasn't just about sustainability and energy efficiency," said Salmela. "It's enjoyable to live in, connects to the site and fits in the neighborhood."

And is plenty big enough for the four members of the family. Now, I have nothing against people building big houses. If you have the money and the land, build it as big as you want. I’m not always sure why some people feel the need to have seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, but hey if that’s what you want go for it.

Likewise, if you want to build a house that’s energy efficient and uses the most sustainable products available, more power to you. If you have the money and the time for it and believe it is important, then be as green as you can.

But when build a house that’s both big and green, I question your true commitment to the latter. Sure, it’s the most green 4800 square foot in town, but is any house that size really green? If you really believed that the environment is in such a precarious state that every effort should be made and no expense spared to build a green home, than wouldn’t you also think about cutting back a bit on the square footage? This seems like another case of concerned environmentalists using money to excuse excess. Like buying carbon credits to offset the jetting that their set is used to, ponying up to make your expansive house green is a way to keep living large without that pesky feeling of guilt for contributing to what you believe is environmental degradation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Running To Stand Still

The good news? Minnesota moved from 31st to 29th place in the Best/Worst States for Business rankings by Chief Executive Magazine.

The bad news? Wisconsin went from 41st to 24th. Which means that Minnesota is now completely surrounded by states with a better climate for business (South Dakota #15, North Dakota #21, and Iowa #22).

Texas held the top spot for best state for business followed by North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Meanwhile, the names at the bottom are hardly surprising:

But there has been some jockeying within the ranks. The Golden State was closely followed in the hall of shame by New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan, with Illinois elbowing its way past New Jersey this year for the dubious distinction of third worst. Meanwhile, among the best states, Indiana jumped to sixth place from 16th in 2010, giving Hoosiers the third-biggest advance in the rankings in a single year.

Wisconsin and Louisiana posted the two biggest gains since 2010, with the latter, along with Oklahoma, also showing the biggest gains over the last five years. By proactively reshaping its posture toward business taxation and regulation, Louisiana has been quietly stealing pages from the Texas playbook.

By contrast, Illinois has dropped 40 places in five years and is now in a death spiral. Its bond ranking is 49th, ahead of only California. The state may play host to fugitive state senators from nearby Wisconsin and Indiana who avoid voting in their home legislatures, but businesses are heading for the exits. Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Peoria-based Caterpillar, is raising the specter of moving the heavy equipment maker out of Illinois. In a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn, he wrote, “The direction that this state is headed in is not favorable to business, and I’d like to work with you to change that.”

It's fascinating to see the labrotories of democracy in action as states make choices that determine their future prospects for economic growth, prosperity, and in some cases even long-term fiscal viability. Minnesota seems content with the status quo which means we'll likely see states that embrace reforming their business enviroment move past us toward the top while we continue to humor ourselves by saying that at least we're not Illinois.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Separated At Birth: The Leftists Guide To Picking Up Chicks

Today New York Police arrested the head of the IMF for sexual assault and attempted rape:

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was taken off an Air France plane at Kennedy International Airport minutes before it was to depart for Paris on Saturday, in connection with the sexual attack of a maid at a Midtown Manhattan hotel, the authorities said.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, 62, who was widely expected to become the Socialist candidate for the French presidency, was apprehended by detectives of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first-class section of the jetliner, and immediately turned over to detectives from the Midtown South Precinct, officials said.

The New York Police Department arrested Mr. Strauss-Kahn at 2:15 a.m. Sunday “on charges of criminal sexual act, attempted rape, and an unlawful imprisonment in connection with a sexual assault on a 32-year-old chambermaid in the luxury suite of a Midtown Manhattan hotel yesterday” about 1 p.m., Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said.

Imagine that, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund is an immoral, unethical scumbag and an avowed socialist. Gambling at Casablanca? And now, we learn he's a rapist. Nothing to see here, keep the US taxpayer dollars coming.

