Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Michele Bachmann put her foot back in a familiar place on Monday -- her mouth -- and is now admitting that she misspoke in Iowa when she confused Hollywood icon John Wayne with mass murderer John Wayne Gacy.
No, she never said she "confused" the two individuals. That is a media driven fantasy. What she admitted was nothing more than not meeting the standard of 100% perfect specificity on the geography of Iowa. Take note other presidential hopefuls, this is something the press apparently now DEMANDS of you all.
"John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too," she told her admirers as she announced her presidential campaign.
No, he wasn't. Wayne was from Winterset, more than three hours away.
No, it isn't. Winterset is 117 straight line miles away from Waterloo. Or, 168 miles driving distance, according to Google Maps, which claims that would take about 2 hours 45 minutes. Hardly "more than three hours".
Nitpicking, you say? Perhaps. But blowing this time estimate by over 15 minutes is roughly equivalent to Michele Bachmann misplacing where John Wayne is from by just over 100 miles. What makes their error far worse is that it came in the midst of a pompous and condescending rebuke of Bachmann for getting her facts wrong.
Alas, it gets worse.
Twisted clown Gacy murdered 33 boys and young men in and around Waterloo, and was executed in 1994.
No, he didn't. All of his 33 murders happened in and around Chicago, not Waterloo. That's 268 miles away! A driving distance of nearly five hours!
Forget nitpicking. In the course of mocking her for a slight geographical error, they make a geographical error that is twice as large in magnitude. Does that mean they'll give us a pompous and condescending correction of their own work? Doubful. But perhaps they should consider hiring Michele Bachmann as a contributing editor any time they try to talk about geography. It would cut their error rate in half.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I'm a believer that experience is important, but not nearly as important as a strong grasp of the issues. So how is Rep. Melin's grasp of issues? Let's evaluate based on a recent tweet of hers regarding Michelle Bachmann:
Bachmann says Corp tax cuts needed 4 job growth. In '09 Exxon made $19 billion in profit & paid no fed income tax.
Ouch! Our young representative never gained much experience in logical reasoning in her brief career. She is guilty of a logical fallacy called a red herring. Here's a nice definition of this type of fallacy:
A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:
1. Topic A is under discussion.
2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).
3. Topic A is abandoned.
This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.
In this case, topic A is whether reducing tax rates helps grow jobs. Topic B is the assertion that Exxon made a lot of money and didn't pay taxes, and since this is a tweet, Topic A is quickly abandoned.
I know that I myself will be accused of abandoning the most important aspect of this story, whether or not Rep. Melin is attractive. While she's cute as a button, that's not really relevant to performance as a state representative, much to the relief of Rep. King Banaian (and to be fair, pretty much everyone else in the legislature). Rep. Melin's constituents would be far better served by the experience and grasp of issues of an economist like King Banaian, even if it means a considerable downgrade in their rep's appearance.
Before getting into the details, we should pause to recognize this for the historic, benchmark moment it is. The first media generated controversy of Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. Depending on how far she is able to take her presidential aspirations, we'll be seeing replays of this process for the next 8 months to 8 years. So enjoy the spontaneity and freshness of this one while it lasts.
We in Minnesota are already grizzled veterans of this game. There is a group of new media and mainstream media in the state that hang on Bachmann's every word. They are ready to pounce on and exaggerate anything she says with less than 100% perfect articulation or specificity or comprehensiveness. Of course, no politician could withstand this level of scrutiny in their extemporaneous remarks. But only a select few are subjected to this seek and destroy game (Bachmann, Palin, any Republican President, Vice President or GOP nominee for President).
And even when Bachmann doesn't violate these ridiculous standards, her pack of trailing media will just make it up anyway.
In Minnesota, this has lead to a "boy who cried wolf" reaction to any story about Michele Bachmann in the press. You can safely assume it's wrong, or at least grossly exaggerated, and you can dismiss it, unless you care to independently assess the facts for yourself.
An example of this process was the Bachmann furor from a few months ago, after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. According to numerous media outlets, Bachmann had called for "armed revolution" and personally contributed to the toxic environment that caused the shooting, based on violent rhetoric she used in a radio interview. It was utter BS of course, but that didn't stop it from running worldwide, as documented in my series of non-award winning posts, Unarmed and Dangerous.
Today's controversy is of a similar nature. The headline and lead of the article from one of her local serial tormentors, MinnPost, neatly summarizes it:
Bachmann apparently confuses actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy
Send Paul Revere to Concord to tell the British: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann seems to have made another historical gaffe. She apparently confused actor John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The squeals of delight can be heard between the lines of this article. And it doesn't stop withlocal partisan websites. As but one example, here's a little periodical you may have heard of, the Los Angeles Times:
In an interview with Fox News’ Carl Cameron, Bachmann referred to Waterloo as the home of John Wayne. But Wayne, it was soon pointed out, wasn’t from Waterloo, but from Winterset, Iowa, a town more than 100 miles away.
John Wayne Gacy, the so-called “killer clown” who murdered more than 30 young men in Chicago during the 1970s and buried their bodies under his home, lived in Waterloo, where he started down his sordid criminal path with a sexual assault conviction.
If you care to take the time to look at what Michele Bachmann actually said, you'll find she never mentioned John Wayne Gacy. She probably has no idea where he "started down his sordid criminal path". She only talked about the real John Wayne, The Duke. And the absolute worst you can accuse her of is being moderately imprecise with regard to the geography of Iowa. As we now know from the legions of fact checkers assigned to this story, John Wayne was born and raised NOT in Waterloo, but in Winterset, about an hour and half down the road. I suppose the editors of the Rand McNally Road Atlas of the United States have permission to guffaw over this. But no one else does or would even care to. For 99.99999% of her intended audience, the point she was making is just as accurate whether she said Waterloo or Winterset. The Duke was from the heartland of Iowa and so is Michele Bachmann, and you can't take that away from her.
So how do you try to take that away from her? How about introducing a mass murderer into her quote and claiming she's "confused" about him and John Wayne.
As always with these distortions, the first mischaracterization starts to morph into more insidious versions that are always too good to check. Here's how CBS News jumped on the bandwagon:
As the Washington Times first noted, however, the actor John Wayne was born nearly 150 miles away in Winterset, Iowa. John Wayne Gacy, Jr. -- the serial killer -- was born in Waterloo.
