Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the friendly folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to tickle your taste buds.

When you think of Salt Lake City your probably think of things like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Brigham Young University, the Utah Jazz (which may be the only relocated sports franchise with a more inappropriate name than the Los Angeles Lakers), and maybe even the 2002 Winter Olympics. You likely don’t think of beer. Epic Brewing Company is doing their best to change that:

EPIC is Utah’s first brewery since prohibition to brew exclusively high alcohol content beer. EPIC handcrafts and carefully bottles its unique product in 22-ounce bottles, perfect for sharing or a long savor, solo style.

EPIC Brewing Company creates high-quality, fresh and extremely flavorful beer in small quantities with unending varieties. EPIC uses only the finest malts from the US and Europe, intense hops and triple filtered water. Discover natural variations of taste, from sweet malt, citrus, pine, oak, smoke to chocolate, coffee, vanilla to cinnamon, to most anything epicurean you can imagine...

I’ve had a couple of different Epic beers while on trips to Colorado and so was presently surprised when I stopped by Glen Lake Wine & Spirits and discovered that it’s now available in these parts as well. Our Beer of the Week is Epic’s Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale:

Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale has a rich and complex malt flavor balanced with a little bit of spicy noble hops and strong influences of fermentation esters from the Belgian yeast used. Various Belgian like Rock Candies, hops and grains are employed to express variations within the style. Deceivingly drinkable, some liken these ales to the Devil sneaking up on you, so consume responsibly.

22oz brown bomber sells for $5.99. Label is cluttered and messy with different sections that don’t come together well.

STYLE: Belgian Pale Ale


COLOR (0-2): Orangish gold and cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2):Wheaty and fruity. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Grainy and wheaty with sweet toasty malts and more hops than I would have expected. Fruit flavors of lemon, apple, and a bit of banana blend well with peppery spices and candied sugar. The alcohol is noticeable, but not overwhelming. Heavy bodied and not especially drinkable yet still refreshing. Smooth, slightly creamy finish. 4

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

OVERALL (0-6): Brainless Belgian-Style Golden Ale is a bit of departure from what you would expect from the style. It has certain characteristics that you would normally associate with wheat beers. The fusion turns out to be a successful one and the beer is heavy on flavor yet also refreshing. It makes for a good alternative to the lighter summer fare and is also a good value for the price. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Monday, July 30, 2012

Raising Adults

An article by Quinn Cummings appeared in Saturday’s WSJ that shared some of her experiences homeschooling her daughter. Having completed a year of homeschooling, she offered a couple of insightful observations in the piece called My Education in Home Schooling:

But the biggest thing people want to talk about is socialization. Everyone is worried that I keep my child in a crate with three air holes punched in it and won't let her have friends until she gets her AARP card. There's a long answer, of course, but I'll sum it up this way: Homo sapiens have walked the Earth for at least 130,000 years and, in this time, they learned to be human from their elders, not from their peers. Mandatory education in the U.S. is less than 150 years old. Learning to be a productive adult human by spending a third of every day with other kids might be a good idea, but it's too soon to tell. I'm still unsure that the people best equipped to teach a 14-year-old boy how to be a man are other 14-year-old boys.

Many people seem to assume that since we send our kids off to school today (at earlier and earlier ages), that’s how it’s always been. But in fact, this has been a relatively recent development. In the United States, it wasn’t widespread until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when American educational and political leaders decided that Prussia (renowned for the free thinking ways of its people) was the wave of the future and that we should emulate their systems. Up until that point, children learning from their parents at home (at least at early ages) was the norm. So from a historical viewpoint, the idea that children would be educated and have their values developed by their parents instead of teachers and peers is not on the extreme (as it sometimes is portrayed today), but rather very much in the mainstream.

When we first decided to homeschool our eldest son last year, the socialization concern was also the one that we heard voiced most often and one that we were probably least prepared to refute. Now, after a year of homeschooling under our belt ourselves (I say that collectively with full acknowledgment that all the hard work here has been performed by my lovely wife), it’s rather easy to argue that socialization may be one of the strongest arguments for homeschooling.

Implicit in the concerns expressed about socialization for homeschooled kids is an assumption that socialization is an obvious good. While no one can deny the benefits of learning how to get along with others and make friends, there are a lot of aspects of socialization (in the context of attending school with other children your age) that are not so grand such as peer pressure, group think, and bullying to name a few.

Dennis Prager likes to say that parents should not be raising kids, we should be raising adults. And as the author of the piece notes, do we really think the best way to teach kids how to be adults is to have them spend significant amounts of their day with other kids? Parents like to think that they have a lot of influence in how their kids will turn out. The truth of the matter is that nature has more influence as do the peers who their children spend their time with. The die has already been cast when it comes to the genetic side of things, but by homeschooling you can at least have some control over the influence of the peer angle.

Homeschooled kids learn to be comfortable speaking and working with adults and, if they have siblings, with children of other age groups. My wife recently attended a conference where she heard a speaker describe this as the “one-room schoolhouse” benefit of homeschooling. When I mentioned that to my father-who attended such a school in Wisconsin-he immediately understood the concept. While children in the room would be learning different lessons at different levels at different times, they were all in the room together. So as a younger child, you couldn’t help but pick up bits and pieces of what the older kids were being taught. And if you were ahead of where the rest of your age group was in a particular subject, it was relatively easy for you to learn that subject with a group at a higher level. And you also were taught (to some extent at least) how to get along with and work with kids of various ages instead of being in a silo with children the same age as you.

We’ve only been homeschooling for a year and we’re certainly no experts in the matter. And the way our children have turned out so far likely has far more to do with their natures than anything we have done. But if you met any of our boys, I doubt their being properly socialized would be among your concerns. Our oldest son has no problem carrying on conversations with older kids and adults and actually seems to revel being on a public stage (which he’s had the opportunity to do a couple of times). My wife and I aren’t sure exactly where that came from us as both of us are more introverted personality types. And the other day at a park, I observed an interaction with our middle son that made me a proud papa. He crossing from one place to another on a piece of playground equipment when an older girl (whom he did not know) told him that wasn’t “the way” he was supposed to do it. Without missing a beat, he confidently explained to her “Well, that’s my way.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

An Original Six

NPR put together a list of Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate):

One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?

Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.

Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that's good. Don't tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.

Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you're taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.

Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It's a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn't disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it's taxing something that's bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.

A lot here to praise and pan for those of various political persuasions. While I’d have to grit my teeth to swallow a couple of them, if given an all or nothing choice I’d go along with the entire package. The benefits gained by simplifying the tax process and encouraging behavior that would help rather than hinder the economy would seem to outweigh the costs that would come with some of the proposals.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Horse Play

It's nice to see the folks at MoveOn.org are now focused on serious subjects that reflect the concerns of the American people as we move toward the 2012 elections. Subjects like Ann Romney's horse. From an e-mail received today:

The Olympics are on now and the Romneys' dancing horse, Rafalca, is there to compete. The horse lives quite a cushy life on a 5,000-acre estate, with a chartered jet, and better healthcare than the average American family—including chiropractors and massages.

The irony jumps out at you: Romney pampers that precious horse, but he can't wait to repeal affordable healthcare for 30 million Americans.

I also understand that Ann Romney likes to use the bodies of the homeless to fertilize the fields where the special hay to feed Rafalca is grown.

