Friday, August 31, 2012

Re-humanise Yourself

Last night’s RNC closing speech by Mitt Romney was solid if unexceptional. It probably didn’t do much for conservative political wonks, but then that wasn’t who it was targeted to. One of the big goals going in was to give voters a better idea of who the real Mitt Romney was. To show that the finally coiffed picture perfect looking politician and successful businessman had a soft side too. To make him seem more down to earth, the kind of guy average voters could more easily relate to.

It’s hard to know at this point whether the speech did much to accomplish that goal or not. I lot will depend on whether Romney can carry it over into the campaign as it kicks into high gear. One part of that speech that I thought was particularly effective in this regard was when he spoke about his children growing up:

Those weren’t the easiest of days – too many long hours and weekends working, five young sons who seemed to have this need to re-enact a different world war every night. But if you ask Ann and I what we’d give, to break up just one more fight between the boys, or wake up in the morning and discover a pile of kids asleep in our room. Well, every mom and dad knows the answer to that.

If you’re a parent and that doesn’t stab you at least a little in the old heart, then you’re the one who needs to worry about not being human enough. Parents whose children have grown up will identify with Romney’s wistful longing to turn back the clock, while parents with younger children are again reminded just how fleeting the time we get to have with them really is and how we need to savor every moment while we can. Mission accomplished Mitt.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Teach Your Parents Well

Chad's post below on politically indoctrinating one's children left me with a strong enough opinion to offer a full post, instead of my preferred habit of tacking onto his original.

I get upset when I hear people like Scott complain that:

Exposure to just how shamelessly our school system seeks to indoctrinate our kids in liberalism

As parents, we are tasked with giving our kids what they need to become productive citizens.  Allowing them to be indoctrinated in beliefs antithetical to our values system is not an option.  Chad is actually a great model of responsibility in this manner.  Rather than expose his children to a public school system at odds with his family's values, he and his wife have chosen a different path, that of home schooling.  Others choose private schools.  These are difficult choices, requiring plenty of investment in time, money, or both.  Yet if our children are really our most precious legacy, how can we refuse to pass anything to them other than our most precious values?  I know this will not be a popular statement, but it is not good parenting to send your children through a liberal public school system.

In answering the question of political indoctrination, I'll break precedent and tell a personal story about one of my children.  A few years ago, I asked my youngster what things the President of the United States should do.

"Give everyone free toys," was the response of the pre-schooler.

I realized that this answer would fit squarely with the platform of the Democratic party.  Rather than admonish the child, I tried a though experiment.  I asked, "how would that work if you owned the toy store?  Would the government just take all of your toys and give them to kids?  How would that make you feel?"

After a short discussion, it was agreed that it isn't fair for the government to take stuff away from one person and give it to another.  That's when I realized the average Democratic put about as much thought into the consequences of their votes as a five year old.

Teach Your Children Well

Great question and answer posted by Scott at Ricochet. Do You Evangelize Your Politics to Your Kids?:

I wonder if anyone's evolved on this like I have.

Until a couple years back I considered it good parenting to be an "honest broker" when explaining political divisions with my kids: I'd present both sides as respectfully as I could, say which side I agreed with, and leave it at that. Now I consider it my duty as a parent to mold my kids into two informed, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, and so I present political divisions as having correct and incorrect sides (at least on those issues that animate me). I'm still honest, but the mission is different.

Why the change? A) The threat to their future that is Obama B) Exposure to just how shamelessly our school system seeks to indoctrinate our kids in liberalism -- an effort that was particularly repulsive during Governor John Kasich's fight with the teachers unions here in Ohio last year. As Rush Limbaugh says, "I am equal time."

The results have been amazing: Our kids can now formulate conservative arguments as teenagers better than I could 10 years ago as a thirty-something.

Good parenting or brainwashing?

I'm inclined to go with the former, with a caveat that you shouldn't start this overt indoctrination at too young an age. While some people think it's cute when their toddlers spout political views picked up from their parents, I do think you need to take a pragmatic approach.

It's much more important to teach values about what is right and what is wrong. Teach them about God and religion. Teach them about patriotism and honor. Teach them about history and civics. Teach them about money and the value of hard work. Then over time, you can help them see how these values align with the views of the political parties. At least, that's been our plan with our three boys (seven, five, and nearly four). So far, so good.

Making It Matter

Today's WSJ has an editorial on The Ryan Difference:

What's going on? The Romney campaign deserves credit for staging an Inchon landing by skillfully using ObamaCare to go on offense against Mr. Obama on Medicare. Liberals and the reporters they dine with still can't bring themselves to believe that their historic achievement is unpopular, so they and the press corps refuse to admit that the Affordable Care Act has changed the entitlement debate.

But retirees know that Mr. Obama robbed Medicare's accounts to make ObamaCare's budget impact look benign. And even if they can't follow the deliberately convoluted details of phony Beltway bookkeeping, they are learning that Mr. Obama's Medicare "cuts" are immediate and Mr. Ryan's reforms won't apply to anyone over age 55. The Obama campaign won't give up on Mediscare, but it has been caught unprepared.

Mr. Ryan has also performed better on the national stage than even many of his supporters anticipated. Even Democrats have had to concede he's no lightweight and does his homework. He has put a new, youthful face on the Republican Party, and his earnest enthusiasm is a walking refutation of Democratic claims that he's a Randian radical. He looks and sounds like Janesville.

The latest assault is that Mr. Ryan won the genetic lottery, has no feeling for his fellow man, and thus wrote a budget that grinds down the less fortunate. These attacks will be on full display next week in Charlotte, especially now that it has become clear that Mr. Romney might win.

The best response to these attacks is for Mr. Ryan to keep showcasing his natural optimism and Midwestern equanimity, as he did on Wednesday. Mr. Ryan had the difficult job of introducing himself to a public that barely knows him while also fulfilling the running mate's traditional job of dismantling the record of his opponents.

He did the first by focusing on his family, his Wisconsin roots and by paying tribute to his mentor, the late Jack Kemp. On the latter, he showed the ability to expose the President's failures more in sorrow than in anger. His line about jobless college graduates in their 20s "staring up at fading Obama posters" in their childhood bedrooms is the line of the campaign and was Reaganesque in its subtle but still withering truth. This sets up Mr. Romney to offer his own positive vision and agenda on Thursday.

Anyone who watched last night's RNC and the speeches by Portman, Pawlenty, and Ryan should no longer have harbor any doubts about whether Romney made the right choice for VP.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Verbally Challenged

Steven Hayward offers some much needed advice in A Note on Political Rhetoric:

I have two grumps of my own about two specific tropes of current political rhetoric that show up in the speeches both political parties.

The first is “we created jobs.” Most of the Republican governors who spoke yesterday—McDonnell, Kasich, and Haley—used this formula. The problem with “we created jobs” is that jobs are not “created” ex nihilo like God in Genesis, nor are they created by government. More precisely, we should say that jobs are generated—but they are generated overwhelmingly by private sector investment. To be sure, government policy helps create (a proper use of the term) a favorably investment climate for investment that produces new jobs, and that includes infrastructure rightly understood.

In other words, the “created” language subtly abets Obama’s “you didn’t build that” argument. Better to convey the idea that government improves the conditions of freedom (that term again) that enables Americans to generate growth and employment, rather than making it seem like government is the entity “creating” the jobs.

The second fingernails-on-blackboard trope is “grow the economy.” Never mind the dubious grammar of using “grow” as a transitive verb. This sounds like the economy is a plant, and if we just pour on some government water it will grow. Let us not forget that Bill Clinton was the originator of this phrase, and like “create jobs,” it abets the view that government is the prime mover of the economy.

I say let us retire these two clich├ęs of political rhetoric, and come up with more precise formulas that better convey a substantive conservative understanding of the primacy of the private sector over the public sector.

I imagine that the horticultural invoking phrase “grow the economy” is an off-shoot (no pun intended) from the equally insipid and overused expression “grow the business.” The latter has been a staple of corporate speak for years and I am still given to cringe when I occasionally here it employed today. So I would expand Mr. Hayward’s call to do away with “creating jobs” and “growing the economy” in the political arena and also ask that “grow the business” be permanently retired from usage in the private sector.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where Moral Truth is Needed Most

R.R. Reno on having Cardinal Tim Dolan deliver the closing prayers at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions:

The Democratic Party is becoming the secular party with an attitude, as the HHS mandate and arguments of Obama administration lawyers in various religious cases indicates. This is driving religious people toward the Republican Party. That’s been happening for decades, of course, most obviously in the shift of Evangelical voters toward the Republican Party in the 1980s. (They went for Jimmy Carter as one of their own in 1976.) They reshaped the GOP, as the recent Republican primaries showed so clearly. It will be interesting to see how a second wave of Jews and Catholics continues to reshape the GOP.