Actually, no. Gacy was not born in Waterloo (and the Washington Times says nothing of the sort). According to Internet sources, Gacy was born in Chicago. (Yes, I had to look it up as I don't claim to be an independent Gacy expert, unlike most media fact checkers). He didn't move to Waterloo until his mid-twenties and only stayed a couple of years before getting sent to prison and then paroled back home to Chicago, where he began his murder spree in earnest.
So, upon further review, Gacy's connection to Waterloo is minor. He wasn't born there, you can't really say he is "from" there, and it's not common knowledge that he has a connection to the city. This makes the firestorm over Bachmann's comments even more absurd.
Michele Bachmann makes a campaign speech touting her background and qualifications to be president and the media ignores this in favor of exhuming Ed Gein and making that the national story. Why do they do this?
For the answer, I turn to John Nolte. He's done an outstanding job in analyzing the media's assault on Sarah Palin and the dynamics he identifies are exactly what is happening to Bachmann:
The idea is, at all costs, to undermine her seriousness and to create a relentless storm of nonsensical controversies around her that serve the leftist MSM’s partisan desires in three ways. First, by creating a narrative out of the ridiculous, the Governor is never allowed to get her message out. Second, it furthers the goal of turning her into a punchline. Finally, this Palin-Fury the MSM constantly brews up is meant to condition us to wince every time she pops her head out of the ground. Simply put, Palin’s MSM enemies want to exhaust us to the point where we start to wish she’d just go away.
Bachmann has successfully fought this off in Minnesota for the past six years or so. The national media brings a much larger world of hurt. Can she withstand that as well? That remains to be seen, but what is known is that we can expect much more of this to come.
I don’t have to tell Minnesota sports fans how ugly things have been of late: The Minnesota Twins currently have the worst record in the American League. The Vikings finished tied with the Detroit Lions for last in the NFC North. The Timberwolves finished with the worst record in the NBA and the Wild, once again, failed to make the playoffs.
The news does not get any better when we look at the college side: The Gopher hockey team stunk up Mariucci Arena for the seconds straight year. The basketball team played well early but then collapsed down the stretch. The Gopher football team was the same old Gopher football team.
Making all of this infinitely worse is that while Minnesota teams have floundered, our hated rivals in Wisconsin have prospered.
A look at recent head to head match-ups:
Twins vs. Brewers
The Brewers swept the Twins last weekend and have beaten them seven games in a row.
Vikings vs. Packers
The Packers won both games last year and the Super Bowl. The less said about this the better.
Wolves vs. Bucks
I know few care, but the Bucks did win both games last season.
Gophers vs. Badgers
The Gopher football team has lost seven in a row against the Badgers. The basketball team lost their only match up last season. The one semi-bright spot was that the dismal Gopher hockey team managed to break even against the Badgers, 1-1-2.
This sports domination is bad enough, but now Wisconsin is also starting to dominate us when it comes to politics. Minnesota has long been dismal ground for conservatives, but at least we could look across the river and see that Wisconsin was not much better.
That is until the 2010 election. While both states elected Republican majorities to both houses of the state legislature, Wisconsin elected the principled Scott Walker governor while Minnesota inexplicably voted in failed Senator Mark Dayton.
Now Wisconsin is reaping the benefits with fiscally responsible state government and needed reform of public employee bargaining. Even the aging Madison hippies are getting to relive their glory days of ineffectual protesting – everybody wins! Everybody except those of us watching with envy from the west side of the river.
The Wisconsin hippies have managed to force a half dozen or so recall elections. While the recalls are unlikely to be successful in upsetting the balance of power in the legislature, part of me is guiltily hoping the left regains control in Wisconsin.
I know, I know, it is morally wrong to assuage my border envy by rooting for our neighbors to be brought down to our political level, but it is a powerful thought. I can understand why the Democrats resort to the politics of envy so early and often -- it is a powerful urge to resist.
Friday, June 24, 2011
This week’s selection is our first from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City:
Boulevard Brewing Company has grown to be the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest, with full or partial distribution currently in 19 states. Since 1989 our brewery has remained dedicated to the craft of producing fresh, flavorful beers using traditional ingredients and the best of both old and new brewing techniques. Our selection of fine ales and lagers include the Midwest's best-selling craft beer, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer, our flagship Boulevard Pale Ale, and The Smokestack Series line of artisanal beers. We are proud to be Kansas City's Beer, and Missouri's Largest Independent Brewery.
Best-selling craft beer in the Midwest? Who knew? Now you do as Boulevard’s Unfiltered Wheat Beer is our Beer of the Week:
Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer is a lively, refreshing ale with a natural citrusy flavor and distinctive cloudy appearance. This easy drinking American-style wheat beer has become our most popular offering, and the best-selling craft beer in the Midwest.
Let’s see if it can live up to the hype.
12oz stubby brown bottle. Label has black background with hops and wheat framing a classic rendering of a farmer gathering up shocks of wheat with fluffy clouds and the sun rising (or setting) in the background.
Alcohol by Volume: 4.4%
COLOR (0-2): Light gold, nicely clouded. 2
AROMA (0-2): Wheat with touches of sour lemon and banana. 2
HEAD (0-2): Bright white color, moderate volume and fades quickly. 2
TASTE (0-5): Again wheat with sour lemon and yeast, not as much banana as in the smell with minimal hops. Overall the flavors are muted and don’t stand out. Well carbonated, watery mouthfeel, with a lighter body. Refreshing and very drinkable. 2
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Not much follow through—hollow. 1
OVERALL (0-6): Wheat beers are among my favorite styles, especially this time of year. However, Boulevard’s Wheat offering was disappointing. While it looks good in the glass there’s no follow-through on the flavor front. There’s nothing in particular that’s off-putting, but there’s also nothing here that’s enticing either. Compared to other more flavorful wheat beers out there, I found it to be bland and uninteresting. Which possibly could be the explanation for its apparent popularity. Color me unimpressed. 3
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 12
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Green jobs visionary Van Jones will lay down the truth about our economy like Al Gore did about our climate. It's part tent revival and part concert—you don't want to miss it!
In fairness, I suppose it is a valid comparison in that Van Jones knows about as much about the economy as Al Gore does the climate.
Firstly, Jason Gay provides more details in today’s WSJ on the bubbly being sipped from the iconic Cup at last Saturday's soiree:
And don't give us any nonsense about The New Austerity, because this is now mandatory championship-afterparty behavior. In the past couple of weeks, your NHL Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins and your NBA kingpin Dallas Mavericks both celebrated their titles at nightclubs by slurping from decadent bottles of champagne. Like white-tigers-eating-caviar-out-of Fabergé-eggs decadent. According to reports, the Mavericks drank from a 15-liter bottle that cost $90,000. The Bruins sipped a 30-liter bottle that cost $100,000. (The Boston Bruins: your cost-conscious bulk-buying luxury-champagne shoppers!)
