Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Fallout From Going Soft

Brian Domitrovic looks at the real cause of the 2008 economic crisis and the continuing instability we've experienced afterward and concludes that it really is George W. Bush's fault (although not in the way most would imagine):

As goes alternative scenarios, it is perfectly conceivable that had Bush cut taxes the right way – at the margin, immediately, and permanently, in 2001 – the Fed would have never panicked into taking rates so basely low for so long. The good tax cut would have been sufficient to ward off a recession in the context of normal interest rates, even given 9/11. There would have been no housing and commodities bubble, because rates would never have been so close to zero as to invite these things. And the quicker boom would have made unnecessary the desperate dollar-devaluation ploy that became a Bush administration hallmark.

The primary question we must ask about the 2000s is not what caused the crisis as the decade came to a close, but why was growth so subpar the whole time? Ultimately financial crises reflect the declining potential of the real economy to deliver. The Bush presidency was perfectly set up after the 2000 election to let the real economy run, but what we got was cold feet on taxes, Hail Marys from the Fed, a bias toward spending, and lack of support for the dollar. By rights, today we should not be mired in economic malaise; rather, we should be enjoying a fourth decade of prosperity on the heels of the roaring 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

All Wet

Those of us who live in free societies take many simple freedoms for granted. It’s not until we realize how some of these freedoms are viewed by authoritarian regimes as subversive and dangerous that we begin to appreciate them. In the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries during the heyday of Communism, blue jeans and rock music were regarded as decadent Western influences. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, people weren’t allowed to fly kites or play chess.

The latest example of this comes from Iran where the authorities have begun a crackdown against the latest threat to their power (WSJ-sub req):

Authorities in authoritarian Iran have determined the latest threat to the Islamic Republic: squirt guns.

Agents of the regime fanned out across Tehran late last month to question toy store owners about whether the fake guns had been imported from America. Nope: made right in Iran or imported from China.

Why all this fuss? A water fight among playful youth at a water park.
After heeding a call on Facebook, a group of nearly 800 young men and women were among those who showed up at the park. They were surprised to find others there eager to drench anyone in sight.

They chased strangers around a giant water fountain, screaming and laughing as they splashed each other with water from toy guns, bottles and plastic bags.

"We had a blast. It was a rare chance for boys and girls to hang out in a public place and have fun," said Shaghayegh, a participant who did not want her last name to be used.

Fun? Clearly this radical notion must be stamped out immediately.

Sadly, as ridiculous as this effort to crush frivolity may sound to us, it is deadly serious business in Iran.

But that doesn't apply in Iran, where a seemingly innocent gathering, especially one that involves men and women interacting, can be cast as a decadent rebellion against the government.

"These events are a disgrace to our revolution. Our security forces and judiciary must stop the spreading of these morally corrupt actions," said conservative lawmaker Hossein Ibrahimi, according to official media.

And in Iran, the security forces aren’t playing around.

Earlier this month, police arrested the administrators of the Facebook page for Shiraz Water Wars, and 17 young men and women who were playing in a water park in the southern coastal city of Bandar Abbas were detained, according to media reports. Authorities also paraded young people on television, forcing them to confess—a move typically reserved for political detainees.

"Police will deal forcefully with park violators who are threatening the security and peace of our society," Tehran police chief Hussein Sajedina said.

Farzan, a 22-year-old university student who was one of the organizers of the Tehran water war, says police tracked him down through Facebook and raided his house in the middle of the night. He was arrested, held for three days and beaten up, he says. He has a court case pending.

The good news is that the Iranian youth don’t seem to backing down and are prepared to fight for their right to get soaked.

Young Iranians say although the event started out as innocent fun, it has now turned political. They are vowing to challenge them with more events.

A nationwide water war is scheduled for Friday, after the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Some toy stores have suspended selling toy guns, which go for between $25 and $35, until the scandal subsides despite an increase in demand.

"Every day I have dozens of young people coming in to the shop asking for water guns," said one shopkeeper at a toy store in downtown Tehran. "Our youth won't give up this easily."

Clearly the time has come for America to quit sitting on the sidelines and take action. We should arm these would-be rebels immediately with the latest and greatest weaponry from America’s high tech water gun arsenal. We can employ covert smuggling operations through overland routes, but should not rule out something more dramatic such as a coordinated squirt gun air drop to supply the key pockets of resistance within Iran. Targeted strikes against the Iranian leadership should also be on the table. The next time Ahmadinejad shows up in New York to sweet talk the United Nations, he should be welcomed with an icy cold blast of good ol’ fashioned American H2O.

This also provides a reminder of what happens when the people lose their right to keep and bear water arms. We should heed this lesson and personally vow that "I'll give you my Super Soaker when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Terrible Toll

Been meaning to share some thoughts on the book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder for some time now but haven’t been able to get around to it. The book is a fascinating and horrific account of the miseries inflicted upon the peoples of eastern Europe during the 1930s and 1940s by the totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Like Richard Rhodes’ Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust, the details of the atrocities carried out by the Soviets and Nazis often make for difficult reading and there were moments when I literally had to put the book (or more accurately Kindle) down to step away from the depressing descriptions of evil incarnate. While most are probably familiar with the appalling inhumanity of the Nazis, the full scope of the Soviet barbarities are not as widely known. I’ll get more into that in a future post. For now, here are some statistics and other nuggets from the book on various subjects that I found particularly interesting.


- Each of the dead became a number. Between them, the Nazi and Stalinist regimes murdered more than fourteen million people in the bloodlands.

- Fourteen million people were deliberately murdered by two regimes over twelve years.

- Fourteen million, after all, is a very large number. It exceeds by more than ten million the number of people who died in all of the Soviet and German concentration camps (as opposed to the death facilities) taken together over the entire history of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. If current standard estimates of military losses are correct, it exceeds by more than two million the number of German and Soviet soldiers, taken together, killed on the battlefield in the Second World War (counting starved and executed prisoners of war as victims of a policy of mass murder rather than as military casualties). It exceeds by more than thirteen million the number of American and British casualties, taken together, of the Second World War. It also exceeds by more than thirteen million all of the American battlefield losses in all of the foreign wars that the United States has ever fought.

- As many Soviet prisoners of war died on a single given day in autumn 1941 as did British and American prisoners of war over the course of the entire Second World War.

- In a matter of a given few days in the second half of 1941, the Germans shot more Jews in the east than they had inmates in all of their concentration camps.

- Most important of all for the high numbers are the Jews: not the Jews of Russia, of whom only about sixty thousand died, but the Jews of Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Belarus (nearly a million) and those whose homeland was occupied by the Soviet Union before they were killed by the Germans (a further 1.6 million).


- Belarus was the center of the Soviet-Nazi confrontation, and no country endured more hardship under German occupation. Proportionate wartime losses were greater than in Ukraine.

- Of the nine million people who were on the territory of Soviet Belarus in 1941, some 1.6 million were killed by the Germans in actions away from battlefields, including about 700,000 prisoners of war, 500,000 Jews, and 320,000 people counted as partisans (the vast majority of whom were unarmed civilians).

- A rough estimate of two million total mortal losses on the territory of present-day Belarus during the Second World War seems reasonable and conservative. More than a million other people fled the Germans, and another two million were deported as forced labor or removed from their original residence for another reason. Beginning in 1944, the Soviets deported a quarter million more people to Poland and tens of thousands more to the Gulag. By the end of the war, half the population of Belarus had either been killed or moved. This cannot be said of any other European country.