The recently announced invitation extended to Cardinal Dolan to offer the closing prayer at the Democratic convention as well indicates that the Democrats are aware of their religion problem. They don’t want Catholics to feel unwelcome in the party that they pretty much owned in the major industrial cities during much of the twentieth century.

Cardinal Dolan accepted the invitation, and rightly so. At the end of the day, the Catholic Church that Cardinal Dolan serves and represents is loyal to God’s revelation and the moral truths accessible to all on the basis of natural reason. Sadly, the Democratic Party is captive to proponents of abortion, as well as efforts to redefine marriage. But that could change, and one hopes it will.

One cannot dismiss having hope for true change in the views that Democratic politicians have on issues that the Catholic Church holds most dear. But it's also sadly obvious that we won't be seeing such a change of hearts any time soon.

Sane Travels

Fast on the heels of news that many airports are planning or have already implemented improvements in the gate environment, comes two more pieces of positive change for air travelers.

Welcome to the Self-Service Airport (WSJ-sub req):

Airlines are laying the groundwork for the next big step in the increasingly automated airport experience: a trip from the curb to the plane without interacting with a single airline employee.

For years, travelers have been checking in online or at airport kiosks, and more recently, airlines have converted paper boarding passes into electronic ones. Now carriers are turning to technology that enables travelers to check their own bags and scan those boarding passes—but not always without snags.

At the airport of the near future, "your first interaction could be with a flight attendant," said Ben Minicucci, chief operating officer of Alaska Airlines, a unit of Alaska Air Group Inc. The carrier has been at the forefront of self-service in the U.S., recently introducing self-tagging of baggage in Seattle and San Diego with eight more airports planned this year.

After testing the technology in Austin, Texas, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines is rolling out kiosks that direct travelers to tag their own checked bags in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major airports over the next two years. And last month in Las Vegas, JetBlue Airways Corp. became the first U.S. airline to officially implement self-boarding gates, where fliers scan their own tickets to board the plane.

Airlines say the advanced technology will quicken the airport experience for seasoned travelers—shaving a minute or two from the checked-baggage process alone—while freeing airline employees to focus on fliers with questions. "It's more about throughput with the resources you have than getting rid of humans," said Andrew O'Connor, director of airport solutions at Geneva-based airline IT provider SITA.

It’s remindful of the old Esurance line, “Technology when you want it, people when you don’t.” Less interactions equals less lines equal less waiting equals lower stress for the traveler.

Lock Seatbelt, Play On (WSJ-sub req):

Airplane passengers may soon be able to read their e-books, play video games and work on their laptops during takeoffs and landings.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently requires airlines to determine that the in-flight use of tablets, mobile phones and laptops is safe, and all U.S. carriers now ban using these devices during takeoffs and landings. But the FAA unveiled plans Monday to form a government-industry group to explore expanding in-flight use of the devices with the cellular connection switched off.

The study comes amid mounting pressure to relax restrictions as flight crews increase the operational use of such devices.

Okay, at this point they’re only saying that they will “explore” relaxing these silly restrictions. But it’s a start. And who knows, if we continue to see these kind of improvement continue we could even get to the point where the air travel experience is once again tolerable. Enjoyable would be even better, but we’re a long way from that today. Baby steps.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Imperfect Storms

The cancellation of tonight’s slate of activities at the RNC in Tampa Bay brings back memories of the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Just like this year, the 2008 opening night was washed out because of a storm, in that case Hurricane Gustav. While the disruption was likely a minor one for most RNC attendees in St. Paul, it did throw a wrench into the works for a couple of local amateur radio hosts.

Brian “Saint Paul” Ward and I were both part of the Northern Alliance Radio Network show on AM1280 The Patriot at the time. I can’t recall the exact circumstances for why we ended up slotted to broadcast from the RNC on opening night. My wife was on the verge of giving birth to our third son and I may wanted to put as much space between her due date and being at the convention as possible. Whatever the reason, we were thrilled to have a place on the schedule.

For a couple of unpaid weekend radio guys and avid political junkies, getting a chance to do a show from the RNC was about as good as it could get. We would be on radio row with all the big names (and Hugh Hewitt). We would get access to national politicians and pundits and provide our own on-air commentary as Senator Joseph Lieberman, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush addressed the convention and the country. The whole political world was going to be watching and we were going to be right in the middle of the action right in our own back yard. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Until Gustav came along and ruined our Best Laid Plans. We still went down to the RNC that night and did a radio show. We got to meet uber political wonk (and Brian’s personal hero) Michael Barone. Barone was quite genial in engaging in an extended conversation and even introduced us to British MP Liam Fox (although Barone failed to mention the encounter in his Saturday WSJ piece called What I've Learned From the Political Convention). So it wasn’t a total loss.

But there were no speeches. No grandstanding. No celebrations. No hoopla. Mostly a lot of media types resorting to interviewing each other and trying to figure out how they were going to fill time and column space with pretty much nothing going on. Which for most of them wasn’t a big deal. If the convention was now three days instead of four it just meant one less night of activity to report on (and perhaps more time to belly up to the bar at a local watering hole). For us, the window was a much smaller one and once it closed for that Monday night it wasn’t opening again.

So as we follow the non-story stories coming out of Tampa tonight, I wonder if there’s anyone suffering a similar fate at this year’s RNC. If tonight too was going to be there one and only night and if their plans have been washed away by the inopportune timing of a storm. If so, we feel your pain.

Everywhere There's Signs

On the way to church yesterday, I saw another yard sign taking a stand on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment:

So far it's the only such sign I've come across so I don't know how accurate the word "another" really is in this case. It was also joined by a green Keith Ellison yard sign which tells you where the political orientation of the home's owner is at.

In order to assist my fellow Catholics who feel the need to publicly demonstrate that they value liberal political positions over core teachings of the church, I've prepared a few additional lawn sign designs:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paranoia, the Destroyer

Nathan e-mails to report that members of the local tin foil hat brigade-always on the lookout for black helicopters in the skies overhead-will get their wish starting tonight:

If you hear or see low-flying black helicopters in St. Paul or Minneapolis, police are telling the public not to be alarmed -- they're part of training missions.

"It's going to be an unusual occurrence, and we don't want people to overwhelm our 911 center with concerned callers," said Sgt. William Palmer, Minneapolis police spokesman.

U.S. Special Operations Command has been in the two cities for "routine urban-environment training," both police departments said in news releases. Portions of the training include St. Paul police.

Most of the training, which has been coordinated with property owners where it's happening, will be out of public view. The training began Sunday, Aug. 19, and continues through Sept. 1. Starting this Sunday, it may become more visible when "helicopters begin supporting the training," the releases said.

People in St. Paul and Minneapolis might see or hear military transport helicopters -- Black Hawks and smaller Hughes 500s -- between 7 p.m. and midnight.

Nothing to worry about. After all, it's just training. Right?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gated Community

One of the more soul crushing parts of air travel is waiting at the gate for your flight to depart. You sit (if you’re lucky enough to find a place) on seats seemingly designed to be as uncomfortable as possible. After fifteen minutes with your posterior on one these ergonomic monstrosities, you’re making a mental note to schedule a chiropractic visit. As much as you try, you can’t tune out the banalities of Wolf Blitzer blaring at you from of the “courtesy” CNN screens that are ubiquitous at many airports. If you’re traveling by yourself, you risk losing your place if you want to get up and grab a drink or some food and you’re got to lug your bags with you if you do make such a trip. If you’re traveling with kids, you have to figure out how to keep them entertained and avoid have them annoying fellow travelers with their antics (at least you should be doing that). All too often, such areas of airports can seem like the gates of hell.

The good news is that there are plans in the works to change all this. Thursday’s WSJ reported on a new trend in Boarding Gate Makeovers:

Now, real improvement is afoot. At New York La Guardia's Terminal D, built in 1983 and home to Delta Air Lines, boarding-gate areas have recently been renovated with rows of bar-style tables equipped with plentiful power outlets and iPads for free use. Travelers tap their flight number into the device, which will alert them to changes. Games, Internet and entertainment bring amusement to long airport waits, helping quiet restless children. Refreshments can be ordered from the tablet for delivery at the seat.

