Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Better Not Bigger

Walter Russell Mead on Hurricane Sandy and the Perils of Nanny State Governance:

Here in New York we have a very busy government. It’s worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.

The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.

Mayor Bloomberg has done an admirable job under great pressure as the city reels from Sandy’s attack. But an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. The city needed flood protection for its subways and electricity grid—and it didn’t get it. If the Mayor had spent less time and less of his political capital focusing on minutiae, this storm could have played out very differently.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, liberals are rushing to try to use the storm to show why bigger government is necessary while also falsely positing that if conservatives had their way there would no government resources available to deal with such serious situations. When it comes to government the choice isn’t between more and none. What conservatives want is government that’s capable and competent to do the things it should do and nothing more. Mead makes a great and underappreciated point that when the government engages in such activities as telling people how big their sodas are going to be it’s not only getting involved in areas that it shouldn’t, it’s diminishing its ability to do those things that it rightly should be doing.

An editorial in today’s WSJ also shows that the charge that Romney wants to do away with FEMA is a deceitful one

The rap on Mr. Romney seems to be that he once said emergency management could be done well and perhaps better at the state level, and he also endorsed Paul Ryan's House Republican budget.

Let's look at the record. Regarding the budget for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), Mr. Obama's own fiscal 2013 budget sought $10.008 billion. That was a cut of $641.5 million, or 6.02%, from fiscal 2012. We couldn't find an apples-to-apples comparison in the Ryan budget resolution, because FEMA spending was part of a larger category and the Senate never did pass its budget. But if budget cuts to FEMA are the liberal standard, their beef is with Mr. Obama. By the way, Mr. Romney says he doesn't want to abolish FEMA.

None of which means that FEMA is above reform. Matt Mayer of the Heritage Foundation has found that annual FEMA disaster declarations have multiplied since the Clinton years and have reached a yearly average of 153 under Mr. Obama. That compares to 129.6 under George W. Bush, 89.5 under Mr. Clinton, and only 28 a year under Reagan. Mr. Mayer argues that taxpayers and storm victims would be better served if FEMA devoted itself to helping out in the biggest disasters, such as Sandy, and not dive in at every political request for assistance.

Again, when conservatives talk about reforming government, it doesn’t mean eliminating it entirely. It means defining the proper scope and scale of government activity which would allow it to focus on the things it should be doing and do them well. Conservatives want good government. Good doesn’t mean more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Awfully Thin and Precious

R.R. Reno recalls the work of recently deceased cultural historian Jacques Barzun to help understand how we got to where we are today. The Lexicon of Pussyfooting:

Because these words were written in the late 1950s, they help us see that the 1960s was not the result of a youth movement. It is best understood as an abdication of the elders, a renunciation of responsibility by the adults. The Bourgeois Era ended because its intellectual project crumbled. The guardians of Western culture determined that they were custodians of inhumanity. Barzun pictures for us the forward-thinking man of the late 1950s, wearing a suit, going to the tastefully decorated offices of the Ford or Rockefeller Foundations. “He may be a minor foundation official living rather comfortably off some dead tycoon, but he talks like Baudelaire.”

This image of the foundation official circa 1957 tells the tale. The children and grandchildren of the old bourgeois elite decided to throw their lot with the bohemian project. We are to live as we wish, and the primary intellectual project these days is to beat down whatever remains of the old bourgeois forms of sacred order. Repressive! Patriarchal! Logocentric!

Barzun is not happy about the change. By his reckoning, the modern bourgeois form of intellectual self-discipline and honesty “is a broom with which to clear the mind of cant.” This tradition of reflection helps us avoid “trumpery art,” “ideological drugs, “facile enthusiasms,” and a simple-minded worship of science. Intellect encourages what Barzun calls “fineness” and “virtuosity.” One does not just have opinions or commitments. One has a fabric of considered views that are woven from the threads of inherited traditions. They are nuanced, tenuous, and shaded with all manner of uncertainty, but even so, for the bourgeois intellectual, considered views have the serious weight of truth, a weight that gives shape to one’s sense of self.

And the bohemian project? It retails itself as the royal road to self-discovery through the alchemy of self-expression. It promises a more “real,” more authentic, and more individual existence. As Barzun suggests, the claims are hollow. The emerging Bohemian Era will be anti-intellectual: characterized by an externalized and collective sense of purpose (politics über alles) and an undifferentiated, amorphous inner life (the empire of desire).

Barzun was right to view the future with foreboding. Our Bohemian Era is and will be crude and thoughtless. All you need to do is go to P.S. 1, the contemporary gallery run by the Museum of Modern Art in Long Island City. It is full of flat, ideological gestures and great gushers of the id. But Barzun was also naive. The Bourgeois Era ended because so many came to feel it as a lifeless, artificial posture. “Fineness” and “virtuosity”? They seem awfully thin and precious. And what, exactly, do they serve? Without the commanding voice of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Western culture lost is ability to claim our loyalty. A soul-shaping demand shorn of divine sanction can easily come to be seen as an inhumane invasion.

Kind of Blue

Rick from SoCal e-mails:

I recently opened up an Intrade account to put money on Romney. With D oversampling in polls both nationally and state-by-state (I'm sure you are aware of this, but if you want I can grab the links), independents heavily favoring Romney, and what I see to be a personal known in that I know people who voted for Obama who are voting for Romney, and I know of people (authors, newspaper endorsements) that voted for or endorsed Obama and are now voting for Romney, the pulse I take is that Romney is going to win this outright and early enough for me to call it from my command center so that my parents will be able to go to sleep early next Tuesday. I tend to be very frugal with my money, but when you see the above scenario played out and a 1:1.5 return on your money, I see that as a smart play. If it were 50/50, I likely wouldn't risk it, but the reward is just too good. If this bears out, I will definitely have to thank Nate Silver for keeping this as lopsided as it is.

All that being said. I have another metric which has proven good to live by for 30 years or so. As a young teenage buck I delivered the Strib. I read the newspaper early one January morning to be the first to know that the Iranian hostages had been released. It was the beginning of my love of reading and being news current. I noticed even back then that the Minnesota Poll had the effect of being the most demoralizing poll to people of my slant. Election after election would happen and any chance of hope was dashed the weekend prior to it by a poll that had R's losing by wide margins. Then, on Wednesday morning the results would not be as extreme as the poll stated, but they'd still have called it right and the pollster would say that they were just off a bit but within the far part of the margin of error.

