Monday, October 31, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins

Chad asked and he shall receive. Below are variations of the classic Halloween joke, customized to fit whichever population subgroup you find yourself among this holiday season.

For disgruntled Minnesota football fans: How do Packers’ fans celebrate Halloween?

They pump kin.

For those warming themselves over a dung fire at an Occupy Wall Street encampment: How does the 1% celebrate Halloween (and also insidiously consolidate their vast fortunes)?

They pump kin.

For media reporters and Democrats: According to anonymous sources and reported by Politico, how does Herman Cain celebrate Halloween?

He pumps kin.

For celebrity rumor mongers who always liked Khloe better anyway: On what grounds is Kim Kardashian filing for divorce against Kris Humphries this Halloween?

He pumped kin.

Have fun kids, use these jokes responsibly, and Happy Halloween from Fraters Libertas.

A Chill Wind From Minneapolis

Suicide bomber in Somali attack was reportedly from Minneapolis

A man who blew himself up in an attack in the Somali capital on Saturday reportedly grew up in Minneapolis and was known by the FBI as one of 20 Somali Americans to have joined an al-Qaida-linked militant group.

Abdisalan Hussein Ali, 22, was suspected of being a member of al-Shabab, the FBI told

Kyle Loven, the FBI's chief division counsel for Minneapolis, said Ali was a subject of "Operation Rhino," an ongoing investigation into Somali youth traveling from the U.S. to Somalia to fight for al-Shabab.

Loven could not confirm whether Ali was indeed the bomber but told that the FBI was "awaiting results from DNA checks at this point."

Al-Shabab posted an audiotape that they said was made by Ali before he blew himself up during an attack Saturday on an African Union base in Mogadishu that left at least 10 people dead.

The FBI could not confirm whether the audiotape was authentic but was investigating its credibility.

In the tape, the young man, who would be at least the fourth American to become a suicide bomber in Somalia, urges other young people to not "just chill all day" and instead fight nonbelievers around the world.

The website (website not in English), often used by the al-Shabab militia, said the Somali-American bomber had emigrated to the U.S. when he was two years old.

Ah diversity, it truly does make us stronger, right? I mean, except when those embraced under its umbrella aren't blowing people up.

Watching & Waiting

There are many traditions associated with Halloween. Decorating the house with all manner of scary and spooky seasonal accompaniment. Dressing the kids up and going trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. Sacrificing small woodland animals on a ritual altar in the back yard. Yes, there are a lot of things that we all look forward to when Halloween rolls around every year.

But perhaps none so much as the annual Halloween joke shared here by our own Brian "Saint Paul" Ward. This juicy tidbit of Halloween humor has become such an integral part of the holiday that it's hard to imgaine celebrating a Halloween without it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the spirited crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer to keep the demons at bay.

Halloween is now only a few short days away and time if fast running out to find the right beer for the occasion. Last week, we featured a pumpkin ale from Southern Tier Brewing and if that’s your cup of Halloween beer, you’re more than welcome to it. Personally, I prefer more tasty brews that still have a connection with the occasion. Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale or Great Lakes Brewing’s Nosferatu for example. Or this week’s selection, Certified Evil from Lucky Bucket Brewing in La Vista, Nebraska:

Certified Evil is the result of a 2008 collaboration project with Todd Ashman of Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee, California and Matt Van Wyk of Oakshire Brewing in Eugene, Oregon. Each brewer set out to create a dark Belgian strong ale with their own unique spin on the style. Since the first collaboration, six new breweries have been added to the project to invent a truly unique beer. This beer is properly named Certified Evil.

The new Certified Evil recipe is more complex and interesting than the brew from 2008. This new beer blends Certified Evil aged in Cabernet barrels for one year with a younger batch of oaked aged Certified Evil. The combination makes for a vibrant yet smooth and elegant taste. The recipe also includes a wide variety of complex sugars including turbinado sugar, molasses and honey. The result is an amazingly complex beer. Truly a must try to any craft beer lover.

This is our first beer of the week from Nebraska. I’ve heard that nothing good comes from the Cornhusker State, but I never thought it would bring forth Evil.

12oz brown short bottle. Stark black label with creepy yellow font.

STYLE: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 9.6%

COLOR (0-2): Deep ominous black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sweet and sour malt with vanilla. 2

HEAD (0-2): Light brown, moderate volume, laces well. 2

TASTE (0-5): Strong flavors of roasted malt, yeast, and hops with a little pepper and syrupy sweetness. It has a sour, bitter finish. Heavy-bodied with a thick mouthfeel. You can definitely taste the heat as well. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Very rich and long lasting. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is a big bold beer that packs a wallop of different flavors. It’s not especially balanced or well-rounded and is a bit of a mess really. Still, it’s an interesting mess and is certainly unique. There’s just enough appeal there to keep it tempting. And it does work well with chocolate. What more could you want on Halloween? No need to fear the darkness here. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 15

Passing On

Sad news to report from Glen Lake Wine and Spirits, the sponsor of our Beer of the Week feature. Earlier this week, Jeff Whittemore--who had worked part-time at the store for the last ten years--suddenly passed away. Jeff had been one of the constants at Glen Lake and his presence will most certainly be missed.

Glen Lake Wine and Spirits' owner Dan Keegan shares his thoughts:

He worked part time at the store for ten years. He is an old family friend going back 40 years, meeting my parents at Most Holy Trinity and singing in the choir with them. He did enjoy telling and retelling customers stories of his travels to Europe. Particularly visits to Germany, where he met is wife while in the Army.

Very reliable, showing up 30 minutes early to every shift in order to socialize and lube the gears.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Right Diagnosis, Wrong Cure

Fr. Robert Sirico writes on what the Vatican got right and wrong in the recently released document on the global financial crisis in a WSJ piece called The Vatican's Monetary Wisdom:

Contrary to what is being said, this document presumes the existence and continuation of "free and stable markets." The problem is that the Vatican imagines that a "world central bank" and a "global public authority" can do this with more competence than national governments that have a checkered history in this regard.

It was centralization that caused this mess in the first place. Central banks created paper money, easy and limitless credit, and the moral hazard that accompanies them. Why should we believe that more centralization is the solution when experience suggests precisely the opposite?

Many people who favor free markets worry about the implications of the Vatican document. And there is no question that it will be used around the world to stir up political mischief. It will also be used to convince the Catholic faithful that big-government solutions are morally justified. But let's not forget that there are really two parts to the document: the diagnosis and the prescription. We should embrace the former and eschew the latter.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Modern Chinese Secret

The economy, terrorism, and societal decline no longer enough to keep you up at night with worry? How about three-thousand miles of military tunnels in China which may or may not house a much larger nuclear arsenal than previously thought? Bret Stephens had the details in a piece in yesterday's WSJ called How Many Nukes Does China Have?:

Tunneling has been a part of Chinese military culture for nearly 2,000 years. It was a particular obsession of Mao Zedong, who dug a vast underground city in Beijing and in the late 1960s ordered the building of the so-called Third-Line Defense in central China to withstand a feared Russian nuclear attack. The gargantuan project included an underground nuclear reactor, warhead storage facilities and bunkers for China's first generation of ballistic nuclear missiles.