Both bottles were made by a company called Armand de Brignac. The French brand has been featured in gossip items and music videos before—New Jersey Net stakeholder Jay-Z is an Armand de Brignac connoisseur. Nicknamed the "Ace of Spades" because of its label, the bubbly is known for its hand-made, metallic-finish bottles.
The Bruins shared an Ace of Spades big gulp—known as a "Midas"—that's the equivalent of 40 regular-earthling-sized bottles. The thing is crazy. Only six of them have been made. It weighs roughly 100 pounds and looks like C3PO after 18 months at Gold's Gym. It's the only bottle of champagne that can stand eye to eye with the actual Stanley Cup, which it did Saturday at the Shrine nightclub at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut.
The Bruins have gotten a lot of attention for their Last-Night-On-Earth-style bar tab at Shrine, which totaled $156,000 and included 136 Bud Lights, 35 Jäger bombs, 67 bottled waters and one very lonely $6 Corona.
But the Bruins didn't actually buy their Ace of Spades. Shrine's owners did. The club is tight with the Bruins, and when partners learned the team was coming to celebrate after its Boston parade, they decided to spring for a gift, said Randy Greenstein, one of the owners. A warm case of PBR would not suffice.
Add the $100K bottle of bubbly to the $156K bar tab and you’ve got quite the little celebration there.
Secondly, those who questioned the relevance of my Whitey Bulger reference in the post and haven’t been paying attention may not have heard last night’s news that famed crime boss James Whitey Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica:
Legendary Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger, who has been on the run for more than a decade, was arrested Wednesday in Santa Monica, multiple law enforcement sources told The Times.
Bulger, 81, has been the subject of several books and was the inspiration for "The Departed," a 2006 Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson.
Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 as federal agents were about to arrest him in connection with 21 killings, racketeering and other crimes that spanned the early 1970s to the mid-1980s.
Fraters Libertas: bringing you tomorrow’s top references today.
However, there was one jolting example of how Bush approached one particular decision--how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis-that I found rather disturbing:
I adjourned the meeting and walked across the hallway to the Oval Office. Josh Bolten, Counselor Ed Gillespie, and Dana Perino, my talented amd effective press secretary, followed me in. Ben's historical comparison was still echoing in my mind.
"If we're really looking at another Great Depression," I said, "you can be damn sure I'm going to be Roosevelt, not Hoover."
I'm not surprised when I see such historical ignorance displayed in the media or in the populace at large. They've long been fed the narrative that laissez-faire Hoover fiddled while the Depression worsened and that only the big government activism of FDR saved the country from certain ruin. But to see a president of the United States, a REPUBLICAN president of the United States, in this day and age continue to believe that canard is stunning.
We often heard stories during the Bush years about how well read the president was and how he and Karl Rove even had contests to see who could read the most books in a year. Apparently he never had a chance (during his years in the White House or since retiring to private life) to pick up any one of a number of texts that have explained the real history of the Great Depression. It’s not as if they’re particular hard to find. Some have even become quite well known among those with even a passing interest in economics.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A couple of thoughts come to mind on this. First, as Saint Paul noted at the time, is it necessarily a good thing to have all these languages being spoken in the same place? The Tower of Babel isn’t usually regarded as an example of a well-functioning society. Secondly, does Rybak really believe be that in the past Minneapolis was a monocultural city where everyone spoke English and that it only recently became a multi-ethnic melting pot? I wonder how many languages were spoken in Minneapolis in 1911 when German, Norwegian, Swedish, Irish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Danish, French Canadian, and Slovak immigrants (and their descendants) called Minneapolis home.
But that’s not the sort of diversity that Rybak had in mind. Right after talking about all the languages that were now being spoken in his city, Rybak followed up by bragging that Minneapolis now has the largest number of Somalis outside of Mogadishu.
While there was no audible reaction from the crowd, you could tell that people were taken aback by that statement. There were quizzical glances exchanged and much head-scratching ensued. Really? And this a good thing why?
If Rybak had intended to use this as an example of the kind and caring nature of Minnesotans—we took in these refugees from a war torn land and provided them a new life—it might have been defensible. But no such connection was made. Instead it was stated as a simple matter of fact: we have a large number of Somalis living in Minneapolis and obviously that’s good. Because they’re minorities—good ones too since they combine racial and religious minority status—and we all know that the more minorities you have, the better city you have.
Of course, there’s absolutely no evidence that this is true. No one ever says that Minneapolis is better than say Milwaukee because we have more Somalis than they do. The quality of life ratings conducted by various groups don’t give you bonus points based on the number of Somalis you have living in your town. But none of that matters to RT Rybak and the diversity bean counters. Minorities of any sort are always good and the more the better.
And don’t even begin to ask questions about whether there are some cultures that might not really fit in all that well or if these cultures and the values and beliefs they bring with them really make your city a better place or not. Such talk is racist, bigoted, and hateful. Any evidence that supports these questions is to be brushed aside and ignored.
The idea of diversity as a good unto itself is not to be challenged or debated. Instead it is to be touted as evidence of the progressive nature of your city and it citizens and of your own personal good. That’s certainly how it came across from RT Rybak last Friday.
By the way not since the days of Whitey Bulger has Boston seen someone flaunt the law quite as openly as nineteen-year-old Bruin Tyler Seguin during his Stanley Cup victory lap tour through various local watering holes. My ID? See that big silver trophy over that? That's my ID pal.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
… 52-year-old Gilmore -- who suddenly approached the trio and said the name, "Ayan Hersi Ali." Ali is a vocal, female critic of Islam. The three women tried to brush him off, saying they did not want to debate with him.And that, according to cops and witnesses, is when Gilmore became belligerent, taking photos of the women, and demanding to know why they were in the U.S. Geschiere says when she asked him to stop taking their photo, things only escalated."He started saying things like, 'This is America, welcome to America, this is the western world,'" says Geschiere. "So I immediately retorted like, 'Dude, we all grew up in America.'"As bystanders started to intervene, the shouting ramped up, and Gilmore started pacing around the crowd and yelling "Andrew Breitbart -- hello!" into his phone. That was the first time, says witness and visiting Netroots Nation-attendee Matt Glazer, that he realized they man was a conservative."He made it sounds like he was about to hurt people, so then that's when I called the police," says Glazer.Police arrested him after he threatened a bystander and wandered away into The News Room bar.