- In 1939, the Soviets and the Germans invaded Poland together, and carried out a policy of de-Enlightenment.

- Beyond Poland, the extent of Polish suffering is underappreciated. Even Polish historians rarely recall the Soviet Poles who were starved in Soviet Kazakhstan and Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s, or the Soviet Poles shot in Stalin’s Great Terror in the late 1930s. No one ever notes that Soviet Poles suffered more than any other European national minority in the 1930s. The striking fact that the Soviet NKVD made more arrests in occupied eastern Poland in 1940 than in the rest of the USSR is rarely recalled. About as many Poles were killed in the bombing of Warsaw in 1939 as Germans were killed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945. For Poles, that bombing was just the beginning of one of the bloodiest occupations of the war, in which Germans killed millions of Polish citizens. More Poles were killed during the Warsaw Uprising alone than Japanese died in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A non-Jewish Pole in Warsaw alive in 1933 had about the same chances of living until 1945 as a Jew in Germany alive in 1933. Nearly as many non-Jewish Poles were murdered during the war as European Jews were gassed at Auschwitz. For that matter, more non-Jewish Poles died at Auschwitz than did Jews of any European country, with only two exceptions: Hungary and Poland itself.


- The lands of today’s Ukraine were at the center of both Stalinist and Nazi killing policies throughout the era of mass killing. Some 3.5 million people fell victim to Stalinist killing policies between 1933 and 1938, and then another 3.5 million to German killing policies between 1941 and 1944. Perhaps three million more inhabitants of Soviet Ukraine died in combat or as an indirect consequence of the war.

- Starvation is nasty, brutal, and long, and party activists and local officials had to watch and bring about the death of people they knew. Arendt regarded the collectivization famines as the inauguration of moral isolation, as people found themselves helpless before the powerful modern state. As Leszek KoĊ‚akowski understood, that was only half of the truth. The involvement of practically everyone in the famine, as collectors or as consumers of food, created a “new species of moral unity.”

- Aside from Jones, the only journalist to file serious reports in English was Malcolm Muggeridge, writing anonymously for the Manchester Guardian. He wrote that the famine was “one of the most monstrous crimes in history, so terrible that people in the future will scarcely be able to believe that it happened.”


- The East, until very recently, had belonged to the NKVD. One secret of Himmler’s success was that he was able to exploit the legacy of Soviet power in the places where it had most recently been installed.

- Yet this psychic nazification would have been much more difficult without the palpable evidence of Soviet atrocities. The pogroms took place where the Soviets had recently arrived and where Soviet power was recently installed, where for the previous months Soviet organs of coercion had organized arrests, executions, and deportations. They were a joint production, a Nazi edition of a Soviet text.

- Each of them had a transformative utopia, a group to be blamed when its realization proved impossible, and then a policy of mass murder that could be proclaimed as a kind of ersatz victory.

- No major war or act of mass killing in the twentieth century began without the aggressors or perpetrators first claiming innocence and victimhood.

- The moral danger, after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander.

Separated at Birth?

White-haired, bespectacled new wave musician Nick Lowe and...

...white-haired, bespectacled talk radio shock jock Hugh Hewitt?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the hardworking folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who have the deep roots to help you harvest a rich crop of wine, whiskey, and beer.

More often than not, the weekly Fraters Libertas Beer of the Week post appears on Friday. However, that was not possible this past week as I spent some time “up North” in the Brainerd lakes area (which seems to be broadly defined as anything north of St. Cloud, south of Bemidji, east of Alexandria, and west of Duluth). Part of this time was for a off-site work meeting and part for a family “vacation.” I use the scare quotes since this “vacation” consisted of spending the weekend in a hotel water park. Restful it was not and were it not for the prospect of enjoying beer whenever possible, it is doubtful if I would have survived the weekend with my sanity intact.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover a few beers not readily available in the Twin Cities on the trip. This included two offerings from Brainerd Lakes Brewing: One-Eyed Pike Wheat and First Pull IPA. Their IPA was tasty while the wheat was rather bland. I also came across a nice little farmhouse ale from Brau Brothers called Forgotten Flem.

On the way up, I noticed a number of billboards along the way celebrating Summit Brewing’s 25th anniversary. It was another reminder of how important a role the St. Paul brewery has played in the rise of craft beer in the state. From a humble beginning in neighborhood bars in the city, it’s now become an institution statewide and is widely available throughout Minnesota and the Midwest. It’s also helped bring other local craft brewers along with it and we were quite pleased to find Surly Furious on tap at the restaurant on Gull Lake where we dined on Saturday night.

This week’s featured beer is the seventh offering in Summit’s Unchained Series Honeymoon Saison:

To celebrate his upcoming nuptials, Summit brewer Sam Doniach created Honeymoon Saison—Batch 07 in the Summit Unchained Series. It’s inspired by French saison styles which were traditional farmhouse ales brewed to quench workers on long, hot days. Sam’s creation has a refreshing citrus and floral character with hints of apple, pear and spicy, peppery notes. It’s brewed with a touch of Minnesota honey as a kettle addition and unfiltered for a smooth, clean finish.

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.

Typical Summit 12oz brown bottle with the industrial design common to the Unchained Series.

STYLE: Saison

Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%

COLOR (0-2): Orange-brown and slightly cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Pepper, malt, with a hint of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, decent volume, and good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Flavors of yeast, dry hops, lots of pepper, and sour fruit. Picked up just a hint of sweet honey. Medium-bodied with a thin mouthfeel. Moderately drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Bitter and somewhat sour with more spice. 1

OVERALL (0-6): There’s a lot going on with Summit’s Honeymoon Saison. Unfortunately, while the flavors are prominent and complex they just don’t work particularly well together. There’s too much on the spice side with the pepper and not enough on the sweet with the honey. It’s not a bad beer by any means, but given the expectations raised by the previous beers in Summit’s Unchained Series I was disappointed by Honeymoon Saison. Fans of the style would do better with other local options including Liftbridge’s Farm Girl and the aforementioned Brau Brother’s Forgotten Flem. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Knowing What We Don't Know

Number of Species on Earth is 8.7 Million, Scientists Say:

Scientists have made the most precise calculation yet of the number of species on Earth, determining the total to be 8.7 million.

Previously estimated by mere educated guesses at a wide margin between three and 100 million, scientists calculated 8.7 million (plus or minus 1.3 million), a number they call "the most precise calculation ever offered" analyzing taxonomies and applying the patterns throughout genera and the rest of the classification hierarchy. The study was published on Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology.

You gotta love how the “most precise calculation yet” includes a margin of error of plus/minus 1.3 MILLION. Even more eye popping is this:

Currently only about 1.2 million species have been officially registered, with about 700,000 informally registered and not present in central databases. Approximately 86 percent of land species and 91 percent of creatures in the ocean have yet to be discovered, Mora said.

All the years of exploration and scientific discovery and all the technological advances that have been made during those years and we still haven’t classified the vast majority of critters on earth? It shows you just how much we still don’t know about the wonders of this pale blue dot that we inhabit.

It also demonstrates the need for perspective, prudence, and humility when considering the abilities of science to provide the answers to everything. There’s no doubt that science, and more specifically the advent of the scientific method, has brought us a much greater understanding of our world and made possible many wonderful advances that have improved our lives in innumerable ways. But too often the limitations of science aren’t acknowledged and too much credence is placed on what science says about a particular matter at a particular time.