What's interesting is his method of wooing. Here's the story on Strauss-Kahn:

As she was in the foyer, “he came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her,” Mr. Browne said, adding, “He grabs her, according to her account, and pulls her into the bedroom and onto the bed.” He locked the door to the suite, Mr. Browne said.

“She fights him off, and he then drags her down the hallway to the bathroom, where he sexually assaults her a second time,” Mr. Browne added.

At some point during the assault, the woman broke free, Mr. Browne said, and “she fled, reported it to other hotel personnel, who called 911.”

Compared to Al Gore's "alleged" sexual assault:

Gore said he was tired from travel and described in detail the massage he wanted. It included work on the adductor muscles, which are on the inside of the thighs. "I mentally noted that a request for adductor work is a bit unusual," the masseuse told police, because it can be "a precursor to inappropriate behavior by a male client."

Gore also requested work on his abdomen. When that began, "He became somewhat vocal with muffled moans, etc.," the masseuse recounted. Gore then "demand[ed] that I go lower." When she remained focused on a "safe, nonsexual" area, Gore grew "angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud."

The masseuse asked Gore what he wanted. "He grabbed my right hand, shoved it down under the sheet to his pubic hair area, my fingers brushing against his penis," she recalled, "and said to me, 'There!' in a very sharp, loud, angry-sounding tone." When she pulled back, Gore "angrily raged" and "bellowed" at her.

Then, abruptly, the former vice president changed tone. It was "as though he had very suddenly switched personalities," she recalled, "and began in a pleading tone, pleading for release of his second chakra there."

Of course, I'm sure both support abortion rights for their victims.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I'm Walkin' After Midnight

I stopped to see a weeping willow
Cryin' on his pillow
Maybe he's crying for me
And as the skies turn gloomy
Night winds whisper to me
I'm lonesome as I can be
I go out walkin'
After midnight
Out in the moonlight
Just hoping you may be
Somewhere walkin'
After midnight
Searching for me

Forever on the Fringe

With discussion of a proposed Vikings stadium in Arden Hills also including the possibility of Minnesota getting a MLS franchise, some have begun revisiting the question of whether soccer will ever become one of the major spectator sports in the United States. I heard a an energetic chap call a local sport talk this week and make the claim that soccer is at last on the verge of "breaking through" and staking its place in the American sports mainstream. We've heard this prediction of an imminent American soccer surge made at various times over the course of the last thirty years and it's never actually come to fruition. More evidence of why I believe it never will is provided in an article from yesterday's WSJ called Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders Wage Hipster Soccer Showdown:

Sounders fans can no longer claim to be the league's most rugged supporters, as 18,627 Portlanders turned out in a torrential, freezing rainstorm last month for the Timbers' opening home game against the Chicago Fire. In Portland, stadium vendors hawk barbecued-tofu sandwiches, spinach salads and chocolate-covered bacon, putting Seattle's relatively mundane offerings, like veggie dogs, gourmet donuts and cappuccinos, to shame. Sure, the Sounders boast a "democracy" that gives fans voting rights on decisions like the team name, but the Timbers management consults regularly with its supporters group, the Timbers Army, and trumpets the team's commitment to community service. (The team plants a tree, for example, for every goal scored.) "The Timbers are all about helping out their fellow man," said Kaegan Dews, a 22-year-old dishwasher, pausing briefly between songs at the home opener.

While Seattle's scarf-wielding supporters may look edgy compared to the baseball fans across the street at Safeco Field, Portland fans boast at least as many piercings, tattoos and mohawks. In the merchandise line at a Timbers game, Bryan Dean, a 40-year-old industrial designer with a tall blond mohawk was sporting a kilt. He said kilts are "considered quite masculine" in Scotland and Ireland and evoke Portland's identity: "underdogs and kinda blue collar, but also fringe, artistic."

"They're hippies," said Seattle fan Nic Greer, a 32-year-old garbage man with a lip ring who wears a chicken mask on his head to every game and a jersey that reads "Chicken Man" across the back.

