Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cabin Fever

Cabin ownership used to be more prevalent among the common people of Minnesota. Back in the 70s and 80s, while growing up in decidedly middle class environs, it wasn’t uncommon for our neighbors and friends to own a cabin and head up north every summer weekend. But something has happened over the past few decades to change this, probably some combination of increased demand for vacation homes eating up supply, increased property taxation on these properties. Plus the standards for the “cabin” have increased dramatically over the years. A cabin used to be nothing more than a ramshackle hut with a few rooms, questionable heating and suspect plumbing (and we loved it!). Now it’s assumed to be a McMansion on the lake with multiple guests rooms and built in bars and Jacuzzis and big screen plasma TVs. No doubt this has driven up the price as well.

For whatever the reason, those among the working class rarely speak of their cabins anymore. For all but the wealthy, they are not affordable. And with that goes much of the cherished Minnesota institution of going “up north”.

Well, maybe not for everyone.

One of the private amusements I’ve enjoyed with myself over the years (one of the many!) is reading the retirement announcements of teachers and education bureaucrats and other government employees, and noticing how often they mention retiring to their cabins. No, I didn’t have the foresight to compile statistics and clippings over the years to prove this, but trust me, it happens quite a bit, otherwise it wouldn’t be so funny to me every time I see it. And I’ve always taken it as another piece of evidence that perhaps we’re being a bit too generous in the compensation and retirement benefits for teachers, education bureaucrats, and other government employees. Should we really be subsidizing a lifestyle for our public servants that is unattainable for those they are serving? I report, you decide.

The latest from Washington County, the County Administrator is stepping down after serving the public for 37 years. His plans for retirements? From the Stillwater Gazette:

We have a family cabin in northwest Wisconsin that we haven't been able to spend enough time at.

Yes, yes, yes, maybe the cabin has been in their family for generations and didn’t cost him a cent. Or maybe his wife made all the real dough in the family through private sector endeavors and she popped for it. Or maybe he won the lottery some years back and splurged on a cabin.

Or, maybe, just maybe, my confirmation bias is right on the money, and that cabin has been paid for by the good graces of the Washington County taxpayers who’ll never have such a luxury in store for themselves.

Ah well, whatever the circumstances, it’s always nice to see a life of honest labor rewarded with some years of comfort and ease. We wish him the best, and we look forward to the tenure of our new Washington County Administrator, just now taking her position. The Oakdale-Lake Elmo Review has a profile, including this tidbit on her hobbies:

In her spare time, O'Rourke said she enjoys gardening and skiing. She and her husband of 30 years are also fulfilling their dream of building a cabin, O'Rourke said.

Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

Across the Great Divide

Charles Murray has a sobering new book out called “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

There was a review in today’s WSJ by W. Bradford Wilcox (sub req):

So much for the idea that the white working class remains the guardian of core American values like religious faith, hard work and marriage. Today the denizens of upscale communities like McLean, Va., New Canaan, Conn., and Palo Alto, Calif., according to Charles Murray in "Coming Apart," are now much more likely than their fellow citizens to embrace these core American values. In studying, as his subtitle has it, "the state of white America, 1960-2010," Mr. Murray turns on its head the conservative belief that bicoastal elites are dissolute and ordinary Americans are virtuous.

Focusing on whites to avoid conflating race with class, Mr. Murray contends instead that a large swath of white America—poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30% of the white population—is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment. At the same time, the top 20% of the white population has quietly been recovering its cultural moorings after a flirtation with the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, argues Mr. Murray in his elegiac book, the greatest source of inequality in America now is not economic; it is cultural.

He is particularly concerned with the ways in which working-class whites are losing touch with what he calls the four "founding virtues"—industriousness, honesty (including abiding by the law), marriage and religion, all of which have played a vital role in the life of the republic.

The January 21st edition of the WSJ featured an excerpt from Murray’s book which detailed this divide in virtues and values. To clarify the gulf that has developed, Murray employs two fictional neighborhoods. Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been home to the white working class since the Revolution).

Marriage: In 1960, extremely high proportions of whites in both Belmont and Fishtown were married—94% in Belmont and 84% in Fishtown. In the 1970s, those percentages declined about equally in both places. Then came the great divergence. In Belmont, marriage stabilized during the mid-1980s, standing at 83% in 2010. In Fishtown, however, marriage continued to slide; as of 2010, a minority (just 48%) were married. The gap in marriage between Belmont and Fishtown grew to 35 percentage points, from just 10.

Single parenthood: Another aspect of marriage—the percentage of children born to unmarried women—showed just as great a divergence. Though politicians and media eminences are too frightened to say so, nonmarital births are problematic. On just about any measure of development you can think of, children who are born to unmarried women fare worse than the children of divorce and far worse than children raised in intact families. This unwelcome reality persists even after controlling for the income and education of the parents.

In 1960, just 2% of all white births were nonmarital. When we first started recording the education level of mothers in 1970, 6% of births to white women with no more than a high-school education—women, that is, with a Fishtown education—were out of wedlock. By 2008, 44% were nonmarital. Among the college-educated women of Belmont, less than 6% of all births were out of wedlock as of 2008, up from 1% in 1970.

Industriousness: The norms for work and women were revolutionized after 1960, but the norm for men putatively has remained the same: Healthy men are supposed to work. In practice, though, that norm has eroded everywhere. In Fishtown, the change has been drastic. (To avoid conflating this phenomenon with the latest recession, I use data collected in March 2008 as the end point for the trends.)

The primary indicator of the erosion of industriousness in the working class is the increase of prime-age males with no more than a high school education who say they are not available for work—they are "out of the labor force." That percentage went from a low of 3% in 1968 to 12% in 2008. Twelve percent may not sound like much until you think about the men we're talking about: in the prime of their working lives, their 30s and 40s, when, according to hallowed American tradition, every American man is working or looking for work. Almost one out of eight now aren't. Meanwhile, not much has changed among males with college educations. Only 3% were out of the labor force in 2008.

There's also been a notable change in the rates of less-than-full-time work. Of the men in Fishtown who had jobs, 10% worked fewer than 40 hours a week in 1960, a figure that grew to 20% by 2008. In Belmont, the number rose from 9% in 1960 to 12% in 2008.

Crime: The surge in crime that began in the mid-1960s and continued through the 1980s left Belmont almost untouched and ravaged Fishtown. From 1960 to 1995, the violent crime rate in Fishtown more than sextupled while remaining nearly flat in Belmont. The reductions in crime since the mid-1990s that have benefited the nation as a whole have been smaller in Fishtown, leaving it today with a violent crime rate that is still 4.7 times the 1960 rate.

Religiosity: Whatever your personal religious views, you need to realize that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and that religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors. In that context, it is worrisome for the culture that the U.S. as a whole has become markedly more secular since 1960, and especially worrisome that Fishtown has become much more secular than Belmont. It runs against the prevailing narrative of secular elites versus a working class still clinging to religion, but the evidence from the General Social Survey, the most widely used database on American attitudes and values, does not leave much room for argument.

