Saturday, June 30, 2012

HWX, with Rep. John Kline

If it’s Saturday, this must be the Hinderaker Ward Experience (HWX). 
John Hinderaker of Power Line and me, Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas, get together once again to cover the news of the week.  And what a week it was, with the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare and the Attorney General of the United States being held in contempt of Congress.  It’s a great week to talk about the law, and who better to cover that topic than me and John? 

That’s right lucky listeners, one of us has a Harvard Law degree and the other has watched the movie The Paper Chase like a dozen times.

Later we’re joined by the distinguished Congressman from Minnesota’s 2nd District, John Kline.  He’s a member of the Republican leadership, the Chairman of the Education and Workforce committee, and the most accurate rifle shooter in Congress (boom!). Rep. Kline provides his thoughts on Obamacare, Eric Holder, and the upcoming election. 

We wrap things up with Loon of the week (focusing on what the Fast and Furious investigation is REALLY about) and This Week in Gatekeeping (another award winning journalist goes down in flames).
The show is brought to you by the fine folks at  They are the LEADING provider of audiobooks with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction and periodicals. 

To celebrate their sponsorship of HWX, they are offering our listeners one free audiobook of their choice.  Just redirect your browswer to and sign up for a free 30 day trial, and let the easy reading with your ears begin. 
I’ve got my eyes on two candidates available at Audible, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and What Really Happened:  John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me by Margaret Thatcher by Rielle Hunter.

We hope you enjoy the show and we hope you enjoy a free book, and as always, comments are most welcome over on Ricochet.

The Moral Promise of Free Enterprise

The latest class offering from Prager University features Arthur Brooks:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Should Have Known Better

At Power Line, John Hinderaker offers a contrarian conservative view of yesterday's decision. Even if you don't agree with John's opinion on the merits of John Roberts' reasoning, his conclusion is difficult to dispute:

Scott made a great point earlier today: contrary to popular belief and its own self-image, the Court has rarely been much of a bulwark on behalf of individual liberty. Certainly it has acquiesced, not just today but for many decades, in a steady expansion of federal power beyond what is contemplated by the Constitution.

Today’s decision was disappointing, but probably should not have been unexpected, and would not have been, but for the three days of arguments that highlighted the constitutional problems posed by Obamacare. It has been a long time since we could even hope to rely on the courts to protect us against further accretions of government authority. This is a democracy, and if a majority of our fellow-citizens are content to live as wards of the state, subsisting from cradle to grave as dependents, we are, frankly, screwed. There is only one place where freedom and a proper constitutional balance can be restored: the ballot box.

In hindsight, expecting the Supreme Court to do the right thing on Obamacare was unrealistic. Cnservatives are no doubt disappointed, frustrated, and angry today. The most productive thing to do at this point would be to channel that energy into efforts into getting political leaders elected who will do what the Supreme Court was unwilling to.

Thursday, June 28, 2012 Endorses Romney

Well okay, technically didn't endorse Mitt Romney for President. However, this e-mail I received today titled "Romney will repeal Obamacare‏" should help convince wavering conservatives that electing Romney is now truly their last best hope to end Obamacare:

Today's Supreme Court health care ruling is a huge victory for people power. Even when millions of dollars are spent against us, we can win!

Millions of people—our neighbors, our parents, our kids—will keep their health care thanks to this decision.

But Mitt Romney has sworn to repeal Obamacare, so today's victory would turn into a defeat if Romney is elected. And Republicans have said they will end Obamacare and Medicare.

Yes, I know. In the past, I haven't exactly...ahem...been the biggest Mitt Romney fan. But that was then and this now. To paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld, you go to the ballot box with the candidate you've got.

To the Ramparts

The editors at NRO on Chief Justice Roberts’s Folly:

The Court has failed to do its duty. Conservatives should not follow its example — which is what they would do if they now gave up the fight against Obamacare. The law, as rewritten by judges, remains incompatible with the country’s tradition of limited government, the future strength of our health-care system, and the nation’s solvency. We are not among those who are convinced that we will be stuck with it forever if the next election goes wrong: The law is also so poorly structured that we think it may well unravel even if put fully into effect. But we would prefer not to take the risk.

It now falls to the Republicans, and especially to Mitt Romney, to make the case for the repeal of the law and for its replacement by something better than either it or the health-care policies that preceded it. Instead of trusting experts to use the federal government’s purchasing power to drive efficiency throughout the health sector — the vain hope of Obamacare’s Medicare-cutting board — they should replace Medicare with a new system in which individuals have incentives to get value for their dollar. Instead of having Washington establish a cartel for the insurance industry, they should give individuals tax credits and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines. Instead of further centralizing the health-care system, in short, they should give individuals more control over their insurance.

Opponents should take heart: The law remains unpopular. Let the president and his partisans ring their bells today, and let us work to make sure that they are wringing their hands come November.

There are some similarities between the way that some conservatives are reacting to today’s Obamacare ruling and the way that some proponents of traditional marriage have reacted to what appears to be an inevitable societal shift toward allowing same sex marriage. Elements in both groups seem resigned to defeat and are starting to question whether either matter is worth continuing the fight.

The truth is in that both instances core principals are at stake. And if you truly believe in those principals, you have a duty to fight for them no matter how dire the circumstances may appear. The fight may be lost, but it has to be fought. Now is not the time to shirk from battle.

Too High a Price

Maggie Gallagher on Bigotry, David Blankenhorn, and the Future of Marriage:

But here’s what I want to say to David and to you: a comity that is bought by surrendering principle is submission, not comity at all. The truth about something as important as marriage cannot be the price we pay to live with each other.

The challenge of our time—and it is a deep challenge, not an easy one—is to find new ways to combine truth and love. Giving up marriage is too high a price to pay. And it is not the last good we will be asked to surrender, unless we find the courage to stand.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It Can Happen Here

Michael Coren warns that if Canada is any example, the legalization of gay marriage will invariably lead to restrictions on freedom of speech, expression, and religion. His piece called Canadian Crackdown appeared in the June 5th edition of National Review:

As I write, two Canadian provinces are considering legislation that would likely prevent educators even in private denominational schools from teaching that they disapprove of same-sex marriage, and a senior government minister in Ontario recently announced that if the Roman Catholic Church did not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage, it “would have to change its teaching.” What has become painfully evident is that many of those who brought same-sex marriage to Canada have no respect for freedom of conscience and no intention of tolerating contrary opinion, whether that opinion is shaped by religious or by secular belief. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has just turned 30 years old, fundamentally changed the direction of the legal system, emphasizing communities more than individuals. This has empowered minority groups with the most appeal to quash individual freedom by exercising their political and judicial influence. The system in the United States is different, more concerned with freedom of speech, and generally more respectful of the individual. But the groups and activists trying to silence their opponents are arguably even more radical and vociferous south of the border and, anyway, legal and political assumptions are capable of change; they certainly changed in Canada.