I believe the only year that the aforementioned scenario didn't play out was in 2004 when there was a huge demonstration by bloggers who took to the streets to call them out prior to the election. They were off by less that 1% that year, if memory serves correctly. With that one exception, to my current sense it seemed like they were typically off by 7-10%. I spent some time trying to find the Minnesota Poll historic information this weekend, but had no such luck. I'm wondering if you know where I can find it?

Seeing that they had it a 3 point race last week, warmed my heart. My vote has never been part of a winning slate of electors, and unless (and until) we hit rock-bottom here in CA, I've got a long time to wait. My hope is that for the first time since you and I were toddlers and for your first time as a 'legal' voter (I know you used to use a fake ID to vote a la 16 candles) may your vote COUNT!

Scott Johnson at Power Line has always been the go to guy for analyzing the problems with the Strib’s Minnesota Poll. Here are a few of his pieces on the poll:

Nov 8th, 2002 The Trouble With the Star-Trib Poll

Sept 28th, 2010 The trouble with the Star Trib poll, cont’d

Nov 4th, 2010 The Minnesota Poll strikes again

As Scott notes, the Strib MN Poll is no longer conducted by the paper itself as that work was has been handed over to an outside firm. While their performance in the 2010 election was as poor as previous Strib MN Polls, there is at least some hope that their latest poll showing Romney within three points of Obama in Minnesota was more accurate. A recent Rasmussen poll had the gap at five which is pretty close to what the Strib MN Poll showed and Rasmussen is usually a comparison poll when it comes to accuracy.

I still believe that the only way Romney wins Minnesota is if it’s a national landslide election, but to think that it could be this close this late makes it a little more interesting for those of us in a state usually taken for granted when it comes to presidential elections. Rick and other conservatives in the Golden State will have to continue to experience this through other less solidly blue states.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Band Plays On

We’ve long mocked the importance and impact of newspapers endorsing candidates for political office. While there were no doubt a few dismaying instances of people actually following the endorsements of newspapers like the Star Tribune in the past, the overall decline of the industry and the rise of alternative forms of media in recent years has made these endorsements even more irrelevant. And yet the papers persist in churning them out like the orchestra on the Titanic playing on as the ship sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

It came as a surprise to no one that the Star Tribune has recently endorsed Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. The editorial endorsement was a good reminder of just how meaningless such endorsements are when issued by such obviously partisan publications as the Strib:

As the nation's first Muslim elected to Congress, three-term Rep. Keith Ellison has gracefully endured vicious bloggers, thoughtless questions from talk-show hosts and paranoid accusations from a Minnesota congresswoman.

Ellison failed to meet his own standards of decorum when he lost it in a recent debate with Republican challenger Chris Fields, calling the challenger a "lowlife scumbag" after Fields lobbed a below-the-belt and unsubstantiated allegation about cheapskate child support.

The meltdown was out of character, and Ellison quickly issued a public apology. The brouhaha reflected poorly on both candidates, but voters should give Ellison a pass this time and send him back to the U.S. House in November.

Keith Ellison has “endured vicious bloggers,” has he? I don’t recall the Strib ever mentioning the vicious bloggers who for years have literally (in the real, not Joe Biden sense of the word) stalked the same Minnesota congresswoman who the paper accuses of hurling “paranoid accusations” at Keith Ellison.

And somewhere Alan Fine has to be laughing about the Strib’s sudden concern with “below the belt and unsubstantiated” allegations about a candidate’s domestic life. It’s telling that Ellison’s shocking behavior in the debate is characterized by the Strib as a “brouhaha” that “reflected poorly on both candidates.” I think most fair observers who listened to the exchange would conclude that Ellison was the one who acted in a uncivil manner that tarnished his reputation. To the Strib, it was just a case of “he said, he said” and we can’t really say who was right and who was wrong.

That bad news is that Keith Ellison will be reelected to Congress this year. The good news is that the endorsement of the Star Tribune will have no impact on the race. Progress of sorts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Playing President

President Obama’s recent interview with Rolling Stone has attracted a fair amount of attention, most of it focused on Obama’s description of Mitt Romney as a “bullshitter.” Critics have said that using such profanity in a personal attack in such a public manner is beneath the dignity of the office of the president of these United States. I agree and am not sure exactly who the president thought he was going to impress by going into the gutter. The handful of gray pony-tailed types who still read Rolling Stone and regard it is a beacon on non-conformity are surely already firmly ensconced in Obama’s camp.

There was another part of the interview where President Obama also spoke in a manner that I found less than worthy of the office. Obama and the Road Ahead:

The biggest challenge we've always had is that unlike FDR – who came into office when the economy had already bottomed out, so people understood that everything done subsequent to his election was making things better – I came in just as we were sliding. Because of the actions we took, we averted a Great Depression – but in the process, we also muddied up the political narrative, because it allowed somebody like Romney to somehow blame my policies for the mess that the previous administration created.

Muddied up the political narrative? I can’t imagine any previous occupant of the Oval Office using the word “narrative” in such a way. Presidents are politicians. And we all know that politicians are constantly seeking to define and shape narratives that help their causes. But there’s something unbecoming and unseemly about having a president of the United States talk about it in such an open and forthright manner.

Americans like to have a certain image of their president. It might not be realistic and those in the office have often failed to consistently live up to it. But even if it’s somewhat illusory we still take comfort in it especially in times of trouble. So it’s disturbing to hear President Obama talk about how he essentially regrets that things hadn’t hit bottom before he came it office because it “muddied up the narrative.” We want a president who is concerned with what he can do to improve the economy, not about how that will fit in with the timeline for his narrative.

It reminds me of earlier this year, when President Obama was asked what his biggest mistake in office had been. He explained that while his policies had been right, he hadn’t told a good story to the American people . Again, we know that presidents are going to try to tell us a story. But don’t tell us that you’re telling us a story.

The way that President Obama talks about “narratives” and “telling stories” diminishes the office of the president. It’s crass, cynical, and petty. We expect and deserve better of our president. I hope we get it soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thinning Ranks of the Little Platoons

Edmund Burke:

To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.