China's tunnel-digging mania did not end with Mao's death. If anything, it intensified. In December 2009, as part of the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic, the PLA announced to great fanfare that the Second Artillery Corps has built a cumulative total of 3,000 miles of tunnels—half of them during the last 15 years.

"If you started in New Hampshire," notes Mr. Karber by way of reference, "and went to Chicago, then Dallas, then Tijuana, that would be about 3,000 miles."

Why would the Second Artillery be intent on so much tunneling? There are, after all, other ways of securing a nuclear arsenal. And even with a labor force as vast and as cheap as China's, the cost of these tunnels—well-built, well-lit, paved, high-ceilinged and averaging six miles in length—is immense.

It's not clear whether the tunnels are all actually being used to protect an expanded Chinese nuclear arsenal or if they merely part of a strategy to disburse the warheads that they do have and deceive other countries about the true size of their nuclear force. Amidst everything else going on in the world today, this probably doesn't rank high on the concern list. However, it's something to keep in your back pocket just in case things ever get too rosy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Fracking, Less Fighting

Walter Russell Mead on Fracking: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly:

There is always more to the story than environuts or self interested gas companies will tell you; the one constant thing to expect is that there are good things and bad, benefits and problems, with all aspects of the energy industry. The question then becomes – what will bring the most benefit to the largest number of people, and what is best for the US as a whole?

A consideration that does not get enough weight is security. It is not just about reducing America’s dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources now and in the future. It is about promoting the diversity and security of the world’s energy supply by opening up many new sources of production in many new parts of the world. Europe, for example, may have a shale gas and oil boom of its own, reducing its dependence on both Russia and the Middle East.

Failing to frack increases the chance we must fight. Let’s learn to frack as cleanly and carefully as possible — but let’s get it done. Right now, it seems – despite some entirely justified anger from people who live in the frack zone – that extracting America’s vast natural gas resources is the right way to proceed.

Occupy Your Parents' Basement

In Saturday's WSJ, Andy Kessler noted an important but often overlooked root cause behind some of the angst that's driving the OWS crew. His piece was called In San Francisco, There Are Many Ways to Occupy Wall Street:

Maybe this is all really about disappointment. I spoke to a young woman who had clearly bathed more recently than most. I asked her why she was at OccupySF. She told me she'd done all the right things. Studied hard. Graduated college. (She was an art major.) And now she can't get a job. It didn't matter. It's all messed up. She was lied to.

Of course she was. She's a member of the Trophy Generation. Win or lose, you get a trophy. We embraced mediocrity to an entire generation of kids during good times who are now finding themselves mediocre in bad times. There still is that American dream: Go to college, get a job, buy a Prius. But like it or not, studying art or humanities or gender studies won't get you there. Marissa Mayer at Google complains she can't find enough computer-science majors. Civil engineers are getting hired sight unseen.

Educating the whole child was bad advice. So was follow your passion. California spends months teaching ninth-graders how to build a waste-treatment plant with only a day or two on natural selection. I think Occupy Wall Streeters are as much disappointed with the route they all took as they are with "fat cat" bankers.

It probably should be a surprise to no one that the heavily-nurtured, overly-praised, self-esteem enriched Millennial Generation is having a difficult time coping with the realities of life in a down economy. Nothing in their upbringing has prepared them for the inevitable disappointments awaiting them on the streets today. They’ve been told since birth that if they did the “right” things-went to the right schools, cared about the right issues (the environment), volunteered for the right causes-they would be rewarded with praise, money, and self-fulfillment. No one told them that trying hard wasn’t enough or that simply graduating from college didn’t entitle you to a job. They thought (and were taught) that if they just “followed their dreams” they too would find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

You really can’t blame them for being bitter and angry that instead of a pot of gold they’ve barely got one to piss in. Their rage is understandable yet it’s also misdirected. Instead of blaming the banks and Wall Street, they should be pointing their fingers at the ones who filled them with false expectations and lead them down the primrose path: their parents, their teachers, the educational establishment, and large swaths of popular culture. I don’t expect that course change to occur anytime soon though. It’s much easier to blame someone further removed and more anonymous.

In the meantime, I think the appropriate rejoinder for the rest of us when dealing with OWS demands is best delivered in song:

I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the spirited crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find your favorite treats when it comes to wine, whiskey, and beer.

Before we get to this week’s selection, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that beers from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery are featured this month at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits. All six-packs of Deschutes are available for a mere $6.99 which is a heck of a bargain. I believe that Glen Lake currently carries four varieties of Deschutes, including the recently released Jubelale Winter Ale. Get thee some.

Doing a weekly beer review might seem like a pretty good gig. I get to sample a wide variety of beers and offer up my half-arsed opinions on them. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not always as enjoyable as it might sound. For there are times when I must sacrifice my personal preferences for the greater good of the mission. Times when I feel an obligation for example to drink a pumpkin ale.

I’ve got nothing against pumpkins per se mind you. They have an integral role to play in fall festivities, especially on Halloween. But while I understand the pleasures of displaying a pumpkin or two around the house or carving one up to create a jack-o-lantern, I fail to grasp the appeal of pumpkins in either food or beverage form. I suppose pumpkin seeds are somewhat palatable, but pumpkin pie? Never have I harbored the slightest craving for that so called “dessert.”

So I’ve always approached the idea of “pumpkin ales” or any other sort of pumpkin tainted beer with a jaundiced eye. And with few exceptions, Summit’s Unchained Imperial Pumpkin Porter for example, my skepticism about the wisdom of using pumpkins to make beer has been confirmed by the pumpkin products that I’ve tried. Strong flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, and spice are not what I want in a beer and that’s what most pumpkin beers offer. Either that or they’ve been bland and tasteless. So when I see pumpkin beers show up on store shelves in the fall, I have little difficulty passing them by.

But Halloween is nearly upon us. And with the proliferation of parties celebrating it, there’s always a wish to find beers that fit the occasion. So I’ll bravely go where I frankly have no desire to and give another pumpkin beer a shot. This week’s beer comes from the Southern Tier Brewing company in Lakewood, New York. It’s their Pumking Ale:

Pumking is an ode to Púca, a creature of Celtic folklore, who is both feared and respected by those who believe in it. Púca is said to waylay travelers throughout the night, tossing them on its back, and providing them the ride of their lives, from which they return forever changed! Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let its deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun. As the first drops touch your tongue a magical spell will bewitch your taste buds making it difficult to escape. This beer is brewed with pagan spirit yet should be enjoyed responsibly.

That description definitely makes it an appropriate choice for Halloween. The question is whether the taste is equally enticing.

22oz brown bomber bottle that goes for $7.99. Black and orange label shows a villainous looking pumpkin with bats circling the sky overhead.