The Canadian litany of pain, firings, and social and political polarization and extremism is extraordinary and lamentable, and we haven’t even begun to experience the mid- and long-term results of this mammoth social experiment. I seldom say it, but for goodness’ sake learn something from Canada.

Drilling Down

It seems hard to believe that we’ll soon be coming on up on four years since the beginning of the ”drill, baby, drill” debate. You know, that silly idea championed by the hopelessly clueless Sarah Palin that if America were to actually exploit the rich natural resources at hand we might be able to dramatically improve our energy position and lessen our dependence on unstable foreign sources of oil? You may also recall that the wiser, cooler heads of the day-smart people like Barack Obama-dismissed Pailn’s pleas as ignorant and not reality based. Joe Biden in fact sought to refute the whole premise of “drill, baby, drill” by sagely explaining, “ will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to be drilled."

Let’s fast forward to the present-again not quite four years later-and see where we’re at. Expanded Oil Drilling Helps U.S. Wean Itself From Mideast:

HOUSTON—America will halve its reliance on Middle East oil by the end of this decade and could end it completely by 2035 due to declining demand and the rapid growth of new petroleum sources in the Western Hemisphere, energy analysts now anticipate.

The shift, a result of technological advances that are unlocking new sources of oil in shale-rock formations, oil sands and deep beneath the ocean floor, carries profound consequences for the U.S. economy and energy security. A good portion of this surprising bounty comes from the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique perfected during the last decade in U.S. fields previously deemed not worth tampering with.

You mean more drilling in the US means less our dependence on the Middle East and results in greater energy independence and security? Say it ain’t so, Joe!

The irony of course is that this recent boom in oil and natural gas exploration and production in the United States has largely occurred in spite of and not because of anything the Obama Administration has done to support it. The reality is that there are extensive energy resources that the US has even begun to tap into yet (side note: instead of “Drill, baby, drill!” my slogan for optimizing US energy resources would be “Tap Into America”). Imagine what could be possible if we had a President who actually believed in taking advantage of the energy resources at our disposal instead of taking advantage of taxpayers to fund flights of green energy fantasy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not Sticking It

Saw my first Romney 2012 bumpersticker in the parking lot at work yesterday.

While I liked the message, I found the design to be wanting. All that white space seems like it weakens the impact. Not real crazy about the look of the "R" either.

Asian Wrap

A few rambling final thoughts on my recent trip to China:

- It’s not a nice thing to acknowledge, but it’s time that we just accepted the truth: we’re fat. You really don’t appreciate just how prevalent this problem is in the US until you spend some time around people who mostly aren’t on the heavy side. There’s no judgment or assailing the decadent American way of life here. Just owning up to the simple fact that people in China aren’t as fat as we are. I don’t pretend to know why: diet, exercise, genetics, not being guilted into overeating by being reminded of the “starving children in America.” Whatever the reason, the reality is that when you walk the saturated streets in China you just don’t see nearly the same number of people who could mix in a salad as you would in America.

Duck tongue
However, there is a ray of hope for Americans worried about we measure up to China when it comes to our respective waistlines. The younger generation of children in China (generally spoiled, pampered, and overindulged as they are the sole apples’ of their parents eyes) appears to have more than their share of chunky monkeys in development. Again, I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s their access to the same type fast/junk/overly-sugared foods that are blamed for America’s increasing obesity.

- At times, when you see the McDonald’s, Pizza Huts, Cold Stone Creameries, and people walking around wearing Kevin Garnett jerseys and SpongeBob t-shirts, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the People’s Republic of China controlled by the authoritarian Communist Party. But there are also reminders that you’re not in Kansas anymore. The internet is probably the most obvious example.

It’s relatively easy to get access to the internet if you’re in your hotel room or at an airport lounge. However, your ability to access what you want to with that access is sometimes limited. For instance, for most of the trip I wasn’t able to get on Twitter. “Quelle horreur!” you might say, how did you possible survive going eight days without the wit and wisdom of the masses expressed in 140 character outbursts? And it’s true that access to Twitter probably isn’t one of the leading factors to determine quality of life. But when you don’t have it available, it does lead you ask questions like “why?” and “who?” and the answers aren’t going to be reassuring.

Blogger was likewise limited. At times, there was no issue getting to the site. At other times, I couldn’t access it even though I could get to other internet sites. At times, these limitations or restrictions seem a bit arbitrary. For example, I had no problem reading about the horrifc stories of forced abortions in China, something that you would think would be a sensitive matter.

- On one of my first days in Nanjing, I witnessed an impressive display of Chinese military aviation. A large formation of PLA (People’s Liberation Army) helicopters were conducting maneuvers over and around the city. There were upwards of forty in action, both what appeared to be attack and troop transport helicopters. I asked one of my Chinese colleagues if they were flying out of the same military airfield that we went by on the way to work where you could see rows of fighter jets lined up. He explained the he didn’t know as that sort of information was not something that someone in his position would be able to know. Basically, it was we don’t know and we don’t want to know.

-As much as the Chinese could use an outburst of democracy and freedom, they are also in dire need of a revolution in beer. I didn’t post a Beer of the Week entry while in China and one of the reasons (other than sloth) was that there aren’t many Chinese beers that deserve any recognition at all. Tsingtao is probably the best know Chinese brand in America and their beers are decent, but pedestrian. Harbin and Yanging are also lagers that are drinkable yet mostly unsatisfying. Bestly Black Beer from the Lanhang Brewery is one of the few Chinese beers that I’ve found that breaks out of the lager mold and its probably the best one I’ve yet had. Which isn’t saying much. Snow is the best selling beer in China (and the world for that matter) and the best thing I can say about it is that the taste fits the name. It’s completely bland and almost flavorless. 1.4 billion people deserve better beer. After Surly gets their destination brewery finished here, they should look into some kind of joint venture over there.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New China

When I was recently in China, co-workers mentioned that many rich Chinese had recently been buying property in the United States. There were two chiefs causes for this interest in American real estate in the Middle Kingdom. The first was that in the aftermath of the housing bubble bursting, US property was viewed as being a relative bargain and that it was a good time to buy at a lower price. The second was limitation on property ownership enacted by the Chinese government in order to try to cool down their market. It’s difficult to get permission to own more than one property in China at the moment. Since that investment money has to go somewhere and Europe has been looking wobbly for some time, the US is increasingly becoming a preferred location for Chinese buyers.