Conservatives have long embraced Burke’s concept of these “little platoons” as being the cohesive glue that holds our civic society together. Citizens coming together in voluntary associations at the local level builds true bonds of community and strengthens the societal fabric. This is an alternative vision to the idea that “government is the only thing we all belong to.” Instead, we belong to churches, fraternal clubs, youth sports groups, and service organizations that bring people together and make their communities better places to live. Being committed to these “little platoons” provides citizens a stake in present society and in the future through their work with children.

In order for these little platoons to function, a certain level of commitment from citizens is required. It’s much easier to sit back and say “government is the only thing we all belong to” and let somebody else worry about such matters. To some extent this is what you see in some European countries where participation in voluntary civic activities and charitable giving has decreased as the size and scope of government has increased. As Dennis Prager likes to say, “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.” The same holds true for civic organizations, which tend to shrink as government expands.

Some of my recent experiences have me worried about whether we’re seeing the same thing in America. While people still seem to want the benefits that they and their children realize from participating in societies little platoons, they don’t seem to want to make the commitment to ensure that the organizations function as they should. They’re “too busy” to volunteer their time, but expect others to pick up the slack for them.

I know that everyone is busy these days. We’re busy too. I work a job that requires a decent amount of travel and includes early morning and late night conference calls. My wife is homeschooling three boys between the ages of four and seven. We have the primary responsibility for looking out for and assisting our aging parents. So our plates are pretty full.

But when necessary we find the time and make the commitment to help keep the little platoons we participate in marching. The following examples are anecdotal and relatively small scale. But the fact that we see these sort of situations over and over tells me they be indicative of a larger problem.

We’ll start at the very small end with the playroom for children at church. It’s set up so that parents can drop off their young kids and sit in the main church for Mass. There is a cry room for families too, but that’s usually a circus and it’s very hard to concentrate on the liturgy in there. The playroom is a nice alternative when your kids are old enough to be on their own, but not old enough for Sunday school. And when Sunday school is not being held, it’s also a good backup.

The playroom relies on having a couple of adult volunteers to work alongside a couple of teenagers (exclusively girls) each Sunday. Given the number of parents who utilize the room, it really shouldn’t be that difficult to line up volunteers to cover this duty. My wife has signed up and usually this involves being in the room maybe two or three times over the course of year. Yet the woman who runs the playroom is always struggling to find enough folks willing to do this and so some weeks the playroom is open and some weeks it’s no. People like to use the playroom for their kids. They just don’t want to make a minimal commitment to help watch other children for an hour.

Next up is soccer. We signed our two oldest boys up to play in a community recreation soccer program this fall. The program relies on volunteer coaches (usually parents) and likes to have two per team. With the season literally just about to kick off, no one had signed up for our team. So even though I hadn’t played soccer since ninth grade and was “busy,” I stepped in to coach. Of the six teams in our league, ours is the only one with only one official coach. I’ve been able to enlist the help of a couple of other dads to help out during our practice/games, but no one else was willing to make a firm commitment to coach. We have fourteen kids on our team and eleven sets of parents (three sets of siblings). Most of them show up every week to watch their kids play and many have volunteered to bring snacks (kids today apparently can’t do any sort of activity without getting snacks upon its conclusion). They want the soccer for their kids, they just don’t want to have to help to make it happen.

Finally there is Cub Scouts. Last year, we had our oldest son join a pack associated with a local public school because they had a Lion Cubs program for kindergarten age kids while the pack at the Catholic school/church did not. We got started a little bit late with the program, but once we were in we were in. The pack was not very well run yet at one point there were eight kids in the Lions Den (no pun intended). By the end of the year, we were down to three as parents dropped out deciding it was not worth their time. One of the parents decided not to show up for the spring campout on the day of the event because it was too cold and rainy for them. Nice life lesson for the kid there.

This year, we switched to the pack affiliated with our church and school. It’s much better organized and they added Lions this year so we have our two oldest sons participating. I believe there are eight kids in the Tigers Den and the pack wanted to get four parents to volunteer as den leaders. So far, there are two people who have signed up for this: me and my wife. Once again, we’re busy too, but we recognize that it we want our son to realize the benefits of being a Cub Scout we have to be willing to get involved too.

There’s a lot of anger and complaining that a fair number of our fellow Americans are getting a lot more out of government than they’re paying in. But there also seems to be a fair amount of free riding when it comes to societies little platoons as well. And just as a smaller and smaller number of taxpayers can’t be expected to keep paying for a larger and larger number of people to receive government benefits forever, so local civic organizations can’t be expected to keep running into perpetuity with smaller numbers of people willing to actively participate in running them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Precedence Over Everything

At NRO, Karthryn Jean Lopez points out an interview with Philadelphia archbishop Charles J. Chaput in which he explains that The Issue of Abortion Requires Absolute Adherence on the Part of Catholics:

“Catholics have been historically part of the Democratic party in great numbers and I think could have really stopped that development and movement if they had tried. But they didn’t,” Philadelphia archbishop Charles J. Chaput says in a new interview with the Catholic News Service, speaking about the Democrats’ “embrace” of abortion.

The issue of abortion, Archbishop Chaput says, “really is a big issue today.” And the issue “requires of Catholics” a “loyalty to the Church prior to their political party,” he says.

“We are Catholics before we are Democrat, we are Catholics before we are Republican, we are even Catholics before we are Americans,” Archbishop Chaput emphasizes, “because we know that God has a demand on us prior to any government demand on us.”

“This,” he adds, “has been the story of the martyrs through the centuries.”

Abortion, Archbishop Chaput says, “is very serious issue that requires absolute adherence on the part of Catholics,” Chaput explains. “And if we don’t stand united on this issue, we’re bound to failure — not only in the area of protecting unborn human life but in maintaining our religious freedom,” he continues.

And lest you worry he’s forgotten he’s a spiritual shepherd and become a canvasser for the Grand Old Party in the latter-days of a presidential election, he cautions: “You cannot trust Republicans to be pro-life twenty years from now,” Chaput says. “You can’t let any party take your vote for granted. That’s unfortunately what’s happened. . . . That’s why the position of the Democrats has gotten worse and worse and worse . . . Catholics haven’t abandoned them.”