STYLE: Pumpkin Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 8.6%

COLOR (0-2): Copperish-orange and mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Pumpkin and nutmeg. 1

HEAD (0-2): Little volume, tan color, and almost no lacing. 1

TASTE (0-5): Not nearly as pumpkiny as the smell. Starts with sweet malt accompanied by nutmeg, cinnamon, and all-spice. Finishes bitter. Medium-bodied with a watery mouthfeel. There’s not that much heat and it’s actually fairly drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Surprisingly pleasant. 2

OVERALL (0-6): The lack of head and strong pumpkin smell was not a promising beginning, but Pumking turned out to be a better beer than I expected. I’m still not sold on pumpkin flavors in beer, but they’re mostly muted here. The more of it I drank, the more I enjoyed it. If you’re actually a fan of pumpkin beers (freak), you’re probably going to enjoy Pumking. For me, being able to polish off all 22oz was as close to an endorsement of this style as I’m likely to get. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 12

Passing the Test

David Campbell and Robert Putnam say that Romney's Mormon Challenge May Not Be Insurmountable:

It's clear, then, that whereas evangelicals present a problem for Mr. Romney as he competes in heavily evangelical primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, his Mormonism would be unlikely to hurt him if he survives and wins the Republican nomination. Neither secular nor minority voters are prone to vote for Republicans anyway, and evangelicals are equally unlikely to cast a ballot for a Democrat. Of course, evangelicals may hurt a Romney candidacy by staying home on Election Day 2012, but their strong opposition to President Obama and their past high levels of turnout suggest that they will take to the polls to try to oust the incumbent. Meanwhile, other churchgoing Americans—especially white Catholics and mainline Protestants—appear unconcerned with Mr. Romney's religion.

Thus our data suggest that the key question isn't whether a Mormon can be elected president, but whether a Mormon can win the GOP nomination. Should Mr. Romney clear that hurdle, the evidence suggests that the general election would not hinge on his religion.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Protesting Too Much


The other day, I referenced a portion of an excellent essay by Walter Russell Mead on the meaninglessness of street protests in the United States. I want to revisit that and share a few further thoughts. Mead’s opinion that taking it to the streets is largely an exercise in futility is spot on. It’s one of the reasons that I initially greeted the Tea Party movement with a great deal of skepticism. Many of the same questions that are being asked of the OWS crew today were ones that I had for the Tea Partiers: What is it exactly that you want? What are the goals of your movement? What’s your plan to achieve those goals? What comes next?

To their credit (as Mead notes) the Tea Party took the momentum and energy generated by their rallies and channeled that into useful political activity. Exactly the kind of activity that does make a difference as opposed to protesting in the streets or occupying anything. The political efforts of the Tea Party truly were grass roots as ordinary citizens—many of whom had previously had little involvement in local politics—started showing up and driving things in a different direction. Anyone who has participated in politics at this level has experienced a couple of truths:

1. You can make a difference , probably more than you might imagine going in

2. It takes a lot of time and effort

For people with families and jobs, this involves making sacrifices and that’s one of the remarkable yet underappreciated stories of the Tea Party. A lot of people who had never really had much interest in politics other than showing up to vote, decided to give up their time, money, and other resources to support political change. That’s how dire a situation they believe the country is in and that’s how concerned they are.

The OWS folks pat themselves on the back and take credit for “laying it on the line” for their beliefs. But the reality is that showing up for a street protest or camping out in a park with fellow unwashed activists is easy compared with the consistent and committed engagement in politics that the Tea Party has embraced. And again, the latter actually does drive real change while the former are largely ineffectual displays of misdirected angst.

So why do so many, mostly on the Left, cling to the idea that carrying signs and chanting slogans actually can make a difference? I think a lot of it stems from historical ignorance and the way the illusion of the glories of the Sixties has been sold over the years. Every generation to follow has always had a sizable chunk of naïve denizens wondering when they will get their chance to do what their anti-establishment heroes of the Sixties did. They challenged the system. They tore down boundaries. They ended a war.

Except they really didn’t. Yes, there were large anti-war protests that rollicked the country. Yes, those protests changed the political environment. And yes, as Mead notes, those protests did lead to the end of the draft. But they didn’t end the Vietnam War. There’s a myth that all these young people marching in the streets turned the tide of public opinion and forced the government to end the war. The reality is different. At the height of the anti-war protests, a majority of the American public still supported the war. And if the anti-war movement was so popular why did the avowedly anti-war candidate Eugene McGovern get shellacked by Richard Nixon in 1972? For all the myth making about what the protests of that era did and how they changed everything, the truth is that changed little in any positive way.

But they did help lead to the undermining of various pillars of American society such as the family, education, civics, and even religion. The effects of this corrosion are still being felt today. If one looks throughout history you’ll discover that it’s a lot easier to tear down institutions than it is to create them. And the type of groups that usually take their grievances to the streets in America are far more interested in and skilled at the former than the latter. Which is one of the reasons that I’m so skeptical of any large scale protest movement. Except for the Civil Rights cause, in the last fifty years they’ve done far more harm than good in America.

And despite protests to the contrary (no pun intended), I think there’s something distinctly un-American about street protests. One of the things that made the American Revolution unique in history was the absence of large scale mob violence. Yes, there was some tarring and feathering of colonial officials and violence directed against Loyalists, but compared to what happened in the French Revolution or in others throughout the world it was relatively tame. And in the years since then, with a few notable exceptions, Americans have largely resisted the mob impulse (at least when it comes to politics-sports is another matter).

Mobs are the antithesis of civilization. They are lawless bands with no legitimate claim to power who don’t respect individual rights or personal property. One of the truly frightening aspects of last year’s clash in Wisconsin between the governor and the teachers unions and their allies was just how close we were to having mobs overrule the results of the ballot box. There is a process in place for us to determine who are elected leaders are and what policies we want them to pursue on our behalf. And in a democratic republic there is no place for mobs. What are most of the protests that we see today, but mobs in the making?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Head Start

Now that my wife has been home schooling for a while (six weeks), something of a routine has developed for the children in the morning before the actual learnin' commences. It goes something like this:

#1 A recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance while looking at the American flag flying outside the window.

#2 Singing the first verse of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" while marching in place (don't ask).

#3 Praying the "Our Father" on the couch with hands clasped together.

Pretty much the same way the day starts in most schools, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking It Off the Streets

Walter Russell Mead on The Vain And Empty Rituals Of Protest On The Streets:

There are places where protests are still news. When throngs of people defy dictatorial rulers, something is happening. As the world waits to see whether soldiers will gun the demonstrators down in the streets or break ranks and join them, news is being made. Here in China, there is a surprising degree of concern — from people connected to the government — about the possibility that OWS style protests could spread to the PRC. Ironically, the OWS protesters who have the biggest impact could be thousands of miles away from New York. But protests in non-democratic countries matter more than in democratic ones. When people are angry, frustrated and/or idealistic and hopeful enough to put their lives on the line in support of political change, this matters.

In America, probably fortunately, protest is so widespread and cost free that no particular protest means anything much. 500,000 people can march through Washington DC to protest Roe vs. Wade; no laws change, no judges change their minds, no politicians (not running for the GOP nomination) change their stands. Ditto “million man” and “million mom” marches.

Perhaps, like the Tea Party, the OWS folks will go on to become a potent force in politics — though to do they will have to develop a clarity and purpose of outlook that is still lacking. If so, the OWS protests will be remembered as the launching pad of a political movement, but the action will have to leave the streets to produce change. Signing nominating petitions, raising money, launching websites, turning out caucus and primary voters, attending local government meetings: that is what makes change, not living in squalor or even making love in the park, not getting arrested in acts of civil (or uncivil) disobedience.

