Sunday, July 31, 2011

What About the Children?

The winner of the$100,000 Power Line Prize will be announced on Monday morning. I think the submissions and runners-up released so far have been terrific in fulfilling the stated mission of the prize: effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis.

My favorites include this painting (done via the iPad) called The Prince of America by Jeremy Rosenstein Kortes:

The artist helped with the interpretation of this piece in the Power Line comments section. A heartbreaking interpretation it is. It plays off of the Moses in the Bullrushes story from the Bible. But this time it's a "Snookified" America, living in vanity and the gratuitous excess of the moment, intentionally abandoning its children. How's that for dramatizing the current status quo of an annual of trillions dumped on future generations to pay?

All of the songs and videos submitted for the prize are posted at the Power Line Prize YouTube channel. This one, called Heavy, is very well done, again dramatizing the burden of the debt and who it's being dumped on:

So far, my favorite is a song called "Don't You See", by Jason Nyberg, and performed by his 9-year-old daughter.

I wasn't sure you could craft a pop song with a danceable beat about the national debt, but here it is. With a hook that would do Fountains of Wayne proud. The lyrics remind the listener that freedom was America's birthright, and default assumption for most of our history, and they're made all the more poignant being voiced by a child.

Actually, it really reminds a lot of another poppy social message song, Dear God by XTC.

Radically different message here, evangelical atheism. Though the questions asked in the lyrics are the same as any believer asks during a dark night of the soul, which gives the song a universal quality. The two songs are similar in the questioning of faith, in the case of "Don't You See", the faith in big government. Let's hope pop music mastery can do more to lead us away from our faith in that all powerful entity than it did for XTC and atheism (which didn't exactly fire after this song was released in 1986).

The theme throughout all of the most effective Power Line Prize submissions, which I didn't foresee, is the affect of the National debt on the children. Our supposed inability to survive without borrowing TRILLIONS every year, borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, is going to sentence future generations, who get stuck with the bill, to a far cruder and bleaker existence.

Protection of one's children is supposed to be a fundamental human motivation. In America, one's efforts were always directed toward making sure one's children have a better life than you did. The primary moral pose of modern liberalism is the protection of the children. If any of this is true, why don't the adults of today care enough about the debt to do something about it?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Better Than Radio

Radio, someone still loves you. Me. But I've found myself listening to Internet outlets more and more of late, during the times I normally would be listening to radio. The ability to listen to exactly what you want, when you want it, with (virtually) no commercials, and with no fee beyond normal ISP charges is a killer combination. I'm sure radio will survive in some form, but this type of competition is going to be hard to beat in the long run.

Some recent finds .....

* The Late Debate with Jack and Ben - This actually is radio. But broadcasting from a signal that appears to be weaker than AM1280 the Patriot, if that's possible. According to sources, it's available on 95.9 FM in the Twin Cities and a couple of AM frequencies out of St. Cloud. Of course, I can get none of these in my leafy Stillwater redoubt. (True story, on the AM dial after dark I can only get WCCO and the Stillwater oldies powerhouse KLBB.) Thanks to a local Twitter army that provides play-by-play of each show nightly, I found their Internet outlets, and I've been thoroughly impressed. I'm not familiar with the backgrounds of the two hosts (Jack and Ben), they seem to be political functionaries or activists on some level. Major radio chops on both of them, though. Funny, well-informed on the issues, and terrific chemistry between the two of them. Good production values on the broadcast, great bumpers, witty drops, professional intro's and outro's, terrific guests (including many names we recognize from the MOB). The focus of the show is Minnesota state government and politics and I've not heard any show, in any medium, that covers these issues better.

Podcast are available here. In particular, I recommend this interview with our old pal David Strom from a few weeks back. Also, live streaming during their broadcast here, which runs Sunday through Thursday from 10PM to midnight.

* The Dennis Miller Show - Another actual radio show. But one you can't hear live over the airwaves in the Twin Cities. Conservative insomniacs can get the replay between 11PM - 2AM on AM1280, at least those within range of their signal. The rest of us will have to rely on the Internet and the Dennis Miller show does stream live weekdays from 9AM-12 noon at the Dennis Miller Show website.

Unfortunately, podcasts are locked up behind a paywall. But the livestream is worth checking out if you have access to a computer in the morning, weekday hours. Dennis Miller provides the best mixture of humor, politics, and culture on the radio today. He's a riot on a daily basis and always good natured, even covering the depressing developments in the news recently. Those who still have a sour taste in their mind from his Monday Night Football days should give him another try. Radio is a natural fit for his quick wit and improvisational abilities. Terrific guest list too. He gets all the political and pundit stars the other shows get, but he regularly dips into his Hollywood Rolodex for the likes of Tom Hanks, Albert Brooks, Dana Carvey, etc. Great radio.

A bonus for listening to the webcast instead of the radio version is virtually no commercials. There are a handful of short promos and Internet only ads. But for most of the time the radio audience is forced to listen to testimonials for buying gold, survival seed banks, and male enhancement aids, the web audience is listening to music. They use an outstanding mix of popular classical and jazz and it's a pleasure sit through the periods between show segments, something you can rarely say listening to the radio.

* Real Talk with Jason Whitlock - strictly a podcast here, featuring Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock. He's a veteran sportswriter who's always been fearless in expressing unconventional opinions on controversial topics. He's fun to read and now fun to listen to. I understand he used to do local radio in Kansas City for many years and it shows in skillful interviews with the interesting and unique guests he books. There are dozens of podcasts out there right now featuring comedians interviewing comedians. Whitlock's show is kind of a variation of that, a sportswriter interviewing sportswriters. Some of his best include interviews with the likes of Jay Marriotti, Buzz Bissinger, Dan Lebetard, and Deadspin's AJ Dauleurio. Others of note were interviews with Grant Hill, former Vikings QB Jeff George, and Christopher Reid (of Kid n' Play fame).

* The Sports Poscast with Joe Posnanski - another podcast from a Kansas City expatriate, former KC Star baseball columnist Joe Posnanski. Great writer, great storyteller, and he puts on an entertaining podcast. Production values lag at times, I think he's a one man operation on these, despite his affiliation with Sports Illustrated. But the quality of the content overcomes the technical issues. Great guests, including shows with Bob Costas, Jim Nance, former T-Wolves announcer Kevin Harlan, and stats guru Bill James (a former NARN guests years ago). Lots of hardcore baseball talk, mixed in with other amusements. A recurring guest is Michael Schur, former writer on The Office (and portrayer of Dwight's brother Mose) and originator of the dearly departed Fire Joe Morgan blog.

When the greatest political writer in the English speaking world isn't hosting the Rush Limbaugh program or doing segments on Hugh Hewitt or podcasts on Ricochet, he occasionally finds time to churn out a few podcasts of his own. As usual, they have nothing to do with politics, yet are still as entertaining as a typical Mark Steyn column. This time he does a tribute to composer John Barry, with a particular focus on the music used for the James Bond franchise. Included are interviews with lyricists involved with these songs and lots of clips and analysis by Steyn himself, in two parts, here and here.

* Finally, a round up of some recent finds on the CSPAN video library, the greatest source of Internet based entertainment for the politically minded.

Q&A with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) - terrific interview with the calm, rational, and unassailable voice of the Tea Party movement in the US Senate.

James Rogan - current California Superior Court judge and former US Representative, where he was a House manager for the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. His new book is Catching Our Flag, about the experience of the Clinton impeachment. That topic is mildly interesting, but the real attraction here is Rogan and his uproarious sometimes bawdy stories of his "political awakening" and his experience as a young Congressman in Washington. He's a real character and you have to wonder what his stories must be like when he's not being filmed for national TV.

David McCullough - the great historian has a new book out called The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Spellbinding stuff, listening to McCullough talk about the post revolutionary generation of Americans going to the center of the civilized world to learn and bring back the knowledge that fueled the rise of America. Two parts, here and here.

CNBC Reporter Melissa Lee - just because. Warning, believe it or not, a NSFW segment about two-thirds through. A first I think for a Brian Lamb interview.