“We just have to be insistent. Catholic identity takes precedence over everything.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finland Station

We Americans sometimes tend to lump European countries together when it comes to matters of economics and the role of government. The reality is that there are substantial differences in these areas between the various countries. During the recent spate of crisis’s in the Euro zone, there has been a tendency to divide the region between the easy spending, laid back south and the frugal, hard working north. But that too paints with too broad a brush for within the countries of the north and even within the Scandinavian states there are significantly approaches to fiscal and financial policies.

One such example was highlighted by an article in today’s WSJ. Northern European Investors Steer Clear of Needy South:

Finns are savers. Helsinki is a prosperous but reticent capital. Its stern stone buildings are modestly adorned. The subway is fast but more dated than, say, the shiny Athens metro. Finland's modern retirement-savings system began in the early 1960s as a joint effort between the government, unions and employers to put aside cash.

Today, the government fixes benefits and determines contribution levels, which now average about 23% of salary. Unusually, the money is kept out of the government's hands. Employers can elect to manage it themselves, but many turn it over to professional pension managers, like Varma or Ilmarinen.

The Finnish pension system is a so-called first-pillar scheme, which means retirees are entitled by law to a defined pension payment. The first-pillar systems operated by European countries are at the heart of the European welfare state.

"The exception is, we have a lot of money," says Reijo Vanne, director of economic analysis at the Finnish Pension Alliance, a trade group. "Most first-pillar systems have none."

A government supported retirement system where people are allowed to manage their own money? And even to turn it over to private firms? And it’s actually sound? I didn’t know that was even possible.

Finland is indeed an interesting place that defies common stereotypes of Europe. The progress they have made in education in recent years is remarkable and is even being touted by some as a possible example of a ”third way” between the competing views of how to improve American’s education system. Maybe they’re onto to something with their retirement system as well.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Policies Less Foreign

With tonight’s debate on foreign policy only hours away, I find that I’m not particularly satisfied with either candidate’s positions on many of the issues. While the last four years haven’t been an auspicious time for America in terms of our international standing and four more years of President Obama’s policies would almost certainly worsen that situation, I’m not sold that Mitt Romney has a clear and consistent foreign policy alternative to offer. I have a work meeting and won’t be able to watch the debate tonight. However, I do a few simple positions that I’d love to hear Romney take up.

The following would be my short but sweet approach to how the US should approach our relationships with other countries:

1. Don’t blow up our buildings or kill members of our military or civilians here or overseas. If you do, we will find you and kill you.

2. Leave our friends alone too. Don’t threaten to wipe them off the map. If you do attack them and they ask us for help, we will make your life miserable.

3. We like to drive our cars and don’t want to pay through the arm to do so. Don’t mess with our oil supply.

4. While we think it would be grand if you had free and fair elections and respected the rights of your citizens to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, if you follow the first three steps listed above we really don’t care.

5. Let us trade with you. We’ll buy your stuff-a lot of it in fact-and we’d like to sell you ours too as long as your markets are open and the trade is free and fair. Understand that we’re going to have an interest in global trade and will do what we have to in order to protect shipping lanes (among other things) to allow it to flow.

This all essentially boils down to a version of live and let live. There are a few things that we really need from the rest of the world. Let us have those things and otherwise leave us alone and we will do the same.

I don’t expect to hear either candidate keep it this simple and concise tonight. However if they did, I think it would go a long way to convincing voters that their policies truly have Americas interests at heart.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Separated at Birth?

Fox News' Brett Baier's hair...
And a CCM Tack 652?

Playoff SAB

Mitch Kramer from Dazed and Confused (HT SP) and Tim Lincecum?
EDIT TO ADD: It's the same guy! That is unfreaking canny!

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLX)

Another better late than never edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the colorful folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to bring just the right hue to any occasion.

Our featured beer this week comes from New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s their new fall seasonal Red Hoptober:

Fall is here and with it our seasonal ale, Red Hoptober. Shining like autumn leaves in a globe glass this beer pours a dark and lovely garnet as it builds a bright, inviting head. The Eldorado hops are bold and present with a distinct, piney flavor while the caramel malt and roasted barley provide a backbone to stand Red Hoptober upright. Centennial and Cascade hops offer hints of citrus, tickling the nose, while the tongue carries a subtle, roasty tone that pairs pleasantly with the warming bite of bitter. Red Hoptober is perfect for shortening days and campfire nights.

Six pack of 12oz brown bottles sells for $7.99. Label follows the usual New Belgium design with an exterior border in red and a fall fishing scene in the mountains in front of a purple background framed by hops.

STYLE: Amber Ale


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

AROMA (0-2): Floral hops with pine and a little sweet caramel. 2

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

TASTE (0-5): Follows the smell with roasted caramel malts and hop flavors of pine and citrus. Mouthfeel is watery and oily slick. Light to medium bodied and pretty drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Crisp and dry finish with lingering bitterness. 1

OVERALL (0-6): Another fall style that ventures outside the typical Oktoberfest or pumpkins offerings yet remains true to the character of the season. It’s a touch more hoppy than other reds yet retains good balance with its malty flavor. Red Hoptober is a good addition to New Belgium’s offering and a superior red to their flagship Fat Tire. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Was Against the Oil Before I Was For It

For me, the most exasperating moment in Tuesday’s debate came when President Obama was asked about gasoline prices. As is his fashion, he didn’t directly answer the question, but rambled on and actually sought to claim credit for the recent oil/gas boom in the United States. The gall! The temerity! How could the leader who lectured us how we would no longer be able to set our thermostats where we wanted and had endlessly promoted the need for the government to subsidize “green” energy and jobs suddenly act as if he’s been favor of taking full advantage of the country’s fossil fuel resources all along? How could anyone buy this line of malarkey? I was literally screaming queries such as these and others at the television screen as I watched the debate from my hotel room in Houston.

Not only were the President’s claims to be a big fan of oil and gas ridiculous on the surface, the facts he supplied to support them are also highly suspect. From a WSJ editorial called Energy in the Executive:

The problem for the President is that a government outfit called the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) compiles these statistics. That's where Mr. Romney got his accurate figures on oil and gas production on government land and permitting in Mr. Obama's first term. The EIA also reports that total fossil fuel production in public areas—oil, gas and coal—has plunged to a nine-year low, to 18.6 quadrillion BTUs from 21.2 quadrillion in 2003.