I’ve mentioned before that as a parent of three inquisitive young boys, I’ve been drawn back into areas that I haven’t really paid much attention to for years: astronomy, geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biology, etc. Rediscovering an interest in these fields (not that there was much choice involved) has been a good experience for me as it’s easy to take them for granted as you take on the responsibilities and distractions of the adult world. And the opportunities for learning and exploring these area has never been greater with the quantity and quality of material now available on the internet, television, books, and videos. Our six-year-old son is already quite proficient at firing up Netflix and streaming dinosaur documentaries. The breadth and depth of the scientific knowledge that’s now available at our fingertips is amazing.

Along the way I’ve been remind that as much as might seem so at a given time, scientific knowledge is never static. What we know today is based on…what we know…TODAY. What we know tomorrow might be something different. A few examples:

- Pluto is no longer a planet

- There was no such thing as a Brontosaurus and the Apatosaurus didn’t live in swamps but on dry plains

- Despite what “The Flintstones” taught us, there was no such as a saber-toothed-tiger

- T-Rex may not have been a ferocious predator, but instead a scavenger who fed off the scraps of others. Or maybe not. Or maybe both.

The point again that what appears to be settled science at the moment often turns out to be far less settled over time. Rick Perry was recently ripped by many in the smart set for saying that evolution was a “theory that’s got some gaps in it.” Well, if you consider that on a fairly regular basis new fossil finds cause scientists to reconsider and often revise their understanding of the evolutionary process, how can you find fault with what Perry said? If you think that science has a perfect grasp of exactly how evolution was worked over the years and that the case is closed you have not been paying attention.

We should not hesitate to celebrate the progress that science has made in understanding our world and how it works. But we should recognize that for as much as we know today, there’s far more out there that we don’t know. And no matter how much science advances in the future, some things we never will.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

HWX, with CJ Box

The latest edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast is now up on Ricochet.

A rollicking conversation is featured, including discussion on the fall of Qaddafi, the fall of Obama's poll numbers (with historical context), and the fall of Tim Pawlenty's POTUS aspirations.

Our special guest is award winning crime and mystery novelist C.J. Box. He's the author of several NYT best sellers, including his latest, Back of Beyond. He turns out to be kind of a conservative good ol' boy as well and he was fun to speak with.

Also covered are this week's Loon of the Week, with perennial favorite Maxine Waters, and This Week in Gate Keeping, with a cautionary tale about the hazards of including pork rib recipes in your newspaper's "Ramadan Delights" special section.

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.

A Carnival of Sorts

Yesterday's announcement that Paul Ryan will not seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination was disappointing. While I can understand Ryan's reasons for not entering the race, I think that Americans need someone with ability to clearly articulate the challenges we face and the tough choices that must be made. And an Obama-Ryan race would have forced the media to spend at least some time talking about these issues rather than focusing on the horse race dynamics of the campaigns and digging up dirt on the GOP candidate. Okay, that might have been wishful thinking.

An editorial in today's WSJ on the Ryan boomlet that just burst explains another reason behind the calls for Ryan to run:

A House Member not running for President would usually be among the bottom stories of the day, except the Ryan boomlet reflects the larger discontent with the current Republican field. Among the current crop of candidates, none has managed to articulate free-market principles and policies with Mr. Ryan's fluency or conviction. Neither do they seem to be attempting to appeal to the independent voters who decide elections with an optimistic pro-growth vision.

We suspect many GOP constituents are watching the current primary carnival while looking down midway for someone different. That candidate might combine Mr. Ryan's reform ambitions and the seriousness of his message with executive competence and a record of achievement at the state level. Hope and change aren't the exclusive province of Democrats.

With no Ryan in the race and the Republican field now seemingly narrowing to the big three (Romney, Bachmann, and Perry) and everybody else, there isn't an obvious choice for those of us looking for those elusive qualities that Ryan possesses. At this point, I'd say that I'd have to lean toward Perry while still holding reservations about whether he truly is the best candidate for the job of unseating President Obama. I'm still looking over the horizon as well, but the time for a new barker to appear on stage is drawing close to an end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fifty Years of Rot

In Saturday's WSJ, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks exposed the Moral Decay Behind the London Riots (sub req):

Britain is the latest country to pay the price for what happened half a century ago in one of the most radical transformations in the history of the West. In virtually every Western society in the 1960s there was a moral revolution, an abandonment of its entire traditional ethic of self-restraint. All you need, sang the Beatles, is love. The Judeo-Christian moral code was jettisoned. In its place came: whatever works for you. The Ten Commandments were rewritten as the Ten Creative Suggestions. Or as Allan Bloom put it in "The Closing of the American Mind": "I am the Lord Your God: Relax!"

You do not have to be a Victorian sentimentalist to realize that something has gone badly wrong since. In Britain today, more than 40% of children are born outside marriage. This has led to new forms of child poverty that serious government spending has failed to cure. In 2007, a Unicef report found that Britain's children are the unhappiest in the world. The 2011 riots are one result. But there are others.

Whole communities are growing up without fathers or male role models. Bringing up a family in the best of circumstances is not easy. To try to do it by placing the entire burden on women—91% of single-parent families in Britain are headed by the mother, according to census data—is practically absurd and morally indefensible. By the time boys are in their early teens they are physically stronger than their mothers. Having no fathers, they are socialized in gangs. No one can control them: not parents, teachers or even the local police. There are areas in Britain's major cities that have been no-go areas for years. Crime is rampant. So are drugs. It is a recipe for violence and despair.

That is the problem. At first it seemed as if the riots were almost random with no basis in class or race. As the perpetrators have come to court, a different picture has emerged. Of those charged, 60% had a previous criminal record, and 25% belonged to gangs.

This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that has been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people, deprived of parental care, who on average—and yes, there are exceptions—do worse than their peers at school, are more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, less likely to find stable employment and more likely to land up in jail.

The truth is, it is not their fault. They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.

The Rabbi goes on to say that it's still possible to reverse this moral decay if only Western societies have the will to do so. This repair effort will have to be undertaken soon as fifty years of neglect have left the structure of civilization in a state where it would not take much to to induce a collapse.

Friday, August 19, 2011

No Fat to Trim

Susanne Eman's bid to be world's fattest woman:

Obese model Susanne Eman is saying 'Supersize Me' for real - in her bid to become the fattest woman ever.

The 52-stone bombshell aims to reach a whopping 115 stone, or 1,600lb, by guzzling at least 20,000 calories a day.

Susanne, 32, from Arizona USA, hopes to pass the half-way milestone of 57 stones by the end of the year.

As sickening as this spectacle may be, your initial reaction might be to say "What the hell? If she wants to kill herself by overeating, what concern is it of ours?" And that response might be perfectly understandable except...

The unemployed mother - who cannot work because of her weight - claims she stays active by doing simple exercises and having regular health checks.

My wife--who sent me this heartwarming tale of the woman with big dreams--asked "so who's paying for this goal?" The answer is we are. Remember the old days, when people who didn't have jobs had to worry about getting enough to eat? No more. In today's America, the unemployed can eat all they want and more. In fact, if they are so inclined they can choose to literally eat themselves to death as this woman has. This used to be an indulgent exit that you had to pay for yourself. Now it's on our dime.

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the level-headed crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can guide you to the wine, whiskey, and beer that will help make this summer one that you’ll long remember.