For example, suppose we define "de facto secular" as someone who either professes no religion at all or who attends a worship service no more than once a year. For the early GSS surveys conducted from 1972 to 1976, 29% of Belmont and 38% of Fishtown fell into that category. Over the next three decades, secularization did indeed grow in Belmont, from 29% in the 1970s to 40% in the GSS surveys taken from 2006 to 2010. But it grew even more in Fishtown, from 38% to 59%.

The statistics are staggering and they defy most of the conventional examples and explanations of how America has become divided. It’s not something that you’ll politicians or pundits talking about, but it’s one of the greatest challenges facing the country in the years ahead. Murray assigns most of the blame for the divide on the expansion of the welfare state beginning with The Great Society and the increasing reluctance of those at the top end of the divide to pass any sort of judgment on those at the bottom. While the residents of Belmont know that it’s better to get married, to not have children out of wedlock, to invest in educating their children, and even to go the church, they’re no longer willing to say so and instead are all too ready to accept and approve the choices made by the working poor that they know are wrong. One of Murray’s prescriptions for closing this divide is for these folks to actually preach what they practice. As a conservative, he recognizes how difficult it is to transform cultural conditions and the limits of what can be accomplished.

David Brooks meanwhile has read Murray’s book and says that he’d be shocked if there was to be another book as important to come out this year. However, while Brooks agrees with Murray’s analysis of the extent of the problem, he offers alternative solutions. The Great Divorce:

The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.

Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.

I doubt Murray would agree, but we need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.

Words like “need,” “program,” “force,” and “jam” instinctively send shivers up my spine. While the problem that Murray describes is indeed real and quite serious, I’m not sure that Brooks’ National Service Program cure wouldn’t be worse. To give the government such powers to compel such “service” would open the doors to all sorts of potential abuse. I’d also question the effectiveness of “jamming the tribes together” for a couple of years in their late-teens early-twenties. By that time in life, a lot of the virtues and values that help ensure success have already been adopted or they have not. Would it really change their life trajectory if people from Fishtown spent a couple of years working alongside those from Belmont performing some sort of government service?

Perhaps. The one great example we have of this in American history was the military draft. While there were always those who were able to exempt themselves from serving in the armed forces, it did force people from different backgrounds to live and work together in a shared cultural setting. It seems hard to believe that the military is what Brooks or other proponents of “national service” today have in mind, but it’s the one such program that actually seems to have worked.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Party's Over

Ben Domenech has a Conversation With a Florida Tea Partier That Should Scare Every Republican:

So, Rebecca, about Mitt: why not Romney this time?

"I don't trust him, and I don't think he can win. He is utterly unaware of how offensive his disconnect with the average American is. He drops $10K bets like it's nothing. He thinks $342,000 isn't very much to make in a year," Rebecca said. "I don't begrudge him his wealth - he worked for it and earned it and that is admirable. But I hate his lack of awareness of how super-wealthy he is. His flip-flops are legendary."

"Oh, and he invented Obamacare."

"I see a Romney nomination causing Tea Partiers like me to tune out. We are already disheartened by the congressional leadership. Romney will be the final nail in the coffin. He is completely uninspiring, and is everything we have been working so hard to defeat within the GOP," Rebecca said. "Don't even get me started on that Bain Capital picture. Ugh. There is no way he can win. And I don't want to have to defend him while he tries."

"What is the point in becoming educated on candidates and politics, arguing with my friends, taking the time away from my family - to end up with the guy McCain can't even look in the eye. Why bother?" Rebecca says. "Obviously the "establishment" has already decided it's Romney's turn, and to hell with what we want. I feel like I'm being patted on the head and told "Now go vote for Romney like a good little girl. We know what's best."... I don't even do that to my 3-year-old. It's insulting. It doesn't make me want to campaign for him."

"It honestly makes we want to skip the election, but Obama scares me too much to do that. I do think a Romney presidency will hurt the GOP brand though, and make it hard for a real conservative to have a shot," Rebecca said. "I feel like this is so similar to our 2010 Senate race. Romney is the Crist candidate, loved by many and backed by the establishment. But we have no Rubio. Crist would have been an easy win. He was a liked governor. Without Rubio, he would have easily won the seat. Just because we don't have a Rubio in this race doesn't mean we need to settle for a Crist."

The key to the Republican victories in 2010 was in getting people like Rebecca engaged, energized, and active in politics, many for the first time in their lives. One of the dangers of Romney as the Republican nominee at the top of the ticket is that all that may fade away in 2012.

Traps Among The Sand

It’s not often that we pause to take pity on the politicians who are shilling for our votes and money in hopes of becoming the next president of the United States. However, when think about what it must be like to try to plead and pander for votes in a state like Florida it’s hard not to feel at least a bit of sympathy for these poor saps. While trudging around Iowa or tramping through New Hampshire is by no means a picnic, compared to Florida these smaller, relatively homogeneous states have fewer of the potential pitfalls and challenges to candidate consistency poised by the Sunshine State.

Take Iowa (please) for instance. Who do you have to appeal to Iowa? Farmers and maybe three different groups of Christians (Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Evangelicals). I mean really what else is there? Sure there’s a few thousand votes to be had in Maharishi Vedic City, but I don’t think any serious candidate is going to spend a lot of time tailoring their pitch to that particular demographic.

Then you have Florida. Start with all the groups that have ended up there after starting someplace else. Snowbirds from the Midwest. Jews from the Northeast. Cubans from Cuba. Others from pretty much every other country in Latin America. To say nothing of a fair amount of Speedo-clad Euros and friendly Canadians who have sought exile in the state’s warmer climes. And you have the natives. Rednecks in the panhandle. Born again Christians in the lengthy mid-section. Laid back layabouts throughout The Keys. Urban organizers in Miami.

And the industries (at least the legal ones). Tourism, fishing, military contractors, NASA, theme parks, citrus growers, sugar famers, swamp boat manufacturers, etc. Throw in the facts that a fair number of Florida homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, that the state’s usually months away from the next natural disaster, and that there are more Del Boca Vista-like retirement communities per capita than anywhere on earth and the challenges facing any candidate are daunting. Who do you pander to first, next, and last? How do you possibly reconcile all the promises you make, which at some point inevitably have to come into conflict with each other? How do you avoid stepping on any of the dozens of land mines strewn throughout the state that can be set off by the slightest slip of the tongue? Campaigning in Florida means keeping your head on a swivel at all times.

Based on the latest polling, it appears as if Mitt Romney has managed to find the right balance of pandering in Florida and will win tomorrow’s GOP primary. But Newt Gingrich’s last minute proposal to use the moon as a military base to overthrow Castro and defend Israel and also as a research facility to study ways to combat the effects of aging is intriguing for its potential to sway last minute voters.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXXII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the stout-hearted folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help supply you with the wine, whiskey, and beer you need for your daily fortification.