Monday, June 20, 2011
The three-term governor drew an enthusiastic response during a speech Saturday to the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans when he challenged GOP candidates not to shrink from social issues, such as opposition to abortion. He also touted the passage of legislation that requires voters to have valid identification.
"It saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," Mr. Perry said, touching a GOP debate over how much to highlight social issues, such as abortion or gay marriage. "Our party cannot be all things to all people."
Amen (no pun intended). At some point trying to "broaden the base" dilutes the principles on which your party purportedly stands and weakens one of its most important pillars of support. Sometimes a smaller, sturdier tent is what you need to weather the storm.
The fine folks at Ricochet.com have put up the latest edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast. We talk about the activities at the Right On Line conference in Minneapolis this past weekend. The highlight is an interview with Steve Bannon, director of the new Sarah Palin move, The Undefeated. Bannon's eloquent enthusiasm for the project is infectious and so far it sounds like the critics are in agreement on the quality. Sounds like a terrific movie, scheduled for wide release on July 15. (Apologies for the sound quality on the interview. We recorded it at the Minneapolis Hilton over their Wifi and it's a little choppy. If you can suffer through a little substandard audio, the content is worth the effort.)
Also, Loon of the Week (a group award for the NetRoots flashmob that descended upon Andrew Breitbart on Saturday) and This Week in Gatekeeping (a double shot featuring the consequences of ignorance and inattentiveness).
Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can also subscribe via iTunes or Feedburner. Or get the stream for your mobile device on Sticher. Or just use the player embedded 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.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
There are two ways of looking at the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax. On the one hand, it exposes the threadbare values of people in the West who thrive on bogus exoticism. Much as people who do not actually care about the poor feel their spirits soar when they go to see a movie about the downtrodden of East Los Angeles, reading the Gay Girl in Damascus blog allowed people in free countries to feel a phony rapport with a putatively brave woman in a repressive but colorful country.
It is the same mentality as the Starbucks campaign for "The Kite Runner"—the idea that by purchasing a book about unfortunate denizens of the Third World, along with your double Frappuccino, you not only relieve their misery but somehow, vicariously, participate in their fight against the forces of darkness. It's what inspires people to put "Darfur: Not on Our Watch" signs on their lawns, as if that's going to make any difference. We are here for you, people of Libya! Oh, Bosnia, we stand on guard for thee!
This is rubbish, like sporting a Che Guevara T-shirt at a Beverly-Hills fund raiser. There's no such thing as waging a vicarious war against the forces of evil. Either you are out in the streets risking your own life or you are not. Heroism is not a spectator sport. Reading a blog is not firing a gun.
Friday, June 17, 2011
He also has a good sense of humor as evidenced by this You Tube recommendation:
This week we feature another selection from San Diego’s nationally renowned Stone Brewing Co (well, at least it used to be before the nano-brewery movement). Our beer of the week is Stone’s Pale Ale:
Our flagship ale, Stone Pale Ale is our Southern California interpretation of the classic British pale ale style. Deep amber in color, Stone Pale Ale is robust and full flavored. A delicate hop aroma is complemented by a rich maltiness. This is an ale for those who have learned to appreciate distinctive flavor. Stone Pale Ale is great by itself, or with food that requires a beer of character.
12oz brown bottle poured into an English pint glass. Usual Stone look will gargoyle graphic on transparent label that’s inlaid on the bottle. The design is visually appealing and its seamless nature gives it a good feel as well. $9.99 for a six pack.
Alcohol by Volume: 5.4%
COLOR (0-2): Rich, golden brown color. 2
AROMA (0-2): Mostly sweep malt with some hops as well. 2
HEAD (0-2): Off-white color, good volume and laces nicely in the glass. 2
TASTE (0-5): Well balanced with toasty malts at the front and piney hops at the back. Flavors of citrus and honey as well. Medium-bodied, smooth, and drinkable. Not especially carbonated. 4
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp finish, a little light on the aftertaste. 1
OVERALL (0-6): This is a very solid offering from Stone. It looks beautiful in the glass. The flavors won’t blow you away, but they complement each other nicely and this a well-rounded beer. More character and depth than you find in many pale ales. The flavors build on each other and my appreciation for Stone Pale Ale grew with each sip. 4
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Visitors have probably already noticed that Minnesota is a hot bed of political activity at the moment. In addition to having two candidates vying for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination (both of whom will speak at the conference), we also have our own state budget crisis which is rapidly approaching denouement with an imminent government shutdown. If you’ve been reading the local papers or watching the local news on television (two activities you really should avoid if at all possible), you’ve probably heard dire warnings that once the benevolent, munificent hand of state government is withdrawn from our lives, chaos will ensue and that the streets of Minneapolis will shortly resemble those of Leningrad circa January 1942 (dibs on the carcasses of the riverfront carriage horses). So enjoy the city while you can.
Part of that enjoyment of course involves experiencing the best in local beers. No matter where you choose to drink, it’s important to know what local breweries have to offer.
Summit is the brewery that really lead the beer revival here in Minnesota starting in 1986. Their beers are available throughout the Twin Cities and their Extra Pale Ale is their flagship offering. Almost everything that Summit produces is good and some of the selections in their Unchained Series are excellent.
Surly is a local brewery that has attracted national and international attention for their big, bold beers. They’re the rock stars of the local scene and if you like beer with lots of flavor, you’ll love Surly. Hoppy delicious Furious is probably their most available offering, but you really can’t go wrong with anything that bears the Surly name.
Lift Bridge, Flat Earth, Harriet, and Fulton are all local brewers who came on the scene in recent years. They might be a little harder to find than Summit or Surly, but each of them produces good quality beers of interesting varieties. Brau Brothers and Lake Superior are outstate (outside the Twin Cities) breweries who also fall under this category. Might be hard to find them on tap in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, but worth it if you do.
If you’re not much of a craft fan, but want to try something different from the macros you can find anywhere, give Schell’s a try. They’re a New Ulm, Minnesota brewer with a large regional presence. They make some more flavorful beers along with milder offerings with broader appeal. Schell’s also now brews Grain Belt, which was once an iconic (look for the sign by the river) and Minneapolis brewer. I find the Grain Belt Premium to be a little on the sweet side. Nordeast is an easy going drinkable beer whose name harkens back to Grain Belt’s rich history in the city.