What Is Not Seen

In advance of all the talk we'll likely hear in the next few days on the super-fantastic economic impact of building a new stadium for the Vikings, here's a helpful reminder from Frederic Bastiat (from today's WSJ) on the folly of such justifictions for public spending:

I lose patience, I confess, when I hear this economic blunder advanced in support of...a project. "Besides, it will be a means of creating labor for the workmen."

The State opens a road, builds a palace, straightens a street, cuts a canal; and so gives work to certain workmen—this is what is seen: But it deprives certain other workmen of work, and this is what is not seen.

The road is begun. A thousand workmen come every morning, leave every evening, and take their wages—this is certain. If the road had not been decreed, if the supplies had not been voted, these good people would have had neither work nor salary there; this also is certain.

But is this all? Does not the operation, as a whole, contain something else? At the moment when M. Dupin pronounces the emphatic words, "The Assembly has adopted," do the millions descend miraculously on a moon-beam into the coffers of MM. Fould and Bineau? In order that the evolution may be complete, as it is said, must not the State organize the receipts as well as the expenditure? Must it not set its tax-gatherers and tax-payers to work, the former to gather, and the latter to pay?...

The sophism which this work is intended to refute is the more dangerous when applied to public works, inasmuch as it serves to justify the most wanton enterprises and extravagance. When a railroad or a bridge are of real utility, it is sufficient to mention this utility.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Et Cum Spiritu Tuo

Yesterday marked the beginning of the transition (in these parts) to a new English translation of the original Latin version of the liturgy of the Catholic Mass. This transition has already begun in other parts of the world and opinions on the change are decidedly mixed.

For what it’s worth, I think the change--which seeks to return to more literal and hopefully more meaningful translations--is a good one. First off, I don’t think it’s going to require too much effort for Catholics to adopt to the changes. They’re being phased in over a period of time with only one or two each week. Personally, I would have preferred a hard cutover which would have implemented them all at once, but the slower schedule should allow parishioners to adjust fairly easily. The first change—saying “And with your spirit” instead of “And also with you” when the priest says “The Lord (or peace) be with”—may actually be the most difficult one to take hold as there are five different points in the Mass where the response is required. Other changes, to the wording of the Creed or the Confiteor for example, will be easier to remember since they happen at distinct moments. And we have those handy little reminder cards in the pews to fall back on.

Secondly, I think it’s good to force Catholics to pause and actually think about what we’re saying. Over the years, the prayers and responses can become so automatic that they can lose their meaning. You know the words so well that you don’t even have to think about them. It’s almost like you’re on auto-pilot at times and there’s a danger that when Mass becomes a matter of simply going through the motions it loses its sense of mystery and deeper purpose. Now, we’re going to have to focus and concentrate on the words and that should lead people to remember their meaning and relevance. And this should carry through to the parts of the liturgy that haven’t changed as well since these changes bring attention to the structure of the Mass as a whole, something that’s all too easy to take for granted.

One of the best summaries of the changes and the reasons for them is available here. I enjoyed this explanation of the “And with your spirit” change:

But the correction isn’t just about accuracy or parallels. Again, the words of the Mass are there for a reason. And the response “And with your spirit” conveys something different than “And also with you.”

“The latter sounds like a cultural greeting,” says Joe Paprocki, national catechetical consultant for Loyola Press. “Which was the point. The original translators wanted something that sounded more like everyday speech. But it can sound like the congregation is saying, ‘Right back at you, Father,’ or ‘You too.’”

And that’s not what the Latin phrase means. It’s not just another way of saying “hi” to the priest.

To really move toward everyday speech, maybe it should have been “And also with you, man” and involved the congregation winking and pointing back at the priest.

As with any change, this one will involve some discomfort and take some time to get used to. I imagine that by the time Christmas rolls around, most of us will be on board with the new version of Mass and will be at least somewhat proficient with the prayers and responses. Which may create no small amount of confusion for the C and E Catholics when they show up for one their rare Mass outings. Maybe we’ll have to keep those cards around for a while.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy This!

"Occupy Sacramento" or the 99%'ers or whatever they are calling themselves were out "in force" today. At a little before 3:00 pm they marched - all 2 dozen of them - down I Street in downtown Sacramento to protest corporate greed in front of the Attorney General's Office.

At a state government building.

On a Sunday.

A couple dozen hippies protesting "corporate greed" in front of a government office on a Sunday?

Yeah, that's a movement to reckon with. Morons.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beer of the Week (Vol. CIXX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the knowledgeable crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you navigate your way through the world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

Among the crop of craft brewers that have emerged on the local scene in recent years is Flat Earth Brewing Company from Saint Paul. Flat Earth started up operations in 2007 and we were able. interview owner Jeff Williamson on the NARN First Team radio show in December of that year. It’s good to see that Flat Earth is still kicking out the beers, which have recently become available at Glen Lake Wine and Spirits.

One factor that I believe has limited Flat Earth from achieving greater prominence is that its beers are only available on tap, in growlers, or in 22oz bomber bottles. The true craft beer fans are used to consuming their product in such manners, but more casual drinkers might find them less approachable. We’ve long been conditioned to buy our beer in multi-pack single serving bottles and cans and it can be difficult to break out of that mindset. It also limits the venues where your beer can be served. For example, Target Field has a pretty decent selection of local craft beers, but they’re selling 12oz bottles, not 22oz bombers. I doubt if Surly would enjoy the same level of popularity if they didn’t off their beer in four-packs of 16oz cans (a slight variation on the traditional six pack, but pretty close).

I hope that Flat Earth is soon able to expand and offer their beer in some multi-pack option. Until then, we’ll drink ‘em as we can get ‘em. This week’s beer is Flat Earth Brewing’s Angry Planet Pale Ale:

This brew is a good example of what happens when old mother nature gets mad. Angry Planet is made with organic American 2-row, C60 and Munich malts. Featuring Cascade hops, with a large dry hop addition. An aroma of citrus and light toast. A nice flavorful punch of citrus hop is balanced by slight caramel sweetness and plays off on the hop bitterness. Pairs well with yak momo, pizza & pad thai.

22oz brown bomber that retails for $3.99. Label has raging red background with a cartoonish snarling planet that looks none too happy and is saying “Da earth ain’t yer mudda!” and “Put ‘em up!”

STYLE: Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 6.0%

COLOR (0-2): Reddish copper color that’s mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malts and tangy hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): Lots of volume, off-white color, and good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Follows the aroma with sweet caramel malts mixing with citrusy hops. Somewhat more skewed to the hop side, but not overly so. You pick up a little heat as well at the finish which has an unusual bitterness to it. Mouthfeel is watery. It’s well carbonated and medium-bodied. Pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Good follow through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Not your typical pale ale, Flat Earth’s Angry Planet has a unique flavor profile. It’s a little off-putting at first, but grows on you over time. It’s a decent beer that I’d be willing to try again, but not one that I’d go out of my way to seek out. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, October 13, 2011

More Broadsides Needed

Daniel Henninger on The Unsinkable Mitt Romney:

The health-care problem has been widely discussed. There are two other troubling policy areas, both on display in the debate: taxes and China.