Among the many new beers that appeared recently on the shelves at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits is Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat from the Tallgrass Brewing Company in Kansas. Other Tallgrass offerings were previously available at Glen Lake and three of them have already been featured here. Tallgrass is among the growing number craft brewers who have embraced the can as their beer package of choice (Surly and 21st Amendment are a couple of other notable craft beer canners). Most beers from Tallgrass come in 16oz cans (like Surly), but their Halcyon Wheat is packaged in a 12oz can. It also features a distinct connection to its home state:

We originally brewed Halcyon as our first summer seasonal, but since all the Halcyon fans (a.k.a: kiteheads) asked so nicely, we now brew this magical brew year around. Besides, who doesn't want a little taste of summer on a dark winter night?

We are proud of all our beers, but Halcyon is special. We are in “the wheat state” after all, so the pressure was on us to make a wheat beer, but we knew it had to be great. Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat is the result of that Midwestern angst, an all-American wheat with real Kansas-grown grain in the brew.

We start with raw Kansas white wheat in the mix to give it a nice edge, but what really makes it shine is the hops. We use “hop-bursting” late in the brewing process and this gives Halcyon its palate of tropical fruit flavors & aromas with a bright and refreshing taste like the best days of summer.

oh yea...Silver Medal in the wheat beer category at the US Beer Championships Woot! Woot!

By the way, while I think most of us are familiar with the word “halcyon” as commonly used, I don’t think many are aware of its origin (I certainly wasn’t):

A halcyon is a mythical bird—often identified as a kingfisher—said to breed in a floating nest at sea during the winter solstice, during which time it charms the wind and waves into calm. The term originates from the Greek myth of Alcyone. In popular use, it can also mean to harken back to an earlier time, remembered as idyllic.

As such it is a fitting name for a beer best enjoyed during those splendid days of summer when everything seems right with the world.
The design on the can also captures the carefree spirit of the season with a bright yellow diamond kit in front of swirling summer blues.

STYLE: Wheat Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.0%

COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and well-clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Wheaty and sweet with hints of honey. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, good volume and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Again mostly wheat and yeast with some sweet malt and more mellow hops and citrus flavor. The creamy mouthfeel is simply luscious. Lighter bodied and not much carbonation. Very drinkable and refreshing. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp, clean slightly hoppy finish. 2

OVERALL (0-6): While this wheat beer is a departure from the traditional hefeweizen style, it’s by no means a disappointment. Halcyon Wheat maintains a full and complex flavor profile while being remarkably drinkable and quite refreshing. Kansas has every reason to be proud of this product and the wheat that went into it. It’s a much better unfiltered wheat than the one offered by Boulevard Brewing (also from the Jayhawk state). Celebrate the all too fleeting days of summer by raising a Halcyon Wheat or two. And don’t be scared off because it comes in a can (looking at you Atomizer). You should always be pouring your beer into an appropriate glass anyway. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

[Fellow Frater Saint Paul enjoyed a Halcyon Wheat in my basement bar earlier this week so I expect that he may weigh in with either a affirmation or rebuttal of my views on the beer.]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

In For The Kill

Avid readers will recognize that I am a fan of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish Football team. However, Notre Dame not withstanding, I'd characterize myself as a college football fan. The strength of college football, to borrow the liberal catch phrase, is its diversity. The college football universe displays a vast array of offensive and defensive schemes that dwarf the more standardized strategies presented in the NFL.

In the NFL, talent dispersion is even enough that mismatches leading to big plays occur considerably less frequently than in college football. NFL football is beautiful, but teams have a sameness about them that simply doesn't exist in the collegiate ranks. In the NFL, teams change their identities frequently. In college football teams can change identities, but sometimes their identities last through multiple coaching regimes and/or decades. Consider Penn State, with the identity of "Linebacker U." Their coach (Joe Paterno), and their identity have been the same since 1966, a decade before Head Coach Josh McDaniel of the Denver Broncos was born.

Our hometown Minnesota Golden Gophers made a head coaching change prior to this season in hopes of changing their identity held as long as Paterno has coached Penn State: the identity of pathetic losers. Unlike past coaching changes, this one shows some promise. New coach Jerry Kill boasts a 127-73 record in lesser divisions of college football. His 63.5% career win rate gives Minnesotans hope that they can compete for something other than last place.

As an added bonus, Coach Kill has a really cool name. Think about it. Imagine that you are a blue-chip defensive standout at a local high school, the type of player that has eschewed the Gophers for power programs during most of our lifetimes. Coach Kill doesn't have the same goofy ring as Coach Bru, Coach Wacky or Smokey Joe. I suspect that type of player would like to see how tough Coach Kill's team could be.

I could even imagine fans getting involved. Imagine a Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. As the Gophers run out on the field, the stands booms a chant: "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

And that's why I call for the immediate dismissal of coach Jerry Kill. A variety of reasons make him unfit for the Gopher job. Aside from his performance, which would subvert years of Gopher tradition, there is another reason that he cannot continue to coach Minnesota's Golden Gophers: his name is racist.

That's a pretty strong statement, and it might not be true if he were at any other school. However, at Minnesota, the idea of football fans chanting "Kill, Kill, Kill," harkens back to a dark time when we weren't so Minnesota nice. From AOL News "Worst Moments in Big 10 Football History" (emphasis mine):

It might have been an ugly, racially motivated attack which went further than its perpetrators intended.

It might have been a murder.

After 85 years, it's almost impossible to say just what happened on October 6, 1923, in Minneapolis. What is beyond dispute is that Jack Trice, the first African-American athlete at Iowa State, was trampled by at least three Minnesota players while executing a roll block. Though he did not appear seriously injured at the time, Trice suffered severe internal injuries and died two days later.

At the time, Trice's teammates and friends didn't think the trampling was intentional. Minnesota fans weren't so sure. They began chanting "We're sorry, Ames!" shortly after the play. (In the Midwest, it's common to refer to universities by their locations instead of their names.) When you look at what life was like for an African-American college athlete in the 1920s, you can't help but be a little suspicious.

With all of the celebration of Jackie Robinson's triumph in breaking the baseball color barrier, one wonders why the story of Jack Trice, who died attempting something similar a quarter century earlier isn't better known. I blame Don Shelby.

Nonetheless, we can't allow an unfortunately named coach appear to remind us that all of our ancestors didn't share our commitment to diversity.

The Finish of a Nice Guy

James from Folsom shares further thoughts on Pawlenty and Bachmann:

Interesting that you mention the "real" Bob Dole. Years ago I used to be a devoted listener to Don Imus. Among his regular guests were Bob Dole, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, John Kerry and Al Gore. Almost to a man they were funny and personable on Imus's show, yet none of them could translate that likeability to a campaign. I know that saying Al Gore or John Kerry had a personality sounds like a bit much, but they did. For better or worse Imus brought that out in them. But they were all too much the politician to just be themselves outside of that context. Looking at that list I have to say: thank God for that.

Speaking of Michele, I've always had mixed feelings. I think as a backbencher in Congress she is a real asset, and I would wiothout hesitation vote for her and campaign for her. But Presidential timber? Not even close. I can sympathize with T-Paw rolling his eyes at her. Not excuse it, but I get it. And if she is sacrificing her Congressional seat for this Quixotic run at the presidency, then I've lost a lot of respect for her because that just strikes me as selfishness to no purpose.

I was disappointed in T-Paw's performance. I thought that he was the perfect candidate this cycle to take on Obama. I blame Michelle for her pointless campaign, but if Tim from Eagan* couldn't deal with her, then it just was not meant to be.