Tall tables with room to store bags underneath, power outlets, iPads to use, and the ability to order food and refreshments-including beer, wine, and cocktails-without getting up are dramatic changes in the gate experience. Even better news? It’s coming to an airport near here:

After testing the iPad concept with Delta at two gates at New York's Kennedy International Airport (and seeing a dramatic spike in customer satisfaction scores), OTG began rolling out renovations at La Guardia earlier this year. With its planned expansion to Delta Terminal C, the company will have a total of 2,000 tablets available at La Guardia. On deck: It's planning a 2,500 iPad rollout in Delta's Concourse G in Minneapolis and another 2,500 at Terminals 1 and 3 in Toronto in areas used by multiple airlines.

Concourse G, eh? Sounds like that’s going to be a popular place at MSP to wait.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Beer of the Week: RNC Special Edition

If President Obama’s weather machine doesn’t wreck havoc on the area (knew we should have had Bush take that with him), thousands of Republicans will be descending on the greater Tampa-St. Pete metropolis for next week’s Republican National Convention. Despite having a teetotaler on the top of the ticket, you know that most of these teeming throngs of partisan party people will be bellying up to various bars early and often during their stay. And you that VP guy from Wisconsin isn’t going to be shy about knocking a few back either.

As a service to the folks who will braving both the elements and harassment from anarchists, OWS types, and the national media in Tampa, we’re offering a bit of guidance on what to order once you’ve dodged the urine bombs, acid eggs, and inane questions and made it safely inside a local drinking establishment. It’s a reprise of a previous Beer of the Week that was posted while I was on vacation in Florida last February and would be an excellent choice for those seeking to experience some of the flavor of the city’s beer scene.

There are also more Florida-brewed offerings available than in the past including tasty beers from Holy Mackerel, Inlet, and Cigar City. The latter brewer is located in Tampa Bay and has an interesting back story:

Cigar City Brewing was founded with two goals in mind. The first to make the world's best beer and the second to share with people near and far the fascinating culture and heritage of the Cigar City of Tampa.

From its past as the world's largest cigar producer to its Latin roots and the many other diverse peoples that call it home, Tampa draws on many sources to develop its unique culture.

At CCB we are fascinated by Tampa's history and suspect you will be too.

Our special edition beer of the week is Maduro Brown Ale from Cigar City Brewing:

Maduro is a Northern English-style brown ale with some American affectations. Maduro is higher in alcohol than the common English brown ale and features flaked oats in the malt bill which imparts a silky body and works to mesh the roasted, toasted and chocolate components together in Maduro's complex malt profile. The end result is a remarkably full-flavored yet approachable and sessionable brown ale that pairs well with mild to medium cigars.

12oz brown bottle. Label has various shades of brown and a design that very much looks like a cigar label.

STYLE: Brown Ale


COLOR (0-2): Ruby brown. 2

AROMA (0-2): Sweet toasty malts with a hint of smoke. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Rich malty flavors up front with a clean bitter finish. Like the smell, it features flavors of coffee, toffee, chocolate, and smoke. Smooth mouthfeel with a medium body. Decently drinkable. 4

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Roasted, smoky flavor lingers pleasantly. 2

OVERALL (0-6): I’m not much of a cigar guy, but if I were I definitely could see this beer pairing nicely with a quality stogie. The flavors are rich, elegant, and complex. Yet the beer isn’t overly heavy and proves refreshing and quaffable. It went down well on temperate Miami nights and I think it would work equally well in less tropical Minnesota. If you get down to the Sunshine State (spring training starts soon) be sure to get your mitts on a Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale. You won’t be disappointed. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 16

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Skipping a Beat

A story in yesterday’s WSJ noted that companies are beginning to realize that they have to coddle their precious millennial workers in order to keep them happy. More Firms Bow to Generation Y's Demands:

They're often criticized as spoiled, impatient, and most of all, entitled.
But as millennials enter the workforce, more companies are jumping through hoops to accommodate their demands for faster promotions, greater responsibilities and more flexible work schedules—much to the annoyance of older co-workers who feel they have spent years paying their dues to rise through the ranks.

Employers, however, say concessions are necessary to retain the best of millennials, also known as Generation Y, which is broadly defined as those born in the 1980s and 1990s. They bring fresh skills to the workplace: they're tech-savvy, racially diverse, socially interconnected and collaborative. Moreover, companies need to keep their employee pipelines full as baby boomers enter retirement.

It is estimated Gen Y will comprise more than 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, far outnumbering any other generation.

This is all too depressingly familiar to us Gen Xers. After dealing with demands for attention and special treatment from arrogant, entitled boomers for our entire lives, we now get to experience the same from the generation behind us. With the looming shadow of boomers finally moving away, we get a glimpse of the spotlight only to see it already being eclipsed by the millennials. In just eight years, they will be the majority of the workforce and companies will have no choice but to cater to their whims.

When where we the ones demanding that companies change their polices to accommodate our preferences? It never happened and it never will. Our time never came and it never will. All part of being part of Generation X.

The best part of the rise of millennials in the workplace is that it’s ticking off boomers.

These generational differences may be why baby boomers often gripe about their younger colleagues as arrogant kids who don't know how to dress appropriately, deal with customers or close deals, said Shirley Engelmeier, a diversity consultant who advises Fortune 1000 companies on employee engagement.

And providing us with plenty of laughs.

A 2010 Pew Research study found that while baby boomers—generally born between 1946 and 1964—cited work ethic, respectfulness, and morals as their defining qualities...

Yup. That’s what I think of when I think of boomers. Work ethic, respectfulness, and…(sorry it’s hard to type this without chortling)….morals. Yes, the generation that came of age in the Sixties and spawned the nihilistic hedonism of the Seventies and the decline of societal and cultural values that continues to this day is all about MORALS. Good one guys.

...millennials chose technology, music and pop culture, and liberal leanings—followed by superior intelligence and clothing as their defining qualities. Millennials are also likely to prioritize lifestyle over salary, and to foresee changing careers.

Are the millennial kids smarter than your average bear? Sure they are, just ask them. I suppose this inflated sense of self shouldn’t be a surprise given that since birth the millenials have been told have everything they do is great and how special they are. When your grades are inflated, your sports competitions end with “everyone’s a winner” and trophies, awards, and certificates are presented for almost every conceivable mundane accomplishment, of course you’re going think that you’re wonderful. Your music sounds better. Your clothes look better. And damnit, you are smarter than everyone else.

Not to belabor the point made earlier, but it’s revealing to note that this entire article about the rise of the millenials at work and the boomers' reaction to it includes one solitary mention of Gen X.

The Lakeville, Mass., company also decided to scrap its policy of an 8 a.m. workday start to accommodate young hires who make the one-hour commute from Boston, where they prefer to live, Ms. Borkowski said. The company now has more flexible work hours.

The suggestion came from a newly formed "Culture Club," a committee of Gen X and Gen Y employees.

That’s it. In this telling, the entirety of the involvement of Gen X in this transition is to get to be part of a committee with millenials. No views from Gen Xers were presented, no analysis on what this change will mean to Gen X workers. Oh well, at least we’re used to it by now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Medicinal Purposes

Matt e-mails with further travel advice:

I like your your post on passing your wisdom of travel. I have spend much time in the metal tube as well visiting S.E. Asia at least 3 times a year. As to the point of checking or not to check, I have a penchant to carry on while my girlfriend wishes to check.

Having a life time history of being either a consumer or provider, one thing I would speak to is the carriage of medicine. If you have medicine you use on a daily basis or to have on hand for unexpected situation, i.e. like a doctor's prescription or anti-histamine or inhaler, always have it in your carryon bag.

If it is a considerable sum and you want to pack it in your check luggage I would suggest you have at least 3 days supply at hand for the trip. This way if you are separated from your checked bag you will have some available until your bag can catch up to you. I say 3 days as a WAG because if the airline mishandles it, it may take a day or two for the bag to catch up to you plus an extra day.

Also, if for some reason you do not get on the flight your checked bag will be waiting for you at your destination, that being for domestic travel only. Also keep those prescriptions with you. I have never had a problem with customs when it comes to medicine, but if they get lost, and you are in a place like Bangkok, you can get new prescriptions in country. Also, 7-11, Boot's, and Watson's are popular overseas.