Mr. Obama is correct that overall domestic energy production is up, thanks largely to the shale boom in states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota. But he's trying to take credit for something he had nothing to do with, given that this surge is taking place on private property and the EPA is searching for an excuse to supplant state regulation and slow down drilling. Wait for the second term.

No thanks, I’d prefer not to even consider that possibility.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Minnesota Twins 2012 Wall Calendar Does Not Hold Up Well

A co-worker of mine has a 2012 Minnesota Twins wall calendar hanging in his office and I couldn’t help but notice that it hasn’t held up well: 

January: Francisco Liriano – now with the Chicago White Sox
February: Tsuyoshi Nishioka – now with the Hanshin tigers
March: Denard Span
April: Ron Gardenhire
May: Nick Blackburn – sent down to AAA mid-season
June: Jim Thome – has played for Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Baltimore since leaving the Twins
July: Carl Pavano – shoulder injury
August: Justin Morneau
September: Joe Nathan – closer for Texas Rangers
October: Danny Valencia – sent down to AAA mid-season
November: Delmon Young – Detroit Tigers’ all-time post-season home run leader
December: Joe Mauer

A mere one-third of the calendar wasn’t traded, demoted to the minors, injured, or left before the season as a free agent.  And that one-third includes the manager.

Here is my proposed 2013 calendar:

January: Johan Santana
February: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
March: Jason Kubel
April: Billy Smith
May: Kyle Lohse
June: R.A. Dickey
July: David Ortiz
August: J. J. Hardy
September: Nick Bjugstad
October: Kevin Garnett
November: Lindsay Whelan
December: Brett Favre

On Trade An Echo Not a Choice

Ramesh Ponnuru on how Both Campaigns Succumb to Foolish Protectionism:

Romney claims that by manipulating exchange rates China has added to its trade surplus with the U.S., and this surplus has cost at least 450,000 American jobs. His argument may have political appeal, but it doesn’t make economic sense -- which is why he largely ignored his own economic team on the question.

The bilateral trade deficit is an increasingly meaningless statistic. It treats iPhones as Chinese exports because they are assembled and shipped in China. Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the World Trade Organization, has said the U.S. trade deficit with China might be halved if the statistics took better account of supply chains.

To get its estimate of 450,000 lost jobs, the Romney campaign cites a Washington Post article, which in turn attributes the number to “a pro-labor advocate at the liberal Economic Policy Institute.” It’s a nonsense figure, reached by falsely assuming that if exports create jobs, imports must destroy them at the same rate. Almost all economists believe that two countries can both come out ahead by trading, just as two people can.

China has been letting its currency move closer to market levels since 2005. So far, that movement hasn’t been correlated either with the size of the American trade deficit with China or with the number of jobs available in the U.S. Dan Ikenson, a trade-policy analyst at the Cato Institute, provides one reason the appreciation of the yuan might not have the effect on the trade gap that Romney wants: It makes some Chinese exporters more competitive by cutting the cost of their imported inputs. Romney would be risking a trade war to get China to accelerate a policy that hasn’t yielded any visible improvements for the job prospects of Americans.

Trade attorney and blogger Scott Lincicome makes a strong case that presidents don’t even have the legal authority to take the steps Romney advocates. The president can’t just instruct the Treasury Department to reach the formal conclusion that China is a currency manipulator, or order the Commerce Department to start levying tariffs.

Let's hope that if Romney is elected, his promise to "get tough with China" on trade is one he doesn't keep while in office.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Laying a New Ground

Paul Ryan's performance in last week's debate was good and his response on religion and abortion was quite well done. However, George Weigel imagines an alternative response that could have been A Game Changer for the Abortion Debate:

But there was an opportunity here for a game changer, of the kind that has made Congressman Ryan a welcome new voice on budgetary, regulatory, and entitlement issues. Imagine this replay of the last question of the vice-presidential debate:

RADDATZ: This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion.

RYAN: None.

(Ms. Raddatz’s jaw drops. The vice president is rendered temporarily speechless. The audience gasps. Congressman Ryan lets his surprising answer sink in a moment and continues.)

Let me explain, Martha. When I say “none,” I’m speaking about abortion, as I assume you were, as a public-policy issue. My opposition to the abortion license that Roe v. Wade created is based on science and reason.

Biology and embryology teach us that the product of human conception is a human being — nothing more, but certainly nothing less. No scientifically literate person denies that; it’s a fact, not an opinion. As for reason, well, an elementary sense of justice — of fairness — teaches us that innocent human life is inviolable and merits the protection of the laws. That’s the same sense of justice that tells us not to discriminate against another because she’s not a he, or because her pigmentation is different from mine, or because his parents came to this country from Belarus ten years ago; it’s the same sense of justice that has made America the most racially egalitarian society in human history. Science and reason have made me a pro-life public official. Science and reason are what the Supreme Court ignored in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The so-called pro-choice position is the unscientific position, and it’s the unreasonable position.

But my faith does shape my thinking on these questions, and let me tell you how. What my faith adds to the mix is a deep sense of compassion and an urgent sense of responsibility for women caught in the dilemma of a crisis pregnancy. My faith teaches me that those women in crisis pregnancies should not be left alone, clinging to some spurious “right.” My faith, and the experience of the pastors of many denominations with whom I’ve discussed this, teach me that the termination of a pregnancy by abortion often multiplies the trauma of unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation, not only to that unborn child, but also to his or her mother.

My faith, which instructs me to honor the dignity of every human person, helps me understand the implications of what science and reason teach me. And one “dignitarian” implication of science and reason is that the pro-life position is the pro-feminist position, because abortion on demand has been a great deal for irresponsible and predatory men — and a very bad deal for women.

And I’m not alone in this, Martha. There are thousands of crisis-pregnancy centers across our country, where women who have been abandoned by those irresponsible or predatory men can find the compassion and care they deserve from people who take the unique dignity of women seriously — people who are eager to help a woman in a crisis pregnancy bring a child to term and then put that child up for adoption, or bring a child to term and then raise it with love in a caring community. In all the arguing about abortion these past 40 years, the tens of thousands of volunteers who staff those crisis-pregnancy centers are almost never mentioned. But they are real American heroes, offering women in crisis something more — something more humane — than a technological quick fix to a terrible problem.