*I was driving from, I think, St. Cloud or some out-state community into the Twin Cities one Sunday (probably the day after a hockey series at SCSU), listening to The Fan and "Tim from Eagan" called in to talk about the Vikings. It was pretty neat to hear the governor just talking sports with no political agenda. He always seemed like such a likeable guy. Maybe that's why he didn't wear the attack dog suit so well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nothing Better Than The Real Thing

Now that the dust of the results of the Ames straw poll and Tim Pawlenty’s subsequent withdrawal from the campaign have cleared, there’s a chance to step back and analysis what happened and why. The fact that Tim Pawlenty will not be the 2012 Republican nominee for president is not shocking, but that speed at which his campaign to secure that nomination unraveled is. I’ve mentioned before that it was a bit surreal for me to see Pawlenty and then Michele Bachmann emerge as viable contenders to sit in the Oval Office. Someone that I’ve met on several occasions, interviewed on the radio, and, in the case of Pawlenty, shared a beer with becoming President of THE United States of America just didn’t seem possible.

Never was the scene more surreal than during last Thursday’s debate (which now seems like a month ago) when Pawlenty and Bachmann locked horns in a nasty intrastate spate that was difficult to watch. Polls the day after the debate showed that Iowans were almost uniformly uncomfortable with the confrontation and as James Lileks noted on Twitter that evening, it felt like being at a party where a couple won’t quit arguing. The mood was certainly ugly and Minnesota Republicans could be forgiven for not thinking they were hearing strains of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” playing in the background. I don’t think either candidate came off well during the exchange, but Pawlenty clearly was more damaged by it as evidenced by his poor showing in the straw poll. And the damage wasn’t caused because he attacked a fellow Republican. It was because of how desperate and floundering the attack appeared. How unpresidential and, to me at least, how unPawlenty it came across as.

During his announcement that he was pulling out of the race, Pawlenty mentioned that voters weren’t buying the message he was trying to sell. While that was no doubt true, I think a bigger problem was that Pawlenty was never sure exactly what he was selling. More specifically, which Tim Pawlenty were we supposed to get excited about? The competent two-term governor of a blue state who held the line on taxes? The blue collar “Sam’s Club conservative”? Or the pro-growth economic optimist who promised 5% GDP growth? Or some of all of the above?

When I watched Pawlenty during the past year—on television interviews, giving speeches, or during the two debates—the same reoccurring thought crossed my mind: this is not the Tim Pawlenty that I know. This is not the Tim Pawlenty that I encountered over the years in Minnesota. Not the same affable guy who usually was able to get his message across well whether on a personal level or delivering a speech. Not the Tim Pawlenty who appeared comfortable in his own skin.

Voters will forgive a lot in their politicians. One thing they usually won’t forgive is not being authentic. Bill Clinton might be a fun lovin’ skirt chaser prone to stretching the truth, but that’s who he was. George W. Bush might be a free wheelin’ Texas cowboy prone to butchering the language, but again there was no doubt that was the real GW. Meanwhile, when Al Gore tried to find himself in the midst of the 2000 campaign, voters weren’t interested in being part of that discovery process. Which in hindsight was good, because the real Al Gore turned out to be a stark raving mad lunatic.

I think that one of the reasons that Pawlenty never caught on with the GOP faithful nationwide was because they never could get the sense of who the real Tim Pawlenty was. And the more that Pawlenty attempted to define himself and stand out, the less authentic he appeared. The attempt to tag Romney with the “Obamney Care” label seemed somewhat contrived when it started and looked even more so when Pawlenty backed away from reaffirming during the first debate. The attacks against Bachmann in the second debate were even less convincing and turned out to be the last gasps of a candidate and campaign that never could find its identity.

When I mentioned Pawlenty’s identity problem to a friend yesterday, the first comparison that came to his mind was also the one I had been harboring: Bob Dole. During the 1996 campaign for president, Dole came across as stiff, grumpy, and, as unfair as it might sound, old. This left him at a huge disadvantage to the vibrant, energetic image that the country had of President Clinton. Yet shortly after the campaign ended as Dole made the late night talk show circuit, a new Bob Dole emerged. A witty, self-deprecating fellow who appeared at ease and quite content. With the economy rocking and the country upbeat, it’s unlikely that Dole could have beaten Clinton under any circumstances. But it certainly seems feasible to believe that had the country seen the “real” Bob Dole during the campaign, the electoral results would have been much closer.

Likewise, while I don’t necessarily think that the “real” Tim Pawlenty would win the GOP nomination, I do think that if we had seen more of him in the last year his campaign might not have folded up its tent so soon. Let’s hope we haven’t seen the last of the real thing.

UPDATE-- An e-mailer who requests anonymity, suggests another reason behind Pawlenty’s fall:

I have an opinion about what went wrong vis a vis Bachmann. Pawlenty and his staff (some of whom I spoke to just a week before the debate as things were getting testy between them) had a very condescending attitude toward Michele. Eye rolls all around when she was mentioned. A sort of “can you believe she is even in this?” attitude. I think that attitude started coming across in Pawlenty the candidate. And the voters just being introduced to them did not understand his condescension. They liked what they saw in Michele.

Now there is probably some valid history there. Maybe they know some negative stuff about Bachmann or her campaign. I dunno. But his mistake was letting his frustration/condescension show to the voters. I warned the staff that I spoke to that it wasn’t playing well (this was during the migraine debate). Their universal reaction was more eyerolling...

p.s. it is also my opinion that Pawlenty has now been upstaged last minute by 2 female candidates (Palin/Bachmann)– 2 Lucys who stole the football from Charlie Brown. And his condescension has a whiff of sexism...

He wouldn't have been the first to underestimate Bachmann to his eventual detriment, but you would think that knowing her track record would have prevented him from having such a dissmissive attitude.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


For a while now, Rick from California has been arguing that he has a worse slate of public officials representing him than I do. While I've been skeptical of Rick's past claims, this story may tilt the scales in his favor. Dispute grows between Assemblyman Bradford, Gardena ice cream vendor:

State Assemblyman Steve Bradford, D-Inglewood, has accused a 73-year-old ice-cream truck vendor of trying to run him over while he was home in Gardena last weekend during the Legislature's summer recess.

The alleged aggressor, Jesus Izquierdo of Hawthorne, counters that he was simply trying to drive home when Bradford pulled up next to him and began screaming.

"I'm just trying to sell ice cream, why would I try to kill someone?" Izquierdo, who speaks little English, said in Spanish when told about Bradford's accusation.

Izquierdo claims Bradford tried to represent himself as an officer, and even flashed something that resembled a police badge at him - something Bradford has been accused of doing before with an honorary badge he receives as an elected official.

To the best of my knowledge, my representative in the Minnesota House has never flashed an honorary badge to claim powers he doesn't possess. It gets better.

Izquierdo claims that Bradford has harassed him several times in the past two years about his business license permit. Izquierdo said he knows that Bradford is not a police or code enforcement officer and he countered by asking to see Bradford's identification. Bradford showed him a badge, which could have been a state-issued honorary badge given to legislators, Izquierdo said.

"He acts like he is an inspector but he is not," Izquierdo said through an interpreter. "This has been happening for two years."

In 2002, Bradford was arrested in Hawthorne on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest after he reportedly struck an officer with his car at an accident scene. The Hawthorne police officer said Bradford parked his black BMW in the middle of an area where emergency workers were battling a car fire and treating injured victims. Bradford refused an officer's orders to leave, physically fought the officer, and flashed his honorary council badge, officials said.

Bradford later sued the Hawthorne Police Department, claiming he was wrongfully arrested because he is black. The city awarded him a $50,000 settlement in 2004.

Unlike most politicians who at least can claim to do so accidentally, this guy is literally trying to drive small businesses out of his community. Yeah, this one is gonna be hard to top...