Newt Gingrich rightly asked Mr. Romney why his capital gains cut stops at incomes above $200,000—a total economic absurdity, especially for anyone who purports to know "how the economy works."

Mr. Romney's standard reply is that the "rich can take care of themselves" and he's all about "the middle class." But that's Barack Obama's divisive view. And despite two bipartisan commissions explicitly calling for lower individual rates, Mr. Romney's tax reforms are "in the future." So he sits below 22% support.

China is hacking into the Pentagon's computers, grabbing the South China Sea, offering little help on nuclear proliferation, and Mr. Romney's big proposal is "on day one" to file a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization for currency manipulation. But that's proto-Democrat Chuck Schumer's issue. If one can glean a commonality in the Schumer-Romney complaint, it would be campaign contributions.

Mitt Romney has undoubted gifts. He could be president. But in the current Obama morass, so could 100 other people. What voters, including Republican voters, want for the United States now is the best president possible. Mr. Romney isn't there yet. Only more competition or criticism will get him there.

More than happy to help with the latter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Smarter Than the Average Bear?

As I’ve mentioned previously, having young boys with inquisitive minds means that I end watching a lot of nature and science documentaries. Some are extremely interesting, others excruciatingly boring, especially when viewed for the thirteenth or fourteenth times. One trend that I’ve noticed is that almost every nature program produced around the mid-2000s will include a reference to the inconvertible truth and dire consequences of man-made global warming. Similar shows made in the last couple of years are usually more circumspect about the cause of the warming and its impact.

Some of the favorite shows that our kids like to watch on Netflix are various series about prehistoric creatures that inhabited the earth after the dinosaurs. These included ferocious whales and sharks in the seas and saber-toothed cats, giant sloths, terror birds and a bevy of other fascinating beasts that have long disappeared from our world. Among these is the arctodus or short-faced bear. This short-faced bear was among the largest of its species ever and was an impressive predator. It was larger than the grizzly (which was also around at the same time) and relied on its immense strength to overpower its prey. It ate meat almost exclusively and ate a LOT of it. Yet it’s not around today and the grizzly is. Why?

Believe it or not, well before humans created our carbon energy based modern world, the world’s climate was apt to dramatic changes. When you watch these prehistoric nature shows with the kids you’re reminded just how catastrophic some of these climate changes were. It was just such a climate change that probably lead to the demise of the short-faced bear. Usually there are multiple causes for causes for species extinction and the short-faced bear is no exception. The big problem for the carnivorous short-faced bear was that the large prey animals on which they depended for sustenance began to disappear. This occurred because of changes in the climate and because humans began hunting these same animals. The short-faced bears weren’t able to adapt to these changes and so died off. But the grizzlies also faced the same challenges and yet they survived. Why?

One of the reasons cited was that grizzlies were smarter than the short-faced bears. Since they already had a more varied diet, they started off with an advantage. But they also changed their eating habits and began eating more plants and bugs to make up for the lack of large prey. Some of this was made possible by them learning where to find these alternative sources of food. They were smart enough to manage this adaptation while the short-faced bear was not.

So assume for a moment that all the worst case fears about global warming are true. The earth is getting warmer. The warmer is largely the result of human activity. And the consequences are going to be dire. Are you telling me that we—the top of the top when it comes to species ever to inhabit this pale blue dot we call earth--won’t be able to adapt to any climate changes that come our way? Are you really telling me that we aren’t smarter than the average bear? No offense to members of the Ursidae family out there, but my money’s on man.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Faith Effort?

While I don’t want to seem to be engaging in all Romney bashing all the time, I must weigh in with yet another reason that I greet the prospect of his being the GOP nominee with trepidation: he very well may be unelectable. What? Not the “presidential looking” Romney you say. Cain, Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich are the unelectable ones. We keep hearing that the experienced, politically savvy, and moderate sounding Romney is the one with the best chance of unseating Barack Obama.

There’s just one problem that that. The elephant in the GOP room that no one seems to want to talk about, but that everyone should be aware of is that Romney’s religion could be the factor that dooms his chance of ever becoming president. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to talk about religion as a disqualifier. We shouldn’t have religious tests for candidates or make their religion a basis for whether or not we support them (for the record, I would almost always prefer a conservative atheist to a progressive Catholic). But the reality is that some voters do exactly that.

The Cult of Anti-Mormonism -

Partly this has to do with white evangelicals, who are an important bloc in the Republican coalition. Thus many stories on the issue of Mr. Romney's Mormonism invoke a striking May survey from the Pew Research Center. According to this survey, 34% of white evangelicals report themselves "less likely" to vote for a Mormon for president.

That's fair enough as far as it goes. The same Pew survey, however, shows something much less reported. This is that, overall, more Democrats than Republicans are hostile to a Mormon candidacy (31% to 23%). More interesting still is Pew's finding that when it comes to this particular animus, "liberal Democrats stand out, with 41% saying they would be less likely to support a Mormon candidate."

You might argue that Romney wouldn’t have many of these open-minded Democrats voting for him anyway. But it should be at least somewhat alarming that a third of white evangelicals would factor his faith into their decision on how to vote. And that poll doesn’t seem to be an outlier.

Republican Mitt Romney Deflects Questions on Mormon Faith -

A June poll by Quinnipiac University found 36% of voters were somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with a Mormon president. Only atheists and Muslims triggered more discomfort.

So this time we find that over a third of voters are either “somewhat or entirely uncomfortable with a Mormon president.” This doesn’t mean of course that they still might not vote for Mitt Romney instead of Barack Obama, but if only a portion of this 36% indeed did allow their prejudice to sway their judgment it might be enough to influence the election results.

No matter how bad the economy is and how unpopular the president is, it’s never easy to defeat an incumbent in the White House. President Obama will have a large campaign war chest, the power of the office, and a largely compliant media on his side in 2012. Whomever the Republicans send against him will need to run a strong campaign and there will be scant margin for error if they are to eventually prevail. Given that a good chunk of the electorate seems to consider Romney’s religion to be a factor in how they vote, can the GOP really afford to take a chance on that bias deciding the election?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Time to Choose

Regarding a couple of recent posts here by James from Folsom and the Nihilist in Golf Pants, I should make it perfectly clear that if Mitt Romney is the endorsed GOP candidate in 2012 I will vote for him or maybe more accurately against President Obama. It will take some hard core rationalizing (and bourbon) to get me to the point where I can support Romney, but make no mistake about it I will be able to come around to that position. Eventually.

But for now there’s no reason for a conservative to engage in the mental gymnastics and willing suspension of disbelief to jump on the Romney bandwagon. There’s still time for us to explore alternatives and we should not be limited in our approach to that. Herman Cain doesn’t have the experience. Newt Gingrich couldn’t get elected. Really? It’s easy to write off the other candidates in the race and accept the depressing reality of Romney. Too many Republicans seem to have already done that and are walking around with heads low and shoulders shrugging saying , “I guess he’s really the only choice we have now.”