Indeed, while some tips for air travel are universal, there are also some key differences in the best approaches to take when heading abroad. A future travel tips post will be focused solely on some of them.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

More Than Words

Joe Doakes from Como Park drops an e-mail:

I actually made it to Mass yesterday at Maternity of Mary – felt the need for some churchin’ up, I guess. They took a minute to read a prayer which you can find here:
Heavenly Father,

Through the powerful intercession of the Holy Family, grant to this local Church the many graces we need to foster, strengthen, and support faith-filled, holy marriages and holy families.

May the vocation of married life, a true calling to share in your own divine and creative life, be recognized by all believers as a source of blessing and joy, and a revelation of your own divine goodness.

Grant to us all the gift of courage to proclaim and defend your plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive relationship of loving trust, compassion, and generosity, open to the conception of children.

We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
I haven’t heard that one before. I have nothing against it, I’m glad they’re doing it. I’m just surprised the DFL hasn’t started howling about revoking the Church’s tax exempt status for violating the ban on political advocacy.

By the way, I dislike the new translations of old prayers, interrupts the flow and adds little. For example: “One in being with the Father” is now “Consubstantial with the Father.” And that’s better how, exactly? The point of Vatican II was translating the liturgy into the local lingo so we could get more out of Mass. I can’t see these changes as a big improvement. I know that’s not your department but who else can I grumble to?

While I appreciate Joe sharing the marriage prayer, I must strongly disagree with his view on the new Order of the Mass. I expressed my support for the changes when they were being implemented and have continued to believe that the new translations reflect a much clearer, truer version of what we are professing (or as Anthony Esolen so eloquently explains, that they restore beauty and splendor to Mass).

These changes have forced us to think about the words we are saying again instead of merely reciting them. And when you do that, you realize just how much of what we are saying in Mass flies against the popular culture of the day (more on that later). If you want to truly be part of the “counter culture” today, a great way to do that is to attend Mass. And yes Joe, the new translations can be a little awkward at first, but I think once you get used to them you’ll find the words are more meaningful than what they replaced.

Degrees of Difference

In today’s WSJ, William McGurn writes the on progressive attempts to paint Paul Ryan as a “bad Catholic” by equating his differences with the bishops’ views on social justice with their far more serious deviations from church teachings on matters such as abortion. Social Justice and Ryan the Heretic:

As for Mr. Ryan, what drives progressives bonkers is that he insists on talking about spending in terms of promises made to the American people. In this sense, "Can we pay for it?" is a moral as well as practical question.

Manifestly some bishops do not like Mr. Ryan's answers. Then again, Catholic social teaching itself holds that the bishops possess no special competence on the subject. Applying the principles of Catholic social teaching involves prudential judgments that are the special province of Catholic laymen and laywomen.

Mr. Ryan's own bishop, the Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, addressed the subject with his most recent column in the diocesan paper for Madison, Wis. The church, he wrote, regards abortion as an "intrinsic evil" (meaning always and everywhere wrong, regardless of circumstances). In sharp contrast, he said, on issues such as how best to create jobs or help the poor, "there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the church offers."

"I'm not endorsing Paul Ryan," the bishop told me later by phone. "People are free to disagree with him, and disagree vehemently. But it's wrong to suggest that his views somehow make him a bad Catholic."

The church has long been quite clear that while there are some areas where its leaders and the laity may have differences, when it comes to abortion there is no room for compromise. It's dishonest for progressive Catholics to attempt to conflat issues like government spending and abortion in order to seek to diminish those they disagree with while also providing cover for their own lack of fidelty to the values that matter most to the church.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Travel Tips: Before You Go

Over the years as a semi-regular traveler via the airways, I’ve learned a few things that have made my current travels less travailing. I don’t pretend that there’s anything here that is completely original or brilliantly insightful. A lot of it seems pretty obvious to me, but since it also seems like many people are unaware of some of these matters I’ll share them anyway. This first section will feature tips on what to do before you go.

- Select your seat as soon as you can. If you have elite status, most airlines will allow you to do this online immediately after you book. Don’t wait and get stuck in the middle.

- Use SeatGuru to determine which seat is the best one for you. All you need to know is the airline and flight number and Seat Guru will tell which type of aircraft is flow on that route and what the best seats are. You can find out about things like whether your seat reclines, if the under seat storage is limited, whether the seat has power outlets, and whether the seat’s location might make it hard to sleep (too much noise or light from bathroom doors opening). This information is helpful on shorter domestic flights. On long-haul international flights, it’s critical. I pull up the airlines web page on one browser tab and Seat Guru on the other when I pick my seat.

- Whether you carry on or check your luggage, try to pack as much as you can into as smallest size bags that you absolutely need. Lugging around big bulky luggage is not fun. Roll your clothes up and use mini sized toiletries. I can go on a two-day business trip with nothing more than a backpack.

- Buy decent luggage. You don’t need to spend thousands on this, but don’t go cheap. I have a Swiss Gear upright suitcase that I purchased at Target that’s durable and easy to travel with. I also have a laptop backpack with plenty of compartments for other gear that I regularly use. I can pretty much go anywhere in the world with these two pieces for up to two weeks at a time and have everything I need.

- The check in or carry on? debate rages even more ferociously now that airlines regularly charge for checked luggage and space in overhead bins has become an ever more precious commodity. My position is that it all depends on the situation. If you have elite status with an airline or are sitting in business class, I’d say carry on. You won’t have to worry about finding a place for your bag and you avoid the delays and possibility of lost luggage if you check in. But if you don’t have status or you aren’t concerned about time on the way out or the way back and will be gone for than a few days, then there’s nothing wrong with checking your bag. I go with whatever option is best suited to my circumstances at the time.

- If you like to read, you should ALWAYS have reading material with you. You never know where you’re going to get stuck and for how long. Don’t be caught without something to read. The best way to assure this and also follow the tip about packing small is have a tablet or an e-reader. I used to bring three books and as many or more magazines on long trips. I still pack at least a mag or two for those times when we’re not allowed to use portable electronics devices (SAFETY you know), but other than that it’s just my Kindle Fire. That gives me books galore and access to my Wall Street Journal subscription.

The next installment will focus on tips to make your time at the airport less stressful and more enjoyable.

Benevolent Mother

The latest Prager University offering features HW Crocker III, best-selling author, historian and executive editor of Regnery Publishing taking a moral tour of the British Empire, a civilizing force not of oppression but of freedom.

A much remarked upon fact of history is how much better off countries that were once British colonies are today than those that were colonized by other European powers. One only need examine the freedom and democracy that links the Anglosphere today to see that having once been ruled by the British was more of a blessing than a curse.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Taking and Giving

Antony Davies and Kristina Antolin on Paul Ryan's Catholicism and the Poor:

Wealth and poverty are catalysts for bringing the rich and the poor together in community, and community is the hallmark of the church's mission on Earth. Government is not community. Government is one of community's tools, a coercive one we use when it is necessary to force people to behave in ways they would not otherwise behave voluntarily.

But that word—voluntarily—is key, and it's where Mr. Ryan's religious detractors go awry: Charity can only be charity when it is voluntary. Coerced acts, no matter how beneficial or well-intentioned, cannot be moral. If we force people to give to the poor, we have stripped away the moral component, reducing charity to mere income redistribution. And if one really is as good as the other, the Soviets demonstrated long ago that it can be done far more efficiently without the trappings of church and religion.

All people have the moral obligation to care for those who are less fortunate. But replacing morality with legality is the first step in replacing church, religion and conscience with government, politics and majority vote. Coercing people to feed the poor simply substitutes moral poverty for material poverty.

There is no doubt that Catholics (and all Christians for that matter) have an obligation to help the least and the lost. However, determing the best methods for how that help is provided is open to debate. If Paul Ryan believes that X percent of government spending should go towards efforts to alleviate poverty while progressive Catholics believe it should be Y or if Paul Ryan believes that tax rates should be X and progressive Catholics prefer Y, it doesn't mean that the latter group is more committed to helping the poor or more closely following the teachings of the Church than he is. It just means they have different views on the best means to achieve the same ends.

The reality is that while it would no doubt be prefferable to have all such assistance provided volutarily (for the reasons cited in the article), there is a need for the government to continue to be involved. Whether that involvement should be direct or whether the government should provide funding to groups best able to deliver critical services is worthy of discussion. As is a broader conversation about the appropriate scale and scope of the government's involvement in this area (and others). This is exactly the sort of thing we should be talking about before November's election and why having Paul Ryan on the ticket has changed the game.