So our creative team made a hilarious TV ad about Rafalca—the kind that gets huge amounts of additional media coverage because reporters keep talking about it. If we raise $250,000, we can try to run that ad during the Olympics, just when Rafalca is competing! And we have to make our move now if we want to get these key ad spots.

We've got to go big now, because Romney is actually ahead in the latest Gallup and CBS News polls. Most people haven't been paying much attention to the campaign. They will pay attention to the Olympics, though, so this is a perfect opportunity to define Romney as the candidate of the wealthiest 1%. Can you help us run this awesome ad during key moments of the Olympics, before we miss our chance?

Once the American people do start paying attention and learn about important matters like Ann Romney's horse, they're sure to come to their senses. If only MoveOn.org can air some of these awesome ads.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Parties Weren't Meant to Last

As 2012 Olympics begin, Nick Hornby reflects the on the differences between 2012 and 1948 in the host country and the national malaise felt by many in the UK in a piece called My Utter Lack of Olympic Spirit:

We're a healthier and more prosperous nation than we were in 1948, and we are likely to come in fourth in the 2012 medals table, with only the U.S., China and Russia ahead of us. In 1948 we came in 12th, behind Finland and Switzerland and the Netherlands, despite hosting the Games, and despite the absence of several countries who hadn't been invited. (The official reason for the absence of Germany and Japan was that nobody could find a mailing address for them.) And these medals will be celebrated with enthusiasm and pride by a nation desperate for any kind of light in a bleak year. It's what happens afterward that worries us.

From this distance, at least, it's possible to imagine that the 1948 Games felt like the beginning of something—a new country, a new Europe, a new era of peace and prosperity. We may not have won much, but we didn't care. In 2012, the medals matter. We don't want this party to end.

Every party must come to end at some point. And the hangover from this one will likley be a doozy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Alone

Just because we don't want to take full advantage of the plentiful energy resources available from our friendly neighbors to the north doesn't mean that energy won't be used.

China's Canadian Energy Play:

Mr. Obama's rejection of the $7 billion Keystone XL has no doubt concentrated Chinese and Canadian minds. The pipeline would have moved oil from Canada and North Dakota to refineries on the Gulf Coast, and Mr. Obama's bow to American greens was a direct snub to Canada, which provides nearly 30% of U.S. imports. Prime Minister Stephen Harper promptly said that Canada needs to diversify its energy markets, perhaps by building a pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast to export to Asia.

Energy-hungry China couldn't be happier. Chinese bids for North American companies haven't always been welcomed—see the rejection last year of a Chinese consortium's $38.6 billion hostile bid for Canada's Potash Corp. But Cnooc executives might figure that Canadian regulators will be more welcoming to this nonhostile bid in the wake of the Keystone fiasco. Canada needs capital to exploit the oil sands and the markets to buy what is produced. Cnooc can help with both.

The lesson for America, and especially Democrats, is that Canada's oil sands will be developed, whether their green financiers like it or not. If the U.S. doesn't want the oil, China and the rest of Asia will gladly take it. The world wants to grow—must grow to reduce poverty—and it needs abundant, cheap energy to do it. Why is that so hard for some Americans to understand?

Good thing we rejected Keystone and all the energy and jobs that would have come with it. Much better for us to let the Canadians contruct their own pipeline to the Pacific, create their own jobs, and then sell that oil to China, right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLIII)

Another edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the patient folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who never feel the need to rush and understand that haste makes waste when you’re trying to find the appropriate wine, whiskey, and beer.

Back to school merchandise started showing on store shelves the week of the Fourth of July.

People are already making plans for the Minnesota State Fair.

And Summit Brewing’s Oktoberfest is now available at local liquor stores.

Oktoberfest? It’s the third week of July for gosh sakes. Technically, summer officially began just over a month ago. Why are we all in such a rush to close it out already? Have a mo’ there guvernor. Let’s enjoy the summer season whilst we can. Fall will be here soon enough on its own without any help from us giving summer the bum’s rush.

Among the news of note on the local brewing scene was Summit’s decision to retire its Hefeweizen in favor of a new summer seasonal. I like Summit and I like Hefeweizens, but Summit’s offering was not an example of the style that I enjoyed. So their decision to go in a new direction with a summer beer was one I welcomed, especially since they were going with a Kolsch style.

Their new summer offering is called Summer Ale:

This highly drinkable session beer is made for sunny days and long nights. With a crisp, clean bitterness appealing to casual and serious beer drinkers alike. The refreshing fruity and floral hop aroma is a pleasant reminder to savor the season while you can.

12oz short brown bottle. Label is a bit of a departure for Summit with a gorgeous green scene of Minnehaha Falls providing a strong local summer vibe.

STYLE: Kolsch


COLOR (0-2): Light gold and just a little cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Grainy and grassy. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Good volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Bready malts blend with an understated dose of floral hops. Some wheat and hint of spiciness as well. Clean and crisp finish. Has a lighter body and is very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Subtle but lingers nicely. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Summit’s Summer Ale hits all the right notes for the season. It’s refreshing, drinkable, and tasty. It met my expectations for a Kolsch with a clean taste and a pleasant bitterness that followed through. For a bit of experimental fun, try mixing it with Summit Winter Ale for an interesting seasonal combo. If you do it right (with a spoon), you should see the two beers clearly delineated in your glass. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Monday, July 23, 2012

He Dropped Two Big Ones on Them

The latest installment of Prager University revisits one of the most debated questions in history:

In August 1945 America dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII. Six decades later that decision is still controversial. But should it be? Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, answers the question in the one of the most powerful five minutes you'll ever see.

UPDATE- The Nihilist e-mails with some background on the instructor:

The Praeger U post that you just put up featured my friend, Fr. Bill Miscamble. He lived down the hall from me at ND, and is one of the greatest men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Rumor has it that he was a finalist for the presidency of the university back in 2005, but unfortunately they chose Fr. Jenkins. His academic expertise is the beginning of the cold war, so he's written a lot about Truman and Churchill.

I caught up with him about a year and a half ago at a friend's wedding. As an example of the kind of guy he is, he offered to give me a ride to the reception so that I could fully enjoy the evening without having to worry about the drive home.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Worst Resume in the World

Whenever you see the phrases “best in the world” or “worst in the world”, they are almost certainly hyperbole.  But not always.

For example, it would be defensible to say that the best resume in the world would look something like:
Albert Einstein
Dude, just Google “Albert Einstein 1905”

At the other extreme, the worst resume in the world just may belong to James A. Johnson.

Mr. Johnson came to my attention via the C-SPAN program Q&A (which I download and listen to as a podcast).  Brian Lamb was interviewing New York Times journalist Gretchen Morgenson about her book, “Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Created the Worst Financial Crisis of Our Time.” 

Morgenson laid a large share of the blame for the 2008 financial crisis at the feet of James A. Johnson, who was the Chairman of Fannie Mae from 1991-1998.  According to Morgenson, Mr. Johnson put in place many of the policies that led to the eventual collapse of the mortgage lending giant (it was eventually bailed out and taken over by the federal government).

As impressive as it is to be the man most responsible for nearly destroying the world economy, that, in and of itself, would not be enough to give Mr. Johnson the worst resume in the world.  But there is also this: Mr. Johnson was campaign manager for Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign.