Not exactly a Bears-Packers kinda rivalry that most Americans could relate to, is it?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. XCIX)

Ninety-nine beers of the week on this site, ninety-nine beers of the week…

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the capital folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who help find the perfect selection of wine, whiskey, and beer for any budget.

This week we feature another beer from Brooklyn Brewery, this time their Lager:

Brooklyn Lager, the Brewery's flagship label, is New York's "hometown" beer, brewed to a pre-Prohibition recipe that dates back to the days when Brooklyn was the brewing capital of the East Coast.

Man, it sounds like Brooklyn was once the center of the universe. I guess to some people it still is.

12oz brown bottle. Same design as other Brooklyn Brewing labels this time with green theme.

Style: Amber Lager

Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%

COLOR (0-2): Nice amber color, deeper and richer than you typically find with lagers. 2

AROMA (0-2): Bready malts with hints of nutmeg and cocoa. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color. Not much volume, but very thick. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Starts with sweet malts and ends with a ripple of bitter hops. More hop presence than most lagers. Dry finish and light to medium bodied. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Pleasant and lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Brooklyn’s Lager is a very solid beer that delivers well-balanced flavors along with the refreshing crispness that you expect from lagers. That combination makes it a good choice for a backyard barbecue beer. Definitely a recipe worth reprising. At $8.99 a six-pack, it’s priced as an above average craft beer, but it’s worth a whirl. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Lost Day

I'm sure it has nothing to do with Friday the 13th, but for some reason Blogger has misplaced (temporarily we hope) all the posts from yesterday. We expect the situation to be resolved post haste. In the meantime, we'll work on some original content for today.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

The $100,000 Power Line Prize was announced last week. One hundred grand will be awarded to “whoever can best and most creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis”.

Today, it was announced that Hugh Hewitt will be one of the judges. Great. I had already finished the outline for my puppet show comparing the federal debt crisis to the historic futility of the Cleveland Browns football team.

Back to the drawing board.

The Elder Concurs: The decision to have Hugh judge this important contest is lewd, lascivious, salacious, and outrageous. One of the most important qualities of a judge is their impartiality and clearly we can expect no such objectivity when it comes to Mr. Hewitt. Despite this obvious handicap, we will continue to run ideas up the flagpole here at Fraters Libertas World HQ in our on-going efforts to secure the prestigious Power Line prize. We obviously don’t want to reveal any trade secrets that could aid our competition, but to give you a flavor of the discussions underway here is a transcript of a recent conversation:

Saint Paul: I just want to say two words to you - just two words.

Atomizer: Yes sir.

Saint Paul: Are you listening?

Atomizer: Yes I am.

Saint Paul: 'Seed art.'

Actions Louder Than Words

Mitt Romney will deliver a speech later today that will seek to lay out his 2012 plans for health care reform. But Republican voters will be listening far more closely for Romney to explain what he did in the past regarding health care than what he plans to do in the future. RomneyCare is an albatross that hangs around his neck and up to this point he has done little to seek to remove it. Unless he openly admits today that it was a mistake that hasn’t delivered as promised and that he’s learned from the errors of his ways, Republicans will not allow him to lead the fight against Obamacare as the party’s 2012 presidential candidate. Personally, I’m highly skeptical that Romney will issue the mea culpa necessary to rehabilitate his past.

To understand just how damaging Romneycare is to his 2012 prospects, consider this devastating WSJ editorial called Obama’s Running Mate:

The Romney camp blames all this on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.

Mr. Romney's refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn't about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts.

Mr. Romney's fundamental error was assuming that such differences could be parsed by his own group of experts, as if government can be run by management consultants. He still seems to believe he somehow squared the views of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT evangelist for ObamaCare, with those of the Heritage Foundation.