Back by Unpopular Demand

Four years ago, Fraters Libertas covered this disturbing story out of Santa Barbara News-Press:

Three reporters - Dawn Hobbs, Rob Kuznia and Barney McManigal - were fired Monday evening, while three others - John Zant, Thomas Schultz and Melissa Evans - were terminated Tuesday.

The firings came after a group of employees displayed a banner reading "Cancel Your Newspaper Today" from a bridge over Highway 101 in Santa Barbara during last Friday morning's rush hour.

It was a sad reflection of the labor wars raging across the nation back in the dark Bush years. The economy was in precarious straights. Declining revenues and increasing costs forced employers to implement cutbacks. Union employees were revolting and became even more brazen in their demands and threats for ever more. Good thing we’re past all that!

Not so fast! Like a Ron Paul campaign for President, you should never presume a union employee is gone for good. Breaking news out of Santa Barbara from this week:

NLRB Orders News-Press to Reinstate Fired Reporters

In a long-awaited decision, the National Labor Relations Board today ordered the Santa Barbara News-Press to reinstate eight reporters the paper illegally fired for union activities. They are: John Zant, Melinda Burns, Anna Davison, Tom Schultz, Melissa Evans, Rob Kuznia, Barney McManigal, and Dawn Hobbs.

I’ll say it’s long awaited, four years to be exact. But the rusty gears of justice finally whirred into action and those poor, maligned employees, who just happened to have been trying to cut their employer’s throat, are ordered by the government to be returned to their positions.

Well, they may get their jobs back, but for their astonishing lack of loyalty and professionalism, at least they had to suffer four years of income loss.

Not so fast!

The NLRB also ordered back pay for the eight fired reporters.

OK, they may get their jobs back and hundreds of thousands in back pay, but at least the acrimony will have died down, people will have matured, and we’ll not be subjected to the absurd spectacle of professional employees of a company urging their customers to abandon them in order to further union objectives.

Not so fast!

Said [reporter Melinda Burns]: “We are delighted that the labor board has ruled so strongly in our favor. It was a unanimous (3-0) bipartisan decision. … We have a continuing boycott, and urge people to cancel their subscriptions. Please don’t buy, read, or advertise in the News-Press until McCaw obeys the law and signs a fair contract.”

Well, that should at least make for some spirited meetings in the marketing department at the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Hapless manager: Anybody have ideas for how to boost our circulation numbers and increase ad sales?

Non-unionized employee: How about we stop telling people not to buy, read, or advertise in the News-Press?

Hapless manager: Great idea, get his man a nomination form for employee of the month! Then report him to the NLRB for engaging in illegal anti-union activity.

We can’t forget it is the invisible hand of Obama’s NLRB behind this mess. You may remember them from past unjust interventions such as the lawsuit against Boeing for opening a new manufacturing plant in a right-to-work state.

The good news is, apparently the NLRB does not get the final word on the case of the Santa Barbarians.

"We are not surprised” by the NLRB “rubber-stamp” decision because of the political situation in Washington, said [News-Press attorney Michael Zinser], apparently referring to the Democratic administration and appointment of Democrats to fill long-vacant seats on the NLRB board.

Don Katich, News-Press Director of News Operations, released a prepared statement in response to the ruling. “The decision of the NLRB is not unexpected,” it reads. “This is just another decision of the current National Labor Relations Board in its assaults on businesses in the United States of America. In every instance so far, when Santa Barbara News-Press has been in the federal court system, it has prevailed over the National Labor Relations Board and the Teamsters Union. Santa Barbara News-Press fully expects to prevail again.”

Until then, welcome back surly, bitter union employees. Other than those times when you’re actively chasing away the readers and advertisers, I’m sure you’ll be an asset to the organization.

Just A Little Burning

A front page story in today's WSJ on how Actors Are Taking Dramatic Roles at Hospitals:

In the current economy, both Dr. Kang in New York and Dr. May in L.A. say they've seen an uptick in actors wanting patient roles.

"At least you're acting on some level," says Denise Lock, an actress and opera singer who is part of Weill Cornell's ensemble cast. Ms. Lock, who has appeared in overseas productions of Porgy and Bess, is a veteran at playing patients at medical school.

"I have done heart attacks, lupus, diabetes, Parkinson's, hot flashes," she says.

Which brings to mind the Seinfeld episode The Burning:

Jerry: No, no. He's pretending he's got gonorrhea so med students can diagnose

Kramer: And it's a waste of my talent. It's just a little burning. Mickey, he
got bacterial meningitis.

George: I guess there are no small diseases, only small actors.

The other three start laughing.

George (leaving): Alright that's it for me. Good night everybody.

Elaine: What was that?

Jerry: Showmanship, George is trying to get out on a high note.

Kramer: See, showmanship. Maybe that's what my gonorrhea is missing.

Jerry: Yes! Step into that spotlight and belt that gonorrhea out to the back

Kramer: Yes, yes I will! I'm gonna make people feel my gonorrhea, and feel the
gonorrhea themselves.

New scene.
Mt. Sanai Hospital. Kramer is on the table surrounded by med students.

Student #1: And are you experiencing any discomfort?

Kramer: Just a little burning during urination.

Student #1: Okay, any other pain?

Kramer: The haunting memories of lost love. May I? (signals to Mickey)
Lights? (Mickey turns down the lights and Kramer lights a cigar) Our eyes met
across the crowded hat store. I, a customer, and she a coquettish haberdasher.
Oh, I pursued and she withdrew, then she pursued and I withdrew, and so we
danced. I burned for her, much like the burning during urination that I would
experience soon afterwards.

Student #1: Gonorrhea?!

Kramer: Gonorrhea!

The lab breaks out in spontaneous applause as Mickey turns up the lights and
Kramer takes a bow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quality Control

Patrick Reusse on last night's historic performance by a Twins shortstop:

That changed on Friday night. Guth's pinch-running excursion was surpassed in dramatic fashion by Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the imported infielder on whom the Twins spent $14.1 million ... $14.1 million that would have better served the Twins if they had taken it next door from Target Field and had the cash incinerated at the Hennepin County garbage burner.

It is time to stop pussy-footin': This young man knows less about the basics of playing shortstop (or second base) than any big-leaguer I've ever watched.

In Friday's sixth inning, Nishioka played two consecutive double play balls off his chest. And then with Travis Hafner - Cleveland's modern-day Jim Thome - running on a slow chopper, Nishioka hurried as if he was trying to throw out Jacoby Ellsbury and booted the ball.

It wasn't that Nishioka allowed the Indians to tie the game at 1-1. He forced them to score that run.

You could see the steam coming off the neck of Carl Pavano, who had been winning a grand duel with Justin Masterson, Cleveland's stud of a sinkerball pitcher.

One inning later, Pavano's anger went from repressed to explosive. Matt Tolbert, in for the reinjured Alexi Casilla at second base, was failing to make plays left and right (mostly right).

Finally, Pavano induced a bouncer that Justin Morneau fielded going toward second base, and looked up to make the throw for the force. Nishioka was eight feet behind the bag, wandering aimlessly.

Morneau turned and made a frantic flip to Pavano, who reached back to grab the throw and get the third out by a foot at first base.

Immediately, Pavano spiked the baseball, and then he threw a dugout tantrum in which he was tossing about the Gatordade bucket. By now, Nishioka was sitting on the bench. Somehow, Pavano resistd the urge to put the bucket over Nishioka's head - throwing it instead to the far corner of the dugout.