We continue our series on beers Our featured beer this week comes from Brau Brothers Brewing Company located in the greater Lucan metro area in southwestern Minnesota. It’s their Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout. That’s a particular combination of th stout style that has a particularly rich history:

Milk stout (also called sweet stout or cream stout) is a stout containing lactose, a sugar derived from milk. Because lactose is unfermentable by beer yeast, it adds sweetness, body, and calories to the finished beer. Milk stout was claimed to be nutritious, and was given to nursing mothers.

There was a revival of interest in using oats during the end of the 19th century, when (supposedly) restorative, nourishing and invalid beers, such as the later milk stout, were popular, because of the association of porridge with health.

Tastes good and it’s good for you. Hard to beat that.

12oz brown bottle. The label is a bit of a mess with a design featuring four squares with various shades of brown.

STYLE: Stout


COLOR (0-2): Dark, rich black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Cocoa and vanilla. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color, not much volume, fades quickly, but laces the glass well. 2

TASTE (0-5): Sweet malts, chocolate, vanilla, a touch of smoke with bitter coffee at the finish. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, but smooth. Medium-bodied with noticeable carbonation. Surprisingly drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Long and lingering. 2

OVERALL (0-6): This is a tasty example of the stout style with the combination of milk and oatmeal flavors playing quite nicely together. It’s rich and complex, but not overly so and maintains a fair amount of refreshing drinkability. Definitely a good comfort beer for the season. Hoist one tonight for your health. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Friday, January 27, 2012

Core Values

George Weigel had a lengthy, but well worth the read article in the December edition of First Things on what the proper role of the Catholic Church should be when it comes to the public square:

The postconciliar tendency of Catholic public policy agencies to take a position on almost everything also distorts the social doctrine of the Church. The Church does not have plenary competence in the public sphere. She cannot state that the American presidential-congressional system is preferable to the Westminster parliamentary system, or that a bicameral legislature is superior to a unicameral legislature. The Church has no competence to declare that legislative action should or should not be subject to judicial review, or that there are “implied powers” in any executive office, or where the prime rate should be set, or on which side of the road driving should occur.

The Church does have the competence to teach that taxation is just, for to pay taxes is a matter of exercising one’s responsibility to the common good. The Church has no competence to suggest that its social doctrine contains clear instructions on what constitute just rates of taxation, and it demeans its social witness (and misapplies its own social doctrine) when it does so through agencies of its pastors.

The Church has the right and the duty to teach that a just society makes provision for the elderly, the sick, and the severely handicapped who, for reasons beyond their control, cannot care for themselves. The Church has no competence to pronounce on whether that societal obligation is best met by state-mandated and tax-funded programs, by private- and independent-sector programs, or by some mix of the two.

To suggest otherwise not only overestimates the Church’s competence; it also tends to obscure her priorities. When the Church’s chief pastors or their public policy agencies intervene in the public policy-process on a vast array of matters that do not, except in the remotest sense, touch on questions of first principles or on areas of the Church’s special competence, they inevitably suggest that all issues are equal in the eyes of the Catholic Church. This lack of discipline dissipates energies that could be better applied in a more focused way.

Weigel’s effort to set boundaries and limits to what the Church’s role should be is admirable and long overdue. He’s exactly right that while the Church can and should teach about obligations and duties that its members have when it comes to things like taxes and caring for the elderly, disabled, and poor, the Church should not get involved in the exacting details about how these obligations and duties should be exercised. Whether the marginal tax rate of individuals earning over $250,000 a year should be increased by 2% is not something the Church needs to weigh in on. Or whether the biennial budget for the state of Minnesota should be $37.5 billion or $39 billion dollars. As Weigel notes, the Church needs to stick to the first principles lest it get bogged down in trying to influence everything and thus end up influencing nothing.

Another key suggestion from Weigel is that the Church and its leaders stop trying to play the role of a special interest group that seeks a place at the table in the political process. Instead, he believes that the Church should seek to educate, inform, and engage with the folks in the pews on what the Church’s teaching is on these first principles and what those teachings mean to the pertinent issues of the day. The power of the Church is indeed with its people and they are the ones-if given proper guidance-who can most effect the public policy changes the Church would like to see take place.

Ours Not To Reason Why

Tim from Colorado e-mails to comment on a variety of subjects:

I read your post about not being able to use your “portable electronic devices” while waiting to be de-iced, which can often take a half-hour or so. I’m sure it isn’t lost on you that as soon as you land, AS SOON AS YOU LAND, the same flight crew will get on the PA to inform you that you may then use your “portable electronic devices” WHILE YOU’RE STIL ON THE RUNWAY!!!

Second, when I heard one of the talk shows mention the Reasonable Profits Board, it made me think that the likes of Kucinich, Wasserman-Schultz, Pelosi, et al, must have read Atlas Shrugged and think it’s one of Michael Moore’s documentaries. The folly of such ideas is obviously lost on them.

Lastly, I was recently in Kentucky and a couple local micro-breweries make a beer that is shortly stored in old bourbon barrels, where it picks up a bourbon flavor, not to mention a couple points on the alcohol meter. It makes for an interesting taste. Not something I want to have every time, but an interesting change of pace. If you’re ever in Louisville, check out the version served by the Troll Pub Under The Bridge.

I have not been to Louisville yet, but if I ever do visit the Derby City I shall seek out said delicious sounding brew. Hard to see how any combination of bourbon and beer couldn't work well together.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Wrong Crowd

An editorial in today's WSJ took Norm Coleman to task for his recent comments about repealing ObamaCare and hit the former Senator where it hurts:

Over the weekend the former Minnesota Senator resurfaced for some reason on a panel on the public-affairs program "BioCentury This Week," which airs in the D.C. market. "I'm saying you're not going to repeal the act in its entirety but you will see major changes—particularly, by the way, if there's a Republican President, you will see major changes," Mr. Coleman said. "So you can't whole cloth throw it out, but you can substantially change what's been done."

Judy Feder, a Georgetown health policy professor, chimed in to say that "I'm happy to hear Senator Coleman say, essentially, health-care reform is going to stick."

It was a remarkable admission, especially given the aspiring Republican President whose ear Mr. Coleman happens to have. Then again, it may also be evidence of his kind of crack political thinking that couldn't outwit Al Franken of all people in the 2008 race and again in the 2009 recount and thus provided the 60th Senate vote for ObamaCare.

You can't really argue with the editorial's logic: losing to Franken (and previously to Jesse Ventura) should disqualify Coleman's opinion on matters political for pretty much forever. And it does call Mitt Romney's judgment into question as well for seeking counsel from the credibility challenged Coleman.

SISYPHUS COMES TO NORM'S DEFENSE: The Elder conveniently forgets to mention that Norm Coleman did defeat Walter Mondale ... er, nevermind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the Mysterious Distance

The latest offering from Prager University:

I Might Be Crazy But I Ain't Dumb

Byron York on what really happened in the Gingrich ethics case?:

Given all the attention to the ethics matter, it's worth asking what actually happened back in 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents. It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand. It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses. Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong. After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.