But wait, there’s even more!  In 2004 he was tapped by John Kerry to chair his vice presidential selection committee – where he identified John Edwards as the Democrat best suited to beimg one heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world.

Based on that success, he was asked to lead Barack Obama's vice presidential selection committee, but controversy over his tenure at Fannie Mae forced him to step down.  The mind reels when one speculates on who would now be Vice President had Mr. Johnson managed to stay on as head of the selection committee.

Just one of those “accomplishments” would be enough to sink any resume.  With three of them, one would expect that Mr. Johnson would be living on public assistance somewhere, quickly changing the subject whenever someone asked him what he did for a living.

But no, Mr. Johnson remains gainfully employed and is on the board of directors for Goldman Sachs and Target Corp.

One can only conclude that while Mr. Johnson has the world’s WORST resume, he has the world’s BEST resume writer.  I imagine it must be spinned something like this:

James A. Johnson

I am seeking a seat on a corporate board of directors or as head of a vice presidential selection committee.

University of Minnesota, B.A. of Political Science, 1966
Princeton University, Master of Public Affairs, 1968

Delivering the electoral votes of the District of Columbia to the Democrats
Delivering the electoral votes of Minnesota to the Democrats
Jedi-like ability to get the weak-minded to do what I want

Campaign Manager for Walter Mondale’s Presidential Campaign, 1984
·         Improved upon the 12 electoral votes Democrat Stephen A. Douglas won in the 1860 election
·         Would have carried Puerto Rico if it had been a state
·         Managed to convince 37,577,352 Americans that Walter Mondale would make a better President than Ronald Reagan

Chairman, Freddie Mac, 1991-1998
·         Made a lot of money (for myself)
·         Expanded home ownership to millions of Americans who couldn’t afford it
·         Shrewd enough to get out long before the house of cards collapsed
·         Had nothing to do with anything that happened in Greece

Chair, John Kerry’s Vice Presidential Selection Committee, 2004
·         Identified a successful politician from North Carolina
·         Hey, a lot of other people were fooled too
·         Candidate selected was never actually convicted of anything

Chair Barack Obama’s Vice Presidential Selection Committee, 2008
·         Resigned before Joe Biden was selected

Friday, July 20, 2012

What GOES On In Canada...

Being the sort who travels by air on a semi-regular basis, I’m always looking for ways to make such experiences as expeditious and painless as possible. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few secrets of travel success and plan to share then soon in upcoming posts.

One opportunity for making travel a mite easier is the US Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program. It’s one of their Trusted Traveler programs and allows you to enter the country by using a kiosk instead of standing in the immigration line with the rest of the hoi polloi. When you’re coming home after a long international trip, it’s nice to be able to get out the door that much sooner. And when you have a connecting flight, the time saved in immigration and customs can be the difference making or missing your next flight. So there are tangible benefits to be realized from it.

In order to be part of that you need to apply through GOES (Global Online Entry System) and pay a non-refundable application fee of one hundred clams. While I was interested in Global Entry from the time I first heard of it, the fee kept me from really following up on it.

Then, the company that employs me said they’d pick up the tab for regular international travelers who wanted to apply for Global Entry. Let’s see here: no cost to me with an obvious travel benefit. Sounds like a win-win. We were warned not to apply if we had a felony on our records or a DWI, DUI, BWI or any other kind of operating something mechanical while intoxicated or under the influence conviction in our history. Thankfully, my slate is clean in both areas and so I proceeded with my application.

After getting preliminary approval on-line, I was instructed to arrange a face-to-face interview at which I time I would receive the final approval and join the Global Entry program. That interview was conducted on Wednesday at the MSP airport’s Humphrey Terminal. I arrived a bit early and after a short wait was escorted back into a surprisingly large and rather Spartan (in a good way) warren of desks and work stations.

I was interviewed by an female officer still in training, so a more senior colleague sat nearby to help out if needed. The interview started off fine and was going along swimmingly as she asked me questions and then entered my responses in the system. Until she came to one question in particular.

“Have you ever been arrested?,” she asked in a matter of fact manner.

Thoughts began careening around my brain. Hmmm...That’s a good question. Have I ever been arrested? Have I ever been arrested? Have I ever been arrested? So many different ways that one might approach the question and so many different answers that one might choose to answer. Let’s see, we are talking about a United States Custom and Border Protection program here, aren’t we? And since I haven’t ever been arrested in the United States…

“No,” I answered firmly.

Tap, tap, tap. Her fingers moved across the keyboard as she updated the form. Suddenly, a worrisome frown appeared on her face. She motioned for her colleague to come over and view what she was seeing at on the screen. He looked at the screen, then at me, and then back at the screen again. A spark of anxiety was ignited within and rapidly spread from my toes to the hairs on my head.

“Sir, are you SURE you’ve never been arrested?,” she inquired.

“Oh, yeah there was that time in Canada...,” I responded weakly.

“In 1987?,” her colleague probed further.

Yes, in 1987. In Canada, Winnipeg to be precise. I went on to relate to the officers a much abbreviated version of what actually has become a rather entertaining yarn of how some college friends and I ended up on the wrong side of the law in the Great White North. Perhaps this fall, when the 25th anniversary of the event rolls around, I will relate the entire story in all its lurid detail here. For now, I’ll just summarize by saying it involved drinking, a Ronald McDonald statue, Winnipeg’s finest, a night in solitary confinement, appearing before a bailiff, significant monetary reparations, and one of the worst hangovers you can ever imagine.

At this point, I believe the rather unique nature of the crime actually worked in my favor. The most hardened law and order type can’t help chuckle at the sheer ridiculousness of the transgression as both officers did on Wednesday upon hearing what it involved. After checking what we were originally charged with under Canadian law (which have been the equivalent of a felony in the US) and what we eventually plead to (something called “mischief” which he determined was the same as a misdemeanor), he decided that I could still qualify for Global Entry.

Whew. That was a close one. He then advised me that if I did blemish my record with another misdemeanor offense in the future, I would be booted out of the program forthright. Fair enough, I think I can live with that.

The female officer then reminded me, “This is called the Trusted Traveler program, so it would be best if you told us the truth.”

What could I do then by hang my head and nod in shame? It felt like being back in the principal’s office again and instead of forty-four, I felt like I was fourteen.

The rest of the interview went off without a hitch. I was fingerprinted, photographed, and am now officially part of Global Entry.

At first, the idea that they could so easily access the details of this incident which took place nearly twenty-five years ago was a little unsettling. I had assumed that such a relatively trivial offense would have been scrubbed from the records by now, especially since it happened in Canada and the methods for tracking such incidents was still pretty rudimentary back then. I guess the cops in the Winnipeg PD at the time did find time for their paperwork after all.

Upon reflection however, I realized that these folks having such visibility was probably a good thing. If they know what I did in Winnipeg twenty-five years ago, they certainly should know about far more serious offences committed by far more sinister people than me. At least I would hope they do.

Politics at Play

Rich the Pitch e-mails:

Hi Elder,

I've followed your exploits on the Hugh Hewitt show for years.

Hope you will check out "Obamacare Leave Barack Obama Alone"

My parody of the Youtube classic Leave Britney Alone.

Keep up the great work.

With kind words like that, how can I not give his parody a plug? Warning: not safe for small children or those with an aversion to high pitches.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just Because You Didn't Build Anything...