As the Twins batted, Pavano was shown sitting in the dugout, mouthing F-bombs about the amateurish fielding from Nishioka, from Tolbert and later from Ben Revere ... but, mostly from Nishioka, who proved decisively that he has no business in the middle of a major league infield.

Bucky Guth, you're off the hook. This fellow Nishioka is a joke. On Friday, the joke was on Pavano, whom I'd guess will be interested in the future in having a designated shortstop than a designated catcher.

I had the distinct displeasure of watching Nishi's sixth inning meltdown and was wondering at the time whether, in all the years that I've followed baseball, I had ever witnessed a single player fail to make more plays in one inning that Nishi did. Now, the unprecedented nature of Nishi's failures has been confirmed by a man who's seen far more baseball than I have.

The 2011 Twins season has mostly been a series of disasters. And no single disaster has been more catastrophic to the team's prospects for winning than the signing of Nishioka. For a team that has built a culture around doing the little things right and playing good fundamental baseball to so badly misjudge a player's abilities should be deeply disturbing to Twins fans. And it should also call it question whether GM Bill Smith really has the acumen to ever put a team on the field that could seriously contend for the World Series.

SISYPHUS ADDS IN DISGUST: Let’s not forget that the Twins made room for Nishioka by trading away shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles for two lousy minor league relief pitchers.

J.J. Hardy is currently hitting .274 with 23 Home Runs and an OPS of .846. He also leads American League shortstops with a .988 fielding percentage.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CX)

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

Lots of exciting news to report this week. Firstly, the craft beer selection at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits has been dramatically expanded. Under the guidance of Glen Lake beer guru Mark, somewhere around THIRTY new beers have been added just this week. I didn’t have a chance to take note of every new offering when I stopped by the store, but I did notice multiple beers on the shelves from Lake Superior, Great Lakes, Lagunitas, Victory, Rush River, and Flat Earth that were not previously available. In addition, there are a number of new bottles of various Belgian beers to choose from.

Usually when I check in with the Glen Lake crew they might have one, occasionally two new beers that just came in. This week’s deluge of new beer is unprecedented and will provide opportunities for shoppers at Glen Lake to dabble in previously uncharted craft beer territory. It also will supply enough material for months of fresh Beer of the Week posts.

The other news item is that St. Paul Summit Brewing Company will soon be celebrating their 25th Anniversary. It seems like only yesterday that Atomizer and his better half joined my wife and I at the Summit Big Brew 20th Anniversary Party on Harriet Island. We watched the band Cake, drank beer, and complained about the long lines to procure the sudsy goodness (you would think a brewery would have no shortage of ways to dispense beer). Good times, good times.

In honor of their 25th Anniversary, Summit has produced a special beer, aptly named Silver Anniversary Ale:

What better way to celebrate 25 years of Summit than with a limited-edition ale inspired by the beer that started it all? This assertively hopped interpretation of our EPA offers up grapefruit, passion fruit and kiwi aromas that lead to a crisp yet well-balanced finish.

Standard 12oz brown Summit bottle. White label has faint background featuring sketch of the city of St. Paul. Sharp Summit logo is joined by picture of the brewery on green ribbon. Very smart and clean design.


Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%

COLOR (0-2): Golden brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Grapefruit and pine. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, lots of volume, prominent bubbles, and great retention. 2

TASTE (0-5): Mostly hoppy with pine, but less citrus than the aroma and a hint of caramel and sugar. Pleasantly bitter and surprisingly smooth. Medium-bodied and fairly drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp and clean finish. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is a very well-rounded beer. Hoppy and bitter, but not overly so. Better than either Summit’s flagship EPA or their regular IPA, I wish Anniversary Ale would join their regular lineup. As it is it's a fitting tribute to a brewery that helped launch craft brewing in Minnesota. Raise one while you can and celebrate twenty-five years of great beer from Summit. Cheers! 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

...What Ain't Broken

This bit from a Charles Krauthammer column at National Review Online is spot on:

Of all the endlessly repeated conventional wisdom in today’s Washington, the most lazy, stupid, and ubiquitous is that our politics is broken. On the contrary. Our political system is working well (I make no such claims for our economy), indeed, precisely as designed — profound changes in popular will translated into law that alters the nation’s political direction.

The process has been messy, loud, disputatious, and often rancorous. So what? In the end, the system works. Exhibit A is Wisconsin. Exhibit B is Washington itself.

Krauthammer goes to observe that the only people whining about our politics being "broken" are those on the losing side of recent fights. By the way, such fighting--usually described today as "partisan bickering"--is what politics is and should be all about. If there were no differences, there would be no politics.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More Bachmann Notes

A couple of other Bachmann items from this week.

The New Yorker ran a lengthy profile of Michele Bachmann and her campaign. As you might expect from this source, it's full of weasely innuendo and passive aggressive cheap shots. But what surprised me most was the absence of one particular weasely cheap shot, the claim that Bachmann was inciting violence by calling for citizens to be "armed and dangerous".

The article includes the mandatory litany of her alleged "gaffes" which we in Minnesota have become so familiar with. But it skips Bachmann's "armed and dangerous" comment, which she made on the old NARN First Team show, and which was so popular in the liberal press earlier this year. When the New Yorker, an institution of the liberal press, ignores it, maybe it shows our efforts to debunk this myth (including the Unarmed and Dangerous series) have paid some dividends.

Now if they'd only listen to us about the supposed John Wayne Gacy "gaffe", faithfully recounted by the New Yorker. It still amazes me that professional journalists can go around saying she "confused" John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy, which sounds like she was telling people that the star of Rio Bravo happened to murder 33 young men and boys in Chicago. Or she was telling people that the guy who murdered 33 young men and boys in Chicago was also the star of True Grit. (And now you know the rest of the story [/paulharvey]). No, it all comes down to her saying the real John Wayne was "from" a city where his parents were from, but about a hundred miles away from where he was born. Journalists of America, for future reference, the full truth of the story lies right here.

Byron York is also covering the Bachmann campaign in Iowa and files this report in the Washington Times. He includes this testament to her retail political skills:

Anyone who doubts Michele Bachmann's talents as a hands-on politician didn't see her performance here Monday

... Bachmann was still holding Hoover's hand and looking straight into his eyes; at that moment, every ounce of her considerable energy was devoted to making this one particular sale. "I'm 100 percent pro-life, I'm 100 percent pro-marriage, pro-family, I'm 100 percent on the Second Amendment," she told Hoover. "Let's get 'er done right now, let's make a decision right now. What do I need to do to convince you?

Apparently it worked, York reports that the target of her question vowed to support her. But is this a testament to Michele Bachmann or a testament to the power of used car sales techniques?

The Larry the Cable Guy close (let's get 'er done!) is new to me, but the "what do I need to convince you" sales appeal is as old as Zig Ziglar. It's lasted this long because it works. As detailed on the Car Sales Professional website:

Creating urgency in your car buyers mind needs to be handled very delicately because it directly impacts your car salesman income. You have seen comedy skits and TV shows that depict being a car salesman and asking the car buyer “what can I do to get you to buy today” and in essence that is what we are trying to do. We want them to buy a car now, while they are at our car dealership.

Speaking of TV shows, life resembles Seinfeld, from the episode The Dealership, Jerry Seinfeld trying to reunite Elaine and car salesman David Puddy:

JERRY: (Smiling, like a salesman) Alright. Now, what do I have to do to put you two in a relationship today?
The Sales Techniques Blog provides some additional insight on why this approach works:

When you are asking questions, be sure that you have focus and a clear outcome in mind. Here is a sample sentence:

"What can I do to help you buy a new car today?"