I wrote about the matter at the time, first in a 1995 article about Gingrich's accusers and then in a 1999 piece on the Internal Revenue Service report that cleared Gingrich. (Both pieces were for The American Spectator; I'm drawing on them extensively, but unfortunately neither is available online.)

At the center of the controversy was a course Gingrich taught from 1993 to 1995 at two small Georgia colleges. The wide-ranging class, called "Renewing American Civilization," was conceived by Gingrich and financed by a tax-exempt organization called the Progress and Freedom Foundation. Gingrich maintained that the course was a legitimate educational enterprise; his critics contended that it had little to do with learning and was in fact a political exercise in which Gingrich abused a tax-exempt foundation to spread his own partisan message.

The Gingrich case was driven in significant part by a man named Ben Jones. An actor and recovered alcoholic who became famous for playing the dim-witted Cooter in the popular 1980s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, Jones ran for Congress as a Democrat from Georgia in 1988. He won and served two terms. He lost his bid for re-election after re-districting in 1992, and tried again with a run against Gingrich in 1994. Jones lost decisively, and after that, it is fair to say he became obsessed with bringing Gingrich down.

Cooter? Enough said.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tongue-tied and Twisted Just an Earthbound Misfit

There should be a sign over the doorway of all commercial aircraft operating in the United States that reads "Abandon all hope of common sense all ye who enter here." The latest example that I personally observed of the ridicuous rigid and often ill-logical rules that govern the conduct of passengers in the skies over the nation that claims to be the land of the brave and the home of the free occurred yesterday morning.

My flight out of Minneapolis was delayed due to a sleety snowfall that was pelting the area. Before we even left the gate, the captain informed us that the flight would not depart as scheduled because the aircraft would have to be de-iced before takeoff. As we prepared to taxi to the area where the plane would be doused with chemicals to avoid icy buildup on the wings, the flight attendant came on to make the cursory announcement that we were preparing to depart and that ALL electronics devices MUST be turned off and stowed.

Mind you this was shortly after the captain had already told us that we wouldn't be departing anywhere anytime soon. So during the short taxi to the tarmac where the aircraft would be de-iced and during the time that said de-cing was taking place it was VERBOTEN for anyone on the plane to turn on their Kindle or cell phone or iPod. Because using such devices could, you know, cause yet to ever be clearly defined or explained dirruptions to FLIGHT operations. This despite the fact that everyone aboard knew there was no chance that our plane would be achieving said state of travel above the ground in the near term future.

Yeah, makes perfect sense to me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXXI)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the other worldly folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you explore the ever expanding universe of wine, whiskey, and beer.

This week, we turn our attention from the seasonal beers of winter to another style that’s well suited to the colder conditions. Porter:

Porter is a dark style of beer originating in London in the 18th Century. The name came about as a result of its popularity with street and river porters.

The history and development of stout and porter are intertwined. The name "stout" for a dark beer is believed to have come about because a strong porter may be called "Extra Porter" or "Double Porter" or "Stout Porter". The term "Stout Porter" would later be shortened to just "Stout". For example, Guinness Extra Stout was originally called "Extra Superior Porter" and was only given the name Extra Stout in 1840.

Despite their shared lineage, porters don’t seem to be as popular as stouts among craft brewers which is a shame because there’s nothing better than a good porter to provide comfort on a chilly night. Our beer this week is another offering from Flat Earth Brewing in Saint Paul. Flat Earth Cygnus X-1 Porter:

Named after a black hole and a song, this is a porter like no other. We took an old English porter recipe, added some rye malt, and our porter was born. This brew floods your palate with hints of chocolate, biscuit and all-around roasty goodness with just a touch of smoke that finishes dry but is not overpowering. Perfect with roasts or fowl. Enjoy by the fire, and it will certainly warm you on any cold evening in the Great White North.

A black hole, a song, and the Great White North? Not too difficult to connect the dots on that one.

22oz brown bomber bottle that goes for a very reasonable $3.99. Black label with namesake black hole on top and Flat Earth’s trademark man in a barrel on bottom and universe in background.

STYLE: Porter


COLOR (0-2): Dark black. 2

AROMA (0-2): Roasted malt with a whiff of chocolate. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan without much volume fades quickly. 1

TASTE (0-5): Mostly malty and biscuity with some flavors of coffee and chocolate. A slight touch of sour and bitter at the finish. It has a thin mouthfeel and a heavier body. Probably one that you’ll want to sip rather than slam. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Rich flavors that linger. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Flat Earth’s Cygnus X-1 Porter is a good example of the porter style. The flavors are decent, but a bit underwhelming and I prefer more robustness in a porter. The flavors do come out more as it warms so you’ll want to be sure not to drink it straight from the fridge. Overall for a porter, I’d say it’s acceptable if unexciting. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Nothing Reasonable About It

Dems propose Reasonable Profits Board:

Six House Democrats, led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), want to set up a "Reasonable Profits Board" to control gas profits.

The Democrats, worried about higher gas prices, want to set up a board that would apply a "windfall profit tax" as high as 100 percent on the sale of oil and gas, according to their legislation. The bill provides no specific guidance for how the board would determine what constitutes a reasonable profit.

The Gas Price Spike Act, H.R. 3784, would apply a windfall tax on the sale of oil and gas that ranges from 50 percent to 100 percent on all surplus earnings exceeding "a reasonable profit." It would set up a Reasonable Profits Board made up of three presidential nominees that will serve three-year terms. Unlike other bills setting up advisory boards, the Reasonable Profits Board would not be made up of any nominees from Congress.

If the idea of a "Reasonable Profits Boards" run by unelected government bureaucrats doesn't make you recoil in horror, you must be ingnorant of the long history of such previous efforts by the state to dictate economic activities. But don't you dare call this socialism. 'Cause then, YOU would be the extremist.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter is on the Way Out!

Some of the more optimistic Minnesotans look forward to the Winter Solstice – celebrating that the days are, at long last, getting longer. The more realistic among us recognize that while the days may be getting longer, they will nevertheless continue to grow colder over the next few weeks.

That stretch is now over! Starting today, the average high temperature is 24 F, up from the 23F that is the average high temperature from January 6 through January 18. Cheer up, everyone! We have now begun that slow gradual temperature rise that will continue until temperatures start declining again on July 22. Winter is on the run!

Sad But True

Vox Day nails the depressing realities of athletic decline in middle age:

This report doesn't surprise me in the slightest. One of the things I have learned about playing soccer and 3D shooters after the age of 40 is how comprehensive the physical decline is. Since most people don't compete directly with younger athletes after the age of 35 or so, it can be difficult to believe how much speed and quickness one loses. I can't imagine that there isn't a similar deterioration taking place elsewhere as well.

It is not only the top gear that is gone, but there is a also the complete absence of a first step; it's almost as if the first thing the middle-aged mind does is instead of react is to perform a quick calculation of whether or not it's likely going to be worth it to go through with the physical exertion required. One feels as if one is always going at about three-quarters speed, trying to harbor a reserve for when a complete effort will be required in order to make a difference.