HWX, Debt Edition

The latest edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast is now up on Ricochet. Taped on Friday afternoon, in the heat of the Boehner 3 drama, the show is focused on the issue of debt. We discuss our observations on the Congressional antics of the week past, including an audio appearance by comedian and US Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.

Also, a discussion of some of the excellent submissions for the Power Line Prize, including a couple of our favorite songs. Later, Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping.

Looking ahead to next week, we're hoping to explore the world of live streaming. Technical details still being worked out, but if all goes according to plan, we'll be able to do calls and a chat room as well. That means of course, we're hoping Victor from the old NARN days is sufficiently hooked up to the information superhighway and will be giving us an update on the propriety of fistfights in the halls of Congress.

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can also be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner. Or get the stream for your mobile device on Sticher. Or just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of the Fraters Libertas main page. If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript.

Looking ahead to next week, we're hoping to explore the world of live streaming. Technical details still being worked out, but if all goes according to plan, we'll be able to do calls and a chat room as well. That means of course, we're hoping Victor from the old NARN days is sufficiently hooked up to the information superhighway and will be giving us an update on the propriety of fistfights in the halls of Congress.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CVIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the cracker jack crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the good stuff to help lead you to the big leagues of wine, whiskey, and beer. And remember that when it comes to beer, Mark is the new ace of the Glen Lake staff.

Our beer of the week is a last minute pinch hitter from Brooklyn Brewery. It’s their Brooklyn Pennant Ale ‘55 . I guess you do have to go back a ways to find the last time anything good happened in Brooklyn.

12oz brown bottle. Label has silver and blue striped background with the signature B from the Brooklyn Brewing logo adorned on a baseball. Very slick.

STYLE: English Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%

COLOR (0-2): Light reddish brown. Mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty and somewhat sweet. 2

HEAD (0-2): White color with decent volume and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Toasted malt flavor with caramel and nuts. Light grass hops without much bitterness. Medium-bodied with light carbonation and a thin mouthfeel. Pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Disappointing, not much there. 1

OVERALL (0-6): An average beer that’s mildly tasty, but not terribly exciting. You can definitely fin better versions of the style out there. But if you’re feeling a little nostalgic for the boys of the summer and the days when Brooklyn was still a major league baseball town, the great looking label itself may be enough of a reason to pick up a six-pack of Pennant Ale ’55. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Obama Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Debt Bomb

I think most people at this point know that Barack Obama was steadfastly against an increase in the nation’s debt limit before he was steadfastly for it. Those who aren't aware need to listen to more conservative talk radio, because I've heard on nearly every show, with good reason. It's an important episode in understanding the character of our President and our nation's political class. And amid the political spin, the details of what he said then and how he rationalizes it now have been glossed over, but they bear remembering.

Let's start with his reversal of opinion from earlier this year. In April, with the debt limit issue for 2011 just emerging, Obama sat down with Bill Clinton's media director ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos to clear the air:

George Stephanopoulos: You’ve got to extend the debt limit by May. And it seems like you made up the job-- your job is a lot tougher because of your vote in the Senate against extending the debt limit … When did you realize that vote was a mistake?

President Obama: I think that it’s important to understand the vantage point of a Senator versus the vantage point of a…President. When you’re a Senator, traditionally what’s happened is this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars… As President, you start realizing, "You know what? We-- we can’t play around with this stuff. This is the full faith in credit of the United States." And so that was just a example of a new Senator, you know, making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I’m the first one to acknowledge it.

Stephanopoulos did his best with that soft toss question and lack of any follow-up. But Obama still stumbles into the inconvenient truth. His vote as a "new" Senator (a whopping five years ago, a veritable eon from the mature, wise President of today), was essentially horse manure.

He was just playing politics. He didn't feel the need to use his vote to express his true beliefs or do what was best for the country or constituents. Instead he could play games with it. And all because he was not in the Presidency, where you have to take things seriously. He was in that rinky dink, petty, unimportant institution, the United States Senate. I guess the "new" Senator missed orientation on the day they mentioned this institution is supposed to be "the world's greatest deliberative body". Somehow Obama got it into his head that it was the world's lamest diminutive body. They sound really similar, you can see where a naive, young, new Senator might make that mistake.

Maybe the citizens of Illinois are different than me, but I consider the office of US Senator to be an important one. And when I vote for a candidate running for US Senate, I assume they will take their votes seriously. They're not going to ignore "what is important for the country" as Obama says, in favor of some other goal. Maybe I'm the naive one here.

It would be helpful if Obama would go back to his voting record in the US Senate and let us know exactly which votes he really meant and which he was doing only for political purposes. Maybe George Stephonopoulos will ask him about this, next time.

What's interesting about Stephanopoulos's original question, and Obama's answer, is that the focus is merely on Obama's vote. What they studiously ignore is what Obama said about this issue before he voted. His rhetoric was rather flowery and strident, believe it or not, and needs to be repeated.

The following is from the Congressional Record, on March 16, 2006 (page S2237). Senator Barack Obama of Illinois takes to the well of the US Senate to speak to the nation. That would be self-described "new" Senator Barack Obama, a mere two years from being elected. (Yet only 11 months from announcing he was running for President -- how quickly experience and wisdom accrue!). Here are excerpts of what he said about raising the debt ceiling. And remember, according to Barack Obama himself, this is all horse manure. He didn't really mean any of it:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Now that Obama says he didn't mean this, does George W. Bush get an apology?

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.
Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter ...

You've got to love the fact that Obama has allegedly gained oceans of wisdom in five years, but he's retained the ability to insultingly talk down to his audience.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans—a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies. But we are not doing that.

What he was saying in 2006 was true. And most voters would agree with it. Truth and agreement with voters' beliefs, an effective campaign strategy. You can see why Barack Obama was able to convince a majority of Americans to vote for him in 2008. And you can see why Barack Obama would use his vote and rhetoric for political purposes, rather than doing what he really believed was best for the country.

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grand children. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

The debt problem has increased by trillions since he said these words. That is trillions with a "T". But now we're supposed to take his word that this represents successful leadership and not passing the burden to future generations, and America does not deserve any better than this.

To be fair, new Senator Obama was not alone in playing games with his debt ceiling vote in 2006. According to the roll call, every single Democrat Senator voted against it, including those flinty guardians of the public treasury Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy. Others joining this temporary small government appreciation society were Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Hillary Clinton, and Mark Dayton.

On the other side, nearly every Republican in the Senate voted to increase the debt ceiling in 2006, including strident budget hawks of 2011 like Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, and Rick Santorum.

Of note are the three Republican Senators in 2006 who voted against party interest and against the debt ceiling increase, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Conrad Burns. And for their good deeds, two of these three were run out of the Senate (Ensign for sexual impropriety and Burns losing election in November 2006). So from the class of 2006, only one man of honor remains in the Senate, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Back to Obama, one of the dishonorable dozens, he now holds the most powerful office in the country. In 2012, the country gets a chance to pass judgement on his record. His broken pledge on the debt ceiling, and his lack of integrity on this issue, should be major considerations in this judgement. In my mind, this is a far worse broken promise than George Bush's ruinous "no new taxes" pledge. (Bush never lost his integrity over this, he just proved to be weak.) Here's hoping Obama's GOP opponent doesn't let the nation forget it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?

As mentioned earlier, I spent a couple of days last week on a business trip to San Jose, Costa Rica. My stay in Costa Rica was a short (very) one and I had little chance to experience much of the country or the city of San Jose other that what was in the immediate vicinity of the hotel or office: no zip lines through the jungle, volcano climbing, or lounging on the beach.

The little time I did spend there was pleasant. The weather was mild (cooler than Minnesota at the same time), the people I encountered were friendly, and in general things seemed to work. The infrastructure in San Jose is good. Getting in and out of the country through the airport was relatively painless. In some ways, San Jose reminded me of cities in Mexico except it was cleaner and more organized (sorry Mexico, but you got some straightening up to do).

Americans visiting San Jose need not worry about being cut off from the consumer comforts of home. You can find many of the same chain restaurants, fast food joints, and stores that you do in the United States. I'm not going to bemoan this as a tragedy of globalization or hail it as a triumph of capitalism. It's just the way it is.