A story in Friday’s WSJ detailed how U.S. Luxury Real Estate Courts the Chinese Buyer (sub req) and why the Chinese are buying where they are:

Interest is surging even in parts of the country China-based buyers weren't traditionally interested in. Richard Zhou, a 41-year-old investment advisor who lives in Shanghai, paid $200,000 for a home in a large golf community in Fort Myers, Fla., last year. He said he bought in the community sight-unseen, trusting his friend who had bought a home there a few months earlier. Mr. Zhou spent two weeks studying the U.S. real-estate market and quickly decided Florida was a good bet because "it was highly impacted from the financial crisis," adding that later in his life he plans to retire there. "Florida is indeed a sunshine state, the weather is really pleasant, and the air quality is very good. Also, the food is safe, too."

You can’t overemphasize how important that last factor is.

Real-estate agents say that while Chinese investors primarily target New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, they are beginning to expand into cities in southern Florida as well as outposts such as Seattle and Las Vegas. That's a sea change from a few years ago, when they were "fearful" of Florida, says Steven Lawson, chief executive of Windham China, a Shanghai-based company that helps find Chinese buyers property in the U.S. "There was a false perception in China that Miami is not a supersafe city because a lot of Chinese watch 'CSI: Miami' or 'Miami Vice' on TV."

Miami not a “supersafe” city? Goes to show that you can’t believe everything you see on TV. However, sometimes videos are a different story...

Mr. Kaufman is currently in negotiations to buy a 100-acre plot of land north of Miami in an effort to create Miami's first Chinatown, a free-trade zone with casinos, restaurants, art galleries, shopping and hotels. "We'd call it New China," he says. Others are taking quicker routes: In the past few months, Corcoran's Ms. Liebman has started regularly sending four of her agents to China, forged partnerships with three real-estate companies there and hired several Mandarin-speaking agents in the U.S.

At long last, Miami will finally get some diversity.

Without Apologies

Fortnight for Freedom:

The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

Repair My House: Renewing the Roots of Religious Liberty by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.:

Here’s my fourth point: Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada.3 The U.S. Constitution is a great document -- historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology – an idea of human nature, nature’s God and natural rights that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point: Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live – radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Class Struggle

Flying on China’s domestic airlines is not always the most pleasant travel experience. Flights are often cancelled, delays are regular, and the processes at the airport: from checking in to going through security to boarding can be chaotic. However, if you happen to be flying business class, the difference between that and standard service is striking compared to the United States.

Firstly, the cost differences between business and economy are nowhere near what they are in the US. This also applies to making changes in your itinerary. I swiched my flight from Nanjing to the Beijing a day before and paid a whopping twelve bones for the change.

When you arrive at the airport to check in, you go through a different process from the unwashed masses. You walk into an separate area where you take a seat and relax while they get your boarding pass ready. After I checked in at Nanjing, a customer service rep walked me over to the security checkpoint to ensure I arrived at the right place.

In the US, being in business class can help get you to the front of the security line faster, but it’s the same process from there. In China, there’s a separate security process for business class. No waiting with security personnel standing by to get you through. Anyone who thinks the TSA can go a little overboard with the pat downs is not going to comfortable with China’s procedures. Everybody gets patted down and it’s a pretty thorough groping too. And they seemed to have moved forward on the whole genderless society thing too as I had a female security staffer carry out one of my feel ups. Maybe something for the TSA to think about.

American airlines will usually fill the first/business class cabin with upgrades. And since I’m one of the poor slobs desperately hoping to be upgraded when I’m flying in the US, I much appreciate that approach. In China however, the only people in business class are those who paid the full freight in the first place. So if you’re lucky, you’ll not only enjoy the extra legroom, wider seats, and better service, but you might not have anyone sitting next to you.

Somewhat ironic if you think about it that when it comes to flying the separation of the classes in the Peoples’ Republic of China is quite distinct.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We Will Brand You

'Made in China' gains acceptance:

"Made in China" is a phrase Americans know mainly as an indicator of pervasive offshore manufacturing. But increasingly it's being attached to products originating in China from domestic companies - and gaining acceptance in the West.

A recent survey by Li-Ning, a leading Chinese athletic footwear and apparel company, found that a growing number of consumers in the United States are willing to buy products of Chinese origin.

Li-Ning Co, which was founded by 1984 Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Li Ning, set out in 2011 to launch a sportswear line in the US. The Beijing-based company partnered with Acquity Group, an e-commerce and marketing consultant, to help expand its US consumer base.

They came up with Digital Li-Ning, a joint venture with a $10 million investment that entailed the launch of an online retail site,, and development of a new apparel collection for the US market. Digital Li-Ning is based in Chicago.

According to the study, there has been a significant shift in US consumers' perception of Chinese brands over the past five years. About 62 percent of Americans said they were more likely to purchase products from Chinese companies today than they were in 2007.

Two consumer groups, those aged 18 to 25 years old and those with annual household incomes of over $225,000, were most likely to regard Chinese brands favorably.

This is the next challenge facing China as it attempts to emerge as economic power. It has proven itself adept at making stuff, but much of that stuff has been for non-Chinese companies and brands. You’ll really know that China has arrived when Chinese brand names have the same recognition as do those of companies in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and Korea.

After spending last week in Beijing (at least in and around the airport) and Nanjing, I am not convinced that this is going to happen anytime soon. For all the talk we hear about how China is going to eclipse America as a global superpower, that’s not the reality that you see today on the streets. Despite having once been the capital city of China and having a population somewhere around eight million, Nanjing is now considered a second-tier city in China. People in Shanghai, Beijing, or Guangzhou look upon Nanjing they way that people in New York or Los Angeles might look at Minneapolis. It’s sort of a Chinese version of flyover country.

When I walk or drive the streets around here, I rarely see people wearing shirts with Chinese phrases or characters from Chinese children’s television on them. I don’t believe there is a single chain restaurant of Chinese origin. Billboards don’t advertise movies made in China. In other words, the impact of Chinese brands on the local culture is nil.