No woman in America has to face a crisis pregnancy alone. That’s something we should all be proud of. And we should thank God for inspiring men and women across America with the faith to go beyond the obvious facts of science and the obvious dictates of reason in offering compassionate care to women in crisis pregnancies.

Maybe next time...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

HWX, with Paul Mirengoff

It’s another Saturday afternoon special edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience.  This week there’s an extra helping of Power Line goodness, as the great Paul Mirengoff joins the conversation.

We break down last week’s Vice Presidential debate, with varying opinions on Paul Ryan’s performance, Joe Biden’s looniness, and whether it makes any difference.  We also preview the next Presidential debate coming up on Tuesday.  It’s going to be a “town hall” style debate, with questions coming exclusively from those reliable fonts of wisdom, undecided voters.  We express our reservations and expectations for what’s to come.

Next it’s Loon of the Week, featuring yet another alibi for President Obama’s poor performance in the first Presidential debate.  Then, This Week in Gate Keeping, where Vogue Magazine meets The Sopranos, with hilarious consequences.

This week’s episode is brought to you by Hillsdale College and their FREE video series, Constitution 201:

Constitution 201 is a new 10-week online course examining American progressivism: its historical roots and principles; its rejection of America’s founding principles and Constitution; its political successes in the New Deal, the Great Society, and in recent years; the ongoing political debate between progressives and conservatives; and the chance of a constitutional revival.

And did we mention, it’s FREE?  Check it out at

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!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Joe Don't Know

Among the more revealing moments of last night's VP Debate was when the candidates where asked how as Catholics they had come to their positions on abortion. Paul Ryan gave a straightforward answer on how his views were aligned with the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception, but that his believes were based on more than that. He also cited the ultrasound he and his wife viewed of their daughter, an anecdote sure to resonate with anyone who has had a child in the last couple of decades:

RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

RYAN: Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.

You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.

Vice President Biden meanwhile provided one of the least logical explanations that I’ve ever heard on abortion.

BIDEN: My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the — the congressman. I — I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that — women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that.

So Biden believes that life begins at conception as the Catholic Church teaches. But he also apparently believes that anyone not named Joe Biden has a right to end that life if they so choose. You can debate the semantics all you want, but intentionally taking someone’s life is murder. So Joe Biden is essentially saying that while the Church’s teaching would proscribe him from killing a baby, he doesn’t have a problem with others doing so.

A naturally follow up question might have been, “If you believe that life begins at conception, at what point is not okay to intentionally end that life?” Six months in the womb? Eight months in month? Right up until the baby is born? A few days after birth? A few months after birth?

Look, if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts that life doesn’t begin until the baby is out of the womb and no longer physically connected to a woman’s body and you use that believe to justify your support for abortion, I can understand where you’re coming from. I don’t agree with you, but at least there is logic there. If there’s no life, then there’s no murder.

But to believe that life does begin at conception AND that it’s okey dokey for a woman to terminate that life so that she doesn’t get “punished with a baby” is not only illogical but hideously immoral. You’re accepting the premise that abortion is murder and endorsing it. For Biden to claim that as a lifelong practicing Catholic, his religion has “informed his social doctrine” is quite frankly disgusting.

Biden then went to lecture on the real facts of the contraceptive mandate controversy.

With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.

I know that you’ll be shocked to hear this, but it turns out that Biden’s claim is in fact NOT a fact. A group that represents the religion that informed his social doctrine issued the following corrective. USCCB Responds To Inaccurate Statement Of Fact On HHS Mandate Made During Vice Presidential Debate:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:

Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:

"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.

HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.

USCCB continues to urge HHS, in the strongest possible terms, actually to eliminate the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.

So no Joe, even if you say it twice it still isn’t true. You can’t make up facts any more than you can make your own idea of what it means to be a Catholic.

UPDATE- More from Timothy Dalrymple:

If you believe, as the Catholic church does, that a sacred human life begins at conception, you simply cannot do nothing. What you are asserting (sacred human life begins at conception) is not a matter of subjective taste. It’s an assertion of fact. And if you are truly convinced of that fact, then there is nothing noble or tolerant or praiseworthy, or even remotely thoughtful or ethical, about standing by while those innocent human lives are extinguished. Yet this is what passes for thoughtful piety on the Obama ticket.

Biden is saying: “I believe what the Catholic Church believes, that preborn children are sacred human lives — but I will simply stand by while anyone who wants to do so kills them.” If he truly believes what the Catholic Church believes, then he has no right to do nothing in the face of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of abortions. He has no right. Either Biden does not really believe what he claims to believe, and he merely claims to believe it in order to draw as much of the Catholic vote as possible — or he is profoundly failing in his moral obligation to care for the children who are being aborted, because he finds it personally or politically convenient to raise no objection.

I don’t know which is worse.

Either explanation is simply appalling.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Time to dust off the keyboards and get down to a little old fashioned live blogging. Live blogging? Isn’t that so, like 2004? Why bother live blogging when we’re all using Twitter to share our meaningless thoughts and opinions in real time? Well, this particular event doesn’t lend itself well to Twitter and is better for the older medium. So live blogging it is.

Live blogging as I fill out my absentee ballot. Historic you say. Unprecedented. Breathtaking. Unbelievable exciting. All true and so much more. Fasten your seat belts and let’s get started.

7:47pm Okay, let’s go. Always good to follow the instructions.

1. Vote!

Show your witness your blank ballot, then mark your vote in private.

Honey, take a look at my ballot, will ya? No, that’s not a euphemism. It will only take a minute. Blank, right? Good.

7:51pm On to the ballot. Where to begin, top or bottom of the ballot? Since I already know how I’m going to vote in the big races (thanks to the Koch Brothers’ advisory), let’s start small with the judges.

Supreme Court-Chief Justice

Dan Griffith:

Dan Griffith, protecting:

...Your Inalienable Rights, your Liberty...Your Voice, your Right to Vote...You, the Individual.