One thing that I've discovered over the years--usually when browsing in toy stores--is that it's easier than ever to find big name products anywhere in the world. You can buy the same Toy Story 3 figures or Playmobil toys that you can at home in China, the Philippines, Amsterdam, Taiwan, Mexico, or Dubai. But it's harder than ever to find products (especially toys) that are unique to that country. Both of these observations hold true for Costa Rica. The one exception to this trend that I've noticed is in some of the smaller towns in Western Europe that have been able to preserve more of a local flavor. Again, I'm not making a judgment about whether this is good or bad, it's just reality.

Outside of business, there were also faces familiar to Americans in San Jose.

This next one is a little hard to see. It was a mural on the side of building and the lighting and shadows did not make for a good quality photo.

The guy on the left is Lincoln once again. Third from the left is Mother Teresa. And I'm not sure who the chap on the right. Closer inspection helps identify the second fellow from the left.

Those teeth can only belong to one person: Jimmy Carter. I know that Costa Rica regards itself as a center for human rights and I imagine this mural has something to do with that. Still, it was a little startling to see his mug included with the others.

There are also educational opportunities for the children of Americans who might want to relocate to Costa Rica.

When I think of American schools, the first thing that comes to mind might not be "growth with honor."

Costa Rica is noted for its commitment to the environment so it wasn't surprising to see a sign at the hotel reminding me to reuse my towel so as to conserve nature. What was surprising was to see the creature pictured in this particular appeal. So if I don't reuse my towel, the famous Costa Rican snow owl will suffer? Is it really that hard to ask that you employ local critters as you try to guilt trip me into saving your business money?

The environment is also an important part of the Costa Rican economy as evidenced by all the earnest, pony-tailed youngsters at the airport toting backpacks and sporting shorts to better display their well-tanned legs. I would guess that most of these high-school and college age youths are travelling on their parents' dime as they jet thousands of miles to show their commitment to preserving the environment. I have to admire the initiative that Costa Rica has shown in promoting this trade and sucking every possible penny out of the pockets of these kids who care. Mommas don't let your children grow up to be eco-tourists.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tap That

Last Saturday, we celebrated our eldest son’s sixth birthday party by spending some time at Minnehaha Falls, one of his favorite local attractions. On Friday night, we had a more formal birthday bash with out-of-town relatives and the grandparents. Saturday was more of an immediate family affair and as such was very informal and laid back.

After the visit to the Falls, we crossed the river into St. Paul and grabbed dinner at the Groveland Tap. Long-time readers of Fraters may recall that the joint was once part of the stomping grounds of our own Saint Paul before he fled the city who provided his moniker for the charms of small-town life in Stillwater. It was my first visit to the neighborhood bar and I was impressed by what I found.

The first thing that anyone with kids needs to know is whether a given establishment is “family friendly.” Our definition of such an environment is a place with enough space and background noise so that our childrens don’t disturb the peace of other patrons. And having French fries on the menu is also a big plus. The Groveland Tap came through in both areas. While the space is not huge, it’s large enough to provide the requisite room and also has booths which afford even more of a buffer. There was more than enough chatter when we were there to drown out whatever bedlam was created at our particular table.

And the French fries were good. Our eldest has become something of a connoisseur as French fries make up one of key building blocks of his personal food pyramid and have gave the Tap’s offering a solid thumbs up. The Juicy Lucy burgers that my wife and I consumed were also well received. She went with the traditional version while I had a Cajun Lucy with pepper jack cheese and jalapeƱo inside the burger. It was a tasty combo with just the right amount of heat.

While the food is plenty good, what really sets the Groveland Tap apart is their selection of beers on tap. The variety of beers are listed on chalkboards in various places in the tavern and helpfully sorted by style. Their website has a list that was updated on July 11th. I added a few more based on what we found our recent visit:

Abita Purple Haze
Alaskan Summer Ale
Avery Maharaja
Bell’s Oberon
Brau Brothers Sheep Head Ale
Brooklyn Pennant Ale
Delerium Tremens
Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale
Finnegan’s Irish Amber
Flat Earth Belgian Pale Ale
Flat Earth Angry Planet Pale Ale
Flying Dog Raging Bitch
Fulton Sweet Child O Vine (cask ale)
Grain Belt Nordeast
Guinness Stout
Harriet Wodan Weizen
Harriet Westside Belgian IPA
Lagunitas Pilsner
Leinnie Big Eddy
Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison
Magic Hat #9
Michelob Golden Draft Light
New Belgium Summersault
New Belgium Fat Tire
New Holland Mad Hatter
Odell Cut Throat Porter
Sam Adams Summer Ale
Schell's Heffe Weizen
Shock Top
Stella Artois
Stone IPA
Summit EPA
Summit Hefeweizen
Summit IPA
Summit Horizon Red Ale
Summit Pilsner
Summit Great Northern Porter
Summit Oatmeal Stout
Surly Bitter Brewer
Surly Furious
Surly Hell
Tall Grass Oasis

Thirsty yet? My wife had a Stone IPA and Flat Earth Angry Planet Pale Ale. I had a Surly Bitter Brewer and a cask conditioned Fulton Sweet Child O’ Vine. Our kids stuck to Michelob Golden Draft Light (kidding of course, it’s not like we live in Wisconsin). The cask Fulton was smooth delicious goodness. There is something about the mouthfeel of a good cask beer that can’t be replicated and whenever I see it offered I usually opt for it.

The beers were served in smaller (12oz) versions of the traditional English pub glass, which have a nice aesthetic appeal. Even better, we arrived right before the end of their Saturday happy hour specials (yes, Saturday happy hours during the day) and so my Bitter Brewer ran a mere three dollars. Anytime you can get any kind of Surly for three bones it’s a heck of a happy hour.

The Groveland Tap is not exactly in our neck of the woods, but it’s good to know that we now have a go-to watering hole if we’re in the area. I’m sure that while Saint Paul is enjoying life on the grounds of his leafy Stillwater estate, there are things that he misses about the urban experience. And the Groveland Tap is no doubt one of them.

Groveland Tap Reviews in St Paul

Hire Baby, Hire!

Don't look now, but those sneaky oilfield service companies--like Halliburton (gasp)--are up to their old tricks once again. Yup, they're using their "excessive" profits to fund new activity (WSJ-sub req):

Oilfield services companies are doing a booming business amid the rush to tap North America's newfound troves of crude oil and natural gas. The discoveries are pushing U.S. energy employment to its highest level in two decades.

Baker Hughes Inc. on Monday said its income in North America doubled last quarter from a year-ago to $440 million, despite weather-related disruptions in Canada that weighed on results. Last week, Halliburton Co. said its second quarter North American profit more than doubled from a year earlier. Schlumberger Ltd. on Friday said its North American profit jumped six-fold to $673 million, from $116 million a year ago.

Those gains translated into at least 17,200 new U.S. oilfield jobs during the quarter, according to federal employment data. In May, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 413,500 jobs in the oil and gas extraction and support businesses in positions ranging from roustabout to tax accountant. Oil and gas extraction added jobs in June; corresponding data is not yet available for support positions. All the hiring, however, hasn't moved the needle on the nation's unemployment rate, now at 9.2%, due to weakness in construction and other industries.

Creating new jobs for Americans in America? How dare they! Don't they know that's President Obama's job (in addition to all the job saving he's done)? This calls for a fresh round of Congressional investigations, EPA regulations, and public industry bashing from the Obama administration.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hard to Herd

I've been thoroughly enjoying reading Anthony Esolen's TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILD. It's a satirical guidebook for how parents can take full advantage of all the technological and cultural progress we've made in the last forty years to ensure that their children's minds are barren wastelands when it comes to intellectual and spiritual curiosity. Here’s a wonderful section on the power of play:

Here again we see the wonders of organizing every waking non-electronic moment of a child’s life. When adults are in charge, they will settle the dispute. Sometimes they do so preventively, by making sure disputes cannot occur. That’s what schools in Massachusetts did a few years ago, decreeing that for elementary school soccer matches, no one should keep score. What a remarkable teaching device that was! It prevented the children from using their wits to separate right from wrong. It shut off the opportunity for real appreciation of an opponent’s case. It delivered the message, instead, that one’s own feelings are paramount, and anyway, what difference does the score make, as long as everyone is having fun? Buried beneath the beneficence was the knowledge that the best of fun depends upon the pretense that a run or goal actually means something; otherwise there is no real game at all.