By contrast, the streets of Nanjing are teeming with people wearing t-shirts with English phrases (often oddly incongruous) or SpongeBob Squarepants. If you so fancy, you can eat readily eat at McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s. You can pick up a coffee from Starbuck’s or an ice cream cone from Cold Stone Creamery. You can watch the latest (well, almost latest) Hollywood blockbuster at a nearby multiplex. If you look closely, you would notice that many of these people are also wearing jeans or shoes bearing a US or European brand name.

While some would decry this as the tragedy of globalization and corporatism, I took comfort and even a sense of pride in seeing this. While China might be making a lot of the stuff today, we’re still making the brands. And the brands and the images that they’re selling along with their product have a lot more influence than the stuff itself does.

Seeds More Than Deeds

Big news out of Minnesota regarding twins. No, not that sappy, crappy baseball team toiling away in futility at Target Field. It’s a new book on the landmark Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart. A review of Born Together—Reared Apart appeared in today’s WSJ:

In early 1979, a pair of identical twin brothers who had been separated at four weeks were reunited after 39 years. Both named Jim, they discovered that they smoked the same brand of cigarettes, vacationed in the same town and both called their dog "Toy." Struck by the story, psychologists at the University of Minnesota started studying separated twins that same year. Their efforts blossomed into the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart, which ran for a quarter century, attracting world-wide fascination and antipathy.

Nancy Segal's "Born Together—Reared Apart" is a thorough history of the project and of the 137 pairs of star-crossed twins who made it possible. Ms. Segal, a key member of the Minnesota team, focuses on the many scientific publications that emerged from the data. But along the way, readers meet leading twin researchers and a whole lot of twins—including the "Jim twins," the "giggle twins" (who both laughed almost nonstop) and, most incredibly, Oskar, raised as a Nazi, and his identical brother, Jack, who was raised as a Jew.

If you harbor any curiosity about why people turn out the way they do, Ms. Segal's topic will fascinate. How big are the effects of nature, nurture and everything else? Despite ample jargon and abstruse statistics, the logic of the Minnesota study is simple. When identical twins are raised apart, you can disentangle nature and nurture for a given characteristic by simply measuring how similar the twins are. You can double-check your answer by comparing the similarity of identical twins (who share all their genes) and of fraternal twins (who share only half their genes).

The results of the study are indeed fascinating and provide fertile ground for those interested in the age old nature vs. nurture debate. Based on what I know of the study, the data leans pretty heavily in favor of the former. While some (especially those of the progressive engineering of society bent) will no doubt find those conclusions disturbing, there’s actually a message that the overly-anxious, overly-involved parents of today should heed: your efforts to raise the perfect child don’t matter nearly as much as you think they do. The bottom line is that your seeds are more important than your deeds. So relax and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In the Balance

Big news in the e-mail inbox today. Apparently a major endorsement, one which could tip the balance of this year’s election, will be decided shortly. From the folks at

Dear MoveOn member,

We have a big decision to make.

At MoveOn, members vote on any election endorsements we make. Today we need to decide whether to make an endorsement in the presidential race. The outcome of the election is far from decided—polls are showing that this could be a very tight race—so our work could make a big difference.

If MoveOn members vote to endorse President Obama, we'll campaign hard to re-elect Obama and to defeat Mitt Romney. If MoveOn members choose not to endorse Obama, we won't spend our time and resources on the presidential election. It's up to you.

So it's time to ask the question: Should MoveOn endorse President Obama?



Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is indeed a pivotal moment in history. How will the independent thinking, unbiased, middle of the road folks at vote on this crucial matter of who to endorse? I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the results. This really could go either way.

In related news, another important endorsement is expected to be announced soon as we’ll finally know which presidential candidate radio shock jock Hugh Hewitt supports. The suspense in waiting for the outcome in these two situations is almost too much to take.

Beginning to See the Light

At fifty-three, an English professor and atheist since the age of seventeen, demonstrates that it’s never too late to find the way home:

For too long I converted that arrogance into a virtue, and I compensated for the lack of understanding with dismissal and annoyance. Contempt, I thought, was the right response to stupid belief. For all my claims to intellectual growth, though, I had to stand before the faithful and admit my ignorance. But even to say “I don’t understand you” is a difficult position for the intellectually prideful to hold, and my ready defense was to denigrate the thing I didn’t understand, both God himself and others’ apprehension of him. I reacted wrongly to assertions of what I didn’t discern, even though all of us are asked all the time to believe in things we don’t perceive.

That was an intellectual break, and it pressed me to reflect upon thirty years of adulthood and to realize to my disgust that without a spiritual anchor in my personal life I had careened from one reckless and cowardly act to another. My contempt for believers faded, and when I ended up in the midst of believing souls I felt embarrassment and regret, not superiority. Middle age brought about a different conclusion: “Atheism happened to me not because it is the truth but because of who I was and what was happening to me back then.” I don’t think that all beliefs are socially or historically constructed, but in this case I know that my epiphany at seventeen was not an insight into the nature of things. It was a psychological adjustment to a mentally ill, domineering father and an erratic, promiscuous mother.

After the authority of nihilism slipped, it was time to learn about the other side. In late 2010, I began weekly study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church with a man from Opus Dei who has become a treasured friend. After a long personal and professional life spent reading philosophy and literature that pointed inevitably, it seemed to me, toward a secular vision, I was skeptical that forthright expressions of religious belief could compete in logic or intellect with Derrida, Foucault, Rorty, and other academic idols of the eighties and nineties.

But our first session on the opening sections of the Catechism revealed a discourse just as sophisticated and learned as the most scholastic paragraphs of deconstruction and cultural studies. My friend’s explanation of the sacraments as signs and presences was just as semiotically advanced as the theories I remember from graduate seminars on structural linguistics.

When I read “The desire for God is written in the human heart,” I wanted more. I found too that the Catechism does something deconstruction, cultural studies, and the rest don’t. It takes seriously the other side. It doesn’t shy away from atheism but explains it sympathetically, with love, not spite.

The Catechism introduced to me “ways of coming to know God” that involve study and discipline, not a sudden revelation. The idea that faith might not be an instantaneous perception, that God’s presence or absence rests upon more than a blunt apprehension, struck me as a dilating prospect. God is out there, and the Church is the way to him. If I haven’t apprehended him directly and overwhelmingly, as I did the Nothing of that not-burning bush when I was a bright and confused teenager, that’s the fault of my limited powers of perception, not because there is nothing there to perceive. I entered the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults last fall.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Walk the Talk

The WSJ on A Tale of Two Conservatives:

"I gave a speech to 400 Chamber members and everyone was for Ex-Im Bank," he says. "So I asked them: 'How many of you would sign your own name to this loan?' Not a single hand went up." Mr. DeMint says he voted as he did because he's concluded that "we've created a culture in Washington that has almost every major business in the country with its nose in the trough."