Friday, August 17, 2012

HWX, On the Radio

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience podcast returns to terrestrial radio on Saturday for a special 3-hour program.   John Hinderaker of Power Line and me, Brian Ward, of Fraters Libertas, will be on Twin Cities News Talk (AM1130) tomorrow from 11am to 2pm Central time.  Streaming LIVE at the station’s website and on I Heart Radio.  

In the first hour, the great Rob Long will join us.  We’ll be talking some current events, get a behind-the-scene look at his new TBS comedy Sullivan and Son, and the insider’s view about what it’s like working in the executive suite. 

Later in the show will be talking with Hans Von Spakovsky, co-author (along with John Fund) of the new book Who’s Counting, How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.  Hans is a former Justice Department official and member of the Federal Election Commission, a certified expert on the issue of elections.   And he brings his first hand knowledge to the story of the very real phenomenon of election fraud in the United States.   Included in the book is extensive discussion of Al Franken’s controversial 300 vote victory for US Senate in Minnesota in 2008, and we’ll be sure to get all the details from Hans.

We’ll also have Loon of the Week, This Week in Gate Keeping, and maybe a few more surprises along the way.

We’d love our blog readers to join the conversation.  You can call in at 651-989-5855.

Again, please join us Saturday (tomorrow) from 11am – 2pm (central) at Twin Cities News Talk.

Weekend Warriors

Tomorrow, the award winning duo from the Hinderaker-Ward Experience will once again be gracing the local airwaves on Twin Cities New Talk (1130 on the AM dial). They’ll join Bob Davis and Tom Emmer on the Roundtable from 10am-11am (spoiler alert: it was actually recorded today, but listen closely to see if you catch Brian “Saint Paul” Ward’s F-bombs that were edited out) and then take the reins for the aptly named Twin Cities News Talk Weekend shift from 11am-2pm.

If you would like to see the HWX show earn a more permanent place in the Weekend Schedule for Twin Cities News Talk, you drop the station a note and let them know. While I enjoy the weekly bi-weekly whenever the hell they feel like doing them HWX podcasts as much as the next guy, I miss hearing the guys on live radio on Saturday morning/afternoons and would love to see HWX become part of the regular Saturday lineup. I’m sure other fans of the show do too. Vince from Vadnais Heights for instance...

Free to School

Matthew Hennessey on possible threats against The Freedom to Homeschool:

The progressive critics of homeschooling are less interested in promoting tolerance than they are in promoting compliance. It’s the freedom that bothers them, not what kids learn or how well they learn it. It’s about who decides. In other words—here as in Spain—it’s about politics. And it won’t be long before some enterprising American politician proposes a set of rules that would effectively deprive my family of its right to homeschool. This will come not as an outright ban on the practice but as an array of guidelines and edicts couched in the most unobjectionable terms—ensuring diversity, promoting responsible citizenship, safeguarding public health.

If the state appoints itself to guard against indoctrination by parents, who is to protect children from indoctrination by the state? Critics of homeschooling rarely grapple with this question for the likely reason that they are committed to a value system that is as uniform and intolerant in its own way as they imagine the value systems of American homeschoolers to be.

Forget broccoli. A government that can force you to buy health insurance can surely force children into the public school system. When that happens, will we still be a free country?


If there’s one thing I’ve learned about American homeschoolers is that they are adamantly committed to defending their freedom to homeschool. If that freedom is ever lost, it would be difficult to say that we still live in a free country.

Thankfully, we’re not Spain and there are some indications that with more parents choosing to homeschool, the freedom to do so will actually be expanded rather than contracted. But when it comes to matters of government encroachment on our liberties, vigilance is always in order.

Gone Fishing

Mark Yost had a piece in yesterday's WSJ on Project Healing Waters:

But for a few days earlier this month, Spruce Creek became the "River of Heroes." That's when Homewaters, one of those private clubs, hosted Project Healing Waters, a unique program that brings disabled vets to some of the most magnificent fly-fishing spots in the country.

Healing Waters is the brainchild of Ed Nicholson, who spent 30 years in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer before working a decade more as a defense contractor. In 2005, at the height of the carnage in Iraq, he was at Walter Reed and saw the soldiers and sailors hobbling around on crutches and struggling through rehab, and thought, "I should take a couple of these guys fishing with me."

Seven years later, Healing Waters is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has 130 branches nationwide. Although it is not an official program of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Nicholson's staff, many of whom are former Healing Waters participants, runs the program through local VA centers. The program is open to any disabled vet, not just those from Iraq and Afghanistan. All expenses are paid. The vets don't even need a fly rod.

And while Healing Waters wasn't designed as a mental-health program and there are no counselors on the trips, the very nature of fly fishing—the serenity, the simple routine of fly casting—makes it all very therapeutic.

 "When we started this, I thought it would just be great to take some of these guys fishing," Mr. Nicholson said. "But I can't tell you the number of times someone has come up to me and said: 'Thank you. This program saved my life.'"

That's because Healing Waters is about much more than a few days of fishing. Yes, there are a dozen or so national trips, which this year included treks to Maine, Alaska and Yellowstone. But most of the work is done locally, with monthly fly-tying and casting workshops taught by volunteers and local excursions.

"For many of these guys, fly fishing has become a tool of recovery, both mentally and physically," Mr. Nicholson said.

A great idea and a great cause.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Signs of Trouble for Traditional Marriage

On my walk over to church last night to attend Mass for The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I was able to see lawn signs advocating both positions on the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment which we will vote on in November.

First was a sign put out by a group opposed to the amendment.

While the language about “don’t limit the freedom to marry” is Ritchie worthy when it comes to weaseliness, you can’t deny the fact that the design of the sign is sharp. The words “Vote No” in blue against the orange background are very clear and easy to read and understand. You instantly know what the message is and the look is a memorable one that you instantly recognize when you see it again.

I also saw a lawn sign from a group that supports traditional (or natural) marriage.

What the...?!?! First off, the design is terrible. The white background and light blue colored font don’t capture your eye. And the image? Is that supposed to a man and his wife or kids smooching at the prom? Then there’s the message itself. Holy Matrimony might indeed be what you see yourself defending, but you’re trying to win a campaign here. Younger people are already more inclined to support gay marriage. Do you really think the words “Holy Matrimony” are going to have any appeal to them? Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to read signs from the top down. So here I get “Holy Matrimony Vote For.” Did Yoda pen that line? Would it have been so hard to just say “Vote Yes” at the top and “Support Traditional Marriage” (or something to that effect) underneath?

Sigh. With the cultural headwinds blowing against us, fighting the good fight to maintain marriage is already an uphill battle. We don’t need to be a further disadvantage because we can’t put a decent lawn sign together.

Putting Your Name on the Line

The Heartland Institute wants you to sign the Citizen’s Petition to Rein in the Environmental Protection Agency:

The Citizen’s Petition to Rein in the Environmental Protection Agency calls out EPA’s unscientific and destructive campaign to frighten people over the threat of man-made global warming and demands “deep cuts in the size, power, and cost of the EPA.”
So far, nearly 5,000 people have signed it and returned copies of the petition to us. When we reach 10,000 signatures, we plan to hold an event in Washington DC and formally submit the petition to members of Congress.

You can help! Please sign the petition, and urge your friends, relatives, and coworkers to sign it, too. You can sign it online here, or print out copies and fax signed copies to 312/377-5000, or mail them to us at The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive #2740, Chicago, IL 60606.

By working together, we can rein in the Environmental Protection Agency! We can protect the environment without sacrificing jobs or our essential freedoms. Please help us by signing a petition today.

While big programs like the failed stimulus and fears of what Obamacare will bring are obvious examples of how the Obama Administration's actions are hampering the American economy, regulatory actions by agencies like the EPA have likely been an even greater drag. One of the great myths circulated by Democrats is that the Bush Administration years were an era of massive deregulation. In reality, government regulation-like spending-increased under Bush and expanded even more under Obama. While the Obama Administration defends the actions of the EPA as being needed to "restore the balance" after the Bush years, the truth is that they're been tipping the scale even more toward government control at the expense of freedom and economic growth. Reining in the EPA is the only way that true balance can begin to be restored.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

All the Right Moves

Are you a member of the GOP’s Bedwetter Caucus, worried that the veep selection of Paul Ryan and his controversial views will hurt Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the election? Your wobbling worries should be at least somewhat eased by knowing that having Ryan on the ticket has caused many on the left to hyperventilate. If you’re making all the right people mad on the other side, you must be doing something right. This e-mail from is an example:

10 Things to know about Paul Ryan

1. His economic plan would cost America 1 million jobs in the first year.

2. He'd kill Medicare.

3. He'd pickpocket the middle class to line the pockets of the rich.

4. He's an anti-choice extremist.

5. He'd dismantle Social Security.

6. He'd eliminate Pell grants for more than 1 million low-income students.

7. He'd give $40 billion in subsidies to Big Oil.

8. He's another Koch-head politician.

9. He opposes gay rights.

10. He thinks an "I got mine, who cares if you're okay" philosophy is admirable.

The Republican “pros” (essentially hired political guns) are worried that his views are too extreme. His opponents accuse him of every imaginable offense against human decency. Sound familiar?