I think that most people who continue to play competitive sports begin to notice this in their thirties, but it becomes more apparent once you get past your fourth decade on earth. The other thing that I've observed from playing hockey over the years is that the number of times you can really get "in the zone" and perform at a high level without really being conscious of what you're doing are fewer and farther between once you hit middle age. How you manage to arrive at that zoned state in the first place is a bit of mystery (if you could bottle that feeling you'd be a gazillionaire), but I would imagine that the reason it becomes rarer as you age is a combination of diminished physical abilities and less capability to focus as sharply mentally.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

One of These Days

For a few years now, I've been promoting the local Argument of the Month events and have been meaning to actually attend one myself one of these days. Alas and alack, I have not been able to make that happen as of yet. Best intentions and all that.

Anyway, the next event sounds like an intriguing one:

For our February event American Chesterton Society President Dale Ahlquist will Debate Pastor Mike Napier on the Church's teaching regarding the Virgin Mary. Please note that this event is moved to Thursday, February 16th in deference to Saint Valentine's Day. We will post more info on the substance of the debate on our webpage, www.aotmclub.com, as the week progresses.

St. Augustine's Catholic Church
In the basement of St. Augustine's Catholic Church.
408 3rd St N.
South St Paul, MN 55075

Social hour starts at 6pm, dinner at 7pm and debate at 7:30

Another one that I already know I won't be able to make. Sigh. Oh well, there's always next month...


In order to make an important and self-satisfying statement about freedom of speech or some other vital inalienable right, you may notice a lack of activity at this particular web site today.

Or said lack of shiny new material could be attributed to our overall lethargy, laziness, apathy, and sheer lack of initiative.

We withhold, you decide.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Party Would Be Great If It Weren't For The Republicans

One of the many strange aspects of the campaign to select a Republican nominee to take on President Obama was John Huntsman’s approach to securing that nomination. For as silly as it sounds now that he has dropped out of the race with a whimper, the fact is that Huntsman could have been a contender. As a governor in Utah, Huntsman has a record that’s more conservative than Mitt Romney’s was during a similar tenure at the helm in Massachusetts. Huntsman had an economic plan that was far bolder than Romney’s and had won plaudits from most who reviewed it. Huntsman even could have had an edge with his foreign policy experience as ambassador to China (you did know that he was the ambassador to China, right?).

But instead of leading with his conservative record and his plan for the economy, Huntsman decided that he would win the Republican nomination by branding himself as the unRepublican. Huntsman would be the opposite of everything that a focus group of the New York Times editorial board would say Republicans are. He would be cool. He would open to “science” when it came to global warming. He would brag openly about how “international” he was. He would be witty, urbane, and sophisticated and demonstrate that not only was he the smartest guy in the room, he was also the most caring. In other words, he decided to present an image of himself as pretty much everything that your average Republican voter has come to loathe about smug liberals. I can’t imagine why this strategy failed attract supporters.

The WSJ had more on the news that Huntsman Drops Out:

The former Utah Governor had an intriguing resume, an attractive record in the Beehive State, and the potential to appeal to the social, economic and national-security branches of the GOP coalition. Along the way, he offered his own solid proposals on tax reform and too-big-to-fail banks, and he was the only candidate to wholeheartedly endorse Paul Ryan's Medicare reform.

Yet his agenda never had a chance to resonate because he began his campaign by agreeing with the political left that Republicans have a "serious problem" because they are too often "antiscience" on such issues as global warming and evolution. Mr. Huntsman had a conservative record but often sounded while campaigning as if he didn't want to be associated with conservatives. This pleased the media because it reinforced their biases, but it naturally turned off GOP audiences.

Strangely for a man of his overseas experience, Mr. Huntsman also chose to run to the left of President Obama on Afghanistan and U.S. national security. This also lacks appeal in the GOP, save for the Ron Paul precincts that Mr. Huntsman had little chance of winning. In New Hampshire, where he focused his campaign, Mr. Huntsman drew mainly moderate and liberal voters, which is what an endorsement from the Boston Globe gets you.

Perhaps Mr. Huntsman wasn’t aware that while the likes of David Frum are still perched on it, the unRepublican branch of the GOP is really nothing more than a slender twig not capable of supporting a serious candidate for president.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Usually when proponents of light rail wax poetically about the wonders of that mode of publicly subsidized transit they tell stories of the wonders of such systems in Europe or mention the urban hipness of the light rail utopia that is Portland. I don’t ever recall hearing anything from these folks about how great light rail had worked out in Buffalo. In fact, before I read Steven Malanga’s piece in Saturdays’ WSJ, I was not aware that the city in upstate New York even had such an enlightened transit system.

How Stimulus Spending Ruined Buffalo:

Sometimes these schemes have done real harm. In the 1970s, the federal government decided to invest $530 million to build a 6.2-mile light-rail system through downtown Buffalo. It was supposed to further spur redevelopment, of course.

Opened in 1985 and anchored by a transit mall that banned cars, the rail line fell well below ridership projections—and downtown businesses suffered mightily from the lack of traffic. As Buffalo landlord Stephen P. Fitzmaurice wrote in 2009: "Walk down Main Street on the transit mall; aside from a few necessities like drug and cell phone stores, blight dominates." Last month the city received a $15 million federal grant to restore traffic to Main Street.

So first the taxpayers shelled out over five-hundred-million dollars in the 1970s—when half a billion bucks was still real money—to build light rail and create a “transit mall” in Buffalo and now we’re on the hook for another $15 million to untransit the same street in an attempt to save whatever shred of downtown business that remains? Sounds like a great deal. And one that we should keep in mind as more light rail projects are being pitched with the promise of economic redevelopment.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Taking What They're Giving

Fearless playoff football prognistications offered without commentary:

Saints 24
49ers 16

Patriots 34
Broncos 20

Ravens 15
Texans 13

Packers 41
Giants 26

Okay, maybe they're not all that fearless as I'm picking all the favorites, but this seems like one of those playoff weekends when the better teams will win and usually cover. If I were a betting man, the huge spread for the Pats would make me nervous with late game garbage scoring and whatnot, but I'd definitely take the Texans and the points they're giving.

I see my picks aren't all that different from what Brad Carlson is going with. Not sure if that's a good or bad sign at this point. However, the fact that the Nihilist In Golf Pants diverges from me in two of his three picks does give me some reason for confidence.

Ringmaster Without a Whip

Good editorial in today's WSJ on the laughability of President Obama now trying to portray himself as a government reformer after three years of almost unfettered expansion at the federal level. The Reorganization Man:

Another way of putting it is that this new emphasis on streamlining the bureaucracy is Mr. Obama's version of the Texas Governor's "Oops." Having presided over the largest expansion of government since LBJ—health care, financial reregulation, spending 24% of GDP, the surge of industrial policy—Mr. Obama's pollsters must be saying that voters have the jimmy-legs about bigger government and that he thus can't run only as a Great Society man.