That includes the sugar lobby, which last week narrowly defeated a bipartisan attempt at reforming its egregious quota program that gouges American consumers to benefit a mere 5,000 or so farmers. The Senate voted 50-46 to table Senator Pat Toomey's reform bill, but the reform would have passed if not for the votes of 16 GOP Senators. (See the nearby table.)

The usual sugar beet and sugar cane state suspects dominate the list, but one name leaps out—Mr. Rubio, the freshman from Florida who won his seat in 2010 while running as a tea party favorite in opposition to the crony capitalism and government meddling of the Obama Administration.

Mr. Rubio nonetheless voted against consumers and for the big sugar-cane producers, including Florida's Fanjul family. Mr. Rubio thus voted to the left of the 16 Democrats who joined 30 Republicans in supporting sugar reform. Unlike Mr. DeMint, the Floridian was not a profile in courage on this issue, or even a profile.

The political habit of favoring big business is bipartisan, as the sugar and Ex-Im Bank votes show. If Republicans want the political credibility to reform middle-class entitlements, they had better be prepared to eliminate corporate welfare too. Kudos to Mr. DeMint for understanding this.

If Republicans want to continue warn about the fiscal cliff that the country is heading toward and the hard choices they need to be made in order to avoid plunging over it, they’re going to need to be consistent in backing those words with action when they have an opportunity. Supporting funding for the Ex-Im bank and sugar subsidies damages their credibility and impairs their ability to speak with integrity on the need for fiscal restraint. Apparently Jim DeMint gets it, while alas Marco Rubio does not.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


One of the greatest scenes in the history of "Seinfeld" takes place at a party during the New York Marathon. Jerry and George argue with each other over who can claim the title of the biggest idiot. Some background:

Elaine wants to move into Jerry's building, but doesn't have enough money. Jerry doesn't want her to move in but is cajoled by Kramer into offering her the money to make the move. Meanwhile, George begins wearing a wedding ring to see if it will help him score with the ladies. At the party he meets a woman with a great job at Madison Square Garden.

(Scene cuts to George)

JANICE: I've never been able to be with just one person. I can, however, carry on strictly physical relationships which can last for years and years. It's a shame you're married.

GEORGE: (Frantically tries to take the ring off) I'm not. It's just a sociological experiment!

JANICE: Please.. (Walks away)

(Jerry walks over to George)

JERRY: You have no idea what an idiot is. Elaine just gave me a chance to get out and I didn't take it. (Points to himself) This is an idiot.

GEORGE: Is that right? (Showing him up) I just threw away a lifetime of guilt-free sex and floor seats for ever sporting event in Madison Square Garden. So please, a little respect. For I am Costanza. Lord of the Idiots!

ROXANNE: (Yelling out the window as marathoners run by) You're all winners!

GEORGE: But suddenly, a new contender has emerged..

(Scene ends)

This morning, I ran Grandma's Marathon. I recorded a personal best time of 3 hours 46 minutes and 56 seconds. I was brimming with pride as I collected my medal and I studied it carefully. On the back side it read: "Everyone's A Champion." I have to admit, that this spoiled some of my pride.

I am not a marathon champion. I finished 1,397th out of 5,784 finishers. That's respectable, and I'm proud that my hard work led to what I consider a successful result. But, again, I don't claim a championship, and suggesting that I do is not something that makes me comfortable.

I love Grandma's Marathon and consider it a world class sporting event. However, I'd strongly prefer that the champion phrase be replaced with something along the lines of: "Proud Finisher".

Friday, June 15, 2012

More Holes to Fill

Interesting to see that even in China some are getting wise to the folly of the Keynesian game of pumping up economic growth through government spending. Local officials play make-and-break game:

Like most of my fellow citizens, I used to feel proud as I saw China's GDP figures edge up to overtake one country after another - Italy, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. It seems inevitable that the country will surpass the US in "overall economic strength" in the foreseeable future. I never bothered to delve into what was actually behind these dazzling figures and how they had been achieved. I just saw them as a magic wand with whose touch China has metamorphosed into an economic superpower. It reminds me of what hormones do in turning a thin and weak teenage boy into a brawny and masculine young man.

That sense of pride has gone. Thanks to some local government officials, I have started to look at GDP from another perspective and see the ugly side of it.

Take Shenyang for example. The capital of Liaoning province set a national record early this month by blowing up an 800-million-yuan ($125.57 million) stadium - once the largest in Asia - to make way for a central business district. The 380,000-square-meter all-steel stadium, with a soccer field and 36,000 seats, was put into use just nine years ago. Now it will be remembered as the largest single building ever erased with a bang of dynamite in China.

The city government cited poor management of the stadium, which had basically "left it abandoned", and said its demolition will ensure "efficient use and development of land resources". What they forgot to mention is that despite the world's economic woes, the city's GDP figure will surely continue to surge thanks to this cycle of demolition and construction.

Today China is the world's largest construction site. It guzzles nearly half of the world's total annual cement and steel production, and produces 2 billion square meters in newly added building space each year. But according to Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, most of China's buildings will stand no longer than 30 years, as compared to more than 100 years in developed countries.

I don't know how much of our GDP comes from this make-and-break game played by some local officials. But I do know it not only wastes resources and causes irreversible environmental damage, it also inevitably provides a hotbed for rampant corruption. It's been said that "there is at least one corrupt official for each kilometer of highway built", after 62 officials in Liaoning were convicted of corruption in 2003 relating to the construction of a 50-km highway linking Shenyang and Shanhaiguan.

But it is a game some officials like to play because it boosts local GDP, which has long been a key criteria for promotion, despite Beijing's repeated calls for green growth.

In some ways, China’s cycle of government funded projects that build, break, and then build again is exactly what liberals would like to see take place in the United States if they had their way. The question for China is how long they can continue to keep playing the game.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chairman Mike

Remember the days when people around the world looked to New York City and the Statue of Liberty as a beacon of freedom? Debate bubbles over sugary drink ban:

While New Yorkers don't seem ready for an outright ban, Chinese tourist Xiao Li was amazed to find that the small Coke she ordered at the AMC Empire 25 theaters in Times Square was a jumbo 946 ml in Chinese eyes.