Mollie Hemmingway has more on an underrated strength of Ryan’s that also invokes comparisons:

Yes. It was completely unexpected. As I've mentioned, I've been following Ryan for years and have known many people who worked for him. My impression of him from this is that he is incredibly hard-working, disciplined and smart. I had absolutely no idea he was such a good politician.

His charm, his genuine ability to connect with voters while offering persuasive rhetoric about freedom and liberty? Who does that remind you of?

Fear not bedwetters. The only problem with Paul Ryan being on the Republican ticket is his position on it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Somebody Else

We recently completed an addition to the boys' tree house in the backyard. The work was made somewhat easier because of the base platform we could use, but it still involved a lot of blood, sweat, and beers (after the day's work was completed of course). And several trips to the nearby home improvement store, whose jingle the kids now know by heart (although I prefer substituting the word "spend" for "save" before big money).

I like to view such activities as learning experiences for the children. So when this particular project was finished, I took the opportunity to lecture remind them who and what really made this achievement possible.

You know, there are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans with tree houses who agree with me, because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve got a tree house, you didn’t get that on your own. You didn’t get that on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, Well, I must have a tree house because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. I must have a tree house because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you have a tree house, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to have that tree house. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a tree house, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Mitt Romney Picks Paul Ryan as Vice Presidential Running Mate:

NORFOLK, Va.—Mitt Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, a decision that could spark enthusiasm for the Republican ticket among conservatives and all but ensures the election will turn to deep philosophical divisions between the two parties over spending, taxes and entitlements.

In Mr. Ryan, 42 years old, the Romney campaign gets a conservative who has spent recent years at the center of national debates about the size and scope of the federal government. With his proposals to revamp entitlement programs for future retirees and the poor, he has become a hero to conservatives and a target for liberals.

Mr. Romney praised Mr. Ryan as "an intellectual leader of the Republican Party" who also has "shown an ability to work with both parties to find common ground" on tough issues. "I don't know anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment," he said in front of USS Wisconsin, a World War II battleship that now is a museum and carries the name of Rep. Ryan's home state.

Being involved in politics invariably means being disappointed. In order to accomplish anything, you are often forced to compromise on the policies you want to see enacted and the people you want to see pushing them through. Most of the time, politics involves settling and learning to love the one you're with.

For me, having Paul Ryan as the GOP running mate is a rare time in politics when I get to see my wishes realized. My wife mentioned that Ryan is younger than both of us (by a couple of years) which made me realize that he's a Gen Xer. I believe that would make him the first member of our generation to be on either the GOP's or Dem's top ticket and may also explain why he has so much appeal. No Boomer he.

This is a great day and choosing Ryan is a great way for Romney to engage and energize conservatives with reservations about him. Now we need to carry that through now until November and win this thing.

THE NIHILIST CHIMES IN: Paul Ryan is the most substantive politician of our generation.  Any reluctance I had to see him on the ticket came from my concern that he be in the position where he has the most power to implement his vision.  The vice presidency still seems to me to be a weak platform.  However, if Mitt Romney and the Congress allow it, Ryan could play a leading role in reforming America.  I, for one, pray that this happens.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Republicans To Be Named Later

A "exclusive" piece appeared this morning at Politico called Obama to include Republicans in hard-hitting convention.

Wow I thought, that is news. They must be looking to try to pull off a Zell Miller and have a Republican tell the country why Romney is wrong and they should vote for Obama. When done properly, such a move can have a powerful impact and perhaps even swing some votes here and there. So who are the these Republicans that might be included?

Let’s check out the article and find out. Nothing in paragraph one. Nor in paragraph two. Okay, now through paragraph five and no names have been names. Let’s keep going. Through twelve paragraphs and the first page of the article and yet to find a name. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen...Ah ha! At last in paragraph sixteen we find out who these Republicans for Obama might be:

Convention planners are considering featuring a centrist Republican leader on at least two of the three nights. Nightly remotes from swing states may include a CEO or “major Republican.” On Wednesday night, a “notable GOP woman” is among the possible participants. And on the final night, Democrats may include a Republican leader — someone like former Sens. John Warner or Chuck Hagel — or a GOP woman.

For those of you who may not instantly recognize the names of such prominent Republicans, here’s some background.

John Warner was a Senator from Virginia who retired in 2009. Among his accomplishments while in office were:

He was among the minority of Republicans to support gun control laws. He voted for the Brady Bill and, in 1999, was one of only five Republicans to vote to close the so-called gun show loophole. In 2004 Warner was one of three Republicans to sponsor an amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that sought to provide for a 10-year extension of the Assault Weapons Ban.

In 1987, Warner was one of the Republicans who crossed party line to reject the nomination of Robert Bork by President Ronald Reagan.

Warner was among ten GOP Senators who voted against the charge of perjury during Clinton's impeachment

On May 23, 2005, Warner was one of 14 centrist senators (Gang of 14) to forge a compromise on the Democrats' proposed use of the judicial filibuster, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called nuclear option.

Warner was a cosponsor of America's Climate Security Act of 2007, also more commonly referred to as the Cap and Trade Bill, that proposed to ration (cap) carbon emissions in the U.S., and tax or purchase (trade) Carbon credits on the global market for greater U.S. alignment with the Kyoto protocol standards and goals.

In September 2008, Warner joined the Gang of 20, a bipartisan coalition seeking comprehensive energy reform. The group is pushing for a bill that would encourage state-by-state decisions on offshore drilling and authorize billions of dollars for conservation and alternative energy.

I imagine the impact of a rock-ribbed conservative like Warner appearing on President Obama’s behalf at the DNC would be devastating to the Romney campaign.

Chuck Hagel’s name is probably more well known as his criticism of the Iraq war and the Bush Administration made him a media darling. He actually considered running for president in 2008 as a Republican. His candidacy would have been less viable than Jon Huntsman’s was in 2012. After deciding that he wasn’t going to throw his hat in the White House ring, he did say that he was open to accepting the VP slot. On the Democratic ticket.

If retreads like Warner and Hagel are the best examples of Obama supporting “Republicans” that the Democrats can drag onto the stage in Charlotte, the effort is going to be of more of a farce than a factor in winning over moderate voters.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Going For The Gold

When it comes to elite status fliers, airlines now have about as much interest in silver as China does when it comes to their Olympic athletes. With Airlines, Silver Status Loses Luster (WSJ-sub req):

Airlines have cut and crimped perks awarded to the silver-level frequent fliers—the lowest and most populous tier of elite status, which typically requires 25,000 flying miles a year.

On Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, silver elites purchase premium coach seats with extra legroom if they want to reserve them before check-in, a perk that used to be free. American Airlines will give its lowest elite tier free access to new extra-legroom seats at the front of its coach cabins through next year, then they must pay. Both Delta and United stopped giving silver-level customers a free second checked bag in March. Delta and Alaska Airlines don't give lowest-level elite members access to priority security lines.

The loss of perks comes as nabbing complimentary domestic upgrades has gotten harder. One factor: Airlines are selling more upgrades to fee-paying fliers rather than giving them to low-tier elites.

Airline executives and frequent-flier program consultants say at most big carriers, 6% to 10% of customers have elite status. The silver level is the biggest tier, airlines confirm, and has been growing for several reasons. Airline mergers have concentrated the pool of high-status travelers while available seats have been reduced. And credit-card deals giving travelers bonuses of "elite-qualifying" miles have also swelled the status ranks. A US Airways Premier World MasterCard, for example, gives 10,000 elite-qualifying miles once the holder spends $25,000 in a year—a big bonus that makes reaching silver status a lot easier.