Balderdash. There will be time a plenty for us to figure out how we’re going to love the one we’re with later if Romney is indeed the nominee. Until then, we need to quit buying into the notion that it’s all but a done deal and we need to start coming together around Romney. That seems to the line that many among the Republican establishment are trying to peddle. Now is the time for good little Republicans to fall in line behind the presumptive nominee. You know, the guy who “looks presidential” and whose "turn has come"?

I say not so fast. Let’s make sure that we really understand the true strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and not just those that have been given attention through the narrow prism of the debates. Let’s make sure that before we settle for Romney, we don’t look past others who might not only make a better nominee, but a better president if they were elected. The field is still open. Let’s play it a bit more while we can.

UPDATE- Ramesh Ponnuru on why the Republican establishment prevails in the primaries:

Romney’s strength may seem puzzling. He is running as the establishment candidate: the one favored by the party apparatus, the big donors, the Republicans who care more about the party’s power than about ideology. We have been told again and again that the Republican rank and file is more hostile than ever to the party’s establishment, which they regard as a collection of sellouts. So how can Romney be on track to win the nomination?

The answer is that the Republican establishment almost always wins presidential-nomination contests, and conservative insurgents almost never do. Since 1984, nobody substantially to the right of the party establishment has won the nomination. Make a mental list of the last four Republican nominees -- George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain -- and the notion of a Romney victory in the primaries becomes less surprising.

Establishment-oriented candidates keep winning for two reasons. The first is that the party establishment has moved to the right, too, co-opting conservatives who might otherwise have overthrown it.


The second reason the establishment wins is that its opponents never unify behind another candidate. In 1988, conservatives who couldn’t support the establishment candidates split three ways. Pat Robertson ran as the social-conservative champion; Pete du Pont as the voice of economic libertarians; and Jack Kemp as the “movement conservative” who could unite both groups. The same pattern held in the next open nomination contest, in 1996, with Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm playing these roles. Neither the social conservatives nor the economic libertarians could win the nomination on their own, but their attempt to do so made it impossible to assemble a winning coalition combining the most conservative elements of the party.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Raising Cain

Chad and I may have our disagreements over craft beers, but his criticisms of Mitt Romney are spot on. I really don't have anything to add to his critique of Romney, who clearly is not a leader that would redefine the role of government. Unfortunately, few see such a leader in the Republican field.

As I look across the field, seeing leaders with differing strengths and weaknesses, I'm more intrigued by the prospects of Herman Cain. His weakness #1 is his electability, which is essentially a b.s. criticism of someone who has low name recognition. Weakness #2 is that his lack of experience in government. If we are looking to redefine the role of government, who better to do so than someone whose resume isn't bogged down in government.

Cain's resume, while missing federal and state government experience, does boast a Federal Reserve bank chairmanship. Given the financial crisis that we face, this seems to be relevant policymaking experience that would rival the governorship of any state.

As I listen to the candidates, Cain is the only one who shows the passion of a thoughtful conservative ideology. Yes, Brian, Newt Gingrich can talk the talk at times, but I have several problems with Newt. First, I can't shake the image of him sitting with Nancy Pelosi for an Al Gore inspired advertisement against global warming. Second, Newt is well known and brings high negatives to the table in the minds of many voters. Finally, Newt is more an intellectual than a man of action. He's able to come up with wonderful though sometimes fanciful theories of government, but much less likely to execute on his agenda. This is evidenced by his speedy fall from grace in the 1990's.

Michele Bachmann is a rock ribbed conservative that simply doesn't have the executive experience and may not have the temperment for the presidency. She's fairly young and may develop into the role, but she isn't there now. I don't trust any of the other candidates conservative bona fides as much as I do Cain's.

Finally, a Cain nomination would create a Rovian dream. For decades, the African American vote has been monolithic. An election featuring two black candidates might chip away at that phenomenon. Obama received over 90% of the AA vote in 2008, and AA voters represented over 10% of all voters. If Cain could move the needle up to 20%, that would represent a pickup of 1% of all voters. As the demographics of the United States change, it becomes more important that minorities consider the Republican party. A Cain nomination and presidency would facilitate this.

Minnesota Misery Index, Part Deux

Golly, would ya look at that. The Minnesota Lynx just won the WNBA championship! Yep, the Cheeseheads may have the Packers, the Brewers and the Badgers, but Minnesota has the Lynx!!

What? Nobody gives a s***?

Never mind.

Look at the bright-side. At least you're not Detroit.

Oh, wait. Lions 4-0. Tigers in the ALCS. Red Wings, well, they're the Red Wings.

Never mind.

THE ELDER ADDS: James is forgetting that the Golden Gopher hockey team crushed noted powerhouse Sacred Heart 9-0 last night. It may not be a victory of great significance, but in an area starved for sports success of any sort we'll take what we can get.


Between Hugh Hewitt's relentless cheerleading for the Mitt Romney and Chad's relentless skepticism, I really don't know what to think. To a degree I've resigned myself to a Mitt nomination as simply inevitable. But the more Hugh shamelessly shills for the Mittster the more reticent I become to support him, and I'm not sure I know why. (Maybe I just said why?)

But skepticism aside, a does of reality might be helpful. It is looking more and more like a Mitt vs. Obama election. And as hesitant as I might be to give my full-throated endorsement to Mitt, is there really a choice there? One his worst RomneyCare and climate change endorsing day, does anyone really think that Obama is preferable to Mitt? I think not.

I wish Perry were a better candidate. I wish Palin had not quit as governor. And I wisch Michelle B had minded her own damn business and not chased rainbows by running for President. I'm sorry Michelle, but it was never going to happen. Not now, not ever.

But most of all, I miss Tim Pawlenty. The more I see of the GOP candidates, the more I think T-Paw was our best hope. And while I blame Michelle for his having to drop out, if you can't handle some gaffe-prone Congressional back-bencher, you're not ready for prime time yourself.

So at the end of the day, we are more than likely left with Mitt. It may not be the best choice, but at least it's not an echo.

Friday, October 07, 2011

HWX, with Mike Nelson

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

Power Line's John Hinderaker and I discuss the latest developments in the worlds of politics, economics, and leaf raking. In particular, we break down the Obama press conference from Thursday, his approach to fixing the economy/campaigning for office, and discuss the rise of Herman Cain.

Later, our guest is the great Mike Nelson of We catch up with the legendary quipster and find out what's new in San Diego and what's new in bad movies. We touch on Transformers 3, Twilight, Rifftrax LIVE events, and a recently unearthed Jesse Ventura classic, Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe. You can watch a preview of that cinematic masterpiece here. In fact, Riffrax has sample clips of all of their recent releases (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Karate Kid 3, etc.) here, a great spot to spend some time sucking up FREE entertainment before kicking Mike a few bucks by buying one of their many fine selections.

Later, Loon of the Week (Dick Durbin vs. BofA) and This Week in Gate Keeping (London footballer begging for sex/mistaken identity).

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.

Takes One To Know One

The Mitt Romney endorsements keep rolling in:

“He was very disciplined in the debates, he’s aggressively working the early primary states and he’s riding a message. That’s a winning combination,” said GOP strategist Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.

In a Fraters Libertas exclusve, we have learned that former Gopher football coach Tim Brewster also believes that Romney has all the ingredients it takes to be a winner.