One of her many observations from traveling in the US, where she marvels at the beautiful landscape and friendly people, is the huge number of overweight men and women.

To Li, the hazards of drinking too much soda and sugary drinks are nothing new, even in China. She said that over the years doctors, especially traditional Chinese medicine doctors, had advised her not to let her underage daughter drink Coke or Pepsi.

However, that has not prevented soft drink giants from expanding into the Chinese market. Just two months ago, Coca-Cola opened its 42nd bottling plant in Yingkou, Liaoning province. It promised to pour $4 billion into China over the next three years.

China is already Coca-Cola's third-largest market after the US and Mexico. The average Chinese now consumes 39 bottles of Coca-Cola products each year, Securities Times reported.

The obesity rate in China has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. Data from the World Health Organization shows that the national rate is below 5 percent, but the rates in some cities are greater than 20 percent. The problem has been attributed by experts largely to the intrusion of fast food, soda and sugary drinks.

It may not be long before Chinese cities are forced to follow Bloomberg's proposal. But whether this will also become a war of personal liberty over solid science might vary from country to country.

It may not be long before cities in the People's Republic of China are forced to take authoritarian measures to limit their citizens freedom emulating the actions undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg in the United States of America. Mull that one over for a while.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The State of Hockey?

National Hockey League Teams?
California: 3
Minnesota 0.75

Stanley Cups?
California: 2
Minnesota: 0

The REAL State of Hockey . . . . ?

(God I hated posting this.)

Making and Creating

Here’s a good example of the challenges that China will face as it tries to transition from an economy that not only makes but creates. Agency rejects Wall-E remake for copyright infringement:

Disney, which owns the copyright of Wall-E, told China Daily via a spokesperson that the company "values and protects its intellectual property vigorously and takes reports of suspected infringement very seriously".
"We are aware of this issue and are working proactively with the relevant government authorities to address that," the spokesperson says.

Xia Peng, the director who submitted the summary to the SARFT, said that he tried to purchase the remake rights to Wall-E for 700,000 yuan ($110,000).

With that amount of money, senior producer Ben Ji said, it is impossible to buy the remakes right of such a celebrated picture.
Xia admits that he does not have any contract to prove he has bought the remake rights, neither did he include any license agreement of the original scriptwriter in his materials submitted to the Beijing branch of the SARFT.

He even says he wants to make a 3-D Wall-E with an eight-person team. When asked if so few people can fulfill the work, he responds: "You don't know about the animation industry. It's quite simple, just some computer work."

In a way you have to admire the moxie of this guy for thinking that he could buy the rights to remake “Wall-E” for a little more than a hundred Gs and for believing that he could get it done, in 3-D no less, with eight people.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Money Can't Buy You Love

A good article on another potential global flashpoint appeared in last Friday’s WSJ. It focused on disputed areas in the South China Sea that are being claimed by China and the Philippines. It also provides good insight into the limitations of China’s efforts to gain influence through money as in this case it’s turned out that Cash Fails to Win China Friends in Philippines :

Under a 60-year-old mutual-defense treaty, the U.S. is obliged to come to Manila's aid in the event of an armed attack, an event experts call unlikely but not impossible should relations with China grow dramatically worse.
The Philippines, once a colony of the U.S., long remained one of its crucial allies in Asia, but the Philippine senate closed America's sprawling Philippine bases at Subic Bay and Clark Field in 1991. Now, an apparent effort by China to win Philippine favor through money has opened the door for America again, showing how China's missteps are potentially America's gains in the region.

Mr. Aquino's government has several times asked for more support from the U.S. In April, American soldiers took part in joint training exercises with Philippine troops, designed to teach them how to withstand a beach assault from a foreign power.
The U.S. is stepping up military ties with other countries in the region as well. A U.S. Navy vessel called at a former American naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam last August for the first time in three decades—for maintenance and noncombat exercises—and on Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the base. In April, nearly 200 Marines arrived in Darwin, Australia, as the U.S. builds up a presence there to help ensure free navigation through the South China Sea.

China has faced backlashes against its expanding commercial and military power before. In Zambia, President Michael Sata successfully ran for office last year challenging China's dominance of the African country's copper industry. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has warned of the danger of China creating a colonial relationship in Africa. Myanmar suspended a $3.6 billion Chinese-funded hydropower project last September amid fears it could ruin the agricultural heartland.

The stakes are especially high in the Philippines because of the South China Sea. Its contested waters, which are claimed in whole or in part by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, contain between 28 billion and 213 billion barrels in proven and undiscovered oil resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It is unclear how much is accessible, but some think the reserves potentially could be larger than those of any other country besides Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the emergence of democracies (however unstable and imperfect) that replaced autocratic regimes (sometimes supported by the US), there was a temptation in Asia to turn away from the United States. The Philippines booted the US military out and there was a rise in anti-American sentiment in many countries. However, now that China is flexing its muscles more and more (both monetary and military) and becoming more aggressive in seeking influence these countries are reconsidering their views. The United States may not always be a perfect partner, but the prospect of an expansionist China makes the US seem like a much better choice when looking for allies with a common cause.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol.CXLIX)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you as always by the colorful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can shed light into the darkness in your quest for wine, whiskey, and beer.

Our beer of the week is from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery. Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale:

Can an IPA be black? Semantics aside, this noir version has subtle coffee undertones born of a blend of oats with dark, Munich and crystal malts. What emerges is something deeper, less orthodox, and all its own. After 22 trial runs in our Bend and Portland pubs, we got it right.

22oz brown bomber bottle sells for $4.99. Label is all about the night with various shades of black and gray, a haunting moon rising in the background, and a signpost in the foreground with the name in blood red lettering.

STYLE: American black ale


COLOR (0-2): Dark black. 2

AROMA (0-2):Strong citrusy hops. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Well balanced combination of sharp hop flavors of citrus and pine with roasted malt with nuts and cocoa. The flavors really play off each other nicely. The alcohol is mostly hidden and the beer has a medium body. The mouthfeel is on the thicker, smoother side. Despite having a lot of punch taste wise, it’s still pretty drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors linger pleasantly, especially the pine. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Hop in the Dark is a delicious mix of bitter hops and roasted malts. It’s got a ton of flavor, yet remains drinkable and approachable. At five bucks for a bomber it’s also a lot of bang for your buck. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Radio, Someone Still Loves You

The wait is over.  At least for those steadfast holdouts who refuse to participate in this passing fad called the Internet.  The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) returns to terrestrial radio Saturday morning.  That would be TOMORROW for those steadfast holdouts who also refuse to adopt that passing fad called the Gregorian caldenar.