A good argument against regular season NBA games having any meaning.

But even if score is kept, when the dispute arises, and adult steps in, splits the difference (which is usually an unjust split), and orders the kids to proceed in their maturation.

But boys from time immemorial have fashioned their own “rules” for meting out sandlot justice. The batter hits the groundball to shortstop and says he has beaten the throw to first. The shortstop says he’s out.

“I had you by a mile!” A mile, in sandlot parlance, means five or six inches, the distance of the foot as it is about to come down on the base.

“Are you kidding? My foot landed before I heard the ball in the glove! You’re blind!” This is the Counterargument with Evidence.

“You never heard the ball at all, you liar!” This is the Direct Attack on Personal Integrity.

“I’m not going to let you get away with it this time!” This is the Threat to Personal Well-Being.

“Well, go ahead and try something!” This is Calling the Bluff.

Certain figures in Washington, D.C. would do well to take note.

Usually matters don’t go so far. The boys will argue, using evidence, and they all understand that it is in everyone’s interest to respect evidence, since otherwise no game is possible. If the evidence is indecisive, the next expedient is to summon the Nearest Uninvolved Person, a spectator perhaps, or one of the players known to be honest, so long as he had a good view of the play. If that doesn’t work, you make an appeal to Worthy Opponents, those on the other side of one of the disputants, who will admit that his teammate is wrong. And if that doesn’t work, the boys will not go home in a snit. What would be the fun of that? They will not cry, like babies. They will not sue. They will use the supreme act of their moral imaginations. They will forgive the baseball universe. They will Pretend the Play Never Happened. Everyone goes back to where he was , and the play is done over—and everyone will accept the result, for better or worse. Anybody who still harbors feelings about it is labeled a Sore Loser, and is looked upon with contempt by his fellows; it is a deep character flaw. But anybody who can engineer a quick solution acceptable to all sides labeled a Good Sport, and of him great and glorious things are expected.

I’ve written before that one of the great things about unsupervised play for children, especially pickup games, is the need for all participants to establish and agree to a set of rules and boundaries for play. The smaller and less formal the group playing, the more the need for this consensus, whether it be “ghosts runners” in baseball or how many Mississippis you had to count before rushing the quarterback. You might not always like all these rules or how they were called during the game, but if you wanted to play you had to abide by them and, unlike times when you were under the parental eye, you had a say in which particular ones you employed.

But I had forgotten all about the beauty of the “do over.” Sometimes as a child, it seemed as if there was very little that you could control in your life. However, when it came to the “do over” you suddenly had the ability to turn back the clock, to wipe the slate clean, and pretend as if what had just happened really hadn’t. As Esolen explains, the genius of the “do over” was that all parties agreed to implement it and accept the results that came along with it. It was the ultimate imaginative solution to dealing with a situation with two intractable parties unwilling to reach agreement on what had actually just transpired. It’s an approach that could come in handy at times for adults as well.

Esolen then explains why letting your kids play games on their own is such a dangerous idea:

We should always remember that such a scene as I have described is the last thing we want. People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around. They can form societies on their own. They become men and women, hot human resources. They can be free.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

HWX, with Michelle Bernard

The latest edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast is now up on Ricochet. After a rare and well-deserved break for a couple of weeks, we're back in the saddle and offering up some of that commentary you know and love. Topics include the latest on the Federal debt ceiling negotiations, lessons learned from the Minnesota government shut down, and the headaches of Michele Bachmann.

We're also joined by guest Michelle Bernard of the eponymous Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. She been investigating the new federal bureaucracy getting geared up to fight the scourge of childhood obesity through regulating food related advertising. The fates of the Pillsbury Doughboy and Jolly Green Giant, not to mention the First Amendment, may hang in the balance. Michelle is a spirited interview subject and it was fun to hear her run down these rather depressing developments. (Is there any other type coming out of Washington these days?)

Later, Loons of the Week and a double shot of This Week in Gatekeeping.

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can also be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner. Or get the stream for your mobile device on Sticher. Or just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of the Fraters Libertas main page. If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript. Enjoy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CVII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the sunny folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who the experience and insight to help you tour the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer in style.

I spent the earlier part of the week in Costa Rica. No beaches or zip lines for me though: it was strictly a business trip to San Jose and other than the airport, the office, and the hotel I didn’t get to see much of the city or country. Well, it wasn’t all business. I did get a chance to sample a couple of local beers.
Judging by the ubiquitous signs around San Jose and t-shirts worn by hung-over tourists at the airport, the most popular beer is Imperial. Other than the cool logo, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the lager. It flavors were bland and had a bit of an off-putting metallic aftertaste. I would rate it a six.

The two Bavaria beers (apparently produced by the same company that brews Imperial) that I tried were better. The Gold pilsener had slightly more flavor than Imperial and was refreshing. I’d give it an nine. Bavaria Dark (a dunkel lager) was also decent and seemed to have a nice little kick to it despite the moderate ABV. A solid ten.

One of the most interesting experiences of the short visit to San Jose was dining at Le Monastere, a restaurant that had once been a monastery with an amazing hilltop view of the city. The cuisine was French, the waiters were dressed like monks, and, in addition to a spectacular selection of wine, the restaurant also brewed its own beer. When the dark brown beer with a voluminous head arrived in a Duvel glass, my expectations were raised. Was this going to be some local version of a tasty Belgian abbey ale? Alas, it was not to be. The beer’s flavors in no way matched its appearance in the glass. It was mild and inoffensive. Given the views and the delicious food on hand, the beer, while disappointing, proved quite acceptable.

Given the opening, you might expect that this week’s featured beer would be a lighter offering from Costa Rica or perhaps another tropical locale. Boy would you be wrong. What’s the 180 degree opposite of Costa Rica and light beer? How about Cleveland and porter? Okay, maybe it’s not perfectly opposite, but it’s pretty dang close.

This week’s beer is the first one to hail from Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland. And for a change of pace from the usual summer styles of beers, it’s something more suited for when the skies of November turn gloomy. Our beer of the week is Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

12oz brown bottle. Stark black and white label with depiction of namesake ship being battered by the epic storm that brought her down on the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.

Style: Porter

Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%

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

AROMA (0-2): Vanilla and roasted malt. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Lots of flavors here. Roasted malt, nuts, coffee, vanilla, and bitter chocolate. Medium to heavy bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Not especially drinkable, this is a beer more suited to slow sipping and savoring. 4

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

OVERALL (0-6): Again, this is hardly the season for porters, but Great Lakes shows how appealing the style is when done right. This is a well-balanced beer that has it all; appearance, aroma, and taste. Hopefully, we’ll still have a couple of months to enjoy the warm days and easy drinking beers, but it won’t be long until we feel that first chill of cool evening air. And when that ill wind comes a blowin’ in, Edmond Fitzgerald Porter is an excellent way to weather the storm. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just wondering.

As I understand it, the latest Gang of Six sell-out/compromise (which is sounding more and more like it is pining for the fjords) includes a proposal to do away with the home mortgage deduction. This is not the first time I think I've seen the GOP cast a wandering eye in this direction, and I have to ask why?

The housing market is, shall we say, slumping. What are the consequences once we eliminate the deduction? I ask because I don't know. Granted, the federal government's artificial expansion of home ownership contributed mightily to the current economic crisis, but is the mortgage deduction in the same class? Is there a conservative argument for eliminating it and further depressing the market? I ask because I just don't know.

We CAN Be Number One!

Last Sunday I tuned in the USA-Japan Women’s World Cup Final. Like most sports fans, I had been utterly unaware that the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup was about to take place. I tuned in because, as a jingoistic American, I am always happy to see Team USA crush foreigners and raise the Stars and Stripes in triumph – even in a sport I normally care nothing about.