It is simple and to the point. Your focus is on the fact that they really want to buy a car and you are asking what you need to do to help them in achieving their goal. You are opening up the dialogue for them to tell you want they want, whether it be a specific car, a certain price and a particular color or accessory.

Just as any good car salesman will have a vehicle to match whatever their preference is, a good politician will have a policy position to match whatever their preference is.

How does the average used car purchaser/voter stand a chance in the face of this withering assault on their subconscious will? Aaron Gold provides the answer:

"What can I do to get you to buy this car today?"

I've always wanted to answer this one by saying, "Put on a clown suit, play 'Sweet Home Alabama' on the tuba, and then sell me the car for $25."

That should beat back any politician, unless it's Rick Santorum who may just accommodate you.

The Straw That Stirs the Drink?

The Iowa Straw Poll is Saturday and it looks like all signs are pointing to a strong performance from MY Representative, Michele Bachmann. (Love to stress the MY part for my friends represented getting all the representation they can stand from Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, and Betty McCollum.)

We've seen her grow up, politically speaking, before our eyes in Stillwater, and it is something to have someone you personally know and like being among the contenders for the leader of the free world.

Michael Barone characterizes Bachmann as the favorite to win the straw poll in this Washington Examiner article and he presents her candidacy in a very positive light. However, he does remind us of this inconvenient truth:

She's only in her third term in the House and she hasn't sponsored any major legislation; she has no executive experience in government.

Those first two items were commonly heard from Bachmann's DFL opponents in her last couple of House races. They ring hollow for a Congressional race, since Bachmann has been in the minority party for her entire tenure. Plus conservatives don't really need to show a record of sponsoring MAJOR legislation. The implied expense, regulatory hassle, incompetent administration, and and unintended consequences of that term, especially in the context of recent legislative triumphs like ObamaCare and the Stimulus bill, renders it more of a detriment to her base than a resume enhancement.

But her lack of substantive accomplishment, in conjunction with Barone's last point, no executive experience, are problematic for someone running for President. Tim Pawlenty certainly thinks so, as it's his main talking point as we approach Saturday's straw poll. And I have to agree. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see my President have a proven record of success before handing over the keys to the country. The office of President of the United States deserves someone with an extraordinary record. In a country of 300 million people, is it too much to ask that that the one getting the top job be overwhelmingly qualified and distinguished? Based on the current occupant of the office, yes, it has been too much ask. And I'm not sure that profile exists among any of the leading GOP challengers at this point.

Of course, Michele Bachmann is preferable to Barack Obama, if that's what the choice comes down to. But it's still early in the process, we can still hold out for an ideal candidate for President. I love Michele Bachmann, she's been a terrific Representative and advocate for conservative causes. But, is Michele Bachmann the best we can do for President?

BTW, don’t forget to check out Michael Barone's appearance on the Hinderaker-Ward Experience podcast on from last week, where he provides exclusive commentary on the Bachmann and Pawlenty candidacies.

Time Passages

One of the intriguing things about history is trying to distinguish and define specific periods of time as belonging to one era, epoch, or generation or another. There are any number of ways to slice the historical onion and countless numbers of historians have done this over the years, often in unique and interesting ways.

I am not a historian nor do I claim there is any special insight in the observations that follow. However, while pondering events of the past few days, I’ve begun to believe that we may have crossed another demarcation line in American history and may have entered in what we will later understand as a new time period delineated from the recent past. Following that train of thought a bit further, here’s one way to break down the last fifty years or so.

1963-1973: From the time of the JFK assassination to the US military withdrawal from Vietnam and the beginning of Watergate. This is the period that most people have in mind when they say “The Sixties.” It was a time of political and social upheaval. Leaders were killed, cities were burned, and political violence was not rhetorical but very real. Youthful rebels fought against the “system” and, with rare exceptions, the systems meekly caved in to their demands. Our society is still dealing with the repercussions from this time of rapid and often ill-considered change.

1974-1983: From the time that Nixon leaves the White House in disgrace to the time when the economy starts swinging under Reagan. When people think of “The Seventies” this is what they remember. The feeling of “malaise” that dampened the economy and national spirit that began in the Carter administration carried over into the early years of Reagan. The moral decay and rot of personal fulfillment and egotism that started in the previous era now swept over the culture of the country during “The Me Decade” with disastrous consequences for children and families. America seemed to be in irreversible decline, but Americans were too busy doing their own thing to worry about it.

1983-1991: From the beginning of the Reagan boom to the fall of the USSR. It was morning in America again and the country, its economy, and people were strong and confident. The Cold War was on-going, but with a renewed sense of purpose and pride it seemed certain that America would now prevail. America was back on its feet and ready to go toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union to determine which system would survive and which would end up on the ash heap of history.

1991-2001: From the fall of the USSR to 9/11. Despite a brief interlude with the 1991 recession, this was a golden time for America. History-at least as we had known it-certainly appeared to be at an end. The close of the Cold War meant we had a “peace dividend” which, along with an influx of tax revenue from the tech boom, allowed us to balance the budget. Political disagreements were about much smaller issues and even when politics got heated-as in the 1998 impeachment trial or the 2000 election recount-rarely did it result in anything more than strong words. The economy was booming, freedom was sprouting up around the globe, and we were for the most part a dumb, fat, and happy country.

2001-2010?: From 9/11 to sometime late in 2010 when it became clear that despite (or because of) all the best TARP, stimulus, auto bailouts, health care reform, and QE2 efforts of the government, the economy wasn’t going to recover as it had after previous recessions. The beginning of this era is easy to define because 9/11 really did change everything. No longer were we immune from what was going on around the world and history was in fact very much not over. The political battles became bigger and the stakes higher. We were fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and trying prevent further attacks against the US. On the surface, the economy appeared to be doing well, but it was largely illusory and we had simply traded one speculative bubble (tech) for another (property). The 2008 recession was another defining event. While some might want to divide this period between the Bush and Obama administrations, I don’t think that’s as a clear a line as it might appear. No, something truly fundamentally different began to happen in late 2010 which is beginning to feel like the start of the next era.

2010?-?: While most of this speculation has focused on American history, it’s important to note that what happened in The Sixties wasn’t limited to the US. Countries in Western Europe went through similar upheavals as did some in Asia and Latin American (to a lesser extent). Similarly, this change that seems to be happening now is global. The riots in Greece and now the U.K. seem to be precursors to what we may be in for here (which might in fact already be underway in the form of recent violent flash mobs in US cities). The recent unprecedented downgrade of Americas’ credit rating and this week’s Wall Street panic are signs that something has changed. While there are many who compare the period we’re living in now to The Seventies and President Obama to President Carter, I’m wondering if we’re not already in (or on the verge) of an era that more resembles The Sixties. Political tensions have already spilled over into violence and we’re almost certain to see more sit-ins and protests like we did in Madison as states and the federal government are forced to cut budgets. It seems like we’re headed into very turbulent times which will differ from the most recent period in American history in that the tumult we experience will be much closer to home.

Again, you can disagree with the points that I staked out to mark the beginnings and ends of each period. Some may say the current period we’re in actually started with the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. I would argue that as dire as the onset of the global recession was, it was a downturn that we appeared to be recovering from and it looked like we were on the road to a return to normalcy. That changed in 2010 and the pace and severity of events since then appear to be increasing. Something has definitely changed. Does it mean that we’ve entered a new era? Only time will tell.