As justice, I will defend YOUR rights...from Government Growth

Lorrie Gildea-Incumbent:

I am committed to preserving equal justice under the law, the rule of law in guiding our society, and the guarantees of liberty, safety, and democracy in Minnesota.

Tough choice. I’m heard good things about Gildea in the past, but I gotta go with the small government guy here.

8:01pm Ten minutes and I’ve filled in one oval?

Supreme Court-Associate Justice 1

Dean Barkley

Justice Barry Anderson-Incumbent

This is easy. I can’t stand Dean Barkley.

Supreme Court-Associate Justice 4

David Stras-Incumbent:

Justice David Stras's integrity, impartiality, and hard work earned the support of a diverse group of leading Minnesota lawyers and citizens. Please help us elect him to the Supreme Court in November 2012.

Tim Tingelstad:

I am committed to preserving the people's constitutional right to choose their judges through meaningful, contested, non-partisan judicial elections. I believe that justice is served when judges fear God and love the people, and as a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, I will be impartial to the parties, while partial to the original intent of the Constitution.

Hard to beat original intent. Tinglestad it is.

8:12pm A couple of uncontested races in the Court of Appeals help me pick up the pace. On to the Fourth District Court.

Judge 22

Liz Cutter

Steven Antolak

Not much to go on here. Antolak references the Declaration of Independence on his page. It’s a thin reed, but you gotta go with what you got.

Judge 44

Lois Conroy

Marc Berris

Another tough call. Conroy is endorsed by Representative Ryan Winkler (a DFLer and my former rep), Berris by Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Enough said.

8:29pm The rest of the judicial races are uncontested. Time for a beer. Voting absentee has its benefits.

8:32pm School Board up next. These are always painful. Five candidates, vote for up to three.

John Vento-Endorsed by Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers and SEIU Local 284

Ron Stoffel

Sherry Tyrrell-Incumbent

Helen Bassett-Incumbent

Peter Vasseur

The incumbents are out. And among the other three, Vasseur is only one who I can find any reason to vote for.

8:53pm That’s twenty-one minutes of my life I’m not getting back. Now we get to the important stuff: soil and/or water convservation. Without the benefit of Sisyphus’s guidance I plunge ahead blindly.

Eleonore Wesserle:

Eleonore joined IATP in April 2009 and supports the Trade and Global Governance and Food and Justice programs.

Food and Justice? No food! No justice!

Jeremey Haefs

Haefs doesn’t seem to have a site, but is endorsed by Republicans. Good enough for me.

Soil and Water Conservation District 3

Marjorie Holsten

Brian T. Peterson

Neither candidate has a site. C’mon people, if you’re going to bother to run take two minutes and set up a web site. Holsten is endorsed by the GOP.

Soil and Water Conservation District 4

Richard B. Strong

Andrew K. Moller

Another tough choice. Strong actually won the Fraters Libertas 2010 Soil and Water Endorsement which no doubt helped propel him to victory. But Moller wants to keep taxes low so he wins my vote.

9:14pm A couple of commissioners are next

County Commissioner District 2

Blong Yang

Linda Higgins

Higgins is DFL and labor endorsed. Blong’s got a great name, but looks plenty liberal himself. He says he would have voted against the Twins and Vikings stadiums so at least he’s got that going for him.

Three Rivers Park District

Daniel Freeman

Matthew Laue

I can’t seem to find much on Laue...oh wait there’s this:

Matthew W. Laue, one of two candidates competing for an open seat on the Three Rivers Park District Board, was arrested last week in a St. Paul prostitution sting.

Laue, 43, of Robbinsdale, is accused of making a sex-for-money deal with an undercover officer. He was arrested about 1:10 p.m. Thursday, according to a misdemeanor citation charging him with engaging in prostitution.

That’s gonna be tough to overcome. I’ve actually met Daniel Freeman at local political events so this is a very easy call.

9:34pm Past the difficult decisions now. The rest should be smooth sailing.

9:36pm Voting complete.

Seal your ballot in the tan ballot envelope.

AKA the “secrecy envelope.”

Put the tan ballot envelope in the white signature envelope.


Fill out the white signature envelope completely.


Put the signature envelope in the larger white return envelope to protect your private information from view.

Another white envelope? No other colors were available? Help, I’m being disenfranchised!

Signed, sealed, and soon to be delivered. This live blog is over. The voting has just begun.

Chick Lit Drop

You know how you know that the recent Romney rebound is real? When the folks at start to panic and fall back into fear-mongering about the Republican’s-lead by Romney-alleged "war on women." From an e-mail I just received:

Danger! Mitt Romney now leads President Obama 49% to 45% in the respected Pew Research poll.

And listen to this: Women are the key to this dramatic change, as Obama's election-winning, 18-point lead among women voters was completely wiped out. Absolutely gone.

It's no wonder, given the stunning media silence lately on the dangers Romney represents for women's rights and health. But we've got a great way to change all that and help get Obama's lead back with women voters.

Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria, and Kerry Washington have teamed up with director Rob Reiner to make an absolutely knock-your-socks-off TV ad reminding American women of the terrible consequences of a Romney presidency.

It has the star power to cut through the noise and grab the media's attention, but we need to raise $400,000 to run it during TV shows with lots of women viewers in key swing states like Florida and Ohio. Can you chip in?

It strikes me as odd that the side that seeks to portray itself as noble defenders of the female of the species in the “war on women,” would think that all it would take to persuade women voters to come back to President Obama is a television scare ad featuring a trio of Hollywood celebrities. Patronizing? Check. Condescending? Absolutely. It almost makes you wonder who is really on the side of women in this “war” after all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Too Many Cooks

We need more teachers! We need more teachers! Really? Jay Greene on The Imaginary Teacher Shortage:

For decades we have tried to boost academic outcomes by hiring more teachers, and we have essentially nothing to show for it. In 1970, public schools employed 2.06 million teachers, or one for every 22.3 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Digest of Education Statistics. In 2012, we have 3.27 million teachers, one for every 15.2 students.

Yet math and reading scores for 17-year-olds have remained virtually unchanged since 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress. The federal estimate of high-school graduation rates also shows no progress (with about 75% of students completing high school then and now). Unless the next teacher-hiring binge produces something that the last several couldn't, there is no reason to expect it to contribute to student outcomes.