Alas, the women of Team USA let me down and lost to Japan in a shootout. (By the way, why doesn’t soccer have sudden death overtime like real sports?). But watching in hopes of seeing a self-esteem boosting pro-America celebration was a reasonable risk.

Unlike the Men’s World Cup, America is always competitive in the Women’s World Cup. (Fraters Libertas gatekeepers checking Google – yep, int he six Women’s World Cups held, Team USA has now finished first twice, second once, and third three times). We can thank American political correctness for this relative success (in the 19 Men’s World Cups, Team USA has finished in the top three only once – a third place finish in the first ever World Cup in 1930). Thanks to Title IX, the law that requires equal participation for women in high school and college athletics, America has consistently contended for titles in Women’s sports that are ignored by the less enlightened parts of the world.

We can apply the same principle to boost our national self-esteem in other areas, as well. For example: academics.

In 2009, American 15 year olds ranked a pathetic 15th in the world in Reading, 31st in Mathematics, and 23rd in Science. We trail countries like Poland, Finland, and Estonia– countries we usually only lose to in men’s soccer.

Some might suggest that we find a way to improve our reading, mathematics, and science education. The problem is, we’ve already tried that. We are already near the top in education spending. It is time to forget about trying to improve our rankings in subjects everyone wants to be good in and put our aptitude for political correctness to good work. We must concentrate our educational efforts on the one subject that we CAN beat the world in: Gay Studies.

California is taking the lead in making us number one again by passing a law requiring LGBT curriculum in schools. (By the way, I thought the acronym used to be GLBT. Did the lesbians stage some kind of coup?) Some have criticized California for this program, including our own James from Folsom. These critics are not so much homophobes as America-is-number-one-phobes.

Since very few historical figures have admitted to being gay, we are forced to rely on innuendo and gossip to identify gays in history. This gives America a huge advantage over the more empirical countries with their high math and science scores that are prejudiced in favor of solid evidence. In America, the likes of the National Enquirer have been speculating on secretly gay celebrities for years. No other country will be able to touch us, not even France!

When the next international educational rankings come out, we will not be lamenting our poor Math and Science rankings. No, we will take one look at our gay studies ranking and break into that wondrous chant: USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Fish That Saved Minnesota

The MN government shutdown looks like it’s about to end shortly, with a whimper instead of a bang. Before we close the curtain on this sorry spectacle, we should remember one of the stars of this drama. A man who came to represent the true face of the state government and what it can do for the people.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Department of Natural Resources commissioner:

"It's black and white -- you must have a license to fish," said Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner.

A non-controversial, if marginally dictatorial, statement under normal circumstances.

But what if it’s not black and white? What if a shade of gray is introduced that says you can’t get a fishing license because those with the power to grant them won’t give them out? What if you’d like to comply and would be happy to jump through the regulatory hoops and pay the price to get a license, but through no fault of your own, the state refuses?

That has been the situation in Minnesota since the shut down began on July 1. You can’t get a fishing license. Since most vacationers and casual fisherman don’t buy licenses until the day of, or maybe the day before, fishing, this is a problem. It is a critical problem for those whose livelihood depends on people fishing.

Rather than roll over and accept absurd reasoning for ruining their income, well meaning people tried to adapt:

Some resort owners -- desperate to retain customers -- have been collecting license money from their nonresident guests and giving them receipts to carry in lieu of a fishing license, saying they will buy licenses for them after the shutdown ends.

That certainly sounds reasonable. Something that a well-meaning public servant would have to accept, right?

That's no good, Landwehr said. "You can't have an IOU or say 'I intended to get a license,'" he said. "You must have a fishing license in your possession while you are fishing."

Violators risk a fine and court costs of about $150.

You get the sense he doesn’t quite understand the public service aspect of being a public servant.

Adding insult to this injury, while the government refuses to give people licenses to fish, they have no problem continuing to enforce the requirement that you need a license.

"I expect when an officer finds a flagrant violation that they will issue a citation," he said. "This is a very simple thing: If you fish without a license, you're blatantly violating the law."

It reminds me of that old adage: Give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. License a man to fish, and you can feed or starve him at your whim.

The good news is, the shutdown should soon be coming to an end, thanks to the legislature agreeing to give Governor Dayton a few more billion dollars for government programs. The bad news is, that billion dollars is going for more “public service” like we’re getting from the DNR.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Separated At Birth: Loser Talk

Minnesota Twins Pitcher Matt Capps on July 15, after blowing his major league leading 7th save while giving up the winning runs to the Kansas City Royals:

Nobody's going to put higher expectations on me than I put on myself -- fans, coaches, teammates, nobody. Nobody expects more out of me than me, and nobody's more let down right now than me, and nobody's more disappointed than me right now.

And Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeff Francis on July 16, after losing his 11th game of the season (putting him in 2nd place in the majors for losses):

I take a lot of responsibility for what I do on the mound, and I think I expect more out of myself than anybody else does.

Finally, Governor Dayton on the Minnesota government shutdown. Just kidding, Governor Dayton never accepts personal responsibility, nor does he expect much from himself.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Power to Annoy

In a piece in today's WSJ, David Strom nicely captures the essence of how Minnesotans' nonchalant reaction to the state government shutdown surprised Democrats and left Governor Dayton little choice but to largely accede to the GOP budget plan. Minnesotans Shrug Off the Shutdown:

The battle should have been epic, but most Minnesotans were merely annoyed. Indeed the most serious concern that average citizens (and bar owners) seemed to have was that without a budget resolution, the legal supply of beer and cigarettes would soon run out because regulatory enforcement was deemed "essential," while regulatory permitting was not. Permits to purchase alcohol from distributors expire annually and cigarettes require tax stamps, both unavailable during the shutdown. Fishing permits were similarly affected, evidence that for most people it's not the government's services that matter most to daily life, but its annoying restrictions.

That last point can't be stressed enough. Instead of realizing how much they missed government (as Dayton was counting on), Minnesotans discovered how widespread government regulation was in areas with no apparent public interest. One hopes that the realization that their ability to buy their favorite beer at their local neighborhood liquor store depended on the blessing of one of the many cogs in the machine of state bureaucracy will cause citizens here to start asking more questions about the role of government and whether the real problem the state faces with its budget is a lack of money or a lack of proper priorities.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beer of the Weel (Vol. CVI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the faithful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the wisdom to help guide you to the promised land of wine, whiskey, and beer. When it comes to beer, Maharishi Mark is the new Glen Lake guru who can set you on the path to enlightenment.

So it finally appears that our short local nuisance is over as a deal to end the state government shutdown is at hand (maybe). And no, to reiterate once again, the return of the Beer of the Week feature is in no way related to that development. What have we learned during the two-plus weeks when Minnesota’s state government was partially closed for business? For one thing, the state has its fingers in a lot of areas that most people would never had suspected. One of these areas is beer sales. I would bet that most Minnesotans had no idea about such things as requiring brand label registrations (which lead to MillerCoors’ problems) or the now notorious buyer’s card:

When residents jaw on government for being excessively bureaucratic and backwards, this is probably a prime example.

What this amounts to is another $20 tax — or “user fee” if you’re a Republican. Either way, its purpose is clearly to generate revenue for no apparent reason. After all, why would someone have a liquor license, but not a buyer’s card?

The next time legislators look to cut government waste, they should look no further than this terrible system that seems to serve no other purpose than bureaucracy and red-tape.

Amen that that. I would hope that the shutdown sheds some much need light on all the little ways that the state interferes with commerce in Minnesota in ways that serve no purpose to its residents and creates unnecessary burdens for business. Okay, enough politics, let’s talk beer.

Our beer this week is another selection from Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Co. St. Lupulin:

A mystical legend echoes in our brewhouse – that of St. Lupulin (loop-you-lin) the archetypal hophead. He devoted endless summers to endless rows of hops, tending to the flowers and the beloved resin within – lupulin.