Perks like priority boarding and priority security lines can now be obtained by using the right airline-sanctioned credit card or by paying a fee to the airline. That has left some priority lines longer than regular lines, jammed early boarding with lots of passengers and diminished the exclusivity of elite status. If everyone is special, no one is special.

I’m surprised that only 6%-10% of flier have status. It seems like on some flights more than half the passengers have “priority boarding” (which means less and less as more and more qualify for it). There was a time when silver could occasional get you upgrade. Now, even with higher statuses the upgrades are harder and harder to come by.

The reality is that if you want to get any real travel benefits from elite status today, you’ve got to reach beyond silver. Go gold or go home.

The Six Percenters

David Brauer posted an interesting update on local radio ratings today. My key takeaway:

As of July, The Current claims 2 percent of total Twin Cities radio listeners, down from the low 4s a year ago. MPR News is at 3.9 percent, after posting 5s or better most of the past three years.

So our two local PUBLIC radio stations, which are partially funded by taxpayer dollars, are now being tuned in by less than six percent of said listening public? Remind me again why in these tough economic times, we should continue subsidizing these stations so that the likes of Atomizer have the privilege of hearing Sleater-Kinney while driving to work?

Humming It In the Shower

The WSJ editors join the chorus asking Why Not Paul Ryan?:

The case for Mr. Ryan is that he best exemplifies the nature and stakes of this election. More than any other politician, the House Budget Chairman has defined those stakes well as a generational choice about the role of government and whether America will once again become a growth economy or sink into interest-group dominated decline.

Against the advice of every Beltway bedwetter, he has put entitlement reform at the center of the public agenda—before it becomes a crisis that requires savage cuts. And he has done so as part of a larger vision that stresses tax reform for faster growth, spending restraint to prevent a Greek-like budget fate, and a Jack Kemp-like belief in opportunity for all. He represents the GOP's new generation of reformers that includes such Governors as Louisiana's Bobby Jindal and New Jersey's Chris Christie.

As important, Mr. Ryan can make his case in a reasonable and unthreatening way. He doesn't get mad, or at least he doesn't show it. Like Reagan, he has a basic cheerfulness and Midwestern equanimity.

As for Medicare, the Democrats would make Mr. Ryan's budget a target, but then they are already doing it anyway. Mr. Romney has already endorsed a modified version of Mr. Ryan's premium-support Medicare reform, and who better to defend it than the author himself?

Republicans are likely to do worse if they merely play defense on Medicare and other entitlements. The way to win on the issue is go on offense and contrast Mr. Romney's patient-centered reform with President Obama's policy of government price controls and rationing medical care via a 15-member panel of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

There’s a local car dealer who used to have an annoying yet catchy jingle in their radio ads that said “Ryan, Ryan, Ryan” (in fact their web site is As I watch with cautious optimism as the Paul Ryan for VP boomlet builds, that line keeps going through my head. Let’s hope that Romney is thinking the same thing.

Dem's Daubers Down?

While I'm still a long ways from feeling overly confident about Romney’s prospects in November, I’m heartened by signs of anxiety and even desperation among those on the left. One such sign was an e-mail I received yesterday from titled “We’re Getting Beat”:

We're getting beat and it's time to wake up.

The unlimited money ushered in by Citizens United means the right wing could outspend progressives 2 to 1 this election—and Romney's just out raised President Obama for the third straight month.

Congressional Republicans sabotaged our economic recovery by crashing the debt ceiling and blocking every jobs measure put forward by the president. Republican governors drastically cut jobs, offsetting private sector job gains. Now Romney is blaming Obama for high unemployment.

Republicans passed Jim Crow style voter suppression laws that will disenfranchise millions of progressive voters, targeting low income folks, people of color, and the young.

And the worst of it is—we're still asleep. Because despite all this, a Gallup Poll shows that Democrats are much less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans. That means we lose.

You lose, we win. Let’s hope their concern is indeed warranted.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Real Deal

David Harsayni asks Why not Paul Ryan:

The other day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi nonchalantly explained to a group in Florida that conservatives are in the “E. coli club.”

The next day, a pro-Barack Obama super PAC began running an ad blaming Mitt Romney and Bain Capital for the death of a steelworker’s wife (who actually had insurance and passed away seven years after Romney ran Bain and five years after her husband was laid off from a money-losing steel plant).

The Obama campaign has, more than once, implied that Romney is a felon.

We often have the tendency to believe that political attacks are purely cynical, but that’s probably not the case. Some attacks are presumptive.

Many liberals already believe that Republicans wouldn’t mind seeing children (poor, minority and handicapped children, at least) contracting deadly bacterial diseases, even if conservatives won’t explicitly say so. Many liberals assume that the wealthy (especially those who have an exotic career, such as “banker”) never really pay their share in taxes and probably cheat and devastate the poor to achieve success. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not have any proof that Romney hasn’t paid a penny in taxes in a decade, but it plays to a larger social truth about conservatives; it is a given.

So, no matter whom Republican Mitt Romney finally taps as his vice presidential nominee, Democrats will accuse this person of crimes against common decency and fairness. This person will, you can bet, be indicted as someone hellbent on “dismantling” Social Security, sacrificing Medicare to the gods of social Darwinism and “slashing” the safety net into worthless tatters.

If that’s the case, why not pick a politician who actually speaks about reforming entitlement programs in a serious way? Someone who has actually come up with some ideas that reach beyond platitude? Rep. Paul Ryan, who was spotted pushing a frail wheelchair-bound elderly woman off a cliff in a political ad last year, is really the only person on the shortlist we keep hearing about who fits the bill.

I can understand the Nihilist's reservations about having Ryan stuck in a VP role instead of being a leader of reform in the House. But would you rather have him as veep with President Romney or in the House with President Obama come 2013?

Same Old Song and Dance

Jonah Goldberg notes that despite repeated calls for a "new tone" when it comes to the rhetoric from the liberal choir, the song remains the same:

The dishonesty and/or stupidity of all this is really quite breathtaking — and obvious. First of all, you could cut government funding down to 1950 levels and still have money for food safety. But this is what liberals do. They metaphorically lash children to the fenders of government so that the budget cutting blade must slice through them first. Then, after insanely putting them in harm’s way, they proclaim it is the sane budget cutters who seek to harm children. In fairness, sometimes liberals hold the young human shields in reserve and put firehouses, historic monuments, and old-age homes outside the budgetary walls of the fiscal keep. And, again, they declare that the fiscally sane want to get rid of fire fighters and the Washington memorial — and not, say, the Export-Import Bank or agricultural subsidies.

But this is an old complaint. What is infuriating about Pelosi’s comments is the silence that greets them from the same cloying mob of bleaters and emoters who demanded a “new tone” not so long ago. How is saying the Republicans want to kill your children less “extreme” and irresponsible than anything uttered by Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin? Why hasn’t it occurred to all of these media outlets currently reporting the news that Jared Loughner has pled guilty to mass murder to do a story on how the new tone they demanded hasn’t materialized with Nancy’s Pelosi’s repugnant musings as exhibit A? Perhaps it is because the whole “new tone” censorial fraud was always aimed rightward. When liberals accuse conservatives of wanting children to die, that’s hardball politics. When conservatives put banal targets on congressional maps, that’s incitement to murder.

Pelosi's slanders are only the most recent example of what has been the standard liberal approach to "debate" since at least the early Eighties (and maybe even earlier). Accuse anyone who dares mention cutting back or even limiting government of wanting to kill children, throw grandma out in the street, and ruin the environment.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Question Certain Things But Don't Rock the Boat

In Saturday’s WSJ, Matt Ridley completed his three part series on confirmation bias by looking at how it has impacted the debate over global warming:

It isn't just models, but the interpretation of real data, too. The rise and fall in both temperature and carbon dioxide, evident in Antarctic ice cores, was at first thought to be evidence of carbon dioxide driving climate change. Then it emerged that the temperature had begun rising centuries earlier than carbon dioxide. Rather than abandon the theory, scientists fell back on the notion that the data jibed with the possibility that rising carbon dioxide levels were reinforcing the warming trend in what's called a positive feedback loop. Maybe—but there's still no empirical evidence that this was a significant effect compared with a continuation of whatever first caused the warming.

The reporting of climate in the media is full of confirmation bias. Hot summers (in the U.S.) or wet ones (in the U.K.) are invoked as support for climate alarmism, whereas cold winters are dismissed as weather. Yale University's Dan Kahan and colleagues polled 1,500 Americans and found that, as they learned more about science, both believers and nonbelievers in dangerous climate change "become more skillful in seeking out and making sense of—or if necessary explaining away—empirical evidence relating to their groups' positions on climate change and other issues."