Most people expect that more individualized attention from teachers should help students learn. The problem is that expanding the number of hires means dipping deeper into the potential teacher labor pool. That means additional teachers are likely to be weaker than current ones.

Parents like the idea of smaller class sizes in the same way that people like the idea of having a personal chef. Parents imagine that their kids will have one of the Iron Chefs. But when you have to hire almost 3.3 million chefs, you're liable to end up with something closer to the fry-guy from the local burger joint.

Greene goes on to mention another problem with simply adding more teachers: if the pool of funds available to pay teachers doesn’t increase at the same rate as the number of teachers does, it naturally will mean lower pay for teachers. So not only does adding more teachers water down the quality, it also results in good teachers not getting paid as much as they should. Instead of blindly calling for “more teachers!” why not try a model with fewer, higher quality, and better paid teachers?

Over the last forty years, we’ve tried to throw more money and more teachers at the education problem and the results have been dismal. Doing more of the same will not change the outcome.

How to Get to Serious Street

Hugh Hewitt says that it taking on federal funding of public television and radio, Mitt Romney is Attacking the church of the Left:

This deep-seated reaction of springing to the defense of one's church has a counterpart on the Left, and we saw it at President Obama's Thursday rallies, where chants of "PBS, PBS" rose from the crowd of Obama die-hards who weren't going to let the worst debate performance by a sitting president in history check their grim determination to back him.

Mitt Romney had attacked PBS and Big Bird -- and by extension Ken Burns, NPR and "Morning Edition," Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Joseph Campbell and -- horror of horrors -- Bill Moyers. Terry Gross, "All Things Considered," the neat one-minute sound breaks: Romney put them all on the chopping block.

The Left is as angry with Romney as Mass-attending Catholics are with Obama, and for the very same reason. They have both attacked an institution that defines some people's sense of themselves and their place in the universe.

Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and Peter, but the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its children, PBS and NPR, are part of LBJ's Great Society spasm, which counts for nearly as much with the Left.

With the country facing an imminent fiscal cliff and staring into a much larger abyss of debt whose day of reckoning isn't much farther off, people are wont to ask whether America is finally going to get serious about getting its house in order and quit postponing the tough choices that will have to be made to do that.

On a national level, whether the government should continue to subsidize children's television characters has suddenly become a hot topic in this year's presidential campaign. On a local level, despite cries that we don't have enough money for schools and social services, the State of Minnesota has agreed to subsidize a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Neither is an indication that we're anywhere close to taking the looming fiscal realities as seriously as we should.

So by all means let's debate whether taxpayers should continue to feather Big Bird's nest (even if in reality Sesame Workshop receives very little public funding and would likely do just fine on its own). You can say that funding for public television and radio is just a drop in the bucket, but if we can't get serious about the little things we're never going to get around to addressing the big ones either.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Beer of the Week (Vol. CLIX)

Another better late than never edition of Beer of the Week sponsored as always by the festive folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help find the wine, whiskey, and beer you need to celebrate the season in style.

As has been previously noted, there’s definitely a brewing renaissance underway in Minnesota these days. New breweries are opening left and right while their more established brethren continue to expand and improve their offerings.

The weekend before last, we visited the tap house at the relatively new Excelsior Brewing Company in…wait for it…Excelsior. The folks there seem to have a well-run operation and we were impressed by the number of people who stopped by to sample their wares and check out their merchandise. They only had three beers available that day and my favorite was the seasonal Bitteschläppe Brown Ale. This Satuday, they’ll be hosting their first Oktoberfest:

This Saturday, October 13th, we will be hosting our First Annual Oktoberfest at the brewery!

Start your day with the debut of our Excelsior Oktoberfest Märzen, while working on your Hammerschlagen skills under our outdoor tent. Once 2:00 hits, belly up to the stage to hear Tim Mahoney of NBC’s “The Voice” belt out an outstanding acoustic set. Once you have your appetite in place, come grab some delicious food provided by Maynard’s and Patisserie Margo. A couple brats, some strudel and a homemade pretzel later, you’ll be ready to get your polka on with another brew!

After you grab a Bitteschläppe Brown Ale, head on back to the stage to hear Thee Unholy 3 unleash their awesome brand of Surf Rock on your ears at 4:00. All this drinking and eating got your lederhosen in a bunch? Come on out and polka throughout the day, with live German accordion playing in between sets!

XLCR Pale Ale and Big Island Blond Ale will also be on tap, so come grab a beer boot (or two) and load up on a couple more beers as well!

While the event is all ages, wristbands will be handed out at the door. Beer tickets will be $5 each and for the price of $20, you can grab a 1.0 L boot of beer AND take the boot home with you!

I also recently had a chance to try a Three Tree American Rye from Badger Hill Brewery in Minnetonka. I’m usually a big fan of rye ales, but found this effort to be rather pedestrian and disappointing. One beer does not a brewer make and I hope that Badger will be able to step up their game with future releases.

One Minnesota brewery that is not a new kid on the block is Lake Superior Brewing Companyin Duluth. Lake Superior was established in 1994 and has been producing good quality beers ever since. Their Oktoberfest is tour Beer of the Week:

Oktoberfest (fall) German hops float atop a rich caramel malt base to provide the perfect accompaniment to a loaded bratwurst – perhaps grilled over a bonfire of chopped birch and fallen leaves. It won Gold at the 2009 World Beer Championships. Available in 12oz. bottles.

12oz brown bottle goes for $7.99 for a six pack. Standard Lake Superior seasonal label design with green background.

STYLE: Oktoberfest


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

AROMA (0-2): Mostly sweet malt with some toffee and a little spice. 2

HEAD (0-2): Decent volume, fluffy, and white in color. 2

TASTE (0-5): Sweet toasted malts nicely complimented by rich nutty flavors and caramel. A bit of hops as well. Mouthfeel is on the creamy side and the body is medium. Drinkable with a smooth finish. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): The sweetness lingers pleasantly without being overbearing. 2

OVERALL (0-6): More smooth and easy going than most Marzens with a good palate of flavors. I’m typically not that taken with Oktoberfest beers, but I found this one quite good. It’s a fall beer that fits the season well. 3

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14