John Hinderaker and I will be on Twin Cities News Talk tomorrow from 11am until 2pm.

In fact, those that want to get an early jump on the action can tune in at 10am when we join Bob Davis, Tom Emmer, and Jack and Ben for the Roundtable.

In the Twin Cities tune in to 1130 on the AM dial.  Worldwide streaming LIVE here.

In the 11:00 hour we’ll be joined by Steven Hayward, author of the wildly entertaining Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents.

In the noon hour we’ll talk all things Wisconsin and we’ll be joined by the pride of Apple Valley, James Hohmann.  He also happens to be Politco’s national political reporter and he’ll have a report as a first-person eye witness to all the Walker recall related activity.

In 1:00 hour we’re happy to be joined by the legendary Mike Nelson of Rifftrax.  We’ll talk about the latest developments in sardonic real time movie criticism and call up some memories of his old Mystery Science Theater 3000 days.

Then we’ll be joined by GOP endorsed candidate in Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District, Tony Hernandez.  He’s running against entrenched incumbent Betty McCollum and we’ll be dreaming the supposedly impossible dream of a GOP victory.   Tony is a terrific guy, a terrific candidate, and I for one am saying he has a chance.

Plus we'll mix in some Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping.  And callers welcome, please join in at 651-989-5855

It should be a fast and furious three hours, we hope you can join us!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Coming Around Again

A story in today's WSJ on what happens When Designers Meddle With Hawaiian Shirts contained some interesting history on the fashion statement:

Known in Hawaii as aloha shirts, the tops became popular in the U.S. following World War II, as servicemen brought them back from Pacific islands and Asia, according to Mark-Evan Blackman, an assistant professor of menswear design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Then, amid a postwar South Seas island craze and Hawaiian statehood in 1959, "it became the thing [for tourists] to bring home a Hawaiian shirt," Mr. Blackman says.

The shirts got a celebrity boost after Elvis Presley sported one of designer Alfred Shaheen's Hawaiian shirts on the cover of the "Blue Hawaii" soundtrack. Mr. Shaheen, who started manufacturing rayon Hawaiian shirts in 1948, is credited as the first mass manufacturer of Hawaiian shirts. The style, adopted by surfers, symbolized a relaxed, beachy lifestyle.

Tourists and suburban dads embraced the trend with gusto—too much gusto for some tastes. The shirts gradually came to be seen as gauche. Pop-culture icons associated with the shirts included Tom Selleck's character on TV's "Magnum P.I." in the '80s, and Kramer on "Seinfeld" in the '90s.

And of course, our own Sisyphus, who may disagree with the “gauche” assessment. Now that Hawaiian shirts are apparently making a comeback-albeit in a more sleek and stylish incarnation-on the fashion runways it will be interesting to see if Sisyphus continues to embrace the look that has come to be associated with him and his beachy lifestyle.

Sisyphus Adds:
Every few years the “fashion” industry comes to recognize what Elvis, Magnum and I have known all along: Aloha shirts are awesome.  If for some reason I am not wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I receive complaints that I’ve made the world a little colder.

Rest assured, I am not some hipster who must jump off the bandwagon as soon as my style becomes mainstream.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

He's Buying

Barry drops a note on Cliff's bar:

Searching Google images this morning for Hamms, I spot Cliff's 1956 TV box rippler (so called because it resembled the vintage TV sets of the day) and checked out your blog entry. Absolutely classic. I just LOVE intact basement bars! I'm so glad you captured it when it was still together. Looks like he kept a few primo bottles of hooch there.

Indeed he did. I'm fortunate enough to have a few items from Cliff's bar displayed in my own basement watering hole along with some others from his brother's (my father-in-law who passed away this past year). The tradition of the basement bar lives on.

It turns out that Barry love for bar paraphernalia is serious business. I BUY OLD BEER--Learn:

You were in charge of cleaning out Grandpa's garage, and there’s so much junk in there you don't know where to start. During a remodeling job,you found a couple of old beer cans with cone shaped tops. Dad used to own a tavern, and he has a few old signs in the basement that haven't been plugged in for a decade....

Some call it junk, but to me...its treasure, and I'll pay stupid prices for the stuff that’s real old or in good shape. Lighted signs, cans, tins, uniforms, paper - whether its a forgotten collection or one item, I'll pay you cash, clean it up and preserve it for the next generation.

I've paid 65.00 for an empty cardboard beer box...400.00 for an EMPTY beer can.(and no, I didn't empty it, or the ten others you assumed I drank to pay that much) I've been collecting this stuff for about 27 years, and if I don't have it yet, I'll pay stupid prices for the old and unique.

Thars' gold in them garages and basements-find it and email me. I'll make it worth your while.

Worth your while if you to want to part with your treasures. I think I'd more likely find myself on the other side of such transactions.

Tick, Tick, Tick

Obama's Debt Boom:

Remember a week or two ago, when President Obama was claiming to be a fiscal skinflint because some online columnist said so? That was fun. On Tuesday the Congressional Budget Office released a view more tethered to reality, and let's just say this will not be showing up in one of the President's campaign ads.

The CBO's long-term budget outlook notes that federal debt held by the public—the kind we have to pay back—will surge to 70% of the economy by the end of this year. That's the highest share of GDP in U.S. history except World War II, as the nearby chart indicates, higher than during the Civil War or World War I. It's also way up from 40% in 2008 and from the 40-year average of 38%.

And it's rising fast. CBO says that on present trend the national debt will hit 90% of GDP by 2022. It then balloons to 109% by 2026—that would be the all-time WWII peak—and approaches almost 200% of GDP by 2037.

We have never been deficit scolds, preferring to focus on the more important policy priorities of economic growth and spending restraint. But the Obama era is taking America to a place it has never been. Inside of a decade the country will have a debt-to-GDP ratio well into the 90% to 100% danger zone where economists say the economy begins to slow and risks mount.