As one practicing scientist wrote anonymously to a blog in 2009: "honestly, if you know anything about my generation, we will do or say whatever it is we think we're supposed to do or say. There is no conspiracy, just a slightly cozy, unthinking myopia. Don't rock the boat."

Bring on the gadflies.

Ridley argues that the best way for scientists (and all of us for that matter) to avoid the perils of confirmation bias is to have their theories and the underlying data that support them challenged. This is the best way to ensure that they aren’t seeing what they want to see and ignoring evidence that contradicts their conclusions. It is through this process that the myriad scientific achievements that we celebrate and enjoy were made possible. If previous generations had just gone along with what the existing consensus on various scientific matters was at the time, we would not be where we are today. To function properly, science needs skeptics, it needs what Ridley calls the “gadflies” to challenge what might be the accepted wisdom of the day and ask if there might be alternative explanations that merit exploring.

Last night, we were watching a show on the Science Channel on the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. The motto of the Science Channel which is prominently displayed every time they go to a break is “Question everything.” And that seems like an appropriate credo for the subject that the channel covers.

But it doesn’t seem like one that’s embraced by many scientists and self-describing admirers of science when it comes to anthropogenic global warming. Those who skeptical about any part of the summary conclusion that the earth is warming, that said warming is man-made, and that the results will be catastrophic are shouted down, defamed, and told that the argument is over. That’s not science.

The reality is that the AGW supporters need the skeptics. They need to have their conclusions and data challenged. They need to make their arguments more convincing. They need to be sure that the evidence is indeed supporting their theories and not just seeing what they want to see to confirm them. They need to engage with those skeptics and to be willing to look beyond the “consensus” and honestly ask and answer questions about whether other explanations and outcomes are possible. Then, and only then, will the debate truly be on based on science.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLV)

One of the first craft brewers with a wider distribution that was available in this market was Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery. Named after the only island in the Chicago River in Illinois (and an artificial one at that), Goose Island has produced a number of quality craft beers that I’ve enjoyed over the years. That list would include: their flagship Honker’s Ale, Summertime Kolsch, IPA, Nut Brown Ale, Christmas Ale, Mild Winter, and Kilgubbin Red Ale. In recent years, they’ve also expanded into more adventurous fare with beers like Matilda, Sofie, and others in their Belgian style series along with their Bourbon County offerings.

In March of 2011, Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Being bought out by the most macro of all macro breweries is a big turn off for some craft fans which lead them to dismiss Goose Island as now not being “authentic” enough. Personally, I really don’t care all that much about who makes the beer as long it’s good. So if I liked Goose Island before they were bought by InBev, I’ll still them after the sale. As long as the beer still tastes good.

Our Beer of the Week is Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat Ale:

Inspired by the city of Chicago and densely populated with flavor, 312’s spicy aroma of Cascade hops is followed by a crisp, fruity ale flavor delivered in a smooth, creamy body that's immensely refreshing.

12oz brown bottle retails for $7.99. Label has a very classy art deco look with yellow and black colors and a background silhouette of the Chicago skyline.

STYLE: Wheat Ale


COLOR (0-2): Gold and somewhat cloudy. 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty and a little grassy. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright color, moderate volume. 2

TASTE (0-5): Mostly on the malty side with muted hops at the finish. Bready with less pronounced wheat flavors. There’s a bit of light citrus and just a touch of spice. Mouthfeel is thin and slightly creamy. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The finish and follow through are hollow. 1

OVERALL (0-6): This isn’t a wheat ale that’s going to blow you away with a lot of fruity or spicy flavors like some hefeweizens do. Those flavors are present, but they’re pretty understated. 312 Urban Wheat is a refreshing, drinkable beer that would go down well on a sultry summer in any urban jungle. Even those who may not usually enjoy wheat beers (sickos) will find something to like in this approachable offering. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 13

You Don't Say?

The latest course offering from Prager University features Professor Tim Groseclose (who teaches Political Science at UCLA) is a video called "Proving Media Bias":

In this video, Groseclose explains his peer-reviewed study, which quantifies how slanted America’s news media really is. He says that if it were not for the media’s significant leftward bias, Americans would almost certainly vote more conservative. As always, this Prager University course is only be 5 minutes long, yet is packed with valuable information.

News that the media is biased may not come to a shock to anyone, but hearing that argument detailed in the manner that Professor Groseclose has done will make all of us more informed on the subject.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Not The Answer

Walter Russell Mead on what China's suppression of religious liberty means for the Middle Kingdom both domestically and internationally:

Banning fasting and other Islamic practices is not going to build much support for Beijing’s rule in this restive province, which as recently as July 2009 saw racial riots that claimed almost 200 lives.

The free exercise of religion is among the most fundamental of human rights. For its own sake, and in the interests of simple justice, China needs to find a way to reconcile the needs of its government with the rights of its people. Suppressing Islam is not the way.

Students of international relations can learn something else from this policy. China is deeply worried about large, resource rich and thinly populated Xinjang. It sees the spread of radical Islam as the most worrying feature of a difficult situation. This has implications for China-Pakistan relations. If China thought Pakistan could or would provide serious help at smashing the networks that support Islamist opposition, there would be more interest in Beijing in developing a deep strategic relationship with Islamabad.

But China seems to believe that Pakistan is either unwilling or unable to provide these guarantees, and it notes that Pakistani support for anti-American terrorists like the Haqqani network shows Islamabad to be an unreliable ally. A Taliban dominated Afghanistan would similarly be, from the Chinese (and Russian) point of view a petri dish in which dangerous movements would breed.

Mead concludes that this will not end well.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Au Contraire, Mon Frere

Chad makes an eloquent argument below listing the reasons that Mitt Romney should select Paul Ryan to be his running mate.  All his points are salient and correct.  Yet I disagree with his conclusion for one simple reason: the election of Paul Ryan as Vice President of the United States would take him out of the position where he could do the most good.

John Nance Garner, himself a Vice President of the United States once famously observed:

The vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit.

Looking at a list of recent VP's confirms Garner's observation.  Can anyone list a single accomplishment of Joe Biden, Dan Quayle, or Walter Mondale?  I didn't think so.  The job consists of going to funerals and only gains meaning at the funeral of the President.  Sure, Dick Cheney helped craft policy and Al Gore actually debated Ross Perot. (How bad must one feel if they lose a debate to Al Gore?)  But these are rare exceptions.

The President of the United States sets policy in many ways.  If the President chooses to listen to the counsel of his veep, that is his prerogative.  However, there is no requirement for the POTUS to do so and many don't.  Just ask Garner, a former congressional heavyweight who was exiled by Franklin Roosevelt after accepting the VP role.  A similar example would be Lyndon Johnson, considered "Master of the Senate" when selected by John Kennedy in 1960.  Until fulfilling the only important duty of a Vice President, Johnson was consistently frustrated by the fact that his stature was diminished by the Vice Presidency.

While the Vice President offers no constraint to the President's power, significant restraint is offered by Congress.  Executive orders aside, the President is constitutionally limited to accepting or vetoing the agenda put forward by congress.  As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan has one of the most important jobs in Washington.  In the next congress, he would either maintain that role or move to chairmanship of the equally powerful Ways and Means Committee, assuming Republicans maintain control of Congress.

I present two visions of Mitt Romney's America, a world where Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House in 2013:

Vision 1: Congressional leadership, led by Paul Ryan, presents a bold series of initiatives to reform entitlements, trim government spending, and reform the tax code.  Romney, under pressure from his right, signs the bills.  However, the moderate Romney did not drive the agenda.  Leaders like Paul Ryan and Rand Paul carefully navigated a political mine field to put America back on track.  Meanwhile, Vice President Tim Pawlenty gave a beautiful eulogy after the untimely death of actor Johah Hill.  Pawlenty promised to make awareness of the dangers of yo-yo dieting the hallmark of his Vice Presidency.

Vision 2: With Paul Ryan on the bench, the timid Republican Congressional leadership allows the White House to put together a blue ribbon panel to examine the problems that America faces.  Romney appoints a second "Simpson-Bowles" type commission on government reform, but because of media criticism, their bolder recommendations are tabled as the Federal Budget Deficit hits $20 trillion.

I want Paul Ryan to have the greatest possible opportunity to lead the Federal Government.  Unfortunately, that opportunity doesn't exist in a role that is as useful a bucket of warm spit.