We hope you all enjoy your stay here, have a great time at the conference, and get a chance to sample the local beer scene early and often.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
As an estimated 70.1 million fathers prepare to celebrate Father's Day in the U.S., recent research shows that their distinct style of parenting is particularly worth recognition: The way dads tend to interact has long-term benefits for kids, independent of those linked to good mothering.
Beyond rough-and-tumble play, men tend to challenge crying or whining children to use words to express themselves. Men are more likely to startle their offspring, making faces or sneaking up on them to play. Even the way parents hold babies tends to differ, with men cradling infants under their arm in a "football hold" and moms using the "Madonna position" seen in Renaissance artwork—tucked under their chins face-to-face, says Kyle Pruett, co-author of "Partnership Parenting" and a clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.
The article goes on to list the reasons that children benefit from the unique parenting styles that fathers and mothers offer. My wife and I both read the article and both recognized how true many of them were. And while it’s true that a mother can try to take on some of the roles that a father usually plays, the fact is that it’s not natural making it much more unlikely that they would do it regularly. My wife and I don’t think about how we interact with our kids, we just do it.
None of this should be news to anyone by the way. The idea that children aren’t best served by having a father and a mother or that either a mother or father can play the parenting role of the other is ludicrous. As Dennis Prager likes to say, “You need to go to college to believe something that stupid.”
The WSJ article closes with an example of a couple who recognize the unique roles they both play in raising their children. The closing quote perfectly summarizes the heart of the matter.
"Neither one of us thinks one way of parenting is right or wrong. It's just different." In the end, she adds, "we are complementary."
If you examine the photo again, you’ll notice that the gentleman to the immediate left of Congresswoman Bachmann is none other than King Banaian. King currently serves in the Minnesota Legislature representing House District 15B. He’s been one of the stars of the GOP freshman class and has demonstrated that he has the political talents and instincts to play on a higher stage. And he lives in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District. The district currently represented in the US House by one Michele Bachmann. The same Michele Bachmann who is now officially running for president and may well decide not to run for reelection to her house seat in 2012.
King for House in 2012?
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
This afternoon, a disturbing photo was released which may very well imperil his chances of ever reaching the White House.
Taking the head off a defenseless bobblehead who bears a striking resemblence to one of the leading nationally syndicated conservative talk radio shock jocks? Have you no sense of decency, sir?
This morning, a disturbing photo was released which may very well imperil her chances of ever reaching the White House.
Does anyone else hear a bus approaching?
Monday, June 13, 2011
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty turned out a blockbuster economic-growth plan this past week, including deep cuts in taxes, spending, and regulations. It’s really the first Reaganesque supply-side growth plan from any of the GOP presidential contenders. And he caps it all off with a defense of optimism as he charges ahead with a national economic growth goal of 5 percent.
That’s right: 5 percent.
Pawlenty calls this target aspirational. Okay, fine. But deeper down, he’s basically saying no to the declinists and pessimists who seem to populate the economic landscape these days. Big government doesn’t work. Let’s try something different.
Kudlow goes on to praise Pawlenty for laying down such an aggressive marker for growth. And T-Paw does deserve credit for talking specifically about what he would do as president to promote economic growth and what that growth would look like instead of tossing off vague platitudes about "creating jobs" and "getting the economy back on track."
But Pawlenty's best intentions for growth may be no match for the economic malaise that the country could be mired in for some time. Kelly Evans described this unpleasant reality in a piece in Saturday's WSJ called U.S. Economy Braces for Soft Target:
Yet, while there will be stronger quarters, this 2% reality is probably here to stay for a while. The fundamental problem for the U.S. economy today is a lack of demand, precisely because so much of it was pulled forward during the credit and housing bubble. Need proof? Check out the sinking yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which is struggling to stay above 3%. If that seems low, consider that yields on Japan's 10-year note hit a low of 0.4% in 2003—more than a decade after its own asset bubble popped.
This discouraging reality also illustrates why the Federal Reserve's aggressive monetary policy is mistimed. It would have been far more beneficial for policy makers to keep household debts from soaring in the first place than to try now to support asset prices like housing. Indeed, the Fed's latest quantitative easing efforts failed to stem the drop in home prices, instead giving stocks and commodity prices a lift—with the benefit skewed to the richest Americans.
The central bank cannot create a new generation of willing home-buyers. In fact, the current generation is more likely to eschew home-buying altogether. So there is no magic lever to bail out households stuck with massive mortgage debts. The process of repairing household balance sheets will simply take time. In the meantime, the U.S. should consider itself lucky if 2% growth is as bad as it gets.
The question is whether Americans can and will accept the reality of stunted ecomonic growth for some time. And whether our politicians will be gutsy enough to talk about that reality during the 2012 campaign.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Let's start with this: It isn't true. Not remotely so. It is in fact lousy reporting that is easily understood as such by anyone who listens to say Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Mark Levin or me.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Once again, the Elder was correct. Amongst the discussions of obscure Alaska policy issues and mundane scheduling matters, I uncovered a bombshell: Sarah Palin hates Minnesota. The smoking email was sent Saturday August 9, 2008 at 09:24:39 (a second that will live in infamy):
The plan that seems to make the most sense should be to find out exactly when my speech is (two speeches total) … then to travel a day before and a day after that main speech. I don’t want to be there five days, no need to.”
No need to? There is no need to spend five days in the land of 10,000 lakes? I will have you know, Governor, that there are many people who would LOVE to spend five days in Minnesota. You missed out on the Mall of America and seeing the plaque where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat into the air and … well, probably a lot of other cool stuff too.
Don’t expect any support from the state of Minnesota, Sarah – we like it here!
Friday, June 10, 2011
This week we feature another beer from Brooklyn Brewery. That's Brooklyn as in New York an is not to be confused with the more renowned cities of Brooklyn Park or Brooklyn Center (home of Surly) Minnesota.
$7.99 for a six pack. 12oz brown bottle. Same Brooklyn Brewing label design this time with light blue and yellow seasonal flair.