But let's go to the videotape. One measure of government size is the federal work force, measured by the White House budget office as civilian full-time equivalent employees, excluding the military and Post Office. The executive branch had about 1.875 million workers in 2008 when the financial crisis hit, a number that held relatively constant throughout the post-9/11 Bush Administration. That number climbed to 2.128 million two years later under the 111th Congress—or growth of 13.5%. That's the largest government since 1992, when the Clinton Administration began to slash defense spending.

After three years of feeding the beast, I find it hard to believe that voters will but into the notion that President Obama is now the one who will tame it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXXX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the warm-hearted folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need for any season.

Now that we’ve finally gotten a taste of real winter around here it’s only fitting that we should continue with beers best suited for the cold days and long nights. This week’s selection comes all the way from New York City. It’s Brooklyn Winter Ale:

When the days grow short and the beach recedes into our dreams, we need a very nice beer to get us through the long winter. Based on the satisfying malty ales of blustery Scotland, Brooklyn Winter Ale will have you looking on the bright side of things. Rich Scottish malts bring deep bready flavors to a beer with a full copper color, a round, smooth palate, and brisk hopping that pulls the sweet malts into balance. See - things are looking up already!

12oz brown bottle. Standard Brooklyn label design with seasonal colors of icy silver and blue.

STYLE: Winter Ale


COLOR (0-2): Copper brown, mostly clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sweet malts with a little yeast. 2

HEAD (0-2): Off-white color, thick with good volume and lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Roasted malt with lighter hops and some peaty flavors. Not picking up too much else. Crisp, dry finish. Smooth mouthfeel with a medium body. Pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Malty flavors carry through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Brooklyn’s winter offering follows the fairly common model of a Scottish Ale, but doesn’t have the heartier flavors or heat that are often associated with such warmers. Yet I still found it to be a pretty good beer for a cold winter day. And definitely one that you go to when you hankering to put down more than one. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stillwater Crime Watch: Up in Smoke

From the cold, hard streets of Stillwater, the tale of a wayward youth attempting to pursue a life of crime. Via the Stillwater Gazette:

A 17-year-old male twice failed to buy tobacco despite dressing in disguise Wednesday night.

The suspect made his first attempt around 9 p.m. wearing a ski mask and sunglasses. The teen tried to buy two tins of Grizzly Chew tobacco along with a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bagel.

Well, at least he was trying to mix in a balanced diet with his snuff.

I wonder how long he thought about what items he should purchase along with the chewing tobacco to make it look perfectly natural. What does the sophisticated, mature Grizzly Chew connoisseur like to have along with his dip? Of course, a bagel! If I were the police, I’d start looking for suspects at the closest Jewish Community Center.

Back in my wayward youth, I recall having a discussion with a co-conspirator about using the ski-mask gambit to buy alcohol while under age. It seemed like it could work. But as our theater of operations was the colder and harder streets of Minneapolis, we figured there was a reasonable chance of getting shot as well, so the idea was abandoned. Good to see the kids of today haven’t given up the dream yet.

He produced a Minnesota driver's license that showed a birth date of 1967. The cashier asked the teen to remove his hat and his facemask so he could properly identify him. The teen lifted his hat up slightly and pulled the facemask up to his chin while trying to manipulate his voice into a deeper tone. The cashier reported to the police that the suspect seemed to be around 15 years old. The suspect left the gas station after the cashier refused to sell him the tobacco.

You'e got hand it to this kid, he's got moxie. Rather than flee upon being challenged, he gives them the chin reveal. Unless you happen to be Jay Leno, that's not going to be good enough for a positive ID, and he was rightfully turned away.

The laws surrounding tobacco sales were upheld and hopefully the young man went home, realized that crime doesn't pay, and dedicated his life to something noble like becoming a community organizer.

But wait!

A couple of hours later, the same teen returned to the gas station wearing a different jacket, hat and sunglasses and had his entire face wrapped with an ace bandage, leaving only a small hole for his mouth and one eye opening.

The Claude Rains approach, I love it.

According to the report, the cashier and employees were nervous because the suspect had his right arm tucked inside his jacket while he loitered in the store for about 15 minutes. The suspect then approached the checkout counter and said he was recovering from an accident and needed Ibuprofen. He also asked to buy some thin, small cigars.

Because nothing eases the pain of disfiguring facial injuries like a Swisher Sweet.

Seems like the perfect crime so far. But our pre-pubescent tobacco aficionado overlooked one critical detail:

The suspect produced the same driver's license as earlier that night. The same cashier refused to sell him the tobacco.

Officers tracked down the suspect by the other purchases made with a Visa credit card. Officers arrived at a Stillwater home and interviewed the teen and his parents. The boy admitted trying to buy tobacco even though he was underage. The teen was cited for attempted tobacco purchase from a minor, displaying another's driver's license and concealing his identity in public.

Sounds like they're throwing the book at him. But I wouldn't be surprised if this isn’t the last we've heard of this guy. A person with this level of creativity and determination will not be easily deterred. For that reason, I warn all other tobacco merchants in the St. Croix Valley, be on the look out for any of these types of individuals attempting to buy Grizzly Chew; thin, small cigars; bagels; or ibuprofen:

a Saudi Arabian woman

a hockey goalie

a fencing enthusiast

a Minnesota Vikings fan

God's Not A Fan

Former NFL great Fran Tarkenton has a piece in today's WSJ asking Does God Care Who Wins Football Games?:

As a player, though, I never understood why God would care who won a game between my team and another. It seemed like there were many far more important things going on in the world. There were religious guys on both teams. If God gets credit for the win, does he also take blame for defeat?

For what it's worth, my forays into hoping for divine intervention didn't work out. I prayed fervently before each of the three Super Bowls we Minnesota Vikings played in. We played against the Dolphins, the Steelers and the Raiders. I don't know about the first two games, but I was sure God would be on our side for the game against the Raiders! After all, they were the villains of the league, and it was hard to believe they had more Christians on their team than on our saintly Vikings. We lost.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

HWX, with Stephen Hunter

The latest Hinderaker Ward Experience podcast is now up on Ricochet and ready for your listening pleasure.

We taped it last night, in what we thought would be the heat of the New Hampshire primary election coverage. I had visions of being a podcast version of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, or Cenk Uygar, the trusted voice of reason, dispassionately calling all the returns as they came in. (Yes, nobody could have listened to it for hours yet, but you take what you can get on the Internet.) Alas, the drama didn't endure very long and by the time we started talking just after 7pm, the race was already called for Mitt Romney.

We then discussed the nature of this GOP primary season, which I characterize as the most dispiriting in memory. The level of vitriol shown by conservatives toward whichever other conservative happened to be leading in the national polls has been unprecedented. As a supporter of Newt, particularly eye-opening has been the emotion based attacks and distortion of his record, from people I respect. John Hinderaker's veering into this very territory was the cause of rather heated debate (at least by the standard of two guys who pretty much agree on everything). Getting put in the position of rebutting the preposterous claim that Newt is "attacking capitalism" by identifying potentially questionable episodes in Romney's record with Bain Capital led to the first Main Street vs. Wall Street debate I've been in where I was ardently siding with the former. Rest assured, I won't be occupying Mahtomedi any time soon, but I must say I like breathing the populist air on occasion. It was a fun conversation and ended well with everyone coming together for some gratuitous shots at Democrats.