Tim from Colorado e-mails to note that President Obama's views on business success being a collective enterprise were no doubt formed in large part by his own experiences:

We shouldn't be surprised by President Obama's statement that successful business people aren't successful by themselves, because that is his reality. Coming out of the Chicago Political Machine, that is exactly how Obama got where he is; he has had people do things for him and help elevate him at every step of his career. For most of his life any success he achieved has been with the help of others; there's even speculation that he didn't write his biography.

The problem I have with his statement is exactly the point Mr. Murray makes: Obama has no clue what it takes for individual success because he has never personally risked anything to achieve his success. He has never put his home up for collateral on a small business loan, never worked 16-hour days for months straight to get a business off the ground, and never had to worry if he could make his payroll the next month.

To say that people are successful because infrastructure provided by government was available, and the inference being that taxpayers should be more than happy to pay for even more unnecessary infrastructure is absurdly ridiculous.

If that were true everybody who drives on an interstate or rides on Amtrak would operate a successful business; it takes more than a driver's license or subway pass.

Therein lies the gaping hole in President Obama's argument. Millions of Americans could theoretically take advantage of the infrastructure so generously provided by our munificent government to create businesses that provide jobs and drive the economic engine of the country yet few actually have the courage, insight, fortitude, and stamina to do so. To try to take credit away from those that do by chastening them with a line like “you didn’t build that” is a disservice to those fighting hard to succeed today and a disgrace to the ideals of American opportunism that once were commonly shared across the land.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chasing the Wrong Ring

There was a lengthy article in today's WSJ about new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and the challenges she will face in her new roles as CEO and mother (she's due in October):

Pregnant women are a comparative rarity among senior executives. Several veteran recruiters can't recall more than a single instance involving a pregnant candidate for a C-suite position. Dora Vell, managing partner of Vell & Associates, a high-tech search firm in Waltham, Mass., believes some pregnant executives "self select out" while expecting, waiting until their children are a bit older before pursuing top management posts.

Ms. Mayer has said she recently worked 90-hour weeks at Google, typically attending 60 meetings weekly. But some wonder whether she can sustain the pace.

The focus of the article was on how Mayer’s opportunity at Yahoo could break new ground for female executives and the difficulties that women encounter when they try to “have it all.” Conspicuously absent was any mention of how having a CEO mother might impact the child. I can’t imagine it’s good for kids to have a father who’s a CEO with all the time committments that comes with the position. It’s got to be even worse when it’s your mother who’s essentially given up her personal life for a corporate leadership position. I guess that’s a question that no one wants to ask or answer.

Going Dutch

Charles Murray on President Obama's creepy and decidedly Un-American ideas:

“You didn’t build that” is another example of the president’s tone-deafness when it comes to the music of the American culture. The phrase is not taken out of context. It didn’t come after a celebration of the inventiveness and risk taking of individual Americans that has made this country great. The president gave the mildest of acknowledgements to the role of the individual, followed by a paragraph of examples that cast American history as a series of collective accomplishments.

There’s a standard way for Americans to celebrate accomplishment. First, we call an individual onto the stage and say what great things that person has done. Then that person gives a thank-you speech that begins “I couldn’t have done this without…” and a list of people who helped along the way. That’s the way we’ve always done it. Everyone knows we all get help in life (and sometimes just get lucky). But we have always started with the individual and then worked out. It is not part of the American mindset to begin with the collective and admonish individuals for thinking too highly of their contribution.

That brings me back to the creepiness of it all. It is as if a Dutch politician—an intelligent, well-meaning Dutch politician—were somehow running for the American presidency, but bringing with him the Rawlsian, social-democratic ethos that, in the Netherlands, is the natural way to talk about a properly run society. We would listen to him and say to ourselves, “He doesn’t get this country.” That’s the thing about Obama. Time and again, he does things and says things that are un-American. Not evil. Not anti-American. Just un-American.

Come January, when President Obama is hopefully looking for a new line of work, he might find himself more at home among those with whom he shares these sentiments. With his law background and fond affection that much of the “international community” still has for him, the International Criminal Court would seem a good place for the next stage of his career. And it’s conveniently located in The Hague, Netherlands.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let Them Burn Wood

One thing that President Obama has been very clear about (let me be clear…) is his commitment to supporting renewable energy resources. Utilizing cutting edge technology to come up with innovative new ways to get the most out of renewable energy is not only good for the environment, it also helps reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy sources (like those evil fossil fuels). And expanding our renewable energy industries creates those haloed “green jobs,” which next to being a community organizer is about the highest calling one can aspire to in the Age of Obama. Renewable energy is clean, green, and even cool. It’s no wonder that the Obama Administration has been so forthright in supporting its on-going development with government funding.

U.S. to Seek Claw Back of Grant to Closed Montana Power Plant (WSJ-sub req):

The Treasury paid Thompson River $6.5 million in 2010 from a piece of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act known as Section 1603 that reimbursed developers of renewable energy with cash payments equivalent to 30% of their projects' costs. The program has given out more than $11 billion, the Treasury Department says.

A federal study in April estimated that the program created between 150,000 and 220,000 jobs between 2009 and 2011. Some of those jobs have disappeared, though it isn't known how many. In the case of Thomson River, they never were created.

The grant to Thompson River, majority-owned by a Minnesota private-equity firm, was to convert a coal-fired plant to burn wood, which is considered a "renewable" power source. But since receiving the money, the plant never operated either as a coal- or wood-burning plant, according to Montana regulators, and has produced neither power nor new jobs. It is now mothballed. It is not known how many new jobs the firm promised to create, or how many currently are employed at the plant.

Wood? I suppose it is a renewable energy source since we can always plant more trees. But probably not what the starry-eyed youth had in mind when they heard President Obama promise a glorious future of renewable energy and green jobs.

Six and half million taxpayer dollars up in smoke. No energy produced. No jobs created. Not cool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It Really Was a Round Table

Haven't had enough of the recorded voice of Brian "St. Paul" Ward?  Get ready for more. 

Or, if you have had enough, as Carlito Brigante might say, "here comes the pain!"

I joined the great Davis and Emmer for the Saturday Roundtable on Twin Cities News Talk this past Saturday. We were also joined by blogger Daniel Thomas (unfortunately, this is NOT the Danny Thomas who sired That Girl).

Here's the link to the podcast.  It runs about 1 hour. 


A rollicking conversation covering the penumbras and emanations of the Constitution, the booing of polititians, TPAW as VP, and much, much more.  Enjoy!

HWX, with John Nolte

The latest Hinderaker Ward Experience (HWX) podcast is ready for your listening pleasure. Today’s podcast includes scintillating commentary on the weather in Minnesota, Obama’s Bain Capital smears, and speculation on the VP sweepstakes.

We’re also joined by the great John Nolte of Breitbart.com. He’s the editor-at-large, covering all things media, entertainment, and politics related at the Breitbart empire. We discuss how things have evolved at Breitbart.com since the tragic loss of Andrew. Then we talk about some of the recent initiatives and stories they’ve been covering, including the continuing vetting of Barack Obama, the battle to keep Politico and Buzzfeed honest, and the media’s ignoring of Obama’s continued use of lies and exaggeration regarding Romney’s record at Bain Capital. And no conversation with John Nolte would be complete without talking about the movies and some of the releases this summer that bare watching. In particular, John’s been hearing some great things about Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” to be released next week. It’s always fun to talk to John and you can see his work at Breitbart.com and follow him on Twitter at @JohnNC

Later, a long overdue Loon of the Week is presented to the longest serving Congressman in history, 86 –year-old John Dingell. Finally, This Week in Gatekeeping, with another disturbing mishap from the media, this time out of Durango Colorado.