Alcohol by Volume: 5%
COLOR (0-2): Golden brown, slightly cloudy. 2
AROMA (0-2): Bready, a little sour. 2
HEAD (0-2): White color, not much volume, decent lacing. 1
TASTE (0-5): Malty & grassy with light bitterness. Well-carbonated, light to medium-bodied, with a thin mouthfeel. Crisp, refreshing, and drinkable. 3
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry finish. 2
OVERALL (0-6): Brooklyn Summer Ale is a nice looking beer with decent, well-balanced flavors. The flavors are light and pretty much straight up malt and hops. There isn't much of the fruity and spicy flavors that you often find in summer beers. As an English Pale Ale, it's a bit of a disappointment, but if you forget about the style and simply enjoy it as a refreshing seasonal beer it does the trick. 3
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13
Thursday, June 09, 2011
UPDATE--The Elder Clarifies: Were some part of the rules not clear to you, sir? First off, you only get to pick five pols to add to your hand. Second, and more important, they actually have to REPRESENT you. So unless you live in some special California district, you should only have ONE member of the US House of Representatives listed.
Thankfully, there are some Golden Staters with basic reading comprehension skills. Rick (who come to think was born and raised in Minnesota) goes all in and lays down his hand:
Steven C. Bradford
Now that's a pretty cool hand and stacks up well against mine. Let's start at the top with the US Senators.
Feinstein vs. Klobuchar: I'd call this a draw.
Boxer vs. Franken: Wow. This is a tough call. But as much as it pains me to admit it, I gotta go with Boxer as being a worse Senator.
Brown vs. Dayton: Another tough decision. However, I think that Brown has actually improved slightly with age while Dayton has only become more daffy. Advantage Dayton.
Waters vs. Ellison: It’s not easy to top Keith Ellison, but having Maxine Waters in your hand is like having aces high.
Bradford vs. Winkler: Comparing state politicians is tough and all I have to go for Bradford is what I found on Google. Steven Bradford Representing the 51st Assembly District:
Assemblymember Bradford currently serves as the Chair of the California State Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, where he focuses on supplier diversity, stimulating green job opportunities for all Californians and balancing investments in new technologies with ratepayer protection. Additionally, Bradford serves as Chair of the State's Select Committee on Procurement, and is a member of the Assembly Appropriations, Housing and Community Development and Local Government committees.
A couple of good buzz words there and he’s got a previous arrest going for him. However, there’s nothing in his history that indicates that he operates at the same level of arrogant assholery that Rep. Ryan Winkler typically sinks to. I can’t find any examples of Bradford referring to anyone who disagrees with his views as “hateful bigoted extremists” as Winkler regularly does. So I’m taking this one.
The result? A draw. Which given the levels of liberal lunacy that both of us have on our hands only seems fair. As Rick and I both know all too well there are no winners here.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Many Employers May Drop Health Coverage After Overhaul, Report Says (WSJ-sub req):
A report by McKinsey & Co. has found that 30% of employers are likely to stop offering workers health insurance after the bulk of the Obama administration's health overhaul takes effect in 2014.
The findings come as a growing number of employers are seeking waivers from an early provision in the overhaul that requires them to enrich their benefits this year. At the end of April, the administration had granted 1,372 employers, unions and insurance companies one-year exemptions from the law's requirement that they not cap annual benefit payouts below $750,000 per person a year.
But the law doesn't allow for such waivers starting in 2014, leaving all those entities—and other employers whose plans don't meet a slate of new requirements—to change their offerings or drop coverage.
Previous research has suggested the number of employers who opt to drop coverage altogether in 2014 would be minimal.
But the McKinsey study predicts a more dramatic shift from employer-sponsored health plans once the new marketplace takes effect. Starting in 2014, all but the smallest employers will be required to provide insurance or pay a fine, while most Americans will have to carry coverage or pay a different fine. Lower earners will get subsidies to help them pay for plans.
In surveying 1,300 employers earlier this year, McKinsey found that 30% said they would "definitely or probably" stop offering employer coverage in the years after 2014. That figure increased to more than 50% among employers with a high awareness of the overhaul law.
So you will get to keep your doctor and your plan. Well, you will as long as you're not one of the 30%--maybe 50%--of Americans who find themselves kicked to the government plan curb by your companies. Now the Obamapologists will tell you this isn’t the dear president’s fault. Nope, he fully intended for y’all to keep your doctors and your plans. But it was those scheming corporations, those nefarious insurance companies, and, just for good measure, those greedy rich people who don’t want to pay their fair share. They were the ones who destroyed the Obamacare dream of everyone being able to keep the status quo if they so desired.
In reality, this is exactly what the intent of the Obamacare overhaul was in the first place. Incentivize companies to dump people on the government rolls and eventually destroy the market for private health insurance entirely. Then, we’ll all be on one big happy plan: the government plan. Don’t count on your doctor being around anymore though.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
So I’ve decided to come up with a little game to make this battle over who’s got it worse more interesting. It won’t necessarily settle the matter definitely, but it will help better define the parameters of the comparisons that are being made. Let’s call it political poker.
The rules are simple as is the determination of a winner. You get a hand of the seven leaders who represent you (alternative name “Seven Card Dud”). The worse hand wins. To start with, everyone has President Obama and Vice President Biden in their hand. Consider them the jokers and you better believe that they’re wild. Then, you get to choose the other five leaders in your hand. They represent your state, congressional or legislative district or even your city. For example, if you live in California or Minnesota you might want to pick both your US Senators. Those in other states may opt for different selections.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think I’ve got a pretty tough hand to beat. I’d be willing to take on all comers to try to top this:
Amy Klobuchar-US Senator
Al Franken-US Senator
Mark Dayton-Minnesota Governor
Keith Ellison-Congressman MN 5th District
Ryan Winkler-State Representative MN 44B
From top to bottom, that’s a winning hand. No need for me to draw any more cards. You think you got it worse? I call.
Monday, June 06, 2011
I'm not a big fan of tatoos, but in this I'm willing to make an exception. Richard Glover has an interesting post in the Sydney Morning Herald:"Surely it's time for climate-change deniers to have their opinions forcibly tattooed on their bodies. Not necessarily on the forehead; I'm a reasonable man. Just something along their arm or across their chest so their grandchildren could say, ''Really? You were one of the ones who tried to stop the world doing something? And why exactly was that, granddad?'' On second thoughts, maybe the tattooing along the arm is a bit Nazi-creepy."
The problem here is not inaccuracy, but incoherence. Sarah Palin is a good writer and a good (sometimes excellent, as at the 2008 convention) deliverer of scripted speeches. But when she talks off the cuff, she is often inarticulate and sometimes, as at Old North Church, worse. If you see her on Fox News, as I do occasionally, you observe the same thing. There are way too many WTF? moments.