Afterwards we were joined by the great Stephen Hunter, author of the new thriller, Soft Target. You may remember him as the Pulitzer Prize winning film critic for the Washington Post, also author of the Bob Lee Swagger series and non-fiction books such as American Gunfight. His new novel is about a terrorist attack, set at the Mall of America. He's always fun to talk to and in addition to discussing his books, we get to hear plenty about his other passions, including his love of guns.

Later, we wrap up with a holiday themed Loon of the Week and a highly controversial This Week in Gatekeeping (the full extent of which I'm still not sure passed the Ricochet family values censor).

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet. You can be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner. Or just use the player embedded below or in the upper right hand corner of this web site. If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript.

A Strict Separation of Your Politics & Your State of Mind

Byron Horatio asks Are You a Happy Conservative?:

Modern conservatives are not generally known for their sunny optimism about the future, about the direction of the country, and certainly not about human nature. When you base your worldview around the assumption that human nature is severely flawed (if not downright amoral or evil), that utopia is a dangerously illusory, and that at a given moment, polite society could easily devolve into madness and anarchy...it's no wonder conservatives are not a cheery bunch.

So how do you separate your pessimism from your "normal," non-political, everyday life? For my own part, as much as I see doom and danger around every corner, I consider myself a very happy individual with a fulfilling life. I love the work I do (painting and the military), have a sizable number of friends, enjoy my hobbies of guns and history, and am planning a lovely wedding with [the future] Lady Horatio.

It's true that I subscribe to Steynian declinism, believe the general population is too far gone to turn back the welfare state, and that good may yet lose in the struggle against evil...and yet none of that really matters to me on a raw, emotional level. I believe, I think rightly, that even should all the apolcalyptic predictions come true, that I would be just as happy, providing life, limb, and my peacemaker remained unscathed.

It's a grave danger to tie up one's personal happiness in the things you can't control. If I were to base my happiness on the success of liberty abroad, the pursuit of justice, or election results every two years, I would have drunk myself into oblivion well before now.

The last thought is a sentiment that I believe many of us share. I’ve mentioned before that as a conservative and a Christian, I would describe myself as what Chesterton called a "happy pessimist." Personally, I find great happiness and satisfaction in my life through my faith, my family, and friends. While I may not quite embrace the same feeling of inevitable doom for Western Civilization as some conservatives have, I do recognize that this is a fallen world and I remain deeply skeptical about any possibility of the prospect of inevitable progress toward a anything close to a state of earthly perfection. I learned long ago that if you leave the fate of your personal happiness in the hands of politicians, celebrities, or sports teams you are guaranteed to be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sharper Than Your Average Bear

Max Sparber on the appeal of the Hamm's Bear and why it deserves wider recognition as part of our local lore:

But why? Well, there were a few things the Bear had going for him. First of all, he benefited from a charming design. He's a classic example of the sort of boldly drawn spokes-character that came into prominence in American advertising design in the mid-20th century; he keeps company with such instantly recognizable visuals as the Michelin Man, Mr. Peanut, and fellow Minnesotan The Jolly Green Giant. Depending on whom you ask, the Bear was either created by former Disney animator Howard Smith or by a Chicago advertising art director named Cleo Hovel. Both men worked on the Bear's television commercials, and, whoever was responsible for the Bear's design, they got it right. Friendly, paunchy, and eventually sporting a shock of tousled hair, the Bear proved to be an enormously expressive animated character.

The Bear was a sportsman — he was occasionally even shown logrolling, a lumberjack's sport and one common to Minnesota's early history. But, as sportsmen go, the Bear wasn't a very good one. His cartoons would frequently end with the Bear humiliated, either by his own incompetence or by duplicity on the part of the various animals whom he played opposite in some sort of intramural forest league. The Bear took defeat graciously; it was part of his appeal, and Hamm's knew it. When Hamm's sponsored a Winnipeg-to-St. Paul snowmobile race, the company provided a very Bear-like prize for "True Grit." The winner of the prize was the contestant who overcame the most adversity to reach the finish line. One year's winner, as The Paws of Refreshment reports, "broke one of his machine's skis, crashed into another snowmobile coming around a blind corner, blew three clutches (and replaced them), and drove the last 50 miles without chaincase oil after the case cracked."

Additionally, Hamm's had a terrific theme song that they played behind the Bear in his commercials. (No, not the "Young Adults" theme to be found on the 365 Days Project Web page, although I must confess to a fondness for that one.) Borrowing its melody from Rudolf Friml's "Natoma" and boasting a propulsive tom-tom beat, the theme sang cheerfully of Hamm's place of origin. In rhymed couplets parodying Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha," the jingle went as follows: "From the land of sky-blue waters, from the land of pines, lofty balsams, comes the beer refreshing, Hamm's the beer refreshing." Once heard, the theme could not be forgotten. Interestingly, although the drum beat behind the melody sounds Native American, its source of origin is further south than that: Advertiser Ray Mithun based it on recordings of Haitian voodoo drumming, and the rhythm was actually beaten out on an empty carton of Star-Kist tuna cans.

That song was absolutely killer and I can instantly hear the drums beating when I think of it all these years on. Great design, great personality, great song. The Hamm's Bear really did have it all going for him.

Separated at Birth?

A separated at birth for your consideration submitted by the lovely Mrs. The Elder.

Former frontman of Guns 'N Roses known for tearing it up on the road Axel Rose...


...former wife of Tiger Woods known for tearing down her home Elin Nordegren?

Happy Birthday

To properly honor the day that JB Doubtless entered the world, I present one of our favorite birthday related television commericals from bygone days. The quality of this clip isn't great, but the reaction on the poor sap's face when his boss tells him to "Get to Omaha!" is priceless as is his lisping response, "But, it's my birsday."

Monday, January 09, 2012

If The Dolls Could Talk

The WSJ had a devastating story today on Mitt Romney that’s sure to cast doubts even among the most virulent of Romney supporters like our friend the silver-haired radio shock jock Hugh Hewitt. The piece revealed that at time in the not so distant past, Mr. Romney liked to play with dolls. Or at least to invest in them (sub req):

Mitt Romney rarely got personally involved in individual deals toward the end of his time as chief executive of Bain Capital. But he was closely involved in a failed investment in a company that sold expensive dolls semi-customized to resemble the girl they were bought for.

Mr. Romney was brought the idea by a friend from Brigham Young University and Harvard Business School who was one of the original partners of the doll company, which was called Lifelike Co. and used the brand name My Twinn.