House Built on Sand

In a post at, genferei explains why after reading Mitt Romney’s 160 page pamphlet Believe In America: Mitt Romney's Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, he still wonders whether Mitt’s faith in the country is really backed with the principles to sustain it.

And here is the core of my unease: wouldn't a conservative be asking, first, "should the government be doing this at all", not whether it is doing it well?

This is not intended to be a fisking. I wanted to set out clearly the case for considering that Mr Romney is not, at heart, conservative enough for me. At the level of broad statements he often says things that resonate strongly. At the level of a bit more detail, his proposals seem a little unambitious and the flavour, the approach, the tone of the pamphlet seems a little off-key (to mix my metaphors).

I have used a lot of quotes because I know not everyone has time to read 160 pages of political pamphlet. Hopefully there is enough material in this post for those who think I am wrong to be concerned to convince me otherwise. I'm not saying these extracts present a balanced account of the contents of the pamphlet. But I think they accurately reflect its tone.

Mitt Romney says he believes in America, and believes in Americans. But I am led to wonder whether he really does.

Genferei’s concerns about Romney are the same ones I have shared. Would a Romney administration really be the kind of dramatic break with the recent past that the country needs or more one of half measures and carefully managed calibrations? Genferei’s reading of Romney’s economy plan would indicate the latter.

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXVIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the sharp crew at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the diamonds in the rough when it comes to wine, whiskey, and beer.

Our featured beer this week comes from Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, California. Lagunitas is one of the many renowned craft breweries that were added to the Glen Lake stock in late summer. And since summer has recently returned to this parts with a vengeance, it seems only fitting to sneak in one last beer best enjoyed with the mercury is rising. Lagunitas Bavarian-Style DoppelWeizen:

Inspired by Rolec: The Builders of our New Brewing System. They Sent Us a Traditional Yeast Sent From Their Friends in Bavaria & We Way-Overfed It To Take It All Up A Bit!

22oz brown bomber bottle that retails for $4.95. Label has a white background with tall glass of wheaty goodness.

STYLE: Weizenbock

Alcohol by Volume: 9.0%

COLOR (0-2): Dark, rather orangish gold and well-clouded 2

AROMA (0-2): Grassy wheat with some spices and bit of tartness 2

HEAD (0-2): White color, not much volume, laces the glass nicely 2

TASTE (0-5): Hits you hard with wheat, yeast, some clove, and a little spice. The heat is very apparent yet the beer is surprisingly smooth at the same time. Heavier-bodied and well-carbonated. It comes on strong yet mellows somewhat at the finish. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Smooth and rich. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Wheat beers are not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re a wheat fan and you like big bold, flavorful beers, you will dig this beer. It’s like a standard wheat beer on steroids. And a damn fine way to celebrate the brief, but beautiful days of this Native American Summer. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Occupational Therapy

We’ve all heard the ageless admonition “it’s always fun until someone pokes their eye out.” If you’re like me you’re more likely to be on the giving end these days after having received those pearls of wisdom many times during my days of youth. The Occupy Wall Street protest movement has now spawned a similar adage. Those of us of a conservative bent have had a lot of fun mocking the Occupy Wall Street crew for their pointless protests, largely incoherent objectives, and in many cases rank hypocrisy as they freely enjoy the benefits wrought by institutions and individuals they rail against. Well, I can now say from personal experience that circumstances such as this one are always fun until YOUR Congressman pokes their head in. CPC Co-Chairs Applaud Occupy Wall Street Movement:

Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison today released the following statement in solidarity with the demonstrators on Wall Street and around the country:

“We have been inspired by the growing grassroots movements on Wall Street and across the country. We share the anger and frustration of so many Americans who have seen the enormous toll that an unchecked Wall Street has taken on the overwhelming majority of Americans while benefitting the super wealthy. We join the calls for corporate accountability and expanded middle-class opportunity.

“Throughout the summer, CPC Members listened to Americans nationwide describe how it feels to be on the wrong side of the wall between the rich and the rest of us. During the Speakout for Good Jobs Now! tour in New York City, Detroit, Milwaukee, Oakland, Minneapolis, Miami and Seattle, we heard compelling stories of Americans struggling to live the American dream while CEO’s and the super rich were given more taxpayer handouts.

“We stand with the American people as they demand corporate accountability and we support their use of peaceful means to improve America.”

I’m sure that inquiring citizens of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District (such as myself) would like to know exactly which of the Proposed List Of Demands For Occupy Wall St Movement Representative Ellison is so keen on showing support for. The ending of free trade? The imposition of a twenty-dollar an hour minimum wage? The destruction of private health insurance companies? Spending a trillion dollars on infrastructure and ANOTHER trillion on wetlands and decommissioning nuclear power plants? Forgiving ALL debt IMMEDIATELY?

It would seem that if ANY of these proposals were actually to come to pass (suspend disbelief) they would have significant impacts on the residents of the Fifth District to say nothing of the businesses that employ its people and pay taxes. Is it too much for us to ask Representative Ellison to provide a bit more clarity on exactly what he finds so “inspiring” about these protesters of their demands to radically remake society? Of course. Do I actually expect anyone in the local media to hold his feet to the fire on this matter anymore than they have on others? Of course not.

The pointless nature of the whole “Occupy ___” movement was the topic of conversation in the locker room after hockey this morning (yes, hockey players don’t all speak monosyllabically and can actually string sentences together). One of the guys works in the government building in downtown Minneapolis which will apparently be the new target of the “Occupy Minneapolis” crew. He was hoping that they wouldn’t prove to be too disruptive and, in an interesting generational flip-flop, hoping that his father wouldn’t be among those arrested. During a recent conversation, his dad told him that he would be joining the protest because “it was about time someone did something.” When the son inquired exactly what this “something” was, the father replied. “Well, people are angry.” When the son pressed on who people were angry at, why, and what action was to come out of all the yelling, screaming, and “occupying,” his father was unable to provide any clear answers. Which proves that another popular adage “with age comes wisdom” is not applicable in all situations.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

No Time for Tinkering

My displeasure and deep unease over the prospect of Mitt Romney carrying the GOP banner against President Obama in 2012 has been ongoing and only worsens as one potential primary challenger after another either flames out or decides not to turn the keys and press the launch button to enter the race. An editorial in today's WSJ took a closer look at the field as it now stands and highlights one of my chief concerns with Romney. The GOP Field:

The main question about Mr. Romney is whether his political character matches the country's huge current challenges. The former Bain Capital CEO is above all a technocrat, a man who believes in expertise as the highest political virtue. The details of his RomneyCare program in Massachusetts were misguided enough, but the larger flaw it revealed is Mr. Romney's faith that he can solve any problem, and split any difference, if he can only get the smartest people in the room.

America's current problems reflect a philosophical gulf far more than they do technocratic policy differences. The country is sharply divided over the role of government as a driver of economic investment and redistributor of wealth. President Obama has made clear that in 2012 he intends to defend the larger entitlement state he has championed and the higher taxes to pay for it.

Republicans need a nominee who can make the opposing case on practical and moral grounds, not shrink from it out of guilt or excess political caution. At least so far, Mr. Romney hasn't shown he is willing to make the kind of larger argument that could sweep in GOP majorities to pass the major reform the country needs. We hope competitors do more to test Mr. Romney on how much reform he really believes in.