Extraordinary oils in this yellow resin provide this dry-hopped extra pale ale with an undeniably pleasing floral aroma and clean, crisp finish. One sip of this seasonal summer ale and you too, will believe.

Retails for $9.99 for a six-pack.12oz brown bottle with leaves engraved just below the neck. Label has a good tactile feel with high quality paper. The gorgeous design features the namesake saint walking through a pint shaped opening between hop vines. It would make a sweet poster.

Style: American Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

COLOR (0-2): Light gold, slightly cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Strong citrus and pine. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, excellent lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Well-hopped with pleasing grapefruit and pine flavors and lesser amounts of sweet bready malt. Not especially bitter. Slightly creamy, medium-bodied, and decently drinkable especially given the ABV. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth finish with lingering hop flavors. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Definitely not what you expect from a summer offering, St. Lupulin is a nice change of pace. Despite its noticeable hop characteristics, it’s always a refreshing beer that goes down well on a sultry summer day. It’s very well suited as a your backyard barbeque beer and would compliment steak, burgers, chicken and pretty much anything else you might want to grill up quite nicely. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

California: Is Our Children Learning?

Maybe because I actually have lived in California (the real Gay Mecca?) all my life, but the news that Governor Moonbeam signed into law the bill requiring the teaching of the "accomplishments" of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans didn't really register with me. Either that, or it's because I don't have children and certainly don't plan on staying in California when I retire (can anyone say taxpayer friendly South Dakota?). Either way, it is difficult for me to get too worked up over this simply because my dumbass fellow Californians get what they deserve.

What does this mean? Who knows. Because of budget cuts, textbook updates have been suspended until 2015, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changed in the face of some class action lawsuit. California already requires the teaching of the contributions of a laundry list of groups, so what's one (four? GLBT?) more?

And what exactly are "we" going to teach? A google search reveals one website that refers to "queer curriculum" (sorry, no linky for you!) and suggested some "historical" GLBT people that your kids should learn about. Socrates? Alexander the Great? Eleanor Roosevelt? (Wait, what, Chaz Bono?) And characters from Shakespeare who "fell in love with" women dressed as men. Awesome.

California education is a failed system. Increased spending coupled with declining test scores do not spell success. (Not that any California kid could possibly spell "success" anyway) So now that we teach the "accomplishments" of every protected victim group, along with global warming and god knows what else, is there room for the teaching of actual U. S. history? Or any actual education? As test scores drop and the teachers unions bleat about increased "education" spending, we are progressively squeezing actual education out of the schools in favor of more and more indoctrination and feel-good B.S..

You want your kid to get a good education? Move to Texas.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Valley View

Our state government might be shutdown. Our business climate might be lousy. Our weather might be gloomy most of the year. Our sports teams might range from pathetic to mediocre. But as the Star Tribune reports today, there's one area where we continue to lead the way. Minnesota sees 50% rise in number of gay couples:

Minnesota has seen a quiet surge in the number of same-sex households over the past decade, and the trend has moved beyond the core of the Twin Cities into many suburbs.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released its second-ever count of same-sex partners in Minnesota, and the numbers detailed a dramatic picture of change:

• A 50 percent jump in same-sex households, a rate of growth five times faster than households overall. The census counted 13,718 same-sex couples in 2010, accounting for about 1 percent of all couples statewide.

•A pronounced spreading-out of traditional "gayborhoods." Minneapolis accounts for nearly one in four same-sex couples, towering over the rest of the state in sheer numbers, but its dominance is fading. Neighboring Golden Valley now claims the highest concentration among cities of ample size. A lesbian Realtor who lives there greeted the news in two words: "Not surprised."

•Although other states are also seeing big jumps, the Twin Cities could well retain its 2000 position as the gay mecca between the coasts. Only a sprinkling of state numbers have yet been reported, but it's known that Hennepin County by 2010 was roughly equal in concentration to Sonoma County north of San Francisco, the second-highest-ranking county in California.

As a resident of Golden Valley, I greet this news with three words: "Sort of surprised." It's also interesting to consider that the Twin Cities emergence as a "gay mecca" coincides with an increase in immigrants arriving here whose religion considers the real Mecca to be their holiest city. We’ve been told over and over that “diversity is our strength” so I guess this can only mean that our community will be getting stronger and stronger. Yup, can’t foresee any problems emerging here.

Jacqueline Day has lived with a partner and children and sold homes in Golden Valley for many years. Day said the suburb appeals to her and her clients.

"It's comfortable for us here: a progressive city that's been welcoming, and the word spreads."

Anne Dykstra
[can't make that name up], 72, a human rights commission member in the city, said she thinks straight people in Golden Valley are aware of the changes. "We've got an aging population here, which in a way flies in the face of the usual canard that older people won't accept gays, and I find that interesting."

Yes, interesting.

Chief Starving Bear Weight Loss Center

There's been much discussion of late around the subject of whether parents should lose custody of super obese kids?:

Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids' weight? A provocative commentary in one of the nation's most distinguished medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, said the point isn't to blame parents, but rather to act in children's best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can't provide.

State intervention "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting," said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.

"Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child," Murtagh said.

At first blush, this might seem like a reasonable proposal. I mean who would be against the government acting in the best interests of children? Problems begin to emerge however once you start looking at what this really would mean. Who exactly gets to decide what is an "extreme" case of childhood obesity? While the Harvard doctors may have a very limited number of very specific cases in mind today, who's to say how this could be interpreted by government officials twenty or thirty years down the road? I don’t think there’s any shortage of people out there who wouldn’t mind doing a little social engineering to ensure that American kids weighed the “right” amount if given the opportunity to exercise such power. Their threshold for allowing the state to step in and remove kids from their parents in order to slim them down might be quite different from what the doctors behind this proposal have in mind.

Don’t think it could ever happen? Consider that our neighbors to north recently had a case where a judge ordered parents to send their kids to day care and public school because he didn’t feel they were getting enough socialization by being homeschooled. Once you expand the state’s power over children at the expense of parental authority in one area, you make it harder and harder to draw lines about what the limits to the state’s authority should be.

Another interesting aspect to this story was the angle that one of the leading opponents of the proposal took:

But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying — things a parent can't control, he said.

"If you're going to change a child's weight, you're going to have to change all of them," Caplan said.

Yumpin’ yiminey. First off, obese children are victims? Perhaps, but certainly not in all cases. Some kids probably do have a genetic disposition toward obesity and can’t do much about it. Others are obese because their parents are too permissive or entirely absent from influencing what their kids eat. And there are probably some kids who are obese because they choose to eat too much food and not exercise enough. No one wants to talk about this, but I think all know one or two examples from childhood or children we know today where this is all too true.

Secondly, parents “can’t control” that their kids are “victims” of advertising and marketing? Let me see if I understand how this works. Little Johnny sees a McDonald’s ad while watching SpongeBob in the morning. Later that day, when his mom is driving him home from baseball practice, he sees the Golden Arches and begs his mom to swing in for a Happy Meal. At this point, if I understand Caplan’s theory correctly, she is powerless to control what happens next. Those McDonald ad geniuses have diabolically created such a strong urge in Little Johnny’s cerebral cortex that his mother now has no choice but to accede to his demands for rich, fried fast-food goodness. She now MUST go to the drive through and open her purse to sate his desires.
If only there was something she could do. Some word or phrase that she could use to avoid having Little Johnny turn into a chubby monkey. Perhaps a two-letter response that might have prevented this tragedy. Sometimes it’s easier to say you’re a victim.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

In the wake of the government shut down sweeping MillerCoors products from the shelves and threatening to shut down bars across the state, more depressing news out of Stillwater:

Lift Bridge Brewing Suspends 6-Pack Bottle Sales

Lift Bridge Fans and Supporters, we have been hit with a bottled beer shortage which will cause us to be out of our bottled beer for a few months. The reason for the suspension of shipments is due to our supplier, Cold Spring Brewing Co who has not been able to produce beer for us. They have decided to prioritize other brands ahead of ours. It certainly is their decision on what to brew and when, however we were caught with extremely short notice.

The lamps are going out all across Minnesota. We shall not see them (or me) lit again in our lifetime.