"As far as I can recall, Lifelike was the only investment that Mitt originated from his personal network," said Marc Wolpow, a former Bain executive. He said other Bain partners weren't enthusiastic, but "it was a small investment, so no one really seemed to care that much."

A couple of obvious problems come to mind here. Firstly, is this really a business plan that anyone thought could work? I can’t begin to imagine what the logistical challenges would be to try to manage the manufacture of dolls to look like individual children. The delivery schedule and costs required would seem to be a recipe for failure from the get go.

Secondly, isn’t the whole idea of making dolls that look like people (ordinary people) just a little bit creepy? From the Seinfeld episode The Doll:

(George, presenting the doll to Jerry, has his arms out in a 'tada' gesture. Jerry has on a disgusted face)

GEORGE: You see?.. You see?!

JERRY: Well, it doesn't look exactly like her.

GEORGE: Jerry, come on. If my mother keeps shrinking, this is exactly what she's gonna look like in ten years!

JERRY: Why don't you just get rid of it?

GEORGE: I tried! I almost threw it down the incinerator, but I couldn't do it. The guilt was too overwhelming. (Grabs the doll, opening the door to leave) Susan's so attached to this thing.
JERRY: Wait, where are you going? Don't take your dolly and go home...

Do we really want to turn the reins of the American economy over to a man who thought that lifelike dolls were a good idea? Seems like a serious question of judgment here.

Extreme Prejudice

William Shawcross-who at one time was a hero of the Left for his writings about Nixon's invasion of Cambodia-had a piece in Saturday's WSJ that offered an important perspective on the Legal Proceedings Against Extremists (sub req):

After taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama swiftly expanded the use of drone attacks on suspected Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then in Somalia and Yemen. Drone strikes in Pakistan grew from 33 in 2008, Mr. Bush's last year in office, to 53 in 2009. Altogether, there have been more than 240 drone attacks in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with a death toll of more than 1,300.

The remarkable thing about the president's reliance on drones is how little protest, until recently, it has aroused. Waterboarding may be deemed an abuse of a terrorism suspect's rights, but an attack by a Predator drone results (in the Vietnam-era phrase) in "termination with extreme prejudice."

Public acquiescence in these aerial killings demonstrates the way in which political and moral judgments can be driven by perceptions of personality and politics. But even Mr. Obama's honeymoon had to come to an end. His policy of killing suspects rather than detaining and interrogating them has come under increased scrutiny, and not just in the case of Mr. Awlaki.

John Bellinger, the former legal adviser to the State Department, argues that one of the Bush administration's biggest mistakes was neglecting to secure international support for its novel counterterrorism policies. Unless Obama is careful, Mr. Bellinger says, his drone program could "become as internationally maligned as Guantánamo."

I've been shocked at how people who wanted to prosecute members of the Bush Aministration for war crimes because three captured terrorists were waterboarded have remained for the most part silent while the Obama Administration carries out more and more drone strikes. Is waterboarding someone really worse that killing them with high explosives?

Sciene and Sense

Walter Russell Mead on the problem of Waiting for the Science to Settle:

But what is clear is that in the here and now, questions about topics like fracking (and global warming, for that matter) that combine uncertainties based in the nature of the natural sciences with uncertainties rooted in the even greater and wilder uncertainties of social and political ‘science’ cannot be treated as purely technocratic issues. We do not have and cannot get the kind of certainty that one ideally would like for decisions of this kind.

Common sense is going to have to play a role and, because questions like these are political issues, the common sense of mass public opinion is likely to be decisive. Many important questions, and fracking is one of them, are likely to be addressed by common sense, split the difference, down the middle kinds of compromises. Compromises of that kind often turn out to be misguided, but so do technocratically pure decisions based on science that turns out to be settled.

It’s part of the human condition and it isn’t going away soon: we make important decisions without knowing all the facts. Sometimes, we make expensive mistakes. That’s reality, and we have to deal with it using common sense.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Chest Thumpers

The "While We're At" section of the January edition of First Things contained a good look at the power of the revised Confiteor:

We are pleased, as you can imagine, with the revision of the Mass that began to be used on the first Sunday of Advent, for all the reasons Anthony Esolen listed in “Restoring the Words” (November) and others. But if we could quibble, we really wish the revisers had not kept the Kyrie as one of the penitential rites.

Nothing against the Kyrie, of course, but the Confiteor says more and says explicitly what sinful people need to say. (And besides, when you say the Confiteor you then go on to say the Kyrie as well.)

Here are the words: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.” The people smite their breast as they say “my fault.”

It begins with “I,” for starters, with everyone taking responsibility for his own sins, when the Kyrie offers statements about Christ—all true, of course, but not so effective an act of repentance as having to say “Yep, I did it, all right.” Then that “I” confesses that he’s sinned and admits that his sinning is his own fault, indeed his own most grievous fault, and smacks his chest while doing so, which drives home what he’s saying. He finishes by asking everyone from the Mother of God on down to the people he’s standing with to pray for him.

This, we insist, says right out loud what the sinner needs to say as he begins Mass. He’s got to lay his cards on the table, for his own good, and the Kyrie by itself doesn’t force him to do that. The Confiteor draws him into a community, of the saints in heaven and his friends on earth, and particularly the people around him. It reminds him he’s not alone in his sins, nor in turning to God for forgiveness.

And there’s one other benefit perhaps only converts notice so clearly: The Confiteor is an overtly Catholic prayer. You don’t say this prayer anywhere else. It helps you remember who you are and who you’re with, and why you’re there and not somewhere else. That’s not the primary reason for saying it, but in an age of doctrinal indifferentism, it’s still an important one.

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

In Saturdays WSJ, Joe Queenan bemoaned the fact that the country is going to the dogs:

People get all weepy when they tell you that their dog just died. They expect you to be compassionate and understanding, as if they'd just lost four sons at Bull Run. Not me. "Valjean did have 17 kinds of cancer and was deaf and blind before you finally had the common decency to put him down," I point out. "So get your chin up, buy another dog. It's not like the dog store's running low on inventory."

When I first moved to my cute little town, it was filled with big, stupid mongrels with loads of time on their hands. They would lie in the sun, snooze and mind their own business. Now my town is filled with Patagonian snow bitches and neurotic dogs that get carted around in iPad cases. Pretty soon you won't be able to live here anymore.

And don't get me started on people who talk about their dogs as if they were children. Nobody ever drove 400 miles round-trip in a single day just to have lunch with their dog on their birthday. And nobody ever spent $200,000 to send a Pekinese to Princeton.

My mom had a cat that lived 15 years. I loved that cat because for 15 solid years it stayed out of my way. We had a good working relationship: You're a pet; I'm a human. Let's keep it that way. Cats get the big picture. Cats stick to the agenda. Cats keep a low profile. To paraphrase Bob Dylan: Cats don't need you and, man, they expect the same.

Just for the record, my mom's cat was named Tom.

The truths that Queenan speaks cannot be repeated enough. The whole "dogs as children" thing has gone too far and for too long. They're animals people. Just animals. Please get some perspective here.