This show is brought to you by the fine folks at Audible.com, the internet’s LEADING provider of audiobooks with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction and periodicals. For a free audiobook of your choice, go to www.audiblepodcast.com/powerline

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. Enjoy!

Beer of the Week (Vol CLII)

Another special better late than never edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the stately folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you take charge of the wide world of wine, whiskey, and beer.

When it comes to the presidency, the modifier “imperial” has a decidedly negative connotation. Starting with Nixon and running right up to the label recently heard being more and more associated with the Obama Administration, the concept of the Imperial Presidency is not generally regarded as a good thing.

However, when it comes to beer, most serious aficionados have a favorable view of Imperial beer styles:

Imperial is a term sometimes used to describe a beer that is brewed to a significantly higher original gravity, and therefore a significantly higher alcohol content, than other beers in the same style. These beers are also sometimes called Double or Triple versions of the style as well.

It’s quite common to see imperial stouts, porters, or IPAs or double (and even triple) bocks. I’ve also tasted a couple of imperial red ales, but had never come across an imperial pilsner. Until this week that is. The Beer of the Week is Odell Brewing’s Double Pilsner:

We feel the eyes of tradition upon us whenever we brew our Double Pilsner. But this beer is not just our tribute to the classic Bohemian pilsner – it’s our own craft interpretation of it. Refreshing and delicate yet bold and assertive, its clear golden color leaves nowhere for imperfections to hide but plenty of room for mystery.

A four-pack of 12ox brown bottles retails for $10.99. Usual natural look and feel of an Odell’s label featuring a large-eyed owl.

STYLE: Imperial Pilsner


COLOR (0-2): Brownish-gold and slightly clouded. 2

AROMA (0-2): Grassy with a note of fruity hops. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color. Not a lot of volume. Good retention. 2

TASTE (0-5): Grainy and bready malts with more moderate hops that provide flavors of lemon and pepper. Noticeable heat at the finish. Medium-bodied with a thinner mouthfeel. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Lingering alcohol taste. 1

OVERALL (0-6): This is definitely not your usual pilsner. It has more pronounced malt flavors and more hop kick than one would expect. The biggest difference is the alcohol that comes with the double designation. Pilsners are typically lighter, more refreshing beers suited for session drinking. While Odell’s Double Pilsner has some good things going for it, I prefer the more traditional style and would rather double down with porters, stouts, and IPAs. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Sometimes you just have to tip your hat and admit that your adversaries came up with a good one

Over the years, politicians have thought up just about every conceivable scheme for scraping the last few votes from the bottom of the barrel. So much so, that it seems impossible that anyone could come up with a truly unique way of (legally) cheating in an election.

But here in Minnesota we have a rare electoral genius in Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. I am sure that other Secretaries of State have tried using their office to help advance their own political ideology, but I’m willing to bet that none of them have taken the campaign to the actual ballot.

Minnesota law allows the Secretary of State to choose the title that appears on the ballot for proposed constitutional amendments. Past Secretaries of State have gone with the title passed by the legislature, whether they agree with the amendment or not. But not our Secretary of Innovation. He changed the title of the two proposed amendments as follows:





(Secretary of State Ritchie has come out against photo ID because Minnesota politics is so squeaky clean, already.)

A lot of Minnesota Republicans are whining about Ritchie’s move, but I think we need to admit that he got us. In fact, I think that he should abandon all subtlety and take the next step in ballot campaigning:

Here's the full version of the ballot:


Friday, July 13, 2012

Ordinary Average Guys

You can't conduct a small-group discussion with ordinary Americans today without coming back shaken. They are in trouble, and they know they are in trouble. They are holding on or slipping, dealing with unemployment in the family, the overhang of debt and loss of any cushion in life. New jobs pay decidedly less and what their health insurance policies cover is a joke. People are scared about the rising cost of college education. Many of the retired are now looking for part-time work. With salaries virtually frozen and prices rising, a trip to the grocery store produces near-desperation.

So began a piece that graced the opinion pages of today’s WSJ.

I don’t know what the exact definition of an “ordinary American” is, but I would tend to consider myself and my friends, coworkers, neighbors, and other acquaintances to broadly fit that description. And while I know people who have lost jobs during the recession and people who are worried about their health insurance (although I think that’s more about what might coming with Obamacare) and how they’re going to be able to afford to send their kids to college, I don’t recognize the same level of fear and desperation (at the grocery store) among ordinary Americans that the authors of this piece apparently do.

Yes, the economy is bad. Yes, we‘d all like to see it improve. Yes, there are economic stresses and strains that we have to deal with which creates a certain amount of anxiety. But again, I don’t see it any of this at the same level as is described in this piece. Perhaps I’m living in a elitist bubble whose existence I don’t recognize (quick ask me what the price of a gallon of milk is). Are my daily experiences really that far removed from other “ordinary Americans”?

By the way in case you’re curious, this piece was not penned by a couple of conservatives trying to exaggerate how bad things are or “talk down the economy” in order to hurt President Obama’s reelection prospects. The authors are James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, a couple of blasts from the past of the good old days of the Clinton Administration. So unless they are part of some deeper conspiracy (Hillary in 2016?), their aim is not to attack the President and his policies in order to damage him in November.

In fact, their proposed solution to cure the economic woes of “ordinary Americans” is to double down on President Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy. They call for more government spending (“well in excess of the 2009 Recovery Act contemplated”) and higher taxes on “top earners, senior corporate executives and companies that outsource jobs.” Don’t worry about what the exact definitions of each of those tax targets will be. I’m sure in the minds of Carville and Greenberg that will be “fair.”

So is that really what “ordinary Americans” want? I guess we’ll find out in November.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Homers Here

When I first heard the rumblings about Tim Pawlenty being a possible vice presidential choice for Mitt Romney, I wrote them off as idle speculation. However, in the last month or so, these rumblings have grown louder and louder and it appears that more and more people are viewing Pawlenty as a legitimate contender for the VP slot. In fact, a certain silver haired radio shock jock with a striking resemblance to a beloved Christmas movie character even has elevated Pawlenty as one of the top two picks for Romney to consider. And a story at Buzzfeed today noted that a new report on Minnesota’s better than average economic performance from 2007-2011 likely improved the odds that Pawlenty gets the nod.

Now, I like Tim Pawlenty and actually once viewed him as a viable alternative to Romney before his primary campaign imploded and he met his Waterloo in Waterloo. But he would be a terrible choice for Romney’s running mate. Here are the top there reasons why:

1. Again, I like Pawlenty and when I’ve met him personally a few times have found him to be engaged, witty, and gregarious. For some reason those two latter qualities just don’t seem to come through when he’s been on the national stage. Instead, he’s often appeared wooden, stiff, and yes BORING. And the last thing Mitt Romney needs right now is another boring guy to share the ticket with. Maybe such things shouldn’t matter when it comes to picking our national leaders, but they do. (You could say that Paul Ryan-my preference for VP-isn’t exactly lightning in a bottle either, but I would disagree. Ryan, while perhaps a bit wonky at times, is smart and articulate and has become quite good at distilling a complex message down into something that ordinary Americans can understand and appreciate. Nothing boring about that.)