In reality, his ostensible liberal allies like the late Ted Kennedy saw an opening to advance their own priorities, and in Mr. Romney they took advantage of a politician who still doesn't seem to understand how government works. It's no accident that RomneyCare's most vociferous defenders now are in the White House and left-wing media and think tanks. They know what happened, even if he doesn't.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Island Adrift

Noted author and historian Andrew Roberts hangs his head in shame as he notes how the British reaction to the killing of Bin Laden is only the latest example of how a people once known for their courage and character have lost their will and their way. His piece in today’s WSJ is called Britain Goes Wobbly on Terror:

For the past five years, I've been writing a history of the Second World War, and if there is one central lesson I have taken from this study, it is that the intestinal fortitude of a people matters much more than weaponry, economics or even grand strategy. British fortitude was tested almost to breaking point in 1940 and 1941, and Russian fortitude in 1941-43, but they held, whereas Germany's and Japan's collapsed in 1945. Morale is almost impossible to quantify, whereas demoralization is all too evident.

From Britain's pathetic and ignoble reaction to the death of our greatest ally's No.1 foe, I fear for our fortitude in the continuing war against terror. The British government in London and the British Army in Afghanistan are magnificent, but if the people themselves are shot through with what Winston Churchill called "the long, drawling, dismal tides of drift and surrender," I wonder whether we can be counted upon for much longer.

As a commentator on the Royal Wedding for NBC, I was filled with pride in my country for the precision-timing and perfect step of the Household Division, the fine behavior of the crowds, and the charm and personability of the young couple. Today all I feel is shame at my country's pathetic reaction to your own great day of joy.

The moorings of national pride, Christianity, and tradition that once made Britain an island fortress have been slowly but surely cut loose over the years and the country is now drifting in the same seas of supranationalism, secularism, and relativism that other Western European countries slipped into after the Second World War. There may indeed always be an England, but won’t be the same England that has long been a bulwark of Western Civilization.

Beginning To See The Light

It's not everyday that you hear a Democrat calling for America to open up its oil and gas reserves to help ease the current energy crunch. Kudos to Harold Ford Jr. for doing just that in a piece in today's WSJ called Washington vs. Energy Security:

So our focus right now has to be to find ways to encourage domestic energy supplies, even while we encourage new sources of energy. President Obama is right that this isn't a long-term solution. But we can't lose sight of what the country needs today.

Here are a few steps to take:

First, let's conduct a comprehensive review of existing policies, rules and restrictions and root out any that needlessly hamper energy production at home. Do the existing environmental rules, for example, accurately reflect the industry's technological advancements in the ability to safely recover oil and gas supplies?

Second, let's develop the skills we need to find new and better ways to recover domestic supplies of energy—and to develop next-generation fuels to secure the future. That means encouraging more students to study math, science and other disciplines this industry needs.

And third, let's stop demonizing Big Oil to score political points. It does nothing to encourage the new talent, new ideas, and new entrepreneurs who are most likely to make breakthroughs in new sources of energy.

The kickoff of the presidential campaign season and the spike in fuel prices offer an opportunity to constructively debate a comprehensive national energy strategy. Effective policies will ensure sufficient domestic production and the healthy operation of U.S. companies abroad, which together will provide the secure, affordable energy supply that Americans need.

Okay, so the second step is some of the same feel good pablum about education that Democrats love to spout, but still for the most part Ford's suggestions are right on. Let's hope that more Democrats follow Ford's lead and start getting serious about addressing America's energy needs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Truth-handler, You

At the First Thoughts blog, Joe Carter links to an article about Scholars Who Are Afraid to Say What’s True:

Social scientists are concealing the harm that divorce, single parenting and stepfamilies do to children. Not only that, they are also hiding the benefits which even unhappy marriages bestow, not just on children, but on the couples involved.
So claim the heads of several organizations devoted to defending traditional marriages.

“It’s a very sad occurrence when people, for reasons of political embarrassment, won’t say what they believe,” said David Blankenhorn, head of the Institute for American Values. Blankenhorn worries that government agencies and other institutions will frame policies based on misreported scientific findings that disfavor the traditional family.