The last thing the country needs right now is a slightly less statist Republican president who’s content to tinker around the edges and make government “work better.” Okay, that’s not quite fair. The LAST THING the country needs right now is four more years of President Obama. But if the alternative to that is a technocrat who believes that the key to solving the country’s problems is for the government to employ conservative approaches instead of liberal ones, we’re still going to be in a boatload of trouble. We shouldn’t be talking about HOW the government should fix our problems. Instead, we should be talking about what problems truly are within the government’s scope to address and which would be better resolved by the ingenuity and spirit of the American people. Does anyone believe that is the type of national conversation we’re going to have with Romney at the top of the ticket?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Welcome to the Occupation

Remember when the crew at were just a collection of reasonable folks who wanted nothing more than for the country to quit spending so much time worrying about the predilections and prevarications of the president and instead focus on what really was important? Okay, neither do I, but I’m still somewhat surprised to see what company they’re choosing to keep these days. From an e-mail I received yesterday:

But the biggest protests are on Wall Street itself. "Occupy Wall Street," which began with a brave group of young people, has swelled to thousands of students, unemployed folks, union members, and others who have persevered through intense police harassment and mass arrests to sustain a rolling 24-hour-a-day protest against the bankers who've wrecked our economy and undermined our democracy.

On Wednesday, MoveOn members will join labor and community groups in New York City for a huge march down to the protest site—the biggest yet.

And because we can't all be in New York, we're going to stage a massive "Virtual March on Wall Street" online with our friends at Rebuild the Dream. Together, we'll add hundreds of thousands of voices of solidarity from the American Dream Movement for the protests across the country and show just how widespread outrage at the Wall Street banks really is.

And just how far removed from the mainstream really is.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Minnesota Misery Index

Last spring, it seemed like we had reached the nadir on the Minnesota sports scene. After the train wreck that was the 2010 Vikings season and more mediocrity from the Wolves, Wild and Gopher football, hockey, and basketball teams, the one remaining ray of hope for local sports fans was the Twins. And we all know how that worked out for us.

But as bad as things were then, it’s hard not to conclude that they’re even worse now. The Twins had to engineer a walk off victory on the last night of the season against Kansas City to avoid the ignominy of losing ONE HUNDRED games. The 2011 Vikings are off to an 0-4 start having just lost to a previously winless Kansas City team that was considered by many to be the NFL’s worst squad. And the Gopher football team is 1-4 after getting destroyed by Michigan 58-0 on Saturday.

The woes of our local teams are even more painful to endure when you compare them with our rivals in Wisconsin. The defending Super Bowl champion Packers are an offensive juggernaut and boast a 4-0 record. The Badgers are also undefeated having just annihilated a powerful Nebraska team at home. And the Brewers have not only won their division, they’ve already taken a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five NLDS playoff against Arizona. Those with short memories may need to be reminded that the Twins have lost TWELVE straight playoff contests, their last post-season victory dating back to 2004.

It doesn’t get much better when we match up with Michigan. In addition to the humiliation inflicted by the Wolverines on Saturday, we have to deal with a Lions squad that’s 4-0 and a Tigers team that not only dethroned the Twins as Central Division champions, but has proven that it’s possible to face the Yankees in the playoffs without curling up in the fetal position and begging for mercy.

They say that it’s always darkest before the dawn and there are some reasons to hope that we’ve reached pitch blackness and can expect to see light start to break through.

1. The NBA is currently locked out and it’s possible that the entire season could be lost. No NBA means no reason to be reminded just how pitiful the Timberwolves are. A definite win for Minnesota sports fans.

2. For the first time in years, the Wild actually have legitimate goal scorers with Heatley and Setoguchi. Having them on a line with Koivu is going to provide the offensive punch the team has lacked. If they get solid goaltending and can bring their young defensemen along, there’s no reason that the Wild couldn’t make the playoffs. While that might not sound like a lofty goal, considering where we’re at now it would be something to celebrate.

3. The young Gopher hockey squad seems poised for a possible return to glory. It might not happen this year (the team is ranked sixth in the WCHA pre-season coaching poll), but the pieces are being put in place that should allow them to vie for conference championships and be a factor in the NCAA tournament once again. It’s been a rough stretch of late for the Gopher pucksters, who have usually been one of the few local sports teams that we could always count on to be competitive. Getting them back to where they belong among the top programs in the country will do wonders for the psyche of local sports fans, especially for those of us who follow it closely. Beating the Badgers would also help.

The Vision Thing

While Saint Paul continues to cling to the Quixotic dream of a Gingrich presidency and other conservatives call for the Christie cavalry to come riding to the rescue, the man whom I still forlornly long for to join the hunt is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. More evidence of why Ryan is just the man that America needs at the moment emerged in a book review that he penned in Saturday’s WSJ. It was a review of Jeffery Sachs’ book “The Price of Civilization” (sub req):

The freedom and independence of the American population can best be guaranteed by allowing the people to govern themselves through their elected representatives; by keeping limits on the size of government; and by encouraging each of us to take responsibility for our own well-being. We can best be aided by our families, communities, churches and local institutions—and by the government only as a last resort.

For, ultimately, Mr. Sachs's quarrel is with our founding principles of equality and liberty. Underlying the arguments in "The Price of Civilization" is a contention that the Constitution is too conducive to freedom, that it endorses an economic system too friendly to growth and the satisfaction of appetite, that it creates political institutions too inattentive to our national character.

In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson defined "a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned." The contrast with Mr. Sachs's idea of "good government" could not be more stark.

The Founders thought of America as exceptional, but Mr. Sachs thinks that this claim is a myth and that the country's present greatness a historical aberration. Our decline is, thankfully, inevitable, he says: "America will not again dominate the world economy or geopolitics as it did in the immediate aftermath of World War II. That was a special historical moment; we can be glad that economic progress throughout the world is rapidly creating a more balanced global economy and society."

It is through this prism of decline that we may better understand Mr. Sachs's calls for an overbearing government to take more earnings from you and make more decisions for you, as well as his instructions for hard-working Americans to restrain their ambitions and accept their current place in life. He seeks nothing less than to replace the vision of the Founders—the ideals of individual liberty that have enabled America to achieve the unrivaled social, material and spiritual flourishing of the past two and a quarter centuries—with one that relies almost solely on the wisdom and beneficence of an intrusive, unlimited government.

The dialogue between capitalism and its critics is an old one, and it will continue. But as citizens of a self-governing nation, Americans must choose from time to time between alternative visions for our future. This book's budget proposals and economic policies are profoundly revealing. They lay bare the real agenda of those who wish us to abandon the American idea and consign our nation to the irrevocable path of decline. If only in that sense, "The Price of Civilization" is a useful contribution to the conversation we must have in order to make informed political choices in the years ahead.

No offense to any of his peers in the House, but how many other representatives could write a critique as insightful and elegant as Ryan does here? Ryan is right in that we have reached a crossroads where the country needs to decide which path forward it wants to take. And few can articulate the vision of American exceptionalism, limited government, and individual freedom better than Mr. Ryan can. It’s a shame that he won’t be the one carrying the banner of that vision forward in 2012.