2. Despite what some national pundits have said, adding Pawlenty to the ticket will not help Romney a lick in the electoral college. Romeny could add Zach Parise as his VP and he still wouldn’t win Minnesota. And the idea that somehow Pawlenty will sway voter to Romney in Iowa or Wisconsin is silly. If Tim Pawlenty is so popular in Iowa, why did he perform so poorly there during the primary campaign? I think Romney could win both Iowa and Wisconsin, but it won’t be because Pawlenty is his running mate.

3. There are still a lot of conservatives out there who have doubts about Mitt Romney (myself included). Sure we’ll vote for him because the alternative of four more years of President Obama is a distressing one to consider. But we’re not going to be as energized and excited as we might be if Romney were joined by someone with real conservative cred. And that my friends ain’t Tim Pawlenty. Again, I like Pawlenty and appreciate what he did here as Governor of Minnesota (mostly). But Pawlenty’s terms of office occurred almost entirely during the pre-Tea Party era. The reforms that he enacted were modest. The budget and tax battles that he fought were important for Minnesotans, but lacked the fervor, intensity, and national impact of others of more recent days. His accomplishments and reputation don’t compare well to other Republican governors like Scott Walker, Chris Chritie, or Bobby Jindahl. He hasn’t put forward bold, sweeping plans for reforms like Paul Ryan has done. This might sound a might harsh, but in some ways Tim Pawlenty is yesterday’s news. And no one is going to get excited about that.

The bottom line is that there are good reasons for Mitt Romney to look elsewhere for his vice presidential running mate, especially with many other better candidates out there.

THE NIHILIST CONCURS, BUT: Pawlenty is a nice guy and probably a good pick for a post like Secretary of Commerce or Agriculture, but just isn't the best guy to be on the ticket.  However, in light of the Drudge Report story that Condoleeza Rice is Romney's preferred choice, Pawlenty looks much better.  I can't think of a dumber move for Romney than tying himself to the Bush administration, especially someone closely associated with the two wars that led to its unpopularity.  Such a VP pick would, in my opinion sway the odds strongly in favor of President Obama.

THE ELDER AMENS: Quite true. As bad a pick as Pawlenty might be, he would be far better than Condi. I only had three reasons why T-paw shouldn't be Romney's choice for veep. Ramesh Ponnuru has eleven reasons why picking Ms. Rice would be a mistake in The Case Against Condi.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We'll Make More

One of the problems for those of the Malthusian bent who are regularly predicting that overpopulation will eventually overwhelm the planet’s ability to supply the necessary food, energy, and other resources to sustain life is that their models are almost always based on what type of resources are available at that particular point in time and how those resources are utilized. They fail to foresee things like the Green Revolution in agriculture or the recent shale oil energy boom which fundamentally alter the supply situation of critical resources. I’m not blaming them for this lack of foresight. It would be nice though if they would acknowledge how much we all don’t know about what might happen in the future and how any prediction of inevitable doom as a result of resource scarcity rests on shaky ground.

Toda, we hear global warming doomsayers predict future famine because of the impact that climate change will have on crops. The reality is that warming (whether caused by humans or part of a natural cycle) may actually be better for agriculture. In any event, to assume that humans would merely stand pat in the wake of changes in climate is to ignore history. Matt Ridley explained in Saturday’s WSJ how we are already working on Getting Crops Ready for a Warmer Tomorrow:

Last year, Qing Zeng of the Institute of Soil Science in Nanjing and his colleagues published the first test of this prediction on a real farm. By emitting carbon dioxide over plots of rice, they enriched the air to almost twice the ambient level of CO2. They then measured the growth rate of both rice and its worst weed, barnyard grass (a C4 plant), in the experimental plots, compared with control plots nearby.

The ear weight of the rice was enhanced by 37.6% while the growth of the barnyard grass was actually reduced by 47.9%, because the vigorous rice shaded out the weeds. So the good news is that rising carbon-dioxide levels are, on balance, slightly helping crops (mostly C3) compete against weeds (mostly C4) rather than vice versa.

Still, that enormous yield advantage of C4 plants in hot weather suggests an obvious next goal for plant breeders.

Given that most rice grows in hot countries, fiddling with its genes to make it into a C4 plant could boost its yield by 50% and cut its nitrogen needs, transforming world food supply. This is the goal of the C4 Rice Project at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. It takes heart from the fact that C4 "technology" has emerged naturally in many different lines of plants, so why not put it in rice, too?

I’m obviously no expert on agriculture, but increasing rice yields by 50% certainly sounds like a potential game changer to me. One that would put off the purported day of reckoning when our planet will supposedly no longer produce enough food for its people. And after that, who knows what the next resource breakthrough might be? Which of course is really the whole point of not falling for the Malthusian hype.

If Only We Were Like China...

...we could build steel mills we don't need in order to try to stimulate economic growth:

Among projects newly approved, the government has dusted off steel-industry investment plans that had languished. State-owned Baosteel Group Corp. has won the go-ahead to build an $11 billion plant it first broached more than 15 years ago.

The plant won a preliminary approval in 2008 that was later suspended out of concern it would deepen the steel glut. In late May, however, Mr. Wen spoke publicly of the importance of policies "to maintain stable and relatively fast growth."

The next day, Beijing approved 100 projects, according to Spanish bank BBVA.

A photo of the elated mayor of the city where the new steel plant will be built, Zhanjiang, kissing the approval letter circulated on the Internet.

It wasn't that concerns about steel oversupply had faded. China's large and midsize steel plants lost money overall in the first quarter, according to Citigroup Inc. But political imperatives shifted as the government searched for projects that could boost growth. "The market situation may be the same as before, but the political motives have changed," said Lin Jiang, a finance professor at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China.

Oh well, I guess we'll just have to settle for building trains that we don't need, another situation where the political motivations far outweigh those of the market.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Look For the Union Label

The folks who wail incessantly about the dangers of “money in politics” aren’t going to be happy about a WSJ story on how Political Spending by Unions Far Exceeds Direct Donations (sub req):

The usual measure of unions' clout encompasses chiefly what they spend supporting federal candidates through their political-action committees, which are funded with voluntary contributions, and lobbying Washington, which is a cost borne by the unions' own coffers. These kinds of spending, which unions report to the Federal Election Commission and to Congress, totaled $1.1 billion from 2005 through 2011, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The unions' reports to the Labor Department capture an additional $3.3 billion that unions spent over the same period on political activity.

The costs reported to the Labor Department range from polling fees, to money spent persuading union members to vote a certain way, to bratwursts to feed Wisconsin workers protesting at the state capitol last year. Much of this kind of spending comes not from members' contributions to a PAC but directly from unions' dues-funded coffers. There is no requirement that unions report all of this kind of spending to the Federal Election Commission, or FEC.

In summary, it was previously thought that unions spent $1.1 billion on politics from 2005 to 2011. Now, we know they actually spent a total of $4.4 billion during that time or FOUR times as much.

Again, one would think that such news would have the “get money out of politics to save our democracy” crowd up in arms. But for some reason, I’m not expecting much of a reaction from them today. Why?