It’s an interesting piece and shows that despite claims to being “reality based” and believing in the primacy of scientific study, many liberals will only acknowledge and accept the results of those studies that happen to back their particular political views (not there aren’t conservatives who do the same). Some of the comments to Joe’s post were also illustrative of how difficult it is for people to get past their biases (both political and often in these cases personal) when discussing the impacts of marriage, divorce, and parenting. This was the best example:

Divorce is only extremely bad for children when the parents do not focus on the needs of their children.

Living in a family where there is constant conflict between the mother and father can be extremely bad for the children.

I hate blanket statements.

After enjoying the irony of the how the commenter made two blanket statements before telling us how he hates them, you can see a couple of dynamics at play here. One if the aforementioned reluctance to accept data that contradict your political believes or even more common the reluctance to accept data that contradicts your personal experiences. Such stubbornness in the face of facts is understandable. If a study came out that said there was a strong correlation between drinking craft beer and intellectual decline, I’d be in full denial mode too (assuming I could even comprehend the study’s findings). We all usually tend to be sympathetic to studies that reinforce our existing experiences and reject those that might cast a negative light on them.

The other dynamic is the inability to get past anecdotal experiences when considering the broader findings being presented. Consider the following:

Smoking causes cancer

This is one of those notorious “blanket statements” which the commenter at Joe’s post claims to hate. He’s hardly alone as you often hear people talk about how they don’t like “generalizations” either. Yet that’s exactly what the findings from most studies are. While I doubt that hardly anyone would today dispute that smoking does indeed cause cancer, I could name ten people off the top of my head who smoked (or still smoke) and never were stricken by it. Do my anecdotal examples refute the broader conclusion that smoking causes cancer? Of course not.

But when it comes to studies of marriage, divorce, and raising children people often try to argue against the conclusions drawn by citing anecdotal counter-examples. I know a single mother and her kids turned out great. I know a gay couple who adopted a child and he’s perfectly happy and normal. I know a couple who got divorced and it didn’t affect their kids at all. These anecdotes are even more powerful when they involve not just someone you know, but you personally.

When you combine these two dynamic together you end up with a significant portion of the population that refuses to accept that in general it’s better for everyone—children, parents, and society—to have families comprised of a married mother and father who remain together. It’s amazing to consider that today people refuse to accept studies that reinforce this simple truth when only a few generations ago no one would even question its obvious validity.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Fish in a Barrel

I haven’t been blogging for quite a while so I decided to ease myself back into it with an easy one – commentary on the latest blog post by noted linguist Noam Chomsky:

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law.

Chomsky speaks of “norms of international law”, but there is no international constitution that has been duly ratified by the people. Chomsky’s “international law” is nothing more than the laws Chomsky would apply if he were dictator of the world.

There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is a difference between boasting about murdering thousands of human beings and lying about winning the Boston Marathon. Bin Laden confessed to an act of war and the murder of civilians. Chomsky “confessed” to something trivial that is not illegal (although all marathons will be a violation of international law when I rule the world). Also note that Chomsky’s “argument” could be used to invalidate any and all confessions – the confessor didn’t commit the crime, he just considered the crime a great achievement that he wishes he had committed.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination.

Washington is angry that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden because he is a mass-murderer. Pakistan is angry that we invaded Pakistani territory to kill a mass-murderer. Moral advantage: Washington.

Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it.

Only if Pakistanis are so evil that their anti-American fervor is exacerbated by the death of a man who gleefully took credit for the killing of thousands of innocent civilians.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

I would answer myself that I would be strongly against it, because I am on the side of America and not al Qaeda-Iraq. If Taliban commandos landed at President Obama’s compound and assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic, I would be strongly against that, because I am on the side of America. If anti-linguistics terrorists landed at Noam Chomsky’s Martha’s Vineyard compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic, I would be strongly against it because Noam Chomsky is not a mass-murderer – he is merely the mass-murderers’ not-so-useful idiot.

Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s …

I don’t think the noted linguist understands the meaning of the word “uncontroversially”. No, it does not mean “whatever dumb ass notion Noam Chomsky believes”.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Orlando Bosch was an anti-Castro terrorist who received a pardon from President George H. W. Bush. Chomsky seems to be arguing that because of this pardon and refusal to extradite, Cuba would be justified in attacking the United States. In Noam Chomsky’s world, moral equivalence only goes one way. The only morally righteous circle is the one occupied by murderous dictators like Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders.

I agree that Osama bin Laden is unworthy of the codename “Geronimo”. My suggestion would have been “Chomsky”. I’m sure he would have been honored.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. XCVIII)

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

Our featured beer this week is the sixth release in Summit Brewing’s Unchained Series Gold Sovereign Ale:

Brewer Damian McConn gives the Pale Ales of the Victorian era a modern twist by making our first beer with 100% organic malts. This unfiltered ale offers up pear, apricot and spicy orange aroma, pronounced hop bitterness and bready malt flavor.

The Summit Unchained Series gives our brewers free rein to create any beer style they want. To reinvent obscure traditional brews. To choose the finest, rarest and (gulp) spendiest ingredients. The result? Small batches. Huge flavor.

Up to this point, I’ve enjoyed each and every one of the beers in Summit’s Unchained Series. Will the chain remain unbroken?

Brown 12oz bottle. Same industrial style design as the other labels in the Unchained Series.

Style: English Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: ???

COLOR (0-2): Golden and somewhat clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Bready malt with a little honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Thin with not much volume. Good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Sweet malts with herbal hops. Medium-bodied with a watery mouthfeel. The ABV is not listed, but you can feel some heat here. Dry finish. Quite drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Unusual and not especially pleasant. 1

OVERALL (0-6): This is definitely another interesting offering in the Unchained Series. It’s a beer that you probably need to go back to a few times before you can really come to a judgment on it. There are a couple of characteristics that are somewhat off-putting—such as the aftertaste—but overall it’s pretty good. While it may not rank as high as some of the other beers in the Unchained Series, it has a unique flavor and is quite refreshing. As the weather warms in these parts (finally) Gold Sovereign Ale makes for a good choice on a sunny spring day. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Eyes on the Prize


The Power Line Prize of $100,000 will be awarded to whoever can most effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis. Prizes will also be awarded to the runner-up and two third-place finishers. Anyone can enter the contest—individuals, companies (e.g., advertising agencies) or any other entity, as long as the contest rules are followed. Any creative product is eligible: videos, songs, paintings, screenplays, Power Point presentations, essays, performance art, or anything else, as long as the product is unique to the contest and has not previously been published or otherwise entered the public domain. Entries may address the federal debt crisis in its entirety, or a specific aspect of the debt crisis, such as: the impact of the debt crisis on the young; the role played by the "stimulus" (Where did the money go? Why didn't it stimulate?); how entitlements drive the debt crisis; the current federal deficit; how the debt crisis impacts the economy; or any other aspect of the debt crisis. The contest is non-partisan. Its purpose is to inform the public about the federal debt crisis. Entries are due no later than midnight on July 3.

Ferb, I know what we're going to do today.

HWX, Episode 7

The latest edition of HWX podcast is up and ready for your listening pleasure. With the croaking of Osama Bin Laden, it's a war on terrorism heavy, yet still jovial and light-hearted, hour of discussion.

The highlight is an interview with Richard Miniter, author of Mastermind: The Many Faces of 9/11 Architect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. It's a fascinating book (sample chapter available here). Miniter is an investigative journalist and among the foremost experts in the world on al-Queda and US counter terrorism efforts. I believe I learned more about these topics in this 30 minute interview than I have from all other sources in the 10 years since the WTC attack.

Later, OBL related Loon of the Week (Geraldo Rivera) and a multi-media This Week in Gatekeeping extravaganza, featuring the many faces of those in the media confusing the names "Osama" and "Obama".

Many ways to hear the podcast, 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!