The power of articulation isn't everything in a candidate. I would much rather have, as president, an inarticulate conservative than a glib liberal. (Having said that, don't tell me about Dwight Eisenhower unless you can up with a clip that is remotely as confused as Palin's Boston riff.) And, to be fair, many other politicians--President Obama, for example--aren't very articulate either, when they don't have a script. But Obama isn't that bad.
So let's be real: the ability to articulate ideas is a central skill for a politician, especially a presidential candidate. Sarah Palin has many qualities that I admire, but her supporters need to acknowledge that her frequent inability to communicate effectively, when speaking impromptu, is a serious shortcoming that legitimately weighs on her standing as a potential president.
I haven't paid much attention to the latest dustup over Palin's problems with either understanding or explaining the history of Paul Revere's ride. However, I did watch her appearance on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace and share John sense of disappointment with how she came off. Ever since leaving her position as governor of Alaska she's had nothing but time to prepare for just such opportunties to demonstrate a depth and understanding of issues that had previously eluded her. Any yet she shows none of that, instead repeating cliches and shop worn talking points that impress no one.
Except I guess the hardcore Palin partisans who must be so infatuated with the idea of her running for president that they don't really pay attention to what she says (or doesn't say) any more. And don't give me this "she doesn't speak the language of the Beltway" baloney either. There's nothing wrong with being plain-spoken and straight forward--especially given the empty eloquence of President Obama--but there's gotta be more to the package than just style. If Sarah Palin is serious about becoming president she needs to start speaking that way and put together a clear, coherent message.
Saturday, June 04, 2011
I guess if you have a history of flip-flopping and creating doubt about your conservative street cred, moving to the left is the only path open to you.
THE ELDER CHIDES: You clearly haven't been paying attention to Hugh Hewitt lately James. To even raise the issue of Romneycare is to fall into one of the mainstream media memes about the battle for the GOP presidential nomination. And it also demonstrates that you must hate the Constitution. You need to stop asking pesky questions about Romney's past policies (and his refusal to back away from them today), circle the wagons, and get on the team. Anything else is being disloyal to the Republican Party and calls your patriotism and love of America into question as well.
Friday, June 03, 2011
We have another summer offering this week, especially appropriate given today’s languid weather conditions. It’s Somersault Ale from Colorado's New Belgium Brewing:
Somersault Ale was designed to be a fun roll around on the tongue while requiring only the minimum of palate gymnastics. In other words, this perfect summer lounge around beer is ridiculously fun and easy to drink. Even though the second Somersault goes down as effortlessly the first, our brewer Grady actually has quite a few remarkable notes at play in the nose, flavor and mouthfeel. There is an opening brace of citrus aroma from Centennial hops, a soft apricot fruitiness tucked into the flavor, a fresh snap from a sliver of ginger root, finished with oats in a long cool mash. Color is blonde with a suggestion of cloudiness. Somersaults all around!
Brown 12oz bottle with New Belgium’s unique look and feel. The yellow is also standard artistic New Belgium fare with hops framing a summer scene from the vantage point of someone conducting the tumbling maneuver that the beer is named after.
Alcohol by Volume: 5.2%
COLOR (0-2): Gold and very clear. 1
AROMA (0-2): Sweet malts with a whiff of citrus. 2
HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Good volume and lacing. 2
TASTE (0-5): Smooth malts at front followed with soft, but noticeable hoppy bitterness. Citrus flavors with a hint of apricot. Light-bodied, crisp, very refreshing, and drinkable. 3
AFTERTASTE (0-2): Tangy finish. 2
OVERALL (0-6): In the glass, there isn’t much to look at. But I was pleasantly surprised by finding much more flavor than you would expect given its appearance. The tangy, somewhat fruity finish is delicious and gives Somersault a unique twist that is well-suited for summer drinking. 4
TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14
Tomorrow is the American Heart Association walk. Please give what you can tonight. No donation is too small....or too large.
For this final push, let me tell you why we're walking. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans. In fact, someone dies from CVD every 38 seconds. Heart disease also kills more women than all forms of cancer combined and congenital cardiovascular defects are the most common cause of infant death from birth defects.
A co-worker's wife died last fall, way too young. We're walking for Michelle because she can't.
I must admit that I often feel frustrated by my liberal friends who worry so much about income inequality and not at all about moral inequality. Their answer is to give reparations. Are we to palliate with cash—can we palliate with cash—the disorder wrought by Gucci bohemians?
No. Progressives talk about “social responsibility.” It is an apt term, but it surely means husbanding social capital just as much as—indeed, more than—providing financial resources. In our society a preferential option for the poor must rebuild the social capital squandered by rich baby boomers, and that means social conservatism. The bohemian fantasy works against this clear imperative, because it promises us that we can attend to the poor without paying any attention to our own manner of living. Appeals to aid the less fortunate, however urgent, make few demands on our day-to-day lives. We are called to awareness, perhaps, or activism, but not to anything that would cut against the liberations of recent decades and limit our own desires.
Want to help the poor? By all means pay your taxes and give to agencies that provide social services. By all means volunteer in a soup kitchen or help build houses for those who can’t afford them. But you can do much more for the poor by getting married and remaining faithful to your spouse. Have the courage to use old-fashioned words such as chaste and honorable. Put on a tie. Turn off the trashy reality TV shows. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Stop using expletives as exclamation marks. Go to church or synagogue.
In this and other ways, we can help restore the constraining forms of moral and social discipline that don’t bend to fit the desires of the powerful—forms that offer the poor the best, the most effective and most lasting, way out of poverty. That’s the truest preferential option—and truest form of respect—for the poor.
Reno's call to action is a worthy one, but the problem is that it's much easier for people to simply write a check. Or even easier to call for tax increases on someone else.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
The simple fact here is that what this appears to be is probably what it is: Someone making fun of my name, someone trying to cause trouble for me, maybe poke fun at me ... When your name is Wiener and someone posts a picture like that, the most obvious conclusion is that someone was pranking me or punking me, and I get that."
So far, the identity of the perpetrator has confounded authorities. As such he remains a risk to the cyber security of our nation and it's likely he will strike again. If Rep. Weiner's analysis is correct, and he was targeted because his name is a crude euphemism for male genitalia, the following government officials need to take the appropriate steps to secure their accounts and/or personal cache of digital crotch shots.