A lot of talk about the debt focuses on the immense size of its numbers ($15 trillion dollars plus and a cool 50K per American citizen), but the real threat that the debt posed is not its size alone, but it's size relative to the rest of the economy. The fact that the percentage of debt to the economy has gone from 40% to 70% in four years is staggering. But the fact that it's on pace to get to 90% within ten years is even more ominous. That's when the rubber will really meet the road and talk about the dangers of the debt will no longer be merely speculative.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

It All Adds Up

The latest installment course from Prager University is called "The Happiness Equation"

By the way, if you're looking for a way to bring meaning into your Fourth of July you might want to check out the 4th of July Declaration:

Welcome to our Fourth of July Declaration Ceremony. This short ceremony is designed to help us remember what the Fourth of July is really about, and to remind ourselves how fortunate we all are to be Americans.

For many of us, the Fourth of July is a day for barbecues, baseball, shopping, and fireworks. There is nothing wrong with any of this. But in 1776, our founders didn't sign the Declaration of Independence (and then go to war) only so that later generations would spend July 4th at the department store. They knew Americans needed to be educated and informed in order for our hard-won liberty to survive. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

As Americans, we need to reconnect to our heritage, channel the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, and rediscover the meaning behind our country's creation. And we need to do it every year. That's point of observing the Fourth of July: To help us remember why this country was founded, and to help us transmit that collective memory to the next generation.

How can we do this? Through ritual.

And nobody loves ritual and symbols more than kids. Which makes this a great way to remind them what the day is really all about. Now, I just have to figure out how to work in beer...

Monday, June 04, 2012

On Wisconsin

A week or ago, I posted a link to a piece by Gary Larson on the Wisconsin recall election called Barrett and the Ho-Chunks. Gary e-mailed to point out a particularly noteworthy comment on his article by one Pat C.:

My wife is a teacher, and thus must belong to a teacher's union. And so, we are bombarded weekly with union updates in our email about all kinds of things-Mitt Romney's "crony capitalism "and Scott Walker's "union busting. " Having had enough, I registered with the union comments page under the name John Galt and asked how they could accuse Romney of "crony capitalism" when they were fighting and using member money to buy politicians. I asked them how it could be called' "collective bargaining" and not cronyism when they were using dues money to support politicians who they finance to get elected, and then sit across the table from those same politicians and bargain for benefits. I asked who besides Scott Walker represented the taxpayer, and asked how they could be in good conscience mounting a recall against someone who has broken no laws, violated no trusts, abused no power and in fact is doing exactly what he was elected to do based on promises he made. I also pointed out that according to NLB statistics, since 2007, the unemployment rate in the public sector has gone from 4 to 6 percent, but the private sector has gone from 4 to nearly 12%. It is the private sector who is hurting and yet more demands are being put on them from the public sector union members. I then said what they were after was not collective bargaining at all, but rather collectivist bargaining, wherein both parties represent a quid pro quo and are on the same side. I finished by asking where in what world anyone else gets all of their benefits and retirement paid, as well as top wages, by the people they themselves installed.

Well, predictably, the shrieks and howls were swift and loud, like a door flung open a group of vampires on a sunny day. I was maligned, insulted, threatened ('you better pray we never find out where you live" kind of stuff) and dismissed, while not a single point I raised was even addressed, let alone rebutted. I was prepared for the worst, but it even exceeded my expectations. These people are living in a bubble, a dream land wherein the taxpayer has unlimited resources, the state is the dispenser of all that is good, and anyone trying to undo any of it is regarded as evil incarnate. That Americans can come to think and behave this way is disturbing to me, and ought to worry us greatly, because Wisconsin is not as much of an anomaly as we might like to think.

I'm afraid that Pat is correct. The tactis displayed by the Left in the last eighteen months or so in Wisconsin are not an anomaly and we can expect to see them employed again and again wherever attempts to restore some measure of fiscal sanity are made. However, while Wisconsin should serve as a warning that what happened there could happen anywhere, the state also has an opportunity to serve as an example that such tactics will not work and that taxpayers are no longer willing to shut up and pay up.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXLVIII)

A return to normalcy edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the contemplative folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to fortify your soul.

This week brings some exciting news on the local beer scene. And by local, I mean my basement where my previous beer storage device (a mini refrigerator) has been replaced by a full size version. More room for beer is always a good thing.

As is the brewery who produces our featured beer this week. They’re based in San Francisco and have a track record of cranking out good beer while displaying a welcome appreciation of history. 21st Amendment Brewery:

Around the turn of the 20th century, in the year 1900, there were thousands of small breweries operating across America. When Freccia and O’Sullivan were researching old San Francisco breweries (trying to find a cool name for their new brewery), what really made an impact was the discovery that there were about 40 breweries operating just within the city limits of San Francisco (by comparison, today there are eight with a population more than double what it was in 1900). They realized that the brewery captured the essence of the neighborhoods of San Francisco. They were the local gathering places. Places to exchange ideas, debate politics and philosophy. Places for families to come together on weekends. Places that provided something unique—hand crafted beer that was different at every brewery and that defined the taste of a neighborhood.

In 1920, Prohibition wiped out this culture and put the “local” out of business. For 13 years, social interaction was largely driven underground, to the speakeasies, where regular citizens became a nation of outlaws.

But with the passage of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition, we, as a society, were able to begin the slow climb back to reclaiming the essence of the neighborhood gathering place. At the 21st Amendment, they celebrate the culture of the great breweries of old, making unique, hand crafted beers, great food, and providing a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that invites conversation, interaction and a sense of community.

21st Amendment is also a brewery that packages their product in cans. Our beer of the week is their Monk's Blood:

21st Amendment founders Nico Freccia and Shaun O’Sullivan traveled to Belgium to develop the recipe for this special beer, visiting small, traditional breweries in the hop fields of west Flanders, not far from the famous Trappist abbey of Westvletren. Monk’s Blood is designed to pair beautifully with rich winter stews, creamy cheeses, unctuous desserts or just by itself, in a Belgian tulip glass, with a good book by the fire.

Four pack of 12oz cans in a carton container sells for $9.99. Brown colored can with name in large font and a visage of holy brothers in the background.

STYLE: Belgian dark ale


COLOR (0-2): Copper brown and somewhat cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty, fruity and a little nutty. 2

HEAD (0-2): Tan color with good volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Rich, deep flavors that include sweet bready malt, spice, nuts, raisins, and sour with a bitter finish. There’s a lot to take in with each sip and you definitely need to enjoy it that way. The body is more on the heavy side. The mouthfeel is syrupy and sticky and the heat is noticeable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Take a sip, walk away for a few minutes and you’ll still be savoring the taste. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Monks Blood is a big beer with loads of complex flavors that are deep and wide. Lots to like here and another reason why 21st Amendment is fast becoming one of my favorite craft brewers. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16