Corporations and their employees also tend to spread their donations fairly evenly between the two major parties, unlike unions, which overwhelmingly assist Democrats. In 2008, Democrats received 55% of the $2 billion contributed by corporate PACs and company employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Labor unions were responsible for $75 million in political donations, with 92% going to Democrats.

The problem with most of those who decry the evils of “money in politics” isn’t really money in politics as long as that money and those politics are aligned with their views.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bracket Buster

This chart that accompanied a WSJ editorial called Democrats and the Tax Cliff, should come in handy as a reference guide between now and November. It shows the current tax rates by income bracket (and includes capital gains and estate taxes in addition to income), what those tax rates will be in 2013 if no action is taken, what President Obama proposes the rates should be, and finally what Mitt Romney proposes the rates should look like. These four columns (A,B,C,D) are a simple way to see where we’re at, where we’re going, and the choices available.

So if you’re of the mentality that we what really need to do to fix the economy is to make the rich “pay their fair share” you would like the rates in Column C and so should be supporting the re-election of President Obama. If you think that the best way to break free of our current economic stagnation is to put more money into the pockets of people who actually create jobs, you’ll favor Column D and thus be on board with Mitt Romney.

You should also note that despite today’s rhetoric about President Obama pushing for “middle class tax cuts,” the Romney tax plan is the only one that cuts rates for all income brackets.

Discussions about these pressing economic matters shouldn’t be limited solely to tax rates of course. In fact, government spending is a bigger part of the current and future problems and deserves more focus than tax rates do. However, this is a good start and if you put together this chart with a similar one showing the projected current rate of spending, Obama’s spending plans, and Romney’s spending plans, you’d have a pretty good story to tell and a clear choice to offer to voters.

Don't Know Much Ideology

Another course offering is now available from Prager University. This one features the always informative (and amusing) Jonah Goldberg:

According to popular myth, if you hold conservative political views, you're a rigid ideologue, unwilling to compromise. But if you hold liberal political views, you're practical and open minded. Best selling author, Jonah Goldberg, explains how this myth got started and why it's wrong in this Prager University course.

If you enjoy Goldberg's five minute video on ideology, you'll want to read the entire chapter he has on it in his highly entertaining book The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Couldn't Stand The Weather

Minnesotans LOVE to talk about the weather. In the winter we all complain about the cold and the snow. In alternate years we all complain about the unseasonably warm temperatures and the lack of snow. In the summer it's the same thing. It's always to hot or too cool or too humid or too rainy or too dry.

This past week, it's been too hot for most and the newspapers and TV newscasts have been filled with weather news. We've seen non-stop stories about the record heat wave and tips about how to deal with the record heat wave and stories about how the record heat wave kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

I typically try to avoid these stories as reading about the weather seems pointless to me. I know what the weather was like yesterday and the fools that pretend to be able to predict it are seldom right more than 12 hours or so in advance.

I did, for some reason, read this story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press which concludes with this beauty:
Temperatures also hit 100 degrees twice during the July 1-6 period, which is rare. Since 1873, the year reliable records were first kept, it's happened only 64 times.
Really?   64 out of 139 years (46%) in weather circles is considered rare.  The Minnesota Twins have a winning percentage a little bit south of that but I would hardly consider a Twins win this year "rare".

Even more remarkable is that the way this sentence is written, you would have to believe that nearly every other year we see temps hit 100 degrees twice in the first six days of July which, from my experience, is patently untrue.

Clearly, this was an egregious editing error as nobody in their right mind could consider something that occurs nearly half of the time a rarity.  On the other hand, global warming fanatics tend to misuse statistics to support their half-baked theories all the time.  If they can get enough people to believe that "record" heat means temperatures that happen every other year there's no stopping them.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Price of Progress

Obama’s transportation secretary hails Chinese infrastructure:

Echoing the laments of pundits like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood argued Saturday that China outpaces the United States in building major transportation infrastructure like high-speed rail because of its authoritarian system and because the Chinese don't have the Republican Party holding up progress.

"The Chinese are more successful [in building infrastructure] because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do, 3 million," LaHood said in a short interview with The Cable on the sidelines of the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival on June 30. "In a country where only three people make the decision, they can decide where to put their rail line, get the money, and do it. We don't do it that way in America."

As Ed Morrissey notes at Hot Air, it’s bad enough to hear this sort of authoritarian envy from the likes of Friedman. It’s much more disturbing to have a cabinet member in the current administration openly expressing such views, even if LaHood did follow it up by saying that he still prefers democracy. Gee, that’s reassuring, isn’t it?

I suppose it’s too much to ask folks like Friedman and LaHood to stop and think about the costs that come with the type of authoritarian “progress” that's taken place in China before they open their yaps to sing its praises.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

No Right to Do Wrong

In general, I find that there is a good deal of overlap between the views of conservatives and those who identify themselves as libertarians. It’s easy for a conservative to sympathize with and find common cause with libertarians on the principals of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and limited government. I understand the appeal of libertarian political philosophy, especially to the young, and welcome hearing voices who espouse the libertarian perspective debate the great matters of the day. In fact, some of my best friends are libertarians.

However, there are some significant issues where the different attitudes and approaches that one takes from either a conservative or libertarian perspective are so striking that it makes it difficult to imagine how the two camps could ever come together to form a lasting alliance. Abortion is one such issue.

Before we continue, I will acknowledge that not all libertarians favor legalized abortion and not all conservatives are pro-life. But in my experience at least, it’s a fair generalization to make.

I was reminded of the main problem with the libertarian view on abortion when I recently came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln on slavery from the Lincoln and Douglas debates:

When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong in the institution; but if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.

Substitute abortion for slavery and you have a striking refutation of the standard libertarian line on abortion:

When libertarians say that whoever or whatever community wants legalized abortion, they have a right to have it, they are perfectly logical, if there is nothing wrong with the activity; but if you admit that it is wrong, you cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong.

I’ve heard thoughtful libertarians take what is essentially the “personally opposed, but…” position on abortion. But as Lincoln so eloquently explained regarding slavery, if you make a moral judgment that abortion is wrong, then you are arguing for the right to do wrong. To the expected comeback that libertarians support the right to do what some may regard as wrong when it comes to gambling, prostitution, and drug use, I would respond that none of those activities share the same outcome as slavery and abortion: one person taking the life of another.

The Nihilist responds: as someone recently accused by Chad of being "a libertarian," I take issue with his premise.  I'd suggest that definition #1 from the free on-line dictionary succinctly sums up the libertarian philosophy:

One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state.

I'd say the right to life is pretty much the most basic right of all individuals, and was listed as such in by the founders of this country.  To quote Col. Nathan Jessup from "A Few Good Men," Yes, I’m certain that I read that somewhere once.

My point is that any so-called libertarian that advocates trampling on the rights of any class of individuals, especially a weak and legally unprotected class, doesn't really espouse a philosophy consistent with libertarianism.  Anarchists may embrace a philosophy where the strong can trample the rights of the weak, but anarchists, despite sharing a disdain for the state, are not libertarians.


Oh, so The Nihilist takes issue with my premise, does he? That premise being that while some INDIVIDUAL libertarians are pro-life, the prevailing view of the libertarian political philosophy is to allow legalized abortion. If only there was some way to refute his anecdotal example with evidence to support my premise. If only...