We'll, that's probably not true. The rusty gears of government regulation will be cranked up again in Minnesota at some point and the mass market beer will flow like wine. But you have to empathize with the helplessness these businesses must feel. When it's the government erecting ridiculous, impassable barriers to doing your work, you've got no recourse. You've just got to sit there and suffer until they deign to address your problem.

On the other hand, when it's a problem introduced by the marketplace itself, you've got options. And smart, agile businesses will find a way to overcome them. For example, Lift Bridge:

In response to this situation we are working to purchase and install bottling capabilities at our brewery in Stillwater, MN. We currently produce 100% of our draft beer in Stillwater and have capacity to keep up with our draft account. Today, we are receiving additional fermenters, increasing our capacity by 66%. This will allow us react quicker and not be dependent on a single supplier.

While MillerCoors and bars around the state wait and wonder when the state government will let them get back to business, LiftBridge has the power to plan and avoid similar problems in the future:

This plan will take several months to complete, but we will have bottles back on shelves later in 2011. It is unfortunate for our distributor partners, bottle retail customers and our loyal customers but we will be back soon and better than ever.

Contrast that with the option available to MillerCoors:

"Right now we are exploring all options that are available to us," said spokesman Julian Green. "We are currently in discussions and hoping that we can get a resolution with the state, with the agency that enforces the sale ... of alcohol.”

Good luck with that. But to quote Rudy Guiliani, who said about candidate Barack Obama's economic plans, hope is not a strategy.

How Dry We Are

Last week, there was no Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week. This has caused no small amount of consternation in some parts and our own Saint Paul even offered up a theory to explain its absence which nicely fits in with current events:

I assume these stories are why you've suspended the FL Beer of the Week feature. Solidarity with state workers and the collateral victims of the gov't shut down. And now we're all suffering!

The stories that Brian is referring to are ones such as this that appeared in today’s Star Tribune. Shutdown forces MillerCoors to pull beer from shelves:

Miller Time in Minnesota is over--until lawmakers reach a budget deal.

The state's government shutdown, now in its 13th day, will soon force MillerCoors to pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants. A state official says the law requires the company to stop selling products like Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon imminently.

After countless attempts to get the public to pay attention to the impact of the government shutdown, the Strib may have finally found something that truly matters to people: beer.

"I would suspect within days to see that product leave the shelves," said Doug Neville, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

A MillerCoors spokesman said they are fighting the decision, which would decimate one of its largest markets in the country.

“Right now we are exploring all options that are available to us," said spokesman Julian Green. "We are currently in discussions and hoping that we can get a resolution with the state, with the agency that enforces the sale ... of alcohol.”

Neville says MillerCoors must remove the beer because they did not renew their brand label registration with the state before the shutdown began. By law, brewers must renew those registrations -- which show the label on each brand of beer -- every three years.

The company tried to renew in mid-June, but the process got delayed when they wrote a check for too much money. Green said they sent in a new check, which the state received on June 27, but nonetheless got a letter three days later saying their brand licenses had expired

“We believe we’ve followed all applicable state laws on this," Green said.
Neville said his agency has asked MillerCoors to develop a plan to remove the product from shelves and cease their distribution. He added that Anheuser-Busch will face a similar problem if the shutdown extends to October.

Green said they are not currently working on that plan, hoping they can first overturn the decision.

When the shutdown started big government proponents were hoping that once the public realized how much they missed all those nifty government programs they’d be clamoring for their restoration and perhaps even future expansion. Instead, I’m wondering if more people aren’t reacting the way I am to news like MillerCoors being pulled from store shelves. I had no idea just how extensive the state government’s involvement was in so many aspects of life and how dubious that involvement now appears. Do we really NEED to have brewers register their brand labels every three years? Other than a simple money grab by the state, exactly how is the public being served by this requirement?

It’s not just the brewers that are being impacted either:

The development follows news that hundreds of bars and liquor stores across the state are slowly running out of alcohol because they were unable to renew their state-issued purchase cards. But eliminating MillerCoors could have a much larger impact, since it would apply to nearly every liquor retailer in the state.

State issued purchase cards? What century are we living in anyway? Someone should compile a list of all the various regulations and requirements imposed by the state on businesses which have come to light as a result of the shutdown so that during the next legislative session we can start eliminating any that aren’t absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, those concerned about how the MillerCoors shutdown will impact them should consider this:

Here is a list of the beers that are affected:

Blue Moon Pale Moon Belgian Style Pale Ale, Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Coors Light 3.2, Foster’s Lager Beer, Foster’s Premium Ale, Grolsch Amber Ale, Grolsch Blonde Lager, Grolsch Light Lager, Grolsch Premium Lager, Hamm’s, Hamm’s Genuine Draft Style, Hamm’s Special Light, Henry Weinhard’s Dark, Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Henry Weinhard’s Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Icehouse Beer, Keystone Light Beer 3.2, Killians Irish Red 3.2, MGD Light 64, Mickey’s Ice Ale, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life 12/16 oz can, Miller High Life Ice, Miller High Life Light 12 oz can, Miller Lite 3.2%, Miller Lite Beer, Milwaukee’s Best #1 , Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Light #1 3.2, Molson Canadian, Molson Canadian Light, Molson Golden, Molson Ice, Molson XXX, Olde English 800 Malt Liquor, Sparks Light

A couple of decent beers in that list, but really not much of a loss there. You start pulling the Surly and Summit off the shelves and then you’re going to see trouble.

To circle back to where this started, I should note that last week’s lack of a Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week had nothing to do with a government shutdown (although that’s a heck of a good excuse). It was more about scheduling difficulties that prevented me from procuring my sampling product in a timely manner. But have no fear. No stinkin’ government shutdown is going to stand in the way of this week’s Beer of the Week.

In fact, I’m going to swing by Glen Lake Wine and Spirits tonight to pick up this week’s selection. And I’ll check in to see if the government shutdown is impacting their business yet or if they expect it will soon. Over at Shot in the Dark, Mitch Berg has been referring to Minnesota as the Dayton Dustbowl ever since last fall’s election. It looks like it’s about to get even drier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where Are They Now?

The MLB All-Star game is being played in Phoenix tonight and I'm reminded of the controversy brewing last year over this location. In 2010, Arizona shot to number one on the liberal hate list due to passing a law attempting to remedy the ill effects of illegal immigration on the state. And every preening bleeding heart in the country (including RT Rybak and Chris Coleman) lined up for a chance to express their disapproval.

In addition to the usual group of spotlight chasing professional protestors, several major league ballplayers joined the party and claimed they would boycott the All Star game in 2011. How did that pan out for tonight's game? Let's do a roll call, based on players identified in this Fraters post from 2010.

Yovani Gallardo is firm. Even if he's fortunate enough to make the All-Star team again next summer, he'll skip it. "If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott," the Milwaukee Brewers pitcher said Monday.

Well, Yovani Gallardo remains firm. Firmly planted in Milwaukee, that is! He didn't get a chance to boycott, because he didn't make the All Star team. Gallardo, last seen in Minnesota getting lit up on July 1 in a loss to the Twins, is having a decent season I suppose. Yovani your 3.76 era, 1.344 WHIP and 10-5 record is respectable, you've done some solid work, but isn't quite Ivy League All Star, is it?

Back to 2010:

Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria, who leads the majors with 25 saves, said he would support a Latino protest and stay away.

He's definitely staying away this year. Though his support for the Latino protest can be best described as leading from behind. After blowing 5 of his first 12 save opportunities in Kansas City, with an ERA over 6.00 , he lost his job as closer and the All Star game had no choice but to boycott him instead. Adding insult to boycott injury, his replacement as the KC closer, Aaron Crowe, is the Royal's lone All Star representative this year.

Detroit closer Jose Valverde can see himself steering clear, too.

The only thing Jose Valverde steered clear of was his principles. He's in Phoenix tonight as an All Star and AL Manager Ron Washington says he's the favorite to close out the game if the AL is in the lead. But perhaps there's still time for a protest? According to inside sources:

Jose Valverde said he has a new celebration he has rehearsed in case he gets save tomorrow night.