Threat Level Red, immediate danger:
Rep. Jo Bonner (AL-1)
Rep. John Boehner (OH-8)
Sen. Thad Cochran (MI)
Rep. Norm Dicks (WA-6)
Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6)
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30)
Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4)
Rep. Sam Johnson (TX-3)
Rep. Tim Johnson (IL-15)
Sen. Ron Johnson (WI)
Sen. Tim Johnson (SD)
Threat Level Yellow, guarded conditions:
Rep. John Dingell (MI-15)
Rep. David Loebsack (IA-2)
In addition, as a precaution, all co-eds in the Seattle area are advised to NOT click on any links sent to them via the Twitter accounts of the government officials listed above.
Furthermore, co-eds in Seattle, beware Tweets from the following individuals:
Sen. Seymour Butz
Rep. Mike Rotch
Gov. Hugh Jass
Sen. Maya Normasbutt
According to authorities, these names are not actually government officials, but fictional characters used in prank calls to Moe's Tavern on The Simpsons.
...Pixar pooboah John Lasseter who reportedly has 358 Hawaiian shirts sorted by subject matter in his closet and hundreds more in storage?
After learning of this requirement, my wife called to schedule an appointment so that our two oldest kids could be certified as OK by the imprimatur of the state. She was expecting to have to deal with a scheduling hassle in order to find a time to get our children tested. Instead, she was told that there were “plenty of open slots available” and that she could almost pick the day and time of her choosing. At first, she was relieved to hear this and happy that she could get this done without undue burden. But then she started thinking about how this abundance of open testing times could be possible. Either no one but us is actually following the requirement or there must be a lot of resources available to perform the testing. Given the unlikelihood of the former being true, it seems as if these resources were almost standing by the phone waiting for a call to commence to checking the children. Resources that were being paid by for the state. Resources that were being funded by our tax dollars.
When she took the kids in she was informed about what they would be tested on and how they would be evaluated. She was assured that if any deficiencies were found, there would plenty of “help” available to get the child back on the right track. Not surprisingly, our children were found to be just fine in all areas tested (including 100% percentile for cuteness). Whew, what a relief to know that the state approves of the job we’ve been doing as parents.
But what this process demonstrates is how programs that begin with the best intentions to serve specific and targeted groups who truly do need some assistance, almost invariably morph into larger programs with broader scopes and bulging budgets. All-day kindergarten was originally touted as a way to help disadvantaged children catch up to their peers before first grade. Now, it’s become an all-day day care option for middle and upper class parents. Their children don’t need to go to school all day, but it sure helps make the parents scheduling easier, not to mention saving a buck or two.
The same this is happening with this pre-school testing. I’m sure it was originally created to try to make sure that those children who came from a background where their parents either could or would not invest the time to teach them the basic things they needed for school would be spotted and could then be provided the assistance necessary to make up for what they had missed. Again, seems like a laudable goal. But because it’s become something that all parents are required to do, it’s become a feeder to get more and more children into government education programs at an earlier and earlier age.
I don’t believe there’s any nefarious intent here. I’m sure the people who plan and run these programs have all the best intentions about helping children. But the way that government works means that the more kids you get into these programs—the more kids you’re trying to help—the more the program will be viewed as a success and the more support and funding it will receive. And with so many middle and upper class parents especially sensitive to any indication that their children might not be keeping up their peers today, it means that there’s a large pool of potential children that can be brought into the system.
In that regard, putting the testing requirement in place and making it relatively easy for parents to get their tots tested makes all the sense in the world for those who run these programs. The more Mikes from Minnetonka and Wendys from Woodbury that you bring in (and the earlier the better) the more you make their parents feel as if they’re invested in it. Whether Mike is really ADHD or just acting like a normal boy doesn’t matter. There’s a program to help him and damnit it must be funded. Whether Wendy not being able to pronounce certain sounds means she needs a speech therapist or if it’s just something she would naturally grow out of doesn’t matter. She’s in the system now mister and you just try to tell her parents that taxes shouldn’t be raised to support it.
This is just a small example of the larger problem that we face as a country. Programs that were once designed to assist the poor, the sick, or the elderly have systematically been expanded to a larger and larger group of constituents until we’ve reached a point where almost all of us are now part of some government assistance plan or program. Once you are one of the beneficiaries and conduct your affairs accordingly, it becomes tough to think about giving it up. Which is why polls consistently show that while Americans favor cutting government spending, they don’t favor cutting the programs that they benefit from.
This is the web that we find ourselves caught in. And every new program or expansion of existing programs only serves to further entangle us and make an eventual extraction—if it’s even possible at this point—more and more difficult. We face a situation where maintaining the size of the government pie is unsustainable, yet most Americans seem unwilling to part with any part of their piece of it. This is cause for no small amount of despair for those of us who see little hope of resolution prior to the country reaching a crisis point. I wonder if there’s a program for that...
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Home prices have sunk to 2002 levels, effectively wiping out almost a decade's worth of home equity across the U.S. and imperiling the fragile economic recovery as Americans confront the falling value of their biggest investment.
A closely watched home-price index released Tuesday, the S&P/Case-Shiller National Index, showed that prices nationwide fell 4.2% in the first quarter after declining 3.6% in the fourth quarter of 2010. The index had seen increases in 2009 and early 2010.
"Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index committee. The report signals "a double dip in home prices across much of the nation," he said.
That doesn't bode well for the economy, which historically has depended on home buying and other consumer spending to rebound. Falling prices hurt economic growth in a number of ways. Not only do homebuyers curb spending when their homes are losing value, but continued price erosion keeps families stuck in homes they can't sell because they are worth less than what they owe.
In reality, this isn’t truly a “double dip” as the only reason that prices rose for a short period of time was due to government intervention. That intervention couldn’t last forever and once it was over the U.S. housing market resumed its natural slide. With a few exceptions, housing markets are depressed across the country:
Indeed, 12 of the 20 metropolitan areas tracked in the index posted new lows in March. Only the Washington, D.C., and Seattle markets saw month-to-month growth of 1.1% and 0.1%, respectively. Minneapolis led the declines, with prices falling 3.7%; on an annual basis, its prices were down 10%.
It was a brutal winter here followed by a late arriving and disappointing spring. Our professional and collegiate sporting teams are in various stages of disaster and disarray. And we now lead the country in declining house prices. No wonder T-Paw would rather spend time in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The biggest problem with the government attempting to artificially inflate housing prices for a short period of time is that it merely prolonged the length of time we have to wait for a true turnaround in prices to occur. And news that we haven’t hit bottom yet on house prices imperils the already sputtering economic recovery. The stock market was off dramatically today because of concerns with housing. A depressed housing market, fragile consumer confidence, and tepid growth in jobs are indicators that a tough road lies ahead for the economy for the remainder of 2011.