Platform of the Libertarian Party:

1.4 Abortion

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

That is the official big "L" Libertarian position. If The Nihilist is actually a libertarian, he’s definitely more of the small "l" variety. And rather than contravening my original premise, his views on abortion reinforce it.


I am shocked, I say shocked, to see that the Libertarian Party doesn't live up to it's name.  It's almost as if the folks who put their platform together only really care about the legalization of marijuana.  Next you will tell me that the leaders of Democratic Party doesn't really care about democracy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLI)

Another special holiday edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the cool-headed folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the good stuff you need to celebrate our country’s independence without getting over-heated.

The Fourth of July is America’s birthday. And it will be celebrated with gusto across the land today from big cities on the coasts to small towns in the Midwest. Towns like Lucan, Minnesota (pop. 220) home of Brau Brothers Brewing and Templeton, Iowa (pop. 328) home of Templeton Rye – Prohibition Era Whiskey:

When Prohibition outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in 1920, many enterprising residents of a small town in Iowa chose to become outlaws – producing a high caliber and much sought-after whiskey known as Templeton Rye, or “The Good Stuff” to those in the know. Produced from the original Prohibition era recipe and aged in charred new oak barrels, Templeton Rye provides a smooth finish and a clean getaway.

Our second featured beer of this holiday week is Rye Wyne Ale from Brau Brothers. It’s a rye barley wine that’s aged in Templeton Rye whiskey barrels. Minnesota meets Iowa as beer meets whiskey. As far as mashups go, it’s a tough one to top.

750ml bottle sells for $14.99. Bottle cap is sealed in red wax. White label shows one of the aging barrels and contains a boatload of information about the beer.

STYLE: Barley wine


COLOR (0-2): Copper brown and dense. 2

AROMA (0-2): Tart with vanilla and pepper. 2

HEAD (0-2): Light volume, tan color, good lacing. 2

TASTE (0-5): Caramel malts with sour up front, peppery rye in the middle, and a boozy finish that brings forth the full oaky flavors of the whiskey barrels. A lot of bold, complex flavors going on here and you can pick up tastes of vanilla, toffee, spices, and fruits as well. Mouthfeel is thick and sticky. Heavy bodied and definitely meant to be slowly savored. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors of sour and oak linger pleasantly. 2

OVERALL (0-6): While the price may initially be off-putting, you get a lot of beer for your buck with Rye Wyne Ale. The flavors are strong and assertive yet balanced enough that the end result is a deliciously rich and complex beer. You also need to remember that with its 750ml size and 11% ABV, what you’re getting is really more like a bottle of wine than beer (don’t worry, it still tastes like beer). You’ll want to let it breathe a bit for as it warms the flavors become more pronounced and nuanced. And you’ll want to sip it to pick up all the tastes brought about by this unique partnership. 5

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 17

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Just Another Ordinary Miracle

Bret Stephens on The Mexican Miracle:

AMLO contested Sunday's election, too, and this time he lost by a six-point margin. It's more evidence that Mexico's inevitable democracy is also becoming an irreversible one. Democracies can self-destruct in any number of ways—economic populism, criminal infiltration of the political system, the bankrupting engines of public-sector unions and universal entitlements—and Mexico remains susceptible to all of them. Yet it also seems like a corner's been turned.

That's reflected in Mr. Calderón's abiding personal popularity—his poll numbers are in the high 50s, even though his party was trounced Sunday—after all these years of grinding drug violence. Mexicans aren't sure the drug war is being won and don't think it's being fought well. But they're still for fighting and winning it. In his victory speech Sunday, the PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto promised "no negotiations and no truce" with the cartels. Confronting the narcos instead of leaving them alone (or colluding with them) is now the consensus position of Mexican politics. It wasn't that way even 10 years ago.

How Mr. Peña Nieto performs once he's in office is another question. But the fears that he will bring back the old PRI are wildly overblown. The PRI remains Mexico's party of patronage. But its victory on Sunday owes mainly to Mr. Peña Nieto's personal appeal, his centrism, and simple fatigue with Mr. Calderón's ruling PAN. Wanting political change for its own sake isn't necessarily wise but it's nothing if not democratic.

Certain neighbors of Mexico are no doubt familiar with that last sentiment.

That Mexico could have arrived at a point where an election is so ordinary is indeed something of a miracle. One that is too often unappreciated by most Americans.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CL)

A special Fourth of July week edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the patriotic folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you find the American wine, whiskey, and beer you need to celebrate our nation’s founding and raise a glass to the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness endowned by our Creator and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.

The Beer of the Week features haven’t been as regular as they ought to have been of late, what with the whole “of the week” in the name and all. To make up for the lassitude, I’ll try to squeeze a couple in this week. And what better week for an extra beer or two than this one? It’s the Fourth of July and it’s hot. It would be downright un-American not to drink and celebrate beer early and often throughout this holiday week.

The first beer is from Great Divide Brewing in Denver. Hoss Rye Lager:

HOSS is based on the Märzen lagers of Germany. Rich, layered malt notes, with hints of cherry and dark fruits, dominate, while the unique addition of rye imparts a slightly earthy, spicy character. Hoss finishes crisp and dry, and its brilliant red-orange color is a toast to the sunsets that make the perfect backdrop for this beer.

6-pack of 12 oz bottles goes for $9.99. Label is a red-colored patchwork quilt featuring a lumberjack in the woods.

STYLE: Marzen


COLOR (0-2): Copper-red and clear. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty with some spiciness. 2

HEAD (0-2): Lots of volume, tan color, laces nicely. 2

TASTE (0-5): Sweet roasted malts at the beginning followed with bold spicy rye flavors with a little hop kick at the end. Flavors are complex and blend together nicely. Medium-bodied with a mouthfeel more on the watery side. Refreshing and drinkable too. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry finish with the rye flavors that carry through. 2

OVERALL (0-6): Marzens are not usually one of favorite beer style, but I have a soft stop for any beer with rye. And Hoss Rye Lager is a Marzen on rye steroids. The sweet malt, spicy rye, and bitter hops play together quite nicely and the result is a well-rounded, great tasting beer. The tastiness of the rye combined with the drinkability of a lager make it a good choice for any season. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

The Quickening

Back-to-School Sales Creep Forward:

Summer is barely here and it's already time to think about back-to-school—shopping, that is.

Young people wearing flip flops and bright cutoffs and tops are starting to be met in the mall by more somber colors and longer pants, a signal that back-to-school sales pitches are beginning earlier than ever.

Sigh. It's JULY 2ND. Do we really need to be think about back-to-school sales already?

At a Macy's Inc. one recent morning, full-price navy blue Levis and brown and beige T-shirts were lining the main aisle, more in keeping with fall looks. Nearby, tanks and white pants were going for 40% off.

Target Corp. had up to 70% off sleeveless shirts and shorts, while a manager said the retailer began putting out back-to-school merchandise a week or two ago, and would likely be finished by the end of this week.

Better buy that swimwear soon. In a few weeks, we'll be seeing winter coats and scarves on the store shelves.

Life's too short already. Do we really need to rush through it even more rapidly?

Screw this nonsense. Sit back, relax, and enjoy SUMMER. It'll be over before you know it anyway.