I'm expecting a brave statement about intolerance delivered though the medium of interpretational dance by a guy wearing stirrup socks.

Finally, the last member of the future boycotters of America:

"It's a really delicate issue," said Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 24 home runs. "Hopefully, there are some changes in the law before then. We have to back up our Latin communities."

Maybe a little too delicate of an issue for him. Bautista is in Phoenix tonight as well, as the leading vote getter of any All Star. He does foreshadow the reason that many are citing for the boycott fizzling, the fact that the Arizona law was partially blocked by Federal courts. That was apparently enough for many to declare a truce, including the MLB player's union.

When Arizona passed the law in question last year, Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner came out against it, saying it could negatively impact hundreds of players. Around 30 percent of professional baseball players are Latino.

Weiner issued a statement late last week saying that the MLBPA still opposes the law but will send its players to the All-Star Game since "SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts."

After all of the macho talk of last year, this is a little weasely to be sure. But ultimately it's a good thing no organized boycott came to fruition. Holding America's past time hostage in order to blackmail the citizens of Arizona out of their democratically elected preferences is a thug tactic that wouldn't have been good for baseball or America.

Plus now I don't have to organize a revenge boycott against the 2012 All Star Game site of Kansas City for the high crime of being the birthplace of Ed Asner. Play ball!

The Guy With the Dragon's World View

In recent years there has been no shortage of Americans who have visited China and returned to breathlessly report that they have seen the future and it works. Like the Western useful idiots who made similar pilgrimages and paid similar homage to the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, they usually choose to willfully ignore, deny, or downplay the dark side of the “progress” that these totalitarian societies have supposedly made that makes them superior to the liberal democratic alternatives.

The latest embarrassing example of this unqualified view that all America needs to do is start acting more like the visionaries in China appeared in Saturday’s WSJ. It was penned by Robert J. Herbold, author of “What's Holding You Back? Ten Bold Steps That Define Gutsy Leaders” and was called China vs. America: Which Is the Developing Country?:

Recently I flew from Los Angeles to China to attend a corporate board-of-directors meeting in Shanghai, as well as customer and government visits there and in Beijing. After the trip was over, in thinking about the United States and China, it was not clear to me which is the developed, and which is the developing, country.

Like many who fall for the glittering allure of modern China, Herbold’s conclusions are apparently based on visits to the country’s largest cities. It would be like saying that you understood America because you were in New York and Los Angeles for a few days. Herbold goes on to compare China and America in a number of areas, always finding the latter wanting.

Infrastructure: Let's face it, Los Angeles is decaying. Its airport is cramped and dirty, too small for the volume it tries to handle and in a state of disrepair. In contrast, the airports in Beijing and Shanghai are brand new, clean and incredibly spacious, with friendly, courteous staff galore. They are extremely well-designed to handle the large volume of air traffic needed to carry out global business these days.

In traveling the highways around Los Angeles to get to the airport, you are struck by the state of disrepair there, too. Of course, everyone knows California is bankrupt and that is probably the reason why. In contrast, the infrastructure in the major Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing is absolute state-of-the-art and relatively new.

The congestion in the two cities is similar. In China, consumers are buying 18 million cars per year compared to 11 million in the U.S. China is working hard building roads to keep up with the gigantic demand for the automobile.

The just-completed Beijing to Shanghai high-speed rail link, which takes less than five hours for the 800-mile trip, is the crown jewel of China's current 5,000 miles of rail, set to grow to 10,000 miles in 2020. Compare that to decaying Amtrak.

Infrastructure always seems to be the thing that really gets the China fanboys’ hearts aflutter. It’s the classic “at least the trains run on time” admiration for autocratic rule. And when you visit the large Chinese cities, the roads, rails, and airports are impressive especially if you never wander far from them. Believe it or not, I’m never been through LAX so I can’t compare it directly with the Shanghai airport. But a couple of things should be kept in mind:

1. It’s always going to be easier to fund and build infrastructure when you don’t have all those pesky political considerations that come with democracy. If the one-party government decides it wants to build a road from A to B, there’s little to stand in the way. Environmental and property concerns are not going to be impediments.

2. Some portion of the infrastructure projects in China serve no obvious purpose. It’s infrastructure for the sake of infrastructure. Building roads, bridges, airports, and rail lines are a good way to invest the surplus savings that China has accumulated, provide jobs, and pump up the GDP. There are literally roads to nowhere in China and airports and train stations that are ghostly empty. Now, you can argue that this is building for the future, but it’s not necessarily clear when that future will arrive and if the infrastructure being put in place today will meet the requirements of tomorrow.

Government Leadership: Here the differences are staggering. In every meeting we attended, with four different customers of our company as well as representatives from four different arms of the Chinese government, our hosts began their presentation with a brief discussion of China's new five-year-plan. This is the 12th five-year plan and it was announced in March 2011. Each of these groups reminded us that the new five-year plan is primarily focused on three things: 1) improving innovation in the country; 2) making significant improvements in the environmental footprint of China; and 3) continuing to create jobs to employ large numbers of people moving from rural to urban areas. Can you imagine the U.S. Congress and president emerging with a unified five-year plan that they actually achieve (like China typically does)?

The specificity of China's goals in each element of the five-year plan is impressive. For example, China plans to cut carbon emissions by 17% by 2016. In the same time frame, China's high-tech industries are to grow to 15% of the economy from 3% today.

Really? Really??? Herbold touts the effectiveness of the infamous five-year-planning process. Yes, the same five-year-plans that lead to such wonderful achievements in Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China. Does anyone out really want the U.S. Congress and president to come up with our own five-year plan and then achieve it? We are still talking about the United States of America here, right?

Government Finances: This topic is, frankly, embarrassing. China manages its economy with incredible care and is sitting on trillions of dollars of reserves. In contrast, the U.S. government has managed its financials very poorly over the years and is flirting with a Greece-like catastrophe.

Here, Herbold has a point. To some extent at least. We all realize the US financial position is unsustainable and change is urgently needed. However, it’s not clear that China’s position is quite the cat-bird seat that Herbold describes. The reality is that no one truly understands China’s finances since transparency is not exactly one of their core values. We do know that their banks are sitting on a boatload of bad loans (usually made to government-owned entities), but we don’t know the true extent of those liabilities and the risk they pose to China’s overall financial stability.

So far, Herbold’s thoughts on China could be characterized as ignorant and misguided. Now, they turn odious.

Human Rights/Free Speech: In this area, our American view is that China has a ton of work to do. Their view is that we are nuts for not blocking pornography and antigovernment points-of-view from our youth and citizens.

Got that? On the one hand we think China has a lot of work to do on human rights and free speech, on the other they think we should be trampling them far more than we do. Who’s to say who’s really right? Hello moral equivalency of the most sinister sort.

The most distressing aspect of Herbold’s willingness to look the other way when it comes to the matter of freedom in China is the casual manner in which he brushes it aside. In a nine-hundred-thirty-eight word piece on China, he spares less than forty words on human rights/free speech and doesn’t even touch on religious freedom, property rights, the justice system or a host of other issues related to freedom and democracy. The elephant in the room has been reduced to a dust bunny and then quickly swept under the rug.

Herbold ends with a summary of the problem for the United States as he sees it (not enough autocracy) and a call to action.

Let's face it—we are getting beaten because the U.S. government can't seem to make big improvements. Issues quickly get polarized, and then further polarized by the media, which needs extreme viewpoints to draw attention and increase audience size. The autocratic Chinese leadership gets things done fast (currently the autocrats seem to be highly effective).

What is the cure? Washington politicians and American voters need to snap to and realize they are getting beaten—and make big changes that put the U.S. back on track: Fix the budget and the burden of entitlements; implement an aggressive five-year debt-reduction plan, and start approving some winning plans. Wake up, America!

Wake up and junk this whole inefficient liberal democracy thing. Sure we’ll have to give up some individual liberties and personal freedoms (overrated anyway if you ask me), but think of the roads, airports, and high-speed trains we’ll get in return. Seems like a small price to pay for some real progress.